Why Do People Love A Charlie Brown Christmas?

‘Tis the season for non-stop Christmas specials, and there’s no way of escaping them. One of the more popular ones is A Charlie Brown Christmas. This special has been aired on TV since 1965 and practically everyone is obsessed with it. I’m obsessed with it. Hell, I even bought the tree Charlie Brown bought. Here’s the real question: Why DO people like it so much.

First, let’s look at the plot. Charlie Brown is sad because he can’t the true meaning of Christmas, so Lucy tells him to be the director of the school play which will boost his confidence. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

There really isn’t that much of a plot here. The conflict is easily settled, and most of the cartoon is just the Peanuts gang dancing or playing in the snow.

On top of that, the animation isn’t all that great, even for 1960s standards. The later Peanuts specials and even the series was drawn much better. Hell, sometimes the characters look like they’re staring into the abyss and a lot of the animation is reused (look at the dancing scenes.)

Also, the voice acting, though not bad considering these were kids, sometimes sounds awkward.

Even with all those flaws, it’s still worth watching. The main reason is because this special has a lot of heart and soul to it. It makes you fell things. Happy things. You want to see Charlie Brown happy. You love the tree he buys and you get angry when the kids laugh at him. It’s a story that many people can relate to because there are people who are sad during the holidays.

The best part of the special is the music. The second you hear any of the songs you instantly start smiling, singing or even humming these songs they are that memorable. The music sets the tone for each scene perfectly that it just sucks you in.

While the plot the basic, there are a ton of memorable scenes. The ice skating scene at the beginning, the dance scene and even the tree buying scene many people can recite by heart. And that ending, man, if you don’t cry or start singing along in that ending you’re dead inside.

While the later Peanuts specials are better on a technical level to A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is a classic that gets air time every year for a reason. It has heart, it gives you happy feelings and gets you into the Christmas mood better than anything will. So go out and buy that little tree and put it right next to the big tree just to show that this special does matter.

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The Haunted House Review

Charlies Dickens is famous for writing books about 19th-century poor people dealing with the 19th-century way of life. The last thing you’d expect from him is horror. A Christmas Carol had ghosts, but they weren’t scary (except the Ghost of ChrostmasFuture.) If you’re in the right bookstore at the right time you’ll find A Haunted House and think, “hey, something scary from Dickens. And it takes place during Christmas!” Alas, there is nothing scary here.

The setting is interesting enough: a man rents out a supposedly haunted house and invites a group of people to spend Christmas Eve there. The next day each person recounts the spirit they encountered during the night. Too bad the stories are just each spirit’s life and how they died. The deaths aren’t scary; they’re more somber than anything else.

This is also not really a novel but a collection of stories by different authors that Dickens collected in the Christmas issue of his journal All the Year Round. This is more than enough reason to read the introductions to these old books.

The quality of these stories, like any other short story anthology, depend on what you take out of them. I personally wasn’t really interested in any of the stories. Now, that doesn’t mean that this book has any merit. This book is an early example of a short story collection that has a story within it. While today these are a dime a dozen, this was pretty groundbreaking stuff back in the 19th-Century. It may not be widely read or even known even to literary scholars, but you have to admire what something like this did to create for future writers.

On the other hand, these stories are dry as all hell. Yes, they are tragic and show a tragic side to humanity, but the writing makes it slog to read and many modern readers will just quit. This isn’t something you read for fun, this is something you read to do research and write thesis papers on.

With that in mind, this will not replace A Christmas Carol nor will it come close to its success. It’s an interesting piece of literary history, but not so much something you’d read willfully unless you were suckered in by its title.

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review

Danganronpa is one of these newer visual novel games that have exploded in popularity. I have seen pictures of Monokuma (the series’ main villain) all over and Loot Anime even gave out a the same tie one fo the characters wear in the game. Of course, being a cat with high curiosity, I decided to test fate and get the first game, Trigger Happy Havoc, from Gamefly and give it a shot. There’s plenty to like and plenty to hate.

First, the good stuff. The plot and background are amazing. A bunch of teenagers who are “the ultimate” in a certain field is sent to this prestigious school because of their talents. In reality, this school is actually a prison set up by a bear named Monokuma who tells them that they are here forever and the only way to leave is to kill one student and not get caught.

That right there is intriguing. There is so much that can be done with that idea. There are some points where we do see some good stuff come out of it. The characters, for the most part, are interesting. The best of the lot are Sakura, Aoi, Kyoko and Hiro. There was a lot of thought put into these characters that you care a lot about what happens to them.

