28 February 2011

+JMJ+

Young Detectives: A is for Allison


Since "Young Detectives" is both a personal reading project and a special blog feature with its own badge, I wanted to make the posts that record my progress a little different from the usual Reading Diary entries. They'd have to be more character-centered, for one thing--but not the kind of posts I write for Character Connection.

Then there's the "A-Z Authors" format, which forces me to focus on the people behind the books more than I usually do. I mean, I know they're there and I know they're essential . . . but for all the books I've truly enjoyed, loved and felt enriched by, there are only two authors I've ever wanted to talk to.

Margaret Atwood once said that wanting to meet a writer because you like his book is like wanting to meet a rooster because you like fried chicken. (Yeah, the rooster--not the chef. One of the best similes of all time, I think.) I tend to agree with her. If I like what you write, I'll read more . . . and perhaps blog about your books to the world in general . . . but I wouldn't know what to say to you. I don't know you, mate!

So don't ask me why all the "Young Detectives" posts will be open letters to the authors about their precocious protagonists.

26 February 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-Two!



New to Locus Focus?
Read This First!


I don't know about you, but I'll be relieved to say goodbye to "Romancelandia" next month. As magical as any place is where the right things always happen to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way (without actually interfering with any of the conflict in the plot!) . . . I find that it's not very satisfying as the bulk of my literary diet.

Remember that next Saturday is for our Battlegrounds Theme Challenge. Share a post on a place in literature that has something to do with war!

24 February 2011

+JMJ+

Character Connection 21


Read about Swede Land
and other great characters
in this week's Character Connection!


This post was conceived during a struggle with my tutee Rain Dancer, who was having a bit of trouble with a book report. Her English teacher had given the class the sink-or-swim instruction to write a "critical analysis" of the novel they were assigned. Each girl was free to choose her own focus. This kind of assignment is fun only when one has first learned how to focus.

Rain Dancer was more than a little lost. Remember that she had been unable to read the text and was feeling pretty down about it--and that she has had trouble writing about texts she was able to finish. I saw right through her when she asked, "Teacher, if you had this assignment, what would you write?"--but I answered her anyway, because I knew there was no way she could "steal" it without my help (which I would, of course, withhold, should it come to that) and it helped me make my point that we write best when we follow our own fascinations, not those of others.

It took a while longer, but she finally found her own fascination . . .

22 February 2011

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 28

Remember when I started blogging these "Tutor Tales" and they were the most hilarious feature on this blog?

Yeah, I miss Doctor Nemesis, too. =(

He might have been a tutee from hell, but boy, was he entertaining. When I was still working at XYZ Tutorial Centre, the first thing all the other tutees said to me when they saw me was, "Will Doctor Nemesis be in today?" The boy was the human equivalent of train wreck: you had to stop what you were doing and just watch him. I think that's part of the reason my former boss is relieved his mother made other tutoring arrangements for him.

There hasn't been anyone remotely like him since, which makes the sporadic "Tutees say the darndest things!" moments that I get these days just as precious. This week's story comes courtesy of Scrap Metal, who is studying all sorts of celebrations in Filipino class.

21 February 2011

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

Ditto spread his arms wide. "We, Cosmo Hill, are the world's only Supernaturalists."

Cosmo grinned weakly. "What? You don't like clothes?"

Stefan couldn't help smiling. "That's
naturists, Cosmo. And nobody does that anymore, not with the ozone layer spread thinner than cellophane. We call ourselves Supernaturalists because we hunt supernatural creatures."

"Not me," interrupted Ditto. "I'm a medic. I try to heal people, that's all. I leave the hunting to Stefan. He's the one with police academy training . . ."

One "reading resolution" I made for myself at the start of the year was to write something about every book I read this year. It wouldn't have to be a blog post. It could be an e-mail to someone, or even a private journal entry for my eyes only. (Not that I have a private journal any longer. These days, I let it all hang out online.) I've known for a long time that I don't really understand something until I've written about it somewhere.

But note that what follows isn't a review. (There's something about Eoin Colfer's novels that keeps me from reviewing them properly: see Reading Diary: Artemis Fowl for the earliest example.) It's part of a chat I had with a friend a few days after I finished the novel--and yes, it counts as writing about a book after reading it.

20 February 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Monsters vs. Aliens

12. When I first watched this two years ago, I wasn't very impressed. When I saw it again last week, I found the Monster parts much funnier, the Alien parts more boring, and the People parts more satirical, although unevenly so.

(Yes, People. This movie consists of three interlocking parts,
and we must consider them all.)

