The Antihero

I’ve already mentioned my obsession with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency here. A recent episode, the fourth in the second season, had the primary villain saying something quite interesting to a character he was trying to persuade to join him.The woman he hopes to convince says that she never meant to get mixed up in all the crazy stuff that’s been happening. That she’s a “nice person.” The villain’s response?

“NO YOU’RE NOT! No. You’re. Not. The wand wasn’t drawn to you because you’re nice. You’re far better than nice; you’re interesting.”

I can’t get that sentence out of my head. You’re far better than nice; you’re interesting. If you’ve written a compelling story, these words likely describe your protagonist. Gone are the days when all heroes are weirdly god-like beings who can do no wrong. This is the heyday ofย the antihero.

An antihero is defined as the protagonist or hero of a tale who may possess some, but not all of the qualities typically associated with the heroes of old. Courage, physical strength, empathy, mercy, and even sometimes a random, unknown something that makes them The Chosen One. There are more, but you get what I mean. The hero is an all-around “good” person whose every quality except maybe one are traits that the general populace would consider desirable.

The antihero might have one or two of those traits, but their actions aren’t driven by a need to “do the right thing.” They do what they do because they want to. They might have a personal vendetta against someone who wronged them in the past. They might want money, power, fame, a fresh start, or simply to be left alone by society. Heck, they might do whatever they do just because it feels good to them, including murder. This puts the antihero perilously close to crossing the line into villain territory, which is exactly what makes them so interesting. Their motivations are not always clear. The means used to reach their goals are not always above board. They are muddled. They are complicated.

Like us.

While the hero reflects what we aspire to, the antihero reflects what we are (with maybe an upgrade or two). Which makes them easier to identify with and root for than your run of the mill hero. What’s there to care about when you’re following the adventures of someone who always wins? It’s true that, if written well, even stories starring classically heroic protagonists will put you in suspense. But there’s something terrifying and exciting when you know the character you’re reading about could fail miserably, or that them reaching their goal could spell absolute doom for every other character.

The antihero factors more into their decision than whether or not something is “right.” In fact, they may not care enough or at all about the consequences of their actions… unless those actions further complicate their own lives. They might accomplish great things, things they’ve always wanted, only to be haunted by those same accomplishments. One of my favorite antiheroes is Victor Frankenstein, a scientific genius whoย succeeds in creating life from death, but must immediately face the many anxieties associated with creation, foremost of these the responsibility of the creator for their creation (and in this case, the creation’s horrific actions) despite existing apart from it.

Who are your favorite antiheroes?

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B is for…

I like monsters. It says so right over thereย  (>>>) in my little bio blurb! Whether they’re monstrous on the outside or on the inside (or both) makes no difference — I love ’em all. Because what makes a so-called monster monstrous is that it’s different from the rest of us in a way that’s perceived to be dangerous, which (in my opinion) makes them fascinating. That’s why B is for Beasts.

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I’ve always been compelled to do things that scare me. Going into Hot Topic for the first time as an 11 year old after my dad insisted the store was “demonic” (my dad’s not a fan of death metal XD ); eventually reading Johnny the Homicidal Maniac all the way through despite being scared shitless the first time I picked it up (and it opened to a panel featuring a dismembered corpse in a bathtub full of blood. I wanted to cry.); getting pierced in various places; getting tattooed; and befriending the loners who other people made fun of or who seemed standoffish/mean. I needed to know what all of these things and people were really like.

People made fun of me, too, for being weird, but I thought I was a pretty good person all things considered. Therefore, I figured there must be more to those other folks who got harrassed, too. And, perhaps predictably, every single time, those “weirdos” actually turned out to be some of the coolest, most interesting, and most accepting people I had ever met. But that’s the way, isn’t it? The things that scare you tend to become less frightening the more you learn about them. Monsters are the figurative embodiment of what every society fears most. Once you unpack that fear, there’s no telling what you’ll discover — about those beings and about yourself. (FYI, this is kinda what my thesis is on. Sorry y’all, but it’s taking over my life!)

Here are a few of my most favorite beasts.

