Monday, December 28, 2015

Problems with Pan

I am an avid and supreme geek of Peter Pan and J.M. Barrie. I wrote a published, lengthy essay on history and I, at the time, had one of the largest amassed collection of academic publications, cultural compendium of references, and research on Barrie. This was, of course, prior to the invention of Wikipedia and when people still needed to research mostly in libraries and use books to gather information. So to say I am simply a fan is unjust.

The culture of Peter Pan is so interesting and speaks volumes to our modern society. I've not been overly dedicated to strict adaptations of the story. I think Peter Pan can be applied to numerous story types and can be changed to fit numerous situations, but sometimes a movie comes along that misses the pirate boat completely.

My faith in the new Pan (2015) movie was pretty strong. I thought it had its origins in the Peter and the Starcatchers book series, but upon further review, it was not founded in those novels. Even though it does tap into this idea of Blackbeard, who came before Captain Hook.

Instead, the film touts itself to be a prequel to Barrie's Peter Pan. Instead of treating itself like a reimagining of the series, it really put stock in treating all of us to the origin of Peter Pan, which is does not! It recreates the world and the mythos ENTIRELY! To act as if it taps into the origin of the original Peter Pan is wrong on so many counts. Within this is where the fatal flaw of Pan can be found.

The visual qualities and artistic creation of the film are absolutely stellar and beautiful. The acting of Levi Miller (Peter Pan) is really well done. He carries the whole film and does, honestly, embody the essence of Peter, but there are some other issues. So let's get to the problems.

1. Set during World War II
Therein lies the immediate problem with treating this like a direct prequel to Barrie's story. Barrie's story was first debuted on the stage in 1904. If Peter was in fact 13 at the time of the story, there's no plausible way for him to be living during WWII. Even Hook accounted for the difference in that you don't age in Neverland and Peter chose to come back to London decades later. Instead, you have Peter stolen from London during WWII. Barrie didn't even live to see WWII, dying in 1937.

2. Soundtrack
Please. . . I beg you. . . stop using Nirvana in your Romantic and Victorian movies. It worked in Moulin Rouge (2002), because that's what the film was based around, but even there it was only a minor usage. Nirvana an Kurt Cobain were either romantics nor Victorians and the song is so immensely out of place, it is ludicrous. not to mention the use of the Ramones! Either commit entirely and make the film a musical or be creative enough to develop your own music and pirate songs! That was very off-putting as a whole. And then, well. . . the orchestral soundtrack was hardly inspired. . . cribbing from Powell's previous wrote on How to Train Your Dragon and even grifting a little from familiar pirate soundtracks, like Pirates of the Caribbean. 

3. Faith and Trust and Pixie Dust
What is this mining for pixie dust? And flying without pixie dust? And all of a sudden Peter doesn't need pixie dust, because he's part pixie? Instead the pixie dust is used to keep Blackbeard young? Yet, no one figured out it helps you the fly? I am so confused by all this pixie dust crap... well... not so much pixie dust as pixie rocks. All you have to do is sprinkle it from a fairy and be done with it.

4. Agelessness
Blackbeard needs to be rejuvenated with pixie dust that is mined out of the island, because Blackbeard has hunted the fairies to extinction. You're not supposed to age on Neverland. There's not some sort of drug-like catch to the whole thing. Neverland and magical, not a crack bed of never aging. NEVERland. Get it?

5. Prophesies
Peter was never a boy who was prophesied about. He was an infant who lived in Kensington Garden. He had run away from home and when he returned, realized his parents had a new baby and probably forgot about him. The Fairies found him in Kensington Garden and kidnapped him to Neverland. He was a young boy then. When Barrie looked for models for the statue by Frampton that stands in Kensington Garden, he based it on the boy from the family he had friended. This boy was 8 at the time. Bottom line. . .there was no prophecy.

The whole thing is a mess. It's taking from all the different Peter Pan stories and trying too hard to make it's own version of the story, but it falls short in so many areas. A great deal of it has to do with the story falling so far away from the original that all it uses are some characters and settings that are familiar. The rest is just so confusing and makes the movie difficult to invest in. It almost felt like the message of the movie was lost as well. Peter Pan is about a boy who never wants to grow up. He fears being like all the adults in the world. He wants to stay young. Instead, this is about a boy who needs to become who he was supposed to become.

I don't typically believe many reviewers, but sadly what I had heard about this movie was true. It really didn't work out. It just struggled to much to find it's own originality and personality and got lost in it's own mythos.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Education in Holidays

Last year and this year I used Mental Floss videos around the holiday times to give an unbiased account of "facts" about the holidays. Whether it was Thanksgiving, Halloween, or winter holidays, I've found Mental Floss to be a great source of really random and interesting facts that my kids feel a little bit smarter for knowing and I've heard many stories about how they shared some of the wacky facts with family and friends.

And let's not forget, my kids LOVE John Green, so that doesn't hurt. I liked the song guy, but my kids were way more into John Green, because they love his books that became movies.

Here are my favorite Winter Holiday videos from Mental Floss that we watched in Social Studies this year.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Room Escape - Harry Potter Style

This year I really went out on a limb and reached out to a few women I really felt would create a super happy positive outting with lots of laughs. I knew that the local escape room group was having a Harry Potter themed escape room in December and the last escape room I attended was really awesome. Plus, in reality, I wanted to finally plan something permanent that I couldn't back out on.

