Tuesday, 28 April 2009

If I am quiet...

...it's because I'm not here. I'm off being a tourist. Sorry.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Thoughts on Four Years of University

To say that I’ve changed over the last four years is foolish. Of course I have. If you haven’t changed during your undergraduate career, I don’t know what you’ve been doing. That being said, I find it difficult to track precisely how I’ve changed. Some things are clear: I can wear sandals in public; I can wear pajamas in front of more than immediate family; I wear jeans and button-up shirts; I can see bottles of alcohol and not even want to smash them; I have become addicted to Facebook; I have developed a better repertoire of complex sentence structures. Other changes are less obvious but still noticeable upon inspection: I have grown spiritually; I have become more intelligent and analytical; I have learned to ride with awkwardness; I have become comfortable with ambiguities, even in my own desires and habits. But I have also changed in ways that are more ineffable. I have been told that I am more confident or more mature or more independent. These all circle around whatever it is, but aren’t fully true. Perhaps they mean, more confident about who I am. Perhaps. I don’t know.

What I do know is that, in my memory, the last four years have a different quality than any before that. To an extent, they seem to be more natural, less filled with posturing or trying to figure out where I belong. On the one hand, I more clearly did belong wherever I was in university, but on the other hand, I think I realize now that no one ‘belongs’ in any place more than another unless they’ve chosen to think so. I became a member of the university, of Navigators, of my friends. That is all belonging means.

I still have not grasped the fact that I’m graduating. While I look ahead to the coming year, I see that it will be very different, but somehow I haven’t really been hit with a sense of discontinuity. By this I mean that I don’t yet realize on an emotional or more ‘core’ level that my Queen’s undergrad is over and won’t pick up whenever I’m done in Fort McMurray. This means, I think, that a lot of the retrospection and regret-searching and so forth that many grads are luxuriating in/struggling with has not really hit me full force. As usual, I will likely drift with the semantic knowledge until I have become familiar with it, and then months down the road I’ll realize it emotionally. We will see.

But I will nonetheless attempt some sort of regrets and wishes and best memories thing here…

I regret very little. I regret a few things I said or did not say (almost entirely the former, notwithstanding all those e-mails and powerpoints that tell you the opposite). I think it’s foolish to wonder what would happen if you did the major things differently, though. What I do regret at the moment is not getting to know some people better. It seems weird, but in saying goodbye to particular folks—mainly from Navigators but sometimes from classes—I realized that many of the people who’d been around me for a year were people with whom I could be good friends. My general apathy towards changing the terms of an interrelationship, manifested in not socializing with class friends outside of class situations, now seems rather silly. I should have made more of an effort to get to know people from classes. I knew many folks, but I could have known many of those better. Then again, when you’re ashamed to invite people over to your house because it’s a sty, it gets awfully hard to figure out how to get to know them better.

There’s a regret: I wish I did more housework. Really, I do. If I felt better about our house, I might have invited people over more often and made deeper connections. Well, that’s a lesson I can pick up: keeping your house tidy = more friends.

I remember lying by the lake at night with Jamie, Roz, and Ted, watching shooting stars.

I remember playing Frisbee in the park with my housemates when we should have been studying for exams.

I remember leaving my last first-year exam with a bunch of my classmates. The sun was low and bright, so shadows were long and crisp.

I am pleased that I got published before I graduated. A small affair, but still published.
I am pleased I went to Running and Reading. The enthusiastic affection of small children floored me, and realizing that the moody and rebellious pre-teens actually like you, despite how hard they try to hate you, is satisfying in its own way. And the other coaches were pretty cool.

I am pleased that I was voluntold to be an unofficial leader for Navigators. I learned both how easily people can flick my bossy-switch on and how easily people (or maybe just Esther) can puncture any ego-inflation that might result. I also made friends and got invited to a bachelorette, of all things. And not as the entertainment—get your mind out of the gutter, people.

I also learned that I am not as naïve as I might have thought.

I remember a fierce blizzard with really high winds last winter, and how exhilarating such weather can be.

I learned that deciding just not to feel is far more painful than allowing yourself to be hurt. I also learned that being hurt sucks every single time and never gets easier.

I discovered that at least one person from the Internet is cool. Maybe you can meet people on-line and not be a nerd? Or maybe being a nerd is OK.

I learned that Christianity’s biggest cost (for me) is not impositions on behaviour or a sense of guilt, since I have suffered from neither, but that people will not take your opinion seriously. I often have been mistaken for an atheist, and I am often afraid to correct that error, both because it would make the other person feel awkward and because I fear they would pass me off as a foolish missionary type. While this fear is usually irrational, anti-Christian sentiment is prevalent enough in academe that I don’t think it’s utterly ridiculous.

I learned that you can come to appreciate or even think fondly of someone who drives you nuts simply by deciding that you will. That was a very recent lesson.

I learned that forgiveness is a constantly renewing process, not a one-off thing. If I’ve forgiven you for a slight, I must continue to forgive you ever single time I remember it. It’s a process, not a single act.

I remember weeks during which I pushed through essays repeatedly, with little to no rest in between. I remember these times fondly, somehow. It was cathartic. I also used dinosaur analogies in my Facebook statuses to help me. Someone who I hadn’t seen since high school commented later that laughing at those statuses were what got her through the same period.

I learned that hating pro-lifers is considered socially acceptable, but hating pro-choicers is not. That is to say, I learned that “tolerance” is usually a one-way street.

I realize that the goals and fantasies I had about university when I was a frosh either never came true or weren’t what I wanted or expected when they did. I found my happiness elsewhere.

I learned that common courtesy is not common. I don’t mean that there isn’t enough of it; I mean that it’s not common to everyone. Not everyone shares the same conception of what is polite. You must simply be as considerate as you know how and try to gently correct others when they do something that is inconsiderate (and forget about etiquette altogether).

I learned that most adults simply learn how to rationalize their childishness. I also learned that there is still such a thing as being ‘adult,’ and that it’s a valuable goal. Adulthood and child-like innocence are not mutually exclusive. Adulthood and childishness are.

I realize that I am very, very lucky indeed. Perhaps, one day, my luck will run against me.

I realize that friends are easier to make than you think, but that many excuses get in the way. Maybe you’re too busy or they’re too annoying or they won’t be bothered to get to know you or they already think you’re an idiot or you don’t want to lead them on or you might be awkward. Not one of these is likely. Even if it turns out to be true, not one is a valid reason not to try. Most people will stop thinking you’re an idiot if you try to make friends with them. Most people don’t talk to you because you don’t talk to them. And if you do get a snooty response, move on. Or, insist on being friends with them anyway. You might make them a better person.

This is list is far from exhaustive, though it might by now be exhausting. I wish I had a good wrap-up, but I don’t. I want to talk about surviving when you don’t achieve your dreams, being happy with whatever you have, and realizing that there is far more to this world than yourself and that acting on this will yield far more satisfaction than self-interest ever can. However, these are Pollyanna endings, and endings in general do not work here. I said I don’t feel a sense of discontinuity. Endings make no sense here. This isn’t one door closing and another opening. This is just another part of the same hallway. So no endings, only more…

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sebringville

Does it count as liveblogging if what's happening is, for the moment, stasis?

Anyway, I am home--or, what will be home for a brief period of time. I am in the computer room, with boxes and piles of my stuff virtually filling the room. The couch behind me is cascading with books of mine. It's a mess, which I will begin to go through tomorrow. Upstairs, in the attic, in my bedroom, are more boxes and piles of stuff. It really is a mess.

I've moved out of my house in Kingston. I'm worried that my housemates will have too much trouble finishing cleaning. To an extent my conscience is assuaged by the fact that I've done the majority of the housework so far and that this will just be them catching up, but that doesn't seem quite right to me. But anyway, my Mom came to help me move. It took us two days. I have way more than I had thought (doesn't that always happen?). I'll have to go through a lot of it to give away, because we're moving out to Alberta for good soon.

On Tuesday we're headed to get my brother, and I'm staying in the GTA and heading to Jon's place (Jon, check your e-mail if this is news to you) that night. We'll be spending a while capering around TO before heading, with some others, to balmy Niagara Falls for a night and the surrounding days, before yet again returning to the GTA to engage in social activities with folks from Queen's, including, possibly, Cait.

Then it's back to Sebringville (either Saturday night or Sunday morning) for a week to clean, get together with old friends, run errands, and pack. On the 9th of April, my brother and I are flying out to Fort McMurray, Alberta (as per every summer), and I'll be there for a while before moving on to some other locale for some other activity, yet to be decided/discovered.

But that the moment I'm dog tired, and, on that note, smelling the oily fur of an old, tired dog lying behind me. She's a sweet girl yet, but wheezes now and isn't nearly as active as she used to be. Mom's preparing for bed (she has work tomorrow) and I'm thinking about crashing not too long from now, either.

Apparently I'm done this whole undergrad thing. I still need to get marks back and all, but there's not much I can do about any of that yet. I've said goodbye to some folks; for some of them it's a real goodbye, too. There are some who I know wish I'd spent more time with, but I suppose that's always how these things go. Not many regrets, though. Not many at all. (And what would be the point of regretting, anyway?) I'll miss seminars, though; at least, I'll miss the good ones. I've blogged a bit about other things regarding the changes, but many of them are just sinking in now.

Oh, scary/interesting thing yesterday. Coming through Toronto, we hit a very windy patch. There was a cloud of dust sitting about fifteen (?) feet high. We could see well enough to drive, but I couldn't tell where this cloud of dust ended. Approaching it and in it, though, I can tell you I was nervous. It looked to me like the bottom of a twister before it's fully formed. I can tell you that while Mom was watching the road, I was watching the skies and the height of that dust cloud. Not that it would do much good while we were in the cloud itself. If that turned into a tornado, there'd be little hope of getting to cover before the van was tossed off the road. As you can tell, we made it through fine. And I didn't even have a twister dream last night.

I suppose that's about all for now. I'll write something up about undergrad, but that's have to wait until my reserves of time and coherence improve.

Until then,

English Clergyman

Friday, 24 April 2009

Done

I am now done my undergraduate degree.

So, um... what's this life thing that people talk about? Those of you who are in it, any pointers?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Laser Tag

Last night I played a game of laser tag.

It was excellent.

This wasn't my normal crowd, but I knew three of them already (and two others a little bit), and the rest were all quite friendly. There were nine of "us" altogether. I say "us" because we came as a group and all know Virginia, the organizer of our little excursion. There were others in the game as well.

We played three rounds. In the first round, our opponents were seven RMC (that's Royal Military College) students, and a father and his little boy. We won this round. The little boy and the father likely lost that game for them. The kid would follow you around, waiting for his vest to charge back up and then shoot at you. I would've gone easy on a kid, but he wouldn't quit after we told him to stop, either. So, if he followed me, I just nailed him whenever his vest came back up and told him to play fair. Maybe I was a bit harsh.

Anyway, the kid and his father were finished after that round, and then we were allowed to run and crouch and do those things that make the guy that much more intense. This time, two of our nine were "defected" to the other side (that would be blue). We lost this one as well, but, hey, we were outnumbered, right?

The third game was really intense. The RMC players improved their tactics significantly that game. I also had a harder time locating and maintaining cover.

The arena is a square. In one corner (let's say southwest, but that's just arbitrary) is the door into the space. In the southeast corner is red base. In the northwest corner is blue base. In (roughly) the northest corner is a glow-in-the-dark skeleton. Above the skeleton is a chest-sensor; if you hit the sensor, a flashing light will go off for a determined but unknown (to me) period of time, after which there will be an explosion (a sound effect on your suit) and anyone whose sensors are hit by the flashing light is stunned, and whoever hit the sensor gets all the points. This is friendly-fire-able, so you have to be careful and ensure your teammates take cover.

There were some exciting moments. At one point in the game, we were under serious seige at red base (if you're red team and hit blue base, you get points; if you're blue team and hit red base, you get points; it behooves one to protect the base). Most of our team was taking cover in the immediate vicinity of our base, and were having difficulty getting out without taking fire. We managed to break the line, however, and I then immediately ran out and captured blue base, as the whole blue team had been busy keeping us pinned down.

At another point, I had a nice sniping location. I was against a corner, and the layout of the floor meant that no one could get behind me without crossing in front of me first; also, there was only about a 144 degree angle to my front and right. My cover was pretty good, with the sole disadvantage that anyone could pop around the corner I was against and end up right on top of me. I could see them at the same moment that they'd see me and my gun would be in their face, but it would be an unpleasant surprise. Anyway, the benefit to the location was that I had a clear but narrow view to almost to the north wall of the room; any blues who hadn't crossed to the red side of the base, therefore, had to pass through my sight. As it turned out, two reds were trying to manouever around three or four blues, but were not doing so well. I used my location to back them up from a distance. Each time the blues broke cover to advance or move to new cover, they passed unwittingly through this corridor (it wasn't a real defined corrider, of course, but an accident of the angles), and I gunned each and every one of them down. Then two other blues came around the corner on my face, and I my little party was over.

The third game was most intense, though. There was an actual line going on here for a while. We were staggered roughly from the north to the south, trying to hold cover and advance against the other side. If the ground was dirt, we'd have had trenches before too long. I discovered this trying to get out of blue territory, actually. Usually blue base wasn't so insanely beset by blue players (they were heavy on offense and so I could usually trust that, if there was combat in the centre of the floor, I could slip around and get blue base once or twice before elimation); this time, they were on top of me before I got one hit in on the base. So I tried to find cover and move out of hostile territory while I had eight-seconds stun, but there was no cover to be had and eight seconds was not getting me far enough from them. I swear I got hit three times before I got decent cover. The reason, of course, turned out to be that I was on the wrong side of that freaking line I described, and my teammates already had all the good cover along it. I was flopping around in the open, trying to get a moment of safety while my vest activated again. It is not good when two blues have a bead on you and your vest is going to activate in a second.

Taking cover against the skeleton-bomb was also lots of fun; hollering at your teammates to get cover now was even more fun.

That's all.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Movie Review: Big Love

Okay, so this isn't a movie, but a TV show on disc. The idea remains the same.

In case you're unaware, Big Love is about a Mormon man who has three wives living in separate houses with a common backyard. He has something like seven children. The show is about the interrelationships in their family and about the difficulties they're having with the extended family they left back in Juniper Hill, a fictional Mormon community.

I watched two episodes out of curiosity. I had a hard time getting into the series, but started to enjoy it after a while (I watched two episodes, after all). The characters became realistic and interesting by the end of the first episode. That's always the hazard with pilots, of course. Too much introduction-type stuff.

What I enjoyed: Roman, the patriarch of Juniper Hill, is quite villianous, and enjoyably so. He's a scary man.

The characterization was generally good, though I have a hard time feeling for Bill, the husband.

Some of the interrelationships between the wives are amusing or interesting. I can see how real life polyamorists dislike the portrayal on this show: the younger two wives seem to manipulate and backbite quite a lot. There were also scenes of good cooperation and kindness, though. Some of their interactions were enjoyable to watch.

I liked the introduction of a character over these two episodes, who becomes the eldest child's friend. She's your average Mormon: non-polygamist, listens to popular music, involved in community. She's also very funny when other people expect her to be up-tight or authoratarian and she isn't. At one point she bemoans, "Why does everyone assume I have no sense of humour!"

What I disliked: Other parts of the back-biting. Some of it got beyond interesting and got a bit uncomfortable. Using sex with a shared husband to get back at each other doesn't seem fun to me. Unless you're that husband, of course...

Bill. Honestly, I was hoping that they'd at least try to make you sympathetic to his having three wives. I wanted to see how they'd do it. But no. He just has three wives and seems like a douche. The way he handles their interaction is not admirable, I think. He lets them use him as a weapon against each other. And it really seems as though his interest in his wives is as sex-toys and baby-factories.

The domestic stuff. I do not want to watch things about growing bills and out-of-control babies and toddlers. I especially do not want to watch things about growing bills and out-of-control babies TIMES THREE and made worse by the emotional nonsense about one of the wives worrying about not measuring up to the other two in general mothering. I did not enjoy those parts. This is why I will never understand people who have more than two kids.

The representation of Mormons: Since there's only one Mormon who doesn't agree with polygamy in this series, and since most of the non-family Mormon live on a compound, you can see that the representation will be a bit wobbly. While I can tell that they are trying hard to make real characters, I think that a lot of it is a more nuanced attack on Mormon communities. Now, I have no problem with attacking groups that practice what amounts to paedophilia--attach away, I say--but I do think that depicting them as rough, vicious, and manipulative simply because they live in a segregated community is a bit too far. Half of the hijinx that went on in that community had nothing to do with child brides or lost boys; it seemed as though the producers just wanted to sensationalize them even more. Not cool, in my opinion. Most Mormons are pretty normal people, even if we don't think they believe very normal things. This show contributes to the on-going generalization of all Mormons as inbred redneck polygamist perverts.

Verdict: I enjoyed watching this episodes, but likely will not og out of my way to watch more of them. I liked most of the characters, but the central character was less personable and I was not keen, either, on some of the possible reprecussions of the show. I hear it gets better by the third season, though.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

On Writing

I suppose I am now embarking on a new writerly voyage. Undertaking this journey will be somewhat difficult, though, for a number of reasons.

The first is that I have crippling ADHD as far as projects are concerned. I cannot finish them. Until I actually had to start handing in completed stories in high school, I had finished one short story. One. It wound up being seriously truncated. That I finished it at all was an accomplishment. The number of false starts I had... I can't even remember them all. No where near. (I still remember some, though. A Harry Potter rip-off, for one. Another which included an image I still really like--a dragon on a skyscraper. That was cool. The protagonist, who was extremely phobic, had to climb the building in order to save some girl and send the dragon back in time to where it belonged.) And then the project I started for my ISU in Writer's Craft in Gr. 12...never did finish it. And in uni, my efforts have been focused on shorter writing, a la assignments.

This is not to say that I have never tried to write longer, sustained pieces in University. Oh, no. I have begun so many. It's gotten to the point that I can world-build in an afternoon. Well, maybe not, but I can develop elaborate facets of landscapes, cities, interrelationships, etc., over the course of a week. Given that I'm discussing world-building, you can assume it's speculative fiction, but within this we're looking at different varieties: post-apocalyptic, space opera (in the vein of Firefly), urban fantasy, urban fantasy/horror; high fantasy/horror. Actually, the high fantast/horror one I was really stoked on...it was going to take place in a dystopian alternate world (think Narnia-type cosmology) where the forces of darkness had taken much of the world already and were more ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, etc. than orcs or trolls. The light of goodness shone on in beleaguered little towns which kept being overwhelmed because they insisted on independence. Each town was typically protected by a "clown"; a shaman-like figure that used disembling, humour, and truth to mystical effect; the town that the protagonists showed up in had lost their clown, and one of the protagonists would be called to replace him, despite the fact that he was just a store clown and not part of the mystic tradition of clowning in this world. The style would include both epic battle and more suspenseful moments. I was really hyped on writing it, but then I decided to incorporate some J-horror elements as well. I researched hopping ghosts and crafted in my head a terrifying scene with one. I couldn't sleep for a week and abandoned the project for fear of my health.

Anyway, I can usually world-build easily, craft some interesting characters, conceive of a romantic side-plot, develop a villian or two, get a rough plot outlined, and discern the symbolic function of assorted elements. And then I write a page and abandon it.

Why the abandonment? There are a number of reasons.

1) Things in my life give me new stories to tell or new messages to convey. I try to encorporate these elements into whatever I'm working on; the attempt fails, and I move on to something else that can deal with the new elements.

2) My disdain for speculative fiction in general kicks in. I feel like the story is derivative. I feel like the story does not lend itself to being written well. I feel like the characters are shallow or that I'm only writing half the plot because I'm really big on something--I'll say vampires because they're vogue at the moment, which has actually made me much less interested in them--and that it's not really a good story. I feel like fantasy in gerenal is stupid and people will think I'm a nerd (though that ship sailed a long time ago, I think) and it won't sell (or wont' sell to the "right" people) and I'll ruin my authorly career.

3) My disdain for academese kicks in. I feel that the story is too intricate, and that to write it well would make it unaccessible. Or, to write it as well as I am able will make it inaccessible. It relies too much on allusion to things the plebes won't have accessed, and so it will be boring to them. For instance, I want to do a re-writing of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville from the pov of people from the islands. Most of you will respond to that statement with, who is Mandeville and what islands do you mean? That is precisely the problem.

4) My fear of censure because of my religion kicks in. I feel that the story is too "religious" for most folks and I won't be taken seriously. The huge popularity of C S Lewis is counterpointed by the disdain many people have for him, and for other works that seem too "Christian" (for those who've read the final Harry Potter, read the negative reviews of it for an example). On the flipside, I'm worried that religious readers will get all uppity because I'll come along and do something like include sexual innuendo or represent characters having polyamorous relationships or suggest that ecumenism is a good idea, that just maybe people were experiencing the Holy Spirit when they felt the Tao, or that being nice to gay people might be exactly what the Church should do right now.

5) I get bored.

And so I abandon a project.

The number of worlds and characters and plots I have written on my computer and in notebooks is huge. I couldn't tabulate them if I tried.
And that all makes my current predicament all the more interesting. My current predicament is that I have not just a plot but a whole narrative structure, including how I'm going to handle chapters, how I'm going to use plot devices to deliver certain life lessons, and the exact phrasing of a riddle, and yet do not have a clear sense of character or, in fact, what genre I'll be using.

Yes, that's right. I've given it some thought, and my narrative could fit in all sorts of different generic categories. It could be space opera (or planet opera). It could be high fantasy. It could (maybe) be urban fantasy. It could be romance tradition (which means Arthur or Jack the Giant Killer legends). It could be fairy tale-esque. It could be Arabian (though I want to avoid Orientalism as much as I can (actually, that's a lie; I love Orientalism so much, but know it's "wrong")). It could be about pirates. It could take place in the Old West. Actually, the Old West would work very well if I knew how to write about the old west. It could be a sword-and-sandal. It could be post-apocalypse.

It could be any genre which can easily embody the "quest" device. Modernism wouldn't work so well, but pretty much anything else would.
And so, for the first time ever, my problem is that I seem unable to world-build. I don't know what world to set it in. I'm thinking possibly a hybrid genre.

However, as I write this, something in the back of my mind screams "GEEKGEEKGEEKGEEKGEEK...!" (Say that enough times and you sound like an angry tropical bird.) I really really do not want to become a total basement nerd, here. And I'm aware that hybrid-genres can do quite well--look at the critical and popular success of Wicked and The His Dark Materials Trilogy; look at the popularity of King's The Dark Tower series or the rise of the steampunk. These can do well and be taken seriously. I'm just afraid that mine will not.
I have other things to worry about, too. I don't have a clear sense of my main character (and really can't until I get a genre). I have two or so romantic side-plots that I could use. My concern is that I don't know if the plot I have will afford the time I would like to give one of these side-plots (there are at least two romantic trajectories that I want to write about; my concern is that I want to use them in the right place). These are legitimate problems, I think.

And then my other problem is that I want to include a lot of things simply because they're "cool" or "intriguing" or "sexy," and not because they work. Hopefully that won't have too much influence over my genre selection...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Polygamy

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Polygamy is an issue which will be discussed at greater length soon enough. I'm not going to say it'll hit the public consciousness the way same-sex marriage did, but it will be big enough.

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29239960/?GT1=43001

Wikipedia has a lot of literature on it if you're interested. I'm also remembering how Stephen Harper said that same-sex language will lead to polygamy. I thought it was hog-wash, but now time will tell if what he said was right. I wonder how much his having articulated that made polyamorist advocates aware that they could petition for the right to multiple spouses.

What do you guys think of this? Do the polygamists/polyamorists have a chance in Canada? The United States? On what grounds? And what do you think of the polyamorist relationships being described?

In related news, I've rented the first disc of Big Love, but haven't watched any yet.

Good Line

I read a good line somewhere (I can't recall where): "Over the next year or two, as we spent time with each other on a semi-regular basis, our banter became more flirtatious, and I finally asked what she was doing Friday night. She answered 'Something with you,' and we've been together ever since."

As You Like It

For a course, I started a metaphrasis of Shakespeare's As You Like It; I am turning the play into a community blog at http://the-forest-of-arden.blogspot.com. I likely won't finish it, but I gave it a start. Generating all of the different avatars was a total pain, though. And getting them all in invited? I had to sign in and out, in and out. It took a long time.

I might update it a bit more now and again, but I have no real reason to: I won't get graded on much more than I have already.

Among other things, it's an exercise in genre-change. The movement from play to blog is that no privacy is available. Conversations between two characters, if available to the audience, are necessarily available to all of the characters as well. So, if I want the readers to be able to follow Rosalind and Celia's conversation about Orlando, I need to recognize that the character of Orlando could--and likely would--read that conversation as well. Further, the characters themselves would only miss that through a gross oversight. Either I must represent conversations that are private in the play as public on the blog, or I must choose not to represent them at all (which I do in some cases). These means, then, that the audience does not have access to information that can only be found in private conversations unless the audience already knows the play. So if you've read As You Like It, you already know who the user Ganymede is and where he came from. If you haven't, then you're in for the surprise (except that I'm really heavy-handed about it). Further, I've changed the speeches so they're shorter and more modern, and sometimes I've changed the tropes so that they are more blog-referential than play-referential.

That is all.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula

I had heard that Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula was one of the closest to the actual novel. Having seen Dracula 2000 and other modern adaptations, I was excited to see how close it was. After all, if Van Helsing became vamp himself, Mina Murray married the undead Lucy, and Dracula took over the New World, it would still be closer to the book than half of the versions I've seen.

It wasn't quite so ridiculous, of course, but it certainly wasn't the same. There were two primary differences. The first is about plot: in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula's interest in Mina Murray is not particularly different from his interest in, say, Lucy. She's fresh blood in a pretty bod. The only reason the two have more of a connection is 1) she's involved with the vampire hunters and therefore he can use her against them, and 2) he gets interrupted without being able to finish the job. In Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, however, we get a bit of Dracula's backstory. He becomes a vampire after the love of his life, thinking Dracula is dead, kills herself and is denied a proper burial; ol' Vlad apostates himself very dramatically and becomes the cursed undead. By some fluke, Dracula comes upon Jonathon Harker's picture of his fiance, Mina Murray, when they are finalizing the real estate transaction in Transylvania, and the elderly vampire realizes that Mina Murray, betrothed to the bookish realtor trapped in his castle, is the reincarnation of his long-dead bride. A fairly complicated love story develops between Mina and Dracula, which I won't detail too much for fear of ruining the plot. Needless to say, it deviates from the book significantly.

Which really didn't bother me overmuch. I will write a post on my view of adaptations, but let's just say here that I found it a good story regardless and enjoyed watching Mina's inner conflict, and seeing how the whole things would be resolved.

The second variation was more thematic: there was a marked influx in the erotic.

That's not to say that horror and the erotic don't walk hand-in-hand, or that the original Dracula didn't have elements designed to arouse. But in this one, everyone was downright horny. Lucy wasn't a flirt; she was a slut. Van Helsing wasn't a decorous doctor; he was an old goat (I have never seen Anthony Hopkins hump a man's leg before). Lucy and Mina were indeed old friends, but they were friends with benefits. Harker wasn't aroused by a femme vampire visiting him one night; I'd say he was raped, but that implies that he didn't consent. If this movie is anything to go by, Victorian dresses were manufactured so that breasts could pop out by accident at a moment's notice.

I'm serious: Dracula did not merely drink people's blood, but had sex with them in the form of a man-wolf before doing so [Note: link contains mature content]. At one point in the movie, Lucy and Mina make out in the rain for no reason at all. Lucy could not keep her clothes over her body parts, and Mina had an interesting relationship with cleavage. Dracula's wives were interested in blood only as a side-dish to the other pleasures Harker could provide.

I harp on this because I'm frustrated by it. It's not simply a "Our generation is deteriorating into vice and sin" sort of thing: rather, I'm concerned about the fact that the movie was rated 14A, and about the fact that subtlety has gone out the window. Half the pleasure of Dracula is that you know they're sexiness broiling underneath, that there's a dark attraction to the vampires, but it's suppressed. It's the act of suppression and the threat of it coming out that is truly engaging. That's why innuendo is funnier than a more explicit joke, and why we have things like courtship (or stripteases, if you're more voyeuristically inclined). It's also why Jaws is scariest when you haven't yet seen the shark. So it's not just that I'm a prude and am disappointed in the perceived need to include gratuitous nudity in a movie to make it do well. It's also that the gratuity itself ruins half of the artistry that can be involved in including the erotic in horror. I will in time write an entire post about this.

Onto more traditional review topics:

The acting is pretty decent. Keanu Reeves is never amazing, but he is adequate enough in his role. Gary Oldman does an excellent Dracula, appearing almost like Palpatine as the withered Dracula and like an almost Ann Rice libertine as the rejuvinated count. Anthony Hopkins is always amazing. The supporting cast are generally spot-on, though Renfeild is a bit too stereotypical: it seems that even now, we can't portray a nineteenth-century lunatic asylum without treating the inmates exactly as the "psychiatrists" of the period treated them. The performance that impressed me most, though, was Winona Ryder's. She managed to be something other than a spoiled, cynical little girl, and that's a great acheivement. In places she reminded me of Kiera Knightley, which is to say that in places she was actually attractive, which I would never have expected from Ryder. Perhaps I will from now on judge movies less harshly by her presence in them. She manages to convey the emotion of the re-vamped (get it? re-vamped) Mina Murray very well.

The special effects are dated, but the cinematopgraphy and editing are very well done, and the music adds to the atmosphere without becoming overwhelming or falling flat. The transitions are clear and clever homages to Hitchcock and the composition is great. I questioned a few choices, but I was generally quite pleased with the execution of the film.

Like the original, the movie paid close attention to the use of primary documents and to modern technology. The novel, in case you are unaware, consists entirely of correspondence, periodicals, diaries, and other written documentation, and one of the themes the text explores is the use of technological advancement to aid in the hunters' struggle against Dracula. The film addresses both of these in ways I found satisfactory.

Overall, I would recommend the movie if a) you do not care too much if it deviates from the original and b) you can tolerate lots of bared breasts. And I write this because I suspect at least one of my readers might not be so keen on that.

Grammar Death

In case you haven't heard me use it, I have either coined or adopted a phrase (I can't recall which), which usually manifests as, "Sorry, I just underwent grammar death." This means that a sentence or paragraph or speech was grammatically coherent, but then the syntax slipped and the whole thing broke down into a mismatched phrases and words.

I can endure such phenomena in spoken English because speech is on the fly. And, actually, spoken English follows a different set of grammar codes (these ones intuitive) than written English does. But in actual prose, it drives me up the wall. I know I shouldn't get so terribly frustrated when people cannot express themselves in a structural pristine way, but it does just make my skin crawl. I'm not asking for perfect; I am asking for people to try.

What set this off? Witness (and bear in mind that this came at the end of a reasonably good comment on a Freakonomics blog, one which I was agreeing with):

"But frankly - I don’t think of this as a bad thing…critics have their place, and surely they, and bloggers, continue issuing their viewpoints - but for the masses who attend the theater - allow them their opportunity to enjoy something that is a rare treat - including the chance to give a standing ovation!"

