Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Review: Taylor Swift's 1989

Alright.  First thing's first: I am not a Swifty.*

I do not own all of Taylor Swift's records.  I have never been to one of her concerts (and I probably never will - I value my hearing...).  I do not personally identify with most of the themes in most of her songs.  Neither Country nor Pop are my go-to genres.  And I only just stumbled upon her music a few weeks ago.

I tell you all this so that any anti-Swiftians (or a-Swiftians or un-Swifties) reading this blog post will know that I am not a wildly enthusiastic fan viewing her work through red-lip-colored glasses.  Also, I'm not some 'impressionable young girl' - I'm 31 years old, for heaven's sake.  And a tomboy, at that.

All that to say that any positive comments you read here are the result of unbiased analysis from someone who was not predisposed to like this CD - someone who should, in fact, not like it at all.

The deluxe album - go big or go home.

Introduction: Taylor Swift is a crazy-famous-celebrity singer/songwriter.  I may not have heard her music until a few weeks ago, but I was familiar with her name.  She. Is. Famous.  She started out in country music, often mixed with some pop; with her new album 1989,** she's gone full-on pop.  Known for writing songs about boys and breakups (hence my inability to relate), this album has its fair share of songs inspired by past relationships, mixed in with several non-relationship songs.

That about covers it.

My Review:  Stylistically, pop music tends to be over-produced and under-written for my taste, but I really like some of the songs on this album, so I thought it might be best to go track by track and explain why.

1) Welcome to New York.  This one is too stylized for me, and a bit too lyrically repetitive to keep my attention, with less (and fewer) meaningful lyrics than your average Taylor Swift song.  It's actually my least favorite song on the album.  That said, it's bright and catchy.

2) Blank Space.  This is the song that pulled me into The Taylor Swift Vortex.  I heard the sample on iTunes and thought, 'This is a terrible, terrible song'.  Then I discovered that it's a parody of her own image in the media, and I realized it's actually one of the most hilarious (and clever) songs I've ever heard.  The bridge isn't great, but the rest is awesome.  I can't watch the music video without laughing.  Brilliant.

3) Style.  Nice to listen to.  It's a tad dark in the verses, and somewhat brighter in the chorus.  Which matches the lyrics, so there you go.^

4) Out of the Woods.  I really like this song.  The chorus is repetitive, but in a way that creates tension, and the verses and bridge are quite substantial and interesting to follow.  Very engaging.

5) All You Had to do Was Stay.  This is a decent song, if a bit stylized for my taste.

6) Shake it Off.  This song has been overplayed, and I don't care for the bridge.  I actually prefer Walk Off the Earth's cover (but since it's what led me to begin my T. S. research in the first place, it worked in her favor), but the original song is a lot of fun if you haven't heard it 2 million times in the last 24 hours.  Nice message (except the bridge).  The music video is pretty good.

7) I Wish You Would.  This one is frenetic.  It's not a favorite lyrically, but the music and chorus are pretty energizing.

8) Bad Blood.  Do not double-cross Taylor Swift.  You will Tick. Her. Off.  Seriously, though, this is one of those songs in which T. S. shows some attitude.  It's very good lyrically, musically intense, and strangely satisfying to listen to.

9) Wildest Dreams.  I really like the dark melody in the verses, and the lyrics are interesting.  Not as crazy about the style of some of the vocals, or the song as an overall entity.  Well-written, though.

10) How You Get the Girl.  This is a cute song.  The tune is nice; the lyrics are charming.  It's like the end of a feel-good romantic comedy.

11) This Love.  This is the quietest song on the album.  It's quite contemplative, both lyrically and musically.  At first, it makes me sit back and really listen, but it just doesn't hold my attention.

12) I Know Places.  This might be my favorite song on the album.  It's very sophisticated.  The opening vocals grate on my nerves, which is genius - I feel tense when I listen to this song, and given the content, that is extremely appropriate.  The verses are quite dark, musically and lyrically, moving into a more optimistic chorus that manages to retain darker undertones.  I love the SFX of buttons being pressed on a cassette player at the beginning and end - it really plays into the voyeurism/paranoia.

13) Clean.  This has a unique musical arrangement, and the lyrics are really interesting.  Another quiet song, I find this one much more engaging than This Love.  She's doing some complicated things with metaphor here, and the music, though comparatively slow and soft, maintains tension and forward movement.

14) Bonus Track - Wonderland.  This is a weird song (set in Wonderland, after all), but I kind of like it.  The verses are reflective of magic; the pre-chorus of chaos.  The chorus kind of inhabits both worlds.  (I hope I'm using my terminology right - I'm not a songwriter.)  At any rate, sometimes T. S. finds great metaphors.

15) Bonus Track - You Are In Love.  This is another quiet song.  It's a nice kaleidoscope of a relationship as seen from the outside.

16) New Romantics.  This one seems to be a commentary - it would be a mistake to take it seriously, even though it's kind of serious, lol.  It's a really interesting song, lyrically.  In a way, it's sort of the antithesis of 22, a song from her previous album, Red.  I don't know.  I haven't thought about this one enough yet.  So it's lyrically complex, which I always like, but I don't care for the music.

And then there are the voice memos for I Know Places, I Wish You Would and Blank Space.  The inclusion of these memos is the result of T. S. constantly being asked about her songwriting methods, and having enough self-confidence to release these very rough cuts.  They are examples of three different ways in which she writes songs, and they're pretty cool to listen to, knowing what the finished product looks like.

So, 1989.  As an album, it's pretty decent.  Certainly from an objective perspective, it's very well put together.  The songs are generally well-written, and it all feels very cohesive, which was one of T. S.'s stated goals.  I really like Blank SpaceOut of the Woods, and I Know Places, and I originally just bought them, but I finally caved and got the whole album because, having done my research,^^ I have quite a bit of respect for Taylor Swift as an artist (and a businesswoman).  Plus she seems like a nice person.  So I bought the actual CD, and I'm glad I did.  It makes for good listening around the apartment.  Good driving music, too.  Probably good for running...  I'll find out.

Release Date: October 27, 2014
Music Tracks: 13 (16 on the deluxe edition)
Run Time: 49 min (deluxe edition is 1 hr, 2 min, not including the voice memos)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 objective stars; 3.5 as a matter of taste

*Swiftie?  See - I don't even know how to spell it.

**That's the year she was born.  Plus, the way the album sounds was inspired by late-80's pop.

^This is actually something I tend to really like about T. S.'s music in general - it very much sounds like the music and lyrics were written to match each other, rather than one being written to fit the other.

^^How to conduct YouTube Research: Go to the official channels (in this case, Swift's channel, her VEVO channel, and official talk show channels like Ellen's, et al).  Do NOT click on entertainment "news" channels like Popsugar and TMZ.  Aside from being video tabloids, they will give you an immediate headache when you click them by accident.

Monday, January 26, 2015


She lived for art. She died for love.

Lol. That was pretty much the advertising campaign for Seattle Opera's production of Tosca.

Anyway, spoilers and melodramatic advertising aside, Tosca is actually quite a fantastic opera.  Composed by Puccini, the tenor aria (E lucevan le stelle) in the third act is particularly famous.*

Tosca is the story of a singer (Floria Tosca) and her artist lover, (Mario Cavaradossi).  Set during a time of political uncertainty, Cavaradossi helps an escaped political prisoner hide from Scarpia, the sinister chief of police.  Cavaradossi is eventually caught, and Scarpia sets out on a campaign to find the prisoner, destroy Cavaradossi, and seduce (if you can call it that) Tosca.

It's quite dramatic, but there's a lot of humor in the show, as well.  The first two acts are each about 45 minutes, and the third is around 25 minutes, but people, it does not feel like it.  The curtain came down on that first act and I was like, "What?!"  I thought we still had at least 20 minutes left to go.  The second and third acts felt equally quick.  It's a good show.  With amazing sets.

The three main characters did a fabulous job, and hat's off to the soprano, who was filling in last-minute.

So Tosca was great.  Earlier that day, Dad and I had driven up to Seattle, met Ben for lunch, and went to Pike's.  After the opera, Ben took us out to Ten Mercer for a light (and very late) dinner.  Dad and I drove back the next day.

And that was pretty much my weekend!  We had a great time in Seattle, hanging out with Ben, and going to the opera.

*It also has an awesome clarinet part, which sounded fantastic played by Ben Lulich on his Backun MoBa Cocobolo clarinet.

Friday, January 23, 2015

From the Vaults

Welcome to a very special edition of From the Vaults.  I think you'll like it.

When you move, you tend to find things you forgot you still had. I recently found a couple of childhood drawings.

So follow me, if you will, back in time to the early 1990s.  My brothers and I had these animal cards about the size of an old-school floppy disc (the big, slightly flexible ones, not the small, thick ones).

You don't... You don't know what I'm talking about?  Hmmm.  Ok, they were a little larger than a CD case.

The cards each featured a nice photograph of a specific animal, and then a bunch of information about the animal - what it was called, a world map colored to show where it lived, how big it got, what it ate, etc.  Pretty cool stuff, huh?

Although we started out with lots of them, we only had a few left at this point - who knows what happened to the rest.  We also had a bunch of light-colored, 3x5 paper.  Naturally, we decided to make our own animal cards!

So there we were, Steven, Ben and I, drawing animals and coloring them with crayons.  They were all made-up animals, of course - we colored them however we wanted and thought up names for them.  Then we had a few made-up facts that we wrote on the cards, as well.

I remember Steven discovered he was good at drawing birds of prey that were sitting on tree branches.  This launched a whole series of 'Stevenson Eagles' that looked pretty fantastic - sort of a cross between a realistic drawing of an eagle and what you'd expect to see in a Sunday comic.

Ben was the best at drawing animals, no surprises there.  He could draw any animal and make it look good.  I remember one of his in particular, a bear that he drew lying down.  It had one black paw.  I think I got Ben to draw the occasional animal for me to color and name, as well.

As the youngest, I was at a slight disadvantage.  Not only did my animals generally not look as realistic, but I did some strange things with the coloring and naming when we first started.  I got better later - I was especially proud of my Flying Hay Squirrel.  I could have sworn I still had that card, but I can't find it at the moment.  Here's what I did find:

The Indian Ocean Hi-Hena Whale
So, this is obviously one of my early cards.  The Indian Ocean Hi-Hena (hyena) Whale?  What?  Sigh.  Now, as I remember it, I colored this guy with the idea of him being a polka-dotted or bubble gum whale or something, and realized when I finished that it looked ridiculous.  I think calling it something I considered more sensible was supposed to counter-balance its appearance.

The Indian Ocean Hi-Hena Whale lives to be 90 years old and up to 8,550 feet, up to 2,000 tons, and eats fish and seaweed.  I think I made it so huge because I drew the ship too small.  I'm not sure what the thing under water is...a research camera?  Notice that, although I obviously knew about the blowhole, I did not realize this meant whales don't expel air from their mouths.

Yeah.  So that's the awkward one.  Next we have a non-traditional card.  I think this one is from the end of our interest in this activity.  I apparently traced a bunch of animals from a book (or had Ben trace them for me, more likely, based on the quality of the work), colored them, cut them out, taped them to a card, and simply named all the animals:

Ah, tracing paper...
So, we've got the Rain Bow Wail, the Slver Kangaroo, the Bleu Tailed Jack Rabbit, the Greenbelied Deer, the Brown Eread Elefant, the Rainbow Rinosoras, and the Rain Bow Platypous.

Oh dear.

I think that pretty much speaks for itself, lol.  If I find any more, I'll post them.  Ben, Steven?  Do you guys have any?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Wednesday Review Explained

This one's for Ed.

Alright. I've been asked about what kind of scale I use to rate movies, what types of movies I would give how many stars to, etc.

I understand your curiosity. Movie reviews are tricky things, because Art. You see, sometimes you can say objectively: this art is good, that art is bad. A tone-deaf singer, for example, is objectively a bad singer. But so much about a person's perception of a piece of art is based on his or her personal preferences - it's a matter of taste. For that reason, I try to figure out someone's preferences before I place too much stock in their opinions of a movie 'I would love'.

