Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Movie Diary January-February 2007

Along about the middle of February, I decided to start a movie diary similar to my reading diary. Since I started late, I know I've missed a few. As with the books, this represents January and February; hereafter, I'll post monthly.

Movies seen for the first time are indicated in green.

  1. Children of Men (2006), Alfonso Cuaron. Well done, very moving. Don't know why they bothered to cast Julianne Moore, though, since she's onscreen for about 5 minutes.
  2. Shane (1953), George Stevens. See post Jan 31, 2007.
  3. Trouble in Paradise (1932), Ernst Lubitsch. Exquisite, funny, erotic masterpiece. A must-see, if only for the clothes and art deco everything.
  4. The Big Store (1941), Charles Reisner. Marx Brothers short. Some funny bits.
  5. Room Service (1938), William A. Reiter. Who knew the Marx Brothers could be so dull? Didn't bother to finish. Interesting early appearances by Lucille Ball and Ann Miller.
  6. Stage Door (1937), Gregory LaCava. A true classic. Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers shine.
  7. Shall We Dance? (1937), Mark Sandrich. Delightful Astaire/Rogers musical.
  8. Marked Woman (1937), Lloyd Bacon. Bette Davis burns up the screen. Humphrey Bogart, not so much.
  9. Alice Adams (1935), George Stevens. A rare Katharine Hepburn vehicle in which she's not humiliated for her independence. Scene in which the family entertains her beau too painful to watch. Hard to take Fred MacMurray seriously as a romantic lead, though. Also hard to feel sorry for the family's poverty with their houseful of Stickley furniture and art nouveau vases. Obvious tacked-on happy ending.
  10. Detective Story (1953), William Wyler. Saw about half an hour of this. Thoroughly unpleasant.
  11. The Big Country (1958), William Wyler. Enjoyably hokey grand-scale Western with everybody chewing up the impressive scenery. Even Gregory Peck shows signs of animation for once. Burl Ives won deserved Oscar.
  12. Jezebel (1938), William Wyler. One of my favorite movies. Nearly flawless (aside from a little casual racism).
  13. Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Howard Hawks. Odd but affecting movie about pilots. Exciting in places. Cary Grant sizzles. Although Hawks said it was based on his real-life experiences, very similar to a Clark Gable picture called Night Flight (1933, Clarence Brown), from a novel by Saint-Exupery.
  14. You Can't Take It With You (1938), Frank Capra. Daffy fun.
  15. If You Could Only Cook (1935), William A. Seiter. Predictable but enjoyable.
  16. The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936), Stephen Roberts. Screwball comedy trying to muscle in on Thin Man territory. Deservedly obscure.
  17. More Than a Secretary (1936), Alfred E. Green. Not great, but with an interesting feminist twist. Dowdy secretarial school owner (played of course by the beautiful Jean Arthur) transforms failing magazine, rises to associate editor; hero chooses her over glamorous bimbo.
  18. The Harvey Girls (1946), George Sidney. The usual stupid story, redeemed by great performances from Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury and some terrific songs, including the well-known "Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe."
  19. Random Harvest (1942), Mervyn LeRoy. Complete four-hanky job. The scene where Ronald Colman asks Greer Garson to marry him, not knowing they're already married, gets me every time.
  20. Jane Eyre (2007), Masterpiece Theater. Adequate production, lacking the necessary passion and scope of the book.
  21. Ruby in the Smoke (2007), Masterpiece Theater. Very blah. Weird color-blind casting; a black clergyman in Victorian England?
  22. Breach (2007), Billy Ray. See post Feb 19.
  23. The Glenn Miller Story (1953), Anthony Mann. I've seen this unconvincing biopic a surprising number of times considering how much I dislike it. June Allyson is terminally perky.
  24. Blue Skies (1946), Stuart Heisler. Not even Fred Astaire can put pep in the step of this leaden musical.
  25. Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005), Stephen Frears. Great credits, great clothes, and a few funny bits, but not really much to it. Is this really what Frears thought he'd be doing after My Beautiful Laundrette?
  26. Infamous (2006), Douglas McGrath. Very disappointing. Mines the same vein as Capote but hits much less ore. It does do a better job of conveying Capote's celebrity/socialite status and what drew him to the story; has some fun contributions from Juliet Stevenson, Sigourney Weaver, and Hope Davis. Daniel Craig is terrible as the killer Perry Smith.
  27. The Train (1964), John Frankenheimer. Stripped-down, unsentimental drama about French railway workers saving a trainload of stolen masterpieces from the Nazis. Has anyone ever been more manly than Burt Lancaster?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reading Diary January-February 2007

I've often wished I had kept a record of what I read, so this year I'm finally doing it. I was going to publish the whole list at the end of the year, but it was getting kind of long so I've decided to break it up. This list is for January and February; from now on, I'll post monthly.

Books read online are in green.

  1. Sacred Cows, Karen E. Olsen. Fair. Interesting background set in Providence. Heroine too prickly and unlikeable.
  2. Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan. Oy, when will it be over? Another installment without much happening, although they finally figure out what happened to Moiraine.
  3. Children of England, Alison Weir. Boring; had to plow my way through. Gave me some info I didn't know, however.
  4. Lord Byron's Novel, John Crowley. Beautifully crafted but ultimately unsatisfying. The stuff purportedly written by Ada is the least convincing.
  5. Daemonomania, John Crowley. As always, beautifully written, but doesn't seem to advance the story much. What is the point of Bobby Shaftoe and the many, many repetitions of the war between witches and werewolves?
  6. Pattern Recognition, William Gibson. Another wild but inconclusive ride from Gibson.
  7. The Tomb, F. Paul Wilson. Fun read. Repairman Jack is a great character. Plan to look up more of the series.
  8. One Corpse Too Many, Ellis Peters. Rereading my way through the classic Brother Cadfael mysteries.
  9. Monk's-Hood, Ellis Peters.
  10. St. Peter's Fair, Ellis Peters.
  11. The Leper of St. Giles, Ellis Peters.
  12. The Virgin in the Ice, Ellis Peters. One of the best in the series.
  13. The Sanctuary Sparrow, Ellis Peters.
  14. A Grave Mistake, Stella Cameron. Dreadful. Only finished because I was too stubborn to give up. Unbelievable hero, stupid heroine, both completely lacking communication skills. Usual cast of "colorful" small-town characters. Mystery solved by witness ex machina.
  15. High Heels Are Murder, Elaine Viets. Ho-hum.
  16. WebMage, Kelly McCullough. Flawed but promising.
  17. The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library, Alice Kimberly. Apparently the author doesn't believe in spelling, grammar, or historical accuracy.
  18. The Young Widow, Cassandra Chan. OK. Bethancourt is no Lord Peter Wimsey.
  19. Cold and Pure and Very Dead, Joanne Dobson. Reread.
  20. The Skewed Throne, Joshua Palmatier. Interesting, somewhat predictable.
  21. Other People's Children, Joanna Trollope. Touching, with a large cast of well-drawn characters.
  22. Mona in the Promised Land, Gish Jen. Pretty funny with some very sharp writing. Tedious subplot about cook and his black power friends. Final conflict between Mona and her mother seems to come out nowhere, but nice bittersweet resolution.
  23. Immaculate Midnight, Ellen Hart. Ugh. Neither plot or subplots wrapped up -- loose ends or set-up for another in this ongoing series? Heroine and her brother act so stupidly it's hard to care about them.
  24. The Devil's Door, Sharan Newman. Forgot I'd read this already, but it was worth going back to. I also have another in the series. May have to look up the others at some point. Well researched but not overbearing, Catherine and Edgar are fun characters.
  25. The Difficult Saint, Sharan Newman. Worth rereading. Not much suspense if you already know what Cathars are.
  26. Crown of Stars, Kate Elliott. A mostly satisfying conclusion to this epic series.
  27. Fifty Degrees Below, Kim Stanley Robinson. See post Feb 13, 2007.
  28. The Water Devil, Judith Merkle Riley. Disappointing. Flashes of Riley's characteristic humor and erudition, but a weak plot and unconvincing villain. I love Riley's amused and tolerant God, however.
  29. Pagan Babies, Elmore Leonard. Fast-paced and fun, with the usual Leonard line-up of mobsters, ex-cons, lunkheads, and misfits.
  30. Powers of Detection, Dana Stabenow, ed. I always like these theme collections in theory, but they never really live up to expectations. Even the story by Sharon Shinn is kind of a snooze.
  31. Slow and Sure, or From the Street to the Shop, Horatio Alger. Continuing adventures of Paul Hoffman of Paul the Peddler. As usual, supplies fascinating details of life on the streets in New York and the economics of the period. Google online edition marred by truly heinous scanning.
  32. Jack's Ward, or The Boy Guardian, Horatio Alger. Counterfeiting and mysterious foundlings. Not as compelling as his up-from-poverty stories.
  33. Harrowing the Dragon, Patricia A. McKillip. Collected short stories. Magical and beautiful as always.
  34. Risen from the Ranks, or Harry Walton's Success, Horatio Alger. Sequel to Bound to Rise. Fewer unlikely coincidences and strokes of fortune than usual; hero is still able to borrow money from an old boss at an opportune time.
  35. Od Magic, Patricia A. McKillip. Beautiful and enchanting as always, but a little on the thin side. Distinctly anticlimactic ending.
  36. Singer of Souls, Adam Stemple. Good concept, horrible ending.
  37. Joe's Luck, or Always Wide Awake, Horatio Alger. At least in this one Alger is upfront about the incredible luck that underlies the hero's success. Somewhat interesting because it actually follows the hero out west, but still less fascinating than his New York stories.
  38. Cursed in the Blood, Sharan Newman. Another in the Catherine LeVendeur series. Some interesting history and a few touching moments. Not so much mystery.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I don't actually get out to the movies very often, but it so happens that once again I was in Manhattan with my sister and we decided to go. Breach is the story of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold secrets to the Russians, and Eric O'Neill, the rookie who takes him down. I enjoyed the film, although it lacks the nail-biting suspense and cat-and-mouse drama I was hoping for.

