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.