Friday, January 31, 2014

Work, work...

So this week was the week of busy work. Someone in the higher ups decided to do a study on common Japanese phrases used in blog comments, so that set us up copying and pasting comment sections into an excel file. A LOT of comments.

Which I don't actually mind. I had a few other things to work on, and if things got too dull I popped my headphones in and listened to Youtube while I was typing. Which is totes fine.

But I also had to watch my coworkers gradually disintegrate, which struck a fine line between almost funny and god-awful annoying.

First point: Yawning. I don't know who decided that sneezing is rude in crowded spaces but yawning isn't annoying at all. Personally, unless someone's sneezing right on me, I barely notice it. People can't help it if they have allergies.

But yawning. I don't know; it just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because my jaw's messed up and it's painful for me to open it that wide as I see other people doing. Maybe because I struggle with fatigue and insomnia so I resent the constant reminder that I am also tired. Maybe it's just the weird little mannerisms that go along with it, like that little shiver people do afterward or the bug-eyed blink. (It's not overanalyzing; I've unwillingly collected a ton of data.)

Probably the worst is that everyone pretends they can't help it. Bullshit. Yawning with a wide-open gaping mouth is like yelling HAKUSHON every time you sneeze. I always try to keep my most at least mostly closed if I'm in the room with other people, and to make no noise. In fact, you take a breath with your mouth closed all the time. It's called BREATHING. Don't tell me you forgot how to do it.

And then, there's nothing you can say when someone yawns. Even if they do it while you're talking to them. If people sneeze, you've got free reign to let out passive-aggressive "Bless you," every fucking time until they finally retreat to the bathroom every time their nose itches. But there's no code of polite phrases when to use when people start gaping like you're the most boring thing they've ever seen. How about,

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you stay up until three am watching Youtube, or am I just beneath your attention right now?"

Sometimes I wonder what hellish schedules my coworkers must have to keep up this concert all day long. (Literally. There is no peak time like early morning. It's just there.) But then I also want to shake them and yell, "Get some sleep at night, Damnit! Not at the office!"

OK. Second annoying thing.

So the performance art of tiredness continues from both my coworkers on the right and left sides. However, the coworker on the left has come up with another strategy to relieve the tedium of sitting at a desk all day. She dances.

Literally. At her desk. In a big office of Japanese workers who already think Americans are strange.

It started out slowly with relatively controlled stretches around the neck and shoulder areas. Which I get and sometimes indulge in myself because my shoulders are also going numb from typing all day. (Though again, I'm not particularly keen on reminders of this.)

However, this week it escalated until I caught her for a good few minutes holding her arms out in front of her, eyes closed, doing these bizarre contortions with her entire upper body. It wouldn't have been out of place on a club dance floor. At least it would have been merely awkward. But at your desk??????

This coworker has confided me that she often does exercises in the privacy of the stairwell. I want to tell her, "Please, by all means, go do cardio on the stairs! But I cannot work with you constantly gyrating at the edge of my peripheral vision! I can't take it anymore!"

Then this afternoon she developed an acute case of restless leg syndrome....

It's definitely busywork. If we were engaged, no one could focus on how many hours of Youtube they watched or how long they were sitting in a chair. And I wouldn't notice how annoying my coworkers are. I wonder what they think about me....

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Desk

For the first time since I joined my company, I moved my desk. Just one place over, but it feels entirely different!

I have added a new pony.

As you might notice, there are now two computers, one of them a Mac. This is because I sort of became the team's default sound editor and the Mac has adobe audition. Sure, it can get pretty boring moving sound clips around all day, but I'm not turning up my nose at learning any new technological skill. You never know when you'll be required to do something with computers.

This week I edited an audio track which I recorded last week with two coworkers. Then I did nearly all the sound editing myself, which included cutting about half the dialog, pasting together the cut places so it wasn't obvious we skipped something, and then normalizing the sound so the volume is consistent no matter who happened to be closer to the microphone.

It was pretty cool. Maybe someday I'll do my own podcast, and I already have an idea of how to edit it.

The added perks of my desk are that I can watch the coworkers behind me in the Mac screen. However, it's not so easy to rest my elbow when using the Mac mouse, so I may have to move the computer a bit.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hans—Complex Villain or Easy Cop-out?

One of these things is not like the others.

 A lot of the fan discussion surrounding Disney’s movie Frozen centers around the villain character. Some people think the twist was exciting and added necessary tension to the climax. Others think it was an example of lazy writing and a cheap cop-out of a love triangle. These facts were gathered after exhaustive research on the IMDB. Reading ten posts of FrozenQueen92 screaming “TROLL!” at MovieGeekFTW counts as exhausting.

Personally, after two viewings of the movie I lean for towards the "...Eh?" side of the arugment. The twist didn’t make sense the first time, and the second viewing didn’t really reveal any details that would have explained it better.

Not that the filmmakers were lazy or that they were intentionally trying to gyp their audience. Jennifer Lee and John Lasseter, among others, put a lot of heart into the film and gave the best story they could give.

The directors went with their gut feeling and switched Elsa from a villain to a positive character. Again, IMDB

Originally, Queen Elsa was intended to be the villain of the story. However, when the character's major song, "Let it Go," was played for the producers, they concluded that the song was not only very appealing, but its themes of personal empowerment and self-acceptance were too positive for a villain to express. Thus, the story was rewritten to have Elsa as an isolated innocent who is alarmed upon learning that her powers are inadvertently causing harm and struggles to control her powers with Anna's help.

Which is brilliant and absolutely why the film works so well. The flip side is that a villain slot "had" to be filled, and fast. So the relationship between the sisters works really well, but some of the other characters leave the audience going, “…Eh?”

Two Main Objections and Their Defense

As much as I like the idea of a prince turning out evil, the twist feels like a letdown for two reasons.

1. This doesn’t seem like the same character.
2. The plot no longer makes sense.

Now, there are some people who like the twist because they feel it makes a more complex character out of a boring nice guy: someone who can act stereotypically “charming” but actually has ulterior motives that he’s carrying out. Wanting power is a bit cliché, but it has worked fine in Disney movies before.

Complex characters are good, sure. But how new and complex is wanting power? Even in Disney, traditionally power-hungry character such as Ursula and Scar at least have an emotional depth to them too. Ursula’s pissed about being banished. Scar was kicked out of succession by the Hairball. Neither wants to take over some random kingdom they’ve never even seen before. Not only is Hans’ motivation cliché, he doesn’t even hold up compared to other Disney characters.

I'm surrounded by idiots...No more internet for me.
 Of course, there are characters in literature who appear good but are actually bad. Probably the most famous is Iago, from Shakespeare’s Othello. However, the portrayal of the character is not very similar to the plot in Frozen. Shakespeare never uses a plot twist with Iago; we know he’s bad right from the first scene. Also, the plot holds up well. While critics speculate on a few scenes, most of Iago’s actions are logical given the setup. Iago is smart and never monologues to the people he’s been fooling. He keeps his plan secret until the very end. He’s a keen judge of human character. As the audience, I totally believe he could fool people--at least the first time I watch the play, which is what matters.

Another character that’s been brought up for comparison is Cinderella’s Prince, from the musical Into the Woods. This character is famous for the line, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” And this line sums him up perfectly. Even in the first act, where he apparently loves Cinderella, we can tell he’s weak, cowardly, and shallow. The reaction to this line is less, “OMG You’re not who we thought you were!!!!” but more of “Damn right!”

In fact, there's two douchey princes.

In Frozen, by contrast, Hans apparently was raised to be sincere. And kind to unfortunates. And brave under fire. And to give good advice at a critical moment. And show mercy… All of which I’m sure are horrible attributes you don't want your children to imitate. already ran a wonderful article describing why some plot twists just work better than others, so instead of pretending I came up with any of that I’ll just give you the link.

