31 December 2008

My favorite!

Someone asked what was my favorite picture of the cats. I'm pretty sure it was this one:


And of course, that was clean laundry.

28 December 2008

THX 1138

George Lucas's first feature-length film (barely, at 88 minutes). I really like how the film is shot, lots of pre-Star Wars ideas especially the "mechanical" policemen who look like Village People forerunners to the Storm Troopers. However, I'm not quite sure what to make of the plot. Was there really a point, maybe to escape the false existence for the real one, however bleak the real one may be? Or not? Maybe if you're a persistent dissident they'll just give up and let you be?

I did very much enjoy the character who believes he's a hologram escaped from the machine; it was a little bit of light-heartedness.

26 December 2008

So, this might be sacreliege...

...in the ballet world but I really have a hard time watching Margot Fonteyn. All I can see is how technically deficient she is (bad feet, too) compared to even the corps dancers; she must have been mesmerising on stage but she doesn't transfer to tape well. The close shots highlight each missed beat and poorly closed fifth position. I think some of this might also be due to how much both film and ballet technique has changed; steps are both done better and shot better. This confession blurted out because I watched An Evening with the Royal Ballet - which started out like The Nureyev and Fonteyn Show. The DVD opened with Fokine's Les Sylphides (a ballet I happen to know the choreography for because Basil set it on the Dance Department) with Fonteyn and Nureyev, then moved to the Le Corsaire pas that Nureyev turned from a trois to a deux, Ashton's La Valse (which I'd never seen and loved), and finishing with Aurora's Wedding, a mish-mash of mostly Act III Sleeping Beauty combined with a little Act I so Carabosse could make an appearance. I had a little trouble believing Fonteyn was a young girl as Aurora - I had to squint a bit and pretend that I didn't know she was past forty when the scene was shot. But surprise - Gerd Larsen played the Queen; she must have been around the Royal forever. Nureyev was magnificent; such a shame, he passed far too early.

Rounding out movie day, because after I went out shopping I came back home and barricaded myself in. I finished Sylvia which was a good biopic, a little slow in parts and a little melodramatic on the score, but shot beautifully and I thought both Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig played their parts well (Craig with dark hair was a little odd, though). Plath was definitely a woman both brilliant and ahead of her time; I also happen to like her writing so I'm a little partial.

Rounding out the evening was The Reduced Shakespeare Company, a comedy troupe that "does" all the Bard's plays in ninety minutes. This was taped live so the three guys interacted with the audience quite a bit. It was funny until the "pretend-vomit-on-audience-members" gag whenever a female role died got really old. And I mean really old. Maybe it's funnier in person.

PS: I forgot to say that Definitely, Maybe has once of the best literature-related plot devices - and inscribed copy of Jane Eyre. So sweet.

Current book-in-progress: Don't ask
Current knitted item: Red variegated scarf ... still.
Current movie obsession: Wall*E
Current iTunes loop: I finished all the old Filmspotting episodes; I got iTunes gift cards for Christmas....heh-heh-heh, now I must decide how to use them

25 December 2008

God bless us, everyone

I generally think Tiny Tim is annoying, but he has a good message.

We were supposed to head to Illinois to visit my grandfather but Mother Nature decided that an ice storm was in the works. We have driven through nasty weather before (most notably through a snowstorm, approximately six inches, after I'd worked 530am to 1030am) but this year we were going to have my nieces along with. With the ice storm scheduled for December 26, the day we were going to be heading back to Iowa, the parents made the call to have Christmas in Iowa.

For the first time ever. Boo. I did miss seeing Grandpa. I don't get to visit him very often and I know he was disappointed. One of my aunts tried to make us feel pretty bad about not coming but since it's now sleeting/raining ice in Iowa, the same storm will hit central Illinois about 3 or 4 am and then trying to get back to Iowa would have been sort of dicey. I texted my cousin and he said that the interstates were not very good so he thought we were smart in not coming.

It wasn't so bad actually. The aunt who pretty much drives us nuts (because she micromanages everything and is kind of a hag to everyone) was in Illinois so I could avoid her. And her nasty, cigarette-smoke tasting food (thanks to uncle-who-persists-in-smoking-himself-stupid). My nieces were old enough to have Santa come for the first time; I don't think they quite got it but they did have fun showing everyone what "Sanna" brought them (Santa via Aunt Missy got them Skippyjon Jones books and dolls, now unfortunately called "Peepy Jon"). The girls also had a blast opening all their presents - they tended to get stymied by boxes that were taped shut and had to have some things opened for them once the paper had been ripped off. Everyone got pretty spoiled by my parents, me included; I get to go to Lowe's and pick out some shower doors, paid for by Mom and Dad (and Dad will help to install them) and I got a duvet/comforter to replace my scary 18-year-old bedspread. Yay!

So I had a good Christmas Day, I have tomorrow off (yay, relaxing), but I missed my Grandpa. God bless us, everyone.

23 December 2008

So she's not a dude?

I was being a bit Scrooge-y last night, so this didn't exactly make my evening:

"I'm looking for a new book on the Civil War."

"...OK...do you know who the author is?" (note - there are a number of books about the Civil War)

"I think it was published this summer."

"OK, lets narrow this down to books about the Civil War published in the last year. By any chance, do you think this is by Drew Gilpin Faust?"

"Maybe, I just heard this guy wrote a great book about the Civil War. Is he any good?"

(oh, jeez) "Dr. Faust is a very respected Civil War scholar and she's the first woman President of Harvard University."

"oh."

That's it? OH? ***smoke, grrr, smoke***

21 December 2008

Atonement

I finally watched this film - amazing, just amazing. I first read the book last year about this time, stayed up all night on Christmas to finish it and now I with I'd seen the movie in the theatre when it released. This has to be one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I've seen. The conversion of adult Briony's explanation, which is many pages long, to a television interview for her novel was brilliant. I also regret not seeing the movie in the theatre because of the cinematography. The movie is beautiful and has an amazing tracking shot for the Dunkirk beach - 4.5 minutes long and it's amazing.

And James McAvoy has gorgeous eyes.

Now I've started another movie with a UK hottie and gorgeous eyes. Sylvia.

20 December 2008

Chomsky

Carol Chomsky died yesterday - she was a linguist and helped develop the repeated reading technique to help struggling readers.

I totally did not realize she was married to Noam Chomsky. Since 1949, too. Wow.

19 December 2008

For once I agree with you

In an interview with CNN, Donald Trump called Bernard Madoff a sleaze bag (just search for "sleaze" on the page, it'll be about 2/3 of the way down). I may not always agree with the Donald but I do this time.

Besides, Trump is pretty much the only businessman who can call someone a sleaze bag and get away with it.

18 December 2008

What??????

I just checked the news - the IC and UI police had to detonate a suspicious package reported to be a bomb at Burge Hall. Oh, my god. I would be so, so, so angry if I were an undergrad living there because it's finals week here at the UI. Glad to read in the article that the students are OK, even if their study schedules got messed up.

If some yahoo thought this would be a great joke, it's not very funny.

Why can't people stay home?

I mean, is being at home unpleasant? Being out in our lovely Iowa winter storm is probably the least intelligent thing people can do right now because the weather is pretty bad. The only way it could be worse is to either a) rain straight ice because then everything turns to glass or b) have driving wind because then you just get blown all over the place. But no, people seem to be posessed with a singular drive to come to the mall and the mall, in GGP's infinite wisdom, just doesn't seem to close because we have to accomodate this loonies even when the weather is terrible.

Take, for instance, the loser moron who thought it expedient to drag his three small boys (all under 10, the youngest about 4) out to the mall at 8pm in an ice storm to go to the Build-a-Bear store and the Playplot aka germ factory. Really? That's necessary? They can't play with anything at home? Bringing kids out in this weather is child abuse in my opinion.

Bogus? Excellent!!

We had a "white elephant" gift exchange today at work. As usual, full of laughs because some of the gifts are soooo silly, like a gigantic inflatable "santa-stuck-in-a-chimney" lawn ornament that we blew up in the hallway just to see what it looked like.

I, however, managed to come up with a double feature DVD: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Awesome!!! Honestly, these are the only movies that I actually like Keanu Reeves in and all for the cost of a few CDs that I never listened to in the first place.

16 December 2008

White Christmas anyone?

OK, now I feel ready to listen to Xmas music or watch movies. We are having a whole boatload of snow today. We've probably got about 1.5 inches on the ground so far with more coming. Excellent.

The drawback is that the air temperature will freeze your tail off. Brrrrrr.

12 December 2008

Ugghh, Friday

Just hit a wall - I'm suddenly so tired that I all really want to is lay down on the floor and take a nap. Or at least, just lay down (my office chair does tip back a bit).

I started The Reader by Bernhard Schlink last night. I'm reading in translation, so I'm not sure if it's truly Schlink's style or the translator's, but the novel is riveting. The story could be a cliche (older woman, teen boy, lots of sex, etc) but I think what makes it unique is the first-person narrative - from the point of view of a naive fifteen-year-old. I decided I needed to get this read because the movie was nominated for a Golden Globe and, among other things, I'd really heard good things about the novel. Yes, I think it was an Oprah pick but I couldn't care less about that.

Speaking of Golden Globes, so many great nominations. I'm going to have to rearrange my Netflix queue to pick some things that I missed and I'm also going to have to hit the theatres hard (made harder by the fact that the local movie theatre chain has plenty of screens but low-brow taste - have I mentioned that before?). The Duchess is releasing on DVD in a few weeks, The Reader just had a limited release in the US (how does this happen), Doubt just opened, Revolutionary Road has a limited release in a few weeks, Benjamin Button releases Christmas Day, Vicky Christina Barcelona will release on DVD sometime (date unknown on Netflix) and I already watched In Bruges (yay, Brendan on the Globe nod) so that's one I don't have to track down in the cinema wasteland that is Eastern Iowa. I'm very interested to see Kate Winslet's performances; she's a favorite of mine and I'm rooting for her in the Oscar race because she's been very deserving in the past and seems to have come up with two critically acclaimed performances again this year. Note to self: you need to read a few of those novels/plays, too, before you head off to the theatre.

11 December 2008

"Stories are light" - The Tale of Despereaux

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to re-start my Newbery Project with The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. The movie is due out December 19 and I wanted to read the book before seeing the film (which looks very cute, by the way).

This is a story that I'm pretty sure I would have read to shreds as a child because first, and foremost, Despereaux is a good story. A story is all that matters to a child because little minds don't actively search out form, style, genre, etc. like a grown-up one might. So this grown-up mind enjoyed Despereaux's story as much as she enjoyed the writer's style. I really did appreciate the "fourth-wall" asides that DiCamillo uses throughout the book, much like a Bronte or a Dickens, where she speaks directly to the reader. It makes the story seem far older than it really is and it follows more along the lines of a traditional fairy tale or morality story. DiCamillo also uses the asides to illustrate concepts she introduces in the story; she introduces "perfidy" and "forgiveness" as well as the translation of "adieu" so not only is a child getting a good story in Despereaux he/she is also getting a vocabulary lesson (and there are many, many more advanced words in this novel than the other two that I read, but they don't seem out of place).

The other thing that makes this novel so appealing is Despereaux himself. He is far too small, too naive, too brave, and too loyal for anyone not to love him.

Vocabulary (and I'm basing this on words I probably would not have known or not known the alternate meanings to in 4th grade):
obscenely/obscene
Furlough
Merlot (Despereaux's siblings have odd names)
dungeon
conform
indulge
elemental
tribunal
perfidy
assured
egregious
ignorant
gusto
renounce
repent
bellow
defiance (I might have known this one)
ominous
covert
adieu
Cripes
all-encompassing
beleaguered
empathy/empathetic
infringe
Chiaroscuro (I only learned this about 5 years ago, so I'm pretty sure I didn't know this one)
minstrel
capacious
torturous
clout (the hitting kind, not the reputation kind)
vicious
portentous
aspiration
diabolical
comeuppance
emphatic
consigned

(that's quite a few, isn't it?)

In Honor of "Stuff I've Been Reading"

RIP to a great column (Nick, please write more about what you read - maybe now you can speak freely about books you didn't like now that the Spree is no longer looking over your shoulder). So in honor of "Stuff I've Been Reading" (and cross-posted from Please Don't Eat the Books) is the first two weeks of December.

Books bought:
Wheelock's Latin (also workbook/reader)
Domino: The Book of Decorating
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
The B-List - a film book from the National Film Critics Association about cult classics, etc.
Doubt by John Patrick Shanley
Harry: A History by Melissa Anelli
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Ghost Stories (Pocket Everyman's Classics Anthology)
Proof by David Auburn
Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold Packard
War and Peace (Pevear and Volokhonsky transl)
Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Eleanor of Acquitane by Alison Weir
The Canterbury Tales (new translation by Burton Raffel)

Books Read:
Shakespeare Wrote for Money
The Tale of Despereaux
The Castle of Otranto
The Mysteries of Udolpho (half done)
The Shock Doctrine (half done)
Eleanor of Acquitane (half done)
Reading Matters (half done)

What this highlights is a) I need to read faster, b) I need to be more careful with my money and not go crazy when it's employee appreciation week, and c) I have a problem (obviously books are like crack to me).

07 December 2008

Absolutely mind-numbing

It's Sunday and here I sit, in my office at the hospital, entering data. Open envelope, check for signature, enter into Access, get data from HCIS. Repeat ad nauseum.

I think my brain ran away, it got bored.

Thank God for Adam and Sam with all their old Cinecast episodes. At least there's something to which I can listen.

06 December 2008

Long Saturday

I'm beat. I dragged my butt out of bed this morning, went to Initiation at the AXS house, left there at 12:30 to get to the store on time, worked 1pm to 5pm (busy, Xmas shoppers), went back to the house for the end of Initiation, stayed to watch the Iowa-ISU dual on TV with some of the brothers (go Hawks), and attended a bit of the party (Prohibition-themed - everyone had really great costumes).

I must be getting old.

03 December 2008

Nick Hornby and the Grammys!

So y'all know about my love for Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading Column" which, sadly, is over and done with. The final book collecting the columns released this week titled Shakespeare Wrote for Money and Sarah Vowell wrote the introduction. Ahhhh. Love it.

(gonna try my hand at some sort of live-blogging, here)

I'm a little bummed that my Criminal Minds and CSI:NY are pre-empted for a live Grammy nominations show (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on at 7pm - my favorite after the Peanuts' Christmas Special) and the Victoria's Secret Runway Show. I think the Grammy announcement is an interesting change - hopefully it will spark some interest in the awards. I'm just a bit underwhelmed by the first two performances: Mariah and Celine. Mariah sang a hit from her Christmas album and just really didn't look like she was into the performance; she sounded pretty good, if a little forced. Then Celine Dion sang "At 17" which is a great song but since she has absolutely no diction you couldn't understand her - if I didn't know what song she was singing I'd have no idea what it was about. It was not an incredibly enjoyable performance.

OK - now the Foo Fighters are singing Carly Simon's "You're so vain" ... um, it's alright and an interesting mash-up. It's not quite what I expect and the rock beat makes the song very flat rather than laid-back. You know, there had to be other award-winning songs in the Hall of Fame that were from the rock genre. Dave Grohl is pretty funny doing the nomination announcements (especially country).

Now that's a performance - Christina Aguilera just blew everyone out of the water. The woman has some chops and sounds incredible singing "I loves you, Porgy." Wow. Does she have a jazz album out? If not, she needs to make one. A very restrained and moving performance in a song that could easily be overdone dramatically; thank you for showing what a Grammy-winning artist should be.

Hmmm...Taylor Swift is singing Brenda Lee's "I'm sorry" (with a seque into one of her own songs, I think) and, dude, I'm sorry but it sounds underrehearsed, undercoached, and smacks of bad high-school show choir. I have a theory about recording artists these days - because few of them have to actually prove themselves by singing live with no voice back-up they rely so much on the recording studio to sound decent. Taylor sounds young, she pushes the vocals, and can't control the wobble when she tries to "jazz" it up. In short: she needs voice and stage performance lessons. She should also not have followed Christina because it made the gap between amazing and mediocre that much wider - that should be blamed on poor programming by the producer. Christina should have closed out the show.

Taylor does do a decent presenting job with my man LL Cool J (love him!) who is probably the only man on Earth who can pull off the golf cap and suit combo.

Ohhh, yeah. "Let the good times roll" with BB King and John Mayer. Umm, what happened to John's hair and creeper moustache? Oh, forget the hair - he's a great guitar player and BB King is such a great musician and a legend. A really great collaborative performance, which is one reason why I like the Grammys - they always have some interesting pairings, like when Joss Stone (before she got "Britney'd") and Melissa Etheridge sang a tribute to Janis Joplin.

The montages before each nomination are pretty cool; a nice way of remembering great moments at the Grammys for those of us who've been watching for a while.

Oh, OK all done and John and BB are going to take it out. I revise my earlier statement - maybe Taylor should have opened the show followed by a lackluster Mariah, unintelligible Celine, a goofy Foo Fighters, awesome Cristina and closed with John and BB. It would have been a better line-up and built nicely rather than showing that your presenter isn't quite ready for prime-time. I think all the nominations were right on the money (rooting for Adele!).

Lingerie time - gotta love Heidi Klum (congrats, Heidi, on your US citizenship)! Good opening, but no offence to Adriana Lima I'd have rather watched Usher's opening dance phrase (because he is so very good) instead of cutting back and forth.

Three kids or no three kids, Heidi can sell lingerie. Damn she has a hot body; some people get all the luck with the genetics.

Kind of a stupid segment about who is the "real" Victoria (dude, was that Debbie Harry?). And then there was an ad for the black VISA credit card - you can actually apply for that like you would a regular VISA? I thought VISA offered that to spenders at of a certain monetary level.

Surprising. The next song is "Baba Lou" (spelling?). Who's the blond with the crazy black tutu? She's not selling it. She actually looks a little bummed - I would be, too, wearing that thing.

Not a big fan of the PINK line, except for the jammies, but the intro was really cute. The styling for the section fits the line except it looks a little like Nanouk of the North got lost at the sorority house. Knitted item alert: check out the gigantic blue and white scarf!

I really like the layout of this show - it even has a little Usher concert in the middle.

The flower segment has some really pretty things. Great styling here as well. Whoa, crazy wings on the last model (I liked the butterly wings on the Aussie model better).

Great close to the show with Heidi in some huge wings like a gift bow.

OMG, snow again!

We're having serious snow today in Iowa; it started about 6am or so and is expected to continue through the evening. We will have more flurries tomorrow and a low of 8 degrees. Brrrrr. I happen to like snow (snow, not ice or "snane") but the city isn't doing a hot job at plowing. Thank heaven the morning bus driver is one of the good ones who can actually handle a city bus as it slides around because the bus routes weren't being kept open or salted. The mall on the other hand doesn't seem to have any salt or sand. I understand the owners are going through bankruptcy proceedings but GET REAL; you have to salt, sand, and PLOW the parking lot because snow on top of ice makes for ZERO traction.

Boss came back today; hooray, because hopefully the people who wouldn't listen to me will listen to her. And I still have enough work to do to choke a horse.

A little note to pushy, "brand new" authors:
If you want me or any other reader/writer/bookseller/editor/Joe-schmo to take you seriously, please learn to write with correct grammar and punctuation. I have absolutely zero interest in reading badly written advertising copy that has random capitalization and no punctuation. I also don't care that you acknowledge you have poor writing skills and need an editor; get a Strunk and White and start re-reading. Additionally, don't tout your work as "the next Harry Potter" - you sound desperate and inexperienced.

Current book-in-progress: Udolpho, bio on Eleanor of Aquitane, Desperaux
Current knitted item: Red variegated scarf (half-done, but I just put some sock yarn in my bag...)
Current movie obsession: Atonement and the original The Italian Job should be arriving in my mailbox
Current iTunes loop: old Filmspotting episodes (I'm up to Episode #44 of 197 that I've been listening to in order to catch up on the podcast)

30 November 2008

Snow!

Ah! The first real snowfall of the year. It's pretty, blowing around and coating the trees. It's also right on the freezing line so the roads have the potential to be pretty bad. They look OK for now - good because I have to go to the grocery store.

Last post of the month! Sorry no updates until today; my grandfather doesn't have Internet access and I was too tired Friday and Saturday (too many customers). It seems post-Thanksgiving shopping magnifies any pre-existing brain damage because people have really odd requests. For instance, someone wanted me to call a nearby B&N for a particular DVD box set; I confirmed in the computer that the store had one and offered to call and have it held - the customer said "No Thanks" and walked off. I don't get it - you wanted me to call in the first place and now that I have good reason to call them, you don't want me to....wha???

I watched the 1975 adaptation of Ballet Shoes - this one was not well done. BBC or no BBC, it was poorly shot and the adaptation was terrible. It cut a number of things including Dr. Smith, Miss Jay, the entire opening of the book (the girls' stories are told in flashback), Garnie is made out to be some sort of idiot, Pauline's opening break in Alice in Wonderland is combined with Midsummer and the film of Charles II is cut out entirely (the studio exec offered Pauline a contract on the basis of her performance in Peaseblossom), and Pauline is made out to be manipulative which is completely out of line for the character in the book. The new adaptation with Emma Watson is definitely better and more in line with the intent of the book.

Boss comes back this week. Oh boy.

Current book-in-progress: Udolpho, Reading Matters, Love Letters, oh, anything else I feel like and I have an itch to acquire a book about Eleanor of Acquitane
Current knitted item: Red variegated scarf
Current movie obsession: Almost done with The Lion in Winter (Burton/Hepburn version - couldn't they have worked a little more on her accent? She's fantastic otherwise)
Current iTunes loop: old Filmspotting episodes

26 November 2008

Blowouts are boring

What are you supposed to do when your team is trouncing the opposition at the Metrodome?

Have sex in the handicapped stall, of course. During Iowa's 55-0 rout of Minnesota (hawks like to eat rodents, so the Hawkeyes smoking the Gophers totally makes sense), UM cops busted a couple getting busy in the restroom, complete with crowd cheering the couple on. The two got cited for indecent conduct (usually given to public urination). The kicker? She gave a false name and had to be identified by her husband; he was released to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, both of the them were from Iowa. It's a long car ride back to the land of Black and Gold.

Speaking of car rides:
My parents are picking me up this evening and we're going to see my relatives in Illinois for Thanksgiving. Then I get to rush back to Iowa to close on Black Friday. What joy is mine. Happy Turkey everyone!

25 November 2008

The Criterion Collection

Mom has been bugging me for my Christmas list. So I spent a while trawling the new Criterion Collection website looking at all the DVDs. Criterion is sort-of my new favorite label; the movies all look great and they come with extra tidbits.

Now I just have to think up what books I would like to put on my list - you would think this easy because I work for a bookstore but I have a tendency to buy whatever I want, regardless as to whether Christmas is coming.

Love Letters

Remember when the Sex in the City movie came out and everyone wanted the "Love Letter" book? And the "Love Letter" book didn't exist because the movie's producers made it up even though the letters were real?

Well, Ursula Doyle went out and collected a number of love letters written by "great men" from Pliny to Curie; she published the collection as Love Letters of Great Men. The collection is decently wide-ranging, including three letters from Alexander Pope to three different women, Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved" letter, and two of Oscar Wilde's letters to Lord Alfred Douglas (aka Bosie). I'm a sucker - I bought it.

Addendum to yesterday's post:
Not only is the Mall trying to ruin Christmas some nut who has a duplex condo on the bus route is doing his best, too. If I were his neighbor I would probably move. The entire yard of this dwelling is covered with lit-up/moving Christmas objects and twinkle lights outline every angle. There's even a Ferris Wheel with toys and elves that goes around and around. Gag.

24 November 2008

Gee, already?

While waiting for the bus I was appalled to realize that the mall was playing Christmas music - Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You was blaring over the sound system followed by I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (which I particularly loathe). Thanks guys. Couldn't you wait to switch the Muzak until the day after Thanksgiving?

Combined with the huge Christmas wreaths hanging from the ceiling the effect is truly gag-inducing.

23 November 2008

Movie weekend, Part Deux!!

I continued my movie binge by seeing Quantum of Solace at the matinee, strategic because matinees are two dollars cheaper. Now, I know that people are getting concerned that Bond no longer is Bond; the familiar introduction is gone, he has fewer toys, and the action sequences take on a Jason Bourne-esque choreography. This Bond is grittier, more of an emotional mess, and I really like that; it would be very stale if all James Bond ever did was drink, have sex, and kill people for his country. Recycling gets old after a while.

I did miss Bond's fun toys but I never thought they were terribly integral; I was always more of a Sean Connery fan myself (Roger Moore was too glib) so I really did enjoy a Bond who has to make do with his wits, his skills, and his gun. If that makes it too "Jason Bourne" then so what; I fully expect an MI6 agent to kill someone with only his bare hands (this Bond takes out several other MI6 agents in an elevator - no weapons). Besides, Daniel Craig is way more alluring than all of the other Bonds so I'm all in. I found the movie very entertaining, very well-worth my six-fifty.

Part of that enjoyment is watching Dame Judi Dench play M, Bond's boss, and she does a far better job than any of the other Ms (sorry, Bernard Lee). The part of M has enlarged with each of Dame Judi's outings (the best being in The World is Not Enough were M gets kidnapped by crazy Elektra King) and she never disappoints. There was a great line in the movie where Bond is asked if he's revenging his mother and Bond replies, "No, but she likes to think so."

More preview fun:
1. Bedtime Stories - looks sort of cute; Sandler plays a guy who realizes the goofy stories he tells his niece and nephew have a strange tendency to come true; I gave up on Sandler movies a long time ago but I might try this one
2. Valkyrie - the same trailer from last night (I saw a different trailer on TV and that one makes it look more like the Tom Cruise show)
3. The Day the Earth Stood Still - this is (what I'm pretty sure was) the same trailer that played before The Dark Knight; I still don't want to see a remake with Keanu Reeves
4. The Spirit - an expanded trailer from the one I saw before The Dark Knight; looks pretty good but I'm not familiar with The Spirit as a graphic novel
5. Seven Pounds - I'm not very familiar with this (Will Smith stars) but I think the premise is interesting

I got to see my parents today, too, which also included a viewing of the original 1968 Thomas Crowne Affair starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway; strangely enough neither of my parents have seen this but they watched the Pierce Brosnan remake (yuck). The original has this amazing chess scene which is far better than any sex scene ever put on film; it is that erotic. I like the film, and have seen it many times, but it's really strange to explain what is going on to your parents.

22 November 2008

Movie weekend!

****WARNING: If you are any of my friends who haven't seen Twilight yet and don't want anything spoiled, read this post later.****

So I had movie weekend - fueled partly by a sleepless night where I watched four movies and one mini-series. Stupid brain.

Movie #1 Ballet Shoes: remake of the Noel Streatfield novel of the same name; I loved the book as a child and I was really glad to see that the feel of the novel was retained with some cute additions; Emma Watson (yes, that Emma Watson) was excellent in a non-Hermione role and I can't wait to see her in Desperaux in December
Movie #2 Pride and Prejudice: not a new movie to me, but I was trying to fall asleep; it may not be my favorite rendition of my favorite novel but it has beautiful piano music played by Jean-Yves Thibeaudet
Mini-series Sense and Sensibility: ITV mini-series shown last spring on IPTV for "The Complete Jane Austen" during Masterpiece Classic (thanks Dad for finally getting this recorded off the DVR for me); very well-shot, well-adapted, and well-cast (Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood was especially nice); the mini-series format allowed for all of the characters to be present (including Lucy Steele's vile sister, ugh); I actually liked it and got involved so this may not have been the best choice for trying to fall asleep and the IMDB page has some interesting facts about the costuming
Movie #3 Persuasion: also an ITV production and one that I do not like for various reasons (exception being Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, although he's no Ciaran Hinds); Mary Musgrove nee Elliot acted like someone recovering from a neurological injury (whoa, crazy), Anne breaks the fourth wall a lot to think to the audience, and then she runs up and down the streets of Bath in the letter scene chasing Wentworth; all wrong
Movie #4 Northanger Abbey: not a new movie to me, either, but I did finally fall asleep to this one.

Then tonight I went with Jackie, Rachel, Janice, and Annie to see Twilight. I was prepared for a lame and utterly cheesy teenage movie but it was really cute. There were a few wierd things, though. Edward looked like he ate some bad cougar the first time Bella walked into biology lab, there was a little too much teenager angst from Edward (who's supposed to be over 100 years old), Carlisle's makeup artist was seriously phoning it in from Data's makeup artist on ST:TNG, and the dude playing Jasper either needed more anti-psychotics or less because it was a creeper-worthy performance (and he's supposed to be the mood-altering vampire). I thought the script adaptation was faithful with two exceptions: too much foreshadowing on the run-up to the emergence of the three "bad" vampires and I really missed a "Bella trapped in the bathroom by Alice before the prom" scene. Oh, and Bella's prom dress was pretty, but not what I'd imagined. Overall impression: cute teenager movie and no gag-worthy moments (I wanted to rid the theatre of a few stupid teenagers who were attempting to ruin the movie for everyone else - lame).

Okey, dokey, fun with previews:
1. Know1ing - Nicholas Cage/apolcalypse flick about a secret code from a time capsule that correctly predicted all the natural disasters (including death toll); major problem is what happens when the code stops
2. Valkyrie - the long-talked-about Tom Cruise biopic of the plot to assassinate Hitler; looks good (at least no one faked a German accent) and looking at the IMDB page it lists Eddie Izzard as one of the conspirators (???); looks good....but it has Tom Cruise
3. Confessions of a Shopaholic - based on the book of the same name; I have some friends who would love this movie (I probably would not)
4. Push - conspiracy/sci-fi movie about people with superhuman powers like telekenisis, prophecy, and the like (smells a little like X-men as far as powers, but no mutants); Dakota Fanning plays a girl who can predict the future (creepy)
There might have been one more (must be forgetteable like the super-lame commercial we had to watch about Diet Pepsi Max that completely ran the old "Night at the Roxbury" sketch into the ground). Major disappointment: NO HARRY POTTER TRAILER!!!!!! Jerks.

21 November 2008

Writer's Block Friday

After yesterday's excitement today seems very blah. My office isn't being drooled upon (leaky water tank on roof caused serious wet carpet and ceiling tile issues) and UNESCO isn't handing out any accolades today.

I am once again inputting (verb?) data for our study. I'm way behind, so I need to work fast, but ... it's ... so ... mind-numbing. I can hear my brain cells die of boredom. The only reason I have to do it is because you have to be trained to recognize catheter-related blood-stream infections (CR-BSIs - crabbies, for lack of a better term). I'm the only one of the research team, besides the boss, who can do this.

I also need to start working with the burn unit on some observations of practice (in the tub room of all places) and MRSA cultures of various sources. I get to observe in the tub room because I'm the only one who won't faint or toss cookies. For anyone who doesn't know, the tub room is where the burn patients get scrubbed down, debrieded, and re-bandaged; there's lots of screaming and it smells really bad. I would be started on this already but the unit manager hasn't emailed me back, yet.

I've started back into the Newbery Project. After The Story of Mankind and The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle I decided I couldn't take all the Euro-American-centric viewpoints all together in order. It was a bit much. I'm going to come at it from a different angle. I've been wanting to re-read The Westing Game for a long time so I'll re-start with that one; plus, the movie adaptation for The Tale of Desperaux is coming out so I picked that up, too. I'll get there, by hook or by crook!

20 November 2008

Thank you, UNESCO!

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, bestowed the honor of "City of Literature" on Iowa City today. I live, work, and go to school here. Hooray!

19 November 2008

RIP Clive Barnes

Thank you for all your articles, essays, and reviews. I always enjoyed your back page in Dance Magazine.

You'll be missed.

18 November 2008

Yeah, CR smells, but what else do you expect?

So some travel writer, Peter Greenberg, has a new travel book out that names Cedar Rapids one of the five smelliest cities for travellers to avoid. Oh, and he takes potshots at the city for the flood debris.

Yeah, Cedar Rapids smells. It's a blue collar, processing plant city. Most of the city's industry was built on meat-packing so just be happy that Quaker Oats moved in so that occasionally you can smell cooking oatmeal instead of offal. If you don't like it then you can go somewhere else.

However, don't even think about going after the city or anyone else for the flood debris, Peter Greenberg. That's pretty despicable, just about on the same level as people who tried a little fraud during the flood recovery. Do you have a better idea about where that's all going to go? Millions of dollars in sludge, bacteria, mold, mildew, and destroyed homes and businesses don't just disappear with a snap of the fingers. You can't just wish it away.

Call CR smelly, everyone knows it. Get over it - but leave the flood out of it.

The Castle of Otranto

I decided that I should read The Castle of Otranto before I embarked on any major readings for The Mysteries of Udolpho. Otranto came first in the Gothic timeline so the reading is useful when looking at Radcliffe's inspirations.

Walpole's piece is quite short (only about 110 pages, more if you include his lengthy prefaces) but it remains hard to read because of the lack of convention in punctuation usage. A particularly difficult passage comes near the end of the book; the evil Manfred tries to charm information out of the household domestic Bianca (who, in the tradition of rustics, is comically dense) and the back-and-forth conversation is nearly impossible to follow, filled with hyphens, commas, and absolutely NO quotations marks. You can't skim those three pages. On the whole, though, the novel is enjoyable and you can appreciate the Gothic elements. Ghosts, oversize pieces of armor, lascivious noblemen (non-Englishmen all), fainting ladies, long-lost sons who turn out to be aristocratic even though disguised as a peasant. What fun.

It is also worth a chuckle to look at this from a Protestant Englishman's point-of-view. All these Catholic Europeans, tsk, tsk, tsk, running about, praying to saints, preying on their dead son's ex-fiance, commanding a wife's confessor to tell her to consent to a divorce. It's cast in such a lurid light that no self-respecting Briton would ever behave in such a rash, Popish manner, even though the whole thing smacks of the Henry VIII Bizzaro-world circus that was his first marriage (desperate for male issue and the like).

Current book-in-progress: Like, whoa, too many again, but now I can start Udolpho in earnest!
Current knitted item: Red variegated scarf; I'm almost through the second skein so I'm thinking I'm going to switch from the moss stitch to seed stitch just for fun.
Current movie obsession: I put the new Ballet Shoes starring Emma Watson in; haven't watched any of it, yet, but I'm sure it's cute (one of my favorite books as a child)
Current iTunes loop: Enya ...And Winter Came

So much for timely information

I'm a news junkie - I really love how the Internet is able to keep me informed as events happen rather than just reading the paper once a day. Because of this, I knew that a rash of car burglaries was occurring in the Iowa City area; thieves are smashing car windows and taking anything from loose change to stereos. What was not reported until today was that cars in the UIHC parking ramps were also broken into over the past two weekends or so. Not only that but there weren't any staff bulletins sent out. Hello!!!! I work at UIHC, I may not drive into campus but I work here, and staff should have been informed immediately those weeks following the sprees.

But, no. No email. Grrrrr.

17 November 2008

More Than Words

I just found this site - which not only seems to be dedicated to the Oxford World's Classics series but has some really pretty animation. The site is easy to navigate and there's a fun "What Character Are You?" quiz - all the characters come from an OWC title.

First try through the quiz I'm Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest - yipes!

Second try, I get to be Emma from Emma. Much better!

Third time round, I wind up as Moll Flanders. Oh dear.

The fourth time, I get Alice from Alice in Wonderland. This is kind of fun (the questions are a little lame and there's only five).

Emulating Garfield

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday; the new laptop and I were disagreeing as to whether or not to sync my PDA. I won but then had to dash off to work.

I don't really hate Mondays; it's just that Monday signifies the resumption of tedium that is the work week.

I'm writing letters today and if my mother ever reads this she would laugh herself silly. I'm a terrible correspondent so I'm hoping that if I at least start a letter when I'm thinking about it then I'm more likely to finish it. Besides, I have really nice notecards, envelopes, and pens that are going to waste.

I've been reading The Castle of Otranto and it goes by pretty fast. A number of plot elements seem a bit recycled - a long-lost baby of noble birth, a ghost set on revenge, a scheming father, damsels in distress, etc. It also makes for a slightly confusing read because the eighteenth-century writing style doesn't include quotation marks or the convention of starting a new paragraph when a different character speaks. Everything can jumble together if you're not careful. I also kept thinking of Mozart's Don Giovanni while I was reading; the plots aren't directly similar but seem to follow the same elemental guidelines. Giovanni is just cooler though; it's hard to beat walking-talking-statues-from-hell.

15 November 2008

A dying art

I went grocery shopping today (half done, I got all the NewPi stuff just have to get basics still from Hy-Vee). I have a love-hate relationship with the grocery store. I work a lot so I have a hard time getting to the store in the first place; I also hate to go when it's busy because all the people just get in my way. On the other hand, I love picking out yummy apples, different cheeses and pastas, and having food in my house is definitely a bonus over having to pick up something for every meal.

I have a bone to pick with the grocery sackers, though. My father worked his way through college as a bag boy for the local greengrocer so I know exactly how to pack a load of groceries. No one lets you sack your own groceries - even when I shoo the sacker off they always hang around. I don't know why. Every single one is really terrible; they can't get the refrigerated/frozen things together, they never notice that I bring my own canvas bags, they put glass jars in with the bananas and eggs, and generally make a jumble out of everything.

Grocery sacking must be a dying art.

14 November 2008

Fun words

One of the things that keeps my research job interesting is the vocabulary. Being in the medical field I see all sorts of interesting words that you just don't use everyday.

Such as phlegmon - an acute suppurative inflammation affecting the subcutaneous connective tissue. Translation: a really nasty, smelly, draining infection of the tissue lying between the skin and muscle.

13 November 2008

Proust Questionnaire

I've been hearing a lot about the "Proust Questionnaire" lately - apparently the Olsen twins did a version in their new book so Proust it getting some play. I've never seen the questions in this questionnaire because a) I hadn't heard of it before (my experience reading Proust is limited) and b) I am not hip enough to read Vanity Fair (which has a "Proust Questionnaire" on their back page in ever issue). So I looked up the Vanity Fair version.

Pfft. Olsen twins. I am way more interesting than the Olsen twins.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A good dinner, good conversation, a good book, and a good snuggle before bed.
2. What is your greatest fear?
That one day I will wake up and I'll be the crazy, lonely old lady who wears athletic socks with sandals and owns too many cats (considering that I consider the sock/sandal combination one of the seminal fashion faux pas, that would be bad).
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Ignorance
5. Which living person do you most admire?
Perri Klass
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
I buy tons of books - I read fast, but not that fast, so they are starting to pile up. You know that Erasmus quote? Yeah, that's me.
7. What is your current state of mind?
Jumbled
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Piety
9. On what occasion do you lie?
If you think your outfit/hairstyle/fill-in-the-blank rocks, I will probably not dissuade you of this notion, even if I think you look like a barrel with appendages.
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I will always be zaftig, even when I'm skinny.
11. Which living person do you most despise?
Hmmm, well, I would have to say an ex-boyfriend who thought that being a stalker was an attractive quality.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Intelligence
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Dude" and the F-bomb in all its incarnations.
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I don't think I've experienced that yet - I'm still waiting.
16. When and where were you happiest?
Walking through the stile to meet my friend Kate at the train station in Cardiff - I travelled by myself, internationally, and got through immigration at Heathrow and onto a train at Paddington Station without losing anything, including myself. I was really proud - and I got to visit Kate!
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
To play the piano beautifully - you know, at the level requiring a nine-foot concert grand. I can play but, to quote Elizabeth Bennet "very ill."
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I need more calm - I'm such a frazzle most days.
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have an advanced degree, that I never planned on getting, but I am very respected for what I do with that degree.
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A well-loved housecat (that's what my Grandmother Margaret wanted to come back as, too).
21. Where would you most like to live?
Well, I kind of like where I live now....but I wouldn't be opposed to living in the British Isles.
22. What is your most treasured possession?
A tie between my copy of Winnie-the-Pooh (given to my by my Grandmother Margaret), my honeybee quilt (made for me by my Great Aunt Lillie), or my two cats, Chaucer and Dante (who I'm sure think they own me).
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The third rejection letter from the University of Iowa College of Medicine; I cried for days and it still hurts, seven years later.
24. What is your favorite occupation?
Reading. Or dancing. Or knitting. Or reading....
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
I am extremely direct; beating-around-the-bush is not really in my make-up.
26. What do you most value in your friends?
Their humor.
27. Who are your favorite writers?
Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, AA Milne, Judy Blume, Jasper Fforde, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, AS Byatt, Willa Cather, Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Thursday Next - she does it all!
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Alice Roosevelt Longworth
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
My Great-Aunt Lillie, a brilliant woman who was never allowed to go to college (boo on that great-grandpa but she kept learning - for proof ask my father, who was amazed that she could help him with his college calculus and physics homework even though she never learned more than trigonometry in school; she could also do the crossword puzzle in ink - no mistakes).
31. What are your favorite names?
Margaret, Ann, Lillie, Christopher Robin
32. What is it that you most dislike?
People who can't seem to behave themselves in public.
33. What is your greatest regret?
Sometimes I feel like I missed out on my dreams, the ones I had when I was graduating high school, even though I'm successful and grateful for my achievements now that I'm thirty.
34. How would you like to die?
In my sleep, in my own bed, after a good long life filled with family and friends.
35. What is your motto?
A combination of “Dance as though no one is watching, Love as though you've never been hurt, Sing as though no one can hear you, Live as though heaven is on earth” (Souza) and "I read banned books - got a problem with that?"

In knitting news, I finished my slouchy beret. It's really cute! Now I have to finish my red variegated scarf.

Is there a curse around this place?

So Thursday's headline: UI Prof Accused of Harrassment Found Dead

What the hell? Is it in the water? Harrass your female students, get turned in, cause a lot of problems, then commit suicide?

This is the second one in less than six months. Arthur Miller was in August, Mark Weiger this week.

12 November 2008

Something different

Tonight while waiting for the bus an elderly gentleman was singing to himself in Arabic. It was very nice.

Much better than the crazy person the other day who kept muttering about aliens.

Existential Wednesday

Chaucer decided to have an existential crisis this morning.

First, he got stuck under the futon which wasn't so bad until he didn't want to be there anymore and cried to have me come and get him out (which makes me wonder why it is that cats don't like to back up - he would have been able to get out OK but he didn't want to back up). Then he ran around the apartment like kitty-cat-on-meth. Then he crawled up on top of the kitchen cabinets, yowled until he got my attention, and then pretended that he was going to jump from the cabinets to the floor - that freaked me out because it's a good ten feet to the floor - but decided not to and proceeded to have a bath up there. Then he got down and picked a fight with Dante, who was napping and didn't appreciate being pounced. Then he bit my ankle (which is a no-no) and when I scolded him he rolled over on his back to get his tunny rubbed. Then he ran around, crawled into my lap (I was watching the news), and passed out in a purry, furry heap.

I'm now at work having my own existential crisis - I'm not here so please don't come bother me.

