Two articles from Slate

Two intriguing articles from Slate discussing the curious economics of temptation and the N-word (Nazi).

Alain de Botton Interview in Bookslut

Bookslut published an interview with Alain de Botton. (Thanks for the link, Jess!) I particularly enjoy his comparison of graffiti to garden gnomes. Unlikely as the pairing may seem, I rather agree. He's wonderfully eloquent and I thoroughly suggest you read it -- and everything that Alain has ever written.
Do you still believe in the Stendhal quote, “Beauty is the promise of happiness”?

I think it’s a very handy way of getting to the core of something. When people go “Oh, that chair is beautiful,” or “That table is beautiful,” really what we are saying is, you imagine being happy around that chair. It’s a nicely psychological -- and in a way -- literary way of looking at the visual. It is making up little stories about it. I can imagine a happy little story. It’s what happens with people as well, when you see someone who looks attractive, very often you think, “This is someone I could be happy with.” You invent a short little story with what life could be like with that person. The same thing happens with visual objects: chairs, paintings, buildings…
*Sigh.* I can definitely think of a short little story with what life would be like.

Houghton Mifflin Sold

I was amused the title of this article more than anything: "Curious George Goes to Ireland." Boston's Houghton Mifflin Co. was sold (for the third time in four years) to Dublin-based HM Rivergroup PLC for $3.4 billion.

Stoppard Homework

I didn't say that I was posting on this for the last time, did I? The official NY Times review, you've read, but here's another from the Opinion pages. Bottom line: do your homework before you go to see Voyage and be prepared to do some afterwards, too.

It's his first time.

Iain Hollingshead has won the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award with a passage from his book, Twenty Something.
If you'd like to read some other passages that were nominated, visit the Guardian... but you'll be sorry if your boss sees what you're reading.

And here's Iain Hollingshead in the Telegraph, so see what he has to say about his win.
Until now, friends' concerns about my budding literary career have revolved around the possibility that I might, unfairly, be confused with the rather more successful Alan Hollinghurst, author of The Line of Beauty.
Since this surprise victory, I feel we're on a level playing field. And he can keep his Booker Prize.

What color is the underside of skin?

Today, I read a friend's away message that simply asked, "What color is the underside of skin?"
It was probably the creepiest question I'd hear all day and therefore I needed an explanation.
It turns out she wasn't consdiering a career as a serial killer, she simply discovered a poem that is able to ask this question in the most non-serial killer way possible. If you feel like reading a lovely poem today, visit the Academy of American Poets to read "A Green Crab's Shell" by Mark Doty. And thanks for introducing it to me, Emily.

The Little Black Dress

The Telegraph discusses the little black dress... and one very particular dress that Audrey Hepburn wore for Breakfast at Tiffany's.

NY Times Top 10

They created a list of 100 last week... now the NY Times narrows it down to the 10 best books of 2006.

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
The Collected Short Stories of Amy Hempel
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir
by Danielle Trussoni
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
The Places in Between by Rory Stewart


Bad Sex Shortlist

The word is out... and the Literary Review Bad Sex Shortlist has been published.

The Story of French

The history and precision of the French language is contrasted with the possibilities for its future in an English-dominated world in The Story of French, written by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow. For Francofiles, c'est une nécessité absolue.

And while we're on Frenchie things, here's the SF Chronicle discussing the newest book written by the author of French Women Don't Get Fat.

Costa Awards

The prize formerly known as the Whitbread has announced its nominees. Here's the Costa Book Awards website for the category breakdown, here's the Guardian with an emphasis on the new sponsorship, and here's the Times to discuss the fact that no female novelists were on the list.

Art Catalogues

Art catalogues... the large, expensive books that reproduce everything you've just seen in the exhibit... but they're usually so pretty and lovely. If you know there's space on your coffee table or that you'd end up purchasing every postcard possible anyway, then you can justify the expense... and rarely do I ever regret when I purchase an art catalogue, because they're usually beautiful works of art in and of themselves. Such is the opinion of others and that's why there's an awart for art exhibition catalogues (at least in Britain)... and the award went to Undercover Surrealism for a surrealist exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.
It was an unusual exhibition because it illustrated, with Surrealist works, the views of a French critic, Georges Bataille, who thought that Surrealism had not gone far enough. The Surrealists hoped through dream and unreason to reveal a better, higher order in human life.
The catalogue presented such things as Picasso’s bird like an evil black star, Jacques-André Boiffard’s close-up of a big toe like a one-eyed monster and Eli Lotar’s abattoir pictures with their lumps of flesh and skin.
John Eskenazi, the scholar and dealer in Asian art and a member of the jury, said that it was an exceptionally focused exhibition with stupendous research behind it, and that this was reflected in the catalogue.

Update on the Peace Talks in Colorado...

Fines have been dropped against the couple who hung a wreath fashioned to look like a peace sign after a rather impressive display in Colorado. Protesters stomped a giant peace sign in the snow and carried signs... and now there may even be a larger peace wreath on display in the center of town.


Careers & Money

Shocking breaking news! The lure of a paycheck affects career decisions! Gasp!

He's on the pill...

Scientists have been working on male contraceptives for years and despite news that a one has been announced, it will probably be years before it's on the market... and several more years before it catches on.
Is this the end of the condom? Unfortunately not. Apart from the risk of sexually transmitted diseases from a casual partner, the pill does not offer spur-of-the-moment temporary infertility on demand. It takes around five hours to take effect, which might take some of the spontaneity out of a one-night stand. And how many women are going to believe: "I took the male pill before leaving for the pub tonight"?

Funky Tut

King Tut might have died as a result of a badly fractured leg. In the 60s, the likely cause was believed to be a blow to the head but "precision scans of the king's left thigh revealed extensive details of a high-impact fracture above the left knee. The kneecap was badly twisted to the outside of the leg, and the wound was open to the outside world, where it was vulnerable to infection."


The NY Times review is in for Voyage, the first play in Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy.

Give Peace a Chance

In Colorado, a woman is facing a fine if she doesn't take down a Christmas wreath shaped to look like a peace sign. The Loma Linda homeowners association appears to be headed by a dreadful person named Bob Kearns that doesn't understand the difference between seasonal wishes for peace and an attack on our servicemen and women. The woman displaying the wreath refuses to take it down and at a rate of $25 a day, she could be fined about $1000 between now and Christmas.
Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members.
Merry Christmas, indeed.


The Guardian and a panel of British experts list the top 100 people who have done wonders for environmentalism. At the top of the list is Rachel Carson and number nine is Al Gore.


Secondhand Lions

I suppose my expectations hadn't been high or perhaps I wasn't aware of some of the cuter details of this picture, but I was simply delighted by it.
Introverted, unsmiling Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is left by his less-than-ideal mother (Kyra Sedgwick) with her uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) for the summer. It's rumored that the uncles, who disappeared for about forty years, earned/stole/found a fortune that they've hidden away, and Walter's mother not-so-subtly hints that if they liked him, they might leave it to him. The uncles, who spend their days shooting fish in the lake (literally, with guns) and shooting at traveling salesmen (again, literally, with guns), are less than thrilled with the idea of taking on their great-nephew, but naturally, they all come to enjoy each others' company. Garth (Caine) tells Walter all kinds of wild stories about Hub (Duvall), who kept Garth alive through many scrapes as they're kidnapped and enlisted into the French Foreign Legion... but Walter wants to hear about one particular story involving a young woman that Hub loved and lost. When the uncles buy a used lion that they intend to hunt and shoot, the lion that's delivered is too old for it to be sporting and Walter is allowed to keep it as a pet.
One big thing that they constantly return to is the idea of becoming a man. After teaching a lesson to some local teens, Hub gives them a speech about becoming a man, a speech that Walter wants his uncles to stick around and give to him someday. Unsurprisingly, the movie includes money-grubbing relatives, ridiculous flashback scenes, and a point when Walter must make a choice as to whether or not something has to be true for you to believe in it.
All in all, I found it to be adorable. Michael Caine fills his usual role as the narrator and Robert Duvall is the gruff uncle who has seen it all. Osment is potentially a bit old for this role, but he actually pulls it off, even if he's a bit weepy at times. It's over the top, but it knows that... and it wants you to know it, too... otherwise, you wouldn't be able to make your choice as to whether or not something has to be true for you to believe and find value in it.

No Need to Atone

Ian McEwan has been accused of plagarising part of his novel, Atonement, and McEwan is denying the charge. The story is in the Times but Ian McEwan responds in the Guardian.

Vatican Stance on Condoms

After years and years of banning condoms, the Vatican may be altering it's opinion on them as it concerns the spread of HIV and AIDS. This is the position that's being presented by Pope Benedict's health minister, though it has yet to become an official position. Thus, I doubt that Pope Benedict will be donating Oxfam condom kits in cardinals' names as Christmas present.

Archimedes Palimpsest

A thousand year-old text is giving us some interesting insight into ancient Greece. The Archimedes Palimpsest was sold by Christie's in 1998 for $2 million. Sure, another old book... but this story is particularly cool. The palimpsest is mostly composed of work by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, but it also features a pages written by other authors, including Hyperides, an Athenian orator and politician who lived during the fourth century B.C. This copy of the text was probably transcribed sometime in the 10th century onto parchment leaves into a codex. The palimpsest is believed to have been pieced together by Byzantine monks in the 12th or 13th century. The monks weren't interested in the Greek texts, though... they dismantled that 10th century codex, washed the parchment leaves, folded them, cut them, and made a Christian liturgical text. All was not lost, though. The erasure was incomplete and the original writing can be read using digital processing of ultraviolet, X-ray, and visible light.

Pretty cool, huh?

Read more on the Archimedes Palimpsest website, in the NY Times, or on Wikipedia.

BA, MA, PhD, MBA, and MRS...

Co-Worker: It's easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband over the age of 40.
Annie: That statistic is not true!
Becky: That's right, it's not true. But it feels true.
Well, if Sleepless in Seattle said it, then we must believe it. And God help a girl if she's educated. She might have an MBA, but what about her MRS? Rest easy, bluestockings... there might be hope, yet.
...for women born since 1960, there has been a revolutionary reversal of the historic pattern. As late as the 1980s, according to economist Elaina Rose, women with PhDs or the equivalent were less likely to marry than women with a high school degree. But the "marital penalty" for highly educated women has declined steadily since then, and by 2000 it had disappeared. Today, women with a college degree or higher are more likely to marry than women with less education and lower earnings potential.
The same is true for having children. Check out the article in the Washington Post.


We all know that Merlin built Stonehenge "not by force, but by art, brought and erected the giant's ring from Ireland." Okay, well, we don't know that, but apparently, those were the thoughts of a fifteenth century writer. A small sketch and reference to Stonehenge has turned up in the Scala Mundi (The History of the World), a Latin document written in 1440 and found in northern France. The sketch tries to depict how the monument was built and suggests that in 1440, the fourth trilithon was still standing at the time -- only three stand today.

Reading Da Vinci in Iran

This month, my book club's chosen item is Reading Lolita in Tehran, so I felt that I should definitely pass along this article: Azar Nafisi writes about Iran & censorship for the Guardian.

Philanthropic Christmas

In this time of giving, if you're looking to give something to those who are less fortunate, the Guardian came up with a list of alternative presents and worthy causes. There are all kinds of charities that would appreciate contributions at this time of year.
Consider Oxfam & their "Alpaca Package" -- just £20.
If you can't spare the cash, consider making a small adjustment to your online searches... use www.goodsearch.com and 50% of the procedes from advertisers goes to charitable causes. You can even pick which charity will receive the money from your search!

Can't get enough Bond?

Simon Winder has written a book entitled The Man Who Saved Britain. It's about Bond. James Bond.

Tom Stoppard

With all my posting about Coast of Utopia, one might be sick of him... except who could ever be sick of Tom Stoppard? The NY Times Magazine ran an article on Stoppard... I suggest you read it.

Will Write for Shoes

Oh chick lit. Bridget Jones was something but with an oversaturated market for stories that feature women looking for mister right, what's a girl to write about so she can pay for that shoe fetish? Well, Cathy Yardley wrote a book entitled Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick-lit Novel. I honestly didn't think that people needed instruction in this genre... Take a girl who has issues with her self-image and dating. Give her a quirky best friend and two romantic interests. Pick one guy to be the bastard that she almost ends up with and then tie the plot into a neat bow.
Well, if you don't want to buy a book that tells you how to write chick lit, simply consult the Scotsman -- their writer asked a bunch of chick lit authors (and one lad lit authors) for advice and passed it along. You're better off saving your money for those shoes anyway.

What makes a good book cover?

While you can now make your own book covers, thanks to Penguin, now the Times weighs in on what makes a good book cover.


DIY Book Covers

Have you ever looked at a book cover and thought that you could do better? Well, now you can try -- Penguin UK is going to publish books with blank covers in the hopes that readers will create their own and then add the covers to an online gallery. Visit Penguin's blog for more information and thanks for jadis for alerting me to this!

Kinky Boots

If you'd like a delightful little British film that happens to feature drag queens, then I recommend Kinky Boots . It's a cute, predictable film where the performance of ChiwetelEjiofor truly makes the entire movie work. You may remember him from such a hodge-podge of movies as Love, Actually, Serenity, The Inside Man, and others. This strikes me as his most unusual -- or at least the most remarkable from those that I've listed -- for he really gets to strut his stuff as Lola, a drag queen that provides the inspiration needed to save a factory (and town) from bankruptcy.

Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) has just escaped Northampton and his family's shoe factory for London... when his father dies and Charlie must return home. Upon his return, he finds that his father has kept everyone working, but has failed to sell many shoes and the business is practically bankrupt. While his fiancee seems bent on turning the factory into condos, Charlie is told off by a cute factory worker and inspired to do something. Fate lands him face-first in Lola's path and Charlie comes upon the idea of heels that can hold the weight of a man. While Charlie's first attempt is rubbish (Lola gasps, "Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy!"), Lola starts designing stilettos and we have a movie. (A movie based on a true story, I might add.) Naturally, there's the clash of a drag queen in a quiet, Midlands town -- there's arm wrestling and arguments but the only surprise would have been if things didn't turn out all right in the end (though Charlie adds a bit of amusement to the Milan runway show when it looks like he might be the only model). Ejiofor does some fun cabaret (including, you guessed it, "Whatever Lola Wants") and he's really quite good.

It's sweet and it's charming -- go slip on some Kinky Boots and form a new appreciation for stilettos.

Hip Cities

Moving away from Los Angeles (funny, that's just what I did), let's talk about other cities that would require some incentive to stick around in... the NY Times did an article on cities that are desperately seeking to attract young people for fear of the future workforce drying up.

Palm Trees

It's been talked about for ages, but as a person originally from Los Angeles, I feel I should acknowledge the issue.

They're probably getting rid of a lot of palm trees in Los Angeles.

Age, disease, money problems... these issues cause the downfall of many personalities and now it's the palm trees' turn. Yes yes yes, we're aware that most of the world equates palm trees with Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, and Los Angeles. But they're not indiginous to the area. They don't even really process much carbon monxide from the air... and that's kind of important in a car culture. They were brought in for show and to symbolize the easy life. Since they've become so iconically equated with LA, it looks like they did a good job.

Guardian Books of the Year

The NY Times has had its say... now the Guardian selects its choices for the top books of the year... didn't they do this in another article already? Oh well.


If you didn't read Patrick Süskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 21 years ago, you might think there's no real rush to read it now... but the movie comes out at the end of December, so get a move on. I include myself in that order, as I haven't read it either, but I'm definitely intrigued by a book that deals with one of the senses that is rather difficult to articulate.

Of course, I didn't really need Patrick Süskind to raise that issue, as I had a professor named Richard Stamelman at Williams and he's recently written a book, published by Rizzoli, about perfume, its history, and its representation in the media. It's called Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin - A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present. (Note that not only are the words "joy," "scandal," and "sin" evocative of heady emotions but they're all the names of perfumes...) It's a beautiful book and if perfume interests you, then I would highly recommend reading it. Stamelman has all kinds of delightful insights on the matter. What wasn't delightful (so much as it was jealousy-inducing) was being on the receiving end of his eloquent emails as he wrote to say that he'd just visited France to see a Chanel jasmine-picking field in the dewy morning. When I grow up, I, too, want to be a retired professor. I'd just have to skip that whole teaching bit in the middle.

Life Imitates Art (the word "Art" is used loosely here..)

We've all see Armageddon (whether we admit to it or not), and so the thought may have fleetingly passed through our minds... what if there was an asteroid hurtling towards the planet? Rest easy, good people of Earth... NASA scientists are trying to come up with a plan for just such an event and so far, it does not include Bruce Willis.

30 Days and Counting...

Not to make you panic or anything, but there are 30 days left until Christmas.


I beg your pardon?

Is rudeness ever a good thing? One professor seems to think so in this NY Times article.

The Christmas Bestseller...

The Times tries to figure out which book will be the runaway hit of this Christmas season. In Britain, oddball academics and yesteryear seem to be gaining a lead. When it comes to stocking-stuffers, apparently the books with odd trivia seem to do quite well as gifts.

The Foreigner's Home

The Louvre has invited Toni Morrison to lead a discussion about art and as her theme, she has chosen “The Foreigner’s Home,” which is "a multidisciplinary program focused on the pain — and rewards — of displacement, immigration and exile."

You Saucy Minx...

Comic books may seem like the territory of boys, but girls are moving in on the action and DC Comics will be helping that along. They will be publishing a new line of graphic novels called "Minx" aimed at teenage girls... and they're about more than simply finding a cute guy and/or shoes.

Harry Potter and the _____

Have you got a name for the final Harry Potter book? The Guardian is holding a contest to name it and the winner will get a signed bookplate from J.K. Rowling. Of course, you don't actually get to name the book -- the Guardian is only looking for creative suggestions.

More books to read!

The Guardian asked writers and critics to tell us what books they've been praising this year -- find out what books made their very short lists in this two-part article.


A spoonful of sugar? I think not.

Mary Poppins and W.B. Yeats might make an unlikely combination, but they're both linked to P. L. Travers. Ms. Travers was a devout Yeats fan (trekking to his home with an offering of red berry rowan tree branches) and the creator of Mary Poppins, but a rather different one than brought to cinematic fame by Julie Andrews. If you're rather a fan and would rather think of Ms. Poppins as whimsical and wonderful, introducing children and adults to an imaginative world where one need only fly a kite to right the world, then I suggest that you pop in the DVD or see the new Broadway play version... but don't read this article... or the original books that Ms. Travers wrote.

Pulping Pulp

Can you throw away old books?

Me neither.

College Leaders Blogging

Does your college dean have a blog? It's entirely possible these days.

Dealing with Blunders

Whether it's a minor office gaff or Nancy Pelosi backing the wrong horse, the NY Times Fashion & Style section tells you how to make a comeback after a setback.

Mapping the Coast of Utopia

Have you seen Coast of Utopia yet? Worried you'll be confused? Never fear, the NY Times to the rescue: mapping the Coast of Utopia.

How Will History Judge Us?

Slate discusses the grassroots movement surrounding awareness for Darfur.

Miscellaneous Movie News

It's Thanksgiving weekend and if your family is anything like mine, you will have watched the traditional Thanksgiving movie (Home for the Holidays) after stuffing yourselves with turkey and now one must ask... how what? Well, here are a few articles to direct you, along with two that will direct you to theaters if you can roll yourself to your car.

The NY Times & A.O. Scott let us know that most of Robert Altman's movies are available on DVD. Here's a list to help you add them to your Netflix queue.

The beautiful Rachel Weisz has a new movie: The Fountain. Director is the father of her baby, Darren Aronofsky, and Rachel stars opposite Hugh Jackman. The NY Times didn't seem to like it all that much and the article mentioned something about Rachel becoming a tree? That's a shame. Ah well. Here's an article from Canada.com, too, entitled "Of Weisz and Men."

