October 29, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees ***

*** The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, 2002

Gina Prince-Bythewood had a session at the Austin Film Festival, and The Woman, a DVD addict, recently bought the movie, so I sat down to watch it in preparation for the session. I was so overwhelmed, I sent The Woman out for the novel the next day. [I rarely leave the house and she leaves it not only for the day job but also for her many shopping excursions.] I read the novel in a week. It was great and had stuff not in the movie, but I also noticed that Prince-Bythewood's adaptation tightened up some spots.

So, I was armed with questions for the session, mainly about creative decisions about things left out and things added in. The session was as entertaining as the movie. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, I recommend both.

October 26, 2009

Austin Film Festival

The Austin Film Festival consists of eight days of film screenings and four days of conference sessions. The conference ended yesterday and there's four more days of screenings left. So far, I've seen:
  • Serious Moonlight: Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell, Justin Long. Entertaining
  • Godspeed: Left halfway through, way too slow, didn't buy the character motivations
  • Simmons on Vinyl: Potts brothers 2nd feature. The first, The Stanton Grave Robbery, was made for $5,000. This one was made for $300. It's a buy-a-6-pack-and-laugh-at-goofy-stuff kind of movie.
  • Tales from the Script: Interviews with dozens of screenwriters. Excellent.
  • The Scenesters: Entertaining, but I had to leave halfway through for the Filmmaker Happy Hour.
  • Apollo 13: Didn't really need to see this again, but the Q&A afterward with Ron Howard, Jim Lovell, guys from Mission Control and the screenwriters was a must-see. I got to shake Ron Howard's hand at the Conferenc Wrap party after.
  • Todd P Goes to Austin: I was supposed to see this, but Apollo 13 took longer than I thought, so I missed it.
  • The Messenger: Great film. I was supposed to see Earthwork, but when I got out of the last session I discovered my car battery had died and Earthwork started before my car did.

Still left to watch:

October 22, 2009

The World Is Flat ***

*** The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman, 2005

I read From Beirut to Jerusalem last year and gave it three stars. This book is 20 years newer but feels more dated because technology, and particularly the internet and telecommunications, have changed much more in the past 4 years than the Arab-Israeli struggle has in the last 20 years. Maybe even the past 50 years.

It's a long read, but it aced the elliptical test, causing me to exercise for an hour without realizing it in some sessions. It's about globalization and events and technologies that have led to a flattening of the world in the sense of more equal opportunity for success, regardless of location. He also talks about inhibitors to flattening.

But the most startling thing for me was this excerpt he included from The Communist Manifesto, which sounds like it could have been written by a 21st century capitalist.

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodgedby new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

Wow. That Marx guy seemed to know what the 21st century would look like 160 years ago.

Anther interesting thing was Friedman's Dell Theory of Conflict Avoidance, updated from his Golden Arches Theory. Check it out. And read this book in this decade!

October 15, 2009

Candide ***

*** Candide, Voltaire, 1759

I found Candide, recommended by The Griggster, to be entertaining at first, but eventually tiresome as the litany of Candide's serial disasters, interlarded with strawman swipes at contemporary targets of Voltaire's contempt, became somewhat episodic and monochromatic.

But I did laugh quite a bit in the first few chapters. On the other hand, that response was perhaps enhanced by the cigars and martinis. Or at least the martinis.

Three stars for lovers of literature, two for everyone else.

October 12, 2009

Quotes From Stuff I Like - Nash

A few tidbits from Marriage Lines.

That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particularly if he has income and she is pattable.


Speaking of wisdom and wealth and grace --
As recently I have dared to --
There are lots of people compared to whom
I'd rather not be compared to.
There are people I ought to wish I was;
But under the circumstances,
I prefer to continue my life as me --
For nobody else has Francis


A prepared postition Man hankers for
Is parallel to and above the floor,
For thither retreating horizontally,
He evades the issues that charge him frontally.


From: They Won't Believe On New Year's Eve, That New Year's Day Will Come What May

How do I feel today? I feel as unfit as an unfiddle,
And it is the result of a certain turbulence in the mind and an uncertain burbulence in the middle.

October 8, 2009

Marriage Lines ***

*** Marriage Lines, Ogden Nash, 1948

Right up front I'll say, I'm not a fan of poetry. Most of it does little or nothing for me. On the other hand, I count Idylls of the King as one of the top 10 books I've ever read. So go figure.

I picked up this slim (108 pages) first edition hardback on a whim. Very nicely done, it is. Good bedside reading because of the bite-sized pieces, most 1 or 2 pages long. Here are two of the shorter ones:

A Word To Husbands

To keep you marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenver you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

My Dream

Here is a dream. It is my dream,
My own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt,
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

In honor of Nash, here's a bit I wrote over a decade ago.

One potato, two potato,
Umpty squat.
You're my little sweet potato,
I'm your tater tot

Maybe I'll write a book of poetry!

October 6, 2009

I didn't get anything to write this review

Note: Pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255, (more human-friendly info here) I'm happy to tell you that nobody gave me whichever book I'm reviewing, or paid me anything to review it, nor do I have any affliliate links to bookseller websites where I can make money off this review.

The plain fact is that I bought this thing myself (probably from Half Price Books or Amazon) and read it for no other reason that it sounded interesting. And then I blogged about it because I'm a complusive writer. I might keep the book, which is OK, since I paid for it, or I might take it to Half Price Books, or I might give it away. Or I might use it to prop up the short leg of my writing desk.

Whatever I chose to do, it shouldn't concern the FTC, so they should just move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

October 5, 2009

Mose Allison

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

I don't recall where I first heard Mose Allison. His voice won't stop the presses, but he's a killer keyboard plaer and the vibe rules all. Here are a few of my faves.

Your Mind is on Vacation

Getting There

October 1, 2009

The Last Olympian ***

*** The Last Olympian, Rick Riordan, 2009

Depending on whether you read the book jacket or the website, this is either the last book in the Percy Jackson series, or the last book in the first Percy Jackson series. Let us hope it is the latter.

As I mentioned in the review of the 4th in the series, if you like contemporary juvenile fantasy series, you owe it to yourself to check out Rick's work, starting at the beginning. And the movie of the first comes out next year, so now is the time to get ahead of the curve. Be the first on your block!