Thursday, December 30, 2010


"'I should like you to take me to see my great old grandmother.'

The king looked grave and said: 'What does my little daughter mean?'

"I mean the Queen Irene that lives up in the tower - the very old lady, you know, with the long hair of silver.'

The king only gazed at his little princess with a look which she could not understand.

'She's got her crown in her bedroom,' she went on; 'but I've not been in there yet. You know she's there, don't you?'

'No,' said the king, very quietly.

- George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

There are three doors in front of you. All is quiet for a moment. You can hear the pigeons flapping their wings outside the tower walls. Your throat is dry and your feet sore from climbing. But you forget when you hear the humming. Soft, like a bee.

This part always gets me. My heart pumps and I instinctively lean forward towards the screen. I know what's coming, but it's still somehow new each time. This, my friends, is The Princess and the Goblins.

Although the movie and book have a difference of an "s" in their titles, the same feelings are evoked from both mediums. Did you ever grow up watching or reading this story? I had the movie on VHS and used to watch it all the time. Proof: if I put it in the VCR now, the picture gets all wobbly and the sound is horribly off. For Christmas I ordered it in DVD format, as well as finally getting my hands on the book for the first time (got the sequel included, The Princess and the Curdie). I would highly suggest finding a copy yourself (or... actually... I believe all of it is on Wikipedia... I know!).

Although there is a lot to love, my favorite character is and will always be the mysterious Queen Irene. I don't know yet if the DVD has it, but on the original tape, the film would start with a little talk by a real woman (the voice actress) dressed up as Queen Irene. She had on the sparkling makeup and long white wig. Child safety must have been a big issue at the time because she advertised a card that she said all little girls needed in case they were ever lost or needed help. I can't remember much about the card - it might have had an emergency number on the back, or the child's number, to give to a policeman if there was trouble. I never did get that card, but I always got chills when I watched this introduction. Her voice was so smooth and melodic, yet a bit alarmist at the same time. She was serious about future danger. And she could help you prepare for it.

She told little Irene, in such words: "I'll be here when you need me, though you may not always be able to see me."

I trusted her. I wanted my grandmothers to be like her - full of gentle guidance and floating roses.

I thought of the queen and this film today because I spoke with an old friend of mine for the first time in a while. We were sitting in our respective bedrooms, connected by a phone line, and feeling like we were back in college skidding on dirty dorm floors and eating marshmallow and peanut butter sandwiches. Apparently, I can be a little bit psychic, because I tend to call her right before something major happens. "You always seem to be there when I need you," she said, and I, blushing and yet familiarly snarky, quoted the above words from Queen Irene.

I think her words hold true for a lot of great friendships or any type of important relationships. Even in the age of texting and Blackberries, we still manage to find time to step away from technology and enjoy living. This can take many forms, though sometimes friendships can seem to slip away as we get some metaphorical shut-eye. I believe that you don't always need words to maintain a connection with someone. The connection still holds, even if you're trapped on a desert island without a bottle to send off into the sea.

Throughout the course of the story, Irene is constantly told that her great-great-grandmother is only a figment of her imagination. No one believes her. The danger she faces is not necessarily concerning the goblins, but that she'd stop believing that Queen Irene lives in the abandoned tower. Her father, as I quoted in the beginning of this post, is the only one who seems to know something about this mysterious ancestor. However, he can do nothing until she invites him to see her. Irene is on her own. And she proves strong enough to hold fast to the unconventional relationship with the wise woman.

Please enjoy this amazing moment of the film. I think you'll catch on to it's magic and realize, because I can't do her justice, just how amazing Queen Irene is.

Have a safe and happy new year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Wishes and Prince Philip's Hair

"The moon stared at the princess, and the princess stared at the moon, but the moon had the best of it, and the princess began to cry"

- George MacDonald, The Wise Woman, or The Lost Princess.

I don't think anyone was staring at the moon last night. Christmas Eve leaves kiddies and adults either asleep in their beds or gazing up at the ceiling. Depends on how you handle impatience.

One upon a time I was told that if I went looking for Santa in the living room, where the tree sparkled with electric lights, I would only catch a glimpse of his red coat before he and the presents evaporated like morning dew. I'm pretty sure I was told other things (I remember something disjointed about a Christmas deer). Funny how the most interesting tales come from warnings.

I hope that this wonderful holiday went well for all my readers (and future readers) and even the people who have not discovered this place yet, haha. My far-reaching wishes stretch out beyond the computer screen. Wham! You've got 'em.

I won't talk about what treasures popped out from underneath the wrapping paper this morning. But I will say that something exciting, and maybe trivial, happened while me and the family took our traditional stroll through the Magic Kingdom.

When extended family live states and states away, you tend to form new traditions. Sometimes strange. Mostly fun. Braving the over-capacitated kingdom has become an exciting (and a little foolhardy) journey we make.

We ate at Cosmic Rays; I watched enviously as my dad and brother ate burgers with guacamole sauce under the bun. I chewed on my own plain burger and was secretly jealous (maybe I need new glasses so I can see the menu better. How could I miss that?). The weather windy and sunny at the same time. Children were more violent than usual... maybe it's the promise of toys they are given by their short-tempered parents. The promises I heard were made under exhaustive circumstances. Empty, I'd say.

But it seems as if Santa had one more surprise for me. The daytime Christmas parade was passing through Frontierland and we were taking the shortcut along the boardwalk. Just over the trees, I could see the colorful floats roll by; the sky was full of ribbons and snowflakes and I got painfully excited when I recognized the float with the princes and princesses. I grabbed onto my mother's backpack so she could lead me blindly forward (our path was still jammed) and stood on my toes and looked.

I saw something beautiful and unexpected. I saw Prince Philip. And he had hair.

Should I backpedal? It's simple. I've lived in sunny FL for ten years, and in all the time I've gone to Disney World, I have only seen men casted for Prince Philip who have sported crew cuts. As a lover of tousled hair on men, and an occasional stickler for details, I couldn't understand why all the Philips were practically bald. He had a delightful head of hair in the movie. And a little curly forelock. Where did they get it wrong?

But today, on the Christmas morning, I saw Prince Philip with a full head of lovely fluffy hair. My heart pounded against my chest and I squinted until my eyes were shaped like squished peas (HAHA). I thought I would faint right there, on the boardwalk, and be trampled upon by angry parents with mean little stroller wheels. Maybe a girl wearing an Aurora dress would roll by and tug on my hair, as if saying, "He's my prince, you old lady. We're married. My dress even changed colors during our wedding dance." But, you know, Prince Philip is my favorite Disney prince. So this would be worth it. (I stress Disney prince. I have a top favorite animated prince - can you guess? - but I'll save that for another post, haha).

I managed to keep my footing and sighed as we continued along. The rest of the day went very well, and, when we arrived back home, I dished out some leftover green bean casserole and went looking for proof of my well-endowed (hair-wise) prince. Well, heh heh, I guess he's new. I haven't found anything yet. But I'll remember to keep a look out next time. If his appearance is a gift, then that means that it has to stay long after this magical wintry day is over.

Have a great CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome Home, Roppongi!

A blog within a blog, haha...

I'm a homebody.

My idea of a wonderful afternoon is to sit on a large, soft couch. The ethereal music of ice cubes clinking glass fills the quiet room. A pile of well-loved library books slowly slide into the dip between cushions. I'm cozy in a cardigan or woolly sweater, barefoot, and balancing a tiny laptop in my lap. Yes, yes, the laptop is always involved, it seems. But it's consistent warmth and gentle hum, like a long sigh, adds to the familiar atmosphere.

You may not believe me, but I'm a bona fide Gemini. And it makes sense - I make sense - as a child of the star twins until we crash headfirst into this issue. I like to settle into my space. I feel that when I am surrounded by what inspires me (via posters, knick-knacks, etc), I can tap into those creative zones that help me keep writing. While my astrological genes say I should be fluttering from party to party, I find that a trip to the outdoor mall makes my cheeks glow with fresh adventure.

As much as I love the tranquility of home, I still love to explore new places and find little spots to sit and think and write. I used to have a few I would wander to in undergraduate school. I remember a grassy field next to the music building that overlooked the lake. There was also a leafy hill that sloped down from the side of the science building - if you sat at the top, you could peek in through a set of windows to see a lab below.

As I started my graduate journey, however, I have spent most of my time on campus in my office. When I'm there for a good few hours, grading or researching or just rocking back and forth in my chair, the fluorescent lights start to burn and the walls of the pumpkin-colored cubicle shrinks. Why don't I get out and explore the miles of university land, sprawling and endless compared to my small college? Well, I need a computer. All the time. Emails plop into my inbox like raindrops every few minutes and work doesn't slink into the shadows for later. It's always there. I figured out that simply allocating time away from the computer was not going to work: these school days are rarely that predictable. So, instead, I would purchase a companion who would free me from my office, but would allow me to keep up with steady flow of work. This pal: a netbook.

