Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beautiful People - Alejandro Lorenz

Hello! Yes, I'm finally going to do my Beautiful People. I love this tag soooooo much, but it always seems to slip from me very easily. However, only because it's one of my favorite posts to write will it be one of my rare during-hiatus posts. It's a lovely link-up for characters (YAY - LONG LIVE OUR INK-AND-PAPER PEOPLE!!!) by Ladies Cait and Sky. So thanks very much to both amazing girls for this fun! And this time, I tried sooooo hard to make myself behave and choose a character that I'd already introduced, but... I couldn't help it!!! I had to choose one of newest characters, my beloved Alejandro. So... I suppose I'll get right to it. :)

1. What's their favorite place they've ever visited?
Probably Madrid, Spain. He went there once for his academy, The Brooklyn Academy of Professional Dance, and it was the home of his ancestors, so he liked it a good bit. :) He also likes Brazil, where the rest of his ancestors were from (if you have not guessed at this point, Alejandro is a Hispanic American). His favorite places, though, are the very old cities, because he enjoys seeing history in front of him.
2. What's one mistake they've made that they learned from?
Well, there are several concerning dancing, which is Alejandro's profession, but he would say that his most learned-from mistake was when he was younger and would try not to meet people. But then he met his best friend/girl, Amy, by accident when he was four and then he regretted the mistake.
3. What was their favorite subject in school? Or favorite thing to learn about?
His favorite subject in school was always music - due to his immense love of it, and his extremely early-on talent for dancing. As for more academic school subjects, he always enjoyed history.
4. What's their favorite flower/growing thing?
He likes Spanish roses the best, especially wild ones. However, he does also love a red carnation - a flower frequently seen on his jacket.
5. Have they ever made someone cry? What happened?
He has never purposefully made anyone cry, but it did happen once. Amy thought that he was going away (for certain plot reasons), and she was very upset about it (for other certain plot reasons), but then he turned up right behind her, because he didn't leave or even intend to. But when he saw that she'd been crying, he comforted her as best as he could... which resulted in her crying again - but with joy in seeing him not gone.
6. Would you consider them a reliable or unreliable narrator?
Alejandro is pretty unprejudiced in any category, so I would consider him a very reliable narrator.
7. What do they dream about at night?
Well, if you're talking about what he wishes for, all he wants is to let Amy know how much he cares. Their courtship has always been so unofficial, and they have always behaved much more like friends, but Alejandro is the one that is ready to actually begin the courtship, whereas Amy's mind is kind-of stuck in their current position as only teasingly romantic friends. They've been dance partners for years, but never once has Amy really noticed Alejandro's sentiments on the matter. But, because she isn't ready, Alejandro is a gentleman, and only expresses himself in whatever way he can, and never steps out of their so mild and unserious romantic pattern. He often dreams too of his dancing, that one day he will dance with Amy as the only people on the stage, so to speak. But this wish has long become far more passive.
8. They've gone out for a 'special meal'. What would they eat?
Well, he'd probably pick up Amy, and go out for Italian food (which he so very much likes, though - unlike Amy - he prefers the Spanish food nostalgically). Or, they'd eat in, and he would cook some delicious chicken or rice-ish Spanish meal that makes me hungry just writing about it.
9. What's at least one thing they want to do before they die?
Well, frankly, he'd like to have his day on the stage, dancing. He'd be content with even the shortest of big careers, just so long as he and Amy made it to the big stage together at least once. He also harbors other wishes, concerning him and Amy's future, but is very content nonetheless.
10. Do they have any distinguishing or unique talents?
Oh, yes! He a dancer of the most proficient type - the likes of whom has not been seen since the days of Fred Astaire, Ricardo Montelban (whom he looks rather like), and Gene Kelly. His dancing mostly consists of the Hispanic dances (as that's what he started out with), but he is also amazing at ballet, waltzing/ballroom dancing, acrobatic dancing, and a tiny bit of tap dancing.
Anyways, that's my Mr. Lorenz! Do you like him? Is anybody else here now really wanting to watch a Ricardo Montelban movie? Or a dancing movie of some kind? I don't know about you guys, but I am off to go and watch something with dancing in it! Partiro! :D

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blog Announcement

I'm sorry to inform my lovely audience here at Worlds Of Ink And Paper that I will be going on an unofficial hiatus for June and July.
I may still blog occasionally, but it will not be regular or very often unfortunately. You see, as Miss Lucy Agnes made me realize, the summer really is too short and goes by too fast to spend a lot of time on the computer typing (even if it is for the loveliest crowd), so I'm going to just enjoy it while it lasts. Sorry! I hope you can forgive me, and meanwhile read other lovely blogs until I return (if such other equals exist, haha). ;) Partiro!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Meet The Books! - All's Fair

Hello! It's time for another Meet The Books!... finally, haha. :P Anyways, though, this one's an interesting one, because this is no ordinary novel (I mean, obviously none of my novels are, but you know what I mean). ;) This project of mine, started only two weeks exactly after the last book I introduced was, is a musical. That's right, like Broadway, dancing, singing, super funny ridiculous scenarios musical, by the name of All's Fair.
What is the genre?
Well, as I said, it's a (wanna-be) Broadway musical. However, were it an ordinary novel, it would fit into the category of Romantic Comedy.
What is the title? Time period?
The title is All's Fair, after something one of the characters says, and after that one Shakespeare quote - "All's fair in love and war". And, speaking of love and war, that brings us to the time period, which is World War II. Aren't wartime musicals the best???!!! :D Which is exactly why I wanted to write one. ;)
How is it written (Point of view, MC, etc.)?
Well, it's written in play format, but it was written in novel format first, so it does have a POV sort-of. When it was in novel format, it was in third person (limited). The main character is a rather irate American pilot named Cap. Mont Williams.
Who are the characters?
Well... :)
Mont Williams is a 22 year-old pilot who is rather easily made irritated, and can be a bit easily distracted at times. He is an American, and - just so you know - he is what I call an AF/A, in other words, an Air Force/ Army (you see, up to a certain point in WWII, the Air Force didn't even exist, but was only a part of the other two branches at that time, so Mont is currently in the Army technically, but I like to say he's in the Air Force, as that is my favored, inherited branch of the military). He has brown hair, hazel eyes, and is about six foot or so - maybe more, maybe less.
Ned Norster  is Mont's sometimes bumbling best friend. Ned is a very jokey sort, and imagines himself to be extremely well-off with the ladies, but is in reality quite laughable in his flirting attempts. He is also a pilot, and an American. He's peanut-butter-blond, and has bright blue-ish eyes. He is fit, but rather short, being only 5'9 (and believe me, he gets teased about it plenty by Mont and Irv).
Haha, this is how Ned would love to think that he is. ;)
Irv Baines is, unlike his friends, Mont and Ned, not a pilot. He is an ensign (a minor officer) in the Navy. And he rather likes to rub it in, too (because, even though his rank is technically lower than Mont and Ned's, he persists in saying that the Navy is better than the Air Force/Army). He can be rather a bit of a jerk at times, as Ned is always telling him (but I think that Ned's just jealous, because Irv actually is quite a proud proficient with the women). ;) Irv is very tall, strong of build, and fairly handsome (which he also loves to rub in), being about six foot two. He has hair that's in between black and dark brown, and has dark blue-gray eyes.
And.... yep. That's Irv all right. :P

Doctor Lucie Lavet is a French/American doctor at Mont and Ned's base who is eventually at the front. She is rather unimpressed with any of the soldiers, who - since she is one of the few women on the front - all pay plenty of attention to her. She is uninterested in romance, and uninterested in anyone seemingly, though quite willing to give a rude or sarcastic comment to any soldier who dares to try and gain her favor. She is almost as tall as Ned, being five foot seven and a half, but is very slender. She has bright red hair and silvery-blue eyes.
This could very well be Lavet and Miss No-Name, though it's unusual for Lavet to be so silly, even in a picture.
Miss Girl Without A Name is a sweet girl, who - as indicated previously - does not yet have a name. :P I'm pretty sure she's a performer for the troops, but originally she was a nurse. Truly, I can't say much about her without giving spoilers, but I can at least tell you that there's a little more to her than meets the eye. She has golden-blond hair, and has aqua-blue eyes.
And then there will be various soldiers and a couple other nurses who will appear, but none of them have set-in-stone names yet.
What does the plot consist of?
Well, hmm... How's about I show the Broadway poster I made for it to explain this? :)

