Picoreview: Into the Woods

Picoreview: Into the Woods

Picoreview: Into the Woods: Not bad. Not *nearly* as bad as it could have been, which sounds damning with faint praise and isn’t intended to. It may even verge on satisfying, although it’s not entirely satisfying, because I’m too familiar with the stage play.

Many of the performances are very, very good. Most, even. Chris Pine is terrific as Cinderella’s Prince, Shatnering it up way more than he does in Star Trek, and, as everybody has said, the Princes’ Agony is very funny indeed. Meryl Streep is–well, she’s Meryl Streep. She largely manages to make the role of the Witch her own, which, when you’re following Bernadette Peters, is a pretty strong showing all by itself. Etc, etc; almost everybody is very good.

The movie didn’t fix any of the major problems I have with the stage show (and as much as I love it, I have *issues* with the stage show, which I think is hugely misogynistic), but I didn’t expect it to. It did introduce other problems through the changes it made, resulting in–well, chaos, basically. Ted’s not familiar with the stage show and thought the movie was okay but far too chaotic. He was agog when I said there were two plot threads that had been cut entirely. He couldn’t imagine how they’d be stuffed in, although as it happens they both anchor the Rapunzel thread, which he had found to be utterly unmoored.

It also turned out Ted wasn’t familiar with the old-school Cinderella stories, and was straight-up horrified at the step-sisters’ prince-getting antics and fate. That was actually kind of fun, because he threw me a few appalled looks during those scenes and afterward was like “OH MY GOD” and I was like “oh no that’s the original story” and he was all “augh!” I was such a fan of the older, darker fairy tales when I was a kid I never imagine people don’t generally know them, and he *does* know some of the others, but Cinderella’s was new on him. O.O :)

…everything about this commentary is going to be spoilery because it’s comparing the stage play to the film and even if I’m not *comparing* I’m talking about the changes made to the script, so…spoilers ahoy, but I’m not cutting it because it’s a 30 year old play. :)

I maintain that the Wolf should have been played, as he is in the stage play, by Prince Charming (Chris Pine, in the film). Although, because of other changes they made to the script, having him play the Wolf is not putting the ring on it that it is in the stage play. The Wolf is a sexual predator, as is Prince Charming, but by casting the Wolf as someone else and removing the Sleeping Beauty/Snow White subplot (which also deprives us of the Agony reprise, which is, IMHO, even funnier than the original), you end up with “Prince Charming is kind of a jerk” instead of “Prince Charming is a sexual predator” or at the very least “Prince Charming is a *total* player.” It’s not nearly as strong a position as the stage play takes, and I think it should be.

That said, Johnny Depp was almost fine in the role of the Wolf, as he only fell into Depp Mannerisms twice in the five minutes he was on the screen and could almost sing the whole of his song.

The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of the boy who played Jack. Giants in the Sky is one of my favourite songs ever, and the poor kid–I don’t know if his voice was changing, or if he just simply didn’t have the capability to sing the song, but he was flat all over the place and he didn’t even *try* for the final high note. They cut his other song, which is very funny, entirely.

In fact, I felt they’d cut a *lot* of the humor from the show. Jack’s song, the Agony reprise (people have been saying they can’t see how they could top Agony with a reprise, but lyrically it’s very funny and I don’t think it needs to be topped in melodramatic performance), a bunch of stuff with Jack’s mother, some of the Witch’s best lines…really, aside from Agony, I thought all the humor got dropped. A friend thought all of Little Red Riding Hood’s funny bits fell flat, although I thought she was perfect. Possibly, though, her straight-man deadpan delivery wasn’t as funny because most of the normal-funny got dropped.

Despite all of that, though, it wasn’t a bad adaptation. It’s not as Disneyfied as I thought it might be (I had gone in with the impression that the Baker’s Wife’s final song and the subsequent plot points had been eliminated), and overall I enjoyed it. I’ll probably own it, and all that, so, y’know. They did their job. :)

Okay. Lemme talk about the misogyny of the show in general. There are *much more specific* spoilers past this point, again for both the film and stage show, so I will put this behind a cut, but if you’re familiar with either version or don’t care about spoilers, read on. This isn’t like Birdman where I think it should Be Revealed To You as part of the Experience Of The Show. :)

Continue reading

re-learning photography

re-learning photography

I’ve said before that there’s an alternate universe pretty close to this one where I’m a professional photographer instead of writer. Back in the day I was good enough to get a scholarship for photography, but I only pursued it half-heartedly, and after a while digital cameras started doing all the work for me and I forgot what I’d learned. I do manual photography as a kind of crap shoot (ahahah) anymore, without any real sense of how the light or depth of field is going to work.

I can afford to do that with digital cameras, since I’m not burning film, but it’s always kind of bothered me. I’ve made a couple more half-hearted attempts to re-learn the basic mechanics–a photo class here and there, mostly–but not to any particular avail, and I’ve long since gotten rid of the photography basics books I had in high school and college.

But it did kind of occur to me a little while ago that I tend to learn best from reading, and after faffing around a bit I picked up a basic photography book and have been poking at it.

It’s embarrassing, what I’ve forgotten, and how easy it is to remember. Low f-stops create depth of field and high f-stops flatten it, high ISO is good for stopping action and indoor photography, shutter speed–okay, shutter speed I could always remember, that’s pretty easy. :) But I am *terribly* out of practice working the three together, much less having an innate sense of what any given lighting scenario might require to create good pictures.

I don’t know that I’m up for doing a weekly photo challenge/theme/thing, because the last thing I need is Another Thing I Must Do Or Feel Like A Failure to stuff into my copious free time. But I might just kind of work my way through this book and see what I’m learning and doing and post some pictures as I go along, I donno. But I do have some hopes of improving my skills again, because it’s aggravating knowing I’m so much less good than I could be with even a little effort.

My favourite and most successful shot of the experimental pictures taken today, with no doctoring applied to it. It’s not an especially well-framed shot, what with a picture sticking out of the top of his head and a bannister in his neck, but those do at least illustrate the depth of field that I was trying to achieve. :)


More of today’s ISO & depth of field efforts behind the cut, with thanks to a surprisingly patient model. :)

Continue reading

Picoreview: Birdman

Picoreview: Birdman

Picoreview: Birdman: So, wow. That was, so that was a movie.

I’m. Wow. Virtuoso performances from the whole cast. Emma Stone eats the screen alive when she’s on screen, and Edward Norton–it’s always fun to watch actors playing actors, but he’s especially good (I shall detail why behind the spoiler cut). Coming from the theatre background that I do, it was a…it was…it rang true in the same way Noises Off does, except without the farce. Mostly. It was…wow.

And technically, also, wow. The scene changes, the camera shots, the…wow. Sublime. I never, ever forgot that I was seeing sublime camera work and scene changes either, although I don’t think–particularly with the scene changes–that I was intended to.

I…am not sure that Michael Keaton deserves the Oscar more than Eddie Redmayne. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll *get* it instead of Redmayne, because he’s 63 and Redmayne is 33. I would be *really* pleased if it got Best Picture and Redmayne got Best Actor, though.

I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Or liked it. Or…something. I am, however, impressed as hell with it. It’s very, very good.

I’m going to make a couple of spoilery comments about the actual story, and the end of the film, behind the cut. If you think there’s any chance you’ll see it, I’d suggest not reading the spoilers, because I genuinely think it’s worth watching unfold without any particular notion of what’s going on.

Continue reading

Recent Reads: The Paradox Trilogy

Recent Reads: The Paradox Trilogy

As mentioned in last week’s post, I got Rachel Bach (Aaron)’s military sf/space opera last year on the strength of her Eli Monpress books, and, in my quest to get through my TBR shelf in order, read them this month.

They’re not as easy to fall into as the Monpress books; Devi Morris, the main character, isn’t as charming or delightful as Eli Monpress. Then again, she’s not supposed to be, so frankly that speaks to Aaron’s strengths as a writer. Book one found its footing after a few chapters, and carried on well up until the end, when Aaron pulled out a plot device so appalling that I still can’t believe she used it. Not “oh my god I can’t believe she did that to this character,” but “oh my god I can’t believe she used such an incredibly annoying trope, how plot devicey can you GET.”

In Aaron’s defense, the world setup allowed for the unbelieveable trope, with it being at least nominally set up beforehand. That didn’t, however, really make it particularly forgiveable. I started the second book immediately anyway, but with a bad taste in my mouth. The unbelieveable trope was resolved about a quarter of the way through the second book, but it took until about halfway through for the book to really feel like it had recovered and was kicking back into action.

Fortunately, when it kicked back in, it did so with a vengeance. Arguably, in fact, the main plot for the whole trilogy really kicked in halfway through book two, and it went rollicking on to the end of the books in excellent form. I had a theory about how one aspect was going to turn out and was proven wrong, which faintly surprises and probably pleases me for its lack of predictability. (Only probably because I’m still trying to decide if I think her resolution was more satisfying or mine was. :))

I really, *really* wish she’d found a different way to deal with the issue that prompted the Unbelieveable Trope, because that came very close to being a deal-breaker. However, as anybody who is reading this will now go into the books forearmed, I can as a whole recommend the trilogy, because despite the Unbelieveable Trope they’re really pretty good books.

so many conventions

so many conventions

Argh, there are so many conventions I’d like to go to this year. I’d like to go to EasterCon, because Jim’s going to be one of the guests of honor and it’s the perfect place for seeing UK-based friends.

I’d like to go to WorldCon because it’s West Coast this year and so loads of people I know will be there and so will Daniel Keys Moran, who doesn’t go to cons and who I would really, really like to meet.

And I just found out WFC is in Saratoga Springs again this year. WFC is by far the best professional convention to go to, *especially* when it’s held in New York, because half the publishing industry just hops on the train and pops up for the weekend, and besides that, lots of people I know will be there.

I’d like to go to Geek Girl Con, too, but it’s the same weekend as Octocon, and assuming all goes well I’ll be doing a book launch at Octocon so yeah, no.

Anyway, I don’t know how I can go to any of them, realistically, never mind ALL of them, which would presumably require selling a kidney. Or a book. Or several. :)

(Before anybody says “Kickstart it!”, 1. I just ran a Kickstarter that hasn’t been fulfilled yet, so the idea would make me twitch anyway, and 2. I don’t have any idea what I could offer as rewards/perks/whatevers to make it worth anybody wanting to support such an endeavour. So. :))

reality collides with perception

reality collides with perception

I asked for Rachel Bach‘s Paradox Trilogy for my birthday last year, and, in my Read The TBR List In Alphabetical Order quest for 2015, I started reading them this week. I also discovered that my interest in them was a source of great confusion to Ted, who knows I hated Honor Harrington and had extrapolated that I disliked space opera/military SF, which is bonkers. I stared at him in utter astonishment and he said, “Well, they look like they’re up the Honor Harrington alley and you don’t like those kinds of books!”

“Like I totally hate the Jack Campbell books,” I said somewhat incredulously. “And I totally didn’t read all the OLD MAN’S WAR books. Or FOREVER WAR, for that matter. Or Lois McMaster Bujold. Or all of Elizabeth Moon’s military SF.” (Although, to be fair, I read those before I met Ted.) Anyway, he got a pretty funny expression of “all of these facts I was indeed previously aware of have conflicted horribly with this notion of reality I had created,” but it was all cleared up when I explained that it was the Harrington books in *specific* I didn’t like. (Which is something he also knew, but had just filed under “hates military SF.” Seriously, the first three chapters or so were just, like, filled with Specific Things Catie Doesn’t Like. It’s like Weber had a checklist of tropes that would get on my nerves and went down it assiduously marking them off. I didn’t get any farther than that in the books. I couldn’t stand it. :))

None of that has anything to do with the Paradox books, so although this was going to be a Recent Reads post instead it’ll just be an amusing anecdote post. :)

ytd wordcount: 16,100

Irish literary bursary awards clinic

Irish literary bursary awards clinic

Ireland offers bursaries to artists of varying walks of life. Last night I went to a clinic on Writing Your Bursary, which had some interesting information, like, they had €867K worth of applicants last year and were able to fund about €80K’s worth of them. o.O I’m not clear on whether that was for the full year or for each half of the year, but I think it was for the full year.

They have somewhere around 150 applicants per funding period and fund about 15 of them. There were 30 of us in the class, so I figured at best only half of us could get a bursary. o.O again :)

They don’t expect a detailed budget and they’re not looking to see the intimate details of your finances, which I hadn’t known. I’d kind of assumed they were after the intimate details.

They don’t expect the first part of a work in progress to be submitted, but rather, basically, the best bit. Which I thought was interesting, since that’s certainly not how you submit to a publisher. It was, we were told, REALLY HELPFUL to submit a synopsis along with your work in progress, which there is no indication of on the website, and indeed the last time I applied they were very clear about 10 Pages and Ten Pages Only. But they said “pshhhh,” more or less, about that, and that nine pages or twelve, whatever showcases the piece the best, is what should be submitted, and a synopsis is very very helpful.

