Sunday, July 31, 2011

Books read in July

The month in which Patricia sabotages her plan to read many fewer books than she read in 2010.

The Hour I First Believed
Wally Lamb
This is a massively long book which I found to be a very, very good read. It wandered onto an additional tangent there near the end. I could have done without the Quaker/Abolitionist/Prison Reformer character/tangential side plot, but I was willing to because Wally Lamb is excellent at writing characters I want to keep reading. This novel is sweeping in that it covers, Columbine, the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and prison reform as well as family secrets large and small. Could it possibly be a bit over written? Possibly yes. Did I compulsively read until the end despite this fact? Yes indeed. In another nine years when Lamb finishes his next novel, I will happily line up to read that one too. Or wait to come across it in the library, which is what I did with this one.

The Tempest
William Shakespeare
Oh crap, we're seeing the Tempest tonight. That means I need to start and finish reading this play today. As usual, the Bard's words failed to move me, but the play was quite delightful.

Lost & Found
Geneen Roth
Roth uses the loss of her fortune (thanks, Bernie Madeoff!) to examine how her relationship with money is similar to her relationship with food, as well as how family experiences with money contributed to her view of, and management of her money.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender
Aside from having the best title of the year (I sometimes randomly say it to myself for fun) this is a wonderfully written piece of magical realism. In my view, the best magical realism causes me to think, "what would my life be like if that happened to me?" and this book kept me pondering, in many different ways, after I finished it and I'm guessing I will continue to think of it on and off for years.

It's also a my favorite kind of magical realism: somewhat impossible to make into a plausible film. That means I get to keep my own pictures in my head.

Red Hook Road
Ayelet Waldman
So Bildungsroman is a novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood, but what is the term (and it must have a somewhat Germanic sounding name) for a novel that examines the thoughts and motivations of a family, or group of characters, usually after some major event has happened. English majors, help me out here.

This is my favorite kind of novel. I get to drop in on a family, see what's going on, make judgements about their motivations, become attached to them and see how it all works out in approximately 500 pages or so. For a long time, I resisted reading Ayelet Waldmen because she's married to my Amazing 21st Century Novelist/Essayist Boyfriend (Michael Chabon) and I was worried that reading her might mess up my relationship with him, but it turns out we can all happily exist together and I have another good author to catch up with.

The Postmistress
Sarah Blake
Sort of a second-tier, Lifetime Movie or Hallmark Channel-esque entry into WWII US based fiction. It wasn't great, but I kept reading.

Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
I really hated this novel for the fact that it was too violent and there was never any explanation or explorations as to why the characters were so violent. I felt like I was trapped in a Quentin Tarantino film. I kept reading, hoping for something--anything--that would make me like this book, and also because I was reading it for book group. I never found anything to like, but in the book group discussion I learned that the premise of this book was based on a historical incident, which was interesting. Also that there is a free e-book available for those who want to delve into the nuances of the story.

While I was reading the book, I was explaining to someone that I had a bookmark advertising the movie Jayne Eyre in my copy of Blood Meridian and her comment was, "You need a bookmark for that book. Every time you open it, there's some sort of killing going on."

I really enjoyed "The Road" and "All the Pretty Horses" but I was not a fan of this book.

Gardening Without Water
Charlotte Greeno
I was hoping this was a comprehensive sort of book about storing a lot of water including step-by-step instructions as to how to build such a system for myself. Alas, it wasn't. It's an English book, so some things don't apply. Like she cut into her pipes to divert greywater into her shrubbery and observed that most pipes in England are on the outside of the house, so this is easy to do. Not so in America.

The Eyere Affair
Jasper Fforde
A quite delightful alternate-reality-English-special-forces-in-the-literary-sense book. I particularly enjoyed the Richard III as Rocky Horror Picture Show scene.

Freedom: A Novel
Jonathan Franzen
Yeah, so, WOW. There was so much to like about this book. It was huge. There were a lot of words. Paragraphs were very long and the semicolon was used to make sentences even longer. It was very observant about the quirks of late 20th/early 21st century US lifestyle. The writing was fabulous, so much so that I added at least seven quotes to my Goodreads quotes page. It is a novel I keep thinking about. And it was so well written that it took me more than a week to realize I didn't really like any of the characters. Really. They all were kind of icky in their own way, but so completely and competently drawn that I was so entangled with their lives and I didn't notice that I would not have enjoyed being their friends in real life.

Also, Richard's interview where he compares making music to manufacturing chicklets? Priceless. That along was worth the price of admission. But you also get numerous other human foibles and humerous situations included free! Read it today!

Started, did not finish
Great House
Nicole Krauss
I really tried to like this book, but the writing was spare and I couldn't get into the related short story setup.

Poem for July: Outwitted

Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

The poetry project mistress almost missed a month of poetry memorization. June's selection took a very long time to learn and I hadn't chosen anything for July and here it was July fifth. Then July tenth. Then the fifteenth. Then the twentieth. Would I miss memorizing a poem for the first time since May 2009?

Enter the short poem that I had almost completely memorized anyway. I've mentioned this poem before on the blog, Edwin Markham was a former Poet Laureate of Oregon. And this poem was in some anthology I had for some Junior High or High School English class. So now it is officially learned and the Poetry project carries on.

Because I have three weeks off in August and because it is very difficult for me to memorize poems when I am not walking to the train or riding my bike to work every day, I will have another very short poem for August.

Also in August I hope to have a post about how I keep all these poems fresh in my memory.

Three sentence movie reviews: Glee Season 1, Road to Sectionals

"I haven't watched it yet, but I'm looking forward to the experience," was always my reply when someone asked me if I watched Glee. And now that Matt and I have jumped on the Glee bandwagon, I can say that I--like 98% of all Glee viewers--love it too. I was looking forward to the singing and the dancing, but I had no idea it would be so funny.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Cowboys and Aliens

Harrison Ford's wattles were covered by a bandanna for most of this movie, which was quite a relief for this viewer. I found this to be a B movie with A list actors who brought their A game, making it a pretty enjoyable summer movie experience. The movie also thankfully connected the dots as to why Olivia Wilde was riding through the late 1800's Western setting with her hair all about her, instead of pulled back into a nice bun, as would have been correct to the setting; this was driving me crazy for most of the movie and I thank them for clearing the matter up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Demo of Satyricon

I knew that the Macdonald Center bought the building that housed the club Satyricon and were going to use it to house what used to be Outreach Ministry, before Outreach was absorbed into the Macdonald Center. I know all of this because Matt did a Jesuit Volunteer Year with Outreach and our friend Laurie works there still. What I didn't realize was that the existing building would be torn down. This is because Outreach has existed in what I refer to as "the unfortunately painted building" in Old Town for quite some time. It's a bit rough around the edges, so I just assumed that they would perhaps repaint the black facade and move everyone in. So it was quite a surprise to encounter this as I walked from the Max to work:

Even though I'm a great supporter of re-using and re-purposing existing structures, something about demolition of buildings nearly always is exciting to watch. Here we can see the last few hours in the life of the doorway.

And here a view of the back side of the building. I hadn't realized it was as big as it was.

I'm unsure of how this graffito came to be on this wall, but now it is exposed for all to see.

To read more about Satyricon and the new building click here for an Oregonian article. (Demolition begins on building that once housed Satyricon Nightclub. July 27, 2011.)

And here is a link about the final concert at Satyricon. (Portland Nightclub Satyricon says farewell with series of reunion shows. October 16, 2010)

Three sentence movie reviews: Fever Pitch

Just as I enjoyed this upon its release, so did I enjoy this re-viewing. I had forgotten, however, that it was a Farrelly Brother's movie, as it doesn't really fit into their famously gross boy humor style. Drew Barrymore is always a delight and I quite enjoyed Jimmy Fallon, who I think doesn't get to act in movies any more after Taxi and several other "eh" movies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: The Iron Giant

Vin Diesel speaks only 53 words in this movie so I probably could have excluded it from the Vin Diesel film fest, but I have wanted to see this since it came out and so many people spoke well of it. It was a good Brad Bird movie, (and short) with great voice acting. I also enjoy the classic animation style, which fit well with the 1950s setting.

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Want Ads fun

In searching for a teaching position, I get the fun of reading Craigslist ads--most of which are not for a teaching position because the job market is not so good right now. In reading these ads, I find delightful, "are they serious?" moments, which I'm going to keep to myself no longer.

Today's entry from Craigslist:
Math Tutor needed for Portland Family for upcoming 2011-2012 school year. Must have previous tutoring, student teaching, or teaching experience in Math or Science. In addition to math, general homework help may be required. We are looking for someone who has a high energy level and can engage, guide and encourage these students in their studies. Must be able to motivate while making the learning "fun". Math expertise in elementary school arithmetic - calculus required.

I think they mean "elementary arithmetic through calculus" but their phraseology implies they want someone with experience with calculus at the elementary school level.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scarf completed

I started this in 2006 or 2007, but when we moved to the house, this project fell to the wayside. I've recently decided I need to either start knitting regularly, or give away my needles, so this project was finally finished. The waves came out rather well, if I do say so myself. What you can't see from this picture is how incredibly soft this scarf is.

Three sentence movie reviews: Midnight in Paris

I greatly enjoyed* this modern/period piece, especially for the acting by Owen Wilson and all the 1920s famous people. I loved the costumes, especially the white sailor-style dress with the red trim worn by Marion Cotillard. It also included a good overall message about staying present and the present.

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*In my mind, enjoying Woody Allen movies is somewhat along the same lines of enjoying commercials. A really well-done commercial is a joy to behold, but the entire time I'm enjoying it, I can't forget that the only reason this bit of entertainment exists is to get me to buy something. It's rather sinister. Similarly, I tend to enjoy Woody Allen films. I find them funny, and the period pieces tend to be beautifully staged, with much to look at. Still, the entire time I'm watching and enjoying these films, I have a general sense of "ew" because the man left his wife for his daughter. Ew. In a perfect world, people who commit such acts would not also continue to be talented in other areas, or I would just not see their films. But, alas, he still is, and I just can't stay away and so I reluctantly pay my money, enjoy the film and then feel guilty afterwards.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: The Pacifier

So this was a dumb movie, no two ways about it. I did find the plot point including the Peter Panda dance pretty clever, but the kids were annoyingly snotty, the pacing was slow, the jokes were mostly dumb and even the presence of Vin Diesel could not save this movie. I did, however, manage to finish the scarf I've been (not) knitting for five years, so something good came of it.

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Three sentence movie reviews: The Time Traveler's Wife

Had I not read this cleverly structured book, this would have been an okay movie. But unfortunately, I had and found this to be a pale imitation of the drama and pathos of the book, which I recommend you read (even you men!) The acting was good, and I was gleefully delighted to spot Alba for the first time, but if you must chose between the experiences, I recommend you skip the movie and read the book.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Captain America

This was a very fun movie, in a 1940's-style movie way. Which means it was a little predictable, but no less fun to watch. I thought Chis Evans was a great choice for Captain America because he managed to convey both strength and compassion throughout the movie.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II

I had read that this was the shortest of the HP movies, though it seemed very full of length for me. Due to the aforementioned not re-reading the book, nearly everything in this movie was a surprise to me which made for a very entertaining movie going experience. I remembered the "19 years later" ending, although forgot who Harry and Hermione named their son after, and this slayed me afresh, for a perfect ending to a probably-not-to-be-repeated-in-my-lifetime book/movie experience.

poster from: (go Neville!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Win Win

This was one of those rare movies where all the characters were slightly flawed in a way that made them very human and very interesting to watch. It was also a movie filled will actors I love: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, and the always delightful "squee, it's her! squee!" Melanie Lynskey. Alex Shaffer, who played the flat-affect teenager, was also awesome, making this a perfect movie, with great wrestling scenes, a rarity in the movie world.*

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*This movie is highly recommended. And "church-going grandma" safe. Although there might be swearing, so not super church-y grandma. In fact, upon reflection, there is F-word swearing, but it's actually funny in the context of the movie.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Jane Eyre

This was a bit boring, and I did nod off during the movie. However, the chemistry was quite good between Jane and Mr. Rochester (whom I have just realized played Magneto in X-Men First Class--that guy is suddenly in everything) and I thought the acting was well done on all parts. It was rather sedately paced, good for knitting, I think.

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Um, the spell check in Blogger just steered me to the correct spelling of Magneto's name. Why would it recognize a character in X-Men and not the flowers borage and calendula? Is Magneto also a word?

As it tuns out, yes. defines it as such:
a small electric generator with an armature that rotates in a magnetic field provided by permanent magnets, as a generator supplying ignition current for certain types of internal combustion engines or a hand-operated generator for telephone signaling.

Now we know.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Mad Men, season I

I watch all my TV on DVD and it's time to begin recognizing this fact via "three sentence movie reviews" posts.
When I did my volunteer orientation for the Library, I learned that this was the most requested series in the library history, which should have come as no surprise as I waited about 10 months on hold to receive my copy. It was worth the wait. I thought I would have to stop watching after the first episode, because the men were so incredibly sexist, but I persevered and was rewarded by excellent TV as well as much eye candy (meaning the clothing, which I adore!)

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

A second viewing of this movie was just as pleasurable as the first.* Unlike other HP movies in the franchise (ahem Sorcerer's Stone, ahem) this was quite crackling in its pacing. It helps also that I have only read the book once and that was four years ago, so I've forgotten many of the small (and main) details.

poster from: (go Snape!)

*meaning when it came out in the theaters.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A salad of my own making

Peas. Grew them.
Radishes. Grew them.
Lettuce. Grew it.
Dandelion Greens: "let" them grow until I harvested them.*


*I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Three sentence movie revews: Super 8

I felt that what this movie did well it did very well, namely accurately capturing 14 year old boy interactions, which were very funny. I felt that we went too long without seeing the monster, and that worried and distracted me, detracting from the overall film. Though it was lightly enjoyable, (think sorbet instead of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food) I thought the most interesting part of the movie would have come after the movie itself ended, when the people returned to their now devastated town.

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