Month: August 2014

I Miss My MTV

This is the extended version of the trailer for the show I’m in: I Miss My MTV by the Band of Toughs. We’re performing at this year’s Boulder International Fringe Festival. This is a super-fun ensemble created show that feels like you’re sitting in front of old school MTV. Lots of vignettes, many funny bits, all amazing aesthetically, and some poignant. ~Jenn

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Latest Book Review

Excerpt below, and as usual find the full thing at Nerds in Babeland.

This comic story is based on Star Wars before it was Star Wars: we’ve got snippets of images of all three of the older movies (Tatooine, betrayed youg’uns, snippets of Yavin and the Wookiees very similar to the Ewok uprising in RotJ, a Leia and, well, Annikin romance but he’s really the Luke character in this story), some themes and dreary plot points from the newer movies (politics, trade embargoes, wily and lying politicians, overly ornate headgear for the Princess/Queen), and all the art smacks of the concept art all us Star Wars nerds know and love from the pen of Ralph McQuarrie. The oddly androgynous C-3PO, the Luke Starkiller with the buzzcut mullet, the green-skinned amphibious Han Solo, and the oddly bug-eyed Chewbacca all come from McQuarrie’s illustrations we all know and love.

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 3.3 (but also 3.1 and .2 a little)

Character: Charles Augustus Magnusson

Reference: Charles Augustus Milverton is the nefarious villain in the short story named after him. Holmes despises him almost more than he ever hated Moriarty, and goes to great lengths to bring him down. Thing is, he’s not the one that brings him down in fact–he’s in hiding in Milverton’s room when he witnesses a female victim of Milverton’s shoot him dead. Sound familiar? In ep. 3.3, Sherlock breaks in to Magnusson’s place (interestingly enough, the same way he does in the original story: by becoming engaged to his P.A. [in the story, it’s a scullery maid in Milverton’s household]) and does indeed witness the gun-threatening of Magnusson by a female victim of his. Of course, this doesn’t turn out the same way as the original story….

For fun, here’s Doyle’s Holmes describing Charles Augustus Milverton. I think the Sherlock series’ portrayal of Magnusson nailed the combination of sliminess and smoothness and power that Holmes describes. What do you think? 

“Who is he?” I asked.

“The worst man in London,” Holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched his legs before the fire. “Is anything on the back of the card?”

I turned it over.

“Will call at 6.30—C.A.M.,” I read.

“Hum! He’s about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him—indeed, he is here at my invitation.”

“But who is he?”

“I’ll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more milv2the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals with no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a footman for a note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was the result. Everything which is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth. He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning. I have said that he is the worst man in London, and I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian who in hot blood bludgeons his mate with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?”

I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.

“But surely,” said I, “the fellow must be within the grasp of the law?”

“Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months’ imprisonment if her own ruin must immediately follow? His victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent person, then, indeed, we should have him; but he is as cunning as the Evil One. No, no; we must find other ways to fight him.”

Notice the signature of “C.A.M.?” Notice the look on Mary Morstan’s face when Sherlock reads the telegram from a “Cam” at the wedding in ep. 3.2? Yeah? Yeah me too.

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Number Nine…

More from the old lecturette series: this from Hobbits and Heroes from DU. We’re talking numbers magic that week, and had read up to The Two Towers in the series. As usual, feel free to use the comments below as a makeshift discussion board.   ~Jenn

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Number Nine…Number Nine…

The magic number three shows up in plenty of ancient story from all over the globe.  Jokes still work in threes, heroes in fairy tales have their trials come in threes, and the Holy Trinity of the Christians plays a major role in worship.  These are only, er, three of many other appearances of this “magic number” in ancient tradition. I’m sure you can come up with many more instances in which “three’s the charm.” 

Even more powerful a magic number is the number nine: three threes.  The ancient Greeks noticed the movement of nine planets around the Sun, and thought nine was full of magic.  Nine is thought of in Eastern traditions as the most complete number.  Check out this arithmetic puzzle:

1 x 9 = 09  –>  0 + 9 = 9

2 x 9 = 18  –>  1 + 8 = 9

3 x 9 = 27  –>  2 + 7 = 9                    For whole numbers, the answer is always nine.

The Fellowship of the Nine

The Poem of the Rings of Power mentions four different groups of Rings (four being a magic number to the Native Americans among others, representing the Four Directions), all in groups of “magic numbers” from folklore:  there are the Three Elf rings, the Seven Dwarf Rings (lucky seven?) and, of course, the Nine Rings of mortal Men. 

“The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil.”

The Fellowship of the Ring begins as a whole Nine, but as soon as The Two Towers opens, the Fellowship has already split into three groups of three:  Merry and Pippin with the Ents, Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn (the Rohirrim and Gandalf enter and leave this group sproadically), and Frodo and Sam (with Smeagol later).  The three factions are essential to the fulfillment of the Quest, even more, perhaps, than a complete Nine would be, judging from all the help they gain and are given.  Would any of them have discovered the Ents, for example, if they had not split up?

The Ring is too powerful for one Ring-Bearer alone (witness the ruin of Gollum under its influence, and Frodo’s anguish under a comparatively short time).  In order for the Quest to be achieved, therefore, three hobbits must surround it on its journey.  Frodo and Sam, Ring-Bearer and faithful “caddy,” both save each other from multiple perils, but without Smeagol/Gollum, the Ring would never have gone into the fire.  Obviously, most of this talk refers to Return of the King, so the_two_towers_by_adorindil-d4n0cg6I’ll save more of this discussion till then.

The Two Towers—Which Two?

There are the obvious two:  Orthanc and Dol Guldur, representing the two most powerful factions of evil in Middle-earth.  But then we deal with another two Powers:  the greatest noble houses of Men: Gondor and Rohan. The Tower of Gondor could be thought of as a building, but it also houses the White Tree, the Tree of Kings, which could be thought of as the pillar of that city, of Middle-earth indeed.  Rohan has the Tower of Hornburg, in Helm’s Deep, the center of a pivotal battle in the Great War.  Or can we think of the Two Towers as the Two Immortal Races, Dwarves and Elves, who will disappear at the end of this story’s War, leaving Middle-earth to become just Earth?

The symbolism of the Tower (or Tree) dates back to shamanism, in that a tribal shaman would mount a ladder, tower, tree, or mountain in the navel of the world in order to communicate with the gods or the Spirit World, then return to earth with the lesson or boon.  Mount Sinai comes from this tradition, and in Celtic times the great Oak or Rowan was the tree of choice for this.  The significance of towers in LOTR is especially powerful, seeing how much emphasis Tolkien places on landscape throughout his work.  Re-read the descriptions of the different Towers involved in the War of the Ring, and you’ll get a summary of the powers of that people.

(and what about the twenty-seven steps of Orthanc?—nine times three!)

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Boulder Fringe Fest

YourBoulder.com published an article I authored about the upcoming 10th annual Boulder Fringe Festival. Here’s an excerpt, and go to the site for the whole enchilada.   ~Jenn

Here’s how it works: each December, performing artists enter their prospective shows into a FringeSLogo_Wide_PinkBlack_RGBlottery, from which is randomly chosen the year’s line-up. There is no adjudication, only a drawing, so the shows are as extremely wide-ranging in theme and quality as a random draw allows. Each performer either signs up for a large venue, small venue, or what’s called the bring-your-own venue. Some performers are recurring characters in the Boulder Fringe scene and bring their own following with them, others are colorful newbies. Shows vary from one-person shows to full blown plays, from clowning to dance to multimedia dance theatre. Workshops are also available for those who want a hands-on learning experience from the performing artists. Boulder explodes with performance those two weeks in September, and there is something for everyone, things happening all day and into the night.

 

Latest Book review

As usual, find the whole shebang at Nerds in Babeland.

Ian Healy has delivered again in this next installment of superhero novels in the Just Cause universe. As I have written before, I have and continue to enjoy Healy’s ability to embody the coming-of-age voice, as well as the voice of the “regular Joe,” whether they are superpowered or not. (Sorry, “parahuman” is the correct term in his universe.) In Jackrabbit, though, we run into a new kind of parahuman–that of the Herald. The cheeky rabbit god and his buddy the frog god run into a new, insectile god in God’s Land–and it is revealed that this new god isn’t one invented by humans. This is a big deal, and not a good thing, at all. So (as it so often is) it’s up to our trickster god Leporidus to save the day. He begins his rescue plan by choosing a Herald–that is, a human who will embody the god on Earth. He selects hapless nerdy teenager Jay and, as it turns out, he has made an excellent choice.

