Thursday, February 28, 2008

Redneck Condo

OK, this was recently forwarded to me with the derogatory caption of "redneck condo"... but I love it! If you look at the details, you can see why it's actually very artistic and well-designed:

1) landscaping
2) color choices
3) arrangement of levels

Can't you imagine how fun this would be as a beach or lakeside vacation home?

Computing in Starbucks

God bless smart, funny people. Be prepared to laugh your head off!

Many thanks to nephew Elliott, and Craig Hansen for spreading the joy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Are You Smarter than a THIRD Grader?

Wow. Truly spectacular ignorance. This should make anyone feel REAAAAAALY smart.

Friday, February 22, 2008


So the plague has been making the rounds this week and last - it appears that 50% of my family and friends have been struck down. It's very annoying, what with the need to provide proper burial, make sure that surviving children are cared for, and the shortage on shrouds, to say nothing of the lack of coroners to do the necessary paperwork. It really cuts into my week.

Oh wait, no. Just the flu. Not the plague. But an interesting comparison, no? I mean, I'm sitting here, wobbly and woozy but recovering, while hordes of acquaintances hack and sniffle and ache... and no one has died from it. It's hard to believe that Influenza used to kill people - it seems so commonplace nowadays; miserable, but ordinary.

Getting a flu shot has never really been a consideration for me, although I understand the need for seniors and small children. But I have not had a full-blown case of the flu in decades, mostly just colds and allergy-related nastiness. So I am reluctant to get a shot, since I have no way of knowing if that will throw my natural immunities out of whack. I am fairly healthy when it comes to fighting off stuff - I'm rarely home 2 days running for illness.

Once I figure out the patten of an illness, I almost treat it as an afterthought - drainage gives me a sore throat, then a stuffy nose, then chest congestion, then it's done. But a new pattern has emerged which took me a while to recognize - dry coughing, then massive bouts of sneezing, then congestion, then my tonsils swell like balloons and close off my throat. THAT'S fun, I can tell you - no soreness, I can still breathe and swallow - but it feels like someone's got their hand around your throat all day long. I used to get drugs for it, but this time I let it go, and it seems to be going down on its own.

I'm used to the seasonal maladies that pass through each winter, but I have never known so many acquaintances with various forms of crud as this February. But I like the idea of a little illness now and then - it gives you a break, a day at home with the TV and naps, and it builds up those immunities. It's like a gym membership for your immune system.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Animal Phone

Simple concept, but nicely done!


This is one of the most cleverly designed websites I've ever seen! Just let it load, and then wait... you'll see what I mean!

Friday, February 01, 2008

2008, The Year of Jane

I've been watching the ITV versions of 3 of Jane Austen's "lesser" novels, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. PBS is showing them, as well as the famed Pride & Prejudice miniseries, a biopic on Austen, the Kate Beckinsale Emma, and a new miniseries of Sense & Sensibility.

This run of Austen-made movies has become, for the women of America, a rare sports season. I'm serious - each show aired is endlessly discussed with all the fervor and detail of an AFC Championship game. We deconstruct everything - script, casting, direction, costuming, music. Did the filmmakers "get it right?" Was it equal to/better than pervious versions? How cute was the male romantic lead? Was he too pretty? Were the women's hairstyles correct, or too severe? Was the heroine miscast? Did they leave out too much of the original plot and invent their own storyline?

It is a delicious time for us womenfolk. I make this claim for my gender, since I have discussed the series with over a dozen women, but not a single man has shown the slightest interest.

So here's my rundown so far. I consider myself a worthy critic, having seen almost all known Jane Austen-based movies multiple times, read/listened to all the books, and made a presentation on "Humor in Jane Austen" for the Jane Austen Society here in Nashville.
  • Persuasion

Tepid. The 1995 version starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is such a superior product in every conceivable way, that this poor version never stood a chance. It wasn't a complete wash - Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth is such delightful eye-candy that he was almost worth the price of admission. But this production had nothing new to say, and Sally Hawkins (as Anne Eliot) was given an unforgivably severe hairstyle that was a continual distraction.

  • Northanger Abbey

Perfectly delightful! This oft-neglected story has only one other known version, made by the BBC in 1986, and it's so bad that it is best forgotten. But this time they got it right - nicely scripted, good casting, great voiceover narration. I liked everything about this movie. Felicity Jones as Catherine played an absolutely convincing innocent who was engaging rather than cloying. I was really moved by both of the leads.

I have always liked the character of Henry Tilney best of all of the Austen heroes, because he's cheerful, outgoing, funny, smart, and sensible. Darcy would be exhausting, Edward Ferrars, Mr. Knightley, Colonel Brandon, Captain Wentworth, while worthy, are almost interchangeable, and Edmund Bertram is prosy and self-righteous. I loved JJ Feild as Tilney; he reminds me of Lee Pace on Pushing Daisies, and is such an endearing actor! I really look forward to seeing more of him in years to come.

  • Mansfield Park

Well... they tried. This is a hard book to do well, since the core issue of Morality is the motivating factor of the plot, and yet modern sensibilities find the kind of morality in the original book self-righteous, excessive, and essentially boring. Fanny Price is considered such a dishrag of a heroine, that this production's decision to cast the feisty, modern Bille Piper (and I really liked her in Doctor Who!) in the role was understandable, but ill-advised. They simply gave her nothing to do! They took away most of the things that motivated her character, made her hair far too untidy for the period, and expanded the role of the more interesting Mary Crawford. Oh, and they completely stripped Mrs. Norris of her malice and interference, so she was a cipher, quite unnecessary to the storyline.

There's been much contention over the years about the 1999 version written and directed by Patricia Rozema, which has a feminist heroine and debates the morality of slavery, neither of which is in the original book. But I think it's amazingly successful in it's re-envisioning of the story. Fanny and Edmund both need a compelling moral issue to hold onto, and the introduction of the slavery question provided that. Fanny's willpower to do what is right at any cost is reinterpreted as feminism, and I think an effective representation for her strength of character. I personally think this movie does a better job of taking the good bits and expanding them, while strengthening the weaknesses.

I have a question: When will someone do Lady Susan? This is an epistlatory novel Jane wrote fairly early, and is reminiscent of the 18th c. novel form, and far more daring. Lady Susan is evil, manipulative, greedy, and selfish. It reminds me a little of Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons de Dangereuses, and has an entirely different feel than Austen's other works. For some reason, no-one seems to care much for it! But I think it would make an amazing movie. With the demand for Austen works on screen, I'm surprised no-one has snapped this up!

One final thing I want to harp on about... why on earth has PBS decided to do away with the series name of Masterpiece Theater? My TiVo was not prepared for the name change to plain old Masterpiece, and didn't record Persuasion. Why drop the word Theater? The series is ubiquitous, so a change at this point smacks of market-research interference. As if the removal of the word will suddenly make people think, "Oh, this must be better! newer! non-theatrical! NOW I'll watch it!" Just plain stupid.