It occurs to me I used "then" a little too much in this post. Oh, well.

Current book-in-progress: Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books by Margaret Willes
Current knitted item: Slouchy beret - it's really pretty (and about half done)!
Current movie obsession: I haven't watched anything lately.
Current iTunes loop: Sarah Brightman Winter Symphony

11 November 2008

A good start to the day

I got good use out of my "Satan-thinks-naughty-children-taste-good-with-BBQ-sauce" glare today. Someone's kid was reaching up underneath the glass of the display case at Panera to finger the pastries (four-ish/five-ish years old kid, so old enough to know to keep your hands to yourself). I caught her eye - she kind of attached herself to her mom's pantleg really fast after that.

Sometimes you just don't have to say anything. Just wish "Satan-thinks-naughty-mommies-taste-good-with-BBQ-sauce" worked on the moms as well.

10 November 2008

Packages are a nice surprise

When I got home today I found that the mailman had left a package from BNBC. Surprise! I wasn't expecting anything. Turns out the editors sent me two of the books for my group - but I already have them. Uh-oh.

I got my slouchy beret started. It's not going to knit up very fast because of all the cabling, but it is pretty. I need to get that and my red-variegated scarf done because it's COLD out!!

In other random thoughts/events, people who read books in the bookstore and damage them (i.e. break spines, tear pages, etc) SUCK! It's really hard to sell a book to a customer with a big crease going down the spine from some craptabulous customer who just wanted to look at the pictures of some serial killer. Also, if you're a "poor college student" why are you calling the bookstore and asking if we have an expensive text-book in stock? We aren't a public or research library. We expect our books to be purchased not "borrowed" - "poor college students" really need to go to the UI Main Library and either check the volume out or ask the librarians to obtain the volume through inter-library loan.

08 November 2008

Knitting Day!

I made today a knitting day because I needed a day of "finish-itis" not "start-itis" - but it had an inauspicious start. I hit up the LYS after fighting my way through the psycho Hawkeye-Nittany Lions fans (football game started at 2:30pm) so I could reach the other side of town. I got yarn to make a slouchy hat for myself (because I always have trouble due to the fact that I usually have my hair pinned up in the winter) and I got some more sock yarn. Noro has sock yarn, go figure!

I also got some Eucalan to send with my secret items.

After I got home from my bookstore shift I sat my little self down in front of the television and did what I do best - knit while watching college football. I had two choices - Okie State vs. Texas Tech or Notre Dame vs. Boston College. I really don't care about the Big 12 outcomes but I have no love for Notre Dame so I settled down to knit like a demon and watch BC pound ND into the ground.

I finished my yellow secret item (came out looking pretty nice, finally), seamed up the test for a brimmed cap (which must have a pattern error because the underside of the brim is longer than the top - it looks like of stupid so I'm not going to make a nice version) and knit a couple of inches on my variegated scarf. Tomorrow I'll start my cap - I got some pretty white Cashmerino.

Oh, and the Hawkeyes won. 24-23 over the #3 Penn State Nittany Lions - first win over a top 5 team since 1990. Hot damn.

07 November 2008

It's Friday - what should I write about?

Let me see....

I had to make an appearance on a conference call for the boss and was reminded once again that her vacation schedule is really unique (apparently, no other PIs go for a month's vacation). On the plus side, the call was really short because we're T-minus 12 weeks until we stop enrollment at our site. Minus side: I knit while on conference calls so I only got two rows done.

Glenn, our IT wizard/general lifesaver, installed a second monitor on my computer. Now I can have two windows up at once! Ahhhh, ease at data-entry. Unfortunately, this does not make the tedium of data-entry any less boring.

It is currently snowing, or at least there is minimal precipitation that looks a bit like snow. Tranlsation: everyone will drive like it's 75F and sunny then get into a car accident.

I was thwarted in my attempt to get Dance Gala tickets for the performance tonight. This was due to two things. First, the summer flood has pretty much ruined Hancher's use as a performance venue for about 18 months so the performances were increased to six (from two) to make up for the difference in number of seats in the Space/Place venue but it falls short of the usual number of available tickets. Second, I called the IMU Box Office several times every day last week in an attempt to reserve tickets - all I ever got was the outgoing message even though I called a different times of the day during their posted business hours. Today I called and spoke to a "real person" - alas, no tickets left. This is obviously good for the Dance Department (merde, guys) but bad for me. I guess I'll have to wait to see if the Big Ten Network will air a tape of the performance.

I am tired and grumpy because I had to stay an hour late at work putting up new displays. This was compounded by having to watch the new employees, who pretty much lack any self-motivation AT ALL, screw up. Is it really neccessary that I have to tell someone who is legally considered an adult to go do the job he is currently being paid to do instead of stand around like a waste of space? The store looked like crap because none of them actually picked up anything. Bonus: the new guy covering my information shift (because I was assigned to set up holiday displays) demonstrated that he was a stupid git by not understanding what a customer was asking for; the customer, who spoke with a slight Arabic accent and happens to be one of our nicer customers, was looking for three books, all of which are very popular - after listening to said git ask four times how to spell Zakaria I just went and got all three books for the customer and glared at said git (said git is also rumored to have cried on his first day because he was late - if he continues to jack around I'll give him something to cry about).

And finally, due to HIPPA constraints, I cannot tell you about the surgical case that had me in stitches (pun) while I was doing surveillance. I will only say that someone is eligible for an honorary Darwin Award.

Current book-in-progress: The Post-American World and The Shock Doctrine
Current knitted item: The yellow secret item is not done because I made another mistake; I think the yellow yarn hates me because the blue secret item only took me a day to knit.
Current movie obsession: This is probably sacrilege but the only things I'm finding funny about Clerks anymore are Jay and Silent Bob (even though Jay needs to be kicked in the balls) and the opening sequence with the sheet, shoe polish, and newspaper stealing. Dammit, I grew up.
Current iTunes loop: One Night in Bangkok (Vinylshakerz Remix)

06 November 2008

Public Transportation Etiquette

For all those people who somehow managed to escape kindergarten without learning basic rules of public behavior, let me give you a little lesson about how to behave on the public transportation system (which in my case means the bus, but this is applicable to subways and commuter trains as well).

1. Have your fare ready. If you don't have your fare or pass out, please step aside to let others board while you dig in your pockets.
2. Please seat yourself quickly. Don't stand in the middle of the aisle when there are seats in the back. The aisle is narrow and we can't get past you.
3. Once you are seated please don't take up more than one seat (unless you don't fit into just one). Lounging and putting your feet on the seats makes less room for other passengers.
4. Please keep your conversation to yourself. This includes both cell phone and in-person conversations. If your companion is sitting next to you then you shouldn't need to yell at one another; if you are not sitting close, please don't shout up and down the carriage. If you're yelling into your cell phone continue the conversation at another time.
5. Bring your headphones for your personal audio device. Do you really want everyone else to know that you have terrible taste?
6. If you are with small children, please discipline them. We none of us like to have your child kick us repeatedly throughout the ride.
7. If you are under the age of 18, and riding alone, keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself.
8. Please practice good personal hygiene. No one likes to ride next to someone who smells like decaying roadkill and who might also be harboring lice and fleas. Don't pick your nose, either.
9. Please exit off the back of the bus. The only time you would need to exit through the front is if the bus is packed or if you have a mobility issue (i.e. wheelchair) and need to use the lift. Being lazy is not a mobility issue.

Now that the lesson for the day is over, I would like to say that my new internal antenna N-network router is amazing. I have been able to use my laptop while in other parts of my apartment without losing the wireless connection. Just a note for others who have feline housemates - don't get a router with an external antenna; I had to replace mine because there were chew marks all over it and I'm assuming that's why I had trouble getting a decent signal.

I managed to reverse the idea that pulling me off surveillance was a good idea. I convinced my boss that surveillance was more important because it was so far behind, like six months behind. So they're going to hire a biostats person for the analysis and I'm full-steam ahead on the surveillance (I have another 4 days done). And then the boss departed for Europe, not return until December. Except now I have to take care of an IRB application that mysteriously came due this week after she left.

Current book-in-progress: The Castle of Otranto, The Post-American World, and The Shock Doctrine
Current knitted item: yellow secret item is almost done
Current movie obsession: Clerks but I'm not finding it as funny as the first time
Current iTunes loop: Filmspotting (there are a lot of episodes to go through)

Infighting?

I love juicy gossip. The post-election kind is kind of funny in a "why-do-grown-adults-who-wanted-to-be-President-act-like-bitchy-teenagers" way.

05 November 2008

They always come in threes

My grandmother always believed that deaths occur in threes (I'm not sure where the sentiment came from because she wasn't overly-superstitious).

Well, the AP reported today that Michael Crichton died of cancer at the age of 66.

That makes three with Studs Terkel and Tony Hillerman. Strange.

