Tuesday, November 09, 2004

So I've been a real mystery woman lately, but tonight I will change all that!! Momentarily anyway. Sigh. It's been a busy semester.

*shrug* Busy semester notwithstanding, I've been reading some kickass books and watching some kickass stuff, and I'll just share a couple with y'all tonight.

Television Series: Firefly
Creator: Joss Whedon (also known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and various feature film scripts including Toy Story
Airdates: 2002 only

The story of Firefly is conclusive evidence that networks are on crack. This is a show with great writing, great acting, original and carefully crafted background, and real entertainment value. So naturally it was cancelled after 15 episodes. Sheesh!

I'll admit it; the thing that first attracted me to Firefly was the quotes on IMDb. I love Joss Whedon's dialogue. The man and the writers he hires play with language like it's silly putty. They take stock dialogue and go to town on it. Check out this sample:

[standing over his wounded opponent, refusing to kill him]
Mal : You know, they say mercy is the mark of a great man.
[stabs the man]
Mal : Guess I'm just a good man.
[stabs him again]
Mal : Well, I'm all right.

They also take stock stereotypes and turn them inside out. Mal, the captain and arguably main character, has that ol' tragic past . . . on the losing side of a civil war, he now has to live under the rule of the Alliance he once fought. He has lost all the beliefs and ideals that drove him throughout the war and now has what can best be described as a nihilistic outlook on life. Instead of pouting and brooding all around Serenity like a big ol' anchor, he is often the driving force behind the plots, as well as having some of the best lines, and is doing his utomost to live his life the best way he knows how.

Every character seems to be a stock sci-fi character with some unexpected twist that humanizes them. Zoe, the stone-faced second mate, is married to the court-jester pilot, Wash, who plays with toy dinosaurs and can do things with the wheel that make the Blue Angels look like chumps. Kaylee is the brilliant mechanic who likes teddy bears, flowers, and ruffles. Book is the ship's chaplain who knows an unsettling amount about guns and crime. Jayne is the thuggish mercenary who names his guns and sends money home to his mom. Inara is a highly respected, classy, and ladylike prostitute . . . who actually likes her job. Simon is the spoiled rich boy doctor who will go to the ends of the universe for someone in pain and through hell itself for his baby sister. River is the psychic genius who has at best a waving acquaintance with sanity.

This isn't a shiny glossy techno-cool sci-fi universe, either. It's gritty, run-down, dangerous, and with a western-frontier ethos that is an unexpected but completely believable touch.

The show also has the classic Whedon touch of strong character-based stories, and constantly asking questions about ethics, morality, and humanity that can't be tidily answered in one hour minus commercials. I really, really wish they hadn't cancelled this show. Oh well . . . the movie's coming out next April, and the DVD's are available now. If you have RealPlayer and plenty of hard drive space, check out this page for rough'n'ready versions of the episodes: Hello Cowgirl

I recommend "Serenity" or "The Train Job" for a neophyte, since they're both pilot-type episodes (after viewing "Serenity," FOX asked for a more action-packed, shorter pilot. Again with the crack.) Anyway, they're good introductions to the world and the characters.

Book: Weetzie Bat
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Original Release: 1989

This is a special and unusual book, and not for everyone. If you're very conservative, very grounded in reality, and get annoyed by lavish and poetical prose, don't read this. If you're just the opposite, run don't walk.

This book doesn't have a terribly cohesive plot, but I'll try to nutshell it. Teenaged Weetzie Bat (and that is her real name) loves L.A., and is looking for someone that will love it with her. Her best friend, Dirk, is also looking for a good man to love. Three wishes from a magic lamp bring them Duck for Dirk and My Secret Agent Lover Man for Weetzie. But now Weetzie wants a baby . . .

Like I say, this is not your run-of-the-mill teenage story. It creates its own logic, and you find yourself going along with it. Weetzie's sweetness and optimism are occasionally too light and bright for me, but Block's later books feature somewhat darker characters. In the end, Weetzie Bat is a story about the families we create and the life we make for ourselves from day to day. "I don't know about happily ever after," Weetzie says, "but I know about happily."

Hookay, folks, that's it for tonight. Hopefully I'll be able to post something new soon.