Tuesday, December 31, 2013

TV Shows I Watched This Year (2013)

* * * TV Shows I Watched In 201* * *

Compare to: 20112012

Pan Am on DVD
Even though this made my list 2 years ago (when the short-lived series was on the air) it was only this year that I got to go back and watch all the episodes on DVD. It really was a well-written show, and the era (early 60s) was a treat to visit. I'll add it to my list of series that ended too soon (which is topped by Wonderfalls, which, now that I think about it, is due to be re-watched. Yeees.)

Felicity (season 1) on DVD
Fun fact: Felicity was my age. She graduated high school and started college the same year I did. Yet she always seemed much older than me, and I could not relate, so I rarely watched the series when it was on the air. Fast-forward fifteen years, and I still don't feel I can relate to this girl. She's just so... I don't know. Such an old soul. Meanwhile, the series can be pretty... heavy. And certain elements have not aged well. But I may just stick with it.

Tiny Toon Adventures on DVD
Some shows from my childhood are still enjoyable to me today. This, however, doesn't seem to be one of them. :(

Love It Or List It (random episodes) on OnDemand
My cousin turned me on to this show, which is half a realty/house-hunting show and half a remodeling show. The best of both! A family who is unhappy with their current dwelling for some reason, usually having to do with the arrangement of the space, safety issues, or the fact that it just really needs an update, give an interior designer X amount of money to make their house awesome (usually said amount of money is only enough to make it sort of awesome.) Meanwhile, a realtor shows the folks some nearby houses that already may suit their needs and desires. In the end, will they choose to stay in their sort-of-awesome house, or move to one of the new ones? Yay hard decisions!

Call The Midwife, Series 2 (2013 in the USA) on PBS
Still a great show! In fact, on Sunday night, 12/29, they aired an all-new Christmas special, which I found out about, um, 5 minutes in. But hey, I saw most of it! There were lots of changes in series 2. Spoiler alert: Chummy had a baby! Sister whatsherface is no longer a nun! And she likes Doctor whatshisname! I jest; I really do adore this show.

Community, Season 4 on NBC
Poor Community has been bounced around so many times by NBC it's amazing it's still on the air. Season 4, which was supposed to debut in September, 2012, didn't begin until well into 2013, and because they had not planned it to air so, we experienced the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas episodes in the wrong time of year. Oh well. Many fans were disappointed with season 4. For me, it was hit and miss. There were some dumb episodes, but there were some good ones, too. Season 5 premieres JANUARY 2 and I'm so excited!

Last Tango In Halifax on PBS
I had to add this one after I originally published this post, because somehow I totally forgot about it! (For shame.) This very touching, somewhat soapy but mostly lovable British show was about two older people who knew each other as youths and reconnected decades later via Facebook -- and fell in love. Before long, they were engaged, and as the series unfolded, we learned more about them, their past, and their respective families (each has a daughter whose life is falling to pieces.) Toward the end of the first series, things got pretty sad, but I've heard the show will return for a second series, and maybe everything will turn out okay? It had better!

Downton Abbey, Series 3 on PBS
Someone recently asked me if I was planning watch DA Series 4 when it airs here next month and I said no, I'm done with this show. They asked me if the last straw was when (uh, spoiler alert?) Matthew died, and I said, No, I've disliked the show ever since Matthew bounded up out of his wheelchair somewhat miraculously. And that was back in series 2! I don't know why I watched 3. But hey, I did, and now I'm done. Honest. (Please refer back to this post in 2 months when I will proceed to eat my words. Thank you.)

Merlin, Season 1 & 2 on DVD
I have not grown tired of this show, which I started Netflixing last year. It's so funny, and I love the medieval elements. Still hate Arthur's dad, Uther, but they've given him fewer storylines lately, so whatever. I know he'll die someday (I'M SORRY, BUT HE'S AWFUL!) Merlin continues to learn new magic and try to keep it hidden. The chemistry between Arthur and Merlin is hilarious. Yes, the show is still super ridiculous, but I love it anyway.

Other shows I watched, Sometimes: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, American Pickers, Auction Kings, Auction Hunters, Antiques Roadshow, Property Wars, Survivor, America's Next Top Model Cycle 20 (I know, I know...)

Movies I Saw In 2013

Well, this year isn't going to end itself. Gotta do my part. 

That means... it's END-OF-THE-YEAR LIST TIME! 

