Joyeux Noel

Amy and I are leaving for Paris Thursday morning. We have a rather busy Wednesday so I suspect I will not have time for writing. I don’t believe I will have internet access in Paris so I will not be writing again until around January 2.

All of this is to say I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hug your mom, kiss your dog and please, be careful people!

A Short Post

This will be short. I have spent most of the day quite ill and I don’t expect I have the strength or mental capacity to write a whole lot at this point. My blog pal Foolish Knight has asked everyone for their top ten songs of all time. I posted mine in his comments which you can read here although it is not the final version. i have a very hard time with the term “favorite.” Mainly because it makes me try to say one thing is better than the other. If I say Star Wars is my favorite movie then it means I think To Kill a Mockingbird is not as good as Star Wars. When this is not at all true. Choosing ten songs was amazingly difficult. There are a whole lot of other songs that I enjoy just as much as those ten. Then there are a million more that I enjoy at certain moments to make me happy or sad or whatever…All this is to say I hope to make a new list on this site going over a whole bunch of my favorite songs/artists.

Being sick I slacked off even more on my movie watching. I still haven’t finnished the Abyss and didn’t get started on this weeks movie: About Schmidt. And now there is Christmas to content with. Maybe I’ll get back on track in the New Year.

DVD Review: The Poseidon Adventure

There are a few movies I remember being surprised at as a child. These were movies that I saw on television or Beta/VHS that were made before my time and not meant as children's stories. Some of them were genuine classics like To Kill a Mockingbird that instilled in me a sense that beauty and art can be found in a film. Others were like the Poseidon Adventure that while not particularly masterful films still showed me that there were many other films out there besides the "family" films being churned out at the local cineplex. These films eventually opened up to me the world of cinema.

I first saw the Poseidon Adventure at Grandma and Papa's house. I had been dropped off by my mother for an afternoon while she went shopping or some other mundane task. After flipping channels awhile I came across this great sinking ship and fell mystified into a grand epic adventure. To this day I recall my mother coming home during the final 20 minutes or so and me making her stay because I just had to see the ending. She had seen the film, but praised it as a classic adventure and allowed me to see the end. Periodically I have caught bits and pieces of the movie again on cable and always pause to watch a scene or two. I bought it in a bargain bin a few months back and joyfully added it to my collection. Last night Amy and I decided to watch it.

Watching it on DVD I realize this was the first time I have ever actually seen the very beginning of the movie. As a child I caught the picture 10-20 minutes into and all subsequent viewings have all been by catching it part way through on television. I am afraid the movie as a whole doesn't hold up all that well to my childhood memory. Oh, it's a big, grand adventure, but like the ship of the movie, it starts to sink under its own enormousness.

It has a basic 70's disaster movie plot. Big ocean cruise liner is hit by enormous wave and is turned upside down, killing nearly everyone. A few survivors are followed as they make their way up (down?) the ship and try to escape. It is way over the top and it almost seems as if the director Ronald Neame told his actors to ham it up in every scene. Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine do their best howling at each other in every other scene.

The script follows very basic rules. It rolls like something you would see in a basic screenwriter's class. You start with an establishing shot, follow it with a basic introduction of your main characters while making sure their essential character motivation is directly handed to the audience in their first few minutes of screen time. Then you set your plot into action. It's disaster is even set into action by an evil corporate leader. Leslie Nielson plays the good captain who is hounded by a goon sent from the ships corporate owner to ensure it ports for its final time on the right date. The corporate goon orders Nielson's captain to increase speed though Nielson argues this will surely cause the old ship to sink. The corporate goon, of course, wins and sets up the disaster. On a sidenote it is unintentionally funny to watch Nielson in a serious role when everyone knows his slew of later, goofier roles in movies such as the Naked Gun and Airplane.

This film acts like it invented implausibly. Gene Hackman reverend moves, acts, and orders others around like he's the ship's captain though he has no previous knowledge of how the ship's design, or conceivably the physics of a cruise liner. Yet his motivation for acting like this was set up earlier. Before the ship sinks we get a sermon from this unorthodox preacher who believes in helping onesfelf instead of relying on Divine intervention. Likewise all the other characters follow along in their previously established types, never budging from this set character mold and certainly not evolving in any meaningful way.

All of this is not to say the film isn't enjoyable. It is not high art after all. It knows full well it's purpose is to entertain the audience and nothing more. It does this quite well. Though its plot is strained it moves along with a quick pace and maintains a claustrophobic tension throughout. I have not seen many of the other disaster movies of the era so I cannot place the Poseidon Adventure accordingly amongst their ranks. But as an action/adventure flick you could do worse.

One More Friday Night

Wow! It’s been a few days since I last wrote. I keep promising myself to write everyday and I keep not doing it. I can’t say that I have been busy, but I guess I have been busy enough to keep me away.

