Maleficent: Good Take on a Baddie? Or Bad Take on a Good Idea?

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Most people that I know as movie goers were looking forward to Maleficent, and not just because Angelina Jolie was the leading actress in it (although it certainly didn’t deter anyone I know). People were more looking forward to a new outlook on a well known tale, Sleeping Beauty. Undoubtedly Maleficent was a wonderfully told story, but was it worth going to see right when it came out or should you have waited to see it when it came out on Blue-ray and DVD?

With Jolie’s persistence in keeping Maleficent true to her character in the animated version as well as in the Grimm’s written account of the story, I believe she may have made the film what it was. Without Maleficent’s razor sharp cheekbones and her features being both beautiful and terrifying, I highly doubt she would have made quite the impression that she did with them. Of course this fearsome fairy’s story was unfolded in the common way: girl falls in love with a boy, boy betrays her, she becomes angry and in her rage she does something that she will soon regret. However, the portrayal of the characters was beautiful and intense, a vivid, slow burn of redemption on Maleficent’s behalf and a decline into madness by her once love-now enemy King Stefan.

What I would say is that it felt a bit shallow as far as looking into what was happening at the time—it glossed over everything Maleficent was doing besides looking after Aurora, even though it was implied that the entire time she was also keeping the King’s army away from her thorny walls that separated their two kingdoms. There was a battle here and a battle there, but they didn’t feel like they were a part of some greater on-going war. This may have been part of the reason why the movie received some not-so-glowing reviews.

Another reason might be its pessimistic view on love—which is a staple to all Disney Princesses. A true and everlasting love of some Prince or another; but in Maleficent it isn’t meant to be, necessarily. They do leave it open-ended, but it isn’t a love that’s set in stone. Maleficent says many times throughout the movie that “true love doesn’t exist”. I believe what she meant was not to be taken as a dark view of the world, but to say that you may love once and be heartbroken, but then fall in love with someone else and have it be just as strong, just as deep and thrilling as it was the first time; that a first love doesn’t have to be the only love.

Even with these drawbacks, Maleficent is a feel-good movie that still has a lot of the elements from Sleeping Beauty, but is aimed more at a grown up crowd. The topics it covers definitely earns it a good mark from me: a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this movie to anyone 13 or older, as some of the violence is a bit graphic for anyone much younger. Especially if you loved the Disney Princess movies growing up, I suggest you watch Maleficent, but maybe a home viewing experience would be more worth it.

 

Learn, Have Fun & Take the Whole Family!

Okay, so today I went on a bit of an excursion. I went 20 minutes from my new home, to a place that I had never been to (although many other people have) and went all touristy. And you know what? It was a relaxing day! I wore comfy clothes, looked nice, and was accompanied by friends. I went to Washington DC and visited museums.

In the car, headed toward DC!

In the car, headed toward DC!

Now, there are many museums to choose from and we only visited two, but even still we had loads of fun and learned little tidbits of information here and there. The Natural History Museum was the first one we visited, and we enjoyed walking around and seeing all of the stuffed animals (the ones that used to be live animals, not the fluffy things you or your kids sleep with). We stood between the massive jaws of a prehistoric shark and got to see the shimmering Hope Diamond along with a number of other beautiful gems.

 

We're being goobers here, don't mind us!

We’re being goobers here, don’t mind us!

The Natural History Museum was free admittance, although the next museum we visited was not. The second museum we attended was the International Spy Museum. We did have to pay admittance, but we also purchased tickets to join “Operation Spy”. In Operation Spy we were grouped with five other people and went through a mission where what we did and how we did it affected the outcome. We got to solve puzzles, run around and have fun. I mean, how else am I going to live out my dreams of being an expert safe cracker other than in an awesomely interactive adventure like Operation Spy? Regardless, it was well worth the price.

 

My Spy Alias. Pretty cool, huh?

My Spy Alias. Pretty cool, huh?

Although we were tired by the end of our trip (hey, we did a lot of walking to see some other monuments as well), we still had a great time. The upside was that I got out, enjoyed the sunshine and then got to also enjoy some air conditioning on a hot day and see new things. Even if you live in the area, it can be a super fun weekend trip, especially if you bring kids along. They’ll have a blast and I’m sure you will too, if you give it a chance!

Supervolcanoes: Scary? Cool? Scary Cool?

Over the course of the last week I kept running across the term “supervolcano”, so I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of research and see what, exactly, a supervolcano is.

A supervolcano is like a volcano, but super, right?

Well yes, essentially. There are different definitions and causes for volcanoes versus supervolcanoes, but you’ve got it pretty much in a nutshell there. Obviously, there’s scale: a volcano is usually measured by VEI, or Volcano Explosivity Index, and as long as that VEI is less than 8, it is still considered to be a regular volcano. Only once the VEI hits 8 does the volcano become a supervolcano.

How is the VEI measured?

It all has to do with how much ash the volcano spews out. If it’s spewing out less than 1,000 cubic kilometers of ash then it’s not super, but 1,000+ cubic kilometers and that’s a supervolcano. But that’s just the difference between a supervolcano and the rest of the volcanoes. Once you get below 1,000 cubic kilometers you get more classifications of volcanoes, which is pretty cool in and of itself.

Are there external triggers that could cause an eruption?

First of all, let’s define ‘external triggers’: earthquakes and drilling into the volcano are two examples. Could that cause an eruption? It certainly could, which is why we monitor supervolcanoes such as the one in Yellowstone. But will it definitely bring forth our doom? Not necessarily. Scientists are saying that it is just as likely that the magma will cause enough pressure internally to cause the eruption all by itself. But this takes time—there is a volcano in Bolivia that has been classified as a ‘supervolcano’ that has been building in pressure since 1992, but either the pressure could release some other way or it could explode… but they don’t know when: years, decades, centuries or even millennia.

Could Yellowstone have a super-eruption in our lifetime?

It’s possible, but unlikely. With all the different measurements that scientists are taking daily, we would likely see the precursors in advance to the super-eruption, such as increase in frequency of earthquakes, larger earthquakes, swelling in the earth’s surface, etc.

Say a supervolcano erupts, what would happen?

With 1,000+ cubic kilometers of material being produced, most areas nearby would be buried in approximately 1 kilometer of ash. After that there would likely be a volcanic winter which would result in harvests being lost for up to five years and billions of deaths.

Can supervolcanoes have smaller eruptions?

Yes, of course! There have been several smaller eruptions, usually resulting in lava flows or geysers.

 

If you would like to see how Yellowstone is monitored: click here!

A VEI Chart with lots of cool facts!

P4: The 3-Wheeled Car Hitting Markets in 2015

The P4 is a 3-wheeled car from Elio Motors, due to come out in 2015. With almost 15,000 reservations for the vehicle, it’s sure to make a splash—and that’s not even because it’s a 3-wheeled car! The P4 has many selling points to make this car a great little urban vehicle like availability, it’s eco-friendly design and affordable pricing.

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Not only will the P4 be available at any of the Elio Retail Centers that will be opening in a network around the United States, but you will be able to select some custom options for your P4 as well. The customizations will be selected at the time of your order, so you may select color and whether it’s a standard or automatic as well. And after you finish ordering? Your P4 will be at that retail center, clean and ready for you in 24 hours. How’s that for awesome service? If you’re looking for services for you car just stop in at any Pep Boys (800 centers, 7,500 service bays), which I personally think is really cool.

Yes, the P4 is available location-wise, but is it any good? You may be riding in tandem, which turns some people off from this really neat new vehicle, but the mileage might cause you to think again. With an 84 MPG highway mileage and 49 MPG in city driving, this little car can go about 650 miles before it needs to be refueled. With that sort of fuel efficiency, why wouldn’t you want this car?

