Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration

Calm, sad, secure; behind high convent walls,
These watch the sacred lamp, these watch and pray:
And it is one with them when evening falls,
And one with them the cold return of day.

These heed not time; their nights and days they make
Into a long, returning rosary,
Whereon their lives are threaded for Christ’s sake;
Meekness and vigilance and chastity.

A vowed patrol, in silent companies,
Life-long they keep before the living Christ.
In the dim church, their prayers and penances
Are fragrant incense to the Sacrificed.

Outside, the world is wild and passionate;
Man’s weary laughter and his sick despair
Entreat at their impenetrable gate:
They heed no voices in their dream of prayer.

They saw the glory of the world displayed;
They saw the bitter of it, and the sweet;
They knew the roses of the world should fade,
And be trod under by the hurrying feet.

Therefore they rather put away desire,
And crossed their hands and came to sanctuary
And veiled their heads and put on coarse attire:
Because their comeliness was vanity.

And there they rest; they have serene insight
Of the illuminating dawn to be:
Mary’s sweet Star dispels for them the night,
The proper darkness of humanity.

Calm, sad, secure; with faces worn and mild:
Surely their choice of vigil is the best?
Yea! for our roses fade, the world is wild;
But there, beside the altar, there, is rest.

Ernest Dawson

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Job Hunting

Look at them, Smithers. Goldbrickers.. Layabouts.. Slug-a-beds! Little do they realise their days of suckling at my teat are numbered.
Monty Burns

I'm sorry it's been so quiet around here, but there's a good explanation: I'm job hunting. I've been job hunting for a while, but I've haven't mentioned it here because, boring, obviously. But I have really kicked it into overdrive lately, because the unicorn made of dollar bills that the Administration promised still hasn't arrived.

As I'm sure you all know, finding a job is a job. So posting will be much lighter until I find something, that unic$rn arrives, or I read about something really amazing.

However: Mr. Anonymous, I read your District 9 comment, am chewing on it, and will address your concerns forthwith.

Carry on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stop The Presses!

Earlier this summer, at a suburban Marshall's, I spotted a pair of pewter gladiator flats with oodles of adjustable buckles (Our Heroine loves buckles) with which I fell in love, but which - in a rare instance of maturity and self-denial - I decided I couldn't afford, and so put back on the shelf.

Almost immediately I regretted my decision, but it was a few days before I could go back for the shoes, and when I did, ALAS! they were gone. I was not stoic about my loss, and for the last six weeks I have done nothing but wail and gnash my teeth over them. My friends have grown quite tired of it, I suspect.

But tonight there are glad shoe tidings! I was driving around suburbia with Mum, who spotted a Marshall's and suggested we go in and see if my gladiator sandals were available. They weren't, but I found a pair of shoes that I am happy to rebound with: Etienne Aigner, multi-colored patent leather, TWO sets of buckles(!), an ankle strap, and best of all, a high, thick heel. Voila!
I can't wait to wear them with textured tights in the fall, and did I mention they only cost me $19?

Marshall's can sometimes be a trial for the spirit, but if you're diligent and persevere, other times something wonderful happens.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sisters of the Polyester Pantsuit

Remember when I said that Episcopalians make Catholics feel better about our troubles? Well, here are a couple of our troubles:

Oh dear. The bongos say it all. But if you really need to read more, click here. Our Heroine thinks that Vatican visitation may be just the thing.

You mustn't get the wrong idea. Our Heroine loves nuns, and she loves "nun-gazing" (more so now I've been reading The Crescat). So as an antidote to the bongos, I give you this image a dear, sweet sister:

Image via The Crescat

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If it weren't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever

A cup of coffee
Victor-Gabriel Gilbert

Up so early, my lovelies, and I'm not sure why. Day is still cool, and I watched the sun come up with the most delicious cup of coffee I've had in recent memory, all steamy and toasted.

I like how the lady in Gilbert's picture is holding her cup so daintily, her wee pinky extended. Even all by herself in the scullery, she's still a girl through and through.

Me? I am holding my cardboard cup in one big Irish paw and cussing the peasant ancestors that deprived me of glorious slim digits.

Side note: I want that apron.

Title Credit: David Letterman

Monday, August 24, 2009

O Sad Pompeii!

Today in AD 79, poor Pompeii was destroyed.

The Destruction of Pompeii in 79 AD
Karl Pavlovich Bryullov

From Pliny the Younger's letter to Tacitus:
[snip] They tied pillows on top of their heads as protection against the shower of rock. It was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night. But they had torches and other lights. They decided to go down to the shore, to see from close up if anything was possible by sea. But it remained as rough and uncooperative as before.

Resting in the shade of a sail he (Pliny the Elder) drank once or twice from the cold water he had asked for. Then came an smell of sulfur, announcing the flames, and the flames themselves, sending others into flight but reviving him. Supported by two small slaves he stood up, and immediately collapsed. As I understand it, his breathing was obstructed by the dust-laden air, and his innards, which were never strong and often blocked or upset, simply shut down. When daylight came again 2 days after he died, his body was found untouched, unharmed, in the clothing that he had had on. He looked more asleep than dead.[snip]
Our Lady of Pompeii, pray for them!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Your Daily LOL, Brought To You By The Episcopalians

As Mark Shea always says, God invented the Episcopal Church to help Catholics feel better about our troubles. That's why I love the Midwest Conservative Journal, where Chris Johnson documents the slow, painful death of that denomination with hilarious acuity.

Anyhow, someone alerted Mr. Johnson to this comment by an Episcopalian dad elsewhere in the blogosphere (emphasis added):
I raised my daughter in the Episcopal Church so she would learn the traditions of our ancestors, not so she would become a believing Christian.
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLz and a thousand more LOLz!!! I laughed so hard I cried, I really did. Someone typed that with their serious face on, can you believe it?

As Chris Johnson says, definitely tee-shirt material.

My First Sci-Fi Debate: Nerds Have The Most Fun

Tuesday, August 18, 2009, was a historic day here at Our Heroine's Parasol Emporium & Petticoat Junction, for on that day I received my best comment to date. The comment was in response to my angry screed against District 9, in which I complained that the plot has more holes than a yard of Battenburg lace, and then I enumerated the ones that chafed the most. However, later that day a reader responded in disagreement: he felt that the content of those holes had been more than implied by the writer/director. Here's what he said [needless to say, but, SPOILER ALERT]:
...First off, the ship was described as "in distress", which could mean any number of electrical or mechanical problems could have existed, and, when MNU cut into the ship, the lights were off and it was in a very large amount of disrepair.

Just because the engines are operational, does not mean that the life support and computer systems are online...

[you asked:] "Why did the aliens come here? Why were they all sick upon arrival? Who (and where) are their leaders?"

Again, this is where life support systems come into play. For arguments sake, lets say the ship was damaged by a meteorite storm (highly likely due to the ship's large size) Some of the compartments may have been torn open into the void of space, killing a good deal of the aliens, specifically the leader caste. Christopher is likely the sole surviving member of the crew, and therefore plotted a course to the nearest liveable planet (Earth)

While they coast, the Prawns multiply causing their living conditions to deteriorate.

The reason they left their planet in the first place could be any number of things (civil war, colonization, exploration)

Although the aliens are unwelcome, we cannot help them repair their ship and leave, for the sole reason that they are the working caste, not the thinking caste. Its pointed out twice in the movie that these prawns aren't noted for their intelligence, and are very gullible when it comes to the humans telling them to do things. Also, MNU is holding them there for experimentation and weaponry purposes.

As far as weapons go, i cant disagree with you there, but I can offer speculations as to why they did not revolt;

Without leadership the revolution would be doomed anyway.

The strict curfews and deadly force imposed by MNU prevented the aliens from even attempting a revolt.

And finally, they've been there for 28 years. There must have been multiple revolts that were immediately crushed by military force.

The Prawn derailing of trains can be summed up by the media using anything they can to blow it out of proportion, like the 911 craze where everything was suspected terrorist activity.

I thoroughly enjoyed District 9 and think it's plot held together very well. Apart from a few "wtf?" moments (grav-gunning a pig... really?), I thought the plot was really concrete.

LOLZ! Our Heroine forgot about the pig that got grav-gunned. For that alone I would have loved this comment. But beyond that, I've never had a commenter go to such lengths to understand and respond to anything I've written, and I was really pleased, even though I can't agree with him (but wish I could).

Here's what I wrote in response:
I grant you that things COULD HAVE gone down the way you describe, but they could have gone down in other ways as well, and my problem with the movie is that it didn't give me enough information, (whether that was deliberate or not I don't know) and left to my own devices, I drew totally different conclusions about the Prawns than you did.

For example, for a ship that was allegedly in distress, (maybe damaged by meteors) w/o life support or computer systems, it took off without any issues! And it had to have systems and life support if Christopher was planning on navigating it to his home planet and surviving the trip! (Or at least that's what I assumed based on what I saw)

And if the Prawns left their planet because something bad had happened there, Chris was real confident about being able to find help once he got back. BUT, if they were coming to colonize Earth, that's an act of war (making District 9 a POW camp).

In regards to your point that the media blew Prawn destructiveness out of proportion, I saw no evidence for that, and in fact the "scientist" in the "documentary" explains that their destructiveness appeared to be cultural/biological. I agree that it's possible it was all a big media frenzy; but I wasn't shown enough for that conclusion, and, in fact, to me the movie's evidence pointed to the contrary.

You describe a coherent narrative for the Prawns, and if the movie had provided some audio/visual evidence for what you describe, I would definitely have felt differently about it. But what it seemed to me was that the writer/director could not come up with a narrative that explained the ship (first being in distress and then working fine), the arrival of the Prawns, how they all ended up in District 9, Chris's intelligence, and the Prawn arsenal coherently, so he just left it vague and blurry and called it "art."

My final point: your post did a better job than he did!

His comment really did do a better job than the movie, and I would have liked it so much more if I'd seen in it what he did. But more than that, this comment made Our Heroine the happiest nerd on Tuesday, so...thank you, Matt!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, HP!

Today is HP Lovecraft's birthday. He was born on this day in 1890.

Don't know who HP Lovecraft is? Well, he invented this guy:
out of the brilliant but disturbed inner sanctum of his own head.
(click on image for more details about The Great Dreaded One)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Heroine Admits There May Be Something In What Old Wordsworth Had To Say

When I was in college I studied the English Romantics for one whole semester. All these years later, I don't remember much except Samuel Taylor Coleridge was my all-around favorite, John Keats was tragic, Lord Byron was dreamy and I didn't much care for William Wordsworth.

To my mind at the time, Wordsworth's poems were narcissistic to the point of annoyance. He filtered everything through his imagination and then had to sing about it, and I was disgusted that he wrote an autobiographical poem, The Prelude, when (to me) poems ought to be many things, but your boring autobiography was not one of them. Forgive me, Wordsworth, I was only 18, and none too intelligent.

Anyhow, I hadn't really thought about him for years, until I saw this article in City Journal in which Andrew Klavan makes the case that Wordsworth was the first "hippie" who grew up.

As the century turned, the dream of French liberty finally died. The old tyranny gave way to a new one, as Burke had predicted. To Wordsworth’s disgust, Napoleon Bonaparte became emperor and “now, become oppressors in their turn, / Frenchmen had changed a war of self-defence / For one of conquest, losing sight of all / Which they had struggled for.”

It was, for Wordsworth, what the failure of Communism was for the radicals of a later day. He could no longer deny the error inherent in “speculative schemes— / That promised to abstract the hopes of Man.” He saw the Revolution as a dream that “flattered the young, pleased with extremes” and made “Reason’s naked self / The object of its fervour.” Confused by pure reason’s failure as a moral guide, he “lost / All feeling of conviction” and “yielded up moral questions in despair.” Slowly, he began to do the brave and difficult thing: to admit he had been wrong and change his mind.

This kind of article may or may not be your thing, but it really did fire in me a new respect for old Wordsworth, and I think I will brush off my Romantics anthology and read, if not The Prelude, than at least Lyrical Ballads again. Maybe you'll feel the same way, but if not, here's a short one in his honor: "The World Is Too Much With Us" (a favorite of mine even back then).

The World Is Too Much With Us

          THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 10
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If We Are To Be Crushed, Let Us Be Crushed Gloriously

I'm one quarter of the way through The Guns of August, my exercise in learning more about the origins of World War I, and after reading the chapter on King Albert of Belgium, and how bravely he and his country faced certain devastation at the hands of the Germans, I have to say one thing: I'm happy for many things we have in the early 21st century that our forefathers in the early 20th did not, but they really believed in honor, and I'm not sure the invention of Extra-Strength Tylenol and Diet Coke makes up for our deficit. (well, maybe an ice cold Diet Coke does it - from a fountain, with lots of ice and a squeeze of lemon. That's pretty spectacular)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Heroine Would Like To Remind You That Apartheid Allegories Carry More Weight When They Bear Some Resemblance to Apartheid

Entertainment Weekly calls District 9 a "thinking person's sci-fi movie" which I think must mean it had a low-budget, stars unknown actors, and was shot in South Africa; because anyone watching this movie doing any thinking at all will see plot holes large enough for the Prawn Mothership to pass though without touching.

District 9 was the weekend's big movie, so by now I think the story is probably familiar. But for you newbies: a giant spaceship comes to rest above Johannesburg. With the eyes of the world on them, the South African government cuts its way into the ship after several failed attempts at making contact. Inside, they find thousands and thousands of insect-like creatures huddled in the dark, weak and malnourished. Herculean humanitarian efforts are undertaken to save them.

Twenty years later, when the action of the movie takes place, that Mothership is still hovering above J-burg, the aliens are still in South Africa, and the situation has deteriorated all around. The "Prawns," as they are now known, have not been integrated in any way within South Africa (Warning: Unsubtle Allegory). The creatures have a very different culture from humanity's that has turned local residents against them, and led ultimately to their being incarcerated in District 9, an alien shanty town riddled with crime and degradation.

Now the government has decided to move all the Prawns to a new camp further outside J-burg, and the story follows the experiences of a lowly civil-servant named Wikus Van de Merwe, who is impacted by the disastrous relocation in a particularly tragic way.

Every review I've read praises the movie for its message of "ethnic tolerance" and it's "challenge to be better people." One sharp-eyed critic noticed that it was "a pop allegory for apartheid" and another raved that it's "a comment on the treatment of illegal immigrants." To all this Our Heroine responds NOT. BLOODY. LIKELY.

No way, no how, does the apartheid analogy hold up upon inspection. The movie, if I may quote Cher Horowitz, is a full-on Monet. From far away it looks awesome, but up close it's a big old mess.

It's the failure of the details that ruins the story. There are so many questions, important questions, that are never answered (or even asked): Why did the aliens come here? Why were they all sick upon arrival? Who (and where) are their leaders? No one ever explains this to us, and it's never indicated that these questions were ever asked. Hollywood, letting your audience know WHY the aliens came here is Sci-Fi 101! If you can't even get that sorted, how can you graduate to advanced, "thinking person's," Sci-Fi?

It turns out that the Prawn Mothership is completely operational, and their home planet is livable. Yet we are expected to weep and mourn at their dire predicament stuck here on cruel Earth. But...if their ship is in flying condition, why are they stuck? And let's suppose for a moment that some sort of damage had been preventing their leaving; if the aliens were so unwelcome, why did we never help them to repair what they needed to leave? You are asking your audience to believe that the whole world regretted the presence of these aliens, and yet - for no reason - went through all the trouble and expense of keeping them in this dreadful camp, and then relocating them, when we could have just shuttled them up to the Mothership and bid them a peaceful adieu? I guess that must be because humans are terrible.

ALSO, it turns out that the aliens have weaponry that renders them virtually invincible, and which it is impossible for humans either to utilize or replicate, and these weapons are lying all over District 9, and yet the aliens never revolt and escape to their fully-operational Mothership, to their completely habitable planet? Why not? And it's not because the aliens are pacifists, they have no qualms about killing humans, and some even take pride in their kill count.

At the beginning, the movie tries to imply that cultural differences between humans and Prawns played a large part in the creation of District 9. The Prawns like to eat rubber and other trash. They can be found scavenging in scrap heaps like animals, which, obviously, humans find distasteful. They also go crazy over cat food and raw meat (especially cows' heads) and this also humans find distasteful (well, disgusting, really). But the director seems to realize that humans are not ALL so terrible that the whole world would agree to District 9 with nary a peep over mere differences in diet. So he goes further: it turns out that some of the things Prawns like to do for fun are deadly and destructive, like derailing trains. WHAT WAS THAT? Hold up: if we are able to communicate with the Prawns, which is very obviously the case, then why was it impossible to explain to them that certain of their behaviors were unacceptable? You mean authorities let the Prawns reap so much destruction that they had to be "quarantined" without anyone just explaining to them that they were causing catastrophes? Or did someone do that and the Prawns didn't care? The audience is never told, though that seems like an important distinction.

I could continue, because even the action segments of the film have common-sense problems, but I'll stop just to say that the demands of telling a good story were completely sacrificed for the sake of the message, and even sacrificing story for message, the analogy between man's inhumanity to man and man's inhumanity to insect-like alien of whom we cannot say why it is here, what it wants, where it is going, and why it does terrible things is a very, very weak one.

But reading the reviews I can see that the allure of a slick yet low-budget sci-fi film with a message is too much for critics to handle dispassionately.

Honestly, what a shame. District 9 could have been Benito Sereno with aliens, but chose instead to be Alien Nation set in South Africa, except Alien Nation was better.

Updated: Creative Minority Report could not disagree with me more, and he makes some excellent points about the movie that I either missed or discounted because I was annoyed by all the holes. Click here for his whole review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Morning Amuse Bouche

Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. Sarah Haskins investigates.

Via Current

Friday, August 14, 2009

That Others May Become Holier Than I, Provided That I May Become As Holy As I Should

I have started to say this prayer once a day, and I should probably make it 24 times a day, and I'm still not sure that's enough to work the miracle I require!

For you non-Catholics out there, the ellipsis means you finish the sentence with "Deliver me, Jesus" for the first half, and "Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it" for the second half.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

A Potpourri Of Movies and Books: Our Heroine Is Having Trouble Focusing

Not much is on my mind today, though I apologize for the surfeit of movie posts this week. I did start two books, gave them the ol' college try, found them to be ridiculous (despite my best efforts), and abandoned them. The books were Through A Glass Darkly, by Karleen Koen and Breaking Dawn, the final Twilight book, by Stephanie Meyer. I think I've covered enough Twilight stuff here, so I'll touch briefly on Through A Glass Darkly, a sweeping historical saga set in England and France in the early and mid 1700's, which is what prompted me to check it out of the library.

I don't know, there's nothing wrong with it, really, I just felt like I'd read it all before: naive young heroine gets married to a much older libertine whom she adores, her grandmamma is a clever and fierce matriarch, her mother is a scandal magnet, etc. etc. etc. I put it down before the libertine and the naif actually married, but I would guess he grows to love her because she's both beautiful and spunky, and she grows disillusioned with what she imagined the glamour of court would be. I DO like that kind of love story, but I like it when it's less than 500 pages, otherwise I'm reading too much about draperies and carpets and servants polishing the silver.

Yowza! The above makes me sound like a terrible snob, and that's not true at all. I just have a very short attention span (thanks for nothing, MTV), so a book must be amazing to keep me from skipping over whole sections of detail to get to the action, and I get bored quickly - even with action - if my attention is not immediately grabbed. I need my historical romances short and sweet; more Georgette Heyer (thanks, Anchoress) than Herman Wouk.

Without a book to read this week, I've been watching movies in the evening, and last night, I decided to try From Here to Eternity (I know! It's crazy! First time!) WHOA. That is an awesome movie. I'm not even going to say anything else except if you've seen it, you'll know what I mean, and if you haven't, you should see it. I think First Sergeant Milton Warden goes into Our Heroine's Pantheon of Most Romantic Male Fictional Characters Of All Time, and you know what, they don't call this kiss iconic for nothin'.

Iconic kiss aside, this is the scene that really got me. RIP, Maggio.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Half In Love With Easeful Death Is No Way To Woo A Widow

I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir last night, because Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison had me on a bit of an "impossible love" kick, but it didn't move me like HK,MA. I don't think it's the story's fault, which I love in theory: young widow, moves into haunted seaside cottage, falls for ghost of crusty old sea captain which haunts the place, their love proves impossible (for obvious reasons). That part's fairly awesome. But the actors left much to be desired, which hurts me to write because Rex Harrison is The Best (especially as Henry Higgins, the quintessential crusty Brit). As the ghost of an old sea salt, however, he took the whole "crust" thing one step beyond the rabbit-proof fence. There were too many "Arrrrgghhhs," and "fetch me slippers, woman" and he wore a ridiculous beard that looked fake, with the end result being I just didn't buy him as an appealing love interest for the widow, especially since he's dead. You have to bring your A-game when you're a ghost looking for love, wouldn't you agree?

Gene Tierney, on the other hand, spends the entire move doing this:

Sticking her nose in the air in response to everything that's said to her, which was supposed to demonstrate that Mrs. Muir was a strong, independent woman, but really just made her exceedingly rude. Tierney looks lovely, though.

Anyhow, I found it a disappointment. However, one scene that made me happy was toward the beginning; Mrs. Muir tells the Captain his house reminds her of something, and he responds that he modelled it off lines from John Keats' Ode to A Nightingale, a poem that I have not read in years, though I loved it when I was studying the Romantics. For your sakes and mine, I have reprinted it below. The lines that inspired the Captain are in italics:

Ode to a Nightingale


MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,5
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.10


O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,15
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:20


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.30


Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,35
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.40


I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;45
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.50


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,55
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.60


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.70


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades75
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Our Heroine Loves The Impossible Love Story, Especially When It Stars Robert Mitchum

Last night I watched Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and I fell in love with it. It is such a strong story, with fantastic actors playing characters who are truly good people. Plus, it combines two great human dramas: love and war.

The plot revolves around a working-class Marine and a modest Irish nun who find themselves stranded together behind enemy lines on a remote island in the Pacific, circa 1944. At first, the island is deserted (save themselves), but eventually the Japanese build a weather station on the beach, making our hero's and heroine's existences extremely tenuous.

The G.I., Corporal Allison, is an orphan, raised on the streets, with no official religion, and no family except for the Corps. He's a killing-machine Marine, the epitome of the rugged Yank survivor. But never, until he meets Sister Angela, has he used those skills for anything other than his own self-preservation. When he finds Sister Angela alone on the island, he never doubts for one second that it's his duty to look after her, and in doing so, he gives his life meaning for the first time. As he says, "I, uh... I've never loved anyone or anybody before... I've never even *lived* before. Never really... lived... inside."

Awwwww.....come on! Do you have a heart of stone, or is that, like, the sweetest thing ever said on film?

I kept thinking that this movie could never get made this same way nowadays, with it's simple belief in quiet human courage and mutual respect. If it was made today, they'd sleep together, of course, and she'd have a crisis of faith and would end up an agnostic. Mr. Allison would be an atheist, and he'd tell her she was stupid to throw her life away on a God who'd abandoned her on the island. And she'd tell him that was true, and then there would be sex, and she'd probably stay a nun after their rescue, but it would have nothing to do with her loving Christ, but would be because she wanted to work for social justice. And at the end she'd tell him she was grateful he showed her how to be a real woman, or something ridiculous like that. (Does that sound far-fetched and cynical? Maybe, but then again, I saw the Brideshead Revisited remake/butchering.)

Instead he says this (while drunk, hence the slurring):

Isn't that so much better?! It's still a gut punch to poor Sister Angela, "How are you going to define yourself here, probably for years, without the Church?" But he at least recognizes the Church as a choice, and that he's got the same problem as she, "How do I define myself here, probably for years, without the Corps.?" The answer, of course, is that they only have each other,* and yet it's still impossible for them to be together.

This movie goes into the pantheon of Our Heroine's All-Time Favorites, which hasn't had a new addition since Quiz Show. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is that good - because of the story, the acting, the romance, and this shirtless guy:

*They also have God, I know, which is what Sister Angela points out to Corporal Allison at the very beginning of the movie, but during their dark night of the soul it doesn't seem that way to either of them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Heroine Goes To The Movies: The Perfect Getaway

Saw The Perfect Getaway this weekend with BMT. You guys, it was THE BEST!

It's impossible for someone of my poor skill to write about without spoiling. I feel comfortable saying just a few things. For those of you who don't know, it's a thriller starring Steve Zahn (love him!), Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Marley Shelton and some other young actors I don't recognize. Zahn and Jovovich play one of three couples who meet while hiking to a remote beach in Hawaii. On their way to the beach, the couples learn from other hikers that a pair of newlyweds has been murdered in Oahu, and police believe the killers are a couple, and that they've escaped to the national park where all our characters now find themselves. Awesomeness ensues.

First. It's not a slasher flick, so don't worry that I'm trying to convince you to see Friday the 13th or anything. There is remarkably little violence, and I say that having a weak tummy for movie gore. The whole movie is based on tension. But the source of the tension is one of my favorite literary tropes: cognitive dissonance. It's like a cinematic Benito Cereno*! The movie's greatness lies in the way it makes you uncomfortable with the delta between what you expect the characters to do based on your assumptions about them, and what they actually do. "Why does everything seem a little off?" is the question which pricks you the entire time.

Second, it's got a sense of humor about being a thriller, which makes it entertainingly meta. Zahn and Olyphant spend almost the entire film talking about how to write a great action screenplay, a conversation through which the movie tells you that it knows what you expect to happen, and then it (awesomely) both gives you what you expect, and it doesn't. I knew these conversations were clues, and I STILL couldn't anticipate the next scene.

Oh, it's SO GOOD, but beyond what I've written I can't go without spoilers. I definitely give it Our Heroine's Lace Handerchief of Approval, though in the interest of full disclosure, BMT would only go so far as to describe it as "good," not as far as, "the best film so far of 2009" which is how I described it. Make of that what you will.

