Monthly Archives: July 2012

Monday Meditations: Intimations of Immortality and Mahler

It’s been a while since we’ve heard some classical music on this blog. Come to think of it, it’s been a while since we’ve had some poetry on this blog. We shall have to remedy that.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Adagietto from Symphony No. 5” by Gustav Mahler

Oh, yes, it’s been too long since I’ve listening to something like this. The mood matches the poem below very well.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;–

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

 

The rainbow comes and goes,

And lovely is the rose;

The moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

Waters on a starry night

Are beautiful and fair;

The sunshine is a glorious birth;

But yet I know, where’er I go,

That there hath past away a glory from the earth.”

William Wordsworth, from “Intimations of Immortality”

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Notes Of A Storyteller: How I Would Have Re-Told “The Dark Knight Rises” (Part 2)

For those of you who haven’t seen Part 1, I’m listing all of the things I would do differently if I had been given creative control over The Dark Knight Rises. This list is fairly long, so I only got halfway through. Here’s the second half of my suggestions, picking up at the midpoint of the film.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!

“This is simply outrageous. Is he seriously going to continue this farce?”
“Yeah, I think he is, Alfred. Should we try to stop him?”
“No, Master Wayne. Let’s watch him dig himself into a hole.”

1. I would change Bane’s ultimate motivation. He doesn’t want to blow up the city; he truly wants to subvert the powerful and corrupt and replace them with the people. He joined the League of Shadows long ago, but was kicked out because he disagreed with their aim. Bane wants to rule, not to destroy.

2. I would scrap the whole business of one ordinary citizen having the detonator with the bomb. I never understood how that worked with the rest of the film.

3. I would have John Blake enthusiastic about the new regime. He is so disillusioned when he learns the truth about Harvey Dent that he becomes a servant of Bane. When Bane gives him the opportunity to walk into a prison and shoot the Joker (off-screen), Blake readily complies. That plotline of the Joker needed to be resolved. Blake’s father could have been a cop killed during the events of The Dark Knight. This makes Blake’s character more interesting.

4. I would spend more time with Bane’s regime. We saw a montage of mansions being despoiled, a scene with a fat cat getting judged, and Anne quietly murmuring, “This was someone’s home”, but it all happened too quickly. In order to show how dark the times are, we need a few more scenes with Selina and Blake witnessing injustice. Perhaps some former criminals hurt some good people who were rich, displaying how easily the new system is corrupted by the same old forces of evil. We need to see all parts of Gotham’s society breaking down. Riots. Debris in the street. Ransacked churches. Even Dr. Crane moonlighting as Scarecrow, taking advantage of his position of power to once again terrorize people- almost a perverse Batman.

5. I would have Fox and Gordon executed. I would have Fox give a speech denouncing Bane, calling him a fool for using violence. I want to hear him talk about good people like himself who were trying their best to change things, even if slowly and imperfectly. I want to see Fox convince Gordon, who is despairing, to hold his head high and die with pride. I want to see their deaths leave a mark on Blake and Selina, who both witness the execution.

6. If the execution is that “death by exile” thing on the ice, it needs to be booby-trapped. I think it is entirely possible that a frozen river can be traversed

7. When Bruce escapes the pit, he comes up with the idea to do it without ropes by himself; the old prisoners don’t tell him. When he gets to Gotham, he comes back as Batman. The war against Bane’s regime is slow, but steady. Batman chalk symbols start appearing everywhere. Selina reluctantly helps foment the rebellion, instead of getting out like she wanted.

8. Alfred sneaks into Gotham when Batman contacts him. Alfred used to be a mercenary himself (remember the Burma story from TDK?), so he puts his old skills to work helping the citizens/cops raid Bane’s mercenaries and slowly establish strongholds. Batman stays back in the shadows, partially because he is still sorely wounded from his last fight with Bane, and partially because he understands that the citizens must take their city back.

9. I would change the final battle scene; instead of that huge, unrealistic brawl, have the citizens and the cops fire and advance, just like a modern military platoon would do. Imagine the tension of the men advancing, block by block, silent in the shadows and the snow. Also, the final battle is occasioned by Blake finally joining Batman’s side and showing them a secret way into City Hall to take out Bane.

10. I would have Alfred take this secret way. He means to plead forgiveness from the villain. It turns out that in Alfred’s career as a mercenary, he was in the service of the warlord who ordered Ra’s al Ghul into the pit. When Ra’s lover replaced him, Alfred knew and he did nothing. Alfred devoted his life to serving the Wayne family out of remorse. He returned to protect Bruce and to convince Bane to step down; he didn’t realize immediately who Bane was, so his talk early in the film about rumors of where Bane comes from wouldn’t appear in my version. When Bane learns the truth, he breaks Alfred’s back, refusing his offer of peace and reconciliation. He announces that if Batman doesn’t come out and fight him, he’s going to kill Alfred… and then blow up the city.

