Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

You scared him.---I scared HIM?Click the pictures for larger.

I just got back from a viewing of How to Train Your Dragon (wiki) with my friend and little sister. I knew nothing about the film before watching it (aside from watching a preview before seeing Alice the other day), and I only learned afterward that it was based on the first in a series of books.

Overall, it was a feel-good movie, and better than I expected. I guess I tend to go to the movies with low expectations so that I’m not disappointed—and I’m not—but I’m also not usually impressed, either. Sad for the movie industry, I think, but they probably don’t care as long as I pay to watch their films, right? Right.

The movie follows Hiccup, the gangly son of the Viking chief, in the mythical village of Berk. He has a weird sense of humor and thinks ahead instead of charging into situations blindly, like most Vikings tend to do. When he encounters a dragon up close, he learns that everything he’s been taught about the species is wrong. FlyingHe uses what he learns from the dragon, who eventually becomes his friend, to overcome obstacles he faces while learning to fight dragons with his cohorts—not really friends until later because at first they all think he’s weak and a disgrace to Vikings. In the end, though, he challenges the rest of the village to see the world from a different point of view and even saves the tribe in the process.

The one thing that was difficult for me to believe (after my suspension of disbelief and all that) was that it didn’t take longer for the kids to “train” their dragons after it’d taken most of the movie for Hiccup to get to know his and get the dragon to trust him. Other than that weak spot, it was pretty good.

Anyway, the music was good—kind of Celtic-esque (I liked it so much that I picked up the soundtrack from iTunes). Add to that a pretty decent “everything you know is wrong” story and mix in a little “coming of age” and some pretty awesome graphics and you have yourself a good show.

Even my sister liked it, and she’s a film major, so that’s saying something.

The Past Week via Twitter: 2010-03-28


When I first heard about Goldline International, I admit I thought it was a service for people who wanted to sell their old gold jewelry, etc., but I was wrong. It’s actually a pretty decent website about buying gold and gold coins as a way to prepare for and invest in the future. As I flipped surfed through their website, I learned a lot about the history of individual coins. For example, here’s what the website has to say about the $10 Indian coin, pictured here:

$10 Indian obverseOne of only two coins designed by America’s most acclaimed sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens… this $10 gold piece is one of the most exquisite gold coins our nation has ever struck…

Perhaps the most fascinating feature of this striking gold coin is that the edge of the coin features raised stars signifying the states of the Union, rather than a lettered or reeded edge. Coins struck from 1907 to 1911 feature 46 stars. Two more stars were added the following year to commemorate the addition of New Mexico and Arizona to the Union.

The $10 Indian was originally struck with a wire rim in 1907, which gave the coin a more 3-Dimensional appearance. Only 500 were produced before the Mint began producing regular strikes later in the same year.

Of course, I’m the history geek, so that’s what interests me, but I’m sure you’ll find something you like about gold and gold coins, too, at Goldline’s website, especially if you need to buy gold.

On patience

Richard Bausch, Off the Page:

Nothing is ever wasted. I thought I was writing a novel and it ended up being eight hundred pages of crap around one thing that was real and alive, and unfortunately all of the crap was necessary to arrive at that. If you do this, every single time you do it, you learn stuff. That’s why there’s only one question to ask yourself every day: “Did you write today?” If the answer’s yes, it’s the only question you have to ask.

I don’t teach writing. I teach patience. Toughness. Stubborness. The willingness to fail. I teach the life. The odd thing is most of the things that stop an inexperienced writer are so far from the truth as to be nearly beside the point. When you feel global doubt about your talent, that is your talent. People who have no talent don’t have any doubt. And it’s figuring that out and learning how to put all that stuff behind you and just do the work. Just go in and shake the black cue ball and see what surfaces.

