Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Moon?

I believe New Moon is the first movie I've seen in theatres three times, and I'm still planning on seeing it a couple more times. Does that mean I like it then? Well, yes, but it isn't so simple as that. When I walked out of the theatre after that first time (which just happened to be the midnight showing -- a couple people invited me last minute), I was split. There were some things I loved, some I was in complete denial of. But the second time, I understood what the filmmakers were getting across.

Because even after that first time, I had to admit, the movie fit pretty well into my list:

1. Not a problem at all. Everything happens so differently that it wasn't an issue.

2. I think it worked. I loved (if that's the proper word) the way Kristen Stewart screamed for Bella's nightmares. A tortured, strangled sound, definitely.

3. This one's questionable. But how can you force an audience to give up hope? I think the characters' hopelessness is clear, and that's what matters most.

4. Definitely have a physical change in Jacob. And Taylor Lautner handled the emotional change, as well.

5. Oh, yes, the Volturi were creepy. In fact, Aro was one of the best parts of the movie for me. He's such a crazy character, I knew a competent actor would have to play him to do him justice. I don't even know how Michael Sheen does it, but he's an amazing Aro. I wish we had seen more of Jane; Dakota Fanning seemed to be doing a good job with her, as well. Of course, the improved red contacts helped the overall creepy factor.

6. There's a love triangle in New Moon the movie, even when I don't see much of one in the book. I guess that was inevitable, though, wasn't it? It's handled well, but I do wish we saw that Bella still thinks of Jacob as only a friend at this point.

7. The proposal was a little different, but I think the tone was mostly kept intact. I just really missed out on seeing Bella's reaction (she's not pleased?! what's wrong with her?!); maybe we'll see it in Eclipse?

And my three minor hopes:

1. Yeah, the wolves were big. Big and powerful-looking.

2. I wasn't expecting satisfaction on this one. I was pleasantly surprised; everybody in the theatre jumped when we see her right there in the shadows. And she's upset, Alice who we've never seen upset before. I like that, though I do think it jumped too quickly to the comfy moment talking in the living room.

3. Another inevitable one. Of course there's more action in the movie than the book. It really bothered me at first, but not so much anymore.

You see, the reason it bothered me so much in the beginning was because I felt the whole tone of the movie was skewed. It didn't feel right. But it wasn't because they added action or couldn't spend more time on Bella's zombie days. When you first read New Moon, it isn't right, either. The story and characters you thought you knew go places you don't expect. It takes a while to reconcile yourself to that fact and realize why everything happens as it does.

That's just how the movie is. I see now how everything in it keeps that sorrow, that sheltering of the mind Bella forces onto herself. Even at Bella's party, the Cullens are warm and friendly, but there's a difference between them and Bella. You can feel that something is off, something has to change; it can't work like this. The score that I thought bland at first reinforces the pain that sits under the surface of every event. (I do really like the soundtrack, though. It's a great selection of songs that I'm enjoying listening to.)

I could really go on and on about this forever. Let me just mention the things I really liked, then I'll be done.

1. The sequence where the wolves chase Victoria and Bella heads to the cliffs. "Hearing Damage" provides the right emotional tone, and Victoria looks amazing. The way she moves, her unyielding expression, her outfit.

2. I already mentioned Aro. Also loved the way the painting came to life in the beginning of the movie.

3. Bella's cliff-diving. That is, once she's in the water. The look on her face, that joy, before she sees the danger she's in. The way the waves really bash her about (thanks for putting up with that, Kristen.) And how it looks like she has died and exists in a perfect moment with Edward. Again, "Slow Life" was the perfect song.

Those are all the big things, I think. I'm not even going into what I don't like; the overall effect was good, and that's most important. Chris Weitz did it. New Moon is a sorrowfest of a book, but he still managed to put it onto the screen well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Moon Musts

Before I saw Twilight, I only had a couple of days to form expectations since I had just finished the books. That's usually the ideal way to go into an adaptation movie. Otherwise, you form too many ideas of how it should look and compare the movie to how you wanted it to be instead of really seeing whether or not it's a good adaptation. One of the concerns I got in that short time was over Edward and Bella's acting. Both characters hide a lot of what they're feeling in Twilight, and so the things they say and do might look stiff or unemotional to outsiders; that means an actor/actress needs to be good enough that they can hint at what's under the surface instead of just looking like a bad actor. Robert Pattinson completely nailed this. You can really see it when Edward and Bella stop at the police station going home from Port Angeles. They ask Carlisle what happened, he glances at Edward briefly while holding a conversation more with Bella. And Edward freezes, hearing what really happened. But you can see his concern, fear, tensing up in his eyes, in the very way his face stands motionless.

Now that I've had more than a couple of days to wait for New Moon, I've come up with a list of things I think the movie has to have to stay true to the book. In no particular order:

1. Both books share some similar plot points; it's all part of the story. But the moviemakers added some things into Twilight that are more like what happens in New Moon. The police tracking various attacks is one of these -- events are similar, but they need to be presented in a way that makes the story completely different. Because Bella is different.

2. Which leads us to our next must. New Moon has the ultimate sorrow. Bella really loses it, she drowns completely. That part has to be just as strong in the movie. Where you simultaneously just want to stop because it hurts so bad, but also have to keep reading/watching because you want it to end.

3. Along those same lines, the audience can't be given hope. You're left pretty hopeless in the book, even while you're intuition begs to differ. The departure of the Cullens (Edward in particular) has to be permanent; we can't be told that they're coming back into the story.

4. We have to see a big change in Jacob. First emotionally from the innocent, smiling character to the angrier Jacob, and also physically.

5. The Volturi have to be creepy. Volterra is my favorite part of this book; the Volturi are just plain weird. They can't always be understood, which is why they invoke fear. Keep them creepier than creepy.

6. There has to be a big difference between Bella and Edward's relationship and Bella and Jacob's. At this point, one is love and one is temporary comfort (where Bella is half-insane, so she really doesn't know much of what she's doing, anyway.) Movies love love-triangles; there's not really a love-triangle in New Moon. Almost, but not quite.

7. Edward's proposal should be as similar to the book as possible. I know they always have to change some of the wording and this and that, but it needs to keep as much of the same essence as can be done. It's perfect the way it is, plot-wise and emotion-wise; changing it too much would affect other aspects of the movie(s).

These are just minor hopes; they wouldn't be as big of deals:

1. The wolves are huge, not just big, huge.

2. When Alice comes back, there's a distance between her and Bella. Something edgy that wasn't there before. It dissolves quickly, but it creates the distrust you need as you slip into the truth of why the Cullens left.

3. Resist the urge for action. New Moon only has a little, and movies always like to up the action level. That's fine as long as they don't overdo it, just as long as you still look at it through Bella's passive eyes.

I'll probably come up with something else after I've seen the movie; I made this list pretty quickly. There's my experiment though. We'll see how it matches up to the movie in about twenty-five hours.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flyleaf & Liz

Two weeks since Flyleaf's Memento Mori came out, I can say that I'm quite happy with the CD. It has growth and just as strong a message as their previous work. The way Lacey Mosley sings, it's like her heart is right in her throat. I haven't found anyone who sings quite like she does. This album seems less heartbreaking than the first one, more ethereal, its songs find piercing joy amongst the sorrow. And one thing I could never grow to like before were the occasional screams; Memento Mori has practically none, of which I'm glad.

"Again" and "Beautiful Bride" are great starters to the album. "Missing" and "Set Apart" are two of my favorites. But the one that wins hands down for me, right from the first listen, is "Treasure." It's beautiful and bittersweet and fantastical and real and calming and encouraging. I think it's my new favorite Flyleaf song (it was probably "Sorrow" before . . . which is a kind of different song.)

And what is it about the "Liz" in the title? That's Liz Curtis Higgs I'm referring to. I decided I needed a key in, some author whose work was comparable to Flyleaf's. You see, Flyleaf puts so much feeling into their music. They don't stop at the surface, but keep on going in and in until it hurts, only to come at the kind of joy that's practically opposite happiness. That's what Liz Curtis Higgs does (with her historical fiction, that is . . . I've only read one of her other books.) Try reading Rose in Bloom (second in the Thorn in My Heart series) without at least getting very close to tears. She's not afraid to write everything down, and that means her happy moments are all the happier. So, Flyleaf and Liz Curtis Higgs, not sure how many people besides me are fans of both, but they have a great deal in common. Anyways, diversity is good: if everyone made their point in the same way, what would be the fun in that?

(The New Moon premiere was last night -- just a couple more days until it comes out. I'm trying not to think about it much, but I do promise a post about my expectations either tomorrow or Thursday.)

Saturday, November 7, 2009


True, some of my favorite books are part of a grouping. The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Twilight Saga, the Thorn in My Heart books, among others. True, I talk most about them, refer to them most often, know the most about their worlds. But, ironically, I have a general problem with books that are part of a series.

That isn't to say that I disagree with the format as a rule. It has its place, like everything else. But I think people can fall too easily into writing continuations instead of starting new ideas. We all love the characters and stories, but we don't always need to follow their whole lives. There is a proper place to end everything; if it drags on too much, I think we lose the ability to savor each moment. We think of quantity and let quality suffer.

Writers need to consider the question, what is the purpose of this book? Even if it is only written off of his own need, if it's published, it needs to be accomplishing something. Entertainment (then, what kind of entertainment?), a message, information. Just like writing a paper, everything needs to lead up to the greater purpose, including format. Like I said, entertainment can suffer if a book never ends. Or a message can be lost in copious pages.

I feel like a series ties me up too much. I have to read all the books, I have to keep track of when future books are coming out, I have to always be wanting more. I can't just read one book and savor it in my mind forever after. Reread it when I like, replay scenes in my head, discover new beauties. A series keeps going and going. Maybe it's reflective of our society: we always want more and forget to value what we already have.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Various Forms of Entertainment

I've been busy this past week, I guess. On Thursday, I stopped to watch Where The Wild Things Are on my way home; I'd been to the Toy Story 3D double-feature a couple weeks earlier, so I guess I'm falling for the kids' movies lately. I know the former book is such a classic and I remember seeing advertising and such for it, but I don't remember actually reading it. I knew the gist of the story, at least, though. It makes for an interesting movie, not the average fuzzy family film. Even better that I saw it on the Harkin's Cine Capri screen for the first time. That screen is huge, especially given that there were only sixteen people watching. Yes, I counted.

Sunday night I went to the Fireflight concert. I've known they'd be in Arizona for a while, but I didn't think I'd be able to make it. I was glad I did. Abandon and Remedy Drive also played; nice to hear live, but I don't plan on getting into their music. This was probably my first rock concert . . . I didn't like "loud" music before. And the upside to liking a small band is that you can actually meet them. I got to have my bag (which I bought there before the show started) signed by the band.

Yesterday, I finished Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. It was one of those books I'd heard about, thought I should maybe read, never got to. With Peter Jackson's movie version coming out soon, which I thought I might like to see, I decided I'd better get to reading first. I knew the basic story: a girl is murdered and she watches her family in the aftermath from heaven. I can't say it was quite what I expected, though. I don't want to go off and give spoilers, but I will say that it was a good read. I like imagery (along with metaphors and such), which this book has in clear originality. And predictable can get boring . . . this book wasn't all predictable. I expected Susie's case to be solved at the end; it wasn't really because there was another point to it all. I like that this book remains simple while still making you think. (Molly really liked it, too. She said it tasted delicious, hence my taping together of the cover after her teeth attacked it. All this time, I thought she was a good dog.)

And today I got the CD's for the audio drama on CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letters (which happens to star Andy Serkis aka Gollum as Screwtape.) So far, I'm loving the design work on the website and packaging. It fits in perfectly with the crazy tone of the book. I listened to the first two letters when I got home; I'll give my opinion when I've moved through the whole thing.

Last thing: today was freezing. I know, a high of 60 degrees isn't that bad, but it was 87 two days ago. A little transition, please? And the wind. It would've been nice weather (except for the cold morning -- and evening that's settling in) without the wind. I don't like wind. A bit of breeze on a hot day is nice; rushing wind on a cold day is horrible. But it seems that the weather will go back up soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Word of the Week 7: Excited

Excited (n) - 1. stirred emotionally; agitated 2. stimulated to activity; brisk

When people ask me if I'm excited about such and such upcoming event or other, I'll often say that I'm trying not to think about it much because I know that won't help. If I look forward to something, I can't stop thinking about it, which doesn't allow me peace of mind and mars the moment when it finally comes. Excited, it almost has a bad connotation as applies to me, unless it's for a short time period. I'm quite quite pleased with this definition, then. "Agitated?" That's never a good thing. "Stimulated to activity," that follows naturally. When excited isn't a bad thing, activity should come next. Either you see that movie you've been waiting for or you work for that cause you just found out about. The only thing I'm surprised isn't in this definition is time. People usually use it to describe looking forward to something. That's covered in the second part only in a round-about way. Dictionaries are usually so detailed, but this time it could be more specific.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

Although the cover and the words "Charlotte Bronte" had a magnetic pull on my hand when I saw the book in the new authors section at Barnes & Noble, I must admit, I'm not keen on the title. I have a sort of bias against the word "diary;" I prefer "journal" as it sounds less like a girly book of girly confessions. Add "secret" to "diary" and I really don't like it. But I have absolutely nothing against getting into Charlotte Bronte's head, which is exactly what this book does.

Author Syrie James explains that it is almost entirely taken from fact, based off of letters and other writings, though a couple of things are added to or embellished to suit it better to a book. And my goodness, is it real. I had thought I knew a decent bit about the Brontes, but this book has so much information in it. It's a fascinating look at the lives of the Brontes (with a particular emphasis on Charlotte, of course, since she is the one telling the story.) It discloses many inspirations they had for their writings. I already knew about Roe Head School and how the two older sisters died there, but I didn't know, for instance, about Monsieur Heger, Charlotte's Belgian professor whom she based many of her male leads on. Or, most tragic, much of Heathcliff (Emily's creation, not Charlotte's) was based off of their brother Branwell. This book drove me to tears more than a couple times. I hadn't read much about Branwell before, now I see the tragedy of his story. Then there's Arthur Nicholls, Charlotte's father's curate. All I had known was that she married him and died soon after, having gotten sick while pregnant. I had wondered, though. It sounded like a "convenient" marriage (since he worked for her father), but wouldn't Charlotte want to marry for the love her characters followed? I won't go into what I found out so I don't spoiler it, but I highly recommend picking the book up for yourself. It's highly potent.

Reading this was simply amazing. It both reminded me why I picked up on Charlotte's vision and reinforced that connection I feel with so much of her work. I can understand the perspectives in here more than anywhere else; so many things I've felt are there in another form. Unfortunately for Syrie James, I'm lead to read the last of Charlotte's books, The Professor, rather than her other book, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. She did such a flawless job at putting this book together in truth that I'm sure she did the same for that one. While I adore being able to read Charlotte's voice, I don't like Jane Austen's, so I don't see much point in reading the book. I'm sure it's as well done, though, for any Austen fans out there. I'll just stick to the Brontes myself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Hayley W's

That's Hayley Westenra the classical crossover singer and Hayley Williams of alternative group Paramore that I'm referring to. There's something about their voices that makes them each remind me of the other. Despite their quieter/louder styles, they both have voices smooth and soft and feminine, yet full and powerful. They're both so easy to listen to. My reason for this comparison: some of my music just seems so different, but I feel like I'm pulled to the same aspects in it all. Rock or classical or folk, I think music can still be speaking the same language. It's what it gets across just as much as how it does it.

That said, I also wanted to give a quick commentary on Paramore's new album, Brand New Eyes. It's been out a couple of weeks now, so I've been able to listen to it quite a bit, and I'm very happy with its direction. Though All We Know is Falling and Riot! have distinctive sounds, I was worried that with a third album, there wouldn't be enough space left to do much new. I was wrong. Songs like "Ignorance" and "Careful" have that same Paramore sound, but interpreted with more depth as the band has grown. There are also some quieter songs like "The Only Exception" and "Misguided Ghosts." The latter is one of my favorites. It lets you hear that Hayley has a compelling control over her voice; "All I Wanted" also does this. What Brand New Eyes confirms is that Paramore isn't the average alternative band; they can take their music beyond the standards, infusing it with all the richness of their experience. I think I've really keyed into them shining through their songs.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Paintings and Seasons

I love this painting. I got it in August at an antique store. It was $11 or $12, a little thing of 9''x7'' including the frame. But I love it. It's kind of hard to tell in the picture, but it's so sweet. Simple strokes of paint in vibrant colors create an almost fantastical atmosphere. The tone is wonderful. It takes the desert and depicts it not as bare, but as rich and full of life. Beautiful.

Only thing is, it looks to be a painting of April, not October. It's very funny how with October, the edge came off of the sun so that it doesn't instantly burn anymore, but it still gets hot. What's funnier is that the mornings and evenings feel cold when they're only in the 70's. Something very weird there. Anyway, though, it is nice to sort of simultaneously have two seasons. I can start bringing the fall fashions into my wardrobe, while still wearing summery things like short sleeves and skirts. I'd hate to actually be dressing for cold, cold weather. Even though I don't like shorts, big jackets are just . . . I don't like them. Part of the reason for that might be that I've lived most of my life in a place not unlike the painting. So I say again, I'm so glad for Arizona, the most wonderful place.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kaleb Nation Book Signing

I did end up at Changing Hands Bookstore last night for Kaleb Nation's book signing (promoting his new/first book Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse.) There's one benefit of living in a city: I can actually go to events like this. I'm still trying to figure out whether I like that more than looking outside and seeing more than buildings and pavement and cultivated grass and more buildings.

I'm a little ashamed to say that I'd never been to Changing Hands. It's such a famous place, and I've certainly been close by many times. I took a look around before the signing; they have a great selection. I'll make it a point to go back.

And on to the signing. It's strange seeing someone in person after only seeing pictures/videos of them online, but it was great to be able to go. Kaleb has too many talents: he can do public speaking just as well as writing. He also read the book's prologue. It's always interesting to hear an author read their own work; you get to hear just exactly what these words are in their minds. There are so many ways you can interpret words on a page, so hearing them shows you how the writer interprets them. And here is my first signed book (minus a picture book from 2nd grade, I'm not counting that one . . . ) :

I asked him to date it because it is his first tour, that date will mean something in a few years. It's epic. Last bit of info: the letters for the sequel are TSK. I'm thinking "The Secret . . ." Maybe "Kingdom?" That just sounds like Atlantis, though. There's also "King" and "Second" . . . how about "The Second Kurse?" It could be an intentional typo . . .

I had to leave quickly to finish writing a paper, study for a Latin quiz. Speaking of which, I have half an hour until that quiz, so I'd better glance at my notes again before I need to rush off.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Waiting . . .

It seems I always have a long list of things I'm waiting for. Then once the list starts shortening, new things go up on it. I've realized now that it will never end; I just have to figure out how to learn patience. Here's the list for today:

1. Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs. The release date for this one has been pushed back once or twice, but it's set to come out in the spring. Liz is one of the few modern writers that I really love; she can turn out such an emotionally dense story.

2. The Twilight Saga Official Guide by Stephenie Meyer. It was originally supposed to come out December 31st, 2008 . . . last I checked, Barnes & Noble was listing the same day in '10. We'll see it that's true.

3. The New Moon Official Illustrated Movie Companion. I've already pre-ordered it, but even though I'll get it in about two weeks, I'm waiting until I see the movie to open it. Insane, I know. But I have to stay away from spoilers and pre-ordering is just too tempting.

4. I think I can now add the next Bran Hambric book by Kaleb Nation. I don't think I'll be holding my breath too much for it, yet it'll be nice to have.

1. You guessed it, New Moon. Sixty more days. I'm tempted to go to the midnight showing, but that probably won't be happening. I'll probably see it at a dull time around 2:30, giving me time to go to class, get lunch, and be at the theatre with ample time.

2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The first two Narnia movies, well, they had their good and bad points. I still love Narnia itself enough that I'll continue watching, anyway. Plus, I think this next one is going to be different from the other two. I'm really starting to think having Michael Apted directing and David Arnold with the music, not to mention the two way-too-old oldest Pevensies mostly out of the picture, will make it better. 12/10/10.

1. Josh Groban is working on his next CD right now, which will probably come out in the spring. I'm really curious what tone he's going for. Three studio albums (minus the Christmas ones) are still beginnings. A fourth starts to show who you are as an artist overall.

2. Fireflight is also recording their next album. I've been really into them lately. They have great lyrics that make their approach to a loud, hard genre unique. No idea when the release is.

3. After years of just touring, Flyleaf is back. Even when I found them a year ago, their album was already old, so I'm really looking forward to hearing their next one. The single "Again" seems to set a good standard. October 27th.

4. It's just over a week now until the 29th, when Paramore's Brand New Eyes comes out. I wasn't overly impressed by "Ignorance" the first time I heard it, but it's grown on me. One week until I can hear the rest.

5. And let me just add in the rest of them. Hayley (Westenra), aren't you due for another album soon? Emma (Shapplin), will you ever get a third studio album? I would really like one. Oh, and Blondfire, didn't you say you wanted to release at least an EP this year? But I know it's hard for them since they're using their own label; Emma also had trouble with record companies.

Alright, I think I've hit most of them. I guess it isn't that long a list, if you really think about it.

A slight makeover for the page. I'm still not sure if I like the background. It might have too much going on, but I'm really not techie enough to design my own, so I'll try it out for a bit. And I think I may look mad in my profile picture . . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bran Hambric

Alright, here is the book I was reading last week: Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation. I was only a few chapters in on my last post, but guess what attached itself to my hands all weekend long, allowing me to finish on Sunday night?

First, a little background. I started reading Kaleb's site,, around March. It's a blog that recorded his thoughts on reading the Twilight books, chapter by chapter. What I loved about the posts was the unique perspective Kaleb had, with random humor and keep perceptiveness. So I started to get . . . curious about his book. Finally, I gave in and preordered it about a week in advance (it was just released on September 9th.) I still wasn't expecting to be particularly drawn in; I just wanted to support Kaleb and maybe find some of his humor in the book. Especially since I'd read the first four chapters online already, I didn't expect any more.

But Bran Hambric is about as unique as It's a teen read, dealing with magic and mysterious pasts, yet it's its own world. I think people are often tempted to create a fantasy (or halfway fantasy, like this one) setting based off of the ones they already know. While there are elements that we all love to keep, this can hinder originality. Kaleb Nation's originality isn't hindered. Neither the setting nor all the turns of the story are predictable. I especially like that when we learn about the main character Bran's past, we don't learn that he is some great, mythical figure destined to set all the world to right. We learn that he has a vast potential for evil, if he chooses. But by Bran not choosing to follow that, we get into some great themes about choice and identity.

There are still a few rougher corners, I think, given that it's a first novel, though in such a way that it can be passed over. I prefer to look at the good things. We have some parallelism in the plot (Bran's choices and Rosie's), some intriguing imagery, and yes, great humor. In fact, that's what makes this book worth reading: it's fun.

You can purchase it at these links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

The book signing tour will be in Tempe next week; I think I'll just have to go.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Word of the Week 6: Assiduous

Assiduous (adj) - 1. constant; unremitting 2. constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive

This fancy word for "busy" makes you sound much more organized. "Busy" sounds like you're overrun, with papers and calendars flying around, hardly enough time to brush your hair in the morning, and overall pretty sloppy. "Assiduous," on the other hand, makes you out to be devoted. You have so many things to do because you're caring enough to take them all on, then complete them all. Only problem is, you'll sound a little funny saying calling yourself "quite assiduous lately" in casual conversation. It's true, though, that they're not exact synonyms. Busy is just defining the amount of work you have to do, while assiduous explains how you approach your work.

Me, I'd like to say I'm being assiduous. If I don't get done with the day's work until late, I still read a chapter or two in the book I'm reading right now (title to be disclosed once I finish it -- hopefully in the next week.) That means I've been getting to bed past eleven . . . hurray for Saturdays to sleep in. But in my present assiduousness I must be going now.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eustace and the Holy Grail

Two weeks into my time at ASU, I think I can safely spend a few minutes on a post without thinking I should be spending my precious leisure time more leisurely. So, we come once more to The Chronicles of Narnia. As I went through The Silver Chair, I started likening Eustace and Jill's search for Prince Rilian to Percival's search for the grail. True, there are a lot of stories about searches and I've only read a little bit of Percival's story, but there's a similarity in the tone as well as the content.

Percival and Jill/Eustace fail to see the obvious: Percival doesn't realize he's found the grail and the other two don't realize they've reached one of the signs (the "Under Me.") Their quests are also faith-based. This is obvious on Percival's part, but Jill and Eustace have to go off of a very small bit of info, then put their trust in Aslan to do the rest.

. . . and that's it. I picked up a couple of books from Barnes and Noble's "Discover Great New Authors" section. It's a great place to find uniqueness. I have another book to read first, but hopefully I'll be getting to the new ones soon (especially since one is about Charlotte Bronte . . . . )

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oliver Twist and Shasta

Comparing Oliver Twist to The Horse and His Boy may seem far-fetched, but the stories are more similar than you might think.

First we have Oliver and Shasta (unlike Aravis, I prefer to keep calling him this name instead of Cor.) They both have an innocent quality. Oliver's is more because he's a little younger and it's central to the story that he's the innocent victim. Shasta's is less because C.S. Lewis never leaves accountability out of his stories. For Shasta to be accountable for his actions, he can't be entirely innocent. In him, it's more just an air of innocence, coupled with a lot of ignorance. Oliver also has some ignorance, though, as he falls into his den of thieves, as compared with Shasta's Calormen. They're both on a quest to get away from this griminess to where they originated, with the London elite and with the Narnians.

Now on to Bree and . . . Mr. Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger. That's a funny image; I don't think either one would like it very much. The reason for both statements? They both have such an ego. They both think so much of themselves. Of course, in Bree's case, his ego handicaps him, while the Artful nearly always keeps his head because of his confidence. Their relationship to Oliver/Shasta is similar, as well. The Dodger teaches Oliver to pick pockets and Bree teaches Shasta to "raid" the Calormenes during their journey. Sure, it seems like Bree is justified in this (what else could they do?), but then we come back to accountability. They were stealing, justified or no.

The female characters are a little harder. I've settled on Nancy and Aravis, and Rose Maylie and Hwin. The first two have spirit and manage to see right and wrong even in difficult situations. Rose and Hwin are both sweet, gentle, and kind.

And there it is. I could try to go on by saying that Rabadash and Bill Sykes both were willing to kill and loved one of the female characters or that Arsheesh is greedy like Fagin, but I think my comparisons will start to run dry if I go so far.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Air Force One Landing

I was over at Tempe Marketplace last night and looked up to see a plane getting ready to land. A common sight since Sky Harbor airport is right there; it's more uncommon to look up and not see a plane. But then we started wondering if it was the Air Force One. After all, Obama was supposed to be at the Grand Canyon tomorrow (now today.)

I happened to have my phone in my purse, so I was able to get a couple of shots with it (versus lower-quality phone pictures.) They're still not the best, but I had to hurry before the plane went out of view. The first one is cropped so you can actually see the flag, and the second is further away to show where it is.

When I got home, I read that the President and his family were staying in Phoenix for the night, and this morning I found another short article about the trip.

This week (including the weekend) has been busy, what with my Narnia reading and a few things I needed to organize, but I have a couple of topics I'd like to post about when I have the time. Hopefully tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I felt like reading something simple right now, and as I don't seem to have much in that way that I haven't read yet, I opted for a quick reread of The Chronicles of Narnia. It's always nice to get all the things I've forgotten for another time while revisiting favorites. With Narnia, there's plenty that you might not notice until reading it a few times and other things that you never tire of reading. Simple, but still encouraging mind activity.

There are so many books I haven't read that I've been busy enough lately trying to get to them, but I do miss the days when I didn't feel like I wasn't making any progress by picking up an old favorite. I don't like forgetting things, books included. There's just never enough TIME.

Which is why I'm in a race to finish all seven Chronicles on Friday. That's one a day. I'm on The Horse and His Boy right now, going in chronological order. This time around, I'm finding Shasta very much an Oliver Twist character, with Arsheesh as Fagin and Bree could be . . . but that could be another whole post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Woman in White

I'd been wanting to read this for a while, after coming across Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of the book. Not that I ever got to see the musical, I just watched some clips and fell in love with the song "I Believe My Heart." (You can see the musical version of it here and the one by Keedie and Duncan James here. I'd love to have Josh Groban and Hayley Westenra sing it together . . .)

The Woman and White and author Wilkie Collins never seem to be in the forefront of the classics, and I really wondered why as the first parts of this book completely enraptured me. There's something tender and innocent about it, which is captured quite nicely in "I Believe My Heart." But then the emotional pull started to get tiring. The middle of the book was draining to read. Then what follows, while interesting, is driven by figuring out the facts of a mystery. Mystery isn't exactly my genre. I get a little bored if it lasts too long. And The Woman in White is a long mystery at 620 pages.

Here's my brief comment on those 620 pages: this book definitely has its moments and I'd recommend it as a good read, but the plot-driven state seems to leave it a little bare in other areas, so I can't make it a great favorite.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Word of the Week 5: Kitchen

Kitchen (n) - 1. a room or place equipped for cooking. 2. culinary department; cuisine.

I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen this week, so I chose it for my word this time out of the others that came to mind: food, eating, table. Kitchen's a more flexible term, because has a similar joy/happiness duality to it. Technically, a dining room and a kitchen are separate things. And if there's a table in the kitchen, it's a "breakfast nook." The word "kitchen" is of a coarse sort, implying the out-of-the-way room where servants work in old books (there's my connection to books for this post!), but if the table and chairs are in it, it usually becomes a more homey place.

For one, the table gets used for more than just eating. If you have a formal dining room, chances are this won't be the case. I've been sitting in the little kitchen of my new abode, reading, going through papers, on the computer. It can be a handy thing because it lets me keep an eye on anything that's on the stove. The cooking is still there, just added to.

So I propose we come up with a new room for multi-functional kitchens. If we have bedroom and bathroom, why not call it stoveroom? It just mentions something in the room, not a limit. But it's still not quite right . . . . I guess I'll leave "kitchen" be.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Phantom is Also a Rochester

Click here for my introduction to "The Rochester Character" and here for the second addition to it.

I have a fourth character to add to the jumble of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, Henry Higgins from Pygmalion, and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. The newbie is the title character of The Phantom of the Opera. I mean him no offense by calling him "the phantom" instead of his name, Eric; it's just that most people don't know his name. Even less people than know that Sleeping Beauty's name is Aurora, I'd say.
The most obvious similarity here is the controlling characteristic. Out of the four, the phantom seems the one who has the most control. The entire opera is under his control. Heathcliff only controls a couple of houses out in the country, Higgins only controls his work and everything relating to it, and Rochester acts like he's in control, but really isn't. He has a past and present with Bertha that he can't escape and Jane chooses to leave him.
With the exception of self-centered Higgins, they're all exerting this control, to a degree, for a woman. The phantom sets up his elaborate scene to gain Christine, like Heathcliff wants revenge for Cathy and Rochester wants to be able to have a future with Jane.
The phantom is very similar in my eyes to Heathcliff with the buried-deep good core beneath so much evil from the pain of the past. (That's a nice, wordy description, isn't it?) He, like Heathcliff, couldn't be accepted by the world, because of his appearance versus his lack of social standing. He used the excuse to cause torment to others. Christine isn't much like Cathy, though, except that they both choose another man. Christine is a better person, which is why she doesn't love the phantom back, even if she can and does pity him.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cumbersome Shelves

It can be very hard to get my books to fit right in their shelves. Then whenever I'm happy with the way they're organized, I get a new one that messes all the order up. It's a delicate process, which I'll here describe.

I don't keep to alphabetical order (not in the overall picture, at least); rather, I organize each shelf according to subject/author. Non-fiction books mostly on one shelf, classics on another, C.S. Lewis / J.R.R Tolkien together, etc. All good and well except when the categories don't match the number of shelves. Then I have to combine some, split others.

After that, I try and keep similar-looking books together. The Barnes & Noble editions together, the blue-shaded spines, the tall books, the short ones. Make it all smooth and flowing. When it comes to classics that are all the same kind of edition, I do put them in alphabetical order by author's last name. Why not?

Books always look a little funny if they're all vertical, too, so I keep the few on each shelf that look/fit best horizontally that way just to ease aesthetics. Then when lack of space requires and I need to start building upward, more horizontal stacks start to form. They do look nice, but they're a pain. If I just want to look at a part of a book in a stack, I have to take apart the whole thing to get to it. Not ideal. So I try and keep stacks limited to the books I'm not constantly picking back up.

Like I said, a delicate process.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emma Brown

It's no secret that I love Charlotte Bronte. So when I stumbled across this book at the bargain section in Barnes & Noble, it quite literally jumped into my hands. I had no choice but to buy it. I'd heard of the draft Charlotte left when she died, and I think I'd even heard of someone finishing the novel, but somehow I saved the information for later instead of hurrying out to find the book. Bear with me while I bounce back and forth between opinions of it.

When I first took a look at it, I was a little annoyed that only Clare Boylan's name is listed as the author, even if Charlotte is mentioned on the cover. Who did this Boylan character think she was, coming over and stealing Charlotte's idea and taking all the credit?

Like many first impressions, I don't feel the same way anymore. I still have trouble understanding how anyone could want to finish another person's work. Finish, not just experiment with finishing. And publish it, too. The answer is probably to keep Charlotte's voice alive, but you see, I think that every person has a unique voice no matter how hard he or she tries to imitate someone else's. Clare Boylan tried, but I can still tell so clearly that Charlotte wasn't the one to write this book.

After all, there were only two short chapters in the draft. The entire plot after that is of Boylan's making. She does explain that she added some pieces of Charlotte's letters into the book to give it more Bronte flavor, but even still, I find it very different. After the first few chapters, I was rarely reminded of Charlotte.

The tricky thing, though, is that even Charlotte would have made this book different from her others. It came from a different time in her life, when she had learned and experienced different things. But I still don't think it would've been quite the novel Boylan wrote.

Which brings us to the big question: Is this a bad thing? I can't answer yes. Emma Brown is an absorbing read, endowed with some of the best parts of nineteenth century and modern writing. It has beautiful, original imagery that's often lacking in books today. Its social commentary is direct and while designed around a different century, can still be brought to apply to our world. That's plenty to make a worthy book.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Word of the Week 4: Home

Home (n) - 1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household 2. the place in which one's domestic affections are centered

Wow, I have to admit, Mr. Webster, I'm disappointed with this definition. I was expecting a little more emotion, even for a dictionary. How about if we compare it to another word.

House (n) - 1. a building in which people live; residence for human beings

Okay, I was right, the "home" definition is saturated with emotion now compared with this. Dictionaries are so cold . . . .

Why did I choose such a word this time? Naturally, because I'm moving this weekend and have been thinking a lot about what place I'd like to truly call home. I'm only moving two hours away, but I'm also moving from rural to urban. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so I think I've decided that all I'm really concerned about keeping right now is Arizona. I've said before how much I love this place. It's a familiar place that I've grown used to. Small town/big city, I can get used to as long as I stay here.

Which makes me think about people in past times. They didn't move around very much, minus the long travels of the wealthy. Home was always the same place. I think we can make ourselves love many places if we know that they're where we live and will live. Because it's the eyes we see through that determine what the place looks like, and it's we who fashion how those eyes see.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Word on Parodies

I've been thinking a lot about parodies lately. They're a precarious thing to get right. It isn't too hard to just make someone laugh, but I like them to be better than that. They need to be more lasting.

First, they have to have intelligence behind them. Whether it's about politcs or a movie, people need to show (one way or another) that they know the topic. Just having bad acting isn't enough.

Then they need to be good enough that someone who likes what's being parodied can still enjoy them. This kind of ties in with the intelligence: it's so witty and well put together that you can't help but like it.

Don't forget about originality, either. It should be a given, but sometimes people just fall for the obvious way of doing things. If it's unexpected, it'll make you laugh more.

Naturally, I have a particular parody in mind most lately. Twilight the Musical by Gliff Productions. I've seen a few Twilight parodies, and this one outshines them all by far. The first part was a little slow for me, but the second part is just hilarious. It isn't finished yet, though, so I'm waiting eagerly for Part 4b (which is supposed to come out soon.) These guys have a strong grip on their material (the book and movie, as well as the Midnight Sun draft), always sticking in some subtle detail. Maybe it's all those layers that I like so much.

They also have some good cinematography for a fan project and acting that suggests real talent. Parodies mostly have their own kind of "bad acting," but I'd like to see some of the TTM people acting seriously. I think they could handle it. There are actually a couple of instances of real acting, which is even harder to pull off right in a parody. Griffin Lewis (director/editor/music/Edward) in particular does this. So stop by for some laughs with thought behind them:

Friday, July 10, 2009


(I haven't posted in a while again because my computer's been having trouble. I had to send it to Apple for a while, but it still isn't working right. Think it's time to demand a new one. Also, the picture is blurry because I had to take it on my phone.)

I just finished Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe last Friday. Interesting read. At first, I was looking at the poetry of its writing/descriptions, which in itself make it worthwhile. Then I thought about it historically. If Scott is the father of the historical novel, historical fiction has still changed very much since his time. The way he described medieval clothing or mechanisms reminded me of how C.S. Lewis talks to his readers in The Chronicles of Narnia. They both give a comparison to something the reader will be familiar with. Today, though, historical fiction seems to envelope itself in the time period. Authors don't want to remind you that there is such thing as the present day; everything they say is a part of the period. Then again, a lot of people today seem to like using a first person perspective, which eliminates the possibility for Scott's style.

So that's what I was thinking about earlier in the book. That and the fact that Rebecca struck me as a much more interesting character than Rowena, despite the fact that Rowena was the one Ivanhoe loved. I was surprised to find Rebecca become even more important in the story than Rowena. No wonder the book could've been called Rebecca the Jewess. It's more about Rebecca than Ivanhoe, I think.

After I finished reading, I looked a little at the controversy over the ending. And yes, I can see how people would want Rebecca and Ivanhoe to end up together, but that ending wouldn't be as powerful. In keeping with the feel of the entire novel, Ivanhoe and Rowena have to be the ones together. There's just no other way. Even if Rebecca weren't Jewish or there was no discrimination, the knight and his lady have to have their "happy ending." That it isn't completely happy is what makes it interesting. Though I still do wish that there was a way to ensure Rebecca's happiness. She doesn't need to be with Ivanhoe, I'd just love to see her with a more bright future than simply servitude.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quick Update

Wow, it's been a month already since I posted. But I was busy in my own way, finishing some things up, then going on vacation, then taking some time off to (be lazy) relax. I'll ease back into posting with a few details on my trip.

Like a lot of Arizonans, I used to live in California, so when we go on vacation there, we usually stick to familiar things. It can consequently get a little dull, and we've been going other places instead lately, but this time we went for some different things there. (Except a day at Disneyland, of course. I'm a little obsessed with that most wonderful of places. . .)

In Santa Barbara, we left off the Mission (been there, done that) for Casa del Herrero and El Precidio de Santa Barbara, along with a couple of antique shops (aka. free museums where you can buy things you like instead of coveting them.) The Casa del Herrero tour is only an hour and a half, and you aren't allowed to take photos inside the house (outside is fine), but it was a beautiful place. George Washington Smith built it for George Fox Steedman, finishing it in 1925. I didn't do research on it beforehand, so I was surprised to walk in to find medieval Spanish furniture and decorations everywhere. Beautiful. El Precidio wasn't as awe-inspiring, but it was a nice historic place to visit. We had a lot of fun with pictures there.

And then here is the amazing one: Lotus Land. I had never even heard of it, but it's spectacular. It was put together by the Polish opera singer Ganna Walska. We went as members so that we wouldn't have to take a guided tour and were glad we did. Though I'm sure they give you good information, it seemed better to take the time to enjoy everything at our own pace. Right when you walk in, it feels so enchanting. It beats the Arboretum and the Huntington Library. Its its own world, filled with the most intriguing plants. I dubbed one section the "Dinosaur Garden" because it seemed to primeval in its looks. You could spend hours just sitting in one place, taking it all in.

It was also my first time going up to Hearst Castle, though more people have heard of that one. We took Tours 1 and 2, both just under two hours. The splendor. . . I wanted to remember it all, but there are so many rooms, each with so many things, that I had to try and record it with my camera instead. Most liked by me would probably be the eclecticism of the decorating. One of the reasons I personally like the Victorian style is because you can juxtaposition differing objects, choose what you like and make it all fit together. There was a similar thing here. Patterns and materials and colors, all brought into one. Now, why hadn't I been there before? We stayed in Cambria while we were there, a charming small town (with more antique stores) next to a cold, rocky beach. I was cold almost the whole time we were in California (yeah, I know, "sunny California"), but here the cold was a part of the experience. It makes the water seem that much more powerful. Not to mention all the pieces of jellyfish strewn across the sand, including one jellyfish body (no legs, though, or whatever they're called.)