Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, American Version

By Laura P. Valtorta

Lisbeth Salander does not care what the world thinks of her, nor would she ever fix coffee or breakfast for anyone. She is the hero of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel, Man som hatar Kvinnor (Men who Hate Women). The American screenwriter, Steven Zaillian, fails to realize this, while the Swedish screenwriters of the 2009 film, Nikolia Arcie and Rasmussen Heisterberg, got it right on target.

Everyone should read all three books and see all three Swedish movies before they watch the American imitation.

The American film hands too much power to Michael, Lisbeth’s counterpoint. It was LIsbeth who solved the mystery of the bible verses in the book, not Michael. The American film turns that around.

The American director, David Fincher, also takes away one of Lisbeth’s key scenes. When Michael comes looking for Lisbeth, who has been hacking into his computer, he confronts her in her tiny, messy apartment sleeping with her longtime lover, Miriam. In the Swedish version (and in the book), Lisbeth stands there staring hard at the intruder. She does not care what Michael sees, and she allows him to drink spoiled coffee, which he spits out into the sink. The American story has Lisbeth ashamed of her lover and practically cowering, as Michael chases Miriam out. The Swedish Lisbeth would never allow that.

The real Lisbeth would never make breakfast for Michael, either, but strangely, that happens in the American film after they make love for the first time. In the Swedish film, Michael makes the breakfast and Lisbeth wolfs it down.

The worst indignity of this American imitation film is when Lisbeth asks permission to execute the murderer. In the book, Lisbeth allows him to die, but Michael chastises her for it afterwards.

Great acting saves the American film, despite the misogynistic screenplay and bad directing. Thanks to Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, this film is worth watching. Even Robin Wright is fun to hate. Lisbeth’s costumes are excellent as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Power of the Written Word

By Ginny Padgett

Last week I attended my mother's family's Christmas get-together. There are six siblings; their parents have been gone for over 35 years. This year their number was down by one very important member. Their baby brother lost his battle with brain cancer earlier this year.

Before the meal, my mother read a story she had written about an incident from their childhood. As I looked around the room while my mother read, her sister and brothers nodded in agreement and interrupted once or twice with exclamations of veracity. Their rapt attention told me they had been transported to another time and place.

Applause and lots of hearty thanks punctuated the conclusion of my mother's reading. When she said she had copies for her siblings, they were delighted. Hers was a gift that was the right size, color, and appreciated in a different way by each recipient.

We write, write, write to perfect our reach our goal of have an impact on the world. This experience reminded me that all writing matters, not the size of your audience.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Picked The Pepperoni Off My Pizza — My Foray Into Food Blogging

By Kimberly Johnson

Yes. I picked the pepperoni off my pizza and tossed them in the cardboard carton that they came from. I don’t like them, anymore. They betrayed me and my taste buds. They attacked the flavorful veggies and punched the tomato sauce square in the gut. I just couldn’t stomach the brutality, especially on a Saturday night.

Don’t get me wrong. I like pizza. But this time, pizza was the catalyst that empowered me to wax and wane about food. I got street cred--I collected recipes from dear old granny and I downloaded recipe cards from Food Network royalty.

My next step: To create a food blog.

My reality: How in the heck am I doing that?

My goal: To do some research.

I jumped on the Internet food highway. To begin with, I sought advice from culinary blog writers. They said stuff like: learn about food, attend local seminars or watch food tv shows. Some said: learn the basics like the different cuts of meat, types of fish and cooking methods. A lot of them said: become a home cook, collect cookbooks, and learn from mishaps. Others said: write articles, become a mystery guest taster, start a blog.

After the advice, I clicked over to several blogs to scout the competition (pardon me, I just finished reading Gordon Ramsay’s bio). Here's what I found to showcase a really scrumptious blog:

Item 1: Have a focus. Talk about the cuisine and cooking style that interests you.
Item 2: Use a free blog service. It is user-friendly. And you should be, too.
Item 3: Upload photos as a mainstay sidekick with your writings. Show your audience your culinary masterpiece or master mistake.
Item 4: Use social media’s real time postings to attract your friends, family and the foodie community.
Item 5: Write. Write. Write. Have guest bloggers join in your food melee.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Columbia II Blogger


The son of a war historian turned college professor, Chris Mathews, born in 1949, grew up in Arlington, Virginia, his family moving to Asheville, North Carolina when he was a senior in high school. Chris attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in English. While at North Carolina he took an introductory course in drama taught by Tom Parker, the man who helped get Andy Griffith his start on Broadway in No Time for Sergeants. He pursued his new-found interest in theatre at Wake Forest Unversity, receiving his Master’s degree.

After graduate school, Chris taught drama for over 30 years in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He was awarded the secondary schools Teacher-of-the-Year for North Carolina by the North Carolina School of the Arts (1999). His drama program at Asheville High School was the N.C. representative to the American High Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland (1997), performing Look Homeward, Angel. He collaborated with students at AHS to produce Endangered Species, a play about the challenges facing African-American males which featured a multi-racial cast, toured local schools and churches, and was performed at the International Thespian Festival in Muncie, Indiana.

His one-act play Gargoyles was published by Baker’s Plays in 2005. His favorite moment in theatre: with his wife Mary Anne watching his former student Chris Chalk (Cory) perform on Broadway in Fences with Denzel Washington (Troy) the summer before last.

Chris has three children (Marc, Erin, and Jenny) and one grandchild, Sidney Grace. Currently, he is the executive director of Turning Pages, the greater Columbia Literacy Council. He hopes to continue his love for writing with the help of the South Carolina Writers' Workshop Columbia II Chapter.

Chris's first post follows.

Vanquishing the Gila Monsters of Writing: Reflections on Staying in the Moment as I Walk My Dog

By Chris Mathews

What advice on writing can I add to the nebulas already out there. I am just now beginning my own journey as a writer (although I have published a one-act play Gargoyles) and continue on the more important quest to become a better person. What is a writer but a person who has trained himself to be more aware of the world? By learning to live more in the moment, I hope to make my two journeys as a writer and a person coalesce. Maybe my words will help you in some way vanquish that writer’s fear of fears, that Gila Monster of self-doubt-- the blank page.

Staying in the moment, a concept so crucial to theatre is also a technique that any writer must practice. I believe all human beings should learn to live in the moment. For me walking my rat-terrier Little Bro allows me to do this. In fact, I have begun to practice this concept by writing what I call Broems, poems about my moment-to-moment journey with Bro.

I believe all of us in this increasingly complex, technological whirl of a world need to soak up the moment—not allow all our free time to be taken up with thoughts of work. Electronic devices and multi-tasking have only left us with tunnel vision—the inability to see what is really all around us. Tunnel vision is the enemy of good writing and good living because we are locking out our senses—the vital organs of all good writing. I am not proposing that writers don’t need focus, just that they need to be able to take in the present with their senses so that they can keep the reader alive in the moment and not sidetracked outside the world they are creating. Writers and all people should spend time living in the moment.

I manage to do this with varying degrees of success when I take Little Bro for walks. These little jaunts have become for me a time of great discovery and pleasure. In a real sense, I am practicing a skill that I can apply to my writing, which I want to resonate with readers. First, however, I must relearn those ways of perceiving we all had as children.

Here is a “Broem” where I have tried to practice staying in the moment.

Night Clouds

Night clouds envelop the moon
Its swift passing upwards
Not to my dog
Little Bro.
He doesn’t know,
As he tests the blades of grass
Each one
For forgotten whiffs.
This one smells like chickweed.
This one sassafras
No, maybe not.
He doesn’t know those words
Only the smells which
Circulate through
Celestial chambers
Layers piled upon layers
Of ripeness and rightness.
He pees.
The moon rises
Time goes on.