Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Silent Boy Who Never Grew Up

I’ve been saying that Barrie hated the silent movie. It’s not wrong, per se, but delving into it again, I’ve found that I may have over accentuated Barrie’s feelings. Seems I combined the elements involved with his dislike of the Kensington Gardens statue. I’m sorry if I misled anyone, for Barrie did find pleasure in some of it. When Betty Bronson, the actress who played Peter Pan, visited Barrie two years later in London he told her she’d impressed him. And he did have the final say on the pick for Peter.

However, my believing that he greatly disliked it comes from the fact that most of what he envisioned had been ignored. Barrie resisted quite a few offers to film the story. He wanted Charlie Chaplin to produce a movie and star as Pan. He wrote a grand screenplay. For Barrie it proved an opportunity to truly work outside the confines of the stage play. He wrote entire new scenes, such as beginning with Peter Pan merrily ride a goat around. An extended flying sequence:

The flight to the Never, Never Land has now begun. We see the truants flying over the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. Then an ordinary sitting of the House of Commons, faithfully reproduced. A policeman rushes in to the august Chamber and interrupts proceedings with startling news of what is happening in the air. All rush out to see, the Speaker, who is easily identified by his wig, being first. They get to the Terrace of the House and excitedly watch the flying group disappear.

Then the children flying over the Atlantic. The moon comes out. Wendy tires, Peter supports her.

Then they near New York. The Statue of Liberty becomes prominent.

So all in all, he relished the ability to show expanses of the Neverland like, well, never before. The man knew exactly what he wanted. He had such a vision of it! It sounds wonderful. Quite the imaginative power went into his screenplay, meticulously detailed. But to a fault. It can certainly be construed as crossing the line into “control freak.” So, when he finally acquiesced to the Lasky Company to make the movie, all of his additions and specific instructions did not prove entirely feasible. Or director Herbert Brenon exercised his right to, well, direct. Or both. Either way, most of Barrie’s creation never made it past the pages he wrote them on. Many were outright ignored and contradicted, such as close-ups of Tinker Bell. Not exactly encouraging for him. And his first pick never panned out. Also, although there are some wonderful exterior shots, for the most part it merely filmed the stage. So naturally I assessed that he’d be disenchanted with the results.

Let me talk about those results.
As a general critique the expressions and gestures are way over exaggerated. But then, this effect is from the style of the time. Actors had to compensate for lack of sound to convey their emotions and carry the story. Especially when the words put up on screen are condensed from the original script.
What caught my attention:
> Mrs. Darling sees a glimpse of Peter. We know she does from the novel and the play, but to include it is a nice touch.

> A well done exterior of Peter sneaking along the house and peering inside.

> The dog costume, up close, is quite unnerving. It may have worked on stage, but on film it just proved too freaky looking. I don’t mean to suggest that they should have used a real dog. Nor that they should have constructed a dog. Merely pointing out how it can be jarring. (Barrie said: NOTE about Nana. -- She should be generally played by a human being in a skin exactly like that of some real Newfoundland dog which is available, so that in certain scenes -- as in the street scenes -- this dog can be substituted for the actor.)

> A marvelous scene in the movie is Nana coming to Mr. and Mrs. Darling at their fancy dinner party. The other dinner guests follow them to the nursery and see the children fly away.

> The creation of the Wendy House is quite a remarkable effect for the time period.
As is Tinker Bell in her boudoir.

> A great shot of a real ship on real water. And a fantastic crane shot of pirates coming ashore.

> I liked the slides and mushroom chairs in the Underground House.

> Quite a stunning view of the mermaids on the beach. At least two dozen of them, also done with a type of crane shot. Curiously, they included a Mermaid Queen.

> The interior of Hook’s cabin also provided a welcome addition.

> And the hook is on the correct hand.

And now for what I did not like.
> I found it strange that no kind of special effect represented the fairy dust being blown on the Darlings. Not that I expected superimposed animation. But to have nothing, not even simple glitter? I felt cheated.

> There is an entire scene watching Captain Hook get the idea to put a clock in the crocodile. Barrie does not directly suggest that he put it there himself. Just that by chance it swallowed it. Later, Peter bravely takes the clock out of the crocodile. He does so rather than imitating the tick-tock himself as in the novel. It should be noted that In Barrie’s screenplay, Peter is seen making plans with the crocodile – that Peter will deliver the rest of Hook if he follows.

> They changed it from “English gentleman” to “American gentleman.” When the Jolly Roger’s skull and crossbones are taken down, it is replaced with an American flag. I realize Hollywood made it, but it seems a crime to alter it. (They did the same on Broadway.)

> During the exchange between Mrs. Darling and Peter Pan about adopting him, it now reads: Would you send me to school? And then to an office? - and soon I shall be president? I’m sorry...what?

You may or may not recall my praise for Tinker Bell’s resurrection in the Hogan film. They did not fair(y) so well here. They still ask for the audience to clap their hands. (Barrie did, too, actually.)

On the whole, a valiant effort. The performances are good, albeit emphasized. It utilizes the film’s expanding quality to produce some wonderful scenes. When one considers what they accomplished in 1924, cinema’s infancy, one cannot help but praise the work. Still, it would have been great to see it fully realized the way Barrie envisioned. Then again, one could argue he went a bit overboard. The enthusiasm of being able to bring in the new material outweighed the editing process. Perhaps I wished for a better medium between the two.

Japan's Boy Who Never Grew Up
P.J. Hogan's Boy Who Never Grew Up
Disney's Boy Who Never Grew Up
Fox's Boy Who Never Grew Up

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Used Bookstore Score

Last evening I browsed around a used bookstore that Bart and I frequent. It’s across the street from our favorite sushi restaurant. So I looked, waiting for Bart to arrive. One of the books in the back of my mind that I knew I should probably read happened to be there. I’m quite excited. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I’d heard of it before, especially since there is a movie in the works. Having seen featurettes on the film, I knew it to be right up my alley. In the most basic terms, it’s about a little girl named Coraline who finds a mysterious door in the house they moved into which leads to a fantastic adventure of some kind. I’m not quite sure what yet…I’ve only just begun. It’s supposed to be scary, too, which could be fun. The movie stars the amazing Dakota Fanning. Also exciting is how the movie is being made. It’s following the lead of James and the Giant Peach. A live-action film until the “other world” begins, which is then stop-motion animation with delightfully odd figurines. Plus, it will be in 3-D. I’m a little on the fence about the 3-D stuff. It’s cool, but I’m not overly into it.

I’m about to start the fourth chapter. As I’ve said before, I usually read in transit. So when I finish, I will give a report. Then, when the movie comes out I can make a comparison. As always, I hope for the rare good adaptation.
Here's the trailer. I have not seen it in a long time. Months, in fact. So I don't recall all that much. I'm not going to watch it again, so as to let the book speak for itself. But you can watch.

Coraline Sewn Up with Slightly Irregular Stitching

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Short Description of the Incessant

This is my new favorite word pairing:

ridiculously ubiquitous

Given today's media it can be applied to any number of subjects. Take your pick.


I had been under the naive impression that I coined this phrase. How silly of me. My friend Sunshine took the liberty of putting "my" word pair into Google using quotations (so as to come up with exactly that combination). The discovery? That "ridicuously ubiquitous" is, in fact, ridicuously ubiquitous!

Have a look!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Inspired by this post by Danielle Mari on Mission Improvisational, I’m going to say a few words about my favorite teacher: Mrs. Drizin. In high school I usually kept my mouth shut regarding my admiration for her. From what I heard other students saying, I stood alone. Some of them even accused her of being awful. But I loved her. Do you want to know why? Because she never taught me a thing. Rather she shared her knowledge, so that we could discover how to learn.

I remember complaints from kids about how she’d spend time talking about her own children’s endeavors instead of a lesson plan. Somehow they failed to see that the plan had been to relate what she told us to the material we studied. For instance, she didn’t just tell us, perhaps, about the struggle of her daughter to be accepted in the medical community - no, she’d been drawing a parallel to Nora of a Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, who wanted more out of life. I always understood her analogies.

Mrs. Drizin had a habit of asking us to write essays. The topics? She'd leave that up to the student. Not always, of course. But often enough that other kids griped. They bitched that they had to write one in the first place, then about having no focus or topic…as if Mrs. Drizin had been too lazy to think up one. On the contrary, the students were too unfocused and unimaginative to be able to proceed. When Mrs. Drizin reviewed them, she doled out pointers about writing - from composition to grammar to conceptual organization. Plus, she made comments regarding our selected topics, the friendly kind, such as now appear on blogs. It let you know she’d truly consumed what you wrote, not just read it.

She also instigated a need for connections. The ability to see associations between works. From the minutia to the major. She stressed the importance of not just reading information, but applying it to the world at large - both in our lives and what we’d already experienced academically (and not just in her classroom). I soon found it easier to grasp concepts when they all fit together like a puzzle that slowly took shape. (This of course also relates to her talking about her personal life…it fit, if you cared to notice how.)

She wanted to be active in your personal affairs. No, not the way that sounds. For instance, she discovered that I had begun writing a novel based on a comic strip/book project from art class. Immediately she pounced on it, ready to peruse my effort. Later she came to me and asked me if I would stay after school and come speak with her. (For the record, I’d been known to hang around a bit with teachers after classes. Always when welcome, of course…I knew the difference.) When I met with her, she praised my work. She’d also viewed the comic panels and marveled at how I explored and expanded the possibilities from drawing to prose. She couldn’t wait for more. And no, I do not hold her in esteem simply because she fed my ego. She had just as much constructive criticism as she did nice words.

With that particular project, she brought to light a lesson that has stuck with me ever since. Actually, the lesson is two-fold. One of the details of my story that she pointed out had been the use of red & black in reference to the main character. “Devil colors!” she smiled, knowing that I would make the connection as well. [I’m not about to explain the storyline to you…just know that there’d been another devil-like reference in relation to him.] Here’s the thing - she called attention to the red & black as a nod to me, as in “Good use!” But the truth is I hadn’t even intended the allusion! I let her know…and then the lesson came about. Just because something is not necessarily conceived of and/or planned by an author does not mean that the allusion is not valid or there. It seems obvious, perhaps. But when it’s drawn from your own work and it surprises you, it hits home just a bit more. The two-fold aspect is the realization that the sub-conscious mind does indeed work. Artists tap into some sort of collective unconscious. Something beyond our own scope that influences us. How powerful it had been to suddenly be aware of that fact!

