Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

It was hard to choose, but I tried to pick 10 media based things that are new for me this year or at least have reached an extraordinarily new level of enjoyment. No doubt there were other writers, musicians, etc. that tickled my fancy this year, but here are the standouts with brief explanations for each.

The Black Keys- Though they aren’t brand new, they are a recent discovery of mine. I love their blending of blues with an alternative rock feel.

Cabin Pressure- Discovered entirely by accident, this has encouraged me that radio plays aren’t completely dead and my dream of writing them may be realized. It’s also hilarious and has Benedict Cumberbatch.

Doctor Who Series Five- I was so ready to dislike Matt Smith and after the indulgent completion of Davies reign, it seemed bleak. Though it wasn’t perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed series five and am terribly excited for series six.

Florence + the Machine- Finally gaining notoriety in the US, Lungs is probably one of the best albums I’ve experienced in recent memory. Every song is unique and well crafted.

The Great Gatsby- I can’t believe I had never read this book before. It was incredibly fluid and tragic. It deserves its place among American classics.

Have I Got News For You- I’ve recently started watching this program online. It’s a great way to get an overview of world news and a great laugh via British celebrities.

Keats- His melancholy poetry has been my companion through many a rainy afternoon this year. The film Bright Star, a biopic of the poet, though flawed, was beautiful and lush.

NaNoWriMo- Not my first year doing NaNo, but an infinitely more satisfying experience than last year. Really found a new writing niche and characters I adore… maybe too much.

Sherlock Holmes- This year I consumed more Holmes based media than probably my life combined before. My readings of the original canon, watching the Jeremy Brett’s series, and the series Sherlock have created an obsession to be sure.

Thoreau- In my other life (and blog) interest in practicing a more natural and sustainable handmade lifestyle has drawn me to Thoreau and I’ve quite enjoyed many of this writings from Walden and his idea of simplification.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Doctor Who Sherlock Crossover

Steve Moffat said this won't happen outside the realm of fanfic, but I say it already has. Clearly the Doctor infiltrated the unaired pilot of Sherlock.Little montage of Anderson's beard from the pilot from Andersonsbeard on Tumblr.

It's the same beard. Picture is from the new series six trailer. Coincidence? Yeah. Probably.

Sorry, my mind couldn't rest until I had done a comparison post. When I saw the new Doctor Who trailer all I could think was "With that beard Matt Smith looks like Anderson in the unaired pilot of Sherlock." The lanky hair helps too I believe. I really should be doing something more productive with my winter break- though I have been writing quite a bit and working on material for the spring Forensic Speech tournaments.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

British Actors in Band of Brothers

Yesterday was a bit of a duvet day at my house- we had considerable snow fall the night before and were a bit stuck in. There was a Band of Brothers marathon on and my father is a huge history buff- especially in regards to WWII so we had it on all day. It followed the Easy Company from D-Day through the end of the war.
I did miss several bits of it as I was trying to be productive and not stay on the couch all day, but I noticed that there were many actors from the UK pulling convincing American accents in the film- many actors I've enjoyed in other pieces.

Damian Lewis is fantastic as Captain Winters, one of the main protagonists of the piece.

James Macavoy plays a fresh faced replacement, Pvt. Miller.

Marc Warren plays the very sympathetic Albert Blithe.

Andrew Scott plays Pvt. "Cowboy" Hall. Look at that pout. His voice is deeper for this role than the voice he used in Sherlock and My Life In Film as well.

Tom Hardy from series such as Wuthering Heights and Oliver Twist plays Pfc. Janovec

Michael Fassbender plays yet another soldierly role (previously from 300 and Inglorious Basterds) plays "Pat" Christenson.

Simon Pegg does a great American accent as Sgt. Evans - great Scottish as well in Star Trek.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Doctor Who Special and Series 6 Trailer

The Doctor Who Special that aired on Christmas Day. It was loosely based on Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol with the Doctor trying to rehabilitate a Scrooge character named Kazran during the "Crystal Feast"- that planet's version of the Christmas holiday. Overall, it wasn't bad. There were excellent performances by Michael Gambon and singer Katherine Jenkins. It starts with Amy and Rory on their honeymoon... dressed as a kiss-o-gram and a roman soldier... ahem.

For once the Doctor wasn't trying to vanquish some monster force, he was trying to prevent a man from becoming a monster. Interesting.

Some very humorous timey-wimey things occur. The Doctor might have married Marilyn Monroe, he and a young Kazran also get to wear some fezzes and some rainbow striped scarves. Though all this was amusing, they did play a little fast and loose with the established rules of time travel, such as crossing personal time lines.

Moffat also gave the Doctor a total Sherlock Holmes deduction moment- he notices a painting of Kazran's father and deduces the state of their relationship by its placement in the room in relation to the furniture, etc. For a moment I thought he must have accidentally forgotten he was writing Who and started working on the next season of Sherlock.

Still, overall it was enjoyable and a bit sad.

The series 6 trailer has me so excited! It seems to be very America centric (which as they have been filming in the US makes sense) with some great Western landscapes and a new hat for the Doctor, this time a Stetson- though River doesn't seem to like it much. She seems like she'll be heavily involved in next season... and possibly naked. Yeah. Anyway, some key quotations from the trailer seem to be the Doctor saying "Amy Pond, my life in your hands," and "...monsters are real." Some creepy doll creatures are on the menu (as if dolls aren't creepy enough).

There appears to be: 17th century characters, Nazis, the TARDIS from "The Lodger," the Doctor chained up and bearded, Utah, the Ood, mysterious markings on Amy and River. Neil Gaiman is said to have written an episode this season, so that should be interesting.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Sense and Sensibility (1995)

I don't want to get beaten up... but in many ways I prefer the 2008 film to this version of Sense and Sensibility, this is no comment on the acting- the cast is fabulous- simply the fact that the longer, episodic form of the 2008 version gave the story breathing room and allowed for more of the book to be adapted. There were many moments where I thought "Yes, but then in the book ____ happens" or "They didn't ____."
Emma Thompson is dazzling as the quietly struggling Elinor (one of my favorite Austen characters played by one of my favorite actresses), and her screenplay does use a lot of Austen's own lush language to her advantage. Even though her screenplay is limited by the time allowance for the feature film format, she gives great characterization to all the characters. Kate Winslet is excellent as Marianne, very young, which is perfect for the character. There are also some moments where she seems a little bratty, especially toward Elinor, but that fits well and helps create and interesting dynamic between the sisters. Gemma Jones is also admirable in the role of Mrs. Dashwood. She is, as the book describes her, very similar to Marianne in many ways and seems almost half in love with Willoughby herself.

As far as the menfolk go (oh no, I'm getting to the shallow part of my review quicker than I had intended...), Greg Wise is believably dashing as Willoughby and very likable. There are slight hints of his hiding something, but for the most part it is very unexpected in the film when his previous indiscretions come to light. Hugh Grant is classically awkward, but it works very well for the character of Edward Ferrers and his bumbling attempts at communication with Elinor are very sweet and endearing. Alan Rickman is by far the most fabulous of the men in this film. He is passionate, long suffering, and so darn honorable. His facial expressions tell so much emotion, though he is reserved. He is also very pretty, in a totally manly way.

The supporting cast was also very strong. Hugh Laurie makes a brief, but humorous appearance as Mr. Palmer and Imelda Staunton plays his ever chatting wife, Charlotte. Imogen Stubbs as Lucy Steele comes across as calculating and slightly evil- I like this interpretation. Her little chick fight with Fanny, played by Harriet Walter is highly amusing. James Fleet is a good fit as John Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne's hen-pecked half brother. However, I will always prefer Mark Gatiss in the role. Perhaps it is because I like gingers, perhaps it is because I like Mark Gatiss. Who can tell?

Overall, a good adaptation, even if it is a little too condensed. There are some very lush outdoor scenes and some nice interiors as well for those that enjoy historical buildings and furnishings. The only thing it lacked that I so enjoyed in the 2008 version is a sense of darkness and bleakness in the visuals in the beginning. The atmosphere of uncertainty wasn't as obvious, nor was the desperation of the Dashwoods' financial situation. Still, it was enjoyable and is definitely worth the watching, especially if you don't have the time to dedicate to the 2008 mini-series.

However- I must say that in the movie poster Kate Winslet's hair looks like a weird curl helmet, it's much prettier than that in the movie.

