September 14th, 2008

Whale fluke

Never Grow Up, Never Give In

This is about my friend copperwise. This is about my friend s00j. This is about talent, strength and beauty inspiring more talent, strength and beauty, and the result being something delightful. (I'd say "something wonderful," but that has Arthur C. Clarke/2010 connotations to it and I'm not talking about Jupiter igniting to become a star. This is a more down-to-earth wonderful.)

A few years ago, 'Wise met s00j, given name S.J. "Sooj" Tucker, and was immediately impressed. I met Sooj later and was also impressed: with her insight, with her musical talent, with her cunning sense of humor, and with her deep, powerful voice that seems far larger than her petite frame, almost like it's coming from an inner TARDIS housing musical talent. Sooj travels the country, performing house concerts, in bookstores and in benefits (picking up fans like author Laurell K. Hamilton in the process), and is inspired by the people around her. 'Wise has already inspired at least one Sooj song. I'm proud to call Sooj a friend; I'm happily impressed with the friendship bond 'Wise and Sooj have.

copperwise finally decided to commemorate their strong friendship in a strong way: she just got a Sooj-inspired tattoo. This is 'Wise's first tattoo ever. She waited for the right one.

Sooj has been getting increased attention for her work "The Wendy Trilogy," three songs (on her album Sirens) about Wendy of Peter Pan following through on her idea of becoming a pirate herself. The song cycle ends with Wendy captaining a ship of Lost Girls. The idea took off among Sooj's fans and inspired -- there's that word again -- the Lost Girls Pirate Academy. The LGPA has a slogan: Never Grow Up, Never Give In. Those words, and a design, are now emblazoned on 'Wise's arm.

The idea -- the Lost Girls making their deserved impact on the world -- is a bold, powerful one. It fits the sort of bold, kick-ass-and-take-names women I'm proud to know. And the idea is strong enough to spread farther in the world and further in our minds, being a source of inspiration. And being a sign of friendship and love.

Please, read Copperwise's story about what the tattoo, the music, and Sooj all mean to her. I hope you are impressed as well. Heck, I hope you are inspired.
Good Omens

Squeakers

LOT of close football games this weekend. I hadn't planned on watching college games yesterday, but I wound up watching the last five minutes of regulation for Oregon versus Purdue...a game that went to double overtime before Oregon finally won it. (Yes!) Then today I watched the two NFL teams I most care about right now, Seattle and San Diego, lose games that at least stayed close most of the time. (And I saw the highlights of another team I'm caring about, New Orleans; they kept in the fight with Washington but finally lost it.)

Honestly, right now I think I'm footballed out. Not that interested in the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns matchup that's starting. Okay, there's always next weekend. (I might watch Eagles at Cowboys tomorrow.) And the way Oakland fought for its win today impressed me, and I say that as someone who's never been a Raiders fan. They were scrappy; they won it, they didn't simply wait for the Chiefs to lose.

In other NON-FOOTBALL* viewing news, this weekend I first watched, then read the script for, then listened to the commentary for, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush." Yep. Its reputation as a great episode is well-earned: dramatic, a lot funnier than I expected, and such a good example of storytelling and characterization that I wouldn't be surprised if it's been taught in screenwriting classes. (For those who haven't seen it, more than half of the episode has no dialogue, because of demons who steal the voices of everyone in the town.)
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* Put in CAPS to grab the attention of my not-football-fan readers...
Good Omens

A bedtime story

octoberland, you'll like this book:

Today I finished reading The Man Who Heard Voices; Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale. Philadelphia-based writer Michael Bamberger, after meeting Shyamalan in 2004, got the chance to follow the filmmaker through the entire process of making 2006's Lady in the Water. During those two years, Shyamalan ended his long working relationship with Disney, and often felt at-sea trying to get the film set up at another studio. (He'd come up with the hardest-to-sell film idea of his career so far. A fairy tale? A PG-rated non-thriller? Where it all takes place in one apartment building? With the fairy tale using terms like "tartutic," "scrunt" and the already-used-by-Animaniacs "narf"? Where two of the most important supporting characters are a six-foot-tall Korean girl and a writer played by Shyamalan himself?) The book covers the sale to Warner Brothers, the casting and other preproduction ups and downs, the filming, the long time spent editing, and the contentious test screening process where even the people closest to Shyamalan had to admit Sorry; we don't get it.

Bamberger, definitely on the fan-and-friend-of-Shyamalan side (even when he admits he didn't understand the rough cut, either), portrays both the filmmaker's crazy confidence in defending his ideas -- the PG rating was because he'd first hoped it could be released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, like Disney's fairy tale animated films, instead of Hollywood or Touchstone Pictures; he'd used "narf" because "angel" was too loaded a term for Bryce Dallas Howard's angelic character -- and his frequent panic as he tried to make the story work, from when he was writing the earliest drafts to his final, surprising decisions while editing. (I want to know more about the very early Ain't It Cool News review of the film; that story takes a surprising turn.) What works best about the book is how Bamberger conveys the craziness and risk of the film:
...[The Village] was not, to them, a home run. It was not Signs. Night understood that whatever he did after The Village could not be in a minor key. On his good days, he knew that the script he was writing would be nothing like minor, if he could get it to work. If, if, if. If it came together, it would be like Dylan and Clapton and Springsteen and Eminem and Kanye West and Miles Davis and Bonnie Raitt and Joan Armatrading and Jerry Garcia and every musician you've ever loved joining George Harrison and belting out the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" at the same time. But how often in your life -- your life, my life, Night's life, anybody's life -- do you hear that chord?
Shyamalan comes off as maybe the most complex and likeable I've seen him. He fits that mold I've seen in chef Anthony Bourdain and writer-producer-director Joss Whedon: well-developed ego, definite talents with which he'd earned that ego, encyclopedic knowledge of his chosen field, and frequent dark thoughts that all of that would not be enough to help him create a worthwhile piece of work. Shyamalan also turns out to be a sports fan (which I didn't know), finding useful metaphors in sports and blowing off steam with involved games of basketball.

I haven't seen Lady in the Water. I know the massively mixed reaction it got. I'm still rooting for Shyamalan, as much as he can frustrate me -- Signs didn't work for me, Unbreakable needed a lonnnnnng time to grow on me, and as my friend octoberland said, "I'll just pretend The Happening didn't happen"* -- because he's taken risks, and has kept taking risks even after many viewers have gone "Huh?" at his most recent works. I've seen Wide Awake, his second film, and while it doesn't work en toto it shows his blooming ability with child actors and long takes. I could see the filmmaker he became, even if I had to look past Rosie O'Donnell as a baseball-loving nun. Makes me want to see Lady, to remind myself of the passion that should be there for even a film that ultimately doesn't work.

Whatever you're trying to figure out about your career, Mr. Shyamalan, I hope you do figure it out.**
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* This means I'm in the supporter camp for The Sixth Sense, of course, and, less obviously, The Village. I went into that film knowing much of the last quarter of the movie, the part that maddened a lot of people, and focused on the film's mood, the (I think) most successful part. And I've come around on Unbreakable after my initial, confused reaction.

**I still think Shyamalan would be well-served by directing a film by another writer; I think of the strong results Terry Gilliam had when he directed Richard LaGravenese's The Fisher King and David and Janet Peoples's Twelve Monkeys.