Monday, August 25, 2008

Through Me Chapter 20 & The Namesake

Through Me Chapter 20 is finally up. It's not one of my most favorite chapters, but I'm looking forward to the events it's building up to.

I can't believe the Beijing Olympics are already over. Four years of hard preparations for them and in a blink of an eye, the Olympics came and went.

Similarly, summertime just has a way of breezing by. In two days, I'll be back at school. Wow. Joy.

I'm taking Chinese and French this semester though just to give me something to focus on other than biochemical pathways and epidemiology. I'd probably still cry throughout the term though.

Anyway, I went on a movies rampage the other day. I got a chance to finally watch The Namesake, which is something I'd always wanted to do ever since I read the book. I enjoyed it. Usually, I hate the way books get turned into movies, but this one stayed pretty much true to the story and I liked it. Maybe it worked because Jhumpa Lahiri's plot and style have always been inherently simplistic, focusing on character development through side stories and imagery, and the film didn't have trouble cramming in more than it could take, but I thought the way the movie developed the parents' relationship was nicely done. It was certainly visually appealing to see many of Lahiri's intricate details and scenes come to life and it was a bittersweet ending that left the viewer pondering long after the credits rolled.

Friday, August 22, 2008

SKoW Round 6 Awards Graphics

Some people have asked about the award graphics. The winner list and the graphics could all be found on the SKoW site.

Here are the ones the designer, Leila, created for my Amazing Wordsmith award:

The ones for Most Humorous aren't available yet due to technical difficulties, I believe.

Pretty, huh? They made my heart go "Whee!" I may be biased, but I think these awards are the prettiest yet. I remember vaguely way back in the day (I feel ancient), I think I received an award for Best Overall with a simple image of Beauty and the Beast. Not that it wasn't cute, but I think SKoW has really come a long way with all the intricate, new graphic designs.

Unfinished Business Chapter 9 and FP Anonymous

Unfinished Business Chapter 9 has finally been posted! Sorry about the cliffhanger, but the next stopping point I had in mind would make the chapter way too long.

I've been thinking a lot about my writings and why I have this almost fanatical desire for a certain level of anonymity. I've seen writers around on fictionpress who wouldn't think twice about offering up their facebook and myspace accounts, listing up all sorts of contact info from AIM to MSN to whatever. On some level inside me, I think that it must be nice to be able to make friends amongst fellow writers.

On another, I find it a bit scary opening yourself up so freely to the world wide web. Ever since the plagiarism issues, I've realized that not everyone around fictionpress lives by a good set of morals, let alone the random people who might float in from haphazard search engine inputs.

Ultimately though, I think it's brave what these people do. For me, I have a pet peeve about people finding out about my writings. I don't mind talking to readers and posting chapters if I could hide behind a penname and some level of anonymity, but to completely reveal my true identity ... wow.

It's a weird quirk of mine. Unless I have something completely polished and substantial to me, I don't like to offer it up with my real name attached to it. That usually doesn't include romances. Romances are probably one of my favorite kinds of stories to write for fun, but family stories are definitely my forte in the literary workshop/award/publishing domain. (Oh, quick happy note, a short story of mine has recently been accepted for publishing in a small literary magazine. I believe it's a really small publication, but I'm still happy they liked my work enough to accept it. The editor got back to me with a list of helpful revisions and I returned it to her several weeks back. It's all thanks to an English professor of mine who noticed it and submitted it on my behalf for me. I only wish I had more professors like that.)

Fictionpress to me is still a productive hobby and a way to practice my writing and a way to entertain myself and other readers out there, but my chapters are really rough. This is why I started posting writings online for two years before I dared to tell my cousin that I've been writing as a hobby.

It's why I posted for nearly four years before I let literally a handful of my closest friends find out I frequent fictionpress.

I didn't tell my ex at all that I liked to post my writings online. My cousin might have accidentally mentioned it to him once though or something because somehow, he found out and pestered me about giving him a link for a while. I still didn't tell him.

My cousin thinks I'm crazy and she usually lets it slip out sometimes to some friends that I write online and that they should read my writings. I try to shush her or cut her off a lot. It doesn't always work. One time, I believe I tried to tackle a mutual friend and then had to physically pry his fingers off the mouse to keep him from checking out the link immediately.

My cousin's a sweetie, but she doesn't take hints very well and the last time she started to talk about my stories to one of her friends again, I literally unleashed my full strength and karate-chopped her across the arm or something. It probably gave her a bruise on her arm for her efforts, but she got the hint.