The Dell Inspiron mini was officially born today. This afternoon, when I dropped my duffel bag and Christmas presents for the family onto the tile floor, I saw the cardboard box waiting. Yay, no one opened it while I was away. We gathered around and watched it come to life. I stuck a big sticker on the front; the sad animals seem to be saying, "Take care of the environment, please." Very compelling. The pictures I've posed thus far feature it: I named him Roppongi.

Okay, so technically, Roppongi is the name of a train station and a whole district in Tokyo, Japan. But this netbook is named after the character, a personification of the district and station in a show called Miracle Train. If you have never seen it, I sincerely recommend it. Especially if you don't watch anime often. It's a show about a mythical train that helps lost ladies. It's very sweet and funny. Check out episode 1 here. And don't forget to turn on the closed captioning (CC). I know I did, haha.

Left: Roppongi. Right: My Roppongi.

So with Roppongi happily by my side (I'm thinking even lapdog. Very odd), I am embarking on my mission to become a nomad on campus. I don't want to say that, at the end of my three years, I had never stepped foot outside of my office. While the air is cool, I'm going to enjoy each change of scenery that I encounter. It's going to be great.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Traveling Dreamer

I often tear up when I see things that are overly whimsical. I can't explain it exactly, but it must have something to do with the ideas of imagination blending with and distorting the real world to create something wholly beautiful and nostalgic. It's harder to do this, I think, than bending reality for a new horror film.

I seem to have a penchant for commercials (Refer to my Mr. Peanut post) and so I admit with no shame that, yes, a mere commercial sparked this sense of wonder within me. Again.

Why commercials? I have a theory. Commericals = flash fiction. Do you see it? They share the same power. Both are short on time. Both can leave an imprint. Either you can flash a bunch of numbers and facts with a plainly dressed woman with white teeth or... you can take the opportunity to hit your viewers hard. Create not just a good ad, but an unforgettable story; something that still lives inside the viewers mind long after the program comes back on.

The commercial this time is for the Kia Optima 2011. Now, I usually hate car commercials. I'm not impressed with grinning families piling into shiny cars. I yawn when the sleek racers traverse various terrains. But this is no average car commerical. Here's a bar of screenshots:

A train full of animal-headed gentlemen and a pretty girl? Ooooo. Here's the commercial in its entirety:

Cool, right? I'm in love (of course I am - did you see the diorama?).

It's nostalgia alright. A pure dose of it. But after my head stopped spinning, I noticed that there was something familiar about it. Boy is in his room, ready to fall asleep, and then he goes soring off somewhere in his bed. Hm. Okay. Just like the animated movie, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989).

Originally a comic by Winsor McCay, Little Nemo became one of those classic videos that was a staple for little kids growing up. No matter how it made it into your VHS collection, it was there. I think we have to thank it for a lot of things. Sparking creativity? Number 1. If you haven't seen it yet, here's a nice clip to give you a feel for it (and prolly the main plot):

So what is with this image of the sleeping child going on a moving journey through odd, magical worlds? It's become a symbol. I believe it represents hope because we still have the ability to dream. The most important part is to never forget. So even as the kid in the Kia commercial becomes a grown-up in a fancy car and Nemo wakes up after his final adventure in Slumberland, we still leave both worlds with the strong sense that they won't forget what happened in their dreams. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Writing Experiments

Happy finals week... to anyone still having to take them. I have one last paper to turn in and I swear, it is this close to being done. That's what today is for. And yet, as you're reading, I feel the the need to make another post. The need itches. Like a sunburn. Or something less peely.

I recently made an account on this fascinating website called Figment.

The website takes its inspiration from Japanese cell phone novels or keitai shosetsu. Writers will choose monikers and create novels from the bits and pieces... the steady flow of words that come unedited to be shared with the world. Some had become so popular that publishers picked them up and they made it on bestsellers lists. Read the article The New Yorker wrote about it for a better idea. With all this buzz, the founders of Figment want to see what we can do in America.

This is isn't the first website of its kind. However, the design of the pages are so inviting and it's hard not to get caught up in the adventure and goodwill that comes with the launch of a new idea.

With sharing stories comes the knowledge that all serious writers know about concerning the availability of online writing and publishing (And I won't go into it for the sake of avoiding ranting and/or being just plain boring). So how could I participate in this with a clear, carefree attitude? By writing something exclusively in mind for Figment.

Presenting my new side project: Birdcage Girl.

Birdcage Girl is a mock cell phone novel that I'll be working on for as long as the story keeps coming. I've written five chapters so far, each of them only a few hundred words long. I'm thinking flash fiction. Very small snippets that will, in the end, add up to a larger story. At least, that's the plan.

The little novel centers around 18-year-old Ashlyn and her mother (aptly named "her mother" for now). Ashlyn spends most of her days in a wire birdcage, wheeling herself around the house and secretly planning her escape. Why is she in a cage? Who put her there? How will she get out? Are those enough hooks for you? Haha.

The personal goal for me is to come up with the quirkiest characters I can, along with bizarre situations and circumstances. I can't wait to see where it takes me and I hope, as readers, you will share in that curiosity. It is free - of course. Just letting you know. You know? Just click on the picture of my hasty book cover to read what I've got so far - and check my link at the top of the blog when this post finally shifts down the page. Feedback would be great, whether through the site or comments on here. I'm listening :)

Oh. I say "mock" cell phone novel because I own a terrible cell phone for writing. Therefore, I simply can't write anything on it (and even text messages from me are horrendous specimens). Sure, my little helper glows like a rainbow when someone is calling, and it's sleek and green and can do tricks. But really, it's so old it's not in stores anymore. It came before the time of keyboards. So, yes, I don't even have a keyboard. Don't pity me.

I'm stretching my imagination by way of flash fiction. I try to put myself on the bus, or train, typing away on a small screen. Creating something that grows with each word.

Oh. My cell phone says "Hi!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Winter Now?

The grass is green, the trees are heavy with leaves, and the sun is beating down on my back. Yes. This sounds like winter. And again, like every winter before, I'm disappointed in my lack of aching fingers and wind-raw cheeks.

It's amazing to see what kinds of snowy contraptions are created to help us Floridians realize it's actually winter. Without wreaths hanging from palm trees and Christmas lights burning up the night, we would continue walking through the days without any knowledge of the seasons. Some people, surprisingly, don't mind this.

I ran into a lady a few weeks ago and we fell into polite conversation in the grocery line:

Me: It's getting a little cooler out, isn't it?
Her: Oh, god. You're so right. It's terrible.
Me: What?
Her: I hate it! You know, last winter it was so cold! We had two whole weeks of it. I thought I was going to die.
Me: (After frowning a bit) But don't you find the chilly wind even a little helpful when you get hot flashes?
Her: (Blinks slowly) Oh. I... never thought of it like that. I guess you're right.

Small victories, ladies and gents.

This morning, we spent a few hours at the mall. I came away with a Little Twin Stars ring and a giant sticker of the same Lala and Kiki that I will be sticking on something very special - when it comes in the mail (More on that in future posts).

Every mall has a Santa to sit on. This mall was no different... except, well, they pulled out all the stops. The exhibit (I can think of no other word) is called the Ice Palace. The theme? Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I stood on the second floor, admiring the giant bubble palace of ice and snow. Photos of all the characters decorated the gates around the palace, and there were even life-size plastic figures of such characters as Lucy and Edmund, acting out scenes we'll see when the movie comes out. It was beautiful.

There were two difference spots to get your picture taken. One was shaped just like a throne that would hold the caboose of the evil White Witch. However, the other one was a cozy chair made just for Santa. As I watched the little kids run up to the bearded man and beg for gifts, I saw a teenager dressed in a Cinderella dress waiting in line.

I thought that she was working there at first. A weird crossover, but hey, it's possible. However, she moved with the line and did get her picture taken on the White Witch's throne. The Cinderella dress was full of sparkles, just like the crown on her head. I never related Cinderella to winter, though, now that I've seen the snow and ice side by side with the dress, I wonder why I never did. I thought the teen was very brave too. Wearing costumes is a lot of fun, but usually is the norm when you're at a Halloween party or at a convention. Seeing her wearing it out at the beginning of December was just plain awesome I'm proud of her.

So I think I got a bit of a good chill when I got home. The plastic snowmen and penguins outside amongst the flowers made me believe, for a few minutes, that there was frost on the ground. It was fleeting, I admit. But the stirring of hope was much appreciated. Time to break out the apple cider.

Hm. And make more progress on my manuscript. Heh.


Okay. So only a few days after posting this, I found that a bunch of people are buzzing about the Narnia Ice Palaces. They're invading malls all over with Aslan goodness. Here's an article all about it that I had to share.

Small world!