Friday, December 17, 2010

If I Stay

A week ago, I read Gayle Forman's book If I Stay, mainly because Kaleb Nation wrote a review of it for NPR. I tacked the book onto an Amazon order so that I could get free shipping, as one does.

The premise is similar to The Lovely Bones, yet very different; that book did not resonate with me the way that this one did. Instead of a 13-year old who is tells us on the first page that she was murdered and then explains what happens as she watches down on her family as they deal with/don't deal with the trajedy, If I Stay is in the voice of a 17-year old whose entire family is in a fatal car crash in the first chapter. She realizes that she is still alive (for now) and struggles to accept her new situation and what decision she must now make. The Lovely Bones was about "an event;" If I Stay was more about plain emotion.

At times, it was greatly saddening: descriptions of Mia's life and her relationships are set against what is happening now at the hospital. It is a short book that I thought at first would only take me a day, but I had to slow down for the first half. After that, I moved more quickly because I simply had to know what Mia would do. She becomes so important to you as you read: it's more like reading someone's memoir than a novel.

And when I finally closed the back cover, I felt like calling everyone I know to tell them how I appreciate them . . . I didn't actually do that, but the point is, this book made a definite impact on me. That's a big statement for me. I found this book so close in with human experience that I had to take something from it and continue pondering its content.

It seems Summit Entertainment is trying to make a movie out of it. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Make Way for the Dawn Treader!

I don't believe I have said much about my opinions on the first two Disney/Walden Media Narnia films; let's just say that while they did some things well, others I was not so keen on. After Prince Caspian, I didn't even feel like getting too excited over The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After all, it was a two and a half year wait, in any case. Once I learned that Michael Apted would be directing (whose work with Amazing Grace I loved) and that he would be bringing David Arnold in for the score (whom I also lauded for AG), I started to hope.

Suddenly, a week ago, the movie was here. I saw it the afternoon it came out (coincidentally, after an English Grammar study session), and I smiled through nearly the whole thing. The opening shot was whimsical, tricking you for a second that you are looking at Narnia when it is really London. Will Poulter embodied Eustace absolutely perfectly; he deserves some awards for his performance. Reepicheep was finally the Reepicheep I had read about. Ben Barnes was able to be Caspian to the full extent.

Scenery is gorgeous. The ship's look is just right, the cave where they put the deathwater pool looks amazing, and I must give the team extra credit for pulling off an attack by a sea serpent. The score was lovely in its simplicity: it wasn't begging you to think epically, letting itself instead work as the enhancer of the movie it ought to be.

Although I certainly have nit-picking, as well, this is all I will say. (If you want to read a bit more, here is my review on Narniaweb.) It was a well-made movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and greatly recommend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lullaby By Tolkien

I forgot to mention a book I finished about a month ago: another of the posthumously published Tolkien works, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Written entirely in verse and based on Norse mythology versus the medieval nature of The Lord of the Rings, it was something I was slow to buy. Also slow because of the high price tag it had when it first came out, but eventually I was able to get it for $3 (new) on Amazon. Can't beat that.

Even Christopher Tolkien (in the introduction) admitted that certain parts of this book are next to impossible to understand, which is why he added in pages of commentary for each section. I didn't feel like reading those, though certainly not because I felt like I didn't need to: he was very correct in his statement. But rather than thinking about all of the plot details, I focused more on the poetic structure, the rhythm of the words. The lines are all very short, making for a format that looks simple yet is complicated. I read the book in the evening, letting the cadence of the words fall like a lullaby in my head.

It's definitely an experience I would recommend for fans of Tolkien (or of poetry). It's a chance to look at more from the man who placed songs of Luthien and Nimrodel and Gil-Galad inside of the text of The Lord of the Rings. It's, to me, a work from Tolkien the linguist.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cease, O Clouds!

I am sitting with that most beloved of all drinks, acai juice, which manages somehow to be like a fruit smoothie and a chocolate shake combined into one. It is most delicious. As I drink it, I contemplate why it is so dark outside at five o'clock. Dratted clouds. With the advent of cooler weather, however, it also becomes a very tempting idea to sit inside with a nice movie. So here is my latest update on what I've been watching.

1) Somewhere in Time. The description calls it "unabashedly romantic," which it most definitely is, though in rather a unique way. I watched it, thought it was okay but didn't feel that deep connection some people tend to have toward it. But now, over a month later, I find myself thinking more and more about it. It really is a gorgeous premise, carried out like nothing else.

2) Avatar. I know I was ridiculously late in seeing this movie, but at least now I can say that I did enjoy it. The depth of the world created was impressive, as were the visuals. The story, though it's true that it's one that's been done a thousand times and will be done a thousand times more, still gets you thinking.

3) Coraline. Had to mention this one because I absolutely disliked it. It was creepy, as I knew it would be, but not, to me, in a good way. I'm not saying it was a bad movie; the style just didn't sit well with me at all.

4) Hidalgo. A relatively simple movie whose story I really enjoyed. A little drama, a little action, a little adventure.

5) Stardust. I knew this was a movie that could either be good or just fall off the other edge; it walks on that kind of a fine line. Turned out, I really liked it. It was sweet dark and creative and new and the same at once.

6) Your Mother Wears Combat Boots. I watched this because it stars Barbara Eden (aka. Jeannie). Though it is a small made-for-tv movie, it isn't without entertainment worth. Moments of it, too, are just slightly reminiscent of Jeannie.

7) Frida. I pressed "play" thinking it was a documentary, not a biopic, and finished the movie slightly in awe. I knew little about Frida beforehand; this movie helped me understand her paintings. The story, too, has so much thematically that we can grab hold on for ourselves.

8) Superman. I think I saw the first movie once (not sure if it was the whole thing), so I decided I'd better rewatch, this time watching all four movies. To my surprise, they were alright. The second was my favorite (hello, drama); the third was my least (hello, boring-what's-the-point).

9) Shakespeare Retold. These are four BBC episodes, each taking a Shakespeare play and retelling it in a modern setting. Doesn't sound particularly great, and the first few minutes of Much Ado About Nothing left me bored, but once I started recognizing character traits, the fun began. Much Ado is just so hilarious to begin with that they couldn't do wrong. Macbeth was hilarious, starring James McAvoy. Who knew Macbeth the chef could be such a marvelous idea?

10) I'm still hooked on I Dream of Jeannie. I'm rewatching the entire series and still loving it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

San Francisco Chocolate, Colds, and Parodies

I was in San Francisco this weekend, getting back home Sunday night at 1:00. This really would've only been an hour late for me, except that I was getting sick. So I decided to sleep through all my classes on Monday, taking my first sick day since fourth grade. But at least I am now well, except for the longer-lingering cough.

What was I doing in San Francisco? Attending the Fall Luxury Chocolate Salon, of course, and otherwise looking for chocolaty experiences. (Look for my write-up of the event and the chocolates I picked up on Chocablog). Here are two pictures, one from Saturday morning and one from Sunday evening, taken along the coast.

An interesting city, architecture-wise, if a little chaotic as far as street-navigation goes.

And one more thing, which I meant to post about a week ago. The Hillywood Show, of whom I am a great fan, released their Eclipse Parody on Thursday. Makeup and choreography have blown me away yet again, and this video parodies more than anything they have ever done. Just watch it and see if it doesn't make you laugh, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Classes

My class registration for spring opened on Monday.

I was so anxious/excited/something-like-that to sign up for the three classes I knew I wanted to take that I did so from my phone an hour after my slot opened up (a whole hour later because I had been in class).

Then I spent a week, unsure of what other two classes to add. Today I finally realized I couldn't take it anymore; so what if some people's registration still isn't open, I feel late/remiss/something-like-that not choosing the last two classes.

The result? Many English classes. I hope I didn't swamp myself in reading too much. I'm almost done with general, required classes, so the only one I will be taking next semester is Latin 202 (which, by the way, will probably be my last Latin class -- I don't know if I would enjoy going any further). Also on the agenda: Intro to Contemporary Lit., Major American Novels, American Indian Lit., and a Tolkien-based class on medieval motifs in modern culture or some such notion.

The amazing thing is that they all sound interesting. This is what I remember looking forward to in high school: digging into specific topics, topics that you yourself choose. Latin is a crazy puzzle, I know I need better insight into modern works, the reading list for the novels class is probably my list-of-books-I-need-to-get-to-someday, Native American studies are just fitting for the Southwest, and a class based on Tolkien is just ideal.

The other perk? Only two classes on Monday and Wednesday, one on Friday, one on Tuesday that isn't until 4:40, and nothing on Thursday. So even if I have a lot of reading, I think my in-class schedule will be loose enough that I'll manage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skunks and Lobsters, Oh My!

Some people dress up for Halloween, going trick-or-treating or to parties; some stay at home and do nothing; and some get too creative. I'm normally in the middle category, letting the strange holiday pass me by, but this year, my parents bought a couple of costumes and since I was staying this weekend with them . . . Here is what happened:

Three dogs in costumes, myself in "accented" clothing (including glittery eyelashes, which stayed on despite it being a hugely windy day), at the square in Prescott, after a pet costume contest. Yes, there were about 25-30 four-legged contestants. Here are our two vampires meeting another one, who also happened to be the winner.

This tiny thing was Superman; he was incredibly cute.

People really know what's best for their dogs, don't they? This little round pumpkin looked completely himself.

And the little diva here seemed pleased with herself (by the way, hers is actually a girl's costume).

A skunk and a ladybug.

Don't forget the bumblebee.

This guy was harder to understand at first. Once you saw that he was a shark, though, he was fun.

So prim, isn't she?

I took a few pictures of these two because I was trying to get the best angle on their costumes; I never really succeeded. One is the now-classic hot dog; the other is carrying the headless horseman.

An interesting event. Overall, though, it was a good example of pet ownership. Most dogs didn't have headgear, but those that did seemed comfortable with it. None of them were scratching or biting at their costumes. (Like our own lobster Molly: her costume had a hood, but we left it down because it just didn't work for her. It completed the costume, sure, but that's not a big enough reason). There was a brief bark-off when everyone first stepped into the middle, but after that, there was good behavior even with so many dogs in such close proximity. They all knew they're loved . . .

Friday, October 29, 2010

It Is In The Madness

My next paper will be on the Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story The Yellow Wallpaper. This story centers on a woman going mad and is based partly on Gilman's own expression with depression and the "treatment" she was given (which included orders not to write, which would just be heartbreaking of itself). I enjoyed it.

There is something to be found in certain "madnesses." I recently heard of a book called Touched with Fire, which centers around the connection between mental illness and genius. It sounds quite interesting; one of the points it makes is just in the mental image we have of a great artist. You imagine the great musical conductor with his messy hair, crazed expression, and almost savage aura. Madness and genius meeting? And of course, there are people like Edgar Allan Poe that no one doubts had some trouble, let's say, in their lives, but are remembered by history for their artistic endeavors. Like I said, interesting.

It makes me think of Jo in Little Women. When she goes into a writing fit, she locks herself in the garrett, away from food and sleep for days, with her quote "genius burns." Genius burns from being "touched with fire?"

Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament

Bran Hambric: The Specter Key

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lady Emma

I just got my wisdom teeth out on Thursday. Not particularly fun. Yes, I did have a great doctor (Dr. Kootman, who also did my brother's teeth a few years ago): the procedure was less than 15 minutes for four teeth and my mouth is only somewhat sore (really, my teeth weren't in the best shape; my mouth is small, so the bottom ones weren't even growing out yet because they had nowhere to go, so this tells a lot), but still, it isn't a fun thing. Only funny thing is that the drugs made me feel sick on Thursday (tell me, why did I even bother taking any of those pain meds?); I can't see how people take these "recreationally." But all is well now, though I decided to spend a lazy day in bed today watching Netflix.

I just moved on to YouTube from there, and I realize something. I have lauded Emma Shapplin before; now I see similarities between her and Lady Gaga. The latter has been getting quite a bit of attention, whereas the former is only known in certain countries, the US not included. Emma Shapplin sings semi-operatic/classical/pop/almost-new-age-ish, and Lady Gaga is pop/hip-hip. But let's take another look.

Overall style is the first item. Emma Shapplin, with her background in modeling, likes her elaborate yet simple, slightly off costumes/outfits; Lady Gaga is known for the, er, noticeable way she dresses. They both set off a diva quality in this way, but it's one based not on vanity but on a desire to do what they like.

As far as music goes, maybe they aren't so different there, either. Emma creates music out of bounds of genres; she does it so much from the heart that everything is unique. Lady Gaga I am less familiar with, but hasn't she, too, recreated certain aspects of the music world? Had a large impact on how things work?

If you still don't believe me, do a comparison of their music videos. I think you'll find a similar strangeness in both. (And remember, "strange" doesn't necessarily mean something bad).

Macadam Flower
Bran Hambric: The Specter Key

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Professor & Others

I was late reading Charlotte Bronte's The Professor.

Somehow, I got the impression that this book would be dry and dull and depressing and difficult and ultimately unsatisfying, in comparison to her other works. I should have known it would not be so.

True, it does not have so much magic as Jane Eyre; nor quite the poignancy of Villette, but it was an intriguing read. I did not find it so different from Charlotte's other works as critics led me to believe, though it does have obvious differences. I found in it a sense of inspiration. Our narrator, William Crimsworth, is called the "self-made man;" in his actions is the assurance that we have power over our own selves and hence over our destinies. Seeing him struggle and feel hopeless at times, but still come through was very encouraging for me.

Aside from this, The Professor is a must simply for being a Charlotte Bronte lover. We all know about the time she spent in Belgium and the, er, attachment she formed for a certain married colleague and how this school helped form the French one in Villette. But in The Professor, you're right there in Belgium. The setting is so tangible, the themes a part of an entire tapestry of CB novels. Amazing to look at.

On the other side, I have been enjoying Netflix and other Internet videos a bit too much. Here are some things I've seen lately:

1) Little Men the TV series, with two seasons. Very bizarre at first. The professor is dead; Jo is a widow trying to keep up their dream by running the school alone. And of course, a certain man comes along in the first episode and becomes the new caretaker on the grounds; let the hints at a relationship begin. Very unlike the book at first. I thought I wouldn't be able to watch the whole pilot, but two episodes in, I found myself enjoying some pure, sticky drama. Dan, Nan, and Nat are all great, though I did sorely miss Daisy. I hate to think of Nat being alone without her . . . I have no idea why she and Demi were kept back at toddler-age. There are other strange things (like Franz being the teacher until he runs off to Arizona to follow his girl), but once you get past them, it's an alright show. I moved through all 26 episodes very quickly.

2) The original Star Trek series. I'm on Season 2, and enjoying it much more than I would have imagined. The potential sci-fi gives for exploration not just of the galaxy, but of human nature can really be engrossing. Not to mention all the seasoning of humor.

3) Twilight in Forks; the documentary about the impact the Twilight Saga has had on the actual town of Forks, Washington. It wasn't too big of a deal; don't bend head over heels to get the chance to watch it. I was glad to see it and I'm sure it will mean even more a few years from now, but the things I got most excited over were seeing Kaleb Nation and The Hillywood Show pop up in it.

4) Back to the Future. I'm not getting the third movie until tomorrow, but I've been enjoying these so much. My memories of them were vague; now I got to return to them with a fresh perspective. "Fresh." That's an apt word to describe the movies, too. There is attention to detail and awareness of how movies and the mind work.

5) A collaboration between The Hillywood Show and Evil Iguana Productions. I don't watch the latter, only the former, but I laughed to tears over this video. Best if you know Twilight and Hillywood, hilariously and uniquely put together.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kaleb Nation Book Signing

Last night was the launch for Kaleb Nation's book tour for Bran Hambric: The Specter Key. Again, I was sorry to find, walking into Changing Hands, that it was the first time I'd been there since his first signing there last year. My excuse: I haven't been buying many new books except pre-orders, which I get off of Amazon because that's easiest. My new goal: to go to Changing Hands again before the third book in the series comes out.

Anyway, the signing was great. Kaleb still found some tidbits to add to his spiel in the beginning for those of us who know his basic story already. In the Q&A, I asked about how he uses the computer versus paper for writing (since there are some writers out there purists about the power of pencil and paper). He brought up timing as a positive for the computer; I have to agree with this one. There are moments when writing with a pencil almost seems tedious (though it usually also gives me a feeling of greater connection with my words).

When I brought my book up to be signed, I also brought a gift: a sort of 3D thank you card done with oil paint on a small canvas. I realize I never took a picture of it while it was still in my possession, but Kaleb said he would put it in a vlog, so I imagine I will see it again.

I also brought up my latest canvas bag for him to sign. It has both books and websites stitched on it. If you go to Kaleb's Facebook, you can see a picture of my hands holding it up. I also got a picture with him, which will probably be showing up on there later; I'm afraid to see how I turned out. I thought I was over my dislike of pictures, but some things do linger, don't they?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bran Hambric: The Specter Key

I really am late with this post, I know. I finished Kaleb Nation's The Specter Key Sunday, and it is now Wednesday. (Let's just not mention how long I have gone without reporting my thoughts on The Professor. . . ) So here is my take.

I enjoyed The Farfield Curse. I remember saying also that it had its "moments" of description. But I approached that book being a fan of Kaleb's websites, etc. Now The Specter Key has made me a Bran Hambric fan. The world in these pages was always its own; now Kaleb has filled it with all the minute details. We don't just hear, for instances, about gnomes from Polland himself and see some in a restaurant through windows; there are a couple on a plane that Bran defends. We are not just told that Bran, like his mother, has the capacity to choose great evil; we see how he might begin to make the wrong choices, even for the right reasons (like saving his friend, Astara). It all becomes much more solid.

Perhaps my favorite part: the humor. It was good in the first book; it only gets better in the second. Is Mabel really cleaning the wrecked Wilomas house with a fishbowl-like cover on her head? (Mabel is a clean freak, if you like -- she's always surrounding herself with pills and detoxifiers and the like). Mr. Rat shows up again? And again? (I still don't know whether Mr. Rat is a totally random character as he seems or if his strange intertwining with the plot will come to have some other meaning). Etc, etc. The humor really makes this book a blast to read.

Two things I enjoyed very much in this book: Nim and the bus scenes. Okay, so the series does involve magic, but a fairy was not something I was expecting; hence, Nim was a lot of fun. As a commuter, there was something priceless in seeing Bran having to get a ride on a bus: all of the people going on and off and the strange way conversations, when they do happen, can occur.

Now I can say with assurance that this book is worth buying, so again I ask that you help Kaleb Nation reach his goal of getting on the bestseller list by pre-ordering it. I'll be at the launch of the book tour at Changing Hands tomorrow; should be cool.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Specter Key

It has arrived: Bran Hambric: The Specter Key by Kaleb Nation. This book comes out on 10/10/10, but Amazon in its wonderfulness got it to me today. I would love to tear into it right away, but I had decided to reread the first book, The Farfield Curse, so I need to finish it first. One hundred pages are left; who thinks I can do it tonight? It wouldn't be a problem except that I have some other work to get done first.

As I mentioned in my last post, Kaleb is trying hard to get this book on the bestseller list (through pre-orders), so if you haven't already, please go and pre-order it. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Support Kaleb Nation

I notice that I like to take an interest in certain people, their careers and such. I was like this with the band Blondfire. The two I'm most liking to support right now are Kaleb Nation and The Hillywood Show.

If you'll go backwards one year, you will find my thoughts on Kaleb Nation's first book (the book post is here and the book-signing write-up is here). Since then, I've kept up on Kaleb's vlogging/blogging. The sequel to Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse comes out on 10/10/10, and Kaleb is rallying the Nationeers for something epic this time.

Namely, to get Bran Hambric: The Specter Key on the New York Times bestseller list.

Perhaps you reaction this way: I've never heard of this person -- how can he have such bold plans? Not so bold: it's a well-thought out battle plan, and the people who do know who Kaleb Nation are have an equal boldness. I think this wish may be in actual danger of coming true.

The way to make this happen is to get as many people as possible to pre-order the book. This way all of those sales will count for the same period of time. So I urge anyone/everyone to click the link to preorder Kaleb Nation's second book and help one author realize a dream. (Especially since today happens to be his birthday -- what better way to celebrate?) Also, you can take a look at the book trailer here. Be sure to check out the rest of the videos on Kaleb's channel; he's doing a video a day for the countdown to The Specter Key.

Speaking of people I like to support, I just have to share my new wall-art:

The bottom autograph (which I got a couple months ago) is from The Hillywood Show's New Moon Parody, while the top one (from their Dark Knight video) I just recently got. I do mean to add more in the future, until this wall is positively brimming Hillywood.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Into The Wild

I believe I may be becoming a Kristen Stewart fan. More on this once I've seen more of her work.

For now, my focus is on a movie I found out about through her, though her own role in it is small (not unimportant, though -- nothing in this movie is). Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight) has said that she wanted Kristen for Bella after seeing her in Into The Wild. Naturally, then, now that I have access to nearly any movie imaginable via Netflix, I decided I had to see it.

The plot is about a man's trek into the solitary wilderness (he burns his social security card and meets people along the way, but ends up leaving them all behind). Some of the reviews offered much less than praise; one said the movie has no plot. It's relatively long (148 minutes), too, for just a movie about a guy out in the wild. I wasn't expecting to like it too much (am I ever? I think I must be a pessimist).

But it's enthralling. Vital. Still not my favorite movie in the world, but it held me spellbound at moments despite the fact that I started it some time after 10 o'clock at night. The structure of it, as well. It is a piecing together of the present and events leading up to it. The only movie comparable I can think of is Slumdog Millionaire, but that one used this structure to a completely different end. Into The Wild lets each scene build up while connections form between the slightest pieces. It's philosophical and stirring.

And leaves much room for thought. I do love nature, yet I love things, too. I couldn't give them all up like Christopher McCandless tries to. Notice I say "tries;" there is much to consider when saying whether he was successful in all his aims or not. It's a movie that can't really be explained because of the journey it takes you on; it must be watched first.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Everybody Has a Birthday

I seem to have a birthday in a charmed month. September is also the birthday month of Bilbo & Frodo and Bella from fiction; Kaleb Nation and Skandar Keynes (aka. Edmund) from real life. I'm sure there are plenty more, but these are the only ones I know off the top of my head. (A Google search reveals that there are indeed a lot; there are just so many people in the world that I guess every month is a charmed month).

Being that my parents came by and bestowed me with money (and their company, yes), I saw the chance to pick up some things I've been wanting for a while. Specifically, a second autograph by The Hillywood Show (the Dark Knight picture this time) with a frame (thank you, Michael's, for having a sale on frames when I went), a Barnes & Noble leather-bound copy of The Arabian Nights (which CS Lewis first inspired me to want, and I Dream of Jeannie further set me on my way for getting), Phillip LaRue's CD Let the Road Pave Itself (which I've wanted since "Chasing the Daylight" was an iTunes free single a long time ago), and, oh, yes, one more. I think I'll have to add Florence + the Machine's CD, too. Remember, they have the song "Heavy in Your Arms" on the Eclipse soundtrack. My finger is just itching to press that "Buy Album" button on iTunes right now; should I do it? I think yes, but I would hate for this to be an album I would like for a while, then discard. I usually like to take more time to make sure I thoroughly enjoy something before buying it, but I can't seem to help it . . . 

There -- it is done. Clicking on the sample listen for "Drumming Song" decided me: I don't know the story behind that song, but the idea of your mind resonating loudly connects with me. The tangible intangible and all . . . 

If only I had been given a few hundred dollars for my birthday; then I would have been able to buy an I Dream of Jeannie bottle. Someday I will have to get one of those. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three Is The Charm

Being the Narnian fan that I am and learning the things that I do from my Narnia-news-base (, I have been waiting to see Ben Barnes (aka. Prince Caspian) in Dorian Gray ever since he was cast years ago. It has been a long journey: first I bought the book so that I could read it before seeing the movie, then some time later I read it, then I saw the old black and white movie version, and this weekend I finally saw it with Ben Barnes. Odd pinning so much on a movie I wasn't sure I would even like all that much (my opinion on the book is mixed). I did think, however, from the start that Ben Barnes would make a great Dorian; he has that fresh and innocent kind of face, and seems to understand literature enough to translate quality into acting. And I did very much enjoy his performance. Slightly tweaked (of course), the movie stays very much true to the feel of the book (the artistry included). The biggest difference was the ending; it didn't feel quite right to me at first, but it does add an element of hope that I didn't find in the book. Hope, to my view, isn't exactly a bad thing to get. Overall, very nicely made.

The second movie is An Education. I had planned to see this in theatres in the fall, but it wasn't playing at my usual theatre, so I ended up missing out. Once the critics came out with all their praise for it, I really wished it would come out on DVD fast. I saw it last week, and met with my expectations. The dilemma Jenny faces is one that is too easy to relate to. I adore her case to the principal ("why should I go to school and be bored so that I can go to work and be bored?" -- not an exact quote), and also the fact that she finally understands why she wants to go to Oxford, but also that she can still find happiness.

Lastly is The Young Victoria. I also wanted to see it in theatres, but decided it would probably be better to just rent it (movie tickets do get expensive, after all). Of course, anything with queens and palaces is going to be visually pleasing, which this was. It also created some very applicable themes. Victoria is constantly knowing and not knowing what to do in her life as a whole and in smaller actions. Seeing Rupert Friend in the role of a "kind" character after the scoundrel Wickham in Pride and Prejudice was also nice.


Friday, September 3, 2010

A Day In The Life . . .

I don't know where I got the desire to document one of my average days, but here is a Monday in my life.

Waking up at the comfortable hour of 8:30, I make my bed and put on my makeup by the mirror behind my bedroom door. Hence, everything gets spread around the carpet. That's Merle Norman foundation, blush from a Luna Twilight palette, both L'Oreal and Stila eyeliner (one for the bottom, one for the top), Ulta eye shadow, my new Urban Decay eye primer, a Revlon lash-curler, and Dior Fashionshow mascara in waterproof. Suffice it to say that I don't have a favorite makeup brand yet.

Breakfast is a quick affair, either cereal or toast, as I'm usually running late by the time I get to the kitchen and I don't have much of a morning appetite these days. But I do make sure to pack lunch, a juice for when I start getting hungry too early, and my water bottle.

I am now attempting to brush my teeth twice a day instead of once; isn't that praise-worthy? (By the way, it looks like I'm in need of a new toothbrush head, but since Sonicare products aren't exactly cheap . . .)

And I'm out the door. 

My lovely waiting spot for the unreliable bus (unreliable because I've known it to arrive five minutes early, as well as ten/fifteen minutes late . . . which means I have to be five minutes early to the stop, even if I then have to wait a while extra). It faces the rising sun, which can be quite unhandy during the summer.

After my ride, I switch over to walking rather than transferring to a second bus. This really only loses a few minutes, and it allows me to get in a little exercise. Time from bus to classroom: about twenty-five or thirty minutes. It's a little trying sometimes to take this walk at 10:00 when the weather is already in the 90's, but I comfort myself with the fact that it will cool soon. And I really do enjoy "my little walk."

Two classes later and close to 1:00, I seek out a place to lunch. I just discovered this enchanting spot this semester; there are about nine tables under the shade of a few trees. Quiet and comfortable, it's really ideal.

I do try and get some work done during this time; I feel like I'm wasting good time if I don't. Ah, Latin, Latin, Latin.

Last is my 2:00-3:15 English Grammar class; fun stuff. I have a good view (behind me, that is) of the Language and Literature building (where I have most of my classes) as I wait for the bus.

Waiting (again) for the bus transfer, I have a nice view of sky, which I attempted (and failed) to bring to life in this picture. Since this stop faces west, and it's usually afternoon when I wait here, I have that same problem with facing the sun. Oh, well, that's what sunglasses are for, right?

A fifteen minute ride and a seven minute walk bring me back to my apartment, where I check the mail. I begin to have a sort of addiction to checking the mail: it seems I'm always expecting something. A copy of Vogue, a Netflix DVD, or some chocolate samples.

Then I ascend the stairs, up to the sun. Short-lived though this moment is, you can see why it would be memorable. Already hot from being outside, it's not exactly the kind of thing you like to come home to.

Which is why, once inside, I empty my bag carelessly across my bed so that I can get at what I need without having to arrange it all yet.

My folders from the day go back in my new pocket-organizer on my desk.

I usually check up on my sticky-notes of assignments to make sure I know what I need to get done. Pretty light week this time.

And then rest time. Snacking of celery, tortilla chips, and hummus while drinking more water and watching an episode of Bewitched. (And yes, those are cacao nibs and cacao beans in the background, as well as an insulated bag of chocolate -- the consequences of being both a chocolate-reviewer and president of a chocolate club).

That's just about it. Working on school things comes next, then dinner (I can't remember what it was Monday, but Wednesday was chicken with Tikka Masala sauce and some couscous). Maybe a movie online or some reading before bed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I just spent a lovely morning. Up at 9:30; breakfast of half a chocolate muffin and coffee, which is unusual for me but also quite American. Dropped off my latest Netflix rental (The Runaways, which I enjoyed more this second time around; the commentary with Kristen, Dakota, and Joan was also very good) and headed off to Scottsdale Fashion Square.

It takes two buses to get there, but the second distance is so short that I walked instead. Very pleasant fifteen, twenty minute walk; the weather is still shying from the 100's and even cautious of the 90's, so it wasn't overly warm. Then to the mall itself. A little window-shopping before stopping at Sephora. I had two things in mind. One was to claim my free birthday gift (a mascara, eye liner, and eye shadow -- not bad at all just for being a member of their rewards program). The other was to try out Urban Decay's eye primer, which comes in the most enchanting bottle. Now, I have trouble with eye makeup. Regular liner doesn't stay put on the top; only liquid does. Eye shadow? Forget it. I've had to make do with putting only lighter colors right above my lid, but that's weird and doesn't allow me to play with all the fun colors and techniques. Neither Merle Norman's nor mark's primers have helped. But Urban Decay . . . oh, I swoon. Shadow generally starts to crease not two minutes after I put it on, but I've had this Urban-Decay-primer-enhanced one on for about three hours, a portion of that out walking in the 90 degree sun. And it's still on. I'm thrilled; I'm ecstatic; I'm amazed.

Getting home, I must've been suffering ill-effects of my American breakfast: I was craving a greasy lunch. "What do I have that's greasy?" I wondered without hope. Ah -- I put a veggie burger to heat on the stove, two slices of Trader Joe's Whole Grain bread in the toaster, added a slice of cheese, and got a couple of sticks of celery to add to the side. Yes, that was my "greasy" lunch. Very beautiful, though. 

Now, I think my geology textbook (and subsequent quizes) call to me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Phantom Once Was Grotesque

I just watched the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera last night. (On Netflix, yes; I told you I'm addicted to it).

I'm a big fan of the recent movie-based-on-Andrew-Lloyd-Webber's-musical, and I also found the book itself . . . interesting. While the former is a great musical/love story spectacle, the latter is a strange evoking of that fascination for the grotesque. Gerard Butler (in the Andrew Lloyd Webber) makes a great character for that particular piece, yet I sometimes wish that the musical I enjoy had some more of the qualities of the book.

Enter the 1925 version. Not only is it black-and-white (except for some blue, red, etc, tinted scenes), but it is also silent. There is instrumental music and some singing when appropriate, but the dialogue is shown on screen shots. We've all seen that . . . watched a whole movie like that, though? I hadn't. It's difficult at first, being so used to modern film, yet quite fascinating. The entire acting method is different. Actors couldn't rely on lines because they didn't come out of their mouths; mood had to be portrayed more physically. Speaking of the physical, there is also a whole different mise-en-scene than a modern movie has.

But what I'm more interested in is the phantom himself. Gerard Butler isn't bad-looking, and his mask only covers half his face, making it easier to forget that he is a horribly disfigured monster. When we finally see it off, it just looks like he's recovering from a couple of burns; he doesn't look grotesque. But the 1925 phantom does. Sure, he might be a little laughable to a modern audience, too, but can anyone deny that he looks creepy? And acts creepy, evil, and pitiable like the book phantom does. Going along with this idea, you can actually see Christine's book perspective on him. First she thinks she's her angelic teacher, then he's mysterious and frightening, then she gets to see both the black part of his soul and the part that wishes it could be good and received by the world as good. None of this love triangle thing like in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (not to criticize that choice: it works well within the framework of the separate story he created).

It seems that no one who creates a portrayal of this book tries to make it the book; the 1925 did some things I really liked, while remaining different. I did, however, enjoy having a character (Leroux was his name, I think) much like the book's the Persian. I always liked the Persian; there is something slightly humorous to his scenes as he shows Raoul around the phantom's crooked lair. I actually got a little giddy when I saw that the mirrored torture chamber was in this movie. I love the bizarreness of that scene, so it was wonderful seeing it on screen. (Off-topic: I've actually been in one of those mirror-rooms, this one was lit only by strings of white Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. I was excited to imagine I was in the book, but as soon as I got in and couldn't find my way to the door on the other side, the irrational adrenaline kicked in. I chickened out and followed along the wall to the door.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Have School Spirit?

I don't know how other schools work, but here at ASU, we have a "tradition" of whitewashing the A (up on a little slope, like the letters for cities are), before classes start up; it gets painted yellow again after the first home game. I'm not usually involved in things like this, but somehow I found myself there today around 4:15. AKA the middle of the afternoon.

What was the high today? Low, actually -- it's been around 110 lately; I don't think it rose that much today. But there was an intense thunderstorm last night, so there was lingering humidity. And 103, 110, what's the difference when you find yourself climbing a desert hill under the afternoon sun? But, you know, I wasn't really hot; I was more thirsty since I somehow decided to leave my water bottle in the car. But I had just drank plenty before that, so neither was that such an issue. Rather, it was a nice time.

I know I'm strange, but the plants up there were pretty: stick shrubs and cactuses. Plenty of fun rocks, too. Whitewashing the A didn't take up much of our time; it was more a matter of getting up to the top where we wanted to be, then taking the right pictures with all the right cameras. And then getting down again. (I outsmarted everyone by taking the best path while they toiled in the rocky area, but that doesn't surprise you, does it?)

The point of my little story? There is fun to be found in life. Even when you're not trying to find it, it'll slow down for you; the thing is to be ready when you have the chance.

Monday, August 16, 2010


1. I started a new blog yesterday called Bella Swan Reporting. It is perhaps more delirious than this one. Check it out here.

2. The Hillywood Show has released a teaser trailer for their Eclipse parody. It's short, but does gear you up for the real thing (which I'm really looking forward to). Watch it here.

3. Did I say Emma Shapplin's new album, Macadam Flower, was only okay? I changed my mind; I'm loving it.

4. I am now finished watching I Dream of Jeannie. That goes for the pilot, seasons one through five, and the two follow-up movies. I love this show, I love this show, I love this show. If the remake movie does come out in the next couple years (like for Get Smart and Bewitched), I may have to see it on opening day. But I'll probably be disappointed, anyway. Only Barbara Eden, Bill Daily, and Larry Hagman can do it right. There's such a delicate balance in this show, and it's so sweet, that it's hard to imagine it in anyone else's hands.

5. I have finally started reading Charlotte Bronte's The Professor. It seemed a drier book than the rest, which is why it took me so long to pick it up (it's been on my shelf for years). But it's just as amazing so far as her others. More when I finish it.

6. I realize why kitchen sinks are generally built in front of windows. There is something depressing about standing in front of a wall while you wash dishes; it makes the task much harder to get into. (As you can guess, the sink in my apartment faces a wall, not a window).

7. Summer will be officially over for me on Thursday. Lovely. I just can't wait to get back to reading, writing, reading, writing all day. (Excuse my pessimism: I don't hate it all that much).

8. If I think of two more things to say, then this will look a more complete list at 10 items.

9. There is a strange wind blowing outside. Strange because it has the appearance of cold, what with its accompaniment of clouds, yet is thick with warmth. Odd dessert.

10. I completed my second scrapbook yesterday and realize I have a tendency towards obsessions. I keep scraps, not pictures in my scrapbook. Pieces from hotels, napkins from planes, movie tickets. Then there are all the Disneyland maps, the Lord of the Rings and Narnia scraps, and now the Twilight ones. I don't think I want to face the facts about what this means about me . . .

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Liz's Latest

I count Liz Curtis Higgs among the few modern authors whose work I enjoy past the "good read" state. Her Bookends fell into the latter pile for me, but the Thorn In My Heart trilogy (and its add-on book, Grace In Thine Eyes) I found more compelling. Liz has a way of taking your heart, pulling it away, and twisting it all around -- you care about her characters that much. 

This spring, Here Burns My Candle was released. I fussed over not having the time to read it until summer came (forgive me for not being a speed-reader, but having to read books like The Mill on the Floss in two weeks on top of other work just doesn't leave much extra reading time for me). Then once summer did come, I found I needed a break, not more reading. So it took me a while to start. Then to get into the book.

Once I did, however, well, Liz did it to me again. Here Burns My Candle is loosely based upon the book of Ruth in the Bible, which means that if you know that story, you already know where the novel is headed. (As in, you already know who is going to die and how. . .) That should just spoil any suspense or tense emotion, right? Nope. In the beginning, I was sitting around waiting for it to happen ("Hello, dead character. When are you going to go ahead and die?"), but when it finally did, the moment was just as heartbreaking.

I find the angle Liz took with this story interesting. I assumed that mother and daughter would, from the beginning, have a natural kinship, leading to Ruth/Elizabeth's decision to stay with her. But Liz gave them a natural antagonism which builds into a deep bond as the two go through individual growth. 

Bringing a Bible story to late 18th century Scotland sounds . . . odd, but it's perfect. All the events that need to happen tie in, and Liz Curtis Higgs has done her research, from people and colloquialisms down to food and habits. Recommended if you like a good dramatic historical novel whose substance will last past the pages.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hooray For Hillywood

I've lost count of how many times I've watched The Hillywood Show. Their original fifteen episodes, behind-the-scenes, specials, Dark Knight and Twilight parodies, all.

On the 30th, their newest video, a parody of The Runaways, came out. It's short, but attention to detail is present as always. Check it out here. Also take a look at their website for everything else, including updates on events and new projects.

Note that The Hillywood Show is non-profit, and fan donations are what allow them to keep going. Their site has links to donate, along with merchandise (shirts, autographs, etc.) you can buy to help out. Filming started yesterday on their Eclipse parody, which we'll all be waiting very patiently for.

Eclipse Rundown

Time to give my opinion on all things Eclipse.

First is Stephenie Meyer's new The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella. One word best describes it: perspective. From the perspective of a minor (very, very minor) character in Eclipse and only lasting a couple hundred pages, this novella offers an entirely new look at things we've seen before. (It also gives us some things we don't previously know -- that's why it's its own book, after all). The second to last line, in particular, is amazing. It's a line from Eclipse, but the emotion it holds is so different because it is Bree, not Bella, hearing it. Poor Bree: I really do feel sorry for her now. The book was available to read online for a month, but now you'll have to buy it if you want to read it. Short as it is, it's completely worth it.

Now the soundtrack for Eclipse. When I listened to it before the movie, it was a surprising take: I had expected the songs to evoke more of the chaotic sense I get reading the book, but these were slower-type songs. Even after the movie, I wasn't convinced this one beat out the New Moon soundtrack. So many songs on there made the scenes they were in. "Hearing Damage," "Possibility," "Rosyln," "Done All Wrong," "Monsters," "Shooting the Moon," "Slow Life." I didn't initially get that sense this time.

However. Once I start the list, the evidence is against my assumption. "My Love" is perfect for the proposal scene, "Chop and Change" makes an interesting/not-what-anyone-was-expecting start to the movie, "Rolling In On a Burning Tire" is great for Victoria and Riley, "Life on Earth" made the right soft atmosphere, "Ours" and "Neutron Star Collision" are subtle but tact additions, and I love "Eclipse (All Yours)" starting off the credits. What's that? There are seven songs in each list? Well, maybe I do like the Eclipse soundtrack, after all. It just may be working up to my favorite to listen to apart from the movie, as well.

Now the movie companion. I said before that I thought the companion for New Moon was more informative than that of Twilight. The Eclipse one seems the best yet. It got very technical (though not in a way I couldn't understand) at times, really explaining what work went into the movie. As I've said, I really like behind-the-scenes of movies, so when something like this tells me things I don't know already, it makes me happy. Interesting was the way the actor quotes were worked in. Instead of threading them into the regular text, each actor had his own page with his thoughts on the movie. It's much simpler, in a way, and allows you to go quickly to your favorites. This book wasn't shy on the pictures, either, offering both stills and behind-the-scenes.

Last year, I made a list of "New Moon Musts." This year, I decided to make a less specific, more informal list. Three things I find in Eclipse the book: chaos, choice, and backstories. The choice was definitely in the movie, particularly with Jessica/Anna Kendrick's wonderful graduation speech (I don't mind that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg chose Jessica instead of Eric to give the speech . . . I really prefer it this way). The backstories were there. They're some of my favorite parts in the book, so I was pleased that the same went for the movie. Nikki Reed really showed us Rosalie this time around (I could never decide before whether I liked her approach or not; now I do). Jasper/Jackson was great. This was almost the first time we saw Jasper, and I loved it. The Quileute bit was a refreshing change of scene, amazingly detailed.

But the chaos? I didn't expect a problem with this, but walking out of the first viewing, I didn't feel I'd felt it enough. Everyone is at each other's throats in the book, including Edward and Bella at certain points. It's not the same in the movie, yet I think the audience still gets the clue. We already saw Edward and Jacob almost fight at the end of New Moon . . . we know there is tension. So it isn't a major deal.

Things I liked: Jodelle Ferland was perfect as Bree, though I wish the "Don't watch" line hadn't been ommitted and all of Edward's lines concerning her given to Esme. The fight-training scene was another of my favorites (did I forget to mention its song?), loved almost everything about it. The Florida bit with Renee was slightly tweaked, yet I found it a very sweet moment. Bryce Dallas Howard as Victoria, Xavier Samuel as Riley, Charlie Bewley's hilarious expressions and stances as Demetri, Maria. Howard Shore's score was probably the strongest yet, though most of the pivotal moments he didn't get to write for since soundtrack covers those.

Lastly: the "big three." I really, really liked what Kristen Stewart did for New Moon -- this time, I felt like the script didn't give her much to work with. The focus wasn't on Bella as much. It was on the newborns, the backstories, and even Jacob. The "you'd be better off dead" scene felt slightly off to me until I realized that it's more Jacob's perspective than Bella's. Now, Jacob. It may just be me (I'm not Team Jacob, after all), but I feel like Taylor's interpretation of the character is a little different from the book Jacob. Any minor problems I have with movie Jacob aren't with Taylor's acting, just some of the choices he or the director made. Then Edward. I've liked the way Robert Pattinson has handled the character before, and Eclipse only added to that. My favorite line he delivered was the "I might actually like you" one. It included every nuance of the Edward/Jacob relationship. That scene, as well, was perfectly handled in general.

My final thougth: I saw the movie first in a regular theatre, then in a Harkins Cine Capri, then in IMAX. The sound of IMAX is superior and the bigger screen helped with the vampire-speed effect, but my conclusion is that the Cine Capri was best. It's big without being exaggerated.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Return of Emma

I'm so excited. 

Had I mentioned that I'm a huge fan of Emma Shapplin? Her musical style has, in the past, combined the classical and operatic with more pop/new age whatnot -- creating a style all her own. There are other people, yes, who experiment with classical crossover, but none that I've seen who do so as drastically as Emma while still maintaining such quality vocals. 

Her previous two albums I've enjoyed again and again, but with the years going by and nothing new coming (not even posts on a website), I was beginning to think she was gone forever. 

And then what did I find two weeks ago? Emma Shapplin's newest album, Macadam Flower, came out last year. And I didn't know. Imagine. Don't fault me for being so behind: I had no regularly-updated website to go to, and all the places I occasionally searched for her on were U.S.-based. This album, as yet, has no U.S. release, so it was only happening upon her new music video on Youtube that informed me of its existence.

The music video I wasn't sure on. It's much more a pop song than her previous work. Searching a bit more, I grew concerned. I'd thought that whatever stylistic choices Emma made to accommodate her artistic needs and desires, I could be sure of her voice as the constant. But she sings differently on this album. Is she gone forever to me just as if this album had never been released, as I'd feared?

Not quite. It took a little getting used to, but I'm really liking Macadam Flower now. Sure, it might not be what keeps us coming back for more, yet that doesn't mean it has no value. Emma's poetic self comes through strong as ever (if not more since a few of the songs are in English, and I hence need no translation for them). Each song creates an atmosphere; that's what I enjoy.

I had always wondered what Emma used to sound like when she sang for a rock band back before her first record. Perhaps "Reptile" and "Jealously Yours" have a similar strain? (Note: these two may well be my favorite of the album. "The Hours On The Fields," "Absolu," and "My Soul" are all great, too. . . "Nothing Wrong" also starts to grow on you. . . I know, that's half the CD).

For Emma Shapplin fans, it's a must, if only as an observation of her style. For the newcomers, as well, I hope it will please.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So I'd Thought

I wonder -- why is the spring semester the colder of the two when its name evokes warmth, and the fall semester the warmer when its name sounds cold? Classes are already over, and the weather hasn't even reached 100 yet. (Though, I'll admit, it has seemed to be cooler this year.) But when next semester starts, there will be two three months before I even think about donning a sweater again. So why will that be the "fall" semester? Curious.

During my last couple weeks of this semester, I was busy writing. And writing. And procrastinating. Something good did come out of my procrastination, though. I've always loved "I Love Lucy," and I've been a fan of "Get Smart" for several years; I feel more loyal to older TV shows than new ones. Now I have discovered "I Dream of Jeannie." Not that I had never heard of the 1960's show: I just never watched more than one episode. But I found Seasons 2 and 3 on Hulu, and now I'm a fan. And then I realized it was high-time I opened up a Netflix account, which would allow me to go back to Season 1 and eventually 4 and 5. Now I'm hooked on Netflix.

It is a strange thing, yes, that so soon after classes end (and my consequent rejoicing over not having to read for them anymore), I should move into my own reading, but that is the way of it, after all. I started with Twilight: The Graphic Novel since that's half pictures, anyway. I've never read a graphic novel; I don't like any comics or cartoons much. The idea of a whole book in this format has always seemed, well, wasteful and perhaps (I mean no offense) immature. But I had never so much as picked one up, had I?

It was my enduring support of Stephenie Meyer that led me to get this book, but I came out with some appreciation for the graphic novel format. I was amazed at how artistic it was. The colors, the positioning, the way that movement is implied. Everything on the page is formatted so as to render the tone visually. The blood-typing scene was one of my favorites: I was tempted to get woozy right along with Bella. My complaint, still, is that the dialogue has to be chopped up for length's sake; at certain points, it feels like vital things are left out. But I suppose this won't be a problem if, like me, the vast majority reading this book already have the original practically memorized.

Today I finished my second summer read: Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess. I read her Leftovers a few months ago, and praised its language and uniqueness, while not wholly enjoying the content (though the first two were enough, to me, to overpower this). Such a Pretty Girl I may have liked even more. Still a fresh read -- stylistically. Also some great themes: we see the mind of another teenager, Meredith this time, who is struggling to find her own power among people who have no care for her as an individual. Still a rather depressing read, but there is such empowerment in it that I think did add to myself.

Thus begins my summer with better results than my expectations. Next up is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.