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Buildings and Vampires. August 20, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Buildings and Vampires, Cats, Films, OU, The Principessa Files.
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Tut. It’s so easy to bring a tear to my eye. I’ve just watched this and had a little sniffle. 138 seconds of heartbreak.

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As for other stuff… Not much happening. I am ploughing my way through Great Expectations, which will be followed up by Pride and Prejudice. Hopefully once I’m done with that I should have the course materials through for A210. (Can’t actually believe that I am half way through the degree now. Three more courses to go.) After  that, I have two courses to complete. I’ve been stressing over the decision over which courses, as to get the English Language and Literature degree I’d need to be doing a further course that has an exam (A210 has an exam. *Shudder*). The thought of two exam courses one after the other scared me, I’m not good with that sort of pressure. But the OU announced a new course on Greek and Roman mythology – A330 – a few months ago. And just like the ‘I want to do that’ feeling I got when the children’s lit course was announced, well, I want to do that! So now I have a plan for the last few courses of the degree. After A210 I shall study A330, followed by E301 – The Art of English. And, you know, once I had decided on that, the stress of the pending exam next year lessened. Brilliant!

I also still have it in my head to have a go at the Masters. I never though I would seriously entertain the idea of going any further than a Bachelors degree, but the pull of the opportunity to study children’s literature further is really nagging at me. Don’t know how I can afford it, or even if I can afford it, but I REALLY want to do it!

And to end: A picture of Princi using the shower wheelchair to be Davros:

and a picture of the crazy Tazcat:

Are you looking at me?

The realisation of learning. August 7, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Conversations with Principessa, EA300, Films, OU, The Principessa Files.
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Last night, Princi and I sat down to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars as her choice for the Friday night film. She’s been asking to watch it for weeks, but either she gets distracted or I get distracted. Either way, we’ve never managed to sit down and watch it. So when she got home from Tae Kwon Do last night, she set up the portable DVD player on my bed, settled herself down, and immersed herself into the world of Star Wars for the first time.

Now, firstly, do I ever want to be a Jedi after watching that! I can’t understand how the Jedi were ever in any trouble after the way Windu air-swiped a whole legion of clones to dust with the Jedi mind-trick. (Yes, I know it’s a cartoon, but I have invested my time to geek out a bit!) Anyway, magical mystery Force and my want for that power aside, Princi loved it. As usual, she presented a running commentary (one bit in particular tickled me. Once the underwater, squid-headed blokie started making headway in his battle right at the start of the DVD, Princi turned round and said, ‘Yeah, now he’s starting to get somewhere!’), but halfway through, she showed me the DVD box.

‘Look, Mummy. The baddies are in the blue half of the picture and the goodies are in the red half of the picture.’

And yes, she was right. I’d not paid too much attention to the cover before, but now Princi had drawn focus to it.

‘Oh, yes. You’re right. So what does that make the guy in the middle? A goodie or a baddie?’

Without any hesitation she said, ‘He’s a goodie.’

‘But is he? Look, he’s standing in the blue and the red.’

‘He’s still a goodie. He has been helping the good guys fight the clones.’

‘I know, but look. He is more in the blue than the red. So does that mean he’s more a goodie or a baddie?’

‘He’s definitely a goodie, Mummy. He has droids.’

‘That might be true, but does he do what he’s told all the time? Remember when he was told not to chase the baddie ship?’

‘No, he doesn’t do what he’s told all the time. But he still helps the goodies.’

‘But would a goodie fight like he did near the end? You know, when he went mad and killed the robot lady?’

‘Yes. He would. She was a baddie. He is a goodie.’

She wouldn’t be swayed from Anakin’s affiliation to the good side, despite the suggestions of the cover. She simply went on what she had seen and what she believed had been shown on the DVD, any implicit ideological suggestions on the box were ignored. All she cared about was that there were goodies and that they fought the baddies. But for me, I became aware of the change that had occurred in how I look at and interpret things since studying Children’s Literature. Before, it would not have occurred to me how the positioning of the character could inform me in such a way about the character’s belief system – okay, I know I have prior knowledge of the Star Wars universe, but still. I had to apply that knowledge to the image. Just that simple flick of an analytical switch by Princi had me smiling: what I had learned on EA300 had sunk in, and I am no applying it to situations that stimulate conversations between Princi and I. Above all else that I loved about the course, that is the most satisfying aspect.

