missing from maleficent

Just back from the first movie I’ve seen in months, Maleficent. I wanted to see this before it fell out of theatres, mostly because of the trailers with her wings, because yeah.

Let’s talk about the good parts, first: Angelina Jolie is wonderful. It looks great. The green fire which is signatory to this version of the character was lovingly rendered and just felt right. The christening scene, reinterpreted here? Perfection. The later interactions of Aurora and Maleficent, ages, oh, 13ish to the end of the story resonated well, and just worked.

But… while so many things are right, I can’t get past “pretty good” as a response. Not great. Merely pretty good. That’s because I just can’t get past the fact that in this film, too many things are too easy. I don’t mean physically easy, tho’ there is some of that; those parts are not so important. No, I mean emotionally easy.

And from here on out, we’ll be heading deep into spoiler territory, so you have now been warned.

Let’s start with our antagonist, King Steffan.

Sharlto Copley plays Doctor then King Steffan well, given what he has to work with. But there isn’t enough meat in the part. There should be; all the bones are there. But Steffan’s arc is missing too many important, difficult notes.

His needed to be both a more political story – it’s a very political tale, after all – and a story about ruined love. Okay, sure, there was never “one true love,” as the film fairly points out – but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a kind of love there, and I think there was. And, well, betrayal of such things is a staple of royal histories. It’s entirely in theme.

And so Steffan commits a great treachery, setting events in motion, becoming King Henry’s heir. But that sort of treachery – so personal a treachery – needs confronting. In the film, all we really get is a big fight scene.

That’s letting him and the audience off easy, and it’s a failing. We in the audience need to know his self-justifications – how it was right for him to cut off and steal her wings, how it was right for him to seize the throne from a dying King Henry, how everything since then – the economic hardships, the battles – have proven how he and King Henry both were right to hate and desire the faerie lands.

How it’s all self-defense. How it’s all her fault. Not his. Not King Henry’s. Her fault.

Never his.

We shouldn’t buy it, of course. We don’t need to believe it. We just need to believe he believes it – even if only by lying to himself so strenuously for so long. We needed Maleficent to confront his justifications, and deny them, laying the lies bare.

We needed to see that, and we didn’t. Steffan’s descent into paranoia – see also, “uneasy rests the head that wears the crown” – played out well, but that’s not enough. We needed to get into his brain, and find him lacking.

It also would’ve been nice to see some of this from Princess and then Queen Leah’s view. It’s clear that King Steffan’s isolation grows throughout the film; it would’ve been nice if we’d known some of that has come from Queen Leah’s knowing that something happened between him and Maleficent. Sure, she knows about the wings; that’s why he’s king. But there was more to it, more that he’s lying about, something both more and rotten. Something that makes her suspicious, then untrusting, then isolating.

In short, his betrayal should ruin two potential loves. Ruined love already underlies the text; it should be a stronger undertheme, since it’s what unlocks his character. Love doesn’t have to be “one true love” to still be love; Steffan ruins it through betrayal for the sake of power, every time he acts.

It would make a nice parallel to the the other easiness problem in the film: the too-easy relationship of Maleficent and Aurora.

Maleficent’s affection for Aurora comes too quickly and too trivially, in film-time. Less so in story-time; it spans many years in character. But that’s not communicated well, and even in story-time, Maleficent’s saving Aurora’s life from the inept fairy trio’s overwhelming incompetence* mere days after cursing her to die.

And it doesn’t resonate; it doesn’t work. Maleficent’s complex and multistage arc should be awesome – from young love, to betrayal and ruined love, to justified hate, to claiming her revenge… and then turning back from that, working through to regret, and to building an adult, parental love, and reclaiming her life for her own, from the wreckage wrought by Steffan.

Most of the pieces are there, but… it’s hollow in the middle. We needed a better arc of her hate. The arc is set up nicely. The betrayal is agonising. And so, she cursed an innocent baby to “sleep like death” tragically on the cusp of adulthood, as per her symbolic death with the rending and theft of her wings, and we’re kind of on board with that. We can see how she gets there.

So she can’t just step in and save Aurora over and over again without a good emotional reason, even if only to tell herself. Yes, it’s the turning point in her arc. Yes, from her own curse (irony!) she’s fated to love Princess Aurora in some form, as everyone who interacts with Aurora will come to love her, though not “true love” her. Maleficent is hoisted by her own petard here, and that’s fine.

But as with Steffan, there are always rationalisations for things done. Steffan needs to rationalise his evil; Maleficent needs to rationalise her goodness, in symmetry.

It could be simple – Aurora has to live to 16 so that Maleficent can see the curse she laid down become true, and watch King Steffan’s agony and failure to stop it. That’s a bit stock – a bit, heh, easy, really – but it’s a starting point.

Saving infant Aurora is a critical change at a critical moment. We needed some emotional support for that, and we didn’t get it. I’m not looking for All! The! Angst! – I’m looking for more emotional struggle to sell me the progression of character. Maleficent initially needs to save Aurora out of hate and revenge, not out of “well, guess so.” “Might as well” is just too damned easy.

Which is a damned shame.

Still, pretty good. Not what it should’ve been, though. That always hurts; good and great are awesome, terrible is terrible, hilariously terrible is even better. They are what they are and could be. But the near-misses like this one… they hurt. Maleficent could’ve been brilliant. Instead, by letting characters and the audience off too easy, it was merely… pretty good.

Not great. Pretty good.

And that’s a damned shame.


*: The three fairies were well too incompetent. It felt as though they were made even more spectacularly incompetent simply to provide more opportunities for Maleficent to step in and save Aurora. And again, that’s another case of letting things be Too Easy.

eta: Anna has a review up here, wherein she gets more into detail and less into overarching thematics. I agree with her about the wings and the new queen business, in particular. But you can read that yourself, if you like.

domestic bliss vs. home restoration: fight

This is not domestic bliss, this is kitchen restoration:


This is what I’m doing when not rehearsing for shows

I posted some details over on my old LJ blog, which I still maintain for stuff I don’t think people here will generally care about. But it’s been eating my life the last … five weeks and counting, so here you go.

I crossposted to Tumblr, too, but the LJ post has a followup pic in comments and bigger pictures.

photos from the bay

Some photos from Clallam Bay! More are on my Flickr photostream, as usual. Plus, they’re larger, which is really good with some of the panoramas.

Come enjoy a ferry ride! Kingston-Edmonds, of course. I like Kingston quite a bit. Edmonds, too. The downtown is a lot like White Rock, even if I can’t entirely say why. Reminds me of a BC town. Which is fitting, given that it used to have a Vancouver ferry.

Small towns on the peninsula are still kind of a lot of 1959. I present you with The Bay TV Phones Motel. I’m told it used to be the Bay Free HBO Motel back in the 80s; I like the current name better, it flows nicely. But honestly, I edited out reflections of other modern cars, but otherwise? Welcome to 1959:

Fireworks was the first order of the show. I didn’t take pics of those, but here’s Shanti of Leannan Sidhe and … Linden, I think? From Project Wonderful, hanging out with pretty much the rest of town for three hours of legal and not-entirely-legal fireworks.

I didn’t take any photos during the actual convention, mostly because I was too busy! But I did get in a nice beach hike, so you’ll get photos of these. There are several more good ones on my Flickr photostream, as before, but here are some highlights.


Let’s Go Beachcombing!


Acres of Not Clams
Shanti told me what they are called but I keep forgetting. I’m bad at nouns.


Panorama of Not Clams

I’ve tried to get out to the site of the old lighthouse every year, but I’ve never made it. To get there without at least wading, you have to be there at very low tide. This year, the timing worked out perfectly.


The Abandoned Approach
(Again, lots more ruins photography on Flickr.)


Standing on the Foundation Pilings

Tide had already started to turn, and there’s no way back without swimming once tide rises much, so we headed back right away. As the sun started to set, the clouds moved in just so to make the sunset look like a binary star system.

All those pointy bits that look like rain are the not-clams you can see in the acres of not clams photos above. Tide wasn’t taking its time.

We found a bunch of really cool random things on the beach. I only posted pictures of a couple (some didn’t come out). While I didn’t keep it – I don’t tend to be much for keeping objects – I loved the deep blue of this shell:


Oh So Blue

Next year’s Comicon has already been announced, with an official convention hotel and everything. Looks like people want to make this thing succeed. I hope it works out, it’s a lovely place to spend a hot summer weekend – even if the Clallam Bay Inn no longer serves the most excellent waffle fries. (They went to wedges! They’re still good, but not that kind of good.) But I still got my cooked-fish fix, the bay is still gorgeous, and the fireworks are still insane. The important things endure. ^_^

adventures in clallam bay

Another year, another Clallam Bay Comicon! Donna Barr has a write-up here, with several photos. More programming this year than the previous two; Project Wonderful came in and did an interesting presentation about how they work. I’m going to follow up on that.

Next year’s con has already been announced. It’s funny – it’s not so much that the con (still very much a party hosted by Donna) hit critical mass this year. It’s more that it hit that pre-critical mass of people going, “You know, we could turn this into a real and bigger thing.” So next year, there will be a multi-person concom, there’s an official convention hotel, and multiple-room function space, and possibly some SCA tie-ins… yeah, it’s still very DIY, but more people are going to be involved in the doing.

Assuming everybody does what they’re saying they plan to do, of course. XD

Personally, I had my best year there yet. Bringing Leannan Sidhe along was awesome and both our shows went over pretty big. We had people coming back from last year who remembered the songs I did again, we had new people, some of the folks from town came over, and overall we just had a good old time. And sold CDs, which doesn’t hurt anything either.

There may be some video. I haven’t checked it yet. Fingers crossed.

I’ll post a picture-spam post from the hike we did of the continuing-to-be-gorgeous bay. For now, have a picture of a pretty moth I took, while setting up for the concert. Gorgeous wings, don’t you think?

clallam bay!

It’s Clallam Bay Comicon again, the third, which is pretty good for what basically started as a hangout at Donna’s house. They’ve expanded again – there’s more function space, though I don’t yet know how the layout is supposed to work. But that’s okay. It’s also going into Monday this year, in an experiment of scheduling; I’ve no idea how that works either!

But if you’re on the peninsula, I’m doing the Kitting Out Cheap panel again at 4pm – on how to build a recording studio good enough for home use when you have about $1.50 in your budget – and Leannan Sidhe and Crime and the Forces of Evil are doing a split set at noon Monday.

And even if you’re not on the peninsula now, there’s no reason not to be this weekend. Particularly not with the heat wave coming in. Hmmmmmm? Always cooler in the west, I’m just saying…

i have to try this

Okay, so people who have been out of the loop, Livejournal has gone through another purchase/”merger.” I know, I know, “Livejournal? Really? That’s still alive?” And you have a very good point.

But honestly this new ownership is the most responsive I’ve seen since Brad sold the place. They’ve been asking users what they want, they’ve put back in subject lines in comments, they’ve made all sorts of changes that people actually seem to want made.

Including, in response specifically to me, long-overdue resumption of support for Bandcamp embeds. That used to work, and stopped working, about three years ago? Whenever Bandcamp went to iframes for their players. Previous ownership didn’t answer questions about it. Current support just said ‘Okay!’ and “bandcamp embedding should work now!”

O.o

Which is the entire point of this post. Let’s see if this works, shall we?

eta: oh my gods it works. This hasn’t worked in three years. SEE HOW WE STOMP FOR… Livejournal?

gamcon 2014, the first

Thanks again to GAMCON for having me at their event last weekend! It was The Bremerton Gaming, Anime, and Music Convention’s very first year, and the staff was all sorts of anxious to make sure attending professionals had a good time. I felt very well tended. They had their share of first-year problems, but mostly, it looked like only their fair share – except, maybe, for running out of badge holders and lanyards. They only bought like 110, and those were gone in minutes. I’m told they got more later.

I rode over on the ferry – I think it’s the first time I’ve gone to Bremerton as a passenger, so it was fun to get on and off the boat via the passenger terminal. Much cheaper, too, of course; bus to boat to CONVENTION! to boat to bus to home. And the convention facility was literally right next to the ferry terminal building, so it’s extremely practical.

GAMCON’s dealer room had some size for a first-year, with a couple of more exposition-like booths, and a pretty good range of dealers. I talked with a maker group for a while, with a couple of educational groups, with some people who build entertainment systems, some artists – they had a lot of artists in the dealer room, lacking an art show – and I bought a Mockingjay pocket watch. I have a convention watch again! It’s been a while.

But the best dealer had to be Team Rocket selling Pokébathballs, which are not at all stolen and are most certainly not boobytrapped in any way.


Not in any way.


Larger at Flickr

Other function space consisted of two primary function areas: an outdoor courtyard (concerts, original plan for cosplay competition, things like that) and the Fountain Room. Both spaces were pretty large, though the Fountain Room was a bit across-and-far from the rest of the event. Despite that, people found it. There was also what looked like a small tabletop area near registration, and a gaming trailer outside. I watched some Black Ops being played for a while, via the external display screen on the side of the trailer.


There are fountains outside, but you can’t see them in this photo.

The cosplay event had to be moved inside because of light rain, so I’m not sure the outdoor part of that was the best idea. They had a lot of entrants – I arrived late and didn’t get photos of everyone, but I still saw over 20 entrants.

