Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harlem. Frogs.

Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough.
This is the story of a man who wanted to overhaul the school system and community in Harlem, his name is Geoffrey Canada. And like Salt 'N Peppa said and said it best, WHAT A MAN.

It's a very emotionally charged, frustrating, inspiring story, very much worth reading, and will make you want to hug a teacher or Geoffrey Canada himself. It's stories like these that let you know that there are really people out there who care. A lot.

And mostly what they've figured out is that
1. Parents matter, early experiences matter (are you listening, Judith Rich Harris?)

2. Doing a good job in anything takes hard, dedicated work.

3. (this is *my* take, not something that the book preaches) Teachers never get the credit, thanks, or pay they deserve. So many teachers out there go to the mat for our kids time and time again; please, PLEASE give them the respect and gratitude they deserve. Next to parents, they have the most important jobs in the world.

4. Pediatrician/developmental specialist T. Berry Brazelton still knows what he's talking about. LISTEN TO THIS GUY, READ HIS BOOKS, DO WHAT HE SAYS.

5. If you need any sort of push to think/read outside the box, read this book; it will very much make you appreciate what you have. That about says it all.

and on the lighter side: GUESS WHAT I STARTED LAST WEEK? (cue opening music)

Monday, August 23, 2010

For the Love of Billy. . .

HICKS, that is.

Let's all take the time to appreciate the one, the only, BILLY HICKS (played by the infinitely less talented Rob Lowe) from St. Elmo's Fire.

The Mullet! The Sax! "Let's Rock" in conversational tone!

If you were a tween in the 80s, chances are you had the hots for this guy, like me. My cousin Heidi had a poster in her bedroom of all the St. Elmo's guys, which I coveted for years. . . My mother would not allow me to see this film in the theater, goodness knows why.

This may just be the cheesiest character in the cheesiest film in the cheesiest decade of all time, but I love you, Billy Hicks.
(watch for In Love of Betty (Childs), soon to follow.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Escaping the Nazis. Head in an oven. Writing.

Quickly, the Favre conference is minutes away. . . 

1. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Very impressive. "He who knows the 'why' for his existence will be able to bear almost any 'how.'" I think I am developing a case of literary/film ADHD lately. For instance, I started watching three movies this week, and abandoned them all halfway through because sleeping seemed more appealing. In this book, I was extremely interested in his personal account of what the concentration camps were like, what his experiences were, how he felt about them, etc., but during the second half, the LOGOTHERAPY half, I got restless. It was fine, and very interesting, but I just felt like the fireworks were over after the first part, if you get me. It's very much worth reading, however, I think all American citizens of this Doctor Phil generation should, actually.

My old life science teacher in high school once said something that I've never forgotten, it was about another student, a girl named Debbie Locy. I don't know the extent of all of her health problems and operations, but I know that they all were serious. Mr. Wogen once said that Debbie was the smiliest person he had ever met, and if she could smile through all her body's health problems, well, then he could probably smile too. I hadn't ever thought of something like that; maybe some people are just happy. I think this book is important in that it explains that through *the worst* sort of situation, a human being can emerge still able to see beauty and happiness (and meaning) in the world. Put simply: many of our problems are ridiculous/quit complaining/be thankful/life is precious.

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Again this issue with distancing myself from the writer as a character but not the writer as an author. I thought it was brilliantly written, it drew me in immediately from page one. The literary devices were off the frickin' hook; it was like one, beautiful, horrible, amazingly written poem the whole way through. And I think I've explained how I'm not a poem or metaphor person. . .

Anyway. As a writer I think she was obviously wonderful. As a human being (and later a mother), I have serious issues with her. Those poor kids. (I'll leave it at that).

No, I won't.

God dammit. I walked away from this for seven hours, and now I'm back, unable to just let it lie. This may sound harsh, immature, and reactionary, maybe even a bit on-my-high-horse, but when I read about her repeated suicide attempts and then the last, effective one, I had to wonder, WHY WOULD YOU EVER LET YOURSELF GET PREGNANT? What in the name of God and The Universe made you think that would be a good idea? Her kids were babies; I just want to cry, although they're I'm sure over it and have moved on.

3. On Writing by Stephen King. Favorite. Book. Ever. Is that good enough? It just makes me giddy and excited and happy. I'm so glad he wrote it. I want to ask him a million things about writing, about his stories, and about his early career, this book seemed to take each question I had and then not only answer  but expound on a million other questions that went along with the first set. I love many, many writers for hundreds of different reasons, like Sylvia up there? Loved her book. I do not get her, as a person, not even a little.

King? I get. I always have.

Monday, August 16, 2010


1. I liked that dog, Samantha. In a world with no humans, that dog was a great companion, (this from a non-dog person). I cried a little when he had to, you know, kill her.

2. Despite not liking the ending at all, this is one of my favorite films. The director, Francis Lawrence, did BRITNEY SPEARS VIDEOS before this? Wow. The pacing, the effects, the flashbacks, the dialogue? All aces. Nice work.

3. This sort of story is seriously one of the greatest joys in my narrative life. Isolation? Memories? MANNEQUINS STRATEGICALLY PLACED ABOUT THE CITY? (my favorite!)

I have always strongly identified with protagonists like these, most of them men. I think my Daddy issues have contributed to my constant seeking of powerful characters and my disdain of weak, sappy female leads. I mean, I grew up wanting to be Betty Childs (cheerleader from Revenge of the Nerds) like many others, I suppose, but there was always something more appealing about the powerful guys, the strong guys, the guys that actually DID something. Will Smith very much DOES SOMETHING in this and I was mesmerized.

4. Speaking of Will Smith, WOW! (delicious!) I have always thought he was a decent enough actor, but something different was going on here. Is he getting a little gray? It very much works for him. And the pull ups in the doorway? What a body on this guy! He was doing a one man show for a lot of this film, and he nailed it, extremely. Conversing with the mannequins? Genius. ("Please say 'hello' to me. Please say 'hello' to me!" or "BOB? WHAT THE HELL YOU DOING OUT HERE? ARE YOU REAL?" etc.)

5. Film vs. Book? I really hate to say this, but I thought the film was better. I loved Richard Matheson's story, which was riddled with Vampires, not rabid, cohabitating Zombies, but the film somehow resonated more with me. For one thing, using mannequins always earns an A+. Also, that opening scene where he's hunting deer in the mustang in downtown Manhattan? Very, very cool. And while I kept waiting for Will Smith to actually say the words, "I am Legend," I'm okay with just being shown it rather than having it stated outright (the book ends with this final declaration by Robert Neville as he's about to die, which is almost the coolest fucking thing I've ever read.) That said, the book's ending was much more satisfying. Regardless, I'll say both are legendary (hee hee).

6. My new goal? To make that treadmill downstairs my bitch the way Smith (and his dog) made theirs.
And to always have extra bacon, just in case.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gerald's Game

So once I decided to axe The Host I needed to choose another book for my August book stack, of course. And in terms of sheer numbers, the most popular author on my shelf upstairs was King, of course.

Gerald's Game. Have you read this? Cuz DAMN. Somehow I missed this when I was in high school, which is probably a good thing. It scared me in all kinds of creepy, angering, inappropriate ways. This post was initially born in my head as one that would address rape and incest in film and literature, but then I decided that such a post would be a real boner-kill, no bad taste or pun intended. I like to keep things light on the old Television Lady, so I'll just say this: the stuff with the Dad rubbing one off on his ten year old very nearly earned this book the same fate as The Host, but I kept on with it. I understand that there are molesters out there who are in all other ways upstanding citizens, but it's a subject that I don't have a lot of patience for, much like male-directed films that have insensitive rape scenes or the entire film Happiness. It's almost like giving birth, it's not something just anyone can write about or make a film about. You have to be very careful and respectful at the same time. Don't treat it casually (King didn't, but it was still very, very disturbing).

So, really, Jessie's being chained to the bed in handcuffs really seemed secondary to me with all that other business going on in her head. . . I think the book was done well, but by the end of it, I was very unenthusiastic about virtually everything else, the flesh-eating dog, Mr. Death and his bone bag, dying of thirst, etc. The little surprise bit at the end that exposed Mr. Death as some sort of twisted Jeffrey Daumer seriously threw me for a loop, I thought having him be Mr. Death was almost better. Jessie carving up her hand with the water glass was tense, the voices inside her head (Punkin, Goodwife, her college friend Ruth) guiding her were nice touches, but all in all, (sorry, Steve, you know I love you), my skirt ain't blown up, and I suppose that happens. . .

I read another blog that listed this as one of King's most scary, which, meh, but what struck me was that they also suggested that this was one that would never make it to the big screen.

Hmmm. . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Green Zone.

It's official: Matt Damon is the new Jack Bauer.
I very much enjoy this.

Good film. Not very uplifting, of course, but hey, how much entertainment can you get from a movie about a war that was based on a lie. . . ?

Great chase scenes. HOOAH!
(directed by Paul Greengrass).

Green Zone

Monday, August 9, 2010

From The Heath Arsenal: Tim O'Brien

"The Man I Killed" and "The Lives of the Dead" by Tim O'Brien.
also by O'Brien: Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried, Tomcat in Love

This guy is one of my favorite authors. After first reading these two short stories, I bolted quickly to Half-Price in search of anything else--I got a scribbled up copy of The Things They Carried and maybe one or two others. Amazing, just wonderfully amazing. Not many women probably read O'Brien, which is a shame, because he is a beautifully sensitive writer, whether he's writing about Viet Nam or his childhood.

There are not many veterans who are able to tell their stories like this; Tim does a great job of showing us what it's really been like for them, what goes on in a soldier's head.

Read O'Brien, hug a veteran.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I loved it. LOVED it.

1. I thought the music (score) was excellent. The vibrations during the explosions and little seismic moments were killer.

2. What the *crap* is up with Tommy Solomon? Daaaaaaaaaaaammmn! When did that kid get so hot?? Wow. I whole heartedly approve. More, please.

3. Does Christopher Nolan have a thing for mousy chicks? Would it kill him to cast a blond, ever? I'm just asking.

4. Writers love this sort of story, like an Ed Emberly BUILD A WORLD sort of set up. How excellent, to be an architect. I suppose that's what all writers really are, basically. My only question is how they figured out how to link everyone into the same dream in the first place (was that what those machines were doing?) and how to filter out anything that's NOT desired from the dream and just build, because I'd really love to do that. A few years back, this random from 50th and France was telling me all about lucid dreaming and how most new-age people really think it can be carried over to everyday life (lucid living?). Most of my lucid dreams have happened after thinking very dedicatedly about George Clooney while nodding off, and of course, I'm not complaining, but to build an entire universe all my own? I'll get right on that. My dream universe would be filled with Guns and Roses, blond perms, and the smell of Salon Selectives shampoo. And red bulls. I think Desperately Seeking Susan AND Saint Elmo's Fire would need to be on repeat 24 hours a day. . . enter at your own risk.

5. I had no idea that was Tom Berenger until the next day. I think I remember thinking "Hey, that dude kind of looks like Tom Berenger if he weighed about 300 pounds. . . " Whoops. Sorry, Thomas.

See it. NOW.

p.s. I went through a bookshelf this afternoon and narrowed down the collection of non-fiction books, gathering a huge pile to bring to Starbucks. I guess I need to admit to myself that while important, non-fiction reading just doesn't interest me like it used to. Like Mal, I seem to be more comfortable reading in the dream world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From the Heath Arsenal: Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker

and a few other things besides.

"The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara. Also by Bambara: The Salt Eaters, Gorilla, My Love, and The Sea Birds are Still Alive.

A young girl learns about injustice during a neighborhood outing to FAO Schwartz. This was excellent, and made many valid points, but really just read it for the language. It had such a wonderful cadence to it, it was really amazing.

"Back in the days when everyone was old and stupid or young and foolish and me and Sugar were the only ones just right, this lady moved on our block with nappy hair and proper speech and no makeup. And quite naturally we laughed at her, laughed the way we did at the junk man who went about his business like he was some big-time president and his sorry-ass horse his secretary. And we kinda hated her too, hated the way we did the winos who cluttered up our parks and pissed on our handball walls and stank up our hallways and stairs so you couldn't halfway play hide-and-see without a goddamn gas mask."

POETRY! Just brilliant! I need to read more of TCB, definitely. Language is so important; when writers have it, reading becomes musical and flows like a river (I hate metaphors), when it's bad, it just sticks and fouls up everything else. This is relevant in filmmaking, too. You can have a good idea, a good situation or story, but what good are these things if you can't skillfully tell the story? Stephenie Meyer is insufferable for this reason, her language (especially evident in the dialogues) is choppy, silly, and just NOT BELIEVABLE. Do you really expect me to believe that Edward Cullen chuckles that much? You've written a character that has gotten away from you, the author! I don't care what crackpot commune you're living on, no one (Healer, Seeker, Host, Hell-fire-breathing Demon) talks like that. I don't believe for one minute that you, Stephenie, believe in what you're writing.
(Incidentally, I have abandoned The Host, by Stephenie Meyer.  I don't think any further explanation is needed. Although the acknowledgments at the end of the book were useful in convincing me that we have indeed, as a culture, entered the IDIOCRACY years. . . Ugh. Yes, I'm being a snot.)

"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker.

Story of two daughters, one who has discovered her now-in-fashion African American roots, told from the mother's perspective. Names get changed (Dee to Wangero). Quilts are argued over (Wangero wants the special ones). Being comfortable in one's skin is questioned ("You don't understand your heritage"). I liked it. Of course I had no patience for the older, more important sister (Dee/Wangero). Where do people get off with their GIVE ME THIS and GIVE ME THAT? If my kids ever pull this with me when I get old, the only thing they'll be getting is a swift back hand. . . I was extremely pleased by the ending.

"When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I'm in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open."


Lastly, has anyone seen QUARANTINE? Or the original Mexican film on which it was based? Thoughts?

Monday, August 2, 2010

August, thus far.

1. True Blood last night was weak. Boring, predictable, not nearly enough sex (as Sawyer would have said). I finally figured out my beef with a lot of the show: The chicks are cardboard, even Sookie. The only one I find remotely interesting is Pam. On the the contrary, I enjoy almost all of the men, which is suppose why I continue to watch it. I think if they got someone to coach Anna Paquin on the southern accent I'd be satisfied, but she's not the only one whose accent grates. What they should do is get the "Moses Supposes" guy from Singing in the Rain to come over and do some "ta-tay-tee-toe-too"s with the chicks. Or do a show completely devoted to Eric Northman, or Eric Northman's ass, or both. Dare I say that the wolves in Eclipse were better? Better not. . .

2. I tried watching Hearts in Atlantis last night; I turned it off after about an hour. If a film doesn't get me in the first hour, it's not worth my time. Anthony Hopkins was fine, he's quite talented, but for some reason that kid was just too. . . (Magoo?) Charlie Bucket or something. Not what I envisioned, nor was the mother.

3. August Book Stack:

I am out of time, so I can't find individual images, so this is what you get. I swiped On Writing back from my mother's house when I was there last week; I've read it before and I loved it dearly. The Paul Tough was recommended to me by my cousin, who's a teacher, the Frankl and Plath have been sitting on my shelf for a while, and the Meyer? A neighbor lent it to me a few weeks ago, I feel like to read it would be polite, but I'm not setting my expectations too high. . . if anything it might just give my own self esteem a boost, which I suppose every would-be writer needs from time to time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stephen King Goes to the Movies

This is the sort of book that was written for someone like me. At first, I thought it might be some sort of super-geek collection of essays on all King stories made into movies, but sadly, it was not. It had no super-geek essays, and it only covered five films, which, I suppose if I had taken the time to actually look at the cover, I would have realized when I first snatched it up when I found it at Half-Price. It's still right up my alley, though, it's Stephen King, it's related to film, what could be better?

The lineup is:
1. 1408 (scary)
2. The Mangler (comically scary, worth reading)
3. Low Men in Yellow Coats (slightly creepy but emotional)
4. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (cool)
5. Children of the Corn (HELLO? My favorite. Not even close to being the best, or good at all, even, but I still love it dearly).

It's a nice collection. In my opinion, Children of the Corn does not get the attention it deserves (story OR film); if you were a tween in 80s, wasn't it kind of mandatory? You all know about my obsession with nostalgia. . .

I'm also planning to do a few more film vs. book bits soon, this book will definitely be covered. I'm guessing there won't be a terribly long wait for Children of the Corn on netflix, (heaven knows why not). Also, for the month of October, I'm thinking of doing some sort of Stephen King film/book festival challenge. If anyone is willing to submit to me what YOU think the top ten King books or film adaptations are, I'd certainly take it and run. . .

(people love lists or surveys about what they like, right? You should DO IT).