Today we have:

* * * Movies I Saw In 2013 * * *

In 2013 I made it to theaters six times. I saw: Man Of Steel, Stories We Tell, Austenland, and 3 Rifftrax Live presentations (Starship Troopers, Night Of The Living Dead, and Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.) Then I rented a bunch of things from Netflix. Here's a sampling (and by sampling, I mean large portion) of what my eyes beheld on screens large and small in 2013.

Thor (2011)
2013 began with Marvel. Specifically, with me trying to watch the Marvel movies I had not yet seen (which was most of them.) 

Thor started out kind of promising. It was interesting, funny, action-filled... I loved seeing super-strong Thor on Earth, being out of his element, hanging out with a bumbling Natalie Portman. I enjoyed seeing how Thor changed from a pompous, war-loving jerk into a noble guy. Then, as the movie entered its last, oh, twenty minutes, things began to get strange. The whole Odinsleep thing was really bizarre. And while Loki is a bit more dignified in this movie than in Avengers, I still think he's a dork. So, mostly I enjoyed it, just wish the end could have been better. * * *

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
I don't know how long this movie had been sitting in my Netflix queue, but I would guess... four years, at least. I'd heard it was sad -- that there's a particularly sad scene where a bunch of children tragically die -- and so I kept avoiding it. Every time it rose to the top of my queue, I'd send it back down. 

Finally I just decided to suck it up and watch it. And the thing I discovered was that the aforementioned tragedy -- while indeed very sad -- really wasn't what made the movie sad and compelling. It was the characters and the unfortunateness of their lives and circumstances. The emotions were raw, the relationships were real, and although the whole plot was pretty dismal, I didn't want to stop watching.

When it was over, my mind was full of thoughts and questions. But in a good way. * * * *

Little Women (1978)
I've loved the 1994 Winona Ryder/Susan Sarandon version of Little Women for years. I've watched it oh so many times. And over the years I tried to get my hands on any other versions of LW that I could. So I've seen the 1933 one (Katharine Hepburn!) and I've seen the 1949 one (June Allyson!) And I enjoyed them. But it wasn't until recently that I learned there was another version -- a 1970's TV-movie starring The Mom From Family Ties as Meg, Laurie Partridge from The Partridge Family as Jo, Jan Brady as Beth, and Captain Kirk as Professor Bhaer. And I wondered A) Does this really, truly exist? and B) Why wasn't it available sooner? This is epic!

Imdb calls this version a "TV Pilot," but it's very much a TV miniseries/movie. The music is by Elmer Bernstein, for heaven's sake! The sets and scenery are great; you can tell this was a pretty high-end production for the time. The acting is wonderful, save for a few performances that are lacking; for instance, the Marmee character just isn't as strong as I'd expect her to be, and young Amy falls into the same trap as her predecessors by being played by the same actress at age 12 as at age 18. The actress does a fine job as a young lady, but as a kid -- she's already taller than the mother, and it just looks ridiculous. Jo, however, shines. * * * *

Oliver Twist (1997)

Anyone who thinks that Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent in Mary Poppins is the worst British accent ever recorded on screen has obviously not seen and heard Elijah Wood in Oliver Twist. MY EARS, MY POOR EARS! And I honestly don't get it. Elijah Wood was a reasonably talented actor, even back then. He briefly put on an accent in Huck Finn, but that was SUPPOSED to be fake, and even THAT sounded more realistic than the one he had going on here. Pitiful.

But even more troubling than that is the actor who plays Oliver here. He acts with no emotion whatsoever. Never seems to get angry or have any kind of reaction at all when anything happens. Zzzz, the whole thing bored me. *

South Riding (2011)

From the people who brought us Bleak House comes the slighty-less-creepy, but still obnoxiously uncomfortable, tale of a woman who goes to work as the headmistress at a school for girls. While she tries to inspire and lead the girls, the townsfolk navigate their various scandals. One guy, a minister, is being blackmailed because he got a woman pregnant. Another man is slowly losing his fortune. Another family suffers after the mother dies. Meanwhile, Headmistress gets with the fortune-loser, but then HE dies, and it's this whole big thing, and what is UP with these haunting, depressing period pieces? * * *

Iron Man 1 (2008) and 2 (2010)
Well, I finally got around to seeing these. I thought the first one was okay. I liked watching Tony change from an asshat into a good guy. Iron Man 2 was ridiculous. Mickey Rourke is gross. Everything was gross and ridiculous. Suffice it to say, I did not go see the threequel. * *

Mosquito Coast (1986)

Harrison Ford plays a lunatic who happens to be a father of four. One day, he drags his entire family to the rain forest to live off the land, and even though his wife and kids all hate it, eventually they all make it work. Then things turn south when some gun-wielding thugs show up. Harrison kills them (YEP), but in the process, the entire village is blown to smithereens. The family sets off up river, and they live on a beach for a while, but that gets destroyed by a flood, so they set off again, etc. etc. All the while, everyone's miserable, except for Harrison's character, who is, and I repeat, a lunatic. A very unsettling drama, which also stars Helen Mirren and River Phoenix. Like Witness (which I saw last year) it's cursed with a synthesizery soundtrack. Make it stopppp! *

The Hunt For Red October (1990)

Submarines. American submarines, Russian submarines, big submarines, small submarines, ordinary submarines, stealthy submarines. An hour and a half of freaking SUBMARINES. Oh, and Sean Connery being Sean Connery. (THAT I liked.) And did I mention submarines? Zzzzz. Oh sure, there was a story, and I got it, but I wasn't particularly moved by it. * *

Wyatt Earp (1994)

If the theme of The Hunt for Red October was "submarines," the theme for Wyatt Earp was probably "guns and mustaches." 

Did you know that Kevin Costner (Wyatt Earp) was originally working on Tombstone, but quit that to make his own movie? And that the two movies are about the exact same characters and came out within a year of each other? You knew that already? Hmmm. Did you know that Wyatt Earp was the lower-grossing of the two? Now, I liked Tombstone, save for the gratuitous violence. And Earp was okay, but crazy long (mind, I did watch the "special edition.") But after seeing both I've lost all interest in everybody. Then I went and watched the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries and my mind was thereafter blown.

Too, too many guns and mustaches.

Stories We Tell (2012)
Sarah Polley directs this pseudo-documentary about her family and some secrets buried within. And it's... interesting... and certainly well-made. But it's strange. Like, the focus -- at least at first -- seems to be on Polley's mother. Which is well and good, if you know who the heck she even is. Would most movie-goers know, or care? I've been a fan of Sarah since childhood; I've seen many of her movies and shows. I have some familiarity with who her mother was and what she looked like. But sitting there watching a documentary about her seemed... almost like I was intruding on something... or like I'd accidentally walked into the wrong meeting or dialed the wrong number but the person on the other end still wants to chat. 

Still... it's an intriguing yarn, and even if you have no idea who any of the people are, I think anyone can appreciate a good, somewhat scandalous little story. One strange/cool detail about it was that Polley used actors to portray her parents and some other people in "flashback" scenes, but I wasn't aware that they were actors until the film was nearly over. And I thought, wow, that was all staged? That didn't happen exactly like that? Which I thought worked really well with the overall motif of the film, with the idea that memories aren't always reliable and some things aren't as they seem or didn't happen like we remember them, etc. etc. Ended up seeing this one twice and found new things to appreciate the second time. * * * *

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

After watching a string of meh films early last summer, I was so happy to finally finish watching a movie and be able to go, "I Really enjoyed that! I mean, REALLY!" Crazy that I'd never watched Daisy before this year -- I know my parents went and saw it in the theater back when it was released, but I had not. It's a great film. Funny and poignant and just a cool story, a sweet character study. All the actors are great, but Dan Aykroyd and Morgan Freeman really shine. * * * * *

Little Manhattan (2005)
This was the story of an 11-year-old boy who falls for an 11-year-old girl one summer in Manhattan. Reminded me a bit of Moonrise Kingdom (though definitely not as quirky.) Solid narration from the protagonist. Acting mediocre. Story tried & true. Overall, satisfying. * * *

The War (1994)
Guh, The War....

So I've been on a Kevin Costner kick for... okay, admittedly, several years, and I thought I'd try this one because it also had a young Elijah Wood, and it was from the 90's so maybe it would be cool and all... WRONG --  it was incredibly depressing. Okay, so there are people out there who adore this film, and I can see why because it has really interesting characters and the story and setting feel kind of nostalgic. But a "feel good film," this is not. Costner's family (including Mare Winningham, who for some reason has shown up in every Kevin Costner movie I've watched lately. WEIRD.) is dirt poor and living in Mississippi in the 70's and it sucks to be them. Kevin's character has PTSD from his time serving in Vietnam. Meanwhile, his kids are trying to build a tree house with interference from a group of local bullies. And then there's racism. And death. And almost-death. Yeah, there's a whole lot going on in this film, which you would think would make it compelling, but mostly I felt disconnected. I had to stop the movie multiple times and it took a lot to get through it.  Maybe a second viewing would help me appreciate it, but not sure I can bear it. See those smiling faces on the movie poster? They lie. * *

