28 November 2010

+JMJ+

Smackdown Controversy!

Let's try this little face-off, shall we?


vs.
Forgotten Facts about George Washington by Norman Rockwell
vs.
Persuasion by Leonard Campbell Taylor

Yes, Taylor's painting came first. =P
But I like Rockwell's "cover version," too . . .

When I asked the reader who tipped me off whether his intention was to shake things up with George's fervent fans, he replied:

"Nah, I just thought I'd show that even 'illustrators' know where to look to learn how to paint. His composition is pretty striking in its similarity though, right down to the table he hid with George's cape. Illustrators get a bad rap by the the snobs."

Since he e-mailed me instead of leaving this in the combox, I guess he wants to remain anonymous . . . but of course he's welcome to out himself whenever he pleases.

Anyway, what do you think?

27 November 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Nine!



Welcome to Narnia Day!

I didn't realise it until I challenged myself to write about a Narnian setting for this week, but C.S. Lewis has an amazing gift for setting, doesn't he? That should have been obvious, from the fact that his greatest fictional creation, Narnia itself, is a setting--but I didn't see it as plainly as I should have. Mea culpa. To make it up to him, I shall be happy to put Locus Focus at his service whenever another movie based on his stories comes out.

This week, we anticipate the premiere of The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader". Accordingly, I give you one of the many islands our Narnian crew visits on their great sea journey.

26 November 2010

25 November 2010

+JMJ+

Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 . . . and the Interlude)

By the time George Washington was done with him, Daniel Boone was only raking in pity votes. Forgotten Facts about George Washington beat And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable by nine votes. (It could have been ten, but CMinor showed up with some compassion.)

Here is another mini face-off, one especially dedicated to our American friends . . .


vs.
Couple Uncrating Turkey vs. Cousin Reginald Catches the Turkey

For the sake of all the art snobs reading this, let's have some Rockwells that nobody can say are anything more than illustrations. (But darn good illustrations nonetheless.) Believe it or not, I like both of these paintings better than the famous depiction of Thanksgiving which actually made it into the smackdown. The uncooked turkey and other ingredients manage to give a greater sense of abundance than the ready-to-eat spread on the table . . . and although I love my meat and poultry, I'm always cheered to see an underdog--or in this case, an underturkey--fighting back.

I'd plug the "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway again, but I think you'd all vote, anyway, whether there was a chance to win anything or not. (Heck, sometimes I think you'd pay me for the chance to vote--because I'd pay myself. But losing the chance to vote is all right because it's also heaps of fun to set them up! But I digress . . .)

What's more important to announce is the surprise at the end of this post. (Ooooh! What could it be???) Be sure to click "Keep Reading!" if you don't already make a habit of it!


Round 3A
The "Freedom from Want" Four

24 November 2010

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "If there are no wars to fight, then why are we here?"




Given the huge media barrage, you might already know that the latest Narnia movie is coming out next week.

However, I've been relatively quiet about this Saturday's Locus Focus tribute to C.S. Lewis' fantasy world . . . so I don't think I'm being too tiresome by reminding everyone of the fact so that you can all get your own posts ready. =P

Remember that 27 November 2010 is "Narnia in November" Day at Shredded Cheddar!

23 November 2010

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 25


+

A few weeks ago, when I showed up at Rain Dancer's place for our evening tutorial, there was a younger girl there with her.

"This is my cousin, Star Shaker," she said. "Our guardian says you will tutor both of us."

And I thought: I will? Since when, please?

Maybe that showed in my face, because Rain Dancer continued: "When I'm writing something and you're waiting for me to finish, you're not really doing anything else. You can use that time to tutor Star Shaker."

"Not really doing anything else"???

I had to take a deep breath before finally sitting down.

You see, while that description is technically true, my agreement with the girls' guardian also made it kind of insulting. In Volume 24 of these "Tutor Tales", I explained that I've already given her a big discount on what I usually charge. So for her to add another student to my load at the same low rate just makes me feel taken advantage of. Especially since I didn't get any advance warning and she seemed to just assume I would do it.

Anyway, I did do my job that evening, with both girls, pretending I was back at XYZ Tutorial Centre and letting my attention weave back and forth between them. But as soon as we were done, I set up a meeting with their guardian.

This story is about two weeks old. Everything is all settled now. Instead of seeing Rain Dancer two hours per evening, I meet her for the first hour and then tutor Star Shaker during the second. Just a few hours ago, I resurfaced from the microscopic world of cations, anions and covalent bonds (Star Shaker's seventh grade Science homework) to find myself back in the land of love sonnets (Rain Dancer's third year English revision).

So why am I telling it at all, you ask? Well . . .

22 November 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Challenge the Second


YA of the 80s and 90s Reading Challenge
Read the rules and sign up, too!
Come on . . . you know you can't resist this cassette tape!


Well, we just celebrated the last Sunday of the liturgical year and I'm in the mood for plans and new beginnings. I'm also finally giving in and admitting that I can't really call Shredded Cheddar a "book blog" unless it has regular posts about books. =P

So next secular year, I will be taking the Book Vixen's challenge and reading as much "old school" YA as I can.

All the rules are on the sign-up post, so click on the link above to see if this is something you might like to do as well.

(One last liturgical thought: doesn't the badge totally fit today's memorial?)

20 November 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Eight!




Well, I'm back on board with some non-fiction, excited about next week's visit to the land of Narnia, and gearing up for next month's Wildcard madness. (Keyword: madness. Of course.)

But leave it to me to be inspired by a memoir that is--as the author admits--"strictly speaking," a work of fiction. For by the time the adult woman sat down to write of her childhood, all her memories had flooded together into one gorgeous, colourful, panoramic picture with little regard for proper sequencing and literal fact. And she chose to write not what was in the records, but what was in her soul.

Something I've learned about memoir writing--both from reading those by other people and trying to write my own--is that there is a thin line between telling outright lies and making stuff up about the truth. The former is dark, deceptive and shallow. The latter is a dynamic understanding that the past is never just "the past." But I can't really explain that all here.

19 November 2010

+JMJ+

Friday Night Movie: Labyrinth


Read about Neil Gaiman's retelling of Snow White
--Snow, Glass, Apples--
at This Miss Loves to Read

How about another cross-over? Our long-lost Friday Night Movie feature can certainly find some common ground with the "Friday is for Fairy Tales" meme.

Labyrinth was definitely inspired by fairy tales and other classics of children's literature. It's very postmodern, yes, but its strong morality play elements (borrowed from that oh-so-medieval of dramatic forms) save it in the end. I hope you can join me for this viewing.

(Remember that live-blog style comments count as extra entries in my "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!)




0:31 "A Jim Henson Film" And just like that, we know this is going to be good.
1:16 It's never too early to gush about an unmistakably 80s soundtrack! (Now it feels as if I've come home . . .)
1:39 You might know Frank Oz as the puppeteer behind Yoda, but did you know he also created Miss Piggy? *chortle/snort*
2:46 You know, I was just thinking that that was the fakest digital owl ever . . . but I like this little jump. =)
3:05 Yeah, she's "just" a girl playing dress-up. I'd say she has princess potential, though.
3:19 Foreshadowing! Foreshadowing! (Just stating the obvious . . .)
3:48 I don't believe it! It's seven o'clock! I sympathise. Time does that to me, too.
3:53 Not that she had on a very convincing costume to begin with, but I love the way the unexpected flash of her blue jeans under the gown brings us back to 1987.
4:40 Oh, it's not fair! I hate it when teenagers who live in big houses in nice towns complain about anything not being fair.
5:31 Wait a minute. She's a stepmother? That's important--because this is a fairy story.
6:01 I love poking through other people's personal libraries . . .
6:39 Man, she's got a lot of stuff. And it all screams, "I'm really, truly a fairy tale princess."
7:14 The young girl was practically a slave! Hmmmmm. Escapism isn't supposed to be make people this blind.
7:32 LOL!!! Do we ever stop to think that someone might be listening to those fantasies we so carelessly weave?
8:37 This is amazing. All these puppets are so perfectly there with each other. They're not puppets, anymore; they're characters. And they make this scene real.
8:44 When I was around her age, the words I refused to say were those which would supposedly conjure up "Bloody Mary" in one's bathroom mirror. They probably wouldn't have done anything, but I learned my lesson from this movie. We just don't take those kinds of risks.
9:45 Wow. Those goblins work fast!

18 November 2010

+JMJ+

Smackdown Interlude

Ever since I started doing tournament brackets, I've always managed (by accident or by design) to skip a week. For the Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, consider today the lost Thursday. =P

But because I know you all love Rockwell, here is a mini face-off to tide you over until it comes time for the Final Four to rumble.

Last week, The Runaway beat Breaking Home Ties by a single vote. Let's see how these two paintings fare against each other . . .


vs.
And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable
vs.
Forgotten Facts about George Washington

These two Rockwells are very different from any of the paintings I've put up for consideration before now. They're very "night time," and Rockwell is more of a "daytime" artist. At last: shadows! I love all the contrasts in the first painting: that is definitely how we see a frontier hero compared to our more civilised (maybe even citified) selves. And I was surprised by the unexpected edge of sensuality in the second painting: that is definitely not how we see the venerable founder of a nation! LOL!

Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote!!!
The combox is hungry and wants to be fed!
And yes, it counts as an extra entry for the "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!


17 November 2010

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "'There' is further than you think!"




Yes, Friday Night Movie is back--and this time, only one year removed from the blessed 1984. I wish I could say it was because I was inspired by my recent musings on "Family Horror" (See my Twelve Things about Poltergeist!) but it's really because I was inspired by David Bowie.

That fact gives me a weird feeling. The first time I watched Labyrinth, I thought the musical numbers were boring and completely superfluous. (Well, I still think one of them is--but it's not one of his.) And now, revisiting this movie for my blog, I can't believe how casually I dismissed his music the first time around.

16 November 2010

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #24

If I haven't yet asked my local readers to go out and buy a copy of the November 2010 Atlas TV Guide, that's because I'm a little embarrassed about a colossal mistake I made when typing up the movie review I sent my editor for this issue.

I had to review a Romantic Comedy this time, which meant I wasn't writing to my strengths; and it didn't help that it was a pretty bad RomCom, even by the most generous of standards. (But of course I didn't say that . . .) Here is the first part of the article, with the unfortunate paragraph that I wish, with all my passion for letters, I could do over:

If you were a seasoned relationship guru, would you be optimistic about the romantic future of the following couple . . .

She is a polished professional with her own radio show, newly launched book, and the admiration of women all over New York City. He is a rough and tumble man's man whose fiancĂ©e just called off their wedding because of something the first woman said. She thinks she knows it all; he is determined to prove that she doesn't. They're a compatible couple, and yet, thanks to a quick hack into the city’s records, they are also officially
married . . .

And so that you can share in my mortification, let me spell it all out for you . . .

Question: What word is missing from the second paragraph?

14 November 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Night of the Demons 2

12. For those of you who are looking at that poster and thinking that you don't want to have to read this entire review, I can sum up my thoughts in five words:

Just watch the first movie.

Or just read my Twelve Things about that first movie!
That's a legitimate option as well. =P

11. We're several weeks removed from every Horror Blogger's favourite holiday, but I was still disappointed by the lack of Halloween spirit in this one. I don't like teenagers who think they're too cool for costumes, and pretty much all the leads in this sequel fit that description. Not cool.

10. Yet what Night of the Demons 2 woefully lacks in Halloween imagery, it gains in religious imagery. I kid you not.

13 November 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Seven!




Some loci are just not meant to have the foci. Remember that non-fiction setting I had in mind last week but pushed aside for another? Well, I'm still having trouble writing about it now. And having trouble with non-fiction settings in particular.

I wouldn't diagnose this as "Locus Focus Burnout" just yet, as I did have something else ready; but I think this month's theme managed to lose me completely. So what follows is not only completely fictional, but also unusually fantastic.

11 November 2010

+JMJ+

Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, Round 2
(Revisit Round 1--because it's where all the images are)

Let's start with one of those mini face-offs to take your mind off the fact that I'm wresting back control for this part of the smackdown. Here are two paintings that, in hindsight, really should have made it, aye?


vs.
Breaking Home Ties vs. The Runaway

Both paintings feature boys who believe they can make it in the big world beyond their homes. Each has a father or father figure with him: one resigned and willing to trust that his son will do well; the other concerned and probably trying some reverse psychology to get the boy to wait a few years before breaking his own ties to home.

Remember that voting for your favourite of these two earns you an extra entry in my
"100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!

And now for the winners of Round 1, whose fates are out of your hands until further notice. =P

Boy Scouts vs. No Swimming --> Winner: No Swimming

Girl at Mirror vs. Girl with Black Eye --> Winner: Girl at Mirror

The Roadblock vs. Waiting for the Vet --> Winner: Waiting for the Vet

The Dugout vs. The Three Umpires --> Winner: The Three Umpires

Coming and Going vs. Gossip --> Winner: Going and Coming

The Art Critic vs. Triple Self-Portrait --> Winner: Triple Self-Portrait

Family Tree vs. Freedom from Want --> Winner: Freedom from Want

Moving Day vs. The Problem We All Live With --> Winner: The Problem We All Live With

Before we proceed to what you've all been waiting so patiently for, I want to say that I've finally done away with randomisation. Pairs are more interesting when they make sense, don't you think? The good news is that we will never again see carnage like Predator vs. The Terminator until at least the Final Four. (I'm still sorry about that, Christopher.) The bad news is that I didn't really need another license to get long-winded, did I?

Round 2
The "Waiting for the Vet" Eight

10 November 2010

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer (Technically!): "Your gaze is very direct, Miss Eyre . . ."




Rejoice with me, my friends! The trailer for Jane Eyre 2011 is finally out--and it looks and sounds great!

Now, Charlotte Bronte's novel just might be my favourite of all time (I'm not too sure; what do you think, Lesa?), but I can't actually imagine the characters speaking. Bronte's language is so stylised that I let myself be transported by the emotion of each scene rather than try to imagine it unfolding before me. Their hearts speak to me, even if I can't quite hear their words.

Still, I know when an actor's delivery of one of these lines doesn't cut it. And so when I tell you that when Mia Wasikowska says one of my all-time favourite quotes from Jane--

"Do you think that because
I am poor, obscure, plain and little,
that I am soulless and heartless?"


--that she absolutely nails it, then I hope you will take my opinion with more than your usual generous tolerance.

And now I think we all know the MYSTERY BOOK
of my "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway . . .

+JMJ+

Remember, Remember Your Poems for November!


letter WAnd, MoreQ
6 Sign POS

We are open for submissions! Link up your November poems, my fellow poets!

Since I'm offering another giveaway on Shredded Cheddar and awarding extra entries to anyone who joins next month's Word & Question, I'll be retaining the hosting duties for December. But if anyone wants to sign up early for January, let me know. =)

09 November 2010

+JMJ+

A Rainy Day Post

When was the last time you looked at an umbrella--really looked at it? Seriously. If it has been too long, you should step away from your PC right now, look for one to study, and take as long as you need to appreciate its form as well as its function.

I'd say the umbrella is one of the craziest and most fantastic triumphs of engineering ever. If the Ancient Greeks had had it, they would have credited Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, for its design. We take it for granted now, but it's not the most obvious design in the world, is it? All those little joints and shiny metal arms, underneath that deceptively straightforward canopy . . . It's almost like a robot, isn't it? And the relatively new pop button for instant unfurling? My favourite part!

And if anyone is wondering where this post came from, let's just say it's my way of dealing with the big umbrella I leave the house with every day.

My Top 5 Umbrellas in Literature

1) Mary Poppins' Umbrella (Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers)

Let's begin with the most famous fictional umbrella of all, one of a mysterious nanny's magical accessories.

Mary Poppins seems to take her own fantastic nature for granted; and for her, this umbrella is just another aid in her seemingly ordinary commitment to look her best at all times. And let's admit it: an umbrella can make or break an ensemble--which is why those collapsible umbrellas that fit into a lady's purse and come in discreet, classic colours are so popular among women. But Mary Poppins has a different sense of style. She dresses to impress and she wants to be seen.

And so our favourite nanny's umbrella of choice has . . . a handle shaped like a parrot's head! Doubt not that she pulls it off with panache!

But that's not even the best part, which is that this remarkable umbrella helps her to fly on the wind! She simply catches the wind with the canopy the way a boat's sails would, holds on tightly, and has lift off. As someone who works with small children on a near-daily basis, I vote for her umbrella as the most useful magical item in her arsenal, for its ability to impress any child who has ever seen it in action.

08 November 2010

+JMJ+

The "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!

It's time to celebrate a blogger's milestone: I now have over 100 Followers on Google Friend Connect! That calls for a new giveaway!

As my list of personal peeves includes those contest/giveaway posts that get you all excited about the prizes before dropping the stink bomb that you're not actually qualified for them, I'll begin with my one restriction:

This international giveaway is open to everyone except those who have already won prizes from previous giveaways. I hate to disappoint you Stilwell and Sully--and oh yeah, even you Christopher--but I'd like to give my other friends a better chance at getting their names drawn for something, and I host so few giveaways as it is. But I am planning to lift this "ban" on previous winners early next year, so I hope you can be patient. =)

And now for the prizes . . .

07 November 2010

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

"I insist upon being allowed to participate in the excavations. After all, why should men have all the fun?"

"Fun?" Emerson repeated. "To be burned by the sun, rubbed raw by sand, live on rations no self-respecting beggar would eat; to be bitten by snakes and mashed by falling rocks? Your definition of pleasure, Peabody, is very peculiar."

"Peculiar or not, it
is my idea of pleasure. Why, why else would you lead this life if you don't enjoy it? Don't talk of duty to me; you men always have some high-sounding excuse for indulging yourselves. You go gallivanting over the earth, climbing mountains, looking for the sources of the Nile; and expect women to sit dully at home embroidering. I embroider very badly. I think I would excavate rather well . . ."

If I had read this novel at any other time, this post would be a straight-up "Girls and Adventures" review. While I get the sense that this Victorian-set mystery could never have been written in its own era--be it due to the age's mores, its writers' propensities, or its readers' ability to suspend disbelief--I found myself thoroughly enjoying the interaction among the four leads: two professional archeologists (male) and the two sightseers (female) who drop in on their dig and simultaneously disrupt and facilitate it. They end up working together beautifully as a team, each one with something to contribute to both the science and the adventure. I'm definitely going to read more books in this series!

But it's November, and I've just come off two whole months of Horror reading, and all I want to do now is discuss the story's mummy.

06 November 2010

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Six!



Welcome to the Non-Fiction in November Challenge!

A new month, a new theme! =D

I'm considering making December our "Wildcard" Month. No theme: just post about the settings you might have liked to feature over the past few months, if you hadn't been so distracted by my challenges. What do you think?

As for my first featured non-fiction setting . . . I was planning on being really profound this week. I had a great setting from a very philosophical book, and I was planning on waxing poetic. But my blogging muse wasn't interested. He just wanted to rock. To keep him happy, I settled on a book which, for all its good qualities, makes me call its author a "prissy prima donna" whenever I see him on TV.

05 November 2010

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Poltergeist

12. Now that I really think about it, how perfect is it that the Freeling family's home never gives them any trouble until the day the family canary dies and they bury it in the backyard?

Sadly, the utter meaningfulness of that totally escaped me during my last viewing, thanks to the scheduling *genius* who put this movie on right after The Birds. (LOL!)

11. Some fans believe that director Tobe Hooper (who gave us the still-unparalleled original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) isn't the only one who should be credited for working on this movie. They make a reasonable case for Steven Spielberg taking much more creative control than he would have as a producer, writer and editor--and indeed, before I came across their speculations, I already agreed with them. Until I actually looked at the credits, I totally took for granted that this was a Spielberg film.

04 November 2010

+JMJ+

Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown!

There's only one exclamation point this time because I suspect I'm the only one with a say in this who gets worked up into raptures over a Norman Rockwell print. But really, I couldn't bluff my way through a paint-by-numbers book, so this isn't the blog to read if you like art.

As before, the first round in this smackdown is decided by your votes. You'll have until next Thursday to pick which Rockwell paintings make it to Round 2. Be heard in the combox!

And since there were so many more pairs I wanted to include but had to cut, expect some mini face-offs as we go along! =)



Round 1
The "No Swimming" Sixteen



vs.
Boy Scouts vs. No Swimming

Norman Rockwell and the Boy Scouts of America: a match made in pop art heaven--if only because he was a man who clearly remembered what it was like to be a boy. The first painting appeared in the Boy Scout Handbook and so must be forgiven for looking like bare-faced propaganda. (Rockwell was uncannily good at propaganda.) You'll find more of a Tom Sawyer-ish air in the second painting of misbehaving boys, who clearly have a long way to go before they have a shot at Eagle Scout status.

03 November 2010

+JMJ+

InterNaPoWriMo, Anyone?


letter WPewter Ransom Font ampersandletter Q
6

If you're new to "Word & Question", please see the Playing Poetry page.

If you're a veteran, then you know what this post means! E-mail your entries to me by Friday if you'd like to join W&Q 6 this November. =)

Yes, I am, once more, your humble host for this month. And I will be on time next week, even if the effort fries every last poetic neuron in my brain!

In the meantime, I have a special word and question for everyone . . .

01 November 2010

+JMJ+

In Festo Omnium Sanctorum

Well, I blogged about "dark angels" two months ago, in time for the Feast of the Archangels. Why not blog about "saints" on the Solemnity of All Saints?

As you can tell from the scare quotes, the bad news is that these stories are less about what the saints are than about what the saints can be manipulated to mean. (Which is, of course, any darn thing the authors can come up with.) But heck, we're all postmoderns here, by ignominy of birth. We know what it's like to have to live with people who first firmly decline to share our beliefs and then claim to have creative license over what those beliefs can mean.

It's not fun to be someone with easy-grip dogmas in a world full of fashionable slippery folk. It's especially mortifying when some of the people associated with us seem to think (ultra-postmodern) Harry Potter is demonic. (Christians can be so embarrassing. ;-)) But if we can bear the tension of being "in the world" yet not "of the world," then we'll get to do a lot of great reading.

3 Books
with Postmodern Twists on the Saints