Metapost: Update on Dad

Background here. 

We've been up and down the emotional rollercoaster this week. Thursday, we were told that Dad's cancer is localized to the throat only and that he should be better after 3-4 months of chemotherapy. The doctor acted like this was a good thing, so we were relieved to hear that.

Today we were told that actually means 7 weeks of daily radiation, a feeding tube inserted directly into his stomach, permanent damage to his salivary glands, and an increased risk of cancer in the future, I guess because chemotherapy mucks your body up in that respect.

Dad's kind of in shock and they're trying to get a clearer -- or possibly a second -- opinion on all this.

So that's where things stand now.

Open Thread: Cute White Tiger

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute white tiger and a fictional diary about the Oregon Trail.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Wallaby

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute wallaby and a fictional diary about Elizabeth I.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Cat

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute cat and a fictional diary about Anacaona.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Dog

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute dog and a fictional diary about Catherine the Great.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Bear

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute bear and a fictional diary about Sondok.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Rabbit

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute rabbit and a fictional diary about Jahanara.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Elephant

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute baby elephant and a fictional diary about Marie Antoinette.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Duckling

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute duckling and a fictional diary about the Lady of Ch'iao Kuo.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Open Thread: Cute Squirrel

Today's open thread is brought to you by a very cute squirrel and a fictional diary about Weetamoo.

Regular posting will resume Tuesday, May 1st. I apologize for this disruption in regular posting.

Twilight: The Chapter 7 Wrap-Up

Content Note: Ableist References

Twilight Recap: Bella has returned to school on Monday and is talking with Mike about their upcoming report on Macbeth.

Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare

Let's talk about all the things remaining in Chapter 7 that amuse and/or confuse me!

Open Thread: Totally Open

Totally open thread below. What's on your mind?

OPEN THREAD BELOW!

Metapost: Emergency

Ramblites,

I just got a call from my mother. My dad, who was in day surgery for what was supposed to be a routine procedure, has been unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer around (or of? I don't know yet) his lymph nodes in his neck and has had an emergency tonsil removal while they were in there. I have no idea what's going on or what is going to happen next, but I do know that I need to be there to help mom sort out those very questions.

The Friday Open Thread and Saturday Twilight threads for this week are pre-posted. Starting this Sunday we're going to have a suspension of regular posting for a week while I try to deal with this. Regular posts will resume on Tuesday, May 1st. Until then, there will be daily open threads with, I don't know, cute animals or something.

I apologize for the blog disruption.

~ Ana

Fat Acceptance: McDonalds, Advocacy, Fat Pride, and Swear Words

[Content Note: Fat Phobia, Hospitalization, Detailed Description of Surgery, Racism, Hate Groups]

Ana's Note: This is a Fat Acceptance 202 post, not a 101 post. If you need a 101 course on Fat Acceptance, please refer to Kate Harding's excellent archive; there are about 10 linked posts in that archive and they are all awesome and admirably cover most FA 101.

On May 29th, the day immediately following this year's U.S. Memorial Day holiday, I will be hospitalized. At 7:30 a.m. in Central Standard Time, I will be wheeled on a stretcher into an operating room. I will probably be naked except for a thin hospital gown tied at the neck. I will at that point also most likely have a sedative, most likely Valium, in my system. I will be given a deeper sedative to force my body into unconsciousness, at which point a surgeon will cut open my back and operate directly on my spine.

Metapost: Image Yanking

I've gone through the site template and yanked out a half dozen images, including the links to my Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, and NaNoWriMo profiles and the images for the Daily Deals because my image host was loading way too slow and page loads were taking forever.

The Daily Deals are still in their usual place, just texty now. The profile links will migrate over to my About Me page at some point in the future.

I also took out the Ramble chat box because it wasn't really seeing heavy use. I hope these changes will only please people and provide faster page loads and will not cause sad faces for anyone.

Author Interview: H. Graham Cull on "The Dragon's Fangs"

Ana: Today we have H. Graham introducing their book, The Dragon's Fangs. I haven't read this book myself, but H. Graham was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. H. Graham, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

H. Graham: It's a fantasy piece about a girl and her boyfriend going around looking to get rich (or at least enough money to get out of town) and maybe have a little adventure along the way. As its tags suggest, its a piece of what I refer to as "low fiction"; there isn't a vast struggle between good and evil going on here, the world isn't in immediate danger, and the Orcs and Dark Elves aren't slaughtering everybody.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

H. Graham: I want to entertain them, pure and simple. I want something they can read when they're having a dull moment, like when their spouse drags them out to a football game or they're stuck at an airport because their flight was cancelled.

Speaking of themes, some that come to mind are the relationships of girlfriends and boyfriends, rich and poor, and the city vs. the country. I may also address the relationship of mistresses and slaves later on, because Treble is technically Feloni's property as well as her boyfriend, but that's something for later on.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

H. Graham: Dungeons & Dragons. This story isn't fanfiction, but I was reading an old Player's Handbook when I got the idea for Feloni. I've always been inspired by fantasy and sci-fi in general, but somehow Magic the Gathering, D&D, and Second Life have been the three that have gotten me writing the most. A close fourth is the Escape Velocity series from Ambrosia Software, which is a major inspiration for my sci-fi writing projects.

As for what motivated me, that one's harder. I guess it was the realization that a lot of my ideas are worth telling, but aren't quite worth the full NaNoWriMo treatment. Once I realized that, it was easy to get something working, much easier than when I had been beating my head against the wall of 50,000.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

H. Graham: Hmm. Tough question. I'd probably make a reference to the short fantasy stories that used to appear in Dragon magazine (the American one, not the Japanese one), but it hasn't been in print for about five years and the online version doesn't seem to have short stories anymore. Definitely Robert Howard's Kull of Atlantis and Conan the Barbarian series, for those of us who were lucky enough to remember that era.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

H. Graham: This was actually my second e-published work, but the first is an unproduct. This one was my first piece of short fiction, where I was able to tell the story for its whole length, have control over where it climaxes, and not have to string it out for another 20,000 words because it peaked early. As it was, this was roughly 6,000 words but it told a complete story and the previous work was over 50,000 and dragged on too long.

I do have more planned. There's already a sequel titled "The Horn in the Cave" which has been released at both of the sites listed below, and a third is on the way. Both of the later stories are much longer, but hopefully still just as entertaining.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

H. Graham: Its available at both Smashwords and BookieJar.

If they want to contact me or follow me, I have a Facebook page. I don't have a Twitter or blog, and I'm a little reluctant about posting my personal email here. So yeah, please contact me through Facebook if you want to talk.

I'll add one other key point if you want to friend me, though- because of some concerns related to my day job, I'm not going to friend anyone under age nineteen.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

H. Graham: Well, it isn't actually a chapter, because the modern short story doesn't easily break into chapters. I put the first 10 or 15% (I don't remember off the top of my head) up for free via Smashwords. I wasn't able to do that on BookieJar because of that website's design; I have to designate entire chapters as free, and that would require me to change the structure of the work.

Good luck and happy reading!

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Narnia: Lion-Witch-Wardrobe, All-American Rendition

Narnia Recap: We'll be doing a couple of film adaptations before moving on to Prince Caspian.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, American Adaptation

So last week I kept referring to the modern remake of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" as "the American version". The Americanishness of the version is probably disputable: the producer and co-screenwriter is from New Zealand, the children actors are from England, and according to IMDB the movie was filmed in the Czech Republic. But the movie was produced by Disney, and darned if this isn't one of the Americaniest book adaptations I've ever seen. Hold onto your hats: this isn't the book you've spent the last year reading.

I'll be fair: I actually want to like some of the changes here. It seems to me that someone on the script writing team felt that even the BBC version wasn't kind enough to Edmund, and they took great pains to make Edmund more sympathetic than he sometimes is in the book. Where I think this falls down, though, is that instead of playing up the fact that Edmund is a child, it seems like the screenwriters didn't feel like that was Manly enough so instead they played up that Peter is kind of a jerk. Oookay, we'll see how that goes.

But! Oh-dear-sweet-jumping-fried-okra, the screenwriters clearly felt that with Edmund wearing the totally-misunderstood cap, we needed a new Pevensie villain, so Susan is pushed into the spotlight with DOUBTING THOMAS and GREAT TEMPTRESS tattooed on her forehead at various moments. They've done this by taking Susan's general sensible advice scattered throughout the book to the tune of "gosh, this place doesn't seem so great, are we sure about this?" and twisted and turned this into Susan trying to push Peter into accepting deals with the devil. Despite the fact that Book!Susan was the first person to agree with Lucy that they had a responsibility to save Mr. Tumnus.

Dear Screenwriters: When you read a children's book published in 1950 and decide it's not sexist enough, you are doing it wrong.

But enough of my ranting; let's just dive in.

The movie opens with the Pevensie house being bombed because it's not enough to start with the children at the station, we need to dial this up to eleven! Only I actually like this, since the detail does really bring home that whole war-death-terror thing that should be in the background of the novel and yet somehow rarely seems to be. Edmund is established as being plucky and fearless and a little bit foolish as he's the one standing at the window watching the planes while Mother and Peter gather up the children into the bomb shelter.

Edmund allows himself to be herded to the shelter, but then bolts back into the house in order to save their father's photograph. Once everyone is narrowly-but-safely back inside the shelter, Peter tears into Edmund, calling him "selfish" and asking "Why can't you just do as you're told?" In a more nuanced movie, this would read like Peter freaking out because he nearly lost his brother, but all the simmering anger on the surface just makes it seem like this is a case of sibling rivalry that's about to boil over into a Cain-and-Abel story.

I'd like to say that this is handled well later, and that Peter and Edmund work things out and figure out how to co-rule and co-manage an army together. I mean, High King Peter may be "high king", but King Edmund is still king. He's not Prince Edmund or Duke Edmund. I would think co-rulership would be really hard, particularly when the only claim to ruling right is blood relation (so you just know someone is always thinking "you're only here because you're my sibling" and not "well, you were elected as representative of your people and can at least provide a unique perspective" or something). This being an American movie that wants very badly to get to the magic! and war! and hulk smash!, I don't think we get a lot of complex reconciliation, but I suppose there was a montage of the kids training later that might count. But I digress.

The kids are bundled into a train and Mother tells Edmund to "listen to your brother". The kids listen to the radio at their new home with concern and Edmund dourly notes that they might not even have a home to return to. I have to say, I like Realist Edmund; even if he's upsetting the others, it's easy to see why he's lashing out -- he's worried about his home and his parents being taken away in the blink of an eye.

Lucy stumbles into the wardrobe and... it's not night. I guess they wanted us to really drink in the expensive set. She screams in fear when she sees Mr. Tumnus, which somewhat changes the dynamics of the Lucy/Tumnus and Edmund/Witch parallel, but it's a nice reaction shot all things considered so I'll give it to them. And OH MY GOD, how much of a good idea was it to make James McAvoy our Mr. Tumnus? SUCH A GOOD IDEA.

@ blog.aussiepumpkinpatch.com

I'm serious. He's noticeably younger than the BBC!Tumnus, and he's got that open, innocent James McAvoy face. He seems nervous and frightened by the little human Lucy, and it's terribly clear that he's never seen anything like her before and is genuinely concerned she might be some kind of trick or threat. This makes the relationship more egalitarian between the two, a little more realistic for me, and it's a nice piece of characterization.

Tumnus invites Lucy home and the two immediately strike up a painful bond over fathers who are dead-or-absent from war. Once again, we get a lavish piece of characterization as you can see on Tumnus' face that his father would not approve of him kidnapping charming fantastical creatures to hand over to the Witch. And this is completely ruined by the addition of Aslan's face appearing and roaring at him in the fireplace as he plays to Lucy. Okay, maybe it's just a representation of what Tumnus is thinking, but it just throws all the subtlety leading up to the scene onto the ground and dances upon it.

And then they have Tumnus state that he's not an agent of the Witch; they're all under orders to turn humans in. Nice dodge on the whole "traitor problem" there, guys.

Back in the real world, Edmund tries to reduce the tension of Lucy's situation with a joke and Peter snaps at him to "grow up". Edmund looks taken aback and angry, and Susan calls out Peter. Then a very short time passes before nightfall, at which point Lucy sneaks off to the wardrobe, Edmund follows, and then we get Edmund's big scene.

WHICH HAS BEEN UTTERLY CHANGED.

Ha, no, really. The dwarf-driver leaps off of the Witch's sleigh and runs Edmund to ground while whipping at him. (It's unclear if the blows connect.) Then the dwarf leaps on the fallen Edmund, places a sharp dagger right at his throat, and then rears back to stab the boy. And then the Witch calls for the dwarf to wait, and gently -- without frightening Edmund or seeming terrifying at all -- asks him who he is and how he came to be in her realm. Edmund looks confused and explains that he doesn't rightly know, but his sister got in before and met a faun named Tumnus. And this is a very interesting change. Because, of course, we had to break out the magic candy in the book before Edmund provided this particular little detail that gets Tumnus into so much trouble.

And yet, despite the change in the placement of this detail to a time when Edmund is not yet enchanted, the surrounding details in the scene make him more sympathetic, not less. He's just been run down and nearly murdered by the driver, but the Witch has been nothing but kind and gentle. An adult might question what sort of person keeps a knife-wielding driver in her employ, but this child seems to genuinely believe that the woman before him has saved him. He's trying to honestly answer her question: I'm not sure how I got here, but my sister did and I can provide details and maybe we can figure this mystery out together?

The Witch pulls Edmund up into her carriage and because this is an American movie, she sits very close to him. Go ahead and say I'm reading too much into the scene, but to that I will point out that the modern "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" movie remake, which is set hundreds of years after the Witch's death (and which, in the book, she does not appear at all), has her specter repeatedly trying to seduce Edmund. *lolsob* Anyway, Edmund wolfs down the Turkish Delight and I just want to note that the dwarf driver eats some too. Well, shoot, now I'm going to have to wonder if he's a perfectly nice dwarf who's been long-bewitched with enchanted food.

Edmund and Lucy tromp out of the wardrobe, and my fan-theory that Edmund has to lie about Narnia is vindicated overtly when Lucy works out in her head that they were there for quite some time and asks Edmund suspiciously where he went and what he'd been doing while she was with Mr. Tumnus. So Edmund lies, Lucy cries, and Peter shoves Edmund hard. Oh, Peter, you thought I was rough on you, but who knew the screenwriters would make you so awful? Don't worry -- Susan's turn is coming!

The Professor scene! He's totally obviously been to Narnia before, and hams up the scene nicely. When Peter asks if they're just supposed to believe Lucy, instead of giving them his "Mind your own business!" advice, he tells them "She's your sister, isn't she? You're her family! You might just try acting like one." It sounds kind of harsh, but it's delivered with just barely enough gentleness that I kind of liked it. Ah, Jim Broadbent, you are probably the one person on earth who could make me sort of like Professor Kirke.

Anyway, the kids make their way to the wardrobe and this is a very nice scene because they're obviously being magically herded. Nice touch, but once again underscores my problems with the series when it comes to God and Aslan and Consent and Choice. They tumble into the snow and Peter bullies Edmund for awhile before completely stealing Susan's lines about both (a) borrowing the fur coats and (b) the logic behind why it's not stealing. THAT WAS SUSAN'S ONE ROLE IN THE BOOK: BEING THE SENSIBLE ONE! Oh, well, maybe I can console myself with her new important role as the Great Temptress of Doubting Thomasery.

The kids dig through Mr. Tumnus' house and read the arrest warrant. Susan announces that they really must go home and tells Lucy "I don't think there's much we can do" to help the faun. For those of you following along with the book, this would be the point where Susan said "I don’t want to go a step further and I wish we'd never come. But I think we must try to do something for Mr. Whatever-his-name-is -- I mean the Faun." Ha, that sounds like something a BOY would say! We in America know that girls aren't brave and courageous and strong willed! Then the kids schlep off to the Beaver home where Susan announces "Mom sent us away so we wouldn't get caught up in a war", which is a line that is both not-in-the-book and passive-aggressively guilt-tripping the other kids.

Peter could have delivered the new line, of course, since he's not too keen on this whole prophecy business either, but when you want false equivalency between a bombing raid and a fantasy campaign, it's best to have a GIRL on-hand.

Edmund ducks out the door and when his absence is discovered, Peter immediately announces "I'm gonna kill him" and Mr. Beaver says "You may not have to" and explains the whole Witch-thrall thing, with the implication that the Witch will totes do the job for Peter. And this is MILES AND MILES OF CLASSY but it's reasonably close to canon so I should maybe just be grateful that Peter didn't also kill Susan for being A Girl. Haha, no, I am not bitter about this movie at all!

Anyway, they actually do try to chase after Edmund which is a Very Sensible Addition, but they crest the ridge only in time to see Edmund walk through the closing gates. And then Susan tells Peter this is "all your fault!" which is kind of true, but... yeah. And then Edmund draws mustaches on stone lions and the Beavers herd everyone into a secret tunnel and the wolf scene is gold. ALL THE WOLF SCENES ARE GOLD. And there's... a fox. For no good reason except that later Edmund will try to save the Fox's life to drive home that Edmund is Not Evil. (Susan is!)

The Witch tosses Edmund into prison where he meets Mr. Tumnus. That's new, but kind of nice... until the Witch shows up and tells Tumnus that Edmund "turned you in for sweeties" which is a complete lie because Edmund mentioned Tumnus well before food was brought out, but the movie seems to think it's true. Does no one error-check the final cuts of these things? I swear.

And then Father Christmas shows up! And because this is the EXCITING AMERICAN VERSION he actually chases them through a plain while the children run for their lives. Haha, that Saint Nick! What a jackass, am I right? And Susan looks totally nonplussed to see him, which THANK YOU because (a) that was a really jerk thing to do and (b) she knows she's going to get screwed, presents-wise.

Father Christmas starts the kids' presents with Lucy, the youngest, which is only fitting really. He hands her the knife saying "I hope you don't have to use this" and makes a sad face to break your heart. When Lucy says she thinks she could be brave enough, his face gets even sadder and he says "I'm sure you could. But battles are... ugly affairs." Oh, Americans. It's like you get that telling girls that they shouldn't fight in war is sexist and controversial, but you can't get that completely changing a brave character in order to be The Great Doubter of Temptressness is maybe side-stepping a pothole to fall off a cliff.

Nick gives Susan her bow and tells her it doesn't easily miss. She quirks her face at him and asks what happened to the whole "battles are ugly affairs" thing. He laughs and says that while "you don't seem to have a problem making yourself heard" here's a horn to blow on. OH SNAP. Santa called Susan out for her snotty behavior that is totally out-of-character and not-in-the-book. You screenwriters really are edgy with a capital EDGE.

MORE ACTION! MORE EXCITEMENT! MORE AMERICANISM! The kids get to a GIANT MELTING WATERFALL and Peter and the Beavers announce their crackerjack plan of having everyone leap over giant slick melty ice to get to the other side. And this makes a great deal of sense, given that they've been walking almost all night, and numb and tired and sore, have on indoor house shoes with minimal tread, have never done anything like this before, and are children. Ten points to Gryffindor!

Susan asks everyone to wait a minute before they go tearing across ice. Peter snaps at her, and Susan recoils mumbling "I'm just trying to be realistic." Peter cuts back: "No, you're just trying to be smart. As usual." And Lucy gives her a look of opprobrium that shames Susan back into line.

AND NOW THERE ARE WOLVES! Mid-ice-floe-jumping-scene Susan admonishes "If Mum knew what we were doing..." and Peter snaps back that "Mum's not here!" And then it's RAINING WOLVES which is like raining men but not anywhere near so fun. Peter pulls his sword. Maugrim tells him to put it away and makes an offer: the children can leave, all four of them, and the Witch will give them safe passage. This is a new detail, of course, and has been added so that we can have a TEMPTATION SCENE. Will Peter take the offer and leave the Narnians to their fate or will he stay to help?

And I said "Peter" there, not "the Pevensies" because this scene is so totally about Peter, Our Great Savior. Susan immediately flings herself into the role of the Great Temptress here, telling Peter to put down his sword and that "maybe we should listen to him!" while Maugrim chuckles in a way that is NOT OBVIOUSLY EVIL AT ALL. "Smart girl," he purrs (I know what purring is now! Is this right?) Maugrim tells Peter this isn't his war; Susan shouts "Look, just because some man in a red coat hands you a sword, it doesn't make you a hero! Just drop it!!" And then Peter, brave and kind and true, triumphs over Satan, I mean Susan, and uses his sword to break the ice and wash all the wolves away. WOOHOO!!

Oh, and Lucy nearly drowns. But that's not Peter's fault, and it's not like she was that important anyway.

Back in not-even-remotely-in-the-book-land, the Witch's wolves capture the nice Fox. The Witch threatens him and Edmund tells the truth about the Stone Table only in an attempt to save the Fox's life. At this point, it's amazing to me that Aslan doesn't at least try to argue the point on Edmund's traitorousness. It's be hard to be less traitory at this point.

Steering this back on track, we get to Aslan. Peter takes the blame for Edmund joining the Witch. Then they put the girls in dresses. I mean, they've always been in dresses, but these are the dressliest dresses ever dressed in. And the girls have a splash fight after Lucy calls Susan "boring" because girls are naturally catty. Whatever. The wolves show up and both girls are treed. Because this is AMERICAN!Aslan who cuts down trees with a single mighty breath and destroys evil-smelling daises with a single raise of his mighty left eyebrow, he growls and downs one of the wolves so that he can then call off the centaurs and force Peter to fight single-handedly. Gee, thanks, Aslan. And when it's all over, Susan gives Aslan a Look. Oh, Susan. I don't care if you are the new Narnian Satan, I love you.

Edmund is rescued by the power of Zany Antics and since we've decided that canon is for British people and pedants, Peter announces that he's going to send the other three home while he fights. Edmund objects that they can't leave the Narnians alone to suffer. Susan hops up to practice her bow and arrow skills. Oh, Susan, you still think you have a chance to USE them. And then Edmund practices riding and says "Whoa, horsie!" and the horse says, very dignified, "My name is Philip." HAHAHAHA. Does it trample established canon that Talking Horses do not deign to be ridden? Yes. Is it awesome anyway. YES.

The Witch shows up and demands Edmund. You know the drill by now. Funny enough, all I could think -- courtesy of National Geographic -- is that those leopards would be totally uncomfortable in a big crowd like that. No, really, it's in my notes and everything. As well as the statement "ugly = evil, of course" which I'm sure refers to the Witch's army and an amusing note that this is where I turned to Husband and said chirpily "this movie is PG!" and he shook his head in astonishment. IT'S A CHRISTIAN ALLEGORY AND THEREFORE GOOD FOR CHILDREN!

Nice touch: Lucy tries to use her healing cordial on Aslan. It's the wrong place for that particular Chekov Gun, but I like that they put it in. Shame she still forgets to use her knife. Also a nice touch: The girls use the dryad-flower-wind-people-things to communicate to the boys what happened to Aslan and why the girls won't be at the battle. Although possibly there was a better location than the boys' bedroom for a flower woman to materialize. C.S. LEWIS IS NOT HAPPY. 

And it pleases me to no end that Edmund is the Pevensie in charge of motivational speeches, because it means he gets to talk some more. But it is a little strange that Peter is in charge of the cavalry and Edmund is in charge of the infantry. Where is Philip?? I loved him. And Peter gets a good quip here when Random Centaur Guy says "Numbers do not win a battle" and Peter says "No, but I bet they help." Oh, Peter. Here is a motivational hug.

And because this is an AMERICAN FANTASY MOVIE, the Narnian army is made up of a sea of white centaurs and white fauns with a white king on a white unicorn fighting... black minotaurs and Asian-esque dwarfs. *sigh* I suppose I should just be grateful that the WHITE WITCH (who seems actually LESS white than Peter in this scene) has white tigers and polar bears as part of her whole winter theme.

If I told you one of these people was a White Witch of Winter, would you honestly pick the one with sunny accessories?

To distract me from the racism, I will note that white tigers are at an evolutionary disadvantage because they generally aren't born in wintery snowy areas and they stick out like a sore thumb when they're trying to hunt. They're apparently not all that rare, but just about every zoo has a pair because they bring in sexy donor money for the species that actually do need help. Or so my local zoo says. And when I looked all this up to verify that I wasn't misremembering, I found out that white tigers have an increased risk of scoliosis. OH MY GOD, you guys, my new animal is totally a white tiger.

Though now we're quite coincidentally back to the Witch's army being deformed. 

Anyway. Aslan resurrects and solemnly says that "if the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the Deep Magic differently" and this is a total dodge on the whole HAHA THERE WAS AN UNDERLYING CLAUSE WE NEVER SHOWED HER issue of silliness that has always surrounding this whole setup. Works for me. And they cut out the romp and we cut back to the EXCITING BATTLE...

...and all the girl centaurs are archers. There is no girl centaur on the frontline; they are all archers.

Oh. (It was either this or a 2000-word screed riddled with profanity.)

The statue scene! Aslan does Tumnus first, which is kind of a nice touch. And back to the battle where a flying gryphon is stoned, crashes, and shatters on contact with the ground. ENJOY EXPLAINING THAT ONE TO LITTLE SUZY, PARENTS! Edmund leaps into the fray, after being told that King Peter told him to flee, and snapping that "Peter's not king yet". These two will co-rule together in SO MUCH HARMONY. And then the fight with the witch has expensive special effects that are actually pretty silly looking. And then the Witch fights with TWO SWORDS because IT WORKED FOR STAR WARS and Peter does that Matrix-backwards-ducking thing that looks like it would be heck on the ol' spine while the two swords whip in slow-motion through the air where his neck used to be and THIS LOOKS SO SILLY. I mean, it looks American. And exciting!

Then Aslan arrives and eats the Witch. And you get to stare into her eyes and then Aslan's mouth and teeth come at the camera. And this is AMERICA! Where Justice is both visceral and messy!

And then I wrote this in my notes:

"Susan didn't get to shoot anyone. [swear word redacted]
Oh. She shot the dwarf."

And that's pretty much exactly what happens: someone on the development team remembered that they had that whole archery montage thing, so the dwarf pops up like a little wooden duck at a shooting range, menaces the children, and takes an arrow for his troubles. Never has a Chekov Gun gone off with such a whimper.

Then the kids are crowned in a palace that, according to my rigorous notes, is "not handicap accessible". Which is apparently my adorable shorthand for "at the top of a steep cliff and with a crap-load of stairs". You have to feel sorry for the wizened old ambassadors; maybe this is why the Narnian government is run entirely by small children. And then the children are given their Magnificent / Just / Gentle / Valiant titles now, as children, which is of course totally ridiculous. But! Not so ridiculous as the lion in the crowd who is still bearing a pencil mustache.

And if anyone must deliver that awful "not a tame lion" line, at least James Mcavoy can work it. But now I have to ask if it's just me or does he have sexual chemistry with everyone on earth (and most inanimate objects)? Because I don't think he was going for a sexual chemistry vibe with 8-year-old Lucy, and yet there it is. Heaven help us if he and Joseph Gordon Levitt ever star in the same movie together, as the universe would explode from awesomeness.

The ending is totally banal, except that Edmund stops his horse and asks with a very concerned tone "you alright, Philip?" and the horse pants and says "I'm not as young as I once was." Awwww. They became friends and are hunting together as comrades. So sweet! And then they kids tumble out onto the floor and Professor Kirke walks in and says "Oh! There you are! What are you all doing in the wardrobe?" and Peter says he wouldn't believe them and Kirke says "Try me!" and it's SO SWEET.

Final Thoughts

This movie is something like a third the length of the BBC adaptation and yet this deconstruction felt unweildly long. Part of it is all the changes, I think. I don't even know where to start.

I know I've made a lot of jokes about American remakes here, but a lot of that is meant to be humorous. I love my country and we can definitely bring a lot of money and polish to a film. This movie, and the war in particular, had an epicness that the BBC version simply couldn't easily bring to the table, and the special effects of the talking beavers and wolves and lions was wonderful. If I'd seen this movie as a child, I'd have probably been satisfied.

And yet... and yet.

It's one thing to take liberties with the plot to heighten tension, but it's important to step back and look at what new tapestry you've woven when you're done replacing all the threads. I totally understand wanting to heighten tension with the reasonable and realistic decisions to make regarding whether or not the children want to get involved in all this war business. And yet taking a character who was established in the book as brave-if-quiet and turning her into a very vocal proponent of the very-clearly-wrong-choice is problematic enough on its own, and especially when you take into account the established stereotypes of women in movies as too loud, too vocal, too smart-aleck and stupid (as when Peter derisively calls her "trying to be smart"), too cowardly, too fearful, too meek, too tempting to give up the right cause and join the wrong.

There's no reason this had to be Susan, let alone all Susan. Lucy could have expressed fear; Peter could have expressed doubt. All three of the children could have been both brave and frightened at different moments. They could have been strong when the others were weak, and weak when the others were strong. We could have seen how their personalities would twine and thrive on each other as co-rulers. We could have had nuance.

But filmmakers -- or, I should say, some filmmakers -- don't like nuance. One character is brave; another is cowardly. ALL THE TIME. And the brave one is the oldest, the strongest, the most male. And the cowardly one is the woman, who passive-aggressively snipes and guilts and tempts and undermines. And I am so freaking sick of this.

This adaptation of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" isn't a bad adaptation. But it's one that perpetuates modern American cinema issues with gender and race, and that makes me sad.

Recommends: Visiting New Mothers and Hospital Patients

I haven't been able to read or write much this week -- we're in the process of a lot of pre-surgery procedures that leave me horizontal for 24-hour chunks because of flurble-wurble-flobidty reasons that have to do with human spines basically being lazy.

But! I read this wonderful post by Kit Whitfield at Slactivist: How To Be A Good Friend to a New Mother. And while I've never been a new mother I have been and again will be a hospital patient, and I was struck by how perfect this advice is for visiting sick people in general: Be compassionate. Don't try to "look on the bright side" on their behalf. Don't minimize their experience or pull out the horror stories. Do listen and make courteous offers.

It's a great post and I recommend it wholly. :)

RECOMMENDS TIME! What have you been reading and/or writing?

Twilight: Characterization Through Buzz-Words

Twilight Recap: After a walk in the woods, Bella has decided that vampire-or-not, she's going to continue to crush on Edward.

Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare

I am going to make an executive decision today and that executive decision is this: I am going to power through the rest of this chapter like there is no tomorrow. I'm hoping we can finish it in one post. Two, tops.

Open Thread: Pets

Do you have any? Have any funny stories about them?

Ya'll have already heard about my Primary Cat and Auxiliary Backup Cat. My favorite story about PC and ABC would be that I had to stop buying and using candles because PC always took the candle flame as a challenging opponent. He would smack his paw straight down on the flame to extinguish it, but in doing so would end up with his paw in a well of hot melted wax. Then he would panic and fling hot wax everywhere, shaking his paw as hard as he could. Ruined an altar that way. And though he didn't like the hot wax, and this happened every time he batted at a candle, PC never learned.

ABC, on the other hand, "merely" held her tail stationary over the flame until her tail caught on fire. At which point I smothered her tail with a towel to put out the flame. While she stared blankly at me the whole time. *sigh*

OPEN THREAD BELOW!

Feminism: Veils and Sweat Pants

[Content Note: Oppressive Religions and Cultures]

A few weeks ago, I rode in the car with Husband while we went to pick up pizza. This, in itself, was not noteworthy. What was unusual is that I was wearing my pajama pants.

I rarely wear my pajama pants -- which are basic, no-frills sweat pants -- in public. I know a lot of other girls and women do, because I see them in the stores with pretty pajama patterns or sleek sports logos, but my mother never wore sweat pants as anything other than sleep- and lounge-wear and so somehow I've internalized that sweat pants are for Private Places Only.

Author Interview: Michael Hillier on "The Secret of the Cathars"

Ana: Today we have Michael Hillier introducing their book, The Secret of the Cathars. I haven't read this book myself, but Michael was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Michael, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Michael: This is the story of a young man's search for the secrets hidden by his ancestor in the South of France more than 750 years ago and the people he comes across during his search - both friends and enemies. It concludes with his astonishing discovery about himself.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Michael: Amazon classifies it as "Action and Adventure". For me it is mainly about mystery and discovery in many different ways.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Michael: Reading about the destruction of the Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade and the unanswered questions they left behind. Visits to the fantastic area South of Carcasonne in the French Pyrenees. I was originally put in touch with the mysteries of the area by the "Holy Blood and The Holy Grail" by Henry Lincoln and others.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Michael: Some readers have compared this to "The Da Vinci Code" but I consider the story more believable than that. (Except perhaps the ending.) I believe the story is an old fashioned adventure, perhaps in the tradition of Hammond Innes or Alastair Maclean.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Michael: A sequel to "The Secret of the Cathars" called "The Templar Legacy" which has the same characters will be available later in the year.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Michael: My website is www.mikehillier.com. My blog is blog.mikehillier.com. My books can be purchased in e-book formats from Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Apple, Sony, and Barnes & Noble.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Michael: In the near future I will be publishing "Riversmeet" which is Volume 1 of a post-war saga set in Devon, England centered around a grand old house. This is quite different to the Action/Adventure books above and the writing is somewhat more raunchy.

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Narnia: Lion-Witch-Wardrobe, BBC-Style

Narnia Recap: We'll be doing a couple of film adaptations before moving on to Prince Caspian.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, BBC Adaptation

A very great pet peeve of mine is when people complain that libraries -- bastions of free thought, higher education, and information readily disseminated to the masses regardless of wealth or privilege -- contain movies, as though the very idea is wasteful and expensive and entitled. I'm not going to convey my contempt for this complaint beyond a link to my post on ableism and hostility, but I mention that to mention this: my childhood library had the full BBC Chronicles of Narnia and it's been fascinating to go back and see just how much those movies colored my experience with the books. To the librarian who choose in my childhood to stock my library with this film adaptation: Thank you.

The BBC adaptation of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" was created in 1988, and like all adaptations it's an interesting mixture of source text and adaptation needs. There's the obvious stuff based on technological limitations: the Beavers are two adults in awkward beaver suits, Maugrim shape-shifts into a human whenever he needs to talk or interact with the other characters, and Aslan looks remarkably realistic for the time but is heavily limited in terms of movement. And this last change is absolutely for the better, but we'll talk about that later. 

What strikes me about this adaptation -- particularly since I watched it after watching the American movie version, which we will discuss next week -- is how much the creators tried to adhere to the original text. Conversations are lifted almost verbatim from the books (though, amusingly, the subtitlers didn't realize that: when Edmund calls out "Pax!" to Lucy, the subtitlers perplexedly offer up "Hex!"), which makes it all the more interesting to look at the things they do change. How about I just throw down a numbered list, yeah?

  1. Edmund is less insufferable. 
  2. Susan is markedly more important.
  3. Aslan is more gentle, tender, and vulnerable.

This last one, I think, cannot be underestimated in terms of importance. But let's dig in the adaptation and see what I wrote down.

Episode 1

The scene opens in London, 1940, as the children are loaded onto the train. I like that Lucy, who is supposed to be plain-looking, actually is. Peter has an astonishingly babyish face, and almost looks younger than Edmund, but for his height. Even so, he's still shorter than Susan which seems pretty plausible considering their ages -- it looks like Peter is a late bloomer while Susan is already on the cusp of puberty.

And this marks the start of an interesting pattern: though Peter is oldest and the "high king", multiple reaction shots throughout the series will go Susan --> Peter --> Lucy, a pattern that gives Susan an air of authority within the group. I almost get the impression that someone on the script team felt a little sorry for poor Susan and decided to fix the source material a bit. I'll give you two guesses as to whether or not I approve of this, but you'll only need the one.

Moving on, Edmund is quickly established as "bratty" while Peter yells a lot and seems like a snot. He even yells at Edmund for not liking the Professor, which is amusing because I don't really like the Professor at this juncture either. Edmund disengages from the argument to smile and note excitedly that he likes how spooky the house is. Susan looks relieved, and starts doing the dishes unbidden. My notes point out that this is probably because she has lady bits.

Anyway. Lucy makes her way to the wardrobe and everything goes about to text. She actually asks "Are you a faun?" (the narrative just asserts in the description that he is, with no reference in conversation) and this made me happy because it underlined that young Lucy has a classical education. Yay, 1940s Britain. Once Lucy is in Mr. Tumnus' house, she tries to leave, but he bribes her with cake, and this overt bribery is interesting because it has shades of TURKISH DELIGHT written all over it. I can't tell if they meant it to seem that way or not, but it's coming through loud and clear to me.

Tumnus provides some Narnian backstory and almost starts to complain about the Witch before he realizes what he's doing and plays music instead. The musical interlude sends Lucy into a dream sequence where she sees Narnia as it once was, and it's a nice touch to convey it that way instead of through a conversational infodump. Then Lucy wakes up and Mr. Tumnus cries and they bustle her back through the wardrobe. I can't help but be distracted by how much Mr. Tumnus looks just like Satan. I can only imagine what my conservative Christian mother thought of this series when I was a kid.

@ photobucket.com

(I was going to give you a retro picture of Satan for comparison purposes, but then Google Image Search led me to this and now I can think of nothing else. When did Jesus become sexy?? His hair looks like he should be in a Pantene Pro-V commercial. Is this an American thing? I really want to know.)

Episode 2

Everyone reads their lines about Lucy and the wardrobe and Edmund suggesting that she's mentally ill. I love the addition that Lucy hits the wardrobe in frustration -- the gesture drives home that Narnia Rules are really dreadfully unfair. And then they all go off to play hide-and-seek later and Susan cheats by counting too fast. And it's such a small thing but I love it because it gives her all kinds of depth and flavor. I counted too fast when I was "it", too. Hide-and-Seek High Fivez, Susan!

Edmund follows Lucy into the wardrobe and comes out into the other side and the setting is so wonderfully different. Lucy's Narnia was night, yes, but it was covered in cozy lamp light and looked like something out of a Christmas card -- warm and inviting and pleasing. Edmund's Narnia is bright day, with blinding snow and gnarly trees and the whole thing seems immensely creepy. When the Witch drives up, Edmund looks genuinely terrified, and with good reason -- she's already frothing at the mouth screaming and gesticulating at him.

When she starts conjuring food and drink and Edmund starts stuffing his face, the whole effect is incredibly creepy. Edmund's color, posture, and movements change noticeably as he eats, and the actor does an incredible job of making him seem to metamorphosis into another person entirely. And there is a nice touch when the Witch swears him to secrecy because she adds: "If your sister has met one of those fauns, she may have heard nasty stories about me. Fauns will say anything, you know." This is a line that Edmund later says in the book, so when he issues it here in the adaptation, it seems natural and flows well: he's repeating what he's been told.

When Edmund and Lucy join up, Edmund is initially nice to Lucy, but Lucy blurts out that the Witch hasn't hurt Mr. Tumnus the faun for letting her go. Edmund looks uncomfortable, and when Lucy enthuses about telling the others, he worries aloud that the the older two children will be on the side of the fauns. Lucy blithely asks whose other side they could be on, as the fauns are "the only people we know here".

After Edmund lies and Peter yells and Lucy cries, we have the scene with the Professor. Notably, he lies through his teeth when the children ask if Narnia could be real; the Professor says, "That is more than I know." Haha, Professor, you are the worst! Then he issues his opinion that it is "perfectly obvious that [Lucy] is not mad", which is particularly funny since the children have been shown taking their dinners apart from the Professor and interacting with him not at all, so clearly he has a great pool of evidence to draw from. And then the children run off to hide from McCready in the wardrobe and Peter pushes Edmund and yells, "Never shut yourself in in a wardrobe, stupid."

Episode 3

The children zip over to Mr. Tumnus' house and survey the wreckage. One thing of note is that Susan is getting to say pretty much all her lines, despite the fact that they're clearly the most throw-away lines in the book -- stuff like "I don't know that I'm going to like this place after all." They left that in. And it doesn't feel like a bad adaptation decision, like they just couldn't bear to cut anything -- it really does feel like someone on the adaptation team was bound and determined that Susan was going to have a part in this story. And the actress delivers the lines with verve and determination and it's a thing of beauty, considering that of all the characters in the novel, she has by far the fewest lines.

Mr. Beaver shows up and name-drops Aslan and there's a neat little musical reaction shot with all the children looking like it's Christmas day, but with Edmund looking profoundly uncomfortable like he's the only one who realizes that means they'll have to hug Aunt Mildred. Then they all tromp off to the Beaver dam, where Mr. Beaver singles out Peter-and-only-Peter to come help him catch fish while Edmund looks stung, Mrs. Beaver singles out the girls to help with dinner while Edmund looks annoyed, and Susan and Lucy literally shove their coats on Edmund and proceed to ignore him. Haha, narrator, saying that Edmund only imagined he was getting the cold shoulder. BBC SAYS YOU ARE WRONG.

And then when Edmund earnestly asks if the Witch will turn Aslan into stone, Mr. Beaver laughs at him and tells him "what a simple thing to say!" which is in the book and which is at best calling Edmund ignorant and at worst an ableist insult. And it's a line that is delivered with such overt rudeness that I'm left wondering how I didn't notice it in the book (I thought it was something the BBC added until I checked) and then I have the exact same thing happen when Peter says-- after Edmund has left -- that "he is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast". That's in the book too, but it took having an actor deliver the line to really drive home what rotten people these are. At least Peter is a kid; the actor delivering Mr. Beaver's lines seems to understand that there's no excuse for him, so he just delivers the awfulness with gusto and we lurch through the scene as best we can.

Then Edmund gets to have an internal monologue with Ghost!Edmund or Conscience!Edmund or something. And it's probably just because Ghost!Edmund is translucent, but I can't help but notice that Edmund's face is flushed and red from the exercise and the residual effects of the Turkish Delight and Ghost!Edmund's face is pale as snow, and it's an interesting effect because the Turkish Delight really is supposed to have wrought a physical change, but now we're back to the unfortunate implication that White is Right. Someone really needs to reverse this trope; there's no reason why Turkish Delight can't make Edmund pale and sickly.

Anyway, Edmund tells Ghost!Edmund that the Witch isn't going to hurt his siblings and that she's been nothing but nice to him, or at least nicer than the others have been. And, amusingly, this is true. But Ghost!Edmund retorts: "Nice to you?! She's a witch!" *sigh* And then Ghost!Edmund notes that it'll be getting dark soon and Edmund retorts that he's "not afraid of the dark", only his voice is quivering and he clearly is and it hits you all over again that THIS IS A CHILD and it's all the sobs forever. And then Ghost!Edmund says that they don't like the look of the Witch's house and Edmund looks stricken and says "It's too late to turn back now" and it really is and the Beavers could have saved him because he's been slipping and sliding and lost for what seems like ages. (The American version, being American, jazzed this up a bit.)

Edmund mocks one of the statues, Ghost!Edmund calls him out on it, and they don't do the mustache scene.

Episode 4

Mrs. Beaver's silliness is played to an almost absurd degree here -- she's not just packing food essentials, she's packing tea and sugar. And she frets extensively over the sewing machine. And then just stands there, thinking if she's missed something. It's not a very good delaying tactic, it makes her look ridiculously ridiculous, but it's in the spirit of the book, so... yeah.

Edmund goes through all the wow, this was not a good idea at all bits in the Witch's home, and his inner voice yells at him for a bit. Nothing really new there.

Then Santa shows up to give the three children presents and darned if he doesn't look completely out of place in this movie. I mean, he's always seemed out of place to me in the book: Narnia has... Christmas? Because it has Christ and Mass and Saint Nick and... what? And he's there to... dispense... presents? Because... why? I mean, they don't even use them until they get to Aslan so... why not have Aslan give them? So I've never really been on board with the Father Christmas thing. But here, now, he looks monumentally awful -- the sleigh and the trappings look like they drove in from a completely different set and the tonal shift from "forced march at night, fearful about the Witch, oh, here's Father Christmas" is just whiplash inducing.

But it is nice to see Lucy sass-talk Santa on the whole "here's a knife, don't use it thing," and she is surprisingly assertive. None of this "I think I could be brave enough" hogwash -- it's "I'm sure I'd be brave enough". And Santa is a jerk about it because it's in the text but at least they excised the "battles are ugly when women fight" line. THANK YOU, BBC. And then Santa gives them breakfast, which just underscores how narratively useless all that "let me pack some food" stuff was.

Episode 5

Aslan!

Oh, how much do I love the BBC Aslan? SO MUCH. He looks like a lion, with none of that standing on two legs nonsense, and they've completely cut his having a crown and a retinue of symbolic symbols huddled around him. He looks like a shepherd more than a king, and this makes him more regal, not less. Because of the technological limitations, he moves slowly and gently and this makes him seem careful, wise, and considerate. And, best of all, his voice actor sounds like he's on Quaaludes -- he's incredibly relaxed. BBC has utterly excised all the fearful, growly, wild parts that Lewis wrote in.

I APPROVE OF THIS CHANGE.

Another interesting thing here is that there are black satyrs in attendance on Aslan -- by which I mean, black men costumed as satyrs. On the one hand, there's a possibility for unfortunate implications -- they're essentially servants, and while the "stand at attention there" job might be pretty prestigious in Narnia, it's not something a lot of kids will probably pick up. And there's no black women among the hoards of dryads and nymphs, which makes me sad because why does no one ever do dryads with skin the color of their trees? And, of course, as satyrs the men here are playing sexualized beasts. So... yeah.

On the other hand, I'm not sure the American version has any people of color, so... yeah. *sigh*

Anyway, Peter and Aslan go off to chew the scenery and when they are summoned back for the fight scene, Susan does not dangle from trees. Seriously, she called for Peter and then Peter comes and there's a fight. At no point is Susan menaced while the flying creatures hang back from helping her by the orders of Aslan; the whole thing is treated like a dual between Peter and Maugrim. And this is such a radical change from the book, in an adaptation that is remarkably true to the source material, and I just know it's because someone pointed out that the whole scene makes Aslan look awful

And then Aslan knights Peter and he doesn't do the ridiculous "hand [the sword] to me" scene in the book which would require a lion being able to stand and probably have opposable thumbs. No, he knights Peter by placing his chin on each shoulder, which looks for all the world like Aslan is giving Peter cat-kisses. And it is awesome. No, seriously, it looks totally right and tender and kingly and... lion-y. And I just am blown away by how much I'd rather worship this Aslan than the one in the book. And it's all because of a few key changes.

