A short story

With lots of red pen, cups of coffee, and howls of ‘grrr why did I ever think that was a good idea?’, I’m progressing with my short story. It’s called Trash and is about a little girl who makes friends with a trash can. It’s not a fairy tale as we think of them, but definitely has a fairy tale approach and moral to it.

I’m hoping to get it finished in February. Here’s a picture.

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I watched the news today, oh boy…

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day to look back at the lessons of the past and vow never to repeat them.

Sadly some of us have very short memories and never listened in class.

It’s hard to believe that we’re just a week on since Donald Trump’s inauguration. It’s been a strange and unsettling week. Actually, scratch that. Let’s be clear here, it’s been a strange and unsettling week for me, a straight white man, because I won’t be affected by much of the evil that Trump is seeking to perpetrate. For women, people of colour, immigrants, and LGBT people, it’s been a downright terrifying week, and because of that, it really should be terrifying (not just strange and unsettling) for all of us.

I intended to write a blog about Trump and the immediate aftermath of his yugely well-attended party last weekend, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I retreated into a story I’m writing instead. This was partly because I simply didn’t want to engage with Trump beyond a few venomous tweets, and partly because I was unsure of my feelings about the major issue at the time (the punching of a white supremacist who I won’t name). Is it right to attack someone like that?

I’m still not entirely sure. I couldn’t care less about the person himself (if you want to take away someone else’s rights, I won’t shed a tear when yours come under attack), but I wondered about what it achieved. A number of people drew comparisons to World War II and how appeasement and taking the moral high ground failed to stop Hitler and maybe even contributed to the devastation that gripped the world between 1939 and 1945. Sometimes violence can be deemed necessary, the argument goes, and while that’s true, there needs to be purpose and strategy behind it in my opinion. I saw neither in the video of the attack last weekend, and there’s something about celebrating such pointless violence that leaves me queasy – no matter how satisfying it is to see an odious person given his just desserts.

Of course, things have got much worse since. Trump has been every bit the monster he promised he’d be on the campaign trail. Why wouldn’t he be? He may be a liar, but when he promises to do great evil, you better believe that’s exactly what he’ll do. He will ban Muslims, he will build walls, he will trample all over the rights of everyone who isn’t white, rich, and male. “Yes we can,” said Obama. “Yes I can,” says Trump. Because that’s who he is. The man who put the ‘I’ in America.

What can you do in the face of such hate? Millions of wonderful people made their opening statement last weekend with the glorious Women’s March, proving to Trump that unity will always triumph over division. Other marches are already planned for the future, and I’m sure there’ll be many many more to come. Beyond that, I’ve been encouraged by people’s creativity: the beautiful simplicity of this tweet, and the inspiring hope of this piece of art. Trump is a destroyer. One of the most potent forms of resistance is to create.

For what it’s worth, I myself have taken to Twitter and been more political than I’ve been in a long, long time, ridiculing Trump and the long, frog-faced turd that’s poking out of his rectum (fuck you, Farage) and even managing to work an excellent reference to Pogs in a tweet about Mexico paying the US back for the ridiculous wall. It was a beautiful reference. A great reference. Seriously, you’ve never seen a better reference to a 1990s relic than this one.

But it’s all a little pointless.

Twitter is fine and all, but using it to mock Trump feels futile. It’s nice to think that a well-crafted burn will get under his skin, but even if it does, it’ll never have enough impact to do him any real damage. He may even become more determined in his efforts to screw the world over. He’s just that kind of a dickhead.

So instead, I’ve tried to pump a little positivity into the world.  I’m writing a story that’s unashamedly hopeful and all about the importance of empathy at times like this. I’ve donated some money to a local LGBT charity. And I bought flowers for colleagues at work who a) celebrated their birthday and b) completed a long, hard piece of work this week. In the grand scheme of things, these actions probably don’t amount to much; they’re certainly not going to put much of a dent in Trump. But kindness needs all the help it can get at the moment, and this is something at least.

