Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

So here’s what I realised a few days ago.

I was listening to random music and the song Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by BJ Thomas came on.  I was absentmindedly humming along to the lyrics when this caught my attention:

So I just did me some talkin’ to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way he got things done
Sleepin’ on the job
Those raindrops are fallin’ on my head, they keep fallin’

But a bit after, he sings:

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Cryin’s not for me
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’
Because I’m free
Nothin’s worryin’ me

How is telling the Sun that you don’t like the way he’s got things done NOT complaining? In fact, one presumes that he got the rain to stop BECAUSE he complained to the Sun!  I mean, come on!

I still like the song, don’t worry.

I’m Alive!

I am terrible at blogging it seems.

Since my last post, I had:

  • Gotten engaged;
  • Gotten married in a museum;
  • Seen a bunch of movies;
  • Got diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis but it got better before I committed to removing my tonsils;
  • Bought a cast iron pan that I’m still too scared to use;
  • Gotten a raise and a bonus at work; and
  • Bought a new laptop with the bonus (which I’m using right now!).

I don’t want to go into my personal life too much on this blog, mostly because it’s pretty mundane stuff, but I’m in a pretty good place in my life right now.

IMG_20150808_183231 IMG_20150808_183308

My laptop is pretty cool though! As I mentioned to Tara a while ago, I wanted a laptop to do everyday, non-gaming things away from my desk (i.e. in bed, because it’s currently winter here and so cold). At first my budget was quite small, as I already have a pretty impressive desktop computer that I put together a while back.  I was even looking into Chromebooks because they had such positive reviews, but I discovered that the range available in Australia was quite limited.  If you’re interested in Chromebooks, Tara’s got a review up.

Anyway, work pleasantly surprised me with a bonus so I decided to splurge on the laptop I wanted to get.  It needed to be light, with good battery life and full HD resolution.  I ended up going with the ASUS Ultrabook UX305FAon sale and it ticks all my boxes! It’s 13″, fanless (and therefore silent), the battery life seems pretty good so far and it’s so light! The most interesting feature is that the metallic casing is silvery-black in some lighting but purpley in others.  I named it Calcifer, to continue my trend of naming my signifcant pieces of electronics after Ghibli characters. It’s going to last me a while.

At the end of this year we’ll be going on our 6-week honeymoon to Canada, US and the UK (maybe also Europe).  Calcifer will definitely be coming with me.  What I’m tossing up between now is whether to blog my travels… knowing me I’d probably end up being to lazy to…

Still, I haven’t forgotten this place and I hope to blog more often about random things!

At the Checkout

Last year, I was waiting in line at a grocery store checkout with Tim. We had a small basket of groceries and were chatting away until I gradually noticed that a lady directly in front of us, who also had a basket of goods, was taking an unusually long time to be processed.

My attention turned to her and I realised the reason for the delay was because she didn’t have enough money to pay the total amount that was rung up. I saw her talk with the cashier who advised her that her credit card was declined.  The lady told her she’ll pay some of it by card and the rest with cash.  The cashier (who was thankfully helpful and patient) rung up her card again for a lesser amount (which worked) and waited for the lady to dig up the balance in cash.

The lady dug around and around in her bag and found a few notes and coins but it became evident that she didn’t have the total needed. By this time, more and more people had queued up. After some long minutes, she looked at the groceries and decided to forgo one of the items. She was still $5 short. She contemplated her groceries and finally decided to forgo another item, a jar of honey, I think. She was less than a dollar short. Finally, she had to give up another small item before she had enough money to finish the transaction.

The whole time, I was desperately trying to look nonchalant and distracted. I felt so sorry for her that I thought that the worst thing I could do was gawk or seem impatient. So the whole time, I obsessed over seeming like I was preoccupied with something else and not aware of her predicament. I had thought, wow she’s in a really tough and socially embarrassing situation, it would help if others (like me) didn’t seem like we were judging her.

