Dream of the Dolphin
a.k.a.
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore

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Monday, May 30, 2005
 

How Did I Miss This????

In light of my mention in the previous post about how much I wanted to be in the choir of the Lord of the Rings Symphony, it would be pretty stupid of me to miss the actual Symphony.

Yet I came very close to doing just that.

I just found out that the Toronto date for the symphony is June 5 at 7 p.m.

I have an extra mezzanine-level ticket (good seat, just left of centre). If anyone would like to buy it from me, please contact me and we'll work something out.

( 2:12 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Saturday, May 28, 2005
 

Music Moves Me

"Music Moves Me" was the name of a concert/play my brother's school did once. His class did Don Gato (my brother was the cat of the title, because it meant he didn't have to sing. I still remember him in his wee poncho and sombrero hopping around and holding his knee). Anyway.

I attended the Common Thread concert today, which was lovely, but I was struck by their special guests, Ayekan. They're a five-piece ensemble performing contemporary Andean music, and tonight as they performed, they projected onscreen the words of Eduardo Galeano. The part that hit me most is taken from one of his most famous pieces, "The Right to Rave".

Let's stare beyond infamy; let's guess another world.

In the next millennium the air will be cleansed of all poison

except that which comes from human fear and human passions;

in the streets the cars will be run over by the dogs;

people will not be driven by their cars nor programmed by their computers nor bought by the supermarket nor seen by their television.

The television will cease to be the most important member of the family and will be treated like the iron or the washing machine;

people will work to live instead of live to work.

The world will no longer be at war against the poor but against poverty,

and the military industry will have no choice but to declare bankruptcy.

Food will not be merchandise nor communications a business, because food and communication are human rights.

No one will die of hunger because no one will die of indigestion;

Street children will not be treated as trash because there will be no street children.

In Argentina the crazy mothers of the Plaza de Mayo will be held up as exemplars of mental health,

because they refused to forget in times of obligatory amnesia.

Holy Mother Church will correct the typos in Moses' tablets and will restore the lost commandment:

"Thou shalt love Nature, of which thou art a part";

and the deserts of the world and of the soul will be reforested.

Perfection will continue to be the boring privilege of the gods;

but in this thrown together and messed-up world

every night will be lived as if it were the last

and every day as if it were the first.


Striking, isn't it? What's amazing is how much more powerful it became with the music.

Amanda and I got to talking about the power music has, and just how much it has the power to affect and change our perceptions. I am a geek with many hats; choir geek is only one (as anyone who witnessed my Carmina Burana geekout can attest -- it went something like "Blanziflor and Helena is so awesome because the end of it swells and builds and builds and you think you're going to resolve on this major scale and then BAM!!! you're in a minor key and it's O Fortuna again, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!), so I really love it when music does cool things.

Which is why Jaquandor's referral to Eric Rawlins's catalogue of the lietmotifs in Lord of the Rings gave me such glee (and for any of you who bet I couldn't segue from the poetic works of a Uruguayan political activist to the soundtrack of a movie about hobbits, you owe me a cookie).

The site is fascinating. I love the whole lietmotif concept and I adore Howard Shore's work in Lord of the Rings (and oh, when I found out he was bringing the LOTR concert to Toronto, you can bet I tried to get into the choir, but he's doing it with the Kitchener-Waterloo philharmonic, and that's way too far to commute for rehearsals). It's truly brilliant (and some of the best writing accompaniment you can get when you're writing Fantasy). And this site points out some really strange and often extremely subtle things I'd never noticed before, but are quite intriguing (check out "The One Ring" and "Rescue", for starters) and filled my choir geek with joy.

Music is just neat.

( 11:52 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, May 23, 2005
 

Shameless Self Promotion -- Part 2

At long last, FANTASTIC COMPANIONS has been released into stores. And yes, that is my griffin on the cover.

My story in this anthology, "Blood Ties", has been in the works and making the submission rounds since 1998, but for this anthology I rewrote it from scratch, taking into account everything I have learned about writing over the last six years. I'm so proud that the end result was accepted into this anthology.

And I have to admit, looking at the cover (and the Variel headshots on the interior cover and title pages) is a little like looking at baby pictures. I keep getting overwhelmed with feelings of "That's my boy!"

The Canadian launch of FANTASTIC COMPANIONS will be at Bakka on Saturday June 25 at 3 p.m. If you'd like to reserve a copy for the signing, or if you can't make it and you'd like a signed copy anyway, contact Bakka and we'll set you up. :o)

Hope to see you there!

That's my boy!

( 11:00 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

Shameless Self Promotion -- Part 1

Just a note to those in the Toronto area that our choir will be performing the Missa Gaia on Wednesday, June 1. It's a really interesting piece, which features timberwolves, a humpback whale, a jazz combo, and our absolutely astounding gospel soloist, Alana Bridgewater (she alone is worth the price of admission).

We've been working extremely hard this term, and I'd love it if you can make it to see us. It's going to be quite a show.

Tickets are $20 -- please contact me for details.

Hope to see you there!


( 10:39 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, May 20, 2005
 

More Star Wars Geekery

Further musing on the movie (I've had the theme stuck in my head all frelling day, which, if I haven't made clear yet, I really liked, has led to the funniest thing I have seen all week, that had me laughing so hard I scared the bejeesus out of Alister.

Oh, I knew about Store Wars. And I knew about Darth Vader's blog. But then it led to Master Yoda's blog, which was inspired (don't forget to scroll down to Anakin's guest post), which in turn led to yet another canon character...

Well, let's just say I was amused. :o)

( 1:10 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Wednesday, May 18, 2005
 

Revenge of the Sequel

So I saw Star Wars III this morning. The spoilers are hidden, though if you don’t already know who Darth Vader is, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. But I have a lot of rambly musings now.

I loved the first trilogy. Not, I think, merely because I was raised on it as so many suggest, but because of what it was. I really hated the first two prequels. Which may have a lot to do with the fact that I’m so character-centric, and the first two prequels are populated with such wooden characters blathering on about trade disputes. And ten minutes of pointless arcade sequences in a droid factory. Oh, yes, I know the character development in the first trilogy wasn’t the greatest, but the cast had a certain chemistry, and the archetypes a newness, and they were able to overcome the drawbacks of the material they had to work with. The movies weren’t quite such blatant advertisements for Lucasarts (want to have your game characters run through a perilous arcade sequence? How ‘bout a droid factory!) And they weren’t nattering on about taxation like a host of morally superior accountants.

The other directors (in Empire especially) didn’t hurt either. Seeing Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman act (yes, really act) in other things after seeing the first prequels, I came to realize that George Lucas, however much he may have helped the film industry (for the creation of Pixar alone the world owes him a great debt), is not the actor’s friend.

So I deliberately set my hopes low when I went to the screening this morning. If I don’t get my hopes up, I can’t be disappointed when the movie fails to deliver.

The verdict -- I didn’t hate it. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. And I’ll very probably see it again.

(Spoilers commence -- some major -- highlight the blank space)

The first third of the movie was about on par with the first two prequels -- in other words, not the greatest. Lucas really has to bring in a script doctor to help him with dialogue, especially if he’s trying to write love scenes. I’ll give him that he can be a great writer when he’s dealing with arcing epic ideas, but when it comes to the smaller hinge scenes, he flounders quite a bit. It takes a very good writer to make scenes of political intrigue interesting, and Lucas really isn’t up to it.

And the first third in particular is peppered with really glaringly obvious "look I’m CGI -- now I’m not!" moments. If you insist on replacing your actors with CGI doubles, you shouldn’t be able to spot it from 50 yards, dammit.

The first third actually contained moments that had me, visibly and involuntarily, cringing. In a completely literal and non-overdone-cliché kind of way. It was bad enough that for twenty minutes straight, I could hear Jason Taniguchi delivering a commentary in my head. Especially every time they said the word "Dooku".

But about a third of the way into the movie, the big arcing epic ideas take over -- and the movie becomes, wonder of wonders, pretty frelling good.

As unconcerned as Lucas claims to be with criticism, he is apparently taking some of it to heart. The Gungans, for example, are in it (a certain hated Gungan in particular), but relegated to silent roles. Hurrah. There are far fewer cutsey-poo bits, too, and those that remain are largely relegated to the first unspectacular third of the movie.

And the emotional impact goes way, way up when Anakin falls to the dark side. Where it turned for me, in a major way, was the scene in which Anakin storms the Jedi temple, finds the little children in hiding (and damn, if you want your audience to really feel for a kid, give him an adorable accent)... and kills them all. Suddenly, the disconnect that I’d had for the first two prequels was gone. Bam. Like that. I was connected to the mythos for the first time in ten years.

Yes, though I totally didn’t expect it, I cried during the last two thirds of the movie. A lot, actually.

Part of that is due to the actors. Christiansen and Portman really struggled with the material and didn’t quite manage to pull it off, but Ewan McGregor pulled a Harrison Ford in a major way, overcoming the stilted dialogue to deliver a fantastic performance that was both incredibly engaging and truly heart wrenching. The moment he realizes that he’s lost Anakin had me sobbing.

Fortunately, this movie spends a lot of time with Obi-Wan. And Yoda. Who make up more than a bit for the fact that Samuel Jackson’s performance was so bloody stiff they could have used a broom as his stand-in.

And the CGI on Yoda was much, much better than the first two movies. Almost as good as the puppet used to be. And the animators did a really incredible job. I’m not sure what it says that, of the two characters in the movie capable of truly emoting, one of them doesn’t exist outside of a computer, but Yoda’s performance was right up there with Ewan McGregor’s as the two who saved the movie from banality. And holy God, is it ever awesome when Yoda fights. Which he does often in this one. It was a hugely squee-worthy moment when Yoda told Obi-Wan he couldn’t confront Palpatine because he wasn’t strong enough -- so Yoda took him on himself. Seriously, the movie would have been so much better if they’d just replaced the cornball love-dialogue with Yoda kicking ass.

Padmé, unfortunately, pissed the hell out of me. It’s not Portman’s fault -- she did her best -- but Lucas really doesn’t know what to do with women. I mean, seriously, the woman once ruled a planet and led her people into battle, she could have shown a little frelling backbone. I don’t care that her heart was breaking, I still don’t buy, given what we know of her history from the first two movies, that she just kinda stands around to get strangled and then dies, even though there’s nothing physically wrong with her, because the man she loved went nuts. I would have been so much happier if he’d either killed her outright or she’d recovered, given birth, and then died fighting or in a hull breach or something. SO much more satisfying than "oh, woe is me, I die. ::thunk::"

Back in Episode 1, when C-3P0 turned out to have been built by Anakin (anybody else notice that the whole technological whiz thing seems to have gone right out the window?), I joined everyone in letting out a collective WTF???, which apparently was loud enough that Lucas had to answer it. So I knew that, at some point, the droids’ memories get wiped.

Which, it turns out, that was half true. 3P0’s memory gets wiped (though I honestly have no idea why, save that "it wouldn’t work with the fourth movie", I mean, they give absolutely no reason for doing it). But R2’s doesn’t. Something that I actually really, really liked. As much as Lucas threatens R2 with the cutesy-poo stick, there’s something about that little droid that’s so damned likeable. And now, looking at the first trilogy through the lens of "the only people who really know what the hell is going on are Obi-Wan and R2" is actually pretty cool. It makes R2’s "screw you all, I’m getting on with things" nature even more interesting. And I really liked that.

But by far the best bits were right at the end, when Lucas started hammering us with iconography, iconography, iconography. The first time you hear the patented Vader Breath, I was grinning like an idiot. And the closing moment, with Owen and Beru standing with baby Luke in front of the unmistakable sky of Tatooine, filled me with the kind of joy I haven’t felt since the first trilogy. Good, good stuff.


Revenge of the Sith isn’t perfect. It doesn’t quite make up for the messes that were the first two prequels. But Lucas was smart enough to pull tricks at the end that make us forgive him for them anyway. Because there are certain things that are really, massively epic, and Lucas managed to nail them dead on.

It’s one heck of a way to spend an afternoon.

( 5:07 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, May 16, 2005
 

Holy God, Noooooo!!!

Now, don't get me wrong, there are some movies that sequel quite nicely.

But Mother of God and all Her wacky nephews, The Dark Crystal is not one of them! And the Disney sequel thing is bad enough, but the whole "animated series and interactive games" thing just makes me want to spork myself in the eye.

There are things I wouldn't have first expected to sequel well, that turned out quite all right. Toy Story, for example, made me leery, but I should have trusted Pixar. They have a hell of a grasp on the art of storytelling. And I just plonked a lot of money on The Last Unicorn audiobook partly because I really wanted it, but the selling point was that it comes with the new sequel, because I love Beagle's work and, for the most part, trust him.

Sequels are an odd thing -- some stories demand them and in the right hands, a sequel can turn out quite well, but some stories have the kind of endings that would be completely unmade by sequels. E.T., for example. Casablanca. Lord of the Rings (I'm counting the trilogy as one movie, and I'm not talking about prequels). Stories whose endings have a certain power to them.

The Dark Crystal is one of these. It ends on a note of hope and redemption, of the reunification of that which was sundered. A mistake that caused such grief and destruction that you know at the end it shall never, ever be repeated. But oops, look at that, someone went and split the damned thing again.

No, no, no!!!!

I don't know how much of this has to do with Disney's recent acquisition of the Muppets (read that link, BTW, it's a great article with lots to say), but it really, really has to stop. This time, they've gone too far.

Given the place The Dark Crystal occupied in my childhood, and the subsequent impact it had on the development of my brain (it's largely responsible for the fact that I write fantasy now), the only thing that I think I'd find even more stomach churning would be a sequel to Labyrinth.

And given that they found a way to continue Dark Crystal, I have a sinking feeling that a Labyrinth sequel won't be far behind.

( 4:34 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, May 09, 2005
 

Name That Tune Revisited

It just occurred to me that I never posted my answers to the Name that Tune meme. So here they are. Questions about my choices are always welcome. :o)

1. Post the names of 20 of your favorite musicians.
2. See who can guess which is your favorite song by each.
3. Once someone guesses right, bold that row and include the song.

  1. Enter the Haggis - Gasoline (or Lanigan's Ball)
  2. Kate Bush - The Red Shoes (or Wuthering Heights)
  3. Loreena McKennitt - All Soul's Night
  4. Great Big Sea - Ordinary Day
  5. Blackmore's Night - Fires at Midnight
  6. Barenaked Ladies - $1,000,000
  7. Sarah Slean - Sweet Ones
  8. Tori Amos - Winter
  9. The Beatles - Fool on the Hill
  10. Jewel - Standing Still
  11. Jann Arden - Where No one Knows Me
  12. Fefe Dobson - Take me Away
  13. Paul Simon - Father and Daughter
  14. Sarah Brightman - Beautiful
  15. Mediaeval Baebes - Averil
  16. Melanie Doane - Adam's Rib
  17. Charlotte Church - Elysium
  18. Tangerine Dream - Loved By the Sun
  19. Christopher Guest - Wanderin'
  20. Cirque du Soleil - Alegria

( 2:41 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Saturday, May 07, 2005
 

Narnia!

The real trailer is finally up.

And I'm suddenly not missing a new LOTR movie quite as bad.

ETA: And Goblet of Fire! Damn, it's quite a night.

( 11:57 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

Raw Geekage

Severe geekage coming up. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So I've been indulging in the unmitigated delight that is Knight Rider Season Two (they really need to hurry up and put out the rest of them), which is immensely enjoyable despite the presence of April Curtis. As Karina so aptly stated, "I never believed she was capable of telling the front end of the car from the back, let alone actually fixing it." But April aside (far aside, if you please), Season Two is great because the writers by that point had really hit their stride in the whole Michael/K.I.T.T. (for the record, I'm not typing those periods out anymore) relationship dynamic.