I really want to continue studying Children’s Literature now. It does feel as if it has become a passion, rather than just something I have studied on the way to getting a degree.

To read or not to read? November 20, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Charlie and Lola, Coraline, Films, Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman, Twilight.
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This post is generally a reaction to a post on Noble Savage‘s blog about Twilight and young adult literature. Now, while I was not offended per se, I did feel a little begrudgingly towards it.

So I will put my hand up and admit that I read children’s books. Well, of course I do at the moment, it’d be a bit daft if I didn’t considering I am immersed in a children’s lit course. But I enjoyed reading kidlit before the course began. There are many reasons that I do.

  1. I have a child.
  2. It’s a little bit of light entertainment. (Books like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl.)
  3. Sometimes it’s the best way to get large themes across succinctly. (Books like Northern Lights and Little Brother.)
  4. ‘Cross-over’ fiction is some of the best fiction around. (IMO)
  5. I would like to write a cross-over novel, so keeping an eye on the market is a must.

And that’s just to name a few of the reasons. But reading children’s literature when you’re an adult seems to have a social stigma attached to it. People tell you to get a life, to grow up and stop living vicariously through books aimed at teenagers. But do you know what I say? It’s my life. I enjoy these books and I will stand by them. And guess what? I also enjoy reading books for younger children, such as Neil Gaiman’s kids books (usually aimed at the 5-8 years – Wolves in the Walls – and 9-12 years market – Coraline and The Graveyard Book), and even Charlie and Lola books have their appeal for the interaction of word and image. What I have to ask is why do the people who think it’s childish for adults to read kidlit have such an averse reaction? It’s not like we’re smoking in public. It’s not harmful to their health. So why the problem? The simple statement of having been mortified about your mother enjoying teenage fiction doesn’t seem enough. I mean, I would have loved for my Mum to have read the books I was reading so that I could have talked with her about them, and I would hope that when it comes to Princi being that age that we would be able to share whatever type of literature, be it Shakespeare or Harry Potter or whatever is popular then. I think it is silly to ignore certain books because they are not demographically aimed at your ‘age market’.

Now, I wonder, how many adults would own up to something like Little Women, a book directly targeted at girls – or dare I say it, young adults – being one of their favourite books? How about Treasure Island? Alice in Wonderland? Anne of Green Gables? Tom Brown’s School Days? Are these acceptable because they are considered classics? So what’s the difference with people quoting Harry Potter or Twilight as their favourite books now?

I understand that some books are directed at kids. I wouldn’t read Hannah Montana (sickly sweet Disney pap) or Sweet Valley High (not my kind of book), but I have read the Potter series and Twilight. While I enjoyed Harry Potter, I hated Twilight despite my vampire addiction. For me, the advantage of reading Twilight was the lesson in how not to write (while the story had potential, the execution was dire. Still, it hasn’t stopped the books selling in their millions).

Twilight was the main problem in Noble Savage’s post. Yeah, the papers have focused on the release of the film (as is the way of media relations and advertising these days. Bandwagon, anyone?), but as with the books if the newspaper articles don’t interest you then don’t read them. Not only that, as young adults, aren’t teenagers reading newspapers too? Don’t they want to appear more mature by reading “respectable, grown-up” media? So why shouldn’t the papers try to sensationalise these films? Not only does it garner attention for the film/book/whatever, it also increases their unit sales. As for the arguments about adults jumping on something that is targeted at teenagers, well, why should that stop someone who is not in the targeted age demographic from reading them? Isn’t that one of the reasons why authors, librarians, teachers, and the general public petitioned against age banding on children’s books? Okay, the argument there was for younger children vs. older children, but it’s still relevant to this argument (young adult vs. adult).

So, as it is, I’ll continue to read and enjoy the stories found in children’s and young adult literature. It’s only fiction, after all. And, as C.S. Lewis said:

I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.*

I think that says it all. Fiction, whatever it is and despite who it is marketed to,  should be enjoyed by those who want to enjoy it whatever their age.

*Quote can be found here.

The Other Mother. October 14, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in books, Coraline, Films, Neil Gaiman.
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Last night, Princi and I snuggled under the duvet to watch the Coraline DVD on our tiny portable DVD player. That is Princi’s favourite way of watching DVDs, she is forever waking up before me, diving under my duvet and asking to watch Doctor Who. Anyway, she was all excited, bouncing on the bed exclaiming ‘Ooh, I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I can’t wait,’ in a squealy high pitched voice. Chuffed at her excitement (she’s never been so excited to watch a film before, not even when we’ve gone to the cinema), I asked if she wanted to watch the 3D version. No. She didn’t like the glasses. 2D version it is, then. I started the film, Princi rested her head on a cuddly Triceratops and she watched, completely enthralled. I have never known her to stay so quiet or still while she’s watching a film!

The Other Mother appeared on screen. I thought that would frighten her. Nope. Then the Other Mother started getting nasty. Nope, still not frightened. I asked her ,’Would you like an Other Mother?’ To which she replied with a big, squeezy hug, ‘No. I just want you, Mummy. You’re my real Mother, and Grandand is my real Grandand. I don’t ever want you to go away.’ I had to smile at that. Then the Other Mother turned into a horrible spider-type thing. Still Princi was not scared. It was only when the horrible spidery hand started chasing Coraline right at the end of the film that she was frightened. She grabbed me in a Princi bearhug and hid her head under my arm. I told her she should carry on watching because it would all be okay. She peeked out and watched the scary bits and was very relieved when Wybie helped Coraline defeat the spider hand. Then she clapped and smiled at the happy outcome of the film. She even wanted to watch it again before she went to school this morning.

I am so glad we sat down to watch it together and that I didn’t just do a Coraline’s parents thing and leave her to watch it on her own. We had lovely huggles throughout the film, some ‘wow’ moments and some giggle moments, but most of all I was glad that she was not afraid to tell me when she was scared. I’m looking forward to watching Coraline with Princi again.

As for my opinion on film versus book – I’m more a fan of the book than the film. I can see why the introduction of Wybie was necessary (no other children in the book, apart from the ghost children) – and it also seemed to show how the attitudes of the parents, particularly the mother (what a snarky bitch!), had rubbed off on Coraline. She was very terse with Wybie and wouldn’t listen to him just as her mother was with her. It was also interesting that the only time she would really listen to Wybie was when he couldn’t speak. I would have prefered that the rats stay rats and were not disguised as jerboas, although cute it took away from the distinction of mice=good, rats=bad in the book. Although the relationship with her parents seemed more rounded in the film, the book seemed more sinister – esepecially with the rhymes of the mice and rats, and the change in location from basement to garden for the escape from the Other Father felt less scary.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film. It seemed like Little Red Riding Hood (as everything does at the moment!), Alice in Wonderland and Tom’s Midnight Garden all rolled into one. But when all is said and done, give me the book over the film any day. Probably because I’ve read or listened to it so many times before having the chance to see the film that my imaginings of the story are much stronger than the imagery – albeit fantastic and imaginitive – provided by the film.

And today we shall celebrate… April 12, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Doctor Who, Films, Guitar Hero on Tour, TV.
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Chocolate, in it’s various guises. Eggs, bunnies, bars. Yum! Princi is busy eating a golden bunny. When she has gone to the seaside (the Horseshoe Pass plan has been put to pasture) then I shall open the egg Grandand bought for me. Yay! NOMNOMNOMNOM!

Grrr. I forgot to record the second part of the new Red Dwarf. Bum nuggets! I wouldn’t mind, but my sis reminded me earlier in the day. You’d have thought I’d have had the forward thinking to set the V+ box, but no. I was far too jacked in to Guitar Hero (addicted to bass, atm). Stupid, stupid me!

As for new Doctor Who… I need to watch it again. Princi decided it was a good time to make up a skat song. Every time the TV’s volume increased, so did Princi’s. Why, then, has she not got a mute button? Most unfair! At least I recorded Doctor Who. What I did see and hear of it was good though, and Lee Evans really did steal the show. He was fantastic.

