Monday, June 30, 2008

A Prairie Home Companion

This was kind of weird.

Killing Us Softly, Volume 3

Jean Kilbourne talks about images of women in advertising and how screwed up it all is. It was a bit boring, but probably only because I've read her fantastic book Can't Buy My Love:How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel so many times that I've kind of got the idea by now.

Branded: Personal Identity Through Consumer Products

Very interesting movie- this time directed at marketing students, rather than critics, which gave it a whole new flavor.
There were a couple of guys in it who I really don't know how they sleep at night- they had a brand, with no products yet, but they were raising money on the idea that once they established their "brand" and their "targets", they could sell nearly anything. I hated them.
The CEO of Swatch was another major focus, and he had some very interesting things to say about his brand definition.
Coming as it did from the marketing side of things, it wasn't very critical of the idea that people define their identity through what they buy, but one of the commentators (who must have had a major Warhol fetish going) did talk about how back in his day, cool people wanted something unique, that wasn't a national brand name, and how the marketing machine has kind of jammed that.

Buying Into Sexy

Interesting CBC documentary on how tweens are handling what marketers call "age compression", which, to the rest of us, leads to the ever-charming "prostitot" or "kinderwhore" look.

Nothing really groundbreaking here, unless you hadn't heard it before, but some of the girls seemed so sad, and stupid, and so so clueless.

Evanly Bodies, by Rhys Bowen

Mmm, Wales.

But- this one I actually was interested in the plot of, because I had no idea that Muslim immigration was an issue in that area too... I knew that that was a huge thing in other areas nearby, but somehow thought that these small towns and villages were remaining more homogenous, but the whole plot of this book hinged on the difficulties of assimilation, and I just really... wish it hadn't.

Also, I must say I wish Constable Evans hadn;'t married Bronwen. I think a HUGE part of the fun of the Hamish Macbeth's by M.C. Beaton is Hamish mooning over Priscilla while Elspeth, Freda, etc ad infinitum are all so much better suited for him, and the possibilities of romance and the continual confusion and awkward meetings at the Italian restaurant add a lot of fun, and after the first Constable Evans book, I was looking forward to more of the same with Betsy the Barmaid and Bronwen the schoolteacher and so on.

But still, lovely to read the names of the towns.

Evanly Choirs, by Rhys Bowen

Ah-ha! Well, these are a *lot* like the Hamish Macbeth mysteries, but set in North Wales instead of Scotland, in an imaginary town called Llanfair*, which seems to be in between Conwy and Caernarfon, and Constable Evans keeps going to Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Prestatyn, and so on, which is wonderful beyond all reason.

This one was set around an Eisteddfod at Harlech.


PS. I pay absolutley no attention to the plots of these, so I haven't got a clue if it's a good mystery.

* Definitely not Llanfairpwllgwyngychgogerychwyrndrobwllllantisiliogogogoch.

Death of a Bore, by M.C. Beaton

Mmmm. More lovely Scottish Highlands, more lovely cottages and peat slabs and whiskey and salmon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Death of a Maid, by M.C. Beaton

Another Hamish Macbeth mystery. You know, I think I only half-read the actual plot, while drooling over the real-estate porn details- the thick stone walls, the storms rolling in over the lochs, the slabs of peat in the fire... Someone killed someone, and Hamish sorted it all out, but the main appeal of these is the houses.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Across The Universe

This was just amazing. I hardly know what to say- somewhere between a music video and a musical, with some really magical moments. Very very cool, Julie Taymor.

Vampire Legends of Rhode Island, by Christopher Rondina

Well, I couldn't find a jpg of the cover of this, which is such a shame, because it was very flashy! This was a fun, super quick read, and maybe of interest only because I live in South County, and got a kick out of it. Now I really have to make it to Mercy Brown's grave!

For Your Consideration

I enjoyed this, but it was kind of painful- crueler than A Mighty Wind or Waiting For Guffman or Best in Show (all of which I love.) Catherine O'Hara just freaking broke my heart, and even though sure, I was laughing, I almost didn't want to watch the rest of the movie.

Ouch, buddy. I wish Christopher Guest would get back to funny funny, not funny-ouch.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bratz The Movie

