Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Magic Pencil Creative Writing Contest

Since I haven't posted for long, I decided to search through my earlier creations (since I have no recent ones due to lack of time) and stumbled upon my entry to the Magic Pencil Creative Writing Contest from two years ago, which got me first place in the county. The tale had to have been based on a painting entitled Snow White by Angela Barrett (the one posted) and had to be no longer then 1000 words. Well, I used elements from Magic: The Gathering and it had 996 words + 3 words in the title. Here's the story:

Touch of Nature

All was silent in that peaceful night. The darkness of the forest eagerly engulfed the spirits lurking within it, and caressed all living creature in a delightful harmony. The entire meadow bloomed with joy at the touch of the moonbeams on the smiling canopies up above. The slow breeze easily moved along the trunks of trees and crevices of rocks and embalmed everything in the scent of oak. Animals all around, from the smallest squirrels playfully gathering their acorns, to the fiercest of wolves gathering to nourish themselves, fed upon this crystalline fluid of freshness, which invigorated all those that tasted it.

Deep within this silence, a young girl lay in the heart of the wood. For three days she had been searching the forest for a way out, not knowing that all this time she had only been driving deeper into nature. Even her crying stopped at the presence of the caressing night. She now slept in the middle of the meadow, the soft moss comforting her. She was not in the forest anymore; she was as far away from it, as the forest was from the outside world. She roamed freely through her own dreamlands, hoping the forest might go away by the time she woke up, and she could once again see her family. She dreamt of this, and she smiled while dreaming. She imagined herself back at the cottage; she saw her father carrying her on his back, and she saw her mother kissing her on the forehead with a sunlit smile. She imagined all her friends and all the times she had had so much fun playing with them. And while she kept on dreaming, she was unaware of those gathering in the meadow around her…

Tonight was the forty-seventh full moon of the year, and all the spirits of the wood gathered to discuss about the intrusion of this human girl in the sanctity of the forest. And so, the eldest of spirits was first to arrive; a great glow appeared in the meadow and all the winds were drawn to it and all the trees bowed their branches to its command. And from this glow sprouted flowers and beauty, and everything close to it started to bloom. Rivers sprang forth from its bowels and all the animals smiled upon seeing it. And the glow took the shape of creation… and this was Genesis.

Then, the trees united their trunks, and from them came the second spirit. Moss spread and algae from ponds gathered in a single place. And in that place, every living thing found power and might. And it gave a great sound that was heard throughout the forest, and all that heard it shuddered. And everything green, the trees, the moss, the leaves, the grass, united at the call of this spirit. And all of these took the shape of a boar as huge as the sky, and under its feet, the ground shook… and this was Growth.

Then, light flooded nature at the arrival of the third spirit. The moon exploded and filled the meadow with a drunken glitter. The stars gathered to sing at the presence of light in the darkness. And flowers also gathered to give their oath to this third spirit so great and bright. And luminous creatures, guided by fireflies span around the magical white shower. And from all this luminance stepped out a glowing purple light in the shape of a woman… and this was Beauty.

And then, the meadow was filled with the stench of death, for the fourth spirit was to arrive. Corpses started to move and black ink coloured the crystalline ponds. Misery came and filled the living creatures gathered around the meadow. From the crevices of rocks and from holes in the ground, dirt and mud and ooze gathered in a black symphony of disgust. And all sorts of horrible things, ghastly smells and nauseating sights melded together and approached the meadow. And all these took no shape, but formed a single body: a sickening hue, a walking pile of ooze… and this was Filth.

And they all danced around the young human girl, which was completely oblivious to the magical workings of nature around her. And so, faced with a hard decision, the spirits started their meeting…

‘What shall happen to the human?’ asked Genesis, its voice sounding powerfully throughout the woods.
‘She must be destroyed!’ yelled Filth.
‘She is an impediment to the good of the forest!’ howled Growth.
‘No!’ interrupted Beauty. ‘Look at her. She is a mere child. There is no wrong in this world that she can cause us’.
‘She bears the seed of evil. Within her burst the flames that drive all humankind. She is the razor of the chainsaw!’ screamed Filth in a revolted manner.
‘Her mind houses none of these thoughts. Please, listen to me’, begged Beauty. ‘You do not understand her. She has long passed Genesis, forgotten her birth. She has not yet seen Growth, as the rock sees not the wind. She is untouched by Filth, as is the sky by the ants. But her heart is of the purest, and her soul is filled with Beauty. I can feel myself vibrating through her every thought. I guarantee she will do no harm to us. Please, let her live…’
‘So be it’, decided Genesis.