Now the price. You all are probably thinking this is going to cost some outrageous price, like a Mercedes or BMW, right? I mean, past vehicles that were similar to this had the price tags to match—smart cars, for instance, start at $12,490—but in this case the price is a lot more manageable. Paying only $6,800 for a P4, this car is worth the price. That’s the same price as a decade old Corolla, in case you were wondering.

In case you’re worried that this vehicle won’t have the amenities you’re used to in a car, just wait! It comes with an AM/FM Radio, air conditioning and heat, power windows and door locks, and three air bags. The car was designed to hold people 6’1” and 220 lbs. Of course it has held people 6’8” and 365 lbs, so don’t let these numbers fool you into thinking that’s the upper limit. In addition to all of these features, you get custom ones to choose from such as a Bluetooth steering wheel, cruise control and leather seats.

These little cars might not be the best at the back roads like in my home state of Vermont, but they will be quite powerful little machines in their own right. I believe they would be perfect in the urban environment, even if you have a medium to long commute.

For more information: the Elio Motors website

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10 Tips For Beginning Runners

Considering I started off today with a joyous run with someone who had no clue how to actually do that, I figured I would compile a little list of tips and tricks for those beginner runners. Some of you are doing it to get in shape and to be badass, some of you want desperately to lose weight and fit into that dress that society says you can only wear once you’re a certain weight, some of you want to run because it screams at you inside your head (but you just don’t think you can possibly do it). Well, I’m here to tell you that all of these are acceptable reasons—just like all other reasons. You want to run? Then goddamn you will run. These are just some tips for you to think about when you’re thinking about heading out there.

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1. Gear isn’t everything, but it is something.

See, this is a tough one because what it really comes down to is not your gear, but gear helps. Such as: you can run in bare feet, it just might not feel the best if you’re not used to it. I suggest: running shoes something dedicated solely to running or cross-training will work, just as long as it’s breathable, the right size and not giving you any soreness/discomfort; stretchy pants that fit you, or shorts because shorts show off your damn fine legs; an athletic top or some kind (if you’re a girl, invest in a really comfortable sports bra, this is really important, trust me); and a hairtie if your hair is always in your face and blinding you.

2. Dynamic stretches first, static stretches after.

If you don’t know what these are you better start learning. Dynamic stretches include hip circles, knee circles and arm circles. They’re stretches that not only get your muscles ready to work, but get your heart rate started up as well. You want to do these before your run because it will loosen you up—you’re less likely to pull a muscle this way. Static stretches are all the ones they probably taught you in PE. You want to do these after your run because it will help work out whatever cramps and kinks you get into yourself from the run. Keep limber, keep yourself unhurt.

3. Pace yourself.

This isn’t a race to see who can hurt themselves the quickest. This isn’t even a race. Not right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re running partner is a lot more fit than you and can walk around the track faster than you can jog it. If they’re complaining about being held up then they need to chill the fuck out. Remind them that you need more time to get up to speed. You don’t become an Astronaut in one day and you sure as hell don’t become an Olympic Runner in that amount of time either. If you’re going down a hill, keep a pace and don’t go flying down it. It won’t help you build your stamina and you’ll actually get tired quicker. Same with if you’re going uphill. Or on level ground. Unless you’re doing planned interval running, don’t try it. You’ll tire yourself out and you won’t be able to reach your goal.

4. Breathe as evenly as you can manage.

Okay, I don’t expect you to be counting out all of your breaths, but this is especially useful if you feel a cramp coming on in the spot right underneath the ribs. Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about. If you count out your breaths and do a “IN, 2, 3; OUT, 2, 3” sequence for a minute or so, your cramp will ease and you’ll be able to continue. This happens to everyone. You’re not dying. Keep running.

5. It’s okay to walk.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is: you feel light-headed, your shin splints are killing you, you need a drink… any of these are okay to admit. Even if you just absolutely can’t go on or you’ll pass out—take a break. It’s okay to say you need one. Especially if you’re just starting out. It’s not okay to take too many breaks, mind you, but it’s perfectly okay to take some breaks.

