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READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
Sylvia and I are taking a break from Despereaux to read Huck Finn -- she was a little skeptical when I suggested that, but two chapters in she is totally enthralled. And me too: I haven't read this book since I was about Sylvia's age or a couple of years older, but it feels like an old shoe.
Just love that singer's voice -- if I'm reading their list of band members correctly, her name is Kitty Lux. (I like the male singer a lot too, Jonty Banks I believe is his name, who has the lead in "Life on Mars"; but not in the same gut-level way. He is a technically gifted singer with a lovely voice*; she is that and also is expressive where he is sometimes emotionally flat.)
* Wait, strike that -- went back and listened to it again -- Banks is a fair singer but "technically gifted" is overstating the matter.
I met Ellen and Sylvia for dinner this evening in Montclair -- Sylvia started art camp at the Montclair Art Museum today, where she is happily learning how to draw animals. In one of her classes they are doing a group project, a sculpture of Huckleberry Finn -- Sylvia has never read it, so while we were eating we decided to swing by our favorite bookstore and pick up a copy... of course it is hard to leave there without a bunch of books. Our haul:
Tom Sawyer -- nice to have this on hand for when she's read Huck Finn -- it is a lesser book of course, but I remember it being a fun read.
The Prince and the Pauper, to round out the kid-friendly Twain selections.
The Golden Compass -- people keep recommending this to me; I should take a look. Sylvia is loving the Harry Potter books these days, and this seemed like it would be in a similar vein.
Teddy Roosevelt -- Sylvia's pick (after she found out that no, we're not buying Dragonology today), from a series of biographies of important Americans. Teddy Roosevelt is, she explained, her favorite president: I'm not totally clear on whether this is because 26 is her favorite number, or vice versa.
The scene that seems to me like the thematic core of the movie, is the one where WALL-E and EVE (who I thought throughout the movie was named EVA, but apparently not) are trying to get the seedling into the ship's verification unit; the ship's autopilot is in revolt and tipping the deck over so that all the helpless humans roll off to one side, and the plant with them. But EVE's passion about accomplishing her directive is enough to inspire the human passengers to reclaim their humanity, struggle to their feet, get the plant to her.
This just seems really well-done to me. The (intensely anthropomorphic) robot is leading the humans, but she is leading them towards humanity. That was what I took away from it anyway.
Unrelatedly, you know what movie this reminded me of, æsthetically anyway? Brazil, is what. Very strongly -- the cross between science-fiction and old show tunes was enough to get me nearly there, but also I picked up a Terry Gilliam type of influence in the artist's eye. Also I guess there is a little bit of thematic crossover, though I don't think WALL-E is nearly as subversive as Brazil.
Last night, Sylvia and I started rereading Despereaux, the story of a young non-conformist mouse which I found a little cloying last time we read it but which she loves. And it's sort of a cool coincidence: when we went to the movies this evening, we saw a preview for the forthcoming movie of Despereaux. Nice -- I can picture it being a much better movie than book. A lot of what irritates me about the book is the precious authorial voice, which I think will not be there as strongly in the screenplay -- who knows, perhaps not at all, if the author of the book is not writing the screenplay. I don't know whether she is or not. (Update -- IMDB says, not. And Matthew Broderick is doing the mouse's voice, which seems like, well, possibly a good choice.)
WALL-E was a really good movie, and I encourage you to go see it. (I'm not much of a movie reviewer so I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining why I think you should see it -- just want to add my voice to the chorus of recommendations I think you're going to be seeing over the next few weeks.) This is head and shoulders above anything else Pixar has done.
It seemed to me like a really well-thought-out movie, very close to internally consistent -- the logic it adhered to was of course cartoon logic rather than real-world, but it was well-enough developed that I could really put myself in the movie's world, feel for its characters, feel the urgency of its problems and solutions.
In a bit of irony (an annoying bit of irony, it must be said), this movie about robots competently assuming human functions was screened by a robot projectionist who was not up to the task -- in a climactic moment he broke down and had to be serviced by human staff.
Seems like Sylvia is not yet ready to stay up late for a movie -- she did fine through the end of the film but once we got home it was like an hour past her bed time, and she had real trouble getting back into her routine.
There was a charming short cartoon before the feature, about a magician in a battle of wills with his rabbit. I'm confused about the credits, which included a "Lighting" credit -- I'm trying to figure out what that means in CGI animation.
Two pleasant things to know about: Pixar's new movie WALL-E sounds (despite its silly title) like it's going to be really good, if A.O. Scott's opinion (and that of critics in general) is anything to go by. And, Studio Ghibli is releasing a new movie next month: Ponyo on the Cliff, directed by Miyazaki. Presumably it will take a while longer for the translation and US release to happen; but this is really exciting! I've loved the Ghibli movies I've watched so far (in the past two years, since we first found out about Kiki's Delivery Service), and it will be great to get to see one in the theater.
Pandora Brewer posted a nice, incomplete guide to Miyazaki's films over on The Great Whatsit yesterday, which inspired me to do some research. Looks like I need to watch Panda! Go, Panda!, Miyazaki's first writing credit for a feature film, which Adriana says is trippy, and Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki's first directing credit for a feature film, and Princess Mononoke. I was a little surprised to see that many of the Ghibli films which I think of as "Miyazaki films" are not written or directed by him, such as Kiki and The Cat Returns.
Lax management of our Netflix queue has led to all of our movies currently checked out, being dark, heavy movies: Battleship Potemkin, Metropolis, and Frankenstein. I sort of think we'll watch Metropolis tonight, but not quite sure.
Update: No, forget that -- we're totally gonna watch WALL-E!
Megan of Arctic Oak posted yesterday about the movies of Agnès Varda, one of my favorites; today in comments she links to a lecture by Varda on YouTube; and following the link I see there are several more available. (Or maybe they are all part of the same lecture -- I can't watch them right now so I'm not sure.)
Tomorrow afternoon and evening, Bob and I are going out to Scotch Plains to jam. A lot of people I haven't met, and some I know; I think Doug will be there, I haven't played with him in a few years, and also the Marlow clan. Looking forward to it! The e-mail said they would be set up to record the jam, so I may get some archives out of it. (I should set up and check my pickup this evening, I haven't played electric violin since December or so.)