Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tears for Books

Yesterday, I was at a Barnes & Noble that will closing on the last day of the year. This was the closest major bookstore to where I lived much of the time growing up; my family was very excited when it opened, though it was still about forty-five minutes away. I wanted to visit it to "pay my last respects" before the closing. It was positively depressing to walk through isles of empty shelves and to hear the workers talking about how they wanted to be the ones to race to buy the last book (as opposed to the usual race to buy a store's first book). The sad thing, too, is that there really aren't any other bookstores in the area. At least I know that the Barnes & Noble next to where I now live is in no danger of closing.

But I know that more and more people are now buying eBooks or getting them off of Amazon (where they are usually less expensive). I imagine this is why there are more novelty kinds of items at bookstores, like leather journals and the beautiful leather-bound classics Barnes & Noble sells; even if you don't use them, they're nice to look at. It's all understandable, but I much prefer physical books.

I just can't wrap my head around a digital book as well. It doesn't sit in my mind properly. Plus, physical books are easier to flip through; I know that you can do all sorts of word or quote searches with digital material, but there is something nice about having to do the searching work yourself. It keeps the mind actively engaged and makes you remember things in a different way. I'm not opposed to digital books, but they just don't work for me.

I also take so much pride in my book collection. A big starter for it (apart from the picture books my brother and I had when we were young) was Little House on the Prairie. I slowly collected that series, setting them in a neat stack by my bed. A couple of classics like Little Women and Black Beauty followed, along with Ann Rinaldi books and eventually Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Today, I love the variety my stuffed shelves offer; there are many genres and time periods represented, all decked out in their different covers. It's a beautiful collaboration they make, one that little icons on a Kindle or iPad wouldn't be able to replace for me.

So fare thee well, Barnes & Noble. I shall lament thy loss.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


We all remember the characters in literature who sold their hair for needed money . . . Jo from Little Women is the only one I read, and I could sympathize with her loss. It was around this time that I was a little obsessed with the 1800's, wishing I had been born then; while I still like that century, I've learned that I was born in the century I need to be in. But back then, the idea of long skirts and hair down to the ankles was somehow appealing; in fact, I think this was when I started to grow my hair out longer. Currently, the longest layer is just reaching my waist. For the past four years at least, I have only been getting my hair cut enough to keep it clean-looking; consequently, it's able to grow longer each time. But being a short person, I wonder each time I get it cut if I should be getting it shorter so that my hair (which is quite voluminous already) doesn't overpower me. I always decide to let it keep growing just a little longer. I tell myself that I might as well enjoy long hair while I'm young.

But now I'm reconsidering the question, and also considering what my mom and I once talked about. Some people donate blood; some donate money. I don't really have a job yet, so the last one is out, and I don't even weigh enough to donate blood (let me post the reminder again that I'm short). But hair, I definitely have the hair to donate. Now I learn that my cousin's first grader daughter just donated her hair, all on her own idea. She is happy to do it, but I hesitate? My, my, the things we can learn from children.

I hesitate, though, when I read that you need ten inches in order to donate. Though that would still leave my hair just below the shoulders, that's a lot to cut off. I was looking at my hair (which is wavy from the braid I wore today) in the mirror, and the thought of having it "short" (though this would be a length I once thought was long) again was very sad. What a lot of love for her family Jo must have had to cut off feet of hair instead of inches, especially during a time when women's hair was expected to be long. Today, if I cut my hair, I am the only one who will feel the loss; I could leave myself with only three inches and still blend in with the crowd.

How concepts of appearance change over time; the humanity, though, does not.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hobbit is Coming

In case you haven't seen the new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you can take a look at it here.

I was a little startled this morning when I when on to check for news; it had been a while wince I visited the site, and I was reminded to only because I had seen a movie poster on someone's Tumblr for the first time. Instead of seeing more movie posters, of course, I found the trailer that came out yesterday. Seeing it one day isn't bad, but my, did that make me feel behind in news.

Initial thoughts on the trailer are positive, though there is still plenty we haven't seen. The dwarves look strangely unlike dwarves at times, but then, they are in Bilbo's small house most of the time. The use of the song for the trailer was nice: it adds that unique touch that standard-type trailer music wouldn't give. And I love the placement of Gollum at the end: I think we're all curious how Gollum is going to look this time around, and the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter is a favorite in the book. That also seems to show that the movie will, in fact, split quickly after that scene; tonally, this should be a good spot.

I had to smirk at the shot showing Gandalf and Galadriel together; were they hoping that casual filmgoers wouldn't notice so much who the characters are, but would instead think there's a love story involved in the movie?

Especially in the first half of the trailer, I can sense the lighter mood that The Hobbit has in general versus The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo also seems to have that same itchy kind of energy he had in the trilogy.

Hmm, the more I think about this, the more I realize that much indeed is kept from us in this trailer. Sure, it's only for the first half, but we still have no glimpse of the trolls or the goblins/orcs or really much at all from the travels outside of Rivendell (Edit: I was wrong about this--we do see a little of the trolls). I imagine that not only do they want to keep some things secret for now, but these are also the scenes that need heavy CG work, so I'm sure they're not ready to be viewed yet. I'm expecting all the computer work to be polished, polished, polished.

It'll be curious to see how the rest of the marketing material works out in the next year. This trailer gave something of a sense of going back for a little visit to the place you loved, implying a degree of familiarity but also newness and lightheartedness but also with depth of its own.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December Favorites

I don't know if I will ever do any more Favorites posts, but I want to now, so I shall. These are completely random things I have been enjoying, complete with links to buy them.

1) I mentioned my new love for Revlon's Just Bitten Lipstain (I have it in Passion and in Twilight) and Burt's Bee's Tinted Lip Balm (which I have in Pink Blossom). Add to the list Tarte's lip colors. Last month, my mom and I split a set of them (which is basically five for the price of one); I ended up with the Lip Lusters in Glitzy and Flashy. If I were choosing individually, I would go for the Matte Tints instead; as it is, I like these two for when I'm not wearing very visible eyeshadow (or maybe none at all). They have a nice feel, the packaging is pretty, Tarte is a fairly natural brand, and you can layer on either more or less color as best suits the moment. Of course, the more you add, the longer it will last.

2) My new Aldo boots, a sort of pre-Christmas gift. They're black leather, a couple inches or so above the ankle, accented with Victorian-esque details, and have black laces. I love that this is a shoe that is very "in" and is also one that speaks to me personally (I do love the Victorian things); it's also very comfortable since its heel is very tiny. This is a very wearable shoe: I can put it with jeans, tucked in or out, or add it to dresses or skirts. Wonderful.

3) A week ago, I got Starship by StarKid on DVD. I know I can just watch the musical on their YouTube channel, but it just seems so much nicer to have the DVD (and I know it helps them when people purchase merch). I was also thinking about that newish TV of my parents; almost as soon as I got to their house, there I was, putting in my new DVD and finally seeing the StarKids on a real screen. I may have to watch it again before I leave.

4) I just learned how to curl my hair with a straightener. I am in awe. What also amazes me is that the look reminds me more of what you get when you roll your hair up into little bunches overnight; it has that almost old-fashioned type of look. I was never able to experiment with this before because my straightener was several years old and therefore of the thicker variety; now, however, I have this very nerdy one. Let me assure you that I only bought it because I had been wanting a new straightener and this one was half the price of the others I would consider getting. Anyway, I would rather have a hair straightener that only I see that says "Twilight" on it than a T-Shirt that I wear outside where everyone can see it. (Not that I wear T-Shirts, anyway, really.)

5) I have been a fan of Blondfire for some time now; they recently released a new single called "Where the Kids Are" that has been getting a lot of attention. It has an airy sound, a little more like Metric than some of their previous songs. A full album is coming soon, too, and I'm quite glad because, while their music has great replayability, I have now heard their songs so many times over the years that it'll be nice to have some new things.

