Welcome to my corner of the blogosphere! Please take a look around. I use this space to chronicle my world as I wander through it. Sometimes, during my wanderings, I take pictures. I have a Nikon and a Fuji, and, like any good parent, I love both children equally. I talk to my dogs. They have been known to talk back. I also talk to my kid. He is guaranteed to talk back…and talk, and talk, and talk. So much talking. Occasionally, I opinionate. I’m considering posting some of my writing, which is fictional, voluminous, and unpublished. The jury is still out on where the blog is going, but maybe, like life, that’s the point. At the end of the day, I’m just whistling far and wee.
Plot: Peter Rabbit and his bunny relatives Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Benjamin fight with the newest Mr. McGregor over access to the farmer’s vegetable garden, and for the affections of neighbor and animal lover, Bea.
Child Enjoyment: 8/10 The child was mightily amused.
Parental Enjoyment: 5/10. It’s a movie about rabbits and a toy-store-employee-turned-farmer beating on one another. So…the child was mightily amused.
Age Appropriate: It lived up to all of the six-year-old’s expectations – lots of physical humor (which he loves) with very little actual suspense (which he hates). The nominal love story is exceedingly chaste, and no one said anything I wouldn’t want the child repeating in public, so I also deem it appropriate.
Pain Factor: I mean, it’s a story about rabbits and an English guy locked in mortal combat over access to a vegetable garden. The child was enthralled. I fought the urge to check my phone.
Story Assessment: Some rabbits want to get into a garden yadda yadda yadda. Hijinks ensue. Do we really care beyond that? I didn’t think so.
Conclusion: It’s fine. The child finds it uproarious. I find it inoffensive. The CGI bunnies are cute. I guess we’ll call that a win.
Look at me! I’m reviewing a movie in a timely fashion. Not only is this movie still in the theaters, it just came out a few days ago. Okay, a week ago. Whatever. Let’s make the most of it, shall we?
Also, fair warning – I spoil things willy-nilly. The book came out over fifty years ago. I can’t be bothered to worry about your feelings, people.
The Short Take: Stunning visuals, fabulous costumes, and a stellar cast could not save this film from its craptacular script.
Plot Summary: Four years ago, scientist Mr. Murray disappeared while experimenting with tesseracts, a ground-breaking discovery that enables instantaneous travel across the galaxy. On the anniversary of Mr. Murray’s disappearance, the Murray children, Meg and Charles Wallace, and their new school friend Calvin meet three magical women who offer to help them find the missing Mr. Murray. The children agree. Soon, they are traveling between distant worlds and witnessing, first hand, the epic battle between good and evil consuming the cosmos. They finally locate Mr. Murray on the bleak planet Camazotz. Once there, Calvin, Charles Wallace and, most crucially, Meg, must look deep within to save themselves and those they love from It, Camzotz’s central intelligence, and the darkness It represents.
Analysis: The movie A Wrinkle in Time is an update of a classic children’s novel of the same name. The book and film share a basic premise, plot points, and characters, but deviate substantially from one another in the details.
I have no problem with film adaptations diverging from original source material. I also see nothing wrong with updates. This is to say that although I loved the book as a kid, I’m not one of those people who wrings their hands and rends their garments all over the internet because some film was insufficiently loyal to the source material of their childhood.
Still, I can’t help but feel that this film was underserved by some of the changes its writers made to the original text.
At its heart, this was a little book with big things to say. It talked, in broad strokes, about good, and evil, and compassion, and the transcendent power of love. But it had subtler things to say as well, about growing up, and self-acceptance, and personal responsibility.
The writers were clearly all in on these themes. I know, because they lectured me on them. A lot. Plots points were sometimes back-burnered, or even abandoned, to make room for additional monologuing. But all this clunkiness came at a price, and that price was story coherency. About halfway through the movie, I wondered whether the film seemed disjointed because I had read the book, and was distracted by preconceived ideas about where things were going. At about two-thirds, I decided that the movie would be difficult to follow if I hadn’t read it. So much story was shelved to make way for exposition that in the end it barely all held together. Clearly, no one here subscribed to the school of “show, don’t tell.”
But the book did, which makes the changes to the original plot so head scratching.
