SotW: Dickhead by Kate Nash Monday, Sep 28 2009 

Some time ago, our friend Wesley gave us a copy of Kate Nash’s Made of Bricks. It’s not an album that I tend to listen to straight through, but I do like several of the tracks individually. This week’s song of the week comes from this album: track 4, “Dickhead”:

While in general I like the idea of calling everyone who irritates me a “dickhead,” this song resonates with me this week because I was worried that I was acting like a dickhead in my dealings with a colleague recently. I’m not totally sure whether he thought I was being a dickhead, but in retrospect I thought I was.

To make sure I’m not a dickhead, from now on whenever I get irritated at other people’s behavior, I’m going to listen to this song once before replying to their email!

I’ll post the lyrics after the break.

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Frederick Wentworth, Captain: A Review Sunday, Sep 27 2009 

Frederick Wentworth, Captain is a two-volume novel by Susan Kaye that relates the events of Jane Austen’s Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view. The first volume, None but You, came out from Wytherngate Press in 2007; volume two, For You Alone, was published in 2008.

Persuasion has been my favorite Austen novel for about 20 years now. I first read it as an undergraduate. I enrolled in a summer class that surveyed the second half of Brit Lit. All we read was novels Austen, Dickens, Hardy, and Waugh. Up to that point, I had never read any of Austen’s books. I immediately fell in love.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why I felt this way, but I immediately felt that I was like Anne Elliot waiting for my man to come back to me. (I was also a big fan of Somewhere in Time, so maybe I just liked the come-back-to-me theme.) I was still a closeted gay boy back then, who was scared to face his sexual desires. Maybe that made me feel like a woman who was watching life pass her by. Whatever the case, I loved the novel and it’s been my favorite ever since.

So, I was looking forward to reading this novel from Wentworth’s point of view. As I’ve written about before, I love Austen rewrites, but most of those seem to focus on Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy. He’s great, but he’s no Wentworth. If we’re all honest about it, we’d admit that Darcy’s falling in love with Elizabeth makes no sense — Austen doesn’t really explain his conversion and personality transplant very well. But Wentworth’s love for Anne is all there for us to follow. We understand his recognition that they belong together, even though the original story is from Anne’s point of view.

What I’m getting at is that Austen gives someone like Susan Kaye a little more to work with than she does the re-writers of Pride and Prejudice. Kaye has inherited strong, believable characters and a plot that is romantic and realistic. Her task, then, is to take these elements and make something new out of them. She more than succeeds. Frederick Wentworth, Captain is arguably one of the best adaptations of any of Austen’s novels to date.

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Rock Haven: A Review Saturday, Sep 26 2009 

Last night, PJ and I watched Rock Haven, a 2007 film about a nerdy Christian boy who falls in love with another boy when he and his mother move to the community of Rock Haven, California. Here’s the trailer:

The movie was written and directed by David Lewis and stars Sean Hoagland as Brady, the closeted Christian. Brady and his mother are devoutly religious, and Brady is more than a little nerdy — he loves playing trivia games and looking at the stars through his telescope, for example. But then he meets Clifford, a hot nineteen-year-old who likes to sun bathe on the beach.

Owen Alabado plays Clifford as a mixture of shyness and self-confidence. He’s spent most of his life in boarding schools. This has made him shy about his sexuality, but he’s also independent and self-assured in other areas of his life. He and Brady start hanging out together and most of the first half of the film is about the two of them falling in love, the first time for each.

These new feelings, of course, cause problems for Brady, who can’t reconcile his sexuality to his religious beliefs. Consequently, he spends most of the film getting close to Clifford and then pushing him away and then repeating this process again.

Overall, I really liked this movie. First off, the cinematography in this film is really beautiful. Christian Bruno does an excellent job capturing the beauty of the coastline, the ocean, and the two boys.

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SotW: Pony by Kasey Chambers Friday, Sep 25 2009 

This past weekend, PJ and I went to the PawPaw Festival here in Athens. When the weather is good (like this year), it’s a great opportunity to be outside, see friends, drink some pawpaw beer, and listen to live music. This year, you could actually walk around with your beer rather than stay in the beer garden, pictured here, which made the event much more fun.

The “beer garden” is usually surrounded by an orange plastic fence. It looks less crowded here because lots of people got a beer and then walked around the rest of the festival, which includes lots of tents featuring various local products.

While we sat on a bale of hay while drinking another beer, the band that was playing, local band Broken Ring, performed Kasey Chambers’s “Pony.” While listening to them sing, I was struck by how much I like this song. Even so, I currently have no Kasey Chambers music on my iPod–even though PJ has several of her cd’s. I’ll have to fix that soon!

Here’s a video of Kasey Chambers singing “Pony” live:

I’ll post the lyrics after the break.

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Cat Tuesday: A Cheap Cat Fountain Tuesday, Sep 22 2009 

Our friend Wesley forwarded this video to us. I wish our cats did funny things like this! 

Two Months as Dean Monday, Sep 21 2009 

Now that I’ve been dean for a couple of months, I thought that I would check in and write a little about what it’s been like so far. In sum, I love it!  I’m pretty sure I have the best job on campus. Our students are great, as one would expect of honors students. So it’s not difficult to love that aspect of my job. But I’m also enjoying all of the other aspects too. 

That said, being a dean is even more unlike being a faculty member than I had thought. It was only 6 months ago that I sent in my application for this position; I look back at what I thought then and can’t help but think how naive and unprepared I was to assume this role. The past two months have already taught me more about being an administrator and about myself than I could ever have imagined possible in so short a time. 

The months of July and August were fairly quiet. All but a few of our students were out of town, so I had plenty of time to read files that were left by my predecessors. It was a great time to learn about the history of our college and to find out how the previous dean had dealt with (or tried to deal with) various issues. Many of her efforts were unsuccessful, and it was probably important to learn up front just how difficult it can be to change the way things are. 

Then the fall quarter hit.

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SotW: Million Dollar Bill by Whitney Houston Wednesday, Sep 16 2009 

Whitney’s back! And to celebrate, I’m listening to “Million Dollar Bill,” the second single off her new album, I Look to You:

I’ve long been a Whitney fan — her voice and talent have long been unparalleled in my book. But I’ve never been the kind of fan who paid any attention to her private life. I’m not particularly interested in her marriage and divorce, her drug use, or anything else about her life off-stage. I don’t even watch the various interviews she’s done with Dianne Sawyer or Oprah Winfrey. I just want to hear her sing.

So, I’m glad that she’s back to doing what I love best: singing. I haven’t downloaded the new album yet; I wasn’t especially impressed by the first single. But this new song is just plain fun — a great pop song that’s fun to sing along with. This is what Whitney should be doing with her career right now, I think.

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Rudo y Cursi: A Review Sunday, Sep 13 2009 

Last night, PJ and I watched Rudo y Cursi, which reunites Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, who had previously starred together in one my favorite movies, Y tu mamá también. In this movie, they play two brothers who compete against each other for their mother’s love, for their social status in the local community, and, most importantly, in soccer. Here’s the trailer:

Garcia Bernal plays Tato, who is a talented scorer, and Luna plays Beto, a great goalie. Tato is, as his nickname suggests, also a big romantic, someone who falls in love deeply and quickly without thinking it through. He’s also passionate about  singing, which is the career he really wants. Beto is married and has several children. He’s always been the responsible brother — he’s even the foreman of a banana factory when the movie begins — except for one thing: he has a major gambling problem.

Shortly after the movie begins, the two brothers are discovered by a talent scout who wants to manage their football careers. Both brothers are older than the usual rookie, but the scout thinks he can help them anyway.

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SotW: Paparazzi by Lady Gaga Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

The remixes of Lady Gag’s “Paparazzi” were released this week in iTunes. I immediately downloaded them and started listening to them, since I already liked the album version. The original video was also great:

This video harkens back to the good old days of video art in which Madonna, Mariah Carey, and Michael Jackson made little films rather than “just” music videos. Plus, Alexander Skarsgård is too hot for words. And Lady Gaga as a semi-crippled woman is both amazing and totally crazy.

Of the remixes, my favorite is the Moto Blanco mix:

It’s got a great, danceable rhythm. So, I’ve decided that this remix is my song of the week. I’ll include the lyrics after the break.

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Seraphine: A Review Monday, Sep 7 2009 

On Friday, PJ and I saw Seraphine, a movie about Seraphine Louis, a French painter who lived from 1864 to 1942. Here’s the trailer:

Louis painted in the “naive style” and was discovered by Wilhelm Uhde, who was one of the earliest collectors of works by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Louis was a domestic servant for middle class families when Uhde first saw her one of her still-lifes in 1912. His patronage of her work was interrupted by World War I.  He fled the advancing German army and did not see Louis again until 1927. Uhde then worked to get Louis’s paintings exhibited, and in 1929 she began to see great success. But the Great Depression undercut her ability to sell her work, and in 1932 she was admitted to a mental hospital, where she spent the rest of her life.

Seraphine recounts Louis’s discovery by and subsequent relationship with Uhde. Yolande Moreau plays the title role. Not knowing anything about Louis before seeing this movie made watching Moreau’s performance more interesting, I think. Early in the film, we see that Seraphine isn’t like everyone else. At first, this just seems to be the stereotypical “artist’s temperament.” Later we realize that she’s suffered from mental issues all along. Moreau therefore has the difficult job of conveying to the audience Seraphine’s mental instability without making her seem totally crazy from the get go. I thought she did a great job of making us care about her character. She also gives us a great sense of Louis’s connection of painting as a religious experience.

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