Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lost Moon by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger

Title: Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
Author: Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Co (1994)


I’m always happy to see anything about astronomy or space exploration in our line-up but I think this pick of Michael’s was even more fun because, with Lost Moon, we were able to check in on advancements in the space program since the original seven Mercury astronauts. Just over a year ago we included The Right Stuff in our series. I think next we'll have to find a combo to include about the shuttle program.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Apollo 13
at It Rains... You Get Wet


Apollo 13 would have been NASA’s third expedition to the surface of the moon but a malfunction in the service module turned it into a rescue mission. Lost Moon is written by the mission’s commander, Jim Lovell, and Jeffrey Kluger. The perspective of Lovell allows the reader an intimate look at events as they occurred in the lunar and command modules. The authors’ combined research efforts show the work of the hundreds of people on the ground who were part of the mission to get the astronauts home safe.

Without any intention of short-changing this book, this is going to be a pretty short review as I basically just want to say: it’s really good, go read it! Ok, it won’t be that short of a review - But, honestly, it’s really good, go read it! – however it almost could be. It’s about an interesting event in the history of space travel and an enormous engineering and intellectual effort; and it’s all bundled up in a palatable narrative style. It hardly needs my recommendation to make it an easy reading decision.


The technical stuff is there but it’s not going to overwhelm a casual reader. It might not be enough for a tech head but those with a modicum of engineering prowess will probably still be satisfied. The background of the astronauts and the Apollo program is almost seamlessly interwoven with the events of April 1970 which illuminates the wider cultural and scientific environment that encapsulated the seven harrowing days of Apollo 13's flight. 

So, basically, it's really good! Go read it! :) 


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 4 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
The Accidental Tourist by Ann Tyler



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Sunday, March 29, 2015

When you want to sleep under a table...

but it's only big enough for your head.


Friday, March 27, 2015

13 years and 23,000+ miles strong

It was with great sadness that our pack said goodbye to Chang O in February.  She had just turned 13. Her health problems were being managed easily but the hip dysplasia that manifested in the last 6 months was too much for her. Previous visitors might remember this post detailing the many miles she traveled in her life. She was quite a trooper. And, on a personal note, she joined me throughout quite a few of my milestones: grad school, meeting my partner, my first "real" job, my first horse, living abroad, several highs and lows best left off the internet, and, finally, settling in New Zealand.

2002

2014

2015

Awesome redesigns, great art!

Have a look at this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Quotable

For Leduc, literature, like life, was a place where some people damage us and some people save our lives—and then it is lunchtime.
 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Good article

I'm one of those that just doesn't get all the hullabaloo about Neill Blomkamp movies. With Chappie coming up, someone else who it seems is also left a little disappointed by his films has written a really nice article. It's a bit long but worth it if you have an interest in films and or sci/fi.

The one thing I do quite admire about Blomkamp?

The original sci-fi movie not based on a preexisting intellectual property is an endangered species, but Blomkamp has made three in a row.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Quotable

There’s a profound insecurity at the heart of any agenda that presumes that if kids aren’t spoon fed a black and white fairy tale of our national greatness, they’ll have no pride or loyalty. Arrogance isn’t patriotism, and education isn’t indoctrination. And anyone who doesn’t comprehend that difference doesn’t just need a history lesson, he needs a dictionary.

 By Oklahoma’s demented fight against AP US history.

 

 h/t

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Title: Close Range: Wyoming Stories (includes Brokeback Mountain)
Author: Annie Proulx
Publisher:  Fourth Estate (1999)


I really enjoyed starting our year of posts with a reader suggested title (thanks again for spearheading that new twist, Michael). This month starts our picks and Brokeback Mountain is one of mine. I did the audio on this a few years back; this time I read it with my very own eyes and it only gets better with more reads. And at the risk stepping outside the author's intentions, I plan to fangirl all over this short story. Note: I attempted some of the other stories but none could hold my interest - I'm not much of a short story person - so this review does not include the entire collection.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Brokeback Mountain
at It Rains... You Get Wet



They were respectful of each other's opinions, each glad to have a companion where none had been expected. Ennis, riding against the wind back to the sheep in the treacherous, drunken light, thought he'd never had such a good time, felt he could paw the white out of the moon.

Ennis and Jack, the summer they are both about 19, end up herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in 1960s Wyoming. Their friendship develops almost immediately and later progresses to intimacy. Their passionate summer spent together begins a decades long covert relationship.

...they shook hands, hit each other on the shoulder, then there was forty feet of distance between them and nothing to do but drive away in opposite directions. Within a mile Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand a yard at a time.

The two men do not live near each other and don't see each other for four years after that first summer. When they finally connect again, both having married and started families, their feelings for each other have not diminished in the slightest.

It ain't goin a be that way. We can't. ... Can't get out of it. Jack, I don't want a be like them guys you see around sometimes. And I don't want a be dead.

They are both caught by a time and a community that won't tolerate an open relationship between two men. Ennis copes with this by living the life expected of him; his relationship with Jack the only exception. Jack copes through dreams and affairs that the reader usually has to infer rather than experience. However they manage alone, it is with each other that they find solace through annual vacations.

Years on years they worked their way through the high meadows and mountain drainages... but never returning to Brokeback.


One thing never changed: the brilliant charge of their infrequent couplings was darkened by the sense of time flying, never enough time, never enough.

It's difficult to go too deeply into a short story without revealing everything of it. Perhaps this story has become so famous that many folks know it anyway. However, even if you're familiar with it from the movie (or media coverage) I can't stress enough how worth it it is to read the story. The breadth of character and experience conveyed by Proulx in 37 pages is wonderful, absorbing and heartbreaking. I struggle to think of a more magnificent and touching love story.


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 5 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Lost Moon by Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nice interview

Check out this very nice interview with David Oyelowo. I saw Selma last weekend and it's the best movie I've seen in I don't know how long. Can't recommend it enough.

Quotable

Everyday is for the thief, but one day is for the owner.

English translation of Yoruba proverb included at the beginning of Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Friday, January 30, 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote


Title: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Author: Truman Capote
Publisher:  Random House (1958)


I'm really excited to start the year (perhaps moving into our sixth year of doing this??? Michael, can you remember?) with one of the titles gleaned from Michael's poll results. It was a fantastic idea that Michael had to allow interested readers to make suggestions for our book/movie postings; and then for everyone to vote on them. One of the winning titles, this one, I haven't read/watched for over a decade. It's been cool to re-visit.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of Breakfast at Tiffany's
at It Rains... You Get Wet



From an indeterminate point in the future, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's recounts his friendship with Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling. We know at the outset that he hasn’t seen her in the intervening years. He even mentions he never thought to write about her until an acquaintance calls him up to see a remarkable photograph of a piece of artwork resembling Holly. Both men, in remembering Holly, exhibit the melancholia that pervades this novella. Even in scenes when Holly and the narrator are pulling larks in their neighborhood, having drinks, and shooting the shit there is an ever present sense of sadness. The narrator, who is never named, meets Holly after moving into a room in the same boarding house. Holly keeps forgetting her key and ringing his bell. They don't actually meet until a night hiding in his apartment from a john (windows make such handy exits) but then she stops ringing his bell. After writing a polite note to her the next week, she invites him to a party.

It feels melodramatic to describe the narrator as obsessed with Holly but it’s difficult to find another word for it. He’s one of those people that is never quite comfortable being friends on the terms that are offered. Holly is described multiple times as ‘a fake but a real one’ which mostly seems like a superficial alternative to noticing that Holly wasn’t given the life she wanted so she’s attempting to take it. The narrator is relentless in trying to get at what he thinks is real about her and almost equally relentless at rejecting what he sees as fake. (Or, at the very least, judging it.)

Breakfast at Tiffany's is an interestingly crafted book as the reader is never outside of the narrator’s very strong view of things yet it’s still easiest to know more about Holly than him. I get Holly. I get her fears, insecurities, ambitions, and frustrations. I get her charm, guardedness and managing nature. I don’t get very much about the narrator. It’s possible that’s a pretty personal reading of it, though. I’m not a call girl living in 1940s New York but I get the challenges that were present for women flying solo in that time period. The narrator, despite only hinting at his non-Holly life, seems to have one; but readers only see him through the lens of his obsession with Holly. For me, that’s a limiting view of a character. 

(For a counterpoint, see this article by someone who connected deeply with the narrator. I was struck particularly by this line: "Capote doesn't claim his alter ego's sexual identity, but it's clear that Tru [narrator] is gay from his infatuation with Holly." It was illuminating for me to read that as it's a perceptiveness that my experience has not yet brought to me.)

The narrator and Holly have a lot of good times together (and some full-on quarrels, as well) but a sense of menace is never far below the surface. It’s not just the narrator’s structure that makes it feel like an hourglass is running down for Holly. It’s the edge she’s always pushing to get the life she’s decided is the one that will cure the 'mean reds.'

I’d be remiss to not mention that this can be a difficult read due to the racist attitudes of many of the characters. A lot of slurs are bandied about - in addition to a questionable decision on the author’s part - which makes this a very white-centered NYC story. (And I’d love the chance to ask Capote about Holly’s assessment of gay women. I'd like to know what inspired him to make that choice.)



Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 3 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx



Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Love at second sight

Watching this video this morning I felt a special glow of warmth for Marshawn Lynch:



Watching this video this evening I knew it was love:


Quotable

Because we come to the world fresh we foolishly suppose that with our new lives new possibilities are born. It isn't true. The short range of possibilities are already worked out. We can change nothing, we can expect nothing. However long it takes the world will teach us our places, by preaching itself against ourselves...


After Z-hour by Elizabeth Knox

Amazing!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Favorites

I'm a bit slow to get this up (and a bit MIA from the internet these days, gorgeous weather ya know) but it's time to skim over the books read this year and see what it was I liked best. This year I didn't keep up my spreadsheet so I only have this Goodreads link to include for all books read this year.


