Officially Unofficial

>> Monday, April 30, 2012

A question--now, correct me if I'm wrong, here--but isn't the author the only one qualified to write a sequel to his own book?

You've seen them, right? Those books that are the "official sequels" to classics, but are written a hundred years later by a completely different author?
How can a complete stranger write a book with the same voice and vision of someone they've never met? Even if they did know them, they can never write just like them. And even if they tried, that too would be an atrocity.

Take "Peter Pan in Scarlet", the official sequel to J. M. Barrie's beloved tale. I could understand if it was the great-great-grandchild of Mr. Barrie who wrote it.
But no.
The person who wrote it was not even related to any events of the author's life. The copyright for Peter Pan was given to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. And they just chose a random author to do an "official sequel."

It's not just that, but when these official sequels add new characters...Well, that just chaps my hide.
In "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood", the author decided that A. A. Milne had failed to add enough female characters. And so they introduced Winnie the Otter.
And even then, the artist attempted to copy Ernest Shepard's illustration style.
Copy, copy, copy...Can't they come up with something original?

Or even the official sequel to "A Little Princess", called "Wishing for Tomorrow".
Now that is what I call an unnesecary sequel. What more is there to tell?

Now don't get me wrong, not every book based on other stories are atrocious.
I mean, look at the Robin Hood and King Arthur legends. Books are churned out almost yearly that are retellings of the famous tales.
Because there never was any set author for the legends, it seems appropriate that other authors will have their versions and visions.

But to me, trying to emulate a writer is just wrong.
Really wrong.


Quick After-Battle Triple Chocolate Cake

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This is a delicious recipe from the Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede. I've had the pleasure of baking it numerous times, and I just thought I'd share it.
Note: If you don't have chocolate milk, simply use regular milk and double the amount of cocoa. And you don't have to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. For me, it simply ruins it.
Transcriber's note: This is the original recipe as used by the barbarian swordsman. Amounts and instructions for somewhat more conventional kitchens are given in parentheses.

First, round up the prisoners and have them  make a good fire. Pile shields around it to hold in heat.
(Preheat oven to 350°.)

Assemble ingredients:
Butter the size of a good spear head (1 stick butter or margarine)
A good fistful of brown sugar (1/2 cup brown sugar, packed)
A big fistful of white sugar (1/2 cup white sugar)
A couple of eggs (2 large eggs)
A good splash of vanilla (2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
Secret Magic Ingredient (2 Tablespoons blackstrap molasses)
Milk from a chocolate cow (2/3 cup chocolate milk)
A small fistful of cocoa (1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa)
Two or three fistfuls of flour (1 cup flour)
Pinch of salt (1/2 teaspoon salt)
Two pinches soda (1 teaspoon baking soda)
Hunk of chocolate, hacked into bits with second-best sword (1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips)

Pick a small shield and clean it, then grease it up good. Sprinkle in a little flour and save it for later.
(Grease and flour a 13" X 9" pan.)

In somebody else's  helmet, beat butter and brown sugar and white sugar together—make sure helmet is clean before using! Add eggs and beat some more. Add vanilla and Secret Magic Ingredient and beat it all again. (In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine until fluffy. Add brown sugar and white sugar and mix thoroughly. Add eggs, vanilla, and blackstrap molasses, beating well after each addition.)

Stir flour, cocoa, salt, and soda together in whatever is handy. Add to batter, alternating with milk. Beat real good. Stir in chocolate pieces. (In a seperate container, stir flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda together. Beat into butter mixture, alternating with the chocolate milk. Beat for 1-2 minutes, then fold in chocolate chips.)

Dump batter into greased shield. Bake next to fire while gathering loot. Give helmet back to sucker who let you mix cake in it; promise him first piece if he gets too mad. Eat warm while counting loot. Serves two. (Pour batter into greased and floured 13" X 9" pan. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cake should be sort of flat and solid, not light and puffy. Let cool before cutting, or the pieces will fall apart and the gooey chocolate chips will get all over everything. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with whipped cream. Serves a lot more than two, even if everybody really likes chocolate.)

