Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tending the Garden...

For those interested in knowing more about
Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens
a couple of sites flew my way...

Click here for details on director, set designer, etc.

Click here for info with pictures

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Too Bad...

Ever had the experience where you think you’ve seen a movie and then you watch it again only to realize that you in fact did not see the film? Obviously I have.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad recently released on Blu-Ray. Bart decided he wanted it, so we loaded up the Blu-Ray player. Eventually it became clear that I had been mixing this one up with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Understandable. I hope.

What a treat, then, to see more of legendary Ray Harryhausen’s incredible “dynamation.” I rather enjoyed the story, too. Oh, it’s not anything terribly compelx or unexpected for a Sinbad adventure. But I did like the way certain elements tied together. In other words, they utilized what they had established rather than just fill it with crazy creatures and fantastical situations. Nice foreshadowing, good build up of wonderment and anitcipation. One part did bother me. When Sinbad finally takes the helm to navigate a perilous storm and screeching creatures by steering to safety through a narrow passage of rocks, the film fades out just as the action would occur. I felt entirely cheated. If not by missing the scene then at least the triumphant musical score that would have accompanied it. One thing also worth mentioning: The genie. I suppose I shall have to go against my initial words, as the genie is rather unexpected. I won’t spoil it for those who have not seen it. Otherwise, a fairly tight tale, full of mistrust, daring, clanging swords, magic and mystical mayhem.

As is my penchant, I now have the gumption to pursue the origins of the Sinbad story. Bart told me he’s part of 1001 Arabian Nights. And I’ve made a quick look at Wikipedia. It seems his story is actually "set," unlike the malleable Robin Hood or Baron Munchausen. One of these days, when I’ve got less to do, I’ll have to delve into the marvelous adventures of the famed sailor.

I believe a musical is in the works, as is another motion picture.
Maybe I’ll be prompted by those to sail into the legend...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What, AGAIN?!

What do all of these movies have in common?
Hollywood is remaking them.

Yes, they will be recalled in the neverending "art" of not having a clue.

Unnecessary. (Very few remakes are.)

The only upshot is the new The NeverEnding Story will allegedly be more faithful to the book, able to do parts glossed over in the first movie by F/X constraints. Also, for those of you who have not read it, the film only used the first third of Michael Ende's amazing novel.

And another bit of good news in this sad sea of re-dos:
A friend told me that the Rosemary's Baby remake, which I ranted about in the post Stop the Inanity! has been kiboshed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Air Head

C.J. Redwine, author of the upcoming Shadowing Fate (and who also interviewed me), related a doozy of an anecdote from her trials as a member of the wait staff at her daily grind on her blog The Last Word. A comment to that post referred to a scene from my own retail tribulations. I’ll share that story with you now. (And be sure to read C.J.'s post if you have not already.)

As an Assistant Manager of a party store, I’d seen and heard my share of “stupid.” But hey, we all ask dumb questions or play the fool occasionally. But sometimes… you have to wonder how certain people have the wherewithal to dress themselves in the morning.

Before I actually begin, I should mention that it seems 50% of the population does not know balloons will only last 12 to 20 hours. People come in on Thursday to pick up (not schedule a pick up, mind you, but to take home right then and there) balloons for a party on Sunday. In fairness, I can see how the confusion might happen. A mylar balloon (the foil kind) does last a week or so. And with Hi-Float, a balloon can last as much as three days. (Hi-Float is a gel placed inside the balloon which dries and clogs the pores so that the helium cannot escape so easily.) Perhaps, not knowing of this treatment, one could erroneously believe balloons normally last longer. Okay, now 50% of those people (that’s 25% for us non math majors) do not know you need helium for a balloon to rise. And then… there is this woman. At least she could read and knew about helium. Sort of…

When customers buy a package of balloons, naturally they are asked if they need them to be blown up. Sally (the boss’s sister and also an employee) inquired. Occupied otherwise, I listened in…

Woman: Oh…no. I’ll do it.
Sally: Do you have a helium tank?
Woman: What?
Sally: A helium tank to blow them up. Or don’t you need them to float?
Woman: I will do it. I’ll blown them up.
Sally: You don’t need them to float?
Woman: What? Of course.
Sally: Then you’ll have a helium tank?
Woman: No. I’ll just blow them up. (She gestured as to blowing it up with her mouth.)
Sally: (blinking) Uh, no. You need a helium tank. I can direct you to a place that…
Woman: (pointing to the package) But it says ‘Helium Balloons.’ These are helium balloons. They float.
Sally: No. That means they are helium-quality balloons. They’re designed to hold helium. Most balloons are too thin.
Woman: (perplexed) But… they’re helium balloons.
Sally: But you still need to fill them with -
Woman: (pointing as if Sally didn’t get it) These are helium balloons!
Sally: But, you see….

