20 September 2011

Hearing from Lewis

     I love reading authors' letters. It really makes you feel like you know them, and plus, it's just interesting to see how much effort people put into communication back in the day-- you read these beautiful, long letters by these brilliant people who chose their words so carefully, and it kind of makes you regret the two word long Facebook message you just sent.
    I have a book of T.H. White's letters (which is really quite hilarious. He would invite over all the people in the town who didn't get along so that he could sit back and watch them fight rather than try to make conversation), a book of John Keats' letters to Fanny Brown (although I got it at a discount bookstore so it picks up on page 37. Oh well, it's still beautiful), and a book containing a few of Lewis Carroll's. I've also read some of Lewis' Letters to Children (which are so sweet). But what I just found--well, not just, about two months ago actually--is a huge, fat book of C.S. Lewis' letters, addressed to people like his brother and Dorothy Sayers. Anyway....
    All of this long introduction just to share one wonderful quote about writing from a letter Lewis wrote to a lady name Joan Lancaster on June 26, 1956:
"[Wordsworth's] Prelude (you're bound to read it about ten years hence. Don't try it  now, or you'll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer, you'll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across."

19 September 2011

Five Random Things

I don't actually have five things in mind as I'm starting this post. It is inspired by a friend who told me I should post more (actually though, now that I think about it, she didn't say I should post more, just pointed out that I didn't post very often. Maybe she thought that was a good thing...). So. I should post more, but I don't have interesting things to post about very often (or some could argue not at all). Which means this is either an exercise in superficiality, or accidentally interesting. Won't it be exciting to see which it is??? (Hint: No, it won't.)
*I have too much homework, but I love it all (except for US History at some points). Right now, my very very favorite is reading St. Augustine's City of God for Omnibus V...it's wonderful when you have to read a book for school and you end up loving it. It's interesting because he'll bring up points I've never thought of, and address points I'm pretty familiar with in such a way as to make me re-examine all of my assumptions about said topics. For example, in his discussion of free will vs. God's sovereignty, he explains that our wills are a part of God's sovereignty...but of course, he says it in a much clearer, better, and more thought-provoking way. Also, his discussion of creation as the origin of time is fascinating-- you'd think it's hard enough to comprehend God existing through all eternity, let alone God existing through all eternity, without time...but it makes sense, because there are no changes in God in eternity and so no need for time to measure anything until changeable creation is formed (but again, he says it much more better-er. It is a drawring of a key. sorry.)
*The Man in the Iron Mask is on Netflix now. Don't watch it. Seriously...because aside from all the unnecessary innapropriateness added, why would any rational human being change Dumas' story....ever? I would even understand adapting it for screen, but just...changing plotlines on a whime?? No sir. If The Man in the Iron Mask ends with only one musketeer dead, you're doing something wrong. Especially if Porthos isn't the one. And what is the rationale for changing Louise's name to Christine? So we could have the unnecessary confusion of another couple with the appellations Raoul and Christine? The movie also turned the character of d'Artagnan completely on its head (not literally, though that would have been far more visually interesting) by having his loyalty to the king outweigh his loyalty to his friends for the majority of the plot. In the book, he struggles between the two but is unswervingly loyal to his friends when push comes to shove. Also, Athos doesn't hate d'Artagnan in the book because the king doesn't command Raoul to go to war-- Raoul goes voluntarily. Also, Athos isn't as creepy in the book because he's not played by John Malkovich.
     Anyway, lots of words to say: Read the book. It's awesome.
*If The Man in the Iron Mask was a point against Netflix, it gains them back by adding the first (and alas, only) season of Running Wilde to its instant queue (and no, you don't want to know how long it just took me to figure out how to spell queue). The latest in Will Arnett's line of cancelled TV shows, it's hilarious and brilliant. But apparently, I am the only person in the world who thinks so. As Will Arnett tweeted upon the show's cancellation, though his version contained more expletives, "I guess America doesn't like jokes". It's really a tremendous show though (and manages to stay fairly appropriate for the most part, mostly due to the 12-year-old narrator). And the best character is the neighbor Fa'ad who gets his "Bs" confused with his "Vs". "Ohhhh... you meant Stebe's cavin!!!" This is FUNNY STUFF PEOPLE. LAUGH DARN IT.
*I watched the Emmys last night. What can I say, I was really tired so even though I should have been reading City of God (see first random article), I watched the Emmys instead. Not all of it, mind you. I think I picked it up at about the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series point. So I was on pins and needles all night wondering whether or not Steve Carell had won (even though I suppose I could have just looked it up. Hindsight is 20/20. Like I said, I was tired). Well, he hadn't....boo Emmys. Although due to it I've had "Hallelujah" stuck in my head all day, and even though that song loses 90% of its magic when sung by more than one person, and especially if it is sung by the group of persons who singing it last night, they retained 10% of magic by singing the Leonard Cohen version as opposed to the Jeff Buckley version with which I'm more familiar, so I hadn't heard a lot of the lyrics before. The additional verses were pretty beautiful, and I'm inspired to maybe listen to some non-Buckley versions
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
*And lastly...hmmmm... fifth random thing...Ohhh. Something artsy/klutzy. Veritas' Art Studio II started up a few weeks ago, greatly exciting me... looking at the syllabus and seeing things like "sculpture" and "book cover/illustration" is just an exciting experience. The first assignment was a self portrait, so I did what any rationally thinking person would do: placed a ridiculously heavy mirror on a skinny art easel (for portability, you know). Well as I'm sure you could predict, the mirror fell (hindsight is, once again, 20/20). I was just happy it didn't break because this mirror is, quite possibly, the coolest thing I own...I got it at a garage sale for $5, and it's made out of wood, and it's circular with a half moon on the side. Anyway, it didn't break but the little clasps that hold the mirror on the back did so there are only two left and actually, as I'm thinking about this, the mirror could fall again at any moment and now I'm kind of looking at it askance.
      That story was a lot more boring and less charmingly entertaining than I had predicted. Hmmm. Anyway. This has been fun, but I think five random things is too much and will lead to many TL,DNRs (Too Long, Did Not Read). Maybe three next time. Or something actually interesting to post about!!

