c o l u m b i n a

"by her keen and active wit, she [ is ] able to hold her own in every situation and emerge with ease and dignity from the most involved intrigues." ~ Duchartre

Thursday, September 30, 2004

200 best books ever

Via sixth.edition, the 200 Best Books Ever, as written by the BBC. (To borrow Tisha's system: those I've read are bold, those on the Big Bad Reading List are italic, and those that have been started are marked with a *.)

1.The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman* (Once upon a time, I bought The Golden Compass but it's still sitting on my shelf. Been meaning to get back to it, I swear.)
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (And how come Goblet gets the highest nod, and not OOtP or PoA? They're superior books, IMHO.)
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger*
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott*
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (Have absolutely no desire to read this book. None.)
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll*
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell (Nope. Not a horse fan. Totally unrepentant about that one.)
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden*
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding

76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo (I've seen the movie- does that count?)
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel* (Memory's hazy, but I think I detested it...)
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho (on it's way from B&N.com, fingers crossed that it's good)
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
101. Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
102. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
103. The Beach, Alex Garland
104. Dracula, Bram Stoker
105. Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
106. The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
107. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
108. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
109. The Day Of The Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
110. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
111. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy
112. The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 133?4, Sue Townsend
113. The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
114. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
115. The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
116. The Dare Game, Jacqueline Wilson
117. Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson
118. The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
119. Shogun, James Clavell
120. The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham
121. Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson
122. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray* (Recently returned it to the Big Bad Book List after seeing its movie installment. Hope it's better the second time 'round. )
123. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy (Ear-marked this because of the recent PBS adaptation with Ioan Griffudd as... somebody. An architect that, poor dear, gets himself killed. I wasn't really paying attention; somebody has his shirt off and drool was preventing normal cognition.)
124. House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
125. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
126. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett
127. Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
128. The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle*
129. Possession, A. S. Byatt
130. The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
131. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood*
132. Danny The Champion Of The World, Roald Dahl
133. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck
134. George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
135. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
136. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
137. Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
138. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
139. Girls In Tears, Jacqueline Wilson
140. Sleepovers, Jacqueline Wilson
141. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
143. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
144. It, Stephen King
145. James And The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
146. The Green Mile, Stephen King
147. Papillon, Henri Charriere
148. Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett
149. Master And Commander, Patrick O'Brian
150. Skeleton Key, Anthony Horowitz
151. Soul Music, Terry Pratchett
152. Thief Of Time, Terry Pratchett
153. The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
154. Atonement, Ian McEwan
155. Secrets, Jacqueline Wilson
156. The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
157. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
158. Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
159. Kim, Rudyard Kipling* (I remember trying to start this book at a ridiculously young age and thinking it was awful and v. muddled.)
160. Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
161. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
162. River God, Wilbur Smith
163. Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
164. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
165. The World According To Garp, John Irving
166. Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore
167. Girls Out Late, Jacqueline Wilson
168. The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye
169. The Witches, Roald Dahl
170. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
171. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
172. They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
173. The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
174. The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco
175. Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder
176. Dustbin Baby, Jacqueline Wilson
177. Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl
178. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
179. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach
180. The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
181. The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
182. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
183. The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
184. Silas Marner, George Eliot
185. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
186. The Diary Of A Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith
187. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
188. Goosebumps, R. L. Stine (God, isn't that sad?)
189. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
190. Sons And Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
191. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
192. Man And Boy, Tony Parsons
193. The Truth, Terry Pratchett
194. The War Of The Worlds, H. G. Wells
195. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans
196. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
197. Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
198. The Once And Future King, T. H. White
199. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
200. Flowers In The Attic, Virginia Andrews

Gee. How bad was that? In my defense, I'd just like to point out that this list is very Terry Pratchett- biased, and unjustly penalizes those who haven't read him. (He's responsible for Discworld, isn't he? Not a sci-fi reader- though I'm trying to fix that... in small, selective increments.)

super spies of the future

You knew it would happen: Bond 21 has been pushed back to 2006, surprise surprise, because they neither have a star nor a director attached to the unnamed project. (How hard is it to name a movie people? It's not like it can't change, see George Lucas and Episode VI.) A while ago I did a ranting break-down of the contenders and now Empire presents its own list of wannabes (eye-candy included). It's all a bit pathetic, really, but I'm more of a sucker than I care to admit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

season four cannot come soon enough

Technically this is all my brother's fault. If he hadn't decided to pull a marathon viewing of all of Alias season two before he went off to college in our living room with the sound turned up so loud that you could hear every angsty, spying word wherever you happened to be in our house, I would not have gotten sucked into J.J. Abrams' world. I would certainly not have rented all of Season Three and watched it over a period of several weeks. And I would not be so crest-fallen now that I've seen it all and have to wait until January before I can find out what's really going on. *sigh*

I have to admit, I'm a fan now. Especially after watching "The Hourglass," otherwise known as the Season Three Episode where Sloane dies... sort of. (Random anecdote: Anybody a fan of Demetri Martin? His stand-up routine is hilarious. One of the most memorable riffs is on the phrase sort of. "Sort of is such a harmless thing to say. Sort of: it's just a filler, it doesn't really mean anything. Only after some things, it means everything. Like after, I love you. Or, You're going to live.") Anyway, this episode blew me away. This is some of the best of the best in action: great writing, great acting, just great story-telling, period. My favorite scene is between Victor Garber and Ron Rifkin who just tear into one another while sharing a glass of wine right before Sloane's execution. So dreadfully civil, and yet so nasty... Garber's "salut" gave me chills. I don't care if he's evil, he'd be such a cool dad. (Damn. This is probably another case of false perceptions of fictional characters, see below.)

finally done!

Bet you thought I'd never finish Race of Scorpions at the pace I was going. Well, last night was the night, folks. Over, finished, complete. It finally returned to my bookshelf, where of course, volumes four and five are waiting patiently for their turns.

Now that I've experienced three of Nicholas' adventures, I think I'm beginning to withstand his irritable traits a bit better. (He's still not as swoon-worthy as Lymond, but then, really, who is?) The third book makes him a tad more human and luckily, for once, his damn feud with Simon is set on the back-burner to be dealt with later. I for one was extremely grateful for that merciful move and for finally allowing Katelina to end her nasty streak of ridiculous behavior. I rather like the new character of Diniz Vasquez and I surprised myself by being upset when Abul Ismail ("He was a good doctor... when he wasn't burning the guts out of people") met his sticky end. Still hate the Venetians, though. Carlotta had been terribly cool in the beginning but ended up disappearing half-way through; Primaflora was no substitute, nor Cropnose (who I couldn't stand at all).

The supporting characters, otherwise known as the Bank of Niccolo, remain the best parts of the adventures. I think I'm even going soft with Astorre and Ludovico da Bologna now. I sorely missed Julius and Gregorio, though I suppose juggling all those characters (a five page list, for heavens' sake!) does tend to be impossible. Hopefully they'll turn up in the next one. Or I should say, the one after the next one: I've decided to take a brief break from Niccolo (I think I've earned it) and have moved on to Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Seville Communion. So far so good.

swoon-worthy literary characters

a recent thread at the Chicklit forums discusses literary crushes. Deborah recently supplied this article that debunks the rational behind Darcy fever.

It's sad but true; why is it that most literary crushes we wouldn't give the time of day in real life? J.K. Rowling has said in several interviews that she doesn't understand her fan-base's obsession with Snape, because she's deliberately made him so evil. Yet be still my fan-girl heart, I love him so.


after these illustrations from the Olympia Press edition of The Story of Venus and Tannhauser by Aubrey Beardsley.

Monday, September 27, 2004

despair, inc.

Courtesy of writing or typing , a demented form of Successories, most of which are "perfect for disaffected college students." Personal fave is procrastination.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

what herb are you?

via amy loves books.

What herb are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Saturday, September 25, 2004

green with greene

finally got around to seeing The Quiet American which was seriously good. Michael Caine was wonderful as always, and Brendan Fraser really makes me question why he troubles with Looney Tunes movies when he's such a great actor and can carry off a part like Pyle. And then, just yesterday, I caught a couple minutes of The End of the Affair which I had seen years ago when it came out and was only luke-warm receptive to it (religion in movies tends to do that to me). Then I remembered belatedly that I have been telling myself to read the bloody originals of Graham Greene.

I have gone through this phase ever since I fell in love with one of (IMHO) the greatest movies of all time, The Third Man. I have had this sneaking suspicion ever since that I will become addicted to the man's books (and a similar suspicion that once I buy the things I will be let down). But I am confimed in the desire to give them a try. Ever since the Great Unemployment Debacle (which is still ongoing, thanks for asking), I have been adding more things to wishlists instead of my bookshelves, so maybe that'll be the full-time employment treat... though Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is really, really, REALLY tempting.

Back to Greene, however, Bookforum recently posted an article on his life and works, which makes for some interesting reading:

In A Sort of Life, Greene writes that if he had to choose an epigraph for all his novels, it would be these lines from Robert Browning's Bishop Blougram's Apology:

Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demi-rep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books–
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway...

Friday, September 24, 2004

life-changing books

scribblingwoman and The Guardian pursue the question: what books can change a woman's life? The results are a bit interesting; I didn't realize so many women were Douglas Adams fans (bad gender knee jerk!) but are mostly typical fare like Austen and the Bronte sisters. (Have I yet mentioned my Bronte story? Sorry to slip into an anecdote, but I swear this conversation actually happened the first time I met a friend of a friend in college. He looks at me, takes in the glasses and the complete lack of response to childish jokes, and says, "Are you like, a writer or something?" I admit that I have been known to put pen to paper, as it were. "Yeah. Yeah," he says, real enthused now. "I knew it. You've got that... what's-her-name look about you. Like, the one who wrote that book that, uh, I read in high school? "Wuthering Heights" I think..." "You mean, Emily Bronte?" "Yeah. Yeah. Like her.")

Anyway, back to the main point, books that have changed my life. Since I haven't yet reached the quarter-way mark, I'm a bit hesitant to say, considering that I haven't read most of what I want to read yet. It is quite possible that I could agree with them that George Eliot's Middlemarch is a work of genius and earth-shattering... but I haven't gotten that far down my reading list. I will admit, however, that pretty much every book that has become my most beloved and most frequently re-read started off as a book that I initially detested or put aside through boredom, head pain, or whatever. For example:

1. Elizabeth Peters' The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog. It was the book that started the whole Peters' obsession and made me a confirmed follower of historical fiction, the good and the bad. I had bought it, if memory serves, because the cover's hieroglyphics looked cool, and set it aside because then (I was in ninth grade) I went through a "modern phase" in which I wouldn't read anything for recreational purposes that wasn't set in the present day. (Yeah, like that was gonna last.) Forced myself to crack it open on a plane ride back to the States from Poland and devoured it in a matter of hours, only to re-read it first thing the following morning in a gleeful jet-lagged stupor. In the few precious weeks before school started again, I had read everything Peters' had published... ever... and all pseudonymns. I still hold her as one of my favorite authors of all time. (So it's not Dickens. Bite me, I love my Amelia Peabody.)

2. Dorothy Dunnett's Game of Kings,, the first of the Lymond Chronicles. Picked it up because I read an interview of E. Peters wherein she confessed that her fantastic character John Tregarth was slightly based off of Dunnett's Lymond. As I was head over heels for John (still am, ::sigh::), I thought I'd give his precursor a try. Dear god, I thought I'd shoot myself reading that first chapter. It sat on my shelf for almost two years before I revisited it, and had no idea what my former problem had been. Utterly fantastic and started me on such a binge with the rest of the series that lasted one glorious year (and god help me, I'm terribly in love with him too.)

3. Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter mysteries. As a youngster I rifled through my mother's bookshelf without compunction. Every Agatha Christie was done by seventh grade. However, a paperback copy of Murder Must Advertise remained elusive and boring to my middle school tastes. Too English, too weird, too hard, too... whatever. It took a reading of Gaudy Night in high school (and for the life of me, I can't remember how it fell into my hands, or how I was persuaded to read it...) to secure my deep and abiding love for Peter Wimsey. I have read that book too many times to count- more than some Peters' books, which is really saying something.

Those are really the big three for me, those authors, those books will never leave me for the rest of my life I am certain. But were they life-altering? Not really. I remember one of the first books that I re-re-re-read was Paul Zindel's The Pigman and the first real historical novel (which is most likely to blame for the life-lasting obsession) was Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle from fifth grade English. Finishing the last book, down to the very last footnote of Lord of the Rings certainly felt like a considerable right of passage, but I don't really think it affected me any more than the movies. Tom Jones was a similar experience- I was unbelievably proud of myself for tackling that on my own (not to mention enjoying it). I have a sneaking suspicion that whenever I pick up the huge Collette anthology that has been collecting dust, I will fall in love with Claudine (at least, that's the prediction from the very patient family friend who loaned me the book).

I will say that Dickens does grow on a person, and that it helps considerably if you pass over Great Expectations in favor of A Tale of Two Cities. (And yes, David Copperfield is on my big book list. I'll let you know how that turns out if I ever live long enough to get to it. Especially now that I've added all these women's life-changing books to my list.)

arrrg! (a bit belated...)

shiver me timbers, I forgot about "Talk Like a Pirate Day" this year. The annual event occurred on Sept. 19th-- luckily Dave Barry's book tour is spreading the pirate love to N. American cities near you!

Quite frankly, ever since I got back from the dentist this morning, I feel like I'm more appropriately equipped to celebrate this much-overlooked holiday-- it's rather like that scene in Hook when Tink is coaching Peter on how to be a pirate: Your left arm is dead, it hangs lifeless at your side. Lean on the crutch. Left foot turn in, tilt your head and glaaaare with your good eye. Now crack your mouth and droooool. Now growl. (Obviously, the glaring, drooling and growling have been part of today's activities, not so much with the limping-dead arm thing....)

Some piratical links for you to enjoy:

Pirates! Fact and Legend with bios of famous pirates, a history lesson, and a piratical message board.

The official site of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance Home Page. Perfect for felons' not currently engaged in employment.

Which 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Character are You? a new quiz, oooh!

Pirate Mod. I kid you not, clothes for the savvy bucanneer-cum-fashionista.

Monday, September 20, 2004

sky captain and the world of tomorrow

yet another one of those movies that only I remain excited about that critics simultaneously bash and praise. (Why has that been a recurring theme of late? Movies that are overwhelmingly "blah" because all that is really cool in them is cancelled out by some mind-numbing awfulness?) It has certain charms, though. Shot entirely in front of blue screen, breaking new ground in cinema, it's your average pulp comic story: Plucky gal reporter (Gwyneth Paltrow) working on a story no one cares about teams up with ex-flame Sky Captain (Jude Law) to thwart killer robots bent on incinerating the earth (and coincendentally, have something to do with the details of that sleeper story).


