Landscapey Stuff {APADO #20}

(How am I already 2/3 of the way through APADO? It seems like it’s gone by pretty quickly. Who knew that posting once a day would be so much fun?)
(Also I apologize for yesterday’s sorry excuse for a post. I was in a hurry. In fact I didn’t even go through that twice. And I’m really, REALLY regretting that. Hehe.)

APADO 20

I don’t think it’d be fair to say that I “do” photography. Do I like taking pictures? Yes. Do I think about taking photos all the time? No.

Really, the reason I take photos is to create a visual trigger for something I could describe in more detail. Be that a place I really love, or good times with friends and family, that’s the extent of my “love” of photography.

(And then I turn around and take photos for my blog and that has nothing to do with visual triggers. I hate it when I can’t make a reason for something absolute.)

I’ve got a folder called “Lanscapey stuff”. (To say that my file naming system is bizarre is an understatement.) In addition to myriads of blurry photos I can’t decide if I should delete or not, it’s got a lot of my visual triggers in it. Today, I’ve decided to pull ten of those out of the vault and see if I can jar my memory.


Back before I knew how to use a camera, I went to the Grand Canyon and had the opportunity to take the photos of a lifetime.

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Unfortunately, hardly any of my pictures turned out to be any good. However, there were a few good shots, like this one.

But do photos really do this place justice? In real life, this place was bigger than any frame. All I could see from one side of the horizon to the other was the canyon, the striped rocks descending down toward the river. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so small.


Icy trees look pretty cool.

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I froze my fingers off trying to capture how cool it was. My hot breath hanging in the air, my hands trembling, but a triumphant smile spreading across my red face as I got a shot that looked alright. That was an interesting afternoon.


I took a camping/hiking trip to Caprock Canyons State Park – a ton of my “good” photos are from that trip. The area is really arid, but we heard that there was a cave where a bunch of ferns grew naturally, thanks to a spring and some irrigating rocks. So we hiked to the unimaginatively named Fern Cave.

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I was not disappointed.

It was at least ten degrees cooler on the enormous rock I was sitting on – just the thing to cheer up a group of hot, dusty hikers. The constant drip of the water off the edges of the ferns echoed off the sides of the little alcove where they hung, swinging in the breeze, growing despite the desert around them.

And I saw a wild frog for the first time. That was pretty neat.


During that same trip, we got so hot in the afternoon that we decided to go drive around in the car for some relief and some wind through our hair. We wandered down a bunch of country roads and by several farms and ended up finding this relaxing tunnel of scraggly oak trees:

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It was so quiet here, I could here my own thoughts.


We also found a dirt road that led out to the middle of nowhere that was sort of anticlimatic but very pictreusque.

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I think the most wonderful thing about this photo is that there are absolutely no power lines – just the ribbon of caliche stretching for a good mile and the tawny brush swaying as the wind tickled the top of it.


But to be honest, God’s beautiful creation is everywhere.

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Like this gorgeous sunset that painted the sky back home one night. Not even the power lines can spoil this one.


I guess all my good landscapey stuff photos are taken while hiking and camping. Go figure. Needle Rock is a neat natural monument on a Boy Scout ranch in Fort Davis.

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Unlike the Grand Canyon, pictures do this one visual justice. But they don’t show the feeling of passing under this spire of twisted rock, the shadow that falls over you as you stare up at it in awe, the sun sparkling from behind it…


Yeah, I swear all my good photos are hiking photos.

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My brother had wandered ahead of us when I took this photo. I didn’t realize until I went back through all these photos that he makes this photo eighty times better. A man, walking all alone in the desert while stormclouds loom over him…

…I promise no more camping photos. Hehe.


Sometimes, a new angle changes everything.

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These icicles look really neat from the underside. Kind of like teeth, I imagine. What’s even cooler is how the ones on the right are bent from the winter wind blowing them as they melt.


And finally, oleander flowers.

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They’re some of the prettiest things out there, and they come from the strangest source. Who would’ve thought that these big, green, lumpy bushes would have nice flowers?


I can’t decide if this was a photography post or a writing post. Maybe it was both.

I suppose I need to start taking my camera more places. Who knows what I’ll find that’ll a visual trigger?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

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My “Torc” {APADO #18}

(thubis ubis ubapubadubo, my lubittle blubog suberubies thubat ubi’m subo tubired ubof ubintrubodubucubing. subo ubi dubecubidubed tubo dubo ubit ubin ububbubi dububbubi.)

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Brandy wears a braided chain / made of the finest silver from the north of Spain…

…or a piece of steel stock from an engineering workshop.

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restraunts, swimming, in the car, photobombing at my sister’s wedding…

I’ve worn my necklace every day since I got it, and I’m still not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I’ve tied the leather cord it’s hanging from so tight that I can’t get it off. I have to pull it off the hitch ring every time I go through a metal detector.

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penny for scale

For awhile, I was calling it my torc. I forgot what it means. It’s something in Russian, because when I got it, I was obsessed with a race of Russian wolves I was trying to come up with for my infamous dogstory.

I got it from a professor at our local university who really took a fancy to our family after he met my older sister. He made it out of some scrap steel and told me, “I dunno what you’re supposed to do with it, but it sure looks cool.”

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oh yeah, this was the journal where I was pretending I had a twin brother.

I wanted the torc to mean something. Maybe a reminder, or a symbol.

So I found a shoelace in one of my drawers and worked up a necklace. Somehow, the shoelace lasted for way longer than it should have, but when it got nasty, I kidnapped a leather strip from a Moleskine notebook and I think it looks alright.

It’s been a year and a half, and I still have no idea what it’s supposed to stand for.

Any ideas?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

What Makes A Good Character? (Tess’s Character Theory, part I) {APADO #13}

(you’re reading APADO, my wittle one-post-a-day-for-a-whole-month series that i somehow haven’t failed yet.)
(a bunch of disclaimers: i’m not a master author, in fact i legit just called myself a fauxthor™ and it’s true. however, i’ve received a lot of praise for the characters i come up with. i’m going to try to ride the line between hoarding the knowledge i have and puffing myself up bigger than a wacky arm-waving inflatable tubeman. let’s hope i don’t step into either too much.)
(and now i’m like “isn’t it a bad thing to doubt myself? but isn’t it also a bad idea to think you know more than you actually do?” hello anxiety, i haven’t missed you but here you are.)
(now let’s turn this into a series)

APADO 13

Characters are an integral part of fiction. Actually, they’re more than half of what storytellers worry about. They can make or break a story, and they often do – which is what we’re going to take a look at today.

Trigger warning: my preferences are weird. Even if you don’t agree with everything I say, please be nice about it.

I recently sat down and watched Interstellar.

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Let me first preface this by saying that I’m not a scientific person and only understood about 52% of this film’s dialogue. There was a lot of infodumping, which I’m not a fan of.

(quick, poorly-written plot rundown for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie: earth is dying and no one’s sure how to fix it. cooper, our main character, is alarmed that his daughter’s bedroom seems to be alive – there are morse code patterns in the dust in the floor, books falling off the shelf in morse code messages, etc. they say pretty much two things: a set of map coordinates and the word “stay”. visiting the map coordinates reveals the secret location of nasa’s last base and the main plot: earth is about to become really uninhabitable and cooper, due to his experience as a fighter pilot, will be needed to help execute one of the two plans. “plan a” is to relocate all of earth’s population to another planet. “plan b” is to leave the population to die and take 700 new embroyos to a new planet to start a new colony and save humanity. all the characters are on different sides of this ethical question. cooper and his team fly off into space to have a look at some planet prospects. long story short, nothing looks good and everything’s sad and we lose one of the crew members. they’re running out of fuel, too. in order to get to the last chance of a planet, cooper volunteers to go off into the black hole that’s messing with the time of everything and honestly i didn’t catch how all of this is working because infodumps. once in the blackhole (which somehow works as like a time sphere/way to communicate with the past and future?) cooper realizes that this was a horrible idea and he should never have come and tries to tell his past self to “stay” (books coming off the shelves and stuff). i have no idea what happened here. murph is grown up now and gets stuff going back on earth because he can also somehow communicate with her through this watch that he gave her. everyone evacuates, somehow they rescue cooper, cooper learns that his female friend went to start that embroyo colony on the last planet and that she’s all alone and vows to go rescue her. THE END.)

I was extremely disappointed at the end of it. I was expecting this movie to be amazing – it’s Christopher Nolan, for crying out loud. Though I will give it props for its amazing visual effects, terrific music, and interesting take on the “end-of-the-world” idea, it commits a sin that makes me never want to see it again: blank, thin characters.

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Now, I understand that I am not the target audience for this film (it’s very popular in the nerdy, scientific circles) but this is a problem that could have been fixed with just a little more time and a little less word salad.

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Yes, they have a few motivations and remotely memorable personalities, but they don’t seem to do anything. Things are happening all around them, and they react to them, but their reactions are the only thing they’re giving to the movie. The black hole, the space travel, the time discrepancies and the emergencies push out the characters and take over the plot.

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And we never answer the big ethical question this movie asks (save the living or start over?) because the characters don’t have enough screentime or enough depth to make a choice. They’re weak, passive, and almost forgettable.

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I could have loved this movie if the characters had been given more time of day. It was visually beautiful, sported terrific world-building, had a larger-than-life stake, and would have made an amazing point if they had gotten around to answering their ethical question. They didn’t answer the question because the characters were too weak to form a good opinion.

Interstellar was a frustrating movie because the characters weren’t allowed to lead the plot.

Now, an example of a horrible plot with terrific characters: Thor: The Dark World.

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(Please lower your stones.)

This is a hated movie. This is a weird movie. This is one of the “worst” Marvel movies in the entire franchise, and yet I enjoyed it way more than I should have. Its merit is with one thing and one thing only: the characters.

(quick plot rundown: there’s this creepy alien liquid virus called the aether, unleashed in some ancient battle, and it’s super gimmicky and the sole reason why this movie is weird. after the events of everything in all the movies leading up to this in the MCU, loki’s being imprisoned for invading earth, thor is trying to make peace in what’s going to be his new kingdom, and jane foster, his girlfriend, is really wishing he were around more often. there’s going to be a cool cosmic convergence thing happening, which will make people be able to travel between the nine realms and meet eachother, yay. a portal has already appeared in a warehouse. although jane and darcy don’t know where it leads to, it definitely takes things places. jane, without realizing it, follows a similar portal and gets infected with the aforementioned space virus, the aether…and it really doesn’t make sense. meanwhile, back on asgard, heimdall, everyone’s favorite gatekeeper/living nest camera tells thor that he can’t see where jane is anymore, prompting him to go to earth to find her. he finds her, she’s full of aether juice, and it’s not good. we learn that the aether is connected to this creepy pale dude named malekith who plans to take over the nine realms…or something. he wants the aether cuz it’s apparently able to be weaponized. he attacks asgard looking for it, because thor brought jane there, and frigga, thor’s mother, dies protecting her. malekith and his dudes are barely repulsed. thor has a plan, and it’s a hairbrained scheme, really, but it just might work and it’s all they can do. with the help of loki (who thor convinces to help him based on frigga’s death), the warriors three, sif (who’s causing tension because she’s romantically interested in thor), and jane, thor goes to try to find and stop malekith. which he sort of does. thor and loki trick him into getting the aether out of jane, but they fail to destroy it and loki dies (well, he doesn’t really, but we don’t know that yet). the aether isn’t in jane anymore (?) but it’s now roosting in malekith. the convergence is imminent. the warehouse portal apparently led to the place where they were, so thor and jane (minus loki and everyone else) go to earth to try to beat malekith, who’s planning to unleash the aether while the convergence thing is going on and so destroy all the worlds. they have a big fight, thor beats him up, he gets crushed by his own ship and dies, the aether is contained in an infinity stone and stashed away, problems have been solved and yay life is good until the next thor adventure, which i didn’t like but oh well. THE END.)

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Yes, we have a similar weird space-themed plot with confusing element (what exactly does the Aether do again?) and word salad. Yes, we have a movie almost devoid of anything good. It’s the exact opposite of Interstellar: the plot is horribly paced and confusing, yet… I liked it. And I certainly wasn’t the only one.

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It’s obvious now that the main difference between Interstellar and Thor: The Dark World lies in the characters. In T:TDW, the characters are actively driving the story, despite the Convergence-thing being out of their control. They’re going after the cosmic liquid space virus. They’re reluctantly teaming up.

