Monday, July 28, 2014

World War I Centenary

Exactly one hundred years ago today, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in a political move aimed at breaking off part of the Austria-Hungarian empire to combine with Yugoslavia. In response, the Austria-Hungarian empire issued an ultimatum which, going unmet, resulted in the start of The Great War, or as we know it today, World War I. 

There are of course many tragedies I could speak of in this post, or statistics, or political alliances whose effects we can still see to this day. But whenever I think of World War I, I can't help but think of the Queen Victoria, one of my favorite historical figures, and what she might have thought about the war had she lived to see it. 

Monarch to the United Kingdom and Empress of India, Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840 and together they had nine children. As they grew older, her children went on to marry into nearly every prominent royal family across the face of Europe, essentially linking them together and earning Victoria the nickname "Grandmother of Europe". 

At the start of 1914, her various grandchildren included King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, consort to Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Thus, these three first cousins led the nations at the heart of the war. 

How strange would it be to declare war on a closely related relative like that? I think of my own cousins, the children I grew up with, shared holidays with. Of course, I'm an inconsequential nobody who leads nothing, let alone an entire nation. But I think it'll always seem strange to me that family members declared war against one another. And I'll probably always wonder what Queen Victoria, famed for her "Close your eyes and think of England" comment, would have had to say about it. 

But for today, one hundred years to the day since the start of the first war set on the global scale, remember Queen Victoria, her many descendants, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, and above all, the many who died from July 28, 1914 to the end of the war in 1918. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Transformers 4: Or Why Too Much is as Bad as Too Little

Every author has at some point or other experienced the curse of the writer, otherwise known as writer's block. That soul sucking phenomenon when the literary well runs dry. As a writer, I've always feared this dreaded curse, considering it the worst possible scenario. However, after finally getting the chance to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction last night, I realized there is something perhaps even worse. 
Too many ideas. 

I've always been a little critical of Michael Bay movies. For all his excellent taste in franchises, the man simply cannot get past his love of overwrought action sequences and short shorts. But after watching the latest Transformers flick, I have officially lost all respect. There were certainly aspect of the movie I enjoyed (namely Stanley Tucci), and I thought the first half was at least decent. But then came the fatal case of too many ideas. 

[Spoilers Ahead:] The story was all over the place. There were unnecessary characters who simply disappeared. Superfluous explanations for statutory romances. Dinobots, which despite being aesthetically interesting, felt out of place and would perhaps have been utilized in the next movie. And far too many villains (Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Megatron/Galvatron, bounty hunter Lockdown, and the somewhat confusing "Creators"). 

All in all, I counted four different plot lines in a movie which, if edited, could have had real potential. It just goes to show that sometimes having too many ideas can be far more detrimental to a story than too few. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life Off the Page

The other day my friend and I were talking about a favorite TV show of ours (as it is neither science fiction nor action oriented, I'm keeping the shows identity under wraps to protect my street cred). Having concluded it's finale several years ago, I wondered aloud where the characters were now. You know, what they were doing. How their lives turned out post credits. 

My friend looked at me with a strange expression on her face. "They're fictional," she said to me. "They don't have lives post credit." And I guess to her they don't. Characters live and die on the screen, and when the picture fades and the words The End are read, they cease to exist. 

But for me it's something else entirely. Characters are real. They exist in a reality different from my own. They age, they change. The hero lives out his time on earth after the villain is slain and the victory celebrated, perhaps a little nostalgic for his battle days. The new bride and groom, having made it through all the rom-com hurdles leading up to their wedding, settle down, buy a house in the suburbs, raise a couple of kids and put away money for their eventual retirement. 

They live. They live off the page and screen. And I wonder about them and their lives in the same way I wonder about that girl I was friends with in high school but lost touch with somewhere along the way. And I hope they're happy, wherever they are. 

Anyone else feel the same way about their favorite characters? Ever wonder how many kids Belle and Beast had? If Luke Skywalker holidays with Leia and Han when they're not rebuilding the Republic? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

J. K. Rowling Writes

"There are celebrities -- and then there are celebrities." The opening line of Rita Skeeter's latest Daily Prophet article gets it absolutely right, for those of us who love Harry Potter know that the infamous wizard is one of the latter. And who could be more excited to see him make an appearance at the Quidditch World Cup? 

What am I talking about do you ask? For those of you living under a rock, the above is a little snippet from J. K. Rowling's latest excerpt posted on her Pottermore website. I will admit that I am weary of Harry Potter sequels. When you write perfection, leave well enough alone (ahem, Star Wars, ahem). But I love that Rowling has created a vehicle through which we can catch small glimpses of our favorite characters in their later years. And now, seven years after the release of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry and the gang have been spotted at the World Cup with their families. 

Crowds of wizards flocked like muggles to the internet, hoping to sneak a peek at their favorite lightning-scarred hero. Chronicled by the animagus journalist we all love to hate, we spot The Chosen One introducing his young sons to world famous Quidditch seeker, Viktor Krum. Ron and Hermione, still happily married (whew, Rowling scared me a bit back in February when she cast doubts on their marital fate) and making a name for themselves in the wizarding world, are among just a few of the other former Dumbledore's Army ringleaders that share the Potters' VIP section. 

So if you'd like to catch you own glimpse of the grown-up DA, want to vote for your favorite team to win the Quidditch World Cup, get sorted into one of the Hogwarts houses, or just miss the sharp-tongued Rita Skeeter, check out the Pottermore website!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you're an insecure writer or just looking to give other writers some much needed support, check us out here. And a huge shout out to our fearless Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh for being the greatest support of all!

I don't feel much like griping about my struggles with writing or publication, or the fact that I feel pretty downtrodden, so instead I thought I would share the words of people much more interesting and successful than myself. So here are a few of my favorite quotes to inspire you in your writing this month. 

"Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are the weapon." 
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt 

"A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."
-- Carl Sagan

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."
-- Walt Disney 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Movie Marathons: Sports Movies

This is going to be a spectacular week. We have a Germany/Algeria smack-down today, and tomorrow we get to watch team USA, having made it out of the Group of Death, play in the next round of the World Cup! Who would have ever thought we'd make it this far?


So I figured in honor of the World Cup, USA's advancement, and in keeping with my new Monday Movie Marathon concept, I thought I'd make this week's theme . . .

Sports Movies:





Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Movie Marathons

I was thinking the other day about how disappointing it will be when the World Cup comes to an end and my days are no longer filled with scores, stats and soccer. What will my friends and I do on weekends when we can't gather together in local bars to scream at ESPN? How will I procrastinate from getting any real work done?

The horror.

Fortunately, as we sat together last weekend killing time between the Argentina/Iran and Germany/Ghana games, we came up a few movie marathons we'd woefully neglected, and made plans to get started once a soccer world champion had been crowned.

Yes, yes. I know. Crisis averted.

We made some lists and, as the group historian, I carefully recorded them on my phone for future reference. But seeing as it's Monday and I've finished watching all today's games, I thought I might get a jump start on some of these categories and list out some of the best movies of each genre. Starting with . . .

Robots/Machines: