Entries in Fun to the power of x (25)

Sunday
Apr202008

Speculative Fiction on Screen


I'm not much of a television connoisseur, so it may not mean much for me to say (again) that I consider Firefly to be the best television show ever made. Why do I love it so? Because Joss Whedon put so much time and care into creating his world and characters. (The fact that he is a genius writer of dialogue doesn't hurt.) The series views like a great novel; for every line of dialogue and for every set, I get the sense that there is a ton of fascinating backstory underneath. Get the tragically cancelled series on DVD; you won't be sorry.

Why is it that speculative fiction is so much more accessible in movie or TV format than in print? I know many, many people who have never cracked open a volume of Tolkien or Philip K. Dick, but who love the movie adaptations of these greats' works.

It's probably because movies and TV are just more accessible in general. I wonder, for example, what the ratio of viewers of James Bond films to readers of Ian Fleming's novels is; I'm betting it's quite unbalanced.

Just because I feel like it today, here are some lists of stuff I like. Not all of the movies below are adapted from novels or short stories, but most are. I haven't ranked them because the rankings would probably change from day to day depending on my mood.

My Top Ten Science Fiction Movies:

Blade Runner
The Matrix
Galaxy Quest
The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
Star Wars (1977)
The Incredibles
K-Pax
Serenity
Donnie Darko
I Am Legend (2007)

My Top Ten Fantasy Movies:

The Lord of the Rings (I'm counting all three parts as one. Because I can.)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Princess Bride
The Wizard of Oz
It's a Wonderful Life
Groundhog Day
Fanny & Alexander
Brazil
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Spirited Away

Five Spec Fic TV Shows I Love (Other Than Firefly):

Star Trek (Original Series)
The Prisoner (Freaktastically brilliant 1960s paranoia)
The Wild, Wild West (Steampunk before there was steampunk)
Medium
(Not watching this season since it's on at 10pm now, but I'll catch up.)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Really, Joss: if I were a pagan, I'd worship you.)

At some point, we'll borrow The X-Files DVDs from the library and watch them all. We could never make the commitment to give the series our full attention when it was on the air. Ditto for the new Battlestar Galactica and Lost.

Ten Spec Fic Books I Think Would Make Fantastic Movies:

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Treason,
by Orson Scott Card
Coraline,
by Neil Gaiman
Life of Pi,
by Yann Martel
The 13th Reality,
by James Dashner
Mistborn,
by Brandon Sanderson
Mister Monday,
by Garth Nix
Under My Roof,
by Nick Mamatis
Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

Ten Spec Fic Books I Adore, But Fear Would Not Translate Well into Film:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
Beloved,
by Toni Morrison (I know they already made it into a movie; I have been afraid to see it.)
The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (I saw part of the BBC series and cringed.)
The Otherland series, by Tad Williams
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton
Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin
Was, by Geoff Ryman
Little, Big, by John Crowley

What about you? Are you a viewer but not a reader of science fiction and fantasy? What do you think accounts for different tastes in different media? Give me your thoughts.

Friday
Oct192007

Tapering Down

I had this great boyfriend named Paul my entire senior year of high school. He played on the water polo team and was a fantastic swimmer; at one time he ranked ninth in the entire nation in the butterfly stroke for his age group. I'm reasonably confident that you'll be reading more about Paul on Soap Opera Sunday, when I give you the highly entertaining and dramatic details of Prom Night 1983.

I had never been particularly athletic myself (outside of dance), so I learned much from Paul about training for competitive sports. One concept he introduced to me was that of tapering down.

When preparing for a big competition, athletes will train intensively for a period of time, then follow a very light regime in the days or weeks immediately preceding the event. This allows the body to recover fully from the hard training it has done, ensuring that it will be capable of peak performance during the competition.

"Why the nostalgic lecture?" I hear you ask in a gentle yet quizzical tone. I answer: merely to explain my recent bloggy reticence. I'm training for both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, demanding events that occur simultaneously during the month of November. I have to gather my strength and summon my creative (eagle) powers; Heaven knows, I need to conserve what little I have in both respects.

