fiction

All About Aliens: A Flash Fiction Piece

The school warning bell rang and I hurried to my science class. Today was the last day of classes for my senior year of high school.

After studying science for many years, I realized that how films portray aliens isn’t exactly the most realistic. I know—it’s fiction. But I’ve come up with a theory on what aliens would be like if they actually existed.

Well, first off, they would not fly spaceships. They also wouldn’t speak, not even their own language—I don’t think so. They might not be able to even breathe on Earth.

Just like we earthlings couldn’t travel to other planets safely, I don’t believe aliens could travel to our planet easily, either. Yes, there are studies that suggest that there may be life on other planets, such as Mars. But still—can we be a hundred percent certain, as of now?

I entered the classroom and sat at my desk. My crush, Daxea, sat near me.

“Pssst…Henry, we’re watching a movie,” Daxea said.

“Oh, wow,” I said. “What movie?”

“Class, we are watching The Sad, Little Aliens,” said my science teacher, Mr. Pinkett. “So, please relax, and enjoy the movie.” He inserted the DVD.

I watched the film, my eyes tearing up as some tiny aliens cried. It seemed that they were babies and their parents had died.

A memory flashed into my mind. My dad died when I was ten…in a motorcycle crash.

I covered my face, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Daxea touched my shoulder. “Henry, are you all right?”

“Leave me alone,” I whispered.

I left the classroom and went into the bathroom, where I washed my face. When I returned to the room, there was a scene where a young boy carried the baby aliens into his house.

“Mom, Dad, look what I found,” said the child.

The parents stared.

“Gabriel, what are those things?” asked the father.

“I…uh…don’t know,” Gabriel said.

“Put them back where you found them,” the mother said. “They don’t belong in the house.”

“But their parents are gone,” said Gabriel.

“Listen to your mother,” the dad said.

“Please, please can I take care of them?” asked Gabriel.

“Absolutely not,” the mom said.

Gabriel paused. “I’ll do anything for you if you let me care for these things. I promise.”

The parents hesitated.

“If you promise,” the father said.

“Thanks, Dad,” Gabriel said.

I smiled.

Writing

Why You Should Wait to Publish a Hardcopy of Your Book

Image from Pixabay

I know, I know. Many people prefer hardcopies over eBooks. Many writers and publishers will say you should have a hardcopy or paperback available with your eBook.

I agree…if you’re satisfied with your reviews. I realized this recently. I’ve published too many premature books that got just okay reviews but not super-satisfying ones. So, I removed them from the market. However, only the eBooks are gone forever. Sadly, the print books will be there for the rest of time. Amazon and other retailers list print versions for third-parties to sell copies, even if the author removed them from the market. And if the paperbacks and hardcovers are listed permanently, the reviews will be there forever.

Now I have a bunch of books on Amazon that aren’t available anymore (except maybe from third-party sellers) but will never be taken down. I hope it doesn’t ruin my reputation as an author.

That’s when I started to give myself a new rule: no print copies may be published unless I have at least a few reviews that are very satisfying—not just so-so. That way, if I’m not happy with the reviews, I can remove the eBook and the listing shouldn’t stay up.

If you’re traditionally publishing, this might not work as the publisher will have the rights. But if you’re self-publishing, then I would highly recommend this, even if you send out pre-publication copies and they’re all satisfying. That excludes people you know personally.

I have an eBook on pre-order and it’s the third time publishing a particular story that has only okay feedback the first time and even the second time, despite the drastic changes I made. I revised and removed even more material in this third edition. I am still nervous about the reactions, both before and after publication.

Hopefully, the reviews will be more pleasing than ever. But if they’re not, I will know what to do.

movie

Ranking of Disney Princess’s Fathers

While mothers rarely exist in Disney films, fathers often do. Some are likable, and others aren’t.

I know I said I would rank the Disney princess’s dads. However, I am not going to do all of them. Some don’t have paternal figures in their movies, such as Snow White and Cinderella—they have evil stepmothers. Anyway, the princess’s fathers I will rank will include King Triton, Ariel’s father, Maurice, Belle’s dad, the sultan, Jasmine’s dad, and Powhattan, Pocahontas’s father.