This was unbelievably bad.
In every way possible, this movie was awful and wildly offensive. I cannot believe that adults made this knowing it was for children. How the hell do those people sleep at night?
At one point, this is the only example I'll give of the unspeakable manipulative sexist consumerizing nature of this crapfest, I promise, the four "best friends" (who are horrible to each other and are individually wretched people too) are all invited to their enemy's MTV Super Sweet 16 party. Now, not for one second do the girls think, hey, We don't like Meredith, and she hates us, so lets not go to her party. Nope. They go shopping for new outfits for the party. Ok, so moving on, Cloe, the blond, is sulking around unhappily as the other Bratz endlessly try on clothes. Finally she says something to the eeffect that she can't go to the party, as she doesn't have enough money to buy a new outfit. (Her mom is single, and a caterer, which of course leads to future humiliations). Instead of saying, Hey, Cloe, no one needs a new outfit for Meredith's party, lets go home and trade outfits around or whatever, or realizing that they all hate Meredith and not go, Sasha, the black girl, pulls out two "Gold Gift Certificates" (limitless? wtf?) and says "One from Mom and one from Dad- now who says divorce is bad? Now it's one for you and one for me!" So then Cloe is happy, and they shop.
Yeah. Yeah.
Christ it was incredibly bad.
OMG this is the best ever review on IMDB- this really spells it out.
"I'm 20... I haven't cried for any reason since I was 12, and this movie brought me to tears. Not from laughter, not sadness... it was SO bad, I had no emotions that could be connected to this film, and I just started crying because nothing else quite fit. If these people tried to perform like this two thousand years ago, they would have been stoned to death. The acting was so terrible, I think I lost my faith in mankind. The materialism in this movie was so... I can't even think of an adequate adjective to describe it... No wonder there are countries that want to see our way of life crumble... after seeing this movie, I almost agree with them.
It's so awful, no one could possibly lampoon this movie. It's too terrible to properly mock and satirize. I feel really terrible for the companies that sponsored this. They really lost out on this investment. The attempts at throwing in messages about individualism and inner strength would have worked, if there hadn't been the "be yourself, but dress fashionably to be accepted" message splayed across this film like roadkill. It's a good thing I didn't have any forks, or acetylene torches nearby... or I would have tried to stab/burn my brain out.
I seriously considered gnawing my own leg off several times, to escape watching this film. I actually lost the ability to breathe after about 40 minutes of this film... I eventually remembered how, but it took a while. Not good... My roommate has completely lost his mind... he asks questions like, if Darth Vader showed up at our door, should we hang out with him, and some remarks about hollowed out breasts and orange juice... he's completely lost his mind.
Don't watch this movie if you value your sanity!!! " LINK

Knocked Up

Very funny, a little manipulative. Ending was gross.

I've heard/read whatever so much about Apatow's movies that I'm glad I finally saw one, but although it was pretty funny, I'm not really sold. I did like the shrooms/Vegas/Cirque/chair scene though. Wish there'd been more of that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Death of a Celebrity, by M.C. Beaton

Fun, quick mystery. I love the Hamish MacBeth ones, but I can't stand the Agatha Raisins.

I love the Scotland setting so much, actually, that I've spent hours ogling Outer Hebrides real estate and looking at crofter's cottages all over bloody Scotland. More expensive than you'd think! Seems like it's about 30k pounds even for a crumbly lonely one with tons of repairs to be done. Well a girl can dream.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hush, An Irish Princess' Tale, by Donna Jo Napoli

This was pretty good- I wish I could say I thought it was as good as Mulberry Street, but I didn't. I did enjoy it though and thought the whole stork thing was lovely. Great cover, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Now You See Her, by Jaqueline Mitchard

Interesting YA book with an exceedingly unrealiable narrator. Hope Shay is an ex teen actress, writing about the events that led up to her exile in boarding school- or is she? Good read, fast, but so well written and I loved the Shakespeare bits.

One quibble: If Hope has watched so many movies (mentioned all through the book), it seems really unlikely that she never saw Baz Lurhmann's Romeo+Juliet, in which Claire Danes' Juliet acts like a spoiled 14 year old.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, by Dan Kennedy

This was such a funny book. Kennedy writes about the time he spent working as an executive at a music company, and the wry asides about his awkward fan-by internal feelings, even as he plans video shoots with Fat Joe and liscencing for Jewel with Schick razors are hysterical. And very genuine, too- despite feeling absurd while working there, a real love of music fills the book and gives it heart. Cool read.

The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson

Wow! This was a heady stew of strange facts and speculation that was impossible to put down. I don't know why I hadn't read it before, Jon Ronson's Them: Adventures With Extremists is one of my favorite books to read and re-read, and this one was as interesting, if even more disturbing.
A look into how some very New Age-y theories combined with some pretty insane generals has led to some of the clusterf*ck bizarro spectacles that have astounded and horrified the world, the book kept making me jump.
From 1970's gurus to Gitmo, the arc of progression of some of the ideas about how to influence people was really sad, actually- people who were thinking about using music, for example, to send messages subliminally had their research co-opted into military uses for interrogation. The goat staring is so bizarre that it seems laughable- but it is true that the US Army had a group of soldiers who spent a few years trying to be psychic and trying to stare goats to death.
A wonderful, bizarre read.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

This was wonderful.

It was so great to read about a girl who felt so real, and so healthy.

Allie Finkle's Rules For Girls, by Meg Cabot

You know, I do not really like Meg Cabot. But I didn't think she was eeeeevil, I just thought she has a roomful of chained up ghostwriters she whips with feather boas. Now, I'm really starting to suspect she's on the Dark Side. I rarely read children's books. I've read a lot of YA lately, sure, but other than revisiting childhood favorites, I've mostly (and happily) ignored the children's books. But hearing that La Cabot has started up a children's series, and reading article after article about how this has just made her publishers go ka-ching! kaching! with excitement, I thought I'd check it out.

It was loathesome.

Allie Finkle is a little bitch in training, her moral compass is broken, her parents should send her to boarding school in Liberia, and I can't believe anyone published this piece of shit.

Millions, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

This was fantastic, bizarre, tear-making, hope-filling, funny, and so very
very strange. It was a delight.

Damien is an English 11 year old obsessed with saints and his dead mother,
and he finds a bag of cash, weeks before the pound switches to the euro. (Yeah,
I know- but go with it!)He and his 14 year old brother try to spend it all,
without their dad finding out.

It was such an odd book, but I loved it.

Running Out Of Time, by Margaret Haddix

Well, Haddix is so bang-you-over the head with the point, but this was pretty good anyway.

13 year old Jessie lives with her parents in 1840's Indiana, in a small frontier town. Children being dying of diptheria, and her mother, the town midwife, tells Jessie that she needs to get help from outside- that it's really 1996, and that their entire world is a tourist attraction, and that all the adults had volunteered to 'live in the 1840's" for various reasons of their own. Jessie has to deal with that, and with the modern world, to try to find out why they are being denied modern medicine.

Interesting idea, but Haddix isn't the kind of writer that makes it alive- the idea is great, the story is cool, but the words and dialogue feel stale and dated already. (the whole 1840's thing aside). Funnily enough though, I did watch that "Colonial House" show on PBS where the people volunteered to live like the Plymouth settlers, and wondered about the ethics involved with the kids on that show, so I guess Haddix was on to something.

The Lolita Effect, by M. Gigi Durham

Vey good book about the sexualization of young girls and the impact that marketing sexy to young girls can make on their futures. I'd say it was fantastic if I hadn't read it before, but I have, so it was kind of like, Yeah, I knew that, but if I hadn't known it already, I'd be filled with rage, you know what I mean?

The Bar Code Tattoo, by Suzanne Weyn

Everyone gets the tattoo- so why doesn’t Kayla just go ahead and get it done?
From the book:

“Everyone has a file,” Amber said. “There’s been a file on everyone for years.”
“But people haven’t always worn their files,” Kayla argues.
Amber shrugged, unconcerned. “What’s the difference? Walk me to class.”
“I’m going home. School feels like a cage today. I can’t sit still.”

Code Orange, by Caroline B. Cooney

Fast paced action adventure bioterror YA.
Mitty can’t believe he has to actually use books to do his science project. Don’t his teachers know that everything is on the internet anyway? But once he starts his project, it becomes more interesting – and dangerous- than he could have ever thought. On the run from bioterrorists, will Mitty have to sacrifice himself – to save the world?
“They didn’t use Mitty’s favorite phrase, hot agent. Lethal incurable disease was their term…”

Catherine, Called Birdy , by Karen Cushman

In 1290, Catherine, a 13 year old girl, the daughter of a knight, is keeping a diary of her life at her parents’ manor house. Hilarious, moving, and surprisingly vulgar and violent, Catherine’s diary is a glimpse into life 718 years ago.

From the book:

I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.”

The Mother Daughter Book Club, by Heather Vogel Frederick

This was lovely. 4 girls, living in Concord, Mass., are forced by their mothers to spend a year reading Little Women in a book club that meets once a month. Of course, the 4 girls are all very different, mall-crazy Megan, hockey-happy Cassidy, bookish Emma and Goat-Girl Jess, but the book had a gentle, warm feel to it. I enjoyed it tremendously.

From the book
“Whatever it is, I know for sure I won’t like it. Last time my mother started a sentence that way, I ended up in ballet class. Talk about total humiliation. People built like me are not meant to wear leotards. We’re maybe meant to bring in the harvest or something.”

The King of Mulberry Street, by Donna Jo Napoli

Wonderful book. It's childrens/YA, but I thought it had huge adult appeal- maybe even more appeal for adults than for kids. Dom is 9 years old when he comes, alone, to America from Naples. The story was based on the author's grandfather, and it left a major impression on me. It was harrowing, inspiring, and so so real.
From the book:
“Do you have people waiting for you in New York?”
“That’s what I was afraid of.” He gave a brief whistle. “There are plenty of kids on their own in America but it’s hard. Harder than in Napoli. Head for Mulberry Street.”

The Gospel According to Larry, by Janet Tashjian

Wonderful YA. A guy writing an anonymous, anti-consumerist blog gets his world shaken up when his blog blows up into a national movement, complete with free festivals U2 plays at. Lovely character development, strange ending for me.

Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul

Fantastic book, impossible to put down. Great read about marketing to parents, and the shocking money in the 'parenting' sector of the economy. The only quibble I have with it was that it hardly addressed the other side of the coin- that there are parents who can barely afford to feed their children, while others fret about the latest luxury strollers.