Movies with the Best Sound Design

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A little while back, I listed the movies with, in my opinion, the best movie soundtracks. This list will be a bit shorter, mostly because I’m listing movies with sound design that really made them stand out. In order from the last to the first in place. Please keep in mind that this is limited to movies that I have seen, and it has to be absolutely memorable and unique to get a place on the list. (I’m narrowing it down, due to the sprawling mess I had last time.) Here we go!

7. The Lord of the Rings (and possibly The Hobbit.) There were so many different, unique sounds in this fantasy staple that it was impossible to leave it off the list entirely. However, unlike any other entry, the real reason why it’s on this list is almost entirely due to the way actors’ voices were modified, whether on stage or during post-production, and the mind-shuddering realism and grittiness of the sounds. (Trust me, Legolas sliding down the stairs in a silent Douglas Fairbanks movie would not have been nearly as exciting.)

6. Big Hero Six. (Ha, it places right at its name…) I couldn’t possibly narrow this down to one signature sound, unless it was the subhuman squealing sound of the microbots in motion, especially under the control of the man in the kabuki mask. Also, the slashing hum of the magnetic-contained laser swords that Wasabi uses. Still, the second has sort of been done before, so we’re down to the microbots–which means this one only places at number six on the list. (Oh, and then there was the sounds of Honey Lemon’s chemistry experiments, and Go-go’s electromagnetic hyperspeed suspension, but still. This one didn’t stand out enough to go any higher. Sorry, Disney, but Dreamworks beats you out for originality.)

5. The Star Wars franchise. Star Wars is on this list mainly due to its ground-breaking sound design. Star Wars was ground-breaking in so many ways that that’s almost not fair to the rest of the entries on this list, so I’ll elucidate. The real reason why Star Wars is on this list is due to its ability to branch out and and continue to astonish with both its originality and variety. For instance, while there was not much that we had not heard before in The Phantom Menace, they invented the bizarre language of the insectoid Geonosians in Attack of the Clones, and who didn’t shudder at the vile sounds of the poisonous centipedes that were used in that assassination attempt on Padme? Moving on, the Clone Wars animated television series of 2008 (which also had some pretty sweet original music, beginning especially around the end of the second season–Boba Fett’s Conflicted Innocence theme, anyone? {If it doesn’t begin at 19:27, which it should, then just skip to that point–that’s where the music in question plays.}) entirely re-invented the sound of the blaster for Aurra Sing and introduced us to the wholly unique sound of a holocron being opened and/or used.

4. The Rise of the Guardians. Some of you might be shocked by the inclusion of this entry, but it really deserves this slot. The sounds of this movie, combined with the soundtrack, make the action seem so much more. There is the soft humming whir of dream sand, the brisk crackle of Jack’s ice… and sadly I can’t go much further without giving spoilers. While not nearly as auditorially stunning as it was visually stunning, it still has a unique sound feel to it, which is also necessary to the plot, given that it goes to places we, as the audience, have never seen before. As much as it redesigns the North Pole, it also redesigns the sound of reindeer bells.

3. The Captain America movies. As we see Cap using his shield in more and more innovative ways (this isn’t a one-use tool, people!), so the sound design team over at Marvel Studios has upped the ante in creating the sounds that the shield makes. (I actually have a theory for this one–since vibranium absorbs vibrations, the slight humming sound you hear is actually the utter stillness of the air around the shield. It’s a little like the ringing you hear when there is no real sound.) It really sounds like something out of science fiction, and even the most mundane clunking sound will tell you that this is neither aluminum nor steel, this is something else entirely. It’s frighteningly beautiful. Also, from the clips, the Winter Soldier’s prosthetic. Oh. My. Goodness. It has a sort of mechanical scream all its own.

2. The How To Train Your Dragon movies. One sound. The scream of the Night Fury. This sound is totally unique and, while it can be approximated by the human voice, it can not be really imitated. (It’s unsurprising that there are so many animated movies on this list–sound is a major way that they use to approximate a fictional world.)

And, in the number one spot:

1. The Kung Fu Panda movies! Being essentially based as a parody of the kung fu genre, this movie relies on its unique sound design to fuel its chi… *coughcough* *giggles* Anyway, as a kung fu movie, they kind of had to push the bill, and Kung Fu Panda‘s sound design does not disappoint. The sound–especially the soft ringing in the slowed-action sequences–lends a sense of stylized yet powerful realism to the movie. Top marks, Dreamworks. Though the TV series was utterly ridiculous and extremely untrue to its source material, when it comes to movies, Po is one I’m definitely coming back to see.

So there you have it–my list of the top seven movies with the most impressive sound design. Overwhelmingly in favor of Dreamworks. So what? Disney doesn’t seem to do that many movies which have truly outstanding sound design, even if they do now own Skywalker Sound… oh, good grief, this is giving me a headache… *snaps a rubber band at Disney and boos*

Was there a movie you think should have been on this list? Did I shortchange someone? Or did a movie that wasn’t all that spectacular, sound-wise, end up placing? Please, tell me! I want to hear your opinions!

As always, thanks for reading, and God Bless!

The Brooklyn Project: Unsung Heroes

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Continuing from the last Brooklyn Project post.

Last time, I posted on heroism, the basic elements that all heroes must share, or come to share. Today, I’m posting on the unknown heroes, heroism that isn’t accepted.

It’s a not-often-realized truth that for every hero, there is someone who believes in him. However, in real life, many heroes never get more than just that someone. And even that someone may not know the truth of all that they’ve done; they simply believe.

It’s like praying in your closet and giving in secret; it does good, regardless or not if anyone knows that you did it. Indeed, to do good without anyone ever knowing is perhaps the very greatest thing of all.

