Tuesday

songs I would have sung at my mom's funeral

So my mom passed away last week. This past weekend, family gathered to share memories and spend time together thinking happy thoughts. It wasn't a funeral, per se. There was no priest. There were no flowers. But apparently there was loooooots of talking. There was a video presentation too. And tons of tears. I guess one of my cousins sang a song as well.

I didn't attend this shindig. I was 4,000 miles away in Alaska.

Had I attended I would have been complete rubbish--no use to anyone at all. I would have liked to strum a song on my uke. And that song? The One Rose (That's Left in My Heart). I would've cried the whole damn time, though. No one would have even recognized the song.

Here's my beautiful mom:

Friday

songs I'm working on

I'm headed back to Michigan next week. I'm not taking my uke but my mom has one so I'm going to take some music and work on:

The One Rose That's Left in my Heart
The Ukulele Song
The Slurf Song

I'm only going to be gone for a week and my mind will likely be elsewhere so I'm not too ambitious. I'm also taking books.

HH Scullard's From the Gracchi to Nero and Journey to Argos which sounds like a good Doctor Who episode title.

Speaking of I'm watching The Brain of Morbius, a Tom Baker episode. Man, he was good. Not so much running as nowadays but Baker's presence is enough to make up for the lack of explosions and excitement not to mention the REALLY bad special effects.

Tuesday

Wednesday

Saturday

Nashville

So, my trip to Nashville for the YALSA Young Adult Literature symposium was a success.

But it didn't seem like it was going to go that way.

When I first arrived at the airport waiting for the shuttle to my hotel I realized that I was going to have to fake my way through endless conversations about YA lit. You see, I haven't read much YA lit that I like. I was being bombarded with questions I didn't have the answer to on the ride to my hotel and, not having slept in 36 hours, having been crammed into 3 different airplanes for the 11 of those, and the 3 hour time difference, I was not a happy camper.

Not to mention the music...oh the terrible terrible music.

The hotel lobby, the gas stations, the restaurants...everywhere I went there was horrible, pop/rock/country music just blaring. It took everything for me not to explode when I was waiting to check in to my hotel.

To cut a long story short, I grew into the YA lit thing. The country music just started to blend into my mind.

It was a good trip. I made a couple new library friends. I'm still recovering from the lack-of-sleep/time change thing but overall it was a great trip. The one thing I regret is not having even touched my uke. I was so busy and tired and just plain social (which is a HUUUUGE stretch for me) that I didn't even make it downtown.

Bummer.

Thursday

winter reading

With winter already upon us, I've been spending considerably more time doing two important things: sleeping and reading. Okay, so I've been thinking about wanting to read, but I've been reading too.

I haven't had the urge to uke a lot lately despite my ukulele crush having released a new book on Blues ukulele. I bought it, saved it all onto my flash drive and there it sits...waiting for me to get my shit together.

Back to reading, though...

I've been obsessing over Indian (sub-continental as opposed to native American) legends and iconography lately. I bought two shirts from the local Indian store with beautiful colorful pictures on them. I've put half-a-dozen books on hold at the library including the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads...I purchased a very readable Ramayana (though not as pretty and lyrical). I'm just about done with the Ramayana. I haven't even started the others.

I've also been trying to force myself into reading some Young Adult novels. As a long-time reader of solely non-fiction, this is tough for me. I've found some adult novels that I enjoyed very much (thank you, Mr. Evelyn Waugh) but I just can't bring myself to get caught up and enjoy YA subject matter.

On the skirts of the obsession with human-monster love stories thanks to authors like Laurel K. Hamilton and Stephanie Meyer more of those types of stories are starting to emerge. I just reluctantly tried (and triumphantly failed) to read Generation Dead by Daniel Waters. It's a story about zombies--not the ones that come after your brains--living among us. Some mysterious affliction has brought American teenagers back from the dead creating a schism in the society. There are calls on one side for extreme political correctness ("living impaired" and "differently biotic" are terms to call the zombies...not the zed-word). The other side seems to feed on American History X-styled bigotry. Caught in the middle is a pale, social outcast who is compelled to befriend the zombies--in fact she falls for one.

