Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sometimes the movie really is better

There are certain movies that I love so much, I'm not even willing to try and read the book, lest I ruin the movie.  Is that weird?  I'm watching How Stella Got Her Groove Back right now, and maybe it's just that I have a crush on Taye Diggs, but I have always loved this movie.  I bet the book is great too, but I never care to read it.  I feel the same way about The Princess Diaries and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  I know these are cheesy selections, and I'm sure there are plenty of other examples that I could cite, but these come to mind.  I feel like reading the book would somehow ruin the movie for me.  I've heard that this is the case with Julie & Julia - the book was downright painful to get through, but the movie was excellent.  I would like to see the movie one day (it's totally a wait-for-DVD kind of movie), but I have no intention of ever reading the book.  I've picked up the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books a few times in the library, but then always decide that I like to movie too much to read a book.  Usually, I say that I don't want movies to be made of my favorite books, because I'm so terrified that the movie isn't going to be good enough to live up to the book.  It feels weird to think the opposite and be afraid that reading the book is going to ruin the movie that I like so much.  But I kind of like it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shutter Island is one of the best books I read last year


Seriously, if you haven't read this book yet, and you have any intention of ever doing so, or of even seeing the movie, please STOP READING, I'm about to ruin the whole thing for you.  Seriously.  I loved this book so much, and I don't want to ruin that for anyone who might read it in the future.  I wish I could write an adequate review posting my thoughts on it without giving it away, but I just can't.  I know my own inadequacies.  So please heed my advice and go pick up a copy of this book from your local bookseller or library, read it immediately, and then come back and visit.  And comment.  And follow. 
Okay.  Moving on . . .

I'm beyond excited about this movie, first of all.  I think that with Scorcese at the helm, Lehane's brilliant mystery is going to come to life beautifully.  The previews look promising, and I think DiCaprio was a great casting decision to play Teddy.  That aside, this book is one of my favorites of all time.  That is a very short list, and making it is no easy feat, but Shutter Island really blew my mind.  Prior to reading it, I picked up Lehane's collection of short stories, Coronado, just to get a feel for his writing.  It was the first thing of his I'd read, and I fell in love almost immediately.  For real, Dennis Lehane can do more in a 25 page short story than most authors can do in a 250 page novel.  I'm just so impressed with his writing.  Captivating comes to mind.  The one story, "ER," blew my mind.

Shutter Island takes place at an asylum for the criminally insane - a place where they take the people that can't be anywhere else - on a small island in Boston harbor.  Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule are sent there to investigate the disappearance of a patient who seemingly evaporated out of thin air, and in the process they come across some other shady dealings that seem to be taking place on the island.  Now, I've heard some people say that they knew right away that Teddy was actually Laeddis and that he was patient 67 and that the whole thing was some kind of set up all along, but I think that's bullshit.  I had a feeling that something was up, and that maybe he was somehow tied into the patient 67 thing, but how anyone could have foreseen that the whole thing was an elaborate set up because Teddy is a patient there is impossible.

I believe it's impossible to have foreseen that, because the book ends without really letting the reader know if that was the case or not.  And I love Dennis Lehane for that.  I've had discussion about the lady in the cave, and I firmly believe that she is the turning point of the whole book.  Without her cautioning Teddy not to take any meds or accept any cigarettes or anything, that layer of doubt wouldn't ever be placed in the reader's mind, either.  She, and that conversation in the cave, is the turning point for Teddy, it's when he truly starts to question whether he'll ever get off the island, and even to question his own sanity.  At the same time the reader starts to see the disturbing patterns developing, and begins to wonder if Teddy was a bit off to begin with, or if it's the pills he took for his migrane that are making him that way.  What were those pills?  At the end, you still don't know if the whole set up that was described was the beginning or the end of the cycle.  Did they really set it up to try and cure Teddy of his mental illness, or was that story something they made up to essentially capture Teddy and keep him on the island indefinitely.  There are just so many layers to this book, and it's so well-written and suspenseful and just brilliant that I'm beside myself whenever I try to talk about it.  Love.  I love Dennis Lehane, and am now on a quest to read all the rest of his books.

By the way - I'm totally jealous that my internet friend Heather, of See Heather Write, got to meet Mr. Lehane himself at her writing workshop recently.  Totally jealous.  She's also now doing a contest on her blog, giving away a signed copy of The Given Day, as well as a signed copy of Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife.  Good deal.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

John Frusciante is awesome

On December 16, 2009, via blog post on, John announced that he was officially out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I didn't hear of this news until a recent issue of Rolling Stone informed me, about 2 weeks ago. I'm really bummed about his departure, but I completely understand his reasons, and I'm thrilled that he is in the place he's in creatively, and excited to see what he puts out. I'm also hopeful that, down the road, he'll come back to work with RHCP again.

I've been a fan of RHCP for as long as I can remember.  Literally, I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't listening to them and shaking my ass to their music.  There are very few bands that I can actually say that about - in fact, RHCP and U2 might be the only ones.  My earliest memories of music and my enjoyment thereof all involve those two bands, and their music provides the soundtrack for A LOT of major events and memories in my life.  When John left the band to deal with his addiction back in 1992, I was bummed, but obviously understanding that he was at a place in his life where he needed to focus on himself, and the band was getting in the way of his recovery.  That made sense.  And the Peppers moved on and circulated through a couple of guitarists before settling on Dave Navarro.  I'm a Jane's Addiction fan, and I love Navarro's quirkiness, but I gotta say - his style just didn't fit with the Peppers.  One Hot Minute was one hot mess, in a lot of ways.  It's still a great album, there's just something off about it. 

Anyway, when Frusciante returned for Californication, I might've had a party.  His return brought the band back to it's core and pushed them into new and amazing creative waters.  By the Way is one of my favorite RHCP albums, and I now realize that had a lot to do with Frusciante's creative energy pushing the band to explore new heights.  The album has an almost ethereal feeling to it, in my opinion.  Like One Hot Minute, it's different from any of their other albums, but it's diferent in a different way.  And I now relize that it resembles a lot of John's solo stuff from that period, and I'm totally into that.

So, the news of John's departure just as RHCP are heading back to the studio to work on their next album has me concerned, to say the least.  I know that new guy (Josh Klinghoffer, an additional touring guitarist on the Stadium Arcadium tour) has the chops to pull it off; my concern is with the loss of John's creativity and energy.  I have recently been checking out his solo albums, and I'm blown away by the more recent ones.  He's an amazing guitarist, and songwriter, and it turns out he can sing too, and he has a very cool, almost haunting at times, voice.  If you have the chance, check out the songs "Omission" and "Song to Sing When I'm Lonely" from the Shadows Collide with People album and "Murderers" from To Record Only Water for Ten Days.  Those are a good start.  I'm really into his solo stuff now.  I just hope that the split with RHCP is worth it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Laser Cats!

I've posted before about how much I love the Laser Cats sketches on SNL, so how exciting that there was a new one on over the weekend!  Laser Cats 5 featured James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver, and was based on an Alien/Avatar theme.  It's not my favorite Laser Cats ever, but I still love it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What I read in 2009

This is going to be a doozy.  As you can see in my sidebar, I managed to read 81 books in 2009.  Listed in the order I finished them in, including author and date finished, here they are:

