Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Final First Montclarion Article of the Semester...

...and it's a double feature! :D

Look! My final semester as a staff writer for The Montclarion they include my middle name in the byline. Cool!

I took a photo of my one page feature as soon as I grabbed the brand new issue off the shelf!

A full page double feature! This is the first page of the Arts and Entertainment section of The Montclarion. I open up the section! :)

I am so honored to have come so far as a Montclarion staff writer for four years and am proud that something like this is the beginning of the end for me.

Here is a little behind the scenes story about these two articles and my feelings about them.

This semester the Arts and Entertainment section of The Montclarion got a new editor. His name is Jonathan and I love working with him. He is always on top of things and always gets back to me right away. Those are great qualities for an editor. In the past if a show was not playing anymore The Montclarion would not really want to run my story about it after the fact. Jonathan was okay with my Equus review, and I am grateful. I had been wanting to do this since last summer after all! I wrote it like a reflection as opposed to a review that suggests whether people should see it or not. Most reviews are just opinions pieces anyway so this was good practice for me. Upon receiving my articles and photos, Jonathan replied with "Did I ever mention that you're the best? Thanks for being on top of the game. I really appreciate it." and "You da best!" These definitely stroked my confidence.

Jonathan suggested that I could also do a story on an Equus cast member and since he is friends with some people in the show he would be able to organize an interview. I have done this for freelancing before so I agreed to it and asked who he had in mind. He suggested Taylor Dear, and I was proud to do the story about him. Why?

If you remember my background story about my review of Attempts on her Life from Fall 2012, I had a brief difficulty with the play at first. Taylor happened to have been in this show as well and I interviewed him after opening night to get a quote for my article. First I asked, "What do you want audience members to take from Attempts on her Life?", which he answered. Then I asked him something like, "How does a person GET Attempts on her Life?" meaning what should audience members do to accomplish understanding the play. This is actually one of the most difficult questions I have ever asked an MSU cast member considering its broadness and how ambiguous the play is and I could tell that Taylor struggled a tiny bit with it. However, he stayed with me and took the time to think about the question and answer it even though his friends were outside waiting for him. Now, this is not to say that other cast members would not have done the same thing, but because of this I have a lot of respect for the guy nonetheless.

This past Thursday as I walked down to the Student Center to get my copy of this week's issue, I was pretty nervous because 1) I stressed a little bit about these two articles because I wanted to do justice to them since I had planned it for awhile, worked on them throughout Spring Break, and am a perfectionist with my writing in general and 2) I had not seen my articles on The Montclarion website yet so I was wondering whether or not my article would even be there! I mean, I submitted the articles and photos in good time and Jonathan acknowledged them, plus I was told ahead of time that I was the feature full page article for the week, but this has happened to me before with The Montclarion so that was from where my concern was stemming. When I was about to walk through the door coincidentally Taylor was walking out with a copy in his hands. He told me that the article is great and thanked me. I immediately felt relief, grabbed my own copy, and took the picture up above, proud of myself.

It is because of reactions like Taylor's that I love my job and what I do.

Here are my articles:

Equus review

Taylor Dear Profile

Enjoy! :D

It is always so exciting to take your own copy of a freshly printed newspaper issue from the bunch and then open it up to see your article in it after much anticipation. I was shaking and very thrilled.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PBS Kids TV Shows and their Unexplained

My gigantic PBS Kids analytical essays are back again, this time not to poke fun at useless new characters, but to discuss details of the shows that are often left unexplained. These are details that I have come across and wondered about.

PBS Kids does everything from academic lessons to moral lessons, but there are some aspects of PBS Kids that seem to miss the mark.

For example...

What exactly do the hordes/hoards (spelling?) look like in "Dragon Tales"? 

In "Dragon Tales" the dragons have these pouches on their abdomens called "hordes" and they treat them like kangaroo pouches. The dragons store random objects in them. It's like their version of backpacks, only it's built in.

However, there is something I always wondered about these things. How big are they? What is the depth of these hordes? I know this is a cartoon, but these hordes have infinite space in there. The dragons constantly and often conveniently pull out random objects from these hordes, objects that look like they wouldn't fit in them. I keep recalling Ord taking a 7-foot sandwich out of his horde in one episode. Where did he store it? How did it fit? In another episode, Zak tells Wheezie that her side of the horde is messy. Do two-headed dragons have two separate compartments in their hordes?

How much stuff can they fit in there? What do they look like inside?

The Ghost Town Universe in "Sid the Science Kid"

First of all, I really want to commend "Sid the Science Kid" for getting kids excited about learning science. It's very rare that you see a show do that. The last time we saw this on PBS Kids was "Bill Nye the Science Guy", which is oddly enough a similar title.

"Sid the Science Kid" is about a biracial little boy named Sid that is fascinated by science. Every episode he has a different science related question which is answered later on because coincidentally it is what he and his classmates end up learning about in that very episode.

Maybe perhaps one of these episodes can discuss the lack of life forms in the show.

The next time you watch "Sid The Science Kid", see if you take notice of this. The only people viewers see are the main characters. Oh, and there was also a dog in one episode. But you never see any other random people walking on the sidewalk or cars out and about. It looks like they are the only inhabitants in their town. You know how in "Arthur" even though they aren't important characters you still see random civilians around? That's not the case in "Sid". It's actually kind of scary. Almost post-apocalyptic. I guess we can say that this is because "Arthur" takes place in all different settings whereas the "Sid" setting is limited, but it is still very eerie.

The show also makes it look like there are only four kids (Sid, Gerald, Gabriela, and May) and one teacher (Teacher Susie) in the entire school because you never see anybody else on the playground or in the building. One explanation for this that I've seen people state is that perhaps Sid attends a special education school. This makes sense because special education schools often consist of smaller class sizes. We also never meet any of the other kids' parents.

But there are even episodes where Teacher Susie takes the kids on a field trip to the local science center. Guess what? You don't see anybody else in these places either.

This is a public place! Where is everybody? It often looks like the place is closed and Teacher Susie and the kids just broke in.

Wait a minute. I just found this on Wikipedia.

Well there goes that.

There's a picture of this character on Google, but I've never seen her before. She must be new. Maybe they're starting to add new characters now.

But still, she's only one character. The rest of the atmosphere is still very empty.

Additional Puzzlement: The only thing these kids learn in school is science and no other subjects. I know that the show is dedicated to science, but yeah, just wanted to point this out.

Talking Dogs in Various PBS Kids Shows: Why Dog from "Word World" was Cheated

"Word World" is an interesting show with an interesting concept. Everything in Word World is built from the letters that spell the word. For example, the character of "Dog" takes the shape of the letters D-O-G. The characters consist of animals (and objects) shaped in this way and they all speak English (and probably other human languages as well depending on where the show airs and what languages it provides).

"Dog" from "Word World"
That is, except for Dog. Even though Dog is living in a universe where there are no humans and animals can talk, Dog is the only character that acts like an everyday dog and is treated as such whereas the other animals in this universe don't act like regular everyday animals. The other "Word World" characters are personified. They speak with words and walk on their hind legs, especially characters like Sheep, Bear, and Pig. They are almost equivalent to human beings in their world yet Dog barks, walks on all fours, and is sometimes treated like a pet rather than one of them. Why is this? Why isn't he (or she) considered equal to them? See, I don't even know what gender this dog is because he or she never speaks to help me determine this, but I'm pretty sure Dog is often referred to as a "he."

When compared to other PBS Kids shows that involve talking dogs, this makes even less sense. First, let's look at the show that makes the most sense, which is "Clifford the Big Red Dog". Imagine that. A cartoon series about a red dog the size of a house being the most realistic. Well it is when it comes to talking animals. To the humans in "Clifford", Clifford and the rest of the dogs are normal pets that bark. The only time these dogs speak English is when they speak to each other, and when the dogs speak English, the only thing the humans hear is barking.

Then there is "Arthur". Recently Pal and the other pets of the series, like Francine's cat Nemo (I just found out that this is the correct spelling. This whole time I thought it was spelled "Mimo".) and Alberto's dog Amigo (Get it? Pal? Amigo? Ha! Clever!) are all of a sudden speaking English to each other like the dogs in "Clifford". However, the only difference in this show is that they are taking it a step further and the animals are also able to communicate with Baby Kate, Arthur's toddler little sister. Yes, Kate is now speaking perfect English as well, to the animals at least. This is fine I guess because normally dogs and younger children have this sort of connection in fiction.

The worst and most offensive comparison is "Martha Speaks". Ha! This is the actual title of this series, which is about a dog that walks on all fours and is able to speak English and communicate with her human peers. It is explained in the opening theme that Martha can do this because she ate alphabet soup and instead of it going to her stomach the soup took a wrong turn and traveled to her brain instead...

I'm not kidding! See for yourself! This is seriously what supposedly happened!

Hey, it's PBS Kids, people!

But here's what's so offensive about it. So you're telling me that Martha, from eating alphabet soup and having a weird digestive tract, is able to talk fluently with humans in a human run everyday world like our own? Where dogs normally don't speak and she actually lives with another normal barking non-speaking dog, Skits? But Dog can't speak in a non-human world, a place only populated by animals, where animals much like himself can but only HE cannot?

What a slap in the face! He's like the one dog on PBS Kids that doesn't speak and should considering the world in which he lives and that the rest of his peers do. Dog should totally take this up with his creator and sue PBS for this injustice!

Additional Puzzlement: Not only do Pal and Nemo speak English, they also have English accents. How did that happen? Amigo has a Latin accent because he lives with a Latin family, but the other two don't live with British families, so what influenced their British accents?

"Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood": Daniel No Longer Lives in the Clock Factory

When I saw this "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood" for the first time, I found so many things wrong with it, so much that I was planning on dedicating an entire blog post to it. I originally thought that the people creating the show got everything wrong, especially names, and were failing at being loyal to the original "Mister Rogers" franchise, making things up and just changing things out of nowhere.

Then after awhile I got my explanation. It turns out that this show is much like a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: The Next Generation" type of show with Daniel getting his own spinoff starring the descendents of the original characters. Daniel hangs out with X the Owl's nephew O the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat's kitten Katerina Kittycat, King Friday's son and Prince Tuesday's younger brother Prince Wednesday, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde's daughter, Miss Elaina. Now that this is all explained, it is all well and good. But, there is one detail that still doesn't sit right with me.

Remember how back in the days of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Daniel lived in a clock tower and any time the human characters wanted to talk with him, they simply walked over to the Clock Factory and he would pop up.

This isn't the case anymore. Now the Tiger family lives in a hut and Daniel's father simply works at the Clock Factory. Why was this changed? This is an unnecessary change because Lady Elaine Fairchilde and her family still live in the Museum-Go-Round like she originally did, so why doesn't he and his family still live in the Clock Factory? Unless I only thought that he lived there...

I just found this on Wikipedia. See, I'm not crazy! He did actually live there!

But this suggests that the original Daniel the Tiger from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is the father of lead character Daniel from "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood". But I don't recall the original Daniel being called "Daniel the Striped Tiger".

Wait. From "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" Wikipedia:

Unless they edited this Wikipedia page to make it match the "Daniel the Tiger's Neighborhood" Wikipedia page, but probably not.

I had to look this up to confirm because I was starting to remember. Apparently this was his name. The fact that his kid's name is Daniel as well threw me off. I thought the lead character of the spinoff series was the original Daniel. This does explain a bit why Daniel from the next generation hangs out with Prince Wednesday and not Prince Tuesday, giving a little insight into why Prince Wednesday was created. The original Daniel used to be the same age as Prince Tuesday so they had to create a younger prince to hang out with the original Daniel's son. That is, if that is their intention here and I am guessing the characters right.

Well, perhaps Daniel felt that living in a clock factory was no place to raise a family so he moved out of his bachelor pad into the hut with his family. It does make sense why Daniel still works there. He still wants to be connected to the old days. I'm just glad that he's not totally removed from the Clock Factory.

Whew! PBS Kids TV shows weren't this complex when I was a kid...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Equus is Finally Premiering this Week at Montclair State University!!!

You read me talk about it for like a year now, and now after weeks of anticipation, and some personal preparation on my part to get ready for it, it's finally here. The Department of Theatre and Dance's production of Equus premieres this week at Alexander Kasser Theater! :D

It's funny that when I was reading the book for the first time this past summer, I thought it would be staged in L. Howard Fox Theatre, but normally shows that are a big deal like this are staged in Kasser, so this makes sense. I am interesting to see how it is going to be performed and staged after trying to picture it for so long.

Since the beginning of my Spring 2013 semester, I've been seeing flyers and framed pictures of this all over the place, and every time I see it I get so pumped! :) There's always that one big show they advertise like this.

I've been looking forward to seeing this play by doing some countdowns up to this week and wondering what to expect (and if it is going to be what I am expecting), so we'll see if its theatrical nudity goodness pulls off a good show! I'm also bracing myself for any potential uncomfortable moments considering the subject matter.

I think I am going to brush up on the script again before I see it. I will also be reviewing for The Montclarion, so stay tuned! :)

For more information about Equus at MSU, click here.

To read my book review of Equus, click here.