Chris Cooper is outstanding as the brilliant, mercurial Hanssen, changing from avuncular to vicious in the blink of an eye. The movie perfectly captures Hanssen's seething bitterness at the Bureau's failure to recognize his genius. But although it hints at the pervert lying under his veneer of ultra-Catholic dogmatism, it never tries to show why Hanssen, a convert, would so wholeheartedly embrace a religion that would automatically define his sexual needs as deviant.

I had never paid much notice to Ryan Phillippe before, but he's definitely got my attention now. Not so much for his performance, which was believable if not inspired. What do they call that little indentation above a person's upper lip? His is beautifully shaped; I kept wanting to put my finger right there. (TMI? So be it.) The real Eric O'Neill was a consultant on this film, so it's no surprise that he comes off as a little too good to be true. Phillippe does have a couple of fine scenes, including one with Bruce Davison as his father, and a climactic showdown with Hanssen, where he shows he knows the older man well enough to push all his buttons.

Laura Linney is also fine in a small but crucial part as the agent running the investigation (she has a few of the best lines). More puzzling is the casting of such well-known faces as Davison, Gary Cole, and Denis Haysbert in roles that are little more than extended cameos.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Screaming Memes: The Movie Version

I've been thinking of a list of movie lists that parallels the book lists I posted earlier. If you like it, put your own answers on your site and let me know. Maybe I'll have started a meme of my own!

I Paid 10 Bucks for That?: Worst Movies You Saw in a Theater
Mission: Impossible
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Jerry Maguire
Mrs. Doubtfire

Honey, Is There Something Else On?: Worst Movies You Rented/Saw on TV
Ruby in Paradise
Some Came Running
Friends With Money
Driving Miss Daisy
South Pacific

Bad Movies You've Seen More Than Once
That Touch of Mink
Funny Face
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Funny Girl
Imitation of Life
Butterfield 8

Movies You Hated That Everyone Else Loved
The English Patient
Pretty Woman
The Producers
Sleepless in Seattle

Movies You've Lost Track of How Many Times You've Seen
The Maltese Falcon
The Big Sleep
Now, Voyager
North by Northwest

Movies That Didn't Need Remakes
The In-Laws
101 Dalmatians
The Manchurian Candidate

Movies That Didn't Need Sequels
Jurassic Park
The Pink Panther (Although A Shot in the Dark was funny)

It's in My Queue: Movies You've Somehow Never Gotten Around to Seeing
Midnight Cowboy
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Taxi Driver
A Clockwork Orange

Movies You Refuse to See No Matter How Many People Say You Should
Harold and Maude
Silence of the Lambs
The Shawshank Redemption

Movies You've Never Been Able to Watch No Matter How Many Times You've Tried
Father of the Bride
The Producers
The Lost Weekend
The Odd Couple
Arsenic and Old Lace

Movies Where You've Fallen in Love With/Wanted to Have Sex With at Least One Character
My Brilliant Career
The Big Easy
The Big Sleep
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Star Wars

Movies Where You've Wanted to Adopt at Least One Character
The Wizard of Oz

Is It Over Yet?: Movies Where You Had to Close Your Eyes More Than Once
The Shining
An American Werewolf in London
The Birds

Four-Hanky Jobs: Movies That Make You Cry Like a Baby
Random Harvest
Terms of Endearment
Now, Voyager
The Way We Were
Dark Victory

Surely You're Not Serious: Funniest Movies Ever Made
Duck Soup
The In-Laws
Bringing Up Baby
Animal House
A Fish Called Wanda
Young Frankenstein
Some Like It Hot
This Is Spinal Tap

Movies Where You've Wanted to Slap the Hero(ine) Silly
West Side Story

What Does He See in Her?: Movies Where the Other Woman (or Man) Is Clearly So Much Better for the Hero(ine)
Gentlemen's Agreement

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Not Just Me and Baxter-Birney Anymore

We people with unusual names don't get much validation. When everybody else in 8th grade is buying souvenir license plates with Debbie and Susie on them, we're getting another lighthouse keychain. When we're in Spanish class, either we're stuck with some name that's a vague approximation of ours or we have to pick a random one. I've been known to buy horrible Harlequin romances just because they feature a heroine with my name.

So can I just say that characters named Meredith rule? There's actually two that I know of on TV right now. The first, of course, is Meredith Grey of Grey's Anatomy. She's kind of whiny and an apple a day is obviously more food than she's ever consumed, but she's also strong, loyal, and kind. And now there's Meredith Gordon, Claire's biomom, on Heroes. Sure, she's a liar and probably nine kinds of wrong, but dude. She can light things on fire. With her fingers.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

17 Things About Kim Stanley Robinson

I was a huge fan of Robinson's early work. The Orange County trilogy, three fully realized alternative futures, was brilliant; Escape from Kathmandu, about a yeti, hilarious; and his story "The Lucky Strike," about what would have happened if a WWII pilot had refused to drop the atom bomb, made me cry like few literary works before or since.

His later work I have not found so gripping. The Mars trilogy bored me beyond measure; it reminded me a lot of the kind of "Golden Age" science fiction that I find unreadable, full of vast gee-whiz techno events that mean nothing because the landscapes are populated with stick figures. The Years of Rice and Salt, a huge infodump masquerading as a novel, made me angry at the waste of such a fertile premise. The only segment of the book that breathes is the one about the Iranian scientist who prevents the development of the atom bomb (clearly a theme with him, or at least one I notice and respond to); now a book about that would have been worthwhile.

Anyway, all this is leading up to say that I approached his latest series on global warming with some trepidation. Forty Signs of Rain, the first book, displays some of his best and worst characteristics. It introduces a lively array of interesting and well-drawn characters: Anna Quibler, a National Science Foundation staffer who believes passionately in science as a force for good; her husband Charlie, science advisor to a popular senator, who likewise believes in the power of politics to enact change; Frank Vanderwhal, a temporary NSF appointee fleeing some bad personal and professional decisions, who views everything from a sociobiological perspective; and Drepung and Rudra Cakrin, representatives of the Buddhist nation of Khembalung, which is being threatened by rising sea levels. Robinson presents a great deal of information on climate change and its consequences, but it's so well integrated into the story that I rarely felt like I was being lectured.

