Fun in Western PA

If you guys were wondering where I was the last week, I was celebrating my birthday. And Thanksgiving. Where was I? In Pittsburgh because my sister just moved there and my mom and I needed to get her settled and all that. And I had fun. I got a lot of pictures.

For starters, I went to the John Heinz History Center, mainly because it was on the same street as the hotel I was staying at. I’d say the highlight was their Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, where they immortalize greats of Pittsburgh and the region at large, such as Franco Harris:

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Mario Lemieux:

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And even Joe Paterno (although nowadays, I don’t think anyone thinks of him as “Joe Pa” anymore):

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Also, there were these things that I thought were awesome:

It wasn’t just the sports (although the sports is what drew me there). There were also more historical tidbits, like the history of Heinz ketchup. And learning something I didn’t know before: The Lewis and Clark trail started in Pittsburgh. And the Rooney family (AKA the people that own the Steelers) recreated the trail 200 years later.

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In addition to that, I also managed to go out to the West End Neighborhood and got a great view of the city.img_0272

Other things I did is head to the famous Primanti Bros. for a sandwich after I heard it was stacked with fries and coleslaw (it was amazing), and shopping at some of the great markets in the Strip District.

As for my final thoughts on Pittsburgh, I’d say that it’s a pretty cool city. I can see myself living there, mainly because it’s probably a bigger sports town than Philadelphia. I’d attribute that to Pittsburgh having a history of their teams being consistently good, or at least when one team is bad, another team is just amazing to distract from the sucking.

And after seeing all of Pennsylvania, I can safely say that the way you picture the state is pretty accurate. The two big cities aren’t as bustling as other big cities, Pittsburgh gives a blue collar feel, Philly seems pretty homey, and in between the east and the west is a lot of farmland. You’d like it. I certainly do.

So, that’s how how I spent my birthday and Thanksgiving. Thank you for all the wishes, by the way. I got them while I was in the car.

 

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Dickens. What a man.

It’s been a while. Too long, some of you may be thinking. I really need to do something to make this have a set schedule before I think about apologizing, should I? Well, I know one way to make up for the lack of material: a movie review! And boy, do I have a movie for you. Today, I’m going to review a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a while with The Man Who Invented Christmas.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a movie about Charles Dickens and the process he went through to write his enduring classic A Christmas Carol. As somebody who tries to write often enough to consider himself something of a writer, I can say that this movie tried to speak to me. Seeing the characters come to Dickens as he struggles to write is something that I think most writers go through. I haven’t been fortunate to see the characters come to me, so maybe that’s something that only happens when you’re in a situation Dickens is in in this movie: on a deadline and having to deal with the fact you’re reeling from flops.

The thing that makes this work the most is Dan Stevens, who plays Charles Dickens. He’s having so much fun in this role and you can see him just beaming like this gigantic ball of kinetic energy in every scene he’s in. While I haven’t heard anything about Charles Dickens in his personal life, I feel that this may be something that’s just for the movie. I guess this may be one of things that falls under “it is what it is”. Also, there are some things that Dickens does in this movie that made me go, “You can’t spell Dickens without ‘dick’.” Another great aspect is Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge. He and Stevens play off each other really well and you get that character/creator relationship coming off well. He’s also got some funny lines as well. One character that struck as entertaining is Tara, one of Dickens’ maids. Keep an eye out for her, because she was really cool.

If there was one thing I had a problem with this movie, it was how they had some of the A Christmas Carol aspects may have been a bit too on the nose for my liking. One scene has Dickens see a kid with a crutch similar to the one Tiny Tim has and you’d probably know where that goes. They also have the line “God bless us, every one” line a few times, and that’s not the only thing that they take from the book. Having only seen small adaptations of it (read: vague memories of reading it in picture books as a kid, and one of them was with Disney characters) so I can say I know the story. It feels like some lines were taken verbatim from the book, but as the movie went on, I felt myself not being bugged by it.  I think that has to do with me having seen Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, I can safely say that when it comes to taking direct lines into a work, you can do much worse. Also, the fact that the dialogue fits the time period helps a lot.

Another issue I had was that in some parts, it felt like it was going for the typical second act low point that you see in a lot of movies, and Dickens had to get out of it. However, the way that that’s resolved is actually rather clever, and if you’re a fan of A Christmas Carol, is pretty damn cool.

And now the score. I’m a fan of historical stuff, and a fan of learning how creative things are made, I was excited about this movie when I saw the trailer for it. And I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed. Even the problems that I had made were persistent which is admirable in that it can correct its problems quickly. However, those problems are still there, as small as they may be. Me nitpicking? In the long run, maybe.

I’m going to give The Man Who Invented Christmas a 9.5/10. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, that fluffy holiday feeling, or if you’re just looking for a great movie this season, this is a great movie for you. It’s an amazing story of how a classic came to be.

Crash Landing back to Earth

So, I finally got to read some feedback on Wrath, months after I got it. It was pretty good feedback, and I hope to revisit it soon. The main thing was that I had something going in terms of ideas, and all I need to do is develop the world and characters.

And with that, I was exposed. It made me realize that putting it up for sale on Amazon, even for a contest, was a stupid idea. It was, to them, something that read as an undeveloped, hastily made mess. And developing my characters is going to be a challenge and a half because I can’t develop characters if my life depended on it because I barely know anything about relationships, if at all.

Let me explain. I spent a lot of time by myself growing up. Didn’t hang out with friends, didn’t invite anyone to the house, never really went out with anyone, never had a girlfriend…and even when I was with a group, never ate with anyone during lunch, I just felt like the odd man out, like I was hastily taped to a picture as an afterthought. And now, choosing to be something resembling a recluse for pretty much my entire life has come back to bite me in the ass.  How can I be able to make characters like actual people and give them depth if everything I’ve done makes me come across as an antisocial loner?

Oh sure, I could go out and try to make friends and try to connect with people…if I wanted you to feel bad for me with how pathetic I am with trying to connect with people. Let me explain.

When I was in college, and I saw all my classmates with their friends working like teams to make their senior projects and hanging out together like a little family, I started to contemplate and worry about what I was doing with my life, and one of the things I contemplated over was why I didn’t have those connections. Then it clicked to me: They have something I don’t. I firmly believe that when it comes to being social butterflies and easily making friends and being really good roommates to the point where the dwelling runs like a well-oiled machine with amazing efficiency and developing relationships that last, there’s a kind of gene that you’re either born with or you aren’t.

My mom was born with it, my sister was born with it, my grandmother was born with it, and I wasn’t born with it. My psychologist had to tell me that the skills necessary to form relationships and make friends can be learned and just need to be worked on to be both maintained and developed. And to that, I say this: even if I can learn how to develop relationships, it is a pathetic imitation that’s just painful an awkward to see in action. That’s why I say this “social gene” is something you’re born with or aren’t born with. And honestly, I feel like it’d be a better way if you just have to deal, kind of like that time when I was contemplating that first time. You’re either born with the ability to be social and make friends and make lasting relationships or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, you have to deal with that for the rest of your life and your best course of action is to embrace being a loner, not giving a damn if you come across as antisocial, crazy, or whatever. Just be wary that being with people for extended periods of time in a situation like being roommates can cause you trouble, up to and including being classified as “does not work well with others” or “dangerous to self or others”.

And that is why the biggest problem is character development, and that is why this method of improvement petrifies me. I have no basis on which to develop characters and establish relationship dynamics that are based on anything resembling real life, mainly because of trying to avoid anything resembling human to human interaction for years. And that’s not the only fear I have, nor it is the only problem that I received feedback on, but the way I develop actually has the potential to make my stories worse because it’ll only further give an impression that I have no idea what I’m doing.

To any aspiring writers, I have this advice: Make friends. Be social. And hope to God you were born with a social gene. It’ll help you a lot.

Response #445 on the USMNT failing to qualify for the World Cup

I took a while to respond so it’s not too knee-jerky. I’ve heard a lot about missing the World Cup and what it’ll mean. Let’s go down the list:

* I always saw Bruce Arena as a Band-Aid to get the Yanks through the Hex and after 2018 we can do a status report. But now that the wheels have fallen off prematurely, we can just blow it up and just rebuild for 2022 (or 2026 if we decide to boycott Qatar for some reason). Who the coach will be I don’t know, but the fact that we have nothing but friendlies and Gold Cups to build on should probably help you feel better if you don’t spend too much time contemplating on what could have been. I’m not sure how buyouts work, but I have a feeling we’re stuck with Arena for the foreseeable future.

* Yeah, it sucks not seeing Pulisic on the big stage. Everyone saying that he’s the greatest thing since Landon Donovan to the point where he was on 60 Minutes are deflated that he won’t have a coming out party in Russia. He’s still at Dortmund, and if he continues to tear it up in the Bundesliga, he still may get that big money move.

* Taylor Twellman said that everyone in Germany made a big rebuild plan after their failures in Euro 2000 that led to a World Cup win. I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen. The US Soccer landscape is irreparably divided now because of all the lawsuits going on, from pyramid structure to the way that youth development is implemented. And then there are the fans. The only thing that fans seem to agree on is that Sunil Gulati needs to be fired and put in a boat to be set adrift. If US Soccer was to burn to nothing, there will be keyboard fights if not fistfights over how to build from the ashes. The fact that the pro/rel discussion alone has gone from the message boards and subreddits to the courtroom just amplifies just how much division there is. Hell, the NASL case is in my opinion just the NASL trying to take US Soccer and MLS down with them as they go down in a flaming heap.

As for what’ll happen to the popularity…okay, I’ll concede that it sucks not being able to see the Stars and Stripes in Russia next year, and that may affect how much of the World Cup I watch. But it’s not like that we’ll see MLS regress to Version 1.0 and all the cavernous NFL stadiums and gridiron lines, countdown clocks, 35-yard penalty shootouts, and appealing first and foremost to soccer moms and their families that come with 1.0. I’m still trying to absorb the game and the hot takes coming from the Panama goal.

Either way, this dumpster fire of a qualifying campaign is over. Everything that’s on fire should be left to burn if only to see if something, anything, can rise from the ashes.

Talking RWBY

So, it seems we’re getting closer and closer to the Volume 5 premiere of RWBY. And while it seems that I should be excited about this upcoming premiere, I’m writing here from a position of…looking forward to it, but not super hyped.

For starters, let’s go over what the series is. RWBY is created by the production company Rooster Teeth and its been airing on their website, first to their subscribers and then to the general public a week after release including on their YouTube channel, since 2013. Here’s a plot summary that comes from the show’s Wikipedia page (Warning, here be a sliver of spoilers):

The story takes place in the world of Remnant, which is filled with mysterious and malevolent creatures known as the “Creatures of Grimm.” Prior to the events of the series, mankind waged a battle of survival against the Grimm, and their opposing kingdoms, before discovering the power of a mysterious element called Dust, which allowed them to fight back against the monsters. In the present day, Dust is used to power abilities and weapons, but a more archaic form of this is weaving it into clothing. Those who use these abilities to battle the Grimm are known as Huntsmen or Huntresses. The series focuses on four girls, each with her own unique weapon and powers. Together, they form team RWBY (/ˈrbi/, “ruby”) at Beacon Academy in the city of Vale, where they are trained to become Huntresses alongside team JNPR (/ˈunəpər/, “juniper”), team SSSN (/sʌn/, “sun”), team CRDL (/ˈkɑːrdnl/, “cardinal”) team CFVY (/ˈkɔːfi/, “coffee”), and various other named and unnamed student teams.

