Monday, August 10, 2009

Well done, Hugo.

The Hugo award winners have been announced!! Which is pretty exciting. But what is perhaps even MORE exciting is that Girl Genius, Volume 8 won Best Graphic Story!

If you don't know about Girl Genius, you should. It's an online steam punk graphic novel, that is updated M,W,F--and it's brilliant. As a lover of all things steam punk, this is one of the best I've read, and now the Hugo awards agree with me!

The linkity-link above goes to the first comic (it goes into color after a short while), and I seriously recommend starting from the beginning and reading the whole thing through. It took me a couple days to get caught up, but it was worth it.

Congrats, Girl Genius!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

When I grow up, I want to be...

I have recently been enjoying the movie versions of Pride and Prejudice and Little Women, and they reminded me of a conversation I had with my roommate last year. We were chatting about Jane Austen novels, and how people relate to them, and she came out with what I thought was a pretty spot on assessment.

“Everyone thinks they’re Elizabeth Bennett, but they just aren’t.”

She’s right. We want to believe that we’re the pretty, smart, witty one, who loves to read and take long walks and in the end always finds her Darcy. We forgive Elizabeth her pride and vanity because we love her so much—we want to have as good a reason as she does to be proud. I stumbled upon Jane Austen rather late into my teenage years, so for me it was more Jo March who I always aspired to emulate, but it’s exactly the same.

So if we want to be the Lizzie’s and Jo’s of literature, but know in our hearts we can’t be…then who are we really? One of the many dreaded Facebook quizzes that’s been circulating is “Which Famous Character from Literature are you?”—I took it and got Jane Eyre. No offense, but if I know I’m not Jo, then I definitely know I’m not Jane. Another, which attempts to narrow this question, is “Which Shakespearean Character are you?” but I think that makes it even more difficult. Now I remember how much I would also love to be Beatrice from Much Ado, or Hermione from Winter’s Tale.

The horror of these questions is realizing in the end you’ve grown up to be Lydia, not Lizzie, or Helena, not Hermione. (Of course, the notion that you’ve grown up at all is itself horrifying.) Is there, perhaps, some middle ground? Some character that no one dreams of, but that in the end would be perfectly acceptable?

I wish I could think of one.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Little boxes, full of my stuff, little boxes made of ticky tack...

Today, we begin packing up our apartment so my parents can move very far away and I can trundle off back to college. So I will leave you for now with a short post, but containing something very long:


It's one of the longest words in the English language, and it means...pertaining to long words.

Have to love anything self-referential. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

I will learn thy thought

Today was the final day of my summer Internship of Bliss, in which I was surrounded by Shakespeare and cool people all day everyday. I will miss thee, Education department.

What use is an internship, however, if you don't pick up a few valuable life lessons? So here are the top 26 things I learned this summer, all thanks to the Bard himself.

1. If your stepmother tells you she is not evil…she probably is.
2. Avoid Italians.
3. If your boyfriend kills your cousin, he’s not worth it.
4. Don’t declare war on the Romans.
5. If you have to be killed, try to be killed several different ways at once. It’s the best way to go.
6. Alternatively, try being turned into a statue. It’s less painful, and you can always come back.
7. When writing a story, pirates are a handy plot devise.
8. So is Jupiter.
9. Many people actually like Cymbeline, including Virginia Woolf. But…she was crazy.
10. No one likes Coriolanus.
11. If you’re having trouble finding love, try narcotics.
12. Always flatter your father. He could banish you to France. And who wants to go to France?
13. If you find yourself attracted to someone of the same sex, they’re in disguise.
14. They could, however, be your sister in a mustache.
15. Never attempt to explain the plot of Pericles.
16. As soon as you marry a guy, he instantly becomes jealous and wants to kill you.
17. If someone gets paid to tell the future, you might want to listen to what they have to say.
18. If they’re just creepy and tell the future, however, ignore them. Creepy=wants you dead.
19. Don’t gamble. Ever.
20. Beatrice and Benedick have dated before. (WHAT?)
21. The Sonnets are only ever about love or growing old. The best ones cover both.
22. Your jolly fat friend is your only smart friend.
23. If it has “comedy” in the title, it’s not funny.
24. Believe it or not, there is a play called “King John.”
25. The guy who’s the biggest jerk to you is your one true love.
26. If an island is inhabited by spirits, enslave them. If it’s inhabited by Italians, run.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Fun with interwebs

This recently caught my eye and I think anyone who thinks themselves a Harry Potter fan should absolutely watch it:

A Very Potter Musical

It’s an entirely student made Potter Parody, and it is sheer brilliance. If you do nothing else, watch the first video. If you find it funny, and have some time on your hands, I’d recommend watching the rest as well—it gets EVEN BETTER. Voldemort tap dancing and Malfoy singing about his secret crush on Hermione were some of my favorite parts.