I couldn’t let this proceed any further. So I got up, grabbed a balloon and placed it on a nozzle. The result? A plump dewdrop of laytex fell over in my hand. The Woman looked on as if I’d pulled a wombat out of my ear.

Woman: Why isn’t it going up?!?
Me: This nozzle just produces air. It’s connected to a compressor in the basement. It’s just air. This over here (showing helium tank) is filled with helium. It’s a “special” gas, lighter than air. But this is just regular air.

The Woman looked utterly confused. She stared, wondering why on earth it would stay resting alongside my fist rather than perk upright. Then, her face perked up. She got it.

Woman: Put a ribbon on it!
(She said this triumphantly, as if she had just solved an evil calculus problem.)
My turn to blink. But, to show her the ridiculousness of her solution, I did. I tied the balloon to a yard of ribbon. I now had a balloon going in reverse, so to speak, looking like a Science Fair model of an unmotivated major component of the reproductive system. The Woman, needless to say, stared on with sheer bamboozlement.

Woman: WHY? Why isn’t it going up?!?
Me: Because this is not -
A revelation!
Woman: Put a weight on it! The weight’s heavier - it will make it go up!

Really? Did she even factor in that I weigh considerably more than a hunk of wood? What sort of logic is this? Physics scholars everywhere be warned: Ye have it all wrong!

At this point, I could take no more, handed Sally the balloon, and retreated to the office upstairs. Don’t ask me how the Woman fared, I tuned out.

I suppose I should tie this unbelievable occurrence into writing. And what comes to mind is when Sparrow, my college Writing Prof, taught us that not everything can happen in fiction. Oh, it’s an irony to be sure. A student, following the adage “write what you know” included a series of events in his story. Sparrow questioned it, citing the absurdity of the scenario. “But it really happened!! To my dad!” Sparrow went on to say that he didn’t doubt that it actually took place. “But not in fiction.” Just because something is true, it does not mean it makes for plausible storytelling. Yes, there is a suspension of disbelief…but it can be stretched too far. If it sounds overly outlandish, it probably won’t sit right among the rest of the written landscape. (Unless, of course, the tone and intent of the entire piece is comprised of outlandish events such as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.)

Helium Woman, as it stands, would not ring true in a narrative.
Because truth and stupidity are stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jet Stream the Imagination...

Hot Tub Time Machine

Believe it or not, that’s the (current) name of an upcoming movie.
Jeepers! Conjures up quite the scenarios, doesn’t it?
Don’t know about you, but I picture a loving parody of Sid & Marty Krofft shows like Dr. Shrinker and The Lost Saucer. (Yes, I know there are many more of them…) Can’t you just see it? Jim Carrey impersonating Jim Nabors alongside Tina Fey doing Ruth Buzzi and with oh, say, Zac Efron and BeyoncĂ© mixed up in their madcap adventures in this portable time traveling hot tub…good lord. No, I don’t actually want to see such a movie produced. But my, oh my, say it again: Hot Tub Time Machine. I mean, really. It could be the boost Eddie Murphy needs beyond his hilarious Donkey in the Shrek series. “HoT tUB!” So much to play with…
Not surprisingly, the actual movie plot is nothing like what I imagined. Surely it’s not as extreme.

The script, by Josh Heald, follows a group of guys who have grown frustrated with their adult lives. They return to the ski lodge where they partied as teens to find answers and are transported to 1987 via their hot tub, a bubbly time machine. - Quoted from this page.

At this stage I’m not as grabbed as I would be if Murphy grabbed a microphone.
But then, the jury is still out on that one anyway…
What happens with your Hot Tub Time Machine?

Eddie Murphy - James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the only one who is charmed by this movie title. I saw a blurb in the Chicago Red Eye newspaper. The cyber-version of the mini-article can be found on this page.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Barren Munchausen??

Well, I’ve finally finished The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen which I began here. And what’s most surprising? That the wild escapades are nowhere near as outlandish as they have been made out to be over the years. Oh sure, the Colossus of Rhodes comes to life, a horse gallops to drink and cannot quench its thirst because its entire half a body is gone and the Baron can take out a bear while fighting with several other men… but nothing as wacky and utterly fantastical as other tales have made him out to be!

