Yarn Craft in Catching Fire

There’s really not much doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Catching Fire is a fantastic film, (it was the highest grossing film of 2013), but did you notice the knitwear theme to Katniss’ wardrobe?  The first time I watched the movie I was sitting next to my friend and fellow yarn-enthusiast bowrene (check out her etsy shop) and she kept hitting me in the arm whenever a new bit of yarn-crafted clothing showed up on screen, whispering things like “look at that cowl!”, “that sweater is gorgeous!” and “this movie is ruining my life!”  Tumblr user feminerds posted a collection of pictures of the knitwear from Katniss’ wardrobe in Catching Fire and captioned it with the brilliant pun “Katknits,” a term I am intensely jealous not to have thought of first.

Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image.  While the description below from the book doesn’t exactly match Katniss’ on-screen wardrobe, the fact that there is a consistent theme in her outfits while on the Victory Tour is absolutely within the spirit of her stylist Cinna coordinating her clothes as he does in the books, and it does mention a “woven sweater”.

I may have no interest in designing clothes but I do love the ones Cinna makes for me.  Like these.  Flowing black pants made of a thick, warm material.  A comfortable white shirt.  A sweater woven from green and blue and gray strands of kitten-soft wool.  Laced leather boots that don’t pinch my toes.

“Did I design my outfit?” I ask.

“No, you aspire to design your outfit and be like me, your fashion hero,” says Cinna.  He hands me a small stack of cards.  “You’ll read these off camera while they’re filming the clothes.  Try to sound like you care.”

….

I realize Cinna’s trying to put a coat on me, so I raise my arms.  I feel fur, inside and out, encasing me.  Its’ from no animal I’ve ever seen.  “Ermine,” he tells me as I stroke the white sleeve.  Leather gloves.  A bright red scarf.  Something furry covers my ears.  “You’re bringing earmuffs back in style.”

Katniss’ outfit in the film at this point is actually quite close to this description, and I noticed when I watched it a second time that the fur trim on the collar of her coat is very similar to the trim on the collars of her prep teams’ coats when they walk into her house, which fits perfectly with Effie’s line about “eveyone’s wearing Cinna these days!” and with Katniss being an unwilling style icon.

True, there are no earmuffs in the movie, (and I am not complaining about that,) but Katniss’ clothes still have a distinctive look while she’s on tour.  You definitely get a sense that someone is coordinating her outfits for her, and that someone has decided that this season, Katniss is all about the knitwear.  Given the popularity of her braided hairstyle (as seen in Catching Fire by President Snow’s granddaughter mimicking the look), I will be very interested to see if any characters in the next two films wear knitted sweaters that appear to be inspired by Katniss’ wardrobe in this installment.

Besides her outfit at the beginning of the tour, she wears a great cardigan and later a sort of diamond-patterned sweater at stops along the way:

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An extra-long cardigan on the Victory Tour.

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Beautiful knitted sweater with blocks of color at another stop on the Victory Tour.

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Even the nightgown she wears on the Victory Tour train is knitted.

There is a scene where Katniss wanders the train at night, unable to sleep, (and unintentionally sees scenes of uprising in District 8 on the monitors in the control room), in which she is wearing another knitted cardigan, but I can’t find a screenshot of that one yet.

Katniss rocks an intricate knit infinity scarf even after she returns from the Victory Tour to District 12:

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Standing between Gale and the new head Peacekeeper never looked so stylish

But my favorite of Katniss’ yarn-crafted outfits is the one-shoulder cowl she wears while hunting at the beginning:

cf katniss cowl front view

As bowrene pointed out to me, it’s actually woven, not knitted. I like that it has a bit of structure like a Capitol dress but still fits with District 12′s rural aesthetic and Katniss’ outdoorsy nature.  It’s nicer than her clothes in the first film, but she can afford nicer now that she gets a Victor’s stipend.  I can picture her sharing some of her winnings with a local craftswoman by buying this cowl from her in the Hob.

I think this blogger has come the closest to replicating the Katniss cowl as seen in the movie since she does weave the collar around rope, (see her free pattern on Ravelry here), but the bottom of hers is knitted whereas I think in the movie the bottom is some kind of weave as well.  And if you look at the back of the cowl in the movie as in the screenshot below, you see that the collar is not self-contained loops.

cf katniss cowl backview

Lastly, although it doesn’t count as a “Katknit”, I can’t end this post without mentioning Finnick Odair’s sweater.  Although it appears only briefly on screen, when Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch are reviewing the field of competitors on their way to the Capitol for the 75th Hunger Games, it’s pretty fantastic:

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The official Capitol Couture tie-in website devoted an entire blog post to Finnick’s sweater, detailing the significance behind the style:

Nothing speaks to clan heritage like a fisherman knit sweater. Typically passed down through generations, these rugged pieces date back to islands off the west coast of Ireland. Finnick Odair’s own Aran cardigan—comprised of over 100,000 artful stitches—is a sartorial relic from his father, who fished District 4 back when sea bass and cod were bountiful. Rumor has it the debonair Victor sees his sweater as a talisman representative of his family’s Celtic strength and pride.

-from “Finnick’s Look is Key for Fall Chic” by Monica Corcoran Hare on capitolcouture.pn

This is a great example of the way CapitolCouture.pn mixes the fictional and real worlds of fashion; Irish clan sweaters like the one he is wearing really exist, although their family-specific patterns were originally used more for identification than fashion statements.

Because the design of the sweaters became very specific to each clan, they could be used to help identify bodies of fisherman who drowned at sea and then later would wash up onto shore.

