30 December 2013

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Sliders: Penal Colony

The moral dilemma of Sliders has always been: To interfere or not to interfere? When you are merely a tourist in a world whose history you barely understand . . . and when you won't be hanging around long enough to deal with the consequences of your actions . . . is it ethical to get involved in the locals' business?

Today's featured episode doesn't have an absolute answer to that question, but it does a good job explaining that a little interference can go a long way.


28 December 2013

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Twelve Things about The Cabin in the Woods

12. I will be forever grateful to all the wonderful bloggers who prefaced their reviews of The Cabin in the Woods with a warning that anyone who hadn't seen it yet should not read any reviews until they do . . . so I'm paying it forward.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, stop reading now. I mean it!!!

11. And if you've already seen it, I actually recommend that you not watch it again! Surprised? Not as much as I was! =P My sister got me the DVD for Christmas, and a couple of nights ago I eagerly organised a screening for the uninitiated members of my family. And that was when I learned that the story relies so heavily on the elements of mystery and surprise that those who are already in on the secret won't get much from a second viewing. They might even be--if you can imagine--bored

10. There were a couple of scenes which still held my interest and got me to watch more closely than I had the first time. You know: the "behind the scenes" scenes. And if you don't know, because you continued to read this post although you haven't seen the movie yet, then you really should stop before I ruin the experience for you. For The Cabin in the Woods is definitely an experience. Like the initiation I've compared it to, it requires you to cross from the "in front of the scenes" scenes . . .

25 December 2013

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A "Two or Three" Book Club Break!

This probably doesn't count as an announcement any longer, because I'm sure you all know that I've decided to read Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson with my Reading for Believers friends instead of hosting another readalong of my own this month.

But I did promise Sully and Amy that I would let them know what other two books were in the Mystery Box, so here they go . . .

vs.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
vs.
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

What? Did we all make a big mistake? =P LOL!
How about meeting back here the same time next year?

22 December 2013

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Sliders: Police State


I don't know who dropped the ball, but Sliders, Season 2 now has two strikes against it in the TV-within-a-TV area. And we're only on the second episode! Since you can tell nothing about this new parallel world from the above news broadcast screen shot, I'll have to start with another example of a medium-within-a-medium . . .


21 December 2013

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Reading Diary: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

Did you ever hear of Michael Angelo?

He was a famous artist who lived in Italy in the Middles Ages. Everybody in English Literature seemed to know about him and the whole class laughed because I thought he was an archangel. He sounds like an archangel, doesn't he? The trouble with college is that you are expected to know such a lot of things you've never learned. It's very embarrassing at times. But now, when the girls talk about things that I never heard of, I just keep still and look them up in the encyclopaedia.

I made an awful mistake the first day. Somebody mentioned Maurice Maeterlinck, and I asked if she was a freshman. That joke has gone all over college. But anyway, I'm just as bright in class as any of the others--and brighter than some of them . . .

When I blogged my Twelve Things about So Undercover and mused that the "modern" Cinderella adaptation has heroines who go to college rather than to a ball, I was literally a hundred years late to the party. So Undercover came out in 2012, but Daddy-Long-Legs was first published in 1912. And unlike the movie, the novel isn't content to let its socio-economic message remain part of the subtext. Jean Webster's Cinderella is a self-proclaimed socialist! =P

But I have always liked Judy Abbot best as a simple college student, for whom an educational patron is worth all the faerie godmothers in folklore.

18 December 2013

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Twelve Things about Soldier

12. Did you know what a good actor Kurt Russell is? I hadn't. I mean, I knew he could be funny because of Tango and Cash, and I had vague memories of him as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York, but until I saw Soldier last weekend, I hadn't known that he could create a whole character--a poignant, utterly sympathetic character--using mostly his face. Very impressive.

11. One reason he has to rely on his expressions so much is that his character, Sergeant Todd, isn't given much dialogue. When he does have to speak, he is limited to curt one-liners.

And I'd make a bad pun about "Kurt one-liners," but that isn't what Russell is about. You probably can't quote Soldier the way you can quote even lesser-known Arnold Schwarzenegger movies ("You should not drink and bake," anyone?), because what these two actors do with dialogue is completely different. Schwarzenegger figured out early on that audiences liked repeating his lines in order to mimic his accent (All together now: "GET TO THE CHOPPER!"), so he didn't mind branding himself that way for most of the 80s. Imagine what he would have done with the two Soldier one-liners I can recall off the top of my head: "Fear and discipline" and "Soldiers deserve soldiers." He would have cemented them in pop culture history . . . and they wouldn't have been half as good.

10. "Fear and discipline" is from the scene when another character asks Todd what it is like to be a soldier. And she honestly wonders because she can never be one, too. In this universe, it is not something you can simply enlist to do and receive training for, but something you are selected for at birth . . . and maybe even bred for beforehand.

16 December 2013

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Sliders: The (Witch) Doctor's Office


If I hadn't already guessed that the producers of Sliders knew their medium inside and out, I would have figured it out less than ten minutes into the first episode of Season 2, when Wade wonders why the first thing Rembrandt does in every motel room is to turn on the TV, and he says, "It's all in the interests of science, girl. What better way to scope out a culture?" He has a point, you know. 

But good luck learning anything about this new culture from the above screen grab. Unlike the other examples of media I've used in every single Sliders post so far, this one isn't a significant clue. It is, however, the sort of Easter egg I would have liked more of in Season 1, because it shows us someone's double in an alternative world. Granted, if you listen to a full clip, you'll find the character more informative: he is an ambulance-chasing lawyer who is promising to get demons off your back.

14 December 2013

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Reading Diary: The Gymnasts #1: The Beginners by Elizabeth Levy

When I quit gymnastics in the third grade, it was because I was secretly afraid I wasn't good enough. My parents let me quit. They thought it wasn't my thing. Besides, they thought it was taking up too much time. I didn't fight them when they suggested I had better things to do with my life than hanging from rings.

Part of me was really excited about trying it again [at eleven]. Maybe I would turn out to be better than I thought. Maybe I'd be really good.

But as we got closer to the academy I got more and more nervous . . . "I was right," I groaned. "This is the end of the world. I'm going to be abandoned here, endlessly trying to swing from a stupid bar . . ."

Oh, I can totally relate to Lauren Baca. Like her, I dropped gymnastics when the tide was high, the iron was hot, and nobody minded a mixed metaphor, only to come back to it again when I was older, bigger and more ungainly. My own learning gaps were much greater, though: I had a fun summer of rolls and cartwheels when I was six, before finally deciding I wanted to take it seriously at thirteen. And I would have done anything for a school like Evergreen Gymnastics Academy.

During the entire two years I was at my own gymnastics club, I was well aware that my coaches weren't the most experienced, creative or intuitive in the world. But it wasn't until much later that it dawned on me that quite a few of them had been . . . how do I put this diplomatically . . . half-assing their jobs. Basically, no eye for talent, no eye for form, and hardly any eye for safety.

Just this evening, on a whim, for this post, I tried to find a video on pullovers . . .

13 December 2013

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These Dreams: Le Coq Sportif

A short time ago, a French trainee and I were discussing France's national symbols, and the PMU posters came up. I was highly amused.


The coq making ficeler the rosbif is my favourite, because you just know he killed the bull first. He would have done it some time after entering dans l'arene and playing torero with it. (Is it still cruelty to animals if it's another animal doing it?)

Basically, anything that opens itself up to parody warms my heart. And the parody posters were hilarious. 

06 December 2013

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Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 14

My sister knows how to read and occasionally likes to read, but she probably won't make time to read, which means that she isn't a reader. Do you know someone like this?

A few weeks ago, she told me that she had just defended my honour by placing a respectable bet on my head. That is, one of her new friends had said that there was no way I had read a certain book, and my sister had bet good money that I had already read every book the other girl could name--and then some!

"You do realise," I said, "that no one has read every book in the world?"

"Yes, but I'm sure you've read the one she is thinking of."

"How can you say that if you don't even know the title, the author or the genre?"

"I know that it's a New York Times Bestseller!"

"That's even worse! Have you seen my library? NYT Bestseller status means I'm likelier to have heard of it but less likely to have actually read it."

"Whatever. You've read so much that our odds are great!"

So I had to go with her across town to meet the new friend, who asked me about a book I had indeed heard of . . .

04 December 2013

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Twelve Things about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

12. A few days ago, I mentioned this movie to a French trainee who loves cinema but doesn't really watch much stuff out of Hollywood. Naturally, she asked whether she should see this one, too. And I surprised myself by saying . . .

"No . . . Not unless you saw the first movie and really liked it--or read the book and really liked it. The Hunger Games movies are like the Harry Potter movies: they were made for people who were already fans, but they likely won't stand on their own for anyone who doesn't already like what they're about."

11. So what are they about? Honestly, the poster on the left tells you 80% of what you need to know. It just needs its own Edward and Jacob to be completely accurate. You see, despite my off-the-cuff comment to my trainee, the true comparison is between The Hunger Games and Twilight.

So the next time someone asks me whether he should watch this, I'll say, "If you thought that Hermione Granger should have been in a love triangle with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, then yes." (Oh, hello there, LTG!)

10. Now, I can't deny that I enjoyed Suzanne Collins's books the first time I read them (Put down the knife, Christopher!) and that this movie was made for me, too. But it was because it followed the book so closely that it helped me to put my finger on the real problem with Collins's fantasy.


30 November 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 80

There's something about the closing post of a readalong/listenalong which makes me feel like a speech is in order, and I'm not that great at public speaking, as it is. But I'm not going to let that stop me from thanking everyone who contributed his thoughts to this short series: Angie, Brandon, Bob, Darwin and Mrs. Darwin, LTG, Sheila, and the mysterious Star Crunch, who stumbled into lurkerville as suddenly as he (or she?) stumbled out of it. My first foray into Old Time Radio wouldn't have been half as wonderful without you!

Our last play isn't going to be a Horror story, although its fitness for the Horror genre remains open to debate. I chose it because I've been curious about it for years, and I figured there was no better time to enjoy it at last. If you haven't heard it yet, here is your last chance before our discussion . . .


28 November 2013

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Reading Diary: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Women readers know what I mean when I say you're either a Sara or a Mary. That is, you had a definite preference between A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. As for my male readers, perhaps "some calls them Sara, some calls them Mary," but will any of them also get that allusion? =P

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Sara, and A Little Princess served as "training wheels" for me before I was finally ready for what was to become my favourite novel of all time, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. But now that I've revisited The Secret Garden, I realise that if I hadn't waited until I was twenty years old to read it for the first time, I could have easily said the same thing about it.

"I suppose you might as well be told something--to prepare you. You are going to a queer place."

Mary said nothing at all . . . [but] had begun to listen in spite of herself. It all sounded so unlike India . . . like something in a book and it did not make Mary feel cheerful. A house with a hundred rooms, nearly all shut up and with their doors locked--a house on the edge of a moor--whatsoever a moor was--sounded dreary. A man with a crooked back who shut himself up also! She stared out of the window with her lips pinched together, and it seemed quite natural that the rain should have begun to pour down in gray slanting lines and splash and stream down the window-panes. If the pretty wife had been alive she might have made things cheerful by being something like her own mother and by running in and out and going to parties as she had done in frocks "full of lace." But she was not there any more . . .

This time around, there was no way I could deny that Misselthwaite Manor was like a children's version of Thornfield Hall, with Mary Lennox as a cross between Jane and her charge Adele! And I found myself enjoying the first half, in which she explores both the mysterious house and its equally mysterious gardens, more than I ever had before.

But then I got to the part when all the children are finally in the garden and felt Burnett once more beaming her spiritualist agenda all over my face . . .

22 November 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 79

As you can see, I have managed to pry myself away from my Latin dance mix long enough to write a post on our penultimate Horror radio play. It is a third which features an actor who also left his mark on Hollywood: Peter Lorre.

I'm not crazy about the use of images in the following recording, but you can always close your eyes when you listen, as I did . . .


20 November 2013

+JMJ+

Back-in-Body Experiences

Many years ago, I read a creative writing manual which tried to drive home the importance of sensory details in a text by asking the reader to go over a week's worth of journal entries (which the reader, being the sort to read a creative writing manual, presumably already had) and to see how many of them could only have been written because the reader had had a physical body. And I remember this because my answer was: none of them.

All my entries were about the things I was thinking and imagining rather than the things I was experiencing. Even the books I read and the movies I watched didn't require eyes and ears in the sense that a gorgeous sunset and a wild thunderstorm do: the first two could have been uploaded directly into my disembodied brain, and I wouldn't have known the difference. (By the way, that last sentence reflects all the ambivalence I feel about media these days.)

Lately, however, I've been finding it hard to focus on anything that is too disembodied. That's one reason why blogging has slowed down a bit around here. Of course, I'm still going to close the latest "Two or Three" Book Club "listenalong" before the end of the month, and I have at least one more post I want to write about a Frances Hodgson Burnett book, but these projects are currently paling next to other, more sensual distractions in my life.


