Tuesday, September 29, 2009
(Short for "retroactive continuity." Wikipedia article here.)
When Frasier first went on the air, I watched the first episode eagerly. For like many, I’d grown fond of the character on Cheers. Being the detail freak that I am, however, something did not sit well with me. How is it that they could include Frasier’s father in the series? For I distinctly remembered Frasier saying at Cheers that his father is dead. He also mentioned that he’d been a research scientist. So…how could his father be an ex-cop wounded in the line of duty and more than lively bitching about wanting his chair?
I let it slide though, given that the show proved pretty good. And Martin Crane (dad) along with the other wonderful new characters had me wanting more. Sure, I still wished the writers had scoured every utterance of the “original” Frasier on Cheers. So, I sort of grudgingly enjoyed watching the Frasier spin-off. Over time, perhaps I forgot about it due to what became compelling entertainment.
Who am I kidding? It always gnawed away each time I watched. (I didn't watch religiously, but watched much.) While doing a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I mentioned my gripe to Theseus/Oberon. He smiled and said it bothered the hell out of him, too. (Woe to us who curse ourselves with remembering stuff.) But you know what? He told me with an even bigger smile that they addressed the issue!
In an episode of Frasier, Sam Malone (the bartender at Cheers and friend of Frasier) comes to visit Seattle (where Frasier is set, as opposed to Cheers in Boston.) Upon being introduced to everyone in Frasier’s apartment, Sam is surprised to meet Martin Crane. Sam states that Frasier said he’s dead. And when Niles (Frasier’s brother) playfully says he bets Sam has heard many a tale about him, Sam replies that Frasier never mentioned him. (It’s true, we heard nothing of Niles before Frasier, created for the series.) Martin and Niles are, of course, miffed that Frasier didn’t present them correctly (or at all.) Frasier then explains in a huff that he’d just had a fight on the phone with his father before going into Cheers that night he’d said Martin’s dead.
And thus, we have the retcon. The marvelous retcon that Frasier lied. I laughed at the ingenious little patch the writers put on it. So deceptively simple! Of course characters can lie. But it just never occurred to me that he would have been. Why would we not accepte his declaration of his father’s demise and career choice at face value? How could we have known? He also changed Martin's job to make him sound more important [in Frasier’s eyes.]
Thanks to the magic of TiVo, I have finally been able to see the episode when Sam comes to town. And let me tell you, I laughed outright. Bravo to John Mahoney for his portrayal of Martin Crane upon discovering what his son had said. “You told him I was DEAD?” could not have been any funnier. The whole scene worked wonderfully.
In general retconning seems like a bad thing to me, as it implies that someone didn’t pay attention. But in rare cases like this one, it produces great results.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Our writing class met on Tuesday nights in the Common Room of Old Main. [Shown here!] Anyway, I loved writing class. (Could you have guessed?) Well, one Tuesday, the class discussed what most of them found quite amusing. A fellow student’s story. Oh, don’t worry. He’d written it as amusing. Eventually Professor Sparrow turned to me. “Peter, you’ve been awfully quiet.” (Do I need to mention I’d usually be a little vocal?) “Well,” I said, “my mother told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” At this point I recall a “gasp!” or an “oooo!” moment. (Or else I'd like one to have occurred.) Sparrow laughed, as I remember, and reminded me that a class is for critique, good or bad. “Ok,” I said. And I proceeded to tear the ‘story’ to shreds. Oh sure, I feel bad in the sense that I put a guy down like that. However, I’d greatly admired his past work. But this?? Schlock. And poorly written schlock. Again, I’m not being snotty. He’d produced well crafted stories before. But this piece had been a joke. Literally.
He’d taken the joke “There’s a serial killer on the loose. Cap’n Crunch is next.” and turned it into a story. As in, made a murder mystery out of someone killing the great cereal icons. Amusing? Perhaps. But not enough to base a story around. Or maybe it is… but his work had obviously been in haste. He just wanted to spill it out as quickly as possible to get to what he thought had been a prize. It didn’t read like a murder mystery. It read like someone who wanted to see how gruesomely gory he could describe the mutilated Honeycomb Kids. He just wanted Tony the Tiger to be Rambo. Complete and utterly cheap shots. No substance. No point, really. I may have used the word “garbage” in class, and do remember saying that I’d been a little perturbed that so much class time had been devoted to the drivel. Where had been the next installment of the spy drama about O.B.E. travelers he’d engrossed me in the week before?
Okay, so, now you might be wondering: Why did I like Brendan Douglas Jones’s Breakfast of the Gods and not the story for class? Simple: Execution.
For one thing, Jones is using a medium much more akin to the source material. Visual. Think about how much more satisfying it is to see the childhood icons depicted freshly and colorfully rather than awkwardly in black and white textual descriptions.
Characterization. Sure, Jones has Cap’n Crunch picking up a semi-automatic weapon, but all the while he’s behaving in, well, character. A Cap'n pushed to the end of his rope, dead on in his speech patterns and subtle touches like a raised eyebrow. The class story deliberately pushed them away from their known personalities for the sake of “humor.”
Setting & Utilization. If he’s going to recrate “cereality” in prose he could have tried to make it transfer to the page. As in try a little harder to include the feel of the atmosphere of that world. Oh sure, he had a few locations like the Honeycomb Kid Clubhouse. Relying, I suppose, on our remembrance of it. I’m not saying it would be easy to pour the cereal surroundings into prose. Just that it felt glossed over. A golden opportunity/challenge (and one that writing such a tale requires) wasted. Also, he’d not populated the entire world. What I mean is, Jones could easily show the relatively obscure Crispy of Crispy Critters cereal in the crowd. The prose, no matter how purple, could only tell you Crispy attended. Which would actually just become clutter, waving a red flag “Hey look! Another cereal reference, people!!” and thus drawing one out of the story. Okay, granted, the guy in class did not have a wealth of obscure information at his fingertips. But then, that would have only made it more cumbersome.
Which all harkens back to the visual medium being the way to go.
But there’s another major reason. The class story lacked depth. Depth in the sense of a broad scope and “psychological” purpose. He didn’t put much thought into the construction of the world in general. Whereas Jones pieced together the dedicated work of the men and women who created these iconic places and beings and fit them together like a perfect puzzle we all just never understood before. And then he took us on a journey of nostalgia, discovery and delight. Even without his visual triumphs, the Jones storyline, as a synopsis on paper, would still be fantastic. Jones did his homework. The class story? Nope. It just had Toucan Sam screech a bunch of expletives (and without the stuffy, “snooty” quality for which he’s known) and move on to the next senseless scene in a hurry to see a…oh never mind.
So there you have it, that’s the difference.
Once again, Bravo, Brendan Douglas Jones! Great work.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
For those of us who grew up with the lure and lore of breakfast cereals, no greater tribute exists. To fully appreciate the work, one must, of course, have grown up with them. Part of the treat is that it's not all just the marshmallowly fluff you recall. Like you, the storylines and characters have matured. Yes, there's violence, language and blood. Tastefully.
And I'll just give you a little taste of the general (mills) idea. I don't want to spoon feed it to you, since you really should go consume it yourself. The evil Count Chocula is hatching a scheme to put an end to the Eternal Morning of Cerealia. Fearless leaders like Tony the Tiger are at the ready to keep their sugary sweet lives part of a balanced existence. But only the wise old Cap'n Crunch knows the truth about the coming of Chocula oh so long ago.
And just so you have an example of how it combines the characters and storyline: Remember Sonny, the Cuckoo Bird? He's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, you know. He gets crazy for that stuff. Crazed. Eyes swirling with color, reckless abandon... it's crack. And who can supply him with all the Cocoa he needs? Chocula, who keeps him enslaved to do his bidding. Sonny is locked up in a straight jacket, lamenting over the awful things he has done. But the master... his master Count Chocula gives him the stuff...
It's immensely fun. It's also a blast to be made to bring to mind characters you hadn't thought of in what seems like an epoch. And for anyone who reads it and wonders who the hell some of the characters are... trust me, they are ALL from the big bowl of cerealm. (Jones also lists the characters in the back covers.)
Naturally, I'm focusing on the storyline. The artwork - it's GrrrrrREAT! So faithfully and reverently drawn, but not without a new design flair. And what fun to see these characters with other expressions. (Like horror!) Extremely well done.
Once again, BRAVO! This, my friends, is pure genius.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Don't get too excited.
To one up that, you can fly a plane all around the island. Zooming in toward it, or higher in the sky, all in real time. Push forward to gain speed or pull back to slow, twist, dart and sail just as you please in sight seeing soothing frenzy, easy as pie.
