Catching Fire

I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend. It was so good! I’ve read the book, and I think the movie stayed very true to the spirit of the novel.  There were a few changes between the book and the movie, but I don’t think they made a huge difference in the narrative of the story or the overall feel of the movie.  Entertainment Weekly has a really good list of the differences here. I know a lot of people find the premise of The Hunger Games to be disturbing.  While I think that is a good point, I really like to look at the books from the standpoint of the criticism they make of society.  For an English major, I always love analyzing the deeper meaning behind novels.  Although sometimes I think we can get a little ridiculous about analyzing literature, I definitely think looking at the societal context of a novel can really help the understanding of it.  A theme of the book is the excess of the Capitol while many of the other Districts suffer, which I think is definitely relevant to today’s society.  The Hunger Games movies do a really good job at representing the sheer excess of the Capitol in contrast to the outer Districts. Overall, Catching Fire was an excellent movie. I think I liked it better than the first one…but Mockingjay is my favorite book, so I have high hopes for those two movies!

December 1st

Happy December! It’s crazy that November is over. I feel like the fall went by so quickly. Although time always seems to go by quickly except when you want it to (sitting in traffic, waiting in line…). I’m not sure what to write about today…Music? Movies? TV? Books? Oh I know! Recently, Entertainment Weekly has been running a competition to see what is the best Young Adult book of all time. Here’s a link to the article about the winner!

That’s right – the winner was the Harry Potter series! I know I already wrote a post about Harry Potter, but there’s so much to say about YA books themselves. I thought there were some pretty serious contenders in this race – “The Hunger Games” series, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” the “Divergent” series…the list goes on. In the end though, I think the right book(s) won. I know this competition was about the best YA book of all time, but I think Harry Potter is significant because it has defined a generation. I think it is similar to the way so many people who were teenagers in the 60s see The Beatles as one of the defining pop culture moments of their generation. Harry Potter has convinced so many kids to read, and I don’t think it will ever age. It’s one of those singular things in history that is so exemplary, it probably will never be repeated. Which I am definitely okay with.

 

Pride & Prejudice Word Clouds

As you’ve probably gathered from my previous post about my final project, I have finished my Pride & Prejudice project! There’s a tab at the top of the page that will take you right to it. I hope you read over it because I’m really proud of it. Making the word clouds wasn’t that challenging – that was kind of the fun part. I eventually found the Tagxedo website I told you about before and from there it was simply making the letters in Word and uploading them as pictures. Sometimes it was kind of tricky to get the right words to show up – for example, there was a particular chapter where Darcy was the fifth most used word, but it wouldn’t show up in the letter. I eventually discovered this was because the shape constricted the places words could go. I had to fiddle with the emphasis on most used words and reject some lesser used words that got a place so that the more important words like Darcy (which, really, is a VERY important word), would show up. In order to choose the colors I took a very scientific poll (read: I texted two of my friends) and asked which colors they associated with Darcy and Elizabeth. Interestingly, both said blue for Darcy, which was my first choice. One said yellow for Elizabeth (which I kind of agreed with, but it would have been too light), and one said green. I started thinking about green for Elizabeth and it made perfect sense to me – Elizabeth is very in tune with nature and she’s not crazy like her sister Lydia (who I definitely think would be pink) or soft-spoken like her sister Jane (I’m thinking probably purple). It’s interesting to think about what colors we associate with characters.

It kind of reminds me of this disorder called synesthesia that we talked about in one of my Psychology classes. One of the side effects of this is that people will see letters of the alphabet as having color. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the brain sort of rearranges its’ sensory pathways. I know there was book written about this called “A Mango Shaped Space”  that I’ve always wanted to read.

But back to my project: I’m really, really, super, amazingly proud of what I’ve done (the coding alone was sometimes super-challenging), so I hope you’ll check it out!

Fangirling About Fan Art

A while back I made a post about Words as Art.  That post and the pictures in it were partially my inspiration for a project I’m doing in Digital Studies.  We have to take something (Anything – a book, a video game, etc.) and use some sort of computer tool to interpret that text.  I decided to do something with Pride & Prejudice, not only because it is one of my favorite books, but also because it is one I know really well, and because it is in the public domain.  What I decided to do was make various word clouds from chapters of the book.  I’ve already finished all the word clouds, and I will be making a separate page about the project. So for now, I’ll just give you a glimpse:

Screen shot 2013-10-18 at 9.09.12 PM

I think it’s turning out really well, and I’m excited to post the final product.

