Monday, June 30, 2008

Re-Searching, a Novel Thing

It’s time again to do a little research for the novel. All novels require some amount of research. I didn’t mention it in my previous post about How I Work. All part of the process. This novel, especially, demands tons of it.

Now I’m curious about REsearch. How can it be RE if I didn’t do the searching for this bit yet? Its cousin of course, is Rehearsal. Is the first “rehearsal” a hearse? Um…wait…
[I think Sunshine already stated the "rehearse" oddity in a comment somewhere... or she told it to me before.]

A Wink at Hood

Just wanted to mention that I really enjoy the BBC’s Robin Hood series. BBC America plays it and my TiVo faithfully collects the episodes for me. It’s not an incredible show, but it is certainly above average by my reckoning. They’ve taken the legend and treated it with respect, trying for a grittier more realistic tone. Of course, one can only be realistic to a certain degree with a tale like this, so it does have its “wild fun” moments. I also like the fact that they have made it their own. Yes, it follows the conventions we all know and love of Robin Hood. But they have also added a number of their own twists, elements and characters into the mix. So far I have loved each of these. If you have not seen it yet, give it a shot. (Get it?) They are now airing the second season here and I believe we are nearing the end of it. (The season, not the series.) And right now I can’t get the instrumental theme song out of my head. Bravo!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

How I Work

Thought I’d explain a little about my process.

My novels do not come fully formed from my head like Athena from Zeus. And I wouldn’t want them to, as that would spoil the discoveries made along the way.

They start off as kernels, or sparks. A tidbit (a line, scenario, image, etc) that seems interesting to me. When I do get an idea, I make sure to write it down. I usually just let it be for a while. For either I am already working on something else or I let the seed get nurtured…that whole metaphor. I peruse the notes every so often. I let them stay in my mind, watering them with some “what ifs” or maybe a “hey that idea fits in here, too.” By the time I finish what I’m currently working on, I have a pretty solid idea of what to work on next. Sometimes, though, it’s like Jack’s Beanstalk and growing out of control. I’ve actually had to put a novel on hold in mid-completion because the character’s plight would not leave me alone. Or rather the character would not leave me alone. They can be quite “loud.”

A little of Asimov’s advice and a lot thinking gives me a Malleable Outline. A Malleable Outline has room for expansion, changes or cuts. A number of elements remain fixed, of course. But often I will not leave nothing to the imagination. I find that writing is a collaborative experience. Between the Inspiration, the Characters and the Author. Some totally grok that I “hear” from characters, others just nod and smile. No, no voices. But I do listen. They often interject tidbits or plot points that are entirely “news” to me. I reassess the story and write accordingly.

Generally, I write out of sequence. As long as the pillars of the MO are in place, I’m free to zero in on the parts that particularly excite me. Parts that I’m most passionate about or can’t wait to “see.” I’ll end up with larger chunks that can be easily bridged. And along the way I’ve incorporated new ideas and influences into a better whole. As I stated before, lately my choices have been pieces which would behoove me to write in chronological order. It depends on the work, of course. So I’m not locked into a method. As I say, it’s malleable.

I revise as I go. I backtrack, reading the last 5-10 pages (usually in transit) and make revisions. I’ll then write more. When next at a computer I make the changes. I make alterations to my changes as well as the new material as I type them . At certain points (nothing regimented, just as I feel necessary) I will read through what I have so far of the book. Getting back in touch with it as whole, rather than a series of specific scenes. The process repeats to completion.

Despite the old adage that one should, I do not necessarily write every day. Sometimes I need to “work out” a scene and want to let it stir. Spurts, maybe? There are stretches where I do write every day. It just depends on the piece. Since I’ve been blessed recently with no shortage of ideas, I am content to let the stories unfold as the characters share them with me.

Gotta go...I think I hear Andy calling...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Crème de la Theme?

I’d like to point out a bit of fine writing. Many of you will probably think I’m nuts. But if you do, I urge you to visit (or re-visit) the work. I am talking about a television theme song. I’d venture to say that a “good” theme song should be catchy, or at least compelling if "catchy" does not fit with the tone of the show. There’s nothing worse than a lousy opening to a show. (Okay, not nothing worse...don’t nitpick.) For those shows that have words set to them, when done right, the lyrics should describe the premise of the program. Now, despite how you feel about this particular television series, I find it hard to deny the brilliance of the theme. It not only contains the aforementioned elements, but it introduces the characters and gives insight as to their relationships as well. Plus, it has delicious rhymes. I also rather enjoy the animation style here. And so, regardless of how you may or may not feel about the show itself, I invite you to watch and listen to Ann Hampton Callaway’s masterpiece, the theme to The Nanny. It’s one of the best.

Also of note, The Nanny is one of Bart’s guilty pleasures…and a co-worker informed him that a line from it showed up as a $1,000,000 question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? “Who is the lady in red when everyone else is wearing tan?” [Which is also a fine example of the succinct yet much-revealing (dare I say poetic?) lyrics.]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Comment Continues to Conclusion on Strange Book

I finished the strange book.
Generally it tumbled gracefully forward in the same manner which I had described last time. But it did so entertainingly. The weaving in and out of the fictional realities remained captivating…up until the end. I am sad to say that I did not so much care for the ending. Actually, the outcome I very much expected given the increasing hints throughout the piece. Yet it did have some other startling moments. The most salient of these, though, comes in the part that disappointed me. Kensington Gardens utilizes one of those hackneyed devices. The kind you can envision a literary professor professing to never use. You know, as in: And they awoke from the dream. (Not the one used in this book.) It just left me cold. Something so grandly knitted together deserves not to fray.

One of my favorite sections is a description of a grand party his parents, you remember, the rockstars, gave one wild evening. It goes on for 10 and half pages in an ‘endless’ list of celebrities who attended. Each celebrity received a comment in parenthesis. Glib comments about what they wore, what they drank, who they spoke to and why, what they did, etc. Each a little quip. Here’s an example: Truman Capote (that voice like fingernails on a blackboard singing some song from The Mikado over and over again all night…) I genuinely laughed out loud several times on the train. It has a build to it with recurring jokes (both commentary and people) and is worth picking up the book to read this part alone.

Overall I have mixed feelings about what I “got out of” the book. To me it seemed as if he suggested that children’s fantasy fiction is a kind of infection. The allure and “promise” of heroes with implausible but delicious powers…ones that in our present state of reality are not actually going to happen. The child soon learns the sad fact. And yet characters always outlive the author. Their “impossible” feats will always cause pain. It always ends in let down. He says authors write to take revenge against the world that would not realize the fantasy, spreading the infection. I’m not so sure I can agree but then it’s hard not to see a logic. As I said, mixed feelings. Still, I could be reading too much into it and making a fabrication of the real message of a fake author whose history is invented into our reality…

However, I did not have mixed feelings about two omissions. These occurred in yet another list of famous people. This one did not prove as long. Only about a page. It recounts all those who have played Peter Pan. It contains parenthetical comments again, but more so about trivia. Here is the first “omission” that bothered me. Jean Arthur (with Boris Karloff as Captain Hook); Mary Martin; Mia Farrow (who doesn’t need to cut her hair…) Back up. Where is Mary Martin’s parenthetical? How in the Neverland could he not comment on her? Here’s the other: and finally Peter Pan as a boy savage in the film directed by the Australian P.J. Hogan. And his name? I don’t get it. Why would he fail to mention Jeremy Sumpter? I have mixed feelings about Hogan’s movie itself. But I, for one, adore Jeremy’s portrayal of Peter. Perhaps Peter Hook/Fresán did not agree and disliked his performance. Could be - yet he obviously has no trouble slamming two other celebrities by name here: and Spielberg’s terrible Peter Pan, played by terrible Robin Williams (an adult, amnesiac Peter Pan) Perhaps the book published prior to its casting/release? No, the movie preceded publication by two years. Why, then, omit his name? It just irks me. Jeremy Sumpter (the fantastic first live-action boy Peter Pan) There.

Well, all in all, it’s a hell of a read. Despite the “oh please…” epilogue of sorts, I enjoyed having my brain jostled by this one.

One other thing…the author (Fresán) does address the notion of using real people fictionally in a footnote. Interesting that he put quotations around the word real.

And yes, that's John Lennon on the left there. The Beatles factor heavily into what's growing in the fertile mind of Fresán's Kensington Gardens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


One of my favorite sources of odd news,
Boing Boing, presented a great literary laugh.

Click here for a hoax and a dose of life imitating art.
Just be careful not to spend too much time boinging around at
Boing Boing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Old Saying, New Twist II

After making a playfully snarky comment to her, Mina asked me if I'm "Cruisin' for a bruisin." I replied: "No, I'm aiming for a maiming."
Don't you think we could use some new clichés?
There. I just created an oxymoron, too.
Stop me.

Old Saying, New Twist I
Old Saying, New Twist III
Old Saying, New Twist IV
Old Saying, New Twist IV.ii
Old Saying, New Twist IV.iii

Occupational Pun-ishment

Here's another wacky list I've saved on a data CD. This comes from a Family Circus Sunday strip from way back. Unfortunately I didn't write down which ones were part of that strip and which ones I (or others) contributed. Feel free to make up more...

A photographer - if I can get things into focus
A football player - if I can tackle things
A carpenter - if I can nail the job
A chef - if I don't get in hot water
A paperhanger - if I can just stick to it
A trapeze artist - if I can get the swing of it
A lumberjack - unless I get the axe
A gardener - if I can weed things out
A jockey - if I get a good start
A tailor - if things suit me
A hockey player - if I don't skate on thin ice
A dancer - if I can take the right steps
A clockmaker - if my timing is right
An optician - if I can see my way there
A puppeteer - if can pull the right strings
A percussionist - if I can drum up the business
A swimmer - if I can keep my head above water
An archeologist - if I dig it
A mathematician- unless there's too many unknowns
A writer - if I can read between the lines

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thanks for the Laughs...

Well, it seems a noted comic has been let in on the ultimate punchline...Mr. George Carlin has, as Sunshine stated, though not about him, crossed the river. I truly enjoyed his humor and he will be missed. But we can always go back to his body of work in audio, stage and screen and be able to laugh. Go have toast on a bun to remember him by...
"Coincidentally" Sunshine and I had both been quoting him recently...

When I Write...

I usually write with music playing. Generally motion picture scores. Often I will create a specific playlist from my selections. Songs which I feel will be most conducive to the piece I am working on at the time. Sometimes I have lyric’d tunes, too. Depends on the character’s preferences or the words contained with them. But mostly I can be found clacking away with a powerful score by the likes of Silvestri, Howard, Goldsmith, Williams, Gregson-Williams, Elfman…just to name a few. I almost always randomize song order, too. Thanks to all the composers out there who keep my words flowing over their notes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Star Light, Star Fright!*

It seems that Disney's Tinker Bell is getting a star on the Walk of Fame. I don't know about you, but I think this is wrong. No, I am not against it because it's Disney doing it. And no, my feelings on Tinker Bell (Barrie or otherwise) are not in play here either. I just think we're opening up a can of cats. [I like to mix cliché metaphors to breathe new life into them.] This is a fictional charatcer. Giving a fictional character a star on the Walk of Fame? I'm sorry, what?!? I'll be the first one to stand up for a fictional character...I adore them, I respect them, I need them. But...come now, where will this lead? Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer should have stars more so than Tinker Bell, no? American icons such as they? And what about Scrooge? I mean, hey, what has been adapted and re-tooled and referred to more than Dicken's A Christmas Carol? Plus, Ebenezer turned his whole life around, saved a little boy and became a beloved pillar of the community...surely he deserves a star. Where does it end? And my other question is...wouldn't you think there'd be a finite amount of space? Do we really need to be using it up with make-believe entities?

Bart has informed me that he thinks Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny already have stars. Good grief (to quote Peanuts)! Perhaps I had not been in the loop on this one. I don’t even want to look it up and see if it’s true.

What I can see is making a strip of Stars for fictional characters…
But including them among Hollywood?

*Title by Sunshine, who is sitting right here...she's in from Ohio chasing a dream or being chased by one, it's hard to know at this point. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Videos to Let Your Imagination Soar...

Both of these videos impressed me. Thanks to Celly222 and dangerawesome for taking the time to create them. One is a music video about a generator of much speculation - the mysterious crop circles. The other - a well done blending of two perfect films. Bravo!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hats Off for a Moment...

Almost forgot. Perhaps because I prefer to think of him as still alive through his many novels and plays. But today is the date, in the year 1937, that Barrie discovered first hand the words of his most noted character.
"To die will be an awfully big adventure." - Peter Pan

What Wood You Remember?

The pictures in a recent blog post of Sunshine’s caused me to recall not only the way the area around my childhood home used to appear, but activities I partook of while there. Until now, it never quite occurred to me how it affected me.

Just blocks away from my house I could enter an expansive woods. My friends and I would go cavorting. We even made a map of the sort-of trails and had fun coming up with names. We’d trudge through, pretending to be all manner of things, I’m sure. From explorer to hobbit. Maybe even hobbit explorer.

In a different direction lay another woods. This one, as I recall, seemed much more savage. Zaph (who is no longer with us in this version of reality) and I used to carry a boom box blaring 80’s tunes and whatever else we deemed necessary to bring to his house. For that is why we’d trek through (besides the fun of it)…to reach his house. He lived in a huge home situated right amid the trees. It even has a lake with a pier. A gravel winding downward path serves as a driveway. The kind of downward path that made you call upon all of your driving skills and gave the impression of embarking on a grand adventure. But we would approach on foot through the back. Through the woods.

I also remember seeing bats flying over my backyard with great frequency. Coming from the direction of the woods, of course.

Thanks, Sunshine, for resurrecting these memories. It makes me think. Perhaps I enjoy fantasy stories because I had a place to act them out. Winding through bushes and tree trunks and over stones. It could have been the forest of Endor, Mirkwood, Sherwood, Tulgey Wood, Where the Wild Things Are, Tom & Huck’s island or the Neverland. With the bats and wildlife, is it any wonder I am attracted to such stories?

It’s all gone now, sadly. Totally suburbanized. The poor children there…they’ll have to hunt for fairies in their gardens, if they have them.

“So into the woods you go again, You have to every now and then.” - Sondheim

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


As I hunted through data CDs for something else, I came across this silly little thing I scribbled out in college. I guess I thought enough of it at the time to save it. Maybe I shouldn't have?

But, soft! What light through yonder window bakes?
It is the yeast, and Juliet is the bun!
Arise, fair bun, be not thou a macaroon
Which is already flat and hard on teeth,
That thou her maid art far more fair than cheese:
Be not then made, since they are crunchious
Their vestal livery are but hard and round,
And none but fools do eat them; cast them off.
It is my gravy; O, it is my roll!
O, fresh from oven she were!

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just Wait...

Here’s something NOT to think about: Waiting.
It seems that we are always waiting for something. For lunchtime. For a reply. For a movie release. For the right person. For…anything. Once whatever "it" is arrives, another “it” can immediately take the place. We are forever looking ahead to the next thing we anticipate, need or desire. Oh sure, it’s good to live in the moment, that whole ball of wax. But even that positive attitude doesn’t erase the fact that we mark dates on our calendars for upcoming events. Try not to think about the ever continuous process of intervening time between where you are now and what you want to occur.

“Everyone is just waiting…” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Waiting is.” – Michael Valentine Smith, Stranger in a Strange Land

“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty

"Wait till your father gets home!" – Mothers everywhere

“The waiting time, my brothers, Is the hardest time of all.” - Sarah Doudney

“Now we play the waiting game...” (pause) “Awwoh, the waiting game sucks! Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!" - Homer Simpson

“We're waiting for Godot.” – Vladimir, Waiting for Godot

"Still waiting..." - Talking Heads

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another Culture Weekend

Once again we packed our weekend with much fun and culture. Bart and I went to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant with his sister Lage. Then Bart and I headed down to The Greenhouse Theater, a smaller space affiliated with the Tony-winning Victory Gardens Theater. We saw a performance of five one-woman shows, the fruits of Tekki Lomnicki’s class on writing a one-person show. Sunshine attended this class before moving to Ohio and came back to perform her piece, Inconceivable! All in all it proved to be great. Each show had both charm and weight, true delights, relating issues ranging from insights into historical figures to dealing with ludicrous racism during 9/11.
Brava to them all!

After that Bart and I moved on to the Tony-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater for their latest rendition of Comedy of Errors. Let me tell you, Bart and I have been subscribers for about four years now. We are always impressed, but this show had to be one of the best we have ever seen. Wow! Genius. Brilliant! The show did not just contain Shakespeare’s wacky classic, but another play erected on top of it. The concept took place in London during the 1940’s when a troupe of screen actors get together to film Comedy of Errors and only having 36 hours to do so. They filmed it gratis for the troops fighting Hitler. The new script shined with delicious characters and relationships “on the set.” Yes, it had the obligatory moments such as “CUT!” But it never overused such devices, either. The special effects (bombings!) were fantastic and it even began by staging the prologue as a screening, making it appear flickering and in black & white! Top notch performances (as always at Chicago Shakespeare) and a miraculously expanding set that worked well both as stage and movie studio pieces, complete with cameras and cinema lights [the kind on the stands] creating the perfect atmosphere. Ron West, who wrote the script for the Shepperton Studio scenes and Barbara Gaines (always love her direction!) are to be congratulated, measure for measure. (Sorry for that bad pun.) Just fantastic. If you are in Chicago, don’t miss this one. BRAVO! Not much time left - it runs until June 29.

Today is also Fathers’ Day, so a nod and shout to all our patriarchs out there!
We will be having a lovely dinner with Bart’s father.

Later tonight we’ll have Lage, Dragonfly and Tall Boy over to watch the Tonys. More culture! We of course will be using the magic of TiVo in order to watch.

So, hooray. Another lovely weekend.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Current Read Warrants Comment

I am reading the strangest book, Kensington Gardens, by Rodrigo Fresán.

I use strange kindly. Why is it strange? It’s a narration by author Peter Hook, famous for his much-beloved children’s series about Jim Yang, the time traveling boy. Peter Hook is also the son of famous parents from a 1960’s rock band called the Beaten aka the Beaten Victorians aka the Victorians. Their acquaintances included the likes of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens.

Interesting, yes, but not terribly strange you say? Consider that author Peter Hook is fictitious. It gets even more odd. Peter Hook (which is the fictional author’s selected pseudonym, by the way) draws constant parallels between the events of his own life and those of Sir J. M. Barrie. Except he sometimes denies making the parallels. He proceeds to, in a roundabout way, deliver an autobiography as well as a bigraphy of Barrie. However, he doesn’t just present facts. He goes inside Barrie’s head and tells you what he thinks or thought about, specifically, in a particular instance of his life. Peter Hook even assumes the role of Porthos, Barrie’s dog. In other words, the book is a fictionalized account of factual things under the guise of a fictional storyteller. Stranger still, he is relating all of this not to you, the reader, but to Keiko Kai, the child actor who has been cast in the film version of Jim Yang’s adventures. In one of those books, we learn that Jim Yang visits Barrie and they become kindred spirits. Oh my. It’s not limited to Barrie, either. For instance, Peter Hook claims that Bob Dylan threw up on his boyhood toy soldiers. It’s strange (to me at least) to make such peculiar declarations about actual people.

It’s very nearly stream-of-consciousness, flowing in and out of information about Barrie, Jim Yang, the rock star parents, history, fake history…yet coherently and entertainingly. It deftly throws you for the proverbial loop with a shocking development now and then. Even weirder is that it’s translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. I mean that in a harmless way, as in: Isn’t it fascinating that a Spanish author pretends to be an English boy growing up amid the psychedelic 60’s rock scene? Along the way Fresán makes insightful, perceptive commentary about eras past as well as our own, writers and their process and the search for meaning all tied together with a thread of a famous theme of Peter Pan: childhood vs. adulthood and growing up (or not.) It’s a great read. I’m about a third of the way through. I usually only read in transit, so give me some time and I’ll let you know my thoughts when I complete it.

Second Post

Cue "The Twilight Zone" music...

So I'm reading Sunshine's blog and see this during the hour after midnight (i.e. 13). This is a direct, unplanned screenshot. Eerie. :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Fateful 13th?

Is Friday the 13th really all that scary,
movies included?
(I can't say, I've never seen a one of them.)
Frankly I find these "action figures"
much more frightening.
Do I even need to make a list of
what's wrong here?
"Oh dear-d-d-d-d-deardear-dear!"
- Disney's Piglet

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finite Cartoons III

Finite Cartoons I
Finite Cartoons II

Before I tell you about my final favorite Finite Cartoon (my definition of this term is here) I must confess something. I have not seen every episode of this one. Gads! Furthermore, once I researched it to refresh my memory of what I did know of it, I discovered that I might not be entirely correct on this one. That is, it may not be a Finite Cartoon in the truest sense. It seems as if it is more like a series with a continuity, but not an actual arc. I’m sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and as I stated, I didn’t get to see them all. However, this cartoon series has what I think are fascinating origins and production development. I’ll get to it in a bit.

First let me explain the difference between a continuity series and a finite series. A comment on the last post asked if the delightfully wacky parody of superheroes and supervillains, The Tick, counts as a Finite Cartoon. To the best of my knowledge it does not. The argument for it being one is that it has recurring tidbits such as the example given that Chairface’s attempt to emblaze his name on the moon can be seen throughout the shows after it first appears. Yet this just chalks up to consistency (which many cartoons do ignore, sadly.) I don’t see The Tick as having a general overall story that follows toward an ending. It’s a series of adventures, each separate but for the continuity of elements. I hope I’m making it clear enough. For the record, I love The Tick. SPOON!

All right…the last cartoon show I wish to talk about is Jumanji: The Animated Series. I have to tell you, I happened to experience Jumanji backward. Huh? Like this: The cartoon series is based on the live-action movie, which itself is based on a magnificent picture book by the amazing writer/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Somehow I never had picked up that particular book. I had wanted to see the movie, but it did not work out in the cards. I happened to catch the cartoon show one day. At first the drawing style threw me, for it takes some getting used to. [For instance, the character’s eyes are very far apart on their heads.] After time, I really came to enjoy the vaguely abstract character and setting design. Now, as I watched, it made me wonder. I knew the basic idea of the movie’s plot through general knowledge. But this show had the premise…backwards. I suppose I should explain the general idea for those who don’t know. Jumanji is a board game about traversing a jungle. But the game is “real.” When it says monkeys attack, well, they do. Creatures and people and floods and things come “out of the game” and manifest into our reality. In the movie version, a boy named Alan Parrish plays with his friend Sarah Whittle. A little black bubble in the center has green mist form into rhyming words for each turn, indicating what will happen, albeit usually in “clue” form. Alan’s message: In the jungle you must wait until someone rolls a five or eight. Then, the reverse happens to him - he gets “sucked into” the game through the black bubble. Sarah runs screaming. Decades later, two children named Peter and Judy move into the house and find the game in the attic. They start playing and experience its delicious horror…but they are not playing their own game…they become additional players to Alan and Sarah’s, as a game of Jumanji does not end until someone’s piece gets to the center of the board. Peter rolls and releases an adult Alan, now a “wild man” of the jungle. They have to enlist the help of reclusive Sarah, for they need to finish the game in order to stop the ever-increasing chaos unleashed upon their town. Got that? Good. Now you will be able to see why I became confused watching the cartoon. For in the series, Peter and Judy receive a clue and then both get sucked into the game, where they meet “Wild Man” Alan Parrish and have adventures with him in the jungle of Jumanji. In order to get out, they must figure out what their cryptic clue means. Alan, however, never saw his clue and is thus stuck in Jumanji. Sarah Whittle is not in the show. After getting ‘sucked into’ the TV show, I then, naturally, sought out the movie. Loved it. I knew they had expanded the story from the picture book, so I had a theory. Alan Parrish would not be in the book. Correct. It’s just Peter and Judy and the perils that escape from the game remain confined to their house only and they complete the adventure before their parents get home. [In the movie and cartoon, their parents had died and they live with their Aunt Nora played by Bebe Neuwirth. For the record, a young Kirsten Dunst plays Judy. Bonnie Hunt is adult Sarah Whittle. Robin Williams is adult Alan Parrish.]

I’m not sure about you, but I find this progression and re-adaptation from book to series fascinating. It’s cool how you can re-fashion something without losing the basics of the original. Chris Van Allsburg (love him!) is given credit on IMDB for helping with the screenplay, although in interviews he says that his (allowed) input had been extremely limited.

As for it being a Finite Cartoon, I’ve discovered that it at least has a rudimentary plotline of trying to find out Alan’s clue that he missed so that he can escape Jumanji. Sorry for this spoiler (spoiled it for me, too): In the final episode they do get the clue and Alan leaves with them and takes a shine to their Aunt Nora. So at the very least, it does “end.” So in that sense, it qualifies as Finite, though it may not fully deserve the title.
And guess what…Tim Curry has a role in this one, too! He plays Trader Slick of Jumanji, as the cartoon allowed for the creation of a whole set of new characters.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read Van Allsburg’s book…what are you waiting for?

Van Allsburg is also responsible for The Polar Express, among others. My favorite of his works, though, is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Talk about creatively inspiring...!

Yes, YouTube strikes again. You can find nearly all the episodes of the Jumanji cartoon series there.

Two other examples of a Finite Cartoon (though I would not call them “favorites”) are:
Jackie Chan Adventures. Yes, the martial arts legend is also a ‘toon. I’ve caught quite a few episodes and have enjoyed it. But for me it did not have the same lure as Mighty Max, Danny Phantom or Jumanji. This one has the distinction of having a new (but contiguous) arc for each season.
Star Blazers (English Title). This is a Japanese anime series chronicling the adventures of a starship crew making their way to see Trilena of Telezar, who needs their help. (As I recall it.)
The web has info on both, of course.

If you know any more good Finite Cartoons, I’d love to know about them!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Changing It Up...

I'm not sure if anyone ever noticed or not, but the wording on the "announcement" page for Peter Pan's NeverWorld (click on the Sand Message* if you've not ever seen it) has changed periodically. Once it's for purchase at online retailers I will make a gallery of the ones that have been posted over time. There have been 8 thus far. And yes, at the time of this posting, it has been changed once more.

*The Sand Message has been taken down from the sidebar, but here it is:

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Finite Cartoons II

Here is the next Finite Cartoon I wish to tell you about. For a definition of “Finite Cartoon,” see this link to the previous post.

Danny Phantom is Butch Hartman’s spin on the formula of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. Danny Fenton is a fourteen year old high school freshman whose somewhat eccentric parents are into ghost hunting (and busting.) Their portal to the Ghost Zone doesn’t work initially, but Danny takes a look at it when they are not around. In true comic book fashion, there is a freak accident and he becomes a halfa, half boy and half ghost. Actually he is able to switch at will. Thus, Danny Fenton becomes Danny Phantom. Like Spider-Man, he keeps a secret identity, though his best friends Sam(antha) and Tucker know the truth. He battles the ghosts that plague Amity Park (kudos on the name. They also attend Casper High.) Again like Spider-Man, using his super powers for justice and protection are often misunderstood by the media and public, forcing him to grapple with acceptance and his dual nature in addition to the horrors of high school. It evolves into his arch nemesis being Vlad Plasmius, an evil adult halfa, aka Vlad Masters, a college mate of his father’s. But both Danny and Vlad are sometimes at the mercy of bigger, badder villains from the Ghost Zone. Admittedly, Danny Phantom is not rich in a basis of mythology and legend as is Mighty Max. But Hartman is to be praised for his imaginative new creations.

Okay, on to the Finite part. Oh, the horror! Hartman had a plan for the series from the beginning. He had a definite story he wanted to tell when he pitched the series to Nickelodeon. (He already had the very successful Fairly Odd Parents [which I also love, but is not Finite] on the network.) I don’t recall the exact number (nor is it important) but they allowed a chunk of them. Well received, they gave him another chunk, circa 20. Hartman happily set to work on fleshing out his storyline…recurring characters, developing relationships and situations. Danny also discovered new ghostly powers as it went along. Hartman certainly kept it interesting. While some had aired and some were being written, Nickelodeon gave him even more. About double what he had. Thus, he excitedly expanded his storyline further, able to write in much more developments. But…eventually Nickelodeon pulled the plug…in the middle of his story. He had a fixed number left, nowhere near his allotment. A trooper, Hartman had to rework his arc to fit within the only remaining episodes he had. Guess what happened next. Yes, possibly due to fan outcry, they went ahead and reversed their decision. However, by the time they did so, Hartman had already retooled the storyline. Now he had the opportunity to make it closer to his original vision, but still not quite the same given the changes that had been made. Then, they did it…again. Poor Hartman! I’d like to think I can sympathize with his trauma. To make matters worse, they aired episodes out of order! Now, in a regular show, this most likely would not make a difference. But for a Finite series, it throws it all out of whack. It does not make it easy for good storytelling at all, no fault to Hartman, who informed fans on his website of the shenanigans. It finally ended up that they gave him a set, final limit. Having already had some “movies” (hour long episodes) during the course of the show, they also gave him a “movie” to finish it off. (How nice of them.) So Hartman had to shuffle it around yet again and get his story back on track to its conclusion in much less the space than planned. Though he will admit that some small bits feel rushed (but can you blame him after that frenzy?), he is pleased with how it turned out. And I have to say, I am very impressed. In light of what insanity he had to work under, he gave us a fabulous adventure, with a satisfying ending to boot. Yes, it leaves it open for more. But not in the sense of a Hollywood movie where it is painfully obvious that more is on the way. In the final movie "Phantom Planet,"Danny Phantom is wrapped up nicely, all the loose ends tied into bows, secrets revealed and major dilemmas solved. Yet if he wanted to, he could start another story arc from there.
Danny Phantom could be considered as falling into the Puer Archetype as well. But my next and last report of my favorite Finite Cartoons will not include a traditional Puer.

Coincidentally, you will find Rob Paulsen's vocal talent in this series as well. He plays Danny's father.

As of now, many episodes of this are on YouTube, hunt it down if you wish. Also as of now, the first two seasons are available from iTunes.

Finite Cartoons I
Finite Cartoons III

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finite Cartoons

I really enjoy a good Finite Cartoon. What on earth is that? It’s the term I use for an episodic animated series which follows a progressive story arc. This differs from a regular show. A regular program is situation-based and each episode is complete in and of itself. Next episode, new story, solved within that time frame. Yes, a Finite Cartoon can also wrap up a situation within an episode, but there is more to it. A Finite Cartoon has a definite origin and moves along to a planned conclusion. I especially like the ones with side-story episodes as well, those that don’t actually factor into the spine of the overall tale. Just to mix it up a little bit and give the arc more weight when it does appear. I’ve certainly not seen every Finite Cartoon that exits, nor do I have a complete tally. But I do have a few favorites.

One of these had actually been an advertising ploy for bad toys produced in the early 90’s. But don’t let that fool you. It seems as if the writers and animators used the toys as a springboard, leaving it in the dust of their overactive imaginations. This series draws on a wealth of mythology from around the globe, alleged ancient civilizations and a whole set of newly created mythos. It’s no wonder I like it, especially since the protagonist of the story is of the Puer Archetype. (Boy Hero) He’s not a Puer Aeternus (Eternal Boy) like Peter Pan, but he’s a wonderful character nonetheless. His name is Max. Here's the basic story (and bear in mind this is a fantastical, almost comic-book show): A package is delivered to Max's house which he assumes to be for his mother, an archeologist working for a museum. But no, it is addressed to him. Inside is a statue of a fowl. After translating Egyptian hieroglyphics to be a personal message for him, he drops it and reveals a red baseball cap with a yellow “M” on it. Before long a lava beast attacks him on his bike and the cap automatically opens up a portal into which he escapes, ending up on another part of the world. He’s met by a Schwarzenegger-esque fellow with an enormous sword and a large foul (about half Max’s height.) Max has been chosen by prophecy and destiny to be the next Mighty One, he who stands up against the evils of the world. More specifically to take down Skullmaster of the Underground Kingdom, who is orchestrating much of the chaos above. (I know, I know, but it’s technically for kids, okay?) Skullmaster had been trapped by the previous Mighty One and is now making his escape. It progresses into a complicated story of pupils and teachers, ancient artifacts, beasties, legends and gods. It all comes to a magnificent conclusion at Stonehenge. Skullmaster is voiced by the iconic gentleman Tim Curry. Oh. The name of the show is Mighty Max. Whether you believe me or not, it’s a sophisticated well-written show, rich in “edutainment.” Unfortunately it’s not yet available on DVD. But I got to see all of it on TV, watching reruns (new to me) as an adult. Once the conclusion aired during the middle of the week, I figured the next day just might be the pilot. So I set the VCR (Jeepers, remember those?) for it. Yup, they aired the whole series over again, in order. So with a few glitches (thanks to imperfect technology and weather) I have 98% of the entire series on video tape. Someplace, in a box. It didn’t just go to waste, for I showed Cassidy the entire series and she agreed that it’s of a wonderful calibre. If it ever comes to DVD, do check it out. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. You can find a lot about it on the good ‘ol ‘net if you’re so inclined. Other vocal talent in it includes Tony Jay, Richard Moll, Rob Paulsen and Tress MacNeille. You may know the last two from Animaniacs. Ms. MacNeille also voices Agnes Skinner (and many others) for The Simpsons and has done work for Futurama and Rugrats, to name but a measly few of her track record.

That’s enough reading for now. I’ll tell you about another choice Finite Cartoon in the next post.
How about you? Have a “Finite Cartoon” favorite?

Finite Cartoons II
Finite Cartoons III
*After writing this, I discovered that someone has the entire series posted on YouTube. I’m not posting a link, as this is technically infringement. But I’m not going to discourage you from looking it up ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random Quote

"When the icy winds blow into the cold nether regions, there is much to be feared in the land of the glittering gods."

[Spoken by a guy named Jeff, I think, many years ago into a tape recorder connected to a computer, back in the grand old days when a home computer had been something to sneeze at...the sheer randomness and mysterious nature of this line stuck with me to this day, when it resurfaced in my mind just as randomly.]

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's Maddening...

Here's an example of how one measely little word can change everything.

Tears For Fears has a song, "Mad World" which has been covered by more than one person. There is a line,
"Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow."
All right. Now check out what it says on one of the covers. [I won't say who it is by so as not to shame them. :) ]
"Hide my head I want to drown in my sorrow."
!!! in? It's a tiny little word, doesn't do much. Oh wait. Yes, it does. That makes a huge change in the meaning of the whole concept! Be careful, people. One word makes all the difference in what you are saying. ;)

By the way, a fun tidbit: The original song by Tears For Fears is quite speedy and catchy. For the movie Donnie Darko Michael Andrews and Gary Jules covered it. [They are not the ones who added "in."] Their version is very slow and melancholy. It's an entirely different kind of change. I have to tell you, if I had heard the Tears For Fears original I had forgotten it. After hearing Andrews/Jules' I found the original no good at all at first. Quite jarring. I've since come to appreciate both equally. But here's the corker. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears prefer the Donnie Darko version as well! They said the song had been improved. How about that?

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Chronicle-ology" by Danny Pitt Stoller

I've found a wonderful article in the blog Everything Shines by Danny Pitt Stoller. He presents the case for why The Chronicles of Narnia should be read in the published order rather than the chronological order. I also made this case here. But I merely mentioned it, he goes in-depth. His points are terrific. Thanks so much, Danny. There are four parts to his entry, the first of which starts here, with links to the next one on each.
Long live Aslan!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Little Updates

If you haven't already noticed, I've added a place to drop me a line about something not post-specific. On the left are a little quill and ink as well as a book. The book will view the Guestbook and the quill and ink will let you write on it. (There is also a link to sign on the Guestbook viewing page.)

Sunshine, whom you may have already read about, now has a blog Mission Improvisational. I've posted a link in my "Also Visit" section.

The release of Peter Pan's NeverWorld is taking longer than I would like, but it is still not entirely out of bounds of my original estimate. I can tell you that it shouldn't be very long now, two months or less. I'm rooting for less, how about you? Actually, two months is a worst case scenario.


I remembered another movie that I love which plays around with writers and writing. Granted, it seems a lot less deep and much more silly than the others I have mentioned, but I like it all the same.
The late great John Candy starred in Delirious, playing a soap opera writer who turned in his “bible” for the show’s upcoming storylines. Just as he is about to go on vacation, his bosses (one of whom is the late great Jerry Orbach) tells him they are unhappy with the script. It seems they will get another writer, Federman, to doctor it. Candy leaves in a huff, grumbling all the way to the car and accidentally bonking himself on the head. (Oh! Those old stand-by plot devices, eh?) He wakes up in the fictional town he created, where he is met by a new character he intended to include. She (Mariel Hemingway) assumes him to be another new character. He insists nothing is real and that he created the whole town. Then comes the wonderful line. “You say you’re a writer, well, then…WRITE YOUR WAY OUT!” He ponders it and types on his trusty archaic typewriter. What he writes comes true! As you can imagine, hilarity ensues. But he does not always get his way as one might imagine. For back in the real world Federman is typing on his computer to counteract and thwart him. It’s also a wonderful parody of soap operas, not that those can’t be parodies of each other and themselves. The late great Raymond Burr stars as the villain and there's an appearance by Robert Wagner as well, Robert Wagner, sort of. I guess you'll have to see what I mean.

All in all, though, I include it among my favorite film shenanigans about the art of writing and the writers who labor over their creations.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Deja Write

It's always a pleasure to write the scenes that have been in mind for a very long time. A sweet sense of accomplishment - to finally produce a narrative of a visualization. Of course, this implies the question: Why wait to write a scene? What's wrong with now? Good question. Actually, I very often do write the scenes I am most excited to see realized, or whichever parts grab me at a particular time. As long as there is a malleable spine of an outline, it's not much trouble to fill in the gaps as sections merge into a cohesive whole. Much of the time I do write in this fashion. However, lately I have been devising stories in which chronology becomes a little more than important. I found it more helpful to compose in event order, lest I lose a mental momentum (both in my own head and the minds of the characters) and miss the weight of compounded occurences as the tale unfolds. So there you have it. Due to the nature of the novel I am writing, I am being forced to foresee events and experience a written deja vu.

(Oh. If you haven't guessed, I had a Deja Write happen recently.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Writer's Regret

A regret that I have as a writer is that I cannot truly read my own material. Since I know what will happen next, I can never experience it in the same way as a reader would. The joy of discovery and being thrown by twists are impossible. But then, I am able to have an experience that the reader is denied – the discovery of creation as I collaborate with the characters as the story grows in ways I didn’t originally imagine. These instances range from smiling at minor details to being surprised by a new development. But it would be nice to be able to read one of my stories with a clean slate.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ask And Ye Shall Receive...

I got to matching Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" with Captain Jack Sparrow of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series. Naturally I wanted to have a music video using clips from the movies. I knew I could do it. I have the means, but I cowered in the face of the amount of work and time that would be involved. I have completed projects such as this many times before. But my desire to see it did not outweigh my unwillingness to do it. Then I realized that it probably had already been done. To YouTube! Voila. Several, in fact. This is the first one I went to and I enjoyed it very much. CJMylentz, Thank You and Bravo! Drink up me hearties, yo ho!

Deconstructing India

Well, Laughter came to town again...he saw the final performance of A Passage to India. For the record, Bart and I attended the penultimate showing with Bart's aunt and family friend. After the show, Laughter came to our place (where I showed him Mario Kart Wii.) Always good to hang out with a best friend, no? He stayed the night. We left the next morning for the theatre. Strike. Yup, the magnificent set of the Jeff Recommended A Passage to India came apart, on purpose. Crowbars, hammers, drills, yanking...tearing down the opulance. Laughter had designed it in large pieces so much of it merely needed to be taken apart. The archways and pillars and such can be used in another show at some point. Anyway, a good time despite the work. But then, destructive work is always more fun. Congratulations to Vitalist Theatre on their latest masterpiece. Looking forward to the next one. And yes, I'll be there volunteering my time then as well.