The Villain Within

This in the series of lectures from old and/or defunct classes. This is from DU’s Villains, Monsters and Foes again, with a shout-out to former student of mine, Sam Nicolletti, who is reading LeGuin’s Earthsea series for the first time and so inspired me posting this lecturette on The Villain Within. Readings/viewings for this week of class included A Wizard of Earthsea by LeGuin, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde again, and the movie Fight Club. The Palahniuk novel Fight Club was optional.   ~Jenn

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The Villain Within                           

I have seen the enemy and it is us.[1]

…Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark.[2]

The first rule of Fight Club is: you don’t talk about Fight Club.[3]

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Coming to terms with the villain within is not easy and never pleasant. Who, after all, wants to admit they have villainous tendencies? Dr. Jekyll couldn’t bear the fact that he, respectable though he was, actually enjoyed “indulgences,” as he so delicately put it. It bothered Jekyll when he considered “that strong sense of man’s double being, which must at times come in upon and overwhelm the mind of every thinking creature.”[3] It bothered him so much that he used his scientific brilliance to actually separate his inner bad guy, never imagining Hyde would be uncontrollable and end up dominating his “host.” What moral is this story supposed to teach? That to separate the villain within is to destroy oneself? Certainly Jekyll’s distaste at his own sinful behavior isn’t worth dying for in the end, not to mention the murder Hyde commits as well. So the proper place for the Hyde in all of us is integrated within ourselves, not repressed or destroyed, is that the lesson here? And who is the “good guy” in this story—the dreary

it's amazing how difficult it is to find an image of Ged that isn't of a white guy.

it’s amazing how difficult it is to find an image of Ged that isn’t of a white guy.

Utterson, who never seems to do anything fun?

On the other hand, Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea, also has a now-separated inner shadow to contend with. Unlike Dr. Jekyll, Ged does not purposely loose the shadow, nor does he seem to know what it is until the climax of the book, when we are in Vetch’s POV and hear the name he finally utters. Unlike the Victorian Jekyll and Hyde who can’t survive in the same world for long, Ged opens his arms and literally embraces his shadow, accepting his shadow as an integral part of him, naming his name and making himself into a whole person by doing so. Hey, isn’t that the same lesson we learn from Jekyll and Hyde? Hm…;)

Jekyll’s stuggle and demise epitomizes the Victorian Christian conflict: propriety vs. pleasure. Ged’s solution is more Zen-like: accepting the shadow as an integral half of his being.

And what about Fight Club‘s Narrator and Tyler Durden? Like Mr. Hyde, Tyler is destroyed at the end, out of necessity. But is he really gone for good? What does he represent in the Narrator? Interesting premise: my husband has a theory that the Narrator actually dies on the airplane and the resulting story is his death-dream of sorts. Anyone feeling ambitious and has read the book this week? Have anything to add?

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[1] Okay, what the heck is this from? Anyone? Someone smarter than me out there? Is it originally Pogo?

[2] Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea.

[3] Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

 

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 2.2

Line: SHERLOCK: I need something stronger. Seven percent stronger.

Reference: Holmes is famous for indulging in a 7% solution of cocaine whenever he is idle. It 20140716-114236-42156940.jpg“stimulates and clarifies the mind,” according to him. Watson is ahead of his time in admonishing him against using it, as at the time of The Sign of Four (the novel wherein we learn of Holmes’ habit), cocaine was commonly found in many food and beverage products, and easily obtained over the counter to anyone, as well as touted by many medical professionals as excellent in treatment for any number of things from respiratory issues to depression. Good on Watson for being forward-thinking (and for later breaking Holmes of the habit single-handedly).

Fun Fact: the opening scene, in which Sherlock appears in the doorway of 221B Baker St covered in blood, with a harpoon in hand, is from the beginning of short story “Black Peter,” in which Holmes does the same thing John mentions he’s done in the episode: skewer a pig. In the story, Holmes has been attempting to stab a pig clean through in one stroke, as it has everything to do with a body that was found in a case he’s on.