Rikki Tikki Tavi

A friend of mine is currently working on some illustrations for a Rikki Tikki Tavi book. I mentioned that, as a child, the 1975 Chuck Jones animated short film was one of my favorite things to watch. She is also a fan, and pointed me to an earlier version created in 1965 by the Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm. I am a big fan of Soviet animation such as Hedgehog in the Fog, Nu Pogodi!, and Mystery of the Third Planet, so it was a perfect match.

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Rikki Tikki faces off against Nag while Nagaina sneaks up from behind.
(Soyuzmultfilm, 1965)

Being much more of an artist than I, she did tell me that both films used a lot of yellow ochre, especially for the sky. This was the only bit she found particularly frustrating, and mentioned it was amusing that terrible sky colors managed to cross ideological lines during the cold war.

The two films are both about 30 minutes each, and follow the same general story: the mongoose Rikki Tikki gets taken in by a family after nearly drowning, and has to confront the cobra pair Nag and Nagaina, who seek to drive the family from their home and be rid of the mongoose.

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Rikki Tikki stares down Nag.
(Chuck Jones Productions, 1975)

The approach is rather different. The Jones film is much closer to the Kipling story. The family is white and British, settled in India, and many parts of the film largely focus on the relationship between Rikki Tikki and the family.

Soyuzmultfilm’s version, however, makes the family Indian, and spends a lot more time dealing with the animals in the garden. As my friend and I discussed, the choice to have a native Indian family appears to be a direct blow against British imperialism, which naturally the USSR had a vested interest in not promoting. I think it was a great choice, personally.

Jones’s version is narrated by Orson Welles, while the SMF film has no narration. Welles delivers several lines from the short story itself, including one about how “every good mongoose wishes to be a house mongoose”. There is apparently a reasonable amount of scholarship on the subject of the story being a piece of imperialist propaganda, which makes a lot of sense coming from Kipling. To Chuck Jones’s credit I don’t feel that is a focus of the film, but it certainly comes across more clearly than the subversive Soviet adaptation.

The film from my childhood holds up well in terms of animation. Obviously I am more aware and critical of the subtext, but as I said I feel the film doesn’t linger on it as much as the actual short story. I was delighted with my friend for sharing the Soviet film with me; it has been added to my bookmarks and watched several times already. I was able to introduce my sister to the Chuck Jones short, which made me happy, and even managed to involve her in a brief discussion about the politics behind it.

Anyway, check out some of the films above. I highly recommend them. Until next time, I’ll see you in 500 words.

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Meeting in the Orchard

The breeze carried the scent of apples from the roadside inn’s orchard, and Hyun-jung decided to take a walk.

She had never taken this road through Durthen before. The area was pleasant rolling green hills and cultivated stands of trees. This inn, the one she stayed at last night, had been warm and welcoming. Perhaps she would stay tonight as well.

Hyun-jung strolled through the orchard and found a nice patch of shade. She sat down, brushing long strands of black hair from her eyes, which the wind saw fit to blow right back. Sighing, she crawled around until the apple tree’s trunk shielded her from the brunt of the wind, then removed her flute from her pack.

Taking a deep breath, she placed the flute to her lips and began to play a melody from home, though she let the notes and the tempo drift with the wind. Her eyes drooped shut.

Home was a long way from Durthen. Just over two years ago Hyun-Jung had crossed the sea, hoping to see more of the world. She’d have some tales to tell when she returned, but she wasn’t ready for that yet. There was too much to do.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crunching noise. She opened her eyes, and only a few feet from where she sat stood a very tall woman with red hair and pale, milky skin. The woman wore light brown trousers and an intricately embroidered purple shirt. A black cape with shoulder guards completed the ensemble, denoting her as a wizard of one of the Academies. Hyun-jung wasn’t familiar enough with them to know which.

The woman smiled, chewing, and held out an apple. “Habbul?” she mumbled through a full mouth.

“I’m sorry?” She tugged nervously at the collar of her blue tunic.

A blush came to the other woman’s cheeks. She chewed quickly and swallowed. “No, I’m sorry. Apple?” She gestured again, offering it.

“I mean, can I help you?”

“Ah, no,” she said. “I came out for a walk and heard you playing. Sorry to interrupt.” She took a bite of the apple in her other hand. “That was a lovely song.”

“Thank you,” Hyun-jung offered. She still wasn’t sure about this woman, but she didn’t appear actively dangerous. “Would you like to sit?” She motioned to the grass near where the woman stood. She dwarfed many of the men Hyun-jung had met on the road. Her standing there was more than a little imposing.

Her unexpected visitor laughed. It sounded a little self conscious. Unceremoniously, she plopped to the ground. “Sorry again. Sometimes I forget about the whole… well, you know. I’m Marzena, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Marzena. I’m Hyun-jung. I think I’ll take that apple now, if you don’t mind.”

[That’s it for now! I’m trying to suss out Hyun-jung’s character, and get a better feel for writing Marzena who is already a bit more developed in my mind. Plus, trying to write fiction again. I will likely rewrite this entire thing down the road as I get more certain of what I want to do, but for now I’m just trying to get a sense of characters and a setting for a fantasy story. See you in 500 words!]

Snowblindsided

Damn it. I’ve focused on making sure these posts go up every night, and that I stay on top of my personal health and hygiene, but I let schoolwork slip me by. I have to turn in some late assignments tomorrow. I got complacent because of the weather; we had a snow day and I foolishly didn’t think to check my university e-mail to see what we needed to do. I feel like such an idiot right now.

I’ll likely hear that excuse from students myself. I’m currently working on prerequisites for a graduate program in elementary education. I’ve been more lax than I should this semester, and need to pull it together. I’m not immediately in any danger of failing or even doing poorly, but this isn’t something I can just coast through. You might see some more posts on this in the future. Posts far more productive than this one, I hope. Continue reading

Witch Hazel

This week I’ve made a project of taking better care of my facial hygiene. I mean, I wash my face in the shower, but I never actually take the time in the morning or evening to pay special attention to what’s going on. As a result I tend to have more blackheads and dry skin than I’d like, and I’m doing my best to correct that.

witchhazelbottleSo every evening I’ve begun washing, exfoliating, and using witch hazel! I love this stuff. It has a bizarre smell which I hesitate to describe as pleasant yet I suppose that is the right word for something I enjoy. It’s an astringent, which is a new word I learned meaning a substance that contracts the skin. Witch hazel causes your pores to tighten, making it more difficult for crud to build up inside of them. Some days I feel like the pores on my nose are the size of lunar craters, so it’s just the thing I’ve needed. Continue reading

Getting into League: DeLUX Edition

For nearly five months now I have been a regular in the chat of DistractedElf’s Twitch stream. I recommend checking her out. I never thought I’d watch someone else play video games on a regular basis, but the chat is lively, Elf is fun and welcoming, and there are just a lot of good things to say about the experience.

One of the games she played most frequently was Dawngate, a MOBA that, sadly, announced its closing shortly after I joined. (Sorry, Elf and friends…) So I didn’t have much time to check it out. She began playing League of Legends–well, she got back into playing League, I should say–and I never paid much attention to it as a potential game I might play.

Then, a few weeks ago, the bug bit. I’m now endeavoring to be a not-terrible player. One of the characters I found interesting and approachable in the beginning was a mage named Lux. Sadly she passed out of rotation after I reached Summoner Level 6 and earned my way into the actual free rotation. I’ve been slowly saving IPs from my games in order to make her a permanent staple of mine. Tonight I finally reached that goal!

I’ve played quite a few games against AI bots; I’m not quite ready for primetime when it comes to facing other players. I’d previously heard from a lot of sources that League has a pretty awful player-base. Riot has allegedly been addressing this for some time now.

Despite that, most of the games I’ve played thus far have been pleasant. People have been friendly and understanding. Perhaps the work of Riot’s social scientists has paid off! (Not quite.) Nevertheless, there is a certain knowledge required to play League passably well, and I want to have those basics down to a comfortable degree before I start dragging the team down with me. If I am preemptive about being a better player myself, others may reciprocate.

A guy can dream, right?

I currently have three permanently unlocked Champions: Lux, a light-based mage; Sivir, a boomerang-throwing warrior woman; and Graves, who I haven’t played yet but I understand is a pretty decent selection in the current meta and he was on sale for a not-terrible price.

There’s a lot more going on under the hood than I originally anticipated. It’s not enough to simply kill enemy minions and Champions; there is a method to the madness. The last few days I’ve been watching tutorial videos on last-hitting and bot-laning and how to teamfight. ScrapComputer’s tutorial videos have been a blessing in this regard. Naturally, learning is one thing and implementing is another. Therein, as a Danish prince once said, lies the rub.

I don’t exactly have aspirations of professional play; I am mostly content to enjoy the game in my off time and eventually be able to hold my own with Elf and some of her friends in casual games. Should I mysteriously get good, well, I won’t complain.

This is also the start of my 500 words “series”. In order to stay up with the blog, and occasionally work on the actual craft of writing as opposed to vomiting words onto the screen, I’m going to post around 500 words a day. If something more substantial arises, I’ll be happy to use that as a daily post, but 500 words, minimum, about anything at all.

See you tomorrow.

Beauty & the Myth Unboxing

An acquaintance of mine, Kat Laurange, works as a professional artist. She has done work for Marvel and Cryptozoic Entertainment. A few months back she posted about a set of cards coming from Braiiinz Publishing in Mexico, called Beauty & the Myth.

It’s been about 15 years since I last collected any non-gaming trading cards, but Beauty & the Myth interested me, and I try to support my artist friends when I can.

So, here are some pics!

 

The Forgotten Axe

I’ve been playing in the Storium beta for the past week, and it has been a lot of fun. I recommend checking it out yourself to see if it is something that interests you, but in a nutshell: Storium is a platform for collaborative writing roleplay in the style of free-form forums. It brings a system of sorts to the table revolving around the idea of character assets and narrative control, so everything isn’t totally willy-nilly.

The first story I joined is Requiem, which is a fairly straightforward cyberpunk murder mystery. My character, Lukasz Zielinski, is a former reporter who used to go deep and attack corporations with his exposés, but of course that cost him. He woke up to the sound of alarms and a sprinkler system in a warehouse with four other people, one of whom had an axe right through her chest. Now the survivors are attempting to lay low, but also figure out what happened to this pink-haired girl and (hopefully) themselves as well.

One of the neat things about Storium is that the narrator can create assets the players are welcome to take and use. These can be physical objects—Lukasz is currently carrying the fire axe that had killed the pink-haired girl—but they also represent things like goals and memories.

Players have a lot of agency over the plot for better or worse. The narrator establishes scenes and puts forth challenges. Players “bid” their Strengths and Weaknesses toward positive or negative outcomes, and Assets, Goals, and Subplots move challenges toward a conclusion but do not weight the positive or negative result. The last player to play a card and complete the challenge gets control, and it is expected you write in a result that coincides with the good or bad nature of what happened. For example, I used my wild card for Strength (each player has a wild card for Strength and Weakness they can use to create things on the fly) to make one called “Questionable Contacts”. Since I won the challenge, I went ahead and narrated who the character is. The other players and the narrator have since incorporated her into the storyline.

What About That Axe?

Fragment: The AxeRight! I mentioned my character had a fire axe. Well, the narrator included a card in a later scene entitled “Fragment: The Axe”. It is an Asset representing a memory of the axe, specifically a character remembering seeing it somewhere before everything went south and the girl with the pink-hair was killed.

Nobody picked it up. For two whole scenes. The narrator simply didn’t include it in the third scene as an available option.

I think that’s great. The option to pursue such a plot thread was available, but none of the players chose to take it. We all had different plans in mind. So, while the axe is important as a murder weapon, its importance has otherwise been lessened in the interest of other things. It’s dynamic, and definitely one of the things I like so far about Storium’s system.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a murder to solve.