Tony-award winner turned movie, The History Boys asks us "how to teach and interpret history." When I return to NYC after the holidays and I can once again seek out indie movie theaters, I'll definitely be going to see this.

Universal Home Video has released the first of its Screen Legend Collection: five films starring Rock Hudson. The collection is designed to draw attention to some big name stars' lesser known films. In this Rock Hudson collection, you will find Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, A Very Special Favor, The Golden Blade, The Last Sunset, and The Spiral Road. You'll also find sets for Bing Crosby (Waikiki Wedding, Double or Nothing, East Side of Heaven, If I Had My Way, and Here Come the Waves) and Cary Grant (Thirty Day Princess, Kiss and Make Up, Wings in the Dark, Big Brown Eyes, and Wedding Present). That should fill up the netflix queue, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate an American holiday, the Brits at the Guardian have devised a quiz on American literature. Enjoy it... and don't embarass yourself. No one else may see your score, but you'll always know that you couldn't remember when TS Perry put his finger on the problem with the idea of the great American novel. Don't beat yourself up about it... though oddly, that was one of the few that I got right.

100 Notables from the NY Times

The New York Times has published its list of 100 notable books reviewed since the 2005 holiday books issue. Did your favorites from this year make it?

An Inconvenient Truth

I love Al Gore. I've probably said it before, but I really do. I wasn't old enough to vote in the 2000 election (relax, I was too young by a year), but I volunteered and made phone calls and all that jazz. The day after the election, mom let me stay home from school so I could watch results come in... just in case any decision was made. I sobbed when Gore made his concession speech and I continue to think he'd be a great president. Of course, once you see An Inconvenient Truth, you understand why the election was stolen from him. It wasn't even necessarily the need to elect a Republican, it simply couldn't be Al Gore. The movie shows you how passionate he is about this issue and how much of his life he's devoted to raising awareness. As president, he would have done everything in his power to take on environmental issues and see that this country step into line with the rest of the world and start making a difference. He would have insisted that we stop thinking as one country and that we work with others on this global issue.

I saw the movie in theaters and Iwatched it again on DVD. The facts will astonish you. They'll also infuriate you because if people know these things, why aren't more people rising up to do something to slow all the damage we do to the planet? We only have one; we can't afford to waste it.

Visit www.climatecrisis.net.

Oh, and in the Guardian comment section, a call for writers to raise awareness for global warming.

Russian National Book Prize

Add another book prize to the list... this one is Russian and it claims to be the second largest after the Nobel. The first Bolshaya Kniga (translating to mean "Big Book") went to Dmitry Bykov for his biography on Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago.

Editorial Assistants...

A good editorial assistant is hard to find... though there are plenty out there who want the low-salary, long-hours job. Gawker's Unsolicited identifies the types of people who do not fall into the "good editorial assistant" category and should consider changing careers before it's too late.


Pope to Publish?

The Pope has written a book about the life of Jesus Christ. It's only the first volume, though he's publishing what he's got so far because (in his words), "I don't know how much time and how much strength will still be granted to me." While Pope Benedict is only 80 years old and is believed to be in good health, he has repeatedly made public references to being old.

Harry Potter... again

Dear me. Even more footage and a few brief words from Harry & the crew.

Casino Royale

Well, anyone who didn't think that Daniel Craig could pull off Bond will be eating those words right about now. No, he wasn't dark-haired and constantly polished, but I thought he was excellent (even in the scenes where he wasn't dishily walking out of water in his swimming trunks). It's a grittier Bond, one who gets blood on his crisp shirts -- he's darker and fit for a "grim" present (as the NY Times article pointed out) which could have been a tricky card to play seeing as this film shows us the origins of Bond. The dark qualities and cynicism (he says that married women are simpler and when he tells Eva Green she's not his type, he clarifies that it's because she's single) are equated with a certain rough-around-the-edges quality that shows he's learning the double-0 ropes as M is furious with him in practically every scene. In Casino Royale, you will not find the suave and sleek Bond that we know so well, but rather, it's "the Bond who bleeds," a Bond who gets hurt physically and emotionally. A Bond that must have turned to a certain amount of stone after this and then becomes the debonair 007 that is never too ruffled to care if his martinis are shaken or stirred.
My big criticism is that there wasn't the same amount of bantering humor as in other Bond films (that was something Pierce did well), but the interplay between Craig and Eva Green was rather good so I let it slide. Eva Green is not supposed to be a token Bond girl (the scene where she's supposed to be breath-taking saw her in a rather horrid dress, I think) and I think she succeeds in placing herself apart from the rest. (It didn't hurt that I was somewhat inclined towards her character because her name was Vesper, a name that has been on my baby name list since I read Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly books as a child.)
This is not to say that I think Craig is the best Bond, but I certainly think he gave all the nay-sayers something to bite their tongues over.


Robert Altman

Director Robert Altman passed away yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 81 years old.

Altman's work spans from MASH to Gosford Park. His latest film, A Prairie Home Companion, was released in June and just came out on DVD. He was nominated for eight Oscars (five for directing) and received an honorary Oscar at the 2006 Academy Awards for Lifetime Achievement.


Claire Tomalin

The Guardian discusses Claire Tomalin and biographies.

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix movie...

The trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix is available...

Not that I'm counting down the days or anything...


Realist Fiction

A selection from George Saunders in the Guardian:

Duke and StudAss were moved by this explanation. "George, wow," Duke said, "all this time we thought realism required maintaining a modicum of verisimilitude."

"But what you're suggesting," said StudAss, "is that the mimesis achieved is only a simulacrum, which creates a diversion, so the 'central metaphor' can more effectively do its imagistic work."

Just their type...

The Times writes on literary gossip and our interest in the lives of writers.

Speaking of penguins...

...did you notice that dancing penguins trumped Bond at the box office this weekend? Happy Feet opened with a few million more than Casino Royale.

A Flap Over Gay Penguins

If you're a New Yorker, chances are, you heard about the gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo a few years ago. Roy & Silo were in love and after an unsuccessful attempt to hatch a rock, the zoo keepers brought them a fertilized egg that they cared for and then raised (the baby penguin was named Tango... because it takes two to make a tango...). These penguins didn't get as much press as March of the Penguins or anything, but Roy & Silo's story became a children's book (And Tango Makes Three). Naturally, there are some people in the midwest who have become upset by this book and are trying to place it in restricted parts of school libraries. It isn't enough for conservatives that Roy & Silo split (and Silo paired up with female penguin, Scrappy), but now they insist on censoring a gay penguin love story. Come on folks... you were fine with the penguin sex in March of the Penguins but you're upset that two male penguins raised a chick? Aren't there bigger issues to tackle?

Flannel Pajamas

How unfortunate. I had been looking forward to this film and despite my deep desire to like it, I didn't enjoy myself much at all. Flannel Pajamas tells a seemingly simple story... Stuart (Justin Kirk) and Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) meet on a blind date, they fall in love, they marry, they fight, they part ways. The movie is based on writer/director Jeff Lipsky's marriage that dissolved... and it's so obvious that it would be laughable if you didn't come to this realization and then have another hour and a half left of the movie to sit through. The NY Times titled the article on Lipsky "Scenes From a Marriage Not Entirely Unlike His Own." The allusion to Bergman probably thrilled Lipsky as Bergman is his obvious idol... while I don't like Bergman, I feel as though Bergman offers truths that are deeper more interesting than this. The whole movie is incredibly skewed in Stuart's favor. He does everything he is ever asked to do and then some. A lot of the big gestures he makes have to do with money and before you say "Aha! Well, clearly he uses money to make things better," that is true to a certain extent but it isn't the whole problem. (Though that being said, I think his approach to money is fairly valid. You can always make more money, the only thing that you can't get more of is time. He likes to be with the people he loves and he likes to do things for them.) He pays off Nicole's student loans, he gets them an apartment together when she is embarrassed about her own, he gives her the money to start a catering company. He's incredibly loyal; he's excellent at his job. He has faults, though this Manhattanite doesn't see them as being equal to her gaping flaws. He is incredibly self-assured (obviously cloaking insecurity) and money is something he has. He tries to make some things simpler than they are (to apologize or say it will be okay is his instinctive reaction), but the more one learns about Nicole, the more one realizes that she's pretty screwed up and that isn't really fixable in the ways he thinks it might be. Supposedly he doesn't listen enough to people or ask questions about their lives... you're given some sense of this as it's implied by his job (he creates fake backstories and buzz for actors and Broadway shows), but mostly he is told this by Nicole. (Nicole who, incidentally, doesn't really listen to the tone behind Stuart's words or chooses not to as it suits her.) His main fault, that he recognizes, is that he's jealous about Nicole with regards to her family. She comes from a large family in Montana with a large amount of problems. Alcoholism, abuse, Alzheimer's, prejudice, promiscuity, and so on. Nicole adores her family, she's always on the phone with them, she tells them things before she tells Stuart and she listens to their advice on everything. He insists that he wants to protect her, but part of that means that he wants to protect her from her family, who she would never see as bad in any way.
If you can't see this train wreck waiting to happen, then I don't know how to help you. You can't suggest that religion drives them apart, but the way they approach life is a definite product of how they were raised. The whole film a good lesson in what passive aggressive behavior can lead to in a relationship, but it's also hard to garner anything that I consider worthwhile from it because Nicole is painted in such a poor light. She doesn't seem terribly interesting, though her interest in learning about others is lovely. She wants children right away and refuses to go on the pill, even after agreeing with Stuart that they will wait two years. She doesn't seem to understand Stuart's genuine concerns about having a steady income and providing for a child. She's incredibly moody and critical. Her Christianity rises up towards the end of the movie as she prays aloud; in a conversation with her sister above God and their abusive father, Nicole says that God took care of them when their mother couldn't. Her sister corrects Nicole: when their mother didn't.

You get my point. The performances were good, it's simply the story's off-kilter perspective that I dislike. You're automatically put on Stuart's side and the ultimate taste left in your mouth is that you can do everything right and it isn't enough... poor you. The problem is that Stuart isn't equally matched. He's chosen to protect someone that isn't making him her worth the way he focuses on her. If Nicole was someone that had more audience sympathy, then this movie would have something going for it about the difficulties of relationships... this is simply self indulgent.

World's Youngest Author

Six-year-old Christopher Beale, who lives in Switzerland, now holds the record for being the world's youngest author. He finished his five-chapter book, This and Last Season's Excursions, when he was six years and 118 days old... beating the previous record-holder by 42 days. The kid has his own aptly named website entitled "A Portrait of the Artist as a Very Young Man."
I hear news like this and I feel like I need to get my act together and do something with my life before it's too late...


Rules of the Game

In 1939, a French film named La Règle du jeu sparked such a violent reaction from the audience that one viewer lit a newspaper and tried to burn down the theater in the middle of the show. It was received so poorly and labeled to be such a controvertial film that the director, Jean Renoir, recut the film several times. It was banned during WWII (first by the French, then by the Nazis) and Allied plans accidentally destroyed the original negatives. It was a lost picture until 1956 when followers of Renior were able to reconstruct the original version with the director's guidance (losing only one minor scene according to Renior).
That is the version you can now rent and I recommend that you do so.

Intrigue, deception, sex, murder, manor homes... it's not Gosford Park, it's The Rules of the Game. It may seem tame by today's standards, but we shrug off most everything these days. This French comedy makes you understand how country home farces became so popular -- this one was so entertaining on so many levels.


No resemblance to persons living or dead? Think again.

Stranger Than Fiction featured an author who was unknowingly writing about a real person. While Emma Thompson's work seemed connected to Will Ferrell's life. But what happens when you're not in that movie and you write a book, thinking that the characters are fictional and have no intentional resemblance to persons living or dead... and guess what? Someone does have your character's name and they're real enough to sue you for libel.

Secret Postcard Exhibition

In Britain, the Royal College of Art will be mounting its annual Secret Art exhibition of postcards. The exhibit is in its 13th year. Art students, former art students, or famous persons contribute postcards to the exhibit for an ecclectic collection. After seven days of viewing, the postcards are on sale from November 25th through 26th to the public; each card costs £35.

Can't make it to Kensington to see the postcards? Visit the RCA's website.

Warhol Record

The art auction records continue to fall as new heights are reached. The latest goes to Warhol -- his portrait of Mao Zedong sold for $17.4 million, a personal record for the artist.

Other Warhol pieces up for auction at Christie's this time around included Orange Marilyn ($16.2 million) and Sixteen Jackies ($15.5 million). The previous record for the most expensive Warhold painting ever sold was 1998's Sotheby's sale of another Orange Marilyn for $17.3 million.

And speaking of Mao, the Nepalese independent Human Rights Comission is reporting that Maoists are still recuiting/abducting children to be trained as soldiers.

Iranian Censorship

A new regime of censorship has been established in Iran as many best-selling books are blacklisted. Among them, you'll find Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Da Vinci Code, and As I Lay Dying. Supposedly, much of the censorship is enforced with the idea of protecting the minds of Iranian youth that would otherwise be poisoned with the ideas these books suggest.

Two's a Crowd

In New York City, personal space is expensive. The NY Times discusses personal space and why we get irritated when people infringe on it.

Ségolène Royal

In French politics, Ségolène Royal won the Socialist party nomination, which means she's pretty darn close to becoming the first female president of France. The 2007 election is in April and Royal is seen as the best hope for defeating Nikolas Sarkozy, the right's forerunner. If you aren't into French politics, that's fine, but take a look at Ségolène Royal... she's pretty interesting. There was this big to-do about her being photographed in a bikini while vacationing with her family -- people thought it was indecent to show pictures of a political leader like that, but it also made her appear youthful and vibrant in comparison to all the other male politicians. The NY Times writes:
Ms. Royal’s victory followed months of mudslinging and maneuvering in a campaign that pitted her against the party’s older, more established — and male — “elephants,” whom she had dared to challenge.
Campaigning on a platform of “rupture” with the status quo, she has also capitalized on her femininity while accusing her competitors of chauvinism.
"Gazelles," she said last May, "run faster than elephants."
Responding to voters’ disillusionment with traditional elitist politics, she is promising more power to the people, giving local governments more authority, subsidizing small businesses, creating affordable housing and encouraging citizens to submit their ideas online, for example.
Her civil partner is François Hollande, the French Socialist Party leader, and they have four children together.

Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst is incapable of being much of anything aside from Kirsten Dunst. That being said, I actually enjoyed Marie Antoinette much more than I expected to and Dunst is the crux on which the whole movie hinges. She was a rather good choice for Sofia Coppola's vision of a teenager thrown into the extravagent and absurd world of Versailles. The movie opens with the song "Natural's Not In It" by the Gang of Four and its first lines are "The problem of leisure / What to do for pleasure." Dunst's soulful stare and bubbly laugh carry us through a story where finding pleasure is the chief concern... and somehow one feels a great amount of sympathy for this girl that would be queen. She's stripped of her clothing and pug as she enters a treacherous world where she is all alone. Her shy boy-husband would rather hunt and play with locks than perform his "duty" and save her from courtly embarassment. Accusations of MA being barren wear on her as their marriage goes unconsummated for seven years. To cope, she turns towards other pleasures... desserts, shoes, dresses. After Louis finally figures out how things work (after MA's brother explains things to him), MA has a child. She takes a lover, reads Rousseau, plays at being a shepardess, and somehow it's not quite as ridiculous as one remembers from history books. Coppola makes it all poignant in light of the ending that we all know. She doesn't even take us to the guillotine, but rather, Coppola ends the film with MA saying goodbye to Versailles and the life she has known.

Read the A.O. Scott review and put it in your Netflix queue because I definitely saw this at the tail-end of its in-theaters run.


Christie's Modern Art Auction

Willem de Kooning's "Untitled XXV" became the most expensive postwar painting ever sold at auction last night at Christie's. It sold for $27.1 million. That may seem like small change in comparison to the prices at the recent Impressionist auction, but the evening totaled $239.7 million -- almost $20 million over expectations.

National Book Award

The National Book Award for fiction went to The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. The award for nonfiction went to The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, written by Timothy Egan. The award consists of a sculpture and $10,000 but the real prize is the increased sales that come with the recognition.


Random Mesh

As if my random Hollywood articles posting wasn't enough, here's another post of some random articles that I thought were interesting and yet I don't have enough time to write about them. Far be it for me to deprive you of them, though.

"Nepotism? I'm all for it." Giles Martin, son of George Martin, talks to the Guardian about compiling a new Beatles LP.

"Ancient Crash, Epic Wave." Scientists debate whether or not it's possible that an asteroid hitting the Earth caused an ancient tsunami that would explain sediment deposits in enormous chevrons in Madagascar.

"No one better captured the pity of war." A British army chief maintains that Wilfred Owen's poetry, which chronicled the horror of life and death on the Western Front, speaks to soldiers serving today.

"Hunters and collectors." The race is on to digitize the world's literature.

"The Name of the Genre: Philosophy Meets Mystery." A discussion of Umberto Eco's In the Name of the Rose and other philosophical mysteries from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

There are two sides to every story...

There are certain characters in history that have been given a short shrift. Judgment was passed quickly and if their stories were too complicated or if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, tough luck for them. One need not look far these days to find characters that have been so maligned (wrongly or otherwise) and now, thanks to the imaginations of fiction writers, they have been given another chance (and the author has a nice "this is my side" story to tell). The two (women) that spring to mind are Mary Magdalene and the Wicked Witch of the West, and now you can add two conquistadors' women to the list of those absolved by modern fiction.
For centuries both women have been reviled as collaborators in Spanish conquests of the new world that verged on genocide. La Malinche was an Aztec turncoat who helped Hernán Cortés conquer Mexico; Inés Suárez was a Spanish seamstress who joined another conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia, in slaughtering the inhabitants of Chile.
Now two of Latin America's female literary giants, Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende, have come to the rescue by writing novels casting them as misunderstood heroines who could be role models for today's women.

John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity

The $1 million Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity will go to historians John Hope Franklin and Yu Ying-shih.
It’s the prize that Alfred Nobel forgot. In 2000 Mr. Kluge, the billionaire, gave $73 million to the Library of Congress for a scholarly center and other projects, which now include the million-dollar prize. The award was specifically intended for areas that the Nobel Prizes do not cover, like history, political science, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, religion, linguistics and criticism.

South African bill approves same-sex marriage

South Africa is one-upping the US in the fight for gay marriage. Now, under South African law, gay couples can be lawfully joined in marriage.

10013 is the new 10021

Do you live in the most expensive zip code in Manhattan? Yea yea yea... every zip code in Manhattan is expensive, but do you know what costs you more than the average ridiculously expensive studio?
If you guessed the Upper East Side's 10021, you'd be wrong. The most expensive zip is Tribeca's 10013. If you live in 10007 or 10013 (SoHo), you're pretty close.
Meanwhile, the brokerage Citi Habitats reported that Tribeca and Soho are also the most expensive neighborhoods in which to rent (average rent: $3,718 a month) followed closely by Chelsea ($3,041) and the West Village. The Upper East and Upper West Sides are bargains by comparison, with average rents near $2,500.
Read about "the Death (and the Idea of) the Upper East Side" it in New York Magazine.

Quantifying Beauty

The Washington Post takes a good look at looking good. Is there such a thing as objective beauty or is it all just a creation of culture and the media?

I can't post an article about beauty and not include and image, therefore I offer up my ideal beauty... Rachel Weisz.

I think, therefore I am.

“What Descartes is saying is ‘I think, therefore I am.’ ’’
“Am what?” someone asks.
“Just am.”
“Can’t just be am. You gotta be am something.”
The New Yorker asks, what did Descartes really know?

Page and Screen

The Telegraph looks at what a good film can add to a classic book.
On the other hand, a film can show us in an instant, with a light touch, what it takes a novel two or three pages laboriously to describe. The collaborative nature of filmmaking means that more intensive creative work often goes into a film than into the original book, so a greater clarity can be achieved. Clumsy plot implausibilities can be elegantly sidestepped. And literal "fidelity" may not be the point: a film that stays true to the spirit of a book but finds its own ideal form is more likely to be a success than one slavishly adhering to the letter of the original's law.

Hollywood check-in

A pluthora of NY Times articles on actors and films...

The review for Flannel Pajamas.

A look at Soderbergh's new film, the Good German, which he filmed as a 1940s Hollywood set picture would have been filmed. He even used 32-millimeter, wide-angle lenses.

Bruckheimer exploding things as usual.

Carrie Fisher and her new one-woman show, Wishful Drinking.


Daniel Craig & 007

There's all kinds of buzz about Daniel Craig rocking as Bond, despite initial reactions last year that he was too blond and not suave enough. The movie premiered in London and guess who was in the audience? HRH Queen Elizabeth II. 007 is in the service of the Queen, after all.

IMPAC Dublin Award longlist

The 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist was announced... and it's a rather long list indeed, with 138 contenders on it. Get the Guardian story here and get the longlist here. Shockingly enough, I've actually read a few of the books on the list. Of course, with 138 contenders, one wonders if the judges simple pooled their reading lists and put off making decisions until later.

Senate Leaders

Not wasting any time, the Democrats have chosen the new Senate leaders, scheduled to take effect when the 110th Congress convenes in January. The first order of business for Democrats? Get rid of Rumsfeld.

Da Vinci Ruling

The US Supreme Court has thrown out the lawsuit of Lewis Perdue against Dan Brown and Random House. Perdue claims that Brown plagerized parts of his novel, Daughter of God, in order to create what became Brown's biggest bestseller, The Da Vinci Code.
This is Brown's second plagarism case -- earlier this year, British courts absolved Dan Brown of plagarism charges, suggesting he lifted from The Blood and The Holy Grail by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Perdue should consider himself lucky that his case was simply thrown out and he didn't have to pay Random House's legal fees. In Britain, the claiments were ordered to pay 85% of Random House's legal fees.

The Air Guitar

The air guitar. Wikipedia defines it as "the conjectural instrument one is said to be playing when pretending to play the guitar." Well, thanks to researchers, air guitarists all over the world may actually be able to make music simply by wearing a t-shirt.

Righteous, dude.

Kundera's Novel Goes Home

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is finally being published in the author's homeland after twenty-two years of waiting. Milan Kundera's novel, set in what was Czechoslovakia during the 1968 revolt, was banned by a communist government and was originally published in French (despite being written in Czech). While it might have been welcomed before now, the original Czech manuscript was lost and Kundera was forced to translate his book back from French into Czech.
“It took a long time because he is a tremendously meticulous, enormously dedicated perfectionist and now he finally completed the demanding task of finalising the Czech edition. Obviously, it is still the same book, but it also unique in a way, as it had to undergo a unique process of translating and rewriting.”

In a postscript to the new edition, Kundera says: “I wanted to have it without any omissions or mistakes, or in one word, a complete and definitive version, because I doubt that I will have the time to go back to it again.”
Kundera went into exile in Paris in 1975 after being expelled from the Communist party for his involvement with the Prague Spring movement. He was stripped of his Czech citizenship in 1979 and became a French citizen in 1981. He currently lives in Paris and while some rumors had suggested that the delay to print The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Czech was the result of lingering animosity on the part of Kundera (he had previously forbidden the translation of his French writing into Czech), those rumors have been denied by his agent.

Stolen Goya

It wasn't the Thomas Crown Affair, but last week, a Goya painting was stolen en route to the Guggenheim. The painting ("Children With a Cart, 1778) is from the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio was stolen in the vicinity of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The two museums said the painting would be “virtually impossible to sell and therefore has no value on the open market.” While art that belongs to major museums is easily identified as stolen, the statement seemed intended in part to discourage any attempt at a clandestine sale.
The Philadelphia division of the FBI is hoping to receive a number of tips and a large reward has been offered for information that leads to the painting's recovery.


How to Be Funny

How can you be funny? Start by asking the masters.

Handwriting C+

It was the end of eighth grade and Mrs. Erlinger gave me the only C I'd ever known... a C+ in Handwriting. I still consider my handwriting -- which wavers between cursive and printing -- as a "screw you" directed at her... though it's only recently that I've realized I probably deserved it. Sorry, Mrs. Erlinger. Most people seem to accept their horrible handwriting as a result of a computer-driven age, but some schools are seeking to remedy this... like this independent school in England that is bringing back the fountain pen as a last-ditch effort to save its students' handwriting.

Christopher Guest

You've probably heard by now that there's a new Christopher Guest movie coming out: For Your Consideration. It features the usual reperatory of Guest's cohorts -- Eugene Levy (who often co-writes with Guest), Michael McKean, Harry Shearer (McKean & Shearer co-wrote Spinal Tap with Guest & Rob Reiner), Parker Posey, Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara. For more info on Guest & his films, check out the NY Times article, "The Shape Shifter."
While he may not have written it, when someone mentions Christopher Guest, my first thoughts go to The Princess Bride's six-fingered man.
And then my thoughts go to the Remains of the Day lunchbox.

Travel Writing... the next generation

With blogs and the rising popularity of travel writing, there's a much larger market for those aspiring globe trotters/writers. If the big publishers aren't willing to convert your blog into a book, there's always POD (publishing on demand) and you can do it yourself.


Stranger Than Fiction

Go see it. Go see it now.

Really, that's the gist of my argument. Stranger Than Fiction was delightful -- it's particularly so for people who enjoy writing, books, and the telling of stories. I expected the sky to fall as I exited the theater because I actually enjoyed a Will Ferrell movie... and what is more, I thought he was great.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS Agent with a solitary, regimented life that doesn't change... until one day, he hears someone narrating his regimented life. She has a British accent and knows that he brushes his teeth with 76 strokes (38 up, 38 down). She knows that he ties his tie the way he does to save time. She knows that he thinks of an endless ocean of paper as he files. She is Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a writer who can't quite figure out how to end her novel... her novel where Harold Crick is the protagonist. But Harold Crick is real (though Eiffel believes him to be her fictional creation) and he tries to cope with her narration infringing upon his daily life. He audits a baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who he falls for, and seeks guidance from an English professor (Dustin Hoffman) who tries to help him decide if his story is a comedy (life affirming, ends in marriage) or a tragedy (ends in death). When Harold hears Karen say, "Little does he know that events had been set in motion that would lead to his imminent death," he sets out to find Karen and convince her not to kill him.

Ferrell is delightfully minimal in his acting. There are few typically Ferrell scenes (in fact, the most disgusting bits come from Thompson, who spits in napkins to extinguish her cigarettes) and his restraint shows impressive levels of acting from Ferrell that I hadn't ever thought possible. Thompson was wonderfully odd and prickly. Hoffman was a great literature professor, concerned more with the plot and his theory of everything than the fact that this is a man's life. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a bitchy baker with a soft side that refuses to pay a certain percentage of her taxes -- the percentage that supports the issues that she does not. My only qualm is that I don't see what she sees in the protagonist as a romantic partner as he plays the straight man. Ah well, a small flaw that I'm willing to overlook for the whole. Oh, and the watch doesn't get enough emphasis after the beginning. That's all I'll say.

In short, go see it. Here's the trailer and here's A.O. Scott's review.


NY Times Free Access Week

Have you managed to stumble upon free access week at the NY Times? It only lasts through the 12th, so hurry -- read as fast as you can! May I suggest Maria Kalman's illustrated column on Paris and Maureen Dowd's adieu to Rummy.

Michael Caine

Michael Caine is happy that he's no longer a movie star -- but, of course, he's still star-quality in most everyone's book. In this Telegraph article, the award-winning actor discusses his envy-inducing position that allows him to pick and choose the roles he does these days... and while that makes it sound like he isn't working that much, he's got The Prestige in theaters and two new films on the horizon (a not-quite-remake of Sleuth and another Batman movie).
With his long list of illustrious films, what is his best film, you ask? Well, I know my favorite... A Muppet Christmas Carol. He's an awesome Ebenezer Scrooge.

Skywriter Trailed by Skyeditor

Oh, the Onion.

Midterm Midtacular Indeed

I just can't seem to stop posting these articles. Democrats Gain Senate and New Influence... Democrats Take Control of Senate as Allen Concedes to Webb in Virginia... Democrats control both houses after Virginia win... Democrats Win Majority of Governorships... World Sees Dems Win as a Bush Rejection...

What is that that I feel? Is that... is that hope?

In case you missed Jon Stewart, here are a few clips from the Midterm Midtacular. Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert at the beginning of Election Night. Howard Dean on the Daily Show.

Christie's Impressionist Action

Nearly half a billion dollars' worth of art was sold at Christie's on Wednesday at the Impressionist art auction. Adele Bloch-Bauer II (the second of two portraits of Mrs. Bloch-Bauer -- the first of which, you remember, is at the Neue Gallerie and sold for $135 million back in June) was purchased for $87.9 million. The other three Klimt landscapes sold for $43.3 to $31 million. Of the entire evening's catalog, only 6 lots failed to sell, out of a total of 84. One highly anticipated painting did not go up for sale -- Picasso's "Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto." The current owner, Andrew Lloyd Webber, reluctantly took it out of the auction because a suit has been filed by a descendent of a Jewish banker in Nazi Germany who supposedly sold the painting under duress. The funds from the sale would have gone towards Webber's foundation for theaters and actors.
The total amount of sales for the evening added up to $491 million -- the previous Christie's record was $296 million (May of 1990).


Compulsive Wits

While they might make for entertaining reading, this Guardian writer feels that, without practice time, Oscar Wilde and other one-liner wonders would make for rather irritating companionship.

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

An article from Dissent -- "A War Against Boys?" Michael Kimmel asks why our boys are doing so poorly in school -- and are women/feminists to blame? As Kimmel explains anti-feminist arguments, I feel a sudden need to help his wife/girlfriend move all of his belongings out to the curb. Granted, with his tongue-in-cheek style, he clearly isn't advocating the barefoot and pregnant model but he spends a little too much time on those anti-feminist arguments for my taste.

Geography Challenge

Okay, I know I included this in my post yesterday about MUG's Newsletter, but I feel this truly deserves an entire post all to itself.

If you're ready to stop being productive today, take the Mental Floss Geography Challenge. I assume that you're a relatively intelligent human, and therefore this game will drive you insane... unless you really are a geography whiz. If you're like me, you can get 100% on Europe and then cheer if you can manage a 50% when it comes to the rest of the world.

Truth is stranger than fiction

While I certainly don't suffer from this malady, some people (like this Telegraph writer) find themselves turning away from novels and moving towards history. Biography certainly is an overlooked category by young people... you'd think that we'd start to realize that biopics come from somewhere.
Of course, that isn't entirely right... young people might not be reading biographies but we are reading a lot of autobiographical work... or memoir work that is slightly altered to be fiction (admitted from the start, like Stephen Elliott, or forced into the admission, like James Frey). Lots of writers these days are using the short-story memoir genre to their advantage -- look at David Sedaris.

OCD Booklovers Submit Shelf Help Tips

How do you arrange your books? By genre? By color? Alphabetically? According to the Dewey decimal system? Autobiographically (like Rob Gordon's records in High Fidelity)? I rather like the person who posted to suggest that you should arrange your books as you would a dinner party... ensure that everyone has something interesting to discuss with their neighbors.

Bush to thank for Desai's Booker

Ahh, the backhanded compliment. Kiran Desai says that she would never have won the Booker if it hadn't been for President Bush "as he put her off becoming an American citizen." Boo-yah.

Yay Virginia!

Congrats, great state of Virginia. You came through and votes are in Webb's favor. Let's see a larger margin for the democrats next time, mmkay?

And see ya, Rummy.


Rums Felled

And Rumsfeld has resigned. It's just like Christmas!!

PS... "I didn't mean 'stay the course' as 'stay the course.'"

Montana Victory

Democrats have taken the Montana senate seat... come on, Virginia!


Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) will have another movie coming up in the future... and this one won't include the Baudelaire orphans. The film rights to his novel Adverbs have been sold and Handler will be writing the screenplay.

An adverb is a "doing word," a word that modifies verbs, adjectives, phrases, clauses, or even other adverbs, and will describe the manner, place, or time of an action. Daniel Handler's Adverbs is a novel that deals with love, constantly shifting and changing, and the varying effects that love has on the lives of his characters. This concept of modifying words and life is naturally apparent in a novel named for modifiers and every chapter title is an adverb. Handler reuses characters throughout, or perhaps he simply reuses the names, and he refuses to give a clean explanation of everything - after all, we're talking about love. Love is never easy, never clean-cut. "Love is this sudden crash in your path, quick and to the point, and nearly always it leaves someone slain on the green." It is, however, always around us, whether we're the main players in the drama or simply extras in the background. The interesting part isn't necessarily the person loving (the noun), but the manner, place, and time in which one is loved (the adverb).