56 Up (2012)
I finally got to see the latest film in the "Up" series, in which roughly a dozen human beings are interviewed every 7 years. It started when they were seven years old. Now 56, many of the folks are grandparents, most are still working, and all but a few seem happy. 56 Up felt different from the other installments -- instead of showing a lot of flashbacks, it seemed to focus more on what was happening now; therefore, I felt like we got a better picture of "56" than we did of "49" or "42" -- perhaps moreso than in/of any age since "7". I felt really satisfied with this one. One bit of sadness, though -- on the DVD there is an interview of the director given by Roger Ebert back when "49" came out. Turns out Ebert was a huge fan of the series and was eager to see "56". Ebert died this past April. But it turns out he did get to see it! Yay. * * * *

Austenland (2013)
If you're a fan of Jane Austen, this movie will probably make you smile. Like many other Austen-related yarns (Jane Austen Book Club, Lost In Austen, Bridget Jones) it's got that familiar feel, those familiar characters, and yet it puts a somewhat fresh spin on the whole thing. And so, just in case you ever get tired of looking at Colin Firth, you can look at JJ Feild here instead. And... well, that's not a bad thing.... * * *

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Well, speaking of Bridget, I finally saw this movie. Going in, I knew it had Austen elements and that Colin Firth was in it, so how could it go wrong? Maybe having it rated R with raunchiness galore... yeah, a bit of a turnoff for me. What? Give me Pride & Prejudice, the real thing, any day. *

Man Of Steel (2013)
So I've been a Superman fan for most of my life, and it's only natural that I'd go see MoS almost as soon as it was released. So I did. And then, about halfway into the film, I got the very strong urge to get up and leave the theater. Like, forever. WHAT. THE. FREAKING. HECK. So okay, the movie had potential. It really did. Angsty Clark Kent backstory with dead parents and the pain of having to hide who you are and searching for answers and that's all well and good, except for some reason they just sort of filmed all these good, short scenes, and then added them to the rest of the movie, which is essentially: Kick, Whack, Biff, Pow x 293258978 and I was equal parts bored and disappointed. * *

Tiger Eyes (2012)

Finally, a Judy Blume book was made into a film! Tiger Eyes is actually one of my favorite books, so I was excited/nervous to see the adaptation. Of course, I wish it could have been exactly like the book, but there were changes, and I was a little bit sad, but really, overall, it wasn't a disaster. Willa Holland, who plays the main character, is amazing. I'm sure we'll see big things from her in the future. * * *

Brave (2012)

Every time I watch a Pixar movie I am utterly surprised by what I'm seeing on the screen. The trailers (that I see, anyway) never seem to give the storyline away. So going into Wall-E all I knew was that it was about a robot -- and it was about so much more. Up was about a balloon house -- BUT SO MUCH MORE. Brave was equally surprising, although towards the end I kept seeing shades of Beauty and the Beast (turns out they had a screenwriter in common. And I love BATB. I'm just... mentioning this.) Overall, not my favorite Pixar pic to date, but it's certainly one of the better films I saw this year. * * * *


Other Movies I Saw: Plain Truth, Perfect Harmony

Movies I Attempted, But Could Not Finish: Best In Show, Tom Sawyer, Bye Bye Love, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Northanger Abbey (2000), Scarlet Pimpernel (1982), Synecdoche New York

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Presents Of (An Odd) Mind - 2013 Edition

There is some weird stuff out there, my friends.

As I peruse Amazon.com and other shopping sites looking for gifts, I keep stumbling across bizarre toys and other strange products.

I often find myself gasping. Laughing. WTF-ing. And then bookmarking.

I do this... for you.

I know some of you are trying to snag some last-minute gifts this holiday season. The space under the tree may be looking a little too vast. Maybe you've been so busy you just haven't gotten to the stores (or, like a sensible person, you're avoiding the wolves hordes crowds.) Then again, perhaps you're parenting little Dudley Dursleys, who just have to have that 37th present or they will blow a fuse.

Whatever. Just take a look at these things I've found that, for some reason, exist, and decide for yourself: Should I laugh? Cry? Click on the links and pay the overnight shipping, because dangit, the item is just that spectacular?

Only you can decide.

First up we have:

Musical Toys HMX2007 Turtle Glockenspiel

Let's be clear -- I don't generally have a problem with turtles, nor do I take issue with glockenspiels.

You wanna combine the two? Sure, whatever.

But did you have to give the guy this face?

What is happening here? The poor turtle looks like someone's been whacking him in the forehead with that mallet.

