Saturday, December 31, 2005

And Lo, There Shall Come an Unveiling

Last night I got an email confirming that The Obsession Formerly Known as Primary (or TOFKAP, if you will) has, indeed, been delivered to its target; his wife intercepted the email, had it printed and bound, and put it with the presents to be opened on Christmas morning. They're both currently in the process of reading it, and so, optimist that I am, I'm currently bracing myself for the "Dude, seriously, all that fuss over this?" feedback. I'm still not quite ready to post it all online for the whole world to see, but soon, very soon.

Until then, read the Forward and finally learn the truth behind TOFKAP.

The Title Is Flunkrow’s; the Concept Is Mine: A Forward

For quite some time my best friend has had in mind what he thinks would be an excellent title for a book . . . The only problem is that he has no idea what the story should be about; whether it should be Sci Fi or Fantasy, Horror or Romance, he hasn't a clue.

So began an essay I wrote my Sophomore year of college entitled Of Prisms and Plotlines, where I used my best friend Flunky’s plot-less title as a springboard for ruminations on my plot-less life. This essay was one of my favorite pieces of writing from that time period, and I go back and re-read it periodically; every time I do, I see that opening paragraph and think “Man, I really need to write that Cabin in the Woods thing.”

You see, when Flunky first told me of his title idea, I, being the sort of person I am (i.e. a total geek), immediately struck upon the brilliant idea of writing a short story with the title and giving it to him as a surprise. The biggest stumbling block was that I was as lost when it came to finding a suitable plot as Flunky was. So the idea soon fell off my mental radar, only to pop up now and again as I periodically reviewed my old writings.

Fast-forward about 10 years, to November of 2005. One evening Flunky and I were chatting on IM, a conversation about my blog leading into one of his periodic “when are you going to get off your ass and start writing for a living” questions, which lead into a discussion of fiction in general. He outlined an idea he had for a fantasy series, ending with the comment, “Not much to go on, but I expect a novel on my desk in two weeks. Now get on it.” After my sardonic response of “Yes, oh great and powerful leader,” he added “Don't forget the title should be In a Cabin In The Woods.” I assured him that that title had been burned into my memory long ago. Our conversation then ranged onto other things, and the reminder of his plot-less title would fade into the background of my mind for a few more days, before boiling back up to the surface with a vengeance that weekend.

There I was that lazy Saturday morning, lying in bed, mind in that weird half-asleep/half-awake state where random thoughts flourish; I had been thinking about doing a blog-post about a college experience at a friend’s cabin, and I realized I could entitle the post “In a Cabin in the Woods.” Pleased by the idea, my mind kept working: instead of a post about the incident, why not fictionalize it, and that way I’d finally have that short story? “But wait,” another part of my mind cried out, “what about the Elemental characters? They’re kind of inspired by Flunky and the others, wouldn’t that be more fitting?” And then a third part spoke up “Hey, I thought we always agreed it would be a horror story?” And then a fourth part spoke up. And a fifth. And with that magic number 5 (Flunky’s lucky number, and a story in and of itself), I knew with a flash of blinding insight (that quickly turned into a burning obsession) what I had to do: write five different short stories, each a different genre, each set in a cabin in the woods, and send them to him for Christmas, which was a little over a month away.

Amazing what odd things pop into your head when you’re barely awake, huh?

And yet, even after I was fully awake the idea would not let go of me, and I knew that I had to see it through. So now here we are, a little over a month and around 65,000 words later: what started out as an idea for a kind-of cool (in a geeky sort of way) gift for my best friend became a chance for me to do something I’d never done before: follow an idea for a writing project all the way through to its conclusion. It’s completely different from what I originally envisioned, which is both good and bad, depending on your point of view. It’s also much, much, much longer than I had imagined: trust me, writing a 100 page manifesto was not the original plan.

So, there you go, Flunky, I finally got off my ass and wrote something, and I even used your title. Now, get off my back.

Oh, and thanks for the push: I needed it.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Road Trip!

I'm really not a spontaneous person; I know this will come as a great surprise to many of you, what with all of my talk about paranoia and fear, but it's true. 9 times out of 10 when I get a last minute call to do something, my instincts scream, "No! You're having so much fun just sitting around her, lounging in your pajamas, flipping through the channels, doing absolutely nothing of consequence whatsoever, why ruin that with fun?" Maybe I exaggerate at little. But not much.

One of the few spontaneous things I remember doing was the road-trip to Dallas to see Jimmy Buffett in concert.

It happened early in my Sophomore year. One Friday afternoon Pooh-bear returned from class saying that she had just heard about the Buffett concert, and she was determined to go, whether anyone else wanted to accompany her or not. I told her that I would go with her; I wasn't a super-huge Buffett fan, but I had been friends with Pooh long enough to have some appreciation for his music. While we were planning our escapade, we had two more volunteers to join us; both of them were Freshman with whom I had had little contact at that point: Little Man Stud and the heretofore-unmentioned Soccer-girl.

So, the four of us piled in Pooh's car and headed down; we of course had no tickets, and so were hoping to find a scalper with reasonable prices. Yes, that's right: our plan was contingent on the existence of scalpers. Still not sure what possessed me to agree to this.

We were a ways into the drive when Little Man Stud asked "So, Jimmy Buffett; he sings Brown-Eyed Girl, right?"

Stunned silence.

"I don't think so," we replied, "pretty sure that's Van Morrison."

"He may have done a cover of it," Pooh said.


So, there we were, halfway to Dallas, and Little Man Stud had just discovered that the one song he thought he knew by Buffett wasn't really by Buffett. But we were not deterred; or at least, the rest of us weren't deterred, and Little Man Stud was trapped. Thanks to our impeccable timing we hit rush-hour traffic in Dallas, and were stuck at a standstill while Pooh despaired of making it to the concert on time. We finally made it to the Starplex, the venue which was housing the concert. Traffic was still moving at a snail's pace, and we found ourselves stopped right next to a scalper. We rolled down the window, inquired to his wares, were quoted what must have seemed like an acceptable price, and made the transaction. Then we moved down a few more yards and were greeted with a rather obese white guy yelling at us for buying from “that [racial epithet],” saying that if we had bought from him instead we would have saved us some money. His racist rage was actually pretty amusing.

We finally made it into the parking lot, and moved on into the Starplex. Now, if you're not familiar with the Starplex, there are basically two levels of seating: there’s the nice, assigned, covered seating, and then there's the cheap-ass, sit on the side of a grassy hill if you can find a spot seating. Guess which we got. But we had been prepared for this, and were able to find a relatively good spot on the hillside. We settled in and waited for the concert to begin.

There was a huge smoky haze drifting out of the nice seating, a haze which, when it reached us, had an unusual odor which I, sheltered as I was, was not familiar with, but which the others, coming from larger cities, were; that's right, a good number of people in the crowd were smoking the reefer. At a Jimmy Buffett concert! Who’d have thunk it?

One of my favorite memories was being bumped into by a stumbling drunk girl who got beer all over my Eskimo Joe's sweatshirt. She leaned down to apologize which is when she got a look at my shirt. "Hey, are you from Stillwater?" she slurred. I admitted I was. "Do you go to OSU?" Guilty as charged yet again. "I go to TCU; we played you guys in football!" With each syllable her hands shook, splashing more beer on me; yes, there's nothing quite like being showered with beer from the hands of a Texas Christian University student.

Partway through the concert, the band started playing a familiar, yet unexpected song; Pooh, Soccer-girl, and I all turned to Little Man Stud and said "Hey! You were right!" To which he replied, "What?" Shaking our heads in disbelief we said "Listen to the song!" He looked at us quizzically, but then turned his attention back to the stage, at which point Buffett finally hit the chorus of Brown Eyed Girl and Little Man Stud finally had his moment of realization.

After the concert we were all starving since we hadn't stopped for anything on the way down. We went to Planet Hollywood, which had mediocre food like most theme restaurants, but we had a good time. On the way out I stopped at the gift store and picked up a keychain, which was the standard souvenir I would buy for my mom on any of my trips.

Following our dinner we hopped back in the car and sped home, and I do mean sped. I don't know quite how fast we managed to go, since Pooh's digital speedometer only went so high, and we were still accelerating after it stopped. Ah, to be young and reckless again.

Getting back to OSU pretty late, we all went back to our rooms and collapsed, and woke up early the next morning for Parents Day. That's right; Friday night: road trip to Dallas. Saturday morning: football game with the 'rents.

Pooh and I were very upfront with our folks; the first thing I did when I saw my mom was hand her the keychain and say "Guess where I went last night!" Little Man Stud, on the other hand . . . I'm pretty sure his parents still don't know about our little roadtrip. Not wanting to be disturbed in his sleep, he had turned off his phone's ringer, so when his parents tried to call up to his room to let him know they were there, no answer. His dad went up and banged on his door to wake him up; he told them that he hadn't gotten any sleep because someone kept prank calling him, and that's why he turned his phone off.

So, that's basically the most spontaneous thing I've ever done in my life.


Sad, isn't it?


Hey, Look! I'm Still a Lazy Bum!

I finally finished the Farseer trilogy last night, and since I don't have either of the follow-up trilogies here with me, I was able to break free of their spell in order to finally start transcribing some of the tapes I made on my drive up here. Of course, the first hour or so of tape is all "behind the scenes" stuff about The Obsession Formerly Known As Primary, which I can't really post just yet. So, stuff will be coming soon. I promise.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Subtext of Today's Post is "Cap'n Neurotic is a Lazy Bum"

Y'know, about three hours ago, when my parent's cat woke me up with his meowing because he was upset that I had the audacity to keep my bedroom door closed, my mind was filled with rambling thoughts to blog about as I tried to go back to sleep. Of course, once I did finally manage to slip back into slumber, those ideas fled into the Dreaming, never to return.


Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, I'm still at my parents' house in Miamuh. I've often run across people who seem puzzled by the fact that I would spend my whole break with my parents, a response that, in turn, puzzles me. Spending time here is, for the most part, relaxing; plus, what would I be doing if I headed back to Denton? Pretty much the same things I'm doing here, only without as much company. Also, without the world's most comfortable guest bed, which I fully intend to steal as soon as I get a place big enough to accommodate it and all of my other junk. Plus, as my mom said, back in Denton I don't have anyone who will "almost cook" for me.

To be honest, I wasn't planning on staying here quite this long, initially; the original idea had been to head back down on Wednesday. But, as almost always happens, I just felt so comfortable lazing around that I just couldn't bear the thought of hopping back into my car and driving back just yet. Generally, if I don't get up and around and on the road by 10 AM, the trip ain't going to happen 'til the next day. Why? Because I'm weird like that, that's why.

I would come back tomorrow, but that's my dad's day off, so odds are good that I won't be heading out until Saturday morning, so I should be back in Texas in time for some New Years excitement, or at least the closest approximation to New Years excitement that can be found around Denton.

Okay, that's as much rambling as I can handle without my morning dose o' caffeine. Which reminds me, Flunky once suggested that I needed to turn Eric Clapton's song "Cocaine" into my theme song, only substituting "Caffeine":

If you wanna hang out
You've gotta take her out
If you wanna get down
Get down on the ground

She's alright,
She's alright,
She's alright,

Okay, now I'm done rambling . . . for now.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Written Word Wed. - Screwball + Sci-Fi = Good Readin'

With all of my reading this week, I decided that I would do a separate post for each book/series. First up: Connie Willis' Inside Job.

Before I get into the review, let me tell you a quick story. Several years ago, I got an instant message from my old roomie Wrath teh Berzerkr, who was living in Colorado at the time.

"You ever hear of an author named Connie Willis?" he asks.

"Oh, yeah, she's one of my favorites," I reply. "She's a rarity: an English major who made it big in Sci-Fi. Why do you ask?"

"Because I just met her this last week; she goes to our church."

"Really? That's cool. On a completely unrelated note, I've been thinking recently that I need to come visit you guys soon . . ."

Of course, I never made it up to visit, and thus missed out on my opportunity to easily stalk Ms. Willis. Ah, well, c'est la vie. Moving on to Inside Job.

This novella by Willis tells the story of Rob, a reporter for a publication known as The Jaundiced Eye which specializes in debunking psychics, mediums, mystics, and similar hoaxes, and his beautiful, funny, smart, in-love-with-him-but-he-has-no-clue assistant as they try to find out the truth about a popular medium who has started channeling a new spirit, one which seems determined to drive away her business. Is the medium truly being possessed by a negative spirit, or is this all some sort of reverse psychology ploy for greater exposure? And why does the new spirit's style of speaking sound so familiar to Rob . . .

This novella is closer to Willis' books like Bellweather and Remake than it is her longer (and, I must say, far superior) works like The Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog and Passage. All of the aforementioned share her with and humor and love of the screwball romantic comedy, but the former stick much closer to the formula of this one: first person narrator who is trying to solve some puzzle while juggling a romantic interest, all the time providing the reader with little factoids somehow related to the puzzle at hand. With Bellweather it was fads, with Remake it was movies (specifically the preponderance of drinking and smoking in movies, and with Inside Job it is psychic hoaxes and one of the more well-known debunkers, H.L. Mencken . . . well, well-known to people who study hoaxes and debunkers anyway. As usual, I have to admire Willis' research, as the story is peppered with interesting tidbits about these topics, but done in such a way as to enhance the tale and not distract from it, as opposed to, say, the incredibly drawn out and exceedingly dry chapters on whaling in Moby Dick.

Willis' gift for humor and witty dialogue made me laugh out loud several times while reading the novella. That being said, this isn't the best of her works (that would either be the time travel story Doomsday Book or the exploration of near-death experiences Passage, both of which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone); I'm not even sure if it's the best of her "lesser" works. Although I enjoyed it a bit more than I did Remake (although I enjoyed all of the movie references in that one), there is a bit of a "been there, done that" feel to it stemming from having read everything else she's written. Still, even if the screwball comedy tropes feel very familiar, the psychic hoax angle gives it a different twist, and the humor kept me engaged and entertained.

All in all, an entertaining, light read, that Willis' fans will probably enjoy. Personally, I would suggest trying out Passage, Doomsday Book (followed by its much-more comedic sequel To Say Nothing of the Dog), or her short story collection Impossible Things, for the short story "Even the Queen" if nothing else.


Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. my swiss-cheese brain), I not only neglected to review Viva La Bam! yet again, but I also forgot to include the "Oh by the way, I forgot to watch Viva La Bam!" note like I had intended. Dr. G'ovich expressed his extreme disapointment to me a little while ago; I'll be lucky if I'm able to get any sleep at all, the guilt is so great.

Seriously, it totally slipped my mind, and when I did think about it, MTV was too busy showing marathons of just about anything but Bam! Maybe next week . . .


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TV Tues - Monster vs. Mythology

With the high number of reruns that take over the tv schedule this time of year, my TV reporting is pretty limited. I did, however, manage to get some TV DVDs watched, one of which led to some TV related ramblings into my tape recorder on my drive to Miamuh. Of course, I'm having trouble finding the tape with those ramblings right now, so I'm just going to have to write from memory for now.

Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Disc 3: Only one more disc to go, and it's basically just the big finale featuring the final matches. I have to say that for once I was glad that the ending had been spoiled for me, because it meant that I didn't have to spend hours worrying that the two guys I absolutely couldn't stand would make it to the finals. Instead, I could just sit back, relax, and wait for their inevitable defeats.

Profit Disc 3: And so, yet another innovatitve series that was killed before its time draws to a close for me. I really wish this would have last longer, for two reasons: first of all, in order to watch the evolution of Lisa Darr's character, who was one of the most interesting aspects of the show; and second of all, because the behind-the-scenes documentary revealed that if they had lasted a whole season, they had planned on bumping off the female security chief to shake things up; never having liked that character, who was never as good a foil for Profit as she should have been, that would have made me very happy.

My biggest complaint about the series had to be its M.o.t.W. setup. Buffy fans will recognize this as an acronym for "Monster of the Week" which doesn't quite fit her; I guess the M could stand for "Machinations." Or, I could come up with a different leading word, like Smallville with its F.o.t.W. set-up, the F being for Freak, but I'm a bit too lazy to come up with anything else for it right now, and that's kind of straying from my initial point anyway, so I suppose I should get us back on the right track before my ramblings threaten to wash all thoughts away into strange, misty lands filled with run-on sentences, half-formed thoughts, and barrages of random stream-of-consciouness.

Sort of like that last paragraph.

Anyway, Profit's M.o.t.W. structure wore on me quite a bit. Each week there would suddenly be a new plot or plan that would threaten his rise to power, and each week he would go through insanely complicated maneuvers to thwart this latest complication. This need for an entirely new danger each and every week strained my credulity with the hoops that had to be gone through each time. It was a similar problem with the F.o.t.W. that had me give Smallville up for a time. The formulaic nature just drove me to distraction.

The X-Files had its own form of terminology for the different types of episodes they tried to do: Monster eps and Mythology eps. Monster eps would be the ones that are stand-alone, M.o.t.W. style, while the Mythology eps would focus on a grander, over-arching storyline. Applying this framework to TV shows in general, I have to say that, on the whole, I prefer shows which have a high Mythology quotient. That what I loved about Buffy and Angel; the move from Monster to Mythology eps was what got my finally hooked on Stargate SG-1. Ironically enough, the biggest example I can think of where I prefer Monster eps to Mythology eps is the show that gave me that terminology: The X-files. The problem with it being that it contradicted itself constantly; every plot reveal turned out to be a lie, every fact was made fiction, and then back into fact again; the lack of any resolution was frustrating, and the shadowy conspiracy junk grew tiresome. I include this to show that sweeping generalities don't always work; it's all in the execution.

So, what is it that makes me enjoy shows with heavy Mythology? Well, I like seeing the interconnected plot lines, seeing how all of what has gone on before actually feeds into future plots. I alsolike watching the characters grow and change over time; it's one of the reasons I've never been able to get into the Law and Order franchise all that much. A procedural has to have really strong characters that I like in order for me to devote time and energy into it. Of course, at times this growth and change can come back to bite me; one of the big draws for Buffy for me was the charcters of Willow and Xander. I enjoyed watching them slowly growing up and coming into their own, but by the time the 5th season had rolled around, it was obvious that the people they were growing into weren't necessarily people I wanted to watch every week. The progression was natural, and pretty well-executed, just not a direction I really wanted to watch. Angel, on the other hand, took characters I was rather luke-warm towards, and grew them into some of my favorite characters on TV; the darkening and redemption of Wesley is one of my all time favorite character arcs on any series.

So, in conclusion: episodic series, bad; story-arc driven series, good.


Next Time On "Crisis of Infinite Monkeys" . . .

It's currently 1:20 AM as I type this, and I've just gotten back from hanging out with the Photographer and her family. I currently do not have the mental wherwithal to type up what I was wanting to type up for today's TV Tuesday post, but I felt compelled for some reason to let yo uknow that there will be something up sometime this afternoon. Why do I fell compelled? Chalk it up to thte sleep deprivation, that's always a handy excuse.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Movie Mon. - Kong is King

Only three films to discuss today, two of which were viewed on the big screen. We had planned on going to see The Producers last night, but mom wasn't feeling up to it. In order to pad things out a bit, also have my latest additions to my Netflix queue.

So, off we go

King Kong: What a great, great movie. The next time someone asks me "Why did they have to remake this again?" I think I shall respond "Because obviously Peter Jackson saw the piece of crap that was the 1976 version, and did not want that piece of trash to be what most people remembered." Instead, now people will remember this far superior film in its place, a film that has moments of drama, moments of comedy, moments of romance, moments of adventure, and, not surprisingly if you're familiar with Jackson's early work, moments of horror. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that the scene where they first meet the hostile Skull Island inhabitants was much more intense than I had anticipated, not to mention the off-the-scale creepiness of the pit of giant insects. Some nice homages to the original film, with the shout out to Fay Wray and Meria Cooper, the lifting of the "Women can't help being a bother' dialogue for the movie-within-the-movie, and the re-enactment of the cheesy tribal dance from the original as part of the big Kong presentation towards the end. Now, all three of us were agreed that it was a bit over-long, although we disagreed on exactly where it was overlong: mom thought the Kong-vs.-dinosaur parts could stand to be trimmed, while I was a bit more impatient with some of the drawn-out dramatic/romantic sequences. Even so, all three of us really enjoyed it. Big "hey, isn't that?" moment came when I realized that the thieving ship member with a rough childhood was played by none other than Jaime "Billy Elliot" Bell. Think Bell does a better American accent than most Brit actors. Which brings us to the next film on my list.

Weather Man: Went to see this at the $1.50 theater in Joplin on Friday with the Photographer and her family; think a big factor in it being chosen was that it was the only film that we could make it to after getting a late start on dinner. None of us really knew what to expect going in, but it definitely wasn't what we got. This movie goes on my list of "really strange films that I liked a lot but danged if I know who I can recommend them to." This was a darkly comic tale of a tv weatherman whose life has fallen apart around him, and who is trying to put it back together, but failing miserably. There were a few scenes that made me want to crawl under my seat as Nic Cage's character insisted on doing some incredibly stupid things a few times, but I enjoyed watching his character finally starting to snap out of his loser funk. I think my biggest complaint with the film was that at no point in time did I feel any sympathy for his ex-wife, nor any sympathy for his wanting to get back together with the shrill, over-reacting harridan. "Good riddance to bad rubbish" was my general reaction every time she was on screen. As for how the previous review could possibly lead into this one, well, let's just say that Michael Caine's American accent was incredibly distracting to me; I blame RebelMonkey, who once pointed out to me how similar (and forced) the faux American accents of most Brit actors are; having just noticed it in Ewan in The Island, I couldn't help noticing it in Caine here as well. And now that I've said that, I've cursed all of you blog monkeys as well! Muah-ha-ha-ha! On a side note, the movie made me really want to take up archery.

Once Upon a Mattress: Ugh, what a waste of time this one was. I've heard good things about the play that inspired this, but after watching this, I have no idea why. None of the songs caught my interest at all, musically speaking, and only one was even remotely compelling lyrically. The broad characters annoyed rather than amused, which was surprising, since I usually enjoy both Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman. Somehow, their comedic gifts didn't translate to this production very well; personally, I blame the obvious and lackluster script. I have no idea if there's a big difference between the play and this version, but after seeing the film, I'm pretty glad I didn't shell out any money to see the university production a coule of years ago.


Winter Passing: An indie drama about a woman (Emily Deschanel) wanting to sell the love letters her famous father (Ed Harris) wrote to her mother. In addition to both of these talented actors, my interest was also piqued by the inclusion of Will Ferrel in a supporting role; how serious his characer is is unknown.

Hoodwinked! Animated film treating the Red Riding Hood story as a criminal case

Hostel: Horror film about some guys who stumble across a den of sadists; don't know if any trailer has ever creeped me out as much as this one has. I forsee lots of crining in sympathetic pain as I watch this one.

Duck Season (Temporada de patos): Mexican indie comedy about which I know next to nothing, other than that it was nominated for several awards.

Red Dwarf v.7 : Latest release of one of the best Sci-Fi comedies ever made for TV; I've heard that the quality of the series had declined by this season, but I'll reserve judgment until I've seen it myself.

Nowhere Man: The Complete Series:: A short-lived thriller series that I missed out on completely while it was on, but have heard good things about.

The Flash: The Complete Series: Honestly, there are only two things I want to see off of these discs: the Captain Cold episode, and the Trickster episodes, all of which I somehow managed to miss when it was on the air.

Our Very Own: Indie coming-of-age story about a group of teens trying to track down a movie star who's just returned to her home town. Stars Jason Ritter and Allison Janney, who was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her role.

The Big White: dark comedy about dead bodies and insurance fraud in Alaska. Has quite a cast for a film nobody's heard of: Robin Williams, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, Giovanni Rabissi, and Woody Harrelson.

The Proposition: Australian Western starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, and Emily Watson.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

And I Was Enjoying It So Much, Too . . .

Merry Christmas, one and all. It's been a bit on a non-Christmasy Christmas here in Miamuh. Granted, we've had our fair share of non-traditional Christmas celebrations (such as the year we had no tree and instead stacked all of the presents on the giant bean bag chair, to which my mother composed a song to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"), but through most of them, it still at least felt like Christmas. But this year, getting into the spirit of things has eluded us for the most part, there being little in the way or decorations, not to mention a dearth of Christmas music. Heck, none of the presents were even wrapped until right before we opened them this morning; mom said she had considered just bringing them in as is and chucking them at us. I chalk a lot of this up to various stresses and worries my folks are dealing with right now, not least of which is the fact that this is the first Christmas since my maternal grandmother passed away, and Christmas was always her favorite holiday: in her prime, my grandmother made sure that no member of her family was wanting for gifts come the 25th of December. Her absence this year, even if it's never remarked upon, can't help but put a damper on things. But, enough maudlin thoughts; this is a time for peace and joy.

I've spent most of the last few days, newly unencumbered of my Primary Obsession, reading voraciously. I read Inside Job by Connie Willis on Friday, In the Ruins by Kate Elliot yesterday, and Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb today; so entranced was I with the Hobb book that I instantly dove into the second volume in the trilogy, Royal Assassin, and was 80 pages in when I reached a part that made me have to take a brief break. For you see, after escaping into a well written fantasy story for over 500 pages, I was suddenly confronted with one of the top of my pet peeves in regards to fiction: the misunderstanding. The "I'm going to jump to a conclusion about you and refuse to listen to any of your explanations and swear that I'm never going to speak to you again" sort of misunderstanding. Oh, and did I mention that it was the sort of misunderstanding that revolves around a girl assuming that a boy she liked was aware of things he couldn't be aware of, and then becoming extremely ticked at him because of it? It's this sort of thing that made the Wheel of Time books extremely painful to me; I'm hoping that this little misunderstanding plot does not last throughout the entire novel (let alone its sequel), as it would definitely derail my "reading is fun!" mood.

And now that I've vented, I shall return to my reading, and probably find that all is made right in the next chapter, thus making me appear highly reactionary.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

All Shall Be Revealed . . . Just Not Yet

Well, due to a combination of factors, the Primary Obsession has been sent to its intended target with feedeback from only the "pretty honest" source incorporated; I wish I had a bit more time to tinker with it, but I was coming up on (a) my self-imposed deadline (b) the target's no-internet status for the next several days, and (c) my complete inability to keep this a secret any longer.

Honestly, all of this doublespeak and side-stepping has worn me out; I'm no good at the sneaky stuff.

That being said . . . the rest of you blog monkeys are going to have to wait until I get confirmation that the intended target has (at the least) received the Primary Obsession. Just wouldn't be fair for you all to get the details before he does.

Plus, I'm a sadistic little monkey.

But soon, my blog monkeys . . . soon.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Yeah, I Got Nothing

Despite a few hours of tape from my drive up yesterday, I'm afraid you're all going to have to make do with a minimalist post today; I don't really feel like transcribing anything right now, and I'm also not in the writing mood. In fact, having pretty much completed the Primary Obsession, my mind has been more on reading than writing; I finished up 5 TPBs yesterday (and let me just recommend the excellent Exiles series to anyone who's interested; even with the crappy Chuck Austen phase it went through, its one of my favorite series) and read the latest Connie Willis book this morning(which is less impressive than it might sound, the book being under 100 pages), which I'll talk about more on the next Written Word Wednesday. Next up: the latest Crown of Stars volume, which won the poll lo those many weeks ago.

I plan to keep on posting through the weekend, but for those of you who will be occupied with family fun, let me go ahead and wish you all a Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thinking Out Loud Thursday: On the Road Edition

Good afternoon, my blog monkeys. I just made it in to Miamuh and thought I'd post a quick something before you all went into CoIM withdrawals.

I spent most of my Thursday morning drive thinking out loud to my tape recorder, almost exclusively about ideas for future blog posts. Some things that you will probably be seeing in the near future include:

  • A recounting of my trip to San Diego with Wrath, Flunky, and G'ovich
  • Another instalment of "It's a Guy Thing"
  • Musings on senses of humor, insides jokes, and catchphrases
  • Tales of T.A.G.: Parkerite and Book Monkey editions
  • What I look for in a TV show
  • More on Little Man Stud and The Old Man
  • Celebrity Game Show Night with the Singles
  • How did the whole monkey thing get started in the first place?

Think that covers most of it. There will also be a lot o' talk about the behind-the-scenes goings-on regarding the Primary Obsession, after its not-too-far-off-knock-on-wood unveiling.

So, quite a bit to look forward to, eh? Almost makes up for this rinky-dink excuse for a post, huh? Huh?

