I'm going as Sarah Palin. Pictures tk.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
So here it is, at last. My thoughts on my Tolkien-reimmersion...
I thought I'd start by giving you the Tolkien backstory with my family. Like Senator Obama, who read the whole Harry Potter series to his daughter, my dad read The Hobbit and LOTR out loud to my brother and me when we were kids--the Hobbit when we were 6 or 7, LOTR a year or so later, because we were initially skeptical of any related story that did not star Bilbo front and center. (cute, right?)
The LOTR read-aloud took us over a year. I remember listening to it in our old apartment, in the room we shared, and on the beach in Rhode Island during the summer. By the time we were done with the saga, the Ring was destroyed, the Shire scoured, and the Havens sought, my brother and I had offically outgrown being read aloud to. So a family tradition that began with Mike Mulligan and Dr. Seuss and went through Eleanor Estes and E. Nesbit, ended with Tolkein.
Since then I've re-read the series at least three times, possibly four. Once was as a moody 16 year old. Once was the fall of my freshman year, right before the first film came out, and once was right now. There may have been a middle-school re-read too... but I've blocked those years out:)
So why the seven-year wait for this fourth read? Because Peter Jackson did such an amazing job with the films that for a while I didn't feel like I needed the books. The films had all those new additions: silly one liners and iconic speeches and stunning visuals, and they 100% captured the heart of the books. Occasionally I've flipped through favorite scenes to remind myself. But this last time watching the films, I started getting curious about some more of the arcane details of the books, and also eager to see if my childhood images of the characters had been erased by their onscreen incarnations. So I plunged in.
I'm happy to say the childhood images were still there. The hobbits were much older, wiser, hardier and less childlike in the text, and my earliest imagined images of them came back. So did my somewhat sunnier and less severe images of Galadriel and Elrond. While Fellowship, with its adventures in Tom Bombadil's house, the Old Forest and the Barrow-downs, read like a pleasant nostalgia-trip and took me two weeks, by the time the Company got to Lorien I was having a hard time putting it down, and I zipped through TTT in a few days and ROTK in a single day. The atmosphere really builds up to this all-encompassing crescendo. I started seeing all these Middle-Earthy images in my mind before I went to sleep and I began thinking in sentences that, in their very structure, I fear, contained far too many excess words, and indeed, a Tolkienish rhythm most particular. I also realized again how crucial Tolkien's geekiness was, with the languages and massive history of every Middle Earth race and region, and how effective that makes his world within the fantasy genre: it's 100% believable as another world, more so than any other fictional realm ever created. (Take that, Narnia!)
The funny thing is, what first impressed me about the films was the storytelling. But what also astounded me about Jackson's accomplishments after re-reading the books was how perfectly he shot all the scenery. I mean nothing he shot was actually more frightening, dramatic, or stunning than Tolkien himself described it, from the almost-vertical road in Dunharrow to the creepy black stair, to the lonely mound of Edoras. Jackson really nailed it. The script, which often changes Tolkien's exact words from character to character or place to place, was also ingenious.
The characters, on the other hand, are a bit different, and that's for a reason. In the books, everyone is more brave and good and generally kickass, while in the movies Jackson has each character struggle deeply with him/herself. Tolkien never had Aragorn doubt his calling as king. Legolas was never afraid of battle. Frodo never ever ever abandons Sam, and Merry and Pippin know full well what they are getting into from the beginning: in fact, they have guessed the entire story of the Ring before they set out from the Shire. Obviously, it was extremely effective filmmaking to have each character go through a crisis and/or a conflict and come out of it, but it's also fun to read the books and just enjoy the courageous badassery of men, hobbits, dwarves elves and wizards who just want to get their defeating-of-evil on.
It was a fabulous re-read, and the saga remains so much in my heart. It's so impressive that the films and books each stand alone and also complement each other. The only other adaptations I can think of that do that are the 1995 trio of golden-age Austen adaptations. So here's to you, Peter J and JRR T, for giving Egalitarian Bookworms reason to be entertained, enlightened, and impressed.
So many poetic devices... truly evocative similes and metaphor, deceptively simple meter, unexpected rhyme scheme... a truly dazzling literary coup.
Ode to Sean Hannity
by John Cleese
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Fox Noise insanity
You’re a profanity
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
To my regular, but oft-silent readers: leave a comment! What books are you reading right now, and/or what book do you want to read when your life next allows you the leisure?
Or, if there are any websites or magazines you're reading obsessively instead to check poll numbers and punditocracy, what are they?
I'm reading The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. It's quite creepy and very long, so it will be a while before I can review it. Meanwhile, my websites du jour are fivethirtyeight.com, talking points memo and then the entire lefty blogosphere.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This is a project whose seed was sown on a dark, dark, August night, when Sarah Palin gave her Sauron-esque acceptance speech and I was all like "I'm craving some good defeating evil right now." But since I'm on deadline, and it's rainy, I thought I'd give you some silliness and cheesy, ridiculous, internetz lols instead. Here are two LOTR viral remixes; be warned, they're catchier than you think...
(see mashedtaters.net for more of this one)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Where I am hoping now.
The seed of disappointment grew
Within a capsule gay,
Too distant to arrest the feet
That walk this plank of balm --
Before them lies escapeless sea --
The way is closed they came.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The election is coming up fast. A lot of things hang in the balance, like the fate of our nation, and our rights and such.
And you know what? All fall, I've been craving a new pair of flat, slouchy suede boots. Yeah, I really want those boots.
But reader, I didn't buy them and I won't until this election is over. Instead, I've been giving my equivalent money and time in trickles, so I can have as big an impact as I can 'afore the election.
Here are some ideas for where to donate YOUR shoe-money this fall.
- Two awful ballot initiatives in
FloridaCalifornia (ha. I initally said Florida cause I was calling Jewish seniors there as I blogged): Prop 4 and Prop 8, that take away civil rights for women and BGLT citizens, need to be stopped.
- Give your money or phone-calling prowess to the Obama campaign.
- Support progressive downticket candidates.
- Planned Parenthood.
- South Dakota Campaign for Healthy families (super important, fighting an abortion ban)
That is all. Enjoy your Saturdays, and hope you don't run into Cousin John Reed whilst you're endeavoring to read your book behind the red curtains.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
We've got to get used to that feeling of being freezing on the streets--pink noses et all-- and then sweating on the subway platform as the layers that a moment ago felt inadequate now oppress us.
Or perhaps it's getting into our bed all a-shiver, snuggling beneath the blankets, and then waking up at 2.a.m to hear the glug, glug, glug, whissssshhh of the radiator (that's for those of us in pre-war buildings) and feeling our skin begin to dry out by the second as the heat skyrockets.
Sometimes I think living in the temperate Northeast is an exercise of severe masochism. Between sweltering summers and wet, dark winters, we are rarely comfortable.
Or perhaps it's a lesson in hope and endurance. We withstand harsh weather for those beautiful clear days when the changing of the season fills us with sublime contentment at a white blossom or a scarlet-orange leaf.
It depends on how you look at it, I s'pose ; ) Still, to return to cynicism for a moment, I can't wait for daylight savings to end, the sun to set at 5pm, and my SAD to kick in hardocre! W00t!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Holy "once upon a time"! There is so much chatter right now in the blogosphere about the world of "pink toys and princesses" for little girls and whether/how we feminists should strike back.
