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(no subject) [Apr. 12th, 2014|12:00 pm]
I've been wanting to say this somewhere, but I'm afraid I'll come off as a prude, and I'm already prudish and snobbish enough, so it goes here, where anything goes.

So there's a certain word (the f word) which exists in the English lexicon solely for its shock value. It has an uncanny ability to jump off the page or screen and wallop the reader in the face, and I invariably do a mental recoil when I see it. I under use it (the only times I've ever willingly written or typed it have been within quotations, and even then I sometimes strike out the vowel), and the rest of the world seems to over use it a tad. But tumblr, tumblr uses it eight times per sentence. I suppose they're all desensitised to the shock value, that they just read along and see it only as an intensifier and don't feel slapped about, but me, I'm old-fashioned and have invested too much of my time contemplating sound-sense theories and picking apart nuances of meaning and arguing against the existence of perfect synonyms.
So I got a text replacing firefox plugin, and set it to replace (on only tumblr) the offending word with "frell", which is a humorous casual intensifier, and actually means what the tumblr kids are using The F Word to mean, and now I can scroll through my tumblr dash grinning at the Farscape reference instead of having to doge blows, and it's great.
My only concern is that if someone were to actually use "frell", I'd miss the joke.
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(no subject) [Apr. 10th, 2014|06:56 pm]
So I'm watching this BBC Musketeers show, and it's pretty fun. It’s an adventure romp with lots of exciting sword fights, and just enough political intrigue to give us an excuse for the exciting sword fight, ridiculously anachronistic costumes that look good during exciting sword fights.

The men’s outfits are hackish modernisations of the sort of things we see in Rembrandt paintings, and they’re ok I suppose, but the lady’s getups are positively outlandish. Objectively, they’re nice to look at, but they don’t even vaguely match up to the historical period they’re supposed to represent. They look more like Victorian underwear than anything.

As for Dumas’ novel, it doesn’t wildly disregard it or tear it to shreds, and thank goodness it doesn’t do one of those horrible story-behind-the-story things. It’s definitely not a faithful adaptation by any means, there’s no attempt to put the novel on the screen, but there are nods to the source material around every corner. It strikes a nice balance between a new story and familiar subject matter.

I keep getting Aramis and Porthos mixed up, because the actor who plays Aramis looks a heck of a lot like the Porthos I imagined when I read the book.

As for Athos, the Athos from the book is everything I like in a cynical bastard, and most of that has transferred to the screen rather neatly.
They don't seem to be touching on any of the appearances stuff that Athos is so keen on in the book, though. There's none of the refusing to haggle prices even though he's dirt broke and whatnot, but you can only ask for so much from a tv show that's mostly about exciting swordfights.
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(no subject) [Mar. 17th, 2014|10:39 pm]
So this is making the rounds, and it makes a number of good points, but it also pulls the whole Ophelia-was-fridged thing again. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that people use Shakespeare characters as examples of Things without having actually read or watched the plays.

Ophelia is not an example of a character who gets fridged.
Ophelia’s death is not to give Hamlet and Laertes something to angst about (though angst they do). Ophelia’s existence and madness and death supports Hamlet’s story, yes, but no more so than Polonius’ death. Ophelia is important as a component of Hamlet’s story and of Laertes’ story, but she is also important to Gertrude’s story and important in and of herself, and Gertrude and Laertes and Hamlet are important to Ophelia’s story. Hamlet is the main character and lens through whom we view the events of the play, and so everything is presented in the context of what it means for Hamlet; this is true of every event in the play, and doesn’t take a gender bias. However, when Ophelia dies, Hamlet is nowhere to be seen. Gertrude (who is a fully realised character and far more intelligent than some productions might have you believe) reports her death to Laertes.

I could complain that there isn’t nearly enough of Ophelia in the play, but I cannot complain that her only purpose is to die for Hamlet. She dies, and her death affects the other characters, but she dies for herself and not for them.

It’s also not fair to single out Ophelia’s death when almost every significant character, male or female, ends up dead. Hamlet’s father dies before the events of the play (we see his ghost), Polonius is stabbed in a fit of mistaken identity, Ophelia goes mad and drowns, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern fall victim to a forged letter, and then Claudius and Laertes plot to kill Hamlet but it backfires and kills Hamlet, Claudius, Laertes, and Gertrude (these last four can be staged with varying degrees of suicide, revenge, and accident). If anyone in Hamlet was fridged, it was Hamlet’s father, who is poisoned before the play even begins. Old King Hamlet’s death is what sets the story in motion, it puts Claudius on the throne and in Gertrude’s bed and it gives Hamlet reason to be in mourning. But Hamlet Sr. is never fully characterised, never given reasons or motives or a force of his own. Hamlet Sr., like the steriotypical fridged woman and unlike Ophelia, exists only as a plot device and not as a person in the play.

I don’t mean to say that Ophelia is an ideal representation of women in fiction or anything extravagant like that. Shakespeare is not infallible. Ophelia is an example of a tragic character who doesn’t survive the story, but not all women who die are fridged, and Ophelia is not an example of a fridged woman.

And as for Ophelia’s death being eroticised, well, the eroticisation of death is something entirely different (it intersects with fridgification [and any other instance of death in fiction], of course, but the one is not tantamount to the other). And when we’re talking Shakespeare characters, everyone dies and it’s always romanticised.
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(no subject) [Mar. 12th, 2014|04:38 pm]
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I don't really believe in the concept of "formative years". When I was young, I took stuff from the world around me and I made things out of it. If I'd had different surroundings and circumstances, I'd have taken different stuff and made things out of it, but no matter the raw stuff, it was me doing the making, and I'd have made more or less the same things.
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(no subject) [Mar. 12th, 2014|10:00 am]
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I’m rewatching the first season of Hannibal and there is so much foreshadowing going on.
The story is about ten times as complex as I understood it to be the first time around, and I saw a lot of complexity at the first.

Usually I rewatch earlier seasons of a show to refresh my memory or because I have some particular favourite episodes or scenes. Hannibal stands up against repeated watching the same was a good book is as good the eighth time as the first.

This is good TV done right.
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(no subject) [Mar. 2nd, 2014|01:21 pm]
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So there’s this post I’ve seen floating around the internet that basically says “Don’t write strong female characters. Write female characters who weep, who are frightened, who have noodle arms; write believable and realistic female characters and don’t worry about their strength, because strength of sinew and will are not the only positive qualities a person can have. Don’t let your character’s worth be defined by her strength”. (ok, it doesn’t actually say “strength of sinew and will”, but let me paraphrase).

I am here to agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, but I want to say something about strength and what that word means when applied to a fictional character.
When we speak of a person being strong, we immediately think of the sort of someone who bench-presses pianos or who has a great deal of morale courage. But what makes a strong fictional character is not her own sinew or will, but a matter of the author’s style, the form of the narrative, the way things are portrayed.

A gullible fictional character who can’t lift a sword and who hides shivering and sobbing under the nearest table at the first sign of danger can be a very strong character indeed if she is handled correctly. A strong character is one who is tightly written, who we believe in as a real person, who focuses the narrative. A strong narrator (or other point of view character) is one who is grounds us in the midst of everything that happens in the story. A strong secondary character is one who brings important plot elements into the story.

Othello is a strong character. Othello is easily manipulated into committing atrocities, and so we might think of him as weak-willed. But as a fictional character, Othello is very strong. He is the center of the play. The play’s focus on Othello is what keeps the story from meandering off into chaos.

A strong fictional character is not a character who can throw a car off a cliff. Not a character who can withstand loss and come out emotionally unscathed. Not a character who has her mind made up.

A strong fictional character is a character who carries the story with her. Any good character-driven story will necessarily follows a strong character (or several) no matter how physically, morally, or mentally weak those characters are.

When I speak of a fictional character being strong, strength is an attribute of the writing, not of the fictional person.
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(no subject) [Feb. 28th, 2014|02:07 pm]
Today's word (or, more accurately, this month's word; I've been strangely single-topic these last few weeks) is decorum. First off, phonetically, decorum is one of those delicious little Latinate words that have a good deal of sweetness, but aren't quite cloying or sticky. It's light and pleasant and positively delicious and almost healthful.
Secondly, the etymology. Decorum doesn't have too much by way of etymology. It's a noun form of decorous, from Latin via French. It's always meant seemly and elegant and proper and beautiful.

So the word has a solid etymology and a fair countenance. There's more than that to it being my favourite word today, though. I have a very strong sense of decorum, and so it's a very handy word to have at my elbow. Decorum is the tidy little walls you put up in your mind around things that you know better than to say or do. Decorum is what keeps us civil, and it stands to reason that it'd be such a very civilised word itself.
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(no subject) [Feb. 23rd, 2014|11:40 pm]
It's that day again. February 23rd, the anniversary of John Keats' death.
It's not a holiday, it's a rotten horrible day of beautiful melancholy.
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(no subject) [Feb. 12th, 2014|06:47 pm]
I had a questionable mole removed the other day and now I've got stitches. Despite all the walls I've walked in to and how many trees I fell out of when I was a kid, this is the first time I have ever had stitches.
Truth is, stitches are super weird and equally as cool.
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(no subject) [Feb. 8th, 2014|08:03 pm]
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So I just got back from the Met Live in HD broadcast of Rusalka. I was only vaguely familiar with the plot (basically, I knew Rusalka as "the Opera that Song to the Moon is from"). It had Renée Fleming as the the titular water sprite, Piotr Beczała (who sang a very good Lenski earlier this year) as the fickle little Prince, and Dolora Zajick as plot facilitating witch.
The music (typical of both Dvořák and the era) was straightforward and beautiful without being dull. The story was sweet and sad and had plenty of plot to it while still being easy to follow. The set design was cluttered and gorgeous and very real, and the last act looked like a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
The end was positively heartbreaking. Poor stupid little tenor; I'm not sure I trust him with concepts like eternity and death when he can't even stick with one girl for more than a week. And poor Rusalka getting herself involved with a tenor. But hey, it's an opera, of course she's going to fall for the tenor, of course the tenor is going to be an idiot and of course they're all going to die. And the inevitability of all that only makes it more beautiful.

The whole opera was lovely. Nothing was wasted, and nothing was extraneous. Everything worked together to advance the story or describe the characters and emotions. The story is about Rusalka and what she does in relation to the Prince, and all the other characters are there to support, describe, or thwart her.

And that last scene was positively heartbreaking.
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