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31 July 2006
On the Froo-froo Hi-falutin'ness of Those With "Creds"
Great bit on critics by
Steven Riddle (link via Happy Catholic).

You'll have to scroll down to "Aesthetic Tyrant" but it's terrifically worth the time.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:49 PM
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26 July 2006
Making Room
It's the last week of my summer education class, and the research paper (required 4-6 pages, but the trimmest I could get the blasted thing was 20) is done, which means the rest is pretty much downhill.

But the best part about this week is that I received my teaching schedule for next year (we're back in a couple weeks), and to my great happiness, I have a room! The school I teach at has more teachers than rooms, so a bit of sharing is of necessity. As a new teacher last year, I ended up having to travel from room to room, using the space of other teachers in their off-periods. The other teachers were great about making it easier on me, but overall it was a terrible hassle, and only heightened the stress of the first year.

Now, though, I've got my own room, and it's even the one I'd hoped to get (our department lost three teachers after this last year due to retirements, grad work, etc.). I'm so very thrilled! No more wading through throngs of teeming students trying to get from one end of the building to the other. No more hectic attempts to get organised for class after running in from elsewhere. Shelves to keep books on, walls to decorate. Thrilled, I say!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:50 PM
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Voting for Fun
A friend (and sometimes co-worker) of kashi's is part of a group who have put together a promo video for NBC's "The Office." Take a look at it, and if you like it, give it a vote. Presumably, they can get it aired if it wins.

You Reap What Your Throw
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:15 PM
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22 July 2006
Lady in the Water
I suspect there will be a lot of people out there disappointed by this film. Even worse, many may be turned away from even seeing it by all the ravening critics who have almost unanimously clamped down on the movie with sharp teeth and ripped it to shreds. And this is truly a shame, for Lady in the Water is a really good movie. Is it one of M. Night Shyamalan's best? No. And that's part of the problem. The critics are now bound and determined to hate the man's films. He cannot win. If he makes a film with a twist ending, they harp about how he's just following his formula, and he's really nothing more than a one-hit wonder (which they now are saying isn't as good as they once thought). If he doesn't follow that formula, they complain that he's not living up to the type of movie they expect from him. Or, as with Lady, they claim he's following a pattern when he really isn't.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate critics. Little gets my dander up like a critic, of either movies or literature. But as this movie itself points out, everyone has a purpose, and that must apply to critics as well, even if we can't possibly imagine what that purpose might be.

As to the movie, I can understand why someone might not like it. After the movie, kashi and I and the friends we saw it with talked about it. Most of us liked it, but couldn't exactly say why. Also, the pacing's really bizarre for a film, which could easily lend to boredom. And you've really got to like fairy tales to really appreciate it as well. But the viciousness with which the critics are attacking this movie is unwarranted. And the more I read from them, the more I find myself liking this movie. Because somehow, it has gotten under the skin of the critics. They don't just not like it. Almost across the board, they hate it. And it is very clear that they missed much of what the movie is actually saying, and often sound as though they saw a completely different movie from what I saw. Take for example,
Frank Swietek's comment regarding Bryce Dallas Howard's performance: "Even Howard, who’s second-billed, is given little to do but appear winsome and smile angelically." In actuality, she smiles perhaps twice in the film. The rest of the time she maintains a disturbingly blank yet piercing expression which gives her an alien feel. If this is Dr. Swietek's definition of "winsome," then I never want to live in his world.

NOTE: There's nothing really spoiler-y from here on in, but I do need to mention a few character traits which may reveal more than a potential viewer might want. So ye be warned.

As for the rest of the critics, words like "muddled," "incoherent," and "self-involved" are so common, one wonders if they all cribbed from each other's notes. First, the movie's got one main story, which it follows without fail or deviation throughout. Only if you're not paying any attention can this possibly be considered muddled or incoherent. And why "self-involved"? Well, that's easy--Shyamalan puts himself in the movie, as he always has. However, this time it's as a writer, whose words may someday have a profound effect on the world. To be certain, this is dangerous ground that the director is on. But let's look at the facts. One: in this role, he is an actor playing a role. Had the character been a screenwriter, it might have been a little different, but either way, his character serves a function in this story. He's a storyteller, and the movie is about stories, about the art of storytelling, and the power it has over people. Two: His words do not, according to the film, directly change the world. His words inspire someone, who with his own words and thoughts and ability to lead, will make great changes in the world. There's a huge difference here. We affect others with our words and actions everyday. It's astounding the power of a word. You'd think critics of all people might realise that. But they apparently don't. For them, it seems, it is unbelievable and hoky that one man's words would have such a profound effect on the world at large. Certainly that's never happened in the history of man, has it? But then we come back to Shyamalan in that role. Is he really saying that his words will have that effect? The critics think so. I don't. Except in so far as every honest writer out there hopes his words will change people, whether it be to give them a better day because they enjoyed the story, or to start them thinking about things they never thought about before. That's what writing is. That's what storytelling is. It's changing people. It's inspiring them. It's making a bloody difference in this world in the best way we know how. Is it arrogant and self-serving to try to fulfill our purpose? Because that's what Shyamalan's doing here. He's been lucky enough (unlike many of the characters in this film) to have found his designated purpose in life. Is it wrong for him to pour himself so fully into that role, to hope that his words actually might have an affect on people? Individual purpose, what we were designed to do, is a major theme of this film. Perhaps if the critics had stopped trying to analyse all the technical aspects of how a film ought to be put together, and paid attention to what it was actually saying, they might have got the message.

