Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Sun Is A Vampire

This thought occurred to me earlier this week whilst I was pedaling along on my bike, feeling my skin shrink beneath the sun's yellow gaze. It was afternoon, above 105 but less than 110, sunny, and while I was still sort of getting used to riding after taking the summer off. And the sun was stealing my energy from me. It shot out at me, forced its presence on me, dried out my skin and made me sweat, then sucked up that sweat as soon as it formed. I kept pedaling because that's how the world works; but I grew more and more tired, feeling as if I was pedaling against the sun itself.

It's in that act of stealing from me that I happened upon it: "the sun is a vampire." As any will know who have studied a bit of literature, vampirism (which is quite frequently a part of Gothic novels/stories, as in of course Edgar Allan Poe) doesn't have to include supernatural figures that go under the name of vampires. It can simply be that act of taking something, like a person's energy or life force, from someone else. It's sort of like a person simultaneously weighing someone down and using him.

That's what the sun did to me. And my comparison I find makes sense on another level: in the seduction. I've often found an almost sensuous quality to the sun (please don't think I'm too weird for saying that: it's just a literary/poetical thing), just as there is that aspect to vampires/vampirism. And, of course, the sun is synonymous with heat, so there you go. The sun is a vampire.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 10th Kingdom

It isn't that I need everything to be brilliant, stellar, and perfect. It's just that I like a little more depth when one story interacts with others stories. So while there appears to be a dedicated fan base for the 2000 miniseries The 10th Kingdom, I can't quite put myself in their midst.

Most people seem to agree that the five part series starts a bit slow; I in fact didn't even feel like watching the first episode through to the end. But it does get better as you keep moving along, finishing off with a satisfying happy ending.

What continues to confuse me is the intro sequence: it has very little to do with the actual plot of the series. It applies constant moving back and forth between New York/our world and the fairy tale dimension and some sort of mirroring between the two places. In fact, there is very little moving through worlds (especially after the beginning), and we never got the implication I was expecting that New York was somehow part of these fairy tale kingdoms. But you could call this a minor detail.

What most bothers me is the surface-level of most of the plot and theme elements. Perhaps I've just been watching too many Nick Willing productions, but the interaction with fairy tales here just didn't seem enough. Snow White is the story most alluded to, but most of the allusions to it and other stories are blatant, not appearing as carefully thought out. Virginia randomly is cursed so that her hair keeps growing and growing--okay, we can all recognize Rapunzel in that, but where's the art in that recognition? The themes of "be careful what you wish for" and "be careful who you trust" are definitely brought in throughout the series, but fairy tales offer more than that--they're not actually simplistic: they're very symbolic. A little more symbolism would have lifted this series higher in my mind.

As it was, I came to enjoy watching as a light diversion, but my interest ends there.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Return of Hilly Potter

You can watch The Hillywood Show's new parody, Harry Potter - So You Think You're a Wizard, by clicking here and behind the scenes by clicking here

By popular demand, The Hillywood Show has returned with another Harry Potter-based parody, this time focusing on the last movie but with some added twists. Big twists. So if you haven't watched yet, go do so before reading on.

While all the Twilight parodies follow a similar format, there are now three quite different Harry Potter videos: the first is a sketch with dialogue, the second is a music video with multiple scenes, and the newest is mainly a dance sequence. Having a mix of formats in fact makes for a nice collection of videos. And, of course, the format of this latest addition means that Hilly and Hannah didn't have to go scour the world in search of a castle to shoot in (just think of how many t-shirts we would all have to buy to fund that).

What this parody does offer is a healthy measure of ridiculousness and another draught of intense dance choreography. Though there aren't many costumes/makeup jobs, they are all as spot on as always and Voldemort looks properly creepy. And while there may not be too many specific points that are parodied, putting Harry and Voldemort into a twisted dance competition against each other fits in well both with the movie and its trailer: so much seemed to consist of the two running around each other and shouting curses with their wands. That was a nicely handled twist.

And once again, I am so happy that Hilly and Hannah's new partnership with Peter Facinelli and myISH has so far meant that behind the scenes come out at the same time as parodies. Twenty-three minutes of behind the scenes? I watched it without so much as a wink, as quick and excited as I would accept a free chocolate bar. There is some great footage here about rehearsing the dance sequence, recording sound, and working out makeup, so don't skip it.

The return of Hilly Potter is welcome indeed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flyleaf's "New Horizons"

I often can't quite describe what it is I like about Flyleaf: it's their tone that I like, and I can't further define it.

So while their new single has some people commenting about their new, slightly more pop sound, I can't say I would have made as much of an issue out of it without hearing this commentary. "New Horizons," whatever slight musical differences to previous works it may have, is still consistent with the Flyleaf repertoire. The song won me over about as soon as I pressed "play."

It may be that some of the lyrics speak exactly to what I was lightly complaining/worrying about yesterday. "New Horizons" speaks to worry, stress, desperation, and the need to look forward to something greater and to still choose to continue along the path you know is right. It's about temporality and eternity; accepting and deciding.

One question: does this mean there is a third album coming out soon? I remember when Memento Mori came out when I was just a college freshman . . .

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On Returning to Classes

Today was the first day back at school for what I expect to be my last year.

It's strange, really. On one side, it felt nice to be back in the same familiar place, surrounded by so many bright and intelligent people. But it's also daunting: walking here and there, my mind calls up images of due dates and deadlines. In a phrase, stress starts walking in my steps across the school.

Stress about the immediate: turning in those forms, updating such and such online, ordering my last batch of books, starting in on reading and other assignments. Stress about the longer term: organizing the work for my honors thesis, setting up other honors credits, planning out what classes I need to take next semester. Even longer term: if I graduate in May, that's really only a few months away--what do I do then? Am I sure I don't want to go to graduate school? What direction do I want to go in job-wise?

At least I had my nice bike ride back home to distract my body from my mind.

(Last note: I have no idea if senior year busyness will mean I won't be able to keep up the rate of posting I have had this summer. It may be harder to find the time to post, but I also find that classes help me think of topics to write about. So we'll see; I promise at least not to disappear entirely.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spring, Er, Late Summer Cleaning

It may be that Spring is the time for cleaning, but apparently I never got that memo.

It's just that this right now is the time of year that makes most logical sense for me to do a deep clean, due to various factors. The floors have been scrubbed, swept, vacuumed, and all closets sifted through. It was mainly my room and desk area that I focused on today, not so much in cleaning but organizing. Over time, one comes to realize one does not need certain things one has stashed away--and one must force oneself to throw them out.

I also came to realize (or re-realize, as the case may be) that I keep many boxes, piles of scrap paper I wouldn't be able to get through in a year even if I doodled all day (and I rarely doodle), and books galore. You see, I've also been doing a bit of redecorating, in which I have been spreading my books all around the apartment. There are books filling the entire bottom section of the sideboard in the living room, books filling the two bottom shelves of a painted metal shelf in the hall, books standing in two corners of the living room, books under my desk, and six and a half stacks of books beside my desk.

Why so many books? Why? Am I just insane? But while another person might like to collect dangly bracelets or china figurines, I find that books look irresistible hanging around my dwelling. And you know something else? I think I have finally achieved my post-reading-only-classics-and-historical-fiction-days goal of having a varied book collection. True, there aren't too many modern mysteries or thrillers, but I still have Tolkien, the Brontes, Kaleb Nation, Stephenie Meyer, Sir Walter Scott, J.K. Rowling, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura Wiess, Gayle Forman, Wilkie Collins, Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Liz Curtis Higgs, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and dozens more.

Now excuse me while I go on Amazon and add a couple of titles to my Wish List.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 8

Among Connor's eccentricities is his perfect willingness and comfort to ride a skateboard around in the ARC in Season 2. You all remember, of course, when he skateboarded over to check on the anomaly detector? 

It may be alright for one person to bring a skateboard into the building, but what if it didn't end there? What if Abby also decided to bring in a scooter?

Or what if Jenny Lewis biked into the building? No, it would never work if everyone acted like Connor. The poor ARC couldn't handle it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blondfire's "Waves" Flows Across My Heart

I've been so proud of my indie band of choice, Blondfire, lately. Their two new singles, "Where the Kids Are" and "Walking With Giants," have been getting a good amount of attention. And yesterday came the big announcement that the brother/sister duo have signed with Warner Brothers Records for their next album, which will be titled Young Hearts--you can read more at Rolling Stone. Also at that link, you can listen to the latest single (which, unfortunately, isn't available to buy yet), "Waves."

"Waves" fits in perfectly with the other two new songs. It's very sleek, but still melodic; light and flowy, yet still hinting at depths--which for me means that I can listen casually or also apply further meaning. Erica's vocals are lovely as ever. The song reminds me a bit of "Into the Sea" (one of my favorites of theirs) and "My Someday," the title song of their full length album. But why must I wait until 2013 to get the full Young Hearts album? (I'm not complaining bitterly--I'll wait, but I'll also be quick to hit that pre-order button.)

What was surprising was to hear that Bruce and Erica had signed with a label: I know they had some bad experience with a label in their early days, hence the indieness of Blondfire. Going into a major label can mess with the sound of some bands, but I'm trusting their judgement here: since they had a bad experience before, I think they would make sure the process wasn't going to repeat before signing on again somewhere. And "Waves" is going to be part of the new Warner Brothers album, and it doesn't sound "tampered."

The thing I'm hoping will come out of all this is a tour that brings Blondfire to Arizona. In the meantime, go look them up on iTunes: besides My Someday and the two new singles, you can also get their iTunes Live Session EP, their Holiday EP, and their Don't Whisper Lies EP (which is under their previous name, Astaire).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Appreciation Of: Invisible Man

This is the first in what I intend to be a series of posts, spread out over time, that cover books I have read in college that have been very noteworthy but that I had either never heard of or never seen under the label of noteworthy/literary/classic/etc.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (not to be confused with the H.G. Wells novella The Invisible Man) was published in 1952. (In fact, I mentioned this novel in my Fourth of July post.) It has been about a year and a half since I read it in a Major American Novels class, which was in fact a class filled with depressing novels that really began to weigh heavy on me. At times I think I almost impressed the character of the Invisible Man (he remains nameless in the novel) onto myself, allowing any little struggles of my own to become combined into the scope of his.

That's the thing about this novel: it describes a specific situation, but is relevant also on a much wider scope--and that's what tends to make things classics. On one side, it's a racial novel, addressing the dehumanization of a group of people. But everyone goes through similar struggles to the narrator's, even if not nearly on the same level or for the same reasons. Everyone, at some point, struggles with who they are and knowing how to express that and knowing how to set up their lives. It's a novel about prejudice, but it's also a novel about self-discovery and discovery of the world around you, including the fact that the world doesn't tend to tailor itself to your needs and wants.

Yet I had never even heard of Invisible Man. Admittedly, it is still a fairly new book, but at sixty years old, it's time it gets some wider recognition: it earned its place on my American Novels syllabus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Antique Air Admiration

It was fifteen to six, the time the antique store closed. But we had to go in, anyway, even if only for those last few minutes. And when I walked past those front doors and faced the long treasure aisles, I breathed in and felt I was home.

There's something wonderful about the air of an antique store: it's filled with old dust, vanilla-smelling old books, and the thickness of old memories and lives lived and mementos left behind.

I could easily have spent a few hours in this particular store--I could also live there, but I don't think the owners would like that much. Every single shelf, every single corner, and every single wall has potential. You never know where you will find the piece that calls to you. So you walk through each booth, glance at each spot, trying to make certain that your eye alights on every item. Your eye roves around, rolls across the layers like a laser searching for its soul. Price only matters second: first you have to find something you love, then you see if it's in your budget. Because even if it's only a dollar, you have to love it.

I didn't see anything that met these two necessities during my fifteen minute walk-through (I was only able to get through half the store, even going quickly). But it's okay: I breathed in and I listened to the stories. The stories of the woman who wore that feathered hat out to the movies, the man who built and sold that wooden chair, the child who played with that doll.

Their fingerprints live on if we remember to love the things that they loved, not neglecting the "old things" in favor only of new ones.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Get Connor & Chief Lester

TV shows all have their sets of character dynamics; there are the smart characters, the good-looking characters, the talkative characters, the action characters, the comedic relief characters. With a good show, it simplifies things too much to fit everyone into these near categorizations, but they are still there.

I've been watching a little Get Smart lately, and naturally my post-Primeval-ness has managed to find a parallel. Compare Max to Connor, specifically concerning the Max/Chief relationship and the Connor/Lester one. The Chief is always complaining of headaches when Max is around, always rolling his eyes at his way of doing things. And Lester, of course, can't stand Connor--he only occasionally takes pity on him, keeps him around because he's smart, and maybe improves a bit after thinking Connor was probably dead for a year.

That's the thing about both of these characters: they seem so inept, but somehow manage to get the job done. Max appears awkward, blundering, forgetful, but he always disarms KAOS's plans. Connor is childish and initially cowardly, but he invents machine after machine and becomes the person who best understands the anomalies. They're both invaluable, but not what their bosses consider "elite operatives" (though Lester does profess Connor is such in 5.2).

And, of course, they both get the girl (Abby and 99).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Trawl at the Mall

Yesterday I had some time to abuse in Scottsdale, which meant that I decided to go into every store in the mall until I found the object of my longtime desire: a vest. Vests are difficult to find: they have to be the right style (not a cold weather vest, not too business attire a vest, and not a "sexy" vest like you might find sometimes at Guess), they have to fit right (if it's too loose, it won't look right, and I'm small, so this proves difficult), and of course they have to be in your price range.

I went into Guess, Macy's, Dillard's, Gap, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Forever 21, H&M, Charlotte Russe, and a few others whose names I have forgotten and all I found were one or two sleeveless jean jackets. I was about to give up when I saw one more, a store I'd never been in. It didn't look interesting, but it still looked like a possibility, so I dragged myself in. Quickly, I found one vest style: but it wasn't quite right and had big metal buttons I didn't like. There was one more, a basic black one: but it was a size medium and there were no others in sight. But, aha, then I saw it: a dark blue, 100% linen, fairly basic vest in size small (incidentally, if they'd had an extra small, that probably would have been better, but this one works). Then I got the mall high.

It's always nice to buy something you like, but to specifically go into two dozen stores looking for one item and finally finding the only one in the whole mall is extremely rewarding.

And it teaches you something about stores and style. Even with spending only a short time in each store, there were some I wanted to run right out of (Charlotte Russe, I'm talking about you) and others where you wish you were buying more (I've been eyeing all the colorful pants at Gap . . . and let's not even talk about Anthropologie, which I visited just for the experience of it). Some look your style; some don't--though they may still have pieces you can use. Take the store, Love Culture, where I got my vest. I can't even remember what most of their clothes looked like, but I found something I wanted there (they also had, by the way, some perfectly priced short nylon & spandex shorts for wearing under skirts).

It's all about letting the stores tailor to you, not tailoring yourself to the stores. Let the search be part of the fun.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Helen Rivers?

Okay, so I don't really mean to suggest that Helen Burns (Jane's friend at Lowood in Jane Eyre) is actually the daughter of St. John Rivers (Jane's ascetic cousin). But it has just occurred to me how similar the two are. And that is a strange occurrence, given that Helen seems more likable (perhaps much more) than St. John.

But just think about the two for a moment. I described St. John as ascetic: the same goes for Helen. Where child Jane is interested in fantasy and trying to find a way out of her lonely, dependent life, Helen absorbs herself in learning, trying to better herself and make plans for the future. And Jane learns a lot from Helen: meeting Helen was probably the best thing that happened to her as a child (unless you want to count getting an education first).

St. John is devoted to the church and to becoming a missionary. I think Jane can somewhat admire his perseverance and devotion, but their opinions come to a parting of ways when he asks her to marry him and join him in his missionary work. She tells him she would be willing to go with him, but does not feel (as he does) that it is her duty/the only right path to marry him and go. So what Jane learns from St. John is, essentially, to rely on her own inner voice and to make her own decisions. Which, coming back to Helen, sounds a lot like what Helen shows Jane.

Jane meets Helen: Jane decides to advertise to be a governess and is thereby able to leave Lowood. Jane meets St. John: Jane decides to go back to Thornfield and thereby learns of the death of Mrs. Rochester and is finally able to marry Rochester. Both are acts of freewill.

Very interesting.

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Chapter Length

I was having a conversation recently in which I tried to defend "old" novels--the conversation was fairly brief, but still it put me in mind of one trait that makes older books more difficult for the modern reader. I'm not talking about vocabulary, sentence structure, or the overall long length of Victorian novels. I'm thinking of chapter length.

After breezing through a small handful of modern novels this summer, I have just started rereading Charlotte Bronte's The Professor (I plan to reread Jane Eyre and Villette next, too: I'm preparing to do my honors thesis on these three novels this coming year). Most of the chapters I have read so far haven't been too long, but it made me remember that it isn't always so. If you pick up a Victorian novel, you can easily have chapters of thirty dense pages (as in, pages with much smaller print than in How It Ends). It's difficult to commit to a long portion of reading in one sitting, and also is it difficult to stop right in the middle of a chapter. (Or try reading Moll Flanders, which doesn't even have chapters, but is instead just one long narrative.)

True, some "older" books may have breaks in chapters, even if the chapters themselves are long. If you count The Lord of the Rings as old, there are certainly breaks (the extra space in between paragraphs that separates scenes), though there are also some very long chapters (hello, "The Council of Elrond"). Breaks like this make it a bit easier: they provide at least some sort of potential stopping point.

All of this is contrary to most of the books published today, where a chapter may be ten or twenty small pages, something you can read in half hour. It's easier to say, let me read just one more chapter, when you know that chapter won't take you an hour or two to read.

The "problem," if you want to call it that, may not be in the thickness of certain books. It's in the thickness of individual readings: it's often easier to have a long-term attention span (taking a month or two or three to read a book) than a short-term one (taking three hours to read one chapter).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 7

I wasn't the only one curious about the new fossil piece--Jenny set up an investigation of it right away. After all, the team aren't always hunting down anomalies; a little studying during their downtime will only help them more later on.

I would ask Connor the name of this fossil, but I'm afraid he would launch into an hour long explanation instead of just one or two words.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Hobbits Come Marching Three By Three

I think you must have heard the ridiculous news by now.

It wasn't enough for The Hobbit to be split into two movies; no, there was enough footage that there are now going to be three movies. From one book, one children's book (after all, The Lord of the Rings isn't a children's book, and Tolkien saw it as an epic in six parts--but it only got three movies--albeit before the studio knew how successful those movies would be).

But, you know, I probably find that it makes more sense to make three movies out of The Hobbit than two out of Breaking Dawn (in case anyone has forgotten, I do like those books--I'm not just carelessly bashing them). And everything gets made into two movies these days, so much so that I wonder if it's becoming greater than studios wanting to make more money: it's shifting the way writers and directors are able to work with a book to movie transition and what audiences are coming to expect from such a transition. If The Fellowship of the Ring had had two movies, we wouldn't have lightly forgiven the absence of Tom Bombadil, as we can with just one movie.

And we do know that Peter Jackson is including things in this, sigh, trilogy that aren't just from the one book--he's also pulling things out of the Appendices. I have no idea how much, but even a small amount could have a big effect.

What does worry me, though, is that The Hobbit is like a miniature epic to The Lord of the Rings; if, however, it gets much more screen time (and budget) than TLOTR, that'll mess with its simpler nature (it certainly still has things to study and things beneath the surface, but still).

Kaleb Nation (YouTuber and author of the Bran Hambric series) put together a nicely-stated reaction to the situation for his 60SR show, which you can view here.