Friday, November 16, 2012

The Search for Sock


             Jimmy stuck his head under his bed, desperate to find his friend’s cat Ra.  The animal had been entrusted to him, and he didn’t seem to be anywhere.  Figuring his charge had slipped out of the house, he threw off his housecoat, grabbed pants from the floor, and started dressing.  When he opened his top drawer, however, all he saw was one single sock.  “How did that happen?” He wondered.  He was sure there had been two left after he’d taken out yesterday’s pair.  A cold fear went through him.  His mom would kill him, if he didn’t find it.  His dad had been a big star, and they used to have more socks and shirts than he could count, but a horrible man had shot him.  After that big bang, his universe had been a whole new thing.

             Slipping out of the house so his mom wouldn’t ask questions, he headed off on his search.  His left foot kept rubbing uncomfortably on the inside of his shoe, but he soldiered on.  The cat was nowhere to be seen.  Disheartened, he approached his old neighbour, who was eyeing him from his garden. 

             “Mr. McCoy, have you seen my friend’s cat Ra?”

             The man shook his head wisely.  “No, those are not easy to find.  You’ll need transportation to search far from home.”

             Jimmy nodded miserably, and slumped down against the garage wall.  He kept picturing the car keys hanging just inside the kitchen door.  He knew what he had to do; he was twelve, he could handle it.

             After checking through the window that his Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, he plucked the keys off the wall and sneaked into the garage.  The mechanical door stuck, so the car scraped against it with a painful screech.  He’d probably be grounded forever after this, but he couldn’t disappoint his friend.  Then he’d have to find that sock...

             Before he knew it, Jimmy had travelled so far the traffic was getting thick and complicated.  Busy staring out the side window for Ra, he didn’t notice he was heading straight for a garbage recycle truck.  At a honk, he slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.  He veered so only the empty passenger’s side was smashed.  The cans the men were dumping popped open, and out came Ra!  He’d got him back from the recycler!  Running over to pick him up, he stopped, astounded.  There, hanging out of Ra’s mouth, was his missing sock.

             The police were arriving, and calling his mom, and he knew he was in big trouble – but all he could think was, “Well, at least I found my sock, with my friend’s cat Ra.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter


 Universal’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, one of the “Islands of Adventure,” in Orlando, Florida, has some impressive features, but felt like a teaser to me.  It must also be an impressive money maker for them, with the plethora of goods for sale at every corner you turn.  After a quick tour, I was dismayed the whole place could be covered in a few hours, if you don’t count time waiting in line for attractions.  I was surprised there were only three rides, probably because my family and I had been imaging all the possible ones there could be.  There was the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, a basic one not too scary for most, a leg-dangling dragon chase loop-the-loop coaster that was quite exciting, and the main 3D attraction in the castle, moving cars in sync with video so you felt like you were really there.  We had imagined also, a spinning ride that dangled us from broomsticks, just behind bludgers, a large ride with carousel-like up and down and around motion with whomping willow branches weaving in and out around us, a carousel with elaborately painted hippogriff, dragons, brooms, thestrals, and a few stationary horseless carriages …  We could imagine an interactive museum atmosphere to the place, with buttons to push, clothes to try on, a buffet set up like the Hogwarts feast, and more.  In reality, we had a lot of fun, saw beautiful things, but I was left with the feeling I’d spent money to go into a park the main purpose of which was to sell things to us in shops, not to bring us a magical experience.

video
  When you enter the park, you can imagine you just hopped off a convincing replica of the Hogwarts train engine, steaming on a track.  It would have been nicer if you could travel on it, but it was fun to see.  You found yourself in Hogsmeade, but not quite a proper one.  The whole of Ollivander’s shop must have been flue powdered over from Diagon Alley.  Impressive height, though, to the shelves of wands, which were intricate and beautiful.  After a long line, we saw a demo of a wand choosing a boy, pretty much copied from the movie as if the boy were Harry, not individualised at all.  Of course then they encouraged him to follow the wand to the check-out counter!

A number of stores in “Hogsmeade,” which was basically a street, were just fronts, not open for going into.  They were fun to look at, with things like a screeching, moving mandrake in the window (that no one succumbed to).  Though it’s not “realistic,” it was really fun having moaning Myrtle carrying on in restrooms lined with sooty lamps and stained old stone in the Hogsmeade strip.  The guys had her screeching piped in too, I assume to be fair to the men and so we wouldn’t  have guys walking into the girls’ room all the time to hear her.

You could hardly move in Honeydukes candy store, or the other shops.  There was a colourful and tempting array of sweets to drool over, but the crowds, lines, and huge prices discouraged us from spending much.  They wanted ten dollars for one (beautifully packaged) chocolate frog with a card inside.  The whole Potter park was packed, with huge lines for everything.  I didn’t find the Zonko’s joke shop as fun as I could imagine it being.  Mostly there seemed to be cheap plastic made-in-China versions of things like snitches and sneakoscopes, and some standards such as whoopee cushions.  There was something labelled as the telescopes that punch people but we couldn’t try them out, since it was a real store instead of a museum-like place of exploration, to see what Harry and his friends could buy.

Luckily we’d forked out for special “Express” tickets, which allowed us to enterer a short line that turned a seventy-five min wait into fifteen min.  We had a lot more rides and saved headaches.  It couldn’t be used on the main attraction, which was in the Hogwarts castle, but our tickets let us take advantage of early admission to get into it before the main crowds arrived.  The only way to tour the whole castle was while you were in line for the main ride, so you had to move with the line instead of being able to stop and admire something.  You can’t just wander into the castle and have a leisurely look around, finding rooms and crevices and surprises, as with a museum, which I found disappointing, but there were elaborate and beautiful things to see.  A real looking Dumbledore and the three main characters talked to us.  They seemed to look right at us.  There were beautifully reproduced statues, including the one that should carry one to Dumbledore’s office.  The place did look like the real Hogwarts except for all the chains and posts herding us through on one path.  The moving staircases were omitted.  We thought there should be an on-site hotel made to look like the house dormitories though, halls we could wander into, things to find and play with.

We had a nice “feast” platter in the three broomsticks, tasty chicken, veggies and potato.  Since there was a wait for tables we didn’t go back into line to get desert there.  We found four pm a good time to go in for a meal with not too much wait.  It was a must-do experience for us, but our only meal in the business of the Potter park.  We braved a vendor line several times for pumpkin juice and butter beer.  The juice had a spicy apple cider flavour to it, and was quite pleasant.  The butter beer was available either frozen or cold.  The frozen was similar to a slushy with butterscotch cream on top, refreshing on a hot day.  The cold version instantly tasted like root beer, and the carbonation was more obvious.  It was an interesting blend of the soda classic with butterscotch, with a nice layer of foamy flavour on top.

            The other islands in the park weren’t nearly as packed, luckily, so we had a lot of fun in our four days.  Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the popularity of the Potter area, it really didn’t seem built for the numbers.   What was there was really good, but we could imagine so much more.

I was dismayed that our castle guides thought we were muggles, not new magic students.  Still, we wouldn’t have missed the chance to have a face to face with Harry as he led us on a flying broom chase above the castle, and see dementors and skeletons, pop up before our eyes.  It was possible for a few moments at a time to suspend our disbelief and just be in the magic.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real Space Portals; Blurring Science and Scifi



   Imagine chucking trash into a portal to the sun to burn it up (hence losing the material to Earth, but thats another story), sending beacons into space to contact aliens, mining minerals using robots sent through portals...the possibilities are endless and exciting.
   With science sounding like science fiction more and more often, it's a challenge for authors to keep up!  Perhaps I should go back and edit my space novel nearing completion, switching out some of the space elevator transportation with portals.  Will people already writing about portals be classed as writers of science-based drama by the time they publish? 
   The lines are blurring, able to reach out through space even as they're written.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Seed saving unlocks our past, key to our future

   While I'm a lover of genetics and intelligent lab manipulations to help with medecine and food, I agree it's vital that we maintain a stock of the original material, in this case "heritage seeds."  People are smart, but sometimes we get it wrong, and when we do, we can get it wrong big time when it comes to fiddling with natural evolution.  Geneticists can speed up the process of altering a plant to suit a particular environment, but it's vital that we be able to go back to the original, slowly evolved varieties.  If we all planted even one variety each per growing season it would greatly help.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Avengers -- The Movie



Rip roaring fun, pure and simple.  Cool gadgets, surreal scenery with comic book brilliant colours, and superheroes with personality.  How could it not be a great ride?

The plot was easy enough to follow, but not so simplistic as to be annoying.  Each superhero had his or her time in the limelight, and the interactions between them were as riveting as battles with the foes.

My only reservation with this movie and comic line is that it’s impossible to delve into any one character in depth.  I really enjoyed this, but I may have slightly preferred Thor and Iron Man I and II.  Each superhero has a rich background, and Thor and Iron Man in particular have fascinating and almost opposite settings.  It’s a bit difficult to reconcile the mostly unexplained magic and kingly authority of Thor with the highly technical, logical, spoiled child genius of Iron Man.  While the contrasts make for interesting conflicts between the characters, it’s a bit more satisfying to immerse myself in the atmosphere of one or the other and stay there for a whole movie; having said that, I wouldn’t want to miss the next installment.

I was delighted with the humour and unexpected actions I’ve come to associate with the director Joss Wheden.  My teens and I are going through the Buffy and Angel DVDs and we think the man’s a bit of a genius.

All in all, a load of fun; don’t look for deep meaning or morals here, but I believe there is a great benefit to sweeping an audience away from reality for a couple of hours to refresh them for our mundane existence.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hunger Games: The Movie




             A suspenseful, poignant presentation based on a novel of the same name, but not a fun movie for me.  I found the acting convincing, the graphics and CG effects well done.  Without having read the book, I found the plot clear, the motives and thoughts of the protagonist, and evil government antagonists understandable.  There was some lovely film work, beautiful scenery, but some camera shaking techniques not to my liking as I find it headache inducing. A well done, effective movie, but based on such a heinous practice I found it disturbing and depressing.

             There was a small victory in the end, the heroine probably saved one life, but not much has really changed.  I realise the story was the first of a series, but that didn’t stop my emotional distaste at the sick minds behind the wasted young lives.  It was much worse than a disaster movie, nature taking its toll is a reality – but to think that fellow humans could be that cold and sick as to set up young children to fight to the death is distressing to say the least. Worse, the contest is exceedingly unfair. I can’t believe the population, even of the evil Capitol, would accept pitting twelve-year-olds against eighteen-year-olds, and girls against boys.  How does a little girl fight an almost adult man?  In karate competitions I’ve gone to, they separate sparring matches by age group, experience level, and gender. How can anything else be just?

             Though for some reason this was a much touted and anticipated production, I find myself wanting to forget the whole movie going experience and move on.


About Me

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I studied microbiology/genetics, then shifted to the more purely creative fields of writing and painting. I’m passionate about my work, currently an ambitious Science Fiction drama, as well as reading, karate, horses, cats, gardening, creative cooking, and my family.