I still have no managed to watch all of the Abyss for my review. I guess I have been slightly busy. Hmmmm, what have I been doing since Tuesday? Wednesday is Amy’s day off so we piddled around, had French class, went to church and planned our Casablanca trip. We spend most of the afternoon, on Thursday, at Elizabeths. There we had lunch and made tons of cookies. Well, I should say Elizabeth and Amy made tons of cookies while I sat on the couch, read, and ate the cookies. Daniel and Laura joined us a little later and we all sat around eating cookies. They were all going to the departmental Christmas party that night while Amy and I went to Casablanca. It was very disenchanting because weeks ago Amy got an e-mail inviting a few folks to go to dinner at this nice restraunt. The invite said nothing about it being a Christmas, or year end party at all. It sounded more like Amy’s boss had found a cool restraunt that had excellent tarte flambees and wanted an excuse to go than a departmental party. So Amy and I decided that we really couldn’t afford to pay the estimated 50 Euros to have tarte flambee. That night we realize it is in fact a Christmas party and everyone is going! Typical French to make a vague invitation and expect everyone to know it is a Christmas party even if there is no way we could know that.

Interestingly enough on our way from Elizabeths we ran into Amy’s boss. He was quite dissapointed in us not going to the party, but we did our best to explain our misunderstanding. No kidding ten minutes later in the exact same spot we ran into our friend Nadia. No, we weren’t standing in the same spot waiting. We had actually gone to the house, grabbed a sandwich and headed out to see Casablanca. Totally weird to run into someone else in the same spot not but a few minutes later. We often run into people we know on the streets of Strasbourg. It’s got a half million people in it, of which we know maybe 20, but at least once a week we bump into a familiar face. Ah, France!

Casablanca was, of course, wonderful. I will wait to review it until I watch it again on DVD. This viewing was pure joy and I didn’t bother myself with an objective view. Unlike Touch of Evil, Casablanca was playing in the big theatre instead of the crappy basement theatre. It is one of those old gorgeous theatres. It has big red curtains, a real balcony, and fairly ornate architechture. The print of the film was pretty bad. There were lots of crackles in the soundtrack, lots of smudges in the picture and several moments jumped forward a second or two, missing some classic lines of dialogue. We went with Jason, Ivica, Pamela and Jill all of who had never seen it before. It’s such a pleasure to me to watch classic films that I love with people who have never seen it. During the scene where Rick and Ilsa are seemingly getting back together I could hear Pamela making a ruckus. At first I thought she was making fun of the movie and not liking it. Then I realized she was enjoying the film and was upset that Ilsa was with Rick while still married. I wanted to whisper to her that it works out in the end but she was too far away. After the movie she was beaming with joy over the fact that they did the right thing. I have talked to a few “younger” people about Casablanca before and found they didn’t like the ending because it wasn’t the traditional happy ending. It was quite unique to find Pamela thrilled for the same reason. All in all everyone seemed to love the movie. Ivica struggled with some of the dialogue because English is not his first language and because of the poor quality of the print. Although he did tell me that ‘that Rick is a pretty cool guy.” I had to agree.

Books I’ve Read Since September 2004

This started as a list of books that I have read since I came to France in September 2004. Eventually I started rating them and writing mini reviews, which in turn became long reviews. I know the format of this page stinks, in time I’ll work something better out. Until then scroll down for the reviews.

*update Nov 2015*  When I moved away from this blog to a non-free web hoster I maintained a list of books I’ve read.  When I came back to this free WordPress site I lost that list. Or rather I kept the actual list but lost the webpage.  I’m tacking on that old list to this really old one so the formatting will change abruptly somewhere down at the end.

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller – *
Snotgirl Vol, 1 by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ***

February 2017

Hush, Vol. 2 by Jeph Loeb – ****
Girl on the Train – ***

January 2017
X-Men From the Ashes by Chris Claremont – ****
The Immortal Iron Fist – The Origin of Danny Rand by Matt Fraction – **
Captain American: The Chosen by David Morrell – *
Batman: Hush, Vol. 1 by Jeph Loeb – ****

Total Books read in 2017: 8

December 2016

Hellsing, Vol. 4 by Kohta Hirano and Duane Johnson – ***
Elektra Assasin by Frank Miller – ***
Harbour by ‘John Ajvide Lindqvist – ****
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis – ***
Hellsing, Vol. 3 by Kohta Hirano and Duane Johnson – ***
Hellsing, Vol. 2 by Kohta Hirano and Duane Johnson – ***
Hellsing, Vol. 1 by Kohta Hirano and Duane Johnson – ***

November 2016

Giant Days by John Allison – ***1/2
Giant Days by John Allison – ***
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For by Frank Miller – ***
Incognito, Volume 2: Bad Influences – ****
Incognigo by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2
Fatale, Vol. 5: Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker – ****

