Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

Title: Shoeless Joe
Author: W. P. Kinsella
Publisher: Ballantine Books (1987)

Michael has a knack for introducing me to titles I would otherwise never have come by. In this instance, I didn't realize the movie Field of Dreams was based on a novel. When he suggested we do this pairing I was pretty stoked because I really like baseball and I'm always interested in baseball titles. Also, I haven't watched that crazy ole Ray plow his corn because of the voices he hears in quite a long time. I may sound flip but, don't worry, I have a special place in my heart for Field of Dreams and even if I make fun of it a little I still like it (excepting a small part of it that you may be able to figure out if you read to the end of this review) but those comments are for Michael's film review. For anyone new to the this series, this is where we choose a book/movie pairing and I say a few words on the book and Michael says a few words on the movie.



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



For this month Michael and I have queued up another fantasy novel. In fact, I'd say this was urban fantasy before it was all the rage... minus the vampires, of course. Turns out, I have as little interest in 80s urban fantasy as I do in 00s urban fantasy. And if that's not a clue, let me assure you, if you like this book you will not like this review.

Here's a quick synopsis that I found on the back of the copy I read: "'If you build it, he will come.' The mysterious words of a baseball announcer lead Ray Kinsella to carve a baseball field in his cornfield in honor of his hero, the baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson."


What works:
- The building of the field piecemeal. It's probably unfair of me to count this as it only occurred to me to notice because it's different from the movie. But, whatever, I have so few good things to say about the book I may as well take what I can get. Ray starts by only building left field so that Shoeless Joe will have a place to play. It's Shoeless Joe informing him that more will come if Ray will only build their positions that inspires him to continue. I loved the building of the field. I liked all the descriptions of how he kept up the grass and the dirt and I liked the rickety back fence and the bleachers. I liked how building a new portion of the park was rewarded with another player.

- Random little gems are scattered throughout the book. If you could skip everything but the building of the field, the recounting of baseball statistics and some of the random quotes this could have been a really good book.

- Unexpected conversations can happen at work. I'm getting up from reading my book at break and someone who has never spoken to me before says, "That looks like a funny book." I am silent while I process why this person is talking to me and what would have given her the idea that it was funny (see pic above, not really a comedy cover if you ask me). My stalling leaves her space to continue, "Is it really about people without any shoes?" I am still having trouble processing this conversation because now I've moved on to why a book full of people without shoes would be funny! I finally figure it's best to just get out asap so I mumble something about Shoeless Joe Jackson being a famous baseball player and exit the room. 

What Doesn't:
- The characterization. Oh my gosh!!! The characterization. It's some of the worst I've ever seen. I started to wonder why anyone had a name at all. I think their names should have been Convenient Person #1, #2, etc. Ray gets some semblance of characterization but he's not a very consistent character so the only thing I really could believe about him was that he loved Annie* and baseball.

- *Let's not go down the road of talking about Annie or Annie and Ray. A more insulting, insipid love affair has surely never been put to page before.

- The farm foreclosure angle. It made no sense. What was the point of them being poor? Was it for a better ending? To make it even more amazing that Ray had the faith to build the field? What was Annie's job? Why would she insist that she and her husband buy a farm when she had no plans to help with the farming or a supplemental income? If this whole foreclosure business hinges on her brother's company being full of assholes who have been buying up Johnson County then why didn't they buy the farm in the first place? If you double check the timeline (and I did!) the company could have bought the farm before Annie and Ray ever got involved.

- The twin angle. What was the point of Richard's character? Why was the author convinced twins wouldn't age differently? Why were the twins nothing alike in one description of them (personality-wise) but then Ray's complaining he never had anything Richard didn't? 


Overall: The snippets of baseball in this story do not make the horror show that is this book worth it.

One last thing. I didn't include this in the "what doesn't" section because it works for quite a few people, just not me. This book has a real hankering for the past aspect to it. I mean, even moreso than you would generally assume from the plot. It's basically got the attitude that anything old = good and anything new = bad. This is neat and all for some folks but, when you really look at such a thing, it ends up being short-sighted and exclusionary and not something that has ever had much appeal for me.

So, toss this book on the Not To Be Read pile and head over to the film review.

Oh wait, my favorite quote:

"He's a go-getter, but he'll get over it soon. Everyone does."


rating: 2 of 5 stars



Coming up next:
Bubba Ho-Tep  by Joe R. Lansdale



Links to previous joint posts: 
The Black Dahlia

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Mars gets reality TV...

Lockheed Martin researcher, Maya Cooper, will be the star of Good Mars Eats!



Picture and details here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Science!

I don't think it's just because I'm a scientist that I can't understand people who aren't interested in being well informed. Many topics do indeed encompass ambiguous evidence but at the end of the day there is a most likely scenario that is supported by facts. Why oh why are there so many people not interested in facts? Why are we so willing to listen to people without expertise just because they are saying something we want to hear? Heads in the sand have never accomplished anything!

On a more fun note, check out my impromptu lab museum (that chair/bench in the background is where sgwordy makes science happen:):



Items left to right -
1. Timer made by Great Britain's Smiths. You set it with the dial in the middle and hit the green button on top to start it. Year unknown.
2. First Aid guide from the kit in the lab. Includes such handy tips as to how to handle glass in the eye or disembowelment. 1979.
3. Sensi-discs to detect bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics. 1963.
4. Tube of glue that now has bubbled surface due to heat exposure? Year unknown.
5. White-out. Included because we are not allowed to use white-out (against accreditation body rules) so it can only exist in our museum. Year unknown.
6. Olympus camera. 1986. (See papers hanging below for directions on use. For example: large X through a picture of biceps to indicate that you should not press too hard on the buttons.)
7. Fire lighter. Year unknown. (These days they look more like this.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

May - July Book Reviews

The latest issues of San Francisco Book Review and Sacramento Book Review are out and available for viewing here and here. More reviews are, of course, available at City Book Review.


Links below for my reviews:

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith 

The Order of the Scales by Stephen Deas

Tribal Science: Brains, Beliefs, and Bad Ideas by Mike McRae


What have you been reading lately?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Alan Rickman Reel: Truly, Madly, Deeply

My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we've decided to review his films from start to finish. 
Using IMDb, that puts us starting with Die Hard (DIE HARD!!!!) and continuing with...


We should just do Ghost.




sgwordy: This was another movie we couldn't find. Scouring the internets (well, Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes) left us with only a few clips on youtube. I think people's favorite clips were the very serious ones because I didn't see much of the advertised humor. I would guess this film is pretty intense.

Dr Musacha:Yeah, the clips were very dramatic but it seemed like real drama. Not melodrama. That scene with the poem made me genuinely sad for both of them and I hadn't seen very much of them at all. It's amazing that short clips can be so affecting.

sgwordy: Agreed. I was very easily able to slip into the emotion of the scenes even though they were short. You know you're into something if you start to feel embarrassed about being there.When they were sharing how much they loved each other (title scene so kind of important) I started to feel really intrusive.

Beings that this is a serious film I feel a bit schmucky for making fun but, seriously, that mustache? Gotta go! What do you think?

Dr Musacha: Awful! He should have been wearing a denim jacket and standing in front of a bitchin' Camero.

sgwordy laughs

Dr. Musacha: His worst look so far. Agreed?

sgwordy: Definitely. It's the only thing that made that haircut not the worst thing about this look. Do you think you'd care to watch the entire film?

Dr. Musacha: Yes! In fact, I'm a little bummed that Netflix doesn't have it.

sgwordy: Wow, you surprise me. This isn't really your type of film.

Dr. Musacha: Drama has to be really well done for me before I'm interested in seeing it and certainly before I would like it and this seems to be a film that I would like because the drama is so well done.

It must be noted that Rickman flashed two more talents in this film: Another foreign language (Spanish) and singing. What did you think of Rickman's singing voice?

sgwordy: Absolutely loved it. Felt a bit sorry for Stevenson because she did not sound great next to his talents. Hopefully we'll get to see the whole thing someday but until then we'll let everyone enjoy his singing while we move on to his next film.




Summary:
Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha –7
sgwordy –5 (hard to know from the youtube clips)

Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – Yes, from the clips, definitely.
sgwordy – Yes, he wins all the singing contests.

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha –8
sgwordy – 8

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: Sun ain't gonna shine anymore. (Rickman sings like an angel.)
sgwordy: I still go to meetings.

Sharing Joy



(hat tip: Michael)

Books Read - Half-year Edition 2012

I've done pretty well so far at realizing my goal of reading fewer books this year (I'm on track to read more than 20 fewer than last year). I wanted to focus on some other goals and there is only so much time in the day. *sigh* I've even been staying off the computer this year in pursuit of those other goals. I will admit that re-reading quite a few old favorites that don't get recorded on my list sort of makes it seem like I'm doing better than I am but small steps here, folks, small steps. Anyway...

I don't think I've done any reading round-ups this year and I never got around to posting about the book festival and I've hardly posted any reviews... Jeez! IRL goals take up so much time. Well, here are last year's end of year selections since I probably won't be able to link to any of the books that make my half-year short list.

sgwordy's Read in 2012 list

Half-year Results -

Favorite fiction*:
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Taken by Robert Crais
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Favorite non-fiction**:
El Narco by Ioan Grillo

Favorite author discovered this year:
Jesmyn Ward

Most re-read book first read this year:
A couple Georgette Heyer books go here. They're short, cute, and comforting when I read a couple duds in a row or a book that leaves me emotionally wrung out. (ha! Some things don't change between years:)


* Obviously I can't decide
** Special mention goes to Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey because if you have wavy/curly hair this just might be the best non-fiction you come by on such a seemingly mundane topic. :)




What's your favorite book so far this year?