Monday, December 31, 2012

December Favorites

1) Happ & Stahns Rose Alba Perfume - I asked for this for Christmas after falling entirely in love with the bottle at Anthropologie. It's almost as if I designed it: a vintage looking green bottle with a pin cushion top where you can put in the five pins they include? The scent is alright, but it's the bottle I most adore. It's perfect--much preferable to anything by Gucci, Dior, or whoever. It just looks like me.

2) Violet Body Oil - I also received this as a gift. I had never considered violet as a fragrance (this is basically a pure violet aroma), but once I put some on, it just felt right. It's a sweet smell, but with an edge to it. I wouldn't have guessed I'd like wearing the fragrance so much.

3) Chelsea & Violet Sweater - I picked this one up for myself with some post-Christmas money. At around $110, it was a big purchase, but I had seen it before and liked it. It's one of those chunky, basic sweaters that I feel will still be wearable years from now. I also like the dimension in the cream color.

4) Tarte Collection - This was Tarte's holiday set, including a set of mini lip glosses, a brush, an eyeshadow palette, a mini mascara, a mini blush, and a mini finishing powder. It all comes in this carrying case that has a built-in mirror. I've been trying to get more Tarte products, so I knew I had to get this one. I was most excited about the eyeshadows: much as I love Urban Decay's Naked Palette, I was feeling guilty about not using a natural eyeshadow. But I've also really been enjoying the blush, and the lip glosses have a nice selection.

5) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles - Hobbit, people, you've all seen or heard about this book. It is an amazing collection of pictures, concept art, and quotes by all the wonderful artists involved in the movie. At $40, it's a pricey but also a statement piece--though my copy comes from Costco, where it was nearly half off. A must for anyone who loves The Hobbit and moviemaking.

6) Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Balms Trio - I talked about getting samples of some of these before. Once your lips feel this lip balm, they will never let you go without it. It has such a luxurious, healing feel. The colors also absorb nicely, giving you a fresh and natural look. Honey is more for everyday, while Passion and Berry are a bit darker.

7) The Movie Theatre - I love going out to movies, whether it's by myself or with other people. This month, it's been all about The Hobbit and Les Miserables. Both were great for being themselves. (By the way, I will soon be comparing the 3D version of the former to the HFR 3D version.)

8) Leggings & Tights - When the Arizona winter is cold but not arctic, I like to wear dresses with leggings or tights and set up a layered look. It can help me not look like an eskimo when it's a little cold but the sun is still out and also offers more variety than just wearing jeans all winter long.

9) Tarte Lip Color Collection - I was so happy to get this set as a present: Tarte makes such nice lip colors. I also like that this set doesn't have wild colors: they're ones I know I can use for daily wear without feeling like I'm overdoing it.

10) Mini Telescope Necklace - I got this trinket years ago at World Market and decided I could string it onto a long chain to make it into a necklace. It's ridiculous, and it looks great against the canvas of my new sweater.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Mis & Sorrow Turned to Hope

Yesterday was such a funny day. It consisted of present-opening, pumpkin muffins, a last minute realization that we couldn't both cook the turkey and go watch Les Misérables, a decision to go watch the movie and then come home and cook lamb instead, an encounter with a sold out afternoon showing that led to purchasing the evening showing and barely finding a restaurant other than Denny's that was open at 4:00 on Christmas for dinner without reservations, and finally a late viewing of the movie. It was a day of randomness, but also an entertaining one.

I would probably preface my thoughts on the movie by explaining that I do like musicals, but that's a difficult statement: musicals are as diverse as anything else and I can either like one or not depending on other factors besides just the involvement of music. Movies-wise, I like The Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd, but found West Side Story boring. It just depends.

I also wasn't previously very familiar with the story of Les Misérables. The book is on my mind's list of books to read someday, but so are many others. And musicals don't tend to be terribly much like the books they're based on, anyway, do they? (Which I am not saying is a bad thing, just a fact.)

Les Misérables was filled with music, but not so much of the musical number variety; songs, instead, took the form of dialogue sung instead of spoken. It was the combination of the music with the actors' performances that made this movie such a piece of artwork. The one thing I think we all know about the story is that it's very sad material, and the actors all brought so much passionate emotion to their performances. Their singing was often tearful, but never fabricated.

This story was something of an ode to me. It's an ode to sorrow and oppression and an ode to the one thing that can have meaning under such conditions, love. Although the theme of love makes it a fitting movie to come out on Christmas day, it could also have come out on the Fourth of July for its themes of endurance, independence, and strength of resolution. These characters--I think it must be these characters that make this story compelling. While some I see as symbolic figures, others are so real--we feel their sorrows and hope so much for the world to change and grow better for them. Which brings us to the final note: the hope for the future that this story leaves us with. And that, further, fits in with the approaching New Year. A New Year for new hopes and new chances.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 12

For the second time, the team has come across a miniature Triceratops only to find that it is a cookie, a product of my silly, dinosaur cookie cutter.

Gingerbread cookies have long been a Christmas tradition of mine, one all the more endeared because few people seem to make them. And most of the ones you can buy are too crunchy or just don't taste right. I quadrupled the recipe this year so as to have plenty for sharing; since I was making so many, I thought it wouldn't be too ridiculous to make a few gingerbread dinos, too. I'm sure Connor would approve.

Happy Christmas tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Wreath of Snow

Author of the Thorn in my Heart trilogy and more recently the Here Burns My Candle and Mine is the Night pair, Liz Curtis Higgs released this past November a new historical fiction novella. While her previous historical fiction books have been set at an earlier time period, A Wreath of Snow takes place at the very end of the nineteenth century, though it is still set in Scotland. 

Since it's a novella, A Wreath of Snow is also a short two hundred or so pages, with a small amount of words on each page. And since it is, more specifically, "a Victorian Christmas novella," its short length makes it ideal for a casual holiday read. It only takes a few hours to read. While I've enjoyed some of Liz's previous novels for their heightened, frank emotions, A Wreath of Snow isn't quite so drastic. This, again, makes it fitting for a warm, vacation story.

Not to say that this story won't make you feel anything. While it, naturally, has a bit of a love story, it is the story of family that comes most into focus. It's a story about familial love and about bitterness and forgiveness. It's about all those emotions that come into being at the Christmas time of year--and the emotions that should come into being during this season.

The pretty, red and white book also happens to be a hardcover, making it perfect for a last minute gift.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keychain Productions: New Vlogs & Website

I do love supporting (often random) artists, from Blondfire to The Hillywood Show to Keychain Productions.

Keychain Productions is the little team of filmmakers (including Andrew Lee Potts) who made such videos as the Little Lilly series and Bubble Wrapped. More recently was Little Larry, which was a sort of accompaniment to Little Lilly.

Today, Keychain released two new videos: a vlog and a behind the scenes for Little Larry.

As you can see from the vlog, Keychain has a new website,, where you can read about the team, watch their videos, donate, and all that sort of thing.

As per my love of supporting artists, I just wanted to give this update on Keychains today. It looks like there are plenty of new things in the works, and of course I'm always happy to get vlogs and behind the scenes. I get too excited when a new video by them shows up in my YouTube subscription box. So check out their website, check out their films, and let's sit and wait for more, shall we?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Harken Preview Chapters: So It Begins

Hopefully you've all been keeping up with my posts on Kaleb Nation's upcoming novel, Harken. This afternoon, the first three chapters of the book were released online (the book comes out on 1/13/13).

Harken is already distinguishing itself from the Bran Hambric books. These first three chapters are edgier and less quirky, but still intriguing. There are layers of mystery and some unexpected twists, including the reason why there is an eye hidden in the "a" of the book title. And Chapter 3 does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving us all counting down the next month before the book comes out.

Until then, head over to and download the preview chapters for yourself. It'll be an hour or two's reading well spent.

Also, don't forget to add Harken on Goodreads

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: as Rich & Complex as Tolkien

Let's get one thing straight: this movie is all about intertexuality and the ethos of the myth. Got that? Alrighty, then.

In many regards, The Hobbit is amazing. It's about as flawless as a movie can be and gives further confirmation that Tolkien is safe in Peter Jackson's hands.

We all knew that he wasn't setting out to create only the experience of reading The Hobbit before Tolkien's other Middle-Earth writings. In a way, there's little need to do so. If the movie comes after The Lord of the Rings, why pretend otherwise? The beauty of Peter Jackson's approach is that what he does cinematically is much like what Tolkien does on page.

Tolkien's writing (in general, not referring specifically to The Hobbit) is dense. I've loaned people The Lord of the Rings only to have them return it to me unfinished. Although Tolkien now gets literary recognition (which has actually happened fairly quickly, if you consider how long it sometimes takes other books to become "classics"), it's also safe to say his style isn't for everyone. Peter Jackson is able to put these movies together as richly dense concoctions, as well. Occasionally, yes, I felt like the movie was dragging just a bit (it is rather long), but isn't that what reading Tolkien is like, too? Sure, we love the professor for his complexity, but you have to admit that that complexity results in a multi-faceted experience. Just like PJ's movies.

Because think about it this way: Tolkien was constantly rewriting his work. He wanted to rewrite The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings was published, but his editors stopped that idea. So if we consider The Hobbit as an unchangeable text, we are doing what Tolkien himself did not do. This goes along with what I said yesterday about the different versions of the story Bilbo tells--you can read that post here (and I was exactly right in my prediction, I might add).

Peter Jackson and Co. did drastically change the text of the published book The Hobbit. But there is reasoning behind every single change.

What this movie was to me was an additional story set against the backdrop of Middle Earth, telling more about its characters and its peoples. If The Lord of the Rings is about Men and The Silmarillion about Elves, The Hobbit is about dwarves. This culture that was only somewhat alluded to in the original trilogy becomes more detailed and characterized in this movie, in much the same way that readers of The Lord of the Rings come to learn more about dwarves when they go on to read the Appendices. We also hear more about Gandalf's early investigation of the Necromancer, who is of course Sauron regaining strength. While all this detail isn't necessarily needed for the story of The Lord of the Rings, it is another aspect of this world that it is nice to be able to see. The complexity of including this miniature plot line mirrors Tolkien's constant rendering of Middle Earth as a vast, complete world with a rich history and mythology. Plot lines do interact, which is why no one reads The Silmarillion before The Lord of the Rings (and many people never read it at all), but going on to read The Silmarillion will further illuminate aspects of The Lord of the Rings. You see what I'm getting at by "intertexuality?"

Moving on. The casting of Martin Freeman was great: he portrayed both the silly, sort of cute, little Bilbo who is nothing but a hobbit out of his hole. But he also hinted at Bilbo's journey, his discovery of courage and the friendships he makes while he is away from the Shire. And Gollum. Goodness, Gollum. Any minor CG shortcomings the first time were solved: that's Gollum onscreen, not any fabrication. His skin and the way his mouth moves are amazingly well-rendered. And, yes, once again Andy Serkis did what no one else would be able to do with the character: "Riddles in the Dark" was every bit as creepy and delightful as it is on page. The CG was also probably the best I've seen on other aspects of the movie: the Goblin king, the Wargs, the trolls, the glimpse at Smaug, and am I missing anything?

Which leads us into discussing this movie visually. It was a visual feast, as even critics admit. Stunning, absolutely stunning. Like in the original trilogy, sets and locations are expertly designed and well chosen. The camera becomes a personality of itself, weaving in and around scenes and treating your eye to the best sights and angles. Cinematography works harmoniously with the 3D and .... the 48fps. Yes, I saw the movie in HFR 3D, and I don't know what people are talking about in saying that they just couldn't get used to it. Is it a generation gap? I don't know. And I realize that in order to properly analyze the 48fps, I would have to see the movie at a regular frame rate, too. But as it is, all I felt was that the frame rate enhanced the 3D element, smoothing out the visuals and all the movement of action or otherwise quick paced shots. It really was like looking through a window at the scenes--and how can I have a problem with that? What's wrong with being taken right into Middle Earth? Once again, the cinematography of this movie was stunning and beautiful. Not just what was framed in the shots, but the way the camera moved. And doesn't it make sense for visuals to be such a large part of the movie when descriptions are such a large part of Tolkien's writing?

This movie took all the chances and opportunities it could, which is why I think it is necessary to understand and admit what is going on in it from a literary standpoint. The critics aren't all keen about it because they say it stretched a children's book too far   But the reality is more complex. This movie, this trilogy, isn't intended to be just The Hobbit the children's book; it is a further look at the world of Middle Earth, framed around Thorin's and Bilbo's stories. It set out to achieve a certain effect, and it succeeded.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pre-Hobbit Thought

I'm so absurd. I posted about how, shopping at an antique store for Christmas presents last week, I found a picture that I really liked for myself but didn't buy because it wasn't in my plans. Well, today, I caved: after writing pages and pages for who knows how many essays in the last couple weeks and then taking a final this morning, I found myself back at the antique store headed toward my beloved picture. But it was gone. Tears. So instead, I bought more Christmas presents and a little $3 silk scarf for myself. That certainly wasn't the plan.

And that also isn't what this post is about. 

You see, it's difficult. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't reread The Hobbit again before the movie (I last read it a year ago, which I think is still recent enough), for the same two reasons I didn't reread Breaking Dawn. I literally haven't had the time this semester, and I think it will be better to view the movie on its own first. Then I can think about how it differs from the book. Because we know it will differ from the book.

So I'm also not going to do a list of things I expect to be in the movie or anything of that nature. But I do want to give one thought that occurred to me last night. It's the framing of the story. (Most people know about this by now since it was even in one of the trailers, but if you don't know what I'm talking about and wish to remain unspoilered, you may stop reading.) While on one hand, it's a little ridiculous to have Bilbo telling the story to Frodo, it also makes sense on a number of levels. First of course is to put The Hobbit into context for people who only watched The Lord of the Rings and know nothing of Tolkien's writing. But it also mirrors Tolkien's evolutionary thoughts on The Hobbit. We know, of course, that he wrote The Hobbit before The Lord of the Rings--then he had to come up with a reason why the first book was written as a children's story. This is why the "extra" material of The Lord of the Rings talks about how Bilbo originally told and wrote one story, but eventually Gandalf and Frodo were able to discern the true story, with Frodo (and I think Sam, too?) making notes in the margins of Bilbo's writing. 

So there are already, in Tolkien's writings, multiple Hobbit narratives, if you will. What Peter Jackson and Co. may in fact be doing is uniting these narratives, uniting the backdrops of rich historical detail with the simple children's story. That could be an interesting unity. 

Only about sixteen hours until I watch the movie and finally find out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 11

I title this segment "A Primeval Christmas."

Over at the ARC, someone brought in a tree to celebrate the season. I have my own guesses about which one of these three it was . . .

But then someone else showed up. It appears Connor was involved in bringing the green dinosaur as he seems to be quite friendly towards it. It is a little reminiscent of Rex, after all, isn't it?

The only thing is, this isn't Rex--it's my new ornament. After it greeted the Primeval team, it was time for it to find a place on the tree. Doesn't it look so happy, hanging on its branch and smiling? (If you want one--they're also in pink and blue--hurry/scurry over to ModCloth.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Harken Cover Reveal

Continuing with my theme of Kaleb Nation's brilliance in marketing, just minutes ago we received the release of the cover art for his upcoming novel, Harken. The cover release--this isn't even the book trailer, yet look at it:

Now we see why everyone was encouraged to write the book title on their hands; it seems obvious now, but I never considered that this image was the book cover. This cover definitely looks different from Bran Hambric--though does anyone else think that the curve in the "H" looks like the Hambric half moon?

My curiosity continues. 1/13/13

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Calming Antiquing

It's like my professors are trying to punish me.

You see, every semester seems to get harder than the last. And I wonder if part of that is because, subconsciously, I'm expecting more of myself each time. But the fact of it is, these last three weeks are a brutal end to a busy semester. It seems like there are at least three papers or other writing assignments due each week (maybe more--I'm avoiding counting). Yesterday I felt like I was literally going insane from my nonstop working (don't worry, I'm making up for it by dressing in some of my more insane outfits--hello vintage scarf and red lipstick I wore today).

But today I took the morning off (well, some of it, leastways). I did a little of my Christmas shopping--in an antique store like an insane person with an insane family who will enjoy presents from an antique store. It's a big antique store, too, so you can spend a long time there if you really want to look through all the items (and we all know that sometimes that's the only way you'll spot it). I think I only spent about an hour and a half, but my, what that hour and a half did for me.

It was better than therapy, extremely calming. My tired brain had just the right amount to keep it occupied but not overworked. Glancing through items, trying to picture them in people's houses, imagining stories for them, regretting that the really cool things are so expensive, just enjoying the moment. Oh, it was wonderfully refreshing.

Plus, I got two presents out of it (one of them is really good), and another item I'm very tempted to go back and get for myself. Maybe tomorrow . . . or next week? Or maybe I shouldn't . . . we'll see. Maybe it'll be my end-of-semester gift to myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"We've Been Searching Our Whole Lives"

Guess who I got to see last night--Blondfire (aka. "my indie band of choice" for a few years).

It was so strange: I only found out they were playing here at about 3:30 yesterday (the show was at eight) and they were playing ridiculously close to where I live (and I mean ridiculously). There were three bands playing, and Blondfire was right in the middle slot.

Although I knew that the brother-sister duo had been playing live with one or two other people, I was surprised not to see Bruce--he wasn't there and I just didn't see/recognize him, right? No, I think not. It would have completed it better to have both him and Erica, but I've been waiting long enough for Blondfire to come to Arizona that I'm not complaining.

They opened with "Walking With Giants" and went on to play the other three songs from their new EP and a few from the upcoming album, Young Hearts, including the title track and a song titled "Kites." Erica's microphone could have been a little louder in comparison with the other sounds (it was loud--my eardrums took a while to get back to normal after leaving the venue), but I was still beyond thrilled. Blondfire also only played for half hour--if they had had more time, I would have loved to hear some of their older songs. But once again, it was wonderful to hear this music live after waiting so long.

