Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Studying in France - Les Devoirs

I just wanted to announce a new Web site that I will be dedicating myself to for the next four months. I will be studying abroad in Lille, France, until the end of the year and have created a site to tell about my experiences.

Some people do different things to inform their friends and family about their semesters abroad - there are blogs, journals, video entries on YouTube, picture postings on Facebook, e-mail and even snail mail (normally via postcards). I can announce I will probably use all of them. BUT the one which will be updated the most will be my special Web site I created.

I wanted to be unique, creating something different so here you have it: http://jmolnar.net/abroad. It is a site set up like a newspaper, called "Les Devoirs" (meaning homework in French). I thought it was an appropriate title, and not too long either.

With that said, I hope to blog more this year and can just tell you to check back now and again.

Au revoir! A bientot!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

‘High School’

So this past weekend was amazing. The anticipation had been building for months for all of us Disney-philes (you just don’t have to be a 10-year-old to enjoy this stuff!). It was time to see what the East High Wildcats were up to; Friday night was the premiere of High School Musical 2 on Disney Channel, accompanied by an entire weekend of showings.

The sequel, I have to say, is refreshing. It’s much better than the original; HSM2 is also more original than the original. The first movie finds a group of high schoolers in a similar situation as the classic musical Grease and the movie version featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (and Grease is a updated retelling of the classic Romeo & Juliet).

The numbers in the first were well-done, but the plot was a little too cheesy and trying for me, which only added to the fact that the lead character’s voice (Zac Efron’s Troy Bolton) was dubbed over and instead, Canadian Andrew Seeley sang the parts. (This is a little annoying to a traditionalist and purist. But note: Disney has always had an annoying reputation of going audio crazy and altering or dubbing over everyone’s vocal performances in movies and TV shows; it makes things seem so fake.)

The opening number of HSM2, “What Time Is It,” is quite a toe-tapper. Other musical number are just as engaging as the first movie. Though hard to top the musical number “Get’cha Head in the Game” from the original (a number with flying basketballs and a catchy tune), “I Don’t Dance” (featuring baseballs now and a somewhat catchy tune) is a worthy follow-up.

Don’t get me wrong, the cheesiness continues into the new made-for-TV movie. The solo song by Efron in “Bet On It” is a little much and awkwardly filmed as he jumps from rock to rock and runs around singing.

But my point here is that HSM2 (on a whole) is more watchable than its predecessor, while the first is better watched by just jumping from one musical scene to another or just listening to the soundtrack. While movie musicals are hard stand alone with their music, HSM2 does pretty well in the scenes without music.

Throughout the channel’s latest original movie, I found myself living vicariously. I was reliving high school – at least the better part of the awkward and sometimes unrelentingly uncomfortable teen years. During my latter years in high school, I really enjoyed being in the chorus and the musicals; it really got me through school. Sometimes you have horrible days in school, when you don’t want to go back the next day. Music got me to go back day after day (along with journalism and a few amazing teachers). It was something I really loved to do and this movie (along with the original) makes me want to go back to high school for an abbreviated time and do another musical – sort of (I don’t know if I can handle the drama all over again). There is nothing quite as magical as being on stage – or in this case, on the small screen – singing, dancing and acting.

But isn’t this how Disney has capitalized on the phenomenon that is High School Musical?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Harry Potter


I sit here typing moments after finishing the final Harry Potter book, delayed, I know, but finished nonetheless. I didn’t want the book to end, the adventures to come to a close. While it is early Friday morning, almost two weeks since the book’s release, I find myself teary-eyed and not ready to sleep, but to reminisce – for finishing the book has given me a renewed shot of adrenaline.

Don’t worry, my post will remain spoiler-free for all those (like me hours earlier) who have not completed their adventures with the bespectacled, lightning-scarred wizard. The end of the book – to be brief – was amazing and everything I hoped it would be. But I won’t be focusing on the end, but the journey, which had held us all captors for some ten years now – and will continue as the two more movies debut and the stories are re-read and passed down generations. This is what I want to look at. The book’s legacy.

J.K. Rowling, admittedly, will never be able to top Harry Potter. But who would want to, I ask? I am still amazed and agog to think of how this one person could have such an imagination, such a keen knack for storytelling: the descriptions, the characters, the all-encompassing plots… I have told my friends that her work is truly poetry in the form of prose (which sounds odd because prose, by its very definition, is something that is not poetry), but J.K. intermingles the two. Also, the words she has created… Muggle is now part of the world’s vernacular, now appearing in dictionaries. Her impact on the world is awe-inspiring. She has done what all literary greats have done – created something not for the here-and-now that will soonly be forgotten but something for the ages, which will stand the test of time. Well, only time will tell, but I only hope this series is not considered just children’s literature, for what we have is something far greater: a tome that inspires, connects all readers of the series, and makes each of us a little happier after reading. (Think to yourself, what would a world without Harry be like? I won’t go there…)

I owe a lot to Ms. Rowling. Like others around the world, I was not as strong or frequent a reader before beginning the series, which seems to have lit a spark in me. While I cannot credit J.K. with helping me out entirely, I still give the woman credit for me finishing larger books with more enthusiasm and speed. Thank you.

So, Harry James Potter and his adventures have come to a close. What’s next? Well, we still have two more movies and a major (and amazing) theme park in the queue. Plus, we can re-read the books now, with the ending in mind and, who knows, we might discover even more. Any up for a game of Quidditch?

If you also want to see on more HP and Rowling, NBC News has done a lot over the past week on Today and Dateline. Rowling also reveals some more details that aren’t in the books.