Like a lost prodigal son
I return to you.
Like a lost prodigal son
I return to you.
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one. . .
Aughra, The Dark Crystal
December 1982. Jim Henson, Brian Froud and the rest of those at Jim Henson Productions hoped that the premiere of The Dark Crystal would bring high fantasy films into the popular spotlight and prove to be a success. It was, but only a modest one, eclipsed by a children’s film that no one in Hollywood had paid attention to: Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
But despite E.T. and other films making 1982 a remarkably crowded summer for blockbuster movies, The Dark Crystal did modestly well, earning $40 million on its $15 million budget. The Dark Crystal is notable that it wasn’t based on an existing property (an aspect it shares with E.T.). Henson and Froud developed the world and the story of the film from scratch; it had a piece of Henson’s heart at its core. Henson was deeply spiritual — raised a Christian Scientist, was later influenced by Eastern religion — and the film reflects his beliefs.
You say, brevity is the soul of wit;
I say, cleverness is the source of shit.
(Published a few days late, sorry)
The world knows beauty as beauty,
So there is then ugliness.
The world knows good as good,
So there is then the bad.
—Tao Te Ching, trans. A. S. Kline
I first saw The Dark Crystal when I was three on HBO. I remember being mesmerized and frightened in equal amounts, although I had little idea of what was happening. I remembered a young elfin boy wandering through a dangerous, mystical world, pursued by black crab-like monsters. The film left such an impression that I rediscovered it at a Wal-Mart twelve years later in the discount bin, having never seen it since my first viewing. The fright and the amazement returned, and with it a great deal of appreciation for the thought and passion put into its inception. This was the film that ignited my love of fantasy, put me on the road to writing fiction in my spare time, and led me to explore alternative religious traditions.
And it wouldn’t have existed without the creator of the Muppets.
Coworkers and I
Flinging poop at each other:
Why we have bosses.
(This is part 1 of an exploration of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.)
Before he began the mammoth series A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin wrote for television, penning episodes of the 1980s reboot of The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. He also created and maintains the Wild Cards shared universe, editing anthologies of short stories set there.
So Martin was already adept at the long-form serial before he began Song of Ice and Fire. Serialized storytelling is a hard art to master (one I’m frankly frightened of!), and I’m in awe of writers who can master it. Dickens was one such master. The release of the end of Great Expectations to London by ferry was akin to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or the fevered watch parties for series finales of shows like Lost.
A Game of Thrones, the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, belies Martin’s serial heritage in one important aspect: it is the first part of a much longer story, not a book self-contained with comfortable resolutions. Chapters end on cliffhangers; the novel ends only with the longest breathing space Martin could create, a brief pause in the hell that is Westeros.
The form serial has two big strengths: ongoing character development and the exploration of themes at length. Martin uses both to his advantage.
And oh, what characters!
Hidden behind toothy smile:
Seeing a celebrity at a convention is a certain joy, be it at an autograph stand, a private booth, or sitting among a crowd of hundreds in a Q and A panel. I went to MegaCon in March with my coworker Tyler. To our amazement, they had booked half a dozen A-list celebrities — or what passes for A-list celebrities in the geek world. Stan Lee. William Shatner. Half of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast. These are our heroes.
Our first panel that Saturday was one James Marsters, a versatile character actor trained in theater, and best known as the loveable bastard Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His public image has been spotty, especially after the fiasco that was Dragonball: Evolution. To my surprise he was approachable and forthcoming during the panel, although it took some time to get used to his natural American accent.
One fan asked if it was difficult kissing Sarah Michelle Gellar. “You’re asking,” Marsters said, “if it was difficult. . . to kiss Sarah Michelle Gellar?” After a gentle mocking, he said that it was difficult to kiss well in front of the camera, which Sarah provided much guidance for.
He was then asked about his part in the upcoming Torchwood miniseries. The show was jumping broadcasters, going from its home at the BBC (where it began as a spinoff of Doctor Who) onto premium cable network Starz. As part of the show’s revamp, American characters were being added to the team, including Marsters and Bill Pullman.
Marsters spoke about kissing John Barrowman. “Let me tell you one thing, guys,” Marsters said. “Shave. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will appreciate it.” He then said something about the nature of the show that he liked. “One of the things that the show goes out to prove,” he said with all earnestness, “Is that gay people can be heroes.”
His statement hit me like a sucker punch.
Ducklings huddle near.
Mother herds them in the pond.
No minivan here!
The Amtrak station in downtown Tampa had seen better days. A coworker dropped me off in front late Thursday afternoon at the start of my weekend trip to Raleigh. The lobby was a historical landmark, recently refurbished and maintained, but beyond the polished wood interior and brick facade were dilapidated awnings covering bare concrete platforms. There were three tracks behind the station, but only one was used regularly, the other two delegated to backup duty, left to rust in the humid Florida climate.
A crowd gathered outside the steel gate as an attendant announced the impending arrival of my train north to Raleigh. “Okay, we’re taking sleeper cars first, sleeper cars first! Everyone else be patient, we’ll get you on soon.” Middle class families were escorted in golf carts to the far end of the arrival platform as our train arrived. It was a workhorse, built on twentieth century technology, long in the tooth but having lost none of its usefulness. It will take you where you need to go on time. It always had.
I followed the crowd through the gate. The attendants passed me down the platform from car to car, finally placing me adjacent to the lounge car. I stowed my duffle bag above and took my seat next to a drowsy middle-aged single mom. She was doing everything in her power to keep her kids in line through a fifteen-hour train ride. The interior was spacious by modern travel standards: most small jet planes were like flying coffins with what little breathing space you have. In constrast, the train seats have leg and foot rests, and room for both up at the same time. I put mine to use.
As we pulled out of Tampa past Ybor, I noticed a hen running alongside us. I mentioned this to the single mom beside me. “Hey, there’s a chicken outside!” she said to her children. “Looks like it missed the train!”
The train rocked lazily through southern Florida into the afternoon, reaching Orlando by sunset. It was as slow as driving the same distance, but there’s no rush, no stress, no half-asleep drivers to dodge on the interstate. It’s the luxury of a leisurely pace.