Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekend Philosophy Purchases

Take me to brunch and I'll order a small salad. Take me to fifth avenue and I'll be content to browse. But take me to Barnes and Noble and prepare for all hell to break loose. And Barnes and Noble is where I somehow ended up twice this as you can probably figure, my book hoarding side came out to play. The first time was after seeing the Great Gatsby with my friend (awesome movie btw, I need to read the book so bad now) and being the awkward nerdy fashionista hipsters we are, we ended up spending an hour and a half in the isles of the book store, gushing over the classics and comparing cover designs (that's the publisher's daughter coming out in me). 

My dog is camera shy ;) On my first trip I bought The Prince and Other Writings by Machiavelli. It's part of the Barnes and Noble classics line, which they sell for six dollars; it seems to be a pretty good deal to me, considering the quality is pretty nice. And I like cheap books better than pristine hardcovers; I'm a compulsive hiliter/stickynoter, and I decided to stick with cheapies after a frenzy of hiliting in my first-edition signed Mark Helprin book(ok it deserved it though, I honestly hate that guy's writing) I like the cover design too. They keep it simple but tasteful, and I have a weakness for sage green.

My second trip to Barnes and Noble was just a couple hours ago, when i was driving back from the Cape and Islands sailing tournament (I got a sunburn meh). I managed to lure my mother in with the promise of starbucks, then trapped her in the philosophy section.

(excuse the awkwardly placed pictures of my dog)
Anyways, she caved into buying me this adorable edition called Philosophy; A Graphic Guide to The History of Thinking by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves. It's basically a graphic novel of the history of philosophy, but it presents all the ideas and philosophers in a witty and matter-of-fact way, using speech bubbles to highlight (hi-lite?) main ideas. I wanted just a general guide for reference, which I didn't get with Thirty Second Philosophies  by Barry Loewer. 

The Essential Nietzche WHY IS HIS NAME SO HARD TO SPELL i less bought and more found on my shelf, but i'm excited to read it. I guess I've always been a philosophical person, and it probably just came off as childish curiosity before (Daddy, what if we're all in a dream of someone else?), but since I got into highschool I've defined my interest more, and am trying to read as much as I can on philosophy and religion. My school is definitely very supportive of philosophical thought; it's all about learning how to think, and in junior and senior year there's a mandatory philosophy class. I'll come back with book reviews in due time!

P.S. Something to be explored further in an independent post, but I really hate e-books and amazon. It annoys me to death when my mom says that "We can order that on Amazon for less." Yes, Barnes and Noble may be a giant corporation, but Borders' closing scared me, and I want to support this store as much as I can, because it encourages reading by being placed in spots like malls, where normal people might wander in and buy something. If Barnes and Noble were to close, I think that people, especially my age, would probably read a lot less, since they would be a lot less likely to seek out independent book stores or used book shops. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Darjeeling Limited Directed by Wes Anderson

The Darjeeling Limited makes four out of six Wes Andersons that I have watched, and I've come to the conclusion that that man is actually incapable of making a bad movie. India was the perfect setting for his style, and he took full advantage of the saturated colors his setting provided, again playing up his iconic yellow and blue contrasting.

The movie began with, actually, a short movie, titled Hotel Chevalier. It was an interesting idea as a lead-in to the movie to supply some more depth to the back story, but personally I didn't like it. The short took place in the Hotel Chevalier in Paris, where the character Jack had been staying for quite some time. His ex-girlfriend(Natalie Portman) comes to visit him, and you get a look into their complicated relationship, her saying, "Whatever happens in the end, I don't want to lose you as a friend." and him replying, "I promise I will never be your friend. No matter what. Ever." I guess the reason I didn't like this short was that it wasn't deadpan enough for Wes Anderson. You get the kind of dysfunctional, aloofness of the character Jack, but Natalie Portman just isn't a Wes Anderson actress. She's too mainstream, too pretty, not strange enough. And her lines are too emotional. When they're conversing, you don't get the sense of sick amusement in their tragic, emotional dialogue. And also what sort of offended me was the nudity/graphic quality. Anderson just seems, I don't know, above that. It was a little bit of a shock to see it in the film.

