Saturday, February 16, 2008

WTF? Rolling Stone (Feb 21, 08) & Britney Spears

My new subscription to RS has finally started showing up regularly, and whose giant mug do I see on the cover when I open my mailbox? Britney f***ing Spears! Why? Answer me that.

In the words of that other eternally fan, "Leave Britney alone!" (my mascara's running from my burning tears of shame...). Please Rolling Stone, never do this again.

Jimmy Corrigan : The Smartest Kid on Earth - by Chris Ware

Took this out from the library yesterday on a whim, and finished it this morning. I have to say, this is one big work (and I'm not just talking about page numbers here - although the book could be used as a booster seat for a small person - not that I'm suggesting that.

Ware does different things with frames. Some go this way, some that. Some have LOTS of text (which is really, really small), and some fill the page with image.

The story was tough for me to follow until I was halfway in. In fact, I still am not sure who Jimmy is - so many characters are named Jimmy. The time track is also confusing, jumping in between memories of different characters, etc.

Picture every embarrassing, awkward moment you've had, and roll that into a daily existence. That's the main character(s). The book is overwhelmingly despondent and bleak, but seems to end with the promise of hope and good things tomorrow (it ends on Thanksgiving night with two of these "outcasts" meeting each other).

I don't feel the worse for reading it, but I do feel like I missed a lot due to the scope of Ware's mind. Oh, you must read the inner flap - the history of comics is priceless.

Finished: 2/16/08
Pages: 380
Running page count: 3,179

from The Haunted Bookshop

"Printer's ink has been running a race against gunpowder these many, many years. Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may twenty years to blow him up with a book. But gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries." (Roger Mifflin)

The Haunted Bookshop - by Christopher Morley

Another "B&N Library of Essential Reading" book, and not a bad one at that. Morley tells of a "haunted" used bookshop (haunted by the ghosts of dead authors, of course), its eccentric owner (Roger Mifflin), his wife (Helen), an attractive girl who comes to work (Titania), an advertising man who falls for Titania (Aubrey), and, of course, the dog (Bock).

Oh yeah, Morely weaves in a subplot with German spies who like to blow things up (in the newly post-World War 2 world). Roger's eccentricities are fun to follow, and he is a really believable character. Aubrey, not so much. A bit too much jumping to conclusions, a bit too much patriotism involved in those conclusions.

Overall, enjoyable.

Finished: 2/16/08
Pages: 155
Running page count: 2,799

Understanding Digital Photography - by Bryan Peterson

Excellent book! Great photos, great tips. Loved it!

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal - by Christopher More

An irreverent, satiric, sarcastic, and humorous look at Christ's life, from the age of 7 to his crucifixion, as told by Biff, his childhood pal. You know, the missing years, missing gospel, etc.

The "religious" aspect aside, Moore humanizes Christ in this book more so than Christ's "other" book (the Bible, of course). We see him (Christ) learn about being the Messiah, talk to his Father (and getting no response), learn Buddhism and the martial arts, and all those doubts and problems along the way. Biff protects him. Biff grounds him. Biff allows him to fully realize his potential.

Come on. Any book that has Jesus insisting on including "Bless'd are the Dumbfucks" in the Beatitudes can't be that bad, right? I laughed my ass off for a week. I think this is a book that needs to be read and appreciated.

Finished: 1/26/08
Pages: 417
Running page count: 2,644

Top 100: Simplified Tips & Tricks for Digital Photography - by Rob Sheppard

Interesting ideas, presented in a simple manner, with great photos and revealing diagrams. Definitely a good one to own and refer back to.

Finished: 1/21/08
Pages: 211
Running Page Count: 2,227

from Watchmen

"We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to. We do it because we are compelled." - Rorsharch

Watchmen - by Alan Moore

This came to me highly recommended, and I finally got around to reading this highly ambitious work. It took me forever to finish, though. I liked it, but I didn't love it. It was an interesting novel, and the writing and the graphics were fine, but something just didn't stick. It didn't grab me like other graphic novels (Fables, Y: Last Man Standing, or Preacher) I've read did. I did find it interesting, though, how, twenty years later, the social commentaries and ever-present "World War 3" is still quite prevalent today.

My favorite line from Rorsharch: "We do not do this thing because it is permitted. We do it because we have to. We do it because we are compelled."

Finished: 1/21/08
Pages: 416
Running page count: 2,016

The Kodak Most Basic Book of Digital Photography - by Jeff Wignall

A quick and easy read. Explains the basic concepts, well, basically. I'll probably re-read this a few more times, until all these new terms and concepts start to become 2nd nature.

Finished: 1/19/08
Pages: 93
Running page count: 1,600

Rick Sammon's Guide to Digital Photography - Rick Sammons

Got a Nikon D40 for Xmas, and this was the first (of many) photography books I purchased, with the hopes to be "enlightened" and be able to take "good" pictures.

