Tuesday, September 30, 2008
As we're only a few short weeks away from Election Day,pop culture lovers everywhere do need to keep up on current events(especially given a lot of the scary economic news lately)but that doesn't mean you can't do that in a fun way.
Last week,a special "Election Collection" of Schoolhouse Rock came out on DVD,complete with a vote tracking map for kids to use on Election Night. I think it might come in pretty handy for the grownups,too,and perhaps some of the adults in charge of this place should watch a couple of these clips to refresh their memory about how things should be.
One of the best known songs to come from Schoolhouse Rock is "I'm Just A Bill",which ,given what happened the other day,both houses of Congress need to seriously check out before things get any wonkier than they already are:
It's funny when you look back at those cutesy little cartoon lessons and see just how accurate they really were and still are. After all,we are run by a "Three Ring Government":
Also,with the prominence of women in the presidential race this year,it would be good for the younger generation to know more about the "Sufferin' Till Suffrage" their foremothers had to go thru:
If you want a good role model for young girls to follow,you can't do any better than "Interplanet Janet",the solar system miss from a future rock world. Granted, Pluto is no longer considered an official planet anymore,but it will always be one in my heart,thanks to Janet and her comet team:
Race and immigration have been hot button topics cropping up in dinner table talks around the country for awhile now and to cool things off,perhaps folks should serve up some savory stew flavored with unity from "The Great American Melting Pot":
Many people grew up with Schoolhouse Rock(myself included)and while it's not on the level of such 1970's educational classics like The Electric Company,those catchy little tunes did help kids to learn a few things in between Saturday morning cartoons. I wasn't the best math student around but thanks to "Ready or Not,Here I Come",the times table for the number five are still emblazoned on my brain today.
Whether you rent,buy or download a clip or two,Schoolhouse Rock is the perfect pick me up for chasing away the recent news blues and still feeding your mind with some smartly satisfying snacks. One that everyone can agree on(particularly you fans of text messaging)is that taking a ride at "Conjunction Junction" leads to better grammar usage for all:
Monday, September 29, 2008
During last night's episode of Mad Men(a very good one,btw),viewers were given the chance to see the official movie trailer for Revolutionary Road,which is coming out this December.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet,it's a story about a frustrated married couple living out their increasingly unhappy lives in a Connecticut suburb in the mid 1950's. The movie is directed by Sam Mendes,best known for American Beauty,but to me the most exciting thing about this film is that is based on the first novel written by Richard Yates.
Revolutionary Road was originally published in 1961 but received a revival of literary interest in 2000,when the 40th anniversary edition was released with an intro written by Richard Ford.
Ford also did a write-up of the book for the NYT Sunday Book Review that garnered even more attention to the works of a writer who was routinely overlooked for many years but was a strong influence on other folks who were inspired by his realistic tone and dark but not depressing look at people who cling to illusions as a means of dealing with the world they're stuck in.
I was a bookseller when the Yates renewal started up and was not only intrigued enough to check out Revolutionary Road but went on to read The Easter Parade(considered the high watermark of his writing career)and a few of his short stories as well.
One of the major lures for me to Yates was the fact that he was born in my hometown of Yonkers,New York(Yates moved from there at a young age after his parents' divorce and passed away in Birmingham,Ala in 1992).
Yonkers has had it's share of residents who became famous in the arts,notably musicians like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith or actors such as Jon Voight. Finding out that we also had a writer who was nominated for the National Book Award on the strength of his first novel was pretty cool to me and gave my reading of his works that personal touch that means so much.
It also makes seeing this film about to arrive on the silver screen that much more of a major media event to me. Most moviegoers will just lump it in with other studio releases clamoring for Oscar attention but this is as close as I'll probably get to having a personal stake in hoping that this tale from a small town boy goes over well in Hollywood:
No doubt the film will set off a number of debates regarding how well done or off the point from the source material it is,but the thing to keep in mind is the big leap of recognition that Yates' work will reap out of this.
The book buzz on Revolutionary Road in 2000 impacted on many readers but the movie will strongly carry him over to the mainstream(which he would hate,I'm sure)and if it does well with audiences,we may get some other really good movies based on his books. Not to mention a few more readers in the bargain.
Richard Yates is a classic example of an artist being appreciated long after his time has come and gone. Like many of those folk,his true legacy lives on in his words and of those of the writers who followed in his footsteps and those yet to claim him as their muse. It's encouraging to see an author who deserves the star treatment finally get his due at long last:
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tomorrow launches the beginning of Banned Books Week for 2008,where libraries and bookstores across the country endeavor to remind their fellow readers about the continuing need to fight censorship of literature.
To liven things up a little,I'm suggesting that folks use a fun new approach to getting those who are not interested in BBW to appreciate the concept of freedom to read a little bit more.
My concept is simple and suited to the video age we live in. Hold a Banned Books Week Film Festival,showcasing the many excellent movies that have been made from banned and/or challenged works over the decades. A easy way to set this up is to have some specially themed double features(shown to age appropriate audiences,of course) play on your DVD/VCR/whatever entertainment center you have in your home for reluctant friends and family to watch together to share and enjoy.
Here are a few ideas for double feature themes(all titles are available on video)to give you some film food for thought and inspiration:
FROZEN FORBIDDEN ROMANCES
Love stories are great crowd pleasers,plus with the winter months about to swoop down upon us,it gives folks more of a reason to snuggle together. With that in mind,Doctor Zhivago is the perfect choice here. Boris Pasternak's homage to the olden days of Russia was banned from that country for thirty years and finally came into print there in 1988.
The book received most of it's accolades overseas and was adapted into a film in 1968,directed by the legendary David Lean. It won a number of Oscars and is considered one of the all time great films of the 20th century. If you haven't read the book or seen the film(sorry to say I haven't done either yet,but still plan on doing so),this is a good excuse to go for it now:
While I didn't read David Guterson's Snow Falling On Cedars,I did get the chance to see a sneak preview of the 1998 film version starring Ethan Hawke and was rather bowled over by the stark emotional beauty of the story and characters.
Guterson's novel has been challenged in a few school districts,both in the US and Canada,no doubt for the interracial romance that is a strong segment of the spine of this story about a reporter confronting the ghosts of his past as he looks into murder trial of a Japanese American man who is married to the love of his life. The plot is set in 1954 but still has a lot of relevancy to today:
Most of the books that get banned and challenged are meant to be kept away from teenagers,fearing that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing.
S.E. Hinton's novels have been in the cross hairs of these complaints for many years,not just because of themes of violence and usage of profanity in them but,in my opinion,due to the fact that young people actually like these books even if they're not assigned reading.
The Outsiders as a film got some mixed reviews but is a good way to introduce folks into Hinton's world,plus Steve Wonder's theme song,"Stay Gold" is lovely to listen to:
And for the ladies,we have Stephen King's Carrie,who deals with her outsider status by displaying her psychic abilities at the prom and literally bringing down the house.
King's novels have also been frequent targets of censorship campaigns aimed at high school libraries,with the likes of Christine,It and Cujo on the chopping block.
I chose Carrie,however,because it was the first one of Big Steve's teenager in trouble books and deals with a myriad of subjects that most folk would have die than talk about with their kids such as menstruation,abusive parents and the sometimes violent consequences of hazing:
THOSE FINE YOUNG SOCIOPATHS
For the slightly older teens and/or the college bound set,more controversial fare is best suited to encourage them to not only question society but the chosen forms of rebellion against it. Anthony Burgess's novel shocked British society with it's futuristic look at dealing with crime and punishment amongst the young and the coldly vicious.
The film version is just as shocking as the book and chillingly timely in it's viewpoint from a charming middle class bred sociopath who adores the ultraviolent:
Bret Easton Ellis's gory take on eighties greed,American Psycho,was already stirring up trouble even before it's publication and is still the eyebrow raiser today. The Mary Herron directed film was able to pare down some of the more gruesome details of the book to expose the bone of social satire that is still unsettling to
self appointed guardians of virtue and political correctness:
BRITISH BOYS IN JEOPARDY
Getting grade school boys to develop a love of reading is a major goal for many parents and educators and one sure fire way to jump start that initiative is by showcasing some of the classics as forbidden fruit. Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist has garnered censure for over a century,due to the depiction of Fagin that caused parents in New York to register a complaint during the 1940s.
To make the book seem like less of a chore,a viewing of the beloved musical version,Oliver!,should do the trick:
Roald Dahl is another children's book author whose works are threatening to the
book banning crowd and also popular picks for film adaptations.
It's hard to find a book of his that hasn't both delighted readers and film goers,plus ruffle a number of feathers of the fuddy duddy flock who cite amongst a host of other reasons to keep the likes of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,Matilda and The Witches out of classrooms,"lack of respect for adult authority."
Never mind the fact that only adults who abuse that authority are the ones being given the usually comically payback in these stories,this point is rather persistently made over and over again,reveling the real fear of the censors.
Anyway,I thought James and the Giant Peach would go along well with Oliver,since both are seen as bad examples of disadvantaged youth. Guess some people are afraid of young boys fleeing a bad home life by sailing off with talking insects on an over sized piece of fruit,they could start a gang or something:
Please feel free to suggest a few of your own double feature ideas and check out more info about Banned Books Weeks online. For those out there who still insist on regulating what other people want to read and watch,beware of your own methods of madness. They can turn around and bite you back when least expected:
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Heroes introduces us to their villains,Project Runway sings a song and it's man cave time on Top Design
The time has come on Project Runway when the designers are challenged to make outfits for each other to model and this season,the theme was music genre. Tim Gunn handed out the assignments via random drawings(I love the bag of buttons,very appropriate) and to top things off,the guest judge was LL Cool J. Sweet!
Leanne had Country as her category and Korto for her model. While I do somewhat agree with the judges that her top and skirt could have used a little more flair(perhaps a touch of fringe?)and glamor to it,she really did do a good job here.
Leanne and Korto's big concern was not having the clothes come all costumey and Nina was right about the colors that were selected being great;however,as much as I like this,LL Cool J did have a point about it being a bit too subtle.
Jerell's genre was pop and his concept for his design was "Kenley Spears". He really nailed this one on the head and gave Little Miss Mouthy a slamming glitter top dress that successfully towed the line between sexy and slutty.
Jerell was hoping for a third win in a row,but Korto's punk look for Suede made her the clear winner.
She truly went all out for this one,even going so far as to bleach both the pants and the shoes that he was going to wear. Korto also was wise enough to listen to Tim Gunn in the workroom and take his advice on making the top look less basic. See,Kenley-sometimes it pays to have a smart head rather than a smart mouth.
Speaking of Kenley,her hip-hop look for Leanne was about as authentic as a three dollar bill. She was beyond clueless and refused to admit it at all. She was insanely defensive with the judges and nearly snapped Tim Gunn's head off when he politely questioned her choice of form fitting clothes(even LL Cool J thought the high waisted pants looked like "Mom jeans").
Granted,I'm not the most down with the music scene gal around but even I know that Alicia Keyes(who Kenley cited as a current stylist in that genre) is not at all hip-hop. Queen Latifah,yes,Lauren Hill,sure,Mary J. Blige,most definitely-not Alicia,who,as I think Suede pointed out,is more R&B.
Alas,poor Suede-while a number of his entries have been rather lackluster(including this rock star ensemble for Jerell)and his third person bit has gotten so old that it grew a long,grey beard and is eligible for Social Security,I didn't think he had to go.
Kenley's bad attitude is completely unprofessional and counterproductive. She automatically rejects any ounce of constructive criticism or creative input,not to mention having no respect for Tim or any of the other judges. She prefers to lock herself into this narrow little shadowbox of kitschy 1950's design,which is fine if your goal in life is to be a one trick pony of fashion.
Oh,well,we still have another round to go and another chance to see Kenley get the Auf she so richly deserves. Keep your fingers crossed,folks!
More teamwork was the order of the day at Top Design,where the big challenge was to re-do three bachelor pads. Sitting for Kelly Wearstler at the Judges' Panel was Jeff Lewis from Flipping Out(a show I don't watch but know enough about to expect some major snark from his corner).
Wisit worked with Andrea and Teresa to make a "masculine Zen" place for a fella named Obie and they clicked together very nicely. Obie had wanted a screening room look for his living room and his team gave him a great one that both male and female visitors could be comfy in.
The bedroom was the true crowd pleaser,as the judges and Obie both adored it. The colors in the room ,and particularly the bedding,were superb. Team Obie was the winner of this challenge and glad to see Wisit and Andrea work so well with each other.
Eddie,Ondine and Natalie were asked to make "panty-dropping chic" for James,a law student with a permanent case of bed head. Ondine decided to decoupage some screens with a animal and insect wall paper which was neither manly or mature looking. Jeff Lewis hated it with a fiery passion and would've gladly shown Ondine the door for that sad style selection.
The bedroom that Team James whipped up wasn't bad,but as the judges pointed out,James wouldn't even get a girl to even consider spending any time with him there for romantic purposes with such a neutral,non sexy set up in the rest of the place.
The big losers were Nathan,Shazia and Preston,assigned to Eddie for a "contemporary chic" that turned out to be incomplete and incoherent,as Shazia and Norman kept clashing with one another over just about everything. Shazia was being a major pain,winging and whining about no one paying any attention to her or acknowledging her presence,especially during the shopping.
Preston wasn't thrilled with Shazia either,mainly when she insisted on having valances made for the windows at the last minute. The valance was not a totally bad idea,just one that they didn't have time to pull off better. Since Norman had immunity(from a flower arrangement Pop Design win),Shazia was sent home. Hopefully,she has learned from this experience that there's difference between being forceful with your opinion and just being annoying.
Heroes started off season three with a double dose of trouble,as Peter's own worst enemy is his Future self,Claire survived her encounter with Sylar physically but was left with severe emotional scars,Nathan came back from the dead but may not be all that right in his mind and Hiro's need for a quest leads him to hunt down the sexy Speedster girl who stole his father's deadly secret formula.
A lot of good mysteries and intrigues were set in motion,including the return of Niki Saunders,or one of her doppelgangers. Her name is Tracy Strauss and like Niki,has a connection with Nathan Petrelli as the liaison to a governor willing to give Nathan an open senate seat.
Tracy flat out denies that she's Niki but that doesn't quite wash with Nathan or an investigative reporter(William Katt,aka The Greatest American Hero)who is easily able to dig up a load of internet dirt to link those ladies together.
Tracy's temper,however,is not as strong as Jessica's was. Her way of dealing with stress has a much more chilling effect on people:
The most dangerous villain of the bunch,in my opinion,is Angela Petrelli,who is now in charge of Primatech Paper and all of it's levels,due to Sylar's break in and zappage by Electro-Girl Elle which lead to a big breakout of the Level 5 baddies. Angela's first order of business is to kick Elle out and start grooming Sylar as her right hand man(not to mention having Future Peter find Present Day Peter,who is trapped in one of the L5 gang's bodies).
Angela is a stone cold power broker,and despite what she whispered to Sylar by the end of the episode,has all of the motherly instincts of a barracuda. She may not have a flashy power(her dreams of the future seem to always be grim)but her influence over others can be just as lethal as Maya's black eyed death dealing is. On a final note,Mohinder,do you not have a Netflix account? It might have been a good idea to check out Jeff Goldblum in The Fly before using yourself as a test subject for that power granting formula,seriously:
UGLY BETTY: The third season kicks off tonight and hopefully,we will find out which love of her life that Betty chose to be with. I hope it's Gio,because while I liked Henry,his baby momma drama was much too much to deal with.
One thing is for certain and that is that Betty will have plenty of work related hijinks to deal with. That burden might be a tad heavier to tote as Daniel's newly found son adds to the usual chaos surrounding Mode's photo shoots:
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Even during these tight financial times,a gal has to splurge a little every now and then on that extra special item she's had her eye on for quite some time now. Since I happened to have a handy dandy gift card on hand,my DVD library will soon be able to include the special edition of Serial Mom in it's listings.
Granted,it's not the most outrageous offering in John Waters' film cannon but Serial Mom is a lot of twisted fun and more sharply satirical than anyone gave it credit upon it's original release back in 1994.
This new DVD edition has a bunch of new commentaries,one of which has Waters and the star of the movie,Kathleen Turner,dishing up some dirt and good times while shooting the film(co-star Sam Waterson was worried that he was somehow endorsing deviant behavior by being in this movie).
For those of you who are wholly unfamiliar with Serial Mom,the story line concerns a seemingly sweet natured suburban wife and mother named Beverly Sutphin(Turner,in one of her best roles,in my opinion)who becomes the target of an investigation into a number of local criminal activities in the neighborhood,such as the harassment of
Dottie Hinkle(Mink Stole)and a couple of mysterious deaths.
Beverly's husband(Waterson) and teen aged children(Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard)refuse to believe that Beverly is a serial killer,at first anyway. Bit by bloody bit starts to pile up and all of the clues reveal the grim truth. Beverly's motives for murder share a similarity with Hannibal Lector,in that they both seek out the rude for slaughter. Beverly wacks people for such good mannerly misdemeanors as stealing a parking space,not flossing your teeth and for one of the customers at her son's video store job,not being kind enough to rewind:
Beverly is busted soon enough after that last murder but not before publicly wiping out a witness to the crime(Scottie, who she never liked anyway,due to his refusal to buckle his seat belt while driving).
The execution takes place at a club called Hammerjacks,featuring the band L7(called Camel Lips in the movie),with the Sutphin family in the crowd. Only they and the cops arriving to arrest Beverly realize that Scottie's demise is not part of the stage show,which is kind of hard to blame them with the band sort of joining in the fatal fry job:
The real fun begins at Beverly's trial,where she insists upon defending herself(particularly when her lawyer ignores her concerns about one of the jurors wearing white shoes after Labor Day-that member of the jury,btw,is played by Patty Hearst)and actress Suzanne Somers watches the proceedings,as research for her new starring performance as Serial Mom in the made for TV movie.
Turns out Beverly is a very clever cookie in the courtroom who could've certainly given Johnnie Cochran a run for his money. Here are some of her best legal maneuvers:
NEVER JUDGE A PERSON BY WHAT THEY READ
DOTTIE HINKLE ON THE DEFENSIVE
John Waters mixes together a delightfully devilish cocktail of a comedy here,with a 1950's background motif of suburban serenity merging rather comfortably with the modern day lure of media glorified gore and celebrity criminal chic.
Most of the critics at the time Serial Mom came out thought it wasn't saying anything new but mind you, a lot has happened since then in the realm of crime coverage that makes this movie appear to be both ahead of and right in step with it's time. Nice little hat trick there,John Waters.
It is tempting to snatch up the first edition of a movie you like when it arrives on home video,but sometimes it's much better to wait for the best instead of the first. I only wish that one of the features added to the DVD was a sing along version of Daybreak,Beverly's favorite song to flee from the law by. Then again,they might make a Broadway musical version someday and we'll get to see Beverly perform it live on stage(hey,if American Psycho can become a musical,anything's possible,folks!):
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Dennis Lehane is best known as a writer of realistic crime novels,Mystic River being the one title of his that quickly comes to mind when most folks are asked to name a book of his. With his new novel that's on sale today,Lehane is stepping into a new field of play but still has much of the same equipment on hand to keep things interesting.
As are many of his books,the plot of The Given Day is set in Boston,the Boston of the late teens during the early 1900s,just between the end of WWI and the beginning of Prohibition. And,another trademark of Lehane's,is amongst his cast of characters is a police officer or two.
Danny Coughlin is a beat cop in one of the worst sections of the city,who despite his father's connections and being the survivor of a notorious radical bombing of a police station,hasn't gone further up the promotional ladder. Some of his father's associates offer him a chance to make detective,if Danny will go undercover and spy on the various Socialist/Communist groups sprouting up in the area,many of whom are involved in unionizing the working class.
This spy detail would also include the budding policeman's union,which makes Danny rather hesitant,to say the least. He's seen firsthand the overwork and underpay of his fellow officers,including his partner Steve Coyle,whose health was destroyed during the recent influenza epidemic sweeping the country and is now unable to even do desk duty,but receives no compensation for his service.
Even with his reluctance to buck the system and his doubts about the radicals being more than just a bunch of big talkers,Danny takes on the undercover gig and becomes more and more torn about his double agent status.
Part of his motivation to continue with this deal is his search for Tessa,a young woman living with her father in Danny's building who he wound up helping out a few times and became romantically involved with. Tessa and her father mysteriously disappeared one night,due to the fact that neither of them were whom they seemed to be.
Since Tessa was alleged to be a member of a anarchist bomb making group,the chances of Danny running into her during this assignment are pretty strong and dangerous too boot. The real love of his life is Nora,who works as a maid in the Coughlin family household,but her past stands between her and Danny. It may not stand between her and Danny's brother Connor,who is deeply in love with her.
Another member of the Coughlin staff is Luther Laurence,newly arrived from Tulsa,OK. Luther had moved to the Greenwood section of Tulsa with Lila,the women he loved and the mother to be of his first child to find work after the local munitions plant fired him in order to have a job open for returning soldiers from the war and start a new life together. That new life was jump started by Lila's Aunt Marta insisting upon the two of them getting married.
In order to make extra money for his growing family,Luther worked in a hotel by day and at night was a numbers runner for Deacon Broscious,the biggest gangster in town. During the worst part of the influenza infestation,Luther and his friend Jesse are strong armed into collecting some of the debts owned to the Deacon by folks who are suffering the most during that time and whose homes are too infected and deadly for the Deacon's usual enforcers to go into.
That all leads to a violent shoot out that forces Luther to leave town,with Lila refusing to go with him. Via a few family connections,Luther ends up in Boston and not only working for the Coughlins but doing volunteer work for the NAACP,a condition set by Mr. and Mrs. Giddreaux,the couple who agree to sponsor him in the area.
Luther and Danny wind up becoming allies,with Luther needing protection from one of more inquisitive of the Coughlin's police associates and Danny wanting an inside man to keep an eye on the relationship between his brother and Nora. Both men share a strong but wary respect for one another that gives them some unexpected support during the hard times to come.
Dennis Lehane blends a number of historical events into his narrative,the key one being the Boston Police Strike of 1919. He also adds in quite a few historical figures such as John Reed,Eugene O'Neill,W.E.B. Du Bois and a young J. Edgar Hoover.
A recurring pop culture icon pops up frequently thru out the book,Babe Ruth,who Lehane successfully gives an Everyman quality to and makes his appearances seem like natural set off points for the action that's to come.
One of Ruth's best bits in the book is at the beginning,where he stumbles across a pick up game being played by Luther and some of his work buddies. Babe asks to join in and the game goes well at first but when the rest of his team muscles their way and not so subtly insist upon winning,the mood turns ugly.
Lehane refuses to get melodramatic with this,letting the situation run it's natural and sadly all too real course,which serves as a harbinger for what's to come. It's not easy to showcase well known historical figures as just another member of your cast but Lehane deftly glides them into the places where they need to be as accents for his plot and characters,not Forrest Gump type of gimmicks.
The Given Day is a true home run of a novel that makes the history of the past feel as relevant as today's headlines and is a hell of a good read to boot. For those who might hesitate at the notion of Dennis Lehane tackling historical fiction,think again,guys. Any writer worth his or her salt can make any genre sing to their own unique tune if they know how to play the instruments and Lehane certainly does:
Monday, September 22, 2008
This past weekend,another major release of a new book in a popular fantasy series for young people hit the bookstores by midnight and this one doesn't have vampires or wizards(there are some elves and dwarfs in the mix). This time,it's all about dragons,in Brisingr,the third book of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.
Paolini made quite a few headlines(along with a couple of raised eyebrows)when his first novel Eragon was published. It was a book that he started writing at age fifteen and was self published a couple of years later. It came to the attention of Knopf via Carl Hiaasen,who had picked up a copy while on vacation,which lead to Eragon making a big splash in the fantasy pond for being such a young author at the time(he's twenty four now).
Eragon did well enough with readers to not only get two sequels green lighted(with a fourth volume in the works) but a movie version of it as well. The movie received mixed reviews but the books are still going strong.
I did enjoy Eragon as a book(still have to catch up to the film)and will find some time to check out the latest entry in this series,but a thought or two occurred to me about why dragons are still such a juicy lure in the fantasy world and what other books have contributed to that appeal. Dragons have strong narrative roots in folklore and film,but to make things easier,let's just look at the books for a moment.
My first exposure to dragon themed novels was Anne McCaffery's Dragonriders of Pern. We had an old Book of the Month Club edition hanging around the house(not sure if it was given to us or was one of those Main Selections that we forgot to refuse)and one day,I just opened it up. It was a long book(my intro to omnibus editions)and since the first story had a female lead,I was pulled right in.
I don't know if the concept of people bonding with dragons and taming them enough to ride around on them was fresh and new when McCaffery first came out with the Pern series,but she certainly made the whole idea of that rather enticing. It's become a regular staple of dragon fiction to have the lead human seal their deal with his/her chosen dragon by taking that first flight together:
It's also a long standing tradition that when dragons are involved,some sort of fight must follow. Even if the dragons are intelligent and well thought out characters like those in Naomi Novik's Temeraire titles, they are always participants in a major conflict either with or against humans.
A interesting feature of the Temeraire books is that the dragons are seen as ground soldiers for each nation and in some ways,are treated like their human counterparts in that they are expected to obey orders without question,even if they are made due to the political whims of the moment rather than good sense.
It's a welcome change from the usual "dragons are our enemies and must be destroyed" pattern that most of these stories follow. I won't deny that fighting a dragon isn't an exciting idea for any fantasy entertainment but you do need more than some cool special effects to keep folks engaged for more than the battle scenes:
Of course,we do have the cute dragon motif to fall back on. Most folks prefer a more cuddly version of dragons to show the kids and while it can be a nice intro for children,it doesn't have to be overly saccharine sweet.
In between her Inkworld books,Cornelia Funke came out with a lighthearted quest novel called Dragon Rider,that has a young dragon named Firedrake seeking a new home, with a group of various companions picked up along the way,after the valley where his clan lived was about to be flooded by not so friendly locals.
The book sounds a bit like The Land Before Time crossed with The Last Unicorn but judging by Funke's previous works,this is not some cheesy attempt to easily dazzle children with a merchandise ready fantasy. There's nothing wrong with a family friendly type of dragon either,but sometimes you want more than just a song and dance version of fire lizards to have fun with:
No matter what form it takes,there will always be dragons around in the pop culture realm to satisfy most tastes. With the continuing rise of dragon themed books that are destined to become films and even such fantasy based series as Harry Potter featuring those fire breathing high fliers,I think it'll be awhile before we start to worry about seeing the last of them.
One way or another,new stories about dragons will continue to unfold by means of book,film,TV or song. It's been a long time since "Puff,the Magic Dragon" but there's still room for a fresh new toe tapping tune celebrating the delights and/or horrors of the dragon legend,just you wait and see:
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