Then again, from this angle, he just looks terrified...

Help meeeeee!

"Mommy, why does my new present look sad to see me?"

Happy faces: look into it.

Augh wait no nevermind.

Annnd this toy's name gives me a headache. Let's dissect it, shall we?

Little Mommy - I assume this is referring to the target market for the toy; young kids who want to play mommy. Fair enough.

Baby So New - Aren't babies usually new? Still, I challenge the "so." She's sitting up by herself already; she can't be that new. Word usage fail.

Tiny Dancer - New she may be, but not so new that she can't be an aspiring ballerina. Why, I'm sure Julliard will be ringing her up as soon as she ditches the diapers.

Doll - I will concur that she is a doll.

Meanwhile -- believe it or not -- so is this:

Now, in the world of "dolls that look creepily real," Summer isn't that terrifying. I mean, I wouldn't mistake her for an actual baby, but that might be because I don't know a lot of real babies who look like they're posing for Glamour Shots. Summer may be a bit Toddlers & Tiaras, but you could do worse. You could have Ashley....

Ashley doesn't only look like she recently vacated someone's uterus -- she can actually (well, mechanically) breathe. When I was a kid, I was impressed if my new baby doll came with a velcro-fastening diaper... this one comes with LUNGS!

Compare to:

Chloe, who can really move. (Gah.)

Olivia, who really "holds" your hand. (Get off.)


This doll is not a toy, she is a fine collectible to be enjoyed by adult collectors.

Do childless adults buy these to fill a void? I'm serious, is that what they're for?

Let's compare baby Ashley to a real baby, shall we?

Real Babies: Costs a whole lot, considering the hospital bills, diapers, food or formula, and all the rest.

Baby Ashley: Costs $129.99, and can be paid for in five easy installments.

Real Babies: Breathe, cry, spit up and poo.

Baby Ashley: Just breathes. Ahhh, so pleasant.

Real Babies: Grow and get all heavy and scratchy.

Baby Ashley: Stays a tiny wee lass forever.

Real Babies: Grow up and sometimes get really obnoxious.

Baby Ashley: Can be returned free of charge within the first 365 days.


Er, doll. I meant to say doll.

Speaking of dolls, these bother me:

Donnelly Modern Family of 5 Dollhouse Miniature Set

  • Features father, mother, son, daughter, and baby
  • Clad in modern clothing on a 1:12 scale
  • Exquisite set suitable for use in collector dollhouses

  • Modern. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Now, here comes a doll I can get behind. It's Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, the best animated film of all time! (Don't argue with me.)


    Welp, time to make a list called Things I Hate About This Play Set

    1. Belle is now a baby. We've reduced a headstrong, lovely, romantic, heroic young woman into a diaper-wearing slobberpuss. Lovely.

    2. Baby Belle is wearing a tiara. Why would she have a tiara as a baby? She was not royal by birth!

    3. Even a royal baby wearing a tiara would be weird. Those things are heavy.

    4. Whatever is molded onto that pink block. I think it might be Chip but without a face. 

    5. The miniature Beast. Are we supposed to assume that if Belle were a baby, she would be apt to play with a toy that looks like her future husband who's currently under a curse but is totally dressed up and ready for romance? But also tiny? Guess so.

    6. The rocking horse. It's the biggest thing in the box, besides Belle, and the box exclaims: "Let's play on my rocking horse!" Why a horse? Why that horse? Sure, Belle rode Philippe the Horse a couple of times in the movie, but it wasn't as if she was a champion equestrian. She loved BOOKS... and the only books I see in that set are mayyybe on the shelf next to the Beastkin, and they're drawn in. Let's not give Belle her actual personality or anything!

    7. The yellow dress. I know, a lot of Belle toys through the years have had her in that yellow getup, even though she barely wears it in the film and it wouldn't make sense to show her wearing it before she arrived at the castle. But hey. It's iconic or something. Still, to see her going back in time 20 years and still wearing it -- give me a break.

    In conclusion, I hate this toy.

    Yikes. Okay, I get that this might be something people purchase for hospitals or whatever so that kids can role-play what they've been through or what to expect when they go into surgery, but as someone who's had surgery herself... this thing makes me want to hide. This guy doesn't even look like a nice surgeon. Those eyebrows! That hair! And I don't even wanna know what's behind that mask.

    Well, let's move away from dolls, now. I mean, not every kid wants their non-living social companion to be a humanoid. Some kids want stuffed teddy bears. Or fuzzy bunnies. Or... cow balloons....