It's weird, but I think I like having a sense of anonymity because there are still levels of writings I haven't explored yet and I'd rather not have to worry about the reactions of people I know, acquaintances and whatnot, finding their way to my writings and then attempting to offer their feedback and comments.

Because I haven't yet figured out for myself what completely works and what doesn't. Darker themes, sex scenes, more mature language ... I haven't really tried working with these elements at all. I haven't yet figured out when or if I would. Think of me as still sorting out my writing ideas. Baby steps. It's tough to write to an audience. And it may be tougher still when the audience knows you.

Thus, kudos to all the brave souls out there who can vent out their ideas and thoughts with no barriers. Maybe someday, I'd be just as secure about my FP writings too. :)

Writing note: Through Me Chapter 20 is coming along. It was around the same length as the UB Ch. 9 draft this morning and I chose to finish up Ch. 9 instead.

Random note: My friends and I went on a crazy karaoke marathon the other day because it was really cheap. On a weekday, you can get a room til 8 for only about $11 per person. That meant my crazy friends decided to meet up at like 2 and we literally stayed in the room for six hours. By the time we staggered out of the room, our voices were hoarse.

They also got me addicted to a song, Sara Bareilles' Love Song.

Over a weekend sleepover at a friend's place, we happened across her interview and she mentioned that the original idea behind the song was her feelings against all those people who were pressuring her to come out with a hit song even though she didn't have any particular inspiration then. I thought that was cool because in a way this could be taken as a song against writer's block. Bwahahaha, take that, evil block.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps and Magical Tootsie Roll Pops

These past few days:

Beijing Olympics! Whooo! The opening ceremony was breathtaking and Michael Phelps is a FISH! A really cute fish who Hulks out with that sculpted body of his as he roars his triumph. So intimidatingly adorable.

(Photo credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Phelps' natural ability to flush out those lactic acid within minutes plus his wide wingspan apparently makes him the perfect swimmer. He just glides through the water and can literally be halfway across the pool while the others straggle behind him; he gave such a great lead, the last anchor on his 4x200m freestyle relay team could actually pass the others coming toward him as he was heading back haha.

SKoW! Results are out and I wanted to thank those of you who took the time to vote for me. I'm actually still checking out some stories on their nominees list because they've highlighted a lot of interesting new writings, but I thought I should drop a note first and foremost to thank you all for your votes and support! I was awarded Amazing Wordsmith and Unfinished Business won the Most Humorous category. Wow. You guys are the best. There's a new pretty layout on SKoW and there are also these amazing graphics for the winners, which I'll post up in a later post because some of them aren't working yet. The designer, Leila, really outdone herself this time because they're really stunning and oh so cute.

It almost makes me want to look into graphics tutorials. Except knowing me, I'd obsess over it for maybe two hours and then throw in the towel with a completed image of a stick figure with a red dot on its nose to represent a clown. Or Rudolph.

SAT Coaching! Yesterday was my last session with my high school kids that I'm coaching/tutoring for their SATs. It's a nation wide program with different chapters in different cities and its mission is to provide SAT and college application support for those who are underprivileged and want the extra help. I volunteered to be a verbal coach because I've always enjoyed the verbal part and I despise math with a passion that will scare small children.

When the site director came in and made a speech about how kids in the program usually went down for their second diagnostic SAT since they didn't get a chance to practice their newly learned techniques yet, I just groaned, "Oh god, he's throwing in a disclaimer. Your SAT scores all plummeted. Forgive me, I'm a horrible coach."

Except it turns out the director has to make the same spiel to every group and my kids's scores actually all increased ... well, their verbal parts at least. But I'm only responsible for their verbal sections; we can blame the math coaches. It was a proud parental moment. Two of my girls actually went up 300 points on their SATs! When the director came back all grinning and beaming and saying that my group had the most improvement, I was momentarily stunned and just blurted out, "Why?"

"Because you're a good coach?"

I turned to give my kids a suspicious look. I suppose that wasn't a very good reaction.

My kids laughed their heads off. "You have no faith in us! We showed you! See!" They kept grinning and smirking with such satisfaction and were like "This is the highest I've ever gotten. I can't even believe it myself."

Then they started with the "Thanks, Helen!"

Big goofy grin. I had a funny combo of being both dazed and proud and self-conscious at the same time.

