Monthly Archives: January 2011

Earth: The Book – Review – ****

I’m not really sure what to do with a Cannonball Read book of which I have almost nothing useful to say.

Basically, if you’ve read America: The Book (which I have), or watch the Daily Show (which I do), you know what to expect, and the book certainly doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t really present anything new, either, though.

Let’s see…

The book is packaged in a manner similar to the faux-textbook presentation of America, but written as a guide to Earth for the aliens who will succeed us once the human race, inevitably, self-destructs.

The nine chapters focus on such important areas as culture, science, religion, man, and, of course, Earth, and they make all the expected jokes. I don’t mean this as an insult – very few jokes fell flat, for me, and the presentation, illustrations, writing, and concept all gel to make a thoroughly entertaining yet relaxing read. Each chapter ends with an amusing FAQ (Future Alien Questions) section and a sort of Earth-bingo score card, which is a fun touch. I just mean that there really isn’t much more to say. Maybe my brain’s just fried from midterms, but *shrug,* I’m out of words*.

-30-

* One thing about Earth that got me ridiculously, super excited, though, was the last page of Chapter 9, Culture. This was a silly-looking crossword puzzle. The caption? “Do it. You know you want to.” This train of thought followed: this couldn’t possibly be an actual crossword. Who would spend so much time creating a crossword that no one’s likely to do? I wonder if any of the clues even have actual answer. This one does. Huh, it even matches with the across version. Oh my god, is this actually real? It’s 2 in the morning. I should go to sleep.

 

Three hours later.

 

I didn't want to get pencil marks on my new book.

.

.

Cannonball Read III: 2/52

The Accidental Billionaires – Review – ***

Accidental BillionairesI have to share with you what is possibly my favourite sentence ever written:

“A mountain range of scrambled eggs towered over foothills of breakfast potatoes…”

If you can read that without laughing, then have I got the book for you.

Ben Mezrich is a Harvard graduate, and I’m going to go right ahead and assume that his degree is not in creative writing.

The Accidental Billionaires is the story of Mark Zuckerberg, and those who managed to get caught up, however fleetingly, in the juggernaut that was to become Facebook.

Sort of bizarrely written as though the reader might start with any chapter, Mezrich has an annoying habit of repeating the same information every five pages or so, I suppose in case we forget how books are supposed to be read.

The worst is the beginning of each chapter, when Mezrich decides to put on his scene-setting pants. Dear lord. Chapter three begins with a memorably purple description of the Charles River by the Harvard campus, describing the water as “a serpent’s twist of greenish blue,” a “swirl of greenish blue,” and, just for good measure, “green-blue water,” in six sentences. When he’s finished making sure we understand the Charles’s subtle variations in water colour, Mezrich moves on to explaining the fibreglassian nature of a boat in a similar manner.

As another example, we are introduced to the Winklevoss twins at the beginning of chapter 3. We are informed that the twins are brothers, and related, and tall, and siblings, and tall. They return in chapters 8 and 10 without comment, but in chapter 12, I guess in case chapter 11 left us with severe amnesia, we are reminded of the Winklevoss’s status as related brothers who are siblings.

There is a lot of pointless, scene-setting information and oddly long descriptions of food. Look, I understand the appeal of food in literature, when it’s done with some sort of purpose. The food in the Harry Potter universe exists to make that magical otherworld more complete and tangible, and to showcase JK’s imagination. In, I don’t know, Jane Austen novels, food can be used to suggest class and sophistication (or lack thereof). In many novels about immigration, “ethnic” food is described to evoke memories of home, or the comforts of a certain culture. But mashed potatoes in a cafeteria? The only purpose I can fathom for the existence of so very many sentences in this book is the padding out of what, in spite of its complexity, is otherwise a surprisingly brief story.

However.

Once you get past all that, though (particularly, as I mentioned, the first paragraph or two of a new chapter – although the last couple of lines in a chapter are also pretty overwrought), the story flows reasonably well, the writing stops being distracting, and you can focus on what you came here for: the creation of Facebook, and all the sex, money, genius, and betrayal that ensued.

Mezrich certainly does a good job at not portraying any of those involved as villains. In the acknowledgements, he says that he was a huge fan of all the “characters” in his book, and I can’t really think of anyone who seems to have been treated unfairly. Each characters’ beliefs and motivations are presented in a way that you really can understand the entitlement the characters feel for credit, money, fame, a place in history.

Billionaires is a fairly quick and easy read about a fascinating subject, marred, if you are unable to turn off your inner editor (and, unfortunately, I always, always am), by absolutely hilariously terrible, pompous writing.

Cannonball Read III: 1/52

100 things to do in 1000 days IN PROGRESS; #84: Do the Splits (every day).

Okay, this one wasn’t very clear. Basically, for many many many years, I have been thoroughly unflexible. Even when I did gymnastics (at the age of oh, I don’t remember, around 6), I could never do the splits.

So what I plan on doing, every day for however long it takes (in less than <1000 days from now – and yes, I do mean “less than” twice), is to stretch a little bit more each day, until I am finally able to do it. I have enlisted Nat’s help to remind me to do this, so if I fail, we can blame her entirely. If this works, I may go for splits in the OTHER direction. One day, I will be able to out-flex you all.

Where I'm at now.

Cannonball Read III

  1. The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook – Ben Mezrich (***)
  2. Earth: The Book – Jon Stewart and the Daily Show writers (****)
  3. Much Obliged, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse (*****)
  4. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – Rebecca Wells (****)
  5. Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine (***1/2)
  6. Packing for Mars – Mary Roach (****1/2)
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot (****1/2)
  8. The Bullpen Gospels – Dirk Hayhurst (****)
  9. Lord Edgware Dies – Agatha Christie (***)
  10. At Home: A Short History of Private Life – Bill Bryson (****)
  11. Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher (***1/2)
  12. I Know I Am, But What Are You? – Samantha Bee (***1/2)
  13. Carry On, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse (***1/2)
  14. The World of Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse (****)
  15. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (***1/2)
  16. Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart (***1/2)
  17. This is Your Brain on Music – Daniel Levitan (****)
  18. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (****)
  19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling (***1/2)
  20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling (*****)
  21. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling (****1/2)
  22. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling (****)
  23. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling (****)
  24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (****)
  25. Harry Potter and the Supplementary Readings (The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages) – J.K. Rowling (***1/2)
  26. The Iliad – Homer (-)
  27. Cake Wrecks Books (Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Horribly Wrong and Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets “Festive”) (***1/2)
  28. The Odyssey – Homer (-)
  29. The Aeneid
  30. Gabby (****)
  31. Unbearable Lightness – Portia de Rossi (****)

Legend:

* = irredeemably awful
** = middling
*** = decent; has value (of some sort)
**** = very good
***** = amazingly fantastic
****** = almost never used; the perfect book

Read Bill Moyer

100 things to do in 1000 days; #21: Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

21: Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

So in my last post, I kicked off my 100 things/1000 days list, as a sort of implicit New Year’s resolution/show of optimism for feeling much better and more (for a lack of a better term) awake since some time last February.

I’ve been following Jen (from http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/) on her blog http://www.epbot.com/ which, in typical internet fashion, led me to http://bakingdom.blogspot.com/, which brought the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to my attention. I think I vaguely remember hearing something about it back when the rumours first started, but I’d completely forgotten about its existence until this blog entry reminded me that it was vitally important to the living of my life that I see this theme park almost immediately.

Two days later (and about 3 days before the winter break started), my dad phoned me up and asked me, “What do you think about going to Florida for the winter break?”

To which I replied: “[Enormous gasp] OH MY GOD DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S IN FLORIDA?

And that’s how I completed the first thing on this list before I even finished writing it.

___________________________________________________________________

In order to get to HP, we had to walk through the comic book world, the cartoon world, and Jurassic Park, presumably to make sure those attractions got some love too, even if it was involuntary. John William’s score was playing everywhere, which was awesome.

The only two locations in the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts first. It’s what Harry would have done.

