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

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Thursday, September 29, 2005
 

More Serenity Babbling

I'm not avoiding spoilers at all here, so if you haven't seen Serenity yet, DO NOT highlight the white text.

A day of thinking, coping, adjusting, and assimilating later... and I still think Whedon dropped the ball.

Don't get me wrong, I thought he made a damn fine movie. It was artistic, clever, extremely skilled (as just a small example, the pre-fight love confessional between Simon and River could have been really twee, but Kaylee's "you mean... sex?" just saved it). But killing Wash was a bad move.

I've heard the arguments. Somebody had to die to create dramatic tension, to establish that the characters are human and frail, and fallible, to establish that main characters can die and nobody is safe. And these are all, in and of themselves, valid points. He did this admirably -- once Wash died, most of us watching believed it was entirely possible that nobody was going to make it out of there alive. In that much, at least, mission accomplished. But there is a way to do this, and a way to pull it off, which Whedon just missed. I'm not arguing that Joss Whedon isn't a brilliant writer whose seeming missteps usually turn out well, but the man is not infallible and he is capable of making mistakes. Like this one.

Karina, who visualizes stories more than anybody else I know, has commented that it throws the balance of the story off. And she's right. Because the thing is, Serenity needs to be many things. It needs to be more than just an existential statement that dramatic tension can only be created if you believe the characters are in genuine peril. It needs to be a celebration of the fan effort to get a resolution to the series, because he's admitted himself that Serenity would not exist without the efforts of the browncoats. It needs to hook new viewers into the Firefly-verse. It needs to bring people back again and again to ensure the box office numbers, because as amazing as the series and the movie is, it's really only going to appeal to a niche and there are too many people who haven't heard of the series yet.

In order to do this, you need to make sure that, no matter what else happens, you leave the movie satisfied. Triumphant. Exuberant. And what Whedon accomplished by killing a character as beloved as Wash is that this does not happen. You leave the movie shocked. Shaken. Upset. Angry. And no matter how much you cheer at River's glory shot, you can't feel uplifted by the ending. Granted, I don't speak for everyone, that was the general air when leaving the theatre last night.

And it's funny that Book's death doesn't get the same depth of reaction. We loved book. We're sad that we'll never get to hear his backstory. We mourn for him. We wept for him. But his death doesn't carry the same sense of utter devestation that Wash's does. Books's death worked. It was done in such a way that his death can be balanced out by the triumph at the end. Balance, balance, balance. Wash's death tips the damn scales right over.

Someone posted something on IMDB. Bear in mind, this is from a glowing, ten star review:
While I'm writing this, the release of Serenity is still a few weeks ahead, but I got to see the finished version of the movie with a selected group of Dutch Firefly fans in an exclusive pre-screening. Afterwards, the atmosphere was strange, subdued. It was almost as if everyone had survived some kind of big disaster together and we were too stunned to really say much. And I say that in the kindest possible way. Honestly.

And this is it. This is it exactly. Walking out of that theatre, the mood is one of disaster survivors. There wasn't the sense of jubilation you'd expect from fans who've been fighting for as long as they have to get this movie. And trust me, most of the people in that audience were browncoats. Yes, there was thundrous applause at the end. But there wasn't any joy. And the single reason for it is Wash's death.

And that's where the ball is dropped. You need the joy. You need the balance. You need to walk out of that movie feeling better than you did when you went in. Karina has said, and I'm in full agreement, that though she went in there fully expecting to love the movie and see it again and again, that's what made sure she can't say "I love it." We like it very, very much. We adore most of it. But neither she nor I can honestly say we loved the movie, because of that one (very large) thing that ruins it.

And it didn't have to. He could have created the same tension by making Wash appear dead, and then during the funeral scene at the end, revealed during the pull-back that Wash isn't dead. He could be very seriously hurt, he could be permanently damaged in many ways, never able to fly again, but not dead. Some people might think it a cop-out, but I think Whedon has enough talent to have pulled it off. That would have evened out the scales. All we needed was even in order to emerge triumphant and return to see it again and again. But killing Wash, and killing him the way he did, was a mistake.

