Month: July 2014

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 2.2, 1.3

Event: Okay, let’s do two events that both show up in “The Blue Carbuncle,” shall we? I was reminded of these by the last MYH post here and a friend that is reading the story now.20140716-114236-42156940.jpg

Reference From 1.3: Sherlock hands the sneaker–sorry, trainer— to John, asking him to use his methods and tell him what he sees. John sees a couple things, for which Sherlock first compliments him and then tells him he’s “missed everything of importance” (a line from “A Case of Identity, btw). This echoes the very beginning of “Blue Carbuncle” when Watson comes in to find Holmes in contemplation of an old bowler hat, which he then extends to Watson to test his skills.

Reference From 2.2: Sherlock notices a betting sheet in Fletcher’s pocket, and so starts a conversation including a fake bet with Watson in order to get information from an otherwise reluctant source. This happens in “Blue Carbuncle” with the goose-seller, and it’s a delightfully humorous scene, performed especially well by the Jeremy Brett Holmes and ensemble (I have embedded the entire episode below for your viewing pleasure).

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Sketch of the day

This was a series I did on the old blog. I thought I’d re-start this post theme by posting pages from my experimentations on comic book adaptations of stories from the world of superlative game series Thief. None of my pages are storylines straight from the game, but all take place in the older universe of the game. (not the universe of Thief 4. More on that later.) Anywho, please to enjoy the snippets of story you get from my pages here. If you can guess at the overall arching plot, please say so in the comments.   ~Jenn

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Temptation and Power in Lord of the Rings

In honor of seeing the most recent Hobbit movie trailer, this from the defunct Hobbits and Heroes course at DU. This lecturette, “Temptation and Power,” I thought would be be apropos reading after seeing a trailer from a movie called The Battle of Five Armies. As usual, feel free to treat the comments as Discussion Boards mentioned here.  ~Jenn

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Temptation and the Ring of Power

“For where am I to go? And by what shall I steer? What is to be my quest? Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see.”

The One Ring of Power is the center of all the action in The Lord of the Rings.  Made by the Dark Lord, Sauron, it contains a good part of his power.  With it, Sauron could enslave the known world.  The only way to ensure this does not happen is to destroy it.  Of course, being a “magic” ring, it’s no small feat: a volcano in the heart of Mordor is the only place wherein the Ring would actually melt—all other earthly fire doesn’t cut it.

Also, being a “magic” ring, it passes from hand to hand with a force seemingly of its own.  The One Ring is perhaps the central character of the story—witness Gandalf’s talk about it in the beginning of Fellowship:  he speaks of it choosing to be found, it slipping off Isildur’s finger at an opportune moment, it realizing it would not ever be out in the world again if it stayed with Gollum.  The Ring, it seems, has a will of its own, which adheres to the will of any being who wields it: Frodo cannot throw it into his fire, even after he has just heard from Gandalf the scope of its evil.  It acts on the spirit as an addiction, and its movements from person to person has everything to do with temptation and desire for power.

The first we hear of the Ring’s real properties is in The Fellowship of the Ring; Gandalf returns to Frodo after Bilbo’s disappearance and explains his discovery.  The story of the One Ring’s movements begins with Isildur, heir to the man that helped defeat Sauron, taking the Ring from the battlefield and wielding it against Sauron, later dying in a river when the Ring (by accident or design) fell from his finger, rendering him visible to orcs.  Did the Ring choose to betray Isildur?  It certainly seems as though it chooses its own movements to an extent—perhaps just the evil will that Sauron left in it makes it have its own momentum.

What does the Ring do to an immortal?

Gandalf says, “Don’t tempt me!” when offered the Ring, and tries his best not to touch it.  He knows his wish would be to use it for pity—for using its strength to help the weak.  Galadriel, too, imagines the powerful good she would possess if she wielded the Ring, then in her rapture describes the terrifying queen she would become.  Wryly, she realizes she has “passed the test,” and refuses it, even though its destruction means the fading of Lothlorien, and the power of her own Ring.  Tom Bombadil, claims Gandalf, would forget about it, throw it away carelessly, to let it be found by anyone (more on the mystery of Tom Bombadil in the discussion board this week).

In other words, an immortal (Elf or Dwarf  or Istari [wizard]) would soon become a Sauron himself.  In fact, Sauron is himself an Istari (the Maiar, or demi-gods of Middle-earth), just like Gandalf.  We can see, therefore, exactly what would become of Gandalf if the Ring got hold of him.  Galadriel saw the terrible power possible in her when she encountered the Ring-Bearer for the first time.  Both these immortals, because they are wise and good, leave the Ring alone.  We do not come across a Dwarf in the Ring’s throes—as immortals younger than Elves and in love with gold, we can only assume the fate for a Dwarf under the Ring’s spell would be similar to that of an Elf, but this particular temptation does not occur in the epic.  Perhaps Dwarves are just too bluff and hard-headed, eh?

What does the Ring do to a mortal?

Men (humans) and hobbits are the mortal races on Middle-earth, and hobbits, it seems, have much longer life-spans The_one_ringthan Men.  Gandalf tells Frodo in no uncertain terms what happens to humans under the Ring’s power: they cannot die, as is natural; they fade, becoming permanently invisible, and become slaves of the Ring: Ring-Wraiths.  The nine kings of Men (no doubt heroic dudes in their day) who possessed the Nine Mortal Rings, came under the power of the One, and what has happened to them?  Why, they’re snuffling, shrieking Black Riders now, slaves to Sauron but more importantly, slaves to the Ring Frodo carries.  So why isn’t Gollum a Ring-Wraith?

What does the Ring do to a hobbit?

When Smeagol the hobbit-ancestor comes across the Ring, he murders his friend to possess it.  Wielding it often, he degenerates into Gollum, living far too long and ending up twisted beyond recognition as a hobbit of any kind.  Gollum acts like an addict: he thinks about his “precious” constantly, talking to it; he can’t wear it very often but cannot leave it alone either; as Gandalf says, “he hated it and loved it, as he hated and loved himself.”  More accurate than the multiple-personality portrayal done so effectively in the recent films, is I think Gollum’s utter and complete addiction to the Ring.  Everything else stems from this.  The only reason Gollum is not a wraith is that hobbits are notoriously (and surprisingly to some) a remarkably resilient, tough race.  The only reason he is still alive is the Ring, and it says much that the good folk who come across Gollum do not kill him (Bilbo does not out of pity, Gandalf does not out of a hunch), because his fate is connected directly to the Ring.  We will see in the later books just how much the Gollum-Ring connection is essential to the success of Frodo’s Quest.

“A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else’s care—and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside. It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him.”

So claims Gandalf the Wise.  Therefore, the Ring’s objective through this story is to find its maker, its master, and woe be to any who comes in its way.  And our understanding of the characters we meet along the way comes directly from how they react to the temptation of the Ring.  Look at how Gandalf and Galadriel react to it, look at Boromir and then Faramir’s decision regarding it (a big flaw of the films, I say).  Look at Frodo along his quest, watch him crumble under its influence, then look at the wretched, centuries-old Gollum, following him.  Those who are not tempted by such an “easy out” to power, or those who are tempted and resist, have the stuff of heroes in them, and those who give themselves to it, lose themselves utterly.

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Genrification

Those of you lucky enough to have seen my presentation at Denver Comic Con (ROMOCOCO) heard about this classification system I have invented in detail and saw many clips illustrating the genres in my Prezi. Here is the essay on which that presentation was based.   ~Jenn

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GENRIFICATION: stage combat style categories

Part of being an effective fight choreographer (or performer, for that matter) is knowing what the feel and style is of the show in which your fights appear. The type of movement, the weapons used, the style of combat, and the mood of the fights all need to match what’s happening in the show as a whole. I have constructed a two-column structure that is useful when diagnosing the genre or style of fights you’re looking at. Here’s how it looks, sans explanation:

1 realistic                             a comedic

2 expressionistic              b dramatic

3 stylized / dance             c swashbuckling

Combinations between the two columns can be made ad infinitum. For example, a fight that’s 2a would be the big group fight in Anchorman. 3b would be the opening rumble in West Side Story. 1c would be the Ballad Duel in the Depardieu Cyrano.

