Thursday, June 19, 2014

Beautiful People June 2014

Beautiful People is back! For those of you who maybe haven't come across this before, it's a neat exercise for writers. Basically you're given a list of questions, you choose a character from a story you're working on, and answer them for you character. It's a fun way to get to know your character better, and to see what kinds of people other writers are creating. Beautiful People can be found here.  

1) What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it? 
Well, I guess I'll do Marfik, because he's interesting. His name is Marfik and I named him that because it means 'elbow' and I thought it was ironic. You see, Marfik is a Salamander (of the mythological variety, which really means he's a great big flaming lizard beast). He's a sort of spirit in an animistic, shintoish sense. He attaches to the arm of another character. Hence the name 'elbow.'

(Not going to lie, Marfik is the name of a star, and I totally named all my characters after stars. If J.K. Rowling can do it why can't I?)

2) How old are they, and when were they born? 

I have no idea. Really old? It's not really relevant to my story. He's a spiritual being and, while he's not immortal, his lifespan is many times longer than a human's. He has a humanish form and while he's in that he appears to be in his late twenties/ early thirties.

3) Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!) 

As I have said before, picture a salamander... but on fire. So kind of like a Dragon, but not a dragon. He's not gigantic, and he can't breathe fire. Also his tail is more flat and sqaushy. I picture flames kind of shooting out of his joints. I don't have a picture of that, but I do have one of him in his humanish form (that I will not post because 1. It's a super sketchy class pencil doodle, and 2. because I'd have to scan it in and I'm too lazy...). He's well over six feet, and can really only manage to get the upper half of his body into a human shape. He doesn't have any hair though. Instead of head hair he has fire on his head. He has no eyebrows or eyelashes. His skin is dark tan with a really strange yellow tint and his eyes are yellow. 

He looks something like this, but with bigger claws and more teeth

4) Describe your character's personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences. 

Beastly? He is not a human, so I've decided not really to humanize him. He doesn't really speak ever and he rarely takes a human form. He is a great big lizard monster, and while he does possess reason, it's not human reason. He's very stoic, I guess. He is also a spirit in an animistic sense, so I've also been giving him a sense of ferocious dignity. He's not a pet, he's very clever, and very strong, and he could eat you... if he wanted.

5) What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc? 

I have no idea. I don't really associate music with my characters or stories.

6) Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character? 

I'm torn between wrath and gluttony. I think I'll go with gluttony. In my story spirits can assume the strength and power of other spirits by eating them, and that's what he does. But I'm not sold on gluttony. I could be another one...

Like this, only prettier.

7) If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be? 

Easy, fire. Boom!

8) What is their favorite word? 

Verbal symbols tied to objects and concepts are for humans. He may be forced into a relationship with some currently, but don't think for one second that he enjoys it.

9) Who’s one person they really miss? (It could be someone who’s passed away, or someone they’re not close to anymore, or someone who’s moved away.)

He doesn't miss anyone, but he does miss the way things used to be before he was sealed in a scroll for 400 years. He doesn't really feel like the world has a place for him anymore. 

10) What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person state of affairs? 

Uh, everything? There's a spiritual void in the world that he feels very deeply.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Exam Review

     Four men and four women file into a room to take the final exam that will secure one of them a position in the most prestigious company in the world. They sit at eight desks, and before them are eight pieces of paper. An Invigilator (exam proctor) and a security guard walk in. The Invigilator gives them a specific set of instruction. Before them is an exam, there is one question and one answer. They have 80 minutes to complete the exam. If they attempt to speak to him or to the security guard they will be disqualified. If they leave the room for any reason they will be disqualified. If they spoil their paper, accidentally or on purpose, they will be disqualified. Are there any questions? Begin. 

