I’m Back (for a Little While)

Hello, everyone! And by everyone, I mean anyone who might still be out there, checking in on this blog. I haven’t posted anything here since May of this year, and that is due primarily to my busy schedule now that college is underway. I have plenty of homework, and midterms are just around the corner. Tomorrow, I play piano for a funeral, sing in a homecoming concert, and I might find time in between to relax and recuperate after such a busy week. Also, I’m sore because working out is hard and I don’t like it, even if it’s good for me.

Notwithstanding my complaints about college, things are going well! I am feeling decently productive, I am making new connections with people, and the stress of it all hasn’t brought my spirits too low yet. Still, you’ve come for content, have you not? Remember when I used to post movie reviews here and stuff like that? Yeah. I still think critically about movies these days, especially with the advent of all this Marvel superhero stuff. The most recent movie I went to see was Guardians of the Galaxy, and sorry folks–I HATED IT. I get that people were excited about the 60s and 70s throwbacks and all that jazz (has “Hooked on a Feeling” ever been this popular?) But in the end, it was just another cheap action film with a gimmick that some people liked. Not necessarily a bad thing–standard fare for the Marvel movie franchise, in fact. Just not my cup of tea.

What frustrates me is that foreign-made films are starting to outclass the grimy muck that Hollywood is spewing out these days. I recently watched two movies with a friend–Ip Man and Ip Man 2–both made in China and roughly based on actual events. Ip Man was one of the best films I have seen in a long while. It tells the story of a master of Kung Fu whose home is attacked by the invading Japanese. The whole movie details his fight against the invaders and how he protects his friends, his wife, his son, and trains the villagers to fight back. What’s interesting about this movie is the main character doesn’t have an arc. He doesn’t change from a bumbling fool who can’t protect himself to a master of martial arts (like the protagonist of Karate Kid, for example). But his character and the nature of the historical context and plot do not necessitate an arc. This is a film purely about a guy standing up and doing what’s right because he has the power to do so. Most significantly, he treated his wife with respect, he avoided fighting if he could, he avenged the unjust death of a friend killed by the Japanese, and he rallied the Chinese people together to fight back against their enemies.

Also, the fighting in this movie is ridiculously good. It got me thinking about how movies depict action in our day and age. In Ip Man, there was no CGI. We only saw human actors demonstrating immense skill in martial arts, and it was thrilling to watch. I considered how I felt during a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, or the Avengers, or even Thor. These films boast a myriad of special effects, ranging from huge fleet battles to gods demolishing armies. But I don’t feel anything. Sure, it’s cool to look at. But there’s nothing to relate to. It’s just a bunch of seizure-inducing, computer-generated explosions and nice particle effects and cool ship models. In Ip Man, I feel every punch. I feel Ip Man’s rage as he overcomes the men who took away his livelihood. It is a great irony that, in pursuing the biggest, best, most impacting action sequences in cinematic history, these movies fail to connect with us on an emotional and physical level. The fact that Ip Man enables us to physically feel every punch is a testament to its brilliance. You know how they achieve this? We see real people fighting each other. We see them bloody, exhausted. In Guardians of the Galaxy, what do we get? I guess some of the characters have scratches sometimes. One of the characters drifts out into space and only gets a little cold without a helmet on (REALLY?) There are no consequences in the Marvel universe. There’s nothing at stake to care about because no one can die, and if they die, they’ll probably come back to life through deus ex machina or some macguffin like the Tesseract.

In Ip Man, I know that if the main character dies, it’s over. I’ve seen other people as skilled as him die. I’ve seen the Japanese kill people. I know this is serious. I’m rooting for him to win. The tension of his possible defeat is constantly hanging over me. It’s brilliant, it’s intense, it’s gripping. I sat down to watch for a couple minutes because I had homework to finish, and I ended up sitting through the whole thing because it intrigued me so much. If it had been another superhero movie–let’s be honest, I would have gone and done my homework. Same old, same old.

Yes, people will argue with me that Guardians of the Galaxy had character arcs and all that. I mean, they all come together in the end, right? To save the universe! They all stop hating each other! Yay! Happiness! A simple plot is not bad, but come on. It’s obvious that this plot’s sole purpose was to give Marvel Studios a platform for more one-liners and flashy action sequences. In the end, it never really means anything. Not necessarily bad in the minds of some people, but hey, each to his own.

