Monday, July 21, 2008

The End of an Era

Welcome to post #400. It seems appropriate as, at post #300, I had received kudos for one of my Avatar fanfics, that I am now writing about the end of the series that started it all for me.

In a word: Wow.

It's taken me a couple of days to get it together and recover from the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender. After three phenomenal seasons, the show I have faithfully worshipped and converted others to is at an end.

I feel profoundly bereft. After watching the breathtaking four-episode finale arch with a group of friends, I went to bed and slept fitfully. I felt as though I'd lost a dear friend, and all I could picture in my mind were the characters walking into the sunset, waving back at me, smiling and wishing me well.

Some people sorta tilt their heads and say, "but...isn't it a kids' anime cartoon? What are you all broken up about?"

I could fly into a homicidal fan-rage worthy of a Star Wars nerd who has just spoken to someone who confuses it with Star Trek, but one thing the show has instilled in me is the power of patience and forgiveness.

There isn't any one thing I can claim to be the "thing" that "makes" Avatar. Everything about it is good, from the timeless writing to characterizations to the animation and art. People of all ages can appreciate the show, and I can safely say that parents can sit through this one with their nine-year-olds and not lose any more precious brain cells to a talking sponge (not that there's anything wrong with anthropomorphic sea creatures).

But above and beyond everything that makes this TV series great, I mourn its loss because it has played a very personal role in my own life.

Avatar got me through some of my darkest moments. When I was deathly ill with the flu and didn't think I'd make it, I watched much of the first season on my computer in my bedroom. After seeing the first half of the first season, I forced myself to live another day to see the rest.

Later, when I was suffering through a very deep depression, Avatar fandom saved my sanity and gave me a creative outlet through which I worked out a lot of sadness, pain and anger. I connected with a widespread group of fans online, wrote fanfiction, learned a whole new skill set, and with encouragement and support from dozens of other fans around the world who I'd never even met, found purpose and reapplied myself to writing original fiction.

That's right. Kung Fu Action Jesus saved my life.

So this is my love letter to all the wonderful people who worked on the show and made my experience an enlightening one.

To creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and the team of brilliant writers: you guys put together one of the richest mythologies I have ever seen. You created a cast of individuals who mesh in ways that are realistic. You snuck in life lessons without being preachy or over-dramatic, and you painted the world in appropriate moral greys. You penned a timeless tale of good versus evil, and you did it without too much cliche. You made us laugh, cry, angst and hold our collective breaths. Thank you for knowing how smart your viewers are, and for giving everyone something worth every minute.

To the hardworking artists, story boarders and animators; yours is the hand that brought the show to life. From the fabulous backdrops of unforgettable terrain and locales like Ba Seng Se and the Fire Nation Capitol, to the crazy crossbred animals, the beautiful costumes, the architecture, weaponry, props, and of course, the mosaic of wonderful characters, you made the fantasy a technicolor reality.

To all the cultural consultants, including the fabulous Sifu Kisu; thank you all for giving the Avatar universe a foundation in reality, and one that has made my Chinese heritage one to be proud of and infinitely cooler.

To the Track Team and the sound effects people: Avatar has THE BEST soundtrack around. My heart always picks up whenever I hear Zuko and Zhao's Agni Kai music chant. And who can shake the haunting "Four Seasons" melody from their minds? Or the melancholy "Soldier Boy", which never fails to make me tear up? Iroh's sungi horn soundbyte has become one of the most resonant bars of music in my mind, as have so many of the tunes and pieces that weaved the story and seasons together. You outdid yourself in the finale with the final Agni Kai. Bravo.

To the voice actors and all the guest voice actors who I know have busy schedules but made the appearance anyhow--you rock. Thank you for bringing the characters to vivid life.

To the producers and Nickelodeon corporate big-wigs, and everyone who made Avatar the force it is: thank you for giving this show a chance and for seeing the beauty of the tale and pimping it out.

Lastly, to the fandom and all the wonderful people I met along this journey: thank you for your humor, your wisdom, your crack, and all the support and dedication to the show you've dished out over three seasons. My experience of Avatar--and my life--would not be the same without all of you and everything you brought to it.

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now that the show's over. Fandom lives on and I'll continue to write fanfics as long as I have ideas and time. I'll probably watch Bleach (I've already started, and I don't know what to think yet), but I know it just won't be the same.

I guess all I can do is hold my breath until 2010 (as my manip below demonstrates).

More evidence that NPH belongs on Broadway...

Among the cast of How I Met Your Mother, NPH vs. Jason Segel (Marshall) in a singoff of epic proportions:

Friday, July 18, 2008

More Muppets...

Thank the gods for YouTube--the Muppets are such fantastic characters to watch in action.

Elmo giving a pretty hilarious interview on an Australian late night talk show:

Beaker singing Beethoven's Ode to Joy (he always was one of my favorite Muppets):

R.E.M. and Furry, Happy Monsters:

James Blunt can't get over his hypotenuse:

Sunny day/Sweepin' the/Clouds away....

If you had a North American upbringing between the 70s and 90s, you know the rest of the lyrics to the opening of Sesame Street, celebrating its 39th season this year.

I got to watching a clip of Feist singing her 1,2,3,4 song rejigged to teach kids how much fun it is to count to 4, which led me to the 39th season highlights reel (distributed as part of a media package). And suddenly, I was 6 again, parked in front of the ol' Radiation King, singing along with Captain Vegetable.

More than two decades after I was deemed too old to watch the show (okay, so I still stop on PBS whenever I see an Ernie and Bert skit) I continue to be amazed by writers' abilities to transform trends, popular culture, movies and TV shows into child-friendly lessons pushing a wholesome educational curriculum all while keeping adults stimulated.

Take the highlight reel's brief clip of the SS version of 30 Rock, 30 Rocks, starring Liz Lemon, aptly portrayed by a frazzled Muppet of a lemon who sounds exactly like Tina Fey, shouting "The rocks are late! I need 30 rocks for the rock sketch..." (Blame the child in me--I snorted out loud.) Or the classic Indiana Jones references as acted by Telly, or the hilariously lampooned Pre-School Musical, a not-too-gentle jab at Disney's candy-coated tween/teen tripe phenom.

On top of that, I'm always impressed by the number of celebrities who will recite the alphabet, sing a song, count, and interact with waist-high foam and felt characters with hands shoved up their...backs.

There's something to be said about one's fame once you land a spot on Sesame Street. Forget about stars on the Walk of Fame--if you make it to the Street, you're made.

Especially squeeful this season: cameos by Neil Patrick Harris (who seems to be singing a song in a white coat and tails plus fairy wings--I'm sure the writers added those in for the parents' enjoyment); David Beckham, Jack Black, Kim Catrall, Sandra Oh, Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe (climbing out of Oscar the Grouch's trash can, no less) and more.

Thirty-nine and still going strong. Someone needs to tell me how to get to Sesame Street.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I wouldn't be a good blogger/author/member of the Toronto Romance Writers if I didn't pass this on to my small but loyal readership.

In a few short words, the TRW's published members got together and launched this wonderful contest. If you like books, and you want fun stuff to read, enter the contest!

Dr. Horrible's Pure Mad Genius

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly: If you haven't seen Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, you've been living in a cave.

Go watch it now.

Joss Whedon has managed to pull together his signature quirk and drama for this 3-part, one-off, web-only series about Dr. Horrible (played to a diabolical T by the wry yet sweet-voiced Neil Patrick Harris) who is seeking fame and glory as a supervillain and membership into the Evil League of Evil. As he schemes and plots, he is constantly distracted by his laundromat crush, Penny, a veteran of BTVS, and thwarted by his nemesis, Captain Hammer, played by Firefly's Nathan Fillion.