11. I would have Batman come out and fight Bane, despite his wounds, and this time break Bane’s mask. I would have Selina save his life from Talia, who charges Batman while Bane convulses with pain. Selina tries offering her mercy, embracing Batman’s code, but Talia refuses, keeps fighting, and accidentally falls to her death. Selina finally admits that she loves Bruce/Batman.

12. In that moment, I would have everyone discover that Bane has pushed the trigger to the bomb. Batman takes the bomb to the sea, and then comes back and hands himself over to the power of the police. A proper court judges Bruce for his vigilantism. This is crucial, because it confirms that Bruce is handing over his power to the people, who he didn’t trust in Batman Begins (“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy”) and who he deceived in The Dark Knight. He spends a few years in jail, and then marries Selina and runs an orphanage with her for the rest of his life.

13. I would have John Blake discover the Batcave, and find a letter from Bruce saying that if the time comes again, one can use the suit and technology therein to become the next Batman- but only if he/she understands the consequences.

“There! That wasn’t so bad, was it? Don’t be spiteful in the comments! If you do, I wonder what will break first- your spirit, or your body…”

I might change my mind in the next few days, but I will let this post stand, so you can ponder the points. If you had had creative control over The Dark Knight Rises, what would you have done with it?

Notes Of A Storyteller: How I Would Have Re-Told “The Dark Knight Rises” (Part 1)

Welcome to Part One of the big double-header for Notes Of A Storyteller.

I know you’re probably sick and tired of listening to people talk about The Dark Knight Rises. However, I came up with an angle on it that I haven’t seen anyone else use when writing about this movie.

If you’re looking for commentary on Aurora, by the way, I’m not going to write it. There are people better qualified than I am to write about that. All I’m going to write about is the movie.

When I walked out the midnight premiere for TDKR, I had a big grin on my face. It was breathtaking and uplifting. However, I sensed that I would have told the story in a different way. There were certain things that didn’t satisfy me. After writing stories myself, I couldn’t resist dreaming of tinkering with the plot. After a week of discussing the film with the friends, I decided more clearly what I would have changed.

If I had written the screenplay and directed The Dark Knight Rises, this is what I would have done with the Nolan brothers’ story. Part One is today. Part Two releases tomorrow.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

“If you make immature comments about this blogger’s post, it will be extremely painful… for you.”

1. I would have spent more time with Bruce Wayne sulking in his mansion. Our hero has been changed dramatically since we left him fleeing the police in The Dark Knight. To drive that change home, we need to spend more time with Bruce’s new persona.

2. I also would have spent more time in the beginning with Commissioner Gordon. His family has left him, and he is soon to be cast aside by the mayor. The former must be crushing him; he must have some clue of the latter. I would want a closer look at his anguish. Perhaps we see him re-reading a letter from his wife, or flashbacking to when she left (then she could say some things that haunt Gordon because they bring him back to the night of Dent’s death).

3. I would have shown more explicitly the impact of the Dent Act. I want to see some people hauled off to jail, or some people in the streets complaining about it. Maybe have Blake interrogating one of the old mob bosses, trying to find more criminals, only to have them accusing them of tyranny.

4. I would have added a coalition of citizens growing fed up with the Dent Act, and beginning to ask questions about the authorities that brought it into existence. I would have Dr. Crane emerge from the chaos, claiming to be sane, and leading this coalition hunting for answers. There should be an argument between him and Gordon, who most certainly does not trust him.

5. Bane would not have appeared in Gotham until later in the film. A character like him needs some build-up. I would keep the air raid at the beginning, because it sets the mood, and it is a chilling introduction to Bane- and it’s freaking awesome. After that I wouldn’t show him for a while. I would scrap the whole part where Gordon enters the sewers and discovers Bane’s army. Let Gordon begin to pick up the rumors of work in the sewers. Let him begin to hear whispers of a man who fears nothing, a man who even the most hardened criminals don’t dare mess with. Bane himself doesn’t appear until his attack in the stock exchange.

6. You’re probably wondering at this point about Selina Kyle. After we spend some time with apathetic Bruce, and some tense conversations with him and Alfred, then she shows up. Her theft of Bruce’s pearls has more impact when we have spent time with Bruce and realize what he is being shaken out of.

7. I would devote a whole scene to see Bruce shave off his beard. That’s such an important character transition. When he first arrives at the charity ball, he needs to be bewildered. He hasn’t been smothered by cameras for a while.

8. When Bruce loses his fortune, let him spend some more time with Selina. If they’re going to have a relationship, they need to some bonding now. I would have them both hunt for Bane. Instead of Selina fearing Bane, maybe she doesn’t entirely understand who she’s dealing with, and thinks she can double-cross him like she means to double-cross Bruce.

9. As Selina “helps” Bruce/Batman find Bane, she gets the opportunity to show Bruce the poor side of Gotham he’s been ignoring for the last 8 years. This would also give another chance to emphasize the impact of the Dent Act and the poverty problems Batman was never able to solve.

10. I would eliminate the romance with Miranda. I would keep her as Talia, who has infiltrated Wayne Enterprises as a business executive, but I would not have her born in the prison, and I would not have any bond between her and Bane. For Bane’s character to work, he has to be aloof. He has to be heartless. He is the one who is “born in the dark”, who is stronger and more cunning than any other man or woman. Talia is Ra’s adopted child, and a surviving member of the League of Shadows, who is working with Bane. She doesn’t try to kill him because she doesn’t dare.

11. When Selina double-crosses Batman, Bane doesn’t send him to the prison immediately. First, he takes over Gotham. Then he hauls Batman, Gordon and Fox into the middle of the town and exposes the big lie about Dent, and takes off Batman’s mask. The poor people and the prisoners are enraged when they learn about the deception, and they proceed to make Gotham their own. Of course, Dr. Crane leads the charge.

Click here for Part 2. What do you think so far? Is there anything I need to explain more? Is there something you want to argue with me about? I love arguing about movies. Hit me!

Monday Meditations: Night’s Sorrow

Before we get to today’s programming, some clarifications are in order. My last update promised an issue of Notes Of A Storyteller. Events conspired against me. Starting today, I am preparing a doubleheader edition for this Friday for your entertainment. In case you’re wondering about progress for The Stand, things were rough the last few days, but it’s a new week and I’m writing some critical chapters for Arman’s character.

Now to the real fun. Enjoy some melancholy guitar pluckingand the longings of Ivan from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Night’s Sorrow” by Becoming the Archetype

Despite what the album cover in the video may lead to think, this is actually an instrumental for acoustic guitar. It is dark and beautiful. If Peter Jackson ever puts The Silmarillion to screen, I want this song in the soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidean understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; the cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level- but that’s only Euclidean nonsense, I know that, and I can’t consent to live by it…

I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, then let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair… I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

An Apology

On occasion of the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, and the visit of a family friend, the Notes Of A Storyteller feature will be delayed until tomorrow. My apologies. 

Monday Meditations: Sydney Carton

Have I ever told you how much I love A Tale of Two Cities? If there weren’t so many other books I must read, I’d be back inside that one. Dickens captivated me with his genuinely epic scope, and endearing characters. My personal favorite is Sydey Carton. You could see his sacrifice coming a mile away, but somehow that never ruined his dramatic and tear-inducing rise from miserable drunkard to sacrificial hero.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine showed me a song that reminds me of him. Hear the song, and then read the final passages of A Tale of Two Cities. Is it melodramatic? Yes, and beautifully so.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Lay Me Down” by the Oh, Hello’s

This might be the most cheerful song I’ve ever heard that starts out with lines about fire and brimstone (lyrics right here). Every time I hear it my day lights up. I want to stomp along and clap and sing at the top of my lungs. I can see Sydney Carton, rumbling along in the tumbrils to his death, knowing it’s the finest death a man could ask for.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“‘I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

‘I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward…

‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Dickens, Charles (2010-12-01). A Tale of Two Cities (p. 335). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Notes Of A Storyteller: I’m Not Scared Of Query Letters

Usually this post appears on Friday, but the claws of chaos reached into my life once again, leaving me off-schedule and very disoriented.

So let’s not waste any time. This afternoon, I peeked into my e-mail, with more interest than usual. You see, a week ago or so I decide to shoot some queries out to literary agencies about The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy). I’m still writing The Stand (Part Two) and I mean to self-publish it, but I figure that there’s no harm in shooting a few e-mails and seeing if I get a response. I’m still open to traditional publishing, and if that door opens, I’m inclined to take it (after taking a careful look at who I’m throwing in with, of course).

After what happened today, I know for sure I want to send more query letters. I got my first rejection today, and it felt amazing.

It was very nicely-written- about as nicely written as a rejection letter can be. Basically, they told me the project wasn’t right for them. I got a big grin on my face. I wasn’t angry at all; I was ecstatic. This is no rejection. This is a challenge. This is a competition. I’m thrilled to have the chance to play.

I was so enthused, in fact, that I posted the following on Twitter…

I love getting my query letters rejected by agencies. Makes me feel nice and defiant. #query #writing #inlikealion #outlikealion #roar

I’m going to spend even more time on that next query letter. I’m not intimidated at all. Neither should you, if you’re making queries yourself. This is fun! We get to show off our writing talent, pack it into a one-page explosion of goodness, and send off into the unknown. I feel like I’m the Rebel commander from Star Wars, watching his X-wings fly off against the Death Star. It gets my adrenaline going.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to plan my plan of attack for the next agency on my list. And play some motivational hard rock war music.

Fall, Goliath, fall.