The problem is that almost nothing happens. We learn a lot about the dynamics of raising a family in a two-income household, the inner workings of the NSF, and numerous other subjects, but again, none of it is meaningful because it has no real impact on events. Frank meets and kisses a mysterious woman in an elevator; later he sees her again. Wow. Exciting. Frank is run off the highway by a maniac in a fit of road rage; nothing ever comes of this. Even the massive setpiece at the end, with a hugely flooded Washington, DC, comes off like the special effects in Independence Day -- cool to look at but not emotionally involving.

I wasn't sure I would pick up Fifty Degrees Below, but I did, and on the whole I'm glad. The story finally begins to move forward. The NSF, spurred by an angry letter from Frank, is beginning to engage the problem of climatic change and actively direct a response, culminating in a worldwide effort to restart the Humboldt current. Frank connects with his mystery woman, a spook assigned to keep him under surveillance, who is in a bad marriage with a higher-powered and more dangerous spook. (She seems to be what she claims, but I can't help feeling she's bad news.) Charlie's boss runs for president on an environmental platform (he too seems to be for real, but may turn out to be bad news in the end). The Quiblers and Frank visit Khembalung, which is completely inundated when a chunk of the polar ice cap breaks off. And Charlie, who suspects that his younger son Joe is a reincarnated lama, asks Drepung to intervene, then is unsure he did the right thing.

The biggest problem I found with this book was lack of balance. The viewpoint in Forty Signs was well distributed between Anna, Charlie, and Frank, giving us a useful contrast of perspectives on events. In Fifty Degrees, a good 80 percent of the narrative belongs to Frank, who, as we come to learn, is not the healthiest person, mentally or physically. He is an interesting character, but I began to find him irritating and offputting. More of Anna's cool rationality would have been welcome.

Also, Robinson's emphasis on Buddhist teachings is becoming overdone and heavy-handed. I suspect that Rudra Cakrin's statement that "the animals don't love us anymore" is supposed to be a profound insight, but I just had to laugh. Please, don't beat us over the head with it. He handled the subject much more subtly in the first book.

Overall, however, I enjoyed the book, and I'm cautiously looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy, Sixty Days and Counting.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thanks for the Meme-ories

Well, I'm still a greenhorn here in Blogson City, so forgive me if I make a few newbie mistakes and take some time to figure out how to make the photos go where I want them to.

Anyway, so I just found out that the List of Lists and first Amazon order I talked about in my recent posts were memes. I could explain what memes are for the five other people in the world beside me who apparently are the only ones left who don't know, but I'd just be stealing from The Daily Meme, so I'll let them do it. Anyway, it seems that playing? passing on? participating in? memes is a Good Thing for a blogger to do, so I guess I break even on the whole deal.

While I'm on the subject, I've got a few updates for my List of Lists.

Parenting Books that Are Full of Shit
Since I don't have kids, I was going to take a pass on this one, but here's a contribution from my sister-in-law: "Babywearing by Mary Blois. Anyone who tries to 'wear' [my darling niece] is in for some cognitive restructuring. Pronto."

Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts
The evil overlord who has his lair/is trying to escape from his prison in the inaccessible mountains in the north
The character who learns a Valuable Life Lesson from an innocent child, a wise elder, or a puppy

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron
The Thomas Covenant books by Stephen R. Donaldson
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Gentlemen's Agreement, Laura Z. Hobson (not the hero but the love interest)
Middlemarch, George Eliot

Worst Book Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I'll Never Get Back
The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
Zulu Heart, Steven Barnes
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Wicked, Gregory Maguire

Books I Refused to Read for a Long Time Because Too Many (or the Wrong) People Recommended Them
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig

Best Book Titles of All Time
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Rats, Lice, and History, Hans Zinsser
The Nutmeg of Consolation, Patrick O'Brian
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better
Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton

Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier
Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
Ulysses, James Joyce

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, Will Cuppy
Anything else by Will Cuppy

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character
The Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich

Series You Used to Love but Have Now Given Up On
The SPQR books by John Maddox Roberts
The Goldy Schulz books by Diane Mott Davidson

And some new ones:

Books I Read About in Other Books
Lady Audley's Secret, M. E. Braddon

Books I Want to Read Because I Saw the Movie
Now, Voyager, Olive Higgins Prouty
The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
Alice Adams, Booth Tarkington
Gigi, Colette

Series You Wish the Author Would Just Finish Already
The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin
Alvin Maker, Orson Scott Card

Sequels You Wish Had Never Been Written
Tehanu, Ursula K. LeGuin
The Wanderer, Cherry Wilder and Katya Reiman
Metallic Love, Tanith Lee
Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov

Classics No One Forced Me to Read
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Bleak House, Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
All of Jane Austen

Books I Loved Even Though I Didn't Completely Understand Them
Little, Big, John Crowley
A Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
Anything by Patricia A. McKillip

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fun Games Part 2

So, when last we left our hero, I was talking about some fun things I found on 50 Books. This one is a great List of Lists of the sort any booklover can spend hours thinking about. I can't possibly get to these all today, but I'll hit a few and give you the pleasure of contemplating them for yourselves.

Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I'll Never Get Back
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Prep, Curtis Satterfield
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
A Grave Mistake, Stella Cameron
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind
The Spice Box, Lou Jane Temple

Books I Have Lied About Reading
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Books I Have Lied About Liking

Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better

Anne of Green Gables (PBS version)
The Hunt for Red October

My Brilliant Career

Books I Used to Love, of Which I Am Now Ashamed

Best Book Titles of All Time

Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier

My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly

Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read
Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust

Books I Refused to Read for a Long Time Because too Many (or the Wrong) People Recommended Them
The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian

Books I Read Only After Seeing the Movie
A Room with a View, E. M. Forster

Books I Most Often Try to Persuade Other People to Read

The Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin
The early Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters

Authors I Wish Had Written More Books Already
Patrick O'Brian
Teresa Edgerton
Robin McKinley
Dorothy L. Sayers

Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts

Books I Have Lied About Hating

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Plots Gone Wild

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron

Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On

Books I Lied About Reading/Liking Solely to Look Smart/Pretentious

Books I Wish I Hadn't Finished, or Worst. Ending. Ever.

Books I Read after Oprah Recommended Them

Books I Will Never Read Precisely Because Oprah Recommends Them

Literary Characters I've Developed Crushes On

Books I Only Read to Impress Other People

Books I Consider It My Duty as a Parent to Shield My Child from Reading

Books I've Caught My Husband Reading That Made Me Lose Respect for Him

Parenting Books That Are Full of Shit

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books

Books I Shouldn't Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby

Books I Only Read for the Title

Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read

Knee-Jerk Recommendations

Books People Keep Recommending That, Frankly, Sucked Ass

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

Books My Teacher Made Me read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Persuasion, Jane Austen
Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Books They Let Children Read for Reasons Passing Human Understanding

Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book

Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot

Books I've Read Aloud

Books I Use as a Booster Seat for My Child

Books I Love Even Though the Last Twenty Pages Made No Damn Sense

Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny
The Golden Bough, James Frazer
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

Books I Will Go to the Mattresses for, Even Though I Hate the Writer
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Books You Must Read Because You Must Mock

Worst How-To Books Ever

Books That Were on the 'To Be Read' List the Longest

Books I Hated Having to Read in School, But Love Now

Books Whose References Have Worked Their Way into My Household Lexicon
An Old-Fashioned Girl, Louisa May Alcott ("I am fwactious, and I must be amoosed.")

