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The grieving cycle

The grieving cycle published on 3 Comments on The grieving cycle

Are you grieving the loss of a friend, a lover, your youth, your mentor, your home town, the person you used to be? My current radio addiction, WGBH’s Sound & Spirit, has quite a few episodes related to death and change. Start with Breakups and Nostalgia, which address the losses of daily life. Then move on to Aging and Facing Death as you approach a blatant confrontation with the loss. For the loss itself, play The End of the World. Then go into Mourning & Loss and Ghosts for when you feel haunted. To reconnect with your hope, finish with The Afterlife and get back to the joyful business of living the life that lies before you.

This entry is dedicated to my grandfather, who died a month before Christmas last year.

Disillusioned with The Illusionist

Disillusioned with The Illusionist published on 3 Comments on Disillusioned with The Illusionist

Clearly it is a slow day at work.

I saw The Illusionist last night. It’s a pure love triangle story between aristocratic Sophie, who is intended to marry the tantrum-throwing Crown Prince of Austria. However, she actually loves the working-class illusionist Eisenheim. After a thwarted childhood elopement, the two reunite about 15 years later. The Crown Prince hires Inspector Uhl to find out Eisenheim’s motives and magic tricks and somehow neutralize him, but Eisenheim threatens to use his magic so that he and Sophie can give the Crown Prince the ultimate slip.

While I saw the movie’s core as the aforesaid love triangle, the actual film wandered in different directions, taking a while to get started. Beginning with Eisenheim’s arrest by Uhl, the movie focuses so closely on Uhl [played by a very likeable Paul Giamatti, atoning for the BOMB Lady in the Water] that I hoped it would be a character study of him, but no such luck. The film then drifted into an extensive overview of Eisenheim’s life, which looked wonderfully atmospheric and sepia-drenched, like an early photo, but did nothing to provide insight into either Eisenheim or Sophie. The bulk of the film concerns Uhl investigating a cagey Eisenheim, who pisses off the easily pissable Crown Prince [played buffoonishly by Rufus Sewell, who clearly has bits of the scenery between his gnashing teeth] by remaining impenetrable. Not until Sophie threatens another elopement with Eisenheim does the plot really kick into gear. But wait…then there’s a whole red herring concerning spiritualism, which is an interesting subject in and of itself. But we don’t spend too long on that because somebody is dead apparently. The Illusionist frustrated me most by giving itself the perfect opportunity for a tight little character study — the close focus of a love triangle — and then meandering and digressing so that I was only half engaged when the romance and mystery really buckled down.

Anyway, I did like The Illusionist for its twilight, sfumato atmosphere, not murky, but smudgy and mysterious. Also Paul Giamatti does a really good job, a serious, smart guy with dorky tendencies, basically kind but drawn against his knowledge into questionable circles through his association with the immature Crown Prince. His character tracked an interesting, rather subtle, development from slavish devotion to the Prince to independent intelligence and an appreciation of Eisenheim’s cleverness. In this way, The Illusionist is a portrayal of Uhl as the quintessential groupie: a man who admires the illusionist because the illusionist represents the best potential of himself, something that he himself wishes to attain.

“The other leads to certain death, oooooooh!”: death in the Labyrinth

“The other leads to certain death, oooooooh!”: death in the Labyrinth published on No Comments on “The other leads to certain death, oooooooh!”: death in the Labyrinth

I’ve got a new essay up on the Realm. Sparked by some comments made by Brian Froud in the afterword of the new edition of Goblins of Labyrinth, it talks about the very real threats of death lurking everywhere in this seemingly innocuous movie.

Sideshow Toy: disappointing collectors since forever

Sideshow Toy: disappointing collectors since forever published on No Comments on Sideshow Toy: disappointing collectors since forever

Why oh why don’t they make their 1:6 action figs look this good? WHY?! All the 1:6 versions of Spike look jowly and middle-aged. Finally, when there’s a likeness that’s accurate, it’s $250.00, premium format and not articulated worth squat. Here’s the 1:6 version:

Here’s the premium format version:

Here are all the Spike lovers who want a decent, affordable likeness: 

πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™

The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane

The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane published on 2 Comments on The amazing transsexual stick, or, Snakes on a Cane

So I’m reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses [translated by Allen Mandelbaum] for the nth time, enjoying it immensely. Ovid is such an overwrought, yet mellifluous, writer with a constant sense of fun.

One of my favorite Ancient Greek/Roman myths concerns Tiresias, a seer. He was walking along when he saw two snakes mating. He struck the female snake with his staff and changed sex to be a woman. After being a woman for 7 years, Tiresias came upon mating snakes again. He struck the male snake with his staff and changed sex to be a man.

After that, the gods had a fight about who enjoyed sex more, men or women. Zeus said it was women. Hera said it was men. They asked Tiresias to decide, since he had been both. He said women enjoyed sex more. Hera got pissed and blinded him in vengeance.

Tiresias passed the Amazing Transsexual Stick on to Hermes, messenger god, whose symbol is a winged staff called a caduceus with two snakes wrapped around it. This is not the same snake on a cane as Aesclepius’ rod, a medical symbol which probably comes from the way that ancient doctors tried to get, say, tapeworms out of people: by wrapping one end of the worm around a stick and pulling. More than you ever wanted to know here.

Aesclepius’ rod most properly symbols the medical practice that performs transsexual operations. Hermes’ rod most properly symbolizes transgendered persons who have had sex-change operations!

See Snakes on a Cane [a caduceus] below…


Pay attention — now you can SEE Dom and Velvette!

Pay attention — now you can SEE Dom and Velvette! published on No Comments on Pay attention — now you can SEE Dom and Velvette!

Monday’s ep of Love Has Fangs, 8.4 “Plastic Girl,” was too murky in the original draft. My attempt to create a night filter by putting a blue layer over the scene did not work…instead the characters disappeared into shadows! Well, now the comic is bright — I dispensed with the night — and you can see Velvette in all her sexy sexy glory and Dom in all his mopey denseness. Go see!

Philosophy in the morning

Philosophy in the morning published on 1 Comment on Philosophy in the morning

If you really want to wake up when you just get into work, stream stuff from, where notable philosophers and thinkers are interviewed by a guy who looks distractingly like James Marsters. Luminaries such as Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker and Edwin Wilson [associated with Tufts, MIT and Harvard, respectively — I live in a hotbed of philosophy!!] discuss consciousness, free will, faith, the existence of God and death. Do not try to listen to eps [each about an hour] successfully, or your brain will be overloaded. The interviews so far have brought me favorable memories of my college philosophy classes. I can feel my brain working….

So far, I recommend the interviews with Daniel Dennett and Sharon Salzberg. Edwin Wilson mumbles, goddammit. I wish Antonio Damasio had been interviewed, but he practices outside of the hotbed [Iowa].

Movies I wanna see

Movies I wanna see published on 5 Comments on Movies I wanna see

The Illusionist… At first I thought this was a movie knock-off of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [by Suzanna Schwartz], but it’s actually based on a short story. Reports say that the movie doesn’t play well as a mystery, but it has reasonably intriguing plot and character development, not to mention magic, so I’m piqued.

Wicker Man…A remake of the 1973 classic, but this time starring Barforama Nicolas Cage and changing the sex of the grand high pagan wawbab to a woman. This movie, about heathen fertility sacrifices persisting into modern times, has been on my must-see list for about a year. I think I’ll watch the remake, throw popcorn at the screen, then go back to the original.

La Science des Reves…A French film [super-chouette!] about a naive guy whose dreams spill into his waking life and how this affects his attempted romance with a neighbor girl. I enjoy movies that explore dream imagery, and the cinematography shown in the preview got me hooked.

Stranger Than Fiction…Character discovers he’s about to be killed off by author and tries to stop it. This oughta be an interesting comedy with Emma Thompson, Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffmann!!

Deprived of BTVS fix due to MIA seller

Deprived of BTVS fix due to MIA seller published on 1 Comment on Deprived of BTVS fix due to MIA seller

I am very annoyed because I paid ~$146.00 back in mid-July to get seasons 1 through 7 of BTVS on DVD…and they never showed. I also never received any information from the seller, despite E-mailing three times [once through personal mail, twice through My Ebay]. Besides the fact that I’m out ~$146.00, I feel especially irritated because I was really looking forward to enjoying my favorite characters and eps in a huge splurge of indulgent gratification. [Hm, that sounded obscene.] 

Of course, I’ll get over it. It’s only some DVDs, and I have put in a claim to PayPal that will hopefully get most of my money back. I just feel cross because my indulgence was thwarted.

