Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Theories on Dragon Training (Puts On Tinfoil Historically Inaccurate Viking Hat)

I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 yesterday, and holy cow, it was great! I'd seen the first one a few months ago at a friend's house, but Dad wanted to see the second one with me so we checked the first one out of the library and watched it Saturday night. I also used to be a big fan of the books when I was younger, and I got to go to a Cressida Cowell book signing once. That was fun. I got a plushie of Toothless. It looks like Movie Toothless, but it's about the size of Book Toothless. (Book Toothless is a lot smaller, if you didn't know that already.)

Me with my Toothless plushie outside the library. It was a few years ago, hence the long hair.

And the soundtrack--wow! I mean, I'm already a sucker for anything that sounds Irish/Scottish (Scotch?)/fiddle-y, and it was just so good! I just bought the soundtrack to the second movie and I'm listening to it as I type.

Having seen both movies in quick succession, I came away with a few conspiracy theories to explain minor plotpoints/plotholes that they didn't address.


So in the first movie, it takes Hiccup quite a while to gain Toothless's trust, right? I mean, they can't even make eye contact the first time Toothless lets Hiccup touch him. But then nearish the end, when Hiccup and his classmates have to go help Stoic and the other adults beat the alpha, they train the other dragons pretty fast. It seems like a plotting gap, but I have an explanation!

See, the other dragons they train are already used to having humans around. I mean, yeah, the humans have mostly been fighting with them, but it didn't look like any serious injuries were done to the dragons. So the other dragons are already more trainable. Plus, Hiccup's already been covertly working with them for the past few weeks during his training.

On a similar note, I have a theory that when the alpha died in the first movie--the "Queen Bee" alpha--that made all the dragons under his/her/its control more susceptible to human friendship. Some kind of psychological bond obviously exists between the alpha and the other dragons, but when the alpha died with no new alpha to replace it, that bond would have snapped. Or maybe the Vikings were seen as a sort of alpha-substitute, since they were the ones who dispatched the old alpha. Either way, the satellite dragons are going to be much more open to human friendship, companionship, and training. Also I think Hiccup was probably out for at least a week or two between losing his leg and the end of the movie, so there was some time to adapt.

The one thing that I was wondering after I saw HTTYD2 was How did Drago control that alpha? I mean, Drago's alpha was HUGE. It could have just stepped on him or something. He was not that big a threat to it. But I figure that Drago probably put some serious effort into training the alpha--and by "serious effort" I mean that he refined some truly horrifying torture techniques for use on really big dragons. Making friends with it just isn't Drago's style. He must have found a way to make the alpha fear him, then figured out how to forge some kind of psychic link with it so that it knew and obeyed his commands. I'm not quite sure how he did this, but it can't have been fun for the dragon. I mean, did you see those chains around the alpha's tusks? Yikes.

So there you have it: my way-too-in-depth take on the HTTYD universe. What do you think about it? Any new theories?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Writing Adventures...And Now I'm Home Again

Wow, I can't believe I've been home for three days. I miss Ohio already. I miss the thunderstorms and the fireflies and how it wasn't two hundred degrees out so you could actually walk around without frying. That was nice. And the rain. That was nice too.

My last couple days at Kenyon were really fun. On July 4th there was a parade. It was the shortest parade I've ever been in. It was also the only parade I've ever been in, but seriously, it really was short. The Young Writers' program marched in it, led by the decorated golf cart. Did I mention the golf cart before? Well, halfway into camp, one of the guys broke his leg playing Ultimate Frisbee and got a huge cast put on it. So for the rest of camp the golf cart, driven by an R.A., took him from the dorms to the dining hall to the writing building.

One of the R.A.s ran over a plastic fence post thing and broke it once. It was one of those things where there's a few plastic posts with a chain suspended between them cordoning something off and he hit one of the posts. The R.A. just picked up the post, stuck it back in the ground, and said, "No one saw that, right?" Onlookers: "Saw what?"

Anyway, back to the parade. So we had the guy with the broken leg leading the marching writers on the golf cart. He also led the cadences. I don't know if you've ever done cadences. They're this call-and-response parade thing. Ours went something like this:

We like writing, yes we do!
We like writing, yes we do!
And we want to write with you!
And we want to write with you!
Alliteration, metaphor!
Alliteration, metaphor!
We will write you out the door!
We will write you out the door!
Sound off!
One two!
Sound off!
Three four!
One two three four
One two (beat) three-four!

And my personal favorite:

John Green walked on Middle Path,
John Green walked on Middle Path,
But he wasn't good at math!
But he wasn't good at math!
Life is not a metaphor,
Life is not a metaphor,
Take your "okay" out the door!
Take your "okay" out the door!
Sound off etc.

So yeah, that was fun. It lasted all of about fifteen minutes, but it was fun. Perfect 4th of July weather, too, sunny with bright, cottony clouds.