Sadly, the other characters aren’t as interesting. The majority are killed off before they get any kind of development whatsoever. The absolute worst  is Byakuya. I don’t care what kind of half-assed development he got; I just wanted to see that stuck up, egotistical little shit get killed in the most horrible way possible.

Visually, the game looks unique. Each character has a unique, memorable look to them, even Monokuma who’s just a black and white teddy bear. Sadly, the school itself looks generic. Nothing about it stands out which is sad because you will be doing a lot of exploring around. You will forget where everything is because these locations don’t stand out at all.

This is also the game’s biggest weakness: the gameplay blows, especially the trail portions. There are three parts to the game. The first is exploration where you have free time to talk with any character to gain new abilities and SP. You can even give them gifts to increase your relationship with them. If you’ve played any dating sim, you know how this goes. The second part is investigating each murder where you’re being led by the nose to each location to find clues (or “truth bullets” as the game calls them.” Finally, there’s the trial. This part is just one gimmicky mini-game after another. All of them suck. Why is there a rhythm game  in a trial? Hell, once you get a certain skill this rhythm game becomes a no-brainer.

The worst part is the twist at the end that explains why they’re trapped in the school. I don’t care what anybody says, I did the Nostalgia Critic’s “this is stupid” bit when I saw that. It’s not just normal stupid, it’s so stupid for words that I just stopped caring about the story after that. I just wanted the game to end. Now.

While the  story and setting are great, the ending ruins it. Not to mention the horrendous gameplay isn’t worth your time. Just watch the anime, you’ll get the same experience without the gameplay.

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Spooksville: The Secret Path Review.

It’s my favorite time of year: Halloween! I don’t care that some Halloween traditions are corny, I like them. One of them is diving into horror anything. This time, I found a book series called Spooksville by Christopher Pike and after reading the first book The Secret Path it’s not that bad.

Adam has just moved to the small town of Springville-or Spooksville as it’s more commonly known as because of all the scary stuff that happens. He meets two of the town’s kids: Sally, who has a massive crush on him and Watch who’s called that because he wears four watches. Watch decides to drapAdam and Sally on an adventure to the find The Secret Path, but that then leads them to some scary events.

First off, I will admit that this book series is the typical young adult horror book series. It’s a basic storyline with some basic situations. The reason this one stands out is characterization. All three main leads are likable and their personalities don’t come off as forced (except Sally. She’s a bit too quirky.)

Yes, a spooky town has been overdone (Eerie Indiana, anyone? What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? Look it up) but the first book does make this town out to be a little different. There’s a lot to be explored here and the next few books do sound like they will expand on it.

Will I continue this series? Yes, because this is like Goosebumps but with the same characters. I’m not expecting much from this series, but it does have promise. It’s not a phenomenon like Goosebumps is even with a TV series, but it’s still worth what some people call “light reading” or something quick to read for Halloween.

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Let’s Talk About The Baby-sitters Club

Yes, you read that right. I’m a guy who was curious about the Baby-sitters Club books. Yes, I’m comfortable with my sexuality. I did it out of purely academic interest. I mean, they’re there to be read, right?

Anyway, I only read the first book Kristy’sGreat Idea. That was more than enough for me to give an honest view.

Basically, the first book is about four friends who create a club for babysitters (thus the title) and they babysit a whole bunch. That’s really it.

Yes, I’m aware there have been a lot more books written n the series (my sister had a whole bunch when she was a teenager but gave all the books away.) I’m a guy and know that 1. This series was not meant for me and 2. I can see the appeal of these books.

You see, every form of media has that one (or 100) series that really talks to people. For teenage girls, this is one of them because, even today, many girls make money babysitting. Based on this first book the babysitting stories are similar to what happened to the reader when they babysit. One thing of note is that, though a bit outdated, kids really are like this. There are good kids and then there are holy terrors. Babysitters have babysat all of these. Thus, female readers see themselves in these four girls’ shoes.

As mentioned above, the first book is a bit outdated. Since this was written in the 80s some things (like the old fashioned corded phone) will be alien to girls from this generation on. Girls will still read them because, besides the things mentioned above, the writing has not aged. There is no slang, regional sayings or even mentions of items from that time. This is another strength this series has and why some girls still read it.

Of course, these books aren’t masterpieces and aren’t as popular as they were in the 80s and 90s, but they can still be enjoyed. Think of it like this: boys have Goosebumps and girls and The Baby-sitters club. Though I am against this whole gender appropriate crap (I like Sailor Moon. Don’t say anything) this is one of those times where boys will not like what they’re reading.

