Friday, December 30, 2011

You Call That a Review!? - Reviewing Reviews

Written on: 12/30/11
There is no point to this, none at all. It just seemed like fun at the time. I hope you have as much fun reading these as I did.
All reviews are off members of Netflix.
It may be just me, but I think it's kind of pathetic that I'm making fun of these reviewers without bothering to go back and check for typos or poorly worded sentences (or just poorly chosen words).

Review of “A Dog's Tale” (1999) – Why does it say that David Bowie is in this film?!?! It's David BOWE. Big, huge, astronomical difference there, people!.
Review Review – This review lacks depth and detail and attempts to use exclamation points and large words to emphasize an irrelevant point. Frankly, I found the review to be bland and lack-luster. I feel that if this reviewer had put just a little more time and effort into this review, it might have been worthwhile. As it is, I was disappointed and did not feel informed after reading it.

Review of “A Dog's Tale” (1999) - do not add this to your queue if you are trying to see a movie with david BOWIE in is david BOWE not BOWIE that apears in this film. david BOWE is the guy that was in the movie AIR PANIC, not the guy that sang PANIC IN DETROIT. BOWIE is the rock icon who wrote millions of songs...BOWE is that guy that you've probably never heard of who was in a million TV movies. however, it's "little wonder" that there was a mix-up since their names are so similar...
Review Review – I found this review to be slightly confusing due to the chaotic use of CAPS LOCK and periods..... and what was up with that “bit” at the end with the quatations?. Was that sarcasm?. What was that?. For the record, most people find CAPS LOCK harder to read, so by going “BOWE not BOWIE” they are actually likely to confuse the reader even more. As if trying to confound the reader even further, the reviewer refuses (multiple times) to capitalize the beginning of a sentence. On top of all of that, this review has strayed far, far off topic until it becomes a comparison between two different actors, one of which did not even appear in the film. Not even a decent review of the actors either. Yet another example of a reviewer who was in too much of a hurry to think about what they were actually SUPPOSED to be reviewing.

Let's just get these out of the way....
Review of “17 Again” (2009) – Zac Efron is SO HOTTTTT!!!!!. AWESOME!!!.
Review of “High School Musical” (2007) – Troy (Zac Efron) is the hottest thing EVER!. HOT, HOT, HOT!. LOVE!.
Review of “Twilight” (2008) – Don't listen to other people, Vampire Sparkles are HOT!.
Review of “Twilight” (2008) – Kristen Stewart is blah, “I” should get the sexy Robert!
Review Review – All of these reviews (and others like them) have something distinctly in common: they are not reviews. Of any kind. They appear to believe that CAPS LOCK and exclamations make their review more profound. They don't. And, quite frankly, anybody should be able to see on the cover of these movies whether or not said actor is “hot”. It doesn't give the reader any information they do not already possess. These reviews are dull, repetitive and unintelligent. I don't think any amount of time would have improved them, although maybe a basic lesson in how annoying constant CAPS LOCK use is might have helped a little, but I doubt it. CAPS LOCK does not emphasize the reviewers point in this context. It merely emphasizes their ignorance of the subject at hand. I just don't know.... words cannot describe how unhelpful these reviews really are.

Review of “Bad Moon” (1996) - Bad movie. A brief opening teases the viewer with graphic violence and partial nudity- hey, the thing all great movies are made of- then launches into... An absolute waste of your time. The same theme is repeated ad nauseum: Family dog senses something fishy about a guy- he's a werewolf, of course- and the two play a cat and mouse (!) game. The questionably talented Mariel Hemingway finally gets what she deserves- a lead in this movie.
Review Review – At least this review makes some attempt to explain itself and is, in fact, a review, though not a terribly helpful one. The beginning of the review is direct and to the point. I like that. Unfortunately, the rest of the review tends to meander and uses -dashes-somewhat-excessively-. The reviewer appears to know something about horror films “graphic violence and partial nudity” are a staple of the genre. Repitition and laughably thin plots are ALSO a staple however. It's as if the review was written by two different people, one praising the film for being a horror film, the other scolding. There is a brief mention at the end of one of the actors in the film, but very little in the way of depth. Is the actor any good in any movie?. The review doesn't know. Are they good in THIS movie?. We don't know. The reader is left wondering what the reviewer was actually trying to get at, and wondering if watching the movie would make the review make more sense (it doesn't). Bad movie?. Maybe (depends on who you ask). Bad review. Definitely.

Review of “K-9000” (1989) - If you are watching this movie to see a robot german shepherd, fast forward to minute :43. Otherwise you have to sit through watching a mullet in a rage, feathered haired snipers, and bad 80s drama.
Review Review – Actually, truth be known, this is a pretty accurate description, all things considered. I do have one bone to pick with the reviewer however. “robot german shepherd” is not accurate. The dog was a real dog from the first time you see it in the film to the last. Within the movie, it did technically have robot parts, but was in fact a real dog. Calling it a robot implies that maybe the reviewer didn't really watch the movie very closely and thus probably wasn't qualified to review it in the first place.

Review of “K-9000” (1989) - This Movie SUCKED, BEYOND SUCKING, I am person that is willing to and frequently does endure the one star movies, b rated movies etc.with out too much loss - life goes on. This is worthy of Negative Stars if they would allow it. Looks like it was filmed with home video equipment and the sound besides being bad, was very irritating. I can't even bring my self to comment on the story. Good luck, but hey I told you so! Happy watching. Sorry they forced my to give it at least one star before it could submit the review, but I give it minus -10
Review Review – This review certainly knew what it wanted its reader to think. However, it gives no decernable reason for the lashing it gave the film, refusing to comment on the story, characters or acting. Also, I'm not sure they really understand what “one star movies” and “b rated movies” are. The review was repetitive and uninformative. It doesn't give the reader a reason for watching the film, but it also doesn't really give them a reason not to. The remark at the end I found to be childish, since “-10” is a nonexistent rating and thus does nothing to inform the reader. “but hey I told you so! Happy watching” I find to be rather confusing and contrary, almost as if they are daring the reader to disagree with them and actually enjoy the movie. Fortunately, they were right about one thing. Life does go on, thank goodness. I finished reading this review and my life went on and yours will too.

Review of “The Breed” 2006 - Really boring. I generally approve of Wes Craven movies (even his so bad they're good, like the Wishmaster series) and most films with Rodriguez - but this was just severely boring. No surprises whatsoever/easily guessable plot. I ended up fastforwarding more than half the movie away. On the otherhand, most of the actors did fairly well with the script given.:
Review Review – To my knowledge, Wes Craven's only real contribution to this film was to provide money. I have not found any evidence to support the notion that he had anything further to do with it. The first thing the reader must know about this movie is that it is yet another in the horror genre, so no surprises and easy to guess plot is a given. The reviewer is in no position to tell the reader anything about the movie, as they themselves admit they only watched half of it, at most. I found this review to be severely boring and not in the least surprising with an easily guessable conclusion. One other thing, what's the : at the end?. Did they not finish the review?. They could have edited that with very little difficulty, but evidently didn't want to take the time. I suppose the reviewer did relatively well, considering that their topic had nothing to do with the film at all.

To truly appreciate the useless nature of this review, you must first read Netflix's description of the film.
Description: Bruce Willis is back and kicking bad-guy butt as New York detective John McClane in the third installment of this action-packed series, which finds him teaming with civilian Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) to prevent the loss of innocent lives. McClane thought he'd seen it all, until a genius named Simon (Jeremy Irons) engages McClane, his new "partner" -- and his beloved city -- in a deadly game that demands their concentration.
Review of “Die Hard: With A Vengeance” (1995) - Willis is back and kicking bad-guy butt as McClane in the third film of this action-packed series, which finds him teaming with Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) to prevent the loss of innocent lives. McClane thought he'd seen it all, until a genius named Simon engages McClane, Zeus -- and his beloved city -- in a deadly game that demands their attention. SO COOL!. THIS WAS AWESOME MOVIE!!!!.
Review Review – This “review” quite frankly makes me sad. It is little more than an edited version of the film's original description, and I find that to be revolting. This review has no point, no originality, no spirit. As if the reviewer actually had nothing to say and probably hadn't even seen the film before. Their only contribution to the original description is a short, uncreative and uninformative CAPS LOCK frenzy. SO SAD!. THIS WAS TERRIBLE REVIEW!!!!.

I plan to make more of these posts in the future. If you see a terrible review (from any site) please feel free to let me know by sending a link in my direction ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Written on: 12/24/11

It's easy for us to accuse people, and to throw blame around like confetti.
We all do it, there's no use in denying it.
“They said they'd do it, but they didn't, so now I have to”
“If they'd just called to let us know...,”
“If that person would just show a little consideration...,”
“Why do they DO that?. What sense does it make?,”
Now one of my biggest irritations is when people say they'll do something, then they don't. The worst part of this is not that they didn't do it, but that they didn't TELL me they couldn't.
I'm not even asking for a REASON. Just a “heads up, I can't make it today” or “oh hey, can't do that. I'm afraid you'll have to do it on your own”.
And let's face it: most people don't.
Most people don't seem to realize when someone is depending on them. And very few people acknowledge that time has been set aside to do something with them.
It's like it's this enormous mystery.
Someone once said “that which annoys us most is actually a part of us”.
I've read the quote in various forms, and many people have said it.
That's because it's pretty much true.
Now I can't think of a time I've agreed to do something and not done it, especially without letting anyone know I wasn't going to.
However, I believe I probably have. Probably a lot, truth be known.
You see, it's very hard to see yourself. And to rationalize yourself to you.
It's shockingly difficult to look at yourself objectively and say “well, I've done this and this and this and this” in a real sort of way.
The first time someone told me that, I thought they were off their rocker.
“I've eaten breakfast this morning, had a glass of water, I have not brushed my teeth yet today....”
Okay, more seriously:
“I don't lie, I don't cheat, I don't steal....”
But don't you really?.
Most of us tell little, itty bitty lies every now and then. And pretty much all of us avoid admitting something if we don't want to.
I've said all this just to try to get the thought process going.
We can't judge ourselves. It's impossible.
Does that mean we shouldn't expect ANYONE to tell the truth or take responsibility?.
No, it certainly does not.
People, especially adults, need to take responsibility. And I'm not talking about paying the bills and feeding the dog, although those are good starts.
People need to take responsibility for how their words or actions affect other people.
A lot of us go around thinking “this has NO impact on the people I live with”.
And it's not true. Everything we say and do has some effect.
Don't look at me like that. I've already thought it. But follow me a bit further.
Think of some time you've wanted to something to someone that was a correction or criticism.
Did you say it?. Saying it or not was a choice on your part.
Now, do you think you made the right choice?. By not saying it, did you avoid a fight?. By saying it, do you think that you made that person think about themselves or what they were doing differently?.
Whatever you said, or didn't say, had an impact.
It had an impact on you, and on the person in question.
Not only that, but it no doubt impacted your impressions of each other.
You can try to deny it. Go ahead, just say “oh well that didn't make any difference”.
But that's not how reality works. In reality, everything we see, hear, taste, touch, say and even think has an affect on who we are as a person.
Thing is, we've got so many things affecting us that it's hard to see how any single thing could possibly make a difference. We also tend to think “if I've forgotten it, it had no impact”.
But that's a lie. Last night, Mom and I were watching Kenn Kington and some of the things he said got me to thinking. I remembered things from my childhood I haven't remembered in YEARS.
And they had a huge impact on how I think about people.
For example, when I was a kid, one of my parents would feed me lunch, then leave.
The second parent would come in and say now I could have dessert, or now I could go play.
From this and events like it, I developed the assumption that adults communicate everything.
This is actually a very sad assumption to make, because of this next story.

I'd go to birthday parties, and they always had a pinata. And we'd all take turns hittin' the thing.
Sometimes the kids would be blindfolded and spun around, sometimes we just hit the thing.
I have a distinct memory of one party where an older sibling was actually holding the other end of the rope, which was tossed over a tree branch.
Whenever someone swung at it, he'd yank the pinata up higher.
This was all well and good, until the pinata actually broke.
Candy flew everywhere, a herd of girls pounced like kittens on a string, I'd start gathering candy like there was no tomorrow. And I have several distinct memories of different adults (and some children, but the adults are more relevant) saying to me “don't take so much, leave some for the other girls”.
And I'd look over at the other girls and think “I have pretty much exactly twice as much as they do, what's the problem here?”.
Now you see, I assumed adults knew things. This was a stupid assumption on my part.
I assumed they knew my reason for gathering so much. Anybody know what it was?.
That's right, I had a little sister. I tried just helping her gather, but neither of us got any that way.
Why?. Because all of the OTHER girls were gathering like there was no tomorrow.
Nobody slowed down and thought “let's make sure the younger girls have a chance”.
No. That's not how their minds worked. Their minds went “Oh, they're slower... more for me!”.
But I had been taught to be good to other people. To care how they felt, and give when I had plenty.
This is not how people naturally behave. And believe me, I wasn't a very nice kid. I was often pretty mean to my little sister. But there are many things I can think of that got me to gather that much candy.
One, I assumed that I always had to share with my sister. After all, we shared a room, a bed, our toys and our television set. Why not the candy?. So I was actually sort of being childish by going “well, I'll just gather more than anyone else. That way, I'll have more when that split occurs”. You can argue over whether or not I was being greedy by doing that. Go ahead, I don't mind.
Two, I knew my little sister would be asking for candy as soon as she saw other people eating it. But she couldn't eat things like gum, do to caps on her teeth. So I would gather the right kinds for her. A lot of people assumed I just really liked Smarties. I didn't. She did. I learned to like them after awhile. You know why?. Because when the split of candy occurred, adults wanted our two piles to look the same. So if I didn't get enough Smarties, then I'd have to give up something I really wanted, like a Hershey bar or something. So I gathered Smarties and what were called Dum-Dum-Pops, not because they were my favorite, but because they were hers. You know why?. Because she was out there slowly gathering them, but she didn't really understand what was going on. She was just participating by picking everything up off the ground, including candy wrappers. She was a great kid. However, that meant she would end up with a bunch of wrappers and gum and candy that NOBODY wanted. She was playing the game, but didn't understand the rules fully. She understood that the goal was to pick things up and put them in the bag.
Three, if I gathered most of the Smarties, I might be able to trade them with the other kids later after the candy was split up. It was a way of trying to get what I wanted.
Now, I thought children normally shared with their younger siblings. I thought it was normal, because I had been taught that it was. I thought adults knew she was my sister, and had down syndrome.
These two assumptions were both probably wrong.
Sometimes they would make me put some of the candy down. Sometimes they would wander off and I'd be free to continue collecting.
The ones I find most hilarious in retrospect?. The ones that made me promise to share with the other kids. Which wasn't hard to do because that was the PLAN.
The same thing happened on Easter. We'd be collecting eggs (which were never EVER hidden, but instead just strewn around on the ground) and I'd have more than the other kids.
Same reason. I recall my sister was usually taking a nap or refused to come outside.
Again, I assumed adults knew these things and were living in the same context I existed in.
They almost always made me put some eggs down.
Now you would think I would have come to assume that adults were stupid or mean.
And you'd be wrong, because that's not how small children operate.
Children are full of a great innocence, which gradually gets destroyed as they encounter life.
I assumed that maybe I wasn't counting the eggs right, or that someone had collected some for her.
I assumed that the adults KNEW what was going on.
This is because, until that child's innocence is destroy, all children believe that adults and people who are older than them are all-knowing.
So I believed that I was wrong and they were right.
It's so easy to go “well those adults are SO stupid and should have known better!”.
Thing is, I know some of these people today.
I like these people. They are nice people. So it's hard to blame them.
Especially now that I have tried communicating with people.
In the last month, I have made plans to do things with three different people. Every single one of them broke those plans without a word to me. Why?.
Because they didn't think I needed to know. Adults, they don't tell each other everything.
In fact, they usually don't tell each other ANYTHING.

Actually, nothing seems to have gone right this month.
We were about two weeks into December and nothing was going right.
Nobody was working on Christmas at all. Not even a little.
“We should work on Christmas” “Oh yeah, we should”. Nothing happened.
And everything seemed to go wrong for me. I mean everything.
I'd take a shower and somebody would start running the dish washer and washing machine.
That's how wrong my days were going.
That is until Mom and I took our first Christmas shopping outing.