Soon the dew of morning filled all the silent meadow, and when the sunbeams kissed her face she opened her lucky eyes to see in front of her the wood, the whispers of the river, the freshness of the dawn. And beside her stood a pack of wolves, beautiful as the silver strands of silk woven into a warm web. And they ran, and she followed them, not knowing why, not knowing where, until she reached the clearing and saw her parents’ cottage. And she looked back, and tears filled her eyes, and she felt the touch of nature, deep within her heart.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Childhood's End

Yesterday, I officially finished high school. How should I describe it? "It arouses a bittersweet, almost heartbreaking fondness" (10 points for those who recognise this quote... I just love easter eggs).

I must admit that it wasn't as I had expected it to be. I thought it would be less emotional. However, you could feel something hanging in the atmosphere. I still keep sighing because of it...

I feel speechless. Those ideas I keep pourring into these posts just don't seem to come... You could say that I feel touched...

I believe that I still couldn't come to grasp it. I mean, life without going to school in the morning? That's impossible! Not seeing my friends and teachers every day? No way! Still, it is a truth I must come to accept in time (and comprehend, first of all).

I can't believe it, I just can't seem to get it right. The words won't come out... I'll just leave it at that. For those who know what I mean, they'll understand, for the rest, I hope this post won't sound too stupid...

PS: I would appreciate to see my fellow graduates' comments here...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Review -> Full Metal Panic!

I've spent the last 3 days watching the 3 series of Full Metal Panic, and I was impressed, shocked, disappointed and driven to tears (due to laughter, of course). If you know which episodes to leave out and which scenes to skip, it becomes a fascinating anime. I'll make a parallel review of the 3 series.

Full Title: Full Metal Panic!
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid
Structure: TV series - 26 episodes
TV series - 17 episodes
TV series - 13 episodes + OVA - 1 episode
Personal Comment: If you know which episodes to leave out and which scenes to skip, it becomes a fascinating anime.

Plot (4/5; 3/5; 4/5): Well, it's a bit more than your average mecha anime... Sergeant Sousuke Sagara is part of a mercenary organisation called Mithril and is the pilot of an Arm Slave (AS for short), one of those giant robots. Nothing out of the ordinary here. He is 16... still nothing much. However, he is assigned to infiltrate a school (because he's the only one appropriate to do it, both in terms of age and skill) and protect a girl, named Kaname Chidori. This turns his military life all around, as it introduces him to something completely foreign to his understanding... personal life. However, things get really wild when Kaname is targeted by a terrorist organisation and Sousuke's mission proves to be more than just playtime. The second series is a less serious one. It's a spin-off of the first one and explores the relationship between Sousuke and Kaname and their daily school life (a great amount of stress is placed on Sousuke's inability to adapt to normal life and the way he handles situations). The third series is a sequel to the first and continues the military story of Sousuke and Mithril, not without the serious involvement of Kaname. The twists in each of the two real series are quite interesting, and they keep you attached to the screen.

Characters (3/5; 3/5; 4/5): Characters are not all that developed. You can see the relationships between them, the tension, of course, but they are no where close to any real character-focused anime. The two main characters are contoured nicely, but the secondary ones are left somewhere in the penumbra (not really in the dark though). However, this changes in the last series, where most focus befalls on the characters' feelings. [PS: Did I mention that there was a love triangle present in the series?]

Approach (4/5; 5/5; 3/5): The real series are quite disappointing, as they provide nothing out of the ordinary, I might say. Besides the interesting technology involved and the plot twists (which I've covered in the first pointing category), there is nothing special. Still, they deserve the points I gave them, due to a few minor details: in the first series, the political issues are quite nicely coloured, with a hint of criticism (e.g. after the resolution of a dispute between the US Military and Mithril, the US Military official openly decrees: "Don't forget who the police of the world are"); in the third series, there are some Evangelion-like impressions, though far from the real ones, they bring a smile to your face (e.g. Sousuke's inability to use his AS correctly and his exclamations of "I hate it" targeted towards the said AS). The second series, the comic one, on the other hand is absolutely fascinating. The last time I laughed so hard was after hearing Osaka's remarks in Azumanga Daioh! or seeing Haruko run Naota over in FLCL. What makes it so funny? Let me put it this way: have you ever thought about blowing something up because it's in the way, or using a knife to threaten cutting someone's fingers off in order to get the needed information, or planting mines around your stuff at the beach so you could go swim without having to watch over it? Well, that's exactly what Sousuke's doing all the time (followed by a beating issued by Kaname, much like the punishment Kintaro usually gets in Golden Boy). Also, this series is full of easter eggs :D

Visuals (5/5; 5/5; 5/5): GONZO! The CG blends well with the hand-drawn animation. No more comments here. Next...