*yawn*

The other YA book, one that I nearly read all of before I gave up, was Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I read it because I want to see the movie. I want to see the movie because I love George Michael Blu--er, I mean Michael Cera. I gave up on the book because it really delves into the part of teenagers and people in general that I can't stand. That part of everyone where, at one-time or another, you over think things. Hearing my own inner-dialog constantly is enough for me. It wasn't enough to drive the story. It makes me afraid that the movie is going to be all voice-over. Blech-- So I decided to wait until the movie comes to video. I'll Netflix it.

Friday

I'm a terrible gift giver

I'm going back to Michigan in September to visit my cancer ridden mother. No doubt a visit from her most charming and beautiful daughter will chase her cares away along with her sickness. She has been bothering me for months to help her pick out a ukulele. She doesn't have a lot of money since she can't work so she needs something inexpensive but that sounds good. I've been looking. I looked in stores, I looked online. I knew what she should get but she just hasn't had the time, energy or money to get the ball rolling.

So I did it for her.

A friend came up to me the other day and said, "Chris just bought a mandolin from a guy with a whole workshop full of instruments! He had ukes! You should give him a call." Well, of course he didn't have the guys number. So I placed an ad on Craigslist: "WANTED: UKULELE TO BUY Please contact Emily at..."

20 minutes later I got the call. He has all four sizes and three different brands. He's a hobbyist, you see. He puts new tuning pegs on, he puts strap buttons on. He shines them up all pretty and puts Aquila strings on. I was amazed at his dedication and will definitely be shopping with him again.

Here's my mom's Mahalo with new tuning pegs and strap buttons (if she'll want a strap, I hope she does):

Despite my disappointment with my own Mahalo (considerably cheaper in many ways), this one sounds pretty darn good. I think she'll be pleased with it.

Of course, I didn't go without considering the fact that I wanted a soprano sized uke of my own to play outside of the storytime arena.

I came out of the deal with this:
It was funny. He seemed embarrassed that he hadn't changed the tuning pegs on it to the sticky-outie ones (that's a technical term, by the way). It was so beautiful (and a hundred bucks cheaper than the concert sized one he was trying to push on me). It was cool, for sure. I'm not sure what model it was. It looked like the K-Wave Les Paul style uke but it actually said Bushman on the headstock.

Anyway, the pictures I have of the one I got don't do it justice. It has this beautiful inlay around the headstock, the body and the hole. When I took it out immediately to the park while my strong arm/boyfriend ate lunch the wood actually glistened in the sun. Unbelievable! It glistened! It was meant to be.

Saturday

Add it to the list

...the list of ukuleles to buy:



Savin' up, savin' up, savin' up.

BBC

I'm watching more and more BBC stuff and discovering links to other things that I love. When I was 12 years old I had no idea who Tom Baker was when I was watching The Silver Chair. This past week, I picked him out right away.

Now I'm watching yet another Doctor Who episode, this one a dreadful 1980's Colin Baker story of the Daleks. Not only do the 1980's fashion and the annoying companion bother me, but then I saw Alexei Sayle's big, fat, unfunny face.



Boyfriendhead tries to assume that people, no matter how nasty, have a side of them that is generous or wise. I've tried to think this of Alexei Sayle but, really, I don't care. He's the worst part of The Young Ones. He doesn't ruin it, the rest of it is so damned good, but I always take a potty break when Sayle's face comes on screen.

So I'll leave you with a scene from The Young Ones (sans Alexei)

uke review 2

My second ukulele review is of the Lanikai Curly Koa tenor ukulele. I purchased this uke for about $240 at a local music store. I bought it to replace my Flea uke because it sounded richer and instead of a banjolele--none of which could be found in Alaska.

As I said in my previous review, I'm not familiar with ukulele construction; I'm not familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of particular features. I base my decisions on two things: how it sounds and how much it costs. This means that I can't purchase online because I can't play the instruments, despite the cheaper costs. I deal.

My Lanikai sounds really good. There is a rich tone that lasts. It is a little big and I occasionally have difficulty forming chords (DAMN B-flat!) and carrying it around is more of a chore than I'd like it to be. Still, it's great for serenading my love and chilling on the balcony with a glass of lemonade.



I've never played a Lanikai soprano or concert sized uke but I'd bet that they would be just right for my mom. The smaller size would suit her petite frame, the cost (even cheaper than my tenor) would suit her thriftiness, and it would sound great based on my experience with my tenor sized uke.

Thursday

Books, the Doctor, and movies.

I've been neglecting my Book-A-Month duties. Instead I've been absorbed in Doctor Who. I've been reading a lot too, though. I just find it difficult and annoying to have to limit myself to the themes laid out on the BAM blog.

I've been reading books of all sorts: poetry, plays, novels, short stories...

Right now I'm even reading a Young Adult novel, which rarely happens. I'm not a fan. I don't like vampire fiction, I don't like stories about prissy, bitchy teenage girls. I'm not a fan of nerd-fiction nor do I like stories about teens overcoming an unbelievable amount of tragedies (i.e. parents dying, drug habits, psychological problems, plus normal teenage angst--all wrapped up in one package).

Anyway, here's the list of what I've been/am currently reading:

Moliere's Comedies
Trollope's The Warden
Racine's Andromache
the poems of Horace
The Secret Twin by Denise Gosliner Orenstein
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

I'm also trying to relearn French.

Other than reading a myriad of books, watching Doctor Who, and trying to learn French again, I'm watching the old (relatively) Chronicles of Narnia. I loved these movies as a child. I would check them out at the library over and over and over... Voyage of the Dawn Treader is on now. It was always my favorite and I had no idea why...then King Caspian came on screen. Wowie-wow-wow! My 11 year old hot-guy-detector, which by the way is still fully operational, must have been on high alert.

Otherwise, they're not that great. The danger is really mild, the battles are short and the violence is lacking...it's a kids story, though. Why am I complaining? That being said, I still haven't seen the new ones. I'm waiting...but I don't know for what.

Uke Review

As an entry in UkeHunt's ukulele review/KALA ukulele contest, I submit the following:

I caught the ukulele itch when, in December of last year, I thought it would add an interesting twist to my job as a youth services librarian. I have since bought two other ukuleles and am aching for another. My enthusiasm has also inspired my mother to revisit her ukulele playing days but she’s in need of a little guidance and, of course, I’m willing to help her out.

Because I’m a beginner, I don’t know much about the instruments themselves. I’m convinced, though, that seeing the instrument, being able to pick it up, manipulate the tuning pegs, play it, this is how to best judge its quality. I want my mom to invest wisely and I have my own needs when it comes to ukuleles. So, I had been going on a quest for different brands at local music shops here in Anchorage to see what our options were. For me, I wanted to find something that I could strap on my back and take hiking and that would travel well with me on my upcoming trips to Michigan and to Nashville. For my mom, I wanted it to be at a mid-range price, and good quality.

I came across a soprano sized Mahalo for $29.95.

The sales guy said, “Hey, this thing could blow up in your face and you’d only be out thirty bucks!”

SOLD.

Why it’s not recommended:
--It doesn’t sound that great. I have to tune it more frequently than I should. I’ll have to invest in a pitch pipe (for some reason this low-tech option seems more fitting than my electronic one).
--There’s a slight buzzing that never seems to go away.
--It often times sounds as if it’s out of tune, even though it’s not.
--I had to file the corners of the bridge down. They were sharp and pointy and jabbing into my forearm.

Why I like it anyway:
--My storytime kids don’t tend to notice (or care about) the tone problems or the buzzing during “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
--I’ve yet to encounter any dangerous wildlife but I’m interested in seeing if it will have the same affect on a bear that a young boy and his ukulele had on Abiyoyo.
--It’s small. While my tenor ukulele sounds much better but I often times have difficulty stretching my fingers to reach certain chords. This smaller size solves that problem.
--I can travel with it and not worry about it getting smashed in overhead bins on an airplane or having it break my fall should I take a spill off a mountain. I’d only be out thirty bucks!
--I can leave it at work overnight (or over the weekend) without fearing that it will get stolen. It’s like those people who have broken down cars, rusted farm equipment, and vinyl siding all over their yard. I bet no one steals from them. If anyone does then hey, they must be having some troubling times and deserving of a little slack.

Perhaps that’s not a glowing recommendation but it fits my needs perfectly. I’d only recommend it for my mother because it’s inexpensive and she’s thrifty.

overall review: perfect for my needs but not good enough for my mom.

The Uke:
Mahalo U-30RD


Afterthoughts: My first excursion into the Alaskan wilderness was a hike to Bird Creek and the incredibly beautiful super secret waterfall. There was a threat of bear but no sightings by us. The uke was out of tune almost immediately but I persevered. I probably wouldn't buy another Mahalo for hiking but it's still nice for storytime.

Saturday

Mostly cloudy days in June are soon to be followed by rain. Wah-wah.

Temperatures have been low, tourism has been high, and the only "cool" thing going on is a Wynonna Judd concert and an air show.

Yip-ee.

Thursday

The Man Who Was Thursday



I finished reading "The Man Who Was Thursday". It's one of those books that I really thought I'd love. It was adventurous, absurd, and hilarious. I was really hoping for some grand theme of either peace and love, or total obliteration of mankind.

I really shouldn't say what happens but I can say that it didn't meet my expectations.

It was purchased for me by my boyfriend. It was recently released in the Penguin Great Books For Boys series. It's got a pretty damned cool cover.

The story is this: a poet and philosopher (also a police officer) infiltrates a secret society of anarchists, intent on blowing up the world in order to stop these plots. In the process, Syme (that's the character's name) picks up the most unlikely of allies and faces an onslaught of absurd realities until no-one knows who's who not to mention who is on who's side.

The plot twists are farcically absurd which made me keep going. I couldn't wait to see what would happen next! The characters are all dangerously similar in looks and demeanor. I can't tell you how many of them had pointy beards, though I remember one square cut one. I wouldn't have been surprised if it was all a delusion in Syme's mind, with himself being all of the twisted characters...though, that's not how it ends.

Saturday

The Willoughbys



I finished "The Willoughbys" by Lois Lowry the other day. Because I'm one to judge a book by it's cover I thought, "This is the type of book I'd love!" The Gorey-esque cover illustration (also done by the author) promised to contain a very wry, dark tale in the vein of Lemony Snicket.

I was disappointed. A lot at first but as the story progressed, everything that I didn't like about it disappeared and it turned out to be rather lovely.

There are four Willoughby children: Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B, and Jane. Their parents don't like them. They don't like they're parents. In order to rid themselves of each other, the children suggest that their parents take a very dangerous vacation. The parents agree, hire a nanny and, without the children knowing, arrange for the sale of their house and head off.

In the meantime, the children don't treat each other very well, the oldest Tim is quite the bully. The twin Barnabys only have one sweater to share every other day. Jane is quite timid. They discover that an infant has been left on their doorstep and are charged with disposing of it. They leave it on the doorstep of a reclusive billionaire and hope to never hear of it again.

Turns out that the nanny who is hired is a rather good cook, has a sense of humor, would make a very decent parent, and tends to turn the story from outrageously depressing to quite pleasant. Her pleasantness changes the dispositions of the children too, which is great. Needless to say, their lives are quite quickly intertwined with the lives of the reclusive billionaire and the young orphaned infant.

Things turn out happily-ever-after. The story does tout itself as being and old fashioned tale (hence the orphans, the reclusive billionaire, the quirky nanny, etc). It's okay, though. I was really sick of the nastiness that had prevailed through the first half of the story. It was clever like Snicket. It was just depressing. It ended well, though, and still contained a little bit of the darkness that attracted me to it in the first place.

Tuesday

warm and fuzzy


I just read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. If you don't know anything about Cory Doctorow look here. His webpage gives you tons of info, links to his book, how to donate a copy to your favorite teacher or librarian...
I'm not sure how I came across the donation program...perhaps it was on BoingBoing, maybe on Creative Commons...anyway, I came across the book (the e-book, actually), started reading it, started loving it (the ideas, anyway) and applied for a free copy for my library.

I wasn't sure anyone would care about a little branch library in Alaska. I was certain that anyone on the list had already contacted several people who would definitely buy books to donate to their cause. I was sure that I wouldn't receive a copy anytime soon.

I'd like to thank Dan B for his generous donation of Little Brother to my branch. May it be on the shelves as little as possible.

Now, my review. Being insufferably leftist, I tingled with excitement when I read a the description of Little Brother. Kids using open source/hacker/computer programming skills to fight back against the gross abuses of power of the Department of Homeland Security after a fictional terrorist attack in the not-so-distant future. Great.

Here's the story at-a-glance: 4 kids are in the wrong place at the wrong time and are held for questioning by the DHS, separated from one another, separated from their families, and threatened nearly into submission. 3 of the kids return to their homes unable to tell anyone of the abuses they suffered. So they start to fight back. They use secret networks to form connections and start a movement that is considered by the older generations (the DHS, their parents, their teachers, etc) to be sympathetic to the terrorists.

It's exciting and scary. It's funny and it's touching. It's filled with techno-babble. That I loved. I learned so much. It's also full of political stereo-types. That I didn't love so much but it was easy to ignore. Overall I could really relate to the characters. It touched all the my fears about the September 11th reactions (in the government and in society), it took me back to memories of my first love, and it rooted an incredibly adventurous tale in the real world.

Or close to real.

Sunday

BAM March--Craft

A craft is something that is developed over time, something that someone does for entertainment, for fun, and something that gives depth to an individual. This could be just about anything. Making music, knitting, cooking, reading, writing...all assuming that there is some skill involved. These skills may derive from practice, they may derive from some genetic brilliance. Either way, these skills and what we do with them define us as individuals. That being said, for my birthday at the beginning of the month, I bought myself The Autobiography of Edward Gibbon. I've read it before--twice, actually--but did not pay much attention to the first 1/3 of the text.

Edward Gibbon was an 18th century historian, considered a son of the enlightenment who spent a considerable amount of time and energy writing his epic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He was incredibly well educated, well derived, and well-connected through his many family acquaintances. It is about the first 80 pages of his memoirs that he introduces his purpose, that he gives his family history, and that he discusses his education. These are the beginnings of the man.

Most historical texts offer, in the beginning, an explanation of purpose. This gives the reader some understanding of the motives of the author and a basis on which to analyze the facts based on the appearance of bias. For example, a biography commissioned by the subject him/herself, for the purpose of self-interest would be expected to be filled with half-truths in the interest of promoting the good characteristics while making excuses for the bad.

Gibbon's explanation for writing his memoirs is for his own entertainment. He eludes to vanity being the reason he records what he knows of his family's history saying, "In the investigation of past events, our curiosity is stimulated by the immediate or indirect reference to ourselves..."

He was born an ill child, spending many of his young years in the home, bedridden. But, when he was well enough to enter school, he excelled at most subjects. Now this is stated by him in some regards, others of which I am inferring based on what I have read and on my own education. One thing is for sure: Things have changed. Not only was Gibbon reading and translating Latin and Classical Greek from a very young age, he positively devoured anything that he could read. As a librarian, this fills me with both joy and sorrow. If only modern American education was so good. If only education anywhere was so good.

Clearly, if you've ever read or attempted to read this man's work, you would have a much better understanding of it's brilliance and of his skill by learning about the man himself.

Let me just mention that what I've described above is only about 1/3 of the book itself. He details his brief visit with Voltaire in Lausanne and what he learned there. He describes, quickly and quite poetically, his first love. He describes the circumstances around the publication of Decline and Fall. This is a life! This is a man!

There are very few people in this world today who's works, whose importance, and whose acquaintances can be measured equally to someone like Gibbon. It seems that the time for greatness has come and gone.

In comparison, mediocrity seems to rule the world today.

Saturday

All you champions...

ChaCha is looking for a champion...

a Semantic Taxonomy Champion, that is.

Check it out.

I've been playing on ChaCha for a bit today. It's a super-cool search engine that provides you with a Guide, a real person out there in cyberspace, to help you find exactly what you're looking for, thus eliminating all the garbage you get in your search results.

You have to register. But it's free.

Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday

Chumby-riffic!

OMG, I want a Chumby!

Tuesday

Brideshead Revisited

This past two weeks I have been slowly devouring Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh. It's the most amusing and enjoyable book I've ever read.

The characters are absurd, yet realistic. The story is touching. The imagery is fantastic.

I can't stop talking about it. I never want to stop reading it. I haven't touched it in days. I'm savoring the end.

The Kingdom


If you like creepy things, weird, ghostly, creepy things then you'll love Lars von Trier's "The Kingdom". The story is this: there is a ghost haunting a large old Danish hospital. There are a lot of eccentric hospital employees. One in particular, a Swede, frequently comments on the dim-witted nature of his coworkers as he peeks through his binoculars across the water to his native country. "Danish scum!" he screams at least twice an episode.

Anyway, because of this haunting, all the people in the hospital begin to question their beliefs, a phantom EMT keeps appearing out of nowhere, and I can't watch it after dark. Really. It's that creepy.

It reminds me of Twin Peaks in a way.
But it's way cooler because it's in Danish.

BAM-February 2008--"heart"


So the BAM theme for February isn't love but heart. I'm still doing Amphitryon...but not just Plautus' play. I've included Moliere's Amphitryon as well. After work on Friday, being discouraged by my experience with Plautus, I went to TitleWave to find something to replace it. I wanted a play, preferably something Greek or Roman but came across Moliere instead. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two and rail on Plautus.

There is very little difference in each of the stories. Both men were trying to convey the corruption that exists in those who hold tremendous amounts of power. The gods Jove and Mercury take the forms of Amphitryon and Sosia (the slave) respectively and reek havoc on the mortal world. Accusations fly, sanity is questioned, hearts are broken...of course they are mended again with not much more than a word from Jove.

Here's my synopsis of the final scene (of both plays):

Jove: You are the real Amphitryon. I am Jove. My son Mercury took the form of your slave Sosia to trick you.

Sosia: *whew* I thought I was going crazy

Jove: I slept with your wife. You should be pleased. I mean, I did have to take your form and all. Besides, one of your sons is actually mine! You'll have to feed him and take care of him and be responsible for him. He'll always be doing things that seem stupid and dangerous and you'll worry about him even though he's my son and I'm always looking out for him. So don't worry.

Amphitryon: Oh, now that you put it that way, my wife isn't an evil adulteress. If she thought it was me then I guess it's okay. I'm not made at her or at you anymore. Thanks, Jove!

The Moliere play was significantly better. It was written in lyrical form. It was more clever. There were fewer asides to the audience (though some of those speeches in Plautus were quite amusing). All-in-all, Moliere was just more pleasant to read.

Besides, if Voltaire thinks it's funny, who is anyone to argue?

Friday

BAM February--Love, part I.

I'm reading the play Amphitryon by Plautus. I'm not big on Roman drama (though I do love me some Greeks) and I don't really like this modern translation, but it's pretty funny so far. And I learned a new word, one that I will adopt in conversations regarding myself: inamorata. Of course, you have to say it like an Italian or it's not quite so pretty.

...more to come.

The Baxter


Last night I watched "The Baxter". It's a film written and directed by Michael Showalter of The State and Stella (two offbeat comedy troupes). It's the story of Elliot Sherman an accountant and self-proclaimed "Baxter". A Baxter, it is explained, is the term used for the guy that women settle for when their true love doesn't pan out. Ultimately a Baxter is either happy while his/her partner is not.

It's a typical romantic comedy story with a twist of Stella-style in there. In fact, the movie also features Showalter's The State/Stella comrades Michael Ian Black (henceforth MIB) and David Wain and many actors you would recognize from their other endeavors...it's a long list. Also featured is the incredibly charming Michelle Williams. I honestly haven't seen her in much but I found her unbelievably adorable in this movie (she plays the female "Baxter").

Overall I really liked the movie. It's great for anyone who may have been a fan of The State or Stella. If not, you might be a little put off by MIB's sexual ambiguity or Wain's ridiculous rants. To me it's those qualities that separate this movie from all other romantic comedies.

But I loved Stella, so I'm biased.

I also recommend you watch the Wainy Days serial on YouTube. It's hysterical.

Tuesday

magic, and pinstripes, and mouthy skeletons


I've been dying to review this book at our YS meetings since I read it early last summer.
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy appealed to me for very few reasons but very compelling ones.

1.) The cover: something about a skinny man in pinstripes suggests quality.
2.) The title: Skulduggery is an excellent word that is underutilized in modern speech.
3.) I think I read a review somewhere that suggested that the main character was a smart-aleck and that made me shiver with anticipation.
4.) It's an action-packed fantasy that's not Harry Potter...In fact, I tend to think that SP would kick HP's tuches in a darkened alley.

The plot: Gordon Edgley dies unexpectedly. In his lifetime, he had become quite wealthy as an author despite being an oddball and not-well-liked in the writing community. At his funeral, Stephanie Edgley, the niece of Gordon, meets a friend of her uncles standing under a tree, far away from the group. He’s an odd man covered from head to toe (think Claude Rains as the Invisible Man) who seems to know more about her than she expected. Stephanie becomes even more fascinated by this unknown man when, at the will reading, his name is given as Skullduggery Pleasant and he is given cryptic advice from her uncle’s lawyer.

When it is discovered that the 12-year old inherits her eccentric uncle’s enormous fortune, her world turns upside down. She discovers that the mysterious man isn’t a man at all but a snappy dressing, sharp-tongued, flame throwing, magic wielding skeleton and that a war is going on unbeknownst to the rest of the world.

She joins forces with Skulduggery and enters a world where people can control the elements, all who are old and wise don’t necessarily have the mental agility to save anyone, and where skeletons can walk, talk, and throw fire.

[Insert a Beavis-like, “Yeah…hehehe. FIRE!”]

It's book one of what is supposed to be a 9-book series.
Yikes. Nine, huh?

The book was good. Pretty good. It was dark and funny, the characters were clever. It didn't really hook me, though. I'm not eagerly anticipating the next one. I will probably read it, though.

Overall it's a fun read but pretty dark to be in the Juvenile section...I'd recommend it to preteens or to older J-readers. I think it could be appealing to both girls and boys, which is always nice.

On a completely different note, the website totally rules. The graphics are great, there are character bios, a short history of the world, and some fun extras.

Check out the British website as well (I think the artwork is way cooler).

It would make a great movie.
Warner Bros. apparently owns the rights to it.
Who knows how good it will be.
It has such potential, though.

Thursday

M. Night Shyamalan

I talked to a friend recently. Amit is his name. He is of Indian descent and is the sole reason I have "a thing" for Indian men. Indian men--and women, for that matter--when they are attractive, they are gorgeous. Which brings me to Shyamalan...

I've seen two M. Night Shyamalan movies recently. I'm not a big fan, except that he is incredibly attractive and plays parts in all of his movies. Last night I watched Lady in the Water. I also love Paul Giamatti but for completely different reasons so knowing that he was the star, I figured it couldn't be too bad. But it wasn't great. It all seemed to fit together far too neatly...everyone in the apartment complex was drawn to it because of this one fantastical event that would happen--i.e. the not-so-mythical sea woman being pursued by the equally unmythical beasty and needing to get back to the "blue world". At the beginning of the movie, the whole sea people thing is kind-of explained through shoddy narration and cave-drawing-type animation...it's really not worth going into. It doesn't really have a lot to do with the plot except as an explanation for the presence of some weird naked woman living in the swimming pool.

