Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation in Orlando, part 2

Okay, now I'm going to finish telling all of you how my vacation in Orlando went. The last park we went to in Orlando was Universal's Islands of Adventure. I know that's strange considering the previous day we went to Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately not even the Glenn Family can go to three parks in a day. Fortunately there was a lot of attractions we wanted to go to at Islands of Adventure, so we were all happy.The first place we went was (of course) Jurassic Park. Sorry, but we didn't get a picture of us by the gate. Maybe next time. We had to wait a while to get on the ride, but we all managed to get on. We rode in the third row the first time, so we did get a little wet. Everyone enjoyed watching the dinosaurs, but then a Parasaurolophus changed our course and we drifted through the raptor pen. We saw the T-rex just as we took an 85-foot drop. That was the scariest part of the ride, but it was so much fun!
We tried to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next, but it was too full. We had to wait a while. We searched in vain for a ride in The Lost Continent, which had an Ancient Greek theme. We did ride the Seuss Coaster in Seuss Landing, which allowed us to look at the attractions based off of the famous author's works. Once we got to Marvel Superhero Island, Jonathan and Michael rode the Hulk. I wasn't brave enough for that. We got lunch in the Fantastic 4 Cafe, then looked around at some of the attractions. I saw the characters of Green Goblin and Dr. Doom greeting some kids (earlier I saw Captain America, Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, and Storm).Finally we were able to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We all wanted to get wands from Ollivanders, but they were $30.00 each. We didn't have enough money for that, so we decided to leave wands for another time. Jonathan, Michael, and I did go on Flight of the Hippogriff while we were there. It wasn't too high, and went fast enough for an enjoyable ride. We then looked around Hosmeade and looked in some of the gift shops. Afterwards we went back to Jurassic Park River Adventure twice! However, the last time we went on the ride stopped before we got to the T-rex. Once they got us down and off the ride, we learned that a storm was coming and lightening had been seen. Rides were being closed down everywhere. We decided that it would be best to leave the park. I think it's possible that we might go back in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vacation in Orlando, part 1

Hey everyone, I had a really fun week in Orlando, Florida. So much happened. Not sure how much I can blog about, but I'll do my best.
When I first entered the gates of the Magic Kingdom, I felt like that I had wandered into a magical land. Main Street felt like a kingdom marketplace, with lots of people going about their business. Unfortunately we were only going to be able to stay for one day, and we had a lot to get done. Luckily my family is used to cramming in a lot for one day.
Our first stop was Adventureland, where we decided to set sail with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride first. I saw a lot of references to the film series on that ride, and saw Captain Jack Sparrow three times. I also got a picture by Goofy.What's funny was that one picture wasn't enough for him. He had me pose for a second photo. Guess he likes all the attention. I can't complain. He is a celebrity after all. The next ride we went to was The Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. I've got to admit, they had some imagination with that ride. I didn't get scared at all (though the moving sidewalk beside the Doom Buggies caught me by surprise). I have to say that for me the freakiest thing that the ride had was when a hitchhiking ghost switched mine and Mom's heads (probably just some holographic video thing, but still unsure of how they could've done it. Nice illusion anyway). Michael was given a beard by another ghost. It made him look slightly like Gimli. Sorry that I don't have photos available. No flash photography was allowed on the ride.
We then went on a roller coaster ride called Thunder Mountain in Frontierland. Mom did not join us for this ride because she hates roller coasters. We had to wait in line for a long time to go on it. I had to sit alone because there was only room for two people per car, and we went as a group. The funny thing is, I didn't scream on this ride. I laughed. Don't know why. I was having a good time.
While we were heading over to Fantasyland, we were stopped by a parade. Not just any parade. The Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. That was something I did not expect. I was able to meet Donald Duck in that parade. I told him that I had been looking all over the park for him, and he came over and shook my hand. That was really cool. Here's a photo of him in the parade.He's ready to party. I took some video of the parade, but I'm not showing it to be respectful. I will say that they had a lot of characters that I did not expect to meet in the park. I saw Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and many more. I deeply enjoyed the song that was sung during the parade.
We had lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus (basically an Italian restaurant where I was able to get some pizza). We then went to find more characters to meet in the park. The only one we got in line for was the characters from Tangled. The wait was long, but finally they began to let people in. Only Rapunzel was there though. When I asked where Flynn was, she said that he was off with Maximus chasing the Stabington Brothers (the two thugs from the movie). She mentioned how they still didn't get along, that Flynn and Maximus still get into fights with each other. To me they sound like brothers.
We decided that the next thing we would do is the Jungle Cruise. The boat we got on was the Amazon Annie. I remember seeing a video where Walt Disney said he wanted to use real animals for the ride, but he wasn't able to. Animatronics had to be used instead, like on his other rides. I have to admit, they were lifelike. Our guide had a sense of humor, because she kept making jokes at all the stops. At least there weren't any unexpected drops on the ride.
Our next ride was It's a Small World. The line wasn't too long for that (people were waiting outside the building when we got lunch). I'm still not sure why Walt Disney made that ride, but it's probably to celebrate the entire globe. I did see one of the dolls not moving their legs with the other. Guess they'll have to go in and fix that. Still, it was cool to see so many different parts of the globe in one place.
The last ride we did at the Magic Kingdom that day was Space Mountain. That was the longest wait we had to endure. We waited in line for over 110 minutes to get on the ride. Luckily they had these video games as a way to pass the time, to serve as "training" prior to the ride. Mom decided that she couldn't go on this ride either and left. Waiting was extremely painful, but this was the first indoor roller coaster any of us had been on. It was so dark in there, but they made it seem like you're blasting through some fictitious galaxy. No Star Wars planets or starships, but a lot of screaming and laughing (from me). My jaw was shaking afterwards though. We made sure to get a copy of the picture of us on the ride.
As we were leaving Space Mountain, we saw a cool light show on Cinderella Castle. They made it seem like bubbles, balls, and pictures made up the castle, then flew off. Everyone was impressed with what they saw. We waited for a bit for a light parade to start. That was really cool. They had the floats made out of lights, and some of the costumes were lit up. Some of the characters I saw on that parade that I didn't see elsewhere were Tinker Bell and Pete from Pete's Dragon. I have to say, that was one super cool parade. We did eventually have to leave, but not before I met Mickey and Minnie.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Legacy of Harry Potter

It has finally come to an end. One of the greatest fantasy tales of our time has been finished. For over a decade people across the globe have been following the adventures of the boy wizard known as Harry Potter. His story was the classic retelling of good versus evil, in a world that lies hidden from us.
The first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK) is literally the film that started it all. It tells of how Harry Potter, an orphan living with his cruel aunt and uncle, learns that he is a wizard and is admitted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn more about magic. Here, he makes friends and enemies, and has to stop a dark wizard from obtaining an item of great power. I just loved this movie when it came out. After reading the book, I felt like that the people who made the movie took what I saw in my mind and brought it to the big screen. The effects were so incredible that I believed they were real.
The second film in the series brings Harry back to school after a terrible summer back home. However, Hogwarts is not the same as Harry remembers. Someone has opened a place of legend within the school, and students are mysteriously being petrified. With accusations coming from everyone, Harry must uncover an ancient mystery of the castle and stop the evil that lurks within the Chamber of Secrets. This movie built up from the first film, adding more to the magic of the series. The creatures in this movie looked so real it was like they were going to come off the screen and into the theater. Again, I was captured by the magic.
The third film in the series was clearly a big success. This film reveals more about Harry's past as a criminal escapes from the most secure prison in the wizarding world, Azkaban. The wizard-in-training (or in this case, studying) is believed to be this man's target, as his parents were betrayed by him. However, unbeknown to everyone, there lies a traitor among the friends. This film completely changed the landscape of Hogwarts. Hagrid's hut is moved to the bottom of a hill, the Whomping Willow is not so close to the school, and we get a glimpse of the town of Hogsmeade. Harry's hair is more messed up than in previous films, and students don't stay in their school uniforms all the time. The director also added stuff in from Mexican culture, like the eagle versus snake statues and the candy skulls in Honeydukes. My impression with this film was that they made it more realistic. This movie starts to move more into the darkness of J.K. Rowling's world. At Hogwarts the students are joined by the schools of Durmstrang Institute of Magical Learning and Beauxbaxton's Academy of Magic for the Triwizard Tournament, which has not taken place for a century. Each school is represented by a champion chosen by the mystical Goblet of Fire, but things go wrong when Harry is chosen as the Fourth Champion even though he is underage. While competing in the tournament, Harry and his friends must find out who put his name into the Goblet of Fire, and why. It was cool to see other magical schools in this world and the characters continue to feel like their literary sources. However, I was disappointed when they took the magical creatures out of the maze and just made it a bunch of creepy hedges. I was really looking forward to seeing the Sphinx. Still, I enjoyed the movie's story and how they brought the Triwizard tournament to life.
The fifth film in this series takes a more darker turn as it shows the imperfections of the Ministry of Magic. Harry is put at odds with the rest of the Wizarding World because Cornelius Fudge has been running a propaganda against Harry and Dumbledore because they claim that Voldemort has returned. What's more, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher refuses to teach them magic because she works for Fudge, and she tortures Harry and his friends for telling the truth. Harry and his friends band together with the other students of Hogwarts to teach themselves how to defend themselves and uncover the truth of why Voldemort tried to kill Harry all those years ago. This movie was kind of disappointing to me. It seemed to be more focused on the newspaper headlines than the actual story. The film doesn't really show the effect of the undermining Education Decrees, but it makes it perfectly clear that they usurp the school's power and authority to Umbridge. Harry's hair was also too short in this movie. Nevertheless, this movie is important to the series because it shows the true strength of Harry and his friends.
Quite literally the beginning of the end. This movie shows Harry and his friends continuing their education while Voldemort and his Death Eaters terrorize the Wizarding and Muggle worlds. While Harry's friends experience complications with their feelings to one another, Harry is determined to prove that his rival Draco Malfoy has become a Death Eater and is planning something terrible. Dumbledore shows Harry memories of a boy known as Tom Riddle, who eventually became Voldemort. Dumbledore is determined to get all memories pertaining to him as they could hold the key to the downfall of Voldemort. I can see that they really tried in this movie to have a perfect equilibrium of romance and action in this movie, but they didn't quite make it. The movie felt like it leaned more towards the romance than the action. Still, they should get an A for effort (or A for Acceptable, as grades at Hogwarts go).
One of the most eagerly awaited movies yet. This movie was the part of the finale to the epic tale. In this film, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine have to leave their families behind to find the horcruxes, which are keeping Voldemort alive. Unfortunately they have no idea what these items are, because they could be anything. Another complication arrives when they realize that they have no way to destroy the horcruxes because every spell they cast does nothing. Meanwhile Voldemort has taken over the Wizarding World, and has made Harry the Number 1 Undersirable (basically the World's Most Wanted). Old faces return in this movie and the race for the fate of the world does not look good. I was glad when they split the movie up into two parts because that meant that they weren't going to try to cram everything into one movie. They did a good job in this movie with bringing the book to life. The Anti-Muggle move felt depressing like it should've and the acting felt real. I was pleased with the results of this film.
We have come to the end of this tale. This film is the conclusion to one of the greatest series ever told. Harry and his friends are continuing their quest for the horcruxes, but have to return to Hogwarts as Voldemort is on his way there. One of the biggest battles of the millennium begins as Death Eaters and the people of Hogwarts clash to decide the fate of the world. I don't want to reveal too much because the movie only came out today, but I will say that the battle is epic and not one you want to miss.
I went to the midnight premiere of this movie, and the lines were extremely long. There were crowds outside just waiting to get inside, and the inside was packed tighter than a can of sardines! I saw that several people had dressed up as characters from the movies. I saw several Bellatrixes, a couple of Fawkes (through they looked more like yellow chickens), a Hedwig, a Dobby, Hermoine, Harry, Draco, Umbridge, Mad-Eye, even Voldemort! It was incredible at how much of a fandom the series had. I probably would've dressed up as Harry if I had time, but I didn't. I just had to grab a stick to use as a wand. It was so good to be able to be there as soon as the movie came into theaters. Now I doubt anyone knows what's going to happen. I think it is clear that the world will always love Harry Potter.
My overall impression with this series is amazing. This was one of the biggest projects I think any movie company has ever taken. They managed to adapt every book in a series and turn them into films which have done incredible at theaters. Most companies wouldn't have gone the lengths Warner Bros. did to bring every book to life. They succeeded to create an epic series that many people across the world have grown up on. I don't think any movie collection would be complete without the Harry Potter series. Of course, it's sad to know that there won't be any more films in this series. Oh well. That means that now we can look for the next epic series to follow. I'm sure that many people will be content with this series, but should someone attempt to do a reboot, they have their work cut out for them. I don't think that such a project will ever happen, but only time will tell.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Through Heaven's Eyes

I know I'm behind on blogging, and I apologize. To make it up to you, I've attached one of my favorite songs from a great movie.

This song, from The Prince of Egypt, is a movie from Dreamworks that was released in 1999. This movie is a retelling of the story of Moses, who in the Bible freed the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians. This song here is where Moses learns that things most people consider important, like money or power, are not that important in life.
What I like about this song is that it shows that some of the stuff we take for granted, like food and water, are more important than fame or wealth. I've been raised on the lessons that what we do in life and how we treat others is far more important than having a lot of cool gizmos. I feel like this is one song I will never forget.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Myths of Dymos Study Questions

Okay, I was told that usually it's a good idea to have study questions for a book. Study questions allow readers to think more about what they've read, and sometimes apply it to themselves. I've read a few books with study questions, and I like how they were done. So, here are the study questions for the first book in the Myths of Dymos series.

1. In the story, Josun and his friends work together to save their home from the forces of the Magic’s Bane. How can friends support each other in accomplishing their goals in our world?

2. Bovern, Honetee, and Gyntor blame Josun for every problem they have. How do we sometimes blame other people for our problems? Why is it important that we take responsibility for our actions?

3. Dymos is home to many creatures that are now extinct here on Earth. What plant and animal species face extinction, and what can we do to try and save them?

4. All of Josun’s friends used their skills and talents to help each other reach their goals. What talents do you have, and how can they be used to help others?

5. When Saurina learns that she is a husaur, she doubts herself and doesn’t feel like she knows herself anymore. How can we let something about us keep us from doing our best? What can we do to overcome these obstacles?

6. The Roomar Vulture told Saurina and Josun a lie to get them to despair. How can lies cause us to doubt ourselves?

7. Queen Arias did all that she could to save the life of her daughter. Why do you think parents care so much for their children?

8. When crossing the Maze Reefs, Josun and Saurina were fascinated by the exotic wildlife they saw there. What are some of the most incredible places that nature created, and why is it important to make sure nothing happens to them?

9. Saurina was able to give Josun confidence when he doubted his worthiness to wield Vedion. What can we do to give our friends confidence to believe in themselves?

10. The sword Vedion has the power to give people another chance to choose good over evil. How can our words and actions help others to change their lives?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Terra Nova Trailer

Cool trailer huh? Terra Nova is an upcoming show on Fox directed by Steven Spielberg, also known for making the Jurassic Park films and the Indiana Jones series. From this trailer, we can see that the show is about a family who heads back in time to help rebuild civilization. Although all seems fine and dandy at first, they forgot one important factor: The dinosaurs. The new colony has to work hard to survive this harsh new (technically old) world where enemies seem to be everywhere.
I haven't seen a lot of live-action dinosaur shows, and I must say that after Primeval, this looks to be promising. The idea of using time travel to try and obtain a new life in the past is very interesting. If you're interested in this show, be sure to mark your calendars for September 26 as a two hour premiere will air.

The World's Smallest Dinosaur

Okay, now to update again. A few weeks ago, I found an article that said that the world's smallest dinosaur was probably found. The fossil that was found in the south of the United Kingdom was less than 7.1 millimeters long, which is small for a neck bone. The animal is thought to have been 15.7 inches long, and is a bird-like dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous Period.
For a long time, I thought the smallest dinosaur was the baby Mussaurus, which was the size of a mouse. The adults, however, probably got up to 10 feet in length. It's hard to say because the only skeletons found were either juveniles or babies. If this does turn out to be a new species, it'll prove that size didn't always matter in the world of the dinosaurs.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts on Tales from Earthsea

Sorry about the lack of blogging, but I was waiting for an event to happen that never did. To make up for it, I decided to do something different and blog about a movie I recently saw. That movie is Studio Ghibli's Tales from Earthsea.The first film to be directed by Goyo Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki, the film is loosely based on the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. In the film, something wrong is going on in Earthsea. Magic is disappearing and dragons have been spotted fighting each other. The wizard Sparrowhawk sets out to find out what is going on. Along the way, he encounters the prince Arren, who is running from something dark. The two of them travel together to right the wrong that is happening in Earthsea and learn the importance of accepting the fate that all life must experience.
The Earthsea books have been loved by fans of Narnia and Middle-Earth alike, and Studio Ghibli has had a history of presenting memorable films. However, the film disappointed people all over the world. The film took many ideas and elements out of each book in the series and tried to merge them into one new story. The result wasn't accepted. The film got the "Worst Film" award in Japan, and Goyo was given the "Worst Director" award. The author, who's a big fan of Studio Ghibli, was disappointed with the results. She said that "It's not my book. It's your movie."
The movie did have some good points though. The film had music that made the world seem magical, and the landscape is unlike what you usually see in an epic fantasy film. The dragons were designed in an interesting way. They were given serpentine bodies that still kept the modern look of dragons, a creature of incredible power and strength. My overall opinion of Tales from Earthsea is that if you haven't read the books, you'll like the movie, but if you've enjoyed the series, maybe you should stick with the books.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More on Mermaids

Hi again. Sorry for no update last week, but I was a little busy. The reason why I'm revisiting the topic of mermaids is because I don't feel like I covered enough about them last time. Like dragons, there are so many myths and legends surrounding them that I had to do another blog post discussing what the ancient civilizations thought of these ancient creatures. First on the list is Greek culture.

In Greek legends, Triton, son of Poseidon was held to be the father of the mermaids and mermen. Instead of mermaids, however, they were simply known as Tritons and were often seen around the gods of the sea. Their appearance was also described as being more shark-like than what we have today. Some people may think that Poseidon had the basic appearance of a merman, but that is false. That was how his son Triton looked. Another myth of a sea god (though not as well known) is the tale of Glaucus. Glaucus was a fisherman who, after seeing his catch acting strangely, tasted some magic grass and was filled with a love for the sea. Poseidon called together many river gods and they made Glaucus a god of the sea, sealing the deal by giving him the tail of a fish. Therefore, we can conclude that the mermaids and mermen of Greek mythology were basically either gods or servants of the sea gods.

The mermaids of the Norse culture were called selkies, and were basically seals who took human form when they took off their seal skin. Legends vary at how often this would occur. Some say that it could only happen once a year, others say it only happens on Midsummer's eve. These legends say that humans could marry selkies, but very differently. Women had to shed seven tears into the sea to attract the love of a male selkie, while men had to simply capture the skin of a female selkie. This prevented them from returning to the sea and effectively made her his wife. It would appear that selkies were a type of wild person who could become tame if captured.

The Arabs also had their own tales of mermaids. Most of the time they were gods or goddesses of the sea (like Atargatis, who could not conceal her beauty no matter what). However, there were civilizations of merfolk who lived just like people do on the surface (and breeding between the two species did occur, with the result being children with the ability to breathe underwater). One tale from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights tells of how a sailor was brought to a mermaid city, where they lived in a society without money or clothing. Still, for the most part, the Arabs talked about how the societies of mermaids lived, something the rest of the ancient world didn't think of.

The British Isles had many tales of mermaids, most of the time taking a page from the Greek myths of the sirens and making them out to be a bad omen. They thought that if something bad happened, it was the work of a mermaid (whether they were trying to prevent it or not). They were also capable of swimming up rivers and living in freshwater lakes. One nobleman sought to rescue a woman he thought was drowning, but was saved by his servant who saw the maiden as a mermaid. The mermen were often wilder than their female counterparts, but basically had no part in the affairs of humans. Guess they enjoyed what they had under the sea.

Well, that's basically it for the ancient tales of mermaids. There tales of them in China, the Caribbean, and Africa, but unfortunately there wasn't enough to cover in this blog. I think that for the most part we like the modern tales of mermaids as half-fish people who love music and have civilizations under the ocean. I'm pretty sure that has long as we keep telling tales of mystical lands, we will tell tales of the mermaids and mermen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sailors, Curses, and Mermaids. Oh My!

I meant to do this yesterday with the release of Captain Jack Sparrow's new adventure in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I'll try to do better next week with blogging, but don't worry. I won't stay off for months. Anyway, on with the blog.

Ever since the release of the first film in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean has captured the imagination of the entire planet. Fans have gone to see the heroics of Will Turner, the courage of Elizabeth Swan, and the cunning of Captain Jack Sparrow. The series newest title, On Stranger Tides, does not feature Will or Elizabeth, but Captain Jack has a great new adventure ahead of him. The pirate now searches for the legendary Fountain of Youth while confronting the woman from his past Angelica, and hot on their trail are the English Navy, zombies, mermaids, and Blackbeard himself.

While Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the smartest (or craziest) men to sail the oceans, he is not the first seafaring hero in the world, and he isn't the first person to encounter creatures like mermaids. Across the world people have had told stories of men who brave the vast oceans and encountered many dangers. I'll discuss some of the heroes in this blog, and what makes them so famous.
Perhaps one of the best known sailors in the realm of fiction is Sinbad the Sailor. First appearing in the collection of stories known as A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, what makes Sinbad so cool is that he didn't go on one, but seven voyages! Some of the adventures he's had involved a roc (a giant bird from Persian mythology that was supposed to carry off and eat elephants) that dropped rocks on his ship after he and his men ate the eggs of the roc. Another of his adventures find him on an island that turns out to be a giant sea animal. Some version say it is a turtle, but some recent adaptations had it as a fish. For some reason, no matter what happens, Sinbad always ends up setting sail again.
Another well-known tale of a seafarer is The Odyssey, which follows the adventures of Odysseus after the Trojan War is won by the Greeks. On his way home Odysseus and his men land on the Island of the Cyclopes, and end up having to blind Polyphemus to escape. Polyphemus calls on his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus, which seems to work considering the trouble that follows. Odysseus and his men encounter Sirens (bird women who lure sailors to their deaths with their voices), the sorceress Circe, and pass through Scylla and Charybdis before offending Apollo by eating some of his cattle. The result is that Odysseus loses his men and he takes twenty years total to get back home to Ithaca.

I think everyone's pretty familiar with what a mermaid is. Mermaids are the mythical sea creatures that are half-fish and half-woman, with the male counterpart being called a merman. Tales of mermaids extend all the way to the time of the Assyrians, over 3000 years ago (give or take). At first the tales of half-fish people were attributed to be the forms of the local mythology's sea god or goddess. Most of the ancient tales of mermaids are diversified, with some of them singing to lure sailors to their deaths to just being an underwater civilization that comes into contact with men. In our day and age the mermaid keeps the look of the original myths (although sometimes they're given seashell bikinis while the original mermaids were completely nude) while being portrayed as music lovers who live in the ocean like we live on the surface. Scientists believe that the stories of mermaids came up when sailors saw manatees swimming about, but that can't be so because tales of these beings have been told by the Arabians, the Greeks, and the Norse alike, long before America was discovered by the rest of the world. Some people even claim to see mermaids to this day. The legends are probably not true, but still it's fun to tell tales of these people and the sailors who encounter them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Nature's Secrets

I am really behind on blogging. I'll try to do better as the summer goes by. Speaking of summer, how many of you are ready to enjoy the planet and its natural wonders? Do you plan on going to the beaches or to a faraway place? Will you see mountains or deserts? Well, be sure to keep your eyes open because you never know what the planet could be hiding from you.

How many of you have heard of a Snipe? If you have seen Up, you'll know that it was told by Carl Fredricksen to be something that doesn't exist. Boy scouts, on the other hand, sometimes take younger scouts Snipe hunting when they're just going exploring. Well, here's a little surprise: Snipes are real!
I learned this year that a snipe is a type of water bird commonly found in wet places like marshes or rivers. They use their long beaks to probe for food in the mud. The reason why snipes are so hard to spot is that the coloring of their feathers makes them appear to be shrubbery. So the next time someone tells you snipes don't exist, you know better.

Of course, some creatures from stories can actually be real. In Africa there were tales of a creature that were related to the giraffe called the okapi.The okapi was known to the Egyptians thanks to the Ethiopians they conquered. However, it was unknown to the Europeans until the Twentieth Century, when they came to what is now the Republic of the Congo. There they heard stories of a giraffe like creature that lived deep within the jungles. Of course, most people didn't believe this and wrote off the okapi as the "African Unicorn." However, as time went by, explorers obtained skin samples (and a skull eventually), and some saw the creature fleeing into the forest. Eventually the first live animal arrived in Europe in the year 1918, proving once and for all that the okapi is a real animal. To this day many people (called Cryptozoologists) search for animals that may be hidden somewhere in the world.

Of course it's not just swamps or forests and jungles that could be hiding animals. The vastness of the ocean could also have a few secrets. One of the most exciting discoveries was the coelacanth.The coelacanth was a prehistoric fish that swam in the seas of the Devonian era, about 400 million years ago (give or take a few hundred years). Coelacanths were related to the modern day lungfish, and were known for having hard scales and lots of fins. They were thought to have died out in the Cretaceous period with the dinosaurs. In the early 1900s, fisherman began to catch strange fish in their nets. Scientists began to offer a reward for the production of a live specimen. This was granted in 1938, when a live coelacanth was brought before the scientific community. The coelacanth is one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology to this day because it shows that it is possible for creatures to survive for long periods of time by changing so little. So be sure to keep an eye out this summer. You might be the one who finds Sasquatch, or a giant squid, or maybe something else we had no idea existed.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review of Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a fantasy novel that takes a different route from most fantasy stories. Dragons are absent, unfortunately, but the novel is so well written that they basically would've gotten in the way. I decided to read the book after seeing the movie, and I was not disappointed with the differences.
Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters in the land of Ingary. Ingary is a place where elements of fairy tales do happen (like enchantments, rags to riches stories, etc.). Since she's the oldest, Sophie doesn't expect much of herself in life. On the holiday of May Day, she attracts the eye of the wizard Howl (although she doesn't know if it's him). Rumors exist that he eats the hearts of young girls and she runs in fear that they might be true. However, the Witch of the Waste (a very mean person) visits her hat shop and curses Sophie into becoming an old woman of 90 and leaves her unable to speak of her curse.
Knowing that she can't stay at home any longer, Sophie leaves to try and seek out her fate. She doesn't have much luck when she rescues both a scarecrow and a dog because neither of them give her advice (as things like that happen in Ingary). However, she does come across Howl's moving castle and is allowed in by the fire demon Calcifer, who promises to lift Sophie's curse if she promises to free him from the contract he made with Howl. She stays with Howl and his apprentice Micheal and cleans up the castle while Howl goes courting girls.
During a trip to Wales (where Howl originally came from), the Witch of the Waste puts a curse on Howl that will eventually result in him giving her his heart. Howl tries to hide from both her and the King of Ingary, who wants Howl to look for his lost brother Prince Justin. Sophie must find a way to help her new friends, or risk losing them to the evil of the Witch of the Waste.
I enjoyed watching the movie Howl's Moving Castle, and I was not disappointed when I read the book. Although there were great differences between the two, the spirit of the story remains the same. I enjoyed reading about this world of floating castles, wizards and witches, and talking fires, and I would like to read the two sequels someday.

Review of the Caspak Trilogy

The Caspak Trilogy is a series of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the Tarzan adventures. Edgar Rice Burroughs has written books with prehistoric animals before, like in his Pellucidar series, but this is a trilogy that goes for a lost world angle. The first book in the series is The Land That Time Forgot. During World War I, a German U-Boat sinks an American ship, and a man named Bowen J. Tyler finds himself with a woman named Lys La Rue and his dog, Nobs. They are rescued by a ship, but sunk again by the same U-boat. The surviving crew manage to capture the U-boat and work towards getting back home. However, they get lost and end up at a continent called Caprona (which was named after a fictitious explorer who discovered it). They enter into the continent to find themselves in a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs and ancient mammals. The natives of this place call the land Caspak, and the people of the U-boat try to set up a colony. However, the German prisoners mutiny and leave the Americans and British on Caspak while they leave. To make matters worse, Lys is abducted and Bowen has to find her while braving the dangers of a primeval world.The sequel, The People That Time Forgot, takes place some time after Bowen's manuscript is found. A rescue party heads to Caprona/Caspak to try and rescue Bowen, Lys, and the survivors. Leading this expedition is Tom Billings, who is an old friend of Bowen's. Tom flies a plane over Caspak, but is brought down by a pterosaur. He rescues a native girl, Ajor, from a prehistoric cat. After being attacked by some ape-men, Tom decides to take Ajor back to her people, the Galu. While traveling, Tom learns that in Caspak, people obtain status through a type of evolutionary progression, with the Galu being the highest form of evolutionary people. Tom learns of a plan to try and conquer the Galu by people who had not reached that stage yet, but are not willing to wait, and must try to stop them before they destroy Ajor's people.The final book in the Caspak Trilogy, Out Of Time's Abyss, concludes the story of Caspak and the people who discovered its secrets. In this story, an expedition that left Fort Dinosaur is returning to its home. This company, led by Bradley, are constantly being visited by a winged human. Bradley is abducted by this human, which is known as a Wieroo, and taken to the Wieroo civilization. He also meets a native girl (who is also a Galu like Ajor) named Co-Tan, who is being held by the Wieroo because she is a cos-ata-lo, or someone who was born a Galu. According to legend, the people who can make cos-ata-lo are meant to become Caspak's rulers. The Weiroo are all male, so they abduct Galu women to try and get female Wieroo, but with no luck. Bradley rescues Co-Tan and escapes from the Wieroo. While falling in love with Co-Tan, Bradley must undergo a deadly journey with lots of twists and surprises to return her to her people.
I am a huge fan of dinosaurs and like to read stories that feature them. However, I think that these stories push things a little too far with the idea of an evolution that takes a lifetime instead of millions of years. The Wieroo are also just plain weird to me. I did enjoy the stories as a whole and wish that Edgar Rice Burroughs did take the time to create more stories in Caspak. I would recommend these stories to anyone who's a fan of prehistory.

