Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Movie: Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch

This movie looks oh so B-movie, but at the same time it could be hella fun! And it is starring the wonderful Molly Quinn from Castle!

No time for further commentary from me (school started again this week), but feel free to comment!

(PS. I discovered this through Maria Tatar's blog Breezes from Wonderland)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poster: If Children Don't Read....


If children don’t read they’ll never know.
MPH classic books ads via Bibi’s Box

I don't entirely agree with the poster, as I think kids learn from experience, conversations, TV, games, and other people's example, but I do like the idea. We often just assume that our kids will grow up with the same things we grew up with. But if you don't read them or tell them the story of Little Red Riding Hood, they won't know they story of Little Red Riding Hood and the lessons it teaches (whatever you interpret those to be). Same thing with Sesame Street, or Boy Meets World, or the Old Testament, or Peter Pan, or Greek Myths. 

Pass it on. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Article: Remakes as Modern Folklore

The New Gods

Io9 had an article a few days ago that builds off of one of my deeply head beliefs. I think that pop culture is the new modern myth. We have heroes whom we emulate (Iron Man, Buffy, Claudia Donovan). We follow their stories and retell them in our own ways (blogs, gifs, fanfiction). We try and share them with our friends and pass them on to the next generation.

Io9 goes even further to say that remakes are actually a good thing: they are the perpetuation of modern folklore. After discussing the nature of folklore, they make an interesting point:

"Originality is a Myth
 If you look at remakes and reboots in the context of how most people enjoyed stories for thousands of years, it's easy to see that they are a natural part of human storytelling. When we hear a good story, we long to retell it in a slightly different way. Historically, people might have heard different people performing the same folk tales and songs over and over again in their lives. What made these stories entertaining was hearing the familiar tales tweaked slightly. The fun was in the variants. But it was also in hearing the story again.
The idea that "originality" is what makes stories good is actually a twentieth century idea propagated by a bunch of radical artists and thinkers who called themselves Modernists. They wanted to jettison what they considered the superstitious, narrow-minded thinking of people who loved folklore. So they embraced art and narrative that valued weirdness and novelty over storytelling. Novelists like James Joyce and William Faulkner wrote deliberately difficult stories that tried to express ideas about human experience too complex for oral traditions.
Philosophers like Theodor Adorno praised Modernism for refusing to use the tropes of pop culture that make a story easy to follow. Decades later, punk and indie rock embraced Modernist values too, scorning pop music as unoriginal. Even today, many of us are taught the Modernist perspective in school, and wind up believing that what makes a story "good" is originality."
Our society is obsessed with new ideas and originality, but sometimes the old ideas stick around for a reason. They are the story of our culture, the values we believe in, the patterns that we follow, the path we wish to take. They keep appearing again and again because they serve as an inspiration to us, as a way we look at the world, as a model of what should be. Each remake changes the story to make a statement about the current times, so the same story that spoke to us in each age adds a little spice to speak to the issues facing the next generation.
"Why Remakes Are Good
While there's no denying that Modernist stories can be fascinating and beautiful, that doesn't make them better than folklore. In fact, when it comes to storytelling, one could argue that folklore has had a much more profound influence on civilization than Modernism. We've been telling and retelling stories for thousands of years. We enjoy seeing remakes of our favorite stories because there is pleasure in seeing a twist on a beloved story. But this isn't just about enjoyment. It's also about how we learn. By sharing stories, we explain to each other how we see the world, as well as how we define good and evil (after all, folklore usually has a hero and a Big Bad).
By retelling stories as variants, we do something profoundly important. We show how our views of the world change over time. We reveal that our definitions of good and evil aren't fixed; they can change to reflect new information. If you don't believe me, just compare the novel Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh yes, both are variants on the same story, about vampires from another world invading a nice city. Both are about gangs of vampire hunters who track down and kill the vamps... In Dracula, the vampires are unambiguously evil, grotesque Eastern European monsters who want to steal our women and have no place in London. But in Buffy, you can see that our relationship to the vamps, those "others," has become a lot more complicated. Some vamps are good. Some humans are evil. Women aren't there to be "stolen" by anybody.
Unlike "original" stories, which remain frozen in the amber of history, folk tales are alive. They change with us, and pass along new stories about our evolving civilization. Every variant, no matter how bad, is a sign that our stories are still vital. And if you don't like this remake or reboot — well, there will always be another. Maybe you'll make it yourself."
This is why I get so excited when I see fairy tales and myth emerge in popular culture. They are the most ancient stories speaking to people today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

MISC: Laying Siege to the House of Mouse

This might be my favorite thing I have seen in a while. Quora has a post asking how you would lay siege to the Cinderella castle in Disney World. The responses are priceless. And it combines two of my favorite things: Disney and military strategy.