Everything is really heavy handed. For example, the main character uses a very snobby (professional) movie critic tenant to help him solve some riddles posed throughout the story...and he does so wrongly. After the plan is foiled and it is revealed that, "oops, the guy who told me you were The Guild was wrong" Shyamalan's character refers to the movie critic as pompous and ridiculous to assume that he knows the intentions of someone else. Right around then, the guy gets eaten by the big scary beasty.

Pretty lame.

But I liked The Village a little bit better and I would recommend that one. It's not great but it's a little more fun to watch. I'd tell you all about it but I'm tired of typing.

Man, I really didn't like that first one.

Tuesday

"Torchwood"

Netflix is my favorite thing on the planet right now. "Torchwood" isn't so much.

"Torchwood" is a BBC spin-off program of the new "Doctor Who". I was very excited about the prospect of Capt. Jack Harkness having his own show.

I have seen 9 episodes of this new series. I have really liked maybe 2 of those. There are two reasons that I will continue to watch this show (I have three more discs to get through):

1.) John Barrowman is very nice to look at and is, on occasion, very cheeky and
2.) the possibility of a "Doctor Who" crossover or some "Doctor Who" references.

Otherwise the characters aren't all that great. Even Jack isn't as provocative as he was on "Doctor Who" (which is odd since Torchwood's target audience is older and it was shown on a later time-slot).

I will persevere in hopes of something much better and much more fun.

"There Will Be Blood"


Finally, after months of waiting, I got to watch "There Will Be Blood". Not only did I get to see it but I got to share it with a friend who insisted that whenever Hollywood gets it's hands on themes like oil or religion, on can only expect it to be heavy-handed and part of a larger leftist agenda.
I insisted that P.T. Anderson was not the type of director to do such a thing.
My friend remained skeptical.

It turns out I was right. Instead of the movie being about the evils of capitalism, it was a character portrayal of a man who happened to be in the oil business, who happened to cross paths with a young charismatic religious leader, and who happened to be played by one of the greatest actors in contemporary film.

Despite my ever-growing contempt for the movie-going experience --I inevitably end up sitting next to the people in the audience who guess out-loud what may be lying ahead in the plot...that person is usually sitting with another person who never stops munching on popcorn--despite all of this, I loved the movie and recommend it to anyone.

Daniel Day-Lewis steals the movie...no one can touch him.

An oil prospector. His son. A small (oil rich) town in California. A local who has the trust and faith of his fellow townsfolk. A very dark internal life.

That's really all I can say. The story doesn't involve a lot of action, there are no gun-fights, no superheros, no villains. It's just the story of a man.

Thursday

BAM January 08



The Book a Month Challenge for this month is TIME.

I've decided to merge my responsibilities to read a possible Young Reader's Choice book with this challenge. I've read the Children's Fiction title "How to Speak Dragonese" by Cressida Cowell. It is part of a series of books that documents the misadventures of a young viking pirate-to-be, his comrades, and their dragons.

In this story, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (our young hero) and his friends get separated from the rest of their "Boarding and Enemy Ship" classmates to discover a legion Roman soldiers lingering off shore. Now, the Romans must have underestimated the young crew because, after capturing them the Fat Consul and the Thin Prefect reveal to Hiccup their Fiendishly Clever Plan steal all of the Hooligan's (that's the tribe that Hiccup belongs to) dragons.

At this point the story returns to Hiccup's education. Even though he and his friends escape the Roman ship and they return to shore, their teachers, who value the more barbaric aspects of the viking-pirate life (one illustration shows Hiccups report card and the curriculum consists of burping, frightening foreigners, sword-fighting, advanced rudery, hammerthrowing...) are thoroughly disappointed. The ultimate theme: brain vs brawn.

With the will of his superiors against him, can Hiccup stop the Roman's Fiendishly Clever Plan?

I always enjoy a good twisted history.