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."


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

21 December 2008


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


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


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):
Merlot (Despereaux's siblings have odd names)
defiance (I might have known this one)
Chiaroscuro (I only learned this about 5 years ago, so I'm pretty sure I didn't know this one)
clout (the hitting kind, not the reputation kind)

(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)