Lots of interesting pics & tips, though his "lessons" weren't what I anticipated. I kind of want someone to "hold me hand" as I learn about my new camera. I know that sounds wimpy, but you get a bit depressed when you spend an entire weekend walking around Nyack (in the brisk winter air) and you get 800 pictures of, well, crap.

I think I have gotten a bit better in the past month (the books DO help, at least from a technical angle). I also think I've taken more seagull & duck pictures than anyone in this town (look at the Flickr feed to the right...).

Finished: 1/19/08
Pages: 461
Running page count: 1,507

I Am Legend - Ricard Matheson (adapted by Steve Niles and Elman Brown)

Pete lent me the graphic novel version (1981) of the novel (1952) that inspired the Will Smith film (2007). Gets around, eh?

I read through this in one Friday evening. Now, I don't like the film (as I've said before, the ending was way too contrived). The graphic novel was better, and told an entirely different version of events than the film did (with "real" vampires, and a next door neighbor who taunts the protagonist every night - "Come out, Neville!" - all night). The end was different too: different classes of vampires who "take over" etc. Seems that Neville truly is legend (as the last human, I guess, and as the last line in the book).

I wasn't entirely taken with the artwork either - the black and white lines lent too much of a "sketchy" reality (pun intended) to the story. I must say, though, the panel where the dog died had me in tears.

I don't think I would re-read, but this book saved the story from the clutches of a horribly done film.

Finished: 1/12/08
Pages: 240
Total Page Count: 1,046

from Six Characters in Search of an Author

FATHER: But don't you see that the whole trouble lies here. In words, words. Each one of has within him a whole world of things, each man of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do. (page 10, Dover ed.)

Six Characters in Search of an Author - Luigi Pirandello

Evidently an influential Modernist work (not, evidently, influential enough to escape the giant gaps in my English knowledge - thanks, school), the play was great. Six characters show up on a stage and try to convince the manager to "be their author" (it seems their author wrote them and then discarded them). They "act" their story (their reality) on stage for the manager (who still doesn't believe they are fictional characters), who eventually agrees to "stage" their "story." As he tries to do this, the notion of reality becomes quite confused. Is a character's "written word" his reality? Do characters exist outside of books, performing only the role they were "written" for? How do "unused" characters experience truth? What happens when all of this collides together on stage?

Pirandello explores the concepts of truth and reality in a masterful way. If characters are, in fact, alive, but can only tell one story (the one they were written to do), are they more or less real that an actor who attempts to "recreate" that story on stage. How true is acting, after all? Or, how close does acting bring us to truth?

Although short, the play moves at an insane pace. I would love to see this staged.

Finished: 1/12/08
Pages: 52 (it was a Dover edition)
Total Page count: 806

The Man Who was Thursday - G.K. Chesterton

A "Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading book (hey, there was a holiday clearance sale). Supposedly the father of modern spy dramas (so says the introducer), the book was quite enjoyable until the last chapter.

Symes, a cop, infiltrates a anarchy crime ring. The leader of the ring, Sunday, is a criminal mastermind. All the members of the ring (7) are named after days of the week: Symes becomes Thursday. The hilarity ensues (criminals chasing cops, etc.). Turns out, all the anarchists are undercover cops, although none know that (until the book progresses, of course).

The rest of the week unites to find Sunday. They do, and the final chapter becomes some odd religious allegory, with Sunday playing the God figure . I understand Chesterton was both a Christian and a philosopher (are the two mutually exclusive? thanks again to the introducer), but I certainly didn't expect this ending. I guess, being a spy novel, it needs the "gotcha" moment. It's just weird when the "gotcha" becomes salvation. Odd.

I liked it (not loved it), but I'm not too sure why it was an "essential" read. Oh well.

Finished: 1/12/08
Pages: 156
Total Pages Read: 754

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born - Stephen King

The graphic novel adaptation of King's epic (which I read in it's entirety last October, all 4,000 pages of it!) focuses on Roland's beginnings (aptly named) and his love for and with Susan (this backstory is taken from vol. 4 in the series, Wizard and Glass). Artwork, story line = AWESOME! The Marvel team brought this story to life perfectly.I hope they continue to make this book...

I highly recommend this for both artwork and story - it is a great combo. Here's the official site.

Finished: 1/6/08
Pages: 192
Total Pages Read: 598

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Intriguing and well-written. The book is about a book-lover who is commissioned to write a biography of England's most popular, Vida Winters. I totally got sucked into Setterfield's world. I thought the ending (spoiler alert!) - the introduction of a third sister - was a bit contrived (kind of the like the ending of I Am Legend, with Will Smith - "hey! there are more people! yay!" - didn't like that one...). This is only a minor setback, though, and not enough to stop me from recommending it to others.

Finished: 1/6/08
Pages: 406
Running Page Total: 406

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Post the first

This is all new to me. All new. My third blog in one week. Two for work. One for home. Feeling a bit crazed.