The format wasn’t like anything I’d seen before – no stage, more of a walkthrough on the same level as the audience, with classes of “beginner,” “experienced,” and “master,” and at least some awards given by popular vote. No sound support, and I’m not sure if their classes are supposed to correlate to the Guild tiers or not. But they did have a photo area, at the end of the hallway runway.

There were a lot of hall costumers just wandering around – for such a small con, it sure had a lot of cosplay.

I’m not posting all of the costume photos here, but I took a bunch – they’re on my flickr page. But I’m posting this one, because…


…now that is a goddamn scythe.


But flags make the best props. Even accidental exposures look awesome.

It felt right to one-day it; I really, really needed a day off, so I just kicked back Sunday and did pretty much nothing. But I’d go again next year, if they do it again, and were I in Bremerton or out on the peninsula in general I’d certainly give it a good look.

Next weekend: Clallam Bay Comicon! It’s a weird one, on Sunday and Monday rather than Saturday and Sunday, because of Clallam Bay Comicon. Will it work? No idea. Let’s find out!

the road back

I’ll post about GAMCON tomorrow – it was a lot of fun, thanks for everyone who came! – but today, it’s the photos from the trip back from Greenland. Large versions on Flickr, as usual.

If we did a live album of these shows, or, for that matter, of all this whole tour? This would be the album cover. Totally the cover.


Taking the High Road

Yep, it’s a desert – all these were taken from the car on the way north and west.


Westward, Ho!

I took a lot of mountain pictures, but they were all from windows and only a couple came out. But they aren’t bad:


Desert Range


Desert Range 2

Getting a decent lens flare on a phone camera isn’t easy! I didn’t even do it on purpose, it just worked out that way. I thought it was worth posting for that alone:


Arc of a Driver

I wasn’t sure whether to I took a few of these as the sun set; the colours at the edges were really interesting:


Approaching Wormhole – Confirm Destination Vector

We saw a lot of these little white plumes along fences – it wasn’t smoke, it was just some sort of vapour rise at sunset. But that’s not poetic, so I called it…


Ghosts Dancing

Yes, I was taking panoramas from a moving car. The amazing thing is that some of them actually worked!


High Tension in the Distance

I brought up the lows a bit in this shot, because it was too dark, but it’s still just dark enough to call it…


The Dark of Sunset

The sharp edges of the mountains here are so stark. I imagine trying to climb them.


The Range and Road Go On and On

But then the rendering engine decided it couldn’t keep up. Clearly I need to upgrade reality’s graphics card. Or maybe I just need a new driver. I haven’t had time to be sure.


Texture Glitch

These came out really well for being shot through a bug-splattered windshield.


Down to the River (1)


Down to the River (2)

And finally, before darkness set too far in to shoot.


Moonrise over the Desert Sunset

Welcome, GAMCON attendees!

If you’re here, you’re probably looking for the Kitting Out Cheap downloadable handout. Well, here you go. Thanks for coming to the panel!

You might also be looking for the Free Music Set, and that’s right here, one song a year from the last five. I’ll probably add a new song later this year, too, so check back.

How was GAMCON for you? I’m queueing this post up in advance, so I can point you to it during the panel. So I have no idea yet. SPEAK TO ME, PEOPLE OF THE FUTURE! Give to me your wisdom! And your death rays. I need them, you see. For reasons. Business reasons.

how not to encourage promotional payments

Facebook is now doing this to me pretty much every time I hit the site:

That’s not the first one, either. Seriously, it’s most of the times. That might be because I do not exactly stay on Facebook all day, but this is very much not encouraging me to change that behaviour.

It’s like they have some sort of bet going. “How unpleasant and annoying can we make this before people give it up?” I already mostly treat it as a bit of a write-only medium – I skim, but that’s it. And that’s with Social Fixer running, and ad block. The bait-and-switch approach to content – it’s all just kind of awful.

I mean, honestly. How many of these do they think I need to see?

I also want to mention their whole horrible human experimentation thing, but it kind of trivialises both to combine the two. (I mean, as someone who has done research, I want to know exactly who the hell was on their Human Studies Board, just for starters.)

It’s crazy to me, yet I’m still kinda-sorta hanging on, because of the near-necessity of maintaining at least a minimal presence there. I don’t want to; I feel like I’m compromising, at this point, in ways I really do not like.

And yet it’s all so many people will use. If you’re a serious Facebook user, I really have to know – why? Everything they do is horrible, yet so many people refuse to use anything else, no matter how terrible they get. Why?

eta: I see XKCD is in on this question today, too.

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