Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekly Writing Quote

Here begins a new feature on this blog...weekly writing quotes, as selected by my former English Professor, Thomas Becknell.

"Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferant hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse."
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Thank You

As you can see from the poll on the right hand side of the screen, almost half of you found your way to my blog via a link on another blog. This is a significant portion of my traffic and I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have enjoyed my blog enough to recomend it to others.

Now I would like to send some of my traffic back your way. If you have my blog linked on your blog, would you please comment below with your blog address and a short synopsis of your blogging mission? (Whether it's a silly mission or a serious one, I'll take them both). I will then take the information in the comments and paste it into a blog post for my readers to pursue.

Whether you take advantage of this offer or not, I want to thank you for your support of my blog!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Austenland

(March 2014 update - see my review of the film adaptation here)

After several months of avoiding my huge library fine and checking out books on my sister's card, I finally paid it off and went browsing among the tempting shelves. Unfortunately my current library was chosen by moi because of it's proximity to my doctor's office, not because it has an amazing selection. However by careful browsing I managed to pick up a few interesting gems.

I was scanning the "H" section when my eyes crossed two intriguing words. "Austenland" and "Shannon Hale." Now Shannon Hale is far from being my favorite author - I find her style weird and a bit jarring. But she's not horrible, and she tends to be fairly appropriete in her youth fiction, so I figured I couldn't go wrong in picking up one of her adult books. Particularily not when it so obviously had something to do with Jane Austen.

It turned out to be a nice bit of light reading. Nothing that will go on my list of perennial favorites, but an engaging read nonetheless. (Actually, to tell the truth I couldn't put it down and skivved off work reading it. Don't tell!)

The story is of a young lady named Jane who is obsessed with Colin Firth and the 1995
A&E P&P. She has been so enraptured by the perfections of Mr. Darcy, that she has begun to dispair of finding any real man who could ever meet her expectations. Things take an interesting twist when an elderly aunt - aware of Jane's problem - dies and in her will leaves her niece a fascinating legacy: a vacation to Austenland.

Austenland is a place designed for rich women who desire to live out the elegant life they've seen in the Austen movies. They wear corsets, have balls, and carrying on flirtations with the gentlemen actors hired to entertain them. Everything is carried on in perfect accordance with the period - except that there are bathrooms with proper toilets and the women wear make-up.

Jane must decide whether this is really what she has dreamed of...or whether real life might, after all, offer something more.

It's a very intriguing concept and one that I must admit I've played around with myself. Of course, I tended to think of something more like "Frontier House" as opposed to a resort, which I think would make much more sense...reality shows are more interesting than the lives of the sometimes "idle rich."

So it was an interesting, fun light read. If you're an Austen fan (and I know many of you are) you might find this enjoyable. Keep in mind that it is adult chick lit. I found it pretty tame compared to most secular works out there, but it's still not appropriete for 14-year-olds.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A question about Wolverine...

I'm not sure how many of you are X-Men fans, but in the hopes that a few of you might be, I'm posting this here.

I woke up this morning with a rather strange question in my head. "If the adamantium was bonded to Wolverine's skeleton, why aren't his teeth silver-colored?"

Any theories?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Behind the Scenes in Anatevka

I am writing this post backstage during Fiddler practice. I found backstage to be an important place in my life, as I first read SOTB backstage when I was in the play “Stage Door,” and dreamed up and started writing its screenplay backstage on “Beauty and the Beast.”

So what is happening backstage this year? The usual. People texting, playing instruments, changing costumes. I've varied between talking to people, writing on my book, and just sitting around waiting. It's hard to do much of anything productive during the first act because I'm on stage so much.

The Mamas: Who must know the way to make a proper home, a quiet home, a kosher home. Who must raise a family and run that home, so Papa's free to read the Holy Book!


First there is “Tradition” where I begin by counting inventory at the bookshop, carry my “baby” out to sing the mamas' part, and glare at Yente when she tells my “husband” Avram that our son isn't really much to look at.

Yente: Avram, I have a perfect match for your son. A wonderful girl.
Avram: Who is it?
Yente: Ruchel, the shoemaker's daughter.
Avram: Ruchel? But she can hardly see. She's almost blind.
Yente: Tell the truth, Avram, is your son so much to look at? The way she sees and the way he looks, it's a perfect match!


After which I go back to my house, dash backstage and change my costume so that I can come out as a daughter in “Matchmaker.” Yes, I'm a little old for that, but I can act younger and it's a fun song to be able to sing with my sister. In the script only the three daughters sing it, but in our production we repeat a few verses so that all the girls can join in, sort of a balance for the male-dominated “L'Chiam.”

Girls: Matchmaker, Matchmaker plan me no plans, I'm in no rush, maybe I've learned...playing with matches a girl can get burned!


(There's a lesson for Emma Woodhouse!)

Then I reverse back to my mama costume and join my family for “Sabbath Prayer” which is a song I've come to appreciate much more since beginning the play. We get to do parts and something similar to rounds, which is much more fun than just “singing.” It's really a very beautiful song.

All: May you come to be, in Yisroel a shining name...


Next up is “The Dream” which is totally freaky in the movie, and so much fun to sing in the play. One of my best friends is playing Fruma Sarah, which is a blast. I'm delighted to be in the chorus in this part, since we get to hit some fun notes and do some fun rhythm things. We are toning down the freakiness to make it more suitable for a youthful audience.

Golde: Grandma Tzeitel? How did she look?
Tevye: For a woman who has been dead thirty years, she looked very good.


Then over to the other side of the yard to get in procession for the wedding! “Sunrise, Sunset” is another great song, and then everyone breaks out into dancing. I don't actually dance during this part, because I'm holding my “baby.” But I do enjoy watching the bottle dance, which my “husband”, “son” and “brother-in-law” all take part in. I'm really quite proud of my guy friends for what they've managed to do with this complicated dance!

Perchik: They look so natural together-
Hodel: -just like two newlyweds should be.
Both: Is there a canopy in store for me?


Then we all cluster around the stage and are shocked by Lazar fighting with Tevye...

Golde: I had a sign! My own grandmother came to use from the grave...
Yente: What sign? What grandmother? My grandfather came to me from the grave and told me that my grandmother was a big liar!
Lazar: We drank on it!
Innkeeper: Quiet! I'm singing!


...and Perchik dancing with Hodel! Imagine! Hodel dancing with a man! Indeed! But then Avram demands that I join him dancing as well, so I quickly find someone to hold my baby and hurry out to the dance floor. It's fun! Until the Russians arrive! Then run run run back to our house and scream while they attack us. And then collapse backstage laughing because no one is really taking the attack seriously yet.

INTERMISSION!

Act II is pretty low key for the chorus. My first appearance is during the song “The Rumor.” Which if you haven't heard, is simply hilarious. I get plenty of good reaction time in that, and plenty of rushing around with news! Oh, and here I get a name. Motel's mother calls me “Mirela”. :)

Mendel: Remember Perchik, with all his strange ideas? Remember Tzeitel's wedding?
Mendel and I: Where Tevye danced with Golde?
Avram: (frowns at me) shhh!
Mendel: Well I just heard that Tevye's been arrested and Golde's gone to Kiev!
Group: No!
Mendel: God forbid.
Group:She didn't!
Mendel: She did.


Also, one of the best lines of the play comes here. “And thats what comes from men and women, dancing!” I quickly pull my son away from the girls hanging around him!

More waiting...waiting...waiting...and then at last we go to our homes and start packing up, preparing to leave. We sing “Anatevka” and then my family waits...waits...waits some more as we are almost the last family to leave town!

All: I belong in Anatevka. Tumble down, workaday Anatevka. Dear little village little town of mine.


So that's what happens backstage. Right now I'm typing this while I keep an eye on Grandma Tzeitel, waiting for the cue for “The Dream.” Should be interesting, as our Fruma Sarah is out of town so someone else will be filling in her lines for us.

Irish Humor

On the FT-Forum we have a thread for posting humorous items...well one member posted this joke, which I thought was quite good fun. :) Enjoy!

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times.

Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers. Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town.

"I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

"Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies. "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town were pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of- towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening. He orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all."

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies,"You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well. It's just that I, meself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince...

It almost feels too soon to begin commenting on it. I'm not a fan of snap judgements on films, because their strength often comes from how you view them the second or third time. Do they grow stale, or richer? (Why does that make me think of dried out cake and tangy feta cheese? Oh well...)

My initial overall response, without having seen it with subtitles (and therefore only hearing parts of the dialogue) is that I really liked it. Or rather, I was incredibly impressed by what they managed to do with it. I know there are going to be parts of it that bother some people, but I felt that overall it was a masterful film.