At any rate, I recently came upon another piece of words as art and thought I’d share it.  I mentioned before that I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I follow most of the actors from that show on Twitter.  While I’m a huge fan of the LBD, I haven’t quite morphed into the fan who makes fan art.  That isn’t to say I have anything against fan art – in a lot of instances, I think it is the coolest thing.  Myself, I have never really wanted to make fan art, but I really appreciate the effort fans put into making something beautiful and creative.  And in all honesty, what is my Digital Studies project if not fan art of Jane Austen’s classic novel?

Anyways, Ashley Clem, who played Lizzie Bennet, recently retweeted a piece of fan art someone (@FearFlannery) had created and tweeted at her.

(Click on the picture to see the original Tweet)

This picture is inspired by Episode 87: “An Understanding.” I won’t go into the details, but it is truly one of the best instances of acting I have ever seen.  The other inspiration for this picture is the song “No One is Alone” from the musical Into the Woods.

The marriage between these two shows is perfectly exemplified in this picture.  The lyrics from the song make up the tree, and in the foreground is Lizzie comforting her younger sister, Lydia, telling her that she is not alone.  This song and this episode both have the same underlying message; no one is alone.  To see them united so perfectly in this interpretation, really illustrates how fan art can add so much to the reading of any text.

About Me: Harry Potter

No, the title of this post doesn’t mean that I think I am Harry Potter.  However, Harry Potter is one of those things that has had a serious impact on me, as I think it has for a lot of people in my generation (And beyond – let’s be honest, JK Rowling has cornered the young adult market for all of time).  I have my Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone book with a handwritten inscription from my parents saying, “Happy Birthday Colleen!”  I don’t think I have any other books that my parents inscribed, so it’s kind of like they knew that this book would be a Big Deal.  I’m not sure why Harry Potter has become such an integral part of my identity – I guess it’s like I said in my original blog post about me, that “You’ve Got Mail” quote is really true:

Kathleen Kelly: When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

(Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128853/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu)

The books are just so well done and well planned.  That’s one of the things I have always loved about the series – JK Rowling thought about the series, from start to finish.  A detail that pops up randomly in the first book, suddenly becomes significant in the last book.  And while some may say that this is just pure chance, I think Rowling really knew what that first Chocolate Frog trading card would mean in the larger mythology.

I said before that we read Harry Potter in one of my classes in Bath.  We read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Can I just say that the auto-spell check did not underline Azkaban? Proof that Harry Potter is significant.) and the conversations we had about that book were really spirited, but also really interesting.  That’s another great thing about Harry Potter (From a English major’s perspective), it can be interpreted in so many ways, and so many different theories and schools of thought can be applied to it.  One of the coolest things in our British Fantasy Writers class was that we got to go to Oxford on a study trip.  While we were there, we saw Christ College at the University of Oxford and the Bodleian Library, which were used for filming in the first few movies.  We saw all kinds of landmarks from the movies and our entire class (Mostly. Some were not Potterphiles.) was really excited about everything related to Harry Potter.

I don’t really know why Harry Potter is such a part of my identity, like I said.  I think it has something to do with the fact that it can still inspire and amaze you even years after you’ve read it.

 

 

Me!

This is technically my eighth blog post, but I don’t count the first post as having much substance, so I’ll say that since this is my seventh post, I should probably tell you a little about me (As much as I’m willing to put on the Internet, that is)!

My name is Colleen (If you couldn’t tell from the URL).  I’m an English major.  I like movies, television, and books way too much.  I am constantly quoting movies and television shows that rarely anyone understands but me.  Seriously, on my list of “superlatives” one of my housemates in Bath made for all of us at the end of the program was that I made the most references out of anyone. Ever.  I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing, because I believe all the movies, and television shows I have watched have defined me in some way and given me insight into something I may not have known much about before.

I also love books, like I said.  And I’ll give you this quote from You’ve Got Mail (a movie!) that pretty much sums up my feelings about books:

Kathleen Kelly: When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

(Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0128853/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu)

Honestly, I would also like Kathleen Kelly’s life – I mean she owns a children’s bookstore (For most of the movie anyways)!  But the fact that I chose that movie is significant, not only because it is probably my favorite movie, but also because it shows how much I love the 90s.  I admit it, I’m a child of the 90s and I will probably argue about how fantastic that time was for movies, television, everything (Except fashion. That is where the 90s kind of went a little crazy).  I mean, everyone probably loves the time they grew up in and thinks it’s the best, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten much more nostalgic about it.  I think it probably has something to do with the kind of world we live in post-9/11.  This is a little more serious than I wanted to go, so I’ll just leave it at this: kids who were born in the last thirteen years or so will never know what it was like before 9/11 – simpler, easier, not so scary.