Take, for example, Camazotz, the fallen planet upon which Mr. Murray is held captive. The Camazotz of the books is a place of unforgiving uniformity. Children bounce their balls in unison along identical streets in interchangeable subdivisions. Deviancy is punished. The planet’s central intelligence, It, demands conformity in all things, and the unspoken horror of it all is how easy and, who knows, maybe even attractive, it is to fall in line. Charles Wallace is consumed by It, and Mr. Murray cowed by It, but only aberrant Meg, by embracing her own flaws and differences, has the power to defeat It. We are, I believe, meant to see Camazotz as our own world through the looking glass.
The Camazotz of the film is certainly bizarre. Forests appear and disappear. The children and their bouncing balls make a brief appearance, only to be folded away, along with their entire neighborhood, into nothingness. A beach filled with people springs up out of nowhere, and disappears just as quickly. All of these vignettes are visually entertaining, sure, but what’s the point? Why dump a plot-serving metaphor for an amusement park ride? I don’t know, but the fact of it tells me that the scriptwriters may not have fully understood the book the book they were adapting. What a bummer.
Don’t get me wrong – the film isn’t terrible. There are some positives to be had. The cast is amazing and talented. Everyone involved was as good as they could possibly be, given what they had to work with. The visuals are stunning. The costumes are gorgeous. I think kids of a certain age will enjoy it. If only the script wasn’t such a stinker, adults could have enjoyed it too.
Conclusion: This adequate kids’ movie could have been a great film with a better script. Next time, show don’t tell, writers. Show, don’t tell.
Preface to this little story: Dad and Z homework time often devolves into an ugly scene. Last week Dad was out of town, so I solo-supervised the homework with little fuss. It also allowed for ample and enlightening conversation with the offspring. Take, for example, this exchange:
Me: Thanks for being so good with your homework.
Z: You’re welcome.
Me: I know you don’t always like doing it.
Z: I like to give Dad a hard time. Just for the fun of it. But don’t tell him.
Z: But when you see me giving him a hard time, you’ll know.
Dad’s response (because, of course, I did tell): “I knew it!” Startling self-awareness all the way around.
I don’t remember getting homework in the first grade, but apparently now it’s a thing, and by “a thing” I mean, “Dante’s fifth circle of hell.” Maybe some kids can focus after a full day of school, but my child can barely sit still through breakfast, and our capabilities steadily decline from there, until they finally bottom out over excruciatingly dramatic dinners…every single night. When looking into the possibility of piano lessons a while back, one Russian piano teacher had this to say: “Is the child a boy child? I do not teach the boy children until they are seven, maybe eight. What is the point?” If you could see my boy child buzzing constantly and unpredictably at his own peculiar frequency, you might be inclined to agree.
Then again, this boy child seems to have no problem harnessing his energies into tormenting his father, which, I think we have to stipulate, takes some degree of focus.
In other news, math looks a lot different now than it did when I learned it. My “supervision” of Z’s homework mostly involved him explaining to me the various methodologies he is required to use when adding twenty to thirteen.
The experience was not unlike this:
The boy child loves these funky math problems in part, I think, because he adores Tom Lehrer. If inventing doesn’t pan out, and the Jedi academy thing falls through, he has great plans to support himself by singing “The Vatican Rag” to auditoriums full of adoring fans.
Of course, he’s also open to competing in the Olympics. In gymnastics. Or maybe track.
As I said, focus isn’t really our thing. Unless it involves tormenting our father. Then we’re all in.
Big Dog: I am on the bed.
Me: Come cuddle, Big Dog.
Big Dog: I love to cuddle and I love the bed.
Little Dog: I wanna be on the bed. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be on the bed!
Me: Jump on up. You’ve got the hops.
Little Dog: I don’t have the hops.
Me: You jump on the couch all the time.
Little Dog: Yeah, but I’m not allowed to be up there.
Me: What’s that got to do with anything?
Little Dog: The allure of the forbidden pushes me to super-achieve.
Big Dog: I am here. Just me. On the bed.
Little Dog: GAAAAAAH! I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be on the bed!
Me: You’re not helping, Big Dog.
Big Dog: I am on the bed.
Little Dog: I’m gonna howl.
