Friday, December 30, 2022

Goal Setting with Calvin and Hobbes

I’ve made my thoughts about New Years and resolutions plain in the past, so I don’t think I need to beat that dead horse. However, if you want to set a resolution and don't know where to start, I have some tips, based on the wisdom of the one and only Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes.

Pick something that sounds nice, but doesn’t change you.

The most basic way to make sure you achieve your New Year’s resolution is to aim low. Want to spend less time on social media? Delete the app you spend the least time on (for me that’d be Pinterest). Or if you’re someone like Calvin with no filter, you could always go for the “expressing yourself more” option.

“The world [ought to change] to suit me.”

If the low hanging fruit of goals doesn’t appeal to you, denial and victimhood is always an option. After all, maybe you don’t need to change. We live in a crazy world where we’re bombarded with opinions of others and their emotions. So why not play the victim and wait for the world to change before you start changing yourself? 

Logic yourself out of the need to change.

Or maybe, in this world of accepting your true self and self-affirmation, you don’t really need to change. Plus we live in a world where truth and values are relative anyway, so who’s to say you need to change? Why not stay exactly as you are?

“Wing it and see what happens.”

All else fails, you can always just say your resolution is to go with the flow more. In doing so, you don’t really need to do anything except continue life as you are. Maybe you’ll improve and better yourself? Or maybe you’ll coast through 2023 as safely as ever?

In the end, I suppose it’s only because of tradition that we make resolutions right? No need to make any life changing or transforming goals. Just whatever will make life easy right?

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Princess Jasmine: A 30th Anniversary Tribute

(Guest post by David T)

On November 25, 1992, “Aladdin,” Walt Disney Pictures’ 31st animated film premiered in theaters. Loving Disney feature animation, I was excited to see the newest addition to their canon. However, these feelings were tempered by the preconceived idea that I wouldn’t love it like “Beauty and the Beast” released the previous year. When I watched Aladdin on the big screen for the first time, I was immediately drawn in by the gorgeously detailed hand drawn and computer animation and the music by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and the late Howard Ashman. Surprisingly the movie surpassed Beauty and the Beast in becoming my favorite Disney film. The moment was the appearance of the Sultan of Agrabah’s daughter, Princess Jasmine.

In the Princess’ introductory scene, I learned that she was being required to marry a man of the same social status by a predetermined date (Jasmine’s “next birthday”). In addition, the royal remained in the palace confines by her loving yet overprotective father. Like Belle, I quickly related to Jasmine. As a thirteen-year-old boy, I wasn’t royal, and marriage wasn’t even near the horizon. However, I began feeling the constraints of my parents’ rules. I was growing older and wanted to decide how to live my life.

Since my first encounter with her, I’ve been inspired by Jasmine’s characteristics exhibited in Aladdin and its adaptations to Broadway, television, and live-action film. In the original animated feature, I admire Jasmine’s independence. From the beginning, the princess is willing to utilize it and reject Prince Achmed as a potential husband. She is unafraid to vocalize to her father that she wants love to be the reason she marries and not because a law demands it or to satisfy the Sultan. Jasmine demonstrates her autonomy when she condemns Aladdin (disguised as Prince Ali), the Sultan, and Jafar for debating what’s best for her life. She states, “I am not a prize to be won!” When Aladdin offers the royal the chance to leave the palace via magic carpet, she willingly accepts. After Jafar takes over the kingdom, the deposed royal defies the evil new sovereign by refusing to bow and later rejects his offer to become his queen to end her enslavement. The most powerful moment where Jasmine exercises her independence is when the Sultan alters the marriage law to which she happily declares that Aladdin is her choice. 

I like the observing and introspective nature Jasmine displays in the Broadway version of Aladdin. In her solo, the princess expresses frustration with specific demands of her royal station, especially the requirement to wed a man she doesn’t know or love. She knows that her suitors are only interested in her wealth. As the royal and her handmaidens sing about her situation, Jasmine recognizes that if she doesn’t listen to her heart and change course, she’ll end up bitter and unfeeling. This self-realization cements for the princess that she needs to leave the strict security of the palace and find what she is yearning for.

In the retelling of Aladdin in the television series Once Upon a Time, I love how Jasmine’s leadership is exhibited. Determined to end Jafar’s control over her father and Agrabah, the princess seeks out the mythical “diamond in the rough” which turns out to be Aladdin. When the evil sorcerer re-emerges as a threat after initially being stopped, Jasmine rejects the Sultan’s proposed plan for protection which would require her marrying a prince who possesses a military. Instead, she searches for Aladdin (who has disappeared) to enlist his help again. The royal is ready to make the sacrifice and willingly marry her people’s enemy when it appears her options have run out. Even though Jasmine faces setbacks, the princess perseveres. In doing so, Jafar is ultimately defeated and Agrabah is free and safe.

