Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lit Links & Scoops

When Horror Went Highbrow

Author Irene Vilar Launches “The Lolita Lebrón Foundation” and Offers New of an Upcoming Translation of “Impossible Motherhood” in December. (Spanish)

The first Latina on Broadway dishes on her career and how she got her breakout role in South Pacific via Smithsonian Magazine.

Most clever & cute promotional campaign for a book: Daniel Hadler of Lemony Snicket fame's Why We Broke Up?

Take a peek: A few authors and their personal libraries

Book Review: The Time in Between by María Dueña

  This is me, screaming!

1. Mexican officials are investigating the case of the 10-year-old girl who gave birth, to see if she might have been raped.
2. Demands of Cold Blood

Are immigrants more loyal to imported beer? And, does it really matter since they're all American anyway?

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's following up THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and THE ANGEL'S GAME with the third novel in the series, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN, released today in Spain.

Salon's Sexiest Men of 2011 includes author Justin Torres, Manny Pacquiao, and chef Marcus Samuelsson

Book review: 'Before the End, After the Beginning' by Dagoberto Gilb An interesting read about what people were reading about over a 100 years ago.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Truth About Immortals (or Revisiting 300)

Immortals, the 3D fantasy adventure film directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, and Mickey Rourke is in theaters today.

The movie takes us to a mythical world full of treachery, vengeance and fate set in ancient Greece where a young Theseus (Henry Cavill), comes to terms with his destiny with the help of the beautiful Sibylline oracle priestess(es), battles the brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) in order to defeat his evil quest to acquire the legendary invincible Epirus bow and use it to overthrow the Gods of Olympus and mankind. The gods cannot interfere in the ways of men nor in this war for the future of humanity.

I was really excited for the movie after viewing the trailer for Immortals on Google+ last month and seeing it heralded as a new 300. A film, which I originally didn't think I would like but ended up captivating me with great imagery, a great script, thrilling graphic action and even some controversy to boot -- that has become the fodder of and contributed to oh, so many geeky conversations in the past years.

When I had the chance to preview Immortals pre-release, three weeks ago, I jumped at the chance and brought along Seth Evans, Chief Operating Officer of Sports FantasEase at Making MemorEase™ for fair game.

We teamed up to discuss some of the merits and shortcomings of the film:

He said: 200. That should have been the name of the movie. It was as if producers of 300 tried to recreate the masterpiece that was 300, yet fell just short. This is not to say Immortals was not entertaining; but the people who were excited to see this movie had expectations of the unbelievable fight scenes and fire breathing speeches of King Leonidas. Theseus (Henry Cavill) was very good at the role but could not fill King Leonidas’ sandals. His speech at the end of the movie to the army prior to the final battle was moving, but did not light the same fire inside of any man in the audience, which means it had nothing on “tonight we dine in hell,” which had most men ready to pick up a shield and spear and go to battle themselves when leaving the theater after 300.

She said: It wasn't just my male brethren that 300 moved. 300 was epic in every sense of the word and I think the producers and the promoters of Immortals set themselves up for failure somewhat when the bar was set so high - 300 won many awards in different categories when it came out. To give you a sense of the disparity, I saw 300 at home on DVD and was blown away. I saw Immortals in 3D in the theater and was mostly unimpressed and immune to the characters' plight. When King Leonidas is willing to sacrifice his men, his family, and his life for Sparta and the Greek city-states, there isn't anyone who can't help but be impacted by the love, honor, and courage that makes them the stuff of legends. If I remember correctly, I weeped at the end of 300 and i'm not ashamed to admit it.

He said: This movie did offer a heartfelt moment as well, when Theseus had to watch his mother slaughtered at the hands of King Hyperion. The brightest spot in the movie was hands down the demonic King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and when you saw his mask with the spikes around his face, his black almost dead eyes and the scars across his cheek you saw nothing but true evil. Every time he was on screen he stole the scene, from his evil stares to the slow yet important way he spoke; every time he had something to say it seemed as he chose his words wisely to get the point across while instilling fear in anyone who was listening.

She said: The sculpted Theseus and vicious King Hyperion didn't hold much luster for me, although there were a couple of stylized action scenes that really wowed me, perhaps with their gore. I was more haunted by the captivating beauty of the oracles and their rhythmic incantations. The sight of Freida Pinto (Phaedra) in those grecian dresses is not something one forgets easily and made me recall the artistry of the stairway scene from the sci-fi movie The Cell with Jennifer Lopez. Interestingly enough, both of these movies relied heavily on works of art for their imagery. In fact, the director of Immortals is quoted as saying [it's] "basically, Caravaggio meets Fight Club. It's a really hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting style," on the film's Wikipedia page. And, it is the thing that saves this movie - It is visually stunning. One thing that did bother me, however, was that the oracles were all exoticized and it instantly drew my thoughts to the tired and old Magical Negro trope. Were the oracles all non-white on purpose? Is Sibylline Greek for brown hottie? Was this an intentional attempt to stir up some controversy and help fuel the publicity fires for the film a la 300's Persians? Or was it just Hollywood being stereotypical Hollywood?

He said: The visual aspect of this movie was phenomenal though; the 3-D brought the movie to a different level. Overall, this movie will give fans of 300 something to enjoy, while still realizing it is not quite the epic battle movie they had hoped. The story could have used more detail’s as to the battle of god’s and titans, but it seemed to not want to drag on which is important in a battle movie such as this.

She said: Speaking of drags, another sore point for me was the liberal use and fabrication of classical mythology. I know it's fantasy but for those who know their Greek mythology expect to be a lot lost by the storyline and the relation of the characters to the events taking place. It is very loosely based on bits and pieces of many stories and spun together to form a makeshift 300. Except that 300 was extremely loyal to the graphic novel it was adapted from and the historical events that battle follows...just saying.

He said: I would recommend this movie to anyone who loved 300, but would tell them to wait till it came out on video, (that just made me sound old) DVD.

 She said: What he said.


Monday, November 07, 2011

A Weird Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Bookstore

I never thought the day would come when I would say this but... I have no desire to buy books anymore.

Now let me make this clear: I have no intention of not reading anymore nor have I picked up any shoplifting habit or anything like that but at some point in the past couple of years I just got tired of having so much stuff.

I love my bookshelves laden with their tomes, reflective of my travels, experiences, zeitgeists of my soul at the time of consumption, strewn with bookmarks and placeholder's like that lovely boy's business card or a forgotten receipt and other skinny trinkets.

I think that I, like many people of my generation, have become very attune to the need to go back to basics, to a simpler lifestyle, one that respects our planet and environment - where space, time, and ethics are valued commodities. Meanwhile, this need is simultaneously juxtaposed with a desire to partake in cutting edge, innovative technology and its fruitful gadgetry.

I've become obsessed with platforms like Tumblr or Google+ where I can feed my need for real time news and  connect to a global network of friends, peers and yes, strangers too instantly from a stream of content.

At home, my ipad has become my bedtime companion, replacing my books, laptop, where I stream my Netflix, and cable shows, where I play words with friends, and habitually check Flipboard for interesting content or my email.

I see the tired headlines and hear the battle cries of the booksellers and publishing industry. I have only one thing to say: Innovate or die. People will always read. They will always consume knowledge. How and with what, may be the only factors that come into play here. MTV didn't kill the radio star, it made gave them a face. Apple didn't reinvent music but it sure affected the music industry and the consumption of music.

As a consumer, one who has always loved books and collected the paper kind, I know I really don't want to continue to buy physical books at the pace I used to - I simply cannot for a triad of reasons: money, space, and lack of convenience and need.

It's so much easier and enjoyable for me to devour a book quickly in one sitting, on my ipad - going to a bookstore and wandering aisles browsing and peeking into books with interesting covers has just become a luxury that I simply do not have the time for or the budget for...

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday's Psalm: Gaby Moreno "Mess A Good Thing"

Gaby Moreno "Mess A Good Thing"

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New Book: The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA

I had a chance to preview a copy of The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright, which will be published in January 2012.

My initial thoughts were that it would be a Hispano spin on The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley meets The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

It reads a little more academic ethnography than narrative but is worth checking out if you have an interest in Sephardi Jews and Southwest Hispano ancestry, the tracing of cultural history across time and place, and the juxtaposition of genetics and modern medicine:

 About the book:
A vibrant young Hispano woman, Shonnie Medina, inherits a breast-cancer mutation known as BRCA1.185delAG. It is a genetic variant characteristic of Jews. The Medinas knew they were descended from Native Americans and Spanish Catholics, but they did not know that they had Jewish ancestry as well. The mutation most likely sprang from Sephardic Jews hounded by the Spanish Inquisition. The discovery of the gene leads to a fascinating investigation of cultural history and modern genetics by Dr. Harry Ostrer and other experts on the DNA of Jewish populations.
Shonnie Medina, who died at the age of 28, after forgoing treatment for breast cancer
Set in the isolated San Luis Valley of Colorado, this beautiful and harrowing book tells of the Medina family’s five-hundred-year passage from medieval Spain to the American Southwest and of their surprising conversion from Catholicism to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1980s. Rejecting conventional therapies in her struggle against cancer, Shonnie Medina died in 1999. Her life embodies a story that could change the way we think about race and faith.
The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA explores topics like the Marranos, secret Jews of Spain, St. Teresa of Avila who was of Jewish converso stock, the possibility of hidden Jewish symbolism in Don Quixote, written by a supposed Converso (a forced convert to Christianity): Miguel de Cervantes, some of the  apocalyptic and medical perspectives from the Jehovah’s Witness faith, and more.

You may read a summary of each chapter to the book here to the accompaniment of a tune from Old New Mexico, sung by a carrier of the gene, Robert Martinez.
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