Me: Oh all right, Little Dog, let me lift you up.
Little Dog: Oh happy day! Callooh callay! Look at us, Big Dog! You and me, together, on the bed!
Big Dog: I no longer want to be on the bed.
Little Dog: Hey, where are you going?
Big Dog: The living room.
Little Dog: GAAAAAAH! I wanna go to the living room!
Me: Then go already.
Little Dog: If I jump from this tremendous height, I could die!
Me: You’re not going to die.
Little Dog: You’re right. I’m gonna howl again until you lift me down again.
This week we drove back out to Point Reyes to visit the famous shipwreck at the Inverness shore. We drove by it last time but didn’t stop, because we had a light house to visit. This time, however, we made the trip especially to see this old boat.
And what a lovely beast it is
The above picture was the product of bracketing and HDR. Bracketing involves taking the same picture multiple times with several different exposures. HDR stands for high dynamic range. HDR photographs are achieved by feeding your bracketed exposures into a magical computer program. Through some mysterious and arcane process, the computer combines the multiple photos into one image.
I’ve not really HDR much of a shot until now, but since I was out and about, with a tripod, a fancy sky, and a bunch of time, I gave it a whirl. I wasn’t pleased with my efforts when I got home that evening, but in the light of the next day, I started to come around, and by the end of the week I decided I downright liked it.
About the SS Point Reyes: The SS Point Reyes is an oft-photographed derelict boat in the Tomales Bay. It has been disintegrating slowly over many years, but in spite of this, or perhaps because it, remains a popular landmark. The boat sits on land owned by the National Park Service, and is visible from the highway. It seems to be a popular tourist destination. I was there for probably an hour to an hour and a half, and during that time saw at least a dozen people stop to look at it. This may not seem like a lot, but given how remote the stretch of road is leading past it, I think that’s a sizable number.
Apparently,a fire nearly destroyed the SS Point Reyes in 2016. The blaze was possibly started by amateur photographers who were setting fireworks off the back of the boat in an attempt to capture an Instagram-memorable moment. The local paper described the fire and its aftermath in an article which you can read here. I think the boat still looks pretty lovely from the front. Here’s a picture of it from the back:
All the way burned out, and pretty sad, I think. Then again, I never got to see the original, so it is hard for me to make a comparison to the ship that was.
My lesson for the week (aside from the HDR/bracketing business) was to look closely at my tripod before tossing it in the car. I accidentally brought my old one with me. In my defense, it looks nearly identical to my new one. The old tripod is mostly functional, except for the fact that the lower part of the legs can’t support the new camera. So, I was stuck with the camera sitting about 2 feet off the ground or lower at all times. Upside, though: it was low tide, which meant that the ground was mucky and sticky. I felt no qualms at all about shoving the old tripod deep into that nastiness. I might, however, have felt a little bad about doing it with the newer one.
And there you have it! I highly suggest stopping by the S.S. Point Reyes and giving it a look-see, if you happen to be chilling out in the area.
Plot: Stray cat Scat’s humble, lonely existence is compared with that of the more fortunate felines around her, until (spoiler alert) she finally finds a home of her own. Sniff.
Child Enjoyment: 10/10 The six-year-old checked this book out of the school library after hearing the librarian read it aloud. He tells me he has been reading it to himself every morning when he wakes up. As he wakes up at 5:30 a.m., we’ll have to take his word for it.
Parent Enjoyment: 10/10 I’m a massive softie for animal rescue and hard-knock cases. Scat’s predicament is about as sad as they come.
Age Appropriate: The school librarian thinks so, which is good enough for me.
Pain Factor: None. Zilch. Zero. Loved this little book. Okay, that’s not entirely true. It’s sad and upsetting to watch Scat suffer, even if she smiles through much of her misfortune. Yes, I know that Scat’s fictitious. You got a problem with that?