I’m affected by Jasmine’s self-advocacy in the Aladdin live-action remake. The possibility of succeeding her father as Agrabah’s ruler is questioned by Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dahlia, and dismissed by the Sultan and Jafar. This doesn’t stop Jasmine from expressing herself. The most dramatic moment of this is when Jafar usurps the throne. The princess powerfully persuades Hakim, the Captain of the Guard to continue supporting the rightful royal family. Through this demonstration and Jasmine’s subsequent willingness to stand up to their enemy, the Sultan realizes that his daughter is capable of reigning. He abdicates allowing the princess to become a female Sultan. 

Since seeing Aladdin during the 1992 holiday season, the Princess of Agrabah has been and continues to be an inspiration. I had the unbelievable opportunity to meet her speaking voice, Linda Larkin and share how Jasmine has influenced my life. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Aladdin’s theatrical release, this post is dedicated to one of my most beloved Disney Princesses. Happy 30th Anniversary, Jasmine! Thanks to you, “I’m like a shooting star. I’ve come so far. I can’t go back to where I used to be!”

Monday, December 26, 2022

Year of Sanderson: What Should You Read?

2023 is going to be known as the year of Sanderson. For those that are fans of Brandon Sanderson already know why, but for those who haven’t heard during Covid Brandon Sanderson stressed wrote 5 new full-length novels, 4 of them will be released in 2023, while the 5th one will become a graphic novel that will be released in the future. The following link is the original video of him talking about this.

Brandon Sanderson setup a Kickstarter for anyone that wanted to purchase these “Secret Projects” in 2023. By the end of the Kickstarter with over 185,000 backers, he raised over 41 million dollar it became the most successful Kickstarter to date (the second highest was pebble technology which had over 78,000 backers raised over 20 million dollars). These four novels would be spaced evenly throughout the year giving us the time to digest them. For how much he is releasing next year 2023 will be known as the year of Sanderson. Do not worry though if you think 4 books isn’t enough to proclaim 2023 being the year of Sanderson, he will be publishing the last book in his YA Skyward series, Defiant as well.

Since 2023 will be the year of Sanderson I believe we should read more than five books. I think we should read as much as we can of Sanderson's work. In this post I will go over what books I think we should read in 2023. The most priority will be mentioned first and will descend in order on what should be read.

Artist: Michael Whelan

The Cosmere (On going):

This is the most popular well-known series Brandon Sanderson has written. The Cosmere is a fantasy series that takes place in one universe with multiple series/standalones taking place in it, each story takes place in a world in this universe (Cosmere). Even though the main story in each book, so far, does not affect another world it does not mean that it will stay that way. There are characters that show up from different stories (Different planets). The most popular world hopper is Hoid. He can be seen in every series, sometimes having a different name. Out of all the secret project books 3 of them will take place in the Cosmere and two of them are a stories told by Hoid, while the last has Hoid play an important role in it. 

Artist:  queenofeagles

These books are all the books in the Cosmere of how I believe the series should be read. You can read them in any order you want to, this is my suggestion.

Artist: meoni_ka

  1. Elantris
  2. Mistborn Era 1 Trilogy:
    1. The Final Empire
    2. The Well of Ascension
    3. The Hero of Ages
  3. Whitesand (Graphic Novel):
    1. Volume 1
    2. Volume 2
    3. Volume 3
  4. Warbreaker
  5. Stormlight Archives Series:
    1. The Way of Kings
    2. Words of Radiance
      1. Edgedancer (Stormlight Novella)
    3. Oathbringer
      1. Dawnshard (Stormlight Novella)
    4. Rhythm of War
  6. Arcanum Unbound
  7. Mistborn Era 2:
    1. The Alloy of Law
    2. Shadows of Self
    3. The Bands of Mourning
    4. The Lost Metal
Artist: Katie Payne
(Best Character)

Skyward Series (On going):

Artist: Sam Green

With the last book of this Spensa’s story is being released in 2023, it is appropriate to read Brandon Sanderson YA Sci-Fi series. I don’t want to spoil this series, but it’s a space battle series that focuses on a young girl named Spensa who discovers she is special compared to most people who fight with her for survival.

  1. Skyward
  2. Starsight
    1. Sunreach (Novella)
    2. ReDawn (Novella)
    3. Evershore (Novella)
  3. Cytonic
  4. Defiant

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Finished Work):

 Artist: Marina Vidal

This series is a fun series about how Librarians brain wash the true nature of the world and Alcatraz and the citizens from free kingdoms fight against the librarians and everything the librarians believe in, like order. It’s a fun series that are great for young readers.

  1. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
  2. Alcatraz vs. the Scrivener’s Bones
  3. Alcatraz vs. the Knights of Crystallia
  4. Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens
  5. The Dark Talent
  6. Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians

The rest of these books I have not read yet, but I am planning on reading them next year.

The Reckoners (On going):

When people obtain superpowers, they are first thought to be heroes but turn out to be more villainous. It requires ordinary humans to assassinate them. This is a YA version of The Boys.

  1. Steelheart
    1. Mitosis
  2. Firefight
  3. Calamity
  4. Lux

Legion(On going):

Artist: Jon Foster

Stephen Leeds (Legion) has unique mental abilities that generates multitude personae. Who investigates mysteries. Fun fact Brandon Sanderson wrote the first story on the flight home from France in 2011.

  1. Legion
  2. Legion: Skin Deep
  3. Legion: Lies of the Beholder
  4. Death and Faxes

Infinity Blade:

artist: breath-art

I believe this is finished work, but these two books are based on the bestselling video game Infinity Blade. This story follows Siris who fights against Titans to face the evil God King in a one-on-one combat. If you are fans of the game then I would expect you to enjoy these two books.

  1. Awakening
  2. Redemption

Standalones so far:

  1. Dark one: is a graphic novel that I read that explores when a person gains power will he/she use it to be a savior or a destroyer. There should be more coming in the series in the future, sometime.
  2. The Apocalypse Guard: Like the reckoners, where people obtain superpowers, but it does not take place in the same world.
  3. The Rithmatist: A book that I believe will take a long time before he continues it. Brandon Sanderson wrote this book and forgot that he teased a second book. A rithmatist have power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as chalkings. Rithmatists are the only ones that can fight against wild Chalkings.

The Wheel of Time (Finished Work):

 Artist: Darrell K. Sweet

There is an honorable mention I should mention here. Brandon Sanderson finished the last 3 books for Robert Jordan epic series The Wheel of Time. I have read this 15-book series and Brandon Sanderson is the 2nd best person to finish this series, the 1st being Robert Jordan. The series focuses on a group of farmers who obtain unique abilities to fight against the Dark One. One of the boys is the Dragon reborn, a man that can wield the one power destine to break the world to defeat the dark one. However, men that use the one power are tainted and become insane. Therefore, men that can channel the one power are killed. How could this farmer fight against the Dark One and survive against women channelers trying to kill him? Read and find out. 

  1. New Spring (prequel book)
  2. The Eye of the World
  3. The Great Hunt
  4. The Dragon Reborn
  5. The Shadow Rising
  6. The Fires of Heaven
  7. Lord of Chaos
  8. A Crown of Swords
  9. The Path of Daggers
  10. Winter’s Heart
  11. Crossroads of Twilight
  12. Knife of Dreams
  13. The Gathering Storm (Written by Brandon Sanderson)
  14. Towers of Midnight (Written by Brandon Sanderson)
  15. A Memory of Light (Written by Brandon Sanderson 
All of Brandon Sanderson work can be found here:

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday Creature Feature - Holiday Armadillo

When Ross learned he’d have his son for the holidays, he got excited to teach Ben about Hanukkah. Being six-years-old at the time, Ben was just bummed that they wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas (really, Ross? Why not just celebrate both?). To try to repair the holiday for his son, Ross ran out to get a Santa costume. And that’s how the Holiday Armadillo came into being.

The Holiday Armadillo is possibly one of the most iconic outfits from ten years of Friends, especially when it comes to the holiday season. So despite being outshone in the story by Chandler (as Santa Claus) and Joey (as Superman), the Holiday Armadillo lives rent-free in our hearts.

He’s Santa’s self-proclaimed representative for all the southern states and Mexico. So it’s a little random that he’d be in Manhattan. But then again, it’s random that the costume store even carried an armadillo costume. It’s also just about as random as an armadillo having Jewish heritage (Monica was right to question that part of his backstory).