The inscription reads:
All's Fair! - It's the Air Force versus the Navy in a wartime musical like you've never seen before! When two pilots meet an old naval pal on the front, the three become engaged in a hilarious three-way for a hard-to-catch Army nurse. As it goes on, the gimmicks and songs become greater and greater all in the name of the rivalry's slogan - "All's fair in love and war"!
So, perhaps you can figure out what the plot is just from that purposefully over-dramatized summary, but if not, I'll lay it out. So, due to a certain chain of events, Irv, Ned, and (due to the other two's cajoling) Mont challenge each other to try and gain the impossible Dr. Lavet's favor in a certain amount of time. Because it is for a friendly bet, none of them is afraid to use any amount of gimmick or trick to get ahead of the other, resulting in quite a comedy. However, bind this plot in with Mont and Ned's immense wish to help on the front, and then the war hitting them, and all that going on, and then the nameless girl's whole sub-plot, and this is what All's Fair consists of.
What is the setting?
Why, WWII, of course! It starts out in a random base in Haiti, but then *spoilers* Mont and Ned's wish of going to the front is fulfilled *spoilers end* and it takes place on the front in Italy from there.
Don't ask about the quote... it is indeed fitting for a certain character in the story, but I won't say who... :)
Who are the favorite characters in it?
So far, everybody (meaning the only two readers I have for it and myself) has favored Ned. He has risen rather to levels that he was not meant to go to in people's favor. So much so, that I may or may not kill him off. Just kidding.... maybe. ;)
What is the favorite scene?
Um, so far there's only one written scene that's really been noted above the others. A scene in which Mont converses rather briefly and irately with Lavet, and ends by running off (because he was late for something very important, due to Ned, which was also why he was irritated).
Any themes of music for this work?
Well, originally, back when it was just a novel, it was inspired by the old song I Left My Hat In Haiti, from the movie Royal Wedding. And I had also considered as a romantic theme once the song I Won't Dance by Frank Sinatra. However, now, it has the songs I have written for it. I would put a pic of the music, but I am a bit paranoid about random people finding it and taking it. :P The songs I've written for it so far are (the temporarily-named) A Piece Of Advice, sung by Irv, and contributed to a little by Ned; Even Now, a duet between Mont and Lavet; The Almost Bride, another Irv song, but this one a solo, and then a vague idea for one of Ned's songs, which I have also temporarily named I Guess So.
Any drawings?
Besides that Broadway poster, only one unfinished one of Irv and a girl (whom I will not name in case there are spoiler-seeking readers in the crowd). I will not share it, only because the girl's looks are very much a giveaway to the keen reader, not to mention the pose that the two are depicted in.
Strong point in story?
Probably the characters. I feel like - especially in writing songs for them - their voices are coming through very well, especially Irv.
Weak point in story?
Well, probably the slow beginning. I mean, if it were a normal novel, nobody among modern readers would really probably take a second look, because the beginning is fairly quiet and very much non action-packed.
What are you plans for it?
Well, to finish composing the music, finish putting it into play form, and then give it to the world! I know it's rather ambitious, but I want to try and actually get it out there and performed. I know... in my dreams... :P :)
Any particular writing habits for it?
Well, when I'm writing the music, I always sit and do it at my piano, and I generally take a pretty long time tweaking it. When I'm writing the actual story, I often listen to Oldies music (particularly songs from old movies), and also like to eat mini-pretzels while doing so.
If it were made into a movie, what would be your ideal cast for it?
Well, I'm sure I do envision it as a movie someday, and is definitely intended to be performed in some manner or other. I think I would take Gene Kelly as Mont Williams, just with brown hair instead of black. And for Ned, I can see either Santino Fontana or Nelson Eddy playing him, though I suppose a young Frank Sinatra would also act the part well. And Irv, I can see being played by a dark-haired Howard Keel (though Thomas Hampson playing him would be most amusing indeed). I would have Esther Williams as Dr. Lavet, and either Laura Osnes or a blond Katherine Grayson as the nameless sweet girl.
Anyways, though, that's about all there is for the story of All's Fair. Now to go and write more songs for it! :D
What did you think? Would you read it? Would you go and see it if it were being performed? Is anyone a little nervous about Belle attempting to be a composer? Was anybody not bored out of their skull reading this? ;)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Top 10 Best Opera Characters Of All Time

You know, I have been listening to a ton of opera lately. Of course, this is not abnormal (for me), but it did make me want to write a post on it. So, for all you people who were going to hang yourselves, shoot your date, or jump into a volcano if you didn't know (wink, wink to any and all opera nerds in here), I'm going to show you the best of the best characters in this amazing art. ;)
#10 - Don Alfonso from Cosi Fan Tutte (Women Are Like That)
Well, I'm not exactly sure how this guy got his way onto the list, but he's one charismatic, slippery fellow. He has a rather low opinion of the faithfulness of women, as implied by the statement of his which makes up the title for this opera. He is so charismatic, in fact, that he convinced two friends to aid each other in proving their own fiancées fickleness and infidelity. Don Alfonso sent Ferrando after Giuliarmo's girl, and Giuliarmo after Ferrando's girl, convincing them to prove which girl was most faithful, and ending up only proving exactly what Don Alfonso had been saying the whole time - women are like that. But, despite his cheapskate ways and his low opinion of female faithfulness, Don Alfonso somehow wormed his way into this list and my heart. :) I don't remember who played the really good Don Alfonso, but I just remember that it was in the 2006 version of Cosi Fan Tutte.  Don Alfonso's best aria is the one beginning the opera's first act, a trio song with Ferrando and Giuliarmo (sorry, but I cannot remember the name of it). I think that Don Alfonso is a baritone part, but I'm not sure.
Haha, yes, Don Alfonso is eating a banana. Not exactly sure why... :P
#9 - Adina from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
Oh my goodness, is this girl stubborn or what?! She is determined never to settle down with anyone, especially not faithful, unwavering, humble Nemerino, who has been seeking her hand for years. I mean, where is her sense?! But, somehow, you gotta like her (which is extremely frustrating). And nothing is more fun than seeing her finally fall from her throne in the end, walking out a chapel hand-in-hand with Nemerino after all, even despite all those obstacles she threw in the way herself. ;) The best version of Adina is done by Angela Gheorghiu. Adina's best aria is either Della Crudele Isotta (The Tale of Cruel Isolde), or Quanto Amore! (Such Love!). She is a soprano part.
#8 - Susannah from Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Susannah is much sought-after by men, surely, but she only wants her fiancée, Figaro. And the clever girl is ready to think up just about any scheme to get other men off her trail so she can marry him. This lovely, cunning lady is also responsible for making one of her suitors, The Conte Di Almaviva, willingly return to his poor wife by the end of the opera (as well as herself FINALLY getting to marry Figaro). Her best aria is a duet with the Contess Di Almaviva, called Sull'aria (the meaning of the title is debatable,  but the first line which it is a part of is supposed to mean A New Breeze Blows Through The Pines). Um, I might say the best playing of Susannah is by Cecelia Bartoli. Susannah often switches between being a soprano and mezzo-soprano part, but is intended to be a soprano.
#7 - Graf Danilo from Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)
I love this guy! Especially when he's played by either Thomas Hampson or Thomas Weinhappel (whom I call Thomas Pineapple, and whose Graf Danilo you absolutely must look up on Youtube!). I guess he's kind-of a cheat on this list, though, because he's actually from an operetta, not an opera. But, hey, we'll just turn a blind eye to that fact, right? ;) He's so funny. Even though his commanding officer, his fellows, and the lady herself are all trying to get him to woo a rich widow, he  doesn't want to. He does it at first only because of them. But then, bit by bit, he has his everything in it - all due to this particular widow's playful strategy against him. And, of course, he ends up with her (and no more mind-changes). ;) His best aria.... Oh man, that's hard. I might say it's Da Geh Ich Zu Maxim (not sure what it translates to, as I have never seen the translation, and do not know very much German). He is supposed to be a tenor part, but is often nowadays cast as a baritone instead.
#6 - Alfredo Germont from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Oh, poor, pitiable Alfredo! He's got a bit of a temper, yes, but I still was very tempted to weep for him during the two final acts of the opera. And I had to include him here, I just had to. After all, he's the male lead in this opera, which just happens to be my all-time favorite tragic opera ever (and one of my favorite operas period). However, even he was not my favorite character (as you'll see later on in this post). He is one of the most tragic male opera figures there is (that you can actually pity - most of them are tragic, but they mostly bring it upon themselves, so you cannot really pity them). Poor guy spent sooooo long loving Violetta Valery - even through her refusals - and then, he had her... for a short period of time. And the rest is just the way the opera goes, friends (unfortunately). The best playing of Alfredo is by David Miller. Alfredo is very much a tenor role, and his best aria is the Brindisi from this opera (it has a name, but is just called The Brindisi often - much like how Carmen's Act One aria in the opera Carmen is always called The Habenera rather than its actual name). 
The Miller couple, David and Sarah Joy, as Alfredo and Violetta of La Traviata.

