Monthly Archives: February 2013

Stargirl – Review – ****

I have been incredibly busy lately finishing up the memoir project, as the deadline for the completed manuscript is the end of this month. So perhaps staging this “one post per day” nonsense could have waited until next month, but oh well.

stargirl(minor spoilers)

I started out frankly irritated with the self-indulgent purposefully bizarre antics of the eponymous Stargirl, to be perfectly honest. But she, and the book, really grew on my by the end. The writing was impressively thoughtful for YA lit, and the characters and high school setting was fairly believable. I’ll admit that my high school experience seems to have differed greatly from most of pop culture’s conceptions of what it’s supposed to be like – I never felt pressured to change my behaviour or who I hung out with, and while there were cliques, it was mostly based on mutual interest (the “art people” (aka the druggies), the “Mac geeks,” the “music hallways group”), and you could belong to all or none of them, if you chose. So the school-wide shunning seemed a bit much, although I can picture it happening due to my exposure to shows like Degrassi, and movies like Mean Girls.

But a girl who devotes an entire office to making note of people’s birthdays, triumphs, failures, and misfortunes, just so she can support and cheer them along the way? That’s universally wonderful, no matter what your experience. So despite the cliché premise, there’s an important message here. And that message is not just to “be yourself and do what makes you happy, regardless of what people think of you,”** but also to simply have less of an ego, to think and care more about other people, humanity, and nature, and less about what clothes to wear.

I also read this book during a very relevant period in my life. As I mention almost constantly, I am currently working on completing a list of 100 Things I’d always wanted to do, but been unable to accomplish for various reasons. Several of these Things (singing lessons, finishing drafts of novels, improv class, drawing in a sketchbook) were meant to force to stop avoiding scary things that I could fail at, and just do it. I read most of this book on the long ride home from my first singing lesson, during which I was forced, for the first time in my life, to sing a Capella, without any other voices or music or shower noises to hide behind. It was terrifying. I closed my eyes and sped through the song (Les Mis’s Stars), going faster and faster until I reached the final line, and then I finally took a deep breath and realised I was still alive. It was so hard, but I also know it’s important to care less about perfection and outcome and more on just doing. And that was another facet of this book’s message.

Stargirl was a tad predictable, but it was true. and doesn’t take the easy way out.

**As important a message as this is, the way it has been presented in pop culture has always rubbed me very slightly the wrong way. Sure, whistle off-key if you want to, but not, say, while other people are trying to have private dinner conversations. Sing happy birthday to people, but not to shy wall flowers who would be mortified rather than thrilled. Play the ukulele of the drums, but not when someone’s trying to sleep. It’s one thing to be true to be yourself, but it’s another to do it at the expense and annoyance of those around you. So yeah, praise Stargirl all you like, but she’s still a kid who needs to learn some freaking boundaries.

Cannonball Read: 44/52

(Cannonball Read V: 5/36)

100 things to do in 1000 days; #34/40: Watch Se7en.

Oh man, I need to put more uplifting movies on my next list. And I still have Silence of the Lambs to get through.

Again, this project’s goal to help catch me up on popular movie culture (because I am woefully out of touch) is well met (“What’s in the boooox?!”).

SPOILERS start down here

Look, I had a thrilling time and I’d watch it again and everything (damn you, iTunes), but seriously, the guy had how many books in his apartment? Why would he be renting suspicious titles out of the library when surely he had copies back home? Not to mention, he seemed to know his stuff pretty well. I would have bought it more easily if he’d taken out those books YEARS ago, and collected copies/planned the murders at a later date. And while we’re spoiling things, I’d also like to point out that I knew (but oh, how I hoped I was wrong) what was in that box and why, the moment I thought of which two sins were left for the missing bodies.

SPOILERS end up there

Unfortunately, I rented this one off iTunes, and when intending to go back and rewatch something I missed in the beginning, I accidentally backed right out of the movie. I am not renting it AGAIN just to watch 10 seconds of footage, so could somebody tell me: what did David Mills say to the reporter? Did he just give out his name, or was there any more information he shouted to the guy as he ran out of the building? I’ve checked the online scripts, but they all seem to be from an earlier draft. Help me, internet community. You’re my only hope.

seven

Comic Con Update

10:00 – I stare at the Epic registration page
11:55 – I begin clicking the link to ticket sales
11:56 – click
11:57 – click
11:58 – CLICK
11:59 – CLICK CLICK CLICK
12:00 – It’s loading!
– it’s not loading
– it’s loading!
– run time error
– …click
– run time error
12:01 – CLICK WORK DAMN YOU WORK
– run time error
– *weeping* CLICK CLICK CLICK OHMYGOD WORK
12:02 – loading…
12:03 – loading…
12:04 – loading…
12:05 – loading?
12:06 – LOADING!
12:07 – service unavailable
12:08 – REFRESSSSSSSSSSSH WAHHHHHHH
12:09 – We are sorry, but the EPIC online waiting room has reached capacity and it is unlikely that badges are still available. Please click here to return to the Comic-Con website.


