Monday, August 27, 2012

How the Star Wars Prequels could Have Been As Good Or Better then The Original Trilogy

I know what you're thinking, "you think you can make a better movie than the legendary George Lucas?!" in a word- yes. Let's face it, when he doesn't have Joseph Campbell or Steven  Spielberg helping him out Lucasvwrites some pretty crappy movies (Howard the Duck anyone?). But the star wars prequels could have been a huge success if Lucas had taken the following relatively simple steps:

  • Pick a protagonist and stick to it- The Phantom Menace had a little bit of protagonist schizhrenia. Is this Obi-Wan's story or Anakin's? We spend loads of time with Obi Wan and Qui-Gon and even Jar Jar Binks before Anakin's even comes on the scene, and yet when he does, the story centers more on him. Either way could work just fine, but you have to pick one hero who is going to go on a journey and stick with him.
  • Cut out unnecessary characters- Speaking of Jar Jar Binks, he didn't play enough of a role to really warrant as much screen time as he got. The only purpose he really served was introducing the Gungans who ended up being a deus ex machina at the end. Not enough reason to be included as a character, even if it was groundbreaking CGI.
  • Grow up!- Anakin really should have been 16-18 and Padme should have been about 21-24. This would have built the sexual tension beginning in the first movie (for added drama Padme could have had a beau in the first movie just to piss Anakin off). Having Anakin be older also would have allowed the story to explore his dark side better. And I believe a 21-24 year old woman as a the young elected ruler of a planet rather than a 14 year old girl.
  • The Dark Side...- And speaking of Anakin's dark side, we needed to start seeing that in the first movie and it needed to be consistently developed and it needed to hurt like hell to see him give in to it. We needed to Anakin accomplish feats of enormous heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice right away, but we also needed to see him resort to needless violence in the pursuit of a good cause at first. A good example of this (in my opinion) was Gale in The Hunger Games. ("Hey, let's create bombs that go off a second time after the medics have arrived. And kill all the miners in The Nut even though we could allow them a chance to escape.") And it should have built from there.
  • Make Padme stronger- We were supposed to see some of Leia's fire in Padme, but Padme ended up being a very weak character. She should have loved Anakin for all the good things he did, but been a "take-no-crap" gal. She should have been horrified at Anakin massacring innocent people. She should have left Anakin and given birth in secret. The final showdown between her and Anakin should have been over what happened to the babies. She should have put up a good fight with some kind of cool martial arts sequence, but Anakin would be so far gone that he would have killed her and that's what would have driven him completely to the Dark Side.
  • And as and added bonus- I wanted a brief cameo of Han Solo as a young child in the last movie. That would have been fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Teacups, Fishing With Leg Braces, And The Poor Man's Mineral Water Service

What do you think it takes to pass basic training for Navy SEAL's? Nerves of steel? Incredible athletic prowess? Big muscles? Those things can help, but the key is the ability to think clearly and calmly under pressure. In other words, even if someone drops you in a pool with your hands tied and no breathing apparatus, it's not a catastrophe. If you're taken into a dark room with a cover over your head and you don't what situation you will be presented with in that room and then the cover is removed and you are expected to react appropriately within seconds, it's not a catastrophe. If you spend hours in the freezing cold surf on the California beaches while the instructors yell, "Who wants a nice warm cup of coffee and a donut? Ring the bell (wash out of SEAL's) and you get a nice warm cup of coffee and a donut!"- it's not a catastrophe. If for a whole week you are drilled mercilessly and allowed only a maximum of four hours of sleep every day, it's not a catastrophe. Challenge, yes. Uncomfortable as hell, yes. But catastrophe? No. This is why wiry farm kids from Iowa make it into SEAL's and bodybuilders and elite athletes don't. It's not a physical challenge, it's a mind game. But that's the success mindset- nothing is a catastrophe. (I actually knew a former Navy Seal once. He was about as tall as me and was an incredibly calm person.)

When I was growing up, everything was a catastrophe. So getting my life together has required that I make a complete about face in my way of thinking. Finances and work have tended to be the most hot button issues for Malamute and me. So in the past when Malamute has had something about work that he has wanted to get off his chest, I have tended to over-react and turn a mountain into a molehill and started having a panic attack about being poor the rest of my life.

