30 Mar 2009

The return of old (TV) friends

I really dislike this system some channels have of only putting out 1/2 a season per season... it means you have to wait waaaaaaay too long to find out "what happens next" and be reunited with old friends. But that time has (at last) arrived, and now...

Robin's baaaaaaaaack!!!!

Ok, so I'll admit this isn't the best TV series out there. In fact when I saw the first episodes I thought it was way too cheesy, over the top, and trying too hard to be "modern" and with too many puns or word games referencing things going on in our modern world (such as episode title "Sheriff Got Your Tongue?"). But I continued watching anyway if for no other reason that I've always loved Robin Hood tales, so I wasn't going to miss out on a series of adventures (not to mention the v. attractive guys -Jonas Armstrong as Robin!- involved! :p ). As the episodes moved forward, the "modernisms" and other awkward elements stopped bothering me and I found myself just enjoying some grand old adventures with a fun set of well acted characters (as usual the Sheriff gets the best part) and regularly looked forward to what crazy things were going to happen next. And I was really hooked into it with the end of Season 2 when things got a lot darker... and then they actually killed a main character (cabrones!)!!! So I've been wondering how on earth Robin was going to go on without this person in his life... and now we both get to learn that and meet Friar Tuck (love the twist on that one!). First episode did not disappoint and am once again looking forward to my weekly dose of silliness and adventure. :o)

And if that weren't enough... we get more of Henry the 8th and his crazy wife-swapping antics starting next weekend on The Tudors!!! Jonathan Rhys Meyers does an amazing job bringing that one to life!

29 Mar 2009

"Volta a Peu": or a 45' walk around Alicante with >3000 people... in the rain!

What do you get when you bring together > 3000 people (aged 2 months to 88 yrs) -with mascots- and set them loose to walk around town? Organised chaos! :p

So today was the 12th edition of the "Volta a Peu", that's Valenciano (local language, off-shoot of Catalan) for "Circle on Foot" (or something like that). Basically a group walk to promote walking vs driving. Newspapers stated over 3000 people signed up for it by the middle of last week. If we add on people who joined since then, and take away those who didn't show due to the rain (well, really a constant drizzle, but in sunshiny Alicante a drizzle is as bad as real rain for most people!), then I'd say those numbers are about right. With prizes for male/female oldest/youngest participants, school with the most participants, most amusing mascot... it was a hectic morning for a leisurely - and very crowded - walk around town. All in all fun! Well, I'm not sure the poor dog agrees with me... she hates crowds and has a distinct dislike for the rain! But she was a good sport... until she got scared out of her wits when the Mascletà (sequence of firecrackers, frequent during holidays here) went off at 13h30! She litterally jumped out of her collar! ;o)
The Dream Team: a crazy redhead, two ol'fogies, and a four-legged-furry-critter!

26 Mar 2009

Dreaming of the South...

Heading South... Oh I wish I could!!! And by South I don't mean the warmer temperate/tropical climates that people in the north part of the Northern Hemisphere yearn for. Nope. I mean the REAL South... as in south of the polar circle!!! ANTARCTICA!!!

A colleague and friend of mine from Belgium has managed to get himself sent down there again (am rather envious at his success in this field! but am so glad for him!), this time as part of a BAS trip (British Antarctic Survey) to the Scotia Arc region. New places!!! ME TOO PLEASE!!!

Anyway, if you're interested in following what goes on during these crazy missions (and how can it not be crazy when you lock a bunch of scientists up on the same boat and send 'em off for an extended period of time?!), my friend Anton has started up his own website -Antonarctica- with pics and videos of previous campaigns (now why haven't I done that???), and has a regular blog of his adventures on this trip. Enjoy!

And bon voyage to those on-board!

Adelie penguins in Terre Adélie, East Antarctica

23 Mar 2009

Movie Magic: Swing Time!

It's almost time for "Musical of the Month" again over at The Film Experience, and as a big fan of musicals (particularly those from the 30s, 40s and 50s) I couldn't let such an event pass unnoticed. So tonight I'm dining with that unsurpassed pairing on the dance floor of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

If you've never seen a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers on-screen pairing, time to get out and correct that mistake! They made 10 films together (9 with RKO between 1933 and 1939) and have been pretty much universally acknowledged as the finest dancing pair to grace the silver screen. He was generally considered the better dancer (and choreographed their numbers), while she was the better actress and enhanced his performance with her grace, talent and beauty (but he was a lot funnier when paired with Bing Crosby!). I don't know if people who haven't danced feel it as well, but when I see them together on screen, making something so difficult and complicated seem to effortless and beautiful, then my feet start getting their own ideas and wanting to walk me out of the house and towards a dance hall! If only I hadn't left my dance partners in Belgium! :p

So which one is it today? The sixth of their films together, Swing Time!
As stated quite simply in IMDB "A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer." Fred Astaire being the "performer/gambler" (aptly nicknamed Lucky), while Ginger Rogers is the "aspiring dance".

I usually start out having a bit of trouble buying into these old stories and don't usually care for the "comic relief" duo always present. And although some of the songs don't quite feel right (too much of a stop the show to sing a song sensation, even though much better than others of the same period), others just give me goosebumps ("The Way You Look Tonight" or "Never Gonna Dance"). Then once they start dancing, well I stop caring about all the rest.

Some moments I particularly enjoyed: the courtship through dancing, the dancing (of course!), particularly "Waltz in Swing Time" (beautiful!) and Astaire dancing with his triple shadow (astonishing combination and such fun! that's him -again- pushing the limits of dancing and what can be shown on-screen, got an Academy Award nomination for "best dance direction", didn't know those existed!). Fred Astaire singing "The Way You Look Tonight". Had fun with both of them singing "A Fine Romance".

Romantic phrase of the evening: "I've danced with you, I'm never going to dance again." Moment I wished I could be in Ginger Rogers' shoes: last dance number "Never Gonna Dance".

And so, voilà! Done for the evening... shall go to bed with music in my ears. Sweet dreams guaranteed! :o)
And as a coda on my Battlestar Galactica obsession that's lasted all week: anyone know what was one of Fred Astaire's last appearances on screen? As Starbuck's supposed father on the original BSG in 1979!!! Such a colourful character from what I remember... ;o)

22 Mar 2009

The END of Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak

So, it's done. An epic series comes to an end in an explosive three hour finale (dunno why they couldn't just show all three hours together instead of one hour one week and then the final two the next...).

I've just come back from watching it with a friend and... what the frak?!?!?! What an ending!!! Still haven't decided if I like it or not! Not sure I'm happy with how things turned out for Kara., although it's nice to finally know! Definitely not for Lee or Anders or Bill... And will someone explain to me why we haven't seen any of D'Anna in this last half season? Did she get left behind on Earth or something??? But still, sooo nice to finally see the resolution of the Opera House vision. And the laughs when both Baltar and Caprica Six realise they are both seeing a "vision" of the other in their head! Baltar is too funny, am glad he keeps providing the much needed comic relief from time to time. Was glad Tyrol took action for Cally.

Thinking. This series has always been thought-provoking and the end is no different. Will require some mulling over and repeat viewings. Preferably of the series as a whole to work things into the bigger plan as they happen throughout the seasons. Will definitely miss it.

"All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again."

So well illustrated by the images they choose to show us at the very end. And don't blink or you'll miss seeing Ron Moore onscreen! ;o) And I remember the discussion around the mitochondrial "Eve" a few years back!!! Kudos on tying it all together.

I can't bring myself to go through all the effort of a recap (plus want to avoid too many spoilers for those reading this who haven't seen it yet), but there's a rather complete and fun one on a Canadian blog "The TV Addict".

So, what's next? "The Plan"!!! "Caprica"!!! Thank the gods they're letting us down nice and easy, we get another BSG dose sometime this year with the TV/DVD movie (or double episode) "The Plan" (directed by EJ Olmos) which -from what I've gathered- will come at things from the cylons point of view. Title comes from the intro in each episode " The Cylons were created by Man (...) They Evolved (...) Some look Human (...) AND THEY HAVE A PLAN". And then after that with "Caprica" we get to take a step back some 50 years in history to when the cylons were created, with Adama's father being one of the main characters. Am looking forward to Esai Morales's portrayal of lawer Joe Adama, he was so good in Jericho!

"The Plan"


20 Mar 2009

BSG countdown: today's the DAY!!! (well, the night)

So this is it. The big finale... and I'm going to make a big effort to wait a day and watch it Sunday with a friend (won't be available online until tomorrow anyway). The part of me that is impatiently waiting to see how they wrap this saga up is calmed down by the chance to share the experience with another human being instead of just me, myself and I. It's a bittersweet moment. I wish it would never end... but am glad it is doing so properly, the way the creators of the show envisioned it (we hope).

I'll have more to say once I've seen it, so I'm just going to leave you with the promo for "Daybreak Part 2", a.k.a. the end.

19 Mar 2009

BSG countdown: 1 day to go...

So, there's only one day to go (for those of you lucky enough to live Stateside, the rest of us will have to wait a day or two for internet availability). Just one day, and as I think about what that final episode might have in store for us, there's one final mistery that they'd frakking better resolve, or else!!! What is Starbuck's deal?! All her life she doodled a mandala that turned out to be a symbol on the path to Earth (a supernova), she "has a destiny", she's the "harbinger of death" who will "lead the human race to their end". She died for frak's sake!!! And then came back with tales of having been to Earth... She guided them there, and found her dead, mummified body in her crashed viper. She sees her (dead) father who reminds her how to play a tune from her childhood on the piano, THE tune ("Watchtower") that was the "activation" switch for the Final Four (brought them together and to the realisation that they were cylons). So WHAT is she?! An angel? Missing cylon model number 7 Daniel's daughter? Please, please, PLEASE don't leave us hanging on this one!!!
Kara Thrace (Starbuck) is definitely my favourite on this show. The writers and Katee Sackhoff have brought to life such a vibrant, strong, passionate character. When she's on fire everyone else seems dull by comparison. Her relationship with "the old man" (Adama considers her a daughter) feels very real and dispite her disfunctionalities (is that a word?) she's the best hot-shot pilot in the fleet!
Changing the character of Starbuck from man (original) to woman was probably THE most controversial point when the miniseries aired (the original Starbuck himself spoke out publicly and loud and clear -in a rather mysoginistic voice- about how wrong it was and how much they'd regret it). Well, if anyone still thinks that was a mistake, then they obviously haven't been watching!

So here go a couple of Starbuck videos. Enjoy!

The first is "Starbuck 101". Title pretty much says it all! Covers many key character moments throughout the series, illustrates her character pretty well.

Second is more emotional (perhaps because of the song?). I really like it because I think the lyrics to the song chosen ("More than Human") are a perfect fit for where Kara is in the final season, wonder who/what she is...

There's another excellent video, probably put together (I guess from the date) shortly after we were all shocked when Starbuck "died" (will they please solve that mistery this friday?!). I can't embed it for some reason, so here's the link for "Starbuck: Legends Never Die":

more BSG love from the U.N.!!!

Wow! I hear a panel was held at the UN to discuss the real world problems and conflicts reflected on screen every Friday night on BSG (war, genocide, "human" rights, a woman's right to choose, torture, suicide bombinb...). Present from the show were creators David Eick and Ron Moore and the two leads: Mary McDonnell (Pres. Laura Roslin) and Edward J Olmos (Admiral Adama). Also some "real world" speakers, with Whoopi Goldberg moderating. And a public of 300 members of the UN, press, and high-school kids from New York. Lucky them! I hope the video becomes available on the internet so I can watch it! I've had to make do with two passionate eye-witness accounts:

Meredith Woerner over at io9.com writes:
"It was chill-inducing to see how far BSG had come. What was once a struggling miniseries now sits front and center in the Chambers of the United Nations, creating a dialogue amongst fans, 100 attending high school students (who all came prepped with astounding questions), politicians and activists. Let's hope that BSG's night inspires future scifi series to at least attempt to address the reality of the world we live in today, you'll be missed old girl."

while Marc Bernardin from EW.com says:
"While the idea of the UN hosting a retrospective on Battlestar Galactica might sound a little odd, as the night went on it started to make perfect sense. From the very beginning, BSG has dealt with moral issues -- what it means to be human, the rule of law vs. the military might, the arguable merits of armed insurgency -- issues which find themselves on the UN's docket almost every day. As Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning put it, "You've got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day.""

Oh to have been a fly on the wall!!! To have been able to yell with the crowd and the Admiral "SO SAY WE ALL!" sigh!

Pictures from Brian McDermott/SCI FI Channel, and Getty Imgaes, off the io9 website.

BSG countdown: 2 days to go...

Oops, am a bit late with this, as it's after midnight will appear as on the 19th instead of 18th! :p
What's next on my BSG list? The music!!! Wow, what a soundtrack!!! It adds to the show's soul, helps looks, reactions, gestures convey emotions without the words... and to top it off sometimes gives me goosebumps! ;o)

Richard Gibbs started it off with the music for the mini-series, but what I find myself frequently listening to on i-tunes are Bear McCreary's (photographed with a viper above, from his website) melodies from the series itself. Ranges from haunting melodies, to jigs and lullabies, and to a very interesting version of "All Along the Watchtower" as a key melody with some special meaning we don't fully comprehend yet (but hope to by the end of the finale! or else...).

I had a hell of a time choosing a few pieces (via youtube) to share here, particularly as I wanted to keep them short (Battlestar Sonatica and Passacaglia are beautiful, but at 8 minutes I'm not sure you'd stick around in from of my blog to listen to them!). You can listen to a few more tracks on his website, go to "online demo" and choose scifi and then check out "The Temple of Five" and "Heeding the Call" (try and recognise "Watchtower" in there!) from season 3, "Gina Escapes" from season 2 or "Scar" from season 1.

So here's "Adama Falls" from season 3 (illustrated with stills from the series), followed by an "official" promo for the music of Bear McCreary (with sequences from the series), and finally "All Along the Watchtower" (first just the melody as it slowly appears in bits and pieces in the final episode of season 3, then the full song). Enjoy!

17 Mar 2009

BSG countdown: 3 days to go...

One of the (many) reasons I really enjoy this show is its wonderful characters and the cast that brings them to life. On the Y-chromosome side we've got the intimidating Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama, the hilariously sly James Callis as Baltar, the straight-forward Tahmoh Penikett as Karl "Helo" Agathon, the passionate Jamie Bamber as Lee "Apollo" Adama, the brutally honest Michael Hogan as Colonel Tigh, the tormented Aaron Douglas as Chief Tyrol, the wide-eyed loyal Michael Trucco as Sam Anders, the manipulative Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek, the chain-smoking Donelly Rhodes with no bedside manner to speak of as Doc Cottle, Mark Sheppard's mysterious Romo Lampkin...

But what really gets me are the women. Wow! They're smart, strong, know what they want (most of the time) and the actress that portray them bring just the right mix of strength, vulnerability, intelligence and ferociousness. Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin, the "mother" figure, giving her all (to her dying breath) to keep these people together. The amazingly talented Tricia Helfer and Grace Park who usually play more than one iteration of their cylon self in each episode and manage to make each one distinct from the next (Helfer's got Baltar's "head" 6, Caprica 6, Gina, Natalie...; Park's notably brought to life two versions of the same character, Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and Sharon "Athena" Valerii). And the frakkingly awesome Katee Sackhoff as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (more on her another day). Mustn't forget the guest stars!... Lucy Lawless as cylon D'Anna Biers, Michelle Forbes's amazing Admiral Cain, Kate Vernon as the one with all the answers Ellen Tigh...

So here's to the women of Battlestar Galactica! In a day where it's not too frequent to see interesting, passionate, strong, intelligent female characters on TV (and even less in the movies, pathetic!), these ladies are an inspiration!

Addendum on March 18th: someone else has decided to give the BSG guys their fair share of attention! Check out the Film Experience's "HumpDay Hottie" session and share your thoughts on these gentlemen!

16 Mar 2009

BSG countdown: 4 days to go...

Here's a fun recap of the series including the first half of S4 (aired in 2008) that pretty much covers everything you need to know (spoilers!). It's divided in two parts due to youtube's 10' limit on videos.

part 1:

part 2:

15 Mar 2009

more BSG love!

Seems like I'm not the only one prepping for Friday's big finale... ;o)

The magazine Entertainement Weekly has a commented photo gallery on their website about how it all started, and how it almost didn't get started: The Beginning of the End: A 'Battlestar Galactica' Oral History

"On Friday, March 20, at 9 p.m., Battlestar Galactica will air its 80th and final episode. The space drama will go down as one of the most critically lauded science-fiction TV shows ever. But had fans of the original ABC series from the 1970s had their way, the miniseries that launched the Sci Fi Channel remake would never have even made it on the air. With the series finale looming, we look back at the controversial miniseries that started it all, and the fan uprising that tried to stand in its way."

Great quote by Katee Sackhoff: "Every season we got picked up, I was shocked. I was like, ''Why do they keep watching this?'' I mean I know it's fantastic, but normally people don't watch what's good on TV; they watch what's easy." Oh so true...

Hmmm... the other photo galleries are pretty interesting too! Love their "cheat sheet": 'Battlestar Galactica' Cheat Sheet: 15 Things You Gotta Know set up for the beginning of Season 4 last spring:

Basically what you need to know:

1- Who are the CYLONS and why did they kill (almost) everyone?

2- The BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is the only thing protecting what's left of humanity as it heads for EARTH

3- RELIGION is a driving force for both humans and Cylons

4- Galactica is led by WILLIAM ADAMA, SAUL TIGH, and LEE "APOLLO" ADAMA

5- PRESIDENT ROSLIN had cancer, got cured, and now has it again

6- KARA ''STARBUCK'' THRACE is the best pilot in the fleet

7- GAIUS BALTAR, a brilliant scientist who helped destroy humanity, is exceedingly talented at surviving

8- Baltar's (literally) undying love is a Cylon known as NUMBER SIX

9- The Cylon known as SHARON ''ATHENA' VALERII had a baby with a human, KARL ''HELO'' AGATHON

10- CHIEF GALEN TYROL once loved a different Sharon "BOOMER" before either of them knew she was a Cylon

11- Cylon NUMBER THREE, known as D'ANNA BIERS, got a bit too curious about the final five Cylons

12- FOUR OF THE FINAL FIVE CYLONS just discovered who they really are (last episode of S3, to a very cool version of "All Along The Watchtower")



15- Everyone says FRAK. A lot.

TV Addiction: preparing for the end of days on BSG

It's not too often that the creators of a TV series can end it on their own terms, when they think it's right for the story they wanted to tell. All too often the networks just yank it off the air without enough of a warning to let the writers give the viewers some kind of closure (c.f. Dark Angel, Farscape, Angel, Firefly, Jericho, Eli Stone etc... to name a few). This is particularly hard on fans of serialized series where the episodes are all threaded together to weave an intricate tapestry (as opposed to episodic series where you can jump in at any point because there's little relation from one episode to the next). So it's a relief to know that some of the most interesting series (Lost, BSG...) of the past couple of years have been given the greenlight by their studios to plot out the end of their story and make it happen.

Battlestar Galactica, my favourite TV series (perhaps of all time, but only time will confirm that), is coming to an end. For those who haven't heard about it (what planet do you live on?! check out wikipedia asap!), I'm not talking about the campy 1970s series (Lorne Greene as Adama, Richard Hatch as Apollo, Dirk Benedict as Starbuck) that had its fun moments but (in my opinion) was very cheesy and repetitive after the first couple of episodes. Nope, I'm talking about Ron Moore and David Eick's, Peabody Award winning, re-imagining of the story of the rag-tag fleet of human survivors searching for a place to call home (and taking it to a whole other level! not to mention changing several prominent characters -Boomer, Starbuck- from male to female, and well done 'cause Kara Thrace rocks!!!) for the SciFi channel in the US. From the original mini-series that jump-started it all in 2003, to the present final season (cruelly divided into 2 halves, spring 2008 and 2009), the storylines have been intricate, the characters believable and engaging, the writing and the acting superb (many thx to Edward J Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff etc). It's gritty and it's not pretty, but it sure as hell feels damn real! (considering it takes place in space...) And it all gets wrapped up next Friday in a 2h grand finale. Snif!!! I want more!!! I always have trouble with things I love ending... mais c'est la vie, and I can't wait to find out how they wrap it up and solve the final mysteries (i.e. why is Hera so important? and most of all: what the frak is Kara Thrace a.k.a. Starbuck?!?! Daniel's daughter? An "angel"? The "harbinger of death"? What's it all mean!!! will Anders EVER wake up???).

So in honour of this glorious ending, I'm going to dig through YouTube and post a video a day as a count down to the end of it all. We'll see what I can dig up, am sure there are plenty of fans out there who are a lot more tech-savvy than I who will have posted some pretty shiny stuff! Please feel free to share your thoughts on this series, favourite moments, characters etc. throughout the week.

Starting off with a music video comparing the old and the new BSG:

13 Mar 2009


Just sharing the love for my favourite TV show, the amazing Battlestar Galactica!
behind the scenes from TV Guide photo shoot (for those who get it in the US):

Can't believe this series will be over in a week!!! :o(

12 Mar 2009

Monthly Reading: January + February 2009

This is going to be a similar series to the "Monthly Movies" feature, sharing and commenting on what I've been reading during the past month (in this case two). I actually did get a start on writing this post, but it somehow took on a life of its own (as words so often do!) and morphed into a declaration of love of the written word weaved into a good story (related post here)...

Some months will probably have more to offer than others as lately my reading habits have become somewhat erratic. I have less time to read than before as I have more work and am doing less travelling (and using public transportation less) and I try to avoid reading too much before bed as doing so entails the risk of getting hooked on the material and not being able to turn the light off until 3 a.m. or thereabouts! :p But sometimes I'll just get sucked into something and turn back into my old bookworm self and hide myself away within the pages of a novel and not come out 'till it's done, and then only to grab the next volume in the series (if it exists). Ja vorém! ;o)

And now, without further ado, here's what found its way to my nightstand in the months of January and February:

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
"After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?"
I picked this one up out of Austen-related curiosity. It's no secret I adore Jane Austen's novels (have lost track of the number of times I've read them) and I frequently regret the fact that there are only six of them (just discovered there's an incomplete novel available out there!). Although I've seen various attempts at "completing" some of Austen's novels (namely Pride and Prejudice) I've never really been tempted to acquire one (my doubt of its quality and resemblance to the original material outweighs my curiosity). On the other hand I did succomb once to the temptation of a book about Austen's novels and their meaning for the characters (The Jane Austen Book Club), and as I enjoyed it quite a bit I figured I'd give this one a shot. As a history-buff the premise intrigued me since I've often tried to imagine myself living in the historical period of several of the books I've read. So this "Yankee in King Arthur's Court" take on Austen's world was enticing. And although it's quite amusing and at times informative (for day to day living solutions at the time), the characters fall flat, they feel a bit two-dimensional, and it feels too modern (perhaps due to the first person narrative that -although useful as it's a window into the protagonist's mind and allows us to experience her culture shock- it still gives the whole thing a very 21st century mentality).

The "Twilight" series by Stephanie Meyer: Twilight - Eclipse - New Moon - Breaking Dawn
Twilight: "When Isabella Swann moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret."
O.k., so I think most people living in the U.S. and the U.K. (particularly if they have daughters between their teens and their twenties) have known about these books for a while now. If not, then all the ruckus around the movie (Twilight, out last November in the States) should have made them at least aware of their existence. The fuss around the movie (actually about the fans) is what caught my attention last Fall. I kept wondering what the hell was going on, what was this movie based on a book I'd never heard about (and supposedly so famous it was like the new Harry Potter; sorry people, just getting started on this side of the Atlantic!) that had such wild fans... So I went to see the movie out of curiousity (that and I'm a sucker -no pun intended!- for vampire stories) and was pleasantly surprised! Yes it's aimed at teenage girls and young women in their twenties, but it was a fresh take on a teenage romance that felt well written, directed and well acted. But I left it at that, had no intention of taking it a step further and picking up the book. Until a friend came to visit me from Belgium (oui miss, c'est ta faute!!!) with book number 3 under her arm and waxing lyrically about how much she'd enjoyed the first one (she picked it up in an airport as an "easy" read for a vacation) that she just had to go out and get the rest... She'd also loaned the first volume to a Swedish friend and gotten him and his girlfriend hooked on them as well... I was like, "Woah! These aren't teenagers, these are people with well developed reading habits and critical minds. If they're enjoying the series so much I guess there must be something to it!" So I headed down to the Fnac and picked up Twilight. And I was hooked! Had to order the rest off Amazon 'cause they were out of stock at the Fnac and I wasn't about to wait 10 days for them to arrive. I actually read books 2 and 3 in less than a day! I'll have to read them again before I can be truly critical, but for now I have to say they make for a damn good read! The first person narrative makes the story feel very alive, gives it the sense of urgency you can imagine a 17 year-old girl feels when she first falls in head over heels in love. The story is very fast-paced and makes it very easy for you to just let yourself be taken along for high-speed ride. The characters are pretty well rounded, engaging, and the environment where it takes place is well developed. One of the few things I had a problem with though was the school. Everyone seemed too nice. High school isn't usually that nice...
The four books pretty much round out the story of the relationship between Edward and Bella, as well as their friends and family, coming to a series ending (although I guess more could be written, but this is complete as it is) that doesn't disappoint. All in all they cover a time frame of about 2 years. Perhaps when I read them again and can take it more slowly I'll have a different feel about them, but for now I think they're highly enjoyable novels and if you're trying to find a way to get your teenage daughter away from the TV and into reading more, try these! Hey, if Harry Potter worked for my sister... why not? :p

11 Mar 2009

Cabo de las Huertas, home sweet home?

A teacher in the school where I'm doing my training (for teaching certificate) came across these two videos made by an old student from the school (I.E.S. Cabo Huertas, a couple blocks from my house). It's a rather ironical tale of the Cabo de las Huertas, the neighbourhood of Alicante we live in, and how City Hall has granted some marginally legal building permits and is ruining the coast. Oh, and there's a swan! :p In Spanish, but even if you don't understand it all has some nice views of the neighbourhood!

Mirad lo que hay por el YouTube!!! Un alumno del Instituto donde estoy haciendo las prácticas montó un vídeo sobre las construcciones semi-legales por la zona del Cabo. Muy bueno!!! Las risitas de "bote" quedan muy bien cada vez que habla del ayuntamiento... ;o)

Primera parte:

Segunda parte:

8 Mar 2009

Movie Magic: Slumdog Millionaire

A few weeks ago I was wondering what Slumdog Millionaire had on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, how could it be poised as a favourite to win the Oscar, and then why did it go on to do so above Benjamin Button.

Well, now I understand.

I just got home from seeing it and... WOW! "Feel-good movie of the decade" indeed! And tense. What tension! My legs felt like noodles when I got up to walk out of the theatre, I hadn't realised how tense I was during the film. Where Benjamin Button was visual poetry, had the feel of a ballet, Slumdog felt like a jolt of electricity. So vibrant. So ALIVE! For those who are "scared" it might be too much of a "Bollywood" movie, nope, not at all. It's a story of love, and ambition, and survival, and love. And it's wonderful! I already look forward to seeing it again in VO... as I could have sworn the movie was supposed to be bilingual (Hindi and English?) but that got lost in the Spanish dubbing (sigh!).

If you haven't already seen this, what are you waiting for?! Go! Git! Scat!!! NOW!!! ;o)
To entice you I leave you below with the trailer of this 8 Oscar-winning movie and

Slumdog Millionaire, 8 Oscars (10 noms):
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Best Director - Danny Boyle (same guy who did Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine...)
Best Soundtrack and Best Song (Jai Ho) - A.R. Rahman
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy
Best Achievement in Sound - Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
Best Achievment in Cinematography - Anthony Dod Mantle
Best Achievment in Editing - Chris Dickens

And here's the Oscar-winning song as it's in the film (musical number over the credits), enjoy!

Teaching in Spain...

So, among the many things I do to keep myself more than busy, for the past 4 months I've been working towards getting my teaching certificate to be a Biology and Geology teacher in Spain. Teaching is one of the many options I'm considering in the "what to do with the rest of my life" category once I finish with my damn PhD (others include continuing in research -either in an institute or a university-, environmental education, consulting, conservation work, writing... and finding SOME way to get myself back to the Antarctic ice).

Becoming a teacher (jr high and high school) in Spain is just a little bit complicated (who am I kidding, it's a lot complicated!). You have to have a university degree in your subject and then you have to get your teaching certificate via a course (taught in the universities) called the CAP (curso de aptitud pedagógica). Currently a 4-month course, as of next year it changes to a full 12-month master's (we think, they've been saying the change is coming for years now). And although I think the 12-month would be much more useful (the current one is a bit "light" on content), since I'm not sure I want to go into teaching and I'm doing this for the "just in case", I figured I'd better get it out the way now, before I end up having to dedicate another year of my life just to decide if that option is for me or not...

The CAP has a theoretical and a practical portion. The first had 10 hour classes in IT applied to the classroom (which is what got me started on this blog, had to write a post as homework!), a 10h class in education sociology and a 20h class in teenage psicology. Very interesting peeks into these fields (particularly since I knew nothing about them), but just enough to whet your curiousity and make you aware of certain sitations, problems, theories, but not enough to be really useful once you become a teacher. We were a mix of students from many different areas of study so it gave room for some interesting discussions -when people could be bothered to open their mouths-. And then after Christmas a 40h course specific to each our subjects (in my case bio+geo) during which we basically worked on the different aspects of what consitutes the school curriculum, how it's put together, the different administrative levels involved (lots of boring legislation) and how to create our own for the competitive exam (will explain later). I had been hoping it would be more specific on how to teach certain aspects of biology, more information on ressources available (he did bring a few of his books and magazines, but no online info). Interesting but not nearly useful enough.

Now I'm in the midst of the practical phase. I've been shadowing a teacher for a couple of weeks now. Am so grateful I managed to get a school a few blocks from my house (as opposed to on the other end of the city like I was originally supposed to have, ugh!) as I have to be there at 8am, and I'm no longer used to getting up so damn early!!! I've been accompanying her to most of her classes, taking notes on how she structures her classes, deals with students, exams, department meetings etc., and occasionally helping answer students' questions when she's got them doing exercises in the classroom. One more week and then I step in! Yikes! Kind of scared of that part, and feeling lazy 'cause since she wants me to go more in depth in the material on two of the book chapters I can't use it (the book) as a basis so I have to prepare all the written material for the students! Fortunately it's on the seas and oceans so could talk for hours about it off the top of my head, but still... And fortunately I only have to deal with one group, 4º de la ESO (age 15-16, the equivalent of high-school sophmores in the US and 2nd in the French system, in Spain it's the last year of obligatory schooling, the next 2 years of "bachiller" are optional). So it will be 6h (one of which will be the exam) with 20-odd rowdy teenagers, not very disciplined, and who knows if they'll pay much attention to little ol' me once I get up there in front of them... gulp! I think I'll write more about how all this prep is going another day.

Anyhow, after this is over, if I decide I want to go into teaching in the public sector (to get into the private you have to have really good contacts), I'll have to do the "oposiciones" (competitive exam) in the autonomous Community where I'd like to work (I'm currently in the Comunidad Valenciana, which includes the provinces of Alicante, Valencia and Castellón). These "oposiciones" are a nightmare from what I've heard. You can ace the exam (has a written theoretical portion on subjects you might teach in your course, and a practical where you present your study plan for a whole course to a jury of 5 teachers) and still not get a teaching position as the exam is only worth half your final grade (or maybe 60%). The rest of points you get based on your academic file (GPA), your degrees (I'll have an advantage with the PhD), languages (am good there with 2 extra), publications (done!), extra courses (organised by a syndicate or a university, at least 30h) and most of all work experience in the public school sector. Basically the first couple of times you participate in this competition there's no way you can get a permanent position, but you do get put in the "bolsa de trabajo", a list of substitute teachers if you will. People get called upon in order (of their final grade) to replace teachers that are on medical leave. A friend of mine's been doing this for almost 4 years now (she's done the exam 3 times), and when she's lucky she gets a long substitution, when she's not she's a couple of weeks here, a couple there... hell on earth! But do it long enough and you'll have enough points to get a permanent position even if you just barely pass the exam. This whole damn process is what pushes me away from the whole idea... we'll see about it. I might try out this year just to see what it's like. There's no way I'll be able to study (PhD to finish...), but it will give me an idea of how things work and I'll be able to prepare for it better if I decide to give it a serious try... ja vorém!

Geez, just writing this has reminded me how tiresome the whole process is! Ouf! Well, even if I don't go into teaching having done the course will probably prove useful on a personal level. Anything new you learn is good. ;o)

5 Mar 2009

Monthly Movies: January + February 2009

So I've been meaning to write this up for a while now... a month to be exact! Had planned on starting an ongoing series about the films I've seen in the cinema, summarising the month ('cause it's doubtful I'd find the time to write something each time I go to the movies), and wanted to start with the first month of the year. But busy beaver me, couldn't find the time! So I'll just start off by combining two months. No biggie! :p I'll (hopefully) be keeping this up at the beginning of every month, writing about what I've seen on the silver screen, more ore less depending on my inspiration at the time.

Here goes! (asterisks indicate a film I was able to see in VO, i.e. not dubbed! very difficult to do in Alicante): Australia, Changeling, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, In the Name of the King, Pride and Glory, Twilight, Valkyrie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Australia: Baz Luhrman's back and ready to dazzle us with a couple of gorgeous stars (and good actors to boot!), some breathtaking landscapes, a delightful boy and an engaging story! I did find it odd the way the film was put together, at one point two thirds of the way through you think you've reached the end of the stoy (and you would be right in most cases), but here he just uses it as a launching point for a new adventure! I didn't mind it, although I know others have complained about both that and the length (almost 3h), but I for don't didn't notice the time passing by. Wish I had seen it in English though, I loves me an ozzie accent! ;o)

Changeling: Clint Eastwood gave Angelina Jolie another chance to impress us with her acting talents (and another well-deserved Oscar-nom for her) as a mother up against a corrupt police force while looking for the truth behind her son's disappearance, and took us back to a time that seems like a whole different world. The scariest / saddest part: it's a true tale.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button: I already jotted down here my first impressions of David Fincher's new tale (based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald), and several weeks later those feelings haven't changed. Still feels magical, poetic. Did someone say long or slow? Definitely not for me!!!

In The Name Of The King: a reminder not to let my dad pick the movies we go see!!! or least look them up on the internet first! AWEFUL!!! I can't remember the last time I wanted to get up and walk out of the movie theatre... and that was only 20' in! So predictable, so poorly put together, so badly acted... ugh!!! John Rhys Davis, are you so desperate for a paycheck? This is a long way from Gimli son of Gloìn! :o(

Pride and Glory: oh dear, what a disappointment! We went because it seemed like a sure thing: a crime thriller pitting a family of cops against each other, with excellent actors (Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Jon Voigt), what could go wrong? I don't even remember... it was just plain obvious and forgetable. I did get a treat out of recognising Jennifer Ehle (Dirty Dancing wrong! BBC's Pride and Prejudice anyone?!) even when bald!!! :p

Twilight*: O.k., time to confess, have actually seen this one twice! ;o) I saw it in Spanish before Christmas; was curious as to what all the hullabaloo I kept hearing from accross the Atlantic was about (I'd never heard of these "famous" novels before), and I must say I quite enjoyed it! A fresh take on an old tale, some intriguing characters (although some of those bleach blonds looked painfully artificial...), basically an enjoyable escape into a romantic yet tense fantasy. When it appeared as the VO movie of the week (in the one cinema that does VO) I decided to repeat to get a second look to compare with the books I'd just read. Still not disappointed! One of the most successful book -> movie adaptations in a while!

Valkyrie: Tom Cruise might have actually regained a measure of my respect with this one! I didn't think I could become so involved in a thriller when I already knew the inevitable ending (plot to kill Hitler by some German officers... anyone who's studied a bit of history knows it failed, the war would have ended much soomer!).

Vicky Cristina Barcelona*: oh what fun!!! and on top of that to have been able to see it in VO instead of dubbed, to catch the switches between English and Spanish when Maria Elena arrives on scene (Penelope's performance definitely worthy of her Oscar!). Even better having seen it with a friend who doesn't speak Spanish so able to witness someone reacting the same way the characters did in the movie (incomprehension of the words, understanding of the general feeling transmitted). My favourite (recent) Woody Allen Movie! And the first time in a long time I've actually liked Scarlet Johanson on-screen (although Rebecca Hall's Vicky was even better).

That's all for this month! Later posts will be shorter, if I can remind myself to do this monthly! :p
Have you seen any oh these? What did you think???