Pride and Prejudice

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 27th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:39 PM, local time.

Ok, so, sorry guys, I’ve been a little lax this week in keeping up with the blogging. I claimed I would be doing better. But, I’m trying. I’m just weak. Baby steps, right?

Several months ago, I was convinced that I should watch the Pride and Prejudice movie (the 2005 version). I had never read any Jane Austen novels, thinking they were just for girls, or whatever nonsense you pick up here or there about such things. So, I watched the movie. As many people know, I’ve long been a sucker for simple romantic comedy, which is, I guess, how I would categorize the movie. I enjoyed it. Thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed the arguments between the main characters, thought the scenery was pretty good, and really like the piano music in the background.

So, between watching the movie, countless recommendations from some of my friends, wikipedia articles, and a couple other secondary sources, I thought I would read the novel. Barnes and Noble’s had the Jane Austen collection on sale, and there was a copy of Pride and Prejudice in the “Everyman’s Library” hardcover edition, which I collect. So, I bought them both (it’s a problem, I know) and read Pride and Prejudice. Then I read it again.

Spectacular. I gotta say, had I known that authors from the 1800s could write like that, I would have read more of them beforehand. The dialogue is superb. The characters were very well drawn, and by and large, you could not wish for a better book. It is an easy, quick read, and there really is no reason whatsoever to not read it at every so often. It just goes so quickly!

When I first read the book, I was very much gladdened that the character of Mr Darcy was much larger in the book than in the movie. By no means was he the main character, but at least in the book, there were many times where you got to see things from his point of view, and you could see the basis for some of his actions before Elizabeth got to interpret them and skew them to something despicable. I was very pleased. It was nice to have a strong male hero to, not necessarily counter, but certainly complement the wonderful heroine, the younger Miss Bennet.

Very recently, I decided that since I enjoyed the book so much, and had enjoyed the movie when I first saw it, I should watch the movie again, to better compare it to the book. I had recognized before, after reading the book the first time, that the movie didn’t have a lot of the scenes in it that the book had, but didn’t think too much about it. It was a movie, after all. They do that sort of thing. But, when I saw it the second time, I was almost disgusted at the amount of stuff that was left out. There was a lot of characterization that was simply not there. Whole scenes, whole characters, whole conversations, etc., etc. Not only do we see nothing from Darcy’s point of view, but we see nothing of the “relationship” between Elizabeth and Mr Wickham develop, and we see nothing of the real awkwardness of Elizabeth meeting Darcy’s sister for the first time. These things are key to the book, really!

In comparison to the depth and, dare I say, majesty, of the book, the movie is a collection of short quick sketches, each merely outlining a portion of the masterwork that is the book, “Pride and Prejudice”. The only redeeming qualities the movie really keeps is the wonderful piano music, which really, by the way, prompted the blog post about background music a few days back. And Keira Knightley is hot. But we already knew that from Pirates, and you could just watch that to get your fill. (And sorry to mention her name, I just am really curious about how much google PageRank that will earn me.)

Anyway, for all my complaints, its not a bad movie, and I must respect the initial impression it had on me, that led me to read Austen’s various novels. I have now read enough of them that I would like to compare and consider each of the greater pieces here in my blog, but that is a larger task for another day.

Almost entirely unrelated from that, other than I used the word in this writeup: dialogue. Not dialog. Seriously people. It’s bad enough when I see it everywhere, but to have my own spellchecker refuse to accept the correct form of the word, and suggest the improper bastardization, is downright unacceptable. At least there exist proper dictionaries online and in print yet that use and promote the correct form.

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Microfiche Reader

Posted by me on Sunday, the 24th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:05 PM, local time.

I was at the used book sale this past week outside the library, and finding many fun books to acquire, Jim pointed out a row of microfiche readers… all for free! They had a great sign attached to them: “Microfiche Readers: Free to a good home.” I almost got one, but I would have had to lug it back to the bus, carry it on the bus all the way back to work, then carry it to my truck, etc., etc. That’s a lot of work!

Plus, I don’t really have any microfiche to read. But, until I get a reader, I wouldn’t have any way to read any microfiche I did acquire, so its better to just get the free reader now, right? Maybe if they are still there next year…

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Background Music

Posted by me on Sunday, the 24th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:21 AM, local time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as we go through life, we each should have a piano player following us around with a huge piano playing wonderful piano music. I’ve always enjoyed piano music, and I think it would make great background music. I am of the opinion that piano music is all that is sufficient and necessary to completely express the entire range of human emotion and mood.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy other instrumentation as well, and would not happily do without a full orchestra for many wonderful pieces of music, but a piano’s music is so simple, elegant, beautiful, and yet still capable of such subtlety and richness that if I had to choose a single instrument to follow me around, it must be the piano. As it is, I often have piano music playing in the background anyway, but to have a real piano playing the music is so much better.

Now, I just have to find a piano player…

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More about Mistborn

Posted by me on Sunday, the 24th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:08 AM, local time.