But seriously, I had this bad feeling in my stomach the last two sessions because I was afraid I hadn't emphasized certain points enough. It felt like I coordinated a whole lot of their favorite vocabulary games ... and then brushed over general points regarding writing and critical reading. Some of them didn't even do their homework nor did they bring in their personal statements for me sometimes. I was terrified they were going to be disappointed by their grades.

But! They're so awesome.

Or, as they wondered, "It could be the Tootsie Roll lollipops you bring us. They're magic."

I'm gonna miss them. They were such an amazing group and they really meshed well. We had our quiet members and the talkative ones and somehow, they all ended up being very sociable yet diligent (most of the time) kids. It's lovely to see their hard work get paid off. Now if only they can keep up their practice when I'm not around to glare them down ...

Writings. In response to Through Me questions about who the heck is Calhoun (a.k.a. Cal), he's Justin's friend and he was first introduced in the gym scene in Chapter Fourteen.

I'm currently working on the next chapters for Through Me and Unfinished Business. It's a toss up between them both right now and I've been flashing back and forth between both documents.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Through Me Chapter 19 & The Horrific Mummy 3

Through Me Chapter Nineteen has finally been posted. I actually don't really know what to say which is why I didn't bother leaving an Author's Note ... maybe 'Oh boy' might cover it?

Anyway, the Beijing Olympics starts tomorrow! Time flies. Four years ago, when I was in Beijing and staring up at that countdown clock thing they had, I was like wow, it's going to take forever.

Forever rolls by pretty quickly, apparently.

Other news: I watched The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor over the weekend.

Don't go see it. Honestly, I knew it wasn't going to be completely stellar, but it was so disappointing, it made me angry - as in "gimme back my ticket money" angry.


But whatever, you probably have better things to do than to sit through this movie and scoff at it like I did so you probably won't even be watching it.


First: The cast is pretty ... not great. I don't even see the point in replacing Rachel Weisz with another actress. Her role wasn't necessary and it might have worked better if they'd simply killed off the character. Particularly if they were going to throw in a two second father-son reconciliation drama thing. The mom's death would have perhaps made it more poignant.

And don't even get me started about Mr. Older Alex, the darling son. That boy/man (played by Luke Ford) seemed more like Brendan Fraser's younger brother rather than his son. The character is written like he's an immature, arrogant frat boy who still somehow gets the girl in the end. I thought the kid Alex from Mummy 2 was actually portrayed in a more precocious, smarter way. It was like ... what messed up the cutie? Oh right, lack of "paternal support". Cue developmental issues.

Plus, he absolutely butchered the Mandarin pronunciation to pieces. I know, I know, it's not his primary language and what do people care when there are those nifty, little subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Still. There won't be one Chinese person in the audience who wouldn't grimace and cringe in embarrassment for this man when he tries to do his "threaten the Chinese Emperor with cool Chinese putdowns" spiel. Why did they feel the need to make the actor do this asides from the rule that all heroes must say something witty before they face down the villain? Unless his purpose was actually to make the Emperor hysterically confused.

"Kung Pao Chicken Ho Fun Fortune Cookie! Hao, Hao."

"WTF did he just call me?"

Props to the Chinese cast though for doing a pretty good job with their English dialogue and their cool action scenes though - except Jet Li's role could have probably been played by a random Joe with all the CG they did.

Second: They tried to be funny. Key word being tried. Punchlines were delivered horribly (Luke Ford, the actor who plays Alex O'Connell doesn't quite have Brendan Fraser's knack of presenting certain comedic lines. Poor man. Just don't try. Ditto for your Mandarin skills.) and there was not one huge moment of laughter from the audience throughout the movie, unless you count the chemistry with the barfing yak.

I believe the comedic highlight of the whole experience was during the previews when they showed the Madagascar 2 trailer.

"I'm furry and cute and I probably hold more charisma in one big googly eye of mine than Alex O'Connell's whole Emperor slaying self!"

There's something sad when you start rooting for the bad guy to kill everyone and to take over the world. Because Team Good had that loser Alex (did I mention how I don't care for that Alex character?), Jet Li looked way too cool to be taken down. Except, naturally, of course he lost. Because the whole point of the Emperor getting the powers to shapeshift into horrific monsters like dragons was moot since of course, Emperor would only use his powers to fly and roar fire into the sky before choosing to listen to Brendan's taunting in the end to go hand-to-hand combat and allow himself to be stabbed in the back. Excellent.

Moving along now, I'm working on the next chapters. The next chapter to Through Me should churn out faster. Until then, hope you're all having a great summer!