Note that these are only my personal opinions with the ranking from least to most likable. Also, be warned that there are spoilers below.

4: King Triton

I find King Triton to be one of the least likable fathers in Disney films. He has a terrible prejudice toward humans (even though he and the other merfolk are all half humans as well as half fish), a very hot temper, especially with Ariel, and doesn’t seem to suffer consequences for his actions, such as destroying the things in Ariel’s grotto. That moment made him so evil, I hated him more than Ursula. No wonder some YouTube video considered King Triton a good character who was actually a villain.

If Atlantica had CPS, and they penalized King Triton for the destruction of Ariel’s grotto as well as his other major flaws, and took all his daughters away, including those (possibly) over 18, I would have supported that. We all should be responsible with our actions and if we can’t, we suffer consequences.

Destroying your child’s huge collection out of anger is the equivalent to setting someone’s house on fire. Not only did I find it disappointing that King Triton never apologized to Ariel for the destruction of her stuff as well as either re-created it with his rake or provided her new items, but also never paying the price for that. That doesn’t include him trading places with Ariel to be Ursula’s polyp prisoner or when his seahorse messenger told him that he couldn’t find Ariel, Flounder, or Sebastian.

On the bright side, King Triton does advocate for Ariel when Ursula tries to hurt her after she went from being a human back to a mermaid, and allows Ariel to become a person with legs again to rejoin Eric. At least he changes his views on humans.

3: The Sultan

While not nearly as hot-tempered as King Triton (if anything, the opposite), he neglects Jasmine’s access outside the palace. The “Aladdin” live-action remake states that the sultan forbids Jasmine to leave the palace because her mother was killed out there. However, in the animated version, it’s only because she’s a princess. Couldn’t he just require Jasmine to be escorted by bodyguards instead? That’s how it is in real life for the royals, president and his family, as well as other highly elite people. Secret service bodyguards are mandatory for them.

Another flaw is that he forces Jasmine to get married by a certain year in her life (either her 15th or 16th) within a few days from when she first appears in the animated movie. And the guys who come to the palace and try to ask for her blessing are all old enough to be her dad, except Aladdin when he is disguised as Prince Ali. The sultan seemed to acknowledge him as the first young male to come as a suiter for Jasmine.

Since Jasmine is a minor, this whole situation is actually forced child marriage. I know it’s an ancient time period and a female getting married at no younger than 18 would probably be the equivalent of a woman getting married for the first time at age 50 today. Still, there are dangers to forced child marriage. Having a minor forced into marriage could be insensitive to those were forced to get married before the age of consent. There are still countries where that happens.

While the sultan is drastically more likable than King Triton, he still could do for some improvement (not counting the end of “Aladdin”, when he changes the law and lets the princess marry whomever she wants, even if he is not royal).

2: Powhattan

Powhattan allows Pocahontas the freedom to explore and wander, except during dangerous times. While he doesn’t have a temper and is usually patient with his daughter, he does have prejudice toward the English settlers. Luckily, that changes.

1: Maurice

Maurice is patient, sweet, and tolerates all types of people, including those who don’t understand him and consider him crazy. His relation to his daughter, Belle, is very heartwarming. Belle loves her father enough that she is willing to take his place as the beast’s prisoner. Out of all the fathers on this list, Maurice is the only one I feel sorry for. The villagers think he is so insane, he and Belle are almost taken to an asylum.

So, there you have it.

movie

Let’s Get Down to Business…to Analyze “Mulan” (1998)

Warning: contains spoilers***

I was 11 when I first saw “Mulan”. I also wrote an essay about the use of femininity in the film when attending college.

Speaking of which—I didn’t find the attitude toward females in the movie to be offensive when I was 11. In fact, I saw it as historically accurate. I was well-aware of how girls and women weren’t allowed the same rights as boys and men. So, it came up as no surprise to me that Mulan couldn’t go to war as a female.

When her dad is called to the battle against the Huns, Mulan disguises herself as a male by cutting her hair and then putting it up, faking a manly voice, and having to behave like a male. It only lasted so long.