It was cold. And it was dark. And it was our first store and we'd barely found anything.
And oh... it was just horrible.
So we finally got up the steep incline to the car, I had to help my mother up the bank.
I had nothing but a hoodie. And I get cold easily.
So we both finally got in the car. And it immediately started raining.
Our windows were fogged over and it was pouring rain. And Mom couldn't find her keys.
I had already pulled off my hoodie and put it in the back with her jacket.
I reached back to get it because I was cold.
Again, how wrong could things go?.
I mean, if she'd noticed her keys missing a bit earlier, I could have kept my hoodie on.
Well, she'd unlocked the car, so we KNEW they were around somewhere.
We looked under the seats, through her purse and in her pockets.
And all the time I was getting this urge to get out of the car. Why?.
Finally, I got out to go look and see if the keys were in the car lock. They weren't.
She had said she remembered putting them in her pocket.
I looked around, on the ground, wondering if maybe they fell out.
The whole time the wind is blowing and the rain is COLD. And no keys.
“God, why?. Why can't you make things go right for me, just once?”
I got back in the car, and my Mom started to suggest I look somewhere else.
I don't remember where, because I interrupted her.
“First I'm taking off this hoodie” I don't know if any of you wear hoodies, but they're not water-proof.
I pulled the hoodie off and reached back to set it down- and it hit me.
She had been wearing her jacket!.
Two realizations collided at the same time.
One, her jacket pocket came to the level of her pants pocket when the jacket was unzipped.
Two, I invariably put the keys to the backyard gate in my hoodie pocket if I had it on.
I managed not to say anything until I was sure, because I didn't want to get any hopes up.
I felt around in both pockets and didn't find anything.
Disappointed, I started to put the jacket back down, when a third realization hit me between the eyes.
I was looking for one key. Not my ten-key collection.
I reached into the left pocket. Nothing there. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the keys were lost forever and we'd have to call someone to pick us up. Great. Just great.
Then I reached into the right pocket. I sighed. Oh wait- there!. There it was!.
I pulled the keys out triumphantly and handed them to Mom.
This is a very relevant story to the topic at hand for two reasons.
It seemed like my trip out into the rain was a wasted effort. But as tired as we both were that night, we probably never would have thought to look in the jacket pocket if I hadn't had to take my hoodie off that second time. Second, it was my turning point. It was when I pulled the keys out of the jacket pocket that my view changed.
“God, whatever happens from here to Christmas, it's all you. You have to get me through, you have to make it work. You have to deal with it. Because I can't. I can't make any of this work. Just tell me what to do, move me where you will, because I can't handle all this stress anymore”
Does that mean everything suddenly started working for me?. No.
In fact, nothing has worked the way I thought it should.
I have put the Christmas tree up, strung the lights AND put ornaments on.
I didn't plan to do any of that originally.
I haven't gone to bed before midnight a months, yet have mostly been getting up at eight or nine since I gave it all over to God. Normally, I need nine to ten hours of sleep every night at least, or I cease to function. Yet I don't feel all that tired.

By saying “God, it's your problem” I found peace.
The problems didn't go away, but I wasn't worried about them anymore.
When things went wrong, I just thought “God will make it work together for good. I don't have to solve this, it's okay no matter what happens. This is the way it is, and that's okay because I can't change it”
I have very little memory of last Christmas, evidently because I didn't feel good.
But I do remember that we were still wrapping and labeling on Christmas DAY.
And I don't remember half the things going wrong that year that went wrong (at least for me) this year.
I mean seriously, I'd sit down to watch a movie because I was so tired and the disc wouldn't work.
I was so tired and so frustrated and really wanted things to go right after November (which is a whole different story in and of itself) and nothing was.
But then I said “God, it doesn't matter. I know you. You'll make all this work together for good. Just carry me, just guide me. You know I'm human, and I'll go back to leaning on my own understanding, but for now I'm just leaving it to you. Just make this work like you know it should”.
And guess what?. Despite all of it, we finished wrapping yesterday. Our tree has lights and ornaments.
When I stopped trying to 'fix' everything, and stopped depending on other people, it worked.
When I just said “God, this is your job. You make the world work. I can't do this” it worked.
Mom and I were talking about that the other night.
Nothing we've accomplished really seems like we made it happen. It just sort of.... fell into place.
And I think that's God. And that's why the story of the jacket is so important.
It's happened more than once. Everything is going wrong and then.... it works out.
It's not working like I think it should, but it works anyway.

God says that we should trust him, and it's not something we do well.
Children trust. They believe that adults know what they're doing, that their older siblings will take care of them. Until that trust is abused. And it always, always is.
Because this is not a perfect world. We can't trust everyone. But we can trust God.
Another example is also from this year.

Every year, I get my Mom an Angel for Christmas and Mother's Day. As long as I can find an Angel I think she might like. Usually I go shopping with her and she says she likes one.
If I have money, I can usually wander away from her at some point and buy it. Although that only really works with the small ones that fit in my purse.
On two occasions, I have been unable to find anything beforehand, but then we'll be out shopping and she'll really like one and I'll give her the money for it.
So anyway, this time we were at the Collector's Market and she saw one she liked.
If you know anything about Collector's Markets, you know one means ONE. Not a row. Just one.
It was beautiful and pretty cheap and right at the front of the store.
I thought “I'll have to come back really soon to get it”. Only I don't drive. I have to get someone to take me to the store. Good trick.
So one day passed, then two, then three. And I'm thinking “well, maybe Dollar Tree will have one she likes this year”. We went there to do some shopping. No Angels. None.
A week later, I'm finally out with my Dad, and we go back to Collector's Market.
I didn't see the angel at all. I thought “well someone probably got it. It was so beautiful and right at the front and it's almost Christmas. Maybe they have another one”.
So my Dad and I wandered around the store. No angels. It's almost Christmas, of course there are no angels. Everyone has bought anything that even LOOKS like a Christmas decoration.
As we were on our way out, the guy at the counter says “What?. You've been all over this store and haven't found one thing you can't live without!?”
I paused in my tracks and turned from the door towards him. But I stop halfway there.
Because there she is, hidden behind Raggedy Ann and a Tin Soldier. She's beautiful. And on sale.
I had walked into the store, seen she wasn't there and said “God, please let there be a nice angel somewhere in this store. One as beautiful as the other one, so I can know Mom will like it”.
Well, that angel was just as beautiful. In fact, she was more beautiful than I'd remembered.
I went through all that frustration thinking I would never find her a gift this year. There was no way I could think of another place to go. And how would I know if she'd like it.
And then God gave me the one angel I knew she'd love.