Let me show you what a person could do with punctuation:

"But frankly--and I don't think of this as a bad thing--critics have their place, and surely they, and bloggers, may continue issuing their viewpoints, but, for the masses who attend the theatre, allow them their opportunity to enjoy something that is a rare treat, including the chance to give a standing ovation."

Essentially, I replaced the elispsis with an em-dash and replaced the dashes with commas. Why? Because there's absolutely no need for the sentence to be so chopped up. Commas, which the author used perfectly well beforehand, are fairly easy and in this case precise.

Thus, the comment underwent grammar death.

Now, I will use deep breaths and will be less easily upset by things that don't matter that much.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter

HAPPY EASTER!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

A Number of Things

1) I had planned on turning in a paper yesterday. I have an introductory paragraph written. Marvellous. I also know it won't be finished today, as I need to go to bed early. Why? See next entry.

2) I am going to both services at church tomorrow; Easter comes with baptisms at Bethel, and I have a Navs friend getting baptised in each service. So I'll be there for three and a half hours tomorrow morning, and I'll get the same service twice. This will be an opportunity to see if they remain consistent throughout. Mwahahahahahaha! Actually, it'll be an opportunity to support my friends and fellow Navigators.

3) As a going-away present, the Navigators staff have given me a book called Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness. You know, these presses need to work on their titles. That's not a title that I would just pick off of a shelf. Anyway, the chapter I'm on is about attentive listening, and it comes with optional activities at the back of the book; you can pick and choose and see if you want to try some of them out. They include: "Chastity: Focus your eyes on someone you find attractive and ask God, What does this person need from you, O God, and how do you want to use me in his or her life? How might I bless him or her?"; "Secrecy: Instead of expressing your opinion about something just because the topic comes up, inquire further about what the other person thinks"; "Silence: When someone speaks to you, practice the situational discipline of silencing your mind. As the person speaks, don't think about what you want to reply"; "Submission: When listening to someone, look only at the person instead of looking around or behind the person. Enjoy keeping your gaze intent on the speaker"; "Submission: Listen to someone who is not interesting to you and pray for that person."
I've selected these to show and discuss for several reasons. The first, "Chastity," is one I just found funny. The juxtaposition of "Chastity" and "Focus your eyes on someone you find attractive" is quite amusing: so, in order to be chaste, you want me to check a girl out? Wow, being chaste is easier than I thought! If you know me, you'll also know that the "Secrecy" and "Silence" ones will be difficult for me. That not thinking about your reply thing will be especially difficult, considering that I train listening and formulating responses simultaneously in seminar all the time. And then the first "Submission" one. I don't intend to do it at all, ever. What the author is asking us to do is called "staring," and it freaks people out. This is not to say, look at the floor, but it's creepy to never break eye contact. At least, I freak out if other people never stop staring at me when I'm talking. I get really uncomfortable. And then the final submission. I actual do this from time to time anyway, but I could work better at visibly listening when I don't care. I usually am listening, but I suppose they can't tell that if I'm also playing with paperclips or staring at my computer screen.

4) I have noticed some interesting things working on my essay...
a) Mercutio is wonderfully anti-Petrarchan. Background: Petrarch was an Italian poet who invented the sonnet. Some guys, namely Wyatt and Surrey, translated Petrarch's sonnets into English and introduced the form into our language. Printers and an aristocrat named Sir Philip Sidney more strictly formalized the sonnet (since Italian doesn't have metre) into one of the forms we're familiar with today. Content-wise, these guys talked about how pretty and virtuous the girl is, how nice her hair is, her eyes, her lips and cheeks and teeth and forehead. They occasionally made forays down to her hands and her breast, though notice that they're more likely talking about the section of skin that would appear above a Renaissance lady's corset or whatever, and also her heart in her "breast." There was a different sense of the word. And then, in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio wonderfully explains what these sonneteers are actually about: "I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes, By her high forehead, and her scarlet lip, By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh, And the demesnes that there adjacent lie...My invocation Is fair and honest. In his mistress' name, I conjure only but to raise him up." Ostensibly Mercutio is talking about rousing--awakening--Romeo, but arousing Romeo is probably on the agenda as well. OF COURSE the sonneteers were thinking of things other than those--I was thinking lips, cheeks, hair, but those all have multiple meanings, don't they? Get your minds out of the gutter, people. OK, of course the sonneteers were thinking about things other than her eyes, and they were very appearance-focused, so I think Mercutio (and Shakespeare through Mercutio) is spot on in pointing out the transparency of their propriety. This is not to say that sonneteers have no place being proper, or that Astrophil doesn't quite legitimately think Stella has pretty eyes. I'm just saying that he also checked her out from behind when he got the chance, even if he didn't write about it.
b) Rosalind says in As You Like It, "If with myself I hold intelligence/ Or have acquaintance with mine own desires,/ If that I do not dream or be not frantic/ As I trust I am not..." Do you know what my mind went to? Comic books. And not just comic books that I have read. Oh, no. See, I have read very few comic books in my life. No, I thought about comic books I have read about. Isn't that excellent? Not only am I a nerd, I'm an atypical one at that.
c) On a theoretical level, I found this quotation from Sidney's Apology interesting: "Aristotle saith, those things which in themselves are horrible, as cruel battles, unnatural monsters, are made in poetical imitation delightful." That's something to consider seriously. How well does moralizing work when the subject of your disgust becomes delightful in your representation of it?
d) I have written in the margins, "The murals in the Mac-Correy food court are pastoral. Huh." Under pastoral, I wrote "(idealized)"; under "court" I then wrote, "Haha. Punny."

5) I spent way too much time last night reading Penny Arcade back issues. Way too much time.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Gallery

In the spirit of posting things you'll not have seen before, I'm going to post "The Gallery." This is one which might get me in trouble with particular friends if they read it... to those friends, who never read my blog but there's always a first, none of the characters are supposed to represent actual people. Except one, but that person really isn't going to be reading this.
It was written for a creative writing class last year. I was experimenting with form a bit back then. Still am, really, but less overtly.
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The Gallery

      He once had a dream where he walked through the winding passages of a carnival freak show. In it, the gallery’s denizens were sitting in chairs or on stools, each in a separate niche or room, posing without obvious chains, but he could tell behind their eyes that they were not here by free will in the strictest sense of the word. It was more a case of
      not having anywhere else to go, so we sat around our living room and talked about stuff. I was feeling tired and out of it from cleaning the house all day, so I listened more than talked.
      Rafe and Carol were arguing about religion from either end of the futon while Julie watched TV. It was really Joe who had started it, of course. He’d asked if Rafe believed Muslims were all going to Hell. Rafe made some sort of diplomatic answer that said, “Yes, I believe that all Muslims are going to Hell, but I don’t want to say it out loud.” Carol, as usual, got mad about it.
      “I’m not saying that I think there is a heaven or a hell,” she said. “I honestly don’t think there is. But I don’t see how you can be so closed-minded about the afterlife to say that all people who have different religions than you are going to hell.”
      I didn’t want to get involved and I certainly didn’t enjoy the argument, but I saw Joe that was grinning and his eyes
      were a little more mischievous than the usual person’s were. The man wearing a stained work-shirt and last week’s grime clearly enjoyed this exhibit: The Four-Legged Girl, sixteen or so, who had two pairs of legs. All four appendages lined up in a row next to each other, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Above the waist, the girl was normal, as far as he could tell. She used all four legs in an odd pattern as she waltzed to the sound of an old gramophone, seemingly for her own amusement rather than theirs. The other viewer was noticeably relishing the thought of what someone could do with a girl who was double below the navel, but all he wanted to do was ask if it felt odd to have extra feet, or if the rest of the world just looked top-heavy. He did wonder about things along the same line as the man next to him, but it was not
      something you talk about if you want to avoid insulting someone,” Julie said from the floor in front of the TV.
      “Exactly.” Rafe nodded. “I had a Muslim friend when I was a kid in summer camp, once. We just didn’t go there.”
      “Think about it,” Julie went on. “Muslim people likely think all Christians are going to hell. Christians likely think all Muslim people are going to hell. Muslims and Christians likely think all Buddhists are going to hell. So they probably don’t want to talk about it because it wouldn’t help social situations any.”
      “But that’s exactly what I’m trying to say,” Carol said. She flapped her arms quite a bit as she spoke. “If everyone thinks everyone else is damned, then society falls apart, unless they’re open-minded enough to realize that other religions are just as right as they are.”
      “No one of any religion will think that other religions are just as right,” Rafe muttered. When Carol shot a look at him, he spoke up. “It’s part of religion to believe only in one God. As a Christian, I am bound to say that other religions are wrong.”
      Julie looked like she might disagree with this, but first Carol went red in the ears and said, “I just wish that being a Christian wasn’t the same as being
      a Pinhead. That was what the sign called him, anyway. It also said he was The Missing Link between humanity and animals. A young gentleman, probably educated from both university and newspapers, had a young woman clinging to his arm and was displaying the exhibit’s varying points of interest to her. The display looked dolefully at the observers, sitting on the stump placed in front of his tent, which was so small and open that he had no privacy. His head was small, and hence the name. More specifically, it sloped back radically from the eyebrows and ears and came to a clear, rounded tip at the top. His head, but not his chin, was shaved, giving him a Neanderthalic appearance. The dreamer wondered whether the man could read, and then thought, just for a moment, that when the gentlemen examined various points of phrenology, that man on display was thinking ‘I know
      exactly what you mean,” Rafe interrupted. “You think that religious people can’t be very smart or else they wouldn’t be religious at all. Dawkins’ book, and all that.”
      “I just don’t see how an intelligent person can believe in God,” Carol said. She’d now turned on the futon and crossed her legs so that she was facing Rafe directly.
      Julie had swiveled back from the TV to say something, but Rafe cut her off before she could start. I could see his hands tremble a little. “Perhaps intelligent people have figured out that reason isn’t everything, and atheists could learn something from that.”
      “He’s right,” Julie said.
      “There’s emotion, intuition—which studies show is more reliable than calculation—there’s faith, authority…”
      “Oh, come on,” Carol said. “Those are logical fallacies. You learn that in grade ten.”
      “Logical fallacies,” Rafe said. “There’s your logic again. Thinking like your typical doctor…”
      Joe’s amusement aside, I wasn’t feeling very comfortable with all the tension, as from either side of the futon the two heads
      argued with each other. That the Two-Headed Woman’s two heads would bicker did seem somewhat caricatured to him. It was generally understood that couples who argued and resolved their differences had healthier relationships, so he hoped that was the case here. They sat on a stool in the centre of their niche, wearing a sleek black dress reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn. There was no fabric between their young necks, so the viewers could see that this was no hoax. A flurry of boys, entering adolescent awkwardness and clearly not old enough to be there, clustered and gaped at the women. One of them shouted out at them and asked if they had the same boyfriend. The woman on the left stopped the hushed debate to ask the boy if he thought he was man enough to satisfy both of them. Her sister scolded her and they fell back to arguing. Suddenly, the spat seemed to flare, but then fell into laughter. He then wished he could get to know them over coffee, or as life-long friends; asking personal questions from a distance like the hassling rabble would not bring him any
      understanding of the situation or of the people involved,” Julie continued. “Look, unless you genuinely try to see things from the other person’s point of view, you won’t get anywhere.”
      “But,” Carol objected, “none of the religious people I’ve met have ever tried to do that. And that includes my parents, who are very liberal for missionaries.”
      “Not that you seem to be trying all that hard yourself,” said Rafe.
      “It’s different,” Carol went on. “By definition, if you believe in a religion, you have to discount other points of view. I at least examine them objectively.”
      I somehow doubted that, but still felt too uncomfortable to say anything.
      “I don’t mean that you have to believe what the other person is saying.” Julie had pivoted entirely at this point. “I’m just saying that you have to respect that the other person has reasons for believing what they do. I mean, you two arguing on the couch is maybe a step forward in dialogue, or whatever, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re simply trying to convince the other person of your point of view.”
      Both Rafe and Carol began to glower, but Joe cut in, saying, “What’s really happening is that they both want to screw each other, but they can’t because Rafe’s Christian and Carol isn’t, so they’re trying to convert each other. Really, it’s their unresolved sexual attraction that’s causing all the arguments.”
      Julie raised her eyebrows at me and started to laugh, but then she noticed how embarrassed Rafe and Carol seemed, like Joe’s comment
      had exposed something private. The middle-aged woman watching vocalized her shock at his public display, saying how terrible it is to show yourself in such a way. The dreamer watched as the man crawled about his living quarters on all fours. His knees, according to the sign and visual testament, bent backwards. The middle-aged woman said that he should be employed in something useful and out of sight—perhaps as a beast of burden on a farm in the country, where none could see him. Horse-Man was trying to ignore her, but his head was consistently drawn in her direction when she hectored. Eventually, he surrendered and sat in a modified lotus position on the floor. It made his limbs less shocking, but
      it still doesn’t obscure what they really are,” Carol said, though less passionately than before Joe’s comment. “Religions just fulfill some psychological desire.”
      Julie, now frustrated with the argument, had returned to watching TV.
      Joe said, “With so many people believing in religion, there has to be something behind it, yeah, but I agree it isn’t necessarily logical.”
      “Once again, logic isn’t everything,” Rafe argued. “There’s also—”
      I was about to leave the room to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich or something, but Julie spun around and shut the argument up for good.
      “Just talk about something else, OK? You’re clearly not going anywhere and there’s no point getting everyone upset over this. You know each other well enough to know that you aren’t the stereotypes that you’re talking about. Rafe is perfectly intelligent and isn’t anti-Semitic, Carol, you know that, and Carol’s not immoral and, I don’t know, an abortionist or something. So, if you’re done taking this out on the rest of us, let’s talk about something else.”
      Carol looked like she was still willing to argue, but Rafe said, “Yeah, alright.” With some reluctance, Carol mumbled, “I’m sorry, Julie.”
      “You’re a Christian, Julie. Do you think all Muslims go to hell?” Joe asked, and all four of us laughed
      shakily as she lay on her bed. The sign called her Snake-Woman, but he thought it was a misnomer. She lacked any bones beneath her ribcage, and so the rest of her lay draped like animal skins. Other than her toned arms and thick neck, she lacked any muscle-tone at all. They were alone together in this room, and she spoke to him between her wheezing giggles.
      “Don’t feel sorry for me.”
      “I—” he said, and didn’t know whether he wanted to say ‘don’t’ or ‘can’t help it.’
      “I am happy with my life.”
      “I can’t see how you could be.”
      “You don’t have to.”

My Lady Mandeville

According to my prof, this is the best poem I've written yet. It's the one I read at the anthology launch, and has received positive feedback.*

Not sure if I'll be publishing this. If I do, I suppose I may need to take it down.

Anyway, here goes:
----------------------------------


My Lady Mandeville

a mountain slumbers on Silha
an island Mandeville found.
at the top is a pearly lake weighted
with jewels and stones
with yellow leeches and snakes
and cockodrills
the serpentine beasts with dead eyes.

if you rub yourself down with lemons
the natives said
you can enter the mountain pool
and take the pearls.
around the cliffs are wastelands
filled with white ox-heavy lions
two-headed geese
coiled russet dragons that feed on locals
yet not on strange men from strange lands.
the sea is tucked so high against the shore
that the peak appears to hang amoung the clouds.

I want my Lady Mandeville,
my sailor-mate, to break her prow on the rampart shore
to dare my looming sky
someone foreign to trek the barren gravel
some farmwife to untangle my crossed drakes
pluck them to their down
to calm my hydras with her strange hands
beat my leonine pride.
some intrepid to scale these bluffs
to lullaby the tugging asps
acidic enough to wilt the leeches
burn the moccasins
outstare my crook-toothed cockodrills
to slip into that reed-gagged pond
try for the bottom
pull out those oyster stones.






-------------------------
*Not to brag, but "positive feedback" has meant both that people have verbal told me it was a good job, and that when I looked up after reading and looked into my peers' eyes, I could see they were thinking, "Damn. That's good." Or maybe I was hallucinating it.

Also, it's my strong inclination to provide a reading for this poem. I want to tell you want each little bit is supposed to "mean." But I know I shouldn't, so I won't.

Here's a link, though, that provides one of my 'influences.'

Movie Review: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

aka What I Should Be Doing
aka In Which I Am Yet Again a Hopeless Romantic

I just watched (as I'm sure you can guess) Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. It was awesome.

I was a little bit hesitant about watching a movie that was about a toy store in which the toys come to life at night, which is what the back of the case said it was. This is not true at all. As far as I could tell, the toys were far more active during the day.

I'm at a loss for writing this review. It was just very good. Anything I say will not live up to it. It felt sort of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Big Fish. Dustin Hoffman takes on an entirely unexpected role for him. He's eccentric, goofy, childlike, and utterly bizarre. Natalie Portman plays a very interesting character, too; a little silly and childlike herself until she's suddenly burdened with what she interprets as a tragedy and a hopeless situation. That guy who plays in Arrested Development and Hancock is also in it; he is quite excellent, as always. And the kid's pretty good, too, even if his role is a bit on the predictable side.

So let's give a synopsis a shot. Mr. Magorium, played by Dustin Hoffman, owns a magical toy shop called Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. He plans on leaving, and wishes to leave the shop to Mahoney, his manager, played by Natalie Portman. Mahoney, however, feels like her life is in a rut: for years she's been struggling with the ending to her first symphony and most of her college friends have gone on and built careers. Taking over the Emporium was not what she had in mind. Meanwhile, the store's most loyal customer, Eric, is having difficulty making friends, and the new accountant, Henry, is having trouble balancing the books, which haven't once been accounted for the hundred-odd years the store's been open. Mahoney, Eric, and Henry need to somehow deal with a toy store pining over its owner's imminent departure, and, for that matter, deal with the issues in their own lives as well.

As with pretty much any kid's movie, there's a whole lot about believing in magic and believing in yourself. But it doesn't come off as particularly trite in this movie, maybe because of the quirky, almost indie feel of the film and the superb acting on the parts of all the characters. Overall, good show indeed.
Now, as to the aka's...

Mr. Magorium said, "Your life is an occasion. Rise to it."
Jon Wong quotes, "When's the last time you've done something crazy?"
Kay said, "You're such a romantic." Well, it's getting late in the evening, so I guess it applies now. (I recognise you didn't mean it poorly, Kay.)

And I wonder, what have I done in the last few days that I will remember forever? I suppose getting published for the first time is a pretty big deal. But that's not enough, I think. That's personal, but it's also career. The question is, when I look back on this time, what will I remember? Will I remember anything at all?
Is waking up each morning and being very prosaic, thinking that all my idealism and romanticism the night before was just the silliness that usually accompanies the setting sun, is thinking that such a good thing after all? Balance is nice, but the day is when stuff gets done. Why is the prosaic dominant during my active phase?
Have I risen to the occasion?

I have a paper to write, which is looming a bit. But nonetheless, I must think of something wonderful to do. Something of which Mr. Magorium would approve.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A Fantastic Quest (But Maybe Not an Epic Journey)

For the last little while I have been craving doses of whimsy and epic fantasy.

They're a lot of overlap, but they aren't always the same thing.
I saw Eragon, and while not the greatest movie in the world--much of it was truly derivative, and in a bad way--it did itch that particular scratch. For whimsy, I'm thinking things like Big Fish and Spirited Away and Pan's Labyrinth and Stardust; for epic fantasy, I'm thinking things like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass and Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean (which are not all of them truly epic, but you get the picture). Reading the Bone series has only fueled this particular fire. I want adventure, imagination, combat, surprise, magic, dispicable villians, and pretty girls with weapons. I want glamour and the exotic. I want fun.

This is the fantastic quest, then: to find something that suffices that I haven't already seen. That last part is the difficult part. The other day I tried The Golden Compass and Prince Caspian to no avail at all, and considered all of Spirited Away, Lord of the Rings, Pan's Labyrinth, and Pirates of the Caribbean, but none really appealed.

So I've rented some movies. Labyrinth was out, so I got Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Coppola's Dracula.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium I have not seen, but Jon says it's good and it certainly seems to supply the whimsy. It also has Dustin Hoffman in it. I could probably get through The Silmarilian if it was narrated by Dustin Hoffman. I could listen to his voice all day. And he's also an amazing actor, to boot. It also has Natalie Portman in it, who's one of my top five attractive actresses. Now, she'd have slipped a bit if there were many people to have replaced her, but there really aren't. But the cover is a bit bright, shall we say, and apparently it has toys coming to life? I dunno. I might not watch it tonight, at any rate.

The Spiderwick Chronicles I have seen. It is mediocre, but enjoyable. It is about kids and for kids, and so has certain limitations to it. It is also about fairies, and so obviously has limitations there, as well. However, it's also apparently in the genre 'elf punk,' which means that it has an edge to it. I recall this being somewhat true. Certainly it has no less edge than advertised, which is more than can be said for Peter Pan. This is a candidate for tonight. Basically, it comes to this. It has sword-fighting, but it has no pretty of-age actresses (unless you've got something for mother-type characters, which I really don't). EDIT [1:36 the following morning]: I had forgotten that the plot, while certainly not "good" by a modern art standard, is developed enough to impress me. As with most good kids' movies, it leans enough on character and inter-personal conflict to be engaging. Which is to say that, while plot-driven, the characters are real enough and react individually enough to the plot in question that I can be happy with it.

Coppola's Dracula, which I refuse to call Bram Stoker's Dracula, which is what the cover apparently calls it, is the other possibility for tonight. I have heard that it is one of the closest to the original text, so I'm intrigued. It also has Anthony Hopkins in it. Unfortunately, it also has Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves in it. My understanding is that this was made before either began acting. So we'll see.

But if I'm actually going to watch these, I'd better get on it. Even as is, it'll take me past midnight...

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Movie Review: Blood and Chocolate

I saw Blood and Chocolate last night. It's your basic forbidden love and werewolves movie. A girl is a reluctant member of her pack; she runs into an artist who won't stop trying to romance her, but she's called for the leader of her pack and can't really tell anybody she's a werewolf; if her pack finds out about artist dude, they'll kill him; if the artist guy finds out there are werewolves, they're afraid the humans will kill the whole pack. You can likely figure it out from there. It's pretty standard.
What's also standard--especially coming from the producers of Underworld--is that it's not actually a horror movie, as it's billed, but an action movie. There's the odd horror element thrown in, but most action movies have some suspense anyway. It's not a Die Hard action movie, because there aren't enough fight scenes for that. But anyway, I think you get the point; it lacks the sheer creepiness and the building suspense that are characteristic of real horror, and instead employs fight scenes, chase scenes, and more 'situational suspense,' in that you know that they're bound to be found out and people will then start dying. The only reason it's in the horror section of Classic Video is that it has werewolves in it.

And about those werewolves... these aren't bizarre rubbery mostrosities like in Ginger Snaps or savage CG Lycans as in Underworld. They used actual wolves. When someone turns, they glow all funny and you can't really even see the transformation. Similarly, you don't actually see any of the lycanthropes (in the move, "loup-garou," the French term) get shot or stabbed or otherwise hurt in wolf form. In general, I did not find that this detracted from the overall effect of the movie.

