Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dolly the Vampire Slayer

Or this could be called “Slay Belle.” So this is the convergence between Dolly Parton, country music star, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Dolly Parton rocketed to fame with her hit song “9 to 5,” which was the centerpiece of the 1980 movie of the same name. She became famous not only as a country singer, but as a symbol of what nowadays is called female empowerment.

Then there is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is the TV series that jumpstarted the subgenre knows as urban fantasy. Were there some urban fantasy novels before Buffy? Sure. But it was the Buffy series that made urban fantasy an overwhelming subgenre in novels, movies, and TV shows.

So how did that happen? It turns out Dolly Parton was an uncredited producer of the original movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s right. And Dolly’s company financed the TV series. It was Dolly Parton behind it all the time!

photo by Eva Rinaldi

But what if Dolly hadn’t done that? See my post What if Buffy had Never Been? to see how life as we know it would be different. Meanwhile, you can see every season opening for Buffy below, including the musical episode.

Then you’ll definitely want to see my post Buffy the Vinyl Slayer.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Parkplace Destroyed

No, not the second most expensive property on the Monopoly boards that a lot of you are undoubtedly using. Parkplace was the first high rise in Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle. I remember eating at a Japanese restaurant there a few times. The new name for the area is Kirkland Urban, with a couple buildings of equal size built next door to Parkplace. Now that construction work has been allowed to resume, Parkplace has been torn down. 

All that was left of it this past Wednesday was a pile of rubble. I took a picture, but it was too blurry to use. It reminds me of how the old Totem Lake shopping mall was torn down

All is not lost. See what one of the new features of Kirkland Urban is:

Monday, May 11, 2020

Buddhist Science Fiction—Movie Review

A few hundred years ago, Siyama is a small village in feudal Siam. They are about to be attacked by thousands of warriors who kill everyone in their way.

After the local Buddhist monk performs a prayer ceremony, three young people show up, dressed strangely and traveling in a metal vehicle. They say they are from the future and do not know how they got there. The Buddhist monk assures them to not be concerned about the future. He forecasts they will return to the future during an upcoming moonless night.

The three young people have unusual skills and tools, and they decide to help the village in the days they have left. Can they possibly make a difference?

Siyama: Village of Warriors is a movie that keeps one’s attention, partly because of the historical panorama, partly from the compelling story of three young people trying to help in what seems to be a hopeless struggle. Ana is a female doctor and an Olympic-level archer. Gift is a female history major who knows martial arts. Boat is a male student who is . . . got no idea.

These three students do things that seem puzzling to the villagers but make sense to us, the viewers: Ana wants hard liquor to disinfect wounds and needs needle and thread to sew them up. Gift looks at the cliffs towering over a narrow path to the village and wants lots of gunpowder. Boat tries to solder together parts from the car to make amazing weapons. We end up really rooting for them.

The movie has some disadvantages. Neither the students nor the villagers are that surprised at their arrival. Most of the battles take place at night, so it is often hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And the special effects for the final climax are kind of embarrassing.

Still, if you want to see some Buddhist science fiction, Siyama: Village of Warriors is a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Wascally Wabbit—Not

In the past few years, the Seattle area has seen explosive growth in the rabbit population. I happened to walk by one on the lawn of the condominiums where I live. When I went inside and came back out with a camera, a couple of other guys were moving stuff in to a unit, kind of noisy. I was surprised it was still sitting there, eating grass placidly.

It didn’t care that a human was pointing an object at it. I didn’t want to spend too much time near it, because I don’t want it to get more used to humans than it already is.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Martians Emerge

Today I’m reposting an entry featuring an excerpt from Fairy War, my reimagining of The War of the Worlds.

The Martians are just emerging from their cylinder.  I’ve flipped the main character to female. 

The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively, its oily skin resembling some great fungus on a rotting log in a dank forest.  The quivering of its mouth and the heaving of its body were only matched by the curling and uncurling of its tentacles.  The great mass of them, on either side of its mouth, brought the term “Gorgon” to mind, rather than “Martian.”  But there was a deliberation to the movement of its tentacles, and a vital intensity to the immense eyes as it observed us and the surroundings that conveyed a nastiness of spirit.  A tentacle rose in the air, swaying, then it pointed at me.  Cold sweat broke out on my brow, and I was overcome with disgust and dread. 

Slowly, the monstrous thing slid over the edge of the cylinder like a clump of wet snow toppling off an eave when sufficiently melted.  It thudded like a great mass of leather in the pit.  The most peculiar, thick cry finally emanated from it.  Then another of these creatures appeared, glistening, crawling forward like the first. 