-from “Irish Sweater History” by Kelly Nuttall on eHow.com

I found this page that displays the distinct sweater patterns for several Clans, but it doesn’t list Odair.  (You can also buy clan-specific sweaters on that page, but they’re pretty expensive).  While I do think it’s a good-looking sweater and I appreciate that they put a lot of thought behind it, I’m not sure it’s very realistic that a tradition like a clan-specific Irish sweater would survive in a society that has forgotten much of its own history; according to Katniss’ narration, they don’t really even learn much in school about the history of Panem itself or what the country was like before being divided into Districts, so why would knowledge about a heritage that spanned back even further to another country have survived?  Still, it’s a cool-looking sweater and an elaborate detail in the film’s world-building.
What’s your favorite “Katknit” piece?  Let me know in the comments!  (And don’t say “Finnick’s” just because Sam Claflin is so pretty…unless that sweater really is your favorite.)

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The Hobbit: Less Desolate On Second Viewing

I was finally able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for a second time, and I have to admit it was better watching it again.  Whether that was because I knew what would happen so the disappointment/annoyance wasn’t fresh, or I was able to focus on the elements that I did enjoy since I’d already cataloged the things I didn’t like, I don’t know.  And I did notice a few new things that I didn’t like.  But I don’t want to let my first reaction to the movie be my last post about it, because I neglected to include any of the things that I did like about the film in that post, and there were some really great moments.

I still think the movie is way too long, and there are inclusions that I will never understand–like, do we really need so many lingering shots of the giant bumblebees at Beorn’s house?  And how are the orcs so fast they can keep up with and at times run ahead of the dwarves, who are traveling at the speed of the rushing river?  (And how is there a seemingly never-ending supply of orcs anyway?)

Thranduil is PERFECT, though.  He might be my favorite thing about this movie.  I know I already said that but it was just doubly reinforced watching his scenes a second time.  He’s majestic and petty and knowledgeable but sassy and selfish and beautiful.

perfection

perfection

Smaug looks great, too.  If you just skip over the whole video-game-sequence, dwarves-running-around-easily-distracting-Smaug-and-then-stupidly-trying-to-melt-a-FIRE-BREATHING-DRAGON-(and-by-the-way-what-in-the-world-is-that-wheelbarrow-made-of-that-it-doesn’t-melt-when-Thorin-rides-it-in-a-river-of-molten-gold?) part, all the rest of Smaug’s screentime is excellent.  I love the way his belly lights up just before he breathes fire.

I think the Legolas fight scenes are excessive but I do enjoy them, and I especially love the way he shows disdain for the dwarves; it adds to the significance of his eventual friendship with Gimli when we get to see more of how he thought of and treated dwarves before the Fellowship quest.  My favorite moments with this aspect of Legolas’ character in this film were when he stands on the dwarves’ heads while they race downriver in barrels, because they are so beneath him he sees no problem with literally walking all over him in his goal of fighting orcs, and when Thorin throws a weapon to take out an orc that is coming up behind Legolas, but the elf never turns around to see it, so he’s just going to go on not trusting dwarves for 60 years because he’s unaware that one just saved him.

I’m still annoyed that Tauriel is being forced into a love triangle and my eyes almost roll out of my head when she and Kili are talking about starlight while he’s her prisoner or he’s delusional, saying “Tauriel…you cannot be her.  She is far far away from me.  She walks in starlight in another world.  It was just a dream.  Do you think she could have loved me?” while his head rests on a bed of walnuts, but, I’m going to try to get over it and appreciate the bits about Tauriel’s character that I did like.  I mean she looks fantastic and cool, I like her outfit and her hair and everything.  She’s graceful yet deadly, she’s very skilled in battle but not as much of a show-off as Legolas.  She’s smarter and more compassionate than Legolas or any of the other elves, too, it appears.  And as far as the whole stupid romance aspect, the comic below raises a good point and I will begrudgingly try to just appreciate the Tauriel character without ranting about the stupid romance, (although I whole-heartedly stick to my stance that storytellers should not assume including a female character means that you have to include romance!).

Biblo dropping the ring in Mirkwood and fighting the creature (spider? land squid? I don’t know what it’s supposed to be…) to get it back is really good, but then it lingers too long on his reaction after the fact.  That’s a problem throughout the film, scenes that linger on for too long.

Also it starts to feel like watching a kindergarten program whenever the dwarves trample into the shot together, nobody saying anything distinct and nobody displaying any apparent brains; like, why don’t they just get into the barrels without Thorin having to expressly command it?  Why do they just turn and start heading back down the mountain when the sun goes down and they think they’ve missed their chance?  Why are they incapable of figuring out that they need to lift the handle to open the door at Beorn’s until Thorin gets there; is it just so we can see them tumble inside in a big heap when the door finally opens?  Seriously, kindergarteners.

And while it was a great moment in the trailer, the over-dramatic pause in Balin’s line of “that, my lads….was a dragon,” is completely unnecessary and tedious because by that point I’ve been watching the actual dragon swoop around the screen for fifteen minutes.  Get on with the plot!  (Oh, I forgot, there isn’t much of one.)

Also, it’s really unclear why Bard is even being chased by the guards that arrest him near the end, and when they do catch him and he says “on what charge?!” they just say “any charge the master chooses,” which I guess is supposed to illustrate the corruption of Laketown’s ruling class but it just feels like laziness on the part of the screenwriters.  I would really like to know what the script looked like when they had planned this adaptation to be only two parts.  I’ll bet it made a lot more sense.  Instead of extended edition DVDs, can we get compressed editions?

Ugh, this post turned out to be more negative than I had planned.  I’m really not trying to be a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer…the movie just isn’t very good.  And I’m still bummed about that fact.

peter pan crying

Me reconciling my dashed hopes and dreams for what this film could have been with the reality of what it is.

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Sherlock: ACD’s “A Study in Scarlet” vs. BBC’s “A Study in Pink”

As a fan of the BBC Sherlock show, I recently decided to read Aruthur Conan Doyle’s original mystery stories.  I’ve never read any of them before except for “The Hounds of Baskerville” in a high school English class.  I’m going to tackle them in chronological order of publication, so I started with A Study in Scarlet.  Having finished this first book I can definitely see a lot of exact parallels between it and the first episode of the modernized BBC show, “A Study in Pink,” but also some obvious omissions or alterations.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The first episode starts off very similar to the beginning of the first book; John Watson is a recently returned military doctor, wounded in a war in Afghanistan.  I’m not really familiar with the particular war that would have been going on at the time, but I think it’s too sad (that the region is still/again plagued by military unrest over 100 years later) for it to be cool that this factoid lines up perfectly with modern times.   Anyway, everything about the way Watson and Sherlock meet and become roommates happens pretty much exactly the same way in the book as in the show, and one of the first things Watson learns about his soon-to-be companion comes up in this conversation  between a mutual acquaintance and John Watson, about Sherlock Holmes:

“…He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.”

“Very right too.”

“Yes, but it may be pushed to excess.  When it comes to beating the subjects in the dissecting-room with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape.”

“Beating the subjects!”

“Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death.  I saw him at it with my own eyes.”

-A Study in Scarlet, chapter 1, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

sherlock whipNow doesn’t that sound like one of the first images we’re given of the character of Sherlock in “A Study in Pink,” where he’s whipping a corpse and instructs the morgue worker, “I need to know what bruises form in the next twenty minutes; a man’s alibi depends on it.”?

Sherlock’s method of “the science of deduction,” his superior intelligence, his fascination with specificity, and his arrogance towards the work of the detectives he consults for is exactly the same in the book and the show.  In the book, a Scotland Yard detective (Tobias Gregson, who does not appear in the show, although his colleague Lestrade does) is excitedly recounting how he thinks he has cracked the case, and Sherlock yawns in the middle and says sarcastically that it is “quite exciting.”

sherlock plucks violin

In both the show and book, Sherlock plays violin, often absent-mindedly while deep in thought, although he is capable of playing elaborate pieces perfectly.   His drug use is alluded to in the show and the book, but in the book Watson can’t believe his new friend actually uses drugs because he doesn’t fit the stereotype:

“Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.  On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.”

Many elements of the central mystery in the show and book were the same, such as the murder being done by poison pill, which the victim was forced to choose from a set with identical placebo and poison options, the letters “RACHE” being written at the crime scene, the murderer turning out to be a cabbie with an aneurism, and Sherlock’s use of the homeless network to help track down information, (although in the book he gives them the much-less p.c. title “my Street Arab detective corps”).   However, in the show, Sherlock mocks detective Anderson for thinking “RACHE” is meant to signify the German word for revenge, and it turns out that the victim was writing “Rachel,” her smartphone password; but in the book, “RACHE” is written in blood at the crime scene by the murderer to mislead the police into thinking it is a political killing related to a recent crime in New York.

Also, the killer in the book is actually motivated by revenge, targeting the ex-Mormon man who forced the killer’s fiance to become one of his wives twenty or so years earlier in Utah, whereas the killer in the show is being paid to carry out murders in a specific way by an unseen mastermind.  The book has a huge side-track into the storyline of this sensationalized Mormon subplot, literally five chapters set in Utah before the narrative returns to Watson and Sherlock in London.  It’s a very strange section and I’m glad they left that part out of the show, because aside from its very questionable historical accuracy, it detracts from the storyline of Sherlock and Watson getting to know each other and solve crime together.  Of course, the show focuses much more on their relationship than the book does, at least so far, but I’m not complaining about getting added scenes like the one below from the end of the episode:

Sherlock covers for John by telling Lestrade to ignore Sherlock's previous deductions about who shot the murderer.

Sherlock, realizing who saved him, covers for John by telling Lestrade to ignore Sherlock’s previous deductions about who shot the murderer.

A couple of things that I noticed in A Study of Scarlet are not mentioned in “A Study in Pink” but do show up in later episodes, including Sherlock’s extensive knowledge of types of cigar ashes–in season two, episode 1, “A Scandal in Belgravia”, it is mentioned that Sherlock has blogged about 243 types of tobacco ash, while in the book, Sherlock deduces the type of cigar that their suspect smokes from some ash he finds on the floor of the crime scene and remarks:

“I have made a special study of cigar ashes–in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject.  I flatter myself that I can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand, either of cigar or of tobacco.”

Additionally, Sherlock’s ignorance of the workings of the solar system is made much of in season 1, episode 3, “The Great Game,” and it is one of the first areas that Watson remarks on in his account of Sherlock’s knowledge and skills.

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth centruy should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise.  “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has difficulty in laying his hands upon it.  Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.  He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.

(The brain-attic sounds a bit reminiscent of the mind-palace mentioned in several episodes of the show, but I wonder if there will be a more explicit reference to something like the mind-palace in one of the later books that I haven’t read yet.)

Characters that appear or are mentioned in the episode “A Study in Pink” that I did not see in the book A Study in Scarlet include Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, (but I assume he’ll show up in one of the later stories), Moriarty, (same), Molly Hooper, (what a shame, she’s one of my favorites!) and Mrs. Hudson, (although a landlady is mentioned, she is not named.)

Although the title of the television episode is an obvious nod to the source material, the meaning behind it is quite different; Watson titles his blog write-up of the case “A Study in Pink” because the first victim they investigated was dressed in a pink outfit and had a matching pink suitcase.  However, the title of the book comes from Sherlock describing the case he is investigating as:

“…a study in scarlet, eh?  Why shouldn’t we use a little art jargon.  There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

-A Study in Scarlet, chapter 4, by Arthur Conan Doyle

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of ACD’s Sherlock stories to see what other little tidbits have made it into the BBC show.  Mysteries aren’t usually my cup of tea but these are not too long and they do feature a fascinating, eccentric, egotistical, brilliant protagonist.

