Movie Review: Dead Poets Society (1989)

I watched this for the second time last night, so that means I’m an expert in it, right? Probably not. There are likely spoilers ahead.

Dead Poets Society is set at an all male boarding school. Their parents are spending a lot of money to send them to this school, and the school’s goal is to create mindless drones- sorry, educated men who follow society’s (and their parents’) rules and will become successes. The story follows a group of boys who are inspired by their new English teacher, Mr. Keating (played by the late great Robin Williams), to create a club where they read poetry and practice free thinking. Drama ensues as the conflict of interests between parents and children causes the greatest tragedy. Continue reading

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A Tree Grows in the Shadows

So, I was looking through a folder called “School Keepsakes” and found a very strange story I wrote for my sophomore English class. Without further ado, here it is!

Sylvia of Damon was happily riding through the Blackwood Forest as she did every morning. She wore a dark green riding dress with a swirly design of black stitching on the bodice. Her long black hair was braided, but still flew out behind her.

Her grandparents hated her enthusiasm for the outdoors. They would have preferred for their granddaughter to enjoy sewing or weaving, but Sylvia couldn’t help loving the warmth of the sun on her face or the smell of the grass after a rainfall. What Sylvia loved most about the outdoors, however, was the forest.

The Blackwood Forest was densely populated with all kinds of trees from ash to willow. Most people said that the name came from the fact that the tall trees blocked out the sunlight, but no one knew for sure.  The forest was so large that it took twenty days to ride from one side to the other. Sylvia never went too far into the forest, for there were many tales surrounding the center of the forest. Continue reading

On Anniversaries

Well, WordPress was kind enough to remind me that today is the 1 year anniversary of my blog! Time for me to blab about that!

Naturally, anniversaries and birthdays are different things. So I’m not going to talk about birthdays, except to mention that I have more excitement for my sister’s birthday than my own. There may be something wrong with me.

Anniversaries are cool. I get a bit too attached to them, however. Recently, I celebrated the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg by Martin Luther. I had been excited for that anniversary since 2012, and now that it’s over, I struggle to find something to “live” for. Plowing through life without something to look forward to is hard. That’s why I now am counting down to June 25, 2030, which the the 500th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. (Link!) As I’ve stated previously, there may be something wrong with me.

Both sets of my grandparents have reached their 50th, even 60th, wedding anniversary. I think that is the coolest thing ever. I mean, most of them are turning 90 this year (one is turning 89), but it’s still really cool. My parents are reaching their 30th wedding anniversary this year, and that’s awesome.

Anniversaries are amazing. Celebrating how long something has lasted is a great thing to do. Things that get anniversaries are things that changed history, things that were good ideas, things that work. For the most part. I mean, my blog is on its first anniversary and it’s not going to change history.

Well, that’s my two cents. I hope the link works. If it doesn’t, leave a comment and I’ll remove it.

Movie Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

I recently had to watch this movie for my Sociology class, so I figured, why not review it? There are probably spoilers in this.

Winter’s Bone isn’t the kind of movie I would typically watch. I tend to watch fantasy movies or animated movies that take me away from reality because that is my goal when I watch movies: I want to escape the world. Winter’s Bone doesn’t really let me do that, but after watching the movie, I realized I was okay with that.

A short blip about what Winter’s Bone is about before I begin: Ree Dolly (played by Jennifer Lawrence), at seventeen, is the main provider for her family, since both her parents are absent, her father physically, and her mother mentally. She takes care of her mother and her younger siblings Sonny and Ashlee in their small house. In the beginning of the movie, Ree learns that if her father doesn’t appear for his court date (he cooks meth), her family will lose their house. So, Ree goes on an expedition to find her father, alive or dead.

While watching the movie, I hated it. Nothing seemed to be working out for Ree. All she wanted to do was find her father so that her family wouldn’t lose the house, but no one seemed willing to help her because they did not want to get entangled with the law. I grew so frustrated with the people because I struggle to understand how people refuse help others.

In retrospect, however, (by which I mean while I was writing my paper on it) I learned that I actually had enjoyed the movie and would watch it again. The movie ends on about as happy a note as it can, although there are still some unexplained parts. But since the main character, Ree, doesn’t know the answer to those questions, it is okay that we don’t either.