So please remember, when you read a review about a movie, or a book, or music, you should always take it with a grain of salt, because your tastes might not completely match up with the reviewer's. I have taken several film studies, film production, and screenwriting classes at the collegiate and graduate level. None of this qualifies me to review movies any more than anyone else, but it does mean that I have a slightly different way of looking at film, and generally speaking, I'm a bit more critical than most.

I try to give specific reasons why I like or dislike something in my Wednesday Reviews. Unfortunately, that just doesn't satisfy everyone. Cough. Ed. Cough.

So how does it work?

I don't have an actual rubric. I hate rubrics, but that's a discussion for another time.

I don't have a rubric. But I do place more value on some aspects of movies than others. I love things that are highly creative and things that are clever. I also love great acting, good screenwriting, character consistency, and realism.*

Conversely, I do not like poorly written dialogue, stiff acting, audience condescension, stupid or crude comedy, or mindless RomComs.

I was specifically asked for examples of what movies deserve the various star ratings. I tried to make sure I had a few genres per rating:

5 Stars - Pan's Labyrinth, Miss Potter, While You Were Sleeping, Schindler's List
     Edit: Steven expressed surprise at my inclusion of While You Were Sleeping. Here is my reasoning: While it may not be as serious as the others I listed in this category, within its own genre it's definitely 5 stars. Plus it's just a really good movie.

4 Stars - End of the Spear (4.5 stars), The Hunt for Red October, Saving Mr. Banks, The Lord of the Rings, Frozen

3 Stars - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Julie and Julia (3.5 stars), National Treasure, The Hobbit

2 Stars - The Devil Wears Prada, The Hurt Locker, Stargate

1 Star - Titanic, The Notebook, Ella Enchanted, Jurassic Park II

Anyway, that's that. I hope it was informative. Ultimately, my ratings are based on a combination of my nit-picky film-educated eye and my artistic preferences.

Want more details about my ratings? Let me know in the comments.

*Even a fantasy movie needs to be realistic and consistent within its own world.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fireplace Mishap

Normally I would have blogged yesterday and/or today. Indeed, I opened this window with the express purpose of writing a new entry. But instead I wrote a post for my other blog, and now my brain seems to be done for the day.

Oh! Last night Dad came over for dinner and a movie, and we put a presto log thing in the fireplace. Dad opened the fireplace doors so more of the heat would come in - the smoke still goes up the chimney. Until the fire is dying. Then the smoke goes into the kitchen.

Thankfully we noticed before it set off the smoke detectors. All that extra heat was immediately gone as we opened doors to air the place out, lol. Thanks, Dad.

And that's my fun story for the day. Brainpower reserves are too low to think of anything else. Plus, it's six o'clock.

Time for a sandwich.

Artistic Integrity

So I've been thinking lately about the nature of writing poetry and what it all means. There are a lot of different ways to approach writing poems, aside from the mechanical considerations. You can write straightforwardly about nature, for example. And a lot of poets take ordinary things and paint them in extraordinary language so we look at them differently. And so on.

And then there are those of us who write unaffected personal poetry - stuff that is very specific to us, who we are, and what we're going through. I really like that type of poetry.* But it's interesting to think about why those poems 'work'. I mean, if a poem is so specific to the author, why is it that it can draw others in so completely that they identify with it?

There's a Sara Groves song called Kindness of Strangers from her most recent album, The Collection. At one point, she says "Hearing myself in your story / Fills in the holes in between", which I think expresses the same idea. It's that thing when you're talking to another person and you empathize with them, or what they're saying rings true for something in your own life. So how does that happen?

I think there's a lot of commonality in the human experience. We all go through so many of the same emotions at different points in our lives, even if the situations prompting them are dissimilar. So when you write something specific to yourself, but write it very personally, those elements sort of rise to the top, giving the reader access to them. This in turn allows them to identify with the piece and see themselves in the poem. That's my theory, anyway.

Not all poetry does this - a lot of it is much more cerebral. It's accomplishing different things, so it takes different methods. Case in point:

I wrote a poem last summer about a childhood memory. I was at Glen East, and was in a poetry workshop. In my one-on-one session with the instructor, we talked about that poem. I got some really great advice from him, and I applied some of it to make the poem better. One thing I did not apply was the idea that the poem needed a visual to help ground it. He said I should add in a couple of details about the couch that I mentioned in the poem. Ignoring the fact that I completely disagreed with him on this point because at that time I couldn't have explained why, I protested that I didn't remember anything about the couch. He suggested I make something up, and reiterated a comment he'd made earlier in the workshop: it's okay to lie in your writing.

He's absolutely right, of course. It's perfectly fine to make things up in order to convey what you're trying to get across - it's creative writing, after all, and poetry at that. And if your method involves using conceits like visual cues to engage your readers, making things up may well be necessary.** So there's nothing wrong with what he said, and it would have been very good advice for another poet. But not for me - not the way I write.

Lots of poets are trying to coax a response from the reader. The entire poem may be crafted for the express purpose of invoking a feeling or eliciting a specific response. In order to do that, the poem might be highly constructed - the whole thing could be made-up, and that's fine, because whether or not the words are true isn't the point - the point is how it makes the reader react.

That's not what I'm doing when I write. I'm writing to convey my own experience and emotion, so how the reader responds is completely up to them. That's the difference right there: Someone trying to stimulate the reader's imagination can and should use whatever devices are at their disposal. But since that's not what I'm trying to do, some of those techniques are off-limits to me. One manufactured detail would make the entire poem a lie, and then what would be the point?

*Songs can do this too - lyrics are basically poems, and then you have that added dimension of the music.

**By the way, there's a difference between employing a metaphor and making stuff up. It's hard to explain; I haven't yet gotten to the point that I can articulate this in my head. Just trust me - there is a difference.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wednesday Review: The Book Thief

Whew! This has almost become the Thursday Review tonight! These morning classes are really messing up my blogging schedule. I'll have to fix this. In the meantime:

Introduction: The Book Thief* is the story of a young girl named Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), growing up in Nazi Germany. There's really no way to sum up this movie without spoilers, but I'll try. Liesel is adopted by a childless middle-aged couple played by Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush, and befriended by an exuberant schoolboy (Nico Liersch). Although her new mother is very strict, her father is a gentle soul who teaches her to read; her avid consumption of books leads to stealing/borrowing them, and the act of reading plays a central role in the film.

My Review: Alright. This is a serious movie with a European director, and it shows - it is not fast-paced. But it is well-directed, well-acted, well-edited, well-scored, and well-shot. It does not drag.

This is a visually wonderful film. The cinematography, costumes, set-decorations, and so on are amazing. Everything feels very real, and also very near at hand - like you could walk into their world through the TV. There are very few films I feel this way about. Very, very few.

Although the story deals with some complicated ideas (it's set in Nazi Germany, after all), it's very simply told. It's not the story of a Nazi or a Jew. It doesn't take place in a concentration camp or on the front lines. It's an everyday German family in an everyday German town, trying to live their lives while the world is falling apart around them. This makes it a bit of a fresh look for a WWII film, and is also the reason for the slower pacing. I like it. I think it works really well, letting you see another side to a very well-known period of history.

The script is very good. Certain elements of Liesel's friendship with Rudy the schoolboy feel a bit contrived, and I'm not completely sold on the narrator, but the kids are believable and the sparingly-applied narration gives the plot some added cohesiveness, so I can forgive those things. The center of the film is Liesel's family, which is beautifully characterized in a very show-don't-tell fashion that's not always super common in movie scripts. This is a big plus for me in principle, and it adds to that overall feeling of realism.

The film was done a bit differently than you might expect. There's a fair amount of spoken German with English subtitles in the beginning, but it doesn't stay throughout the film - its use is simply to draw you into their world, and it transitions nicely to all spoken English, with German accents. That was risky. It could have been a disaster. But I have to hand it to the cast, their dialogue coaches, the director and the editors: they pull it off. The accents are believable, consistent, and understandable. It's another element that makes the whole thing seem tangibly real.

The actual acting is phenomenal. I don't even know where to begin. Wonderfully understated, but not stage-play-esque like a David Mamet film. Just very natural. Emily Watson, Geoffrey Rush, and Sophie Nélisse are particularly good,** and I really, really love good acting.

Anyway! I liked this movie so much, I find it hard to explain why. I only know that if more children's/YA books were adapted with this amount of care, our society might implode in a spontaneous combustion of intelligent art.^

Release date: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Run time: 131 minutes
Director: Brian Percival

My Rating: 5 stars (Just watch it.)