After she left (hurriedly) with her stuff, Tim and I discussed the situation and I came to the realisation that either one of us could have just paid for her groceries. It was so obvious, and I kicked myself for not thinking it at the time. Honestly, it made me feel ashamed.  I felt like a terrible person. I could have easily forked over $6 (gladly!) and that could’ve made the lady’s problem go away, but for some reason, that course of action didn’t occur to me in the moment.  I was so preoccupied with not making her feel judged that I completely neglected to think about just helping her.

And the kicker? It was Christmas Eve. I kid you not. That made it about 10 times worse.

Even now, months later, I still cringe at the memories of that day. No matter how you look at it, I was stupidly oblivious to someone in need and went about considering the problem in entirely the wrong way. I’ve no doubt learnt my lesson, but ugh, how I wish I could go back in time and brighten that stranger’s Christmas just a little bit. :(

Currently: May 2014

Every month I’m going to post a quick update as to what I’ve been seeing, watching and playing.  Feel free to give me recommendations!

Movies

Just Seen

  • Lego Movie (2014) 4.5 Stars – Such a fun movie. I actually went into the cinema with pretty high expectations from the hype I’ve been hearing and it didn’t disappoint.  Not only were the visuals stunning, but the dialogue was witty, tongue in cheek, satirical and very funny. Characters were all fun. I didn’t quite find the ending 20 minutes of the movie all that compelling though I could see what they were doing… but still all round very fun. Can’t wait till it gets released on DVD for a rewatch.
  • Lady Vengeance (2005) 4.5 Stars – This is the third movie from Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy. I absolutely LOVED Old Boy, which was the first one I saw, but had mixed feelings about Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.  However, Lady Vengeance was a fantastic movie. It was so well directed, had an interesting soundtrack, and had believable and complex characters. There’s less violence in this movie than in Old Boy, but it’s still a very real revenge story. I really like how the protagonist was written.  She’s a complex woman who is angry at the injustice done to her, but she’s still has a multitude of feelings and motivations. It makes it a lot more compelling than if it’s just a straight-up revenge, action flick.  The twist in the climax of the movie was fantastic and almost surreal.

Will See

Gozilla and Maleficient. Can’t wait! They both look fantastic though I’m more curious as to what Disney’s going to do with Maleficient. The character from the animation was both terrifying and awe-inspiring, hope Jolie can pull it off!

Television

Watched

  • Rick and Morty (season 1) 5 Stars – What an awesome series. A friend forced me to watch it and I was skeptical at first, given how “zany” it looked. But my god it’s so funny and very clever. The humour might not be for everyone as it’s definitely pretty dark and adult at parts but it never feels dumbed down. It’s obviously a dark spoof of Back to the Future’s Marty and Dr Brown duo, but even though it gets pretty twisted sometimes, there’s always a lot of heart in the characters.  Can’t wait till the next season!

Watching

  • Hannibal (season 1) 3.5 Stars – I feel like Hannibal should be a 5 star show, and many say that it is, but it doesn’t really do it for me. Every time I watch an episode, I really enjoy it for the direction, characters, story but once an episode ends I rarely want to immediately watch another one. Maybe the pacing is too slow for me? I’m about halfway through the season and I got a feeling I’m going to be plodding through it for a while longer.
  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey 5 Stars – I love this series so much, I tune in every Wednesday for my weekly dose of being absolutely enchanted by space and the cosmos.  I love that the show doesn’t only look at cosmic phenomena, but it also touches on the history of cosmic discoveries on Earth, important figures, evolution, chemistry etc. Its heartfelt explanations, breath of topics  and production values set it apart from other documentaries about space. It’s a fantastic introduction to the subject.

Will Watch

Game of Thrones! I’m waiting till the season ends so I can watch it in one hit, which is what I usually do. From the bits and pieces of what I’ve heard it sounds like it’s going to be an interesting season.  I also need to watch Bob’s Burgers as I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and also try to get my hands on the newest season of Archer.

Gaming

Note: I am terrible at completing games. So when I say “played” I generally mean “I’ve started the game” but generally doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve finished it unless stated otherwise.

Recently Played/Playing

  • Pokémon X (3DS) 3.5 Stars – I actually finished this one, whooo! This was actually a pretty enjoyable addition to the Pokémon franchise.  There were new mechanics and upgrades to existing ones that made the game more accessible to new players or more casual players. The story was okay, nothing striking, the gyms were very inventive and more fun than previous games and the mega-evolution thing was interesting but ultimately not that useful. All those random battles though, ugh…
  • Alice: Madness Returns (PC) 5 Stars – I didn’t get to play the first Alice game and I only started this one because I bought it on a sale. Though I was pleasantly surprised by it. Beautiful graphics, smooth controls and intriguing premise. You play as Alice as you transition between the “real” world and the twisted “Wonderland”. I’m not sure the story is intriguing enough though and I lose patience with action games quite quickly. Not sure whether I’d return to the game but it definitely seemed to have potential.
  • Rune Factory 4 (3DS) 4.5 Stars – I’ve been obsessively playing this game in the last two months. More detailed review coming soon in its own post.

Will Play

Nothing much lined up. I think I will get the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, but I haven’t finished the previous Professor Layton or the latest Phoenix Wright game either. So much to play, so little time!

What’s the deal with how Gothel is treated in Tangled?

I’m generally a big fan of animated films, and the recent slew of animated features from Disney are actually pretty good. Perhaps understanding that times have changed, Disney seems to be focusing on retelling fairy tales and classical tales but with a fresher, modern twist. Take Frozen and the surprisingly progressive “twist” at the end of the movie that stray from the expected “guy gets girl” trope.

Before Frozen came Tangled, a retelling of the Rapunzel story. I quite enjoyed Tangled as a light and funny romp with enough heartfelt “Disneyness” about it that gave it my tick of approval. But there was one thing that annoyed me about the movie, and that’s the way it depicts the villian, Gothel, who is Rapunzel’s adopted mother/kidnapper. Spoilers ahoy!

Oh yeah, suck up that magic.

Oh yeah, suck up that magic.

At the beginning of the film, Gothel is described as a centuries-old woman who found a magical flower that is able to heal the sick and injured if one sings to it. Gothel visits the flower periodically to sing to it to regain her youth. While she does hide the flower, she doesn’t disturb it from the spot it grows. Instead, she simply visits it when she needs her youth restored.

A Queen from a Generic Disney Kingdom™ falls pregnant and becomes sick. To save her life, the King sends his army to search far and wide for the magical flower. Once they find it (without any resistance from Gothel), they cut down the flower in order to brew it into a tea for the Queen. This was a magical, forever growing flower that could benefit all that comes to it, and they just cut it down. Imperialism, everybody!

So the magical flower is gone forever but the Queen is saved. She births a little girl who happens to have absorbed the magic of the flower through her hair. The ever resourceful Gothel sneaks into the baby’s room and discovers that when she sings the magic song, Rapunzel’s hair reacts and replenishes Gothel’s youth just like the flower did.

Now, Gothel isn’t out to snatch the kid, in fact, the first thing she does is cut a lock of Rapunzel’s hair, probably intending to keep a lock of the magic with her. If the magic had stayed in the lock, Gothel would’ve gone her merry away without further disturbing the princess or the kingdom. But unfortunately, the magic is somehow attached to Rapunzel herself, so the cut hair has no magic. Gothel has no choice but to kidnap the princess if she wants to stay alive. She just wants to live people, is that such a crime??

Anyway, so Rapunzel is kidnapped and locked in a high tower to live out her childhood. Unlike the traditional story where the princess is kept all alone, it is highly implied in the movie that Gothel generally lives with her in the tower. Not only does Gothel look after her, but she also tries to keep Rapunzel happy, by bringing her paints and books. The only thing that Gothel can’t do is let Rapunzel leave the tower.

Rapunzel and Gothel

Perhaps the land IS riddled with the plague as Gothel warned, but Rapzunel’s hair keeps her immune?

I’m not justifying Gothel’s actions of keeping Rapunzel in a gilded cage as being a good thing. It’s not. I’m sure she could’ve gone about it a more civil way, perhaps trying to negotiate with the King and Queen to allow periodic visits to Rapuznel to get that magic hair juju. Kidnapping was definitely a pretty drastic move. However, for a Disney villian, kidnapping and raising a child as a single mother in order to stay alive is pretty low on the list of villainous acts. Certainly lower than cursing a baby to die on her 16th birthday because you didn’t get invited to said baby’s birthday party.

