Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Play Book Dominoes

Is it just me, or do I feel the odd desire to try this at the Matheson Library?

The link takes you (via Boing Boing) to an ad for a US bookseller, Bookmans, using books as dominoes. It's quirky and brilliant. And also gives me ideas about how to arrange my research books. It would give a whole new meaning to 'knocking down that bit of research.'

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chaucer Blogs

I've come across this blog, Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, previously, but thought it worth a mention, particularly as one of the recent posts reviews The Consolation of Philosophie the Vampyre Slayer and how can you not enjoy a line like, "Anon, Ladye Philosophie, who knoweth nat whethir she loveth Plato or Spyke moore, cometh to save Boece"?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Giving Scary Books

I think this idea from Neil Gaiman's recent post is great - basically, on Halloween, give someone - or many someones - a scary book.

It did give me pause for thought, though, as I realised most of my friends already read the books I read. Can I think of a scary book they haven't come across? Any suggestions?

It also occurred to me that many fairy tales count as very scary stories. Just check out the Baba Yaga tales and lines like:

"Then the doll's eyes began to shine like fireflies, and suddenly it became alive."

What could be better than a book of Baba Yaga tales?

And since Neil Gaiman suggested that some readers felt "that it's not proper blog post unless it has Dog Photos," I thought I'd use that as an excuse to include one myself. He's been threatening to eat the teetering pile of essays I have yet to grade.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Disney at the ACMI

One of my undergrad. students was quick on the mark and told me about an upcoming Disney exhibition at the ACMI: "Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney's Classic Fairy Tales" (18 Nov - 26 April). I did quip that it would have made a great field trip if only it had fallen into the teaching schedule for Fairy Tale Traditions.


I find myself having the oddest mixed feelings about it, however. I did my PhD on Disney animated and theatrical musicals. I spent a good three years entirely preoccupied with windy warthogs and singing teapots. I spotted the masterclass with Glen Keane and Roy Conli and thought about the hours I spent pouring over Glen Keane's artwork and any interviews I could find that gave me insight into how he approached the physicality of fairy tale characters. How odd would be it to actually see him?

I've been teaching Beauty and the Beast since then and I'm currently just easing myself back to my earlier work and expanding ideas about how Disney deals in fairy tale fashion.

Yet, as many fear, when you do a PhD, you can sometimes make it impossible to ever again look at the topic of your research. In part, I chose my topic knowing that I could survive three years of preoccupation with aforementioned windy warthogs and singing teapots (I'm not even going to think about what that says about me). Following the PhD, I couldn't look at Disney again for a good couple of years. I needed a break.


I am gradually reconnecting with that spark of curiosity. The one that made me wonder just how Disney managed to spin fairy tales on a global scale never before imagined. During my PhD, I had to challenge the almost overwhelmingly negative scholarship existent on Disney in order to really get to the heart of the storytelling and why it was working as well as it did. I just couldn't believe that merely exploitative storytelling would capture the hearts and minds of so many over so long a time and over so many cultures and communities.

What I found was a dynamic collaboration of storytellers and for better or for worse, they still intrigue me.

So I guess I'll be visiting the exhibition after all and that a PhD doesn't spell the end of one's fascination with any given topic.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Animating Books

I'll begin with this amazing animation of "Going West" from Andersen M. Studios. I have the oddest feeling I might have blogged it before, but it's worth repeating in any case. There's other fantastic animations and textual installments on their website.


I recently read a New York Times article about the decline of picture books with sadness. Julie Bosman reports: "Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools."

Those who know picture books know that this originates from the common misconception that picture books are 'easier' than chapter books to read. No, picture books aren't easier to read. Picture books are a different kind of book, but some of the most amazing, complex, mind-boggling narrative comes from picture books, not to mention the additional level of interaction between illustration and text, with text often becoming illustration and thus raising the interpretive bar. The problem is, many adults continue to endorse a world view in which pictures 'dumb down' text. This is odd, when you think about it. Graphic novels are gaining ground. Books shops are stocking more and more comics. This should mean that more space can be given to picture books, not less, as members of our literate society become more and more active in reading illustrated books.

Some scholars thinking about this news (I won't name names) have suggested that eBooks may also be to blame for the decrease in interest in picture books, but I think eBooks are going to, and are already developing stunning ways to present picture books. I've blogged the Alice App a couple of times and I recently downloaded the Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy App. I was really impressed by the level of interaction the App builds into its functions and that you can even colour in the book. I still like my material picture books, but the alternative options are looking good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pasta Inspiration

Maybe it's the upcoming fairy tale unit in Italy (view details here), maybe it's simply that I love pasta and new ways of playing with text, but this video for Jacob Kennedy and Caz Hildebrand's The Geometry of Pasta had me at farfelle. What an amazing book, simply in terms of design. And it's marvelous to see book trailers evolve into such beautiful animation.