However, most of the literature you will find today features heroes who do meet with applause. By the end of the book, everyone knows what they’ve done for the good of others. (Notable exception: at the end of the Agent Carter miniseries, the guys from Congress give all the credit to Thompson, who, by the way, is one of the best examples of a dynamic secondary character that I can give you. And Agent Thompson really did deserve the recognition, to an extent, in my opinion. Thompson’s awesomeness aside, Peggy is once again entirely overlooked. No one but the SSR agents involved know that she was the true hero of the hour. Admittedly, this doesn’t count because at least Peggy’s coworkers know of everything she’s done, but though Peggy has been fighting to be a strong woman in a man’s world through the entire series, she finds that she really doesn’t mind that no one gives her the recognition she really does deserve.) I think that the trend in literature towards heroes who are known is partly because we, as human beings, crave praise and recognition. However, in these cases, it is actually an example of our ability to step outside of ourselves rather than of our hunger for recognition; we want our heroes to be recognized. (One of the greatest reasons for literature’s existence is the human capacity to reach outside of ourselves in order to empathize, commiserate, and sympathize with others.)

I think the Lord of the Rings, while Frodo and Sam and the rest did have their actions recognized, was pretty good at this. Neither Frodo nor Sam ever really did expect to have their actions memorialized like they were. The thoughts they had of being in a story were more distant, held to keep their spirits up. Aragorn speaks to Eowyn of the unstoried heroes who they all may become, ultimately, should the threat of Sauron come to completion. Boromir was motivated in part by the glory of his home country, but in the end, he gave his life for two hobbits whom he had met mere months before, far from his home, before the larger war even began. The heroes of The Lord of the Rings acted not in the interest of glory, but because what they did had to be done; even if their world was to be enslaved, they’d die trying to stop Sauron from enslaving it.

Heroism is a curious thing. While it is somewhat based on the opinions of others, true heroism is the heroism that nobody ever sees.

Thanks for reading, Brooklyn Project followers, and God Bless! (If you like what you see, don’t forget to drop by my Brooklyn Project page and check it out–we’re always open for new recruits! :-D )

Hours of Men and Monsters

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And now, it’s here. Two-thousand-plus words of world-saving and humor, for your enjoyment! (Also, I think the Avengers already know that Coulson’s still alive in this one… um, I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Tony’s doing.) Just in time to make the deadline for proverbs31teen’s Super-Duper Fanfiction Crossover Challenge! :-D

Enjoy!


Hours of Men and Monsters

                “Mycroft, you know I always hate you, but today I want to murder you even more than usual.” Sherlock glared through the frosted glass in between the living room and dining room-cum-kitchen at the Avenger sitting uncomfortably on a couch that was not designed for a man his size. Fortunately, the man couldn’t see him. What really got to Sherlock, though, was how much Mrs. Hudson seemed to appreciate the superhero’s manners. No sooner had he walked in the door than he proceeded to charm the landlady.

“Sherlock, perhaps next time it would be better if you were to simply not interfere in my business,” Mycroft scolded. Sherlock heard it and promptly decided to ignore it. “Fury is a law unto himself. If I had my way, the men assigned to your detail would be much less… conspicuous.” Much as Sherlock disdained most of Mycroft’s associates, this Fury character must indeed be quite daring to cross Mycroft in one of these subtle ways. And it was only according to the man’s abominable sense of humor that he assigned this particular Avenger, Mycroft didn’t add, but it would have not taken a Holmes to deduce that he was thinking it. Apparently, Fury, whoever Fury was, had been making a point to Mycroft.

“I will do all in my power to break custody, Mycroft,” Sherlock vowed and cut Mycroft off, deciding as an afterthought to lock Mycroft out of his mobile for a while as a further precaution. That done, he re-entered the living room and stalked across to his pile of case files, pointedly ignoring the man on the couch. This didn’t seem to bother the superhero; not that it would. This man had been fighting off what was apparently an alien invasion mere months before. That said, it seemed like overkill to dispatch him for a simple protection detail.

Mrs. Hudson came back with tea, serving Sherlock as well as the American despite Sherlock’s patent displeasure with her usual impossible calm. After she had gone, Captain America spoke up suddenly. His voice was a low baritone, with the startling quality of an unusual pitch range and a flat Yankee twang. “I don’t trust your brother, Mr. Holmes.” Sherlock rolled his eyes.

“Does anyone? I’m not to be trusted, either,” he added for his bodyguard’s benefit. The captain coughed noncommittally.

“Noted.” He continued to work carefully on a drawing. It was only Sherlock’s boredom that made him curious about the artwork, but he reined in his curiosity, determined not to show any interest whatsoever. He was Not Pleased.

A moment later, the superhero’s head came up, as if in response to some sound that, Sherlock noted with displeasure, was inaudible to him. A second later, the front door opened and shut and John’s awkward, still-slightly-lopsided-on-bad-days walk was heard coming up the stairs. The superhero appeared relaxed on the surface, but he was posed in the peculiar stance of a soldier ready to leap into action at any second. Sherlock had seen John adopt that posture any number of times. A moment later, Sherlock’s flatmate and assistant in all criminal investigations opened the door. John took it all with his usual calm. “Did one of your nonexsistent friends finally turn up or do we have a client?” he asked, shrugging out of his coat, but not setting it down or hanging it up. Sherlock frowned.

“Neither. Mycroft seems to think I need protection.”

“Last night was a bit much,” John said, remonstrating with him.

“Mycroft has no respect for me,” Sherlock announced.