*Nice touch getting Pan's shadow to appear on the cover. Very excellent placement. Bravo!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
But, that does not in any way mean I didn't like it. On the contrary I liked quite a bit. It just didn't have the SuperCharge of Ando, so to speak. Fortunately, I never found myself rolling my eyes or saying "Oh COME ON!" Oh, sure, there'd been plenty of the super weird and silly. But it all fell under the umbrella of their special brand of wackiness and not the "we're going way too weird" of previous volumes. I did have one "Um, well, all right, I guess..." which would be Hiro's sudden decision to break his own rule. Then again, he's based rash judgments on chance meetings in the past, to both good and ill effect. I just didn't see how he could suddenly control and hone a singularity of his ability just by talking to a man with a moving tattoo compass. Hiro talking to his dad a long while back and suddenty mastering his skill I could buy. Then again, I don't really have all the facts on this one. Maybe he isn't screwing with the past without harmful reprecussion... and that's why I don't classify it as an eye roll. I'm eagerly awaiting what's to come. For they did give me a lot that I need to know. So glad I have the chance to be utterly confused and excited about a storyline again.
Speaking of, it seems my Anonymous commenter is now reading my novel that I've got up online, What If It's a Trick Question? Anon is enjoying it quite much. Thanks, Anon!
And here's another example of "It's not just me." Cassidy has sent me a CNN article to read. Yep, the re-make boom is not sitting right with everyone. The article talks about it from various angles, but the tone is definitely of the "Really??" variety.
Stirring the pot of controversy with film remakes
Monday, September 21, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
OK, yes. I am actually going to talk about sequels.
Certainly I do think they have merit, lest I wouldn’t have written Peter Pan’s NeverWorld. In this post I explain a little about the wherefore of having written it.
I’m not speaking out against them. But a conversation with Clara and Banky a while back comes to mind.
Banky had finished my novel Midnight Chaser and still thought about it many days after reading it. (Yea, me!) Now, the thing is, which I’ve said many times, even on this site, that I really want Midnight Chaser to stand alone in book form. I don't envision a sequel…and I wondered if there could be one. Readers told me it certainly can go on…lots of adventures could still happen for some of the characters. So, why not write those? Because there is no substantial and plausible conflict to drive the story. Sure, seeing what else the characters get into would be fun… but not as amusing as for readers to think about on their own. Me writing it would just be a series of anecdotes. And where I can see that being appealing, again, in this instance, anything I could come up with is going to pale in comparison with the reader’s imagination.
But that didn’t stop Banky. He’d come up with a new scenario every so often. Complete with support from the text. But I’d always say no. Not in a cold “shoot first” way. I’d mull them over with him. But again, the compelling factor that would drive me to write it just did not exist. Banky seemed to agree each time. Even he admitted he'd been reaching. It would just be forcing it out.
That’s when Clara spoke up.
“Why are you TRYING to find a sequel to it?”
“Banky is, not me,” I said with a smile.
She then threw my protestations at me, pointing out that I’d go around asking people if they found a sequel in it. As if I wanted to find it…thou protest too much? Well, as I assured her, I can assure you, that adage doesn’t apply here. I really would like it to be self-contained. I’d ask people if they could continue it because I put effort into making it airtight other than the proverbial “leave them wanting more."
Clara, gladdened that I actually wanted a singular book, then expressed her displeasure at the sequel boom. If a book or movie is successful, BAM! there’s a sequel. Sure, it’s lucrative. But that’s a double edged sword. Is it always a good idea to create a sequel just to squeeze out more cash? No, of course not.
Now don’t get Clara wrong, she does see that in some cases a sequel is necessary. Or deserved. Or worthy. Or just happens. I pointed out The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis didn’t know at first that there would be more. Whereas J.K. Rowling knew the arc of seven books in advance. Some stories expand.
But doesn’t it, just sometimes, seem like enough is enough? She's concerned that we're doing it "because we can." Art for profit, rather than profit from Art. Okay, as I type all this out, it no longer seems as profound as I once pretended it might be. Downright cliché. But if you could have heard the disdain and longing in Clara’s voice, maybe, just maybe, you’d be ponderous right now.
To cap this up, where did my intense wish that Midnight Chaser remain one book stem from? Being both the perpetrator and the victim of sequel crimes. I’ve wound up with a few series that I've set to finishing. And like Lewis, I had no idea there would be more to each book at the time. Yet like Clara, I felt overrun. But believe me, if the subsequent stories weren’t worth writing, I wouldn’t waste my time.
Sequels. A blessing AND a curse.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I pulled a Peter Pan maneuver.
I went away with saying anything first...
Bart, his father, aunt, a family friend and I whisked off to Door County, Wisconsin, for an extended weekend. We had a lovely time. It's just a great place to do the proverbial "nothing" and take it slow. My favorite part is always seeing the stars. Here in the city the lights overshadow the heavens. But in a clearing in the woods (where with the car lights off one cannot see one's hand in front of one's face) the very Milky Way shines above. When there I think about Ancient Peoples. How amazing the stars are to me, even with all the crammed in knowledge about their nature from schooling, etc. But to be enclosed in absolute darkness...with a multitude of glimmering pinpricks and washes of shimmering cloudiness... what it must have been like to experience. No wonder the Woods held such a grip on the imagination, fear and storytelling. The forests of Shakespearean plays, for instance, come alive anew. It's inspiring to say the least.
I'm sorry to have flown without warning. I'll try not to let it happen again.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Last night had been the Midwest premiere of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s The Night Season, as performed by Vitalist Theatre.
I went in not knowing any information about it. Okay, I’m lying. I knew the set. And a few bits of “theatre magic” that would happen. Oh, also that Yeats factored in somehow, as per watching Sparrow’s (as always) stunning and intricate theatre entrance installation going up. But as for the plot and story… just what the poster teases.
Short review: Go. It’s a true delight. I know for sure that I will see it again. At least once.
This play truly has it all. You will laugh outright, feel a tear forming in your eye, have your heartstings tugged (both romantically and emotionally) and be swept away into the delicate and heavy lives of the characters.
In fact, the characters are what struck me first about this heartwarming tale. Right from the start it’s clear that the personas who play out their lives on stage are people you want to get to know. Wacky is not the right word. Lovingly and compellingly screwed up, perhaps?
The Night Season will carry you along the personal journeys of each member of an Irish family who take in a boarder. Each of them has a personal demon to exorcize. Each has a place they want to be in their lives which seems far beyond their reach. Luckily for us, these complex and wonderful characters are not beyond the reach of the actors. As can be expected from a Vitalist show, top notch performances come from each member of the cast.
The set and lighting are remarkable. With just a quick wash of color, or subtle but dazzling projections and some moving (folding, even) constructions, we are easily and convincingly transported from the Irish home to a beach to a library.
As you watch this play you will find it difficult to absorb all of its many layers, given how charming and tender the unfolding events can be. That’s meant as a compliment. And it will be a pleasure to revisit the story in order to pick up on the nuances. If not for the story itself, then for the marvelous personas that comprise it.
On the way home, Laughter, Bart and I found ourselves discussing various aspects of the play. That’s always a good sign, isn’t it? To be so very interested in exploring the depth of a story/show further? We wondered about the parts that were never fully explained. Don’t take that as a detrimental comment, for the incident we wondered about merely led to a deeper understanding of the story as a whole. There’s always room for the audience to bring its own food for thought to the table. And this one produces quite a feast. This Irish tale is no small potatoes. (Sorry, sorry, couldn’t stop myself.)
Vitalist Theatre’s The Night Season is everything a night at the theatre should be.
If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure and attend.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
How’s this for a story:
After the unruly children exhaust nanny after nanny, a mysterious "super nanny" with magical powers drops in… The children grow to love her fabulous shenanigans as well as learn to behave. When order and balance is restored to the household, the nanny leaves, allowing them to relish their new found joy.
No no, it’s a not a story I’m planning to write.
But what story did you imagine there? I’m guessing you were thinking “But this is Mary Poppins!”
Yes, my first thought as well. But it also applies to Nanny McPhee.
When that movie first came out, I hastily brushed it off as a repeat of Mary Poppins. Bart and some others went to see McPhee. (I had somewhere else to go, as I recall, and I had not been so keen on it anyway given my assessment.) Well, Bart and the others really enjoyed it. And although Bart (who is a fan of Poppins) had the same worry as me, he found himself pleasantly surprised and assured me that it had not been the same story all over again.
So, via the magic of TiVo, I finally got to see for myself. Yes, the premise is essentially the same. But it’s also true that it’s nowhere near the same tale. I’m not going to spell out all the differences or the plot of Nanny McPhee. You can do such compare and contrast yourself. For it’s quite a good movie.
The point, of course, is that it’s entirely possible to have a similar but different story. Just because a through-line is common does not mean adventures do not exist until themselves. Granted, it takes skill to accomplish, but that’s true of any story.
Thus, I’m very glad I’d been wrong with my quick judgment. Lesson learned. (<-- reference to Nanny McPhee, actually.)
Actually, the same thing happened with my first novel. No, not a nanny. I don’t expect anyone will ever see this novel of mine, unless I do an overhaul on it. Plus it needs a sub-adventure of the past put into it so as to support the framework of the overall story. I began the novel in high school and finished it, or so I recall, in my first year of college. (1989) Let me tell you the basic premise. See what else comes to mind…
A kid, who lives with his aunt and uncle (after his parents died in a car crash), finds out that he has been selected to attend a special school to learn the art of magic. There are wacky professors and some cool friends along the way…and he ultimately discovers that he’s the chosen one who can undo the great evil in the land.
