Sunday, April 27, 2008

Take the Lantern

Thanks to Fandom Wank's post about old school text only computer games, I've been wasting the day playing Zork.

I'm Back!

I'm back from vacation in North Carolina; like many other folks from NJ, every time I visit I think, look at how cheap houses are! I should totally move here!

So, what did I miss? I have over 500 emails and over 3000 posts at bloglines. Wow. And, I also have to do laundry today.

Carlie's post on ARCs is a real conversation starter, especially as it picks up on something I read (somewhere? look at all those emails and posts, of course I'm confused!) about how while publishers and authors may look at reviewers, bloggers, and ARCs as part of the marketing of the book, we (reviewers, readers, and readers), no matter how much we love the authors, are in it for the book.

Just look at some of the language contained on ARCs (more on that in a future post, I promise!), which comes down to "you give us a negative review from an ARC and we'll sue you." Which is so not cool! Publishers, you create these ARCs to have pre-publication buzz and reviews. Which means that you have to take the risk that some will love it, some will hate it, some will get it, some won't. Just like with the final book.

OK, I'm back to reading why I will never go to a science fiction convention. And when authors and reviewers go into battle, and Amazon ends up looking bad.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: Iambic tetrameter and you

Because I love iambic tetrameter: Poem 126 by Emily Dickinson

The brain is wider than the sky,

For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include

With ease, and you beside.


The brain is deeper than the sea

For, hold them, blue to blue

The one the other will absorb

As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God

For, lift them, pound for pound,

And they will differ, if they do

As syllable, from sound.


--


I know when most people think of meter and poetry, the default setting is iambic pentameter, because that's what we study the most of in school. But twelve years of percussion study make me focus on the rhythm of poetry (sometimes to the detriment of not getting the poem itself because I'm so fascinated with the auditory quality) and I find iambic tetrameter far more interesting. Observe:
  • Nearly all of Emily Dickinson's poetry is in iambic tetrameter.
  • Although we don't much talk about poetry meter when we compose music, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The Yellow Rose of Texas" are also in iambic tetrameter.
  • The Sorting Hat songs in the Harry Potter series are in iambic tetrameter. That means you can sing all of them to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Want to impress people? Recite the entirety of the Sorting Hat song from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's much easier than it looks because everything is easier to memorize when set to music.
  • Iambic tetrameter fits the natural movement of our bodies. Try this: Walk as you say the poem above, with your right foot landing on the stressed syllable (this means you'll say the first syllable of the poem standing still; it's like a pickup note). As you read, if you don't stop walking on the silent syllable, you'll always land on your right foot at the end of the phrase. Now, this works with iambic pentameter, too, but what I find more interesting in tetrameter is that you'll walk in phrases of eight counts. You know what else is done in counts of eight? Dancing. (Well, not dances in 3/4 time, but you get the picture.)
  • Iambic tetrameter is easy to read in rhythm, especially the way Emily Dickinson employs it. Read the above poem aloud. Because most of Dickinson's poetry (and the Sorting Hat song) pauses on every eighth count, you have a natural place to take a breath. Taking that breath means you can keep up the reading pace.
And so ends today's lesson. Happy Friday!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There's a fine line between cute and scary...

...and this definitely crosses into scary.

The Stitch CD player, profiled at Shiny Shiny.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd be afraid to put my hand in that thing. It might do to me what Gollum did to Frodo...and I don't even have the One Ring.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sleeping Beauty


The Sleeping Beauty: Create Your Own Ballet by Viola Ann Seddon (illustrator) and Jean Mahoney (author). Copy supplied by publisher, Candlewick.

It's About:

Creating your own ballet for Sleeping Beauty.

The Good:

I was not a ballet kid. I was, however, a miniatures kid. Had a dollhouse. Had a book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that recreated four rooms from the museum, complete with furniture. Loved it.

So I eagerly opened up the box for Create Your Own Ballet, with its promises on the box: Changeable Scenery and Backdrops, Twirling Dancers, Full Story and Stage Directions, and Audio CD.

The box opens as a theatre would: open the doors, open the curtains, and there is the stage. On the bottom of the box is a compartment; open it, and there are the dancers (beautiful dancers, with a stick to manipulate the dancer.) And the backdrops. Along with the book. (Follow the publisher links for images).

The book is not just the stage directions to create your own play-it also includes a CD for music cues to move from scene to scene. There are additional details and information, such as the history of Tchaikovsky's ballet, information about staging the ballet with real people.

A great gift for little ballerinas. Or kids who like dollhouses and miniatures. Or future directors, who will be inspired by the mini stage.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Visitor For Bear


A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 2008. Copy supplied by publisher, Candlewick.

The Plot:
Bear is a loner. He even has a sign on his door: NO Visitors Allowed. So why does that annoying mouse keep stopping by?

The Good:
Bear is content being alone; But mouse is determined. Actually, mouse is borderline stalker.

"One morning, Bear heard a tap, tap, tapping on his front door.
When he opened his door, there was a mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed."

Bear throws him out but mouse will not be ignored. He keeps coming back.

Bear opens a cupboard to get a bowl and "there was the mouse! Small and gray and bright-eyed."

Love Bear's language: "Begone"; "I am undone." I think I have to start saying "I am undone" more.

How does it end? Does Bear end up opening himself up to the possibility of friendship? What do you think?

Oh, and for the record, I am totally a Bear, content for the most part by myself. But I so don't have a No Visitors Allowed sign!

The illustrations: love them! I love the details of Bear's house, with all the bee decorations. And Bear's apron. The shock on Bear's face, and Bear's body language, as the mouse keeps coming back.

Links:
Sample pages at publisher
A Patchwork of Books review
Kids Lit review
Fuse No. 8 Production (SLJ) review
MotherReader review
Plainfield Library Youth Blog Review
The Alphabet Garden review
Robin's Reading Room review
Laura Salas review (and insights into publishers, bookstores, and displays)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hey! I Know Her!

My friend Melissa, who blogs at Pop Goes the Library, has a Guest Post over at YPulse. It's all about spa services for young kids. Go, read, comment, say "hi" for me.

Another Blast From the Past

Look at this. Right after my retro look at pretend cop shops, Publishers Weekly gives us a look into The 1974 Macmillan Massacre. Real life people, the publishing industry, and discrimination in the workplace.

It's a fascinating article; actually, having read it, I hope Janet Schulman writes a book.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Starsky & Hutch

Starsky and Hutch old school (1975)



OK, so I'm cheating a wee bit by using the Season 2 opening credits. The music is different, it's now "&" instead of "and", but, like the credits of Season 1, there is a surprisingly large number of clips from the first two episodes.

The Plot:

Starsky and Hutch, two cops, fight crime.

The Good:

Gather round, children. Here is an example of old school TV; when there was no such thing as routine multiple episode story arcs.

I'm mocking with love; S&H holds up quite well. Sure, it's fun to mock the lack of cell phones, the typewriters, the clothes. Actually, the clothes aren't that bad, at least not during the first season. Starsky & Hutch's cool clothes, high waisted as the may be, aren't as "old" as the bad guys in their three piece suits. And a lot of the episodes still work, and the guys are still funny.

What this show brings is edge. I'm on episode five as I type this, and in over half the episodes, there is no final arrest because the bad guys are dead. It's nice, simple, if brutal -- shoot first. I have yet to hear any Miranda warnings. Sixth episode in is the first time the w-word (warrant) is mentioned. The shoot outs are clunky at times; but it seems more realistic than the stylized choreography that is part of many of today's gun fights.

It's also rough; I'm talking sweaty guys. Underarm stains. And the scruffiness of Hutch following his forced heroin bender --. Ah. Good times. Oh, another thing; a limited wardrobe budget! I love that I see the guys wearing the same clothes over and over.

Since it is 1975, we don't have the language, or the outright sex; but it's there, lurking, in Hutch's girlfriend who is obviously a call girl. And the boys stripping down to talk to a bad guy in a steam bath. (No, I'm not making that up.)

Another thing the show lacks is much character development. In a very old school way, each ep works as a stand alone. Actors today have much more material to work with. But, then, this is one of the cool things about shows like Starsky & Hutch -- the scripts didn't bring it, so it was up to the actors to build the characters and add depth to the characters. Here's the example of no character development; one week, Hutch is kidnapped and forcibly given heroin for some plot point. The next week, Starsky & Hutch are accused of being bad cops who are selling cocaine on the street. And no one mentions Hutch's drugfest and withdrawals from the week before.

Speaking of scripts; this is one of the shows were I've heard that scripts from other shows were used. I'd also heard that with other shows: Charlie's Angels using old Mod Squad scripts. Is this true? Or just urban legend?

Why was I staying up that late? Actually, I have no idea. I think I watched the later seasons while babysitting or in reruns.

Bonus Question: So, who was my TV boyfriend? Starsky or Hutch?

Edited: OK I think I caught all my horrible typos. And I forgot to mention the music! This is what TV was like before songs were used for scenes. Of course, it made the DVD easier to make, I imagine, unlike the nightmare that is WKRP. Or Thirtysomething.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Popular

I've been watching Popular, a TV show that is a bit hard to define. It lasted only two seasons, but what fun they were!




The Plot:

High School. Brooke McQueen is the popular crowd; Samantha McPherson is with the quirky crowd. They hate each other, their parents fall in love, drama and comedy ensue.

The Good:

While called 'popular,' by the second season the lines between Brooke's and Sam's crowds have blurred; together they are the popular crowd, with a bunch of oddball unpopular characters such as Emory Dick and April Tuna. A better one-word description of the show may be power; the power shifting between the characters, the power people have over each other. Nicole, as the mean girl/popular girl, is really looking for the power popularity can give her.

Ahem. But that makes it sound so, well, serious. This is a comedy/drama/satire, and when it works, it works. It takes on a whole range of issues, with both love and humor. The transgendered teacher first season? The mean girls turn out to be mean because they don't like her fashion choice and perform an emergency makeover.

The actors take their work seriously, even when it's over the top, such as the cheerleader Glamazons having a Prada allowance. Or Bobby Glass's finger getting eaten by a pet cat. Or Josh's mullet. Or Mary Cherry and her mother, Cherry Cherry, who marries ErikEstrada.

Plus: songs! A great all musical episode the first season, and some music bits include a Cabaret-tribute about STDs.

I know, it's hard to explain.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The book to keep you up at night: Wake


Yes, I have already reviewed this book for Teenreads.com, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do a short entry about it here: Wake by Lisa McMann.

The Plot: Janie can see into other people's dreams. She knows who's been to class naked and who's got a secret crush on whom. Problem is, she doesn't get a choice of when and where she visits dreams. If someone nearby falls asleep, she falls in. It wasn't so bad when she was younger, and she can deal at home as long as her alcoholic mother passes out behind her closed bedroom door. But now she's a junior in high school, and demanding homework schedules and early starts to their days mean a lot of people fall asleep in class. She's more or less learned to deal with it. No more sleepovers. No college roommate. But one night, she's driving down Waverly Street and falls into a nightmare so terrible she crashes her car. The nightmare belongs to Cabel Strumheller, reputed drug dealer and the object of Janie's crush. As Janie and Cabel grow closer she is determined to help him out of his nightmare...but how?

Why you'll love it: It's all about the sparse writing. Since this is McMann's first book I don't know if the quick, almost disjointed writing is her trademark or a style she adopted to evoke Janie's dreamworld, but whatever it is, it works. Most of the paragraphs are one sentence long. This serves to make the book move incredibly fast with a sense of otherworldliness. The details are wonderful and the reader really gets an idea of Janie, her friends, and her surroundings without drowning in description. There's a twist at the end that isn't completely unpredictable but is satisfying. This book is heavy on plot but the characters are still quite interesting and human. It's something you can finish in one sitting, and you'll be left wondering what other people dream about.

crossposted at carlie@bccls

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Printz: Nominations

Next up, nominating titles for the Printz, again taken from the YALSA site:

Nominations
Committee members may nominate an unlimited number of titles. However, each nomination must be made in writing on an official nomination form (available from the YALSA Office at YALSA@ala.org, and online from the YALSA website at www.ala.org/yalsa). Each nomination should include the following information: author, title, publisher, price, ISBN, and an annotation specifying those qualities that justify the title for consideration. Nominations from committee members need no second.

Field Nominations
Field nominations are encouraged. To be eligible, they must be submitted on the official nomination form. All field nominations must then be seconded by a committee member, and periodically the chair will send a list of field nominations to committee members for this purpose. If, within thirty days, no second is forthcoming, the title will be dropped from consideration. Only those titles that have been nominated (and seconded if field nominations) may be discussed at Midwinter and Annual Conference meetings. Furthermore, all nominated titles must be discussed. Publishers, authors, or editors may not nominate their own titles.

