‘Bravely’ by Maggie Stiefvater: A Review

In “Bravely,” Merida’s family and, by extension, the Kingdom of DunBroch, are stagnating. The castle is falling apart. Family members are repeating behavior patterns that no longer serve them or the kingdom, and the gods have noticed. That’s not a good thing. Feradach, the god of destruction, is charged with keeping the balance. When places or people are no longer able to grow and become better, he’s in charge of destroying them, so creativity and people can grow anew.

Merida catches Feradach outside the DunBroch castle, chases him through the forest and finally catches him. Cailleach, however, holds a soft spot in her heart for DunBroch and Merida’s family. She strikes a bargain. If Merida can get her family to change within the course of a year, they will be spared. If not, Feradach will bring the kingdom down.

Traditional Archery

Merida’s use of archery to calm her mind and her shooting technique are closely related to the principles of traditional archery as I learned and taught them. The repetition of the act, the focus, the calmness that are required to shoot well help create a place for the spirit to rest and the mind to soar. On pages 41 and 42, her archery is clearly written in a couple of paragraphs, and it is glorious.

Overall Review

Laced with subtle humor and quick turns of phrases, “Bravely” evokes the spirit of “Brave.” For those who want more of Pixar’s PG-13 animated film, “Bravely” delivers a distinct adventure, which may have you asking, “How much do I need to change and how much do my patterns of behavior still serve me?” (This article uses affiliate links. If a link takes you to Amazon and you buy something, our blog gets a small finder’s fee. It doesn’t cost you anything additional, and it helps keep us caffeinated.)

Sage Penguin Chooses a Book

The whistle of the kettle rang through the house where Sage Penguin was getting ready to enjoy three of his favorite things: hot tea, pizza with anchovies and a new book to read. Not everyone likes anchovies, but Sage does because he is a penguin, and penguins like fish. Sage walked to the kettle and poured the water over the tea leaves he had put in his mug. The smell of pizza warming in the oven told him that his dinner was almost ready. Now, Sage just had to choose a book.

He went over to his bookshelf where he kept all his unread books and looked at the titles. There were classics, mysteries, fantasies, and science fiction There were stories about sisters and their relationships and how brothers got along. There were stories with older siblings and younger ones. There were stories about only children and their adventures. There stories about families, love, and joy. And of course, there were stories about penguins.

Sage Penguin looked at “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.” The pictures encouraged him to use his eyes to find the penguin. He could even color the pages, but that would be hard to do while eating pizza.

Then he looked at “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly.All penguins want to fly, he thought, most people, too. He decided to start the evening with Polly and see where her adventure would take him. If it was a good story, he would likely recommend it to Periwinkle Penguin.

The timer for the pizza went off, and Sage Penguin waddled to the oven. He pulled out the pizza, cut it into slices and put a couple of slices on his plate. Then he waddled to his dinner table, put the plate down next to the tea cup, and opened his book. This was going to be a great evening, he thought.

Sage Penguin is looking for a forever family. To adopt Sage you can head to our Etsy page or get Sage here. A portion of Sage’s adoption fees will go to help little penguins (and other birds) at the Royal Albatross Center in New Zealand.

‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’: A Commentary

What happens when an English maid saves her money to buy a Christian Dior dress in 1957? “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is a heart-warming tale full of coincidence, good people, the joy of chasing dreams and heartbreak. While it has all the appeal of your favorite bubble gum, with glorious effects, beautiful dresses, and a story that skirts the traditional Hollywood cliches, it adds just enough salt in heartache, mistakes and reality, to give it a bit of bite. “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” can be seen as so much more than it is and, maybe, isn’t.

If you just want to enjoy a simple film that’ll help you feel better about people and life, this offering from Director and Co-writer Anthony Fabian fits the bill. It doesn’t ask you to dig deeper, but it does tell you the water is warm if you choose to explore. Spoilers follow after the trailer, so bookmark this page, watch “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” and come back when you’re done.

For 13 years, Mrs. Harris has been cleaning houses and holding onto hope that here husband will return from World War II. When she gets his ring in the mail, she has to come to terms with her loss. She knew it was coming, but the confirmation still hurts.

While cleaning for one of her rich clients, who refuses to settle the bill and complains about having to tighten her belt, Mrs. Harris sees a Christian Dior dress on the chair. It’s beautiful, and she’s instantly in love with the dress. The client tells her the dress is 500 British Pounds, and she needs to hide it from her husband. Mrs. Harris does so, and later, with a friend, she laughs at the idea of such an expensive dress.

To Be Seen

The dress is gorgeous, and it awakens Mrs. Harris’ joie de vivre. In it, she could find joy, happiness, and her sense of self. It’s only a dream without wings, so she laughs it off. However, this scene opens the eyes of the audience: “Something beautiful” or great clothes can change a person’s day and demeanor for the better. Clothes may not make the woman, but they can help her feel more positive about who she is, an idea that is explored in “My Fair Lady,” where Eliza Dolittle is dressed up like a doll and paraded around as possible royalty.

Here though, Mrs. Harris isn’t forced to wear the dress to help her appear as more than she is, societally speaking. She wants to wear it because it represents an inner need, an aspiration, a desire to be seen as a person, a vibrant woman, a human being, who is more than a cleaning woman. She doesn’t want to be invisible to those around her. This dress would, at the very least, allow her to see herself as a more fully formed woman.

Pursue Your Dreams

When Mrs. Harris wins a sports lotto, she decides she’s going to Paris to buy a Dior dress. The winnings from the lotto aren’t enough to get the dress, but they are enough to spur her into action. She tracks her income, saves her pennies, and gets invited to a dog race.

But this dream isn’t fulfilled on hard work or good luck. Instead, it’s built on a past tragedy, an honest action, and a good friend’s gift. Mrs. Harris goes to Paris – it’s the title of the film, so I guess it’s not really a spoiler. How she gets there is best left for you to see yourself.

Mrs. Harris’ pursuit of her dreams opens others up to pursuing their own dreams and passions. It’s as if the light she generates shows others the path forward. The lives she touches are better for her mere presence. When she actively engages, she gives people the opportunity to show their best selves and that allows them to follow their hearts’ desires.

Be Nice

Mrs. Harris is nice – too nice. She’s the kind of nice that people take advantage of without realizing they are doing so. Her trip changes her (a theme explored in the book “Bravely”). She’s still nice, and she still falls back into her old ways, but that’s a part of who she is. It’s what makes her likable, honest, and good. Paris teaches her to become assertive. Embracing her dream and being nice about it allow her to meet the boorish, rude snobs of the Dior world. Her cash on hand allows her to stay there. However, it’s her British sense of right, wrong, and order that helps her shake things up, creating a force of nature that may fail her but lifts up others before her.

Existential Crisis

Who is Mrs. Harris? Is she the cleaning lady or is there something more behind that mask? Ultimately that question – asked within the film – is something we will all have to face. Moreover, we will have to face it again and again in our lives, and every time the question is asked, we will have the opportunity to affirm the parts of us that are good and reject the parts that don’t serve us. We just have to seize the opportunity to find the better version of ourselves, regardless of our age, occupation, or others’ perceptions of who we might be.

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is perfectly enjoyable without thinking about any of it. The audience can find a good time and good film simply by feeling it. The layers are there though, if you care to look. I suggest doing both for this wonderful, heart- and eye-opening film.

This article uses affiliate links. If a link takes you to Amazon and you make a purchase, it won’t cost you any more. We get a small portion of the sale to help keep our writing and other web activities going. If you prefer to help in a more direct way, join our Patreon.

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” has two other versions. One done in 1958 and the other done as a TV movie with Angela Lansbury.

‘Blood and Gourd,’ Zombie Targets Get Ready for Halloween

It’s that time of year. A couple of weeks before September people already start thinking about Halloween. No matter how hard they try to mask their true feelings, there are many who look forward to the tricks and treats of the candy season. If you’re looking to get into the Halloween spirit, “Blood and Gourd” is just the comic book series for you.

‘Blood and Gourd’

Taking a page out of the Killer Tomatoes playbook, the pumpkins arise in a (probably not very) sincere pumpkin patch. They attack those gathered to pick their pumpkins, have some cider, enjoy a hayride, and everything else that comes with a trip to the pumpkin farm. Set in Olympia, Washington, this series celebrates the Pacific Northwest and Halloween.

There’s plenty of ‘Blood and Gourd’ for your Halloween, get these comics before they get you. They are available from the creators themselves at webleedhalloween.com along with a cool t-shirt. As part of Lincoln City Archery’s inventory, we have a very few remaining that we will be happy to ship to you for $25 (three comics and shipping included).

If you want to indulge your inner need for Halloween goodies, these comic books are filled with beautiful artwork featuring dazzling colors and a crazy story. Don’t miss out on one of the best things to hit Halloween since the Great Pumpkin. Of course, these pumpkins aren’t bringing gifts.

Zombie Targets

Zombie Apocalypse Arcade Game Cabinet
Zombie Apocalypse Arcade Game Cabinet

While “Blood and Gourd” should be enough to get you into the Halloween spirit, getting a couple of zombie target posters will improve your atmosphere. These targets are made from blueprint paper and feature artwork from Zach Lehner – the guy who did the art for “Junior Braves of the Apocalypse.” They come in two styles – one with a victim and one without. They are great for use with archery, bb guns, and other projectiles. At $5 each, you can even color them and hang them in your room. Shipping is an additional $10, but you can pick them up if you’re in Lincoln City, Oregon.

Check out the video on How to Play Zombie Apocalypse Live Action Arcade.

Read the rules to the game here.

This article uses an affiliate link. When you use this link to purchase a book from Amazon, it costs you and the creators nothing, and we get a small amount to support continuing our writing activities.

Oliver Penguin Solves a Mystery

Oliver Penguin sat down at his dining room table, where he had placed a smattering of carrots, some cuts of celery, the saltiest of potato chips (They all talked like they had served on a merchant marine ship somewhere on the seven seas), a couple of flaps of pita bread, and some crispy, homemade tortilla chips that were so flaky, they couldn’t hold a job for longer than a couple of minutes. Still, he had the sneaky suspicion that something was missing from his amazing table.

The salt and pepper shaker sat in the center in all their crystal glory. The two brass candlesticks did their best imitation of gold and looked longingly at the porcelain plates they thought could help them earn a layer of karats or 24. The white, taper candles in the brass candlesticks were lit, they were higher than anything else on the table. A couple of purple lilacs, Oliver thought of them as lilac lilacs, but they were really purple, floated in two bowls of clear, diamond cut, glass bowls that were frosted in such a way, cakes, if there had been any, would have been jealous. The silverware gleamed with reflected candlelight. Yet, Oliver Penguin still thought there was something missing. What could it be?

He took inventory again: carrots, celery, cucumbers (He had forgotten to mention them, but they were there, they weren’t missing), potato chips, pita bread, tortilla chips… “AHA!” He put his wing to his forehead. “DIPS!” How could he forget the dips?

Oliver went back into the kitchen, grabbed the dips, put them in bowls, and brought them out to his table. Then he waited. His friends would be over soon; he couldn’t wait to see what they decided for the evening’s entertainment. Would it be a musical or a mystery? It was already a mystery, but when they decided, would it still be a mystery? Maybe they could find something with elements of both.

Oliver Penguin seeks a family that shares his love of dips, musicals, and true crime. You can adopt Oliver at our Etsy page or here on this website. He’ll bring his scarf with him.

Read another penguin story: Periwinkle Penguin Paints a Picture

How to Get Paid for Reading

One of my favorite things to do is read. If I can read 100 pages in a day, I feel like I accomplished something. It doesn’t matter if it’s pulp fiction or something a little more hardcore. As I flip through the pages and I can see the book going from front to middle to end, I get a sense of fulfillment. Unfortunately, there are few ways to make reading pay the rent. I certainly haven’t figured out how to get paid for reading, yet, but I want to. Here are some suggestions I’ve run across:

Book Reviewer

You can review books and get paid. Yes, this is a real job, and if you’re lucky enough to find a place that will pay you a regular, living salary to read and write about what you read, hold onto it. Unfortunately, most book reviewers will spend years before they ever make any money for their book reviews. Some won’t ever make any money because they’re doing it on websites like Amazon and Good Reads – super helpful to the authors; not so much to the people writing the review (unless they are hoping to get more of that kind of story from the author.

A book blog is one way to build a resume to help find a book reviewer job. You can even monetize it, but unless you’re getting thousands of views a day, you won’t pay the bills. Chances are you won’t even pay for the site itself.

Book Editor

People will, sometimes, pay you to edit their writing, whether or not you have actual qualifications. The going rate for editing is two cents a word. For a 100,000-word book, you’re looking at $2,000. Almost no author wants to pay that kind of money to get the edit on their book done. Whether or not this will sustain your lifestyle will depend on how quickly you can edit. Of course, this is the median price for basic proofreading. Developmental editing should cost more.

The biggest problem here is that most editing will be done on a computer. It’s certainly more efficient that way. There’s less a sense of accomplishment, and when you’re reading to correct, it takes longer. In my case, I often only get 3 pages done in an hour. There aren’t 33 hours in a day.

Get Inspired

A lot of the books I read for fun lack the ability to inspire me to write something about them. The Forgotten Realms: The Harpers series is great. They’re a set of loosely connected stories that are based in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. They are fast to read, and enjoyable. But they are just so much bubble gum; by the time you’re done reading them, the flavor has run out and you forget what you’re chewing. Great for relieving stress and getting out of the real world, just difficult to write anything of worth.

Still, there are some mass market books worth writing about. Currently, “Bravely” looks like a read that is fun and inspiring. It’s just hard to find them, and if you want to get paid for reading, you have to be able to read and write quickly enough to churn out the articles for your audience.

This article contains affiliate links. If you click on a link that takes you to Amazon, and you buy something, we get a small portion of the sale. It doesn’t cost you or the author anything extra.

Periwinkle Penguin Paints a Picture

Periwinkle Penguin was painting a picture from a book he read when he slipped and fell into the canvas. Now, you might think that he slipped and fell onto the painting because that’s usually how it happens. People, and penguins, for that matter, don’t slip and fall into paintings, as a rule. However, this time Periwinkle fell into his painting hand-knit sweater and all.

He looked out from the painting and didn’t see himself in front of the canvas where he normally stood. He looked all around him and didn’t see the room he normally saw. Instead, he saw all the colors he had used on this particular canvas. There was even some white space in the corner that he hadn’t gotten around to painting, yet. Periwinkle Penguin could not deny that he was inside his painting.

And what a wonderful painting it was. It had all the colors of the rainbow and several more colors he had mixed from his acrylic pigments, but mostly, it had a lot of blue. Periwinkle loved the color blue.

He decided that he might as well take a walk and see what he had created. After all, this was a perspective, from which he had never seen one of his paintings. He walked past the irises, blue of course, and by the butterflies, red, orange and black, and onto the green grass that was outside a cozy home, the lightest of blues with a red tile roof. Periwinkle sighed. This would make a wonderful house if it were real and not just a painting.

He turned and slipped again, but this time he slipped right out of his painting and back in front of it. The sun was going down outside, and Periwinkle Penguin could see all of the other canvases he had painted. Each one had a version of a place to live, but they were missing the most important element – his family. Periwinkle smiled and looked forward to the day when someone would adopt him and take him on some real adventures.

Periwinkle Penguin is available for adoption on our Etsy website or from us directly. All of our handmade stuffed penguins help real penguins (and other birds) at the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand through a donation of a portion of their adoption fees.

Darren Lamb Releases ‘The Pit Bull’

When I was editing Darren Lamb’s “The Pit Bull,” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. After all, pit bulls are the monsters of the dog world, mostly because people made them that way. Darren introduces the reader to a mash-up of train wrecks waiting to happen, and the explosion promised to be catastrophic. He puts his motley crew of people in a company selling healthy, prepared meals, and allows them to come together in a way that is surprising and full of promise. But what does a pit bull have to do with it? Spoilers.

“The Pit Bull” is a special story that dovetails beautifully with Lamb’s “The Happiness Program.” Darren puts forth a way of looking at life and the differences between people that will help you believe again. We are all imperfect. We are all broken. Maybe, that’s exactly how we’re supposed to be, so that we can become our best selves.

Darren Lamb is a former Marine and Buddhist monk who uses his unique perspective to bring to life stories that are full of tension, love, joy, and anger. The way he fuses these things together in “The Pit Bull” will help you find your faith in humanity again.

This article uses affiliate links for Amazon. When you purchase the book through Amazon, our website gets a finder’s fee that doesn’t cost you or the author anything extra. However, if you want to purchase a book directly from Darren Lamb, you can visit his website www.theworstbuddhist.com. He may even sign it for you. If you happen to be in Salt Lake City for FanX 2022, check out Darren’s booth, where he will have copies of his books, geek Buddhas and likely some surprises.

Disney Magic Kingdoms Happiness Changes for the Better

When I started playing Disney Magic Kingdoms for the second time, it still had the old “happiness” model. A child would get a thought balloon over their head. The balloon featured a character or the attraction icon. The player would click on the thought balloon and allow the child to go to the attraction or find out what action the child wanted to see a character do. If the character was free, the player could assign the character to fulfill the child’s wish. When the character was done with the action, the child’s though balloon would become a smiley face icon representing happiness. For attractions, the child had to merely board the attraction to receive the happiness icon.

The player would have to click on the happiness icon, which would disappear into the happiness meter. This meter was used to show how happy the park was overall. It granted more visitors (which has no value in the game as of yet), and it made tokens drop at a higher rate.