Yeah, didn't think so. Was worth a try, though.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The Primary Obsession is inching closer to completion, as I've finally gotten in good enough shape to shop it out to three critical eyes, of varying levels of bias: I have a feeling I can count on one to be pretty honest, one to be tactfully honest, and one to be brutally honest. Now, while I'm waiting for their feedback, I can focus on other things; I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done over the Christmas break, although with a lonely 5 1/2 hour car ride tomorrow morning there's a good chance that I'll be gripped with an idea for a new obsession at some point; if you're lucky blog monkeys, it might even be CoIM related.


Written Word Weds. - This One Would Have Really Thrown Off My Honors Thesis

Continuing with my "I need some filler, I know, I'll use my old homework assignments!" theme, here's my review of the book I chose for my Multicultural Novel: Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter.

A quick preface: I'm a pretty big fan of Tan's work, having read and re-read her first three novels countless times while working on my Honor's Thesis about her use of supernatural themes in her novels. I think this over-familiarity with her earlier work accounts for my automatic comparison of this book with her others; I'm really intrigued by the concept of her new book, Saving Fish From Drowning which sounds as far removed from the plots of the previous novels as Halloween III: Season of the Witch was from the other Halloween movies. How's that for an analogy?

Tan, Amy. The Bonesetter’s Daughter. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001. ISBN: 0-399-14643-1

This novel follows the life of Ruth Young, the only daughter of Chinese immigrant LuLing Young. Ruth and her mother have always had an adversarial relationship, but recently LuLing’s behavior has started to worry Ruth. A doctor’s visit confirms Ruth’s fears that LuLing has started to suffer from memory loss and dementia. As Ruth struggles to deal with the changes in her mother’s life, she reflects on their history together. This reflection reminds her of a manuscript her mother had written for her in Chinese but which Ruth had never had translated. Ashamed of herself for not reading her mother’s history before, Ruth has the manuscript translated. It is this manuscript which makes up the bulk of the second half of the book, as Ruth discovers the truth behind the many secrets her mother has kept over the years, including the true identity of LuLing’s mother and the calamitous events which separated LuLing from her true family.

This book exemplifies several of the features of multicultural fiction. The sections devoted to LuLing’s life go into great detail of explaining the culture, religion, folklore, and social aspects of China in the early 20th century. The sections devoted to Ruth feature the struggle between the ideas of her immigrant mother and her own Americanized ideas. The book also shows themes that Okura and Su list as common in Asian American fiction, especially mother-daughter relationships and the pressures of fitting into the Anglo culture.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Tan has an excellent sense of humor which is most evident in the sections told from Ruth’s P.O.V. Ruth herself is an intriguing and complex character, and I enjoyed all of the sections of the novel which focused on her. I wasn’t quite as enraptured by LuLing’s story, however. While still well-written, the shift in narrative voice from third-person omniscient to first-person didn’t appeal to me. I sometimes felt annoyed by LuLing’s self-centered world view, but it wasn’t that big of a detriment. Actually, probably the biggest stumbling block I had was that I kept comparing this book to Tan’s other works. The flip-flopping between mother-daughter stories reminded me of The Joy Luck Club, and the focus on the hard-knock life of LuLing and her belief that she was cursed reminded me of The Kitchen God’s Wife.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Asian American fiction. I think the book would primarily appeal to people who enjoy Literary fiction. There are some romantic aspects in the story which might appeal to Romance fans, but most of the romantic storylines don’t end happily, and those that do aren’t really the main focus of the book. Although some supernatural themes are suggested, I don’t think they’re concrete enough to appeal to Fantasy fans.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not Quite Belated B-day Post!

The one problem with the Birthday alarm site is that it sends out the alarm the day before the birthday, but not on the birthday itself, so I invariably get the reminder one morning, think "I need to remember that tomorrow," and then promptly forget all about it. If I hadn't just gotten a notification of Flunky adding his info, I would have forgotten to give this b-day shout-out to the only person from High School I'm still in semi-regular contact with: The Photographer. Hope you have a happy last 50-minutes of your b-day, fellow Class of '93 alum, and hope we can actually get our schedules to mesh while I'm in town over Christmas break.


TV Tues. - Bob Loblaw's Law Blog

In keeping with the last couple of weeks, I'll go ahead and link to the TV Gal's top 10 list of the week, even though I only agree with one of her top moments of the year. What would my top ten moments be?

Not exactly sure, but do know that only one of her choices resonated with me on any level: Nick being buried alive on last season's finale of CSI. Now that, my blog monkeys, was one powerful hour of TV. Nick has always been my favorite character on the show (with Greg being a close second), and I was glad to see George Eads get a chance to flex his dramatic muscles.

I would also substitute a few moments from some of the series she mentioned; interestingly enough, they seem to revolve around the same characters, even. For example, for me the biggest chill moment on Gilmore Girls this season was the scene between Lorelei and Emily in the airplane; likewise, while my Everwood moment always involves Bright and Hannah, for me it was the recent ep when Bright locked Hannah in the bathroom and made her listen to him tell her how beautiful she was. First kisses are nice and all, I suppose, but kind of old hat; seeing further demonstration of the growth of Bright as a character in a scene that was both touching and funny at the same time: chills, man, chills.

Anyone else have a big TV moment from this past year they felt needs to be included? Or am I just talking to myself yet again?

I thought so. Oh, well, on to the reviews, then.
Arrested Development: Oh, please, let the talks with Showtime to save this show come through, oh please oh please oh please. The musical montage was great with its rotating soundtracks and the assurance that "It was actually funny with Yellow Submarine, but who can afford that?" And the only thing funnier than hearing people saying Bob Loblaw's name over and over was hearing people talk about his law blog; yes, its silly, but cracks me up every time. I've been glad that they've kept up the "Maebe as movie exec" storyline; I had been sure it was going to be a throwaway gag when it started, but I really should have known better with this show: NOTHING is a throwaway gag. It all comes back around.

Two and a Half Men: This season has been all over the map; this Christmas ep was no exception. The intense weight gain of the brothers was a bit over-the-top, but the ep did have one exchange which made me laugh out loud: when the psycho woman Alan was dating wakes him up in the middle of the night to make him go put stuff out for Santa so that they won't get coal in their stocking, Alan's response is "So you believe in the vengeful Old Testament Santa, then."

The Amazing Race: I can not even begin to describe to you the joy I felt when the Linz siblings won the race. I had been pretty worried early on that the Weavers were going to luck out into one of those insane leads that nobody else could match, and was very glad when they stunk up the stadium task so much that not only did everyone else catch up, but passed them as well; true, it was only luck that they got the last charter flight, but they had exhausted themselves so much mentally and physically there that even if they had gotten the first flight, I don't know if they would have been able to do capitalize on the lead. Anyway, I'm pretty this is the first time ever that the team I've been rooting for since the very first episode has won the whole shebang; halle-frickin-lujah.

The Apprentice: Don't have a whole lot to say about the finale; I understand The Donald's decision, even if I don't like it. I will say that I'm of two minds about that move at the end where the Donald asks if he should hire Rebecca as well, and the oh-so-gracious winner say "No." On the one hand, if he really does feel that there should be only one winner, I guess I can respect him for sticking by his guns; on the other hand, I have to wonder if his decision was more of an ego one a "but if you hire her too, then I don't seem as special" sort of thing. Or maybe he didn't think she was as great as he kept saying, and was really being highly hypocritical the whole time; people kept talking about how nice he was, but man, he let some not-so-nice stuff fly in her direction during that final debate. Nothing downright nasty, perhaps, but definitely not the "sugar and spice and everything nice" image he'd projected the whole time. I felt bad for Rebecca; you know as soon as The Donald made the comment her hopes were raised, and then to have Randall basically just crush them underfoot . . . just plain mean.

The O.C.: Not the best Chrismukkah ep ever, what with the horribly overwrought "Johnny's Got a Gun" storyline, but it had its moments, most of them revolving around Seth's Barmitsfukkah excitement. I look forward to seeing how Summer reacts to the replacement of the unseen step-monster with the possible new, extremely visible step-monster of Julie Cooper.

Saturday Night Live: I seldom make it a point to watch SNL anymore, but knowing that Jack Black was hosting made the ep a must see, J.B. being one of those people who can make me laugh no matter what he's in (the intensely unfunny and unredeemable film Envy being the exception that proves the rule). As might be expected, the two highlights of a J.B. hosted episode involved comedic songs: however, the two songs had nothing to do with J.B. First there was the TV Funhouse "Christmas for the Jews" song which was pretty catchy, but it paled in comparison to the rap song by Parnell and . . . that new guy. "It's the Chronic (What?) cles of Narnia! The Chronic(What?)cles of Narnia!" Awesomeness. I also got a chuckle out of the spelling bee skit, thanks to the combination of the guy's deadpan delivery and the rule of "anything's funny if you repeat it enough." Oh, which reminds me: Flunky doesn't return emails and G'ovich is Eeeeeeeeevil. See? Comedic gold right there.

Gargoyles Season 2 Disc 1: One of my all time favorite animated series; I'm glad I'm finally getting a chance to see all the eps in order, since this was one of the rare American cartoons of its time to have a season-long story arc, which is saying something, since it was a season of 52 episodes. The animation in the first couple of eps is really, really bad, making me wonder if I had built the quality of the series up in my memory, but by the third ep it was back on track with the smooth and normally-proportioned style. It was nice to see the unfolding of Xanatos and Fox's romance, as well as the introduction of the Phoenix Gate, Eye of Odin, Grimorum, and everyone's favorite trickster Puck. All in all, an incredibly well thought out and executed series that has appeal for kids and adults as well; I look forward to watching the rest of the season.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: my caving into pressure and reviewing shows I wouldn't normally watch because I'm a shameless sell-out. I hope you're happy, Dr. G'ovich, I hope you're happy.