After they played, I got Erica to sign my copy of their first full length album, My Someday. This album came out four and a half, almost five years ago, so I think it was a testament to my love of Blondfire that I even own the physical CD.

Oh, yes, and the quote in this post's title is from "Hide and Seek," which is a song I've really been enjoying.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What Did Those Dwarves Do to Poor Bilbo?

It turns out that I was right when I guessed that The Hillywood Show's video based on The Hobbit (which they have titled "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Parody") would portray the Unexpected Party scene at Bag End, starring Hilly as Bilbo.

First for the things that I like about this parody. Despite the dozens of characters Hilly has played in the past, I was having a hard time picturing her as Bilbo--but she's hilariously cute in this role. And all those dwarves, what a makeup and costume extravaganza. They go into the infamous pile of well-done Hillywood characters. I enjoyed Hannah's Frodo cameo: it's randomness fits in well with how the movie is incorporating Frodo even though he isn't in the book. Gandalf's line at the end of the parody has perfect placement, a little twisting of lines/meanings.

But there are things I don't like, too. I hesitated over how to put it since I do support Hillywood so much, but it wouldn't be worth anything to anybody to only say positive things, would it? So here it is: I don't like the song choice or approach. One of the reasons that I got into Hillywood was because, in the world of YouTube and parodies, there are only so many clean and wholesome laughs, if you will. And while Hilly and Hannah have said enough about themselves in interviews/livestreams/etc. that I know they're not advocating everyone going and getting drunk and wasted, I would still rather watch something else. The concept works just fine with the scene, but I was anticipating something different from them. Something a little more Middle Earth in tone and such.

I still enjoyed the behind-the-scenes, though. This was an intense day of filming for this parody. So I'll sit back and enjoy the things I enjoy and not fuss over what I didn't like.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November Favorites

1) Bite Beauty Discovery Set - I stumbled on Bite Beauty while browsing, and it's very exciting to find another natural-y brand. This set has five deluxe sample sized lip colors. Most of them are fairly mild in tint, but one (Pomegranate) has a very bright, vintage red--not sure I'm ready to wear it quite yet. Musk is a soft pink very close to my natural lip color; Fig is a little more pronounced, but also one of my favorites. Shiraz has a little more of a wine tone to its light pink, and Retsina is a nude color. What I like about these is that they don't look like/act like "natural" lipsticks--they're just themselves, made with good ingredients.

2) Perfume - I know this was on my list last month, but I have since acquired these wonderfully-sized samples, along with a few more of the regular little sample bottles. Miss Dior and Flowerbomb are both a little powdery for my tastes, but they're still nice and I do love the bottles.

3) Express Jeans - It had really been too long since I had bought jeans: finding ones that fit right is a task I loathe. What I like about these is that, though they are skinny jean style (I think one of them is even a legging jean), they aren't too tight (at least, even size zero isn't on me). They're also a comfortable, flexible material. I usually wear them tucked into boots.

4) Yerba Mate loose tea - Really, why do Americans never drink loose tea? Oh, that's right, most "normal" stores don't sell it. But there's something entrancing about loose tea--not to mention lots of cute tea infusers. I'm using a boring one right now, but I shall have to change that . . .

5) Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap - Now, now, there is no rule that I can't include soap in this list. And this soap is worth the attention: I never buy any other kind. This one lasts longer, isn't harsh on your hands, has natural ingredients, and smells nice. And World Market sells it (Target, too, I think, and Whole Foods). I usually buy the lavender.

6) Christmas Decorating - I've decorated two full-sized tree and one tiny one I keep in my room, plus a couple of nativity sets and other trinkets. This picture is a silly vintage mouse I like to bring out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaking Into the Dawn

My over a week's delay in posting my thoughts about Breaking Dawn Part 2 has not, in fact, been because I was unhappy over the movie and needed time to get my thoughts straight. I quite liked the movie and already watched it a second time the Tuesday after it came out. I would have wanted to post that night, but it was a long day. Then Wednesday was pumpkin pie baking day, Thursday was Thanksgiving, Friday was Christmas decorating, and the weekend has been catching up on school work (which I am still not done with--oh, this terribly busy semester). So if I am brief, it is because I have other things that need doing. (In fact, briefness may be just as well: I really shouldn't let these posts get too long, should I?) The advantage is that I shouldn't be spoiling anyone on the movie by now; but just in case, you must click to read on.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Harken Is Coming

Last week, I let you know about Kaleb Nation's upcoming novel, formerly known as the Secret Kaleb Book. Well, guess what? It now has a title, release date, and more detailed summary. Secret Kaleb Book has transformed into Harken.

The release date is less than two months away on January 13 of 2013, which is much sooner than I was expecting. This is for sure one I'll be pre-ordering. Here is Kaleb's announcement video:

I've also been able to catch a bit of the livestream tonight celebrating the title announcement--if you hurry, you may still be able to view some of it on YouTube. And though I could probably say more, I will wait until the preview chapters have been released (which you can sign up for on the readharken website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hillywood Hobbits

Infamously, yet also half secretly, one of Hilly and Hannah's videos before the formation of The Hillywood Show was based on The Lord of the Rings. So it's no surprise that they would make a parody for The Hobbit, too. The surprise is just that filming is already over--usually they like to watch a movie first. But the official announcement, which you can see here, identifies the project they have been working on as "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Parody."

Since they have had to work with trailers and other material from the movie that has been released already, I'm picturing this video as focusing on one scene, possibly the scene when the dwarves arrive at Bag End and explain their quest. If that's the case, wow, that's one detailed set to replicate and tons of detailed costumes to put together. And what characters will they be playing? Will Hilly be Bilbo? Will they introduce other characters? How is it going to be structured?

I'm very excited and also very curious; this has potential to be one of their best videos and also one of the videos that widens out their audience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

# Secret Kaleb Book

Kaleb Nation is great at marketing.

