Monday, November 25, 2013

Est. 1963

This weekend marked 50 years of Doctor Who!!

Some friends and I got together to celebrate the Time Lord and, of course, watch "The Day of the Doctor" together :)

[Kayla made fish-fingers and custard from scratch!]
[Jammie-dodger assembly - lovely designs by Ashley]

[The Shrine - TARDIS, bowties, Matt, and Melody Malone from "Angels Take Manhattan."]

[Fish-fingers and custard, jammie-dodgers, tea, and bananas - perfect Whovian fare :]

[Ash: 11 on top, Amy on the bottom - adorable all the way around]

[Ash & Kayla trying fish-fingers and custard.  Let's just say they tasted better separate]

[Counter-clockwise: a pair of 11's saving the world with a jammie-dodger and banana,
Donna Noble with her TARDIS purse,
and Amy Pond fending off the Silence - complete with Sharpie necklace]

 And then it was time for the show!!
[Title and theme from the original episode - Oooeeeoooooooh...]

[Nice to see 10 + 11 working together]
[The Doctor - many faces, one man]

 Happy 50th Doctor Who!
 Many happy returns!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Creatives: Simon Thomas

Two summers ago, my first Sunday in Oxford, I was at church, meeting lots of new people and one of those was a a guy named Simon.  After some casual conversation, I learned that he was "reading" English Literature for his D-Phil at Magdalen, specializing in obscure female authors of the 1930's.  Oh, and he works for the school library - which in his case, happens to be the Bodleian.  Impressive.  But then he mentions, yah, he has a blog...

Come to find out he has a rather famous book blog, "Stuck in a Book."  Famous as in: several hundred followers, gets invited to Penguin events, and the official Lizzie Bennet Diaries facebook page - they follow Simon's blog.  Oh and on top of being a grad student, working part time for the Bodleian, now and then, part time for Oxford University Press (I'mnotjealousI'mnotjealousI'mnotjealous...), he must read 130+ books a year and then, of course, blogs about them. I consider myself lucky to count Simon as a friend and fellow Janeite, to have discussed LBD episodes via facebook comments, to have followed his trips to Chatsworth and the home(s) of Virginia Woolf, and to have taken up some of his book recommendations [I'm sorry I didn't love Agatha Christie more, but London War Notes was beyond compare!].  And I've mentioned him here before for his review of Peter and Alice.  I'm sure he's going to go onto an illustrious career in publishing or writing or blogging or academia or whatever he chooses to pursue. 

All that to say... He has branched out from book reviews to post some short creative writing, like these witty poems.  Each little one is dedicated to an author and they go something like this:

What the dickens?

Oh Charles, you saw
The humble poor
In such disarming detail -
But somehow missed
In all of this
A single real female.

Dear Aunt Jane

"Sweet, ineffectual Jane, the dear!"
Of all misreadings, wrongest.
Her barbs will last two hundred years;
Her laughs, both loud and longest.

Aren't those fun?  Do check out both parts 1 and 2   Also quite good is his "One place, Many Simons" article, regarding the idea of the same place becoming part of our story in many different ways.

Today, though, he outdid himself.  A fan of hilarious, literary, and/or witty short stories? Read "Jane Austen wrote the works of William Shakespeare."  Having experienced one or two academic conferences and after writing my thesis on the critical history comparing Austen to Shakespeare - this made me cry with laughter.  Such a joy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Powell's Purchases

This weekend my older sister, Melissa, and I got to go on a rare and long-awaited girls' getaway to Portland.  It. was. splendid!

Of course we took a trip to Powell's, so I wanted to give you a little rundown on the winners :)

[right before succumbing to a basket]

 \\ Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.  I read both of these this summer and blogged about them here.  I had borrowed a friend's copies, but, after reading, really wanted my own set to mark up, reference, and loan out.  Checkity-check.

\\ First Meetings by Orson Scott Card.  A set of short, origin stories in the Enderverse - including the original 1977 "Ender's Game" short story - was just too much to pass up.  

\\ Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  I'd been wanting to read this book since I saw the trailer for this adaptation 2 years ago.  Since then, every visit to Powell's has included me at least considering this book.  On Saturday, I finally caved.  Can't wait to read it :)

\\ [not pictured] The Everlasting Man and The Ball and the Cross by GK Chesterton.  Because Chesterton.  The first is theology; the latter, a novel.  I've heard good things of both and Chesterton is good for the mind in so many ways!

\\ a few gifts for people that may or may not have been featured here.

It was a fabulous visit to Powell's and, while searching for different GKC works (he's in fiction, mystery, theology, mysticism, and literary criticism :), I struck up a conversation with a Powell's employee about how great Chesterton was, how exciting Pope Francis is, etc. [as you do].  She wrote out all the different stacks for me to check and then, before letting me loose to hunt for Chesterton, gave me a 10% off coupon.  Score!  

Love love love Powell's :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inspiration is a word thrown around on a daily basis, but what does it really mean? Inspiration literally means the inhaling of air; it is the act when air has been blown into something.
The way I see it is inspiration is CPR on our livelihood.
When creativity is dying, when life becomes mundane, when we are unhappy, when we need our horizons broadened, when we need a solution, or just an idea, inspiration causes us to come alive again. CPR is when your lungs and/or heart are not functioning properly. You need an outward source to supply air to enable your heart and/or lungs to start working again.
Inspiration opens our mind and lights the match that ignites passions within ourselves.
- via Commadity

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Come along, Ponds

Last night we said goodbye to the Ponds.  And I just had to share (a spoiler free) appreciation post to the most darling couple and the most precious companions:  Amy + Rory.

From the beginning,


to the end


you were "cool."


You may have thought you needed the Doctor...


 but he needed you more.


 You showed us bravery.

You showed us passion.


You showed us that true love waits.


We will miss that story.


But we're all stories in the end.
Just make it a good one, eh?


So, come along, Ponds.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To the not-yet-Whovians

I realize that several of you out there are not (or at least not yet) fans of Doctor Who.  And that's fine.  "I mean 'not bad.'  Well, I say 'not bad,' anyways."

Anyway... I've curated a few, very short, hilarious, non-spoilery clips for you.  So, humor me and watch these:

1. The Doctor, in a nutshell.

2.  The Doctor has fun friends :)

3. And the Doctor introducing himself. 

On letters

Over the weekend, I was organizing papers and files and clearing out a bin for a (long awaited) lager space to keep out notes, cards, and letters.  I didn't have time to re-read as much as I would have liked to, but the snippet here, the postcard there made me so happy.  I'm a spoiled girl, with letters from England, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, and all across the United States. 

This morning, one of my favorite bloggers posted "Why We Should Write Letters Again, Please."   This is a conversation my older brother and I have had many times.  They last.  Letters mean more.  [Just see Letters of Note.] The time they take to compose, the tangibility they convey, the distance they close - they mean so much to both parties.

As Fall is now decidedly upon us, and the natural inclination to stay close to the hearth has settled in our hearts, consider "posting" something more memorable than a message or tweet. 

"The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters" - Lewis Carroll

"How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous." - Haruki Murakami

"I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth." - Jane Austen

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When the what-ifs go crazy... watch this!

Sometimes when I, or my friends, start getting worked up about all the particulars of "finding the right one," we just have to quote this scene:

"Let's say, God puts two people on earth and they are lucky enough to find one another - but! One of them gets hit by lightning?"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bibliophilic Christmas Gifts

Christmas is coming and I have some ideas for the lit nerd in your life!*  You don't have to settle for a Barnes & Noble or Amazon gift card (though, those are always gratefully accepted).  No matter the price point, gender, or age of your literary loved one, here are some gifts for your consideration:

* If you don't have a Lit Nerd in your life, I volunteer as tribute! 

Obvious State, via Etsy-
Evan Robertson is continually impressing me with his skill of working literary quotes into layered works of art.  But if his posters are a bit out of your budget, consider a set of his notebooks - any 3 for $12.  Now your bookworm has a place to jot down favorite quotes of their own:

What if you could wear the text of your favorite book in it's entirety?  With Litographs, there's no need google that great quote... just grab a magnifying glass!  Litographs offers tees ($34), totes ($29), and posters ($24) featuring brilliant (if at times harrowing) designs made up of the entire text.  The cool thing about your gift is that it's not just for your loved one.  Litographs partners with the International Book Bank so that with every product you purchase, they're able to send a book to a child in need.  Check out some of their cool designs below:

[The Great Gatsby]

[Poems of TS Eliot]

[And my favorite design, Persuasion]

Out of Print Clothing:
For variety and creativity, look no further than Out of Print.  They have an array of apparel and accessories featuring famous covers of famous books.  Like Litographs, they have a buy-one, give-one business model through their business partner, Books for Africa.  A few examples of their products include:
[a "Poe-ka Dot" tote - $18]

[Pride and Prejudice Journal - the "lines" of this notebook are comprised of micro-text famous quotes - $8]

[For the Lit Nerd in training, the Goodnight Moon onesie for $22]

Middle Earth Skirt, via Etsy:
Do they have their own custom-made, Middle-Earth skirt?  For just $45, you can rectify the situation here!

The Penguin Collection:
One of the most famous publishers of the 20th century, Penguin has a long list of devoted followers.  From their iconic green and orange paperbacks to their more recently popular cloth-covered editions, Penguin has a lot to offer, including "The Penguin Collection."  Also consider these postcards:

[100 Book Covers - $25]

LiteratiClub, via Etsy -
This Etsy shop specializes in literary scarves like the one below from Alice in Wonderland:

[Literati infinity scarf - $31]

You might also search Etsy if your Lit Nerd has a specific book or character they're a huge fan of.  For example: Hermione's time-turner, a Finnick necklace,  or an Anne of Green Gables poster.

What if you want to get them an actual book?  But you want it to be cool!  They can get the classics anywhere; they may or may not appreciate the latest NYT best-seller.  So, how about some unique book ideas for this Christmas:

   \\ The book lover in your life will go "absolutely ape" over this piece of art from Doug Dorst and, nerd-royalty, JJ Abrams.  "S" is a book within a book.  In their own words:
One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire.

A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.

The book: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V.M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.

The writer: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumors that swirl around him.

The readers: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.
[this 3-dimensional, literary gem is available on amazon for just $21]
   \\ Tree of Codes by Jonathon Safran Foer is a book carved out of another book.  Bruno Schulz's novel Street of Crocodiles has been an influential work on the life and work of Foer (and on his wife, Nicole Krauss).  He decided to take the novel and extract a new one - not adding a single word, only by cutting out words.  The result?  An landmark literary and artistic work:

   \\ And finally, a book just for fun:  William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher.  I got to flip through this thing the other day, and let me tell you - it's golden!  And thanks to Amazon, it can be yours or your friend's (or yours) for $12.  Just check out the Star Wars prologue in perfect sonnet form:

Let me know in the comments if you or a book lover you know are asking for any wonderful, bookish presents this Christmas [no, a Kindle doesn't count].

Here's to a very, Merry Christmas for both you and the bibliophile in your life :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tom Hiddelston, ladies & gents

I'm still sitting on my review for 12 Year's a Slave and working on a few other fun posts, but for now, I leave you with Tom Hiddleston's dance abilities:

"I would believe only in a god that knows how to dance." 
- Friedrich Nietzsche would be Loki'd 

In other Hiddleston adorableness, he said of his work on the upcoming Muppet movie:
"I worked with the man himself, Kermit the Frog. I've peaked — it's downhill from here."

Monday, November 4, 2013

31 Days of Books: A Review

Whew!  You guys, I did it.  31 book reviews in 31 days.  Some days I had to double up, and some reviews were probably more thoughtful than others, but they're all up!  Thank you to everyone who showed interest and encouraged this project.  It was not easy, but I feel like I learned a lot.

I though I'd recap by mentioning a few reflections on the project:

*  The whole "31 days" concept is a really good challenge if you want to express or share something you're passionate about.  I definitely want to do another one and don't think I'll wait till next October.

*  The hardest part of each post was the "One Sentence Summary."  You will probably notice a lot of complex sentences, bending the rules of what can be included in one sentence... but I knew if I allowed myself to elaborate on the plot, the review would become 1) way too long and 2) probably give too much away.

*  While I did modify the structure a bit along the way, I realized a bit too late that I should have included a rating system (e.g. out of five stars).  I specifically chose books I liked well enough to recommend - reviewing books you don't like can be fun, but gets too easy and boring over time - but some of these are a good 3.5/5 while others are novels par excellence.  Interestingly, as I added my reviews to goodreads, more than once I adjusted my rating on there to reflect how I feel about the book in hindsight.

*  When I first started out, I composed a list of what I was going to review.  Any of the requests I got for authors or specific books happened to already be included in that list.  [You know me so well ;]  The only alteration that was made after drafting up the list was to sub out "Silas Marner" to include a poem, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. [If you're a big George Eliot fan, I'm sorry.  I just wasn't feeling up to her that day.]

*  By far, the most viewed review is Animal Farm, which kind of surprises me.

*  The funnest (and often easiest) part of each review was actually "One reason you maybe shouldn't read it."

I plan to continue more book reviews, and will likely use a similar structure, though I look forward on expanding certain parts of it.  I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit about each of these books.  Books are my love language and literally nothing compares to the feeling I get when people tell me they're reading a book I recommended or they're enjoying one of my favorites.  So, if you choose to pick up one of these, please do let me know and mention what you think of it.

Below I've compiled the final list with links to each review:
  1. The Fault in Our Stars
  2. The Princess Bride
  3. Pygmalion
  4. At the Back of the North Wind
  5. A Wrinkle in Time
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo
  7. A Study in Scarlet
  8. Northanger Abbey
  9. The Woman in White
  10. Much Ado about Nothing
  11. Animal Farm
  12. The Age of Innocence
  13. Six Characters in Search of an Author
  14. Oedipus Tyrannus
  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  16. Room
  17. History of Love
  18. Ender's Game
  19. Manalive
  20. Surprised by Oxford
  21. A Severe Mercy
  22. To the Lighthouse
  23. Heart of Darkness
  24. Hunchback of Notre-Dame
  25. The Scarlet Pimpernel
  26. A Tale of Two Cities
  27. The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
  28. To Kill a Mockingbird
  29. Wieland
  30. Phantom of the Opera
  31. Frankenstein

Happy reading!

Music Monday: Inside Llewyn Davis

So here's a treat for Monday.  NPR is streaming the soundtrack for "Inside Llewyn Davis" - the upcoming Cohen brothers film.  The movie focuses on fictional folk-singer Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, emerging in the Greenwich music scene in the 1960's.  Like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, this Cohen creation has a soundtrack produced by T Bone Burnett.  The album is a compilation of classic and new folk songs mostly performed by Oscar Isaac, but also featuring the talent of Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Carey Mulligan, Stark Sands, and a host of others.

The soundtrack as a whole is just delightful!  But here are a few stand outs:

"Fare thee well (Dink's Song) - Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford.  A few lines into this song, my eyes actually welled with tears.  It's just an intensely sweet song and this duet is fantastic - easily my favorite from the album.  Also, with the announcement of their break, this may be the last "new Mumford" we get for a while.  But seriously, these two should cover something or do a whole album together or something.  If for some reason, the streaming doesn't work for you, here's their cover on YouTube:

"The Last thing on My Mind" - Stark Sand.  Plain ol' lovely folk music

"Five Hundred Miles" - Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Stark Sand (all three staring in the film).  Lovely song - no, not The Proclaimers' "500 Miles."  This offers some lovely harmonies, the first song of JT's I've actually liked, and [oh my word!] Carey Mulligan's sweet voice!  "Mr. & Mrs. Mumford" need to be a thing at some point.

"The Auld Triangle" - Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake and Gabe Witcher.  A great folk a capella that includes Mumford and JT - I think they just checked every box in one song.

Farewell - "a previously unreleased recording" of Bob Dylan's "Farewell."  Love Bob Dylan; love this song!

Check out the soundtrack and let me know which were your favorites :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cumberbatch for the National Theatre

So... the National Theatre of Great Britain celebrated their landmark 50th Anniversary tonight, bringing over 100 performers together for a live evening comprised of some of their most famous productions.

Below is Benedict Cumberbatch Kobna Holdbrook-Smith performing a short scene from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard.  Enjoy!