Spiritual Content:
     There isn't much overt spiritual content, but there are a whole lot of psychological and philosophical dilemmas. This movie doesn't sound like it would be very interesting, but boy is it ever. You see, (and I don't this counts as a spoiler) the exam paper has no visible question. Naturally the people taking the exam start to freak out. Is this some sort of joke? Is the question hidden somewhere? They then start to figure out the loop-holes in the Invigilators instructions, they figure out what they can and can't do to figure out the question and come up with the answer. They have a lot of freedom. The Invigilator tells them at the beginning of the exam" There are no rules in this room, except for our rules. There are no laws, except for our laws," and that certainly seems to be true. Exam asks a disturbing question - what do people become when they're placed in an isolated situation separated from the rules and laws of society. It's answer is both profound and disturbing. Human beings placed in that kind of a situation can only work together for so long before desperation and (in my opinion) their natural sinfulness cause them to make moral compromises. Humans, at bottom, are pretty horrible and this movie definitely makes that clear. The people who walked into that room were successful, intelligent, high achieving individuals - the best of us. At the end of the day, the best of us were broken. horrific caricatures of the people they pretended to be.

Other than that, for spiritual content, there was a character who wore a cross and quoted scripture some. He was not the worst person, but no one was really good all the time completely. 

     Hahahahahaha. People are horrible, and these horrible people did horrible things to each other. It was disturbing, but this movie was a psychological thriller, so what did you expect? It started out with some punches. Then, a character is bound (deservingly) to a chair and gagged. Another character is tortured in a pretty disturbing scene. She is also tied to a chair while another character interrogates her for information. He uses a piece of paper to cut her legs, and then threatens to cut her eye if she doesn't tell him what he wants to know. One character is sick and has seizures. And, finally, someone gets shot. ***SPOILER*** This character doesn't die because he's shot with a magic medicine bullet that will cure all the world's problems. ***END SPOILER*** 

I think, though, that the most disturbing thing is not what these people did to each other, but what they didn't do. I mean, there was some feeble protesting when people were being hurt, but mostly people just let things happen. I think we all know the saying 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil if for good men to do nothing,' and that is certainly true in this movie.

Sexual Content:
     Some men throw innuendos at the girls, but other than that, nothing. 

    This movie was both disturbing and really good. It built the tension up really well. These people did ridiculously horrible things, but the escalation was done really well. You were sort of like a horrified spectator. You wanted to stop the madness, but you couldn't. And then you wanted somebody else to stop the madness and they didn't, and it was infuriating. The ending was also infuriating, but it did a good job of making you understand why the company had allowed that freak show to go on. *** SPOILER*** Because the company had invented the magic cure for all diseases they needed an administrator who had both a good moral compass in a horrible situation and a good attention to detail (hence the really stupid exam). The person who won had these things, and she did her best considering that she was a girl in a room filled with psycho boys who could (and would) do horrible things to her. ***END SPOILER*** 

     Almost all of these people were varying degrees of horrible. Some were kind of ok. Others were absolute monsters, but that was the point. Most people, at bottom, are a bit ethically challenged. We know this from some kind of disturbing real-life psychological experiments we've done. If you take people out of heir normal social environment most of them will do horrible things to other people. And I appreciated that this movie talked about that. Even the character who won wasn't perfect. This movie wasn't meant to be an idealization of the human condition. It didn't say 'Yes, most people are bad, but deep down inside there's a shining spot of goodness that we can all bring out, and look at how principled our hero is in the face of adversity!' I literally had no idea who was going to win - in fact I thought that the worst one was going to win. That character didn't, and I was pleased with who won, but it was still a pretty sobering look at the human condition.

Overall Conclusion: 8/10
    I really liked this movie. It's probably not appropriate for all audiences, but it was surprisingly good. The story was suspenseful and engaging. The characters were a realistic depiction of the human condition, and the movie challenged me to think about 'what would I do.' It's always easy to believe that we could never be like that, but I think if we think about it - unless we actively practice virtue and make a continuing commitment to righteous living we would make compromises in that sort of scenario. Those people didn't wake up that day expecting themselves to do those things. Their actions were a reflection of their inner character, and the real point of the Exam was to make that abundantly clear. One of the characters says that the Exam shows you yourself, and that turns out to be true in the most heartbreaking and revolting way.