Four Gunfights And A Funeral

When most of the household (Hilde, me, Michelle and Caty) went to the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall where the early screening of Serenity was being held, we got there a bit over an hour before the 7:00 PM showing. SFS is a pretty big enclosed shopping mall, and we found that the line of other people who'd gotten passes to the screening went from the top of the escalator just above the theatre entrance over to the side of the mall, all-l-l-l the way down the long side of the mall, back across to the other side of the mall, and halfway back down the other long side.

The chances of getting into the screening looked iffy. And it turned out that the line was cut off about a dozen people short of where Michelle and Caty were. But since Hilde was in her wheelchair, she and I got to go to the head of the line and were actually the first people into the theatre. (Michelle and Caty took the disappointment, and having to wait around for two hours until we came out, with grace and good nature. True, I could have stuffed Michelle's ears with rice and steamed it, but...)

So how was the movie? Slam-bang action, a good story, with amusing/intriguing characters. The "science" of Whedon's frontier planetary system is actually science-fantasy, and takes a deliberate effort for suspending disbelief. Once over that hump, though, it's a heck of a ride.

Pretty impressive, considering that Whedon had to try and achieve four things in writing the script: 1) Continue the story of Mal and the rest of the Serenity crew, to the satisfaction of people who've seen the original series, 2) Make the story self-sufficent and stand-alone enough to satisfy people who've never seen the show or characters before, 3) add new developments that will leave room for future stories in the Serenity universe, if the current movie proves popular enough to call for sequels, and 4) tie up the main plot threads securely enough that if the movie doesn't have further sequels, it will be able to stand as a fitting coda to the Serenity saga.

I thought Whedon did pretty well on three out of the four. Trying to look at the movie as if I'd never seen the series, some of the relationships seem a little vague. This doesn't hurt that much in regard to Shepherd Book, who's always been rather a mystery man, but the relationship and feelings between Mal and Inara felt as if they needed a bit more backstory; I didn't feel that a newcomer to this universe would get a real feel for why Mal and Inara have such an... odd, and mostly unsaid... relationship.

As for the new developments... well, I'm trying to avoid any major spoilers...

...but remember that Whedon's universe is a rough and dangerous place. Things happen in the film that are going to make a lot of the series' fans very unhappy. (On our way out of the theatre, Hilde and I passed by a young man who'd had to sit down on a bench while he cried himself out.)

Oh, and I will mention that we finally get an explanation of why the Reavers have that little attitude problem. (It's not hemmorhoids, after all.)


What NOT To Do (for writers and others)

From 52 Projects, a list of things NOT to do while trying to work on a project.

One of the items listed is "Do not post to your blog." Duhhhhh...

If you're anything like me, reading the list will make you feel s-o-o-o-o guilty...


Recent Reading

Singer of Souls by Adam Stemple, Tor Books, 2005, $22.95

Reformed (but still tempted) heroin-addict Douglas flees Minneapolis, and his still-addicted fellow junkies, to his grandmother's home in Edinburgh, Scotland. His skills as a street musician serve him well during Edinburgh's annual Fringe Festival. Until he encounters a mysterious woman who leaves him with a dubious gift: the Sight, the power to see the fairies, elves, trolls, bogies and other creatures of Faerie whose own Festival overlaps, unseen, with ours. And these Fair Folk are very, very dangerous.

There's a fairly standard plot progression for stories where a young protagonist discovers a secret world behind our own, whether it be aliens, fairies, or Illuminati: Protagonist discovers secret world. Adventures and danger ensues as the protagonist tries to learn more, and he gains both enemies and allies. As the story progresses, the protagonist begins to guide and influence events, rather than reacting to the actions of others. By story's end, the protagonist has gained skills that enable him to take control of the story's situation. Villains are vanquished, wrongs are avenged, happiness ensues.

At first, I thought Stemple was following this plot-path in Douglas' story. But then things began to turn very dark and grim. Douglas' grandmother tells him:

"There's not a Scottish fairy tale that doesn't end without someone getting hanged or burned at the stake or thrown down a well. And the faeries themselves? They're all the wandering spirits of unbaptised children or murdered relatives, and even the good ones will turn on you in a second if you break one of their unwritten rules."

I think that's called foreshadowing. Brutal and explicit violence takes place, sympathetic characters die, and apparent friends prove false.

But still the reader hopes that the villains will be vanquished, wrongs avenged, and happiness achieved.

And villains are vanquished. Wrongs are avenged. The story's protagonist discovers his unsuspected strength and power.

*spoiler warning*

But at a cost. Because Douglas' choices, though they vanquish villains and avenge wrongs, are the wrong choices. He yields to his inner weaknesses, and at story's end he is addicted again. Not to heroin, but to something even worse.

Thinking about the book's ending, I realized that Stemple never intended to write a standard adventure fantasy. What he has written is a genuine tragedy.

Stemple's prose flows smoothly and colorfully. And there is a lovely (of course) cover by Charles Vess.


Various Links

Some stuff I've been meaning to post links to:

For the SCA family that has everything else: The Gothic Commode Seat

From Edmund Scientifics' website, the world's coolest ant farm

The Graceful Envelope Contest is a yearly joint project between the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Calligraphers Guild of Washington DC. Entrants decorate an envelope with illustrations and artwork around the year's theme (the letter "P" for 2005). The decorated envelopes are then sent "as is" through the mail to the Calligraphers Guild. Some of the entries are absolutely lovely. Here is the link for the 2005 Graceful Envelope Contest Winners.

And, if you haven't read it already, John Scalzi's "Being Poor" essay should be required reading. I'd like to see this made into a wall poster, and posted in every office of everyone who deals with the underprivileged.


Quote of the Day

From Avedon Carol:
"The fact is that, for whatever reason, Fidel Castro was more ready to save American lives than George Bush was."


History Via The Blues

From papersky (with thanks to Making Light for the link), Jo Walton provides:

New Orleans Talking Blues

When levees are flooded and hurricanes roar,
When the waters start seeping up under the door,
You'd expect the escape plans to include the poor
But this isn't that kind of song.

(click the link for the rest...)


A Damn Good Photo

Resourceful Posted by Picasa

From a purely photographic viewpoint, this is one of the best I've seen coming out of New Orleans.

The composition is excellent. The horse and rider form the traditional pyramid shape, drawing attention to the flooded fancy car in the upper photo.

It's also a study in contrasts. Horse and rider, coping with the high water, while the fancy car sits useless. The rider's modern-day clothing, particularly the reversed cap, compared to his 19th-Century transportion.

I'm also very struck by the rider's expression: The slow-burning anger on his face. One feels that this anger will be there for a very, very long time.

(Off the topic of photography: I think it's possible that new leaders of Black America may eventually arise from the ruins of New Orleans. And such leaders will probably be angry leaders, who refuse to forget or forgive the indifference shown to them by America's current power structure. A new Malcolm X, perhaps?)

500 Eggs For 60 Guys

From the Times-Picayne website at nola.com:

500 eggs, 60 men in blue

Thursday, 4:25 p.m.

By Eva Jacob Barkoff
Staff writer

NEW IBERIA -- Around 5 a.m. today, Mary Tripeaux received a call that members of a search-and rescue-team from Phoenix, Ariz., were on their way for breakfast at Victor's Cafeteria on Main Street. Soon the crew arrived and filled themselves with coffee, grits, biscuits, bacon, potatoes and sausage -- and more than 500 eggs.

"There are 180 eggs in one case and we went through at least three cases," Tripeaux said. "And by around 9 a.m., we had run out of sausage. They had eaten it all."

After breakfast, about 60 men in blue uniforms from Phoenix's Urban Search and Rescue Team held a meeting under a gazebo across from Victor's to go over final details of their mission. They wouldn't discuss details with a reporter.

The men had arrived in several trucks and two 18-wheelers filled with equipment. Also along were three Labrador retrievers.

"We have a lot of equipment here to try and do what we can to help," one of the men said.

Before leaving for New Orleans, he reflected on breakfast at Victor's and concluded: "That was the best meal we have had in 48 hours."

That's over eight friggin' eggs per man.

Didn't these guys think to, oh, you know, bring their own food and water with them?!! And maybe some extra for the hungry, thirsty refugees in New Orleans?

Five hundred eggs, plus side dishes. Kee-rist, that could have been a decent meal for at least 250 refugees.


This Will Happen

There are tens of thousands of New Orleans residents displaced from their homes, their jobs, their city, with the likelihood that most won't be able to return for months, possibly years, possibly never.

They'll need jobs, they'll need housing, they'll need daily meals.

Let's start a betting pool: How soon will military recruiters show up at the refugee camps?