1. Retro is back.
Lots of circa 1939 goodness in this flick for all you nostalgia fans. Radio City Music Hall is reconstructed to its former glory and is very droolworthy as Judy Garland sings "Over the Rainbow" confusing everyone who was alive in 1939 and know for a fact that The Wizard of Oz was never screened at Radio City; Polly Perkins and Joe Sullivan (note the All American names of our hero and heroine) are clad in typical Girl Friday curls and bomber jacket respectively; Vintage Coke ads appear all over NYC etc. I think you get the idea. A nice little trip without the time-machine.

2. German Expressionism makes nice with the computer. It is visually stunning. You have to give them that much. This movie looks good, with its looming buildings, asymmetrical frame compositions, stylized lighting and exotic locales. Pwetti.

3. Aw, they bicker like they're in L-O-V-E. I'm a sucker for thwarted romance. Thankfully, the two don't get together in a gag worthy moment as the world is about to be destroyed; my favorite scene is when Polly gets it on the jaw- lovely. Had such an Amelia moment there I thought I'd cry with laughter. And Jude Law is really cute in his bomber jacket. Really cute. As the two leads, they are quite charming. They don't do or say anything original but the attractiveness of both of them in proximity will force a smile.

4. The scene-stealing plucky comic relief. Giovanni Ribisi as tech dude Dex (who should have been geekier than portrayed, a la Marshall, Op Tech Premier of TV'sAlias) and Omid Djalili (my man from The Mummy- still as smelly as ever) as Nepal guide Kaji are just cool. In a weird Raiders comparison, Ribisi reminds me of the slightly hapless Marcus Brody and Djalili makes a slightly hairier and less charming Sulla.


1. Sir Lawrence Olivier WILL haunt your children's children for this indignity, mark my words.
Given full screen credit (with his title, even) for the complied footage that makes up the presence of uber-villain Dr. Totenkopf. Olivier was a screen legend, and had experience in playing some very nasty EVIL people. You'd think he'd be able to phone in a performance from the grave (if anybody could, it would be him, right? Or maybe Meryl Streep, once she kicks the bucket.) But NO, even the great Shakespearan actor is lacking. And the kicker is, it's not really his fault. Considering the plethora of footage available to the movie's creators, they picked photos and film reels of Olivier at his most un-menacing and charming. Now, if Olivier was alive, he could pull off the debonair but incredibly sinister maniac with unparalleled mastery (kinda like Ron Rifkin in TV's Alias I'm guessing- can you tell I've been watching Season 3 on DVD recently?). But a complier cannot create this performance, even with 21st century technology, thus making the biggest threat of the movie it's biggest flop, and reaffirming job security for all modern actors.

2. John Williams, I think your first drafts of Raiders are missing. Edward Shearmur, a little tip: don't try to best one of the greatest composers of film. You will fail. Don't get me wrong, the soundtrack to the film could be much, much worse. There's a nice uplifting/stirring theme song to play when the hero gets the upper hand, and some scary thumping when the monsters are closing in. There's even a not-too-sick-making version of "Over the Rainbow" by Jane Monheit. But it wins no points in for originality, and spends more effort in creating scary kathumping than heroic trills. (If there's a love theme, I didn't hear it.)

3. I hate Angelina Jolie. Can't help it. She keeps appearing in movies and it's driving me crazy. And she's in full-awful mode as "Franky", leader of the Amphibious Squadron (which really isn't as silly as the name implies). It's the gargatuan lips, the permanent super-haughty expression, the awful British accent, the utter implausibility and ridiculousness of her character, the lack of any kind of chemistry with her costars, and a really stupid eye-patch. (Okay, so she can't help the lip thing. But they still bug me.)

4. Luke-warm credits. Okay, so this isn't really detrimental to most people, but I'm not most people, am I? With all of the fantastic imagery, they couldn't get a bit more elaborate with the credits? A nicer than usual use of typography but nothing earth-shattering. A disappointment.

5. Pretty sets and characters will not magically get rid of gaping plot-holes and trite dialogue. See, Indiana Jones worked not just because you had Spielberg behind the camera and Ford in the frame. It worked because Lawrence Kasdan wrote a fantastically witty script that had a plot. He created characters that were a bit unbelievable, sure, but they had depth, breadth, and some revealing traits. They spoke well in meaningful conversations between blowing stuff up. And stuff blew up for a purpose other than the sheer visual explosion. "Sky Captain" was not as fortunate. These characters don't talk much, and when they do, it's not very revealing, interesting, or original. An evil genius should never make a Grand Plan as ridiculous as Totemkopf's unless he is severely deranged. No one says that Totemkopf was a loony; villainous, scary, wickedly smart yes (who the hell gets three doctorates by age 17?) but three fries short of a happy meal? Not mentioned.

