01 January 2012

Hot air #16 - What i did in my free time to close out 2011...

since i mentioned i started reading again, i kept a log of the good things i read and watched through the end of the year. if youve read or watched any, let me know what you thought about them. im always interested. 

books:
- (audio)read "the little prince". 3.5/5. i assume some of the charm is lost in an audioread (dumb idea, dont do it). i thought it was melancholy and understated. enjoyed the philosophical observations from the fox ("One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."), and was entertained by the ridiculous adults on the 6 planets the prince visited. other than that, im not sure what all the fuss is about.

- "a lot like love". 4/5. fun romance novel. had a p&p theme running through it (enjoyed that of course). appreciated the strong, confident heroine too.

- (audio)read "rhett butlers people". 3.5/5. super long! finally, the kind of book that seemed to make sense to audioread. i would never have made it through the whole book if my eyes had had to do the work. i enjoyed some of the added story lines, but of course some were rather tedious. i like experiencing a story from another angle, and i loved the imagination of a happier ending for the fiery butlers. it made me re-watch "scarlett", the movie. i feverishly read the book (scarlett) in high school after first being introduced to the classic movie "gone with the wind" (pairing clark gable/vivien leigh is perfection). i couldnt, for some reason, bring myself to read the original "gone with the wind" book itself, but i wanted the continuation of the story that "scarlett" could offer. i do love a good romance. :)

- "thinking in pictures". 4/5. fascinating account from an autistic PhD scientist on how her autism has helped her succeed in her field of animal behavior science. she also details the thoughts and motivations behind autistic behavior. she gives a view into a world that is confusing, scary, and unknown to people without the condition. her writing style is something ive never read before, if you didnt know she was autistic you would think she writes without feeling and with a great deal of ego and bluntness. aside from a dense (and rather dull, for me) chapter on medications that work for autistics to suppress some of their anxiety, depression. etc. the book was fascinating. it challenges you to think about people who are dissimilar to yourself and it gives you a new perspective on life. she has a chapter about famous geniuses. the review of their unbalanced, often autistic-like lives causes you to think about the importance of the wide variety of human personalities and temperaments. she also makes a wonderful case that we would not benefit (or even thrive), as a society, as a species, if abnormalities such as autism, manic-depression, and schizophrenia were eliminated from the gene pool. they are part of a spectrum of human existence. everyone has worth and value. i suspect this book would be of comfort to parents who have to understand how to live with a "non-normal" child.

- "too good to be true". 4.5/5. loved it. fun little romance (with some rhett butler/gone with the wind references). made me view romance novels in a whole new light. there were actually no "adult scenes" in this one. suggestions and implied interactions, but the romance and spunk were kept going by a good story, which i found to be a happy change of pace. it made me more directly equate reading a romance novel with watching a favorite romantic movie; good on-screen chemistry can be so hard to capture on film and so it would appear it is hard to write two truly convincing characters for print.

- "the phantom tollbooth". 5/5. what a lovely read! cant believe i had never heard about this classic childrens novel. like an "alice in wonderland" tale with a little boy and a watchdog named "tock" as the major characters. the boy is bored and lazy and listless in his life. one day a phantom tollbooth arrives in his room with instructions...he is taken to a world of intrigue: the kingdom of wisdom where there are cities of letters, cities of numbers, and the princesses rhyme and reason have been banished and need rescuing. there is an island of conclusions; how do you get there?...jump. milo learns all sorts of valuable life lessons and is motivated to live life with more attention and curiosity. its a great book to play with kids sense of adventure while encouraging their interest in learning. thanks amy!

- "uncommon reader". 3.5/5. fun, fast read. wasnt sure if id like it after reading the first few pages, but then i eased into it and loved the fun the author had. he really did his research on the queen so it felt very possible for this to be a real slice-of-life story about the current british queen. but my favorite part was his message about reading and what it does for ones life. and it certainly motivated me to look up some of the authors the queen was reading, and now my own "to read" list is HUGE. i couldnt quite see where the books end was going, but certainly the last line made me laugh out loud.

- "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies". 4.5/5. how i found this book i dont remember, but there it was one day. glad i got it from the library. we hear all the time about the effect the images of female bodies in the media and entertainment have on society and its behavior. ive always been interested in that discussion, but it has always seemed weird that there wasnt more discussion about the other side of the coin: men and male bodies depicted in media and entertainment. this book tackles it, this means that it talks a lot about sex, and the penis too. so if you cant stomach seeing the word "penis" on every page, this wont be for you. it helps to have seen some of the movies the book uses as examples in its argument, but i had only seen perhaps 30-40% of the movies, so its not essential. basically, we are asked to take a long, hard (pun intended) look at the way "body guys" and sex are portrayed in our culture. we are asked to widen our acceptance and imagination about the variety of ways mature adults can seek and find pleasure in each other and their bodies. i just thought the way they developed their argument using the tangible images of movies was fantastic. you cant help but agree with them and seek to support a shift in our beliefs and acceptance about the topic.

- "handmaids tale". 3.5/5. i actually audioread the first half of the book and then the second half (second CD) was scratched, so i just rented the book and finished it. i see now that i should have just read the whole damn thing because i think i missed a fair bit of the storys nuance from audioreading (note to self, STOP audioreading things, unless they are long epics). the story itself was intriguing and thought-provoking: a world of paranoia and government takeover for "security" purposes (published pre-9/11!), women are having a hard time conceiving children and those who can are forced to bare other womens husbands children.

- "epic fail". 4/5. modern day teen re-telling of p&p. i suppose im on a bit of a p&p kick these days. the elizabeth bennet character is replaced by the name elise benton in this one. gotta say that scored major points with me. :) i will also mention that the nytimes had reviewed it too.

- "bespelling". 4/5. four, short austen-inspired stories with a paranormal twist. LOVED the persuasion story, and the northanger abbey one, quite to my surprise. the p&p one was pretty weak. but i loved the books overall brevity and spunk. another win from amy. thanks! :)

- "vanity fairs tales of hollywood". 5/5. if you love classic films, hollywood gossip and/or behind-the-scenes info (who was the first choice for this movie role, etc) then this book is perfect for you. i had seen 6 of the 13 movies reported on, and was very familiar with most of the other ones i hadnt seen. it was great fun to read. thanks mary ann!

-"smut: two unseemly stories". 4/5. go ahead, do a double take at the title. i had heard about it from a new yorker article and read one of the authors other books ("uncommon reader", see above) while i waited for this to come from the library (i had to wait several weeks, it was in such high demand!). the author is a brit, and he knows how to do dry humor to a hilt. this book is not about being graphic or making you cringe or blush. rather, sex surrounds the story, it is the reason the stories were written. and the chuckles i got from his short stories were well worth the blush-worthy feelings i had while checking it out from the library and reading it in public.

articles:
- sent by french friend jj, a glowing nytimes article about rennes. swoon!

movies:
- "whats up doc?" 4.5/5. damn babs is a kick ass lady. the movie jumps right in and knocks you out with entertainment right through the end credits. love ryan oneal too, yum. and the san fransisco chase scene was epic.

- "adam". 3.5/5. a man with asbergers syndrome courts a "normal" woman. smartly directed, fairly implausible story though. amusing (to me) anecdotes about the movie: in real life, hugh dancy (he plays adam) is married to claire danes. claire played temple grandin (the woman who wrote "thinking in pictures", see above) in an HBO movie that won her an emmy. small circle of associations. also, the beginning of the movie starts out with a mention of "the little prince". and my brain was even with it enough to link up the face of a bit character in "adam" as the actress who also played jake ryans girlfriend in "sixteen candles". it was a moment that should make my dad proud. he loves finding character actors lurking in small places in unexpected movies.

- "lady chatterley". 5/5. dang, the french can do romance and drama. what a fantastic love story portrayed with average looking people who express their love honestly and maturely and sensitively. the sex scenes and nudity were skillfully done. i was happy to have watched it after reading "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies" (see above) and the original book.

- "all good things". 3.5/5. if you arent following ryan goslings career, you are missing out on some amazing performances. yes, the man is blisteringly hot. "the notebook" is one of my favorite romantic movies, but i have major respect for his entire career. and this one isnt a flattering role. its based on a real american crime(s?), and man does he take his character to all the creepiest, strange places. not the best overall movie, but ryan did an amazing job.

- "angels and insects". 4/5. found out about this from my reading of "lady chatterleys legacy in the movies" (see above). it was a slow, non-action based movie, but the story was fascinating, to me at least. i think ive basically worn through the list of (all) the easily accessible romantic movies and now i am finding enjoyment out of the slower paced, subtle ones. its not a bad thing.

- "cool it". 4/5. a fresh look at the global warming issue. i had vaguely heard of the guy the movie focuses on (bjorn lomberg) and his message that "yes, global warming is occurring due to man, but its not the doomsday scenario as it is currently painted." he argues for money to be better spent on endeavors that will actually help humanity much more efficiently than the money/effort being poured into global warming. i appreciated seeing his different opinion.

3 comments:

nlk731 said...

Brutal, chilling and not altogether implausible - those are the words I remember using to describe The Handmaid's Tale the first time I read it. If you like it (as I did) you'll like other Margaret Atwood works, she's an awesome author, if not a little dark.

Mary Ann said...

I just finished The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham. I think you might like it. About a flighty English debutant who is transformed, in part, while living in colonial China. Much more than that (a bit of a soap opera) but an interesting comparison of East/West cultures.

amw said...

ntin - i'll have to look in to more atwood novels and see what plots look interesting.

mary ann - unfortunately i saw the movie "painted veil" already, so that always makes reading the book post-movie viewing less interesting for me.