But here’s a particularly apt quote:

The problem with this is that we feel like we wasted our time, because it doesn't change what we know about the character -- instead it tells us a character never existed and introduces a new villain played by the same actor.

The main problem people have with the twist is that up until this point the four main characters have been acting naturally—but upon revealing himself as a villain Hans becomes much more like your standard Evil Overlord. He monologues. He snickers. He quotes corny lines. He leaves important witnesses alive…

Objection Two: I Seem to Have Lost My Plot

OK. So this is why the character feels inconsistent. But let’s look at this twist from the plot side of things. What was his plan anyway?

Most of his actions could be put down to winning the hearts of Arandelle so he can gain power. But…there’s a lot of luck involved. He was lucky Anna made him regent, and everyone just accepted that. He was lucky not to be killed at the ice palace. He was lucky no one checked for Anna’s body…

But the biggest question seems to be, If Hans wanted to kill Elsa even before he knew about her powers, why didn’t he kill her at the ice palace, while she was unconscious, or in the dungeon?

The answers:
1. He did try by directing the crossbow bolt at the chandelier. (...Instead of just letting the guy shoot her directly?)

2. He didn’t want witnesses. (Witnesses who were soldiers also trying to kill Elsa. They would have treated him like a hero.)

3. He thought he might still need Elsa to stop the winter. (Seems more logical, but again it’s NEVER EXPLAINED. Never says it to the soldiers.)

But this is all speculation. Let’s look at the facts the movie does give us: the character’s own explanation of his actions.

“As heir, Elsa was preferable of course, but no one was getting anywhere with her. But you…”

Makes sense. He wanted the older one, but when she gave him the cold shoulder he went for the younger. Except…Hans and Anna flirt in the boat before he even knows who she is and long before Elsa even came out of her room. We never see Hans and Elsa interact until he’s engaged to Anna. For all we know, he never even spoke to Elsa.

Not only does the plot twist fail at basic character development, the explanation we do get contradicts basic facts we’re shown earlier in the movie.

Foreshadowing? Somewhere? Anywhere?

Naturally, people have found reasons why this plot twist was actually foreshadowed. Um...He does say he has twelve brothers. He mostly listens while Anna spills her guts, and then agrees to everything she says. He's worried that the Duke of Weaseltown will take authority.

However, once I started looking, I came up with quite a few other characters who might just as well be hiding an evil side.

Kristoff is Evil
--He lures Anna into the woods. Stranger danger! Warn the kiddies! Just because you have a road trip with someone does not make them your soulmate. And Kristoff is the one who warns Anna about strangers. The delicate irony.
--He states several times that he hates all humans. Motivation! I cannot be the only one to see this.
--Elsa put him out of business. Disney is so mature to bring up these complex economic issues.

Image from Deviantart, by Auquanutart

The Trolls are Evil
--They kidnap a kid.
--They know all about magic but no one stops them. People must be too scared.
-- The brainwash another kid.
--They try to distract Kristoff with annoying singing so he won’t realize Anna is dying.
--They turn Elsa evil by tormenting her with horrible visions.

Anna is Evil
--Disney’s never had an evil princess! What a shocker!
--She’s obviously playing both Kristoff and Hans to do her bidding.
--Every time she claims to “help” her sister, she actually pushes Elsa more out of control.
--May I remind you who’s next in line if Elsa commits suicide???? I mean, it’s so obvious, people.

Olaf is Evil
--Disney’s never had an evil funny sidekick before! What an insightful twist!
--He refuses to follow Anna’s orders at the ice palace.
--He repeatedly distracts our main characters with inane comments.
--Although he claims to be willing to melt for Anna, he doesn’t follow through.
--He fails defend the others from Marshmallow.
--Ask yourself, why would a snowman want to end an eternal winter? Sure, he has an entire song sequence about how much he loves summer. But this, like his cleverly feigned ineptness, is all a ruse to disguise his true motives. Far better to keep Elsa frozen and alone forever. When all her friends are gone, she’ll be desperate for anyone to fill the icy hole in her heart. All too easy for Olaf to step in and enjoy his Queen’s warm hugs at his leisure.

