Sunday, December 21, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Also, I forgot to mention another opera star we had the pleasure of hearing in Madama Butterfly, which I also spoke of in the last post. And shame on me…for he’s one of my favorites: David Cangelosi. Bravo, sir! Although we did not catch him after the performance at the Stage Door, Bart and I have met him before. I told him (and quite honestly) how I could listen to him sing for hours. In fact, I have, both on stage at Lyric Opera and in a recording Bart gifted me with him in Siegfried. (Which, by the way, is a 5 hour opera and my favorite, believe it or not.) In Siegfried he plays the role of Mime (pronounced Me-may, not the like silent clowns)…and boy does he! He’s terrific.
I’m sure that my characters ZJ and Andy must hate me. For all sorts of other obligations (and perhaps a touch of laziness, I dare admit) have kept me from writing their story. Their story of course being the book I am currently writing. (Or not.) I plan to delve back into them today and tonight. Let’s hope they’re not too cross with me and will jabber on so that I can barely keep up. [Note: Only ZJ is depicted, as I have not yet made a picture of Andy.]
Thursday, December 18, 2008
(Gee, imagine that.)
I must admit I'm also late in reporting this one, as I'd been with Disney's depiction of the Lost Boys being featured by The Hundreds. I've really no excuse in not reporting it other than Life intervening... such as attending Madama Butterfly at Lyric Opera last night. The amazing Patricia Racette did indeed vocally float as delicately as a winged beauty as well as radiate with all the glory of Japan. Bart beamed, for he says [and rightly so] that she has the perfect voice for Madame Butterfly.
Okay... on to Peter Pan.
It seems a "long lost" Pan is flying again. In the form of Leonard Bernstein's "forgotten" musical. It's been 60 years since its premiere! And then, all but forgotten, like Wendy's memory of Peter Pan coming to her window. I knew of it, naturally. But I cannot say I am entirely familiar with it. I suppose I should correct that, no? I'm pretty sure Bart has a recording of it. I'll give it a listen if he does and report back to you. For unfortunately due to time and such, I will not be able to attend the new production. (And please don't hate me when I say I'm not so very fond of his outfit in the show. It just seems "too much" to me. Those brown leg fringes, for instance.)
You can read about the new production here.
And I also came across this in-depth article about Bernstein's version of Peter Pan here.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I'm pleased to announce that Jeremy Sumpter, the young man who brought Peter Pan to life on the big screen, has read Peter Pan's NeverWorld!
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Trash Can Sinatras
Always at the foot of the photograph - that's me there
Snug as a thug in a mugshot pose
Owner of this corner and not much more
Still these days I'm better placed to get my just rewards
I'll pound out a tune and very soon
I'll have too much to say and a dead stupid name
Though I ought to be learning I feel like a veteran
Of "Oh I like your poetry but I hate your poems"
Calendars crumble I'm knee deep in numbers
Turned 21, I've twist, I'm bust and wrong again
Rubbing shoulders with the sheets till two
Looking at my watch and I'm half-past caring
In the lap of luxury it comes to mind
Is this headboard hard? Am I a lap behind?
But to face doom in a sock-stenched room all by myself
Is the kind of fate I never contemplate
Lots of people would cry though none spring to mind
Know what it's like
To sigh at the sight of the first quarter of life?
Every stopped to think and found out nothing was there?
They laugh to see such fun
Playing Blind Man's Bluff all by myself
And they're chanting a line from a nursery rhyme
"Ba Ba Bleary Eyes - Have you any idea?"
The calendar's cluttered with days that are numbered
You can listen to this song for free by clicking on the big play button in the upper right corner at this site.
(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the website playing the music for free.)
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I’m a little late in reporting this one. I had to find the time to explore exactly what I’d been looking at when I came across it. I’m out of the loop when it comes to current “clothing trends” so the following brand name had been unfamiliar to me.
There is a popular line called The Hundreds and it embodies the youth culture to some degree. (Not meant offensively, as I said, I’m not in the loop.)
But take a look. They’ve managed to partner with the House of Mouse and create “cute thug” versions of Disney’s adaptation of the Lost Boys. I’m surprised these were allowed given how protective Disney can be of its characters. I’m glad they did it, for I like them very much.
They're featured in a Limited Edition run of T-shirts brought out on the market on December 11.
For individual Lost Boy pictures as well as the Peter Pan and Captain Hook hats and the shirt with Tinker Bell, or more info in general on these creations keep scrolling down here.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
As the saying goes, they have outdone themselves for its 30th Anniversary. Remember when I said they vary the appearance of Marley's ghost? They stepped it up by many notches. The show opens differently. It provides a welcome, pleasant ease into the Dickensian magic. A major change is made to one of the Ghosts. A decidedly bold but thoroughly enjoyable choice. All in all, wonderful performances and additions. And yet very familiar.
