fiction

If You Gave Your Mom a Snake Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I don’t know about you, but my mom is super-grossed out by snakes. She has freaked out around them every time.

            A few memorable times include my brother’s eighth birthday party, when he got his picture taken with a snake around his neck. My mother ran away, saying, “Ew, ew, gross,” several times.

            Another moment that stands out to me is when we were buying food and supplies for our dog. The cashier had a tiny snake around his fingers. My mom asked if it was fake or real. The guy said, “It’s real.” My mother freaked out.

            The event that stands out to me the most is when we watched the news and they announced a snake massage at a zoo in Australia. My mom sent me the link to my email. Her personal message was, “Ewwww! Gross!” It cracked me up so much that I almost lost my breath.

            Anyway, last year, I thought it would be funny to throw my mom a snake-themed party for her birthday. I decorated the house with snake streamers, snake-balloons, jungle trees with fake snakes, and a game called pin the rattle tail on the rattlesnake.

            So, I invited some friends and family to our house. When my mom came, we all yelled, “Surprise!” My mother was speechless when she saw the snake decorations. She said to me, “Rayna, you know I don’t like snakes.”

            But the funniest part of all was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and I carried a cake—that resembled a live snake—literally. My mom deepened her frown, making the inside of her bottom lip come out. My brother videoed the whole moment. Everyone kept singing as my mother looked more grossed out than ever. After we sang, I told my mom to make a wish. But she was too grossed out to blow out the candles. My brother laughed. He blew them out instead.

            The inside of the cake was red velvet filled with cream cheese. My mom wouldn’t eat the cake.

            While I planned to consider the party a silly prank, my mom banned us from hosting her surprise parties ever again. She then gave us a lecture on how a snake-themed party was very inconsiderate. From that point on, I learned to respect her dislikes, including snakes.

            My mom is fine with turtles. But I will not buy her a turtle gift for her next birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion. I promise to treat her birthdays with respect and consideration from now on.

fiction

Mice and Rats: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat at the train station. Something moved on the tracks. It was nighttime, so I couldn’t see what it was. It might have been a rat.

            Unlike most people, I’ve always found mice and rats fascinating. I stood up and stared at the movement. Yup—it was a rat.

            I wished I could take a picture of the critter. But everyone would’ve consider me crazy. While I still didn’t mind mice and rats, I couldn’t pull my phone out of my purse.

            Just a few weeks ago, my husband had called an exterminator for a rat. He had fit in with the majority, who disliked mice and rats.

            Anyway, the exterminator had come. He’d been about to put out rat poison when I’d seen the rat and had said, “Before you put out that rat poison, I’d like to take a picture of the rat.”

            The exterminator had looked at me like I’d had five noses. He’d put out the poison before I could even photograph the rodent. And I hadn’t wanted to take a picture of it after it’d died.

            Not only had the exterminator considered me crazy, but so did my husband. I was aware that mice and rats carried disease. Nevertheless, I’d still considered them interesting.

            If I were ever alone, and I saw a mouse or rat far away from me, I would love to photograph it. But I was never alone in Queens, not even in my home. I lived in an apartment. While the others were in their own sections, I could still hear their voices, TV’s, music, and more.

            I hoped to move out and live on Long Island at some point—in a place of my own. Purely for me.

Writing

Save Time with Shorthand Writing

My handwriting has always been sloppy. I have also written big and not very quickly. Sometimes, in school, I fell behind in handwriting assignments.

I also have preferred to handwrite my stories at times. Why? Because there are no computer distractions, such as the internet, and I found my handwriting speed to be, ironically, faster in recent years. However, because of the quicker motions, my hands often hurt. So I couldn’t write as much as I wanted, even if I abbreviated things (i.e. u for you).

I discovered shorthand writing when looking up ways to hasten up my handwriting. At first, I was resistant to it because I felt it would’ve involved too much work. But boy, was I wrong. It didn’t take a very long time to learn. In fact, it almost became a default habit.

I started out with writing the alphabet in shorthand. Then I wrote short phrases such as “I love you” and “happy birthday”. After that, I moved onto short songs that don’t repeat phrases and that I knew by heart. Although it was no longer holiday season, I translated the lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” into shorthand. Hey—no one was going to see it, anyway. Nor would anybody know what the sentences said. I also translated a couple showtunes into shorthand. Finally, I did entire first pages of books, such as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”.

Due to other things happening, I haven’t used shorthand writing in a long time. However, I will come back to it. It’s good to keep up with something that can expedite your handwriting, as long as you don’t have to share the works with other people.

TV show

Memorable Moments in “My Name is Earl”

I haven’t watched a lot of the show’s episodes. So I am no expert in the series. However, there are a few memorable moments I’d like to share.

1: The birthday party for orphans – there were balloons and decorations set up. It was a general birthday party for any orphaned child. There was even a little girl eating a cookie. What a sweet idea.

The next two moments are pretty crude, though.

2: A flashback of Earl and his friend as children making fun of a girl with a mustache – you never make fun of anyone for any reason. That is called bullying. Anyway, the girl with the mustache grew up to be a woman with a beard. While women usually don’t have facial hair, there are rare cases of those that do. That character might’ve been one of them. Yet, people associate bearded woman with circuses. Not very cool.

3: Another flashback of Earl as a boy going off the high dive in his t-shirt – Earl was about to go off the high diving board with his shirt on. But the lifeguard would not let him. Either he had to take his shirt off or go down the ladder. He took off his shirt—only to have hair in his nipple areas. The other children laughed and Earl went down the ladder. Pretty embarrassing, huh?

I have not caught up with the TV show in a long time. I probably won’t. I only watched “My Name is Earl” because my brother was watching it. Nevertheless, it was funny.

art

Mini Art Show: Squid Piñata

In my senior year of college, I took a sculpture class. For our first assignment, we had to make piñatas. Our professor discouraged the traditional donkey piñata and filling it with candy. He wanted us to be more creative.

I intended to make an octopus piñata. But it ended up looking like a squid. So I made it a squid. Although squids are often pinkish gray, I made mine orange.

We were supposed to start off with smaller models. But my practice one was kind of big. So I got to turn it into my final project.

It was no joke that this project involved a ton of work. From putting the cardboards together, pasting paper onto it, and filling it, I would spend hours at night working on it.

Because squids have ink, I chose to fill my piñata with pens. And not just regular ones—colored pens. You know why—to make more artsy.

We hung up our piñatas at an event. Sadly, it rained later. But I did hear that someone got to hit my piñata and get the pens out.

Originally, I wanted to give the piñata a hat. But due to the work involved and the tight deadline, I had to abandon that plan. I do love putting humor in art, though. Nevertheless, I got a good grade.

fiction

The Spelling Assignment: A Flash Fiction Piece

I stood in the classroom and observed the second graders as they presented different stories. It was my first time student-teaching. I was a college sophomore, which is the youngest you can observe classrooms in schools.

A familiar little girl stood up and presented her story. I looked at her as her bangs covered her eyes and her thick bobbed hair covered her cheeks. She reminded me of someone I’d babysat from four years ago. It couldn’t be Emma Da Silva, who used to play with a stuffed polar bear she’d called Spike.

The child faced the class and read the story. “For our spelling homework, I wrote about a polar bear named Spike.”

I gazed at her.

“Once upon a time, there was a polar bear named Spike. Spike wanted to play with the otters and the elephant seal on the glacier. There was a rainbow in the sky, which made Spike happy. But the other animals said no when he asked if he could play. Spike was sad and cried. His mommy came and gave him company. She walked with him back to the other animals and made them say sorry. Spike ran toward them and they accepted him. They lived happily ever after. The end.”

The class applauded. Mrs. Jackson, the teacher, stood up. “Wait to go, Emma. But you missed some of the spelling words.”

“No, I didn’t,” Emma said.

“You missed the words, bitterness, community, social, alligator, and cooperate,” said Mrs. Jackson.

“Aw,” said Emma.

“Sit back down,” said Mrs. Jackson. “We’re going to move on to something else.”

I approached Emma as she returned to her desk.

“What is it, Miss. Whitney?” Emma asked me.

I hesitated. “That was an interesting story you wrote.”

“But I’m going to get a zero,” said Emma.

“Well, I remember a little girl who also had a stuffed polar bear named Spike,” I said.

Emma tilted her head. “Are you talking about me?”

I flushed.

“You used to babysit me?” asked Emma.

“Is your last name Da Silva?” I asked.

Emma nodded.

“I… I did babysit you.”

Emma brightened her eyes.

“Jaylin, get back here,” said Mrs. Jackson.

I returned to the chalkboard but continued to gaze at Emma. That story made me smile.

movie

I’m Here to Review “The Rescuers” (1977)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

People are gathering at the UN. So are the mice. They received a message from a little girl named Penny that she needs help. Miss. Bianca and the janitor go to assist her at the orphanage she lived at. There is also a cat named Rufus who tells the mice about a woman named Madame Medusa, who’s kidnapped Penny before. Madame Medusa is desperate for a particular diamond.

The mice continue to guide Penny. But Madame Medusa won’t surrender with her plans. She even uses her pet alligators to hunt for Penny when she runs away. Her assistant, Mr. Snoops, tends to be nervous with her and more relaxed with his attitude toward Penny. But when things worsen, everything changes.

There are elements in this movie that make it differ from other Disney films. For example, the mice and cat can talk to Penny. While talking animals are super-common in Disney movies, it’s rare that they talk to humans. Usually, they make their natural animal noises around people. Another instance is when Penny prays that things will improve. With the exception of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, religion rarely plays roles in Disney. In fact, the characters are often not allowed to say the word, God. None of the characters get the classic musical numbers, except for the work anthem at the beginning and the twist of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” the kids sing at the end when Penny is finally adopted.

Speaking of which, while it’s satisfying that she got parents, it was a little disappointing that it took a while. But I understand in some ways. The adoption process can take a while—sometimes, several years.

This film was decent, but not one of my favorites. I did notice the “may day” moment similar to the balcony scene in “Aladdin”. It could have been recycled. Disney does reuse moments and movements a lot. Anyway, the reason it was just okay was mainly the engaging element. It didn’t keep my attention too much compared to other films. So I would rate this movie, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Writing

Why I Differentiate My Characters from Myself

Image from Pixabay

Many authors base their characters off of people they know. A high percent of people also base their stories off of real-life experiences. However, I am different. I rarely or never do any of those things.

One: I find my life experiences too ordinary and straightforward. Two: I find it more exciting to make them very different from me.

For example, the MC of my novels is Irish Catholic, blonde, and has had a tragic life. I am Indian and Hindu, dark-haired, and has lived a typical life with hardly any tragedies. I lost my paternal grandpa when I was 2, so I don’t remember him. My maternal grandpa died when I was 22 but I didn’t cry. I only experienced shocking pain for a few hours. That’s really it for the sad moments in my life.

I could explain my MC’s tragic life. But that is within the novels. You can find them through reviews, excerpts, or if you choose to purchase the books.

Anyway, I find varying and differentiating things far more fun than making them like me. After all, the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things, even if that meant little to no conflicts. I could be wrong, though.

Differentiating characters from myself also opens more room for growing knowledge, even if that means extra research. If I wrote about Hindu characters, I probably would not have to do as much research. But I would also get bored. And if it’s boring to write, it’s usually boring to read.

While I rarely make characters similar to myself, I never base them off people I know. But that will be for another post. That being said, I do give some similarities occasionally, such as food tastes. Overall, though, I differ from other writers.

art

Simple Shapes vs. Outlining Drawings

Who has drawn before? Pretty much all of us. We learned it in school. However, only a section of us have developed a passion or talent for them.

Most of us were probably taught to outline our drawings first as children. And that is fine. But if you go into illustration or animation, you’ll have to learn about drawing using simple shape blocks. Why? Well, consistency. The smallest can be greatly noticed by the general public.

While I still outline some drawings, when I want to be serious, I now use simple shapes. The image below shows a drawing I did using simple shapes.

It wasn’t meant to be finished as it was used as a reference template for someone I’ve worked with. Yet, you can see the simple shapes as building blocks for each character or element.

There are times where it’s acceptable to outline or be very simplistic. Like in math, you may have been asked to draw out problems but not use details. The focus was the problem and not the art. But I’m no math expert.

Anyway, if you’re in a hurry, by all means outline everything first, like you were probably taught as a kid. But if you’re a serious artist who wants to hone your illustration or drawing skills, then simple shapes are a must. I was taught this in college.

I don’t have a picture that I clearly outlined. Well, I’ve practiced using other drawings. But I threw them all away due to space issues in my room. Also, they weren’t my ideas.

Yet, I can tell you the technique. I would select a semi-realistic image and decide on the person’s age range and gender. The choices for age range were baby/small child, older child, teen/young adult, middle aged adult, or senior. I would use an image from the face to chest instead of the whole figure. I would tell myself to observe the outlines but not to trace. Pretty much no image came out exact. However, most did turn out similar. And I accepted that.

I would practice at least a couple times a day. Then I would move to the next level of making them look like cartoons of themselves. That was very, very difficult.

Why semi-realistic, you may ask? One, it’s the style I’m most attracted to. Two, it’s neither too realistic or too cartoony. Many people prefer cartoonish style over realistic. But I feel cartoonish is a little too easy for me.

I would like to return to that soon. You could try these techniques too. Good luck.

TV show

It’s the Best Day Ever for My “Spongebob Squarepants” Analysis

In honor of the 20th anniversary, as well as give a tribute to the latest creator, Stephen Hillenburg (R.I.P), I am going to analyze “Spongebob Squarepants” and my opinions on it. This post will include moments from the TV show and the 2004 movie.

We all know the premise. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? You know the answer. You should probably know all the main characters too.

Remember that theory where they all represented the 7 deadly sins? It was more creative and interesting than other conspiracy theories, where the premise is just a dream or imagination. However, that theory has been debunked. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it.

The characters are great. Spongebob is funny, entertaining, and silly, as well as very immature for his age. Speaking of which, his age is inconsistent. His boating license says that he was born in 1986, which would have made him 13 when the show was released and about 33 today (I believe the license said his birthday was in July). The 2004 movie hinted that he has been working at the Krusty Krab for over 31 years. But the creators said that Spongebob has no age. He is just silly. Confusing, huh?

Another detail I noticed, especially in the earliest episodes, is that when Spongebob sings, his voice sounds totally different. This happened in the “Ripped Pants”, “Sweet Victory”, and “Pizza Delivery” songs. Why is that? In later songs, such as those from the 2004 film, the “F.U.N.” song, and the “Campfire Song” song, Spongebob’s voice sounds exactly like his normal speaking voice. It doesn’t seem like this has ever been explained.

Now onto the other characters. Patrick is just as immature and silly as Spongebob. No wonder they’re close friends. But why is Squidward called Squidward if he is an octopus? Although he’s anything but easygoing, he is still likable. The moments when he and Spongebob fight are hilarious. And Sandy? A squirrel who lives underwater in an air dome, yet misses Texas? She sang about missing Texas in one episode. And like Spongebob, her voice changed too. Although this was obnoxious, it was also funny when Spongebob and Patrick distorted their bodies and went, “I’m Texas”. Lol.

Mr. Krabs is great too and greedy for money. He also has a daughter named Pearl, who is a whale. Like others, I assume that she must’ve been adopted.

Anyway, another memorable character is Plankton (as well as his computer wife, Karen). Plankton—that little creature who is evil and wants to steal the secret formula to the crabby patties, (which, by the way, might be vegetarian). I love the episode where Plankton decides to turn Mr. Krabs into a baby to steal the formula. It was so clever. The ending to that episode was very, very funny. I laughed so hard that my mom told me to take deep breaths.

Unlike most people, I didn’t mind the post-2004 episodes. The old ones are good. And I get why many hated the episodes after that. They had new writers. However, I liked “Spongebob” for about a year or two and then lost interest for years. So when I reunited with it, I didn’t see any differences to the old episodes. I thought those episodes were completely fine.

That being said, there are old episode moments I like. “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” Ha, ha, ha. That line never gets tiring. The “Employee of the Month” award episode was super-humorous, as well.

Now one plot hole I noticed is that outside the ocean is real life, not a cartoon. Yes, in that dream episode, Sandy had a dream where the land was cartoon. But, hey, that was just a dream. So what happens if a scuba diver goes underwater? Do they freak out about becoming a cartoon? Would they reveal this to everyone on the land?

I believe the characters can understand and communicate with humans, like when David Hasselhoff brought Spongebob and Patrick back to Bikini Bottom in “The Spongebob Squarepants Movie”. There is a sequel where the characters become CGI’s and are on the land with people. I don’t know the plot. But from the trailer, the humans seem to casually accept them and not freak out. I could be wrong, though. Also, why is there an additional ocean under the water? Humor, I guess?

So that’s really it for my analysis. I don’t know how the show will perform after Stephen Hillenburg’s death. Hopefully, things stay well. I don’t watch “Spongebob Squarepants” regularly anymore. But I still have enjoyed many moments.