Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dresden Files: WTF?!

I was in the library the other day, trying to find Paladin of Souls because of good reviews I read about it, when in roughly the same vicinity I found Jim Butcher's Storm Front: Book One of the Dresden Files.  I heard it was a decent series. Some people said it was like an adult Harry Potter and others said the main character was awesome. It was on the bestseller list, right? And the cover says "As seen on SciFi" so it must be fairly popular. What the hell? Let's give it a try. Oh, boy. I gave it a try alright. A trial in the court of me.

All I have to say is Jim Butcher lives up to his name: BUTCHER. Jesus H Christ. This book... I don't even know where to BEGIN. So let's go easy and start with the novel's summary as printed on the back cover.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does.
So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Yeah, okay. Not bad right? I can think of whole lot of shittier summaries. "Benedict can only choose one toilet seat....and only one. Does he pick the one with the cushion? Or the one with a naked lady painted on it?" See? Can be worse. 

Let's begin....

Chapter 1 + 2

Okay, narrative is alright. Story starts off with Harry getting harassed by a new mailman who doesn't believe he's an actual wizard. Getting mocked naturally puts Harry in a bad mood and he gets a bit snippy with the dude. The guy leaves and Harry introduces himself to the audience. He says he's the only open-practicing wizard in the entire country, and apparently the yellow pages were quite accommodating to allow an entire new section ("Wizards") just for our ol' Harry here. Yep.

Harry has got this beef about Science. That's science with a capital "S," my friends. Science is da evil, and is like a boyfriend who promises to buy an engagement ring but still fears commitment. If I lost you on that last metaphor, basically Science sucks! Get use to Harry railing on da Science because he bitches about it whenever and wherever.

So why all the hate? Well, Harry states that "all the things Science [has] promised us [haven't] come to pass. Disease [is] still a problem. Starvation [is] still a problem. Violence and crime and war [are] still problems" (3). And what? Magic solves these? Not exactly doing a great job of it, is it? I have three words for you, Harry, and they are "pot," "kettle," and "black." And when has science ever promised anything? It's an ambiguous word used to categorize many things. It can hardly promise anything.

Okay, so he has an opinion. Maybe he's like an extreme Amish person. Sort of like how a vegan is the extreme version of a vegetarian. So he's doesn't like technology. Big deal, right? Well I swear to god on the very next page...... he answers the phone. HE ANSWERS.... THE PHONE.... See where I'm going here? We've already established that he can receive mail. Couldn't he just put in his little yellow page ad, "Contact me via mail"? If you don't trust electronics that much... there are ways around it. But right now, Harry's reminding me of this one customer I had who complained that "kids these days" rely too heavily on technology and crap as she paid using a debit card and drove off in her car.

And it gets better. So Harry actually gets two phone calls. One is for a client that he plans on meeting later, and the other is from the Chicago police. Harry works as a magician consultant *snort* and they need his help. Gee, for a world that doesn't believe in magic (they believe in that devil Science) the tax payers and most of the police force seem A-ok with using a profession magician (sorry....wizard) to help solve brutal murders.

Anyway, the caller is a woman named Murphy. She tells him to meet her down by a hotel for a murder case. When we are introduced to's....rather poor writing. I'm sorry. There are moments were this novel has some fairly decent writing, and others are like, well, this:

Karrin and I are a study of contrasts. Where I am tall and lean, she's short and stocky. Where I have dark hair and dark eyes, she's got Shirley Temple blond locks and baby blues. Where my features are all lean and angular, with a hawkish nose and a sharp chin, hers are round and smooth, with the kind of cut nose you'd expect on a cheerleader (10).

First off, I wrote like that in fifth grade. Rule one of writing: don't list out everything your character looks like. Especially not smack dab in the beginning of a chapter. Yes, it's difficult to establish your character's appearance without listing, but that's what separates the big boys from the toddlers. Also, Harry loooooooves to compare women to cheerleaders.