1. The Beast, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

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Everyone knows this guy, right? Well in case you don’t, he’s a prince who, as a preteen, is transformed by a sorceress disguised as an old hag into a monster because he turned her away when she came to his castle seeking shelter. The only way to break this curse is for someone he loves to return his love, despite his appearance, before the last petal of the enchanted rose the sorceress gave him falls on his 21st birthday. When we meet the prince again 10 years later (“10 years we’ve been rusting…”), he has (understandably, you might say) become the royal French equivalent of the old guy who sits on his porch with a gun and screams at anyone who even thinks about coming near his house.

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First, can I just say that kids can be jerks? Especially kids who are used to having it all. It’s through years of life experience and help from the grownups in your life that you either learn to be kind, or become an even bigger jerk. My point is, should a 10/11 year old kid really get turned into a beast because he won’t let a strange old lady into his house in the dead of night? I dunno man. In any case, he certainly learned his lesson, huh?

What I love most about this character is that he actually takes the risk, after so many years alone, of letting someone in (literally and metaphorically), and when he does, he ends up finding real happiness. The story is slightly complicated in that you can understand why the townsfolk are scared of Beast, but at the same time, after getting to know him through his budding relationship with Belle, the way he’s misunderstood doesn’t seem altogether fair, especially with douchey Gaston as his beloved opposite.

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It’s another one of those “never judge a book by its cover” stories, and a damn good one at that. It teaches us that underneath every shouty, hairy beast with an amazing library is a hot guy with a castle and a lotta money. Isn’t that the greatest lesson of all?

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2. The Beast, Over the Garden Wall

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Here’s a purely malevolent monster for ya. Over the Garden Wall was a special miniseries that ran on Cartoon Network briefly. 10 episodes, each around 10 minutes long (give or take). OtGW follows a pair of brothers, Greg & Wirt, who get lost on Halloween night and need to find their way home. They end up in this crazy world where animals go to school, dead people dress up in pumpkin suits after they’ve become skeletons, and evil lurks around every corner. The Beast is the most feared and evil creature of all. A woodsman is forced into the employ of The Beast, gathering special wood from a special forest. The branches he collects are turned into a unique oil which fuels a magic lantern, a lantern the woodsman thinks contains his daughter’s soul, and which he thus protects at all costs. The wood the oil is made from is actually grown from captured human beings who’ve become trees. But the lantern, which The Beast warns must never go out if the woodsman wants to keep his daughter safe, doesn’t contain the soul of the woodsman’s daughter after all — it contains The Beast’s soul. Turns out he’d tricked the woodsman into keeping him alive.

This isn’t one of those beasts that is portrayed as “misunderstood” in a way that begs sympathy. This beast is deceitful, and causes others pain on purpose. There is, however, a lot left unsaid about him. You never learn his origin, how his soul came to be in that lantern, anything. He’s simply a baleful presence whose influence seems to extend endlessly. He also sings opera. You only ever see him as a silhouette with glowing eyes until the very end, when the woodsman learns the truth and shines the lantern on him.

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There is something we misunderstand about The Beast until the final episode that links him to the rest of us: he feels fear. Specifically, a fear of death. The reason why he tricked the woodsman into capturing all those people and turning them into lantern oil in the first place was simply because he wanted to stay alive. Everybody’s afraid of something, amirite?

3. Dorian Gray, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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This one you probably remember from high school. The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a young man who is the object of an artist’s infatuation. The artist paints a portrait of Dorian that completely captures the way the artist views him, i.e. perfection. As Dorian becomes more and more depraved, the Dorian in the painting grows more ghastly, a representation of the real Dorian’s horrific nature, while Dorian Gray himself remains ageless and perfect as a painting — his wish come true. Dorian Gray is one of my favorite literary villains of all time. I couldn’t believe how terrifying he became. And of course this story has one of the best, most inimitable endings ever: Dorian stabs his portrait self in the heart, but with the destruction of the painting comes the sudden rapid aging of the real Dorian Gray, who is found bearing the mortal wound he inflicted on the painting. The portrait on the other hand returns to its original state of beauty.

I haven’t read this story in years, but I remember enough to say with confidence that calling Dorian a shit is probably the understatement of the century. That guy is on another level. Certainly beastly. But it’s his desire for absolution that ultimately leads to his death. I really need to reread that one.

What/who is your favorite beast?

Later!