*I have not yet read the book.

**Which is good, since they're the main characters... But seriously, they're amazing in this.

^This movie should have won Oscars. Plural. It was robbed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Copyright Frenzy

So I'm taking this Intellectual Property and Copyright class, and it's making me totally paranoid.

- I have plans to scour my entire blog for unintentional infringements to be removed.

- Driving home, I got behind a service truck and the company name was the title of a popular old film. I now know that titles can't actually be copyrighted, but I just kept thinking, "technically, that's 'unfair competition' - if they wanted to come after this guy, they'd actually have a case. With precedent."

Knowledge is a terrible burden.

Seriously, though, it's very interesting stuff. If I were planning to study law, I think I would want to be a copyright lawyer. And it's surprising how many times it's come up in all three of my classes - not just the one devoted to the subject.

In other news, today on my commutes I started reading Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines. So far I've only read the preface, the introduction, and the first few pages of chapter one, and I'm already wondering how on earth I didn't read this book years ago. I will definitely be reviewing it when I'm finished.

Anyway, I think that's all for today.


Yeah. It is.

Next post will be a Wednesday Review of the movie, The Book Thief.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Technological and Cultural Wins

So, yesterday I took my headphones with me to school, because I had a lot of time between classes and thought I might want to listen to music while I did my reading and ate my food and all that. The problem? I left my mp3 player at home.


The good news is that my lack of readiness prompted a couple of technological wins for me!

1. I downloaded an app to buy music through my phone. I bought the music, successfully downloaded it, and plugged in my headphones to listen to it. Win.

2. In looking through all my apps and such, I discovered that my phone has a sound recorder! All those times I spoke writing ideas into the notepad app and had to fix huge errors in the transliteration, and I could have been making plain old voice memos! And from now on, I will be.

I have now officially entered the 21st century.

I have also experienced a couple of cultural wins this week:

1. After more than a year of hemming and hawing, I finally bought myself a guitar today. I walked into a music store that I drive past all the time and was like, 'hey, you guys have any small, not-horrendously-expensive-and-possibly-used guitars?' They did. It's an adorable 3/4 size, which I need, because my hands are small. I also signed up for a few lessons to get me started. Next Christmas I'll be accompanying the family while we sing carols.

2. Not so much a 'win' as an event: This week, I stumbled into The Taylor Swift Vortex. I'm not a Swifty (Swiftie?), but I did finally sample some of her music online, and I have to say: It's pretty well-written. I even really liked some of it.* I have since purchased my first Taylor Swift song, Blank Space, because once I realized it was an ironic, satirical response to her image in the nastier elements of the media, I also realized that it's incredibly funny. So is the music video.

Well-played, T. S. Well-played.

What else?

Later this month I'll be heading up to Seattle to see Tosca, my third ever opera. I can't wait! Also, one of my classes this term is going to see a bunch of stage plays. (Yes!!) I'll let you know how they are.

Anyway. Technology and culture, folks. Technology and culture.

*Not all of it. But it's surprising I liked any of it because pop and country are not my go-to styles of music, and she mostly writes about things I have no point of entry for. But hey - I can appreciate art without having an emotional connection.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Back to School

Today marks my third day back in college. I've had two classes; today will be day two of my first class.  So far, so good!

I've been trying out taking the bus to campus, and that's been working out well enough. It's nice to be able to read during the commute. You know.

As for the classes themselves, I like what I've seen so far. I'm taking a class on book publishing. We had some reading homework that probably should have been really dry but that I found fascinating.* The syllabus looks good - we're going to form mock publishing companies, and one day we're taking a field trip to Powell's because, in the words of the prof, 'why not'?

The other class promises to be more interesting than you'd think. It's all about intellectual property and copyright laws. Uch. Thankfully, the prof isn't trying to turn us all into lawyers - he seems really chill and fun. Although I haven't yet done any of the reading for that course, what we went over in class was interesting and informative. There is hope.

So here I am, Wednesday morning, eating breakfast while I type. I made the mistake of finishing my publishing reading last night before bed. I had a hard time getting to sleep, thanks to all the resulting thoughts and ideas competing for my attention. I may spend my commutes today jotting down some of those instead of reading. We'll see.

Oh! What am I reading on my commutes? Your God is too Small, by J. B. Phillips. It's a pretty small book, but it's very compact - it says a lot in a small amount of space. I'm a little over halfway through. It's pretty interesting.

Well...I guess that's about it. Next week I'll be doing a new Wednesday Review on the movie, The Book Thief (it's quite excellent). I was going to do it today, but it felt rushed - this one deserves proper treatment.

So. Until next time!

*With the exception of about four pages in one of the books, talking about things like paper weights and cost/profit margins or something.

Monday, January 5, 2015

International Lunch Feast

Think of it as an alternative to the picnic lunch.

You're heading home from your first day of classes.  It's lunch time.  You know you don't have anymore ready-made food or leftovers at home.  You're thinking about how long it will take to make that spaghetti and meat sauce.  You realize you're about to pass by Barbur World Foods on your way home.

There's really no decision to make.

So you stop and head in.  You're not there for the produce.  You're not there for the few regular groceries they have.  You're there for the deli, and whatever else looks interesting.

They have a whole bunch of stuff in the deli that you recognize from your visit to the Mediterranean, so you get some sambousak, some spanikopita, a fatayer spinach pie, a couple of kibbeh, and some other thing that looks familiar but you can't remember the name of.  You weren't planning on getting any condiments, but you go ahead and sample the hummus, baba ghanouj and tatziki, and boy are you glad you did.

You grab a house-made maamoul for dessert and some pita bread for the condiments, then decide to go ahead and check out the rest of the store.  To your great delight, you find the same brand of mango and guava nectar that you drank in Jordan, and the lesser-known Schogetten brand of chocolate you enjoyed in Germany.

Eager to sample your treasures, you hurry home and stick an unlikely amount of food on a plate for an International Feast of Epic Proportions.

Who can name the forgotten item at 9 o'clock?  Anyone?

You should try it some time.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Disproportionate Excitement

A lot's happened in the last couple of days, you know?

I mean, first of all, big one: It is now 2015!*

But it's also my last chance to hang out with people with abandon before school starts up.

So, I spent New Year's afternoon with some friends watching the newest Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas.  It was pretty good.  Not my favorite Christmas Special, but still really good.  It was a lot of fun, and had a nice engaging plot and a rather sinister and creepy monster.

Also, the first few Christmas Specials of the reboot have just been longer DW episodes that happen to take place at Christmas time, but ever since Steven Moffat took over, they've been very, very Christmasy.  We had A Christmas Carol, whose Christmasy-ness is obvious; then we had my favorite, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, which was all Christmas trees because of Christmas presents, and so on; then there was The Snowmen, featuring...well, snowmen; then there was The Time of the Doctor, which actually takes place in a town called Christmas, for heaven's sake; and finally, there's Last Christmas, featuring Nick Frost as Santa himself.

Anyway, they feel much more Christmasy than they used to, which I like.  So hat's off to Moffat for that.

So.  What else?

Yesterday I spent a bunch of time with Mom.  We went to the Bridgeport Barnes and Noble and I spent the last of my Christmas book money.  Between the three people who gave it to me at B&N and Powell's, I now have so many new books, I hardly know what to do with myself.  :)

Last night I went over to Aunt M and Uncle B's, and got to spend a little time with cousins, which was great.  They sent me home with my very first Voodoo Doughnut.

Later, my brother Steven called to regale me with the wonders of the movie The Book Thief, and tell me that I am required to go buy it and watch it today.  He described it as 'excellent'.  High praise, from Steven.  Not to be taken lightly.  The movie will be seen tonight.  We also made plans to start reading Spencer's The Faerie Queene.  We'll go canto by canto and compare notes over the phone.  So excited.**  We start with the letter from Spencer and his dedicatory sonnets sometime this coming week.

There's more going on, but I guess that's it for now.  Gotta dash - things...happening.  Well, four things.  Well, four things...and a lizard.^


**Not sarcasm.  Not even a little bit.  So.  Excited.

^I was going to paraphrase this line from Blink, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.