It's a quandary I think about a lot, I must confess, because I freaking LOVED the pink aisle in the toy store as a child. Yes, even though at the age of 8 or so the boys in my class were already calling me a feminazi (no joke) I was still playing with Barbies AND I was besotted with Aurora, Belle, Jasmine and the gang. In fact, the much-maligned "Disney princesses" line sounds to me like a fantasy concocted by my friends and me as we swooshed around the living room in castoff long dresses, hoping for adventure/princes to sweep us away: Wouldn't it be great if all the princesses got to be together? *(That being said, I had a twin brother and I also played with he-men and transformers,)
But just because one can transcend a girly childhood and live a full-feminist life doesn't mean we can't critique said childhood's frilly trappings. After all, fairy tales were invented to control women's behavior to begin with. In Gilbert and Gubar's breakdown of Snow White, for instance, the pricked finger=menstruation/sexuality which turns the virginal young queen into the evil stepmother, the magic mirror=voice of the patriarchy turning women against each other and telling them they're never good enough, and the glass coffin has some other dope significance I forget.**
As Sarah Haskins points out in the Target: women video below, the Disneyfied versions of these stories send a pretty similar, if somewhat more simplistic message. And she doesn't even mention that the "spinsters"/witches are vagina dentatae.
I think hiding this stuff from our daughters or nieces or sibs or mentees or forbidding it will only make girly-land this enticing sparkly world that they experience at their friends' sleepovers or whatever. And we don't want that. So while we should reject the consumerist aspect of it (ie limit the amount of princess swag we purchase), we should by all means let the young ladies in our lives swirl about with a long train and an imaginary prince. But also give them stories about tomboys and read them Roald Dahl's "Revolting Rhymes." Encourage them to write sequels where the princesses save the princes, and teach them how to be critical observers of their society from a young age, while still enjoying imaginative movies and stories.
Easy as pie right? And we'll all live happily ever after! Insert trilling song here.
[As for this other gender-normative crap, the sweet lily
*Incidentally, I never went for Cinderella or snow White or Ariel that much. My faves were far and away Belle cause she was a nerdy bookworm like me, and Aurora because when she's sequestered in the woods as Briar Rose, she wears the below outfit, way cooler than her pink/blue dress:
** I just looked it up. According to Gilbert and Gubar, the coffin turns Snow White into the patriarchy's ideal woman, an "it," an object, passive behind glass. Ergo the prince loves her at first sight. Also, the dwarves domesticate Snow White and prepare her for a life of female servitude.
As the "Gs" write of the classic tale's so-called happily ever after: "Surely, fairest of them all, Snow White has exchanged one glass coffin for another." (p. 42) In other words, she's now trapped in the same passive life that drove her step-mama (who is really a sexualized incarnation of her real mama) CRAZY with her poisoned combs and apples and stuff.
Monday, October 20, 2008
by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
- UTUMN is over the long leaves that love us,
- And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
- Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
- And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
- The hour of the waning of love has beset us,
- And weary and worn are our sad souls now;
- Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,
- With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
So listen up. It's been TWO YEARS since I started blogging egalitarian-ly about books, and bookishly about egalitarianism. Thank you to the thousands of you who have stopped by (or maybe the five of you who have stopped by thousands of times, whatevs.)
Last year I did a round-up of my favorite posts of the year, and I'll do it again, with the caveat that it's been a less exciting blog-year, as my real writing career took up more of my time and brainpower and coherence. Also, the craziest change in a year of blogging has to be that last year I was still using bloglines, not google reader, and hadn't even heard of twitter or tumblr. Weird.
Nonetheless, this year has been marked by two really important, earth-shattering, life-changing happenings: The Jane Austen Season and the 2008 election.
- On the Austen front: I live-blogged a horrid Persuasion, puke-worthy Mansfield Park, and decently charming Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.
- On the election-front: I opined on the Hillary, Obama, Edwards three-way race....and after a flirtation with the populist Edwards (I looked into his eyes and KNEW he was a truth teller, ha.) I settled in for the long haul with Barry O. And to boot, I discussed the political leanings of Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Colbert, Charlotte Bronte and Justin Timberlake.
- As for the books that affected me the most this year: I adored Cranford (both book and series), ate up Twilight, and couldn't finish a bunch of lauded contemporary books. I was befuddled, confounded and bewitched by the perfection of the Gwendolyn half of Daniel Deronda compared to the saccharine philosemitism of the Deronda half. And speaking of British authors and the Jewz, I also tackled Ivanhoe!
- Again, I reveled in inanities, dissected superfluities and railed against hypocrisies.
That's all folks. Happy week to you all and happy blogiversaries to Romancing the Tome and Suzanne R.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Much celebration to ensue forthwith, in the coming days, most assuredly.
But now it's time to sleep, for I am much wearied by these trying times.
And yea, verily, I'm talking like a hybrid of Hamlet, Frodo and Tupac, but that's what this blog is all about, yo.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This is my third election canvassing, and it's frustrating work, but it feels good do actually do something rather than just obsess over polls and cable bloviators.
I'm looking forward to next season, when I can enjoy the reds, oranges and yellows of New England as they blend in with the dark green fir trees--all sans the election-related pit in my stomach :)
Monday, October 13, 2008
I'm not here as some dude who writes goofy songs," said the pop stud, in town to helm the PGA's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which teed off today. "Me and Jess, we're here as Americans. We're here as humans because this is something we had to do."Well said, JT. Bringing reproductive justice BACK.
Pointing out that our next president could have a huge say in who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court for generations to come, and therefore play a role in the future legality of abortions, Biel added: "Nobody should be able to say what you can do with your body."
"I give Jess the right to choose where we go to eat all the time," Timberlake joked. "The funny thing is, what the woman chooses is usually right."
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
|Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;|
|Conspiring with him how to load and bless|
|With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;|
|To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,||5|
|And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;|
|To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells|
|With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,|
|And still more, later flowers for the bees,|
|Until they think warm days will never cease,||10|
|For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.|
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
|Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find|
|Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,|
|Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;||15|
|Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,|
|Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook|
|Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:|
|And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep|
|Steady thy laden head across a brook;||20|
|Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,|
|Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.|
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
|Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—|
|While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,||25|
|And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;|
|Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn|
|Among the river sallows, borne aloft|
|Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;|
|And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;||30|
|Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft|
|The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;|
|And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.|
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Second Edition by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
My reviewThe Madwoman in the Attic struck one of the first blows for feminist literary criticism and a uniquely female literary tradition. It's near and dear to my heart because it's the first extended lit-crit I've ever read, and also because it's about my favorite bunch of novels: Victorian (well, 19th century) women's fiction. There's also an awesome section on Victorian poetry. Hellooo, Goblin Market!
The basic theory of the book is that women writers twisted the Madonna/whore stereotype back in on itself, using doubles and alter egos to show different paths women take in a patriarchy, and alternate modes of handling female confinement: submission, madness, deception, searching for an equal (male) partner.
This book is where the theory of Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad first wife, as Jane's alter ego in Jane Eyre, an expression of her inner rage, first became popularized. Gilbert and Gubar--aka the "Gs" as a friend calls them--also discuss some of my other favorite literary interpretations: Heathcliff, yes THAT Heathcliff, (Wuthering Heights) as the essential feminine, the unfettered wild womanly spirit that Cathy must subsume to enter society. Catherine deBourgh in Pride and Prejudice as a possible projection of Elizabeth's future. The sea, in Persuasion, as representing an egalitiarian, romantic space far from the gender roles of society where equality is possible. Or how about Will Ladislaw in Middlemarch as the ideal partner for a woman because of his matriarchal lineage, his cast-out status, and his lack of threatening qualities. (He's a real ladies' man).
Obviously, I eschew the idea of literary theory as being some sort of be-all and end- all. Certainly feminist, Marxist, Freudian, historicist or whatever theories all need to be balanced with each other and an appreciation of the texts we read themselves. But sometimes lit-crit can be fun, a nifty prism through which we re-enjoy our favorite works, and this book is totally one of those times! Word to that.
View all my reviews.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Bitter Girl tells it like it is. Go to her blog for the full taste. (h/t bronteblog)
Here's the most deliciously Charlottey bit:
Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.
And yes, I did bring LOLCharlotte back. She never gets old, just like her damn fine novel-writin'. Heck. You betcha.
The results are fascinating. We read a more rapidly paced novel that is arranged in different chapters. Above all, we hear Mary’s genuine voice which sounds to us more modern, more immediately colloquial than her husband’s learned, more polished style.Think of all the eighth graders in the anglophone world, forced to read Frankenstein by their school's curricula, who might wish that Percy had minded his goddamn business when editing his wife's draft!
(No disrespect to Percy, yo. Did you know he advocated Irish independence and distributed pamphlets on birth control in his day? The man was way ahead of his time, he just wrote more floridly than Mary).
Monday, October 06, 2008
I just thought I'd highlight some seasonal ridiculousness showing how extremist Jews and Muslims disagree on everything except how to (mis)treat women.
- The Associated Press reports that in Israel's Orthodox Jewish community, there are groups of extremists out to "stamp out behavior they consider unchaste."
Via Salon's Broadsheet, reporting on some similar action in Saudi Arabia:They hurl stones at women for such "sins" as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet.
In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men.
But, as Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan has found, [the niquab] isn't a satisfactory way to battle fleshly temptation, as it leaves [women's] eyes visible to men -- and eyes are incredibly seductive, especially when they are the only part of a woman's body that is revealed. His solution: one-eyed veils.
Last week, the cleric made the call for Muslim women in Saudi Arabia to adopt a veil that covers all but one eye. Habadan believes that "showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye makeup to look seductive," the BBC reports.
These guys have so much more in common than they act like they do, what with the bombing and the threats and the settlements. Can't they come together over their hatred of the wimmin and the gays? And while they're at it, join up with the members of the FLDS, my favorite sect, and the extreminist evangelicals in this country, and have a heterosexual god-fearing cuddle fest.
As Suzanne Riesman puts it:
Peace be upon us. Not only between various religions of the world, but between the factions within them. May the universal religious war on women end in 5769.
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the bridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' 'round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the Southwest
No home no job no peace no rest
The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad
He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleepin' on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct
The highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad
Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."
Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I was right! Today my man and I went all the way down to Philly to volunteer for Obama and to see the Boss headline an awesome rally for Change. It was truly spectacular, moving and inspirational. when Bruce goes acoustic, the poetry of his words is so apparent, and he picked really hauntingly poetic songs: "The Ghost of Tom Joad," "No Surrender," "Thunder Road," among them. Then he finished off with "This Land Is Your Land," a tribute to Woodie Guthrie, which I found so moving in its simplicity and given the history of the song as a "people's national anthem."
The only downside is that now I am so fatigued that I can barely move, and I still have my long list of assignments to work on before the Day of Atonement hits my Jewy ass. Oy. But it was so worth it.
Enjoy this clip taken today of Bruce's long, long, long, but really great speech followed by "The Rising."
AND REGISTER TO VOTE.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I'd just be so tickled (if you have a blogger account) if you'd become a follower of my blog. I'll follow yours! It can be like middle school! All followers, and all miserable.
Also, if you have a chance, check out my new website design: I did it myself using basic (basic basic basic) html, but I think it looks rather nice.
And if you miss my ramblin' and rantin' about politics on this blog, here's a roundup of my recent published work on the subject.
The freelance writer-cum-educator life is killing me right now. At the moment, I'm stressing out about the following stories:
- local news story on school overcrowding (this may be the most complex of all. Seriously--school rezoning?)
- several profiles of female leaders including some biggish names
- A political piece on election ads relating to reproductive rights
- A book review of a long, depressing book that is headed towards an unhappy ending :(
- A slew of new students, out of the blue!
These are all reasons to give me some love!! Comment, and be included in my new comment widget. Follow me, and be included in my new follower widget.
Or ignore me while I type my poor fingers to the bone. That's aight too.
Egalitarian Bookworm Stephen is so back!