Monday, February 04, 2008

February Books & Movies (Swing by Japan)

I leave tomorrow right from work for the airport en route to Vegas. Woohoo!! Everybody is wishing me luck, so I have to tell them that I don't gamble. Other people are asking me what race is there and I have to tell them no race. In fact, the way things seem to be going, I'll be lucky if there are any races this year to attend. And I'm severely depressed about it. Okay, I can't think about it or I'm going to cry.

Friday night I was *this* close to finishing the scarf for Pamela when I did something so horrendously wrong that I couldn't figure out what it was. And the pattern that I was following is one that I haven't figured out how to rip it back to a certain point and proceed. So, for the FIFTH freaking time, I had to rip the entire friggin' almost 9' thing out. I first swore loudly (scared the cats), then I threw it across the room (but it being yarn it only went a foot or so – most unsatisfying). After I took it off the needles, I pitched the needles across the room and that helped. I ignored it for the rest of the evening (a whole hour or so) and went to bed. Saturday I started a nice easy 2x2 rib and finished it yesterday (after I saw Pamela for my haircut).

After finishing Pamela's scarf and fixing her favorite "perfect" scarf, I started the requested pink scarf for Grandma. I'm using a simple eyelet diamond pattern with this absolutely gorgeous and gorgeously soft suri merino yarn from Blue Sky Alpaca. It needs to be touched to be appreciated. Utterly fabulous. It's a relatively simple 16-row pattern and it's going pretty well. I'm hoping I can do it tomorrow in an all-hands meeting (hundreds of people in one room listening to less than inspiring presentations). I've found the only way I stay awake in those things is to knit.

I did a fair amount of reading in January and some movie watching (the DVR is killing my movie watching). And here is the list:

Books

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton – 387 pages – I've been with Sue Grafton since the beginning of the alphabet and look forward to each installment. This one had me being leery about reading it because the book cover talked about how dark it was and how evil the bad guy (woman, in this case) was. In the end I wish I hadn't read the book cover, because it got me worried for nothing. It was very unsettling for a friend of mine, and I can appreciate why it upset her, but I haven't had the same experiences she has, so it didn't bother me. I think if it had ended differently, I might not feel the same way.

The Secret of the Wooden Lady by Carolyn Keene – 176 pages – Yes, I broke back into my niece's Nancy Drew collection (I had started re-reading them back in 2005 when I had shingles and couldn't concentrate on much more than something this easy). My goal when I started re-reading them was to read them in order and I got stopped midway through the collection because the YS and I had not apparently gotten the niece all of them and there were 5 or 6 missing books. I would look for the missing books every time I went to Borders, but they never had the ones I needed for some stupid reason. I finally got them all (my younger niece and SIL got me the final two last year – one was a Christmas present, it was just like growing up all over again when all I ever wanted for Christmas was Nancy Drew books for my collection). Anyway, you can't go wrong with a Nancy Drew mystery when you want to read something but don't want to make a commitment. I can whip through one in about an hour and a half.

The Clue of the Black Keys by Carolyn Keene – 174 pages – This one was exciting because it wasn't one of my favorites when I was growing up so I didn't really remember everything. Besides, the plot took Nancy to Mexico and that made me happy. I think it's funny that Nancy is 18, her father is this big time lawyer, her boyfriend is in college, but Nancy's just hanging out with Bess & George solving mysteries. Why isn't she in college???

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl – 400 pages – I had read Matthew Pearl's first book, The Dante Club, and loved it, so when I saw he had a new one out, I picked it up. It's technically fiction, but Mr. Pearl did so much research on his subject that some Poe scholars feel that he actually solves the mystery of Poe's death. I hadn't really known much about Poe's life, so it was very interesting to me. I'm, in general, not a fan of short stories (Shirley Jackson, especially), but have always liked Poe's. I still have my Signet Classics anthology that I needed for a college class a jillion years ago, but after reading The Poe Shadow, I found it singularly lacking in some of the stories mentioned in the book, so yesterday I bought a much more complete anthology. If you have not yet discovered Matthew Pearl, do yourself a favor and read both his books.

Mystery at the Ski Jump by Carolyn Keene – 176 pages – Another fine book from Carolyn Keene (whoever she may be). What can I say? I was on a roll. I find these books just as interesting as when I was a kid, although I think I read them with a slightly more critical eye these days.

The Clue of the Velvet Mask by Carolyn Keene – 177 pages – I'm thinking there was a strict limit on how long a Nancy Drew book could be as they all seem to be about 175 pages. That cracks me up. How was this determined to be the "perfect" length for a young adult's book? This one had a bit more violence in it, George kidnapped & drugged, Nancy darn near strangled, etc. It's a good thing she's so resourceful…or she's a cat with nine lives. Great fun – like all the others.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer – 377 pages – This book was fascinating to me. I had read a book about Mormonism and its treatment of one particular woman a good 13 years ago, so while I knew a little bit, I didn't know the history. Jon Krakauer tells the history of "regular" Mormonism while attempting to explain fundamental Mormonism (plural/celestial marriage known more commonly to Gentiles – as all non-Mormons are called – as polygamy). It was an eye-opening book in many ways. I highly recommend it.

Book of the Month - Under the Banner of Heaven, although it was a tight battle with The Poe Shadow.


Movies

I won't be using the rottentomatoes rating system anymore because they changed their website and I hate it.

1/1 - The DaVinci Code (ENC) – 2006 – I had wanted to see this movie badly after reading the book, but with all the bad reviews I never saw it. I saw that it was going to be playing on Encore, so I DVRd it and finally took the time and watched it. It was fine. I didn't hate it, but then, I didn't bother reading the book again, so if it didn't follow it faithfully, I'm unaware of that and it's all good in my book. Read the book…

1/6 - Fahrenheit 451 (Sundance) – 1966 – Another movie of a book. Again I read the book so long ago, that I don't remember it at all. The movie was fine (another ringing endorsement). Again, I think you're better off reading the book. Although, if you like Julie Christie, you get to see her playing TWO parts. Such a deal.

1/6 - The Seven Samurai (N) – 1954 – I was supposed to watch this with my friend BST after I got him the Criterion Collection version a few years back for Christmas, but it's so hard to meld schedules. I finally just put it on my Netflix queue. At times I found it a little hard to follow who was whom, but all in all, it was very good (definitely better than "fine").

1/20 - The Hidden Fortress (N) – 1958 – This movie starts off following two peasants who are returning home from some war where they ended up not distinguishing themselves because they decided to join late and by the time they got there it was over. They were worried about going home, however, as they had sold their farms and everything to join the war. They run into Toshiro Mifune somewhere along the way and somehow he tricks them into thinking there is gold in the hidden fortress. He needs them to carry it to buy safety for the princess of the defeated land, etc. I'm wondering if Japanese peasants were really this silly and ridiculous? If Japanese women were this strident? Dear heavens. The movie was good, but the two peasants needed to be seriously slapped and I would totally volunteer for that job. It's Kurosawa, so it's worth the effort.

1/26 - Eye of the Beholder (DVR) – 1999 – I only watched 20 minutes of this movie. It sucked so completely. It has Ewan MacGregor and Ashley Judd, so I thought it would at least be watchable. Oh my heavens, it so wasn't. While I was "watching" it, I read a review which essentially told me that my initial thoughts were correct and that it was going to suck canal water. Ewan MacGregor played a spy (or something like that) who was given the assignment of figuring out what his boss' son was up to (taking money out of the bank, but it was Dad's money). While trailing the son, he ends up watching Ashley Judd murder the son. Turns out she a serial killer and according to the reviews, he ends up following her for 10 years. Oh, and his wife left him and took their daughter, which causes him to hallucinate that his daughter is with him on jobs. I'm telling you it was bloody awful.

1/26 - Mansfield Park (IFC) – 1999 – Now this was a movie from 1999 that was worth watching. I'm not sure I want to read Jane Austen, but I enjoy her novels that have been made into movies. Still, I'm glad I wasn't living in Victorian times. I think it's possible to be too casual, but at the same time there is also such a thing as too much formality. In this movie, you meet Fanny as a young child. Her mother wakes her up and tells her she's going to live with Aunt Norris, her mother's sister. Aunt Norris is a bitch, just for the record. Fanny ends up living in Mansfield Park with her mother's other sister who is essentially a drunk. There are all sorts of intrigues with the daughters trying to find husbands and Fanny not being in the least bit interested because she wants to write, etc. I can't imagine anything so horrible as every day of my life being devoted to trying to win a man.

1/26 - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Pamela) – 2007 – I figured I had to see this as I had seen the first two. I liked the first one, was not so enamoured of the second one, and liked the third one. It was long, but that didn't bother me since I was at home and able to stop it, etc. when necessary. You all know the story, so I'm not going to tell you what it was about.

Movie of the Month - The Seven Samurai (truthfully, it didn't have a lot of competition).

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17 Comments:

At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger fermicat said...

I loved the Nancy Drew books as a kid. I hadn't thought of re-reading them as an adult, although I still have quite a few. I did re-read all the Little House books about ten years ago and that was worthwhile.

Fahrenheit 451 has a great "look" to it. The book is definitely better, like it usually is in a book/movie contest.

I couldn't get through "Eye of the Beholder" either. I wanted to like it because of Ewan McGregor, but it was atrocious.

 
At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger Jason said...

Have fun! The Double Down Saloon is supposed to be fun (and perhaps the closest to our kind of bar in Vegas).
www.doubledownsaloon.com

Bring your inhaler though.

 
At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger dr sardonicus said...

I admire your book reading habits. I used to read like that, then I discovered the internets...

The Seven Samurai is hard to follow at times, but it's a classic for sure. One of my all-time faves, The Magnificent Seven, was derived from it.

 
At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Fermi - I was given two of the Little House books as a child, but had no interest in them, even with the TV show. The Nancy Drew really are just a fun, quick read when you want to read something but don't want to get involved in something too heavy. Thank you for confirming my not watching Eye of the Beholder!

Jason - HRH isn't much of a dancer, much less at our kind of bar. But thanks for the tip.

Dr. - Since I've started listing my reading every month, I'm doing a lot better job of getting through my books. It's incentive. Yup, I watched the Magnificent Seven a few months back and I could see the similarities. I was, in fact, pleased to see they hadn't changed the ending from Samurai to Magnificent. Hollywood usually ruins foreign films they remake.

 
At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger MW said...

Sorry for the deletions, but my mistakes took on a domino effect, and I just couldn't stop them:

I first swore loudly (scared the cats), then I threw it across the room (but it being yarn it only went a foot or so – most unsatisfying)...

LOL!!! ;-D

After finishing Pamela's scarf and fixing her favorite "perfect" scarf...

How do you "fix" a "perfect" scarf? Or did it suffer some sort of damage?

I'm, in general, not a fan of short stories...

I didn't used to be a fan, but I've adapted. I highly recommend two short stories to you: 1.) The Open Boat by (1894) Stephen Crane. It is a semi-autobiographical story. 2.) "The Difference" (1923) by Ellen Glasgow. The former is free online (click the link), but the latter is not.

Mansfield Park -- I'm glad I wasn't living in Victorian times...

With apologies: Jane Austen wrote during the Regency Era (also known as the "Romantic Era" in literary circles). You're probably CORRECTLY thinking (while loudly cursing me ;-), "Half a dozen of one, six of the other." Right? If so, I agree with you.

Aunt Norris is a bitch, just for the record...

Is that how Jane Austen refers to her too? ;-p

I read over twenty Hardy Boys books in seventh grade (after I discovered two dilapidated 1940s volumes on the snow-covered floor of a long-abandoned country school in South Dakota).

 
At Monday, 04 February, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

MW - I should have known that was you. I was pretty sure it wasn't Victorian times, but didn't feel the need to look it up, as I was pretty sure somebody would tell me the correct time period. ;-) No, Jane Austen was much more refined than I am. Pamela's favorite scarf (perfect length and weight) was coming apart in two pieces. I returned it to its one piece-ness.

I just bought a book at Borders called Detroit Noir which are all short stories. I thought that I might be able to handle them.

 
At Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, Blogger LL said...

"I can't imagine anything so horrible as every day of my life being devoted to trying to win a man."

I thought that's what your basic job description was? ;P

As for the book of the month... I probably won't be reading that one. Those of us that live behind the Zion curtain rarely need such fare...

 
At Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, Anonymous yelayna said...

Nancy Drew rocks. I loved her then, I haven't read any recently but I suspect I would still love it now. In a similar vein (only I didn't read them when I was younger as they hadn't been written) I've been working my way through all of Phillip Pullmans books slowly - and I am thoroughly enjoying them. I think I might even be enjoying the Sally Lockhart ones better than the Northern Lights ones!

Random fact for the day: Jane Austin lived round the corner from where I am at the moment. I drive past her house on the way home from work every day, and yet I've never been to visit it.

I actually prefer reading Jane Austin to the film/TV adaptations. I have never seen the famous "Wet Shirt" moment. I got so cross when they changed the ending of Sense and Sensibility that I couldn't ever watch another one without spitting with fury. I get a bit like that about these things though.

Happy Shrove Tuesday :o) Are you giving anything up this year? I've got no idea what to give up this year and I've only got 10 hours to think of something. It's such a pain that my birthday falls in lent, as otherwise the cake/chocolate/alcohol things make perfect sense!

 
At Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Dear LL, ;-) not all women are looking for a man. Nah, you live it, you don't need to read about it.

Yelayna - I read the Northern Lights books a good 3-4 years ago. I quite liked them. I don't know the Sally Lockhart books, I might have to check them out. I must confess that I haven't watched Sense & Sensibility yet, but my friend HRH tells me I have to before we go to England, which might be next year. I haven't figured out what I'm giving up for Lent yet, either. I'm already being good and watching what I eat and drink, and I'm going to be in Vegas for the next six days. I'm thinking of giving up swearing. For some reason, right before Lent, I get on a role of curse words just emanating from my mouth. After I get back from Vegas, I'll contemplate giving up beer.

 
At Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Enjoy Vegas. I personally think it's overrated and learned the hard way that strippers lie.

Haven't read any of those books, but I saw that Mormon one in Barnes and Noodle and maybe one day I'll Barnes and Noodle it (read the whole thing there, I read 660 wpm).

As for the movies, ok, good. I'm not the only one who couldn't get through Eye of the Beholder. I think I got 15 minutes into it before giving up.

 
At Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, Blogger Heather said...

I've been waffling for years whether to buy the $3 copy of Eye of the Beholder just to satisfy my Ewan cravings...sounds like my waffling days are over and it'll stay in the bargain bin for some unsuspecting girl.

I want to re-read Nancy Drew now!! :D

 
At Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, Anonymous Suzy said...

Nancy was too busy driving around in her little blue roadster to bother with mundane things like college! :)

 
At Thursday, 07 February, 2008, Blogger Scott said...

I've seen the Grafton book and have been thinking about reading it. Sounds like you think it was worthwhile.

 
At Sunday, 10 February, 2008, Blogger Fantasy Writer Guy said...

I also watched Fahrenheit 451 in January - for the first time - surprising since it's one of my favorite books. I think the best part of your fit was when you ignored the knitting project for the rest of the night. Scarves hate to be ignored. I bet it learned a lesson! I was at Dave's this morning and he had a bit of an incident with his knitting project! But I'll say no more. I'll let him tell you.

 
At Monday, 11 February, 2008, Blogger Beth said...

Wow, my heart dropped about the scarf. I've had so many knitting woes.

What a lot of reading ... and watching, but more importantly, have a great time in Vegas!

 
At Monday, 11 February, 2008, Blogger Sal said...

I've never ever been into mysteries, not even Nancy or those hunky Hardy Boys. I just couldn't sit through DaVinci Code, there's just something about Tom Hanks that grates on my nerves...

 
At Tuesday, 12 February, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Zombie - Really? Strippers lie? Who knew? ;-) I feel better knowing I'm not the only one who couldn't get through that crap movie. I could mail the book to you - once I get it back from the person who's reading it now.

Heather - I'm glad I saved you $3. Trust me, it's not even worth that.

Suzy - I wanted a roadster so badly when I was a kid! I had the titian hair and blue eyes!! ;-)

Scott - I liked it, if you've liked the others, go for it.

FWG - I felt bad wasting the time not knitting, but I really needed a break. Oooh, has Dave updated?

Beth - I'll send you that pattern. ;-)

Sal - I love mysteries, especially Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys!!!

 

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