Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cannonball Read #3: At Long Last: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I've seen High Fidelity the movie many times, but this was the first time I've read the book. I read it two months ago, and I don't know why I've had such a hard time sitting down and writing the review. Even now I've written several sentences, only to delete them seconds later.

It's not a difficult plot to summarize. Girl breaks up with man, man has identity crisis, decides to contact his ex-girlfriends and figure out what went wrong, and (SPOILER!) man ends up with girl after hijinks. Meanwhile, music is the soundtrack of his life. That's one thing that I thought translated well into film, because while reading the book there were several albums referred to that I wasn't familiar with. I liked that in the movie the music was just there, so I didn't have to wrack my brain trying to figure out what he was referring to.

Anyway, the movie was so well adapted from the novel, that I almost felt like I was reading the novelization of the movie, and scenes from the movie played in my head while I was reading the book. I wonder how I would have visualized things differently if I hadn't seen the movie so many times first, but all in all, I still enjoyed it. Things were a little fleshed out, but not much because the book really isn't all that long. I give it two thumbs up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cannonball Read 2 1/2: Pussy, King of the Pirates by Kathy Acker

I wanted to make sure that I finished reading every book I started for the Cannonball Read, but this book was impossible for me to finish. I struggled for a week to read more than a few pages before my eyes crossed with frustration and incomprehension. I got about halfway through, and I have no idea what Pussy, King of the Pirates was supposed to be about. I could never tell whether what was going on was a dreamscape, or "reality." So, when I misplaced my copy of the book a few days ago, I couldn't really be bothered to look for it. I just started reading the next book on my list, High Fidelity.

Monday, November 9, 2009

#2:Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

When you understand...that what you're telling is just a story. It isn't happening anymore. When you realize that story you're telling is just words, when you can just crumble it up and throw your past in the trashcan...then we'll figure out who you're going to be.
About 15 pages into Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters, I almost put it down. Normally I'm not into books that rely heavily on flashbacks, and in this case the entire novel is a non-chronological flashback: the beginning is the end, and vice-versa, with the meat of the novel jumping amongst story lines from paragraph to paragraph. I kept slugging along though, and I'm glad I did, because this book ended up twisting my head into circles. This little novel managed to explore notions of God and parenting, sexuality and gender, the ephemeral nature of beauty, and the thin line between love and hate, all while meandering through past and present, and told from the viewpoint of a mute "accident" victim.

It almost sets up like a lame one-liner: a mutilated former model, a pre-op tranny, and an ex-vice cop pile into a Lincoln Town Car... but nothing is as it seems. The relationships among the main characters are revealed gradually, and they are convoluted and surprising. I feel like a plot summary beyond this would would contain too many spoilers, and I don't want to ruin the experience of trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The plot though, is almost secondary; in fact it's more of a vehicle for the ideas about life, and letting go of desires, and purposefully making mistakes to become more human. One of the characters, says as much:

I'm only doing this because it's just the biggest mistake I can think to make. It's stupid and destructive, and anybody you ask will tell you I'm wrong. That's why I have to go through with it... Don't you see? Because we're so trained to do life the right way. To not make mistakes... I figure the bigger the mistake looks, the better chance I'll have to break out and live a real life.

Not telling you which of the characters says this is deliberate, because the feeling behind the quote seems to be universal in the novel. Screwing up and going against the mold is the only way to be alive, to not just exist but live, and grow, and change.

God comes up a lot in the novel. Over and over, the protagonist apologizes. "Sorry, Mom. Sorry God." We ourselves are compared to God when we watch television, and in the same vein, if we are, in fact, imbued with free will, isn't that what God does? Watch us on television for entertainment? "Somewhere in heaven, you're live on a video Web site for God to surf," intones the narrator with a heavy dose of irony. At one point, our parents are compared to God, and we become Satan when we decide that it's time to run our own lives.

Sexuality and gender are huge themes to contend with. Parents who only support Gay Rights after their son has died of AIDS, men who want to become women, men with ambiguous sexuality, women who used to be men, women who love men who love men... it's pretty much all there, but it's hard to go into too much detail without spoilers.

Beauty, gained and lost, is also explored. Our narrator, a former model, keeps stumbling upon images of her former self, before her horrific mutilation. In contrast, her transsexual companion goes through many voluntary rounds of expensive self-mutilation in order to become beautiful. Neither is happy before or after the changes.

I feel like I'm just meandering around, and not really making the points that I want to make about this novel, because I can't reveal the events that make the novel truly worth reading, but I also want to include some of the insightful little quotable quotes that I enjoyed:

"The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person."
"When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?"
"I'm an invisible monster, and I'm incapable of loving anybody. You don't know which is worse."

I truly enjoyed this book, and I enjoyed it for reasons that went beyond the story. I enjoyed the telling of the story, and the characters who were real to me, and the very real emotions that run beneath the text. For anyone who has ever tried to shield themselves from pain with snark and humor, this book will ring true.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bloodsucking Fiends: Cannonball Read #1

Whenever you get ready to read a novel by Christopher Moore, you can expect a quirky and offbeat look at whatever subject matter he happens to be tackling, and Bloodsucking Fiends is no exception. When protagonist Jody wakes up under a dumpster with a burnt and blackened hand and heightened senses after having been attacked the night before, it doesn’t take long for her to figure out that she is no longer exactly human, but it takes the entire novel for her to realize what being a vampire really means.

The tag line on the cover describes this novel as “a love story,” and it’s true that there is as much focus on self-discovery and falling in love as there is vampirism and murder. The plot is driven forward by the harassment of Jody by her creator, the ancient vampire Elijah ben Sapir. He keeps leaving the bodies of his victims, necks broken and bodies drained of blood, near her hiding places, so that the homicide officers in charge of the cases draw ever nearer to Jody.

Jody is more than just a vampire in the story. She is a confused young woman who is afraid to be alone. At twenty-six, she is already a serial monogamist, with ten live-in boyfriends under her belt. Whatever emotions she feels for one, are automatically transferred to the next. She knows that what she feels is less real love than desperation, but she is so in need of companionship that she can't stop herself. When she is turned, she is more alone then ever; with no one to share her new senses with, the wonder of being able to hear the fog brush up against buildings and to see the heat signatures and health levels of people is lessened, and she looks to fill the void with more companionship.

There are many colorful characters throughout the novel. C. Thomas Flood (Tommy to his friends) is the fresh-out-of-the-midwest wannabe Kerouac that Jody clings to as her protector and love interest. He works graveyard stocking shifts at Safeway with the “Animals” who like to party first, work second. Turkey Bowling is one of their many nocturnal activities, but when one of their number is victimized, they form a merry band of misfits and help save the day. Their leader is the Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico, known as Your Highness to the good people of the City, but by all appearances he is simply a crazy old homeless man with his two dogs in tow, Bummer and Lazarus. He is one of the few who realizes that the city has been besieged by a vampire, and he wanders the city at night wearing make-shift armor and wielding a wooden sword. The two detectives in charge of the homicides, Cavuto and Rivera, slowly reach the same conclusions, though they continue looking for reasonable explanations to the bitter end.

As with other Christopher Moore novels, Bloodsucking Fiends is a light, entertaining and quick read (I read it in about a day and a half). Its look into the life of a fledgling vampire is somewhat original, what with the tests that Tommy performs on Jody to see which of the vampire legends are true, but I don’t think that Christopher Moore will be winning any Pulitzer Prizes any time soon. The ending of the novel comes quickly and is somewhat unsatisfying, though Moore does a good enough job of characterization that I actually cared about what happened to them next. Character development is a strong point in the novel, and Moore excels at drawing detailed portraits of colorful characters. The Emperor alone makes this a novel worth checking out.

I would recommend this novel to others, though I don’t hold Moore in the high esteem that many of my other friends do. He may have fun takes and interesting story ideas, but I think he’s quirky for quirks sake, and sometimes it seems a little forced.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pajiba, etc.

I've been reading Pajiba daily for better than five years (which is easy for me to keep track of because I started reading it at around the same time my son was born), and have commented for much of that time, but have never considered myself an "Eloquent," simply because the volume of my posts was too low. Imagine my surprise when I read The Official Pajiba Dictionary today and saw this:

"Contributors to this Dictionary include, but is not limited to, the following Eloquents: Sean, Ranylt, Cindy, Skittimus Maximus, Tamatha, BWeaves, Julie, Optimus Rhyme, Alexandra, JP, : Saint Saturn Sunshine, TK, branded, Alex the Odd, Anna von Beaverplatz, Jamiepants, Double H, Marra, superedna, PaddyDog Bierce Ambrose, Melody, luckycat, Sofia, cubicalgirl, Wednesday, The Pink Hulk, DeadBessie, Mike R., admin, bucdaddy, becks, admin."

I thought, could it possibly be to me they are referring? No, it's not possible! And yet, I did remember posting something to the original Pajiba Dictionary Comment Diversion, though I couldn't remember what it was. So, I went back and read through the comments and found my post which was in response to another post:

SkankCancer: an ugly on the inside actress who shall not be named. Enjoys pilates, yogurt, and bitching about movies once she's already finished making them.

Posted by: VeinsRHiways at November 19, 2008 3:43 PM

Rainbow Killer See above. Also enjoys eating kittens and baby tears for breakfast.

Posted by: Alexandra at November 19, 2008 3:46 PM

It seems that my definition for Rainbow Killer was used, and I got credit for it! I feel really geeky that I'm so excited about this, but there it is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Awesome Mashup

Found this awesome mash-up at Pajiba.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've been a total slacker about posting on my blog because no one ever reads it, but I'm going to be doing Pajiba's "Cannonball Read" this year, so I'll be posting my reviews to this site. That should mean about one post per week. Maybe if I do an alert on Facebook I can get some readers up in here!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

From Michael Jackson to Cleveland School

I was reading through awfulplasticsurgery today, and I found a few posts on Michael Jackson. For some reason, this sent my mind to Cleveland School in Stockton, CA, because Michael Jackson visited there in February of 1989, shortly after the shooting there occurred in January of 1989.

I was five years old when the shootings occurred, and I lived in Stockton as well. The day of the shootings coincided with the first time that I ever saw my father cry.

I remember it vividly. I came out into the backyard, and my father was sitting at the bottom of the slide on our backyard swing-set, and he had his head in his hands. He was crying. I'd never seen my father cry, and it scared me. What had happened that could make this big, strong, invincible man cry?

I went over to him and said, "Papa, why are you crying?"

My father picked me up, sat me on his knee and cuddled me, and told me, "A bad man went to a school today. He shot a bunch of children, and he killed some of them."

I started to cry as well.

Looking back, I'm sure that my father was crying not only for the children who were wounded and killed, but from fear, as well. Cleveland school was only miles from the school that I attended. When friends and relatives who knew where we lived, but didn't know the name of the school we attended heard the news, they frantically began to call my father and mother to make sure that my sisters and I were okay. What parent wants to think of the possibility that his child is not safe when she goes to school? It's terrifying.

I was in kindergarten and the time, and I remember talking about it in school. I remember my teacher asking us what we should do if a man came into the playground and started shooting? We were told to drop to the ground and stay still. What kind of a world is it when we need to drill five-year-olds on proper procedure when under gunfire?

I haven't thought of Cleveland School in a long time, but I looked up stories on the internet. Five children were killed that day, all of them under nine. Twenty-nine more were injured, and one teacher as well. I went to middle school and high school with some of the children who attended Cleveland School. I knew the son of the teacher who was injured. I had forgotten how it felt when I heard the news, but today I cried. I cried for a long time.

I have a four-year-old son now. I guess that any image or story involving children in horrific situations affects me more than it used to. I cry every time I read a story about dead or kidnapped children. These children died almost twenty years ago. But I still mourn their deaths.

I understand now why my father was crying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Star Wars"/ John Williams Tribute

I can't stop watching this. I laugh out loud even after five viewings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What!?! Zac Efron on Firefly?

It's crazy, but true! I've been watching Firefly today, and in the episode Safe, River Tam has a flashback to her early life. As I was watching, I thought, "Boy, that actor playing young Simon bears a striking resemblance to Zac Efron. I wonder who does play him, anyway?"

So, I looked it up. Lo, and behold, it is Zac Efron! I've had my mind blowing experience for the day now. I can't find the clip, but you can watch the full episode here, on Hulu.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

I'm still pretty young, so I didn't get to see the best Mel Brooks movies in the theaters (thank goodness for VCRs), but I distinctly remember going to see Robin Hood: Men in Tights in the theater when I was 10 years old. Cary Elwes was my first (actually, probably only) celebrity crush, and my sisters and I had already worn out several VHS copies of The Princess Bride from so many repeated viewings. I remember seeing the trailers for this film on TV, and just going absolutely batshit giddy with excitement over it. I think that this was the first movie that my mother ever just dropped me off with a friend to see. It was a milestone: my first in-theater Mel Brooks experience, my first "grown-up" movie experience, and the first movie that I over-played on VHS that I actually got to see on the big screen.

Let me tell you though, I had to tape record that movie off of some abc family night special or something, and I missed a few scenes in my repeated viewings. I didn't even remember them until I finally bought the DVD as an adult. These kids with their interwebs, and youtubes, and pirated movies don't know the pain we went through, the commercials we had to fast forward through, and the utter hopelessness of the dreaded tape-eating VCR. Ah, yes, the good old days...

Anyhoo, this isn't the best scene in the movie by far, but it's very funny. I also developed a crush on Will Scarlett O'Hara over the course of my 10,000 viewings... to bad he hasn't done much I've seen since.

More Lighthearted Geek Fun

I saw this one on youtube, and I just couldn't resist sharing it.

More Prop 8 Bad News

Well, it looks like it's official. They've officially stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in Los Angeles County.

This is striking a very personal chord with me. I lean mostly toward straight, but I have been involved with women before. I hope to someday find a soul mate, but that person may not necessarily be a man. Does that mean that I may not be able to marry my one true love in the future?

Even taking my personal future out of it, I'm just sickened that people are HAPPY to be taking away the rights of others. For the life of me, I will never understand why there are so many people that want to run the lives of everyone else. Worry about your damn self, and stop concentrating on whom you consider to be "sinners," for god's sake. I'm sick of it. So what if your Bible says that homosexuality is a sin? It also says that eating meat on a Friday is a hell-worthy offense, and, oh yeah, to love your neighbor as yourself! If you're going to quote the bible at me, please bother to read it first. If loving your neighbor means calling him/her a fag and killing abortionists, then hate me. Please.

A commenter on Feministing today mentioned how the hate that the prop 8 supporters feel cannot stop the love between her girlfriend and herself. I believe in that. I believe that love is stronger than hate. I believe that we can overcome bigotry. It may take longer than we would hope, but in the immortal words of Obama himself, "Yes, we can." And we will.

On the Lighter Side...

I love me some funny or die!

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Tell me that's not hilarious. I dare you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prop 8 Update

Apparently as I write the margin between yes and no on Prop 8 is only 400,000 votes, out of 10 million cast, and there are still about 3 million absentee ballots to count. Technically this vote is still too close to call, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed!