Thursday, 20 September 2012

I aim to misbehave

Some months ago I made note of what I considered a startlingly oversight in the geek community - the lack of a day specifically devoted to the enjoyment and honouring of Firefly. I proposed that we (the geek community) appoint a specific day as "Shiny Day", whereby we proudly display our Browncoat roots and sing merry renditions of "The Hero of Canton". So today, the tenth anniversary of Firefly first being aired in the United States, is my inaugural Shiny Day. All Browncoats are welcome to join in this celebration.

To honour this day, I'm wearing my Browncoats t-shirt that I obtained from Quantum Mechanix, one of my first purchases from that website, along with the River Tam maquette (alas, sold out now. Sorry Browncoats). Later on, I intend to sit down with my dinner and watch Serenity, the film that kick-started my journey into the world of Firefly and by far still my favourite movie of all time.

But right now, it's time for a list. To honour the inaugural Shiny Day, here are my top ten Firefly/Serenity moments.

10. "Yeah...that went well." (Firefly, 1x11 "Trash")

For the ladies, this may have been the best way to open an episode - Nathan Fillion sitting naked on a rock in the middle of the desert. As we learn later in the episode, our dashing Captain Tightpants has lost the aforementioned pants as a result of his double-crossing snake of a "wife", Saffron. But in the immediacy of the opening of the's a brilliant hook. For me, however, it's his opening line of dialogue. "Yeah...that went well." I myself have used it on many an occasion when things have gone distinctly less than well. By far, one of the best opening moments of Firefly.

9. Too Much Hair! (Firefly, 1x07 "Jaynestown")

Firefly is full of brilliant, gigglesome moments and Shepherd Book's frizzy Einstein haircut definitely ranks among the best. While it doesn't steal the episode, it definitely steals the scenes it's in, especially our first glimpse - which was enough to make River run for a smuggling hold! According to her babbling, "his brains are in terrible danger". His brains aren't in terrible danger. Not from the hair anyway...

8. "Wash, tell me I'm pretty." (Firefly, 1x13 "Heart of Gold")

It's a brief moment but nonetheless one of my favourite lines of dialogue. Alan Tudyk and Jewel Staite's exchange is just...well...I just love it. Mostly Alan Tudyk's delivery of "Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion". Wash was a wonderful character and had many, many opportunities to showcase his brilliance and shoot-off some great one-liners and for me, this is one of them. Even though it wasn't necessarily a one-liner moment.

7. The Wash-Mal Torture Argument (Firefly, 1x10 "War Stories")

Conventional logic generally holds that there's a time and a place for everything. When in the midst of being tortured by a sadistic mob boss aboard his space station, it's clearly time to discuss why your Captain ordered his first mate not to marry the pilot. An order she disobeyed, naturally. While a little harrowing, seeing our beloved characters tortured, their argument over Mal's positions on shipboard romances provide genuine humour and much-needed levity to this slightly disconcerting moment.

6. The Hero of Canton (Firefly, 1x07 "Jaynestown")

"Jaynestown" makes another appearance on our list, but this time it's the Hero of Canton. The concept of Jayne Cobb being a hero and...well...the song. The Hero of Canton, the Man They Call Jayne. The episode takes an incredible, surreal turn when the crew, happily minding their own business in a bar in Canton, discover through the medium of song that Jayne Cobb, the selfish, brutish and questionably loyal "public relations" man is Robin Hood-style hero. The subtext the episode has about the truth behind heroics is great and all, but it's the song that steals the show.

5. "Also, I can kill you with my brain." (Firefly, 1x11 "Trash")

Our second entry for "Trash" is one of my favourite River Tam moments ever. After Jayne has gave his spine a bit of a thrashing, he's treated by Simon, who learned through River's mind-reading that Jayne sold them out to the Alliance two episodes before, on the planet Ariel. Simon proceeds to give Jayne a speech on how he (Simon) will never harm him as long as he's a patient, then leaves. River lingers a moment, then utters her line in a way that approaches cute...if the threat weren't pretty damn real and mildly terrifying. Especially after what we saw her do in "War Stories" with one pistol and her eyes closed...

4. "If you take sexual advantage of her..." (Firefly, 1x06 "Our Mrs Reynolds")

Partly, it's the speech Shepherd Book gives Mal, but mostly it's what's in the picture. That lingering moment with Book poking out of the passageway, giving Mal one final reminder of "the Special Hell", before promptly disappearing again. It makes me giggle no end. But we can't forget the speech that started it all, where Book warns him of the special level of Hell he will be going to if he sleeps with his "wife", Saffron. One of Shepherd Book's finest moments.

3. "What was that?" (Serenity - Big Damn Movie)

The movie has drawn to a close.  A patched up Serenity flies off through storm clouds and into space amidst wonderfully uplifting music. It hurtles off into the Black to continue its adventures with a new lease of life, a fresh lick of paint, all fixed and ready to...oh wait, something falls off! It flies towards the screen, we fade to black and Mal's voice asks "What was that?" A perfect echo of his first line of the movie (where, again, something flies unceremoniously off the ship) and...just the best end to the movie. Pure Joss Whedon brilliance. One of the reasons I loved this movie so much - this final moment, for me, seems to epitomise everything about Firefly: no matter what, there's always a catch, something's always falling apart, but Serenity never stops flying.

