14 December 2009

Read Your Own Books Challenge 2010

In keeping with my new year's resolution of using up what I already have (big noodle casseroles with those Cash and Carry egg noodles, collaging from current ephemera...) I have decided to Read My Own Books in 2010. (Hit the button at the right to see the challenge.)  I made a list of ones I have that I have been meaning to read- some I have been toting around since college!  In no particular order, and followed by the approximate years they have spent, unread, in my possession:

  • The Red Dancer, Richard Skinner (2 yrs)
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell, Susanna Clark (1 year)
  • The White Bone, Barbara Gowdy (3 yrs)
  • The First World War, John Keegan (5+ years)
  • The Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber (2 yrs)
  • Peter the Great, Robert Massie (7+ years)
  • Be Sweet, Roy Blount Jr. (3 yrs)
  • Stone's Fall, Iain Pears (1 yr)
  • The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox (1 yr)
And those are the books that have made it out of boxes in the last year I have lived in my house!  It'll be a weird year for reading, leaping all over history. 

09 December 2009

Jingle Bells

The most insidious ear worm of them all.  Maybe.  Jingle Bells was written by a Boston Sunday School teacher named James Pierpont who just happened to hit on one of those mythic melodies that resonates with everyone.  Never knew the second verse, though.

Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh
Over the fields we go,  laughing all the way
Bells on bobtail ring, making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way 
O what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh

A day or two ago I thought I'd take a ride 
And soon, Miss Fanny Bright was seated by my side, 
The horse was lean and lank misfortune seemed his lot 
He got into a drifted bank and then we got upsot 

A day or two ago the story I must tell 
I went out on the snow, and on my back I fell; 
A gent was riding by in a one-horse open sleigh, 
He laughed as there I sprawling lie, but quickly drove away.

Of more interest to me would be some kind of study about how the alternate version spread from kid to kid until every kid in the country knows it.  Its weird, and so American.

Here's some versions from Rob Weir's blog:

Jingle Bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg
The Batmobile lost a wheel
and the Joker got away

Other reported versions include:

Shotgun shells, Santa smells,
Rudolf ran away,
Oh what fun it is to ride
in a beat-up Chevrolet!


Jingle bells, shotgun shells,
Santa Claus is dead,
Rudolf got a .22
and shot him in the head.


Jingle Bells, Shotgun Shells,
BB's in the air.
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in Santa's underwear!"


Jingle Bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg,
The Batmobile lost a wheel,
and the Joker joined ballet , Hey!

08 December 2009

A Third Peaceful and Nice Song

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see?

a star, a star, shining in the night
with a tail as big as a kite
with a tail as big as a kite

In October of 1962, an American reconnaisance mission flying over Cuba recognized Soviet nuclear missile bases being installed within launching distance of the US.  President John F Kennedy and his brother Bobby, the Attorney General, spent a frantic and stressful month trying to ensure their safe removal and unruffle the feathers of the Soviet alliance.  It is generally considered the closest the world ever came to full out nuclear war during the Cold War period. 
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, songwriter Noel Regney (who was, with his then wife Gloria Shayne Baker was also responsible for "Rain, Rain Go Away") was walking in New York City, worried, watching all the mothers with their babies in strollers, and thought of the line, "Pray for peace, people everywhere."  Regney himself was a Frenchman drafted by the Nazis during the occupation in World War II.  He deserted the German army and joined the French resistance, and was eventually wounded leading the Nazis into an ambush.  Methinks he may have known a thing or two about war and peace.  
Do You Hear What I Hear  is such a sweet picturesque song (I love the image, "a voice as big as the sea..") and when I used to teach pre-school Sunday School, the kidlets always loved it.  It's full of hope and love.

said the night wind to the little lamb
do you see what I see?
way up in the sky little lamb,
do you see what I see?
a star, a star shining in the night
with a tail as big as a kite

said the little lamb to the shepherd boy
do you hear what I hear?
ringing through the sky shepherd boy
do you hear what I hear?
a song, a song high above the trees
with a voice as big as the sea

said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
do you know what I know?
in your palace warm, mighty king
do you know what I know?
a child, a child shivers in the cold
let us bring him silver and gold

said the mighty king to people everywhere
listen to what I say!
pray for peace people everywhere
listen to what I say!
the child, the child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light...

Second of Three Peaceful Christmas Songs

Maybe you have never heard the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914.  It is a true story, sometimes told with an exaggerated sentimentality, but incredibly poignant and miraculous.  I suggest you read it, here.  On Christmas Eve, in 1914, in the trenches of World War I, German and British soldiers spontaneously called a truce and suspended fire to fellowship, gather the dead, exchange gifts, and be human beings instead of cannon fodder for a few days.  The story is just devastating to me, but I tend to dwell overmuch on WWI, perhaps.  I can't watch movies about it because I get too despairingly sad.  So I have never seen the movie Joyeux Noel (2005), because, man, how depressing is that?  I mean nice. It's a nice story.  Nice stories are even harder for me to take sometimes than flat out misery.
Snoopy's Christmas (watch it below!!) is one of a series of novelty songs by the Royal Guardsmen inspired by Snoopy's imaginary adventures fighting the Red Baron in the comic strip Peanuts.   I think I can trace my weird nostalgia about WWI to the Peanuts show about Flanders Fields and these songs, which felt strangely imaginary to me until I discovered they were real as an adult.  I particularly love this song- the chorus is so sweet and catchy:

Christmas bells, those Christmas bells 
Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

The song parallels the Christmas Truce.  Here's the words:

Was the night before Christmas, 40 below
When Snoopy went up in search of his foe
He spied the Red Baron, fiercely they fought
With ice on his wings Snoopy knew he was caught.

The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn't shoot, well, we'll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below. 

Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out, "Merry Christmas, my friend!"

The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy, our hero, saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they'd meet on some other day.

It was in fact the Germans who sent a chocolate cake into the Allied trench that initiated the truce.   It's too much, really.  Like Christmas.

3 for 1 day- Christmas Song Overload!

Been remiss, so enjoy a three-for-one post about Christmas Songs for Peace.

Obviously "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John and Yoko comes to mind first when I think of Chirstmas songs written to celebrate or beg for peace.  Featuring the infamous Phil Spector 'wall of sound', it was recorded in October 1971, and the kids singing in the background are the Harlem Community Choir.  Apparently the recording starts with a quiet little whisper from John and Yoko to their children, "merry christmas, Kyoko...merry christmas, Julian" which alone makes me want to cry. 
1971 sucked, despite a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough in China.  The war in Vietnam was a bloodbath.  In April of that year, American deaths in Vietnam passed 45,000.  The Pentagon Papers, the secret archive of the shocking White House administrations' movements towards the war, began to be published in the New York Times.  The captain responsible for the massacre of civilians at My Lai was acqutted of all charges.  What a song to write in the midst of this time in America!  The name of the song comes from John and Yoko's billboard campaign in 1969.  The billboards read, War Is Over (If You Want It)- Happy Christmas from John and Yoko and were installed in eleven cities around the world. 
The song rates on some people's worst Christmas songs ever lists, which is pretty Grinch-like if you ask me.  Yoko's whole schtick annoys me as much as anybody, but come on.  How can you remove a song so completely from its context and find much to gripe about here?  Its a charming melody, even if the words get a little insipid here and there.  My favorite version is by Sarah McLachlan, believe it or not.
By the way, let me inject here a note about the abbreviation "Xmas".  It is not, as some paranoid evangelicals have claimed, "crossing out Christ".  X happens to be a traditional abbreviation for the Saviour, as in the Chi-Rho symbol the emperor Constantine saw in the sky:

representing the first two letters of Christos, Christ, in the Greek, or in the letters inscribed on the cross in the Eastern Orthodox church, the so-called Christogram: 

It stands for, roughly transliterated, without the Greek alphabet, cuz I'm lazy, Iesous Christos.  NIKA, btw, means "conquers".  Jesus Christ Conquers is what this ancient symbol means.
All that to say, the X in Xmas stands for Christ, it doesn't "cross him out".  
Oh dear, I seem to have gone on.

04 December 2009

Have yourself a depressing little Christmas.

It is a great American tradition to try to make things seem better than they are.  Eternal optimism.  Can do attitude.  Looking on the bright side.  Take the nostalgic old tune, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  The best version has got to be John Denver and Rowlf the Dog from A Christmas Together.  Found the YouTube video here!
Here's the words:

have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light
from now on our troubles will be out of sight
have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the yule tide gay
from now on our troubles will be out of sight...

It's all polished wood and families in pretty sweaters and glasses of warm brandy and candles in the window on a dark snowy night.

Of course the original song, from the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, was closely tied to the plot of the movie, and taken out of context, it is depressing as hell.  Put it in the terrifying waning days of world war 2 (we only know it was waning in hindsight, remember!) and man, is it a downer!

have yourself a merry little Christmas,  it may be our last
next year we all may be living in the past...

no good times like in olden days, happy golden days of yore

faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more

Who could bear to listen to that at Christmas!  In fact it was sung by the original artist, Judy Garland, at the Hollywood Canteen in 1944 and it brought the soldiers in attendance to tears.  It was Frank Sinatra who asked that the song be cheered up for his recording of it.  God forbid we should face what the legend and expectations of the perfect family Christmas means for those who can't have it.  Perish the thought of pausing in Nordstrom when the piano plays a melancholy tune.  We have shopping to do!

03 December 2009

Baby, it was really stupid to come over here tonight

I have a huge peeve about the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside".  In fact, I call it the date rape song.  I hate that people sing it thoughtlessly and don't notice the lyrics.  It is a reprehensible song.  Written by Frank Loesser in 1944, it was even given an Academy Award in 1949 for Best Song.  In it, 'the wolf', a lusty man, tries to entice 'the mouse', a reluctant girl, to stay past her curfew and...
Well here's the words, emphasis mine, in case you never listened closely to them.  This is the mouse's part:

I really can't stay
I've got to go away
this evening has been so very nice
my mother will start to worry
and father will be pacing with fury
so I really better scurry
well maybe just a half a drink more
the neighbors might think
say...what's in this drink?
I wish I knew how to break the spell
I ought to say no, no, no
at least I can say that I tried
I really can't stay
the answer is no
this welcome has been so nice and warm
my sister will be suspicious
my brother will be there at the door
my maiden aunt's mind is vicious
well maybe just a half a drink more
i've got to go home
say, lend me a coat?
but don't you see? 
there's bound to be talk tomorrow
at least there'd be plenty implied

I really can't stay...

Okay, annoying little reluctant mousie, didn't your mama ever teach you to mean it when you say no?  But now listen 'the wolf''s response:

I really can't stay... but baby, it's cold outside
I've got to go away... baby, it's cold outside
this evening has been so very nice... I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice!
my mother will start to worry...  beautiful, what's your hurry?
and father will be pacing the floor....listen to the fireplace roar
so I really better scurry...beautiful, please don't hurry
well maybe just a half a drink more...put some music on while I pour (??!!)
the neighbors might think...baby it's bad out there
say...what's in this drink? no cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how to break the spell...I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir...mind if I move closer?
at least I can say that I tried...what's the use of hurtin' my pride (really, dude??!!)
I really can't stay...baby, don't hold out
I simply must go...baby, it's cold outside

the answer is no...ooh darling it's cold outside
this welcome has been so nice and warm...look out the window at that storm
my sister will be suspicious...man, your lips look delicious
my brother will be there at the door...waves upon a tropical shore
my maiden aunt's mind is vicious...gosh, your lips ARE delicious
well maybe just a half a drink more...never such a blizzard before
i've got to go home...baby you'll freeze out there
say, lend me your coat?...it's up to your knees out there
but don't you see? how can you do this thing to me?
there's bound to be talk tomorrow...think of my life long sorrow
at least there'd be plenty implied...if you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay...get over that hold out
aah, but it's cold outside
So, essentially, he has slipped her a mickey, he's guilting her into sleeping with him by appealing for his loss of pride, and he is essentially threatening her health and safety should she choose to leave.  How about offering her a ride home, dude?  How about respecting the wishes of her parents that she be safely home in the middle of a blizzard? 
Apparently Islamist Sayid Qutb witnessed young people at a church dance writhing and nasty dancing to this little ditty in the early fifties, and he wrote about it in the seminal work, "The America I Have Seen", which became a base text for Islamic radicals, including Al Qaeda.  Now THAT is a pedigree. 
Too bad the stupid song is so catchy. 

02 December 2009

The Dubious History of the Great American Christmas Song

Well, as usual I was totally  inspired by a podcast today.  In the case it was the unapologetically enthusiastic embrace of the folks at the Slate Culture Gabfest of Bob Dylan's Christmas Album, and the fascinating subsequent discussion of the derivation of some of our most beloved American Christmas songs.
For starters, the ubiquitous and nostalgic White Christmas, penned by Russian Jewish immigrant Israel Baline (later known as Irving Berlin) has already been sullied for me by the knowledge that the white Christmas crooner Bing Crosby used to know was in frigid Spokane, WA, my arch enemy.  If one can have a city for an arch enemy.  Which one can. 
If you have never encountered either the full version of the song or the unbearable (if only because of the blackface scene) film Holiday Inn for which it was written, you might be in for a little shock.   I first heard the whole song by Linda Ronstadt and was like, huh?
The sun is shining.
The grass is green.
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,
And I'm longing to be up north.

 Here's a line from a review of Mark Rosen's book on the subject:

Ironies, abound, of course, since a secular Christmas song written by a Jewish immigrant became the embodiment of holiday nostalgia. Further, the very selling of the idea of a more tranquil, innocent, idealized holiday past helped fuel the American commercialization of Christmas.

Couldn't have said it better myself.   And I just love it. Watch Bing in all his glory here.

01 December 2009

Moby Dick

It being Christmas and all, I think it is time for a new obsession. How about Moby Dick? I have been listening to the American Icons series on Studio 360 and was reminded how obsessed people get with this novel of obsession.  It's one of those 'books about everything' that I love.  Plus Nantucket, 19th century, madness, cultural relativism, simple joy versus the consuming dark, God, the nature of evil, the barbarity of man, the indifference of Mother Nature, the power of the unknown, the meaning of suffering, the finality...or not... of death, bizarre ephemera, the white man's plunder of the planet, the lure and call of the sea, and a black ship covered in the remains of whales.  Among other things.  What's not to love? I had a mini obsession with the story of the whaleship Essex, especially the wonderful book by Nathaniel Phibrick, and of course being a Coffin I have a genetic pull to Nantucket Island.  I visited there, once, and found that while my body type and choice of apparel have no place among the current inhabitants, the whale bloodied and oil soaked ground do in fact have something to share with me.
 I have tried to read Moby Dick several times, and every time I do, I think, what a weird fricking book- which someone actually also says on the Studio 360 podcast.  It is unlike anything else I have read.
Something I learned from the podcast is that artist Frank Stella got obsessed with Moby Dick in the late seventies and spent 12 years creating a series of pieces based on the chapters of the book.   Though generally not a fan of Modern, angular and abstract art, I was intrigued by his idea: creating a piece of work to accompany every chapter of Melville's book.  All of them.
The titles of the chapters are themselves so evocative and romantic they nearly eclipse the need for the book.  And they can be misleading, as this McSweeney's bit points out.  Maybe I should try it. I am, of course, no Frank Stella, and realistically I can commit no more than 5 minutes a day to any artistic endeavor.  Moreover, I lose interest quickly.  

Chapter 1:
In Belfast I once attended a sermon in a church with a high, high looming pulpit, dark stained wood, and a definite portent of doom.  Below is the preaching scene from Moby Dick with Gregory Peck. (It's Orson Welles preaching, though.)  This is not at all how I pictured the church when I read the description in the book.   The church in my head, like the empty, draughty one in which I spent a boring two hours in Belfast, is dark, brooding, hopeless, damning, and threatening.  It is a coffin ship.

20 November 2009

Top 25 Horror Films of All Time, according to Me

Requested by buried.com
You want my opinion?  Anytime.

1.   Psycho
2.   The Exorcist
3.   Rosemary's Baby
4.   The Birds
5.   A Tale of Two Sisters (Japan,  2003)
6.   The Shining
7.   The Haunting (1963)
8.   Jacob's Ladder
9.   The Others
10.  Nosferatu
11.  Silence of the Lambs
12.  Carrie
13.  Paranormal Activity
14.  Dawn of the Dead
15.  The Sixth Sense
16.  Poltergeist
17.  Seven
18.  Freaks (1932)
19.  Zombieland (2009)
20. Amityville Horror (1978)
21.  Halloween (1978)
22.  A Nightmare on Elm Street
23.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
24.  Blair Witch Project
25.  Alien

The Graphics Fairy

Stumbling, bumbling my way out of my cave and trying to get inspired again to create something, anything, I happened upon this whole lovely community of imaginative and generous bloggers.  Current obsession: The Graphics Fairy (button at right), who out of the goodness of her hearts posts vintage clip art, designs, blog and web elements (on her sister site, Background Fairy).  So pretty, so inspiring.  Of course, though, my treacherous reuptake inhibitors, or whatever it is that is wrong with my brain, immediately began accusing me of not doing nearly so much to fill the world with beauty.  Which is true.  I do very little these days to inspire anyone. 
I think it might be that I have a hard time being inspired by Thanksgiving, because I dislike brown, and orange, and yellow, and especially a combination of the 3.  Unlike Christmas, you can't really just up and decide to have a Frenchie Thanksgiving, or a pink and white glitter Thanksgiving.  Well, I suppose you can, but not in my family.
Did you know that the traditional four humours (Phlegmatic, Snaguine, Choleric, and Melancholic) correspond quite nicely with the four Keirsey Temperaments? (Guardian, Artisan, Rational, Idealist) And that these in turn correspond to the dimensions of the Myers Briggs? (SJ, SP, NT, NF)  AND that the four main characters of the Wizard of Oz correspond quite nicely with them all?
To wit:

Dorothy is a Guardian Personality, dependable, traditional, longing for the security and peace of home.  She is Phelgmatic- the humor of Phelgm.  Other Guardians you may know: Mother Theresa, Harry Truman, and Joseph Corbett Clayton Beck.

The Cowardly Lion is an Artisan Personality. He is playful, not too concerned with the future, craves popularity, and is a natural leader (when he's not scared to death!) His humor is Sanguine- blood.  Some famous artisans are Ernest Hemingway, Bob Dylan, and Amelia Earhart.

The Scarecrow has a Rational Personality.  Its quite rare, actually!  He is independent, strong-willed, even-tempered, and of, course, rational.  He's a deep, analytical thinker and a problem solver. His humor is that of yellow bile: a choleric.  Other rationals who have changed the world: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Sophia Cleone Beck.

And the Tin Man.  The poor Tin Man is an Idealist.  Romantic, loving, empathetic, intense: a real bleeding heart.  He's always enthusiastically striving for that perfect world he knows is out there, somewhere.  His humor is black bile: Melancholy.  Eleanor Roosevelt was an Idealist, as well as Princess Diana, Lacey Coffin Greene, and Ava Clare Beck.
Now you have participated in my ice breaker from Time Management training.  I have a pretty fun job.  Sometimes.

19 November 2009

Wow, I really screwed the pooch on that one.

This may or may not come as a shock to you, but I failed to write a novel in a month.    In fact I still have 10 days and I already have thrown in the towel.  I am ashamed to say that I did everything I could think of to avoid writing, including, but not limited to, reading every word of the Entertainment Weekly, sorting socks, searching for miniatures at Value Village, reading a very dry biography about Rasputin (how can you make Rasputin dry??? Dude succeeded.), searching for the perfect online simulation game (why aren't there any that allow you to decorate a historically accurate Victorian parlor?), watching endless episodes of BBC reality shows- How Clean Is Your House, Kitchen Nightmares, Mary Queen of Shops, sleeping when not tired, etc etc.  In the end I spit out about 6000 words of my multigenerational, part sci fi, part historical novel.  It is funny how it turns out I write just like I live- in vignettes.  And- action! Ava, wearing her floor length white nightgown, 11 years old, sits on the rug snuggling her bunny.  And- cut! Scene!  The bunny died this week, by the way, because life isn't really a series of charming vignettes.  Or maybe it is....

04 November 2009

Onward and upward!

This is so embarassing to admit, but I am writing a novel this month.  I know, I have no time, I have no energy,  I can hardly get dressed some days, yet I am finding it necessary to write a novel.  But, friends, it is not just any novel.  It;s the thing that has been percolating in my pickled brain for months.  Here's a little teeny inkling what it's about:  a Victorian Protestant Ascendancy oldest sister named Bauxie, who grew up with Constance Markiewicz and Eva Gore-Booth and Jack and WB Yeats, and some time travel, and some spiritualism and some sorrow.  And some black cats.
50,000 words are needed, and I have almost 3000.  There is always time to write.  And draw elaborate family trees.  Even though the laundry isn't done.

11 October 2009

Friday of Great Books Week

When you give a book as a special gift, what is it?  Why?


Crime and Punishment. It should be read several times by every thoughtful person. It says- there is justice. We condemn ourselves by the work of our conscience- if we let it do its work.  And that somehow puts revenge, and anger, and horror in its place: God's hands.  Not ours.  Ours is only to love.  Obviously I could go on forever, here, but what you really need to do is Read the Book.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday of Great Books Week

"I hated this book when I had to read it in high school, but when I read it as an adult on my own I loved it."

Hmmm... Unlike my peers, I liked most of the books I was assigned, with the exception of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises which I have not revisited.
I do know that I didn't really appreciate reading Shakespeare,  especially the comedies, until I took a class from Michael Kirschner at North Seattle Community College.  He also made me treasure more profoundly Yeats, who I already loved, but didn't really know, especially Sailing to Byzantium.  He was a wonderful teacher.

-- Posted from my iPhone

My 10 best movie characters since 1980

I shamelessly steal blog ideas, apparently.  Maybe that's my schtick. Trying to come up with names for our Admin department's celebration of Name Your PC Day (no joke- it's Nov 20), I happened upon Film Squish, running a 10 favorite characters roundtable with other film bloggers, of which I am not one.   ( I was trying to find evil computer characters from movies- besides Hal, BTW.  Open to suggestions...)  So I started thinking, and realized I have some definite ideas about this.

Like my beloved Filmspotting boys, I have set some parameters around my 10 favorite characters:

1. The movie has to made after 1980. I just don't know enough earlier movies- maybe another time I will try it.
2. The film must be live action, not animated. Basically because all 10 would be Miyazake characters.
3.  This is a Nice List.  Maybe some time I will post a Mean List.

Okay, with those caveats in mind, ahem.

10.   Ace Ventura. (I know, I know, I just can't help it.)
Truly, I never laugh as hard as I do when these movies are on.  Look at his fricking hair?! How can you not laugh?  "Die, Devil Bird, Die!!"

9.   Dale Cooper.
 This is a cheat, because most of what I love about Agent Cooper comes from the TV series, but his confident, OCD, cherry pie lovin' self is just so delectable. 
From Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

8.   Marge Gunderson.
The single most badass pregnant cop in movie history.  That kid is so lucky to have such a mom.  From her accent to her black coffee to her awkward flirtation with an old classmate, Frances MacDormand is unbelievably good.
From Fargo.

7.   Han Solo.
The prototype for all smartass rebel scoundrels.  Or the archetype.  Or the apex.  Whatever.  
I cry every damn time he is sucked down into the carbon freezing mechanism.

6.   John McClane.
Well, really, what do you expect me to do?  Ripped out David Addison, finally able to kick some ass and be snarcky at the same time?  I'd like seconds, please.  And thirds.  And fourths. And with a vengeance.

5.  Christian (from Moulin Rouge!)
Sweet, naive Christian, taught all the hard lessons about reality in one year in Montmartre. Ewan MacGregor has never been so completely lovable.  He still makes my heart pound when he belts out "....My gift is my song...and this one's for you..." and stops Satine's antics cold.  So sweet and sincere, I just want to put him in my pocket. 

4.   Annie Savoy 
"I believe in the Church of Baseball", says the all-knowing, proud Annie at the beginning of Bull DurhamBy the time the movie ends we know Annie a little better- she's tired of the games, of her cynical way in the world, and really just wants to be.   With Crash Davis.  
Who doesn't?
From Bull Durham

3.   Venkman.
"Back off man. I'm a scientist."
What more can I add? 
From Ghostbusters.

2.   The Dude.
Because that rug really tied the room together.  Because he made me laugh in the worst days of my divorce.  Because he is quite possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County.  Because sometimes there's a man...sometimes there's a man.
From The Big Lebowski 

1.   Marion Ravenwood.
The strong, sexy counterpart to Indy (and kind of representing him on this list, since I love them together more than any of his other stories), Marion is so adorable, and proud, and kind of foolish, and so human in a way that women are not usually in action movies.  I loved her and wanted to be her from the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I still do.

-- Posted from my iPhone

07 October 2009

Wednesday, Great Books Week

" I don't have to write my autobiography because someone already wrote it..."

Well, being a number 4 in the Enneagram system I bristle at this question, because of course I am so unique that no one could capture me in a novel, let alone someone I never knew.  But that's lazy, so I forced myself to look harder  as Rafiki says.  Then I remembered Steppenwolf.  I so need to reread Steppenwolf.  I found it profoundly disturbing when I read it in college- it was godless existentialism on a primal level and it freaked me out.  I feel like a total black- turtlenecked geek saying it, but Hesse's book describes my inner life more clearly than anything else I've read, with the possible exception of Notes from Underground.  Of course the details of daily life are all wrong, but the entrenched sensation of not belonging is spot on.

06 October 2009

Tuesday of Great Books Week

When I was a child, my favorite book was...

Okay, I cheat. It's a tie. I absolutely adored Emily of New Moon, the lesser known precocious orphan creation of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Black haired and black eyed Emily is a writer, which I always fancied myself to be, whose imagination runs wild. Add in the unbelievable idyll that is New Moon farm and childhood love Teddy, and... sigh. Escapism. I read it to my girls last year and they loved Emily as much as me.

A close tie is the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, illustrated by Dalziel, I think... though I suspect the edition I had was a mash up of pre-raphaelite woodcuts.  They were transporting.  I adored reading the strange stories and losing myself in the bizarre and beautiful world of the pictures.  This is the one book I heartily regret not holding onto into adulthood.

-- Posted from my iPhone

05 October 2009

Monday of Great Books Week

A tweet from Grammar Girl led me to the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors Great Books Week blog tour.  I'm in!

Day 1, Monday
Seven books for a desert island: what I would need to get me by.
  1. The Bible.  Maybe Eugene Peterson's emminently readable The Message, or the New King James with an Orthodox commentary.
  2. Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin.  Haunting images, industrial New York, fantasy and history, this book leaves me with a physical ache to wrap up in a rug and take a midnight sleigh ride through time across a frozen lake.
  3. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Alyosha!  I would happily while away the hours with you and your corrupted old father and your tortured brothers.
  4. Dracula, Bram Stoker.  I never tire of the old bat; the screenplay and production has played in my head a million times, each one a million times better than Coppola's.  Damn Keanu!
  5. The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein. Duh.
  6. The Golden Bough,  James Frazer.  Just because I have never found the time to read this definitive survey of folk culture and symbolism that has inspired everything from TS Eliot's The Wasteland to Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King.
  7. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut.  Lucky me! Lucky mud!  An appropriately absurdist apocalyptic love story.  Love it to pieces.

Monster, give me my child!

Dracula, Chapter IV

Clearly things are getting a little freaky for our poor Jonathan. Now he knows the Count sleeps in a coffin filled with freshly turned earth (which kind of begs the question, isn't it overkill to have the dirt AND the coffin?). He's seen the bewailing mother looking for her child devoured by wolves. Don't think I've seen that in a movie, either. He's been psychologically tortured- you can go no you can't! You are my friend you are dinner for my girl posse! He's done. I can completely picture the poor guy just breaking down, saying his goodbyes to Mina and the cruel, cruel world. Get this chap a brandy, stat!
Hard to imagine he'll go back to his recipe gathering Mina quite the same gent as left a month ago.
Pretty bummed somebody thought of the whole Jonathan-twitter-thing before I did.  Could be hilarious...

-- Posted from my iPhone

04 October 2009

Welcome to my house!

the incomparable Bela Legosi

Dracula: Ch.s II, III

Interestingly, I don't think I have ever seen a movie Dracula that even comes close to Stoker's description:

"His face was a strong- a very strong- aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.  His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.  For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and stong, and the cheeks firm though thin.  The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor."
In other words, not:

nobody doesn't like christopher lee

or this guy, misplaced his name. (Sorry dude.)

In fact, to be really honest with you, he sounds a lot more like my dad:


ha, ha.   Can't picture Dracula in a Disneyland hoodie, though.

So, our brave, if kind of distracted, hero Jonathan Harker, the kindly solicitor from London, has arrived at Dracula's crazy castle on the cliff and has been plunged into a long, weird dream.  He has found himself locked in, served by the master of the house himself, who at first appears to be just another lonely senior citizen in the Carpathians who needs someone to talk to.  He even just adores London, like any sober minded, white non-Englishman would, clearly.  However, as Jonathan starts sleeping through the days and spending his nights alone or chatting with the kindly old man, reality begins to slip.  Did he really see Dracula creep down the wall like a lizard?  Did he really get a near-hickey from a fair lady with "great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires"?  We aren't really sure yet, but clearly Jonathan is more than just a pretty face.  (Argh!  That's Keanu poisoning my mind again!)
My favorite movie Jonathan: Bruno Ganz in 1979's Nosferatu.  In fact, I need to rewatch this movie soon.  I remember the plague scenes being profoundly disturbing.

I can't just let the stuff about the crucifix go, either.  It's more of that East vs. West mentality-  and I think Bram Stoker was brilliant to work it in.  Nothing has been more distressing to the puritanical Calvinist tradition than religions claiming to be Christian and relying on objects and icons as tangible symbols of their faith.  Finding himself deeply comforted by a rosary given to him by an old lady in a village, Jonathan muses: "It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous shoudl in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help.  Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a  medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort?"  I just read a review of Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God, in which she argues (I think?) that the monotheism people are angry at today is a modern, post enlightment version of the great mystery people embraced in times of joy and trouble, as they might embrace great beauty in art and music.  In other words, Jonathan, the crucifix is comforting you, darling, because you have left your Reasonable England and are in the Eastern trenches with the medieval forces of good and evil, of beauty and repulsion, faith and fear.  It seats the whole story in a primeval mood.

02 October 2009

leaving the West and entering the East

Chapter 1, Dracula
I am fairly disheartened to discover how deeply the visage of Keanu Reeves has burrowed into my psyche; I keep being startled at how well he puts thoughts and observations together... is it at all possible I can shake him from my memory and regain my admiration for the naive Jonathan Harker, with his wide eyed British exoticism and sweet reminders to get paprika recipes for Mina? I had especially forgotten his tourist's description of the peasants ("picturesque"!) - (Mem., must sketch one of these marvelous barbarian Slovaks for the blog) and infatuation with the countryside.  SO Victorian, dude. 
Also found it hilarious that on the 4th of May, being the eve of St George's day, "when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway..."  May 4 was the day I was married to my formerly beloved ex-husband.  Sigh.  Should have done my research, I suppose.  We were doomed from the start.

30 September 2009

What's it about?

What's Dracula really about?  Every time I have read it, I seem to have read a different book.  The last time I read Dracula was about 5 years ago, and I was floored by the sexual subtext.  About that time I saw a stage production of the novel which positively dwelled on Mina and Lucy's sexual awakening, and I became convinced Stoker's book was designed to be warn Victorian women about the dangers of promiscuity, or even orgasm.  I began to question my whole beloved vampire genre.   As much as I adore vampire movies (oh, and I do love them), I've never seen an adaptation of Dracula that doesn't make the sexual overtones common by simply making the Count sexy. It's so obvious- and lazy. The steamy sex story that I thought framed the novel is about the heroine and her libido, not her falling for the accent and piercing gaze of some Frank Langella hottie. Only the incredible "Nosferatu" has any of the kinky intention I read in Bram Stoker's story. (Watch the whole film below!)
But of course I first read Dracula in 7th grade- and I didn't see the sex then- it was just a delicious aura around the castles, haunted ships, and ghosts of a great dismal yarn. I read it about the same time I read Wuthering Heights, and innumerable treacly Victorian romances, and it all created for me a nostalgic miasma of darkness and love and despair and sighs.  When I reread Dracula in my early twenties I was shocked at how much I had forgotten or just never noticed, so much weirdness, and the romance so...blah.  Boring, even.  Then came my overly critical early thirties reading.
And here I am, at 36, rereading it again for Infinite Summer, for the month of October.  I am so excited to revisit my old friends.

-- Posted from my iPhone

24 September 2009

The best possible thing to read in October

Couldn't quite contain my excitement when it was revealed that infinite summer's next hipster nation indulgence in literary minutaie was none other than my all time favorite novel, Bram Stoker's Dracula. My dear friends, how can I express my elation? Fall is well and truly here, and I can't think of a better way to embrace it than rereading, rehashing, and redigesting Dracula. So I can have my name on the infinite summer blogroll, and so I can nurture my inner obsessive, I am going to blog this experience. I'll post some of my ideas for Dracula tarot cards, too, which have been stewing on the back burner for a couple years. Ooohhh I am a happy girl. Whitby, I approach.

-- Posted from my iPhone

03 September 2009

Passion, wherefore art thou?

Heard another inspiring talk today, this one from Sean Griffin.  All these go getters that just get an idea and run with it- in his case, many an idea.  I'll post my viz notes tomorrow.  His whole thing is finding your passion and living it, and his passion is visually communicating potential and what is possible.  For companies, for people.  So part of the exercise was to draw a mind map of your passion.  ?!  Needless to say, my page was blank. I forget what I was passionate about before I was passionately sad, or passionately angry, or passionately pessimistic.  I finally wrote: inspiration.  Vague- but really, that's the beginning of everything, right?  The breath of hope, of life.  The inspiration that bringing another soul into the world will go well, that love won't go unnoticed, that sorrow serves a purpose.  If I don't get inspired again, it will be harder and harder to get out of bed.  So the only passion I currently have is a passionate longing for inspiration.

02 September 2009

Finnegan Begin Again

Another day, another blog.  Ah, well.  We can't all, and some of us don't.  White trash moment of the day: begging 75 cents off co-workers for a Diet Dr. Pepper. 
Dig this Twin Peaks poster- a RT from someone but since I can't do the tweet thing from work...

Also he has super cute Decemberists poster designs.