Last night, I got to thinking. I thought “I really need to share some of this stuff”.
I started this off talking about responsibility and blame.
That's because that's how I felt when I was trying to get all of this organized.
Why can't people just go to the store?. Why can't we get the tree up?.
This that and the other.
Then Mom and I were talking about forgiveness.
It's not about someone saying they're sorry and you saying okay and letting them get away with that.
Mom made the reference to abusive relationships.
The offending person is all “Oh, I'm so sorry, and I love you and I'll never do it again”
And the person who was abused takes them back.
That's not what forgiveness is all about.
Forgiveness to the offending person only occurs when that person is genuinely sorry.
Forgiveness on the part of the abused occurs when they let the anger go.
I've forgiven a lot of people who didn't ask for it, because I don't need that anger in my heart.
Does that mean I don't think they'll do it again and let them come walking all over me?. No.
Everyone can quote this one. What did Jesus say when they nailed him to the cross?.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”
This is unbelievable on the surface. Well, they sure better have known they were nailing someone to a piece of wood and hanging them up to die.
But that's not what he meant. He meant that they did not know they were killing the son of God.
That doesn't make what they did right. So what does it mean?.

Scout, one of our cats, has taught me a lot of about not knowing what you're doing.
He is such a sweet, loving, cuddly cat who loves everyone, be they cat or person.
His best friend is Keiko, his little sister. He adores her, but she gets tired of him.
Growing up, he was twice her size, and that's no exaggeration.
His favorite games was wrestling, which she hated because she couldn't win at it.
So he'd land on top of her with a thud and be grabbing her head and chewing her ears the way kittens do. She'd try to push him off, which never worked. He always won. And he loved it.
Her favorite game was chase. She was faster and more agile that Scout could ever hope to be.
She loved her little pink string and would drag it around the house with her all the time.
She also loved bottle caps. She'd send them skittering across the floor with her paw and then bound after them with glee.
Scout would watch her playing with them, or her string, and grab them the first chance he got.
He would carry them off and hide them under the furniture.
Keiko was no sweetheart either. She doesn't like ham, but Scout loves it. Yet she would pick up a piece of ham out from under his nose and carry it off. Revenge?. Who knows.
But the point it, Scout is a really sweet cat. He loves his sister.
When she got locked in the car, he kept coming to me and crying, but I didn't know what he wanted.
She would get locked in the closets, and he would come crying to me.
Just recently, she got locked in the garage, and when Dad got home, Scout was sitting outside the garage crying at the top of his lungs.
He's a great cat, and anyone who knows him knows that he doesn't really think about his actions at all.
He's fire, ready, aim all day every day.
Nobody would believe there's anything malicious about him stealing her toys.
He just wanted her to play with him, and knew that was the way to get what he wanted.
He wasn't just trying to be mean.
And I don't think most people are.
I don't believe most people sit at their desk writing out a list of ways to make other people miserable.
I think they're just trying to get what they want.
I don't think most of us are going “gee, I just want to make someone mad... I know, let's argue!”.
No, they want what they want.
And that extends into trying to get someone to see things your way (number one cause of arguments).
So as I looked back over a lifetime of people doing me wrong, of being selfish, of being greedy, of lying to me, of breaking promises and of taking everything they could from me, I realized something.
Those people don't know what they're doing.
They're like Scout, just getting what he wants and not thinking about it.
Does that mean I should let them, and allow them to not be responsible for their actions?.
Should I just say “Oh well, you didn't know what you were doing, feel free to take the rest of my stuff”.
No, that's not what it means. They need to learn to be responsible for their own actions.
They may not like it. Scout doesn't.

We got a cardboard box this Christmas, and Keiko thinks it's wonderful.
Scout thought it was great too, he could land on Keiko and she couldn't get away.
That is, until I kept pulling him off her and making him play nice.
He figured out that I wanted him to play her way for awhile. And left immediately.
I remember playing with people as a kid, and having them say “first we'll do it my way, then we'll do it your way” only we never got to MY way.
“You go first, I'll be right behind you” then they chicken out.
Now, Scout's a cat. Cats are cats, and they like it like that.
But people are also people. And they need to learn to respect other people's feelings.

Mom read a story recently of a former alcoholic who had no idea that what he did was having any impact on the people around him. He had no idea. None.
And that's how most people seem to be. They're doing what they're doing, thinking they don't affect anybody around them with their action or lack thereof.
But they do. And they should realize that. And sometimes they need someone to tell them.
But what the rest of us need to do is first realize we have our own bad habits.
And the next thing we need to do is forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing.
And then we need to realize something else: they made us what we are.
So many of these people we blame for things, who made us put the eggs back, or took our candy... these people had an impact on our lives and changed us forever in ways we can't even begin to imagine. All those mean, selfish, ignorant people you know or used to know... they made you.
Some people read that God will take all things and make them work together for good and think that means that everything will be lollypops and chocolate drops. That's not what it means.
It means you may get out of your car in the cold and rain, and find what you're looking for.
It means you may go all around a store and find nothing you want, only to find the perfect thing.
It means you may sit down to watch a movie and it doesn't work, then you see the movie next to it, and that one is so much better.
So forgive those people who've done you wrong. Release all that bitterness in your heart.
Don't let them do it again, but don't let them rule your life.
Thank you for reading, and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Solomon - Becoming The King

For those of you who have been paying attention, Solomon is my newest fish. I've already made one post about him, which explains the origin of his name.

Today was the first really cold day in the room this year.
BlueStreak, who I've had for two and a half years knows the drill by heart. I go heat up the pads (I use pads because they heat the water faster than the heaters do. Not only that, they don't break down in six months >:(... ), put them in front of the tank, then wait until the pads are cold and start the whole process over again. As soon as he sees the pad, he swims right up near the front of his tank, just far enough away that the pad isn't TOO hot for him.
But this is not how most fish start out.
No, the first few days in that they see the pad, they almost invariably panic and dive for the nearest hiding place. By the second week, they've become accustomed to the strange scary thing (FireFlash got used to it in three days). By the next month, they actually seem to enjoy it.
Somewhat surprisingly, it has been my experience that they remember the warmth of the pads all the way to the next year. They recognize them on sight and rush up to get warm.
But never has a fish of mine approached a pad the first time they see it.
That is, until Solomon.
Nose down, swimming forward slowly and cautiously, he came right for the big dark thing that had just blocked up his view of the world. Eventually of course, he got so close that it was much too hot for him and he immediately retreated. Within minutes, he had settled near the pad, but not too near.
Solomon did in minutes what took most fish two weeks or even a month.
He studied the pad and realized it was not dangerous. He realized that getting too close caused discomfort. But he also somehow figured out that it was warm near the pad.
I couldn't believe he had done all that in mere minutes. Was it because he trusted me?. Or because he simply wasn't afraid of anything?. I don't believe that.
I believe he's just that quick and just that smart.

Today, after three long days of struggling, BlueStreak finally gave up the fight for life. I could most certainly talk about him for some time, but his story is for another time.
During Bluey's fight for life, I spent a lot of time in front of his tank, generally trying to comfort him and trying not to cry, which became increasingly difficult as time went on.
This had a rather strange effect on Solomon, who was usually indifferent to my presence unless I was paying special attention to him.
I wonder if Bettas can sense sorrow somehow, or see tears. On three separate occasions, Bluey had responded to my sorrow in an manner out of his normal character.
And for three days, so did Solomon.
He was usually very active and made good use of his entire tank. But for three days he simply sat in the nearest corner to where I was. Whenever I started to cry, he'd tilt his head (which kind of tilted his whole body) to the side and his eyes would turn in his head to look at me.
Between Bluey becoming upset whenever I started to cry and Solomon looking... well... undignified... I would usually stop crying. Solomon even got me to laugh the first time I noticed him doing it.
For three days this went on, until finally... Bluey was gone.
By then, I had no more tears. Besides, it felt almost wrong to cry for Bluey, as my tears had always upset him. Solomon was at his usual post in the corner, but today he hung especially low in the water and his 'nose' was tilted down more than usual.
After a little while, I started to sing. Bluey had been calmer when I sang, and it kept me from crying.
Solomon had never responded, but now he did. With the rise and fall of my voice, he seemed to nod his head. I mostly sang 'Full Circle' (by Loreena McKennitt), generally getting stuck on what had been Bluey's favorite part “In your heart, in your soul... did you find peace there?”.
He'd always gotten very still when I sang that part (or when the song reached that part when I was playing it on the computer).
Solomon now did the same. He'd be nodding his head, then suddenly he'd get very still and tilt his head as if to listen.
Edit: This was the first, and last (so far), time he responded to my singing.

Today I decided to take a few pictures of Solomon.
In my experience, Bettas have about three different reactions to camera flashes.
One, they panic and hide.
Two, they simply ignore it.
Three, they get very excited and keep trying to stare into the flash.
Solomon, as has become typical of him, had a completely different response.
He swam back and forth regally, pausing now and then to let me snap a quick picture of him. It was almost like he knew what I was trying to do and thought it his duty to show off so I could take pictures. He let me snap ten or twelve pictures before deciding he'd had enough.
He retreated, but when I pulled out the camera again later, he swam out to pose some more.
I don't think he particularly enjoys the camera flash, but I do think he enjoys the attention (though he pretends he's just showing up so that his 'subjects' or 'audience' can see him).

Solomon seems to truly enjoy my company now that I've had him for almost two months. Unlike most of my Bettas, he never shies away from my finger.
He also almost never frills out unless he really means it.
His favorite music tends to be primarily instrumental with guitar and/or flute (he also seems to have a special affection for the Flipper theme song. You know the one that goes “Flipper, Flipper. Faster than lightning” etc. etc.)
He has invented a game where he follows dust bits around (you know the ones that are really there all the time but you can just see them at certain times of day). He seems to find that rather entertaining.
So far, he has built six completely different bubble nests (most fish have a particular favorite. A circle of bubbles, a line of bubbles, a pile of bubbles etc.), each one more elaborate than the last (once it's completed anyway, which can take a few days).
He likes being under the bright light of the lamp for part of the day (or maybe the warmth of it) and gets mad when I move it over to Shadow's tank for awhile. Solomon swims off to the back of his tank indignantly and stays there for a few minutes.
However, if the lamp stays for too long, he also gets a little bit annoyed. Evidently, it's supposed to get dark in the evenings and if it doesn't... well that's just wrong.

Since it was a relatively warm day today, I decided to clean the fish tanks. Because of Christmas projects and laundry, I had several interruptions, so it took a good portion of the day.
Catching MoonShadow in the net is a little like trying to pick up jello in your hand. You think you finally have him and then he sort of oozes away.
However, he has been around long enough to know the routine, so it's really just him liking to be difficult and let me know he's NOT thrilled about this.
That's not Shadow being especially nasty, it's just him being a Betta. None of them have ever liked tank cleaning. They try to escape, and when they get put in the clean tank, they tend to spend the next week sulking by not eating, frilling out or panicking when they see me and refusing to build bubble nests.
I actually had one fish that was deathly afraid of the net, so I caught him by hand.
Solomon had never had his tank cleaned before, so he didn't know the routine.
He was a little concerned when I took all his items out, and shrank away. But he didn't do any of that 'panic' swimming, where they zoom around really fast and bounce of the tank walls, so that was good.
When I came back, he was swimming around his tank, looking slightly lost and very small in three gallons of water and nothing else.
Generally, my Bettas sink down to the bottom and sulk until the whole 'ordeal' is over.
I expected him to be very difficult to catch in the net, since the young and smaller fish always are, especially the first time when they think the net is going to eat them.
Solomon wasn't too upset when the net followed him, but he wasn't thrilled about being caught in it.
Still, he tolerated it with his usual dignity and poise.
That is, until the net actually left the water and he was up in the air.
In fact, he started flipping around so much I was afraid he'd fall out of the net and wind up flopping around on the dresser!. Fortunately though, he calmed down as soon as he saw that the net was heading towards another tank of water.
Observant as he is, he must have realized that he was heading back to safety.
I have never known a Betta to decide to be calm in the net. Not even once.
The net is scary, being out of the water is scary, being hauled around is scary... the whole experience is completely and utterly horrible. Or that's how they act, anyway.
By the time the net was in the water, Solomon had completely regained his composure and waited patiently while I got him all untangled and set him free.
Easiest capture and release of all time. Seriously.

