Space Films of Childhood

Below are the top five space-related films that influenced my love of space as a child.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
I don’t remember how old I was when I saw this movie for the first time, but I was pretty young – young enough that it didn’t seem “weird” to me at the time, just a bit creepy. Getting to live in a spaceship, with help from my immersive imagination, especially one more realistic than other fictionalized film portrayals, definitely added to my love of space travel stories.

2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
I do remember the first time I saw this movie. I was 4-years-old and saw it at the IMAX with my father. I remember seeing Darth Vader appear for the first time, nearly six stories tall. I proceeded to be educated in the Star Wars universe throughout the rest of my childhood, watching the original trilogy multiple times and the prequel trilogy in theaters with my family. Now the sequel trilogy graces my adulthood and I never cease to get super excited about the increasing expansiveness and depth of the world and its characters.

3. Apollo 11 footage (1969)
My dad was a child in the days of the Apollo missions and was awed by the real-life space travel of the 60’s. Therefore, my early childhood education included watching footage of these actual events. I remember seeing the astronauts inside their ships, dealing with zero gravity and all the intricate buttons and contraptions. I even turned my closet into a spaceship for while based on this and other inspirations. I remember seeing the first Moon landing, and though it was years after it really happened, it was still amazing to witness.

4. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000)
I was already a Toy Story fan (what 90’s kid wasn’t?) but I also had the benefit of a brother who was 6 1/2 years younger than me. He helped keep me extra young even as a reached double digits, and we shared a lot of favorite shows and movies. One of these was the spin-off movie and subsequent TV series about Buzz Lightyear in which the non-toy character has adventures in space with aliens, robots, and other humanoid beings.

5. Treasure Planet (2002)
Something I love about as much as space: the ocean. I watched Muppet Treasure Island probably a dozen times as a child and the original book by Robert Lewis Stephenson is one of my favorites. So if you take a sea voyage in search for treasure and translate it to outer space? I’m in love. The animation in Treasure Planet was great for its time, the map and how it worked was soooo cooool, and those steampunk-style ships I am so on board with (pun intended). This movie definitely helped inspire my own book Planetarium and the symbolism therein.

Honorable mentions:
– Superman (1978)
– Muppets from Space (1999)
– Scooby Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000)

There are definitely other space movies (not to mention TV series!) I saw as a teenager and adult that have enhanced my love of space and space travel. Some of these include: Serenity, Firefly, Interstellar, Cowboy Bebop, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Outlaw Star, The Fifth Element, and more. And there are plenty I still haven’t seen yet! But I wanted to give homage especially to these I saw as a child that set the scene and made it all so wonderful to begin with.

 

The Books I Read in 2017

Books I read (or listened to) this year, in order of completion. This list includes both fiction and nonfiction books and audiobooks of any genre; it does not include unfinished books, magazines, or lectures.

1. Mistborn: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
– The third book in the Mistborn series, this book represents the finale of the events built up in the first two books and a conclusion to the mysteries created therein. A fantastic story with interesting and likeable characters, cool plot twists, and political and philosophical themes amidst a crumbling fantasy world.

2. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
– The fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and probably my third favorite of the five (after A Storm of Swords and A Game of Thrones). It follows a number of characters and how the events in their lives and the decisions they make affect the politics (and in some cases, the nature) of the world as a whole.

3. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
– Sanderson’s first novel, a fantasy about a city that was once considered a paradise but which suddenly became a ruin ten years previously. The story follows three characters with different motives who become directly involved with the goings-on of this city and its relationship to their kingdom.

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
– A beautiful and romantic fantasy story about a magical circus and the colorful people who bring it to life. Really, really gorgeous imagery, and magic described in a way that rivals some of the most eloquent illustrations.

5. The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins
– A young adult novel which takes place in a fictional place and which has fantastical elements but which I would call magical realism rather than fantasy. It follows a boy who becomes assistant to a pawnbroker who buys people’s secrets, and their relationship with the residents of the town in which they set up shop.

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (again)
– I had read this before of course, but it was on the bookshelf in my cabin in Bulgaria so I reread it because it’s great. For anyone who doesn’t know… this is a fantasy book about a creature called a hobbit (similar to a man, but smaller and more gnome-like) who goes on a treasure-seeking quest with a group of dwarves and has many adventures along the way. This was actually really cool to read in Bulgaria since the landscape in the mountains very much resembles the terrain described in the book (similar to when I read The Two Towers as I approached California via the Rockies).

7. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins
– A fantastic nonfiction book which explains, scientifically but in a way that is easy to understand, the evidence for evolution, and argues against the creationist view and its criticisms of this evidence.

8. The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
– Another Dawkins book which addresses various myths about concepts and phenomena as experienced by humans and then explains the science behind such phenomena. It does so in an easy-to-understand way that is at times funny or poetic, as is characteristic of Dawkins. Although he is a hardcore atheist (I am not), I still agree with a lot of his reasoning for his atheistic views and share the awe and wonder with which he describes the universe and life on Earth (akin to Einstein and Sagan).

9. The Humanure Handbook, 2nd Edition by Joseph Jenkins
– A detailed and comprehensive book about the myriad benefits of composting humanure (human excrement) and the many negatives of more conventional “waste” disposal methods. It also mentions some safe and sustainable methods of recycling graywater (water used for household washing). It provides in depth and technical explanations about various systems, describes how to construct a thermophilic compost system, and has lots of charts, illustrations, and photographs for evidence and assistance.

10. How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books and Get Them Published by Celia Berridge, Mary Hoffman, Vicki Lee, Gabrielle Maunder, Treld Pelkey Bicknell, Catherine Storr, Felicity Trotman, and Dorothy Wood
– The title is pretty self-explanatory. It was published in 1988, so it is a bit outdated from a publishing standpoint, but the tips about writing and illustrating, as well as the examples from classic children’s literature, were helpful and inspiring.

11. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
– A thrilling novel about a Harvard professor who gets involved in a murder mystery which raises questions about the conflict between a scientific research organization and a powerful religious organization as well as theories about the compatibility of science and religion. Although riddled with factual inaccuracies, the story itself is intelligent, suspenseful, action-packed, and fun.

12. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
– A dark and whimsical fantasy about… it’s actually kind of hard to say what this book is about. There’s a young man who befriends a magical girl in danger; there’s an alternate world below London with rats who talk to people and people who talk to rats; two creepy violent villains; angels and monsters; challenges of physics and the mind. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland but with a bit more direction… sort of.

13. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
– This novel is about two teenage sisters who grow up in the early 1800’s. It details their various experiences with love and friendship along with the joys and woes which these relationships induce. Though the language and cultural norms presented in the book are a bit old-fashioned, the general story and the emotions evoked amongst young women of that age and class are pretty timeless.

14. Chant and Be Happy: The Power of Mantra Meditation based on the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
– A short collection of writings about the benefits of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, and its popularization within the United States and Britain in the 60’s and 70’s. The book includes interviews with Beatles George Harrison and John Lennon as well as spiritual teachers of the Hare Krishna movement.

15. Dracula by Bram Stoker
– A gothic horror novel about a group of men and women who seek to destroy a vampire who is cursing people by feeding on their blood in attempt to perpetuate his vampirism. I don’t know what else to say about this book except I loved it.

16. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
– This is apparently the second Discworld novel, but I hadn’t read the first (at the time – I have since) so it took me a while to figure out who was who and what was what. So it’s about this failed wizard who gets a spell stuck in his head, and these other wizards go after him to get it back because the spell book it came from has to be read in its entirety in order for the world not to end.

17. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
– Yet another Dawkins book in which he explains the Selfish Gene Theory. The basic idea is that evolution is based on information being passed along, via replicators, to subsequent generations. Organisms are seen as vehicles for replicators – genes. There are many examples of how this manifests, some of which he talks about in depth to illustrate the theory, as well as other possible theories and how they fit, or don’t fit, with this one.

18. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
– A mortician recounts her experiences as a crematory operator and the effect that death has had on her life. In morbidly humorous anecdotes and lessons from history, she dissects the death industry and shares her opinions about how it could be improved for our cultural, environmental, and personal benefit.

19. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
– A beautifully written, though somewhat bizarre story that follows the lineage of a Colombian family from its founding of a mountain city, through several generations of interesting characters. It illustrates their relationships to one another and other people, the changing political, social, and ecological environments, and the materialization of mysterious prophecies.

20. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
– A sci-fi adventure thriller about a park developed on an island in Central America that features dinosaurs, having been brought to life through cloning. In addition to all the action and suspense, it also includes philosophical discussions about science and the unpredictability of biological systems.

21. Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb
– A guide on how to transform your life into a video game in order to make life more exciting and reach your desired goals. This book also features anecdotes by the author and stories of the people his work has helped, as well as plenty of fun references to superheroes, spies, and other fictional (and real-life) role models.

22. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (again)
– Sequel to “A Wrinkle in Time”, this young adult fantasy follows the Murry family on an adventure into space, into the cells, and into nothingness. When the youngest gets sick, the eldest must team up with some magical characters in order to heal him, which is the only way to save the universe.

23. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
– An unconventional romance about a 26/27-year-old woman who gets a job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic man. They develop a friendship that changes both their lives as well as how they view the world. Considering I am the same age as the main character, and was jobless at the time I read it, it definitely resonated with me at least in some way.

24. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
– This book discusses the compatibilities and incompatibilities of science, religion, and spirituality from a psychological and experiential framework. It discusses the existence of the self and details examples for how spirituality can be understood in human (rather than supernatural) terms.

25. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
– Day one of a three-day storytelling session in which the narrator relays to a scribe the early part of his life. He tells of his childhood in the traveling musical theater troupe and the beginning of his time at university. Throughout this time he makes friends and enemies, has many adventures, and learns some of the secrets of magic. This book was recommended to me by multiple people (and was the inspiration for one of my favorite songs by my favorite band), and I’m so glad! It is absolutely wonderful – an instant favorite.

26. Carrie by Stephen King
– A horrific tragedy about a girl whose religious fanatic mother and bullying classmates drive her to insanity. She seeks retribution with help from her telekinetic powers.

27. It by Stephen King
– As a child, my impression was that “It” was about a scary clown that terrorizes a few kids, and that it was unclear whether or not it was just their imagination. That was just a tiny piece of the epic journey into the depths of the sewers and the mind – many minds – that this book goes. It brings up issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying, molestation, coming of age, and so much more. There isn’t just one villain, but several, and several heroes as well. It’s not just a horror, it’s a fantasy psych-thriller. It gets gritty and it gets cosmic. It is incredibly long and pretty vulgar and gruesome at times, so you have to be invested and strong of mind (and stomach).

28. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
– A beautiful fourth edition to the Time Quartet, in which two siblings travel to different eras through a psychic link, with the help of a unicorn, in order to save the world from war and destruction. I loved the play on names and the different interlacing stories within this book, and of course revisiting the beloved characters of the series.

29. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
– Sequel to The Name of the Wind, this fantasy continues the story of young Kvothe as he takes time off from University and has adventures in another region of the four corners, trying to get along with nobility and country folk and even fairies, and learning much about the world (and his own abilities) along the way.

30. The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin
– A brief history of discovery and invention, this books sails through a variety of explorers, philosophers, inventors, and scientists as they search for new lands and a larger understanding of the world.

31. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar
– Thirty short, silly stories about the kids and teachers at a school that was built sideways. It features pigtails, apples, dead rats, kickball, and more.

32. Cosmos: A Personal Voyage by Carl Sagan
– A scientific and poetic description of the universe that includes facts and educated speculations about the cosmos and life within it. This book was so beautifully written, almost like a spiritual text, and covered topics ranging from astrophysics and biology to mythology and human psychology. It wonderfully portrayed how everything is connected.

33. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
– A biological, anthropological, and historical look at the evolution of humanity and society. It begins with pre-humans, passes through hunter-gatherer societies and various world-changing revolutions, examines the present situation, and speculates about what the future may hold. This book is filled with factual information whilst also presenting interesting perspectives about various causes and effects that even many academics may not have considered.

34. Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar
– Another thirty short, silly stories about the students on the top floor of Wayside School. It features socks, mistaken identities, mushroom surprise, pencils, backwards stories, and more.

35. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (again)
– I read this first book in the Time Quartet over a decade ago, so I was definitely due for a review. It tells the story of Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her new friend Calvin as they journey across the universe to save Meg’s long lost father. This book is an interesting blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and religious symbolism. As a young adult novel written in 1962, it’s pretty dark and strange, but it is readable for a variety of ages and has proven to be timeless 😉

36. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (again)
– The year comes full circle as I finish it off with the first book in the original Mistborn series, which I read for the first time last year and loved. It introduces a decrepit world under the strict rule of a cruel, seemingly immortal god-man. A group of skaa (slaves) team up to resist and hopefully overthrow the ruler, among them a teenage girl who discovers she is one of very few people with extraordinary powers.