If you don't know who Kaleb Nation is, let me just briefly say that he's an author, blogger, and YouTuber--click on his name in the tags at the end of this post to read my other posts about his books and such.

Two years ago, he did a "30 Days to Bran" promotion where he made a video every day for the month leading up to the release of Bran Hambric: The Specter Key. The newest Nation project has been going around the name of "Secret Kaleb Book." You can hear a little bit more about it by watching one of Kaleb's videos on the book here. While it's exciting that the actual title will be revealed in less than two weeks, I think some of us will feel sad about leaving behind our secret, insider nickname. As a way of building up for the novel, people have been tweeting pictures with the name, usually written on their hands, along with the book's slogan of "don't trust anyone." So I had to join in on the writing-on-hands fun, too:

You'll notice that my writing-on-hands skills improved on the second try, though my photography didn't. Anyway, it's exciting to see this happening: it's books approached by the modern audience, a type of marketing that wouldn't have taken place not just two hundred years ago but ten or less.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pre-Breaking Dawn Thoughts

Before I realized that I would literally not have the time to reread Breaking Dawn before the movie, I decided that, for once, I would skip this step. I've decided that this would only make me more focused on how the movie is different from the book, and that probably isn't the best approach for material like this. Instead, I'll be looking for two things in the movie: tone and characters. I'm sure I will still miss lines and scenes, but I will at least try and keep my "analysis" broad enough that it is focused on the right things.

As far as character, we must obviously see a transformation in Bella, physically and in terms of her maternal instincts. Also along these lines, Edward gets his fatherly side, and he and Jacob become closer in their brotherhood of sorts that began in the first part of the book. Moving further along, Alice becomes a central figure again with her visions and her departure with Jasper. Then comes the tricky part of characterizing so many new faces, though costumes will help this greatly. All these new faces are at least going to look different.

Tone goes through quite a journey--a journey that will probably make this a movie more friendly to audiences than Part 1. First comes the sense of fitting in, then the parenthood, and then the fears. Fears about Renesmee's future, the Volturi, the situation with Charlie, the mass coming together of so many vampires, etc. Then there is the feeling of power in unity, the mental preparedness that allows the Cullens to convince the Volturi. On this note, I'm wondering if that final scene will end up more action-based; it would seem strange to me if it does since Stephenie has talked about how the chess scene book cover represents that it wasn't that kind of battle.

Two other things I am very curious about are Renesmee and Nahuel. What we have seen of Renesmee so far has been wonderful, so I'm getting the idea that these two very important characters will come across just right.

I'll be seeing the movie (early) Friday morning. I make no promises about posting my reaction on Friday: I tend to like to wait until I've watched twice, but I don't know if or when that will be. We'll see.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Host Movie Poster Reaction

I just bought my movie ticket this morning to see Breaking Dawn Friday morning, but I think I'm actually more excited to see the trailer for The Host before the movie starts (note: I plan on doing a quick pre-Breaking Dawn post later this week). As a little teaser for that, the movie poster for The Host has been released--you can view it at the Twilight Lexicon.

Whew. Now I find myself fangirling over The Host. I'm just insanely curious how this movie will turn out, and the poster is a taste of the final product. Here are the things I noticed, hopefully in the order I noticed them in. While the cast is a bit younger than the novel pictures, they at least do have a bit of age ambiguity--they don't give out "high school drama," at least. There is a very sci-fi tone to the angles the three characters stand at, the colors (the contrast of the neon blue with the earthy, brown tones), and exoticness of the rocks in the background.

Which brings me to another point. Those rocks. They're not going to be the movie's version of Picachu Peak, are they? Because this is where my concern (well, part of it) about this movie is. New Mexico (where some of it was filmed) looks similar to Arizona, but very different to an Arizona native. And when you're dealing with a specific landmark like Picachu Peak, how do you deal with filming in a different state? Did they choose a different peak in New Mexico, or will they be superimposing Picachu Peak onto the New Mexico landscape?

But one of the exciting things about the poster is how remarkably Saoirse Ronan looks like Melanie/Wanderer. When she was cast, my reaction was, "she doesn't fit Melanie's physical description at all." But that's Melanie standing right there in the middle of the poster.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

They Make Movies in Australia, Too

One of the things I'm always praising Netflix for is the variety of things to watch they offer. Sure, they don't have nearly everything, but they have a lot. In addition to the big names, you also find some very obscure things and some foreign things. This year I have been discovering some Australian things, though I didn't know any of them were Australian until I started watching. And of course since I have no idea how these three films compare to the average Australian production, I can't generalize and say, these movies had these traits and therefore these must be traits of Australian movies. However, these three movies did have certain traits, and I would like to take a look at those.

First, the three movies are: Broken Hill, Opal Dream, and The Tree. That is the order I watched them in and also probably the order of my interest (from least to most). These movies all dealt with small towns, nature scenery, broken spirits, difficult choices, community, and dreams or imagination. The last two movies felt like they were just a step away from magical realism--but they never quite crossed into that fantasy realm. They stayed in harsh reality, with imagination (that hardly seems the right word) acting as hope for the community (which can mean family, too) to come together and believe in.

The closest thing I have to compare the atmosphere of these movies to is movies of the South. Not movies about southern belles, but movies about the common people and the strange place they live in. That's something I found compelling: the nature element. The Tree obviously had the largest nature element, but they all used it as something more than just a backdrop. The land affects the people trying to live on its surface--whether subtly or more obviously.

There is also a tendency toward the psychological or symbolic. Thematically, it's almost like the message was always that there is no way to win except to decide that you have already won. And not in an existential way, not like Remember Me or a story about rising out of poverty. It's something unique.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Horizons & Heights

I suppose a week should be long enough for me to have brought some thoughts together on Flyleaf's new album, New Horizons, right?