Harris, who has remade himself almost two decades after the launch of Doogie Howser, M.D., never ceases to amaze, not only with his acting skills--he plays a socially awkward douchebag evil genius like no one else can--but with his surprising vocal talent, too. There's a quality of agelessness around him, one that is reminiscent of Buffy-ite James Marsters (i.e. Spike), and his acting ability really stands out in this musical satire. With a tilt of his chin, he goes from looking like a lost, innocent freshman intent on not ogling his crush's freshly laundered panties to a jaded madman bent on revenge against the world.

Similarily, Fillion's ability to swing from rogue hero (Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds) to dastardly devil (Buffy's Caleb) gives him a wonderful range to work from in his role as Captain Hammer, who I can only describe as a construction worker on steroids. The jock to Dr. Horrible's nerd, one can't help but melt at the twinkle in Hammer's eye while wanting to punch the sexy smirk from his face.

This is an amazing series, which launched this week to a phenomenal response that crashed the web site on opening day. Parts one and two are up, and the third act will be available July 19th.
The musical numbers are fantastic, the production values on par with Buffy episodes. I hope to see a soundtrack (and DVD) soon!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


"Fanboy" has been entered into the Merriam-Websters dictionary.

Vice City

It's taken me a week or so to recover from my trip, which was fabulous and strange and full of crazy hijinks...okay, not really, but it felt that way at times.

Miami: it was bloody hot, with an average in the 90s (35C for us Canucks) every day. The cab ride into the South Beach strip felt like something straight out of playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Minus the big hair of the 80's, it looked exactly like the video game, right down to the half-naked people strolling up and down the strip.

It was surreal. Pastel-colored buildings dominate the strip, with Art Deco facades that came straight out of the 50s/80s. Most of these buildings house hotels/restaurants/bars/lounges on the front, with rooms above. We stayed at the Whitelaw Hotel, one street up from the strip. Even with the "quietest" (i.e. farthest from the lobby) room, it was a noisy, drunken Saturday night. (For everyone else, not us. We like sleep and my traveling companions, curse you all, like to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to run--like this chick in Vice City screenshot below.)

ALL of these hotels/restaurants play dance music. Every. Freakin'. Hour. Of. The. Day. I tell ya, I've never had eggs and sausage to the gut-bouncing rhythm of techno until now.

We spent some time shopping--okay, we spent LOTS of time shopping--at which point I realized my comfy leather flipflops were in fact my torturous flesh-rending flipflops. I have two lovely chunks of flesh missing now from the tops of my feet and a new pair of flipflops now.

The best day spent was on the beach, where we rented chairs ($10 apiece) and an umbrella ($12) and lay in the sun and soaked in the salty surf. Saltwater is rather painful in fresh wounds, I've learned. I was kinda waiting for a shark to swim up over the sandbar to start nibbling on my gooey feet, but all I ended up with was sand in my bikini bottom (mmm, gritty).

The South Beach strip is really a party strip where guys go to ogle the pretty ladies in their boobtastic finery, while the girls go to ogle the tanned beach bums displaying their carefully airbrushed abs. It's not a family place, so don't bother staying on the strip unless your intention is to drink your face off and wake up next to some guy named Chad or Chet or Gage.

Said bimbos, both of the male and female persuasion, seem intent on cruising in stealtacular Hummers, convertibles, and fancy-schmancy vehicles along Ocean Avenue. Though it makes for a good spectacle, all I could think was a) how can anyone possibly afford the gas to go cruising these days? and b) how did anyone ever manage to hijack anything in GTA:VC with all the traffic and cops around?

(Obviously, I was distracted by the the realism of Vice City. They really got it down to a T, though. I will never doubt the video game makers at Rockstar again.)

I'm snipping this post and will write more about the cruise later.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

STOP! Grammartime.

I just wanted to share this little grammar bit I encountered on my Miami trip because I thought it was hilarious.

We were at a Sephora store on South Beach, and I saw a product with this label:

Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover.

I thought to myself, "Huh, now why would I want makeup remover that's waterproof? How am I going to get that off my face when I go to shower?"

At which point I realized it should have read thusly:

Waterproof-Eye-Makeup Remover.

Oh, hyphenated compound adjectives. You get me every time....