Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All About Everything - Week of May 28, 2013

This Week's Topic: Mood Rings

mood ring is a ring which contains a thermochromic element, such as liquid crystal. The ring changes color in response to the body temperature of its wearer. The color is said, by some proponents, to indicate the emotional state of the wearer


So it is entirely possible that I watched the My Girl movies roughly 100 times during my youth. And because Vada Sultenfuss -- owner of an oft-black mood ring -- was my own personal hero, I bought myself a mood ring as a teenager, and another one (of a different shape) a few years later. 

My mood rings tend to rapidly cycle through the colors whenever I wear them, which may say something (unflattering?) about my innerworkings. However, I've never seen one turn black. Hmm. I should wear one to my next dentist appointment. The ring would probably turn black, then. And freaking explode.

In popular culture

Mood rings were a short-lived fad of the mid-1970s (like the pet rock) and were especially popular with young girls. In a 1976 Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty gets so angry at Charlie Brown that her mood ring explodes.

See? It can happen!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lego Projects: "The Burrow" (2012)

I was never happy with the official Lego version of The Burrow (aka the Weasleys' House) from Harry Potter. I just felt it was too small. Granted, the Weasleys are supposed to be poor, so they don't exactly live in a mansion, but there are nine of them, and it is said in the books that Percy, Ron, and Ginny all have their own bedrooms. Okay, right? So it should be fairly big. Or at least, bigger than... that. I'm not the only one who thought so, apparently, because a Google search of "Harry Potter", "lego", and "burrow" brings up many larger Burrows that people have designed (examples: herehere, and here.) 

But here's what I came up with....

Harry and Hermione are visiting. Harry, Ron, and Ginny are coming back from practicing/playing Quidditch...

Fred and George are practicing spells...

Mr. Weasley is home from work, and Mrs. Weasley is watering the garden using the aguamenti spell...

Hermione is reading. (Surprise!)

And Hedwig's just chillin', keeping an eye on things...

And finally, here we have a few of the Weasleys' animals...

This model went to BrickCon (Seattle) in 2012 (with a few differences, as you can see below.)

And now, I promise to try to avoid making any more Harry Potter-related posts until the convention next month!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Top 14: Harry Potter Actors Who Should Come To Portland

It's time once again to talk about...


In a little over a month, my hometown of Portland, Oregon, will be home to Leakycon, a 4-day-long Harry Potter convention. Currently, the guest list is a little... well... how do I say this without insulting anybody? It could be more impressive? That's it -- thank you.

As of this posting, three actors from the films are scheduled to be in attendance. They are:

*The girl who played Pansy Parkinson in Movies 6-8.
*The girl who played young Lily for a couple of minutes in Movie #8.
*The guy who played Seamus Finnigan, he of the eyebrow incinerations, beginning in Movie #1.

And while I would totally be happy to see any of those people, and would graciously welcome them to Oregon, I just have to say... I mean, ask....

Could we maybe get THESE people, too?

My Top 14: Harry Potter Actors Who Should Come To Portland

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

14. Miriam Margolyes
Professor Sprout

Miriam seems like an interesting lady, and I quite enjoyed watching her in A Little Princess (1986) when I was growing up. So yeah. I'd dig meeting her.

13. Luke Youngblood
(Lee Jordan)

Luke disappeared from the radar after the first two HP films, but popped (pun intended) up again as a recurring character on NBC's Community a half a dozen years later. He played Magnitude, who was cool enough on his own, but even cooler when you realized that he's actually... a wizard. Pop, pop!

12. Pam Ferris
Aunt Marge

I will go on record as saying I do not like Aunt Marge. I do, however, like Pam Ferris as an actress. She's great on Call The Midwife. And Mara Wilson, who worked alongside her on Matilda, recalls her as being one of the nicest people to work with. So even though she's been known to play some intimidating characters, I feel she'd be a treat to meet.

11. Emma Watson
Hermione Granger

Why not Rupert? Why not Daniel? Well, I'd be thrilled to meet Harry OR Ron, but personally, I'm a Hermione shipper myself. She's the smartest person in the whole dang school and everybody knows it. Emma managed to play her as adorable in the first couple films, awkward in the next few, and then kickass-and-lovely in the last few. You go, woman.

10. Sean Biggerstaff
Oliver Wood

Because he's freakin' cute!
(The Scottish accent doesn't hurt, either.)

9. Gary Oldman
Sirius Black

I may be She Of The Unpopular Opinion, but I didn't exactly understand Oldman being cast as Sirius Black. (I also wasn't completely on board with Alan Rickman as Snape, or Maggie Smith as McGonagall, because I pictured -- and still do -- all their characters as being 20 years younger than what we saw on screen.) But you know what? If they were GOING to go with the character(s) being older, who better than Gary Oldman? Right? He's so dang cool. Everything he touches becomes doubly cool. That being said, if he showed up at a HP convention I would probably bring him a Batman Begins poster to sign. ;)

8. Bonnie Wright
Ginny Weasley

I always thought Bonnie Wright had one of the best roles in the franchise. She got to be in every movie. In movie two, she got to have a dramatic scene with Harry Potter. Then we just barely saw her in the next two movies, before she began to appear more often in five and six. Which is to say that Bonnie got to be a lead character without having to put in even 1/5th as much time as Rupert or Daniel or Emma. Some people complain that Ginny wasn't that interesting in the movies -- in the books she's a pretty headstrong chick -- but hey, I liked her, and I'd love to meet Bonnie.

7. Warwick Davis
Professor Flitwick/Griphook/Etc.

Warwick Davis may have the most eclectic Potter experience out of... well, everybody. Over the course of the series, he played two different goblins and two different incarnations of Professor Flitwick (one older dude, then a younger one who directs the creepy choir). But forget HP for a minute, and take a look at this guy's resume.... Star Wars, the old BBC Narnia series, Willow... what the heck, even the more recent Narnia series. Good gracious, this guy's practically a film legend!

6. Tom Felton
Draco Malfoy

On screen, he got creepier-looking and more sinister with each passing year. But in real life? Total cutie who's funny in interviews. Most likely to have a successful post-Potter film career? Putting my money on this guy. Aaand maybe Emma Watson.

5. Alan Rickman
Severus Snape

Because it's Alan Rickman, hello. Sure, in the books, Snape's supposed to be a little bit younger, but... but... oh who cares, the fact that they got Alan for all the movies is just awesome. I would love to meet him and try to get him to say a line from... the... films... really... sloooowllllyyyy.... Then get him to do that line from Robin Hood where he orders his minions to cancel Christmas. AND THEN... that line from Die Hard where... okay, well, you get the idea.

4. Matthew Lewis
Neville Longbottom

Poor Neville. He spends the first handful of books being bullied, ridiculed, pitied, and ignored. But then something begins to change, and by book seven, he's a freaking warrior. In a similar evolution, Matthew Lewis started out the franchise as this cute little kid, then hit an awkward phase we weren't sure he would ever emerge from, and then, wait what? All of a sudden, he got... really, really attractive. And then he totally killed that stupid snake. F*** YEAH NEVILLE!, indeed.

3. Evanna Lynch 
Luna Lovegood

Evanna did something with Luna I think is incredible -- she turned a ditzy, brilliant, crazy, oft-annoying character into a ditzy, brilliant, crazy, not-annoying character. There are quite a few characters in the books who got on my nerves (Rita Skeeter, Dobby, Professor Lockhart), and they ended up being just as aggravating -- or worse -- on screen. Somehow Luna just managed to sparkle. If Evanna Lynch is anywhere near as cool as Luna, I want to be her BFF.

2. Jim Broadbent
Professor Slughorn

There are few actors in the HP series who I feel were so good in their role that no one else could have done it (except maybe Colin Firth... because I'm determined he can do anything. ANYTHING.) Evanna Lynch is one of them. Jim Broadbent is another. In 30 years, when they reboot the franchise, I will put extra scrutiny on the guy they get to play Slughorn. And he will still never compare. Jim Broadbent, man....  I love the way he portrayed his character. Kinda slimy but ultimately lovable. When I re-read the books I can totally imagine him in the role (even though JKR describes Slughorn as a rather portly man) whereas with a lot of other characters I struggle to see the actor when I read the books, preferring to picture my own "actor". Does that make one speck of sense?

1. Jason Isaacs
Lucius Malfoy

Okay, so Lucius Malfoy is a total slimeball, but somehow I can't help but kinda love him in the films. Jason Isaacs is totally underrated, and that needs to change. If HP's the only thing you've ever seen him in, I beg you to seek out his other work, because underneath that (admittedly luxurious) blonde wig is a man of kickass acting skills. Have you seen him as Captain Hook?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of May 14, 2013

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – 1884 (French: Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte - 1884) is one of Georges Seurat's most famous works, and is an example of pointillism.

Georges Seurat spent over two years painting A Sunday Afternoon, focusing meticulously on the landscape of the park. He reworked the original as well as completed numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches. He sat in the park, creating numerous sketches of the various figures in order to perfect their form. He concentrated on the issues of colour, light, and form. The painting is approximately 2 by 3 meters (7 by 10 feet) in size.

Motivated by study in optical and colour theory, Seurat contrasted miniature dots of colors that, through optical unification, form a single hue in the viewer's eye. He believed that this form of painting, called divisionism at the time but now known as pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brush strokes. The use of dots of almost uniform size came in the second year of his work on the painting, 1885-86. To make the experience of the painting even more vivid, he surrounded it with a frame of painted dots, which in turn he enclosed with a pure white, wooden frame, which is how the painting is exhibited today at the Art Institute of Chicago.

* * * * *

I like this painting because it makes me feel calm.

Although, without the accompanying soundtrack, something is lacking.

Also, I can't believe women actually used to wear those bustles. Look at that lady on the right. She could be hiding another human being back there and nobody would know. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Favorite TV Shows: May, 2013 Edition

(Last time I did this: May, 2012)

My Top 5 Shows That Are Currently Airing (Or Have Aired Within The Past 6 Months), Regardless Of Whether Or Not I'm Caught Up With All The Episodes...

1. Community
2. Call The Midwife
3. Jeopardy
4. Auction Kings
5. Antiques Roadshow

What The Above List Looked Like Last Year (May 2012)

1. Community
2. America's Next Top Model
3. Awake
4. Castle
5. Pan Am

Guilty Pleasures I Like To Watch On Cable When I'm Housesitting:

1. Auction Hunters
2. American Pickers
3. Little House On The Prairie
4. ...
5. Um, I actually haven't house-sat in a while....

Shows I've Been Watching Via Netflix Lately:

1. Merlin
2. Pan Am
3. Tiny Toon Adventures (like, one disc)
4. Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (Darn show breaks continuity with the films. ROAR.)
5. Um... it appears I've mainly been renting movies recently

Shows I Need To Catch Up On/Finish Watching:

1. Merlin
2. Raising Hope
3. Burn Notice
4. Robin Hood (seriously, I've never seen the last handful of episodes and it's been roughly 5 years since they aired)
5. Road To Avonlea (kind of hit a snag in season 6)

Shows I'd Like To Check Out:

1. The Tudors
2. Firefly
3. Don't know

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Women's Stuff

Recently I decided that I wanted to, and should, and by gum would read Little Women.

I had read Little Women -- or thought I had -- back in elementary school. I remember someone in my class trying to spoil it for me partway in by telling me that Beth dies. Prepared for the worst, I read on -- but, lo, Beth didn't die! She got ill, but she lived. My classmate was clearly a liar.

Then I saw the 1994 Winona Ryder movie, and... oh... yeah... Beth dies. Plus there's all this other unfamiliar stuff going on. Jo gets married? Meg has kids? Amy and Laurie... OH NO THEY DIDN'T.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that "Little Women" is actually two books, the original and its companion, or sequel, Good Wives. The latter is the one where Beth dies. And the two have been regularly paired, as one book, for over a century. However, when re-printing Little Women for young readers, often just the first volume is included.

In conclusion, I had not read BOTH volumes until recently.

Survey says?

Louisa May should've stopped at one.

Okay, okay, the second volume is interesting as a sequel; I mean, it's sort of... nice... to see what happens to the March sisters as they become, ugh, good wives. It's actually pretty depressing from a 21st-century standpoint to see what these ladies do with themselves in Volume 2. Except for Jo, of course, who's awesome. Unfortunately, the second volume gives us very few chapters about Jo. Instead we get a bunch of mush about Amy and Laurie, and how Amy wants to be wealthy and marry rich, but she loves Laurie despite his richness; and all this other jazz about how Laurie transfers his romantic affections from one sister to the other. Ew. We're also treated to The Life & Times of Meg And Her Husband, John Brooke, getting a look at their domestic trials, and being subjected to chapters about the misadventures of their precious, brilliant toddlers. 

Which is why... I think... this is one instance in which the movie adaptations kind of improve on the novel. 

In certain ways.

Let's talk about the movies. Actually, there have been many. But there are four that are widely available:

The 1933 Version

Starring: Katharine Hepburn as Jo

Katharine is great in the role of Jo, but the other sisters look like painted dolls. Overall I liked it, though.

Speaking of that version, a few years ago I ran across this printing of the novel:

Four famous girls... and Laurie, the boy two of them loved.

I don't know what's up with that tagline. It could be argued that ALL the March girls "loved" Laurie, as a brother and a friend. Only one of them ever did romantically, and that was Amy. And the girls certainly aren't "famous" in the novel.  They're famous to readers, yes... but otherwise.... Anyway, it made me laugh because it's just so weird.

Okay, so then we have....

The 1949 Version

(which is very similar in to the previous film, as if they were working off the same script)
Starring: June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien, Janet Leigh, and Elizabeth Taylor

I liked this one slightly more than the 1933 version, even though they were so similar. This one sort of improved on its predecessor. It's interesting to see how far the film industry had come in just 16 years as far as technological improvements were concerned. The 1949 version LOOKS better than the 1933 one, and the actresses don't look as creepy.

The 1978 TV Version

Starring: Susan Dey (The Partridge Family) as Jo, Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch) as Beth, Meredith Baxter (Family Ties) as Meg, and William Shatner (Star Trek) as Professor Bhaer

I didn't expect this version to be that good, considering the era -- other 1970's TV adaptations of classic books, such as BBC's Anne Of Avonlea and The Secret Garden, seem low-budget and look pretty mediocre today. But I actually enjoyed this one. Sure, there are some cheesy moments, and the movie, strangely, twists Laurie and his Grandfather's relationship into a rather dysfunctional one. But Susan Dey is great as Jo, and I have to give props to Eve Plumb for doing such a good job as Beth that I momentarily forgot she used to be Jan Brady.

However... all three of these versions suffered from one awkward problem: They employed only one actress to play Amy. Amy's supposed to be 12 when the whole thing starts, and by the time things begin to wind down -- pretty much when Jo and Friederich get together -- about ten years have passed. While some actresses could, perhaps, play 12 to 22 convincingly, Amy is an odd character who starts out whiny and bratty and horrid, and then evolves into an elegant, stylish lady. And anytime you get an actress who's outgrown her teens (in the case of the Amy-actresses of 1933 and 1978, who were in their 20's) playing a bratty pre-teen, it starts to feel like you're watching one of those Freaky Friday-type movies where the daughter is now in the mother's body. It's just hard to buy.

SO. When 1994's version of Little Women rolled around, they decided to hire TWO actresses to play Amy.

Who, I always thought, looked nothing alike.

 But in these pictures they kind of do. Except for the eyes, the lips, and the facial shape. 


The 1994 Version: 

Starring: Winona Ryder as Jo, Claire Danes as Beth, Trini Alvarado as Meg, and Kirsten Dunst AND Samantha Mathis as Amy.

And Susan Sarandon as Marmee.

And... and... HIM....


Laurie, you may be kind of obnoxious in the book(s), but on-screen, you're smokin' adorable.

Although let's get one thing straight: facial hair? BAD.

Sad fact: when I first saw 1994's Little Women, in the theater, I was not impressed. A few years later, I ended up renting the movie from Blockbuster. Then again. And again. And many more times until I finally just bought it. And now it's actually one of my favorite films.

And I will probably continue to watch it as often as I ever did.

The book, on the other hand...

Okay, so reasons why the book may be superior to any of the films:

*It's long. Lots of little vignettes and subplots going on. If you tried to make a faithful film adaption, we'd be talking about a 10-hour movie. If you're one of those people that likes to spend as much time as possible with a group of characters, the book should meet your needs.

*There's a lot of morality stuff which would probably bore modern moviegoers, but, when given out in small doses in the novel, are actually kind of inspiring. Until things start to get preachy. Then not so much.

*The language, especially in the first volume of the novel, is lively and often funny. While any of the films could replicate the words or dialogue, a film would be hard-pressed to capture most of it, and definitely couldn't get all of it (unless the film was 10 hours long; see above.)

*Every actress I've seen playing Jo has portrayed her in a slightly different way. I've seen tomboyish and hot-tempered, decorum-less and goofy, and loud, awkward and wild, and yet none of them quite capture ALL of who Jo is in the novel, though they certainly try.

*The dad, Mr. March, gets seen and mentioned a lot more in the book than in any of the films. In fact, in the 1994 version, after he returns from the battlefield you barely see or hear from him again. You almost forget he even exists, unless you're paying close attention and see that, oh yeah, he IS there in the background occasionally.

*If you're a huge fan of Amy or Meg, the book should be right up your alley. In the films, the focus sometimes swings toward Jo and she becomes the central character -- it certainly does in the 1994 version -- and the others' plots don't get as much attention. On the other hand, if you ARE, in fact, a huge fan of Amy or Meg... Seriously? SERIOUSLY? We need to talk.

So those are some of the things the book has going for it.

Would I read it again? Sure. But I may only re-read the first volume, if I do.

And I'll continue to love the films, of course.

Fun Little Women Novel Fact: The word "feminine" isn't found once in Volume 1.

Volume 2 uses the word "feminine" eight times. We have:

Feminine appreciation (chapter 24)

Feminine respect (chapter 34)

Feminine eyes (chapter 37)

Feminine ideas (chapter 38)

Feminine delusion (chapter 41)

Feminine interest and curiosity (chapter 43)

Feminine devotion (chapter 45)


Feminine fib (chapter 46)

That's a lot of femininity.