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Archive for August, 2008

Tidbits

This ‘n‘ that…

Can you believe that Michael Jackson is 50 years old?!! Hello?!!  FIFTY? Damn Sam, when did I get this old?!!!!  I remember watching him as a little kid with his brothers! aggggggg!

(I thought the below photo was a good one considering that I just joined the RIP Challenge that is to read creepy books until Halloween!… this photo was when he was still a good looking guy! (before all the surgery)

oh.. and August is ending… September is beginning, along with school, which means Fall is on it’s way……..

I happened to catch this pic of a squirrel… he was lookin‘ for food to “squirrel away” for winter!  heh

Not too long ago Carl sent me to a website

Why, you ask?

Oh please.. ask!

…because although we’ve never met he does know me well enough to know I would absolutely FLIP when I saw this photo…

I WANT ONE!.. or two..heh.. Gawd this photo has been driving me crazy ever since Carl directed me to it!… ohhhhhhhhhhhh how I would love this to be real and to have one for my very own!!

Remember the tiny dragons in Harry Potter when they had to choose which dragon they would face?… well, I loved them too! heh..  somehow I doubt that surprises anyone!

As anyone who watches the weather on television knows, Gustov is growing bigger everyday and headed for New Orleans again! 

I have 2 friends there and sure hope things aren’t like they were when Katrina hit !  I think I’d be considering a move to another state! (or way inland).  Gads… the news is on here.. they are calling it a “monster storm” and “storm of the century”..  this is not good news ..not good at all.

And lastly..

My brother is doing “ok”.  He’s out of ICU (first time in 3 weeks) and has a defibrillator now under his skin.  I’m not sure what’s next.  I know some rehab..but if there’s more before that I don’t know.  He’s been in the hospital over a month now.

I wish I could say that things look “good” but to be honest they don’t.  I think (think!) he may come home eventually here (a few more weeks? a month?) but I’m not sure if he will improve any of we just have a waiting game…. it’s all a matter of one day at a time.

So.. that’s that for now…

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Silent to Talkies

The Movies, Mr Griffith and Me by Lillian Gish

Amazon:

By today’s standards, Lillian Gish‘s performances in silent film seem mannered–but during the 1910s and 1920s they were nothing short of revolutionary, for unlike most actors of the era Gish was determined to perform in as natural a manner as possible. In doing so, she literally pioneered screen acting technique as we now know it, and it would be extremely difficult to over-estimate her artistic impact.

Although Gish worked with numerous directors over the course of her extremely long career, she is most specifically remembered for her association with D.W. Griffith, whose pioneering silent films firmly established what Gish would describe as “the grammar” of modern cinema. As one might guess from its title, a good portion of THE MOVIES, MR. GRIFFITH, & ME is devoted to Griffith, and it offers a first-hand account of Griffith, the challenges he faced, and the evolution of film from extremely primitive one-reels into a sophisticated art form during the 1910s; those interested in film history will be particularly fascinated by Gish‘s accounts of the filming of two landmark silents, BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE.

I bought this book for a number of reasons.  The obvious being that I remember and like Lillian Gish movies…her last movie being right up there by the top, called The Whales of August.

The first two things I noticed about this book were both the “hand drawn cover” (by Jock von Bismark)  and then the price!  Back in 1969 when this second printing came out, this 385 page book  was a trivial seven dollars and ninety-five cents!  Now-a-day, that equals out to having to be a “Bargain Book”!

This book is aptly named, for although Lillian Gish worked for years with DW Griffith, the book is more about him and “their” movies than it is a biography of Ms. Gish.  Still I found the book most enjoyable and interesting.  At all times you had the feel of how things were back in the day, before talking movies.

Trivia from the book:  It was Mary Pickford who introduced D W Griffith to Lillian Gish, Dorothy and their mother.

(a quote in the book. Ms Gish trying to describe DW Griffith) …..

I grope in the files of memory for my first impression of David Wark Griffith.

He looked so tall to my young eyes, yet he was two inches under six fee.  He was imposing; he held himself like a king.  Later I discovered that he could no more slouch than change the color of his blue eyes, which were hooded and deep-set.  He was vigorous and masculine-looking.  Under the wide-brimmed straw hat set on his head with a jaunty curve to the brim, his brown sideburns were rather long.  His nose was prominent; his profile seemed to belong on a Roman coin, and he had the heavy loser lip and jaw of the Bourbons.  It was an important face.

 

(DW Griffith)

(quote on making silent movies)    We were encouraged to train our bodies for acrobatic  pantomime, which was particularly useful when the camera was shooting from a distance.  We were also called upon to perform the most dangerous stunts.  None of us ever objected; it did not occur to us to object.