Sadly, July 4th was also the last day of camp. There were some last day activities--last classes, emotional goodbyes, and, excitingly, a ghost tour of Kenyon College, led by the R.A.s with their own personal ghost stories. If you ever get a chance to take the Kenyon ghost tour, I'd definitely recommend it. There were some truly terrifying stories. 

It was really nice at night--there were so many fireflies! We also saw a deer and some baby raccoons. The R.A.s were like, "Yeah, the swimming pool ghost is serious business, and so are mother raccoons, so let's stay to this side of the path." My friend and I started joking about our tour group becoming next year's ghost story if anyone had messed with the raccoons. Yeah, so last year there was this idiot writer on the ghost tour who got bitten by a baby raccoon when they tried to pet it and died of rabies. Ever since then people keep coming across lines of poetry written on the walls in chalk. And occasionally someone walking at night will feel an invisible person petting them. (That last line was my friend's contribution. Yikes.) Fortunately, that never got a chance to happen, although we did get the crap scared out of us when this soccer ball randomly rolled onto the path. But then the guy kicking it around revealed himself and it was one of us writers so it was okay. 

Sadly, there was not time on that last night for another game of Mafia. I don't think I mentioned Young Writers' Mafia before. We played it a few times and it was a lot of fun. Although it was slightly different than the way I'd learned it. 

*Warning: Dirty jokes abound in the following story. You have been warned.*

If you already know how to play Mafia, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

So, Mafia. For those who don't know, here's how it works: You've got a deck of cards, or at least part of a deck. It has to include the king, queen, ace, and, if you're playing the way we did, jack. The moderator, or God or whatever you want to call it (we used God), passes the cards out to everybody. Everyone takes a card and looks at it without showing anyone else what it is. Ace is the Mafia. There can be either one or two Mafia, depending on how many people you have. King is Detective and queen is Doctor, unless I got that backwards and it's really the other way. Jack I'll get to in a minute. Anything other than those is just a random citizen. Once everyone knows their cards, they pass them back and the game begins. 

Everyone goes to sleep until God says "Mafia, wake up." Then the Mafia raise their head(s) and point to the person they want to kill. God makes a mental note of it and tells the Mafia to go back to sleep. The Doctor wakes up and chooses someone to save. If it's the victim, the victim doesn't die. If it's not, nothing happens. The Doctor has no way of knowing whether they're saving the victim. Also the Doctor can save themselves. Then the Doctor goes back to sleep and the Detective wakes up. The Detective points to someone and God indicates whether or not that person is the Mafia. Then, if you're playing like we did, the last person wakes up and does their job, and that person is the Prostitute. 

Yep, that's something you probably won't see playing Mafia with the Girl Scouts. The Jack is the Prostitute, and his or her job is to keep someone else busy for the night. Like everyone else, the Prostitute picks who they want to, uh, distract without knowing what anyone else is. If s/he picks the Mafia, no one gets killed. If it's the Victim, then the Victim doesn't die because they weren't home when the Mafia came calling. On the flip side, if the Prostitute distracts the Doctor and the Doctor had actually saved the Victim, then the Victim dies because the Doctor was otherwise occupied. (I think. There was some contention on that point.)

Anyway, once everyone wakes up and we find out who's dead, the townspeople have to accuse, convict, and execute someone who they think is the Mafia. Doesn't matter whether they are or not--if they get voted off, they still die. So two people die every round, the Victim and the Condemned (unless the Doctor manages to do his/her job. Or the Prostitute.) If the townspeople manage to kill both Mafia, then they win. If it gets down to two people, the Mafia wins. 

The addition of the Prostitute led to some very interesting conversations. For instance, that moment when I, as the Mafia, found out that I'd spent a very interesting night with the Prostitute and for some reason didn't remember any of it. She claimed that there were horse tranquilizers involved...which of course begs the important question: Was this before, after, or during? Her answer: "Uh...well, how would you react if I said 'all three?'" 

Okay, sorry, yeah, I'll stop now. But seriously, best moment of the game had to be at the end of one round when the quietest, most-upstanding guy in the group stood up and said, "This is embarrassing to to say out loud, but I was the Prostitute." 

And we had this one hilarious God who was doing really well until he accidentally revealed the Mafia imposed divine intervention and struck down the Mafia with a thunderbolt. I don't think I can go any further without worrying my parents, but it was pretty awesome. 

ANYWAY. Back from the Mafia game, dirty jokes aside, writing camp was awesome and I was really sad when it was time to go home. I had to leave at 9:00 on a shuttle that took me to the airport. It was my last chance to look at the beautiful rural Ohio countryside. I love things being green. I really miss that here. There was so little asphalt and so many plants! Some day I'm moving somewhere that looks like that. 

Once I got to the airport, I had to deal with the stressful business of checking baggage and making it to the gate on time. At least I didn't pack my computer at the bottom of my carry-on this time. Air travel tip: don't do that. You'll have to pull your computer out of your bag to go through security and it's really annoying having to upend everything else. I did that on my flight to Ohio and learned from it. 

So then I had an hour-long flight to Minneapolis, where I changed planes to go to L.A. Whoever decided to put the plane from Minneapolis about two miles away from the plane to L.A. and give the passengers less than 20 minutes to get lunch for the plane and make it across the airport deserves a five-hour layover in the middle of Alaska. (Nothing against Alaska, it just seems remote). But nevertheless I got a burrito from some Hawaiian stand run by a woman whom I have mentally christened The Golden Goddess of Airport Food, due to her being really nice even though I was sort of stressed and a little crabby and her also getting the food to me fast enough for me to run across the airport and make my plane. 

And when I got there...I was like, Oh, yes. Finally. Third plane journey and I FINALLY got a window seat! That was AWESOME! I love window seats, in case you hadn't guessed. 

I was glad for the window seat especially because the rest of the plane did not look good. There was pretty much no leg room. The plane didn't have TVs in the back of the seats, which was a plus, but it did have them spaced periodically down the ceiling. This allowed for a pre-flight safety video which was neither funny nor reassuring. They were trying really, really hard for both, but they failed miserably. Worse, the video kept glitching--you know, blurring and going staticky and black for a few seconds before continuing. I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like being on a plane that can't even get the equipment to show the safety video to work. I just kind of looked at the guy next to me and said, "This is not reassuring," and he was like, "No, it definitely is not," and then I was like, "Let's just hope we get to L.A. in one piece" and crossed my fingers and he nodded and said, "Good idea." 

But yeah, we made it in one piece. It was a really long plane flight. They showed Rio on the TV screens. Or maybe it was Rio 2. I don't know, I've never seen either and I don't really want to. I plugged my headphones in for a few minutes near the end and all the voices seemed really annoying and overdone. After a while I stopped being able to read and then I remembered that I have the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special on my computer, so I wound up watching that. 

And then I got off the plane and found my parents in the airport. They'd brought me frozen coffee, which was nice of them. I like frozen coffee. So I told them all about camp on my way home, and now I'm back and the suitcases from Kenyon are sitting in my room looking accusatory because I still haven't finished unpacking. I'm still a little jet-lagged, but I'm recovering. Although I should probably get some sleep now. It's 11:37 California time and 2:37am Ohio time and I don't even know which my body is on any more. I'll do a blog post for Kenyon photos once I download them. Hope everyone's having a great summer!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Next Zonko's Candy

Something funny happened at the Athletics Center the other day...
(Warning: some crude humor involved)

Three friends and I were playing foursquare in a squash court. This in and of itself had presented some problems. We tried playing squash at first, but there were four of us and it was a small, indoor court. Someone's head was going to come off if we kept batting little rubber balls around. So we got a bigger ball and decided to play foursquare instead.

For some reason we couldn't agree on the rankings. Normally it's something like King, Queen, Jester and Royal Toilet, but ours varied from that to Queen, Queen's B****, Prime Minister and Courtesan to Star Trek style with Gold Shirt, Blue Shirt, Red Shirt and Space Hooker to Evil Overlord, Second-In-Command, Minion and Prostitute to a few other things. For some reason the lowest rank was always some sort of prostitute. I don't know; maybe there's something wrong with us. Of course, we are writers. XD

Anyway, there's this thing in foursquare where whoever has the ball calls "Candy shop!" then says the name of a candy and passes it. Each person has to catch the ball and say a candy. The first person to blank or repeat a type of candy becomes the Royal Toilet, or in our case the Prostitute.

(In the interest of privacy, I'm referring to my friends as Friend 1, Friend 2 and Friend 3.)

Friend 1: *Catches ball* Candy shop! M&Ms! *Throws to me*
Me: Uh, Bugbars! *throws to Friend 2*
Friend 2: Twizzlers! *throws to Friend 3*
Friend 3: Skittles! *throws to Friend 1*
Friend 1: Butterfingers! *throws to me*
Me: ...What the f*** are Bugbars?

Needless to say, I lost. But I was already the Prostitute at that point, so it's not like it mattered...

The point is that there will never be a time when the word "Bugbars" is not funny to me. It's like something out of the Monty Python "Crunchy Frog" skit. I don't even know where it came from. I think I modified the word "bugbear" for some reason and it just popped out...it doesn't even make sense!

The funniest thing just happened to me.

I got back to my room a few minutes before my roommate, so I was sitting on my bed rereading one of the books I brought from home (This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, if anyone's wondering) when she walked in.

Roommate: Oh, hey, look, there's a person in my room.
Me: Haha, yeah, don't worry. It's just your roommate.
Roommate: Oh, darn. I was hoping there was an attractive person in my room.
Me: *about to call her on it*
Roommate: Oh my God, no! That's NOT what I meant!
Me: *laughing*
Roommate: I was going to say 'an attractive MAN' but then I decided not to at the last moment! You're definitely attractive! That came out SO wrong!!!
Me: *still laughing my ass off*
Roommate: Let's just say I was hoping the Doctor would be in my room and leave it there.
Me: *still laughing, because come on, that was HILARIOUS!*