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Saturday
Jul232011

Lovely lovely libraries.

I've always been fascinated by libraries, by their smells, their endless rows of stacked volumes, the eclectic and often eccentric crowds that frequent them - I love it all. I love that they come in all shapes and sizes too. From the grand halls built as beacons for the enlightened, to collegiate shrines where one learns to read between the lines, onto the musty suburban throwbacks to a time before the internet. Corridors comprised of clues to our collective past line our nation's official shrine to information, the Library of Congress. As the traditional library will most likely become a thing of the past, (that darned interweb is taking over) it's nice to know that such an institution of our country's identity will be preserved for new generations to discover. It's a really pretty place y'all, flip through the pics below and see your tax dollars at work. 

 

Maybe it's because you have to be quiet when you're inside, but libraries have a sort of a hushed reverance that can only be compared to churches and museums. They demand respect for their aspirations in design while remaining practical since they are functional spaces. Back when books were rare & cherished instead of disposable or even (gasp!) digital, literary lovers around the world built beautiful shrines to house their treasures.  The slideshow below features some magical, majestic and even maudlin examples of libraries far and wide. I particularly love the example of Communist Russia's take on fanciness in Minsk - and modern mix of art & literature in Ronda, Spain. Take a little tour why dontcha... I'll wait here until you get back. 

 

 

Architecture & posterity aside, for me, the real mystery of the library lifestyle lies in the heartbeat of the operation -  the librarians. What kind of person chooses to spend their lives amongst the tomes of our times? Serious, inhibited wallflowers with a steampot of sultry sensuality just waiting to boil over with every tedious task of filing dewey decimal style, of course!

As stereotypes ago, I'm sure this one is totally annoying to most hard-working, intelligent, well-adjusted, single-personalitied librarians. The reality is that the library sciences attract smart, scholarly, fastidious types with a love for organization, systems, books, history and helping the public. That being said, if you have any kind of romantic relationship with the written word (I'm talking to you Henry Miller) you can't help but wonder what kind of woman (or man of course) has the calling to spend their time in the stacks. One can't deny the romantic pallor of all literary professions ... hence the fantasies of the libidinous librarian linger. Hopefully the fantasies don't only thrive in our imagination... smart is sexy after all.

 

Thursday
Jul212011

Great moments in Elvis History - the Muppet Edition.

What's better than Elvis? 3 Elvises! What's better than 3 Elvi? 3 Elvis muppets!! The fact that there are three Elvis muppets singing their way through history from ancient Rome to Camelot is enough to make my heart explode into millions of little blue suede shoes of happiness. I'm not sure exactly where this is from, but I assume it was on some episode of The Muppet Show.

<<Note: Due to the devout nature of my parents, I never got to watch the Muppet Show because it came on at 6pm on Sunday night and we always had to go to church. I'm still partially convinced that Disney IS run by the devil and that's why it was ran during Sunday evening services. All the heathen boys and girls would be home to watch - and recruit.  Hmmm... anyway - Sorry for the tangent >>

In the immortal words of "Elvis of Arabia"... "dang, it's hot in here." So, I'm gonna go grab a Pepsi (E's favorite) and watch the show. 

Thursday
Jul212011

Random Facts #2 - Geoffrey Chaucer

I'm sure you're wondering why you should care... I have no idea, but here's 7 random facts about Geoffrey Chaucer, the 14th century poet that is one of the forefathers of modern English.

1. Geoffrey Chaucer is my 17th great uncle... really! Here goes: Me > my dad > Margie Hallmark > Carl Monroe Hallmark > John Booker Hallmark > James Minet Hallmark > Mary Ann Pruitt > Jacob Pruitt > Mary Martin > Mary Knight > Mary English  > Mary Waters > Richard Waters > Phebe Manning > George Manning > John Manning > Hugh Manning > John Manning > John Manning > Catherine Chaucer = sister of Geoffrey Chaucer. I think that's right... it's something like that. 

2. Not only was he the father of English literature, he was a soldier too.. In 1359, during the Hundred Years' War, Edward III invaded France and Chaucer travelled with Lionel of Antwerp  as part of the English army where he was captured during the siege of Rheims. King Edward paid £16 for his ransom, a remarkable sum for the day, indicating his talents were valuable to the throne. He continued to travel on behalf of the military on and off over the next 15 years. 

3Kafka's Soup, a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook, contains a recipe for onion tart à la Chaucer. I have no idea what any of that means, but it's an interesting tribute... plus, who doesn't love the word "pastiche"?

4. Geoffrey's father, John, was kidnapped when he was 12 years old by an aunt who wanted him to marry her daughter to secure their property ownership. She was caught and fined £250. John eventually married Geoff's mom, Agnes Copton.

5. In 1374, Chaucer is granted a pitcher of wine daily by the King. Lucky bastard!

6. It is possible that Chaucer was accused of rape, although it's not completely certain. He was mentioned in law papers of May 4, 1380, involved in the raptus of Cecilia Chaumpaigne. The incident occured during his tenure as Comptroller of the Customs of London and seems to have been resolved quickly with little fanfare.  I'll refrain from a truly tasteless joke here about how she must have been asking for it with a name like champagne...it was the 1300s after all.

7. Chaucer is buried in Westminster Abbey - in a section that is now referred to as Poet's Corner. 

 

Monday
Jun272011

Nine quirky comedies that you probably missed... why nine? No reason.

Don't you hate it when you happen to catch a movie, and you fall in love with how quirky and charming it is, before you realize it's ten years old and there's no one to talk about it with? You get irate because no one bothered to tell you about this movie. How come no critics championed it's cause? No groundswell of internet fanboys came to it's rescue? Well, never fear, you may or may not have seen this list of movies  - All of these I saw by accident, either on a whim or because I was too lazy to change the channel, and they've all become favorites in their own way.

So... how many have you seen? How many are you going to see after taking my excellent advice? By the way, I hope these aren't as under-rated as I think they are, because they deserve a wider audience for sure. It's only my opinion... and it's my blog after all....

 

1. Pirate Radio (2009)

We stumbled on this movie by complete accident, and I couldn't have been more pleased. If you're a rock-n-roll lover and enjoy a look back at it's heydey when DJs ruled the roost and were almost as big as the stars they played on the radio, then this movie's for you. It tells the tale of the Pirate Radio station  that set sail in 1960s UK so it could play rock and roll for the hungry masses and skirt the obscenity and indecency laws of the day. Perfectly cast, Bill Nighy and Phillip Seymour Hoffman lead this ensemble of mostly British actors, who hit the perfect note of sixties unglamorous glamourous life. It's a coming-of-age tale that you'll totally wish was yours. I dare you not to envy the kid in the movie - talk about an education!

This movie has a great soundtrack as well - the best of sixties pop-and-roll - presented with the appropriate amount of devotion and enthusiasm. The music is as important as any character in the movie (and there are a lot of them). A few familiar faces show up including Emma Thompson, Rhys Ifans, and January Jones to deepen the cast even further. I really can't say enough great things about this flick. It is so good it actually made me cry at the end. Twice! (Yes, I'm a dork, but the music moves me, man).

Anyways, here's a favorite clip from the movie - along with the official trailer. Hint - if you can, see it on DVD so you can see the scenes they cut from the US version. 

 

 

2. Dick (1999)

This alterna-reality tale of the Watergate scandal is a totally underrated little film where two high school girls completely upset the entire US government when they unwittingly expose the Watergate scandal. In the movie, "Deep Throat", AKA the Bring-It-On-era Kirsten Dunst and post-Dawson's-pre-Brokeback Michelle Williams,  play it with all the budding adolescent angst and silliness that the real Deep Throat could only remember in a hypnotic state. While on a school field trip, they become the White House dogwalkers and stumble upon secret tapes, arrange encounters with Woodward & Bernstein (Will Ferrell & Bruce McCullouch) and dose Nixon with pot brownies. Good times... if only this was the real story... what a gentler nation we might be.

I really like both Kirsten & Michelle in this movie - Michelle is totally believable as the teen with a daddy crush on Tricky Dick. This was obviously made back when she still showed her sense of humor. Ryan Reynolds has a funny part as a dorky, horny Senator's son... hot as always. Anyways, go ahead and check out the trailer, you might enjoy a lighter look at our executive office corruption. 

 

3. Millions (2005)

I know it's surprising to find a movie with two kids as the main stars on any list I would be making, but this movie was too adorable not to tell more people about. Two little boys, who are grieving the loss of their mother, believe a bag full of money falls right into their laps. Each boy goes on their own journey deciding what to do with the money - sparking a heartwarming and often hilarious tale of how money changes people. This movie is too cute for words. Don't get me wrong, this is not pure comedy, but it's a moralistic tale for the ages starring little boys with British accents with money to blow and nothing but potential. How could it be bad? Go send Transformers 37 back to the RedBox and watch this one instead. 

 

4. The Madness of King George (1994)

Did you know that the man we were trying to detach ourselves from during the American Revolution was in the throes of madness and peeing blue? Well, folks, it's a little reported chapter of our world history, played out in this charming movie starring Nigel Hawthorne as King Edward III, Helen Mirren as his queen "Mrs. King"  and Rupert Everett as the conniving son trying to take over the throne in the wake of his father's mental illness. You know, typical family problems, the stuff every good tragi-comedy is made of. Ian Holm plays the doctor who has come to cure the King. If this sounds a little like The King's Speech, it kind of is... just set two hundred years earlier.

Actually, there is very little tragedy to this movie... it's a sweet tale of mental illness, government takeover, controversial medical treatments and true love. Helen Mirren is fantastic as usual. Worth the watch just for her if you have a little crush on her like the rest of the world. Seeing Rupert Everett prance around with a beer gut and bad hair is also entertaining, just sayin.' Check out the trailer below:

 

5. The Man who Knew too Little (1997)

I have no earthly idea why people didn't like this movie. I find it to have Bill Murray at his clueless-wonder best, stumbling through as a participant on a "reality" experience called Theater of Life. His brother needs to get him out of the way and enrolls him in a night of adventure where you get to improv a movie-like scenario in "real life". His performance gets mixed up with real espionage and mayhem, of course, and a movie is born. Alfred Molina, Joanne Whalley and Peter Gallagher round out the cast nicely in true campy style.  

This comedy of misunderstandings works because Murray is amazing when he plays a bumbling idiot. I believe him all the way! I insist that you go out and watch this movie immediately. (Actually I think you can watch it in parts for free on youtube if you're patient (and cheap) enough. ) However you do it... just watch it. You won't want to miss the best movie car chase scene ever - it gets extra hilarious right around the 2:20 mark! I've always wanted to do that!!

 

6. Wonder Boys (2000)

This kinda under-the-radar movie is jam packed with movie stars in a low-key turn with a slow burn of comedy. It's dry and it's heart-warming which is surprising considering ice queen Katie Holmes is part of the cast (pre Tom Cruise, I might add). Michael Douglas plays a pot smoking professor who's writing the never-ending novel. He's sleeping with Frances McDormand's character who is married ... to his boss. The prof takes in a wayward student, Tobey Maguire, with a secret, or two, or three and, you guessed it, shenanigans ensue. Robert Downey Jr is an amusing addition to the cast. Throw in a sweater owned by Marilyn Monroe, a dead dog and manuscript disappearing in the wind, a little suspenseful, quirky, gem of a movie. A nice surprise.

 

7. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

This is definitely one of the lesser known Coen Brothers movies, and it always surprises me when people say they haven't seen it. It's a Capraesque escapade of an up-and-comer who invents the hula-hoop while re-inventing himself. Tim Robbins plays a fantastic hapless hero, Paul Newman does a dastardly turn as a boss without a heart, and Charles Durning is an angel with a secret. Don't miss Anna Nicole Smith's cameo and Jennifer Jason Leigh doing her best His Girl Friday impression. She's not bad if I do say so myself (please read last sentence in your best Rosalind Russell/Mae West mashup accent). 

I love this scene where the world discovers the Hula Hoop. I have no idea why that kids is so darned mesmerizing, bug dang it, he is. Can't take my eyes off him... translation? Great and unexpected filmmaking.

 

8. The Commitments (1991) 

 Great soul music from Dublin, enough said. In the immortal words of band manager Jimmie Rabbitt, 

The Irish are the blacks for Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once and say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud.

It's that whole white potato famine blues meets post-teen sexual frustration that makes this such an endearing flick with a killer soundtrack sung by the cast and fictional band, the Commitments. It's hard to believe the lead singer, Andrew Strong, was only 16 when this movie was made... what a voice. Come to think of it, he probably would have won that tv show The Voice if it had been around then. He's no looker, but wow, can he sing! The rest of the cast is adorable too, btw. I liked this movie so much, I saw it twice in the same day at the theater. Then I drug my boyfriend back to see it again the next day. 


The Commitments - Try a Little Tenderness by algizdk

 

9. Down with Love (2003) 

If you're a fan of Doris Day & Rock Hudsonish movies, then you'll be unable to resist the charms of Renee Zelleweger as Barbara Novak and the dashing Ewan McGregor as Catcher Block in this super-stylized spoof on sexual identity in the sixties. The costumes are total Mad Men (pre-Mad Men btw), the dialogue is all double-entendrified and the overall effect is flawless. Not too cute, not too over the top and just clever enough to make this a fun classic you can watch with everyone AND your grandma. Watch the movie here

Check out this classic scene from the movie - and it's obvious  inspiration from Pillow Talk. By the way, if you haven't seen Pillow Talk... you should see that one too. Charming and innocent... and a little ironical in retrospect.

 

Sunday
Jun262011

Free books. Reason I love the internet #222


L.A. Vaught

The internet is amazing - if for no other reason that it serves as a gigantic library for obscure and obsolete literature and written ephemera for people like me with way too much time on their hands. Recently boingboing pointed me to a fascinating little treasure -  a grossly outdated/outrageous pop-phrenology/psychology handbook about judging one's character primarily by one's physical characteristics. Vaught's Practical Character Reader (1902) by L.A. Vaught is an entertaining read. Read it here online or on your Kindle for free. Yup, FREE!

So, this book has amazing illustrations of what to look for in a person. Pointy head? Saggy ears? Bulbous nose? It all says something (probably sinister) about you. If your head is egg shaped, you're golden. If it's square... you might be a serial-killer. The image at the top of the post is basically the premise for this entire book. According to the author, people should be judged immediately based upon nothing but their looks. Their face shape completely controls their personality and underlying character. 

The above illustration shows that two Roman noses are surely too many in one family, especially in husband and wife.The buzzing of the presidential bee is nowhere else than in the faculty of Approbativeness. No further explanation is needed.

The commentary on the illustrations is pretty hysterical. "Approbativeness" is solely responsible for the ambition needed to be president, no further explanation necessary. Who says? While "Roman" nose love attractions obviously represent a sign of dreadful domestic discord - so I suppose the folks on the Jersey Shore obviously better start dating outside their reality show.

Here's a list of pointers Vaught recommends when sizing up friends, family and strangers alike:  

  • The broader the head the more selfishness.
  • The higher the crown the more pride.
  • The fuller the upper side temples the more taste.
  • The fuller the lower forehead the more practicality.
  • The rounder the head the more feeling.
  • The more square the head the more thought and exactness.
  • The narrower the head the less force.
  • The less backhead the colder the disposition. 
  • The more closed the eyes the more secrecy.
  • The higher the eyebrows from the pupils of the eyes the more credulity.
  • The more middle face the more energy.
  • The more lower face the more sensuality.
  • The finer the hair the finer the brain.
  • The tougher the hair the tougher the brain.
  • The thinner the lips the less afection.
  • The more the teeth are shown the more love of applause.
  • The more features that turn upward the more cheerfulness.
  • The more affectation in the voice the less substantial the character.

 Perusing this little guidebook, I was inspired to find some well-known folks and match them up to the hypotheses proposed by Mr. Vaught. Was he onto something? Let's start with the shape of the head. Thin = Terrific. Wide = Worst. Crap, he might be on to something... this is a basic premise of much of our modern society. Anyways, Jimmy Cagney vs. Jimmy Stewart is a pretty good comparison if you're relying on Hollywood casting for your "judgement" of these men's characters. 

Here is a very positive demonstration. All very broadheaded humans, animals, birds, reptiles and flies are vicious. Very narrow-headed men and snakes are harmless.

On a related note, doesn't the guy at the top left look a lot like Dick Cheney dressed as Benjamin Franklin? A wolf in sheep's clothing perhaps? Maybe this Vaught guy isn't totally bonkers after all. Here's another uncanny/unfair parallel with Mr. Burns and Adrien Brody. Who has the more deceitful nose? Team Burns ftw.

Deceitful Nose: Remember this nose when you deal with people.If you're not a believer, behold the ace up Vaught's sleeve - the predeliction of psychicness and interest in paranormal, occult and all things morally unsavory perfectly manifested in Twilight's Kristin Stewart. Her visage is the spittin' image of his depiction of the "center of psychichal phenomena". It's like she sat for the book in 1902. Maybe she did... she is the center of psychichal phenomena after all. 

Saturday
Jun112011

Well, hello again....

Hey there. As usual, I'm apologizing for being a totally lousy blogger, BUT, for once, I have been working elsewhere on the site beefing up various and sundry pages and features. So, the time has come to clue you in on what's new around here. 

Check out the Celebrity Veteran feature that highlights the military service of all kinds of celebrities. It's well known that during the great war, may A-list celebs including Rock Hudson, Henry Fonda, and Tony Curtis put down the makeup and picked up a helmet to do their part. The tradition has continued with many a future star including the likes of Tom Selleck, Ruth Westheimer, James Blunt and many more. Go check it out!