Also, the blogger Parabasis is having a Shakespeare Contest, involving some pretty hilarious renditions of classic lines. I'm working on my entry now, but what's a contest without some competition? :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Enchantress of Florence

Enchantress of Florence, by Rushdie, is very enchanting. So enchanting, in fact, that it seems to have blinded people into thinking it's good. (I won't give a synopsis, because if you need one there's hundreds out there, and I'll try not to give spoilers, but any details I do give away aren't huge and wouldn't affect the plot if you want to read it and haven't yet.)

Don't get me wrong--the prose is beautiful, and the story is sweeping in that wonderfully epic way. I adored all the historical detail and references, and I enjoyed many of the smaller moments, such as the painter who gets absorbed into a painting he so loves.

HOWEVER: I found this book to be incredibly sexist. Before I go into details, let me first say: I'm a history major, so I do understand that the time period was in many ways inherently sexist, and I also have no trouble believing that a Sultan and a fictional Machiavelli, among others, were themselves sexist.

This book is entitled the EnchantRESS of Florence, so I assume I can be forgiven for my presumptions that somewhere along the way we would meet a strong, powerful woman, or at least that a modern writer like Rushdie wouldn't stoop to the prejudices of the time.

Every woman in this book is either a whore or is treated as one. Reviewers have commented that the overwhelming sexuality of the book can be off-putting; it is that overwhelmingly sexual because there is not a single female character who is doing anything BUT have sex. The men fight wars, contemplate the meaning of life and power, travel, paint, hunt, read, write, and listen to stories, before getting back to their women who have sex.

If a woman's not having sex, she's contemplating sex, or venting her frustration about the fact that she's not having sex, or showing her jealousy that her husband really wants to have sex with other women more than her. In fact, most of the book seems to be about women who aren't good enough at having sex, and so the men have to go off and imagine other women (or find prostitutes) who are good at having sex.

And our Enchantress, for whom the book is named? Guess what her wonderful, magic powers are? She makes men want to have sex with her! This is called, in Rushdie's elegant prose, "falling in love," but in the end no one actually ever gets to know her, so how on earth can they be in love with her?

She's slightly different from the others, though, because she happens to also have sex with another woman. WOAH. Talk about empowering. I'm so glad all those feminists worked so hard for us to achieve equality, so that our literary sisters could have sex with not just men, but also women.

I read the entire book, because I felt I couldn't properly judge it otherwise, and I desperately hoped it would get better, but it doesn't. If you're the kind of person for whom this would be a bother, I definitely do not recommend this book. If, on the other hand, a narrative that degrades females at every opportunity sounds like your kind of thing, enjoy.

[Sigh. It seems all my posts lately have been of the ranting quality. Perhaps I'll write one soon in which I'm actually happy about a book. I do love reading, really I do!]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange?

Because I’m spending my summer in a city in which I know absolutely no one (long story) I decided that I should be productive somehow, and that productive streak ended me up in an internship at a rather important place for Shakespearean studies (cue jealousy).

Since I’ve now been there a grand total of 4 days, I naturally feel myself an expert in all things Shakespeare, and so I’ve decided now is the perfect time to display my brilliance with a balanced, well-constructed argument about the teaching of Shakespeare in high schools.


Don’t get me wrong--I can see the beauty in the lines, in the play of the light/dark imagery, and in the utterly romantic way in which everyone of note dies a horribly painful death. I get it. However, almost all of Shakespeare's plays have: d) all of the above. So why R&J specifically?

Ask this question to most, and the response you'll get is that it's a story about teenage love, so teenagers will connect with the characters. Ahem. I don't know about you, but while I do know an awful lot of teens in love, I don't know anyone who's killed themselves, or anyone else for that matter, over that love. In fact, I don't even know any teens who got married after only knowing their "love" for a total of 2 days.

If you want to teach a great Shakespeare play that you think teens will connect with, here's an idea: give MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING a whirl.

Let's see: we have a couple that's deeply in love, but then one suspects the other of cheating and things go sour, until the situation is clarified by a third party (who's probably drunk). We have another couple who fights madly, until their friends decide to set them up, when they realize they've actually been flirting the whole time--how convenient! We have brothers who can't get along, a huge party in the middle, and it all comes with jealousy, pain, reconciliation, and above all friendship. Oh, and a fake funeral. I don't know about you, but that sounds a hell of a lot like high school to me.

