Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Books read in October, 2012

Matt and I trade off chapters when we read aloud, usually a chapter of my book and an equal number of pages in his.  My book was the 512-page novel the Art of Fielding.  That meant we burned through a lot of his books this month because graphic novel pages blow by much more quickly than novel pages.

Vision Quest
Terry Davis
I absolutely adored this book when I read it in high school, so much so that it was one of the "books of my growing up" that I stored away in a trunk as I packed up my childhood after high school graduation.  There is also a horrendous movie version, which I don't recommend.

I didn't love it as much this time through, but could see why I liked it at an earlier age.  The book took place 20 years before my high school experience and the main character's life was so much freer than mine was.  His parents were happily divorced, he had a girlfriend who was older, she lived with him, which was absolutely  no big deal, they had a lot of sex which was also no big deal.  The two of them did things totally alien to me like spending the night in the car with the heater running so they could watch the deer come by.  It was a completely different world and I couldn't figure out why my life didn't look more like that.

My criticism of this book at my current age (20 years out from when I read it, 40 years out from the book's setting) is that there is absolutely no conflict.  The main character is great, the girlfriend is great, the dad is great, the wrestling buddies are great, the coaches are great, the wrestling opponents are great, and so on.  That said, I'm guessing this book developed out of a series of essays, because there are some great "living in Spokane, Washington" vignettes which are quite delightful.  It's also fun to read about the wrestling practices, matches and preparations   I checked to see if Terry Davis had written anything else because I think he's a good writer, and there are a few that I may check out.

Hey Buddy
Peter Bagge
Matt and I read aloud.
The art in this book was interesting, but I didn't particularly like, well, anyone and thus was happy when it was over.  Nice slice of life of early 90s Seattle, though, if you are interested.

The  Order of the Stick Coloring Book
Rich Burlew
Matt and I read aloud
Matt insists I review this coloring book.  So here is my review.
Thank goodness Matt had the foresight to give to the Kickstarter campaign which paid handsomely in many ways that I heard about for a good two months, including this remarkable coloring book.  Some people may scoff (as I did, when Matt reviewed this volume) at including a simple coloring book on Goodreads, but clearly those people have not experienced the depth, drama and pathos that Rich Burlew brings to every one of the 32 pages.  My life was changed by the word find, the maze and the other activities included.  My only hope is that there are more coloring books forthcoming from Mr. Burlew in the future as his clear sense of talent shines through.

What's Michael
Makoto Kobayashi
Matt and I read aloud.
Excellent depiction of cats in graphic novel form.  I don't like people teasing cats, even in graphic novel form, so I was not a fan of a few of the stories (scaring Michael by wearing a Godzilla mask, for instance) but Kobayashi manages to capture the essence of cat wonderfully.

The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbauch
Matt and I read aloud.
I loved this book so much when I read it earlier this year that I blew through it in a matter of days.  How could I enjoy it even more?  By reading it aloud with my boyfriend.  It was a very long read aloud, but nearly all 512 pages of the book are delightful and this time I was forced to move slowly through the book, savoring each chapter.   My one complaint is that I always read the odd numbered chapters and in this book many of the odd numbered chapters are quite short in comparison to the even numbered ones.  Although, I did get the payoff at the end of the book, getting to read all 20 pages of the chapter with the big game, so I was pretty happy in the end.  I will repeat my hearty recommendation of this book.  You need to read it, even if you don't like baseball.

Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
Read for Mock Printz
I'm kind of done with WWII fiction, but I had to read this because it was on the Mock Printz list so read it I did.  And I am so glad!  While most WWII fiction is weighty and depressing (yes, I know, it's not really a cheery topic) this book starts with a firecracker of a main character narrating in the first person.  She's been captured in Vichy France and is being tortured for information.  Grim, right?  But her headstrong spirit blasts by the treatment by her captors and she overwhelms you with the narrative.

She's so compelling a character, you might be tempted to read more quickly to find out what happens, but I urge you to pay attention because you are going to need the information she is telling you later in the book.  This novel is intricately plotted, has two young women as the main characters and you get a glimpse into women serving in the British military during the war.  I'm giving this book a rare five star review because it was the perfect book.  Highly Recommended.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chboski
I saw the movie first and felt so-so about it, but the book was a much better medium for this story.  It's a brief book--perhaps designed for teenagers' famously short attention spans?--and written entirely in letter form which didn't come though the movie process so well but worked nicely on the page.  Not surprisingly.  It's a nice slice of life from a time period that is familiar to me, so I enjoyed it.

The Drowned Cities
Paolo Bacigalupi
Read for Mock Printz
I found this a bit of a slog, due to the brutality of the conditions the characters lived in, but the characters themselves were interesting and it was fun to imagine a swampy Washington DC overrun by warlords.

Tiger Lily
Jodi Lynna Anderson
Read for Mock Printz
Not just a quality female retelling of a traditionally male-centered classic (Peter Pan) but also incredibly well-written, and perfectly captures first love.  I really loved this book in a "skip reading the newspaper so I can read more of the book" sort of way.  That doesn't happen often.

Started and did not finish
I Hunt Killers
Barry Lyga
This was on a preliminary Mock Printz list so I got a head start on my reading by diving in to this book. But it turned out that it didn't make the final list.  I was glad, because I wasn't enjoying the topic: teenage son of a famous serial killer investigates what appears to be a new serial killer on the loose in his town.  There is some good identity formation stuff here, but I'm not a fan of the torture of women, even if it is mostly alluded to, rather than described.

Rainy Block

Not much going on from this angle.
But the side view shows the building creeping up and toward the front.


This hip woman has the right idea.  Do some research and get out there and VOTE!

Favorite found photos from Scrap

When we bought collage material for the Art Party, Matt grabbed a bunch of photos.  I donated nearly all of them back to Scrap, but I held on to these two.

If you can't tell what this is from the front, check the back.

I love that someone was so excited (or perhaps angry, though I think not) that they took a picture of something happening on TV.  Matt said they took several pictures, but he just brought home the one.  This was the first election I was able to vote in and the presidential candidate I voted for won!  I don't think I watched the swearing in, but I remember waiting up on election night for the results.
And I love this photo, not only because it affirms that my awful clothing choices in the late 80s were not really my fault, but fashionable, but also because I love the interaction between the women.  And that woman's wedding dress is gorgeous (though sadly not in fashion right now)

A jeans skirt at a wedding?  What were we collectively thinking?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Birthday Card

I was thrilled that my colleague Julie volunteered to make birthday cards this year, because the last time she made me a card it was my favorite card of the year.  But this year she totally outdid herself.  I might just frame this.  How lucky am I?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween in Kenton Walk

I had to return a movie and pick up some yarn, so I took a walk in the pouring rain. Here are some of my neighborhood's Halloween decorations.
I love walking through alleys.

I found it interesting that my neighborhood, Kenton had many decorations for Halloween.  When I crossed over into Arbor Lodge, Kenton's fancier neighbor, there was nothing.  Except these pumpkins.

Three sentence movie reviews: Son of No One

I've discovered that one thing Channing Tatum can't do is grow decent facial hair as the mustache he wore through this movie was just incredibly ridiculous and I'm not sure why it was even necessary.  This movie is full of good acting, but alas, the plot is awful and that nullifies anything the actors might do.  And while I am usually annoyed when female characters are not developed, to the detriment of the movie (Ahem, Crazy Heart) I get absolutely incensed when the female characters are whisked on and off the screen once and then to neatly tie up the plot at the end, as happened with this movie.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Guess what national holiday it is?

I love my birthday and the birthday fairies at work are happy to oblige me in celebrating.  Not only was my desk decorated but there was a poem waiting for me on my computer AND a happy birthday email.  Three different kinds of Mac & Cheese were delivered to me through the day.  Also, given that I work in an elementary school and was wearing a "Today is my birthday sticker" I received hundreds of birthday greetings.  Kids also love birthdays and many of them wished me happy birthday multiple times.

Three sentence movie reviews: Magic Mike

This passed the vital "still good on the third viewing?" test with flying colors and Matt liked it too.  So now there are two more reasons why this movie is better than you think it is.* Sadly, the DVD is pretty much devoid of extras.**

*See previous reviews that will tell you it's not the movie you think it is, either.
**I was hoping for a director's commentary. And more dancing, as I heard each character did two individual dances for the film. But no.  Just a 6 minute feature. LAME!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Essay: Birthday week means no essay.

I was seeing if inspiration struck this week, but it didn't so I'm taking this week off of essay writing in honor of my birthday.  And I will be on essay writing hiatus for November due to NaNoWriMo.  1667 words per day means no time for 500-word essays.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Annie Hall

I'm sorry, fans of Annie Hall, but I got so bored during this movie I read the IMDB trivia on my computer while the movie was still happening on the TV.  I can appreciate the unique cinema techniques deployed and there were parts of this movie that were amusing, but Woody Allen's schtick makes me feel trapped and unable to breathe and then very bored.  However, Diane Keaton was wonderful and I also had no idea that Woody Allen was a stand-up comedian before he was a writer/director.*

Cost: free from library.
Where watched: at home.

*This is kind of bizarre to me, as I feel I have a good handle on popular culture of the 60s & 70s even though I was too young/not born to experience it first hand.  But if you had asked me the day before I had watched this movie if Woody Allen was a stand up comic I would have insisted that no, he writes and directs movies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Art Building

It was Powell's Technical Books, but soon that will be whisked away and replaced by the Art Building.  I'll be checking in regularly with picture updates.

It's supposed to be tall, so I'm setting up my establishing shot so it will accommodate tall.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Sweet 16

Sort of Winter's Bone, but with a boy instead of a girl, urban Scotland instead of the Ozarks.    The accent was thick enough that I had to read the subtitles--how can the word "can" be two syllables?--but that added to the charm.  It's an interesting slice of life-type movie.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Three sentence movie reviews: Trucker

This movie had what is usually the kiss of death for me:  the snotty kid.  But the acting was fabulous (Michelle Monaghan brought her usual A game, Nathan Fillion was a likable companion and Jimmy Bennett straddled the "angry kid" role) and the plot was not only about a woman, but the kind of working class woman we rarely see on the screen.  This was 90 minutes of perfect movie, as far as I'm concerned and you should go and watch it today.

Cost:  Free from library
Where watched: at home.

(version 1 of the poster was hideous! No wonder this movie never went anywhere!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Essay: Jefferson Smith still has my vote.

On an afternoon of a snowy January day during my eighth grade year I walked up to a classmate and hit him in the arm. He turned around and popped me in the eye, giving me a black eye.  There was no real reason for me to hit him, I was messing around, I liked him a bit--though no more than 15 other boys--I had hit several other people as I traveled down the hall, but not as hard.  I think his hitting me back was a reasonable response, albeit not the best one.  When someone out of nowhere suddenly inflicts pain upon you for no real reason, turning around with a fist is rather justified.

My action, which led to his action landed us both in the vice-principal’s office where he sat sullenly and I collapsed in tears.  We were both suspended the next day, and the boy was excused from the office while the confused vice-principal kept me behind to try to further understand my actions.  I had no explanation for him and he eventually sent me to my final class of the day where I got the first of many shocked reactions.  “I can’t believe he hit you!” many of them chorused.

The outrage only added to my misery.  I could understand why he hit me and it felt unfair for him to be cast as the wrong one.  We were pretty evenly matched, weight-wise—he was a rather compact wrestler—and I hit him first.  But I was the girl and he was the boy and it was the general court of opinion’s view that I shouldn’t have the black eye.

I’ve been thinking about this incident because of the recent—and perhaps fatally damaging—news in the Portland Mayoral Campaign.  We have already learned that candidate Jefferson Smith never voted until he was in his late 20s, has had his driver license suspended multiple times due to reckless driving, has been reprimanded for fighting in his adult basketball league and has had his law license suspended due to his inability to complete paperwork.  The most recent way Mr. Smith has found his way into the news cycle is the revelation that when he was an undergraduate in college, he hit a woman at a party, causing her an injury bad enough that there was a legal settlement.

The details have emerged from both sides.  According to her, he was coming on to her all night and wasn’t pleased when she gave him a firm no.  She fell asleep on a coach and when someone—who everyone agrees was someone other than Jefferson Smith—tipped over the couch she assumed it was him and went after him.  According to him, he repeatedly tried to stop her from coming at him before he struck her in the face and causing stitches above her eye which led to the settlement.  He refers to it as one of the worst nights of his life and had said he is still very sorry.  She, still apparently pretty pissed after twenty years, points out that him stopping by her house in the wake of the revelation of the news violates a no contact order Smith had agreed to in the initial settlement.