October 2016

Gotham Central: Book Four – Corrigun by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker – ****
Fatale, Vol. 4: Pray For Rain by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2
Fatale, Vol. 3: West of Hell by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2
Fatale, Vol. 2: The Devil’s Business by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2
Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker – ***
The Flash Rebirth by Geoff Johns – **
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore – ****
Ex Machina Vol. 10: Term Limits by Brian K. Vaughan – ****
Ex Machina vol. 9: Ring Out the Old by Brian K. Vaughan – ***
Ex Machina Vol. 8: Dirty Tricks by Brian K. Vaughan – ***
Very Good, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse – ***1/2
Ex Machina Vol. 7: Ex Cathedra by Brian K. Vaughan – ***
Ex Machina Vol. 6: Power Down by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Ex Machina Vol. 5: Smoke Smoke by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2

September 2016

Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction – ***1/2
Ex Machina Vol. 4: March to War by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Ex Machina Vol. 3: Fact V. Fiction by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Ex Machina Vol. 2: Tag by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis – ***
Ex Machina Vol. 1: The First Hundred Days by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross – ***
The Whites by Richard Price – ****
1963 by Alan Moore – ***

August 2016

Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2
Astro City: Beautie – Her Dark Plastic Roots – ***
Marvel’s Civil War by Mark Miller – ***
Gotham Central, Book Three: On the Freak Beat by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker – ****
Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller – ***1/2
Daredevil: Love and War by Frank Miller – ***
Daredevil: Yellow by Jeff Loeb- ***1/2

July 2016
Conversations with Woody Allen by Eric Lax – ****

April 2016

Carsick by John Waters – **1/2
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar – ****
Teen Titans #1 by Scott Lobdell – ***

March 2016

The Road to Civil War (Marvel Comics) – 8881/2
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson – ***
The Martian by Andy Weir (Audiobook) – ***1/2
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – ****
Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan – ***1/2

February 2016

Sandman, Vol 5: A Game of You
The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb – ****
The Big Knockover by Dashiell Hammett – ****

January 2016

Ex Machina, Vol. 1: The First Hundred Days by Brian K Vaughan – ****
Playback (Graphic Novel) by Raymond Chandler – *
The Sandman, Vol 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman – ****

Books read in 2016: 61

December 2015

Scorsese on Scorsese edited by Ian Christie – *****
The Walking Dead Volume 16: A Larger World by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 15:We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman- ***
The Walking Dead Volume 14: No Way Out by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 13: Too Far Gone by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 11:Fear the Hunters by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead Volume 9: Here We Remain by Robert Kirkman – ***
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller – ****
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore – ****1/2
Raylan by Elmore Leonard – ***

November 2015

Gotham Central: Book One – In the Line of Duty by Ed Brbaker & Greg Rucka – ***1/2
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted  by Joss Whedon – ***1/2
Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous by Joss Whedon – ***
Astonishing X-Men: Torn by Joss Whedon – ***
Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume Four: 1986-1987 by Berkeley Breathed – ****

October 2015

Hitchcock/Truffaut by Francois Truffaut – *****

August 2015

Old Boy, Vol 6 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Old Boy, Vol 5 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Old Boy, Vol 4 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Old Boy, Vol 3 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Old Boy, Vol 2 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Old Boy, Vol 1 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****

June 2015

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook) – ***1/2

May 2015

Shopgirl by Steve Martin – ****
Oldboy, Vol 4 by Garon Tsuchiya & Nobuaki Minegishi – ***1/2
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe – **

April 2015

As You Wish by Cary Elwes – ****

May 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling – ***

January 2015

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****1/2

Number of books read in 2015: 31

December 2014

One Summer – America, 1927 by Bill Bryson – ****
The Walking Dead: Volume 9: Here We Remain by Robert Kirkman – ***

October 2014

On Writing by Stephen King – ****
Owsley and Me by Rhoney Gissen Stanley – ***
Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (audiobook) – ****

September 2014

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (audiobook) – ****1/2
Night of the Living Deadpool by Cullen Bunn & Ramon Rosanas – ***1/2
Preacher: Alamo by Garth Innis and Steve Dillon – ***
Preacher: All Hells A-Coming by Garth Innis and Steve Dillon – ****
Preacher: Salvation by Garth Innis and Steve Dillon – ****
Preacher: War in the Sun by Garth Innis and Steve Dillon – ****

August 2014

All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross – ****
Jeeves and the Tie that Binds by P.G. Wodehouse – ***1/2

May 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – ***
Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis – ****

April 2014

Elephant Juice by Jeremy McGill
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – ***
Scorsese by Ebert by Roger Ebert – ****1/2