The flying creatures follow the surviving wolf back to the Witch, and a gryphon picks Edmund up in his talons. My first thought was that traveling like that would hurt, but someone thought of that because the gryphon immediately lowers Edmund gently onto a Pegasus and Edmund grins into the bright night sky and this is awesome too.

When the Witch shows up to demand Edmund back, Susan says "Aslan, can't you do something?" And Aslan says "Work against the Deep Magic?" And it's almost exactly like in the book but BECAUSE the flavor text about "something like a frown on his face" and "nobody ever made that suggestion to him again" is gone, it sounds so much better. He segues immediately into telling everyone he will talk to the Witch alone, and because we aren't told that he's upset at Susan's suggestion, it almost seems like they are linked -- like Susan suggested "can't you do something?" and Aslan said "you mean like working against the Deep Magic? I don't see how unless... IDEA!"

Did they do it this way on purpose? I don't know. But I love it. Basically, I love this book once all the narrator moralizing and editorializing telling me this is how you are supposed to interpret this stuff is yanked out. Huh.

And also: Edmund gets lines. More than one. He keeps talking, even after the book cuts him off for good.

Episode 6

Aslan dies and is revived and because this is from Britain in the 1980s and not America in the 2000s, the scene is over and done relatively quickly with a minimum of torture. And then Lucy, who is awesome, flat out rebukes Aslan saying that they cried all night long but he knew it would be alright. NEVER CHANGE, LUCY. And Aslan looks as uncomfortable as an animatronic lion with no facial gestures can look and admits that he thought it might work this way but that no one has ever actually done it before, so he wasn't sure.

And this addition? Makes Aslan vulnerable in a way that Book!Aslan simply is not. And I love it.

They zip over to the Witch's house and Aslan brings everyone back from stone. The silliness with the Giant and the Handkerchief and the Silly Lion is completely cut because someone at the BBC realized that it totally guts all tension and just drags out needlessly. And then Aslan shows up at the battle and instead of pouncing on the White Witch and apparently tearing her throat out (which is how I interpret the book), he instead lets out a roar and an earthquake occurs and she falls to her death.

Which is probably another technological limitation, but it's amazing how a well-placed technological limitation can improve a character because I like "makes earthquakes that accidentally kill people" Aslan more than "leaps on people and savages them, even though doing that earlier would have been a good deal more convenient" Aslan. Just saying.

Edmund gets knighted too, with the Aslan kisses, but I'm annoyed that the girls aren't given any recognition. Whatever. Then the kids grow up and HERE IS WHY I THOUGHT THEY WERE IN THEIR THIRTIES AT THE END because boy-howdy but those full beards make the men look old to me. How old is King Edmund there?

And they completely cut that the Pevensies are hunting one of their own subjects (the White Stag), and they cut the premonition that they all ignore anyway, and they cut Peter being proud of the fact that he never changes his mind on things no matter what, and what I am saying is that BBC KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING. Or at least they did in the 1980s. And they all walk out of the wardrobe, and Peter feels for his missing beard, and I cried.

The end.

Or Is It?

Okay, okay, I have a few more rambles.

I loved these books when I was a kid. I don't have a lot of childhood memories, but one I do have very clearly is sitting on my pink bedspread on a rainy day eating Ritz Bits cheese sandwich crackers and re-reading these books for the up-teenth time. My boxed set was worn and yellow with age when I finally let it go in favor of the e-Book versions.

I didn't notice problems with the series, at least not that I can remember, until I was much older. The last three books weighed heavily on me and I recall avoiding them when I re-read the series. I'd read only the first four, which -- probably not coincidentally -- were the only four that the BBC ever did. And it's interesting to me to see how the BBC version clearly overlaid itself in my head over the existing text, such that certain bits were edited and corrected.

Aslan was gentle and kind and wise and never, ever frightening or scary; Susan was tall and bright and clever and was the first person in every reaction shot because her opinion mattered. When the book conflicted -- when the children were afraid of Aslan or when Susan spoke fewer words than anyone else -- my brain discarded these things as irrelevant or incorrect.

And... I don't know how I feel about that.

When I left "The Hunger Games" this weekend, I praised the movie for being "the movie of the book" as opposed to the usual American adaptation treatment. I said to Husband: "They've finally understood that fans don't want special twists endings or new scenes. They just want the book, in movie format."

The BBC Narnia adaptation is one of the closest-to-the-source adaptations I've seen in my lifetime. Conversations are lifted almost verbatim, even little things like the marmalade roll and the huge lump of butter at the Beaver dinner table are faithfully included.

And yet, with a few tiny, key changes... it's almost a different story. The sexism directed frequently and often at Susan is almost completely excised. Edmund, the great betrayer, is adamantly portrayed as a child, not responsible for any supposed treachery and certainly not deserving of death. Aslan, who is at times in the book capricious, frightening, and frownful, is here only gentle and kind and wise and... measured. Careful. Thoughtful. He doesn't defend the Deep Magic, he considers it. The changes are amazing subtle and yet the result is fantastically different.

This is what I needed as a child. This is the story I needed to hear and know. A story where children are children -- not adults deserving death and darkness. A story where god is approachable and warm and understanding -- not an unknowable being who could turn and destroy you with one paw if you asked the wrong question.

It's not the same story, and I don't think anyone on the adaptation committee was ignorant of that. But it's the story I needed, and I'm glad it existed at my library when I was ready to hear it. So there's that.

Self-Promotion: April Newsletter

Note: If you're subscribed to the newsletter, you already received this on 04/01/2012.

March Moving,
April Achievements

Where did March go? I swear it was just here.

Husband and I have finally moved into our new house, which we very dearly love, and we may someday have phone service once again, if we're really good and the phone fairies decide we are worthy of their gifts. But April is bringing some unexpected twists: I've received news that my work assignment is being changed such that I'll no longer have internet access, telecommunting privileges, or having my desk be within a few hundred feet of my car. Husband and I are still trying to work out how this is going to affect our lives, and I'm also in the process of scheduling a surgery. So that should be fun.

But that is not nearly so interesting as blog news!

A "Deconstruction Index" page has been created for quick access to the various book deconstructions in chronological order. There is also a rudimentary FAQ attached to each deconstruction list; suggestions are welcome. As some of you have informed me that you have unreliable internet access, I will be packaging deconstructions as they end in a downloadable format for offline reading. Look for a Claymore version to go up on the index page by the end of April, now that the series is winding down.

In other deconstruction news, Narnia will start back up soon with two different "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" film adaptations and then "Prince Caspian". Which I very barely remember from childhood and have already marked up two chapters full of underlines and exclamation points. Fun!

My novel "Pulchritude" continues to be well-received by so many of you, and several of you were kind enough to leave wonderful reviews online. Thank you; I can't tell you how much that means to me. Husband's eardrums ring with the sound of my happy squealing, I'm sure. For those of you interested in a print version, I hope to have one on Amazon by the end of April as I'm almost finished with the proofs. Once I order a copy for my own inspection and can verify that it looks good, I'll post a link so that everyone can join in the fun.

In other novel news, we're still working on an audio book version, but that's not quite half-done yet and I think it will still be a few more months until the audio book is ready for download. Having said that, here's a teaser. (How excited am I about this? SO EXCITED.)

Thank you all again for reading, for lurking, for commenting, and for emailing as you do. You are the best folks in the world, and I am so thrilled to be blogging with you.

Yours,
Ana Mardoll

Recommends: Hapax's Triad

So I totally keep meaning to write a deconstruction on pagan archetypes and how they affect people like me who don't/can't/won't have children, but while I am trying to arrange the teaspoons in a pleasing and coherent shape, I am delighted to see that Hapax has suggested an incredible alternative: Warrior, Healer, and Queen.

This came at a time when I really needed it, and have been struggling to try to fit in my own self-identity, so THANK YOU VERY MUCH. *internet crush*

Recommends time! What have you been reading, writing, watching, thinking about lately?

Metapost: Ana's Activity Report

Content Note: Ana's Personal Health Issues 

I posted last week that I was being moved to a new work area that had limited internet access and no telecommuting capabilities. A very great concern of mine was that I would have a physical breakdown with my back problems.

There is good news and there is less good news.

Twilight: Fevered Dreams

Twilight Recap: Bella has gone for a walk after an intense round of googling.

Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare

   I forced myself to focus on the two most vital questions I had to answer, but I did so unwillingly.

My biggest gripe with Chapter 7 so far is that it is almost entirely without action. Bella had a dream about vampires, then she googled vampires, now she is sitting on a tree outside thinking about vampires. GRIPPING ACTION!

Metapost: Claymore Deconstruction

Last Tuesday (4/3) was the final Claymore deconstruction post. The Deconstructions page has been updated with the final links, and with a downloadable "offline" version of the blog posts, for those of you who have very spotty internet connections and have asked for an eReader-friendly version to side-load.

Metapost: In Which There Are Many Polls

Ramblites, I have two problems that are entwining into a nice opportunity.

Problem One is that I'm running out of random things to rant about on Thursdays. I know, I know: it hardly seems possible. But I've spent a whole year's worth of Thursdays ranting about feminism and ableism and racism and my list of things I need to educate the world on is getting steadily smaller.

Problem Two is that I'm increasingly concerned that if you're not showing up for Narnia or Twilight, you won't show up at all. You non-Narnians, non-Twilighters know what I mean: some weeks I just don't enthrall you. I know that.

The Opportunity is that I've long wanted to do more book deconstructions but I simply do not have the time. I mean, a Wednesday deconstruction series or a Monday deconstruction series on top of Narnia Tuesdays and Twilight Saturdays is not feasible. But you know what is feasible? Pop-up deconstruction posts on Thursday to supplement Random Thursday.

Yay! The up-side here is: Ana has fresh content to post, we have non-Twilight, non-Narnia, non-Ism 101 posts to chat about, and every Thursday is like a surprise party. The down-side is that we may end up going 4-8 weeks between posts on a specific book. I'll maintain the series threads in the Deconstruction page and be proactively vigorous with re-capping and I think that will work.

But I wanted to poll you guys on some ideas and gauge interest on some upcoming projects. Please vote as close to your preference as the poll options allow -- the top option is always SUPER INTERESTED and the bottom option is always TOTALLY NOT and you don't need to "weight" the options across all the polls -- you can vote interested in everything if you want, or in nothing, or in a mix. Thanks!

Deconstruction of Disney movies?
 
 
 
 
 


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Deconstruction of The Hunger Games?


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Read-a-Long of Harry Potter?


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Read-a-Long of Song of Ice and Fire?


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Deconstruction of A Wrinkle in Time?


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Deconstruction of Frank Peretti (title to be determined later)?


  
pollcode.com free polls 

Frolic in the comments!

Open Thread: Unfortunate Book Titles

Content Note: Reference to Underage Sex

I realize that this is part of an ongoing series called "Made to Crave" with the subtext being God, and I realize that this installment is directed at the lucrative female YA demographic, but this title that landed in my inbox today struck me as terribly unfortunate.


What other book titles, movie titles, billboard advertisements, slogans, etc. have struck you as amusing or odd or ill-turned?

OPEN THREAD BELOW!

Feminism: An Open Letter to Rick Perry

[Content Note: Transvaginal Ultrasound, Graphic Description of Rape, Medical Abuse, IVF, Swearing]

When I was sixteen, I had cysts on my ovaries.

We didn't know what they were when it happened, of course. Mom, bless her heart, was always one of those women who never seemed to have any trouble with her lady bits -- she didn't even get cramps during her periods. And for awhile, it seemed like maybe I would take after her, since I didn't really get cramps much either. But when I was sixteen, a sharp stabbing pain in my abdomen left me gasping for breath in the middle of a hot summer church revival meeting, and the next thing I remember was my father speeding to the hospital, with me writhing in pain on the back seat.

Author Interview: Dana Haffar on "Leah"

Ana: Today we have Dana introducing their book, Leah. I haven't read this book myself, but Dana was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Dana, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Dana: Thank you, Ana, for the opportunity to talk about "Leah". The novel is about visual artist Mar who arrives on the remote island of Puerto Franco with her daughter in the hope of working on her craft away from her demanding husband. A recent surgery on her eye has spurred her into addressing her own needs and taking the time to heal old wounds. Instead, she finds herself in a community haunted by the mysterious drowning of eleven-year-old Leah thirty years ago.

Through visitations from Leah's spirit, Mar has no choice but to set aside her desire for solitude to act on the girl's cry for help. In doing so, she falls in love with Sebastian, Leah's only surviving brother. The novel can best be described as contemporary women's fiction with a mystical thread, a blend of romance and suspense.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Dana I would say "The heart knows what the eyes cannot see." Sometimes, in order to achieve clarity of vision, we have to rise above our fears and trust our instincts. Each of the main characters in the novel deals in his or her own way with a fear of some kind, be it loss, commitment, betrayal, rejection or abandonment. Mar's dread of losing partial vision and her determination to protect herself and her loved ones from harm cloud her judgement with devastating effect on her relationships with others. One of the motifs of the novel is metaphorical vs. physical blindness.

At the very root of those fears is love. The novel explores the extraordinary and cardinal bond between mother and child, as it does other aspects of love: compassion, jealousy, possessiveness and so on.

My hope is that the reader will be transported into the worlds of the characters. I personally love the feeling of being cocooned when reading a novel that captivates me, and, as a writer, I would wish that my novels have the same effect on my readers.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Dana: The idea for the novel came to me in the form of a mental picture I couldn't put out of my mind. It was of a little boy in a suit standing by a grave. He became Sebastian in the novel. From the feelings that the vision of this little boy stirred in me came a series of whys and what ifs. So as not to lose his story, I constructed the novel from a dual point of view, his and Mar's.

The setting of Puerto Franco -- fictitious by the way -- is an amalgam of parochial places I've known which were distinguished by the mindset and dynamics of a small community. It had to be somewhere remote and caught in a time warp to evoke an atmosphere of mystery and eeriness.

As for inspiration, I think it has probably been building up subconsciously over the years. That would take me back, (let's say quite a few decades) to the time I read the classics. Of the many, many contemporary writers, I will mention Isabel Allende, Aminatta Forna, Carlos Ruiz Zafá½¹n, Anita Shreve, Siri Hustvedt, Kate Morton . .. an endless list of talented authors.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Dana: Noelle Harrison's "Beatrice" or Anita Shreve's "Seaglass". That's the view of some who have read "Leah".

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Dana: "Leah" is my second novel. My first, "Beirut in Shades of Grey", was published in 2007. Though both are women's fiction, they are very different. "Beirut in Shades of Grey" is a love story set against the backdrop of the civil war in Lebanon. Rasha, a victim of the Lebanese civil war, and Luke Elliott, a British photojournalist, begin a clandestine romance while on vacation in Paris. However, the tranquillity of their previous encounters quickly dissipates when Luke's unannounced arrival on Rasha's doorstep in Beirut incites a wrangle over cultural differences and polarized attitudes towards war.

I am actually working on another novel in the same genre. I also have an idea for another book. I work on countless drafts so I don't have a publication date as of yet.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Dana: "Leah" is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, B&N for $1.99.

I'd love to hear from the readers. I don't have a website for now but I'm on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Google+ and AuthorsDen where I will be posting any new releases.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Dana: Excerpts can be read on all sites. Here are the Amazon and Smashwords links.

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.