Obsessed: Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory’s been on for years, and I’ve been into it for years. But now that ShAmy’s relationship is mega serious (Amy broke up with Sheldon right before he’d planned to propose, she dated a few people, then Sheldon declared his love for her and they got back together) I’m waaaaayyyy into it.

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Apparently last night’s episode is about Sheldon and Amy finally… “getting physical.” I’m gonna watch it today. I’ll be surprised if they actually, er, go the distance. Either way it’ll be funny, though. And one of my favorite comedians, Bob Newhart, is guest-starring again. (If you’ve never seen The Bob Newhart Show, you’re missing out.)

I don’t have much to say today. I’ve got the flu and can’t really think through the chills and aches. But I hope you all have a great weekend!

Pre-departure Montage

What up?

I’ll be heading back to the good ole US of A tomorrow (EDIT: for the holidays; not permanently!) and am STILL preparing, so instead of a week of normal posts, I’m going to give you everything at once. I’ll be visiting with loved ones until the end of the month, so I’m not sure if next week will be back to normal posting or if I’ll just take that time to be away from my computer completely; we’ll see. In the meantime, here’s a week’s worth of posts in one!

Treat Yoself Tuesday: Brunch @ Darwin Brasserie

Susan and I went for the All Day Sunday Brunch at Darwin Brasserie, one of three eateries at the Sky Garden (which is inside the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street). Walking into the restaurant, you pass a full to bursting cold buffet table with tons of eats, including salmon, bread, prawn salad, deli meats (prosciutto, ham, salami, and the like), fruit smoothies, and a dessert table covered in creme brulee, jam and chocolate-filled donuts, blueberry cheesecake, and other lovelies. In addition to taking your pick from the buffet table, you have a Bloody Mary bar (which we took advantage of — traditional for Susan; oyster & Chinese chili for me), a “milkshake” bar, a juice bar, and a hot dish of your choice from the kitchen. I went for the Beef Hash with fried egg; Susan went for the full English Breakfast. Susan enjoyed her full English (except for the black pudding). I would have enjoyed mine if not for the brown sauce mixed into the dish. They gave me a dish of brown sauce on the side in addition and honestly I would’ve preferred to just have it on the side — that way I could choose how much I wanted to use. Other than that though, the food was fantastic, and the after-brunch-views were of course spectacular. I’d love to go back to check out the garden more closely some day soon.

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Writing Wednesday: What I’ve Read Lately

I have a habit of reading several books at once, but since I’ve only just had my Confirmation, I’ve only just started reading fiction again. As such, I’ve only finished 2 books so far.

Less Than Zero is Bret Easton Ellis’s first novel. He started writing it while he was still in highschool; finished it in college. He grew up in the Valley with rich friends who lived in the Hollywood Hills, so this novel about jaded college freshmen from LA with too much of everything definitely has details scoured from his own experiences (at least as far as the indiscriminate sex and drug use). For me, this book hit a little too close to home, not that I know what it’s like to grow up with rich, film industry big-wigs as parents in a Beverly Hills mansion; but it did remind me of what it can be like to be young in Los Angeles… in this case, not necessarily a good thing. Clay comes home for his winter break from an East Coast college and pretty much falls back into the life he had with his friends before he left. But his mindset’s shifted slightly, so the things his friends do (which escalate from “Oh, they’re just young” to “WTF?!”) don’t always sit well with him, especially as they get more and more outrageous. This is not a book for the faint of heart.

If you’ve read The Bone Clocks, the events of this story will be somewhat familiar to you as they take place within the same universe. This story has at its center a mysterious residence which becomes something different depending on who visits. The people in charge of it want one thing in particular, and will do anything to get it, including manipulating reality. I can’t say too much without giving vital things away, and I think the less you know going in (excluding what you may have gleaned from The Bone Clocks) the better.

As for what I’m in the process of reading, there’s The Loney (Andrew Michael Hurley), The Road to Little Dribbling (Bill Bryson), Lunar Park (Brett Easton Ellis), Never the Bride (Paul Magrs), and various comic books and graphic novels.

