Thursday, March 22, 2012

Han Shot First: An Open Letter to Screenwriters

The DVD of the Deathly Hallows, part 1, came out the other day. DVD releases mean deleted scenes. I checked out the deleted scenes over at YouTube. Why, may I ask were these scenes removed? They are fabulous, especially the goodbyes to the Dursleys.
I have often wondered what screenwriters could possibly be thinking when they make some of the edits they do. I accept that when turning books into movies, pleasant but tangential plot lines must fall away. I also except that movies need to devise other ways to express things often simply stated in the written work. I am also not one who wants to see a literal and direct translation from page to screen. But still, editing choices baffle me.
I offer a tip from a longtime geek: when we fans seem to want literal and detailed transcription to the screen, what we actually want is a product that is true to the nature of the book, the story, and the characters.  When we hate an adaption, it usually isn't because it wasn't a literal text translation but because it wasn't a true translation.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock: Not Good Eats

Food.  I will skip the well known differences between the US and UK on food.  It is true that portion sizes are much larger here, and there isn't much I've got to say about that. I've posted on flavor palates previously, noting that US flavors are more intense across the board, but given a choice, Brits default to sweet, Texans to spicy.  (I'll leave it to JJ to rant in the comments about the flavor palate in the rest of the country.) I've discussed coffee, chocolate, and dairy as well.

I think US fare is better than UK fare, but it wasn't always so.  In the past 30 years or so, from Julia Child onward, American food has moved beyond marshmallow fluff.  To see how far we've come, check out this hilarious commentary on some Weight Watchers recipes, circa 1975--three words: fluffy mackerel pudding.  If you like that, James Lileks has a coffee table book, The Gallery of Regrettable Food.

Last week I was reminded just how bad American food can be.

Friday, March 2, 2012

From days of long ago

My posting has been light lately.  Most of my regular readers are used to these stretches as part of a blog written by a housewife.  Not this time.  Yes, there has been plenty of life and family activity requiring my attention, but for the last week, no almost 2 weeks, I have fallen down a pop culture rabbit hole.  Actually, I've not so much fallen as dived, but I rather like the rabbit hole.  My wanderings in the burrow have become less frequent than in my teen years when I all but took up residence there, but still I sometimes wander.  With age, I now often ask myself, as I dive in head first, "What am I thinking?  I have better things to do than this, no?"

But a reason always reveals itself.

Not too long ago I wrote about why I like modern myths.  I focused upon modern myths' talent for restoring the awe of sacrifice or the inequity of some event or the silliness of some idea. (Heh. h/t Instapundit)  But  modern myth or pop songs or love letters or any number of artistic expression also say much about the writers and their fans.   Now, after reading a substantial volume of fan fiction, I cry over starved souls.  

Through the characters they create and champion, I can see that many are looking everywhere and anywhere for purpose.  Nietzsche pronounced God dead, and they believed him. 

The not-complete but relative lack of 'it is our choices that make us what we are' themes surprised me.  Characters were often cast at the mercy of fate or society or, as increasingly common within many attempts at modern myths, were looking for power somewhere outside of themselves.  As a Christian I find this last particularly painful since redemption can be gained merely by calling upon what is already in all of us.  I fear we Christians are failing them.  

The hunger for meaning was not confined to the big question of purpose.  My heart aches too for some of the understandings of friendship, love, passion, marriage, and loyalty, although I should not have been surprised to see the consistency.  The relationship between friends, parent and child, husband and wife, people and government, Church and the body of Christ, these are reflections of the relationship between God and Man.  If you get that one wrong, the others become difficult.  (True, getting any one of these relationships right can guide you in the others, but the God and Man route has the best track record.  But I digress, as usual.)   

Note, not all of the fan fiction was bad.  Hardly.  I liked a fair few. I could not have spent 10 days getting double vision from an iPad if otherwise.  But of late I've been thinking about archetypes and timeless tales.  Therefore, during this romp in the rabbit hole, I paid attention to the mechanics of the stories.  

Fanfiction.net is littered with promising nuggets that crack when the author tries to dictate the tale.  I would read with rapt attention, then in the passage of a paragraph, the story would fall because the author obviously intended to make a specific point, often by attempting relevance for a modern audience (a problem particularly acute in the Star Wars extended universe.)  For instance, instead of an epic tale of heroism and triumph in which Lotor rapes Allura (yes, I was reading Voltron fan fiction), the author wrote a story on how a modern woman copes with rape.  That's not nothing, but it is not epic.  And it wasn't consistent with the character, either.  The Princess Alluras and Princess Leias are not modern American women transplanted into other worlds from a long time ago.  But again, I digress.

Credit to the fan authors, however, who have done far more justice to the five lion Defender of the Universe than the current crap WEP actually paid for. (You need to be a Voltron fan to understand that link.) That's what sent me down the rabbit hole.  I came across the new Voltron cartoon.  In possession of a timeless tale of good vs. evil, loyalty, hardship, possession, and passion (yes, I'm talking about a cartoon), WEP serves up a music concert for the environment and peace.  This is the latest, and worst, attempt to tap into the original appeal of the cartoon.  They obviously have no clue about what made the original cartoon successful, much less why it still has fans 20 years later.

Fan fiction merely illustrates our overall problem: arrogant attempts at morality tales plague modern storytelling.  This is in part due to the nihilism of the modern age.  (Take it, Dr. Hibbs.) It is difficult to write what one does not understand, although God is a master at brilliant use of broken vessels. But that can only happen when the authors don't get clever and impose what they think they understand.  (Res Ispa Loquitor: George Lucas.)  

One final note, I'm adopted and always vaguely aware that I might have genetic siblings out in the world.   So for Dark Empyrean, who wrote an impressive Arusian cover of Arthurian legend while listening to Robert Earl Keene, e-mail me, please.  We might have been separated at birth.    


The Internal Mommy Wars

Originally posted in May 2010, when I still lived in London, I updated this post after I found the Momastery post on the internal Mommy Wars:

Since I have started this blog, more than a few friends have asked how I have the time to do this with 4 little ones underfoot.  I am usually very organized, which is important, but organization skills only get one so far.   I also have help in the form of 2 part-time nannies and a part-time housekeeper.  I know what follows (not from my friends but from the other readers I hope to have): accusations that I’m privileged, not a real mom and/or don’t know how hard stay at home moms have it.   I'll accept the privileged part.  I am in fact very fortunate that I can have help.  On the other points, I could defend myself outright, claiming no family around and a traveling husband, nannies and I work in tandem, etc.  But a direct defense glosses over a fundamental problem in understanding modern women's roles. 

There are only two women archetypes commonly accepted today: the career woman and the stay at home mother.  One looks to her own needs, the other to the needs of her children.  For the career woman, anything she does for others fraught with angst.  For the stay at home mother, anything she does for herself fraught with guilt.  The tension between these two types colors how most women judge themselves and intensifies the expectations of motherhood

There is, however, a third archetype, a forgotten one: the housewife.