There you have it! I exceeded my goal of 30 books. I don’t know if I’ll make it through quite as many in 2018, but I’ll definitely keep reading.

Upcoming Creative Projects

I have A LOT of personal stuff going on in the next few months. I have been working hard, sometimes overtime (plus a long commute), trying to get my own apartment, and preparing for some new steps to be taken on my educational and professional journey. That said, I don’t know how much time (or funds) will be left over for fun creative projects, but I’m hoping that at least a handful of my many ideas can manifest within the next year or so. I wanted to share with you all some of the ideas I have had lately:

1. First of all, I plan to participate in NaNoWriMo next month, so that will be a test of my time management skills and perseverance for sure. The challenge is to write 50,000 words of an original work of fiction as the first draft of a novel. I have characters, a setting, and a trigger event. Beyond that, I have no specific direction that the story will go, it will depend on the decisions the characters make and how the world events fall into place, so it will be a fun journey even for me. I will be posting updates along the way.

2. I have been editing and adding to my book of magic – a long-term project to create a sort of guidebook for an eclectic, inclusive, scientific-religious-philosophical worldview and magical practice based on my own spiritual beliefs and lifestyle (not to be published, just for my own personal benefit and to pass down to my children) – which has been really uplifting and relaxing to me lately. I want to continue this project by experimenting more with natural ingredients and creating more magical crafts. I will begin a new journal soon, so this will be a helpful tool. I have also thought about hosting workshops in which friends gather to discuss their own spirituality, make crafts, and participate in group rituals. (But first I need a space in which to host these events and money for materials).

3. I have five or six albums I want to record – the songs are written and I know which ones go together, it’s just a matter of having the money for studio time (and the time for studio time). In particular, though, I want to create an EP of the six most recent songs I wrote (excluding a short, personal one), several of which have not been heard more than once by anyone. These songs are very good representations of my music and the direction my writing has taken recently (despite a terrible bout of writer’s block that I’m still struggling with). I think this would be the perfect little collection to pull Alice In Space out of her musical hiatus, once I’m able to make it happen.

4. I want to make dolls. This has been on my mind for a long time, and I don’t know when it will actually happen since I don’t know the first thing about making dolls, but I have the characters in my mind and eventually there will be dolls.

5. I  have a very special project that I have already begun but which requires a lot more work before it can be revealed. It is a storytelling project involving writing, art, and possibly music. It will probably rise up pretty high on my priority list come the new year, once the other more immediate priorities have been dealt with.

6. I love the idea of starting a little comic strip featuring my plush toys in which they journey through space searching for treasure. This was inspired by Steven Universe, and I don’t think it would be very difficult to do one or two little doodles a week.

7. In general, I want to do more arts and crafts – more drawing, painting, sculpting, sewing, scrapbooking, cooking, potion-making, etc. Part of this is because the “very special project” mentioned above requires a lot of art which I feel I don’t currently have the skill to produce in the way I imagine it, so I want to practice and build up to it. Also, I feel like I haven’t truly been able to express myself openly for about a year now, as I’ve been flying around (or “falling with style” you might say), and doing a lot of consuming – listening to other people’s stories, gathering information, reading – and now that I am a little more grounded I feel the urge to “unpack” and let some of this inner stuff out so it can be untangled and woven into something beautiful.

So there you have it. Those are just a few of my ideas, and only the creative ones not including all the intellectual or research-based projects or any of the other skill-based life improvements I want to make. If you read this and you want to talk with me more about any of these, please send me a message on facebook.com/alicedaisyspace or email me at alicedaisyspace@gmail.com!

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Been Saying All Along

Occasionally, I post something on Facebook born from the marriage of frustration and hope. Most of these are inspired by socio-political events or the general political atmosphere. I have collected several of them below.

I am not a perfect example of practicing what I preach. I make mistakes. I can be prideful and judgmental, and I’m not the purist environmentalist out there. But I continually strive for improvement. I want to understand the reasons I choose to live the way I do — how my priorities accord with my values. I have friends who have called me out along the way, and I’m grateful for that, even if it means working a little harder sometimes. Still, these excerpts do a good job of  exemplifying my values and my approach to societal and political issues.