The face of a killer.

Villains...Who Needs 'Em Anyway?

Another question people ask is, “Does this movie even need a villain?”

The points for “Yes” are that even though the character was lame, at least he created some conflict to add to the resolution, and that the moral (though forced) is still a good warning to young girls. The point for “No” is that the appeal of the movie lies in its lack of an easy villain to blame for the characters’ problems.

To be fair, I can see how the villain character does add more drama to the ending. Elsa could be in danger from a falling mast, but it wouldn’t be as poignant. So there needs to be some kind of major threat at the end. Whether it’s Hans or Olaf wielding the sword is irrelevant.

As for the moral…I suppose it’s good to tell young girls not to marry someone after knowing them only one day? But at the same time the message seems somehow almost mean spirited against the character. As if to say, “How dare you try to find love after being neglected for years? Can’t you see the nice ones are just trying to use you? How can you be so selfish as to trust your only friend to help you when your whole world gets turned upside-down?
Likes you? Please, Anna, that’s demented…”

Disney has gone Gothel on our ass. Encouraging girls that the first cute guy they meet must be true love is bad, but so is scaring girls out of trusting anybody.

And while we’re on the topic, princes sure seem to get a bad rap these days. Princesses get all cool and self-sufficient and feminist while still being cute and pretty, but princes often turn into clueless/evil douches.
I.E. This guy
Or this guy
Well, not evil. Just clueless and annoying.

Not royal, but the hottest guy around. What's not to like?

(Note the last two are Disney, those who claim Disney has NEVER done an inversion of the prince character before.)

Is there any way to do this character well?

To sum up: props to Disney for trying, but I am never going to see Frozen without getting to that scene and being completely drawn out of the story because I keep thinking "PLOT HOLES!"

Is there any way the movie still could have had the twist and yet done it in a natural way? It would definitely be hard because a bad prince who nevertheless shows good leadership qualities would practically need his own movie.

That kind of person would probably start out with a core of inadequacy, of always being looked down on and never good enough to be the hero. This sense of injustice feeds his desire to become a “real” hero and show everyone how wrong they were. He sincerely tries his best to show bravery, kindness, and prowess—but he has no idea what those things actually mean. Instead of wanting to help people, he views other people more as side characters in a video game of which he is the PC. If only he follows the rules correctly, he will be rewarded. He deserves the kingdom, and the princess, and to slay the evil dragon/witch. But people have thoughts and feelings of their own, and the more stuff gets in the way of his dream, the more panicked and desperate he gets. Because if he fails to be the hero, he has lost his all justification for his actions and has to face what a shallow person he really is. Soon he’ll do anything to win the game, no matter how desperate. No matter how many people get hurt. Because for the hero it all comes down to hacking at stuff in your way until you get to the endgame...

(Makes note of story to write…)

Could Hans be such a character? Possibly. If instead of treating his brothers like a joke, he expressed real grief and resentment to Anna. Imagine: he's been looked down on all his life, and now he finally finds someone who UNDERSTANDS what an amazing special person he is. It would also help if there was a running joke (just a few more lines) of no one knowing who he is and questioning why he has authority anyway.

The plan of killing Elsa (like the plan of becoming king) would probably cement gradually as it becomes the only option of saving the kingdom and the (fridged) princess. It’s a tough job, but that’s why he’s the hero. Hey, he gave the queen a chance already. Come on. It’s not his fault. This is obviously his big Boss battle! And he's so ready.

I like the idea that this character keeps an innocent, open face the whole time he's talking, and you slowly realize how totally cuckoo he is. Also, would having Elsa out of the picture really be that bad for Anna? She can have her parties, her chocolates. No responsibility as queen because her adorable husband will be running everything. Sounds like a perfect life...except at a terrible cost.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened at Work Today...

This morning I spent three hours editing a sound file only to have it mysteriously disappear!

I saved regularly and left the program open when I went to lunch because I was planning to work on it in the afternoon. However, when I returned I saw that someone else was using that computer. So I did some other stuff and about an hour before finish time I asked if I should finish the file.

But when we opened the program none of my edits had been saved!!!!

My face when I couldn't find any of the changes.

After a half hour of discussion in Japanese and English we discovered that Adobe Audition will not save your changes unless you click "Yes to All" when closing the program. Apparently the person who used the computer next clicked "No to All" when closing the program...

My boss gave me the "can't be helped" shrug and I started doing the work over. Then, five minutes before the end of the day I closed the program and opened it again to find the document I had finished at lunch time! Everything was there!

And then my coworker who mostly speaks only Japanese gave me this look like, "You're such a spaz..."

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Accidently Wrote Disney Fan Fiction—Don’t Judge!

So I just saw Disney’s Frozen this December and like a lot of people I really enjoyed the movie and the characters. (Well, the female characters…) However, I also agree with a lot of people who said the script feels like it was rewritten a few too many times. Making the plot a bit too loophole-heavy and leading to some bizarre character development.

But in a way I think that makes the movie more fun for discussion because people all have their ideas of what they would have liked to see more of. A lot of people speculate what Elsa would have been like as a villain, which is a pretty interesting idea, especially if she’s a conflicted one. (The song Let It Go really looks like it was supposed to be the villain song anyway…)

You can tell she's evil 'cuz she's sexxxxxy.

And this effect sort of led me to accidentally write a fan fiction of an extra scene for the movie. Yeah. It started out asking, “Hm, that climax seemed kind of a letdown. Why? What was missing?” And then this scenario popped out of nowhere…

Obviously this post discusses plot points that happen later in the movie, so anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet and wants to be surprised shouldn’t read anything. But if you don’t care about spoilers then this is my take on some aspects of the movie and what I would have liked to see more of with the characters. (Besides more princesses and less Olaf…)

I was a little disappointed that Elsa didn’t seem to have much to do after she leaves the ice palace. She mopes, and cries, and tells people to stay away from her. Even her big moment where she saves her sister is more just more crying.

As if to say, “I instantly believe the word of this person who shows up out of nowhere just to tell me that I killed my sister. Oh. He tried to behead me while I was prone crying and my supposedly dead sister just ran fifty feet while dying of hypothermia to put herself between me and the assassin, and now she has frozen for real. Luckily, that dude is also briefly unconscious allowing me to cry some more!”

(Maybe Elsa’s real talent is water-based, not ice-based.)

So even though it’s probably too mean, I would have liked to see the Hans character not knocked out by Anna’s transformation, so that Elsa first deals with that threat before grieving her sister. Because she’s the queen, she should be more active and use her powers at a critical moment.

(Not to take away from Anna’s moment. It’s still there. But I think Elsa could be afforded one as well.)

In fact, a conflict between these two is slightly foreshadowed in the movie when Anna says, “You’re no match for Elsa,” and Hans replies, “No, you’re no match for Elsa.” A more accurate reply would be, “Yes I am, because Elsa has done nothing recently but cry and kill people she was trying to protect. I’ll be fine as long as she’s not aiming for someone else.”


Obviously, this is just my opinion of what more I would have liked to see in the movie. Other people have their own peeves. I personally felt that the climax was a little underwhelming and that the villain wasn’t quite punished. Once a character reveals themselves to be truly malicious at heart, they usually get their comeuppance in Disney movies.

The awkward moment when you realize it's a romance between a naive future abuse victim and a power hungry serial killer. Hey, they even get their own song!

I mean, Tangled didn’t end with Rapunzel telling Mother Gothel, “I hope you feel sorry for your baby-stealing, back-stabbing ways! The only one without a dream here, is you!”

OK, so this is my idea of what an extra scene between the two would have been like, based on how the characters act in the rest of the movie.


(Anna steps between the two and freezes. However, in this scenario the sword does not break and Hans is not stunned. Hans, Elsa, and Kristoff in the distance, are temporarily shocked.)

(Hans breaks the silence first. He stumbles back but quickly recovers himself.)

Hans: Well, that’s one down.

Elsa: You said she was already dead.

(Obviously, something is not right.)

(Hans raises his sword. Elsa and Hans begin to circle each other on the ice. Kristoff watches.)

Elsa: How long have you been lying to us? To her?

Hans (condescendingly): Oh, drop the tough girl act, Elsa. We both know you’re a mess. You couldn’t kill anything to save your life. Unless, of course, it were an accident.

Elsa (to Kristoff who is being to come closer in attempt to help her): Stay back!

(Elsa is still uncertain of her powers and doesn’t want to hit a bystander.)

(The pair continues to circle, drawing closer together, both preparing to strike.)

Elsa (to Hans): Hans, you once gave me the chance not to be a monster. Do the same for yourself!

Hans (laughing): That was when I thought I still needed you alive to stop this winter. It’s far too late for that now. No, Elsa, I’ve been working toward this day for a long time. And I’m about to see my reward.

(Elsa says the Arandelle equivalent of “Yes, I bet you have.)

(They strike.)

(Hans swings his sword, but Elsa blocks it with her left hand, causing it to shatter into frozen shards. Slowly, their eyes are drawn to their remaining hands, his left and her right. Elsa has simply touched him, but gel-like ice is growing out of her palm like glue. Though Hans tries frantically to shake it off, it soon covers him in a block of solid ice. Only his eyes are moving.)

(In that moment, the adrenaline dies away, and Elsa remembers the wrong she has also done Anna and all that came from it. She turns grief-stricken and embraces the frozen Anna in tears.)

Kristoff doesn’t have much to do in this scenario, which is too bad. I’m not sure how he can get more involved without making this fight into a gang-up of two on one. Now I feel guilty because he goes through all the trouble of coming back to the castle, only to have Anna go, “Luv ya, Honey, but my big sister’s in trouble so I gotta dash.” I foresee trouble for this marriage if Elsa doesn’t get her act together.


At first I thought, since Arandelle is quirky like that, that Elsa might as well just kill Hans on the spot and call it an execution because he tried to kill the royal family. But I started thinking about how few Disney protagonists actually kill the villains directly. Before the villain gets big, scaly, or both. (With the exception of Mulan, who killed both Shan-Yu and most of his army. Damn.) Even Mother Gothel is killed by accident.

So I think preserving him in ice is the best way to go. It’s creepy and traumatic, but Elsa doesn’t have to kill anyone in cold blood. Dante put the traitors in ice, and you can’t do better than Dante.

Of course, Anna should still get to give her comeuppance in the end. I feel bad that such a scene would have less weight if Hans has already been defeated. However, punch to the face feels like an afterthought in the movie anyway. The point is we know Anna is going to be OK, and that she has no more attachment to Hans.

I think after the winter is cleared up she notices the block of ice and gives a startled, “Hans?” Elsa, feeling awkward, starts to say, “Um…Anna,” as Anna approaches the ice. Anna’s eyes are wide, and we wonder if she feels some lingering regret. Then she knocks the block over somehow, showing they are most definitely never, ever, ever, getting back together.

During the denouement sequence we see the ice being carried to the ship on a cart, accompanied by Elsa and the diplomats. Elsa is explaining, “The heat of the Southern Isles should thaw the block, and then it will be up to his brothers to decide his fate. Though if they see their way to a peaceable future with Arandelle, they may take it into their heads to do something rather drastic.”

I heard once in this game you win or die.