So, here’s Oliver, the current chirrping, all boy fuzz ball making himself at home in my apartment. Michou is queenly in her disdain, but she seems to be warming up to him. As for Oliver, well, he’s a personable mess and nothing like his Dickensian namesake.

Oliver in the sofa

Emily and Oliver, who we think resembles Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon

More Emily and Oliver

We are not amused.



Dickens in Cyberspace

Okay, I’m stealing my post title from a book of the same name. However, I’m all kinds of excited about this new digital project from the University of Victoria, so much so, that I’ve posted in four different places now. Sorry for the overkill. What they’ve done is digitize five Dickens serials from the original part-issue editions. In other words, you can read Little Dorrit or Dombey and Son as Victorian readers initially experienced the serials, complete with blue paper covers and the advertising. This project is an example of the kinds of work occurring in the digital humanities that is making archival materials more accessible for study. I’m all kinds of giddy about the advertising. The adverts are the first thing to go when a serial made its way into a bound copy. And of course, readers today experience these texts in a Penguin Classic with no sense of these serials as commercial products.

Ah, weekend

Big to-doings around the Electric Telegraph this weekend. The brother is coming up for a visit, the kitten arrives today (a week later than expected, and I’m still unsure of gender and name, sort of), and I think we’re seeing the play on campus Saturday night, among other things. I think I want to see The Green Hornet despite hearing that the film does not so great a job depicting women, and A. O. Scott’s bored review isn’t helping. (You can hear him yawning. Seriously, the movie is so lukewarm that it didn’t anger Scott; it bored him to insouciance.) Okay, scratch The Green Hornet. I just talked myself out of it.

Kitsch of the Day: Portlandia, “Put a Bird on It”

I like Portland, OR, really I do. One of my best friends lives there with his adorable family. I like the city, it’s lay out, the scenry, the number of microbreweries, etc. But, it’s the whitest place I’ve ever been. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney fame has a new series on IFC called Portlandia, and this clip hilariously parodies the white people trend of putting little birds on everything. Seriously, we do. It’s getting scary actually. Hat tip Design*sponge, who got me started on the whole little birds thing.

Zheng Lab “Bad Project”

This video has apparently made the biology rounds, or at least my little sister’s biology prof showed it in class today. Good times. It made Lady Gaga bearable for all of 4 minutes, and then I realized even a parody couldn’t make the absolute horror of Lady Gaga’s atonal music okay. I mean if Lea Michele and Idina Menzel can’t save “Poker Face,” then the Zheng Lab isn’t going to rescue “Bad Romance.”

Portrayals of the Good

Interesting review of Mike Leigh’s new film Another Year, about a rock solid couple who stand at the center of a large group of people who need their love and support. I haven’t seen the film yet, and I’m not sure I will. I was more captivated by the larger argument being made about Hollywood and how it portrays people. Brett McCracken, the blogger, points out an interesting facet of modern film making: almost all of it involves a deep look at broken people. McCracken argues that

“We live in a time when ‘authenticity’ is equated with those things or those people who are forthright in their brokenness and messiness, while stable, happy people are sometimes looked upon with skepticism, as if their lack of apparent problems makes them phony or untrustworthy. Our jadedness leads us to a sort of self-reinforcing stasis of raw brokenness, because this is what we believe. This is what we know. But what we really need are models of goodness & virtue in our lives… figures of hope who can motivate us out of the cycle of dreary cynicism.”

Admittedly, McCracken is pointedly writing a movie review from a Christian perspective. (Odd to have to acknowledge, perhaps, but it’s a rarity I think to find someone who can actually review the film in question, the larger zeitgeist of the film industry, and discuss ethics.) He’s thinking here both about this film and about Leigh’s last work, Happy-Go-Lucky. But he also mentions that Hollywood tends to laud the broken character while overlooking the stable one: see apparently Christian Bale vs. Mark Wahlberg’s work in The Fighter. Bale pointedly acknowledged Wahlberg’s good character as the harder task in his Golden Globe acceptance speech. I think, in a certain sense, McCracken is right. I avoid most Oscar bait films these days because I find them depressing without being uplifting.I don’t need film to make me “feel better,” but I don’t need it to dwell on the maudlin either. I actually find a lot of those kinds of films to be oddly confessional, in both the Evangelical and the Foucauldian sense. The characters wear their damages openly, confessing their sins over and over without the promise of forgiveness. Yet, society compels the constant confession, almost revealing in the supposed authenticity of putting everything out there. I mistrust statements about what’s supposedly “authentic” to begin with. It implies other ways of living are somehow inauthentic or fake.