“You refer to him as your ‘archenemy,’” John remarked. “I think he’s entitled.” He turned to the superhero. “I’m John Watson,” he said. Rather than shaking his hand right away, the tall man saluted.

“Steve Rogers, sir,” he said. “Captain.” John blinked and saluted back.

“I’m retired,” John said. “You knew I was a soldier.” Rogers shrugged, awkwardly.

“I’ve been in London before, used to spend quite a bit of time around your special forces and SIS… I mean intelligence…” He stammered slightly at the end. “It’s just been… a while,” he concluded, lamely. Sherlock made a face at the superhero’s back.

“Sherlock, have you done anything productive today?” John asked, ignoring the stranger for a moment, taking it in his stride, like he normally did.

“There’s nothing productive to do,” Sherlock complained, throwing himself on the couch. He watched with interest for a moment as Rogers flinched involuntarily and reached, inconspicuously, for one ear. Barely touching it, he reached into his pocket instead and hurriedly sent off a text.

“Mr. Holmes, I hope you’ll pardon the profanity—” John snorted—“but what the hell have you been getting into?” As if in response to the sudden words, a gun went off in the street below. Sherlock’s head came up. Before he could do anything, though, Rogers flinched again and actually touched the concealed earpiece this time. “Barton, speak clearly. I can’t tell what you’re trying to say.” Both Sherlock and John froze. John looked both irritated and dismayed, as if he’d been hoping for a peaceful evening, for once. Sherlock was more curious. “All right, all right! Stop shouting!” Listening again. Then, Rogers hissed an imprecation through his teeth. He turned to Sherlock and John. “Gentlemen, it seems my backup has found trouble more quickly than I gave him credit for. We’re going to have to go take care of it.” Sherlock brightened up. John shook his head, but went for his sidearm all the same. Rogers lifted a large, circular—was that actually a shield?—from behind the sofa. Sherlock had thought, hearing about the Battle of Manhattan, that the shield was just a gimmick, but now it was clear it wasn’t so. From the way the superhero held it, it was actually a weapon, and one he knew how to use. It looked slightly out of place, the silvery red and white bands and blue field with its star, with his civilian outfit of mostly navy, white and gray, but it looked anything but silly. Sherlock moved toward the front door, but Rogers caught the sleeve of his coat and pulled him with almost gingerly gentleness toward the fire escape instead. The next several minutes were a rapid journey through the alleys and back-streets of London. Rogers’ knowledge of London’s backways seemed to even rival Sherlock’s. Not long later, they arrived at a run-down district. Rogers slipped his phone out of his pocket and nodded, once, grimly. Any trace of the slightly-awkward young man of only minutes before was gone; now, he was a soldier, entirely focused on the mission. He looked at Sherlock.

“In a few minutes, we’re going to go in there, get Hawkeye, and blow those scum to kingdom come,” he said. “I’d ask you to stay back, Mr. Holmes, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t listen to me, and I generally make it a point not to give orders when people are just going to disobey them.” There was a brief flash of humor in the American’s gray eyes, then he walked briskly toward the entrance to the empty warehouse.

“How cliché can they make it?” John muttered. Rogers cocked his head, as if listening to something on his earpiece. Then he reached down, grabbing the padlock and slipping two fingers on each hand into the metal loop. He pulled straight out and the loop bent, then simply shattered. He slid the door open a crack, looking in.

“Let’s move,” he said.

It was eerily silent inside. The warehouse was almost entirely empty, gutted. It had been recently swept and dusted, though, as if waiting for sale to a new owner. For such a big man, Captain Rogers could move with astoundingly little sound. They kept to the shadows, hoping to remain undetected, as Rogers scanned the area.

“Five men on the upper level. Two below. The two down here are supposed to be keeping watch. If we can slip past them, though, we’ll have the upper hand. We’ll get to the upper level, free Hawkeye, and then take them out.” That said, he shot off into a flat run, entirely silent and completely unnoticed by the men who Sherlock could just barely make out. He sprang to the upper level, using hand- and foot-holds that most people would not have been able to find or utilize. Tucking into a tight roll, he flipped over the bannister and slammed the shield into the back of someone’s head. Sherlock sprinted to the stairs, followed by the doctor. Rogers had grabbed a knife from someone else’s sheath and cut up through the cuffs on the man kneeling on the floor. The blade snapped with the strain, but it did the trick, freeing the other man, who leaped to his feet, swiping the legs out from under one of his former captors. Sherlock swept out the gun and shot one of the men in the shoulder; John’s revolver cracked and another fell, clutching his leg. All the hits were non-lethal, through unspoken consent. If Mycroft chose to clean up the mess later, that was his affair.

Between the four of them, they took down all but one of the seven men. The last of the enemy footsoldiers stood awkwardly, half-on and half-off the stairs, one leg over the banister in his nervousness and eagerness to escape. “Sir, please dismount the banister,” Rogers shouted at him. John cleared his throat, to cover up a laugh. “Last warning.” The man pulled out a gun, shakily. Hawkeye had a bow now, an arrow on the string.

“Want me to put one through his eye, sir?”

“I’d prefer the hand, but he’ll get a concussion either way,” Rogers said. The man on the railing tried to bring the gun up, but Rogers threw the shield in a single smooth, powerful motion. It ricocheted off the man’s chest and knocked him from his perch. Without batting an eye, the soldier caught it easily. “Idiot.” John snorted again. Rogers glanced at him. “What?”

“You know, you sounded exactly like Coulson for a moment there,” Hawkeye remarked, quietly.

“Are you sure it’s not the other way around and Coulson sounds like me? Because that might make more sense, considering the time displacement.” Hawkeye scowled at him. Rogers gave the other superhero an innocent look. “What? You said you liked mind-benders.”

