...you must put them on your blog. Apparently my fellow Bennington-ite Jonathan Mann has been making his way up the YouTube charts and even onto MSNBC. I've known for awhile that he's been writing a song a day, I'd just lost track of how awesome they are. Here's his paean to Jon Stewart. It's incredible. Check out his Battlestar Galactica song on Maryann's blog as well.
The Hero Factory is a super great way to spend time you should spend sleeping or doing homework. Here's your new procrastination activity: create your own superhero. They'll even name it for you and give you a comic book cover. Ian did his, and here's mine. They named me "The Talented Splintery Condor" but when I made some alterations, they changed the name to "The Superhuman Barky Angel." Here's a look at both. Mysterious isn't she? Bet you want to know what the stick is for.
Steven Bach passed away unexpectedly this weekend. Steven's life intersected key moments in the history of film and Hollywood, and he refelcted a lot of that in the books he wrote. But most of us remember Steven as an oddly shiny barnacle on the hull of our Bennington College education. With Steven I studied, film adaptation, Noir, and took Bennington's first ever American Musical Theatre class. Without him, I may never have had a reason to read The Postman Always Rings Twice, watch "Double Indemnity" or adapt Henry V into a parody musical. Basically, Steven Bach was a delight, an oddity, a treaure trove of stories, and a genuinely loveable chap. He leaves a void that will never be filled. Thanks for all the great storytelling, Steven.
(Fan friends- you might want to stop reading at this point)
Okay- this blog post probably needs a lot of background. In fact, I have so much to say on this topic, that I'm overwhelmed at trying to write any of it. Hence, some helpful video clips. What you need to know:
A) There is a book series referred to as The Twilight Saga, about a girl who gets involved with vampires (The Cullens)
B) Despite worldwide acknowledgment of its horrible wriitng, repressed eroticism and problematic (violent, oppresive) gender roles, these books and the film Twilight are hugely popular.
C) The first book takes place in the small town of Forks, WA
D) The author had never been to Forks when writing the book and the movie was not filmed in Forks
E) Forks is now a tourist extravenganza, equipped with tours, motel packages and Twilight-themed menu items at most eating establishments in town.
F) There is an entire store devoted to Twilight paraphanlia on the main street.
G) Lucy and I decided to go into this store while we were staying in Forks last weekend.
Okay people. If I could, I'd write a dissertation on the experince, but instead, here's some video (SORRY I HELD MY PHONE SIDEWAYS. JUST TURN YOUR HEAD AND REALLY CRANK UP THE VOLUME TOO-AGAIN, SORRY)
The Escape: Lucy and I fianlly leave the store. Note Lucy's facial expression as she comes into view. Also note how she runs out of the store to her car. And my sentence gets cut off... "the real world's out here and the...fake one's in there..." Not that I'm challenging fantasy as a legitimate expression of truth- but come on people, this stuff is unbeleivable.
The Evidence: This video does some merchandise documenting. It's pretty blurry, but it's worth it for the bumper sticker. If you can't read the first word, it says "Edward"- he's the main character- a superhero vampire who has some self-control issues.
That's a start for now. There's a lot more where this came from.
This was my 3rd reading of Charlotte Bronte's final novel. Between my 1st and 2nd reading, I also read her early novella "The Professor" which essentially works with the same material but wasn't published in her lifetime. The material is (I'll claim) from her own life- her early days as a teacher in a Belgian girl's school. Most biographies of Bronte stress how much she hated this period, with the one exception being that it appears she fell in love with a married professor at the school.
Thus, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to read "The Professor" and "Villette" as Bronte's fictionalizing of her own personal misfortune. In many ways, the two works remind me of Jane Austen's "Persuasion", with the author bringing her unhappy love story to happy conclusion.
But a few words on "Villette" in particular. I have to say, third time is not the charm. I thought it had only been 4 years since my last reading, but I could hardly recognize the book. I groaned and rolled my eyes at the increasingly slow wind up to denouement, with all the anti-French and anti-Catholic ravings along the way. I did care about Lucy Snowe, but I also knew what she was headed for, and frankly, it wasn't worth the 580 page journey to get there.
"Villette" is interesting however as an anti-Jane Eyre. Bronte (in the voice of Lucy Snowe) seems to continually subvert the readers' expectations of a Jane Eyre-type leading lady. Bronte almost delights in not letting Lucy be passionate, articulate or even very intelligent. Just as Jane Eyre challenged the assumption of heroines needing to be beautiful and wealthy, Lucy Snowe challenges the idea of heroine-ism at all. The story seems to be about fate, but a fate that appears kind to the privileged, and ruthless to the dejected.
Nonetheless, I still believe the last five pages of this book are one of the greatest achievements ever in English literature. So deeply personal, yet unrelentingly ambivalent. Sound like an oxymoron? It is, but its earned by the fact that Bronte is writing some 20 years after a lost love and needs to say something different than the simple happiness which closes "The Professor". "Villette" reminds you that sometimes a happy ending can be just as painful to write as a tragic one. And for that, I think I will always need to revisit "Villette."
To my delight, I was again asked movie advice by a professor who's working on co-teaching a class with a psychology professor on some aspect of food and theology. The email said "if you think of some good movie titles that would work around that topic, could you send them my way? I already thought of Babette’s Feast, and there is the one about the two brothers with an unsuccessful restaurant (title?)."
Here's the list I responded with. I'm hungry just thinking about these.
"The two brothers film is "Big Night" very excellent!
There's a Japanese film called "Eat Drink Man Woman" which was also remade in the US as "Tortilla Soup." Both have food as the backdrop for family stories about people living into fullness and desire instead of deprivation ie: learning to grieve as well as to celebrate. very lovely films.
"Like Water for Chocolate" is a magical realist story about revolutions and family dynamics- mostly food is the metaphor and medium for personal liberation within unfair constraint. it's a sexy movie- many people love the book and the film. it's in Spanish.
There's a documentary i've not yet seen called "How to Cook Your Life" about chef Edward Espe Brown, a Buddhist chef in San Francisco. might be some valuable stuff in there- just came out in 2007.
Some people like "Waitress" as a food movie, but I think you and I both had mixed reactions on that one.
"Chocolat" is about chocolate, but has been used in a lot of contexts about community, worship, etc. There's a lot of Lenten guides about it actually.
"Mostly Martha" is a German film that was recently remade as "No Reservations" with Catherine Zeta Jones. I saw the remake not the original- the original might be worth investigating. in this case, it's the chef who needs to learn about living life- her sister dies and she's left caring for her niece- which of course exposes the walls she's built up around herself. the US one was "okay" but the original might be excellent.
That's what comes to my mind moviewise. On a side note, my housemates and I have become ADDICTED to Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, which we watch on BBC America. Famous Chef Ramsey goes into American restaurants that are about to collapse financially or otherwise, and he discerns whether its relational issues, financial mismanagement, plain old bad cooking or lack of understanding their context (are they one of 40 italian restaurants on the block...)
This show is astounding- the human dynamics are terrifying and hilarious to watch, and have often brought us to tears as well. i've thought of mentioning the show to our psychology faculty as an outstanding resource for profiles of various personality disorders, family systems playing out, and with Chef Ramsey as an astute and unflinching counselor. He nails narcissists to the wall and builds up those who have been trod upon. And you learn a lot about what makes restaurants a place of life vs a place of death. a lot of these are available on DVD or free on the internet.
There's my 12 cents. what an exciting class to be working towards!!! thanks as always for letting me access my internal narrative database"
Incandescent and blazingly truthful, George MacDonald's 1895 fantasy on Life after life, is not just a book, its a portal. To what end that portal leads, however, I will leave the reader to discover for themself. As the author C.S. Lewis credits as having "baptized his imagination," MacDonald's influence on the creation of Narnia is not difficult to locate in Lillith. Likewise, I can only assume that J.M. Barrie, a fellow Scotsman, was influenced by MacDonald's writing as he formed his Never-land characters. Lona and the Little Ones are (possibly literally) the eschatological realization of Wendy and the Lost Boys.
Yet for all the evocation of environments and devices similar to those found in Alice and Wonderland and the Chronicles of Narnia, this book is not for children. It may be for the childlike, but essentially, it's an undaunted expedition into and out of the depths of cowardice and narcissism. In other words, this should be required reading in every seminary program. (Lucky for me, my seminary did assign it. Thanks Chelle)
Lillith takes some work to get through, but the language and imagery will sate a thirst you did not yet know you had.
If you thought the Wardrobe opened up a crazy world, try Mr. Vane's bookshelf...
Now that Ian and I are done with the conference and the seven months of research and writing (not including the work we'll do eventually to make it journal-submission ready), we're finally getting our paper out to people- hoping to generate dialogue beyond our half hour at the conference panel.
One of the paper presenters at the Religion panel did an investigation of the origins of religion as expressed in Sci Fi/Fantasy literature. She and I had a teeny bit of chat time while out to dinner with other Religion panelists (Ian and I accepted the invitation to head out with the religion folk, and for whatever reason, didn't end up socializing much with the Sci Fi bunch), and she mentioned work she's doing on representations of Christianity in Sci Fi. I asked if I could send her our paper, since that's totally what ours is about. I'm excited that Dr. Davis is excited about our work, and look forward to hearing more of her perspective.
If you want to join the conversation (ie: read our 35 page paper), let me know.
Also a highlight of that dinner was hanging out with Dr. Wes Bergen, the only person I've ever heard of to have published a book on Leviticus and popular/postmodern culture. Gotta love it!
...are some of my favorite people on the planet. Here's the fellow I spend about 8 hours a week with- a newspaper photographer caught him in the act of being himself this weekend. Dwight, I celebrate You! Also, please notice his license plate.
Here are the panels I attended Wed-Sat. Each panel had 2-5 paper presentations. You just role out of bed, take the elevator downstairs and go from panel to panel, and if you're lucky, grab a free soda between 12:30 and 2. Good lord it was amazing. Sci Fi/Fantasy: Heroism and Villainy in the Whedonverse
Children’s/Young Adult Literature & Culture: Across the Harry Potter Universe
Literature: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series
Sci Fi/Fantasy: “Feel Good Imperialism:” Gender, Race & Colonialism in Star Trek
Experimental Writing and Aesthetics: Extratextual: The Alchemy of Interdisciplinary Writings
***Sci Fi/Fantasy: Philosophy and Religion in the Whedonverse*** Us!
Religion: Crossing Boundaries: Film, TV, Literature
Classical Representation in Popular Culture: Greek and Roman History On Screen
Religion: Labeling the Other
Sci Fi/Fantasy: Metaphorical Mythology in the Whedonverse
Film Adaptation: A Novelist’s Perspective on Literature-to-Film Adaptations
Technical Communication: Twittering and Gaming: Building Communities
Authors, Journal Editors and Special Contributors Panel
Sci Fi/Fantasy: Double Feature: Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog
Shakespeare on Film and Television: King Lear and The Tempest