best of 2014: movies + tv

   First things first, here they are friends, the 41st - 45th movies I watched this year:
  1. Cowboys & Aliens (11)
  2. Meet Me in St Louis (44)
  3. Rounders (98)
  4. The Dark Knight (08)
  5. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (05)
    All quite different from each other, clearly. And if you were trying to figure our which of these I'd watch and write a paper about for an university course, it would be that gem of hilarious cinema: Cowboys & Aliens.  What a world we live in.

   On to the best of! For the movies I picked my two favourites that I saw in theatres and one that I don't think many would find and watch unless they came across it by chance (as I did) or heard about it from a friend.
  • Noah (2014, Darren Aronofsky)  This movie has garnered a great deal of attention and discussion, and when I watched it and posted about it earlier, I said that I felt I did not need to add to the conversation, except to say that this was a truly beautiful and poignant film. I still feel that same way. It's gorgeous. It's moving. It's worth your time. 
  • Interstellar (2014, Christopher Nolan)  Speaking of movies that are beautiful (and filmed in Iceland), after you see Noah might as well see Interstellar. It's got space, it's got weird locations, it's got (fake) science. It makes me think that maybe one day they'll make a movie of Foundation. 
  • Barbara (2012, Christian Petzold)  This might be the best movie I've seen all year, and maybe last year too. It is golden. It makes a point of being understated and a bit claustrophobic. It's also in German, but please don't let that dissuade you. A doctor living in Eastern Germany in the 80's makes a request to leave, and is subsequently relocated to a rural hospital and put under constant surveillance. Maybe I'm not making it sound very thrilling, but see this movie. I think it's on Netflix still. 
 SPEAKING OF NETFLIX, do you like TV? I do. I highly recommend these:
  • The West Wing
  • X-Files
  • The West Wing
  • X-Files
  • The West Wing
  • X-Files
   Start watching those and you'll be fine

  And that's that for this installment, folks. If you click on the "Movies" label at the bottom of this post you can see/read about the other films I watched this year, if you feel so inclined.


best of 2014: webcomics

   Admittedly, I feel somewhat pretentious with this blog, telling you what I read and if/why you should read it, and expecting that my writing and opinion will have an influence on your choices. Who am I to tell you what you should read? And now with a "best of" list. Such audacity. However, putting my vanity aside, I have had an excellent year media-wise. It seems only fair to spread the love. And so: a few posts on what I thought were the shining stars of my media consumption this year, and, naturally, the yearly "what I read" and "what I watched" posts.

   To begin: webcomics.
  • Earlier this year, Anthony Clark and KC Green teamed up to start BACK, a wild-west-esque comic which has proved delightful in the first thirty updates.  There are gunfights, graveyards, witches, and two brothers holding a town hostage by means of bodily gas. What? Just take my word for it, check it out, it's a good romp. Clever and funny. 
  • If there is one comic artist/writer who I will always recommend to everyone, it is John Allison. He is behind the excellent (and now ended) Bad Machinery, which revolves around a group of teens in Tackleford, England, as they solve mysteries. The last case wrapped up earlier this year, at which point Allison turned his focus to Bobbins, which is also set in Tackleford and features many of the same characters as Bad Machinery. Both comics are well worth your time. Those links go to the beginning of the last Bad Machinery case and the beginning of the latest Bobbins story, respectively. 
   BACK, Bad Machinery, and Bobbins all start with "B" and feature paranormal elements, I am sensing a theme here. 

   Join me next time for "best of 2014: movies"! So exciting.



   You know the drill: I watch 'em, you guess 'em. For bonus points you can guess which of these movies I watched for school.


Resolved, 2015

   In an effort to diversify my reading, and to keep an open mind and to find new books I wouldn't otherwise read, I want to know what your favourite books are, and I want to know why you think I should read them, or if you think I should read them, or if I should at least give them a fair go. The plan is to read at least one book that someone else has suggested a month, which means twelve books I maybe wouldn't have given the time of day before, or maybe didn't realize existed.

   In order to do this, though, I clearly need your suggestions. What should I read? Be forewarned that I draw the line at Amish romance (and romance in general, actually. But those rubbish "plain romance" books especially. What is the appeal? I am genuinely baffled by the sheer number of those things). Beyond that, however, I am game for pretty much anything.

   This past year one of my resolutions was to read at least 52 books, I've achieved that and I want to add to it for 2015. And so: books other people tell me to read. If you want a frame of reference for my reading patterns, there's a list of what I read this year at the bottom of this here bloggo. 

   Also: can I get a holla if you love Pushing Daisies as much as I do.


Homage to Catalonia / George Orwell

   This review is turning out to be difficult to write; this was such a good book and was so full that I am not sure how to correctly express my reaction to it and feelings about it. I finished it on Saturday and almost immediately pressed it into the hands of of friend with many a "you  must read this", and I sent texts to bookish friends telling them that Homage to Catalonia simply has to be their read, and I want to give it to people for Christmas and birthdays and hang over them until they read it. If that gives you any indication of my deep appreciation for this book, then maybe you too will find it and read it. The tone is conversational and gentle, and Orwell tries to be as even-handed as he can.

   Instead of several more paragraphs of gushing, I'll just put some quotes in here and call it a day:

"One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting"
"If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness. However, I had the satisfaction of catching on of them a good punch that sent him flying."
"Smillie's death is not a thing I can easily forgive. Here was this brave and gifted boy, who had thrown up his career at Glasgow University in order to come fight against Fascism, and who, as I saw for myself, has done his job at the front with faultless courage and willingness; and all they could find to do with him was to fling him into jail and let him die like a neglected animal. I know that in the middle of a huge and bloody war it is no use making too much fuss over an individual death. One aeroplane bomb in a crowded street causes more suffering than quite a lot of political persecution. But what angers one about a death like this is its utter pointlessness. To be killed in battle — yes, that is what one expects; but to be flung into jail, not even for any imaginary offence, but simply owing to dull blind spite, and then left to die in solitude — that is a different matter. I fail to see how this kind of thing — and it is not as though Smillie’s case were exceptional — brought victory any nearer."
"The word 'shot' gave me a sort of inward shudder. A bullet had entered my own body recently and the feeling of it was fresh in my memory; it is not nice to think of that happening to anyone you know well."

   Honestly, I wish I could get across what this book is like, but I don't think I really can. Read it, please.  It's available online here.


Mini Wrap Uuuuuup! Word.

   And it's over! Oh boy, that was DELIGHTFUL. I am quite glad I took part. What mini things did I accomplish? Here's a list:
  • Drank (too much) mini coffee
  • Ate mini pizza
  • Finished Homage to Catalonia / George Orwell, everyone read this book ASAP, I'm not kidding, it is so good
  • Bummed around on the twitter
  • Picked up The Pearl and put it down again a few times
  • Read a bunch o' blogs! Said hello! You are all super charming!
  • Listened to a whole bunch of Inkheart
  • Went to an appointment which I was early for, SLAMMED my way through The Pearl. 
   At one point I took a break from painting my nails and listening to Inkheart to eat ice cream and  watch Inkheart, I think it's safe to say that I get Minithon. Also: how did I forget that Inkheart has everyone  in it? Brendan Fraser? Check. Paul Bettany? Check. HELEN MIRREN? ALSO CHECK.

   I really am charmed by you all, today has been a lovely day. Thanks so much, Tika, for hosting it and being so welcoming!


   It is 10:00 here in Alberta, and I am joining this readathon a wee bit late. One might say that my tardiness is MINI. Keeping with the theme! I have also just pulled my MINI pizza out of the oven and am drinking an espresso which one might call a MINI coffee and I'm not sure why I keep putting "mini" in all caps. So far those are all the miniature foods I have, but I have to go out later today mid-thon and who knows, some teeny foods might find their way into my home and heart (stomach) after all.

    The reading!
Did you know that George Orwell got shot in the neck? WELL HE DID.

   Admittedly, Homage to Catalonia is mini in neither concept nor execution, but I only have one chapter left, ergo: so mini. As a side note, OMGosh read this book it is amazing. 

Coins are mini? Pearls are mini? Fairies are mini? Lizards? Mini?

  ALSO not very mini, BUT it features Meggie who is 12, she's a veritable teacup human and is therefore mini. It's about the power of reading and when you read you are looking at words on a page and they are small? What? It also prominently features Dad/Daughter Feelings and the movie stars none other than Brendan Fraser sooooo...I love it. It also reminds me that the amount of books I will read in my lifetime is mini in comparison to the amount of books there are in the world. Depressing.


   I don't even need to reach for this one! 87 pages, baby. I read Steinbeck's short books in an attempt to assuage my guilt over not having read East of Eden.

   I also have several articles for my Contemporary Feminist Theory class and a few days from my One Year Bible which I am sadly behind in to read, so the mini readings are waaaaay more bountiful than the mini snacks. So much reading! I already feel the need for more espresso and/or a nap. Let the reading/tweeting/snacking begin! Oh! And! My twitter handle is @olyvianne



this book vortex I couldn't find credit for represents my life
   We've gone over this before, but it is no less of a problem for me now than it was previously. I have several books on the go, some might say I have too many in the process of being read. Maybe I have book-commitment issues, maybe I'm expressing to my full capabilities, maybe it's just the way I read.

   Here's a (non-complete) list of the books I am part-way through at the moment:
  1. HHhH / Laurent Binet. I put this book down for a long time, because suddenly I was reading more than one book about Reinhardt Heydrich and if you want to be unhappy, you can try reading more than one book about war criminals at once. It's a recipe for curling up sadly on your bed. But I'm far enough removed, and I decided to stop reading the extensive history of the SS I was working on, and have come back to HHhH. 
  2. Homage to Catalonia / George Orwell. I have long since known that my knowledge of various European wars is lacking, especially when it comes to the confusing and convoluted Spanish Civil War. Much to my relief, I came across this conversational tome by one of my favorite authors, and I can say that everyone should read this book. It's informational, it's easy to read, it's detailed and even-handed, it makes as much sense as it can of a confusing situation.
  3. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn. (I am looking at this list and thinking that the explanation for my general outlook on life might be found in my reading material.) I was part way through this small book about life in a work camp when I put it down and it disappeared into thin air. Where is it? Does my sister have it? I want to finish it. 
  4. Oryx and Crake / Margaret Atwood. I have very purposefully been giving Atwood a large chance to impress me this year, after finally deciding that maybe my deep dislike of Handmaid's Tale wasn't representative of what my reaction would be to all of her work. So far, Oryx and Crake is quite good. 
  5. Herland / Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I usually have at least one book on the go on my phone, in case of emergencies (like long lines) and this one is my current one. 
  6. Hunger's Brides / Paul Anderson. I look at this book and feel bad about my life because it is nearly 1500 pages long and what am I doing with my life? Why haven't I written anything of note? Why haven't I put the required effort into reading this thing? I started it and it was so good and then my arms got tired (because it weighs 40 tonnes) and I got intimidated and now it exists to make me feel inadequate. 
   This isn't even all of them, and some of these are the same as many months ago when I talked about this issue before. Sometimes people ask "what are you reading" and I give them a bit of a blank stare. If I do this to you, please know that I'm not judging you or something, I am just trying to suss out the answer. Do I say the book I read bits of most recently? The one I'm farthest in? The one I'm enjoying the most? There are too many questions. 


The Yellow Wallpaper / Charlotte Perkins Gilman

   If you live anywhere near where I do (i.e. THE TRUE NORTH STRONG AND FREE) you know that it is really, truly, winter. When the first real snow comes I react like King Theoden looking over the valley in front of Helm's Deep, with many a "so it begins" and a "this is your life now."

we understand one another
      All this to say that the season that I am on the lookout for spooky scary reading is past (and I read The Shining / Stephen King and it was plenty scary so I got my fill) and it was purely by chance that I stumbled on this short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Someone on the world wide web mentioned it, saying something like "1892 story about postpartum depression" so naturally I needed to read it, unaware that it is also extremely creepy. Ladies and gentlemen it is so short, and since it was published way before 1923 it is on Project Gutenberg and you can read it for free here: The Yellow Wallpaper. It is a mere 6,000 words. Go read it.

   Hopefully you've read it now because OH MY GOSH, AM I RIGHT? Was the "creeping" as terrifying in your head as in my head? How much is your rage roiling against her physician husband? The poor woman! The poor baby! The poor man! Surprising insight into the effects of depression on the side of CPG! I looked her up, and she also wrote a short book called Herland which is also written from a feminist perspective and is also free online so of course I am going to read it. Wikipedia says that she was a "prominent American feminist, sociologist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform" to which I say, "sounds like my kind of historical lady, minus the racism which becomes evident upon further reading." Also: TURNS OUT The Yellow Wallpaper is semi-autobiographical. AND she taught herself to read when she was five.


"Mind if I go in and watch television?"

   Here are the titles of the movies in this post:
  1. Anastasia (97)
  2. Interstellar (14)
  3. Les Miserables (12)
  4. The Phantom of the Opera (25)
  5. Secondhand Lions (03)
   Watch all of these movies, and love them.

   Anastasia includes such rousing numbers as "In The Dark of the Night", which leads to the question: WHY are villian's songs so dang catchy? Take, for instance, the delightfully sing-along-able "Be Prepared" from The Lion King, and let's not forget Ursula's belted tune "Poor Unfortunate Souls", which I have sung, with bravura, to/at my sister on more than one occasion.  And how can I even talk about this without mentioning the equally dastardly and infectious "Kill the Beast"? This problem is rampant. Rasputin's song makes me want to get up and dance, and it's about putting a curse on Anastasia, who I am cheering for. What in the world. I wasn't allowed to watch Anastasia when I was a wee bairn, too much weird Rasputin stuff, so I watched it with relish (sorry, mom).

   When I sat down to watch Interstellar I turned to my friend and said "how much do you bet that this was filmed in Iceland?" and he said "I think they filmed it in Alberta, actually." Turns out we were both right: the earth scenes are definitely Alberta and at least one of the space locations is definitely Iceland. We are all winners. Some people have expressed disappointment in this movie and Christopher Nolan, but I like it just fine. Exceptional performances all around. Just suspend your disbelief for the inaccurate science, as one is wont to do while consuming science fiction. It's mostly about Space Dad Feelings, how can you go wrong.

   Do I even need to talk about Les Mis? Every time I watch it I try to steel myself and every time I shed at least a tear at the end when Jean Valjean is in the chair and he's dying and Fantine comes and sings and oh my gosh, so beautiful. Also: I get that people are all agog over them singing live but let's put this into perspective: musicals usually run eight shows a week, all live singing (duh) and without the luxury of re-doing a take. It's cool, but it's not that cool.

   My plans for All Hallow's Eve were "do nothing" UNTIL a friend of mine alerted me to a showing of the silent Phantom of the Opera accompanied by live organ music and folks: it was mind bogglingly amazing. Please be a new Halloween tradition, I beg of you. It's the way silent movies were meant to be watched and it was a most excellent experience. As an added bonus, silent movies are hilariously over the top and dramatic. Side note: if you have a friend who suggests things like silent movies with organ music, hold on to that friend.

    Do you want more movies with more Dad (or Dad Approximate) Feelings? Then after you get home from watching Interstellar you can toss Secondhand Lions into the ol' laser disc machine and ka-blammo, you got it. Also features: lions (obvi), sleep-walking, a pig that thinks it's a dog, story-telling, the Foreign Legion, and much more. Also: Michael Caine! Have you seen the video of Michael Caine doing an impression of people who do Michael Caine impressions? It's great.



   OMGosh, I've only got 12 slots left in this year's viewing allotment. There's less than two months left of the year though, I think I'll be fine.

   Anyways: guess what these are! So fun.


What Every Body is Saying / Joe Navarro

   I was going to start this post with "Hello, my name is Glynis, and I am a huge dork," but then I remembered my disdain for people who introduce themselves with caveats such as "I'm dumb" or "I'm stupid" or "I'm crazy" or "I'm weird" (UGH, people, stop saying you're "weird"). It's not that I get my hate on for self-depreciation, because it can be funny, but sometimes we take it too far and it just gets ridiculous. It's mostly women who do this. More than once I've been introduced to someone or just met them or am still getting to know them and they'll make one of these statements, "hello my name is ____, and I'm stupid," and I want to firmly grasp their shoulders, look sternly into their face, and say "WHAT THE HELL?" Because let's face it, introducing yourself with an insult is the worst.

   If some of the first information I have about you is that you claim to be stupid, then chances are I will file that away under "Truths About So-and-So, Direct From the Horse's Mouth". What I'm saying is: I will think you are stupid, because you told me to think so, and it will take actual work on my part to override that. And if you've ever done this in the secret hope that someone will say, "oh my gosh! No! You're so great/smart/pretty/whatever!" then please re-evaluate your compliment-fishing stratagem. One day people are going to stop contradicting you and you are going to be standing there with the words "I'm stupid" that you just declared about yourself hanging in the air, and people are going to be sick of bolstering your ego/self-confidence and guess what? That's going to suck.

   If you feel the need for a compliment or a kind word, then speak kindly about yourself. Ask for corroboration, not contradiction. Even better: if you wish to be complimented, then compliment the people around you! You know what's better than saying "I'm -insert negative thing here-"? Saying "hey, you are looking good today my friend, and that bit of info you added to our previous conversation was spot-on. It was great and you are great and I'm glad we're friends." Which do you think will add more joy to your life: disparaging comments about yourself, or uplifting comments about others? That question is rhetorical, obviously edifying other people goes way beyond putting yourself down.

   If you know me, you know that I'm not always the best at this. Just yesterday some disparaging comments about myself popped out of my mouth and I regretted them immediately after. Not only did I add ammo to a negative self-image which I have been working to undermine, I also put my friends in a tricky position. I'm not saying that we can't acknowledge the negative aspects of our character, because ignoring all that means it's not getting worked on, but that we don't celebrate or emphasize them, and we don't insult ourselves. Let's make a pact, shall we? Just be kinder. Kinder to others, kinder to ourselves, etc. Let's stop disparaging ourselves.

   WOW, okay.

   So: I read Joe Navarro's What Every Body is Saying and it was excellent and I recommend it to everyone. I've been trying to decipher body language the past few days, and while it remains somewhat difficult, it is good to know what kinds of things to look for and what kinds of things my own body is telling the world. Also, Joe Navarro is adorable, check out this quote: "I give hugs freely because they transmit caring and affection so much more effectively than mere words. I feel sorry for those who are not huggers, they are missing so much in their lives." OMGosh.

   The reason I was going to say something about being a dork is that I find body language studies fascinating. I watched Lie To Me for awhile and would try to figure out the tics and tells before the show revealed the solutions. I pored over the chapters Malcolm Gladwell wrote about facial tells. It all seemed strangely mysterious and like it would take eons to understand until I got my hands on this book and Mr Navarro made the whole thing simple and accessible. He splits body language into two simple categories, comfort and discomfort, and proceeds with interpretation from there. He also gave this gem of advice: if you saw some body language and you aren't sure what it means, try to recreate it in your own body and observe how you feel. So simple! So easy! I'm sure we've all read about those studies that say "hey, if you force yourself to smile/laugh, it'll make you feel way better, we promise" so it just makes sense that if I recreate a posture I'll understand a little better how the originator was feeling. Our bodies contribute to our minds! Wow.

   There's a TED talk about power posing, you should look it up and watch it and then exclaim, "WOW, the human body is AMAZING." Because guess what? It totally is, and it sure ain't dorky to think so.


"If people didn't try anything new we wouldn't have hardly any progress at all"

I know you're raring to find out what the movies are in this post and don't worry: I haven't forgotten you.
  1. Cat Ballou (1965)
  2. Dial M For Murder (1954)
  3. Escape Plan (2013)
  4. Notorious (1946)
  5. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
   These were all enjoyable, clearly in different ways. You can watch all of them. In this post, though, I'm only going to talk about that overlooked gem of cinema: Cat Ballou, and then I'm going to talk about something completely unrelated. Oh, Cat Ballou. First off: this movie has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes last time I checked and it deserves it. It is hilarious to the nth degree, and blissfully quotable. SO QUOTABLE. Here is a short list of events that take place in Cat Ballou:
  • Barn dance
  • Barn dance fight
  • Train robbery
  • Murder most foul
  • Several tantrums
   Obviously, it's great. Go and watch it, and then celebrate your new found "I will watch this at least once a year" movie. I mean, come on: Nat King Cole as a singing narrator.

   OKAY, I am not super into writing about movies right now so here is something else I've been thinking about, and that thing is a Postal Book Club. Not postal as in "going postal", but postal as in "posted in the mail". Here's how it works: a few people join form the club and they each choose a book and keep it a secret from the other club members. They read the book, write their thoughts (and things like why they chose the book and so on) in a notebook, and then pack both the book and the notebook and mail them to the next person in the club. The books make the rounds through all the people in the club until they make it back to the person who chose it, who then has the book and the notebook with everyone's thoughts. It all sounds delightful.

   I want to be a part of a postal book club and I want to know if you want to be in one with me.


Neverhome / Laird Hunt

   FIRST OFF: I need all of you to go out, get a copy of Neverhome, read it, and then talk about it with me, at length. I want to drink some sort of hot beverage and wave my hands around while I talk to/at/with someone about this book. After that I think I will stalk the shelves of the library for more by Mr Laird Hunt, and hopefully I'll want everyone to read those and then talk about them too. I wish I had a hard copy of this book that I could wave in your collective faces until you said "ALRIGHT ALREADY, I will read it, are you happy now?" But I wouldn't be happy until you finished it and spoke with me about it, and we exclaimed over that one thing and that part at the end and what a genius Laird Hunt must be.

   Do you love stoicism in the face of adversity?? I sure do, and Ash/Constance delivers it in SPADES. Our narrator is matter-of-fact and brusque and I love it. (Side note: I also just finished reading True Grit / Charles Portis and wow that book is grand and Mattie Ross kicks butt and takes names. STOICISM!)

   Ach this book is just so excellent and complex and I don`t know how to tell you about it without putting IDEAS into your head about the plot etc AND SO: here I am telling you to please read this book and then please talk to me about it. I have a strong desire to have a bookclub and to read this book and talk about it with a group of people who are excited about it and about reading in general. 

p.s. I am now reading The Shining and spooky scary October is WELL underway.


I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

   As it turns out, a person doesn't necessarily have to be rich to live in a castle, as we quickly learn from Cassandra Mortmain as she narrates her life. No sir, you need not be rich, and by all accounts you can live in abject poverty and still live in a castle, so long as you have a long-suffering and understanding landlord.

   So! Cassandra et al live in a castle - what is left of a castle - on the grounds of a grand old house, and who should come round the cucumber frame but Mr MacGregor and by that I mean: single American hunks move in next door. Rose, Cassandra's older sister, decides that poverty really isn't all it's cracked up to be and sets about catching herself a rich American. She isn't very good at it at first on account of reading too many Victorian romances, and there are some misunderstandings, hiccups, etc on the road to love and let's just say that I'm really not doing the book justice so far and it is quite delightful.

   Back to the story: Simon (older American bro) has an awful beard but he also has an inheritance and owns the grand house and the grounds and the castle, so Rose sets her cap at him. He also has a penchant for literature, which proves to be a bonus since Cassandra and Rose's father once wrote an avant-garde novel that Americans simply eat up and Simon practically worships the ground he walks on. Neil (younger American bro) loves ranches and being, in general, American. Cassandra is all about the love of words and books and writing, and records the shenanigans that take place surrounding Rose's quest for love and money.

   Cassandra, it turns out, is charming and charismatic, although sometimes she is very earnest about various things, but aren't we all sometimes? If you can't be earnest every once in awhile then what are you doing. All this jibber jabber aside, let's get to my favorite character: Topaz.

   Topaz! She is the best. She loves art and she loves keeping her family as warm and fed and comfortable as she can and she also "communes with nature" which means she's an occasional nudist. She poses for paintings! She makes Rose and Cassandra clothing! She encourages Mortmain (the father, her husband) as best she can! The best lines come out of her mouth! There's no way Topaz is her real name but she owns it and she's great.

   A more complete cast of characters:
  • Cassandra, our narrator
  • Rose, our marriage-plotter. I feel like I haven't done Rose justice here. She's brave and she sticks to her guns.
  • Thomas, Cassandra and Rose's younger brother. He's very bright.
  • Mortmain, their father
  • Topaz, their step-mother (not evil, as Cassandra points out)
  • Steven, the farm boy
  • Simon, American bro
  • Neil, American bro
  • Mrs. Cotton, their mother. I didn't like her. 
  • The Fox-Cottons, awful people in some ways, not awful in others. 
  • The librarian whose name I forget but who is a lovely woman.
  • The Vicar, who is also great.
   As stated above, it's a delightful number and I encourage y'all to read it and enjoy it. It gets several stars out of however many.



   This year I resolved to read at least 52 books; friends, yesterday I read my 53rd. High-fives all around!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers / Jack Finney

   If there is a vibe that I love in scary books, it is the "it doesn't seem like anything is wrong on the surface but if you look closely there is totally something off about this situation what is it oh my gosh" vibe. Enter Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the very thing that is the most sinister is that it is so difficult to tell who has been body-snatched and who hasn't. Miles, our narrator, is describing the town and says "there wasn't anything out-and-out strange or remarkable to see", and that is essentially the theme of the book.

   Written in 1955, the book sometimes posits some uncomfortable notions, but all in all it is quite enjoyable, and maintains a sinister feeling. However, I do have a complaint and I do think it is warranted. WTH is up with the plethora of deus ex machina endings in aliens-invading-mother-earth science fiction? "It was germs done killed 'em" "Earth has water and other planets don't, ergo: water = alien poison." OR "they decided that it just wasn't worth it."


   I was half expecting the ending to be "un/fortunately, Miles and Becky's struggle was unsuccessful so I guess we are all aliens now, and you didn't even know it. You're an alien, your mom's an alien, your aunts and uncles? Aliens. You dog too, probably, if you have a dog. Although why would you, since you are an emotionless husk carrying a parasitic alien life-form which will perpetuate itself throughout the earth until there aren't any non-alien entities left for it to take over, at which point it will revert back to spores and move on to ravage other planets. Well! Have a good sleep." 

   Wouldn't that have been a better ending?? I certainly think so. I guess I've sort of given this story away, but really: it was published in 1955. You've had some time to read it. Also: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a part of our cultural psyche. You already know the story, or at least the ingredients.


The Turn of the Screw / Henry James

I <3 Deborah Kerr
    Good evening, dear reader.

   Just as the governess in question always instinctively knows what all the other characters are thinking, I instinctively knew that I would enjoy this book as soon as the over the top dramatic tone was set. If our ill-fated governess knows one thing: it is how to use capitalization for emphasis. (When referring to another character using a pronoun, always say "HIM" or "HER", not boring old "him" and "her". It keeps everyone on their toes.) Just like the perceptive governess, my innate knowledge was proved correct (or not just like her, read on!) when I enjoyed this small volume immensely and have added it to a list of beloved spooky reading. 

   But is everything indeed as it seems??!?!?? Is the secluded country house indeed haunted?!? Or is this a tale of infamy and insanity??? Or, as some of my internet perusing has suggested, was this story a way for Henry James to write about child abuse without really writing about child abuse? 

   There are a few possible readings of The Turn of the Screw, some of which are: 
  • It is a ghost story plain and simple. 
  • It is not a ghost story, but a mad-governess story. 
  • It is a strange way to couch a story of the effects of abuse. 
  • It was meant to be "uninterpretable". 
   Personally, dear reader, I'm inclined towards a combination of actual ghosts and actual mad governess. If I myself were a ghost and was doing some haunting, then it would be a short step from haunting to "I'm going to make this person and the people around them believe that he/she is mad." Two birds: one stone. I, for one, am an advocate of ghost efficiency.


two small reviews

 Foundation and Empire / Isaac Asimov

   Somehow, despite being a sci-fi advocate and having a desire to read a great deal of "classic" science fiction, I had never read anything by Isaac Asimov until a friend of mine said "I will not let you suggest any books to me until you read Foundation" so of course I read it and of course I loved it and of course it took me ages to acquire and read the second one, Foundation and Empire, which I also love. Run-on sentence, wow.

   The Foundation series centers around, surprise surprise, The Foundation. It was put in place by Hari Seldon, a master of psychohistory (which is not history gone crazy, but rather a study of history boiled down to, essentially, pure mathematics which allowed Hari Seldon to predict the future of society at large (already awesome, I know)) so that instead of being 30,000 years of barbarism after the fall of the Galactic Empire, there would be a mere 1,000, as long as The Foundation successfully navigated its way around each so-called Seldon Crisis. Foundation and Empire contains the fourth and fifth Seldon Crisis, and it is very good.

The Remains of the Day / Kazuo Ishiguro 

   I read someone's review and they said that The Remains of the Day is an "anti-haiku", and I don't know if there is a better way to put it. This book unfolds perfectly and slowly, and I am at a loss about how to convey how truly lovely and truly heart-wrenching it is. It is a book full of moments. It's poignant.

   I don't know how or why I hadn't read anything by Ishiguro until this year. He is quickly becoming a favorite.


26-30, the titles

   The films from this post are as follows:
  1. Cool Runnings (93)
  2. Hanna (11)
  3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (09)
  4. Nordwand (North Face) (08)
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (14)
   I recommend them all.

   I had never seen Cool Runnings before, and I had no idea such a gem of a film was missing from my childhood. It was hilarious. Also: Calgary in the nineties was hilariously teeny tiny. But let's face it: it is still quite small and its size is primarily suburban sprawl. What is up with you, Calgs?

   Hanna, oh how I love Hanna. The music in this film is genius. I saw it in theatres when it first came out, and have watched it a couple of times since. Can we all just agree that her escape from the underground whatever is one of the best escape sequences ever? I would compare it to the bank heist scene from Heat. Does that make sense? Heat is to bank robbery as Hanna is to escaping from underground governmental outposts.

   I was drinking ginger beer while watching Harry Potter with a good friend so clearly that experience was an all-around positive one.

   Do you want to watch a movie that you know is going to end badly but you still watch the whole thing and then you do some wikipedia-ing and then you have sad feelings and then you kind of want to watch it again immediately and you also recommend it to all your friends, even the ones who don't like subtitles (it's in German)? Then allow me to put Nordwand forward as a viewing option for you. It is excellent. It made me feel cold. It made me want to climb some rocks. Also: all the German movies I've seen have hit the ball out of the park; good work, Germans. Also again: this film is based on a true story and it is heart breaking.

   There's not much to say about X-Men beyond "I love Jennifer Lawrence" and "woot woot, X-Men" and "what happened to your arms, Hugh Jackman, are arms even supposed to be that huge?"


Steppenwolf / Herman Hesse

   Here is my condensed review of Steppenwolf / Herman Hesse: "what in the world...?"

   Here is the slightly longer version of the review:

   So, I love Siddhartha / Herman Hesse, and as Steppenwolf is on every must-read list and it is a rather acclaimed tome, I went into it thinking "I am bound to enjoy this and/or find it valuable". While there were a few moments where I wanted to pump my fist in agreement with the book, by and large it was magnificently disappointing. Maybe I am not old enough to get it. Maybe I am not enamored with suffering enough. Eventually I stayed up late to finish it primarily because I didn't want to waste the effort I put into it by not finishing it, but I very much wanted to be done. Steppenwolf! Maybe read Siddhartha instead.




   It is a truth universally acknowledged that by getting tattoos a person is essentially asking the world to openly gape at them. Or so it would seem, from my experience so far. I recently got a rather large, rather visible tattoo, and since having it I've been stared at a lot on the street. It is a weird feeling to walk along and suddenly notice that many pairs of eyes are trained on your leg, let me tell you. Besides being stared at I've also been told that I will undoubtedly regret being tattooed, been asked what I'm going to do or how I'm going to cover my tattoos on my wedding day if I get married (sometimes the "if" gets a little extra emphasis), been told that "oh, I just find tattoos so ugly", and so on.

   Normally these kinds of things don't bother me. I'm not a baby, and I'm entirely aware that tattoos aren't for everyone. I like my tattoos, and I don't mind if others don't share my high opinion of them. For some people tattoos are associated with a lot of negative things, and it takes effort to get past that. For others, it's purely aesthetic and they just don't like them. That's fine! People are allowed to think differently about things. That being said, I'd like to give you a few simple pointers in dealing with your tattooed friends and acquaintances, and these have more to do with plain old politeness than anything else.
  1. Please don't stare. Tattoos are interesting and somewhat unusual and the eye is drawn to them, but staring is different from looking. When I say "staring" I meant the look that judges as opposed to the look that just says "oh hey! a tattoo!"
  2. Do not touch them. I've had strangers poke and prod my tattoos and let me tell you, it is not an enjoyable experience. Unless you are absolutely certain that it is okay for you to touch a person, just don't do it.
  3. If you know the person quite well, it is probably okay to ask what their tattoos mean. Keep in mind, however, that they might not mean anything or the meaning might be intensely personal. If they say "it's personal" or something else that essentially translates to "I am not comfortable telling you" then don't press the issue.
  4. We all know what assuming does, and I recommend that you don't make hasty assumptions about people with tattoos. Don't assume that they are are bad parents, or that they don't have a good relationship with their family, or that they've fallen off of any variety of wagon and into the gutter (all things I have heard people say, sometimes right to me after seeing that I am tattooed). All sorts of people are tattooed and making hasty generalizations about them only makes you look silly at best and harshly judgmental/prejudiced at worst. 
  5. Speaking of assuming, please don't assume that people will eventually regret their tattoos. They might, but they probably won't. When you say this, you are essentially saying "I don't think you are capable of making a lasting decision that will have repercussions throughout your life." That is a weird thing to say to people, especially if you know them well enough to have ever asked if they will get married or have children. Those are also decisions that will last a long time. 
  6. If you tell me that I will look terrible when I am old I will probably say either "so will you, what's your point?" or, "actually, I'll look amazingly cool." Everyone is going to look old when they are old.
  7. If someone has a tattoo and you think it is great, you can tell them so! It's like someone saying you have a great shirt, or that your hair is looking especially fly today.


The Spire / William Golding

   Here is where I admit that I have never read The Lord of the Flies and while I always have good intentions to read it, they never come to fruition and I always opt for something else. However, now that I have experienced William Golding's work, I might have to put some actual oomph into my reading plans and finally pick it up. The man is an excellent storyteller.

   As I said in my last post, I finished reading No Country For Old Men while I was out camping. The only other book I brought was a Dostoyevsky, and I was not feeling up to it. Apparently I'm learning to bring two books, but not to bring a second book that I'm going to want to read at that moment. Since we were driving into Banff anyways, I wheedled a library visit and pored over their for-sale shelves. As any frequent library book buyer will tell you, library sale shelves can be remarkably hit and miss. Maybe they will hold one thousand gems of literature, maybe you will have to force yourself to read obscure sci-fi (which might turn out to be good, you never know). This time the pickings were slim, but we came across this little number and even though it had no synopsis on the back and I didn't flip it open and read a couple pages, I bought it. It was a dollar. The name "William Golding" was enough of a book-value guarantee to go on.

   The Spire is about the building of a 400 ft tower/spire on top of a cathedral with no foundations to speak of that was originally built on very marshy ground. Dean Jocelin has been dreaming of this building project for years and years, and now it is finally coming to fruition. However, the book is also about religious hubris and, to a lesser extent, corruption in the medieval church (and I thought Dostoyevsky was going to be too heavy. HA). Jocelin continues to force the project even as his own health, relationships, congregation, and sanity crumble. Reading this feels like going crazy right along with Dean Jocelin. AND, as it turns out, its written about Salisbury Cathedral and the cathedral does indeed lack any significant foundations and the pillars inside do indeed bend. WHO KNEW?? (All the Salisbury parishioners, people who have visited, and those with more cathedral knowledge than I). The spire still stands today, but is only able to because of some extensive renovations and suppourt. Also, for some reason I thought that Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth was about the original building of the Salisbury Cathedral, but it's not. It's about a fictional cathedral. 

   I know that the second you read "religious hubris" you flipped out and ordered The Spire on the interwebz and are now eagerly awaiting its arrival, but I will still end this post with a recommendation. Well done, Mr Golding. Well done. 

No Country For Old Men / Cormac McCarthy

   By page nine of No Country For Old Men, the body count has already begun to grow, and a few pages later I decided not to keep count. It climbs quickly and steadily, so if that's not your thing, then perhaps don't bother with this book (or many books by Cormac McCarthy, for that matter). That being said: oh wow do I ever love Cormac McCarthy.

   Not one to be held back by things like punctuation, McCarthy tells his tale with almost tedious descriptions of physical action and an amazing ear for Southern dialect and accent. By "almost tedious descriptions of physical action" I mean that instead of saying "he drove through a gate" McCarthy says
"The white marks at the side of the road when he found them looked like surveyor's marks but there were no numbers, just the chevrons. He marked the mileage on the odometer and drove another mile and slowed and turned off the highway. He shut off the lights and left the motor running and got out and walked down and opened the gate and came back. He drove across the bars of the cattleguard and got out and closed the gate again and stood there listening. Then he got in the car and drove down the rutted track."
    There are several times when various characters drive through that self-same gate, and it is the same every time. Stop the car, get out of the car, open the gate, get into the car, drive over the bars, stop the car, get out of the car, close the gate, get into the car, drive on. Basically all of the action is described in this way, and while it can take some effort to read, I still love it. I don't know if I understand you, Cormac McCarthy, but keep on keeping on. The Road is written in a similar style. (Have you read The Road yet? WHY NOT???)

   I finished reading this while I was camping for a weekend, and for the rest of my time in Banff I had a running commentary in my head "she got out of the tent and zipped the flap shut and went to the camp chair and sat down and looked at the empty fire pit and, and, and, and, and..." I don't know if other people do this, so welcome to a window into my psyche. It involves a weird amount of self-narration, especially after reading books like this one.

   The ending of the book is strange and somewhat difficult to deal with, but it is exactly what needed to happen.

   Fun fact: Nicholas Sparks once claimed to be a waaaay better author than Cormac McCarthy in and interview where he also compared himself to Shakespeare, Hemingway, and the Greek playwrights and stated that A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks was his favorite coming of age story, topping books like The Catcher in the Rye. OH BOY.


Drive / James Sallis

   I thought I had two books to review, but it turns out: I DON'T. I've just got one, and part of me doesn't feel like posting about it because there are few movie-versions-of-books that are quite so polarizing as Drive. People either hate Drive or they love Drive and I must admit: I'm in the latter camp. I watched Drive by myself in a movie theater in Auckland and when it ended I said "WOW". However, I went into it expecting very long shots and little dialogue so maybe I was prepared. I also watch many old movies, and have a deep and abiding love for film noir, so maybe all these contributing factors are the reason I love Drive and others don't. It's a mystery. I didn't actually know that Drive was based on a book, until I was at Chapters with a pal of mine and she said, "hey, look at this" and it was Drive by James Sallis and even though she isn't exactly fond of Drive-the-movie, she still found Drive-the-book for me. Thanks, man.

   This book opens with the scene in the hotel after the job goes wrong (you know which one?) which is a bit odd, since this event occurs at the middle of the story. When I moved along to the second chapter I said "what the what" before realizing that J Sallis used a device we in the biz like to call non-sequential storytelling. I am casting about for other books that use this device, and the only one I can think of at the moment is Slaughterhouse-5. The story doesn't follow a chronological sequence of events, but jumps around, and no: Drive does not include time-travel or alien abductions. It includes a lot of driving and a bunch of murderin'.

   I enjoyed this very short book (very short AND very large print, wowza. It barely takes up 180 pages) but I have some reservations in laying out an internet-wide recommendation. There are three dead bodies and a spreading pool of blood in chapter one, and it escalates from there. Plus a great deal of crime and etc. To be honest, I usually have reservations about giving a sweeping recommendation to anything. Qualms about everything, all the time. The communities I am a part of are very varied, and people's tastes/tolerances are as well, and I don't know what effect any given book will have on the people around me. If you had read everything I've ever read, in the same order and at the same point in your life, then I could be confident in foisting certain books on you. As it is, I can only say "I found value in this book for a variety of reasons and feel that others would appreciate it as well in favorable circumstances."