6) I got very behind on reading Vogue this fall, so I have been catching up on issues instead of reading other books (I'll have enough reading once the semester starts again--for now, I just need a break). I finally finished with October, now it's on to November; I hope to also finished the December issue before December is actually over.

7) The color green. Need I say more?

8) Gingerbread cookies. Every year, I make a couple batches of these, enough for the family and enough to share. Everyone always loves them, though I can take no credit for inventing the recipe: I Googled it years ago and chose one of the first things that came up. But it's a great recipe because it's sweet and rich enough, also being the right amount of soft instead of crunchy. Gingerbread cookies can be hard enough to find at all in stores; when you do find them, they usually tend to be the crunchy kind, which I don't find as nice. Yet most people don't seem to make them themselves, so I have the advantage of uniqueness there.

9) The stars. Ah, I adore being able to see more than a few from my parents' house versus in the Phoenix area. I hate not being able to look up at the sky at night and see stars; I hate it so much that whenever I'm here, I go to peer out the window in the kitchen every night before going to bed. I think I have to assure myself that the stars really are there, waiting to be seen by me.

10) I'm not one of those people who like school. Don't get me wrong, I like what I'm studying and I'm grateful, but school stresses me out. It's good to have my mind occupied, but I like a little quiet time, too. That, I feel, gives me more space to feel other, more positive emotions. I have time to stare out the window or to go outside and enjoy the tableau of the surrounding mountains. And I can think about the people who inhabit this land that I love. It's a lovely place we live in, and so is the word "we" because of the unity it stands for.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Darth Hamlet

I quite like Star Wars. I grew up with the original trilogy, so it was so familiar to me that it was a while before I could sit back and say, wait, I do like these movies simply for themselves not jut because I have watched them so much. One of my good related memories is from when my brother and I were in elementary school; we turned on Return of the Jedi and sat in front of the TV with legos out, building the scenes as they showed up on the screen. That two and a half hours passed by quickly, I can tell you. Can you imagine the creativity we must have had? There was no spare moment to think about what we were doing; we just had to keep going to not miss anything. Ah, the things children are capable of doing.

I'm now at my parents' house for the holidays, and Star Wars was playing on TV. Even though we own all but Episodes II and III, I had to watch an hour or two just because of the crispness of the image quality. The TV is new (they just bought it this summer), and the difference between VHS quality and HD quality is, well, like the difference between not wearing my glasses and wearing them. As I was watching and gloating over how wonderfully literary Darth Vader's character is (which I certainly didn't notice when I was in elementary school), another of my comparisons occurred to me.

I was thinking about how Anakin made his decision to kill the Emperor a couple decades late. If he had killed him years ago, Padme wouldn't have died and the Republic wouldn't have fallen. But, no, it is only years later that he finally pulls himself together enough to make the right choice (and realize what "right choices" are). That sounds a lot like Hamlet to me.

Hamlet also delays action. He wants to gather all the information first, he tells himself, so he plays with all the characters and doesn't kill his uncle until the very end when it is almost too late. Like Anakin, he loses Ophelia and his own life in the entire process. Both of them have trouble knowing how to deal with relationships and how to jump into the right actions (since Anakin certainly acts, though not in the right ways).

How utterly tragic these two are.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breaking Dawn (Finally)

(Note that this isn't a review of the movie, just my thoughts on it--my random thoughts, like it says in my profile.)

Back when New Moon came out in theatres, it was my first semester of college and also my first time in quite a while actually living close to a theatre (I don't count the tiny local one). As a result, I went to see that movie a few times total because if I was coming home from class feeling a little unhappy (what with the whole adjusting thing) and getting rained on (as the weather is also doing this year), I would console myself by going to watch this movie again, glad that I could do so. It seemed like I would always watch the movie when it was rainy and I was in a bad mood. It was something of a tradition.

Yesterday, I had my last final for the semester, so I celebrated by some final bits of Christmas shopping . . . and it was also raining. I scowled at the rain and thought of a Harkins gift card in my wallet, finally finding myself at the 1:00 showing of Breaking Dawn. It took me a month to go and see this movie again after my first viewing on opening day.

As I give my thoughts on the movie, I must admit in all fairness that out of the four books, Breaking Dawn probably isn't my favorite; Twilight is, and its adaptation is also my favorite. I would pass this off as coincidence, but is it, really?

The problem I have is that, in my opinion, it seems like everything that could have gone wrong with splitting Breaking Dawn into two movies did. Sure, you can spend half hour on the wedding, but is it necessary to? Etc. And as I watched the second time, it seemed to me that the splitting caused a change in the primary "problem" of the story. The main problem of the book is the threat of the Volturi, but it seems that that problem has been pushed over to Part 2. The problem in place of it for Part 1 is the pregnancy . . . and, yes, it is still a conflict in the book, but not in the same way. What happened to Edward (and all the Cullens, for that matter) trying not to upset Bella or show how much he is hurt by what's happening to her? The added scene in Carlisle's office/hospital set up may show some of what the characters are thinking, but having Edward yell at Bella and then simply walk away from her? That's very out of character, only adding "movie conflict."

And I wasn't very happy with the changes made to the conflict with the wolves. They're subtle changes, perhaps, that have to do mostly with timing. Yet I find them unnecessary. The only purpose they seem to serve is to add bits of action, especially with that final fight sequence. But let me ask, was action necessary in this moment, coming just after the birth scene? Though I like a little of it, I don't watch Twilight for the action; that's for other movies to focus on, in my eyes.

I'm also wondering from whose perspective the infamous birth scene actually is. I know Bill Condon decided to shoot it, physically, from Bella's perspective, but watching that scene, I don't get the sense I get from reading that chapter as Bella tells it. Nor even as Jacob does, for the most part. Bella is essentially passed out, living in her own world of pain and blackness as she tries to remember the people she loves that she must stay alive for. And as Edward and Jacob work to keep Bella alive, Jacob is feeling the loss of his attachment to her--because, as we come to realize, his attachment has transferred itself to Renesmee. Those things aren't really what I get from that scene in the movie.

I also really missed seeing the slowly burgeoning friendship between Edward and Jacob, starting with their "deal" that the latter will kill the former when/if Bella dies. They develop a camaraderie of sorts over their attention to Bella, which sets us up for their relationship to each other in the second half of the book. If the book was split into two movies, I don't feel like something like this should have been left out.

I know, I broke my pledge not to dwell overly on pessimism. But the thing I have realized is that I like the books, and I like the first movie; after that, my interest begins slowly to dwindle. All the same, here are some things I did like.

I like what we have seen of Renesmee so far. Renesmee has to be right since she is the wonderful thing that makes all of the weird plot points seem not to matter so much. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her next year. Also along the lines of CGI, Bella's transformation was interesting to see; this is an example of something we don't really see in the book that the movie is able to show, and did show well.

The wedding speeches were funny, but watching the second time, I felt that they were more like deleted scenes material. Doesn't the fact that new bits like this needed to be added to the movie show that it wasn't necessary to split the book in two?

I know one critic complained that the movie is so dragged out that we even see Bella cooking at one point, but I liked seeing her cook for the first time. Bella is constantly in the kitchen in the books, whether it's making enchiladas to get her mind off of Edward in Twilight or washing dishes while talking to Jacob in Eclipse. I feel like this is a major character point. Around the same movie scene, I was thrilled to see Edward's handwriting for the first time, as well--the script is very similar to the font that the books use for his writing.

The inclusion of "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" at the wedding was a nice touch, although I wish that I hadn't known beforehand to expect it. I liked Kaure in the movie, although I do wish that her conversation with Edward hadn't been translated since it isn't in the book.

I think that's about it. I could certainly keep talking, but I don't want to make any more complaints--that would be ungrateful. And by the way, The Hillywood Show has met their fundraiser goal for their parody of the movie--I'm curious what angle they decide to use.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Waiting for Forever

The other night, I watched Waiting for Forever on Netflix not because either the movie image or summary interested me in any particular way, but because a standard romantic comedy just seemed like the right thing for the moment. I didn't care whether or not I liked the movie much. But one of those moments happened: I had randomly chosen a movie that I ended up connecting with.

Some aspects of this movie reminded me of Benny and Joon, but carried out in a way I felt closer to. I won't give plot specifics, but will just talk in a more general way.

I really liked Will's character, and not just because I'm a "romantic" (maybe I am in some ways, but it's more than that). It's the literary idea. It's the concept of ideals. It's the image of how much a single thing in a person's life means, of how everything is important and makes an impact -- and some people see this impact more. Proof (I think) that I'm not just looking at this movie in the regular "romantic" way is that I don't think it necessarily had to end the way it did. I liked the ending, but it could have ended in many ways. Part of the point for me is that the ending doesn't matter so much as the how. It matters what Will thinks and feels and decides, not so much what the other characters do or how their actions affect his situation. It's his story, and the most important thing for his character is the emotion itself, not what accompanies it.

A nice movie (quite funny at times, too, if you click with the sense of humor). Some people will call it slow, but may I ask why you would want to only watch movies that pound and pound the adrenaline scenes as they catapult toward the ending? Movies can achieve on such a variety of levels.

(To further my idea that even romantic comedies can have variety, here are two other movies I've watched recently. The Yellow Handkerchief, with all its indie goodness, was silly and sweet and entertaining. Love and Mary I absolutely hated; there aren't too many movies I'll say this about, but I didn't even feel like finishing this one. So there it is: one movie I hated, one I loved, and one I was on middle ground about.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Support The Hillywood Show

I've realized that I don't talk about The Hillywood Show often enough, so I have decided to make it a point to talk about major news from them, whether this is a new parody, a new still from a parody, behind-the-scenes, or a fundraiser.

The latter is what is new right now. After how well their fundraiser for Harry Potter went, they have now started one for Breaking Dawn. Donations will go directly into the parody (except for 10%, of course, that goes to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital). And depending on how much you donate, you can also get products like wristbands, t-shirts, and props; everyone gets their name listed in the credits of the parody.

You can donate here.

One last note on the Breaking Dawn movie itself. As you can see, I have been putting off talking about it. If I posted immediately after watching it, I knew I would have more negative than positive things to say. Now it feels like it has been so long that I likewise know I need to see it again before I give my commentary. But I'm not really in any hurry to do that. So, yes, I will post on the movie eventually, but not today.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


What do I do when I don't want to write a paper? Blog about nothing. Consider this my attempt at Post-Modernism, if you will.

I have written an amazing one and a half pages out of a total of about five and a half. The bad thing is that it is 5:42 in the evening and this paper is due tomorrow morning. In my defense (since of course I must make a justification) is that tomorrow I have this paper due along with two final projects and their written defenses. The first of the final project pairs is done; the second project is almost done, with its written defense on my agenda for tomorrow. But I still have four more pages to write tonight about Paradise Lost.

I had meant to hang around campus for at least a couple of hours after class today, writing away. But it was cloudy today and the wind and the cold were growing, so I came home and wrapped the first Christmas present to go under the tree instead. Wrapping presents is much more fun than writing papers.

Now I sit at my desk and still find reasons to get up. Oh, it's time to turn on the light. Oh, I have to go get my power cord. My, but my fingers are cold. How am I supposed to type if my fingers are cold? So I go get my blue "Bella" jacket (yes, it is the jacket), deciding that ought to cheer me up. I pause to choose new music. I decide I can take the time to look up synonyms for words. I double check something on the assignment. I spend more time than necessary looking through my notes and secondary sources. I take another sip of the strange writing drink I have this time, Mayesa's Cacao Mint (which is rather good).

Then I write a couple of sentences. Then I check what length I'm at and recalculate how much I have left.

Then I wish that I could just extend my fingers at the laptop screen, hum, and see my thoughts all perfectly typed out. I have an outline, so why can't it just write itself?

I decide that looking up what percentage of my class grade this paper is worth might give me some motivation. It's 20%. Oh, that's not that much, I say to myself. I guess that didn't work.

But it's okay. I have six hours left before I go to bed: that's plenty of time to write four pages.