Anyways, I think I’ll spend the next week of serious blogging telling you tidbits about myself.  I’m not sure what they’ll be yet, but I’m thinking along the lines of favorite movies, television shows, books, who knows! I just want to give you all a little picture of who I am:

Untitled

Ha get it? A little picture of myself!

Bath, England

I mentioned a few posts ago that I studied abroad in Bath in the summer of 2012…so I figured I better tell you about it! I spent five weeks in Bath, England as a part of the Advanced Studies in England program.  I could not have better things to say about this program.  The people were absolutely lovely, and Bath is now one of my favorite cities in the world.  While I was there, I took a class on Jane Austen (which I mentioned before) and a class on British fantasy writers.  These were two of the most interesting classes I have ever taken.  In Jane Austen, we were able to actually walk the streets that Austen walked and wrote about (She lived in Bath on two separate occasions).  We went to the Fashion Museum, which used to be the Assembly Rooms where parties and balls were held.  We saw the house where she lived and the park she used to visit.  No matter how many biographies you read of an author, or adaptations you watch of their work, there is nothing like standing in the exact place that the author stood, 200 years before you.  It’s just awe-inspiring.

My British fantasy writers class was equally amazing.  We had a really fantastic professor (Who I’ll call Professor R) and we got to read Harry Potter (Yes, it was that amazing).  But honestly, Professor R was one of the best professors I’ve ever had.  She led us in discussions that made me think about the books we were reading in completely different ways.  The coolest thing we did in that class was a faux-radio broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  We read the book for class and although we spent a few days discussing it, we also spent a couple of days reading and preparing for a radio broadcast.  Our class was split into two groups and given scripts of the original radio broadcast.  We had to determine what kind of sounds we wanted to use (Using objects in the room like the radiators), where we wanted to place our audience, and how we wanted to deliver our lines.  When it was time to perform, the other group plus the professor sat with their eyes closed and listened while we performed.  I have grown up in a time when radio does not have the same effect as it used to.  Now we have multiple screens on at a time and we’re generally still bored.  Sitting there, listening to the other group perform was one of the coolest things I have experienced.  It was completely different from how I interact with media, but completely amazing.  There was nothing to do except sit there and listen.  It’s kind of sad, I know, that I found this so cool, but if you really think about the last time you just sat and listened to anything – a song, a book on tape, a radio broadcast – without doing anything else (And yes, driving counts), I’ll bet it’s hard to remember.  Sometimes it’s nice just to have the silence of listening.

Bath was really an amazing experience (I know I’ve been using that word a lot in the post, but sometimes they’re aren’t enough superlatives).  I have barely scratched the surface with this post.  I spent my time over there learning a lot – about novels, the city, living abroad – but one of the things I learned the most about was myself.

You can read more about my time in Bath in the blog I kept while I was over there. (I should probably also mention that the picture in the header is from my trip to Bath.)

Words as Art

I’m an English major, so I obviously find words fascinating.  Lately, I have been interested in the ways words are used as visual art.  In some instances, this can be a picture with writing accompanying it, the increasingly popular gif, or just words themselves.  One of my favorite word art I have seen is inspired by the television show, Psych.  In this show, one of the main characters, Shawn, is always giving his best friend, Gus, strange and interesting nicknames.  A particular shop on etsy.com, a craft selling website, has this for sale as a downloadable file:

il_570xN.401027877_9xke

 

This picture has most of Gus’ nicknames from the show.  It’s a really cool representation of the show as well as a visually appealing piece of art.  Check out the Etsy shop, FabricsAndFonts here.

What I really want to talk about, however, is the new website I have recently discovered called litographs.com

This website hosts different artists who take classic books and make designs with the actual text from the book.  It’s a really cool way to interpret the text and use it as a way to make a new piece of art.  You can buy a shirt, bag, poster, or canvas print with the design and Litograph gives a portion of its’ poster sales to the charity, International Book Bank.  One of my favorite designs is based on the novel Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Here’s a picture of the print I found on the Internet:

persuasion-zoom

I also took a screen shot of the zoom effect on their webpage that gives a better idea of the way the words are used to create an image.

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.37.47 PM

 

Here’s the link to the Persuasion t-shirt on the Litographs website. I’m definitely considering purchasing it! This website is a really excellent example of a way to not only interpret texts, but to make art of words in a visual sense.  After all, these novels are already a piece of art, but there’s something about the visual of these designs that really help to enhance the understanding of a text.