Travel Thursday: Heading “Home”

I told you all that the concept of “home” is sort of complicated for me. Well, I’m going back to the country of my birth this week XD Hahahaha. Sounds so formal and dumb when you say it like that. I’m going to a couple of cities to see some of my favorite people. The thing I’m looking forward to most is having an early Xmas with my mom ๐Ÿ˜€ (since we can’t spend the actual holiday together) We’re gonna eat everything in the world on Thanksgiving, watch our favorite movies/TV shows, decorate her tree, and exchange gifts. I’m super excited to give her her presents (and to eat her cooking again)!

The last time I visited the US, it felt really weird. Every morning I woke up anxious, thinking I had to get to work, before remembering that I don’t live there anymore. It’s f**kin weird going back to a place where you had a life when your current life is elsewhere. And it’s so easy to fall back into the same routine. Going to your favorite restaurants, watching your favorite stuff on TV, hearing people speak the way you remember (and regaining your accent for a while). But there’s also this feeling that everything you’re experiencing is somehow new, even though it isn’t. It’s crazy.

OBSESSED: “BMO Noire”

I love cartoons. A lot. One of my favs is Adventure Time. There’s one character that’s a computer — his name is BMO. He can walk around and talk and think independently. Recently, I fell back in love with an older episode where BMO has his own story apart from Finn and Jake. They go to a party and leave BMO home on his own. Finn’s pissed b/c he can’t find one of his socks, so BMO spends the whole episode pretending to be a Raymond Chandler-esque detective who finds out what happened to it. The voice actress who does BMO’s voice is Korean and she keeps her accent when she does his voice; his dialogue in this episode is also full ofย  misinterpretations of American/Western phrases from old detective novels. It’s hilarious and adorable. The video above is a preview of the episode from when it first came out. If I could post the episode in full, I would. But I can’t. So you should find it and watch it.

So that’s everything. I’ll probably say hello at some point while I’m away — on Twitter or in a post here. But for now, I’ll say: Have a great week, y’all!

The Perfect Day for Murder

It’s Friday the 13th.
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And I’ve got just the thing for it. When I find a show I really like, I’ll binge-watch. Right now, I’m working on a show that first aired 18 years ago, called Midsomer Murders.

It follows a Detective Chief Inspector named Tom Barnaby who, with the help of his Sergeant Gavin Troy, solves grisly murders in small English villages in the (fictional) county of Midsomer. I’m only on Series 4 at the moment, but apparently John Nettles (who played DCI Barnaby) is only on for 13 (BOOO!!!) and the actor who plays Troy is on for even fewer than that! ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

Generally (at least in the episodes I’ve seen so far), the villages where the murders take place are affluent, as are many of the people involved (not ALL of them of course — there’ve gotta be haves and have-nots for the sake of tension). Despite dealing with some real jerks, Barnaby never loses his cool. He’s clever, honest, funny, observant, fair, and kind — but gets tough when people try to push him around. And even though I’d love it if he did sometimes (b/c some of those people deserve it), he doesn’t run around punching people in the face. He’s low-key, but he always gets his man (or woman as the case may be). He’s my new favorite TV detective (sorry Sherlock).

Ever watched Midsomer Murders? What shows are keeping you glued to the screen lately?

Sorry about the erratic posting this week.

Have a great weekend!

Treat Yoself: Halloween Edition

Halloween is less than a week away!
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So, the only thing to do (of course) is to make all my posts Halloween-themed this week.

You heard me.

You heard me.

To kick things off, why not treat yoself to a Halloweeny afternoon/evening complete with spooky movies/tv and seasonal snacks? Like, while you’re watching The Nightmare Before Christmas for the 10 billionth time…

I watch this movie even when it's nowhere near Halloween OR Christmas time...

I watch this movie even when it’s nowhere near Halloween OR Christmas…

You could pull a Hobgoblin beer out of the fridge. Or a Pumpking. Or a Black Wych. They’re all made by Wychwood Brewery, so take your pick!

I like having choices :D

Each of these beers is on the bitter side (which somehow seems fitting for a ‘dark’ and ‘spooky’ time of year).

And you can munch on some “zombie fingers.”

I love how all they did was slap a different name on the bag.

I love how all they did was slap a different name on the bag.

You could also be interesting/un-lazy and make something really cool, like Ashton’s (of Something Swanky) Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes.
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Or, something kinda gross-looking (but all in good fun ๐Ÿ™‚ ) like Witch Finger Cookies.