3 Things
Keeping Me from Blogging These Days


17 November 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 78

Today we are back in the golden arms of the Golden Age. As soon as all the vintage sounds came rushing at me through the speakers, I settled back and felt at home. So at home that I didn't even mind that this episode turned out to be not technically Horror, but Mystery. I hope everyone else is okay with that, too.


15 November 2013

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Reading Diary: The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Is it easier to explain why a book has stayed in print for decades or to explain why it has faded into obscurity? Until this month, I had thought that all of Frances Hodgson Burnett's books had become children's classics. It was a huge surprise to learn that she had several more that no one ever hears of any longer. I decided to read one of them and to see for myself why it so swiftly fell out of favour.

"He might be anywhere," [The Rat] said, his small fierce face glowing. "That's what I like to think about. He might be passing in the street outside there; he might be up in one of those houses," jerking his head over his shoulder toward the backs of the inclosing dwellings. "Perhaps he knows he's a king, and perhaps he doesn't . . ."

"Yes, he'd know," put in Marco.

"Well, it'd be finer if he did," went on The Rat. "However poor and shabby he was, he'd know the secret all the time. And if people sneered at him, he'd sneer at them and laugh to himself. I dare say he'd walk tremendously straight and hold his head up. If I was him, I'd like to make people suspect a bit that I wasn't like the common lot o' them." He put out his hand and pushed Marco excitedly. "Let's work out plots for him!" he said. "That'd be a splendid game! Let's pretend we're the Secret Party!"

The Lost Prince could only be a Burnett children's book: it has all the markers. You may have recognised Sara Crewe's princess fantasy in The Rat's musings about a prince whom everyone takes for a commoner--not to mention in his game of working out royalist plots, which hold his friends totally spellbound. But the magic of the imagination is only as good as the impact it can leave on the everyday world. While The Rat can think up "the primest games" in which he himself plays the role of general and can get the neighbourhood boys to be his army, he knows that his crippled legs will mean that he will never be a soldier in real life.

And then he meets Marco, who is this Burnett book's requisite "noble child." When it is Marco's turn to tell a story, it is not part of a game. Or to be more accurate, it is part of The Game, which is part of the Big Thought--something Marco believes in with religious fervour.


12 November 2013

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 77

Has anyone else thought, like ABS in 1964, CBS in 1974 and Shredded Cheddar in 2013, about whether radio dramas could be successfully revived? It's probably too late now, partly because listeners who'd be nostalgic for the original series are no longer a big enough demographic . . . but mostly because someone discovering them anew today could spend his life going through all the archived material and feel as if he may never run out. Ironically, ABS's and CBS's joint contribution of over 1,500 "new" shows to the pot was probably the last nail in the coffin. Listen to two a day, and it will still take you about two years. Even if you start right now, with this one . . . 


10 November 2013

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about So Undercover 

12. Miley Cyrus may seem really lost these days, but there was one shining B-movie moment in 2012 when she clearly knew her way. Although her most famous role may always be Disney's pop princess Hannah Montana, I think that her portrayal of street-smart-tough-girl-turned-undercover-agent Molly marks the best acting she has ever done.

11. So Undercover is one of the latest entries in a long line of Cinderella adaptations--one which understands that modern girls don't change their lives at balls, but at colleges. And if you never saw why the stepmother's barring Cinderella's way to the ball was an act not just of cruelty but also of socioeconomic sabotage, then surely you do now.

And while you have Cinderella on your mind, I'd like to announce that I have a pair of shoes almost exactly the ones Miley is wearing in that poster. I'm also really cute in them. Like, totally. I mean, like totes.

10. While a faerie godmother may be relied upon to provide a dress, shoes and transport, it seems to take a faerie godfather to cover college tuition. (I'm not surprised. Are you?) Indeed, it is a man who swoops in out of nowhere to tell a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that she has a shot at no less than Tulane University. But being an FBI agent, he is not just giving her a break, but also giving her a mission. As it involves infiltrating a sorority of pretty girly girls, Molly will also need a makeover. Does this all sound familiar yet? ;-)

05 November 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 76

So far, the stories we've been listening to have been full of monsters and supernatural forces. In stark contrast, the threat in this play comes from something in nature--that is, something "rational" people can believe in. That doesn't necessarily make it scarier, but it does give it a special kind of charm.


04 November 2013

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Reading Diary: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

It began with earls: his grandpapa, whom he had never seen, was an earl; and his eldest uncle, if he had not been killed by a fall from his horse, would have been an earl, too, in time; and after his death, his other uncle would have been an earl, if he had not died suddenly, in Rome, of a fever. After that, his own papa, if he had lived, would have been an earl, but, since they all had died and only Cedric was left, it appeared that he was to be an earl after his grandpapa's death--and for the present he was Lord Fauntleroy.

He turned quite pale when he was first told of it.

"Oh! Dearest!" he said, "I should rather not be an earl. None of the boys are earls. Can't I
not be one?"

But it seemed to be unavoidable . . .

I have a friend who guessed, way back in 1999, that a hot new children's author marketed as "J.K. Rowling" was a woman, simply because the character of Harry Potter was such a girl. =P That friend would have a field day with Cedric Errol.

Long before Frances Hodgson Burnett, who now has her own tag on Shredded Cheddar, wrote about a girl who pretended to be a princess, she had a story about a boy who discovered that he was a lord. Having finally read the earlier novel, I see that I missed nothing. Sara Crewe was a vast improvement on her creator's first effort--and not just because I am certain that if I met Cedric in real life, I'd be tempted to dropkick him.

Perhaps that's why I never got into his anime series, although I watched Sara's whenever I could catch it.

03 November 2013

+JMJ+

First Weekend Eggs

A couple of weeks ago, Geeklady tweeted about a dish called "Eggs in Purgatory". Intrigued, I found a simple online recipe, pulled together the necessary ingredients (or the approximates that happened to be at hand), and started whipping myself up a midnight snack.

Pictured: The Objective

Only when the onions, garlic and tomatoes were sizzling in the pan did I peep into the pantry and notice that the tomato sauce I had thought we still had an entire pouch of was all gone. What to do?

I glanced at where four eggs were looking up at me, the desire for the purifying fires of purgatory rich in their eyeless gaze. And I knew I couldn't let them down. So I went to the refrigerator and brought out my last cup of . . . coconut milk.

02 November 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 75

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the werewolf? Not lately, I'm sure, so it may be a bit of a surprise to anyone who started reading this blog after 2010. But it remains my favourite monster--which, as Bob has recently reminded me, means warning, from the Latin "monstrare."

The warning in the movie Bad Moon (See my Thirteen Things!) was easy enough to figure out. What about the warning in this meeting's scheduled radio play? 


31 October 2013

+JMJ+

Thirteen Things about Bad Moon

13. My quest to find family-friendly Horror movies continues. Bad Moon makes the list if you start screening it for the little impressionables during the opening credits. The scene right before that, in which one of the main characters and his lover are attacked by a werewolf, is not just a cheap excuse to include some sex but also the equivalent of revealing [Spoiler (ironically?) redacted] at the start of a Detective Story.

12. The opening credits are flashed over an aerial view of a road winding through a heavily wooded area until it comes to a nice but secluded family home. I don't know about you, but I was instantly reminded of the Creed family's house in Stephen King's Pet Sematary, which we read in the "Two or Three" Book Club just last year! If you've read it, too, then you know what I mean when I say that the difference between it and Blue Moon is the difference between a malignant threat in the woods and evil in the heart of a family.

11. I'm not sure at what point I asked, exactly like Anne Hathaway at the Oscars, "Where's the Dad???"--but it turned out to be the right question. Living in the house by the woods are a power-suit sporting mother, her young son, their trusty German shepherd . . . and no dad.

No clues, either. Whether the mother is widowed or divorced is peripheral; the point about her, as we are told by both her first outfit and a fawning script, is that she is a full-time lawyer and a full-time mother who fulfills both roles perfectly well. And with a fierce guard dog that understands that she is the family alpha, who dares suggest she might need a man? 

But then some guy she has history with and real affection for shows up out of nowhere . . .

29 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 74

First of all, I'm sorry for having taken so long to get this post up. But I'm afraid that I can't be sorry that I listened to this latest radio play when I did, because right after I heard the part where one character sees a shadowy form in her doorway, my bedroom door creaked open and I saw a shadowy form in mine. You can't buy synchronicity like this!!!

If you haven't listened to today's play yet, I hope that you get lucky with a scare of your own when you do it now. =)


26 October 2013

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Is that--" [Becky] ventured, looking longingly at the rose-colored frock . . . "Is that there your best?"

"It is one of my dancing-frocks," answered Sara. "I like it, don't you?"

For a few seconds Becky was almost speechless with admiration. Then she said in an awed voice, "Onct I see a princess. I was standin' in the street with the crowd outside Covin' Garden, watchin' the swells go inter the operer. An' there was one everyone stared at most. They ses to each other, `That's the princess.' She was a growed-up young lady, but she was pink all over--gownd an' cloak, an' flowers an' all. I called her to mind the minnit I see you, sittin' there on the table, miss. You looked like her."

"I've often thought," said Sara, in her reflecting voice, "that I should like to be a princess; I wonder what it feels like. I believe I will begin pretending I am one."

Although Sara Crewe's story was a childhood favourite of mine, I haven't revisited her in years. I'm afraid that after I became fully acquainted with Jane Eyre, dear Sara didn't stand a chance. And yet now that I think it over, A Little Princess served as "training wheels" for great books to come later and was the perfect prelude to Charlotte Bronte's beloved (especially by me) novel.

I decided to brush the dust off this one after Melanie said that she had started reading it to her eldest daughter, who had a very strong reaction to what is arguably the saddest part. But it was when I got to that part myself that I realised the real connection was to one of Melanie's earlier posts, on a faerie tale some now consider "inappropriate" for children.

23 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 73

Would you like some Lipton Tea before we call the latest meeting to order? How about some Lipton Soup? =)

Inner Sanctum Mystery was not part of my first proposed lineup of Horror radio plays, but since I started this "listenalong" as a learner rather than an expert, I've been open to recommendations from anyone who knows better. So this is another post I have to thank Brandon for!


21 October 2013

+JMJ+

Trainer Tales, Volume 2

Me: Have you seen the video Young and Unemployed?

Colleague: The French one? Yes, it's a big hit with the trainees.

Me: I meant the British one.

Colleague: No, not yet. Why?

Me: I assigned it as homework the other night and noticed something about the NEETS . . .

20 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 72

Once again, my crazy timetable meant I had to listen to another radio play in the office, at the end of my shift. This time, I waited until the "witching hour" was almost over . . . 

Listen to "Under the Hull Tree"
from Beyond Midnight

UPDATE: You can also try the recording in the Matinee Classics archive (Thanks, Brandon!)

17 October 2013

+JMJ+

The Coconut Nut


Da Theme Song of This Post

When I last blogged about that utterly fascinating issue that is my hair, I left everyone with the impression that I had been putting nothing on it but water, raw honey and L'Oreal's Mythic Oil (Did you guess the brand?) for three weeks. But there was one night in the middle of the second week when I forgot the oil, leading me to wake up the next morning with unmanageable "flyaway" ends. And that changed things a bit.

Now, a sensible person would simply remember the oil next time and go on as usual. But Yours Truly started thinking . . . and thinking . . . and thinking . . . and finally concluded that if a little bit of oil can make such a big difference, then a whole lot of oil must be the jackpot. 

This time, I decided to keep a diary . . .

15 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 71

This time, I wanted to put a twist in my listening, so I tried enjoying our next radio play with a hearty midnight snack. That is, with the lights on, my eyes open and a distraction in the room. And I might have a full report on how that went, too, if my player hadn't frozen up right before the scene with the dynamite. If you don't know what I mean, here's your chance to, before the discussion . . .


14 October 2013

+JMJ+

Sliders: Small Town San Francisco


Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable when a lottery plays a part in a plot? Reading Shirley Jackson's famous short story as a child must have something to do with it, though I think Jackson simply tapped into something that has always been a little scary. Luck is so capricious that we often fear, with good reason, that it comes with a sting in its tail.

So where do we find our sliders this time?

12 October 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 70

It was either the best thing I could have done or the worst thing I could have done . . . As usual, I was the last person to leave the office last night, and I decided to take advantage of the solitude by turning nearly all the lights off and listening to the next radio episode on our schedule--a play which was quite freaky. When I was finally done, I looked up and saw that I had less than twenty minutes before 3:00 am. And my mother's warning never to travel during "the witching hour" seeped into my memory like the [Spoiler redacted] which the characters see coming out of their [Spoiler redacted] in our latest radio play. To understand why the taxi ride home was the most harrowing I've ever had, you have to hear the episode as well . . .



10 October 2013

+JMJ+

Honey My . . . Hair?