Comfort and joy!
And yes, Fred's window is STILL snowing and I've no idea how. :)
A note on Fred. I mentioned his fiancé in the last post but this production says his wife. Not that it matters, as the myriad of versions vary it back and forth. Sometimes it allows for a bigger discussion between Scrooge and Fred about whether or not "being in love" is worth anything. If you're wondering what's written by Dickens, Fred is in fact already married. Thus, they presented it correctly. Shame on me for being tainted by variations. Bravo to the Goodman Theatre for creating memorable and fantastic variations.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I am still trying to figure out some of the effects. In particular, the window in Nephew Fred’s home. Are you ready for this? It’s snowing! Not that amazing, you say? What if I told you that the window is a fly-on set piece (suspended by wires) and that just the window frame and panes exist. It’s suggestive, there is no wall. And yet…it is snowing. The snow can be seen falling in the glass, but none of it falls behind the bottom of the window pane. (This part isn’t so difficult to solve, as perhaps there is an unseen tray protruding to collect the snow.) However, there is nothing above that could be producing the flakes, as they fall only within the window itself. It’s astounding. Aunt attended last year and I’ll never forget her sincere “Ooooh!” exclaimed in delight at a bit of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s magic.
My favorite part of the tale is when Scrooge arrives on Christmas Day at his nephew’s home. Fred’s fiancé kindly welcoming the repentant miser chokes me up. Call me sentimental, it’s just touching no matter what you say.
And on the subject of A Christmas Carol, isn’t it intriguing how much exposure and alteration this story has seen? It certain endures the test of time. Umpteen movies have been made of it and each one has its great moments. It’s been replicated with authenticity and also completely “abused” into a Flintstones’ special, even by Mr. Magoo. It's been acted quite seriously by cinematic great George C. Scott and done both as a movie and as a One Man Show by the gallant Patrick Stewart. Even lovable crazy man Bill Murray played the miser in the ingeniously re-tooled Scrooged. Kelsey Grammer stars as the miser in a musical also featuring Jane Krakowski from 30 Rock. The Muppets have a take on the tale. Good grief, Barbie’s Christmas Carol is released this season.
Very few stories are as malleable as this one. In whatever form it takes, the poignant message of Dickens shines through like the light of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
If you’re in Chicago, do check it out if you’re never seen the show. You won’t be disappointed. The direct link for tickets and info is here.
Second Post: Fa la la la WOW
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
How it moves around like a living entity all its own?
The “living shadow” does not appear in the play Peter Pan nor does it happen in the book Peter and Wendy. It’s yet another concoction of the House of Mouse. And a slightly (pun noted) damaging one at that, for the free-roaming silhouette has become part of pop culture. (Much like the ruby slippers of Oz.) The mischievous moving shadow even shows up in P.J. Hogan’s version. In fact, he devotes quite a bit of time to it. (Time which might have been spent putting some other aspect of the book onto the screen.)
Please don’t take offense to me pointing it out that it’s not correct. I’ll grant you that it’s a charming idea. But don’t forget that I’m a Pan purist. It’s just my nature to sigh at misrepresentation.
You may now be wondering what DOES happen according to Barrie. You probably remember some of it correctly: Peter’s shadow is snapped off when Nana slams the window down on it as he is escaping from the Darlings’ home. Now for the parts you might not know. Mrs. Darling finds it in Nana’s mouth (after checking for a little boy’s body outside as she saw him leap out a window). She keeps it, rolls it up and stuffs it in a drawer. (You likely remember the drawer.) But what you probably don’t recall is Mrs. Darling's intial inclination. At first she hangs it out the window: He is sure to come back for it; let us put it where he can get it easily without disturbing the children. The narrator goes on to say: But unfortunately Mrs. Darling could not leave it hanging out at the window, it looked so like the washing and lowered the whole tone of the house. So you see, in Barrie’s vision, a shadow does not behave like an inky flat person of free-will. It’s rather like a piece of laundry. I know what you may be thinking…what with all the magic that Peter Pan has been exposed to, wouldn’t his shadow have obtained magical qualities? No, apparently not: You may be sure Mrs. Darling examined the shadow carefully, but it was quite the ordinary kind.
Again, sorry to have debunked Disney’s touch for those who liked it. But let us assume that it is a sentient shadow for a moment. It’s just not logical (outside of it being utterly fantastical). What happens to the shadow when it is re-attached to Peter? It behaves normally, so… does that mean it is now dead, so to speak? Or is it still “alive” and a slave to Pan’s motions? Either notion is creepy. It just doesn’t work, if you ask me.
Now it’s entirely possible that Barrie himself would have relished this idea. If stage effects had been sophisticated enough to have produced a living shadow, would he have wanted one? (Chances are it could be easily accomplished with a scrim and backlighting.) Animation had been in its infancy when the play premiered in 1904. Barrie probably would not have readily thought to produce an animated Pan. And if he had, it would have remained silent anyway. So we are left wondering whether or not he would have enjoyed the “living shadow” concept. There is no way to know for sure. However, I'll admit that it does indeed have a Barriesque quality.
For Peter Pan’s NeverWorld, I decided to make a compromise. Since the idea is in fact ingrained into popular culture but nevertheless incorrect, how could I reconcile the two, as it were? I solved it thus: Peter’s shadow is again “lost” when he arrives on NeverWorld and it is roaming around freely. Did I go against my own rant? No. You see, the shadow is not willfully flitting around. Rather it’s being blown about by the wind. Naturally, I couldn't simply separate him from it without cause. As for what that reason is or how Peter Pan is re-acquainted with his pesky shadow… you’ll have to read the book to find out, of course.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I’ve just run across a group of people who take this idea one step beyond.
Yes, they actually produce the foods! Thankfully, it’s in the context of a contest and not a random and time-intensive act of silliness. (Although, that would be just fine, too!)
Here are some of my favorites:
Peter Pan(cakes) with Berries - Laura Larkin (I think it should be with J.M. Berries, no?)
The Pelican Beef, by John Grisham - Emily Love
Sword and the Scone - Lisa Fager
You can find the article and more photos here.
Monday, December 8, 2008
When writing a book, obviously one keeps notes.
I recently jotted down some ideas for the book I am currently writing. With them, I found myself making a notation. A simple question mark next to one of the thoughts. For you see, I am not entirely sure that it is a viable idea. It certainly may help with the story, but then it may wind up dropping out of the narrative entirely. But I must keep track of it either way, to be sure. I’ll know when I get there, so to speak. I do it often, this putting a ? next to a line.
But where did I pick up the notation? Yes, that’s right, from reading Sir J.M. Barrie’s notebooks. He did just the same. (And some of them, in fact, were not included in the tale of Peter Pan.)
I’m not saying others don’t utilize this quick “perhaps” marking in their notes, nor even that Barrie started it. I’m just pointing out that it’s convenient and useful. And that I personally learned it from a modern mythmaker.
I will try and obtain a picture from Barrie’s scrawling and will post it when I do. I'll also try and make it be one of the "dropped out" ideas from Peter Pan. (Not calling it Peter and Wendy here since the notes would have been for the writing of the play.)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Each of these are reportedly being remade:
Romancing the Stone
Not that I am particularly sighing over They Live. I worked in a movie theater at the time this hit the theaters and saw the better portion of it. No offense to anyone who liked it, but ANY amount of rewriting could only help that flick. But the others... need I say it? Just look at Charlie Brown.
Either way, I have to say I really wish they wouldn’t. Besides my general bitterness (which I am able to lay aside) it just does not seem right that they would re-do one of their more beloved creations. There are many who adore the Disneyified Pan… so why would they want to risk tainting their piece for them? It just doesn’t seem necessary.
And to make it “worse,” Paris Hilton is allegedly in the running and the top choice by Disney executives to play Tinker Bell.
If they are in fact re-doing the Barrie story, I must ask: WHY? Maybe Disney just couldn’t abide that a version which utilizes modern special effects exists that is not their own? Isn’t it bad enough that they used James Newton Howard’s score ‘Flying’ from the P.J. Hogan movie to promote their own theme park in television ads?
The House of Mouse proves once again that for every amazing piece of work (such as the Blu-Ray restoration of Sleeping Beauty) there must be at least one atrocity. Granted, none of us have yet seen the result of this Paris Bell version, so perhaps it’s unfair to proclaim it an atrocity already. But I just can’t see this working out entirely well for Pan fans (Disney or otherwise).
If only we could bring back Sir J.M. Barrie and get all of this sorted out, eh?
And I’m sorry there’s no picture, I just couldn’t bring myself to dignify this post with one.
Update: I found this line - "a Disney project about what would happen if the Peter Pan fairy's life got flipped turned upside down and she ended up a real girl." at this site.