Story Assessment: Rich Cat, Poor Cat, by Bernard Waber, follows the travails of the homeless Scat, an urban stray who thinks her name is Scat because that’s what people yell at her when they see her. Scat’s “poor cat” existence is compared throughout with that of the more privileged house cats. We are told that some cats sleep on pillows, while Scat sleeps on the street. Some cats are surrounded by friendly faces. Scat would love to find just one. Some cats are given food. Scat must scavenge. Little Scat is remarkably upbeat for an animal constantly foraging for food and struggling to survive, but as her situation is revealed to be more and more dire, it is revealed that what Scat really wants, more than anything, is to be somebody’s cat. This being a storybook, Scat ultimately gets her wish. She is adopted by a little girl who gives her a home, a bed, and a new name – Gwendolyn.
See? Now I’m going to cry.
In Summation: This is a lovely little book. It is unfortunately out of print. Still, the internet being the wonderful place that it is, you easily find copies of it at places like Amazon.
This will be short and quick, since I mostly enjoyed this very Soderberghian heist film, and am less interested in rewriting any part of it than pointing out an obvious flaw.
Tell me if you can spot the problem with this dialogue, spoken by Riley Keogh’s native West Virginian, Mellie Logan:
Jimmy: Yeah, I got off early, so I thought I’d take Sadie on over to her dance thing so you didn’t have to drive her.
Mellie: Well that’s great and all, you wanting to see your daughter dance and everything, but it was yesterday.
Purple Lady: Excuse you!
Mellie: I got her there fine, by the way. See, most people think if you’re gonna go to Charleston then, duh, you get on the 85 for Danville, then the I-19 to Charleston. Fifty-four miles. But being 4:00 p.m., I knew, not the best time of day to be on the road. And they’re still doing all that shoulder work on the I-19. Plus, then you got the sun right in your eyes for that whole stretch outside of Julian. So, yeah, I took the 85 to Danville, but then I hopped onto the 3. So instead of going up and over, I’m going over and then up. After that, it was just a straight shot on Daniel Boone Parkway all the way to Marmot.
See it yet? If you live anywhere other than the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange County, or San Diego, the mistake is obvious.
The use of the word “the” before referencing a major highway, freeway or interstate is a colloquialism specific to southern California. Thus, Interstate 405, a major freeway in L.A., is referred to as “the 405,” and Interstate 5 is “the 5.” A Los Angelino might say, in directing someone through the city, “Take the 405, to the 10, to the 5.” I have also occasionally, although far from uniformly, heard this colloquialism used in Arizona, presumably because of Arizona’s proximity to So Cal.
Conversely, in northern California, all “the”‘s are dropped from highway monikers. Here, we might say, “Take 101, to 85, to 280,” referencing the numbers of major highways like proper noun names, in much the same way as we refer to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) like a person – “I’m going to take BART to downtown.” I don’t know if this is as specific to northern California as overuse of the article qualifier is in Southern California, but it is one of the big language distinctions between the top and bottom halves of the state.
I’ve never visited West Virginia, so I don’t know how they talk about highways there. If I had to guess, they refer to them as I-19 (this is how their traffic reports read), rather than “the I-19” as Mellie does, and certainly not “the 3” or “the 85.”
Since these characters are supposed to be from West Virginia or North Carolina, the article qualified highway designation is comically out of line. I actually watched the movie in the company of a native North Carolinian, and my husband, a native Southern Californian. Our conversation from the viewing party went something like this:
Him: Rusty, guess what’s wrong with this dialogue.
Me: That West Virginian’s really a Los Angelino.
Her: Why do you always do that? Put “the” in front of everything?
Him: Why wouldn’t you put “the” in front of everything?
Her: It’s just so redundant.
Me: And stupid.
Her: That too.
Watching movies at our house is an interactive affair. For what it’s worth, she also says a lot of the accents sucked, in much the same way as they sucked in True Blood. Maybe the same dialect coach worked on both productions? We’ll never know.
Also, here’s a funny thing: IMBD lists the writer for this movie as the heretofore uncredited Rebecca Blunt. People quickly surmised that this name was a pseudonym, but it took awhile for them to settle on the actual responsible party. Current consensus is that Rebecca Blunt is really director Steven Soderbergh’s wife Jules Asner. Although Ms. Asner has relatives in West Virginia, her Wikipedia page tells me she grew up in Arizona, before moving to Los Angeles to attend UCLA and, later, work for the E! network. Which explains why she probably didn’t think twice about her highway designations .
Ah, the internet – so full of rabbit holes.