Archive for the ‘animation’ Category

It’s time to come clean   Leave a comment

One of the most unique aspects of humanity is our ability to talk. Almost all lifeforms above the ocean are capable of making some sort of sound, but humanity’s sounds are more complex, and are able to broach a much wider variety of topics. Cornelius, for instance, is only able to communicate two things:

1) I want food
2) You are making me into food

When James picks up Cornelius’ two front legs and makes him dance, Cornelius feels as if he is a larger predator who is merely playing with him before being eaten. So as soon as James drops Cornelius’ legs, Cornelius runs away. James, for all his humanity, cannot communicate to Cornelius that he’s playing for the simple act of playing.

And yet in the wild, cats don’t really meow past kittenhood. Yet Cornelius meows to us all the time, to say that he’s hungry, or to say that he’s annoyed, or to say that he’s hungry, or to say that he’s pleased that we’ve woken up so that we can feed him, or to say that he’s pleased that we’re home, because humans tend to feed Cornelius as soon as they come home. Feed him. He’s adorable. Feed the adorable kitty.

Part of the reason humans are able to get across more complex ideas than “food now” is because our breathing and our swallowing tubes are connected. A simple flap covers our breathing tubes while we swallow. But humanity developed this eons ago. We slowly develop, from an early age, the instinct to hold our breath while we chew and swallow, so as to protect our basic breathing.

Except me, apparently. In February 2015 Lacey and I went to celebrate our birthday at E Street Cinema’s Oscar Shorts marathon. As we headed out of town, we started making fun of President Obama. Lacey did a fantastic imitation of Obama’s stuttering, as I questioned his choice of flag-themed boxer shorts. She said something that make me laugh right as I swallowed some water, and then I nearly choked to death, and threw up twice all over my winter coat, and Lacey drove me straight to the hospital because I was going to die right there on our 28th birthday.

As far as I’m aware that didn’t happen, although who knows? A month later James proposed and then a little after that I got a full-time job with a company I love working for.

This morning I was watching Gravity Falls and drinking my usual morning coffee. I’m on the episode The Love God, which is not the strongest episode but certainly has a really good opening. Mabel discovers that Wendy’s ex-boyfriend, Robbie, is not getting over the break-up very well, so she takes it upon herself to find him a new girlfriend. She visits his house and meets his parents, the world’s most cheerful funeral directors.

mr and mrs valentino

They ask Mabel to bring Robbie his lunch, a plate of spaghetti that uses the meatballs and the sauce to make a smiley face.

lady i like your style

“Lady, I like your style,” says Mabel. Then she goes upstairs.

“You know who would look good in a sweater like that?” asks Mrs. Valentino after Mabel leaves. “Mrs. Grabbelson’s remains!”

Mr. Valentino laughs. “Oh, absolutely!”

We are then treated to a montage of Robbie growing up.

robbie 1

robbie 2

robbie 3

At that last picture, the overdramatic angst of 15-year-old Robbie combined with the random idea that what if Robbie and Mabel got married caused me to laugh right as I was taking a sip of coffee, and some water started going down the wrong pipe and, in a desperate attempt to not die, I threw up all over the carpet in our half-bath (and in the sink, but throwing up on the carpet sounds more dramatic and I will always go with the more dramatic-sounding option in the narrative of my life).

Obviously I did not die, as far as I’m aware, but I’m kind of left feeling embarrassed. That’s twice in 18 months where I’ve nearly choked to death. Liquid keeps going down the wrong pipe. A basic human function is the ability to put liquid down one pipe and air down the other, and yet somehow I keep failing.

~killing it~   3 comments

So as few of you know (actually, probably none of you) I am a recovering television addict. I was hoping there was a more formal phrase, like “teleholic” or something, but alas, according to Wikipedia, no. It’s just Television Addiction.

Anyway, my poison in my teleholic days was crime shows. If they investigated murders, I was All About It. CSI (but only the Las Vegas one), Law & Order, Without a Trace, NCIS. There’s entire networks dedicated to investigative journalism. Real life crime! I probably babysat for way longer into adolescence than I intended to just so I could watch crime TV after the kids went to bed.

At some point I realized that all this television was no good for me. No good. I still struggle with it. I can’t ignore TV that’s playing in restaurants and if I’m at someone’s house and they turn the TV on, I have to go into another room or I’ll be sucked in. Internet addiction might have replaced Television Addiction. Might have. I’m not sure.

Some of the old TV shows are still on, but there’s new ones. Without a Trace went away. It seems to have been replaced by Criminal Minds. From what little I know, it’s about criminal investigators for the FBI who specialize in serial killers. They take the killer’s MO and guess what the killer’s mind is like, and use that information to find the killer. In real life, while there are criminal profilers who do federal investigations, they’re not a specialized team. They’re like consultants, who are brought in to assist in difficult cases sometimes. And honestly, experiments have proven that despite their training, they’re no better than the general population at profiling criminals.

So I was taking my lunch break at work, and Criminal Minds was on. I sat behind the TV and tried to focus on my word puzzle, but no. This show kept beating my ears. With its dramatic music and dramatic one-liners. They found out that one of the killers had bought a double soy latte and for some reason they magically knew that this double soy latte was relevant, so one of the women said, “You know, I suddenly have a craving for a double soy latte.”

Like this dude:

He kinda looks like a poor man’s Cillian Murphy. I thought I recognized him from something, but I looked on his IMDB profile and, like, he’s been in a Wes Anderson film and he was in 500 Days of Summer. He’s also the current voice of Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks. And other than that, this is his big role. So he’s just…one of those dudes who’s mildly successful in Hollywood, I guess. Just another character actor.

Lord he’s skinny. You can’t tell from this particular picture, but he is a stick.

Anyway, part of the reason I knew this show was ridiculous was because they go to the coffee shop where this Plot Relevant Latte was purchased. They showed the owner(?) of the shop pictures of the victims, but none of their faces really stick out to him. Then they notice that one of the bulk travel boxes is actually a camera and asked if he was recording them. The owner(?) seemed ashamed of the camera. He stuttered that it was just to watch the cash drawer — okay fine it was to watch his coworkers…

Like?

Everyone knows that there’s cameras everywhere in a retail environment? Especially at the registers? Like it’s standard procedure? Has been for decades? The cameras are there to catch the criminals? If this man is really a coffeeshop owner or manager or whatever, this shouldn’t be an embarrassing fact, it should be something he’s always had to deal with. As criminal investigators, they should know this. They should have asked about the security footage. They had the date and time that the Plot Relevant Latte was purchased. After showing him the faces, their next question should have been something like, “So can we see your security footage from April 17th?”

And the writers should know this too! Looking at the security footage is practically cliche!

And the footage was in High Definition, and it was in color. They even did the thing where they zoomed in on the footage and it started out blurry, but then it suddenly snapped into clear focus to show the tiny detail needed to continue the plot. (here is a comic explaining what I’m talking about — it’s too big to post here, being 4250 pixels tall)

And then Discount Cillian Murphy was brought in, with giant nerd glasses and a sweatervest,


OH MY GOD I FOUND A PICTURE OF HOW STUPID IT WAS

And apparently this HD color security footage could be played at whatever speed you wanted, so he watched it at THE FASTEST SPEED.

The owner of the coffeeshop was like, “Are you sure? No mortal man can handle footage that fast!”

The black FBI investigator standing in the shadows laughed. “You don’t understand. Tell him. Tell him you read War and Peace!”

“Again!” said Discount Cillian Murphy. “In the original Russian!”

“This is relevant and a normal thing for nerds,” said the coffeeshop owner. Thus convinced, the coffeeshop owner played the entirety of April 17th for Discount Cillian Murphy.

There were many dramatic close-ups of his eye.

Discount Cillian Murphy babbled something about speed-reading while staring at the screen. Then he found the next plot nugget and the story continued.

Loaded with the information from the Plot Relevant Latte and the thing about the nurse’s nametag that Discount Cillian Murphy found, Our Hero Greg from Dharma and Greg called up the next magical nerd.

Her IMDB describes this character as “bespectacled-brainiac-tech-kitten” which is a weird bunch of a words, but certainly they are four words strung together, which is nice. Also, this character is played by an actress named Kirsten Vangsness, but the character’s name is Penelope Garcia.


To be fair, they did nail the tumblr-hipster look, but a) she’s like 40* and therefore wouldn’t dress like a college student b) actually that’s really my only problem with the way she looks c) wait I remember now — they’ve always had her dress this way for the 10 years this show has been on, which means that this look was meant to look stupid and nerdy and they failed completely, what the heck people

Greg calls up Tech Kitten and this is my other big issue with this show. You see, it was Tech Kitten who found the Plot Relevant Latte. She called up the main team, or they called her up, it doesn’t really matter. A phone call was made. She said, “[the victim] bought a Double Soy Latte at Not Starbucks on April 17th.”

-An FBI Hacker
-Has Easy Access
-To Financial Records

Except these can’t be financial records, because financial records wouldn’t say “Double Soy Latte”. Financial Records would say April 17th, Not Starbucks, $4.78. But remember the quip from the female FBI investigator above — Tech Kitten specifically said “Double Soy Latte”, causing the quip.

They ask, for some unknown reason, if this coffeeshop is near a university?

“It is,” says Tech Kitten.

Our Hero Greg says that the University isn’t relevant, because our killer lacks any academic thinking (?????)

Is the university near a hospital?

“There’s a hospital tied to the university,” says Tech Kitten.

Don’t…don’t they live in this city? Shouldn’t they know that there’s a hospital tied to the university? According to IMDB, this show takes place in Quantico, VA, which lacks a university, so maybe they’re telecommunicating with the local police. Except Black FBI Guy, Discount Cillian Murphy, and Brunette FBI Chick all went to the coffeeshop in person. So like, in a world where Magical FBI Hacker knows that you bought a Double Soy Latte, the FBI’s greatest criminal investigators don’t know that there’s a hospital tied to the local university?

And then

Then

Ho boy

then

They ask if there’s any patients at that hospital who have been declared terminal in the last month.

Tech Kitten presses some buttons. I will admit that the button-pressing was not button-mashing, which is how NCIS portrays hacking.

The typing depicted actually seemed to have some sort of purpose. She appeared to make the computer do some sort of task. She didn’t use her mouse, and there was surprisingly little actual typing. Perhaps she already had this list prepared. I don’t know why she would have this list prepared. I’m about 109% certain that having this sort of list is 64 kinds of illegal and violates doctor-patient privacy.

“There are 300 patients who have been declared terminal in the last month,” says Tech Kitten.

“Do any of them match the Other Plot Relevant List?”

The sixth one on the list did. She scrolled right over his name, bringing up a picture and little bio on him.

I wish I could remember what the other Plot Relevant List was. It didn’t bother me as much as the list of patients declared terminal, so it didn’t stick out in my mind. But it also seemed weird that the FBI would have that list on-hand. It also seemed weird that the data was so accessible. You would think it would take a while to compare the two lists. But she just had two windows open and magically scrolled to the correct one. You would think some of this information would require warrants to get. But no, Tech Kitten just c&pd and hacked her way through our privacy laws.

In case you’re wondering, the killer was Kevin from The Office.

Posted June 8, 2016 by agentksilver in animation

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Eugene Fitzherbert   Leave a comment

So there’s this assumption on tumblr that this guy–

–Is the son of these two–

Only one problem though. Road to El Dorado pretty clearly takes place in–

Now, Tangled is a lot less specific about its setting, but there are clues. The biggest clue is this one:

Mozart wasn’t even born until 1756, 237 years after the events of Road to El Dorado. Mozart was a child performer, yes, and began composing tunes at 5, according to his sister Nannerl; his first well-remembered compositions weren’t even produced until 1770. Normally, I wouldn’t rule out time travel for Miguel and Tulio. However, there is another small detail:

The fitz- prefix was invented in the 11th century; it just means “son of”. Bernard Fitzgerald is literally Gerald’s son, Bernard. Kind of like Sasha Ivanof is Ivan’s son Sasha, or Said ibn Muhammed ibn Asif al-Fulan is Muhammed’s son Said. By the 18th century, however, fitz- referred almost exclusively to illegitimate, bastard, or natural sons of the gentry. Eugene’s name literally means “Lord Herbert’s bastard son Eugene.”

This fits with Eugene growing up in an orphanage (abandoned) and becoming a thief whose exploits were so well-known that his wanted poster littered the walls of the kingdom even before he stole the Crown of the Lost Princess.



What did he do, exactly, that made the kingdom want him dead so badly? They were literally moments away from killing him when the Snuggly Duckling brigands and Maximus managed to break him out. It’s implied he wasn’t even there an entire day — he wasn’t even told he was going to be executed until they were just about to do it. I could go on another essay about the political system of Corona, but the point here is Eugene Fitzherbert’s parentage. Eugene goes from nearly being executed by the state to marrying the beloved Lost Princess herself — how does one pull that one off? Perhaps, say, a certain Lord Herbert suddenly decides to make a claim on his suddenly-politically-relevant bastard son.

Lord Herbert must be a powerful lord indeed, if his issue would make a politically good marriage for the only child of the King and Queen. Keep in mind that princesses tend to get married out to create better alliances for family. I would bet that the King and Queen would be interested in keeping Rapunzel at home out of pure affection, but that doesn’t mean they would marry her off to any lowly gentleman, and especially not to a well-known thief. Rapunzel’s marriage needed to still be politically convenient. How Lord Herbert (Duke of something) and Eugene would fit that bill is all speculation, but the point is this:

Eugene is not Miguel and Tulio’s son. He could, via time travel, be a temporary compatriot of Miguel and Tulio; he could be a descendent of one or both of them. But he is not their son. Eugene’s place in society is very much a natural part of the society he lives in.