It was smaller than we’d thought it would be, but still awesome (much like Stonehenge). The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride makes up basically the entire Hogwarts section. Unfortunately, Michael couldn’t go because of his shoulder injury, and if I’d known it would take over an hour to go through, I wouldn’t have done it without him (while he waited outside in the rain). The lady at the front of the line told us I’d get through in 5 minutes, and could let him know if he could handle it. Except evidently she meant the line to get into the castle was 5 minutes, because even if I had run through the whole exhibit I couldn’t have gotten out in that amount of time.

On the other hand, I know exactly what I would do with this.

On the other hand, I know exactly what I would do with this.

I so wanted one of these, but I couldn't figure out what I would do with it

I so wanted one of these, but I couldn't figure out what I would do with it

Then we went to explore Hogsmede, where “overpriced” isn’t just a word, it’s a way of life. I’m only complaining because I was desperate to get a Marauder’s Map, which I thought (ok, hoped) would be maybe around $20 (you know, like the cost of an entire book), but turned out to be somewhere much nearer $50.

I so wanted to get one of these, but I couldn’t figure out what I would do with it.

It was really cold and windy, so we hid inside the Hog’s Head when it got too cold to continue waiting in lines outside, and tried some Butterbeer (!!!).

Evidently so windy that my brother was unable to hold the camera properly. Sigh. Why is it so hard to get the horizon straight, people?

Evidently so windy that my brother was unable to hold the camera properly. Sigh. Why is it so hard to get the horizon straight, people?

It was not at all bad, but there was so much foam, and it kept on expanding, which was minorly terrifying.

We snacked on a chocolate frog (card = Helga Hufflepuff), explored every last one of the stores (on my command), then decided to call it a day.

Our parents were still out birdwatching at Clearwater by the time we were done, so I took Michael to see Tangled, and he, in turn, took me to see Deathly Hallows, which I still hadn’t managed to watch, and it seemed appropriate.

All-in-all, a great time. Very encouraging way to kick off my list.

(It’s worth it to note: because the weather was crappy – for Florida – and we went early, we did, mostly, beat the lines. We left around lunch-time, which was when the queuing really started to become unmanageable, and were able to cover the entire park in about 3 1/2 hours, although it would have been more if we’d eaten at the Three Broomsticks, which had a massive lineup the entire time we were there.)

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One day, I may figure out how to properly format things on wordpress. Until then, here are some leftover pictures.

Happy New Year!

***I’m keeping this for myself, as a record of what the list used to look like, but I am no longer updating this page***

Good bye and good riddance to 2010. The last real blog post I wrote here was in June, and it was a bit of a pity-fest. And naturally, the summer only got worse from there. After a bad allergic reaction, a hospital visit, mild hallucinations, and the death of my wonderful puppy Fudge, school started, and it was much more work-intensive than I’d hoped, I was behind from the start, I went for a couple of interviews for Alternative Spring Break and a job as a field assistant for next summer and didn’t get either, dropped a course, and had to get an exam deferred due to OCD/my own stupidity. And what is a blog for if not a place for self-indulgent whining?

But some time around the first week of December, I started feeling a bit better. Perhaps it was actually being on medication, the new dosage, or the fact that depression may wax and wane, but I remembered what it felt like to want to do things, to be able to envision getting things done, to feel motivation and contentedness.

So here’s to 2011.

No more pity parties. And I’m kicking off January with a list.

100 things I want to do (in 1000 days)