Books I've Never Read But Have Read the Cliffnotes Version

Books I've Read Because I Liked Their Cover Design/Font

Books Which, When It Comes Right Down to It, I Would Have No Problem Burning
Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes

Books I Pretend to Like So People Won't Think I'm a Snob, or Books I Pretend to Like So I Won't Hurt Your Feelings

Books with Covers So Embarrassing You Can't Read Them in Public

Books You Keep Checking out of the Library and Then Not Reading

Books That Gave You a Hangover

Books You Are Sorry You Didn't Read Decades Ago

And here's one of my own:

Series You Used to Love but Have Now Given Up On
The Leaphorn/Chee mysteries by Tony Hillerman
The Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters
The Emmy Hansen mysteries by Sarah Andrews
The Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry
The Dragonriders of Pern fantasies by Anne McCaffrey
The Xanth books by Piers Anthony

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh, Eddie

My sister and I saw Dreamgirls around New Year's. Eddie Murphy was truly, truly awesome. I could have watched him the whole time, and in fact my interest flagged considerably whenever he or Jennifer Hudson wasn't on screen. Sis and I agreed how wonderful it was to see Eddie in a role worthy of him rather than the crap that has marked so many of his movie appearances.

And then I saw the commercial for his new movie, Norbit. Back to the drag and the fatsuit and the lame sight gags.

Oh, Eddie. You're so much better than that.

Edited Feb 26 to add: Sad but not surprised Eddie didn't get his Oscar. Can't help imagining the Academy members got a look at the ads for Norbit and slapped their collective foreheads. "My God, what were we thinking, nominating a guy like that? Dude, Alan Arkin's old and he's never embarassed us; let's vote for him!"

Fun Games Part 1

While bouncing around the blogosphere, I came across 50 Books, a books-n-more blog by one Doppelganger, that contained a couple of fun book-related ideas.

The first is to reconstruct your very first order, which you can do (could you always, or is this new?) by signing into your account and viewing your complete order history sorted by year via the dropdown menu. As it turns out, mine was on October 18, 1996, and it consisted of the following:

Adventures in Fast Forward: Life, Love, and Work for the Add Adult, Kathleen G. Nadeau

Transforming Body Image: Learning to Love the Body You Have, Marcia Germaine Hutchinson

Somebody to Love: A Guide to Loving the Body You Have, Leslea Newman

The Invisible Woman: Confronting Weight Prejudice in America, W. Charisse Goodman

Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts, Anne Llewellyn Barstow

Plus Style: The Plus-Size Guide to Looking Great, Suzan Nanfeldt

The Oracle Glass, Judith Merkle Riley

Life Is Not a Dress Size: Rita Farro's Guide to Attitude, Style, and a New You, Rita Farro

Ah, 1996. I was so refreshingly naive about the Internet. We had just gotten our very first PCs at work (before that we used high-end Sun engineering workstations loaded with Interleaf desktop publishing software. *sigh* I still miss Interleaf). Practically the first thing I did after signing onto the phenomenon of the World Wide Web was to search (Yahoo, of course) for Books, and voila! up popped Amazon.

I didn't know it was new. I didn't know it was hot. I didn't know I should be worried about sending my credit card number over possibly unsecured circuits to perfect strangers whose integrity I had no reason to trust. All I knew was that I wanted books, and books Amazon gave me.

In those early days, I loved the swag they sent me (some of which -- a refrigerator magnet and a travel mug -- I still have) that made me feel like such a valued customer. I listened to their recommendations, and I felt like we shared not just commercial transactions but a relationship. (I remember the shockwaves that went through the user community when it came out that they were promoting books based on publishers' payments, like a -- a bookstore.)

But in their efforts to become all things to all people, books became just another commodity. Why should I be inspired to buy my books from a company that treats them no differently from a suede jacket or a toaster-oven (the last two items I purchased from them)?. I now prefer to get my books from Barnes and Noble.

As for the books themselves, hmmm. I decided pretty soon after that that I didn't have ADD, so the Nadeau was a wash. I don't remember any of the fat-related books specifically, but they all helped me on this size acceptance journey I'm on, so they were valuable. The witchcraze book, for a novel I was working on, was a complete waste of time and money. Oracle Glass was OK, but it wasn't Riley's best work, which was and is In Pursuit of the Green Lion. (News flash! There's a new sequel to Green Lion called Water Devil. Must order immediately!)