Random thought of the day   Leave a comment

I had a random thought coming home. I recently reread Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, a book about the philosophy and science of storytelling through comics. It’s told in graphic novel format, and it’s a really good read, if you’re interested in expression, art, or philosophy. Anyway, I specifically read the part about “closure.”

Even today, as I write and draw this panel, I have no guarantee that anything exists outside of what my five sense report to me. I’ve never been to Morocco, but I take it on faith that there is a Morocco!…All of us perceive the world as a whole through the experience of our senses. Yet our sense can only reveal a world that is fragmented and incomplete. Even the most widely travelled mind can only see so much of the world in the course of a life. Our perception of “reality” is an act of faith, based on mere fragments. As infants, we’re unable to commit that act of faith. If we can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it or touch it, it isn’t there! The game “Peek-A-Boo” plays on this idea. Gradually, we all learn that even though the sight of Mommy comes and goes, Mommy remains. This phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name. It’s called closure.

…Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments. But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality.

…Every act committed to paper by the comics artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as The Reader. I may have drawn an axe being raised in this example, but I’m not the one who let it drop or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime, each of you committing it in your own style.

*

This particular part about closure blows my mind every time I read this book. I found myself pondering it on my way home from Petsmart today. I parked, got out of my car, walked up to my front door, put my keys in the lock, turn the key/lock, opened the door, walked inside, and closed the door. I then wondered how much of that sequence would I need to show, in, say, a comic, for a reader to understand what I was doing. My exact thought was “how much would a movie show?” which was not at all in the mood of where I learned this concept, but whatever. It’s what I thought.

Driving–>hand on car doorhandle–>open car door–>step out of car–>car door close–>walk up front walk–>keys out–>key in lock–>turn key/lock–>open door–>–>retrieve keys (an easy step to miss)–>step into doorway–>close door

driving–>car door close–>walk up front walk–>key in lock–>open door–>step into doorway–>close door

Okay, but can I make it shorter?

driving–>walk up front walk–>step into doorway–>close door

What is the shortest I can make this without completely losing the meaning?

driving–>step into doorway

?????

*McCloud, Scott, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, pg 61-68, HarperCollins, New York: NY, 1993

Posted November 25, 2014 by agentksilver in animation

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A wide variety of topics   Leave a comment

First of all, there’s a new Animator vs. Animation!

Second of all, tonight is the night I give my notice at Target. I had to re-take my drug test at Harris Teeter (clerical error — funny story, kinda) and I told the hiring manager that I hadn’t given my two weeks yet because I was waiting on the results of the drug test. She told me that if I was confident that I’m going to pass the test, then I should go ahead and give my notice. So I will. I feel nervous.

Third of all, whenever I work at Petsmart I keep thinking of all the pets I could have. I keep thinking, I know how to take care of animals. I bet I could make a really good cat owner, and that cat would be so happy! Or today I spent a lot of time planning out a non-filtered betta tank. I’d use a 2.5 gallon aquarium, and the only hardware would be a heater and an air pump (so the water isn’t still all the time). I found some silk plants that are $1.99/piece. The total cost would be about $60, all told. I would probably take out about a half-gallon every day so the ammonia doesn’t build up.

Of course, with $60, I could pay off some of my student loans, or buy a copy of the Sims, or something more useful than having yet another animal that doesn’t interact with me all that much anyway. A lot of adulthood seems to be wanting something but knowing that you shouldn’t, so you don’t, but openly admitting that you want it anyway.

via dumbing of age
source

The Sims   2 comments

This morning, after I showered, I was still left in a blur of sleepiness, so I sat on the couch for 15 minutes and played the Sims Freeplay on my phone. It’s the latest app I’ve downloaded. I really, really want to play the Sims, and yet there’s always better things to spend money on. But the Sims Freeplay was…well, it was free.

At first I was so happy. It was Sims doing things I told them do! Even though most of the time the game was telling me what to do, in pursuit of various quests to get points and then level up. Still, I always made sure I had one Sim more than was required by the game, so that I could always have Sims that weren’t doing The Man’s bidding. They were doing my bidding.

But after a while I started to resent my Sims. If I didn’t tell them what to do, they would sit down. Sometimes they would walk to another room and sit down. Sometimes they just sat down in the nearest chair. But mostly, they just sat.

Here’s the thing: the Sims that I know have Free Will. This means that, if you aren’t actively telling them what to do, they will go and do something. They woill take care of a Need that was at the lowest level, or they will go do something Fun. And I respect that. I can leave a Sim alone and know that the Sim can take care of itself. The Sim can be busy. I can also tell them what to do, and they can say No, because they aren’t feeling well. I can also understand that, even if I don’t like it. It somehow makes them seem more real.

But these Sims had no Free Will. They just sit and wait to be told what to do. I’m pretty certain they would wet their pants and starve to death before getting up out of their chair and taking care of a Need.

They also didn’t have the ability to form attachments to each other. Relationships between Sims had Levels, certainly — Stranger, Acquaintance, Budding Friendship/Romance, Good Friends/Dating, ???/Partners, ???/Engaged, ???/Married. But they had as much effect on the world as two high school girls who are Facebook-married. I planned all the devious relationship stuff that one does with Sims. I had Maria start Dating both Betty and Austin. Then I injected Maciej into the mix, and had him start Flirting with both Maria and Betty. I intended to eventually set Maciej up with Austin. I arranged the meetings so that Maciej was never in the same room as both Betty and Maria.

But this morning, in my sleep-haze playtime, the two other Sims, Elizabeth and Owen, got married. It took a little arranging on both sides, and a lot of unnecessary running around. First I had to build a Park. Then 5 Sims had to go to the Park. Then someone had to Talk with Ducks About the Rings for 7 minutes (????). Then I had to send Elizabeth and Owen back home so they could look at their house one more time before getting married. I got caught in a loop. I sent Elizabeth and Owen back home three times each, before I finally gave up and made them get married at home, with no witnesses.

Anyway, while Betty was Talking with Ducks, I needed something else to do with the other five Sims. Four of them were sitting on benches near each other: Elizabeth, Maciej, Owen, and Maria. I clicked on Maciej and had him start romancing the nearest person — who turned out to be Elizabeth.

Maciej was hitting on the Bride in front of the Groom on their wedding day. Obviously I knew that the actual Day wasn’t very auspicious to any of the Sims, who are a bunch of pixel bits and software, but previous Sims that I’ve played with would get pissed if someone starting Flirting with their Significant Other in front of them. I waited for drama to ensue.

Owen continued to sit on his bench.

I frowned. Now I had Elizabeth Flirt with Maciej.

Owen continued to sit on his bench.

I closed the app and uninstalled it.

I guess I learned today what sort of God I would be, if I ever became one (that, too, is on my list of possible career paths to pursue). I might be the sort of God that incites complicated romantic entanglements to entertain myself, but I also want creations who are capable of responding to their environment. I want creations who make their own decisions, who take care of themselves, who Go to Bed when they are tired and Eat a Snack when they are Hungry. It may not be fun all the time, for me or for them — they will get jealous, they will get angry, they will shake their fist at a God that forces them to paint paintings for 18 hours a day — I will get annoyed when they complain that they are tired and refuse to paint anymore when they are so close to being a Level 2 in Creativity and they could get promoted tomorrow! — but at least I can respect their autonomy. At least they have autonomy. At least I can feel as though these creatures that I’ve made are real living creatures, something beyond a bundle of pixels on top of a bunch of statistics.

Get on with it!   Leave a comment

All day long I’ve had various songs from Tangled stuck in my head, so during dinner I sat down and watched it. I wasn’t even sure why I wanted to see it so badly. Then we got to the famous lantern scene.

Rapunzel: Hmm.
Flynn: You okay?
Rapunzel: I’m terrified.
Flynn: Why?
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

And then a minute later he eye-fucks the hell out of her.

flynn eyes her

Thank you, Flynn Rider, for existing. You are precisely what I need for the next few days.

Posted August 16, 2014 by agentksilver in animation

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A Quiet Day in DC   Leave a comment

So the last two weekends, I’ve been attending E Street Cinema’s Miyazaki film festival. Every Saturday and Sunday, they show two films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli: a more adult-themed one at 10:30, and a family-friendly showing at 1:30. They change the films every weekend. Last weekend was Nausicaa: Wind in the Valley and then My Neighbor Totoro. This week’s fare was Porco Rosso and Spirited Away. I have now seen enough Miyazaki that I’m picking up on themes on my own, rather than just listening to what my friends say. I can see his take on environmental themes. We’re not here to save the planet, we are here to work with the planet. Also (this might be more of a Japanese trope than a Miyazaki-specific trope), the films are a lot slower than I’m used to seeing in American animation. In Spirited Away, for example, we watched Chihiro walk onto a train, find a seat, sit down in the seat, arrange herself, ensure her friends were comfortable, look at No Face, look next to her, then point at the empty space next to her, then we saw No Face’s reaction, then we watched No Face cross to the seat, then sit down, then we had a moment of them sit silently on the train as it moved.

THE FEELS
Image unrelated. I just cracked up when the train splashed No Face in the film, because I remembered this .gif.

There were a lot of scenes like that, scenes which didn’t advance the plot or develop the characters, yet they held weight and meaning anyway. Not everything that we do every day develops our personalities or our life goals. Chihiro and No Face getting onto the train; Chihiro and Lin eating rice cakes and looking out over the newly-developed ocean; Porco doing loop-de-loops while flying to Milan; Signor Piccolo blowing the roof off of his shed while testing the plane engine; 90% of Nausicaa: Wind in the Valley. These moments do nothing for the story, and yet they felt important. Life is a stretch of quiet moments. We saw our characters go through their loud moments and their quiet moments. It felt important.

Walking out of those movies and blinking in the bright sunlight beaming down on E Street, that same contemplation still swimming over me, I realized that it was a gorgeous day and that I had absolutely nothing to do. No one needed me to be anywhere. I had nothing due. The parking lot charged me a flat fee; I paid $10 whether I was there two hours or ten. Nothing was stopping me from just being in DC.

So I walked to the Sculpture Garden and watched a security guard chase some kids off of a sculpture. Then I walked to the Mall.



The only real castle that America will ever get, and it’s a damn information desk.

Once I was at the Mall, I realized that I had been to the Mall a billion times, so I decided to go to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. I don’t know if I had ever been to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial before, but if I had, I don’t remember it. So it seemed worth going to, even though I was on 12th Street and had already walked a half-mile just to get to the Mall. So I walked a mile to the Jefferson Memorial.

People were flying kites and riding bikes and going for jogs. Tourists were taking photos. The carousel in front of the Air and Space museum was in full swing. The Washington Memorial had shed about 75% of its scaffolding. I sat down on the grass and tried to get a picture of my finger “touching” the top of the Washington Memorial. The lighting was terrible. I sighed. It all felt like it did in Europe, when I had napped all over the city. I would, regularly, arrive an hour or two ahead of my Rome to Augustus class, find a comfy-looking spot of granite or marble, and nap. I take an odd pride in my ability to nap on public spaces.

I didn’t feel much like napping, but I did lay out my coat, tuck my purse under my arm, and close my eyes. I just wanted to feel the sun on my skin for a bit. Just listen to the sound of the city. I could hear the wind; I could hear cars. I could hear scratching nearby. It sounded like feet running near my head. I figured it was just a kid running around and ignored it. The sun shone through my eyelids. I wondered if everything would be blue when I opened my eyes.

Someone whispered in my ear.

I screamed and sat up. The whisperer was already running away; some white dude in a green-on-white shirt, laughing hysterically. If this were a Miyazaki film, I would have had something angry but funny to say. But I didn’t. I just lay back down and closed my eyes again. But the spell had been broken. Lying on the ground was stupid. I got up, put my jacket back on, tucked my purse over my shoulder, and walked on.

Boy Scouts discussed ways to measure the length of the Washington Memorial’s shadow. I tried to get another picture of my finger touching the top of the Washington Memorial. Too blurry. I headed for the Potomac River, and the Jefferson Memorial.

I walked along the river. I fell in behind a gay couple discussing couches. They didn’t know what size was right for their living room. Above us were the Japanese Cherry Trees, not yet in blossom. The couple walked off farther down Ohio Street as I turned towards the Jefferson Memorial. Everything seemed to happening way too fast, so I sat down by the river and watched the paddleboats paddle.


I knew why some parts of the river registered as blue; that was the part of the river that was reflecting the sky. But where did the green come from? There are many mysteries in life. Dissatisfied with my inability to reason why the river looked green, I got up and headed for the Memorial.


I looked at the famous Stairs leading up the Memorial thought, hah. I could nap the hell out of those stairs. I didn’t, though. But I could have. I was also delighted by all the people taking pictures of each other. For some reason, one of my favorite things to look at is people taking pictures. Also several people seemed to realize that the normal pose, standing and smiling on the steps, is super boring to look at, so I watched as several different groups had their members pose in odd ways just to jazz up the vacation photos a bit.

After a moment I realized that I was staring, so I went inside, feeling a bit like a sheep.


Everyone was taking a picture of the statue, but I gawked at the ceiling and the floor. It was exactly like the dome of the Pantheon. Exactly like it. The more I studied the building, the more I realized how much the Memorial resembled the Pantheon. The ceiling was exactly like the Pantheon, except that the Pantheon has a hole in the middle of its roof (on purpose). I looked at the floor. The layout of the white marble was exactly like the layout of the Pantheon’s marble flooring, except ours was all white while the Pantheon’s was a variety of beautiful colors. I looked around; there was seating on the edges instead of random votives, and open views split apart by columns rather than random shrines. But the layout was remarkably similar to the Pantheon. I looked back at the main stairwell. Indeed, exactly where the ancients would have made their sacrifices, that was where there were extra fancy steps and a gigantic marble block.

No wonder I felt like I could nap on it. I had totally napped on its cousin in Rome.

I didn’t nap on it. I discovered that the columns were incredibly comfortable for resting against, though. I sat behind the statue, where most tourists didn’t go. The tourists that I did see were in a mood like me. They weren’t chatty. They weren’t filling itineraries or taking pictures. They were looking at the road beyond, at the river, at the nearby trees, at airplanes taking off from Reagan National Airport. We sat in contemplation together. Watching. Waiting. Admiring the quiet moment for what it was. Quiet.

Spoilers for the Secret of NIMH   1 comment

So on Thursday I headed back to the United States. I had asked the building manager/doorman/whatever he is to get a cab for me on Thursday morning at 9:00. At about 8:20 on Thursday, I walked out of the apartment building, intending to get some cash from the bank, for the taxi and the airport bag check-in. He was standing outside talking with some folks. When he saw me, he looked worried.

He asked me (in Italian) if I wanted that taxi for 9:00. I said, “Si, vado a uno banco.” (yes, I am going to the bank)

He looked confused.

I said, “É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank)

He turned to the couple he was talking to and said, “Parlete inglese?” (Do you guys speak English)

“No,” they said.

He turned back to me and said, “Taxi per le nove?” (Taxi for nine o’clock?)

“Si,” I said again. “Taxi per nove. É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (Yes, taxi for nine o’clock. It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank.)

He turned to his friends and said something. Finally the man in the couple (in Italian) told me to be down here in half an hour. I said (in Italian) that I would be.

So I took a taxi to the airport, because it was a lot easier to deal with than hauling two suitcases and a full backpack around on public transportation during rush hour traffic. He dropped me off at Terminal Five. That was where all of the flights to the United States left from. But I had said specifically that I was going to Canada. I can only guess that since almost all of the flights to North America leave from Terminal Five, he thought Air Canada left from Terminal Five as well. But Air Canada was in Terminal Three, with all the European flights, for some reason.

So after some mild panicking and resentment on my part, I got on the airport shuttle and to Terminal Three. Everything else in the airport went without a hitch. In the airport, I sat and started The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and sobbed several times. I sat in seat 38H in the very back of the plane, where I finished before the plane even took off. It’s not a difficult book to read. Except emotionally. I cried so many times.

Fortunately I was dry-eyed when a woman approached my seat and stared at me.

I looked up at her.

“Is this your seat?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

She narrowed her eyes.

“What’s your seat number?” she asked.

“38H,” I said.

She muttered under her breath and walked away. When I saw her next, she was in seat 37G. I think she was originally supposed to sit in 38K, next to me, but for some reason didn’t want to sit next to me. I don’t know why. Maybe she wanted an aisle seat. Maybe she wanted to have two seats all to herself. When I recounted the story to my family later on, my uncle Steve pointed out that I would make a great seatmate because I’m small.

She wasn’t rude. When I remarked aloud to no one that the plane was a lot less full than I expected, she turned around and explained that the back of the plane on long flights was reserved for flight attendants, so they could have a place to nap on their breaks. So she didn’t hate me, at least.

Whatever the reason, no one ever came to sit in 38K, so I had two seats all to myself for nine hours. I stuck my backpack under 37K, so I was able to stretch my legs out as far as I want (and because I’m small, I had almost as much footroom as a tall person would have in First Class). I could use 38K as a place to set my books and my laptop, or another footrest if I wanted to sit sideways. I could use 38K’s interactive screen to show me the flight’s progress on the map, and my interactive screen to watch movies.

After The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, I needed to lightest movie imaginable to lift my mood. I ended up settling on Hotel Transylvania. It was a fun movie, exactly what I needed, but afterwards, I needed something a bit heavier to chew on. So I watched the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Then I tried to read another book, Green Rider, but I’ve read that book so often that I got bored and started skipping parts I knew already. Like, all of the opening scene, where the bad guy ruminates on history, and the heroine gets her mission from the dying Green Rider. I just skipped all of that premise-building. Then I got skipped the next chapter because I knew that too. I decided that since I had skipped three chapters, I should probably just not bother reading the book. Instead I watched The Secret of NIMH.

Although I grew up watching The Secret of NIMH, I hadn’t seen it in several years. I found myself enthralled in a way I hadn’t been as a child. When I was a little girl, I had loved the comical scenes — Jeremy the Crow being clumsy (‘scuse me, pardon me!), Auntie Shrew shrieking in self-aggrandizement, the children tying up Jeremy. I had hardly noticed the main character, Mrs. Brisby.