6. Stay hydrated.

Some days you’re going to feel like you don’t need it—you’re already swimming through the air because it’s so humid. Please, please stay hydrated and don’t pass out while running. You have no idea how much that sucks. Heat exhaustion is no fun and you really don’t want to play with that.

7. If you do get injured, take a few days to recuperate.

It’s not cool to drag yourself around the track like you’re a zombie. Especially if that means one of your limbs is mangled and dragging behind you. No one wants to deal with that shit. So please, just take the time to heal up before you go taking off in a sprint again.

8. Don’t be afraid to push yourself.

Think you can run that little bit farther? Do it. Run until you want to just drop. Don’t do that to yourself (actually keel over), but get yourself to the point where you don’t think you can go any further. Know your physical limits. Push them. Go faster or further, or both!

9. Set goals for yourself.

Whether that’s distance: I want to run a half marathon! Or speed: I want to run a 6 minute mile! Then go ahead and try your hardest to get there. Setting goals and reaching them feels awesome (and it looks pretty cool too!)

10. If you want to race, then race!

Seriously, even if you know you’re going to be in dead last… if you want to run a race and get that experience then do it. Have fun doing it. Love yourself for completing that race and cheer for yourself at the end. Everyone else will be cheering for you too, especially because you just accomplished something amazing! Go you!

Clichés and Tropes: What They Are and How To Use Them

Cli•ché [klee-shey]

Noun

1. A trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea. That has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser, or strong as an ox.

 

Trope [trohp]

Noun

1. Devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

 

 

Clichés and tropes are both necessary and something that creators try their hardest to break or overcome. People from both sides of the coin—audience and producer—crave originality and yet they love their love chevrons, zero to hero stories and bad boys. It’s a very love/hate relationship that we, the people, have going on with our entertainment. As I mentioned three already I will be talking about those as well as white knights and damsels in distress and how we both love them and hate them—and how to use them correctly if you’re going to use them!

Love chevrons: we see them everywhere and girls have expected that if the main character is a female, she has two guys who are fighting over her and she needs to choose. Now. It’s life or death. We’ve seen them in the Twilight Series, The Hunger Games Trilogy and in Pretties, the second book of the Uglies series. These are books written from three different authors. Twilight, as we all know, has Bella who is torn between her vampire love, Edward, and her werewolf best friend, Jacob. This went on for the better part of the series (four books in total), and it got the audience riled up to the point where they were choosing “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”. In The Hunger Games it never reached that point, but there was still strife between those that felt Katniss should love Peeta and those that believed she and Gale were meant to be (which lasted only about two of the three books (there was more focus put on the rebellion instead of the love chevron). In Pretties, Tally Youngblood has to choose between David and Zane, although this only lasts for about half of the book in actuality. Still, teen romance is riddled with this trope and many are starting to avoid anything that even hints at having a love chevron in it while others are addicted and that’s all they will read.

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So how do you approach a love chevron correctly? Cautiously, very cautiously. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers and have them cringing because the entire story revolves around it, yet ignoring one that might be beneficial to you as an author would be a bad idea. If people are caught up in it, if it adds to the characters and their development or the plot in some way—by all means use it, but don’t make it the main part of the story. People don’t always like drama and love chevrons are dramatic, so be careful with this device.

Zero to hero is what you see in many stories: Classic Superheroes (Spiderman), The Night Angel Trilogy, and even in the beloved Lord of the Rings. Spiderman, for instance, was a stereotypical nerd in highschool until he was bitten by a spider and suddenly had all of these really frickin’ cool super powers. In the Night Angel trilogy the main character (who ends up going by many names) literally starts out on the streets and once he apprentices with an assassin he quickly rises up to surpass even his master. In Lord of the Rings you have four unwitting hobbits who go off on an adventure that turns each one of them into a hero for the ages. All three of these examples are amazing pieces of work, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some flops.

Especially if the zero to hero isn’t explained in some way (magically helped, natural character development, science on the verge of being magic, etc.) this device ends up not being a winner. The problem with this trope is when it doesn’t make sense, or everyone in that story is a zero to hero all around the same time. This is best used if you know how to pace a story and explain a change with enough detail that no one’s asking questions.

Bad boys are a clichéd character type. They are usually clad in leather or go shirtless for the majority of their scenes. Their morals and values are questionable and seem to live their life in a grey area. Damon from the Vampire Diaries, Sawyer in Lost and Ezio in the Assassin Creed videogames are all classics in this regard. And yet all three can also be considered ‘ladies men’, as women tend to flock to them. So how can you use this character type to your advantage? Need a dark, brooding, morally questionable character—we’ve got just the guy for you! No seriously, if you have a part that needs to cover the morally grey area, this is your best bet.

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White Knights, on the other hand, are virtuous and tend to ride in and save the day. It’s the hero complex, but only with women. Pretty much every Disney Prince is a White Knight, as are Robin Hood and Arthur in Arthurian Legend. Can these characters be useful? Certainly they can! If your story could use a character who must always swoop in and save the girl, then you have your trope served on a silver platter. Clearly it is a well used character type, and there are no real instances of it going wrong—maybe just parodied. Enchanted, for one, parodied this character type with the well-meaning Prince, but he ended up with only being a white knight and having practically no other qualities.

The final trope I’m going to talk about is the damsel in distress. Most will say this is outdated and with the feminist movement I would have to agree. Princess Peach from the Mario Brothers games, Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey and Ann in King Kong are strong examples of this character type. Are they desirable? Only to boost a white knight’s ego. Of course, you’re talking to a feminist, so of course I’m going to say that. They can be useful in spurring a story along, but ultimately the folly that authors fall into is their character being too shallow and not getting any helping of character development. If you are going to use it, my suggestion is to then broaden out the character so she (the damsel) gets to start protecting herself and saving herself.

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Mostly these tropes are exactly that: overused and under-appreciated. However, if the device is used correctly in your work it could be an amazing journey from start to finish. Remember that some people might hate that clichéd character or love chevron, but there will be another person out there that can’t get enough of it and eats up anything that falls into that category.

How To… Write A Cover Letter!

Materials

  • Writing utensil
  • paper

OR

  • A computer with a blank document open

 

 

Instructions

First thing is first: you must have a greeting. This is usually in the format of “Dear _____,”. If you know the name of the recruiter then address them as such and include a proper title (Dr., Mr., Ms., etc.). If you do not know who will be reviewing your application and cover letter then it is best to generalize and simply put “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Recruitment Team,”.

Tell them who you are, what position and what company you are referring to. It’s also pretty cool to mention where you heard about them or if you were referred by one of their employees, tell them who. This is best to mention within the first couple of sentences as it sets up the background for the rest of the letter. In the next sentence or two you want to list at least three skills you possess that you believe makes you most qualified for this specific position within their company. It helps if you’ve done some research into company values as well as knowing what the position entails for this, as you will want to use keywords that will jump out to the hirer. This will be you first paragraph.

In your middle paragraphs (either set up as one large paragraph or one paragraph per skill set) you will want to bring up each skill individually, let them know how you feel it applies to the position you’re applying for, where you learned the skill. Don’t be shy, don’t be humble. You’re supposed to be showcasing yourself and putting yourself ahead of the other applicants. This will be the body of your letter.

Your conclusion paragraph sums up why the position attracted your attention (a good work environment, opportunity for advancement, etc.), reiterate why you are the best candidate for the position in question. Make sure you not only leave contact information, but you also thank them for their time, and mention that you look forward to hearing back from them. If the application has been filled out or your resume has been included, mention that as well.

“Best Wishes,” or “Sincerely,” are best, but any closing statement with formality is nice to see and shows you were actually taught how to format letters back in grade school. If you are emailing the cover letter type out your full legal name below and send it as is. If you are delivering the cover letter by hand it is best to leave a gap between your closer and your name so you may sign the letter with a pen.