This is the first Potter film that I have been able to see in theatre, and that alone was an exciting experience. Seeing the main title whoosh over your head is really quite impressive the first time you see it. I don't care how late I am in saying that, it's still true. And overall, this is a film worth seeing on the big screen. Even if you are only a nominal Potter fan, it is technically so well done that most film buffs should be able to enjoy it.

And because I haven't seen the subtitles yet, it was the technical aspects of the film that really stood out to me. There were just so many bits and pieces that were very strong. Artistically it is phenomenal, and the acting is a step up all around.



Particularily deserving a mention is Tom Felton, for his portrayal of Draco Malfoy. I wouldn't be half-surprised if talk started about an Oscar nomination for supporting actor, he was that good. Kudos to director and screenwriter for their decisions on how to show Draco's inner struggle. He was seriously in danger of upstaging Harry at times.

Other fine acting comes from Michael Gambon (who really IS Dumbledore by now, no matter how much we liked Richard Harris) and Jim Broadbent. I must say, I was not expecting such a fine treatment of the Horace Slughorn character. Very, very well done.


I was also happy to see Emma Watson's acting stepping up from the last film, in which I thought she fell rather flat. The heartbreak on her side as she watches Ron make out with Lavender Brown is really quite emotionally moving.

Some may call this (and I've already seen them do so) soap operatic in its exploration of the romance bubbling around Hogwarts this year. But as someone who is only a few years past the intrigues of high school relationship, I felt it rang very true. Teen romance is almost never clear cut and painless, and the film is right to show this. Part of what makes Harry Potter universal is Rowlings ability to accurately portray all the aspects of Harry's journey to adulthood, and the romantic side is no less important that his battles with Voldemort.

Another thing I was pleased with was director Yates decision to show us a wider picture of Hogwarts than we have previously seen. He recognizes that the trio will not be returning to school in the next film, and so in many ways, this is our farewell to our beloved castle. Though it will make an appearance at the end of movie #8, it will be in a very differant vein and there will not be time to dwell on things the way there is in #6. I appreciate this.

All this is not to say that I believe this is the perfect movie. Like any well-beloved book, it was an enormous task to adapt and there is no possible way that everyone will be happy with it. I have a few personal pet peeves...Narcissa Malfoy was portrayed totally wrong...her conversation with Snape is supposed to be much more hysterical and pleading. This Narcissa was much too controlled.

Bellatrix Lestrange suffered some trivalization, and the Lupin/Tonks relationship is totally absent. Both are a loss that are felt and we could have done with less of some other aspects in order to dwell more on Lupin/Tonks. (Bellatrix just could have used some more impossing actions. Dancing in front of Hagrids burning hut trivalized her).

But I see another complaint coming from the loss of the battle at the end of the movie. Well I noticed that myself. I missed the addreneline-rushing swishes of light and the black and white smoke of dueling wizards.

However, as I thought about it, I realized that there was really no way they could give us a dramatic fight at the end of the movie without overshadowing [SPOILER] the death of Albus Dumbledore. [SPOILER OFF] It is a death that deserves attention, and a sober, rather than CGI-fest ending. I feel that, in this instance, the production was wise to give us more action earlier on in the film in order to reserve the end for reverance and reflection.

There are going to be 8 Potter films. #5 had a fantastic battle between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix that could not have been topped by the action that takes place in the book of #6. And in film #8 we will have the most epic battle ever seen in a Potter film, made all the more enjoyable because we haven't been overstuffed on action in #6.

So I feel of all the films, "Half-Blood Prince" is the one that can afford to sacrifice its end battle to the memory of one of the most important characters in the series.

I do wish they had seen fit to give Snape the chance to scream at Harry, as this is one of the only times we see him loose control in the entire series, it's a valuable moment. I'm guessing they felt it was too out of character for the Snape portrayed by Alan Rickman, as he has alwasy been more subtle and controlled than the Snape of the books.

Overall, as I said in the beginning of this post, I felt it was a well-done and worthwile film. Also, perhaps the most artistically excellent since Alfonso Cuaron's installent, and with a better screenplay adaptation than that one. If I were going to rate it, I would give it perhaps an 8 out of 10, bearing in mind that this could change when I see the film for the second time, with subtitles, sometime later this week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grocery Store Wars

An old family favorite...organic vs. pesticides. Very fun.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Orson Scott Card

My quest for quality literature continues. And I think I may have found another winner. However he is a decidedly adult author, so I would heartily discourage the under 18 crowd from picking up any of his books.

(I know many of my readers are under 18...unfortunately I am an adult and I will be reviewing adult literature...my hope is that my service to you can be to point out which literature is appropriete for your age group, and which is probably not, a resource I know I have always appreciated but rarely was able to find)



The author is Orson Scott Card and the works I've read are "Women of Genesis: Rachel and Leah" and "Enchantment." Both I read in nearly record time - "Enchantment"'s 415 pages were completed in just about 6 hours.

Now usually when I read a book that fast, it is either very, very good, or very very light reading. Card's work so far lines up in the very very good lane. In fact, several times while reading "Enchantment" I paused, looked up, and said "this is brilliant."

What I appreciate about Card is that he is not afraid to dive into psychological and moral reasonings. His books have depth to them, and while they have good characters and plot, they carry questions to ponder as well as a story to entertain.

"Rachel and Leah," which was my introduction to Card, tells the story of Rachel, Leah, Zilpah and Bilhah in the camp of Laban. It examines what the relationship between these women might have been like, and how each of them may have fallen in love with Jacob. Because Card is a Mormon, he remains respectful of the source material.

In fact, so far I've appreciated the fact that Card is a Mormon. There are certain values that he has that I can rely on, that I would probably not find in a secular author. Don't get me wrong, Card's work is mainstream, meant (for the most part) for a secular audience. But he is not afraid to bring God and Judeism and Christianity into his work, which is something refreshing to find. So far one must look very hard to find traces of Mormon philosophy.


While I enjoyed "Rachel and Leah," "Enchantment" was the novel that really drew me in. It is a retelling of the old fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" set amongst the people and folktales of the Ukraine...with a good dose of time travel to boot. It is the story of Ivan, a Russian whose family converted to Judeism in order to escape Communist Russia for America; and Katerina, a 9th century Christain princess fighting a deadly curse. Together Ivan and Katerina must fight the threat of the witch Baba Yaga and save both of their families from her threat.

It's a strange but intriguing blend of 20th and 9th centuries, of magic meeting science, of Judeism meeting Christianity, of violence meeting peace, of male meeting female.

It's a fascinating book, but an adult one. There's enough violence, dark magic and discussion of sex to make it definetely R-rated. And yet if you don't mind pushing past those elements, there are plenty of worthwhile things to find in this story.

At any rate, I'm determined to take a look at more of Card's novels and see if there is anything else as good as "Enchantment." I already know that he's written some horror stuff that I won't read because, well, I don't read horror. And some of the further out Sci-Fic won't interest me either. But he's a good author, and seems to have written a wide range of fiction, so I plan to do some searching. He certainly knows how to bring the right ingrediants together to make a fascinating story.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A cool fact worth noting...

So here is something cool...

click this link

and scroll down...

until you see the filly named "Elenatintil."

Guess what? Mary Reiners is a relative of mine, and she named the filly on the inspiration of my online name (which I invented, based on Tolkien's Elvish). I'm pretty tickled by this fact. :)

Nymphadora Tonks

Natalia Tena, who plays Nymphadora Tonks (wow, they have the same initials? How does that work???) in the "Harry Potter" films just gave an interview which I think is quite good...good enough to pass on to my readers who are Potter fans.

On that note...One week folks! One week! Any of you going to the midnight opening? If so, who are you going as? Narcissa Malfoy here...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Researching on location

It's one thing to write from memory. It's another thing to write from pictures online. But there's nothing quite like being able to go on location and soak in the sights and atmosphere for one's book.

This week I took off with some of my friends to go and do some research/location work for my novel. I've been meaning to do it for the past few months and finally I just had to make up my mind and pull the trip together. I'm really glad I did. I've been there before, so the book is fairly accurate...but what I saw on my trip will just add a whole new level to the depth and emotion of the book. Which is a good thing, of course.

What was also great was the fact that three of the friends I went with are pretty serious photographers. We took over 2000 pictures over the course of the trip, many of which I can use as referances to make sure my descriptions are accurate.

I was also able to find a couple of books that I probably wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. One is a small book of historical pictures of the city, which is crucial to the plot of my book. I love finding things like that.

Also, on a side note, I found a 100-year-old copy of the book "When Knighthood was in Flower" for $10.00. I've wanted to read it for years, so I'm thrilled to have finally tracked it down. Or rather, stumbled across it. I literally walked around a corner and the book was staring at me. Delightful find. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sheer Awesomeness

The Katies over at "Shakespeare and Showtunes" awarded me this...

Thank you!