Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

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(WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW)

When I heard that The Hobbit was being split up into three movies to create a trilogy, I had several worries when I left to go see the movie.

  I was concerned that the book did not have  sufficient scope to merit a trilogy, but this fear turned out to be unfounded. Peter Jackson incorporated material from the appendices of The Return of the King, along with material that is implied in the introduction and text of the Hobbit, to further flesh out the history of the Dwarves. The movie opens with Bilbo explaining the  story of the lost kingdom of Erebor, the ancient home carved into the roots of the Lonely Mountain, where the Dwarves delved down to find the Arkenstone, the heart of the mountain.

The pride and love that the Dwarves feel for their lost home is felt piercingly in this installment of the Hobbit, and their quest is the easier to understand and sympathize with for it.
 The enmity that the Dwarves hold toward the Mirkwood Elves is also covered in greater depth, showing how Thranduriel did not come to the aid of the Dwarves of Durin when Smaug lay waste to their home, thus providing a stronger undercurrent of unrest to the story.

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 The story of Thorin's surname, Oakenshield, is explained as well. The pale orc Azog that Thorin fought with only a makeshift shield of oak in order to reclaim Moria (an attempt that fails) becomes a major antagonist in the movie, lending an urgency to the movie that would have been lacking before. The resurgence of the Necromancer is also given more weight, since the White Council, made up of Gandalf, Galadrial, Saruman, and Elrond, meet in Rivendell  in order to discuss the growing threat, after Radagast the Brown tells Gandalf that the diseased Mirkwood is a result of the necromancer gaining more power.

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  One of my fears concerning this installment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey lay in the way the filmmakers chose to split up the book: I was afraid that the resulting film would feel choppy, and the ending would be rushed, lacking any closure.
 However, this was not the case, for Bilbo's development from a fellow who "looks more like a grocer than a burglar" to a real member of the Company is explored in the movie.

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 "Nasty uncomfortable things adventures. Make you late for dinner!"



He is introduced as fearing the idea of adventures, but when the Dwarves awake his hidden adventurousness, he runs after the company, though he does forget his pocket handkerchief. Soon afterward, when they make camp for the night, Fili and Kili scare Bilbo by telling him that orcs are nearby, resulting in Thorin's dismissal of Bilbo as "not really belonging to the company."


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 This conversation leads Bilbo to try and prove himself by sneaking into the camp of three churlish trolls in order to rescue some captured ponies, an endeavor that nearly results in the entire company being killed and eaten. Thorin continues to dismiss Bilbo, but slowly, his realization of Bilbo's worth builds, a character development arc that encapsulates the story and gives the entire movie a directness, as well as developing a theme of the small and undervalued finding their inner strength, a theme that was prevalent in the Lord of the Rings.


-------------Spoiler Warning---------------

Bilbo even leaps to save Thorin after the Dwarf leader is injured and threatened by Azog with beheading, an act of bravery that prompts Thorin to rescind his previous words of rejection and apologizes to Bilbo.

 -----------End Spoiler Warning------------


This final scene brings the narrative full circle, and brings the story to a natural close. I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and look forward eagerly to the next installment.


They had a really cool hobbit-hole at the theatre, so of course I had to try the door.

comfort


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pinpoints of sleet fall
arrows of ice, to slay the earth

brittle flowers,
relics of the summer past, try to keep
their heads high
but lose bits of themselves with each
liquid dart that pierces
their browned petals and sticks them fast

to the frozen grass
that quivers under its shield of ice
the bare tree boughs
upraised, embrace the stark white sky
strong, yet bending with
the driving wind, the ice and snow that flurry and fly 

a fire is kindled
within a dark house and light shines out
into the forest
in squares it dances against the sleet

a comfort that helps those within
to forget the storm without. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The story behind favorite Christmas traditions: What Came First, the Gingerbread House or the Grimms?

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Gingerbread houses are one of the most fun (and beautiful) Christmas decorations.
 But why is gingerbread called "gingerbread," since it bears little resemblance to bread? The name stems from the Old French word "gingerbras", or preserved ginger, a term used in the thirteenth century. The word changed to become "gingerbread" as the English language gained more influence. In the sixteenth century, in some parts of Germany and France, the sweet cake was used to make molded cookies in the forms of animals and human. Two forms of gingerbread originated in Germany: the softer Lebkuchen, used for many Christmas cookies, and the harder form, which is used for gingerbread houses.

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  They saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang... And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted. And when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar.
  -Hansel and Gretel, The Grimm Brothers
 It is uncertain whether the Grimm Brothers collected a tale of an original  "house of bread," or if such a house was traditional already, but whether the gingerbread house came first or the Grimm Brothers' collection, the story of Hansel and Gretel resulted in the popularization of the gingerbread house, especially at Christmastime.
Today, there are many competitions in building gingerbread houses all around the world. Some are extremely large, or extraordinarily detailed.

This one is apparently modeled after the medieval city of Carcassone.

 Even I made one this year!

Not as impressive as the Carcassone one, but mine does have a monster mailbox!


  Sources : http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasfood.html#gingerbread
http://www.gingerbread.ultimategingerbread.com/p/history-of-gingerbread.html

Sunday, December 9, 2012

grounded

Image: Tree Roots. Vincent van Gogh. July 1890


sometimes i like to pretend
that i have roots
that stretch fathoms
 into the earth

circling around those
pleistocene bones
grounding me (today)
in hummus and clay

traveling into Hade's realm
and knotting into
other roots, of birch
of elm

i would need many roots to hold me fast
because i might look up at the sky
one night when there is no 
moon to clear away the mist

and just
let
go

(breathe
sigh
roots drink deep
sleep

as above my head
the burning stars go by)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

spillling water at lunchtime

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glass spins, winning
unseen fight

a careless hand
a busy mind
and body got ahead

of thought.
thumb stuck out too far
and now a flood

envelops tabletop
whispering over edge
to create waterfall

in miniature
that manages (despite its size)
to sweep down to soak

my shoes as i choke
on the sip i took
in my rush to halt the flow

with hands that drip
sievelike, yet still try to push
the water back into the cup

a futile endeavor
to hold back a flood
with flesh and bone

water runs
through my fingers
defying  my attempts

as it always does.

Friday, November 23, 2012

sounds in the house of silence

(Picture by Edvard Munch. Night in St. Cloud. 1890.)


the faint sound of dust settling
fabric of loveseat
fraying

snag of the page turning
rips an almost imperceptible
tear that echos in the quiet

the swift
drifting of a bird past
darkening window
 
a single feather catching
in the crosshatching of the frame
that rustles against the glass

the graduation of colors
that slips from the crystals
of the chandelier

seems to almost whisper, rebelling
against the demure
fold of the drape

slam of door in wind
dragging of chair legs
over the uneven tiles

the faint rattling of dry
boughs that rustle
(bonelike) over the moon

these are the sounds that gather
in this house of silence
sounds that exist in this quiet

wordlessness

(like the wail of a flute
they resound
but are somehow
a part)

of the gathering

silence.




Sunday, November 4, 2012

the lady at her dressing table

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finger dips into the
palette of white
lets the powder
fall upon her nose

silent maid takes
a square of velvet
snips twice
a black heart flutters down

pasted on her cheek hides
an angry pox, which
refuses to heal
despite repeated bleedings

neither she
nor her wordless maid
knows that the
powder that aids her

complexion with such a dewy charm
will steal more blood
from her cheek, her lip
than the festering sore ever could

lead-poison will eat
away her lifeblood
but will lend her cheek
an innocent shade

(not like the pallor
 of the dead, 
a color she'll soon attain)

so the silent maid spreads
the white death where
the lady cannot reach

bits of lead fly through the air
and quiet death catches at her hair

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Movie Lineup

Here's a list of the Halloween movies I have watched/intend to watch this Halloween.They're everything from the classics to modern stop-action movies.

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Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)
Even though Christmas is the time around which this fun stop-action movie is centered, most of the action takes place in the town of Halloween, which makes it a movie suitable for either holiday- or both, or neither. Really, it's just a fun musical movie that great for people who want a movie that's more treat than trick.

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It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
This one is a children's classic that's fun for adults too. Really, who hasn't wished that the Great Pumpkin had better publicity?


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Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi has been one of the most remembered actors who played Dracula, and the 1931 movie established many of the standards for horror. Though it may seem cheesy today, the film starring one of the most notorious vampires ever is a must for this Halloween.



Nosferatu (1922)
A film from the German Expressionist film movement, this silent film was released in 1922. Praised for its use of shadows, some of the techniques used have influenced many modern filmmakers, and was the first movie to tell the story of Dracula, albeit under different names, since Bram Stoker's widow still owned the rights to the names from Dracula.

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The Mysterious Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri (1920)
This silent movie also hails from the German Expressionist film movement, and is generally considered to be one of the best horror movies from the black-and white era. The main action takes place at a carnival, where Dr. Caligeri shows off a reanimated corpse, who seems to know all. The main character grows more and more intrigued by the mysterious pair, and becomes obsessed by them. A creepy, hypnotic movie, this movie is ideal for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dracula! (the ballet)

This past weekend, I and my younger sister went to see the Tulsa Ballet's performance of Dracula, choreographed by Ben Stevenson. It drew simultaneously from classic ballets such as Giselle, and from silent horror movies such as Nosferatu, which was an entrancing combination. Here is a description of the ballet and a short review. Be forwarned- this review contains many, many spoilers!

Note: I claim no rights to any of the following pictures from the ballet; they belong to their respective owners.

The curtain opened as a flight of steps moved backwards to the door of a crypt, which slowly became lit from behind to show the silhouette of the Vampire King himself, a sight similar to that of the entrance of Nosferatu in the 1922 movie.  He came out, alone on the stage, with his cape wrapped around him, and suddenly wafted it open to reveal its rosy satin lining.



 Then he ascended a flight of steps, watching dourly as his eighteen young, undead brides began to drift about the stage, forming complex configurations.

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Their dresses were like wedding gowns, but torn and draggled. Their half-life was obvious as they danced with Dracula, wilting at his command.

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Even when he danced with only one or two of them, they were like puppets, which had to be supported. The effect was such that it appeared that Dracula was the only truly living one in the crypt. Then, a carriage rolled in, with Renfield at the reins. A village girl, Flora, stepped out. She attempted to fight Dracula, but in the end, she became a food source for both him and his undead consorts.

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The curtain closed on this macabre scene, for the first intermission.

The second act was much less undead, as it took place in the nearby village square. Svetlana, a young girl, is in love with Fredrick, a young man about her age, and insists that he ask her father, a baker, for permission to wed her. This scene began comically enough- Fredrick is shy of asking her father, so Svetlana pushes him, literally, into asking her father, then kicks his leg out from under him so that he'll go down on one knee to ask for her hand. Though this scene, complete with separate village dances by first the women, with ribbons, then the men (with long sticks which they hold up to form crosses), is obviously influenced by Giselle, Svetlana's approach toward Fredrick is very different than Giselle's, for Giselle runs away from Albrecht's advances toward romance, while Svetlana is eager to be wedded to Fredrick.

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One part of this scene which I particularly liked was the part after Svetlana and Fredrick have become engaged, in which Svetlana's father and mother dance a pas de deux to celebrate the engagment. It's not often in ballets that the parents get their own dance. The contrast in the style of dance was also striking: where the female vampires were limp and weak in their style of dancing, Svetlana and the other village girls displayed great vigor, thus setting the living apart from the undead.

 Since the ballet is called, after all, Dracula and not Svetlana, it doesn't take long for the happy scene to go wrong. Flora returns, clawing at the young men who try to help her to her feet. Svetlana tries to comfort her, but Flora claws away Svetlana's rope of garlic, which has been ffastened around her neck to protect her until her wedding day. She rips off her gown and reveals the tattered dress beneath: she has become a vampire. The vicar menaces her with his cross, and she cowers. A bolt of lightning- Dracula appears in the midst of the frightened villagers, and claims Flora.

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 His eye falls upon Svetlana, and Renfield's carriage emerges in a cloud of mist. He pulls the bride-to-be into the coach, and the vampires ride off, while the curtain falls.
The third and final scene takes place in Dracula's bedroom, where he hypnotises and attempts to bite Svetlana.

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However, just as he is about to sink his teeth into her neck, Fredrick, the vicar, and the baker, along with several villagers, show up. They fight against both Dracula and his brides, who all overpower them, throwing the cross into the wings of the stage, and injuring the vicar. Again, Dracula circles Svetlana, preparing to bite her. Then Fredrick rips at the draperies- the dawn has come, and the vampires flee. Dracula is trapped in the light, and flies straight upwards, then lands on the chandelier, where he shakes and burns, leaving only ashes sifting down.
Fredrick and Svetlana go out onto the balcony, and embrace in the light of the morning, and the curtain falls.
Then, the curtain rises again- Renfield emerges from the high draperies of Dracula's four-poster and clambers down, staring at the chandelier. A bat-like silhouette swings downward from the chandelier and the curtain falls for the last time.

The use of ballet to tell the Dracula story was an interesting medium, but it told the story well. The use of special effects such as flight was not overdone, but made the vampires seem even more invincible. Dracula himself was both dangerous and magnetic, and really (I'm afraid I must pun now) sucked me in. All in all, it was a performance worth watching.

Monday, October 29, 2012

the dart of a human eye

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the dart of a human eye
shouldn't weigh any more
than the glint of sun off glass
or the refraction of water
gleaming with a kiss of sun

yet we feel it, those gazes in
the crowd And will always turn
yearning to face our observer
and in doing so, mark them
with our own unyielding sight.

is it the opinion of another being
the weight of didnt wear the right tie
didnt have the right face
that bruises so inperceptibly
or is it something else that tugs

the serrated edge of another world
apart, alien, that manages to scar
so deeply, but invisibly, for where
microcosms touch, another
world has the potential of beginning

I see you.
You exist.

in the gap between two worlds, reality lies
we deny it or affirm it with our eyes

risk

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(silent as a barn owl's tufted
wing, it sweeps through the air)

the barbed hairs
embrace the trembling
string, shaking it
into full waking

now

the risk taken
is one of melody
these notes must find
something more than a simple

cacophany


fingers face off
racing along the black
length of the neck
hurrying toward the inevitable

conclusion

(one after the other, waves
roll to kiss the rocks
 a sound of celebration)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Liebster Award

I was recently tagged for the Liebster Award by Laura Morrigan over at Roses and Vellum. Here are my answers to the questions!

1. What book, movie or real life person most influences or inspires you? How?

Depending on what is going on in my life currently, my inspiration varies. Right now, it's Lirael, a Third Assistant Librarian, from Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. She has a lot of trouble finding her place in the world, but her response is usually to find solace in study.
 
2. What is your favourite wild animal? (Not dog, cat, etc.) and why.

 




My favourite wild animal would have to be a white Bengal tiger, not only because they are simultaneously beautiful and dangerous, a balance that fascinates me, their coloration arises from a mutant condition that's so rare that only one in 15,000 Bengal tigers born in the wild will be white.

3. If you had to choose between not sleeping ever again or not using the internet ever again (not even for research, email or assignments) which would you choose?



I would probably choose never to use the internet again...if you don't sleep, you can't dream, and that's one thing in which the internet is singularly unhelpful. And after all, I've got the library and regular mail!

4. What is your favourite outfit? Put a picture here or describe it.

 


Currently, my favourite outfit consists of a black draped top, a white linen skirt with thin black stripes, roses embroidered on the hem, and a black lace underskirt with black sandals. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of myself in it! 

5. What is the best book you ever read and why?

 


This question is probably the hardest one here, because I love many books. If I had to pick one, it would be either The Lord of the Rings and The Complete Works of T.S. Eliot, because they have marked my life and writing in ways that no other book has.  

6. If you could live in any era  (past and present only) what would it be and why?


I would choose to live in the 1920s, because then I could meet my favorite authors and get advice from them, while still enjoying most of the freedom I do today.

7. Do you have a hobby? What is it?



I love to write stories and poetry, and I try to get at least one chapter of my book and one poem written every week. I also love to play the violin.

8. Do you prefer skirts or pants?



I wear pants more often, just because they tend to be more versatile and  hard-wearing than skirts, and I do a lot of walking every day, so they fit my needs better, but I enjoy wearing skirts too.

9. You are given a ticket to go to one city in the world. Which one would it be and why?

 


I would go to London, because I'd love to visit the British museum, as well as visit the stomping-grounds of many of my favourite authors.

10. You fall down a hole in the pavement and end up in Wonderland. What do you do?

 

I'd go visit the Mad Hatter, and then go on a walk with my eyes wide open- in Wonderland, there are always new things to discover!

11. Who is your favourite blogger and why? (I don't expect you to say me :P I am interested in discovering interesting blogs!)

I enjoy reading many blogs, but my favorite would have to be Girls Underground.

I decided not to tag anyone, but to instead post a few of my favorite blogs to read:
 http://notebooksisters.blogspot.com/
 http://throughthesecretdoor.blogspot.com/
 http://www.anamardoll.com/


Banned Books Week #1: Brave New World


Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

Summary:
Everyone in the world seems to be contented- no crime, no violence exists in their world, and no unrest- except for Bernard Marx. He sees nothing but hollowness in the way that everyone in their utopia is encouraged to have sexual relationships without love or even emotional investment. To assuage his worries, he and his friend Lenina Crowe visit a reservation where the people retain old-world customs. There, they meet John, whose mother used to live in their world. He returns with them, and hails their city as a "brave new world," (a reference to The Tempest, which is included in a book he owns, The Complete Works of Shakespeare). This "brave new world" dubs him John the Savage, and sees his view of love and family as at best quaint and at worst, obscene.

Why I think it was challenged:
This book was actually challenged in 2011, which surprises me, since the book was actually published in 1932. Since it depicts a society where sex without emotional investment or real relationship as the norm, I suppose it's considered somewhat subversive in any era. The elitist attitudes that some of the characters hold toward any culture other than theirs must be the reason racism, religious viewpoint and insensitivity are listed as reasons for this book to be challenged.
        What I find ironic about the charges of racism, insensitivity, and religious viewpoint is that the characters that hold such elitist views are not presented as sympathetic characters- instead, they're shown for the hypocritical, misled people that they are, and their denouncement of love is shown in a similar light. John, the most sympathetic character in the story, is horrified by the inhabitants of this utopia whose values are so skewed.
Even the title, Brave New World, is indicated to be an ironic statement. In The Tempest, Miranda, who has been in exile her whole life, regards the drunken, loudmouthed sailors who have been shipwrecked on her island and declares:
"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't."
 The inhabitants of such a brave new world are not intended to be looked upon with admiration, but with horror and distrust.

creative decay

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the empty shells of leaves
shimmer through the ether and
crumple beneath the maple
to disintegrate underfoot
leaving a miasma of decay

another crow seems to leap, (really,
she's falling) rises into the blue air
trusting in her wings
to catch the fair
breezes from the highway

captured in an artist's brushstrokes
on an easel (set up in the park)
this morsel of life is flattened on canvas
and a hungry crowd gathers around the
girl with the long-handled brushes

their eyes consume the creative process
of chemical paints,
the color of sky and land
that caress the canvas
and cover the hand 

of the short serious-faced girl
who dips her brush again and
again into the dull paints
her eyes reflecting the
trees and painful blue sky.

Banned Books Week: Sept 30 - October 6


Today is the first day of Banned Books Week, a US-wide event that celebrates the freedom to read. This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the event, and in honor of Banned Books week, I'll be posting a different banned book every day this week, with a short summary of the book, my thoughts on it, and why it has been challenged.

The list of books for this week is courtesy of the American Library Association, and are all from 2000-2011, a current list of frequently challenged books. I will be covering seven of them this week, selected from the website.

 Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

a different kind of exploration

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the sycamore towers
an amiable green dryad
whose wide green leaves fan to and fro
in the late summer breeze

i sit nearby, turning the leaves of a book
a ten-year-old knocks inside
me with ripped jeans and mulberry stains
and yes, Treasure Island in her pocket

look, a great place to read
she says, daring me
go on go on, it's an adventure
but i am older now ( whether i'm wiser still remains to be seen)

 i ignore her daredevil call
but instead retreat inside, pen in hand
and choose the dry page of a notebook
to wander upon

a different kind of exploration.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

listen, the rain

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one by one
yellowed leaves fall like
the worm-eaten pages of ancient books
(parched) to the dessicated grass


the little stream that wound through
the cedars has died
the relentless sun slew it
like a nymph that stayed out dancing until noon

shivering in the dry wind
the aspens stand
waiting for the gift of rain
to soak them

listen
the wind is dying
clouds are circling like eager birds
hush
hush

it comes like a stranger
who you once loved
the rain



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti

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"Boss always tells the rubes that her late husband made us all.
'Oh lord,' she says when they wonder about our mechanicals. 'I can barely oil the things, let alone!'
She doesn't say what she lets alone, and no one asks...
I think she says it so that they get the feeling that we could break at any moment. It's always more exciting to watch something you know could backfire.
'We saw the last performance,' they would be able to say.
'We saw the final act of the Circus Tresaulti, before everything went wrong.'
But there's no mistaking what she can do, not among us real folk, no matter what she tells the crowd.
(I didn't understand her. I had been with the circus too long; I felt too safe to know why it was better to make some things seem breakable and frail. I didn't know who might come looking for us, if they thought we were strong enough to take hold.)"
-from Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

The Circus Tresaulti is one of the few circuses left. Aerial performers shock and delight, and the tumblers and jugglers thrill the younger members of the audience. It is a welcome respite from the war that tears at the land, and more than one of its performers has been scarred by the fighting. The finale is what always captures the crowd, when Alec, the winged man, soars above the ring. Until he fell, and the government man came to see the show.
In a time of war, the talent in the Circus Trevaulti can attract unwanted attention.
For when you audition for the Circus Tresaulti, you literally put your life in the Boss's hands. It's a good thing that her hands are skillful beyond mortal means. If you are in want of a new arm, a new heart, or even a pair of wings, she can give you whatever you need.

Welcome to the circus. Please enjoy the show.

 This book, like the circus at its center, is much more than meets the eyes, for in Mechanique, it is the inner lives of the circus members that drive the narrative.
Stenos and Bird, two acrobat performers, are engaged in a never-ending struggle to prove themselves worthy to take up the retired wings of Alec, a competition that follows them into the ring.
George, a barker, has lived with the circus his entire life, and wants nothing more than to really become a part of the circus.
 Elena, the leader of the aerial performers, seems driven by her cruelty.
But like the mechanical adaptions that the Boss has given to almost every performer, there is always another layer to the story, and these layers are brilliantly evident here. The chapters are told by many different members of the circus, but George is the only character to speak in first person, thus giving a near-outsider's perspective on the workings of the circus.
The author presents each character as a fully realized person, and you truly care for each of them by the time the story reaches its end.
Valentine's lyrical writing powers the story, and her prose carries the narrative through any rough patches, despite the gritty nature of the plot.
 I would sum this book up as a dark, tense, poetic read. It is a true pleasure to attend the Circus Tresaulti.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

a feeling of distance

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why so distant my dear
 i sit down and you stand up
with your eyes fixed outside the window
looking beyond the black
crows that perch in our fountain

why so quiet, my dear
i pour the tea, and you take your cup
and let its contents flow in a single red stream
(steaming) into the black rubber sleeve
of the garbage disposal

why so still, my dear?
 i walk on and you remain
your feet fixed as firmly as Daphne's roots
 you caress the green needles of the pine
 they fall (extinguished) at your touch.

Friday, July 27, 2012

a trip to the library, wherein I am mistaken for a librarian

The other day, I visited the library. This takes more planning then you'd think, seeing as I only had forty minutes to spend there, and had ten books to locate during that time. Therefore, I had very little time to waste. Yet, waste time I did, as I somehow ended up in the section where the novels are kept, when I was looking for books on Medieval Europe. Now, when I go to the library, my backpack will not suffice, as I tend to leave with twice as many books as I came to pick up, necessitating that I bring a book cart like this one.

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 This book cart actually looks quite a bit like mine, except mine is green, and usually full of books.
I was standing in the F section of Women's Studies, this book cart filling up most of the aisle (I don't like to leave my books unattended) going over the call number of the book that I had found to make sure it was the correct one, when a fellow student walked up to me. He had a piece of paper in his hand, and he looked bewildered by the many, many shelves that line the fourth floor of the university library.
"Do you work here?" he asked.
"No," I replied, not realizing that I looked as if I did, and feeling rather complimented by his question.
"Oh," he said, looked back down at the paper, and began to walk away.
"I'm sure that the librarians will be able to help you," I called after his retreating back.

I don't think anyone has ever mistaken me for an employee of any establishment before.  I feel flattered that the first time it happened, it was a library.

Keep the Poe House open!

The Poe House

 The City of Baltimore is cutting funding that keeps the Poe House and Museum running. Without the necessary funds, this historical site may be closed to the public. Sign this petition to keep the Poe House funded, and share it on your website of choice.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-the-poe-house-and-museum-in-baltimore/

Thanks, Laura from Roses and Vellum!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some children's picture books are truly art...

Laura at Roses and Vellum posted about an article that lists some of the most beautifully illustrated books of all time. I would have to agree that the lovely images included in the article are truly art.



Here is an illustration that I particularly like. It's from Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by Harry Clarke.

  Click here for the entire article.

In response to this article, I thought I'd post some children's books that I love for both their art and their stories.

5.  Rapunzel, by Paul O. Zelinsky (1997 Caldecott Medal winner)

image source

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The Renaissance feel of this artist's illustrations are what drew me to this book as a child, and still inspire me today.

 4. Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman

The ancient epic is told in this book series, but the art of this volume was my favorite.

3. Puss In Boots by Lincoln Kirstein


I enjoyed the luminous quality of this artist's work as a child, as well as his dynamic illustrations, and now I enjoy his method of drawing from many different artistic traditions, from El Greco to 17th century architecture.

2. Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan Brett

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 I didn't only enjoy the detail of Jan Brett's illustrations, I also enjoyed the story of a horse who succeeded precisely because he wasn't like all the other horses.

1. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

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This book will always hold a special place in my heart, not only because of the sweet story of a young fruit bat who gets lost and has to adjust to living with a bird family, but because of its beautiful, almost transparent illustrations.

So, those are some of the children's books that I love! Which children's books do you love, and why?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Movie Highlight: Frankenstein (1910)

Jan. 1 1818: Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, which is later recognized as the first science fiction novel.
March 18, 1910: Edison Studios produces the first film adaptation of Frankenstein. The story is changed for the film... slightly.



If you don't have the time to see the movie, I'm going to go ahead and spoil the ending now. You ready?

Nobody dies, everybody lives.
To quote the subtitles: "The creation of an evil mind is overcome by love and disappears." 
That's exactly what happens. The monster literally disappears- appearing in a reflection in the mirror as Dr. Frankenstein looks into it, then dissolving to reveal Dr. Frankenstein's reflection as his love overwhelms his monstrous feelings, upon which Dr. Frankenstein and Elizabeth embrace.

If you've read the book, you know that's not how it ends. Most of the characters (including Dr. Frankenstein) die over the course of the story, because Mary Shelley wasn't writing a comedy. She was a Romantic era writer who was heavily influenced by Lord Gorden Byron's Manfred in writing her novel, and she wasn't writing to become a best-seller. Her work wasn't received well upon publication, either, in fact, the Quarterly Review denounced it as  "a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity".

In sharp contrast, the 1910 film was not intended to focus upon the horrific events that occur in the story, but instead highlighted other areas of the story.

“To those familiar with Mrs. Shelly’s story it will be evident that we have carefully omitted anything which might... shock any portion of the audience. In making the film the Edison Co. has carefully tried to eliminate all actual repulsive situations and to concentrate its endeavors upon the mystic and psychological problems that are to be found in this weird tale. Wherever, therefore, the film differs from the original story it is purely with the idea of eliminating what would be repulsive to a moving picture audience.”
 -Edison Kinetogram. 2. Mar 15, 1910. pp. 3–4.

The 1910s were a period of social unrest and reform, and people desired an entertaining escape from reality, not a story with a tragic, challenging ending, and they certainly did not want to be shocked.

Despite the obvious curtailing of the story, however, Frankenstein remains the first horror film, and its significance must not be overlooked. Frankenstein expanded what film was capable of covering, and set new standards and tropes that still mark films today.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donelly

Note: This isn't the first book that I've reviewed by Jennifer Donnelly; you can read my review of Revolution here.
image via Goodreads

 “I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you.”

              Mattie Gokey loves words. She learns a new one every day, and secretly writes them  into stories that mingle both dark and light. When the news came that she'd won a scholarship from New York's Barnard College, she was ecstatic at the thought of studying literature.
But she feels trapped.
Her father expects her to stay in the Adirondacks and work on the farm, picking up the pieces that were left when her mother died and her brother left.
She can't figure out her feelings for her neighbor, Royal Loomis, who can't see the point of going to college- or reading, for that matter.
When she gets a job as a maid at the local hotel,  a woman makes her promise to burn her old love letters. Later, the woman is found, dead, in the lake. And Matti still has not burned the letters. From the girl's words, Mattie learns a secret that will not only shock her, but will drive her to decide what to do with her own life.

           I was somewhat leery of the concept of this book at first, because this book is set in 1906 and I thought that Jennifer Donelly would write Mattie with more modern views toward women then would be accurate for the time period. However, this was not the case in the least. Mattie worries about whether her views are right, and  considers marrying Royal over going to college. This book is based on the murder of Grace Brown and the author incorporates the text from the original letters, which adds another element of realism to the story as well.
Mattie is also told that "a young woman...ought to turn her mind to topics more cheerful and inspiring than lonely hermits and dead children" by her teacher, who can't see why Mattie wants to write about the dark side of life as well as the bright side. I enjoyed that Mattie faced opposition in terms of what she wanted to write about, and faced it head-on, not allowing her teacher or anyone else tell her what she should write about.

The characters are engaging, realistic and raw, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beautiful People: Queen Mesalinde Eldan



This blog post is prompted by the Beautiful People challenge by Georgie and Sky Penn. The purpose of this blog post is to interview the villain of my newest story, Her Majesty Mesalinde Eldan. 

Katie McGrath from BBC's Merlin possesses similar features to my villain

1. What is their motive? 
She thinks that any Fae who would dare to fall in love with a mortal is disgusting and perverted, so she takes steps to make sure any such romance is outlawed.

2. What are they prepared to do to get what they want? 
Even though her son fell in love with a mortal, she disowns him and banishes him, to serve as an example to any others who would dare to follow his path. She believes that personal feelings should never stand in the way of the law, even if it is a law that she penned herself.

3. Are they evil to the core, or simply misunderstood? 

She wouldn't think of herself as evil: she draws on what she sees to be true social issues, and because her son has gone against what she sees as moral, she condemns him.
 

4. What was their past like? What about their childhood? Was there one defining moment that made them embrace their evil ways?

Her brother was killed by frightened mortals in the fourth century : he cast a weak glamour, and they discovered him, burning him at the stake as a witch. This moment made her fear and detest all mortals.


5. Now that they’re evil, have they turned their back on everyone, or is there still someone in their life that they care for? (Brother? Daughter? Love interest? Mother? Someone who is just as evil as they are?)

She still cares for her son, but she tries to bury her affections for him because of what he has done. Mesalinde feels deep affection for her many adopted children, and enjoys inviting them over to her apartments when she is not dealing with politics.


6. Do they like hugs?

Yes, she does. She especially likes to have group hugs with her grandchildren, and often one or two will sit in her lap while she tells them stories.

7. Are they plagued by something? (Nightmares, terrible thoughts?)

She is haunted by her brother's death, and her banished son. Because her brother's death allowed her to ascend the throne, she still feels guilt.


8. Who are they more similar to: Gollum or Maleficent?

I would say, strange as it seems to me, she is more like Gollum than Maleficent. She is not slimy or fish-eating. Instead, it is her outlook on the world and narrow views that make her the villain of my story.


9. If your villain could have their choice of transportation what would it be?

She would most likely choose a red dragon. However, she would settle for a black Jaguar in a pinch.


10. If you met your villain in the street, how afraid would you be? Are they evil enough to kill their creator?

She would probably ignore me: I am an insignificant mortal, after all.

This questionnaire really helped me to get a more complete view of my villain in my story, The Eaters of Sorrow and Chaos. I'm not sure how much of this knowledge I will incorporate into my story, but I will certainly write her point-of-view differently from now on!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Les Miserables: The movie trailer, and what we can expect from the movie

A few nights ago, I found this trailer:



           After watching it five times in a row(and fangirling all over the place), I was exceedingly excited. It's been my favorite book for two years, and my favorite musical for one. I have the Broadway recording on my mp3 player, and have most of the songs memorized. In my junior year of high school, I tried to put on an abridged version of the musical with some friends. Sadly, we only had seven people available to participate, and our musical plans came to naught. In short, I am a fan. So when I saw the trailer, I was speechless.

Now that I've reclaimed my words, here is a detailed analysis of the trailer.

Fans have protested against the use of "I Dreamed a Dream" in the trailer in the place of more dynamic, exciting songs such as "Do You Hear The People Sing" or "Look Down." However, the usage of this particular song indicates that this movie will emphasise Fantine's story, and secondly Valjean's story, based on the roughly equal screen time given to both characters in the trailer. Based on the scenes chosen for the trailer, the aspects of each story as told in the movie is apparent.

Because the trailer begins with a long shot of Jean Valjean toiling up a snowy slope, then shows him in front of a cross, this movie will probably emphasize Valjean's encounter with the Bishop, as well as his philanthropic leanings.Based on an image of Valjean kneeling before an ornate alter that appears half-way through the trailer, the theme of his conversion will also be emphasised. It is significant that he only appears once with Javier, but is shown three times with Cosette. This fact indicates that his story will take a backseat to Fantine's story.

Fantine's most defining song in the musical is "I Dreamed a Dream." Even though Fantine has slightly less screen time in the trailer, she is always present through this song, indicating that her personal story, and that of her daughter will receive full coverage in the movie. The shots chosen for her appearances in the trailer are significant as well, as in all of them, she is doing something  to provide for her daughter.  She appears in the sewers as the fourth shot in the trailer, in a low-necked silk dress which she wears as a prostitute, according to the novel. She is shown working in the factory, and also shown as her hair is cut off for her to sell, indicating that the lengths to which she is willing to go to care for her daughter will be covered in full. This depiction sets her up as a sacrificial mother, suggesting that her loving care of Cosette will be emphasised.


In the novel, Hugo focuses on each person's story, rather than generalizing. One interesting aspect of the trailer is that there are only about eleven shots containing more than two people, compared to twenty-three shots of two or less characters. Thirteen of these shots are of Valjean and Fantine, indicating that we can expect the movie to focus on the personal stories of Fantine and Valjean, as well as a more personal approach to the other characters in Les Miserables.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Avengers: a review

Poster courtesy of film.com



   When Loki, the Norse god also known as the Trickster, hijacks the energy source called the Tesseract and uses its power to manifest in the very heart of SHIELD, he uses his newfound powers to bend two minds to his cause: the minds of Clint Barton (an international spy also known as Hawkeye) and Erik Solveig (a brilliant physicist). It's this ability that intimidates director Nick Fury and his second-in-command, Maria Hill, perhaps even more than the way that Loki can kill with a look. In this tenuous situation, there is only one thing to do: resurrect the once-scrapped defense program, the Avengers Initiative. Russian spy Natasha Romanov (also known as the Black Widow), volatile scientist Bruce Banner (the Hulk), supersoldier Steve Rogers (Captain America), Asgardian god Thor, and billionaire genius Tony Stark (Ironman) must all band together, if they are to defeat Loki's machinations. But can they work together without killing one another first?

image courtesy of screenrant.com
     Not only is The Avengers a humorous, engaging movie, it is a superhero movie that is atypical for several different reasons.
      Firstly, its clever characters utilize their words and strategy over their strength. We see Stark and Banner working in a lab and discussing scientific theories, and Stark hacks into the SHIELD databases. Thor tries to reason with his adoptive brother before engaging in battle with him, and does his best to convince him that he is wrong. Rogers is the peacemaker in the group, trying to reconcile his arguing comrades. Natasha Romanov uses her wits to outwit Loki, and discover his plans.


---SPOILER ALERT---


 Natasha Romanov pretends to be feeling guilt over her past actions, and exploits Loki's misconception of her weak emotional state to parse out his plans. She pretends to be crying to get him to tell his real reason for remaining a captive on the Helicarrier, and when he lets his reasons slip, she does an immediate one-eighty, going from weepy and broken from his taunting to enthused at her success.


 ---END OF SPOILER ALERT---

Loki imprisoned on board the Helicarrier


    It is this scene that does much to set The Avengers apart from most superhero flicks. In both Thor and the Avengers, Loki is shown to be a persuasive manipulator, using his words to expose and exploit the weaknesses of his enemies. Natasha Romanov subverts this skill, using Loki's perception of her to expose his weaknesses. She is more than the movie's "token female" superhero- in fact, she has no superpowers. Instead, she uses wit and martial arts to overcome her foes.

I'd gladly see The Avengers again, not only because it's an exciting film that never lags in pace, but also because it is a surprisingly thoughtful film for a superhero movie.