“It’s a wonder the Avengers ever get anything done,” Sherlock mumbled as he fired off a text at Mycroft. John cleared his throat and shot him a meaningful look.

“We’ll probably end up hanging around for a few days, but that’s only a formality,” Hawkeye—or Clint Barton—informed the detective and doctor over tea, later. “And to assuage your brother’s paranoia.”

“You do realize that Mycroft probably has the flat bugged, right?” John said quietly. Rogers shrugged.

“I refused to turn up at my own Medal of Honor ceremony last time I was in London, despite all the brass and politicians who were planning on coming. I don’t care what they think or want to hear, I’m always going to stick with the honest truth, no matter how much they hate me for it. And Clint would prod them just to see them fume. Trust me, doctor; neither of us cares who overhears what we say. While SHIELD sponsors the Avengers, we’re technically independent, which means that the WSC doesn’t have us in their pocket. I’m sure that doesn’t bother Mycroft Holmes, because he can predict us, but it does rather put a nettle in the trousers of certain of the other members.”

“It’s almost frightening how good a judge of character you are,” John remarked. Rogers made a face.

“It’s a necessary part of being a leader.”

“Hey, at least he won’t tell you where you’ve been just by the pebble stuck in your shoe,” Barton chimed in. “Though he is a pain at other times. He tries to make the rest of us eat—” he shuddered—“healthy food. And exercise. And do stuff like that.”

“You’re just a lazy donkey, Barton,” Rogers teased. Barton leaned back, lacing his fingers behind his head, and whistled.

“I’m good at what I do,” he said. “I don’t care about what I don’t.” Rogers looked at John.

“I think you know what I have to put up with. I stepped into their last handler’s place as the official babysitter for five superheroes.” John gave him a conspiratorial look.

“I’m surprised you don’t have gray hair lurking somewhere,” he said, obviously actually directed at Sherlock.

“It might be hard to find,” Rogers mused, tongue in cheek, as he ran a hand through his dirty-blond hair. Barton poked his team leader in the side.

“You’re only twenty-six,” he accused.

“Almost twenty-seven,” Rogers protested.

“Details, details,” Clint waved his hand airily. “You’re still the baby of the team.”

“I am not!

John grinned. Sherlock gave him the not-quite-smiling look that said I’m-actually-laughing-now-but-you’ve-never-heard-me-so-you-wouldn’t-know.

Later on, when John typed up this strange case of the globetrotting supervillains, he posed the question on everyone’s minds.

In the time of gods and monsters, what is the worth of a man?

                Whatever he makes it.


What say you, readers mine? Did it make the cut? Would you like to see an expanded version? Please tell me in the comments. :-)

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

The Brooklyn Project: Protagonist-Centered Morality and the Double Standard

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Continuing from my first post on protagonist-centered morality; scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the comment from Sarahtps that inspired this post. I’ve also probably posted on this before, but who cares, you can never have enough character development posts. ;-)

How annoying is someone who spouts preachy nonsense without following it in real life? … yeah, that’s what I thought you’d all say. ;-P This is another reason why protagonist-centered morality deserves to be ditched; it creates a double standard. Otherwise known as you-just-made-your-hero/anti-hero-a-hypocrite. And somewhere in the world, there is a reader who will call you on it. There are multiple readers who will hate on your hard-written book because of it.

Simply put, even if your heroes (well, only anti-heroes do this; real, actual heroes don’t,) don’t hold themselves to the standards they hold others to, you should.

If your hero breaks a rule and doesn’t feel any remorse for it, have karma come back to bite them in the posterior for it. Even if they later do feel remorse, do not hesitate to let the universe at large slap them silly for it. Temporal punishment is a thing, you know (and if you have never heard that term before, you are not a very-well-catechized-Christian and I can tell you what it is on demand. ;-P )

A good example of this would be in the case of the antagonist(s) in Ben-Hur; Massada ends up almost dying in a chariot race and then being permanently crippled, almost as a direct result of his abuse of Judah’s mother and sister, and Iras, the woman who betrays Judah earlier in the book, is stuck taking care of the now-utterly-boring Massada. (She tries to play the pity card with Judah, but she dug herself into that pit and he knows, I think, that the only way for her to ever redeem herself is not by attempting to seduce him but rather taking care of Massada. However, I think it’s pretty clear that she and Massada will eat at each other with their words until he gets her executed or she poisons him out of spite. Sorry, it’s been a while since I read it…)

I’m trying to recall the title of the book and names of the characters I had in mind while writing this post, but for some reason they continuously slip my mind. The story featured a redeemed thief who was continually held back from trying to be a hero due to his past… maybe it was Ladyhawke? Though that’s a movie, not a book…

Actions have consequences (I’m certain you’ve heard this before in much less polite terms.) Don’t forget that, and don’t let your heroes forget it, either. Even if they don’t hold themselves to the standard, it falls to you to hold them to it.

Protagonist-centered morality and double standards make Mary Sues. À bas les Sues!

The Brother Code

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Umm… yes. Mostly because there are not nearly enough Cap/everyone friendship fics out there.

So, without further ado, Steve and Clint becoming friends. If Steve seems a bit clingy or Clint seems to adjust faster, it’s because I see this as Steve wanting to distance himself but can’t (I mean, the guy’s true superpower is getting people to work together!) and Steve’s simple presence helping Clint to recover from being brainwashed. Steve just wants company–I guess part of it is he wants his best friend back, but he’s lost just about everyone and everything that he left his mark on or was even familiar, so he’s kind of starved for affection right now, but doesn’t want to admit it. Even when he’s so alone, he can’t stop offering to help others as well… *sniffle* When did these idiots first waltz in and start ruining my life!? *sigh*

There’s precious little plot to this one, it’s all flow.

Sorry.

Here we go.

The Brother Code

                Two weeks after Loki, when they were all back together again for a while, hanging out in Tony’s tower, was when Clint noticed it. Whenever they split up, Steve tended to turn up around where Clint was. The captain never actually talked to him much; he was just there, reading or drawing or sometimes destroying a punching bag in the gym while Clint practiced his marksmanship. When the Avengers were all together in one group, Steve would gravitate toward Clint. It wasn’t as if Steve was doing it deliberately—if anything, Clint thought the captain looked slightly lost whenever Clint would be hanging out alone and suddenly Steve was there too—but it still was odd. And sometimes, when Steve thought he was alone, Clint would notice that the man’s gray eyes were straying around the room, as if he was looking for someone who wasn’t there. However, the feeling of not-being-alone, around someone other than Natasha who wouldn’t judge and wouldn’t even require vocalization of him much, was nice and Clint allowed it to go on.

A week later, they were still training and working together—to be prepared for the next time the world would need saving. Clint went for a jog and met Steve running in the park. It wasn’t planned, but they went running together anyway. Afterwards, they stopped by a corner ice cream shoppe (Clint hadn’t expected Cap to be a butter pecan praline kind of guy), and the girl behind the counter asked, “Are you two brothers?” Clint didn’t have to look at the captain to know that Steve was just as surprised as he was.

“No…” Steve said, still confused.

“We’re coworkers,” Clint put in. The girl smiled and said “That’s nice” and paid no further attention to the two of them. Clint finished his two scoops of pistachio in a waffle cone and threw the cone liner cup away. They headed back to the tower in silence. Not awkward, but thoughtful.

As they mounted the stairs (all six flights) from the office levels up towards the secured levels, Clint asked, “Why have you been hanging around me?” Out of curiosity. Nothing more. Steve looked surprised, unfocused for a moment.

“I guess I have been,” he said, shrugging. “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I just miss the company, I guess.” Clint suddenly realized the reason.

“Bucky Barnes,” he said. The Captain glanced at him, surprised. “It’s in all the history books. Any American history teacher worth his salt knows that Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers were closer than brothers. It was what? The day after he died? when you stormed Schmidt’s final base. You haven’t had time to grieve, to get used to being alone, after having a friend like that for so many years.”

“Since before I can remember,” Steve echoed quietly, a human side that Clint hadn’t seen before coming out on top. He scrubbed a hand quickly across his eyes.

“But why me? You could hang around Bruce and he wouldn’t expect you to talk. He’s perfectly comfortable with hanging around someone who is almost-not-there. You could confide in Natasha—wait, not Natasha. Pepper. So why do you keep coming around me?”

“I guess it’s partly because you’re just as messed up as I am,” Steve said quietly, not looking at him. “But mostly I think you just remind me of Bucky, and I used to just… follow him around.” He’s looking for someone who’s not there, Clint thought.

“I’m not him,” Clint said, as gently as he could.

“I know. At least, I know that, intellectually. Something else desperately wants to believe otherwise.” They had reached the elevator by this time, and Steve punched in the security code, then hit the button for the communal floor. “I sometimes want to push people away, but I can’t. It might hurt less, but… sometimes the thing that’s most painful heals fastest.” Steve stared at the closed doors of the elevator. He shuddered, involuntarily. Clint wasn’t sure if he disapproved of the emotions written clearly in the expression and body language. It was nice to see someone who didn’t hide what they thought, but that sort of thing was vulnerability, by design. Claustrophobic. Captain America is claustrophobic. No one knew this before? How could they miss it? And dealing with the emotional mess that is known as post-traumatic stress and grief.

“The SHIELD shrink sucks at his job,” Steve added. Clint snorted back a laugh.

“What, you too?”

“Well, this one, not so much. Ever since I got transferred over to Agent Lonsley, it’s been better. As your team leader, I could recommend that you be transferred as well.”

“No thanks. I’d rather get this over with as soon as I can. I have to deal with this on my own.” Steve turned toward him, gray eyes piercingly sincere.

“Clint, no one is prepared to cope with a traumatized soldier faced with brainwashing by a Norse god, but some people are more qualified than others.” Steve straightened his spine. “As your team leader, I’m recommending you for a transfer. Blackwell is an idiot who thinks that by prodding old wounds he can heal people. I’m not certified as a medic or as a psychologist, but even I know that that’s the worst possible way to try and pull someone out of his shell.”

“Well, thanks, I guess,” Clint said. From what he had seen of Captain America, as well as what Coulson had told him, he had absolutely no chance of changing the Captain’s mind. Stubborn as an Iowa mule, Coulson had teased him, referring to his birthplace.

Oh, Cap in a contest of stubbornness with the rest of the Avengers. That would be a show.

“You’re claustrophobic,” Clint stated. Steve gave him a blank look.

“I—what?”

“It’s a phobia. You don’t like enclosed spaces; they make you feel trapped. When you can’t control it, you start to panic. Sound familiar?”

“I don’t like to talk about it,” Steve said.

“It’s obvious,” Clint replied. “If I get transferred, that’s going in your file.” Steve gave a tiny half-smile.

“Blackmail?”

“Having your back.” Clint replied. “Nat loves tight spaces. It’s in the wind that you might be partnered with her in the future—if that’s in your file, they’ll at least have some consideration.”

“It’s just an irrational terror with absolutely no basis. I can handle it,” Steve insisted.

“Yeah, big guy. If it gets in the way of your duty, out the window with it. But you shouldn’t have to.”

“That’s my point about you.”

“Exactly. You’re still grieving. I’m still recovering from… being steamrolled by Loki. If you want to help me, you’re going to get help, like it or not. That’s the deal.” Clint grinned cheekily. “I hear that having someone else know helps.” Almost reluctantly, Steve laughed. It was a nice sort of laugh, Clint thought. They laughed too little in this business.

“You really do remind me of Bucky.”

The Brooklyn Project: Protagonist-Centered Morality and Why it’s Bad

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Sometimes, an author will become so preoccupied with his or her hero or heroine that they can do no wrong–even when they are. The rules bend for these protagonists. And people in the stories (and occasionally the reader as well) see nothing wrong with this.

This can potentially lead to the creation of a Mary Sue.

Protagonist-centered morality is bad because it takes away the possibility of accountability as well. If your hero does something wrong, you want it to have repercussions. They can’t just get away with a slap on the hand! It reinforces to the reader that the hero has done something wrong, and it also makes for deeper characters. If the hero has slipped up once, they have to fight harder to even be allowed to do it right the next time..

On the other hand, if you don’t add responsibility, your protagonist can become spoiled and obnoxious (as in real life) or unrealistically angelic (sickening.) The latter would make him/her a Mary Sue, no matter how many de-Sue-ifiers you threw in to try and balance it (without removing the lack of accountability.)

Apart from the message that it sends, that it’s okay to do bad things, it’s bad for the story at large.

I’m trying to think of a few examples, but all I can think of is that, though in the final cut, we never see the response to Steve’s failed attempts to enlist, falsifying information, I think there was actually a scene planned where someone found out and didn’t trust Steve for a while. They just didn’t officially tell anyone because if they did he’d be court-martialed and they couldn’t have that. In the planned Howling Commandos fanfic that I’m writing, I was going to have one of the people in the USO show tour find out and hold it over Steve. There are, however, strong consequences when Steve fails to predict that the train is a trap and save Bucky, even if it’s not technically his fault.

Another example would be the BBC show Merlin. While, all around, this is generally a good show, the BBC slipped up a bit (for once); this show displays a bit of protagonist-centered morality. Though, later on, they add more consequences, even to past actions, early in the show there are a few episodes where Merlin slips up and gets away with it. However, for the show’s other protagonist, Arthur, there are always consequences to his actions. Inconsistent much? Or just waiting around? *sigh* I wish they’d done it earlier on.

In the BBC show Sherlock, we’re actually hoping to see protagonist-centered morality blown out of the water; at the very end of the last season, Sherlock killed someone, point-blank, in cold blood (attempting not to give spoilers here); we want to see how people react to this. There’s always mistrust, and rightly so, after something like that.

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan’s attempt to distance himself, to not become emotionally involved, backfires when Anakin turns to the dark side; Obi-Wan’s aloof affection was simultaneously too much and not enough.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes with a thorough message about accountability (where Civil War is essentially about people’s Constitutional rights, from what I’ve heard). This is especially true for Natasha, who risks, in a selfless action that proves she is capable, no matter what she (and incidentally, Hydra) thinks, of heroism, she spills all her dirty secrets across the Internet in order to bring Hydra down (again, trying to avoid spoilers.) Ironically, this bypasses the same failsafe that Hydra thought would protect them; they insist that Natasha (or anyone, really) wouldn’t incriminate herself like that.

From what I’ve heard, Harry Potter is really bad about this–it sounds like he consistently breaks rules of both the magician and human world without any consequences.

One very good book that could make better use of accountability (without outright protagonist-centered morality) that I love is “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Except for Marguerite, the book doesn’t use it quite as well as it could…

Accountability. Use it for deeper character.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless!

TCWT: Music and Writing

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Yes! It’s back!

I know I planned to stop back in January, but this blog chain is strangely addictive–no. Actually, I came back because this prompt was awesome. (Ha–the shortest month in the year gets the best prompt? :-P )

Anyway, this month’s prompt is “How does music relate to your writing?”

YES.

Really, in a lot of ways. I actually have some awesome playlists, partly created by Iris, partly compiled by me, for certain things. But sometimes I just go online, pick a composer or artist (most often Heather Dale or Thomas Bergersen, sometimes with a little Zack Hemsey thrown in), and hit the Youtube mix version. (Why can’t you do that with Lindsey Stirling? Um, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it includes the “Behind the Scenes” parts, which can get pretty distracting…) Sometimes I pick a soundtrack (for instance, the Lion King, How To Train Your Dragon, and Prince of Egypt soundtracks) that I know, or one that I don’t, like a Pirates of the Caribbean or Assassin’s Creed soundtrack. (Blame my friend Bowdrie1999 for that one. ;-P ) Why are video game soundtracks so compelling when the stories can be so… yuckish and stilted?! I don’t know…

Different pieces and composers are best for different genres and styles, I find. Thomas Bergersen is a great all-around starting place if you write fantasy. It’s a little easier on the ears than Blind Guardian, for instance. (I have this–well, I don’t think it’s a condition, per se–but anything with too much bass or an electric guitar that screams or wails a little too much–even a saxophone at times!–is physically painful to me. Like, rip out the earbuds and want-to-pour-ice-water-in-my-ears, take-two-ibuprofen painful. It’s not even a heavy percussion track that does it to me–I can just turn down the volume and I’m okay. WHEN WILL THEY MAKE A TOOL ON COMPUTERS FOR YOUTUBE AND WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER THAT LETS YOU TONE BACK THE BASS SO I CAN ENJOY HARD ROCK TOO!?) Thomas Bergersen is motivating, get-up-and-write stuff, much of the time.