The trailer, you guys:

* Hollywood, take a memo: Our Heroine, has always, always, thought Benito Cereno would make a FANTASTIC, murky period thriller.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday Morning Amuse Bouche

This Saturday's amuse bouche...well, I'm sorry, y'all, it's Twilight-related, because I read books 2 & 3 this week, so I've got it on my mind. Also, I'm a nerd with cats. Anyhow, Cleolinda Jones NAILS - and I mean NAILS - how ridiculous this story is, with her Twilight in Fifteen Minutes. Please, especially if you read the book and loved it, read this so you can a) laugh and b) know what I'm talking about when I say it annoys me.
I'm only going to quote one part, with Jacob in it, because, as I mentioned, if I was on a team it would be his. Click on this for the whole thing:
The Beach, La Push Reservation

[Angela, who is my favorite character after Alice (who is awesome), and Bella are huddled together for warmth while all the other kids go, like, ice-surfing or something.]

ANGELA: I really want to go to the prom with Eric--

BELLA: Not Ben?

ANGELA: Ben? No one named Ben goes to this school. Anyway: ERIC. I want to go with him but he will never ask me, woe.

BELLA: You should ask him yourself! You are a strong, independent woman. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.
[I'm sorry, what? Did Bella Swan just call herself independent bond with one of the mundanes? Wonders will never cease.]

[And then Jacob shows up with his as-yet-unfursploded posse, who are all like, did you bring any Cullens? BECAUSE THEY CAN'T COME HERE.]

BELLA: Wait, what?

JACOB: Yeah, there's all these bullshit stories about how my people were descended from wolves and the Cullens were descended from themselves and my miniskirted ancestors made a truce with the Cold Ones back in the days of old or the '30s or something. And they can never, ever come to our beach, so there.

Big Saturday LOLz, y'all!

Friday, August 7, 2009

In Which Flannery O'Connor Takes It To The Streets

Oh. my. gosh Flannery, you have said it better than I could ever have said it if I sat at my keyboard like a monkey typing for 1,000 years.
... All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. ... what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God created him in, you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time. ... The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn't walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs ...

Flannery O'Connor, from one of her letters

via (again) Happy Catholic (I'm like Ace of Spades to her Hot Air)

In Which Our Heroine Invites You To The Village

Do any of you remember when I flipped out about the A&E remake of The Andromeda Strain? (it ended up being a great disappointment, but my spaz was before I knew that.) Well, I spotted this The Prisoner (2009) preview at Happy Catholic, and if you had been with me when I saw it, you would have seen me shout "SWEET CRACKER SANDWICH!!!" at the screen, jump out of my chair, run to Subway for a celebratory fountain soda, and call my Little Brother to command him to watch it with me. Oh, yes, friends, I did all those things over a TV show.

If you've seen the original, you'll understand why. It centers around an unnamed spy who (angrily) resigns his position (but why?). He goes back to his apartment to pack his things, while there he is gassed (by whom?), and when he awakes he is in The Village. It's hard to describe The Village briefly: it's an absolutely charming seaside resort, but no one within it has a name (everyone goes by a number, our spy is now called Number 6) and no one within it (except our spy) acknowledges that there is anything outside The Village. The Village is all there is, and it is inescapable.

Meanwhile, Number 6 is tormented by someone called Number 2, who wants information. But Number 6 refuses to give it to him, he insists that he is free and will break free.

I won't say more, but the ending of the original is very ambiguous, and all the dialogue works on different levels, so many of the mysteries about The Village, Number 6 (our spy), Number 2 and the elusive Number 1 are never really solved.

There are also strong Catholic themes regarding individual freedom, human dignity, and the dangers of collectivism (Patrick McGoohan, the star and creator, was Jesuit taught). Oh, such a good show!

The only drawback of the original (for me) is the campy production value. Sometimes things that are supposed to be creepy (like the killer balloon that patrols the perimeter of The Village) instead just make me laugh. Well, ladies and gentleman, that problem has been solved. I present the preview for the 2009 AMC/ITV remake:

I think it's a good sign that Catholic actor Jim Caviziel has the lead. Am I reading too much into that, if it makes me hopeful the producers are remaining true to the original? *Sigh* Probably. It's probably going to be about Global Warming this time around, right? But still, countdown to The Prisoner, ok!?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Which Our Heroine Laughs and Laughs and Laughs and Laughs

Ladies and gentleman, I have much to do today and not much time to do it, but I had to take a moment to show you this, the reason the Internet was created:

A thousand LOLz, y'all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Some Flare Out In Love, Love, Love

King Saul fell on his sword
When it all went wrong
And Joseph's brother sold him down the river
For a song
And Sonny Liston rubbed some tiger balm in his glove
some things you do for money
and some you do for love love love

Raskalnikov felt sick
But he couldn't say why
When he saw his face reflected
In his victim's twinkling eye
Some things you do for money
And some you'll do for fun
But the things you do for love
Are gonna come back to you one by one

Love love is gonna lead you by the hand
Into a white and soundless place
Now we see this
As in a mirror dimly
Then we shall see each other
Face to face

And way out in Seattle
Young Kurt Cobain
Snuck out to the garden
Put a bullet in his brain
Snakes in the grass beneath our feet
Rain in the clouds above
Some moments last forever
And some flare out with love love love

Mountain Goats, "Love, Love, Love"

In Which Our Heroine Succumbs To The Siren Call of Vampire Romance, To Her Everlasting Shame

Our Heroine is bleary eyed and sucking down coffee this morning because, against my better judgement, I read Eclipse (the 3rd Twilight installment) last night, and stayed up til 4:43 a.m. to finish it. Say what you will (and I know what you're saying) there is something deeply compelling about the story.

So far, this is the best of the series. The writing hasn't improved, but it's more mature, mainly because the author finally (finally!) has some characters point out how gross Edward and Bella's relationship is. THANK YOU. Also, Bella herself finally recognizes she's the worst - which she is - and even if her two love interests don't agree with her, I was so glad she said it. I was shouting at the page, "THAT'S RIGHT, WOMAN. OWN IT. YOU'RE THE WORST."

There was one scene of surprising poignancy. I mean, I didn't expect to ever cry over this stupidness, but there I was sniffling while Monty looked at me with his big eyes and an expression that clearly indicated, "You are a nerd."*

The scene is towards the end when Jacob -- our favorite teen werewolf and rival for Bella's love -- recognizes that even though she's in love with him, she's still going to choose Edward because "he's her own personal brand of heroin," or some such ridiculousness. Ugh!!!

Anyhow, he's stoicly male about it, but he points out to her the implicit tragedy:
"What's the worst part, then?" [asks Bella]
"The worst part is knowing what might have been."
"What might have been," I sighed.
"No," Jacob shook his head. "I'm exactly right for you, Bella. It would have been effortless for us -- comfortable, easy as breathing. I was the natural path your life would have taken...If the world was the way it was supposed to be, if there were no monsters and no magic..."
I could see what he saw, and I knew he was right. If the world was the sane place it was supposed to be, Jacob and I would have been together. And we would have been happy...

Aww, come on. I know it's not Wuthering Heights, but that's sad, right? Can we agree that it's a wee bit poignant that at the moment of splitting up, Jacob recognizes, and Bella too, that in any other situation but the one they are in, they would have been soul mates? No? I'm just a nerd, then? Ok. :-(

Speaking of Wuthering Heights, Meyer makes repeated references to it in Eclipse as she did with Romeo and Juliet in New Moon. Ok, again, I get it, I get the parallels between two couples who literally (so they claim) cannot live without each other. But Catherine and Heathcliff are two of the most horrible people in literature! They destroy everyone around them, including themselves! I don't know if Meyer is admitting that Edward and Bella are two terrible idiots, clomping around destroying hearts and lives because of their "love," or if she thinks that Cathy's and Heathcliff's sins are somehow separate from their romance. Does anyone know? Has anyone ever read an interview with her? Because really, we are not going in a good direction here with our literary love parallels. First, we had teenage idiots Romeo and Juliet; second, codependent obsessives Cathy and Heathcliff, who's next? Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

*Monty's "you are a nerd" face.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Our Heroine J'Accuses Herself of Not Being A Serious Student Of History

Last night, reading my daily allowance of The Proud Tower, I learned everything there is to know about the Dreyfus Affair. Here is the most important thing there is to know about it: when people jokingly shout, "J'accuse!" (what? it's just me shouting that? weird.) they (I) am making reference to Emile Zola's famous headline in L'Aurore defending Alfred Dreyfus from the charge of treason against the French government. Did you already know that? Neither did I!

Of course that's not really the most important thing about the Dreyfus Affair, unless you are a superficial personage like myself. For you intellectuals, it was a fascinating chapter of history, involving cover-ups, cover-ups of cover-ups, anti-Semitism, royalism, anti-clericalism, republicanism, and so many other isms that it almost drove France to civil war while that crazy German Kaiser giggled from the sidelines.

Tuchman's chapter on the Dreyfus Affair was tantalizing, yet dull. Constrained by the book's structure, she only gives it one chapter, and the problem is there's a lot of ground to cover, so the narrative zig-zags all over the place. This was how it read to Our Heroine: Meanwhile, Zola was...; On the other side of Paris, the Army was...; Over on the Rive Gauche, the Socialists were...; In Rome, the Church was...; Meanwhile, the Anarchists were...; On Devil's Island, poor Msr. Dreyfus was...; In Berlin, that rascally Kaiser was... and whatever the ellipsis indicates got all mixed up in my head.

Clearly, what Our Heroine needs is a juicy novelization of the Dreyfus Affair, novelizations being the primary way in which I learn anything, sort of like hiding peas in macaroni and cheese.

And, in yet another example of my extraordinary prescience (a talent that never results in any material reward for me whatsoever) I have become interested in a subject just as it's about to hit the big time, with a novelization of the above coming out in September 2009 titled Traitor: A Novel of the Dreyfus Affair, by Leonard Wolf.

Traitor by Leonard Wolf: Book Cover

Isn't that great timing? Doesn't that look exciting!? I am writing this blog post so we don't forget about this book, but also y'all, I think when this goes paperback, we should all read it together and discuss it. However, if you don't want to, I can handle it. I will still read it and discuss it here, by myself, guaranteeing I will be the smartest person in book club.

In Which Our Heroine Covets A Hat

Sometimes random link following will take you down the internet rabbit hole and land you someplace wonderful. This is what happened to me when I found Vixen Vintage a few weeks ago. I can't even remember how I found her, but she's become a daily read for me -- although she's on left coast time, so I can't read her posts til the next day :-)

The authoress, Solanah (recently married, and congratulations!) describes the blog as "musings from a vintage girl in a modern world," and sweet. fancy. moses! the whole site is just fashion pr0n for me. I would copy her look to a hair: every single dress, every pair of shoes, her hair, her makeup, her bags, even her cats-eye glasses, if I could manage to look as fabulous as she and not look (as I would) like an escaped extra from Mad Men. In fact, she absolutely inspired my look for a wedding I attended last weekend -- hot-rollered hair, red lipstick, patent-leather pumps, and an embroidered black 50's-style sundress.

Full of post-nuptial largesse, Solanah has hand-made the 1930's style topper below, and is giving it away to one of her readers. Our Heroine must have this hat, as I have the perfect dress to go with it, and even the perfect shoes. You probably want this hat too, and though I loathe competition, click here to go and enter yourselves for the giveaway.

Monday, August 3, 2009

There Are Some Things Our Heroine Will Do For Money And Some Things She'll Do For Fun, But It's The Things She'll Do For Love...Well You Get The Idea

Our Heroine is terrible at music reviews. Just truly terrible. You know, I just like what I like and I can almost never explain why in any meaningful way. So please have some patience with me as I write a little about a band I like quite a lot -- The Mountain Goats -- and bungle it dreadfully.

I don't like all their music, but there are three songs in particular that I have always admired: No Children, Song for Dennis Brown and Love, Love, Love.

There are three Biblical references in Love, Love, Love, as well as one to Raskolnikov, and that always made me wonder about John Darnielle (the lead singer/songwriter) and God. I never did any research about it, and I'm still not clear, but later this year they have a new album out titled, Genesis 3:23 which features 12-songs made entirely of Bible verses. Here's the tracklist:

01 "1 Samuel 15:23"
02 "Psalms 40:2"
03 "Genesis 3:23"
04 "Philippians 3:20-21"
05 "Hebrews 11:40"
06 "Genesis 30:3"
07 "Romans 10:9"
08 "1 John 4:16"
09 "Matthew 25:21"
10 "Deuteronomy 2:10"
11 "Isaiah 45:23"
12 "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace"

Says John Darnielle on the direction of the album, "It's twelve new songs: twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of. " Doesn't that sound intriguing? (especially song 12) Anyhow, I don't know what I'm more fascinated by, the hard lessons, or the delta implied by "kind of."

I'm really not talented enough to write more about it than that. I don't know if the songs will be any good, either, but if only one song comes close sharing to the poignant, beautiful lyrics of Love, Love, Love, Our Heroine will be very happy.

A Quick Update And Expression Of Thanks

Several people recommended World War I books for my further edification last week. Just to update y'all, I made interlibrary loan requests for both Dreadnought and The Guns of August since neither was immediately available.

However, Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower: A portrait of the world before the War: 1880-1914 was in the stacks, so I am using it as a coat of primer before I slather on the other two books. It's dense, but it's only eight (thick) chapters, and each chapter covers a discrete subject. I'm basically reading a chapter a day. So far, I'm smarter about a lot of things, but 'specially about Anarchists and Kaiser Wilhelm II who was, hoo boy, ein meschugge Duodezfürst.

nice hat.

Our Heroine Does The Work That Hollywood Won't Do

My cousin was sad on Facebook today because she said that when she's done reading the Twilight saga, she knows she's going to be depressed that she can't escape to that world anymore. To which I say, "Hurry up and get out of that world. That world is the worst." But also, I was thinking about novels that are actually good, also very romantic, meant for grown-ups, and that have some things in common with Twilight, like a dark and brooding hero with a tragic secret; a heroine who is a little unsure of herself in new surroundings and who is wholly unaware of her effect on men, a compelling rival for the heroine's affections, and a (possibly) supernatural mystery.

Mary Stewart comes to mind as the master of this genre, but I love her lesser-known colleague Victoria Holt. Specifically, I adore the Mistress of Mellyn, which I have threatened to write about before.

This book is awesome! It's the first grown-up book I ever read outside of school. My mom gave me the Reader's Digest Condensed Version after I had finished reading Jane Eyre and was all hopped-up on old-timey Byronic heroes and the plucky heroines who save them inside stately English country homes.

Mistress of Mellyn is pulpy (the official Amazon review calls it "a delightful mix of highbrow writing and lowbrow sentiments," which sums it up perfectly) but it is as addictive as circus peanuts. Here's the plot summary:
Mount Mellyn stood as proud and magnificent as she had envisioned...But what bout its master--Connan TreMellyn? Was Martha Leigh's new employer as romantic as his name sounded? As she approached the sprawling mansion towering above the cliffs of Cornwall, an odd chill of apprehension overcame her. TreMellyn's young daugher, Alvean, proved as spoiled and difficult as the three governesses before Martha had discovered. But it was the girl's father whose cool, arrogant demeanor unleashed unfamiliar sensations and turmoil--even as whispers of past tragedy and present danger begin to insinuate themselves into Martha's life. Powerless against her growing desire for the enigmatic Connan, she is drawn deeper into family secrets--as passion overpowers reason, sending her head and heart spinning. But though evil lurks in the shadows, so does love--and the freedom to find a golden promise forever... is SO good. And the ball scene..I won't tell you about it, but it's every lady's fantasy (if your fantasy involves a glorious emerald green ball gown, and being kissed in the conservatory by a hunky British lord. Which you know it does.) AND it has two things going for it that Twilight doesn't: a heroine with an actual personality and...grown-ups.

Now that I'm thinking about it, they should totally make The Mistress of Mellyn into a movie, and Damien Lewis should play Connan TreMellyn. I actually think his real-life wife, Helen McCrory, would make an excellent Martha Leigh.

Hollywood, I have already done half your work for you:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday Morning Amuse Bouche

Blatently stolen from Saint Superman, because I am too excited to go thrift-shopping with my girlfriends today to go scour the internets for something amusing, when this amusing thing has already been found for me. Y'all, Craig Ferguson (whom I will probably marry) has figured it out:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our Heroine Writes The Obligatory Twilight Post. You Probably Won't Like It

Last year, I read an article which announced that the Harry Potter books had been supplanted by the vampire-romance saga, Twilight. Teen girls and their mums both loved it, and the soon-to-be-released movie was sure to be a major hit. After I read that I thought, "What should I make for lunch tomorrow?"

Then the movie came out and all the ladies in my office took the day off to go with their daughters to the matinee, while admitting that they too were super excited to see this vampire Edward Cullen. And in my head I wondered, "Hmmm, would I look as cute if I bobbed my hair?"

That weekend, I checked Facebook, and almost every single female friend had a status in all caps like this, "OMG!!! EDWARD CULLEN IS THE HOTTEST! I LOVE HIM. NO MAN CAN COMPARE!" At which point Twilight finally forced it's way into my consciousness. It seemed this was not just a book about moody teenage vampires in love. Grownups, real grownups, were flipping out about these books. They must be awesome, I couldn't believe I'd missed them, and I suddenly wanted badly to see the movie.

So I went to see Twilight. And it was bad. I mean really, really bad. Laugh out loud bad. You know what it was about? Moody teenage vampires in love. Here's a piece of dialogue that made me guffaw (spoken by the heroine, Bella Swan):
"About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."
Hoo boy. The whole audience (all grownups) groaned and laughed. But that's not even my point! My point, is that I went to work the next day or whenever, and told my coworkers that I'd hated the movie. And everyone said, "Oh, you have to read the books." Then, I saw my cousins and told them the same thing and they said, "Oh, you have to read the books." So, ladies and gentlemen, I went and read the books, and you know what? They're still about moody teenage vampires in werewolves.

I'm creepy and possessive, but it's sexy because I'm also a vampire

I really disliked these books. In fact, these books made me sad for girls everywhere. And it feels so weird to write that, because everyone else thinks they are the greatest.

It's not about the quality of the writing. I'm not the sort of snob who can't enjoy a great story unless the language rises to the poetry of The Iliad, it's the crux of the story itself, this ridiculous love affair between two of the most sullen teenagers evah. Their love for each other isn't really love. It's obsession. Worse, it's teenage obsession, and yet we're supposed to take it seriously - as some sort of romantic blueprint - and people do. Edward and Bella can't function or live without the other (literally. Edward tries to commit suicide when he thinks Bella's dead), and it's suggested that they actually have a biological need for one another because of Bella's blood? or something? I'm not sure, though it's clear whatever their connection it's supposed to be super romantic. Neither of them have any friends, nor do they wish to have friends. They have no hobbies, nor do they wish to have hobbies. They spend all their time together. They are each other's god. Before they begin dating, Edward follows Bella around unbeknownst to her, watching her sleep through her window. In real life that is called stalking. In the book it is called love.

The second book (New Moon) makes references to Romeo & Juliet, and draws frank parallels between the two couples. Yes, I get it, Romeo and Juliet were also teenagers and star-crossed lovers, and they are Western Civ's great romance, but I will never forget Professor Ray talking about them in college, and how they could only be so passionate and over- the-top because they never had to slog out the day-to-day drudgery of love. Since they practically die on their honeymoon, they never experience love as a duty, as an act of the will that one performs when the fire in the heart burns low. I think Professor Ray said specifically, "What would Romeo and Juliet have been like arguing over who takes out the trash out after dinner?"

And that's my problem. Edward/Bella love is not real love and never can be. Yet two people, two adults whom I know have told me this book made them discontented with their marriages, since their spouse will never measure up to Edward Cullen. Which, do I even have to say it? He's a vampire. You are comparing your mate to a mythical, undead, immortal being with magical powers, and you feel sad that your man can't measure up? But also, in an odd way, I get it. I get how Edward's strength, his protectiveness, his devotion and his chastity appeal to women of all ages, especially in these unchivalrous times. But still, let's get real about vampire love, ok?

Jacob Black, on the other hand, is a whole other story. If I cared enough to get invested in these books (which I don't), I would say that Bella was incredibly stupid to choose Edward over a perfectly fetching werewolf...

Our Heroine would be on Team Jacob if she were on a team, which she is not.

...who loves her in a much more normal way. But as it is, I'm an adult, and I'm going to go do something mature, like watch Gossip Girl on DVD.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our Heroine Misses The Entitled English Aristocrat of Yesteryear

"Ce grand diable de milord anglais"

That's John Singer Sargent's portrait of Lord Ribblesdale above. Isn't it grand? Does he not perfectly epitomize a bygone era of arrogant English noblemen? Our Heroine is an American and a democratic republican, but I still lament we shall not see this type again.

And I do so love this quote of his Lordship's regarding the portrait. When one is already so great, I s'pose any additional greatness thrust on you just becomes burdensome.
"My picture here looks exceedingly well, and I am assured is regarded as the great feature of the Exhibition. It has forced a greatness on me which is quite embarrassing; and wherever I go, I am recognized and much chuchotement and pointing out to friends goes on. At the vernissage, which I just dropped in for, it was really tiresome; and several people - but all I think artists - have introduced themselves to me, on the plea of not being able to resist offering their congratulations."
I'm sorry y'all, I'm not sure why, but I am feeling very in love with the Victorians these days, and I'm dragging all of you down Fin de Siècle Lane with me.

But I promise that tomorrow I will firmly plant myself in the present day to tell you why I hate Twilight. Gah! It's just the worst. Lord Ribblesdale would have loathed it.

Our Heroine Defends Victorians From The Slings And Arrows Of Outrageous Hollywood

Do you people remember that trio of lovely period films that starred Anthony Hopkins in the mid-90's? They were Remains of the Day, Howards End and Shadowlands. (tangent: I saw Shadowlands in the theater, and I cried so hard and loud that people got up and left my row. Not strangers, mind you, but my FRIENDS. I was that embarrassing.)

Anyhoo, those were some lovely films, and I was feeling nostalgic for that time period and those films, so I rewatched Howards End this weekend with my brother and something struck me watching it now that I was too green to notice years ago, which is how unfair the film is to Henry Wilcox and his family.

I've never read the E.M Forster novel on which the movie is based, but I assume the theme is the same as it is in the film: the conflict between Victorianism and Modernity, as the former gave way to the latter at the turn of the century. In the movie, the Wilcoxes represent the Victorians (whose time has passed) and the Schlegels represent Modernity (whose time is now). And really, I think the treatment of the Wilcoxes in the film is shameful. The Victorians had their weaknesses, as every generation does, and I am aware of what they were - but really Merchant-Ivory? Henry Wilcox's family is composed entirely of materialistic troglodytes of little honor and no graces. But of course - of course - the Schlegels are virtually perfect: humanistic, philosophical, clever and stylish. Tibby Schlegel, the Oxford-intellectual, is so wrapped up in the life of the mind that he barely realizes he has two sisters, but of course that's portrayed as only mildy vexing, and mainly charming. That's because in the film, being an intellectual is the highest virtue. However Charles Wilcox, the eldest Wilcox son, having a real talent for business, is selfish, petty and obnoxious, because being a businessman is analogous to being an Orc.

Just your average Victorian businessman.

I found the great climax scene particularly frustrating this time around. In this scene, Helen Schlegel, pregnant outside marriage, has requested she be allowed to spend the night at Howards End (the Wilcox home) before departing for Germany. Margaret, now married to Henry Wilcox, makes this request on her sister's behalf, and is refused. She makes an empassioned plea to her husband to show Helen mercy, but he will not budge.

Now, it is not that I think Henry Wilcox is in the right. He is in the wrong. But his refusal is painted as the worst possible sin (to a modern): sexual hypocrisy. Henry has had a mistress, yet he does not forgive Helen her lover.

But he is not hypocritical! He is not disowning Helen for her transgression, nor is he turning a pregnant woman out into the wilderness to starve. He makes clear to Margaret that he and Charles intend to make her seducer marry her (which we may laugh at now, but was a very honorable action for two men to take who are not Helen's blood relations) and if he is already married, to make him take responsibility for her in other ways. Henry also makes clear that he will care for Helen financially, and is willing to pay for her to stay at a hotel until she decides to leave for Germany. It is merely Howards End that is forbidden to her, and he finds her attachment to the place odd, as it is not her home and never has been. Yes, Henry himself had a mistress, but that was in Cyprus, where his transgressions affected no one's reputation. He worries only that allowing Helen to stay at Howard's End will damage his son's family in the neighborhood, and while I disagree (as does Margaret) it's not mere sexual hypocrisy that motivates him.

Perhaps I am wrong, here is the clip of that climactic scene, watch it and tell me what you think:

Was he so very wicked? Margaret thinks so, because she decides that her husband is now too, too dreadful and determines to leave him -- not displaying the teensiest bit of committment or forgiveness or empathy, despite her much-lauded humanism.

Now, I know this conflict was rather a common theme in the early 1900's. I've read Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, Ford's The Good Soldier, and Wharton's Age of Innocence which all deal with similar ideas. But those novels were not nearly so one-sided or dismissive of the Victorians as Merchant-Ivory are. Look, I think the break between the 19th and 20th century must have been something quite extraordinary. People with fine observation skills seem to have recognized at the time that a fundamental shift was underway, and a new type of man existed who had never existed before. How must the Victorians have felt, what was left of them, unprepared as they were for what constituted Modernity? (I think of poor Soames Forsyte, trying desperately to please his Modern wife in his Victorian way, and only succeeding in increasing her disgust of him.) I love to read about it, but Merchant-Ivory do not play fair.

It's like The Family Stone, (UGH!!!!) only with corsets and tophats.

So that's my beef with Howards End all these years later. However, the proposal scene is just as romantic as ever! Here's Henry, asking Miss Margaret Schlegel to marry him, with all the difficulty that a proper Victorian gentleman of great chivalry experiences when asking a fine young lady to share his life.

Oh, and all the ladies have such great hair and dresses, so the film definitely still has that in it's favor!