It’s just not my cup of pointlessly-flashy battle scenes.

So yup. Time permitting, I will continue to update this blog with more stuff. If anyone is still out there, I hope you enjoy what I write! If you disagree with what I say, comment, PM me, DO ANYTHING. I like chatting about stuff.

In Christ,

Ryan

Is anyone out there?

Hey, everyone!

I understand it’s been quite some time since I posted something on this blog, and I’m not sure if anyone will ever read this. My senior year was incredibly busy, and I start a full-time landscaping job tomorrow. However, if anyone is still out there, I’d appreciate it if you would comment on this post. I’d like to start updating the blog again, but not if no one is going to read it!

In Christ,

Ryan

Hey, Everyone!

Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. If anyone still looks at this blog, by all means, please let me know. I would love to pick up on this and keep writing. 🙂

The Big Sophomoric Rush

So, remember when I committed myself to writing a blog post every week? Yeah. The post right beneath this one. Well, guess what? I FAILED. Miserably. But there is still hope.

Why? Because school is ALMOST OUT!

That means lots of extra time for writing, blogging, and musical composition, if I get around to it. I have to confess, this school year has been a terrible one for writing. The fact that it has also been my busiest year might also have something to do with it. 🙂 What with the high school play, Mock Trial, and a whole host of other classes and subjects, I’ve been constantly inundated with the demands of my academic career and of life in general. Thank the Lord for the coming break! Might get a few novels written this summer if I have a mind to do so.

How do I plan on getting that many novels done? Well, I certainly can’t do it on my own. I’ll need an incentive.

That’s where Camp NaNoWri Mo comes in. 🙂

The logo for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo takes place in June and August, and I plan on participating in both. That’s over 100,000 words of writing this summer! Think I can do it? Guess we’ll find out. 😀

I can honestly say that this has been THE busiest year of my life. In fact, it’s been so busy that I’ve decided to give it a name: I call it “the Big Sophomoric Rush.” Like it? It’s pretty much a comprehensive summary of my entire Sophomore Year. Yeah. Kind of brutal. But I’ll tell you one thing, EVERY SECOND of this year was worth it. When school is officially out, I’ll write another blog post about it. **foreshadowing**

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for a post this time. Just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t given up on this blog–I’ve only retired for a short time to keep up with my work! Almost done! Just 2 1/2 more weeks!

In Christ,

Ryan

When Life Gives You Lemons…

…you make lemonade. This is perhaps one of the most overused platitudes in the history of humanity.

Overused? Yes. Still true? Yes. Why do I bring it up? More on that below.

My life has been crazy lately. What with our school’s play, Mock Trial, Mock Trial, more Mock Trial, and a church retreat thrown in here and there, I haven’t had any time for writing blog posts. Even now, I still have plenty of things on my schedule, and will have to write this post quickly for fear that I won’t get all my work done. Crazy, eh? Yeah. I agree.

You’ll be happy to know, though, that I’m still hard at work with writing. I’m 5,000 words into another fantasy novel, In the Name of Barthen Dur, and intend to work on it some this weekend (when I have a paucity of free time). I plan on submitting a novel to a publisher this year based upon plans I’ve been perfecting for awhile now. Whether or not this will amount to anything is anyone’s guess, but I hope and pray that it will. It’s been one of my pipe-dreams for some time now to get a book published. Not that the content of this blog would give you any hint of that. 😛

One more update on my writing:

Sometimes, when I think about what happened at Thaellon, I get shivers down my spine. I remember the chaos, the screams of anguish, the corpses littering the battlefield, and I feel hot tears run down my face. They burn my cheeks. They taste bitter against my tongue, as bitter as the blood of those who died. I wince when I remember seeing my friends cut down by my enemies, all the color and life draining from their young faces. Seeing them, in the flower of youth, as withered and decayed as roses in autumn, made me a different man. One does not see such sights and walk away unchanged.

I opened my eyes and looked down at the stumps where my feet had been only hours before. The tears were streaming now. I closed my eyes and tried to forget everything, but found myself incapable of doing so. The images still flashed before me in a grotesque phantasmagoria, as uncontrollable and inconsistent as rasping sobs. I knew it. The memory of battle would throb in me forever like sorrowful weeping.

How could I go on?

I wrote this for a mini-contest on Facebook. How does this relate to life? Or lemons? In no way whatsoever. But that’s the beauty of it. Right?

But here’s what the post, as a whole, has to do with the sage maxim: Life has been throwing me lots of lemons. I’ve been making lemonade by the tons. And, unfortunately, blogging has suffered as a result. 🙂

HOWEVER, I intend to write at least one post every week for the rest of this year. Even if they’re short and pathetic. Even if they’re verbose but don’t really say anything. Even if I’m sick and want to sleep. Even if I tell myself, “No one wants to read your blog!” Even if any of these circumstances arise, I will write posts. I will update this blog. I will persevere.

I will make lemonade!

Camp NaNoWriMo – The Results

Success!

Admittably, I’ve been doing a terrible job of updating my blog on a consistent basis; rest assured, however, that my intention is to change this….

Now we’ll see if I actually do change it; in such a busy world, resolutions are difficult to pursue once made.

But I digress! To my utter relief, on August 31st, after writing 10,000 words in one day (my standing record), I completed a 50,000 word novel in a month. Needless to say, doing this has been one of the more exhausting things I’ve devoted my time to, but it’s been entirely worth it. I thank God that I have been blessed with such a wonderful opportunity!

There was one failure, though; I had determined, at the beginning of August, to only use one character throughout the entire novel. Though I initially kept up with this, I couldn’t persist; it was too difficult for me to write about a character’s thoughts and actions alone without any interaction with other characters. So, I DID add a few other characters; fortunately, though, I had significantly less than I usually do in a 50,000 word novel.

You might be asking, “Why did Ryan have to write 10,000 words in one day? Why did he spend an entire afternoon without food trying to finish something that no one would probably ever read? Why did he partake in a dying art? Why would he waste his time? Why? Why? Why?”

Lemony Snicket wrote an excellent NaNoWriMo pep-talk a few years back; its tone is decidedly pessimistic, but it gives you perspective on writing in general. The art that I’m practicing is an honorable and noble one that has been cherished for countless centuries; it is a true blessing to me, not only enabling me to use what I’ve learned (in history, literature, word-studies, etc.) in a practical way, but also giving me experience with a skill that I might very well earn my living with.

So, that’s the answer to why I even bother; because it’s a cherished thing. Because it is an old and venerated tradition. Because, in a world that is so busy and hectic, a little tranquility – sitting down to write a tale of love, good versus evil or political intrigue – can help one to truly “stop and smell the roses.” It’s something I love to do!

Thanks be to the Lord, Who allows us to do such wonderful things and blesses us with the gifts to do them!

In Christ,

Ryan

 

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo

I failed to mention in my previous post about NaNoWriMo that a second event – titled Camp NaNoWriMo – is coming up shortly in August. This write-athon is the same in every possible way to November’s NaNoWriMo, but, as November was the original competition, I see this August as more of a “practice run” for the following event. Needless to say, however, the torture will be the same as ever, trying to reach a goal of 50,000 words in one month.

The logo for Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, there is one difference – you have thirty-one days in camp to finish your novel. But I don’t count that as a differentiation between the two competitions.

So, I’m excited, and I’ve finally been given an idea. John Sawatazky ov, who will also be participating in Camp, has challenged me to write a survival novel. That is, a boy is stranded in the wilderness, and must fight for his very existence against nature and all the dangers it engenders. As an additional condition to completing his challenge, I must refrain from using ANY supporting characters – the main protagonist must be the only person in the entire story.

He did offer me the right to use ONE supporting character if I deemed it necessary, and I’ll probably cling to that as my one lifeline to get through this next month, but I’ll try to refrain from using it unless the circumstances necessitate it. Suffice it to say that it will be a challenge either way 🙂

As I see it, I now have two strikes going against me as I enter into August:

1. The novel will be a survival story, and I’ve never written one of its kind before. There will be a LOT of research involved as I discover what one must do to hunt properly, prepare meat, start fires, construct tools and shelters, and fight against bitter cold (provided that the story is set in winter). There will assuredly be more elements than these involved, but I offer them just to give you an idea of how difficult it will be.

2. NO SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. This will be the most difficult challenge for me, as I’ve never written stories with just one character before. How I will fill eighty to ninety pages with a boy’s thoughts and actions as he essays to survive in difficult circumstances is unknown to me at present 😀

BUT, I’m excited; perhaps more excited than I was last year. August will present plenty of arduous tasks for me to complete and a plethora of obstacles to surmount, but it will all serve to better me as a writer.

That, or it’ll crush me. I’ll leave up to you to conjecture which will occur 😀

God bless!

In Christ,

Ryan

NaNoWriMo 2011

Who knows why I put myself through this torture? I suppose it’s a kind of crucible that molds me into a seasoned writer; but it might also be construed as self-inflicted pain….

The National Novel Writing Month logo

You probably don’t understand a word I’m saying. Well, I’ll elucidate, of course; just have to get my thoughts into order before I begin.

NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month”, and is a November event where novelists all over the world write a novel (the criterion in this competition being fifty thousand words).  People from Africa, Europe, Australia, South America and the United States stretch their fingers over their keyboards

and set to writing masterpieces in a mere thirty days. Needless to say, this gives a participant an excellent sense of community, since you know that, everywhere else, people are suffering through writing 1,600 words a day just like you are….

I participated in this event last year and, with a lot of help from the Lord to get me up every morning at 6:30 to write, I managed to reach a novel one day before the deadline. Suffice it to say that I was VERY excited. It had been a long month, but it was all worth it in the end. I learned a great deal about writing itself, and about the rewards of persistence and dedication. Ecclesiastes 9:10a reads, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” I couldn’t agree more 🙂

But it’s hard. Getting up early every morning, sitting down, and writing 1,600 words can be a difficult goal to achieve, especially when you’re exhausted from the previous day’s labors. But with a little help from God, and the willingness to persist, anything is possible through Him who gives you strength 🙂

Wish me luck! If you happen to be interested in participating this year, drop by http://www.nanowrimo.org; they’ve got plenty of information on the particulars of the competition, some articles of encouragement to writers embarking on the torturous journey of making a novel in a month, and plenty of tips for those determined to get involved.

In Christ,

Ryan

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II

So. This was it. Today, my Harry Potter experience ended. Having read the books and seen all the previous movies, and this being the final film in the series, it was all about to end. I was nervous walking into the theater – excited, yet anxious, worried that they wouldn’t meet the many high expectations fans had as they took their seats.

But they did. They met every single one of them, and it couldn’t have been better.

So, what more can I say, except that this was an excellent film?

There are reasons, though, of course. This final installment is brimming with brilliant lessons and desirable virtues: Love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, and the price that sometimes must be paid to defeat evil. These, and many more, are the backbone of the entire series, and came to fruition in the end of it all. It’s one of those beautiful things that you can barely describe that touches hearts and resonates within deep resovoirs within ourselves. There is truth in it – in love and friendship, as there is in good’s ultimate triumph over evil.

But, accolades asside, I really wanted to address all the criticism Harry Potter has been receiving of late. The constant accusation I’ve been hearing is that, “It’s entirely un-Christian” and, “It defies the Bible” and, “It advocates witchcraft and the occult”, and I’ll be the first to tell you that this is not true at all. I’ll quote first Charles Colson, a columnist for Christianity Today, who says, ” [The magic in Harry Potter is] purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don’t make contact with a supernatural world. [It’s not] the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible condemns.”

In other words, the Bible is talking about the sort of magic that requires you make contact with demons, and derive your power from them. In Harry Potter, nothing of the sort happens. It is a fantasy magic, just like that which is present in The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. I’ll bring one instance forward from the latter; the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia. Many Christians like this series, and there’s plenty of magic in it, both good and evil. Aslan talks about the “deep magic” that governs the land, and it is presented as good, since it’s on Aslan’s side; there is also the evil magic which Trumpkin the Dwarf tries to use to resurrect the White Witch with the blood of a Son of Adam – something which, consequently, Voldemort happens to do in Harry Potter as well, and he is one of the users of “dark magic” as described in the book. It’s the SAME thing.

“Good magic” is supported in Narnia and Harry Potter alike. “Bad magic” is denounced and rejected in the same manner. The “good magic” and “bad magic”, as above discussed, are the same things in both of the series. So, wouldn’t a novel that condemns “bad magic” (Harry Potter, in this case), just like it is condemned in a Christian novel (The Chronicles of Narnia, for example), be a Christian novel? I certainly don’t see why not.

So, why dislike Harry Potter? Because it wasn’t written by a Christian? Well, that isn’t a good reason at all. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are good no matter who writes about it, and there’s plenty of all the Fruits of the Spirit in the Harry Potter series. And, J.K. Rowling was, in fact, raised in a Scottish Episcopalian church, and includes Bible verses in her final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. To be precise, “The last enemy that shall be conquered is death” and “Where your treasure lies, there will your heart be also”, both of which were inscribed as epitaphs on tombstones in the novel.

Another comparison I’ve seen used between real-world, demonic, un-Biblical magic, and fantasy magic is “invocational” versus “incantational”. Referencing wikipedia.org, John Granger, in his book Finding God in Harry Potter, puts it this way:

Wikipedia: “The American academic and Orthodox Christian writer John Granger has analyzed the literature in a positive light. Granger, a Christian classicist, has defended the books in his book, Looking for God in Harry Potter. Granger argues that the books do not promote the occult because none of the magic is based on summoning any sort of demon or spirit; he contrasts occult invocational magic (calling up spirit beings to do your bidding) with literature’s common incantational magic (saying a set phrase to use power from an unspecified source). Indeed, says Granger, the themes of love triumphing over death and choosing what is right instead of what is easy are very compatible with Christianity.”

And he’s right. The fact that the world has accepted these books – books that are filled with blatantly Christian elements: Love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty – should be a comfort to all of us! It’s a truly remarkable and beautiful series, and I don’t believe that J.K. Rowling should be referred to as one of Satan’s advocates on earth – or criticised by saying that her books bear the mark of the king of darkness – because she writes books about virtues which God clearly upholds in His Word.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Friendship in Harry Potter? Check. Sacrifice in Harry Potter? Check. Love in Harry Potter?

Check.

All excellent pure, right, lovely, and admirable, right? Well, all of them are in Harry Potter. If these really are Satanic books, how could LOVE be present, when God Himself is love? How could sacrifice be present, when Jesus was sacrificed to save us from our sins? How could friendship be present when the devil isn’t interested in a relationship, but our destruction and isolation from others?

So, I liked these movies, and will definitely watch them again, because they contain so many virtues that God Himself has declared to be good. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about them, though, as I am just one person in a war that has been raging over these stories since the first was written. I’m not going to make a difference. But I hope this makes you understand why I believe what I believe, and why so many Christians like this series: Love.

The most excellent way, right?

In Christ,

Ryan

 

 

Much Ado…

Hey everyone! In case you haven’t noticed, I have not blogged in awhile. This can be attributed to the wild circumstances in which I have been living for the past two weeks! What with Driver’s Ed, Driver’s Ed, Driver’s Ed and my church’s VBS, my time has been completely occupied by events other than blogging. I give my sincerest apologies to everyone, and hope that I will do better at maintaining a constant stream of posts in the near future. We will have to see what comes, though! I shan’t guarantee anything, since circumstances change so quickly.

Driver’s Ed has been the biggest culprit in depriving me of my opportunities to write. In the wee hours of the morning, I read it. From 10:00 AM-1:00 PM, I am taught it. From 1:00-4:00 – and other times – I drive it. From 9:00 PM-11:00 PM, I read it some more. And it’s been this way for two whole weeks, without end.

Don’t construe this wrongly, though! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a great deal of things about the art of driving. It’s drained me, though, and I’ve had next to nothing in terms of energy this past week. This morning was the first morning this week that I’ve been able to sleep in!

Couple that with my church’s VBS, and you have one tired fifteen year old who needs a cup of ice water and a bed to lie down on for twelve hours…

But, now that this ado has passed, I can finally rest. I have not for one moment, though, regretted one day of the past two weeks. It was all good for me, and I enjoyed it. But, being a human, and being tusly limited by my physicality, I still need an extra few hours of sleep now and again. So, good night to you all!

In Christ,
Ryan

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