**********************************************
For your convenience, here is the link to the form to nominate titles.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Deadwood


Deadwood TV series, originally aired on HBO, available on DVD. 2004.

The Plot:

It's 1876 in Deadwood. Gold has been found in Dakota Territory. In addition to the people looking to make their fortune by finding gold, there are the people looking to make their fortune by taking that gold. Sometimes legally -- with stores, hotels, brothels. Sometimes illegally. Deadwood is outside the law; it's in a territory, not the United States, and its status is uncertain. Anything goes.

The Good:

Wow, wow, wow.

Did I say wow?

Yeah, I know, that's not a review.

The Deadwood of this TV series is brutal; coarse; dirty; rough. It's not pretty; the colors are brown, black, occasionally blood red. The series mixes real people (Wild Bill Hickok) with made up people (Alma Garrett); even when based on 'real', it tweaks facts, such as the family of Seth Bullock or the background of Al Swearengen.

I'm sure people have a field day pointing out what isn't true about the series; but it's a hell of a story. And often, with a TV show (or a movie) a different truth is required. For example, the language. Deadwood is not safe for work; and it's not something that is family friendly, with the swearing, the murders, the nudity, the feeding dead bodies to pigs, and the language.

The language: so maybe back then people didn't say m*****f***** or c*********. I don't know; I just saw that in the wikipedia article and elsewhere, that the real curses of the day would seem mild to our ears. So, to keep the real truth -- that the language was coarse and shocking -- language coarse and shocking to our ears was used.

Violence: it's a violent place and a violent time. As one character says to another, you don't come to Deadwood to get fairness; you come to make money. Even the "good" characters are violent.

Actually, the violence, the language, the prostitutes -- all were reasons I didn't want to watch when it originally aired. But then I heard so many people talking about it and how great it was.

And they were right; the language works. It's perfect. It's Shakespearean and grand.

The violence serves a point: to prevent the glorification of the past. To show just how high the stakes were. And to convey a truly different worldview; something historic fiction usually fails at miserably. These people, their choices, their actions -- including pulling a gun on a murderer, or beating a thief nearly to death -- reflect a world that is not ours.

And thru the dirt and the violence, there is sometimes grace and beauty, all the more so because of the hell that is Deadwood. The child saved from a massacre. A suffering man put out of his misery. A woman who dances for the first time. Oscar Wilde said, We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Deadwood is a gutter; but there are people who are struggling to find those stars.

One more thing; the characters. Brilliantly shaded; with so many shades of gray and complexity. Brothels and saloons, yes; but this is the real world, not a book where a poor boy makes good. Here a poor boy makes good the only way he knows how; selling drinks, selling whores, stealing, keeping one step ahead of someone else. And women, who are bought and sold by parents both as whores and as brides.

I loved this show, cannot wait to watch the next season. It's a truly grown up show; thoughtful, complex, gets better with repeat viewing. And so well crafted; not a word or gesture is wasted, the shots and editing are superb.

Final, final thoughts: I am so thankful I don't live back then.

Book Snobs

In skimming blog posts at my bloglines account, this line from a Blog of a Bookslut post jumped out at me: People feel anxious about the demise of reading, but those anxieties are groundless, and perhaps rooted in snobbery.

Oooh, snobbery! As you know from my posts here and here, oh, found another one, I love reading. And, as with anything a person loves, hopes other people love it; and wants other people to love it; and loves talking about books and discussing them and arguing about them.

But I've never been a fan of the concept that what one reads, or doesn't read, makes one a better person than someone else. So I had to follow that link, and found a delightful interview with Mikita Brottman at Nerve.com about her book, The Solitary Vice: Against Reading.

Despite the "against reading" subtitle, here is what Brottman thinks: Despite her own book's title, she doesn't believe people should stop reading. In fact, she says we're reading more than ever — websites, email, text messages, blogs — and that this type of reading is more valuable than an unhappy slog through The Iliad.

Brottman on the concept that reading for pleasure is bad, while reading a book you don't like is good: And whether we're getting too much pleasure out of reading, as though if we really enjoy it then we're not learning from it, that it should be a struggle, it should be difficult, and we should just plow on with something even if we're not particularly engaged in it.

I'm very intrigued by the book, and hope my local library has it.

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