“Blood” oozes from beneath almond “fingernails.”

You can throw on my most FAVORITE creepy cartoon ever, BEETLEJUICE!

I used to wish with all my tiny heart to be Lydia.
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Don’t forget to light your Candy Corn and Witches Brew candles.
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And carve a pumpkin or two…
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And wear something awesome because you’d never do fun Halloween stuff with people who’d judge you.
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But whatever you do (or watch, or make, or eat, or drink, or wear), have fun!
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Scare and be scared.
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Just don’t get carried away…
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One of those sappy posts…

Hey there!

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m a one-woman irrigation system when it comes to most things. Sadness = tears. A show of kindness = tears. Anger = tears. Extreme confusion or stress = tears. Lots of laughter = tears. I’m a sensitive little jellybean, and that’s A-OK ๐Ÿ˜€ My favorite tears are, of course, happy tears, and one of my favorite things to do to make ’em is watching a movie or TV show that I love. And yes, OK…the ones that make me cry usually have something to do with love — you caught me ๐Ÿ™‚

Saturday is my favorite day, whether I have plans or not, to watch a movie or TV show that gets me teary-eyed. Here are 5 of my most favorites!

1. “The One With the Proposal” (Friends)
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This is one of my favorite Friends episodes of all time, and not just because Monica and Chandler get engaged at the end. The reintroduction of Richard (the former love of Monica’s life) complicated things in a very real way. We all knew she would eventually choose Chandler, but how long it would take her to do that and what would be enough to make her decide to was in the wind until the proposal itself. I ALWAYS get misty when Monica starts crying after getting down on one knee, and again when Chandler gets choked up during his speech. I lovelovelove that they proposed to each other in the end.

The Monica-Chandler relationship was such a surprise when it first happened, but ended up making a lot of sense. MON + CHAN 4EVER.

2. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
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There are a few tearjerker moments sprinkled throughout this entire film (for me). The movie itself is gorgeous, and the casting is absolutely perfect. Joe Wright & friends send me spiraling through every emotion ever felt from the start of the film to the very last scene. I want Keira Knightly’s Lizzie to be my BFF and life coach. I also want to punch Mrs. Bennett in the face a few times. Anyhoo… I never fail to shed tears over Darcy’s speech when he confesses his love to Lizzie for the 2nd time (“You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love– I love– I love you.” FEELS.) But one of the great things about this film is that Lizzie and Darcy aren’t the only characters you come to care about. My eyes turn into friggin’ waterfalls every time I watch Jane’s response to Bingley’s proposal. WAAAAHHHHHH!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

3. The Holiday
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Most of my teary moments in The Holiday — maybe all of them — happen during Iris’s story. I honestly could’ve watched an entire movie dedicated to her (though imagining myself as the Amanda to Jude’s Graham is fun, too). Iris has all these little moments where you know exactly how she feels. When Jasper’s engagement is announced and she’s trying not to cry, when she’s telling Miles about why she’s there and gets choked up (“…those years of your life that you wasted…”), when she first went inside Arthur’s house and saw his awards…and then saw what his life had become. Kate Winslet is an acting god. I’m pretty much convinced she’s part of an elite acting council, alongside Cate Blanchett, chaired by Meryl Streep. I get completely lost in Iris’s story because of all those little instances of genuine emotion. This is also my favorite role I’ve ever seen Jack Black play. It’s just so easy to root for Iris and Miles: two sweet, sincere people who’ve been sh*t on one too many times, and finally get the happiness they deserve.

P.S.
Shout out to Hans Zimmer. His genius score puts every scene over the top.

4. Ore Monogatari!! (aka, My Love Story!!)
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This one’s for my anime peeps out there. Holy crap, y’all. I finally found a new anime to love, and it’s so flippin’ cute I just can’t even. I’ve never been into anime that’s billed as “Romance”; I don’t mind when a love story is woven in, but for my favorite animes, romance is usually secondary. This one, however, is so good and SO SWEET that there’s at least one part of every single episode that makes me cry.

It’s about a high school freshman named Takeo who’s never been popular with girls because he’s so big and (they say) too strong. Every girl he’s ever liked has gone for his best friend instead. Takeo is incredibly kind and a good guy in general, but very few people are able to see past his appearance (even the people he helps end up thanking his best friend instead of him). Then one day, he sees some perv on the train he’s riding grope a girl his age and he stops the guy. Takeo and the girl he saves, Yamato, fall in love, and it’s the most adorable thing EVER. Yamato is the first girl to openly appreciate all that makes Takeo great. Not only is their story together cute, but Takeo’s relationship with his best friend, Suna (who always turned those other girls down b/c they’d talked badly about Takeo behind his back) is also D’AWW-inducing. And like anything good, it’s not a one-trick pony: there’s romance, but also plenty of comedy and drama. It’s a well-rounded, sweet show ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Big Fish
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Like Ore Monogatari!!, Big Fish is more than just a romantic love story — it’s also a love story about a father and his son. Watching Billy Crudup’s character act so harshly toward his father throughout the film, demanding that he tell him the true versions of all those tall tales, only to watch him soften up at the end while he’s telling his father a tall tale is a heart-destroyer (especially that moment when he cry-laughs mid-sentence). This story is so multi-layered! You have the father and son, the young Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton, the old Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton, and the little girl from the town of Spectre who fell in love with Edward twice in her life, only to be rejected both times. It’s a weighty film, and (as much as I love creepy shiz) my favorite Tim Burton’s ever done.

What are some of your favorite tearjerkers?

The Singing Detective

Hey y’all ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you remember when I won those tickets for a Dennis Potter film screening of my choice at BFI Southbank? You know… the same day I ate a grasshopper. Well, I chose the July 26th screening of The Singing Detective. Not the 2003 film starring Robert Downey Jr; the original miniseries from 1986. As in all six episodes. Screened over the course of about 8 hours. Mmyep. The screening was followed by a Q&A with a panel that included director, Jon Amiel, and the star of the series, Michael Gambon. That’s right: Dumbledore #2 (for those of you who — like me — couldn’t remember him from anything but Harry Potter prior to this screening).

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At the time of the prize drawing at London Review Bookshop, there were still a few screenings left for the Faith & Redemption portion of the BFI’s Dennis Potter retrospective. However, the words Sex & Death are f’n attention grabbers, amirite? And when I reviewed the descriptions of the remaining screenings (and my calendar to see when I’d reasonably be able to attend one), the Sex & Death programming beat out Faith & Redemption for me fair-n-square. The Singing Detective caught my eye in particular because, according to the BFI, it is widely thought to be Dennis Potter’s masterpiece. As a Dennis Potter n00b, I figured, why not start with his best work? The event began at 11AM and concluded at about 8:30PM (this includes the screening of the entire miniseries, a few intermissions, and the Q&A panel at the end). I was worried that the BFI wouldn’t let me use my free ticket for such a special screening. Luckily, it was no problem ๐Ÿ˜€

The Singing Detective follows a writer of Detective Fiction named Philip Marlow (sound familiar?) who has a chronic case of psoriasis as well as psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is a condition which causes extreme skin irritation. The arthritis that sometimes results from this is inflammatory and makes the joints immovable. Philip Marlow is bed-ridden, with fists clutched closed and skin that is boiling red and flakes painfully from his body. Moving in any way is ridiculously painful — at one point, he says that even the tears that run down his face when he cries hurt his skin. He’s also a very angry man who shouts abuse at most of the people he’s forced to interact with (some of whom are admittedly boneheaded), and whose only solace (now that he can no longer use his hands to write) is working out a new detective story in his mind.

Marlow’s present is intercut with the detective story he’s working on, flashbacks to his childhood, and hallucinations. Each story strand is propelled by musical scenes where characters lip-synch to old tunes that are eerily appropriate to the story. The Singing Detective is surreal, yet in certain, sharp moments, so emotionally honest it hurts. Michael Gambon is outstanding. His performance made me feel suuuper guilty aboutย  thinking of him primarily as Richard Harris’s HP replacement up to now.

The surreal quality of TSD reminded me a lot of Jacob’s Ladder, and of David Lynch’s work, too (though Singing Detective predates most of what I’m thinking of). Dennis Potter himself had psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (once, they had a dermatological expert visit the set to check the authenticity of Michael Gambon’s makeup; the dermatologist, not knowing who was who, instead headed straight for Dennis Potter) and said (and I’m paraphrasing) that The Singing Detective was like scraping his bone marrow out with a spoon and giving it to the world. Each story strand bleeds into and informs the other. Visually, you’re left with a whirlwind that makes it almost too easy to share Marlow’s feeling of helplessness — and to imagine how haunted and helpless Dennis Potter might have felt sometimes.