And I may see the movie one more time, but I've lost the desire for multiple viewings that I had before I saw it.

( 7:25 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Wednesday, September 28, 2005
 

Serenity

Just saw Serenity. I loved it, I want to see it again, but it's making me think. To see why, highlight the blank VERY SPOILERY space.

The movie itself was glorious, I can't argue that, and Summer Glau really had her chance to shine. I loved the banter, loved the action, and want the glory shot of "River-with-dripping-weapons" for my desktop. But I'm not exactly in a happy place, either.

Erin said, upon first watching the series, that the characters feel like your friends, like people you know, and you just want to see them again. Which is very, very true of this series. I felt that way too, and my very favourite character was Wash.

But the problem is, when you're that good at characterization, you really do come to love the characters as friends. Which means that when a character you love dies, it hurts you like the death of a friend.

I am so hurt and sick and angry, really ANGRY right now that I'm shaking. It's odd that I can be so happy (I really did love the movie) and so upset at the same time, but there you go. I could have lived without Book. So sad, I cried, move on. I can't live without Wash. And there's not a damned thing I can do about it, except watch something happy and move on. But dammit, all I can think about was, at the beginning of the movie, how happy I was to see him again, and I'm not sure anything else Whedon does in the Firefly universe will ever be quite the same for me. Seriously, can't the man let ONE happy relationship go? Simon and Kaylee had better watch out...

Weep, weep for the dinosaurs.


Dammit, I miss my show.

( 10:10 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Tuesday, September 20, 2005
 

The Who in the What Now?

Being a choir geek, I've been gushing to all my friend and acquaintances about how I get to do Carmina Burana again this year. And overwhelmingly, this is the response:

::blank stare::

"You know Carmina Burana," I tell them. "Most people don't know the middle movements, but everyone knows 'O Fortuna'."

::another blank stare::

Some people reading this now may be in agreement. "Sarah," you may be saying, "just because you're a choir geek doesn't mean everybody else knows every obscure piece of music you sing. Not everybody knows what 'O Fortuna' is."

Yes. You do. Trust me. This is why. (I have to say, I'm in agreement with Patrick on this one -- great ad.)

It's such a devastatingly effective piece of music that it gets used in everything, and even if you don't know what it's called or have any idea that it's part of a much larger (and extremely fun to sing) work, you've heard it. Well, obviously, not if you've spent the last thirty years living on a yak farm in Tibet or something, but most of you have been smacked over the head with it at some point in your lives.

And it's just as fun to sing as it sounds. There are gongs involved. Gongs! Everything is more fun when accompanied by instruments you play by smashing them with a hammer.

( 9:46 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, September 19, 2005
 

Reasons Why I Do My Job...

It's come up a lot in recent days (for those not keeping track, I've been having a bad week. Things have been going wrong, I'm overtired, and there's a concussion involved -- I'll spare the embarrasing details of how that happened) that some people think I should just quit the ROM and get a full-time job with benefits.

I'm not entirely in disagreement with that -- I'd LIKE a full time job with benefits. But there aren't any at the ROM that I'm qualified for, and I can't find any that would be similarly rewarding. But then, what those people mean by "get a full time job" is "settle for a full time job." And I'm not willing to do that.

Management got a letter from one of our regulars at the museum the other day. I won't include the full text (it's long), but here are the relevant bits:

…. It is a tribute to your museum that, despite the fact that we visit you 30 or 40 times a year, a Friday night at the ROM is always considered a "treat" by my children, and something to which they invariably look forward.

In large measure, my daughters' enthusiasm for our visits is due to the care and attention of your educational and volunteer staff, who have always shown the greatest willingness (and, on occasion, no doubt, a certain amount of necessary patience) to talk with them about the artefacts and displays….

….People like Melanie, Marsha, Sarah, Ann, and the others have enhanced my daughters' experiences at the museum immeasurably, and helped make it a place that is both comfortably familiar, and exciting and enriching. I can't resist adding, at the risk of prolixity (an occupational hazard among English professors) that some of your other galleries would benefit from the kind of interactive experience provided by your staff: Particular favourites with my daughters are the Egyptian, Greek, and the "Evolution of Style" galleries: I have noted on a number of occasions how effectively your mobile "touch tables" are sometimes employed in these, and how popular they seem with both adults and children. I think it should be possible to provide more interactivity of this sort without endangering the intellectual integrity of your displays, "dumbing down" the learning experience, or turning these into purely child-oriented exhibits. Indeed, my own experience was that my children were always at least as interested in the "adult" galleries as they were in the now defunct and (frankly) somewhat facile "Dynamic Earth" exhibit.

Please pass on my thanks, and my appreciation to your educational staff and volunteers. They are doing a terrific job, and are evidence that there is more at the ROM to be excited about than just your new renovations.


See, here's why I'm not willing to settle for anything less than what I'm doing now. I'm doing a job I love. And making a difference in people's lives. And, since I'm really happy with what I'm doing with my life, I'm not getting sick anymore (the concussion doensn't count). Yes, I'm overtired and stretched thin. But I also know that if I had to settle for a full-time job doing reception or admin, I'd be much, much worse.

And who knows, if we get more letters like this, maybe there will be full-time jobs for people like me at the ROM after all.

( 3:02 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, September 16, 2005
 

New Trailer!

There's a new Goblet of Fire Trailer up. And it's a doozy.

( 2:29 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Thursday, September 15, 2005
 

Holy Shit, Look What I Just Did!

I know I've been losing weight. And I know that 26 pounds is nothing to sneeze at. But I see myself every day, so academically I can know I'm losing weight. I can see that my formerly fitted jeans now have a kangaroo pouch. But I can't actually see the weight loss.

Then I get landmarks. Like today.

I've been doing yoga since the offensive against my weight began. At one point of the routine, we do back-bends, which are, in essence, the kind of bridge you learn in elementary school. I haven't been able to do one since elementary school. So when we got to that point, I'd either do the bridge or try to do the full shebang and, pushing as hard as I can with my arms, end up shifting my head so that the top of it rested on the floor.

Today I did the exact same thing. And several seconds later, realized that I was off the ground. Which was why I yelled out "Holy shit, look what I just did" at the top of my lungs, scaring the bejeesus out of the cats and ensuring that I couldn't do any more because I was too busy laughing.

But oh, did it ever feel good.

( 12:39 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, September 12, 2005
 

O Fortuna! Again!

For those of you who missed the Toronto Choral Society's Carmina Burana concert in 2004… we're doing it again this spring. With a full concert orchestra this time.

::dies of joy::

It's hard to put into words just how happy this makes me (and Erin). Let it suffice that I got an audition package to the Toronto Mendehlson Choir this year because they're doing it, and I would have gone ahead with the audition had I not received my TCS newsletter bearing the joyous news.

So why are we doing it again so soon? Because Geoff wants to push the Russia trip up to July 2006, and Carmina Burana is the reason we were invited to perform. It will, of course, be dependent on enough tenors and basses signing up, but we'll know by October whether or not the trip is a go. Cross your fingers.

This is both good and bad. Good, because yay Russia! And it'll be out of the way before I apply for my Master's degree (whether or not I'll go depends on whether or not I can get a scholarship). Bad because it's $500 more to go in the peak season, and several months less in which to save for it. I can't not go, because really, how often in your life do you get invited by the government of Russia to sing in Russia's best concert halls? But I can't afford it either. So yes, if the tour is indeed a go, there will be fundraising going on in this space in the near future. I'll make it as un-obnoxious as I can.

and...

STELLAR MAGPIE is coming...

( 9:50 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Thursday, September 08, 2005
 

A Little Night Music

The other night I was watching Paul McCartney: Live in Red Square with my parents, and I was struck by something (no, not "ooh, I'm going to sing there! Ooh, I'm going to sing there, too!", though that was in my head at the time). I thought it may just have been that the man, spry as he is, is not the spring chicken he was in his youth, but a quick listen to the Yellow Submarine soundtrack (which happened to be the one that was handy) confirmed it.

When you listen to Paul McCartney's voice, it's really nothing special.

Before you jump down my throat, rest assured that I'm a second generation Beatles fan, and I acknowledge my parents' observation that one can be fairly confident in saying that Paul McCartney is a world power. And I never noticed it (or paid attention to it) before I got heavily involved in choral music. But from a purely technical perspective, his voice isn't anything to write home about. And yet, he is unquestionably a music god.

There are two things that make the difference. First, he stays on pitch. Anyone who's sat through at least one rehearsal with Geoff Butler knows that "pitch is key". It doesn't matter what else you do, if you go flat, you're toast. If you're on pitch, you can get away with a hell of a lot. Especially if you're working with harmonies as complicated as the Beatles' were (they don't seem it, but try singing them in a choir sometime). Staying on pitch is really hard, I don't discount his skill in managing it.

Second, the music he's singing is so freaking transcendently good.

That's what makes all the difference. The man sings passably well, but he writes... let's face it, he writes well enough to change the world. The man knows music. He knows music inside and out, both on a theoretical level, and in a way you really have to be born with. He understands it. And that's why he is the superpower he is.

That's the big problem with shows like American Idol or Popstars. They're looking for people with really nice voices, and they find them, but when they put the idol out there or put the bands together, you're left with a sparkly sugar-frosted coating with absolutely no substance inside. Can anyone tell me what Sugar Jones has done lately? No? Because when you take away the TV cameras, the bands implode. There's no writing talent there, and without that framework holding you up, it doesn't matter how good your voice is -- the music is just empty. One strong wind, and the sugar-frosted coating crumbles to dust.

In a way, it reminds me a little of certain books. Anne Bishop's Blood Jewels to cite one example. During work at the store, I've heard a variety of complaints about them -- that the characters are clichéd, that the story is overly melodramatic, that Jaenelle is a Mary Sue -- but though the staff cannot flatly refute these claims, the trilogy remains highly recommended by most of us, and the books have a permanent place on the Recommended shelf (except when we sell out of them, which we do regularly).

Why? Because despite a few technical flaws in the writing, there is so much heart, so much spirit in the story -- and particularly in the characters -- that the books become something wonderful. Something that resonates within you when you've set the books aside, and compels you to pick them up again, over and over. Much like in music, it doesn't matter if your voice isn't glossy perfection -- it's what's there beneath the voice that will make or break the story. Some writers are all shine and polish, but the stories they write are merely hollow pieces of nothing. Others may have chips and nicks on the surface, but beneath that is a tangled web that draws you in and won't let go (and oh, the exultant joy when you find a writer who has both!).

I think I may have made it rather obvious which kind of writer I want to be. I know that if the music fairy came to me and waved her magic wand, I'd choose to be Paul McCartney over Britney Spears any day.

( 10:58 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Sunday, September 04, 2005
 

Curses!

John Barrowman was interviewed on Friday's edition of BBC Breakfast, in which he spoke about the play he's currently in, "A Few Good Men" (starring alongside Rob Lowe) and about his recent experiences on "Doctor Who," confirming that he would not be back for the second series but was told he would be back for the third.
I mean, I'm glad he's coming back at all and everything, but we have to wait a whole 'nother year for Captain Jack?

Unless this is all a clever ploy to make his return a big surprise. Hurray clever ploy!

( 2:06 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, September 02, 2005
 

oooooooEEEEEEEEOOOOO!!!!!

See, this is what happens when underage Timelords fly without a license.

They've found a 1912 police box embedded in a brick wall in Glasgow.

This is by far the coolest piece of news I've seen all year, although I also find it oddly amusing that the BBC now owns the copyright on the traditional Police Box design. And you just know that when they bring the new police boxes online, they're going to be swamped with calls for the Doctor.

This is the kind of news that's just so wonderfully, randomly weird that it brings nothing but glee, and gives hope to all of us who are silently waiting deep down inside for the TARDIS to materialize in front of us with a Doctor waiting to take us away to see the universe.

Oh, like you haven't thought it too.

( 11:17 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

Alive and Fluffy

And as much as Wednesday sucked, Thursday was truly wonderful. Which really goes to show the power of a true best friend -- someone who really understands is worth more than anything else in the world.

Karina and I took a trip to the Ex after work and the vet yesterday (the Wacket is fine, just hugely indignant and she got so scared she was shaking at one point, which scared me, as she's never done it before -- this is not a cat who knows the meaning of fear). And I've never had so much fun.

The thing is, Karina understands things like the desire to wear highly inappropriate sparkly things. And dancing around in your room in swishy clothes when nobody's watching. So when you go to a place like the International Pavillion with someone like Karina, you have a hell of a time trying on beaded hats, swishy skirts, sparkly shoes, jingly belts, more beads than anyone can possibly need in a lifetime, and all that. You laugh pretty much constantly. You buy too many things (like the bedspread I've been looking for all my life and never knew existed -- so pretty, blue as my room and covered in silver stars and patches of iridescent gold). And have so much fun doing it that people throw in free bracelets because you entertained them so much.

You get good food ("Oh, fudge!"). You laugh some more. You come up with a kick-ass business plan based largely on your obsession with sparkly things and the Doctor Who dream you had the night before (more on this when we pull it together). You find the best slushy in the world (the peach daiquiri one at the slushy booth you walk past as you enter via the TTC Streetcar entrance -- seriously Torontonians, best slushy you ever had). You laugh more. You try not to whack people with errant orchids. You wait out the transit delay by laughing, making up songs that don't scan properly, and trying on your newly acquired jingly things as they sort out the fire on the streetcar tracks and bring in shuttle buses. You have tea and watch Invader Zim to close out the night.

And you're still laughing.

And because I couldn't sleep, I ended up watching Lilo and Stitch 2 before bed. Yes, I thought there'd already been a Lilo and Stitch 2 (the pilot for the TV series). But apparently if Disney doesn't put a number in the title, it doesn't count (witness Tarzan & Jane followed by Tarzan 2, which is actually more like Tarzan 0, as it involves young Tarzan, but anyway). Now, I've not been very impressed by Disney Direct-to-Video sequels (Toy Story 2 doesn't count, as it was a) a theatrical release, and b) by Pixar). And some of them really need to stop (they currently have Cinderella 3, Little Mermaid 3, Fox and the Hound 2 in production, to name a few, and when I visited, even the staff at the late and lamented WDAC Toronto refused to acknowledge that they'd ever made Pocahontas 2). Some stories just aren't meant to sequel.

But Lilo and Stitch was a very original, very unconventional story that I loved, so I thought what the heck.

And I was really pleasantly surprised.

Oh, it's nowhere near as good as the original. But the animation quality is not only stylistically consistent with the original film, it's also very nearly cinema quality. The voice talent (with one noteable exception) is the same and, you know, talented. And they take the same sort of risks that they took with the original. And the result was a DTV sequel that was head and shoulders above all the other DTV sequels I've seen. It was pretty darned good.

The story discounts everything that's been happening in the TV series (for those out of the loop, Stitch is Experiment 626, and he and Lilo have been tracking down the other 625 and reforming them. I haven't been watching it, but I did see the pilot/movie/not-really-Lilo-&-Stitch-2). The sequel begins just after the ending of the first movie, before the series (which leads to the series-concluding movie, Leroy and Stitch, coming in December). And what won me right off is that the movie begins with Stitch's nightmare, and we learn that his greatest fear in the world is that his original nature will reassert itself and he's terrified that he's going to physically harm Lilo.

There are some dark subjects tackled in this movie. Not your standard Disney fare. You'd think they'd learn that their best movies happen when the give the kids a little credit.

The movie, in true form of a DTV sequel, is short (about an hour). It's not as deep and engaging as the first movie. There is a side-plot that wasn't really necessary about David and Nani's struggling relationship, which appeared to be in there just to give them excuses to dress Pleekly in drag some more. And I still don't understand why Dakota Fanning is Lilo, unless Daveigh Chase suddenly became a baritone overnight, or child labour laws won't let her work on Stitch: the series and Lilo & Stitch 2 at the same time, or something. Dakota was okay (more than okay, actually, which makes me even more excited about the much-delayed My Neighbour Totoro release), but Daveigh owns Lilo, so it was a little jarring.

But the heart of the movie -- the relationship between Lilo and Stitch -- shone. It made this a sequel that is actually, for once in a great long while, worth watching.

( 12:27 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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