Review of Cryptid Hunters

Cryptid Hunters is a book that features the topic of cryptozoology. This is the branch of science that deals with finding animals that people say exist, but haven't been found yet. Some examples of animals that weren't thought to be real but were discovered were the okapi and coelacanth. Some of the more famous topics of cryptozoology are the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster. However, as this book shows, there are many more cryptids to think about.
The book follows the adventures of Marty and Grace O'Hara, who are at a boarding school when they learn that their parents disappeared while on a trip in the Amazon. They are sent to live with their uncle Travis Wolfe, who they know nothing about (they didn't even know he existed). While staying with him, they learn from a scientist about activities going on in the Congo that involve the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, a creature thought to be one of the last dinosaurs in existence. The twins accompany their uncle on a dangerous quest against an enemy who is determined to get his hands on the animal, no matter what the cost.
If you want adventure with unknown animals that no one has seen before, this is a book for you. It holds promise to become an epic series and will keep you entertained from page one all the way to the last page. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in cryptozoology.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" Trailer 1

For fans of the epic series known as Harry Potter, the end is almost upon us. Soon the story will be completed and one of the biggest blockbusters in film history will be finished. Here's the trailer for the second part of the final story if you haven't seen it already.

Epic, isn't it.
I admit, at first the only reason I read the books was because of the movie that was coming out. I didn't want to be clueless about the characters and story, and decided to take a look at the pages to get an understanding of what was going on. I enjoyed reading the book and felt like the movie stayed very true. It seemed like that a lot of what I imagined was taken from my mind and placed on the big screen.
As the years went by, I found myself waiting with millions of eager fans for the books to be finished and the movies to still be just as good. The first four films were great, but five and six didn't quite catch the feel of the story. The first part of the final film, however, succeeded in staying true to the book and for being great. Now with this next part, I'm sure we can expect nothing but epic-ness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Day After Easter (some history and review)

Hi everyone, sorry about the delay with blogging for the last couple of weeks. I was really busy getting ready for final exams and visiting with family. Now that I'm back home, I can do my blog in peace. Although it's the day after Easter, I thought I should do what I did around Christmastime and do some history for the holiday.
For several people across the globe, Easter is a very important day for Christianity. Around this time, the Savior Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane and was betrayed by his disciple Judas Iscariot. He was found guilty of false charges and sentenced to be crucified. I'm not going to go into all the details because what happens is pretty sad, but happened on Good Friday (which, ironically, was the day that President Lincoln was assassinated). A few days later, on Easter, a group of women went to the tomb of Jesus only to learn from angels that He had been resurrected.
Although Easter is a special day for Christianity, another interpretation of the holiday came up over the years. The holiday spread away from religious meaning to have a more joyful look on the occasion. People use the time as an opportunity to paint eggs many colors, like oval rainbows, and put them in baskets with candy, from chocolate bunnies to jelly beans, to gifts. To entertain children, stories came up of a certain animal who delivers these baskets to people. That animal is Peter Cottontail, the Easter Bunny.
The Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus, first came up sometime during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. According to legend, the Easter Bunny would leave treats for children who had been good. I'm not exactly sure why a rabbit was chosen, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's because they can be quick when they want to and they are adorable to children. Although there haven't been many movies about Easter or that feature the Easter Bunny, this fellow is known by children across the world.
I did this review for this book a while back, but I thought that this would be a good time to blog about it. The book which I think is a good read for this time of the year is Sara's Journey by Patti Chiappa.Sara's Journey is a story worth reading because it is a tale that touches the heart. The story is about a man named Turner, who learns of a woman named Sara, who suffered damages in a fire and has lost faith in the Lord. Feeling abandoned, she secludes herself from the world and wallows in self pity. Through the efforts of Turner and the entire town, Sara begins to see the good in the world and learns that we are never alone. If you want a story that moves you and brings feelings of peace and happiness to you, this is one you must read.
So that's why I thought I should share this review for this time of year. It's a touching story about finding faith in yourself and the Lord. This story and this holiday are both to be remembered. I hope that all of you had a good holiday this year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review of Pellucidar

