Wonderfully unexpected

Recently I posted a bunch of Welcome to Night Vale art prompts on Tumblr.

The first one was simply this: “I need a picture of Carlos putting his lab coat on Cecil’s shoulders, please…someone…” I didn’t know if anyone would even see it, let alone reply, but Sisaat, one of my favorite WTNV fan artists (their style is just so dreamy and beautiful!) took the idea and ran. (“okay so this is turning into a comic for some reason so it might take a while and be sloppy, but it will happen,” they posted.)

Cecilos fanart
Carlos putting his lab coat around Cecil’s shoulders, by Sisaat (fansbyproducts)

And here it is!

I don’t even know what I expected. Maybe I was thinking it was just cold out and Carlos was offering his lab coat for basic warmth. But this…this is so sweet, yet sad. I’m just overwhelmed by how a random request I tossed off one day became this absolutely gorgeous artwork, this amazing little story.

My next post in this vein was a list of ideas, starting with “Carlos in Science Goggles.” This post was actually reblogged by popular WTNV fan blog sexybaldwin, so now I keep seeing artists fave or reblog it. An artist called classynerdpot responded to the prompt “Carlos giving Cecil a traditional, careful shave with a straight-edge razor.” You can view that one here. Again, not at all what I was imagining–to be perfectly honest, I was thinking of this scene from Skyfall–but oh, isn’t this funny and cute? I love it!

I wonder if anyone else will draw any of my prompts? It’s so exciting!

This experience makes me miss the Anime-Manga Roleplaying Network. Writing was so much fun when I had other writers to respond to and plot with. Other people have such interesting ideas. They see things I don’t, go places I never would. And then I can build on that, and so on, until we have something amazing.

I need to find someone to work on a project with, I think.

[Update: Carlos in Science Goggles!]

A Harry Potter TV series

…would be awesome, right? And here’s how I would do it.

Ever since the third movie, I’ve felt that movies can’t adequately tell the Harry Potter story. The world is too rich. There are too many characters, too many magical creatures, too much backstory. Subplots upon subplots must be left out for time, but this causes confusion and sometimes story changes.

The first two books translated well enough, as they were short and simple stories, but as soon as complexity came in, the overall tale started to suffer. It probably would have been best to make two films each from Azkaban onward.

Still, movies can’t beat television when it comes to telling complex stories, because television has the time to do more. It’s why I’ve all but stopped going to the movies, but still watch TV (though not much, to be honest). It’s why when I’m scanning through Netflix to find something to watch, I usually avoid the movies and look for a series to sink my teeth into. Maybe this says something about a decline in the quality of movies in general; I don’t know. I just know that I like to be engaged with many characters and a deep plot and an interesting setting, and I don’t get enough mental stimulation from most movies.

In any case, I’ve long thought Harry Potter should be done as an animated series with 30-minute episodes. I’d prefer some really pretty anime art, but the brilliant Iron Man: Armored Adventures has me reconsidering the potential of CGI 3D cel-shading. Regardless of how it’s animated, it needs to look beautiful and magical. (This was one thing that kind of felt off to me about the Harry Potter films; many things that should have been beautiful were not, including the centaurs. The mermaids were supposed to be fearsome, of course, but that doesn’t mean everything had to be frightening.)

The series would have a team of regular writers, and, assuming she wanted a hand in it, J.K. Rowling would be the producer, and she’d sign off on all the story concepts. In general the main plots would follow the books pretty much to the letter. We’d get to see all the scenes we’ve imagined, maybe not the way we imagined them, but in a new and interesting way.

There would also be some original one-off episodes thrown into the mix. I’d let the writing team write some of these, but I’d also woo guest writers, people who’ve written good stuff for other shows, and just see what they might do for Harry Potter. Rowling would have to have veto power, but I imagine she’d be open to some different interpretations and situations for her characters, and would only speak up if she felt like a writer had misunderstood a character. These one-offs would be stand-alone; they could not affect overall continuity in any major way (although minor effects would be fine, and background characters could get more spotlight. Wouldn’t you love “A Day in the Life of Luna Lovegood”?).

Story arcs would flow from the canon material pretty naturally. I’m not sure how the episodes would break up into seasons, since the books are all different lengths, but this is something the writers could discuss and figure out. The original episodes could help with padding a season out when needed. Also, just because the series would be following the books wouldn’t necessarily mean there couldn’t be expanded flashback episodes. I’d love to see a story arc about Dumbledore, a story arc about Snape, a story arc about James and Lily, a story arc about Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Even the diary flashback about Tom Riddle from The Chamber of Secrets could be expanded into an episode, or perhaps worked into a longer series about Tom Riddle and Voldemort that would go with the Half-Blood Prince episodes. Following Harry’s story doesn’t mean the series would have to only follow him. Maybe some of the original episodes could spend more time with Hermione. The possibilities are endless.

The point would be a robust series, with a known beginning and end, and a lot of known stuff in the middle, but then plenty of possibilities for new stories and new visuals and new music and new actors and a fresh, full way of experiencing the universe J.K. Rowling envisioned.

Would that not rule?!

Goldfish Salvation

My friend Matt recently linked me to a blog post introducing “Goldfish Salvation”, an exhibit in London by Japanese artist Fukahori Riusuke. That one link sent me off on a web surfing expedition, culminating in a read through Fukahori’s own words on his original inspiration.

A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation
A Cup of Flower, Riusuke Fukahori - Goldfish Salvation (Photo by Dominic Alves)

Fukahori paints acrylic pictures of goldfish in containers between layers of resin, creating a lifelike 3D effect. His work is beautiful and powerful. Here’s a blog post detailing the setup of the exhibition, and here is a wonderful collection of photos of the various works. The exhibit’s official site unfortunately tells me that it’s over as of tomorrow. (Will Fukahori show his work elsewhere? Atlanta maybe, hint hint?)

I was interested to see if I could find out whether or not “Goldfish Salvation” was a translation of 金魚救い (kingyo sukui), the Japanese festival tradition of plucking goldfish out of a tank with a circular paper scoop. You have to swoop down just right in order to avoid the scoop getting too wet and breaking, letting the fish fall through it. 救い literally means “help; aid; relief; salvation”, so it’s like you’re saving the goldfish when you manage to do it right and take one home.

On Fukahori’s official page, I discovered that “Goldfish Salvation” does indeed make that direct reference…but it has a double meaning.

Fukahori had been thinking of giving up on art. Try as he might, he couldn’t find inspiration. He slumped across his bed in defeat, and as he lay there, he happened to see his pet goldfish Kinpin. He’d scooped her at a festival seven years prior. Staring down at her from above her tank, he thought about all she’d endured, and yet she’d kept going, kept living, growing to 20 centimeters in length. At that moment she was beautiful and strange to him.

He started painting, using her as a model. And when he was done he’d painted so many goldfish. “This is it,” he thought.


The answer I’d been searching for wasn’t in Europe. It wasn’t in America. It was right here in this room.

Since then, I’ve held precious the events of this day, calling them 金魚救い.

The goldfish he’d “saved” seven years ago at the festival had now saved him.

Goldfish Salvation.

Art, and remakes and revisions thereof

I started this as a response to Hai’s comment to my previous post, but it got long-winded so I decided to put it here.

Regarding the third Harry Potter movie: they did rearrange stuff, and leave a lot out (I was really looking forward to seeing Snape hover unconscious with his head lolling to the side…and they never explained how Lupin knew about the map, or about Prongs! Plus the movie ended early, etc…). As I was telling Brooke the other day, though, I guess I don’t see movies as “adaptations to a different format” so much as I see them as “retellings”. You know how several different people can see the same movie, but they’ll all talk about it differently? Or how the same event can happen to two people, but they’ll both give two different accounts? That’s how I see “remakes”–movie versions of books, anime versions of manga, etc. (This doesn’t typically apply to book versions of movies; I haven’t come across many book retellings that were all that great, because I think they try too hard to bring out the feel of the movie, instead of trying to be good literature.)

So I guess if someone’s complaint is that a movie didn’t include everything from the book it was based on, or if a movie rearranged things to make for a better movie, then I can’t agree that those are good enough reasons to dislike the movie. I feel that movies should be judged as movies, not as “moving picture forms of books”. The media are completely different; it is impossible to make a direct translation.

