Archive for the 'Geek Joy' Category

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

My husband went DVD shopping a few weeks ago, and brought Scott Pilgrim vs. the World home for me. I had started to watch the Lonesome Dove miniseries, which many of y’all had recommended, but it wasn’t working for me. The overwrought music and the hammer-heavy foreshadowing, and then that closeup of Sean in the river that freezes at the end of Part 1 combined to make me less than eager to finish.

So instead we watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I loved it, again. That may be because I’m a comic book geek and loved the series of graphic novels. Help me test this theory. Did you like the movie without having read the books? But anyway, read the books. So much geeky goodness to be had in them!

Classics, Illustrated

Friday, February 10th, 2012

At The Composites, Brian Joseph Davis takes book descriptions of characters like Madam Bovary and Rochester, combines them with law enforcement sketch software, and voila, you have truly creepy images of some of the most famous people who never existed. Via The Morning News.

“Jhereg” by Steven Brust

Friday, December 9th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had three daunting books to finish for three different book groups: The Master and Margarita, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and Freedom. I read them more quickly than I’d anticipated, so December’s ended up kind of a free month for me to read whatever I want. All this choice is a little daunting (one of the themes from Freedom, in fact) and I’m trying to strike a balance between edifying books like Master and Margarita, and flat-out enjoyable books like Jhereg by Steven Brust. So far, December has been a very good reading month.

Though a short book by itself, Jhereg is the first of many Vlad Taltos novels by Brust, and was one of the first books my now-husband lent to me when we started dating. Vlad is an assassin with a dragon-y familiar in a complicated world called Dragaera.

There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife’s blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck. I can call up memories of booth, if I work at it. The chilly breeze is invariably going to be the more pleasant memory.

In this first novel, he’s hired to kill someone but keeps uncovering reasons why he can’t, or shouldn’t. The world, and the comprehensive cast of characters in it, feel fully formed, and like the author has much more control over the bazillion narrative balls he’s juggling than he has any right to. Reading this was like hanging out with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, one who I’d forgotten was so entertaining and funny. My hope is that I can re-read the Vlad novels in between longer ones and maybe even catch up, since several have come out since I last visited Dragaera. Jhereg and the two novels that follow it are collected in the omnibus The Book of Jhereg, but since I’m reading them piecemeal, I’ll post about them one by one.

Sweet Tooth: In Captivity and Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

After one of my comic book guys recommend the series Sweet Tooth to me, I read and enjoyed volume one. It was hard for me to put down volume 2 In Captivity in the middle, then wait to buy volume 3 Animal Armies, and again begrudge anything that took me away from tearing through volume 3 to find out what happened to young Gus, a deer-antlered little boy in a post-apocalyptic world where all the children are now human/animal hybrids. It shares some themes with Y the Last Man, but the art is more distinctive and evocative, and I find Gus a much more charming main character. I’m eager for volume 4 to be collected.

“The Finder Library volume 1″ by Carla Speed McNeil

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I recently read Voice, the latest collection of Carla Speed McNeil’s long-running comic book series Finder. It reminded me how I loved the series. Even though I own all the single issues cected in it, I picked up the recently published Finder Library volume 1, put out by Dark Horse, a comic book publisher known for respecting artists’ rights. The first four story lines, all 22 issues, are included in this volume, as well as covers of individual issues and previous collections, plus pages and pages of notes. Kudos to Dark Horse for recognizing a quality series, and for packaging it in a smart, attractive edition.

At $24.99, this is a bargain for what it includes (coming out to slightly more than $1 per issue) yet a steep ticket to entry to those who don’t know the series. Here’s what I recommend. Check out McNeil’s website, on which she has art samples and a webcomic of the ongoing series. Or buy or borrow the Talisman graphic novel. It’s a great example of the kind of art, humor, complex fantasy world, and characters that populate Finder. I’m trying to think of something to compare it to, as in “if you like x, you’ll like this” but I’m drawing a blank. I can’t even come up with “it’s x crossed with y.” McNeil calls it aboriginal science fiction. I call it a solidly plotted, well-drawn fantasy comic book series with characters I love.

The 2011 Candy Hierarchy

Monday, October 31st, 2011

From my husband for Halloween, Boing Boing has an updated, spottily scientific Candy Hierarchy.


Bit-o-Honey, for example, might be called a lower tier member, but why bother? It says to your trick-or-treaters, “Here, I don’t care, just take this.” The lesson of Bit-o-Honey is: you lose. Goo Goo clusters, too. You’re making a social statement–”I hate you and everything you represent”–when you give these out.

First of all, what the heck does post-tertiary mean especially as it’s situated between top and second tier? Tertiary means third. Perhaps it’s an Anglicism. I encourage reading the comments to get global perspectives on candy, such as Cadbury’s v. Hershey’s, different names for items, etc. From its placement, I’d guess post-tertiary means, almost as good.

I recently threw away a few pounds worth of old candy from a. Halloween 2010 b. Easter 2011 c. Fourth of July 2011, and will use this in my analysis:

Top Tier: Take 5s, most anything with dark chocolate, full-size bar

Post Tertiary (runners up) Dum Dums cream soda lollipops, root beer bottle caps, those round, red and white striped peppermints, Twix, mini Snickers, mini Milky Way Midnights

The Middle (i.e. stuff my kids will eat that I don’t bother with: milk chocolate, Crunch, smarties, Starburst, butterfinger, reese’s cups)

Bottom: cheap pencils from the dollar aisle Target, unmarked candy of any sort, things in waxy wrappers (Mary Jane’s, brown blobs in orange or brown wrappers, bit o’honey, tootsie rolls.)


Many More Movies

Friday, October 21st, 2011

We’ve been on something of a DVD bender since getting a new DVR, high def TV, and Bluray player. While I’m not sure it was prudent, we did it anyway, and now might as well enjoy the fruits of our folly. The high definition takes some getting used to, as all movies now look somehow more like real life, whatever that is. But we figure, the more we watch, the more accustomed to it we’ll be. So it’s for our own good that we’re watching all these movies. Really.

The Social Network (2010) d. David Fincher. My husband declined to watch it, but I’m glad I did. No matter how much of it is really real, the story it tells is a compelling one, well acted, and intriguingly constructed and told. From IMDB trivia, some of the cameras used in production were lent by Steven Soderbergh, director of:

Ocean’s 11 (2001) My husband’s pick, and a continuation of our Soderbergh kick. We saw it originally in the theater. Cool, clever, fun and funny. An enjoyable and entertaining way to spend a few hours. That rarity: a well-crafted popcorn flick.

Zodiac (2007) d. David Fincher. WAY too long. Engaging in its focus on how the serial killing messed up a bunch of lives, instead of as a straight procedural and with good performances. Robert Downey Jr, much like Al Pacino, has come to a point where he tends to play a version of himself–a smart-ass, kind of crazy, substance abusing pain in the ass. He’s good at it, but I wonder if he’s able to play anything else, or if the public would pay to see him play anything else. And so…

Iron Man (2008) d. Jon Favreau. Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, a womanizing, drunk, pain the ass. This is a solid execution of a superhero movie. Fun, funny, tense, but not overly so, and not overly long. Great performances by actors who seem to be having a lot of fun. The next film seemed obvious…

Iron Man 2 (2010) d. Jon Favreau. With Mickey Rourke as the Russian villain, and Scarlett Johannson as the undercover agent. A bit too big for its britches, it overplays its charms and explosions, but still has some fun moments and snappy dialogue. Don Cheadle ably plays Rhodie, which Terrence Howard did a fine job with in #1.

What with Thor as our first Blu ray purchase, my husband and I are geeking out on Marvel’s well-orchestrated buildup to The Avengers. Joss Whedon. The Avengers. Squee! And in general I’m much more of a DC babe than a Marvel one, so whoever is driving this bus is doing a bang-up job.

A Few Things I Believe In

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The other day I wrote about the lurking bad feelings of not liking things that other people love. Today, a few things I embrace fiercely (other than my boys):

Good chocolate, pizza, coffee (mediocre might as well be bad, in my book)
Good televisiom, e.g., Breaking Bad; Parks and Recreation
Popcorn with real butter, with spice drops mixed in
Dum Dums cream soda lollipop (which I always get as my treat after we visit the pediatrician. Because mom often needs a treat after the pediatrician, too.)
Pumpkin Pie
New: Laundry dried on the line
Minnesota State Fair
New comic day
Root beer
Butterscotch pudding

And you?

“The Thousand” by Kevin Guilfoile

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

A periodic treat at The Morning News is when John Warner assumed the mantle of Biblioracle, and invites readers to list the last five books they enjoyed. Based on those, he suggests the next book to read. After the summer round, he suggested his friend and fellow TMN writer Kevin Guilfoile’s second novel, The Thousand. I’d seen a negative review from Publishers Weekly, and didn’t consider it after that. But the Biblioracle struck again, because I enjoyed it tremendously.

The story switches between several characters, but the central one is Canada Gold, a petite woman with a famous dead father and a talent for counting cards in Vegas that’s gotten her into more than a little trouble. Canada is the kind of smart, scrappy, supernatural heroine its easy to cheer for, not unlike Lisbeth Salander though slightly less crazy. As a child, she got a neurostimulator implanted to control her seizures. The “spider” as she calls it, did what it was supposed to but brought a host of weird side effects. These come into play when she becomes the center of various plots of a shadowy group called The Thousand, fanatic and secret followers of the ancient mathematician Pythagoras.

This is a speculative thriller in the style of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. It has a number of similarities to a previous Biblioracle rec, Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, which I loved earlier this year. This was a fast, entertaining read in the midst of a bunch of heavy books. I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to checking out Guilfoile’s first novel, Cast of Shadows, as well as the latest recommendation for me from the Biblioracle: The Family Fang.

“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

After the dust settled in the Batman universe last year, I bade farewell to the last superhero titles I was reading. I mostly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s take on Batman et al, but once Batman Incorporated started I lost interest in the reboot.

Then I saw the Batwoman: Elegy graphic novel collection, by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III, with an introduction by Rachel Maddow, featuring an ass-kicking redhead. I knew that book was coming home with me. It did not disappoint.

Like her namesake, Batwoman is a vigilante in a mask with a secret identity: Kate Kane, a former West Point cadet. We are soon shown she’s a lesbian (the most prominent gay character in the DC universe), which matters in her personal life. Behind the mask, though, she seeks to confront a new villain coming to town who will be head of Gotham City’s many covens.

The contrasts of personal and private life, painted and penciled art, plus easy-access introduction to a new, compelling character and villain made this a fast, enjoyable read, and a welcome return for me to the DC universe.

“Finder: Voice” GN by Carla Speed McNeil

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I am very, very sorry. How is it, why is it, I’ve never written here about Carla Speed McNeil’s comic-book series Finder? There is no other series I’ve been reading as long as I’ve been reading Finder, which is since the beginning, about 15 years. But I’ve never yet written about it, probably because up until “Voice” I’ve purchased single issues and not read them in graphic-novel collections. But now they’re being collected by Dark Horse Press, and they’re in pretty shiny packages with tons of explanatory notes at the end. So I picked up Voice and am writing about Finder for the first time. And for that, I apologize. Because if you like comics, and you like speculative fiction, then perhaps you, like me, will LOVE Finder, which the author described as “aboriginal science fiction.”

Finder refers to Jaeger, a mystery man, who is introduced at the beginning of the series in the storyline “Sin Eater.” He’s living with Emma Grosvesnor and her three daughters. Subsequent stories follow Jaeger, the Grosvenors, or other characters in this rich, fantastic world. In “Voice,” we follow the eldest Grosvenor daughter, Rachel, as she goes through the “conformation competition” for her clan. This is a coming of age novel as we follow a character who starts off light and shallow. When she is mugged and a necessary heirloom is stolen, she had to delve deep, into her world, looking for Jaeger, and into herself, to figure out what to do next.

McNeil has distinct, accessible, manga-influenced art, and her characters are engaging. Rachel’s internal and external journeys had me enthralled. I devoured this book in fewer than 24 hours. Additionally, I plan to buy the stories in their new collected forms and re-read from the beginning. This fills me with a great deal of geek joy.

Geek Joy

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Waiting on the Catbus

Waiting on the Catbus

Day: made


“Dream Country” by Neil Gaiman, et al

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I re-read Dream Country, collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series along with Glen and Linda at NPR’s Monkey See blog. I’d never thought that this volume, the series’ third, would be a good entry into Sandman for newbies, but many commenters say it is. And after this most recent re-reading, I can see why. This book contains four short stories: Calliope, A Dream of a Thousand Cats, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Facade, illustrated by three different artists. Each brings his/her different look to the quite different stories, which include an artist’s relationship to his muse, a cat seeking justice, a surreal pastiche of fiction and reality around a play performance, and an obscure character exhumed from DC Comics’ archives who briefly gets her own spotlight.

If you haven’t read Sandman, check out Glen’s primer, and try this volume out. This is especially true if you tried volume 1, Preludes and Nocturnes, and gave up. Gaiman and his crew readily admit the series got off to a wobbly start, and they didn’t find their stride till several issues in. Jumping in on Dream Country gives a good idea of the mix of literature, myth and horror that Gaiman and the artists brewed up. It’s heady stuff, and this is a good way to see if it might be for you.

My Neil Gaiman Story

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

or, How Neil Gaiman Depedestalized Himself. I find it hard believe I haven’t written this story before. If I have, I can’t find it, so here it is.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was one of my gateway comics, way back in 1990. A boyfriend urged it on me along with some of the usuals, like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. But Sandman–with its literary references, magic, horror and mystery–was really what hooked me. I started reading during the Season of Mists story line, which is still one of my favorites. I became a geek girl, devouring old series (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta, Baron and Rude’s Nexus, Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol), showing up at my comic shop on Wednesdays for new comics, and appreciating the attention I received there as a not unattractive female of the species.

Sometime in the early 90’s, Gaiman scheduled a signing at my then comic shop, Fat Jack’s Comicrypt on 19th Street in Philadelphia. I planned carefully for the event. I picked out my favorite outfit, and selected my three items to have signed. I wanted to convey that I was better than the average fan, so I didn’t want to only take recent stuff. After nerdishly obsessing for far too long, I selected the first graphic novel collection of Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes; issue 19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, which I liked so much I’d bought the individual issue even though I had it collected in Dream Country; and Black Orchid, an obscure DC universe character he’d resurrected in a beautifully painted story by Dave McKean.

I pondered the questions I would ask him. They had to be things I was really curious about, plus that would display how cool I was. The fantasy scenario in my mind was pretty clear. My cuteness, smart questions and interesting signing picks would single me out of the crowd. Neil (of course I was thinking of him on a first-name basis) would ask me to join him and his team for dinner that night. And the obvious would happen: we would become friends. Interestingly, this was strictly a platonic fantasy. He seemed much too old for me, more like a young uncle than a potential love interest. Anyway, he was married and I had a boyfriend, and it just wasn’t on my mind.

The day arrived; I left work early. I found a parking spot on the street just a few blocks from the store. I loaded the meter with quarters, and prepared to meet my destiny. (Sandman pun not intended.) The line, when I arrived, was nearly out the door. I thought I was lucky to be inside, but soon realized the tradeoff. It was a warm summer day outside, and positively stifling inside. Many in line were not conscientious about personal hygiene. The line moved slowly. The grey cat atop the back issue boxes surveyed us all with disdain. Sweat trickled down my back and from under my arms. My hair expanded to a gigantic frizzy triangle. The books I clutched had damp handprints on them. Gaiman and his assistant took a break near the end of the hour I’d thought would be more than sufficient on my meter, and the time approached for the class I had that night. I was not near the front of the line. I asked the guys in front of and behind me in line if they’d save my space, overcoming a flash of grade-school embarrassment. The guy behind me looked annoyed and merely nodded. I had to wade through the crowd to the register to get more quarters. Once outside, I breathed in the relatively fresh air. If you’ve ever been on a street in summer in downtown Philly, you know the steaming, fug-spewing grates on most corners. Still, it compared favorably to the inside of the comic shop. I ran the blocks to my car, plugged the expired meter, and raced back. The line had barely moved. The guy who’d been behind me glared, and didn’t make room for me in line. I glared back, put my shoulder down, and wedged my way back in. Time passed. Gaiman chatted equably with those at the head of the line. The rest of us shuffled forward. The additional hour on my meter ticked down. My class was about to begin. Finally, oh, finally, I reached the head of the line.

“Let’s take a break, get a sandwich, shall we?” said Gaiman’s assistant.

“No!” I cried, desperate and without shame.

Gaiman, his assistant, and the comic-shop guy looked at me as if I’d sprouted a head.

“Please,” I added in what I hoped was a more reasonable tone of voice. “My meter’s about to expire and I have a class I have to get to. Can you please sign these before your break?” In other words, I begged.

Gaiman shrugged and held out his hands for the books; the assistant rolled her eyes and asked him what he’d like to eat. He scribbled a signature in my book without looking to see what it was. I waited for him to answer her so I could ask my questions.

“Are we going to find out how Delight became Delirium?” I said.

He didn’t look up from the book he was signing. “Someone else is going to do that.”

Daunted but determined, I forged ahead, “Is the next issue of Miracleman coming soon?”

“Dunno,” he shrugged, sweeping his Sharpie across the inside of my last book. He pushed the books across the table without looking at me, then stood and walked away. Crushed and disappointed, I slunk out of the store.

My fangirl dreams died that day. Most likely a good thing. Neil Gaiman was a man, not a god like Dream, even though he _was_ English.

Later, when I gained a little perspective, I was able to muster some empathy for him. If the store was miserable for me, at least I could stand quietly in line; he had to be nice to everyone. And I heard he was there for hours after I left in that cramped, airless store. While he was distracted and dismissive at my questions, he was also in the midst of a legal battle over Miracleman, and was likely pretty peeved over the whole affair. It’s easy to imagine that the signing was at least as miserable for him as it was for me. From then on, I could be what I imagined a normal fan. I think of him by his last, not his first, name. I’m appreciative of what I like, disappointed in what I don’t, and interested to see what came next.

I think I’ve been to two readings he’s given since then. At neither did I bother with the line.

“Calliope” by Gaiman et al

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Over at NPR’s Monkey See blog, they’re doing an “I Will If You Will” book club, with a handy primer for skeptics. The most recent selection is Dream Country, a graphic novel collection of short stories in the series Sandman. The first story is “Calliope” written by Neil Gaiman, pencilled by Kelley Jones, inked by Malcolm Jones III, colored by Robbie Busch and lettered by Todd Klein.

I have been telling you people for years and years to go read Sandman. It was my gateway comic over twenty years ago, and I still make Wednesday pilgrimages most every week to my comic shop for new releases. It’s a horror comic, and it took a while to get its legs, so it’s not for everyone and easy to put down in the early issues. But those who persevere for all 75 issues plus this and that special will be rewarded. Richly.

I am not an uncritical slavering Gaiman-phile. (He crushed my fangirl worship early on, which I now think was really a blessing. I’ll tell that story sometime. In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t told it before.) He’s done some good stuff, some terrible stuff, some derivative stuff, and some really good stuff. Overall, I like his work and his storytelling. I enjoy how he combines a classical education with modern speculative fiction. And I think the whole of Sandman exemplifies that.

So, if you haven’t read Sandman yet, go get a copy of Dream Country. Read “Calliope”, then check out the long but well-worthwhile conversation in the comments (Neil even liked it). Then read the next story, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and wait with me for Linda and Glen post about it.

Then wiggle in geek-joy anticipation for the next story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of my favorite comic issues, ever.

So, I won’t actually talk about “Calliope” in this entry, but will start off the comments with it so as not to spoil for those who haven’t (ahem, yet) read it. I did manage to squeak in one comment but didn’t get to follow up after I’d read the other 108.

Myriad Movies

Monday, April 11th, 2011

I’ve been on something of a movie bender lately, mostly thanks to a compelling series of “soundtrack” films by local cinephiles Take Up Productions.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is Hitchcock’s remake of his own earlier 1934 black-and-white, British film. Bernard Hermann’s score is almost a character in itself, and the climax of the movie takes place at a concert with the orchestra directed by Hermann himself. This has a pretty blond Doris Day as a retired international singing star visiting Marrakesh with her husband, the much older Jimmy Stewart, a doctor from Indianapolis. Strange things happen when the visit the market, in a scene I think much be the referent for the market chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Great with building tension, it has many hilarious lines, including the final one, along with a creepy subtext of marital dissatisfaction and discord. I’ll be seeking out the original to compare/contrast.

North by Northwest (1959) Another collaboration between Hitchcock and Hermann, with mod visual credits and music to open it. Cary Grant is his usual awesome blend of gentleman clown, while Eva Marie Saint is Hitchcock’s icy blond who he puts through the wringer. Grant’s suit also takes a beating, and the jacket disappears for the scenes on Mt. Rushmore.

Charade (1963) directed by Stanley Donen (who also did Singin’ in the Rain) and scored by Henry Mancini, this has cool opening credits and music. Grant again is the December man to Hepburn’s May cutie. The age difference bothered him so much Grant insisted her character be the one to pursue his. Funny, charming, and labyrinthine in its plot, this was a heckuva lot of fun.

Fahrenheit 451
(1966) by Francois Truffaut, in his first color and his one and only English language film. Nothing funny about this one, but beautiful visuals, including Julie Christie interestingly cast in the dual role of girl/wife, which apparently caused Terence Stamp to drop out as the lead, as he was afraid to be overshadowed by his former lover. Truffaut’s future didn’t look very futuristic from this late date except for one element: the large television screen for viewing an ongoing “reality” show that invites the viewers to feel the actors are their family. This part chilled me in the book, but perhaps even more in the film, seeing a thoroughly of-the-moment size flat screen.

“Loon Baby”

Monday, March 28th, 2011

My younger son, 5yo Guppy, has recently become enamored of baby loons. He saw a picture of a baby taking a ride on its mama’s back in a book and hasn’t stopped talking about them since. So when I saw Loon Baby, written by Molly Beth Griffin and illustrated by Anne Hunter, on display at Magers & Quinn, I showed it to him and asked if he’d like me to get it for him. I had trouble prying it away from him so the bookseller could ring it up. We read it at bedtime, and he took it to bed with him. You can see the result, above.

Loon Baby
is a sweet story about a mother loon and her baby out on the lake. The mother goes for food, but the baby is too small to dive, so can’t go with her. When she is gone a long time, he worries, then becomes lost. Only when he begins to cry is his mother able to find him and they return home to their warm nest on the lake.

I’m a Minnesotan now, so the setting of a north woods lake fills me with longing for a trip to the shore. The text doesn’t rhyme, but has distinct rhythms that make it a pleasure to read aloud.

Loon Baby waited
and floated
and paddled in circles.
The breeze ruffled his fluff.

The art, a combination of watercolors and ink, is beautifully colored and crosshatched for texture. The baby loon is nothing short of adorable. Or, as Guppy says, “CUUUUUTE!”

It does, however, bear more than passing similarities to other missing-mother-bird stories, especially Come Along, Daisy and Owl Babies, two long-time favorites in our family. The family bookshelf has more than enough room for ones as charmingly told and illustrated as Loon Baby. But could we have a move away from the absent-mother-and-worried/lost-child motif, please?

“16 Candles” (1984)

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I probably saw 16 Candles in the theater, as I was 16 when it came out. I do know I watched John Hughes’ genre-changing teen film again and again on VHS and on television. I identified with Molly Ringwald: I was a funny looking redhead with too-short hair and nowhere near the cute clothes she sports in this. I was a little afraid to watch it again after so many years. What if the suck fairy had got into it. My worry wasn’t unwarranted; there were a few things that nagged me. Overall, though, it was what I remembered, a sweet, funny film about a girl whose family is so wrapped up in the upcoming wedding of her older sister they completely forget her sixteenth birthday. I’d never noticed the Jane Austen-ish echoes before, but found them pretty clear this time, with a sensible girl surrounded by crazy relatives. Molly Ringwald is charming and likable as Samantha, Michael Shoeffling smolders sweetly as Jake Ryan, but it’s really Anthony Michael Hall who steals the show. He’s hilarious, both physically and verbally and his presence is what stops this from being too whiny or navel-gazing.

I have to admit to disappointment both with the racial stereotype of Long Duk Dong, and about a morally ambiguous morning after scene, but overall I thought the movie held up well. I still think the scene in front of the church at the end is one of the sweetest, most romantic ones in film. I’ve never understood the women who think Lloyd Dobbler was the perfect guy. Jake Ryan was it, for me, long before I knew the debt he owed to Mr. Darcy.

“I Think I Love You” by Allison Pearson

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I saw the spine of I Think I Love You, and had to pick it up; that was a favorite song from my girlhood and had a renaissance in college when my roommates and I would get up on a coffee table and sing it with improvised microphones at the top of our lungs. I think we all also had it played at our weddings; I have a photo in my wedding album of us dancing and singing to it.

After I picked it up I saw it was by Allison Pearson, whose I Don’t Know How She Does It I enjoyed and it helped me make the decision to resign my corporate job and stay home with my then 9mo son Drake. The description of I Think I Love You talked about teen idols, girls’ friendships, women’s friendship, the difficulties of middle age, all of which sounded right in my wheelhouse. The back blurbs were starred reviews from PW and Kirkus. I charmed a double discount from the guy behind the desk, and walked out with it, which was going to happen in any case.

The book centers on Petra, a 13 year old Welsh girl in 1974 hopelessly in love with David Cassidy. She holds a precarious place in a clique of girls, and a burgeoning best-friendship with Sharon. Petra’s chapters alternate, though, with Bill, a college-grad know-it-all who ghost writes an English David Cassidy fan magazine. As much as it shames him, he finds he is very good at his job, while he tells his girlfriend he’s a rock journalist, bending the truth more than a bit.

Bill stood and watched beside the other journalists, most of them men, none of them Cassidy fans; not in public, at any rate. How surprising it was, then, to see their lips move in sync to half the songs, as if they had been versed in his collected works by the power of hypnotic suggestion. Maybe they couldn’t help it; maybe they just had the radio on all day, in the kitchen at home, beside the draining board, and then on a shelf at the office, next to an open window. Cassidy songs would come and go, through an average radio day, and over the weeks they would seep into your nervous system, whether you wanted them there or not, and you would find yourself breaking out into a song, no more able to prevent it than you would a violent rash. (145)

The book moved from the 70’s to the 90’s, and does a very good psychological portrait of teenage fandom. Both the dust jacket and the binding are a blinding hot pink, so you have to embrace that you’re reading chicklit; I can’t really imagine a guy reading this book. It is by a woman, about girls and women, and really for girls and women and the different stages of life and love that many of us go through.

I was born a little late for the David Cassidy craze. My first pop crush was Donny Osmond, and my second was David’s younger half-brother, Shaun. But the details of pop-star worship are dead on, even with different pop stars, and girls from a different country than mine. If you ever had a crush on a pop star or ever suffered the cruelty of other girls, then I think you’ll find much to identify with and appreciate here.

“Zero History” by William Gibson

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The third in Gibson’s “Bigend” trilogy, Zero History brings back two of the three main characters from Spook Country, Milgrim and Hollis. Milgrim is now working for Bigend, and Hollis reluctantly drawn back into doing same.

She was starting her second cup, Times unread, when she saw Hubertus Bigend mount the stairhead, down the full length of the long room, wrapped in a wide, putty-colored trench coat.

He was the ultimate if velour-robe types, and might just as well have been wearing one now as he swept toward her through the drawing room, unknotting the coat’s belt as he came, pawing back its Crimean lapels, and revealing the only International Klein Blue suit she’d ever seen. He somehow managed always to give her the impression, seeing him again, that he’d grown visibly larger, though without gaining any particular weight. Simply bigger. Perhaps, she thought, if if he grew somehow closer.

Both Milgrim and Hollis are, improbably, on the trail of… wait for it…

pants. Milgrim is trying to find a prototype of a good military pant, while Hollis is recruited to track down something known as a secret brand. Tying together the marketing and fashion aspects from Pattern Recognition and the spy/spook elements from Spook Country, Zero History brings in old characters and weaves them in with new. It is not easily identifiable by genre, though Gibson is traditionally shelved in Science Fiction. There’s mystery, thriller, and even romance. This book, like its predecessors, was plain fun to read and had a huge amount of “I want to know what happens next” charisma, which carried me swiftly along, with short chapters and alternating viewpoints.

After finishing, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Gibson from the current print edition of Rain Taxi. And I look forward to spelunking through his previous works.