House of God
Samuel Shem
The Host
Stephenie Meyer
This Lullaby
Sarah Dessen
Just Listen
Sarah Dessen
Invisible Monsters
Chuck Palahnuik
Dead Until Dark
Charlaine Harris
Living Dead in Dallas
Charlaine Harris
Club Dead
Charlaine Harris
Dead to the World
Charlaine Harris
Dead as a Doornail
Charlaine Harris
Fight Club
Chuck Palahnuik
The Truth About Forever
Sarah Dessen
Chuck Palahnuik
That Summer
Sarah Dessen
Without You
Anthony Rapp
Dean Koontz
Sloppy Firsts
Megan McCafferty
Second Helpings
Megan McCafferty
Jerry Spinelli
Love, Stargirl
Jerry Spinelli
Charmed Thirds
Megan McCafferty
Ellen Hopkins
Go Ask Alice
Definately Dead
Charlaine Harris
Fourth Comings
Megan McCafferty
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess
Ellen Hopkins
All Together Dead
Charlaine Harris
Perfect Fifths
Megan McCafferty
From Dead to Worse
Charlaine Harris
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Certain Girls
Jennifer Wiener
Audrey, Wait!
Robin Benway
The Soloist
Steve Lopez
Dead and Gone
Charlaine Harris
Chuck Palahnuik
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
Melissa Bank
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Tucker Max
The Dirt
Motley Crue
Always Running
Luis Rodriguez
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson
Candy Girl
Diablo Cody
Bitter is the New Black
Jen Lancaster
Agusten Burroughs
The White Arrest
Ken Bruen
Taming the Alien
Ken Bruen
The McDead
Ken Bruen
Geek Love
Katherine Dunn
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
Less Than Zero
Bret Easton Ellis
Lunar Park
Bret Easton Ellis
Bright Lights, Big City
Jay McInerny
Everyone Worth Knowing
Lauren Weisberger
Magical Thinking
Augusten Burroughs
The Gun Seller
Hugh Laurie
Ken Bruen
Ken Bruen
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins
Dennis Lehane
Shutter Island
Dennis Lehane
13 Reasons Why
Jay Asher
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein
Diana Gabaldon
Twenties Girl
Sophie Kinsella
A Great and Terrible Beauty
Libba Bray
Roasting in Hell's Kitchen
Gordon Ramsay
Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
Sharon Creech
Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen
The Heroin Diaries
Nikki Sixx
A Touch of Dead
Charlaine Harris
Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Mary Ann Shaffer
Why We Suck
Dennis Leary
Maus I & II
Art Spiegelman
The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
Complete Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
My Friend Leonard
James Frey
Tommy Lee
Fighting Ruben Wolfe
Marcus Zusak
The Art of War
Sun Tzu

Another new addition you will notice on my sidebar, also reading related, is a display of what I'm currently reading, which includes a link to my other GoodReads shelves.  If you're not familiar with, it's a reading website where you can keep track of all of your books and all of your friends books, etc.  It's almost like FaceBook for books and reading nerds.  And I love it.  So I'm no longer using the "I'm Reading" App on FB to keep track of what I'm reading, but I've yet to transfer the reviews I wrote over the past year to GR yet.  I also don't think I transferred the ratings I gave anything last year.  So 2009 books are in FB and 2010 books are and will continue to be in GR.  I'm not sure why I never used GR last year, but the more I use it now, the more I love it.  Feel free to poke around, and feel free to request me as a friend or leave a comment here and I'll send you an invitation

I'm with Coco

I love this.
 Because I really am.  I've been no fan of NBC or Jay Leno for a while now, and I really thought that giving that huge-chinned, no-talent shmuck his own prime-time-five-nights-a-week show was the last straw for me, that it couldn't get any worse, but my friends, last week it did.  My displeasure with NBC and Mr. Leno has risen to a new level.  It's completely absurd that the network is going to give Leno back the 11:35 time slot for his show, bumping THE TONIGHT SHOW, a television icon, into tomorrow, at 12:05.  What's next, Saturday Night Live on Sundays? Ugh.  Thankfully, Conan has stood his ground, and with all of the grace and dignity expected of him, despite the uncertainty that he's walking into by doing so, and I'm really pleased to see that he's not selling out or otherwise taking shit from a network gone awry.  (PS: Hey NBC?  I loved the Black Donneleys, as did a number of others.  It was a shit decision to cancel it.  In favor of what? Another Law & Order spin-off?  Another run-of-the-mill hospital drama?  Every single half-way decent hour-long drama that you get, you cancel before even giving it a chance.  Boooooooo.)

I guess we'll see what more happens, both at NBC and for Conan's future in television hosting, in the coming days, but make no mistake: I'm with Coco.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Minerva's Pizza on the east side = chicken parm lasagna wrapped into a calzone. At least that's what it tastes like. Yummm.

