Friday, June 29, 2012

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter

Owyn here again! Nice seeing y'all. Along with my other blogs, every Friday I am going to post a blog stating my opinions about books and their movies, like which was my favorite, most noticeable differences and what I generally thought about them both. Today I figured that if you're going to write a blogpost about well-known book-to-movie adaptations, you might as well start with Harry Potter.

Let me begin with saying that I did not have a conventional upbringing with the Harry Potter books and movies. Growing up, I saw the first four movies, without reading the books because there was either an extenuating circumstance or I just plain haggled with my parents to do it for next book (which I ended up not doing). By the time the fifth book was being adapted, my parents put their foot down and made me read Order of the Phoenix and threatened my right to watch the movie.

Too in love with the movie franchise to protest vehemently, I followed along and read the book.

And Fell. In. Love.

I thought that JK Rowling was AMAZING. She wrote in such a fantastic way that I was physically envious that she had such a talent. Before my parents could congratulate me for following through, I got my hands on the sixth book and eventually the seventh after prying it from my parents' claws. Deciding to no longer miss out on the experience, I proceeded to read books 1-4 as well, along with watching the rest of the movie franchise. 

Main Differences that I noticed:
  • That weird female elf Winky wasn't in the fourth movie.
  • In the first movie, they left out two of the five "protections" for the Philosopher's stone in the book. (Those vines and the chessboard were of the three that they saved, and they cut out Snape's potions, for example)

  • The characters look different than what was described. For example Hermione's teeth in the book were big and they were near perfect in the movie. 
(I know there are more but these are the few that stand out to me. Feel free to leave any comments about some of the differences you noticed)

My Eccentricities About the Book(s) and Movie(s):
  • My favorite movie was my least favorite book. (Goblet of Fire)
  • My most favorite book was my least favorite movie. (Order of the Phoenix)
  • I suppose these are because the movies skewed my view of the books. I loved the fourth movie, but I had a tough time with the fourth book and I loved the fifth book and hated the fifth movie. 
Do I prefer the books or the movies?:
Ultimately, I have to say the movies, for two reasons. First, when you watch the movies before you read the books you already now how to visualize things and what's going to happen. It takes away a lot of the magic that you get from reading the books without that influence. Second, and even though I think the books are fantastic, the descriptions were a bit too long for me. But that's personal; I prefer dialogue (which the books and movies did a great job capturing).

I know that people have a lot of different opinions about this- let me know what you think in the comments! See you next time! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Predict Casting: Shiver

Hi, I'm the BBS intern Owyn, and I have been commissioned to do a couple blogposts every week. For Thursdays, I am going to "predict cast" who I want to be in the films that will be based off books. 
*DISCLAIMER: These are just my opinions. If you have better ideas feel free to comment*

For my first book/movie, I'm doing Shiver by Maggie Steifvater. 

SUMMARY: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf — her wolf — is a chilling presence she cannot seem to live without. Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It is her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human — or risk losing himself and Grace forever.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and I was excited when I found out that the movie will come out in 2014. Since they haven't cast anyone yet, I decided to have some fun and give some ideas for the cast. 

So here's my Cast List:
Grace Brisbane: Chloe Grace Moretz. I chose Chloe because she naturally fits the characters physical description and I think she could accurately portray a girl in love with a werewolf. 
Sam Roth: Logan Lerman. I chose Logan because, besides the effects of his hotness (and you need a hot werewolf) he also fits the physical description and I believe he will be a better werewolf than Taylor Lautner. 
Isabel Culpeper: Dakota Fanning. Besides the fact that they share the same looks, I think that Dakota could capture the icy air that Isabel naturally has and I don't think a lot of actresses can. 
Cole St. Clair: Josh Hutcherson. Since his popularity seems to be soaring right now and he shares the same physical attributes (and I think he'd be a great werewolf), I think Josh would be a great Cole.
Shelby: Evanna Lynch. I loved Luna Lovegood, and I would love to see Evanna make the change from wizard to werewolf for her new career outside the Harry Potter genre. 
Rachel Vega: Sarah Hyland. Okay, she doesn't *exactly* match the description, but I think she could play Rachel, the sweet friend who aids the main couple and give her a chance to break her archetype. 
Olivia Marx: Willa Holland. I like the werewolf feel that Willa has. I am not sure whether or not that is a compliment.  
Geoffrey Beck: Ron Howard. I think a famous older name like Ron will bring in more adults to the cinemas. And he could direct it! 