I do enjoy learning little things about a person or about the early days of movie making .  In this book there were many little things that made the book enjoyable.  For instance, at one point Ms. Gish mentions a man named Al Jennings, who taught her how to shoot a gun…

(quote)      He taught me to draw and fire a gun, which he could do faster than the eye could follow.  I am still a good shot; when later I played in The Unforgiven, John Huston, the director, was startled to find that I could fire faster than Burt Lancaster… thanks to my old friend Al Jennings.

(Orphan of the Storm  1922)

 

(Scarlet Letter)

(quote) I was upset at the changes that were taking place in our working world.  Talking pictures had been born.  When I returned to Hollywood, I saw that every studio was being transformed with soundproofing, which made it airtight.  Under the hot lights, the poor actors had to wear rubber suits under their costumes to keep them looking dry during the filming.

(With Helen Hayes: Arsenic and Old Lace)

This was a very enjoyable book.  Although it was more a dedication to Mr Griffith, Lillian Gish‘s career was closely entwined with Mr Griffith, and so it made perfect sense that this book would be written in such a way.

Since I am so firmly ensconced in the time when movies went from silent to talkies I have yet to finish reading books on many from that time period.  I still have (and probably will for some time) a book on John Ford that is the biggest book I’ve ever owned..and small print!  And I’ve sent from 2 more movie related books….  Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield and The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger, which I plan on reading in between my books for the RIP III Challenge!!

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Silly me… I knew the RIP Challenge held by Carl would begin soon.  I figured ..next month, so I began one more book (The Movies, D W Griffith and Me by Lillian Gish) also figuring I’d have finished reading it before RIP began.

Well, true to form (for me) I have NOT finished my book by Lillian Gish, and Carl HAS begun the RIP Challenge! *sigh*

I am trying very hard NOT to do what I know happens to me when I commit to something… even a reading challenge… and that is to try to relax and enjoy the book I am reading before jumping into Carl’s “Halloween-ish” reading challenge.

Here are the official challenges:  R.I.P. III runs from September 1st through October 31st, 2008. But I’m no stickler, start reading now if you feel so inclined.

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Peril the First:     Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the Second:    Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the Third:    Read One book of any length from one of the subgenres listed above.

I’m choosing to do Peril the First. 

Surprised??  I am! heh.. I am not into vampires or blood and gore etc but I have found, since reading The Thirteenth Tale, that I do enjoy a mystery with the gothic feel… and.. and.. I also enjoyed a vampire and werewolf when written with humor as A Lee Martinez did in Gil’s All Fright Diner!  So.. it’s surprise to me that I am attempting this once again!

I will list the books I have available to me, in my tbr list, for this challenge.. although……. although….  I don’t promise to read all of these!  I have found that once reviews start coming in that there are books out there I might enjoy MORE than the ones I have.. and so, I do what all of us do and order the books and read those instead! heh.. anyway.. there’s also a chance that all my choices MIGHT be the ones I already have! (wouldn’t that be original?! lol)  So here’s my list……………..

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
A Namless Witch by A Lee Martinez
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (reread)
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Kept by D J Taylor
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

More than likely I have a few other books on my TBR list that would fit one of the descriptions that Carl has for this challenge but for now I’ll settle for the above list.

True to form, Carl has some suggested books at his website and one of them has already hit my wish list!  The Ghost Writer by John Harwood.. I will check into  this book a bit more and then decide if I am sending for it!  It wouldn’t be the first time that Carl has suggested a book that I doubted I would like.  Last year one of his suggestions was The Thirteenth Tale and that book was soooooo good, that I keep watching for the author to come out with another book! (unfortunately, so far, she hasn’t).

Anyway...  with Fall around the corner, and my brother (even if temporarily) is on the mend, I am going to jump in this and hope things stay on an even keel so that I can enjoy the whole experience that Carl always puts out there for us!!

Come on!  Join in !  I know you want to !

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The Magician (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott.

Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (June 24, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0385733585

Amazon, Product Description
After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenell is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Nicollo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenell. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year—their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophesy is becoming more and more clear.

It’s time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there’s only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel’s old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain—alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world’s only hope—if they don’t turn on each other first.

This is book 2 for Michael Scott.  I began this series with The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel  about a  year ago. The book was released in May of 2007.  That book started off in present day time in California, where two kids (twins), Josh and Sophie are spoken of in a prophecy, and thus begins an adventure wrapped around magicians and Elders that sets their world upside down.

I totally enjoyed book one and so when book two came along I sent for it.  I did a bit of other reading from my tbr pile before I got to it but boy oh boy, once I opened it, it was hard to put down!  This book not only picks up where book one ends but it takes of at great speed and doesn’t let up !!

The second book of most trilogies tends to disappoint many people, but if you have read The Alchemyst, I can tell you that book 2 will not disappoint!  Michael Scott surely did his homework to bring many of these characters to life in a way that makes you unable to put the book down.   Characters such as:

John Dee
John Dee (July 13, 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was a noted English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He also devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.