I think there is a sense in the US that the first version of something is automatically the best version, and everything else must be judged based on the first version. I get the feeling that later versions are supposed to present the perfection of the first version to new audiences, and when this is “unsuccessful” or when the new version goes in a different direction, those who were fans of the original don’t say “wow, that’s interesting”, they say “I want to rip out the entrails of anyone involved in the making of this garbage!” There is a keen sense of betrayal that I think can shoot any chance of good, collaborative, community storytelling right in the foot. Originality, in this particular genre, is not seen as a good thing.

People who know of my disdain for the Star Wars Special Eds (they ride the short bus) may think that I am being hypocritical here. Far from it. I would have no problem with George Lucas making new movies, and reinterpreting what he set down in the originals. My problem comes when he takes the originals and changes them fundamentally. You can’t disagree that the stories were changed. This is, I feel, more of a slap in the face to the integrity of the original work than would be making an entirely new version of it.

I have a strong sense of history in the arts. I feel that any piece that has been published should be allowed to remain available to the public. By revising and revising and then only releasing the revised versions on DVD, George Lucas is sweeping his original Trilogy under the rug. I’m lucky enough to have a set of laserdiscs, but I don’t have a laserdisc player, and my tapes won’t last forever.

A remake, on the other hand, does not in any way “undo” what has come before. It’s just a different version; a retelling from another point of view. Anyone who has studied history even a little should know that we never know the whole truth. Everything is shaded by bias and by the scope of perspective of the observer(s). Only by getting multiple perspectives can we even begin to approach “what really happened”.

I used to be really, really anal about “canon”. Basically, I wanted everything to fit, to be internally consistent, and to recognize that there was only one real “truth”. This gave me plenty of headaches on the AMRN, because we were constantly revising history in order to explain away GM or player disappearances, or to add in new Macross information. It drove me nuts. I felt that the integrity of the game was demolished every time it happened.

I think this mindset came from my childhood, when I believed that everything I read or saw on TV was real, out there somewhere in another dimension that I couldn’t reach. I was comforted by the fact that I could at least watch what was going on. Many times I would pray that God would send me and my family into one of the universes I loved. Back then, when I encountered a remake–like the Popeye movie–I had to explain it to myself as “pretend”, and later as simply more alternate dimensions.

But as an adult, I started to watch more anime, seeing how different stories have been made and remade and accepted not with cynicism and judging but with open-armed excitement at seeing an old story in a fresh, new light. And I slowly began to change my mind. New versions of something do not negate or invalidate the old. They’re all the same story, but told through different eyes. (And if that’s too difficult to grok, then the alternate universe theory should placate you.)

Connor Reloaded

This is the sort of thing that happens when I get bored.

In case you’re interested, this is the original picture.

My reaction to Pulp Fiction

All right. Dinner.

  • One medium Dr Pepper, no ice
  • 8-pc chicken nuggets from Chik-Fil-A
  • Medium waffle fries
  • Cole slaw

Is that how you spell it? “Cole slaw”? What a ridiculous term.

I suppose my readers–yes, all two of you–are wondering what happened to the sushi. Well, Sean was already late getting home because he stopped off at his parents’ house to pick up a few things he still hadn’t moved over here. I saw his saxophone case and a computer case in his car, and apparently there’s more stashed in there somewhere. He also ran around to Best Buy and to the Suncoast in the mall, looking for movies. I’m not sure what got him in the mood to watch a movie tonight, but he called me and said he was looking to buy one or more of the following: Pulp Fiction, The Transporter, and Aliens. It turned out that Aliens is currently out of print, due to its initial DVD release being of rather poor quality, and is due to be rereleased in an Alien box set this winter. He finally decided to get Pulp Fiction only, but the mall wanted $10 more than Best Buy, so he swung by the apartment, picked me up, and we ran over to Best Buy.

On the way he told me that he was supposed to meet someone on AC2 at 9pm. This meant that we would have to rush at dinner. I said that we should go to Chik-Fil-A instead, then, and save the sushi for when we had more time. Part of what I love about eating out is not being rushed and just enjoying the evening. So we grabbed Pulp Fiction–and the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack–at Best Buy and then crossed the street to grab some Chik-Fil-A. We came home and Sean was all ready to watch the movie.

