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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let's get LOST! (Episode 10 - Something Nice Back Home)

If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of LOST yet…
BEWARE! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
Don't say you weren’t warned. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk LOST!

Tonight's episode wasn't as shocking as some or was edge-of-your-seat viewing, but it was still really solid. Again, I am at a loss as to what to talk about first. Faraday has a crush on Charlotte. Claire has gone missing. Jack is having a beachside appendectomy. The ghosts of dead people are haunting the Oceanic 6. The militia men from the freighter survived the smokey attack. The pilot is a good guy (so far). Juliet tells Kate that Jack is in love with her. Kate ran a mysterious errand for Sawyer in the flashforward. So much to talk about! Let's get started.

I thought this was the most shocking event of the night:

Jin (speaking to Charlotte in Korean): I know you can understand us.

Tied with...

Jack (speaking to Kate): Will you marry me?

So, Jin totally called Charlotte out about knowing Korean, which was a mild shocker. What I want to know is why does an anthropologist know Korean? We haven't seen her in any flashbacks doing work in Korea (only Tunisia). Seems awfully coincidental, don't you think? Jack proposing to Kate was also a mild shocker. However, do any of you really think that the two of them could ever be happy together and make it work? Both Jack and Kate have way too much baggage when it comes to relationships.

I thought this was the most heartbreaking moment of the night:

Hurley: "Because none of this is real Jack. I think we're in heaven... I see Charlie every day. He sits on that bench with me outside. It's kinda nice...."

Tied with

Jack: "Where were you tonight, Kate?"

Poor Hurley. My heart just broke for him. He's so messed up, and it's all the island's fault. Somehow it is continuing to haunt them or mess with their minds. It's all so confusing and upsetting and weird and doesn't yet make sense. So in a lot of ways, I feel like I (as a viewer) can really relate to Hurley's position. He's always been somewhat representative of the audience's stance in the show. Also, it was so sad to see Jack's past come back to haunt him. His bad relationship with his first wife, and her cheating on him, combined with all the distrust he experienced on the island, is ruining his future relationship with Kate in the flashforward. As if that wasn't bad enough, he's turning into his father with the substance abuse.

And finally, here's the funny moment of the night:

Miles: What are you, her big brother?

Sawyer: No, I'm the guy who's going to put a boot to your face. I'm giving you a restraining order, you know what that is?

It's been interesting to see how protective Sawyer has been of Claire and Aaron for the last few episodes. His back and forth with Miles is always amusing, since they are so much alike.

Two more big thoughts, and then I'm shutting my brain down for the night. Last week I had mentioned how I felt like the show had gotten very dark and hopeless. I had thought about equating it to The Empire Strikes Back section of the LOST saga, but I didn't know if that would make sense. Then tonight, there were more dark, tragic turns and then...we see a toy Millennium Falcon. Interesting. Last week, I was also begging for a ray of light, a little bit of hope, and we were given some, with Jack and Kate's happy little family, but it didn't last for long. Thanks, LOST writers, I need to go take some Prozac now.

The other thing I wanted to mention was all the Alice in Wonderland references, since I'm an Alice nut (thus, the name of this website, the headlining quote, my profile image, etc.). In Season 1, the episode where Jack is seeing visions of his dead dad on the beach and finds his empty coffin was called "White Rabbit." In the beginning of this episode, Jack is reading Alice in Wonderland to Aaron. (Check out the comments section for the actual quote from the book.) Visions of his dead dad are also in this episode. Even Kate, holding up the mirror, could be a bit of a reference to Alice Through the Looking Glass.

While reviewing all these Alice references during the commercial break, I had a brief and scary thought - what if all of the flashforward scenes were just Jack's dream while he was under anesthesia? I say this because in both of the Alice books, her entire adventures in wonderland were both dreams, and the story ends with her waking up. Even Bernard asking Jack if he would like to be put under and dreaming of "something nice back home" made me think the flashforward was a dream. The LOST writers have sworn in several interviews that 1. the survivors are not in purgatory and that 2. it is not all just a dream. They said they wouldn't cop out like that and shortchange the fans with a cheesy resolution like that. So that discounts Hurley's "we're in heaven" theory and discounts all the Alice implications. However, they sure did play around with those themes tonight, and for a brief moment I was really nervous. Then I decided they were just messing with us.

What did you think? I invite you to share your thoughts and theories in the comments section.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life's Precious Jewels


"Among Life's precious jewels,
Genuine and rare,

The one that we call friendship

Has worth beyond compare."

~ author unknown


Just thought I'd give a quick shout-out to my dear friends from Chi-town, who came out to visit this past week.

I enjoyed every minute they were here and loved getting to know their little two-year old daughter better. It had been a year since I'd seen her and she'd grown so much! (Grown even cuter and smarter! What an absolute doll!)

I was so sad driving them to the airport at the end of the long weekend. My house is a little bit empty and a little bit too quiet now that they are gone.

Miss you guys! We'll have to do it again soon!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let's get LOST! (Episode 9 - The Shape of Things to Come)


If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of LOST yet…
BEWARE! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
Don't say you weren’t warned. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk LOST!

I don't even know where to begin. I am so speechless after tonight's episode. Yet at the same time, I want to talk about everything! Ben is in a parka in Tunisia. The doc from the freighter is dead. For a while, we thought Claire was dead. We learned how Sayid willingly volunteered his skills as an assassin to Ben. Smokey returns (and he's cranky!) Bernard knows morse code. The personal feud between Ben and Widmore was confirmed. All I know, is that this show is AWESOME! I'll try to pull out some of my favorite moments...

I thought this was the most shocking event of the night:

Ben: "She's not my daughter. I kidnapped her when she was a baby. She means nothing to me. She's just a pawn."

BANG! (Alex falls to the ground dead.)

I think Ben really did love Alex, and I think he was saying those things to show she wasn't worth anything to him, to get the freighter militia men to release her. Talk about a plan backfiring. I was so shocked, I couldn't breathe. Then, (I'll admit it) I started crying. Alex was an innocent throughout all of this. She didn't deserve the death she received. Now, my question to you is, who really is responsible for her death? Is Ben responsible, because he risked her life in trying to manipulate the stand-off situation, even though he technically didn't pull the trigger? Is Widmore responsible, because it was his men who did killed her, and they were working on his orders? Personally, I think they are both to blame. Turns out Alex ended up being the very thing Ben said she was... a sad pawn in a tragic game. But more on that in a minute...

I thought this was the most heartbreaking moment of the night:

Sayid: "Just let me bury my wife in peace."

We weren't even given a chance, as viewers, to celebrate with Sayid in his being reunited with Nadia, and enjoy that triumphant moment. In the same breath that we learn Sayid and Nadia were reunited, we learn that she is dead. Yeah, I'll admit it, I cried again. Maybe it was just a weepy night for me.

And finally, here's my favorite moment of the night:

Widmore (to Ben): "You creep into my bedroom in the dead of night like a rat, and have the audacity to pretend that you're the victim? I know who you are, boy. What you are. I know that everything you have you took from me..."

The showdown between Ben and Widmore in Widmore's London penthouse was riveting. Why did Ben say he can't kill Widmore? Why did Widmore claim the island belongs to him and that Ben took it from him? Why can't Widmore find his way back to the island? Does Widmore have Penny hidden away somewhere?

What a sad, dark episode. First, we see Alex die. Then we see Nadia die. Finally, we learn that Penny's life is in danger. We've reached a very dark and tragic part of this story. I'm looking forward to finding hope again. (Where's Rose when you need her?) The grief, anger and revenge of Sayid and Ben was palatable. (Which gives kudos to their amazing acting skills as well as the writers who are crafting this story.) I was so sad for Sayid. Then I thought about Jack hooked on drugs, Aaron growing up without his real mother, Hurley back in the mental ward. Is there no hope for anyone to survive this experience and come out on top? Although, the second act of a play is always the dark point, full of conflict, then the third act is when everything is resolved. Perhaps we've entered the second act, as it were, of LOST's story arc?

What did you think? Are you as nervous for Penny and Desmond as I am? I invite you to share your thoughts and theories in the comments section.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Record Store Day Is Tomorrow!


When was the last time you visited a record store? (And I don't mean Best Buy or FYE or Sam Goody). If it's been a while, then why not stop by a record store this weekend? On Saturday, April 19th, independent record stores across the nation will be celebrating Record Store Day with in-store performances, goodie bags and special programming.

With big chain stores, like Best Buy, taking up a large part of the market, combined with the rising popularity of music downloads, independently owned music stores are having to close their doors. You may think, why does it matter where I buy my music from? The money is going back to the artist one way or the other. Which is true; it doesn't matter, but music stores offer a unique experience. There's the human connection, for one, as well as the ability to discover local or less-mainstream music. Besides, there's just something about strolling through the racks and discovering a hidden gem. I think this quote says it best:

"The idea of - 'The journey is the destination.' - is put into action by browsing in an indie record store. Besides, a human being is a much better guide than a 'More Like This' link on the internet." - Patton Oswalt

When I lived in Flagstaff, the store I most frequented was Gopher Sounds. Here in the Valley of the Sun, we go to Tracks in Wax and Zia Record Exchange. However, I will admit (guiltily) that, more often than not, I find myself going online and clicking "Purchase" at Amazon for the latest release. It's easier to shop online, but truly, I love spending an hour or two browsing around in a record store. Anytime my husband and I travel, we always end up in a record store too. Even when we were in London and Copenhagen, we made sure to stop into a couple of record shops.

So get out this weekend and get to a music store! Here is an excellent article which discusses the situation in greater detail. You can also visit the Record Store Day website to see other quotes from musicians and entertainers about this topic. For fun, why not leave me a comment and let me know what was the last CD you purchased and how did you buy it? (Best Buy, I-Tunes, Amazon.com, etc.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Movies About Music


I love music. I love movies. There's nothing I love more when two of my favorite things come together. So here is a list of my favorite movies about music. I'm excluding concert films (such as U2: Rattle and Hum) and musicals (such as Annie, the Sound of Music, etc.). These are all great films, about how music effects people and their lives, how music connects, communicates and inspires. If there's a movie on this list you haven't seen yet, then I strongly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue.

1. Amadeus
The incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told in flashback mode by one of his contemporaries, Antonio Salieri. This movie has it all: it shows the blessings and curses of being a musical genius, it has envy, love, laughter, amazing costumes and sets, and of course...Mozart's music, used to brilliant effect as the soundtrack for the film. It won a ton of Oscar awards and deserved every single one. (If I remember right, it held the record for number of Oscars won, until Titanic came along.) I've watched this movie too many times to count and have yet to tire of it.

2. Once
An Irish street musician meets an immigrant girl who can play piano. The film follows them over a week as they collaborate on writing songs and lyrics which illustrate their lives and their budding friendship. Beautiful, simple and honest, this film does an amazing job at showing the process of creating music - where it comes from, how musicians use it to communicate, etc. The song "Falling Slowly" won an Oscar.

3. The Red Violin
This foreign language film follows a perfect and mysterious red violin as it makes its way down through the centuries, across several countries and in the hands of several owners. The violin ends up at an auction house in our modern day, and as an expert examines and researches the violin, its mysteries are revealed. A sad but incredibly beautiful film. (Be ready to watch subtitles.) Famous violinist, Joshua Bell, is on the soundtrack.

4. Almost Famous
This film is loosely based on director Cameron Crowe's experiences as a teen when he was on assignment with Rolling Stone magazine to write about an up and coming band. In addition to having a lot to say about music, the music industry and the touring scene, it is also a sweet coming of age story.

5. La Bamba
Based on the true-life story of Ritchie Valens, this movie wins out over the Buddy Holly Story for me, because I think this particular film is more interesting and shows this rock and roll tragedy in a more moving and personal way.

6. The Commitments
This movie starts with a kid in the poorest part of North Dublin Ireland, who is in love with American soul music. As he puts together his own soul band, we meet the full cast of unique and quirky characters. However, like almost every story about a band, as they rise to success, troubles crop up along the way. The movie is loud, funny, touching and above all...it has a lot of soul.

7. The Piano
Set in 1850's New Zeland, a mute woman arrives for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, with nothing but her young daughter and her piano. Her new husband not only doesn't appreciate music, but fails to realize how the piano is her voice. Frankly, I could do without the sex and nudity in this movie. It ruins an otherwise captivating story. I fast-forward past those parts. Anna Paquin (who plays the young daughter) won an Oscar for her performance.

8. Backbeat
This movie tells the story of the early life of the Beatles when they played in dive bars in Hamburg, Germany. It focuses more on Stuart Sutcliffe (the 5th Beatle), his friendship with John Lennon (they were fellow students in art school) and the influence Astrid had on their style (she gave them the mop top haircuts).

9. The Pianist
Imagine the movie Schindler's List, only starring a pianist. This movie is based on the real life story of Polish Jewish pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, as he struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. The way his music communicates to his enemies, and keeps his soul alive, will bring you to tears. Lead actor Adrien Brody and director Roman Polanski (one of my favorite directors) won Oscars for this film.

10. This is Spinal Tap
A mockumentary about an imaginary British heavy metal band, Spinal Tap, this movie is hands-down laugh out loud funny. The behind-the-scenes footage while the band is on tour, the interviews, and disastrous tour shows all lead to much hilariousness. It deftly makes fun of everything that is wrong about the music industry. Watch this movie with the volume turned up to eleven! (And then watch the movie with the commentary, which adds another layer of funny.)

Honorable Mentions: A Hard Days Night, Pink Floyd: The Wall and Disney's Fantasia
Essentially feature-film length music videos, A Hard Days Night and Pink Floyd's The Wall paved the way for MTV and music videos. While Fantasia helped a whole new generation rediscover the magic and beauty of classical music.

Biggest Disappointment: Immortal Beloved
It was a movie about Beethoven. I guess I was expecting something on par with the quality and brilliance of the movie Amadeus. Not only did this movie disappoint, but I felt like it did a tragic disservice to Beethoven and his genius. The movie concerns itself almost entirely with his sex life and trying to uncover who his true love was. It's worth a watch, though, for Gary Oldman's amazing performance as Beethoven.

It seems like my posts with lists tend to generate the most active discussion in the Comments section and I expect no less of this one. So, get to it! Leave me a comment and let me know which movies I overlooked.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Raven!


I just had to take a moment and wish my dear friend Raven a very happy birthday today! Happy birthday to you, my fellow tea party guest and wonderland resident!

I managed to find a raven fairy picture for you, from one of our favorite artists. And now I'm going to quote one of our favorite authors...

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only as you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."-- Neil Gaiman

I hope you have a wonderful day today!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Book Bite - A Couple of Fairy Tales

It's that time again! Time for another Book Bite! Several of the books I've been drawn to lately, unbeknownst to me when I first picked them up off the bookshelf, have ended up being Young Adult fiction. The last two books I've read recently are no exception. As an added bonus, they were both fairy tales (one of my favorite genres).

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie was a joyful read. It is about a father, who is a storyteller by trade, and his son. The father loses his ability to tell stories so his little boy goes on a journey to the magical sea of stories to help his father get his stories back. This symbolic world is filled with water genies, talking water lilies, mechanical birds and strange fish which, in some ways, are reminiscent of the inhabitants of Alice's Wonderland. All of these creatures serve a different purpose to help keep the sea of stories alive and to dispense the magical waters (i.e. stories) to storytellers everywhere through magical plumbing. Like any good fairy tale, there has to be a bad guy. In this story, the evil villain is out to pollute the sea of stories so that the world will be silent and no stories will be told ever again. There is also a princess or two, an epic battle and a happy ending.

This story was fresh and unlike anything I've read as far as style goes. The narrative voice was warm and fun; like having your favorite uncle tell you a story and giving you sly winks and nudges when he tells a particularly funny part. The story was written with a wonderful humor that made me smile with every turn of the page. I loved Rushdie's playful use of puns and archetypes. For example, the villain's name is "The End" - how perfect is that? What I loved the most about this story though, is that it was a fairy tale which, in and of itself, was about the lost art of telling fairy tales. It had a lot to say about storytelling as an art and how it connects us to each other in the telling, as well as connects us to our culture. Yet at the same time, the story was doing the very thing it was commenting on. Too cool!

I had a very limited knowledge of Salman Rushdie prior to reading this book. I vaguely remembered hearing about him in the news awhile back and knew him only as an author that had received death threats for writing a book called Satanic Verses. That was about it. After reading this book, and loving it so much, I went online to see what other people were saying about the book and to look up his other works and learn more about the author. I discovered, much to my surprise, that all the reviewers were talking about how political the message of Haroun was. I suspect that a previous knowledge about Salman Rushdie and his political and controversial nature had colored these readers' perceptions of the book, because after reading the book myself, then reading these reviews, I still couldn't see it. I thought it was a sweet, charming and sincere fairy tale and an homage or love letter of sorts to the joy of writing and telling stories. The book is dedicated, in a sweet little bit of prose, to Rushdie's son. Sometimes a fairy tale is just a fairy tale, and this is one I wouldn't mind reading again.

The other fairy tale story I read, which was also Young Adult fiction, was Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. Being a new and avid fan of Neil Gaiman, I've started reading his online journal, which is entertaining all on its own. As a regular reader of his journal, I followed Gaiman has he blogged about all the ups and downs he went through to write Odd, including little anecdotes like the selection of the cover art. (Here's a link to all those blog entries. You'll have to read from the bottom up.) It was enlightening to be allowed in on the author's process. However, it was an especially weird and surreal sensation when I was actually holding that completed book in my hands. This novellette was written for World Book Day in the United Kingdom, where schoolchildren are given a token which they can redeem for a book. The books they can choose from are donated by the authors and their publishing houses (i.e. no money is made on the sale of the books). This particular story is targeted towards a younger audience than perhaps Haroun and it was a very quick read, but I still enjoyed it.

Odd is a young Norse boy who runs away from home during the longest winter Norway has ever seen. He teams up with some talking woodland creatures: a bear, a fox and an eagle, and journeys to Asgard, the city of the gods, to outwit the Frost Giants and free his land from the never ending winter. As I said, I really enjoyed the story as the fun little adventure it was. However, I feel like I would have been able to enjoy it a little bit more if I had more of a knowledge of Norse mythology. Several times I felt like I wasn't "in" on the joke. So, of course, I promptly went to Amazon.com and placed a couple of Norse fairy tale books into my wish list. I can't believe it is one branch of fairy tales that I haven't explored yet.