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In fact, most of the conflict is character-centered, despite this movie’s overly-massive stakes. This doesn’t make it any less confusing, but it makes it infinitely more likable.

If the characters had been reactive, this movie would be utter trash. It still kind of is. But the characters bring it from a -70 to a 5/10.

The point:

yes, I just praised Thor: The Dark World and trashed Interstellar:

If your characters are flat, uncompelling, and make no choices of their own, they can take your A+ amazing plot and turn it into something without a soul.

If your characters are well-rounded, decisive, and bounce well off eachother, you can take something confusing and weird and make it mostly enjoyable (even if it’s still confusing and weird.)

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A story is only as good as the people who are making it happen. As an author, the very worst thing you can do is just make them react to what’s going on.

tl;dr: Good characters are proactive.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

(what have i done?)

 

 

 

Everyday Miracles {APADO #12}

(APADO = a post a day, october = nerve-wracking heart-attacking self-inflicted blog challenge i should be regretting but i’m not)

(this is going to be a short post, seeing how yesterday’s was as long as four cvs receipts)

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I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but I really love to roller skate. I’ve been doing it off and on for years, but I get the same thrill every time I pull a pair of skates on.

But life’s been busy recently, and I haven’t had a chance to get to the rink. It doesn’t help that I outgrew my skates (which were hand-me-downs from one of my sisters). They were a good little pair of quads…before I got gargantuan feet.

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from a go pro vid at the the skating rink (and feat. my older older brother mac)

It’s not as easy when you don’t own your own skates. I have to bring an extra dollar to rent a pair, and they really aren’t terrific. (I mean, if you consider the constant abuse they go through, they’re astonishingly good. But the wheels are really slippery. Maybe it’s a ploy by the management to get insurance money or something.)

Earlier this year, I was considering buying a pair of roller blades. But they’re expensive, and although I have some spending money, I can’t justify spending a hundred dollars like that.

That hasn’t stopped me from wanting a pair, though. They’ve been on the brain since the beginning of summer.

So let’s flash forward to today. My granddad was going to this giant fair-thrift-store-rummage-sale-thing, and being the spontaneous person I am, I came along.

(Now when I say “Granddad”, please imagine a 70-year-old man who looks like he’s 40, laughs like he’s 20, and gives advice like he’s 104. He’s the definition of hardcore awesomeness.)

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I give you – an ENFP paradise!

This place was awash with awesome stuff. I brought my camera, meaning to take lots of pictures, but honestly I was too busy looking at everything on the tables.

At least I got a shot of these baskets of records, though. Aren’t they minorly aesthetic?

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Anyways. I was having fun looking at everything, destressing from a very long week, forgetting about all the things I really should have been doing – when I saw them.

Rollerblades.

Beautiful rollerblades from the era where they had the joint for your ankle to flex correctly. In my size.

For – I could have sworn I was dreaming – $3. Three dollars.

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I still can’t get over how amazing God is. How I had almost given up on getting roller blades, and He dropped them in my lap when I was least expecting it. How He works in big, big ways – but still cares about little things like…rollerblades.

It’s been a really, really good day.

tl;dr: Little miracles happen every day. You’ll never know until you start looking for them.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

Roller Coasters {APADO #6}

(This is APADO, a series where I attempt to write a post once a day for the entire month of October. And I’m already burning out. And this is fun, I’m reminding myself.)
(This is Saturday night, it’s been a really long week, and I need to get batteries for my camera so I can write some posts that actually mean something – but hey, gotta do whatcha gotta do.)
(And the photo in the graphic’s not mine. And I don’t really care….? It’s from Six Flags’ website. Kudos to them. Ditto to the gifs.)

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You never know just how brave you are until you sit in a roller coaster car and pull down the restraint.

Not only are you about to experience ridiculous speeds and incredible Gs, but you also just chose to do so. Willingly.

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For me, this realization brings my heart rate up at least 25 bpm every single time I ride a roller coaster, even though I go to Six Flags a bit more than your average person.

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It’s easy to talk big when you’re safe on the ground, watching the coaster do its thing. But it gets progressively harder as you weave through the cue line, as you get up close to the ride, as you feel the energy it’s throwing off surging beneath your feet.