Overall I had the impression that they’re looking for pretty plain language, not really dressing up your proposal in flowery language or anything.

The applications are reviewed by a jury of peers, usually a novelist, a poet, an editor and perhaps somebody else, who review the short list (which is determined by the Arts Council themselves, and tends to be about 1/3rd of the original # of applicants). The jury is given the mission statement and the work in progress to read ahead of time, and then see the CVs and any other supplemental material on the day. Applicants are advised to keep it simple, because the WiP and the CV were by far the most important factors.

They generally split the applications into Emerging and Established writers. Emerging writers are generally encouraged to apply for and very rarely granted more than €3K, whereas the Established writers are more likely to get the larger grants.

It was certainly interesting, and I’m glad I went! I shall be putting my proposal together this weekend. :)

nap time

nap time

I had to wait for a parcel delivery this morning, so after bringing Young Indiana to school I came home and–in a fit of craziness–sacked out on the couch for a nap. Or a rest, because I never got properly asleep, mostly because I kept falling asleep just enough to snore, which I was not too asleep to hear. Turns out hearing yourself snoring keeps you awake just as much as hearing somebody else snoring.

I anticipated the delivery time of the parcel correctly, though, which led to a pretty ideal 90 minute rest that I definitely needed. Especially since I have big plans to Go Out tonight (to the Writers’ Centre, where they’re doing a workshop on applying for literary bursary awards), and I thought it would be nice to be semi-conscious for that. It may mean I need to put real pants on, though, which is an alarming prospect. :)

Between the nap and the thing tonight, though, I don’t anticipate getting any writing done today. (Oh, that reminds me I need to post the M&M chapters.) I’m doing pretty well on wordcount for the year so far, well ahead of my minimum goal, so a day off won’t hurt.

I forgot to say that Supernatural‘s season 9 finale ended where I thought it had to, and that I am therefore pleased with it.

Back to cleaning the kitchen now, because I know how to have fun.



We finished up s9 Supernatural last night, although the urgency of watching s10 has been alleviated due to the news that they’ve renewed for an 11th season. I still want to get through to the 200th episode before I get spoiled for it, as I have managed (for once) to be spoiler-free thus far. (Note: never ever allow Sarah Rees Brennan to talk about a TV show you’re both watching but you’re behind on. She’s spoiled me TWICE for The 100, and also for another thing but I can’t remember what right now. :))

Last night, Past Me, who is too familiar with Future Me, had the good sense to take something out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw for dinner tonight. Present Me was surprised and pleased to open the fridge this morning and find the thawing dinner stuff, and several times through the day thought “crap! I need to get something out for dinner–no, wait, I already did!” The result is that we had leftover Thanksgiving dinner tonight. I have to say, being able to pull half a T-Day dinner out of the freezer and whip up some mashed potatoes and gravy to round it all off is really pretty awesome. When we’re done with these leftovers I may get another turkey to roast just to have that kind of meal on hand. The best part, though, was that we also had leftover cranberry bread, made by a friend, that I had cut into quarters and frozen, so that was like the cherry (or cranberry) on top of everything, and it was really, *really* nice. Thanks, Past Me!

There’s something else I’ve thought of several times that I was going to mention, but I can’t remember it when I’m looking at the blog screen. Oh, I know what it was. No wonder I keep forgetting it, it’s not interesting to anybody but me. Just that I had our oil tank filled and it cost about 40% less than it did at this time last year. Pretty big difference. Long may the oil prices drop.

ytd wordcount: 13,000

three things make a post?

three things make a post?

I would like to thank Stephen Amell and the dude in the tinfoil hat for making this happen. #laughs

People around here are healing. Ted braved work today and Young Indiana went to school. I wrote 3000 words, which was kind of unexpected. I’ll actually have new MAGIC & MANNERS chapters to post for people this week! Pretty exciting stuff. :)

I…don’t know anything else interesting. Oh wait! Here’s a picture of a bird. :)


We found this bird house at the zoo the other day, a place we’d never been into before. Given we’ve been to the zoo about 40 times, I was astonished there was a building we hadn’t been in. It had birds! And bats! That bird there is a Great Indian Hornbill. Isn’t it magnificent?

They also had these Victoria Crowned Pigeons in there:


Pretty high-falutin’ for a pigeon, if you ask me. :)

ytd wordcount: 11,600