#5 - Papageno from Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Okay, so he's not quite up to the same respectable level of Alfredo or Susannah. So he's a very obviously comic opera character. Well, he's one of the best - despite his tendency in the beginning to tell fibs, brag, or be melodramatic (hey - melodrama is allowed in the opera!). The main funny thing about Papageno was that he was very desperate to have a girl. And, unlike most opera men, not even a particular one. Just a girl - any girl - who was willing to be faithful to him and let him be faithful to her. In fact, he was so desperate to have a girl that he used a variety of methods to try and get one (from using the title's magic flute to try and call one, to summoning fairies to help him, to comically failing at hanging himself). But, he gets his wish in the end... ;) Also, something a bit bizarre about him is - well, you get the impression that he thinks he's a bird. At least, he talks about himself like he does. Who knows why? *shrugs* :P The best version of him is done by Thomas Weinhappel. Papageno is a baritone role, and his best aria to be sure is a duet (with a certain long-desired somebody he wanted) called Pa Pa Pa (And, no, there is no translation to that because it's not a word, it's a bird noise, haha). ;) :P
Haha, don't ask. :P ;) If you look up Papageno pictures, I would be willing to bet that you'd find far more ludicrous ones than this. Normally nowadays, he has rather unusual costumes. This is when he's trying to use the flute to summon a girl.

#4 - Escamillo the Toreador from Carmen
It's not altogether surprising that only one character from the opera Carmen made it here, haha. I mean, Carmen herself is a bit questionable (so why on earth did they name it after her...?). And then Don Jose goes insane by the end of it, so... :P However. Escamillo is absolutely hilarious/really cool. He is incredibly arrogant at times, but it's that funny sort-of arrogant that you can't really take seriously. Problem is, you do have to take it at least semi-seriously, because he really can do and has done everything he says. So... he's just as cool as he claims, the character. *shakes head* The best representation of him is either Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, or Thomas Weinhappel. Escamillo is a Bass/Baritone role, and his best aria is certainly Votre Toast! (I Speak A Toast!), also called The Toreador Song after him.
#3 - Figaro from Il Barbiere Di Siviglia (The Barber Of Seville) and Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Figaro is one of the only opera characters I know of who has a sequel. You see him first as that busybody, bossed-around barber, and then next thing you know - well, he hasn't really changed in character much actually, but now he's getting married to Susannah. Figaro, as I said, is a busybody to be sure. However, it seems that he gave up busybody-ing (at least for the moment) to marry Susanna, because in the latter of his two operas, it's Susannah that's doing most of the busybody-ing. However, he is still a bossed-around barber. I'd be willing to bet that anybody in this crowd has heard his very famous aria complaining about how he gets bossed around so much, Largo Al Factotum. It's his best aria! :D And Thomas Hampson is the best Figaro I've ever seen, especially at that aria (no others are even worth comparing). Figaro is a baritone role in the first opera, but can be switched from tenor or baritone in the second (it is written for a tenor).
#2 - Nemerino from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
I am beyond proud that Nemerino made it all the way to second place. I was worried that I'd just have a list of mostly anti-heroes or comically flawed characters on here like Alfredo, Adina, or Escamillo. But, no! Here is possibly the most virtuous character in the opera that I know. Granted he's ever-so-slightly naïve, but you kind-of have to expect that from a simple tramp, as Nemerino is (yeah, who knew that the most virtuous character in the opera was a common tramp?). *starts singing He's A Tramp* However, he's not a roamer. He has stayed in one town for almost his whole life, being faithful to one girl who doesn't even care about him (yet!). For years, the humble Nemerino has quietly sought Adina's favor. And you know what Adina does? She teases him, makes fun of him, and laughs at him (and even hits him with the wrong end of a horsewhip at one point). Is anybody else wondering about now why I put Adina on this list too...? :P But, you know, it all turns out. And along the way, Nemerino spends his last cent trying to get Adina, and even enlists himself in a regiment all for her hand. And you know what? It all pays off! The opera ends with Adina and Nemerino's wedding party (don't ask me how that happened because it's a very long story). Nemerino is a tenor role, and his best aria is Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Single Silent Tear). The best representation of him is by Roberto Alagna.
Lovely ole dreamer Nemerino... :)

#1 - Violetta Valery from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Ha! I bet all of you were super surprised not to see a guy opera character's name here on numero uno. Well, I can tell you, so was I. When I compiled the list, and somehow found Violetta's name on top, I nearly had a heart attack right there. But, if any opera character deserves it, she does. I can tell you, no opera character ever made me cry like Violetta. Read the plot to the opera and you'll know half the reason, but not the whole. Read the translation... then you'll know. You can never know the full sadness of Violetta until you read the translation of her songs... especially the very last one. No one can ever put into words the character of Violetta! Poor girl... She was in a bad business for so very long in the beginning (read the opera's plot and you'll know what I mean), and then gave it up to be with faithful Alfredo. But then, something happened. Something which caused her to choose - most sorrowfully - to separate from Alfredo. And it was all because of her past, which she has been endlessly regretting for so long. But she chooses to give up her own life of happiness - even to have her greatest love, Alfredo, hate her - just so that another can have joy and a steady life. I can't spoil too much of the details, but I can tell you that the ending is super sad. Oh, if only I could pen the words of that last aria she sang... Asking for forgiveness for her past, always only praying that Alfredo would come back, and that they could somehow reunite. And Alfredo does come back... Just in time to relieve Violetta's so long-endured suffering... and just in time to see her die of the terrible illness that had been long-consuming her. I know, right! TERRIBLE ENDING!!! But, I suppose that's the opera for you. :'( Go and see Angela Gheorghiu's famous acting of Violetta. Watch it with the translation. I guarantee that you will cry. Violetta is a soprano part, and her best aria is Sempre Libera.

Well, that's all of them. The ten best characters in the greatest musical art existent. Whether comic like Papageno, or tragic like Violetta, or kind-of in the middle like Escamillo, I have enjoyed (and been in agony over) every single performance of them. And I highly suggest looking them up - whether it's on Youtube, or whether you're taking a bold move and just buying a dvd of one of these operas (P.S. look up plot and details of opera always before you buy a disc of it - even some of the ones I have mentioned here can be made distasteful by certain years or casts, and I do realize that there is a skip button on a remote for a reason sometimes).
So what did you think? Which character sounded most appealing to you? Which opera sounded the best? Do you think you'd prefer comic, tragic, or comique (tragic, ironic comedy) operas? (an example of each would be L'Elisir D'Amore, La Traviata, and Romeo And Juliet or Carmen.) Are you banging your fists against the keyboard to comment because you're bored out of your mind after reading this post? ;)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Catholicism Explained: The Sacrament Of Baptism

Hello! Sorry I've been gone so long, on my unannounced hiatus. A close relative died recently, and that combined with plain lack of ideas, I just haven't wanted to do much. Today I am going to talk about a very important Sacrament of the Catholic Church. Why is it so important? Because not only is it the very first Sacrament one receives, but because it is the door to receiving other Sacraments validly. One cannot receive any other Sacrament validly without Baptism coming first. What is Baptism? Let's dig into that! :) But first, here are the links to the previous Catholicism Explained posts, and Lucy Agnes' - the founder of CE - blog, where all the ones before my charge can be found.
Catholicism Explained: The Sacraments
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part II, The Origins Of)
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part I, What Are They?)
Catholicism Explained: The Three Sacred Authorities
Catholicism Explained: Purgatory
TangleWebs And Fairy Rings
Alrighty, now let's dig into it! ;)
Basic Theology
Baptism is a sealed Sacrament (see the previous post for more details), meaning it can only be received once, and it leaves an inerasable mark upon your soul when you do receive it. To separate it into the most basic of basics, physically it consists of being cleansed in water, and spiritually, it consists of being cleansed in grace. The water removes dirt, perhaps, but it represents what is really going on in the Sacrament - the grace removing sin. So, like I explained in the last post, it really is accomplishing what it represents - it's not just symbolic alone. It is also the rite of initiation that makes you a part of Christ's Mystical Body - the Church. Once baptized, you are an inseparable part of the Church, though you may stray from your baptismal vows later in life. Depending on the age of the person, sometimes the baptismal vows are made for them, by their parents and godparents, or - if they are an adult - they say their baptismal vows for themselves.
Baptism is only valid when administered by a bishop, priest or deacon to someone for the first time. Often, among Catholic families, we are often baptized as infants, rather than when older. My siblings and I were all baptized within two months of birth, if that gives you a rough idea of average age for infant baptism. As I mentioned, only a bishop, priest or deacon may administer the Sacrament, except in cases of extreme necessity, in which a laity, or correctly intentioned non-baptized (see Catechism of The Catholic Church, 1256) may also do so, using the Trinitarian formula ("...In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit..."). Here is the definition of Baptism from the good old CCC:

"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 'Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.'"
(Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1213)
The Celebration Of Baptism
I'd bet there's at least one person here wondering 'Who are the godparents?', 'Why water?', 'What are baptismal vows?', etc. These are the aspects of Baptism that I shall now explain. First of all, the godparents are - to put it simply - the spiritual parents of the person (usually child) being baptized. While the person may have practicing, religious, living biological parents, they will still be given a second set of 'parents', whose job is specifically to nurture the individual spiritually (unlike the true parents, which are to nurture every necessary aspect of the child). Usually the godparents are hand-picked by the true parents, unless the person being baptized is an adult. The godparents, along with the parents (and sometimes the grandparents), take the baptismal vows for the child being baptized, so that the child may confirm and renew them himself/herself in Confirmation later in life. Godparents may only consist of one Catholically-baptized, practicing woman, and one Catholically-baptized, practicing man. They do not have to be a married couple (or a couple at all), and many times aren't, but they do have to work together for the child's spiritual wellbeing (most of my siblings, and myself also, have married couples as our godparents, mainly because my mother has a preference for such). As for why we use water, well, it's biblical! (See quotes below.)
And besides, what better physically represents the cleansing of the soul than something that cleanses the body? As for the baptismal vows, they are vows taken in baptism for the purpose of promising God one's soul. In our baptismal vows, we vow to follow the Lord to the best of our ability, and to renounce Satan, who is all that is against Our Lord. Often these vows are taken for us when we are children, by our godparents (and sometimes parents or grandparents), but an adult convert takes them himself/herself. They also represent another thing - wedding vows. In wedding vows, we vow to love someone forever and to cherish and aid them. In baptismal vows, we do the same thing, but for Christ rather than an earthly spouse. Because Baptism makes one a part of Christ's Church, and Christ's Church is His Holy Bride, it only makes sense that becoming a part of Christ's Bride involves something rather like marriage vows. There are other aspects of Baptism which have to do with the way we celebrate it, but they are not quite as relevant, though still important enough. For instance, the candle one often receives at baptism. It's usually given to the parents or godparents to keep for the child, but if it is an adult being baptized, then they take it for themselves. It represents the light now inside of the person - a flame for Christ - to burn brightly forever. And then there is the method of Baptism. I named the three methods in my previous CE post, but I'll list them again here:
1. Being anointed with holy water.
2. Being immersed in holy water.
3. Being sprinkled with holy water.
All of the methods have been used, and they have a beautiful symbolism to them*. Firstly, the anointing is after a custom in the Old Testament, where priests, kings, and victims would be anointed before their ordination/coronation/sacrifice. Since we Catholics go out into the world as priests, kings, and victims for Christ, this method's symbolism is only appropriate. Secondly, immersion also symbolizes something. It represents being completely buried in Christ's cleansing grace, and very visibly so.
*Well, according to my research, Catholics do not now use sprinkling, but it has been used by Christian peoples in the past.
Awwwwwwwwww! This picture is soooooo cute!
Some Objections
Why would you baptize infants? They can't make their baptismal vows for themselves, so why should they be baptized?
Good question. You see, whether or not we may speak for ourselves at the time of baptism, we all should be able to be received into the Church, and be able to gain the graces of baptism, which enable us to merit salvation. So, unless we would prevent non-adults from being in the Church at all, the only logical decision is infant baptism. And often in early Church history it occurred that the whole households were baptized, not just the adults or the family members, but also servants and children. The same vows made at baptism for the child will be confirmed to be true by him/her at his/her Confirmation. Not to mention something Jesus Himself said - you know, about letting the little children come to Him? ;)
But surely it isn't necessary for Salvation?
Actually, yes it is. Very much so! Take a look at these verses, and then try and draw your answer.

"Jesus answered, and said to him: 'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
(John 3:3,5)

So what do you think? ;) However, this - despite what some may think - does not exclude all who are not validly baptized or not baptized at all from Heaven. You see, there are three forms of baptism that may enter one into God's kingdom:
1. Sacramental Baptism (in other words, the actual receiving of a visible water Baptism).
2. Baptism of desire (dying with the strong intent of being Sacramentally baptized, but before one actually can).
3. Baptism of blood (Unbaptized Martyrdom - dying for the faith before being Sacramentally baptized).
All of these count as Baptism that may enter one into Heaven. And even if Baptism were not necessary to be saved, we should still do it. Why? Jesus did it Himself, which means it must be a good thing, and if it is a good thing, then why should we not do it after His example?
Some Quotes...
Seriously, this part is my favorite part of Catholicism Explained. ;)

"I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
(John 1:33)

"Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: 'Thou are my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.'"
(Luke 3: 21-22)

"For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."
(Romans 6:4)
"Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him"
(St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40)

"Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply"
(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp 6)

"When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal... 'and sons of the Most High; [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold the holy light of salvation"
(St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1)

"This sacrament...  signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one 'can enter the kingdom of God.'"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1215)
I think - and I am somewhat ashamed, because I feel like I say this every time - that the significance is fairly apparent. Baptism is significant in its aid for getting us to Heaven. If we can't go to Heaven without it, then it is truly very significant indeed. And I think that - while this post isn't terribly long - I have perhaps covered enough. But I would love to answer any questions or concerns in the comments if you have any. :)
My Sources
Douay-Rheims Translation Bible.
Catholicism of the Catholic Church.
Why Is That In Tradition?, by Patrick Madrid.
Daily Defense, by Jimmy Akin.
A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwalter.
So what did you think? Did I cover it well enough? I am merely being vain in thinking that this is perhaps one of my better put-together CE posts? :P Have anything to add? Anything to ask? Any concerns or comments on the subject? Any suggestions for the bettering of Catholicism Explained? Anything to note that I did in this post that you would like to see in future CEs?