Friday, July 24, 2009

The Book I've Most Recently Read

You may remember that earlier this year, I blamed Schmetterling for making me read a funny book. A funny, funny book. Since it was hilarious, really, I'm not sure "blame" is the correct word. But really, I can't use too nice a verb: Schmet would become insufferable.

Anyway, said funny book has a sequel I recently read. Even funnier than the first. So if you haven't read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, do me a favor and read it first before you read its sequel, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones--because, as you'll learn in the sequel (after you've read things in a proper order, of coourse), one of the worst crimes a reader can commit is reading a series out of order.

Well, one of my co-workers at my new job (not quite so new now, as I've been there five weeks or so) asked me what I read when I job shadowed him. And he asked if I'd ever heard of Brandon Sanderson. Which started a quite animated discussion about our attachment to Alcatraz Smedry, my mention that I owned Elantris but had not yet read it... and the next thing I knew, I'd started reading it.

Elantris was slow, but I'd also promised to read Mistborn.

And let me tell you something: I read. I read quite a lot. And generally speaking, I greatly enjoy what I read. But I haven't gotten this immersed in a book since...well...probably Harry Potter. You must understand: I read my guts out during the semester, and I usually find my assigned readings interesting, but I never find myself so immersed in those books that I resent returning to reality.

Pulling myself out of Mistborn and back into reality inevitably made me mad. I hated going to work. I hated doing housework. I hated watching TV. In short, anything that drew me away from reading Mistborn seriously made me angry. I wanted to go back to Luthadel. Back to Vin, Kelsier, Dockson, Sazed, and Elend. Back to an insanely funny band of thieves who voluntarily admit they're crazy. A band of thieves who doesn't like to admit that they are, in fact, a band of revolutionaries who want to drastically change the government.

With both plot and humor in spades--not to mention a few twists I hadn't fully expected (Kelsier, the leader of the band of thieves/revolutionaries, is fond of saying that there's always another secret)--this book kept me riveted. I was almost sorry to end it. But it has two sequels, and the second is currently next to my bed, just begging me to open it.

I think I'll oblige.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TV That Makes Me Happy, Part 5

Yes, I am one of many who chanced upon this show not too long after learning of its imminent demise: I watched an episode, and I wondered--"What the heck is wrong with Fox?" Yes, like most Joss Whedon fare, it's hyped. Possibly over-hyped. (I say possibly, because I'm still torn about whether something so many people inevitably end up liking actually could be overhyped...)
But Joss Whedon fare is usually hyped for a reason: this hodgepodge of genres and genre cliches is one of the wittiest shows I've seen. Though it has been billed as a "space western," among other things, it is full of many sci-fi/western/other genre cliches. In short, the show is a hodgepodge. (A good friend who recently watched the serious with me liked to joke at any screen shot that purposefully juxtaposed horses and spaceships--"It's a space western, I get it, I get it"...)
The hodgepodge does not, as one might expect, make the show become one big fat (and flat) cliched, but instead breathes untold amounts of wit, humor, and fantastic caper plots into an intriguing setting where the rebels/thieves/men of honor (depending on where they are, what they're doing, and why) attempt to pull off heists.
Be prepared to laugh. Lots. And lots.
Also, surprises will abound.
And also: if you don't like this cast, you're crazy.
In short, watch it. It deserves the hype.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Late Father's Day Post

In fact, it's rather ironic how late this dad may well be the most punctual man I know. Just when we thought he might live down the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets debacle of 2002 (when he insisted that we make sure we arrive to our late-morning matinee in plenty of time, so we could get the seats we wanted...and then we arrived a full half hour before show time to a completely empty theater), my mom and I went and saw Up with him. And we were there early, too.

At least this time, he allowed us to wander around the Gateway and do a little browsing before going back to the movie theater. To be fair, he changed his excuse this time: this time, he wanted to be sure he bought our tickets in plenty of time. I showed him how to check how full a theater was online, but advised him not to buy the tickets online unless he really felt it necessary. Fees, you know. So when we left early that afternoon, my dad mentioned he wanted to be completely sure we had tickets.

When we saw the ticket display at the theater, we laughed. And laughed. There were oodles of tickets available. Dad later admitted he'd checked before we ever left the house, as well.

In all seriousness, my dad is always around. He's passing on some of his old tools to me, so neither my roommate nor I have to buy a tool set. (And so he can buy himself some new tools.) He took me out to lunch in my first couple of weeks of work. He set up the wireless Internet network at our house.

He often drives me home from family gatherings, and he always has something interesting on his mind. (The latest question he posed to me, based on something he had been reading, was this: "Is there anything that is truly a neutral choice? Anything we do that doesn't affect us one way or another, for the better or the worse?" I told him that I thought trivialities--what clothes we wear, what food we eat--they probably are neutral. But it's an intriguing question. Thoughts, anyone?)

And yet, my dad thinks he is boring. I cannot for the life of me figure out why he thinks such a thing. He reads widely--not just books, but the newspaper. And not just the Deseret News, but the Wall Street Journal, and often the online New York Times as well. He studies topically: and whenever he gets interested in something, he gets really interested and he dives right in.

Best of all, he knows when to be silly and when to be serious. And the silly moments usually outnumber those of complete somberness. He loves to make people laugh, and the older I get, the more I realize that his sense of humor (and my mom's, too) helped make our home happy. And never more serious than it needed to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TV That Makes Me Happy, Part 4

There are few statements I could make on a daily basis that would hold true, regardless of the day--regardless of whether I was working, whether I was schooling, whether it was snowy, rainy, or sunny... One of the few subjunctive statements included in that list is this:

I would rather be in Stars Hollow.

I have never been as attached to a fictional setting as I've been to Stars Hollow. The city, home to the WB's Gilmore Girls--mother Lorelai and daughter Rory--has a small-town charm unlike anything I've ever experienced. I don't doubt that charm exists (according to pervasive rumors, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino actually based it, to an extent, on a small Connecticut town), but a weekly dose of the Gilmores immersed me in that charm.

While the series followed the relationship between mother and daughter (and their respective romances), their tenuous relationship with Lorelai's parents, and the friends they all had...the story lines did not, as some have thought, stray toward the soapy. And this is why: all of these people are smart. Witty. Interesting. Quirky in the best possible ways.

Any given episode contains pop culture references below, indiscriminately disregarding divides between high and low culture: the episode, for example, where Rory receives her application references both "The Brady Bunch Variety Show" and Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls--in the span of less than a minute. They delight in wordplay; they read voraciously; they listen to a wide variety of music.

In short, I love this show because these are the types of people I would love to always associate with in real life. If you don't believe me, try visiting Stars Hollow someday. You may find that you, too, would rather be there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Sort of Person I Am

Sometimes I stop and think about the sort of person I am. And then I find myself making a mental list. Then, because I'm nerdy, I find myself thinking that perhaps those who read my blog may find such a list interesting. Or maybe that's less me being nerdy and more being narcissistic--y'know, narcissistic in a way that doesn't invite foot injury (I think).

So without further ado, I am the sort of person who:

a. only dances around when nobody can see me
b. feels there is a very specific way to sing along to David Cook's "Light On"--it involves yelling very specific phrases at the top of my lungs
c. often hums whatever is stuck in my head...without realizing I'm humming till someone looks at me funny
d. immediately Googles the words "family history" when I get called to be the family history co-chair in my ward
e. knows my obligations, but sometimes willfully forgets them
f. cannot stand to have excess amounts of lint on my black pants
g. gets a drastic haircut at least once a year
h. doesn't feel ashamed in the slightest at laughing aloud when I'm reading something funny--even if I'm sitting in a public place or I'm riding public transportation
i. gets a sunburn every year, because I forget how easily I burn

And really, the first one I thought of, and the one I'll end with: I'm the sort of person who can't always remember what I ate for breakfast, but who can recite her library card number by heart.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yet Another Reason I Read

I have an incurable case of wanderlust. Even though, generally speaking, I love my life...I usually want to be somewhere else. If you've ever heard the music from Cats, I'm like Rum Tum Tugger: I'm "always on the wrong side of every door / And as soon as I'm home, then I'd like to get about."

Unfortunately, I'm also poor. I don't have the funds to even attempt a beginning at curing my wanderlust by actually going somewhere. At least, I can't sate my wanderlust by physical travels.

So I take mental travels instead. By reading, I allow my mind to take me to other places: sometimes to existing worlds, sometimes to worlds that only exist--ultimately--in my imagination. (In mine, you see, because even though the author's imagination created it, I'm the one who visualizes it...And I doubt I visualize anything exactly as the authors I read did.)

Reading allows me to forget, for a while, where I'm at. What I'm doing with my life. And allows me to wend my way through a different plot line, a more interesting time. I suppose this is why I find fiction indispensable. Fiction creates an infinite number of places for my mind to go when it wants to be anywhere but here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TV That Makes Me Happy, Part 3

Stargate:SG-1 is historic, in its own right. It ran for ten seasons on two different channels, spawned two films that followed the franchise, and killed one of its main characters off more frequently even than Joss Whedon chose to kill off Buffy Summers. (Poor Daniel Jackson, the PhD and archaeologist of the group had abominable luck with both life and with women: he died more frequently than anyone else on the show, and his women always seemed to die or become evil.) The show also made history by being the first--and only--show to write a character back into the show due to popular fan request. (Three guesses as to who came back from the dead.)
The four main characters--Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c--with a one-season long replacement of Corin Nemec as Jonas Quinn after Daniel's character died--are a team of explores who use the stargate to journey to other planets in search of alien technologies that will help the US government. O'Neill, formerly retired, returns to the program after his son accidentally kills himself with his father's gun and his wife leaves. Carter, a scientist from the Air Force, provides scientific know-how. Jackson is an archaeologist/anthropologist/linguist, and Teal'c is an alien.
It does not shame me at all to admit I own all ten seasons, because this show never failed to be interesting and it never failed to amuse: nary an episode goes by without a subtle or not-so-subtle nod to sci-fi conventions (Col. Mitchell, who eventually heads SG-1, at one point says: "That was alternate reality. This is alternate dimension. Hell, all I need is a good time travel adventure and I've scored the SG-1 trifecta.") In addition, Stargate pays homage to Star Trek, Star Wars, The Simpsons, and a number of other pop culture icons.
A friend once observed that, obviously, the same thing must happen episode after episode: the team visits a planet, runs into difficulties, cracks a few jokes, resolves the problems, and then comes home. While this may be true, not all of the storylines are self-contained...and any mythology buff will be delighted to notice the mythological threads--from Arthurian legend to Egyptian gods--woven into the stories.
And, as the creators of the show observed in one of the commentaries (I don't remember from which episode, and I don't want to look it up, so you'll just have to take my word for it), Stargate: SG-1 did not survive for so long because it did well as a sci-fi drama. (I snicker, I admit, any time I hear people call it a drama...) It survived and thrived because it was a comedy masquerading as a sci-fi drama.
After all, all of the most interesting TV shows are like all the most interesting people: they refuse to take themselves seriously.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 4th (Almost) Thoughts

Last year, I wondered where I would find myself this year. And I find myself home. Not at my house in Salt Lake, but at my parents' in Centerville. Centerville usually does their fireworks show the night before the 4th; it's likely they don't want to attempt competition with the show that usually comes from Lagoon on the 4th.

We wandered around the booths, per usual. And the city festivities followed what seems to be one of those seminal unwritten (yet cardinal) rules of such events: the entertainment must be a cover band of some sort.

Since my younger brother has drifted to California to install security systems for the summer, I found myself once again in that lovely position of being the only single person in the midst of couples and children. And felt, for the umpty billionth time, as though my life is in limbo.

I wonder if I'll every actually feel free on a July 4th...