It did take some time for this album to soak in; I needed the time to contemplate the tone (Flyleaf's all about the tone for me) and listen to the lyrics. The sound of the album is something of a combination of Flyleaf's previous two, the harder sound of Flyleaf and the more melodic one of Memento Mori. And of course it also came with the announcement of Lacey's departure, which inevitably had to color my listening to the songs just a little bit. But this announcement had none of the awkwardness that might be expected (*cough* Paramore); you can read the official statements on their website. Lacey's message is so wonderfully put that I can't exactly have a reaction to this news. I can't rebel, I can't be sad--because there are three wonderful Flyleaf albums sitting in my iTunes library, songs that have grown with me and into me. To quote "New Horizons," I would say, "there is no such thing as time, inside this moment."

On to the album. I would characterize this one as standing on the edge of a cliff, feeling near weightless but not exactly breathless, stretched out and ready--not exactly to jump or fall, but to be lifted off into new area, New Horizons. The songs tend not to be painfully sad or necessarily painfully joyous. They are up and standing and thinking and doing. Besides the title song, I'm also really enjoying "Cage on the Ground," "Great Love," "Freedom," and "Stand." Of course, "Broken Wings" is also wonderful, and "Saving Grace" has really grown on me. And I like "Bury Your Heart" and "Fire, Fire," too. What's that? I've only left out two songs? I guess that expresses the main fact: another great Flyleaf album.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where the Kids Are - EP

I must give a quick shout out to Blondfire's latest EP, just released today. Where the Kids Are leads up to the full length album that will be coming next year and includes two songs previously released as singles and two more previously available to listen to online. These are: "Where the Kids Are," "Hide and Seek,""Waves," and "Walking With Giants." Do note that the two singles are new performances; they do sound ever so slightly different from the singles and their lengths are also different.

Having listened to "Waves" quite a bit online, I'm very happy to finally own it--and of course very happy to support Blondfire more by buying the EP. I think I only listened to "Hide and Seek" once; it's an interesting song that I'm looking forward to spending more time with. I liked many Blondfire lyrics before, but this EP seems to show that their lyric-writing skills have progressed. You can view all of these songs on two levels, the happy/pop level and the more contemplative/melodic level.

And of course, there it is: the Warner Brothers Records label. It's a cautious thing for an indie band to sign with a label, so let's set aside our apprehensions and embrace these new heights. "We're walking with the giants, feeling ten feet tall . . . "

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Silver Chair & The Holy Grail

To read Part 1 of this little comparison, click here

Now that I have compared Caspian to King Arthur, let's move on to the events that take place after the two are established as rulers. Arthur has his knights set out on a quest for the Holy Grail that takes many years and involves many shortcomings from said knights. Caspian's people have been searching for Prince Rilian, who was stolen by the Lady of the Green Kirtle as a child. This search, too, takes many years.

It is only someone pure who is able to take the Grail--and isn't it similar with who is able to find Rilian, as well? Jill and Eustace are, at least, both children. Questers for the Grail also see visions, which they must interpret. Jill and Eustace are constantly having dreams or other messages from Aslan--which they usually misinterpret or forget or otherwise mess up. They have a very Grail-Quest-like guide, too, in Puddleglum.

I think also there is similarity in the tone. The Silver Chair has never been my favorite Narnia book, but I may find it the most relatable. The characters just never seem to do things right. But there is also a peculiar tone to this book that is simultaneously disconcerting and compelling. It is enhanced by both many harsh weather scenes and much magic--both the evil magic of the Lady of the Green Kirtle and the good magic of Aslan. These are "extraordinary events" that constantly come into the King Arthur legends, as well. The Lady of the Green Kirtle is not so different from Morgan le Fey, Arthur's half-sister and mother of Mordred (who gives Arthur his deadly wound). Both are women gone wrong whose enchantments must be overcome.

Once both quests are played out, the kingdom is brought to a better place--at at least out of the slump it was in before.

Friday, November 2, 2012

King Caspian = King Arthur?

On further thought, I have decided to divide out my (in truth, brief) comparison of Narnia and Arthuriana. This first section will focus on Caspian and his relation to Arthur; the second will be more about the "after events" of the searches for Rilian and the Holy Grail. I know I spoke very briefly on this subject three or four years ago, but I won't be concerned about repeating myself. If I do, I think it will be very little (since it was so briefly that I talked about it before), and I trust that most of my readers now weren't here quite so long ago.

We all know the story of King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and thereby showing himself rightful heir to the throne. Caspian may not have quite a grand moment like this, but aren't the basics the same? He, too, was not raised by his parents, and he, too, became the young king endowed by fate and divinity into this position. Like Arthur, he became a Narnian legend--Caspian the Seafarer. Instead of his Knights of the Round Table, he has those who accompanied him on the voyage into the East.

And like Arthur, his death is complicated. Arthur receives his deadly wound from Mordred and is carried off to Avalon--leaving us with a more symbolic than practical hope that he will recover and return. Caspian, in his old age, sails off once more; when he dies, Eustace and Jill see him once more in Aslan's Country. After Aslan has restored him to youth, he even accompanies the two back to England briefly before going back with Aslan. So while Caspian definitely died and never came back to that Narnia again, his death is connected to life and continuance in a way that is similar to Arthur's.

You see, I am in a class right now on Arthurian legends and their many re-imaginings. Reading this material has made me in greater and greater awe of The Chronicles of Narnia. Their brilliance is in their fantastic simplicity; yet they still reference and evoke so much. Back when I first compared Eustace's constant failures on his search for Rilian to Percival's shortcomings searching for the Holy Grail, I didn't realize how right on the mark my "random" comparison actually was. But that is the topic for next time.

To read Part 2, click here

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Favorites

First, I must apologize for the hiatus from posting. It isn't that I haven't had ideas (like a comparison of Emma Shapplin's songwriting to Byron's poetry and an extended comparison of The Silver Chair to the King Arthur legends); it's just finding the time that has been the issue.

1) Cinderella Compact Mirror - As part of a new edition of Cinderella coming out, Sephora had a Cinderella line this month, including perfume and makeup. But the loveliest item I thought was this mirror. I have been using a pink plastic one from Ulta, and there's nothing like transitioning into a decorated compact. The circle shape is of course like the clock that chimes the end of Cinderella's spell, but it also has the look of a compass. It's Disney without screaming out Disney. And isn't it wonderful to have pretty things?