I was a little hesitant. I know that Pulp Fiction is one of those movies everyone has seen and that it’s critically acclaimed and all, but I’d heard some rumors about what it was like, and quite frankly I was a little afraid of it. So I wasn’t too thrilled about watching it right away. It turned out that my DVD player couldn’t handle the DVD…it has problems with most modern discs, unfortunately. I thought I was saved, but Sean said we could just watch it on my computer. I relented because he really seemed to want to see it.

I have just retrieved

  • One glass of sugar-free raspberry juice

I wanted ice cream, but I didn’t want to write that I was eating ice cream like a wuss because I was afraid of a movie. :P

So we were watching Pulp Fiction. The initial scene was annoying, but it didn’t really bother me. Well, except maybe that kiss, because it was kind of gross. I like kisses and kissing scenes, but that one was sloppy, and it also felt stupid. I mean, these were robbers. Congratufuckinglations on loving each other, but could you stop being assholes?

Anyway, my reaction to the next scene pretty much set the tone for the rest of what I saw of the film. Travolta and Jackson’s commentary is amusing, but as things go on and the plot is unfurled I can sense that something is going to happen. Something I know I am not going to like. Something involving violence. I watched Desperado; I’ve seen flying gore and guts. But that’s the kind of movie where it doesn’t matter because it’s so sudden and surprising. It’s cartoony almost. With this, I had to deal with the waiting. Waiting while they chatted with one another, bringing up topics that were seemingly irrelevant–although of course I could tell that everything was included with a purpose. All their apparently inane chatter did was build up the tension. And when they arrived to do the job, instead of simply getting it done…they built up the tension even more.

When Jackson finally shot the guy on the couch, I jerked as if I had been the one shot. And then the guy in the chair began sniveling and I knew he was going to die. I knew it would happen; why wouldn’t they go ahead and kill him? But no, they had to torture him, had to taunt him, had to teach him a lesson. I felt like I was the one being tortured and lectured to, and it just wouldn’t stop, until finally they were filling the guy with bullets. But seeing him executed was not a relief. It did not relax me, because I knew that the movie was just beginning, and that things far worse than this were coming.

I knew I wasn’t safe. I knew that I was going to see things I didn’t want to see. I tried to build up my courage, but I was already hugging my elbows, frozen in my chair. I couldn’t eat my dinner. (Until later ;P)

The drug dealer scene was surreal and pathetic, but it allowed me to relax a little. I began to cringe again when Travolta shot up. And then he was on his way to see Uma Thurman–a beautiful woman who I found horribly unattractive in this film–and she kept being druggy-sexy, and you knew she was off-limits, and you were just waiting for the shit to hit the fan, and it did, with a fucking vengeance. And the tension just kept building.

The direction…it’s brilliant, perfect. It makes you scared about what’s coming next because you know something‘s coming. This is the kind of movie where the plot flows naturally and beautifully but instead of riding along with it, you’re being yanked behind on a choker chain that keeps getting tighter and tighter. You never choke, and sometimes it loosens, but there’s never enough slack to breathe completely, and then you’re being dragged along again and the noose around your neck just gets tighter and tighter.

It was uncomfortable. It was scary. It was a crawly panicky feeling in my gut that made me want to scream.

By the time we got to Bruce Willis’ escape from the boxing ring and his meeting with his strange lover, I couldn’t take it anymore. They kept talking and talking and I kept cringing and waiting for the door to burst open and for someone to riddle their bodies with bullets. The tension was too much, it was just too much. I got up and left the room and sat on the toilet and cried.

I am a total fucking wuss.

I sat there curled up and let myself cry until I was done. When I finally managed to calm down, I washed my face and came back into the office and told Sean that I didn’t think I could watch the rest of the movie.

“Why not?” he asked.

I hugged him around the shoulders from behind; he was still seated at his computer. “Because I don’t like it,” was the answer I came up with.

“Fair enough.”

My husband is a very understanding man. I don’t think AJ would have accepted that reason.

I wanted to explain it to him, but I’m not sure I’ve even adequately described my feelings here. The movie was a pressure cooker, I guess, and I was the first steam to flee. It’s not something that makes me jump for joy and be proud of being me, that’s for sure.

So I asked Sean to tell me what happens in the rest of the movie, and he did. Now that I know exactly what is going to occur, I might be able to watch it…but not today, not right now. Right now I’d just like to calm back down, drink my raspberry juice, and chat on IRC. Then I’ll go to bed and snuggle under the covers and try to forget the horror.