Here is what all six of these “genrifications” mean:

1–the fight sounds and looks realistic or physically plausible. Note I did not say “real” but “realistic.” no theatrical fight actually looks real–fights are far too small and fast for an audience to be able to follow the action. We’re talking reaLISM, not reaLITY. So a realistic fight has plausible physics, fatigue/pain is acted the way a real person would be feeling, according to what’s happened to her.

Example: fight scenes in Fight Club

2–there are some over-the-top moves, fights may be a little longer and/or prettier. It’s still violence, but maybe the pain/fatigue factor isn’t there.

Example: the famous sword fight in The Princess Bride

3–movement is abstract, symbolic. Movements are not fighting moves, but dance that symbolizes the violence.

Example: Romeo and Juliet, the ballet. (also the opening sequence in West Side Story: what does the snapping represent?)

a–the fight is meant to cause laughter. Actors shouldn’t indicate pain in a way that will cause the audience to feel sympathy; that’s when it’s no longer funny.  (Famous Jenn quote from class: “big men, falling down = funny.”)

Example: Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, Anchorman

 b–the fight is meant to cause tension, be a serious conflict between characters. There should be real fear of pain/death, real fear of harm.

Example: Shakespearean drama (RnJ, MacBeth), Rob Roy

c–this is the attitude I call “La!” It’s not funny necessarily, though it may cause delight. It’s not heavy or serious, either, though a sense of danger may be present. The characters are actually having fun fighting, though they still have a strong objective, or need to win. Think of the shift in attitude from c to b in the final Laertes/Hamlet duel.

Example: Zorro, Three Musketeers, The Matrix 1 dojo scene

Brick killed a guy.

Brick killed a guy.

Think of your favorite fight scenes and pick one of these characteristics from each column. Are you right? Whenever I pick up a new fight direction/choreography gig, this is the first thing I do, as I read the script–I make sure I have a precise idea what direction I should be going in as I begin the fight designing process.

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The More You Holmes

From: ep 2.2

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Character Names: Most major characters in this episode are named directly from the novel on which this episode is based: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Below are the character names and parallels in the story:

Henry Knight: The young heir to Baskerville Hall is named Sir Henry, and he is the inheritor of the house as well as the curse of the Hound from his father. The fact that young Henry’s surname is Knight is obviously a nod to his title in the book.

Corporal Lyons: Laura Lyons is a pivotal character in the book, having vital information about the murderer.

Major Barrymore: Barrymore is the butler at Baskerville Hall, and sports a square-cut black beard. Major Barrymore is similarly in charge of Baskerville the lab, and similarly sour in temperament as well. A delightful tidbit from the Blu-Ray commentary is that of course being in the Army, Barrymore would not have been allowed to have his beard, but the creators made him have one anyway, to more closely resemble his book counterpart.

Dr. Frankland: The bombastic father of Laura Lyons is fond of lawsuits and owner of a big telescope, which is very

Who is following Holmes and Watson in London? A black-bearded stranger...

Who is following Holmes and Watson in London? A black-bearded stranger…

helpful at one point of the story.

Dr. Stapleton: Mr. Stapleton is a naturalist (sort of close to the scientist the female version is in the ep), and lives on the moor with a woman he calls his wife, but neither ends up being what they seem. Come to think of it, I can’t find Beryl Stapleton/Garcia’s parallel in this episode. Anyone notice something I’ve missed?

Dr. Mortimer: The family doctor is the one in the book who comes to Holmes in the first place, asking for his help. He saw the crime scene of Henry’s father, Charles’ death, and his beseeching phrase is quoted directly in the episode: “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

Selden: The prisoner hiding out on the moor doesn’t actually show up in the episode (other than a perplexing mention by one of the landlords of the Cross Keys Inn when we first meet them), but when Watson is exploring what he thinks is Morse code and comes across the makeout site, one can overhear a woman in an occupied parked car exclaim, “Mr. Selden, you’ve done it again!”

Fletcher: Not a character from the book itself, but a friend of Doyle’s irl who suggested the story’s main plot of the ghostly dog and curse. Fun fact: the scene where Sherlock baits Fletcher with a fake bet is from “The Blue Carbuncle,” when Holmes does almost identically the same thing to the goose-seller to get information.

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My Definition of Postmodernism

My Definition of Postmodernism   ~Jenn Zuko

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Postmodernism is the Ren Faire of literature.

                                Jenn Zukowski, Trident Café, 1/26/00

–> (a self-reference)

any rules that came before break them don’t use punctuation proper grammar or any grammar at all talk about violence and about drugs and refer to yourself over and over (she said grinning at her reflection in the monitor even though there wasnt one) erase all genres and mix your media chop up your lines so theyre the size of thirtysecond commercials anachronism irony smart violence like quentin tarantino dislikable characters like david mamet hip hop poets piracy genre eaters the genre mixers is this a really bad prose poem a fucked up informal essay or a bernadette mayer stream o consciousness cyber punk email speak no that comes next a conflict between real and unreal at the renaissance festival people come in costumes that range anywhere from fantasy greek times to the seventeen hundreds needless to say most of the eras I just listed are not at all in the renaissance and the scary thing is that most people don’t know theyre doing anything inaccurate o and of course digital internet cannibalism not to mention cut the pauses or add more

 

pauses where it probably doesnt make much sense like pinter see I’m alluding again see I’m self-referencing again see

the short short short short short short story and the four      hour      movie are what people want these days write your poem using street signs or lines from other peoples poetry acid jazz there was a joke in the onion about a hip hop artist that sampled the entire song billie jean by michael jackson but instead of altering it and using bits of it to back up his rhymes, he just sampled the whole thing completely and rereleased it as his own song called da kidd (is not my son)

 

build up to a punchline and then give none.

 

 

Eowyn Heroine

Another in my series of old lecturettes, this one again from the DU course “Hobbits and Heroes,” wherein we read The Two Towers and discuss Eowyn and other female characters in LOTR. Feel free to act like a student and respond to the discussion prompts here in the comments.   ~Jenn

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Eowyn Heroine

Generally, in the myths and legends we hear as young girls, we’re given Sleeping Beauty, we’re given Cinderella. They’re all stories about women who are in difficult situations and are then saved by men. But Eowyn is a character who is in a difficult situation and must become empowered or lose everything. She knows she must find the strength within to save herself and her people.

–Miranda Otto, who played Eowyn in the film trilogy

Can you name the female characters in LoTR?  Let’s see: there’s Arwen Undomiel (the Evenstar and Aragorn’s love interest), Galadriel (Queen of the Wood of Lothlorien), Eowyn of the Edoras (King Theoden of Rohan’s niece).  Who else?  Um, Shelob?  Oh yeah, Goldberry.  And a couple Elvish chicks in some songs sung by other characters (Luthien and Nimrodel).  Okay, so we’re talking books not films, so let’s again see:

What do we know about Goldberry? 

She’s the “river-daughter,” whatever that means.  She’s Tom Bombadil’s wife and she keeps a peaceful, healthful house in the middle of the Old Forest.  Her voice is almost magically beautiful: her singing has a way of making everything all right, and her great beauty inspires awe in the hobbits who meet her.  An educated guess would place her as a water-nymph of some kind who is a fit partner for the elusive and powerful (and incredibly cheerful) Tom Bombadil.

What do we know about Arwen?

She’s the daughter of mighty Elrond Half-Elven, also gradnddaughter to Galadriel of Lorien.  Here’s her description, from FoR:

            …there sat a lady fair to look upon, and so like was she in form of womanhood to Elrond that Frodo guessed that she was one of his close kindred.  Young she was and yet not so.  The braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost; her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night; yet queenly she looked, and thought and knowledge were in her glance, as of one who has known many things that the years bring.  Above her brow her head was covered with a cap of silver lace netted with small gems, glittering white; but her soft grey raiment had no ornament save a girdle of leaves wrought in silver.

And so we have one of the most detailed physical descriptions in the trilogy, and that’s all we get of Arwen until the end of RoK (which isn’t this week’s book so I won’t go into it in detail), wherein she gives Frodo a gift, reminiscent of Galadriel’s gifts in FoR.  That’s it—she’s beautiful and an Elf.[*]

What do we know about Galadriel?

She is a wise Queen, and a Ring-Bearer, who resists the temptation of the Ring with flying colors, and has a magic pool.  She shows great spiritual and Elvish power (we hear from her song that she raised Lorien’s mallorn trees with her singing), and impresses all (especially Gimli) with her queenly presence.

Shelob? 

