Friday, January 30, 2009

I Write this Sitting in the Kitchen Sink

This has got to be the best picspam ever. It took me an hour to enjoy the whole of it properly. Do yourself a favour and go see it.


CJ: 25 years ago, half of all 18 to 24 year-olds voted. Today it's 25%. 18 to 24 year-olds represent 33% of the population but only account for 7% of the voters. Think government isn't about you? How many of you have student loans to pay? How many have credit-card debt? How many want clean air and clean water and civil liberties? How many want jobs? How many want kids? How many want their kids to go to good schools and walk on safe streets? Decisions are made by those who show up! You gotta rock the vote!

I've heard some wonderful news a few days ago : one of my favourite TV shows, American Dreams, has had three flawless seasons and was cancelled in 2005 but only the first season has made it to DVD so far. We've been waiting for 4 years to get the two following seasons that aired but were never released on DVD. And recently, the powers that be decided to make it happen soon. I'm beyond thrilled, this has been the best news of 2009 for me so far. It's so frustrating having to wait to see the episodes properly. It was a quality drama that depicted the life of a Philadelphia-based family in the 1960s, each of its members experiencing the changes of that era. Looks like the timing's right for this highly anticipated release ! The DVD cover looks a bit cheesy and makes it sound like it's all pure fluff but trust me, it's a drama, it just so happens that American Bandstand is prominently featured and is practically a character unto itself. I love this show so very much. The storylines are genius and you feel for all the characters. It's got some amazing musical moments (the main character, Meg Pryor is a regular dancer on American Bandstand, and everyboy knows 60s music is the best) and there are several contemporary stars doing covers of famous songs - on the background civil rights, football, a great friendship and great love stories. It's got everything.

I watched the 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park and have to agree with the rest of the world : it's a rather entertaining movie but bears little ressemblance to the original source material. In fact, I liked it not because it's a faithful adaptation (the director didn't just use the novel but also Jane's letters and other writings, so Fanny has a lot of Jane in her (she writes) but because it's a pretty good commentary of the book. There's one much debated line in Mansfield Park that explains that Sir Thomas Bertram owns a plantation in Antigua and Fanny at some point asks about slavery. Rozema, the director, chose to show just how much Mansfield Park the estate was financed by slavery - the result is certainly food for thought and quite well-spotted. It's more an adaptation of the subtext of Mansfield Park, really.

There is a pretty good article in The Guardian entitled "Science fiction: the genre that dare not speak its name". It's about something we've always known I think : some books that are clearly science fiction are not labelled as such and manage to be classified "general fiction" or worse "literary fiction" or "literature" when they owe so much to the genre. Genre fiction has always had this problem. Up until last year, I didn't read "genre fiction" at all, I was solidly on the side of general fiction with its absence of labels. Or so I thought. One of my favourite writers was J.K. Rowling who so far has only written fantasy, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a solid work of fantasy as well. Angela Carter whom I discovered last year, has written fantasy (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories) and science fiction (The Passion of New Eve) which I loved, yet you won't find Angela Carter in the science fiction section of the bookshop. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials was one of my favourite reads last year and it's a grand work of fantasy. I don't like genres at all, they're not very useful. I started a long post about what my thoughts on the topic but it got out of hand and I'll probably never post it. I dropped any sort of tag system on my LibraryThing (except the decade or century of publication which means nothing for the likes of Georgette Heyer for example, who cares if she wrote in the 50s there's not one single thing pertaining to the 50s in her books) due to my frustration with labels.

It's completely unrelated but, as much as I know you've already seen it ten times, I can't help but post the cover to a new book coming out in April :

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy."

I think the creepiest thing is that I actually want to read it. Will keep you posted. The phrase "it's so bad it's good" comes to mind. No, really, it's horrible. Or fun. Oh please let it be fun.

In other news, I finished, a little too quickly, La Prisonnière, the fifth book in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu by Proust. Proust has always been a comfort read to me - his books read like a long poem and I for one don't understand his reputation. His writings are crystal clear and contain so much truth. La Prisonnière is no exception - I place it high up there with the first two volumes. I just love him, he makes me see the world in a whole new way, and makes me appreciative of all it has to offer.

I discovered an excellent singer recently, Cesária Évora, who is Cape Verdean. In fact the story's a bit complicated : when I watched The Sisterhood the Traveling Pants 2 (don't laugh - I watched it for Amber Tamblyn and it had a gorgeous score composed by Rachel Portman), one song that wasn't on the score really caught my attention. Problem was, it was so subtle and was so much part of the background (only a guitar could be heard, no lyrics or singer or anything) that it wasn't referenced on even one website. I watched this precise scene again yesterday, months after watching the movie for the first time, eyes closed, speakers pressed upon my ears, concentrating very hard to distinguish the tiniest sound of a voice or even better, lyrics. I didn't catch anything but the guitar definitely reminded me of the little Cesária Évora I knew so I hunted this particular song on her albums - really without any hope, out of the billion of songs it could be - and finally found it : it's called Tiempo y Silencio and is available on her "São Vicente di Longe" album. Of course, in the process, I ended up listening to all the albums I could find and she's a true gem. Her songs are deeply moving, even the ones you can dance to (and there are quite a lot of those), and her voice is unmistakable. Here's the album São Vicente di Longe :