Thursday, March 14, 2013

COMMENTARY: Arachno-Funk, Part 1

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.....

You've all probably heard the old folk song, but it's true.  I never really appreciated the education I got from Oklahoma City's inner-city schools until Barack Obama ran for President the second term.

An article I read described President Obama as being able to understand world problems better because he grew up as an "international kid."  He learned from living in Hawaii and visiting various countries how other cultures work and how to get along.

I got some of that coming up at Central Junior High and Classen High.  Unlike my Wonder-bread elementary school, we had Black, Native American from half a dozen or more different tribes, Hispanic, and in my last years, Vietnamese students all mingling in the melting pot of public education.

Yeah, it was stressful, but it was good. I learned about fry bread and kitchens (not the kind you cook in), appreciated the accordion in conjunta music, learned to sing gospel well enough to be asked to join the Gospel Choir, and appreciate bun. (Vietnamese dish) And that's just for starters.

I wish I could say my school experience was like that. I'm one of those old hippie types who really does want everyone to live together in peace. Sadly, no. We had our share of racial tension. Even had a special pep assembly to try and get us to come together. The Student Council Vice President who suggested we should get along got a brick thrown through his windshield.

On the other hand, two years after I graduated, Classen High School kicked the KKK off the campus. This was a united force representing all the races of the student population. I was never so proud of my old school.

Now, Classen is an advanced studies magnet school, in 2009, one of the top in the nation. Do they always clean up the place after I'm gone? Perhaps it's karma from the Class of 1978!

I really did learn a lot about different cultures from Classen, but what I'm talking about today is learning how cultures share an iconic image in their mythology.

In this case, it's this guy and his kin:

It's Mythology class right after lunch and we're discussing Greek, Roman and Norse myths.

"Why are we learning this?"  I hear from one of my fellow students. "Do you see any Greeks, Romans or Norse folk in here?"

A show of hands revealed none of us believed we were such. Only our teacher had any Norse connection and that was on her husband's side of the family. We had some pretty diverse culture represented:  American Indian, Black, and I spoke up for Scotland.

"What do you suggest?" Mrs. Adams asked. "This is the textbook we've got. What are we going to do about it?"

Can you hear the pin drop in our classroom? 

"Those of you who want can do special reports on myths from your culture," Mrs. Ericson said. "It's extra credit and will help you with your final."

My hand shot up first. Yeah, I'm that kind of student--in English class--plus, I had a bad case of Senioritis and that whole idea sounded a lot better than studying hard for a final when I had invitations and Baccalaureate and all that graduating stuff to do.

This was easier said that one; however. Our small school library had tons of books on mythology. Unfortunately, they were all pretty much related to Zeus/Jupiter and Odin.  Lucky for us, OCU was close and if you looked really sad and promised not to mess up anything, they'd let you in their library.

I picked the kelpie or Ech Uisque--the waterhorse of Celtic myth which often lured humans to their death in the rivers and lochs. The ech uiqque plays a part in one of my short stories which has yet to see the light of day. For more on that legend, click here: 

Kelpie Legend

But Crystal picked the mythical character who had me entranced:  Anansi. I hope Crystal decided to be a Griot. She rocked that report.

Of course, I was prejudiced.  I still had my Creepy Crawlers set from when I was a kid and I "cooked bugs" every Halloween from a carefully-cadged supply of "goop."  I cooked the spiders. The rest of the molds bored me.

One of our Native American students added that Vehoo was a Cheyenne legend and a trickster like Anansi.

"Spiders were considered beneficial in Celtic myth," I added. "There's even a story where a spider helped Robert the Bruce kick the English out of Scotland."

Robert the Bruce and the Spider

You ever have a moment where you sit and look at your friends and classmates and realize yeah, we're different, but we're also alike.  We write stories about the things and creatures that are important to us and we pass them along to future generations, first beside campfires and on into the classroom. 

I was a fan of mythology since fifth grade when my teacher handed me a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology, but they were just tales until then....

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, March 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

COMMENTARY: The Next Big Blog Thing

With my sincere thanks to the lovely and talented Ellen Herbert, who suggested I join this blog hop. Check out her blog here: 

Ellen Herbert's Blog

My current WIP is new to me. The inspiration came like most do in the middle of the night via a dream.

Since I have so much trouble writing a pitch, I'm starting with it.  Here's the tentative: 

Who says Romeo and Juliet have to die?  Sometimes, star-crossed lovers do mend fences between feuding family. Generations ago, Jordon and Morgan's many times great-grandparents did just that between the Crossers and the Necromancers. They didn't realize that the marriage would null their offspring's gifts--until a pair of fraternal twins are born--and are nearly torn apart when they discover their powers.

And like any good blog hop (which is pretty much the chain letters of long ago), I am passing the torch on to an amazing author of steampunk and horror, Allison Dickson:

Allison's Blog

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, March 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: Oz The Great and Powerful

Director:  Sam Raimi
Writers:   Mitchell Capner and
               David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)
               Frank L. Baum, The Wonderful World of Oz

James Franco     Oz
Mila Kunis           Theodora
Rachel Weisz      Evanora
Michelle Williams   Annie-Glinda
Zack Braff            Frank/Finley
Bill Cobbs            Master Tinker

Seldom do I see a movie where I want to just remain in my seat and see the next show--and the next, until the theater staff tells me it's time to go home. Among those are ET and The Princess Bride. 

I was predestined to either love or hate this movie. I've been an Oz junkie since I was three or four. The film would come on television every year about Halloween time and after the first, I was prepared. I sat down spellbound with my Welch's grape juice and my popcorn and not even my father, who usually had ultimate control of the television, dared complain.  When I got older, and leaned that The Wizard of Oz was based on a set of books by Frank L. Baum, I found them in the library and read them all. And yes, I've read Gregory Maguire's take on Oz as well. I've seen Wicked from near the front and loved the musical.

No, I don't have any snow globes or Oz dolls in costume...I do own the remastered Blu-Ray where I realized to my utter shock that the opening scenes of The Wizard of Oz were not black and white as I originally believed, they were sepia!

Tony and I were there on opening night for Oz The Great and Powerful. We went on a matinee with hope in our hearts. And, yes, I could have stayed until the theater shut down.  I want to see the film at least once more before it goes off the big screen--maybe at a theater with better sound and visual resolution. I'll own the movie--and I might even splurge for some swag if they have the right Christmas ornament.

Oz opened in Kansas with a carnival charlatan seducing a young woman to be his assistant. Enter Oz, the wizard. The only reason he gets in the hot air balloon in the middle of an impending tornado is because the young woman he was about to seduce was another's girl and he was about to receive a well-deserved beat down.

After some peril, Oz lands in Oz and learns he is the wizard that was foretold of. Then the magickal politicking begins. Theodora and Evanora, the sisters, are trying to get him on their side so he can kill the Wicked Witch by breaking her magic wand.

Then, he meets Glinda and realizes who he needs to side with. As she tells him, "Perhaps you are not the wizard I expected, but you are the wizard we need."

There's a lot to love about this film. Of course, it pays homage to the original WOZ by beginning with the mundane world in black and white. (Might have preferred sepia, but I'm not quibbling) The casting was excellent. James Franco is a perfect scapegrace with devastatingly brilliant ideas.

One change I really appreciated was that in the original Oz the only color aside from Caucasian we saw was green. This modern Oz is integrated and the folks join together for a common cause.

Love seeing more evidence of steampunk's influence. Baum and Wells certainly were the original steampunk inspiration. It's good to see the Tinkers working--and tie in how Oz appears in the original film.

Yes, we will go back to see this film in the theater and we're definitely going to own the Blu-Ray.  I'm excited about the possibility of sequels. I hope they film quickly, because they do not want to lose a single member of this cast.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, March 2013