a kate west reflection

I have Latina hair. Meaning it's thick and curly, yeah I know, lucky me, right, but ALSO very susceptible to frizz. It's a dumb thing to complain about, especially in this day and age, and of course people with straight hair want curly, and people with curly want straight, blah, blah, blah. But what people with straight hair don't understand is that the price of curly hair is FRIZZ. There is nothing simple you can do about it either, so I resort to lots and lots of Frizz Ease gel and to wearing my hair in a ponytail and hat for several hours after I wash it. We'd all like to look like we just stepped out of a salon, but either we rush home and fix it back to the way we like it or we don't wash our hair for days, trying to keep it professional. We're never happy. But it is just hair, after all, and not Hurricane Katrina. Still it's nice to find someone who really understands curly hair.

Speaking of salons, Sweet 9 on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles offers pretty reasonable rates on haircuts and manicures, plus they have a day spa and a tearoom. It's eclectic design and very mod cozy. So if your hair is driving you crazy at least you'll have a fun place to escape to. Visit them the next time you're in the area. Need something to read there? Check out Latina Magazine, a hot and trendy look at being a modern Latina. Fun recipes, musical artists, dating advice, inspirational stories and more. Latina chica style, of course. And for some Food Network Hispanic chica insights, watch sassy Miami foodie Ingrid Hoffmann on "Simply Delicioso" ( We are a minority fast becoming a majority in Los Angeles, so you may want to brush up on the cultura.

And with those plugs, now you can be thankful that if all you have to worry about is hair, you're probably in a pretty good place. I know, it's Los Angeles, we are all fashion conscious here from time to time and we'd all like to be skinny flappers from the twenties. If wishes were horses. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sweet 9 info at
or look them up on My Space.

Oh and try the Chantell Boutique at 7309 Melrose. Cutest little outfits for a non-Melrose price. Store owner Ashley also sells across the street at Paper Doll. She's a doll herself.

(Celebrities spotted here: Adam Sandler, Mya, Gwen Stefani and Lindsay Lohan).

Latina Magazine

(Julie Andrews being a fashionable flapper in "Thoroughly Modern Millie") Read more!

Bees and Raptors

a kate west reflection

Bees are the next apocalyptic symbol it seems. When they go, we go, according to everyone from Al Gore to Bill Maher. A source of the only food which never goes bad, bees make precious honey - still good after twenty years when stored properly, or so I hear. And can cure almost any ailment, in my humble opinion. Something about cell phones stresses them out. Already sensitive to environmental disturbances, queens and workers won't return to their hives when cell phones abound. There have been any number of causes throughout the eras; this is just the one we are most directly responsible for. That and horrible new pesticides. Oops.

Obviously it's terribly important for pollination to occur on a regular basis so flowers can reproduce and animals get to keep eating. Bees are nice and even kind of cool. That is, they don't sting unless provoked, and after that, they die. Unlike nasty old wasps, which can sting you repeatedly, and are less cute and furry. So leave them alone already. By the way, a good spiritual read, if you're in the mood, is Sue Monk Kidd's excellent "The Secret Life of Bees" (see below).

6o Minutes spot here:

Speaking of cool, falconry is one of the oldest hunting sports there is. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has repeatedly touted falconry as a noble pursuit, one that ultimately allows you to commune with nature, and to finally understand true synergy with the environment. You will learn respect for your bird, or raptor, as they call them, and the bird will respect you and decide to fly back to you each time. Or not. It's really up to him/her. Fascinating. It takes years to train a falcon and to trust that each of you has each other's best interest at heart. Combine that with archery and you may just get yourself knighted.

You can actually try it (next time you're in Ireland, that is) : OR

Learn More:
Beekeeping for Dummies

The Encyclopedia of Falconry

The Secret Life of Bees
Read more!

Puppet Up

Puppet Up
a kate west recommendation
at Avalon Hollywood
1735 N Vine St., Hollywood , CA 90028
Saturday, September 29nd & Saturday, October 20th
8:00 PM (doors open 7:00 PM)
contact or
(Pictured: Patrick Bristow, Brian Henson and Friends)

The Jim Henson Company has been entertaining audiences, adult and children alike, for about fifty years now. Not one to rest on his laurels, Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson), has moved on from his internationally popular muppets (currently the property of the Walt Disney Company). His newest creation, "Puppet Up", combines live performers with puppets in a completely innovative way. You won't see familiar characters from "The Muppet Show", but you will see a lot of fun brand new characters like talking hot dogs. It must indeed be seen to be believed.

Professionally trained puppeteers work their magic live on stage, based on audience suggestions. It's improv, with puppets. Audiences can watch the behind-the-scenes mechanics as the actors manipulate the puppets and then glance over at the monitors to see the puppets in action. Patrick Bristow (of "Ellen", "Show Girls" and main company Groundlings fame) is their suave and fearless leader, deftly directing the action, and sassing the audience into giving good improvisational fodder. It's billed as adult fare, since one cannot control the nature of improv and who knows, you may even be lucky enough to see these adorable puppets go blue. A cute, furry, little puppy dog swearing like a sailor? Delightfully delicious. But leave the kids at home.

The troupe is smart, talented, quick-witted and highly entertaining. Each show is definitely a must-see. But hurry, they sell out fast!

The Company:
BRIAN HENSON (Executive Producer, Performer)
PATRICK BRISTOW (Stage Show Director/Host)
Julianne Buescher (Performer)
Tyler Bunch (Performer)
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (Performer)
Ted Michaels (Performer)
Drew Massey (Performer)
Paul Rugg (Performer)
Allan Trautman (Performer)
Victor Yerrid (Performer)

For Nostalgia Purposes:
The Muppet Show - Season One (Special Edition) Read more!

Mad Men

a kate west review

AMC's hit new show "Mad Men" dazzles audiences with its vibrantly realistic depiction of 1960's cutthroat advertising world on Madison Avenue. The company in question, Sterling-Cooper, takes heavyweight clients, like airlines, to new heights, so to speak, with clever ad campaigns. Gorgeously fun retro sets and costumes balance out the darker sexist/racist world of male salesmanship. Everyone smokes and drinks heavily and nothing is ever politically correct. Pure delight. After a few episodes of the new sensation, however, things get a bit repetitive.

Jon Hamm is Don Drake, the main character, cheating on his wife and trying to work his way up the corporate ladder. The rest of the staff are more or less of the same moral fiber - most of them are materialistic, concerned only with appearances and everyone wants to be the big wig. The danger in portraying unsympathetic characters is that after a while, you stop caring about what happens to them, even watching their just downfalls.

Still, the actors are quite strong, and the peek into an era gone by quite fascinating. So it’s good for a least one season. Give it a try and if you grew up then, you'll find the no-holds-barred nostalgic reminiscing oddly comforting. That's the way it was, folks.

Created by
Matthew Weiner

Jon Hamm
Elisabeth Moss
Vincent Kartheiser
January Jones
Christina Hendricks
Bryan Batt
Michael Gladis
Aaron Staton
Rich Sommer
John Slattery
Mark Moses

Get it on DVD:
Mad Men - Season One Read more!

Local Heroes

A Sneak Preview Of The All New
The Return of Local Heroes

This Thursday October 18th
McCadden Theatre in Hollywood

Directed by Karen Maruyama

Come See...
The glory of Avi in a different pair of tights
Travis with monk-hair
Sami the rapist

Kenny makin' shit up
Alex as a big ole pussy
& Dorien with her bum in your face

This Time It's Brillianter

Read more!

Avenue Q

Avenue Q
a kate west review
music & lyrics by Robert Lopez
and Jeff Marx
directed by Jason Moore
choreographed by Ken Roberson
at the Ahmanson Theatre
Center Theatre Group
135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
playing September 6 - October 14, 2007
contact 213-628-2772 or

Winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, adroitly clever "Avenue Q" is an inside look at the lives of the people on Avenue Q (supposedly in New York), of their loves, quarrels, hopes and dreams, just like in any other neighborhood, except some of them are puppets. You read that right. Like in Sesame Street, only the adult version. Direct from Broadway and Las Vegas, Los Angeles finally hosts the wildly popular show at the Ahmanson Theatre.

It all starts with Princeton (puppeted by Robert McClure) strolling into Avenue Q singing "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" What IS he going to do with his life now? Turns out he and the rest of the neighborhood aren't as happy as they could be ("It Sucks to Be Me" and "Purpose"). Princeton rents an apartment from former child star Gary Coleman (Carla Renata) and befriends a lovely little Monster named Kate (puppeted by Kelli Sawyer). They start dating after a few bumpy starts, such as Kate reprimanding Princeton that not all Monsters are related ("Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"). Their courtship is fairly standard ("Mix Tape", "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want - When You're Makin' Love") but Princeton dumps her when he thinks she's getting in the way of him finding his ever-important and elusive purpose.

Meanwhile, roommates Rod and Nicky (puppeted by Robert McClure and Christian Anderson) struggle with their relationship when Nicky suspects Rod of being gay ("If You Were Gay") who vehemently denies it ("My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada"). Rod eventually kicks Nicky out, who ends up homeless and begging on the street ("The Money Song"). Asian stereotype Christmas Eve (Angela Ai) marries wanna-be comedian Brian (Cole Porter) and doles out sympathy and advice to everyone. Trekkie Monster (Christian Anderson) whacks off in his apartment ("The Internet Is For Porn") and life goes on. It all turns out alright, more or less. No give aways here; go see the show.

Interspersed with video monitors that show childlike animated lessons geared toward us cynical grownups, Director Jason Moore coordinates actors and puppets alike into show-stopping musical numbers by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (original creator). The actors are incredibly versatile, jumping from character to person to character again, some of them even doubling up on puppets (including ensemble players Minglie Chen, Maggie Lakis, Seth Rettberg and Danielle K. Thomas). Special fun is Kelli Sawyer's scandalously voluptuous Lucy the Slut, who seduces Princeton, ends up in the hospital and then finds God, turning her into Lucy the Virgin. Costume Designer Mirena Rada fits actors and puppets with equally appropriate dressing and Rick Lyon's puppets themselves are divine. And Scenic Designer Anna Louizos' cute little set is straight out of your favorite childhood televion show.

Musical highlights include Rob and Nicky's elaborate fog-filled dream sequence ("Fantasies Come True"), Princeton dancing with singing moving boxes ("Purpose") and "Schadenfreude" (the German expression meaning delighting in the misfortunate of others) which Nicky sings joyfully with Gary Coleman. Robert McClure handles his main characters deftly, as does Kelli Sawyer who sings sweetly or sultry, depending on which adorable puppet she's wearing. The whole cast does a perfectly amazing job. You'll notice some obvious Jim Henson and Sesame Street influences, like Rod and Nicky looking suspiciously like Bert and Ernie and Trekkie Monster, the masturbator with a distinctly computer nerd like name.

Generation X-ers will love remembering our struggles as twenty-somethings in tiny New York apartments, barely a step up from "Rent's" East Village Bohemians (Broadway's mega-hit modern update on "La Boheme"). The songs are funny, upbeat and memorable and it's absolute great fun to see puppets acting like real people, having sex (and in all kinds of positions too!), getting drunk, getting cold feet (you'll love Princeton's visually hysterical nightmare sweats on committment) and doing everything else demonstrating human weakness. At least according to the cheering audiences every night. Just remember to leave the kids at home.

"Avenue Q" has not been authorized or approved in any manner by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop, which have no responsibility for its content."

The Broadway Soundtrack:
Avenue Q (2003 Original Broadway Cast) Read more!

Legally Blonde The Musical

Legally Blonde The Musical
a kate west review
directed/choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
(Beth McCarthy Miller - Television)
music/lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
book by Heather Hach; novel by Amanda Brown & MGM
MTV Broadcast at the Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway, New York, NY
contact 212-307-4100 or 800-755-4000

How often do you get a sneak peek at a currently running Broadway show? MTV offered viewers that very chance this weekend by broadcasting the full length "Legally Blonde The Musical" straight from the New York stage. It's a pretty cute show for free, considering top running Broadway shows can run you about a hundred bucks easy.

The show follows the Reese Witherspoon movie hit fairly closely, with Laura Bell Bundy in the lead as Elle Woods, the Malibu barbie doll who gets accepted into Harvard Law School, surprising everyone, even herself. She's there chasing her ex-finance Warner Huntington III (Richard H. Blake) who dumped her for being blonde ("Serious"). With the support of her faithful sorority sisters ("Omigod You Guys", "What You Want"), she decides to get serious and apply herself, completely trading coasts and attitudes. Challenges abound, including impressing the tough Professor Callahan (Michael Rupert) by managing to get into his exclusive intern program. The ultimate discovery is a profound belief in herself, of course, resulting in forgetting about her snobby ivy league ex, taking up with a new lawyer hottie, Emmett Forrest (Christian Borle) and finally earning the respect of her peers, even becoming class valedictorian. She even defies her Professor when he proves to be fallible. An inspiration to little blondes everywhere.

Bundy and Borle make a cute couple and have some nice numbers together ("Chip On My Shoulder", "Take It Like A Man" and "Legally Blonde"). Fun standouts include Elle's spacey hairdresser (Orfeh) who makes the part her own, in spite of the popularity of Jennifer Coolidge's crazy fun movie character. With Elle's help, she lands her sexy UPS man, Kyle (real life husband Andy Karl) and recovers her beloved bulldog Rufus from her evil ex boyfriend. Elle is highly sympathetic as she has her own beloved Bruiser, a stylish chihuahua, and dog loving romantics have to stick together. Completing the feminine circle of strength is the spunky Greek chorus, comprised of the Delta Nu sisters (the energetic trio of Annaleigh Ashford, Asmeret Ghebromichael and Tracy Jai Edwards) who appear occasionally to give Elle some helpful advice. Elle also meets a tired stereotypical Birkenstock lesbian Enid (the solid Natalie Joy Johnson) at Harvard.

Devoted fans of the movie will also notice certain deviations, such as some brilliant ideas coming from the man, Emmett, rather than Elle herself, or a bizarre courtroom scene where the Judge (Amber Efé ) orders everyone to the bathroom crime scene in order to rat out a suspicious hair perm, following the outing of the gay pool boy Nikos played by Manual Herrera ("There! Right There!"). Elle prevails in the end, and exonerates her fitness idol Brooke Wyndham (Nikki Snelson), on trial for allegedly killing her millionaire husband. Thank God for Greek sisterhood. The first act is stronger than the second act, which seems to get a little off track, especially in those odd moments.

Director Jerry Mitchell does a fine job choreographing the group numbers, especially Elle's Harvard "essay", a brassy drum majorette number ("The Harvard Variations"). David Rockwell's set designs are pink, colorful fun, as are Gregg Barnes' Malibu-inspired preppy costumes. Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin provide a punchy musical score, but it doesn't really stick in your head.

The overall show is harmless frothy fluff, cute if you like that sort of thing. Fun eye candy for free, but a bit of a steep price, unless your teenage daughter won't speak to you otherwise. Judging from the MTV audience, it's a hit with the young crowd, so you might want to brush up on your teen speak, or just send the babysitter. Or you can stay home and rent the movie again with some microwave popcorn. Oh, and special kudos to animal wrangler William Berloni - those dogs are adorable.

The Soundtrack:
Legally Blonde (2007 Original Broadway Cast)

The Movie:
Legally Blonde Read more!


a kate west reflection

Kristen Wiig in ELLE's September Issue

Saturday Night Live ain't what it used to be. I suppose it's always appealed to adolescents and since early SNL happened when I was pretty young, that's probably why it appealed to me. Or maybe it's pure nostalgia. (Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo, Garret Morris, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Steve Martin and the late greats Phil Hartman and Jim Belushi!) But lately, it just seems that every year sends the SNL train wreck careening more downhill. But that's just me.

The highlight of the past couple of seasons though, is the relative newcomer Groundling Kristen Wiig ( whose original characters like her distracted Target Lady, spacey Aunt Linda, or her brilliant impressions of Judy Garland and Megan Mullaly are real stand outs. Even her half of the A-Holes (”You look like a rabbit”) is initially less tedious, though Saturday Night Live's insistence on placing recurring obnoxious characters in the same scenes, but with different backgrounds, may drive you mad (remember "It's Pat?).

Gratned, SNL has an impressive alumni list like Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Molly Shannon, Chris Kattan, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Lovitz, Julia Sweeney, David Spade, Cheri Oteri, Will Ferrell, to name but a few. Such is it's allure that two recent televion shows tried to depict it's inner workings: the sadly failed "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and the more successful "30 Rock" (with recent SNL graduate Tina Fey). And the man upstairs, the odd man in charge, Lorne Michaels, a character himself, continues to reap the benefits of his monolithic hit.

It's wonderful that so many went on to have great careers, and that SNL has not only a cult following, but a fairly hefty mainstream appeal as well. Still, it's harder to watch the older you get. So Thank God for teenagers. Then again, who knows what will happen now what with the upcoming Hollywood writer's strike. Hopefully, they'll run some classic reruns, rather than churn out more clunkers. I won't be watching. But I will honk for the strikers. Peace.

Current Repertory Players
Fred Armisen (2002-present)
Will Forte (2002-present)
Bill Hader (2005-present)
Darrell Hammond (1995-present)
Seth Meyers (2001-present)
Amy Poehler (2001-present)
Maya Rudolph (2000-present)
Andy Samberg (2005-present)
Jason Sudeikis (2005-present)
Kenan Thompson (2003-present)
Kristen Wiig (2005-present)

Remembering the Classics:
Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season

Saturday Night Live - The Complete Second Season

The Real Classics:
Laurel & Hardy (Sons of the Desert/The Music Box/Another Fine Mess/Busy Bodies/County Hospital)

The Abbott and Costello Show Featuring "Who's on First?" "Don Juan Costello" & "Two Tens for a Five"

The George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection

Best of Jack Benny

The Dick Van Dyke Show - Season One (5 Disc Box Set)

I Love Lucy: The Complete Series

The Carol Burnett Show - Collector's Edition Vols 1-5 Read more!


a kate west reflection

It's a mystery as to this country's obsession with each other's outward happiness. Have you ever gotten the impossibly irritating "Smile!" admonition from a stranger? And how many of you are female - do men even get that question? Probably not as often as women, if ever, since we are sugar and spice and everything nice and supposed to be pleasantly innocuous.

So is it really any of your business what my inner state is? Are you that insecure that you need me to validate you that way - through a smile? I know you think it's a friendly gesture, but it has a more sinister intent, subconscious or no. You want me to make you feel comfortable. And that's not my job. Please, worry about yourself and your own inner state, no need to infringe on mine. I'm fine, or not, but either way, I'll handle it, thank you. Read more!

The Assassination of Jesse James

The Assassination of
Jesse James
by the Coward Robert Ford
a kate west review

The latest version of the Jesse James story is told in the remarkable film by Andrew Dominik, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". Narrated by Hugh Ross, with spots of sepia tones and vintage 1880's lenses, the film depicts the legendary outlaw in his final years.

Brad Pitt is the lead, portraying James as the calculatingly cold killer that he was, but with a haunting awareness of his own weaknesses. Casey Affleck (yes, Ben's little brother) gives an outstanding performance as Robert Ford, the man responsible for ending Jesse's life. Focusing less on the James/Younger brothers famous gang exploits, the film explores the aftermath, when the paranoia and disillusionment set in. It is a less glamorous look at the real inner world of the coarse and hardened men of the old west. Jesse James killed a lot of men in his time, and while he justified it to himself in his lifetime, it was never a noble affair, but often rather a petty reaction to life's inevitable obstacles.

Brad Pitt portrays James as the still wiley and alert man of infamy, with the dread of the modern mob boss. The scenes in which characters await his arrival are the most filled with fear and trepidation. As each suspected betrayer is gunned down, weeping and begging for mercy, the two Ford brothers become more and more nervous that James will discover their involvement with the authorities. One scene in particular shows Pitt slowly stirring his coffee, reading the newspaper, which everyone knows full well to be incriminating. The camera shows his hand stop stirring, then running his finger down the lines of print, leaving us in an agony of suspense.

The entire movie is told in bits of suspended anticipation and in character contemplation. In spite of it's length (two hours and 40 minutes), the movie keeps an appropriate pace, revealing each rich suspenseful moment, beat by beat. Pitt is wonderful as the icy cold James, someone you don't want visiting you in the middle of the night, someone with eyes in the back of his head. And Affleck outdoes himself as the nervous hero worshipper, forced to betray his idol, never making eye contact and justifying his cowardice for the rest of his short life. Sam Rockwell is also good as his brother Charley Ford and Sam Shepard makes a commanding appearance as Frank James. Every actor turns in a profound performance, from Paul Schneider and Jeremy Renner (the two initial Judas Iscariots) to Mary Louise Parker (as Jesse's wife Zee) and Zooey Deschanel (Ford's lover).

By the time we reach the final scene, where Jesse goes to hang a picture and Ford shoots him in the back, we've come to know these characters, for better or for worse. Although most of us know the history and expect the outcome, we still feel a pang for a fallen legend, deeply flawed though he might be. Perhaps, as is hinted in the movie, Jesse was ready for his execution, having wearied of his own inner conflict. And it is an unexpected bonus to be able to get to know Ford, so often painted as a cowardly villain, who may have been just as human as the rest of us.

The movie is ultimately about death, both that of James and Ford, one somber, yet exploited, the other virtually forgotten almost the moment it happens. It is also about vilifying and idolizing the wrong kind of hero. It is also much more than your standard western and a movie you will have a hard time letting go of.

The Book:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Film:

Directed by Andrew Dominik
Produced by Ridley Scott
(Executive Producer)

Jules Daly
Brad Pitt
Dede Gardner
David Valdes

Novel by:
Ron Hansen
Screenplay by:
Andrew Dominik


Brad Pitt
(Jesse James)
September 5, 1847April 3, 1882
Casey Affleck
(Robert Ford)

Mary-Louise Parker
(Zee James)
Sam Shepard
(Frank James)
Sam Rockwell
(Charley Ford)
Paul Schenider
(Dick Liddel)
Jeremy Renner
(Wood Hite)
Zooey Deschanel
(Dorothy Evans)

Music by Nick Cave
Warren Ellis
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Dylan Tichenor
Michael Kahn
Read more!


1408 by Stephen King
a kate west review

The short story "1408" by Stephen King (in his collection "Everything's Eventual") is possibly one of the scariest stories ever written. The recent movie with John Cusack is not at all the scariest horror film. Or even close.

The only similarities are that Mike Enslin (John Cusack), a writer specializing in the supernatural, insists on staying in Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, a notorious haunted room. And that he thinks he's seen it all, and has the jaded cynicism of a once-profound writer to prove it, one who's now reduced to base sensationalism. The hotel manager (Samuel Jackson) tires vainly to dissuade him. The movie then deviates into a self-indulgent personal tragic loss for the main character and much of what happens in Room 1408 really does appear to be in his head. And it's not very interesting. So enough about the movie.

The original story on the other hand, is a creepy, bone-chilling account of a truly evil room. It's not haunted, it's evil, and whoever stays there, or even cleans there, is always in danger of going mad. The cleaning women get headaches, the past tenants commit suicide and God knows what else happens behind that sinister door. Do adding up the numbers spell thirteen? You bet they do. The written imagery is startlingly descriptive and eerie and you want to scream for Mike to get the hell out of there before his mind goes, which starts to happen surprisingly fast. Strangely foreign guttural tones over the telephone, slimy bed covers, moving walls and bad people in paintings flow together in a confused jumble, adding to the discordance. It really is a hell of a room.

Stephen King is truly a master storyteller, prolific in the deepest sense of the horror genre. No one else can be as accessible as he can, while at the same time going to a complete grotesque extreme. And he creates clearly relatable characters, a refined technique over several decades. This is one of his finest, close to "The Mist" or even some of his longer novels. So if you haven't given him a try, and enjoy a good read, get started now. But leave on the lights.

Directed by Mikael Håfström
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura

Written by Scott Alexander
Matt Greenberg
Larry Karaszewski (writer)
Stephen King (short story)


John Cusack
(Mike Enslin)
Samuel L. Jackson
Mary McCormack
Jasmine Jessica Anthony
Tony Shalhoub

Music by Gabriel Yared
Cinematography Benoît Delhomme

The Short Story Collection:
Everything's Eventual : 14 Dark Tales

Read more!

John Steinbeck & Jack London vs. Charles Dickens & Charlotte Brontë

a kate west reflection

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas ( above.

I know that everyone is crazy about Jane Austen these days, as well they should be. She's a classic and an astute, if sometimes strict, observer of human nature. Yet, while my mind absolutely accepts this, my heart belongs elsewhere. The romantic part of me wants the sweeping drama of the mating ritual and that whole dramatic dance. Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" provides this for me. Not that Austen isn't romantic. Of course she is. But her novels can be more intellectual and passionate, while at the same time giving us social messages. She's not everyone's cup of tea; Mark Twain disparaged her, but he was a cantankerous old man. Brilliant writers often are.

Personally, sometimes I just want to escape (not that Brontë can't be deep, relax). Mr. Rochester seems more mysterious than Mr. Darcy and seemingly unattainable, making him all the more desirable. And I'm a sucker for happy endings. Then there's Charles Dickens. "Oliver Twist" is definitely a real depiction of the harshness of old English orphanages, but it does end well for the main character. Many people make fun of me for this, but "A Tale of Two Cities" is one of my favorite novels. I know it's a soap opera, with one ridiculous coincidence after another, but it speaks to me. Sydney Carton's heroic sacrifice gets me every time. The background of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror helps this story considerably, along with such rich characters like the brooding Madame Defarge, who keeps knitting aristocratic destruction while the streets run red with blood. Great stuff.

More realistic are the novels by Jack London and John Steinbeck, taken from both authors' real life experiences of Alaskan sled dogging in London's case and from the migrant workers Steinbeck grew up around in California. These novels are considered romantic because they depict small lives on a grand scale. The common man made poetic. London painted a vivid picture of man surviving in nature by befriending loyal dogs and understanding wolves. Men in such harsh winter climates needed to make these alliances; the resulting relationships satisfied both. Steinbeck made more of a social statement by showing us the inner lives of men who worked with their hands. He even wrote about his own journey traveling across America with his ferocious poodle Charley. Everyone reads these novels in school, but re-reading them as an adult causes you to appreciate their nuances even more. At least I think that's why I continue to be drawn to them.

The point is, literature (and film and art) is subjective. We like what we like. And we find romance where we can, since real life won't always give us what we want. And sometimes, even real life in fiction, even tragedy in books, seems more appealing than what we see at home. Or is it that these authors give us a clearer sense of life around us, which is really the most romantic thing of all.

Fun Reads:
Travels with Charley in Search of America: (Centennial Edition)

The Call of the Wild (Aladdin Classics)

Jane Eyre (Dover Thrift Editions)

A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics) Read more!