Death & The Maiden & Media

Death and the Maiden by Marianne Stokes

I’m a lover of collecting things, from shells to magnets to k-pop albums to plants, and one of those things I like to collect are…tropes and archetypes. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines trope as: “a theme that is important or repeated in literature, films, etc.” while the Collins Dictionary defines archetype as: “a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, etc.”

You might be wondering how on earth I can collect something so intangible, but it’s easy. On my personal blog, I have a saved category of these tropes and archetypes that I come across in the form of quotations, literary analyses, art pieces, and more.

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There be Whales (And Dolphins) Here!

The cover of The Whale in Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare

I’m back from Alaska, and while we tended to be asleep before true darkness since we were there right around the summer solstice, thus missing any potential Aurora Borealis, we did see plenty of wildlife: A black bear, stellar sea lions, harbour seals, bald eagles1, sea otters, enormous ravens, and, of course, orcas and humpback whales. There are probably some other birds we saw that are unusual, but despite my love of Wingspan, I couldn’t identify them. However, that is partly linked with watching glaciers calve at the time. We saw a lot. So it seems appropriate to follow up on the Alaskan… not quite history post that I made with some items to help share the sights.

Starting with what was a highlight of the trip: bubble net feeding humpback whales. For those of you who don’t feel like reading a whole Wikipedia article, this is a group-feeding behaviour that only certain humpbacks perform, and they need to learn it from other humpbacks. The group2 circles around their prey, exhaling air bubbles to trap them in a circle or spiral, then the whales swim right up the middle, mouths wide open. We were pretty low to the water, so we couldn’t see the spiral in the water, but we certainly saw plenty of flukes, dorsal fins, and “big Buddha bellies,” as our tour guide put it whenever we saw a breach.

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I Went to the Joe Hisaishi Concert

If you know me well there are probably a few facts that come to mind. One: I love a good cat nap. Two: my archnemesis is Canadian Winter, and three: Spirited Away is my favorite movie of all time. Since childhood, I have seen this film an embarrassing number of times (which I’ll admit now is probably somewhere upwards of twenty) and if I’m being honest, it probably won’t stop there. It’s my guilty guiltless pleasure.

Part of what keeps me coming back to this masterpiece of animation is, of course, the hand-drawn marvels, from the soot sprites to an adorable mouse companion barely the size of a hand. Part of it is also the weird, strange, and somewhat nonsensical Alice in Wonderland-esque storyline in which our main character finds herself whisked away to the Spirit World with a mysterious bathhouse. But oddly enough, the thing that always sticks with me the most after watching it and the thing that makes me return is the soundtrack. It’s the perfect backdrop to, if you’re arguing with me, arguably the perfect film. It’s full of lilting whimsy, forlorn mystery, and nostalgia. So, last year when my friend told me that not only was the composer of my favorite film coming to town, but he was coming to town to perform his work on Spirited Away (among others) I couldn’t say “take my money!” fast enough.

There are a few more things you should know about me. Four: I am exactly the type of person to fangirl over a 73-year-old Japanese composer. Five: at the height of pandemic boredom my friends and I had a PowerPoint party (which is a lot more fun than it sounds when your presentation is allowed to be as unhinged as possible), where I decided said 73-year-old Japanese composer was going to be the thing I forced my friends to listen to twenty minutes of hyperactive rambling about (and I still have that presentation laying around somewhere in my Google Drive). So, fair warning, I’m about to fangirl for an indeterminate number of words. Get ready.

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