Volume 1 focuses on the introduction of the characters of the story, marking the events that lead to their team formations. All the while, mysterious thefts of Dust are occurring around the city of Vale, notably organized by the show’s antagonist, Roman Torchwick. Volume 2 follows up from these events of Volume 1, and team RWBY sets out in order to investigate the meaning behind these thefts. They aim to discover the villain’s plans for the city of Vale before the Vytal Festival—a festival between the four kingdoms of Remnant where they have their best students demonstrate their skills and abilities in celebration of the peace between all four kingdoms. Volume 3 starts with the beginning of the Vytal Festival; however, a sinister plot lurks behind the celebratory events, and the heroes can only do so much to prepare for the evil that is coming. Volume 4 takes place six to eight months following the events of Volume 3, with the members of Team RWBY separated and in different parts of the globe, mainly trying to get to “Mistral” (another location in the series) where another Huntsman Academy is located, to prepare for a new evil.

 All I did was correct what I thought was a typo.

I got into this show after watching an episode of DEATH BATTLE! featuring Yang Xiao Long, one of the main characters of this show, where she fought Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy VII. This followed reading tons of fan-written Death Battles featuring Yang from DeviantArt. This was right before Volume 3, when every RWBY fan will tell you shit got real and the story began in earnest. I’ve seen everything this show has done and…I feel like I’m not as hyped as other RWBY fans.

I think I know why that is: I got started with this show pretty late.  I started watching this show two whole years after the show began, forcing myself to catch up by watching the first two seasons on Netflix, where the first two seasons (the entire show at the time) was broadcast like a movie instead of 10-30 minutes episodes, which probably helped to explain the pacing issues I felt when shit hit the fan in Volume 3. Maybe I would have felt it if I followed it week to week back then as well. And I also felt it this past Volume 4. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on Rooster Teeth for episode length because of the many reasons that go into production, but maybe pacing could be an issue that can be addressed, especially if this show continues the cycle of using volumes to build up to an event in a volume that becomes a MAJOR plot point. Even with that in fact, I don’t think I’ll rush off to watch the earlier adventures as opposed to other titles I’m fond of like Fairy Tail or Attack on Titan.

Because of this, I’m not what you’d consider up to the times with the RWBY fanbase. Even being subscribed to the r/RWBY subreddit, I can safely say that I’m nowhere close to being the biggest RWBY fan, nor am I likely to gel with any other fans. Let me explain the reasons:

  • I have never been a fan of the music. While I have listened to the theme songs, nothing has made me inclined to listen to any of the songs outside of the context of the show, let alone listen to any of the songs on the soundtrack. Nothing there really pops out as super awesome.
  • I’m not what you’d call a “shipper” I have found no two characters that have clicked romantically AT ALL. Most of it may stem from not looking for romantic hints and hoping for a connection deeper them wanting to see them bang, but all the ships I’ve seen have either not hooked me in, I don’t see what the shippers see or I see them as friends at best. As for what happens in terms of romance on the actual show or what other people ship…do your thing, people. I ‘m not gonna stop you. I’m just some loser.
  • I don’t really care for any Rooster Teeth content besides RWBY. It seems that a lot of the people that are fans of other Rooster Teeth shows migrated to RWBY. I never cared about Rooster Teeth, nor even knew about them before discovering RWBY, so I probably have nothing in common with a lot of RWBY fans.

That’s not to say it’s all negatives. I enjoy reading the fanfics, though a lot of them tune me out because of the combination of romance and an unappealing premise that serves to help that romance. Although I’m not opposed to all romantic RWBY stories, I pass on a lot. In addition, I like seeing great fanfiction for this show, and I’ll admit some of the fanfic helped in making Ruby Rose (the main character) my favorite out of everyone on the show. And I will admit that some of the things that when it comes to shipping, I may come to ship something, though that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.

What does this mean for me and my small place in the RWBY fandom? Hard to say. Does anything I wrote here impact my feelings toward RWBY in the long run? I just hope that they fix the pacing issue and Rooster Teeth doesn’t drill the “two volumes of buildup for 1 mega moment in the third volume” into the ground, which is a fear I have considering Volume 5 is coming up. Aside from that, not really.