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the pages that pagelady read in 2013

Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014.  Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them.  I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.

In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth.  The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me.  I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint.  From my review:

and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013″.  He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.

Young Adult

As you probably know, Young Adult is my favorite genre (all my “favorites” this year were YA), so of course I read more YA than anything else this past year.  Besides the ones listed above, I really enjoyed Reached by Ally Condie, the conclusion to her Matched series, Tiger Lily by Jodie Lynn Anderson (even though I’m not sure I liked every single aspect of that storyline), and Firecracker by David Iserson, which features an awesome, snarky, insanely rich protagonist that you want to be friends with but you know she’d take one look at your jeans and call you a peasant, if she ever even acknowledged you.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Firecracker:

“Things were about to change. If nothing changed, I wouldn’t be writing this down because this is a book about the time when everything changed. And isn’t that what every book is about? No, seriously, isn’t it? I don’t read books.”

Another book that I read and enjoyed this year but not in an “I love it so much!” way was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  The title refers to the motivation behind a young girl’s suicide, and while it’s not one that I’ll want to re-read, it’s a very good book that I think all teenagers should have to read and discuss, similar the way I felt about Hate List last year.

A series that surprised me this year was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and it’s sequel Days of Blood and Starlightmy review for the the first one ended with:

In conclusion, I liked this book more than I didn’t like it, and I’m definitely going to read the sequel, but I think it’s a pretty silly story.

But, as I admitted in my review for the second book, the imagery of the story stuck with me and I found myself doodling hamsas and imagining possible chimera combinations and now I am definitely looking forward to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, that should be coming out this April.

I liked The Fault in our Stars in 2012, so I read more books by John Green this year but didn’t end up liking either Looking for Alaska or Will Grayson, Will Grayson as much as TFioS.  I also read Every Day by David Levithan, (co-writer of Will Grayson, Will Grayson)and although the premise sounded intriguing, (narrator is some undefined spirit-entity that wakes up in a different body every day,) it ended up feeling a little flat to me and nothing was really resolved by the end.  From my review:

The whole thing just feels like a gimmick to be able to explore aspects of identity like gender and brain chemistry, and what the common denominators are between all human experiences, which is fine, but wasn’t as compelling as it might have been if the story had more gravitas.

The worst YA book I read this year was definitely The Maze Runner by James Dashner; the narration was stiff and repetitive, the story didn’t affect me emotionally, and I was not pleased with the depiction of the one female character (literally the ONE girl in the whole book).  Also in the sadface section of this category here at the bottom of my 2013 YA list is Allegiant, Veronica Roth’s conclusion to the Divergent series, but that one deserves it’s own post.  It’s not terrible, and I’m not upset about spoilery things that happened, it just…doesn’t feel like the same story.

Classics

This year I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, which was a lot more violent than I expected a children’s book to be, but you have to remember it was written a hundred years ago.  I downloaded it in a set with all the sequels, so I might read the rest of them someday.  It was a short read, but I read it for a bookclub so I’m not sure when I’d be motivated to read more Oz stories.

I also listened to the audiobooks of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, translated and narrated by Stanley Lombardo.  I definitely liked The Iliad more, but both were good, and I highly recommend the Lombardo translation since it’s very contemporary and easy to follow.  I never realized before how much influence the imagery and plotlines in these ancient epics have had on our culture today; so much of it feels very familiar and modern, like something you could easily see on a big-screen.

Resolution for 2014: read more Classics!

Non-Fiction

What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, And Me by Rielle Hunter.  Loved it, not kidding.  The writing is awful, but that’s part of the entertainment.  From my review (one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written, by the way):

Reading this book is exactly like eating junk food. You know it’s bad, that it has no nutritional value, but it’s irresistible and you can’t stop munching delightedly away. NOM NOM NOM, GOSSIP AND JUDGMENT AND UNBELIEVABLE NARCISSIST DELUSION, DELICIOUS!

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler.  Meh.  Wanted to like it more than I did.  From my review:

This is unfair, but my main reaction while reading this book was “man, Tina Fey’s Bossypants is so much better.” Also, “wow, Aisha Tyler’s writing style is kinda pedantic,” but that observation is totally fair and true. Footnotes and five-syllable words galore!

Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.  This book didn’t really need to be written and I’ll probably get more insight on the 2012 election from the upcoming Netflix documentary Mitt than I did from reading these mostly-tedious, poorly-written (like, they try too hard to be clever with their phrases and it’s distracting) pages.

Comic Books

I am still relatively new to the world of comics, but I am getting more comfortable with the genre and being able to find things I’d like to read within it.  This year I read and loved Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son as well as Art Spiegel’s Maus, and I would recommend them to pretty much anybody. I also read a story arc on The Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker, which I liked pretty well, and I was excited when the trailer for the upcoming Captain America movie came out because I recognized characters immediately without having to look them up, just like a real comic-book nerd!

I also read and reviewed all three parts to Avatar: the Last Airbender: The Search.  It was a pretty frustrating story arc overall, but I’ll still probably read the next series Gene Luen Yang churns out because I love the original show so much.

I want to give it only one or two stars, but I’m giving it three because it’s doing a very effective job of eliciting strong emotions in me, (mostly RAGE!), which is a mark of good storytelling, and the art is pretty good…and I’m just so damn happy to have another piece of the ATLA universe, even if it is hopefully a very misleading segment.

-quote from my review of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search part 1

My favorite series is still Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT and I keep up with it every month; after I read each issue I go read Drew Bradley’s column at Multiversity Comics for his  in-depth breakdown of all the little things I probably missed.  Because I’m enjoying Mind MGMT so much and following Kindt on twitter, I’ve also started reading the Spider-man series that he is writing.  Oh, and I also read his 2 Sister’s: A Super Spy Graphic Novel (four stars) and Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes (five stars).