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L to R: TV writer (but not for this series) Peter Bowker, Singing Detective producer Kenith Trodd, actors Janet Suzman and Michael Gambon. On screen above: series director, Jon Amiel.

The panel was interesting. Michael Gambon was hilarious, but he and Janet Suzman’s main contribution to the discussion was their insistence on how grateful they are to have been part of the series. Kenith Trodd shared memories of Dennis Potter — who mostly came on set whenever there was a problem to solve — and also reasons why Potter’s great talent still resonates today. Jon Amiel shared memories of and insights on the entire experience. Peter Bowker was basically there to give the perspective of someone who is both a writer in the business and a fan of Dennis Potter’s work. I really enjoyed hearing what everyone had to say. It was like hanging with friends in their living room.

Gambon and Suzman apparently didn’t interact with Dennis Potter often (he dealt more with the producer and director than the actors). In fact, as far as they could remember, he didn’t say much at all. But Michael Gambon did tell us that once when he and Potter chatted briefly, he told Potter that he liked cars. Every day after that, when Potter spotted Gambon on set he’d ask, “So what d’you think of the new Ferrari?” I just think that’s really sweet, haha. I know how hard it can be to talk to other people, so the fact that, even as a man of few words, he went out of his way to show he’d listened and to speak even when it wasn’t necessary is pretty cool ๐Ÿ™‚

The Singing Detective is an epic emotional roller coaster. But as draining as it can be to watch (especially all in one go — yowza) it absolutely gives back as much as it takes out of you.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out!!!

The first rule of clone club is…

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve recently gotten (all the way) into Orphan Black. The third season will apparently debut next Spring, which is perfect because I’m still puzzling out everything I learned in seasons 1 and 2. I dream about this show — it’s become a problem. In any case, it got me thinking about how seldom human cloning is addressed in entertainment. Seldom compared to how often I expect people think about it (then again, just because Orphan Black is taking up mega space in my brain doesn’t mean anyone else gives a flip about clones, right?). The main thing I’ve been turning over and over in my mind is the possible purpose of the clones in the show. Some years ago, I read Never Let Me Go, which is also about clones, and since I started watching OB, I’ve been comparing the two.

So let’s talk about clones!

Orphan Black

I’ll try not to spoil any specifics in the show for anyone thinking about checking it out. The main deal is this: Sarah Manning (English chick from Brixton, far left in the picture) comes back to the United States after 10 months. Her aim is to get out from under an abusive, drug dealer boyfriend who she works for/with, and take her daughter (whose been in the care of Sarah’s foster mom for the past 10 months), and her foster brother, Felix, with her to start a new life elsewhere. Her first night there, she sees a woman, who looks exactly like her, kill herself. She takes maybe 10 seconds to be openly horrified before snatching the woman’s purse and taking on her identity. Eventually, she learns that this woman wasn’t the only one in the world (or even the immediate vicinity) who shares her face, and she starts coming into contact with the others. They tell her what little they know about the whole thing, and begrudgingly accept her as one of them in their mission to learn more about who they are.

One insane thing after another happens in this show. But in 2 whole seasons, after everything they’ve learned, they still haven’t figured out why they were made or whose DNA theirs was derived from. One of the scientists responsible gives the vague answer “we wanted little girls,” but I’m having a hard time believing this was their only purpose. After all, why not adopt (aside from the absurdly arrogant reason that, this way, they know ahead of time what their child’s DNA is comprised of b/c they synthesized it themselves, unlike with a normal child)? Another question I have is why make so many of the same girl? The clones managed to collect details on a bunch more like them in the world (who we don’t meet). With such a large number of them in existence, of course they’d eventually run into one another and try to figure things out. Is this all part of one giant experiment? If not, why not take greater pains to keep them separate from one another? The clones’ so-called “monitors” aren’t very good at their jobs…