Which is why "Mouth of the Snake" sucks so badly.

"Mouth of the Snake", or MOTS as it shall be henceforth known, is a two-parter that occurrs right before the end of the season (just before the "Michael is a rock star" episode that makes me laugh oh so very hard every time I see it). And it was, apparently, supposed to be the pilot for a spinoff that never happened. So, bearing in mind that this is a TWO PART episode of KNIGHT RIDER, Michael and KITT are in it for, like, ten minutes. Tops.

Total. Utter. Suckage.

See, they failed to address something really important in the whole David the Spy plot. David doesn't have a really cool talking car. So we just don't care.

And it somehow occurred to me (yes, my mind wandered a lot during this episode, during pretty much all scenes not involving the Trans Am) that the whole Knight Rider dynamic is a lot like the Kichani-verse. No, stop laughing, I'm serious. Variel is the character everyone knows. He's the one that really makes the impression. But it's not his story. It's Kayla's. And there will never, ever be a story that involves Variel without Kayla. But Kayla stories without Variel don't work either, because Variel is really the appeal of the whole thing.

And that's the way it is with Knight Rider. It's Michael's story, because to have a show about only KITT just wouldn't work. Yet if you take KITT out of the equation, you're left with... David. And it's really freaking boring. Because the whole reason we love this show is the buddy-relationship with the cool talking car.

During my varied insomniac perusals of the internet, I ran across an update on the Knight Rider movie, which states that it's on hold again because Hasselhoff left the studio he was working with on creative differences. Those differences? The studio didn't want the car to talk.

Totally. Missing. The point.

Michael is the star of the series, yes, but what he really is is the placeholder for everyone watching who then goes out on the road and pretends that their car can talk to them and jump over things. He's an ordinary guy, who is absolutely vital to the story in order for us to have someone to identify with as we watch, but if you ever took away the talking car, we so totally wouldn't care.

And "Mouth of the Snake" really hammers the point home.

( 11:52 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, May 02, 2005
 

Puppets are People Too

Dreams are odd things. Had a Cinderella-on-a-starliner dream that I have no choice but to transcribe as a story (I love it when my dreams come with arcing plots), though I have a feeling it will be at least novella length when I’m done, if not more. And had another dream last night in which I was a really, really good writer (I’m talking seriously poetic prose), and when I woke up, I remembered just enough to feel like I was helplessly scrabbling at an ice-rimed surface as I felt the artful prose slip away. Dammit.

Some of you may have noticed that "Confessions" has a new link in the sidebar -- Puppetvision. I linked it because Andrew has cool things to say about puppets, and though I have nowhere near enough of an inflated ego to call myself a puppeteer by trade, I use Dottie at the ROM enough to feel a certain kinship. Well, that and my secret dream as a kid was to run away and become a muppeteer if the whole doctor thing didn’t work out.

It’s funny how quickly the puppets take on their own personality, pretty much independent of me. They just kind of do their own thing, and it’s like I’m just helping out. Of course, when I start talking to Ann or Charlene about how Dottie wanted to eat the stick from the mixed forest and got miffed at me for not letting her go up and play with the great horned owl in the pine tree (because she has tiny flightless wings and would fall out), I get the inevitable teasing. "Gee Sarah, maybe you should think about spending less time with the puppet."

It’s not me, honestly. It’s like the puppets have personalities of their own. They just need our help to express them.

( 2:03 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Sarah Jane Elliott
The often frustrating progress of my life and writing...

(Once known as "The Mystic's Dream", now known as "Dream of the Dolphin", but inclined to change title depending on what's stuck in my head)

Okay, I liked "Confessions of a Post Graduate Pity Whore" a lot more than I thought I would. That line is still hilarious. But I've started writing again, so it's time to go back to before. :o)





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