In preparation I wanted to make it a super geeky outting with my ladies. So I made little gift bags. First, I made felt house ties for everyone to wear! I took a poll of which houses they were part of so that I could make them a tie. I also got Harry Potter lens-less glasses for everyone to wear, for fun.

Next, I made chocolate frogs in little frog molds and I bought some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean. The slugs were way too expensive. I also purchased a Mischief Managed pin for each of us, as well as some Harry Potter temporary tattoos and a cheap, plastic wand for the wandless.

Why would I go all out like a crazy woman? Because I had finally planned a ladies night adventure for my birthday! I was determined to have an amazing time, because I was desperately in need of a little fun.

We all met up and had arrived at Escape Rooms in Appleton. They started by giving us a rundown of the rules of how the room works and some of the safety information. Then it was time to be locked in the room. Inside the room was a screen that showed the timer and would occasionally give us hints to get us moving in the right direction if we were lost. There was no physical person in the room with us.

The five of us worked together to solve all the puzzles and finding all the keys and codes and things we needed to get out. We were able to escape with only 1:46 left on the clock out of 45 minutes! I'm not sure what 5 out of 10 means for difficulty, but we saw a lot of pictures of people who did not win the Snape room. We were proud and women represented their awesome! Take that men (mostly my husband who said we probably wouldn't make it).

Happy 35th Birthday to Me!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How my Geek Inspired a School

Our school has a goal to build a passion for Literacy! I'm part of an academic team that is trying to create monthly themes with weekly activities to engage Morning Meeting (Homeroom) groups in a Literacy activity. Literacy is composed of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It also includes Visual Literacy. Telling story through pictures and representing ideas through visuals is part of Literacy.

For the month of December I designed a Book-to-Movie themed activity using The Tale of the Three Brothers from J.K. Rowling's Tales from Beedle the Bard. It's also used in the Deathly Hallows movie. So my activity included doing a read aloud of the short story, then as a group the classes create their own visual story for the short story (I provide little squares with quotes from the book that they draw on and put the story in order), and lastly, they watch the video clip from the Deathly Hallows, which is read by Hermoine and is animated.

To help out some of the teachers who were consistently concerned about the amount of extra work that our Culture of Literacy activities were putting on them, I really wanted to relieve all the stress by making a read-aloud video that provided context, read the story, and gave discussion topics. So I made a video. It's rather amateur and I had to rush it (filmed it the morning after learning of the death of a family member so that I could edit it over Thanksgiving while we were with family for the funeral). Arrival on set was at 5:30AM (before almost anyone is even at the school and it still feels like midnight outside).

Here it is. I hope you enjoy and at least get a little laugh. It's supposed to be funny for Middle School kids.

It was pretty awesome and now I am known as "that YouTube teacher" for the kids who don't know me. Kids who knew me sought me out to tell me how awesome the video was AND give me high fives. I received some incredibly complementary e-mails from co-workers and it was just an overall great experience. They are so psyched for the future activities, it's amazing how they are excited about Literacy. Happy dances all around!

Just another addition to my crazy list of teacher geekery!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 3: Get Lucky (2014)

Get Lucky (2014)
Everyone is meeting at Dr. Lucky's house and he has made a great many enemies. Who will be the one to finally do Dr. Lucky in?

Play cards to try to maximize your ability to take out Dr. Lucky. It's a pretty fun two-player game. We played it with a couple who came over and it was a great many laughs for everyone. Read the text involved when you play your characters and  when you play the cards for the characters. This game is all about the card text. So much flavor!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 2: Mr. Jack Pocket (2010)

Mr. Jack Pocket (2010)
This is a pocket version of the larger game, Mr. Jack (2006). There is not a board, but tiles that you can change, randomly place, and manipulate during game play. There are still alibis, but they include an hourglass bonus for Jack.

You are either playing Jack or you're playing Sherlock, Watson, and their dog, Tobby. There are phases: the Manhunt and the Appeal to Witnesses.  The detectives move around the outside, looking down the streets, while Jack works towards manipulating the tiles and the detectives as much as possible.

Turns are still organized on an odd-even turn basis, where the odd turns the detectives take one turn token, then Jack takes who turn tokens, and the detective takes the final token. On the even turns, the roles are reversed. You can either move the detectives, manipulate the tiles, or take an alibi card.

Jack wins when he gets 6 hour glasses by the end of the Appeal to Witnesses turn. The detectives win when there is only one suspect left on the board.

A quick way to play Mr. Jack, with some changes to make it it's own unique game.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December Game-A-Day-Challenge 2015 - Day 1: Mint Tin Apocalypse (2015)

Mint Tin Apocalypse (2015)
We'd been waiting for this game and I enjoy the other Mint Tin games. They are quick and fun to play, easy to travel with, and my game club kids enjoy them. I also appreciate that just myself and my husband can play these as a quick in-between game to lighten the mood.

Here, you are simultaneously rolling dice to get sevens so that you can move your little meeps into the Fallout Shelter (the tin), but watch out for the green monster. Once you move the white supply cube into the tin, whenever you roll doubles, you start counting down to the monster. That's in the Uh-Oh mode.

Great replay ability and a great theme. Still a nice little pocket game.