Shows

Show Review: Sherlock Season 2 (Spoiler-Free)

Sherlock and Moriarty are 'absolutely obsessed with each other', confirms  Andrew Scott | The Independent | The Independent

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Intro

After watching the first season of Sherlock, I was super excited to dive in to Season 2. Below I share my impression of the season as a whole. As it is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

Background

Sherlock Season 2 aired in 2012 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, Andrew Scott, and Lara Pulver.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Summary

By this time, Watson and Sherlock have been living together in a flat for some time, solving mysteries and generally getting better acquainted. We last saw them in Season 1 when Moriarty was threatening their lives.

In this season, Sherlock and Watson face off against Moriarty and also have to contend with the dominatrix Irene Adler.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Strong character development
  • Benefit of a familiar character with a new spin
  • Intriguing new character this season
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Engaging plot
  • Carefully chosen camera angles
  • Introduction of the mind palace
  • Catchy theme song

Cons

  • Nudity
  • Over-the-top drama when Sherlock is thinking deeply (in his “mind palace”)

Review

Acting

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was incredible. They both played their parts well.

All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized. This season, for the first time, we see Sherlock take a vague interest in a woman, and we see him exhibit actual fear. Cumberbatch was highly skilled at demonstrating both.

Setting

Sherlock Holmes - Wikiwand
Sherlock and Watson’s flat in Sherlock

The setting in Season 2 is the same as Season 1, unsurprisingly. The presence of modern conveniences such as security cameras and phones remains a way for this new Sherlock to test his intellect. This transition from the Victorian London of the books to modern-day London is seamless.

Characters

Sherlock is a highly intelligent man who lacks empathy. He is nevertheless shown on several occasions to have at least some degree of care depending on who the person is. He is always blunt, but occasionally shows remorse for his words when they have caused damage.

This quote reveals just how blunt he can be.

You repel me.”

Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock

It is demonstrated in this season that he cannot always reign in his emotions, even though he considers them “a grit on the lens.”

He shows emotions he has not shown before as he meets new challenges. These emotions expand on his character rather than contradicting it.

It was more than that, John. It was doubt. I felt doubt. I’ve always been able to trust my senses, the evidence of my own eyes, until last night.”

Watson is of higher-than-average intelligence, but he cannot compete with Sherlock. Watson, however, has a deep sense of empathy and values human life while wanting to negate human suffering. He has a high tolerance for Sherlock, but even he loses his temper sometimes at Sherlock’s careless comments and ill-timed deductions.

The relationship between Sherlock and Watson gets closer in this season (although there is a fair share of tension and squabbles). Sherlock even attempts humor to “break the ice.” Watson responds with:

Funny doesn’t suit you. I’d stick to ice.”

Watson to Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
Irene Adler (BBC series) | Villains Wiki | Fandom

Irene Adler is the new character added to the mix, a dominatrix. She is intelligent enough to banter well with Sherlock, and provoking enough to make Watson uncomfortable.

The thing that is the most fun about Irene Adler is the way Sherlock reacts to her. Between her and Moriarty, Sherlock has some well-matched antagonists.

My favorite line of hers is this:

You know what the problem with a disguise is, Mr. Holmes? No matter how hard you try, it’s always a self-portrait.”

Irene Adler in Sherlock
Sherlock's Andrew Scott: fans asked me every day whether Moriarty would  return

Moriarty is undeniably intelligent and his schemes are both elaborate and effective. He’s a good villain – creepy, bizarre, and insane.

Script

The script is clever, deepening the relationship between the characters and creating many funny moments. Just one of the many examples of humor in the text is when Sherlock asked Watson to punch him. When Watson seemed confused, Sherlock asked if he heard correctly. Then, Watson said this:

I always hear ‘punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but it’s usually sub-text.”

John Watson in Sherlock

Plot

Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that if you liked the plot of Season 1, you will like Season 2 as well. The episode I found most interesting in terms of plot was The Hounds of Baskerville.

Camera Angles

The camera angles chosen at various times during the episodes added to the drama. For instance, the camera was jostled to simulate running in one of the episodes.

Mind Palace

Season 2 introduces the concept of a mind palace, a memory technique that mentally connects information to an imagined physical location. It is a testament to Sherlock’s ego that he calls his imagined location a palace rather than a house or street or even a mansion.

While on the topic of his mind palace, I should mention that Sherlock does some really dramatic motions while he’s thinking of it. Fly-swatting, phone-swiping, head-jolting sorts of motions. It’s all very dramatic and unlike him to be that expressive.

Nudity

There was a scene with nudity in it. I do not think that it was a wise choice on the part of the directors. Having that scene reduces the size of the potential audience while catering to the whims of a small percentage of their audience. Before and after that episode it really doesn’t seem like that kind of show.

That being said, there were some conveniently placed items of furniture and people that limited how much one could really see of the nude person, so I do not feel like it was a major con.

Conclusion

This show really deserves it’s rating of 9.8 out of 10. Although I admit I liked Season 1 best, this season was so good that I would certainly recommend it, and would gladly watch it again.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate things, check out my rating system.

Links

For my review of Season 1, click here.

Shows

My Rating System for Shows

Stars,metal,hotel,nature
Stars,metal,hotel,nature

I figured it was about time to share the reasoning behind my ratings – after all, just a number of stars seems pretty arbitrary. So if you are interested in how I come to my decisions, this is the article for you.

Without further ado…

1 star – A rating reserved for one of the worst shows on the planet. I wouldn’t watch it again if you paid me. I could barely get through it. There are no pros and I would not recommend it for any audience.

2 stars– The show was really bad, but has an insignificant pro or two. I would not watch it again unless I was paid a hefty sum as compensation. It may be appealing to an extremely limited audience, but nevertheless is terrible in quality.

3 stars The show was bad, but it could conceivably be worse. It may have a handful of minor pros. I would not watch it again unless you paid me a decent amount as compensation. It may be appealing to a limited audience, but it is low quality.

4 stars– The show was not good, but it has a few pros. It may be worth watching again just to laugh at how bad it is. At the very least it’s not super cringey or unbearable. Some people probably would find it at least interesting, even if it could not really be called good. The quality is not very good.

5 stars– The show was average. It has enough pros to make it look appealing, at least from the outset, but it doesn’t satisfy. Nothing makes it stand out in a bad or good way. You could maybe convince me to watch it again, but it would take a lot of persuading and I would at least need popcorn as compensation. Some people probably would like this movie, but I at least found it lackluster.

6 stars The show was slightly better than average. It has its cons, but also comes equipped with several redeeming features. I’d rather not watch it again, but if you insist… There is probably a decent-sized audience for this movie, including a handful of people who will fight you to the death if you say anything bad about it.

7 stars This was a good show. It had several cons, but it makes up for it with pros. I would watch it again, but probably not for a few years. There is either a large possible audience or it is very appealing to a smallish audience.

8 stars This was a great show. It probably had a couple of cons, but more than made up for it in pros. I would watch it again in a year or so. There is either a large possible audience or it fits into its particular niche extremely well.

9 stars This is an awesome show. It maybe had one con, but who cares?! It was so worth it. I would watch it again in a few months if you asked. The movie is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche almost perfectly.

10 stars This is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. There were no cons that I could think of. I would watch it again next week if you asked me. Or possibly even if you didn’t. The movie is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche perfectly.

Movies

Movie Review: Enola Holmes (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (2020) - IMDb

Movie: Enola Holmes (2020)

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I found out that there was a movie about the teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, I was skeptical about it. How would it compare to other renderings of the Holmes family?

The answer: it doesn’t. While entertaining enough to be fun watching once, it failed to measure up. Read on to find out why.

Background

Enola Holmes was released in 2020 as a Netflix original. It is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer.

The film stars Millie Bobbie Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, and Louis Partridge.

Summary

Enola Holmes' Trailer: Millie Bobby Brown Is Sherlock Holmes' Sister |  IndieWire
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The plot revolves around 16-year-old Enola Holmes, whose mother goes missing. When she becomes the ward of her brother Mycroft and he tries to force her into an oppressive finishing school, she escapes and concocts a plan to find her lost mother.

She stumbles across the missing Viscount Tewkesbury and becomes immersed in two mysteries: Who is it that is trying to have Tewkesbury killed? And where is her mother?

The movie Enola Holmes is both a mystery movie and a story of self-discovery.

Pros

  • Unique take on the Holmes family
  • Creative pop-up book illustrations
  • Costumes interesting, had a lot of thought behind them
  • Enola had a fascinating childhood
  • Enola is good at cracking codes, self-defense, hiding/disguises, memory
  • Will likely be appealing to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls

Cons

  • Constant breaking of the fourth wall
  • Henry Cavill is a terrible Sherlock
  • Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter
  • This is definitely not going to satisfy Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Enola is not much of a mystery solver

Review

Concept

It is safe to say that movies and shows about Sherlock Holmes are overdone. But ones that focus on his family? Not so much.

This is not Sherlock’s story; it is 100% Enola’s story. The name Holmes is important in the title because of the legacy it carries of mystery, ingenuity, and creativity – not because Sherlock is a significant character.

This is a new take on the Holmes’ family – one that has not been overdone, and one that could create a worthwhile series of its own.

Pop-up Art

The choice to include pop-up animations to introduce the family was creative. These were also used throughout the film, along with journalistic illustrations that made the movie feel like Enola’s personal diary.

Costumes

Netflix's 'Enola Holmes' Quotes to Use as Instagram Captions
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The costumes were designed by Oscar-nominated Consolata Boyle. According to Boyle, Enola’s red dress was chosen to represent courage. She also utilized ivory, as it is a color associated with the suffragette movement. Each costume was carefully chosen. To learn more, check out this article

Characters

Enola Holmes is a likeable character with many skills. She is good at cracking codes, self-defense, and disguises. Her memory for details is impeccable. Her courage and generosity is also notable.

Enola is not much of a mystery solver, however. She did not solve either mystery mentally, but instead by courageous action and being where the action was happening.

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Sherlock is an ineffective character primarily because it seems like the actor is trying to be two things at once: the friendly, compassionate big brother and the emotionally detached detective. For instance, Sherlock says:

You’re being emotional. That’s understandable, but unnecessary.”

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Yet he is so emotional that, according to Screenrant, Netflix was sued by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who claimed that this emotional Sherlock was based off Sherlock stories still under copyright.

Sam Claflin interview - Millie Bobby Brown is a "powerhouse"
Mycroft from Enola Holmes

Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter who continuously fails in his attempts to control Enola. He has no redeeming qualities.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

I know this is a legitimate storytelling technique, but it was excessive in this movie. It strained one’s suspension of belief to the breaking point. Enola looks at the camera all the time, reminding viewers over and over that this is just a movie and that it’s all fake.

If you are looking for the escapist qualities of a good film, you won’t find them here. The constant reminder of the camera’s presence ruins any chance of the sort of realism that allows one to be absorbed in a story.

Conclusion

I gave this movie a 6.8 because it was better than the average movie. However, I would not be interested in watching it again.

While this movie is not for everyone, it is likely to appeal to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls.

Sherlock fans are likely to be disappointed. If you go into the movie without comparing it to other media that depict the Holmes family, you’ll be better off.

My Rating System

If you want to know how I rate movies, check out my rating system for movies.

Movies

My Rating System for Movies

Stars,metal,hotel,nature
Stars,metal,hotel,nature

I figured it was about time to share the reasoning behind my ratings – after all, just a number of stars seems pretty arbitrary. So if you are interested in how I come to my decisions, this is the article for you.

Without further ado…

1 star – A rating reserved for one of the worst movies on the planet. I wouldn’t watch it again if you paid me. I could barely get through it. There are no pros and I would not recommend it for any audience.

2 stars – The movie was really bad, but has an insignificant pro or two. I would not watch it again unless I was paid a hefty sum as compensation. It may be appealing to an extremely limited audience, but nevertheless is terrible in quality.

3 stars The movie was bad, but it could conceivably be worse. It may have a handful of minor pros. I would not watch it again unless you paid me a decent amount as compensation. It may be appealing to a limited audience, but it is low quality.

4 stars – The movie was not good, but it has a few pros. It may be worth watching again just to laugh at how bad it is. At the very least it’s not super cringey or unbearable. Some people probably would find it at least interesting, even if it could not really be called good. The quality is not very good.

5 stars – The movie was average. It has enough pros to make it look appealing, at least from the outset, but it doesn’t satisfy. Nothing makes it stand out in a bad or good way. You could maybe convince me to watch it again, but it would take a lot of persuading and I would at least need popcorn as compensation. Some people probably would like this movie, but I at least found it lackluster.

6 stars The movie was slightly better than average. It has its cons, but also comes equipped with several redeeming features. I’d rather not watch it again, but if you insist… There is probably a decent-sized audience for this movie, including a handful of people who will fight you to the death if you say anything bad about it.

7 stars This was a good movie. It had several cons, but it makes up for it with pros. I would watch it again, but probably not for a few years. There is either a large possible audience or it is very appealing to a smallish audience.

8 stars This was a great movie. It probably had a couple of cons, but more than made up for it in pros. I would watch it again in a year or so. There is either a large possible audience or it fits into its particular niche extremely well.

