Uhm… what?

I got an e-mail from a co-worker leaving the company. He wrote it in English, so I can share a part of it in all it’s glory with you:

In the last days I have heard many times that I am not substitutable. This view pleased me. But do not worry. Everybody is substitutable. Simply visit a cemetery. There are lying many people who have thought of themselves as being not substitutable. I am sure a substitute will soon be found.

 

While I kind of get where he’s coming from, it’s mostly just weird… But maybe it’s because of Halloween?

Penelope (2006)

Penelope, Penelope, why can’t more movies be like you?

Just so you know, I absolutely loved every frickin detail of this story. Starting with the plot, continuing with the characters, ending with set/production/costume design. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful message this movie sends, which actually makes sense.

Penelope is the daughter of a rich, aristocratic family. Unfortunately, she was cursed and is born with a pig nose. In an attempt to keep her safe until the nose is gone and the curse lifted, her parents lock her in at home and bring her one blue-blooded husband contender after the other, in the hopes that he’s Mr Right.

The setting is magical realism (tor has a great essay up on magical realism), the style reminded me of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium or Big Fish. And it really made me want more movies set in worlds like that. In literature, it’s pretty prevalent (think Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami among others), in movies, it’s not. Very sad.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Christina Ricci is a wonderful Penelope, sweet and naive, but also strong and powerful, filled with purpose and a sharp mind. Catherine O’Hara is the well-meaning mother of everybody’s nightmares. James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods and Russell Brand (who is everywhere nowadays) complete a perfect and very funny cast.

As I said before, I loved the design of the whole thing – Penelope’s clothes, her room, the city… it all fits the general mood of the movie and is just extremely pretty. And magic.

What it boils down to is that it’s a wonderful fairy tale that reminds you that the world is kind of enchanted. When you look at it closely.

And it’s actually a movie that got 10 out of 10 points on my list.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an amazing ride. I didn’t care much for the first movie and I didn’t read the comics, but give Guillermo del Toro a budget he can work with and I’m in. If only to watch the amazing creature design and set design.

And Hellboy was great in that department. It was generally much better than the first movie, in my opinion.

The plot has its holes and I was a bit miffed by the way Liz Sherman was handled [that girl can fight, why won’t you let her? And why wasn’t she allowed to touch Red apart from his hands and his face?]. But who cares, when I can watch huge stone men, wood gods and the Angel of Death? And of course, the Bouncy Elf of Doom [Seriously, was Nuada* made of rubber?].

I wouldn’t even have minded a whole movie animated like the prologue, that looked really, really cool.

It was a really funny movie (“fuck-yoused” is all I’m gonna say. No, let me add “Barry Manilow”) and I seriously loved the background details – the posters and billboards, the way the stone man turned around to look after them etc. etc.

Altogether, it was a feast for the eyes and made me even more excited for The Hobbit. If that’s possible.

*Speaking of Nuada, Deadra and me were equally impressed by Luke Goss‘ voice. An impression, which was completely destroyed after youtubing Bros. Either, his voice changed really, really late or he had some kind of voice distortion thingy.

Blindness – José Saramago

Blindness is perhaps the most famous of José Saramago‘s novels. The plot is quickly told: A whole city suddenly suffers from an epidemic blindness, which spreads quickly and is – contrary to the usual kind – all white. The first affected people are gathered into an old asylum, in the hope to quarantine the disease. Among those people is a doctor and his wife. The Doctor’s Wife doesn’t want to leave him, so she pretends to be blind. Quickly alliances are formed in the asylum as things spin more and more out of control.

The premise of the whole thing is interesting and fascinating. I’m a sucker for those “let’s lock people in a closed spaced together and watch the shit hit the fan” kind of stories. And Blindness does not disappoint. Unfortunately, the plot gets a bit lost along the way. It ends about 100 pages earlier than the book does.

But then again, the ending’s pretty cool and I’ll definitely read the sequel – Seeing – to see what’s going on with the characters.

The characters were really cool, although he could have one or two less main characters. But I liked Doctor’s Wife and Dark Glasses. [Before you ask – none of the characters had a name, they were refered to like that.]

Saramago’s style was pretty interesting and it needed time to get used to it. Not bad, but I don’t think the book would have lost much if he had cared to use the right punctuation, especially when people were talking. On the other hand, that was kind of like experiencing blindness – you couldn’t see who was talking, you had to guess from the context. [I know, this doesn’t really hold because you can still hear the different voices. Still…]

In this case, I was really glad that books don’t come with the aroma of the world they’re about… it made me gag just to read about it.