Feel free to leave suggestions! See you next week!

Friday, June 22, 2012

BBS Employee Interviews

Hi! I'm Owyn, the new summer marketing intern at the Boulder Book Store. One of my assignments over the past two weeks was to interview the many amazing employees at the store. I decided to ask five questions to each of the employees and see what they have to say.
 The Three Musketeers

1. What is your favorite book?
"Every single Harry Potter book"-- Bekah
"Lolita"-- Leandro
"Gone with the Wind"-- Ellen
"Lord of the Rings"-- Jorden
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"-- Audra

2. Why did you want to work here?
(collective answer) "I love books"

3. What is a funny memory that happened here?
"When a bookseller got locked in the bathroom"-- Mandy
"When the final Harry Potter book was released. Everything was so secretive and we had to sign all these affidavits."-- Stephanie
"Buster (another employee) dressed up as Hagrid for Halloween. I thought he was a homeless person."-- Harry
"When Chelsea Handler was here, 50 short blonde women went to the bar across the street, got plastered and came back for the event."-- Tara
"I hosted an event for Christian Lander and I got to talk to him before it."--Helen
"Having to ask a crazy man to leave after he kept screaming in 'German' (not really) about this tragedy he had written on a pizza box"-- Scott
"Found a penny from 1803. It's not that funny, but it is awesome."-- Leandro
"All are so funny"-- Laina

4. What are you reading now?
"Here's looking at Euclid"-- Scott
"Henry the IV Part Two. Willingly!"-- Jorden
"Bring up the Bodies"-- Laina
"The Lotus Eaters"--Ellen
"Full Body Burden"-- Christine
"Allison Hewitt is Trapped. It's set in a bookstore!"-- Larry

5. What is the least enjoyable book you've ever read?
"Would never read 50 Shades of Grey"-- Ellen
"Eragon"-- Jorden
"The Awakening"-- Scott
"There are some that I just avoid due to common sense"-- Laina
"Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson"-- Christine
"Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"-- Bekah

I had an amazing time interviewing all of the employees here. Such a great experience!
Owyn Cooper

Friday, June 15, 2012

Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats: An Interview with Kristen Iversen

We live in an "information age" of smartphones, laptops, facebook, and the twitterverse constantly updating us, keeping everyone abreast of the recent developments of the last ten seconds. So to us, it seems impossible that, throughout the operation of the Rocky Flats plant, the citizens living outside Arvada had no idea what went on there.

In Full Body Burden, Kristen Iversen provides a glimpse of how this was possible, and gives faces to the human beings who were affected by the plant. I had a chance to ask Kristen a few questions about her new book.

Boulder Book Store: When I first started reading Full Body Burden, I was struck by how much happened in the first chapter. It really set the tone for the rest of the book when what would be a climax in most books happened twice in the first twenty or so pages of your 350 page book. Why did you choose to structure things that way?

Kristen: I felt that the most important aspect of this book, right from the start, was the connection between the personal and the political.  By that I mean the intimate and devastating connection between U.S. nuclear weapons policy and the story of my family and my neighbors, and how we all paid a heavy price for secrecy and silencing.  I knew I wanted to open the story with the 1969 fire, but I also wanted the reader to understand that this wasn’t just an industrial fire at a factory—this was a terrible accident that had consequences in the community and in people’s personal lives.  On Sunday, June 11, 1969, my family was having Mother’s Day brunch.  We didn’t know there was a radioactive cloud moving over our heads.  But the reader knows.  I also wanted to establish the two firefighters, Stan Skinger and Bill Dennison, as very real characters.  What were they thinking, what were they feeling?  Those guys risked their lives to save Denver.  These opening scenes set the stage for the rest of the book, for the movement between the story of Rocky Flats and U.S. nuclear weapons policy during and after the Cold War, and the stories of people whose lives were impacted by those policies—local residents, Rocky Flats workers, and activists.

BBS: One thing I found particularly interesting (from a literary standpoint) with your telling of the story is the part that water plays. Archetypally/customarily, water symbolizes purity and cleansing, but every time you mentioned water in Full Body Burden, it felt ominous and discomforting. Can you elaborate on that?

K: Water sustains life.  It is the lifeblood of the land, of the community, of the human body.  In literature, as you mention, it often represents rebirth, cleansing, and a renewal of life or spiritual rebirth.  When I was growing up, like other kids in the neighborhood my siblings and I swam in the lake and floated on rafts down the canals around Rocky Flats.  For us, water represented playfulness and freedom.  But the water was not pure.  Plutonium is a heavy metal, and it settled into the sediment of the lake.  It was in the mud and the sand.  Things were not as they appeared.  The water contained invisible danger and threat.  Tamara Meza’s family drank water from a well that was fed by Standley Lake, and the water was supposed to sustain the family and also their animals and garden.  They paid a price for depending on that water.  Water meant something entirely different to the firefighters at Rocky Flats.  To use water on a plutonium fire, which the firefighters often had to do, meant risking a fatal criticality (nuclear chain reaction).

What happens in this story is a subversion of water as a symbol of purity.  When a government or corporation allows the water supply of a community to become contaminated, it strikes at the very heart of that community.

BBS: I love how beautifully written many of the passages are, and how particular you are with the language. For example, one point where you’re describing your mother: “I love the way she says, ‘I gave up everything for you kids,’ or ‘I would do anything for you kids.’ She is a displaced queen, unseated, usurped, somehow denied what the world promised her, always waiting for her ship to come in. I love the way she tells me I’m her best friend…I hate the way my mother simmers with fear. The way she keeps up appearances and covers things up. The way she slips off to her room at any sign of trouble and lies on the bed with her eyes closed, saying prayers to herself. The way she says, ‘I gave up everything for you kids. Everything.’” I’m just selecting the part about your mother, but that whole section really demonstrates your precision with language, how the tone and meaning change with the same words. It’s great! And the way you use language combined with the material you’re discussing makes Full Body Burden a very powerful, moving book. I nearly cried in public on the bus several times, and that does not happen to me often.

K: I think the challenge of writing creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction is that you have to balance fact and art.  That is, the language is just as important as the subject, and vice versa.  You have to stay true to the facts, and facts matter—especially in a story like this.  But art matters, too, and that’s what differentiates literary nonfiction from journalism and other forms of nonfiction writing where you’re not thinking so much about aesthetics.  You have to tell the story as fully, truthfully, and objectively as you can, but still write like a poet.  Or try to, at least.  The sound and rhythm of the language are just as important as the footnotes you’ve triple-checked along the way.

BBS: I think the quote you provide from Niels Bohr gets at the crux of the larger issue at hand: “I told you it couldn’t be done without turning the whole country into a factory…You have done just that.” To me, Rocky Flats seemed to start out simply as a defense operation. Then once health concerns were raised, keeping the plant open became an issue of sacrificing a few thousand Americans to “save” the whole country. And then from there, that morphed into a monetary liability versus a health liability (which, while the previous two are legitimate debatable ethics, this is where it seemed that the lines were clearly drawn and then crossed). Is that your understanding as well? Do you think these issues were a product of the different times/era? Or is something else at play?

K: Bohr was right.  He, like many other scientists and physicists associated with the Manhattan Project, including Robert Oppenheimer, came to regret or certainly have very mixed feelings about what had been unleashed upon the world.

The AEC was aware of many of the dangers of processing plutonium and the production of nuclear weapons from very early on, as well as the effect that this might have on human health.  In the 1940s, the government injected 18 people with plutonium (without their knowledge) to test its effect.  Beginning in the early 1970s, beagles were used for studies to determine the biological consequences of inhaled, ingested, and injected plutonium, and what that might mean for human tolerance of plutonium.  Neither the human nor animal subjects in these experiments fared well.

Nuclear weapons facilities were initially exempted from environmental law and regulation, and private corporations like Dow and Rockwell were (and are) largely indemnified from nuclear accidents or incidents.  The production of plutonium pits was the number one priority, and everything was hidden behind the veil of Cold War secrecy.  A great deal of money was—and still is—at stake, and these companies operated on a cost-plus basis.  The cultural and environmental cost of our nuclear weapons program—a price that includes the health of workers and local citizens—was there from the beginning, but it took a long time to come to light.  I hope that Full Body Burden might help us more fully understand the history of Rocky Flats and what it represents not only for the state of Colorado but for our country as a whole.