One of the things I try to teach my students is that when looking at and analysing literature, if you can't prove it from the text itself, you can't say it (unless, of couse, you're using outside sources, but that's a bit beyond this scope). But that means you have to actually look at what the text says, and critics have a habit of avoiding that. There's a character in the film who is a critic. He's a wanker, and is treated rather badly. This, I think, may be the source of so much bile from the critics. But what the character represents is not so much critics themselves, but the tendency people have to overanalyse books and movies--not after the experience, but during it. How can you possibly enjoy a story if you're sitting there the whole time thinking, "Oh, this is now the part when x will happen to this character, and then y will ensue, resulting in z ending." To be sure, many of today's movies do follow these formulas, and it's often hard not to notice them when they appear. But that doesn't mean we should go searching specifically for them during the movie. I'm not saying we should turn our brains off during movies (God forbid we should ever do that), but at the same time, how can you possibly enjoy a story if you are constantly trying to plug its parts into some analytical definition or another? But of course, the critics can only take the character who is a critic at face value. And I do wonder how much of their ire stems from that.

I've blathered rather enough, I'm sure. Frankly, I suspect many will not like this film. I liked it a great deal, and find that I like it more and more as I think about it. Lady in the Water is still not as good, I think, as The Village and Unbreakable (which, it should be noted, were also ill-received), but it's still quite good. And it has something essential to say about storytelling, and about purpose, that is often overlooked in our society. It is a deficiency in us, and a sad one at that. But there are voices out there who possess that talespinner quality (I'd argue Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Neil Gaiman are foremost among them), people who know how to unwind a story and entrance their audience. There are truths in these tales, truths about us, about our universe. They're not on platforms for all to see. You've got to have eyes to see them. You've got to want it. But they are there. And like Cleveland Heep in Lady in the Water, once you've looked, and seen it, your whole world might change.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:55 AM
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19 July 2006
Mors et Vita
I absolutely love happening upon poets I've never heard of, especially when they're actually good. I know absolutely nothing about Richard Henry Stoddard, except what I've just looked up, but he seems worth investigating. Nifty bit of trivia: Nathaniel Hawthorne got him a job at the custom house. Perhaps that's only cool to a lit fiend, but I like it. Anyway, since I've not posted a poem in some time, here you go:

Mors et Vita

Under the roots of the roses,
Down in the dark, rich mould,
The dust of my dear one reposes
Like a spark which night incloses
When the ashes of day are cold.”

“Under the awful wings
Which brood over land and sea,
And whose shadows nor lift nor flee,—
This is the order of things,
And hath been from of old:
First production,
And last destruction;
So the pendulum swings,
While cradles are rocked and bells are tolled.”

“Not under the roots of the roses,
But under the luminous wings
Of the King of kings
The soul of my love reposes,
With the light of morn in her eyes,
Where the Vision of Life discloses
Life that sleeps not nor dies.”

“Under or over the skies
What is it that never dies?
Spirit—if such there be—
Whom no one hath seen nor heard,
We do not acknowledge thee;
For, spoken or written word,
Thou art but a dream, a breath;
Certain is nothing but Death!

Richard Henry Stoddard, 2 July 1825 - 12 May 1903
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:45 PM
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14 July 2006
Not Dead Yet
I haven't fallen off the end of the world or died or had my fingers removed by rabid hyenas or anything (although one can never tell when that last one might happen). I've been running silent this last week because I've just started the summer education class I need to take so that I can satisfy diocesan requirements to keep teaching. Thankfully, it's not nearly as time-consuming as the two online classes I took last summer (which, simply, was hell), but it's still keeping me on my toes. As such, all personal projects have been put on hold temporarily (except some reading and a short story I'll be editing this weekend).

In the meantime, just thought I'd check in and finally get some links updated that've been mouldering for some time. Also, kashi's just removed her blog, which had lain fallow for a while, so I've replaced it with her deviantART page. Good art--check it out. And I've added two new Catholic blogs: Upper Canada Catholic, which I spotted from Happy Catholic's blog, as well as one which had linked me (and emailed) aeons ago. Much apologies to the guys on Sirach 40:20 for the extended wait.

Finally, if you haven't seen POTC 2: Dead Man's Chest, do so. Verily, it doth rock. Also, here's a really interesting article on it that kashi found today:
In Peril of Our Souls: Theological Considerations from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Jelly Pinched Wolf   5:22 PM
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01 July 2006
Meant to post this before yesterday, but time got away from me. Not that I've posted recently anyway, but I'll be out through the middle of next week, as kashi and I are taking some time off to visit her folks. With a little bit of luck, though, I'll have a few posts ready upon our return (including that long-promised Lear/ Serenity post, which I know at least one person's been waiting for--but I have at least started writing it!).

For the nonce, though, I leave you with some terrific words from the venerable Ray Bradbury. I'd seen the movie version of Something Wicked This Way Comes long ago in my childhood, but had never had the chance to actually read the book until now. It is so very wonderful, too. Bradbury's prose is just gorgeous, and creepy, and everything that a good storyteller should strive for. So, just a brief passage:

Why love the woman who is your wife? Her nose breathes in the air of a world that I know; therefore I love that nose. Her ears hear music I might sing half the night through; therefore I love her ears. Her eyes delight in seasons of the land; and so I love those eyes. Her tongue knows quince, peach, chokeberry, mint and lime; I love to hear it speaking. Because her flesh knows heat, cold, affliction, I know fire, snow, and pain. Shared and once again shared experience. Billions of prickling textures. Cut one sense away, cut part of life away. Cut two senses; life halves itself on the instant. We love what we know, we love what we are. Common cause, common cause, common cause of mouth, eye, ear, tongue, hand, nose, flesh, heart, and soul.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   12:11 PM
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