Seamus Heaney’s Translation of The Aeneid, Book VI

Earlier this year, self was in Ireland, cutting out book reviews from a copy of The Guardian at the breakfast table in the Main House of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. She was explaining to a writer from Belfast that back home in California she had file drawers full of book review clippings and now . . .

The writer just smiled.

What is it about the Irish? Self never has to complete sentences there. Never. They’re pretty observant and never waste words.

In the Wall Street Journal of Wednesday, 17 August 2016, there’s a review of Seamus Heaney’s last work, a translation of the Aeneid, Book VI, which according to reviewer Christopher Carroll, he completed just a month before he died:

  • It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father.

Right. Self is adding it to her reading list, as well as Heaney’s “Station Island” (1984) and “Route 110” (2010).

Stay tuned.

WSJ on Fan Films: Ready for the Next Parallel Universe

It’s no secret to self’s dear blog readers that she loves fan fiction.

Loves it.

When she finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy, she was so disappointed that there would be no more.

Since self is a very stubborn soul, she went roaming the World Wide Web and stumbled on fanfiction.net

That was two years ago. She’s been committed to Everlark (Katniss Everdeen + Peeta Mellark pairings) fan fiction ever since.

She recently went ga-ga over another trilogy, Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices. After finishing the last book of the series, Clockwork Princess, she scoured the fan fiction universe for Wessa (Will Herondale + Tessa Gray pairings).

Much to her dismay, there was hardly anything. (There were a lot of Jem Carstaris/Will Herondale pairings, though. BWAH HA HA!)

Then, she finished yet another trilogy, The 100. Her favorite character was Glass, who wasn’t even in the CW television adaptation, boo. Again self went scouring the fan fiction universe: there was nothing, zip, nada on Glass.

Tragic, so tragic!

A week ago, self bought a copy of The Wall Street Journal. There’s an article by Will Friedwald which is about Fan Films.

Fan Films are, Mr. Friedwald writes, “independently produced movies using familiar characters from iconic science-fiction and superhero franchises.”

“In the digital era,” Mr. Friedwald writes, “fan films have grown to the point where the best of them are not only incredibly sophisticated, often employing professional talent, but worthy of competing with the official product.” Many of the Fan Films, Mr. Friedwald continues, are better than epic studio disasters like Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds starrer, 2011).

“There’s only one rule governing so-called fan films: They’re not allowed to make a profit.”

And that applies also in the fan fiction universe.

There are authors of Everlark fan fiction who have so completely channeled Jane Austen that they can produce Everlark that sounds exactly like Pride and Prejudice (Self knows because she is a teacher and she has taught Pride and Prejudice)

There is something so pure about the field of fan fiction. There’s one story she likes, Katniss Everdeen Demonhunter, which is set in Hoboken, NJ. You can actually read KED just to find out what modern Hoboken is like, self kids you not. And if you ask the author for Hoboken restaurant recommendations, she will come right back at you. That’s how self discovered that Hoboken, NJ is a really cool place.

Another of her favorites, Synth, is better than I, Robot. Seriously. It features a cyborg named KTNS-12, a scientist named Beetee, and a Junior Scientist named Peeta (And Junior Scientist Peeta is simply adorbs, clucking like a mother hen over KTNS-12). Perhaps the author of Synth is simply a bored high school student who’d rather write her imaginary universe than prepare for her biology final. If she is, then self is here to tell her that she can always write, if all else fails.

(Self just remembered one more Everlark fan fiction: Katniss is a fan fiction writer. The title of Katniss’s story was something like District 12 or The Hunger Games or something self-referential along those lines. Peeta is her beta. They have such good chemistry, they are so — symbiotic. Peeta’s beta-ing makes Katniss’s fan fiction so much better, so much more appealing to readers. So of course one day they arrange to meet. And, well, you know, Everlark happens: WOOT HOOT!)

Friedwald goes on to examine two areas where the fan film universe is particularly rich: the Star Trek universe, and the Batman universe. And he tosses off film titles like Batgirl: Spoiled and Batman: Death Wish.

Star Trek, Friedwald maintains, is “the galactic epicenter of fan fiction and films.” It’s a universe dreamt up by geeks for other geeks. It’s why the characters of Big Bang Theory are the way they are, and why J. J. Abrams and Josh Whedon have such huge followings. No one gets rich doing this, and so it is a pure realm, where people like self can gambol to their heart’s delight.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal) Reviews “Z For Zachariah”

All three characters, being human, are flawed, but in one case the flaws reveal themselves through an explosive episode of not-so-convincing behavior — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2015

Here’s the backstory:

It’s of course self’s faaaavorite kind of story: post-apocalyptic.

Margot Robbie plays Ann, a beautiful woman (great casting, there) who lives with her dog Pharaoh in a secluded valley that has miraculously evaded the effects of nuclear radiation. She is joined, first, by Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), “clad in a radiation suit.” Shortly thereafter Caleb (Chris Pine) materializes.