Even though I’m, not the right audience, I can still see how and why this series got so popular and still read today. Though the popularity died down, girls can still read these books, enjoy them and identify with them. Just don’t expect anything too profound, though.

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Brooklyn (Movie) Review

One of the things I’ve made blatantly obvious on this blog is that I live Brooklyn. So of course whenever something takes place in Brooklyn I have to read/watch it. I remember coming across a book called Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín in the Barnes and Noble in Park Slope (one of only two B&Ns left in Brooklyn. The other one is on Court Street.) I barely remember reading like fifty pages of this book and then returning it to the library. Then the movie came out and I was unsure if I should see it. Then I finally watched it on demand and, yeah, not what I was expecting.

Eilis Lacey is just an Irish country girl whose life in going nowhere. She gets a sponsorship to go live in America but quickly gets homesick. Her life does take a turn for the better when she meets Italian-American Tony.

The first half of the movie was interesting. I actually liked Ellis and what happened to her. At the 45 minute mark, something started to feel wrong. At the 90 minute mark, it dawned on me: this is boring. Yeah, I said it, Brooklyn is boring. Ellis does absolutely nothing to move the plot forward. The plot moves her forward. Hell, I’ll actually say Ellis is barely a character.

One of the worst things about Ellis is that SHE DOES NOT SPEAK UP! Seriously, was it too hard to tell her Irish relatives that she got married in America? Of course not, because the whole third act would not exist if she did. I hate to say it, but she’s basically an Irish version of Bella Swan. Everyone else decides what she does and thinks and she just goes along with it. Add in no characterization and here’s Ellis.

The only positive thing that can be said about this movie is the acting is at least decent. It’s nothing memorable or outstanding but the actors do try their best with what’s given to them.

Brooklyn sounded like an interesting story, but the overall experience is boring with a shoestring plot. This is one of the many reasons I’m an advocate for libraries; the worst thing is to buy a book only to hate absolutely hate it.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review

It’s been nine years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and every Potter fan has grown up. Not to mention Warner Bros. has been trying to find its next cash cow for years and hasn’t found one. Well, rejoice Potter fans because another Harry Potter book has been published called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And it’s a play instead of a novel.

Now, that is one thing I keep hearing people complain about this. The thing is, every media outlet has said that it’s the script to the play that opened the same day the book came out. This should not come as a shock. Also, plays are super easy to read, especially if they’re modern plays. This isn’t Shakespeare or a Greek play. Also, it’s the first Harry Potter play in nine years.

Anyway, onto the plot. Nineteen years after Deathly Hallows, our heroes have kids who are going off to Hogwarts. Albus, Harry and Ginny’s second son, is having daddy issues in that everyone expects him to be at the same level as his dad. Not to mention he’s best buds with Scorpius Malfoy and was sorted into Slytherin. So he and Scorpius decided to steal a time turner and go back in time to change the future.

Obviously, there are a lot of paradoxes in this story and none of them are good. Yes, it’s one of those stories. Cliche though it may be, it’s actually quite interesting. Yes, most of the story is focused on the kids, but remember Harry’s story has been told. Hell, look at another series that did the same thing: Naruto. They are now coming out with stories about Naruto’s son Boruto and the fans like it.

Admittedly, there are some sour notes to the story. One of the major ones is Draco Malfoy being pretty damn out of character. He’s WAY too nice to Harry even if his son is in trouble. Him also trying not to be his dad is another thing that doesn’t make sense. He did everything to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the first seven books.

Then there’s the power of love. I’ll leave it at that.

Another downside is the main villain. This character has a cliche backstory and isn’t all that interesting. Yes, this character does have some new interesting powers, but on a whole was pretty weak.

Of course, novel writing and playwriting are two different things. John Tiffany and Jack Thorne are both stage veterans and the script itself is well directed even if some of the stuff can only be done with a Broadway budget. It’s one of those plays that are easy to pick up and do any kind reading, even if it is a drunken dramatic one.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” may be a play, but the story is good enough for a Harry Potter story and it does make you want to see the play. It’s too bad that as of the publication of this review you can only see it in England at the Palace Theatre in London. Just hope it does well to come over to the US or, if you’re an actor, try to get your company to do your own production.

 

 

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Diary of a Haunting Review

I love horror. I may be as big of a horror fan as many people, but I do like it. the problem I found is that horror works best as a visual medium. It’s rare to find a good, scary horror story and usually, these are in the form of short stories or novellas. Stephen King gets away with writing 600-page horror stories because he apparently found the secret to it. One of the most recent examples I found is Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano. Once again, I found this while browsing the library and the cover is what caught my eye.