Oh, and Monsters vs. Aliens… Brilliant! I loved it! Well, the parts I was allowed to watch, anyway. The sci-fi films paraodies were fab. The best line in the film made my sis and I nearly pee ourselves, and our laugh could be heard all over the packed out cinema screen. I really don’t understand why no-one else laughed, at least half of the audience were adults. The line? When Ginormica is beating up the evil alien, the alien says something and finishes the sentence with ‘…by Hawkins chair!’ Fabulous. Or if you’re Princi, fablious!

Well, time to get Princi dressed for her day out with Nanny and Grandand.

And relax… December 30, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in A215, BtVS, Films, TMA02.
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So the ends have been put. Final. Done.

I raised a snowball to toast Flo last night. It was her drink, and the first alcohol I can remember ever partaking in – at Christmas in my Nan’s with Flo when I was about 8.

I wrapped up TMA02 yesterday. I re-jigged the commentary to fit things in that I had forgotten about, it’s quite hard analysing the story and decisions I had taken into a neat package of 500 words, but I did it! I don’t know how convincingly, but it’s done. I read over the story after I had submitted it to the system, and stared in horror at mistakes that I am sure were not there beforehand. Thankfully, I know that my tutor is not picking up the TMAs until the 5th, so I corrected and re-submitted. Phew. Now I can start reading the poetry sections in the BRB. It’s scary to think that I’m nearly half way through the course.

Yes, I know I haven’t mentioned Twilight. It was a total non-event. It was uncomfortable to watch, and seemed to be an embarrassed film. It was cringe worthy. I don’t like not enjoying films, but it was awful. The only good part in it was the hunter vampire James, because he provided some action and a welcome distraction from the forced, self-conscious Edward-Bella story. It is definitely a story that works better in a book than on film, but I suppose that is true for most adaptations.

Anyway, going to watch Buffy repeats.

I needed that. November 7, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in A215, Bloody books, Films, The Principessa Files, writing.
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I can breathe again. I was getting a bit stale in my brain, but going out this morning with Kirst has rejuvenated me somewhat.

It was the normal routine, go to the bookshop and up to the coffee shop, but without Princi. It was so nice being able to browse the books and not have to worry what trouble a four year old could cause. We spent about an hour perusing books, then about an hour up in the coffee shop. Nibbles, coffee and people watching, a perfect way to spend an hour. I took my Moleskine notebook with me so I could do some fictional character assassinations, I might even use one of them. The thing is, if there was anyone else there doing people watching for a creative writing course, I’m sure Kirst and I would have provided some good material. At one point the Ghostbusters theme tune came on, and I can’t resist at least doing a little rendition of the Ghostbusters dance, although without the walking – bit impossible in the chair –  and a little later when we went back into the bookshop we spent about five minutes corpsed in a book aisle looking at a book with the title Pets with Tourettes. It was perfect for the puerile sense of humour I am experiencing today.

While in the bookshop, looking at the Manga titles, I found some Manga Shakespeare. I had to indulge, so I bought A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth. It just had to be done. I am looking forward to thumbing through them. Then we st-rolled over to HMV, Iron Man was calling me. If only I could have walked out with just that, but there was a special edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas on the shelf that looked at me with sad eyes, pleading with me to buy it. I, of course, succumbed.

So, after yesterday’s apathy, I am now in a happier frame of mind. As is Princi – she is happily playing with her new Maisy pop out book.

Relief is a wonderful thing.

And now I am sitting amazed after seeing a BMXer do a front flip tailwhip. Impressive!

Samhain November 1, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in F1, Films, Halloween.
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Well, for Halloween, it was a fairly quiet night. Only one bunch of kids knocked on the door to trick or treat. It was the first year that no eggs were thrown at the houses in the Green. (It sounds almost idyllic that, the houses in the Green. It’s not, I assure you.) All in all, a relatively ordinary night. *Phew*

I decided, as it was supposed to be a scary night, to watch a horror film. I clicked onto Filmflex and had a look through the new releases. Two films took my attention; Skinwalkers (a werewolfy one) and Shutter (a remake of a Thai film). I was in the mood for werewolves, so I clicked on Skinwalkers. What a mistake! A truly awful film! It was so cliched, the plot revolving around a prophecy coming to fruition under a blood moon and two warring factions of wolfies – those who felt cursed and those who felt gifted. Blah blah blah. And the wolfy make-up… So bad! They tried to make the werewolves far too humanoid, they looked like poor representations of werewolves. I can’t believe I sat through the whole film, an hour and a half I’ll never get back! But, I’d paid for the film so I had to sit it out. Just like the Bore Witch. But Skinwalkers was no where near as bad as the Bore Witch. Dagnamit, maybe I should have dug out Del Toro’s The Devils Backbone. I’m not usually scared by horror films, but the only time I’ve tried to watch The Devil’s Backbone I had to turn it off because it was freaking me out! No idea why. Ah well.

So, this weekend it is the end of the F1 season, with Lewis Hamilton on the verge of being the youngest champion in F1 history (until the next one comes along). We all know he only needs to finish 5th to do it, but what’s the betting that someone will take him out just so Massa can win? I’d love to see Hamilton win the championship, but I have a feeling that it’s not going to be a fair race. We shall see…

If I had but the talent or the inkling… September 13, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in A215, Batman meets Mr Darcy, Clusters, Films, writing.
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This is fantastic! Batman meets Jane Austen, one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time.

And speaking of films, holy heck was I disappointed. I watched Be Kind, Rewind last night. Now, while the film was good, not excellent by any stretch of the imagination, I enjoyed it. I loved the use of pizza bloodsplats, and tinsel ghost tazers, but the ending was… not exactly an ending. One thing I like in a film, if it is not part of a series, is for it to have some closure. BKR had no closure. It seemed like they got to that point in the film and just said “Ah, stuff it. That’ll do. It’s a wrap.” Pah! Such a pity, because it was a good idea.

As for the clustering. It seems to be coming along a little. The brain is slowly opening, like a Predataor’s maw with lockjaw! I’m not used to thinking in spidergraphs, it almost seems forced. I’m finding it difficult to generate ideas when prompted with something that is likely to be far from the actual story subject. Hopefully, once I’ve worked through my skepticism, this technique will turn on some lights. At the moment it just feels wrong forcing my brain to make leaps that it wouldn’t normally, it usually takes tenacious leaps of its own accord and slaps me accordingly!

Anyway. Back to it.

Cloverfield August 11, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Cloverfield, Eragon, Films, OU, The Princess Bride, TMAs.
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I have finally had the chance to see Cloverfield. Well, I was dubious, as it had been dubbed the Blair Witch meets Godzilla (I hated Blair Witch, it bored me stupid). I can see why, but there was much more to hold the attention in Cloverfield . Unlike BW, I did find that ball of anxiety in my chest during the tunnels and exploding friend scenes. However, I didn’t think it was amazing. That may have been due to watching it on TV. I can see how the tension could have been built watching it on the big screen. But, I did enjoy it. Not got more to say on it than that.

On the subject of films though, one of my favourite films happened to be on yesterday. What was the film? The Princess Bride. I love it! I have never read the book – a flaw on my part – but I am worried that if I read the book the shiny of the film might be marred. Now, this isn’t like me. I would rather read a book than take a film based on the book at face value. The Princess Bride is a different matter though. I love that film so much, I can watch it over and over again, that I don’t want to read the book in case it does affect my enjoyment of the film. See, I might have enjoyed Eragon if I hadn’t read the book, but the glaring omissions in that film just made me angry. So, I don’t know if I will ever get to reading William Goldman‘s book.

As for returns of essays… I’m still waiting. *Sigh* I’m finding it hard to concentrate on the 60s when I don’t know how I fared on the last essay. However, I am slowly trudging through the science section. I think I am quite certain that I will tackle science in the next essay, and possibly music and history, though having done okay with the art sections… We’ll see. I think doing the history part is a given, just because to tackle periodisation you can hardly ignore it.

And to finish; the best swordfight (or fencing duel, I’m not sure!) in film!