I do not own. Belongs to Patricia C. Wrede.


Take It In

>> Friday, April 20, 2012

It was a normal morning at the L'Enfant Plaza Station in Washington. People scurried through on thier way to work, almost totally oblivious to the violinist playing with his case open for donations.
He looked like any other street musician--jeans, t-shirt, and a baseball cap.

What they didn't know was that it was the world-famous violinist Joshua Bell.

He had been approached and asked to do an experiment: If a famous classical musician played like any other street musician, would anyone notice his music? Would people stop and listen to what they thought was a random musician, which was in reality a world-class violinist whose concerts cost some thousand dollars just to get in?
Or would he be ignored?

As Joshua Bell played Bach and Schubert in a tiny little station, most people ignored him. When interviewed later, most of the commuters simply said that they didn't even notice he was there. The reason? They were listening to thier ipods.
Some people actually were irritated by the music and talked louder on thier cell phones as they passed by to try and drown it out.

But some people did stop and listen. Very few people, but they did it just the same. They decided to stand there and take it all in.

When I heard this story, I couldn't help but wonder: Would I have noticed? Would I have listened? Or would I have been "too busy"?

Maybe sometimes we just need to slow down and take in every beautiful detail that life has to offer. The world could be filled with wonder if we just let it. Maybe I'm waxing a little too philosophical, but this story makes me want to slow down a bit more, smell the roses, y'know?

So here's a question:

Would you have stopped to listen?


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Quotes Part 1

>> Sunday, April 15, 2012

Picture by MirrorCradle
"But for heaven's sake--you're wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out--well--anything!"
Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, "The trouble is, the other side can do magic, too, Prime Minister."

"It could be me next, couldn't it? But if it is," he said fiercely, now looking straight into Dumbledore's blue eyes gleaming in the wandlight, "I'll make sure I take as many Death Eaters with me as I can, and Voldemort too if I can manage it."

"You need your friends, Harry. As you so rightly said, Sirius would not have wanted you to shut yourself away."

"Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than right," said Hermione.

"Worth a try, but you were a bit obvious-"
"Well, next time you can show me how it's done, Master of Mystery!" she snapped.

"Hmph," snorted Professor McGonagall. "It's high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she's got, rather than the one she thinks she ought to have--particularly after what happened at the Ministry."
Neville turned very pink and blinked confusedly; Professor McGonagall had never paid him a compliment before.

"I'm a teacher!" he roared at Harry. "A teacher, Potter! How dare yeh threaten ter break down my door!"
"I'm sorry, sir," said Harry, emphasizing the last word as he stowed his wand inside his robes.
Hagrid looked stunned. "Since when have yeh called me 'sir'?"
"Since when have you called me 'Potter'?"
"Oh, very clever," growled Hagrid. "Very amusin'."

"Did you know--then?" asked Harry.
"Did I know that I had just met the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time?" said Dumbledore. "No, I had no idea that he was to grow up to be what he is."

Firstly, Harry had to put up with the frequent presence of Lavender Brown, who seemed to regard any moment that she was not kissing Ron as a moment wasted; and secondly, Harry found himself once more the best friend of two people who seemed unlikely ever to speak to each other again.

"It is an act that is crucial to success, Draco!" said Snape. "Where do you think I would have been all these years, if I had not known how to act?"

"Yes, I'm sure," said Harry. "Why, what does it mean?"
"Well, you can't break an Unbreakable Vow..."
"I'd worked that much out for myself, funnily enough."

"If you tell them," said Ron, shoving the necklace out of sight under his pillow, "I-I-I'll-"
"Stutter at me?" said Harry, grinning.


The Girl Who Could Fly

>> Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ever since I published a post discussing the difference an exciting book cover can make using The Girl Who Could Fly as an example, everyone wondered if I'd read it and if it was good or not. I responded that, no, I hadn't read it, but I'd post a review when I did.

And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, here it goes:

The Girl Who Could Fly
by Victoria Forester

The Girl Who Could Fly was a good book, but not a great one.
I was slightly nervous when I opened it up and found that the setting was a small Southern town. See, for some reason, other books I've read set in small Southern towns--Like Savvy and Horns and Wrinkles--were always disappointing. I don't know what it is, but the way the setting and language is usually portrayed somehow rubs me wrong.
However, I was surprised and pleased when The Girl Who Could Fly did not do this. In fact, I enjoyed the beginning set in the small town the most! And the homey language the setting's descriptions thrilled me rather than turned me off.
Another thing that the book did that I really liked was how it captured the childlike feeling that adults simply do not understand sometimes.

Then Piper got sent to the Institute and I got worried. I was sensing another The Limit (poorly executed, with a lame ending) and The Unwanteds (Every character was exactly the same!)
And I'll admit, when Piper first got there, it was quite tedious. Some more description of the Institute would have been nice--I couldn't quite picture it. But to my relief, each character had their own personality, and that was nice (though I still don't get Conrad.)
But then new revelations were made and the book started picking up. I will say one thing: This book is sure unpredictable.

There was a thrilling escape attempt scene, and the ending wasn't perfect, but it was satisfactory. However, I felt that J. was an unnecessary character. Maybe if his background had been explained more and if he had more of a part, I might have not felt so. He only showed up about two or three times, anyway. But whenever he did it threw me off. He didn't fit, if you know what I mean.

To summarize, the book was not extraordinary by what it did do, but what it didn't. It didn't have a lame ending. It didn't fall into most pitfalls that other books of the genre did. If it wasn't for three or four really good scenes, this book would largely be forgettable.

But despite all this, I did enjoy reading it. However, I don't think I'd ever read it again unless 20 years from now I find myself in a used bookstore and randomly chance upon it.
On a scale from "Okay" to "Great" with "Good" in the middle, I'd have to lable it only "Good."

Favorite Line: "Computer, do cows have feelings?"

Objectionable Content: Uses of the Lord's name in vain. Two uses of the D-word. It is mentioned that a boy with X-Ray vision constantly uses his ability to see girls' underwear.

Related Reads:
The Mysterious Benedict Society-Trenton Lee Stewart
A Wrinkle in Time-Madeline L'Engle
Brainboy and the DeathMaster-Tor Seidler



>> Thursday, April 5, 2012

I recently checked out a book called "Simply Beautiful Photographs" from the National Geographic Society.
It is a stunning book that makes you filled with wonder. And I just thought that I would share my favorite photographs from the book.
Isn't the world beautiful?
I do not own the text or the pictures; all rights go to the National Geographic Society. Think of it as a preview for their book.

James L. Stanfield
Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, China
Young members of the Bayan Obo People's
Commune prepare for the coming day

James P. Blair
Dinaric Alps, Bosnia
A young man takes a break from work
on his family's farm to smile at the camera

Gordon Gahan
Anatolia, Turkey
A Turkish family peers out the window
of their train car

William Albert Allard
Trapani, Sicily, Italy
Sheep cross a pastoral scene

Michael S. Yamashita
Leaves cover the path on Natagiri Pass

Thomas J. Abercrombie
Foroglio, Ticino Canton, Switzerland
An old chestnut tree drapes its branches
over stone-clad buildings

Bill Curtsinger
Yarmouth, Maine
A dog looks curiously at an unexpected visitor

Mitsuaki Iwago
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
A mother and cub stare off into the
distance as the sun reflects off the grasses

Michael Melford
Kamchatka, Russia
An aerial view of the towering Kronotsky


I Am An Otter

You're an otter, mate! Another good friend of Redwall, you are a natural swimmer and a deadly fighter especially with a long bow or javellin. Camp Willow is your home, just as Redwall is your second home. You have a good heart and a strong sense of loyalty. You absolutely love Shrimp and Hotroot soup, living by the motto "Ain't nothing 'otter for an Otter!".

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