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And the very hardest part is sitting down in the car, pulling the restraints down, and accepting the fact that you’re going to do something that doesn’t make logical sense.

But that’s the fun part about roller coasters.

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Because you made a stupid decision. You’re doing something that doesn’t make sense.

And you’re able to.

When you’re going up the hill, you know you’ve been really, really rash, but when you’re going down, you know why people love roller coasters.

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Because humans like to go fast.

We like to feel the power of something we’ve invented.

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somewhere in there is yours truly after riding the coaster pictured above – my mom dragged me on it >w<

And we like to feel proud of ourselves when we come screaming into the station. Because against all odds, and everything coming at you – you just rode a hundred-foot-tall metal beast. On purpose. And you had fun.

Imagine the places that kind of mindset will take you.

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me and younger older brother – nothing like a day at the park ^v^

And this is why I love roller coasters.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

(P.S: yes, I have ridden all the roller coasters pictured in this post. yes, it took much determination/panicking. my home park is six flags over texas.)

 

 

Improvement: It Happens To The Best Of Us {APADO #1}

(Welcome to APADO, where I attempt to post once a day for all of October: A Post A Day – October, that is the last time I’m spelling that out. I’m making more rash promises than Josef Stalin but let’s see how far I can get.)

(also this post might be inspirational? how did that happen)

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I want you to go on a quick trip down memory lane. Remember the first time you tried to be creative? And how good it felt when you signed your first drawing, finished your first story, threw your first paint-dipped potato at the wall?

It felt good, didn’t it? You were proud of what you made, weren’t you? Even if it was pretty bad-looking, there was something about it that you liked. Maybe it was the excitment. The raw creativity. Or something similarly poetic that I don’t have the aptitude to make up.

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2016

Now, let’s flash forward a few weeks. Months. Years. If you’re anything like me, you’re discouraged, burnt out, and wishing you could do it better.

It’s normal to feel that way.

I struggle with self-confidence and patience. There are times when I want to just throw in the towel and be done with everything I do, just because it isn’t exactly the way I want it to be. I have to remind myself that I’m still learning. I’m always learning. And that I’m never going to go anywhere sitting around moping about it.

Big Secret No. 1: You have to want to improve.

In this day and age, we’re told quite often that we’re perfect just the way we are.

I’m not saying that we’re not, but that kind of thinking tends to trap us into never doing anything with our lives.

You are perfect. But what you do needs work.

If you want to be mediocre, you can give out half-polished work. You can “do what you can” and never want anything more. And spend the rest of your days as an amateur.

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2018

Or you can give it your 110% best. You can go the extra mile. You can keep going, even when it gets tough and when you don’t feel like it. That’s the big secret to getting better. And it comes from the place you’d least expect it – yourself.

Big Secret No. 2: Improving your skills takes time.

We live in an instant world – instant coffee, instant ramen. Instagram. It’s only natural to think that our skills will come quickly and easily (and that just one podcast or blog post will enable us to churn out a finished, polished novel.)

Honestly, if it were that easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything.

The cold hard fact is that becoming better at what you do takes a long time. You’re not going to be an expert overnight. And this is what makes pushing yourself difficult – it’s much easier to sprint down the block than to run a mile.

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2017? where are his appendages

Patience is a virtue. And an asset. And a challenge worth conquering.

Big Secret No. 3: Creative pursuits are subjective.

Why do we want to improve? So we can be better. Duh.

But what does better mean? Is it an end-all point where we can be done with what we’re doing?

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2018

Ha!

There shouldn’t ever be a point that you stop learning to do what you love. You might as well get used to the feeling of not knowing everything, because it’s going to follow you for as long as you’re creating great content.

If you’re doing it right, you should always be improving.

The point I’m trying to make with all this:

Improvement is tough. It feels like the more you know, the less you think of yourself.

But you have a fire burning inside you. Use it. You’ve got what it takes.

And you’ll never, ever, ever get anywhere by throwing in the towel, saying you’re not good enough, and leaving your dreams to turn to dust. Quitting is for losers.

Be patient. Keep working. You’re going to make it. You’re going to do this.

tl;dr: Don’t be a pushover. Keep your chin up and go make something great.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}