"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, June 30, 2012

'The Way' Presented by Familial Pilgrims

Once again, a public library acquisition proved of great value to me. On a recent scan of the New Release shelf, I picked up the DVD of Emilio Esteves's recent pilgrimage film: The Way.

A feel-good cinematic offering filmed with a modest budget, Esteves's father/son opus wonderfully dramatizes notions of pilgrimage I share. I highly recommend this film as a worthy and refreshing excursion. Check out the official trailer below!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Facebook Approach to Supporting Shakespeare

Recently I made a breakthrough in my advocacy efforts. As Facebook taught me, if you want people to support your cause, use cat pictures. The result was my wonderfully received post: A Facebook Approach to Space Advocacy.

Now a new cause beckons. And I have again secured the assistance of a neighborhood feline I have dubbed Touché. As cats go, Touché is constant as the Northern Star. Not a week goes by without him appearing on my porch, snuggling my shins, and leaving me in sneeze-induced, itchy-eyed tears. I call on all visitors to gaze at the picture below, fall under this kitty's spell, and then do two things:
  1. Find a more appropriate Shakespeare quote than the one I have provided below. Betcha can't! But if you do, add it to this post as a comment.
  2. Support Michigan Shakespeare Festival (please...do it for the cat).
"Then fall, Caesar."
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene i

Powerful, isn't it? The only other being I've seen bring such dignity and passion to Caesar's death is veteran actor Paul Hopper during a performance at...guess where!

Seriously though, this is a mission-critical season for Michigan Shakespeare Festival. Even if you aren't able to attend, your support will ensure the Festival can continue producing some of the finest plays ever written.

Please...Help this festival live so that I can watch Richard III die. And if that isn't a good enough reason to make a donation, consider that after attending the performance I will feel inspired and generous...which means Touché the Kitty will receive a treat.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jaded Fan vs. 'Darth Plagueis'

Star Wars: Darth PlagueisStar Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Perhaps my favorite scene in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the one where Palpatine entices Anakin toward the dark side by recounting the story of Darth Plagueis—a Sith Lord who manipulates the Force in an effort to become immortal. I love the scene in part because it focuses on personal relationships as opposed to bureaucratic procedure. It also emanates with the most spiritual strains of Jedi and Sith lore. So when I saw a new Star Wars novel titled Darth Plagueis, I snatched it eagerly from my library’s New Release shelf.

Though there is plenty to compliment in veteran Star Wars author James Luceno’s novel, I came away deeply disappointed. This book is not what I expected, and frankly, this book is not what publisher Del Rey bills it as on the dust jacket. Darth Plagueis’s Frankensteinian excursions into the Force do not drive this story. After an engrossing opening, which ties off Darth Plagueis’s relationship to his master, the novel quickly sinks into the same sludgy bureaucratic opera that mired the plot of Episode One: The Phantom Menace. The bulk of this yarn plays about as mystically as a cop procedural. Law and Order: Sith Unit would have been a more honest title.

It could be argued that Darth Plagueis is not even the main character. Sith all-stars Palpatine, Dooku and young Darth Maul keep wresting the spotlight from him. While adequate back story is provided to explain Plagueis’s obsession with immortality, his macabre Force experiments remain on the periphery of a plot too invested in Republican politics and backroom business deals. The Sith Lords, herein billed as mystical zealots, come over largely as stoic crime bosses. What colorful personalities they sport at the outset are quickly steam cleaned away to conceal their powers from the Jedi. A justified storytelling choice? Yes. But not an especially interesting one.

What is more, in the most egregious missed opportunity of the book, Plagueis’s greatest feat of Force manipulation gets mentioned only in hindsight. Ever notice how The Empire Strikes Back, a critical and fan favorite, is as much a lean ensemble play as it is a grand action film? Now imagine Luke’s training by Yoda not being depicted as it transpires. Instead, picture Luke all but dropped from the middle third of the film while Darth Vader and the Emperor have conference calls with coconspirators. What a disappointing Empire Strikes Back that would have been.

I picked up Darth Plagueis because I wanted—and was promised—a mystical fantasy. Instead I got a complicated and rather impersonal history of organized crime in a galaxy far, far away. Perhaps hardcore enthusiasts of Star Wars novels had a different experience than me. I freely admit to being a fair-weather fan of this sprawling subgenre. It is my impression that this novel was written solely for readers who devour every Star Wars novel published. That may be okay, but it strikes me as a franchise growing too insular and selling itself short.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Encounter in Pinckney Recreation Area

Last Saturday I hiked the final section of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail...that is, the final section I'd never been on. It was a happy and satisfying event for me to complete this 35-mile foot path in lower Michigan. On the way back to my car, I encountered a little raccoon crossing the trail. He was the smallest I'd ever seen. I've had several close encounters with raccoons, in Michigan and elsewhere, but this encounter felt special. He (she?) did not seem anxious to approach me, but neither did he run. In fact, he voluntarily came within about six feet after I sat down in the trail.

Click on Pictures to see Larger Versions

Picture of a Racoon on the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail

Six feet away was plenty close for me too. Raccoons are not pets. This one was very calm however, so I enjoyed the extended eye contact. I know I'm projecting human qualities when I say this, but this raccoon's eyes had an interrogative quality. He seemed as intent on observing me as I on him. Was he hoping I would offer food? I did not. Was he assessing me as a threat? Maybe. I felt no hostility in return, though maybe some timidity. We spent a good minute just staring at each other. And when he finally headed off up the hill, he moved slowly. It was not a retreat. The only sudden moment in the whole encounter had been my coming into view. This encounter was the perfect coda to my hike. 

Picture of a Small Racoon in Pinckney Recreation Area

Friday, June 8, 2012

Visions of June Flowers - A Photoshop Treatment

While clearing out the company photo archives, I stumbled across some practice shots I took when an employee brought in a vase of flowers last June. It seemed an irresistible excuse to play with Photoshop CS5's filters. Here is one. There is a link at the bottom to view other variations.

Please click to see full-size version.

See other versions here: June Flowers: Photoshop Filters

Friday, June 1, 2012

'Little Green Men' Come Full and Funny Circle

Little Green Men: Small Package, Big Fun! GN: Small Package, Big Fun! GNLittle Green Men: Small Package, Big Fun! GN: Small Package, Big Fun! GN by Jay P. Fosgitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the previous two collections of Little Green Men comics, I gave artist Jay P. Fosgitt four-out-of-five-star ratings to keep him honest (because if you don’t keep Jay honest, he stays honest all by himself). With Small Package, BIG Fun! I bestow my first five-star rating on his work. I do this not because I need a favor. I do…several in fact. Sadly, Fosgitt is one of those ethical artists who stays true to his vision and doesn’t appear on the verge of selling out to anyone.
Oh, well.

No, with sincerity, I give this collection a five-star rating for the same basic reason the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Return of the King the Best Picture award. Like ROTK, Small Package, BIG Fun! provided the full-circle effect. It helped me realize what an adventure this series has been, and just how much fun I’ve had along
the way.

The premise, as a reminder, is a trio of stooge-esque aliens who set out to conquer Earth, but discover upon arrival that they are only three inches tall. It is a great comedic premise and Fosgitt executes it wonderfully yet again. This installment is at its best when the green guys are interacting with young children. Blending human innocence with alien naivety yields not only humor, but charm…butterscotch-like charm. Comedy with children also provides what may be the best turn-the-page-for-the-payoff moment in the whole series. I laughed out loud but can say no more without a spoiler.

The Little Green Men series, which also includes Go BIG or Go Home! and It’s a BIG World After All!, is geared for young readers. I maintain it is wonderful for adults too. The series reminds me, not coincidentally, of how much I enjoyed cartoons like Popeye as a kid. This is the art form that introduced so many of us to classical narratives and reading for enjoyment. Also by way of selling point, this edition comes with a nice pin-up by Little Green Men co-creator David Hedgecock (color by Tim Durning). Great job, Jay!

DISCLAIMER: Childe Jake, the writer of this review, personally knows and admires Jay Fosgitt and littered the above review with bias. Furthermore, he thanks Jay for this latest chance to hone his love-fest review style!

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