But now, as an adult, I was fascinated by her. She is a strong character — truly strong, I think. Not physically. Not in a 1990s I’m-a-woman-in-a-man’s-world type of strong female character. She had strong characterization. She had a true personality. I sat back and watched her, and I realized what this woman is:

This woman is Heart. Everything she does, she does from the heart. She is constantly battling her own fear and uncertainty in order to protect those she loves. She begins the story fearful of even visiting Mr. Ages, but she does it anyway. When the tractor begins the plowing early, she immediately runs to the danger without having any idea what she is going to do (another character, Auntie Shrew, manages to stop the tractor, and finds her frozen in fear, still clinging to the tractor). She just wants to save her family.

There are arc words attached to the amulet Mrs. Brisby is holding. They are “Courage of the Heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it’s there.” The actual words on the amulet are “you can unlock any door if you only have the key,” which is also important to note, but nowhere near as important as the words Nicodemus gives us (the “courage of the heart” quote).

After a long and dramatic scene in which the rats get caught up in internal politics, Mrs. Brisby’s house and children (and Auntie Shrew, never forget Auntie Shrew) begin sinking into the mud. The rats all struggle to get the house out of the mud — setting aside their dispute to focus on the task at hand. Justin and Mrs. Brisby are on the granite block of the house. The other rats are tossing rope to them, and they desperate tie the ropes around the block, so that the rats can pull the block to safety. But all the ropes keep breaking. The granite block sinks beneath the mud. Justin only barely manages to pull out a desperate, grieving Mrs. Brisby from the mud. But she is fighting. Her heart, broken, strong, her strength, her courage — even to the last, Mrs. Brisby is fighting to save her family.

And that is why the stone amulet works. Mrs. Brisby, heart personified, is courageous, selfless, but always courageous. The stone unleashes its power and saves the house and the children (including Timmy and Auntie Shrew).

This had always confused me as a child. Why should the stone amulet work, when Mrs. Brisby had been crying and not being courageous? Because Mrs. Brisby never gave up. No, not even when her children were sinking beneath the mud. She may have been crying. But she hadn’t given up, not really. Not ever.

A dangerous pasttime I know   Leave a comment

We interrupt IMPORTANT VESTING ACTIVITIES to bring you this — this — horrendous atrocity known as 12 Questions Disney Forgot to Answer About Beauty and the Beast. AS A HISTORY MAJOR AND NERD and apparently a caps-locking user I must answer these questions immediately!

1) Who in the actual hell is this?

That’s Beast/Prince Adam, losers. He’s not the heir to the throne. He wouldn’t be called “prince” if he was the heir to the throne. He’s a younger son. They probably thought he died.

2) Who punishes an 11-year-old for not letting a stranger in the house?

Fairies! Enchantresses! Witches! Basically if anything is supernatural, they will do evil things to you! This is a basic testament of supernatural things. They are evil and mean you harm. As soon as that enchantess set her sights on Prince Adam he was doomed. If he had let her in, she would have found another excuse to curse him.

3) Why did Belle open the door here?

Because xenophilia. In the old days, if someone came a’knockin’, you let them in. Even if you hated them. Or else bad things would happen. Prince Adam followed the Enlightened class and didn’t need to follow xenophilia, but Belle, a working-class girl, was raised on it.

4) Who are the faceless bastards in the background?

I don’t know. Good point. Maybe they’re not servants but the other servants are shooting them off anyway? Maybe all the servants got turned into inanimate objects, and all the inanimate objects got turned into servants? Great equalizer, that witch.

5) What is going on with this time-traveling portrait?

Well it’s in terrible shape, but it’s entirely possible that it’s a commissioned portrait that made Prince Adam look a little older anyway.

6) What would have happened if Belle touched the rose?

I don’t know. I’ve been wondering that myself.

7) How did Belle get his unconscious ass onto a horse?

Maybe Phillipe helped? He’s a smart horse.

8) How does Chip even exist?

He was a baby when the enchantment happened. Years of malnutrition and magic kept him from growing properly, but now he’s ten-years-old.

9) Is Belle stupid?

Bitch, I sing foreshadowing songs all the time. It never amounts to anything. Stop.

10) Whose clothes are they wearing?

His parent’s. Duh. The castle is a country villa for the royalty. They let Prince Adam take over the residency, but they still kept some clothing there.

11) Why didn’t Belle just say she’d be back?

She didn’t know if she was coming back or not. Her father was very sick and might need some help recovering, after all. She wasn’t just going to dump him at home and say, “Bye! Off to shag an animal!”

12) How did these people not know there was a cursed monster within walking distance?

Because the castle had shut down all communication with the outside world per the Beast’s orders. Nobody in or out. As far as they were aware that was just a few less taxes they had to pay. “A monster took over the old villa!” is pretty understandable logic.