Lessons from Dinotopia…Unless It’s the Mini-Series: Review Take 2

All right, here’s round 2! In my first take on reviewing the Dinotopia mini-series (DMS), I focused in on a few close-ups. Now I’d like to frame my discussion with some lessons that I took from James Gurney’s books and the related novels. Because those lessons are why my anger at DMS has lasted so long. Dinotopia was among the first books I practiced reading, and some of its maxims still guide my actions today. Gurney created a richly detailed world laced with creative hope. DMS bulldozed through that vision to pave a simple road, and not a particularly good one at that. If the filmmakers didn’t want to be true to that world, they should have called this “Carl and David in Dinosaurland” instead of pretending it was Dinotopia! Continue reading “Lessons from Dinotopia…Unless It’s the Mini-Series: Review Take 2”

Of Cu Chulain and Cowboys: Reflections on an Irish Epic and Westerns

It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day, which means it’s time for an Irish-themed post! I’m part Irish and feel a strong connection to that heritage. So every March, I’ll be covering a topic related to Irish mythology, history, or media—or even all three. Erin go bragh!

What would you do for a cow? Probably not much, and you probably send hundreds of people die in a battle over one. Yet that is the subject of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, also translated as The Cattle Raid of Cooley. I had been planning to read the Táin for a while knowing only that it was one of the most important epics in Irish cultural history. When I actually sat down with it, I was startled, partly because it was about stealing a bull and partly because certainly elements reminded me of the cowboys and ranchers of the Western genre. Now, I’m not saying one is directly related to the other. However, they do work remarkably well as mirrors, helping us to look deeper at the themes they share and those they don’t. Continue reading “Of Cu Chulain and Cowboys: Reflections on an Irish Epic and Westerns”

A Pair of Thin Places, Part 1: Devils Tower/Bear Lodge

There are many thin places around the world. Some are built by human hands and some are natural landmarks with human meaning attached to them. I’d like to cover two of these nature-made thin places in this two-parter, starting with Devils Tower/Bear Lodge. This immense rock formation appears to sprout out of the ground in Wyoming. Its appearance alone makes it stand out, but this rock is also wrapped in the layers of legend and tradition so characteristic of a long-established thin place.  Continue reading “A Pair of Thin Places, Part 1: Devils Tower/Bear Lodge”

Quarterly Bestiary: Japanese Toilet Ghosts: Look Behind You

Japan boasts a robust collection of ghost stories, with one small group focused on an unusual habitat: the toilet. These specters are a variable lot. Some are relatively modern legends while others are quite old. Some are mostly irritating and some are downright deadly. Collectively, they represent centuries of anxiety around a place often treated as a necessary evil in Japanese culture. So let’s take look at the things that go bump in the stall. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Japanese Toilet Ghosts: Look Behind You”

Questioning Fossils: Problems with Cryptid Dinosaurs in Africa

African cryptid dinosaurs. This simple phrase packs a host of problems. Several mythical creatures from various Sub-Saharan African cultures have been described as “dinosaurs” and later sighted as cryptids. This by itself is not unusual. I’ve mentioned several mythical creatures that became cryptids in the modern era. However, these specific “dinosaurs” are tied to outdated and even harmful ideas about the African continent and the people who live there. Worse, they are popular enough that the cryptid image tends to obscure the original mythical version. It’s time we take a good hard look at why people are still looking for dinosaurs in Africa. Continue reading “Questioning Fossils: Problems with Cryptid Dinosaurs in Africa”

Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn

I often focus on more obscure creatures for Quarterly Bestiary, but today I’d like to touch on a mythical heavyweight: the unicorn. Now, before you expect sparkles and rainbows, bear in mind there’s a lot more to unicorns than that. Behind the modern image lies a history full of strange, sometimes dark twists. I couldn’t hope to cover it all in one post even if I limited myself to only the unicorn of Western Europe, so I’ll focus my discussion around the unicorn’s horn, also called the alicorn. Even with that limitation, there’s simply so much myth and media on the unicorn that I’m approaching this a little differently. Instead of going over the mythology in one section and the media in another, I’ll take each topic by topic. So let’s take a look at the alicorn, possibly the unicorn’s source of power and the thing that identifies it as more than a horse. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn”

Two Major Love Days: Part 2—The Qixi Festival

Welcome to Part 2 of my dive into two of the biggest love days! The original article covered both, but it grew so large that I decided to split it in half. I’ll turn now from Valentine’s Day to the Qīxī Festival of China. Though it may not be as well known in countries where Valentine’s dominates, this love day still has a sizeable following. Like Valentine’s Day, it has experienced some commercialization, but at its heart is a love story that has survived for more than 2, 000 years. I particularly enjoy how its mythology weaves itself around the stars. So let’s take a look at this very different love day and how it has evolved. Continue reading “Two Major Love Days: Part 2—The Qixi Festival”

Choosing Grizabella: The Importance of Telling Stories about Older Women

Universal Pictures’ movie version of Cats will soon be released in theaters. I’m a long-time fan of Cats, so you’d think I’d be eagerly awaiting its arrival. However, I find myself anxious instead, wondering how this first true Hollywood adaption will handle my favorite character, Grizabella. Trying to write a critique of a film based on the trailer is as unlikely to succeed as trying to stop a future based on a prophecy, so I’ll hold my review until I’ve seen the film. But while I wait for my chance, I want to share my thoughts on Grizabella, and why I think her role is so important. Continue reading “Choosing Grizabella: The Importance of Telling Stories about Older Women”

Weretigers: More Than the Werewolf’s Cooler Cousin

Weretigers. They sound like something modern media would make up just to add to the pantheon of were-creatures. And from the looks of RPGs and paranormal romance novels, that’s exactly what happened. But did you know there’s also a rich mythological heritage behind the weretiger? In fact, weretiger traditions exist in cultures across Asia. Today, I’d like to give you a quick tour of those myths. Continue reading “Weretigers: More Than the Werewolf’s Cooler Cousin”

Behind the Lion Mask: 3 Sources for “The Lion King”

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Photo by capri23auto on Pexels.com

Half the fun of movies is talking about them afterwards, whether with family and friends or through online communities. I know I’m a little late to the conversation about Disney’s new remake of The Lion King, but I just had to respond to this surprising angle: criticizing the movie’s portrayal of lions. Continue reading “Behind the Lion Mask: 3 Sources for “The Lion King””