Then I remembered something from way back when I used to spend afternoons watching Oprah during the summer. I can't even remember who the self-help guru was who said this, but it stayed with me. He said, "Suppose you come home from work one day and you find your wife in bed with another man. You could scream and yell, maybe even get into violent confrontation, but then you are letting the situation control you. If you can take a deep breath and say, 'I'm going to make a cup of tea and then the three of us are going to sit down and talk about this', you are in control." Wow. I want to be like that. So though it has been an exercise in patience and I still slip up, every time Malamute says something about work or money that triggers my panic button, I think about that cup of tea. I'm much happier. I can't believe I spent so much of my life panicking and making myself miserable when I could have been happy.

***

"If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." When Duckling was born, it felt like most of the care the doctors wanted was based on giving him a fish every day for the rest of his life- catheterization, wheelchairs, permanent antibiotics, etc. I wouldn't consider us dogmatic about alternative health care options, we just want to do what works. And if that truly were heavy intervention mainstream types of things, we would do them. (This is why he had surgery on his back.) But the option of a large leg brace that doctors had been favoring since he was tiny, seemed like a lot of over kill to us. He already had more movement and sensation than anyone had anticipated. We didn't want something that would keep him from building the muscles that would be necessary for him to walk. We wanted a solution that would force him to do more work rather than a device doing it for him. 

As we watched him and analyzed his gait, we noticed that one of his biggest problems was that he tend to roll over his left foot and drag it along. Not the right way to walk. Malamute postulated that if we could get him a pair of shoes with high tops and some sort of light stabilizing brace that just focused on his ankle (the weakest part), rather than his whole leg, that that might do the trick. 

So we found a couple of pairs of toddler sized hiking boots on Amazon and bought those. (I  used to think, "Toddler sized hiking boots?! Beyond vanity what kind of need would anyone have for those?!" I'm eating my words now.) Next was the brace. What Malamute had in mind was something like a tiny, itty-bitty sized Ace bandage- flexible, but stable. Years ago, my grandma gave me a small wrist sized Ace bandage, the kind for carpal tunnel and I had kept it around- just in case- for years. Turns out that it was just what we needed. The hiking boot- wrist bandage combo has improved Duckling's gait 100%! He no longer drags his foot nearly as much and is starting to get his left foot facing straight like his right! With the training from the walker, he has been gaining more stability and balance and is starting to stand without as much assistance. The other day he walked up a hill with his walker, boots, and bandage and loved every minute of it! We are so proud of him!

***

Everyone wants good water, some of us just can't afford to pay for it. Those big, blue bottles full of fresh spring water don't come cheap and water filters take out junk, but often don't leave a lot of minerals. So every time we go hiking up in the mountains (at least once a week), we take a whole bunch of canteens and a large stainless steel water dispenser and fill everything up with the drinking safe water from the picnic areas and take it all back with us. You really can taste the difference!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why I Am Happy That I Am Not Married To Edward Cullen: A Tribute To The Man In My Life

Remember a few years ago when Twilight first came out and the buzz phrase was "Edward Cullen why aren't you real?" As Malamute and I are approaching our fifth anniversary, I am taking a pause to consider this. And the conclusion I have come to is that I am very glad not be married to Edward Cullen for the following reasons:

  • Saves money on car repairs- I am, of course, referring to the time Eclipse when Bella wants to go visit her werewolf friend Jacob and Edward pulls the spark plugs out of her truck to "protect" her. (Last I checked, this sort of controlling behavior was considered a warning sign of an abusive relationship...) When Malamute and I have a difference of opinion (and we have had some BIG differences of opinion), we talk things out, often on our daily walk or hike. (We've found that Mt. Timpanogos is a great place for this, and it's cheaper than marriage counseling for us.) Sometimes, we resolve things right then and there, other issues have taken years and several talks for us to work out, but we always keep talking. I really appreciate that he doesn't pull something out of the car every time we have a disagreement. If he did, we would be bankrupt just from car repair bills.
  • Supports me in becoming something more than I am- It's important to have someone who loves you for who you are at the present. I'm very lucky to have a guy who has loved me through some very dark times. But I also appreciate that he wants me to become more than I am right now. Edward never seems to have a good reason for not wanting Bella to become a vampire, despite the fact that it would make sense if he truly wants to be with her forever. In fact Edward's resistance to Bella becoming something more than a damsel in distress seems like a cheap plot device used to artificially draw out a conflict over four very long books.
  • Doesn't leave when the going gets tough- OK, so Edward loves Bella undyingly (no pun intended), but in New Moon he fears for her safety if she, as a mortal, continues to hang around him and his family of vampires. So rather than have Bella join them by becoming a vampire, he feels that the best option is to abandon her. It doesn't make sense to me and I'm glad that my man has always stuck by me and worked with me to overcome our problems.
  • More interesting conversations- Most of Edward and Bella's interactions seem to revolve around three subjects: 1) Bella wanting to become a vampire, 2) Edward wanting her to stay a mortal, and 3) the pros and cons of hanging out with werewolves. I don't think I could spend eternity with someone who can only cover three subjects in a limited fashion, even if he is rich and looks like a male model. It would get very boring, very fast.
My life lacks fancy clothes, lots of money, and glamorous cars. My husband doesn't sparkle and he doesn't like or dress like a male model (unless you count those guys in the REI catalogues). But none of that really means much to me unless I have someone I can count on and have fun with.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How "The Princess and the Frog" Could Have Been A Huge Hit







 So here is some of that light-hearted content I was mentioning before. Don't get me wrong, I think The Princess and the Frog was a cute movie. But as the first serious attempt at a 2-D animated feature in about a decade, I had hopes that it would be a bit more, I don't know, magical or entertaining... The animation was GORGEOUS. I LOVED the animation. But the story got a little convoluted and the characters felt more like caricatures than well-rounded personalities with internal conflicts, desires and motivations. So if I were on the story team at Disney, here is what I would have recommended:


  • Go the folk tale route- It was obvious they wanted to use a fairy tale for this debutante of an animated feature, and that was a very wise idea since it complements that Disney "magic" branding. And they also wanted to do something different by having a strong female protagonist and also having a black princess. This opened them up to some concerns about political correctness. (Originally, Tiana was named "Mattie" but out of concern that that might sound to close to the derogatory "Mammy" the name was changed. The name of the movie was also changed from "The Frog Princess"- which actually makes more sense based on the plot- to "The Princess and the Frog" so as to avoid sounding derogatory. It seemed that they were trying combine The Frog Prince and Cinderella and set it in jazz age New Orleans, but they were having a difficult time making all those elements work together. I would suggest that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, they simply use an already existing wheel and should have done an animated feature of the African folktale Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. This would have given them a strong, African female protagonist, a king disguised as an cold-blooded critter, and a good combination of Cinderella and Frog Prince elements. Heck, they could have changed the king from a snake to a frog without sacrificing much of the identity of the folk tale, and maybe even have created a magic-wielding villain who changed the king into a frog/snake. It would have been delightful to see an animated feature that showcases the beauty of African culture as well. The songs could have included elements of African music like some awesome drums and other percussion and some cool dancing. And rather than being in search of a restaurant, the heroine would have been on a quest to show quest to be compassionate to those less fortunate than herself.
Yeah, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters would have been a great choice. But unfortunately it will probably be another ten years before anyone makes another attempt at a gorgeous 2-D animated feature. But one can always hope. =)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Remember In My Last Post When I Said "Lighthearted Stuff Coming Soon"? I Lied.

But I didn't mean to. A few days after I wrote that, after spilling my guts about growing up with a mom who is likely schizophrenic, I had a miscarriage. Right now, the Practical Rabbit is kind of up to her bunny ears in things to do with helping her husband with work and preparations to move. So this post will be a short digest of things I have learned over the past week.

  • I prefer cloth. Nice big squares of it. Wash cloth sized pieces.
  •  Eat your iron to help with blood loss and anemia. I chose to do some iron rich smoothies with collard greens and spinach and add a little molasses.
  • Normal miscarriage bleeding should only go on for a week-ish and should taper off gradually. If you experience bleeding that lasts longer than this, your body may not have expelled all the tissue associated with the pregnancy. If you prefer a more traditional medical approach, you should consider see your doctor about possibly having a dilation and cutteage performed. If you prefer a more "new-agey" approach, you should consider seeing a qualified, trained, practitioner like a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine or experienced herbalist who can prescribe herbs to help your body complete the miscarriage. I prefer the latter route myself, although I'm glad I didn't have to use it. Herbs are to female problems what iPhone apps are to everyday life: whatever you need, they have one for it.