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 Duodezf├╝rst.

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: