Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The infallible cure to the summertime blues

I may be in the minority here, but I think summer is just too long. True, in February, summer sits on a glorious but unreachable pedestal, and I greet the first bursts of warm, dry air with the gratitude of one who has recently shed a heavy burden.

But then leisure turns into boredom, sunny skies turn into hazy heat waves, and my energy level falls into a continuous downward spiral. My subconscious knows that summer is about to end and I should relish the gloriousness I dream about during the dank winter months, but too much of a good thing prompts me indoors in front of the TV screen, my stores of creativity and motivation depleted.

Just when it seems like there is no cure to the summertime blues, the cosmic powers of the universe shift just slightly. The sun starts to set a little sooner. The unbearable 100+ degree temperatures give way to pleasant highs in the 80s and 90s. Kids suddenly start looking more well groomed, and stores like ShopKo and Walmart make a small fortune off of notebook and pencil sales. The guys at the office start throwing the football around. And soon you can no longer deny it--those trees in front of your office building aren't wilting from the heat; their leaves are changing color.

The infallible cure to the summertime blues? Autumn. Works every time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Superheroes and fairy tales

There's been a pretty obvious trend going on in the book and movie industries over the past few years: superheroes and fairy tales. In fact, so much has been said about this topic that I could easily write a 30-page research paper on it. (I'll admit, the idea sparks some excitement.) But since I don't actually have to start thinking about research papers for another 33 days, I'll try to express my thoughts within the appropriate blogging guidelines.

Telling stories is part of human nature. We tell stories to entertain and to teach. Stories are often enriched by personal histories and traditions. Some stories are told or acted out, changing with each interpretation, while others are written down, to be preserved for generations. Stories give us a chance to escape to another world for a bit and to develop our imaginations.

There are those who would tell us it's unhealthy, even for children, to spend time in worlds full of happily-ever-afters and invincible superheroes. Stories like Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist and Robert Cormier's I Am the Cheese are perfectly acceptable because they won't risk making readers think that bunnies and chipmunks are adorable little creatures that will help them keep house, or that readers will one day discover a new power within themselves that allows them to beat up the bullies and get all the girls without any effort.

And yet, people still crowd the movie theaters to see the superheroes in action. Some are saying it's the need for a hero in this bleak world we live in that is driving ticket sales so effectively.

Personally, I love fairy tales; YA fairy-tale retellings are some of my favorite books. After the movie Thor came out, I decided I love watching superheros, too. I don't see anything wrong with a society that makes a huge profit off stories that couldn't possibly happen in real life. Even though we live in a world without pixie dust and vats of toxic waste lying around to miraculously change our circumstances, we can still relate to the characters, and, most importantly, rekindle hope for our own lives as we watch a stressful situation resolve nice and neatly on screen or in the pages of a book.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch Once Upon a Time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Musings on the Olympics

I love the Olympics. I've been faithfully watching my favorite events (swimming and gymnastics) for over a week. Now that Michael Phelps has swum his last race and the women gymnasts are done competing for individual gold medals, my life will mostly resume its normal pace, one in which the evenings aren't decided by the number of athletes I just have to watch compete.

A few thoughts I've had while watching the Olympics from my pad:
  • Defeating Voldemort with a horde of Mary Poppinses is a brilliant idea in theory, but the execution of it was . . . lacking. There should have at least been some wand work going on. Hagrid could have led the Mary Poppinses with his own pink umbrella.
  • If I had planned the literature section of the Opening Ceremonies, it would have included a firework show put on by Dumbledore and Gandalf--that would have topped the Beijing Opening Ceremonies no sweat. Then an epic battle between the good guys and the bad guys would ensue. King Arthur would lead the good guys and would go charging into battle shouting, "FOR NARNIA!" Then the bad guys would fall into the fires of Mordor, which would be used to forge the Olympic rings.
  • I can't decide if it's a bigger travesty that most of the athletes who enter the games will not return home with a medal, or that many of the silver medalists are bitterly disappointed.
  • I'm not convinced that Michael Phelps is done swimming.
  • The women's gymnastics commentators need to brush up on their vocabulary. They've used the words"catastrophic" and "unbelievable" so much that they've lost their meanings.
  • I also wish that the commentators would employ the rule "If you can't think of anything not obvious to say, don't say anything at all." For example, if a gymnast flails a leg out while she's on the balance beam, I'm pretty sure the audience will still understand what just happened if the commentator doesn't say, "That was a slight balance check."
  • If I were a male diver, I would protest the uniform requirement. I don't care how much I loved the sport; I wouldn't succumb to such humiliation without a fight. But, what do I know? Maybe guys like to look like they're wearing diapers.
  • Sorry, but I think track and field is boring unless they're showing the runners in slow motion so you can watch their faces wobble.
  • I really wish there was a Olympic "no spoiler" rule on the internet. I accidentally learned the outcome of at least three of the major events before I got to watch it. The spoiler rule will never happen, so I'll just settle for complaining.
  • I actually watched some of the commercials for marketing education purposes. But I still hate them. Especially the Mountain Star Healthcare one.
  • I feel slightly patriotic when I'm on a walk and I pass dozens of houses that are watching the Olympics.
  • Watching these toned and fit athletes do incredible things makes me want to work out. My workout of choice is cross stitching on the couch.