04 November 2008

I helped make history today, did you?

Who would have thought that back when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1963 that a man of African descent and a non-Northern European name would be elected President of the United States?

It is wonderful. Obama gave an awesome, awesome speech. Anything is possible.

I cried.

A Little Shakespeare Shelving Lesson

For the little shelvers at the store who can't quite seem to handle shelving the Shakespeare books correctly, here's a little primer.

Shakespeare is generally divided into two parts: commentary and plays (no, sonnets and poems are NOT plays, they go in 'Poetry'). Within each section the books are arranged by title. What that means is the plays are NOT arranged by publisher just because it looks prettier - put them in order by title (and yes, that means the Henrys go in order IV Part I, IV Part II, V, VI Part I, VI Part II, and VI Part III).

For reference, see "Alphabetization of the English Language."

Why didn't I find this earlier?

I've found a hilarious new site (via an article in the NYTimes "Papercuts" blog). Go check out http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/ because it is very funny and Kerry just published a book of the blog entries.

03 November 2008

Why is it always me?

So I'm not completely sold out - the boss forgot to talk to me about pausing surveillance to do the analysis, which is for a clinical department dataset so at least that keeps the money going in the same direction. If I had as many meetings as she does I might lose my mind, too, some days.

The bean counters get very itchy about mixing clinical money/projects and research money/projects.

The reason why I would be temporarily pulled is because I have the best skill set to do the job - meaning I'm the only one around that can program, run, and analyze data using the statistical package and is currently on the clinical department payroll, even for only four hours a week.

Which leads me to wonder why it's always me? Why am I the only one who can get the job done when required even though there are however many other people who work in this division and technically have the same degree that I do? You start to feel like the department bicycle after a while.

Oh dear, NaBloPoMo

November crept up again and I forgot about National Blog Posting Month (not to be confused with National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWriMo). So I'm about two days down to start. Rats.

So in work news, I think I might have been sold out by my boss. I'm not sure (this is my real job, not the bookstore job). The department where I have my office in the hospital, not the College of Medicine department that owns my soul, has contracted with me for four hours per week of infection control surveillance. Mostly surgical site because that's pretty far behind. Today one of the ICPs mentioned that I would be stopping surgical site surveillance to do some analysis for a crani/bone flap study. Huh? We had research meeting not five minutes before that and not one thing was said about me switching to that - considering that the clinical department is paying me to do four hours per week of stuff for them. And surgical site surveillance is stuff for them.

I need to talk to the boss ASAP before the woman leaves for four weeks' vacation in Europe.

See next post for update on situation.

28 October 2008

Kat is totally in trouble...

...for making, er, suggesting I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. I can't stop!!!!

She's got this really interesting endcap up with the unofficial title of "Books Kat Wants You to Read" - the official name is something like "Noteworthy Fiction." Kat tends toward offbeat, different authors (not different as in "so post-modernist you'd rather shoot yourself in the eye than read it," but more quirky than the norm) and she's never recommended anything that I thought was uninteresting. I've always been able to quit and go to bed on my own.

However, this one has its hooks into me - I was just innocently picking it up to peruse while the computer and I were having a disagreement (I said it was going to delete an unused program and the computer demurred because it kept thinking a portion of the file was in use - it totally was not) and 130 pages later the damn thing is acting like book-heroin (Pessl has a little bonus for all us little book freaks: all the chapters are headed with the title of a work of fiction and citations for books the main character references are included parenthetically).

Oh, by the way, I won. The program was eventually deleted.

27 October 2008

So why must it go in the "music" library?

I spent much of last week downloading all the back episodes of the Filmspotting podcast from the website starting all the way at the beginning with Cinecast #1. That would be about 196+ episodes that iTunes didn't have in their podcast library. I had to download them all individually. Oy.

And then iTunes imposed its will on me and uploaded the files into the music library. I can't get them out. I created a playlist and ordered all the episodes sequentially. Ha! Now I have two years of Filmspotting to listen to.

While I worked on all the downloads I watched Becket and Smart People. Smart People was good, very funny, especially Thomas Hayden Church and Ellen Page (who does the scariest robotic, psycho, "must-get-all-As" high school senior). Dennis Quaid was OK, better than he has been. Becket blew me away - is there a good reason why Peter O'Toole didn't get the Academy Award that year? I've seen My Fair Lady a number of times while growing up and Rex Harrison does a good job (I wonder if he'd have looked as good if they'd cast Julie Andrews as Eliza like they should have) but now that I've seen Becket I think Peter O'Toole got robbed (he's been robbed a lot because I guess he's becoming the Susan Lucci of Best Actor nominees) - he was perfect as King Henry II. I always knew Henry was a piece of crap but O'Toole just made it very real. I think we should have watched this in AP English (it is an adaptation of a play, after all) instead of that unbelievably bad version of Oedipus Rex we had to watch. Oh, yeah, and Apocalypse Now. Yuck.

What probably happened is that O'Toole and Richard Burton* (who played Becket) cancelled each other out. Bummer. Now I have to go bump The Lion in Winter up in the Netflix queue so I can watch O'Toole in another Oscar-nominated (but non-winning) turn as Henry, in company with Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins. I watched the TV movie version of TLIW with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close a few years ago (Stewart=good, Close=whoa scary) so I should watch the 1968 motion picture again.

Current book-in-progress: The Mysteries of Udolpho for LbW December/January (I have The Castle of Otranto on order so I can get to the beginning of the Gothic craze)
Current knitted item: one yellow secret item (I grabbed the wrong needles, oops)
Current movie obsession: M (in the original German with subtitles - I really can understand about half of it)
Current iTunes loop: Filmspotting!

*I love to listen to Richard Burton, I do not like to watch him act. He looks stiff as a board in pretty much everything I've seen him in but I love his voice. Mmmmm.*

24 October 2008

Oh really?

Sarah Vowell, who I happen to like and whose The Wordy Shipmates I just finished reading, is scheduled to appear at the Englert Theatre tonight as part of "Live at Prairie Lights" on WSUI.

It's a ticketed event, which isn't unusual for popular authors at the Englert, but this one has a catch. One can only acquire tickets by purchasing a copy of The Wordy Shipmates at Prairie Lights; two tickets are included in the purchase.

Now, I like Sarah Vowell, but that policy is utter crap and I'm pretty sure it's not her fault. I know people who come to "Live at Prairie Lights" events from other towns and a number of times have already acquired the book (because they wanted to read it) at whatever bookstore they choose to patronize. I don't know what Prairie Lights wants to prove but I'm pretty sure requiring attendees to purchase the book at that establishment will drive some patrons away.

Like me - I've never been to a signing anywhere that didn't let you bring your own copy along with to be signed.

22 October 2008

Good things sometimes come early

The "Literature by Women" group is reading The Mysteries of Udolpho for December and January so I went ahead and pre-ordered the new revision of the Oxford World's Classics edition. It was originally scheduled for release in the middle of November.

But to my surprise, there it was, sitting on the table in the break-room last night when I came in for my shift at the bookstore. A whole month early.

It's a very pretty paperback.

I was reminded, while reading the introduction, that I really ought to read Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, too, since I will be focusing on early Gothic novels for a few months.

20 October 2008

I watched a whole movie....wow

Embarassingly enough, I've had the same three DVDs from Netflix for the past month. Or more. I can't remember when the most recent one arrived but it was definitely a month ago. I just didn't have enough time to sit down and watch a movie, particularly a movie I've never seen (this was complicated by my having purchased both Slings and Arrows Complete Set and Criminal Minds Season 3 - being television shows they are easier to watch on a time crunch).

So.

Sunday evening was the perfect time to finally sit down and watch a movie (I returned home from NCDC in Indy and had all the laundry in the washer). I had three to choose from: Velvet Goldmine, Withnail and I, and Penelope.

I chose Velvet Goldmine mostly because I'd tried and failed to watch it before - I was distracted by a vomiting feline previously and didn't have the attention required to follow the shifting storyline. Now, I did really like the movie and I thought the casting was excellent (both Christian Bale and Toni Collette had wonderful roles) but I got a bit confused toward the end.

THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE!

Did Brian Slade re-emerge as Tony Stone (hence the name change that Stuart couldn't access)? The one good close-up of Stone didn't look very much like Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Slade) but that was the only point on which I was confused (even the whole Oscar Wilde - Jack Fairy - Curt Wild sideline didn't mess me up).

But overall I thought Velvet Goldmine was awesome and wish I'd seen it in the theatre when it came out. The movie also has a bit of a bonus - if you ever had a wish to see what Ewan MacGregor looks like minimally clothed, you get your wish.

I also started Withnail and I - about 30 minutes in - and Richard E. Grant is hysterical (lighter fluid!).

Current book-in-progress: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (I listed to the audio recording of Assassination Vacation on my way to/from Indy and it is rediculously funny)
Current knitted item: one yellow secret item
Current movie obsession: Withnail and I
Current iTunes loop: Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature (Portable Professor)

10 October 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Looks like a pretty interesting weekly meme.


What was the last book you bought?
Nicky Epistein's Knitting on Top of the World

Name a book you have read MORE than once.
Ummm, there are a lot. I'll cop out and say Pride and Prejudice.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
And The Band Played On
by Randy Shilts
How do you choose a book? (eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews)
Usually by recommendation or by review, although cover design can catch my eye when I'm just browsing.
Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Fiction all the way
What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Writing
Most loved/memorable character (character/book).
Winnie the Pooh

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Too many to name.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson and The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch - last week. I'm reading Brick Lane by Monica Ali right now.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Yep.

Current book-in-progress: Brick Lane, The Millenium Problems, The Elegant Universe
Current knitted item: Rachel's baby booties - must be done by Sunday and I've procrastinated long enough (and I have to re-knit a secret item because I boo-booed on it)
Current movie obsession: Slings and Arrows complete box set
Current iTunes loop: East Village Opera Company Olde School
*edit: you'll need to forgive the line spacing - Blogger randomly decided not to recognize carriage returns*

09 October 2008

Is it November yet?

I have had five (count 'em - FIVE) phone calls to my mobile from various political groups since noon. It's only 4:00pm right now. There was pro-Obama, pro-McCain, pro-McCain, pro-Democrat, and some idiot who "just wanted to get people to go vote." Really? And I even have an unlisted number.

I hate election years. I really, really do.

Oop, and I just got one on my office phone - that one was a live human who got threatened with a call from the UI General Counsel about telephone solicitation within the UIHC.

GAHHHHH!

02 October 2008

Could I feature your book on my blog...

(This is in response to a comment recently left on an old post)

Dear self-promoting author,
Let's see....You didn't identify yourself, you didn't tell me what book you wrote, and your Blogger identity was hidden. Because you lacked the courtesy to even ask me if I would like to read your book, let alone feature it on my blog, I'll make my answer short and sweet.

No.

Sincerely,
Me

Just for the record, I have an extreme aversion to being "spammed" by self-promoting authors. If you want me to consider reading your book (I don't do free advertising here) then you'll have to ask nicely, tell me what the title is, and why I might like to read your book.

Note that I have italicized read many times.

23 September 2008

Productivity redux

I am still being productive, at least with reading books. Look at what I've finished:
The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can by Broken by Daniel Mendelsohn

That's about half the list. TGK is for Literature by Women so for any major thoughts you'll need to hit the BNBC board; suffice to say, this was probably the wrong Murdoch to start with and I should have switched the title to The Sea, The Sea which was Murdoch's Booker Prize winner. However, since I'd never read any Murdoch before, now I know. There's a good deal of unreality (people don't speak or act quite the way you would expect them to in the late 1980s because they sound vaguely Edwardian) but overall it's a good novel. Breaking Dawn could have used a decent editor; not as catchy a story as Twilight and Meyer went seriously outer-limits with the number of plot threads she needed to tie up (not to mention the overly ridiculous footnote that appears directing the reader to a chart of the vampire covens at about the time a main character grumbles that a chart is needed to keep everyone straight). The Dead Father was recommended to me by a fellow bookseller and I may steer clear of anything else he recommends in the future; that might have been the strangest book I've ever read and I'm pretty sure I didn't understand a darn thing (but it's DONE).

I'm almost finished with:
Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The Millenium Problems by Keith Devlin
Villette by Charlotte Bronte (still only about half-way done, but that's better than it was)


That leaves:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (can I just say how relieved I am that I both purchased and started reading this before Oprah even breathed a hint that it was her new pick?)
Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust (now, that one I haven't started recently but it seems that everytime I try to read it I have to re-start)

Except Grendel by John Gardner - I had to take it back to the library because I just couldn't get into it after about 30 pages. I just really didn't care that much about Grendel being scared or anything. I'll come back to it later.

I can now start some new books (see how this start-itis thing can be a problem?). In honor of Banned Books Week I'm reading Salman Rushdie, starting with Midnight's Children and then probably The Satanic Verses. I recently started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which is the new Barnes and Noble Recommends title and looks to be a very good mystery.

Current book-in-progress: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Current knitted item: Steel grey tea cozy and red variegated scarf (and the surprise items, since I decided that they screamed "fashion victim" and ripped them back out)
Current movie obsession: Velvet Goldmine (still - hey, there's college football on AND all the TV shows are premiering this week)
Current iTunes loop: Paradise City (yes, that G'n'R song)

14 September 2008

Just sad...

I caught the tail end of this on CNN Headline News and had to run a Google search:

Writer David Foster Wallace found dead

According to the article he hanged himself; he was only 46.

12 September 2008

I've been productive!

Really. I have. Ok fine, I've played a lot of PackRat, too.

As many of you know, I have a little start-itis problem with books and knitting projects, books being the major problem. I recently made a list of all the books I recently started but didn't finish yet:

The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Millenium Problems by Keith Devlin
How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can by Broken by Daniel Mendelsohn
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Grendel by John Gardner
Swann's Way by Marcel Proust (now, that one I haven't started recently but it seems that everytime I try to read it I have to re-start)

And I'm sure there are others I missed. I decided to try and make a bit of a dent in the pile. I finished The Time Traveler's Wife first; Niffenegger has an interesting concept in the narrative thread of the book. It is vaguely linear, with view-points by both Claire and Henry which gives each character a great deal of depth. I only had a few bones about the ending - I thought it was trite and lacked a good emotional punch (I'd gotten invested in those characters then it seemed Niffenegger just ran out of steam). I also polished off How to Read Literature Like a Professor which is a really easy-to-read book; I plan to yoink a bit of his insights about Iris Murdoch (I think he's got a soft spot for her). Next up was How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can be Broken which is a book of criticism by Daniel Mendelsohn, a collection of his work from various New York sources. Mendelsohn has a great writing style, educated, reflecting his post-graduate work in Classics but not obviously trying to be remote and obscure. Some of the best essays were either reviews of new productions/adaptation of classical Greek drama or were reviews of movies thinly based on Greek epic or drama. A very enjoyable book. Guns, Germs, and Steel was an easy polish-off; I didn't have much left and the book had run out of steam and was merely re-capitulating earlier points (it was good up until that point).

I then trimmed down Feather Man (caught back up with the "Book Explorers" for BNBC); FM is a first novel by a very respected poet in Australia. Although the novel does have some unsettling subject matter the author writes beautifully about Sooky's vision of her own world as she grows up in 1950s Brisbane. I'm trying not to read too far ahead of my group in The Green Knight because it's harder to keep track of everything when I've read through the novel.

I have The Dead Father and Trainspotting in my bag today; I'll see what I can do about those (The Dead Father is really, really hard to follow because it is so incredibly far into the post-modernist style). I will sit down this weekend, biting the bullet, to finish Breaking Dawn; it just isn't as interesting as the first three books in the series so I might as well be done with it (there are 200 pages left).


Current book-in-progress: I'm really trying to read a bit of criticism for The Green Knight (thankfully, there isn't very much)
Current knitted item: Finishing second pair of booties (must be done by baby shower on October 12) and I'm doing a few more "surprise" items
Current movie obsession: Velvet Goldmine (though since I've been busy reading I haven't been watching anything besides the morning news)
Current iTunes loop: Lucy Woodward is Hot...and Bothered (excellent jazz/lounge-sounding album)

10 September 2008

Big Bang

This is pretty cool. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, was turned on today. They've been working on this project since 1984 and only just started smashing atoms today. Wow.

05 September 2008

I love the 80s

A high point of my day is that my new iPod has enough battery life to let me listen to podcasts throughout the day, which keeps me sane at my desk (when I'm not misbehaving by playing on the Internet, like now). I'm listening to the September 2 podcast from "All Songs Considered" wherein the panel discusses the "bad"-ness that is 80s music. Hysterical. I'm on the extreme tail-end of the 80s generation (I turned 12 in 1990) so I probably belong more to grunge than 80s but I have to confess that, while I acknowledge that most of the 80s music is technically terrible, I love to listen to bad 80s music. Hall 'n Oates, Denise E. Williams, Huey Lewis, Genesis, Madonna, even Eddie Murphy. It has a good beat, you know?

And then the "All Songs Considered" group played Don Johnson (i.e. "Miami Vice"-era Don Johnson) - gag! Ok, I don't like that.

The panel did ask a really interesting question: of the groups/bands/individuals who made music in both the 1970s and 1980s, did any of them make better music in the 1980s than the 1970s?

Then they played "I will dare" by The Replacements because the group got tired of embarassing each other. Excellent!