She wound up writing a letter of recommendation for college - which she let me read. She spoke about this very subject - how she discovered that I’d taken on a writing project of my own volition, my creativity and ability to incorporate classroom teachings. Something like that. I don’t mean that to be a tooting horn.

So here’s to Leona Drizin. The woman who gave me friendship, guidance, stories, encouragement, information and instilled the capacity to know what it is to learn.

I’ll leave you with a something I remember her saying. I remember it because of its delightful absurdity. “I’ve brought something wonderful for you all to read! Unfortunately it’s on yellow paper, but that doesn’t mean it isn't worthwhile.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obscurity Batch II

We all know about the peanut butter brand named for Barrie's eternal boy. Persoanlly I don't get it. What on earth does Peter Pan have to do with peanut butter anyway? I mean other than slight aliteration? Sunshine always told me that it made her happy as a child. And that it might lead a kid to discover the story. True. Or, that the recognition of the character is a marketing ploy. True. But, still...I just don't see how it ever came up. I wonder if Barrie had anything to do with it. In 1928 the creamy spread called E. K. Pond became renamed Peter Pan. That's nine years before Barrie died. So did he know about it? I confess I don't know. And I'm not inclined to look it up...I'd rather not find out.

However, there have been other products that attached themselves inexplicably to Pan. I've collected quite a few images regarding Peter over the years. And these don't even have alliteration going for them. I leave you to ponder the strange (including a vintage peanut butter ad):
Obscurity Batch I
Obscurity Batch III

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Age Old Question?

When people in our set are introduced, it is customary for them to ask each other’s age, and so Wendy, who always liked to do the correct thing, asked Peter how old he was. It was not really a happy question to ask him; it was like an examination paper that asks grammar, when what you want to be asked is Kings of England.

“I don’t know,” he replied uneasily, “but I am quite young.”
- Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie

Here's a (not so) simple question for you:
If you didn't know your age, how old would you be?
Not how old would you like to old do you feel/think you are?

For many years I figured I'd remain 17. But now I imagine I'm about 22.

Time is funny. College went by in a blink but it took forever to do so.
And it ended about five years ago. (But it's really been 15.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Scraping the Barrel of Scrutiny

Two interesting recent developments in the storytelling domain :

It's "funny" how a company that has built an empire on ransacking the public domain and obtaining the rights to others' work is so concerned with protecting their own work. Not that I don't understand the desire to hold on to what they have - but again, what they have largely came from elsewhere!
For instance, I know of a "Mom & Pop" shop owner who had his windows painted with Disney characters. He received a "cease & desist" letter from the Disney corporation. The "corker" is that he'd had them painted to promote the fact that he had their officially licensed party goods of their latest movie in stock.

How paranoid are we, anyway? It's bad enough that we speculate on the morality and behavior of authors past from shreds of evidence. Do we have to have such a clause as this one?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Word Puzzle

This is one of my favorite word puzzles. I like it because it's so simple that it befuddles easily. I also enjoy the message itself.

If you figure it out, please don't ruin it for everyone else by placing the answer in the comments. I'll just delete it for the benefit or future readers anyway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stop the Inanity!

A pet peeve of mine is when people refer to P.J. Hogan’s version of Peter Pan as a remake. I recall hearing it and reading it in the months before its release. “Why are they remaking Peter Pan? Don’t we have enough?” As I stated in my post regarding my thoughts on his movie, Hogan did not do a remake. (Unless the silent film counts.) Disney’s animation and Spielberg’s Hook certainly don’t. Disney does not because this is in reference to a live-action feature. Hook because, well, it’s not the original story and it’s a strange “What If?” game that probably shouldn’t have even been played.

But forget about Pan being remade. I just got wind of three new remakes on the horizon. And it’s starting to make my stomach turn.

Yes, I realize that remakes have always been a part of Hollywood - new adaptations of books and plays and previous movies. But where is the sense (other than money) of revamping classic films? Or even “bad” movies?

I’m sure every one of you can name a remake that has made your skin crawl. And more often than not (if not always) the remake doesn’t come close to re-capturing the magic of the original or is just plain bad.

Okay, the three movies that sent me into this tirade are: Child’s Play, Poltergeist and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’m not suggesting that Child’s Play is a classic movie. No offense to those who like it, but let’s be honest. It’s a silly fright flick. Why does it need remade? Poltergeist on the other hand, is a terrific (both senses of the word) movie. It’s great as is. Does it need a remake? Okay, perhaps the effects could be a bit better…but in this case they don’t have to be. The movie is well made and holds up…don’t fix what isn’t broken. The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Come on now, what are they going to do? Make it “good” instead? The whole charm of the movie is how delightfully awful it truly is - you don’t base a whole subculture on something that isn’t a cult classic! Make it a parody and you defame the original as well. The movie didn’t try to be lousy, it just is - hence why it’s “good.” Strive for that and it won’t succeed. Aim to make a “legitimate feature” out of it and well…does anyone want to see that? [It's going ahead without O'Brien's blessing, by the way.]