Then again, I had been reading the “first incarnation” of the Baron by Raspe. Certainly there has been quite a lot of time to embellish and add upon the stories over the decades. And thankfully, storytellers have. But I’d been (excuse me) surprised by certain things not being originally part of the scenes. Such as the now iconic plight of the Baron riding a cannonball. It’s not just in Terry Gilliam’s movie, but can be seen in the old German motion picture as well. Where did it come from? Obviously one of the embellishers in the tradition of the Baron’s mode of relating his adventures. But as for who added it or what version it first appeared in… well, the internet is way too thick with information on the Gilliam movie and such to wade through. (I’ve tried.) And I’ve too much on my plate to trek to the library. So, I will just have to be content knowing that there are many people who contributed to the creation of a narrative giant.

It is thusly difficult to say how much of Terry Gilliam’s wonderful epic came from his own imagination or other sources of the Baron. Oh sure…there are similarities of elements - Raspe has plenty of hot air balloons, Vulcan’s pit, a giant fish and impossible feats…but none of it is to the degree or magnitude of the film. And I don’t mean that it can just be chalked up to making it more sensational for the movie. In general, despite the incorporated elements, there is little to do with the first written Baron. For instance, I had been looking forward to knowing more about Munchausen’s servants: Adolphus, Berthold, Gustavus and Albrecht. They do not exist. I have not been able to discern whether or not Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown created them or not. Perhaps the servants were merely for the “gather the old friends” device to thread the adventures together. Either way, they are marvelous and ingenious. I honestly believe the additions (including the troupe of actors staging his adventures) to be nothing short of brilliant. Bravo!

I watched the featurette/documentary on the DVD, hoping for some explanation as to the Baron's adventures…and all I learned had been that Gilliam began his fascination with the Dore drawings for the Raspe stories. Okay, I also found out that the Moon sequence had been intended to be more like Rapse's. Much more like it. But due to the constraints and misfortune during the production, it had to be revamped entirely. As for the rest of it, I’d imagine he and McKeown ransacked other adventures as well. But where and what and how much? It seems for now I shall not know.

Although it might seem so in this post, the Baron's surprising adventures are not so startling. They are just a bit exaggerated. I can only delight in the fact that many have pulled a Baron Munchausen and the truth of their lie is fantastically incontrovertible.

Long live the Baron!

The Baron Conundrum
Recounting the Baron's Tales, Finally (or Again.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Look What Jackson Has...

Well, Michael Jackson's auction of items is either about to go on, is going on or has already concluded. I'm not really sure...and don't have the gumption to check, as I am not so much interested. Then why am I mentioning it? Because of the photo on the left. Normally it seems his liking of Peter Pan dwells on the Disney version (as the Neverland Ranch is littered with large figurines of the animated Pan and such.) But he apparently also has a first printing from 1911! Wow!

I'm not going to open the can of worms about Michael Jackson. Suffice to say I appreciate a good portion of his material and try to ignore just as much of it. But I will say that I never understood the idea of a "Ranch" of the Neverland. It's an island, sir. Yes, I do see how it's a "fantasy escape" locale, a private place of wonderment. But just doesn't fly with me. (Deal with the pun.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking Another Shot at Hood

I always love to see some clear thinking.
Especially when it comes to storytelling.
A while back I posted about Robin Hood. I’d looked into the character and his legend after being charmed by his latest incarnation from the BBC.
I also reported on the recent stirrings in Hollywood under the direction of Ridley Scott. Well, it’s time to stir up the story again…and I’m liking this batch.

It seems their twist of Russell Crowe playing dual roles (Hood and the Sheriff) is no longer hitting the mark. Scott described it to MTV as an idea so far back, way back when at the time I had this proposed to me, and I read it and thought, 'I don't really know what it does for it, but it's alright.' It is better to simply have the evolution of a character called Robin Hood… I read this as an assertion that the dual roles do not provide a clear thematic nor dramatic purpose. Refreshing to see something isn’t being made simply for the sake of it. And I like his other ideas, too. The figure of the Sheriff of Nottingham is now less important, as the enemy in this version is the French. The filmmakers see it as a larger, more threatening adversary for a big-budget picture. Robin Hood’s beginnings are as a bowman in the army of English King Richard the Lionheart. Sounds like a promising variation to me…

…for as I discovered in the last post about Robin Hood, his tale is one of the most amorphous in the literary world. The very foundation of the story is change. Sure, there are interlocking bits here and there, treasured favorite moments and details…but all of them are subject to who is telling the story. A story which always remains true to its spirit.

Bring on the new Hood, Mr. Scott and Mr. Crowe.
And while we’re on the subject…I’m quite anxious for the new season of the BBC’s Robin Hood. Anyone else see the variation in the season finale? Jeepers!

Monday, February 16, 2009

LONDON Bound...

Well, we now have our tickets to
Peter Pan AT Kensington Gardens.

As well as our hotel.

And plane tickets.

I did some detective work worthy of Sherlock Holmes and saved us $850.

We're going to LONDON!

A countdown timer is in the sidebar...
look and see how many days are left until we make the flight!

If you have no idea what Peter Pan at Kensington Gardens is, see my previous post:
I Won't Title This By The Clash Song...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Welcome to the (Other) Jungle

Way too long ago, back before Disney's endeavors to give sequels to things that never asked for one nor needed one, I had a wish for a sequel from the House of Mouse.

As you can see from the picture, yes, I wanted more The Jungle Book. In fact, that is what I felt it should be titled: More Jungle Book. (Note that I did not call it something so utterly uncreative and hackneyed as The Jungle Book 2.) I did not watch Disney's first animated feature based on Rudyard Kipling's book until college. It instantly found a spot in my Top 5 favorite Disney animations. It also made me realize that I had not yet read the book. As per my penchant for source material, I journeyed into the wild lands of India. Mowgli's adventures enthralled just as much in print, naturally. I couldn't help compare it with the House of Mouse...and as to be expected, they didn't quite get it right. The most notable "offense" is the King of the Monkeys. The book stressed that the monkeys have no leader and live chaotically. A contrast to the ever imporant Law of the Jungle. And yet... King Louie brought such joy! Not only a remarkablly entertaining personality (both in animation and Louis Prima) but despite the "law" they worked him into the plot beautifully. Overall, the scene felt as if it could have been in the original.

I soon learned through reading that Disney only used the first third or so of the book. Not surprising. The entire novel would have been a much longer movie, especially when it needs to be paired with classic Disney touches. I wanted those touches, though. I wanted more. I could see it...

I then learned that in its day, The Jungle Book proved so popular that Disney released a supplentary album starring Phil Harris (Baloo). To my delight, the songs matched with the rest of the book! Now I had to have it realized as an animated feature!

And then, one day, it came. And it looked... awful. Maybe I stuck my nose up at it in haste, but from the ads and trailer, nothing endeared me to it. Besides, it didn't have the other 'new' songs in it, even though the storyline still warranted them. No, they made it painfully clear that they decided to rehash 'Bare Necessities' ad nauseum. And had "sold out" on voice talent name recognition. Bitter much? At the time I also wondered why they didn't call again on Ed Gilbert, the man who did the voice for Baloo in Tale Spin, an animated TV series deliciously derived from Disney's The Jungle Book. Turns out Mr. Gilbert passed in 1999, before the sequel. Too bad, for Mr. Gilbert widened my eyes and tickled my ears with his impression of Phil Harris. Spot on. Eeriely so. Thankfully so. I just learned this from Wikipedia:
One of his most memorable roles was as the voice of Baloo the bear in the Disney animated TV series, TaleSpin. Originally, the role was supposed to go to Phil Harris, who had voiced Baloo in the original 1967 film, The Jungle Book. However, after one recording session, it was found that he had aged to the point where he could no longer do the voice successfully (his voice cracked). To perfect his rendition of Baloo's voice, Ed listened to old recordings of Phil Harris and practiced for many hours until he had it just right.
I truly admire such dedication to art. Bravo, Ed Gilbert! And thank you.
Back to The Jungle Book 2. As you might have guessed, I chose to leave it alone. And then one day recently, while plunking about the television, I see the Toon Disney channel airing it. With a shrug, my trusty TiVo would pick it up for me.
I didn't pounce on remained on the Now Playing list for quite a while. One night...oh maybe last Thursday, while Bart entered the IntraWeb, I sat down and began to watch.
I'll admit I set into it with a mild grudge. I say mild because such a long time had passed that I had gotten over the initial disappointments. To be fair, I decided to give the film an actual chance. Yet it did not prevent me from disappointment right off the bat. Already it had steered away from the rest of Kipling's book - the parts that I really wanted to see. But I kept watching. Typical over-cutening and aggravating additions. No sign of the real book in sight. But I kept watching. And then...the JUNGLE. Once we ventured back into the jungle, felt good again. Oh, I don't mean in felt like the original. But as close as anyone is ever going to be. I should mention here that the art is spot on - the colors, the layering, the drawing style - all of that is right. And the voices? Yes, I had complained about them. And no, they're not quite right. But truthfully? They did the job well. Bravo John Goodman and Haley Joel Osment. And a special thanks to Tony Jay, whose impreccable and eerie (like Ed Gilbert) impression of George Sanders as Shere Khan also brought magic to Tale Spin.