February 2014

‘Salems Lot by Stephen King – ***1/2

January 2014

The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer by Robert Kirkman – ****
The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before by Robert Kirkman – ****
The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman – ****
The Walking Dead, Vol. 5: The Best Defense by Robert Kirkman – ****
The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire by Robert Kirkman – ****
The Walking Dead, Vol 3 – Safety Behind Bars by Robert Kirkman – ***
The Walking Dead, Vol 2 – Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman – ***
X-Men: Supernovas by Mike Carey – **
Preacher – Dixie Fried by Garth Innis – ***1/2

Total Books Read in 2014: 28

November 2013

Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon – ***1/2
Lush Life by Richard Price – ****
X-Men – Inferno by Chris Claremont – **1/2
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – ***1/2
Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy – ***

August 2013

Bossypants by Tina Fey – ***
Enormously Foxtrot by Bill Amend – **1/2

July 2013

Scot Pilgrim’s Finest Hour – by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
Scott Pilgrim Vs the Universe – by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
Scott Pilgrim Vs the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley – ****
A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin – ***1/2
Lady Snowblood, Vol. 1: The Deep-Seated Grudge Part 1 by Kazuo Koike & Kazuo Kamimura – ***1/2
Jerry Gallwell v Larry Flynt by Rodney A Smolla – ***1/2

June 2013

Wolverine by Chris Clemont and Frank Miller – ****
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont – ****
Journey to Cubeville by Scott Adams – **1/2
Oldboy Vol 5 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobauaki Minegishi – ****

May 2013

Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades by Oakley Hall – ***
Bloom County: The Complete Library Volume Two: 1982-1984 by Berke Breathed – ****
Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman – ***1/2
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – *****

April 2013

Catch Me if You Can by Frank W. Abagnale – ***
Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman – ****
Zits: Growth Spurt by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman – ***
Big Honkin’ Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman – ***1/2

March 2013

DMZ Vol. I, Body on the Ground by Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli – ***1/2

February 2013

Preacher: Proud Americans – ****
Preacher: Until the End of the World by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon – ****
Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon – ****

January 2013

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – ***

Total books read in 2013: 32

December 2012

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – ****
The Sandman #1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – ****

November 2012

The Grifters by Jim Thompson – ****1/2
Big Trouble by Dave Berry – ***

October 2012

Maus II by Art Spiegelman – *****
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome X by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome IX by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome VIII by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome VII by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome VI by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome V by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Ichi the Killer, Tome IV by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by PJ O’Rourke – ***
A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin – ***

August 2012

Maus I by Art Spiegelman – *****
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence – ***
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris – **

July 2012

Old Boy Vol 4 by Garon Tsuchiya, Nobuaki Minegishi – ****

June 2012

7 Billion Needles by Nobuaki Tadano – **
Chew vol 4 by John Layman, Rob Guillory – ***

May 2012

The Glass Key by Dashielle Hammett – ****
Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt – ***1/2
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach – ***1/2
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson – *****

April 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre – ***
Pronto by Elmore Leonard – ***
A Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon – ***
A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin – ****

March 2012

A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin – ****
Jeeves in the Offing by PG Wodehouse – ****
Chew, Volume 3: Just Desserts by John Layman and Rob Guillory – ****
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan – ***

February 2012

Ichi the Killer, Tome III by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
Chew, Volume 2: International Flavor by John Layman and Rob Guillory – ***1/2

January 2012

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer – ***
31 Songs by Nick Hornby – ****
Ichi the Killer, Tome II by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
American Hitch-hiker by Jeremy McGill
Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything: A FoxTrot Collection by Bill Amend – ***
Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice by John Layman and Rob Guillory – ****

Total Books Read in 2012: 41

December 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – *****
Shakespeare: The World a Stage by Bill Bryson – ****
Old Boy, Vol 3 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Ichi the Killer, Tome I by Hidéo Yamamoto – ***
The Killing Man by Mickey Spillane – **
Casino by Nicholas Pileggi – ***1/2
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, Andrew Bromfield (Translator) – ***

November 2011

Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi – ****
Blood’s a Rover by James Ellroy – **
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut – ****
The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse – ****

October 2011
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 2 by Eiji Otsurka & Kousui Yamazaki – ***
Bloom County Babylon by Berke Breathed – ****
It’s a Magical World by Bill Watterson – *****
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby – ***
Game of Thrones by George RR Martin – ****
September 2011
Old Boy, Vol 2 by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi – ****
Tales Too Ticklish to Tell by Berke Breathed – ****
Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman – ***

August 2011

Spook by Mary Roach – ***
Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut – ***
Billy and the Boingers Bootleg by Berke Breathed – ****
Y: The Last Man, Book 10 – Whys and Wherefores by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ****

June 2011

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – ***
Enormously Foxtrot by Bill Amend – **

May 2011

Batman: The Widening Gyre by Kevin Smith – **
Oldboy, Vol. 1 by Garon Tsuchiya & Nobuaki Mingegishi – ****
Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things by Berke Breathed – ****
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Volume 1) by Eiji Otsuka, Housui Yamazaki – ****

April 2011

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso – ***
The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone By by Robert Kirkman – ***
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson – ****
Ladies Man by Richard Price – **1/2

March 2011

A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger – ***1/2
Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward – ***
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – *
Y: The Last Man, Book 9 – Motherland by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ***1/2

February 2011

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – **

January 2011

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris – ****
Y: The Last Man, Book 9 – Kimono Dragons by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ***1/2
Ignorance, They Name is Bucky by Darby Conley – ****

Books read in 2011: 41

December 2010

Stiff by Mary Roach – ****
Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut – ***1/2
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Vol 5, The Wrath of Mulgarath by Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black – ***
Tin Tin and the Blue Lotus by Herge – ***
Down Under By Bill Bryson – ****

November 2010

Deliverance by James Dickey – ****

October 2010

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley – **

September 2010

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk – **
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi – ***1/2
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist – ***

August 2010

Night by Elie Weisel
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh – ****
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane – ****
Fer-De-Lance by Rex Stout – ***
Reading 10,000 Books by Peggy Pate-Smith

July 2010

Y: The Last Man – Paper Dolls – ***
Y: The Last Man – Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ***

June 2010

Y: The Last Man – Ring of Truth by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ***1/2
The Losers, Book One by Andy Diggle & Jock – ***
The Crow by JO Barr – **1/2
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 2 (Deluxe Edition) Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ****

May 2010

Contact by Carl Sagan – ****
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett – *****

April 2010

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris – **

March 2010

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson – **1/2
God Bless You, Dr. Kavorkian by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – ***
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean – ***1/2
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – ****1/2
The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett – ****
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card – ***
Y: The Last Man – Cycle by Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ****

February 2010

Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield – ***
Clockers by Richard Price – *****
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – ***1/2

January 2010

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – ****

Books read in 2010: 35

December 2009

Y: The Last Man, Book 1: Unmanned by Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra – ****1/2
Batman: The Killing Joke By Alan Moore, Brian Bollard & John Higgins – *****
Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard – ****

September 2009

Tishimingo Blues by Elmore Leonard – ***1/2
Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh – **
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – ****1/2

August 2009

World War II by C.L. Sulzberger – ***1/2
Night by Elie Wiesel – *****

July

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – ****
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – ****
Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut – ***

June

The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd – **1/2
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré – ****
Gold Coast by Elmore Leonard – **

May

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – ****
30 Days of Night, Book 3: Return to Barrow by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith – ***1/2
Fletch and the Widow Bradley by Gregory McDonald – **1/2
The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns – ****1/2
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon – ****1/2
30 Days of Night, Book 2: Dark Days by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith – ****

April

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Vol. 4: The Ironwood Tree by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black – ***
Family Values (Sin City, Book 5) by Frank Miller – **
Welcome to Hoxford by Ben Templesmith – ***
30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith – ***1/2
Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov – ****
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Vol. 3: Lucinda’s Secret by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black – ***1/2

March

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Vol. 2 – The Seeing Stone by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black – ****
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Vol. 1 – The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black – ****
Stardust by Neil Gaiman – ***

February 2009

Slam by Nick Hornby – **1/2
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller – ****

January 2009

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard – ****
Out of Sight by Elmore Leonard – ***1/2
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller – ****

Total Books Read in 2009: 33

December 2008

Baby Shark by Robert Fate – ***
Books by Larry McMurtry – *1/2
Fletch by Gregory MacDonald – ***1/2
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Audiobook) – ***1/2

November 2008

October 2008

White Jazz by James Ellroy – **1/2
Killshot by Elmore Leonard – ****
Baby Shark’s High Plains Redemption by Robert Fate – ***1/2

September 2008

Watchmen – ****1/2
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – ***1/2
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – ****

August 2008

Homicide by David Simon – *****

July 2008

Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard – ***1/2
Surviving the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor – ****

June 2008

A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick – ***
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – **1/2

May 2008

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse – ***1/2
The Stand by Stephen King – ***1/2
No Country for Old Men Cormac McCarthy – ****

April 2008

The Witches by Roald Dahl – ***1/2
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – ****
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – ***

March 2008

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – ***1/2

February 2008

George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl – ****
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby – ****
The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard – ****1/2
The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto “Che” Guevera – **1/2
The Bridge to Terabithia by Catherine Patterson – ***
Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman – Audiobook – ***

January 2008
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson – **

Total Books Read in 2008: 29

31 Songs by Nick Hornby
Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Feilding
The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx
The Corrections by John Franzen
Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
The High Window by Raymond Chandler
Fox Fire by Joyce Carol Oates
All Around this Town by Mary Higgins Clark
Glass Key by Dashielle Hammett
Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
The Idiot Girl’s Action Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Me and Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti
Girl with the Pearl Earing by Tracy Chevalier
Trance State by John Case

Read in 2005

Playback by Raymond Chandler
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle ***

Peter Mayles account of his first year in the South of France. It is filled with humerous accounts of the locals, rebuilding his house and delicious meals. He describes the French cuisine like art. Nearly every page leaves your belly rumbling and mouth watering.

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom **

A few months back I watched the movie again and was well underwhelmed by my memory of how magical it was. The book didn’t do much to bolster my opinion. The plot is similar even if it differs in many places. Forrest is very much the idiot sevant, but his adventures are mostly different. The book is funny in many places, and several times I laughed out loud. However, it fell short in trying to make me care about the characters or in its attempt at satire.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris ****

This was my second time reading this book. If anything it has proven even funnier the second time. Sedaris has an eye for detail and a way of finding humor and insight in the sordid details of his life. It is so hard to distinguish where his reality ends and fantasy begins. And surely there is some fantasy for some the stories he tells are so bizarre they have to be made up. Having now spent 4 months in France and dealt with trying to understand the culture and the language, I found the essays on France to be the most interesting. There are pages of texts where I laughed out loud, read again with tears rolling down my cheeks, then sought out my wife so I could read them to her and laugh all over again.

Animal Farm by George Orwell ****

This was kind of a reverse ‘negative utopia,’ for animals. That is to say, here the characters begin their story by creating a real utopia, but in true Orwell fashion, that utopia is slowly destroyed and a darker, crueler world arises. Not nearly as good as 1984, this is never-the-less classic stuff. I can’t help but root for the characters in Orwells writing knowing full well that it won’t turn out good for them. This, still manages to crush my spirits by books end.

Rabbit Redux by John Updike ***

3/4ths of this is very good. It sinks somewhere in the middle with a lot of dialogue about race issues. I understand that the characters need to undergo change. But do you have to give me 40 odd pages of dialogue for me to understand that change? The rest of the novel is pure Updike. Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is back 10 years after the events of Rabbit, Run. He is still the American everyman. And still very much without a clue about his life. Choosing to allow life to happen to him, rather than make a choice. There is a social commentary weaved into the commentary, this time pinned into the fabric at the tumultous end of the 60s. It’s weaved a little too thick here, in some places, so that it feels more like a treatice than the background for a good story.

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon ****

I started reading this book in February or March of 2003. For one reason or another I was only a couple of hundred pages into it when it was due back to the library. As is usual with me, I decided to give up reading it and turn it in, rather than recheck it. This is not a comment on the quality of the read, but rather a quirk in my own existense. I was fairly busy at the time and I figured that if I only made it through 200 pages in the first three weeks, another three weeks wouldn’t get me to the end of this 636 paged tome. Finding it in the library here, I decided to pick it back up. I’m glad I did, and grateful I managed to finnish it this time.

Chabon has created a magical book. Slightly based on the history of the comic book, and partly a fictional account of a small group of Jews during the atrocities of Hitler. Though, as Chabon admits, he chooses to ignore facts and history as it suits his story. It is the story of the friendship between Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay. The story begins with Joe having fled Nazi run Prague for the comforts of his cousin, Sam’s comfortable apartment in Brooklyn. They quickly become great friends and enter into the burgeoning comic book world.

Chabon writes beautifully crafted sentence that course forwards and bacwards through time to tell a multi-faceted story. His pen pauses in moments of time during the present and pulls the reader into a back story of Prague, the Kavaliers and comic books. Joe Kavalier’s story is beautifully told, encompassing a stint as a magician and escape artists before travling from Prague to New York by way of Asia and California. The story of how Joe traveled to New York by way of a golem filled box is hilarious, frightening and poignant. For the first 2/3s of the book, Chabon’s pen doesn’t let the reader down from it’s magnificent begining.

Yet it is about 2/3s of the way in, that the story begins to faulter. In an effort to tell a grand, epic story, Chabon treads beyond the beautifully told past, and magnificent present, into a less than glorious future. Seeing his characters rise from humble, troubled beginings to a stellar, triumphant present, only to have them fall again was a mistake. It’s not so much the fall that hurts the story but the rushed way it is told. The novel moves at a slow pace, giving many sumpuous details and never minding to slip into the past for a revealing story. Yet, when it moves to the future it seems to force things along. You can feel the writer telling his story to point towards his final concluding point, rather than just allow the story to unfold. To really flesh out the future section he would have needed another few hundred pages. I would have preferred him to wrap up the story leaving out the future scenes. He does manage to salvage the conclusion and bring his characters into fully realized beings.

Double Indemnity by James M Cain ****

Of the great trinity of American crime fiction (Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Cain) James M Cain is the only one who told his story from the perspective of the criminal rather than the detective. Just as you know in a detective novel that the detective is going to catch the crook, here you know Cain’s criminals are going to be caught. But that doesn’t make you root for them any less. They are sad, pathetic, often cruel and yet strangely sympathetic. Double Indemnity’s lonely insurance man is a schmuck, but there is an everyman charm in his guillibility. Cain writes it as if anybody; your neighbor, brother, or even yourself is just a sly woman away from committing murder and fraud. Tough, gritty and beautiful.

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk * 1/2
Serenade by James M Cain **
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby * 1/2
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux *** 1/2
The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ***
Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett **1/2
Jane Eyre by Chalotte Bronte ****1/2
The Little Sisterby Raymond Chandler ****
I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe ***1/2
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr *****
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer ***1/2
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway *****
American Tabloid by James Elroy ***1/2
The African Queen by CS Forester **
The Simpsons One Step Beyond Forever: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family…Continued AgainFatale, Vol. 4: Pray For Rain by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2
Fatale, Vol. 3: West of Hell by Ed Brubaker – ***1/2

Mardi Malade

Living’s mostly wasting time
And I waste my share of mine
But it never feels too good
So let’s not take too long
You’re as soft as glass and I’m a gentle man
We got the sky to talk about
And the world to lie upon

–Townes Van Zandt

A late update today. I’ve been rather ill most of the day and have not felt like writing much. I did manage to do quite a bit of reading, watching a lot of old Simpsons episodes, and do a lot of napping. It’s a hard life, I know.

I’ve always been a bit of a voyeur. Not in the dirty, peeping kind of way. I find myself looking into lighted windows, watching people pass me by, and studying others while in a restraunt or store. I find the behavior of others utterly fastenating. I still remember standing in line at Wet n Wild or Universal Studios in Orlando, FL when I was 14 or 15 and being amazed at all the people. There were gobs, and gobs of people everywhere. We would stand in line and I remember thinking, as I stared at the same people in front and behind of me, that this is the only moment in my life I would ever see these people. But they all obviously had their own lives. It was a profound moment for me to realize that the world is full of people and I will never know in the mildest sort of way. Since then, I guess, I’ve always liked to watch others when they don’t think they are being watched. These days as I look out my window and catch glimpses of others in the apartment across the street I find myself thinking of language. The people over there are just like everyone else, more or less, but I realize that if I could hear what they were saying, if I was that fly on the wall, I would have no idea what they were talking about. Oh, I might catch a word or two, I might gather some gist through gestures and will, but mostly I would just sit confused.

If there is anything I have learned in France thus far it is the utter complexity of language. I speak, in English, every day without thinking about it. Words fly off the tongue and they are gone, meanings are grasped but the words dissappear. Yet everyday I hear people speaking in French and have no idea what they are saying. I know those strange words have meaning for others understand and respond, but its like some old mystical song to me. Like that scene in Shawshank Redemption where Tim Robbins plays the bit from the opera. It’s like the words are a cryptic puzzle and I’m missing the key.

I suppose I am learning little pieces of the language at a very slow pace. It’s amazing at how nervous I am when trying to speak it to others. Last night I had my french lesson in a Subway. After Ann bought her sandwich I went over to buy myself a drink. I was literally nervous over ordering a Coke. I didn’t even have to ask for it politely, poiting towards the can on the shelf and saying “Coca” would suffice. But I had no buffer with me. I feared that the lady behind the counter would not be satisfied with my simple order and may ask for more information. Or that she may be friendly and ask about my family, where I was from, or any number of pleasantries. I don’t want to appear as some rude American who refuses to say “I’m fine thanks, and you?” Relations between our countries are difficult enough without me adding to the trouble. What if she asks if I want a sandwich and a bag of chips and a cookie? My usual response to French I don’t understand is to smile and nod politely, this could be confused as acceptance of an order I can’t possibly afford. When I finally did order the Coke the two ladies whispered to each other, pointed upstairs to where Ann was and then one spoke in English, “you get free refills with the meal.” Referring to the meal Ann had ordered. I explained I wanted a Coke for myself and somehow felt let down that I had not been challenged with the language.

Another Manic Monday

I just posted my 2010 review. Got partially through a mini review of Touch of Evil and the Corrections before some weird glitch happened and it was deleted. We'll see if I write it again…Today I plan to watch the Abyss so keep an eye out for that review in a couple of days.

We spend the weekend bumming around. Amy went to the girls to make Christmas decorations and so I watched 2010 a little earlier than planned. We "rented" Bridget Jones Diary as well and watched it last night. Not sure yet if I'll actually review it.

It snowed a little here. Nothing to write home about. The cars have a thin layer and you can see it in grassy area of the cities. I swear to you every single car that has a layer of snow on it also has writing in that snow. It's like there is this whole pack of snow grafiti artists who lie in wait for the first snow and then attack with smiley faces, santa clauses and a wide variety of perversion. Very odd it is.

Just found out Amy only has one class today so I might not get to watch the Abyss as planned. We'll see how it goes.

DVD Review: 2010

To read my concept of reviews click here.

Like several movies in my DVD collection I did not purchase 2010. It was a movie my folks owned and decided to get rid of. Never being one to turn down a movie, I took it.

I watched 2001 for the first time in college. I had no intention of seeing the sequel because I knew it was not made by Kubrick and felt it would probably be very inferior. However, my roommate, decided to rent it and I watched it. Even though my parents gave it to me a couple of years ago, I have had no desire to actually watch it. But since I have vowed to review all the movies in my collection I did my duty this evening. I was mildly surprised, but not at all impressed.

In watching this movie I did my best to remove the idea that this is a sequel out of my head and just tried to enjoy it as a science fiction film. This was increasingly difficult since a great deal of time in this film is spent going back and explaining all of the events in 2001. This is probably my greatest complaint about the film. Where 2001 works not by not giving any answer, 2010 works too hard to give meaning not only to itself, but also 2001. Where 2001 is silent, allowing images to tell the story, 2010 fills nearly every moment with noise.

The visuals of 2010 were very well done. I felt the images of the space ships, planets, and space travel were quite nice. The special effects, in general, were also very nice. The film does get severely dated with it's cold war subplot. Americans and Russians working together in space while their political counterparts wage war on the Earth below may have been effective at the time, but today it only seems cheesy.

I have not read the books to 2001 or 2010 so I do not know if their explanation of HAL's "malfunction" are the same as the movies. I can't help but feel disappointed with the explanation either way. I have always felt that part of the power of 2001 was how it didn't answer many of the questions it asked. How there was no explanation of where the monoliths came from, no explanation of what went wrong with HAL, no explanation of what the long sequence at the end meant. It's as if by not giving us explanations, the viewer has to fill in the gaps. In 2010 we get more answers than we need. Any real explanation of why HAL went bad, no matter how logical, seems to dull the experience of watching 2001. Now again, I haven't read the books, where I believe those very things are explained. So those who have read the books may not feel the same way, but this is my experience.

In the end, that is the better way to sum up my feelings on this movie. If you have never read the books, but find 2001 to be an immensely satisfying film experience then 2010 is most likely to be disappointing. However, if you have read the books and have already had much of the meaning behind 2001 explained to you, then you may find more enjoyment out of the sequel. Likewise, if you have never seen the art that is 2001, or found it too heady to understand, then 2010 may be an enjoyable piece of science fiction.

Walking

Walk down that lonesome road all by yourself
Don’t turn your head back over your shoulder
And only stop to rest yourself when the silver moon
Is shining high above the trees

–James Taylor

This morning I had a French lesson at McDonalds at 11 am. Or I was supposed to have one. I left my place about 10:30 which is a bit more than you need taking the tram, but I was hoping to walk most of it, hopping the tram if I saw I was running late. McDonalds is right on the tram track so I normally walk along the tramway to get there. This time I decided to take a short cut.

From my way the tram actually makes a little curve on its way to McDonalds. By my way of thinking I was going to make a straight shot of it, going from one point of the curve to the next without actually taking the longer curve of it. Does that makes sense? Think of a circle and realize that the shortest distance from one point to the next on the cirlce is a straight line, not the curve.

Apparently the actual curve is a lot less than I imagined it to be and so I wound up walking more parallel with the tram than actually running into it. This comes from hindsight and was unknown to me at the time. I walked, and walked, and walked always believing I could spot the tram tracks just ahead of me. Eventually I noticed a little garden section of the city that is on the road to Germany. Knowing that McDonalds was not on the way to Germany I decided to turn.

I walked, and walked, and walked and the road ran out. Before me was a section of field followed by a lot of trees. McDonalds was definitely not in a forrest! I managed to find a map at a bus stop, but I could not find any of the streets around me on the map. Again I walked. Did I mention that the temperature was right around 0 degrees celcius? Freezing is the word.

Back in the city, and not the forrest, all the streets look the same. They are all lines with the same type of tree, they all have the same sort of stores and the apartments look identical when your lost. I began to just backtrack hoping to get back to someting familiar. Finally after an hour and a half I saw the tram pass in the distance! I didn't know what tram it was or where it was located, but I nearly lept knowing it would take me somewhere in my knowledge of Strasbourg. I kept staring at that spot waiting for another tram to pass, hoping I hadn't hallucinated it the first time. Nope, a second one passed in minutes.

At about 12:20 I made it back to McDonalds where, of course, my tutor was no longer waiting on me. After 15 minutes and I was back home. After a few e-mails (EVERY call in France costs money, so it's easier to e-mail) and lots of apologies Ann, my tutor, forgave me. It turns out the student before me had also not shown up. So poor Ann had waited in McDonalds for three hours!

The rest of the day was uneventful. We went to Daniel and Tammy's and had a good visit. Then we went grocery shopping. Constantly grocery shopping. When you only have a small cart to carry them in, and a small refrigerator to put them, you are always grocery shopping.