Bläeckfisk is the Swedish translation for the word octopus. I am not Swedish, but I do own a lot of furniture from Sweden and I like octopuses while admiring their multi-tasking ability. I would like to travel to Sweden at some point, plus I think it is a pretty cool looking word. Anyhow, speaking of words, I guess you could say that is why we are here. Words are the foundation for way we try to wrap our thoughts around everything in the galaxy. The tendrils that lead to emotions and curiosity. I am not here to solve the mysteries of the universe, just to discuss words in general. Specifically words written by other people and have been printed off and slapped between two slices of thin card stock. Many of these sandwiches go on to bigger and better things, some bigger and better than others. So, I guess we will be talking about those as well. If you share an interest in words or enjoi seeing what they can look like in action....välkommen! (Swedish for welcome.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

F2: The Tree of Life-Directed by Terrence Malick

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to post a write up about this film, but after thinking about it for a few days decided to. Let's start by saying this film is long, really long. 2 hours and 20 minutes long. While I think that there should have been some better editing, this was a film worth mentioning. I am not quite sold on saying that I fully enjoyed it, but it is an extremely unique picture unlike just about anything you will see this summer.

It is a story of a family living in the 50's in Texas. Brad Pitt plays role of a rigidly stern father of three. Most of the film is dedicated to the effects of his relationship with his eldest son Jack, and how Jack more or less loses his innocence due to this relationship. We then leave the 50's and jump ahead 15 years to find out that one of the brothers has lost his life while serving the military, devastating the family. After this chapter, the film goes off on a 20 minute sidetrack of non-dialogue, nature based scenes that are truly stunning. Volcanoes. Jellyfish. Bees. Waterfalls. DNA. Basically, a short visual history of life itself. While the director lost me when the injection of dinosaurs into this montage, the shots are incredible.

Sean Penn plays the role of Jack in modern times, reflecting back on his childhood and the loss of his brother. Religious undertones aside, this movie does get you thinking family dynamics and the rippling effects that parents have on their kids. Working with my sixth graders, I know all to well how they aim to please at this age and how sensitive they are to harsh criticism. The young Jack is no different and suffers greatly over how he is treated. His father does berate him, but also has a tender side and without fail is quick to wrap and arm around of his boys after a blowup.

Just like the Pitt's character, I felt this polarizing movie didn't really have an idea of what it wanted to be. It flops back and forth between all the above mentioned aspects without really driving home a central theme. The ticket bellhop told us he loved it, but I would say that I am leaning towards the other end of the spectrum. It will give you something to talk about though, so see for yourself and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

B2: Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (320 pages)

"Eadem mutata resurgo: Although changed, I shall arise the same."

I loved this book. Not just because I tend to have an affinity for books that have a penchant for using Latin quotes (See Meaning of Night by Michael Cox), but for the sheer magnetism of how this story is comprised.   For some reason I have stumbled upon many books as of late in the multi-tale-but-justwaitfortheconnection genre, and this exceptional book by Dan Chaon might just be my favorite thing I have read all year.

 The book and title center around a common junk email scam that I am sure many of us have at one point or another have seen float across our electronic mail boxes. The email is from an unknown author from a African country that has been bequeathed a large sum of money that if only you can secure a bank account, will lead to a fat slice of this sum magically appearing in the account you have created. I have had an email like this sent to me, making the outline of this story all the more believable.

The story unfolds with three simultaneous plots that in no way can seem to be possibly perpendicular, up until the very end. I commend the author for the sheer genius of being able to find a way to do this without convoluting his novel with many unnecessary pages of plodding details or unimportant characters throughout the story. Hayden and Miles are twins, and while Hayden has been missing for years, cryptic letters keep showing up at Mile’s house, taunting him into continuing his search for his missing brother.  Lucy, age 19, has just fled her home podunk town somewhere in the middle of Ohio in search of a more exciting existence.  Her chosen partner in crime on this journey, is non other than her high school Math teacher, George Orson. Finally, we have Ryan. Ryan is on the run due to his numerous involvements with credit card scams set up by his father, Jay. 

All three of these subplots share the notion of self reinvention, which to me is really fascinating. How people can one day live as someone, then completely step into another character, as if it were as easy as pulling on a new sweater, is amazing. I highly recommend checking this book out, and wish you good luck in putting all the pieces together. You will not be disappointed.

“The more he thought about it, the more everything began to feel like a sham.  It wasn’t just his own faux family, it was the “family structure” in general.  It was the social fabric itself, which was like a stage play everyone was engaged in. And maybe it was as that moment that he brook loose from is life. His “life”: it felt suddenly so abstract and tenuous.”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

F1: Midnight in Paris-Directed by Woody Allen

This latest release by Woody Allen is worth checking out. Owen Wilson plays a struggling writer visiting his soon to be in-laws in Paris with his fiance. While it becomes quite clear that both he and his fiance are leaning towards different needs and desires in life, Owen’s character settles into the routine of walking around at midnight in hopes of finding not only his muse, but also a way to connect to some of his personal literary and artistic heroes from days past.  Conversations with Hemingway and Picasso and Fitzgerald, along with a savvy dialogue with Salvador Dali help him rediscover who he is as a person.

While I normally associate most Woody Allen films of recent release with tragedy, this quirky little film has some naturally pretty funny moments, with Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kurt Fuller leading the way. In true Woody Allen fashion, dramatic music plays a huge role in the movie and the star of this film is Cole Porter.  Flappy tunes and swanky garb really set a great mood, all within the beautiful confides of Paris. Sure does look like the knew how to have a good time back then. 

B1: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (529p)

"I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o'that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies skies, an’tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul.”

Thus begins the Blaeckfisk blog. 

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is an epic tale that interweaves several stories that take place over several genres of time. Starting back in 1850 and ranging all the way to an ubur post apocalyptic future with just about everything in between, this sprawling book covers a lot.  Taking on this book is a little bit like strapping on your hardly used sneakers and running to the adjacent town 18 miles away. There is a lot to see, your patience will be tested and your brain will definitely be fatigued by book’s end. With that said, the framework for this novel is truly amazing. Each story is interlocked with the next sequential installment and each gets cut off roughly in the middle. The staircase leads you all the way into the far off future, then back down again, completing each of the stories all the way. A current of predatory human nature runs throughout the book along with the notion of reincarnation. Slavery, love triangles, corruption, attempted murder, the Mob, futuristic Korea, post apocalyptic Hawaii all have a hand in the construction of this story.

“I smelt lethe, a soporifix added to Soap. The usual dosage for a fabricant server is three drops, but Rhee had drunk a half liter bottle. If I had called a Medic immediately, maybe his life could have been saved. But how to xplain my intervention?”

Anyone passionate about literature would surely appreciate this massive undertaking by Mr. Mitchell. Trying to wrap your brain around each component of the story is a bit like trying to hold hold water in your cupped hands, but all in all it is worth the effort. While paying homage to Herman Melville and Mark Twain, Mitchell writes in a tone that is ingenious and heartfelt. While I cannot say that I loved this book, I can say that you will be glad you put on your shoes and took a jaunt through the mind of David Mitchell.  I would have loved to have had the Lego pieces connecting each story to be a little more prevalent, but that is just me. Plans are in the works for a big screen adaptation, directed by the Wachowski brothers.
Should be epic.