So that’s it really. A messy, disorganised blog to report on messy, disorganised thoughts about a messy, disorganised week. I’ll end it with a clip that would no doubt drive Trump insane.

More powerful than you can possibly imagine

Of the many wonderful things that came out of the Women’s Marches this weekend, I was particularly heartened by the appearance of Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher on a number of signs that people took with them. We’re nearly a month on from her untimely passing, and it’s inspiring to see that for women across the world, Fisher remains a source of empowerment and hope. To paraphrase a famous Star Wars quote, the world struck her down, but she became more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine.

Seeing these signs reminded me of the power of fantasy and fairy tales. Star Wars is arguably the defining fairy tales of the 20th Century, and I hope the 21st Century gets one just as popular. Perhaps it’ll be Harry Potter, which I appreciate began in the 90s, but continues to be a significant force today – as evidenced by the many signs referencing that series at the Marches. Perhaps it’ll be something else, as yet unwritten, but fermenting in the brain of a child who witnessed the marches, either in person or on television, and now feels inspired to express themselves.

One day, I’m going to write more in-depth thoughts about fairy tales. They’re critical to our very being as humans, a way to engage with difficult and abstract concepts in a engaging and entertaining way. Sadly, however, I don’t have time at the moment, and am actually trying to formulate my own mini fairy tale, which I’m working up the courage to complete and post here. I’ll keep you up to date on that one.

So instead of a full blog, I’ll simply leave you one of my favourite images from yesterday and a quote, from fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes:

“Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time, and perhaps earlier, have been “a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.”

Mankind has created a horrifying terror. Princess Leia will help conquer it.

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What just happened?

must-visit

It’s lunchtime on the morning after the night before. Or the morning of the day after? Or… something. I don’t really know what time or day it is, to be honest. I woke up at 1am this morning and… just… couldn’t… not…watch. Even after Clinton lost Florida and the game seemed up, I couldn’t tear myself away, I couldn’t stop hoping that somehow, in some way, a miracle would arrive.

It never did.

This whole election, and this election day, constitutes perhaps the most bizarre, enraging, blackly comic, and ultimately tragic occurrence of my 32-year-old lifetime. Remember in history class when you’d hear about injustices of the past: women having to fight for the vote etc. And you’d kinda laugh at it because it’s seems so utterly ridiculous to you. This election, this society, this very day, is the laughing stock of 10-year-olds of the future. “They didn’t really elect him, did they?” Yes, Little Johnny. I’m afraid they did.

Yet this is no joke. In an election cycle marked by mockery from TV, press, social media and even the candidates themselves, the biggest joke is that there really isn’t a joke. The punchline has slipped past us, the only thing accompanying that rimshot is the threat of reduced rights for anyone who doesn’t fit within Donald Trump’s minute world view. The moment where Stephen Colbert was told live that Trump had taken Florida captures it perfectly. No jokes. No laughs. No nothing. Not even an absurdist of Colbert’s caliber could find anything in this.

In the aftermath, it’s difficult to know how to react. As a Brit, I’ve had Brexit to grapple with this year, and something so huge truly warps your view of the society you live in. How could so many people vote for something so stupid, so damaging, so downright offensive to my sensibilities? I suspect Americans can relate to that kind of disgust and confusion at the moment. How do you simply get up, go to work, and live your life when the hatred of your society has been laid bare on the world stage? How do things go forward when you’re one half of a deeply divided country?

I say all this, of course, as a person of some privilege. I’m middle class, white, male, and straight. Were I American, I’d like fit within Trump’s tiny judgement of acceptability pretty easily. I can try to empathise with how anyone sitting outside of that zone feels today – anyone who may not be able to marry the person they love, who may be targeted by bigots, who may have to stay stuck in a gender they don’t feel comfortable with, who may fear a resurgence in sexual assault. But I’ll never truly know, and my heart goes out to those people who have no choice but to know.