Dirty Jobs: Thanks to Zinger, I was able to catch the "Dirtiest Animals" clip show this weekend. Have to say, I actually enjoyed the show quite a bit. Yes, my gag reflex was triggered a few times (squeezing the crap out of baby chicks *shudder*), but the show was informative, the segments were entertaining, and the host was pretty funny. You have to admire his willingness to dive into the truly disgusting tasks while still keeping his sense of humor intact, even if his dignity wasn't. While this isn't automatically going on my "can't miss" list, I will probably try to catch it when I can. So, score one for the Doc.

Viva La Bam!: So, how's this for irony? The show I thought I wasn't going to catch this week, I saw, and the show I thought I couldn't help but catch, I missed. Okay, so as far as ironies go, it's not that great, but it’s better than rain on a wedding day, I can tell you that much. So, next week I'll be sure to have a nice review of this show that I have watched in the past and not cared for all that much but which I shall watch with a totally open mind nonetheless, honest, I mean it, would I lie to you, of course not, banish the thought from your pretty little heads, my blog monkeys.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Movie Mon. - Women Can't Help Being a Bother, I Guess

Pretty big movie watching week for me, thanks to tons of re-runs, a movie night with the Stonehearts, and total brain-meltdown when attempting to edit the Primary Obsession. Have yet to make it see the new King King, will probably try to catch it with my folks over break during one of my dad's few days off (the Powers That Be at his job suddenly switching his schedule around so that he no longer has Christmas off, dang their hides).

And before Zinger can ask: I didn't include Trapped in the Closet in the following because it's not exactly a movie; but, it's not exactly a TV show either, so I probably shouldn't include it in tomorrow's post either . . . maybe it deserves a "What the #(*@&? Wednesday" post . . .

On to the reviews

King Kong (original): This movie still holds up very well, much better than the remake from the 70s; or maybe I'm just more willing to forgive this one of its flaws due to when it was made. Plus, the 30s version was much more action packed than the 70s version, featuring not only tons more dinosaur battles, but also a full on Kong rampage through the village, where he stomps and chews (!) several villagers to death. In fact, the 30s Kong was much deadlier all around than the 70s version, slaying his fair share of New Yorkers as well; maybe the later version toned that down because they wanted Kong to be more sympathetic. Was also surprised at just how much of the film took place on the island, or perhaps more accurately, how little of it took place in New York; again, the 70s film affected my expectations. Yeah, there are plenty of unintentional comedy moments, like the scene where Kong dumps the men off of the log and you get to see their "bodies" hit the ground and the close-ups of Kong while he indulges in his penchant for shoving people in his jaws. Gotta love the easy racism and sexism of the 1930s, from the stereotypical Chinese cook with broken English ("Me likey go too!") named Charlie to the pervading sense of chauvinism ("Women can't help being a bother, I guess. They're just made that way.") One thing I've always wondered: what ever happened to all of Kong's other "brides"?

The Island: SF action film about a community of clones bred for spare parts. An interesting film first hour or so, with its exploration of the culture that had been built up for the hapless clones. Then suddenly it was like "Oh, yeah, this is a Michael Bay film, time to turn off our brains!" Now, I can appreciate a big, over-the-top action sequence as much as the next guy, but seriously, the insanity of the big chase sequence would have required me to do more than just suspend my disbelief to take it seriously; I would have had to hunt the disbelief down and beat it into submission with a large wooden mallet until it begged for mercy by screaming "It does make perfect sense that the clone who has never driven a jet-cycle before can out-fly the season professionals, and the whole falling off the edge of a skyscraper and surviving with no injuries whatsoever because of a lucky circumstance is not totally ludicrous, oh please, make the pain stop, make it stop!" Now, was that pain comment in reference to the wooden mallet or to the brain-killing idiocy of the chase scene? I leave it up to you to decide. Still, in the final analysis, I'm glad I saw it: the first hour was interesting, and a good portion of the stuff after the chase scene wasn't too ludicrous.

And, let me take a moment to forestall anyone who feels the need to say "Oh, yeah, you're looking for realism in a movie about cloning, that's real smart" in a tone laced with sarcasm, let me say this: yes, this is a Science Fiction film; yes, as a Science Fiction film there are certain things you have to be willing to accept as true despite their outlandish natures (here it would be cloning, nanobots, and jetcycles, to name a few); however, even though it is SF, everything that happens in it should still make some sort of sense when viewed in the context of the world that has been created. Now, I'm sure someone out there might be willing to debate the merits of the things I found painfully ludicrous in this film, and that's fine; maybe they could sway me, maybe not. I just don't want to deal with any "what did you expect, it is a SF/Fantasy/Horror/Comic Book film, it doesn't have to make sense" type comments; they bug me.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reviews . . .

40-year Old Virgin: You ever have a movie hyped up so much before you see it that it couldn't possibly live up the high expectations? I think you know where I'm going with this . . . I'm not saying this was a bad movie; far from it. However, it definitely wasn't the non-stop laugh riot it had been made out to be. I think it suffered a bit from the random nature of some of the comedic bits which interrupted the flow of the story; I have to wonder how many of these sort of scenes were cut from the theatrical release and put back for the director's cut. Some of the scenes which looked like they had the potential to cause me great pain in the trailers were nowhere near as bad in the movie itself; I'm thinking primarily of the "only ask questions" sequence here. And, what the heck was up with that ending, huh? Yes, it made me laugh, but in a "where the heck did they pull that out of?" sort of way; it actually reminded me of the end of a couple of Simpsons episodes. Oh, here's a fun fact for ya: director Judd Apatow was the voice of the "Goofy Ball" on Newsradio: I know Zinger will appreciate that even if nobody else well

Puddle Cruiser: First film from the Broken Lizard comedy group (the people responsible for the hilarious Super Troopers and the mildly amusing but I still like it Club Dread). Originally released in '96, it just now got the DVD treatment. I would have to say, unless you're a huge BL fan, don't waste your time: yes, there are some inspired bits, but there's also a lot of needless fluff. The film also suffers a bit from the group's inexperience with film, especially in terms of pacing, editing, and coherent storytelling; I lost count of the number of times I felt like there were entire scenes left on the cutting room floor due to the huge jumps in character relationships. And, oh, how I loathed the female romantic lead, was hoping that the movie would end with the male lead realizing she was a hypocritical wench and move on with his life. Sadly, this did not happen.

Pretty Persuasion: Y'know, towards the end of the TV series Once and Again, I had been afraid that Evan Rachel Wood would get typecast as the go-to girl for anorexic roles; clearly, my fears were misplaced, as she has now proven to be the go-to girl for "incredibly self-destructive and quite possibly evil teenager" roles, first with Seventeen, and now with this odd little film. In the former, she did an excellent job portraying the reality of the troubled teenager; in the latter, she does an excellent job portraying a much more stylized character, a highly intelligent, yet probably sociopathic, 15 year old who stages an elaborate revenge plan centering around accusing a teacher of sexual harassment and molestation; yes, that's right, it's a comedy! A dark, dark comedy; not everyone gets out alive. I was very impressed with her performance, moreso than I was with the movie; I'm not sure exactly what that final sequence of hers was supposed to be about, but man, did she keep me glued to the screen trying to figure it out. Only big complaint was the total idiocy of the law teacher and his stupid "I'm going to throw a glass at you" defense: pointless. I also thought a lot of James Woods' scenes were a bit much, but they seemed to fit the tone of the movie more than the other did. Some great moments sprinkled throughout, but definitely not for everyone.

The Baxter: Writer/director/star Michael Showalter (former cast member of MTV's The State, current cast member of Comedy Central's Stella) gives us an interesting premise: telling a romantic comedy from the P.O.V. of not the two who are destined to be together, but the poor third wheel in the love triangle who gets left at the altar, the sort of guy known as "a Baxter"; one of my favorite parts of the movie is Showalter recounting all of the girlfriends he's lost over the years to the guy making the grand gesture. A lot of the reviews for this film skewered it for its predictable ending and, yes, you know how it's all going to turn out within the first five minutes: how is that different from any other romantic comedy out there? Plot predictability doesn't bother me as long as there are enough unpredictable moments along the way. People also complained about the fact that the main character was kind of bland and uncharismatic, which I could understand and accept, if these selfsame reviews hadn't seemed to miss the fact that that was kind of the point of the character. Now, if they had complained that his bland and uncharismatic character was an interesting choice, but not one that engaged them, I could accept it; I don't agree with it, but I could accept it. One thing that almost everyone seems to agree on, however, is that the true standout of the film is Michele Williams, best known as everyone's favorite slutty girl next door Jen on Dawson's Creek. Williams plays Cecil Mills, the quirky intellectual girl who is obviously who the main character is really supposed to end up with; the movie is worth a viewing for her offbeat performance, if nothing else. Great art? Hardly. But, all in all, a sweet movie which, if seldom laugh-out-loud funny, is consistently amusing. Although, I did almost have to stop it during the scene where they go out to the burger joint and the lead character insists on lying about being there before: why? Why?!? WHY?!?!?!?!?!!?

Okay, I feel better now.

Before signing off, just wanted to mention a few new DVD releases you might want to keep an eye out for tomorrow. First off, three potentially creepy horror films: Creep, Cry Wolf, andThe Exorcism of Emily Rose. I'm anxious to see Creep, a British slasher film starring the eponymous lead in Run Lola Run, and less so the other two. Also coming out is the thriller November starring Courtney Cox and James LeGros. And let's see, it seems like there's something else coming out . . . I want to say that it's some sort of Sci Fi film that was, I dunno, based on a brilliant but short lived TV series . . . I'm tempted to say that this film (whatever it may be) was rumored to have rocked. To have rocked hard. What could it be . . .