And to top it all off: it's freaking hilarious! Unlike Romeo and Juliet, who just keep moaning and groaning (because they're stuck in a tragedy), Much Ado is one of the best Shakespearean comedies.

Most high schools end up teaching Hamlet to their seniors--at least it's a theme I've detected. I certainly have no problems with Hamlet, but my fear with this trend is that the majority of students will graduate high school with their basic knowledge of Shakespeare focusing solely on the tragedies--maybe, if they branch out a bit, they'll do a history. That's it. I love the tragedies, but let's at least give the comedies and romances a chance! We don't want hundreds of people thinking all that ever happens in Shakespeare is a bunch of people get stabbed/poisoned/both, do we?

Sigh. Perhaps change will come slowly. Until then, I'll keep watching out for those teens who identify with homicidal/suicidal lovers. Because they scare me.

(Exits, pursued by a Bear.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bookstore Wanderings

I adore bookstores, fullstop. I have recently realized, however, that my love for used bookstores differs greatly from my love for the regular flavor.

At a regular bookstore you can walk in, ask if a certain book is available, browse the new releases, and lovingly finger hardcover books you can't afford. You can do all this while listening to jazz music and sipping your hipster coffee. You can instantly find that philosophy book you are really only going to flip through, and flip through it quietly while eying the cute guy over in "Poetry." (OK, so maybe that's only me. Or maybe I'm the only one who's going to admit it, at least.) The point is, at a regular bookstore, it's intellectual heaven. Even if what you end up walking out with is the latest teenage vampire romp (and that I'm *not* admitting to).

At a used bookstore, it's an entirely different experience. First of all, most used bookstores I've been in are musty. They're cramped, and oddly organized. They're at the mercy of whatever box of books has been dropped off, so their collections are inconsistent, nonsensical, and delightfully jarring. At a used bookstore I was in today, the entire collected works of Shakespeare were leaning against several books by William Shatner.

What makes these bookstores fun for me are not just the ridiculously low prices. I love the detective game that becomes shopping in them. You cannot go in looking for something in particular--I promise you that you will not find it. You have to search through the stacks, looking simply at your options, and often what you find is bizarre and wonderfully silly.

My adventure today unearthed a murder mystery about tea (Death by Darjeeling) and several fairy books from the 70s. Would I have found these in a regular bookstore?? Probably not. Mostly because most anyone with any sense wouldn't buy either. But for two dollars each, can you really resist?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Honey Honey, how you thrill me

I had a pretty wonderful day today, as it was full of reading and writing, and I even managed to take a quick trip to my favorite bookstore in the world, Kramers Books, and gaze longingly at novels I cannot afford and history books I really do not need.

BUT what made my day particularly special is another topic this blog is meant to encompass: TEA!

First, some background: I used to be the kind of person who always put milk and sugar in their tea. I don't know why, but it tasted particularly delicious to me that way. Unfortunately, I eventually moved to college, where I discovered that milk goes bad very, very quickly, and that sugar is kind of a wasted expense. The solution? Well, there wasn't one for a while. I simply started drinking all tea black.

Until one fateful day when I was introduced to wonders of wonders: honey. Specifically, honey in tea. Not only is this completely delectable, but it naturally sweetens the tea, and there's really no need for milk (though milk and honey is its own special thing). On top of all that, honey doesn't need to be refrigerated, which is just tons of points in its favor from the dorm room perspective.

I'm sure many people have been putting honey in their tea for hundreds of years, so this is nothing terribly exciting. However, I do believe that there is a bit of a science to honey in tea. In fact, I would argue, not all types of honey work in all types of tea, and furthermore not all types of tea taste good with any type of honey.

In my rather limited experience, I have decided that Earl Grey tea always tastes good with honey. Now I just have to experiment a bit, and figure out what doesn't work. As always, suggestions would always be welcome.

As for me, I'm off to make more tea. Perhaps I'll try some honey in de-caf variety?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Magical Creatures, and Where to Find Them

Whilst we continue to move in the direction of getting this site on its feet, I thought some might be interested in this piece of literary news:

The Mythopoeic Awards Nominees have just been announced! See the list here.

I'm particularly excited about reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Jason Marc Harris' Folklore and the Fantastic in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction. Though I am a huge Gaiman fan and a huge Victorian Studies nerd, so I suppose neither of those choices is surprising.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Every time I go on holiday, I get excited and want to be productive--and then when I get back to school all those ideas get pushed to the wayside. But not this time! I'm on a long summer vacation, and I will make this blog happen. Bear with us, as we're still under construction, but hopefully soon this will be bursting with fun posts about books, food, life, and other oddities we may happen to experience.

See you soon! :)