.

!!!!!

nnngggaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY.

This was my experience with trying to buy Comic Con tickets. I think it goes without saying that the attempt was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, there is always a tiny kernel of hope which will remain within me until July comes and goes, because tickets apparently may be re-sold at some point, and no matter how realistic I try to be, I just can’t help hoping. Damn you, uncontrollable optimism. Damn. You.

*Updated for clarity*

100 things to do in 1000 days IN PROGRESS; #23: Go to a San Diego ComicCon.

The day of reckoning is nearly upon us; Comic Con tickets go on sale tomorrow at noon. Tickets sold out within half an hour last year, so wish me luck! Failing that, I shall replace number 23 with “Go to a Toronto ComicCon.” This costume is too awesome to go to waste.

The Big Sleep – Review – **

big sleepI think this might be the first book I’ve reviewed for the CBR that I haven’t actually enjoyed.* At all. And I was really hoping to, as I’m a huge fan of the mystery genre, Chistie and Doyle in particular.

Unfortunately, while the main mystery was somewhat intriguing, there wasn’t really much else for me to enjoy. I found it boring, and most of the similes laughable (the bad kind). The prose wasn’t good or original or magical enough to make the lack of any enjoyable or interesting characters worth suffering through.

But most of all, I didn’t like, nor was I interested in, any of the characters – Philip Marlowe was a dick (the bad kind), his client was a crank, his colleagues were personality-free, and the women. Oh, the women. There were three somewhat major female characters in The Big Sleep  and not one of them was portrayed in an even slightly favourable light. I know a lot of classics from, well, any era prior to this one are written by and for the good old Boy’s Club, but there’s a difference between not having any interest in, or understanding of, women, and outright hate of them. Good grief, I’ve never read so much disdain in the description of a woman’s tiny, glistening, shark-like teeth before.

(And given all these other problems, I wasn’t feeling too keen on letting things like, “she had an intelligent Jewess face,” pass, regardless of the accepted cultural norms during Raymond Chandler’s tenure on Earth.)

Minutes before I finished the book I felt a huge wave of relief: 15 pages left to read and then I am free of Raymond Chandler’s miserable world with horrible people in it, forever.

I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the noir genre or grim material in general; but there has to be something in there for me, and I just found this book incredibly off-putting. I would also like to note that I am aware this was Chandler’s first novel, and would be happy to give The Long Goodbye or similar a chance if anyone would like to suggest an improvement in his later works.

I would also like to clarify that I am not dumping on those who consider this a classic. I’ve talked to live human people who are of this opinion, people I consider intelligent, and I guess your enjoyment of this book, more than some others, must depend on your circle of experience. For some people, Chandler’s descriptions might read as brilliantly, uncomfortably true, but for me…let’s just say I have never in my life met anyone who remotely resembled Carmen Sternwood, and I have a hard time even imagining anyone like her existing outside of either a mental institution, or a school for the developmentally disabled.

Some of it was quite funny, though. Even on purpose!

Cannonball Read: 43/52

(Cannonball Read V: 4/36)

*I mean, Accidental Billionaires was terrible, but at least it was entertaining. Survivor in Death and Aristotle and Poetic Justice were also pretty bad, though.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #34/53: Watch Annie Hall.

Just squeaked this one in.

annie-hall-movie-poster

I did enjoy this. I was smiling and chuckling throughout most of it. Not a lot of LAUGH OUT LOUD moments, but they’re not necessarily needed. I thought Diane Keaton was surprisingly, subtly fantastic (without looking it up, I’m vaguely aware she or someone in this movie may have won an Oscar, just so you know where I’m coming from, and what my awareness level of movies actually is; hence this project). It was well observed and everything, but I did find it started to drag about two thirds of the way through.

This is my first Woody Allen movie (yes, I know; that’s why it’s on the list), so again, many many references suddenly make a lot more sense.

Edited to add: Okay, yes, it won several Oscars, and Keaton’s was one of them.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #86: Renew CPR/first aid licence.

This happened.

cpr

100 things to do in 1000 days IN PROGRESS; #89: Grow a plant – do a picture a day and make a stop motion film.

I bought a plant in the metro on a whim today, in order to knock off number 89 on my List. Unfortunately, it seems the bulb I randomly picked out is an amaryllis, which is supposedly incredibly difficult to grow. Goody. Let’s see how this goes.

IMG_9330

Also, FYI, I’m replacing Ashes to Ashes with Slings and Arrows, because I can’t find Ashes to Ashes on Netflix or iTunes, and Slings and Arrows is amazing. Deal. With. That.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #28: Stop biting nails AND start doing nail art.

Mostly, I stopped doing the former because of the latter. It really is an excellent way to break the habit – spend half an hour using toothpicks to paint tiny faces and tape to make straight lines, and ruining it all by chewing on your now chemically-coated hands suddenly seems a lot less appealing. I have been bite free since last January, thank you very much!

How To Be a Woman– Review – ***1/2

howtobewomanAaand we’re back to memoirs.

[Just a warning – this review is definitely going to suck more than usual because I’m in a hurry; I recently realised I’ve posted every day so far this month, and now I would like to continue the trend. Thank goodness the month I chose to do this during is February.]

Ok, so the book. I bought this one (yay gift cards!) because I read an excerpt in one of mom’s magazine’s which basically stated, in funnier terms, my exact views on feminism, which is, essentially, the following:

All right-thinking human beings should be as comfortable labeling themselves “feminists” as they might be stating that they are pro good things and anti bad things. Because, you see, women and men are equal and should be treated as such, and all people are different from one another in some way, and these people can always find another group of people who share a bit of the same differences. So whether you divide them into men and women, introverts and extroverts, Community fans and non-Community fans, all people have worth, and should be treated as such.

In short, to be a “feminist” is to believe that women and men are equal. It is not the belief that men are bad, or that women are better (although I am pretty sure Community fans > non-Community fans). And that excerpt pretty much restated that. But, as I said, funnier. So, in other words, I liked what Moran had to say, and went out and bought the book. You know: duh.

But as I flipped through it at home, I couldn’t really find anything I liked. She was talking about being in love with some obvious douchebag and presenting on TV at the age of 18, and all I could think was, “I wasn’t that stupid at 18, and I’ve never been on TV.” Because…logic.

I put the book aside. I mentioned in my review of Bossypants that How To Be a Woman was next up on the line of things to read, and as you might have noticed (or not – I am reviewing them mere days apart after all, because…time management), I didn’t get around to actually reading it until months later. You know, after I put it on my Shelf in order to force myself to read it, given that I had spent the money, and it was in my house.

SO I started actually reading it and found the first few chapters hilarious. Like, I was seriously rolling on the [bed] laughing at each of the first three chapters, scaring the hell out of the dog, and being totally been converted to use of the word “cunt.” Her tirade on the porn industry is hilarious and true.  I also enjoyed the chapters on abortion and aging. And Nataly, if you’re reading this, I think you’ll really like the section on weddings.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that criticized Moran’s condemnation of the word “fat” while simultaneously calling people “retards” and making outlandish comparisons between that darned patriarchy and, for example, starving orphans, and I’m not sure this is entirely fair. For one thing, I didn’t read the “fat” chapter as an order to stop using the word, but more of a caution raising the awareness of what it can do to people. And for another, having scanned some reviews on Goodreads, it seems that the version I’m reading has been edited for the States, and I may be missing some of the more offensive phrasing. But mainly, she sticks to my preferred method of being obnoxious, which is to do it to all people equally, thus diluting its affect.

However, even when I disagreed with Moran’s points or conclusions, the tone of the book is friendly and conversational. I think part of what irritates people is the fact that her manner tends to suggest that her thoughts and opinions are the be-all and end-all, but I talk like that too, and that doesn’t mean I think that my word is the final word – it’s just a manner of speaking. We think it makes us sound funnier. So I’m less inclined to get my back up about the things I disagree with.

Of which there were plenty. Here are some notes I  made while reading:

“Disagree vehemently about women doing nothing for 100,000 years, but if you can get past that, she has some interesting things to say.”
“…That is not how the sorting hat works.”
“You don’t know me, stop telling me to do things.”
“Wait, you don’t like Top Gear? Your arguments are dangerously close to becoming invalid.”

Really, How To Be a Woman succeeded far more as a funny memoir in the vein of Jenny Lawson‘s, and less as a feminist screed, but Moran has a lot of interesting things to say, and is fearless in saying them. Whether you agree with her or not, she gives you a lot to think about, and new ways to think about it. If you’re looking for something to read the next time you’re snowed in, you could do a lot worse.

Cannonball Read: 42/52

(Cannonball Read V: 3/36)