As for what the real movie was about, it follows the journey of three semi-excommunicated brothers from an obviously semi-wealthy, dysfunctional family, on their train ride across India on what Francis, the oldest, calls a "spiritual journey". The train they ride on is called the Darjeeling Limited, hence the name of the movie. It turns out that Francis has planned on finding their mother, who you get the sense of as flighty, and who disappeared awhile back, not even coming to their father's funeral. They encounter numerous stops along the way, and the movie follows the typical "quest" format; Questers(the brothers) A place to go(India) a reason to go there(to find their mother) dangers along the way(stops, poisonous snakes, boy drowning) a princess (Indian stewardess) an enemy (the steward) and a real reason for the quest (self-discovery and rediscovering eachother as brothers)

What hit me first about this movie was how fast you knew which brothers were the youngest, middle, and oldest. Anderson really nailed that dynamic right on the head. Jack is youngest, the little one who craves attention and who struggles to keep up with the others. Francis is obviously the oldest, as is clearly displayed in the breakfast scene where he orders for everyone, telling them what they want, and then asking them to raise their hands for another item on the menu. You can also tell that he feels responsible, almost parent-like, for his little brothers, when he asks something like, "Did I not do a good job raising you?" in passing. Peter falls in the middle, having more of a muted personality, and not making a big deal of his personal problems. I also love how Peter and Jack would tell each other things, then say, "Don't tell Francis" obviously because Francis is the more parent-like figure that they have to own up to. But I like that Wes doesn't allow these secrets to become dramatic, and how they get out pretty quickly, and in a very nonchalant way. Jack finds out Peter told Francis he planned on leaving early, so Jack says very matter-of-factly and without any ado, "Peter's having a baby in nine weeks." And how they avoid conflict as well--my favorite was when Francis revealed he had taken Jack's passport, and Peter just walks away. Francis asks where he's going, and Peter is just like,"To uhh pray at a different thing" I can relate to so much of this since I am the youngest of three siblings, and realistic interactions made me wonder if Wes had siblings himself.

Wes Anderson definitely isn't trying to be subtle in his use of symbolism in this movie; I mean it takes place on a train, which basically screams moving through life. The train they are all on, the Darjeeling, is not a very good atmosphere. It is heavy with secretive parallels; the siblings are always telling each other not to tell each other things, and they have to keep such things as smoking and a poisonous snake secret from the steward. The steward himself represents the anger and hatred between the brothers, and the stewardess is the unhealthy relationship that Jack is in. Throughout the movie, the brothers are carrying around all this luggage/baggage *baggage*, and it's always kind of in the back of your head, annoying you, like, "why are they lugging this all around?!" and it's so refreshing when they are running to get on their new train, the healthier, more balanced one, they drop all their luggage.

Okay but I actually loved the casting for this movie (with the exception of Natalie Portman but that has already been addressed)  Something that is consistent in Wes Andersons is the use of actors that aren't quite attractive, instead having interesting and quirky faces, and that was shown again in this.

I absolutely loves Jason Schwartzman as Jack. His big mustache and haircut in the movie, in addition to his comparatively short stature and big dopey eyes, made him seem so little brother. I love that when he walked with his brothers he had to take twice as many steps to keep up; it was so cute and little duckling. He looked sort of mopey throughout the movie, but in that kind of immature little brother way, and it just fit the role so perfectly. I thought that it was hilarious when Francis kept saying "Jack agrees" and at a certain point Jack was just like

ADRIEN BRODY. I can't... I don't even know how to broach this. He was so great as the middle sibling who was just trying to figure out his life on his own in a quiet way, who wasn't so sure what to do with himself and kind of just went along with whatever was said. But I loved how you could tell through the whole film he really did love his brothers, and how he was kind of dealing with the idea of having a son when he knew how messed up his family was. And i love how he would always take his family's things; it showed in a subtle way ho attached he was to them. His character was a more subtle one, but I thought the most interesting in the movie.

Okay, so actually I'm pretty much done with Owen Wilson. He plays the same character every time! He played Francis, the oldest, in this, and he did an okay job, but I just can't see him as the character, I always see him as himself. Just meh.

I guess what was different about this movie was the emotional aspect of it. In the other Wes Andersons I've seen, there's always this sense of detachment, of cynicism and irony. It's like, whenever there's a sad situation there's ironic humour to balance it, and whenever there's a funny scene, there's tragedy to balance it, so the movie just goes in kind of this emotional flatline. And that's good, that's his style, and it's very distinct and interesting. This movie was a bit different from that; it let itself get more absorbed in the emotions and the scenes. When there was a sad moment, sometimes there wasn't the irony to bring you out of it. And I think that Wes Anderson executed this style brilliantly as well. The movie was a really great voyage through brotherhood; my favorite line was when jack asked, "Do you think we would have been friends in real life? Not as brothers, but as people." And I think that's the thing with families. You may not always like them, but you always always love them.


This Time Tomorrow-The Kinks

Strangers-The Kinks

Champs Elysees-Joe Dassin

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Finally, finally, finally, I finished this book. I decided to read The Scarlet Letter because I found this adorable edition at T.J.Maxx (Penguin got a famous fashion illustrator to do the cover) and I figured I should read a "classic". As it turns out, I probably should have waited on this book. I'm not sure if it's because I'm too young that I didn't enjoy this book, or if it's just not my cup of tea and never will be, but I struggled to get through it. Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in such a circuitous, over-wrought fashion, and never really makes succinct points that you have as landmarks in the book. And yes, I know that it's also due to his time period that he writes this way, but I would zone out for whole paragraphs, and when i came back he would still be talking about the same exact thing. There was definitely a lot to analyze in this book, and no doubt it was well written, but I don't really want to go back and try to work with it solely because I honestly can't stand the writing. I know that this is a classic, so I feel a little bit like an ignorant high-schooler putting it down like this, but hopefully I can come back to it in later years and enjoy it more.

How To Read Literature Like a Professor- by Thomas C. Foster

Finishing this book felt like saying au revoir to a friend after having had a particularly satisfying discussion with them; to an extent you wish you didn't have to go, but at the same time you feel mentally sated. Thomas Foster really does feel like a friend when you're reading through his book. He speaks straight to you, the reader, and he doesn't take himself too seriously, either. He's a professor yes, but he cedes multiple times throughout the book that being a professor does not mean his word is law, particularly in literature, since it can be interpreted so many ways. Instead, in How To Read Literature Like a Professor, Foster provides a comprehensive guide to approaching works of literature, outlining the checklist of things to consider when reading, and he goes about it all in a patient and entertaining manner.

How To Read Literature Like a Professor, is, basically, an extremely condensed college course in literature. Foster spends a few pages explaining topics ranging from interpretations of the seasons to the appearance of baptism in it's many forms. The first chapter is a nice, soft lead-in to the book, talking about how most trips are quests. I'm pretty sure that he started the book this way because you can immediately put identifying quests to use; they pop up everywhere. The night I started reading this book I watched Django Unchained, and almost immediately I jerked my pointer finger at the tv and shouted "THIS IS A QUEST FOSTER SAYS SO" But soon after Foster delves into less obvious interpretations and themes; one of his next chapters is about vampires in literature, and yet the examples he uses are not pulled from Stephanie Meyer or Anne Rice. Not even Bram Stoker. No, he references "Daisy Miller", about a young woman who is struggling in a romance with someone in a different social system than her, and although this might not sound like an ooky spooky vampire tale, as Foster explains further, you realize the clues are as plain as day- the older man who is sucking the life force from a younger woman, etc. Throughout the chapters, the reader is provided with an array of examples from literature, and the list of sources at the back of the book is a dozen pages long, and it helps to elucidate his points, as well as makes you want to read more than a few titles he mentions.

I've mentally dubbed this "The Reader's Textbook", and like math, or science, it's good to read the textbook before getting into quadratics or conducting an experiment. I promised myself that I wouldn't read any other books until I finished this one, because I feel like there's so much to understand that I didn't even pick up on before reading this. I really wish that I had been introduced to this book earlier; there are so many books that I'm absolutely certain I haven't appreciated to their full potential simply because so much of the subtlety went right over my head. I would say this book is a must-read, and is the newest addition to my list of favorites. But the message it really sends, at the end of the day, is that to be a good reader, as with anything, you have to practice. The more you read, the better a reader you will be.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Welcome to May! It's crazy to think that I'm almost done with the school year--it's gone way too fast! But I'm glad that summer is coming, bringing with it long days on the water and sun-bleached hair (and I've got my fingers crossed for a tan, too!) I really need to catch up on my blogging, though--there's so much to review, but for some reason I always find myself doing playlists....OK so I might include a few songs in this post, but I mean.... I also want to change up the look of my blog a little; it's far too generic and, well, not ME right now. 

Sooooo to give this post a bit of substance I set my Grooveshark to shuffle and here are the first five songs that came up!

Riverside by Agnes Obel

I first heard this song when I was watching season one of the ABC show Revenge. Season one was really good and I would highly recommend it, but I would say stop after that-- their soundtrack gets pretty bad too.

Kaleidoscope Machine by Katie Costello

For the life of me I cannot remember how I came across this song, but I know that it always makes me happy when i listen to it :)

Hey Little Rich Girl by Amy Winehouse

I know this has already been on my blog, but it's worth another listen. It's one of my favorite Amy songs; it has a lot lighter feel than most of her others.

My Favorite Game by The Cardigans


Buy My Love by Wynter Gordon

I found this one through my brother-- it gets me dancing every time.

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