He also likes giving us a scale on how respectable the woman is based on how much makeup she's wearing. Apparently, Harry feels her makeup is of "sufficient quality and quantity" (10). Just the way he says it makes me feel uncomfortable. Like if she were wearing more you wouldn't trust her or perhaps you'd think she's a whore? I don't know. Just a bit bizarre.

Now, here's where my real beef with this novel comes up. It's fucking sexist! The best part is it tries to not be sexist by going out of the plot's way by describing how Harry is chivalrous by opening doors for ladies (which in fact you should do for everyone, no matter the gender, because it's polite), but then turns around and spouts this crap at the brutal crime scene: 

Murphy glared at me, "You keep saying 'she,'" she challenged me. "Why the hell do you think that?"
I gestured toward the room. "Because you can't do something that bad without a whole lot of hate," I said. "Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me."

Oh no you didn't! As if the author knew what he just did there, he lampshades by having an officer call him a chauvinistic pig. But Harry still doesn't back down from stating a woman probably did it. But hey! Maybe Harry's right. I mean, I most certainly am doing a fine job hating on this novel. Perhaps the fact that most murders are committed by white males means nothing after all. Still, I can't believe people like this character. I pray that this is supposed to be a James Bond, who the author wrote for the audience to hate, but everyone ended up liking him anyway. Well, I'm going to continue reading to see if it is.

The hotel, though, is described quite well. You definitely get a strong idea of what this love pad looks like. Also, it gives us a great idea of what kind of people the victims were, which I like. And that's it. Later folks. I really hope it does get better.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Alice in Wonderland - Halloween Party Updates

My party is going awesome so far! I calculated the total amount spent, subtracted how much I earned secret shopping for some of the items, and I came to about $18.22. I spending most of my budget on food, I think, since I'm currently making half the decorations out of card decks or papier-mache.

I finally finished my American McGee's Alice costume today! It's pretty much completely done; there are just a couple minor things I want to fine-tune before wearing it on Halloween. It looks pretty close to the picture and I feel I did a great job creating my own pattern for it. Can't wait!
I need to fix the back mostly: the bow's too droopy and the zipper's showing.

On a slightly different note, the funniest thing happened at the grocery store today. I saw a Halloween magazine at the checkout and just decided to flip through it to see if there was anything interesting.... Well, guess what I happened to find? An Alice in Wonderland themed party in there! I was completely floored. Usually when I find Alice themed parties, they are for the summertime and for kids. This is not only for adults, but for Halloween! I had to buy it.

This magazine was a special issue of "Better Homes and Gardens." They had some really cute ideas in there, but I'm probably going to stick with my ideas mostly. You can view part of it online here. They mostly had great food ideas and some decoration suggestions. I liked this one food idea: "Convert finger sandwiches...into saucy playing cards with hearts cut from roasted red pepper slice." That sounds pretty cute. The magazine says I can get the recipes on their website, but for some reason it's not loading properly. I'll have to try again.

One in particular I thought was absurd: "Use a few books to raise one side of an empty china cabinet...Then carefully arrange not-so-good china to look as if it slid topsy-turvy." Umm....I can easily see that falling over and hurting someone...not to mention damage the wall it was resting on.

Update: I have tried a Alice in Wonderland craft from this book! I give improved instructions, as well as pictures of my final results, HERE!

Lots of excitement in regards to Halloween! Working on the Jabberwocky skeleton as we speak!

Posts of Interest:
Alice in Wonderland Music Playlist
Mushroom Decorations

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Work Stories

Think back to your very first job....don't a lot of memories and anecdotes come to mind? Well let's take a moment to share those. In particular.... the WORST scenarios. I'll share with you some of my funny stories, and you guys go ahead and leave comments with some of your doozies.

Isn't it funny? When you volunteer, people treat you really nicely. I used to volunteer at a museum selling ice cream, but I was pretty young and bad with counting back change without a calculator. Though people easily could have taken advantage of me, being alone and confused, everyone helped me out. Yet now, as a paid employee, people feel it's almost a right to treat me like a slave or something sub-human. Sort of ironic when you stop and think about it.

Anyway, here are some of my funny stories with customers I've encountered:

One of my jobs was working at a Panera Bread. If you don't already know, Panera Bread is a fast food place that pretends it isn't fast food. They swear up and down they don't want to be treated like fast food, yet the one I worked at put in a drive-thru. Paneras serve bread, sandwiches, soups, salads, scones, coffee, and MUFFINS. Oh yes...muffins.
It was a busy lunch hour. I was working in the bakery and handling all of the bagels, scones, muffins, bear claws, and all that stuff. An older man approaches my register and says, "I'd like a pumpkin muffin." It was sort of loud, so I just wanted to double-check, so I double-checked with him. He starts raising his voice and declares. "No, I want a carrot muffin!"

Okay, I think to myself. I must have misheard him. Now, Panera has two types of carrot muffins. One is very much like a carrot cake, and the other is like carrot cake but without frosting. Earlier that week I had someone complain that the carrot cake muffins had too much frosting, and I wanted to make sure we avoided that issue again, so I tried to clarify the difference between the two muffins. Well, he wasn't having any of that.

"I want a carrot cake muffin!" He's starting to get angry with me so I just give up trying to clear up the frosting thing. I walk over to the bakery section. All of the products are behind a glass wall so customers can see all our products with all their calorie glory. I place a carrot cake muffin on a plate and hand it to the man. He pays and walks off to a table. About ten minutes later, he comes back.

"What is all this gobbly-gook!" he points an angry finger at the center of the muffin which has the frosting.

"That's the frosting, sir. That's what I was trying to tell you about."

"Well, I don't want it. All I want is a pumpkin muffin!" He's getting really angry at me now, but it's all I can do to not burst into laughter. I must confess, I probably was smiling like a goof when I tossed out the carrot muffin to swap it with a pumpkin. Oh, yes. Go ahead and be mad with me. I know I wasn't the one with the communication problems. Jesus....

This other job was when I worked at Portillo's. Portillo's is a Chicago restaurant that serves Chicago food. Well, all Chicago food minus gyros and deep-dish pizza. I was a cashier there, too, though we take orders via paper bag instead of computer. What happens is when someone orders, we use short-hand to write it on the bag. We send this bag down the line instead of using computers. I don't know why they do this. It probably just speeds things up because we get SLAMMED. All the time!! If you live by a Portillo's, you're probably nodding your heads now.
This sandwich has the juice on the side. This guy wanted his sandwich completely submerged and soaked in the juice. WITH MARINARA SAUCE. YUCK
Anyway, this guy comes up and I'm starting to take his order. He says to me, "I'd like an Italian beef with red sauce [marinara sauce], hot peppers, and can you dip it. Can you dip it. Can you dip it. Can you dip it. Can you dip it. Can you dip it. Can you dip it." I swear to god I thought his needle was stuck. I just stopped writing on the bag and looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. And he just KEPT....GOING.

Finally I said, "You want me to dip it?"

"Yes!" he said. "That last couple of times I was here, you guys didn't dip it all the way. I want it completely dipped."

Fine, no big deal. I told him I would go to the woman making the sandwiches myself and tell her to dip it completely. That seemed to make him happy and I sent him on his merry way. I did as I promised and told the woman that the guy was complaining his sandwich was never correct. I thought I heard the last from him after that, but about twenty minutes later, he cuts in line, holds up his sandwich, and shouts, "Way to go guys, you still didn't dip it right."

Hey, big guy.... I did MY part. You're yelling at the wrong person. Maybe if you stopped treating me like I'm an idiot....oh no wait. Nothing different would have happened if you would have treated me respectfully because it wasn't my fault! Well, he ended up getting the whole damn thing remade from him because some of his bread wasn't completely sopping and greasy. Congrats.

Work Stories - TBC
trust me, they're going to get a whole lot better ;)

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