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Sums Up Everything

Need I say more? Totally snagged from Bookshelf Porn on Tumblr.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I just finished reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles for the first time. It is probably his most famous and beloved novel, I believe it is also the most frequently adapted Holmes story as well. There may be a few mini-spoilers near the end of this review, but nothing that should endanger your enjoyment of the book.
The story starts as many do, someone coming to consult Holmes on a problem. In this case it is a country doctor by the name of Mortimer. He has come to meet the new owner of the Baskerville estate, Sir Henry Baskerville, soon to arrive from North America. His relative, Sir Charles Baskerville has just died under slightly mysterious circumstances and Sir Henry is the last living Baskerville.
Stories of a mythic hell-hound haunting the Baskerville family, some missing boots and a mysterious fellow tailing young Sir Henry in London are enough to peak Holmes' interest that there is indeed, something afoot. He sends Watson to Devonshire with Sir Henry while remaining in London to finish up some business surrounding a black mailing case.
By far, Hound is creepier than any of Doyle's previous stories. The wild Devon moors with their unearthly cries and the Grimpen Mire where ponies and people are sucked under, never to return, all set an ambiance of danger and the unknown. However, as we are dealing with Sherlock Holmes, there is a logical explanation behind all, or nearly all. This is also a very Watson centric narrative, as Holmes leaves him on his own to investigate for several chapters. Of course, Holmes is lurking nearby and reenters the story before long. There also seems to be a lot of guy love in this particular story- Watson's determination not to let 'his master'- yes, he calls Holmes his master at one point- down. Still, as much flack as Watson gets for being the "dumb side-kick" he shows time and again in stories like this that he is very sharp and very useful, Holmes wouldn't trust him if he wasn't.
We also receive a very interesting cast of characters all laden with secrets and pasts. Doyle creates some depth to characters that may not be initially thought of as important.
My biggest criticism is that the final chapter is a little too heavy
handed. Doyle felt the need to have Holmes reiterate every important point from
the novel and explain how the conclusion was reached. I felt this was
unnecessary. Any astute reader or even any reader familiar with this kind of
mystery will- metaphorically- prick their ears up at the mention of a very disreputable younger brother supposedly dying in South America some years
As many points of the mystery are very neatly compartmentalized and explained earlier in the novel, the final chapter felt superfluous. Tacked on to make sure everyone got it.
Overall it was a well structured mystery with plenty to keep the reader interested and enough clues to allow you to solve the mystery along with Sherlock Holmes (which is always a mini-ego boost when you do). Continuity was never Doyle's strong point, so I'm not even going to ask what happened to Watson's wife, I'll just assume Doyle misplaced her again.
This is the first of my winter break reading list, I'm still deciding what will be next.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scholarly Writing and Short Fiction Contests

I've never considered myself to be a scholarly writer, obviously I have to do that sort of work in the English Department, but I've never considered it my strongest area or an area where I want to focus myself for the future. However, I occasionally write pretty decent essays and research papers (apparently).
My wonderful literature professor has talked me into submitting one of my papers to an intercollegiate women's studies conference. I still have some editing to do before I send it in Thursday, but it may be an interesting experience. If accepted, I'll get to present my paper and discuss it. The subject is the short story "The Hand" by Colette- an interesting piece and very short, worth reading.
In spite of some initial misgivings I have decided to submit it, so we'll see if it gets accepted.
I've also decided to enter a short story contest called "Jane Austen Made Me Do It." Honestly, how could I not enter a contest with that name? I'm drafting a story right now, the deadline's in February, so that leaves me a good timeline to work with. I realize that I will be one of a multitude of entries and will probably not win, probably not even really be the kind of story that they are looking for, but it will be a good experience. I'm bad with deadlines, so it will be a good exercise in self discipline, and since I'm very weird about people reading my work, it will be good for me to send it out and have other people read what I write for once.
I'm also drafting a new mystery novel for my series. I've decided that 2011 will be a productively experimental year for me as a writer. I'm not going to turn down new writing challenges and opportunities, I'm going to embrace them and broaden my versatility as a writer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How I'm Feeling About Final Exams/Papers *In Pictures*

I've decided that these carefully selected pictures of actors from two of my favorite BBC programs describe the angst and lack of motivation I'm feeling right now quite accurately.

Now back to my papers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I almost forgot: Everything Austen Challenge

Whoops, I've neglected this challenge for a while. I can't remember if this is my 3/6 or my 4/6 project. As this challenge is for everything Austen, Austen inspired crafts and such are fair game. Well, I made this reticule a little while back and forgot to post it. It's sort of my interpretation of those bags all such heroines carry their necessities in in every film adaptation. The tapered bottom and drawstring/wrist strap is a pretty standard look, I made it my own by making a knit overlay I wove out of some lovely purple yarn. It's fully lined and up on one of my Etsy shops here. There are more pictures on the site.
I swore I would finally finish Mansfield Park for this challenge... guh, I haven't yet. It's the one novel of Austen's I've never been able to get into.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things I have learned from Sherlock Holmes

I've been reading a lot of early Holmes such as The Sign of Four and the Adventures/Memoirs and here are some things I have learned from these great Doyle stories (other than "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" of course- I already knew that from Study in Scarlet)
-I've learned to fear receiving five dried orange seeds in the mail.
-Significant conversations are often had on trains.
-The likeliest murderer is never the murderer.
-Disguises are best used often and are extremely effective.
-War wounds tend to migrate.
-You can judge a man by his pipe.
-People often carry a large collection of significant items in their coat pockets at the time of their death
-In Watson's timeline, things often happen out of order (time traveler I have to assume)
-The motives of women are inscrutable.

And finally: Sherlock Holmes is not always right (!) "If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."- The Yellow Face
It was inevitable.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

At Last

It has been one of the most incident crowded two weeks of my life, but things seem to be calming down now.
With classes finishing and (hopefully) no more rogue stomach viruses or dying relatives, my thoughts turn to my NaNo novel and it's sequels. I've mapped out enough for five books- the story I wrote will take the place of a sort of prequel to the series. I'm starting to write them but find I'm writing them out of order. I don't know if that's a problem, but so far it isn't. I have a new name for my main character as well: Victoria. I don't know if it will stick, she's hard to pin down, and it's totally different than the names I'd previously been working with, but I kind of like it.
The semester has gone by so quickly, but it's a relief to have a few weeks off and be able to start fresh in some new classes. Unfortunately my independent study didn't go through, but there will likely be other opportunities before I graduate. On the bright side, I had already started a bit of work on it and it has opened up my interest in an author I had never paid much attention to before.
I'll be back in a few days with some reviews.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Or lack there of.
I locked myself away in my room about two hours ago with the intent of being hyper productive- finishing my oral presentation, catching up on readings and even doing a rewrite on one of my papers. It's really not happening.
A few minutes ago I looked at the clock and thought to myself, "Really? I've been in here that long and this is all I have to show for it?"
All I really want to do is watch my new Sherlock DVD freshly arrived from B&N in the mail yesterday. In fact it's sitting next to me while I work, being all tempting. When are Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman not tempting? (Never.) I'm not going to give in and watch it because then I'll be up all night and probably get even less work done.
On the bright side this is my last week of classes. On the dark and gloomy post-modern side, finals are almost upon me.
I've been bombarded with fantastic ideas for my NaNo story, or rather the sequels to it. I have what I hope will eventually be a five book series plotted out with these characters and I'll just see scenes or hear bits of dialogue in my mind and I have to write it down with notes like 'this should happen in book 3' and such. My NaNo novel is actually sort of like a prequel to what I'd like the series to be.
Oh and this distracted me a bit too.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jane Eyre 2011 Trailer

I just saw this was out... it doesn't look bad actually.

They also seem to have Blanche as a brunette- yay!
I can't say I don't look forward to another chance at seeing Michael Fassbender, although the more I read feminist literature from the late 19th and early 20th century, the more uneasy I feel about Rochester. Stories like "The Yellow Wallpaper" and essays about these "mad women" diagnosed with hysteria (code for a misbehaving female in that era), the less heroic he seems. Within the world of Bronte's book he is wonderful, but looking at him in a broad cultural context, he is less so.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quick- I just think I coined a new term

I doubt I'm the first to come up with this term, but I really like it, it made me feel clever. Sitting in the draughty living room, drinking tea and brooding over the tickle in my throat and the possibly dead deer from earlier, I decided to check and see if the Sherlocking forums were back up. They were hacked a week or so ago unfortunately.
The answer is no, they aren't back yet. So, feeling a bit melancholy that I am seperated from lighthearted Sherlock Holmes discusssion by one hacker and the glass box surrounding the world of Tumblr, I thought to myself, "I guess I'm just feeling Holmesick."
That caused me to smile.
Spread it around people: Holmesick.

The Downside to Country Living

I killed a deer tonight... well possibly. I was taking the shortcut home tonight and a deer ran down the side of the hill and collided with the side of my bumper. I was a bit shaken up, so I went a few more yards, put on my hazard lights and checked out my car.
No blood, no dents, and looking up the road- no deer. Somehow it had survived our encounter and run off into the woods, I saw a the flick of its tail disappearing between the trees. However, I cannot help but worry that once the adrenaline wears off, the deer will feel the full effect of its injuries and perhaps not be out running hunters tomorrow.
My car, though from the outside looks relatively unscathed, is making a terrible rattling noise. Something was knocked loose by the impact.
We shall have to examine it further tomorrow, but I thought I'd share my little misadventure with you. This is the first deer I've ever hit, or more accurately, the first deer that has ever hit me. The suicidal thing did run straight into the side of my car. What a week it's been.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Day After NaNo

I believe NaNoWriMo could be called crack for writers.
It effects your relationships, makes your brain go a little crazy and after you stop, you suffer from withdrawal. This happened last year as well- once you get into the habit of writing everyday, you feel like you still should. Not a bad habit for someone hoping to be a professional writer, actually.
Last night I wrote a new scene with my characters that will appear in an eventual sequel. I think I feel it even more acutely this year because I adore my characters and plan on spending more time with them- as I said, sequels.
My friend and I did a novel swap, I'm currently reading hers. Tonight I experienced that awkward moment when you realize you're a side character in your friend's novel. That was new. Not terribly unpleasant.