Another recent mention slated for a redo is Rosemary’s Baby. I’m sorry, but this is the epitome of unnecessary. Nothing can be done to surpass the original. What will they do? Give it more special effects? Finally show us the baby? The whole reason the movie worked in the first place is the suspense of the unknown and the deep psychological tortures of the characters. No “jump out at you” effect is going to bring more merit. And even if the greatest actors in the world are cast, how can they possibly outdo the original performances?

Then again, I am not totally against re-doing movies. For instance, a reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street is also in the works. This one makes a little sense. Unlike Rosemary’s Baby, the story and the visual effects certainly can benefit from today’s headlines and F/X technologies. So, yes, okay, I understand. And the word is they're going for scary - a la no one-liners for Freddy. Nothing silly. As scary as they can muster. It will be interesting to see such a movie assuming it's done with any sort of skill or justice.

If other actors want a chance to portray these characters, what about trying them on the stage?
Imagine a live Rosemary’s Baby. Or Richard O’Brien’s crazy Transylvanians re-imagined doing the Time Warp on something other than a movie set. (Yes, I am aware it began on stage and is often done and has been recently as a major production.)

I just hope they utilize the newly found full copy of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis when they produce the remake of it. (And yes, it’s coming.)

Seriously. Is there any way to stop this inanity? *sigh* I suppose not.
It’s a fact of Hollywood life… but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Not Just Me III

There's been quite a bit of 'talk' both here on my site and at Mission Improvisational about the use of words correctly and mistaken definitions. Here's a link to someone else who is "concerned." Especially since Presidental hopeful Obama is now a culprit.

It's Not Just Me II (this post is not a grammar/word reference, it just shares the title)

If you are the "owner" of the picture I am using, my apologies if I am infringing.
As you can see, it's just too perfect. Let me know and I will take it off.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cavorting with Characters

Today I’m going for a simple “fun” post.
What literary characters would you most like to spend time with and why?

You’d be right that I’d hang out with Peter Pan, assuming he could stand a child-like adult. I don’t think I really need to answer as to why, do I?

I’d also like to relax on the banks of an island in the Mississippi River with Huckleberry Finn. The guy knows how to do nothing and do it well. Plus I imagine I’d be quite entertained by his wit. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon.

I also want to be friends with Jim Hawkins. He's got plenty of money to spend on a good time, he loves adventures and he's just damn cool. I'm sure he'd have much to talk about.

Who would you bring off the page?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grey Matters?

Fiction: Young Adult vs. Adult.

Having grappled this concept myself, I found this set of point-counterpoint articles fascinating.

I'd once been told that one of my novels is too adult for children and too childish for adults. I disagree, and not out of pure knee-jerk defense. I understand where the comment came from and can see how it has merit. Yet I tend to agree with some of the arguments raised in the counterpoint article. It's a grey area, I believe, and sometimes separating the black from the white in it is not such a good idea. I'm not condemning it entirely, just saying not to be afraid of grey as much as we seem to be.

I encourage you to read both these articles in full, as the snippets in the link are only the crust of their bread. I'll admit I did not spend the time to read the comments/discussion on either (since those can usually go both ways in terms of value.) But I would like to hear your comments. What's the difference between these two in your opinion? Should there even be a distinction? Just curious...

Curioser and curioser. - Alice, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
[For kids, but read by adults, who get something entirely different out of it, by the way!]

Although it is not the book I spoke of at the start of this post, I also am thinking of Peter Pan's NeverWorld. I'm often asked: Is it for kids or adults? I'd like to turn this around slightly. Is Peter and Wendy a.k.a. Peter Pan for kids or adults?

But that is not the question on which I wish you would focus.
Take a look at these articles and see what you think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Tinker with It...

There appears to be a new tradition in productions of the play Peter Pan.
A trend not to my liking. Casting a person as Tinker Bell. Sure, I see that it provides another role when you have a lot of kids/actors who want to participate. But I also think a line must be drawn somewhere. There are a great many roles as it is in Barrie’s production. Asking us to pretend someone is a small, incandescent ball of light is stretching the tensile strength of the suspension of disbelief. Or at least I think so. Consider what Barrie said in his screenplay:
There should never be any close-up pictures of Tink or other fairies; we should always just see them as not more than five inches high.
Granted, this is a stage show and his cinematic command does not apply. However, I think it does have bearing. It seems as if Barrie wanted to maintain a mystery about fairies. By allowing someone to play Tink, is the character not being robbed of her magical quality? The very fact that Tinker Bell is achieved as a special effect gives more power and credence to her magical nature. In this day and age, any number of methods can be employed to bring a fairy to life on stage. But casting a human to be an overgrown fairy? More or less the same size as Peter and Wendy? It just doesn’t seem right at all. Apologies to anyone who has played Tinker Bell. I just don’t see the advantage of making it an actor role.
But no matter what, applaud for her anyway.

* The picture is a portrait of Tink by acclaimed artist Brian Froud.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Peter Pan no Bōken - Not Entirely Broken!

I finished the Peter Pan no Bōken series.
The other two posts regarding it are here and here.
Springing off the previous commentary, I must report that the appearance of Don Quixote remained inexplicable from the story arc perspective. What’s curious is that there are 41 episodes. Why not 40 and skip the gratuitous use of Cervantes amid Barrie?

The return of Captain Hook and the pirates eventually did intertwine its way into the plot. It’s true that without them the adventure would not have worked as well. His past rivalry with Peter Pan added weight and sense to his shenanigans. Their interference with Darkness (the evil queen) allows for a display of her power as well as extra trouble/adventure for Peter Pan and friends. Still though, I’d prefer that once Hook left the picture, he remained out of it.

The rest of the series delighted just as much as the first half. Such imaginative additions, from the White and Black Mirrors to the stone city that rises up and crumbles around them. But it is not without flaws. The magical queen’s need to destroy the Neverland stemmed from little if anything more than “I am evil.” The stealing of dreams seems to be nothing more than just blotting them out. And at the end, Wendy abruptly announces that perhaps they should leave. It’s not prompted by a fear of forgetting their previous lives or realizing that Peter is never going to be what is desired of him. Here it’s just that the Neverland is at peace again and her sudden decision.

As before, the characters remained true to their novel/play counterparts. And Rascal the raccoon even became more important. I enjoyed the new characters of
Luna, her Grandmother Darkness and henchmen.
But at the same time they seemed a bit more “standard” fantasy and not as Barrie-like as they might have been. Fox’s Peter Pan & the Pirates, in my opinion, had new characters more in tune with Barrie’s style.

Overall, an enjoyable series. And a terrific portrayal of Peter Pan, with both his sweet and rude sides flipping like a coin as per needed. If only he didn’t look the way he did. I mean, seriously...what’s going on with his nose?
But, I’ve already said I don’t like the character design.
Though I did like the Darlings and Tinker Bell, to be honest.

A very fun, highly inventive take on Barrie's classic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Worse...The Better...

Bart and I have finished the BBC special The Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin. (More on it here and here.)
All of the praise for it is not unfounded. It’s a damn fine piece of work. For those of you who don’t know, the story of J.M. Barrie and the Llewellyn Davies does not end happily. They are besieged with internal discontents and external tragedies. If your knowledge comes from Finding Neverland, then perhaps you’re not aware of what truly befell them. The boys pretty much wind up resenting the whole idea of Peter Pan, as it is a stigma and association they cannot avoid. “Oh! You’re the real Peter Pan!” Imagine hearing that all your life! Furthermore, unrest settles in the house as egos flair, leading Mary Hodgson (the boys’ nursemaid) to leave, dejected. George is killed in World War I, Michael seems to have committed suicide, Jack never quite liked the notion of “Uncle Jim” and although the program did not show it, Peter jumped in front of train at age 63.

As the drama increased, the performances elevated. Ian Holm does indeed do a wonderful job at displaying the joys and upsets of Barrie’s life. A bittersweetness that boils into just plain bitterness. Not to paint an unflattering picture of Barrie. The guy had to deal with more than his share of horror. The series ends with him playing with another child, showing that he still had hope and whimsy within him. There is much to be found in the power of the performances.

Bravo to Birkin, as well, for the script. For instance, he never had to tell you that George had been killed in the war. No words to that effect are ever spoken. Instead it can be inferred in a touching bemoaning session and a telegram in Barrie’s hand. Nicely played. Heartbreaking.

When I think of the Barrie/Llewellyn Davies story, I prefer the earlier happier times. Rambunctious boys out playing in the woods by a lake. The sadness, fears, rejections and abandoment are best left to the dark side of the Neverland.

I highly recommend this series for anyone who is interested in the real story of “J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys” instead of the glamorized Hollywood version.

*The picture is the Region 2 DVD cover.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obscurity Batch

I thought I'd share some obscure Peter Pan references.

First, though it's not much to look at, there is a "Peter Pan Skate Park" in Lincoln, Nebraska. No offense meant, I say so in's a skate park that looks like it could use some building up. Truth be told, I really admire skateboarding. This becomes evident in my novel What If It's a Trick Question?

On the right is a front and back over for an 'old' book, The Peter Pan Bag by Lee Kingman. Though, this is not the cover I have. And yes, I do have the book. (I tend to collect most if not all such things related to Peter Pan good or bad regardless.) I also read it, though long ago, so I don't remember much about it. As I recall, "bag" refers to "thing" as "Hey, man, that's not really my bag." If you've clicked on the back cover, you'll know that the girl is named Wendy. She runs away, as it says, and meets a guy named Peter. But it's not a re-telling per se in that sense. It doesn't parallel and they're aware of Peter Pan. Wendy hates it when Peter makes the comparison and reference.

To the left here are two of the original posters for the 1924 silent movie of Peter Pan. Yes, I have this too, of course. I mentioned before that Barrie hated it. He has quite valid points as to why. I'll say more on this when I eventually get around to "The Silent Boy Who Never Grew Up" in my series of posts giving my thoughts about various versions.

I hope something in this batch o' relative obscurity interested you.
Maybe it's just me, as I am a little obsessed with Peter Pan. :)

Obscurity Batch II
Obscurity Batch III

Monday, August 11, 2008

More or Leslie!

Sordid Lives: The Series has yet to disappoint. And I doubt sincerely that it ever will. Bart and I are laughing ourselves silly. The delivery of the lines is ticklish to the funny bone. And oh my! -- the lines themselves! Thanks Del Shores. Once again, bravo to them all!

I first wrote about it here.

Meanwhile I also read Leslie Jordan's book, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. It's not for everyone, as the little man (said with UTMOST affection) can be rather explict and raunchy. But in a cute way. :) It's not all fun and games. He deals with some very serious issues that have faced the gay community over the years as well as some personal trauma. But on the whole, it's uplifting and quite a read. It makes me love him even more.

Mr. Jordan is the only actor I have ever written into a novel.* Cassidy read the book and excitedly told me, "Ooo! Ooo! You know who'd be perfect to play Dusty in the movie? That little guy from Will & Grace!" Apparently my description had been darn good.

*What If It's a Trick Question? - Not Peter Pan's NeverWorld

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Don't Give Writers THAT Much Power!

So I finally watched Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Why do I say it like that? Well, I've always been a little leery of it. Seems every review I'd get would contradict the last one. Some like it, some hate it. As for my thoughts regarding the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, I like the first one, the third one and the concept of the fourth, though not the movie itself. After that, it became tiresome. Didn't stop me from seeing more, I admit. But by the time New Nightmare rolled around, I had expired my desire for it. Although the premise intrigued me. Just never enough to venture back into its messed up world.

What intrigued me is the Pirandellian aspect. I've explained Pirandellian here.

From what I knew of it, Wes Craven is in the movie script itself, trying to muster up the original stars Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson) to do another Nightmare movie. However, it turns out Freddy is real. He's not happy about his portrayal and starts attacking them.

Okay, it turns out that what I had pieced together as the plot is not entirely right. It's not far off base, though. It's a little more complicated than I thought. But not complicated in the sense of logistically intricate. It's a silly flick, one of those "meh" movies. But the Pirandellian premise did add some fun.

Halfway through movie, Robert Englund is talking with Heather Langenkamp on the phone. She inquires if Wes Craven has told him anything about the script, how far along? He replies that he hasn't seen any of it, but Wes said he'd just written the part where....Robert then describes what had just happened to Heather in real life. Later, toward the climax, Heather (playing Nancy in a dream to save her son from Freddy) finds a script! She reads it. She reads just what she'd been doing. Before she can read what she will do, she's prompted to save the kid. Cut to the end, when they're safe from Freddy...she also finds the script which came "out of" the dream. It has a handwritten note from Wes Craven, thanking her for playing Nancy one last time. She skips to the end, reads what she just did and then reads her reading a handwritten note from Wes, the note typed into the script. The boy makes her read it from the beginning...she does and it describes how the movie began. Now that's a wild ride. Too bad the rest of the movie didn't quite make it worth it.

However, the title of this post refers to the phenomenon described by Wes Craven in the movie. Apparently sometimes writers will tap into a prime source. In this case, a source of Evil that can take many forms. Sometimes a writer catches a glimpse, is sparked by it and therefore creates it into words/film. Once the Evil is "pinned down" to that form, it remains. Like a genie in a bottle, Heather suggests. The Evil can only escape when the public loses interest in the material. Or the material becomes so watered down by the media that the hold weakens. Thus, it happened with Freddy Krueger. By the way, it seems the Evil has grown fond of "being" Freddy Krueger, so thus, it attacked as such. Ridiculous, I agree.

But just think of that for a moment, will you? Just imagine if that were true! I'll be the first to acknowledge that writers tap into something in order to be able to write. But the notion that we are somehow "jailers" and "gatekeepers" to ancient Evil? Good Grief! I don't want that much power...sheesh! Well, like they said at the end of Wes Craven's New Nightmare - "It's just a story, right?"

Saturday, August 9, 2008

...return to Japan's version of the Neverland

I managed to find the rest of Peter Pan no Boken (Adventures of Peter Pan) that I wrote about here. I'm just a few episodes beyond where I left off. On the whole, it's still very good. They've created a compelling set of characters and circumstances. Peter Pan and company have befriended Luna, who is a princess and grandaughter to the Black Magician. Children's dreams are being destroyed in some capacity, but the how and why does not yet seem entirely clear. And it seems I'm not either, so I will wait until I have seen more and can focus my thoughts.

Two parts seemed rather jarring though. Although I adored the location of it (a graveyard of pirate ships floating haphazardly in dingy, foggy space) I didn't see the point of bringing Captain Hook back. Perhaps there is a good reason. I have yet to see. As of now, it seems unnecessary when they could focus on the wonderful characters they created instead. And he didn't do much but sneer and grumble a lot.

The other part is the inclusion of Don Quixote. What? Right. I don't know either. The character of Miguel Cervantes shows up in an episode which, other than a lesson in courage vs. cowardice, has no real value. Not to be cruel, but it steered away from the story arc just to have Don Quixote appear. I imagine the writers had an affinity for the knight errant and paid him homage this way. I just didn't get it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Racing, Writing and...No Arithmetic

Veering slightly from my normal focus, I just wanted to say that I added a new level to that surreal experience of online gameplay. [And yes, I am behind the times getting so excited about it, but I explained that here.] What new level you ask? Finally I played a buddy online with other racers from across the country. Yup, my best friend Laughter and I fought off red shells, threw down lightning and Bullet Bill'd our way across desert, concrete and snow - to say the least. It certainly took away the delusion that the other players are merely Artificial Intelligence. Racing Laughter from about 200 miles away. What fun! No, seriously.

On the storytelling side, I delved back into the current novel. Too much stuff is invading my time. I just need to force time for it. Well, the gang sprung some surprises on me again. Proving yet another time that the characters know what they're doing. I'm lucky that this set is willing to lay low for spells at a time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's Gold, man!

I have to hand it to William Goldman. As I said in the last post, he has a brilliant book and screenplay, The Princess Bride. Many aspects of it impress me, but I’m going to focus on two of them.

First, the names. They’re terrible. They’re stupid. They’re simple.
And yet…I love each and every one.
Princess Buttercup. The Dread Pirate Roberts. Prince Humperdinck. Pit of Despair. The names of the towns are European money. But it all works. Beautifully. Maybe it has to do with the absurd child-like charm of it. Maybe it’s because the characters and locations transcend their ridiculous names by being so strong and memorable in a top notch (but simple!) story. It just goes to show that coming up with unique, extraordinary monikers is not always necessary. I find this both a relief and disheartening. Sometimes my character names have hidden meanings, are derived from ancient languages or some such tooled creation process. It’s nice to know that it is possible to “get away with” simplicity. But then it also makes me wonder why I labor. Probably because the techniques each work favorably in different situations.

I should also mention the Star Wars Saga of George Lucas. Ever think about some of the names in there? Death Star. Han Solo (he’s independent, kid!). Skywalker. The Mon Calamari (who are fish and squid-like). Lightsaber. It’s a little silly, no? But again, their strength is their straightforwardness, supported by an amazing tale. And then there is Charles Dickens, who somehow managed to have characters like Mr. McChoakumchild, a strict school master in Hard Times. Not so subtle. Conversely, I often found myself in the thick of Tolkien, trying to recall if some of the names I encountered are a character, town, building, sword or a river. The trick, I suppose, is figuring out when and where to use complexity and simplicity.

The other aspect of The Princess Bride I found masterful is how he interpreted his own story for the film adaptation. For those of you who don’t know, the book is an abridged version of a novel by S. Morgenstern. Morgenstern pontificates and details way too much about the history of the towns and such, satiring the excesses of European royalty. It’s too cumbersome. But the underlying story is fantastic. There’s just one thing. S. Morgenstern doesn’t really exist. Goldman made up the whole ordeal, using a not so uncommon literary device of pretending to have found a work or abridged it. Who cares if it’s been done before? Goldman does it to perfection. In the movie, you might recall, Fred Savage plays a sick child in bed being read to by his Grandfather (Peter Falk). The boy is not so happy with the “kissing parts” so Grandfather kindly skips ahead to adventure for him. This echoes William Goldman claiming that this or that part of S. Morgenstern’s script is too dense and not very interesting at a particular point, so he goes on to the better bits. What a concept! Completely the same and yet altogether different for the new medium of telling the tale. Bravo!

Not bad for asking each daughter what he should write about.
“A princess,” said one. “A bride,” said the other.
And so Goldman wrote: The Princess Bride. The rest is history.

Update: I've now read the book. Post is here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Listen to Inigo

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
- Inigo Montoya

Truly one of the great lines from The Princess Bride. Too many great lines from that movie. It’s just a brilliant script. Bravo to William Goldman for his book and screenplay.

Part of the reason Montoya’s line is so memorable, I think, is because too many of us keep using words that we don’t know what they mean .

One in particular, I find, is akimbo. Arms akimbo, specifically. It seems most people use it to mean “flailing about haphazardly.” It certainly sounds like it means that. A good friend once even described a different body part set as being akimbo. (No, not legs.) If you do use it to mean hanging here and there all out of sorts, for Inigo’s sake, look it up and be surprised.

I encourage you to have a look at Sunshine’s post about the word “hopefully.” Hopefully you will go to be enlightened.

I recently learned what “nonplussed” actually means, too, as evidenced by the comments in Sunshine’s blog. (Hint: It's not akin to ambivalent.)

And then there’s the Flammable/Inflammable/Nonflammable debacle. When in doubt, just use Flammable and Not Flammable to avoid confusion and save lives.

Literally. This word is abused, though not literally. He literally laughed his way to the bank. Did his uproarious giggles propel him to the financial institution? Um, no. Then don’t say that it did. In a nutshell, literally means exactly as written/spoken. Laughing all the way to bank is a figurative statement. So is being in a nutshell. However, due to overwhelming usage in the incorrect way, the Dictionary now mentions that it is becoming “acceptable” to say things like “She literally had her heart on her sleeve.” Fight it. Don’t let grammar die. [Don't worry, I won't ask you to clap really hard if you believe in good grammar.]

Speaking of words that have become acceptable, “normalcy” takes the cake. Although there is evidence that the word existed in early dictionaries, the story goes that 29th President Warren G. Harding coined it for his “Return to Normalcy" campaign in the absence of a speech writer. Either way, it just sounds silly to me. Since normality is a word already, do we really need this crazy addition?

Ironic. Chances are, it’s not. Poor little “irony” is as abused as “literally.” Irony is the opposite of what you expect, not an absurd conicidence. And the irony of Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” is that nothing in it is ironic. Unfortunate, coincidental, luck perhaps.…just to get that ironed out.

So, if you’re sitting there with your arms akimbo, literally wondering if my displeasure is inflammable and hopefully assuming that you won’t get nonplussed by it, be comforted that you’re not being ironic and you can resume normality.

And please know that I’m not being superior or accusatory.

Just thinking how Inigo is right, which is not inconceivable.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's like being there...

I watched the first part (of three) of Andrew Birkin's The Lost Boys. It's a BBC mini-series from 1978 chronicling the friendship between J. M. Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family. Think Finding Neverland but accurate, less showy and more complete. Since Birkin is the authority on Barrie and from the amount of praise given this program, I expected it to be great. It has not disappointed.

From the moment it began, I knew I would love it. For those of you who know what this means, it even showed the balloon lady outside the Gardens. For the rest of you, it mirrored the feel of the Arthur Rackham drawings beautifully. It included little touches that made the past (and now fantasy of it) come alive. In a way that Finding Neverland did not quite achieve. From the costumes to the overall visual quality. And free of the 'must glamorize' mentality of Hollywood.

Another treasure-filled scene for a Barrie scholar is the re-creation of The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island. This portion is not unlike having a time machine. Barrie's actual photographs are inserted every so often. They're placed amid history unfolding. We now see the Llewelyn Davies boys tromping along on their adventure, eventually striking the poses in the photos that have come to be known. (Only two copies of The Boy Castaways existed, one for the boys. One for Barrie.)

Thanks to Birkin, we have audio and video of Barrie. Ian Holm does a great job in picking up his speech patterns. Needless to say, his Scottish accent and acting are excellent. Also excellent is Paul Holmes, who plays George. (From the date of birth I assume it to be Holmes, for two boys have played him.) He doesn't seem to be acting at all - natural, convincing.

I enjoy it immensely. It's a delight to hear Barrie's most famous lines (of real life/notes, not from his literature) spoken and deftly inserted into conversations. Though not fast paced, it's compelling. It truly allows for the mundane moments to shine while they build to a lovely protrayal of how matters developed. Looking forward to the rest. (Even though it will be a sad story to come.)

Bravo Birkin! Bravo to Holm! And bravo to everyone who made this possible.
I've been waiting a long time to see this mini-series. It's been worth it.

Learn more about The Boy Castaways and see more of the pictures at Birkin's site.
The link is on the left.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hero? No, Hiro.

You probably don't agree with me, but I, for one, have had my
FILL of superhero movies.

They've got to stop and they're not going to...


I'll stick with NBC's Heroes
and hope that it doesn't make a rapid decline with Villains.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Real Imagination

Think you've seen it all when it comes to Alice in Wonderland?

When the imagination works overtime, over time, imaginative works result.

Bravo to absinthetic for creating this wonderful set.

Take a trip down the rabbit hole like never before...

50 States...? No. Rackham's...

It just came to my attention that a new edition of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is coming out which includes the 50 illustrations by the renowned Arthur Rackham. Such a luxury of having them all can be difficult to get your hands on, so I'm glad they're being made available again. It won't be released until September 19, 2008. But I've got mine you? I've included some of my favorite pictures from Rackham's Pan. For the record, the picture seen behind me in the photo on the dust jacket of Peter Pan's NeverWorld is a print of one of Rackham's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens illustrations.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I like word games. Usually. The kind played, say, on a road trip. My family devised one we affectionately call Mind Bender. I’m not about to explain the rules to you. They can be rather cumbersome, as a friend of my brother’s challenged them. It caused us to draw up official documentation. But don’t worry about that.

Way back in college, Sunshine shared with us a game her mother and she would play: The Minister’s Cat. I guess I always thought they made it up. It’s a simple enough (and fun enough) game. When I asked her about it recently, she enlightened me that they learned of the game from a black and white movie. The characters played it. She felt pretty sure that Scrooge played, which meant it had to be in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. So….to the Internet! (a la “To the Batcave!”on the 60s TV show)

We were both surprised to learn that it’s not just ‘us’ and that black and white film. It’s an established game! There are even variations. You can learn about it here on Wikipedia. For the record, Wikipedia does not list the movie wherein Sunshine and her mom encountered it. But I found that, too: Scrooge (1951) Apparently it's in numerous adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

It just goes to show that things are often bigger than originally realized.

Let’s play…
The Minister’s Cat is an Auspicious Cat…

UPDATE:  On an episode of Frasier, he fancies that they might play a spirited round of... yes.