29 October 2013


I don't really have anything to say today, so I'll show you instead: pictures of a Canadian October. Autumn. You know, come to think of it, I like the word "autumn" better than "fall" (although I usually use the latter when I'm talking). "Fall" sounds you've just tripped and gone splat, "autumn" sounds so much more poetic.

Zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, and some kind of crossbreed which makes good pies.

Thanksgiving Turkey. That sucker was so big, the lid didn't fit on the roasting pan.

Those poor petunias, still trying to pretend its summer.

Rain. It's cosy inside on those days.
...but we've had sunny days, too. The brilliance of autumn colours is beyond comparison.
So there you have it: Life, the Universe, and My Autumn So Far. I do like this season.

21 October 2013

Movies from Books

I've come to a conclusion about watching movies, especially fantasy stories: if you really want to enjoy the movie, don't read the book first. We just saw Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters last week, and it was quite a fun movie to watch. Then I read the book yesterday, and boy oh boy, is it ever different! Well, as usual, the book is better - but because I hadn't read it, I wasn't spending the two hours in the movie theatre groaning about how they messed up the story; I was able to enjoy both film and print.

True, there were a few groan-worthy spots - like the point where some characters are having an emotional reunion-hug scene, monologuing about how much they appreciate each other, while the bad guy does bad-guy things right behind their back that they very much need to interfere with. But they don't, being all emotional and huggy, so bad guy nearly gets his bad-guy way. (Spoiler: he doesn't, in the end. I'm sure that really surprises you, that in a hero movie the heroes win. Yup.) Oh, and another thing that threw me for a minor loop was that they replaced the actor for one of the main characters: Chiron isn't played by Pierce Brosnan, but by Anthony Head. So, no, Camp Half-Blood didn't get another centaur teacher as I first thought, he's just shape-shifted a bit. And actually, Anthony Head fits the character in the book better than Pierce Brosnan; he looks older and more teacherly-mature, which is what Chiron is supposed to be.

"Supposed to be". That "fidelity question" in film adaptations is something I've been thinking about ever since last semester's term paper on Jane Austen movies. I used to be very demanding of "fidelity" in movie adaptations, i.e. "how faithful is the movie to the book?" I still am, to a point, especially when it comes to my favourites such as Austen. But I've rethought a lot of my attitude in that regard. Because, you see, the fact is that movies are not books. Film and print are apples and oranges. Yes, I like my apples to have a certain taste and texture, and my oranges as well. But if oranges were green & yellow with red stripes and a crunchy texture, I'd be a little perturbed. Well, no, a lot perturbed. And a squashy orange-coloured apple with a dimpled skin really wouldn't be cool, either. So a movie which tries to tell the story in just the same way as the book - well, it often just doesn't work. At worst you end up with really boring voice-over narration of the text in the book, or just, well, really boring. Or cheesy.

Because in a book, you can just tell the reader what you want them to "see". You can say "She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen," and each reader imagines for themselves what exactly that means. On a film, you have to show that - and when it comes to such things as "most beautiful" or "most horrible", those experiences are quite subjective. That's where Peter Jackson struck out with his Lord of the Rings elf women - he succeeded in making them sugary, with all that pink backlighting and the soft-focus shots, rather than ethereal and stunningly beautiful. At least that's my opinion. Yes, yes, of course the actresses are very beautiful women - but they're women, that's the problem, not elves. In fantasy films that's a big issue - you're trying to show something supernatural by natural means. That's why the book usually is better, because you can convey so much more in words than in mere image.

But then, sometimes, it's the words that start to stumble. Take The Lord of the Rings again: if one wanted to re-tell the movie in words, to convey the majesty of the New Zealand landscape in which the film was shot, words just would not be enough. That's where the film excels in something the book hasn't got. The movie tells a story in pictures, and sometimes, if not almost all the time, that story is different from the one that is told in words. Different, not worse, not inferior. Well, maybe sometimes inferior, and then, sometimes, superior. But most of the time, just different. I think there are some stories that are best told in words, and some best in images. And maybe - maybe we won't know which fits best until we've tried them both.

Life, the Universe, and Movies from Books. Don't read the book first, you'll like the movie better for it.

10 October 2013



My cat hurt himself and I don't know what to do.
The government of one of the most powerful nations on the earth seems to have gone crazy.
A young man I know of broke his neck, and no one knows if he will ever walk or use his hands again.

a baby came into the world.
A small
baby boy
with a button nose
a tiny chin
dusky eyes
(which want to stay shut most of the time
if the photos are to be believed)
and a lip
that is
a perfect Cupid's bow.

is greater than


02 October 2013


As you probably heard, I'm studying Snow White right now. Yes, her of the apple. But I also live in Apple Country; I drive past apple (and/or peach and/or cherry) orchards every time I leave my house.

Apples are great. I think if I were to move to a tropical climate, apart from dying of heat, I'd really miss apples. For Northern Europeans, they're the quintessential fruit. You know how in the Garden of Eden Eve tempted Adam with an apple? Actually, she didn't. We just think she did, courtesy of all those Northern European artists who heard the story that the Fall of Mankind came about through a piece of fruit, and automatically depicted the first thing that came to mind - an apple. For all we know, the Garden-of-Eden fruit was a banana. But somehow it doesn't quite seem right, you know? Apples are so tempting, so lovely, and round, and shiny (if you buff them on your shirt before eating them) - a banana hasn't quite got the same effect.

That's what got Snow White, too. She fell for all the finery the witch foisted off on her - the lace that was tied too tightly, the poisoned comb in her hair - but the dwarfs figured that out and saved her bacon by unlacing and uncombing her. But when it came to food, they struck out. I'm sure there is some deep symbolism in that, or some sly dig at how important food is to women (well, it is, there's nothing wrong with that. But that's another topic.), and that if you give in to the temptation of food you've had it, lady. Presumably the witch took the bitten apple away with her, or the dwarfs would have seen it lying around and figured out that it was food that did in Snow White, and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre or pumped her stomach or something. Well, it doesn't rightly matter, because once the apple popped back out of her mouth, she was fine.

Apples are very symbolic, of all kinds of things. Martin Luther said that to teach children, one ought to have a switch in one hand, an apple in the other. I believe the emphasis here was on the apple, as in his day it was taken for granted that children needed to be beaten in order to learn anything; he was saying that there needs to be positive reinforcement, not just negative - and the apple was the emblem of sweet treats, a suitable reward for a good child (Mars bars hadn't been invented yet).

You've got to wonder what kind of apple Snow White's was. It says it was red on one side, and white on the other (with only the red side poisoned). I can't think of an apple variety that looks like that. My favourite kind (the one in the picture) is a Mackintosh, which is red and green, not red and white. It's good for everything - fresh eating, pie, juice, drying, apple sauce - plus is keeps well (for months, if it's stored right). And it's rarely poisoned by wicked witches. Now, I wonder what the Mac Apple computer has to do with the fruit. It certainly isn't that they're both the cheapest variety on the market.

Life, the Universe, and Apples. I have a feeling Snow White didn't serve apple pie at her wedding.