If that's the case, then it's even more ridiculous, for Tinker Bell is not a cartoon. She's a real fairy in the real world. No, I don't mean in our sense of reality, but within the world of Barrie/the story which is also supposed to be "the real world." Perhaps they mean to make it so that the Disney cartoon comes to life? Now that's worse yet, am I right?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Years ago I saw woman an a.m. TV talk show, outraged by the toys being marketed to children. I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, great. We’ve been on this sleigh ride before! But she had a very different area of focus. One that still applies. Here’s her gripe: Storytelling.
She observed many toy “lines” have a story ‘Built In.’ Such as, say, The Transformers [I’m talking “Old School” people, not this butchered, sadly produced new batch! Although her observation is still relevant.] and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. In other words, kids know which characters are good and which are bad. They know what powers they have, their relationships to other characters, even speech patterns. Why? Because they see it on television.
She suggested this impairs a child’s imagination. How can they develop creative skills if the storyline is pre-packaged? Naturally, they will act out what they see on TV. It’s not behooving them to have a formula for their adventures.
An interesting proposition. I can’t say I disagree with her. It is a shame that much of their playtime is dictated to them. However, I cannot fully get on board either. Don’t underestimate the power of the juvenile mind. It’s unlikely they will replicate the activities exactly as they appear on TV. It's entirely possible that even though kids know She-Ra is the long lost twin sister of He-Man and what method of conveyance brings them from planet Etheria to planet Eternia that they will invent their own scenario for the pair of heroes using, say, a treasure chest from some other toy line.
Okay. Now forget about TV and toys for a minute. The woman’s fear can easily be applied to books. For what child doesn’t also act out the escapades of characters in books? Tell me there aren’t little boys pretending to be Peter Pan and little girls who assume the role of Pippi Longstocking. (As you may have read in my interview, I am guilty as charged. No, not Pippi. I played at being Pan.) And in so doing, are the kids not also locked into the traits, abilities and mannerisms of a pre-established storyline? When I played as Peter Pan, we did not re-enact Barrie’s story. Rather we had a grand time thinking up other adventures in the Neverland. Thus, I’ve re-illustrated my point.
I suppose it all comes down to the child and how far inside the well of Improv they are willing to reach. Or will the force-fed tendency of their playthings win out? It’s like a coin, two sides. Let’s hope they spend the playtime wisely.
How do you feel about it? Do you think kids today are less likely to develop creative and imaginative skills because of the media dictating what they should think and do with their toys? Or is this woman, as I say, underestimating the power of child’s mind?
*By the way, as you might recall, the rest of the Toys 'R' Us line is "I don't want to grow up." That part I can agree with!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I know what you might be thinking…why? Well, we figured it would at least be eye candy. Especially in High Definition. For free. Even if the story and acting left everything to be desired, it would at least look damn cool. And – it’s in 3-D. Oh…did I mention that Bart as a crush on Brendan Fraser? (Can't say I don't agree with him.)
I’m a fan of the Jules Verne book, so I’d become curious as to how they handled it. Going into it (in fact many, many moons before the film’s theatrical release) I knew the premise. I certainly did not expect it to follow the book. Nor did I plan to scoff at the “additions.” I just wanted to have fun with it.
And you know what? I really did. I quite enjoyed it. Is it a great movie? No. But it’s well done and quite the ride. The acting is great. The effects are marvelous. The adventure walks the line between fantastic and plausible. (Okay, mostly fantastic…but hey, it’s a “summer action flick,” it’s supposed to stretch the truth.)
One of the more refreshing aspects is the character of Hannah Ásgeirsson played skillfully by Anita Briem. Refreshing in that she is not a complaining bimbo. However, she is not a bookish annoyance, either. She’s a delight. How wonderful to have a strong female character in a such a film. And yet, she didn’t overdo the “macho” either. Quite the wily feminine side as well. See for yourself – you will like Hannah the Mountain Guide.
As for the premise, quickly: Brendan Fraiser plays a professor who is saddled with his nephew. The professor continues his brother’s work, who disappeared looking into seismic activity. He left a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth for his son (the nephew). Notes in the book reveal that book that it may not be fiction after all. The conditions for entering the Earth are about to occur. Naturally, they investigate. Adventure abounds.
I particularly liked when they came to the elaborate mine car track which prompted the lines, Is this in the book? – Sean, the nephew. No, I don’t think so. - Prof. Trevor Anderson. [It’s not ;) ] They had a sense of humor about their own over-fabrication. Nice to see.
Even by the time we reached the end, it had not made me roll my eyes. It remained entertaining. I recall Bart saying a third of the way through, “Ok, I’m not hating this…”
So, there you have it. Sure, it’s a little campy. But you would figure that going into, right? It’s just plain fun.