I know you're all probably getting tired of these reviews. Writing a review can actually be good for an author because it lets people know what they've been reading, and can help you decide if you want to read the book or not. For today the book I'll be reviewing is Pellucidar.Pellucidar is the sequel to At the Earth's Core. In this story, David Innes, the protagonist from the first story, returns to Pellucidar after returning to the surface to gather supplies to help the people in their struggle against the Mahars, but upon returning finds that things have not been going well. The people are divided, the Mahars are seeking a secret that was stolen from them, and David cannot find Dian, the woman he loves. To make matters worse, a man named Hooja the Sly One has been causing distrust among the people of Pellucidar.
David manages to find his friend Perry, who accompanies him to the land where David's friend Ja lives. There they make plans to track down Hooja, who people suspect might be working with the Mahars. David makes plans to travel to the Land of Awful Shadow while Perry decides to stay behind. David must once again overcome prehistoric animals, bizarre interior races, and enemies to find Dian, stop Hooja, and overthrow the Mahars once and for all.
I am pleased with the way Edgar Rice Burroughs has created this world within our own. Burroughs manages to create a world that has been left behind in time, and still manages to create characters with strong morals. The way he uses prehistoric animals in this land is incredible too, for some are used in a way that people of ancient times used them. I can officially say that I am a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar series.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Top 10 Movies to see Summer of 2011

Okay, I know that on Facebook I've said that I've read some books, but I've done so many reviews on this blog I figured that I'd give all of you readers a break. Summer's coming up fast and with it a lot of cool new films are on their way to the big screen. I'm sure that there are lots that you are all interested in seeing, but here are the films that are capturing my interest.
10. The Smurfs. This animated/live-action film is based off of an old cartoon show I used to watch as a kid. From what I can tell, the little blue people find a way to cross over into our world. However, the villain from the show (I never knew what his name was) also follows them. It looks to be a funny film and one that kids might enjoy.

9. Rio. The newest animated film from Fox, which is made by the studio that made the Ice Age films. This follows the adventures of a parrot named Blu, who is the last male of his species, and the last female in existence is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Blu is taken there in the hopes that he will mate with the female, but they are both abducted by poachers. To make matters worse (or funnier depending on your point of view), Blu has no idea how to fly. The trailers I've seen for this film make it appear to be one that will be enjoyable for everyone.

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This film continues the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, who's now on a quest to find one of America's greatest legends, the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, he encounters former love Angelica, the daughter of the most infamous pirate in history. Together, they must brave mermaids, zombies, and the most feared pirate in the Caribbean: Blackbeard. I've enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean films and have been looking forward to this one. However, if you like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, this might not be a film for you to see.

7. Mr. Popper's Penguins. Based off the book by Richard & Florence Atwater, the film follows Mr. Popper, a man who devotes his time to his work. However, his life changes when he gets an unexpected gift: penguins. I read the book when I was a kid, and was surprised to see that it would be coming to the big screen. I can only hope the film will stay true to the book.

6. Cars 2. The sequel to the popular animated film, the film sees the return of Lightning McQueen and Mater as they travel across the world in an international Grand Prix. Along the way, Mater gets caught up in the world of spies and he has to find a way to support his friend and save the world at the same time. I saw the first film, and this one looks like a tribute to the spy cars and vehicles you see in films. I'm sure that Mater will earn lots of laughs again.

5. Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil. The sequel to the animated film Hoodwinked!, the film continues the adventures of Red Puckett (based off of Red Riding Hood), Wolf, Granny Puckett, Kirk Kirkendall, and Twitchy as they work for a secret organization known as the Happily Ever After Agency, which is devoted to making sure the fairy tales all have happy endings. The group has to work together to find and rescue Hansel and Gretel, who have been kidnapped. They'll face pigs, four-armed green trolls, and more in this animated sequel. I thought the first film was funny, and will be going to see this new film.

4. Thor. The newest film from Marvel Studios, this film follows Thor, who is banished to Earth by Odin. While there, he falls in love with a woman and steps up to the challenge when Earth is threatened by evil. I haven't read the comics or the myths which may have inspired them, but my guess at who the villain is for this film would be Loki. I'll be going to see if I'm right, but the film also looks epic and one that will have a good story to it.

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The third and final film of the Transformers universe, this follows the adventures of Sam Witwicky and the Autobots, who learn that there's a spaceship from Cybertron on our moon! From the first trailer, it appears that the real reason for the moon landing was to investigate this ship. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons will grow larger as they struggle to learn the secrets of the dark of the moon. I have seen some series of the Transformers, and each one was different. Although I've heard that the films have been given several negative reviews, I like to see the live-action films as just another series re-imagining of the Transformers. I'm interested in seeing how they make the new villain in this film, Shockwave. My only regret with this being the last Transformers movie is that we won't get to see the Dinobots on the big screen.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2. Yes, the lovable panda from the first film returns, and in an adventure bigger than before. When kung fu masters start disappearing across the land, Master Shifu fears that the powerful warlord Shen may have found a secret that could spell the end of kung fu. Po and the Furious Five must find out if this rumor is true, and find a way to stop it if they are true. The question is, how do you stop something that can destroy kung fu? This is one film I will definitely go see, but will this one really be better than its predecessor?

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. It figures this would be coming in at first place, seeing how this is the end of one of the greatest series of our time. Following the events of part 1, Harry, Ron, and Hermoine must continue the search to find and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, which allow him to remain alive even when he's killed. However, Voldemort succeeded in obtaining one of the Deathly Hallows: The Elder Wand, which makes its wielder unable to be defeated in battle. The stakes have never been higher as the future of the wizarding and Muggle worlds hang in the balance of Harry and his friends. I have a lot of high hopes for this film, and have been pleased that for the majority of the first film they remained true to the book. I'm sure that they will make this an ending that you will want to see again and again.

