Sunday, January 30, 2011

gwyneth paltrow on SNL

i know this is rather late. actually i'd been meaning to write about this for ages, but just couldn't find the right time for it. (i wrote a draft of this post in my laptop a couple of weeks ago; unfortunately, my laptop's hard drive got fried.) still, better late than never i guess, so here goes...

gwyneth paltrow delivered a nicely rounded stint in Saturday Night Live (SNL). she was showcased in several well-applauded skits, but my favorite is their hilarious segment on Shakespearean "previews".

it's a good thing gwyneth paltrow has the acting chops and the vocal range to pull this off.

another SNL skit that stood out for me involves Cee Loo Green. if have watched and appreciated gwyneth paltrow's number "Forget You" in Glee, then you'll appreciate this even more. word substitutions for cuss words flew fast and thick here, and it's a wonder not one of them slipped. anyways, enjoy!

needless to day, i was chuckling helplessly while trying to keep track with what everyone was really saying. all in all, this was a great SNL episode.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Angelology (Danielle Trussoni)

after reading a favorable TIME review of Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, i felt compelled to dig up some more information on this book. by the time i have read the third review (mostly positive), i was already itching to get my hands on it. (i have had this kind of reaction several times in the past and it hasn’t failed me yet.)

i made a few phone and online inquiries and quickly learned that local bookstores have run out of copies of Angelology, which was released only a couple of months earlier. after a more thorough and patient search, i finally managed to find an unsold copy (which was ready for pick-up the next day).

i started reading Angelology on my way home and didn’t stop until 5:45am. (i showed up for work bleary-eyed and yawning.) despite the book’s minor drawbacks, the tale simply held me enthralled. one reason why this story resonates with me is that it reminds me of one of my favorite X-files episodes, All Souls, which dealt with the concept of nephilim (lit. “fallen ones”).

my verdict? i liked it! more importantly, i couldn’t put it down. Angelology is described as a supernatural thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown, although i think it’s more in the style of Umberto Eco‘s The Name of the Rose. think of a gripping, multilayered gothic tale with biblical roots and tinged with intrigues and conspiracies. at its core, it tells of a centuries-old struggle between the nephilim, the hybrid offspring of rebellious angels and human females, and a secret group of humans (angelologists) who study and oppose the nephilim's sinister machinations.

if you have an abiding interest in angels (and not just the good kind) and don’t mind reading lengthy text on art, history, Greek mythology, various biblical texts, etc., Angelology shouldn’t be a challenge. if you’re a catholic, it’ll probably be easier to digest this premise (although Ms. Trussoni also makes liberal references to Jewish and Muslim religious texts to substantiate her point). at any rate, you will learn a few things about how humans have viewed angels throughout the centuries.

i am currently re-reading parts of this book. for some reason, i keep going back to the scene where one of the characters (a nun) conducted a “summoning” ceremony. an upcoming sequel to Angelology is currently in the works, according to its author.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

musings in the dark

we had a short power blackout at work today as a result of a sudden, unexpected storm of sorts. for 20 minutes, we were bombarded by a series of deafening thunderclaps punctuated by lightning that slashed through the night sky.

about 3 seconds before the blackout, a couple of our officemates (who were sitting near the window) reported seeing a flash of bluish light near our building.

i hit the Save button fast enough to freeze the chapter i was working on in time. the building generator system came to life shortly but after 2 minutes we were told to shut down our PCs because our emergency backup system could only support a limited number of PCs running at full capacity.

so after that, short of swapping ghost stories (with the storm providing a great backdrop), we were basically left with little else to do -- except to twiddle our thumbs or fiddle with our mobile phones.

at this unexpected break, i was left to ponder on a few things that have been lurking in the back of my mind since last week -- mostly about the fact that when you're used to do your work almost exclusively on a PC, a simple matter like a power outage can sometimes leave you feeling disoriented.

now, the biggest challenge is to find something vaguely stimulating to keep your mind from rotting away while you wait for:
(a) power resumption
(b) the time till it's time to go home, or
(c) an inspired moment when an idea of such passing brilliance can lead you to write an achingly beautiful sonnet, a symphony masterpiece, or a revolutionary scientific theory that will make space travel easier.

of these three options, the probability that option (c) will occur is likely a billion-to-one proposition (like maybe, when hell freezes over?), but it sounds rather nice to include it in the list -- you know, just in case a miracle happens.

i was in the middle of more outlandish imaginings when the lights suddenly came back. almost on cue, everybody sighed in mingled relief and regret. our office jester, who's rarely at a loss, quipped: "alright slaves, show's over. back to work!"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

the moment Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (JS&MN) became available in local bookstores, i shifted to active search mode. its hefty price and weight (which was taxing on one’s wrist) gave me some pause, but after reading several glowing reviews i threw caution to the wind and bought a hardbound copy.

so was it worth the hassle? you bet.

i was barely halfway into the first chapter when i realized that i was truly ensnared with no hope of turning back. i raced through that 782-page volume like a hound hot on a scent. after finishing the book in 1.5 days (i still had to report for work), i went through it again —- this time, i savored every page and paused at every nook and cranny, including the footnotes.

i’d been trying to convince a lot of people since then to read JS&MN, but except for a couple of sci-fi/fantasy geeks at work, it didn’t really catch on among my friends and colleagues. i think the book’s length and ms. clarke’s writing style (which mirrors the style and conventions adopted by many authors of that era — particularly Jane Austen) must have put them off.

after i had raved about it for weeks, a friend asked me why i liked it so much. for some reason, that question floored me for a few seconds. i mean, how do you explain why you like something so much without sounding like an obsessive nutcase?

i finally blurted, “just read the book. you'll know why.”

i could have cited several things: susanna clarke‘s storytelling gifts, the elegant way she paints a scene (which would normally take lesser authors many paragraphs to convey and many years to perfect), and her beguiling way of convincing you that such things could have actually happened.

the thing about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is that the tale unfolds with a deceptively reasonable and gently (and at other times, sly) teasing tone so as to make you believe its premise with unsettling ease and amused wonder.

i suppose that my fondness for JS&MN partly stems from my affection for Jane Austen’s books (haven’t read all of them though) and the fact that i like fantasy/sci-fi books in general. i have also devoured georgette heyer’s books, which are an excellent source of Regency social vignette and humor. in addition, ms. clarke manages to infuse her tale with some of the period’s famous historical figures, which can be a clever way of grounding a story (despite the fact that it’s a revisionist tale).

i just wish there were more books like this. oh, i also recently bought ms. clarke’s latest book, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, a collection of short stories relating to JS&MN’s story line. a delightful read, that. beautiful illustrations, too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the fascinating allure of Origami

Origami (origin: ori meaning "folding" and kami meaning "paper") is the traditional Japanese folk art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD and was popularized in the mid-1900s.
-- Wikipedia

i have always been fascinated by origami. and the fact that i never had the time or the chance to take a crack at it has further increased my interest in this marvelous art form.

my usual reaction whenever i see a particularly well-crafted piece is awestruck wonder. (how did they do that?)

here are a few samples (which i found online):

(for more details on the samples shown above, you can check out this link.

fans of the Fantasy genre (books/films/games) will surely appreciate this intricate origami model of a dragon.

and to even things out, how about an origami unicorn

Origami as well as Japanese flower arrangement are two (art form) skills that i hope to pick up sooner or later.

Monday, January 10, 2011

the adventures of hiccup and his friends

this is a quick follow-up to my recent entry (a few days ago) on horrendous hiccup haddock III, the recurring hero of Cressida Cowell's popular book series on Vikings.

after checking things over at Wikipedia, i realized that How to Train Your Dragon is actually the first of a 10-book series (and counting) by this prolific British author (to learn more, you can check out Ms. Cowell's site; she's also the author the Emily Brown series and other books).

These books include:
* Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick
* How to Train Your Dragon
* How to Be a Pirate
* How to Speak Dragonese
* How to Train Your Viking
* How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse
* How to Twist a Dragon's Tale
* A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons
* How to Ride a Dragon's Storm
* How to Break a Dragon's Heart

the hero of this series, Hiccup, continues to find interesting adventures in subsequent books, along with his dragon Toothless and his best friend Fishlegs. Hiccup is a bit unusual for a Viking in that he is more inclined to use his brains than his brawn to solve his problems. He's not really a wimp mind you, he just doesn't believe in the usual rough-and-tumble stuff that every self-respecting Viking berserker seems to delight in. This, of course, does not necessarily endear him to his muscle-bound and brawling peers, but he eventually gets things done.

at any rate, here are a few Dragonese phrases that might come in handy should you ever stumble into a dragon one of these days.

** Nee-ahh crappa inna di hoosus, pishyu.
(No poo-ing inside the house, please)

** Mi Mama no likeit yum-yum on di bum.
(My mother doesn't like to be bitten on the bottom.)

** Pishyu keendlee gobba oot mi freeundlee?
(Please would you be so kind as to spit my friend out?)

** Doit a wummertime.
(Let's try that again.)

have fun reading these gems!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Justin Bieber on Vanity Fair

justin bieber is gracing the February edition of Vanity Fair magazine.

i guess it's no secret why every little thing he does (real, implied or imagined) is immediately reported on print or online. for some reason, every time one of these tidbits enter my orbit, my reactions just go into overdrive: exasperation, amusement, derision, and bafflement.

of course, there's no denying that justin bieber has achieved a few things that only a handful of his peers can boast of. and the fact that he is on Vanity Fair should speak volumes about his sway among his delirious fans -- and yes, even his detractors.

in some quarters that could both a bane and a blessing.

and wait, it looks like Justin Bieber's Nail Collection is also a big hit among shoppers. reports have surfaced that his signature nail polish line have sold out in 3000 Wal-Mart stores over the holidays. good grief.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

bentos to die for

all right. first off, i'll have to say these bentos are so freakingly awesome, it's almost a crime to eat them.

i'd been staring at these mouth-watering gastronomic creations for the past few minutes now, trying to control the drool from spilling out. it's almost beyond me why anyone would spend time to whip up these staggering dishes and then expect people to eat them just like that -- and i mean that in a good way.

for lovers of mecha anime, here's a yummy treat for you.

the thought of actually eating any of these tempting dishes almost has a barbaric ring to it. it's like stomping on a cuddly, helpless puppy or spitting on Tweety Bird or something.

to cap off this visual and epicurean feast, i am also including a Miyazake-themed bento (My Neighbor Totoro). fans of Hayao Miyazaki's work would appreciate this, i'm sure.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon (book)

i was idling my time away last Sunday (i was waiting for the traffic to clear so i could go home in relative peace), so i stopped at Booksale for a quick browse. after 15 minutes i grew bored and was about to leave when i glanced in a corner and saw this book (How to Train Your Dragon).

it was still in relatively good condition, which was probably why it caught my attention.

it wasn't the type of book i'd normally check out, but for some reason it called to me. i opened a few pages, and much to my surprise i was actually chuckling before i even finished a page. this rarely happens to me, so i jumped a few pages more and was promptly beguiled by several pages of illustrations inside — no they weren't particularly good or even eye-catching. but the clumsily drawn, stick-like figures (bad spelling and all) blended well with the humorous way the story was laid out.

How to Train Your Dragon is presented as a translation (originally in old Norse, according to its playfully imaginative author, Cressida Cowell) of the memoirs of a famous Viking chieftain, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (yes, that's his name) -– specifically on how he progressed from being an undersized but sensible warrior wanna-be to a still-undersized but moderately acceptable Viking hero by training his own undersized, unremarkable and ornery dragon (which he calls Toothless -– go figure).

This book is basically geared for male juveniles but grown-ups with an overdeveloped sense of humor will also appreciate its concept and humor (both slapstick and implied).

with characters endearingly named as Hiccup (son of the chieftain of the Hairy Hooligans), Thuggory (his counterpart in the Meathead tribe), Gobber the Belch, Snotface Snotlout, Dosgbreath the Duhbrain, how can you go wrong? anyway, if you're looking for mindless fun and are fond of Viking culture, How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) is right up your alley. enjoy.

NOTE: of course, everybody now knows that this amusing book has already been adapted into film (starring Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, etc.) by DreamWorks -- it is one of the top boxoffice earners for 2010 after all. however, there's a world of difference between the movie and book versions of HTTYD. and although i loved the film, i would have to say that the book version has a unique brand of attraction that will probably never translate well into film.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

TPS makes a box

how to make an eye-catching box without spending a lot and getting frazzled in the process? let my friend PseudoShrink, whose eclectic range of interests is an unending source of local wonder, show you how...

okay, so this is the finished product. the real nuts-and-bolts details i will leave to TPS, who really likes to do these things.

for a more detailed step-by-step discussion of how a few simple items had morphed into this box, check out this link. and if you have time to spare, you can browse around her site for interesting recipes, quirky how-to's, kikay stuff, useful recommendations and her refreshingly candid take on things.