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, October 28, 2004

home again

I have returned from the wonder that is New Orleans and the American Association of Opthalamists are some real party people, I tell ya. You could spot them a mile away, walking down Bourbon Street with their black complimentary Novartis bags slung across their shoulders, dressed in full suits, and traveling in packs of three or more. You couldn't escape them: large luxury coaches went up and down every street they could fit in to pick them up and drop them off at their hotels; the entire 12+ block long convention center was converted into a giant exhibition hall, including such marvelous sites as a seven foot tall banner with the faces of the trustees on it- which, I swear, was being photographed by some over-enthusiastic Korean ladies; half of the stores on Royal Street had tiny signs in their windows welcoming the Conventioneers.

I had a nice time. Their art museum leaves much to be desired, though there was a fantastic mini-exhibit on drawings/prints which was simply breathtaking but is completely ignored by most signage/publicity. Since when are Durer and Rembrandt relegated to a side room, anyway? ::art history minor spits furiously:: Bourbon Street is notably depraved, but not much fun unless you're drunk, which most people are, considering you can get an alcoholic beverage at every store on the street. Elsewhere in the French Quarter, there are some really beautiful antique shops, and of course, street performers to look at/listen to. The Aquarium totally rocks, especially their otters, Buck and Emma. (I will not reveal how long I stood before the otter display but it was a good long while, and I went back again for feeding time. Sad, isn't it? To go to such a historic city and think that the best bit was the fact that they've trained otters to high-five their feeder and fetch starfish.) Sadly, I missed out on the Haunted Tours and the cemeteries. Next time.

The plane travel afforded me time to finally finish Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination. Way back when I started it (June, possibly?) I thought it was slightly humorous, but not anywhere within the same ballpark as the Bridget Jones books. (I do admit, reading far enough to understand why they selected the stupid cover helps.) Yet, Ms. Fielding surprised me. Somewhere after that boring, slightly self-indulgent beginning, she taps into every girl's secret desire to be a glamorous spy and things not only get interesting, they get funny real quick. Ultimately, Olivia and her hijinks don't sum up Life's Meaning, but as a vacation book, it is terribly satisfying. I only wish Prof. Widgett got more screen-time, but alas, I suppose I will just have to be content with my own imagination's version of the cranky, elderly Englishman as a fey Arabian carpetseller-cum-drag-queen. (I told you it was silly.)

The Rule of Four still eludes me, though: soooo boring and unsatisfying. Was actually thrilled to see today at Amazon that it got some stinker reviews-- not the only one, I see. ;)

Friday, October 22, 2004

abounding hackery

Finally finished The Alchemist and quite frankly, I'm not sure if I get what all the fuss is about. When I reached the end, all I could think of was a recent review in Entertainment Weekly for I ::heart:: Huckabees. As in, obviously there's a high concept Charlie Kaufman-esque comedy going on here, so critics must think it's grand because if they don't, then they obviously were too stupid to understand what was really going on. "Group speak" as the phenomenon is known in news media.

I feel like I have been a victim of group speak. Many sources which I know and trust have listed this little fable as one of the "best" books, "must-reads" and all that. So, I got the book and began it with no little amount of excitment. (I am a proud owner of the illustrated version with the gorgeous illustrations by Moebius. They remain the only redeeming value of the book.) And it was awful. It wasn't that exciting, it was terribly over-simplified, and heavy-handed with its religion and coincidences. I understand that it's point is not to reinvent the predictability of fables-- by the very nature of its subject matter, one knew from page one that the end would be contrived in some way. But what separates a bad fable from a great fable is the delivery. Our young Spanish hero is traveling in some pretty exotic locales and meeting up with some interesting characters. At least they could have been interesting if we as readers ever got to spend more time with them. Where were the vivid descriptions of bustling marketplaces, the sights and smells of exotic lands, the thrilling prose of adventure? Not in the damn book.

Half way through I toyed with the idea of what the fable would have morphed into had Ms. Dunnett wrote it instead of Mr. Coelho. The boy would be slightly tormented over losing his sheep, would have gotten into a knife fight with the thief in Algiers, made friends with the barman and persuaded him to come along for the ride, spent some time in a Beduoin camp and possibly made some more friends, and have paragraph after paragraph describing the smell of the desert. And what a great book that would have been. (Which reminds me I need to start on Scales of Gold but knowing that I'm going to receive Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by the end of next week, I don't know if I can finish it in time...)

Similarly depressing: Before good shows starting reappearing on Sunday nights, I spent the summer watching... *gulp* Lifetime's show Wild Card. It never broke the bank creatively speaking, but Joely Fisher is charming as are her two co-stars. And despite being on the despised "womens'" network, it manages not to be that entirely sick-making. So, during Boston Legal commercial breaks, I managed to catch the latest episode, which featured a crime reporter seeking proof that her dead relative was murdered. Like I said, not overly original but okay, whatever, I'll bite. What bugged me was what started as a nice little murder, with three prime suspects and a suspicious bottle of champagne, degenerated into the worst hackery I've EVER witnessed on television: in the last fifteen minutes, the plot DIRECTLY LIFTED the EXACT "murder" from one of the greatest episodes of Glenn Gordon Caron's Remington Steele, In the Steele of the Night.

How could I possibly know the name of the episode of such an old show? I am a fan, natch, and have seen that episode a couple times, back in the day when reruns were still being shown at obscure times of day on even more obscure channels. But that one was special, in that it won the prestigious Edgar award of 1983 for best presentation of a mystery, because the puzzle plot was crafted so carefully, dropping specific clues all the way through to solve the perfect murder. The perfect murder (which appeared as the plot of the crime reporter's unpublished novel in the awful Wild Card and as Alan's best murder story in Steele) is this: Man gets in an elevator on the first floor. Man pushes button to go to the third floor. The elevator rises to the third floor. When the elevator doors open, the man is dead. The elevator makes no stops, the man is unaccompanied, he wasn't poisoned. How did he die?

In both, the final solution is the same. However, what was so stylishly revealed by Pierce Brosnan, thoughtfully sitting in Alan's study and responding to Laura's query about why someone puts an elevator in their home ("Charles Laughton. Witness to the Prosecution, MGM, 1957. Had a stroke, couldn't walk up stairs.") was ham-fistedly squeezed into Wild Card at the last possible moment, and solved with just as much speed with such utter ridiculousness that I was amazed that they didn't name drop the 80s detective show. (Maybe Zoey had watched that episode too, explaining the quick turn-around on solving the case.) I was sick to my stomach for a good half-hour afterwards. This is why I don't make a habit of watching "women's entertainment." Because it sucks. I have a better time watching James Bond flicks on Spike.

On a more upbeat note, though William Shatner seems to have a halo of hackery around him from his Star Trek days, on Boston Legal he is decidedly impressive. I can see why they gave him the Emmy. He's good, not James Spader-rific (who is?), but real good nonetheless.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


The Truth About John Kerry. Via freakgirl. Almost as good as The Daily Show's "Delaware Crossing For Truth" Emmy skit.

Geez. Can you tell I'm a little Jon Stewart mad? Sheesh.

wish i'd thought of that...

via Foreword, a new site for the bookmarks: Backstory, whose first entry features Katherine Neville, author of The Eight. Sounds very interesting, and apparently they've gotten a phenomenal amount of authors coming forward to dish out the scoops behind the plots of their masterworks. A "Behind the Novel," if you will. Very cool.

On a side note, Neville's personal website indicates that she's working on a sequel to The Eight. Not that I don't love Solarin (he made my crush list) but everything was pretty tight at the end of the novel. No loose ends, no lingering questions. It just seems as if she's trying to capitalize again on her biggest critical and financial success. Could be wrong, who knows. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.

dear gentle readers,

I am very sorry for being (mostly) AFK all week, leaving you to find stupid pop-culture links on your lonesome, but for once, I was terribly busy. As I mentioned earlier, I spent Monday through Wednesday as a substitute Latin teacher at a private school. A middling experience; there are some classes wherein all seats are filled and others where there was only a handful; some brilliant students, some who looked like they would fall asleep/mutilate themselves out of sheer boredom, and some who really need to get a grasp on the English language before moving on to other ones. Though overall, I can't discount it because it got me out of the house, got me paid (the check is IN the mail!) and everyone there is so terribly sweet that you can forgive them practically anything.

Except,perhaps, for choosing the absolute worst possible cover for a program of Oklahoma! I did my research, cringed at the lyrics, but I worked up three designs. Two were surprisingly good (and one, I daresay, was damn nigh beautiful) but neither incorporated the school mascot, the panda bear. One did, however reluctantly. And ick, ick, ick, was chosen (of course). And had technical difficulties which resulted in the Development person removing the background of the file. So, it degenerated into Cowboy-Pandas Floating In Space present Oklahoma!, a masterwork that I have "all the copyrights of." Aren't I the lucky one.

Anyway. Things are looking better on the job search front than they have been, which is a nice change of pace, making "optimism" a more viable strategy. And the icing on the cake is, this weekend I'm off for a three/four day mini-break to New Orleans which I am totally psyched about. I've never been, and heard they've got weather for shorts-- considering it's been a rain-filled muck fest here all week, that's a very welcome change of pace. Read some books, take some tours, eat some good southern cookin'... it's gonna be fantastic.

(Temporarily) back to the regularly scheduled blogging...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

if architects had to work like web designers...

How scary/true is this?! via WoT.

Monday, October 18, 2004

jon stewart's crossfire smackdown

Isn't it a deplorable state of affairs when a fake newsanchor has more integrity, intelligence and wit than real journalists? God help me, I love this man. A summary of the show by the Washington Post or even better, via freakgirl, a lovely transcript.

Friday, October 15, 2004

meme kinda day...

I never indulged in this meme business before I had a blog. Never even did the Spark quizzes or similar online "tests" that all the people in college were always taking and comparing scores. And yet, now, Quizilla is my friend, and every once in a while, when I check some of my favorite blogs and see that they've indulged, I feel the need to do so too. It's a creeping addiction, I've determined. Anyway, to indulge your inner quiz-geek:

via Household Opera, one on favorite groups of threes. Some very good responses- vaguely reminscent of James "Soupy" Lipton and his Actor's Studio Questionairre, except that the answers come in triplicate. When I got down to "Last Three Movies Seen" I realized how obviously dependant on TCM I am: The Third Man, Holiday Inn, and Easter Parade. (I can't believe I've never seen Easter Parade before now. It is utterly charming for all of the obvious nonsense. And can you believe that Astaire was 49 when he did all that jumping around without so much as a single arithitic grimace? "We're just a couple of swells, we stay at the best hotels...");

Tinka's mini rant and poetry suggestions, well meant and well taken;

a Name Game, from WoT;

and lastly, in honor of the ending Farscape marathon and its upcoming mini-series event:What Farscape character are you? brought to you by Quizilla. (I am Aeryn, which is quite curiously off-- Zhaan's more accurate. And the fact that I know that is the power of the Sci-Fi channel's relentless programming this past week. It's actually a rather charming show... when one can make heads or tails of it... which is not often. But hey, who am I to question a Henson? Kermit the Frog was my best friend in kindergarten... still is.)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

a lost recap

I was going to have a nice, mild night-in that wouldn't entail me screaming at my television screen. I said I wasn't going to watch the debate. And I did not. (Not that it matters, I already know who I'm voting for unlike these poor idiots.) I said I was going to watch "Lost" and I did. And went NUTS anyway as I watched my cooly evil and mysterious Mr. Locke degenerate into a pitiful character that doesn't even get dead but manages to "kill" (how about drag away from the Big Bad Robot-Elephant?) a wild boar. And, speaking of wild boars, perhaps the castaways should have played rock music to ward them off instead of burning the fuselage.

Food for thought:

1. Why the hell was Jack so adamant about not holding a memorial service? I couldn't tell if he was more pissy because people kept bugging him (as in his "look, dudes, I'm not your leader" glares) or that he has some kind of family-related issue (as in the reveal with Rose the Misty-Eyed and Lonely Black Lady, wherein he says that medicine is the family biz) OR if he's some kind of Dr. Kevorkian/troubled with the not-so-ethical treatment of a past patient doctor. Obviously, this episode was part of what Abrams was hinting at when he said that Jack has a dark side.

2. Can you really become unparalyzed by a plane crash? Is this one of those crazy "science" moves that J.J. pulls like bringing Sloane back from the dead? Obviously, Locke was paralyzed during some sort of event- if he's to be believed when he says it's only been for the past four years. Pinched nerve or something that miraculously gets itself unpinched? Ooh, brain... hurt...

3. Destiny, kismet, fate? Is that what brought these troubled souls to the island or was it the mysterious figure in the suit? (I soooo expected Jack to find a Sloane-equivalent cackling in the bushes, making vaguely threatening comments before disappearing into an underground lair. But seriously, am I the only one who's suspecting that the plane was deliberately crashed and that they're some sort of government experiment?)

4. If Sayid is the new Professor, does that make Kate Mary-Ann? She wants to help out, she climbs trees... But pretty, pregnant Claire is the nicer one. Eh. Toss up.

5. And while we're comparing different universes, who is the new Marguerite? At first I was saying Kate, because of the mysterious and criminal past, plus the obvious physical similiarities. But I think that bitchy and manipulative Shannon more encapsulates her spirit. (Though she takes her role a bit too far at times and it grates. Watch and learn from the master, dear.) Did you see how she charmed poor Charlie into catching fish for her? Aw. It's too bad pissy Boone is her brother, otherwise he'd be a charming Roxton.

6. Will Sun ever learn English? Or reveal that she can speak English? Because the rapid Korean and the dufus behavior of former dead-beat dad Michael have no charm for me. Make it stop.

7. What is the Big Bad Tree-Rustling Bigger-Than-an-Elephant Thing? And why didn't Locke say he saw it? Does this mean that there's still hope for him being an evil genius? (Because if not, kill him and return him to being Kendall on Alias, dammit.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

i won't be watching

... the debate tonight for fear of making my heart explode out of my chest with sheer rage. The noticable lack of criticism of the last debate is appalling (draw, my ass), especially given the President's performance. (Or maybe I'm just really missing the Jon Stewart post-debate wrap-up. Damn those Comedy Central guys for taking such a crucial week off!) Bush was addled to the point of foaming at the mouth, was "taking notes" with a huge Sharpie pen most likely lifted off a lighting crew member at the last minute, and made some very sinister hints about the future should he be elected. Case in point: his not-so-left-field-as-it-appeared mention of the Dred Scott case (via freakgirl) and his support of Justice Scalia. While I have such comforting thoughts keeping me company, I don't think I need to add ten more to the docket. I'm just going to watch the mysterious monsters terrorize the plane crash survivors and shut the telly off.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

a personal update

Within this past week I have garnered more than my fair share of "assignments." I say "assignments" because they're technically not jobs; however they do utilize my design skills for a purpose that I wouldn't necessarily employ them for had I not better things to do with my time. At any rate, if Illustrator doesn't crash on me tomorrow and the inspiration holds out, I might get a portfolio piece or two out of these altruistic endeavors and that's something. (Optimism, say my friends. You must start thinking positively. This, after they've known me to be entirely cynical and pessimistic. But I'm giving it the ole whirl.)

One is Christmas-themed, which of course has me on paranoid-hyperdrive. (God help me, please, please, please, let me be employed by Xmas.) Another is based on Oklahoma! which I have not seen and never have been affected with a desire to see. None of my immediate family, not even my dad, the musical guru, has any knowledge regarding its plot save that the story (presumably) takes place in Oklahoma and that at one point, people start singing optimistically about the early morning, significantly dating the material. I've managed to get a sing-long earworm for the wrong state but not much else in the way of practical assistance. (Not that I've looked terribly hard but come on, that Jerry Seinfeld's pretty darn funny, isn't he? Not to mention Billy Crystal singing karoke in that girly movie I love.) So that remains on the research front for tomorrow. And the last one is a secret that won't be revealed until mid-November.

Still planning curricula for the Latin scholars. Managed to find my copy of Mythology, though the poor thing is falling apart rather rapidly now, and read up on Cicero even though the kids most likely will a) not care a whit about how influential he was b) not remember the names and places that are important in the poems they'll translate later in the year and c) not read at all, therefore not discuss at all in class, leaving me to lecture about Cicero for forty minutes or however long their periods are. (Optimism, optimism...)

On a mostly unrelated and closing note, I had lunch with my grandfather the other day wherein the main topic of conversation was the health of my great uncle, his brother-in-law, who's been in the hospital for almost two weeks now, his only remaining kidney causing internal bleeding. Rodney and Janet had just passed away, and they came up in conversation as did the rule of threes. But yesterday, Superman died and my uncle had his first day in rehab. Three legends, may you RIP.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

oooh, pretty

... commemorative stamps for the recent Olympics. Via blogographos, as I am currently running a refresher course for myself on all things Latin (as if six years of intense study and very geekish play aren't enough) so I can dazzle the h.s. students when I sub next week. Edith Hamilton is appearing at more than one level and we'll see what the AP scholars can make of SWIMTAG. And those poor freshies will be stuck with Amsco, from the looks of things.

Friday, October 08, 2004

someone else will die

eek! Just found out the news about HP Book 6 and though I'm not surprised, I'm terribly upset with curiosity. I really don't believe it's anyone from the group of three. And I really, really, really hope that it's not Snape (found out from Voldemort, tortured past breaking point, dying and crawling back to Hogwarts to save Harry in a last act of redemption...). Or Lupin. And I don't think she really can kill off Dumbledore until she kills off Voldemort. One of the Weasley brood? Gulp... Hagrid? Silly, hapless Neville in a final act of great courage? Aunt Petunia?

Speaking of Ms. Rowling's website, in the same interview she mentions that people searching for the answers behind her books are asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking "why did Harry live?", the author says people should be asking "why didn't Voldemort die?" GoF supplies a half-answer in that he says that he, Voldie, had taken some sort of precautions prior to facing off with the Potters. My own guess is that it's probably a potion of some sort (movie fans say it with me now, just like Alan did: For those select few... who possess... the pre-disposition... I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory and even...put a stopper in death.)

Food for thought.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

the seville communion

I worship at the altar of Arturo Perez-Reverte. I've said it before, and I'll say it again now, and probably several times in the days to come, that the man is a genius and totally underappreciated in the States. I hope they treat him like the national treasure he is in Spain. Now I can say that I've read all the major works of fiction translated into English save the latest, and that is a thought of great joy and great despair. I put off reading it til the last because of its obvious religious context: the protagonist and several major characters are Catholic priests. So as expected, there is meat added to the discussion of inappropriate behavior for clerics, the Church of modern times versus its glorious (and not-so-glorious) past, and issues of faith. But there is so very much more and that is what is so exciting and heartbreaking and arresting about the book. (Hell, all of P-R's work is like that, save one, which unfortunately suffered from The Lady from Shanghai syndrome of that other phenomenal genius Mr. Welles.)

It's a beautifully written mystery surrounding a dilapidated church in Seville, Our Lady of the Tears, which happens to be a nexus for women clinging to the past, tormented but forthright priests, and unscrupulous bankers with miscellaneous henchmen. Father Lorenzo Quart reminds me a great deal of Corso (add him to the list, ladies). The most poignant moments are devoted to issues of faith and to the quietly declining nobility:
"We all have a kind of faith," she said at last. And it's something we all very much need, with this century ending so disreputably, don't you think? All those revolutions made and lost. The barricades deserted. The heroes who fought as one are now simply loners clinging to whatever they can find." Her blue eyes eyed him curiously. "Have you never felt like one of those pawns forgotten in a corner of the board, with the sounds of battle fading behind them? They try to stand straight but wonder if they still have a king to serve."

I loved the book. The entire, wonderful, sweeping, intricate thing. When I finally finished it reminded me of when I put down The Flanders Panel, the very first of his novels that I read, and was torn between laughing and crying. Read this if you haven't already. Meanwhile, I'm going to try and calm myself down to rehearse for my job interview tomorrow (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

shopping in the wrong century

Maybe I watched too many episodes of Mystery! as a small child. Maybe it was the pre-junior high Agatha Christie faze I went through. Maybe I'm just odd but period clothes simply rock. Though I like to tell myself that I'm a low-maintenance gal, I have a real desire to be a high maintenance chick that changes clothes several times a day and waves around a long cigarette holder (that's empty because she hates smoking but she loves the look). Born in the wrong century, I guess.

Anyway, scribblingwoman mentioned the Los Angles County Museum of Art in a recent post and in my meanderings through their textile collection, I found a cache of great looking outfits from the beginning of the 20th century:

An evening jacket to die for, right out of an Edward Gorey illustration. With matching cap and shoes.

Three evening gowns: The first resplendant in orange with some very cool looking heels to match; the second very pale and dripping with sequins and embroidery, with a big 'ole flowerburst at the bust; and last but not least, an over the top, slightly oriental number with sheer gold sleeves.

Not that I could pull any of them off myself, but still. Drooool.

not that i am

... overly religious, but I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu on The Daily Show last night promoting his new book. He really is the nicest person alive. And it totally rocks to finally have someone from the Church sending a positive message for a change- as opposed to this past "Respect Life" Sunday, filled with hypocritical sermons and promises of death and suffering for all us Pro-Choice Catholics. (Or should I say "so-called Catholics"? Our area priests seemed to think that we don't even belong at church if we're going to support the separation of church and state. Or even worse, vote for a Democrat.)

But that's beside the point. Tutu is really cool. I think I might even get his book for my mom.

Monday, October 04, 2004

the big bad book list

...has entered the blog several times in the past couple of weeks. So what better to post than the list itself? Comment if you like, on the good, the bad, additions or subtractions. (NB: the books are in no particular order of desperation to read.)

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
3. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
4. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
5. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
6. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
7. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
8. Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand
9. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
11. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
14. Emma by Jane Austen
15. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
16. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
19. Paradise Lost by John Milton
20. Middlemarch by George Eliot
21. King Solomon's Mines by H.R. Haggard
22. Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy
23. Portraits by Michael Kimmelman
24. The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
25. The Christie Caper by Carolyn Hart
26. Cryptonomicon (and the rest of the series) by Neal Stephenson
27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
28. The Cavalier in White by Marcia Muller
29. The Agony and the Ecstasy by John Irving
30. The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte
31. The Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas
32. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
33. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
34. The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy
35. Everything Graham Greene ever wrote.
36. Persuasion by Jane Austen
37. A Room with a View by E.M. Forester
38. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
39. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarkson
40. The rest of the Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett (4 thru 8 left...)
41. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
42. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
43. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
44. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
46. Mort by Terry Pratchett (or really just anything by Terry Pratchett, just to see what all the fuss is about)
47. America: the Book by Jon Stewart
48. Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-5 by Leo Marks
49. Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
50. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
51. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
52. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
53. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
54. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
55. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
56. Books 12 & 13 of the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
57. This is Orson Welles by Orson Welles
58. Ibid: a Life by Mark Dunn
59. Lucifer's Shadow by David Hewson
60. Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson
61. Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis (and series)
62. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (and series)
63. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King
64. The Intelligencer: a Novel by Leslie Silbert
65. Codex by Lev Grossman
66. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
67. A Carnivore's Inquiry by Sabina Murray
68. The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
69. Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson
70. The Complete Claudine by Colette
71. The Unburied by Charles Palliser
72. The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason
73. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
74. The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson
75. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
76. The League of Extrordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore
77. The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith
78. Ex Libris by Ross King
79. My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey
80. Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin
81. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
82. The Code Book: the Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh
83. Ruse Vol. 3 by Scott Beatty
84. The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell
85. The Egyptian Jukebox: a Conundrum by Nick Bantock
86. The Plague Tales by Ann Benson
87. Justice Hall by Laurie R. King
88. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
89. A Calculated Risk by Katherine Neville
90. The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark
91. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
92. Waiting by Ha Jin
93. The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley
94. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes by Anita Loos
95. The Fig Eater by Jody Shields
96. The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips
97. The Eight by Daniel Handler
98. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, W.S. Kuniczak

And most likely many, many more that I can't think of right now. (But dear me, isn't that enough?)

good for them, bad for bush

Poland wants out of Iraq. No kidding, so do we. Man, just how more pathetic can the Coalition get? And Bush was so adamant that Kerry not forget about Poland in the debates. Guess they're not feeling the love over in Warsaw.

underestimating the east

... again. Damn us Westerners. A very interesting article that reveals recent scholarship proving that Arab scholars deciphered hieroglyphics long before Champollion. These are the people who invented chess, astronomy, and calculus: as someone who has not been quite as successful tackling those three as I have been with translating 'glyphs, I'd just like to ask why the heck did no one figure this out many, many, many years ago??

via mirabilis.

speaking of

... my Graham Greene fascination, TCM is celebrating his 100th birthday with a seven movie festival. Mark your calendars, boys and girls, for Monday, October 11th. I know I am.

via bookslut.

art matters

... was the name of my first "art history" class as a college freshman. (Yes, it was required. Duh.) And we didn't really study art history very much; we didn't study much in that class period, but that's neither here nor there. The curriculum was more devoted to how one writes about a piece of art, how analyzing an artwork is different from, say, analyzing a book, and long, painful and ultimately fruitless discussions on the immortal question: What is Art? As a graduate from the same college, I can tell you that I've had that discussion in many other, similarly painful forms over the course of my four-year tenure and the result of that discussion is always the same: There is no answer; picking an answer from philosophers, or classmates, or just at random merely creates more questions that need to be addressed. It's nightmarish.

Ideas of beauty come up in this discussion- a lot of people consider the physical aesthetic quality of an object to be a criterion for whether or not the object can be considered "art." Umberto Eco looks at iconic film stars and how they fit into "the aesthetic ideal" in a way that has me recalling all those questions. (He doesn't answer it either- unless he has some startling revelations in the rest of the essay not available on the Guardian.)

via dust from a distant sun

a great poem and a great song

My Vanity Fair soundtrack came in the mail today and I can't get enough of the first track "She Walks in Beauty." It's the Lord Byron poem set to music by Norwegian soprano Sissel that I raved about earlier. The only regret is that the whole poem doesn't make it into the song, just the first six lines (which now I won't forget):
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

top 250 films of all time

... as rated by the good folks over at IMDb. Bold if seen, Italic if on the must-see list, ** if partly seen.

1. Godfather, The (1972)
2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
3. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)

4. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)** (I always catch the scene in the boat with the Hail Mary's and miss most everything else.)
5. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
6. Schindler's List (1993) Once is all you need, IMHO.
7. Casablanca (1942) And you can never, ever, ever watch this too many times.
8. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
10. Star Wars (1977)
11. Citizen Kane (1941)

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
13. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
14. Pulp Fiction (1994)

15. Rear Window (1954) **
16. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) **
17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
18. Usual Suspects, The (1995)
19. Memento (2000)

20. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)
21. 12 Angry Men (1957)
22. North by Northwest (1959)
23. Cidade de Deus (2002)
24. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
25. Psycho (1960) **
26. Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001) Loooove it.
27. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
28. Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)

29. Goodfellas (1990)
30. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
31. American Beauty (1999)
32. C'era una volta il West (1968)
33. Vertigo (1958) **
34. Matrix, The (1999)
35. Apocalypse Now (1979)
36. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
37. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
38. Pianist, The (2002) **
39. Fight Club (1999)
40. Third Man, The (1949)
Looooove it too.
41. Paths of Glory (1957)
42. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)
43. Taxi Driver (1976)
44. Some Like It Hot (1959)
45. Double Indemnity (1944)
46. Singin' in the Rain (1952) Incomparable. The best feel-good movie EVER.
47. Boot, Das (1981)
48. Chinatown (1974)
49. L.A. Confidential (1997)

50. M (1931)
51. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
52. All About Eve (1950)
53. Requiem for a Dream (2000) ** Every one talks about the editing of this film as if it was revolutional. Dudes, check out Pi. It's better and it still is off-limits to epileptics.
54. Se7en (1995)
55. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
56. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
57. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
58. Rashômon (1950)
59. Saving Private Ryan (1998) Another one of those films you should see once and never again.
60. Raging Bull (1980) **
61. Alien (1979) **
62. American History X (1998)
63. Léon (1994)
64. Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
65. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
66. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)

67. Sting, The (1973) Best caper movie EVER. 'Nuff said.
68. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
69. Modern Times (1936)
70. Reservoir Dogs (1992) **
71. Vita è bella, La (1997)
72. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
73. Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
74. Touch of Evil (1958)
75. Ran (1985)
76. On the Waterfront (1954)
77. Amadeus (1984)
78. Great Escape, The (1963)
79. Finding Nemo (2003)
80. Apartment, The (1960)
81. Annie Hall (1977) **
82. Jaws (1975)
83. Wo hu cang long (2000)
84. Braveheart (1995) Ugh. Worst three hours of my life.
85. High Noon (1952)
86. Aliens (1986)
87. Metropolis (1927)
88. Shining, The (1980)
89. City Lights (1931) Someone explain to me why Modern Times outranks this??
90. Fargo (1996)
91. Donnie Darko (2001)
92. Strangers on a Train (1951)
93. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)
94. Blade Runner (1982) **
95. General, The (1927)
96. Sixth Sense, The (1999)
97. Great Dictator, The (1940)
98. Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1989)
99. Mononoke-hime (1997)
100. Duck Soup (1933)
101. Ladri di biciclette (1948)
102. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
103. Princess Bride, The (1987)
104. Best Years of Our Lives, The (1946)
105. Yojimbo (1961)
106. Rebecca (1940)
107. Big Sleep, The (1946)

108. Notorious (1946)
109. Lola rennt (1998)
110. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
111. Forrest Gump (1994)
112. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

113. Patton (1970)
114. It Happened One Night (1934)
115. Toy Story 2 (1999)
116. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
117. Graduate, The (1967) **
118. Deer Hunter, The (1978)
119. Ying xiong (2002)
120. Glory (1989)
121. Cool Hand Luke (1967) **
122. Manhattan (1979)
123. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) **
124. Unforgiven (1992)
125. Philadelphia Story, The (1940)
126. Mystic River (2003)
127. Ben-Hur (1959)
128. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

129. Elephant Man, The (1980)
130. African Queen, The (1951)
131. Searchers, The (1956)
132. Green Mile, The (1999)
133. Hable con ella (2002)
134. Dogville (2003)
135. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
136. Grapes of Wrath, The (1940)
137. Stalag 17 (1953)
138. Amores perros (2000)
139. Smultronstället (1957)
140. Shrek (2001)
141. Back to the Future (1985)
142. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

143. Night of the Hunter, The (1955)
144. Platoon (1986)
145. Christmas Story, A (1983)
146. Straight Story, The (1999)
147. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
148. 8.0 Gold Rush, The (1925) 5,510
149. Gone with the Wind (1939)
150. Hustler, The (1961) **
151. Lost in Translation (2003)
152. Wild Bunch, The (1969)
153. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
154. Young Frankenstein (1974)
155. Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925) **
156. Die Hard (1988)
157. Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1938)
158. His Girl Friday (1940)
159. Life of Brian (1979)

160. Quatre cents coups, Les (1959)
161. Grande illusion, La (1937)
162. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
163. Big Fish (2003)
164. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
165. Spartacus (1960)

166. Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962)
167. Gladiator (2000) ** So over-rated.
168. Roman Holiday (1953)
169. Hotaru no haka (1988)
170. Festen (1998)
171. Charade (1963)
172. Sling Blade (1996)
173. 7.9 Magnolia (1999)
174. Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
175. Ed Wood (1994)
176. Conversation, The (1974)
177. Streetcar Named Desire, A (1951) **
178. Killing, The (1956)
179. Toy Story (1995)
180. All the President's Men (1976)

181. Almost Famous (2000)
182. Brazil (1985)
183. Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994) Actually, I still haven't seen any of the Three Colors Trilogy. One day ... *sigh*
184. Insider, The (1999)
185. Night at the Opera, A (1935)
186. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
187. Ikiru (1952)
188. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
189. In America (2002)
190. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
191. 21 Grams (2003)
192. 7.8 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
193. Gandhi (1982)
194. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
195. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
196. Harvey (1950)
197. Stand by Me (1986)
198. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
199. Exorcist, The (1973)

200. Trainspotting (1996)
201. Being John Malkovich (1999)
202. Groundhog Day (1993)
203. Terminator, The (1984)

204. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
205. 7.8 Garden State (2004)
206. Miller's Crossing (1990)
207. Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, La (1928)
208. 7.8 Lion in Winter, The (1968)
209. Strada, La (1954)
210. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) **
211. Laura (1944) **
212. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
213. Right Stuff, The (1983)
214. Rain Man (1988)
215. Network (1976)
216. 8 1/2 (1963)

217. King Kong (1933) **
218. 39 Steps, The (1935)
219. Whale Rider (2002)
220. Big Lebowski, The (1998)
221. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
222. Snatch (2000)
223. Midnight Cowboy (1969) 11,376
224. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) So much better and considerably more underappreciated than Snatch.
225. Adaptation. (2002)
226. Stagecoach (1939)
227. Station Agent, The (2003)
228. Rio Bravo (1959)
229. Thin Man, The (1934)
230. Untouchables, The (1987) **
231. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
232. X2 (2003)

233. Persona (1966)
234. Planet of the Apes (1968) **
235. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
236. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
237. Others, The (2001)
238. Die xue shuang xiong (1989)
239. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
240. Being There (1979)
241. Heat (1995)
242. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
243. 7Fanny och Alexander (1982)
244. Enfants du paradis, Les (1945)
245. Red River (1948)
246. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
247. Last Samurai, The (2003)
248. Sleuth (1972)
249. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
250. Traffic (2000)

So much better on this than on the BBC Book List. I. Am. So. Sad. ;)

the grim grotto

Book the Eleventh bought and completed. Those unfortunate Baudelaire orphans finally strike some good luck, and more info is given about the Snicket siblings. (There has to be a reason why all the families have three kids. Still working on that theory.) Absolutely no new intel on Beatrice, sadly. All in all, a wonderful installment with one tiny exception: the repetitive "water cycle" references-- though I know it's a device, and initally it was even quite funny-- but it gets tired the fourth time it appears. L.S. continues to make hysterical grown-up references, like putting Herman Melville's portrait on the kids' wetsuits and naming Widdershins' submarine the Queequeg. Though I must admit, I've never had the patience to tackle Moby Dick myself and owe my knowledge of the harpoonist's name to one of the greatest episodes' of the X-Files ever: Quagmire (yes, like the Triplets, coincidence?) wherein Scully takes her dog of the same name out to the woods with her where it gets eaten by a lake monster. (How's that for an unfortunate event?) Favorite snippets include the "tossed salad" way of defining people, a riff on the definition of the word "lousy," and Carmelita Spats' reintroduction to the series:
"Stop looking at my outfit!" she commanded the Baudelaires scornfully. "You're just jealous of me because I'm a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian!"

Friday, October 01, 2004

scary but true

via bookslut again, an article that reveals a startling trend in library non-fiction borrowers. More startling still, the book's designer (one of the designers, anyway) is a really good friend of mine who spent her college years designing more sophisticated work than all of her peers and most of our instructors. I'm rather glad she can see the tragi-comic side of this, because otherwise I'd feel so bad for her. As it is, I still feel bad for her because I know that her dream job in publishing didn't work out (and if any one of us deserved it, it would have been her).

sforza hours

via mirabilis and bookslut, a medieval murder mystery surrounding the Sforza Hours is finally solved. More at The Guardian.

How cool is that? Beats the Da Vinci Code, I'll tell ya.

an open letter to USA

Dear USA Networks,

I have battled with myself over what to think of you as a network. I admit, I began thinking you were a crappy version of TNT, focused on the creation of mini-series that featured D-list actors who ran in tight clothes away from things that explode. But then, you took me by surprise. You created Monk, one of, if not the, smartest comedy on television with one of the greatest character actors that ever breathed, Tony Shalhoub. Suddenly, I had respect for you, Big Guy. I could deal with the self-indulgent promos for The Dead Zone because I knew Monk would deliver quality entertainment. I continued to watch through a lukewarm summer season. (The Monkey did it? Right.) I rooted for you all through the Emmy season, and when it paid off, I rejoiced.

I have lost respect for you again. Your decision to get rid of the character of Sharona Fleming (played excellently by actress Bitty Schram) is utterly ridiculous. You cannot make a Sherlock Holmes show without a Watson. You cannot have your main character be so OC without a nurse. He does not need an assistant (what paperwork does this man do?); he needs a medically trained professional that has the chutzpah to smack him around when he gets... well, the way we know he gets.

This is not to bash Traylor Howard. I was a fan of Boston Common and Two Guys and a Girl. I rather liked her. But she does not belong on the show, and certainly not as a bad replacement for Sharona. A blonde former bartender and single mom? Sharona was a blonde former "dancer" and single mom. But she became a nurse and a Lois Lane/Watson to Adrian Monk. She had great chemistry with all of the cast members, especially Shalhoub and Jason Gray-Standford (aka Lt. Disher).

Bring back Sharona, USA. Because if you do not, you will not only have lost my respect, you will have lost my viewership.

because I have many, many

... better things to do, I am looking up random things in Morrison's DD Companion and came across the translation of the Latin "Qui nescit orare, discat navigare" -- If you don't know how to pray, learn to sail, mentioned in Pawn in Frankincense. Pretty simplistic Latin that I remember clearly being able to translate (and feeling v. proud, considering I was hopeless with all the French) but the additional comments are quite interesting and include among them a traditional seaman's prayer (taken from the Harleian Collection of Voyages, 1745, Vol. I) that made me chuckle:
O Lord, I am no common beggar, I do not trouble thee every day, for I have never prayed to thee before; and if it pleases thee to deliver me this once, I will never pray to thee again so long as I live.


... go out to Krystal who starts her first job at Kyocera on Monday!! You go girl, you and your benefit plan. Rock on.

Meanwhile, I am still searching, sigh. The last of the roommates to be employed. After some uncontrollable sobbing, I think I'll apply to the Smithsonian and see where that gets me.

the first presidential debate

My mother and I spent dinner last night detailing the various ways in which we would occupy ourselves in order not to watch the debate. We're both registered Democrats in PA with a history of disliking Bush policies (both Bushes, mind you) and we're taking the unusual focus upon "women in swing states" with some gnashing of teeth. (In fact, pollsters have called our house three times in the past two weeks.) We know who the candidates are, thank you for asking. We have heard enough about Iraq to make us physically ill. So, last night we knew that watching the debate could only result in raising our blood-pressure to dangerous levels. Mom had planned on watching Gaudy Night because in her words, she was feeling "very self-righteous and Harriet Vane-like." (Which is an interesting comment in and of itself, considering that she has never read the book. The book, which everyone who has seen the Petherbridge adaptation knows, is very much the superior form of entertainment. She prides herself on the fact that she exposed me to Sayers, but has only read one book, Murder Must Advertise, and didn't even finish it, explaining that the cricket match was too complicated for her to follow. Sorry about the mini-rant, but it is a bit crackers.)

We were NOT going to watch the debate. So, of course, we both ended up watching it. working ourselves into a right state in the process of listening commentators' remarks, and desperately needing to watch The Daily Show in order to laugh it out so that we could get some kind of sleep. If you are into specifics, both candidates seem to have mis-spoken upon occasion. But last night, Kerry was a clear winner while Dubya seemed to have more trouble forming sentences than usual.

I think Iraq has been beaten to death. They wanted to go, they went without proof of agression or validation from the rest of the world. They screwed up, they won't admit it. They said we're done, we're still there. It's a bloody mess and no one wants to take the blame (except, perhaps, the CIA who seem to have become Bush's personal whipping boy). What I don't know enough about is their domestic policies- and that's scary. They can massacre people in Iraq under the guise of "freedom fighting" all they like and it doesn't affect my day-to-day living. The cost of drugs, Patriot acts that take away civil liberties, unemployment... these things worry me and they worry me even more because no one's addressing them.

My brother, lucky kid, got to see Michael Moore yesterday. (Which is another oddity, because up until recently I thought I was the only one in my household that watched him. Yes, back from the days of The Awful Truth, even. And I say until recently, because I've turned my mother on to his last two doc's.) And yesterday's Inquirer had Mr. Moore badgering local pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline for his new doc on health-care. Mom, who works for another pharm. company and had monitored for Glaxo once upon a time, assumes that he was probably trying to talk to them about Paxil, which had some of its crucial drug studies suppressed. The subject matter, of course, launched Mom into a professional rant, which I shall paraphrase:
The cost of drugs are so ridiculously high because drug companies are desperate to recoup their losses on the making of the drug. The company only has a patent life of 17 years on the compound. When it expires, other companies are allowed then to make a generic, possibly less effective, brand, with which they run only one clinical study at most to test that it doesn't kill people, and then sell it for pennies. At the same time, the generic company makes a ridiculous profit even while selling their drugs for pennies, because their costs are chump-change compared to what the original company had to spend to develop the drug. The development process generally takes a considerable amount of time before the drug's approved, so the original company is trying to recoup billions of dollars in roughly 3 years- hence the high price of drugs. Mom's solution for the government, presented free of charge is that the government set the patent start date when the drug is approved, not when it goes into development (status quo). That way, the drug companies a) don't have to charge an arm and a leg for their drugs and still recoup the cost before generics swoop in, and b) will allow drugs to be properly screened before making to the public, averting the Paxil disaster of rushing a drug into the market without being properly tested. More drugs have been taken off the market in recent years than ever before because they're being rushed through development.

So Mr. Moore, if you should be reading this, know that my mom would be more than pleased to talk to you.