Music (4/5; 4/5; 4/5): The music blends nicely with the action. Nothing special, but appropriate.

Overall (20/25; 20/25; 20/25): I find that the 3 series complete each other. First you see an interesting mecha anime, with a little added spice. Second, you find something related to that, giving you the opportunity to laugh your ass off, knowing that it won't spoil the seriousness of the series. Third, you find an extension that develops the emotions and deeper nature of the characters, filling the gap that had been left open. Though some scenes ruin the whole atmosphere (namely around the first quarter of the last episode of the third series), overall it's an anime worth watching.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Dear Deskmate, Adela!

NOTE: This post should have appeared on Wednesday, 07 June 2006, but due to server problems, it could only be published today.

At first, I was going to write about the fact that yesterday was 6.06.06, the Devil's Day as they called it, and that in a small town named Hell in the USA (where else?) they held a big festival and parades and shit like that. Then I thought: "Do I really want to write about human ignorance and stupidity?" I got disinterested (and kind of depressed) when I thought about it in-depth and realised that by talking about it (even criticising), I would only promote (maybe not the best word, let's say "spread" instead) this cheap culture (or unculture). If this is what Modern Man comes up with after two million years of evolution, if this is the result Homo Sapiens comes to, then I dare say we a well deserved extinction is due...

So, as soon as I abandoned this topic, I thought I would write about something closer to my heart. You may not know, but there is a custom here that when finishing high-school, you make an album with the photo of each classmate and they write you a goodbye message as a conclusion of the high-school years spent together and for you to remember them. When I was thinking of what to write about, I read my dear deskmate's message (and was touched by it... again) and thought that I just had to write about her (she'll kill me for this :D ).

So, this girl in the photo my deskmate (as you could have guessed by now). Her name is Adela-Roa Popescu. Her middle name is indeed strange (as you might have noticed) and has a long history of how she got it (I'm not going to detail here... anyway she is proud of it). As you can see, she is cute, but what you can't see is that she is kind. All that I can say is that I've enjoyed the three and a half years spent by her side in school (on her left, to be more exact... second desk, middle row).

She can be extremely enthusiastic at times and at those times her eyes light up and a beautiful smile covers her face... She can also give you "the look", so I recommend not upsetting her... She's funny and friendly and likes to hang out with her friends. Also, she is into movies (mostly romance, drama, comedy, but also enjoy a good thriller at times). As a side note, I've been slowly dragging her into the dark realm of anime... She has excellent taste when it comes to clothing and (as would any girl) likes shopping. No, let me rephrase, she loves shopping... something's not right... she's MAD about shopping (yes, I guess that captures it). She's also into being mentally and physically fit (she kept saying that if she were my mother, my schedule would be something like: math, push-ups, math, sit-ups, math... you get it). She's also into French [insert anything], such as: French movies, French music, French boys (i guess), French kiss (probably, no personal confirmation... if not Adela, then my girlfriend will certainly kill me) and so on. She intends to go to Cluj to university to study Medicine (gambatte!). Despite certain unfavourable circumstances (i.e. our Biology teacher being a complete idiot), I am extremely confident that she will manage... Also, she has a pre-emptive sixth sense you should be aware of and listen to (believe me, I know what I'm saying..)

I would like to end this post with a big "thank you", because I believe a great deal of the man I am today I owe her. Remember the movie Holy Man, with Eddie Murphy when he says "If you see this man, give him a hug, a big hug, because he needs it"? Well I can't say that (she'd definitely kill me), but I'll say this: "If you see this girl, give her a smile, not that she would need it, but as a token of my gratitude towards her."

Thank you for everything, Adela! (please don't kill me because of this post)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Shotaimen (First Meeting)

I was very determined yesterday to write something interesting in my blog. Howevcer, it was a dull day. I went to school, nothing interesting there, came home dead tired (because the day before yesterday I went to sleep quite late, due to a prolonged conversation with a friend of mine in the US, where, apparently, it was just 18:00). I then went to Math (boring again) and I came home wanting to get some rest. That's when I saw that I had 5 missed calls from Andrei (for those of you who don't know, Andrei is my Japanese teacher). I gave him a ring, he caled me back and said: "Come over fast, I have some Japanese people you need to meet!"

So, about 20 minitues later, after I got to Andrei's place, a really interesting meeting occurred. These were the first Japanese people I've met. Started with a polite: "Hajimemashite! Victor desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!" (I've always wanted to say that for real). Then they introduced themselves, Naru and Misako. They are friends of Andrei's teacher, who went to Japan and got married there (and probably lives happily there). She came to visit people here in Romania, so they came along.