Plot, dialogue, pacing, and cinematography were fine. Not stellar, by any sense, but not as bad as one can expect of a genre-indecisive movie. There were some elements that I liked--I was actually quite surprised by the artist guy's backstory. Some people might find it silly, but I was actually taken in by it. Props to them for that. What was silly was that, apparently, loup-garou like to jump around a lot. It was kind of funny, actually, watching all of these people just jumping around on objects for kicks.

In retrospect, I am impressed with the lack of gratuitous sexualization of violence. I mean, it's there--in one scene particularly so--but it's not like Snakes on a Plane or Silent Hill, both of which I must write about at some point.

I think I've seen the protagonist girl before. She was attractive, but very serious looking. Very serious looking.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

A Realization

I came to a realization during Praise and Power today, and that is this:

By the end of the month, I will be saying to goodbye to a network of friends that I have by now built to a size larger than I've ever had before. Some of them I actually won't say goodbye to; some of them I've likely already seen the last of. And many of them I will never, ever see again in my entire life.

Now, I'll make a point to go out of my way to see certain people, but I cannot, just by the numbers, go out of my way to see everyone. I know a lot of people. It just can't be done. And the thing is, for some of them, they'll be far enough away that, even though I do feel quite close to them, I still won't be able to see them. Again, this might become more than just, "I don't know when I'll see them again." It's, "I don't know if I'll see them again. As in ever."

For instance, Navs is now over. Unless we make a point to get together again, I have seen a group of people who have come to mean a lot--and I mean a lot--to mean for the last time. Now, I'm going to make a point to try to get together with them, but I should make it clear that, as always with these things, there's no reason to suppose that every person will show. More than likely, I've said, "See you later," to more than one person to whom I should have said, "Goodbye."

I shouldn't dwell on this, but I guess I am anyway. I don't have class tomorrow. I can be as depressed as I want to be. My alarm clock will be turned off.

Which means one thing to me: any opportunity I have to be social, I will take. Any opportunity I have period, I will take. If there was a moment at which you can say, "At this point I have no time to waste," then I'm there.

Now, who knows how I'll feel in the morning, but...

Jon sometimes quotes, "When's the last time you've done something crazy?"
My answer is, "I can't remember."

By the time university is over, I intend to change that.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

My Undergraduate Career, City of Ember, Bone, and More About Life

I have not written a substantial post in some time. Now I will. I hope I have time to discuss all that I would like.

1) City of Ember: This is a kid's movie, and there's no avoiding it. The pacing, the characters, the conflicts involved...these are all limited by the audience this movie was made for. And, as is often the case, the special effects do not live up to my expectations (that's a post in itself--how things like The Lord of the Rings and other masterpieces have made my expectations too high for your average movie to meet).
Nonetheless, I found it enjoyable. There's a sort of fierce desperation in the premise, the likes of which you don't often see in any fiction today. They community lives in a city deep underground, powered by a generator which will last for only two hundred years. Those years have now elapsed, and the city--the only world the citizens of Ember have ever known, and the only world the believe was even inhabitable--is falling apart. The terror this causes is creates one of the strongest tensions in the movie (or at least so I thought). It reminds me of the quiet nervousness of The Pied Piper (a novel that takes place during WWII).
As with all kid's movies, there's bound to be a discussion of the morals it suggests. In this case, I'd have to say: bravery, family loyalty, critical thinking, perseverence, and perhaps following cryptic instructions. There's also the necessary condemnations of selfishness, gluttony, and blindness.
Also, I have to say that the girl's red cape is pretty cool and that the construction of the setting is admirable.

2) I have now taken the last classes at this university and of my undergraduate career. It hasn't fully sunk it yet. My final class was with Professor Gwynn Dujardin. It works for me. I suppose the most fitting would be if it were Professor Ware (my first English prof ever), but that would be unlikely, as I haven't had him since. Gwynn is a professor who've I known fairly well since second year, though, so it's still quite appropriate.
Now, the morning of my final day of classes was spent performing a part of the play Mankind (c. 1500) in Middle English--that is, both in the class Middle English and in the language Middle English. Yeah, that's right. I can read in Middle English. Well, sort of.
What else is noteworthy? I had my grad photos taken. I wore a white shirt and tie and everything. I like my new tie. I bought it for formal.
I have one essay left, and three exams. And then I'm gone. It feels so weird. I'm not really thinking about it. The future--without Queen's, without this same house, without a real plan for my life--looks unreal and uncertain. The move from highschool to university was a step from a world I was familiar with to one that I wasn't familiar with. The move from undergraduate to... wherever is a step from a world that is structured and defined to one that has no edges or paths at all. I hope to get into a school for February--applying will be a good start--so then I'll get that definition again, but I will have no real direction... Well, we'll see how it goes.
More personally, a friend I've known since the first week of Queen's told me this past Monday that she's liked me since first year. I was sad about that for a few days: I felt bad for her, that she "lost" a whole undergraduate career to liking someone who would never reciprocate. Not that I'm much better--I lost two years being utterly numb to romantic relationships at all, which was perhaps more depressing for me than pining over an unrequited crush. I still felt a little bad about it. I hope she goes off into the world and finds someone to make up for it all.

3) As a grad present, my folks have said they will give me some spending money. Now, I'm putting most of it toward a roadtrip, but I spent a little yesterday on Books 5 & 6 of the Bone graphic novel series, by Jeff Smith. Oh, man, is that a cool series. It starts off small and fun, but it's like Lord of the Rings in epicness by Book 6. Oh man oh man. We're talking dragons and secret orders of royal mystic warriors and a hidden bloodline and hooded rogue seers who weild awesome scythes and a mountain guardian named Roque Ja and talking bugs and baby 'possums and cow races and stubborn Grandma Ben and a pretty girl named Thorn. It's just so cool, but it's also fun, with goofiness and personality quirks and funny pictures. I want to write something like this when I grow up.

4) On which note, I also recently realized that my Creative Writing classes are now done. With my portfolio sumbitted, the anthology published, and no workshopping in the foreseeable future, I realize that for the first time in three years I am thrown upon my own motivation to produce any writing. There is nothing to look forward to that might prod me into writing, except for getting a novel or collection of shorts published. It's a little scary, since I've never done well at self-motivation for this sort of thing. Hopefully I manage, right?

5) I swear there was more that I was going to write about, but I can't remember. Nuts.
Well, OK, I've just rented three movies: Elektra, Blood & Chocolate, and Eragon. I'll let you know when I finish.

6) Oo! I remember! The launch!
It went well. I got there early and we prepared the Gallery, and then we milled nervously, waiting for it to start. The publisher began, and then my prof, Carolyn Smart, opened it up--sarcastic and antiauthoritarian as ever--and introduced the first reader (we went alphabetically), and then introduced me, the second reader. Now, the introductions were coded, so that only the class really knows what each intro meant--but if you understood half of them, you'd realize how embarassing it would be for the reader. There were some exceptions--Alec was said to have "perverse dyslexia" and Anna had a very sexual introduction, including a refrence to her attraction to gay men and her desire to receive the fetish chart on a poster for her birthday. Mine were not too clean, either, but were at least coded well. Unless you know what "suitcasing" means, I don't suppose you'd see what was so odd about it.
Anyway, I read "fort mcmurray weather report," "Frontier," and "My Lady Mandeville." The first two have appeared in much earlier incarnations on this blog, but the version I read--significantly edited--were from the anthology. "My Lady Mandeville" was relatively new. Sometime I may post it here. Until then, know it's based on the voyages of Sir John Mandeville.
I was quite nervous, but I was fine once I started reading. Apparently I read quite well--at least, that's what everyone told me.
I didn't make anyone cry, though. That honour was reserved for Angela's memorial to her grandfather.

And now for real that's all.

I'll see you later, then.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Political Cartoons

And look at the Tycho's commentary: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2009/4/1/. Observe the hyperlinking...what a work of art. I could go on, but instead I'll put my laundry in the dryer and edit Jon's paper.


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