2013/03/31

Audiobooks


Now finishing up working a redacting job. When a journalist receives a document that has words, phrases and sometimes whole paragraphs blacked out, that's called a redacted document. So I black out the information on documents that could allow people to take money from our customers. Decent job, but it allows all sorts of time for the mind to wander, so I purchased, took out and downloaded a whole set of audiobooks. I find that the type of attention that redacting requires and that the type of attention listening to an audiobook requires are two completely different types of attention, so I'm easily able to do both at once. Reading any sort of narrative and watching a TV show that has any sort of plot, on the other hand, requires the same type of attention, so I can't do both at the same time. While at work in the Navy, some of my shipmates wanted to watch a football or soccer game while I worked. I had zero problems with that as sports matches don't have narratives in the same way that a Personnel documents do.

The first audiobook I picked up from the library after “Cleopatra” was “Attack Poodles” by James Wolcott. Written in an attempt to influence the 2004 election, it's a good run-down of right-wing pundits. The saddest one is Dennis Miller, who switched from left-winger to right-winger. As Wolcott points out early on in the book, switching sides is a no-no. It's much better for a pundit to pick a side and stick with it through thick and thin.

Just as early movies tried really hard to always find a way to get a chase scene in, superhero comics have to get a fight scene in, soap operas have to get dramatic confrontations in, etc., detective stories want to tell us about the social and physical context in which the detective operates. Accordingly, my major window into how the Navajos live today (Hopis show up in these books from time to time and white people are generally represented by the FBI) is through the Tony Hillerman books. They focus on two characters, Navajo Police Sgt. Jim Chee and retired NP Lt. Joe Leaphorn. The audiobook I listened to was “The Wailing Wind.” The books have a relaxed pace and emphasize the wide open country out there on the Great Plains of New Mexico.

Another series I've enjoyed for a long times has been the Jeeves books (The author P.G. Wodehouse put out about a hundred of these). The one I listened to was “Stiff Upper Lip.” A foppish, excitable and not-terribly-bright young aristocrat named Bertie Wooster has adventures with his pal Gussie Fink-Nottle and the wise and sensible butler Jeeves bails them out all the time. The audiobook clearly designs itself on the PBS Masterpiece Theater “Jeeves and Wooster” series, which is set in the 1920s and Jeeves has a very particular way of pronouncing some phrases.

And yes, neither series has much to do with sex. None of the heroes in these two series has a whole lot to do with women.

Went to Librivox, a service that offers voice recordings of works in the public domain. Listened to “The Japanese Fairy Book” compiled by Yei Theodora Ozaki in 1908. Two interesting contrasts between mythology then and now. The first is that legends and tall tales today are told in specific formats. Movies are generally about 90 minutes long, comic books are generally around 20 pages an issue (though a single story can stretch over multiple issues), novels are 200-300 pages long (again, novels can come in a series), etc. Stories back in the day didn't have to be a certain length. Today, we have the movies “Tangled” and “Jack the Giant Slayer,” both of which take the old tales of Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk respectively and bulk them out by adding lots of elements that were not present in the originals. 

In one of the Japanese fairy tales, a man, his wife and their daughter are living happily. The wife passes away. The man remarries. The stepmother makes the daughter's life miserable and then tattles on her. The daughter pours out her heart to her father. The stepmother overhears and apologizes. And they all lived happily ever after. The story is bulked out so that it takes 15-20 minutes to read, but that's essentially the plot. A lot of the stories are similarly cut-and-dried, but fortunately, there are many more complex stories in the collection. Also, some of the stories resemble Rudyard Kipling's “Just So Stories,” where tales are used to explain how certain animals took on the features that they did and how other natural phenomenon got to be the way they are. Did you know that jellyfish used to have hard shells and legs? Neither did I, until I listened to the Japanese tale of how a jellyfish got outsmarted by a monkey and so was punished by having all of his bones and shell removed. 

The modern comic book story of Sif, the Norse goddess of beauty and frequent companion to and lover of the god of thunder Thor, is killed and the ravens explain how “There were the White Mountains fashioned from her bones and there the night sky from her hair and her blood ran down and filled the mighty seas.” The wolf who is with the ravens growls irritatedly and insists “That is not how the story goes.” 

The ravens agree and get back to how the story was supposed to go, but that is very typical of the romantic, elevated sort of language that mythology uses. 

@Marvel Comics 2013 Journey into Mystery 648
 .
Another difference is that the superhero world is highly integrated. Everybody knows everybody else. In this sequence, Sif talks with Spider-Man. 

@Marvel Comics 2013 Journey into Mystery 649
 

Their dialogue here makes it clear that the two are not close friends, but they recognized each other immediately when they met and they know full well what their connections are and that they're on the same side. A number of characters clearly spend a lot of off-page time with each other, but these two are just acquaintances. To have an integrated universe like this, the comics need to keep their characters reasonably consistent from writer to writer and from artist to artist. That takes coordination, which clearly the mythology of yesteryear didn't need, though there are a few Japanese stories where characters appear in more than one story.

The Princess & the Goblin” is an 1872 story. In progress. Will update when I've finished with it.

Update: Eh, it was okay. The female lead character was, I guess, about nine to ten years old. She was just getting to the age where, as a royal child, she realizes that she outranks the maid and can give orders instead of just receiving them. The male protagonist is, I'd say from 14 to 15. Some physical capability, quickness and initiative. The parents are universally wise, sensible and beloved. Have to say, I do kind of like the epilogue, where the villains are scattered and many that remain integrate themselves into the community. Makes for a nice, positive, forward-looking ending.

No comments: