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Books and Films about Cars

Posted by mandy on January 31st, 2012

For all of the great themes in the literatures of North America, the open road and new territories might be the most quintessential. If Mark Twain’s Huckelberry Finn is the most elemental novel of the Northern part of the continent, then this book could be arguably the very root of the road novel, and subsequently the road film. But there seems to be a paucity of literature about the automobile, whereas it is often a central component in the cinema.

While there are plenty of stories about the road that transfer well to books, most notably in Kerouac, books about cars are much more difficult to find than movies with cars in the center. Perhaps that’s because of the cinematic quality of the automobile. The windshield can serve as the perfect double for the film screen, and the driver and passenger are the viewers who are looking out on the film that plays before their eyes.

Nabokov is one of the exceptions that prove the rule. On the same route, Hunter S. Thompson wrote most eloquently about the Great Shark, the auto that somehow reminds readers of that great big car their best friend in high school drove. Stephen King also wrote about a car, one that became an entirely central character, in his novel Christine. In both of these cases, the representation of the cars when they transfer to the screen seem to lose something essential. The ironic or sinister quality of the vehicles are present, but they lose their raw power that their written versions are capable of evoking.

The cars are pretty close to the author’s descriptions, from the shape and the paint down to the general tires and subtle details about the dashboard. But the heart of their peculiar qualities, ones that make them exceptional characters on the page, don’t seem to transfer to film. The films that have cars in the center seem to be ones who are either original creations, or taken very tangentially from the novels. In film, the language is still one where the audience is looking at a vehicle as an object of value, rather than a character that can transform the story on its own accord. It could be a lack of descriptive qualities that separates the way they play out on the page versus how they read on the screen, or it could be something related to an inner landscape that only a book can afford to open.

Culture of the Book: Manuals and Artifacts

Posted by mandy on September 17th, 2011

The culture of the book has been in a state of crisis since the age of television, and perhaps goes back even further than that. There are shelves of books and articles by authors who insisted that television would completely take away the joy and pleasure of reading, and the generations growing up with it would become very dull versions of the generation that preceded them. So it isn’t really anything new when contemporary bloggers talk about the internet being the next big criminal when it comes to the printed word.

On many levels, all the charges are correct. Television did indeed have a profound effect on how people perceive, and how they spend their free time, and there’s every reason to suspect the same thing is happening with the web. There are some people certainly who only pick up a book because it is useful, and an automotive repair manual is easier to work with in the garage than an ipad. There are others who will never be entirely disconnected from getting their information in paper form. In the same breath, there are plenty of things to worry about in terms of the future of the book just as there are signs that its next life is already well under way.

The book is an artifact, a physical object that can be opened to reveal a very specific universe, and one that is created by the author with the participation of the reader. As objects, books have a beauty that makes their mystery even more precious. There are as many arguments for their disappearance as there are for the other perspectives. Cultures change, and as cultures change, their relationships to books have also traditionally changed. This is something that also does change the nature of the object itself.

In times where printed matter had an appeal that was limited to those with religious titles and access to religious education, the book was a rare object that had to be bound with materials that could protect it for a very long time. In times when everyone could read on the subway on their way to work, the book became a smaller object on cheaper paper, meant to last only through the space of a few reads. Today, avid readers may very well have only their Jeep Grand Cherokee repair manual in their physical library, but the electronic files might tell a very different story, one that is evolving in new and unexpected directions.

Zurich Nostalgia Cafe

Posted by mandy on May 20th, 2010

Here is where it is likely that a daydream will have more to do with the history outside on the sidewalk than the view inside of one’s own mind. It all tends to move around here, rather spectacularly, and rather quickly, gaining traction as the days turn into nights. The most complex theories of art and science and political revolutions have been discussed here, and the air is still thick with the conversations taking place even before WWI. However, unlike most places where the cafe conversations turn to art, science, and politics, at Cafe Odeon in Zurich , these talks happened for the very first time.

If there were no Cafe Odeon, it might be necessary to invent it, and across the street is another spectacular invention, Cafe de la Terrasse , and the two have a lot to talk about when the guests have stumbled home, lost in thought, and the night inhales and prepares for another day. In Zurich, the hotels are always prepared for late nights and early mornings, and no idea is too unfathomable. The city is one of the most livable on the whole continent, and there are reasons that go far beyond quality of life, cleanliness, and an easy transportation system.

Einstein lectured his students here at Odeon, while across the street, Huelsenbeck and Ball were waiting for Tzara, while Emily Hemmings began to hum a new poem in the back of her mouth. Russian revolutionaries were making plans, while Trotsky sat daydreaming about Frida Kahlo’s haunting eyes, and Hermann Hesse was making a tone poem novel about magic theaters, and turning a way of life into a philosophical treatise. These are the conversations that are dreamed on, dreamed on by people who like to talk, and everyone here likes to talk. Zurich has ghosts all over the streets, but the ones here are particularly passionate about ideas that might change the world, because here, they did.

The Value of World Maps

Posted by mandy on March 26th, 2010

Walk into almost any classroom and you will most likely see a collection of world maps decorating the walls. While world maps are by far some of the oldest maps in existence, they have also changed with technology. There are world atlases, world globes, even world maps that are printable . Even though they are old, we have still have many uses for them today.
Today if we want to get directions or see where we are going we use a road atlas , or if you are really technologically savvy a Garmin GPS . However, in ancient times they didn’t have maps that would mark out the roads they needed to take. The first sailors didn’t have maps that would show them that there was land on the other side of the ocean. World maps and their development are an important part of our history. They help us to realize where we came from and appreciate what we have today.
World maps unite us. Looking at world globe brings a new perspective to our existence. You don’t see each individual people or cities or countries, instead all of the continents and how we are all in the position here on this planet we call Earth. Somehow China doesn’t seem quite so far away.
Many of us in junior high or high school had to do a report on another country. The country that I was assigned to was Estonia , a place I had never heard of before. But after finding it on a world map and researching their climate, culture, and daily life I feel a much stronger connection to them. I watch for them every two years at the Olympics . World maps help us appreciate one another.
With all of our new technology it is easy to forget about all of the people and land that exist outside of our own personal worlds, but I would encourage you to pull out that old world map you have buried in the back of your closet and take a look–you might be surprised what you discover.

The Palmdale Playhouse

Posted by mandy on March 9th, 2010

Palmdale, California is generally considered to be part of the greater Los Angeles urban area. And while almost every aspect of that region continues to grow, Palmdale itself is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. This is due to many reasons, though one of the common ones is that people who are currently living and working in LA are recognizing this city as an attractive residential option and are leaving the larger urban area for its calm and quiet neighborhoods. Of course many other people are drawn to Palmdale and are coming from other parts of the country. In addition, it has become a popular tourist destination in its own right and is recognized outside of its relationship to Los Angeles. You can look here to find great information on where to stay if you’re planning to visit Palmdale.

The Palmdale Playhouse is just one of the entertainment and cultural attractions that entices audiences from in and outside of the city. The actual theatre was constructed in 1993, or that is when the ground was broke which began its construction. It was established as an effort to convert the older building that was the Maryott Auditorium into a complete performing arts center. This was spearheaded by the Palmdale Repertory Theatre and the Desert Opera Theatre. The result was this 348 seat performance space and a company that produces entertaining and sometimes provocative productions for an engaged and supportive audience. The new performance space also features an orchestra pit, workshop and office spaces.

The company has entered its 16th season and is proud to continue its established tradition of quality productions. In addition to great performances, there are various workshops, lectures and classes that take place in the playhouse. Some of the performances that will be occurring throughout the remainder of March are specifically intended for children, while others are oriented toward adult audiences. Of course there are also some family shows and the upcoming production of Harvey serves as good example. However, it won’t be opening until April, but it’s still a nice option for family entertainment. Meanwhile, Winnie the Pooh continues through March 13th and an Evening of Musical Inspiration will take place on March 24th.

Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore

Posted by mandy on March 3rd, 2010

Sought-out sights in the world have always included the architecture inspired by spirituality, such as great cathedrals of Europe and ancient temples in China.  In the case of the island city-state of Singapore, you’ll find the oldest and most prominent is the Thian Hock Keng or the Temple of Heavenly Bliss.   Built in 1839, around twenty years after Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore as a simple trading post on the Singapore River and about one hundred and seventy-one years from today, this Hokkien Temple was constructed to honor the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu or Mat-Su.

The story behind Mazu is a fascinating one, in which a girl is transformed into a goddess.  There is history about this girl contained in immensely old edicts from the government, from court documents, and even shipping logs, as well as Taoist scriptures, that describes Mazu as a young girl and the goddess she became.  Even to this day, she has fifteen hundred operating temples and about a hundred million followers.  Folk tradition for Mazu describes how in times of trouble if you call upon her by name, Mazu, she will come to your aid; however, if you address her in a more formal manner, such as the Empress of Heaven, then your rescue will be postponed as this means she must delay in order to put on more formal attire.  The goddess is based on a woman named Lin Mo Niang to which people attribute miracles during her brief lifetime.  She knew Chinese medicine and came to be known as a healer; some of the miracles, though, were about stopping seastorms, and this established her as a protector of sailors and travelers.

The temple’s history is contained in granite tablets which reside on the wall of the Entrance Hall; there’s an inscribed plaque also inside which Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty from 1907 gave to the temple, a sign of how important people considered this site.  The plaque reads, Bo Jing Nan Ming, which means Gentle Waves over the South Seas.  The building is composed in from the traditional form of Southern Chinese architecture.   There were no nails used in its construction, and is considered a masterwork of architecture which uses tiles and wood, stones, statues of dragons and phoenixes, and intricate carvings and sculptures amidst the columns.

This temple is only one of many sights available to a traveler in Singapore.  All one need do is to arrange for a flight and to stay in one the hotels in Singapore, and begin exploring.  If you go to Singapore, be sure not to miss this building, which has been declared a national monument of Singapore for the last  thirty-seven years.

Phathell’s Singapore

Posted by mandy on December 30th, 2009

Singapore is a spectacular place for culture vultures looking for the next big thing.  It’s also a splendid place for travelers to visit an entirely unique place, with a spectacular blend of cultural influences that inform what seems to be a very exciting moment in time.  There is always something happening in Singapore, but today there seems to be an explosion of new art and ideas.  It’s difficult not to find something very lovable about the city state that holds so many secrets, and also offers a sumptuous and exciting surface.  The secrets probably begin with the food, and when traveling in Singapore, food can guide you to all sorts of amazing attractions.

You’ll no doubt notice that Malaysia, India, and China have a very substantial influence on the cuisines here, and there are plenty of restaurants that specialize in these foods.  There are many other influences from all over the world, in the food and in the culture at large.   The local culture seems uniquely flexible in absorbing trends and styles from all over, and it’s making for some very exciting music.  Hiphop has always had a place in the hearts of the urban population, and its sophisticated means of blending and remixing beats and melodies is particularly suited to this place.  It’s very much alive and well here, with young talents like Phathell rising on the scene.

He’s worked as a dj and a producer, and all of these come into play in his fantastic hiphop stylings.  He’s also getting to be very fluent in drum and bass these days, and can even be seen trying his hand at the theramin. This kind of dexterity is not only necessary in a very competitive industry, but it speaks to a certain heart at the center of Singapore culture, making it exceptionally unique and world-class.

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