The next few hours passed by, mostly involving Andrei's translation of my thoughts in their language, however, and I am very proud of myself for this, it wasn't all that necessary the other way around. I understood most of what they said (happi~!) We talked about anime (my favourite subject when it comes to Japanese), Japanese music, and differences between Japanese and Romanian culture (yep, there's a lot to talk about there...)

It was fun. I learnt a lot (and that's something awesome and fun, like Kintaro Oe would say.) One thing, not all Japanese are short. I must say, Naru is probably a basketball superstar in Japan, I mean, he was taller than us (and though I'm not the tallest person there is, Andrei is certainly tall enough to be a benchmark.) I also learnt that Megumi Hayashibara isn't all that famous in Japan. All in all, I loved the encounter (can hardly wait to have to do with Japanese again!)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Time for Some Ballet

Thanks to my Aunt Kati's benevolence, I went to see my first ballet yesterday. It was the ballet Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by the National Ballet of Moscow.

Sadly, I didn't have any photo to post (as you might know or not, the digicam is with my brother in France), though I searched the net, but found none on any Romanian site (even though I had the idea of taking an advert poster of the wall of the theatre and bring it home to scan it). I finally found this one, which is a photo of the same group performing the same ballet in Moscow.

I must say, as it was my first ballet, I was really impressed. I had a very good seat in the second row. Very interstingly, in the first row, just in front of me, was a small old man, who was some kind of choreographer or director of the group or whatever, but he knew every single move that was about to occur and made lively gestures to the ballet-dancers (he was really funny).
I found the ballet very expressive. A strange thing occurred to me, namely the fact that at it's origin, Romeo and Juliet is a play, which is all about words, and I've just seen a version which is about movement, mimicry, music, i.e. anything but words. However, I felt that it transmitted the essence of the story quite remarkably.

I had only 2 critical remarks:
1. I've always imagined Romeo to be a handsome lad, yet the dancer who played his part was a typical Russian guy (and on top of that, he had a horrbile face, even worse than the guy who plays the French musical comedy, though some consider that guy handsome, the French one, not this Russian one).
2. I believe many girl today (even those that have a great body) would want to be as thin as the one who played Juliet. I don't understand this trend... I mean, this girl, yes, she was thin, but her breats were practically growing inwards!!!
- to ease on these harsh comments, a friend of mine (whom you have read about three posts ago) said: "They might not be good looking, but they are talented." True enough. And I must admit, they had formidable leg muscles and nice asses as well ;)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Review -> Boys Be...

So, this is my first review (I hope there'll be a lot more to come). I've just finished this anime yesterday and a single thought went through my head when I tried to analyse it: "This anime is beautiful!"

Full Title: Boys Be...
Structure: TV series - 13 episodes
Personal Comment: This anime is beautiful!

Plot (4/5): Though it starts off as a typical high school romance anime, it quickly turns into an encompassing story about love, friendship, life and self. It mostly follows the destiny of the two main characters, Kyoichi and Chiharu, but also presents in significant detail the stories of their friends. The 13 episodes revolve around all these 6-8 characters, drawing you mystically into their universe, without that sense of "everything's about these two, there's noone else in the world..."

Characters (4/5): Because of the detail each character gets and the almost equal distribution of roles in the story, you can experience strong individualities. They start of as stereotypical figures, but quickly enter a state of confusion (typical at this age) and change into highly complex and realistic personalities.

Approach (5/5): The story winds into philosophical aspects of love and life. Dialogues are very touching and realistic. The overall sensation is a hidden trepidation that alternatively provokes satisfaction, anxiety, sorrow and amazement. The series follows the events across the span of a year, making close connections between emotions and nature (especially through the cycle of the seasons). Each episodes begins and ends with a philosophical proverb-like remark, which gives a sensation of grandeur to the series.

Visuals (5/5): A single word is enough to point out the excellent graphical element of the series: GONZO! GONZO is the animation studio responsable for many paragons of anime that delight us with their visual presentation (Desert Punk, Full Metal Panic!, Hellsing, Kiddy Grade, Last Exile, Trinity Blood). Also, there is a strong artistic touch in the visual effects, extremely appropriate for the series (such as a sketch drawing replacing the animation when two persons kiss, or the window frame slowly widening and disappearing revealing a beautiful landscape in accordance to the character's feelings).

Music (4/5): Though I haven't noticed a wide variety of songs, the main theme, which appears in every episodes, is a very pleasant and special one, which is equally appropriate for calm beginnings and ending as well as heartshaking culminating moments.

Overall (22/25): I haven't seen many true (as in non-magical) high school romance anime, but this is by far the best one I've experienced. It is a treat for all the girls out there, but well worth watching for the boys as well. A pounding story that grasps your heart and leaves a beautiful scar long after it's grip has faded.