2) Beaded Bracelets - I think I must have made these bracelets twelve years ago. I sometimes wore the smallest one, but mostly they just sat in neglect. Now that I'm getting into wearing bracelets, I've been bringing them out. I've realized that layering can be the key to bracelets, at least for me with my tiny wrists. So I'll wear two or three at once, or pair one or two with a different bracelet.

3) Flyleaf's New Horizons - As you may know, this album came out yesterday. I've listened to it three or four times, but I must withhold all commentary until I've had a chance to ponder it some more. I promise to give my thoughts later.

4) Flag Scarf - This was actually a ModCloth purchase, along with my purse and things last month. I suppose I didn't include it on that list because I haven't actually worn it yet. What do you think, does this coming Tuesday, aka. Election Day, sound like a good day to christen it?

5) President Gaga - Along that note, I once again want to give a shout out to The Hillywood Show's newest video, which I find has been very addicting. It plays in my head even when I'm not watching.

6) Black Shoes - Also purchased last month (I may have had an Aldo gift card . . .), I chose these shoes mostly for wearing with tights. They're also nice because I can ride my bike with them. Just a basic shoe.

7) Scrabble Ring - I've had this ring for a couple of months. I like the randomness of it; usually I pair it with a second ring and layered bracelets or necklaces to complete the eclectic look.

8) Perfume - I never really got into perfume. Maybe I didn't see the point in spending the money on it. Maybe I had only smelled perfumes I didn't like. But now I'm getting interested. I've been wearing a couple of sample perfumes I had lying around, and perhaps I just might think about getting a full size perfume at some point. The middle bottle in the picture, by the way, is not a sample: it's a little bottle of lovely fragrance that I used to use sparingly--but have decided I might as well wear more regularly.

9) Owl Pin - This trinket came from a peddler's market this summer; I think it was a dollar. It's tiny size makes it nice for sticking onto a collar or a scarf for a little extra entertainment.

10) John Keats & "Bright Star" - For some reason, the opening line of this poem has been playing in my head all week: "Bright star, would I were as stedfast as thou art." And we're not even reading John Keats in my Romanticism class until next week. I've taped a copy up above my desk along with my other random notes. But it's a fantastic poem; you should go read it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chocolat: Hillywood Style

I've been watching The Hillywood Show's latest video, President Gaga, quite frequently since it came out. And I also recently (within the last month or two) finally purchased Chocolat--which I have felt the need to own simply due to the fact that I am self-professed chocolate-obsessed (if you don't believe me, visit Chocablog). So in my usual fashion, why not put the two together?

The obvious connection between the two is that the original Hillywood Show episodes were in fact largely made up of Johnny Depp movies; while he doesn't show up in Chocolat until the halfway point, I think his presence in the movie tends to get marketed/talked about quite a bit more. So the question is, if Hillywood parodied Chocolat, would Hilly return to playing Johnny Depp or would they cast someone else and would she play Vianne? If Hilly played Roux, Hannah could be Vianne.

Sets might be difficult: where in the U.S. do you get a location that looks like a little old French town? The best place I can think of is Cambria, CA--and that isn't quite the right look, is it? Of course, if they needed a chocolate expert on hand, I could help out (wink, smile, wink), explaining where you can buy cocoa beans/nibs and historic drinking chocolate.

But you know, a parody would probably focus more on the character of the Comte de Reynaud (played by Alfred Molina), particularly because of what they could make of his ending scene where he gorges himself on chocolate after disparaging it during the whole movie. Now that would be a nice scene to see Hillywoodized.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Peter Jackson Should Direct Beowulf

My professor keeps making one-liner references to The Hobbit during lectures; the cool people in the class respond with a mix of titters. Then I try and bring my mind back to the subject at hand, not necessarily on to Tolkien.

So with all this Hobbit-ness in the air right now, it seems the time to bring up an idea I had I don't even know when. It may have been last month or last year; just don't ask. Despite what complaints purists (and not just the most pure purists, either) can make about Peter Jackson's handling thus far of Tolkien, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than he has done. It's a big job, and the fact that he is able to do, on the whole, a pretty decent job is something.

There is another text, one with which Tolkien the scholar and reader was very familiar, which seems also to be difficult to bring to film: Beowulf. It must be difficult because there are piles of versions of it and most of them are either bad or bizarre or both; even if they are reasonable adaptations once you start analyzing things, they're still hard to accept. But: WWPJD? Aren't you curious? If Peter Jackson got his hands on Beowulf, I think we could be sure that the result would at least be of interest. He strives for authenticity and balanced storytelling; this would be perfect for Beowulf.

He would have locations, sets, costumes, armor (naturally I would want WETA to come along for the fun), effects, and language all down. And he would get familiar enough with the story to have reasoning behind every script and directorial decision, never forgetting a chosen interpretation of theme. Plus, you know people would watch it. The connection to Tolkien and to Tolkien plot elements would be enough to bring people in; the movie would (I think) be enough to make them glad they did.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Stunning Emma in Person

Well, not exactly in person--live would be the technical term. But seeing as how I'm not certain I'll ever have the chance to see Emma Shapplin live, her latest live DVD of the Macadam Flower tour is about as close as I'll probably get.

I had heard about this DVD on Emma's website, but the site still listed it as "Coming Soon." So how was I to know that it had been on Amazon (or at least it seems so) for a year already? That's almost exactly what happened with the Macadam Flower album itself; I suddenly found out that it was available long after it came out--and ran out in a flurry to order it. So I threw the DVD in with an order of books for a new class that's starting this week.

Many of the Amazon reviews explain that while Emma is stunning, the DVD and recording themselves are less than perfect. I would have to agree in a general sort of way. No extra features on the DVD like on Josh Groban's Awake tour DVD. And while some of the cinematography and editing seem to be aiming at an artistic sense, sometimes they're a little weird and/or distracting.

But Emma herself, or Diva Shapplin as she is sometimes called, yes, she is stunning. Her voice is just amazing: it chills and warms my blood at the same time. Sometimes she scares me when she's singing, but that's all part of it: she sings entirely on the plain that she's chosen. Watching her sing and perform is like watching a creation of imagination and beauty and life; it's art in many facets. Just during the first song, I had to pause it and scramble to get my CD booklet for Etterna (when I bought this album, it wasn't available on iTunes) so I could read the song translations. I felt like I would get so much more out of the experience knowing the lyrics. And it's true: each song is crafted with choreography and such that goes with its expression. Even the order that they are sung in tells a story, a story of life and love and vulnerability and I want to call it the sublime. You get drawn in and out of yourself and into a world of isolated emotion.

Sure, I didn't perfectly like everything (like the way that the two encore songs were ones already performed), but I'm still very happy to have this chance to see Emma live. For any fan of hers, this is a good buy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lady Hilly Is President Gaga

Hilly and Hannah of The Hillywood Show had been dropping enough hints about their latest video that I guessed it was about the election. But the first time that idea came to mind, I wasn't sure what to think: "they wouldn't do the election? Would they? I guess there are ways to parody politics without getting into politics." And Lady Gaga taking over the election? That's, politically, pretty safe territory--not to mention fitting and hilarious. You can watch the newly-released video here and the behind the scenes here.

I know I'm repeating myself here, but the sets and costumes and production value of this parody are just wonderful. Watch the gloriously long behind the scenes to learn how all these were put together and just where some of those great locations were. And Hilly has a great way of taking over characters. First she was Jack Sparrow, then Bella, then Hilly Potter, now Lady Hilly. She's terrific as Gaga.

A year or two ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I realized that it was, if not a weak point in The Hillywood Show, a place where they could improve to not constantly be using other people's music in their videos. Of course, they always have great song selections, but it's been even better to see them changing lyrics like in "Gagaween," "Harry Potter Friday Parody," and "The Hunger Games Parody." And though Hilly + Hannah's "Saturday Night" single wasn't my favorite, it was a way for them to express what they were capable of. The song in "President Gaga" is sung by them, and what a difference it makes. It's more of them taking over every aspect of production, which is one of the main things we all love about The Hillywood Show. This adjusted approach to music they're been taking is an important step.

Now let's all go watch again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Immortal Cullen & Tuck Families

It was back in sixth grade that my class read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt--we also watched the movie version and talked in typical fashion about the changes. Now, back in sixth grade, I couldn't quite fawn over the ending to this story. (Now shall commence a plot summary.) The character, Winnie Foster, meets the Tuck family, who are all immortal from drinking water from a certain spring. Naturally, she and the younger son, Jesse, fall for each other; when the Tucks leave, Jesse gives her some of the water so that, if she chooses, she can drink it in three years when she is his age and come find them. But she doesn't: the Tuck parents come by years later and find her gravestone, which says that she lived a long and happy life and got married and had children. "Good girl" is, I believe, what the father says about her, though with sadness because they'll have to tell Jesse.

The idea is that Winnie chose to live a natural life, right? That's difficult for a romantic to come to terms with; my sixth grade self couldn't.

But are you reminded of another story that ends in the opposite way? Twilight is very similar--in certain ways. Bella meets the immortal Cullen family, falls in mutual love with the youngest son, and eventually has the opportunity to share in that immortality. Is this spitting on Tuck Everlasting's message (not directly, I mean)?

Maybe. But you know I can never see things that simply, so here is what I see instead.

The Tuck family could have been almost like a dream in terms of their effect on Winnie; she lived with them and learned from them and loved them, but they were apart from the rest of her life. Once she had grown through her time with them (a little Alice in Wonderland-like, maybe?), it was time for her to throw out that immortal water, smile, and live her life. For Bella, on the other hand, the Cullens do represent what her life is becoming. She is at that point in her life where change must come: as the teenage years transition from living with parents to living independently in one's self, few things stay the same. So Bella's adoption into that family is her adoption into the new stage of her life, the one she had always been meant for. All the Renesmee/motherhood stuff is the proof that she, unlike Winnie would have if she had gone with Jesse, was living a full life.

For Twilight to actually be the polar opposite of Tuck Everlasting, it would have to be a fantasy. But does it really have a fantasy ending? Take away the labels (vampire, immortal, etc.) and it's just a love story: girl and guy from different backgrounds meet, fall in love, have complications in their relationship, get married, start a family. Though we don't hear that story, isn't that exactly what happened to Winnie?

Winnie did die, though, unlike Bella, who likely won't. But Winnie would have been immortal by an abnormality--the spring's water isn't presented positively. Contrarily, the vampires of Twilight are just a part of nature, another way for "people" to exist.

Oh, and one more thing: don't take this post too seriously. I fear I may have either complicated the matter too much or completely ignored the message of Tuck Everlasting. But it's an interesting comparison, right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Missing Jane

I'm so glad that many of my usual readings have been light this week: this has happened to be the week that I've been poring through a rather thick Brontë book in the throes of honors thesis research. The book: The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family; the author: Juliet Barker.

I have also been going back to reread Jane Eyre--I went through The Professor this summer, and I'll get to Villette again next. Before this "rather thick" book, I also skimmed through (all of these extra sources will be skimmed, probably: not everything in them is related to my topic) Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë. That biography has its interest in the fact that Gaskell was also a novelist (of things like Cranford and Ruth) and actually knew Charlotte, writing the book after her death. But Juliet Barker's book (which I am about two-thirds through) is fantastic: it's very in-depth, chronicling many different sources and debunking many theories. Pairing that with reading Jane Eyre again and I find I'm not too displeased by all this reading.

I think not that I had forgotten how much I like Charlotte Brontë--how could I have if I chose her for my thesis? But I had forgotten the details of my admiration and enjoyment, the very real reasons behind it. One time browsing CafePress, I saw a design that said "I was Charlotte Brontë in my past life" or some such thing--and that's exactly how I've sometimes felt, meaning no disrespect to Charlotte. Certainly we're very different people and she writes very differently than I do, but still there are similarities. The love of nature, the passionate emotion, the enjoyment of fantasy but also the caution about imagination because of the effect it might have on daily life. Perhaps tenacity, too?

Reading all this material is like seeping my soul back into its home.