They Call Her The Winter Soldier…

Halloween is almost upon us, and we all know what that means: COSTUMES! Costumes everywhere! I’m so hyped to see everyone’s creative ideas come to life on the 31st. I’ve always dressed up for Halloween, and a lot of times throughout the rest of the year as well; it’s something I find fun, and it only became more enjoyable when I discovered cosplaying in my early teenage years. Since then, most of my costumes for Halloween have been re-wearings of costumes from an anime convention earlier in the year. This year’s costume, however, is a bit different: it’s a cosplay that I plan on wearing again, certainly, but this Halloween will be its debut! I’ve been working on it for a decent amount of time, and it still has some tweaking to go through before it’s ready for the convention floor, but for the occasion at hand, it’s perfect. Continue reading

Insert Bad Autumn Pun Here

The minute I stepped outside my dorm a few weeks ago and felt cool breeze on my skin instead of the normal mid-morning heat, I had only one thought: Oh, YES.

It’s now October, readers, otherwise known as the absolute greatest month of the year — Autumn is upon us! Although all of the seasons are beautiful in their own way and completely necessary, of course, I’ve always loved this particular point on the wheel, and why not? Returning to school, perfect weather, beautiful changes in nature and fun holidays all add up to make a pretty amazing atmosphere.

Don’t pay ANY attention to this noise.

Well…an amazing atmosphere everywhere except on the non-Tumblr internet. Apparently your favorite season being Autumn has become something of a negative stereotype applied to teenage girls, as per graphics that say things like “if you say ‘pumpkin spice latte’ in front of a mirror three times, a white girl in yoga pants will appear and tell you her favorite things about Fall.” Needless to say, readers…this irked me. So guess what? This white girl is about to tell you her favorite things about Fall! Continue reading

Not A Perfect Soldier, But A Good Man

This is indeed a blog post about American comics, but there will be no playing at false elitism in any post of mine: I started reading comics because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It took seeing Iron Man, X-Men: First Class, and Thor before I even picked up a comic book out of simple curiosity; however, it was the 2012 summer blockbuster The Avengers that really sold me on getting into the Marvel fandom once and for all. I was familiar with most of the superheroes in the team movie, but not all, and so I left the theater with a few questions. Not the least of them being:

Who was the recently-defrosted blond guy from the 40s, in a spangly outfit, throwing a shield around? And why should I care about him?

Two movies and multiple Marvel Wiki entries, comic issues, fanfictions, and character analysis blogs later, my questions were answered: Captain America, AKA Steven Grant Rogers, was my soon-to-be new favorite superhero, and I should care about him for so many reasons.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Marvel comics story arcs Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil WarMarvel Cinematic Universe films Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier** Continue reading

The Wings of Freedom

“Fight to win! Risk it all for even a glimmer of real freedom! It doesn’t matter what’s waiting outside the gate or what comes in! It doesn’t matter how cruel the world can be, or how unjust!

Fight! Fight! Fight! FIGHT!”

Readers, I want you to imagine a dystopia the likes of which you’ve never seen before. The human race has been driven to the brink of extinction by a race of colossal monsters who seem to exist only to kill it, and the survivors have fled within supposedly impenetrable walls to defend themselves. This world gives no pretense of being perfect, is in fact genuinely terrifying, and humanity’s defenders are fighting a seemingly endless battle to protect a hopeless population. That’s right, I’m talking about the world of Hajime Isayama’s best-selling manga, Attack on Titan. And as Tumblr user acronymexe so aptly summed up: “Attack on Titan has taught me that no matter what the odds, no matter what stands in my way, if I have the right mindset and fight with my mind and my soul, I will still most likely die.” I actually discovered animated adaptation of this manga before the manga itself; while the first season of the anime ended after twenty-five episodes, I discovered that the manga was still ongoing and immediately began reading.

**SPOILERS: I will not discuss in this blog any plot points extending past Chapter 34 of the manga / episode 25 of the anime.** Continue reading

Alex’s Declassified Writing Survival Guide – Part 2!

Guess what, my dear readers?

I, Alex, the writer who often develops new ideas to write but rarely ever finds the motivation to actually do the thing, has started a new original story at last! And this time, it’s one that I got the idea for out of non-forced inspiration and I am actually determined to finish!

Perhaps it’s really true that a change of surroundings or a change in pace is all it takes to kick-start the imagination. I recently spent a week in Hilton Head Island in South Carolina before school started back, on vacation with my parents. While having no private bedroom and constantly running around for a week had the unfortunate side-effect of me wanting to spend the entire week afterward doing nothing and talking to no one, there were some definite upsides to a new environment. Perhaps the most important was that I started journaling again. That got me used to writing a little every day, no matter what it was. It was the last night of the trip, when I was down at the beach for one last visit, that the aforementioned perfect story idea came to me, along with the first lines of the story itself.

However, for me most of the time, writing isn’t nearly as easy as staring out at the ocean until inspiration strikes out of the blue. To illustrate this, here’s an in-depth look at my complete writing process:

1) Realize that you haven’t written anything that’s not fanfiction in over six months.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with writing fanfiction – I LOVE fanfics, reading them and writing them, and consider them a completely legitimate form of storycrafting. However, I also love branching out into writing my own, original ideas too…and shortly before I left for vacation, I looked back at the past year and realized that I had hardly written anything not using pre-existing characters at all. Whoops.

2) Take a peek into your latent imagination and realize that you have too many ideas and half-finished concepts buzzing around to organize. Continue reading

A Heart Made Fullmetal

Edward understands my addiction very well, it seems.

To my established readers, this may be obvious, and to my new readers, it will quickly become apparent: I am something of a bibliophile. I love reading, I love collecting books, I love merely being around books. Whenever I go to a bookstore with other people in tow, they always have to drag me out after about two or three hours, because if it were up to me I’d probably never leave. There’s an unmistakeable comfort in being surrounded by stories – and while I do love traditional literature, there’s no place that comfort is stronger than in the manga section.

This is the first in a small series of posts that will be analyzing my favorite graphic novels, manga or otherwise, but manga in particular has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve loved Japanese graphic novels for years, since middle school at the very least. I started out reading things like Naruto, Pokémon Adventures, and Tokyo Mew Mew, mainstream action series or ones geared toward a younger audience. In my freshman year of high school, however, I was introduced to my first “grown-up” manga, one that would (at the risk of sounding cliché) change my life: Fullmetal Alchemist, written by Hiromu Arakawa. Continue reading

Alex the Part-Time Nihilist

“‘If you could, would you?’ Probably not, let’s face it, I’m not the kind of guy who does.” – New York Times Bestselling Author John Green

My dear readers, I’m going to be very frank with you: I have many things I could be doing with my time right now. I could be reading the massive pile of unread books sitting on my shelf (stop glaring at me like that, Loki…and I REALLY don’t like that look you’re giving me, Paper Towns!) or I could be finishing the half-watched anime series that I’ve barely touched since the semester ended. I could be working on writing that Star Trek / Avengers crossover fanfic I started forever ago, or even start writing the idea for the sci-fi story I’ve been revising over and over in my mind but never typed out. I could be working on a costume, I could be re-organizing my room, I could be exercising…and yet I am doing none of these things. Readers, I am undoubtably, unbelievably, incredibly, and inexcusably:

So bored that I took more time than I should have coming up with all of those adverbs.

Never in my 13 years of formal schooling have I wanted summer to end this badly. I’ve actually already folded a good deal of the clothes I own and am seriously considering living out of my suitcase for the next three weeks, just so it can feel like I’m moving back into my cozy room in Lafrenz-Poole Hall sooner than I actually am. If I was back at school, at least I would be required to do something meaningful! Voluntary action? I’m just not feeling it. What makes it worse is knowing that these next few days are going to be completely stagnant. Nothing even remotely exciting that might help pull me out of this rut is happening until next week, and even so, I can’t bring myself to get excited for those things either! Guardians of the Galaxy premier? Leaving for the beach? Whatever.

To be completely honest, when I slowed down and started thinking about the complete lack of motivation I’m experiencing, I freaked myself out a bit. What exactly is my problem? I have so many things I could be accomplishing at this point in time with no obstacles, so why don’t I want to do any of them? Why do I feel as if there’s no point to doing them even if I mustered up the motivation?

Wait a moment, I thought. I know where this is going. I’ve asked one question and now I can’t stop – what’s the point in doing anything? Am I turning into some kind of watered-down part-time nihilist who can’t find meaning in her actions anymore? Actually typing all of these thoughts out makes them sound a bit silly – both to me and to you, I’m sure – but I’ve learned to be hyper-vigilant in examining myself when these kinds of thoughts start rearing their heads. An unfortunate side-effect of having succumbed to an everything-is-pointless mentality for real at one point, I’m afraid. Needless to say, I’m definitely not too keen on thinking anything like that again!

Thankfully, though, my wondering about the meaning of life and if anything I do has any worth probably isn’t the lingering fragments of my four-years-passed mental illness. Rather, I like to call these thoughts “the interesting questions” as my former honor’s program director would say. Asking these kind of questions is extremely interesting, and also strangely empowering.

Why exactly should I go read that book I haven’t touched, rather than lounge around pondering how bored I am? Does one activity have more inherent worth than the other? If it does, then why? Are some things more worth getting excited about than others, or is everything worth excitement, or is nothing worth excitement? And who decides what that worth is? Me, or someone else?

Referring back to the title of this post – am I a nihilist? Of course not! Questioning, I believe, isn’t disavowing all meaning in anything; it’s expanding my awareness. By asking the “interesting questions” about something as mundane as “why am I bored?”, I’m able to gain a better understanding of myself, of how and what I think. And if I don’t find “meaning” or “worth” in whatever I’m questioning, then I can create meaning if I choose to! I decide what’s worth my time, what’s worth my excitement and my energy. How incredibly empowering!

I really hope I’m not the only one who ponders existentialist philosophy on boring afternoons.

How about you, readers? Any sudden epiphanies that have come to you when you didn’t have much to do beside think? Or any other interesting stories that have come out of summer boredom? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and as always, I invite you to follow me!