Favorite fiction: The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

Favorite non-fiction: Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

Favorite mystery/thriller: Devices and Desires by P.D. James
(Didn't read a lot of these this year so this wins by default; really didn't like the last third of the book.)
Woops!!! How could I forget a book I just read last month and was definitely better than the above?!?
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Favorite historical fiction: Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard

Favorite fantasy: Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox

Favorite Sci-fi: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Favorite Romance: Laura Kinsale audio releases
(Didn't read a lot of this genre either and didn't come by anything new that I liked.)

Surprise hit: The Sword and the Dagger by Ardath Mayhar

Surprise blunder: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Heard lots of good stuff about this one but couldn't even get past the second chapter

Favorite author discovered in 2014: Elizabeth Knox
(h/t Ingrid!)

Most re-read book first read in 2014: None for 2014 so instead...
Most re-read author in 2014: Laura Kinsale audiobooks. Ah, bliss!

And since I do occasionally do something other than read...

Movies:
Favorite - The Edge of Tomorrow
Surprise hit - The English Teacher
Surprise blunder - Guardians of the Galaxy

Video games:
Favorite - Bejewelled 3


Honorable mention to Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as I'm having so much fun with that TV show





Past Editions: 
2013 Favorites
2012 (Half-year) Favorites
2011 Favorites
2010 Favorites

Friday, November 14, 2014

This is not somone you want to see nude!

And running!


Thankfully my seat was far enough back that it was entertaining rather than disturbing. :)

As an ex-pat American, this whole streaking at sporting events is so weird to me!

Monday, November 10, 2014

"On the lookout for books and movies"

My wonderful partner in crime has got the explanation covered really well over at his blog so I'm just going to link. If you'd like to make a request for our joint posting series definitely check it out!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Title: Hell House
Author: Richard Matheson
Publisher:  Viking Press (1971)


I think this final title of our year might be the third Matheson book in our joint post series. A moment, please, while I do a quick search... For once, my memory serves me well. Here's the first we did and then another earlier this year for a second go. I was hoping third time's a charm for me and this author - who I don't click with - but, alas, it's clearly not meant to be. At least I know for sure now and can comfortably move on from Matheson's backlist.

For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here. 


Click here for Michael's film review of The Legend of Hell House
at It Rains... You Get Wet


Title/cover: 
Title rivals Florence for the best thing about the book. It sounds cool, it’s succinct and apt. (As you’ll see, I’m really reaching for anything positive to say about this book; don’t say I didn’t warn you, if this is a novel you like, you won’t like this review.)
  
 
Premise: 
Two mediums, a scientist, and an assistant have one week to take on the powerful, clever, cursed, and diabolically haunted Hell House.



What works: 
Florence. There are essentially 4 characters in this novel (not counting the house) but only one of them is well-characterized. When Florence first appears it seems like she’s going to play the ‘dippy sensitive’ role but she turns out to be a very well-rounded character. She is quite sensitive (she’s a medium so I’m using this word more in those terms) and very empathetic, both of which turn out to be great strengths and great weaknesses in her time in Hell House. It was also a cool feature of her character that her communion with the dead was intimately tied to her monotheistic faith.


The mystery-related dramatic tension. This story is a melding of a haunted house story and a mystery. The dramatic tension related to the mystery periodically created moments of tension and excitement.



What Doesn’t: 
So many things!!! The writing is poor, the dialogue is uneven, and the characterization is not well done (Florence excepted). It’s sexist, misogynist, and homophobic. One could argue that it is the characters/house who are these things but I could argue (and do!) that choices were made by the author that go beyond simply assigning characteristics. This not being my first Matheson book, I am seeing a definite pattern in his choices as an author and they’re a problem. (I’m also pretty sure he’s of the school of thought that says ‘but there’s no reason for it.’ Gross!) 

It features extreme sexual violence against women whilst the men are attacked in multiple, non-sexual ways and usually via their perceived mental faculties. 

ScienceFail: The scientist’s arguments are built upon completely unscientific reasoning. I’m not referencing the scientific reasoning of house hauntings (clearly I’m buying that conceit if I’m reading) but he’s supposed to be a physicist and he doesn’t even know how to build a case using the scientific method. 

The Ending [major spoiler to come, highlight if interested]: After spending the length of a book with a super powerful villain puppet mastering every single scene, he is defeated by what amounts to name calling. Seriously? Name calling? (And while we’re here, the villain’s motivation is that he’s short????)




Overall: Skip this one, it sucks.


Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post. 

 
rating: 1 of 5 stars
 


Coming up next:  
Annual holiday break, see you next year!




Links to previous joint posts under the cut: 



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quotable

Oh, hey, look! The internet is still here and so am I! Fancy that!

Here's a cool article.

My fave bits:

Nothing good can just happen and then end.”

“Because if you bring 2014 Will Smith along, then you have to give a role to Jaden. And then Jaden’s going to want to run social media for the film.”