Oh yeah, stay away from seller mclarke6666.

An’ another new Web comic…

An’ another new Web comic… published on 4 Comments on An’ another new Web comic…

Girl Genius. The old cliched tale of the orphaned innocent coming into her powerful, mysterious destiny, enlivened by a rich and humorous steam punk background. Read it for the story! Thanks to the Loremistress for the rec. I mean thanks to Zeo! Sorry, Zeo…

The new media subsection: Web comics

The new media subsection: Web comics published on 2 Comments on The new media subsection: Web comics

As the author of an online serial story, I like to read as many Web comics as possible for ideas on story, pacing, posing, angles, composition, etc. I frequently discover new ones, so I will mention them here, along with a capsule review. Forthwith, some of my favorites:

Alien Loves Predator. Preston [the Predator] and Abe [the Alien] are two bachelors living in New York, as played by a Predator action fig and an Alien action fig respectively. I like this comic because it uses figs and also because the early strips contain hilarious jabs at city life [especially about riding the subway]. The strips have drifted away from NYC absurdity and toward slapstick stupidity, but it’s still one I read religiously.

The Order of the Stick.  My second favorite Web comic consists of a bunch of D&D characters having Epic Quests with plenty of humor and fourth-wall comments. I admire the control of the complex storylines, as well as the consistently upbeat and refreshing humor. This comic demonstrates that humor doesn’t need to be at someone else’s expense.

Action Figure Diary. 1:6 action figs talk to their human owners. It’s a cramped, four-panel format, but the writing is consistently good. Again, it’s more humor at no one’s expense.

Toyville.  Toys that know they’re toys fight evil toys and make wisecracks. Worth it for the constant self-deprecation and admittedly outrageous plots, this sporadically produced series also contains the largest collection of figs you’re likely to see in your life.

9th Elsewhere. I follow this one for the story, in which the depressed, introverted heroine gets stuck in her subconscious. With the help of her flighty muse, she must learn about her own strength so she can wake up and live a good life.  A firm grounding in psychology and a graceful following of small plot points make this one a gem.

And…finally…two new ones that I found recently:

Imaginary Friends. Widowed toy salesman struggles with older son who doesn’t speak and wants to draw monsters and loud younger son with many imaginary friends.  Written economically with great characterization, this comic is drawn with a very cinematic feel. Besides the subject matter, I also appreciate the author’s handling of the “camera.”

Dreamland Chronicles. In this bubble-gum-bright adventure, a college boy goes back to his dream world after 6 years to discover that his dream friends have grown up.  The gentle humor is perfect for all ages, and the CGI-generated characters look like cute 3-D models. You have to see the art in order to admire its rich, deep backgrounds and cartoony expressiveness.

Raw materials for the dark night of the soul

Raw materials for the dark night of the soul published on 2 Comments on Raw materials for the dark night of the soul

Three o’clock in the morning
It’s quiet and there’s no one around
Just the bang and the clatter
As an angel runs to ground

–Stay (Faraway, So Close), by U2



Well now, it’s three o’clock in the morning
And I can’t even close my eyes.
Three o’clock in the morning
And I can’t even close my eyes.
Can’t find my baby
And I can’t be satisfied.


–Three O’Clock Blues, BB King


The telephone is ringing I say, Hi, it’s me. Who is it there on the line
A voice says, Hi, hello, how are you
Well, I guess I’m doin’ fine
He says, It’s three a.m., there’s too much noise
Don’t you people ever wanna go to bed
Just ’cause you feel so good, do you have to drive me out of my head

–Get Off Of My Cloud, Rolling Stones


Well it’s three o’clock in the mornin’
Baby, I just can’t do right
Well, I hate to leave you, baby
I don’t mean maybe
Because I love you so


–Good Night Sweetheart, the Spaniels


Three o' clock in the morning 

You get a phone call from the queen 

With a horde of heads 

She says that they’re all dead


–Return to Oz, Scissor Sisters


It’s three o’clock in the morning, ship time,
Only five more hours to go.
How many miles will pass before us,
How many years will pass below?

–Starlight and Saxophone, Tom Smith


It’s 3:00 A.M.
I’m awake and my heart is still dreaming
It’s 3:00 A.M.
Outside I hear the souls still screaming
It’s been so long you know since my head’s been this clear
Just like a ship lost in the night
I just don’t know which way I should steer


–3:00 AM, Edwin McCain


she says baby
it’s 3 am I must be lonely
when she says baby
well I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes
says the rain’s gonna wash away I believe it


–3:00 AM, Matchbox 20


Two o’clock when I lay down,three o’clock when I rise

I can’t get no sleep with all these tears in my eyes

I walk around, baby, and I don’t talk too much

How am I supposed to operate with my heart on a crutch?

It ain’t easy when your lover leave you all alone

–Front Porch Blues, Tom Lloyd


It's three o'clock in the morning,
We've danced the whole night thru,
And daylight soon will be dawning,
Just one more waltz with you,

–Three O’Clock in the Morning, Dorothy Merriss


My life seems unreal,
My crime an illusion,
A scene badly written
In which I must play.
Yet I know as I gaze
At my young love beside me,
The morning is just a few hours away.

Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon & Garfunkel


But it never seems to work that way 
It seems there's always so much more to say 
And it's always somewhere in between 
True or not it's a four o'clock stop 

–Four O’Clock Stop, Lowest of the Low


4 O’Clock in the morning
When the ambulance arrived
4 O’Clock in the morning
When the ambulance arrived
The blue lights were flashing
As they lay my baby down inside

–Four O’Clock in the Morning, the Pogues


Four in the morning and I’ve got that feeling
Clock’s ticking but my heart’s not beating
Eyes open and I’m staring at the ceiling
Tell me that you’re leaving; give me something to believe in

–Four in the Morning, Ivy Music


It's four in the morning
And once more the dawning
Just woke up the wanting in me
Wishing I'd never met her
Knowing if I'd forget her
How much better off she would be.

–Four in the Morning, Faron Young


Four in the morning, crapped out, yawning, longing my life away
I never worry, why should I, it’s all gonna fade
Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars
I fear I’ll do some damage one fine day
But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years

–Still Crazy After All These Years, Simon & Garfunkel

Internet alternatives to 8 hours of NPR

Internet alternatives to 8 hours of NPR published on 2 Comments on Internet alternatives to 8 hours of NPR

Well, I’ve been listening to WBUR at work, which means about three hours of news reporting, then four hours of talk and analysis about the news. Thus I hear the news about seven times, one time each when it’s reported, then one time the talk show hosts and callers hash it out. Needless to say, all the violence in Israel, corruption in Iraq, stupidity in the White House, bitching about gas, bitching about hurricanes, bitching about heat and bitching about the budget really bores me after a while. I feel like I’m banging my head into a wall of information and becoming bludgeoned, rather than informed.

In lieu of news and the regurgitation thereof, I’ve discovered my home state’s NPR radio station, VPR. With three hours of news and four hours of classical music, VPR gives me a happier balance of information and entertainment. While my brain is resting to classical tunes, I can absorb the events of the day. Furthermore, VPR has extra folksy touches, like Garrison Keillor reading the Writer’s Almanac every morning…and the Eye on the Sky weather reports [from the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury — hooray for Mark Breen!] and Night Sky Updates, which make me feel like I’m back up north. 

But, for the past few days, I’ve been listening to something even better — Sound and Spirit, an hour-long radio show hosted by Ellen Kushner. After having caught it on a few Sunday evenings, I sought out its [primitive] home page and found that I can listen to streaming versions of previous shows! Each S&S focuses on a different theme [this morning I listened to (1) Break-ups, (2) Satan and (3) The Lord of the Rings], pulling together vocal and instrumental music from all ages, cultures and backgrounds. Bits of famous prose, poetry, plays and sacred texts often appear as well, along with author or scholar interviews. Each hour is like a Unitarian sermon, designed to open your mind, gladden your heart and kick you in the butt. You need to download Real Player to listen to each ep, but it’s free and worth it! ‘Scuse me…gonna go listen to the S&S ep on cities.

Die, vile protagonist: killing off the Mary Sue!

Die, vile protagonist: killing off the Mary Sue! published on 3 Comments on Die, vile protagonist: killing off the Mary Sue!

In a paper about “150 years of Mary Sues,” Pat Pflieger comments about the coup of killing off a Mary Sue — that is, the character that is the author’s shill. Why is a dramatic death the ultimate end?

1. Mary Sue is too good for you. Like the saintly, sickly paragons of Victorian novels [Helen in Jane Eyre, Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop], Mary Sues become too talented, too virtuous, too stupendously amazing, for this world. So there’s really nothing else to do except kill them off. In a fanfic that’s full of the highest highs, deepest lows, widest loves and most passionate hates, a Dramatic Death makes an orgasmic conclusion.

2. Hah, you really loved her, didn’tcha?!?!? Like the original rebellious female character who loved the evil man [Clarissa], Mary Sues die to afford the author and reader some perverse glee. Since everyone loves Clarissa [and the Mary Sues], everyone feels devastated when she dies. Thus, pre-death and even post-death, the author and reader can bask in the secondary characters’ grief because the grief proves how greatly the main character [Clarissa or Mary Sue] was loved.

3. You’ll remember her forever. Because they’re so damned good and because everyone loves ’em, it’s guaranteed that the characters will not forget the Mary Sue. Her virtues will shine as a noble beacon forever. Secondaries will idealize and idolize her. She will never leave their minds. More wish-fulfilling whack-off on the author’s part.

Hmmm, and I thought killing Anneka was just a good way to literalize a huge change in her life. Nope…it was the Orgasm of the Mary Sue!

Dear Loremistress  — If Mary Sues are so hated by other writers, why do you think LHF, which is so obviously teeming with Mary Sues, is well-liked?

Go read what the Loremistress muses about Mary Sues. She’s good. πŸ˜€

Blog of Eternal Stench reviews Return to Labyrinth

Blog of Eternal Stench reviews Return to Labyrinth published on 2 Comments on Blog of Eternal Stench reviews Return to Labyrinth

Return to Labyrinth, a Henson Company/Tokyopop manga, should be considered a companion, rather than a sequel, to the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth, about 15-year-old Sarah’s coming-of-age journey to save her half-brother, Toby, from the Goblin King’s Muppet-laden Labyrinth. Continue reading Blog of Eternal Stench reviews Return to Labyrinth

“I thought Faeries did nice things!”

“I thought Faeries did nice things!” published on No Comments on “I thought Faeries did nice things!”

My favorite character from the Return… manga is Hana, the stabby, snotty, snarky Faery, who fulfills the Sir Didymus function when accompanying Toby through the Labyrinth.

Other than that, I find the story an interesting retread of Labyrinth [lots of in-jokes from the Labyrinth realm and even the Dark Crystal — even gratuitous potty humor >_<]. However, Toby doesn’t capture my interest; as vapid as Sarah and even less sympathetic [she had real problems; he’s just a whiny and spoiled kid], he doesn’t engage me at all. I also have serious questions about Jareth as the window-jumping guidance counselor and then the “retiring” [kings don’t “retire” — they ABDICATE] king. I also have questions about his sexual proclivities.

Later. I’ve got to get back to work.

P.S. Despite what you may have heard, this story is not total crap. It’s not a masterpiece either. Just remember that it neither caters to the J/S romantics or the kids who just want puppetainment. Explicitly labeled “Teen,” Return… aims at people between 12 and 16, meaning those who didn’t see the original in the theaters and then spent 20 years whacking off to it. While Return… recalls enough of the original to keep the older fans happy, the primary audience consists of kids who want a blend of action and magic — i.e., people who want what the original was trying to deliver. It succeeds modestly at its goal [action/magic/romance], but adds nothing interesting, glamorous or substantive to the Labyrinth story.

I’ll still be hacking it to pieces analyzing it, though. Heh heh heh…

Podcast of the Labyrinth/Dark Crystal panel at Comicon

Podcast of the Labyrinth/Dark Crystal panel at Comicon published on 4 Comments on Podcast of the Labyrinth/Dark Crystal panel at Comicon

Thanks to mangacast, there’s an audio recording of the San Diego Comicon panel where Tokyopop and Henson Co. reps talk about the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal manga adaptations. Excuse me while I go get Quicktime and listen to it….

EDIT: The audio quality really varies. The voices of the panelists fade out easily, but the cheering audience occasionally overwhelms the track. I can’t listen to this at work; it’s too distracting! I’ll be back later with a transcription. Amusing note: Someone [couldn’t catch who — maybe Michael Polis?] said that the germ of the Labyrinth manga came from looking at Jareth and realizing that he looked like a quintessential bishounen. HAHAHAHAHAHAH…

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