Owl City is a great band if you’re working on a short story or need to fight your way out of depression and get your motivation back. Seriously. The upbeat tunes and idiosyncratic, mellow use of electronically-generated sound has been enough to snap me out of it plenty of times. (I have been known to sing “Fireflies” or “Strawberry Avalanche” or “Cave-in”–which, interesting fact, is about my current state of being–aka overwhelmed college student– or “When Can I See You Again” at the top of my lungs when I’m alone. Still working on learning the lyrics to “Beautiful Times” because really? Lindsey Stirling and Owl City? HOW IS THAT NOT AWESOME!?)

Soundtracks are perfect for the long haul. They tend to follow similar themes and styles, even more so than the individual works of a composer who focuses on multiple songs in an album, and tend to reinforce one train of thought rather than breaking in on it. The theme of a certain movie or video game can lend impressions of restoration, or of urgency; the former is perfect for a grand finale, while the latter is just right if you write suspense. I happen to like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Its slow build is perfect if you’re not writing action, though it’s a bit more varied than the average soundtrack.

If you write high fantasy, then I highly recommend Heather Dale. Some of her work can be on the disturbing side–for instance, “Mordred’s Lullaby” deals with a child who has been raised to kill his father, pure and simple–but it isn’t nearly as disturbing as Heather Alexander or Mercedes Lackey can be. (On YouTube, it’s all too easy to wander into dangerous waters. If you must check those two artists out, go ahead, but remember–I warned you.)

Anyway, I may as well. Here’s my fight scene/all around awesome playlist (no, I don’t have a YouTube account, so I can’t realize it–if someone does make it, could they please give me a link?)

This is Iris’s playlist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBOJpIwF47Y (Fighter, Christina Aguilera)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuwfgXD8qV8 (Part of Me, Katy Perry)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn676-fLq7I (Stronger, Kelly Clarkson)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWbMz_aBlMU (People Like Us, Kelly Clarkson)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO_WxYC34eM (Radioactive, Imagine Dragons)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUIZvAe3RBg (Bridge of Khazad-Dum)

I don’t actually listen to all of those, all the time. Now for my additions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t8-_pI1-9Q (Come Little Children, Erutan–this is the lyric version, not the original. The original was a music video to a terrifying fantasy movie that mentally scarred me. Still, the music is good.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUn-eN8mkDw (Mal’s Song–not even sure why this is on here. I’m not a Browncoat, but the style–country music in a space opera-ish setting–sort of appealed to me.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsApvMoSZ0I (If Everyone Cared, Nickelback–Star Wars music video. Don’t get too caught up in the Obi-Wan angst! :-P )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvuaX2V_P8A (Down is Up, PotC–Another Anakin and Obi-Wan Star Wars music video. These two are my brOTP, along with Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE5WoFwIVYM (O Fortuna, Carmina Burana–Yet ANOTHER Anakin and Obi-Wan video. Yes, I know, I probably have a problem. Cinematography and editing are great, though. This one’s only on the list because I can’t find the original of the cover the PianoGuys did for some reason. :-( I think they may have taken it down :’-( )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0JiEglvJic (Sleepsong, Secret Garden–Finally, a music video that isn’t Star Wars! This one is Aragorn remembering his mother. Heartwrenching.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L1CDFvHTr4 (Fireflies, Owl City–I told you there would be Owl City!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b11-37Me_a4 (Preliator aka March of the Templars–Waros32 donated some epic tracks to this list. Shoutout to Waros and Bowdrie1999! You guys rock!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKLhFCl8cEA (No idea what this even is!–yes, I’m going heavy on this one user. There are a couple of users whose work really stands out. But Obi-Wan is always awesome. No, I do not ship Obidala, so don’t ask.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5Kwf_nNmGI (Requiem for a Dream, Requiem for a Dream–gritty and intense.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBh4ko-5YG4 (A Hero Comes Home, Beowulf–um, this is probably in here because I was trying to find the soundtrack of the King Arthur movie which was done by Hans Zimmer–did I mention that Quest for Camelot also has great music, and done by the same composer who wrote the score for Brave?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hoyDQ3LeTU (We Will Go Home/Song of Exile, King Arthur–Ahh, there’s Hans Zimmer.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwJRltuApKI (The Minstrel Boy–a traditional Irish melody. The obligatory Boromir tribute because I haven’t been able to find any others *cries* I STILL LOVE BOROMIR I DON’T CARE WHAT THE HATERS SAY! He’s still awesome! It wasn’t his fault he was possessed by a ring!)

Poor kid.

From the official “Will Write For Chocolate” website, inkygirl.com–Mimi needs to moderate what she’s listening to! Drawn by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. http://inkygirl.com/comic-use-policy/ I will not be considered responsible for the hours spent perusing older comics. :-P

6thhttp://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/ and http://vergeofexisting.wordpress.com/

7thhttp://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

8thhttp://www.juliathewritergirl.com/

9thhttp://www.freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/

10thhttps://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/

11thhttp://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/ andhttp://www.pamelanicolewrites.com/

12thhttp://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/

13thhttp://miriamjoywrites.com/ andhttp://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/

14thhttp://kirabudge.weebly.com/

15thhttp://lillianmwoodall.wordpress.com/ andhttps://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

16thhttp://theedfiles.blogspot.com/ andhttp://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/

17thhttp://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/ andhttp://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

18thhttp://semilegacy.blogspot.com/ and http://from-stacy.blogspot.com/

19thhttp://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/

20thhttps://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/

21sthttps://stayandwatchthestars.wordpress.com/ andhttp://arielkalati.blogspot.com/

22ndhttp://loonyliterate.com/ andhttps://www.mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com/

23rdhttp://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

24thhttp://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com/ andhttp://allisonthewriter.wordpress.com/

25thhttp://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/

26thhttp://awritersfaith.blogspot.com/ andhttp://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/

27thhttp://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/ andhttp://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

28th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

Deadly Indifference

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Yes, I watch Marvel’s Agent Carter. I regret nothing!

This is based on the episode before last. Enjoy!

Deadly Indifference

                Emotion was a useless waste of energy, inefficient and messy. It was the prerogative of mere humans, and not something she would ever indulge in. Indulging only ruined one’s usefulness as a weapon and made you feel sick afterwards.

She could admire, she could feel—or pretend to feel. But that would not get in the way of her mission. It would not get in the way of following orders.

So when she said “You sound like Captain America!” she pretended to admire the man, if only for his determination and disregard of his own safety in furthering the interests of his country. At the same time, it wasn’t because she was awed by the wisdom of Peggy’s words, or that she actually felt any genuine admiration for America’s war hero, or for Peggy. No, she did it because that was what was expected of her. She felt nothing as she spoke of America’s golden boy, who had given his life in a meaningless cause.

She was not “Dottie.” She was the Black Widow, and she did not hate

Until she killed.

In Defense of Heroes (An Introduction to the Brooklyn Project)

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If you haven’t heard of the infamous article claiming that Captain America is only interesting when he’s a jerk, you can not call yourself a Marvel fan (and where have you been, in a hole?! Under a rock?! Abandoning us for the Iron Man fandom?!) Of course, you can’t insult Cap like that without Steve Rogers’ loyal fanbase rising up in protest. The argument has been going back and forth between the two camps for almost as long as Captain America: The First Avenger has been out.

I’m going to come out and say that the basis of that article is pure and utter nonsense of the first degree. Part of the reason why we love Cap so much is that he’s generous and kind and is willing to sacrifice everything to protect others. The conflict, with him, is that he’s a good person trying to live in a world where so many other people aren’t. Some people are going to try and take advantage of his generosity, and he’s going to meet opposition from people who want to hurt others. Also, he’s going to be pressured into sacrificing his ideals at times, choose the lesser of two evils (which is not conducive to being able to rest easy in one’s conscience), etc. He’s a good person, forced to live in a less-than-ideal world. How he finds his way through that world–that’s the story.

He’s not naive. He’s an optimistic realist, as opposed to a regular realist (like Fury or Natasha Romanoff.) He believes the best of people until they give him reason to think otherwise. That’s why we love this character so much. As always, Dr. Abraham Erskine says it best: “Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

Heroes are like this. Not always by nature, but by choice, certainly. If you have an anti-hero, who struggles against their own cynicism, that’s a story. I’ve heard people accuse Cap of being a Mary Sue, but that simply isn’t true, at least in the movie universe. He has to fight for everything; nothing is simply handed to him. He isn’t perfect. He ends up disobeying orders to try and rescue a friend who is probably already dead, and he lies on his enlistment forms (four times; the first was probably accurate.) Sooner or later, he’s going to lose control and break down, maybe come out of things violent and do things he’ll regret later. And he can’t catch a break. He’s going to be held accountable, and he won’t complain because he knows that they’re right.

Steve Rogers is, essentially, a man who thought he was going to his death, and was afraid to die, but did not turn back, in order to save lives. Instead of dying, he lost what little he did have, everything that was remotely his, or even just familiar. He’s terrified of losing it all again, and yet, instead of closing off, he goes on to create new connections and build new friendships.

Heroes are good people who don’t stand idly by on the sidelines, but try to take a stance and change the way things are. To be human is to change the tide. To live is to risk. It’s better to try and fail than to not try at all; that’s what differentiates heroes from the other type. It’s been said that the difference between heroism and recklessness is that heroism leads to success, whereas recklessness fails; this isn’t true. Recklessness has nothing to do with heroism, and people who try are still heroes, whether or not they fail, whether or not they’re recognized by others. Everyone is hungry for attention, for accolades. The true hero isn’t motivated by this desire; they would be continue even if no one knew of their efforts.

A hero is 7% inspiration and belief, 10% willpower and hard work, 3% skill, 5% suffering, 2% luck, 3% insanity–and 75% hope. Hope hurts. Hope is dangerous. Hope will often seem to have no basis. And yet, the man who continues to hope, to have faith, can accomplish miracles.

Essentially, being a hero is all about hope.

Put Down Roots

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Because there’s a song and I’m trying to find it but I don’t think anyone has made a fan video for it yet. (Actually, it’s two songs, both called “I’m Still Here” and both might work. But one is my favorite. Anyway… any video editors out there, please take notice: I want one for the Captain America fandom.)

And also because Steve Rogers believes in hope, above all else.

I have nothing more to say.

Put Down Roots

                I’m here.

Perhaps the most often-asked question is “How are you coping?”

I don’t know the answer.

But my feet are on the ground, and the sky is the same. It’s a lie that smog was not so bad in the past. It was just fueled by different things. If anything, it’s gotten better rather than worse.

There are still problems, problems we’re working past.

There is still right and wrong. Things are complex, but then, they’ve always been.

Some roots do not wither and rot away with time. They simply go far too deep.

And the wise tree puts down new roots all the time. Never mind that it hurts when heartstrings are cut. Never mind that time tests us all.

Time is for growth. The future is for hope. We still have a chance about the might-have-been that still should be.

And because of that, I’m still here.

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