autumn, cuteness, and the oxford comma

Moth and Bay Leaf

book first? film first? AHHHH!

I’M Hermione Granger!

Back in the year 2000, Harry Potter was just a book series.

Not just a book series like that – I mean, it wasn’t also a film series. When I dressed up as Hermione for Halloween, it was based on the Mary Grandpré illustration, not on Emma Watson.

And let me tell you, come 2001, I was just as excited for the film as any other fan, but I was also furious, because beginning this time, the language surrounding Harry Potter changed. People would ask “Do you like the Harry Potter films” before mentioning the books or if I said I liked Harry Potter, they would say “I love those movies too.” RAAAH!

From then on, I refused to watch any movie based on a book before reading the book first.

I did this to the point of being unnecessarily annoying. I wouldn’t watch Die Hard because I couldn’t get a copy of the now-out-of-print Nothing Lasts Forever. I would go into movies based on books with a pen and paper in hand to point out all the things the movie got wrong.

And sadly, this was my introduction to film. At that age, film was an evil thing that took the beautiful personal images conjured in books and turned them into one visual, one compact, different thing – they took my favorite characters and changed them slightly and their changes have affected the way I see those characters, even when I try not to think about it.

But in the past couple of years, I have come to love film. A lot. Film is its own art form, and now one of my favorites. At Leaky Con, panelist Ashley Benning said that a film is just one interpretation of a book – it’s a collaboration of hundreds of people’s interpretation, but ultimately, it is just one interpretation. And that brought clarity to an idea I was already reaching. It seems simple, but you have to believe it for it to be effective: the book is a different thing from the movie.

So now I’m into film. I’m into books. I keep them separate.

But.

What do I do when I want to see a movie based on a book I haven’t read?

It gets complicated.

Ideally I would read the book, watch the film, then, if I decide that I like the book more, I would read it again so that it sticks in my mind more than the film does. I’ve done this on a couple of occasions (Harry Potter. Jane Austen novels.) and it’s the best solution.

But, unfortunately, I don’t have that much time.

The other issue is, do I prevent myself from seeing an awesome movie because I haven’t read the book?

And do I read a mediocre book just so that I can watch the movie when there are many other books out there that aren’t based on books?

I don’t have an answer worked out, but the topic has been on my mind since Hank Green launched Readit1st.com. I like the newsletter, in which upcoming film adaptations of books are announced so we can read up if we so desire (in the first newsletter John Green mentioned Nothing Lasts Forever as well, making me feel like a proper Book To Film Stickler. Which I’m not, anymore, but still. Memories.).

I’ve set up a new section on this site called Culture Queue. I have an extensive spreadsheet on my computer called “To Read Watch, and Hear” in which I document lots and lots of recommendations for books, films, tv shows, and music. The ones on my “Queue,” however, are definitely happening, and are listed in order. (And there’s a comments section for you to add recommendations!)

So, the point: I can’t read every book that turns into a film. I don’t know if it’s possible to have a “system” or “rule.” As much as this goes against my nature, I think I’ll have to work this one out on a case-by-case basis.

Examples: I saw Shutter Island and I probably won’t read the book because it’s a genre I enjoy more on screen than on the page. I will be reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place because 127 Hours was brilliant and I’m now fascinated with Aaron Ralston. I am restraining myself from re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I’m finished reading the series. I am planning on reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo before the David Fincher film is released in December. I have now seen Die Hard, and it was great, but alas, I’ve decided to abandon my resolution of one day reading Nothing Lasts Forever.

So much to read, so little time. Some sacrifices must be made.

Am I Qualified to Write About [Climbing]?

Of all the topics I’ve covered this week, climbing has been the most intimidating to approach (erm, no pun intended). This is because, although I love climbing, although it is a major part of my life, I am no expert. What can I possibly have to offer on the subject?

I went through a similar road of insecurity with theatre writing. I didn’t write a single review last year, and at first it was completely due to my lack of confidence as a writer and critic. Thanks to lots and lots of theatregoing and discussing, and to the support of EdFringeReview, which encourages everyone to share opinions, emphasizing that there is no One Right Opinion when it comes to drama, I have overcome these insecurities. Now I am a confident theatre critic, and it makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Once I let go of the worries that my opinions might be Wrong, I began to have more of them, and more interesting ones.

It’s silly for me to face this insecurity again, when I seem to have recently overcome it – I did some climbing all through high school, and even brought my shoes with me when I first came to university. But it took me about six months to take those shoes to the climbing gym. Why? A lot of it had to do with insecurity – not knowing how experienced everyone else would be, not knowing if climbing is completely different in this country (only a little bit)…ultimately, it was important enough for me to face these fears and just go. Which is what I will do again now.

So here, in my first post about climbing, I have come clean: I don’t completely know what I’m doing. But that doesn’t make what I have to say worthless – and this I say to convince myself as much as I do to convince you (or probably more to myself actually).

Another piece of encouragement came from a passage in the Iffley Bouldering Guide:

…one of the most exciting things in recent times has been seeing so many people becoming enthusiastic about problems at their own level

And I am here to write about my experiences at my own level, because I’m not the only 5.8er who barely knows how to lead climb.

