“Look! The Pie!” : Game of Thrones 4.2

No Khaleesi in last night’s episode. Good.  Episodes just get so portentous and clunky when Khaleesi and her dragons put in an appearance, at least they do in self’s humble opinion.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There was one major character death, some scenes of further Theon Greyjoy degradation (He apparently now sleeps with the hounds), some fluff involving Shea and Tyrion and the much-anticipated Purple Wedding (No, that scene between Tyrion and Shae was more than fluff.  More like Shakesperean tragedy. Ugh, self hated Tyrion’s words. Of course he had to say them.  Is it possible that Tyrion could love Shae any more than he does? But in order to save her life, he had to get her away as far from himself as possible. Tyrion, you are so noble!)

There was more of that slim-hipped bad guy with the neatly trimmed beard.  His partner to the wedding feast looked like she might have stepped out of Return of the Jedi or something. (There was a snippet of him exchanging amorous looks with Sir Loras, one of self’s favorite secondary characters. A promise of intrigue yet to come!)

The scenery was bright, more Mediterranean than United Kingdom.

Cersei was monstrous.  Perhaps even more monstrous than Joffrey.

Self’s favorite line of the night:  “Look!  Here comes the pie!”

Strategic Distraction!  Such a clever girl, Margaery Tyrrell is (Not to mention, her wedding gown was absolutely gorgeous.  The color! The intricate beadwork! The relatively discreet baring of back and front! Sexy but definitely NOT salacious!)

Brienne appeared, plainly garbed in a blue tunic, and Cersei became very hard-eyed.

That scene where Cersei approaches Brienne, and starts making all kinds of nasty insinuations — self loved that the camera gave at least equal attention to Brienne’s face.  And the Maid of Tarth’s face, especially at that moment, and given who she was talking to, just looked so — pure.  Baffled.  Like maybe Brienne was thinking:  What is this woman going on about?  But when Cersei stated (not asked, stated):  “But you love him,” bless her heart, Brienne didn’t even have the good sense to make up a lie.  And at that very moment, with this woman (who wishes her only harm) standing right in front of her, she looks around, and sees — who else?  Jaime Lannister, looking at her and Cersei.  That right there, in self’s humble opinion, was the BIG REVEAL of the night.  Self could feel her heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.  She fervently hopes Brienne’s end doesn’t come in Season 4 because — the FEELZ!

R.I.P. Joffrey.  Your death scene was magnificent.  Jack Gleeson, you did a superb job.  Truly superb.  Self, for one, will truly miss you.

Stay tuned.

Digging Ever Deeper (Into the Pile of Stuff): The Sea, Islands, the Poet

From The New Yorker of 3 February 2014, a review by Adam Kirsch of The Poetry of Derek Walcott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux):

A poet who comes to consciousness on a small island — like Derek Walcott, who was born on St. Lucia in 1930 — is doomed, or privileged, to spend a lifetime writing about the sea.  The subject matter for Walcott is as consistent and inescapable, potentially as monotonous, as the five beats in a pentameter line.  But, like so many great poets before him, he shows that constraints do not have to starve the imagination; they can also nourish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Chang-rae Lee Version of Dystopia

This is from the review of On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.  The review appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The reviewer was Joanna Biggs.

“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ Chang-rae Lee writes in On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel.  “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.”  It seems doubtful, in Lee’s somber future.  Afflicted by swine- and bird-flue epidemics, and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups.  At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has controlled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages.  Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the ‘service people,’ who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.  ‘You better have it while you have it’ is the motto of the bartering, hardscrabble life there.”

District 12, anyone?  The twist is that the oppressed classes are “workers whose ancestors arrived from New China a hundred years earlier.”

Biggs then cites a list of dystopian narratives (which fortunately or unfortunately do not include anything YA), starting with “the math genius D-503, in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, who begins by designing the spaceship INTEGRAL . . .  to the fireman Guy Montag in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who starts out as a kerosene-wielding book burner and ends up harboring what may be the last copy of the Bible,” to Winston Smith, the “mid-ranking employee” of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

Self has read most of Chang-rae Lee’s novels.  She’s read Native Speaker, Aloft, and A Gesture Life.  Of all his novels that self has read to date, her favorite is still A Gesture Life.  Harrowing.  She’ll never forget it.

What she likes most about Lee’s writing is the quietness of the voice.  The restraint masks sheer agony.  All his main characters are tightly wound but restrained, almost to the point of lunacy.  Feelings are to be distrusted.  They are acknowledged only under great peril.  Which makes him sound, on the surface, like Kazuo Ishiguro.  But self finds Chang-rae Lee’s characters, almost all of them, to be deeply emotional and passionate individuals.  If they do harm, it is mostly to themselves.

She does have a copy of On Such a Full Sea, signed by the author himself after a reading he gave in Berkeley.  Self is sorely tempted to tote it along to Ireland, but it’s hardback.  And self has sworn she’s not going to burden herself with more than a handful of books this time.  The fee for mailing the books back home will be exorbitant, if what she paid after Hawthornden is any indication.  Oh what to do, what to do!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014″ lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Inside 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Help, someone!  Anyone!  It’s too much!  Self can’t seem to stop posting on this week’s Photo Challenge: INSIDE!  She’s obviously in some kind of zone . . .

Speaking of zone: What. Ever. Happened. to. That. Malaysian. Plane???

Don’t get her started!

Anyhoo, here’s the part of The Daily Post prompt that self is trying to focus on today:  Finding images of a thing inside something else.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino:  Self was there as part of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino: Self was there to participate in the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

Inside a church in Bethlehem.  Self was there in 2008.

Inside a church in Bethlehem. Self was there in 2008.

A friend of Dearest Mum’s had let us stay in his apartment while Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was being treated for leukemia at Ichilov Hospital.  This was in 2008, which turned out to be a watershed year for self, in so many different ways.  Self will never forget Tel Aviv.  Never, ever, ever.

painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv

Painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv:  Is that a gun inside the bird’s mouth?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Perspective 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self’s been a wee bit confused over this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge:  Perspective.

Her first post on the week’s theme wasn’t exactly right, she feels.

The guidelines on The Daily Post say, in part:

“Post a photo which is not what it seems to be” and “For . . .  an extra bit of challenge, show us two photos, each one showing a different angle or interpretation of the same subject.”

She decided to look for inspiration in the photographs she took during a three-week trip to Venice, last April.

And she came up with these pictures, which she snapped while having coffee one morning, by the Rialto Bridge:

Early Morning, Having Coffee by the Rialto Bridge, Venice

Early Morning, Having Coffee by the Rialto Bridge, Venice

It was raining, as you can tell from the umbrellas.

It was raining, as you can tell from the umbrellas.

This is what the usual picture of Venice looks like:  Grand Canal and gondoliers.

A more typical picture of Venice: Grand Canal and a gondola

She finds people to be so fascinating, generally.  She always zooms in, as much as she can, trying to get as close a glimpse as possible of other lives.  So, no, her pictures of Venice rarely feature churches, canals, or gondolas.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“300: Rise of an Empire”

This movie is not a prequel, neither is it a sequel.

It is a simul-quel!

Self doesn’t know whether simul-quel is a real word, but let her explain:  The events take place around the same time as Leonidas leads his handsome and buff half-nekkid army of hot men to the Hot Gates to offer up their tremendous physiques in sacrificial battle against a Persian giant (conveniently named Xerxes, which means he is a historical character) who is adorned with the most fantastic body piercings.

Anyhoo, The Man saw the movie Saturday (by himself, as self was too busy checking her FB page) and swore when he got home that Tom Wisdom was in it, by means of simul-quel or something.

Yeah, right!  Self caught a wee glance, for about 10 seconds!

Nevertheless, here are her thoughts:

The hero is named Themistocles, and everyone keeps whispering the first syllable of his name so it comes off sounding like “mistocles,” which then led self to think of the word “miracles” or “mystical” or some such.  Or perhaps self is just hard of hearing.

When the action is not happening, we are shown scenes in Athens.  The people of Athens are a pasty-faced bunch, draped in red and blue and white togas.  Because they are intellectual, get it?  When Themistocles/Mistocles appears in Sparta to appeal for aid, self got so excited.  Because now we were in the realm of buff bods and lots of wrestling.

About halfway through the movie, it occurred to self that the battles were simply an excuse for two hot generals to play out some very subliminal erotic urges.  For as Freud pointed out, the Oedipus Complex is strong in the human psyche.  Or was he referring to the Erotic Complex?  Anyhoo, all those subliminal urges are definitely in play here.

At one point, a face-to-face between the two generals is arranged, and Themistocles/Mistocles is ushered onto the Persian general’s boat, and this general just happens to be played by Eva Green, her bountiful bosom on full display.  Since Themistocles/Mistocles is not apparently burdened with a wife (as Leonidas was in 300, though Leonidas himself probably had no complaints about having a wife as hot as Lena Headey), and as Eva Green plays a totally bloodthirsty whore of no morals (called, of all things, ARTEMISIA), they engage in rough sex.  And when Themistocles still refuses to switch sides, Artemisia throws a major hissy fit and has him thrown off her ship (but not before he’s had time to salvage his modesty — at this point, though, who cares? — by draping himself in his blue Athenian toga).  The Athenians waiting back on shore for the return of their general look a little — skeptical, shall we say — when he returns sweating like a horse and rather close-lipped about the negotiations.  (Self, you have an absolutely filthy mind!  Why would you think that was what the Athenian henchmen of Themistocles/Mistocles were thinking?  They seemed perfectly poker-faced.  Respectful, even!  Self’s just saying)

Eva Green, Eva Green.  Sigh.  Why has she appeared in only a few tacky movies since immortalizing Vesper Lynde in Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, Casino Royale?  It is incredible how much energy she puts into her role here.  But, why not. If one is going to commit to a role which calls for bloodthirsty beheadings as well as rough sex, one has to commit 100%.  And Eva Green certainly delivers.  Nay, more than delivers!  Her performance is so 120% it’s almost bat-shit crazy!  And that is what makes this a movie worth seeing.  (Aside from the Spartans and 10 seconds of Tom Wisdom)

Self would also like to say that she waited until the end credits to see who was responsible for the costumes.  Because Eva Green’s clothing was of the full-on dominatrix variety, and self loved all the ripped/torn bodices, the chain-mail sleeves, the golden (rhinoceros?) horns poking out of her back, the boots, the metal covering the outer lobes of Artemisia’s left (and only her left) ear.  And self thought she even glimpsed a wee bit of fishnet stocking. But how could that be, when the last epic shot does not show any coverings at all over Artemisia’s legs.?  Self is sure, though, that in one of the close-ups, she saw fishnet.

She wondered what other actress might bring this level of commitment to such a role.  Jena Malone, perhaps.  It has to be someone who could convincingly present a sexy femme who gets progressively sexier with the appearance of each new, bloody scar.

There was even a poignant father-son-fighting-together scene, which recalled the Tom Wisdom/guy-who-played-his-father pairing in 300.  Only, in the Rise of Empire scenario, the father was waaaay hotter (in self’s humble opinion, at least) than the son.

Self will comment on the transformation of normal-looking Xerxes into Rodrigo Santoro draped in body piercings, in Part 2.

Stay tuned.

Home Again (post-AWP/2014)

Back home, self means.

Thank goodness it’s been raining, so she doesn’t have to worry about catch-up watering.

She pores over her AWP goodies, reluctant to put any of them away.

She watched bits of the Oscars yesterday, and was surprised at how subdued J-Law seemed.  Almost, tired.  Her eyes didn’t have last year’s sparkle.  She looked thin and elegant, but — Good Lord, self never thought there’d come a day when she’d welcome Miley Cyrus’s stubborn commitment to hi-jinks.

Help help help!  What has happened to that Funny Girl of yester-year?  Nicholas Hoult was by her side, looking neither happy nor unhappy.  Are these two really getting married?

Today, self does her usual thing:  Costco.  Laundry.  Scanning her e-mail for rejections.

She inadvertently let her car registration lapse, and it’s a smog test year, boo.

Perhaps now she can finally focus on finishing Divergent. She bought her copy months ago.

The heroine is named Beatrice (which is a nice name, though not as unique as Katniss).  She is still deep in the nest of her Abnegation family.  There is a really intriguing passage on p. 37 (end of Chapter 4):

I peer into his room and see an unmade bed and a stack of books on his desk.  He closes the door.  I wish I could tell him that we’re going through the same thing.  I wish I could speak to him like I want to instead of like I’m supposed to.  But the idea of admitting that I need help is too much to bear, so I turn away.

I walk into my room, and when I close my door behind me, I realize that the decision might be simple.  It will require a great act of selflessness to choose Abnegation, or a great act of courage to choose Dauntless, and maybe just choosing one over the other will prove that I belong.

Hmmm, that’s truly excellent writing.  It continues excellent through Chapter 5, when self has to stop to greet The Man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Monday Reading: Poetry Chapbook by Karren LaLonde Alenier

Time for self to tackle all those books and journals she ended up lugging home from the AWP conference in Seattle!

Not to mention the two she added on the plane back to San Francisco:  a poetry chapbook by Karen LaLonde Alenier, who sat directly across the aisle from self; and a book called Galerie De Defformité  — should she call it hyper-text?  Or Trans-Genre? — by the woman seated directly behind self, Gretchen E. Henderson.

(Oh, AWP.  You are so wonderful.  Self can’t, she can’t even.  Stop talking now, self.  Just Get On With It)

Self will start with Karren’s book, On a Bed of Gardenias:  Jane & Paul Bowles (which Karren calls a kind of “biography in poems”):

“Chasing the Fox:  Jane Bowles Visits Her Injury”

My mother Claire wore fox
fur and Shalimar for my
Stoneleigh boarding
school interview. She sat up
straight, patted my thigh,
“You see my daughter is
special,” Eyes narrowing
and nostrils glistening,
the headmistress unfurled
her rolled handkerchief
and leaned close
to hear Claire say,
“Jane is a Jewess.”

    The agony

I felt riding the pedestal Claire built
for a princess. When I fell from my mount,
the horse, whiter than a WASP in winter,
looked as surprised as the little girl
dusting off her habit and clutching
her throbbing knee.

    As for the fox,

red as fever, she winked at the dogs
that had lost her scent. Woof! I barked
when I should have howled.

A brief note about Paul and Jane Bowles (from the back of Karren’s chapbook):

Paul Bowles was born December 30, 1910, and died November 18, 1999.  He was a composer, fiction writer, and poet.  He grew up in the Jamaica Queens neighborhood of New York City.  He married fiction writer and playwright Jane Auer in 1938.  She died May 4, 1973 in Malaga, Spain.  Bowles settled in Tangier, Morocco in 1947 and made Tangier his home until his death.  In the early 1950s, he wintered in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Packing for AWP 2014

Self bought this luggage tag after getting back from Venice:

This had better work . . .

This had better work . . .

It is raining in Seattle.

Perfect.  If self could just sleeeep . . .

Stay tuned.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers