Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Animated Exploits of Arsene Lupin

Once upon a time in Canada, there aired a very cute and stylish little example of French animation. Night Hood, aka Les Exploits de Arsene Lupin, introduced Nineties kids to Arsene Lupin, that most cunning Robin Hood of retired thieves and most unlikely of detectives, in an alternate version of the 1920’s. He is constantly flying back and forth from Paris to New York, developing absurdly advanced devices and vehicles, and showing up in ever more strange disguises.

The animation itself is very uneven, sometimes flowing beautifully and sometimes very static. (The first bit of the opening credit sequence is too gorgeous entirely.) The execution of character designs is uneven, too. But overall, the drawings are really beautiful; you’re ready to move in, and you definitely want to shop for clothes and cars in these cities. The music is also very winning. There’s a lot of use of silhouettes, which apparently harks back to the credits of the 1970’s live action Lupin series, also set in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Lupin’s book nemeses, the French Surete detectives Ganimard (a grizzled veteran) and Folenfant (here a babyfaced sergeant) chase Lupin as much as they can. But Lupin’s true concern is the brilliant industrialist and criminal mastermind, Howard Randolph Karst. (Who, for the benefit of the kiddies, both looks and sounds exactly like Hearst/Citizen Kane, with a helping of Howard Hughes for likeability and tech.) Karst and Lupin are fairly good matches, but Karst generally is too busy with his masterplan of world domination to step out of the office. So Lupin usually faces his underlings: his psychotic crime liaison Steel, thugs Guilla and Diesel (who’s a big Chinese guy who doesn’t wear stereotypical Eastern clothing), and Countess May Hem.

Lupin’s faithful accomplice and wheelman is Grognard, a solid and clever engineer type with a good sense of humor. He’s portrayed very sympathetically in this series and looks quite handsome, which is unusual for a sidekick. Lupin also flirts and acts as a source for transatlantic-traipsing American reporter Kelly Rose Kincaid. Her newspaper, the New York Inquirer, is actually owned by Karst, but it’s fairly obvious she feels no loyalty to him — and not much concern about aiding and abetting! (But hey, she breaks into places herself all the time in pursuit of stories, so maybe this isn’t so strange.) Kincaid has her own Jimmy Olson-type sidekick, a boy named Max Leblanc. (Named after Lupin’s chronicler, Maurice Leblanc, of course!)

What can I say? Lupin is a man of action with a scarf, a monocle, an opera cloak, and a swordstick — not to mention a habit of strewing roses about! I also particularly enjoyed (as a Wimsey fan) seeing a theft occur as a diva sang the Jewel Song from Faust! We also visit the Orient Express, an evil Doc Savage’s Empire State Building, a dirigible, and the Titanic. It is a Golden Age mystery or pulp-lover’s dream.

I apparently missed the height of Night Hood fandom, but here’s a nice little fansite which has survived the years, and another tinier one. Also, a fanfic over on fanfiction.net.

I’ve really enjoyed watching bits of this series, which is not on DVD, alas. Search around for it; it’s worth it.

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The Book Meme

Julie D. and Kevin P. Edgecomb both have tagged me (and so has Don), so I must respond!

Here are the rules:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart:

“He slid half of the heel aside and came up with a couple of lockpicks, and then the swearing soldiers jerked him back to his feet. Li Kao managed to slip one of the tiny picks into my hands. ‘Ox, we can’t possibly escape from here,’ he whispered.”

I actually had a great deal of difficulty figuring out which book is closest to me at the moment. There were several almost equidistant from me.

I tag Joy, Enbrethiliel, Tim Jones, Dawn Eden (whose surgery is done — yay!), and Mike Aquilina.

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Los Seises of Seville: Liturgical Dance for Traditionalists

In the 1912 volume of The Century magazine, I happened to come across an article on “Some Spanish Dances” by Arthur Stanley Riggs, F.R.G.S., and his lucky artist compadre who got to draw pictures of it all instead of photographing it. On page 393 of this article, we learn about the seises, a liturgical dance and song done by a special endowed corps of choirboys on Easter and Corpus Christi before the tabernacle of Seville’s Cathedral. It appears that this dance is part of Vespers, not Mass? Anyway, castanets are involved. Here’s an old postcard in color of them.

They have been dancing before the Ark of the Lord since the Reconquest. That traditional enough for ya?

Here are los Seises today, in procession outside. Here’s an article in Spanish about them. Originally they were sixteen (“seize”), then six, then ten, then…. Here they are lined up in front of the high altar, apparently for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here they are dancing (in a solemn march-y sort of way). Here’s two of the six sitting and waiting. Here’s more in Spanish about them, as they march in procession in red outfits in the parade for the Feast of Corpus Christi. (I don’t see anything about them dancing at Easter these days.)

But nowadays we also have video with audio! Corpus Christi on Yahoo, YouTube 1, YouTube 2. Immaculate Conception 1. Immaculate Conception 2. And castanets are still involved! (Rhapsody claims to let you listen to one of their songs, but I didn’t download their software and so don’t know for sure.)

Don’t try this at your church unless it’s part of your cultural patrimony and you have anti-lameness powers…. But it does show that Europeans can do liturgical dance in a fitting, non-lame way.

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Stalking Parrot, Hidden Florist

I went over to the florist today to get some nice cards for people. For the McMullans, mainly, because I thought that at least I could give them that. (I don’t know why it is, but Greg’s death has hit me very hard. I guess because it’s so sudden and unexpected, and because so many of my friends did know him so well.) Anyway, just when I was feeling very sad, I saw… the parrot!

The local florist is owned by a birdlover,  and there’s a cage full of singing birds back in the nice warm florist construction area. But the big blue parrot is king of the place, older than the rest, and well housetrained. He does not suffer the indignity of a cage. Generally, he inspects what the junior members of staff are doing, or keeps watch from a high side window. Thence, he alerts the passersby that they are under the eye of the king with a loud peremptory comment. Often I receive such notice, since I walk that way in the evening.

But today, the great blue kingbird was on the prowl, stalking through the open doorway of the construction area and into the middle display room.  I thought he might have smelled lunch on me, but no. He stalked past me as if I had not been there. Shivering a little, he braved the draft and went all the way into the outermost display area — where his owner had been conversing with a customer a little too long for his tastes. She handed him up onto her shoulder, and all was right with his world.

I’m not usually much for birds, but I like this parrot. Just seeing him makes my day.

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Some Good News

Erick Wujcik, famous gamemaster and RPG developer from Detroit, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer right before the holidays. His aggressive chemo seems to be working.

Thank you, St. Ezekiel, patron saint of gamers!

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Urgent Prayer Request

Greg McMullan, filker, MIT guy, Presbyterian, and athlete, died last night in a housefire. He was home alone and taking a nap. He called 911, but didn’t make it out himself. The cats of the household were also killed. The townhouse was a total loss; the top floors collapsed.

Please pray for Greg, and for his friends and family — especially his wife Maya McMullan, who is in the hospital from the fire’s aftereffects, his stepdaughter Faeryn, his stepson, and his mother and brother (since on top of this, they just lost Greg and Scott’s dad and grandfather earlier this year and have had all sorts of other troubles the last few years). Maya and Faeryn have basic necessities, a place to stay, and help from relatives, but obviously, this is hard stuff. Scott McMullan, his brother, is updating folks.

I didn’t know him very well, though I remember running into him at OVFF and having short chats. He was one of those nice guys I always thought I’d have more time to talk with. But here’s a picture of him laughing, from just a few weeks ago. No doubt he’ll be laughing and singing still, when we see him again.

May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs greet you at your arrival, and lead you into the Holy City, Jerusalem.
May the choir of angels greet you.
And like Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

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A Free Chinese Novel to Read, Featuring Judge Bao!

Ping Yao Zhuan, a Ming Dynasty fantasy novel by Feng Menglong (1574-1645). Translated by Nathan Sturman. It’s a story of Taoist conjurors, the ghost of Empress Wu, reincarnated lovers, foxwomen, fairyfolk, designing eunuchs, about half the gods, and the fall of the Song Dynasty. Also, Judge Bao, which is sorta like dropping Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Gladstone into the middle of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Which, of course, we do.

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