Well, that's it. I hope that some of these films are on your list of films to see this summer. I hope all of you have great summers and have lots of fun.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Plan out a Story

Believe it or not, this is not a book review! It's been a while since I blogged about something other than a book or an event, and I hope this proves to be helpful. A few weeks ago a friend asked me some advice about writing a book, and I thought I should blog about some good steps to planning a book out.
1. Have an idea on what's going to happen. It's one thing to say that you're going to write a book, but another to actually do it. Wanting to write a book is also no good unless you want to know what you want to write about (do you want to write a science-fiction story or a fantasy novel?). Also you must have an idea on what you would like to have occur in the plot (like what's going on in the world that the characters are in and why is it up to them to meet the challenge).
2. Come up with characters for your story. One of the most important, and obvious, ingredients in a story. They're the people the reader will follow and will expect them to grow as the story progresses. You must know what they are like at the beginning of the story, and how they will change at the end. Also is there a lesson that the readers should learn from the character's journey?
3. Make a plot chart. This will allow you to place important events in a story in one place and gives a good map to look over and figure out where you are in your story. I know you won't be able to get every single event that you would like to have occur in your story on a plot chart, but it'll allow you to keep track of the main events. You can make notes underneath or on the other side of the paper of other events you would like to have happen in the story.
4. Do a rough draft. You're not going to get what you want on your first try, so you'll need to go back and rewrite. It's a good idea to read a rough draft out loud to someone, like a friend or family member, to see which areas still need work and which ones are okay. Be sure to make notes on what you want to keep and what you may need to work on some more. If an idea on how to make your rough draft better comes to you and you don't have access to a computer, then write you idea on a piece of paper and try it when you get to a computer.
5. Write the story. This is where your planning comes to. Now you write about the story you wanted with characters who will grow and change as the story progresses. You may need to edit and rewrite as you progress, but that's okay. When you rewrite, you can add events in that you may not have thought of before. Just remember that everything fits in or is needed in the story because if you add something that doesn't really help the plot at all, then you risk ruining the story.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review of Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

You remember a couple of posts back I mentioned a new book by Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series. Well, I've finally read that book, and here's the review I have for Beyonders: A World Without Heroes.
This is the first in a new series that follows the adventures of Jason, a boy from our world who finds himself in a place called Lyrian after he falls through the hippo tank. Lyrian is not a happy place because the evil emperor Maldor (who happens to be a wizard) has crushed all resistance and has defeated all the heroes. He didn't kill them, but he left them broken and humiliated. Jason instantly attracts the attention of Maldor when he learns a great secret: A word exists that if spoken in the presence of Maldor will end him.
There's just one problem: The word is broken up into several syllables, and they are scattered across the land. Jason decides to go and search for the word with Rachel, another Beyonder, which are people from our world who end up in Lyrian. Together they encounter lots of friends, many dangerous enemies, and creatures unlike anything you've seen before.
I've enjoyed reading the Fablehaven series, and when I read this book I enjoyed it just as much as Brandon's previous series. Brandon Mull is clearly a master of fantasy, and everything he writes turns out to be an enjoyable read. Whether or not you've read Fablehaven, this is one book you don't want to miss out on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review of Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow

It's review time again. I've had some interesting books to read, and the book that gets reviewed today is Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow.
Kingdom Keepers is an interesting series written by Ridley Pearson, who's also the author of the Peter and the Starchatchers series. Kingdom Keepers is about a group of teens who sign up to be Disney holographic hosts. They get paid for the job and their families get free lifetime passes to the Disney parks. How could they refuse? Because there's a side effect.
The group finds out that being the holographic hosts comes with a side effect: When they go to sleep at night, they wake up in the Magic Kingdom. They find out from one of Disney's Imagineers that there's a group of villains called the Overtakers who want to take over the parks (and possibly the world afterwards). The Kingdom Keepers, as the group ends up being called, have to work together to stop them.
In the third book in the series, a friend of the Kingdom Keepers has gone missing. After failing to find their friend at the Magic Kingdom, the Kingdom Keepers decide to head over to Epcot to continue searching. There, they encounter dangerous new additions to the Overtakers forces, like vikings, cavemen, and a very nasty python. The Kingdom Keepers will have to use their courage, wits, and friendship to stop the Overtakers latest plot.
I've grown up loving the Disney films, and I was eager to read the series once I found a bookstore that sold the books. The characters make a really great team and their exploits are not to be missed. There were some mistakes, like a name being in places it shouldn't, but it wasn't enough to stop me from giving this book 4 stars! If you are a fan of Disney, you should pick up this series.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beyonders Signing

Okay, quick blog update. Yesterday I got my copy of Brandon Mull's new book, Beyonders: A World Without Heroes. This is the first of a new series, where a boy named Jason finds himself in another world, and becomes the target of the evil wizard Maldor. Jason has to uncover an ancient secret if he wants to get home and save this hero-less world. I haven't read much of it yet, but I have enjoyed what I have so far.
I was also excited to learn that Brandon Mull would be at the public library signing his new book. I told a friend of mine, who brought some friends of his own, and we all went over to the library. We got there just as Brandon Mull's presentation began. He told us about his inspirations for writing, a little bit about his successful Fablehaven series, and a little about Beyonders. I liked it when he showed some of his international covers. He didn't know what was on the cover of the German translation, but to me it looked like a stone troll.
He also talked about how some experiences he had as a kid led to his writing. Brandon Mull used to be a part of a group that would go exploring around town (like into old, forbidden places). When a candy shop opened, Brandon used to daydream about the candy being magic. That's how the idea for his book, The Candy Shop War, came to be. Another experience he had as a kid was when he decided to stop believing in his imaginary friend. That choice led to the thought "what would happen if your imaginary friend became your imaginary enemy?" That led him to write his first picture book, Pingo.
There was a brief Q&A session. I asked him if there was anything he really wanted to put into his books, like a character or scene, but had to take it out in the end. He said that made him think of some things from Beyonders that we didn't know about yet. I asked him if there was anything from Fablehaven that fell under this situation, and he said that he wanted to include leprechauns and unicorns early in the series, but was unable to.
The time soon came for book signing, but there was a little event where two lucky winners would get a copy of A World Without Heroes. What was cool about this was that one of the members of our group was a winner! That was really cool. While we waited to get our books signed, I bought a Beyonders t-shirt. That's the first t-shirt I got about a book.
Eventually we were able to get our books signed by Brandon Mull. He recognized me from last October, when he was at the library for the Teen Book fest. I told him about some things that I did to spread word about his book, and he liked it. I even got a picture with him.
I hope I'll get to meet Brandon Mull again someday.