Despite its failings, it wasn't bad for summer fare. Very light on the mind, very easy on the eyes, with a certain retro-adventure charm that's unfortunately missing in most modern action movies. To be honest Cons #2 and #4 aren't really big deals. And I can't tell you how many bad films I love that have ridiculous plots and aren't half as visually arresting. I guess what I'm saying is, I'd see it again in a heartbeat, damn guilty pleasure... ;)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

vanity fair

The first semi-serious movie of the fall has been pushed into obscurity by lukewarm to bad reviews and big horror flicks: Vanity Fair, starring Reese Witherspoon as Thackeray's anti-heroine Becky Sharp and directed by Bollywood inspired Mira Nair. It isn't nearly as horrendous as critics would have the public believe, but it still has its fair share of flaws. The Breakdown:


1. Rrowr! Hoity-toity ladies bear their claws. With Mr. Julian Fellowes consulting on the script, is it any wonder that the cattiness factor is high? You can pick out his additions in the script with accuracy. "Humor of a corpse?" Sounds about right. The script is not without tiny gems, spread throughout. You would think that a novel that is based upon a back-stabbing social climber would include more biting remarks, but sadly, it degenerates into a lot of scandalized looks and pointed glares.

2. Supporting Actor/Actress Nods? The supporting cast was astounding (though it is a bit unfortunate that all of my favorites manage to get themselves dead at some point throughout the film). Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, bearing acting chops only guessed at in Bend It Like Beckham and the same handsome face (sigh), plays Captain George Osbourne, the worthless young soldier who Amelia Sedley, Becky's only friend, is besotted with. (Jim Broadbent is wasted, the horror!, as Osbourne's tyrannical and aspiring father.) Romola Garai is shaping up to take the Corset Queen title away from Helena Bonham-Carter in yet another turn as a meek and kind-hearted lady, this time Amelia Sedley. James Purefoy, another vet of the small period film (Tom from Mansfield Park- and isn't it sad that I know that?) is enchanting as the rakish Rawdon Crawley, Becky's husband. (Yum-worthy. Keep him on the watch-list, ladies.)

However. The Scene-Stealers are as follows:

A) Dame Eileen Atkins as Ancient Aunt Crawley, lover of the deliciously impertinent, yet ultimately practical in matters of money. She has the best lines in the film (ten to one they're written by Mr. Fellowes; there are shades of Maggie Smith's Gosford Park performance about her -- could it be a coincidence that Ms. Atkins was in that movie too, as the lowly cook?)

B) Bob Hoskins as the considerably unrefined Sir Pitt Crawley. His marriage proposal to Becky is hilarious; keep an eye on his various incredulous expressions throughout the film- they're priceless.

C) Rhys Ifans as Amelia's perpetual suitor Major William Dobbin. He is the one stretching his acting skills in this film, ladies and gentlemen, never mind that Witherspoon girl. It is heartbreaking to see him go through scenes with such hope and desolation, creating a poignant depiction of unrequited love that (thank heaven!) is NOT gratuitously angsty and pocked with long brooding stares.

D) Geraldine McEwan's very squeaky interpretation of Lady Southdown. The "erhmm"ing and Witherspoon's spot-on imitation of it is one of the funniest bits of the movie.

E) Tony Maudsley and his hysterical outfits as Jos Sedley. A bit part actor who in this case, made the most of his role. Every time he turned up with his cyan, oversized lapels and a befuddled expression on his chubby face, I laughed. (And surprisingly, being one of the few characters I recognized from the book, I had a great deal more sympathy for him than for other characters.) Moment to watch: when Becky strings magenta thread all over his face, the pinnacle of silliness.

3. Music to soothe the savage aristocrat. Do not mistake the score for one of Rachel Portman's, though Mychael Danna's strains are similiar. (And do not mistake the beautiful voice of Custer LaRue for Witherspoon's own singing in instances like "Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal.") Period-ish music, Indian-inspired tunes and the melancholic "She Walks in Beauty" sung by Norwegian soprano Sissel round out the soundtrack. A bit repetitive, but a very worthy buy.

4. Pwetti credits. So Spielberg thinks they're useless, huh? Thank goodness Nair didn't take his advice. The opening sequence is elegant in the extreme, thanks to some minimalistic photography that's good enough to eat and Sissel's soaring strains. Keep an eye out for the tiny inside touches: when Gabriel Byrne's screen credit appears, a hand is fondling strings of pearls, a reference to the wealth of his character, the Marquess of Steyne. Is it any wonder that Nair's other project Hysterical Blindness won awards for best title design?


1. Bollywood Thackeray is not.
You have to give Mira Nair props for being gutsy with her adaptation. However, she fails to convince me that repressed British ladies of early 17th century high society would condescend to an upstart's bright idea to romp around half-naked to sitar music in front of the Prince of Wales. Sorry. Don't buy it.

2. Where did the elephant come from? The book (so I am told, because I only started it about 7 years ago, got through a chapter or two and then gave up) does not have a happy ending. Becky and Jos aren't supposed to ride off in the New Delhi sunset on an elephant (see Con #1). In fact, in the book Jos dies under, let us say, suspicious circumstances that Becky may or may not have had something to do with. Thackeray created an anti-heroine, folks: she is supposed to be immoral, bitchy and back-stabbing. Yet in an attempt to make us sympathieze with our heroine, half of her questionable deeds were turned around to make her soul clean as a whistle-- poor Becky Sharp, victim of circumstance, but my, does she love her husband. I don't bloody think so. The book makes it very clear that Sharp is incapable of love, has no feelings towards her husband, and is considerably more vicious in her career to society's uppercrust.

Another qualm that I've heard from the brave lads and lassies that have read the novel is the dropping of the main "Fool's Gold" theme: the idea that the object of great desire never tends to be worth all that struggle in the first place. Case in point: Amelia and Dobbin. They are the great romance of the novel, reverted to side-plot in the movie. Dobbin pines after Amelia, Amelia pines after George and George Jr., George and George Jr. would rather see Amelia jump in a lake. While left happily embracing one another (an apparent happy ending), the book reveals that Dobbin eventually sees how fickle and naive Amelia truly is, and is a bit put out by this discovery.

Long story short: all these characters are extremely messed up individuals who couldn't find a happy ending with a compass and a native guide, yet the movie would have you believe that things end right as rain.

3. Consistency is a director's friend, not an enemy. Most directors say "I looked at X and that really inspired the look of my film." It is very hard to tell what Nair did NOT look at in her hodge-podge of visual styles. Alternatively sumptuous and sparse, British and Indian, restrained and flamboyant, it is a film that can't make up its mind. Which is essentially the plight of the heroine, trapped between poverty and the elite, belonging to neither. But since the style doesn't juxtapose these ideas, or highlight them with sets and costumes and etc., the result still remains essentially semi-pretty but not really visually interesting.

4. Plot? What plot? Granted, in this epic novels from bygone days, you can't include everything or your audience will fall asleep around hour three and start committing suicide around hour twelve. But you have to tie it together with something. Nair's Fair is episodic- like tiny miniseries squashed together (This week on Vanity Fair- Becky goes to war!). Hence the dire need for a thematic thread, which of course never appears. Take a page out of the perfect Ms. Thompson's book (and her splendid adaptation of Sense and Sensibility): Everything revolves around money. We modern folks will relate, believe me.

5. Was it supposed to be a comedy-drama or just drama? I'm the last person to cleave to genre markers, but really, was the film supposed to be funny? Because I laughed a lot, and I'm not sure if that was what TPTB had in mind. Just FYI.

In the end, Witherspoon turns in the same-old performance as a feisty single gal with charm (since the viciousness got x-nayed somewhere along the line) and an English accent, supported by lovely people in a plot that meanders anywhere and everywhere, so long as it wasn't in the book. Okay to rent, but think twice about it in the theaters.

count olaf has a ... blog?

yes, now even fictional villians can have blogs. Not to mention websites. A very funny look at the "Actor, Humanitarian, Heartthrob and Ultimate Dad" Count Olaf.

via The Snicket Source.

Monday, September 13, 2004

sick-making "literature"

Let it never be said that I won't give a new book (or a new movie, for that matter) a chance to prove itself beyond bad covers and bad press. Enter AD 62: Pompeii by Rebecca East. Now though the book suffers from a *horribly* designed cover suffering from a blurred and pixelated photograph (that the author proudly claims as her own work- ugh) but was highly recommended by an aunt of mine and her high-school Latin students. So, what the heck, right? No harm ever came from reading a book.

From the first sentence to the last, it is remarkably evident that Ms. East shouldn't quit her day job. The story is predictable, to say the least, incorporating very silly notions about Love and Feminism culled from soap operas. But a hopeless plot is no problem if the prose is fluid and sparkling... which it is most definitely not. An incredibly patronizing authorial voice coupled with the most ridiculous and hackneyed descriptions (our heroine has "Pre-Raphaelite hair"- mentioned not once, but TWICE, just in case we forgot) made my eyes twitch, but the worst is her heroine's "fairy tales" each beginning with a juvenile "And this is how I told X story..." or when she borrows pithy quotes from modern authors (As Joe Schmo said: "insert witty and wise catch phrase here") instead of coming up with any sentence worth reading herself.

Any reader who has progressed past the juvenile readers of Grade Six should feel appropriately disgusted with AD 62: Pompeii.

In related awful book notes, stay away from The Medici Dagger by Cameron West. The ridiculousness factor is high in this paperback as well, which considers itself to be in the same ranks as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. (While no especial lover of Dan Brown's complete works, I have read quite a few of them and Code is the best of the bunch, with Angels and Demons a close second. They are undeserving of their status and everyone should know by now that the assumption of the Sacred Feminine is completely false.) Perpetuating another myth about the life of Leonardo (our hero will call him nothing else, because he RESPECTS the artist, dammit), wherein the inventor mistakingly creates an indestructible metal. To show relevance to the title, Leonardo, while realizing that what he has created could have DISASTROUS consequences, makes a dagger out of it anyway, which he was supposed to give to the Medicis and then hides in a fit of indecision. Oooh, a treasure hunt.

Now, even something this contrived could be readable, but NO. Our hero is a tortured soul, a Hollywood stunt man with no will to live, and a plethora of art history degrees apparently hidden in the background somewhere. And though it would be infinitely cool if a graphic designer could indeed help an angsty stunt man save the world and solve an ancient Da Vinci riddle with the help of Corel Draw (West is a bit outdated with his software) but again, what planet are these people on? Cuz it isn't Earth.

The scary thing is that I can devour really awful books like these two in a matter of hours, and yet I'm still only halfway through Race of Scorpions. I think when I put it down last things were on the verge of a naval battle. I'll have to remind myself to set aside some time with Niccolo in the future in repentence. ;)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

venting: angst of the unemployed

so I got off the phone with a really good friend from college who I haven't spoken to since graduation and we're both kinda dissatisfied with life at the moment. It's really sad to find ourselves in such a dismal position, considering that we're both still young (even if we feel ancient) and have the whole of our lives stretched out before us (some of which has to be better than the present). Granted, she is gainfully (but not happily, unfortunately) employed in our chosen profession and living with a veritable frat house of guy friends while I am... not, on both counts (unemployed and with the folks, sadly) but still. Life could be better than this. (Hell, college was better than this.)

Wasn't it not the way things were supposed to be? Wasn't it going to be great, the world's our oyster, top o' the world ma? Weren't we all going to get jobs because we were hard-working and responsible and possessing a degree and some visible talent and willing to learn the ropes of the "Real Design World"? Weren't we at the very least going to be employed, with a paycheck that could cover gas and rent and food, with medical and dental plans? (Free-lancing is all very well and good, but it doesn't help the fact that every time I go back to the dentist, the crazy lady finds "one more thing" to touch up/drill the hell out of etc.)

Granted, I know that I am not half the designer that my friend is. I know that I have little to no "Real Work Experience" short of a summer magazine internship and a semi-glamorous independent project. When I graduated, I thought I was not too shabby; there weren't all that many of us that could say that as a senior they'd designed a published book. And yet, it matters not. (And in hindsight, it's not even all that glamorous either.) I've had one, count 'em, ONE interview since May (for a job which I am perfectly suited) only, of course, to be told some SIX WEEKS later "thanks, but no thanks."

It seems the only way anyone can get a job nowadays is to know someone on the inside who can put forth your name before the available post is ever released to the public. That's how my dad got his job and how I might get a few weeks' money in an art teaching gig. Another friend pointed out the reasonability of this process: that it saves the company a great deal of time, HR doesn't have to wade through 6 million Monster responses, and that not all people recommended through insider nudging are necessarily bad or unworthy candidates for the position. But I still maintain that it's a crappy hiring protocol, because I WANT HR to go through those 6 million responses (that's what they're getting paid for, isn't it?) and I want them to make an educated decision and I want them to give people like me a fighting chance instead of clinging stauchly to "Yrs. Experience" prime number entries (i.e. 3, 5, 7). (It's eeriely like The Hudsucker Proxy when Norville first comes to the Big City from the Muncie College of Business Administration, top of his class, and all the jobs at the employment agency read "EXPERIENCE REQUIRED." It is really not a movie for college seniors. It is not good for the mental health.)

I would really like to blame Bush for this, and have, on several occasions. But a sneaking suspicion tells me that I wouldn't necessarily be better off had Gore been allowed to take office (he did win... but that's another story). But this isn't a political struggle; I find it intensely personal. (Perhaps that is my problem?)

Anyway, if any prospective employers have wandered over to read this, know that I would be more than happy to meet with you. In fact, I'd be tickled pink just to speak to you over the phone. It would be the highlight of my week if you even sent me an email saying you got my package and are considering my qualifications along with the 6 million other applicants' and will notify me accordingly at some much, much later (six weeks later, even) date.

Gee. How pathetic.

which Peanuts character are you?

You are Sally!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

via No Fancy Name.

Friday, September 10, 2004

admitting it is the first step

... I am a Literature Abuser. Learn more about my plight. A very amusing take on a disorder of the book obsessed ( I must have been an English major in another life.) ;)

via That Rabbit Girl.

the first words

or opening hooks of books are collected in this marvelous database. And wouldn't you know that they have the opening to DD's "Game of Kings"!! V. cool.

via scribblingwoman.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

lemony snicket day

marking my calendar: Sept. 21st is Lemony Snicket Day at the Borders at Oxford Valley, starting at 7 PM.

Celebrate the release of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events Book 11, The Grim Grotto. Join us for woeful activities including a Morse code decoding challenge, a knot quiz, a maze, a word match, a draw your own invention and a warning sign game. Plus, FREE flashlights and bookmarks for participants while supplies last.

And how much do you want to bet they'll probably be distributing those dreaded Trading Cards? Oooh, it's on. (a side note: is it any wonder my brother is constantly reprimanding me for being juvenile? you'd think it was HP Book Six Day or something.)



it would figure that doing a routine image search that I would inevitably come up with more things to covet, useless ultimately, but terribly gorgeous. Today's lusted-after item of note: Venetian Carnival tarot cards, especially the Six of Swords.

last and final template?

so I changed the look of the blog... again. consider this Columbina: Version 3.0. Now uses a very pretty template by Todd Dominey that's much classier than the previous one. Now if only I could learn CSS to make Version 4.0... ;)

now perfectly complete with actual Maurice Sand illustration of our beloved character. I am so thrilled that I finally have a name to put to my postcards (the way I was picking them up in Venice you'd think they were the best things since sliced bread).

nazareth academy latin pages up!

hurrah! just in time for Parent-Teacher night, the pages I designed for their Latin program are up and running (and look very good, to boot). Not to mention that the posters went up today for summer trip to Italy and have gotten rave reviews.

In other (but related news), I received a job offer to teach art to freshies at a nearby school. A bit far from the original career goal, but the only thing that's biting at the moment (and saving me from resorting once again to retail). Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

snarkout: that launched a thousand ships

A low-down on Heinrich Schliemann and his Troy, for all the EP fans out there.

via Magnificent Octopus.

questing for columbus

The Discovery Channel's latest adventure involves Chris Columbus' ruined flagship and the disappearance of more than a third of his men, left behind in the winter of 1492-3, when the Santa Maria crashed on the rocks of northern Haiti. Taking this with a grain of salt (especially considering the horrendous "Nefertiti Resurrected?" nonsense) but still: sounds worthy of an epic novel, doesn't it?

via mirabilis.

wish i was this cool

Book cover designs by Kimberly Glyder. Kicks Chip Kidd's ass. Very beautiful.

via Foreword.

Friday, September 03, 2004

trying out a new template

mood: tired with a hint of hungry
music: "heaven" by los lonely boys

a lazy friday afternoon and it's pretty much all gone. I've got temporary employment secured for the end of next week (which is all good, hurrah me!, but requires some method of getting there which I have yet to work out). And so I've decided to try out this new template and order in and put off the website addition again. But in other news, shortly Nazareth Academy will have brand-spanking new Latin webpages (once they're approved by the World Languages department head) which are infinitely better than their current pages.

category: me, blogging

buffy personality test

I would have laid good money on me being Willow. Lots of good money, in point of fact. Turns out I'm Spike. I can live with that. ;)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

long live movie credits!!

And people wonder why I say that Spielberg has degenerated into a hack. A recent interview with filmmakers, including M. Spielberg, declares that opening credits are superfluous, non-sensical, and boring to audiences.


WTF? Are they insane? "Credits really spoil the fun"? This from a man who says that his animated sequence at the beginning of the groan-worthy drivel that was "Catch Me if You Can" (the only good part of the movie) was put in specifically to "get the audience in the mood for fun." Therefore, 1) Make up your damn mind, fun or unfun. 2) Stop making crappy movies. and 3) Don't knock the art-form until you learn to use it properly and with some kind of consistency.

Long live Bass and Cooper. And Spielberg, bite me.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

nostalgia strikes again

rediscovered one of my favorite childhood movies Bedknobs and Broomsticks the other day and now have an earworm that is persistent as the song is charming:
Portabello Road, Portabello Road
Street where the riches of ages are sold.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrows in Portabello Road.

full lyrics here.

It's conjuring up HP-like images a la Diagon Alley (quite the plot-bunny for a fanfic, I would say), especially the more melancholy strain of the song (which, of course, is what's stuck on REPEAT in my head). It's a shame that Angela Lansbury spent most of her prime being typecast as a prim older lady; lightning struck me this afternoon that maybe, if one could get over her recognizability, she'd make a fantastic Sybilla if the Lymond Chronicles ever get made into a movie: sweet on the outside, but quick as a whip and slightly twisted like her son. ;P )

SCARY BUT TRUE: it actually exists! Curiosity + Google = revelation of a lifetime. Apparently there really is an antiques market in London on the Portabello Road. And here I thought Disney was making things up.

pink slip protest in NYC

Color-coordinated protestor against unemployment: now that's an out-of-work designer if I ever saw one.

Be wary, from the NYTimes (registration req.). Try Bugmenot first.

now here's an idea

Hypertext novels, appearing in my subconscious as a kind of Nick Bantock book in Flash. Yet another side project for the unemployed designer.

via scribblingwoman.


... or small thumbnail illustrations found in the margins of older manuscripts, examples of which can be seen here. Personal fave is the archer rising out of a teapot. ;)

via mirabilis.

how to be creative

from gapingvoid, a treatise on how to succeed as a creative mind and not be chewed up/spitten out by Life in General. Informative, insightful and alternatively depressing and uplifting. And with cartoons. What's not to love?

via Geeklog.