11. Monsters! Of course! It's so simple! -- President Hathaway

You know, I say that a lot, too . . . although monsters are not as straightforward as they used to be back in the 50s and early 60s, which was when the Monster Movies being parodied here had their heyday. Indeed, as an occasional commenter pointed out to me recently, one mark of modern storytelling is its conceit of turning traditionally evil creatures into virtuous characters. Sure enough, none of the monsters in this movie are very monstrous at all.

10. As for the Alien part . . . The title is misleading. It should really be Monsters vs. One Alien.

Or for the most literal accuracy: Monsters vs. One Alien and His Army of Clones.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn't really matter.)

19 February 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty-One!



New to Locus Focus?
Read This First!

Sometimes, I have nothing to say before the main part of my post except, "Insert clever introduction here." But this is not one of those times because I can at least make an announcement. =P

Please take note of next month's special Saturdays:

5 March 2011: "Battlegrounds" Challenge Day, for any setting that has something to do with war

26 March 2011: Middle-earth Day, meant to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien

I hope to see you then! =)

18 February 2011

+JMJ+

Friday Night Movie: The Nanny

In honour of "Women in Horror" Month, I present the first ever Friday Night Movie that is not about my nostalgia for the 80s.




0:05 I had something like this in a playground near my house when I was growing up. This kind of takes me back, which is a nice way to begin . . .
0:11 And now I wonder whether it takes everyone else back as well, since it's clearly the sort of "dangerous" playground equipment we're supposed to be protecting children from these days.
0:56 Is anyone else thinking of Mary Poppins now?
3:37 Take note! A son has been mentioned, but not the daughter in the pictures.
4:03 We're all straining to hear what's being said and to make sense of the family situation, but the nanny has either heard it all before or decided it's not her drama--or both!
4:23 And at least somebody cares about the boy coming home . . .
5:28 He's been in that place quite long enough! Oh, whatever was wrong that they had to send a little boy away from home for two years???
5:46 But, Nanny, I don't want him home. And the look on Nanny's face following that confession is the reason Bette Davis won two Oscars and was nominated for ten.
5:58 I can't seem to manage anymore! When two women are sharing a home and one of them is breaking down because she can't seem to do anything right, you'll know that the other has declared full psychological warfare.
7:47 Ooooooooooh! Are these terrible mood swings or is her "woman's intuition" trying to tell her something?
9:03 At home where he is loved. Why don't his "loving" parents fill me with much confidence?
9:19 And why does this expert on children's normal and abnormal "mental fantasies" fill me with dread?

16 February 2011

+JMJ+

Wednesday Night Trailer: "What Happened in the Bathroom, Nanny?"





Just when you thought I'd never break out of the 80s . . . Bette Davis came along to remind me that when it comes to "Women in Horror" she might just be the only actress you'll ever need.

15 February 2011

+JMJ+

Women in Thrillers
(A "Women in Horror" offering submitted to From Midnight, with Love, because The Mike understands that Thrillers are "little baby Horror movies")

So is it really true that the Chinese character for "trouble" can be broken down to read "three women in a house"? I ask because rhetoricians and essay writers seem to take it for granted, but I've never really checked.

Still, it's a useful cultural meme which reminds us that there's something truly terrifying about women battling each other for top position at home. And seriously, three women is kind of excessive: as long as the third person in your "house" is a man (or a baby!) you only really need two.

My Top 5 "Girlfight" Movies

1) What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Let's begin at the genre's Gothic roots, with this campy classic that will never get old. Some critics pooh-pooh the idea that this is a Horror movie, preferring to call it a Psychological Drama. I can't say I see their point. To me, Horror already is Psychological Drama.

Sibling rivalry is so much more explosive when you can mix in some professional envy. Jane is a former child performer who has never got over the waning of her star--and who likely has a Post hoc, ergo propter hoc way of looking at her own sister's more "serious" acting career, which took off at around the same time. And probably the only thing harder to get over than something like that is that childhood summer when your little sister, who has always been cuter than you, dropped her ice cream cone and your father, who always liked her better than you, took yours away to make her happy again--which is what happened to Blanche.

These two "old broads" (Catch the reference?) have had it in for each other since childhood. And that is why they find themselves without anyone but each other in middle age: having spent so much energy on mutual hate, they both end up with no one at all to love. Which, of course, only makes both of them more bitter. You know there's only one way a relationship like that can end, right? (Right.)

14 February 2011

+JMJ+

New Poem on Monday (and a Firedance through the Night!)


letter W Ampersand Q
number 9
Read all of this month's poems at
Crosses and Cradles!


When I sent in my question, Dauvit said he hoped he'd get it in the draw--and of course I was pleased. We know what prompts we'd like for ourselves, but not what prompts would be welcome to others. And I always feel a little guilty when someone gets my word or my question and then says it was more of a challenge than he'd bargained for.

But I also like challenges--especially when they're over, as this one is. So I hope the person who sent in the word which I use in the following poem doesn't feel bad when I say my first reaction to it was horror. Just my luck to have to write a poem about the one thing in the world I just don't eat. =P

12 February 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Forty!



New to Locus Focus?
Read this page first!


I just remembered that we don't have a theme for March.

What do you all think of war- and battle-related settings? I got the idea because next month is when I've planned my big J.R.R. Tolkien reread and scheduled a certain non-fiction book about the bombing of Manila during WWII.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions from other Locus Focus participants, so please let me know what you think! =)

11 February 2011

+JMJ+

Tutor Tales, Volume 27



This week, Star Shaker brought a classmate to our tutorial , explaining that they had to work together on a creative project for ESL class: a puppet theatre adaptation of a well-known movie. They needed me to help them write a script that would retell the plot of the movie in five minutes. ("Or less!" as Star Shaker insisted.)

My first thought was that it was a pretty clever assignment. It covered not just English practice but also the valuable skill of trimming something down to its essentials--something rarely taught in any English classes that I know of, these days. Besides, puppets are fun.

So what was the movie, I asked.

Titanic, they answered.

And I thought: Oh, just smack me with an iceberg now and get it over with . . .

Then again, I've never been one to back down from an English class challenge. And what a challenge this was! Star Shaker had never seen Titanic; her partner had watched it only once, about three years ago; and Yours Truly last watched it in its entirety perhaps ten years ago. They had also come to the tutorial without doing any research on the movie. Not that I expected them to watch the whole thing, but Wikipedia is supposed to be the desperate student's best friend, you know. And what would the girls have done if I had never seen Titanic?

To make a long story short (Is this a third-rate pun?), it was a choppy crossing, but we got there in the end. Here is, from my memory, the finished script, stage directions not included:

10 February 2011

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte



" . . . My history is dree, as we say, and will serve to while away another morning."

Dree, and dreary! I reflected as the good woman descended to receive the doctor: and not exactly of the kind which I should have chosen to amuse me. But never mind! I'll extract wholesome medicines from Mrs. Dean's bitter herbs; and firstly, let me beware of the fascination that lurks in Catherine Heathcliff's brilliant eyes. I should be in a curious taking if I surrendered my heart to that young person, and the daughter turned out a second edition of the mother.


Given my sporadically expressed thoughts on Stephenie Meyer's sparkle-crossed lovers, you might be wondering why I'm using the image of the new Twilight-inspired cover.

If so, I'm wondering why you're wondering. Did you really think I could resist??? =P

But to be clear, this is not a Meyer-bashing post. (Sorry, Ninjapeps.) In fact, beyond this paragraph, there will be no more mention of her or her books. I'm bringing them up only because the parallels drawn between the Twilight series and Bronte's novel (due mainly to Meyer's explicit comparison between her Edward and Bronte's Heathcliff) are not as interesting as what they don't have in common. I challenge you to find anyone in Meyer's books who is a counterpart to the Mr. Lockwood we meet in the very first chapter of Wuthering Heights.

08 February 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Zombieland
(A post for "Women in Horror" Month humbly submitted to the manly man blog From Midnight with Love--because this Midnight Warrior knows whom she'd want to call "General" when the War against Zombies begins)

12. I was going to start with: "If you like Scream, you'll like Zombieland . . ."

But now I think it's more accurate to say: "If you love Randy Meeks, you'll love 'Columbus'!"

11. We've feared zombies for as long as we've feared the dead, but the zombies of the digital age are extra special. They usually kick off a nasty apocalypse that sends us back to living in small, tightly-knit communities where we must rely on our neighbours to survive: which is both a nightmare and a secret dream to people who make a lot of "close" friends through the escapist Internet.

They are especially horrifying to an introvert like our narrator "Columbus," who used to spend most of his time trying to avoid people. But now that he is forced to try to avoid zombies, he finds he really misses his fellow humans.

07 February 2011

+JMJ+

Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 4

It is said that you can always tell which decade--maybe even which year--a Historical movie was filmed, thanks to tell-tale anachronisms even the best crews end up leaving behind. It's even more obvious with future-set films (Yeah, I'm still in that groove), which, no matter how hard they try, inevitably and ironically can never help looking dated. But it's not the details which matter so much as their ethos, which is what let things really fit into the time they were made; and here I don't just mean movies, but also books.

And that's why I was really excited, a few weeks ago, when I decided "to match" the books for my Victorian Literature Challenge with the books for my YA of the 80s and 90s Challenge. It would give me a chance to see the same themes, the same character types, the same settings and/or the same plots from writers in very different ages.

Easier dreamed than done, of course; and when I couldn't think of any "retro" YA Adventure Lit to go with H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, I had to post a request for recommendations on a widely used message board.

But who could have guessed that one reader's idea of a good match would be the Hardy Boys books? =S

05 February 2011

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Thirty-Nine!



Welcome to the Romantic Rendezvous Challenge!

If anyone is feeling challenged by today's theme . . . I can totally relate! Remember that my other suggestion for February was Crime Scenes . . . which would have tied into "Women in Horror" Month more neatly than this . . . unless, of course, you think a woman in pursuit of a life-long commitment is more frightening than a woman in pursuit of your guts. (I hear that for some people men, it's the same thing.) But this is no way to open a new month of Locus Focus posts, is it?

While I was trying to come up with enough settings to fill up four Saturdays, I kept recalling a scene from the movie Ever After, a "Wallpaper Historical" RomCom based on Cinderella. The prince has just invited a woman he thinks is a countess to a ball; he has no idea that she is a commoner--and worse, practically a servant. This, of course, is our heroine--and she is thinking of standing him up because she doesn't want him to know the truth. In her own words: "A bird may love a fish . . . but where will they live?"

The movie's fairy godfather figure brushes that objection aside, saying, "Then I will have to make you wings."

I've never liked the answer, but I've always loved the question. In fact, I think that the bird-and-fish analogy is perfect; and all my Romantic Rendezvous picks for this month are places where a bird and a fish who love each other may find some common ground.

04 February 2011

+JMJ+

These Dreams: "What's on TV Tonight?"

It has been months since I've had a truly blog-worthy dream. There's nothing to report except that I'm no longer always blond (Sad, I know . . .) and that my brother Cue-card Boy is now always some cute little animal. (No wisecracks, please.)

A few nights ago, however, I dreamt that I was one of the characters from a popular show that I used to like a lot . . . and now wish I hadn't lived to see.

03 February 2011

+JMJ+

Character Connection 20



Read about Deeba and other great characters
in this week's Character Connection post!


This week, I thought I'd try something a little different. We usually love characters for what they do in a story, but this week I feature a character who doesn't get to "do" anything at all.

And now I think the scare quotes in that last sentence should be around the word character. For she doesn't really act . . . and yet the story is not complete without her.

02 February 2011

+JMJ+

Word & Question 9

+
Thanks again to Dauvit for hosting February's game!

If you are not yet familiar with this fun game, please see the Playing Poetry page. Who knows? You might want to give it a try! =)

If you are familiar with the game and didn't get last month's entry in on time (or even last last month's entry), remember to leave the link to your submission in this month's poetry post.


Image Sources: a) Lithuania's Hill of Crosses, b) Doll cradles

01 February 2011

+JMJ+

That Time of the . . . Year Again



I invite Midnight Warriors of all shapes, sizes, genders, and mindsets
(and even of all football fandoms)
to join me and share their experiences, opinions, and theories about
WOMEN IN HORROR
and why we love them.


That's right: Women in Horror Month is upon us again! I know I could use a spiritual and wholesome distraction from the modern secular celebration of Valentine's Day, and it totally fits the bill.

But the Women in Horror Month blog is not run by similar Scrooges. They picked February because it has something in common with the menstrual cycle (Think!) and because the "hearts and horror combination" make them happy.

Speaking of happy, note that this year "Women in Horror" Month both heralds the Lenten season and plays out in its entirety before Ash Wednesday. This will let me indulge in secular schlock while pretending I'm being spiritual, taking me back to the golden days of my Catholic blog, when blogging became a major expression of my Faith and turned my Faith into nothing but a major hobby. (Which is why I now hold all Catholic bloggers with regular postings suspect.) Doesn't it make a gorgeously gory oyster to the pearl of the first anniversary of my outing of myself as a "WerePunk Catholic"?!?!?!

Translation: I'm "Bad" again, my friends! (Terry, would you please notify you-know-who?)

Bwahahahahahahahahaha!