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the release of the movie adaptation about how the blind people are portrayed in the book. Which in my opinion is ridiculous. The book is not about blind people being crappy human beings. Of course, a blind person can find the way to the shower and knows how to use a bathroom. But not at first. At first, they will need help and guidance to find their way round. And in a society, where within a matter of days everybody is going blind and the before-epidemic-blindness-blind people get kind of swallowed up, no guidance is to be had. Add to that the deteriorating circumstances of a society, which is not made for blind people, supposed to be run by them and you have chaos. And that in this chaos the worst traits of human beings come out, is not because they are blind, but because of the general circumstances of “theft or death” etc.

Well.

I am looking forward to the movie, even though it got crappy reviews. But, honestly, watching Julianne Moore can make up for a lot of things. I’m just not sure it will come to the cinemas in Austria. In Germany, it’s out already, in Austria, I can’t even find info on a release date… *sigh*

Links

So, to make things easier for everybody involved, from now on, there’s going to be a bit of structure in the link posts…

Art

Wonderful sculptures by Liz McGrath.

Did you know Tennessee Williams painted?

Books

Facebook and Twitter for fictional characters. The author of this article should get over herself, I think it’s a cool idea.

Hilariously bad covers.

Thank Goodness! Another book-networking site, which looks really cool! I had about 10 non-internet minutes a day left in my life and now they are filled!

The first ever fantasy magazine, which exists solely as a podcast.

A list of Haunted Libraries (in the US).

Very short Halloween stories. And from last year (with Neil Gaiman).

A nice interview with Stephen King (who has a new short story collection coming out in November).

The Book Club Cook Book – recipes, which fit books.

Richard Dawkins goes a bit too far. Just a tad

Vampires and other demonic lovers.

Films

Chocolate sounds pretty interesting.

Soderbergh plans 3-D rock’n’roll Cleopatra musical. I love the headline, but I’m not sure about the concept…

A new movie, written by Irvine Welsh, about a Scottish rap duo, who had to pretend to be American to get a record deal (true story!). I can see myself laughing already.

About Watchmen (including Trailer). And here, a nice gallery.

Christopher Nolan about shooting or not shooting a sequel to the Dark Knight.

Trailer to Choke. [Have I told you how excited I am? I’m just reading the book and it’s hilarious. And Sam Rockwell is the perfect cast. There can never be enough Palahniuk books and movie adaptations…]

Here’s one I can’t wait to see: Colin Firth and Snoop Dogg riding their bikes round Amsterdam, getting stoned for a documentary called Super Smoke Me.

Politics

Icelanders are not terrorists. (BoingBoing’s headline had me in pieces: Icelanders don nonthreatening knitwear, insist they are not terrorists despite UK government’s claims.)

Stupid Halloween Display

Completely Different Things

John Hodgman on The Battle of the Stars ride.

Every Once in a While There Is a Tag…

So, didn’t you miss my semi regulary soul stripping in the form of tags/memes/questionnaires? I sure did. But don’t fret, for bApH tagged me… This here tag is of the “tell us something about yourself” variety – 6 quirks of mine are what is asked for.

Surprisingly, this is pretty hard… I shared so much of myself on this blog already, I don’t know if there’s anything you don’t know yet. Which is not sad at all, but a wonderful sign of my charming openess. Or something.

Right. Moving on…

  1. I get extremely uncomfortable, when I leave the house without a book. Even when I know I won’t have time to read. The furthest distance I can go without one is the way to the cigarette vending machine round the corner. But only, if I go right back home, where my bookshelf is waiting for me.
  2. I hate starting something after it’s already begun. If I haven’t seen the first episode of a TV show, I won’t watch it. If I haven’t read the first book in a series, I won’t read any of it. If a movie is on I wanted to watch and I’m five minutes late, I won’t watch it anymore (exception: if I’ve seen it already, it’s fine).
  3. I keep all ticket stubs from cinema visits and theatre visits etc. I stick them into my calendar, where they are preserved for eternity.
  4. Speaking of calendars, every year I get a different kind of calendar (1 page per day, 1 week per page, 1 week on two pages etc.). Then I cover every free space (like the cover and the unecessary pages with things you never look at anyway, like international codes and holidays in other countries) with pictures cut out from magazines (like movie stills or other stuff) and pictures I printed out (like webcomics). Then it’s ready for use. Of course, I have a pretty extensive colour code for the things I write in there. [Yeah, I know… I’m a freak…] I don’t leave the house without my calendar either (see 1.).
  5. One thing that could make me turn away from the European Union as a concept is that I miss getting stamps into my passport. Seriously, it’s a year and a half old now and I still haven’t got one…
  6. When I come home in the evening, the first thing I do, is get undressed. Usually, I spend my evenings (when I’m alone) in my underwear. I fear that one day I will share my mom’s quirk – when she’s tired she needs to get out of her clothes (she usually wears a night gown). She can’t even stand the rings on her fingers then.