I turned and ran.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Arrested for Walking—The Pedestrian

A solitary man walks on streets through neighborhoods for the simple pleasure of it. A police car accosts him and wants to know why he is walking.

Ray Bradbury wrote The Pedestrian in 1951. He set it a century forward from when he wrote it, but it feels eerily true today. I strongly suggest you look it up online or find it in a collection of his short stories. It is so short, it almost qualifies as flash fiction.

photo by Hitesh reddy allu 

The incident is referred to briefly in his famous novel Fahrenheit 451.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Movie Review: Emma

Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a twenty year-old child of privilege. Having successfully arranged a match for her beloved governess, she now proceeds confidently as an expert in matches. She definitely wants what is best for her friend Harriet (Mia Goth), who is a person of low circumstances. When Harriet receives a proposal from a farmer whom she loves, Emma steers her away from him. She wants Harriet to marry up from her situation.

Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn), Emma’s brother-in-law, looks askance at Emma’s presumption. He lectures her more than once that she is being arrogant, and even has prejudices (in a positive way) about some son of privilege whom they have never met, but who is due to visit.

Emma and Mr. Knightley keep locking horns. Is Emma doing the right thing for Harriet? How will this turn out?

This is the third version of Emma that I’ve seen. (Yes, Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone is a reimagining of Emma, but it doesn’t count.) My favorite has been a 1996 version starring Kate Beckinsale. Readers familiar with the book by Jane Austen say this is the most accurate version, and besides, I think Kate Beckinsale is the loveliest woman in Hollywood. I saw a different 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow, but hardly remember anything about it. The one with Kate Beckinsale has the lowest production values, but it was filmed inside real stately manors, with all the darkness and cramped camera angles that implies. It feels authentic.

I wasn’t going to see this year’s Emma because I was put off by the opulence of it. Jane Austen occupied the lowest rung of the upper class, and the Kate Beckinsale version stays faithful to that. The new version with Anya Taylor-Joy is set in a much higher level of Regency society, which put me off.

But I saw it anyway. Yes, this is a higher strata of society. The incredible wealth of the mansions is hard to feature. The actions of the menservants as they obey every whim of Emma’s father look comical. And this was the first movie I’ve seen that shows what it looks like for the nobles to have their servants dress and undress them. (A couple of rear end scenes were brief.)

Somehow, this year’s version won me over. Emma is usually portrayed as an incredibly vain, arrogant woman who only changes when her folly comes crashing down on her. In this version, there is an underlying sweetness to her that grows, especially in her unending friendship with Harriet. In all three versions, the dance scenes at the ball are the emotional nexus of the story. I have to say that this year’s version had the best dance scenes I’ve seen in any Jane Austen movie. I mean it. The best. Even better than in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (Yes, that counts as a Jane Austen movie.)

So whether you’re a Jane Austen fan or not, I recommend this most recent version.

P.S. Emma is shown playing a small piano and singing. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the end credits that it really was Anya Taylor-Joy.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Coronavirus Did not Shut Us Down

Some moron on NBC said that Seattle is a “ghost town” because of fear of the coronavirus. A lot of us are going online to disprove that. On Saturday, I went to the Bellevue Square mall. (Bellevue is the most populous suburb of Seattle.)

Here we are:

I didn’t focus in any farther to avoid showing people’s faces. Plenty of people milling around, shopping, eating in the restaurants. 

I will say the janitors were visible, wiping down the handrails and other commonly touched areas. The mall has no reason to desire bad publicity. Here’s one of their major tenants:

As I’ve noted before, they’ve achieved a slacker kind of cool vibe. Perhaps I should have said hipster.

And their big rival is there.

They have the work hard, play hard feel.  

So, not a ghost town.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Watch out for that Tree

Last Sunday I noticed that one of the tall trees on our church property looked like it had been split in two. It came to an abrupt end where fresh wood was showing. That part of the ground was blocked from my angle as I approached the building, but I could see the tips of some branches sticking up. I hoped it hadn’t hit the building.

Then from inside, it looked like this:

click to enlarge 

That wasn’t even the half of it. Did I mention it was a tall tree? It was mostly on the roof.

I was amused when a couple young girls ran up in the parking lot, then were stopped by the yellow tape on their side. Then I was told the tree had fallen just an hour before. If it had fallen sometime later, families would have been walking on that sidewalk to get to church.

If you can’t think of something to pray to be thankful for at a moment like that, something’s wrong.

I watched as men on the roof chainsawed off huge chunks and threw branches down.


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