Monday, October 26, 2009

Time for some Klingon fairy tales

It's that time of year when academics disappear - or at least seem to. In actuality, we're buried under piles of marking.

So I took a break to look at this list of Klingon fairy tales.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who said study and dessert don't mix?


Inspired by The Graveyard Book Dessert Challenge, and since The Graveyard Book was our students' pick for Week 12, my Honours class brought in dessert this week. Including little graves with our initials, a tangy mousse with fantastic gravestones, mocktails with eyeballs and hearts, and ghostly class rings. I was thrilled!

Bidding for Shaun Tan original artwork

And it's all in a good cause, raising money for War Child. See here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eating Max

I teach Where the Wild Things Are in Children's Literature and it's always great fun, even if I secretly like In The Night Kitchen better (big scary bakers). One of the wonderful things about Sendak is that he captures the thrill, both delightful and terrible, of being eaten, a theme that runs through nursery rhyme and fairy tale. Many have attempted to account for this theme (see Maria Tatar or Marina Warner for example), but I don't think I've hit upon a rationale I quite relate to yet. In some ways, I think it is simply the play of the horror of being consumed co-existing with the idea that eating is frequently pleasurable. It's the ol' eating fish at the Aquarium or venison at the deer park dilemma.

Still, when I saw these little Maxes for a bento box, I just had to share.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Academic lists

In the Wall Street Journal, Holly Tucker lists 5 "revolutionary studies of fairy tale." Lists are always a bit idiosyncratic, but it's worth consideration and certainly includes a range of texts that should be on any fairy tale scholar's reading list (and I know there'll be some who see this who will just know I'm refraining from saying anything about the absence of Marina Warner on the list).

More on what's banned

I saw this stunning window display on Boing Boing this morning. I love the banner: "Shocking Literacy."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Disney Princess Style

One of the tricky aspects of working with Disney material is that the material itself is often taken for granted simply as 'Disney.' This ignores that Disney really isn't a cohesive, monolithic entity (although at times it may appear so). It really is a group of artists and writers etc who come together from disparate backgrounds to produce often amazing animation.

I just got my copy of The Art of the Disney Princess. It's a gorgeous collection of artwork that "re-imagines" Disney princesses like Belle and Jasmine and Mulan et al. The artwork gives a sense of the range of possibility in the stock standard images, revealing that what may at first appear immutable and homogeneous can so easily be adapted and transformed. One of my favourites in the book is a layout by Tokie Esaka, inspired by kokeshi, of Snow White. In the end, Snow White gets an apple pie, because, you know, she loves apples.

Dorota Kotarba-Mendez notes in the book, "Each morning when I wake, I dress in my ball gown and glass slippers and travel by horse-drawn carriage to a palace on a hilltop in a fairy-tale kingdom. Actually, it's an office building in Glendale, California, but it is pretty magical."

While of course the book reflects Disney's grasp of image control, it's interesting to see the number of female and non-Anglo names among the contributors and to see the breadth of media that goes into conceptualising and realising animation for the corporation.

And Ray Leoncio's portrayal of Beauty and the Beast, with a nod to Transformers, is definitely worth a peek into the pages of the book.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A helpful mash-up of best sellers

The Reading Radar site is a very useful tool - it combines the New York Times bestseller lists with Amazon ratings. It gives you an opportunity to look at what people think of the books that are selling well. After all, it's not always necessarily true that people like the books they buy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some fairy tales with your paper, ma'am?

The Guardian is currently running a fairy tale series. Authors like Philip Pullman and A.S. Byatt have been contributing essays to mini-collections sent out with the daily news. Fortunately, we can access most of it online, here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One of the most useful sites ever on the Web

There's a site on which authors pronounce their own names. It's here. It's excellent.

I'm notorious for mispronunciation. I've managed Goethe in a variety of ways. Yes, I know how it is pronounced, but if I glance at the sheet with the name written on it, I still manage to mispronounce it.

When I read Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men, I completely related to Tiffany. She reads the dictionary. She can use all the words correctly. But she's never heard the words. So she tends to pronounce them in odd ways.

I read a great deal as a child and teenager. I have not yet broken the habit of randomly pronouncing authorial names.

It's something I'm working on. I do make a point before lectures of checking on any name I haven't heard pronounced in a while. If I'm not 100% sure, you'll usually see that 'oh geez' expression on my face as I reluctantly pronounce it!

For your viewing pleasure

If you feel like watching a little film, I'd recommend this available snippet of Granny O'Grimm or an Edward Gorey inspired animation.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

It's been a long while since Disney has produced one of the more traditional, animated, musical features, so I've been watching for The Princess and The Frog.

There has been a fair amount of negativity around the new feature. Much is based on the little snippets that have been released so far and, in the end, it is quite difficult to make a judgment call on ethnic sensitivity - one way or the other - on such evidence. There was today a positive response, though, and I thought that worth noting. Here it is.

Also, just a little note, don't worry too much if it isn't 'like the Grimms' version'. The Grimms actually didn't even present a consistent version. In their first recorded version, the princess throws the frog against a wall and then he turns into a handsome prince. And, after all, the Grimms were much like the Disney of their day. The tales go back earlier.

In the end, I enjoy Disney animated features. I'll admit that.