Friday, May 26, 2006

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

I finally finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. As many have mentioned, it is a wonderful read that one can devour over a short period.

Set in the British town of Swindon, the story introduces us to a stubborn, eccentric, accidentally charming teenager named Christopher Boone. Christopher, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, views life through a different lens. With a stellar aptitude for mathematics, Christopher can tackle complex math and logic problems. However, due to Asperger's, he has trouble qualifying the emotions of others, as well as his own. A young man of solitude, crowds and small talk tend to frighten him. And yet Haddon takes us on a thrilling, suspenseful journey through an everyday environment many of us take for granted.

The book is a tour-de-force of original voice. Haddon not only makes Christopher incisively real, but figuratively paints such an empathetic picture that it is impossible not to be enraptured by the story (and the hero which centers it). And the story itself is not simply a mystery or peculiar thriller, but a complete slice of life revolving around a unique and courageous young man.

If you're looking for a great read with a unique voice and a tinge of deadpan wit, look no further than this book. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I just saw THE CONSTANT GARDENER and if you haven't seen this yet, run to blockbuster or head to netflix and get a hold of this film. It's that good.

Based on the John le Carre novel of the same name, the film follows a stolid, gregarious diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) and his impassioned, activist wife (Rachel Weisz) as they head to Kenya. Early on in the story the wife is murdered under suspicious circumstances (in more ways than one). I could dwell on the plot a bit more but this is the type of thriller that doesn't need any selling.

The acting is superb, especially Fiennes (who should've been nominated; at least a Golden Globe nom) and Weisz (who deservedly won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar). The supporting cast is stellar as well. The director, Fernando Meirelles, is the impresario that helmed CITY OF GOD. I haven't seen that film, but the praise he received for it is certainly worthy in my estimation. Meirelles and his cinematographer (Cesar Charlone) show us a lush and gorgeous African landscape. They jump into the heart of the lively, colorful slums and villages of Kenya. And at the same time, they do not shy away from the comfort afforded to the diplomatic corps. The script is effectively paced and will keep you at the edge of your seat. This is also an enchanting love story and the magnetism between Fiennes and Weisz jumps off the screen. I can't say enough good things about this film. Please go see it.

And for those of you who have seen the film (or read the book), this is what le Carre had to say about his tale: " comparison with the reality, my story was as tame as a holiday postcard."

Word of the Day

This may prove my stupidity but so be it. Have we always spelled "curiosity" like that and not "curiousity"? Seriously, I never got the memo.

That ends today's word of the day entry.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Draw a Pig! You know you want to!

Yllwdaisies found this pig drawing site that lets you draw a pig and then has a little personality quiz on how you drew the pig. I don't buy the personality quiz section but it's kinda fun drawing the pig. Plus email or leave a comment linking to your pig drawing and Yllw will add it to her Pig Gallery.

Anyway, here's my pig:


As a major film buff I've seen masterpieces from various decades and countries. I'm pretty content with my breadth of film experiences. On the other hand, I'm a literary novice who really needs to devour many of the classics. However, sometimes I'll view the film adaptation of the literary masterwork. Such is the case recently when I was able to catch THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.

This 1945 film is adapted from Oscar Wilde's only novel of the same name. The story tells the tale of one Dorian Gray who has his portrait made and turns to a life of debauchery and sin. As the years pass and the corruption and decay increase the portrait turns vile and disfigured while Dorian remains his youthful self, never aging. The film is solid and I highly recommend it. But I have to say that reading the book (which I haven't) will be more satisfying. I'm sure much of the detail of the book was lost during the transition to the screen. Nevertheless, the film was quite enjoyable. I'm curious to hear the thoughts of those who have read the book. I know I haven't gone into much detail, but I wonder for those who have read the book, do you think a film could do it justice?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Da Vinci Mania

I think I might be the only person who has yet to read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. And I'm not going to catch the film any time soon either. But with the film opening this week, Da Vinci Mania is upon us.

I hear Dan Brown writes very crafty, intriguing novels (he even had one set in the NSA before all the wiretapping and phone record monitoring came about) and that the Da Vinci Code is filled with enough conspiracy, history, religion, cryptology and suspence to keep a mind interested, entertained, and of course, guessing.

Anyway, here's my problem with novels being turned into movies. Novels are like 300 pages and the author has the space to detail every minutia and introduce numerous characters and subplots and the like. A movie script is basically 120 pages of dialogue. A movie thriller has a couple main characters and the action (and the movie) basically revolves around them. So the gist of what I'm trying to say is that trying to fit an entire novel into a film script is like squeezing a bowling ball into a baseball glove. In my opinion, novels are great material for a mini-series or a television show. In this case a novel's length and detail can be adequetely addressed. And on the other hand, plays and novellas and short stories make for great film script material.

Well, that's my thinking on the subject matter. Now it's your turn to chime in. Please comment!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TV Rec

So I've caught the last several episodes of the military drama The Unit. As someone who mainly watches PBS and the Daily Show (I can't forget to mention Mr. Colbert), The Unit is a pretty decent, entertaining hour-long drama. And it has made me refrain from the PBS for an hour on Tuesdays.

Anyway, as far as plot goes this show is hard to top. Every episode is packed with special ops mumbo jumbo, shootouts, espionage, foreign countries, war criminals, and the like. The Unit also shows the family side of the soldiers, specifically following the lives of the wives on the base. While this doesn't work as smoothly, it is by no means a deal-breaker. So it's a decent show that's suspenseful and action-packed.

So guess who the creators are? One of the creators is Shawn Ryan who also gave us The Shield, another interesting drama, this one revolving around an ethically neutral police detective (played by the Commish). Yes, that's not very surprising. Well, the other creator is David Mamet. That's right, David effing Mamet. Yeah, the Mamet has gone Mamet-lite in his entertaining, thin recent films, but I guess I was expecting a little more from The Unit when I read Mamet was a creator. Mamet and Ryan are executive producers and I haven't seen an episode in which either was the writer (or director) ... so maybe I've missed the Mamet-docious episodes or something.

Anyway, so what am I trying to say exactly? The Unit is a good show and if it piques your interest I'd definitely say check it out. But I'm still waiting for the Mamet-docious episodes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why ABC Sucks

The super geniuses (genii? no, that can't be right) at ABC have unveiled their Fall Lineup. Now, I'm a little biased because I think H-wood is filled with crappola that make crappola. But let me point a couple things in ABC's Fall Lineup and you decide.

Am I the only person that saw Sons & Daughters? This show was like the funniest thing on network television. It had an amazing cast (much of the show was improvised) and the stories about family life were sincere without being overly sentimental. And did I mention it was HIGH-LAR-I-OUS? Anyway, the brain trust at ABC decided not to pick up the sitcom. The show actually had decent audience numbers and was only a mid-season offering. Had they renewed it, I'm sure it would have added viewers. ABC did pick up What About Brian? Now I haven't seen this show but it looks lame. And I bet Sons & Daughters would open up a can of whoop ass on it.

ABC also moved Grey's Anatomy to Thursdays at 9pm. That's up against CSI. NBC is going with a Matthew Perry drama/comedy/something in that time slot as well. Now GA is a pretty decent show with a steady audience on Sundays at 10pm. I guess ABC feels GA can take on CSI head to head. I'm not so sure. CSI is like Law & Order circa 2000 ... unstoppable (though I'm like the only person in the world who hasn't seen an episode of CSI, ever). But who knows, maybe GA will make inroads against CSI. I doubt it however. Most likely it will start decent (if not strong) but steadily decline. However, ABC will just return it back to its Sunday timeslot.

And speaking of GA. I'm sorry ladies but I think I've had enough of Meredith and Shepherd. I mean either get together or don't. Whatever. And the other plot lines are entertaining enough.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Viswanathan Chronicles

So the other day I had a post about this Harvard Sophmore, Kaavya Viswanathan, with the big book deal and the teen chic-lit book and the plagiarism that ensued. In that post was a great slate column by Ann Hulbert which argued the publishing company and literary agency may have nudged Kaavya along the road to borrowsville.

Well, there's more news on the Kaavya situation. Apparently more similarities to other teen novels have arisen and the publisher has recinded the contract and taken the book off the shelf.

Yes, it may be hard to have sympathy for this well-to-do, over-achieving Harvard teen. But, as the slate piece points out, if she started her book journey with original intentions only to be gently shoved into reading teen chic-lit to come up with something similar ... well then, it seems the publisher and agency have a hand in this mess as well.

In the short term, this might be mildly embarrasing for Miss Viswanathan. But if she has half the talent all these new pieces on her say she has, then some time down the road she'll produce a wonderful novel. And she'll be able to do it on her own terms.

Unless she plagiarizes again. Hah. I just had to add that last part of dramatic and comedic effect.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Get Your Truthiness!

Here's a link to Stephen Colbert's great speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. For some strange reason YouTube took the vids down ... but that's why we have Google Video:


Okay this is kinda weird but maybe some people out there will find it interesting. Apparently ABC News cameras stayed on President Bush for 7 minutes during Colbert's speech. And the folks over at YouTube have yet to take it down. So this tape has caught his real time facial expressions on the speech:

Bush Reaction Tape

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Outdoor Corner

Two lost hikers stumbled upon the remnant camp of a hiker who vanished over a year ago. The two young hikers were only out for a day hike when they wandered off the trail. They felt the trail was still nearby but were apparently lost. Their day hike turned into a three day ordeal filled with hunger and cold sleepless nights. By chance they discovered the camp of a vanished hiker and found a few handy supplies. The most important had to be the matches from which they could start a fire to keep warm, and ultimately a signal fire which rescued them. The article is a startling read and shows just how tenuous any hiking trip may turn out. Another reason to invest in some GPS technology as well as outdoors preparedness. And another reason I'm not the outdoorsy type.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Film Rec

So I recently caught two solid films, a classic and a soon to be classic.

First up we have The School of Rock. Now the combination of director Richard Linklater and comedic virtuoso Jack Black means cinema gold in my book. But, I must admit, going into the film I was expecting a dressed up after-school special. And while the uplifting plot won't surprise anyone, the film works deftly in its own feel good, charming way. Anyway, if this sounds hokey and sentimental to you don't worry because the film is still absolutely hilarious and the music (all the child actors are also trained musicians) is quite good. Seriously, you should see the film just for the Jack Black, Joan Cusack scenes.

The classic I was referring to is In the Heat of the Night. This 1967 film stars Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger with Norman Jewison at the helm. This film is definitely a favorite of mine and I like to point at it as proof H-wood made decent films at one time. And this is not to say H-wood simply makes crappola nowadays but how many Lindsay Lohan or Tom Cruise films must the world really need. The major studios no longer care about art, even in the sense of telling a good story. They're mainly interested in bankable stars and their target audience (15 year-olds from Orange County). Anyway, this classic film (based on the John Ball novel) follows the trials of a black, Philly homicide detective (Poitier) who thanks to the racist charms of Mississippi gets stuck helping the local police in a murder investigation. Steiger plays the local police chief who needs Poitier's help but finds himself in trouble navigating the town's racial overtones as this black detective tries to solve the murder. The film is well crafted in every aspect and while it may not be as gritty as a modern telling, the Poitier, Steiger interplay has a lot to say even in the new millennium. Highly recommended.

Friday, May 05, 2006

TV Rec

Did anyone else watch Texas Ranch House on PBS? It's basically PBS' version of a reality show. There have been other installments such as Frontier House and 1900 House. Anyway, Texas Ranch House was interesting enough. But the social interactions between the participants truly made viewing the program worthwhile. In the end, the ranch became a tacit war between the ranch hands/cowboys and the ranch owners/Cooke Family. I'd agree with the experts' assessment that the Ranch owner made several mistakes while the ranch hands successfully brought the cattle to market. At the same time the ranch hands were truly chauvinistic (at times). In the end, the program shows just how tenuous the ranch owner and ranch hand relationship must have been. Back then, over a century ago, ranch owners and cowboys solidified a working relationship. Perhaps this program has something to say about modern society in that the modern participants weren't able to get along. In my opinion, both sides of the ranch are somewhat to blame. Anyway, if anyone else caught this program please share your thoughts. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sports Scene

Who's ready for the World Cup? The US Team was just announced and we look mighty fine. We have a good deal of euro league players as well as a couple MLS stars. However, we're in a tough division. We'll have to deal with one of the top ranked teams in the world in the Czech Republic, perennial powerhouse Italy, and Ghana, one of the top teams in Africa.

I don't follow soccer-football very closely but I think our team will do quite well in this year's World Cup. The first game is on June 12th. Stay tuned for more Team USA updates.

PS - who's watching LeBron vs Gilbert right now?

PPS - who's ready for Suns vs Lakers tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Good Govt.

As a cynical idealist I don't have much faith in most of our elected officials. But certain politicians are fighting the good fight and several (if not most) political flip-floppers will swing to the good side ever so often (or when the cameras are around).

Anyway, I want to tip my hat and give a hearty thanks to a handful of Congress men and women who protested in front of Sudan's Embassy. The members of Congress (as well as 6 others, all 11 were arrested) wanted to put a spotlight on the Darfur situation and specifically on a deadline (which has been extended) for an agreement between Sudan's Govt. and Darfur representatives.

Sudan's government has been terribly uncooperative with international efforts to curb the genocidal violence and at the same time continues to stealthily support the militias which are responsible for the violence.

I would also like to add that the Bush Administration has labeled the Darfur situation genocide and was instrumental in bringing the issue before the UN Security Council. Currently African Union troops are in the region and soon a UN peace keeping mission will arrive.

The Darfur situation is complex. For more information check out this great AP article.