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. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Primeval: My Spin-off Idea

As I have said, my History and Evolution of Food class makes me think about Primeval a lot. Today was one of those days, bringing me to a new idea while I sat in class listening to talk about tubers and millions of years ago and crocodiles (as in Episode 3.1).

With Primeval: New World coming on and the original series probably having taken its last breath, why not suggest a new spin-off that takes off more directly from the British series? A sort of "lost years" series, if you will. A sort of "Abby and Connor stuck in the Cretaceous for a year" series. What fan wouldn't want to see that?

Just imagine what a show like this would be. It would have to be a short series, maybe one or two seasons (depending on season length). Connor and Abby could be the only human characters, but who's to say they couldn't meet some other groups while they were there? Groups like the one Emily traveled with. They wouldn't join the group because they wanted to stay at their anomaly site. And if that seems to be wandering too far, no worries: I would have absolutely no problem watching a whole show with no one but Hannah Spearritt and Andrew Lee Potts.

Just think of how filming this show would be. No other actors, per se, but plenty of creatures. So they would either be constantly interacting with thin air or with stand-ins (like "Dave the Lodge"--watch this interview to hear about him). (Unless Andy Serkis came along to play a dinosaur Connor and Abby became particularly attached to--but that would be a whole new topic, wouldn't it?) There would have to be quite a CG budget and something of a location budget, too, but not too many sets (as in buildings, rooms, that sort of thing).

We could see them sculpting tools, building their shelter, recording the plant and animal life, sightseeing the surroundings in fear and excitement. Deciding what was good to eat and what wasn't, helping each other along with different tasks. The difficult thing would be that their spirits would slowly sink lower and lower as the series went on and their situation became more hopeless, and the finale wouldn't really even be able to show happiness restored because that's Primeval Episode 4.1.

Which brings me to naming this show. It wouldn't be bad as Primeval: Lost World, but of course somebody has already taken that, haven't they? Primeval: Forgotten World might work, though it's a little longer. But I like it more than Primeval: Abandoned--and Primeval: Stranded would be an ode to the movie Stranded Andrew was in some years back. Or what about Primeval: Lost Discovery?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Silent Smell of Dusty Old Books

I ought to be ashamed to admit this, but there is no writing without sometimes admitting things we would rather not remember, is there? So instead of rewriting the past, I admit it: I had never stepped beyond the entrance area of the main library on campus until today. In three years, I only went into the library a couple of times to coordinate for group projects--I never went up to the intimidatingly-called "stacks."

But why such an intimidating name? "The stacks." It really just means shelves and shelves of books. And it wasn't even a complicated navigation. I looked up the book I wanted on my phone, got the info on its location, matched that info up to the library map, took the elevator up and up, followed the signs, and there was the Shakespeare section. There right in front of me sat about four editions of the book I wanted (though, incidentally, none were the type of edition I needed). Since they didn't have what I wanted, I kept looking until I found something else I could use for my project/paper.

Having set aside the time, I spent two hours in near silence, staring at shelves of old, crusty books about Shakespeare. I had trouble reading the titles on the top shelf, so I spent almost half the time standing on a stool like a silly short person. Other times I perched on the floor, reading the bottom titles, or half-sitting on the stool to glance through a book.

Every so often, I would smile at a cover, a cover so warped with age that it had become tremblingly romantic-looking. Or a book so old I wasn't sure I could believe it was actually over a century old--surely it had to be a newer publication. A few times, I brought the aged pages to my face to smell their vanilla-y essence--some only smelled okay, but others had the aroma of a thousand pages of life.

In two hours, only a few people walked by--and they would have had to look directly into my aisle to pay me any mind. So I was very much alone with mostly aged books for those two hours. It was semi-fascinating.

And I even got to bring home one of the books with me; it's a decrepit old thing that may very well be from 1915. Though not the most gorgeous I saw today, it's still quite a nice thing to behold. Methinks I shall have to pitter patter across the stacks again sometime (as in, hint hint, for my honors thesis?).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Problem With Tomorrowland

I'm really getting tired of dystopian stories. Sure, I like some Gothic melancholy sometimes, but all the negativity of the dystopian angle is just too much for me. I suppose I find it sad that we've lost the once bright and positive view of the future we had in, say, the fifties.

Walt Disney designed Disneyland as something to be constantly evolving and improving (as long as imagination was left in the world, to be exact), which applies in an even greater degree to Tomorrowland. As we move further into time, what the future is changes. But depending on who you ask, Tomorrowland has been having a tad of trouble lately. There is the nearly unused space in Innoventions and though Autopia has love, it isn't very futuristic. The problem is, what is today's future?

Modern portrayals of the future tend to be negative, which isn't terribly Disney. So how do you compromise? Do you bring a darker future into a happy park? Do you try to temper visions with reality? There's a space theme going on in Tomorrowland right now--do you continue on with that, or expand into other areas, too?

Or instead of telling what the future is or what general society right now sees the future as, does Disney tell what their future is? Main St., USA tells history Disney-style (aka. with lots of nostalgia and charm); should it just be the same way with the future?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

So I bought a bag of the Pumpkin (shaped) Reese's for an October candy bowl. Mostly I have been eating them myself, one piece at night. But I just had one now and all I can think about is running over to get another and another and another. Sugar and salt and peanut butter--they're just tempting me right now.

But I didn't actually set out to talk about Reese's today; it's time I gave my thoughts on the 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth. I read the Jules Verne book about a year or so ago, and it's very delightful. It's adventure in its purest form. There are two usual themes in literature (or art): death and sex (and sometimes they're brought together into one idea, which can be odd, but whatever). But in this book, sure the characters often face the possibility of death and Axel has a girl back home, but that's it: the usual themes aren't a big deal. It's just pure adventure, in a very wonderful way.

As you move into the 1959 movie, the differences from the book are very great. Axel (renamed Alec) is no longer the professor's nephew, but a student who basically agrees to go along on the excursion because he hopes to gain the professor's favor and marry his niece. And then there is the addition of villains other than the perils of adventure: another scholar, then another wants to beat the group into uncharted territory and fame. And, most strange of all, suddenly we have a woman, Carla, accompanying them on the journey. Hollywoodization, anyone?

However, once the troupe is in the caverns of the earth, I wondered how little these details mattered. The story was still about adventures in the unknown, uncovering strange crystals, plants, and creatures. I don't know what a big budget was for 1959, but everything about this movie suggested to me that it was a big budget movie. Some of the sets are beautiful and the effects aren't too bad (yes, this movie is 53 years old, get over it). So it all comes back to adventure and simplicity, even if the start was a little different.

I haven't watched any other movie versions of this story, but somehow I doubt that one made now would necessarily be better. (And I deny that a second Reese's wrapper has joined the first in the time it took me to write this post. It's just an optical illusion.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New World Is Coming To The New World

I just had to give a quick note before collapsing early (at 9 instead of 10--my, how early) into the arms of Netflix in post-writing-papers-going-to-class-and-meetings-and-other-errands exhaustion.

At long last, we have confirmation that SyFy and Hulu have purchased Primeval: New World and will be showing it at some time next year. While that's still a long time to wait, at least we in the U.S. will get to watch it, right? I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's available in January or at least February, but we don't have exact dates yet. In the meantime, I'm spreading the Primeval love and making as many new converts to the original show as I can--that'll mean all that many more people to watch the spin-off.

Go forth and do likewise. (And you can read the announcement article here.)