Anyway, Gothel tries to keep Rapunzel in the tower by warning her of the dangers of the outside world via the best song in the movie, Mother Knows Best. It doesn’t work and Rapunzel sneaks out anyway. She encounters the very things that Gothel warned her about, ruffians and thugs, but thanks to contrived Disney logic, said thugs turn out to be warm-hearted fellas, who become instant BFFs with Rapunzel. Don’t listen to your parents kids, strangers are all way cool!

Things happen but Rapunzel is brought back to the tower by Gothel. There, Rapunzel puts together that she must be the missing princess. And this is the part that gets to me the most, she immediately rejects Gothel. Despite the fact that Gothel had raised her and was the only person she knew all her life, because of the newly discovered fact that Gothel is not her biological parent and had dared to deprive Rapunzel the right to live as a princess, she now hates Gothel.

Flynn comes to rescue Rapunzel who is now chained up by Gothel to stop her from escaping. Flynn gets shived by Gothel and Rapunzel promises to go with Gothel if she is allowed to save Flynn.  Gothel agrees and Rapunzel tries to use her hair to save him. What does he do? He cuts her hair, which kills the magic and reverses Gothel’s youth. In her shock and despair, Gothel stumbles towards the window and the stupid chameleon uses Rapunzel’s hair to trip Gothel so that she falls out the window to her death. WTF animal side-kick??

Not a single word is said about Gothel for the remainder of the movie. Rapunzel is reunited with her biological parents, the people whom she’s never spoken to, seen or know anything about. They welcome her with open arms and the end.

It's not easy being a single mother.

It’s not easy being a single mother.

This movie teaches us that biological parents you don’t know are waaaay better than adoptive parents. Forget how an adoptive parent might have “bathed and changed and nursed you”, it’s okay to completely move on from them if you discover that you have “real” parents out there. Gothel may have kidnapped Rapunzel for selfish reasons, but who’s to say that she didn’t grow to love Rapunzel? Couldn’t she both be protective of her daughter and her daughter’s magical hair?

Imagine if Gothel was the protagonist of the movie. Perhaps the reason she always leaves the tower is to find an alternate way to keep her youth without having to rely on Rapunzel. Perhaps she finally finds this alternative source of magic and realises that she no longer has to rely on Rapunzel, meaning she can finally tell Rapunzel the truth.  But before she’s able to finalise her plans, her liar revealed moment occurs when Rapunzel realises that she’s a kidnapped princess. With time running out, Gothel chains Rapunzel up to take control of the situation, but in the end, all is for nought when Rapunzel’s hair is cut and Gothel falls to her death because of a freaking lizard.  Gothel’s long life ends, and she is never able to redeem herself in the eyes of her daughter.

I am certainly not advocating kidnapping. Yes, Gothel’s motives are definitely selfish, and she’s can be pretty crummy as a mother (chaining up your kids is a no-no). The movie certainly implies that Rapunzel’s picture-perfect, royal biological parents would have been way better parents than Gothel. I am just puzzled by the themes of this movie, which on one hand, has a villian whose biggest crime is committed out of selfishness, and on the other, has a hero (Flynn) who also acts out of selfishness, yet is given the chance to redeem himself.

Skip the drama

Skip the drama.

Out of all the Disney villians that come to mind, Gothel is the one who I would say is the least “evil”. She doesn’t have lofty “evil” ambitions, she doesn’t derive joy from seeing others suffer, she’s not vengeful or jealous.  She had a sustainable method to keep herself alive (without hurting anyone) and she had to make do once the method is unthinkingly destroyed by the supposed “good guys”. She’s a complex character who could’ve been given the opportunity to redeem herself but I guess that would’ve been too difficult for Disney to pull off.

Instead, Disney seems to advocate the uncomfortable idea that biological parents are the best, even if you know nothing about them, as opposed to lame adoptive parents who had cared for you all your life and who impose stupid rules on you for your protection.