So. There I am in the jungle of Disney's second installment. What a treat to see Baloo interacting with Colonel Hathi! What fun to see Kaa slinking into self-slaughter again. Yes, I enjoyed it very much. We all knew the characters interacted more than they did in the original movie (and book) and Disney delivered.

After a little while, I began to reinterpret their reinterpretation for the first third of the movie. In other words, I realized that perhaps the basic essence had been like the book, just Disneyified. As I recall it from the book, Mowgli is shunned and feared somewhat in the "Man Village" for his ability to talk to animals, knowing roots and leaves that soothe...along this vein. He's accused of witchcraft, to a degree. Realizing he doesn't belong there, he goes back into the jungle and sets out to kill Shere Khan once and for all to prove himself to both the jungle and the village. Disney traded his wary wizardlys for too much talk about the jungle and reckless behavior, as it corrupted the tender mind of a sickeningly cute little boy who idolizes Mowgli. When a musical parade (of course) led by Mowgli almost leads everyone into the jungle (with the music naturally about the how great the jungle rhythm is), Mowgli is "grounded." Enter Baloo (after various hijinx) into the village, exiting with Mowgli. I won't delineate all of it for you, in case you want to see it. Besides, the point is that okay, perhaps they rearranged it entirely. But the distrust of Mowgli and his desire to escape remains intact. They also comepletely turned around the Shere Khan aspect. Khan is seeking revenge on Mowgli. (Typical Disney-cleaning.) And where is King Louie during all of this? That's another thing that pleased me. Although so very sad to not see his return, the truth is the film returned to the book. Baloo explains that King Louie skipped out a long time ago. Now the ruined city is just a place of "partying." Like the original book. It balanced out.

So, as you can tell, maybe I didn't need to hate this as much as I thought. And then....
Villagers other than Mowgli held conversations with animals. Unacceptable. Yes, I realize the time constraints of the film. The fast paced action scenes had to roll onward. However, a slip up like that is not minor. Why on earth would the villagers, who had been trained to stay out of the jungle and fear it (as per the Disney film) suddenly, when confronted with their fear, articulately and intelligibly communicate in words? Um, no. Hand gestures, I could see. Ignoring one another until both realize the goal is helping Mowgli and then understanding enough to assist each other? Even better. But talking to them? No. Only Mowgli knows the languages of the jungle. Did it kill the movie for me? No. On the whole, I enjoyed it. But it vexed me, sure.

Lots to enjoy in it, despite it foibles and shameless overuse of 'Bare Necessities' without so much as new lyrics.

Maybe I should watch some Tale Spin now.

*The picture is from the ViewMaster version.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh Puck - I Screwed Up!

I did something very bad last night.
But we believe we rectified it.
What did I do?
I’ll lead up to it.

Yesterday I received an email from a friend I do not see very often. It’s a shame I do not see him, as he lives in the city. (Chalk it up to busy schedules, laziness, etc. - you know how it goes.) He had an extra ticket to TimeLine Theatre’s world premiere production, Not Enough Air. It had been short notice, as in, “What are you doing tonight?” Not wanting to miss the opportunity to see a live show for free as well as catch up with NutTree, I hurried through my errands (which did not take nearly as long as I anticipated, thank goodness) and met him at the show.

As we waited for the black out in the little black box theatre space, NutTree and I caught up on life. He told me he started reading Peter Pan’s NeverWorld, only to realize three chapters in that it would probably behoove him to read Peter and Wendy first. He received a beautiful copy for Xmas and he’s been taking it slow, savoring the short but bittersweet tale of Barrie. Then he can properly move on to mine. But enough about Pan.

Our dialogue flowed in the way that conversations do. Eventually I told him about the new friend Bart and I have made (let’s call him Banky) because Banky, NutTree and I all like the music of Phish. (Although I’m not as “into” them as most, or as much as I had been at one time.) I related how during one of Banky’s visits, Lage and Bart (who are not so much into Phish) became quite freaked out by their song My Friend, My Friend which includes the line “…he’s got a knife” and does indeed become rather unnerving. NutTree knew precisely why I mentioned it, having been equally freaked with him too many moons ago at Knox College when he brought Phish to our group of friends.