    And, in case your kid would rather have a creature of the equine variety, or... would rather pretend to be a creature of the equine variety....

    Accoutrements Horse Head Mask


    Happy nightmares!

    Hey, speaking of costumes, if you plan to have a mid-sized baby by October, 2014, you might want to get in on this deal:

    Paper Magic King Pig Infant Costume

    Originally $30, now on sale for under $10! What a steal! Who doesn't want their baby to look like a green pig?

    And if you like costumes, there's more where that came from!

    Switching gears...

    So... I'm not in marketing -- and even if I was, I would be an utter failure because my tastes don't seem to match the general population's -- but if I was in marketing, I might raise a red flag re: a kids' toy with the word "toxic" in the title. Isn't that what we're trying to avoid?

    But that's not this toy's biggest problem. It's a racing set where two balls are supposed to compete, but it only comes with one ball. It's also apparently so cheapo that it has gotten a bunch of 1-star reviews on Amazon.com, and, as one reviewer put it, "Do not buy this toy OR the racers or you will have one super upset kid."

    I hope that reviewer had another present wrapped & waiting to give to his or her upset kid. Like maybe one of these?

    Accoutrements Giant Ear

    Be careful what you say, the walls have ears. Put one of these 20" x 12" (51 x 30 cm) tall plastic ears on your wall for a little aural atmosphere or cover a room with wall to wall ears for an eerie art project. Left ear only.            

    I'm beginning to think this Accoutrements company is one I want to avoid (except, of course, when I'm making these lists.)

    Well, I don't think I can top that ear. (Seriously, it's nearly two feet tall. What do you DO with that?) so I guess I'll call it a year.

    No matter what last-minute gifts you choose to purchase (for your kids, friends, family, enemies, or yourself), I hope they make you and your loved ones happy.

    Happy Holidays, all!

    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    Potter & Purported Plagiarism (...and Zombies?)

    In 1999, the year J.K. Rowling sold the Harry Potter film rights to Warner Bros., Nancy Stouffer accused Rowling of copyright infringement. Stouffer's books from the 80's contained characters named Larry Potter (who had dark hair and glasses) and Lilly, and one of her books was about "Muggles," a word she claimed she invented. Therefore, J.K. Rowling had copied her, and should pay.

    A decade later: "In June 2009, the estate of Adrian Jacobs, a children's author who died in 1997, sued Rowling's publishers, Bloomsbury, for £500 million, accusing her of having plagiarised "substantial parts" of his work in writing the novel Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In a statement, Jacobs's family claimed that a scene in Goblet of Fire was substantially similar to Jacobs's book The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land: "'Both Willy and Harry are required to work out the exact nature of the main task of the contest which they both achieve in a bathroom assisted by clues from helpers, in order to discover how to rescue human hostages imprisoned by a community of half-human, half-animal fantasy creatures." They also launched a joint suit against Rowling and her publishers. Bloomsbury countered with a statement of its own, saying that "This claim is without merit and will be defended vigorously," and that Rowling "had never heard of Adrian Jacobs nor seen, read or heard of his book Willy the Wizard until this claim was first made in 2004, almost seven years after the publication of the first Harry Potter book." The Jacobs estate, driven by his son and grandson, have published a website with details and excerpts from the book, according to the Toronto Star. In July 2010, the estate filed suit against Rowling's American publisher, Scholastic, demanding that the company burn all copies of Goblet of Fire." (from Wikipedia)

    And although no legal attempts were ever made for this one, some loyal fans of the 1985 movie The Young Sherlock Holmes are convinced Rowling pilfered from that one as well. TYSH features three main characters -- two boys and a girl. One of the boys has glasses. The girl is brainy. There's some supernatural stuff. There's flying. Oh, and the film features a snooty, rich blond boy, and his name starts with a D. (And it's "Dudley," so obviously Rowling stole that name for Harry's cousin.)

    Meanwhile, all I can think is, SO WHAT?

    Someone makes off with (or uses) the name of your character, or the look of your character, or a word you feel you invented (forget that if you change the "g" in "Muggle" to a "d" it becomes an actual word) -- SO WHAT??

    Writing is so much more involved than naming characters or describing characters. Plus, Rowling's works are teeming with plots far, far beyond any one strand or idea these other authors claim they came up with. And as for the Adrian Jacobs claim, I have to laugh -- so the character had an epiphany in the bathroom -- yeah, obviously this is bogus, because people spend so little time in bathrooms....

    Writers get their ideas from many different places, and though we may wish that every thought we'd ever had was devised in our happy little brains, the truth is, we all grew up reading books, watching movies, listening to music, and watching TV, and that stuff sometimes sticks. Plots and ideas sometimes go up some weird little brain canal, hide out for a few decades, then re-emerge in writing. So yes, maybe Rowling watched the Sherlock movie and some of it influenced her writing a tiny bit. Just like how riding a train gave her the idea for the Hogwarts Express. (Read: the guy who invented trains should totally sue.)

    And poor, poor Ms. Stouffer. Apparently her "Muggle" and "Larry Potter" copyright claims prompted a million and one Harry Potter fans to lash out against her, and let's just say her career -- such as it was -- hasn't been helped. According to Wikipedia: "In 2006 she stated on her website that she was planning to republish her books and was entertaining the possibility of another lawsuit against Warner Bros., J. K. Rowling and Scholastic Press." Well... she's nothing if not persistent....

    Ideas come from everywhere, and writers and audiences should know that sometimes little things do get plucked from here and there, often without intent. But that has always happened... and will always happen. And it does not equal "plagiarism."

    Furthermore, coincidences exist. Two people can come up with the same idea at roughly the same time, independent of one another. Even three people. Even eleven thousand people. Sure, some of those people will never run with their ideas, but trust: No matter what crazy ideas your brain comes up with, you probably will not have been the first to think of them. (And just because you google your idea and 0 results come back doesn't necessarily mean anything.)

    Want proof that (mere) coincidences in storylines do exist? Check this out:

    • There's a 1994 movie in which a girl (who happens to have long blond hair and a name with two "a"s in it), inspired by a school assignment, decides to try and find out more about her deceased mother. She travels to California. where she manages to locate several of her mother's old friends. Mom used to be an actress, and was part of an acting troupe. One of the friends leads our main character to a man named Jeffrey. It turns out Jeffrey was once married to the girl's mother. Our protagonist is shocked, and begins to wonder if Jeffrey might be her biological father. Jeffrey assures the girl that he is not; that the father who raised her -- Harry -- is the biological father.
    • There's a 2012 movie in which a young woman (who happens to have long blond hair and a name with two "a"s in it) decides to make a documentary about her deceased mother. She interviews her family members, and tracks down several of her mother's old friends. The mother used to be an actress, and was in several plays. Our protagonist has heard rumors over the years about her biological father not actually being the man who's raised her, that he may actually be one of her mother's old acting buddies, most likely a guy named Geoffrey. She meets with Geoffrey, who denies being her father, and she is soon led to another man her mother knew from that same time period, Harry. It turns out Harry is the young woman's biological father.

    The main characters have their looks and names in common. They both have deceased mothers. They both go searching for more information about their mothers, who were both actresses. They both think their bio-dad might be a guy named Jeff/Geoffrey, and in the end they learn their bio-dad is named Harry. 

    You might think the 2012 movie ripped off the 1994 one, or that maybe both of them ripped off something older.

    The 1994 film, My Girl 2, was a work of fiction.

    The 2012 film, Stories We Tell, was a documentary, directed by Sarah Polley, the young woman whose life -- and whose mother's life -- it was about.

    These were two independent films that have remarkable similarities, but neither can claim infringement by the other. If their releases had been reversed, it might be worth noting, but as it is, this is an example of coincidences -- even crazy ones -- existing.

    In conclusion, stop freaking out about them and go enjoy those seven awesome books and eight movies.

    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    A Very Friendly Christmas!


    On the first day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A mini-doll named Stephanie...



    On the second day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A pile of pieces... 

    ...and no instructions that I can see!

    So we're going to make it up as we go....

    Annnd it's possibly a snowmobile??

    We're just going to call it a snowmobile and move on to day 3.


    On the third day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A leaf and a stick and some round pieces wtf.

    Never fear, we can totally do something with this!

    Ta da!

     And then, a discovery. The thing you are supposed to build is pictured on the back of each of the little doors. WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS?

    Well, I feel kinda dumb. But you know what? I think it might be slightly more fun to build without the picture and then compare what I come up with to the pic to see how close I am. Yes. That is what I will do. :)


    On the fourth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Body parts?

    Just kidding, it's Emma! A new BFF for Stephanie!

    (But stay away from my snowmobile.)


    On the fifth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    "OMG, the pink slope and the red pieces totally clash."
    "Shuh, I know. And is dark brown a legal Friends color? Should we run and hide?"

    No, we should not, we should build!

    With the roofy slope and the poles and all, I'm guessing some kind of lemonade stand is asking to be made.

    But let's check the back of the door to see what it was really supposed to be...

    Oh, one of THOSE...

    Of course!


    On the sixth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...


    Okay, so clearly these represent the gifts of the three Wise Men -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- oh and plus an empty peanut butter jar, which represents, I dunno, having eaten plenty or whatever.

    How this is all going to fit with a snowmobile, lamp post, two BFFs and a lemonade stand is anyone's guess. WILL WE FIND OUT ON DAY 7??? (yeah... probably not)


    On the seventh day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Poles, brown brick, roof piece... this looks like yet another lemonade stand. Maybe we're supposed to be building some kind of Holiday Market? Maybe the Magi gifts from yesterday are supposed to be the wares? And maybe this means Emma and Stephanie are going to get to go... shopping?

    "We love shopping!!"
    "We have no money!"
    "Who cares -- there aren't any vendors at the stands anyway!"
    "Good point! YAY FOR FREE STUFF!"


    On the eighth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...



    On the ninth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    More mysterious pieces!

    And so...


    On the tenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...


    On the eleventh day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Heartlake City's introduction to capitalism.

    Read: MONEY!

    The ensuing greed was, I suppose, inevitable...


    On the twelfth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Hmm. I am almost tempted to look at the picture of what it's supposed to be, because honestly, I have no clue.

    In the end I build something that looks like a cross between a tetris piece and a birthday cake. 

    Then I decide to peek at the picture--

    Oh. Presents. Duh. 

    Well... mine could be a present, too! Just... really oddly shaped. It's special, dangit.


    On the thirteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A non-mystery...

    No creative builds for me today, because I really can't ignore the fact that the thing I am supposed to build is right there on the box. (And so is one of the presents from yesterday -- yes, shut up.) 

    Fine. I will dutifully build the... uh...

    Present-carrying sled thing.




    On the fourteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Pieces to make, perhaps, another street lamp -- and what is most assuredly a magic crystal.


    Stay tuned to find out if Christmas is ruined??


    On the fifteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Pieces to make a pretty blue bench!!

    A... tiny pretty blue bench...

    Oh well; I bet it beats sitting in the snow.


    On the sixteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...


    Nice, seeing as how 70% of the advent calendar's cardboard decor is made up of an ice rink.

    The ladies are having about as much luck as I do when on ice.

    Tomorrow: ice fishing???


    On the seventeenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    The gift of music!

    Now we just need a Christmas tree so that rockin' around can commence! (I totally see a Christmas Tree on that box!)


    On the eighteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Snowman parts...

    A creepy, faceless snowman. Welp, time to recreate American Gothic.



    On the nineteenth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...


    Nice juxtaposition there, Lego. What exactly are you implying??


    Hey hey, it's Christmas Tree Day!

    Let the tree-hugging commence!


    On the twenty-first day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    Hmmm. The Christmas Tree was yesterday. What are they going to come up with that can top that?

    A songbook and two cans of mace???

    That does it; this calendar is freaking weird.


    Christmas is coming,
    the goose is getting fat,
    and my excitement for this calendar is seriously dwindling.

    The tree was cool, the snowman was cool, but now...

    An empty box and a snowy leaf?

    Right then. Well, I'm sure the 23rd will be much more exciting! And that the 24th will be the best of all!!! :D  (optimism. it's an illness.)


    On the twenty-third day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A chipmunk.

    So we're two days from Christmas, and we get one half of Chip & Dale. I get that we're trying to be all non-denominational, non-religious, non-everything... but this is, after all, an ADVENT calendar, and I'm pretty sure, traditionally, "advent" isn't about waiting for the coming of a decorated rodent.

    D'aw, but at least she's cute!


    On the twenty-fourth day of December, my Lego Friends Advent Calendar gave to me...

    A big fat blue and white present with a Christmas Letter on top. 

    That's it. That's what we get for the 24th, Christmas Eve. A present. Not too thrilling, considering we got "presents" way back on the 12th as well. I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe Santa? Mrs. Claus? Santa's workshop, complete with lights and moving parts? Oh, I dunno, SOMETHING BESIDES A BOX.

    Wait a second... are those turquoise Lego bricks? 


    And there's plenty more to be had of that! Plus... pink! And violet! And a beautiful magical blue jewel (which, I'm only somewhat sorry to say, never did reverse the hair-switching spell, but Emma and Stephanie have learned to live with their new locks.) Well, heck... if you take this set for the pieces, it's actually quite nice!

    Merry Christmas To Me!

    And... to you, of course! :D