The Past Week via Twitter: 2010-03-21

  • @blackbluesock that's a sign that you shouldn't shut down your blog! I read it and find it charming, so at least you have me. in reply to blackbluesock #
  • gar. not so good. anxiety. #
  • I need to wash my hair. #
  • so cool—Living Paintings #
  • @Dredgly wow! congratulations, lovely! I'm so happy for you. ^_^ in reply to Dredgly #
  • I brushed my hair for the first time in… too long. Seriously. #
  • Educate yourself a little on this Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s not only about green beer, you know. #
  • Don't get sick, don't get sick, don't get sick, don't get sick. #
  • @donnatalarico I miss you, too! in reply to donnatalarico #
  • a professor asked to see my work today and gave me a copy of the school's literary magazine after he found out I have an MFA. #

Saint Patrick’s Day

Shamrock FieldEducate yourself a little on this Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s not only about green beer, you know.

The truth behind the shamrock
The story of Saint Patrick
Life, miracles, and prayers
Who was Saint Patrick?

StPatty’ says:

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn’t get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship.

Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to God.

ShamrockHe escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity.

There you go. Even Saint Patrick’s Day has (indirect) pagan origins. Who knew? Who indeed.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in WonderlandI did nothing to prepare for Alice in Wonderland (wiki). That is, I didn’t watch the animated Disney version. I didn’t read the books (Wonderland and Looking Glass). I didn’t check any reviews. I didn’t even look up the original author. I wanted to see what Tim Burton (the director), Johnny Depp (who played the Mad Hatter), and Mia Wasikowska (who played Alice), could do with the story without any more input than I’d already given it. That is, I have seen the original Disney animation, but not recently. I’ve read up on Lewis Carroll and know a little about his quirks, but that was years ago.

Right, so, my father and sister and I saw it Sunday evening for “Family Night”. My mother couldn’t go because she was writing a paper for a class that ended yesterday (yay!), but she told us to go ahead and have a good time. The movie was Bunny’s idea, not mine or my dad’s. It wasn’t on my top-10 must-see list or anything, but basically: it was better than I expected. I didn’t expect it to be terrible or anything, but it was sort of like, “Tim Burton + Johnny Depp = more of the same”… Burton and Depp are good friends, I’m told, and Burton has a strange sense of humor that goes along well with Depp’s strange sense of humor.

Well, that certainly came out in the movie. It wasn’t knock-your-socks-off awesome, but it was better than I thought it would be. I expected more Mad Hatter and less of a plot, but I learned after watching it that Burton actually wanted more of a plot than the original story, which was “always about a girl wandering around from one weird character to another and he never felt a connection emotionally…” Burton “wanted to make it feel more like a story than a series of events”—which it did. I remember the animated film being more like Lemony Snicket than an actual story, and—while it was certainly strange—Alice’s entire goal in that movie was to get home (reminding me of Oz), or to “wake up” (which she eventually does). Tim Burton is known for darker films (Beetle Juice, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd), but this wasn’t as dark as I thought it would be. (I guess I was expecting something more like American McGee’s Alice; I don’t know.)

White Queen, Cheshire Cat, and the Red QueenActually, the main thing that annoyed me was the combination of the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen. In case you don’t know, the Queen of Hearts appears in the original novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Red Queen appears in the following novel, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Read the books for yourself if you don’t believe me. That’s the one thing that always stands out to me in any Alice portrayal—do they get the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts right? That is, are they separate characters? In this version, they’re not.

If you were planning on seeing the movie anyway, I’d recommend it. I can’t speak for the 3D aspect, though, because I didn’t see it in 3D, so there is that. If you were on the fence about seeing it but like the Alice metaverse, then go see it. You might get more out if than someone like me, who didn’t prepare. If you were planning on not seeing it because you think Johnny Depp is overrated or something, then, yeah: don’t see it. Though, I was surprised how little he was actually in the movie compared to the hype surrounding his involvement in it. Not to say that he’s not in it (he is, and quite a bit, actually), but the story really is about Alice, not the Mad Hatter. For that, I’m grateful. Don’t get me wrong: I love me some Johnny Depp, but the title isAlice in Wonderland” for a reason.

Actually, wait. I did watch this before seeing the movie. I’m a fan of Anne Hathaway’s, and her favorite part of the filming made a lot more sense after watching the movie. Just sayin’.

By the way, why is a raven like a writing desk?