Nicholas Flamel
Nicolas Flamel (traditionally c. 1330 – 1418) was a successful scrivener and manuscript-seller who developed a posthumous reputation as an alchemist due to his reputed work on the Philosopher’s Stone.

Scáthach (“Shadowy”)
Scathack is a figure in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. She is a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trains the legendary Ulster hero Cúchulainn in the arts of combat.

Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527) was an Italian diplomat, political philosopher, musician, poet and playwright.

Count St. Germain
Count of St. Germain (fl. 1710–1784) has been variously described as a courtier, adventurer, charlatan, inventor, alchemist, pianist, violinist and amateur composer, but is best known as a recurring figure in the stories of several strands of occultism – particularly those connected to Theosophy, where he is also referred to as the Master Rakoczi or the Master R and credited with near god-like powers and longevity.

Next up for Michael Scott will be book 3, The Sorceress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)  I am only sorry it will take another year for that to appear!

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Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Vintage (March 19, 1996)
ISBN-10: 0679756604

Amazon.com
It‘s well known that a vast number of people work on any given movie in roles as varied as writing scripts, choosing locations, dressing sets, costuming the players, lighting scenes, manipulating the camera, directing actors, editing film, working on sound, advertising the finished product, and screening it to an audience. Have you ever thought about how these components are collated? Or why the director is most often considered the author of a film? Wonder no more, because Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies is a terrific journey through each stage of filmmaking that is overseen by the director. Lumet, the veteran director of Twelve Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Verdict, and many other fine movies, knows the ins and outs of American filmmaking as well as anyone. In this excellent, personable account, Lumet tells what he’s learned about making movies in the course of the last 40 years. He shows why fine directors need to have strong imaginations, extraordinary adaptability, and skill in many different fields. His enthusiasm for his life’s work, particularly his love of actors, is evident on every page of this book. As Herculean as the labors of film directing are, Lumet takes great pleasure in his work, almost guiltily admitting that the film director’s job is “the best in the world.”

It isn’t only those hoping to one day be a famous director that gets curious about what it really takes to make a movie.  I can’t really say it was way up there on my list of things to do, find out what it’s like to make that movie I liked so much.  … but at times, I did wonder just how difficult it was. 

There were also directors that I have admired over the years, Lucas, Spielberg, Jackson and Howard, among some of them, but I only mention those because they are names that are spoken so often everyone knows them.  If I asked you who directed Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, or who was the lucky person to have directed all those fantastic stars in Murder On the Orient Express, you probably couldn’t name him. (well.. unless you really looked at the photo above..heh)

But other than your favorite movie you probably don’t know or remember the name of the director or producer or the writer.   That’s probably normal… those names are more important to those either IN the industry or wanting to be in the industry in one way or another.

Naomi of  Here In the Hills, suggested this little book by Sidney Lumet to me.  I believe the word she used was fascinating.  Since I’ve been doing a lot of reading on movies  I thought I’d give the book a try.  

Was I going to make a movie one day?.. ahhh, not hardly, but as soon as I began reading this book I felt comfortable.   Which made it obvious it wasn’t just a text book!

Right away you get the feeling that you are sitting next to Mr Lumet, asking questions and listening to him tell you just howhe went about making some of his movies.  He covers things such as:  just where all the money goes, what it’s like working with some of the stars?, just how important are those cameramen?,  are writers really that important?, what it’s like to actually shoot the movie, and more!

It‘s hard to believe he squeezed all of that into a book that‘s only 218 pages long, but he did it.. and did it in a way that made the book not only informative, but enjoyable to read!

So, even if you don’t plan on making a movie, but you have always enjoyed movies and have ever wondered just how a movies happens… this book is for you.

Here’s a quote from the chapter of the book called “Shooting the Movie”:

The varying physical characteristics of the actors may also necessitate changes. Sean Connery is six feet four, Dustin Hoffman isn‘t.  Trying to get them in a tight two-shot presents some problems.  I tend to shoot everything at eye level, but I’m talking about “my” eye level.  And I’m Dustin’s height ( 5ft 6).  For example: “Sean, give me a Groucho,”  That means : Will you start lowering your body before you sit.  As Sean comes toward us, the camera has to pan up to hold his head in the frame.  Because of his height, this can mean that the camera is seeing over the top of the set, shooting into the lights.  We don’t want to move the lights after all that work.  And unless we want a ceiling for dramatic reasons, we don’t want to put one in.  Sean does the Groucho.  Most experienced actors can do it without breaking their concentration.  “Give me a light banana on that cross from left to right.”  That means: As  you’re crossing, arc slightly away from the camera for the same reason that you gave us the Groucho.  Otherwise we’d be shooting off set.

And one more from the chapter: Rushes

At Technicolor in New York, on the second floor of a ratty building surrounded by porn shops, there is an ugly little screening room.  It seats about thirty people.  The screen is no more than fourteen feet wide.  Very often the light from the projectors is hot in the center of the screen and falls off on the sides, giving you an uneven picture.  The sound system is to sound what two tin cans and a string are to telephones.  Morty, the projectionist, has been complaining for years, but to no avail.  When the air-conditioning clanks on, the hum is so loud that all dialogue is inaudible.  If the air-conditioning hasn’t been turned on for a least a half hour before we come in, the smell of food gets mixed with the odor of the chemicals for the lab upstairs.  The food smell wafts up into the room from the restaurant on the ground floor.

This is truly the everyday life of a director Making a Movie.

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In the Coils of the Snake by Clare B Dunkle

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks (December 26, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0805081100

From School Library Journal
In the final volume in the trilogy, the action moves to the next generation. Marak, the goblin king, is dying, and his son, Marak Catspaw, is taking over the throne. Miranda, the human girl whom Marak has raised to be Catspaw’s wife, has come to the underground goblin lands eager to start her role as King’s Wife. When a new elf leader arrives and offers Catspaw an elven wife, Miranda’s destiny disappears. She escapes the goblin kingdom and is captured by the elf leader, Nir. Meanwhile, elven Arianna, Catspaw’s new Wife, is deeply unhappy with her underground life. In the end, both girls play a role in choosing a new life for both elves and goblins. Dunkle has created a tightly drawn fantasy with a pair of strong, independent female protagonists striving to find their places in new societies. The author’s themes of the need for tolerance and her exploration of the often-superficial differences between races are continued from earlier volumes and add meaning to the text. Because of this book’s focus on the elf and goblin worlds, less attention is given to the alternate Victorian England of the humans than in earlier volumes. Dunkle’s language and plotting help build the mood and move her suspenseful story through its twists to its satisfying finish.–

I have to say, this was a really excellent trilogy.

The world and characters that Clare B Dunkle made became quite real.  (well, as real as a Goblin and Elf can become!)   I found these books  to have a very original story (stories?) which even became a piece of their own history.

I would also say that this trilogy goes up there in enjoyment with a few others that I know I can’t quite get out of my head.   I hope that someday soon Clare B Dunkle can come up with another story as good as this one was.

Again, I want to thank Cath for sending me book one and kinda pushing the books to the top of the TBR pile lol…  They had to be really good to be able to help take my mind off of real life lately.  (thumbs up!)  Excellent choice Cath!!

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Update

Aside from book reviews (which have been pretty pathetic) I have been pretty quiet lately… and there’s a reason for that.

For most, who don’t know, my brother has been back in the hospital for 3 weeks now.  He went in with cellulitis (which he seems to go in for about once a year).  Then he began not breathing well.

Then he kept getting hit with “bad news”.. enough to upset him so much he was rushed into ICU because of his breathing.

Days passed and we learned not much except that his cellulitis was improving.. but his breathing was not.  He was put on breathing treatments.  Finally we were told they were trying to get his breathing under control (water near the lungs) and then they intended to send him to yet another hospital because they said his heart was “weak” and needed a new valve.

Then one night we went there and we were sent to the visitors lounge to wait.

He had “an episode”… he stopped breathing.  They zapped him with a defibrillator and got him back.  Tubes down his throat and nose etc and they sedated him to oblivion.

Next evening when we went they said he had had 2 more “episodes”.  Things are not going well.

It’s been 2 more days now.. no new episodes.  Some of the 8 things going into him are off.  We are down to 4 or 5.  He’s still sedated.   They said they were going to take him off the respirator, but they hadn’t.   Needless to say I jump out of my skin if our phone rings.  I doze at night (not sleeping well) expecting the phone to ring in the middle of the night.. so far, so good.   But at this point I’m not sure I know what is good.

So.. that’s my story.  For the moment I am ok, but I know that’s only because the phone hasn’t sounded.  I am trying to keep my mind occupied when not at the hospital, so I am appreciating all the blogs I read right now, more than usual… and I am thrilled that the Olympics are here to keep me distracted!

As for my reading.. I am almost thru book 3, “In the Coils of the Snake” by Dunkle.  My reading has slowed down.. hard to concentrate, but I need the distraction right now.  And I had sent for  and received 3 used books.  (One day I will find someone selling used books that I can get more than one book from…grrr.)

I finally got the last 2 Mary Russell books (  Sherlock Holmes wife) by Laurie R King and to continue on with my newest obsession (not really new, just revitalized) I found a used copy of a book by Lilian Gish (silent/ and talking movie star) called, “The Movies,  Mr Griffith, and Me”.

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