Never Let Me Go

Unlike Orphan Black, the clones in Never Let Me Go are both closely monitored in one large group, and designed for a specific purpose that they learn of early on. They’re also cloned from different persons, rather than just one. The clones in this book live at a boarding school called Hailsham until age 16 where it is mostly stressed that they take care of their bodies. They are not taught anything that would allow them to live independently. The main difference between this story and OB is that the children are told they are clones, and that their purpose is to donate organs to normal human beings once they (the clones) reach a certain age. After they’ve donated as much as they can, they die, or reach “completion.” But knowing this doesn’t mean the clones don’t still have questions. Kathy (the protagonist) and Tommy seek out the head of their old school to ask if Tommy’s last donation can be postponed. What they find out is devastating, perhaps even more-so than what they already know about themselves. I definitely recommend reading this book, if only to give yourself a what-if perspective on an interesting topic.

Have you seen Orphan Black, read Never Let Me Go, or encountered any other clone stories?

Photo Dump & Update

Hey, y’all! (I wrote this on October 1st, but didn’t finish with it until October 2nd)

While I have yet to meet anyone in my department, today I met a bunch of new PhDs and attended an introductory Postgrad Research talk. I met PGRs studying Chemistry, Electronic Engineering, Environmental Science, and a few other subjects I can’t recall at the moment. Folks from Cyprus, Vietnam, Austria, Africa, and good ole England, too. Guess what? Our campus has a space center! I met two PhDs who will be researching there (and who will eventually be presenting their work to hundreds of NASA employees — Yowza o.0)! The talk this morning was led by a member of the Engineering faculty, and supplemented by current student researchers (in departments that include Translation, Medical Science, and Engineering) & program directors who sat in a panel up front and fielded questions from us n00bs. It was super encouraging to hear about their experiences on the road to receiving their doctorates. They advised us to set our own goals (because you can’t always rely on your supervisor to give you anything concrete to work toward), start writing our ideas down as soon as possible, but also not to let our research bog us down and keep us from living. I really appreciated their advice and was bolstered by everyone’s enthusiasm. Tomorrow is the day I get introduced to the faculty and students in my department. I am so ready to get started ๐Ÿ™‚

I had lunch in the library with an Engineering student from Cyprus I met during the welcome talk. I poked around the library afterwards and left with 6 books (they told us to get started early!). I also bought one book at the campus bookstore titled, How Novels Work (hoping for some nuggets of wisdom). I found like 80 books at the bookstore (including graphic novels!!!!) that I really, REALLY wanted…but I was good. I will be back though, oh yes…::insertmaniacallaughter[here]::

Tonight I went to my first quiz! I sat at a table by myself and eventually amassed some teammates. I was the only girl and the only Arts & Humanities kid at the table. We ate some curry, drank some booze, and threw ourselves into the competition headfirst. We ended up coming in 7th (oof) but I had a great time joking around with the guys on my team. Besides, I don’t feel too bad about our score b/c it wasn’t far below the teams above us — a few of them actually ended up tying and only placed much higher than us in sequence b/c their answers to the tie-breaker question (“How many rooms are in Buckingham Palace?”) were closer to correct than ours. We ended up with 37 points and 2 or 3 teams above us scored 42 points. Not a huge gap.

I have my appointment to open a bank account at Barclays next Monday, and hopefully my loan money will be put in immediately b/c I am running lowwww on funds (shout-out to the airlines I had to cancel and re-book with… ๐Ÿ˜ก ). I’m enjoying myself already, but I know I’ll have even more fun once I’m able to spread my wings (read: wallet) and do some traveling. One of my flatmates and I are dead set on seeing The Book of Mormon, so that will probably be my first show in London this time around (I saw Wicked in London in 2008… amazing). I look forward to every day here. I know this year is going to be a good one.

P.S.
I binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it yet, drop (or utilize) your computer and go watch it. NOW! Cosima is my favorite ๐Ÿ˜€

Now, photos! (Disclaimer: these photos are NOT good. A proper camera is on my list of future buys.)

A quiet spot on campus.

A quiet spot on campus.

A bit of sculpture.

A bit of sculpture.

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

My sweet set-up.

My sweet set-up.

Thinking about getting in on this...

Thinking about getting in on this…

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads "Perpetual light upon them shines"

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads “Perpetual light upon them shines”

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.