Monthly Archives: August 2010

Movie Magic Monday: The Journey to Narnia Continues…

But if I’m being honest… my eyes are wayyy more set on catching THIS movie:

Here’s hoping for a really good scifi movie! They are few and far between.

Fantasy Dipped Friday: Moonshadow


© Isabelle Santiago, 2010

Part I: The Raffle

It was exactly as the Professor described. A magical orb that hung from the sky cushioned by a thousand tiny, distant specks of light. He called them stars, and the orb, ever changing, was called the moon. It shined like a brilliant beacon in a stretch of black night, its pale light glimmering over the ocean, leaving a streak of silver on the rippling waves.

“It’s breathtaking, isn’t it?” he asked, as he dropped another stack of books onto his desk.

“Is that really what it looked like?”

“The moon?” he said absentmindedly, readjusting his small circular spectacles. “No. The picture does it no justice. It was far more beautiful to look upon in person.”

My fingers fell away from the delicate brushstrokes and the gilded frame. My eyes refocused, struggling to readjust to the murky library and leave behind the vivid colors of that magical world in the painting.

“It’s no wonder bards and poets throughout history have sung its praise. I’ve never seen the likes of it.”

“My dear, Luna,” the Professor smiled, stacking some of the recovery items onto the shelves carved into the rock wall. “It appears you are a hopeless romantic.”

“It isn’t romantic to state a well documented fact. The moon is a natural wonder. No doubt I appreciate its magnificence, but more than that, Professor, I am befuddled by its intricacies. Is it true that your moon did not glow?”

“It’s true.”

“How is it possible that it cast light on the Earth when it itself is dark?”

“Come,” he said, patting the seat beside him. “And bring the sky maps from the drafting table.”

I grabbed the roll of thin papers and walked across the dirt floor, feeling its cool, damp texture between my toes. He laid them out across his desk, holding the ends down with large stones.

“This is Earth,” he said, pointing to the blue and green sphere third from the sun, “and this beside it is our moon. Its surface is like an endless desert, full of sand and rock and dust.” He lifted a handheld mirror and angled it. The light glowing from the small table lamps bounced off of the glass and blinded me. I looked away, blinking the spots from my eyes.

“Oops,” he smirked, putting the mirror face down on the table. “I did not fully think through this demonstration. Are you all right?”

“Yes.” I rubbed my eyes until the blur passed and my vision resettled. “Please, continue.”

“Well the moon’s dust and rock is filled with tiny specks of glass that reflect light, like this mirror. Even when the Earth is turned away from the sun, the moon still reflects its light, to a much smaller degree, and so it appears to glow.”

I looked at the sky maps in silent awe. “How is it you know so much about so much, Professor?”

His gentle laugh betrayed his humility. “You are young yet, Luna, but you will soon learn that time is a great teacher. I’ve devoted my life to books and learning and I’ve still only tapped the surface of general knowledge.”

I opened my mouth to speak but was cut short by the male voice booming through the speakers of my built-in headset. “Lunar Unit Alpha,” it said, crackling through the static. “Report to the clock tower for your daily diagnostic.”

“I’m afraid I must leave you, Professor.” I stood, dipping my head in apology. “Duty calls.”

“Go, Luna, bring hope and comfort to the many that have lost it.”

I smiled, a new pep in my step as I rushed toward the door, stopping to call out over my shoulder, “You know, Professor, the Raffle has only just begun. Won’t you come and join the people?”

“No need. I’m not eligible for the Raffle until I can name a worthy successor. Until then, I remain an over-glorified and apparently indispensible historian charged with chronicling this dark epoch in Earth’s history.”

“Perhaps it’s selfish of me,” I said with a shrug, “but I’m relieved to know you won’t be taken from me yet.” I walked backward out of his doorway and waved goodbye. “Until tomorrow, Professor!”

I slipped easily into the steady stream of pedestrians trickling from their grottos toward the town square. There was little to mark the area as such, only the impressive, dizzying height of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling and pointed at the ground like daggers, and the man-made clock tower, roughly patched from goods salvaged above ground.

The Mayor and his assistant stood on the wooden platform at the clock tower’s base, beside an old circular lottery machine. Half of the generators powering the schools and work areas clicked and clanked as they shut down, while the residential units powered up, creating a steady hum of white noise.

Dim, sometimes flickering, lamps lined the square. The crowd gathered in the appropriate groups. First by family, then those without gathered by age and occupation. I crept along the edge of the waiting throng until I met with the others of my kind already seated at the diagnostic station at the far side of the tower.

“Good evening, Luna,” Doctor Tarik said as I sat in my usual chair. He brushed aside the ash blonde hair from my neck and plugged the charger into the base of my skull. I hung my head low and let my body relax. Electricity flowed through my appendages, settling with comfortable warmth in my stomach.

“How are you feeling today?”

“Well, thank you,” I responded, as he undid the latch of my light chamber and tested the bulb.

“No burnout?”

“Not at all. The new lights are strong and energy efficient. Since my last update, I’ve been able to illuminate at the same brightness using half the power.”

“Good girl,” he smiled, obviously pleased, as he closed the light chamber and pulled my shirt back down over my abdomen. “The less power you require the better. Our solar units are currently eating up our reserves.”

“I resent that statement, Doctor Tarik.” Sunny scowled, taking the seat across from me. She tied up her long, auburn hair, crossed her tanned, lean legs and waited for the attendants to plug her in. “Like it or not, humans need light to work, to live, to keep track of time, for their own mental sanity. Instead of trying to diminish the amount of power that we use, perhaps you should come up with alternative forms of energy.”

I tried not to roll my eyes. So typical of a solar unit to make it all about her and forget she was created to serve others.

“We’re doing everything we can. We already have the young ones taking shifts on the bicycles, Sunny, and we’re running out of oil for the generators. The blueprint for the hydrokinetic turbine was just approved, but it will be years before it’s ready for use, especially with building supplies so scarce. If we continue to demand such high amounts of electricity, we’re going to burn out our supply in less than half the predicted time.”

He sighed, gently pulling the chord from the back of my neck. My hair swung from my shoulder with a swift whooshing sound. “The truth is,” he said, his voice strained, “we still have too many people and not enough resources.”

I let my hand rest on his for a moment, offering what little comfort I could. “That’s what the Raffle is for, isn’t it?”

The very mention of the nightly event drew everyone’s attention toward the square. The Mayor read off the last of the lottery numbers for the evening. Shrieks of delight came first, before dimming and warping into drawn out teary-eyed goodbyes.

A strange thickness settled in my throat. No matter how many times I watched the town take part in the nightly Raffle, it never lessened its effect. Certainly, I understood on the most logical level why it was necessary. I understood how the people chosen were given a ticket to freedom most of us did not possess.

For most humans, life in the caverns was a test of endurance. Long days of hard work, mining, digging, searching for supplies, harvesting any plant life they could, purifying water, and a number of other tasks to make every day life livable. But they all knew that soon resources would run out. Foodstuffs would become scant, and then disappear completely, until it became a matter of war between the colonies.

It was only a matter of time before the limited energy made units like myself and Sunny obsolete. Days would grow dimmer, the people more desperate, until finally, they resorted to their most basic instincts and were nothing but animals struggling to survive in a foreign habitat.

I shivered. Yes. I understood the Raffle’s method of population control. But it didn’t make watching their goodbyes any easier. Because in twenty, forty, a hundred years, if mankind found their way back to the surface, those Raffle winners would wake to find a whole new world, devoid of every person that they ever cared about, but if mankind did not, if they took a downward spiral toward their own self destruction, these people would never be the wiser. They would sleep forever, with no knowledge or awareness of the void outside.

Thursday Myths & Legends: The Bicorn and the Chichevache

A little literary influx for today’s Myths & Legends.  And my apologies, but I do mean a little.

This is a two-part medieval legend.  The Bicorn is a two-horned creature (often portrayed artistically as horse, after tradition of the unicorns) which fed on devoted and doting husbands—it was said to be well-fed and plump.

Meanwhile, the Chichevache (possibly invented by Chaucer and literally meaning “greedy cow”) is a cow with a woman’s face who is said to prey only on faithful women, which left it thin and haggard.  Being as this is from the Clerk’s Tale in Canterbury Tales, the snark is not only there but evident.  Is this sexist and old-fashioned? Answer: yes.

Book Geek Wednesday: Sample Overload

This week (Monday, to be specific) I received my much anticipated iPad. *pardon as I squee yet again* As you can imagine, I’ve been playing on this bad boy for three days and downloading apps like a madwoman. As an avid reader I went straight for the iBookstore. I had high hopes for it, particularly it’s user friendly UI with the pretty page turning feature, the landscape open book layout etc. Those things did NOT disappoint, unfortunately I found the offerings thin.

So I settled for tried and true. I downloaded kindle for iPad. I already had an account from using on my smartphone, which I love. It’s easily customizable and it offers samples for like every book. Being strapped for cash as I am, I’ve been collecting samples. Far too many samples. At present most have convinced me to BUY the book in question which doesn’t bode well for my wallet. The ones I ultimately devoured were Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, a Hollow Tree favorite, and Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder.

For those of you reading ebooks, what have you been sampling?

Movie Magic Monday: The Disneyfication of Fairy Tales

Yesterday I had the chance to watch Disney’s Cinderella for the first time in… forever. And even knowing what was going to happen, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Sure, it’s a classic. We all know and love it for that reason. But watching it after so long was almost like watching it for the first time, or watching it with a new pair of eyes. I smiled and sung along, delighted once again by Gus the big and lovable mouse and disgusted by the idiotic, large footed stepsisters and their devilish cat, Lucifer (I would have skinned him alive).

But the more I watched it, the more I realized how different it feels from another telling of virtually the exact same story, something like Ever After: A Cinderella Story. While one difference between them is obvious, in that one is animated and one is not, the tone and telling of the stories vary vastly. Disney has sugar coated a rather ugly situation and made it palatable to children, meanwhile the more adult version of Cinderella is witty, heartbreaking and action packed.

They both share the central love story, but while  Disney makes it feel like holding hands and adoring glances, Ever After felt more edgy, sexy, and realistically impossible. While I love Disney cartoons, Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid being personal favorites, I feel many of their interpretations of classic fairytales fail to capture that darkness that all fairytales tend to have tucked deep inside. Sleeping Beauty might be the only exception, as that one is somehow remarkably dark, for a children’s film.

And really, let’s face it, that’s what they are, films targeted to children. It would be wrong to fill them with some of the sick undercurrents many genuine fairytales contain. Most times, I’m glad for that. There are times when I need the romanticism of it all, the very innocent magic of a Disney film.

But sometimes, I’m in the mood for something that’s true to form which is why I feel YA fiction has taken fairytales and turned them on its head. It’s great to see modern and edgy retellings of fairytales (like Beastly or Ash or A Curse Dark as Gold – RUMPLESTILTSKIN!) that speak to the familiar and yet take us to another place entirely.

So enjoy a classic Disney movie, but when you want the really meaty stuff, turn to a good book.

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Morpheus

Continuing my obsession fascination with primordial deities, I decided to tackle the god of dreams, Morpheus. Though a winged daemon, or spirit, in his natural state, he possessed the power to take on any human form and appear within your dreams. There is conflict in the telling of who his parents were, as he’s often referred to as the son of Nyx, but also, perhaps more commonly, as the son of Hypnos (Sleep) who would have otherwise been his brother.

Morpheus was in charge of shaping dreams from within the dream realm, located in the underworld, and often said to be guarded by two gates, one of polished horn and one of sawn ivory. Though he worked alongside his brothers, Phobetor (from which we get the word phobia or fear) and Phantasos (in reference to fantasy, or things that were unreal or twisted in nature) Morpheus held the special responsibility for the dreams of kings and heroes, making him greater than his siblings.

Though this Greek god spent a long time in obscurity, he has been recently made popular by the cleverly parallel character of Morpheus in the Matrix, a man who reveals the ‘dream world’ to its future savior, Neo.

“What if when you woke up, you didn’t know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?”

Book Geek Wednesday: YA Appreciation Month

For five weeks, The Book Smugglers have celebrated YA Appreciation Month, something that Lisa and I pretty much live by here on Hollow Tree, on a day to day, month by month basis. Sure we still read the classics, and we love a random foray into Middle Grade, or adult Fantasy fiction. But mostly, our hearts lie in the YA book shelves, and we’re always thrilled to see others join that bandwagon.

They did five weeks of YA lovin’, ending in an pretty epic showdown that featured authors Diana Peterfreund (Team Unicorn) and Carrie Ryan (Team Zombie) defending their respective teams as the Smugglers then went on to review the much anticipated anthology, Zombies VS. Unicorns, which features some heavy hitters in the YA fantasy/paranormal world such as Holly Black, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfield, and Justine  Larbalestier.

They featured an interview with author Melinda Lo, author of the breakout lesbian fairytale retelling of Cinderella, Ash.

They reviewed Inside Out, by Maria V. Snyder (who is quickly climbing up my list of favorite authors as I peruse her Glass series). And a few books I hadn’t heard of but that fit nicely into the dystopian genre Lisa highlighted yesterday, such as How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, and The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman.

There was also a very heated discussion about some of the themes in Sisters Red, which Lisa and I have anxiously been wanting to read. It seems to have stirred quite the controversy, as the author Jackson Pearce herself went and left her thoughts.

Either way, the YAAM, as its affectionately called, can be considered a great success and there are some really great things to read and learn about, so head on over to Book Smugglers and add a bunch of great new books to your TBR pile.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Dystopias

The word “Utopia” had two meanings.  Firstly, “a perfect place,” and secondly, “no place.”  As in, no place could ever be perfect.  Anyone who’s read the novella by Sir Thomas Moore (or has been around enough) knows that Utopia was never really as perfect as it was supposed to be, and from that has sprung, over time, a string of “Dystopia” novels.  Some of them you had to read in high school, like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World.  Right now they’re all over the place in the YA market, though, because Dystopia and fantasy kind of go hand in hand in glove.

Earlier Dystopian novels were all about losing something vital from the human existence: God, family, love, literature, etc.  A society where the values have shifted so much that it takes an outsider from the society to show them what they’re missing.  What’s more common these days is something that’s intended to be for the greater good going terribly wrong—something that makes everybody better, everybody nicer, everybody more equal, where the solution is just as bad or worse than the original problem.

I haven’t read a lot of the Dystopic books on the market right now… they’re getting a LOT of big hype, though.  What have you read?  Do you like the trend, or no?

Movie Magic Monday: Despicable Me

Despicable Me starts with the revelation that the Pyramid of Giza has been stolen.  This is the biggest and baddest heist ever committed, and it’s making all the other supervillains look bad.   Really, nothing else could ever compare.

Enter Gru, eager to prove that he can do better and go farther.  The only problem is, everything seems to go against him.  Even the secret villain-funding bank is unwilling to back up his enormous, degenerate plan, though they do like the idea.  Things get even worse when the tool he needs to complete his dastardly deed, the shrink-ray, is stolen by a newer and younger bad guy.  To get it back, Gru must enlist the (mostly unwilling) help of three little girls selling cookies to his rival.  To gain power over the girls, though, he has to adopt them from their girls’ home.  Soon the three little girls are turning his life and his plans upside down in every way possible, while winning over the hearts of both Gru and his masses of little minions.

This movie was just about the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I knew going in that I’d like it—who wouldn’t after that little girl hugging the unicorn in the commercial?—but I underestimated just how much.  I don’t think there was a moment in this film that I didn’t like, and that’s not something I can say about even some of my absolute favorite cartoon movies.  The littlest girl, Agnes, is so cute and adorable that you want to take her off the screen and give her a hug, and maybe pat her on the head and make her cookies.  She is just that cute.  The two older girls are a little more justifiably cautious about the situation with Gru—but watching the four of them grow closer together is fun.

My favorite thing about the film is probably the minions.  They are so cute, and the filmmakers came up with a lot of unexpected things to do with them, a lot of which are laugh-out-loud funny.  I won’t mention my favorite, because the not knowing that it was coming was what made it so fantastically funny, but you’ll probably know when you see it.  The whole film was about as clever and funny and sweet as I could have asked for, and I would have been happy to watch it again immediately afterwards.


Fun Friday: Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side

Okay, so I’m not really a Family Guy fan.  Much.  Well, ish.  I like Stewie and Brian, and the rest of it disturbs me, most of the time.  I had to sit down and watch the Star Wars spoof episodes, though, and so I sat down and watched the first two episodes, Blue Harvest, and Something, Something, Something Dark Side, covering episodes IV and V, respectively.  Stewie (the baby, for those of you less familiar) is Darth Vader, which is probably enough to watch this for in the first place.  It’s a lot of fun to see characters from one franchise so seamlessly mocking another, and a lot of the explosions from the cartoon are actual footage from the Star Wars films.  There’s a lot of respect here (it’s Star Wars, after all) and some inner-show teasing as well, as Peter (the father) and Chris argue over the fact that Robot Chicken (which was created by Seth Green, voice of Chris) may or may not have done a better job of this.

I really can’t say a whole lot about this.  You know the story, after all.  I really enjoyed it.  There was a nice little twist of the ridiculous added on top of a storyline that everybody knows inside and out.  I give it an A.

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