David Cook review

No, this is not a new David Cook album - this is the one that came out in November 2008.  First, I can't believe it was that long ago.  Second, I don't do a lot of album reviews, so why pick this one, right?  The answer is that it's a good album, I'm listening to it today, and in honor of the new season of American Idol starting last night.  This is very much not the kind of album I'd generally pick to review, but it's on my mind.

When David Cook was on AI, it was one of those few seasons that I actually watched all the way through.  Usually, I watch some of the silly audition stuff right at the beginning, more because I'm excited that it's back on than because I really want to see it, though.  That excitement always dwindles before Hollywood week even rolls around, usually, and I get tired of the joke singers that they put on the auditions just to make America laugh.  (I've come to think that many of them are actors that Fox is paying to sing badly on national television just to boost ratings that first week and spur YouTube sensations, but maybe that's just the conspiracy theorist in me.)  Anyhoo - My interest usually sparks again when there's between 7 and 4 people left on the show, because then at least I know they can sing.  But there have been 2 or 3 seasons that I've actually watched beginning to end, and have felt some stake in the outcome (though I've never voted).  Cook's season was one of them, and I had my money on him from day one.  Say what you will, but the kid can sing, and I've always liked that he wasn't a fit-the-mold pop star.

I was understandably excited and interested when his solo album dropped, and I wasn't disappointed.  I've liked the album, every song, beginning to end, since the day I downloaded it.  It wasn't until this past October, almost a full year after first hearing it, that I realized exactly why I like this album so much.  I'm an aspiring writer, and every November I participate in an online writing challenge called NaNoWriMo.  Which means that I spend much of October getting ready for that challenge.  "Getting ready to write" for me includes not only the standard plot outlining and character development exercises, but also picking the playlist that is going to score my hours and hours of banging away at a keyboard.  As I was doing that, and I listened to this album with my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel in mind, it hit me just how emotional the album is.  Damn.  Kid can sing?  Kid can sing in a way that can make you feel it, make you sit up and pay attention, even though a lot of the music on the album comes across at first glance as little more than good radio background.

Cook had a lot of help writing the songs on the album, from a lot of great songwriters, and it shows, but he didn't have any help in belting them out.  On every track on this album, the lyrics, the music, and Cook's voice come together with such emotion, you can't help but be impressed.  From love to loss to sadness to joy to hope, the range of emotions is seemingly endless, as is Cook's capacity to represent them with his voice.  This is very much a pop-rock album, don't get me wrong.  It's very mainstream and very accessible, and very radio-ready.  No kidding, every single track could be on the radio tomorrow, and most of them would immediately be played to death by most top-40 stations.  Like I said, at first listen it's a decent album, but the music doesn't stand out as anything more than radio background.  Doesn't mean it's not a valuable album.  In that way, I question what Cook could've done without the "AI Winner" badge hanging over his head.  I think any album that comes out of an AI winner is to some extent a dilution of what they might truly be capable of in order to appeal to the masses.  I think of some of the people I know who watch AI religiously, and then imagine how the powers that be try to package the winner in a way that will make each and every one of those people want to buy the winner's albums, and to me that's representative of everything that's wrong with the record industry and the major labels on the whole.  But I digress . . .

Specifics: "Bar-ba-sol" and "Declaration" are my favorite tracks on the album because they rock just a little more than the rest.  "Bar-ba-sol" has an almost funky feeling to it, and I think that's what draws me to it over some other tracks.  "Light On" was the first big single, and I like it almost as much.  The AI winner song, "Time of My Life," doesn't fit, IMO.  I don't think it's really him, and I don't think it's an accurate reflection of his style or what he's capable of.  That said, it's not a bad song, except for that garbage lyric about rainbows.  "Permanent" is a beautiful, beautiful ballad about the temporary nature of life and love, and another of my favorites on the album.  Overall, the album is so accessible, I think there's something for everyone, but more importantly, since this is my blog after all, I like it, and I recommend it.