Coincidentally, there was a true story of a lady who pretended to be a man to fight. That was Joan of Arc. Anyway, I think Mulan identified herself as not-very feminine. She fails the bridal test at the beginning. But she befriends the other soldiers, all of whom are male.

Also, she is considered an official Disney Princess, even though she’s not a princess at all. She wasn’t born into royalty, nor does she marry a royal (unless Shang, whom Mulan marries in the sequel, has some mysterious connection to royalty that nobody is aware of). I heard that she was only added to the Disney Princess line because Disney wanted an Asian character (I guess Jasmine doesn’t count, even though Arabia is in Asia).

Nevertheless, I consider Mulan to be a good role model for girls. She is one of the few Disney females to be a warrior. I’ve always wondered how the film, “Mulan” would’ve been handled if it’d come out in the 1930’s. Would it have been banned for improper female character portrayal? I don’t think 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” would be released today, as is.

While Mulan is a memorable and likable character, her dragon mentor, Mushu, appeals to me too. He is voiced by Eddie Murphy, who also voiced Donkey in the “Shrek” movies. And what’s funny is that Mushu’s characterization is very similar to Donkey in “Shrek”. However, “Mulan” was released three years before the first “Shrek” film. But I saw the first two “Shrek” movies before watching “Mulan”.

Like other Disney films before “Mulan” beginning with “The Little Mermaid”, I would rate “Mulan” 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

The Mystery of the Maturing Appeal of “Winnie the Pooh”

Many of us grew up with “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”. We enjoyed the characters, the morals, and much more.

However, in the 2000’s, according to my observation, “Winnie the Pooh” apparently became more suited for small children. From the products geared toward little kids, and most of the fans being in their early childhood, I had considered “Winnie the Pooh” kiddie.

But thanks to movies, like “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” and “Christopher Robin”, “Winnie the Pooh” might be appealing to older crowds again. While I didn’t see “Goodbye, Christopher Robin”, I did see “Christopher Robin”. It is anything, but kiddie, let alone the PG-rating (which is pretty much like G, and has been since the 90’s or early 2000’s).

I won’t spoil anything from “Christopher Robin”, but many of the content and elements used are more sophisticated and appealing to adults and bigger children. Perhaps Disney wanted to make “Winnie the Pooh” more interesting to older audiences—maybe they didn’t wish to give the general public the impression that “Winnie the Pooh” was only for small children.

Nevertheless, I am glad that “Winnie the Pooh” no longer seems to attract just little kids. The same seemed to happen with the Disney Princess line in the 2000’s. That also used to allure merely early childhood, but is now enticing older crowds (some people have had Disney Princess-themed weddings).

While some franchises, such as “Barney” and “Teletubbies” will probably always attract mostly small children, it’s great that Disney tries to engage all ages.

movie

You Ain’t Never Read a Critique Like This…For Disney’s “Aladdin” Live-Action Remake (2019)

This year is a huge year for Disney, especially with live-action remakes. I went with some friends to see the live-action remake of “Aladdin”. I liked it.

From the trailer, I could easily see that it was going to differ a lot from the cartoon. Unlike my other movie critiques, this will not have spoilers that occur toward the end of the film. However, there will be some minor revelations. So, if you don’t want to know, I’d suggest you see the movie first. But if you do, or you already saw the film, proceed.

Anyway, let me start off with the strengths.

1: Giving Princess Jasmine a girl BFF

Unlike other Disney princesses, Jasmine has no female companions in the animated version of “Aladdin” (as well as doesn’t have the lead role). I noticed that in recent years and thought about how it would’ve been nice if she had a female companion, like a girl BFF. Coincidentally, it happened. Not long after I realized that Jasmine only had males in her life did I come across an article that announced that she would have a female friend in the 2019 reboot. Yay! More female presence—not counting the extras.

2: The song “Speechless”

This was added in the live-action reboot. It was given to Jasmine and as a single solo. It added character development and more backstory to Jasmine.

3: Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie

While no one will truly beat Robin Williams’ portrayal of the “Aladdin” cartoon in 1992, Will Smith still did a good job. He still executed jokes and humor successfully. I especially admired a realistic approach of the genie’s look and why (I won’t say—see the movie to find out).

Now here are the aspects that could’ve been better.

1: The characterization of Iago and the sultan

Okay, I get it. The creators didn’t want it to be a copy of the cartoon. They also had to make changes for new characters, like Jasmine’s friend, Dahlia. However, I was quite bummed with the sultan and Iago’s developments.

The sultan was dull, conservative, and had little screen time, compared to the cartoon. He was also not nearly as enthusiastic and positive. And he didn’t play with toys. Bummer! I understand that the younger characters need to make their own choices, but cartoon sultan is far better.

And Iago. Oh my God—he was so one-dimensional. He flew around to check on things for Jafar, would repeat phrases, and would state when someone was doing something wrong, such as lying or hiding something. Where was his personality? His complexity? I comprehend how the crew couldn’t re-cast the original cast to reprise their roles. But I still wish Iago was more developed. Like cartoon sultan, animated Iago is far superior.

2: The romance between Aladdin and Jasmine was weaker

In the cartoon version, Aladdin and Jasmine fell in love and stayed that way. However, in the live-action remake, Aladdin has trouble getting Jasmine to love or even trust him. Remember when Jasmine tried to free Aladdin from the guards and revealed her true identity for it in the animated version? That didn’t happen in the live-action remake. Also, while some musical numbers were a bit stronger than in the cartoon, the scene with the song, “A Whole New World” did not convey nearly enough emotion for the audience as in the cartoon.

That being said, I would rate this film 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I liked certain versions of story adaptations equally as much (such as the cartoon and live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movies), this one was almost as good as the cartoon. My main issue was the characterization of Iago and the sultan. I know they aren’t major characters. But still—even if they were just a little different from the animated movie, I would have appreciated that.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this movie.

TV show

My Top 3 “Robot Chicken” Clips

Unlike most people, I’ve always found the idea of clean entertainment being dirty to be funny (no offense). Of course, as long as children aren’t exposed to it, it’s no problem for me.

That is why I like “Robot Chicken”, which is a stop-motion animated program on Adult Swim where they make clips of different already-existing movies and TV shows and make their own little stories. And yes, a lot of the entertainment used was originally clean, such as “Peanuts”, “Scooby Doo”, “Disney”, and much more.

And now, without further ado, here are my top 3 favorite clips from “Robot Chicken”

3: The “Muppet Babies” clip called “Kermit Kong” (I think)

Kermit is acting like King Kong while holding onto Miss Piggy. Gonzo and a few others are on planes. They squirt water onto Kermit and he falls onto the ground.

The scene reverses back to Nanny’s home, where the Muppet babies were just playing make-believe. Kermit has died, and Miss Piggy tries to get his attention. Nanny comes and has everyone clean up the crime scene. Miss Piggy is still sad, but Nanny says, “He never loved you.” Then she forces Miss Piggy to move along.

This clip is a bit milder than other “Robot Chicken” clips. It’s also clever and engaging. I admire the part when Miss Piggy refers to a tall stack of chairs as “The Empire State Building”.

2: The “Beavis and Butthead and Teen Titans” Crossover Clip

Another thing that differentiates me from others is that I’ve always liked the idea of clean and mature entertainment crossing over. So, I was excited to discover the “Teen Titans meeting Beavis and Butthead” video.

Robin needs Beavis and Butthead to complete some important tasks. Of course, Beavis and Butthead behave like their usual uncivilized selves. Danger comes. While the Teen Titans are fighting a monster, Beavis and Butthead are eating nachos. Then Robin is hurt.

I loved when Beavis and Butthead sang a “Batman” parody tune to Robin. That was clever. The whole clip was amazing. Robin, however, said, “Yeah” instead of “Thank you” when Butthead complimented on his belt. Does Robin have manners? Who knows?

1: The “Lord of the Rings” clip written by J.R.R Tolkien JR JR

A man is introducing a new LOTR story written by the author’s 6-year-old grandson, J.R.R Tolkien JR JR. Then a sneak peak shows up. It shows Merry and Pippin having a conversation. Then Gandolf comes and warns them of danger in a silly way. Everyone flies on planes (Obviously, out-of-premise for the LOTR universe) and tries to defeat a three-headed peanut-butter-and-jelly monster.

This was, perhaps, the funniest “Robot Chicken” clip ever created. From including Hannah Montana, the PB & J monster, and to the breakout of singing “The Muffin Man Song”, this made me laugh my brains out. Bravo!

So, there you have it. I haven’t watched “Robot Chicken” in a while. But I hope to return to it soon.

cooking

Perfect Brownies from Scratch: They’re So Hard to Make as Good as the Boxed Mixes

Image from Pixabay

Brownies rule! Of course, you shouldn’t eat them all the time. But they’re delicious in moderation—just like everything else is, including healthy foods.

You know how people say everything tastes better homemade? Well, that is true for most things. Except…brownies. I don’t understand why. But brownies from scratch almost never taste like the boxed mix. I wonder why no one has found or created a kopy kat recipe for boxed brownie mixes.

I’ve experimented with so many brownie recipes from scratch. Nothing came close to the boxed mix nor did anything taste nearly as good. That was…until the end of 2017. I found a recipe which I liked. So, I used it to make brownies. They were almost like the boxed mix.

But the baking soda made the tops too crunchy. I don’t mind crunchy-topped brownies but these were too crusty. Luckily, at the New Year’s Eve party I went to, people enjoyed them very much. They said that those brownies were better than any other dessert there.

But to this day, I have still yet to find a brownie recipe exactly as good as the boxed mixes. Maybe I could try a flourless brownie recipe. Flourless chocolate cookie recipes often worked out for me. So, I see no reason why a flourless brownie recipe would not.

art

Yes, You Can “Make” Primary Colors

Image from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I was taught that no color can produce a primary color, such as red, yellow, or blue. That is true.

However, you can “make” primary colors with secondary, intermediate, and other colors already mixed. For example, if you have magenta and yellow, and you use more magenta and less yellow, you can make red. The same can work if you mix magenta and orange evenly.

Yellow can’t really be made with other colors, unless it’s a brownish or tannish kind. The prismatic kind is purely primary. However, if you have teal and royal purple, you can create blue with them.

This can come in handy when you are working on a project and you either don’t have, forgot, or ran out of the primary colors. Of course, if you are in school or college, never state in any assignment that secondary and additional mixed colors can produce red or blue.

So, if you are ever in a situation where you have no red, yellow, or blue, then you can mix other colors to produce them. But it’s always good to be prepared with your colors before you do any art project.

cooking

Sneaking in Veggies… Still So Delicious

Image from Pixabay

Who disliked vegetables in their youth? Many of you? I didn’t. But I’ve always had a stronger craving for carbs and sweets. Sometimes, in recent years, I didn’t even eat enough fiber.

But then I discovered that you can sneak in vegetables into your favorite meals, including sweets. Yes, you read that right.

Now I chop vegetables pretty small and put them in pasta dishes, mac and cheese, eggs, and more. I have also tried putting beets in brownies, which can actually work. But that one didn’t turn out good.

Anyway, if you’re going to sneak in vegetables into your food, whether it’s savory or sweet, here are some tips.

1: If you find chunks distracting in some dishes (which I do), you can chop them fine. But not too much—otherwise, they make the texture of your meal grainy. For instance, if you put overly finely-chopped veggies in mac and cheese, your cheese sauce becomes rough instead of smooth. I’ve used a blender, but unless you don’t mind the change of texture to your food, I would not recommend this. Honestly, you are better off chopping them on a cutting board. I know—it’s old-school. Yet, it gives you more satisfying results (this varies).

2: If you are making a dessert, be aware that some veggies work and others don’t. For example, while beets are okay in brownies, I would recommend against putting spinach or broccoli in desserts. They don’t mix well. You can use sweet potatoes or carrots, though.

3: Depending on your tastes, you can microwave, steam, or sauté your vegetables before you add them to your favorite foods. Like them firmer? Skip this step.

So, there you have it. You can still enjoy your favorite carbs and sweets (in moderation, of course) and sneak in veggies, whether it is for you, your kids, or anybody else. They may not notice at times.