We’ve heard a lot of things about Jefferson Smith during this campaign, but this is the one that has caused him to lose a few critical endorsements.

My take?  It sounds like they were both drunk at a party and neither had very good judgment at the time.  Is it right for someone who is bigger than another person to hit them?  It’s not the best option.  But if they won’t let up?  I can see why, through the haze of alcohol, it probably seemed like the best choice at the time.  The linchpin here, of course, is gender.  He was the man, he was much bigger, he had been coming on to her, he should have known better.  If the roles were reversed there wouldn’t be a story at all.  However, she had a role in this too.  If you are accusing someone of something, maybe get your facts straight before you fly off the handle.  In her version of the story Smith comes off as pretty oafish and skeevy and he probably was.  But she said no to his advances and he backed off enough that she felt comfortable to not only stay at the party but to fall asleep on the couch. 

And after the event?  Smith (or his family) settled up, paid the fine and he followed the agreement to not contact her, at least until the agreement was made public.  He has said he is sorry to her and to us.

So I’m good with that.  I will still vote for Smith, though I think he’s not going to win.  Because here’s the deal.  For every single one of these revelations about Jefferson Smith the candidate—and there have been many—Jefferson Smith the man has said some version of, “Yep.  I did that.  It totally sucks, I had bad judgment and I’m sorry.”

His opponent, former City Council member Charlie Hales, has had a number of blunders of his own.  He plagiarized an article, implying that he had attended an event that he had not attended.  He lived in Washington for several years and continued to vote in Oregon.  He left his city council term before completing it so he could become a paid lobbyist.  Because chose not to complete his term so he could take a more lucrative job, the city of Portland held a special election and those things don’t come cheap.  He also illegally taped an interview.

Hales’ response to these blunders?  He blames his staff (the letter,) the fact that he wanted to sleep with his wife at night (the voting) or that he had kids to put through college (the lobbying).  He doesn’t say he’s sorry, he just plows ahead with his “it was the past” attitude.

And that attitude I’m done with.  Both men’s policies are pretty much the same, but only one man can take responsibility for his actions.  That’s the man that has my vote.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Watching a block stack up.

We've hit the point where the view from the train doesn't really show much.
So now I have a nice alternative viewpoint from the side.

I'm sure I did not properly appreciate that beautiful blue sky the day of, but wow, I am appreciating it now.

Or maybe later. Whenever. It's not important.

"NOW" is not the same thing as NOW.  Learn to use those quotation marks, people.

Three sentence movie reviews: Jumper

It turns out that having Darth Vader  Billy Elliott and Nick Fury in the same movie doesn't mean that it will be a good movie.  The reason to watch this is because Jamie Bell (the aforementioned Billy Elliott) is quite fun in his slightly unhinged character.  Samuel Jackson is good too, but that Hayden Christensen,  he's too pretty and he knows it.

Here also is a second three-sentence review from my usually squelched feminist movie critic who just couldn't lay dormant.  This review contains SPOILERS but the movie isn't very good and you aren't going to watch it, so read on.
Can we just say, "Totally lame abusive relationship?"  Guy shows up after seven years, guy whisks girl away to Rome with absolutely no explanation, then guy starts ordering girl to do things without explaining the situation to her AND SHE DOES?  And then at the end, despite the fact that the Paladins are going to go after her family and kill all of them, she stays with him?

Cost:  Free from library
Where watched:  At home.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Oh computer! If only you spoke English.

How can I press F1 or F2 if you aren't currently recognizing that there IS a keyboard?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Requiem: Bread & Circus Sweatshirt

I worked for Bread and Circus Whole Foods Market for a few years at the turn of the century.  Every once in awhile, the managers would roll around a cart full of t-shirt or sweatshirts and every employee would get one.  It was a nice perk.  I've been wearing this one for a good ten years now, much longer than I ever worked for the company.  I've held on to it because it's easy to throw on over anything, and, it's a reminder of my time at the Fresh Pond Bread and Circus.  The color has faded a bit, but it was always a weird shade of blue.  I suspect they may have gotten a discount on a bad dye lot.  There are bleach stains and oil stains and paint from projects and at least one hole.  The neck is frayed and the sweatshirt just keeps on trucking.
Today is its last day, though.
I'll save the logos, and say goodbye to the rest.