06 September 2011

Superhero Appreciation 3: Iron Man, X-Men, and Marvel's Box Office Success

      Marvel has been doing exceptionally well at the box office lately. I mean...they've had their share of flops: 2008's The Incredible Hulk hulked away without great success, and while Fantastic Four did pretty well in 2004,  its 2007 sequel, Rise of the Silver Surfer, made significantly less. (An aside: how crazy would it be if the Fantastic Four showed up in The Avengers and Chris Evans had to play Captain America and Johnny Storm?). However, by and large they've managed to do far, far better than DC has in the theater (I say by and large because DC still has one major, major franchise going: the new Batman series. But other than that...I mean, movies like The Green Lantern and The Green Hornet, while monochromatic, weren't big box office or critical successes).
     Iron Man was. Which I think kind of surprised everyone, since before that, Iron Man wasn't too well known -- at least, his name wasn't ubiquitous, like Super-Man or Spider-Man. (Aside in which I give up a significant amount of geek cred: it's hard for me to remember that Iron Man is Marvel sometimes, since he doesn't meet my litmus test for Marvel characters which is: "Did I meet/see this character on Marvel Superhero Island at Islands of Adventure? If not, it's probably DC or some anime nonsense"). The point though, is that Iron-Man is Marvel, and his movie did amazingly, probably due in large part to Robert Downey Jr.'s hilarious yet endearing portrayal of Tony Stark (and I also happen to think Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts is one of the best Marvel women out there, far more likable than Mary Jane and more real than Sue Storm). Iron Man was current, humorous, and action-packed--a perfect summer movie.  The only thing it really lacked, in my opinion, was a completely convincing villain (Jeff Bridges is awesome, but the whole weird robots villain duel thing...not really workin' for me). Iron-Man 2 continued the trend of awesomeness, although now that I think of it, I have next to no memory of it. Did Nick Fury or at least Samuel L. Jackson show up and was there a giant donut involved at some point?? Please, somebody help me, I swear I didn't dream this...).
     The X-Men are another of the jewels in Marvel's box office crown. All the movies so far have made quite a bit of money, and while critics and people in general didn't really care for the sloppy third movie, X-Men: The Last Stand, it did better in the box office than any of the other X-Men movies (obviously, since they went on to make two prequels). Interestingly, X-Men: First Class, the most recent movie, was the weakest box office performer. Personally, I enjoy the sequels, but my true devotion is to the first X-Men and is manifested in watching the DVD over and over again. I haven't seen First Class yet, but it comes out on DVD this Friday so I suppose I'll see it at some point here.
    Marvel does character-based superhero movies like nobody else. Think about it: would Iron Man be at all entertaining if Tony Stark acted like Steve Rogers? Would Captain America be anything but cringe-inducing if Chris Rogers acted like Tony Stark? Hypothesis contrary to fact, I know, but the point still remains: these movies are awesome because they have great characters. They don't need to have great stories (although a lot of them-- dare I say even most of them--do). They let us get to know the characters and care about them. Not that they're the only company that does this, of course, every moviemaker tries to employ this strategy. But Marvel has such strong characters already in place that it is easy for them to bring those characters to immediate, believable life on the screen.
    So that's my brief analysis of Marvel and the Box office, one that I am sure does not even begin to scratch the surface of the true reasons these movies have done so well. You of course are welcome to conjecture in your own mind as to what the reason might be. It turns out it's fascinating to compare box office profits. For me of course, probably not you. Since you probably have a 'life' and all that boring stuff.