So… I think that’s it. As most people in my blogosphere are either tagged already or haven’t been on their blogs for ages due to lacking working internet connections, I’ll leave this one up for grasps. Anyone, who wants to do this, please feel free to feel tagged and leave me a link/trackback so I can see what your quirks are (or answer in the comment section, if you don’t have blog/don’t want to put it on your blog).

Toys vs. Dolls – Unusual Wikipedia Monday (Tuesday Edition)

I’m really sorry, but after spending a weekend with deadra, I didn’t get to write this post yesterday (first, there was deadra, and then there were over 300 items in my reader which needed to be read and which made me forget time).

Anyway, you don’t have to miss your weekly dose of weird, that’s why I’m writing now. [Unfortunately, I’m a little pressed for time, therefore, this entry will be a shorter one.]

Okay, start now.

I guess, we all know the X-Men. I mean, even I do, although Marvel‘s not my cup of tea, usually (thank you, movie adaptations).

Well and one of the biggest themes, probably even a leitmotif of the whole series, is the acceptance of mutants into the society. That’s what they fight for; that someday mutants will be equal to humans. That their humanity will be recognised.

Well, cue Marvel to destroy what the X-Men fought for.

In the US, there’s the distinction between toys and dolls. Dolls represent human figures. Toys non-human. So, the Sigmund Freud Action Figure is a doll. We can argue about Barbie being human/a doll. Finding Nemo Figures are toys.

Now, the thing is, for toys, you have to pay less taxes than for dolls. That’s why Marvel thought it would be great to claim that the X-Men weren’t human after all. And they won.

Their explanations to the shocked fans?

“our heroes are living, breathing human beings— but humans who have extraordinary abilities … A decision that the X-Men figures indeed do have ‘nonhuman’ characteristics further proves our characters have special, out-of-this world powers.”

Well done, Marvel, well done…

Answering Questions Asked Through Google XIX

Two quick questions today, and none are related to movie celebrities!

“where can i find mike hirst lyrics”?

Try scribd. Try hirstmusic.com, where you can also get the music. For free. Gotta love the internet. And the creative commons approach to copyright. Yay!

“which is correct going-ons or goings-on”?

Goings-on.

When two words are hyphenated, the noun gets the plural s (passers-by). When neither of the words are nouns, just put the plural s in the end (go-betweens).

That’s the lesson for today! Class dismissed.

Lost in Austen

1girl. 1 miniseries. 1 evening. The result: I really, really, really loved Lost in Austen.

What I liked:

  • It’s funny, especially thanks to Jemima Rooper.
  • It definitely satisfied my girlie itch.
  • It’s true to Jane Austen‘s original, even if that sounds impossible.

What I didn’t like that much:

Yes, that’s it. That’s my only complaint. And I so, so hope that there’s going to be more. Travelling into other Austen books, probably. And then we could continue with other classics.

Until then, I might have to do another Austen session. Or three.

The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)

All of you, who read my blog at least semi-regularly, will know that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan. So, of course, I bought his new book The Graveyard Book right away. [If you want to know more details: I got the hardcover adult edition, illustrated by Dave McKean.]

The book is about Bod, short for Nobody, Owens. His parents are killed by the man Jack and he is adopted and raised by some ghosts on a graveyard near his home. Each chapter is one short story, which could more or less stand alone, describing one event in his life. They are all set at one, two years intervals.

I liked the book, and I basically gobbled it up.

The illustrations are wonderful, but I wouldn’t expect any less from Dave McKean.

It’s a sweet story, but the story alone wouldn’t be much, I’m afraid. What makes the book good are the details. The way Bod finds his way around the graveyard, using the headstone inscriptions. The headstone inscriptions themselves. Silas [I really, really loved that character and the way he’s described]. The Jacks.

Bod stays a bit intangible, which is probably what Gaiman was going for: Bod has a ghostlike quality to him, it’s not easy to grasp him as a character. While this is a great concept, it makes it really hard to get Bod, to understand him and feel with him, which are necessary prerequisites to wanting him to succeed and to fight for him and to love him.

And I think that’s the crux of the whole book – I realise it’s a great piece of writing, but I couldn’t find an entry point that made me love it. [Which, btw, is equally true of The Jungle Book for me, so I guess he was very successful in his homage.] I know that that’s a very personal perception, therefore, my recommendation still stands.

Personally, I wish, Gaiman would go back to writing novels for adults… I like his children’s books, no doubt about it. But what made me fall in love with his work are his novels for adults. And I would like to read something in that category again.