Sunday, December 18, 2005

It Be Officially Official

Yesterday was my official graduation date, so I can now officially say I officially have an official Masters of Library Science. Officially.

So, how did I spend my official graduation day? Well, since the Singles event I had been planning on attending got cancelled, I was going to spend it proof-reading the last part of my Primary Obsession, but as I tried, I realized that I was still too close to it: everytime I'd think about changing something, my brain would scream "No, leave it alone, it's pristine, it's perfect, don't touch a thing!" Which was odd, because another part of my brain was cringing in pain at the clunky wording, two-dimensional characters, and choppy pacing. As my brain threatened to split itself down the middle due to this cognitive dissonance, I decided it might be better to just take a day or two off, and come back to it with a fresher pair of eyes later. This makes meeting my self-imposed deadline kind of difficult, but I would much rather be a little late and have a product I can be happy with, than on-time with something that I know could be so much better. Faced with my inability to effectively edit, and lacking the mental fortitude to sit down and read anything (or write a blog post for that matter), I instead spent the evening watching DVDs. Hard to believe, I know.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must now ransack my apartment in search of something to give as a White Elephant gift at the Singles Xmas party in an hour.


Saturday, December 17, 2005


The initial draft of the Primary Obsession is finally done. Now, all that remains is the proof-reading, and lots and lots and lots of polishing and re-writing. I'm not sure if I'll have it all done by the self-imposed deadline, but if not, it will be close enough for me. As enlightening and instructive as the Primary Obsession has been, believe me, I'm more than ready to spend some time with some of the Secondary and even Tertiary Obsessions; you would not believe the stack of TPBs I have waiting for me, not to mention novels.

But, those will have to wait just a tad longer; I still have some editing to do.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just to Be Clear: At No Point During This Story Was Anyone Actually Stripped Naked

Yesterday's Prairie Fire/Garbage Bag story was told because it was b-day related, but there was another Little Man Stud story that popped into my mind first . . .

During the last semester of my Sophomore year, Little Man Stud overheard a group of us planning some nefarious and ill-fated scheme, and, wanting to be a part of it, came over to ask us the details. I believe it was Wrath who responded, although it very well could have been G'ovich: they're equally capable. Whichever one it was decided to grant Little Man's desire to be a part of our scheme by telling him that we had been hashing out the following plan: at precisely midnight we were going to grab him, strip him naked, tie him up, and leave him as a surprise for Flunky, who was then currently off on drill. This got the usual "No. Seriously? No. Really?" response from the Studling; the dubiousness was well-founded this time, since it was, of course, total B.S.

Fast-forward to later that evening: most of the usual lounge lizards had already headed off for the night, leaving basically the same group who had been involved in the aforementioned discussion. Glancing at the clock, Wrath announced that it was time, at which point we all rushed the Little Man. He went to the ground, crying "My ankle, my ankle!" Or possibly, it was his knee. Whatever. The point is, everyone backed off, at which point the big fibber took off like a shot, racing for the stairwell. G'ovich gave a brief chase, but the rest of us just laughed and laughed: we knew we'd never planned on actually doing anything to him.

I was gone most of the next day due to a BSU drama team trip; when I got back to Parker that evening G'ovich called me over to tell me that they had made a deal with the Mini-Stud: if he would tell everyone that we had stripped him and left him tied up in Flunky's room, we would all stop calling him Skippy.

So, the Skippy thing: basically, Wrath and G'ovich had been telling him that they held so much power in the dorm that they could give him a new name, and everyone would call him by it. Little Man Stud was (shockingly) doubtful of the claim, so the diabolical duo dubbed him Skippy and so he was known by one and all. Armed with the knowledge that the Skippy thing was going to be a thing of the past, I went on about my business for the evening, thinking nothing else of it. Until the next day, that is, when I got off the elevator onto the first floor and walked straight into a group of girls sitting in the lobby whose first words to me were "Can you believe Little Man Stud is going to go to the J-Board about you guys?"

Now, you must realize that, at this point, I had not yet had my morning caffeine, and was therefore not firing on all cylinders and so completely unable to make the connection between their question and my conversation with the Doc the previous evening. But, being a veteran of such random conversations after nearly two years of friendship with G'ovich, Wrath, Flunky, et al, I instantly responded "It's his word against ours," and then sat down, saying no more as I stalled, waiting for my neurons to start firing again.

My brain finally kicked in, and I quickly figured out that Little Man Stud had decided to play up the drama of our little arrangement, which shouldn't have surprised me: I'd seen evidence of him wanting to take jokes to their breaking point before. Apparently he had been going around telling everyone that he was so upset over our prank that he was going to turn us over to the dorm's Judicial Board. The act went on for a day or two, LMS acting like he was extremely ticked at us all, while we all played along . . . well up to a point: he eventually tried to talk us into staging a fake fight in the lobby, but we begged off. Robbed of the chance to have it escalate, Little Man Stud let the drama die off; not sure how long it was before everyone else found out it was all a scam.

My favorite part of the story is that when Little Man Stud told the girls about the situation, they were all pissed . . . at him. Yes, that's right, the girls were upset that Little Man Stud was going to turn us in for a little thing like stripping him naked and leaving him tied up in another guy's room. "It was just a joke," they said, "he shouldn't be so upset." Souls of compassion, those gals.


No, Seriously? *You* Just Turned 30? No. Really?

Time for a b-day shout-out to Parkerite Little Man Stud, who just hit the big 3-0 today, and who, like yours truly, shall be graduating with his Masters this weekend; of course, the fact that he's an engineer with an MBA means he'll probably be pulling in slightly more than my librarian salary . . .

Anyhoo, how about a quick Little Man Stud b-day story here?

When Little Man Stud turned 21, we did the traditional college "take him out to the bars to get him plastered" thing. A group of us went to Eskimo Joe's; folks took turns buying him shots, and Wrath brought him a little concoction known as a Prairie Fire, which is basically vodka and tobasco sauce. Yummy.

Well, Little Man Stud, having no clue what was in the concoction, threw back the shot, slammed the glass down, shoved his chair away from the table, leaned over retching, reached into his front pocket, and pulled out . . . a trash bag. Yes, that's right: a trash bag. So there he sat, hunched over the open bag, trying depserately not to hurl, while all of his good friends died laughing at the picture: only Little Man Stud would have come prepared for his night of drunken revelry with his very own makeshift barf bags. Luckily, he was able to keep from spewing, and Wrath bought him a less toxic drink to make up for it. That was the only Hefty-bag-worthy moment of the evening, but it definitely left an impression on all of us there.

So, Happy B-day, Little Man Stud: may your MBA prove lucrative, and may you continue to look the same now as you did in college . . .

Seriously, he doesn't age! I think he's got some Dorian Gray type picture stored somewhere, absorbing all of his sinful excesses so that he doesn't have to . . . y'know, that could be why he didn't hurl that night . . .


Relinquishing Control. Sort of.

Let's talk about something we haven't covered for a while: nicknames!

Some of you may have noticed that Cap'n Cluck has taken the liberty of rechristening herself Cap'n Click, a reference to her love of photography. She had brought up the name change a while back, and I have to admit I didn't exactly jump at the suggestion; "Click" might be more reflective of her personality, but I just liked the sound of "Cluck" better, even if it did just reference a one-time activity when I was first getting to know her. However, this got me thinking about the nicknames, and how much say the blog monkeys should have in how they’re known here. I've already let my nicknaming be swayed at least twice, once by Rebelmonkey, who announced that she was no longer going by "The Wiz," and once by Smooth Money's Girl (soon to be Mrs. Smooth Money, don't think I mentioned their engagement last month, so, um, belated congrats) who requested that a pre-existing nickname not be used. So, why should Cap'n Cluck wanting to change her name be any different?

I think the biggest factor is that, unlike the other two, I actually came up with the Cap'n Cluck moniker on my own, and am therefore a little proprietary about it. When it comes to my creative endeavors, I can be a bit of a control freak; when I like the sound of something, that's the way it has to be, end of argument. But, should I let my own obsessive nature interfere when it comes to someone’s preference of how they should be addressed?

Another nickname issue that has arisen recently is that whole "Todd stinks at making up nicknames" thing. Within the past few weeks I've learned that two of my friends who don't belong to any of the three main groups have become at least semi-regular blog monkeys, but are currently nicknameless; likewise there are several still-nicknameless members of The Singles who have been a large part of recent activities I've partaken in, a few of whom are constantly being brow-beaten by Cap'ns C. and D. to give the blog a try, so it would be nice to be able to reference them by "name." Drawing big ol' blanks in the naming department right now, though, since all of my creativity has been sucked into the black hole that is the Primary Obsession and, as previously noted, not that creative there to begin with.

So, here's what we're going to do:

(1) If you are a blog monkey who has been fortunate enough to be blessed with a nickname, but are unfortunate enough to have a nickname you don’t care for, all you have to do is say "Hey, Cap'n N., could you call me X instead?" and, as long as the name is not pornographic, blasphemous, scatological, or in any other way obscene or derogatory (and as long as it doesn't contain more letters than the phrase "Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate") I will make the requisite change. Probably.

(2) If you are a blog monkey who has not been fortunate enough to be blessed with a nickname, and you have one all ready and raring to go, just give me a shout out saying “Hey, Cap’n N., could you call me Y so that I can finally get mentioned on your #$*($ blog?” and, as long as it conforms to the stipulations listed above, you shall thus be named. More than likely.

(3) If you are a blog monkey who knows of someone in my social sphere who has not yet been blessed with a nickname, and you have an idea for one that adheres to all that mumbjo jumbo up there, then just holla at me, like “Yo’, Cap’n N, I gots this kizzle idizzle for a nicknizzle, fo’ shizzle, just calls the homie Zizzle” then I will take it under advisement. Possibly maybe.

Man, it feels good to make such a decisive stand, y'know? Glad that’s out of the way.

Oh, and before I forget: I do now decree that she who was once known as "Cap'n Cluck" shall henceforth be known as Cap'n Click.

Oh, wait, on second thought, hold off on that for just one minute . . .

Okay, there, that’s better: now she'll henceforth be known as Cap'n Click


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Written Word Wed. - If You Thought I Was Phoning It In Before!

Yesterday, while trying to figure out what I wanted to do for today's post, since the Primary Obsession has sort of derailed any of my plans to get any books read, I came up with something which is incredibly easy for me and potentially interesting for you: posting one of my reviews from my Genre Fiction class!

The basic idea of the class was to give us a good background of the most popular form of genre fiction so that we future librarians would be more informed when helping patrons. The class was a good excuse to read some books I'd been wanting to read for a while (Left Behind, Bourne Identity), and did provide some interesting background on the history and evolution of the different genres.

One of the big ideas the professor tried to get through was that we didn't need to enjoy all of the genres in order to recommend them; if a patron comes up and tells you that he or she likes splatterpunk novels, then a librarian should be able to point him or her in the right direction, regardless of whether the librarian can stomach the gory things or not. This was a concept some of my classmates seemed to miss out on; there was an ultra-anti-religious person who read Left Behind and basically posted in her discussion that she would never recommend anything that blatantly "preachy" to anyone, no matter what they asked for. On the other end of the spectrum was an ultra-religious person who read Firestarter and said (completely without irony or humor, I'm afraid) that because of the fact it described a child in danger she thought the book should be burned . . . just the words you want to hear from a librarian, eh? Good thing she didn't read a John Saul novel, she probably would have had an aneurism, his novels are nothing but kids in peril . . . but I digress.

The following is my brief report on my selection for the Mystery genre. Each report was supposed to include

  • a summary of the plot that could contain spoilers galore
  • a discussion of how the work qualifies as part the larger genre and what, if any, sub-genre it belongs to
  • my general thoughts on the work, ranging from critical examination to gut emotional response
  • who I would and wouldn't recommend it to, including any cross-over potential (i.e. a fantasy that would appeal to romance fans, a thriller that would appeal to Christian fiction fans, etc.)

McCrumb, Sharyn. Bimbos of the Death Sun. New York; Ballantine Books, 1997. ISBN: 0-345-41215-X

Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun is an amateur detective story set in the off-beat world of Science Fiction fandom. The title is taken from the title of a book written by the detective character, engineering professor turned amateur SF author James Mega (better known to the SF fans by his pen name, Jay Omega). Although embarrassed by the lurid title and sexist cover art foisted upon his novel by his publishers, Omega agrees to attend a SF convention to promote his book. Accompanied by his girlfriend, professor of SF literature and reformed convention geek Marion Farley, Omega struggles to adapt to the swirl of fens, filksingers, cos-players, and other eclectic individuals attending the SF convention. Especially daunting to the neophyte is the stress of having to deal with the convention’s guest of honor, Fantasy author Appin Dungannon, a man just as famous for his horrendous temper tantrums and rabid hostility towards his fans as for his most popular character, Tratyn Runewind. And after Dungannon is found murdered in his hotel room, Omega is drawn into helping solve the case, first for his technical expertise, and later out of sheer curiosity. Of course, when the murder victim is one of the most reviled figures in the industry, the whole convention is suspect.

Or at least, that’s the theory that the blurbs want you to believe. But in truth, the number of viable suspects in the novel is exceedingly slim. In fact, for a mystery (and an award winning mystery at that), there wasn’t much of anything mysterious about it. Yes, the book fits the basic structure of an amateur detective story (crime followed by reluctant detective put into position to solve case followed by criminal brought to justice), but the mystery aspect is handled clumsily. For example, the murder sequence contains a description of the murderer, one which is vague enough to leave initial hope that its likeness to a prominent character is merely a red herring . . . a hope which is sadly vanquished by the big reveal at the end. The killer’s motive is specious, and the Omega’s detecting skills rely more on following a hunch and surprising the killer into confessing than anything else.

Still, despite my disappointment in the actual mystery aspect of the novel, I found it an enjoyable read. McCrumb populates the book with quirky and entertaining characters. True, many of the convention goers are little more than caricatures of the stereotypical SF fans, but the main characters are fleshed out well enough to make up for any misgiving about the occasional stereotypical character. Plus, even the stereotypical characters are used to good comic effect. Omega and Marion are very likeable characters, and their playful banter with each other was a large factor in my enjoyment. McCrumb does occasionally spend quite a bit of time on tertiary characters for no discernable reason other than a desire to explore a humorous idea. This tendency to focus on character over plot development might be frustrating to some, but it was one of the factors which endeared the book to me.

I think this book would appeal to fans of SF and Fantasy, with the caveat that they have either thick skins or a sense of humor about themselves, since much of the observational humor in the book is at the expense of the SF fans, who are often painted in an unflattering light. I know there were times where I, as a long time SF fan, felt frustrated at a character’s generalizations about fandom, but in the end I felt that the amount of work put into depicting the world of SF fandom showed a form of respect for the community. The book would also appeal to fans of quirky characters and off-beat situations. It’s an overall gentle read, with the main murder happening off-stage. Although the sequence where the criminal meets his maker does get described in the text, it didn’t strike me as particularly graphic. I would not recommend this to mystery readers who enjoy procedurals, or complicated mysteries full of twists and turns. McCrumb’s novel is a relatively straightforward, and occasionally predictable, tale, but one which I found to be an easy and enjoyable read nonetheless. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool.

Cap'n Neurotic Addendum: I did indeed read Zombies of the Gene Pool and found it to be nowhere near as entertaining as the first book. I think the mystery aspects were slightly better, but the overall setting wasn't as fun.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Homeless Lying Drunk in a Ditch . . .

One of the difficulties of broadcasting my plans and ideas before they come to fruition is the danger of people raising their expectations too high, only to have them dashed on the jagged rocks of disappointment when the execution does not match their envisioned end product; it's one of the reasons I've been so cagey about my Primary Obsession. For example, when I first started my "only speaking in nicknames" practice, a certain member of the Singles made several remarks about how she could wait to see her nickname; of course, when it finally appeared, she was less than thrilled. "It's okay," she said, "I guess." So, when I started the poll for future spotlight posts, it was with great trepidation that I noticed this same Single pulling ahead in the ranks; with each vote, I could sense the potential for shattered hopes growing exponentially larger.

"Maybe it won't be so bad," I told myself, foolishly, "maybe she'll keep her expectations at a reasonable level after the nickname debacle."

Cut to a recent one of the many, many, many inquiries about the status of her spotlight post, which went a little something like this: "Have you about finished with my post yet? I know, I know, you have to wait for your muse. Besides, it can't be easy writing about the person who's the center of the universe."

Oh, yeah, no heightened expectations there at all . . .

Cap'n Disaster is one of the "Old School" Singles, having already been a member of the class before I started attending First Baptist. Although we were in the same class and started FAITH at the same time, I really didn't have a whole lot of interaction with her for the first several months I was there, not until Celebrity Game show Night. The premise of the party was that we had to dress up either as a celebrity or a tv/movie character. I went as Garth from Wayne's World; Cap'n D. went as Mary Catherine Gallagher or Superstar; yes, we were both minor SNL characters who had been made into stars of feature films. And the rest, as they say, is history . . .

A lot of the things I've thought of talking about have already been covered at some point in the blog: her love of The Jerk; her menagerie of stalkers; her son, who is alternately known as the Spazmanian Devil and Li'l Disaster; her tendency to use the slightest mishap as a springboard for her to tell stories which end with her homeless, lying drunk in a ditch; her foolish notion that the world revolves around her, when all good blog monkeys know it really revolves around me . . . Man, what else can I say about Cap'n D. that hasn't already been said? Very little (that's printable, anyway), so let's just cut to the chase:

D is for the Ditch her stories end with
I is the Inebriated cause
S is for her Single mother status
A is All the stalkers that she draws
S is for her Singing in the choir
T is Trashing stinky film The Fog
E is Everything revolves around her
R is Rabid pushing of my blog
When you spell it out you get DISASTER
A better name for her there never was

And now it's time to sit back, relax, and wait for her resounding cries of "It was okay, I guess . . ."


TV Tues - Well, She Did Save Chrismukkah . . .

This week The TVGal posted her list of the year's Top 10 Shows. I agree whole-heartedly with 7 of the 10 choices, and can understand the other 3, but none of them would have made my list; I'll get back to you on what 3 I would have picked in their place once I figure it out for myself. Until then, here be some reviews to tide you over.

Arrested Development: Could have down without all the Tobias slapstick falling, but that was a small price to pay for getting to see the elementary school production of New Warden. "Enjoy the chlamydia."

My Name is Earl: Loved Catalina's attempt to fake Randy out, as well as the constant refrain of "Don't judge me" from Joy's mother.

The Office: One of those eps where Michael's moronic behavior was almost too much for me to take. Almost. Was glad that his plan to liven up the party actually panned out; nice that he's not a total mess-up 100% of the time. The red-head shedding her shirt at the end: unexpected. The camera flash: genius. And what's with all the women going for Dwight? The mind wobbles, it really does.

The Amazing Race: Team Linz made the final! Team Linz made the final! Woo-hoo! So did the Weaver family! Dagnabit! Not that I was really excited about the bickering sisters being in the finals, but at least they don't sicken me with their self-involved hypocrisy.

Grey's Anatomy: Didn't really care for any of the medical storylines this week, but I loved all of the scenes with the gang helping Alex study for his boards.

Veronica Mars: Interesting twist on 12 Angry Men, although it bugged me a little that Veronica was slower to pick up on clues than the knitting woman.

Everwood: Poor Scott Wolf: destined to play recovering addicts. Meanwhile, this ep helps showcase just why Bright is one of the top 10 characters of the year; first his conversation with Ephraim about showing off his manhood, and then his pep talk with Hannah. Funny and touching at the same time.

The O.C.: Seth/Summer stuff: greatness. The slacker strip-club frequenter: awful. Johnny/Marissa/Ryan triangle: make it stop! But, again, the Seth/Summer stuff, pure greatness; even on the soapiest of eps, their interplay makes the show worthwhile. Favorite part of the show was Sandy and Ryan's completely independent reactions to the news that Summer was actually smart: "Well, she did save Chrismukkah."

The Apprentice: You know who I want to win? Mark, that's who. Yeah, I know he's not eligible, but dang! I thought he was fired for bogus reasons to begin with, and then to watch him working his butt off and thinking about 20 times clearer than his project manager . . . such a shame. Barring The Donald chaning the rules and rehiring Mark, I would like Rebecca to win. She just seems like a much more focused, more determined person than Randal.

E.R.: I should have known: no sooner do I have the thought "Boy, I'm really enjoying Kristen Johnston on this show" than wham, they cut her loose. And I wonder how long its going to be before the virus that caused both Sam's ex and son to transform into totally different people becomes an epidemic. Wouldn't that be an exciting episode? "I swear, he used to look a lot that guy from Pitch Black . . . no, not Vin Diesel the other guy, the cop. Anyway, yeah, he used to look like that, but now he looks like the guy who killed Wild Bill on Deadwood . . what do you mean you don't watch Deadwood? It rocks! But that's beside the point! If I didn't know any better, I'd swear my ex husband was suddenly someone else entirely. And then it happened to my son too! You gotta help me, before I suddenly start to look like Kelly Osbourne or something!" Yeah, now that would make good TV right there.

Survivor: "The Curse of the Car"? Give me a break. Nicely melodramatic, but pointless; while Cindy consoled herself with the thought that giving the others cars wouldn't guarantee they would give her the million dollars, she really should have thought that denying the others cars would almost definitely guarantee they wouldn't. As for the finale, think that could be my favorite final immunity challenge yet, just for the image of all three contestants swinging from the ropes, legs flailing madly. I still can't believe that Steph was able to make it all the way to the final two, I guess that pissing all of those people off along the way paid off for her . . . oh, wait. Was glad that Danni wound up winning, mainly due to her being one of the underdogs in the post-merge numbers game. I still wish that the producers would stop wasting our time with the whole "walk down memory lane" junk and allocate that time to the live portion of the show, which is always way too rushed, although they did a much better job of covering everything this time around.

Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Discs 1 & 2: Despite my dad's constant barrage of "Have you watched Ultimate Fighter queries, I totally missed out on the first season of the series which is responsible for me moving up in The Squatch's "Man Book"; he in return, moved up several notches in my "Geek Book" when he got hooked on Firefly independent of any prompting from me (see, Squatch, one comment, and already you're getting mentioned; behold the power of shameless sell-outism!). Even though I already know who the big winners are, I'm enjoying seeing the process that led them there, especially knowing that the folks I dislike the most won't be making it to the finals. Biggest surprise for me is how much I've come to like Chris Lieben; after the first ep I was ready for him to get his butt kicked out, but over time the drunkard has grown on me. Was happy to see that he was the one brought back to replace his injured friend, even though I know he won't make it to the end.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Swiping From Schlock

I read the following on what is probably the best hard SF webcomic around (not that there are a lot of hard SF webcomics, mind you, but regardless its still danged good), Schlock Mercenary. Unfortunately, Howard Tayler doesn't have an archive of his bloggings set up just yet, so there's no guarantee that following the above link will get you to the thing I want to share, I have just reprinted the post below, hoping that linking to the source and giving all credit to the talented and insightful Howard Tayler will make everything okay and keep Blank Label Comics from sending Greg Dean to my apartment with his broadsword.

Now please enjoy an interesting (to me, at least) review of The Chronicles of Narnia

Go See The Chronicles of Narnia

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Friday morning, and I loved it. This is a film I've already added to my list of "things we must eventually own," but if you want to fully appreciate it, don't wait for DVD. Aslan's roar, among other things, is best appreciated when emanating from a dozen big speakers surrounding an audience full of wide-eyed mortals.

If you've never read the C.S. Lewis book from which the movie is drawn, you may want to not read further, because it's very difficult to discuss Lewis' work without spoiling at least SOME of it -- especially for those already familiar with the archetypes found in the Christian mythos.

For the record, when I read The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven books) in grade-school, I enjoyed them fully, and the allegorical parallels to Christianity were completely lost on me. You CAN go into these books and this film with no religious background and not feel like you're being preached to. For the believer, however, the allegory will underscore certain aspects of your belief, inviting you to further contemplate the mysteries, miracles, and manifestations of repentance, atonement, and forgiveness.

Whether or not you believe as I do, that Jesus Christ died and lived again to make eternal forgiveness possible for each of us, you'll probably agree that the themes of forgiveness and personal sacrifice are worthy ones. The world could use a whole lot more of them. I really don't want to spook the non-Christians among my readers -- you folks will enjoy this film a lot.

But so far I've talked about the allegorical aspect, which, when you get right down to it, is not why most of us go to see movies. I know it's not why I go see movies, at any rate. I like escapist entertainment, and The Chronicles of Narnia delivers this in spades. Four children between the ages of (I'm guessing here) six and sixteen are evacuated from London along with thousands of others during the Blitz, and end up staying with "the Professor" and his very narrow-minded housekeeper. The kids are bored, frightened, lonely, and homesick in turn, and then a doorway opens up to the magical world of Narnia.

Escapism -- see?

In order to pull it off, the filmmakers have to resort to lots of effects, and while there were a few that didn't work well for me, that's because I'm the kind of butthead who goes into movies looking for the "seams." If you don't look for them, they won't jump out at you. Mr. Tumnus is a Faun, with unguligrade legs (walks on hooves, like a horse, with what looks like "backwards" knees*), and if you just ACCEPT that, and stop trying to find the point at which actor James McAvoy stops, and the CGI starts, you'll be happier. Especially since it's hard to find that particular seam. It's DISTRACTING. Cut that out. Watch. The. Movie.

More important than the effects, however, is the acting. The actors playing the children did a fine job. Georgie Henley, who plays the youngest girl Lucy, was magnificent. She was cute, she was innocent, she was THIS close to having a tantrum... and it didn't look like "acting." No seams. It just WAS. And the others weren't a whit behind her. Edmund looked grouchy and scared. Susan was "thinky" and disbelieving. Peter was bossy and in over his head.

In the battle sequences, Edmund and Peter in armor looked like kids in armor. They didn't magically become battle-ready, child-prodigy warlords. They had greatness thrust upon them, and the shoes were too big. If you've got kids of your own, or if you ARE a kid, this is both terrifying and exhilarating. And there weren't any seams.

Probably the finest bit of seamlessness, however, was the creation of Aslan and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. These were the best "talking animals" I've ever seen on film. No seams at all -- they just WERE talking animals. Liam Neeson voiced Aslan, and I'm forever grateful that he has now been cast in an infinitely better"mentor" and "father-figure" role than that "Episode I" part upon which his talents were wasted. Aslan, after all, is EFFECTIVE.

If you have children, I believe this movie is quite safe for them to watch. The battle sequences are bloodless (there's a lot of crashing around, and it's quite furious, but this is NOT Kingdom of Heaven or Henry the Fifth) and while there's a lot of peril, there's a happy ending. Also, the kids in the story snap and argue and fight like siblings, but they also show love for each other, and pull together in ways we can only hope our own children will.

See it in theaters, and take your children. (Moment of hypocrisy: I'll be taking only my oldest to see this in the theater. The 2nd oldest is terrified of big, loud theaters, the 5-ish-year-old can't sit still to save her life, and the 3-year-old is THREE, for crying out loud.) Oh, and if you don't already have the books, it's not too late to order The Chronicles of Narnia** from Amazon for your kids (and yourself!) for Christmas. I've located our family's copies, and will be re-reading the series now for the first time since I was 13 years old.

*Note: The "knees" you think you see going backwards on unguligrade legs are actually ankles. The REAL knee is higher up, and bends forwards, just like yours. Here's a picture, courtesy of Animal Diversity Web.

**Another Note: The "Adult Edition" of The Chronicles of Narnia includes some explanatory essays, and is what I've linked above. The text of the stories remains unchanged. If you want JUST the stories, no commentary thank-you-very-much, a less expensive edition can be found here.

***And Yet Another Note: Students of literary criticism will no doubt take issue with my bandying about of the term "allegory" when discussing The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis himself took issue with that, because in an allegory there is a one-to-one "mapping" of fiction to principle, and any such mapping attempt will fail between The Chronicles of Narnia and Christian canon. Lewis used the word "supposal" to describe what he was doing:

"I don't say. 'Let us represent Christ as Aslan.' I say, 'Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there.'" -- C.S. Lewis
This is all well and good, but for two things:
  1. Within the context of the supposal, there are story elements which ARE allegorical, and where a one-to-one mapping succeeds. Thus, there are allegories within the overarching story. A book need not be a cover-to-cover allegory in order to CONTAIN allegories.
  2. The lay reader won't know a supposal from a suppository. Any review written for lay readers must use colloquial terminology, pedantic ire notwithstanding. Hence I say "allegory."