9 stars This is an awesome movie. It maybe had one con, but who cares?! It was so worth it. I would watch it again in a few months if you asked. The movie is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche almost perfectly.

10 stars This is one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. There were no cons that I could think of. I would watch it again next week if you asked me. Or possibly even if you didn’t. The movie is accessible to a wide audience or it fits into its particular niche perfectly.

Shows

Show Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Avatar- The Last Airbender Book 1 DVD.jpg

Show: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1 (2005)

Rating: 9.9 out of 10 stars

Intro

This show is basically my childhood. I have watched it at least five times by now. Since it was added to Netflix, that just gives me another excuse to re-re-re-re-re-watch it.

Recently, I introduced it to my roommate, and we are moving through it at around four or five episodes per week.

Every time a new character would show up on the show, I would say something like, “That’s one of my favorite characters, by the way.”

I ended up saying that for pretty much all of the characters.

Like with my other show reviews, I will start by giving some background and then listing the pros and cons. As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

Background

Avatar: The Last Airbender was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The head writer was Aaron Ehasz. The genres it straddles include Fantasy, Action, Adventure, and Comedy.

The show won five Annie Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Genesis Award, a Peabody Award and a Kid’s Choice Award.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons. It draws from Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan culture.

Summary

The world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is made up of four nations which each are focused around a different element: water, earth, fire, and air. Each of these nations is made up of those who can “bend” (control) one of the elements.

Map from the series
The Four Nations from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The current Avatar, Aang, must master all four elements in order to stop a war that has been going on for a hundred years. The war was launched by the Fire Nation, which is bent on world domination.

Real-World Influences of Avatar Part 2: The Water Tribes - The More You  Know post - Imgur
Katara and Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender

With the help of his friends Katara and Sokka, in Season 1 Aang seeks to master waterbending by traveling to the North Pole to find a waterbending teacher. Along the way, Katara is able to teach him basic waterbending and the team goes on various adventures.

Pros

  • Powerful character depth and development
  • Creative system of elements
  • Developed fictional cultures based on authentic cultures
  • Diversity
  • Animals are creative mixes of various creatures
  • Balance of humor and tension, comedy and tragedy
  • Smart musical choices to create humor and tension
  • Range of expressions of characters
  • Entertaining for child and adult audience
  • Explores themes rarely touched upon by children’s shows
  • Intro orients the viewer to the story and is accessible to new viewers

Cons

  • Pacing is a bit slow

Review

Well-developed Characters

Avatar: The Last Airbender's first season is a rocky because it was  groundbreaking
Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The characters are the best part of the whole show. I have so many favorites it is ridiculous. Usually for a show I have an obvious favorite. This one, not so much.

The main characters Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko are well-developed. So is Iroh, even though I would not call him a main character.

Aang is the last of the airbenders. He is a childish monk who nonetheless has his moments of insight and an adult-like sense of responsibility. Being raised by monks, there is an expectation that he will be simple, good, and somewhat detached from his emotions (since this is based off of Tibetan monks).

Sometimes he is. But there are definitely times he defies being categorized in this way. His typical humility is occasionally overtaken by pride. His ability to maintain calm is defeated by conflicting emotions such as love, anger, sorrow, and guilt. He is a character who loves to have fun but knows how to be serious.

Avatar: The Last Airbender" Unpopular Opinions
Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Katara is a waterbender from the South Pole. She is less childish than Aang. After the loss of her mother to the Fire Nation and after her father left to fight in the war, she was forced to assume more responsibility. This leads her to adopt an almost motherly role toward the other members of their small band.

She is generally calm, but bristles at all things sexist. She is determined, brave, and sincere.

How Old Are "Avatar: The Last Airbender Characters" Katara, Zuko and Sokka  - Avatar The Last Airbender Character Ages
Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Sokka is Katara’s older brother. After losing his mother to the Fire Nation and after his father went off to war, he was left as the only “man” in the village. He had to assume at least as much responsibility as Katara.

Other than that, he’s basically the boomerang, meat, and sarcasm guy…he said so himself.

Well, that isn’t completely true. He’s a lot more complex than that. He is hard and cynical compared to the others, but he certainly has a soft side.

He’s intelligent, and is constantly thinking of ideas to help the team one-up their adversaries. He has the qualities of a leader.

Sokka is not a bender, but that never made me think he was any less valuable to the team than the others. His ingenuity and smart-alecky comments make him irreplacable.

Avatar: The Last Airbender": I'm Still Not Over Zuko's Redemption Arc
Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Zuko may be the most complex character.

He values his honor, which he lost when he was banished from the Fire Nation by his father, Firelord Ozai. The only way to restore himself to his rightful place as prince of the Fire Nation is to capture the Avatar.

He has a massive temper that flares up (literally) every time they hit an obstacle. Nevertheless, he is a clever and dastardly villain. Despite his status as the major antagonist of Season 1 and as a teenager in exile, he shows that he is honorable through his actions.

He is a sympathetic bad guy with a whole lot of backstory. This is no one-dimensional villain. There are scenes that will have you rooting for him as much as you would for the good guys.

Iroh | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Iroh is the uncle of Zuko, and he is filled with wisdom and love for his nephew. He is a major source of humor for Season 1.

Iroh is somewhat disgraced himself due to a military loss at Ba Sing Se. However, he is not in exile like Zuko – he travels with him by choice and not necessity.

He offers Zuko both practical advice and proverbial wisdom, and is pretty much a father figure.

Bending system

The elements of water, earth, fire, and air are controlled by movements mimicking Chinese martial arts. Because they are modeled off of different forms of martial arts, the bending looks authentic.

If the martial arts did not look natural and go along well with the bending itself, it would have been laughable – for example, as in the horribly made film for Avatar: The Last Airbender, where a group of earth benders did an elaborate series of movements to lift a single small boulder.

But here, it is done well. The martial arts and the element the characters are bending become one and the movements look natural. Waterbending is graceful, earthbending is formidable, firebending is fierce, and airbending is elusive.

The variety of techniques that can be used within a single element mean that battles are never boring. Benders like Aang and Katara continually find new and creative ways to use their bending.

Because the bending system is limited to four elements it makes it easy for an audience to know what to expect and yet to be continually surprised. Nothing feels overly convenient. There are no major plot-saving changes to the system to make it feel fake or incomplete.

Cultures of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Southern Water Tribe | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Southern Water Tribe from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The first glimpse we get of a community in the show is the Southern Water Tribe, which is a vestige of what it was before the war. It is basically a close-knit little village of women, children, and Sokka.

Their culture is based on Inuit culture and they live in buildings made of cloth or snow. The clothing that they wear is unique to the Water Tribes, and Katara wears a carved betrothal necklace passed down from her mother.

Since they only have one waterbender remaining in the village, the culture is no longer based around waterbending.

The Southern Air Temple | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Southern Air Temple from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The Southern Air Temple is not what it used to be. The Fire Nation has invaded and no airbenders remain. That is no spoiler. It’s literally in the title of the show: Aang is the last airbender.

It’s clear from flashbacks in Season 1 that the Southern Air Temple once was a vibrant place filled with Air Nomads who lived their lives in peace. They lived among six-legged flying bisons and flying lemurs.

They also had their own games, evidenced by the court set up where Aang and Sokka play an airbending game.

The Northern Air Temple | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Northern Air Temple from Avatar: The Last Airbender

To avoid spoiling anything, I won’t tell you about the Northern Air Temple. It is enough to say that it is nothing like Aang expected, and that it provides more glimpses into the culture of the Air Nomads.

Fire Nation colonial village | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Fire Nation Colony from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The one instance that we get a real sense for Fire Nation culture is in a colony in the Earth Kingdom, where the Fire Days Festival is taking place. We get an idea for the forms of entertainment that are a part of their special celebrations, such as an entertainer who plays like a stage magician/performer using firebending.

Furthermore, food such as flaming fire cakes are part of the festivities, as well as fireworks.

We also see a puppet show of the Firelord against his enemies, telling the children the story of their nation. This is subtle indoctrination – but every nation has its heroes and the stories a nation tells usually cast it in a positive light.

More and more, we see that the Fire Nation citizens are fiercely patriotic.

Omashu | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Omashu from Avatar: The Last Airbender

The biggest Earth Kingdom city we see in Season 1 is Omashu. It has a culture built around earthbending. To get inside the walls, one is interrogated by Earth Kingdom soldiers, who must then physically open the walls with earthbending.

Aang says that a hundred years ago, the people of Omashu were the friendliest in the world, but now the kids see that the war has changed the people to be more suspicious of outsiders.

The most distinctive feature of Omashu is the elaborate postal system run by earthbending. It is only surpassed in entertainment value by the eccentric Earth King who lives there.

Northern Water Tribe | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Northern Water Tribe from Avatar: The Last Airbender

I won’t say too much about the Northern Water Tribe to avoid spoilers. It is different from the Southern Water Tribe in terms of sheer size, form of government, its focus around waterbending, and the roles of men and women.

Diversity

Avatar: The Last Airbender has cultures based on various real-life cultures. Unlike in some shows, it mimics these cultures while honoring them and without making caricatures of them.

Katara and Sokka have light brown skin, so there is some diversity in skin color as well.

Animal Life

Appa | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Appa is a six-legged flying bison. Yeah, you don’t get more creative than that.

The Animals Of The World Of Avatar Part 1 | Avatar tattoo, Avatar  airbender, The last avatar
Momo from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Momo is a flying lemur that the kids adopt. Not as creative, but kind of cute.

Otter penguin | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Otter Penguins from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Otter Penguins are cute, and apparently you can use them as sleds!

Elephant koi | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
Elephant Koi from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Unagi | Avatar Wiki | Fandom
The Unagi from Avatar: The Last Airbender

Stay tuned for more interesting animals when I review Seasons 2 and 3!

Balance

Humor and tragedy are well-balanced in this show. Sokka and Iroh are major sources of humor. Zuko’s story, the loss of Katara and Sokka’s mother, and the genocide of the Air Nomads balance out the humor with a more serious tone.

Music adds to the humor at some times, and adds to the tension at others. It isn’t like the show has phenomenal musical scores – it doesn’t, not even in the intro. But it uses music that supports the story and does it well.

The range of expressions on the characters’ faces also adds to the comedy. Sometimes they are realistic, but occasionally they are way over the top.

The balance of humor with mature themes (war, genocide, imperialism, colonialism) makes this show appropriate for children yet entertaining for adults – the perfect balance.

Intro

The intro neatly explains the system of elements, explains about the war, and introduces the Avatar all in about thirty seconds. It is followed by a “Previously on Avatar” montage that concisely gives more background.

This is good for two reasons. Viewers who watch episodes with large spaces of time between get a reminder of what is going on and the stakes. And new viewers who may have missed the first few episodes get a sense for where the show has been and where it is going.

It’s a smart choice on the part of the directors.

Pacing

My only con for the show is that some viewers may be put off by the pacing. The characters go on a ton of side adventures before they reach their destination. While that’s fun to watch, I am sure it will make some viewers impatient. Hang in there…it’s worth it.

This is only a minor con because these excursions provide further opportunity for character development.

Conclusion

Anyway…this review was mostly me saying everything that is awesome about this show and why you should watch it. Because you should.

If you’re a writer, you should watch it because it is an example of good storytelling and great character development.

If you love comedy, watch it because it is funny.

If you are into anime, watch it because it is either the best example of American anime or an amazing anime-inspired cartoon, depending on your point of view. (Whether it is an anime or not is controversial.)

If you just love a good story, watch it.

Shows

Show Review: Sherlock Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Show: Sherlock, Season 1 (2010)

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

Although I have written movie and book reviews, this is my first show review. I am thrilled to be able to share with you my reaction to and rating of Sherlock Season 1.

As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.

Background

Sherlock Season 1 aired in 2010 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.

The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, and Andrew Scott.

In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Pros

  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
  • Strong character development
  • Benefit of a familiar character with a new spin
  • Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
  • Intriguing titles
  • Engaging plot
  • Catchy theme song

Cons

  • I could not think of any specific cons for this season.

Review

The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was incredible. They both played their parts well. All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized.

The setting is more relevant to a modern-day audience than Victorian London and allows for a unique spin on a Sherlock Holmes story. The presence of modern conveniences such as security cameras and phones creates a new playing field for a new Sherlock to test his intellect.

The main characters are highly developed.

Sherlock is a highly intelligent man who lacks empathy. He is nevertheless shown on several occasions to have at least some degree of care depending on who the person is. He is blunt, but occasionally shows remorse for his words when they have caused damage. He diagnoses himself as a sociopath, which is shown by this comment:

I’m not a psychopath, Anderson. I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”

Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock

Ironically, he is not actually a psychopath or a sociopath, which is argued very strongly in this article by psychologist Maria Konnikova. One line of reasoning used in the article is that he is not actually devoid of empathy, shown by his treatment of Watson and Mrs. Hudson on numerous occasions. Another point is that he does feel emotions and that his calculated coldness is learned rather than innate. Konnikova makes several other valid points, so I would recommend her article.

Watson also seems to be of higher-than-average intelligence, but he cannot compete with Sherlock. Watson, however, has a deep sense of empathy and values human life while wanting to negate human suffering. He has his own dark side, however, and when Sherlock asks him if he wants to see more death, he says:

Oh, God, yes.”

John Watson in Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is a familiar character, which means that the directors of this show have to find a way to embrace the old while creating a new take on Sherlock. They have done this masterfully.

The first time we see Sherlock, he is viciously beating a corpse with a whip. That seems contrary to his character: the cold, intelligent type. But it isn’t. It’s a new take on his character. By emphasizing his lack of empathy at the beginning, the directors make his character more ambiguous.

Is Sherlock good or bad? Well, he’s both, just like any other human being. He has his negative and positive qualities, and by showing his negative qualities first, the directors introduced the possibility of a bad or morally ambiguous character.

It is a way of generating curiosity and analysis. Viewers get to know the harder parts of Sherlock and then have to decide if that is somewhat made up for by his better qualities.

This makes Sherlock so much more than the intelligent “consulting detective.”

The script is often comical and further develops the characters. When Sherlock asks Molly about her lipstick and Anderson about how long his wife has been away, this reveals both his lack of tact and the ingenuity of the script that made that apparent.

The titles of the episodes are intriguing. For instance, a quick search of “A Study in Pink” finds that it is an echo of the first Sherlock Holmes book written by Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. It is also a strange title because of the associations people have with the color pink: for example, happiness, peppiness, even superficiality. It stands out from the darker atmosphere of Sherlock. It is also interesting to note that this becomes the name of Watson’s blog article.

The plot is engaging and kept me watching carefully. It is always fun to try to deduce how Sherlock has come to his conclusions before he condescends to explain it. The first episode, “A Study in Pink,” is solving the case of serial suicides, which I thought was creative.

Conclusion

I would rate this show 10 out of 10 stars. It was so good that I failed to find any cons.

Have you watched it yourself? Or do you intend to? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Shows

The Worst Episode of The Flash I’ve Ever Watched

The CW's 'The Flash' is back: Here's what to expect – Film Daily

Warning: Spoilers!!!

During my first couple of years at college, my roommate and I would reward ourselves for getting homework done with occasional episodes of the Flash.

Season 1 was a strong start, Season 2 was simultaneously repetitive and bizarre, and we never made it further than a couple of episodes into Season 3.

Anyway, somehow my roommate and I decided we would be more motivated if for every 20 minutes of homework, we could watch 5 minutes of a show.

Yeah, that was a terrible idea. We would pause the show in the middle of fight sequences, sad scenes, and at all the wrong times. Despite that, the habit stuck for awhile.

It made the worst episode of The Flash I have ever watched take FOREVER.

So, what was the worst episode? The one that had us looking forward more to the 20 minutes of homework than the 5 minute break?

It’s called “The Runaway Dinosaur.”

What’s funny is this same episode that my roommate and I hated is celebrated on several sites as one of the best episodes of the season. I honestly cannot understand why.

I mean, it was bad enough that I even remembered the name of the episode for more than a year. I never remember the names of episodes.

(One more warning: spoilers ahead!)

The Flash Recap With Spoilers: The Runaway Dinosaur
The book “The Runaway Dinosaur” from The Flash

Here’s some context for the episode: When Zoom threatens Wally, Barry Allen (The Flash) gives up his powers to save him. Later, Dr. Wells sets off a particle accelerator to try to bring back Barry Allen’s powers.

Does Barry get his powers back? Nope. He essentially explodes out of existence. Oops!

The Actual Episode:

The episode starts out with them all in shock, because Barry was supposed to be all speedy again, and instead they think they killed him.

Then they all find out that Jesse and Wally were knocked out. To make matters worse, Jesse’s heart has stopped beating.

Wally is woken up almost immediately by Iris and Joe, who are relieved and act as if nothing at all is wrong with Jesse. Dr. Wells is distraught and pretty much freaking out. Joe and Iris offer no assistance to Wells, and when Jesse starts breathing again, they do not show any sign of caring.

When they get back into the room where Barry poofed out of existence, Joe asks Barry’s father to go take care of Jesse. With no sign of haste on either of their parts, Jesse eventually gets help. (About time!)

Then Cisco uses his Vibe powers when touching the suit to locate Barry, who is apparently in a vortex of zappy energy.

Barry wakes up in his bed in his childhood home. He catches a glimpse of the book the episode is named for – The Runaway Dinosaur.

He goes downstairs and sees Joe. Except – here’s the catch – it’s not Joe. It’s the speed force in human form. Why? Well, because…

We thought you would be more comfortable talking to someone who looked familiar in a place you knew.”

From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”

Yeah, because that would make anyone comfortable. Having the literal force of speed manifest in the body of a loved one. That’s not creepy at all…

To further explain, Mr. Speed Force Joe says that “we” (the speed force) have been around since the beginning and will be around until the heat death of the universe.

Barry says, “That’s trippy.”

And Mr. Speed Force Joe says what no one would ever think the force of speed would say if it could talk.

We pretty much invented trippy here.”

From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”

Where even is here? Why did using a particle accelerator on Barry trap him in the force of speed? Why is speed itself a pluralistic being?

To make it even better, he can’t go home until he catches this quickly moving silhouette that zips around. So poor Barry chases it around for awhile. This seems like the speed force’s way of torturing Barry.

Meanwhile, back at STAR labs, Cisco and Iris go to the building’s morgue, where they are apparently still keeping all the bodies of dead meta-humans. They are looking for records that might help Jesse. They also find zombie-Tony, who was apparently woken up by the particle accelerator.

Instead of acting scared like any normal person, Cisco sounds more annoyed.

A zombie? For real?”

From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”

Then, it’s back to Barry. He asks the speed force why he was given his powers.

Because you’re the Flash, Barry.”

From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”

Now, that just seems like circular reasoning. Why was he made the Flash? Well, because he is the Flash. See how that really isn’t an answer?

I don’t know why I expected the physical manifestation of speed to be more logical, but I did.

Then back to Cisco and Dr. Wells, who have figured out how to reach Barry through a “simple feedback loop.” Wells explains matter-of-factly that this means he will need to zap Cisco while he is vibing, and then they can separate Barry from speed itself.

Did that explanation make your head hurt? Well, apparently none of us are as smart as Dr. Wells, because it makes perfect sense in his mind.

At the same time, Iris and Joe find out the zombie-Tony has a major crush on Iris that even death hasn’t stifled. So, of course they decide to use Iris as bait. True, she’s all for it, but it’s still disturbing.

After the speed force takes Barry to his mother’s grave, and he runs off, he finds himself back home. There, he is confronted by the speed force again, in the shape of his mother.

Then it gets weirder. Speed Force Mom kisses him on the forehead and reads him a children’s book that his actual mother, Nora Allen, used to read him when he was younger.

It’s called The Runaway Dinosaur. The dinosaur in it feels like there is nothing special about being a Maiasaur and wants to be a different kind of dinosaur. The book boasts cutesy lines such as this:

But if you were a T-Rex,” said his mother, “how would you hug me with your tiny little arms?”

From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”

That’s cute and all, but the book has nothing to do with running away. Why is it even called The Runaway Dinosaur? Is it supposed to be figurative? Like, he’s “running” away from his identity? Well, okay, but this is a board book, which means it’s mostly for kiddos 3 years and younger. How are they supposed to pick up on that?

Then he catches the silhouette, which happens to be himself, and gets his powers back. Cisco and Iris try to reach him again, because zombie-Tony is literally trying to break down the door to get Iris and they need Barry to save them.

Iris calls Barry home and Barry deals with zombie-Tony by running in circles around him. Dr. Wells slaps a sci-fi explanation on that and voila! Zombie-Tony goes back to sleep.

The Flash is then able to revive Jesse because of the speed force, which apparently also can do miracle healings.

The episode ends with the Flash making all sorts of new revelations about fate and his relationship with Iris.

So, what happened here?

My guess is they wanted Barry to go through something as powerful as a religious experience, but with secular vibes. So they had the speed force play God and attach meaning to everything. Because this pseudo-religious experience was just an assortment of false experiences with his fake loved-ones, it came across as empty and absurd.

Also, it was a way for Barry to face his emotions and the loss of his mother. I just don’t think getting a bedtime story from Speed Force Mom was the right way to heal that trauma.

Did you watch this episode? Do you feel like it was terrible, great, or just alright? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Books

Book Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny: Still Life | D.K. Wall

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to leave a comment.

Background

Quick facts about Louise Penny:

  • She is a Canadian author who lives near Montreal.
  • Her husband of 22 years inspired her to write the character of Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector in her novels.
  • She was in her 40s when her first book was published.
  • You can learn more at her website.

Still Life is Penny’s fascinating debut. The story is set in Three Pines, where the elderly Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound. Most suspect that this is simply a tragic hunting accident, but Chief Inspector Gamache suspects it is murder.

Pros

  • Strong sense of setting
  • Rich character development
  • Suspenseful yet nuanced storytelling
  • Effective use of quotes and literary sources
  • Well-written poetry included
  • Did her research

Cons

  • Somewhat scattered beginning, a little hard to get into at first

Review

The Beginning

The book starts like this:

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round…”

“She had fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.”

Still Life by Louise Penny
photo of dried leaves on soil

I enjoyed Penny’s language. I was bemused at the caricature of death she made by comparing a woman’s position at death with the idea of children making snow angels.

Then the story goes back in time to when she was supposed to meet her friend for coffee. After that, it explains how a group of local boys pelted a gay couple with duck manure.

It goes on to explain that Jane Neal is a shy artist who is just finally willing to show her art to the public eye. Only problem? Her masterpiece, Fair Day, is like a child’s drawing, or an ancient cave drawing.

All of that happens before 10 pages are up. Now, I am no great reader of mysteries. In fact, this is probably the first mystery I’ve read in 10 years. But I was thinking, hey, let’s go back to the snow-angel corpse instead of this odd series of occurrences that I’m frankly not interested in.

But I was wrong. Every detail of those first 10 pages was absolutely integral to the story. I just didn’t have the perspective of the whole story in mind.

As a result, I will say that it was not a novel whose beginning gripped me, but I will concede that these pages were necessary to the development of the drama of the novel.

Setting

The story is set in the village of Three Pines, which is compared rightfully to Narnia. There is certainly something magical about the personalities of the characters who live there. They have the glint of life about them, the engaging complexities of truly well-developed characters.

Olivier and Gabri’s Bistro and B & B are my favorite places in Three Pines. Each piece of furniture and decor in the Bistro has a price tag attached to it. People can buy the table they are eating at, the coat rack, the chairs! It is such a creative place for the characters to spend their time.

Antiques signage

“Each piece looked as though it had been born there.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

Character Development

Each of Penny’s characters has many facets to their colorful personality.

Gamache, for example is careful, pushy, kind, stern, intelligent, ignorant…

Clara is a woman who grieves for the loss of Jane but has an edge of steel in her at times. Her husband, Peter, can be cold as ice or warm and loving, easily offended but loyal.

Ruth is a toughie who raps her cane off the ground to shock people to attention, isn’t afraid to let her opinions be known, and has a penchant for poetry.

There were many more complex characters, but these were some of my favorites.

Storytelling

The storytelling was remarkable because of the way seemingly unrelated events and pieces of information came together in the end. Penny is clearly a master at foreshadowing without giving away the mystery, at providing both depth and forthright depictions.

This is not a thriller – the suspense of what might happen at any moment is not sharp. Instead, the book draws you into Three Pines, where the action is happening, and invites you to stay awhile. It promises a good story, without car chases, without shootouts, but with a certain compelling sense of danger and turmoil lurking just below the surface.

Quotes and Literary Sources

Penny is clearly well-read. She uses a host of references and direct quotes from Auden, Melville, and John Donne, as well as several others. One that stuck out to me as particularly well chosen was this one:

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

W. H. Auden

Poetry

Ruth Zardo is a poet in the novel, and Penny has included poems she has written for the character. I will say that they do give the impression of being by an actual poet. It’s convincing, that’s what matters.

Research

man holding archer statue

Penny did her research, and that’s part of what makes the novel so intriguing. This is notable in the section of the book where Gamache is trying to figure out the details of hunting with a bow. Penny uses Gamache’s ignorance as an excuse to reveal beginner’s hunting mistakes, the differences between bows, common myths about hunting with bows, and all the little details of this topic.

Final Comments

This book is one of the best I have read in recent years, which has earned it the rating of 9.8 out of 10 stars.

Life

10 Things to do During a Pandemic

red and white UNKs restaurant

Before Covid-19, I had some preconceptions about what a pandemic would be like. Frightening, restricting, dangerous. Like one of those dystopian novels I read for fun, perhaps like the plague in Legend by Marie Lu.

Never in a million years would I have suspected living during a pandemic would be boring.

Sure, those who have contracted Covid-19 and their friends and family are fully aware of how terrible a pandemic is.

But for the rest of us – those who have to isolate, or limit social interaction, or have had all their plans cancelled – bored might be the perfect word.

If you are not bored and you and your loved ones are healthy, good for you. But if you are bored – this is the article for you.

Below are my suggestions to make the most of life during a pandemic.

#1 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs

If you’re anything like me, quarantine life has made you lax when it comes to exercise.

Without the routine of heading to the local YMCA to train at my Tang Soo Do studio, I quickly became unfit. Even when restrictions were lifted somewhat and I was able to return to the studio on occasion, I had trouble getting into a regular routine of exercise.

Recently I’ve made a new resolution to do better with exercise – and I know how I’ll do it.

The pandemic has made things like going to the gym a colossal pain for some and nearly impossible for others, so I’ll focus on the things that can be done without equipment.

Walking, for instance. It has never been my thing, but with how beautiful campus is in the summer and fall, it’s almost irresistible.

I also plan to get into a daily routine similar to my warm-ups for Tang Soo Do. Push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches. Dying cockroach.

Yeah, you read that right. There is an exercise called dying cockroach, where you lay on your back and flail your arms and legs in frenzied motions for a long time. It’s brutal.

There are also plenty of stairs in the dorm where I am residing, so I may just spend half an hour sometime walking up and down them. That would be a workout!

Hopefully some of these ideas will work for you as well.

#2 Be artsy!

paint brushes next to drawing book and water color palette

For this section, I am going to assume you have little to no experience in art. If you already are an artist, you already know you can spend time during a pandemic doing artsy stuff and likely are doing that anyway.

Here are several media to consider:

Colored pencils

One thing you can do with these is try an adult coloring book. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s not as much pressure to create from your imagination since you just have to fill in the line. Yet there is creativity in the colors you choose and skill in how well the design is colored in.

My great grandma had the creative idea of turning her coloring book creations into cards for her loved ones. It was sweet, and sending off such colorful cards may help to alleviate loneliness for yourself and your friends during this time.

If you decide to go freestyle, use good colored pencils and at least decent paper in case you decide to preserve some of your creations.

Watercolor Paint

For watercolor paint, I use Artist Loft brand. I know, it’s cheap – but I have found it sufficient for my projects. Not the pan set, the tubes. I hate those hardened little cakes of paint.

Beginner’s tip – if you use the tubes, you only need a tiny drop of paint mixed with plenty of water. Don’t waste paint. It’s called watercolor for a reason.

Another tip – if you use low-quality paper, you’ll get a low-quality result even if you are a quite talented artist. You can tell a high-quality paper not by the price tag, but by the thickness. I recommend at least 140 lb. paper (if you’re not sure what that means, it’s okay – watercolor paper lists this right on the front so you can tell if you got the right one.)

A final tip – choose your brushes carefully. They don’t have to be expensive but you have to be sure there aren’t any stray bristles and that you take good care of them. I won’t even link to brushes I recommend because I always buy mine in a physical store so I can examine them. Never store them bristle down! If you’re washing them, don’t leave them upside down in water. That’s okay for a short time, but if you leave them for too long, it will damage them.

Acrylic Paint

The best acrylic paint is not too watery and not chunky either – it goes onto paper smoothly.

I recommend going with a great brand such as Martha Stewart or the professional option of Golden acrylics. It’s an investment, but you’ll find that they last a while if you are conservative and only use what you need.

Martha Stewart brand acrylic paint has great quality. I’ve used it before teaching in the classroom at the art store where I work.

I started using Golden acrylics recently and they are brilliant, with vibrant colors and smooth texture.

I just use watercolor paper for acrylics, too. For brushes, I buy these in a physical store as well and look for tell-tale signs they are not any good such as stray bristles.

Oil Paint

I am not as experienced in oil paint, but I can give some beginner’s advice because I’ve already made all the beginner’s mistakes with my first painting…oops…

First of all, do not get Artist Loft brand. They suck when it comes to oil paints. I kept the paints in a box for a couple of months before trying to use them and then all the oily stuff oozed out all over the tubes and made them sticky and gross.

Try a good brand, like Winsor & Newton instead.

For brushes, I won’t recommend any. I would have to see them in person to tell their quality, touch them and examine them. However, keep in mind that they will need to be washed in paint thinner, not water. Water doesn’t mix with oil-based paint and will not take it out of the brush.

I actually just used canvas for my oil painting, but you can get oil paint paper. I don’t know enough to be helpful in recommending what surface to paint on for oil, but I will say that canvas was sufficient for my purposes.

Markers

I began with markers using Copics. Those are professional markers and they are expensive. However, they blend remarkably well and are refillable. I would recommend a pack of grays, skin tones, and primaries to start if you use these. I prefer Copic Sketch over Copic Ciao because the Sketch markers can hold more ink.

Fair warning – they are addicting.

Use the multiliner that comes with their gray pack or buy a separate pack of multiliners of that brand to be sure your pen lines don’t bleed when marker is applied.

A Quick Note….

I have found that using high quality media, while more expensive, has better results. The professionals use high quality equipment for a reason – it makes it easier, not harder, to create masterpieces.

Some of the links above lead to cheap alternatives to high quality media that I have found sufficient for my own amateur artwork. Others lead to more expensive varieties I would nevertheless recommend even for beginners to achieve higher quality results.

I work in an art store, so I have background in helping customers find products that will fit their artistic needs. As a result, I am aware of the best brands and the brands that are cheaper but can produce phenomenal results.

#3 Journaling or Writing Emails

black click pen on notebook

Journaling is an amazing way to spend the time if you are in quarantine or restricted in activities due to Covid-19. Chronicle your experience of living during a pandemic to show off to your future grandchildren.

Keep a daily record of reflections and insights you think of randomly in the middle of night or during your daily routine.

Writing emails or letters is another way to connect with friends let people know you are thinking of them. Make sure if it’s a letter that your friends and relatives aren’t going to be upset about the small possibility of spreading Covid-19 that way. Chances are, they won’t be worried about it, but it’s better to ask in times like these.

#4 Make a time capsule

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

A time capsule would be a good way to remind our future selves what the Covid-19 Crisis was like, or to show our children or grandchildren.

First, buy a durable container. Metal is best if you want it to last for a long time, but undoubtedly plastic would last too even if it has a higher chance of cracking under the weight of dirt.

Second, carefully choose items that represent the times, such as reusable masks and pictures. Be sure that these are things you don’t mind parting with, because digging the box up again would be a pain and counter-intuitive.

Third, pick a place in the yard and bury the capsule. 3 or 4 feet deep would probably be sufficient, but if it’s less than that it could be dug up by mistake.

Fourth, mark the spot with something that will last like a large painted rock. On the marker, write the date the capsule was buried as well as the date it should be dug up.

#5 Sew masks

stack of white yellow green and blue textiles

Sewing masks is not as hard as it may seem. I made two before I was gifted several and no longer had the need for more, and they have served me well.

I recommend getting on Youtube for some helpful how-to videos.

#6 Watch something new

Avatar: The Last Airbender' Live-Action Series Set at Netflix - Variety
Characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

If you don’t know, the reason why I posted a picture from Avatar: The Last Airbender is because it is now airing on Netflix. I have seen it make Netflix’s top ten several times in the past few weeks, and for good reason! If you like it, follow it up with The Legend of Korra.

If you usually watch all the shows in a particular genre, try a different genre. If you typically don’t watch anime, try anime! If you are squeamish about horror, try something with slight elements of horror. If you usually avoid the sad stuff, try something sad like A Silent Voice, which my sisters recommended to me. Get outside your comfort zone!

#7 Learn!

fountain pen on spiral book

Learn something new! During the pandemic, when I was bored I downloaded the Khan Academy app, the Duolingo app, and the TED Talks app. I’ve used Duolingo and TED talks the most out of the three.

With Khan Academy, you can learn any school subject or lesson that you may have forgotten or that you are not familiar with. You don’t have to make an account, but if you do, it’s free and it tracks your progress.

With Duolingo, you can learn another language. I am currently learning Latin and Spanish little by little.

With the TED Talk app, you can listen to talks about a variety of educational subjects, as well as ones that are just funny. I watched this one recently, which explains the concept behind a video game that teaches about loneliness. I also watched this hilarious one where a comedian describes what happened when he replied to spam emails.

While I wouldn’t say I learned much from the spam email one, it is true that TED Talks in general provide great educational content.

#8 Socialize…long distance

person sitting front of laptop

Socializing long distance can take many forms. It could be an email or letter. It could be a Zoom or Skype call.

James Wilson, a founder of the podcast Tabletop Gaming Guild, offered me a new idea about how to connect with my friends.

Tabletop Simulator and Board Game Arena. If you’re a gamer or just getting into board gaming, these are places where you can play games with friends.

Tabletop Simulator is more expensive at $19.99 for a subscription, but offers a variety of games, including Wingspan, Blood Rage and Scythe.

Board Game Arena is completely FREE. You can play games such as Stone Age, 7 Wonders, Terra Mystica, Takenoko, Saboteur, and so much more!

Full disclaimer – I haven’t tried either yet, but I wanted to pass on the suggestion. I’m at college, so I am lucky enough to be able to see many of my friends in person. In the event my friends and I are sent home due to the risk of Covid-19, I will definitely start online gaming with my friends.

#9 Read!

man reading book on beach near lake during daytime

I’m big on reading. If you’re a reader too, I recommend trying out some of my favorites:

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    • A YA Fantasy about a rich criminal mastermind who happens to be 12 years old. This mastermind, Artemis Fowl, is determined to get his hands on fairy gold. The fairies he deals with are not the ones from typical bedtime stories – they have advanced technology and live underground.
    • For more information, check out my full review.
    • Btw, it’s nothing like the movie, which was terrible. I also made a review of the movie.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • This is a touching novel mostly about a dying father writing to his young son, and his many reflections. It is about love, betrayal, faith, and family, and it’s fascinating. The language and metaphors are beautiful and creative.
  3. Still Life by Louise Penny
    • This is a murder mystery. I typically dislike murder mysteries, but this one I adored.
    • It’s about an old woman who dies in what appears to be a hunting accident, but Inspector Gamache suspects it may be murder. The beginning is a little slow, but every part of it is an essential piece of the puzzle and contributes to the power of the work.
    • For more information, check out my full review.

#10 Start a website!

MacBook Pro on table beside white iMac and Magic Mouse

Starting a website is not as hard as it looks.

You could take the route I did and pay for the domain, then use WordPress to organize your site. It’s not hard because WordPress is so intuitive. WordPress allows for both pages and posts, so if you want to create a blog, it’s never been easier!

Or you can use Wix.com or Weebly.com to create your website for free. There is less freedom this way though. For example, Weebly.com requires “weebly” to be in the site name.

I can tell you that Weebly is pretty good because I’ve used it for college classes. Back when I was an education major, I made my digital portfolio using Weebly.

Wix has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by close friends, so I thought I would include it as well, although I haven’t had experience with it myself.

No matter which route you take, Youtube will be your best friend! Look up how-to videos to make the most of your website-building experience.

Movies

Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level (Spoiler-Free)

Jumanji: The Next Level | Buy, Rent or Watch on FandangoNOW

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

For my sister’s graduation party, she was allowed to choose any movie for the family to watch. She chose Jumanji: The Next Level, and boy, am I glad she did. This hilarious sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle truly takes the game to a whole ‘nother level.

This movie was released in 2019, and fits into three genres: Fantasy, Adventure, and Comedy. It stars Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Alex Wolff, Nick Jonas, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Danny Glover, and Danny DeVito.

Summary

Embarrassed and disappointed by how his boring life compares to that of his friends, Spencer repairs the game console that originally sucked him and his friends into the game Jumanji. Entering the game, he hopes to become Smolder Bravestone and find a sense of purpose again.

His friends are shocked and bewildered by Spencer’s choice to return to Jumanji. After some hesitation, they decide to enter the game to bring him back.

Only things don’t go as planned. The two elderly men upstairs (Spencer’s grandfather Eddie and Eddie’s once-friend Milo Walker) get sucked into the game as well.

Jumanji: The Next Level review: a pretty good body-swap comedy ...
Smolder Bravestone and Franklin Finbar

What follows is hilarious. Catching Eddie and Milo up to speed is harder than expected, allowing for a lot of jokes.

Nigel then gives them their next mission, which is to defeat Jurgen the Brutal and return the Falcon Jewel to its rightful owner.

Throughout their journey, the heroes face a herd of ferocious ostriches, a rope bridge maze reminiscent of the randomly moving staircases at Hogwarts, and a horde of violent simians.

The twist at the end offers hope of a sequel.

Review

The humor and irony offered in this movie was great, although at one point it was extremely cringy. Just wait for the part with the hyenas, and you’ll see what I mean.

The length of the move is 123 minutes, which was long enough that it didn’t feel rushed and short enough that it didn’t drag on.

Eddie’s antics were hilarious at first but almost got annoying because of his stubbornness and bad judgement.

Milo’s tendency to draw his explanations out made for some funny scenes.

The relationship between Eddie and Milo created some of the most touching moments in the movie.

I didn’t see as much of some characters as I would have liked.

Jurgen, like the villain of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is not well-developed at all. He is a pretty standard bad guy with almost no backstory. Yep, he’s just evil because he’s evil. I even forgot his name because he wasn’t very memorable, and had to look it up.

Conclusion

Overall, I rated this movie 7 out of 10 stars because it was hilarious and enjoyable, but certainly wasn’t one of the best movies I ever watched. I wouldn’t mind watching it again in a few years.