Archive | August, 2012

Trilogies and quadrilogies and so forth

9 Aug

Although there are several exceptions to what I am about to say, it often rings very true: many novel series and film franchises simply do not know when enough is enough. While I acknowledge that many stories require more than one installment to be told, some just go on and on without cessation or any sign of a nearby conclusion. Perhaps this is why we have more series on television and HBO nowadays. Harry Potter is a good exception, but many claim that the new “two-parter” thing applied by Hollywood to Deathly Hallows as well as Breaking Dawn, The Hobbit, and possibly Catching Fire is simply a means of obtaining two (or three) times as much money from audiences. While this is doubtless true in many cases, certain sagas simply cannot be told through one movie per book. Sometimes, though, one story can be complete without a dozen follow-ups. I think the limit of standalone installments ought to be three. Christopher Nolan has done this beautifully with his Dark Knight trilogy, which I dearly hope will not be “fourthed” by Hollywood. Prequels to a trilogy can at times be acceptable – they made two for X-Men, which seems a bit much, but the films I have seen in that franchise have been out of order and thus I do not know the whole story.

In the realm of comic books, filmmakers often have to take a string of weekly cheesy serials and form one coherent storyline with them, making connections enough to form one straightforward plot. There are many villains in the Batman comics, from what I understand: the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and Bane, just to name a few. Then again, it must be here confessed that I have yet to read the graphic novels. A movie generally contains one broad plot with subplots, but not twenty mini-stories strung together. The same applies to a series I’ve been devouring of late, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The first three books – short and concise things – were slightly altered in 2004 to form one movie with one plot. And they did a decent job, other than leaving it open for The Sequel That Never Came. I often wonder if they’ll make a movie or three of the hit BBC program Doctor Who. It’s possible, but my standards would be high. One of the movies could have Daleks as villains, the others perhaps featuring The Master or perhaps a horde of Cybermen or Weeping Angels. Just thoughts.

One more thing to note here is something many people complained about Sam Raimi’s 2007 conclusion to his Spider-Man trilogy: too many villains. Whether they are working together or it’s a three-way battle, two seems to be the limit. A third antagonistic faction in the same movie tends to throw people off, I’ve noticed. In the Pirates of the Caribbean films, which have some truly awesome scenes but are going too far, there is the British Navy as the more constant villains throughout the franchise, but each movie has another bad guy, usually a rival pirate, who is the main focus of conflict. But even though I can appreciate certain aspects of these movies, they’re stretching it pretty thin for something based on an amusement-park ride – even if I enjoy them as guilty pleasures.

Comments on this post are not mandatory, but I welcome and appreciate them. What do you people think of my views?

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“How to Exhibit a Bullfrog” by William G. Conway

9 Aug

“How to Exhibit a Bullfrog” by William G. Conway

This is for further reading on my last post. A very interesting view on the very sensible logic that small, local things are often taken for granted, despite their beauty. Also, why should anyone be raising polar bears and hippos and pythons when they cannot even take care of a frog?

A short essay: “Animal Illustrations and Proper Zoo-keeping”

9 Aug

This afternoon I did a goodly amount of drawing at the library; today I have sketched naught but wild animals using several heavy zoological volumes for visual reference. Much as I love dragons, gryphons and the like, “real” animals are quite an enjoyable thing to depict in my opinion. Perhaps I ought to expand my dreams of illustrating fantasy novels and children’s literature to include books filled with facts about plants and animals. What sparkling unicorn could outdo the indisputable fact that we have giant pandas, and Nile crocodiles, and massive Bengal tigers? No matter what lovely qualities the imaginary possess, they remain stories.

From a young age I wanted to be a zookeeper. Despite the fact that I have moved on from that aspiration as a career, I retain to this day my fascination with the living things of the world. My interests have not so much shifted as expanded from the animal kingdom to the crafts of creative writing and illustration, and I now wonder if I might apply one to the other. My primary passion is writing fictional stories, but a freelancing gig could well set me up with the opportunity to write articles on Komodo dragons or great blue herons. The same goes for sketching – imagine being able to recreate the box jellyfish on paper! My art instructor once gave me some very interesting advice: To draw from memory or imagination is to create a cartoonish or humorous image; likewise, putting pencil to paper whilst observing a model or still image is to add realism.

With that in mind, perhaps I could travel great distances and snap photographs of giraffes, of octopi, of South American macaws. Not only would we have captured the visual essence of these creatures: I could use the very shots as an opportunity to hone my drawing skills. While I might do the same at a zoological park, I am currently of a dual opinion on such places: a conservational program and a “monkey in a cage” one are two very different things.

Humanity is responsible for much extinction, in the wild if not everywhere, and for many more “endangered” statuses. To right the wrongs of other members of our own species, many people have set up laws against hunting rare creatures such as the elusive mountain gorilla. Sadly, far too many poachers ignore these rules and murder the vanishing animals for heartless and selfish means. It is then that good souls such as Dr. Jane Goodall set up places to breed and thus replenish animals. Zoos which house animals temporarily in order to help the overall species are in my favor, as are “display” zoos that give animals a healthy and enjoyable permanent home. The North Carolina Zooloigical Society is an excellent example of humane treatment and good conditions. A handful of years ago they opened a plain at their Asheboro facility in which African elephants now graze and socialize. The term “vast” would be an understatement here. The rhinoceros exhibit nearby is a similar rolling field, and I read recently that their polar bear exhibit is being remodeled to encompass several times its already considerable size. A good zoo, as I see it, worries not about pleasing the guests with as many beasts as possible, but considers the animal life to be a priority. I’d rather watch a locally common bullfrog rejoice in a large swamp pool than see several exotic Bornean orangutans fight for food in what might be called a jail cell.

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axolotls

6 Aug

axolotls

See? I told you!

Why is it always I?

6 Aug

These words are being typed from my brand-new Macbook Pro, which was purchased at a local Best Buy along with a Kindle Touch. Anyone who knows me might know that while I prefer “actual” books bound in paper to holding an electronic reader, but I read so much that I’ve taken to carrying around one of those things after all. During winter break, however, I left my Kindle in the car during a snowy Chicago evening as we went to a Christmas party at my aunt’s house. One of my aunts – cannot remember which, to be honest – asked to see it out of curiosity. So I went outside in the lovely-crisp air and took out the eReader, which refused to turn on from then on.

My sister Caroline received a Kindle Fire at one point or another, but she eventually tired of it and gave it to our other sister, Laura. She didn’t care for it either, so I ended up taking it. Really it wasn’t a bad device; it merely had a permanent backlight, which is hard to read with in the sun. Call me picky, but we went to purchase a third Kindle – this one a Touch – from Best Buy yesterday, and it’s either extremely difficult to figure out or (more likely) simply a dud. It doesn’t respond to my touch most of the time and there are only two non-digital buttons, neither of which are very responsive. My eventual goal is to become less cumbersome in terms of what I carry around; a slim piece of electronic equipment is ideally suited to replace ten fat books, but only if it works. Perhaps I’ll trade it in for a different one, maybe even a simple original Kindle. That way I can return to reading Laini Taylor’s beautifully-written YA fantasy novel, Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Currently I am trying to plot a two-hour play and it could be going a lot better. It’s hard to come up with an entire plot, harder to come up with an original one – especially when it’s not born of a strike of inspiration so much as the need to write something for improvement’s sake. At least I have “Of Sophia’s Song,” the last track of the CD Sophia’s Garden by Herb Moore, to keep me relatively sane for the moment. The story behind the album is really sad, but the music is just lovely. I’ve no idea why Herb Moore is not more famous, or why his albums keep going out of print. The other two of which I am aware are Dragon Dreams and H2O Overture. They’re all very relaxing and thoughtful. Maybe I ought to try and draw some inspiration from them?

A nod to axolotls

6 Aug

Has anyone here ever seen an axolotl up close? I have; they’re beautiful creatures.