January 4, 2015
Progress does not always mean more. Progress means better. Growth is evolution, transformation. Let us improve towards efficiency. Let us adjust to the inevitable evolution of society and the ecosystem. Let us strive for balance amidst an ever-changing world, and let us become stronger with every step.

August 24, 2015
I think it is amazing and magical that a human being, for no particular or logical reason, can develop such an incredible love for another creature simply by becoming aware of its existence and realizing the value its life brings to the world. That is how I feel about the creatures who live where I work, a few of them in particular. If a human can feel that about another species, can we feel the same thing for other humans? And more importantly, how can we express this feeling in acts of compassion for the lives around us?

August 26, 2015
We all have so much rage inside of us. So much jealousy, resentment, anger, and pride. We desire, we judge, we consume, we criticize, whether based on truth or assumptions. I do it too. That’s why I play music. Turn it to creation, make it something beautiful. Practice acceptance and embrace emotions, all of them, while choosing to act with compassion for others. Because we need to stop fighting. Turn it to love, and realize that it’s all love to begin with, in some strange form or another. In my childhood, and in life, I learned forgiveness, I learned reflection, I practiced creativity, analysis, compromise. In society, in culture, in your own home. We are all connected. Let’s find the center, be the circle, strive for balance, and live in harmony.

October 5, 2015
Everyone has their own beliefs, values, opinions, preferences, and priorities. Each individual, let alone community, has a distinct idea about how the world *should* be, if they have even thought about it at all. And most likely they are all going to be a little bit, if not very, different. Hence the varying candidates within a party and the various people who support one of the other for whatever reason. The key is to cultivate, among the entire nation, a society that can function as effectively as possible while taking all of those values into consideration. Not everyone can get everything that they want while living amongst people with different values and priorities, but if we can be open-minded, understanding, and supportive, we don’t have to lose everything either.

I will add that, as people on Earth, we are all in this together.

June 12, 2016
What do terrorist do? They spread terror. They give people reasons to be afraid. Afraid to go to work, afraid to go to school, afraid to go to the movies, afraid to go out dancing. Afraid to be themselves and to do the things in life that they feel good about because they never know when someone might take that life away in a matter of seconds.

Why do terrorists terrorize? Perhaps because they are afraid. Afraid of not being loved. Afraid of not being accepted by their family or by God. Afraid that the world they believe in will never come to be. Afraid that those who are different from them, or who do not share this belief will keep the world from being as they imagine. That is what terror is.

So can we all just… not be afraid for a minute? Can we all just realize that there are people out their who are hurting right now, because they lost their brother or their daughter or their father or their friend, or because they feel misunderstood and angry. And let us not pretend we can figure them out or know how they feel, and let us not be angry at them. That is how terror wins. Please. Can we just love for a minute. Please.

November 11, 2016
(In response to an article entitled “Dear White People, Stop Saying Everything Will Be OK”)
This was the most disturbing thing for me: that so many people in this country supported a campaign driven by hatred, discrimination, and fear. And I know that Clinton got more popular votes, and I know that a lot of non-whites voted for Trump, but there are significant numbers of people all across the country who voted in accordance with this agenda, whether they personally supported these ideals or just chose to ignore how it may affect people — how it already has. And that is appalling to me, that we are not only divided as a people but that there are so many fundamental issues being ignored.

November 11, 2016
Calling someone a racist for making a racist comment is not name-calling. It’s letting this person know that their comment implicates negativity toward a group of people that have historically been discriminated against. Racial minorities that have dealt with prejudice for decades, centuries, are not trying to collectively overthrow or seek revenge on those in power who have consistently viewed, spoken to, or acted upon them as lesser. They are trying to be heard, to speak out against prejudice and for equality. They are trying to let people know that racism is real, it affects people daily in subtle and extreme ways, and that it has to stop.

January 30, 2017
In a society driven by capitalism, something every one of you can pay attention to on a daily basis is how you are spending your money. Forget taxes for a moment… what are YOU CHOOSING to buy?
What companies do you support by buying their products?
What industries do you promote?
Do you shop from corporations or small businesses?
Are you buying pasture-raised meat?
Is your makeup tested on animals?
How much of what you buy contains petroleum?
Where were your clothes manufactured?
Is that item really going to make your life better? Easier? At what cost?
Do you EVER donate to organizations working for what you believe in?

Ask yourself these questions. This is one way that we can enact positive change. Not the only way, but in this world it’s something.