It is because I am tapering down that I have lately chosen not to inflict upon you posts on such scintillating topics as:

1) The fact that the three black hairs growing from my chin have become my own personal hydra;
2) How amazingly neat and clean our basement is after my tornadic frenzy last weekend;
3) What a better yarn Malabrigo is than Manos del Uruguay;
4) Hilarious things Daniel has said in days past (one tidbit "Red Zeppelin");
5) The success of our story basket in the den;
6) The manner in which my novel-in-eternal-progress, ZF-360, is morphing yet again;

7) My consternation over the as-yet-unripe African jelly melons in a large basket in our kitchen;
8) The current dearth of appealing movies at our local theaters;
9) How excited I am that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize; and
10) My rant about the evil ninja deer and the havoc they are wreaking in our yard.

See? Don't you feel better about how quiet it's been around here? Brace yourselves; November is right around the corner.

And to answer the question of a cre8buzzer who asked whether we'll be celebrating Novembrance (i.e. me) all month long once Halloween is over:

Yes. Absolutely. Bring on the party, my friends.

Until then, I must focus on my training. Yeah, yeah; that's the ticket.

Thursday
Sep132007

Je me souviens.

O, Canada. How I love thee.

I meant to write a post about Canada back on June 24th (St. John-the-Baptist Day, Québec's Fète Nationale), then again on July 1st, which is Canada Day. But other bloggers--actual Canadians--beat me to the punch, so I decided to save my ode for another day. That day has come.
I lived in Laval, a suburb of Montréal, for a short time years ago; it was the best few months of my single life. I left Canada in early October of 1989, so this time of year I always get a bit nostalgic. Enhancing these emotions, the other day I saw a Québecois license plate, the slogan of which is "Je me souviens," or "I remember." This motto, officially Québec's, means different things to different people, usually having something to do with the ongoing French-English conflicts in Canada. But for me, the words are a reminder of a wonderful time in my life.

Other things have me thinking about Canada this week. Last year, a friend of ours went hunting in Newfoundland and brought back a moose. He shared the delicious meat (it tastes like grass-fed beef) with his friends; I made the last of his gift into a wonderful stew last night.

It's my turn to lead our book group discussion this month, and the book I chose is The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery's novel for adults. The Blue Castle is Montgomery's only book set outside of Prince Edward Island; it takes place in Bala, Muskoka, Ontario, where Montgomery went on holiday once.

Here are more reasons why I love Canada:

Poutine! It's the ultimate comfort food. Take french fries, add fresh cheese curds, then pour delicious brown gravy over the top, so that the cheese melts somewhat, but retains its texture and shape. My mouth waters as I write. Oh, and Crème Budwig--like muesli, only a lot nuttier. Other delicious Canadian foods: toutons (bread dough fried in salt pork fat), figgy duff (similar to plum pudding), and maple fudge. Or really, maple anything.
Barenaked Ladies! Great Big Sea (I have a huge crush on Alan Doyle, second from the right in the photo above)! The Wailin' Jennys! Leonard Cohen! Rush, Triumph, Steppenwolf, and The Guess Who! Joni Mitchell and Neil Young! Oscar Peterson! La Bottine Souriante! There are so many great Canadian musicians. I even liked Céline Dion back when she was still singing in French and before she started beating on her skinny chest in platinum-selling, anglophone power ballads.

Robertson Davies! Mordecai Richler! Michael Ondaatje! Margaret Atwood! Mavis Gallant! Dave Duncan! Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Yann Martel! Alice Munro and Lucy Maud Montgomery! A significan percentage of my favorite writers are from Canada.

Dan Aykroyd. Eugene Levy. Mike Myers. Catherine O' Hara. John Candy. Dave Foley. Phil Hartman. Howie Mandel. Andrea Martin. Jim Carrey. Canada is good at making funny people.

French without anxiety. I studied French for 12 years in school, but that doesn't mean I was a fluent speaker when I got to Laval. Imagine my relief when I found that the Québecois were thrilled with my French, a reaction completely unlike the ill-disguised sneers or looks of outright incomprehension I'd gotten when trying to communicate with those of a more Parisian profile. (The difference between Canadian French and European French is as dramatic as the difference between British English and American English.) Canadians were so kind and encouraging of my French, even sometimes asking me whether I was from western Canada (this is much better than sounding like an American, I assure you).

I have many ancestors who settled in or were born in places like Scarborough, Ontario; Grand Bay, New Brunswick; and Cardston, Alberta.

For my senior project in college, I wrote a detailed outline for a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel partially set in a mythical Canadian province called Nunavut. Right after I turned in my project for final approval in March 1999, the real province of Nunavut was officially created. I now (irrationally) feel as though I were the creator of this new province.

National health care. Americans, go see the movie Sicko. Really: I feel it is your patriotic duty to do so.

Thursday
Aug302007

Magic Power

Recently I heard a song on the car radio that I had forgotten even existed. However, I could immediately sing along with its every word.

She's young now, she's wild now, she wants to be free;
She gets the magic power of the music from me...

Ah, yes. The Canadian power trio Triumph accurately captured me in lyric form back in 1983. I was 16 and graduating from high school. I had a great boyfriend, a regular D&D group, attention-getting hair, a library card, and a functional stereo. I had my whole life in front of me. What more did I need? Life was good.

Fast forward 24 years to the other day. Even as I belted out "Magic Power" along with Rik Emmet, I laughed at the incongruity I have become: a 40-year-old woman driving a mom-style vehicle complete with two car seats in the back, with XM Radio's Big Tracks channel blasting so loud that people in other cars look over at us involuntarily at stoplights. Am I now ridiculous? I wonder.

Only my mother terms me 'young' anymore, and this knitting, pie-baking, classics-loving, church-going woman I've become is not anyone's definition of 'wild.' And would I want to be free of my hot spouse, my fun kids, or my weed-infested garden? Not on your life. On the surface, I've become the epitome of The Establishment against which rockers have been railing for decades.

Yet loud rock music continues to be a joyful indulgence of mine on a daily basis, Sabbaths excepted. My kids love singing along to songs they've learned at my knee; it warms my heart to hear their clear voices joining in on "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Baba O'Riley" or "Roxanne." Rock is somewhat of a family affair; we had a great time exploring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, admiring relics like John Lennon's report card, the pieces of Paul Simonon's smashed bass guitar, and Jim Morrison's Cub Scout uniform.

My love affair with rock is not limited to the music of my (or my parents') youth. Through friends and the sorcery that is iTunes, I've discovered new treasures like Foo Fighters, The Fratellis, and Coldplay. But would The Veronicas or The Arctic Monkeys be happy to witness me, someone old enough to be their mother, dancing around my kitchen to their latest hits? Or would they run, screaming in terror? I rather suspect the latter.

Here's a highlight from my trip to Utah last week. I sat reading in my hotel room after attending the first day of a mission conference. Suddenly I heard music I recognized coming in through the large plate glass windows that overlooked downtown Salt Lake City's Gallivan Square. I opened the drapes to see a huge crowd gathered around the amphitheater ten floors below. I quickly did a web search on 'Utah Free Concerts,' which confirmed that I wasn't dreaming: Calexico was playing. I opened the metal window louvers so that I could hear well, ordered some Room Service nachos, and sat back in my private sky box seat to listen to one of my favorite new(-er) bands. I reveled in my good fortune, and couldn't wait to tell my kids that the group was even better live than on recordings.

Will it always be this way? I have a vision of myself as a 90-year-old great-grandma, driving a powder-blue Lincoln Town Car with the bench seat scooted way up, and The Raconteurs or Great Big Sea roaring through the sound system at a decibel level high enough to compensate for my faulty hearing aids. And maybe then, if Triumph comes on the radio again, I'll let my quavery, old-lady soprano soar along to celebrate that I am young at heart, wild about life, and free from any concern of what others think about my long-standing affection for the magic power of rock and roll.

Saturday
Aug182007

Cleveland rocks!


Oh, we had such a FABULOUS trip to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The museum is amazing; all the kids loved it. I'm sure I'll work many choice anecdotes from the trip into future posts; I'll give you just one tidbit, since I'm pressed for time.

We bought Daniel a little stuffed plush guitar at the gift shop. As we were leaving the museum, he kept singing the opening of "Smoke on the Water" ("New, new NEW, new new NA-NEW!")over and over, to the great amusement of fellow museum-goers all around us. Then he'd whisper-scream, "Are you ready to ROCK? Let's get rockin'!"
It's hilarious every time. I haven't gotten tired of it yet; I don't see how I ever could.