Themes: codes, maps and trust
* NOTE: This book is set sometime in the future*
Plot: Zander, Kit and M.K. are the children of the great Explorer Alexander West. When Kit is given a book by a rogue Explorer, it takes them to Arizona to find Dan Foley's gold with the government on their tail. Will they find the gold? Read this first book in the series to find out.
Language: they take God's name in vain and the D word reoccurs a dozen times in the book.
Negative: Dramleaf ( which is some sort of addictive painkiller), stealing and lying
What I Think: This is a great book that kinda has 'kid Indiana Jones' running around. I think that the book was made for tweens (ages 10-13), but it can definitely be for older kids. Although, it was slightly confusing being set in the future because they talked about non-existent things. Over all, great book.
Written by Kayla Runquist, former SLAH editor/columnist
That’s what you expect when you go to see Beauty and the Beast. The magical objects, the beautiful dancing, the love story…. But after seeing a production done by NETworks production company on Chicago Broadway, I have realized that there is a different kind of ‘tale as old as time’ and this one, is slightly less romantic.
The singing was excellent, the chorus was very strong, and there were more than a few of the leads by whom I was very impressed. My issue with the show arose in the things that this company tried to change. Theoretically, a classic Disney tale like this one is clean cut and ready for the stage. I have seen it produced many times without any changes done to the original, and no part of me was ever bored, or wanting for more. That is because, when you find a formula that works you should stick with it. What the NETworks people seemed inclined to do, however, was to change as much as they could in order to make it seem ‘fresh’, ‘new’ and, yes, even ‘edgy’.
An example of the artistic changes made unnecessarily is the character of The Beast himself. He is known to be a damaged, angry soul, who learns to love because of Belle’s kindness. But instead of showing this strong (and quite compelling) character arc, this company decided to sacrifice strength for…. Humor. They took several scenes that should have been more serious, and, if humorous at all, only in a dry sense, and turned them into comedy routines. When Belle refused to come down for dinner, the Beast was literally throwing a temper tantrum like a twelve year old. At this point in the story, his character is not supposed to be funny, or lovable; he is supposed to be angry, and hardened. By turning him into a goofball, the writers confused their audience. How are we supposed to later be afraid of the Beast, (thus justifying Belle’s flight) if we are introduced to him as this pansy whiner? Additionally, the later scenes when he is falling in love with Belle are less compelling, because we did not witness his strong angst. Finally, his climactic Act 1 song If I Can’t Love Her loses a lot of its punch and beauty when the image floating in the back of our heads is a complaining child.
Additionally to, and even more disturbing than, the artistic choices that were made, there were several choices that seemed to be aimed at making the show more ‘adult’. The relationship between Lumiere and Babette, while always flirty, has never been something that has made me cringe with discomfort. They are cute together, and in the end, when she says “I like you better zis way too.” I say “Awww” with the rest of the crowd. However. In this show, their relationship was not cute and it was not flirty. It was disturbingly perverted. There were physically pantomimed sexual references between the two actors. Onstage. In front of at least a dozen little girls dressed up as Belle. I don’t believe anything more needs to be said about that.
Finally—and though this is at the conclusion it should not be assumed that this means it is any less important—the costumes for the female enchanted objects were disturbingly burlesque-like. For all of Be Our Guest, they were wearing full-busted leotards, with pink hearts over their private areas, and garters on their thighs. It beats me why such costumes would help portray someone being a fork. Forks are not sexy. Forks are not attractive. They are forks. Additionally, the male enchanted objects had respectable pants on, so, it cannot be said that this was just an ‘artistic’ choice. This was blatant objectification of women, and it made me (as a woman) uncomfortable. I’m sure Be Our Guest was a fantastic show-stopping number. I wouldn’t know. I was too busy being extremely uncomfortable, thinking about all the little girls and young men in the audience who were seeing it.
These things are the kind of things I would expect of Kinky Boots or Dirty Dancing. But I did not buy a ticket to see either of those shows. I expected to see Beauty and the Beast and what a got was, indeed a ‘tale as old as time’. The tale of people taking something beautiful and innocent, and making it nasty and perverted.
I do not want to take away from the talent in this show. Gaston blew me away. The Beast’s song was touching. The chorus was the strongest small-chorus I’ve ever seen. Fantastic. But when I left the theatre I could not focus on all the great things that had happened on that stage, because I was distracted by the skanky costumes, the odd character switches, and the inappropriate additions.
While creative license is something that every director has a right to, I do believe that those changes which are morally unacceptable for us as audience viewers need to be protested. The entertainment industry will keep producing what we keep asking for. That is all there is to it. So it is up to us to dictate what we want. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to write a letter. To have an opinion. No, don’t flood secretary’s desks with complaints like ‘the music was too loud’ or ‘I didn’t like so-and-so’. But think about what is important to you and to your family. Think about what you want your kids seeing, and write about that. Write about something that matters. Tell them what you will not accept. Tell them that it is okay to put on a show that has been put on before, because sometimes classic is best. And there are some tales, that don’t need changing.
I give NETworks' Beauty a three out of five for quality, because while the chorus was strong, there were noticeable weak areas in the leads. (Unexpected for a Broadway show) And it has received an unfortunate three out of five for Family Friendliness, for the aforementioned reasons.
