Medley of the Day: Thanksgiving Edition

Led Zeppelin's surprisingly sweet and organ-erific "Thank You".

For a dose of ridiculous funk, Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You".

And here's a pretty legit Thanksgiving song. Eric Whitacre's "I Thank You God for most this Amazing Day" performed by Polyphony:

Happy Thanksgiving!


Livin' the Dream

Sometimes, as I look into my future filled with more schooling, I despair. Cheap apartments and a fairly thrifty lifestyle make me pine for the day that I will be able to afford the following:

A decent mattress- Although my mattress right now manages to be more comfortable than the bare floor, barely.

A bigger than 19" TV- Considering how many movies I watch, it's a tragedy how small my current, borrowed TV is.

A car- Walking and mooching rides only gets you so far.

A classy 3-piece suit- Let's pretend I'll be a professional that would necessitate me owning this. Or I could just have one.

A huge collection of Motown music- Most awesome era of music ever and I want it all.

A large assortment of jackets/coats/cardigans- Outwear is my shopping weakness. I'm not really sure how I've managed to keep my collection at a minimum this long.

A Total Gym- Who knows if I would use this, but I've seen the infomercial a lot, and it looks like fun. Plus, Chuck Norris and Christy Brinkley use it. 'nuff said.


Two Tragic WWII Romances

1. The Cranes are Flying (1957) is Soviet Union film directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. It spans just before WWII to the end of the war. Veronika and Boris are a young couple in love, but soon Boris enlists in the army leaving Veronika behind to wait for him. The scene where Boris must leave for war and Veronika can't catch up to him to stay good-bye is heartbreaking. The crowds of people and frantic yelling are filmed to give the whole scope of the frantic situation. The rest of the film focuses mostly on Veronika's side of the story, wondering whether or not Boris made it through the war since no news comes to Veronika or Boris' family.

Much of the film centers around Veronika's relationship with Mark, Boris' cousin. Mark has been in love with Veronika for a long time, but never did anything about it because of Boris. But given Boris' plea to look out for her and also his exemption from the war because of his piano talent, Mark spends a lot of time with Veronika, eventually whittling down her will to resist him.

The scene where Veronika finally gives into Mark is powerful and highly stylized, allowing the music, ambient noise, and physical environment to reflect both characters' emotions:

Through the film we see Veronika grow up. Her dreams have been shattered and must learn what she cares about in life, whether or not Boris makes it. Ultimately, it seems her answer is reaching out and caring for other people, people who aren't selfish and who love their country.

What really captured my attention in this film was scenes like Veronika giving into Mark. I enjoy a film that utilizes all the facets of film to reemphasize a theme or internal thoughts/emotions. It can sometimes be cheesy, but in this case I found it to be effective, bringing life into characters that, for the most part, remain pretty enigmatic in the face. I love seeing styles of film making that differ from the Hollywood norm and this movie supplies that. What an intense drama.

2. I finally saw Atonement (2007) based on the novel by Ian McEwan. I had read the book previously and found Joe Wright's tone to match that of the book*. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking, and absolutely horror of a love story. Robbie and Cecilia are old acquaintances who finally realize/take action on their love for each other one hot afternoon. Unfortunately, Cecilia's little sister Briony sees them interact in ways she doesn't understand and assumes the worst. Misunderstandings ensue, lovers are separated, and redemption is sought.

Much like the novel, the film is made up of gorgeous moments more than a cohesive narrative, and it works. Really, this film is--to quote an old roommate--an eye orgasm. Through rich colors, creative use of focus, and editing, Wright translates McEwan's descriptions well. Here's an example of the visuals at work creating subtle character development:

Despite myself, I was moved to tears**. Film, more so than prose, has that effect on me, especially is there is a lovely score. For the most part, Dario Marianelli's compositions are subtle, but at opportune moments swell into grandeur, effecting me more than it should. At the end of the day, Atonement is a lovely film that wants to be more epic and sweeping than it is, but it succeeds at being an adaptation of very good novel by capturing its tone and tangible descriptions.

*Unlike a certain Jane Austen masterpiece--I will never let that go.
**I swear I'm not usually a sap.

Deliciousness in the form of Pumpkin

I made a loaf of pumpkin bread last week. Not only was the combination of pumpkin and chocolate chips absolutely delicious, but it left the apartment smelling all homey and spicy. Here's the recipe from The Essential Mormon Cookbook:

Pumpkin Bread

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Add pumpkin and mix; set aside. In another bowl sift dry ingredients. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamy mixture. Beat until blended. Add chocolate chips and pecans, if desired. Grease one loaf pan or four mini loaves. Pour batter into pans. For one loaf, back at 350
degrees F for about 1 hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. For mini loaves, bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes. Makes one loaf or four mini loaves.


The best thing about getting my haircut...

...was not cutting the last inch of my hair that was totally gross and unstylable, but that the girl cutting my hair was listening to Cher's Greatest Hits. Seriously, who's given more love to overlooked minorities over the years than Cher?

Absolutely classic

The best costume ever?


Christy: Actually inspirational Literature

Christy is a novel written by Catherine Marshall in 1967 as a semi-biography of her mother's experiences as a teacher.. A few years ago I read and liked it, but my most recent read of it this summer revealed it to be one of the best inspirational Christian books I've ever read. Granted, my experience with "inspirational literature" is mostly Mormon lit (Jack Weyland), but I find this novel to be sincere without being cheesy. Religion in general is hard to write accurately about. It's more of an experiential thing than anything, and to any outsider, it looks ridiculous. Marshall's expression of a young woman growing in faith through practice and doubt is familiar and rings true with my experience as a religious girl.

Taking place in the Appalachian mountains in 1912, 19-year-old Christy Huddleston heads to a the small village of Cutter Gap to teach a new school. She's inspired to go after hearing Miss Alice speak at a church function. Pretty much immediately, Christy is out of her element, being a city woman and all, when she's called on to help with a surgical operation by the rugged Dr. Neil McNeill in a dirty cabin. From then on out, she must deal with the poverty, dirty cabins, ignorance, and superstitions of the mountain people of Cutter Gap and reconcile it with her faith in God.

On some level, Christy is a morality story, but it acknowledges more complexity than other inspirational literature. Emphasis is placed on circumstantal morals. The mountain people are scratching to survive in a village that's stuck in the past. Christy quickly learns that harsh circumstance don't easily lend themself to quick good vs. bad solution or faith in a loving God. And in conjunction with Dr. MacNeill's agnostic rebuttals and Reverand David Grantland's wavering faith/motivation, Christy doesn't know what to believe.

So she turns to Miss Alice, a Quaker with an entreprenuerial missionary who's in charge of the mission in Cutter Gap. Her burdensome past and level-headed approach to life makes her an inspiration to Christy, and also me. If I wasn't Mormon, I'm pretty sure I'd like to be a Friend. But Alice pushes Christy to live Christianity, not just try to believe. She's all about reading the word of God and taking action to find out if God is real. I like her idea that Christianity is exciting and a living thing.

Christy takes Miss Alice's advice: she prays, reads, and tries her best to get through the tough life of Cutter Gap and in the processes gets to know a loving God that's more real to her than the God she learned about in Sunday School. In that, I find truth. To be a believer in anything, you must live it. My belief in Christianity stems from living it, not from the logic of it. A religious life brings obligation, but it means you can trust in an infinite love and hope.

This novel is a quick read, but it's full of what a young woman comes to understand and believe. It's not life changing, but it's supportive that faith comes through trying and living. That faith doesn't always bring easy solutions or any solution. That's how Christy manages to not be cheesy: it shows that faith usually does little more than give hope, but sometimes that enough.

The television show of the same name and same basic storyline ran from 1994-1995 and also managed to discuss faith without getting overly preachy. It manages to be more than Hallmark drivel, which might stem from Kellie Martin's sincere performance. Martin was 18 when the show was made which gives it an innocence that an older actress might not have been able to portray. Tyne Daly played the strong Miss Alice and has remained one of my absolute favorite television actresses ever since this series.

I marathon-watched the entire series (twenty-something episodes) this summer in addition to the book, and it's--forgive me--quality family entertainment. I'm not the biggest fan of family programming, but it sometimes captures me. It's hard to do morality stories set in modern times; it just seems to make more sense in the past. Christy captures me and makes me misty-eyed more times than I'd like to admit. It's honest and lovely as both a novel and a television series.

Side note:
I focused mostly on portrayal of faith in Christy, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the love triangle. David, the attractive and young preacher, quickly falls in love with Christy, but does he really love her or is she just the only one around? Neil MacNeill, the uncouth and heartbroken doctor, who challenges Christy's faith and convictions, but can someone who gets under Christy's skin so much be right for her? Let's just say it's absolutely classic. Too bad in the TV series it never gets resolved, but the novel gives more closure.

But anyway, I'll let you judge who should win out judging from quality fanvids.

David and Christy set to some Yellowcard song. Also, Randall Batinkoff who plays David is unimaginably attractive:

Neil and Christy set to "The Scientist" (unfortunately you can't hear Neil talk during this since on the TV show, Neil is played by the very Scottish Stewart Finlay-McLennan):


Medley of the Day: Super Creepy Edition

There was this one year in my childhood when the creepiest songs ever came out. Here goes:

First up, The Prodigy's "Breathe." I actually think this song is pretty cool:

Remember when Marilyn Manson was actually scary? "The Beautiful People":

Lastly, "Du Hast" by Rammstein. This is either really lame or legitimately hard core:


Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan: Houses of the Holy

In case you missed it, here's my take on Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, and Led Zeppelin IV.

Today's album in review: Houses of the Holy. Several of the songs on this album are the impetus for my foray into Led Zeppelin fandom. So let's enjoy.

1. "The Song Remains the Same"--It always blows my mind how pop this song is. Pop with killer guitar solos and a more epic scope, but pop-ier than most Zeppelin songs. I would say it would fit very well on a Get Psyched Mix.

2. "The Rain Song"--This was one of the songs that convinced me to start my journey into Led Zeppelin music. It's a slower song filled with layers of instruments including strings and a piano in addition to the typical guitars and drums.
It's long, but moves forward with a lovely minor-key melody that breaks into a powerful refrain toward the end and then softly eases us out the song.

3. "Over the Hills and Far Away"--This uses my favorite Zeppelin Classic Technique--start acoustic and soft and then bust out into an awesome harder rock middle of the song, and then leave us with a softer ending.
Definitely a driving around sort of song.

4. "The Crunge"--I honestly don't know how to take this song. It's some sort of homage to James Brown. The meter in this song is insane and almost impossible to follow. Like most funk music, it's probably more fun to play than to listen to. Also, Plant's vocals sound weirdly distorted and the use of synthesizers instead of horns makes it sound more like Commander Keen than soul music. But if you appreciate crazy rhythm (shout out to John Bonham), it can be decent listen.

5. "Dancing Days"--Kind of like "On the Tiles", it sounds almost like a regular rock song, but with a haunting/hard core Jimmy Page riff. Unfortunately, this song also falls victim to the Commander Keen synth which instantly cheeses it up. But it's a good rock song, complete with a repeated "You know it's alright."

6. "D'yer Mak'er"--The title comes from a play on the word "Jamaica" (did you make her?) which exemplifies how fun this song is. It's raggae and Robert Plant has a field day with the vocals.

7. "No Quarter"--This song has grown on me. The instruments and vocals are distorted which makes for a very cool, grittier, and very layered sound. The best parts include an unaffected piano played by John Paul Jones over so many layers of of distorted instruments. But what really makes this song interesting to me is the catchy and deep guitar (bass?) solo.

8. "The Ocean"--Total guitar riff awesomeness and hard drumming that ends on a sweet doo-wop outro guitar solo. And if you listen close you can hear John Paul Jones and John Bonham singing harmonized backup at the end. Overall, a fun song to end the album.

Overall Assesment: V
ery interesting and more thoughtful music making on Houses of the Holy. There's a couple ridiculous songs that are outweighed by the successful experimental and classic Zeppelin sounding songs.


New Vending Machine Favorite

Whilst wandering campus in search of food before my evening class yesterday, I happened upon a new addition to the campus vending machines: Easy Mac.

I always thought this was a nasty idea--what with the no milk and all--but regular Kraft Mac & Cheese tastes fake anyway, and Easy Mac (shockingly) tastes exactly the same. It only takes a few minutes to make and it has that same gross/good taste of the original. All you need is water and a microwave.

Easy Mac, the most ridiculous/useful snack/meal ever.


Dudes that look way too much alike

So today I saw the movie L'enfant, and the main guy was kind of like a young and not very shrewd Bil Sykes. And then I thought of the movie Oliver! and the actor who plays Bil Sykes. And then I couldn't really remember what he looked like except a cross between Javier Bardem and that dude in PS I Love You who wasn't Gerard Butler/Katherine Heigl's dead lover from Grey's Anatomy (yeah, I actually saw that episode). Anyway, I looked them all up and I can say with 12387% certainty they are the same person.

Javier Bardem...

...and Jeffrey Dean Morgan...

...are the same as Oliver Reed* as Bil Sykes.

*Totally creepy in this movie as well as in Tommy. Why was he even cast in musicals?


Medley of the Day: If only life were like a musical edition

I'm in a cheesy mood and have been remiss in my blogging duties, so here's a little something to tide you over and distract you from election ridiculousness:

The Sound of Music "My Favorite Things"
Not too long ago, I rediscovered this movie and found it to be awesome. This is my favorite song from it; honestly, the melody is gorgeous. Too bad this scene doesn't have more of that sexy Captain Von Trapp.

Notre Dame de Paris "Belle"
There is an astounding number of version of this musical, including in English. My favorite I've accidentally encountered is in Russian. It just doesn't sound right: same melody, but different words/singers. Anyway, enjoy the original in French. When all three men start to sing together, it's heavenly. Just ignore some of the creepy lyrics and the kind of poor sound quality.

Oklahoma "People Will Say We're in Love"
This is the London production with Hugh Jackman. Seriously adorable. I love good rom-com banter...in music form.

Speaking of musical banter,
Calamity Jane "I Could Do Without You"
In the most ridiculous of musicals, this is a surprisingly sexy scene. Something about the huge Howard Keel and adorably small Doris Day trying to boss each other around. Anyway, enjoy.