Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

  • THE BOOK
    • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
    • Published May 30, 2017
    • Other works by author include Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, The Truth with Jokes, Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair & Balanced Look at the Right and several others.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author currently serves as senator for the state of Minnesota as a Democrat (in Minnesota it is technically the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party).
    • The book documents his political life, including his contested first election when it took 8 months to wend through the courts before he was confirmed as senator by a mere 312 votes.
    • His interest in politics started far sooner than the run for Congress and he explains how even during his years as a comedian and satirist it was a topic which he was drawn.
    • Why Minnesota? That's where his family moved when he was a toddler so it is his home state.
    • He extols the value of hard work, showing up for every committee meeting, learning the ropes and dealing with the varied personalities of the political world.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was my first Franken book and I really enjoyed it. He uses humor to tell his stories but he also tells them with the humility of a born and bred Midwesterner. 
      • I laughed out loud while reading. I also got teary-eyed reading about his first piece of legislation. Well written and entertaining.
    • The author says he was advised (I forget by whom, sorry) to be a work horse, not a show horse. He seems to have taken this advice to heart.
    • In our politically divisive country this book will smack of a take-down of the conservative wing of government for many people on the right. (Sorry for all those prepositional phrases!) 
      • It will be read and liked much more by the liberal wing. That is how these things go. It does not mean the book is not well-written. The Senator is a Harvard graduate after all. And he apparently majored in government so his love of politics goes way back.
    • I was especially taken with the parts of the book that detail how things are done in the Senate:
      • Writing laws: senators don't actually do it themselves
      • Talking to journalists: a politician has to learn how to (almost) never answer the question but rather spin the topic back to the "message" 
        • Kind of like this: (NOT from the book) 
          • "Senator, do you believe in global warming?"
          • "What I believe in is more jobs for my constituents and the rest of the American people."
          • This explains so much about the interviews with members of Congress I see on TV or read about in the paper. The goal is to get their message out and they have staff members there to keep them on track. Apparently this is just the nature of the beast.
      • The travel involved: most senators spend the week in Washington D.C. and fly home each weekend to meet with constituents. There are also all the events in the home state for a senator to show up and mingle or give a speech.
    • Again, this book will probably be read and enjoyed more by liberals than conservatives. Is there an equivalent book on the conservative side? I'm trying to find a recent book that covers similar ground. Maybe Ben Sasse's? Recommendations are welcome in the comments.
    • Recommended for those interested in politics, in how a political career started and in smart and gentle humor scattered throughout. Recommended for liberals but conservatives might enjoy some of it too. Especially the Minnesotans he works for. 
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Monday, May 15, 2017

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

  • THE BOOK
    • Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
    • Published March 7, 2017
    • Other work by author is The Serpent King

  • THE PREMISE
    • A few weeks before the start of senior year Carver's three best friends die in a car accident. The driver was responding to Carver's text message at the time.
      • Carver feels intense grief as well as guilt and some of the families blame him for the loss of their sons leading to a possible criminal complaint against him.
    • One of the boys, raised by his grandma, doesn't blame Carver but wants to have a "goodbye day" doing all the things she loved doing with her grandson one last time but with Carver in his place.
      • Then the other families, even the ones who blame him, want to have goodbye days too.
    • Meanwhile Carver's only friend is Jesmyn, the recent girlfriend of one of the boys. He is also supported by his sister and his therapist.
    • They all attend a high school for the arts in Nashville. Carver is the writer and the other boys were all artistic too: one is an artist, one a musician and the other an aspiring comic. Jesmyn is a pianist aspiring to Julliard.
    • The book is told from Carver's point of view and moves about in time as he remembers meeting each of his friends and how they became a strong circle of four.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • The entire book is a meditation on grief and survivor's guilt and it almost has to end on a hopeful note, right?
      • The plot is outlined on the dust-jacket so it seems likely to include moments of intense grief with moments of hopefulness. 
      • I was glad that Carver got some real help quickly and his development of panic attacks seemed realistic.
      • Plus it has some real suspense based on the outcome of the criminal investigation into Carver's possible culpability.
    • I read this book with a lump in my throat almost the entire time. Imagine you are in high school and have a group of friends. Imagine losing ALL of them in a car accident just before the last year. Brutal.
      • My family moved across the country between my junior and senior years of high school so I understand a modicum of grief related to losing my entire group of friends in one fell swoop.
    • I liked that we get to know the boys who died even if it's only in flashbacks and through their families.
    • This isn't probably a book for everyone but I really loved it.
    • Recommended for readers of young adult novels. I think I will try to read the author's first book too.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (first 5-star review of the year!)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

  • THE BOOK
    • Sophie Someone by Hayley Long
    • Published March 28, 2017
    • Other works by author include Fire and Water, Vinyl Demand, What's Up with Jody Barton?, and the Lottie Biggs series.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Sophie remembers moving to Brussels, Belgium, from England when she is about 5 years old. When she is 14 she discovers something that causes her to start questioning and seeking answers about who she really is.
    • Her dad is a car mechanic and her mom is a recluse who never leaves their apartment or learns to speak the Belgian language. Sophie also has a younger brother named Hercule who was born in Belgium unlike Sophie who was born in England like her parents.
    • The book is written in a different way than most books. Sophie is the narrator and she uses different words for things throughout the entire book.
      • People are pigeons.
      • Mom and dad are mambo and don (or donny). Parents are parsnips. Man is maniac. Friends are freckles. Names are noodles.
      • Face is fax, voice is vortex, head is helix, ears are eels, mouth is mush, hand is hashtag, teacher is torturer, litchen is kindle, and on and on.
      • It is very similar --- only in the way language is used! --- to A Clockwork Orange. This is a book for middle schoolers, however, so I imagine this might be a more challenging book for those grade levels.
        • For me it was fairly easy to discern the meanings from context. By the end of the book you are fairly fluent in Sophie's lingo. But I can see how this would irritate some readers.
        • The character explains why the word substitutions are made by the very end of the book.
          • I must admit, at first I thought the book was about a girl who had some sort of developmentally delayed issue or was on the spectrum who just used language differently. That would have been fine but she was neither of those things.
    • The story jumps about in chronology as Sophie pieces together the past with the present.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I liked the story and was anxious to find out the big secret that her parents were trying to hide. It's a doozy. 
    • I thought the ending was abrupt. 
      • By the end of the book the family's circumstances have changed drastically and which seems to leave the family with absolutely no means of financial support. 
      • Sophie's best friend Comet, who has major troubles in her own family, is given short shrift.
      • And Sophie makes a new friend along the way who's story could use some fleshing out.
      • I have to wonder if there will be a sequel addressing these issues.
      • Spoilers are located in the next bullet point in white text so they are invisible unless you highlight them with your cursor or finger:
        • Sophie's dad, a gambling addict with large debts and with her mom's encouragement, helped two criminals rob an armored car, netting millions of pounds. The two criminals left the dad with just enough money, a few thousand pounds, to buy a mechanic business in Brussels. At the end of the book he turns himself in and will go to prison for years. The agoraphobic mother decides she better leave the apartment after all, so she can buy groceries. The end.
    • I'd definitely read a sequel.
    • Recommended for middle schoolers and others who enjoy young adult books.
    • ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel

  • THE BOOK
    • Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel
    • To be published July 18, 2017
    • My copy is an uncorrected proof I received from the publisher through Library Thing's Early Readers program in return for an honest review.
      • Naturally my reviews are ALL honest though if I truly loathe a book I TRY to be as gently brutal as possible!
    • First novel by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is an epistolary novel, told entirely by letters and e-mails to the central character, Julie.
    • The chronology jumps around a bit, covering Julie's childhood up until she's in her 30s. Her parents divorced when she was a child and she has a younger sister with a wild streak.
    • Some of it is very funny. Julie's parents in particular are hilarious in their well-meaning advice and thinly veiled passive-aggressiveness.
    • Some of the letters are from inanimate objects such as a treadmill or a cell phone.
    • The subtitle is "A Tragicomic Novel in Letters".

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I laughed out loud by page 10 due to this passage in a letter of invitation to teenage Julie from her aunt, which includes a list of house rules for guests:
      • "Please do not remove any body hair in the bathroom. If you must...please do so in the backyard, using the hose. Since we have been experiencing freezing temperatures this week please avoid getting water on the patio to prevent black ice."
    • From her grandmother who just got an e-mail account at her retirement home:
      • "They say it will allow us to spend more time with our loved ones. I don't buy it." 
    • I enjoyed the book but did feel it had a couple of unresolved storylines by the end.
      • I can't decide if it would have been better with Julie's end of the correspondence included. Probably not but it's a short book (just over 200 pages) and I guess I would have liked more.
      • I would definitely consider reading more from this author.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy comic novels, epistolary novels, and/or a quick read.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Inkblots by Damion Searls

  • THE BOOK
    • The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls
    • Published February 21, 2017
    • Other works by author include: What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going, Everything You Say is True, and several books as translator.
    • My copy is an uncorrected proof furnished by the publisher through Library Thing for an honest review.

  • THE PREMISE
    • A biography of Hermann Rorschach and of his famous inkblot test.
    • The first half of the book covers the life of Rorschach and his place in the founding of modern psychology.
    • Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 and Eugen Bleuler was born in 1857. Bleuler, who coined the terms schizophrenia (it used to be called dementia praecox) and autism, was instrumental figure in psychology but was overshadowed by his student Carl Jung, born in 1875.
      • Rorschach was born in 1884 and was also a student under Bleuler.
    • Rorschach developed his inkblot test in the late 1910s and published the book Psychodiagnostics in 1921.
      • He died in 1922, only 37 years old, of peritonitis due to a burst appendix.
    • Because Rorschach died so young he never got the chance to continue refining his test.
    • The second half of the book covers the rest of the history of the inkblots.
      • Various people came along later and added to the test protocols though the inkblots themselves have never really changed.
      • The test has come in and out of popularity as other tests came to the forefront.
        • It is either an amazing diagnostic tool for mental health issues or a complete pseudoscience depending on what's going on in the world of psychology at any given time.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was quite an interesting book but some parts are difficult to understand for the layman who has no background in psychology, mainly in regard to the test protocols themselves.
    • The author is very thorough in the topic and had a trove of research to use. Especially interesting is the acknowledgements section, a few pages in the back, detailing how he came to possess this trove, full of primary sources relating to the life of Rorschach and his inkblot test.
    • I found the life of Rorschach to be quite interesting, especially in the early years. He had a fascination with Russia and spent time there, for example.
      • The detail is immense, however, so some sections could be a bit of a slog.
    • It was stunning to find he died so young. One must wonder if he would be as well known as Freud and Jung are today if he had lived a full lifespan.
    • I floundered a bit when the author was describing the way inkblot test results were scored. I wished for more concrete examples to understand how it really worked but I think this would be a great book for students in psychology to read because they will understand much more than me.
    • Because my copy was an uncorrected paperback proof the text referred to color photographs that weren't included. The text pages have several illustrations and photographs though.
    • I totally want to take this test to see what it reveals about me! Unfortunately it would cost too much to find a practitioner to administer the test, especially when I have no need of it.
    • Recommended to those who are interested in psychology.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Father of the Bride by Edward Streeter

  • THE BOOK
    • Father of the Bride by Edward Streeter
      • This version of the book has illustrations by Gluyas Williams
        • Williams, a cartoonist, was born in San Francisco in 1888 and died in Newton, Massachusetts in 1982.
    • Published in 1948
    • Other works by author include Mr. Hobbs' Vacation; Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter; Dere Mable; and Thats me all over, Mable.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Mr. Stanley Banks' daughter Kay is getting married. The story follows his point of view as he experiences the frenzy surrounding the wedding.
    • He experiences the following:
      • Having a talk with Kay's fiance, Buckley
      • Meeting Buckley's parents
      • The engagement party
      • Choosing the caterer
      • Trying and failing to keep the guest list down
      • Getting used to the idea of "losing" his little girl
      • The wedding and reception
    • Two movies have been made based on the novel:
      • "Father of the Bride" in 1950 starring Spencer Tracy as Stanley Banks and Elizabeth Taylor as Kay, the bride. Elizabeth is at her most radiant in this film.
      • "Father of the Bride" in 1991 starring Steve Martin as George Banks and Kimberly Williams as Annie, the bride.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This book was a gift from my best friend, Lady Chardonnay. Thanks, Lady C!
    • I love the Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor movie and it is faithful to the book with a few minor changes.
      • Sorry, I have never seen the Steve Martin version. I know many people love it but it does not look faithful to the book.
    • This was fun to read and one thing that surprised me was the inclusion of a couple of prhases that would never have been allowed in films of the early 1950s. Stanley's favorite epithet seems to be "Good God!"
      • Here's an example:
        • "The Society Editor would hand your copy to the office boy, who would bitch the whole thing up anyhow."
      • Here's another:
        • One of the caterer's staff: "Too many God-damn bushes out here. Ought to get rid of 'em."
      • I find it hypocritical of society that it was perfectly fine for these things to be in books but they needed to be kept at all costs from the movies!
      • The movie is definitely rated G but the book is PG!
    • What's also amusing is the fact that I am older than Stanley Banks! He mentions his age, 50, a couple of times. Well, 50 in 1948 was "old" compared to 55 in 2017, right?!
    • The story has a few quaint moments, notably in the prices for things that would make today's father of the bride weep. 
      • Stanley wants to keep to a budget where the price per person is $3.72 and this includes everything: food, flowers, champagne and cake!
        • With the guest total as 572 early on, this translates to a cost of just over $2,100. I just looked up a local caterer choosing their "Light Garden Wedding" as closest to the book's reception plan and they estimate a cost of $45 to 70 per person!! That's a total of $25,000 to $40,000!! Not counting the flowers or anything else. 
        • I'm now obsessed with going through the menu options at this local caterer!
          • Pineapple Upside Down Cake is $8.50 PER PERSON! 
          • "Sonoma County Bounty Display" aka cheese, crackers and fruit cost $8.25 per person.
          • Street Tacos are $6.20 per person.
          • Deviled Eggs are $48 for a tray that serves 12-15 people. "Traditional deviled eggs but with the tang of Dijon mustard" is just how I make them anyway and for less than $48!
        • I think today you could probably hire a food truck or two and it would be cheaper than actual catering!
        • This might be one of those things that's like how I feel about room service: a good idea in theory but I am way too cheap to pay so much extra for it. 
    • Well, that was a fun discursion!
      • Dang, now I'm hungry for deviled eggs.
    • Anyway, this book was fun and I enjoyed the author's writing style. The illustrations were a great addition too. 
    • Recommended for those who enjoy a quick fun read with gentle humor.
    • ★ ★ ★

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve by Ben Blatt

  • THE BOOK
    • Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt
    • Published March 14, 2017
    • One other book by author: I Don't Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author introduces us to an example from the early 1960s when two statisticians used data to determine which Founding Father wrote which essays in The Federalist Papers. 
      • The essays were originally published under the same pen name. 
        • Before the famous duel with Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton made a list taking credit for those he wrote. 
        • Years later James Madison made a list of the ones he wrote.
          • The lists differed. Years of scholarly debate ensued.
      • In 1963 Frederick Mosteller and David Wallace, statisticians but not historians, used word frequency as a way to solve the puzzle. 
        • In those pre-digital days they had to cut out the words and count them manually.
        • Using known works by the purported authors they could compare statistically the words used --- or not used --- and make a strongly creditable decision on the actual authors of each essay.
        • As a single example of the evidence: Madison used the word whilst but never used while; Hamilton used while but never used whilst.
    • Today all it takes is a digital copy of a given work to quantify word usage in mere seconds.
    • Some of the questions tackled in the book:
      • Do better writers use -ly adverbs less frequently than lesser writers?
      • Do female and male writers use words differently?
      • Do writers have a similar style in word choices if they write in different genres?
        • Example: J.K. Rowling and her pseudonym Robert Galbriath
      • Can you tell which co-author wrote what in a given book?
        • Examples include Tom Clancy and his various co-authors and James Patterson and his.
      • Which group of writers uses more exclamation points: NY Times bestsellers, literary fiction or fan fiction?
      • Using the Fleisch-Kinkaid Grade Level test, are books getting dumber over time?
        • Spoiler: Duh.
      • Can you tell whether the writer is American or British?
      • Which writers use the most cliches?
      • What does the size of the author's name on a book cover tell us?

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • A book which combines literature with math? Filled with graphs and charts?
      • I loved this book! It was so much fun to read and I thoroughly enjoyed all the visual aids.
      • This book combined the two things I loved best about school: math classes and English classes.
        • I was occasionally made to feel like a weirdo sometimes (not by my parents though) because I was good at math and sciences AND English and history. Apparently I was supposed to be good at one category or the other, not both. 
        • I literally remember one woman telling me I wasn't supposed to be "good at both" during high school. Like I should --- or could ---  turn that part of my brain off?
          • In college I started out majoring in writing and then ultimately switched to accounting, via mathematics and economics. I was never a big fan of statistic class but I definitely understand the subject.
    • The author explained why he picked the books he does, using various "best of" lists in classic literature and modern literary fiction along with fan fiction for various topics.
      • I had read a bunch of the examples so it made reading that much more interesting to me.
    • Recommended for readers who enjoy a trove of fun facts about writers and their writing styles. It's a quick read too.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Great Movies IV by Roger Ebert

  • THE BOOK
    • The Great Movies IV by Roger Ebert
    • Published September 28, 2016
    • Other works by author include many, many books on film.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Roger Ebert died in 2013. This is the final collection of essays in his Great Movies series, comprised of 62 movies.
      • He said in the first volume that these are not necessarily the BEST movies but rather great films for one reason or another.
    • There's a foreward by critic Matt Zoller Seitz and an introduction by Roger Ebert's widow, Chaz Ebert. 
    • Here is the list:
      • 25th Hour
      • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
      • An Autumn Afternoon
      • Badlands
      • The Ballad of Narayama
      • Barry Lyndon
      • The Big Lebowski
      • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
      • Cache'
      • La Ceremonie
      • The Circus
      • La Collectionneuse
      • Come and See
      • Contact
      • Day for Night
      • Departures
      • Diary of a Country Priest
      • Diary of a Lost Girl
      • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
      • French Cancan
      • The Grey Zone
      • The Hairdresser's Husband
      • Harakiri
      • Heart of Glass
      • In a Lonely Place
      • Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II
      • The Killing
      • Leon Morin, Priest
      • Lost in Translation
      • Make Way for Tomorrow
      • A Man Escaped
      • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
      • Man with a Movie Camera
      • The Match Factory Girl
      • Mon Oncle d'Amerique
      • Monsieur Hire
      • Mulholland Drive
      • Mystery Train
      • Night Moves
      • Nosferatu the Vampyre
      • The Only Son
      • Pale Flower
      • Pink Floyd: The Wall
      • The Pledge
      • Red Beard
      • Richard III
      • Rio Bravo
      • Senso
      • Seven
      • Shadow of a Doubt
      • Shoah
      • Smiles of a Summer Night
      • Souls for Sale
      • The Spirit of the Beehive
      • Spirited Away
      • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
      • Stagecoach
      • Superman
      • Tender Mercies 
      • Veronika Voss
      • Viridiana
      • Yellow Submarine
        • The ones in blue --- 32! --- are foreign language films and the ones in red --- a mere 4 --- are silent films.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have only seen 7 of these!
    • There were far too many foreign language films for me to love this volume although I read most of those essays anyway. Roger Ebert has many interesting things to say about film.
    • The one movie I want to see now is Make Way for Tomorrow, a 1937 Leo McCarey film starring Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore.
      • An elderly couple lose their home to foreclosure and none of their five adult children want to take them in. They split up the parents, one each to a different home. But the dad needs a mild climate so they decide he should move to California to live with one of his daughters. The daughter doesn't have room for both so they decide to put their mom into a retirement home. Thus the parents will be split apart forever. 
        • Sounds like the kind of film to watch when you need a good cry.
    • Recommended for movie buffs, especially those who enjoy foreign language films.
    • ★ ★ ★
      • Roger Ebert's writing is great as always, definitely a 4 or 5 star review there, but my personal enjoyment of the book merits only 3 stars.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spare the Kids by Stacey Patton

  • THE BOOK
    • Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won't Save Black America by Stacey Patton
    • Published March 21, 2017
    • Other work by author: That Mean Old Yesterday: An Abused Girl's Fight for Survival, a memoir

  • THE PREMISE
    •  From the book's back cover:
      • "Why do so many African Americans have such a special attachment to whupping children? Studies show that nearly 80 percent of black parents see spanking, popping, pinching, and beating as reasonable, effective ways to teach respect and to protect black children from the streets, incarceration, encounters with racism, or worse. Dr. Stacey Patton's extensive research suggests that corporal punishment is a crucial factor in explaining why black folks are subject to disproportionately higher rates of school suspensions and expulsions, criminal prosecutions, improper mental health diagnoses, child abuse cases, and foster care placements, which too often funnel abused and traumatized children into the prison system."
    • This book is about the African American culture behind whupping. "Whupping" is generally worse than "spanking" and would generally be labeled "beating" by many people. The author's premise is that whupping, generally believed to keep African American kids from getting in trouble later in life, really doesn't work at all. And yet disciplining one's child is not illegal in many states and is still used in many schools.
    • Children live in a constant state of fear and their brain development suffers for it. They are also hurt, physically and emotionally, by the very people who are supposed to love them the most in the world.
    • The author delves into the history of why spanking is so pervasive. It goes back to the days of slavery whereby parents trained their children to behave in ways to keep the owner/overseer from doling out the beatings.
    • When Jim Crow came along the parents still needed to train their children to avoid the eye of the white folks just looking for an excuse to lynch or rape black kids.
    • Today parents are just trying to keep their kids out of jail or keeping the girls from getting pregnant as teens. 
    • The book also covers the role of spanking in popular culture, specifically in the work of African American comedians.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I received this book free from Beacon Press for an honest review through the Library Thing Early Readers program.
    • I am not African American so it may seem odd to have an opinion on this book but it's the one I won so there we are. Not to mention, I was personally spanked as a child growing up in the Deep South so I do have experience with that.
    • Spanking is legal in the United States but the rule is that punishment must be "reasonable and does not cause injury".
      • Thirty-one states ban corporal punishment in schools but 19 allow it:
        • Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
        • All of the Deep South and a few outliers. Interesting. I think a lot of white kids got beatings too over the last century but overall they do not face the difficulties that black kids have so while the whites have started to back off spanking the black families haven't.
    • The author contends that most children grow up to believe they DESERVED the whuppings they got and that their mothers were right to do it. Their parents are made into saints after the fact.
      • Think about the African American athletes who give thanks to their mothers. Now I wonder if they were whupped too.
    • Children need to do this because the other option is hating one's parent instead and this is unthinkable. How can you hate your mother? (There are exceptions, of course.)
      • My own mother did the EXACT SAME THING! She would tell me the story about how her mother beat her until the "blood ran down my legs. And I deserved every whipping I got." And her parents were saints of course. My grandmother was an abusive alcoholic, sadly, and by no means a saint.
      • One day about 15 years ago, I had finally had enough of this rose-colored view and finally asked her: "Is there ANYTHING my son [her beloved 8- or 9-year-old grandson] could do that would make it okay for me to hit him until blood ran?"
        • Of course her answer was no. But I think I did an unkind thing by making her question her own belief that her parents were saints. In any case she never told me that story again.
      • My mother believed in discipline and this was always something she cited for sending us to Catholic schools. "They have discipline." (That and we WERE Catholic.)
        • My brother and I were spanked once in a while but my mom had arthritis so she couldn't hit us very hard and it never really hurt. 
          • Spankings used to make me cry but once I figured out it didn't hurt I never cried and I don't think I was spanked again after that, probably around 10- or 11-years-old.
          • Her favorite punishment was having us "kneel in the corner". We laugh about this now. It seemed as if we kneeled for hours but I think it must have been about 15 minutes! The linoleum left impressions on our knees which was always fascinating to us.
    • Back to the book: If I took a switch, an extension cord, a shoe, a hairbrush or whatever was handy and started beating on anybody else, I would arrested for assault and battery. But if I did it to my minor child it would probably be acceptable. WHO decides what is "reasonable"?
      • I remember being in the backseat of my mom's best friend's car. There were four of us kids in the back: me, my younger brother and the friend's two kids. This was the 1960s; no one was concerned with seat belts in those days. The best friend was irritated by her own child so she took off her shoe --- she was DRIVING! --- and starting whaling on her kid. I remember trying to stay out of the way! Times have indeed changed.
    • Perhaps this is something that will change as time goes by in the African American community. No parent wants to be told how to discipline their own child, black or white, so it might be an uphill battle.
      • If anyone told my mother how to handle her children those people were on her shit list forever!
    • The book was well-written, well researched and fascinating to read.
    • Recommended for those interested in the African American community and child-rearing.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

  • THE BOOK
    • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    • Published 1962 and winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel
    • Other works by author include: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, A Scanner Darkly, several other novels and many short stories
      • "Blade Runner", "Total Recall", and "Minority Report" are among the several works adapted for films.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The story is an alternate history where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won World War II. In this world Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933 just weeks before he became president creating a different timeline. Thus history occurs differently in regards to America's involvement in World War II.
      • Imperial Japan invades the West Coast and Nazi Germany invades the East Coast. The war ends in 1947 after Nazi Germany drops an atomic bomb on Washington D.C.
    • The story itself takes place in 1962 (the year of publication) and takes place in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America, specifically San Francisco, and part in the Mountain States buffer zone between the two powers.
    • The book does not really have a plot per se, but it has a few characters who interact with each other and most people are reading a banned book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which depicts a world where the Allies beat Nazi Germany & Imperial Japan in World War II, similar to ours but not quite the same.
    • A couple of characters meet up and start looking for the author of the book, the titular Man in the High Castle.
    • There is a character who seems able to move among the various alternate histories.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I watched the Amazon Prime series based on the book and LOVED it. There will be a third season later this year. I highly recommend it.
      • Rufus Sewell, most recently seen as Lord Melbourne in the PBS series "Victoria", plays an American Nazi officer (Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith!). He is my new TV boyfriend.
      • None of the Obergruppenfuhrer's plot is included in the book; he is a creation for the TV show. He has a whole family and Muscular Dystrophy factors into his plot.
      • The TV show has a detailed, interwoven plot, with many book characters interacting together and takes place in San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, and a small town in Colorado. There are several added Japanese characters too.
      • The world-building is phenomenal. You alternately find yourself appalled at the actions of the villains and then you are actively rooting for them to survive and succeed. John Smith is alternately a Nazi and a family man. 
        • Hitler, Himmler, and all their pals are still alive in the TV series and book but all up in age. The Nazis have nuclear weapons --- and have used them --- and rocket technology.
      • The science fiction portion, whereby characters move among multiple realities, is more pronounced in the TV series. In the book, however, the Nazis have started exploring and colonizing the solar system.
      • The show is extremely well cast. Standouts include actors Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who plays Mr. Tagomi, Brennan Brown who plays Robert Childan, Chelah Horsdal who plays Helen Smith and Joel de la Fuente who plays Inspector Kido. And Rufus Sewell, of course. But Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans and all the rest are very good too.
      • It has the creepiest version of "Edelweiss" run over the opening credits. Google "Jeanette Olsson Edelweiss" to hear it yourself.
        • I read somewhere that the song "Edelweiss", written for "The Sound of Music", would not have existed in this reality because there would have been no Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about an escape from the Nazis!
    • As for the book, it is more a philosophical experience than a rollicking adventure like the TV series. Here is an interesting quote about it from The Religion of Science Fiction (published in 1986) by Frederick A. Kreuziger:
      • "Neither of the two worlds, however, the revised version of the outcome of WWII nor the fictional account of our present world, is anywhere near similar to the world we are familiar with. But they could be! This is what the book is about. The book argues that this world, described twice, although differently each time, is exactly the world we know and are familiar with. Indeed, it is the only world we know: the world of chance, luck, fate."
      • The book introduces a handful of the same characters depicted in the TV show and you delve deeper into their thoughts as they go through their lives without a lot of crossover with other characters.
      • Many book characters use the I Ching, an ancient Chinese text of fortune telling. Even the author used it to determine the direction of his characters.
    • It's worth a read if you want have a sci-fi classic under your belt. It's beautifully written but not heavily science fiction-y.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Journey Through Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscomb

  • THE BOOK
    • A Journey Through Tudor England: Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London to Stratford-upon-Avon and Thornbury Castle by Suzannah Lipscomb
      • Known as A Visitor's Companion to Tudor England in Great Britain
    • March 15, 2012
    • Other works by author include: 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII, Tudors: The Illustrated History and Six Queens: The Wives of Henry VIII

  • THE PREMISE
    • A tour of the various places associated with the Tudor monarchs: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
    • The book is arranged geographically by area in England.
    • In each section, most of which are only 4 to 5 pages long, the place is described and a story of a Tudor personage (Shakespeare, Henry VIII's wives, Jane Grey, etc...) is covered. The author also catalogs the various pieces of art located at each place.
    • Many places from the Tudor world have been destroyed by time or progress and these merit mentions as well, sometimes only as ruins.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • A fun, quick read but one I spent constantly stopping and searching for photographs of things on my tablet because the book has no illustrations aside from those in chapter headings.
      • When the author is describing a painting of Queen Elizabeth, say, or the paneling at a castle, it really helps if you can look at them rather than just reading a description. This is one of the best things about the Internet.
      • I would assume that getting rights to all the necessary photographs as well as the increased cost to print the book kept this from being an illustrated volume. It is the one thing that really detracts from the book.
    • I am a big Tudor history buff so I knew a lot of the information on offer. 
    • I think this would be a great book to have with you while traveling around England. If you wanted to map out a visit or learn where to find the hidden gems at each place I would recommend reading the appropriate section before each visit.
    • I saw the author on a recent PBS showing of her "Hidden Killers" series (of the Tudor home, the Victorian home, the Edwardian home and the post-war home - your toys, food, gadgets, clothes and so forth can KILL YOU!) which were really interesting. She is a historian whose specialty is the Tudor period.
    • Recommended for fans of English history.
    • ★ ★ ★

Friday, March 3, 2017

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

  • THE BOOK
    • Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
    • Published April 21, 2015
    • Originally published in Great Britain as Murder Most Unladylike
    • Book 1 in the Wells & Wong series
      • In Great Britain it is Book 1 in the Murder Most Unladylike series
    • First book by author. Other Wells & Wong book titles include:
      • Poison is Not Polite (or Arsenic for Tea in GB)
      • First Class Murder
      • Jolly Foul Play
      • Mistletoe & Murder

  • THE PREMISE
    • The first book in a new mystery series aimed at young teens, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency in their posh boarding school in 1934 England.
    • A teacher is found dead by Hazel but when she runs off to get help from Daisy the body disappears. The two girls, who are 13 years old, decide to keep it quiet and solve the mystery.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Oh, how I wanted to adore this book! But I just couldn't because I loathed the character of Daisy. 
    • Hazel is ethnically Chinese, originally from Hong Kong, and is attending boarding school in England because her dad is an Anglophile who also went to school in England. Daisy is the aristocratic, popular girl in class who befriends Hazel. She is, of course, blue-eyed and blonde with a perfect figure. Hazel feels fat and unattractive near her.
    • It is hinted that Daisy has a dark secret which Hazel knows, and this is what somehow bonds the girls. Daisy is such an arrogant person and you wait for this shocking secret to come out because then maybe it might explain her actions in some way.
      • I am going to SPOIL the secret because it irritates me too much to play coy:
        • Daisy is secretly brilliant but hides it so as not to come off as a bluestocking.
        • GASP.
        • Oh please, she's already got blue eyes, perfect blonde hair and I think she even has a title (The Honorable Daisy Wells. Her deep, dark secret is she's TOO SMART.
          • Hazel is also brilliant and advised by Daisy to hide it just like she does. This is what we want girls reading about, right? How you should hide your intelligence because other people won't like you if you flaunt it.
            • Yeah, yeah, it takes place in the 1930s but I faced this same shit in the 1970s and 1980s and I AM OVER IT!
    • Hazel often compares herself negatively to perfect Daisy. This is another thing that needs to go by the wayside: blonde is not greater than dark hair and we certainly don't need more "thinner is better" characters in this modern age.
    • Anyway, Hazel narrates the story and she is the subservient Dr. Watson to Daisy's Sherlock Holmes. Naturally Daisy is always in charge. She treats Hazel like crap most of the time. Hazel takes it without complaint.
    • The murder mystery is interesting enough but since almost all of the suspects are the adults we don't really get to know them very well until the rush of the ending. 
      • It makes sense because Hazel is telling the story and she has very small interactions with the teachers overall. 
      • Classroom demeanor doesn't necessarily tell you anything about the teachers' private lives.
    • For those who want to know, there are some minor sexual references.
      • A closet is casually pointed out as a place which some of the girls use as a make-out place (it's an all-girls school) and some of their fellow students have "pashes" (aka crushes) on each other.
      • Two of the teachers share a two-bedroom apartment --- nothing scandalous there --- but they have a SPARE ROOM. This is not a bad thing but it seems odd that everyone in school knows about it in 1930s England, no?
    • There are 5 books in the series so far but only the first two have been published in the United States. I will not go further even though my library has the second book. I imagine Daisy gets nicer as the series moves on? I will need to live without knowing for sure.
    • Recommended for middle schoolers and above, especially those who like mysteries. I know there must be many people who can overlook my issues with the story and characters and really enjoy the book.
    • ★ ★

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

  • THE BOOK
    • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    • Published May 20, 2014
    • Other works by author include: River of Shadows: Eadweard Myubridge and the Technological Wild West, Hope in the Dark, Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and many more.

  • THE PREMISE
    • A collection of essays on the topic of how women are silenced by men. Women are silenced when men don't hear their thoughts and opinions on one end of the spectrum and murdered on the other end.
    • Her opening anecdote centers on a man who, when he heard she had written a book on Eadweard Muybridge (a pioneering photographer of the 19th Century), started telling her about "a very important" book on the same topic coming out later that year.
      • A friend said, "It's HER book," and it took several repetitions before he actually HEARD her.
      • He hadn't even read the book having only read about it in a magazine.
    • The essays delve into the ways women are silenced today, with echoes of history proving difficult to get past.
      • Here's a passage quoted from Sir William Blackstone, an English judge who lived in the 1700s:
        • "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything...For this reason, a man cannot grant anything to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence.
      • American and British laws, as well as other countries, have changed this over the last century. Mostly.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I did some research on women's rights and found some fun facts:
      • The Expatriation Act of 1907 had a provision whereby an American woman who married an alien man lost her American citizenship while American men who married aliens did not lose theirs.
        • This provision was repealed by the Cable Act of 1922. Unless your husband was Asian, of course. Then you still lost citizenship.
        • Apparently dual citizenship was not a thing in those days?
      • I think I found the best court case name ever! Ready? United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries! (A pessary is a type of diaphragm, a form of birth control.)
        • The Comstock Act of 1873 was a law forbidding the usage of the U.S. Post Office from mailing contraceptives, abortifacients, sex toys, erotica or even personal letters! Did they randomly open letters to see if they had naughty words in them?!
        • A doctor had ordered the devices from Japan --- with Margaret Sanger's help --- and they were held up by U.S. Customs.
        • Oh, and the pessaries won! Go pessaries!
    • None of that has anything to do with this book, sorry for the tangent! It's just that women seem to be the target of so much legislation over the centuries and up until the present day and beyond. A form of control by men? Um, yes. And that IS to do with this book.
    • Okay. My definition of feminism is that women and men are equal in all ways. My definition of feminism does not mean that I want females to be superior to males, just equal.
      • Some opponents argue that women ALREADY have the same rights as men. (For simplicity of writing I am leaving out words and pronouns specific to LGBT persons but people of all gender identities are part of the story too.)
        • Do we?
        • The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says: (paraphrased and abridged) All persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States. No state shall deny privileges or due process of law, nor deny equal protection of the laws.
        •  The Fifteenth Amendment says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."
        • Just reading these two amendments, issued as the Civil War ended and mainly for the benefit of the former slaves, it seems to me that they give women the right to vote too.
          • Because most states had laws preventing a woman from voting a Supreme Court case in 1875 called Minor v. Happersett --- it was unanimous, by the way --- decided the plaintiff (Virginia Minor) was a citizen but that her privileges did not include voting rights (because voting was a restricted privilege even for white men at the time of the country's founding).
          • This is why a separate amendment for a woman's right to vote was needed: to overturn most of Minor v. Happersett.
        • Who knew Kelly's Book Channel would turn into a recounting of Constitutional law?! Fun, fun, fun!
          • Except for the sometimes incomprehensible legalese I think studying this branch of law could be very interesting.
      • When I worked at a credit union in the 1980s I took the accounting clerk position six months after I started working there. It was the original job I wanted but they gave it to a man and offered me a position in the ATM Department instead. Once I was in the accounting department I knew everyone's salaries because I did payroll processing. Mine was not as high as the male employee before me. I was too new to the work force to complain though. 
      • The author also talks about how women, generally from our teen years on, need to learn to deal with the threat of rape by changing our behavior (don't walk alone in dark places, don't dress like a slut, etc...) while on the other side of the coin, men don't share this burden of constant vigilance. Nor are they taught to, oh, I don't know, NOT RAPE.
        • I'm in my 50s and even now I am mindful of my surroundings, even in my own home. 
          • My (rarely attempted) dressing slutty years are far behind me. Now I did have a gray leather miniskirt in college though and I loved wearing it to occasional parties at San Francisco State. (I was NOT a party girl.) It was a fun item, possibly pleather rather than leather, but also not a signal that said "rape me". 
            • I really wish I had a picture of me in that skirt!
      • I liked some of the essays very much but not all of them
      • Anyway, the book is recommended for those who want to read an interesting take on women. It leans heavily feminist but I don't think that's a bad thing when you remember that "feminism = equality for all", not "feminism = superiority over men".
      • ★ ★ ★

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

  • THE BOOK
    • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
    • Published June 28, 2016
    • First work by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • Here is part of the blurb:
      • "...a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, [the book] is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream."
    • This book has been on The New York Times non-fiction bestsellers list for 28 weeks at this writing.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • The blurb says "part memoir, part historical and social analysis". I say it's probably about 95% memoir and 5% the rest.
      • It really is his and his family's story with a few generalizations about other folk who also live in the Appalachian areas of Kentucky and Ohio.
      • He is a lawyer with no background in sociology or psychology so he is not really the right person to analyze the overall situation for a large section of poor middle America.
    • His family's story is quite fascinating however. His mother had issues with drug abuse and he was raised in large part by the efforts of his sister and his grandparents, called Mamaw and Papaw.
      • I called my Louisiana grandparents Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw, pronounced just like they're spelled (the syllables rhyme with "law"). The author specifies that Mamaw is pronounced like Ma'am-Maw. I assume Papaw is the same? Papp-paw? The author doesn't say.
      • His grandmother is probably the most fascinating character in the book. She swears like crazy, uses tough love in all areas of life and supports her family members with fierce love.
      • This is a family steeped in yelling, violence, feuding and community. Outsiders are to be kept out of the loop, one of the things that makes it hard for people to ask for help when they need it.
    • He discusses the handful of people who get jobs but then don't work hard at them (lateness, absenteeism, poor performance, etc...) and end up fired. Then they rage about how the system keeps them down even while they draw entitlement benefits.
      • The difficulties of the poor seem to mainly stem from the fact that all the good blue collar jobs have disappeared from the area. You didn't need a college education to work in the factories and make a decent salary. As we know, most of those jobs are long gone.
      • Someone who's lost their job in the manufacturing sector, a place where their father, grandfather and uncles all worked, have no other options if they choose to stay in their towns. 
        • And even if they moved elsewhere, they don't have the skills to get a job in a different field. So poverty takes hold and is almost impossible to shake.
        • Local businesses can't be sustained by the poverty-stricken and towns get poorer too.
        • It's difficult to know how "bringing back jobs" will cure the ills of these areas of the country. The jobs won't be the same type as so many factories are automated and worked by robotics.
        • The author doesn't have many solutions to offer but he shows how the culture of the area hinders advancement for many.
    • He makes some interesting points though. As an example, if their parents never went to college, they don't always know how to help their kids fill out college applications.
    • Some people, based on comments on Good Reads, have looked to this book to explain the rise of Trump. 
      • This book does not do that. It is solely concerned with a specific sub-culture of the United States, the hillbilly of the title and even more specifically his own family.
    • The story of the family is interesting but the section on his life in the U.S. Marines and Yale Law School bogs the book down. The family narrative is fascinating; training and school not so much. 
    • Recommended for those who want to learn about how another section of America lives.
    • ★ ★ ★

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Great Movies by Roger Ebert

  • THE BOOK
    • The Great Movies by Roger Ebert
    • Published November 11, 2003
    • Film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times

  • THE PREMISE
    • Roger Ebert wrote an additional column for the Sun-Times called "The Great Movies" and this book is a collection of 100 of them.
    • This is not his list of the best 100 movies ever, just a list of classic movies he happened to choose to write about. There are three more books in the series: The Great Movies II, The Great Movies III, and The Great Movies IV.
    • The list:
      • 2001: A Space Odyssey
      • The 400 Blows
      • Aguirre, The Wrath of God
      • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
      • All About Eve
      • The Apartment
      • Apocalypse Now
      • The Apu Trilogy
      • Battleship Potemkin
      • Beauty and the Beast (1946)
      • Belle de Jour
      • The Bicycle Thief
      • The Big Sleep
      • Blowup
      • Body Heat
      • Bonnie & Clyde
      • Bride of Frankenstein
      • Broken Blossoms
      • Casablanca
      • Chinatown
      • Citizen Kane
      • City Lights
      • Days of Heaven
      • The Decalogue
      • Detour
      • Do the Right Thing
      • Double Indemnity
      • Dracula
      • Dr. Strangelove
      • Duck Soup
      • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
      • The Exterminating Angel
      • Fargo
      • Floating Weeds
      • Gates of Heaven
      • The General
      • The Godfather
      • Gone with the Wind
      • Grand Illusion
      • Greed
      • A Hard Day's Night
      • Hoop Dreams
      • Ikiru
      • It's a Wonderful Life
      • JFK
      • La Dolce Vita
      • The Lady Eve
      • Last Year at Marienbad
      • L'Atalante
      • L'Avventura
      • Lawrence of Arabia
      • Le Samourai
      • M
      • The Maltese Falcon
      • Manhattan
      • McCabe & Mrs. Miller
      • Metropolis
      • Mr. Hulot's Holiday
      • My Darling Clementine
      • My Life to Live
      • Nashville
      • Network
      • The Night of the Hunter
      • Nosferatu
      • Notorious
      • On the Waterfront
      • Pandora's Box
      • The Passion of Joan of Arc
      • Peeping Tom
      • Persona
      • Pickpocket
      • Pinocchio
      • Psycho
      • Pulp Fiction
      • Raging Bull
      • Red River
      • Schindler's List
      • The Seven Samurai
      • The Seventh Seal
      • The Shawshank Redemption
      • The Silence of the Lambs
      • Singin' in the Rain
      • Some Like It Hot
      • Star Wars
      • Sunset Boulevard
      • Sweet Smell of Success
      • Swing Time
      • Taxi Driver
      • The Third Man
      • Trouble in Paradise
      • Un Chien Andalou
      • The Up documentaries
      • Vertigo
      • The Wild Bunch
      • Wings of Desire
      • The Wizard of Oz
      • Woman in the Dunes
      • A Woman Under the Influence
      • Written on the Wind

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have seen 35 of them.
    • It was fun to read about some favorite movies and further my education about some I haven't seen yet. (In my family this means "I haven't seen it but I've read a lot about it.")
    • Because this is basically a compilation of weekly newspaper columns there are a couple of repetitive things and an occasional contradiction.
      • Any time Charles Chaplin is mentioned Roger repeats the same story. He watch an outdoor screening of "City Lights" in Venice in 1972 and afterwards Chaplin appeared on a balcony to thunderous applause. (Chaplin died shortly after this.)
      • In the essay for "Some Like It Hot" he says he won't spoil the last line of the movie for anyone who hasn't yet seen it. Then, a few essays later he lists some great last lines and tells exactly what ends "Some Like It Hot"!
      • Neither of these examples are a problem or a criticism --- who wouldn't want to often share an account of an emotional appearance of Charles Chaplin?! --- but you notice them reading the book all the way through in a couple of days. 
    • Recommended for film fans and Roger Ebert fans.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Great Movies III by Roger Ebert

  • THE BOOK
    • The Great Movies III by Roger Ebert
    • Published
    • Other works by author: film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, co-host with Gene Siskel of "At the Movies" and author of several books of film criticism.

  • THE PREMISE
    • Another 100 movie essays that didn't make The Great Movies or The Great Movies II.
    • The essays are in alphabetical order and the author tells us in his introduction that these aren't a list of the third hundred best movies, just "a" list.
    • Here's the list:
      • 3 Women
      • Ace in the Hole
      • Adaptation
      • After Dark, My Sweet
      • After Hours
      • The Age of Innocence
      • Army of Shadows
      • Atlantic City
      • Au Revoir les Enfants
      • Babel
      • The Band Wagon
      • Baraka
      • The Battle of Algiers
      • Bergman’s trilogy Through a Glass Darkly
      • Bergman’s trilogy : Winter Light
      • Bergman’s trilogy The Silence
      • The Best Years of Our Lives
      • The Big Red One
      • Blade Runner: The Final Cut
      • Cabiria
      • Cat People (1942)
      • Chimes at Midnight
      • Chop Shop
      • Chuck Jones: 3 cartoons
      • Cool Hand Luke
      • Crimes and Misdemeanors
      • Crumb
      • Dark City
      • The Dead
      • Diva
      • Dog Day Afternoon
      • The Double Life of Veronique
      • Easy Rider
      • El Norte
      • El Topo
      • The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
      • Exotica
      • Fanny and Alexander
      • Faust
      • Fitzcarraldo
      • Forbidden Games
      • The Godfather, Part II
      • The Great Dictator
      • Groundhog Day
      • Howards End
      • Inherit the Wind
      • Johnny Guitar
      • Juliet of the Spirits
      • Killer of Sheep
      • La Belle Noiseuse
      • L.A. Confidential
      • The Last Picture Show
      • Last Tango in Paris
      • The Last Temptation of Christ
      • Late Spring
      • Leolo
      • The Long Goodbye
      • Magnolia
      • The Marriage of Maria Braun
      • Mephisto
      • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
      • Mon Oncle Antoine
      • Moolaade
      • My Fair Lady
      • My Man Godfrey
      • Nanook of the North
      • Ordet
      • Out of the Past (1947)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth
      • Paths of Glory
      • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
      • Pixote
      • Playtime
      • A Prairie Home Companion
      • Rebel Without a Cause
      • The Red Shoes
      • Ripley’s Game
      • The River (1951)
      • Rocco and His Brothers
      • Safety Last
      • Samurai Rebellion
      • Sansho the Bailiff
      • Santa Sangre
      • The Scarlet Empress
      • Secrets & Lies
      • The Shining
      • The Terrorist
      • The Thief of Baghdad (1940)
      • Top Hat
      • Triumph of the Will
      • Vengeance is Mine
      • Waking Life
      • Werkmeister Harmonies
      • Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
      • Withnail & I
      • A Woman’s Tale
      • Woodstock
      • WR – Mysteries of the Organism
      • A Year of the Quiet Sun
      • Yojimbo

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have seen a total of 21. And I could have lived happily without watching "Last Tango in Paris". Blurgh.
      • I saw 30 of the films in The Great Movies II.
    • And I read a lot about film history and I have never heard of a bunch of these, mainly the foreign films. 
      • I hadn't heard of just over 30 of these movies! This lessened my enthusiasm while reading and is the reason why this book has a lower star rating.
      • I am reasonably knowledgeable about American film and some British film but a total ignoramus on foreign film apparently. If I was in my 20s I might feel the need to rectify this but now, in my 50s, I am at peace with all the movies I'll never get around to watching! 
    • Recommended for film buffs, foreign film fans and Roger Ebert fans.
    • ★ ★ 

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Great Movies II by Roger Ebert

  •  THE BOOK
    • The Great Movies II by Roger Ebert
    • Published February 14, 2006
    • Other works by author: film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, co-host with Gene Siskel of "At the Movies" and author of several books of film criticism.

  • THE PREMISE
    • A collection of 100 essays on movies that didn't make his first book The Great Movies.
    • The essays are in alphabetical order and the author tells us in his introduction that these aren't a list of the second hundred best movies, just "a" list.
    • These aren't reprints of original reviews; they are original works based on recent viewings of the films.
    • There's a photo included for each entry "curated" by Mary Corliss.
    • The list:
      • 12 Angry Men
      • The Adventures of Robin Hood
      • Alien
      • Amadeus
      • Amarcord
      • Annie Hall
      • Au Hazard, Balthazar
      • The Bank Dick
      • Beat the Devil
      • Being There
      • The Big Heat
      • The Birth of a Nation
      • The Blue Kite
      • Bob le Flambeur
      • Breathless
      • The Bridge on the River Kwai
      • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
      • Buster Keaton
      • Children of Paradise
      • A Christmas Story
      • The Color Purple
      • The Conversation
      • Cries and Whispers
      • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
      • Don’t Look Now
      • The Earrings of Madame de...
      • The Fall of the House of Usher
      • The Fireman’s Ball
      • Five Easy Pieces
      • Goldfinger
      • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
      • Goodfellas
      • The Gospel According to Mathew
      • The Grapes of Wrath
      • Grave of the Fireflies
      • Great Expectations
      • House of Games
      • The Hustler
      • In Cold Blood
      • Jaws
      • Jules and Jim
      • Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy
      • Kind Hearts and Coronets
      • King Kong
      • The Last Laugh
      • Laura
      • Leaving Las Vegas
      • Le Boucher
      • The Leopard
      • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
      • The Manchurian Candidate
      • The Man Who Laughs
      • Mean Streets
      • Mon Oncle
      • Moonstruck
      • The Music Room
      • My Dinner with Andre
      • My Neighbor Totoro
      • Nights of Cabiria
      • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
      • Orpheus
      • Paris, Texas
      • Patton
      • Picnic at Hanging Rock
      • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
      • The Producers
      • Raiders of the Lost Ark
      • Raise the Red Lantern
      • Ran
      • Rashoman
      • Rear Window
      • Rififi
      • The Right Stuff
      • Romeo and Juliet
      • The Rules of the Game
      • Saturday Night Fever
      • Say Anything
      • Scarface
      • The Searchers
      • Shane
      • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
      • Solaris (1972)
      • Strangers on a Train
      • Stroszek
      • A Sunday in the Country
      • Sunrise
      • A Tale of Winter
      • The Thin Man
      • This Is Spinal Tap
      • Tokyo Story
      • Touchez pas Grisbi
      • Touch of Evil
      • The Treasure of Sierra Madre
      • Ugetsu
      • Umberto D
      • Unforgiven
      • Victim
      • Walkabout
      • West Side Story
      • Yankee Doodle Dandy

    • MY THOUGHTS
      • I have seen a total of 30.
      • I recently read that The Great Movies IV came out last September and checked my library for them. Books 2 and 3 were immediately available and book 1 is waiting for me to pick up. I will need to put in a purchase request for book 4. Hence my beginning with book 2.
      • I didn't read every single essay, skipping a handful of films I know I will never watch. I know watching a Fellini film is worthwhile but at this point it's just not gonna happen!
      • I do realize that I haven't seen certain movies that are part of the national consciousness but I am totally fine with that. 
        • Of the ones I haven't seen I would like to see "The Thin Man", "Sunrise", "The Man Who Laughs", "The Grapes of Wrath", "Children of Paradise" and maybe "The Christmas Story".
          • The problem with "The Christmas Story" is that everyone who has seen it adores it and I think I will be let down after all the hype. We'll see.
      • The essay on "The Birth of a Nation" is probably the best one, tackling the technological feats of the film while delving into its ugly racism.
        • Example: In that movie the actors who played African Americans were white actors in blackface and the makeup is very obvious. To modern eyes it seems like a terrible makeup artist worked on the film. Roger Ebert explains that it had to look fake because audiences of the era would never have accepted an actual black actor shown threatening an actual white actress.  
      • The photos aren't captioned so you don't always know who the actors are unless you recognize them yourself.
      • Recommended for movie buffs and fans of the late Roger Ebert. 
      • ★ ★ ★ ★