I guess you could call this an editorial or a mini-review, so I’m going to put this in my review section.

If there are any RWBY fans that read this, I hope I didn’t piss you off too much and I hope we can be something resembling friends.

The Birdcage is Flying

So, this’ll probably end up being another personal post. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too serious.

Ever since graduating high school in 2012, I’ve been following how my high school football team has been doing by watching The Best Local Sports Show, the highlight package that’s put together by the ABC affaliate of California’s Coachella Valley, KESQ. It’s fun to do to see what the dynamics are because I feel high school football can be almost like college football in some ways. However, at some point in the five years I was gone, something happened:

La Quinta High School, my alma mater, upped its student section game significantly. Let me tell you about The Birdcage.

It started at least with my freshman year in 2008. I was on the freshman football team and I’d always stick around for the varsity game in that prime Friday night slot that so many kids look forward to playing in. And while I was sitting with my mom, there were these kids cheering all game long and standing the entire game like college basketball student sections. And after a few weeks, I joined them. And then I joined them the next week. And the next. And the next…all through the football season of my junior year. I saw them go from just a small group of some of my friends to a large group of my friends that had some pretty good seats on the bleachers overlooking the 35-yard line next to the band (a migration from one side of the 50-yard line to the other). And they were still there my senior year when I was on the varsity team. I also saw them go from wearing white during the whiteout game against our rivals Palm Desert to some wearing white every week even if it was only one guy wearing a white headband. The Birdcage helped create some of the most fun I’ve had in high school.

And then I graduated, and now The Birdcage has its own Twitter and its own Instagram. It’s even its own club with officers and rules! Granted, I remember hearing announcements about The Birdcage meeting during lunch, but I didn’t think anything of it.

In fact, here’s a photo from this year’s home opener they had this year I found on Twitter:

 

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They have a sign. They have a flag. To think that this is where they are and how far they came after I first saw this group of people standing by me and cheering nonstop when I finished my freshman game in my mesh jersey and was sitting while watching varsity is mind-blowing.

I’m Martin White, a scout squad defensive tackle from La Quinta High School’s 2012 team. I don’t remember my stat line exactly, but I recall being named captain against Indio, getting a sack against Cathedral City, and raising my helmet into the air before every kickoff, regardless of who was kicking.

And I’m saying this: you’re doing great things, Birdcage. keep it up.

 

 

Writing About Copyright

Copyright is kind of interesting. I’m pretty sure everyone knows about it even if you don’t give the slightest crap. It’s the thing that gives a creator the legal right to use and distribute it however they wish and shows that they have the legal rights to it and that they own…whatever it is they made. And I could talk about copyright infringement and all that fun stuff, but I’m not a lawyer and it’ll kind of bore me and you.

So let’s talk about my experiences. When I first got into the creative writing mood, I think my mom would say I would have what you could call a bad habit of sharing my ideas and work willy-nilly. And that if I were to share it, and somebody were to make a buttload of money on what I had planned, I had nobody to blame but myself. But in school, I took a class on legal basics for filmmakers, and then I looked online a bit, and I discovered something mind-blowing:

In the United States, once you have the work in a fixed medium, such as written on paper or typed into a word processor, the copyright is yours. And you don’t even need to put a copyright symbol or an All Rights Reserved spiel on the thing. Isn’t that amazing?

The only thing is that you can’t copyright ideas or plans out outlines. And you actually have to register formally if you want to take somebody to court for copyright infringement. Those things I understand, mainly because it’s evidence of authorship that goes beyond family and friends.

So what does this mean for someone like me? Well, I have some short stories on an external hard drive, a screenplay that’s been published but hasn’t gone anywhere near someone that make it an actual movie, and some chapters of a book going for me, so there’s that. And if I ever do get to a point where I can do something, it’s off to registering. And registering. Aregisteringing.

Though the big thing that’ll determine the effictiveness of my copyright navigation is if what I make is even worth stealing.