Friday, May 31, 2013

May Favorites

1) Green Necklace - At one of the antique stores I visit every so often, there is a booth with bunches and bunches of necklaces hanging. They're for low prices, but are also mostly plastic and such, so I'm usually not interested in them. But I always check just in case. Last time, I found this long, gold necklace with green accents. It was either $1 or $3, perfect for layering.

2) Pigeon - Doves are supposed to be so precious, and doves and pigeons are the same thing--and I happen to like pigeons. So when I found this (iron or metal) pigeon at The Hummingbird House in Sedona, he wanted to come home with me. He likes to hang out on top of my books.

3) Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Mascara - Around Christmas, I got Sephora's set of sample-sized mascaras--which are a great deal, especially since even the small sizes last me a long time. I'm currently using Lancôme's, which has a curvy brush that applies a good amount of mascara easily. Even when I'm trying to keep the look light, I still find that my lashes end up full and dark. I like the look this mascara gives--the only reason I wouldn't buy a full-sized version is that I'm trying to stick to Tarte makeup (and similar brands).

4) Frog & Mirror - At another antique store, I saw this Frog Prince sitting near some jewelry. He's holding a mirror to see if he's turned human again--but I find him quite cute as a frog. On the underside, he is labeled as pewter, titled as "A Wishing Frog," and signed. I've been keeping him by my perfumes.

5) Raw Shea Butter - Last year, I mentioned that I was using shea butter instead of lotion (and sunscreen, which I never used much, anyway). I wasn't using it as much in winter, but am using it more now that the weather has warmed up. I keep it in this little pink milkglass container.

6) Dinosaur Box - Even if I like dinosaurs, there aren't usually any I would put out around my house. But this box from ModCloth is wood (darker than in the picture), making it a subtle piece of dinosaur merch.

7) Almond Oil - Instead of makeup remover, I use almond oil each night. It's simple and natural, and you can store it in whatever container you like.

8) The Little Prince - At the same store where I found the frog, I picked up this copy of The Little Prince. It's an endearing book that I had been thinking of buying, anyway, so why not have a vintage copy?

9) Banana Republic Shorts - I guess it's becoming my habit to choose a couple of pairs of shorts from the Banana Republic Outlet each year when they're having a sale. One pair is green, and although I don't think I've ever had any khaki shorts before, I had to get these because they were in the petite section and therefore fit me better than the others.

10) Franco Sarto Shoes - I have my plain, flat sandals for everyday type wear during summer, but I was also wanting another pair. Something still casual, but a little prettier in case I go somewhere where I want to look nicer--maybe something with height. Then I found these at Famous Footwear; although I had never heard of the brand, Googling it at home showed that Nordstrom sells the label, so I think they were a good buy. They're a neutral color, but have a subtle design to them. They add quite a bit of height to my shortness without having a high heel. They almost make me "normal person height."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Hillywood Show Strikes Again

I never got around to watching Warm Bodies, so the occasional circumstance happened that The Hillywood Show parodied a movie I hadn't yet watched. But I had seen the trailers and knew the basic plot . . . and their video portrays its own version of the unfolding plot line. It follows the story like a mini movie.

I confess that I haven't been posting on Hillywood as much because I haven't really liked a couple of their recent videos. I was getting worried that, after so many years, they were starting to go in a direction I wasn't interested in following. Yet, although I have no connection to Warm Bodies, I kind of liked this parody. The quirkiness is reminiscent of the early Hillywood Show episodes, the minor darkness of their video for The Dark Knight, the color palette of The Runaways, and the dance sequence of their Eclipse parody. All the pieces come together in that endearing way that also puts you into awe (they filmed in and around a plane?). And that final dance sequence--it's up there with their best work. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Julia Baker Confections: Chocolate Ganache Cake Truffle

Biltmore Fashion Park is, as you can tell by its name, a more upscale shopping and dining area in Phoenix. After having dinner there last weekend, my group walked around outside the shops to enjoy the cooler weather. I saw a storefront that said something about chocolate and also had two saleswomen outside the door offering samples. Thus I entered Julia Baker Confections, with a free white chocolate raspberry ganache.

The front section is a shop where you can buy individual chocolates out of the glass case or boxed chocolates. In the back is a cafe area with tables for enjoying desserts, hot chocolate, and other drinks--including chocolate martinis. I may have to go back someday to try one. The entire shop is decorated with taste and luxury. I helped choose four of the Chocolate Ganache Cake Truffles, one for each of us. Although we chose from the glass case, it was a little disappointing to see the pretty truffles shoveled into a regular flat paper bag--for a place that poises itself around finery, it would be nicer for even the individual chocolates to have more delicate treatment.

Since the usual price for truffles hovers around $2 or $2.50, the $3 price for this rather large truffle isn't anything beyond the norm. Once I had cut the truffle in half, I discovered why it's called a cake truffle. The top half has a fluffier texture than the bottom, which appears to be a regular ganache. The line between them is nearly seamless because of their almost indistinguishable dark brown color. The outer shell looks more like a dark milk chocolate, speaking for the non-bitter qualities of this truffle.

What it is is more like a rich dessert than a cocoa powder-dipped truffle. You bite into it and think of brownies because of the cakey texture of the voluminous interior. But then you get a sense of the depth involved. I wouldn't call it bitter; it isn't so much like a flourless cake as that. Rather, it's moist. And sometimes that's the type of thing you want, after dinner or maybe in the afternoon. It's small for a dessert, but big for a truffle.

I just wish that, when reading about the company, I found less info about what TV shows Julia Baker has been on and what celebrities have eaten her chocolates and instead found more about what exactly she means by "all-natural chocolate" or where she sources her ingredients. I would imagine that she uses chocolate from another company, perhaps making her own blend of it--but I can't know for sure since her website offers none of this information. But I would like to know if she uses a Valrhona or Callebaut or Michel Cluizel base: that's more important than the celebrity angle to me. I don't want to be told a chocolate company is great; I want to be told why it's great. Otherwise, I feel like I'm just starting on an upgraded version of my Godiva experience--when I liked their chocolate because it was expensive and came in pretty gold boxes.

I also see why this is Julia Baker Confections. Pick up some chocolates for a gift or an afternoon craving, or stop in for a drink and dessert. Casual, culinary luxury--quite nice, but not necessarily centered around the cocoa bean.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Star Trek Into What Kind of Darkness?

I sort of grew up with Star Trek.

It was mainly The Next Generation and its accompanying movies that I was around so much--so much that I still have trouble saying whether or not I like them because they're simply familiar. During college (and after seeing the 2009 reboot movie), I watched the original series and its movies (most of which I had probably seen at some point or another). And while I enjoyed that 2009 movie, I have since heard the opposite opinion on it. The problem, according to this opinion, is that the Star Trek universe used to be so consistent. There were a few movies with the original show's cast, then they passed the torch on to the TNG cast and continued onwards. Always, new shows and movies added to the universe, but didn't change it. Then along came this movie to end all the consistency.

I can understand that perspective--but that still isn't even the reason why I was disappointed by Star Trek Into Darkness.

Sure, a good sprinkling of explosions, CGI, and action sequences can add to sci-fi, but I need there to be more than that. The movie had a similar kind of humor as the first one did, but it felt more at the center of each moment than before. I was missing the emotional connection and the reason to care about what was going on.

The characters felt more like ideas of characters than like people. Which, I suppose, works if what you're enjoying is the action combined with the one-liners. But for me, the plot line of Kirk needs to learn responsibility for his crew felt forced and shallow to me. Spock and Uhura in their lover's quarrel was sometimes funny, but otherwise just diminished what could be two great characters (plus the fact that I'm now able to miss Uhura's elegance in the original series).

I guess it was a very American movie. Resistance to authority combined with an ultimate need to remember when responsibility is necessary. Carelessness and recklessness resulting in all that slick, space CGI. Or should I say it's very much a Hollywood movie?

I'm just too weird: I say I grew up with Star Trek, but I can't go along with the glitziness of a summer blockbuster.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 14

Jenny, Connor, and Abby were sent to investigate a garden this week. 

The ARC had gotten a call about a strange growth on one of the plants. Since the plant appeared to be a giant sunflower, the team wondered if perhaps it had been infected by something from a future anomaly.

Fortunately, though, the plant proved not to be harmful--it wasn't even an early stage of the fungus from Episode 3.5. The team settled down for a break in one of the garden's chairs, relieved that it had turned out to be a false alarm.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Orion Skin Care: Chocolate Mint Bathing Bar

You may or may not have gathered that, post-graduation, I am no longer in the Phoenix area. I will possibly return there; I will possibly not return, either. But for now I am in slightly more northern regions of the state. This, in turn, brought me to New Frontiers, which is sort of the main natural food store in Sedona. Sedona, the land of beautiful Red Rocks and a helping of hippie and/or New Age mindsets. The soap that I picked up at the store is by a Sedona brand, Orion Skin Care. I figured that if it was a Sedona brand, it had to be truly a natural product and not a pretend natural product. And it was chocolate mint soap, so. 

In the spirit of Sedona, I photographed the soap on a backdrop of quartz crystals, which are currently resting on a prettily-tarnished silver plate where I'm also keeping my perfumes. The packaging is a simple white box, accented with green, gray, and black. It's distinctive, but not chaotic. Although this was one of the lower priced soaps at New Frontiers, it is 100% organic. All seven ingredients are organic, and the bar has its NSIO (New Standards in Organics) stamp. The chocolate part comes from cocoa powder, and the mint from peppermint essential oil--there is also vanilla powder. It isn't an overwhelming aroma of chocolate mint, but it's fresh and pleasing. 

The plain, unmarked bar is a rich brown color--it came with a slight white coating that disappeared after I wet the soap. The soap does go on with a slight brown coloring, but it washes off like normal. It has tiny grains almost like exfoliating ingredients; I'm not sure which ingredient gives it that. Whereas the occasional natural soap likes to fall apart in water, this one maintains its shape. I used it once or twice on my face and didn't notice it having any negative effects, though I'll probably keep it more for a hand or body soap. I would buy this soap again; I'm just not sure if I will buy it again. It's local and uses good ingredients and smells nice, which makes me like it. But if it had a richer chocolate scent, then I would love it. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Out of Africa

You can call Out of Africa wild; you can call them crazy--but just don't call them a zoo. At least, that's what their ads say.

I first visited Out of Africa Wildlife Park when they were still in the Phoenix area, years ago. Then about eight years ago, they opened up a new (replacement) location closer to home, in Camp Verde, which I visited again last weekend. Out of Africa was founded by Dean and Prayeri Harrison--with complete respect for the animals, hence the "not a zoo" thing. The park is founded not only on giving people an opportunity to see these wonderful animals, but also to give them the care they need and to understand how to form relationships with them. You can see it in the way the animals respond to and interact with any of the park's team. They're not putting on a show; they're living their lives and letting us in to participate. 

When you visit the park, besides walking around, you get to take a "safari"--there are longer versions available for an additional purchase. You board a bus-like, open vehicle and your guide takes you inside the gates of the safari area. So you're right up against animals like this little zebra:
As you board the bus, they hand you a carrot, which you feed either to a giraffe or camel. Almost right away, our driver stopped us by a giraffe that was disinterestedly standing away by a tree. But he called out to Pilgrim, and sure enough, Pilgrim eventually sauntered over in hope of snacks. Standing up, pretty much everyone got to feed Pilgrim. While I've fed a giraffe in a different park, leaning over the edge of a lookout to pour feed onto a giraffe's tongue just isn't the same as feeding it this close up--the group dynamic helps, too. You watch as everyone else in the bus reaches their hands out, some getting more "tongue" than others and then giggling about the sliminess. 
What's great about this location, they say, is that certain of the plants and such are similar to the kinds in Africa. And the minimal amount of "manmade" scenery in the park means that you can get pictures that do look like you're out in the middle of nowhere. (Of course, it just looks like home to me, but you get the idea.)
This is an ostrich. Isn't she very pretty? But watch out--her beak is sharp. 
She, however, has no fear around the people she knows she can trust. Our guide got out and gave her a hug and helped her move around the bus so that everyone could see her up close. 
Another shot (I think) of Pilgrim later on, once we had gotten off the bus and were walking up toward the other animals (the safari area is closet to the park entrance; everything else is deeper in). You can take a tram if you don't want to walk, but walking is much nicer (unless you're from out of state and are finding the weather too hot).
While we were stopped out by the hyenas, Dean showed up and began speaking with the crowd about them. At one point, he pet (or should I say cuddled) one of the hyenas through the fence; it obviously enjoyed it. I know a dog with a similar hideously-ugly-in-a-cute-way look that makes the exact same smile. 
Here you can see how big the hyenas actually are--thick, too. In the afternoon, you can follow the feeding truck along the path. This is the time when the lazy cats decide to wake up and you have a chance to see animals that might have been hiding before. The hyenas are my favorite: they stand up against the gate sort of like they are in this picture and make their ridiculous laughing monkey sounds. They're vicious predators, perhaps, but they sound adorable. 
The park does have a main show, Tiger Splash. But it isn't about telling the tigers to sit and stand and jump through hoops. Dean is there, explaining part of his philosophy about building relationships and trust with animals and understanding how their minds work. He has a team with him who bring out different toys to play with the two tigers. Just picture a bigger version of your cat when you're waving its feather wand toy. Sometimes they jump in the water with the toy; sometimes the tigers follow and sometimes they don't. Always you can tell that the tigers are just playing and that they understand not to harm their people buddies. Accidents are of course still possible, but neither one wants that to happen. Here is Liberty relaxing after the show; she was getting full because guests always have the opportunity (for $5) to feed one of the tigers (two pieces of meat) using prongs through the gate. She gurgle-growled a little when I fed her.
It's a wildlife preserve; it's a habitat. It's privately-owned. It does great work for everyone involved. It's Out of Africa.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Harken to the Signature

I'm late; I'm late. 

It was a week ago that I received my signed copy of Harken in the mail. It's a shiny, black paperback with the now-familiar cover image. 

Now I have all three of Kaleb Nation's books, all signed. I can't say that for any other author, so it's rather special. 

Harken (Volume 1)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Freedom Tastes Like Chocolate

When asked where I wanted to go out after my graduation, I jokingly replied, somewhere that has chocolate martinis. I had heard of such things, but never seen them in person--and certainly wasn't expecting to find them in the greater Phoenix area. 

But at The White Chocolate Grill, you can indeed order a White Chocolate Martini. I expected the drink list to be available online with the rest of the menu, so I didn't write down exactly what is in this martini. But as I recall, it has chocolate vodka and Godiva white chocolate--possibly something more, but that's all I remember. I am obviously not a big alcohol drinker; my interest was purely from the chocolate side. And this was in fact my first martini, though it's a bit distant from the ordinary. I have, however, had two kinds of chocolate wine (a review of the second is probably coming in the next week or so), and that is the closest comparison I can make of this drink.

As you can see, it is mainly white liquid, with a drizzle of chocolate around the glass. The longer you let it sit, the more that drizzle will sink into the drink. The alcohol taste isn't completely hidden by the sweeter flavors, but there also isn't a huge chocolate flavor. It is white chocolate, though, so I wasn't really expecting anything more. It's a sweet drink, but not candy sweet or cloying sweet. I won't die of regret if I never taste it again, but it was nice to try for once. 

I always say that you can tell everything about a restaurant based on its dessert. Sometimes you can even tell by reading the dessert menu, but there was little to learn from White Chocolate's descriptions of basic items like apple pie and chocolate souffle. These are the two desserts my table got; I snitched a piece of the flaky, cinnamon pie crust before turning to my share of the souffle. It appears simply. It looks okay, but a more careful or sculpted look to the whipped cream would have helped appearances. The thing that I did notice right away was that this souffle cake tasted like it had been made out of melted chocolate. This not only affects the taste but also the texture, making it moist and rich. It's lighter and less dense than most flourless chocolate cakes. If the white chocolate in the Martini was from Godiva, perhaps this cake used Godiva, too?

I had to make sure a place called The White Chocolate Grill hadn't been too audacious in its choice of name, and you know, I think they just might be worthy of the title. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Hugo Movie Companion

Because The Invention of Hugo Cabret was in such a format that made its pages like film slides, it follows that The Hugo Movie Companion, which is also written by author Brian Selznick, isn't in the typical movie companion format. It is not a slender, large paperback; it's regular book-size. It's in fact around the same size as the book the movie is based on, just much thinner with around 250 pages. 

The pages also aren't glossy. While this was odd at first for the pictures, it does mean no fingerprints and also enhances the idea that you're reading a book--not just looking through a companion to a movie. Brian Selznick also divided the book up a little differently than most companions do. His format emphasizes storytelling and storytellers, giving as many people as possible a mini chapter within the larger chapters. Whereas so many movie companions have you pausing what you're reading and marking your place while you look at a picture or read a box that breaks up the text, this book is much more reader friendly. A page usually ends with the end of a sentence, so you're free to look at everything individually without having to flip back and forth. This may seem like a minor detail, but it always bothers me with other movie companions.

Some of the pictures are illustrations from the book, along with a comparison of the corresponding scenes from the movie. There are also behind the scenes and historical pictures, as well as a page or two of the script. One of the images I found most fascinating was of the dialogue coach's notes about how to pronounce the dialogue with an accent. I've always seen dialogue coaches in movie credits, but I've never heard anyone explain how exactly they do their work.

This book tells not just how the movie Hugo was made, but also where all the people who worked on it drew their inspiration from. It goes into great detail without becoming overly technical. With all the pictures it's a short read. While The Invention of Hugo Cabret is like a film, this movie companion connects film back to books.

The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Enchanting Cyrano

I'd rather watch a play than read it, not being an actor, director, or designer. But if I were to wait to watch every play, resisting reading it instead, well, I would be familiar with very few plays.

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those stories I feel most familiar with because of the much-adored (by me) Wishbone. I didn't even know who had written it or when (Edmond Rostand; 1897). And I certainly didn't know that there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac, on whom the character is partially based. As I began reading (my aged 1972 edition translated by Lowell Blair that I picked up at Goodwill), I remembered that we also watched a movie version in my high school French class. I believe it was the 1990 production; I remember enjoying it.

So I was already familiar with the story, which I usually find helps with reading a play. And goodness, this is a fun story with witty and pretty dialogue.

The year 1897 makes me think of two other playwrights from around the same era, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. They may have been British instead of French, but consider that they also were interested in language, perception, and role reversals--and aesthetics. Cyrano de Bergerac fits in very well these ideas. There are so many poets in this play, not even counting Cyrano. There is also the concept of split love since Roxane loves Christian for his face but comes to love Cyrano for his "soul." Rather than saying that this is a theme of the unfairness of Fate that can never pair beauty and wit or of the eyes to see what the soul wants to find, I'm interpreting Christian and Cyrano more in the sense of brothers.

When Cyrano dies, he tells Roxane to continue mourning Christian, but also perhaps to mourn him a little. In this way, Roxane has the ability to unite the positive traits of both men with her love. She need not choose one over the other, the face over the wit, because they are both dead. She never has the opportunity to make that choice. While we might like to hope that she would have chosen Cyrano, it is long after Christian is dead that she would have chosen him. What would she have answered if Christian had not been killed and Cyrano had told Roxane the truth there on the battlefield? We'll never know and it doesn't entirely matter: this is a story, a romance, and it allows for both sides. Like Roxane, the readers/viewers can mourn both Christian and Cyrano.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CC Pollen Co.: Chocolate Flavored Honey

Within the last year or so, I've converted to buying local honey. I figured that was one product that it would be easy to make the commitment with, given that even the tiniest farmers markets have a honey table. Then I started going for raw honey, which tends to be more expensive. But it's so much richer in flavor that once you start down the raw honey path, it's hard to go back--especially to the golden goo the average store sells that I'm not sure is even honey anymore. 

When I go to Whole Foods, I like to look around. Sometimes that's the only way you'll find the right products--or the fun products. In the honey section, my eyes alighted on this container of chocolate honey. I kept eyeing it, but decided it would have to wait given its nine or ten dollar price tag. And I already had plain honey at home. 

CC Pollen Co. was on the "local" shelves, but it was obviously only for the chocolate that I bought this. Nowhere on the container does it say exactly where the honey is from, so I wasn't going to trust the Whole Foods idea of local. Visiting the company's website, however, brings more vague information. Whereas I'm getting used to hearing such good things about local honey (like that it will help with allergies), CC Pollen believes that honey should come from a variety of plants and regions in order to create a "balanced nutritional profile." So while some of the honey probably does come from Arizona, it is also blended with honey from other states. 

This is all good and well if you're buying CC Pollen on a regular basis because you consider their products healthy. But how does this particular product (one of many flavors, in fact) function based purely on its flavors? It all depends on what you're used to eating. If you spread Nutella on your toast every morning and have never had raw honey, this could take some getting used to. Being raw honey, it's very rich and thick in flavor. When putting it on toast, at first, I added only a thin layer. Now that I've gone through half the jar, I find myself adding more. It doesn't taste like chocolate in the sense of eating a chocolate bar or perhaps even of eating Nutella. The chocolate is an accent on top of the honey, adding just a spritz of originality. 

Because the honey is thick, you can scoop it out with a knife and it becomes much like a natural version of Nutella (minus the hazelnut, of course). It's honey, but it's also a chocolate spread. Toast (with Scottsdale-made bread), butter, and chocolate honey become ever so much more wholesome and delicious than Pop-Tarts ever were. I probably wouldn't buy this honey on a regular basis, but it wins as an occasional purchase.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Stargate Universe

It's more than a year now since I found Primeval. Since then, I've found myself watching a lot of sci-fi shows. While they all of course have certain similarities because that's the nature of fiction, I'm more interested in the differences between them--in why I can't stand some, am neutral toward a few, and really enjoy others.

Although I have never watched anything in the Stargate franchise and although I usually like to start at the very beginning when going into a new franchise, I tried out Stargate Universe last month. Yes, it was because after Once Upon a Time, I've been seeking some of Robert Carlyle's other roles. And yes, I do think he had the best role in SGU. Anyway. While not having any awareness of the Stargate world meant that I was pretty confused during the pilot, I quickly fell into the pace of the show. Every so often, I knew I was missing something, but sometimes that's just how life is. After all, the structure of this show, intentionally, didn't always fully explain everything, including new things. "Time," for instance, was structured in a way that felt completely fresh.

Summaries of this show do little to express what watching it is like. From what I understand, they took a different angle with this series from the rest of the franchise--I can speak nothing for the differences, but I like the angle they used. While all the violence and despair and whatnot in the Battlestar Galactica reboot bothered me so much, SGU handled similar material differently. (While some people do make the comparison between the shows, I would argue that SGU is much more similar to the original Battlestar Galactica and very little like the reboot. It's more hopeful and endearing.) There is still a certain amount of violence (less, though, right?), action, and creepy atmosphere, but it's tempered with reality.

These characters feel real. You can understand how they think and feel. It took a moment to warm up to the cast, but when I did they became a group of people I cared about. This isn't the only show to make use of an isolated group of people, but I think they handled the group dynamics very well. There is a pioneer side to their quest to survive, but we also see the technical side--and the sci-fi side through things like the communication stones and the Kino. The Kino--what a brilliant idea that was. It modernizes the whole format of the show while at the same time allowing us to see "moments in time" that express who the characters are; other shows sometimes gloss over moments like this in order to continue advancing plot. But plot gets meaningless if you're missing good characters.

At the same time as it would have been wonderful to have more than two seasons of this show, it ended in a place where I can imagine my own ending for the characters. I can say goodbye to them and look forward to bright prospects in their futures. (Oh, and I think someday when I have my own house, I'm going to paint a wall in my office with chalkboard paint and scribble all other it like Dr. Rush, only with words instead of numbers. I've always loved chalkboards.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jane Eyre as a Graphic Novel

Mostly I was just curious what a graphic novel version of Jane Eyre would be like. The only graphic novels I have read (unless you count The Invention of Hugo Cabret) are the Twilight ones (click for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), but I did enjoy those.

This one is part of the Classical Comics series, designed with the aim of inspiring new readers (especially younger ones) of these works. They offer both Original Text and Quick Text versions, as well as Plain Text for Shakespeare adaptations. My copy of Jane Eyre is Original Text, with script adaptation by Amy Corzine and artwork by John M. Burns.

It may be Original Text, but this is of course still a highly abridged version of the original novel. It's compressed into around 130 pages and is therefore missing many scenes, lines, and descriptions. At first, it bothered me to have so much missing and for scenes to move so quickly into one another, often with too-abrupt transitions. But I imagine there was a set length limit that everyone involved in making this book had to stick to. If they had been able to do a five volume book, the result would have been different. It would also have defeated the purpose of Classical Comics--inspiring interest in a different group of readers. A long and unwieldy text wouldn't do that.

So given the constraints, this adaptation is nice. Naturally, there is more dialogue preserved than anything else. While some lines are cut out, I found that many of my favorites remained, allowing me to relive my experience reading the novel. We don't find out quite all the details of the story, but we have the important parts. And if the graphic novel does inspire interest in a reader, he can move on to read the original novel.

While I found myself really enjoying the artistry of the Twilight graphic novels, I felt that much less with this one. There was less of a sense of movement across the images, and my eyes drifted mainly to the text and not as much to the images. Part of this is because we're dealing with Victorian novel speech: it takes up more space, even abridged. And while I thought St. John should have looked younger, Bertha was frightening--there was a sense of movement when she was on the page. The proposal scene, the call, and the destruction of Thornfield were also rather nice in terms of imagery. So while the artwork didn't put me in awe overall, there were moments that I enjoyed. Reading this book was much like watching a subtitled film.

For "new readers," the book also includes a short biography on Charlotte Brontë, the Brontë family tree, a chronology, a copy of one of Charlotte's letters, and two pages showing how the text and artwork came together for the book. This is where you can see what the difference is between Original Text and Quick Text. Just from the examples they gave, I would highly recommend going for Original Text. Quick Text is so abbreviated that it hardly seems worth it unless perhaps for a very young or short-attention-span reader. It seems to take out anything unique to the story, making it into a summary with pictures. After all, even the Original Text gives you a much shorter version of the novel.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Light of Chocolate

As I approached, I saw a little light shining on the shelf. It bloomed in rays of fire and the scent of chocolate. 

Although my interest in candles is minor and my interest in sweetly scented candles is sparse, I make room for this short, glistening pillar. Unlike the sticky sweet scents of cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie belonging to candles that are usual to find at the store, Chocolate Truffle by Root is purer, more realistic and sophisticated. Sniffing the candle at Jo-Ann Fabric, I found that it smelled enough of chocolate truffles, not weird artificial chocolate, that I had to get one. But Root appears to be on the expensive side, so I got two of the tiny candles instead of one of the bigger ones in glass containers.

When the candle is lit, it smells slightly less like truffles and more like rich brownies baking. But note that I am not exaggerating when I say this candle smells like dessert baking. One day, I walked over to my desk and wondered where that aroma was coming from. Maybe it was some of the chocolate in my desk drawer? Was the downstairs neighbor baking? No, the candle I'd lit the night before was just sitting there on the printer, spreading its goodness even when not lit. For such a small candle, it's powerful. 

It's also become my buddy. It smells like hot chocolate for the evening, chocolate scones for the morning, and chocolate fudge for the afternoon. It has none of the bitterness of dark truffles, nor quite the cloying sweetness of most dessert-inspired candles. I've turned it on in tandem with a vanilla candle to create a chocolate sundae for the air. 

Welcome to my world of chocolate.