One man chose a medieval assault (my favorite kind):

"Looking at the aerial view of the castle, we can make some strategic decisions.
Obviously, the castle was designed to withstand a full frontal approach via the  island. You can see the moat, multiple bridges and the single small drawbridge leading into the castle front and center. We will, therefore, not focus our main attack on the front.
Additionally to the left you can see Frontierland where there is an entrance and to the right you can see Tomorrowland where there is another entrance.
Step 1:
Send a small vanguard of sacrificial troops into Tomorrowland as a diversion. The defensive forces will rush to this area, leaving Frontierland wide open and the defensive forces quite distant.
Step 2:
Begin a large flanking attack through Frontierland and secure all bridges on the left side of the diagram. Hold this position with whatever it takes. Additionally, take the island which should be simple considering the fact the castle is the actual main defense.
Step 3:
Send in catapults and trebuchets and mount them in the center island. They must be out of reach from archers and other retaliatory siege weapons. Begin the attack with these siege weapons, taking down sections of wall in the front. You must have truly powerful weapons as the walls of Cinderella castle are quite high. If possible, focus your fire on the highest towers because this is where the enemy will have the best vantage point for observing your movements.
Step 4:
Reinforce your primary battalion and continue the flanking attack around the side of the tower through Frontierland. Make sure to put your archers hidden within the tree line wherever possible and systematically pick off the defense with longbows.
Step 5:
Eventually surround the castle with your vastly large army and hold your ground using large turkey drumsticks, mouse shaped ice cream and some of the larger tourists for your rations. 
Step 6:
Send in your pre-built siege towers using men armed with crossbows. Send in another team with long ladders and yet another team with grappling hooks and ropes from all around the castle. Use your best men in this final attack and eventually open the main drawbridge.
It may not be possible to perform deceptive maneuvers successfully considering the fact that the towers afford the enemy great visibility. If this is the case, then a smoke screen could be employed using all the trees nearby.
The moat may in fact be the water supply for the inhabitants of the castle. Consider poisoning the water supply.
Consider also using biological warfare such as flinging diseased animals into the castle.
Studying the architecture of the towers (see the tallest tower for instance), it seems as if they are weaker in the middle and may, in fact be top-heavy. Focus weapon fire on the center and the entire tower may collapse.
The sloped roofs of the towers will protect the inhabitants from projectiles tossed directly into the tower, however, the debris will scatter on those below. Consider using fire or Greek fire, splashing it against those roofs which would rain down on the inhabitants.
Send in spies. Determine who is the gatekeeper and promise him a prominent position post-siege for his assistance now."

Some strategies take advantage of the wooded terrain. Others use knowledge of the hidden entrances to the castle (like Tinkerbell's zip-line) to enter the castle. While one commenter insists that his brother-in-law designed the anti-terrorism defenses for Disney World and the only strategy that would work is the "nuke from space" one, its fun to dream.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Art: Edward Gorey's Three Classic Children's Stories

Hi everyone! Long time no see! Grad school does that to you, man.

Anyway, Io9, brilliant blog that it is, directed our attention to the fairy tale illustrations of Edward Gorey. The thing that I love most about Edward Gorey is his ability to depict something horrific without actually showing it to you. He shows you the before, or the after, or what is happening off screen, not the actual event itself.

Exhibit A:

From The Gilded Bat by Edward Gorey

In the book, Three Classic Children's Stories, Edward Gorey doesn't go quite as far as that, but he still has an fascinating way of choosing moments and framing. Of course you have the classing Little Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf picture: 

But then you also have this:
All you can see are the wolf's toes and Little Red Riding Hood's eyes. Somehow it is a little worse than your typical Wolf in Grandma's Clothing picture. It is a "just before" moment. You imagination conjures up the big eyes and the big teeth, and then the next scene where he eats her. 

For the Jack and the Beanstalk story, we have this picture:

It takes place either right before, or (a bit more disturbingly) right after Jack hits the trapped giant in the head with the shovel and kills him. Jack looks so jovial, and the giant looks so sad. It is a bit heart breaking. 

The Rumpelstiltskin images are what you would expect, until you get to this one:

This is after the queen has guessed Rumpelstiltskin's name, and he gets so angry that he stomps a hole in the floor and tears himself in two. The cloth disappearing down the hole is his sleeve, so it seems he just got swallowed up, but the peace on the queen's face and the oblivious king flavor the picture really well. 

There are lots more pictures over at Brainpickings if you want to check them out!