People always ask me “why are their plants all upside down?”. The answer is very simple “they like them that way”. FireFlash, my second Betta, actually HATED it when I put his plant right side up. If I did, he would strike at the plant and rocks around it until the bottom came loose, then he'd nudge it around until it was 'properly' upside down. I have since tried having plants right side up at first, then upside down to see which they prefer. Every single one of them spends more time with their plant upside down. Don't ask me why. That is, until now.
I turned Solomon's plant right side up after cleaning his tank, and he seems to like it much better now.
Also, you remember I said it's a week (sometimes two) after they have their tanks cleaned that my fish finally start making bubble nests again?.
Well Solomon has already begun work on a new nest, and it looks to be his biggest yet.

Well this is the first day in quite awhile that I've gotten up and the fish have still been relatively warm. Perhaps not as warm as they'd like to be, but warm nonetheless. It's also the first time in days that MoonShadow has actually eaten anything.
Shadow was a somewhat sickly fish when I got him, and has teetered on the verge of getting sick off and on since I've had him. At this point, he's also rather old, and old fish don't handle change or cold very well at all.
Because of this, Shadow is the first to get warmed up in the mornings. He pretends he doesn't appreciate this in the slightest, yet always comes up to the heating back to warm up when he thinks nobody is looking. I don't get the impression that he's being unappreciative, he just doesn't want anyone to see his weakness, which is perfectly understandable in an animal.
Most Bettas will recognize the heating pad on approach and become angry if it doesn't get put in front of their tank. They'll frill at me, then go back and sulk around in the back of their tank until it's their turn to get warmed up.
Solomon, as has become usual, has a completely different response.
He'll swim up to the front of his tank and watched heating pad and then..... well.. his head sort of goes down in the water when he sees that the pad isn't for him, then he'll swim slowly away.
He looks sort of disappointed, but not angry. He doesn't act like it's an injustice, he merely accepts things the way they are.
This behavior, among others, is why I chose to name him 'Solomon'.
He may not be wise yet, but given time.... I believe he
could be the wisest fish I've ever had.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shimmering One - A King In The Making

Written: October 4, 2011

The words “noble”, “elegant” and “kingly” came instantly to mind when I interacted with the little velvet blue fish. He was neither shy nor aggressive, but seemed more tolerant than curious.
As if he felt it beneath him to react to the finger which had come into contact with his world.
He had made a ring of bubbles around the top of his cup. This ring was precise and uniform, but seemed to be just that. It seemed to hold little significance for him, as if he knew his bubble nest was superior to all the others and thus did not need defending.
He had an air of polite indifference about him that drew me in.
It didn't seem like arrogance somehow, for he truly looked and behaved as though he were royal.
In fact, that was how I first described his color: royal blue.
He did not seem offended when I disturbed his cup and held it up to get a better look at it. It surprised me that I noticed that he wasn't offended before I noticed that he wasn't afraid.
But when he realized he was no longer on the shelf and seemed to be staring down into space, his regal indifference vanished for a moment.
He panicked and hit his snout against the wall of his cup.
Then, regaining his composure, he paused and looked down, still slightly ruffled.
He didn't seem particularly embarrassed by his undignified display of fear. More like he was ashamed of himself. Like a Prince who showed fear before the King.
It wasn't hard to see that the little blue one hid his fear behind a mask of calm.
I hadn't seen this in a fish before. It intrigued me.
Still, I felt that I should be fair and inspect all of the other Bettas.
I had to set him and another fish of the same color on another shelf so I could see the ones in the back row. Most of those were dead, crazed or otherwise undesirable.
One was an incredibly tiny white fellow, who I could hardly even believe was male.
I checked his label twice, just to be sure. He looked like a female.
The unusual appearance drew my attention, but he seemed very lifeless.
So I was drawn once more to the royal blue one.
It was down to him or a red one. But the red was very aggressive and agitated easily.
So I chose the little blue one. It took me a moment to pick him out among the others who were virtually identical in appearance. I feared for a moment that I might have to start all over again.
But then I picked him up a second time by chance.
The way he looked at me, as if he were allowing me to touch his cup... there was only one fish like that.
He traveled well, except when it came to turning right or left. Up and down hill was okay, and even the car vibrating at a stop light didn't disturb him. But turn left or right and he flew into momentary violence. I was certain he was afraid, but he masked it in rage.
But when the car straightened out and the water calmed, so did he.
He would swim in a circle once, then stop at the edge of his cup, nose barely touching its wall.
When we got home, I set him on my desk while I filled his new home with water and set up the filter (I hadn't done that beforehand, since I couldn't be sure I'd find the right fish).
I tried to coax him out of the cup, so the dirty water wouldn't mix with his clean water, but he was having none of it. Again, he was unlike any other fish I'd dealt with before.
While most flipped and squirmed as though utterly terrified, he simply slipped out of my hand and acted as if he were offended. Not really angry, more annoyed than anything.
I finally gave it up and poured him into the tank.
He shimmered in the water, shinier and brighter than any fish I'd had.
Once again, his behavior was unexpected.
Instead of panicking or freezing in surprise, he simply swam along as if he owned the place.
That is, until he bumped noses with something that was actually inside his tank: a thermometor.
Actually, I'm not sure which startled him more: the size of his tank or the fact that something was in it.
He froze where he was, then slowly and carefully backed away from the thermometor.
I'm quite certain that his eyes would have widened if that were at all possible.
He was so startled that he kept right on backing up. Then he seemed to realize there wasn't an edge where he expected there to be.
He slowly turned in the water, and seemed to hang there a moment, puzzled.
He was so accustomed to his cup that he wasn't sure what to do with all this space.
Then he suddenly had a new problem. He needed to take a breath of air.
In a quick flurry of panic he swam upwards, getting more frantic as he found that the water was much, MUCH deeper than he had first supposed.
Finally he broke the surface with so much force that half his body was out of the water before he stopped. He splashed back into the water and hung there for a moment, taking several breaths.
After that, he managed to regain his composure one more time.
He swam around near the top of the tank at first, examining the thermometor and plant, then the filter.
Then he swam just a little lower and investigated his “log”. A little lower and he was eying the different “rocks” at the bottom of his tank curiously.
All the time, he reminded me of a king surveying his kingdom.
I knew at once that he deserved a name which sounded like royalty.
I also knew that, no matter how long he lived, he would not be like any fish I'd had before.
Appearancewise, he was far more striking than any fish I'd had before.
I didn't know if he was going to stay that way or not. I figured he would get darker with age, just like the rest of my fish had. I also expected that his tail would grow out as well.
When I got him, it looked sort of like a half circle. My Bettas had all had tails sort of like ponytails. At least, they did once they got older.
The first names I thought of involved “Rogue” and “Lobo”.
But this was no rogue. This was a King, Emperor or Pharoah. Only I didn't like those names.
I jokingly thought of “spot” and “white tip” when I saw the white spots in front of his eyes and on the ends of two of his fins (which were red, as opposed to the rest of him which was blue).
I also thought of “Magic” and “Merlin”. But he was no wizard.
I wondered what a suitable name for a future king was. Certainly not “Arthur”, simply because it also had the association with a television show of the same name.
He would be difficult to get to know, I could tell already.
He was always ready to show off, to be sure, and wasn't at all shy.
But his displays seemed more like a ritual or performance.
As if he were gracefully accepting his role as a thing of beauty. Politely playing for his subjects, or perhaps his audience. It was hard to tell.
It was when he thought I wasn't looking that I would come to know him.
It wasn't long before it became evident that he was very playful and energetic, and also very curious.
Yet at the same time he was always businesslike, hiding his “childish” behavior in a veil of purposefulness. His games were disguised as “making the rounds”.
This was truly an intriguing character I'd gotten my hands on.
And he deserved a name which fit his more unusual personality.
But what would it be?.
Mom had jokingly suggested “King Tut”, but it had gotten the wheels turning. The names of famous leaders spun through my mind, but I knew far too little about most of them to know how well they suited my little royal friend.
But then a name caught in my mind and stuck “Solomon”. But was it too much of a name for such a little blue creature?. It had the same flavor to it as all the other names I'd been mulling over. The only other name that kept making a nuisance of itself was “Zephyr”.

I'd had him for just over a week when he built his first bubble nest.
It wasn't too big, but he had obviously taken great care with it. And, for the first time, he seemed to notice me outside his tank. He frilled, but it seemed to be more for show than anything.
In fact, he seemed to be showing me that he knew what to do to protect his nest.
I was reminded of one of the VHS tapes I watched as a kid. It was about Solomon. In that animated show, he'd said “so many things to know, so many things to remember”.
It was right after he'd been crowned king, and he was having a bit of trouble getting the hang of it.
That was, of course, followed by the story about the two women fighting over the baby.
Strangely, one of my favorite Bible stories as a kid. That and The Good Samaritan.
It was as if something in the very way this little fish moved reminded me of that tape about Solomon. His color was even the same as the robes Solomon was wearing.
It was as if a silent voice was whispering “my name is Solomon”.
I giggled at the idea. But Solomon he was.

I soon noticed a few other peculiarities in the new prince.
First, when I fed him, I realized that he chose very specific pellets. The pellets are different sizes and colors (who knows why). He always ate the small, reddish brown ones first, then the large ones of the same color. After that, he took the small dark pellets, then the large pale ones, followed by the small pales ones. He wouldn't eat the large dark ones. But he also made sure to leave at least three pellets, no matter how many or few I gave him. He would eat them over the course of the day.
Solomon was evidently a picky eater. But his behavior while carefully examining, then selecting, the pellets gave the impression that he had perfect right to be.
Second was the first time I left the house after I got him. I turned the lights out and expected to come back to a fish expecting his breakfast. They usually did the first few times I turned the light out for several hours. After all, when I went to bed I turned the light out for several hours.
It's pretty much all the same to them. Or not.
When I got home, Solomon put his frill out and swam to the front of his tank. Then he suddenly folded his frill and veered off, swimming away... indignantly?.
Quite frankly, he found my absence (or the absence of light) offensive.
This fellow would take a little getting used to.
But that was alright with me. We had, I hoped, a long time to make friends.
I could tell already that it wasn't going to be very easy.
He wasn't aggressive or afraid of me, I was simply beneath him.
I wondered if there was a way to get him to see me as something other than a servant to do his bidding. Or was that really how he saw me?.
I remembered the first few days, where he hid his real opinions with a lot of display.
Could it be that he felt we were sort of friends, but that it would be indignified to show it?.
Or was I simply overthinking the matter?.
Oh well. I had the rest of his life to find out how I fit into it.
The rest of his life to get acquinted with this king in a fish's body.
The rest of his life to discover who, exactly, was this Solomon?.