The fact that the child’s happiness was siphoned off, sometimes, even before an attraction had started, seemed like an unintended commentary on the parks in real life. The happiness they generate is fleeting. Players were using the happiness to increase their parks wealth; this left the children unhappy, or at least without happiness. What kind of person would take a child’s happiness for their own gain? And this wasn’t like laughter in “Monsters, Inc.” Laughter is contagious, it generates energy, and it continues beyond the life of the joke told or the energy taken from it. This happiness degraded overtime; it did not generate more happiness.

I always felt a little bad about it, but it’s only a game, so I clicked away the Disney Magic Kingdoms Happiness with the best of them.

New Disney Magic Kingdoms Happiness

A 2022 update to Disney Magic Kingdoms Happiness has the players colect9ing the happiness from the children as before. Only now, the game counts the happiness in a total that does not dissipate. The wish fulfilled goes on a scoreboard and somehow feels less predatory. It’s not like the players are taking the happiness away. It’s more like they are counting the number of wishes fulfilled. Of course, fulfilling wishes generates more kingdom token wealth, but it doesn’t increase the chances of getting something.

In terms of actual game play, this form of happiness makes it easier to understand the tangible benefits of fulfilling wishes. Instead of some vague promise that token drops are 10 percent better when players siphoned away happiness, players now know exactly what they are getting for their happiness numbers.

What is Disney Magic Kingdoms?

Disney Magic Kingdoms is a time-based, park building simulator with a story line. Players can build attractions from the parks and newly imagineered for game play. They can also collect over 300 classic Disney and Star Wars characters. Currently, the only Marvel characters in the game are from Big Hero 6. Read my first post on Disney Magic Kingdoms.

Support and Disclaimers

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If you’d like more articles about Disneyland and the Disney Company, check out www.penguinate.weebly.com. I have also written books available at Amazon and on this website.

If you’d like to support us directly, my wife and I have a Patreon page. Thanks.

Planning for Disneyland in 2022

After COVID shutdown the Happiest Place on Earth, the Disney Company had to make some changes to how people visited in order to reopen. Gone are the days when you could show up to the park like Captain EO – uninvited and unannounced. When planning for Disneyland in 2022, reservations are required along with a valid entry ticket.

Planning for Disneyland 2022

As much as I like planning things (sarcasm), I probably should have left the chore to my friend Lynn Barron at ConciEARS. Lynn is the co-host of The Sweep Spot and he worked as a custodian at Disneyland for a number of years. His co-authored book “Cleaning the Kingdom” explores the way the Disney clean-up crew worked and played at Disneyland. Lynn likely would’ve made the whole thing so much easier. He even says that using him to plan your vacation doesn’t cost you anything extra.

However, if I had gone that route, I would’ve written a different blog post and not experienced the new way of doing things at the park.

A Ticket and a Reservation

Walt may have come to Southern California with a suitcase and a dream, but that won’t get you into Disneyland. You need to purchase a ticket and then make a reservation to the park you want to visit. This takes all the spontaneity out of a trip because you have to know what park you want to visit on what day. The choice during the holiday season may seem pretty obvious if you can’t get into the night party. If Disney California Adventure closes early because of an Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party on Wednesday, you probably should reserve your space at Disneyland, so you can go for the entire time the park should be open, instead of having to leave at 6pm.

On the positive side, it does allow Disney to limit the number of people coming into the park, which should provide smaller crowds and better customer service. We can always wish upon a star, that it holds true.

Restaurants and Reservations

If you want to have a special dining experience, you need to reserve your spot in advance. We were unable to get into the Blue Bayou, the Carthay Circle, or the Plaza Inn for a character breakfast. I suppose something could open up on the morning of our arrival, but I’m not sure we’re going to try to get there. Other experiences that require reservations were also booked full.

Bring the Smartphone

Most people have a smartphone. It’s just assumed that everyone does. I do not. I don’t want one. I don’t like them. And you can get off my lawn! That means that I’m going to miss out on a number of things in the park. I’m decently certain you need a smartphone to take advantage of Genie Service and Lightning Lane. I also think there are games to play in the park using a smartphone. I’d like to keep my flip phone, but this trip has me rethinking my stance on technological cra(p)ck.

A Package Deal

It used to be you could find a cheap hotel and get tickets separately to make the vacation less expensive. That no longer seems to be the case. Five days at the parks is $380 per person. Two people are $760. That made the Good Neighbor Hotel a bargain to stay at.

We’ll have updates as we get closer and after our trip. (Lynn Barron and ConciEARS are not responsible for the content herein. The endorsement is based on my knowledge of him and his past work. No funds or trade was remitted for this article. The link to Sweeping the Kingdom is an Amazon affiliate link.)