2. "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" (Firefly, 1x01 "Serenity")

It may cause some controversy that this moment isn't number one, but...well, I'll explain later. But nonetheless, it was a close race as Wash's introductory scene is pure genius. Nothing sums up Hoban Washburne better than this scene. I want to make a descent paragraph out of this but...well, it speaks for itself. Pure, solid gold genius.

1. The First Rule of Flying (Serenity - Big Damn Movie)

I'm a hopelessly sappy, sentimental romantic. I hold my hand up and admit this proudly. For this reason, my favourite ever Firefly/Serenity moment is Mal's final speech, delivered to River Tam. And I hold to the belief that Mal has it right. "Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, you take a boat in the air you don't love she'll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting before she keens. Makes her home." I can deliver this line with far, far too much heartfelt conviction. And soon, I shall have an awesome print with that quotation on it. Thank you, QMx!

So there you have it for my inaugural Shiny Day. I'm off to cook then watch Serenity. I aim to misbehave :)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

I like the quiet

Today I'm using the wise words of Xander Harris, mostly in a sort of ironic context. I'm actually a little guilty that I've been so quiet. July was quite the prolific month for me, then August was somewhat swallowed up in an eerie silence. But there's context for that, which naturally I'm going to explain.

The Song of Ice and Fire.

It's hardly unknown that I've been powering through this brilliant series of books since July. Last week I finally came to the end...well, the end so far. Now that I've completed A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast, I have to wait for a while (a good long while, everyone theorises) for The Winds of Winter. But now that chapter that George R.R. Martin read out at the talk in April makes so much sense. So I get to sit here giddily, incurring the wrath of every Ice and Fire geek who wasn't there and is equally champing at the bit waiting for The Winds of Winter to be released. Let it be known, however, that I am just as every bit anxious.

Now the usual tradition after I've finished a book is the Sitting Under the Tree segment, but instead of summing up my feelings for A Feast for Crows or A Dance with Dragons, I'm going to do a huge blab about my feelings on the whole series.

It all started in January, really. For months before my housemate had been raving about the TV show Game of Thrones. I've gone over this story before, but I'm going to briefly recap. My friend Phoenix found out George R.R. Martin was coming to Bath, but found it coincided with Korn playing in Bristol. It turned out that Korn was the day before, but in January she didn't know and I offered to go in her place, get a book signed. At this point I had not read any of the books, I only knew about the TV show. I had, however, bought my housemate the paperback boxset of the first four volumes for her birthday. So in February, after having bought the tickets for the George R.R. Martin event, with my laptop dead, I borrowed A Game of Thrones and took it out in a week. One of my prevailing thoughts was "Frakking Lannisters!" and my overwhelming feeling was that there was only one forgivable Lannister. Tyrion.

Boy was I wrong.

Tyrion Lannister is still, undeniably, one of my favourite characters and quite possibly the best Lannister, but George R.R. Martin is deviously brilliant and managed to make me like Ser Jaime Lannister. He gave me a begrudging respect for Lord Tywin Lannister and made sure I still disliked Queen Cersei Lannister because she is a total nutjob. I love the Starks, especially Arya and her bastard half-brother, Jon Snow. I want Daenerys Targaryen to take the Iron Throne and...

Well, there's a lot of things I want to say, but no spoilers. None at all, no. So now I'm going to try and be vague and general about my feelings on the subject.

It may be surprising to know that the seven paperbacks/five volumes of Song of Ice and Fire are, aside from The Hobbit are the only straight up fantasy books in my book collection. I will (before I have threats hurled at me from various quarters) be rectifying this, but it's going to be slow-going, so be patient. But I've always enjoyed fantasy and Song of Ice and Fire...well, I was hooked from the first second. A Game of Thrones was brilliant, gripping. A Clash of Kings was equally brilliant (and it was the hardback book that I had signed) and A Storm of Swords completely blew my mind. A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons had a lot to live up to and did admirably, but I think A Storm of Swords is still the high point. I'm sure I mentioned it before, but I'll mention it once again. I wish that I had gotten that book signed. Next time. Definitely next time!

Overall though, I loved Song of Ice and Fire. It's brilliant and I can't wait for more. But Song of Ice and Fire hasn't been the only thing that's kept me busy. At the end of August, I was tied up for one brilliant evening watching Brave.

Yes, I have a soft spot for animated films. I have Kung Fu Panda and its sequel in my DVD collection. I intend to add The Incredibles and How to Train Your Dragon at the very least, more likely to follow. Including Brave. It was absolutely brilliant.

So the plot was a tiny bit on the predictable side, but that is a hazard of having watched a whole frak ton of movies and briefly studying film in my first year of university. And being a writer and usually thinking "well, this is what I would do..." resulting in often being right. It's very nice when I'm wrong. Sometimes I'm not, like with Brave, but it was so funny and enjoyable that I forgive it entirely. That and I had the great company of Thief and Oracle for the movie. It was an awesome evening.

Finally, backtracking slightly to Song of Ice and Fire, my fantasy nerve has been repeatedly jumped on. I want more. And not just books or movies. For some reason (mostly because people keep telling me it's amazing), Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is enticing me. That and watching the trailer for the Dawnguard add-on and my affinity for vampires (proper, blood-sucking, bursting-into-flames-in-sunlight vampires). Right now though, I'm going to bide my time, see if this is just a phase that passes or something more. We'll see. And I'll probably have a few people whispering "Get Skyrim" in my ear. That's going to be fun.

For now, this is me being not so quiet and hoping that I stay not being so quiet.