I don't seem to do anything useful by myself. Of course, I've only been up for an hour or so. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. I don't get it, though. I got sleepy REALLY SUDDENLY at 11 p.m. or so and then only slept for like, six and a half hours.

Yesterday was okay. I made a Rorschach mask and bought a hat, plus a sunhat for Israel. Now that I have this stuff I feel like I'm mostly ready, even if I haven't started packing and am afraid I'm going to forget something really important, like my passport. I also did ironing for my clothes that I used to wear to work. We'll see what happens.

I'm reading a lot. Short stories from The Best American Short Stories 1998 (So far, Garrison Keillor has much better taste than Sue Miller -- well, the latter picked Alice Munro, so there you go.). More of Dickens, which has kind of turned around now that he had his affair. And Infodump: The Graphic Novel ... er, Earth X. (BTW, if the latter alternate reality takes place during a food shortage, why are so many of the ex-superheroes fat?)

By the way, since I'm so behind, here are some bare-bones thoughts on what I've read and watched this year.


Books

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
I like Sarah Vowell because she's one of the few authors who'll give you a thorough body of knowledge and yet you can read her on the toilet. This book wasn't as fun or as breezy as Partly Cloudy Patriot, and I'd recommend newbies to Vowell check out that book first. This one can get a little bogged down in minor stuff that isn't so interesting, especially in the Abraham Lincoln section, but I really liked the book overall. Having worked as a reporter in a small town, I've seen historic sites like what she visited and had the privilege of speaking to their caretakers, and many of them share the enthusiasm/geekery of the people Vowell interviews. I love hearing nerds talk about what they love, and this book is full of it. Plus, it gives very 360 degree-views of each of the three assassinations she covers. The section of the sex cult Charles Guiteau, murderer of President Garfield, was a part of (although he couldn't get laid there) is worth the price of the book.

Although it's weird that the two sites she describes that I've been to include the Lincoln memorial and the "This is where Garfield died" plaque in Long Branch, NJ. (Which my mother thought when she showed it to us was his assassination spot -- which is actually in D.C. To my credit, it always confused me because I never understood why anyone would shoot a President THERE.)

Extra Garfield cartoon, by the way.

The Necklace and Other Stories by Guy de Maupassant
I picked this book up for 75 cents on a Borders rack and it was totally worth it. If the only Maupassant story you've read is "The Necklace" you're really missing out. While a lot of those stories meet that level of depression, there's always an element of kindness and humanity to his stories. Unlike many modern writers, Maupassant actually always gives you the impression that the tragedies his characters face really are TRAGEDIES and not "Well, it's how life is. What, you gonna cry about it?" I like to FEEL, man. Plus, there are a lot of stories, like one where an old couple has sex in the woods, that are just hilarious.

Also, like Frank Miller after him, Maupassant is all about the whores. Maupassant loves whores like fangirls love woobies. Whores are gentle, strong and noble creatures, who are patriotic and not afraid to cut you for the sake of France. Also, some whores are Jewish, and this makes them extra special and deserving of happy endings. Other whores have tears powerful enough to inspire a church to cry and the priest officiating to compare them to Jesus Christ. Yes, that actually happened in one story. And it was AWESOME.

In conclusion. Maupassant: Read it. Love it. Whores.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I read this as part of my "Read the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" initiative, as the hero, John Carter of Mars, was in the beginning of the second volume. Basically Carter is a Civil War vet who goes to Mars to gain Superman-esque powers from the planet's small size, kill people, marry a princess and chastely run around naked. This is one of the most racist books I've ever read. It's got evil Indigenous American characters who start off Carter's troubles. Then when he GETS to Mars, the story turns into "These People Need a Honky" in space, with Carter being amazingly adept at EVERYTHING and earning the respect of the backwards green men and the sophisticated red men. By the way, it is really weird how the Indigenous Americans are portrayed as savages yet the culturally advanced race on Mars has red skin, and were created from all of the previous humanoid "races" on Mars basically having sex with each other until they were the same color. This is sort of like that time in Marvelous Land of Oz in which the women of Oz took over and were defeated by a group of men, but at the end of the story the boy leader of the group of men was actually a girl and so Oz was ruled by a girl after all. You have to wonder whether the author is the most un-self-aware person ever or the greatest ironist who ever lived.

Oh, but did I like it? Yeah, I liked it. It was fun. It was cool to see a sci-fi novel that helped launch the genre into what it is today. And the women were pretty cool despite being captured all the time. But you know what would have made it better? If Sola killed Sarkoja. And if Tars Tarkas' battle with the evil guy was actually described. And Carter/Kantos Kan slash, but I'm just being greedy by this point.

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton
I like this series as junk reading, but I'm kind of glad I'll be done with it in four books at this point. Too many of the quirks of this series are annoying me. I am glad she'll have sex with Jean-Claude in the next book. It does sort of kill any danger he possesses, but the series clearly needed something to happen at this point. And Richard ... I thought I liked him, but actually he kind of sucks. He's just going to bitch his way through the rest of the series, isn't he?

But, um, the book itself. Man, this one had a lot of subplots. I felt like I was reading it forever. I like Larry a lot. I wish the vampires had actually gotten to torture him in that one scene where they were trying to save the girls, though. It would have broken Anita's heart and allowed for some cool hurt/comfort. Jason having sex with rotting vampires doesn't exactly cut it. I also like the idea of Larry/Jason far more than Anita/Jason, even though I know the latter is coming and the former will NEVER HAPPEN EVER even though it TOTALLY SHOULD. I liked Dorrie Bouvier. Seraphina was pretty awesome and I loved her ultimate end and how she got to torture Anita as she went down. And ... yeah. Still my least favorite of the series so far. It was just so TIRESOME most of the time.

Also, PLEASE STOP DESCRIBING JEAN-CLAUDE'S OUTFITS. For God's sake, he wears the same thing ALL THE TIME. Black pants. Black boots. Seinfeld puffy shirt. Knock it off.

Also, do they MAKE silk tank tops? Somehow I don't think they'd be sexy.

I also read Points of View, but I can't really summarize that in a brief period of time. Plus, it's an anthology. Basically I liked some and disliked others. Not much to say beyond that.

Graphic Novels

The Best of The Spirit by Will Eisner and others
Yeah, Frank Miller sucks and totally missed the point of everything ever. This book is really cool. Great slice-of-life stories. Great layouts. Great ... everything not in that stupid movie. And the stories in the book are good enough to make you want to risk poverty and buy those hardcovers.

I wonder if [livejournal.com profile] 47nite would like this book.

Watching the Watchmen: The Definitive Companion to the Ultimate Graphic Novel by Dave Gibbons and others
I liked this a lot. It really shows the depth Dave Gibbons went to help make Watchmen what it is. Stuff like the trajectory of the bottle and the panel breakdown of outside Moloch's brownstone are great. And then there's stuff like the original character designs with Flasher!Rorschach that are just fun.

I wish they hadn't put so many dark-blue print on black backgrounds, though. Why does the book want to blind me? :-(

Hepcats #0-10 (Snowblind, Part One) by Martin Wagner

I read this incomplete comic at the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] lady_nebula and it's one of those comics where you SAY "Oh, I'll only read a little" and then by the time I got to three and the crazy story started rolling I just kept going "And one more ... and one more ... and one more ... and one more ..." Alas, the story ended two issues after what's posted online (I may have to try to find those one day), but it's an interesting experience nevertheless.

Also, I won't say this is the best anthropomorphic art out there, but it's at least interesting. Which is one of the things that really boggles me about people who say they like furry art for the aesthetics. Most furry art looks generic and cheap to me. Does anyone else feel that way?

Movies

Coraline
Coraline was absolutely wonderful. Some critics said the story was actually fairly typical beyond the trappings, but who cares? I loved the visuals. I loved the sort of mythology they set up. And I loved the characterization, especially of Coraline, who really was a brat, but managed to earn your sympathy. This might have been because of my emotional state, but I actually had tears in my eyes when she cried herself to sleep next to stuffed dolls she made of her parents. And of course, French and Saunders stole their scenes as ex ... whatever salacious profession they had. And I can't believe that was in a kid's movie either, but it works.

I have been trying to think about Wybie and his grandmother's role in some sort of race relations context, but I haven't really thought of anything significant, so I'll drop it for now.

Friday the 13th (2009)
I didn't like it, but I said that already. You know, I gave some money to charities after I saw An American Carol. I gave the ticket price amount to Planned Parenthood (for the team) and a local poverty-fighting organization (for Charles Dickens). What would be an equivalent charity to give me $12.50 (I SPENT THAT MUCH?) to? Maybe some sort of organization to help the relatives of murder victims. Anyone have any ideas?

I'd love to start a trend with this. We give too much money to bullshit like this. We really ought to atone for our sins, I think.

The Reader
Isn't Kate Winslet AMAZING? Kate Winslet is so amazing. Even in old lady makeup, she's amazing. Although it's weird that after Little Children I now recognize her boobs.

Oh, the movie. Well, I usually dislike older woman-younger man relationships but I don't know ... it kind of got overwhelmed by all the other questions the movie raised, so I didn't think about it too much. (Mom was like, "I'm imagining he's 25!") I wish the movie had done more questioning of the characters' actions overall, but I did find the story itself interesting. I'd like to read the book, too.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Silly, silly, silly. But I enjoyed it overall. You know what I liked about this movie? I know people like Harold & Kumar, especially Kumar. I remember in college meeting a lot of really smart guys who would totally get bombed on the weekend and act like sex-crazed dorks. Okay, so stuff like the rednecks in the woods who have a house that looks like my father's boyfriend decorated it isn't so realistic. But it's a nice change from, say, Billy Madison, you know?

Cutey Honey Live Action
This is a bad movie. It makes no fucking sense. The special effects are bad. The character motivation is inconsistent. ("I'm mad about my father! ... But totally happy and carefree in the next scene.") But ... I don't know. I liked it better than Friday the 13th. Maybe because in that one the villains didn't sing.

Also, to my surprise, the insane not-very-subtextual lesbianism isn't such a big factor in the movie as it was in the animated adaptation. I mean, that's most of what I remember from the adaptation. "OMG! I need to deliver Honey the serum by kissing her!" "OMG! The only way to save Honey is to sleep next to her naked!" "We need the power of 1,000 women's orgasms!" None of this is in the actual movie. And yet the relationship is more about Nat-chan and Honey than Seiji, who is basically along for the ride to be the most useless member of the threesome ever. Also, he is a STALKER and that is bad. Japan, you suck.

Go Nagai had the most adorable Stan Lee moment ever, though.
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