My cousin makes sweet and pretty accessories for her own "Honey My Heart" brand. If my blog were more aware of visual beauty, this post would be about her merchandise, but right now I'm just going to link to her Etsy store.

What this post is about is the latest alternative "no poo" regimen I've stumbled across. But before I talk about that, I really should discuss the "poo" first.

08 October 2013

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 69

How do you like to listen to radio dramas? I turn off the lights, close my eyes, and let my ears and my imagination do all the work. It seems only appropriate for Horror radio--and especially so for today's special feature.

This meeting is about the Lights Out episode "The Dark". If you haven't listened to it yet, here's your last chance.


07 October 2013

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Thirteen Things about Sharknado

13. There's a reason why every mention of Sharknado that takes longer than ten seconds also brings up Twitter. It's not because the former just happened to shock everyone by trending worldwide on the latter, but because there is no parallel universe in which the same thing did not also happen. This includes those parallel universes in which Twitter does not exist. =P 

I realised that when I finally sat down to watch it, having consciously decided not to livetweet it. What a surprisingly bad idea! LOL!

12. Had I been tweeting, there would have been one in my feed that went like this . . .

Those flooded streets aren't in Los Angeles! They're in the Philippines! #Sharknado #OndoyMemories

Don't you think I'd recognise stock footage of streets in my own city? Silly Sharknado crew.

11. But there is one American home which gets flooded--and I'll leave the residents of Beverly Hills to judge the accuracy of the art direction of that set.


05 October 2013

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 68

Who says a book club can't branch out into radio once in a while? Let's think of these classic plays as the first audiobooks and dive right in! =)

If you haven't listened to The Thing on the Fourble Board yet, here's your last chance before the discussion!


03 October 2013

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Sliders: The Mindgame Court


There may just be a TV-within-your-TV in every single Sliders episode. Why has Marshall McLuhan not called me yet???

Today I write about my favourite Season 1 episode, hands down. It has the best story, in the sense of completeness, fantasy, plausibility, complexity, and emotional impact. And my favourite part of it is Mindgame . . .


02 October 2013

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 67

And the winner is . . .

Radio = 9 votes
Television = 1 vote

Are you surprised? I am! I had really thought that TV was going to win, but I guess I'm just the last person alive to rediscover these classic radio dramas.

And now can I admit that I had also really wanted radio to win? Thanks, voters! ;-)

Let's start with something everyone in the know seems to consider a classic: The Thing on the Fourble Board from Quiet, Please. You can download it from QuietPlease.org or play it on the Internet Archive, Relic Radio, and of course YouTube. I'll get my post up on Friday or Saturday and we can discuss it then.

Happy October! =)

Image Source: 1940s radio

30 September 2013

+JMJ+

Authors as a Reading Challenge

It is a very exciting time to be a reader, don't you think? I'd say that it's because of the ease with which my contemporaries and I can acquire copies of virtually any book we'd like to read. But for many others, the real draw is how accessible authors are these days. And that leads to questions about author-blogger relations. I don't think you'd find too many bloggers who'd care for some advice from 1860 . . .

When thrown into the society of literary people, do not question them about their works. To speak in terms of admiration of any work to the author is in bad taste; but you may give pleasure, if, by a quotation from their writings, or a happy reference to them, you prove that you have read and appreciated them.

-- The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness
by Cecil B. Hartley

I wonder what the authors would say to this. Would they feel relieved . . . or stifled? Maybe a bit of both: relieved in offline company but stifled on the Internet? A lot of authors have to reach out to readers these days, whether because their contracts demand it or because it's the only way to get the word out on their self-published books. I do get why it's necessary, but sometimes I find it intrusive . . . or even hucksterish.

A few years ago, I won a self-published book in an author-sponsored giveaway and decided to feature it in one of my posts. After I did, the author showed up (without my having extended any sort of invitation) to thank me for helping her to promote her book. It was very courteous of her, and I could tell that she really appreciated my positive feedback on her writing, but I was quite put out. I had reviewed the book for my blog, not for her sales--and I didn't like the subtext in her comment that I had become a fly in her marketing web.

28 September 2013

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Sliders: Your Idea of Paradise

From time to time, Sliders takes a break from "high concept" scenarios and presents something entirely on the personal level. It's to get you asking not what kind of world you'd like to live in, but what single detail of your own life you'd like to change.

By the way, there is now a special Sliders section in the newly named Movies and TV page, to make it easier for you to find my posts on every episode. Because I'm only as helpful and organised as I am presumptuous. (You're welcome!)

24 September 2013

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 66

Every time I end a readalong, I think, "There's no way I'm going to top that!" And I'm always right. ;-) That is, all the readalongs have been great, but for very different reasons.

Yet when the time to change direction comes, I always worry that I am wasting the gains of the previous venture. Or as brand managers might put it, confusing my target market. While I generally prefer looking for a new great adventure than continuing to chase a high which might have belonged to a particular time or experience, I'm also a big fan of continuity. But is there a balance between the enduring appeal of Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd and my personal desire to keep October and November horrifying?

I gave that question a lot more thought than you can imagine, and can now say, with confidence, that I think there is!

23 September 2013

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Sliders: A Woman's World

Did you know that there has been at least one production of The Tempest in which Prospero was played as a woman's role? It wasn't just because a serious actress really wanted to play the lead. Since, as far as I know, Alonso wasn't also reimagined as female, his overthrowing of his older sister was also grist for an ideological mill.

While I love learning about the new ways in which William Shakespeare's plays have been interpreted by different directors, I can't say I'm a fan of this particular twist. Of course, I'd have to watch a production before making a definite statement on it--but generally speaking, I bet against gender-flipped characters. I just don't think the two sexes are interchangeable.

This episode of Sliders seems to disagree with me.

21 September 2013

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Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 13

Last week, my company sponsored a seminar that everyone was required to attend. The featured presenter was a local entrepreneur, popular motivational speaker and host of a finance programme--and he was pretty good! Everyone seemed to enjoy his presentation, though it was probably better suited to his fellow business wizards than to corporate English trainers. There was one thing he said, however, which also struck me as relevant to what I do on this blog.

He quoted a newspaper columnist who has interviewed the country's richest tycoons as saying that one difference between a successful entrepreneur and a "regular" person is that the former will read primarily for information, while the latter will read primarily for entertainment.

It made me remember what I still think is the funniest moment in the unfortunate comedy Dodgeball.

19 September 2013

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Sliders: Dead End?

What would you do if there were only two days left until the end of the world? A variation of that question got tossed around a bit at work last December, with answers ranging from the religious to the wild and crazy. But it wasn't until I watched the Sliders episode with a similar premise did I realise that everyone at work took for granted that the end of the world couldn't be prevented.

That is, no one's answer was, "I would try to stop it . . ."

17 September 2013

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Reading Diary: BSC #11: Kristy and the Snobs by Ann M. Martin

"You guys, those kids are terrors . . . They are spoiled rotten. They're demanding, they're rude, and they're snobby. We're watching TV, right? And at the commercial, Amanda says to me, 'Get me a Coke.' Just like that. 'Get me a Coke.' No please or anything. And so I say, 'What do you say?' . . . And she gives me this look and says, 'I say, "Get me a Coke."' Can you believe her nerve? Then Max says, 'Get me one, too.' So I do, but Amanda says, 'Where's the ice?' and I get ice and then Max doesn't want it. And then later they order me to put the empty glasses in the dishwasher and to answer the phone. Which I would have done anyway. But you don't expect an eight-year-old and a six-year-old to order you around."

"Why did you let them?" asked Stacey . . . "[There] are ways to get around those kids. Believe me . . ."

If you were a baby-sitter, would the income level of your clients be a factor in whether or not you take a job? When I think about what a holy terror I was as a child, when my family lived in a two-storey 750-square-metre house that I thought was small because we didn't have our own swimming pool and had to park most of the cars outside the garage, I really wouldn't blame anyone from drawing a class line in the sand.

Kristy Thomas's real problem is that the rich kids aren't just the Baby-Sitters Club's newest clients, easily palmed off to more amenable members, but also her new neighbours.

14 September 2013

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Sliders: Quarantine Zone

The morality of public health makes fascinating Science Fiction. The earliest example I can think of is Samuel Butler's novel Erewhon: its hero discovers a "lost" civilisation in which people are sent to prison for falling ill and those who commit crimes receive some sort of therapeutic treatment. The former group can't help but get worse in prison--seen as further sign of their guilt and unfitness to take part in society--while the latter are often successfully rehabilitated. The satire must have been mind-blowing to the Victorians, but it's an everyday matter to us. At least the health part of it is. Ours is the age of the "lifestyle disease," after all. The implication is that if we can control our lifestyles, then we can control our health. There is no excuse for being sick . . . except, perhaps, lack of virtue. And who wants people who lack virtue contaminating the neighbourhood?

At least the people in the next alternative world on Sliders have an excuse for calling the police whenever they suspect a sick person is in the building--but that's a great plot twist that comes near the end, so I'm not going to say what it is!

13 September 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 65

SURPRISE! *Jumps out from behind the sidebar and tosses confetti* There's more! =D

If the "Two or Three" Book Club actually met in a real world setting, we'd all have killed each other by now we'd all be having a movie night to celebrate right now. If only because of one last point I want to make about Far from the Madding Crowd. (Actually, it was one of the first points, but there was more to say about it than I originally realised.)

As I've mentioned, I saw one of the movie adaptations many years ago, and it coloured my approach to the novel when I finally started reading it. You could say that it coloured that approach blonde.

"Some rash acts of my past life have taught me
that a watched woman must have very much circumspection
to retain only a very little credit . . ."

Now I know why the light-haired Julie Christie was cast as black-haired Bathsheba in what is still the best-known version of Thomas Hardy's novel. It's the same reason English Essex Girls and American Valley Girls are usually pictured as blondes. That is, director John Schlesinger recognised that Bathsheba Everdene was not just any girl, but a certain and very specific type of girl. And we who are surrounded by visual media in a way Hardy never was have seen her repeatedly and can recognise her instantly. Let me give you a bunch of examples . . .

10 September 2013

+JMJ+

Sliders: The British States of America

How long can any political set up last? Having just strained credulity in the previous episode by making one summer's anti-war movement last for several decades, Sliders now presents a world in which the thirteen original American colonies lost the Revolutionary War and became part of the British Commonwealth. 

In fact, in this world all the other countries which once had traditional monarchies still have them: even the French and Russian revolutions failed! That's actually fascinating. But on Sliders, monarchy is less about ideas and ideals than about stereotypes of (British) royalty. 


08 September 2013

+JMJ+

R@pio, R@pere, R@pui, R@ptum

Don't you hate it when you're just going about your day, minding your own business, maybe conjugating Latin verbs cum amicis, and then someone you barely even know tells you that you are promoting something called "r@pe culture"? . . . Yeah, me, too.

Now, "r@pe culture" is a misleading term, if not an outright misnomer, which means it will be a struggle not to put quotation marks around it from this point on. I'm compromising by writing it in code, so that it doesn't show up on search engines and draw strangers who are just spoiling for a fight. If the people who already read this blog want to fight, however, that's all right. =) 

Without ever once having asked for a definition (which means that you are welcome to correct me at any time), I figured out that r@pe culture is anything that seems to play down the gravity of r@pe, be it in the media or in a conversation. It can range from asking, "But why was she wearing something like that?" after hearing the particulars of an assault, to telling a joke in which r@pe is milked for humour rather than presented as the horrible crime--even sin--that it is. Note that one can "perpetuate r@pe culture" without ever directly causing a r@pe.

Apparently, it's not enough to be against r@pe and to support bringing r@pists to justice, as I do and as I'm sure everyone reading this does. We must also police our language so that anything that is not 100% explicitly anti-r@pe is censored and condemned. How this works may be illustrated in the reaction to a certain Penny Arc@de Web comic strip . . .


06 September 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 64

WE ARE DONE! =D That is, I am done. Everyone else was finished weeks ago . . . if not years ago. =P

Thanks to Bat, LTG, Sheila, and even Amy on Twitter for reading Far from the Madding Crowd with me! I just wish I had been as good at hosting as you've been at commenting. At last, we come to the best part . . . 

He accompanied her up the hill, explaining to her the details of his forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship--camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death—that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.

But not so fast! Before we can fully enjoy the fruits of this happy ending, let's trace the last steps of the path Thomas Hardy takes to get us there. Although many modern romantic comedies play upon a similar formula by making lovers loathe each other at first meeting, they get the proportions all wrong.


03 September 2013

+JMJ+

Sliders: Hippie Heaven

Since I'm watching the Sliders episodes in the order they were meant to be seen, not the order in which they were aired, the next world I'm featuring is one in which the 1967 "Summer of Love" stretched into an extended holiday, still going strong almost thirty years later.

No, it's not very realistic; and believe me, I could poke plausibility holes into it all day. But it's a cute tribute to the San Francisco setting (which would be extra sweet if you didn't know the episode was filmed in Vancouver--LOL!), and I like that the show is not set in some generic Every Town. I hope there will be a future episode referencing the 1906 earthquake!

The best part of this episode is the fun it has with the idea of doubles.

01 September 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 63

First of all, please accept my apologies for the lateness of this post. Last week started out well but rapidly devolved into something which kept me in bed and unable to keep much down for three days. The good news is that when I finally crawled out and rejoined civilisation, I was svelte. =P

But what is more relevant to this readalong is that I finally know why some Far from the Madding Crowd covers prominently feature the seashore . . .

At three in the afternoon [Troy] found himself at the foot of a slope more than a mile in length, which ran to the ridge of a range of hills lying parallel with the shore, and forming a monotonous barrier between the basin of cultivated country inland and the wilder scenery of the coast. Up the hill stretched a road nearly straight and perfectly white, the two sides approaching each other in a gradual taper till they met the sky at the top about two miles off. Throughout the length of this narrow and irksome inclined plane not a sign of life was visible on this garish afternoon. Troy toiled up the road with a languor and depression greater than any he had experienced for many a day and year before. The air was warm and muggy, and the top seemed to recede as he approached.

At last he reached the summit, and a wide and novel prospect burst upon him with an effect almost like that of the Pacific upon Balboa's gaze . . .

I can't help comparing Troy's stark isolation here to Gabriel's solitude at the very beginning. While the latter is not "a person standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight" in the sense that he isn't contemplating the cosmic view which Thomas Hardy goes on to describe, he seems to understand nonetheless that he is merely making "stately progress through the stars"--and this is likely why his great loss, when it comes, does not beat him down so badly. But Troy gazes not at the stars during midnight vigil, but at the horizon during nones; and this makes a difference.


31 August 2013

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Reading Diary: BSC#10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! by Ann M. Martin

"You know, that wasn't easy. I'm beginning to wonder if . . . we're in over our heads . . . What happens if we start getting a lot of jobs we can't handle? What do we tell our clients?"

. . . "Well, we can't un-advertise, so we better just figure out what to do. We're too busy. How are we going to handle the problem?"

"I've done a lot of baby-sitting," spoke up an unfamiliar male voice.

The five members of the Baby-sitters Club swiveled their heads toward the opposite end of the long table.

"In Louisville," the voice continued. "I've had plenty of experience."

I froze . . . The voice belonged to Logan Bruno, the wonderful, amazing Cam Geary look-alike.

It is the last day of Unabashedly Romantic August, albeit the first day I've called it that, and therefore the last proper opportunity to review the Baby-Sitters Club book in which middle school sweethearts Mary Anne Spier and Logan Bruno meet for the first time.

Incidentally, this is also the first time I've noticed how little description the boy characters get in these books. It made sense in previous installments, where everyone from the baby-sitting charges to the sitters' own parents are more or less two-dimensional, and only the members of the Baby-Sitters Club really get to shine as individuals. But Ann M. Martin is already setting Logan up to be significant--not just to the series, but also to the club--so it really does sell him short to say only that he has a Southern accent and looks like an equally fictional teen heartthrob.


26 August 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 62

If you've read this far, you've probably already finished! Something really exciting happened a few chapters ago, and it seems that everyone who joined the Far from the Madding Crowd readalong has leaped ahead to the end because of it. I can't blame you, my friends! But I hope you understand that I have to be the tortoise in this race. =P

He did not now love her enough to allow himself to be carried too far by her ways. Yet it was necessary to be civil. "You wrong me by such a suspicious manner," he said. "Such strait-waistcoating as you treat me to is not becoming in you at so early a date."

"I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I pay," she said, with features between a smile and a pout.

"Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we proceed to the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well, but don't go too far, or you may have cause to regret something."

She reddened. "I do that already," she said, quickly . . . "[My] romance has come to an end."

"All romances end at marriage."

It seems that one theme of this novel is endings, whether it is the end of a way of life or the end of a romance. But we also get some literal deaths in the plot--and I no longer mean just the sheep.


25 August 2013

+JMJ+

Sliders: The Soviet States

"Think of a roulette wheel, with an infinite number of slots . . ." Then think of an infinite number of you: one for each slot. Wouldn't it be nice to find a version of yourself in every world you visit?

In the second hour of the two-part Pilot episode, it is Quinn's double who finds him. And it is the double who provides the gambling metaphor: for though he is a more experienced slider, even he can't control which slot he will end up in. (There is a famous quotation from Albert Einstein which could stand as a contradiction to this--and it's included, but not made much of, in a future episode. We'll discuss it then, okay?)

23 August 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 61

A few meetings ago, I mentioned that I had seen one of the movie adaptations of Far from the Madding Crowd many years ago. If I had any doubt that the memory of it had faded enough to make it safe to read the book at last, that was dispelled yesterday, when I was absolutely gobsmacked at what happened next with Sergeant Troy.

"A rambling, gloomy house this," said Troy, smiling . . .

"But it is a nice old house," responded Gabriel.

"Yes--I suppose so; but I feel like new wine in an old bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should be put throughout, and these old wainscoted walls brightened up a bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and the walls papered."

"It would be a pity, I think."

"Well, no. A philosopher once said in my hearing that the old builders, who worked when art was a living thing, had no respect for the work of builders who went before them, but pulled down and altered as they thought fit; and why shouldn't we? 'Creation and preservation don't do well together,' says he, 'and a million of antiquarians can't invent a style.' My mind exactly. I am for making this place more modern, that we may be cheerful whilst we can."

What was I just saying about "upcycling"? I really had no idea I was foreshadowing anything. =P

We can hope that Troy will leave the great barn alone, but we already know he won't.


21 August 2013

+JMJ+

Sliders: Graceland

A friend who really enjoyed the SF TV series Sliders back in the 90s got me to start watching it with her. We're done with Season 1 and will probably start Season 2 together this weekend.

The show is about four people who can travel through wormholes into alternate universes, but can't control where they will end up or how long they will stay there. They also can't get home. Think: Homer's Odyssey plus theoretical physics, minus Penelope, times a visual medium, and divided by a set number of episodes per season. (Yes, this is what epic poetry has been reduced to. Because the medium is totally the message.)

I'm telling you all this because I've decided to do a post on each parallel world, starting now. So how about it? Ready to slide? =)

18 August 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 60

Far from the Madding Crowd seems to be Hardy's "sheep novel," as Tess of the d'Urbervilles is his "cow novel." It would be downright adorable--in a dignified way, of course--if each of his novels featured a different aspect of English farming. This would suggest that the rural traditions came first and the stories came second: that is, that the farms are not merely for framing, but for fleshing.

Which brings us to our second Locus Focus worthy setting. (Remind me to do a theme challenge on barns in the future, okay?)

They sheared in the great barn, called for the nonce the Shearing barn, which on ground-plan resembled a church with transepts. It not only emulated the form of the neighbouring church of the parish, but vied with it in antiquity . . .

One could say about this barn, what could hardly be said of either the church or the castle, akin to it in age and style, that the purpose which had dictated its original erection was the same with that to which it was still applied. Unlike and superior to those two typical remnants of medievalism, the old barn embodied practices which had suffered no mutilation at the hands of time. Here at least the spirit of the ancient builders was at one with the spirit of the modern beholder . . . The fact that four centuries had neither proved it to be founded on a mistake, inspired any hatred of its purpose, nor given rise to any reaction that had battered it down, invested this simple grey effort of old minds with a repose, if not a grandeur, which a too curious reflection was apt to disturb in its ecclesiastic and military compeers. For once mediaevalism and modernism had a common standpoint . . .

I also like the chapter in which everyone gathers for the customary shearing supper. They provide their own music--both workers and employers taking a turn--and give the meal an air of a ceremonial dinner. But as the setting sun casts them half in shadow and half in evening light, there is a sense it is setting not just on a regular day's work but on a whole way of life. 

The disconnect between tradition and modern life can be like death--and as long ago as the 1870s, Hardy was already in mourning. He also betrays an intense longing for what he considers forever lost, although he may no longer believe in the ancient faith nor put his trust in country's princes. I wonder what he would have said at what we have since put up in place of shearing barns.


16 August 2013

+JMJ+

Young Detectives: D is for Dowd


It turns out that "R" really does stand for Restoration: writing that open letter to Ellen Raskin last month was the kick in the seat which the Young Detectives reading project has long needed. I think I may actually be able to get through the rest of the alphabet now--and yes, I'm confident enough to say that and not think that I'm jinxing myself with "famous last words." =)

Incidentally, do you know how long it has been since I last did any work on this post? My hair is still permed in the accompanying photo: that's how long. (Not that you can really appreciate it: the lighting isn't that great.)


14 August 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 59

An interesting side-effect of reading Far from the Madding Crowd with people is that the name Bathsheba no longer seems weird. Yesterday, when I was trying to explain the story to someone at work and stopped referring to our heroine as "the girl" when I realised it would be simpler to call her "Bathsheba," he smirked as if I had said something slightly naughty. And there died my short-lived fancy of naming a daughter Bathsheba someday.

But even if everyone in the world read Far from the Madding Crowd, it would still not be a good name to give a girl. Everyone would expect her to be beautiful and to be the downfall of some man . . . 

Was she really beautiful? He could not assure himself that his opinion was true even now. He furtively said to a neighbour, "Is Miss Everdene considered handsome?"

"O yes; she was a good deal noticed the first time she came, if you remember. A very handsome girl indeed."

A man is never more credulous than in receiving favourable opinions on the beauty of a woman he is half, or quite, in love with; a mere child's word on the point has the weight of an R.A.'s. Boldwood was satisfied now.

And this charming woman had in effect said to him, "Marry me." Why should she have done that strange thing? Boldwood's blindness to the difference between approving of what circumstances suggest, and originating what they do not suggest, was well matched by Bathsheba's insensibility to the possibly great issues of little beginnings.

Boldwood's blindness indeed! Every time his character is mentioned, we are given incidents or examples which suggest that something is wrong with his sight. Now we see him needing assistance from a neighbour with clearer vision--clarity defined as "what everyone else sees"--before he can get anywhere. Just as if he really were blind.


11 August 2013

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Bait

12. Personally, I had no trouble buying the premise of a tsunami hitting a coastal city in Queensland, flooding an underground supermarket, trapping everyone inside, and throwing some sharks in for good measure. (Yes, plural: sharks.) We're not talking of "Sharksploitation," which is just gratuitous, but of "Worst Case Scenario Handbook," which is creative.

I later learned that the story was inspired by real-life floods in Brisbane, during which sharks would swim in the streets (Because: Australia); so it's not even that farfetched!

11. If you're looking for a Shark Slasher, in which stereotypical characters get taken out one by one by sinister selachians, I've already got you covered. That would be Shark Night 3D, and it has its own Twelve Things. (You're welcome!)

Bait is more of a Survival Movie in which strangers must learn to work as a team, and with the few resources available to them, that as many as possible may escape. Which is not to say that minor characters aren't "thrown to the sharks" in gaudy, gory ways. I mean, of course they are. But the point isn't to whittle the group down to a single special-snowflake survivor. Final Girl is fun, but Final Species is class.

10. I almost wrote "Final Civilisation" back there, except that sharks don't have a civilisation. And even if a second deluge came (which it won't, cf. Genesis 9:11) and sharks wiped out every human being on the planet, those winners wouldn't even be capable of an oral history of their own epic. But there's something every civilisation has in common, and the ragtag bunch in Bait, though thrown together for less than a day, have it, too.


09 August 2013

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 58

You know what would be a shoo-in for Locus Focus? Warren's Malthouse. It seems fitting that a place where working men can rest, socialise, and drink should have an air of timelessness about it. The practice seems like a natural sacrament, only half a day younger than the curse to earn one's bread by the sweat of one's brow. And in Far from the Madding Crowd, it is an essential ritual in rural community life.

"Come, shepherd, and drink. 'Tis gape and swaller with us--a drap of sommit, but not of much account," said the maltster, removing from the fire his eyes, which were vermilion-red and bleared by gazing into it for so many years. "Take up the God-forgive-me, Jacob . . ."

Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-me, which was a two-handled tall mug standing in the ashes, cracked and charred with heat: it was rather furred with extraneous matter about the outside, especially in the crevices of the handles, the innermost curves of which may not have seen daylight for several years by reason of this encrustation thereon--formed of ashes accidentally wetted with cider and baked hard; but to the mind of any sensible drinker the cup was no worse for that, being incontestably clean on the inside and about the rim. It may be observed that such a class of mug is called a God-forgive-me in Weatherbury and its vicinity for uncertain reasons; probably because its size makes any given toper feel ashamed of himself when he sees its bottom in drinking it empty.

For priest, a maltster so old that he isn't certain of his own age; for chalice, a "God-forgive-me" which has seen the fires of many such nights. And that sense of timelessness which seems to promise that the malthouse would always be there for the weary working men who need it the most. But is Thomas Hardy already writing, as he would in the more tragic Tess of the d'Urbervilles, about a lost past?