Twilight: Questions and Concerns

Okay, so last weekend, Hassan and I went to see Twilight.  We’d already seen High School Mtwilight-picusical 3, so we didn’t really have any choice.

Wait, no, I need to start earlier.  This past summer at the life-changing, high-altitude Taos Toolbox writing workshop, Kelly Link (amazing writer and mindblowing instructor) provided a fascinating, detailed description of the “sparkly vampire” genre. And it made me think, “OMG, I have got to go check out this sparkly vampire stuff!” So I went out and read Twilight.

In retrospect, I should have realized that Kelly Link’s description of a thing is very likely to be far more interesting than said thing itself.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot (of both movie and book), the short version is below the fold.  Spoilers abound, if such a thing is possible.

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JJ Abrams & Star Trek: New Hope or Disaster Movie?

The new Star Trek trailer came out last week. This version has a different ending, with a cameo by Leonard Nimoy as old Spock:

On first viewing, the trailer got me excited.  Going back to a younger Kirk and Spock seems promising, especially after several lackluster movies that felt like they were covering well-trodden territory (or, let’s be honest, territory that should never have been trod at all).  And when the bad-ass little kid answers that his name is “James Tiberius Kirk,” I can’t help but notice the shiver running up my arms.  Yes, I think to myself as I watch, that is exactly what Kirk was like as a kid.

But … but but but…. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s a cool trailer for a bad movie.  You know, those bad movies where they take the only ten good lines in the movie and splice them together to make an amazing trailer.  Doesn’t this seem like this could be one of those? 

Then there’s the fact that JJ Abrams – of Alias, Lost, and Cloverfield fame – is the director.  I’m a big Alias fan – or at least I was for the first two seasons.  And Cloverfield was a very cool, original take on the classic monster movie plot.  But I’ve never been able to watch more than two minutes of Lost and its on-the-nose dialogue without changing the channel. And JJ Abrams is yet another of those creators who seems way too compelled to keep announcing he’s not a trekkie.  I mean, really.  It’s like a straight guy in gay bar who keeps telling all the other guys he’s not gay.  It only makes you wonder what’s really going on.

Now, I’m all in favor of making a movie that’s not mired in the details of Federation history and that’s accessible to a wider audience.  All of the best Trek movies were like that (and for me the best were indisputably the three-series run of II, III, and IV.) And I’m not one of those fanboys who gets annoyed at minor continuity glitches.  (Okay, I admit I’m slightly annoyed that it seems like the Romulans are the villains and we all know that the Romulans were never seen by anyone from the Federation until the original series episode “Balance of Terror,” but I’m willing to overlook those sorts of things if the story makes it worth it.) 

But what really concerns me is when new creators come in and get the characters all wrong.  My friend Corey, who hates Lost, thinks that’s what’s going to happen with this one – he thinks Abrams will make a slick action movie that has no respect for the characters or the essential themes of Star Trek. This quote from JJ Abrams doesn’t exactly help rebut that: “I didn’t love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey — but I love them now.”  I don’t want to entrust these characters to some guy who had to go through the process of making a multimillion-dollar movie to realize who cool they are! 

But some of the other stuff JJ Abrams has said seems much more promising.  He seems to get the essential optimism of Star Trek.  And the two guys who wrote the script are avowed Trekkies who seem like they get it, too.  And both the casting and set design seem visually right-on – paying homage to the old series, a bit retro, but without deteriorating into silliness or imitation. 

My partner Hassan, all-around wise person and big-time Trekkie (I would never have relations outside the genre) says that it doesn’t matter what the actual movie is like.  We should just enjoy the anticipation and excitement, the idea of all the great things the movie could be. 

I guess I’ll go with that approach for now….  

Latino Superheroes at Fantasy

In case any of you haven’t caught it, an expanded version of my post on the top Latino superheroes has been published online by Fantasy magazine, complete with pretty graphics and interesting follow-up conversation in the comments section.

And while you’re there, check out some of the other cool articles and stories there – it’s one of the best online fantasy magazines, IMO.

For Abba Fans Only

Have you ever been listening to “Waterloo” and wished there were just one more Abba tune to lip sync ?  Seek no further… experience the wonder that is The A-Teens…. 

The bassline!  The synchronized dance routine! The vacuous beauty!  They have it all!

And then there’s this gem, which manages to masterfully marry the classic Abba song with the plot of The Breakfast Club, complete with cameo appearance by actor Paul Gleason (you’ll see what I mean):

A bit of historical background, in case you’re new to the A-Teens: they were, indeed, a young Swedish pop music group modeled deliberately after Abba.  As the wisdom of Wikipedia tells us: 

In 1998, Marie, Amit, Dhani, and Sara were musically united as the ABBA Teens. However, upon the request of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA, the group’s name was changed to the A*Teens to avoid confusion.[3] This choice allowed the band more freedom in creating their own style of music and not be solely based around ABBA.

3. ^ Douglas Wolk (200005-08). “How Swede It Is“. Boston Phoenix. Retrieved on 200710-14.

Of course, there may be some of you reading who are not Abba fans and find this all quite disturbing.  In that case, leave my blog.  I mean it. Go.

The arc of history…

Hassan and I spent most of the past few days in Philadelphia volunteering for Barack.  Philly was still on a high from the World Series, which seemed to roll seamlessly into the election.  I spent a day doing phone banking in North Philly, where Puerto Ricans were very enthusiastic about O.  Then we spent a couple days canvassing in South Philly, where there were some green McCain-Palin signs mixed in with the Obamamania.  But that’s not too surprising since we were only a few blocks away from Geno’s Steaks, home of the famous Philadelphia cheesesteak and the nearly as famous “this-is-America-When-ordering-speak-in-English” sign.  But we still met quite a few Obama enthusiasts, including one woman who explained to us that some of her neighbors were not voting for Obama “because the Irish are racist.” (No, the irony was not self-conscious.) Another gentleman claimed personal responsibility for turning his entire block into Obama supporters, except for one McCainite, “but we got him isolated.”

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is Wondrous (though not brief)

Oscar Wao is an overweight nerd in New Jersey who dreams of one day becoming “the Dominican JRR Tolkien.” More than anything, Oscar wants a girlfriend, but the gals are sadly not impressed by his gargantuan vocabulary and mastery of role playing games.  The novel is a contemporary epic that spans two countries and three generations: Oscar’s travails have their roots in a family curse, which got his grandfather imprisoned under the dictatorial Trujillo regime in the DR, and later left his mother for dead in a canefield until she found salvation in a mystical mongoose.   

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