I enjoyed Happy-Go-Lucky because Poppy, the character at the center of the film, refuses to be told she was broken or that her view of the world was wrong just because it wasn’t everyone else’s perspective. She refuses to see her quirks and eccentricities as somehow failures. Sally Hawkins gives weight to Poppy’s dippy insouciance. She’s not blindly moving through her world; instead, she prefers to see it differently than everyone else.

Monday Roundup, 24 Jan 2011

Burger King apparently has a new, disgusting, stuffed hamburger out. NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Sandwich Monday crew reviews it. I’m still stuck on the ick factor. Even more reason to avoid fast food.

Apparently, it’s the time of year for pot holder projects. The Purl Bee‘s latest posting is I think the fifth pot holder project I’ve seen this month. These are cute, and I apparently read too many do it yourself, design magazines if I can actually count the number of pot holder projects I’ve encountered. Is it in the zeitgeist? Are pot holders a good post Christmas project since they’re low on commitment but big on utility? Thoughts? I’m confused.

Texas law makers apparently are too. Or none of them passed that accounting course in college. The only problem is that now they’re trying to make sure no one gets to take accounting as they face budget shortfalls.  So, while they have a rainy day fund, they don’t want to touch it. Let’s cut roughly 9000 state jobs instead. Great for the local economy, not to mention let’s close down 4 community colleges in the Rio Grande Valley. Even better for education in one of the state’s more impoverished areas. Oh, and there’s that whole amnesia bit about taking federal stimulus money. Rick “Good Hair” Perry apparently forget he did that while he’s been shooting his mouth off to the contrary.

As a palate cleanser, because after that stuffed hamburger and the sadness that is my state government we need one, go check out this post from my friend Walter over at the Quiet Bubble. He’s still reposting things from the previous incarnation of his blog, and this is one I apparently missed the first time around.

The King’s Speech

My friend Sarah and I saw The King’s Speech last night. Some of the reviews had made it out to be mere Oscar bait, but I wanted to see it anyway. It’s the kind of film I tend to like anyway–a small look into the private lives of people of influence. When I lived in London, we did the typical school tour of the War Rooms. What struck me the most–besides the story of Winston Churchill standing on the roof, watching the Blitz–was the fact that George VI refused to leave Buckingham Palace once the Germans began bombing London. Several bombs nearly hit the Palace, but he refused to leave, knowing that his presence gave the people of London hope. They would not be abandoned by their King, and thus, they would not be abandoned by their government.

The movie hangs on Colin Firth’s performance. He not only gets the stammer perfect, but also the oddly nasal upper class British accent. Most importantly, he conveys the depth of George VI/Bertie’s fears–both the bullying of a royal childhood and his desire to rule and his terror of it. The stammer makes Bertie ungainly, awkward, but it also gives him the space to be the man he wants to be in some ways too. Royal duties aside, his family gives him great contentment, a fact that Firth conveys beautifully with his eyes. Every time he looks at his little girls, you feel both the King’s pride and joy in his family but also a deep sadness that he can’t speak to them the way he’d like.

The movie brought me back to a discussion my friend Walter and I had about why Americans and the American media are so interested in the upcoming royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. After all, they’re not our monarchy. From a political perspective, I’m decidedly pro-democracy. I think a monarchial system is in effective in the modern world, and truly, if I were a British taxpayer, I’d be less than enthusiastic that my money goes in part to support the royal family, even if a large part of that money goes into preserving historical estates, etc. that I think need to be preserved. Yet, from a cultural standpoint, I can’t help but be a little fascinated. It’s the same as any celebrity wedding on one hand. It’s really no different than the coverage of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Yet, there is more too it than mere celebrity. I think it stems from the symbolism of the monarchy. Great kings and queens, like George VI, manage to turn the inherited office into a symbol of national unity. I still feel the symbolic power of that office. Fixing his stammer allowed Bertie Windsor to become George VI. There’s cultural power in that transformation that resonates.