Friday, July 30, 2010

I Always Knew Lizzie Was a Renegade

Austenblog has already posted about this, but I heard about it on the Robin Hood 2006 discussion board of all places. Though I am sick of the cackling frat boys and their Austen monster mash-ups, this is a Jane Austen parody I can get behind.

In all seriousness though, Austen's heroines do go through journeys of rebellion and struggles to find themselves and their place in a messed up society just as the characters of Fight Club. They just do it through relationships, not roundhouse kicks, and with less mental illness. Yeah. ~steps off soapbox~
No matter what I do I can't seem to keep this video from eating half of my side bar. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Wasteland of Summer

Summer has a strange effect on most people; lists of goals are compiled from the books you want to read to the household improvements you should make. However, summer is the most distracting season. Possibly the worst season to try and accomplish anything in. My impossibly ambitious reading lists are always interrupted by the urge to take a walk or go to a concert or out to coffee with friends.
Then around the time when July seeps into August, you hit the wasteland. It's a time when very little artistic or interesting things are happening. All the movies in the theatre are 'action flicks,' all the tables in the bookstore are lined with romance novels and a wave of fatigue hits you. What have you done with your summer? There's only a month left to accomplish everything you wanted to do.
To be honest, I have accomplished a lot, just not the things I expected. That should content me. Things have really slowed down on Etsy, so I'll not worry as much about making stock until the cooler months when online buying picks up again and spend the rest of my summer working on my reading and writing my stories. I've had more ideas concerning my short, "Target Girl" and would like to work on turning it into a full length story. I'm still working on "Anachronism," the novella I wrote last summer. There are so many changes I want to make and so many new ideas I have for it. Now it's a matter of figuring out the shape of the story with these changes in place. Structure is so important. A great story can be ruined if you tell it the wrong way.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Check In

It has been an incredibly busy week, but along the way I've had time to think about my priorities, get to know a fantastic couple from Massachusetts and have some amazing ice cream. The couple are friends of friends I've met briefly before, but spending the better part of several days with them has really helped me know them and vice versa.
Because of my incredibly head wrecking childhood compounded by years at art school I fear my social skills are not up to par. It often causes anxiety and excessive analysis on my part and sometimes causes feelings of awkwardness in others. However, I really got along well with the couple. They are a bit older than me and the man reminds me of my older brother, I remind him of his little sister, so we had a fun sibling-like repartee from the beginning. His wife is a lovely woman who is tender, sincere and funny. Best of all, he tells great stories. Their adventures buying cars, travelling abroad, growing up with large numbers of siblings were all shared. I love people that can tell good stories and are open to experiences that make good stories- it's the writer and reader in me I suppose. They entertained me for hours and I feel I did a decent job entertaining them. And yeah, we went out for ice cream twice this weekend and I don't feel bad.
I hope to visit them this winter, I told them I've always wanted to see Boston and they live fairly close to the city. They invited me to come for a few days- it would be a long, multi-hour drive for me, but I think it would be worth it. I really want to get some travel under my belt while I'm young and single- hopefully some international travel soon, but definitely to places in the country that I've always wanted to visit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death Masks

I've been feeling a bit ill lately, probably just a summer cold, but I was laying on the couch the other day feeling ill and not wanting to go to work and a program came on the history channel called "Death Masks." I had been watching the show about dinosaurs that was on beforehand, but as soon as they announced the title, I knew it would be just the thing to cheer me up.
Apparently, many historical figures: politicians, artists, etc. have left behind these plaster casts of their faces from back in ancient times even, some while living, but many were cast shortly after their death. In the program they explore the masks of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Julius Caesar, John Dilinger, and William Shakespeare. It's easy to guess which was the most exciting to me. With all the hubbub about Shakespeare's portraits in the past year, this mask seems the key to solving that mystery. In fact they reach a resonable conclusion after determining that the mask is authentic and then comparing the facial structure of it to the portraits done after his death and the new portrait supposedly painted during his lifetime. They found that yes, the newly discovered portrait is very likely of a somewhat younger William Shakespeare. Certain abnormalities in the mask may also indicate the disease that killed Shakespeare (not binge drinking afterall?) but they didn't delve into that much.
It was pretty fascinating, but they history channel website had very little information about the program on their site. There is a site where you can see pictures of many other death masks here. The picture at the top of this entry is Shakespeare's. Interestingly, John Dilinger's death mask used to hang in Herbert Hoover's office like a trophy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

BBC's New Sherlock- When?

I don’t even get BBC America where I live now, but I doubt the new Sherlock will reach that channel anytime soon, they’re too occupied with Star Trek and Gordon Ramsay shows. This last winter I first heard word of the program, though it was unclear when it would be airing and whether it would be a television series or mini-series. What was also unclear was whether this “modern Sherlock” was a modernized version of the story or the original Sherlock Holmes somehow in modern London.
Here’s what has been cleared up:
It is premiering in the UK on July 25th and seems to be a three part mini-series.
It is written and produced by Steve Moffat, head writer of Doctor Who and the man behind Coupling as well as Mark Gatiss -most Who fans will recognize him as the naked, mutant octogenarian from “The Lazarus Experiment” and the writer of season five’s “Victory of the Daleks.”
Nothing sci-fi has landed Holmes out of his time, it is a modern take on the detective’s adventures.
Here is my remaining question:
When or will it be airing on American PBS stations? The trailer for the current season of Masterpiece Mystery was released months ago and it mentioned ‘a Sherlock Holmes for a new generation’ and showed a shot of Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor playing the title role. However, as of today, the schedule on the Masterpiece site only goes through September and has no mention of the series.
I must say, I’m excited to see a new take on Holmes. I enjoyed the latest film as well as some of the classic Basil Rathbone movies and have recently read some of Doyle’s original stories. I’ve enjoyed much of Moffat’s work on DW and I adore Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s not very well known, but many may recognize him from the film Atonement. I personally enjoyed his recent performance in Masterpiece Classic’s Small Island this past season. From the trailer and promotional pictures, he also looks very dishy in his costume.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Looks Like a Job for Language Rehab!

As I sit here with my frozen yogurt and pretzels, waiting to get tired enough to go to bed, I ponder something my father said last week: "Well you know she's preggers again, right?"
This worried me. Beyond the fact that he's turning into a gossip, my father at age 67 just used the term "preggers." Have we as a civilization become too lazy to say whole words? Is everyone going to begin speaking like the bored 16 year old girl that cut me off in a parking lot yesterday? I can see it now, "Word of the Day" calendars will disappear, soon vowels will become too much for us and we will speak only in grumbled consonant noises.
We all have our little bad habits, myself included, but some people I hear out in public are so disjointed in their use of words that I'm sure it must effect their personal and business lived.
This is where I step in. I believe there is a need for something between a super hero and Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear to take these people in hand and and change their speech to change their lives. I'm already sewing my argyle cape and am wearing my underwear on the outside as we speak.
I just need a really cool super hero/fashionable host name and persona. "The Book Eater" isn't really sexy or intimidating enough.
Oh, and one more gripe, the other week I saw a spelling error on a billboard. Not only are you assaulting the English language, you are doing it at an enormous scale, for a whole city to see. No one probably noticed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jane Bites Back: A Review

I got talked into reading this by several friends:

Jane Austen, everyone's favorite spinster aunt likes to unwind by having a glass of wine, petting her cat Tom, reading, and of course drinking blood straight from the jugular. No, she didn't die in 1817, she was turned into a vampire by a mysterious man. Since then she came to the US, has been moving from town to town every few years to avoid suspicion and counting the rejection notices on her novel "Constance." No one has wanted to publish it for the past 200 years and Jane fears she may have lost her touch and run out of stories.
She's resigned herself to running a bookshop in upstate NY and rebuffing the advances of cute locals until a publisher suddenly accepts her manuscript and an unwelcome visitor from the past arrives.

