30 December 2013


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


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


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 . . .

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.