Faster than one can say, LOVE TRIANGLE, Ann learns that “the notion of blessed sanctuary is no more plausible after Loomis wonders aloud about what could explain it (He figures it’s got something to do with the wind, or the lay of the land.)”

Shivers.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren is such a Fabulous Goddess of Cinema. She’s the new face of Dolce & Gabbana’s beauty line (Self wants that lipstick!) Here’s a snippet from her answers to “20 Odd Questions” in this week’s “Style & Fashion” section of The Wall Street Journal.

One of my secrets to success is: you should never do too much of one thing. You have to leave people saying, “If she had done even more, it would have been better.” Let them suffer!

LOL.

Stay tuned.

WSJ Weekend Confidential’s Alexandra Wolfe Interviews Christoph Waltz

Self has sort of had a crush on this guy ever since she saw him in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He was so evil, and yet also so charming (That’s what makes charming evil people so dangerous; they insinuate themselves into your brain without you even being aware of it).

She also loved him in Django Unchained.

Anyhoo, there’s a really fabulous picture of him to go along with the interview. A few highlights:

  • Talent is a “little pet that needs to run” — something with a life of its own. “I always had the feeling that my little pet that needs to run couldn’t run properly because of this or that,” he says. “But now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take it for a walk.”
  • “My conviction is we don’t have any ideas about our talents,” he says. “People always overestimate their talents, always, and maybe as a consequence underestimate unexpected or unrealized talents.”
  • “The biggest advantage of my new life is that I can actually pursue the parts I want.”

Unfortunately, self is creeped out by the new movie he’s in, Big Eyes. First of all, the eyes of the figures are just too blank and static, like doll’s eyes. And she’d hate, positively hate, to have one of those things hanging in her house. It would lead to all sorts of nightmares.

In Big Eyes, which happens to be directed by Tim Burton, he plays another variant on the charming rogue. The casting of Amy Adams as his exploited artist/wife makes him seem even twice the rogue.

Stay tuned.

“All networks are vulnerable.”

Today self resumed reading the Dec. 20 -21 Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition.  There’s an article on hacking, because of course Sony.

When self first started seeing the previews for “The Interview,” months ago, she’d already pegged it as one of her “must-see” movies for the holidays. Then there was the notice that it was being pulled from theaters. Why? Because it angered the North Koreans and they threatened retaliation.

Well, actually, after reading the Wall Street Journal article, she knows it isn’t that simple. Someone hacked into Sony’s e-mails and found very embarrassing information that they then used to blackmail Sony into pulling the picture. (But that still doesn’t answer the question: Why did pulling “The Interview” appease the hackers. OK, maybe the hackers really were from North Korea –?)

Some interesting tidbits self gleaned from the article:

  • The group that hacked Sony call themselves “Guardians of the Peace.”
  • The sensitive e-mails included racist remarks about Obama.
  • There are two kinds of hackings:  opportunistic and targeted.

Opportunistic attacks are “low-skill and low-focus” (Sort of like pickpocketing? Crimes of opportunity of that nature?)

At the opposite end of the spectrum are “sophisticated attacks seemingly run by national agence agencies,” using tools like Regin, Flame, STurla, and GhostNet (Apparently, this last was used to spy on the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, folks). And then there is the hacker group known as Anonymous, which was responsible for stealing those racy celebrity photos from Apple’s iCloud.

And sophisticated hackers do frequently end up having political targets.

There exists now a job description called “penetration testing.” Regardless of how skilled a penetration tester is, an expert and determined hacker, especially one with skill, funding, and motivation, “always gets in.” (Analogies are everywhere!)

Sony was at fault for “leaving so much information exposed” (like leaving your valuables exposed to a beggar or something like), but also for being “so slow” to detect the breach that the attackers had “free rein to wander about and take so much stuff.”

The ideal, of course, would be if people stopped making racist jokes about Obama, or exchanging flirty e-mail messages with co-workers — but, failing that, one should never use e-mail to do them. Because, according to the Wall Street Journal, “hundreds of personal tragedies must be unfolding right now” in Sony.

Personal tragedies like — divorce?

Anyhoo, if you’re at the level of exchanging censored e-mail with office workers, perhaps it’s better to air everything instead of living in an airless room, joylessly doing data crunching. Perhaps you do need a different job, or maybe even a different spouse. So maybe, if the affected people are forced to confront whatever issues made them do or say this or that unmentionable, it might be good?

Apologies for this very, very long post, and stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books Issue (Weekend, Nov. 22 – 23, 2014)

The following list is made up of the books self felt most interested in reading after perusing the Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books (2014) issue:

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee (Knopf, 488 pages, $35)

Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker-Prizewinning novel of 1979

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, by Rhonda K. Garelick (Random House, 570 pages, $35)

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr (Norton, 765 pages, $39.95)

Updike, by Adam Begley (Harper, 558 pages, $29.99)

The Novel: A Biography, by Michael Schmidt (Harvard University Press, 1,172 pages, $39.95)

The Age of the Vikings, by Anders Winroth (Princeton University Press, 320 pages, $29.95)

Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts (Viking, 926 pages, $45)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf, 528 pages, $60)

The Mantle of Command:  FDR at War 1941 – 1942, by Nigel Hamilton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 514 pages, $30)

George Marshall: A Biography, by Debi and Irwin Unger (Harper, 352 pages, $35)

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (Viking, 564 pages, $36)

Rendezvous with Art, conversations between the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, 248 pages, $35)

Frans Hals, by Seymour Silve (Phaidon, 400 pages, $125)

My Favorite Things, by Maira Kalman, a catalogue of 40 items in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Harper Design, 160 pages, $35)

The Only Way to Cross, by John Maxtone-Graham

SS United States, by John Maxtone-Graham (Norton, 245 pages, $75)

Surf Craft, by Richard Kenvin (MIT University Press, 192 pages, $29.95)

The Art of Things, an anthology of essays on good design, edited by Dominique Forest (Abbeville, 592 pages, $150)

Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power, by Sylvia Sumira (University of Chicago Press, 224 pages, $45)

Me, Myself, and Us, by Brian R. Little (Public Affairs, 288 pages, $26.99)

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 565 pages, $30)

The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown, 376 pages, $35)

The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies

Mephisto, by Klaus Mann

 

 

Because July 4, 2014 Is Just Around the Corner

The Fourth of July is one of self’s faaaaavorite holidays, for many reasons:  the red, white and blue!  The parades!  The picnics!  The fireworks!  The summer heat (if a parade takes place in less than scorching weather, it’s not really a parade, in self’s humble opinion)! The crowds! The mood!  The retro rock music!

In honor of this year’s holiday (which falls on a Friday, thus making the weekend a three-day, which means everyone — those getting away as well those doing staycations — is in a mellow mood), the Wall Street Journal asked six Americans — a potter; a world-champion swimmer; a novelist; a fashion designer; a CEO; and a performance artist for their own particular takes on the concept of “Independence.”

Here’s what the novelist, Richard Ford, has to say:

Independence contains the seeds of drama — the very thing a novelist is looking for — because it always implies independence away from something.  It also confers consequence on a person and a complex sense of interiority, which are also things that novelists are interested in.  But does it confer strength or powerlessness?  That question is part of the American narrative.  A month before my novel Independence Day was published, I threw out the ending and wrote a new one, which we used, in which my protagonist, Frank, is standing beside a Fourth of July parade as it marches down the street and feeling the urge to join in.  Whether or not I knew it before I started the book, I knew then for certain that the real virtue of independence was the degree to which it allows you to join the human race, rather than stand apart.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, June 21-22, 2014

It is the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War, as self was being constantly reminded when she was in the UK, a few weeks ago.

Those kinds of commemorations seem to get lost in the welter of American politics — Are we going back into Iraq?  What should/can we do about Putin?  — but the Review section of the June 21-22, 2014 Wall Street Journal is entirely devoted to articles about the Great War.  On p. C3, at the bottom right corner, is a tiny article by Amanda Foreman on “The Poets of Devastation.”

All the familiar names are there:  Rupert Brooke (gorgeous), Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon.

After a few mentions of these poets’ iconic works, Foreman delivers the meat and potatoes:

“. . .  the war poets’ greatest contribution wasn’t their rediscovery that war is truest hell, but their reinvention of poetry as a democratic mode of expression.”

She mentions the “broadening of the canon” with works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

“. . .  there is no other war in history,” Foreman writes, “. . . with the exception of the Trojan War, whose poetry has so shaped a nation.”

(Self thinks the Vietnam War definitely served a similar function for American literature.  Think Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War.  Think Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake.  Think Michael Herr’s Dispatches.  Think Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  Think Robert Stone)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Thick”

Self must be a little thick (or maybe not just a little).  She started reading a Peggy Noonan essay in last weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal.  The essay, in the Op-Ed section, is called “What America Thinks About Iraq,” and though self doesn’t regularly read Ms. Noonan, she does recognize that Noonan knows how to turn a phrase.  In other words, self has to admit: Ms. Noonan is an above-average — maybe even a far above-average — writer.

Her essay begins with a fabulous quote:

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

Self truly loves that quote.

In fact, it’s probably the main reason she read to the very end of the article.

Anyhoo, Noonan throws out a number of bon mots such as:

They assumed good luck, a terrible, ignorant thing to assume in a war.

But why was it so irrational to assume “good luck,” Ms. N?  Anyone going into a war assumes “good luck” — isn’t that what happened when the Allies went into D-Day?  All wars are catastrophic enterprises, they are a kind of desperate last act.  With consequences too far-reaching to predict with any accuracy.

Just because World War II turned out swell for the Allies doesn’t mean the planners didn’t know that D-Day involved tremendous risk.  It was a gamble.  All wars are gambles.

Ms. Noonan closes without ever identifying who said “The past is never dead . . . “

And that, you know, makes self feel stupid.

The quote, it turns out, is from Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun (1950).  A work self never heard of, until today.  She is no Faulkner devotee.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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