How about that? The story you’re probably thinking of came out in 1997. Go figure. And despite a few eeriely specific coincidences between the two, they are like Poppins and McPhee -- an entirely different adventure.
* And yes, I do know that the television show The Nanny is neither one I spoke of... but I wanted to keep the surprise element via the text. Also, this show applies as well. For in a rough sense, it's a reworking of The Sound of Music.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Yes, the many characters result from presenting an entire thriving world. The Pans are the main focus of this novel. It has been the plan to further develop the other characters in future adventures.
Regarding certain characters still being alive:
Barrie wove the timeline of the events into actual history. It would not otherwise be possible for Captain Hook (for instance) to still be around when the Darling children arrived. Thus, it's only logical that some "magic" is preserving them.
When referring to the Lost Boys, the actual text of Peter and Wendy says “seem to be growing up.” Seem – a very ambiguous word. And since Peter’s perception and assessment is being spoken of in that passage, it’s prone to his faulty judgments.
Barrie describes Peter Pan having an affect on the mood of the Neverland. So Peter also belongs to the Fisher King archetype. It’s entirely possible that his own magic of eternal youth infects the island.
In theory, the other inhabitants of the island must always be there for other children to discover and play with/agaisnt, as Pan stories are passed down through generations in the world of Barrie. Death is, of course, also a reality in the Neverland. Children past Wendy, John and Michael Darling cannot have the terrible joy of fighting Hook. But fortunately, new adventures crop up all the time.
There are other reasons for the eternal youth/life of the inhabitants, but I'll leave you to discover those within the pages of Peter Pan’s NeverWorld.
Thus, I’m pleased to be able to go along with the popular notion of “never grow up in the Neverland” via support from the actual words of Barrie.
* The "Anon" image used is cropped from the first page of the first draft of Peter Pan dated November 23, 1903. The full page can be found on the amazing page of Barrie guru Andrew Birkin. The link is in the sidebar.
Friday, September 4, 2009
The note regarding the "As Retold By Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson"
is not unlike the post A Rose By Any Other?
Sad that it would "come true" this way.
And yesterday I said I've been thinking about other Peter Pan adventures to be done.
Well, here's proof (not that anyone needed it): Pan Inspires Me YET AGAIN...
Let's hope that all writing involved turns out well, eh?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
In my review of P.J. Hogan’s film of Peter Pan, I express great pleasure at the added character of Aunt Millicent. She’s a revision, actually, of the maid Liza in the original play and the novel. I’ve already explained the brilliance of Hogan’s tweak in the post, see there for more.
There's another reason that Aunt Millicent is terrific.
She’s the solution to something Barrie had never been able to work out.
Anyone heard of the “Beautiful Mothers Scene" that used to be in the play? [Barrie constantly made changes up to and including opening night and beyond, as well as each year.] I know Andrea Jones (author of Hook & Jill) has… but for those of you who haven’t: It takes place when the Darlings return and the Lost Boys come with them. What happens now, of course, is that the Darlings adopt the rest of the boys. What Barrie initially tried to do is match up a “new” mother for each boy. I put “new” in quotes because it varied. In some incarnations of this scene, a group of lovely young ladies just shows up on a gut level, aching and yearning to be a mother and sensing boys who need a home. In another, Wendy has Peter Pan go out and search for each of the boys’ true mothers, bring them to the Nursery to claim them and return them home. If I recall right, in another there’s a sort of ad placed. But as charming and heart-warming as this idea (in any form) is, it just doesn’t blend in quite right -- and Barrie knew it, for he settled on the Darling adoption.
That’s where Aunt Millicent comes in…
Part of her reason for being there had been to take Wendy away from the Nursery, to have her under wing, to guide and mold her into adulthood. Obviously, it wouldn’t just have been for Wendy’s benefit (or detriment, depending on how one views it) but for Millicent’s as well. In subtext, she wanted to care for a child.
Cut now to the arrival of the Darlings with the Lost Boys. All of the boys are there - except one. Millicent looks on with tears of joy at the happy reunion. Again, her subtext shows through. Enter Slightly. He’d says he went to the wrong door, and so, arrived late…and now he didn’t have a mother. In an interesting and delightful use of fairy magic, Tinker Bell whispers and/or blows a kiss of sorts to Millicent. “Is your name…Slightly?” she asks. Slightly is amazed, of course. Millicent insists that she is his mother in a Barriesque moment.
Thus, this fascinating new character of Hogan’s also fulfills the Barrie-generated notion of a mother awaiting a boy with open arms, or finding a long lost child.
Hooray for Aunt Millicent. Brava, Lynn Redgrave for a magnificent performance.
Bravo to Hogan for working her in so seamlessly.