[[And okay, that’s probably the most climbing-y thing I’ve said and will say in this post – another challenge with this topic. Some things I have to say about climbing probably only make sense to climbers, but some things, like the things in this post, are applicable to other areas of life. These kinds of posts will go here on Fluffly + Edgy. When I write about something more climbing-specific, it will go straight to Xandra the Adventuress]]

The point: I am qualified to write about climbing because the great thing about writing, about blogging, is that there are no qualifications necessary. So I will boldly offer advice from my experiences, and today’s advice is: write about something that you love. I’m sure you have something awesome to say, and I’d like to hear it :)

Most Influential Plays, Ever

Since the beginning of this year, I have carefully cataloged all the plays I have attended, complete with star ratings. I know quite clearly what the Best Plays I’ve Seen This Year are. Today’s post, however, is about the Most Influential Plays, Ever. Before I started rating, before I started writing down every play I saw, before I became A Theatre Critic, I saw these plays, and these are the ones that stuck with me, the ones that led to my involvement in theatre today.

July 2004: The Phantom of the Opera, starring Hugh Panaro | The Majestic Theatre | Broadway

The Phantom of the Opera became my favorite musical the first time I saw it, when Howard McGillan played the Phantom, so for my 13th birthday when my parents asked me what I wanted, I requested tickets to see it again. I was so mesmerized by Hugh Panaro’s voice. I had been taking voice lessons, been doing musical theatre at the time, but Hugh Panaro brought meaning to my hobby and made it a passion. Music can be that powerful – “sweet intoxication” – he made the music real, inspiring devotion to its practice in the way worthy of the Phantom himself.

August 2008: A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Headington Hill Park | Creation Theatre

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite play, and this production is part of the reason why. But before I mention this production, I will mention another: the one performed by the drama students at OxPrep 2007, led by Simon Purse. Their collaboration, putting on this play without rehearsal, just as done in Shakespeare’s day, was inspiring to the extent that it was life-changing for me. (Their production is not on this list only because I was their book keeper, and was only able to see about a quarter of it from backstage). Now on to Creation Theatre Company, my favorite theatre company in Britain. They perform Shakespeare as well as other plays, all in unique and deliberate locations. Their Midsummer was set in several stages throughout Headington Hill Park, with Puck guiding the audience around the woods in between scenes. The acting was so lively and committed – the Lovers ran through the dirt barefoot, and doubled as some of the Players, and I didn’t even realize this until near the end. This production is Midsummer at its full potential. The nostalgia I feel for this play always connects back to the images created in this beautiful interpretation.

December 2008: Equus, starring Daniel Radcliffe & Richard Griffths | Broadhurst Theatre | Broadway

I went to see this because Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffths were in it. And I am so glad to have been introduced to this amazing play because of, well, Harry Potter. This was the first play that left my head buzzing at intermission and for hours afterwards. Passion. Insanity. Beyond being a brilliantly written play, it was staged so fluidly, yet coldly, with the simple boxes shifting to become the furniture for every scene, the fleshless horse masks. For me, seeing Daniel Radcliffe perform live would have been enough. But I gained so much respect for him as a real actor after seeing this.

March 2010: Othello | Villa Victoria Center for the Arts | Actors’ Shakespeare Project

Actors’ Shakespeare Project is the Creation Theatre of the other side of the pond: the focus is on unique spaces, most of the productions are Shakespeare, and it is my favorite company in America. I saw their Othello while in the process of organizing and acting in Twelfth Night with the Dream Team Shakespeare Company. I was spending every spare moment reading about Shakespeare and watching videos about how it should be performed. No research could compare to the benefit I gained from watching this production, however. The acting was so precise, yet relaxed, calculated, yet spontaneous. For the first time, I found myself caring about the characters – when I had read the play previously, I struggled to  sympathize with Othello. Actor Jason Bowen made Othello a believable person, one who made a series of mistakes, but the reasons behind these mistakes were explained in a way that had not been clear to me before. Now Iago. My favorite character in all of Shakespeare. Very high expectations to meet, and Ken Cheeseman managed to exceed them. Cool. Charming. Unapologetic and ruthless. Perfect. (I wrote about this production, and a discussion afterwards, in a previous post. Hey, I used some of the same words! My descriptive memory does not fail me).

September 2011: Alvin Sputnik, Deep Sea Explorer | Burton Taylor Studio | Weeping Spoon Productions

What’s this?! A play from this month?! Yes, I’m excited too. And yes, I sort of said that I wouldn’t be writing about plays I’ve seen recently, but I can include this one on this list without a doubt. As a theatre critic, I am very careful about distributing 5-star reviews. Out of the 77 productions I have seen this year (Has it really been that many?!), I have only deemed eight plays worthy of five stars. About halfway through each of them I think “Could this be worth 5-stars? I’ll wait for the end.” With Alvin Sputnik I was completely hooked from the start, trying to restrain myself from giving in and calling it 5-stars from about five minutes in. It is a one-man show that revolutionizes theatre. It incorporates animation, puppetry, acting, cool lighting, singing and ukelele-ing and I think I may have even forgotten some. Beyond the amazing cohesion that is its technical medium, the play is a sweet, emotional, devastating, and uplifting story. A reviewer compared it to Pixar, and yes, it’s quite Pixar-y.