I found Winter’s Bone hard to follow at some points, but that probably was because I was playing on my phone during it and not giving my full attention to it. This is one of those movies where you can’t just jump in somewhere. You have to watch every single second, or you’ll get lost. Another problem I had with the movie was that it was really quiet. Sometimes I couldn’t hear what the characters were saying. But maybe that was a problem with where I was watching it and not the movie itself.

Overall, I recommend this movie. Not 10/10 recommend, but still up there. I think anyone aspiring to be a sociologist would do well to watch this movie and just see all the societal issues this movie portrays.

That’s it! If you’ve seen Winter’s Bone, let me know your thoughts in the comments! If you’d like to know how I applied this movie to the three sociological perspectives (which I probably did incorrectly), let me know and I can post the paper I wrote! Other than that, I’ll see you in March!

On Dinosaurs

So, this is a bit random, but my blog’s name is Random Rambles, so it’s probably something to be expected.

I love dinosaurs. It doesn’t quite make sense, since I always claim to hate science, but it’s not really the scientific aspect of dinosaurs that I love. I just love dinosaurs.

I don’t remember when I first started to love dinosaurs, but it must have been when I was very little because I remember a time where I legitimately thought that I could grow up to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex when I was older. Turns out, that’s not how growing up works.

I’m sure you can guess from that story that my favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex. Maybe it’s concerning that my favorite dinosaur is the one that is the one that is known for being vicious, but there’s a lot about me that concerns people, so my favorite dinosaur really can be put on the back burner for that debate.

I remember loving the Dinosaur Digs expansion pack to Zoo Tycoon when my brother introduced it to me. I could take care of real life (well, virtual) dinosaurs! T-Rexes (is that the plural of T-Rex?) included!

Due to my love for the T-Rex, I was always a little sad during that scene in Meet the Robinsons where (SPOILERS) the T-Rex is enslaved by the mini Doris and then beaten by the Robinsons. But I was always afraid of the T-Rex in Fantasia, so there’s a bit of a paradox. Granted, I was different ages when I first saw the movies and one is more light-hearted than the other.

The strangest part about my love for dinosaurs is the fact that although dinosaurs are awesome and I love them to bits, I’ve never seen Jurassic Park or any of its accompanying movies. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

When I went to Disney World last summer, I’d have to say my favorite part was the dinosaur area in Animal Kingdom. I rode Dinosaur twice, and waved at all the dinosaurs. I also rode this ride that was geared for younger children 5 times. It was super fun and super cute. And I had my friends take pictures of me with all the dinosaur statues in the park. In retrospect I feel a little bad for them since they had to handle me in my dinosaur mania, but I don’t think they minded too much.

So basically, I love dinosaurs. No ifs. No buts. If I met one in real life, I’d probably run in terror, but since that’s unlikely to happen, I’ll gladly enjoy all things dinosaur.

What do you think of dinosaurs? They’re awesome, right? Let me know in the comments! If you know it, let me know the plural of T-Rex! Also, if you have any ideas for what I should write next, let me know! I’ll see what I can do.

Book Review: Embattled Rebel by James McPherson

I read Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief by James. M. McPherson. In the book, McPherson argues that Jefferson Davis cannot be diminished as a leader because his cause failed. He says that in order to understand the war properly, one must give Davis his due as both a military leader and a president. Davis didn’t make his work easy. His subordinates and his enemies both thought he was difficult, egotistical and cold. Throughout the war, Davis was often ill, but he continued to work from home and from his sickbed. He still clearly shaped the principal policy of the Confederacy: independent nationhood. Once he had committed himself to the Confederate cause, he did not deviate from it. Davis focused most of his time on military strategy along with his commander Robert E. Lee. He and Lee had one of the best partnerships in history, says McPherson. Jefferson Davis made poor choices in his generals and struggled to manage them as well, which is where most of his criticism comes from, but he exercised more hands-on influence in shaping military strategies than any other executive in American history. McPherson concludes that although the Union won the war, Davis was not responsible for losing it.

One great aspect of this book is that McPherson admits in the introduction that he has a bias towards the Union cause (as do I). He says he stepped out of his bias to write the book, and was surprised to discover how much more understanding he became toward Davis throughout his research. I appreciated McPherson’s honesty when it came to such a controversial topic and admired him for putting aside his opinions.

A small detail that bothered me was all the titles for the generals. I do not have a military background, so when McPherson would abbreviate titles, I would not understand what they stood for, or which title was higher than the other. It did not take away from the book, however, and if I was fully invested in knowing what all those terms meant, I could have looked them up.

On Animation

There are a lot of different kinds of animation and there’s no way I’m going to cover all of them in this short piece.

I love animated movies. Well, I suppose I should say the ones made for children. Most of them. I didn’t have much access to them when I was really little (the only VHS we had were Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, and Bambi), but now with this great phenomenon called Netflix I have full access to all the films I only got to see at a friend’s house if I managed to snag an invite to a sleepover. Plus, as a relatively functioning adult, I can go to the store and buy myself cheap $5 movies from Walmart. I stick mostly with Disney nowadays, but Dreamworks and Veggietales both have some great films. My current favorite animated films are The Prince of Egypt, Anastasia, Meet the Robinsons, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Animated television shows are pretty great. Again, the kid ones. I’m not all that interested in South Park or The Simpsons, and the few episodes I’ve seen of Rick and Morty and Bob’s Burgers didn’t impress me. I’m not that well versed in the children’s animated television, so I really only have two that I watch on occasion when I need some lighthearted fun to keep the stress of homework away: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Phineas and Ferb. I’ve also watched and enjoyed The Clone Wars, but I don’t go back to watch episodes, like I do with the other two. I do intend to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender someday. When I have time and an Amazon account that lets me watch it.

I had a brief stint as an anime nerd, which mostly consisted of me watching Fairy Tail and Hetalia. I enjoyed both, but Fairy Tail got a little too fan service-y and predictable, so I got bored. Hetalia has such short and ridiculous episodes that it’s easy for me to go back and watch one when I have 5 minutes to spare. Another anime series I watched and really enjoyed was The Lovely Complex. One I didn’t enjoy was Ouran Host Club. It just didn’t fit my preferences, I suppose.

I realize this is more of an article on cartoons than animation, isn’t it?

I have every respect for animators of every type and kind. I am amazed by the work they do, especially as someone who can only draw stick figures. Being able to draw is one thing (and a very awesome talent), but being able to draw and construct so that something can move fluidly and not look incredibly strange? That’s something else, and the people who do it deserve every compliment they get.

What are your thoughts on animation? What do you think about my tastes when it comes to this topic? Is this article more about cartoons than animation? There is a difference between the two, right? Please let me know in the comments!

Out from the Pit

Because of my last post titled “On Writing,” I decided to post some more original writing. This is an exercise in not using dialogue, and the concept is rather dystopian. Probably not something I’d do again, but it was interesting to do once. Also, don’t question the physics.

I was born in darkness. While she was pregnant,  my mother had been thrown into a pit so deep the top could not be seen from inside. We were isolated in darkness, imprisoned in the black pitch of it. Bitter water trickled down from the sky, and we drank from it to stay alive. Food was thrown down occasionally, and my mother had me eat my fill before she touched it. She told me my father would come for me, but she would not tell me who my father was, or what he was like.

Eventually the day came when a rope was thrown down. A voice called down from above that the younger one was to climb up to the surface. My mother patted my cheek and handed me the rope. She told me to climb. And I did.

I did not know how long it would take for me to get to the surface, but I climbed anyway. I nearly fell five separate times and slipped ten. My hands chafed against the rough rope and the darkness threatened to choke me.

Eventually I saw a burning brightness that scalded my eyes. I looked down into the darkness I had ascended from and suddenly felt comforted. The light was more frightening than the darkness and I wanted to return to its cold embrace.

However I heard voices calling to me. They told me to keep climbing. They were here for my rescue, they said. I shut my eyes, welcoming the darkness behind my lids and obeyed.

I was pulled onto a flat surface and poked and prodded in various places around my body. Some people were asking if I was alive, and more were asking if I was worth the wait. I had taken longer than the other girls, they said.

I opened my eyes for a moment and saw people staring at me. The brightness of the world threatened to burn my eyes, but I kept them open. I told them I wasn’t dead. I told them to throw the rope down for my mother.

Suddenly the crowd parted to admit a man. He smiled at me in a way that said I should have known him, but I did not know what he wanted or who he was. He took me by the shoulders and lifted me up. He kissed me on each cheek and on the forehead. He told the crowd he claimed me as his child and that he would care for me as a proper father. He was pleased with me, he told them. He said I was a child worth waiting for.

The crowd applauded happily until another man stepped forward. He looked me up and down with a lingering stare and approached the man who held my shoulders. He told the man he wanted me for the pits. He said I had good genes and should be used accordingly.

The crowd booed. They begged that I be able to live in the light. The darkness was too scary for a young one like me. I had already gone through my torture, they told him. They argued that I had lived in the pits eighteen years, and that I should not have to go through it again.

The first man brought me closer to him. The ceremony had been performed, he said. I was his child. He told the second man that he had waited patiently eighteen years for a daughter like me and he wanted to keep me.

This displeased the second man. He grabbed me by the hair, causing a scream to escape my lips. He handed me a pistol and told me to shoot. I asked him how and why. He roughly grabbed my hands and helped me hold the gun still, pointed at the first man. Shoot, he said, kill the traitor.

The man looked at me pitifully. All he wanted was a daughter he said. He told me not to kill him. Patricide was a crime he said. I’d be thrown in the darkness for good.

The second man growled. He shook my hands. He told me to pull the trigger. Tears filled my eyes, blurring my vision. I did not care about either man. I was confused and didn’t know what was going on. I just wanted to return to the darkness. The light was too scary. I could see what happened in the light; in the darkness all you did was hear and feel. No need for seeing.

The man holding my hands shook me, telling me to shoot. I opened my eyes and looked at the first man. He smiled at me again, a knowing smile telling me he knew what I was thinking. I closed my eyes, rejoicing in darkness, and raised my hands to the sky.

I heard the crowd shouting for me not to shoot, the second man telling me to let him adjust my hands to the target, and the first man laughing. I pulled the trigger and a loud bang made me fall to my knees. I covered my ears and kept my eyes closed.

Something fell over my head and onto my shoulders. I opened my eyes and saw a piece of cloth draped over my body. There was a hole in it that let my head poke through and I began to lift it over my head when a voice told me to stop.

I looked up and saw the first man. He smiled at me and told me I had passed the test. I was his daughter Erena and it was time to go home. He said to keep the shawl on. He would give me proper clothing when we got to his house.

I shook my head. I told him I wanted my mother. I could throw the rope down to her and have her climb I said. The man looked at me sadly. He told me I could not do that. It was against the rules. He said I should forget her.

If you have a better title for this short prose, let me know in the comments! While you’re commenting, tell me what you think of it and what I should try next! I love suggestions!

On Writing

“What?” I hear you say. “Random Rambles is posting something before the last day of the month?” Believe me, I’m just as surprised.

I started telling stories when I was very little. I think I was about 5, and it was 3 in the morning. There was a storm outside, and my sister and I were out in the hallway with the light on because she was scared. I wanted to cheer her up and make her laugh, and so I told her the following story:

Once upon a time, there was a princess who loved to eat oranges. And when the man she loved asked her to marry him, she said no. The end.

It is a super dumb, super short story, but it cheered my sister up. By the next morning I had come up with two equally dumb and equally short stories:

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved the color purple. But when all the purple stuff was on sale, she bought all of the expensive brown stuff instead. The end.

Once upon a time there was a man who lived in a bathtub. All the people of the town thought he was so clever, but when the wisest girl in the world saw him, she slapped him across the face. He was very confused. The end.

I learned from creating these stories that I loved coming up with things that would entertain people. And from then on, I was a writer.

I thought I was an amazing writer when I was little and that I could come up with stories no one had thought of before. I was wrong. Looking back on what I remember from my early stories (most of them are lost thankfully), I have to cringe. All I remember from my first multi-page story was that it had characters named after skin defects, and if that’s all I can remember, I don’t want to know what it was about.

The only good that came from me writing these stories was that I developed a writing style and a decent sense of how to use words. I excelled at grammar in grade school and high school, and rarely needed to revise any papers I wrote.

It took me two years to write my first multi-chapter “novel.” I finished it in 2015, and was immensely proud of myself. The problem is, it is loaded with errors and plot holes, and I am too proud of it to change anything. I’ve been writing the story’s sequel for two years now, and although it’s about the same amount of words, it’s only about halfway done.

Writing calms me down. That’s part of why I started this blog. “It will be cathartic,” my friend said. She knows me so well. Writing is cathartic for me. When I’m stressed, I either write in my journal (that has so many spelling/grammatical errors in some places I want to cringe- let’s just say I went through a phase where I shortened everything and used numbers as words), or close my eyes in front of a blank page and write whatever comes into my head until either a timer I set goes off or I’ve written a page of nonsense. It’s so relaxing. It helps that my laptop is old and has clunky keys, so I can hear each thump as I type. It’s a really nice ambient sound.

As much as I claim to hate it, I write more poetry than I mean to. I am very bad at it. I write poetry when I’m sad, and I never rhyme or come up with a meter, so it’s awful angsty stuff that should honestly just be burnt to a crisp. When I actually apply myself to writing poetry, I do okay at it; I mean, a poem I wrote won 2nd place in a contest and won me a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card. But I try to avoid poetry because I hate symbolism.

Almost all of my stories have a common factor: princesses. When I was little, I thought I would grow up to be a princess, and so all my main characters were princesses destined for glory. I’m the kind of person who (either purposefully or accidentally) bases my main characters after myself. It’s an easy thing to slip into.

My writing will never be like that of J. K. Rowling, nor J. R. R. Tolkein, or any other famous author (absolutely not Nathaniel Hawthorne- I do not have the vocabulary or the thesaurus for that). But it’s mine, and it makes me happy. That’s what counts, right?

Book Series Review: The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I was really scared I wasn’t going to get this in this month because A) I procrastinated, B) school has started, and C) my Wifi was out for like 3 hours and I didn’t know what was wrong. (Note: this says it was published on September 1st but it was August 31st my time when I published it so it counts as my post for August not September).

If you haven’t heard of The Chronicles of Prydain, I’m not really surprised. If you’ve heard of these books only because of the Disney movie The Black Cauldron (1985), I feel just a little bad for you. Lloyd Alexander wrote a solid plot in these books, and Disney did not make a good adaptation (This is about as much as I will say on the movie). There’s probably spoilers ahead, so be warned.

The series follows Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper at Caer Dallben. There are 5 books, chronicling Taran’s growth from being a young upstart to a brave young man. There are five books: The Book of ThreeThe Black Cauldron (why Disney chose to name their movie after the second book I may never know), The Castle of Llyr (probably my favorite), Taran Wanderer, and The High King (warning: a lot of people die in this one).

Each book is between 200-300 pages, getting longer as the books continue (as happens with most series). I would recommend them for 6th graders and up, although I first read them when I was a junior in high school. There are some strange words (mostly character names), but they’re still quite easy to read.

I might eventually write a fleshed out review for each book, but in this post I am looking at the series as a whole. Overall, I like it. It doesn’t deserve the horrible adaptation Disney gave it. The plot is solid, although maybe a tad cliche at moments. There are a lot of coincidences that happen in the books, but you have to give the author a little slack: the books aren’t that long and he had to fit a whole plot in; who cares if they randomly come across this item they’ll need in two chapters?

When reading the series, I often have to pause to laugh at some character’s idiocy (usually Fflewdder) or obliviousness (usually Taran). There are also some really heartfelt moments, such as the end of The Castle of Llyr, and some moments that made me really angry. Lloyd Alexander really knows how to get a reaction out of someone, that’s for sure.

The characters are amazing. Throughout the series, I grew very attached to Taran. I could understand his motives and what made him tick. I loved Eilowny’s spunky attitude, and that you got to spend more time with her during The High King. Fflewdder and I are basically the same person. Anytime my mind supplied a comment, the next line was Fflewdder’s words saying practically the same thing. Gurgi is the sweetest, bravest, most loyal thing in the world. I love him to bits and get angry with anyone who doesn’t appreciate him. I feel about the same way with Prince Rhun, but not to such a great extent. I can honestly say the only character I don’t like (besides the villains; they’re not very redeemable or likable, although I do appreciate Achren kind of) is Glew. It’s a good thing he’s a rather minor character.

I love The Chronicles of Prydain. I don’t know why it took me until my junior year in high school to read them, although it also took me until junior year of high school to read The Chronicles of Narnia, so maybe that was just the year of reading old children’s books. I would definitely suggest reading The Chronicles of Prydain yourself!

Let me know if you’ve read them (or I suppose if you’ve seen that horrible excuse for a movie or know why it’s named after the second book) in the comments, or just let me know when you’ll read them!