Sunday, May 2, 2010

Top Ten Shakespeare spin-offs

Who doesn't love a good ol' Shakespeare spin off?

#s 9 and 1o. Ten Things I Hate About You and She's the Man-- Two sterling tween movie adaptations of classic Shakespeare comedies, namely The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night. Set in modern (or what was modern in 1999 and 2006) highschools, these movies are charming, some-what-ridiculous, spin offs on Shakespeare.

#s 7 and 8. West Side Story and Kiss me Kate-- Although both are Broadway Musicals, these two adaptations could not be more different. West Side Story (by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim) is a tragic retelling of Romeo and Juliet through the lives of West Side gang members. Cole Porter's Kiss me Kate, on the other hand, is a comic story of the lives of two sets of actor couples as they all four star in a new musical based on The Taming of the Shrew. With posters like the ones above, how could they go wrong?

#6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-- This play by Tom Stoppard is a retelling of Hamlet from the point of view of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Alternately comic, baffeling, and poignant, there is no denying that this play really rocks.

#5. Millais' "Ophelia"-- this painting speaks for itself.
#4. "They All Want To Play Hamlet"-- This poem by Carl Sandburg gives me the shivers.

#3. Rufus Wainright's "Sonnet Twenty Nine"--breathtakingly beautiful.
#2. Sassy gay friend-- These hillarious Youtube videos by the second city theater company show what would have happened had various tragic heroines had a sassy gay friend to cheer them up.

The ones for Desdemona and Ophelia are also well worth watching.

#1. Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet-- If you haven't seen this... I don't even know what to say to you.

-Hamletmachine, by Muller
-Shakespeare in Love

Friday, March 26, 2010


Copyright: 1885
Full title: The Wonders of the Universe: A record of Things Wonderful and Marvelous in Nature, Science and Art
This glorious junk store find is a compilation of, as the title states, "wonders of the universe" or at least what they were at the time.
The introduction to this tome of wonders begins by instructing the reader on how to become a "cultured person", namely by reading this book.
After the introduction comes another introduction which informs the reader that "We are passing from the age of steam into that of electricity" and therefore many of the entries in this encyclopedia will concern this new technology.
Indeed, electricity does seem to be a recurring theme amidst a sea of other entries wildly varying between such topics as giant cuttlefish, tattooing, deep sea divers, the suez canal, robots, red wood trees, flagellation, and "curiosities of patent law".
Other entries seem as similar to ones you might find in The Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley's Believe it or Not. "Crimes Discovered Through Dreams", "Some Strange Wills", "Curious Press Blunders", and "At Sea In A Coffin" being a few.
The best part of this wondrous book however, would have to be its illustrations. View below.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Top Ten Best Last Sentences--Spoiler Alert

The requirements for this were that I had read the book and that the last sentence wasn't too-too much of a spoiler. Here's my list:

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do. You start missing everybody" ~The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

9. "I love you, I love you, I love you." ~I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

8. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." ~The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

7. "That's the story of the gardener and the gentry and now you can think about it." ~"The Gardener and the Gentry" Hans Christian Anderson

6. "If I were a younger man I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount MaCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would make a statue of my self, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who." ~Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (surprisingly, he is not talking about Lord Voldemort...)

5. "Come, Children, let us shut the box of puppets, for our play is played out." ~Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery

4. "But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest a boy and his Bear will always be playing."~Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

3. "I am haunted by humans."~ The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

2. "A glooming peace this morning with it brings/the sun for sorrow will not show its head/go forth to have more talk of these sad things/some shall be pardoned and some punished/for never was a story of more woe/ than this of Juliet and her Romeo." ~ Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

1. "The End"

Do you have any additions to make to this list? Comment it up!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Falling in Love with Fictional Characters and the People who Write Them

Mr. Darcy, Sirius Black, Romeo Montague, Holden Caulfield, Will (of His Dark Materials), Newland Archer, Simon Cotton, Edmond Dantes, Jay Gatsby, I love you all. Will you be my valentines?

I think we've all experienced it, falling head over heals for someone who doesn't exist. And sometimes it isn't just the one. The number of characters from the Harry Potter Series that could be included in that list is mind boggling.

Sometimes it's not just a character but a whole book that you fall in love with. And I don't mean "I love this book. it's one of my favorites." I mean in love.