Now, unrelated to the content of the play, my experience: I was thinking of going to Stratford for the day to see Midsummer for about the seventh time, but instead of taking the time and spending the money, I decided to take a chance on whatever was playing at the BT to fulfill my Second Play this week (I see two plays per week, at least, hence the 77 and counting). The BT rarely fails to impress, but I was so startled to stumble upon this gem without any prior knowledge of it, when I could have been seeing my favorite play by one of my favorite companies (I think. I’ve only seen one RSC production, but it was fantastic). This is why I make the effort to see two plays per week, and after this experience (and many similar before it, though not to this extent) this is why I give plays a shot sometimes, not knowing at all what to expect.

And that concludes the first edition of “What I Like Wednesday,” in which I will comment upon something I have read, watched, or listened to in the past week, as recorded here on dodgy’s culture diary. Enjoy, and please share your comments on what theatre productions have hooked you :)

Why Starbucks is Okay

This morning I tried the Crème Brûlée Macchiato at the Starbucks on Cornmarket Street. It was delicious.

Now some people – a lot of people – don’t like Starbucks because it’s a chain and it’s Taking Over the World and running personalized local coffee shops out of business. I don’t know how much truth there is in the latter parts, but yes, it is a chain, and yes, to a certain extent, it lacks uniqueness. There’s something weird about going into a Starbucks anywhere in the world and seeing the same menu and the same pastries and coffee cups for sale.

But there’s also comfort in consistency. Whenever I see that green Starbucks logo outside, I am guaranteed pretty much the same experience regardless of location. The first Starbucks that was memorable to me was the one on the Corner in Charlottesville. We stopped there on our weekend trip during SEP (Summer Enrichment Program! I attended 2002-2005) pretty much every year. When I went to Oxford over the summer for the first time, my friends and I would go to the Starbucks (the one I was in today in fact) because it was open early in the morning. When I went to Boston on the weekends I would have a mint mocha chip fappachino at the Starbucks by NEC (New England Conservatory!) or at the Barnes & Noble at the Pru. In both Chicago and San Francisco I remember being starving by breakfast time, and knowing that I would be guaranteed delicious vanilla scones at the Starbucks round the corner made my mornings that much happier.

Whenever I enter a Starbucks, I feel slightly guilty about choosing a chain over a local establishment. The ethics of Starbucks is pretty commendable though – they make an effort to reduce the amount of plastic they use, and sell several kinds of Fair Trade coffees. There is a whole section on their website on Responsibility, and that’s cool. But that’s not why I go. I go to remind me of home when I’m here or to remind me of here when I’m home, for the nostalgia of all the memorable trips, accessible in pretty much any city I’m visiting. Sure, for the most part I’ll be at a local café, because Oxford there are so many charming ones to try. I don’t drink coffee that often, so it’s more a matter of ambiance for me, a place to sit and read a book or chat with people. And sometimes the ambiance I seek is that of Memory Lane. I’ll step inside, since it’s right there, and say hey Starbucks, you’re okay. [not out loud though. Usually.]

links i like this week

  • Lady Gaga, simple, elegant, fashionable.

What do you suggest for those of us who don’t have a tiger mom, but…based on the apparent outcome..want a tiger parent? How can I get more disciplined without a tiger mother?
The key word there is “apparent.” But okay, here’s my somewhat weird advice: go running every day. Even when it’s humid or raining or you are really busy. I’m not naturally fast or strong; running is by far my biggest source of self-discipline, and it helps in other aspects of my life. I ran a half-marathon this spring – it was really stupid of me, actually, I did it spontaneously between my morning and afternoon physics classes with no training – and since then, whenever I’m tempted to quit something, I tell myself, “Stop whining. You’ve done something infinitely more painful.”

  • Superstar Style Rookie Tavi started Rookie, an online publication for teens. This post is so retro cool and in particular I want this outfit. Rock on, Drew.

Can’t get enough of this chilled version of “Single Ladies” by Sara Bareilles. Thanks to my awesome music guru sister for sharing :)

  • Plinky. Answer interesting questions. Read other people’s answers to interesting questions. Think about stuff. This is my profile, but with daily posts here I’m not sure how often I’ll be writing :)
  • If you live in the UK and like tasty healthy snacks that are FREE sign up for Graze.com! They’ll send your first box free and customize it to your taste and provide you with a range of nutrients in each box. Then you can get boxes as often as you like, customizable on the site. Super tasty! I might have a snack now. And if you want to help me gain credit, use the code GGZZ8DB when you request your free box :)
  • My new blogger obsession is Gala Darling. A fluffy + edgy goddess with amazing advice, such as How To Live a Beautiful Life.
  • Best Procrastination Tip Ever from Zen Habits. It works.
  • Jane from Sea of Shoes always looks fabulous, but last week she was rocking my fave, Miu Miu. Check out these shoes:

    Old School School Supplies from College Candy. So. Much. Nostalgia. I want some gel pens and Lisa Frank and I want them now.

    What links did you like this week? :)