Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review: TiMER

Title: TiMER
Starring: Emma Caufield, Michelle Borth, John Patrick Amedori, and Desmond Harrington
Release Year: 2009

TiMER takes place in a world where people can buy an implant that will tell them when they will meet their soul mate. The story follows Oona (Emma Caufield), a 30-year-old a woman whose TiMER is blank, meaning her one and only has not received a TiMER. The move starts out with Oona dragging her TiMER-less boyfriend into a TiMER store to receive his implant. To her disappointment, he is not her one and they part ways.

What would you do if the uncertainty is taken out of love?

For Oona, she desperately dates guys without TiMERs in the hopes one of them is for her. Her stepsister Steph (Michelle Borth), whose TiMER won't hit zero until she is 42, has anonymous sex with random guys - something which disgusts Oona. But after their younger brother receives his TiMER and learns he will meet his soul mate in just a few days, Oona changes her mind and starts an affair with a much younger man: a supermarket clerk by day, indie rock musician by night. His TiMER is four months away from zeroing out.

The movie subtly shows the importance of life being unscripted. For some (such as Oona's mother), the TiMER is a miraculous invention that has done away with the heartbreak associated with failed relationships. For Oona, the TiMER has been a curse she has lived with, mocking her with the possibility that she would never find true love. In TiMER, the quest for romantic completeness is portrayed as the be-all, end-all of life, and those whose TiMERs have not yet zeroed out are simply biding their time. This is a disconcerting mindset, and perhaps is is a mild poke at the cultural obsession with finding true love so prevalent in books, movies, and fairy tales.

I enjoyed TiMER and thought it was an interesting departure from the normal romantic comedies out there. The premise is unique (if complete scientific bullshit) and there is enough sociological philsophying to make my brain happy.

"Do you think the TiMER actually works, or is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy?"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dude, Where's My Forehead?

A while ago, I started a book list over at Goodreads titled "Dude, Where's My Forehead?". I seeded the list with scads of books I've noticed where the cover figure is sans anything above his/her nose (and it's usually her). Since then, the list has exploded with people making their own additions of forehead-less books.

Not surprisingly, most of them are romance, chick-lit, or paranormal urban fantasy, that new subgenre of fantasy that has taken on a life of its own recently. But not all. Oh, no. Classic titles have taken the meme and run with it.

Exhibits A, B, and C:

I don't doubt that these are very striking covers. There is something very alluring about them, and a hint of mystery. Just what does the rest of the face look like? Are the eyes looking at you? Closed?

The eyes are one of the most expressive parts of a person's body. They can convey sadness, happiness, amusement, anger, lust, hate, annoyance, loneliness, and boredom. There are some who say the eyes are the window's to a person's soul. So why are the eyes not shown on these book covers? It could be laziness. Really expressive eyes are difficult to capture in a painting or even a photograph. But eyes, when done well, are extremely haunting. A few years ago, I felt like getting some culture and decided to go visit the National Gallery of Art for a day. There was one painting by Renoir, Madame Henriot, which stopped me dead in my tracks, and I found myself circling through the rooms just to go visit it again. There were other Renoir paintings with amazing eyes, but none that struck me like Madame Henriot's. If Renoir had been less skilled with painting her expressive eyes, the painting would probably not have moved me. It is otherwise a pretty ordinary portrait done in neutral tones. The only dark spots are her hair and eyes.

Eyes are also integral to a person's identity. They are the organs with which we view the world. By hiding the eyes, the cover artist could be playing into subconscious wish-fulfillment. You too could be the heroine: slayer of demons, lover of pirates, and star of your own story.

Or, another theory. Without the eyes, the focus moves to the lips, which are an inherently sensual part of the body. We use our lips to kiss, smile, murmur, caress. Lips are beautiful and we are drawn to them. The focus on the lips could be a subtle hint to the sexiness within a book. When you stare at another's lips, you imply you wish to kiss him or her. So looking at the lips on a cover, you subliminally want the book; need the book; want to take it home and spend long hours with it.

Of course, this all boils down to marketing. And the truth is, covers sell books. No matter how many times we hear, "Don't judge a book by its cover," we still do. We all have a little magpie in our hearts, and it is human nature to be drawn to things that we find visually appealing. And those forehead-less covers do look pretty cool.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crocheting Hyperbolically

In October, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (whew, that's a mouthful) is exhibiting the Smithsonian Community Reef. The Smithsonian reef is a satellite of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, a project of the Institute of Figuring. Hookers around the region and nation are invited to contribute pieces for the reef.

The project is the brainchild of two sisters, Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim. Daina Taimina of the University of Cornell figured out that using crochet, one can easily create a three-dimensional model of a hyperbolic plane by crocheting in the round and incorporating increases. Thought to be completely theoretical by mathematicians, hyperbolic planes are actually fairly abundant in nature, particularly underwater. It is no coincidence that the Wertheims were inspired by Taimina's work to create crocheted coral reefs to raise awareness of the plight of the earth's oceans.

Here are some that I've made:

The Crochet Coral Reef Project is much like the AIDS quilt, in which many people can contribute and parts of it can be displayed throughout the world. The Community Reef will actually be made up of three separate reefs. The first will be a healthy reef in which many colors and fibers are used; the second will be a bleached reef consisting of only white, gray, and off-white colors; the last is a trash reef made of recycled, found, or trash objects. I'm planning a coral for the trash reef with a trim of soda pop-tabs.

If you're interested in hyperbolic crochet, here's a short article from Interweave Crochet.

If you're more interested in the mathy bits, here's a more substantive article co-authored by Dr. Taimina.

The Smithsonian Community Reef will open October 16, 2010 and run through April 24, 2011 in the Sant Ocean Hall of the Natural History Museum. If you are interested in contributing to the reef, please visit the ravelry group for specifics.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Review: The Actor and the House Wife

Title: The Actor and the Housewife
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 2009

Shannon Hale is best known for her beloved young adult fantasy series that began with The Goose Girl (disclaimer: I have not read this, but it is definitely in my TBR pile), a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale of the same name. She has written a total of nine books, only two of which were for adults. This is one of them.

Hale is an extremely versatile writer. She can make you laugh, cry, and wince in sympathy with her characters. Based on her bibliography, she loves a good fairy tale and a good love story. Oddly enough, The Actor and the Housewife is neither -- at first glance. The plot is something out of a movie: frumpy housewife from Utah becomes best friends with A-list Hollywood heartthrob.

This is a modern fairy tale where the improbable occurs and miraculous things happen to ordinary people. True, there are no fairy godmothers who wave wands so that the servant girl can make it to the ball on time to meet fair prince. But there is something magical in a plot where someone ordinary meets someone unattainable. So yes, it is a fairy tale.

It is also a love story, only without the romance. The main characters meet and fall headfirst into platonic love for one another. Becky (the housewife) tried to explain it to Felix (the actor), pointing to the "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" song Gonzo sings in The Muppet Movie. Specifically, she cites the line "There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met" -- because Becky and Felix's relationship clicks from the very beginning. And like any good love story, they encounter obstacles. They are both happily married, and Becky struggles with how to have a friendship with a man. They are also complete opposites: Becky is a Mormon, Felix is staunchly secular. They confuse and confound one another, and yet they still are drawn to each other.

(Side note: Don't let the religion aspect turn you away. It's quietly there, and definitely not preachy.)

Based on the reviews I've found, this is a book you either love or hate. It should be apparent where I fall into that spectrum. I started reading the book on the train commute home from work and had to force myself to put the book down so I can do such trivial things as shower, sleep, and earn money. I laughed with the characters, cried with the characters, and fell in utter love with the entire book.

A common complaint by reviewers is how secondary Becky's family and Felix's wife are in the book. But aren't they supposed to be? We are all the stars in the movie that is our lives, and everyone around us are the supporting cast. This is first and foremost the story of Becky and Felix (just look at the title!). Hale makes no bones about that, and peppers that point throughout the text, glossing over background events to focus on the progression of the relationship between the two title characters.

The Actor and the Housewife is plotted like a movie, something that Hale did deliberately and masterfully. And like any good movie, it sucks you in and doesn't let go until the very end when the credits start rolling. Don't forget the popcorn.

"It was karma, it was kismet, it was magic. It doesn't matter how it happened, just that it did."

New Blog

As if I really need yet another thing to update, but I suppose it is only human nature to:
  1. Want to talk about oneself;
  2. Want to talk about the things that interests one; and
  3. Want to talk about one's interests to others who share those same interests.
So here I am.

We'll see what topics pop up, but I read, play with yarn, cook, and a whole bunch of other things. I'm envisioning a blog that is part-review site, part-craft site, part-random musings.

A brief tour: On the sidebar, underneath all the boring stuff, you'll see a few of my favorite things. The first box under the blog archive is a rotating quotation widget (how cool!) of various quotations that strike my fancy. The next box shows the latest books I've finished reading. The bottom box is a link to my ravelry page.
(I like widgets; can you tell?)

Welcome to Mobius Dreams.