  1. Get my stupid degree [In progress since the dawn of time]
  2. Take a voice acting class
  3. Take a singing class
  4. Finish the first draft of my book (The King)
  5. Get my driver’s license
  6. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  7. Get a journalism type article published (for money)
  8. Play an instrument in a big band
  9. Learn to play Rhapsody in Blue on piano
  10. Learn to play Somebody to Love on piano
  11. Paint something [completed February 20th, 2011]
  12. Start drawing again (buy a sketchbook [completed March 27th, 2011] – fill it up)
  13. Stop picking
  14. Do some fun creative baking (ask Po for help if needed 😛 ) [completed April 1st, 2011]
  15. Finish a scrapbook                                     -> 0/3
  16. Finish another scrapbook
  17. Finish another scrapbook
  18. Join an improv class
  19. Act in a play
  20. Do an archaeological dig
  21. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter [completed December 26th, 2010]
  22. Go to grad school
  23. Go to a San Diego ComiCon
  24. Participate in a NaNoWriMo
  25. Get computer organised once and for all
  26. Make website for photographs (e.g. travel photos, portfolio photos)
  27. Learn to Scuba dive
  28. Volunteer at CHEO
  29. Volunteer at the Ottawa Crisis Centre
  30. Get TEFL
  31. Teach English overseas
  32. See The Daily Show live
  33. Visit Marina in Minnesota
  34. Watch 20 great old movies (I haven’t seen a LOT of the classics, so this is a selection from IMDB’s Top 250)                    -> 7/20 [In progress]
  35. The Shawshank Redemption
  36. The Godfather [completed July 17th, 2011]
  37. The Godfather II
  38. 12 Angry Men
  39. Goodfellas
  40. Se7en
  41. Silence of the Lambs
  42. Memento
  43. Dr. Strangelove [completed July 20th, 2011]
  44. Citizen Cane
  45. The Shining
  46. Spirited Away [completed April 1st, 2011]
  47. Aliens
  48. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [completed February 4th, 2011]
  49. Requiem for a Dream
  50. Back to the Future [completed January 1st, 2012]
  51. Ghostbusters [completed December 31st, 2011]
  52. Die Hard
  53. Annie Hall
  54. The Social Network [completed March 27th, 2011]
  55. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  56. Run a marathon of sorts
  57. Knit something
  58. Whiten teeth
  59. Go two weeks without drinking coke (shut up) [started March 16th, completed March 30th, 2011]
  60. Participate in/skate in a Winterlude in Ottawa [completed February 19th, 2011]
  61. Get a bottle of vitamins and finish it without missing a single day (yeah, some of them I just stole right from Heather of gofugyourself fame) [In progress] [completed July 29th, 2011]
  62. Read one bookshelf’s worth of my unread books
  63. Complete a Cannonball read (pajiba.com)                            -> 29/52 [In progress]
  64. Get past fear of diving
  65. Watch some finished/cancelled TV shows                            -> 2/10 [In progress]
  66. Watch all of Terriers [completed January 31st, 2012]
  67. Watch all of Battlestar Gallactica
  68. Watch all of Better Off Ted [completed January 9th, 2012]
  69. Watch all of Ashes to Ashes
  70. Watch all of the West Wing
  71. Watch all of Blackadder
  72. Watch all of Buffy (I only watched to about season 3, and I’d like to finish)
  73. Watch all of the Wire
  74. Watch all of Freaks and Geeks
  75. Watch all of Spaced
  76. Take a long-exposure picture
  77. Learn to juggle
  78. Solve a Rubik’s cube
  79. Donate blood
  80. Witness an eclipse
  81. Do pottery (make a pot or a vase)
  82. Learn 5 card tricks                             -> 0/5
  83. Go camping
  84. Do the splits (every day) [In progress]
  85. Learn glass blowing (take a course)
  86. Renew CPR/first aid licence
  87. Make a candle
  88. Finish Learn French in 10 Days book
  89. Grow a plant – do a picture a day and make a stop motion film
  90. Creatively ice a cake [completed July 20th, 2011]
  91. Throw bachelorette party for Nataly [completed January 22nd, 2012]
  92. Make a gravy train
  93. Learn to do that two-fingered whistle
  94. Spend a day tree planting
  95. Allow a spider to crawl on me without screaming
  96. Do a 1000+ piece puzzle [In progress] *asterisk* [completed July 26th, 2011]
  97. Get my ear cartilage pierced once and for all
  98. Pay back mom and dad
  99. Donate $10 to charity for each goal not completed by the end date
  100. Begin world traveling (the following are places I have always desperately wanted to go and exotic things I’ve always wanted to do; there’s no way I’ll make it to all of them in 3 years, but I’m keeping them on the list anyway)
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Egypt
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Amazon Rainforest
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • France
  • Spain
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Peru – Walk the Inca Trail

Start date: December 26th, 2010

End date: September 21st, 2013