I'm not really onboard with the whole vampire thing, but I loved the idea of hearing what Jane would have to say (so to speak) about the Austen-mania and spinoffs of recent years. A friend assured me it was full of literary jokes that I would appreciate and they were very humorous.
In spite of the years, Jane was still a little old fashioned, she still had some standards and ideals especially in regard to reading material and foul language. Her sidekick Lucy is a great character, though some of her reactions are a little strange later on in the story. The figure from Jane's past is very intruiging and though set up as a character that brings trouble, he turns out to be multi-dimmensional and even sympathetic at moments.
Overall, it was well thought out and had many great literary cameos. It was also great to have a novel written by an Austen Guy, the men that appreciate Austen are more likely to emphasize the satiric wit of Austen more than the romance. Ford made good insights into Jane, though the cat owning, wine and chocolate consuming 40 ish woman angle was a bit of a cliche. At least she wasn't a wussy, sparkly vampire.
The perfect quick read for anyone that loves Austen and vampires. Not to spoil anything but fans of Charlotte Bronte may be somewhat offended by some scenes of the book. I thought they were good fun, I love both Jane and Charlotte.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the Words of Mark Twain...

"A Classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read." (Here's looking at you Epic Book Blog)
Even though my reading has been sporadic this summer between moving, working, trying to write, my cat having a bladder infection, I have conquered my shameful secret of never having read The Great Gatsby and it was rather enjoyable. I'm almost finished A Farewell to Arms now, though it's depressing me greatly. Still there are so many other classics I really ought to read. None of them are as shame-making as Gatsby, but still. Here are some books I'd like to tackle soon:
Moby Dick by Herman Mellville
Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Dubliners by James Joyce
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Middlemarch by George Elliot

What is your list of unread classics (shameful or otherwise)?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lovely Men of Literature

After seeing many "sexiest literary characters" lists on various blogs, I have decided to create my own. Mainly because I think that many gems have been overlooked. Well, 'gems' isn't very masculine, but I believe my meaning is clear. I have compiled seven literary characters that I find sexy and will list them in no particular order. Feel free to mention anyone you think I missed in the comments. Just a bit of fun, enjoy.

-Benedick from A Much Ado About Nothing: Romeo is too whiny for my tastes. Benedick's not immediately on many most sexy lists, but I love a bit of verbal sparring. In spite of how sharp his tongue is and how stubborn he is, in the end he's not too proud to admit his love for Beatrice.

-Odysseus/Ulysses from The Illiad and The Odyssey: Strong and capable, he is a great strategist and a foil for the rash and angry Achilles. He also travels 10 years just to get home to his wife Penelope who waited for him all that time by cleverly tricking her many suitors.

-Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride: How much dashing heroism can one man possess? Starting as a humble farm boy saying "As you wish" and returning as a swashbuckling pirate to rescue his beloved... that's enough for me. Mostly the pirate thing actually.

-Simon Cotton from I Capture the Castle: Simon is a sexy intellectual American with a country estate in England. He is brilliant (except in his choice of girl) as well as kind, generous, romantic, and bookish- plus he is a fine dancer.

-Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre: Though not handsome, he is passionate, worldly and mysterious. Best of all, he sees the qualities Jane possesses that are below the surface and proves that love is a great equalizer. There is the matter of his first wife... but a deus ex machina always comes in handy there.

-Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series: Sharpe was a poor guttersnipe in England, orphaned, he escaped the dangerous life of a child chimney sweep and eventually rose in the ranks of the British army. Instead of buying rank, he actually earned his. Though rough around the edges he can be charming when he chooses and is always good to his women. I love him not just because he's played by Sean Bean in the series... though that does help.

-Captain Wentworth from Persuasion: You thought I was going to say Mr. Darcy? No, no, to be perfectly frank I don't think we'd get along at all. Jane Austen's sexiest leading man is by far Captain Wentworth. Though he almost lets his hurt pride get in the way, he carries a torch for Anne for 8 years and wins her back with one of the most intense love letters of literature. Besides, he's a sailor. I'm not sure if that counts for anything, but I think it's pretty hot.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Short Story: "Target Girl"

I wrote a new short story last night, I have no idea where it came from. It's very short as all my short stories are, about 800 words. It's about a knife thrower's assistant. It's called "Target Girl". Obviously, it's very new and needs some editing, but I like it.
Most of my short stories are more like a quick scene or two that show a glimpse of a relationship or a situation and imply the back story. Sometimes I am irritatingly ambiguous (apparently)and I am quite obsessed with backstory. So, in this go round the short fiction carousel, I tried to make the front story just as interesting and active as the back story that is hinted at, and I make my ending more definative and less disputable.
Perhaps it's because as a reader I enjoy stories that leave a lot open to interpretation and are less literal that I usually write like that. Sometimes it seems to piss people off. I took a "Sudden Fiction" class two semesters ago which was structured like a workshop. We would read and discuss our work as a group. I found many of the other students wanted to be told exactly what was happening at all times, exactly how the story ended. They felt very strongly about it. I'm too young to be quite so set in my ways that I won't try new things. I hope that some experimentation will kick up inspiration for a novel length story I've been having trouble with.
So here's my first paragraph as it stands in all its rough draft grit:
Laura slid her hands down the sides of her body feeling the stiff boning around her waist and the sequins like scales that draped, barely covering her hips. She squirmed slightly hoping to make the skirt seem longer. The fading sunlight warmed her little canvas dressing tent. With a pitted looking glass, she applied her powder and slipped on her feathered headband.

I've always believe in brevity in openings. It certainly departs from my usual stories. I've always been fascinated with traveling shows of the late 19th early 20th century anyway, and what's more captivating than the impalement arts?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Mania

Not in a good way.
I've been having trouble with commitment lately... commitment to books. I'm a moody reader. I have to be in the right mood to read any story, so I'll often have more than one book going at once so depending on how I feel, I'll be in the middle of something I'll want to continue with. Not so lately. I've started about six books and I'm just not in the mood to finish any of them. This is why I seem to be the slowest reader in my family. Maybe it's because I'm the only girl of the family and girls like to multi-task that I'm the only one with this issue. My father and my brothers will, for the most part will select a book and finish it within a day or two. I string along for weeks going between multiple books.
This is slightly disturbing to me.
It's been worse lately, but perhaps because I've been feeling rather melancholic. I've also had a migraine for about 2 weeks. That's a downer. My cat might have a urinary tract infection. She peed on a shirt of mine the other day. That's worrying.
I slept way too late today so I can't sleep now, I have to work tomorrow and I also have to see someone I love dearly, but dread trying to talk to. There is no way not to disappoint them. Goodnight. May your mind be at peace and your sleep be refreshing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

Syrie James has taken on the task of filling in the mysterious history of Jane Austen's love life. No, not a youthful romance such as Tom Lefroy of Becoming Jane but one that was briefly mentioned by Jane's sister Cassandra to their niece.
James sets up the story as with a scholarly preface and adds footnotes to create a convincing illusion of an actual historical document that has been discovered and released for public perusal (I know, if only...). This was a nice touch, helping you to lose yourself in the fantasy a bit more. However, my expectations for anyone attempting to write as Jane Austen herself are incredibly high. Her voice is so distinctive and so many attempt to emulate her style and fail miserably that I must admit I'm a bit stubborn about the idea. James did better than I expected though I did hope for a little more of Jane's biting wit in her observations of people and situations. Though I understand that it is supposed to be her confessions about a lost love, it was a little sentimental at moments. I'm not sure if Jane would have allowed herself the indulgence, at least not without a little sarcasm as sauce to it.
There are a few funny moments of course, especially where James weaves in characters that Jane will later adapt into her famous novels (the Mr. Collins figure for example), that I enjoyed. She also made the romantic plot surrounding Jane reflect Sense and Sensibility. That I must applaud her for- I love Pride and Prejudice, but the way pop-culture treats it, you'd think that was the only novel she wrote. Too many sequels, adaptations, and biopics use the P&P structure and it bores me to death after a while. It was refreshing to see her first published novel receive some attention and it is completely plausible that she would use inspiration from real people and events in her stories.
Though not perfect, the novel was a quick read and engaging tale for any Janeite to enjoy. James also gives an interesting thought for her audience to ponder: "Do you mean to say, that if I believe in your story as you have told it, then it is as good as if it were true?" A message that perhaps echoes the importance of literature throughout history and Jane Austen's own feelings about fiction. (Just look a Henry Tilney's defence of novels in Northanger Abbey). Just because a story is made up doesn't mean it's less important or that we feel differently about it, nor does it mean that it isn't truthful. This question is also perhaps a self conscious nod to the novel itself, though it is almost entirely without factual support, it doesn't mean readers should enjoy it less, they should revel in the possibility of what might have been.
I'll give it a B+, a valiant effort, but doesn't quite hit the perfect chord when it comes to voicing Miss Austen.
1/6 for my Everything Austen Challenge