Sadly the 3-D glasses use the blue/red method rather than polarized, so a ghosting is involved. But WHOA! It matters little. 'Tis truly amazing to have otherwise crisp 3-D manifestations right there in the living room. Even single strands of hair popped out.
I just wish it had another title. For technically, it is not the book, so it "can't" be called as such. Alas, I cannot think of a better one. I mean, Our Journey to the Center of the Earth is stupid. Or New Journey. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about it. My point is just that it's a charming play off the book while referencing it within the movie. That deserves a more descriptive and clever name. Any ideas?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Bart and took another step into the 21st Century. Our 52” widescreen flat HDTV arrived. Hosah. We also now have a Blu-Ray player and HD TiVo (150 hours of HD storage). To quote Napoleon Dynamite, “SWEET!”
That’s what we did on Saturday…waited beyond the “window” of time for the delivery and patiently waited for it to be set up. As you may know from the cover flap of Peter Pan’s NeverWorld, Bart and I live on the third floor. It’s a walk up. Obviously we did not want to lug it up ourselves when we could have someone used to the task do it for us. But we’re the “recipients who care” as we had coffee, orange juice, multi-flavor bagels from ‘Einstein!’ and both regular and strawberry cream cheese spread. He told us that many folks don’t even offer water!
I’m not going to typing rave about how “sweet” it is…you all either know or can imagine.
As of right now, we have to wait until tomorrow evening to actually get HD channels…or even cable stations like the Food Network (a favorite of Bart, my adorable cook.) It’s because of a lack of knowledge both on my part and on the part of our cable provider. The cable provider is notorious for making “customer service” an oxymoron. [Thanks to Mission Improvisational, see post here.] However, don’t think me a moron. My misunderstanding is caused by unfamiliarity. We no longer have a “cable box.” A “cable card” slides into our TiVo and it becomes both. So the card equals/replaces the box. Completely foreign and wacky concept to me. Cable Provider had told me "oh just plug it in!" but...NO. "Lied" to, again. They need to activate it somehow and cannot do so until Tuesday because not enough people are aware of how to do it. (The technology/procedure is “foreign” to many, including their own staff.)
Having a dual tuner TiVo makes it all the more wonderful. And Bart is truly astounded and satisfied with the amazing quality of Disney’s first Blu-Ray animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. (It’s his favorite.) I gave him the Blu-Ray of it (as well as the enhanced regular DVD version) for our Anniversary this past October. So only now (then) has he been able to experience its glory. [And, yes, I too relish said glory.]
Okay. Enough about the 21st Century upgrade at our place.
The rest of our weekend (when not seeing [and learning remotes and settings and such of] the magnitude) had its share of delights. We had a lovely meal on Saturday night at the home of a family which is friends with ours.
Sunday morning we brunched with Dragonfly and Tall Boy. We had them meet us at our place first, as they had not been told about the “new arrival.” Needless to say, they Oooed and Ahhhed. We then went on to brunch, choosing a place just blocks from where we live. For the weather proved rather unwelcoming. Yes, Winter has officially come to Chicago. We braved the sleet-like rain and wind, rewarded, thankfully, with a great meal and a lovely visit. Tall Boy regaled us with some inside information on The Ville, his live theatre soap opera. Even better, he told us about the opera he has conceived. It's marvelously inventive...and it had been inspired by something Dragonfly said. How great is that? I wish could explain the premise to you, but 1) it is not place to do so with an unestablished work and 2) it's something you'd be better off discovering. It's that imaginative. "Wow," said I with utmost weight and sincerity to Tall Boy. "Yeah," he replied, "I've been thinking about this for a while now." Let us hope that he finds the time and gumption to bring it to fruition!
Meanwhile, Winter progressed to horrendous as the day wore on into a nighttime snowy, icy mess. But it looks damn pretty everywhere!
I then spent much of the rest of Sunday cleaning up the den. Before the new TV came, we had been using the television I use to play Wii, for we gave our living room TV to friends who had a television a fraction of the size of most folks. (Circa 18”) Since they have two adorable little girls, we knew they’d enjoy receiving a bigger screen, too. They also inherited our all-the-bells-and-whistles DVD player. Hooray for sharing and caring. Thus, since the TV had been removed, I took the opportunity to dust and just generally clean up and out and entire room. It had become a tangled overstuffed mess. Incidentally, the den is also where the computer is and hence, where I do my writing.
All righty, thanks for letting me ramble about my lovely weekend.
I’ll be back on track with story/writing posts tomorrow with a review of the movie we watched in HD.