BBS: Another strong theme is “The government would tell us if Rocky Flats was unsafe” with this complete trust in the government. I don’t believe I’ve grown up during a time where the larger American populous had such parental trust in the government (I was born in 1985, Reagan era). Does Rocky Flats play a part in that? But even with today’s sort of rampant distrust, it’s still hard for me to imagine how much was covered up and how harmful it was to the population. Admittedly, some of it was unknown, but the things that were clearly dangerous – the tests that were done -- it’s quite remarkable and very chilling that they continued to cover it all up.

K: There were a number of reasons why people didn’t ask too many questions about Rocky Flats, especially in the beginning.  The Soviet threat seemed very real to people like my parents, and they thought the government was keeping us safe.  “Better dead than red” was a phrase I heard more than once.  Rocky Flats was also one of the best jobs in town.  When families are dependent upon a factory for their livelihoods—to pay for mortgages and food and everything else--and workers are told that their jobs depend upon their ability to keep a secret, they keep secrets.  Many workers thought they were doing the right thing for their families, and doing the right thing for the security of the nation during a time of threat.

But the most important point is that we just didn’t know.  No one really knew what was going on at Rocky Flats, and we certainly didn’t know about environmental contamination or potential health effects.  Even now, it’s hard for many residents to hear about what happened at Rocky Flats.  They worry about their property values.  They worry about their health.  They worry about their children. 

I believe we’re all, to a certain extent, complicit in the cover-up about Rocky Flats.  Homebuilders want to build houses.  City planners want to build highways and shopping malls.  People want to get on with their lives.  I think many people would like to believe that if we just don’t talk about Rocky Flats, don’t put signs up out there, and pretend the whole thing never happened, it will eventually go away.  But plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years.  Even if the land looks pristine, even if we put a shopping mall on top of it, it is not pristine.  It is not safe.  The story must not be forgotten.

BBS: Why do you think your book is the first major publication about Rocky Flats? It closed twenty years ago and I’m surprised there haven’t been several books written since then. I understand you’ve been working on your book for ten years because of the amount of research you put into it. Is that because there was so much to sort through? Was it difficult to find people willing/able to talk to you about it?

K: It took me a long time to write this book.  The research was almost overwhelming.  I have enough boxes of research to make a library!  Just getting my mind around the project was a huge undertaking.  I had practical considerations as well.  For much of that time I was a single parent, and I was also teaching full-time at the university. I completed the final stages of the book during two month-long residencies with Colorado Art Ranch, for which I am very grateful.  One of the great surprises during my research was to discover that people were not only willing to talk to me, but grateful for the opportunity.  There are so many people whose lives were affected by Rocky Flats.  They want to tell their stories.

My book is not the first book about Rocky Flats.  There are several others worthy of note.  Len Ackland, who teaches at the University of Colorado, wrote Making a Real Killing: Rocky Flats and the Nuclear West, which is a very solid look at the history of the plant.  The Ambushed Grand Jury: How the Justice Department Covered Up Government Nuclear Crimes and How We Caught Them Red Handed, by Caron Balkany, Esq. and Wes McKinley (foreman for the Rocky Flats grand jury), is a fascinating look at the grand jury investigation.  Making the Impossible Possible, by Kim Cameron and Marc Lavine, tells the story of the management of Rocky Flats during the controversial cleanup.  There are a couple of good films about Rocky Flats as well, including Dark Circle and Rocky Flats: Legacy.

Full Body Burden, though, brings a very different approach and perspective to the story of Rocky Flats.  And I wanted the book to be highly readable; to read almost like a novel, even though the book is heavily footnoted.  

BBS: How do you feel/What do you think about the Rocky Flats Museum they’re talking about opening? Are you involved with that project in any way?

K: I think it’s very, very important to have a museum that tells the story of Rocky Flats and the history of the Cold War and post-Cold War years, not only for Colorado and the West but for the country as a whole.  We must not let Rocky Flats be forgotten.  My hope is that eventually we will have a museum that tells the story in all its complexities, with the richness and accuracy that it deserves, and not fall too readily into the realm of blind patriotism or polarized dissent.

You can hear Kristen Iversen speak about and sign Full Body Burden on Monday, June 18th at 7:30pm at Unity Church. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance and over the phone from Boulder Book Store or at the door day-of.