Big. Evil. Spider.  ‘Nuff said?  I think so, until next week’s lecture on Evil…

ÉowynAnd Now We Come to Eowyn:

No offense to the previous Great Ladies just mentioned, but Eowyn is really the only woman in the whole story who, well, does anything!  Now hold on, don’t get me wrong—I’m not claiming she’s the only powerful woman in the tale (Galadriel is one of the wisest, most powerful beings on Middle-earth), but she’s the only female action-hero we’ve got.  The Fellowship of the Nine Walkers are all heroes, in one way or another, even the meek hobbits (perhaps especially them), but never before we meet Eowyn do females do anything but stay in their hometown and dispense wisdom, care, and helpmeet to our travelers on their journey.  They don’t journey or fight themselves.

Eowyn even is relegated to this when we first meet her: Hama suggests and Theoden approves her staying behind, because “she is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas, while we are gone.”  We can tell she is not happy with this choice, but later in RoTK, when the men are riding off to what will most likely be their last battle, she responds to Aragorn’s request that she stay behind:

            “All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house.  But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.  But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman.  I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.”

We first meet Eowyn in 2T, then her great deed of heroism comes in RoTK.  In our discussions, I’d like to hear your impressions of Eowyn as a female character compared to the others you’ve seen so far.  If you’ve already gotten pretty far in RoTK, or don’t mind having a surprise told to you before you read it, you can respond to the following as well:

SPOILER ALERT:

There have been many who argue that Eowyn is no heroine, but a deserter, abandoning her ordered duty, and rides into battle for purely selfish reasons, also that her killing of the Witch-King is really Merry’s kill.  I’ve linked another discussion board on our Nine Rings page—read as much of it as you like, and I’d like to hear what you think of the whole thing.  A good thing to do first is formulate your criteria for what makes a hero.

[*] I’m not counting the story details in the Appendices, I’m sticking to the LOTR story-arc only.

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The More You Holmes

From: Elementary 3.?
Character: Kitty Winter
Reference: In “The Illustrious Client,” innocent Violet de Merville is in love with nasty villain Baron Gruner. Nobody can convince her of Gruner’s dastardliness, not even Kitty Winter, a woman who has been ruined by Gruner before.
Recently the folks behind CBS series Elementary announced the inclusion of Kitty Winter into their own canon in Season 3. One can only imagine what role she’ll play, as Watson has moved out of the New York brownstone and Holmes is back in London on an investigation. Hopefully we’ll see the celebrity-addicted Lestrade too, since we’re back in London.

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Isolation

Working with the teens at Longmont Dance Academy today reinforced in my mind the importance of isolation of body parts in stage combat. That is, a specific way the “victim” in a sequence of violence choreography shows the audience what’s going on.

After all, as any of us in the martial arts or other reality based combat areas know, a real bout of violence is quick and small, and basically indecipherable to the human observer’s eye. Look at Olympic fencers as an example. You can see a little movement back and forth, fast flashing of foils, then both opponents raise their hands and the judges have to look at the replay to see who got the touch. And that’s a sport martial art, not a real fight. As I always say to my stage combat students: audiences are stupid. What I mean is, an audience will not be able to see what’s going on in your fight scene unless you make them do so. Isolation is one way to do this.

Imagine one actor comes up behind another, and pushes her in the back. She falls forward onto the floor.
What exactly happened in your visualization? What did the pusher do with his arm exactly? Did you see where his hand landed? Did he use two arms or one? Did he push hard? How could you tell? What happened to the pushee’s spine when he pushed her? How did she fall? What did she land on? Did she land hard? How could you tell?

If the pushee uses isolation to lead with her right shoulder as she falls, you as an audience member then know she was pushed from there. Her use of her spine will tell you what velocity the push came at, and her vocal isolation as she lands will show the impact. Of course, all these moves are illusions, not reality, and her series of precise isolations is what tells the story clearly.

The challenge with beginners, or even actors who aren’t superlatively trained, well-oiled physical machines, is achieving this movement precision. Most humans use their bodies as a whole, or at the very least move them in generalized chunks. It takes a specific type and amount of training to be a physical storyteller, and students that see themselves on video learn this truth quickly.

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Stage Movement Students at Metro intersect their isolated body movements. Spring 2014.