Friday, June 27, 2014

Fairy Tales, Old and New.

Here are some pictures I took at my friends tea party, which seems like an appropriate set of photos to share in a blog post about fairy tales. Tea parties are the type of thing that fairy tale characters love!

 My friend recently had a Disney movie night where we watched the movie "Beauty and The Beast." This was most definitely one of my favorites as a kid and I even had the soundtrack. I liked this movie partly because Belle is a curious book nerd. It seems that everyone else at the movie night also liked this about the movie because there was a chorus of 'ooohss' and 'awwws' when the Beast shows Belle his fantastic library. It is different watching these movies as an adult because it is easier to spot the not-so-great gender politics creeping around the edges of the movie. I've laughed before at the joke that this movie is really about Stockholm's syndrome. Although, I think Beauty and the Beast is a step in the right direction because the heroine is much more of an independent thinker who can be kind while still standing up for herself (most of the time. There were certainly a couple of times early in the movie where she should of told Gaston to shove it!) Noticing the weirdness that seeps into children's movies doesn't ruin them for me. It makes it it more interesting to be able to analyze them in a modern day context and to see how much things have changed even since I was a kid. It makes me really appreciate movies like 'Frozen.'
  A week or so after the movie night I ended up watching the movie 'Penelope' which is a movie I have been curious about for a while but hadn't yet watched. It turns out that it was a modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fable. In this movie, a woman is cursed with a pig face and according to the curse will only be set free when a certain kind of upper-class gentleman falls in love with her. Well, the twist is....... (SPOILER ALERT!!!! Close your eyes if you haven't seen the movie!)....... that Penelope was the only one who had the power to break the curse. I really love these modern retelling where the main characters have the power to save themselves. It sends the message that love can be an important part of one's life without it being the defining part of one's life. And that although it is important to be able to depend and trust others, it is also important to be able to trust and depend oneself. Another thing I liked about Penelope is the sets. I always get swept up in whimsically twee set design. 
  The modern retelling of fairy tales is very popular right now (or maybe it always has been.... since the dawn of the first fairy tale!) and I think at least partly because fairy tales are both magical and otherworldly while also being so comfortably familiar. Another retelling of a fairy tale I was exposed to recently was the graphic novel 'Delphine' by Richard Sala. While reading it, I definitely got a fairy tale-esque impression of it, but it wasn't until I read about the book elsewhere that I found out it was a retelling of Snow White. But now thinking back I realize there were lots of obvious references to the original source. What I liked most about this story though was the way the author created an eerie atmosphere. It felt very kafkaesque, or Shirley Jacksonesque. There was something not quite being told. The logic of the story was so slightly skewed as if to suggest a dream. The threats were understated, which made them all the more terrifying! This was my first introduction to Sala's work, but I love these types of Gothic tales and I also love the way Sala told his Gothic tale so I will be looking forward to reading more of his work. 

  What is your favorite modern-day-retelling of a fairy tale?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Piano and Cake

(Abandoned Piano with the memory of one hundred different fingers and one hundred different songs still smudged like ink and ghosts on it's ivory keys)

  It is BBQ season! Well, at least in most parts of the country. In Seattle, it is gray and windy. But it is June, so we put on determined expressions and sally forth with the BBQ's. Yesterday I came up with a really good food invention for BBQ season: Cornbread Hot Dog Buns! As a (mostly) vegetarian, I have an easy time finding fake hot dogs, but not such an easy time finding fake corn dogs. They are not impossible to find, but there is really only one readily available brand and it is only okay. And I love corn dogs! With cornbread hot dog buns, I would get to experience the joy of a readily available and delicious corn dog. Also, meat eaters would be just as happy with cornbread hot dog buns. Imagine a delicious BBQed hot dog surrounded by fluffy cornbread bun.

(Abandoned cake, meant for someone special but left for the dogs and other scavengers to find and devour.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alexandra Travels the Countryside with her Collection of Masks, to the Great Delight of the Country-Dwelling Furry Creatures

 I am getting my Illustration Friday picture submitted just in the nick of time. This weeks theme is 'masks.' The theme reminded me of a children's picture book I use to like when I was a kid. In one of the illustrations, the two main characters are wearing masks. It is a book about two little girls who are very good friends, but for some reason they get in a fight. All this happens during the Fall, because it happens right around Halloween. I think the two friends are also neighbors. I think it was published in either the seventies or eighties. I can't remember what it is called though! Does this book sound familiar to anyone? I would love to revisit it.

  In her garden, Alexandra spends hours and days and months and years creating masks. She has masks of animals, masks of people, masks of imaginary creatures, and masks of creatures once thought to be imaginary but now discovered to be real. Every Spring, she leaves the safety of her garden to travel the countryside, preforming one-flower plays. Sometimes, her audience is only the lilacs in the field, slowly swaying in the Spring breeze. Other times, an audience of five-hundred humans surround her with wide eyes and bodies leaning forward. But her favorite audience are the bunnies. They are furry, they are cute, and they are numerous. They pop up from their earthy warrens, or hop from behind trees. They surround her, ears alert, trying to capture every sound wave that she emits. When Alexandra gets to a particularly tense part of one of her stories, the rabbits all start to hop in place. They are too overcome by the intensity of her words to stay still. When she gets to a funny spot, they wiggle their ears and noses in delight.When she gets to a sad part of her story, the bunnies snuggle closer to each other, sometimes burrowing their heads into each other's coats, as if to remind each other that they are not alone. So when she visits the rabbits this year, she has a new story to tell them. It isn't just a story but a secret. It is the secret to how the world started. She takes a deep breath, places the moon mask over her face, and starts to tell the story of the grandest adventure of all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Map of Faces

(An Autumn heart in early summer, Betty the Beautiful Chicken. A moth finds light on a dark night. An orange poppy golden as sun-tanned finger tips.)

    Someday I want to make a map of the city called: A Map of Interesting People. It wouldn't actually be a map showing where interesting people lived, it would be a map of the best people-watching spots. Because wherever people are, there will be interesting people to watch. The map would feature locations such as park benches where one can sit and watch interesting people mill about around them. Or cafe's that have good spots to cozy-up in front of a window and watch as the people stream past. The other day I went to the library after work, but because I hadn't ate lunch yet, I stopped at a piroshki .hop and got a piroshki and coffee. The shop had one of those bar seats that looks out a window to the street. I saw all sorts of interesting people walk past: Tourists with determined walks, but distracted faces. People with sad histories shuffling with hunched shoulders. Girls with cute outfits. Guys with neat facial hair. Faces that tell stories. Postures that give warnings. Old ladies with big glasses and frizzy hair. Children skipping in colorful shoes. There was a woman with a round face and smeared make up who peered into the window I was staring from. We caught eye contact for a small moment before she trudged onward. Later, when I was outside the cafe and back on the street heading toward the library, I ran into the round-faced woman. On the corner at the stoplight, she asked me if I listen to the hits. I said 'sometimes,' even thought I don't really know what counts as a hit, and I really just listen to whatever I like. But she nodded her head as if she knew exactly what my 'sometimes' answer meant. Then I crossed the street and turned the corner while she continued straight down the street, maybe with a musical hit jingling around in her thoughts.

(Little Faces: Grinning moon and bearded man. Frowning near the sidewalk. Drooping on a fence. Missing a nose, mouth and head.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rainy Day at the Park

   I was very optimistic the day I set out to spend the afternoon at Magnusun Park. I brought a blanket, a picnic and a book with the intention of spending my time lounging by the shore while reading my book underneath an array of sun rays. I do not know where I gathered this optimism about the weather that day, certainly not from the sky which was gray and bunched with clouds as I set out. By the time I arrived, the rain had already started. My red rain boots remained at home and instead my feet were clad in mostly canvas blue shoes. My jacket was flimsy and made from cotton. But it was Spring, and I was there, so I set out to wander Magnusun despite the rain. I did have the good sense to leave my book behind and thus changed my Magnusun plans to include a walk rather than a lounge.
   It was fun wandering around in the rain, although my feet were soaked within the first five minutes. There were other people out. Mainly runners, all wearing numbers. I could hear the patter of their feet behind me as they thudded across the wet gravel paths. As they passed me, I could see their rain soaked heads and for the split second before they were in front of me, I could see their red cheeks.
   When I went on this walk, the blossoms were still new. Flowers are such a relief after the long Winter. I never felt this way until I moved to Seattle. I know Seattle Winters are nothing to complain about compared to the Midwest and other snowier locations, but I miss all the flowers and greenery during the Winters. The city seems emptier and lonelier with so many bare branches.
   I saw a crow in the rain too. He had round drops on his sleek black feathers. He wasn't bothered by the rain, because crows are not bothered by much. I find it is a good idea to observe crows whenever possible. They are amazing birds. Smart, shrewd and resourceful, the crow is no ordinary bird.
 At one point I decided to take a 'secret path' which led me to marshy low land  in which all the foot paths had been converted into mini-streams. I was too far to turn around, so I strode onward through the murk, my feet sloshing through tangled weeds and muddy water. But shortly after this, I decided my walk was over.