And sometimes its the books author. As the character Mandella from Ten Things I Hate About You says about William Shakespeare "More than a fan. We're involved." Hilarious, yes. But who doesn't engage in this sort of wishful thinking? Especially if Shakespeare looks anything like the actor who plays him in Shakespeare in Love:
Here's a great Moxy Fruvous song about just this. Really catchy and quite funny as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genres that Don't Exist

I don't believe in children's books. Or young adult fiction. I believe in everyone books. In creating a special section for children or young adults in our book stores, are we not limiting the books they are exposed to? What young adult will go to the barnes and noble Classics section when they can see across the way an array of candy colored books sporting images of hot guys and girls in mini dresses?
I'm not saying that books defined by that genre have no credibility, merely asking what makes it embarrassing if a not so young adult reads that same book? Teen Fiction is, in general, a genre written by grown ups who have forgotten. They don't remember how frustrating it was when they were teens, reading books about people who didn't resemble them at all, hardly resembled humans. This is in turn due to the forgetting; a dangerous spiral. The genre feeds on itself.
Oh, sure, there have been special books through the years, books labled as "transcending genres", but shouldn't all books be like that? What is wrong about adults reading children's books for their own enjoyment? Why would we read them to our kids if we did not believe them to contain some sort of intrinsic value? Similarly, why is it that at some point reading a book like
Gossip Girl or The Clique turns from being respectable into being a guilty pleasure? Those books, while enjoyable, shouldn't morph with the age of the reader. They are trashy no matter at when you read them.
So many times in my life have I heard the words "Isn't that a little mature for you, Phoebe? Aren't you too young for that?" NO, I always wanted to scream. No.
Just the other day I was talking to my brother's girlfriend about Jane Austen. "I was kind of a pretentious kid," says she, "I read all of Austen in Middle School." "Yeah." I answered, "I did too." Why is that pretentious? I was asking within myself. Because Jane Austen doesn't suck?
I believe in everyone books. When I was three and four I would sit quietly and listen to the chapter books my brothers and mother were reading aloud, all of us transfixed by the story. A story transcending generations, age devides, everything. Where do you find that story in the book store? I'll tell you where I would look. In the literature section. The sad thing is, though, I don't think that that is where I would find it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Children's Stories that Change Lives

1.)Harry Potter. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. The series taught me how to read more than my Kindergarten teachers ever could. I believe in those novels not merely as childish entertainment, or fun fantasy adventures, but also as sources of a beautiful moral code. The triumph of love over evil. The choice "between what is right and what is easy." I have friends who make fun of me and call Harry Potter "little kid's books", but children's books that have this huge of a cultural impact should not be, in my opinion, taken lightly. The series has even spawned it's own charity organization, and a music movement called wizard rock (of which I personally am a part), which is comprised of dorks who "help kids read. help kids rock.". And why not? This is not the first time that so called children's tales have made a difference.

2.)Grimm's Fairy Tales. The fairy tales of the Brother's Grimm have morphed over the years, becoming less scary, becoming musicals, becoming more mod
ern, but through it all they have, in essence, remained intact. These tales have changed lives not merely through their lasting claims on our society, however, but what is more through their collection resulting in the unification of Germany and the re-drawing of the map of Europe. When the stories were first collected by the Brother's Grimm, Germany was in a rather bad way, a loose conglomeration of states rather than a contry, with possible war brewing from all fronts. To survive, Germany would have to unite. The problem was that the people of each state saw themselves as individuals, unwilling to unite with "foreigners" . When the fairy tales were collected, people began to realize that they did, in fact, have a shared culture. The stories were a key part of the birth of a German cultural identity and thus led, indirectly maybe, but still, led to the unification of Germany. Which country's unification have you led to today?

3.)"The Little Prince". If you have not read this book, read this book. Apart from the beautifully lingering illustrations, this story will make you cry. Or at least it will make me cry. Every. Goddamn. Time. Once you have read "The Little Prince", you will never not have read "The Little Prince" again. Which I guess you could say with anything, but with this story it feels as though it means something more. If you have read "The Little Prince", check out this xkcd comic strip:


4.)"Winnie the Pooh". "If you live to be 100, I hope i live to be 100 minus one day, so that I never have to live without you." This is the "Awwwww!" moment everyone so loves. I mean, come on. That's adorable. And that's not all. I mean Winnie the Pooh comes at you with the sentimental childhood tearjerkers over, and over, and over."Promise me you'll never forget me because if i thought you would I'd never leave."
But "Winnie the Pooh" is more than just adorable. It's a children's story that's magical but feels real; every child's stuffed animals become Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Eeyore and the gang. Every child's back yard becomes the hundred acre wood. And have you checked out these books? The Te Of Piglet and The Tao of Pooh.

It may be true that I get more out of these books now than I did as a little kid(Not the tao books, but the children's books, I mean), but that just goes to show that they are timeless classics.
If anyone has anything they think should be added to the list, I'd love to hear from you.