So, I finished reading Mistborn yesterday and was very happy to find that it is pretty much one of the best books I have read this year to date (as I suspected it would be earlier). It was also pretty much entirely self-contained… there were a few loose ends, its true, and I have discovered that there are in fact two more books in the series forthcoming, making it a full trilogy (sorry Darcy!). The next book is due in August of this year, and the final book is finishing up now, and should be out by next summer.

Anyway, the book was quite fun. It has the feel of Ocean’s Eleven (or Twelve, or Thirteen, etc., etc.), in that the main characters collect a group of specialists in order to pull off a rather complicated plan against the opposition. The system of magic is quite well thought out (just as it was in Elantris) and rather novel for fantasy works I can bring to mind right now. I’ll leave those secrets for your own discovery, however.

In looking for other books by the author, Brandon Sanderson, I discovered his website (I just linked to it! Jeez!) and thence the books mentioned above as forthcoming. But, the other very cool thing I have discovered on this site is the author’s commentaries on his own books! Apparently, after he has written them, and the publisher’s editors have read them and made suggested changes, he has to reread them and make sure all corrections were, well, correct. So, as this could be rather boring, he writes down what he was thinking about each chapter, how we was trying to portray the characters, and missteps he took along the way. It’s very much like a director’s commentary on a movie. Each chapter of each book he has published has at least one writeup, if not more, along these lines. He releases them in the weeks following the initial publication of the book.

Well, anyway, I thought it was cool. I wish more authors would do so, as sometimes, when I am reading some books, I really wonder what the heck the guy was thinking when he wrote that!

That’s all the update I have for now. I rather think both Elantris and Mistborn are worth reading.

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Sorry, more xkcd

Posted by me on Thursday, the 21st day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:46 PM, local time.

Sorry guys, I’m sure lots of people are getting bored with my xkcd rants. I was getting kind of afraid these past few weeks that he had lost the touch. If you go back in the archive, centered a month or so ago, they were just hilarious. Each and every one of them. Ever since the “Choices” dailies, its been rather dry and uninteresting.

However, there is some hope for the future, I think: today’s comic. It’s not quite up to 100%, but he could be in the 85-90% range of what we know he is capable of. Things may be looking up!

Sorry again for this. And I wasn’t going to blog again tonight after my longer post about the book I am reading (I would like to get back to reading that sometime tonight yet…), but I just had to say something here. I try to bring hope to the masses.

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Reading Books

Posted by me on Thursday, the 21st day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:24 PM, local time.

Its interesting to me how a book can grab at you and pull you in. I started reading this newish (ok, I bought it new 5 or 6 months ago and it has sat on my queue since then) novel a couple days ago, but only got about 10-15 pages in, was tired and had a hard time focusing on the book. This was probably around 11:45pm or midnight or so. Not all that late, considering. The book sat there a few more days, unopened. I was just too tired to bother reading.

Last night, however, even though I was feeling a bit droopy-eyed, I thought I should really start reading it again and give it a bit more of a chance. Two hours later, I was wide awake and completely unconcerned that I would likely be a couple of hours late to work the next morning (not that I am usually concerned about such things anyway, as I’m sure many of you know). It was a very very good book. Still is, luckily, as these sorts of books are not short enough to finish in a single 4 or 5 hour stretch like some books not worth mentioning might be.

It is called Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I’m not yet done with it, so I can’t tell if its the first book of a series or not. I have read the author’s only previous work before, and it was also a spectacular work of fantasy. I was quite pleased and recommended it to all my friends (it was Elantris). It was a standalone book, as far as I can tell, though certainly I would be interested in reading more in the same world. I think probably everybody who likes a good fantasy book should read these (and keep an eye on this author. He was brand new to the writing world a mere 2 years ago, I think.)

Uncle Orson reviewed Elantris back way before it even came out, and thats why I picked it up in the first place. For those of you not in the know, Uncle Orson reviews everything at that site, from books to music to plays, movies, boardgames, ice creams, stores, and even toilet paper, if I recall one writeup correctly. He’s been doing this since 2001 and has them all online for your perusal. Sometimes I agree, and sometimes I don’t, but he has gotten me to read books, watch movies, and see television shows I might never have found or bothered with before. And yes, I have mentioned him before. He is also a great science fiction writer, author of Ender’s Game, Prentice Alvin, Homecoming: The call of Earth, and other such gems.

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Posted by me on Wednesday, the 20th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:13 PM, local time.

So, I was at McDonald’s the other day, since I was way too busy to actually make my own food, and on the way out, I noticed that the exit door was standing ajar, at least two inches. I thought, “That door is still broken? It’s been that way for at least two weeks!”

Suddenly, I was struck with the fact that I shouldn’t know that. I shouldn’t have gone to that McDonald’s enough in the past two weeks to realize that the door was broken. But, I had. That isn’t good. When I drive there, I tell myself that I am simply too busy to make my own food at home, but this is obviously not true. I have survived college on not much more than cereal, bread, cheese, eggs, and macaroni. These things do not take all that much effort to make, and in many cases take less time and effort than going to McDonald’s does. So, I can’t explain it.

To make it slightly worse (though I don’t know that it’s much worse), I always get the exact same thing when I go to McDonald’s. (I get the same thing whenever I go to any fast food restaurant, really, but thats not the issue. It is the choice I make at McDonald’s that I am really concerned with here.) I purchase a double cheeseburger, with no onions, a six-piece chicken McNugget box, with one container of honey mustard dipping sauce, and a small vanilla shake. I then remove the pickle from the cheeseburger and consume the lot. Those cheeseburgers are seriously not very good for you. The McNuggets would be much much better if they were just plain chicken (you know, without the breading and deep frying), and the vanilla shake is not nearly as good as a malt I could make at home, with real vanilla and malt powder. The honey mustard tastes ok, but I have like 8 variants of mustard at home right now, any one of which tastes better than McDonald’s poor attempt.

Today, after my softball game, we went to Brother’s bar, and I had another cheeseburger, as usual (only this one came with a fried egg and bacon…). What a healthy life I lead!

Sigh. Ah well, I’ll probably go back to both establishments and have similar meals again with the week. It was nice knowing you all. :-)

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Beethoven Symphonies for piano, four hands.

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 10:14 PM, local time.

Beethoven composed some great symphonies. Each and every one of them, I can listen to again and again, and I learn to appreciate them more and more each time. My particular favorite is the 9th, with full orchestra and choral. Its just spectacular, especially the fourth movement (as cliche as it sounds…). But, the fifth is also very excellent.

Recently on MPR (Classical Minnesota Public Radio – Streaming free online!), I heard a snippet of a rendition of the fifth symphony of Beethoven arranged for four hands on a grand piano. It was rather spectacular, and I immediately started searching for a recording. Unfortunately, I was unable to find one anywhere! I contacted the radio show, and apparently it was the radio host, who is also a composer and pianist, playing with someone else from the radio studio for the express purpose of the radio show. I was devastated! I did find the arrangement itself, Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 6-9, which I am sure I will buy sometime here. The problem with those, of course, is that as much as I would like to learn (and as much as my sister has offered to teach me), I cannot play piano. And I only have two hands! Pam offered to play the other half, but still, I cannot play, and so it wouldn’t be a very good thing that resulted.

Having said all that, if anyone knows of a good set of recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies arranged for piano, four hands, I would surely like to learn about it. Also, if there are some great piano players out there, who know someone else who can play the other half with them, and they’d like to record this and make it available for my listening enjoyment, that’d just be great.

Until then, I will just mourn silently. And remember.

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Cheesecake and Books

Posted by me on Saturday, the 16th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:50 AM, local time.

So, I gotta say, Cheesecake and Books is a great combination. I love bookstores; this is a well known fact. Also well known is my enjoyment of a good cheesecake. In Rochester, these two hobbies are combined in both Barnes and Nobles that we have here, where they have the lovely Cheesecake Factory/Starbucks combo cafe thingies in the stores. Every time I got to these places, whether I intend to or not, I usually end up buying a book or some music or something, and maybe a piece of cheesecake, possibly with a mocha or a cappuccino. They really have my number, apparently.

They like to change up the cheesecake selection, and some recent excellent pieces of culinary art include this month's Wild Strawberries and Cream, which is very delicious, and last month's Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (Need I say more?), and also a double chocolate creation that is also very very good. What will they tempt me with next?

So anyway, next time you are near a Barnes & Noble's bookstore, go inside! They have lots of great books! And chances are good that they will have lots of great cheesecake as well!

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Blast from the Past

Posted by me on Friday, the 15th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 12:51 AM, local time.

So, I like to watch movies, as anyone who's seen my movie collection could tell you. They might also have a few things to say about my taste in movies. Some do not approve. However, there are many gems in my collection, and today I watched one, because I had not watched it in a while, and it is one of my favorite comedies: “Blast from the Past”

This movie was not a gigantic success in 1999 when it came out (as far as I recall), but it really is a terrific movie. Simple, funny, endearing… what more could one want? What? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles? It has all that, too! Well, I can't prove that. But anyway, it does have Brendan Fraser in a classic role, Alicia Silverstone as an adorable but helpful Pasadena girl (but much less annoying than her other such role), bomb shelters, lots of money and the things it can buy for you, transvestites on the street, a cult, swing dancing, Firefly's Mal, a random "happy" guy, and a hilarious Christoper Walken (as opposed to the non-hilarious Christopher Walken, which surely must exist, though I havn't found it yet).

Its simple comedy is easy to enjoy time and time again, and it's easy for me to identify with the main character (not because I have lived in a bomb shelter all my life, but because I grew up in a family with traditional values and skills that are no longer appreciated or valued by a large portion of the modern world, but when we were growing up, we didn't know this, and assumed everyone was as good and honest, studious, religious, and happy as we were).

Anyway, every time I watch this movie it makes me happy. I can think of no greater accolade than that. It has been out for so long, and the DVD so cheap on the shelves everywhere, that I cannot imagine people our age exist who have not seen this movie, but if you havn't I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys simple comedy and a bit of romance. And being happy. Everybody likes being happy, right?

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