I think we still love the Holiday Armadillo over two decades later because of how whimsical his inception was. Whimsy is so often the name of the game with Friends. I could use more whimsy in my life. So while Ross is often the worst, he shines as the Holiday Armadillo, as he always does as a father. So enjoy Christmas and don’t forget to check out the Holiday Armadillo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Five Takeaways from Reading the Harry Potter Books for the First Time


I have recently finished reading the Harry Potter series for the first time in my life. Many attempts have been made to read this series. My first attempt was when I was young, and my sister read it to me and after every chapter she would quiz me on what she read. After numerous failed quizzes she gave up on me. Now she is a junior high school teacher; her poor students! May they have more mercy than I ever had!

Anyway, after copious numbers of fans encouraged me to read the series, I recently accepted their challenge and read it. I enjoyed the series for the most part. The last book was the weakest in my opinion. But after reading the books, here are 5 takeaways that I noticed while reading the series for the first time.

Fair warning, I watched all the movies before reading the books, but it has been a long time since I have seen them. The books are better than the movies so if you liked the movies and have not read the book, read them! Also, spoilers. . .

Voldemort Could Have Won if he Trusted His Followers

In the first book Voldemort is using Quirrell to host his spirit as he attempts to get the sorcerer’s stone. Instead of doing it all on his own if he confided in Snape that he is with Quirrell, then Snape would have been bound to prevent Quirrell from getting the stone increasing Voldemort chances on getting it and becoming resurrected, even though Snape was a double agent.

Also, if Voldemort kept his promise not to harm Lily Potter, then he would have a devoted Snape following him. With Lily surviving, the prophecy would have been voided. Without killing Lily, Harry wouldn’t have been marked therefore he would not have an equal.

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."

Neville Longbottom is a Leader

In the movies I remember Neville being a burden with low affinity for magic, but he stood up for his friends. He will do what he must to protect them. In the books he starts off the same way, but in the seventh book he becomes a leader.

When Harry, Ron, and Hermine need to find a horcrux in Hogwarts they meet up with Neville who sneaks them into the school. We find out that Neville has been taking a stand against the Death Eaters and is the leader of Dumbledore's Army. Because of this, he gets tortured with the crucio curse (the same curse that was used against his parents), blackmailed (they attempt to kill his grandma), and, finally, they try to kill him. That year he became a leader for the school. When he spoke no one talked, they listened. Unlike Voldemort’s followers Neville’s followers trusted him because he loved them. No wonder he could have been the other chosen one. He has something Voldemort didn't. . .

The Comedy is Priceless

From the movies I knew that Fred and George were the comedic relief, but in the books, they are way more fun. Not only were they the comedic relief they were friends with Harry Potter and they were the trouble makers for the school. What James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Petter Pettigrew did at school was nothing compared to the twins did. 

Peeves was a character in the books that was never in the movies. He was a ghost that caused trouble for the faculty and students, but no one could do anything about him. He didn’t listen to anyone except Fred and George. In book 5, Order of the Phoenix, Fred and George are leaving school with a bang and gave Peeves an instruction and he listened.

"'Give her hell from us, Peeves.'

And Peeves, whom Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute as Fred and George wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset."

Loosing a Wand in a Duel

In the last book, Deathly Hallows, the idea of wand ownership was introduced. If you lost in a duel than the winner of that wand would have been able to use the loser’s wand better than the loser. This is how Harry wins against Voldemort in the end. The Elder Wand was rightfully Harry’s and, therefore, Voldemort spell backfired when using Harry’s wand against him.

This should have been introduced earlier in the series. If it did, I believe it would have been a great tie-in to how the ending of the last book. The rules are confusing and I think readers would be able to understand it better if we had more time to learn about it.

Also does this mean when they practiced dueling in the second book, Chamber of Secrets, the winner of each duel would have a new wand, potentially a collection of new wands?

Dumbledore Died by Greed

We all know that Dumbledore is the mentor in the series and like every mentor he dies to help the chosen one. In the books we learn that Dumbledore's downfall is because of his greed for immortality. When Dumbledore gets Marvolo’s Ring with the resurrection stone in it, he puts on the ring because of his desire to resurrect his family and therefore became cursed which led to his death. Dumbledore has always been interested in immortality: we've known this since book one, since he helped create the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I think it was clever of how we learned of Dumbledore’s imperfections and desires for immortality which led him to his death and how that tied in with what we already know about him.

In conclusion, I see why people love this series. The series follow similar fantasy tropes, but also expands on them. The book is serious and also humorous. Instead of having a protagonist that everyone can relate to we have a teenager. Instead of Gandalf we have Dumbledore. The chosen one could have been anyone that Voldemort chooses. All in all I had a fun time reading this serious. If you have not read it you should!