Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Precious...

Book #9 - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
Book #10 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling

What can I say about Harry Potter? He's been a part of my life since I was 19, and I can say that this last book surpassed all my expectations, and is easily my favorite book of the series. And now I am just sad, because there will never be another one.

And I doubt that there will ever be a phenomenon like Harry Potter again in my lifetime. Movie series like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings have a similar feeling, but those come along every decade or so. Harry Potter is different. I've gone to three midnight release parties to get my books (including the one last week). They are like the Geeky Teen Super Bowl, and it's a wonderful thing to see. All these kids who usually don't feel comfortable in their skin, all proudly sporting their Gryffindor scarves and SPEW buttons and wizard robes, and they're all talking to anyone and everyone about these darn books. It helps to remember these people when you start to question whether it's normal to feel so attached to these characters and to this world. The answer is: millions of other people feel the exact same way.

To anyone out there who has still only seen the movies, but never read the books: I'm almost envious of you, but seriously... what the hell are you waiting for?

Vacation Reading

Book #7 - Two for the Road, by Jane and Michael Stern

Jane and Michael Stern live a sweet life of traveling around the country, eating a lot of food. Usually around 12 meals a day or so. That sounds a little over the top, but otherwise it's tough to imagine a better way to spend your time. Besides their column in Gourmet and appearances on NPR's Splendid Table, they've put out a ton of cookbooks and guides to Road Food. This book is 2/3 memoir of life on the road, 1/3 recipes and tips on finding the best off the beaten path. It was a fun and easy read.

Book #8 - All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren

Speaking of fun and easy... this book is neither. Well, it's fun in the sense that I haven't read a better book since I graduated college. It's absolutely incredible, and I feel unequal to the task of talking about it. Robert Penn Warren does amazing things in this book, but the most amazing to me is the seamlessness of the writing. You're humming along, enthralled by the plot, when suddenly you stop yourself because you've just read a passage like this and you barely noticed it because Warren just slipped it in:

"He lived for a few years and in that time he learned that the world is all of one piece. He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide. It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things. Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God’s eye, and the fangs dripping."

My point is, you should read this book now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Scary and Scarier

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By now you should know better than to expect these Potter movies to be "good." As Marc said, as Potter fans, we see them more out of obligation than out of excitement. Right? If so, then this is a respectable entry into the tome. I can't keep track of who directed it, but he made it adequately scary. Award for Freshest Performance goes to Luna Lovegood; Most Improved Acting to Harry; Best Build to strapping young Ron Weasley!


This gave me nightmares! I recommend seeing this documentary from the comfort of a European country with a national health plan. Yes, now we know why, as Americans, we are brainwashed to hate the French and the Brits: their smug countries (see photo)look after their citizens (and visitors)... and ours doesn't.

If you are lucky enough to be plugged into your employer's group health scheme (or unlucky enough, depending on the job you have to put up with to get it), then run out and see this immediately. You likely don't know what all the fuss is about when it comes to American health care and you bloody well should. But if you, like me, buy your own health insurance or, like many young people I know, are uninsured-- watching this will get your panties twisted really tightly. Have a stiff drink before watching. And write your representatives!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Hmmm, my movie-viewing this year so far is going at a sluggish pace. Halfway through the year, and I haven’t even hit 30? Time for an intervention…
Anyway, Steve and I caught another double-header at the General Cinema on Sunday. Actually that theater is now called “Kerasotes Showplace,” but since it was once General Cinema, it will always be General Cinema to me.

Yes, I liked the first three installments of this series, especially the third one with Jeremy Irons. They almost seem like indie films in comparison to this one – they were all cat-and-mouse games between an alluring Eurotrash Bad Guy and Bruce Willis’ lazy cop. This installment is more about pyrotechnics, endless car crashes, and Bruce Willis doing insane stunts that would have been impossible for his character in the previous three films. He’s basically a caricature of his former character. It’s weird, but as far as popcorn action flicks go, it’s decent. The rapport between Bruce and the Apple Guy is pretty fun, and the barrage of car/helicopter/airplane shootouts made me really want to spend more time playing Grand Theft Auto. This would be a good movie to see at the budget theater.

I avoid animation as a rule, because movies made for children are usually completely retarded. For some reason I was excited about this movie, because it’s about rats, cooking, and France – three things which aren’t usually dealt with in American films, and three things which seem interesting to me. This movie more than met my expectations – it was entertaining throughout, it was intelligently made and funny, and the animation was quite frankly astounding. Steve and I kept turning to each other to remark how we couldn’t believe that certain sequences weren’t actually real – the foggy nightscape of the Seine, all of the water sequences, the red onions, the hairs on the rats, their little hearts beating through their chests – the hyper-realism was mind-boggling. Comparing this movie to last summer’s Happy Feet is like comparing the most exquisite dish from your favorite restaurant to a steaming turd.