Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Twilight the Graphic Novel: Volume 2

Last year, I commented on the first volume of the graphic novel version of Twilight, saying that the format was rather intriguing, even if I would only turn to it for something like this that I already like. I'm not out to read other graphic novels, but I did pick up volume two when it came out this month (okay, so I pre-ordered it on Amazon, but with a list price of $19.99, you didn't expect me to buy it in-store, did you?). Once I had the book, the best part may have been finally being able to do this with the two volumes:

Because the graphic novel format wasn't so new to me this time, I wasn't quite as impressed by the workings and artistry of it. However, it was still a nice way to spend a couple of afternoons. Some of my favorite visual renderings were the Bella's lullaby scene, a wonderful and hilarious shot (to go along with Edward's line about fabricating evidence for Bella's "fall" in Phoenix) of Alice leaping through a window, and the final prom bits. Carlisle's background was also creatively portrayed, and I loved seeing an image of the Cullen house much to closer to how the book describes it than how the movie shows it.

On the negatives, I was a little disappointed by the "Angel" scene. A page or two before, I suddenly realizing that one of my favorite chapters (from the book, that is--the graphic novel doesn't have chapters) was coming up, and I used that brief bit of time to build up some high expectations. It just wasn't the same. The part after they discover the bite was fine, but before that, I wanted more of that dreamy, woozy, other-worldy feeling of pain and contentment (which sounds very odd, I realize). And still, there are pieces of dialogue mixed up or placed in different scenes, so the graphic novels by no means replace the books. But they're interesting and done well, therefore being worth picking up if you either like graphic novels or can't get enough Twilight material.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Barbara Eden's Jeannie Out of the Bottle

Question. Am I reading more non-fiction these days? I hardly used to read any before. My theory on this observation is that most people tend to read non-fiction (versus fiction) because it is about something that interests them, and when you're younger, you're still figuring out what you like. In my teens, I read movie companions for movies I liked, but most of the non-fiction books I bought I never finished, if I even started them. Now when I buy one, I actually do read it, saying that it's because it's by such-and-such or it's about such-and-such. Because, that is, I am genuinely interested.

This spring, Barbara Eden published her autobiography, Jeannie Out of the Bottle, which I just finished reading tonight. What perfect timing for this book to come out, not so long after my "discovery" of I Dream of Jeannie. (This is the second Jeannie book I have read--the other was Dreaming of Jeannie: TV's Prime Time in a Bottle, which I don't believe I ever commented on here.) I was glad to get this book (which I seem to be saying often lately--am I that emotionally involved?), though it's worth noting that as an autobiography, I Dream of Jeannie is not its only subject matter. But I liked everything else, too, from learning about Barbara Eden's youth, her entrance into show-business, and her encounters with various big names. The Lucille Ball bit was interesting (one does love to hear about intersections between people from two shows one loves), if also sad. If you're wondering, Barbara Eden appears in the I Love Lucy episode "Country Club Dance," which I just watched this summer knowing for the first time that it was she in the role.

A couple of sentences caught my particular attention. Now, I knew that most everybody involved in the show (I Dream of Jeannie, that is) had been against the wedding in the fifth season. But I didn't realize this: "After all, I Dream of Jeannie's abiding theme was Jeannie's unrequited love for Major Nelson, his belief that she was just a figment of his imagination, and her stubborn insistence that she was real" (Barbara Eden, Jeannie Out of the Bottle, 2011). The first time I read that, I probably took it a little further than it actually is, but still. I don't know if I interpreted the show quite in that way. I always took delight in the fact that Jeannie and Tony adore each other, but often don't show it in the usual, obvious ways. Because, honestly, I don't see it as such a bad thing that they got married in the end. Although I don't think Barbara made any mention of this in her book, I've heard elsewhere (from more than one place) that the show was already under threat of cancellation; if that's the case, the wedding didn't change anything from that perspective. But it does allow for a kind of "happy ending" sense to the show; to me, it makes it so that it didn't really just end, it concluded.

Anyway, I must go and stow away another good book on my shelves. And, yes, that will be a feat in itself: there is hardly any spare space left, I have so many books.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm Not a Very Good Rebel

As soon as I caught up from my "I'm more behind in reading than I've ever been" state, I had two midterms (for which I would actually have to study, though I usually do fine without much studying) and two papers within eight days. The last paper was due tonight, so the plan was to write half of it yesterday and the second half today. But I was just so exhausted yesterday that when I sat down (more than once) to write, I just couldn't. It just wasn't working.

So I decided to rebel--I departed from my desk and watched Netflix while lying on my bed instead. I called it "recovering" and promised that I would work diligently on the paper the next day (today).

But when I got home today around one, I still didn't want to work on that paper. So I took the time to slowly finish a movie I had started, have lunch, and then watch some YouTube. I believe I was mentally making faces at the paper, thinking I was better than it because I was refusing to work on it. I didn't get out my notes to begin until about five o'clock. But I told myself that was okay: I could take an hour per page and still finish with two hours to spare before the due time.

I wasn't finished pretending to be rebellious, though. I made some coffee, poured it with a flourish into a teacup, served a square of almond toffee on a dessert plate, and started brushing on lipgloss at random, often intervals (I don't really wear this gloss much anymore--I never much liked lipgloss and now that I have discovered the superior Revlon Just Bitten lipstain and Burt's Bee's tinted lip balm, the couple of glosses I have sitting around have been officially neglected). I used these three elements as my "inspiration" to begin. Then lo, and behold, I finished the paper in less than three hours.

The verdict? That twenty-four hour time that I took off must have allowed the ideas to properly stew in my mind. And slight distractions actually aid in writing. I've talked a little before about either eating or drinking (as in coffee or tea or hot chocolate or acai juice, of course, nothing other) while writing, or listening to music. It's quite true, as well. Instead of actually distracting, I find that little things like this help me focus, ironic as that may be.

Oh, yes, and I've learned that I am a terrible rebel. Seriously, coffee, toffee, lipgloss, and Netflix? (And it was even black coffee, not some sugary concoction.)

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have been a fan of Hayley Westenra for what, five years now? Perhaps six. It was her album Pure that I first heard and fell in love with; her voice is absolutely wonderful to the ear. Her newest album, Paradiso, has finally been released in the US, and it leaves me satisfied.

What I love about Hayley (well, one of the things) is that even though she started out as a young artist and even though she has a background with classical crossover, she has made it a point to only keep on working harder. Her ability to control her voice has only improved over the years--because she has kept improving herself. She has not let herself be a part of a fad or a phase; she is here to stay.

Paradiso is a beautiful album, showing off her voice rather well. The background music is never too much to counter her, but adds an artful presence to the songs. May I say it again? Hayley has grown so much. This album reminds me of Pure in many ways, but reinterpreted with more knowledge and experience (I hate that phrasing; it sounds as if I am calling Pure immature, which I most certainly am not; I simply mean that Hayley has built up her career even more since then). There is a nice mix of languages, as well. English, Italian, Portuguese, etc. It is much more a straight classical album than Hayley has previously released, I would say, yet those who have enjoyed her work (even if for its crossover sense) will stay enjoy it. It's exceedingly balanced and well-produced.

"La califfa" and "Metti una sera a cena" are two of my favorites, but the one that most awakens my mind is "Amalia por amor." That song is stunning. It takes me places. . . I think I have created a whole emotional story around it. And it's great to hear Hayley singing in Portuguese; that's new and fun. (Did I just use the word "fun?")

Anyway, a fabulous album for fans of Hayley Westenra, of classical music, and of a calming yet absolutely clear voice.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fear of Hobbits

A most turbulent weekend I have had, though it has nearly all been spent chained to my desk: it is of the turbulence of words that I speak. Yesterday, I read The Tower of Beowulf for a good deal of the day, interrupted by fifty pages from The Book of Margery Kempe and the watching of the 1977 animated The Hobbit. This morning, I read the last twenty-four pages of The Book of Margery Kempe, following with some extra material for and the first third of the text of Peter Pan, then the last section of The Tower of Beowulf. After taking a break just now, I will return to read as much of Dracula as I can--I have only read seventy pages of it, but need to have it finished by Tuesday. Having so many intersecting stories is very emotionally draining--I don't know how English Lit. majors aren't any stranger than we already are.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I was spurred on by that 1977 movie to put into words what are my fears or concerns about the upcoming two-part version of The Hobbit by Peter Jackson.

You see, I have never had an over-abundant love for The Hobbit; it is in The Lord of the Rings that my true liking lies, and so I have never spent as much time in the pages of The Hobbit. But this semester, I read the annotated version of the book (for the same class that I watched the movie, of course). That was an absolutely great experience, highly recommended for Tolkien admirers. The brief study of this book also made me appreciate certain elements in it, like its heavy Anglo-Saxon inspiration. Now my concerns about the movie are still there, but perhaps different than before.

Before, I was filled with opposing things. The Hobbit has a definite "children's story feel" at most times, and I had trouble seeing this translate onscreen. I worried to see just a water-down Lord of the Rings landscape that didn't stand well as much on its own. But then I also thought that maybe an adaptation that drifted from the book would also drift from what I found less interesting in the book. Maybe, in other words, if it was not so much like the book, I would like the movie more.

I also had (and still have) concern over the two movie thing. There is such a trend of Part 1/Part 2's going on right now. The first installment of them with Deathly Hallows showed to me what can be problematic in this splitting. The first movie of that pair felt, to me, like it was lacking something; the second was mostly just one big finale. That doesn't mean they were terrible; it just means that their stand-alone, withstanding-time, rewatchability value changes. I have become convinced that the similar splitting of Breaking Dawn will not be the best thing, either.

I'd like to say the same for The Hobbit. HOWEVER, I have finally noticed that there is a definite change in tone halfway through this book. . . this will perhaps lend itself to the two-part format. But still, how will that work? Will we have a slight "children's story feel" Part 1 and a hearkening to The Lord of the Rings Part 2? Will the movies be very different or simply continuations of each other?

The Hobbit is, after all, probably very hard to adapt, as most good children's stories tend to be, in fact. There are so many balances to get right. I admit that I shuddered during most of the 1977 movie. Bilbo's eyes were disturbingly too large, the wood elves looked like some strange cross between apes and bugs (not to mention the king's constantly changing accent), and the music all sounded like the same seventies lilt, despite the setting. I say with a sigh (and I may have to force myself to remember this later) that whatever I end up thinking about it, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit should be the best adaptation so far. At least it should do justice to the original, treat it with some respect and understanding.

But the more appreciation I gain for the original book, the more I fear that it can never appear onscreen in quite the same way that it does on page.