Written by Kayla Runquist, former SLAH editor/columnist
How far would you go to be the best? What does it mean to push yourself? Is there a line between hard work and obsession? The movie Whiplash brings these questions to the forefront, and, rather than telling us what we should think, it leaves the answer up to us.
Andrew Neiman is an ambitious jazz student at the best music conservatory in the country, “Shaffer” in New York City. Neiman’s chief ambition is “to be one of the greats”. It is clear that he is driven, dedicated to his craft, and extremely talented.
Enter teacher and conductor Terrence Fletcher, the conductor of the highest-level studio band at the school. He sees Andrew practicing, and eventually stomps into his Freshman class, swiftly auditions all of the members of the band, and chooses Andrew to come with him, placing him as the alternate drummer.
However, in the very first rehearsal, after seemingly being patient and kind, waiting for Andrew to get on-tempo, Fletcher suddenly loses his temper. He throws a chair at Andrew’s head, and shouts obscenities at him. He then gets in Andrews face and demands that he count in tempo. On every fourth beat, Fletcher smacks Andrew in the face, and asks, “Was I rushing or dragging?” Challenging Andrew to figure out whether he had been rushing or dragging on the tempo.
Instead of quitting, Andrew dedicates himself wholly to getting it right. He practices until his fingers bleed and keeps practicing. For a time, he gets in Fletcher’s good graces. However, no one stays in Fletcher’s good graces for long.
Through a series of events, Andrew wins the drum lead in a concert, but after rushing to be on time, he leaves his sticks in a car rental place, and has to speed back to get them. On his return, he gets into a car accident from which he walks away. He goes straight onto the stage and sits down at the drum set, his head dripping blood and his fingers torn.
He plays fitfully, and Fletcher stops the song mid-way, telling him that he is “Done.” Andrew, rage-filled, attacks Fletcher on stage, and is later expelled from the academy. Andrew testifies in a trial against Fletcher, and Fletcher gets fired. But several months later, after he runs into Fletcher at a Jazz Club, he goes to perform with Fletcher at a concert. Fletcher purposefully embarrasses him by not giving him the correct piece, but instead of leaving, Andrew starts a new song mid-way through Fletcher’s speech, and leads the entire orchestra without Fletcher, thus having the final say. Fletcher, after threatening to ‘end’ Andrew, soon gets carried away in the music, and begins conducting again. He smiles at Andrew and gives an approving nod. The movie ends.
What Whiplash asks us is: How far would you go to be the best? Any viewer would say that Andrew’s behavior was unhealthy, that Fletcher’s method of ‘teaching’ was wrong, and that Andrew should leave the orchestra rather than endure abuse. But, to a musician, to a man who wants to be one of ‘the best’… is it really so unendurable?
Fletcher tells Andrew a story of a now-famous drumming legend:
“What if Jo Jones never threw a cymbal at Charlie Parker‘s head?” If the men with the potential to be great are not pushed, will they ever end up being great? Fletcher asks how it is morally right for him to deprive the world of great artists, just so he can be soft?
“There are no words more dangerous in the English language than ‘Good Job’” Fletcher says.
To someone who is dedicated to their craft, whether it be musical, sports, business, or technically minded, the idea of being pushed beyond the limit holds some merit. Why does the athlete sweat, and hurt, and push through? Why does the musician work for hours on end? Why does the scientist stay in his lab overnight? The push.
Immediately in the film, we are led to hate Fletcher. We say Andrew is a victim, and that it is right that Fletcher should lose his job. But upon further reflection we ask; What if? What if there were no hard teachers? And where is the line? What is the difference between a motivational push and abuse? Coaches yell at football players. Violin teachers force their students to practice stanzas over and over again. Directors make performers repeat scenes until they get them ‘right’. So let us not be quick to judge Fletcher’s character.
When he speaks about his former student, a student who has since committed suicide, he cries, listening to a recording of the man, and saying what a ‘beautiful player’ he was. So it is clear that Fletcher does love his students, at least, some of them.
When Andrew asks Fletcher “What if you discourage the next Buddy Rich? What if they give up?” Fletcher says, “If they’re the next Buddy Rich, they won’t be discouraged.” Meaning, he doesn’t care anything about anyone unless they are the next Buddy Rich. Forget the kid who just loves to drum. Forget the student who has too much passion and not enough talent. Forget everyone: unless they’re the next Buddy Rich. And this is where the summary of Fletcher’s fault comes into play. He is not evil because he pushes his students harder than anyone else. Not, even, because he is stuck-up, and mean. It is because he views anyone who isn’t proficient at their craft as worthless. They are nothing.
Whiplash, while a fantastic movie that both keeps you on your seat the whole time and makes you think hard, is not a movie that could be recommended for young people. The amount of cursing is overwhelmingly prevalent. It asks tough questions, and that is good, but these questions and deep themes are overshadowed by the vulgarity.
I give Whiplash a 4 out of 5 for quality, because of the pristine acting, engaging story line, and crispness of the feature. But it receives a 1 out of 5 for family friendliness, even for teenagers, because it is vulgar and harsh, with sexual references alongside dirty language.
Photo from chrismcraeblog.wordpress.com