I’ve tweeted a lot today, putting out my own thoughts and retweeting those of others. It’s quite rare for me to get so political. Twitter can be an echo chamber sometimes, and when it’s not it can be a source of immense pointless strife. I don’t do conflict so I tend to stick mostly to my Disney, Spielberg, comic book, and film tweets. But it’s difficult to ignore Trump’s election today and probably for a long time to come. There are people who I’ve come to count as friends who are not just upset but genuinely scared, and that’s a horrifying thing.

I’ve seen people get angry, I’ve seem people get down, I’ve seen people seem utterly anxious. Gladly, I’ve not seen too many trying to police the reaction, as tends to happen on Twitter when big news hits. Maybe it’s because people are in too much shock, maybe it’s because there simply isn’t a right way to respond. You can’t pop an Alka Seltzer and head back to bed for this hangover. There simply isn’t a good remedy.

My solution is to try for positivity. It’s a purely personal choice born of the fact I’m relatively unaffected by it (beyond suffering through what’s going to be a turbulent four years for the world). I don’t think it’s how everyone should react because for those fearing for the lives they’ve built or are trying to built, positivity may not be an option. The terror is real. It’s pretty futile to say ‘oh everything will be fine’ and try to carry on when it feels like the enemy’s at the gate.

But maybe we need to retain some level of positivity. The concept of equal and opposite reactions keeps going around my head. Trump’s election was a reaction against the increasing social justice in the States, and I hope there’s a similar equal and opposite reaction from the other side. I’m sure there will be. There has to be. The opposition to Trump and his equally odious VP (who thinks you can electroshock the gay out of people) needs to be strong and effective. The election was just the beginning.

Anger has to play a part in that, but it can’t be the only part or the most significant part. Trump’s campaign was built on hate and division; the response cannot be. Equal and opposite reactions. If they give hate, you give love. If they give division, you give unity. Just as a Clinton win wouldn’t have sucked the Trump poison out of America’s veins, nor should a Trump win invalidate the Love Trumps Hate mantra Clinton espoused. In fact, it’s more necessary now than ever. It is the opposition. Positivity is the opposition.

Perhaps that’s naive on my part, perhaps it’s coming from a place of privilege, the lack of which I can’t possibly understand. I can’t disagree with any of that. But for the time being, it’s how I’m dealing with things and maybe it’ll help others deal with things too. Mourn for what’s been lost and prepare to oppose those who’ve taken it. But for the moment, maybe the best thing we can do is hug someone, love someone, say hi to someone, help someone. It might not mean anything in the long run, but maybe, to some one, in some way, it’ll mean everything.

Arendelle’s in deep, deep, deep, deep ice…: Disney On Ice

Disney on Ice hit my hometown this weekend, so of course, I booked my ticket and spent Friday night looking slightly awkward in an arena full of kids dressed as Anna, Elsa, and Olaf (nobody dresses as Hans because Hans is, well, Hans is Hans…)

A much better Hans...
A much better Hans…

Having never been to a Disney on Ice show before I didn’t know what to expect (beyond, y’know, Disney characters… on ice). I knew the show was Frozen themed (yay!), but what that meant, I wasn’t quite sure. Would Anna and Elsa be skating to the Bolero? Would they be dancing and singing? Would they — wait, didn’t Anna have trouble skating at the end of Frozen, therefore making a mockery of this entire idea?!…

Gladly, I got what I was hoping for: a straight up adaptation of the film, but done with ice skaters. That may not sound too great for those who’ve already seen Frozen countless times thanks to their kids, but it’s exactly what I wanted because it offers the chance to see the same story told in a different medium. How would the skating rink change the make up of the story and the layout of some of the key scenes? There’s great value in that and it made for a fascinating experience.

But before you start thinking, “Paul, this is Disney on Ice, and you’re – what – you’re going to bore me with tales of storytelling devices and narrative integrity?!”, here’s Mickey, Donald, Nemo, Rapunzel, Puumba from The Lion King (!?) and a whole host of other favourites dancing to (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher. IT’S AWESOME!

Back to Frozen, the story is pretty faithful to the film, with only a few major diversions: we never see Anna and Elsa’s parents and Hans doesn’t confront Elsa at her ice palace. These are understandable changes as they make for a less cluttered, quicker narrative. The only real knock-on effect is that Hans seems to disappear in the middle of the story, making his turn to villainy at the end seem a bit forced.

There are changes elsewhere, of course, but they’re mostly to the set-up of songs. Fixer Upper and In Summer, for example, need to find active roles for Anna and Kristoff, who are largely passive during those numbers in the film. So On Ice has Kristoff showing his distain at Olaf and the Trolls’ obliviousness, while Anna joins in the singing and dancing. It’s a necessity, but a neat one because it highlights Anna’s deep joy at pretty much everything and makes her seem even more charming. I mean, look at her during In Summer!!

Frozen‘s so full of complex, melancholic emotions that it’s pretty challenging to translate to a happiness-and-joy-for-the-whole-family ice show. I mean, how do you take a scene about two lonely kids struggling to connect with each other and make it feel… fun? I was impressed that Disney On Ice didn’t even try. Do You Wanna Build A Snowman in ice format may be even sadder than it is on screen because it’s so small.

While other sequences go big with the set design, Snowman is Elsa’s bed, a door, and nothing else. Anna skates around enjoying her freedom and trying to persuade her sister out of hiding, while Elsa herself stays alone on this tiny bed refusing to budge. In the film, at least we saw Elsa a bit, at least there was something there for us to latch onto. In On Ice, there’s nothing, she’s lost – literally as well as emotionally. Anna may as well be singing to herself, which is kinda the point.

The reprise of For the First Time in Forever is another highlight and masterstroke of economy. In the film, the two characters sing their parts directly to one another, and they’re both pretty static, with the force and meaning of the words adding the dynamism. Fine for film, not so much for ice. If I’m going to see a show with the phrase ‘On Ice’ in the title, guess what: I wanna see some gosh darned ice dancing.

So what we get is something akin to a chase, with Anna and Elsa skating around the stage singing the song to one another. Just as with Do You Wanna Build a Snowman, it makes literal what the film conveys as metaphor: Elsa looks as trapped as she feels, unable to escape the spectre of her past and her worries about hurting her sister. It’s dynamic, it’s dramatic, it’s a damn near perfect alternative version of the film. Basically, it’s exactly what it should be!

Of course, no performance of Frozen would be complete without Let It Go, and it says a lot for the quality of the show that it’s actually one of the least impressive parts. That’s not to say it’s bad, because it’s not; if I tried to say it’s bad I’d have every little girl who sang every single letter of the song pointing at me and making weird noises like Donald Sutherland at the end of the 78 Body Snatchers remake. And that’s not really what I want.

My point is that there’s actually very little you can do with Let It Go. While many of the other songs need to be changed for the stage, Let It Go is a stage production already: a single character against a largely static backdrop singing their heart out. There’s very little you can change, and there’s very little you’d want to change. So that’s what we get here: the film, but with more ice skating. Which is cool.

(Look I got this far without making a bad ice pun!)

If you want to see a Disney ice show and, like me, don’t really know what to expect and fear you may end up looking a bit daft in a sea of squealing kids, just go for it. It’s a genuinely wonderful production that brings the characters to life in a fun, faithful way. It also reveals a lot about storytelling techniques, staging for maximum dramatic effect, and why cinematic mise-en-scene is fundamentally limited when compared to the sta— OH MY GOD ANNA, THAT’S THE MOST AMAZING DANCING EVER, I LOVE YOU!!!

 

 

How am I driving?

The Mouse House Movie Club is now six posts old, and I wanted to check in to see what people think of it. My aim when creating the feature was to make something inclusive and fun, a true club that everyone would feel a part of and enjoy. Problem is, it’s always difficult to tell when you’re in the middle of it, so that’s why I’m asking you guys what you think of it.

Does it feel like a fun club? Are the posts the right length, or are they too long (probably) or too short? Do they come off as too serious and is that off putting? Would you like more fun in them? And are you finding the series useful: are you inspired to check out films you haven’t seen before?

I’m always keen to hear feedback – both good and bad – so let me know.

Have a comedy chicken as thanks.

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