Tagged: Universe

Mindy Newell: How Unforgetable Sentences Can Help You Make Magic

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

The other day two grandmothers, Mindy and Lynette, were visiting their beloved grandchild Meyer Manual.  After playing and cooing and aahing and watching Alixandra attempt to feed him mashed bananas, 99% of which ended up on his bib and his chin and my elbow and just about everywhere but in his mouth, Lynette said she had to split.  As she was leaving, she said to me, “I love your columns.  You’re such a good writer.”  (Be that as it may.)  I said, “I don’t know where it comes from, I never had any formal training.”  Lynette laughed, and said, “Well, I had formal training, and I can’t write like that.”

Well, I don’t know how good a writer I am; I always think I could be a gazillion-million times better.  But that’s not the point of this column.  This is…

I left soon afterwards, and as I was driving home in my car, listening to All Things Considered on WNYC-FM (my local NPR station), coincidentally the segment was about writing.  Well, not writing exactly, but about great sentences.

The editors of the magazine American Scholar have compiled a list of their ten best sentences in fiction and non-fiction; as associate editor Margaret Foster explained, “It came about as a result of ‘water cooler’ talk around the office. We’re sometimes struck by a beautiful sentence or maybe a lousy sentence, and we’ll just say, ‘Hey, listen to this,’” Her choice, she went on to say, is the last line of Toni Morrison’s Sula:

It was a fine cry — loud and long — but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

I haven’t read Sula, but even without knowing the context of the sentence, I agree that it is beautiful. It could be describing the wail of a mother who has lost her child, the ghostly unending cry of six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis in World War II, or the devastating misery of a population in a world gone to apocalyptic madness.  It captures an emotional resonance that echoes of unforgettable pain, unforgivable brutality, and undying loss.

It’s hard to say what makes an unforgettable sentence.  I agree with Ms. Foster, who said, “…in the end, very subjective,” she says. “I mean, who are we to say what the best sentence in The Great Gatsby is?”

By the way, Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, which many consider the Great American Novel, made the list with this sentence:

“Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

It’s not “See Spot run”, is it?

But even Fitzgerald started someplace.

I don’t know if diagramming a sentence is still taught in elementary school English classes anymore, but I remember it as a continuing homework assignment back when I was a student at P.S. 29 on Staten Island, New York.  It began with simple sentences and progressively became more difficult with our increasing comprehension of grammatical structure.  It looked like this, using the simple sentence from above:

Sentence Structure

Actually, that’s not such a simple sentence, “run” is a shortened present participle (don’t ask!), and the grammatically correct sentence should read, “Did you Spot running?”

So let’s pick another, simpler sentence.  How about…

I | love | comics

         …in which the diagram above indicates the “form” of a sentence.  The “I” is the object, “love” is the verb, and “comics” is the subject.

But how do you get from a simple, three-word sentence to something like Fitzgerald’s last sentence The Great Gatsby, or to William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! or James Joyce’s Ulysses without your editor throwing you out on your ass with a copy of E.B. White’s The Element of Style following your bruised butt?

It’s the same answer as that old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice.”

Or is it?  Maybe it’s something else—a mastery of the language, or talent, or maybe it’s something intangible.

Call it a mystery, call it a gift from God or the Goddess or the Universe or even call it The Force…

Whatever it is that allows some to grace us with words that form sentences that speak truth to us and stay in our heads forever and ever—It’s magic.

Photo by gualtiero

FLASH GORDON AND THE HEROES OF THE UNIVERSE GATHER IN STAMFORD CONNECTICUT

Visit http://stamfordmuseum.org/upcoming-exhibit.html for details.

The Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford, Connecticut has announced that it is hosting an exhibit called Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe from September 22 – November 4, 2012.

About Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe:
Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe showcases artwork by two of the finest Flash Gordon illustrators, Alex Raymond and Al Williamson, as well as numerous other science fiction cartoonists. The artwork and memorabilia on display, representing space adventure creations from Buck Rogers to Star Wars, provides evidence of the significant impact that these heroes of the universe have had on American culture. Flash Gordon, which first appeared in 1934, was created by Alex Raymond (New Rochelle, 1909 – Stamford, 1956) and has impacted countless science fiction creators including George Lucas, director of “Star Wars.” Lucas claims, “Had it not been for Alex Raymond and Flash Gordon, there might not have been a Star Wars.”

One of the most influential artists in the history of his genre, Raymond is credited with having created “the visual standard by which all such comic strips would henceforth be measured.” The exhibition will also include original artwork by Al Williamson, who continued Raymond’s creation and put his own imprint on the way the character was drawn and presented. Writer and cartoonist Brian Walker, who served as curator for Fifty Years of Bailey Bailey at the Museum in 2001, is serving as the guest curator for this exhibition. He has been the curator of more than seventy exhibitions and is the author of numerous books on cartoon history.

Flash Gordon and the Heroes of the Universe is made possible, in part, by support from King Features Syndicate, A Unit of Hearst Corporation, as well as the annual support of Premier Partners: Aquarion Water Company, First County Bank and Purdue Pharma. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center would like to thank Cori Williamson, Peter Maresca, Jim Keefe, Bill Janocha, Steve Kammer, Bob Fujitani, Brian Walker and the Strong Museum for lending artwork and artifacts to this exhibition.

About the Stamford Museum & Nature Center:
Stamford Museum & Nature Center is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of art, the natural and agricultural sciences, and history. The Museum is a vital cultural and educational resource for the community, and a focal point for family activity and interaction, seeking to inspire creativity, foster self-discovery, and nurture an appreciation for lifelong learning through exhibitions, educational programs, and special events that enhance the visitor’s experience of our unique site.

Learn more about the Stamford Museum & Nature Center at http://stamfordmuseum.org.

If you stop by the exhibit, tell them All Pulp sent ya!

You Can Help Save The Universe Of Super Heroes!

The Universe Of Super Heroes has been serving Jacksonville, Florida for twenty years this year. We want to stick around for at least 20 more! Come make sure that happens! This Friday from 11 AM to a very late closing time, they will be doing a large sale and fundraiser. Manager Stephen Ezell writes:

We will be having fun at the shop! There will be a full size Tardis, and the best “Doctor Who” ever will be up here fixing things with his wit and sonic screwdriver!

11ish AM We open and will be having a back issue sale! The sale will last all day! All Back issues Buy 4 issues get one free (equal or lesser value of the lowest priced issue bought.)

5:00 to 6:00 PM CASH MOB! Spend more than $20 CASH within this hour and get a prize!

7:00 PM We will have a Raffle so be sure to buy a ticket for only $2.
Prizes will be revealed the day of.

9:30 PM we will start the Show! Jackie Stranger, DigDog, Tuffy, and Ghostwitch will be rocking in the stacks! BYOB, and stick around for some fun!

Remember folks, that’s the  SAVE THE UNIVERSE PARTY!at Universe of Super-Heroes, 2724 Park Street, Jacksonville, FL 32205. Tell ’em ComicMix sent you.

Win a Free VOLTRON Mask Avatar for XBox

Thanks to our Voltron friends, we have two Voltron mask  avatars for XBox to give away.

Here is what you will see when you go to download the game from the XBox Marketplace. The cost to download the game, when it becomes available on Wednesday, will be 800 Microsoft Points. More will be released on the launch date but why wait?

Voltron: Defender of the Universe, produced by THQ and Behaviour Interactive, will be a 1-5 player online co-op game. Players will be able fight as the individual lions in an overhead shooter style gameplay to then form Voltron to take on Robeasts in a fighter style combat.

How do you win one of these avatars? Easy. All you need to do is tell us which is your favorite Voltron Force pilot and why. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m., Thursday, December 1. The judgment of ComicMix‘s panel of experts will be final.

After the cut are additional details on the game and the world of Voltron.

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“Voltron: Defender of the Universe” Coming to Game Consoles Next Week

I missed the Voltron craze when the series first debuted in the United States but we here at ComicMix certainly recognize it remains a well-loved series. As a result, the following announcement should be welcome news.

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. – July 19, 2011 –Infracells are up, mega thrusters are go and the legendary robot hero is ready to make his resurgence in Voltron: Defender of the Universe, scheduled for release in October on Xbox LIVE® Arcade and PlayStation®Network.

In this brand-new take on the classic Voltron animated adventure, players will find themselves teaming up to battle the evil forces of King Zarkon across the varied landscapes of Planet Arus. Interwoven with clips from the original animated television series, the new game from THQ (NASDAQ:THQI) promises a re-mastered adventure in stunning high-definition.

Voltron fans can finally relive some of the most defining moments from the classic series, or even introduce a new generation of young Space Explorers, as they command any of the individual Lions or even team up to form Voltron and wield his epic blazing sword.

Galactic peacekeepers may choose to play either online in seamless 1- to 5-player co-op or offline in 1- or 2-player co-op. Players will select a Lion based on a number of strengths, resistances and elemental attacks that they use to battle fierce Robeasts and a number of other familiar adversaries.

“We really wanted to create a game that’s exciting, true to the original series and challenging to play,” said Peter Armstrong, executive producer. “All of us here are big fans of classic Voltron, and we’re really proud of what we have created.”

Voltron: Defender of the Universe will be available on Xbox LIVE Arcade (800 Microsoft Points) and PlayStation Network ($9.99).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzT9moWuQ_k[/youtube]

NYCC: There and Back Again

NYCC: There and Back Again

Cover of "The Essential Batman Encycloped...

Cover of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia

My time at the New York Comic-Con has come and gone and a good time was had.

As expected, I had countless whirlwind 30-60 second conversations with people, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and making rather merry. There were some extended conversations and a few business meetings which was nice.

I arrived early enough on Thursday that getting my badge was a breeze and wish more shows were so well staffed. I began running into people I knew the moment I entered the Jacob Javits Center and was delighted. My first appointment was with an editor about a project I can begin talking about next week. We got to know one another beyond the e-mails and phone calls and I think we got along just swell. She then snuck me onto the show floor two and a half hours early so I got a chance to wander and chat with some people who were going to be otherwise mobbed the remainder of the weekend.

Sure enough, once the doors opened to the four-day pass holders and professionals at 4, the aisles quickly filled and moving around was far less fluid. I did make a point of checking booths that had my stuff on display and was pleased to note DelRey had both The Essential Batman Encyclopedia and The Essential Superman Encyclopedia out for the fans. Across the way, Watson-Guptill had Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics out. And just arrived at the TwoMorrows booth were the first copies of Stan Lee’s Universe, where I acted as a consulting editor in the project’s final weeks (and a spiffy looking book it is, too).

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The Tempest

You have to give Julie Taymor credit. She rarely repeats herself and brings a sense of creative vision to every project, making each effort unique. For every brilliant stage work, The Lion King, there is a creative misfire, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. And on screen, she scored a bullseye with Across the Universe and disappointed with The Tempest. The adaptation of William Shakespeare’s final play is now out on DVD from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

The Bard’s works have been interpreted and reinterpreted since they were first staged at the Globe Theater so it’s no surprise Taymor wanted to bring her own ideas to the script. Her bold move was to turn Duke Prospero into Prospera, the duke’s wife and then cast Dame Helen Mirren. Taymor said at the time that no male actor seemed to fit her idea of the lead so tried a woman for a staged reading and decided the story held up.

Translated to the screen, Prospera, the sorceress, presides over the inhabitants on a small island, dealing with her daughter Miranda’s  (Felicity Jones) romance with Ferdinand (Reeve Carney) while fending off the schemes of Caliban (Djimon Hounsou) and Stephano (Alfred Molina) to do her in. There’s magic galore and Ariel, usually played by a female but here is essayed by Ben Whishaw, is a genuine sprite.

Taymor adapted Shakespeare’s words but they remain familiar ones and she has assembled a fine cast led by Mirren, who is never short of fascinating to watch work. Molina, Hounsou, Chris Cooper and Alan Cumming lend strong support so the overall production should be far more satisfying than it proves to be. There’s a crackle of energy missing from the performances and the CGI effects, which she used so well in Universe, don’t measure up. For a story about magic the effects prove oddly dull and uninspiring.

The pacing moves along but languidly, as if shooting on a Hawaiian island enervated cast and crew.

The movie performed well at festivals before being met with a collective yawn by critics and audiences alike last December making for a poor year end showing for Taymor. The movie plays much the same way on DVD aided by the usually crisp video transfer from Disney and helped tremendously by some terrific audio work.

Students of Shakespeare will want to see this and own the Blu-ray edition which comes with some terrific special features. In addition to Taymor’s perfunctory commentary, there’s a separate track with Virginia Mason Vaughan (Professor of English at Clark University) and Jonathan Bate (Shakespeare Professor at England’s University of Warwick), using their depth of knowledge to informatively discuss the adaptation. It sounds like an English paper read aloud is quite interesting.

Additionally, there’s the one-hour-six-minute Raising the Tempest which covers the production from script to final editing. There’s always something to learn from these but are really for students of film. This one, though, has Brand offering up comedic patter throughout and makes this worthwhile.

You can watch Julie & Cast: Inside the L.A. Rehearsals, a 14 minute look at Brand, Molina and Hounsou getting a handle on their characters under Taymor’s watchful eye. This is a revealing look at the creative process. There’s an additional, more humorous five minute Russell Brand Rehearsal Riff as he improvises answers as Trinculo to Taymor the Interviewer’s questions. The disc is rounded out with Carney’s “Mistress Mine” music video and an assortment of trailers.

DENNIS O’NEIL: Green Lantern’s Unused Potential

I wonder why the Guardians of the Universe never got past the projectile–hurling stage.

Yes, we’re again riding the Green Lantern hobby horse and noticing that his almighty ring operates a lot like Doctor Strange’s conjuration and Harry Potter’s wand. They operate a lot like guns. They shoot stuff out. Exactly what the stuff is made of isn’t much defined, but it generally does what bullets do: hit and smash and shatter.

Ask yourself: wouldn’t the weaponry of the oldest, wisest, most technologically advanced cadre of blue-skinned savants in the whole, star-spangled universe be better than high-tech battering rams?

Turn, now, to Marvel Comics’ Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr. Stephen Strange, and young Master Potter of Hogwarts. Their eldritch pyrotechnics are pretty impressive, especially on a big screen in 3D, but, really, in essence aren’t they just glorified roman candles? If magic exists (and can you say with absolute certainty that it doesn’t?) isn’t it more subtle?

Might not it…oh, say, cause tiny, undetectable alterations in the invisible rhythms and perturbations of nature? Can’t it achieve its ends gently?

And from here, it’s a short step back to the Guardians and their rings, particularly if you subscribe to Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Magic, technology… at certain levels they look the same and, in the examples we’ve cited, they get their results with methods that, while they’re gussied up, are still pretty damn primitive. If you were a Guardian tasked with ring design, wouldn’t you consider having the ring alter reality just a jot, maybe by changing, ever so slightly, the ratios of the various forces in the hearts of subatomic particles, or branching off into an alternate reality where things aren’t so hairy, or by remixing the chemicals in the bad guy’s brain so that person is not deeply unhappy and therefore is not motivated to act out by destroying downtown Pismo Beach, or wherever? (Okay, admittedly, that last one’s a little creepy.)

Well, the answer’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? We’re wired to react to the tangible, things our senses can respond to, which may be why we tend to put faces on our deities instead of regarding them, as some do, as grounds of being or the like. Comics and movies are dramatic media and, what’s more they’re visual dramatic media and it’s strongly recommended, if not demanded, that visual drama show us as plainly as possible what the good guys are contending with, and how they’re contending with it. I’m afraid that imperceptible perturbations of energies in tiny, tiny whatsises just won’t answer the need.

The uncomfortable next question might be: are our visual dramas teaching us that tangible force ­– call it violence – is the only possible response to our problems?

Just what are we doing in those foreign nations, anyway?

Recommended Reading: Given the subject of this week’s blather, it seems appropriate that I make you aware of a comic book, first published 50 years ago, titled Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. You can get it from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, P.O. Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960. Phone: 845 358 4601. Cost is three bucks per copy, and that includes shipping and handling in the U.S.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

20th century Home Entertainment Makes Father’s Day Easier

Twentieth Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment have come up with some cool packages that will make shopping for Father’s Day a lot easier. Below is their press release detailing the television series and feature films that are part of their library and aimed squarely at dads of all ages.  Here are the details:

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment’s twelve-month campaign, Year of A Million Moments, continues by recognizing heroes during the month of June. Between heroes from movies like Oliver Stone’s masterpiece PLATOON, the underdog fighter in ROCKY, or the comedic spy father in TV’s AMERICAN DAD, pay tribute by logging on to www.YearOfAMillionMoments.com for the opportunity to win $1 million dollars!

As an added bonus for Father’s Day gifts, up to $12.00 ‘Hollywood Movie Money’ to see X-MEN: FIRST CLASS will be available for consumers to print at home to use towards the purchase of a movie ticket. This exclusive offer is only available with the purchase of select Blu-ray titles including Quantum of Solace, Mad Max, Escape From New York, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Live Free Die Hard and Max Payne. (more…)