This year I also read a new comic, Dream Thief, by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, on the recommendation of friends and because the author and artist both live near me, but I didn’t end up liking that story, although the art was fantastic.  (Maybe I will post a full analysis of Dream Theif 1-5 at some point as well).   Finally, I read the first two issues of Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and loved it, but my local shop doesn’t carry it regularly so I’m going to have to get caught up with that one with the trade paperbacks.

 

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Good Story-telling

When you read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, did you think, “yeah this is a great story and all, but my favorite things are the character and place names! Everything else could be changed,”?  If so, then Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the movie for you!

I suppose that summation may be a little overly harsh.  But for the last two weeks I’ve been feeling guilty about deciding I wasn’t going to be able to do a whole spectacular costume and line party like I did last year for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and as I sat in the theater last night I kept thinking wow, I’m glad I didn’t go all out for this one, because it would have been an embarrassing waste of time and energy and made the film an even more bitter disappointment.  After the first Hobbit film came out I said I would reserve judgment on splitting the 300-page book into three extra-long films until I’d seen them all, but that’s no longer necessary.  I can definitively state that it was a bad decision, and no matter how glorious the final installment may end up being, this middle movie, in which no substantial plot progress is made and there are no character arcs, should never have been made.

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Biblo is terrified the movie will end before he gets substantial character development.

By the way, this post includes spoilers without warning because my enthusiasm for this movie has deflated like a balloon punctured by a black arrow and I no longer care about preserving its mystique or hype.

The first film cut off pretty much at the end of chapter 6, and chapter 7 starts with the dwarves meeting their temporary host Beorn in groups of two or three at a time, so I thought, great, they’ll have a natural way to re-introduce us to all the dwarves and their names.  Instead, the movie starts with a flashback to Gandalf meeting Thorin in the Prancing Pony, (oh hai Peter Jackson reprising your cameo of carrot-munching Bree resident in the rain), and we never get the introductions at Beorn’s.  Hope you remember your dwarf names from the first film!  If not, it doesn’t really matter since they won’t be defined as individuals for the most part, (but if you do want a refresher watch this clever video starting at 3 minutes).

Everything in Mirkwood was rushed or omitted; no partying elves luring them off the path, spiders quickly and easily dispatched, elvish imprisonment barely lasting a day instead of dragging out for months.  I realize movies need to condense time that books can fit between a few words, but the skipping of canonical drama just to add all the ridiculous, unnecessary, tedious scenes we got later is not okay.

I could have done with a lot more Thranduil.

I could have done with a lot more Thranduil.

I desperately wanted to like Tauriel, totally on board with the reasoning that the onscreen representation women of would be severley lacking without introducing this non-canonial character.  But this film still does not come close to passing the Bechdel test, (unless Bard’s daughters have a conversation I don’t remember?) and they don’t let her live up to her advertised bad-assery, reducing her motivations from a big-picture, save-the-world mission to risk-all-to-save-the-cute-taller-than-average-dwarf-i-have-a-crush-on.  NOTE TO STORYTELLERS: “hey this story needs more female characters” does NOT equate to “hey this story needs romantic entanglements!”

Like, why does Legolas need to be infatuated with unrequited desire for her? Why can’t their relationship just be warrior buddies?  And why does she swoon so quickly for Kili, just because ooh look at him all broody in his cell and my but he’s tall for a dwarf??  Ooh let’s touch fingers when I hand you back your talisman stone from your mom?? Oh hey I’ll single-handedly hunt down a pack of orcs to save you, and then I’ll use kingsfoil to heal your poisoned wound and you’ll see me in an aura of white light just like Frodo saw Arwen in Fellowship of the Rings, because didn’t you love that part? This is freaking fan-fiction!  What is it doing in the theatrical version of an official adaptation?! I wouldn’t even need to see this in an extended edition!  (I realize that a possible explanation is that either kingsfoil makes you hallucinate people in white light auras, or the aura is part of the elvish healing magic manifesting, but still, it’s COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY!  As is splitting the dwarves up so that some of them stay behind in Laketown, what the EFF?!!!!!)

Yes, Tauriel shoots and fights like a badass, but .

Tauriel shoots and fights like the badass warrior captain she’s been for hundreds of years, but isn’t allowed to care about anything more than boys because lady parts.

The thing is, Tauriel does express that she’s concerned about the orcs getting more aggressive and that it isn’t enough for the Mirkwood elves to defend their own borders without regard for where the orcs will go terrorize next, so I don’t know why that wasn’t a good enough motivation for her character to have for all of her actions.  I HATE that her primary goal becomes Kili.  And I can only assume that her fate being wrapped up with his means she too will die in the next film, probably in a failed attempt to save/avenge him from his own fatal end.

Perhaps the worst thing about the story as presented in this film is that it doesn’t even follow it’s own rules; the Master of Laketown supposedly has such tight-fisted control over the comings and goings of the city that the dwarves have to be smuggled in beneath fish, but then a whole passel of orcs gets in and is crawling all over rooftops with nobody noticing?  I mean geez at least show them killing a guard or two if that’s how you want it to play out, but how the heck would no-one notice?  I can kind of believe the elves sneaking in more easily since they’re quick and quiet-footed and all but even so, Laketown guards should know to watch for elves considering they’re neighbors.  Also, why in the world would nobody in the town be willing to help poisoned and injured Kili when the dwarves were literally the toast of the town the night before?!  Why would they need to come banging desperately on Bard’s door? That whole scene reeks of we-shot-this-one-way-but-then-we-added-stuff-since-we-got-an-extra-film-to-fill-so-it-doesn’t-totally-flow. 

The whole “only a rare black arrow shot from a special launcher can kill a dragon!” addition would be fine, except why take the one arrow out of its hiding place just to stash it in a canoe?  And why wouldn’t the kid know about its existence anyway?  Whatever, by this point I just can’t even with this movie.  

Azog the Defiler’s role is way over-inflated.  And now they’re introducing even more named orc generals/captains/whatevers for me to not care about, in this Bolg guy.  Why do we have more named orcs than female characters, seriously.

Then we get (half of the) dwarves running the frick around Erebor with a secret plan as if dramatic tension can only be achieved by keeping the audience blind to the goals of the protagonists.  Sorry your elven-magic-coma storyline got cut, Bombur, but hey, you got to be yanked around on a bellows chain at a giant forge, which is almost the same thing as character development, right?  Hey Bilbo, why don’t you follow Thorin’s shouted instructions to keep running to lead Smaug to these random places like “the forge!” or “the Hall of Kings!” even though I don’t know how you’re supposed to know where they are being that this is literally your first time inside the underground maze of halls.

There’s too much obvious GCI!  Legolas’ contacts look weird and flat!  Why is Gandlaf tripping out and seeing A Man within The Eye within The Eye within The Eye, and how am I supposed to be in suspense for him being locked in a cage surrounded by orcs when I not only know he’s going to survive to the end of Frodo’s quest, but I’ve also seen him pull the grab-a-moth-when-in-distress-to-summon-an-eagle-rescue move in two separate films by now so I assume it’s his next step.  I mean, I know what’s actually going to happen is Galadriel et al will come bring some elvish ring-bearer pain on the old fortress, but even if I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be worried about what was going to happen to Gandalf. 

Just like I’m not in suspense about what’s going to happen to Laketown or Smaug, though the movie ends with the dragon flying off in a rage and Bilbo saying “whatever’s going to happen next?!”  (Yes that’s seriously the last line before the screen blacks out and the credits song starts).  It’s not that it’s a true “cliff-hanger” ending of suspense, (if this is a cliff hanger for you READ THE FREAKING BOOK ALREADY, it is very short and if you’re really that lazy you can just read chapter 13-19, that’s all that’s left,) but is a suspension of completing a story arc.  Maybe there are elements in this movie that will add up to whole arcs when combined with the next film, but why should I sit through 2 hours and 41 minutes of non-story non-arcs?  

Seriously, what the hell happened here?  There is no reasonable argument for stretching this story into three films if this is the kind of stuff they’re filling time with, other than “we can make more money with an extra film.”  Well, I certainly don’t want to pay to see this again!  When I go to a movie I expect to be given a story, not just a collection of scenes.  When I watch a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien, I expect epic, not trivial.   The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has shattered my trust in these movie makers and broken my fangirl heart.

My message to the filmmakers ^^

My message to the filmmakers ^^

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Catching Fire Opening Night

cf outfitsSo I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends.  I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late.  It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.

The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort.  (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)

We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia.  Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health.  When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15).  Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor.  The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost.  (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too).  It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was.  I think it’s totally marketable.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game's.  The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game’s. The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to "death" they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to “death” they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere.  Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere. Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical.  It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote.  The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius!  And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)

They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard).  When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin!  I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard?  To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way.  Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular.  Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked.  Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.

So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:

  • Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too.  Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
  • The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film.  It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
  • In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach.  I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
  • This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV?  (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell).  Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?

But really, almost everything was perfect.  Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely!  Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice!  Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak!  Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale.  Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great.  The whole thing was just spot-on!  Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this.  (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).

I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again.  But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  It’s only a few weeks away!

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Divergent Trailer Is Not Very Divergent

I have become so disillusioned with this series.  I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.

Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation.  Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!”  Like, look at this poster:

Really, guys, a butt shot?

Really, guys? Really?

This poster makes me absolutely rage.  WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN  ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!!  And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else?  (Hint: nothing).  Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”

So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:

Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four.  His American accent is not consistent.  Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP!  Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless.  I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.

OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer.   Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.

If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it.  Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer?  What did you think of it?

 

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Trailer Music: X-Men: Days of Future Past vs. Star Trek Into Darkness

A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer.  It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song.  Compare:

I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic.  What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?

I am not aware of the origin of this song of who wrote it, and I haven’t been able to find any credible information on it yet, but this doesn’t strike me as such an egregious trailer music choice as when Man of Steel used the score from Gandalf’s death scene.  Maybe this is just one of those songs that gets featured in trailers a lot.

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I Suppose I Have To Blog About This Divergent Trailer Now

With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing.  I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything.  For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears.  I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar.  Watch the trailer for yourself:

Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four.  And it’s totally apparent in this trailer.  In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:

Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.

I am not okay with this.  I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16.  If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris.  I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl.  I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.

Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up.  I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session.  But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!”  It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.

Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides?  Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity?  Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon?  (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink.  Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art.  And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?

Tris runs her fingers down Four's faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).

I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book.  I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting.  When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.

In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is.  As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops.  I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.”  I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues.  I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”  I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme.  I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely.  I felt I could relate to that, too.

I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED.  Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well.  But that’s not what the story is about.  At least not to me.

The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration.  But Four is too old.  Tris is too defiant.  (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).

Ugh.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days.  What do you think?

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Glader Slang in “The Maze Runner”

**This post contains spoilers for The Maze Runner**

maze runner cover

The Maze Runner is being adapted to film. It will be interesting to see how the slang is handled on-screen.

When I read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, there was pretty much only one element that I actually liked; the Glader slang.  (Things I didn’t like included the tediously slow (and ultimately unsatisfactory) reveal of answers, the near-complete lack of character development, the inconsistency of the main character’s attitudes towards other characters (like “go away Chuck you’re so annoying!”-”Chuck you’re my new and only friend!”-”gah Chuck stop talking you’re so annoying!”), the way Thomas pats himself on the back for feeling the most basic empathy for his fellow human beings (“…he realized he was worried about the girl. Concerned for her welfare. As if he knew her.”  Like you couldn’t be “concerned” for somebody who’s been in a coma for days? And then this part: “Thomas, concerned for Alby despite his recent ill-tempered ways…”, oh how big of you to be “concerned” when you find a person lying unconscious with a bloody gash on their head, “despite” the fact they’ve been moody or rude in the last 24 hours), the insistence to tell instead of show, things being brought up only to be dropped completely and forgotten later on (like the flag Thomas sees when he first enters the Glade but can’t make out it’s pattern because there’s no wind, and it’s never mentioned again, or the dog named Bark that follows him around for his tour of Slop duty but then is never mentioned again, not even when they’re holing up to fight against invading Grievers, which, wouldn’t a dog bark it’s head off and/or charge beasts attacking its masters?), the fact that when the situation is explained it still makes little to no sense, and the lack of female characters–especially when it’s revealed that the kids sent to the Glade were chosen because they “have above-average intelligence,” and I’m supposed to be okay with this representation of the smartest kids, humanity’s last hope, being all male?!  What a bunch of klunk!)

But back to the topic at hand–when Thomas arrives in the Glade, his memories freshly wiped, he quickly learns that the residents of his new ‘home’ sprinkle their speech with their own unique slang, which he must learn in order to fit in.  This is, of course one of the purposes of slang or jargon or “shibboleths”; to identify members of a social group, or to confer insider status to those “cool enough” to know the terminology and be able to use it correctly.  If you don’t know the terminology at all, you’re a total outsider.  If you know the terms but stumble finding acceptable contexts to use them in, you’re pretty clearly linguistically marked to those in the know as someone trying to fit in.  Someone new.  Someone who maybe hasn’t really earned their place in the group or carved out an identity yet.  Someone like Thomas.  The linguistic markers of social status might be even more important in a setting like the Glade, where there is very little to go on otherwise.  For survival purposes, everyone is forced to share labor, food, and sleeping areas, nobody has access to ‘cool’ clothes or accessories, nobody can remember if they had famous parents or tournament trophies or straight As or a girlfriend before the Glade.  Everyone has to start over finding a new social footing by navigating the new slang terms.

The real reason for the Glader slang, of course, is so that the characters can curse in a manner that won’t be objectionable for a young audience to read.  So it’s kind of disappointing, because the Glade-specific language conventions could have been more complex and interesting, and designed by the author in a way to give more insight to the community, but we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got.

I suppose  that Grievers, Creators, Greenie, Sloppers, Runners, Keepers, Builders, Bricknicks, Baggers, Track-hoes, Slicers, and  Med-jacks all count as Glader slang, but they’re pretty self-explanatory (if largely unnecessary), so I’m just going to focus on defining by examples “shank”, “klunk”, “shuck”, and “good that.”  Thomas hesitantly uses the latter phrase during an exchange with his assigned buddy, where he also explicitly references the fact that he’s unfamiliar with the terminology.  (I’m labeling this excerpt and all others to be included in this post,as well as including page numbers which are from the version with ISBN 978-0-375-89377-3).

(1) “You’ll learn a lot in the next couple of days, start getting used to things. Good that?”

“Um, yeah, good that, I guess.  Where’d all these weird words and phrases come from, anyway?” It seemed like they’d taken some other language and melded it with his own.

Chuck flopped back down with a heavy flump.  “I don’t know–I’ve only been here a month, remember?” -p. 34

Thomas’ observation isn’t very linguistically astute–come on, dude, it’s a handful of terms, not a melding of two phonetic, syntactic, morphological etc. systems, or “languages”.  Acquiring Glader slang is a simple matter of observing the examples provided throughout the book.

Shank

This term appears to be just a general term for “person”.  It’s derogatory, (the neutral term for “person” is Glader and just refers to the fact that’s where they all live), but can be endearing, such as in (3).  Perhaps most interestingly, Newt uses it in (9) to refer to the Creators, so it can apparently be used to refer to entities outside the Maze as well. (Go ahead and call each other shanks, Maze Runner fans!)  Also interesting to note is the exchange in (7), which highlights the fact that Thomas is still acquiring Glade-speak, both in his pause before and over-emphasis of the term “shank” and in Newt’s response of laughing and referring to him as a “Greenie”.  There’s also an example of “shank” in (15), under the section for “shuck”.

(2) “It’s a long story, shank,” -p. 8

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(3) “Chuck’ll be a good fit for ya,” Newt said. “Wee little fat shank, but nice sap when all’s said and done. Stay here, I’ll be back.”

-p. 11

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(4) “Beetle blade,” the boy said, pointing to the top of the tree. “Won’t hurt ya unless you’re stupid enough to touch one of them.”  He paused. “Shank.”  He didn’t sound comfortable saying the last word, as if he hadn’t quite grasped the slang of the Glade. -p. 13

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(5) “This shank probably klunked his pants when he heard old Benny baby scream like a girl.  Need a new diaper, shuck-face?” -p. 17

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(6) Thomas shook his head.  “Don’t be sorry.  The…shank deserved it, and I don’t even know what a shank is.  That was awesome.” He felt much better. -p. 33

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(7) “Well, it’s kind of stupid to send me to a place where nothing makes sense and not answer my questions.” Thomas paused, surprised at himself. “Shank,” he added, throwing all the sarcasm he could into the syllable.

Newt broke out into a laugh, but quickly cut it off. “I like you, Greenie.  Now shut it and let me show ya something.” -p. 37

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(8) Thomas looked at Newt sharply, hurt by the rebuke. “You think I do things to impress you shanks?  Please.  All I care about is getting out of here.” -p. 260

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(9) Newt shook his head back and forth, staring at the ground.  Then he looked up, took in the other Keepers.  “The Creators–those shanks did this to us, not Tommy and Teresa.  The Creators.  And they’ll be sorry.” -p.309

Klunk

Chuck provides a clear definition and an etymology for this term in (12).  The usage in (10) is weird, (he’s a poo? Not “piece of klunk/poo”? Maybe klunk is a count noun, even though poo is a mass noun?), and I think the construction is kind of forced because the author wanted to overwhelm Thomas (and readers) with as much slang as possible when the Box door opens.  Also, note in (13) another explicit reference to Thomas’ acquisition of Glader slang.

(10) “I told ya, shuck-face,” a shrill voice responded. “He’s a klunk, so he’ll be a Slopper–no doubt about it.”  The kid giggled like he’d just said the funniest thing in history. -p. 6

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(11) “Whacker, if we told you everything, you’d die on the spot, right after you klunked your pants.  Baggers’d drag you off, and you ain’t no good to us then, are ya?” -p. 10

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(12) “We live here, this is it. Better than living in a pile of klunk.”  He squinted, maybe anticipating Thomas’s question. “Klunk‘s another word for poo.  Poo makes a klunk sound when it falls in our pee pots.” -p. 15

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(13) The second hour was spent actually working with the farm animals–feeding, cleaning, fixing a fence, scraping up klunk.  Klunk.  Thomas found himself using the Glader terms more and more. -p.78

Shuck

I think this was the most inconsistent of the Glader slang terms introduced in the book; it most often appears as the insult “shuck-face” (in examples (5) and (10) above as well as several below,) or the expletive “shuck it,” but in examples (23) and (24) it used as an adverb and verb participle, respectively.  It seems obvious what real-world English expletive it’s substituting for, which is why it’s so weird that on page 334 Minho uses “freaking”, another PG derivative of the same real-world expletive, where presumably “shucking” would have been acceptable, especially judging by the example in (23).  Minho’s utterance that Alby “freaking sacrificed himself for us–” is the only instance of “freaking” in the entire book, and seems out of place.

The construction in (14) is another unusual example like the one in (10), and it also appears in the same scene of Thomas’ entry to the Glade.  I don’t know why it doesn’t just say “shucking neck” instead of bare “shuck”, but there aren’t any examples (that I noticed) of “shucking” as an adverb.

(14) “Look at the Greenbean,” a scratchy voice said; Thomas couldn’t see who it came from. “Gonna break his shuck neck checkin’ out the new digs.” -p. 5

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(15) “Shuck it,” Alby said, rubbing his eyes. “Ain’t no way to start these conversations, you get me?  We don’t kill shanks like you here, I promise.  Just try and avoid being killed, survive, whatever.” -p. 9

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(16) “Pipe it, shuck-face,” Alby grunted, pulling Newt down to sit next to him. -p. 9

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(17) “Shuck it,” he said. “Can’t the bloody Med-jacks handle that boy for ten minutes without needin’ my help?” -p. 12

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(18) “The Changing!” Gally shouted from below. “Look forward to it, shuck-face!” -p. 19

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(19) “I’m gonna kill you, shuck-face!” Gally yelled, but Chuck was already off the box and running toward the open Glade. -p. 31

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(20) Newt let out a long sigh. “Shuck it. But that’s not really what has me buggin’.” p. 107

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(21) “You don’t understand, shuck-face!  You don’t know anything, and you’re just making it worse by trying to have hope!  We’re dead, you hear me? Dead!” -p.117

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(22) Thomas rolled his eyes.  “She’s not my girlfriend, shuck-face.”

“Wow,” Chuck said. “You’re already using Alby’s dirty words.” -p.281

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(23) “She’s right, Chuck–you saved us, man! I told you we needed you!” Thomas scrambled to his feet and joined the other two in a group hug, almost delirious.  “Chuck’s a shucking hero!” -p. 347

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(24) The sense of normalcy was almost overwhelming.  Too good to be true.  Minho said it best on entering their new world: “I’ve been shucked and gone to heaven.” -p. 368

Good that

See also example (1) from above.  This was my favorite, because it’s clearly a new construction whose correct use is crucial in ingratiating oneself with the Glade hierarchy, but it’s not actually new words.  It signals agreement or consent.  I never saw it used as a blanket positive, like somebody eating one of Frypan’s meals and declaring it “good that!”, which would have been fun, but then we’re not really given much non-plot-centric dialogue.

(25) Thomas fumed, wanted to punch somebody.  But he simply said, “Yeah.”

“Good that,” Alby said. -p. 10

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(26) “If I can convince those shanks–and that’s a big if–the best time to go would be at night.  We can hope that a lot of the Grievers might be out and about in the Maze–not in that Hole of theirs.”

“Good that.”  Thomas agreed with him–he just hoped Newt could convince the Keepers. -p.317

Miscellaneous

I wasn’t paying much attention to instances of “slinthead” while I read, so I don’t know if I am missing some, but it appears to be an insult.  As for “slim”, I don’t remember seeing it anywhere except as an order to Thomas from Alby when he first arrives in the Glade (27).

(27) “Just slim yourself nice and calm.” -p. 6

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(28) “And stay away from me, you little slinthead.” -p. 19

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(29) “Ain’t you got a job, slinthead?” Alby asked. “Lots of sloppin’ to do?” -p.41

I am curious to know whether the slang persists in the sequel, The Kill Order, since by the end of The Maze Runner the main characters have escaped the maze and are in a different setting surrounded by strangers.  It would be my guess that Glader slang would become even more important in this situation, as a way for the boys to self-identify as a cohesive group when their circumstances no longer reflect it so obviously.  On the other hand, some of the boys might drop the slang or pick up/invent new slang as a way to reject having the identity of test-subject Glader forced upon them, or as a way to try to gain access to a new social group, if they decide they identify with their “rescuers”, or with WICKED.  Either way, though, I don’t think I’m actually curious enough to read the second book.

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