Flowing ever talkatively onward, we discovered that he had also been to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s recent production of Amadeus, which I posted about here. We relished aloud at all the marvels - the costumes, the acting… and NutTree whole-heartedly agreed Salieri (actor Robert Sella) “had” us from the first anguished cry of “MOZART!” I went on to say how nearly everything Chicago Shakespeare does is top notch and amazingly crafted. I said how Bart and I have Season Tickets…and…. and… and… ok, here’s the bad thing. Yes, I did it. I said, “Bart and I are seeing their Macbeth in couple weeks.” EEK! I immediately, clichĂ©dly cupped my mouth and asked, “What did I just DO?” (For those of you not familiar with theatrical traditions, it is the utmost bad luck to say that name in a theatre if the Bard’s play is not in production. It is to be referred to as The Scottish Play. Some even go as far as not to say the name Macbeth in any situation other than a current production or classroom setting.) NutTree, no stranger to theatre himself, looked half horrified and half amused. “What do I DO?” I panicked.

NutTree didn’t have an immediate answer, and I scoured my brain to come up with a solution. Then, NutTree said, “My friend, my friend, he’s got a knife is this a dagger I see before me?” (The “dagger” line is from the Scottish play, if you’re not aware.) I then added, “In the show BlackAdder two actors dispel it by saying, I think, somehting like, ‘Hot potato off the shores Puck will make amends!’”

NutTree grinned and chuckled and said, “Pete, I think we just counteracted it. We’ll be fine.”

Fortunately, nothing went wrong as far as we could tell. And we were treated to a stunning bit of theatre. I adored the sound design, by Andrew Hansen. Bravo! All the elements of the play proved to be engaging. But the sound I found nothing short of brilliant, the glue which held all the other elements in place. I recommend Masha Obolensky's Not Enough Air highly. Bravi! I plan to see it again for all of its nuances. And I think Bart will appreciate it very much.

In my defense (as if I deserved any) I have been saying Macbeth unabashedly and freely quite a bit lately, considering that we are seeing the show very soon and Sunshine is currently studying and performing Lady Scottish Play. By the way, she has had quite astonishing insights into the play and the Lady. I urge you to read them:

I'm Bringing Unsexing Back: My Lady M
CSI Shakespeare: Investigating Lady Macbeth's Death

But the really sad part? This is not my first offense of this crime.

Awaiting the tomato storm.

UPDATE: Upon seeing this, Sunshine made her own post and details the Curse of the Scottish Play. Did You Just Say the M Word? Spin, Spit, Curse, and Knock She also posted the clip from BlackAdder that I spoke of in this post. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kindle Raising Heat

Amazon’s new Kindle 2 is causing controversy. A new feature “text-to-speech” is being discredited by the Author’s Guild as copyright infringement since it allows the work to be “performed.”

Once again, Neil Gaiman has some wit and sense:

When you buy a book, you're also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one's going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors' societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what's good about them with it.

I’ll agree with him, how about you?

For more info on this subject, will provide it here.

As for Kindle itself, I am on the fence. While I see the many benefits, there is something to be said for having an actual book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Been Done Before...

Surely you have been a victim of this particular type of time vampire.

The questions may change:

Or the exact form may alter:

But it always boils down to the same thing:

Dole out trivia about yourself to others, adding a touch of wit to some of the replies.

Well, the truth is that it's not just a product of the 21st Century technology.
It reaches into history, over 100 years ago. (Or at least that far!)

Check out The Querist's Album from 1877...and who filled in the answers.

Yes, Barrie! (With quite the rejoinders!)

You won't be able to read it from the picture on the left.

You can find a direct link to it here:

The Queriest's Album

I knew of it from my studies, thanks to the archives of Andrew Birkin, the world's leading authority on Barrie and Pan. I obtained this image from his amazing site. I have a link posted on the left in the sidebar.

So the next time you find yourself filling out an inane fact generator, know that you're in good company, as they say...and hope that you can say something as thought provoking as Barrie's answer to

"At what age should a man marry?"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ruh-Roh! (The Hidden 'Jetsons' Message?)

I started to wonder about the reason for the design of the buildings in The Jetsons. Yes, we all love them - those very cool super deluxe versions of Seattle’s Space Needle. However… are they actually something sinister?

My question is: why are they raised up so high on the spokes? Perhaps the Earth is so polluted and the air so tainted that they needed to rise high above it to escape it? Not such a fun cartoon now, is it? Over analyzing can be both a very good and very bad thing. But, to write and understand stories, it’s a necessary process.

By the way, they’re making a live-action feature eventually. It’s been in production hell for a good long while. I’m not opposed to it. But then, I’m not looking forward to it. I understand the appeal of “real-izing” all that fabulous technology. I just have one casting suggestion: Mr. Spacely. Let’s face it. It’s has to be Danny DeVito. Just put a moustache on him. Recall both his and Spacely's yelling. The slight rasp of their voices. (If not DeVito, I would accept Jason Alexander or Wallace Shawn. But am I not right? DeVito.)

What I really want to see, however, are the little rings around the sleeves, dresses and boots. I loved those as a kid. And since CGI will make them happen lickety-split...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Coraline Sewn Up with Slightly Irregular Stitching

I just returned from seeing Coraline, the new stop motion animated movie based on the book by Neil Gaiman. I've already discussed Coraline here and again here, when I read it. Since I did enjoy the book, I had been awaiting the movie.

I did not leave disappointed.
Nor did I leave satisfied.

All in all, it's a well done film and does not disparage the essence of the book. It's visually remarkable, especially because we viewed it in 3D. Not that it is a technical marvel, for it's on par with other stop-motion movies. It neither advances nor lessens the effect. However, Gaiman's imagination always includes stunning elements,manifested here beautifully by an impressive artistic design. Truly a delight to see the Mouse Circus actually perform, let me tell you. Though it does not match my own perception of it, I very much admired and could agree with the visualization. (Except for the look of the Hand...I did not so much see it as mechanical and from the description, neither did Gaiman.) The 3D proved refreshing, as it did not inundate with gimmicky "look at THIS in 3-D!!" tricks. Sure, these do occur, but they are tasteful and sensible - such as a needle poking through from the other side of fabric at you. (Sewing is a big bit in the storyline.) These "coming at you!" moments are few and far between, allowing the 3D to become just another part of the design, enhancing without overpowering.

As you might recall from the other post, I went in with expectant reservations. I'd learned that they tweaked the story, at least as much as adding a friend for Coraline. But Gaiman approved and understood the alteration. So I had to adjust my critque based on this knowledge. He worked well enough, but not so well that I could see the justification for his being there. An interesting note on this: The new character is Wybie, short for Wybourn. I'm not sure why born, actually.

And here's a reason why his inclusion did not sit well with me. It seems in order to "justify" his existence, he helps at the "secodary" climax (trust me, there is such a thing in this story) which consequently changes the ending, although the result is the same. The problem I have is that this undermines Coraline's ingenuity as a character. This little girl must be very resourceful and slick, able to outwit the otherworldly villain. In the book, we watch her figure a way to entrap the baddie using elements and aspects which appear earlier in the book. (One of those scenes containing a bit of her strategy had also been removed from the movie, by the way.) I did not enjoy someone helping her in an action oriented way. I much prefer seeing the cleverness of Coraline's plan unfold in the novel. Why are we robbing her of her moment?

Other than that, though, they produced a very entertaining movie from a very fun book.

If youre're interested in knowing the change in the ending, the SPOILER info is below in a color that helps hide it. Highlight the text with your mouse to see it better.

In the book: Coraline hears the scuttling severed hand of the Other Mother roaming about her house, looking for the key. She finally sees it and decides to once again deceive her. She goes out to the well, which had been beyond the Other Mother's creational reach in the Other World and sets up a tea party over the well, so that it appears as a table. She must finagle it to balance, etc. There with her stuffed animals for the party, she places the key on the "table." The Hand leaps for it, the weight of which drags the tea set and such down the well along with it.

In the movie: She runs to the well, being chased by the Hand. She tries to throw it down it down the well, but she struggles with it, losing. Wybie comes charging in on his motorbike. He picks up a rock, throws it and smashes the hand. And together they throw it down the well.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Day for Pans

Today marks a little coincidence.

Today is the day (1953) that Disney released its animated feature of Sir J.M. Barrie's classic.

As it so happens, today is also the birthday of Jeremy Sumpter, who played Peter Pan in the 2003 live-action movie.

And is it just me, or do the posters have a similar feel to them?

Also curious: Tinker Bell does not appear on Disney's original poster.
Go figure.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Opera Bound Again...

I’ll be continuing my opera education tonight. Bart and I have had Season tickets for many years now. And Bart informs me that I have seen a great amount of both famous (such as The Marriage of Figaro, Madame Butterfly, Die Fledermaus) and rare opera (such as Regina, Midsummer Marriage, Manon) in that time. I’ve seen a few of them more than once now. But each time is, of course, different performers and sometimes different stagings, so it works out to be a new experience.

Tonight is Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. It’s a new one for me, and Bart says it has gorgeous duets. I’m certainly familiar with Wagner’s other works. His Siegfried (a 5 hour opera!) is my favorite. Siegfried is part of the Ring Cycle, a series of four operas relating the tale amidst Norse mythology. It involves a magic ring, invisibility, a dragon, dwarven humanoids, wizardly wanderers - sound a bit familiar? That’s because Tolkien had been a bit more than influenced by the Der Ring des Nibelungen saga. (And yes, Bart and I attended not just Siegfried, but the entire Ring Cycle at Lyric Opera.)

I’m familiar with Tristan and Isolde. It’s a tale from long yesteryear, as in the 12th Century. Studied it in college. But not this particular version. The story is one that many have told, adding their own touches. Most recently, Hollywood produced a movie in 2006, a variation written by Dean Georgaris, though I have not seen it.

But tonight I will be seeing the amazing Deborah Voigt in the role of Isolde, naturally.
So we certainly will be treated to a fabulous night of romance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hearing the "Voices" Again...

So right now I’m about to dive into one of the “important” chapters of the novel I’m currently writing. You know, the part that the characters (and readers) have been waiting for - the proverbial hitting the fan.

But before I could write a word of it, I needed to go back through all of my notes. A great many notes dealt with this exact part of the book. I certainly didn’t want to forget to include anything salient that slipped my mind. It’s also a less easy task than it would seem, since I made it rather difficult for myself. I had quite a few files of notes. Not to mention some scraps of paper and one-line files that I also needed to make sure I had another gander at before compiling the scene.

As usual, I had a few bits missing. Not a shortcoming. Rather room to work out the little stuff. I hoped that my characters (ZJ and Andy) would provide me with some more details of their adventure. And oh yes, yes they did. In fact, they kept me up an hour or more past my bedtime - giving me info ranging from the sequence of new material to snips of conversation. It didn’t just comprise this “important” chapter, either. They lit up more of the rest of the work, too.

I did not escape so easily. When I finally made it to bed, ZJ forced me to grab my cell phone and launch the Notepad. Yup, even more. Nothing like typing drama into a tiny keypad under the covers.

I believe it’s fair to say I have quite the handle on the story now. Not that I ever lacked a grip on it. You might recall from this post that sometimes only the framework can be seen. Well, ZJ and Andy just painted, furnished and decorated it. But I just bet they still have some doozies they're still keeping to themselves as of yet.

It’s quite a story. I’m glad it’s being told to me. Now I just have to form it into words.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Recounting the Baron's Tales, Finally (or Again.)

So I’ve begun reading something I probably should have read long ago.
The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
It’s the “accepted as most complete” version by Rudolph Erich Raspe.

I talked in this post about how much I enjoyed Terry Gilliam’s movie about the wacky escapades of the famed prestigeous “liar.” Why I never bothered to seek out the most complete and well-known compilation of the stories is beyond me. It's not like me, in fact. Perhaps out of sight out of mind? Or maybe too many other pursuits?

Well, I’m reading it now. It’s quite as I expected it to be in content. Fortunately the Baron is the narrator, so Gilliam factored correctly for his film. It’s much more satisfying to have Munchausen recount his own adventures. They have a “matter-of-fact” quality, despite the outlandish occurrences. Plus, his snide commentary can be just as amusing as the ventures.

One drawback exists, which upon examination, I must add, conversely could be construed as a boon in the writing rather than a hindrance to the literature which I am admonishing for the very same style of construction. Didn’t quite follow that sentence? You were meant to have trouble with it. You see, Munchausen often reads like a pretentious textbook lecture. Take, for example, how Munchausen begins:

Some years before my beard announced approaching manhood, or, in other words, when I was neither man nor boy, but between both, I expressed in repeated conversations a strong desire of seeing the world, from which I was discouraged by my parents, though my father had been no inconsiderable traveller himself, as will appear before I have reached the end of my singular, and, I may add, interesting adventures.

Works well, though, especially since it's generally supposed to be a prestigious, verbose man telling you his tales around a table or something of the sort. But - it’s not a conducive match to morning blahs and noisy trains. (You might recall that most of my reading is done in transit.) Quite fun, nevertheless. It just may take me longer to read, as it seems I must maintain a mindset to do so.
I already see one place where Gilliam rearranged. One of the Baron’s ideas is intact, but he wound up changing the medium, of sorts. In Gilliam’s he escapes from the Moon using a lock of the Queen (of the Moon)’s hair woven into rope. In the written tale, he uses straw that he happens to find. And rather than visiting the Moon, he merely makes his way there to retrieve a hatchet he accidentally threw up to far, i.e. to the Moon.

It will be interesting to see the re-packaging of what I already know of the story. I just hope the retooling doesn’t shed a bad light on a movie I hold dear. But then, if it does, perhaps I can find the right filter. For Raspe is not the sole creator of the tales of the Baron. And we all know the Baron can’t be trusted as having told the same story twice without embellishment.

And didn't they do a wonderful job of making up John Neville to look like the Gustave Dore drawing above?

Viva the Baron!

Barren Munchausen??