X-Men vs. X-Men: First Class

Okay, I just had to re-watch Brian Singer’s original X-Men (2000) after seeing X-Men: First Class.  I wanted to see how these two movies played off each other.  Call XM:FC what you want–origin story, prequel–it still has to be a good movie.  And I think Singer’s original X-Men is a much better movie than X-Men: First Class.  Here’s why.

1.  XM: So much more character development of several characters–Rogue, Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, Jean Grey.  This movie takes time with its characters and keeps focus on Wolverine as the “schill” or the “new guy” who gets to experience all the Xavier School like we do, for the first time.  He operates “as us” so other characters tell him things we need to know.  Their world is well-developed already and intricate and we get the idea that it’s solid and has been this way for awhile, and has stuff that we haven’t seen yet.

XM:FC barely develops Eric as a tragic, one-note, revenge-minded character, and Charles as a privileged fop whose compassion comes because of his blindness to others hardships (though occasionally, his mind-link helps him “understand” your pain).  FC Xavier comes by his compassion too easily; original Xavier seems much kinder, empathetic, a person I’d admire.

None of the minor characters in XM:FC are even developed.  They barely get screen time except to fight.  Sure XM has its share of background/throwaway characters who simply run through a door, or make an ice rose, but we don’t need to know who they are.  They aren’t pivotal to the plot.  XM:FC characters are, and it’s a shame they are never really developed.

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Mob Rules and the Art of the Team Movie— a review of X-Men: First Class

I saw X-Men: First Class last night.  It was a good, solid action movie with stunning special effects.  It moves and kept me interested.  It never had me on the edge of my seat.  It’s an origin story– it has to go through certain details to collect them all–but it doesn’t do it very interestingly, in my opinion.  It also has trouble with multiple characters, having a hard time giving them much development.  I thought the original X-Men did a better job at giving each character a moment.  While Wolverine, Rogue, Dr Jean Grey, et al have their moments to shine as characters pre-Xavier, we don’t have that in this movie.  Here, we barely know anything about Banshee, Beast, Raven, Angel, Darwin, Havoc.  They are more about what they can do than who they are–though they hint at something deeper.  In all, it’s a pretty good film, but not an amazing one.  Enjoy it as an action flick.

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There Are Stories You’ve Never Heard, Brilliantly Told: a review of The River

I went Saturday night to The River, a Nakai production, with Michael Greyeyes directing a play written by David Skelton, Judith Rudakoff and Joseph Tisiga.  To be frank, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in what I thought would be a sermon on homelessness.  I just didn’t want the guilt.  (And yes, I’m ashamed I actually said that—but I’m human and honest, and homelessness seems so much larger than I can comprehend–and I don’t know how to react “properly” or have any effect on the problem.  I suspect avoiding the issue is part of that problem–and yet, it’s the easiest thing to do.)

But local playwright David Skelton co-wrote the play, and I’m a huge fan of David and Nakai.  So I went.

I was blown away.   It wasn’t a sermon.  It wasn’t a guilt trip.  It was eye-opening, and it was riveting, and it was brilliant.  

For more of my review of The River at What’s Up Yukon

In a nutshell, brilliant writing, directing and acting take you into the vulnerable world of the homeless in Whitehorse.  Inspired by first person stories, collected by the writers through interviews over several years, that interviewing technique gives this play a realistic quality you won’t find in stories about homeless people.  You want to catch this play fast.  It’s here for a limited time, limited seating.  You won’t be disappointed.  I predict a long life for this play, and many, many performances across Canada.

(For more stunning photos of The River by photographer Richard Legner, visit this page.)

The Nudge, The Monument, and The Fan Base: thoughts about the endurance of writers

Roger Ebert responded recently to an article by Cynthia Ozick written in the New Republic.  So goes my reading.  I get my Ozick from Ebert, but that’s ’cause I’m reading where Ebert is writing.  I don’t have a subscription to the New Republic (but, alas, I should).  Anyway, he quotes from her a lengthy passage about writers no one reads anymore.

Death disports with writers more cruelly than with the rest of humankind,” Cynthia Ozick wrote in a recent issue of The New Republic.

“The grave can hardly make more mute those who were voiceless when alive–dust to dust, muteness to muteness. But the silence that dogs the established writer’s noisy obituary, with its boisterous shock and busy regret, is more profound than any other.

“Oblivion comes more cuttingly to the writer whose presence has been felt, argued over, championed, disparaged–the writer who is seen to be what Lionel Trilling calls a Figure. Lionel Trilling?
“Consider: who at this hour (apart from some professorial specialist currying his “field”) is reading Mary McCarthy, James T. Farrell, John Berryman, Allan Bloom, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Edmund Wilson, Anne Sexton, Alice Adams, Robert Lowell, Grace Paley, Owen Barfield, Stanley Elkin, Robert Penn Warren, Norman Mailer, Leslie Fiedler, R.P. Blackmur, Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag, Lillian Hellman, John Crowe Ransom, Stephen Spender, Daniel Fuchs, Hugh Kenner, Seymour Krim, J.F. Powers, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Rahv, Jack Richardson, John Auerbach, Harvey Swados–or Trilling himself?”

Ebert goes on to talk about whether he’s read these authors, and he’s read all but two.  Ozick goes on to ask the question of whose writing will endure?  I’m not sure that’s the question to ask.  After the Library of Alexandria debacle, who can say anything will endure?  But can we say that we affected the minds of those who lived?  Yes.

Ozick determines that Saul Bellow will endure, most because of the Adventures of Augie March, a book I know few of my friends will have read.  I haven’t read it, and I should.  But it did affect a whole generation.  Ebert makes a comment about Hemingway, that we will know him for The Sun Also Rises and his stories, but little else (he’s quoting and agreeing with another friend).  And true, Old Man and the Sea, though the Pulitzer winner, isn’t the book that endures.  It’s his first book of stories, I think, and The Sun Also Rises that continue to be read.

The Fan Base

I will say that in Science Fiction and Fantasy they have developed the concept of the FAN BASE.  And this actually keeps writing, and writers, alive.  JRR Tolkien will endure for a very long time.  So will Stephen R. Donaldson, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, etc.  The classics of Science Fiction are still being read by the fan base, by those who love science fiction and fantasy.  They are suggesting them to their friends.  They are voracious readers and they claim, quite knowledgeably, that you can’t know science fiction and fantasy without reading this set of writers, or that book, and at the conventions these writers are celebrated.  Even ComicCon has such a large science fiction and fantasy base that these 30,000 people will all know a large set of names, not just the celebrities of the moment, but the masters and grandmasters of the genre.

It could be that you might dismiss the FAN BASE as those who feed on pulp, but I would argue that they know what they like, and they are assisting in the endurance of writers and writing and that cultivating a fan base is not a bad idea.  Further, these “genre writers” are introducing them to many of the great works of literature, by quoting from, giving allusions to, works by other authors.  Many of our first introductions to literature–Shakespeare even–was in a comic book, or in a science fiction novel.  I’m not going to give too much more a spirited defense to the importance of Fantastic Literature, or say too much longer that, before Hemingway, authors had their science fiction novels and their literary novels and no one thought of the books differently: London, James, Twain, Poe, Hawthorne, all had a novel where time travel or science fiction played a large role.  Anyway, I have a larger point to make. Still, hold onto the idea that developing a fan base is important–because a fan base has been enthused by your writing, has been affected by your writing, and seeks to market you to their friends.

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The Future of the Yukon (maybe): Radio Series “Yukon 2058”

We hear a lot about the future of New York, of San Francisco, of England.  Ever wondered what the NORTH would look like in 50 years? What would be happening, what kinds of trends here in the Yukon?  What kinds of possibilities?  Is it all going to be dark from climate change, or will we adapt as we go? I think it’s going to be a good Future if we can take better care of the Now.

Three years ago I created a five part series called “Yukon 2058” for the 50th anniversary of CBC.  They wanted something that celebrated their first 50 years, so I offered them a look at the next 50 years.  My theme was to eventually come back to why CBC is important, why local programming trumps National programming, why having a large staff in a small place like the Yukon is important.  I tried weave my opinions about what is good about CBC, and what is bad about the trends happening to CBC, into a narrative.  Yukon 2058 is the result.  5 parts.  The narrative of a CBC reporter wondering what his future will be, trying to find where he belongs in a rapidly competitive market.

You can go to the Radio Series page and look under YUKON 2058.

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*image is Joyce Majiski’s “Racing Uphill.”  See more of her work on her website.

What if you knew the Internet would be gone next week?

I was thinking about how much I live a web-life–the articles I read online from newspapers I subscribe to online, the contact I keep with people online, the deals I make online, the shopping I do, the uploading, the downloading.  We already have virtual lives.  We don’t need Second Life to show us how to be an avatar; we are already avatars in our own online worlds.

But what if by next week you knew there would be no more Internet? No more Facebook.  No more Amazon.  No more NY Times on the web.  No more getting your news there.  No more Youtube.  No more buying on iTunes.  No more Skype.  No more sharing lives this way.  No more information.  No more wikipedia to answer questions, or health sites to give you info.  You were restricted to the former ways of staying in contact with others, the former ways of looking up info, the former ways of living.  Welcome to LudLife.  You would still have a computer–it just wouldn’t be connected to a network.  You would still have a phone, but not a smart one.  There would be no texting.  You would have to talk.

If you knew this internet shutdown would happen on March 31st, what would you do between now and then?

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Moose, Cranberry, and the Everlasting Dinner Party: The Boreal Gourmet, cookbook, by Michele Genest

You’ve already seen the wonderful wildberry sourdough muffins recipe which I so tantalized you with (permission granted by Miche).  Now experience what cooks and connoisseurs are talking about in The Boreal Gourmet: Adventures in Northern Cooking by Michele Genest.  The book is more than a cookbook–it is a memoir of the cooking experience, the preparation, the friends, the mistakes, the surprises, and what might be an everlasting dinner party from recipe to recipe.

The Boreal Gourmet is a unique cookbook, with recipes that utilize all the cool things you’ll find walking around or rooted to the ground in the Yukon, but it is also a bit of Yukonalia.  It is a portrait of people living, and cooking, and eating and enjoying life, in the north.  From Geist’s review of the book:

I’ve always felt the best cook­books are the ones you open with the inten­tion of a quick browse but find your­self read­ing cover to cover and com­ing out the other end feel­ing like you’ve attended an inspir­ing din­ner party hosted by the author — with­out leav­ing the com­fort of your arm­chair. Michele Genest’s The Boreal Gourmet: Adventures in Northern Cooking (Harbour) is just this sort of cookbook. The nar­ra­tive that accom­pa­nies the inven­tive recipes oscil­lates from bush sur­vival advice to per­sonal mem­oir to his­tor­i­cal anec­dote (Klondike hope­fuls brought sour­dough starter buried in a sack of flour with them over the Chilkoot Pass) and is sim­ply a lovely read. The recipes them­selves range from the more gour­mdet — Arctic Char Poached in White Wine, Gin and Juniper Berries — to the less gourmet — Moose Lake Lasagna in a Pot (com­plete with tips on how to cook it in the backwoods) — and are com­ple­mented by Laurel Parry’s endear­ing hand-drawn illustrations.

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