Paige, her mom and brother Logan has moved into an old house in Idaho from LA. Of course, she hates her new house. Main reason is because of all the flies and spiders the house has. Soon after moving, Logan starts acting weird and there are times when electronics in the house start to not work properly. Not to mention there is a buzzing noise in Logan’s room. Paige thinks that the house may be haunted, but there is plenty of people saying otherwise.

One word perfectly describes this book: dull. Absolutely nothing scary happens. It’s just spiders, flies, cell phones not working and Logan having seizures and acting weird. There is no ghost, there’s nothing scary about the house except it has a morgue once upon a time and Logan is acting weird. There is NO suspense to this book whatsoever.

The writing style is supposed to be a diary since this book is called Diary of a Haunting. It reads more like a regular first person narrative than just a bunch of journal entries. I hate using this example, but the best place to see what a good journal entry story looks like is Diary of Anne Frank. Yes, I’m aware that was a real diary, but it’s the best reference.

Let’s not forget the ending. Rushed doesn’t even begin to describe it. Hell, it’s even predictable. There are clues all over that point to how this book would end.

This book is 310 pages. None of them are scary. The only scary bits are the black and white photos this book has to make it seem like it’s “based on real life.” It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That image does not happen in the book. The book would’ve been much better if that happened. Skip this book.

Expect a review of the new Harry Potter book next time.

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Good Omens Review

I know I’ve been away for far longer than I should, but I’ve not been well and had classes to attend. Now I’m back with a review of a book that I pushed to the side years ago like a dummy: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When I first read it years ago I didn’t get it. After re-reading and finishing it, I have a new found respect for it.

Heaven and Hell are preparing for the end of the world because The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch says the world will end on a specific date. Problem is, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley rather like Earth, thank you very much, but they have work to do. One of them is getting the Anti-Christ born and finding him. They messed that up and don’t know where he is. Now everyone is trying to gather in the spot where the prophecy says just because it’s a prophecy.

This is the first time where the end of the world is made fun of and both Pratchett and Gaiman do a fine job. The humor is that dry British humor that makes you want a spot of tea afterward. Most of it, however, isn’t laugh out loud funny, but there some that are few and far between. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, it’s just not that particular kind of funny.

The idea of an angel and devil living on Earth and liking it is funny. It’s funnier that they work together and only have a friendly jab at each other once in awhile. There should be more of this kind of situation.

Don’t worry about not knowing who wrote what part. Each writer has their own unique style and it’s easy to tell who wrote what. Each part is equally as good as the other and they have some great chemistry with each other.

Everything isn’t perfect, though. For one, most of the book is just set to the ending. We do learn about each character, but some like the witchfinders and Anathema aren’t all that well fleshed out. They aren’t even all that important to the finale.

In all, I should’ve given this book a much better chance. Some some criticisms, this is an excellent book by two great authors that’ll we’ll never see work together again. Give it a shot.

 

 

 

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The Fall of Arthur Review

J. R.R Tolkien is considered to be one of the greatest fantasy writers ever.. Of course, like many people, I found out about him when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. I did read The Hobbit and liked it. The first Lord of the Rings book, well, didn’t like. Mind you this was twelve years ago so I may go back to it. I did decide to read the epic poem Tolkien wrote called The Fall of Arthur recently and it was awesome.

For those who don’t know, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford university and a lot o his works are based on classic literature (The Lord of the Rings has a lot biblical and British mythology in it.) He always wanted to add a story to the Arthurian myth. He started it and, sadly, never finished it. It’s a shame really because he was on to something with the story. The story is basically Arthur and his knights fighting Mordred to get Guinevere back. It’s a nice little story that perfectly fits with the Arthurian myth.

Since this is an epic poem, we need to look at it as a poem. One thing that I’ll give Tolkien credit is that he knows how to write poems and songs. Some people may not like that it is written in “old English” (it’s actually Modern English or “Shakespearian English.” Old English actually looks a lot like German.) This was actually a smart move on Tolkien’s part in that it looks a lot like what any Medieval poet would write. It also flows nicely and even sounds nice when you read it out loud.

It’s a shame that only fifty pages of it exist. I would’ve loved to see this story complete because I want to know what happens next. Add this to the list of things that need to come back along with the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Library of Alexandria and the Legacy of Kain team.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur is an excellent modern epic poem that will sadly never be completed. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Tolkien, this poem is something I must commend him for. It shows his excellent grasp of literature and poetry skills. I say to every literature professor, have your students read this as part of the Arthurian Legend curriculum. It’s about as important as Mallory’s Mort D’Arthur and White’s Once and Future King.

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