I had pretty strict parents when growing up and there were rules I had to obey, especially when I was a teen. I try to imagine how I would react if I found out that my parents weren’t biologically related to me, but had kidnapped me for whatever reason when I was a baby, and I have now found my biological parents.  Would I immediately jump ship? Could I abandon the people who raised me and more importantly, could I deny them something that would save their lives which was in my control, just because they had lied to me about my origins? What is Disney trying to say if the protagonist of their movie would say “yes” to all of the above in a heartbeat?

But forget all that! The guy and the girl got together! The horse is funny! Happy ending, hooray, right?

Out with the old, in with the new

After more than 1,500 days since my last blog entry, from a now long-deleted part of the internet, here I am again.

For those who don’t know me, I used to be really into making websites, back when I was in high school and right through my Uni days.  We’re talking about from late 90s right through to about 2009. I had websites that offered layouts and graphics for downloads, fanlistings, a fanfiction archive, fansites, a forum, an online magazine and blogs. But real life got in the way and my websites became of less and less priority until one day I decided to close everything.

4 years later, at a much more stable period of my life, I think it’s about time to revive this old hobby of mine.

I thought I’d start the ball rolling by remembering how much blogging has since changed from when I last had a crack at it back in the 00’s.

1. Blogging for Profit

In the early days of blogging, mainly only bored teens, young adults or writers tended to blog.  People gathered in little communities on self-hosted blogs, livejournals, myspace (ick), blogger etc and discussed and shared their lives and hobbies.

At some point, people started blogging for money. I think that at first, more popular bloggers reviewed and commented on products/services that were paid for, then some blogs started having advertising on their sites. Then came blogs that were dedicated to posting about and sellng products/services.  From there grew there are massive communities, books, forums etc dedicated to maximising SEOs, keywords etc.

Companies have now joined the mix, with many professional services not only having a website, but also a blog with news and information about their particular industry.

Meanwhile, many of the personal blogs and LJs I used to know have now closed. I think with the  rise of facebook, twitter, tumblr and the likes, people have moved away from journal-style format of blogs and to more bite-sized updates on social media.

2. Guestbooks

In case you didn’t know, guestbooks were an early relic of the internet. Back when sites were mostly static webpages, a “guestbook” is a page to allow visitors to leave a comment to you about your site, as if your site is a virtual hotel or something.  Blogs quickly acquired the ability to allow comments and overtime, guestbooks fell to the wayside.

3. Cliques

During a big chunk of time when I had actively blogged, “cliques” were somewhat of a big deal.  A “clique” was kind of a glorified webring (remember those?), a site that listed a bunch of similar sites, usually picked by the owner of the “clique”. “Elite cliques” usually had an extensive criteria relating to the quality of the layout and content of applicant sites and allowed people to apply to join said clique if their website was deemed “good enough”. Such esteemed folks had the privilege of posting a small text link or button on their site that signified their eliteness, and their site would be added to the list of sites that made it in.

4. Fanlistings

A “fanlisting” is usually a small website about a a thing (person, character, song, movie, book, TV show etc) of which the owner is a fan. They generally would contain a form allowing people who like said thing to sign up and a list of said people. The Fanlistings Network is the official administrator of fanlistings, and they have (had?) a vast number of volunteers that checked fanlisting sites for how active they are.

Typically, only one “official” fanlisting site is recognised for each thing. I used to own the fanlisting for Neverwinter Nights 2, Pucca and the movie, My Fair Lady but they were all eventually taken down due to disinterest.

Fanlistings used to be everywhere, with people creating listings of all sorts of things, including people.  I’m a bit chuffed to say that at one point there was a fanlisting someone made of me, and people actually signed up to be a fan! With the advent of facebook and “liking” official pages of things, Fanlistings became less popular, I’m actually surprised to see that The Fanlisting Network is still up and running.

5. Linking and buttons

When making sites and blogs in the 00’s, in the links page, you would often describe your site as “link free”. Because bandwidth was precious and expensive back in the day, there were, honest to god, personal sites that were popular but which were not “link free”. That is, they request that you ask them permission before you link to them so that they can control the number of people accessing their site and the amount of bandwidth used up.

Of course, site owners can’t control this, but I do remember at one time someone being very cross that a third party had the audacity to link to their site without their permission. Ha, good times.

But anyway, most people back in the day do want visitors and so would say that their sites were “link free”, aka, feel free to link!  People would “exchange” links with each other, aka, agree to link to each other’s sites either by text or by use of a button.

When I started making websites, I would create little banners and link buttons that people can use to link to you site rather than using a text link. People used to have very pretty “link boards” or pages that were a collage of link buttons and banners. After some time, banners fell out of use but small link buttons stayed in vogue for a long time. Their size was always 88 by 31 pixels in size and to this day I never quite understood why those particular dimensions were the norm.

6. Being code compliant

This wasn’t that big a thing I suppose, but it was important to me. Since I started making sites, I turned my nose up at “WSIWIG” programs, i.e. software that people use to make websites without needing to code themselves (to be fair, early WSIWIG programs were really awful). I had always made my websites coded by hand, in notepad, with the except of javascripts and later, blogging platforms like wordpress.

I remember being such a pro with making complex layouts just right using really complex tables (we’re talking about cutting a layout into 20-40 pieces and putting them together using coding, not difficult conceptually, just tedious). Then came CSS and different browsers and everything got increasing more complicated.

At some point, it became a point of pride to be compliant with coding standards.  Even though your site might be viewed okay in browsers, your code might not technically be written in a way that complies with the standards issued by the W3C.  At the height of my interest in web-design, it meant a lot to me to comb through my coding to make sure that the coding met the standards. It was… pretty pedantic.

7. Changing layouts all the time

Many people I know who had blogs in the 00’s, myself included, changed their blog layouts all the time.  In my spare time, I used to design and make different layouts for my blog and sites every few months. Each layout would have a “version” number and was made from scratch.  Usually it was themed around an anime image, or song lyric or something cheesy like that.

I don’t see blogs changing their layouts as much these days, and layouts in general tend to be more subdued, mature, glossy and modern. What is surprising is that many tumblrs I’ve come across actually have a lot more similar design elements to the layouts I used to see and make back in the day.  I guess that style has just found another niche.

8. Omake

“Omake” is a Japanese word for “extra”.  Back in the day, many sites and blogs would have a little section called “omake” (or something along those lines) containing things for visitors. They included downloads, such as wallpapers, winamp skins, scans, and quizzes, tutorials etc. I don’t see things like this on blogs anymore, which tend to be really focused on the blogging aspect itself.

9. Fansites/Shrines

Not directly related to blogging, but back in the 00’s around the internet circles I hung out in, people had networks of sites.  Many of the sites were small fansites of things they liked. Most of the time, they were fansites, or “shrines” to anime, gaming, TV shows or associated characters.

A fansite typically had a general “info” section about the topic/character, some kind of analysis/opinion or in-depth consideration of the topic including why the creator is such a fan (English classes do have an application!), some kind of media section (e.g. wallpapers, scans, music associated with the topic) and then a general about/link section.

Fansites normally also showcased the web-design skills of the creator.  Often times, layouts of fansites were beautiful, complex and colourful (albeit at times impractical) creations, with the main visual theme centred around the topic of the site.  There were networks of shrines run by very creative individuals who create and manage upwards of 10 fansites at a time.

Fansites have died out these days, mainly I think due to the advent of wikis.  Most anime, games, books etc have wiki pages created and maintained by fans who all add to the wiki about the subject. They are nice wells of knowledge, but I do miss the analysis and in-depth opinions about characters or texts that you rarely see on wiki pages. Oh, and the beautiful layouts.

I’m sure I’ve left out lots of other idiosyncrasies of 00’s era blogging and the circle of young site creators who were into nerdy fandoms of which I was a part.  For more nostalgia feels, check out this page, which lists other features of hte itme. A good 90% of the domains and sites I used to know and admire are all gone now, which is a shame.  Ah well, at least we get to reminisce!

Having said all that, it’s time to move onwards! I’m not sure what I intend to do with this blog. Like my old blog, I guess my intention is just to write when I feel like it, about things that come to mind. It’s going to be cheesy, not that well thought out and rambly but at least for me, it’s something fun to look back upon one day, much like how I’ve done today.