Monday, March 14, 2016

Distractible Rose

book cover
This morning I picked up an old favorite of mine, Rose by Jeff Smith. I've written about it before, and have noted how distractible princess Rose is. In this reading I noticed how that tendency can lead to her missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

SPOILERS

While at Old Man's Cave the Headmaster explains to Rose and Briar that "When you stand on the shore, all you see is the riverbank...but from the height of a sparrow, you can see the course of the entire river" (28). Soon enough he is revealed to be speaking more than literally when Rose finds a sparrow in one of her dreams. She intends to focus on it, so that she can learn to control her dream, but gets distracted by a small stream that she wants to admire. This stream is revealed to be the dreaming, as explained by the dragon she rescues from it: "Do you know what river this is? It is the dreaming itself!" (34)

Rose literally walks away from the sparrow who would allow her to see the entire dream, to look at just a small part of the dream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wizard of Earthsea

I just finished rereading A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin recently, and I wanted to talk about it a bit.

What it's about, briefly: A boy named Ged learns the ways of life and magic, and in addition to learning how to use magic he also learns when and whether he should use magic.

The slightly longer version...

A village boy has an unusual gift for magic, and his skills become particularly apparent when he saved the people of his village from raiders by confounding them with weather magic. A wise old man takes Ged under his wing to teach him, but ultimately Ged chooses to learn the art of magic at the wizarding school on Roke. It's there that, through anger and pride, he looses a shadow that would destroy him and others. But more on that shadow in a bit.

There are a few things I really love about this book, just one of which is that it's the beginning of Ged's story (the rest of which are told in the other Earthsea books). And of course, there are the dragons. That's typically enough to keep me happy.

I'm also fascinated by how the book portrays magic and discusses the balance of the world. In my latest reading it seems reminiscent of Star Wars, though I'm not sure if I could explain it at this point in time. (FYI this book predates Star Wars. I checked.) The following paragraph is a brief summary of the nature of magic and the world.

"All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name" (164).

SPOILERS

Yep, on to spoilers time now. Brief note: with a true name you can control a person or thing. Everyone and everything has a true name, but people keep theirs hidden.

What really fascinates me is that the shadow Ged looses is ultimately himself. But of course, it takes him a while to learn this. He loses his anger and pride when it arrives, which were the reasons it arrived in the first place, and they are replaced by self doubt and meekness. That is, until he realizes the danger he and others are in if the shadow catches him. At that point I don't know if he searches for ways to fight it more for his own sake or others, but even if he is meek in some cases he certainly has no trouble facing danger when and where necessary.

Ged finally realizes that the shadow is a part of himself and in their final confrontation speaks his own name, which is also the shadow's name. And so, far from trying to destroy the shadow as he had intended when he first set out, he has embraced it as part of himself. It seems to me that it's at this point that Ged truly comes into his own.

book cover

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Unexpected in "Jurassic World"

I saw the movie Jurassic World today, and was struck by how they handle they audience's expectations of characters. In particular, where romance and gender are concerned, and how they either play up what the audience will like or throw something at us that we don't expect.

*a few spoilers*

First of all, a certain redhead weird woman wears high heels all through the movie. As I recall, the actress said that she had to learn to run in high heels. This is something that I personally think is nuts when I look at a woman doing this, but it works for the character, so I can hardly criticize. And since I decided very quickly that the character was a tad bit crazy, it worked for me. Heck, the male lead even pointed out that her shoes were ridiculous, so it's not even like everyone was pretending that she made good fashion choices.

And, just like the female lead was as feminine as possible, even to the point of running hither and yon in heels, the leading man was very rugged and masculine.

So the two leads are very feminine and masculine, as we might expect in a movie. But from there, we have a few unexpected things.

One thing sure to grab anyone's attention are a pair of employees in the park, a man and a woman. Nothing is said to indicate romance, but it's easy to assume romantic interest given that that's what we think of when we see two people of different genders set side by side in movies. Eventually it comes to the evacuation where the woman asks the man if he's leaving with her, and he bravely responds that someone has to stay behind. Then, as we might expect, he steps forward for his mandatory farewell kiss. Because that's just what happens, the brave man gets his kiss from the beautiful woman. But that's where things change from what we anticipate, as she awkwardly explains that she already has a boyfriend, and never mentioned him since she doesn't discuss her personal life at work. They hug as friends, and part ways.

Giant neon text may as well have been placed on the screen, "Things don't always have to be about romance, you know."

Even the two lead characters aren't dating at the end of the movie. Sure, there's some sexual tension that goes back to a failed date they mention, and he kisses her when she saves his life. But at the end, even though they agree to stick together for survival, they are clearly not (yet?) a couple, even though they have new respect for each other.

Jurassic World is an odd mix of giving the audience what is expected with very feminine and masculine leads, while also doing the unexpected where romance is concerned. And I like it.

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