Friday, October 2, 2009

Ben Rector

Ben Rector is a current favorite of mine, and this video rocks!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: The Moon in the Mango Tree

The Moon in the Mango Tree
by Pamela Binnings Ewen
2.5 out of 5 stars

Oh boy, I have total mixed feelings about how to rate this book. I usually do, because I know that even if I disliked the book, this any many others that I give low ratings are still decent fiction stories that most people would probably find enjoyable. I don't know, I just feel like there are so many GOOD and GREAT books, I don't want to waste my time on the masses of what my college Literature proff called "crap-o-rama".

By the time this book became available to me on, I had completely forgotten who had recommended it to me or what it was about. It begins as the story of a young woman who gives up her singing career to join her husband in medical missions in Thailand in the early 1900's. There are sort of two stages to the book. The first half is the story of their experiences in a tiny village in Northern Thailand, and the second is later years spent as secular socialites in the big cities of Thailand and Europe. At first I thought it was going to be a classic lame Christian fiction, but it wasn't. The main character basically gives up her faith and Protestants are portrayed in a very bad light. That made things interesting because I was curious to know which life-philosophy the author was going to go with.

Ultimately what does make it a powerful story is that it's based on the true story of the life of the author's grandmother. Although the writing wasn't awesome, what I found most engaging was the inner battle of the main character between Independence and being the supportive wife. When she chooses to support her husband she feels useless and meaningless. When she leaves to pursue her singing career she weighs the potential loss of her husband and children.

What really drove me crazy is that the main character was SO selfish and narcissistic. Her perspective on life in the village just made me want to wring her neck and yell at her to suck it up and get on with life instead of sitting around the house moaning about how awful life is. Later in the book when she moans about having given up all of her dreams to support her husband's career I STILL found it hard to sympathize with her because I felt like she never tried to find a middle ground, to discuss things with her husband and find a way for them both to pursue their dreams at once. She just played the victim.

So - it was an interesting story but ultimately I rather disliked the main character and the writing wasn't fantastic. The final philosophy is only portrayed in the last few pages and actually seemed ridiculous to me after reading an entire book of her wrestling with faith and doubt and various religions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
4.5 out of 5 stars
New York Times Best Selling Novel, "Still Alice"

Technically this is a work of fiction about a Harvard professor who finds out she has early-onset Alzheimer's while she is in her mid-50's. It is written as a first-person account, and it flows beautifully through the initial startling moments of forgetfulness and then the deep grief of diagnosis, and then through the next couple of years into increasingly simple and contradictory thoughts and vocabulary. The author is actually a neuro-scientist and Alzheimer's is her field of study, so this book has been lauded by patients and the medical field as being very accurate.

It was very emotional to read, and you grasp the deep feelings of helplessness as an intelligent and independent woman loses her grasp on reality and memory. It made me ache for my aging grandparents, knowing that dementia works in similar ways. I totally recommend this book.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Movie Reviews: State of Play, Star Trek, New in Town

Star Trek 5/5 stars

Star Trek New Kirk & Spock
Star Trek was probably the best movie I've seen this year. I'm not a Trekkie, in fact I knew nothing about it other than that it was the future and it was in space. For me, it was awesome, a total crowd pleaser. Great plot, great acting, funny and dramatic at once. I thoroughly enjoyed it and totally want to own it! I thought the worst part was the main character, who was too much the young hot star and not a brilliant actor. However, he was survivable, and the rest of the movie was great.

State of Play: 4/5 stars

Totally Rad Show - Episode 109 - Uber Gubious - State of Play, Crank: High Voltage, Demigod, The Unusuals, Southland
You know, I haven't heard much buzz about State of Play even though it's Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, and Rachel McAdams. I thought it was excellent. It's a mystery - Affleck plays a congressman whose research assistant dies. Affleck's old college roomate and seasoned investigative journalist is Crowe, who get tangled up in investigating the death. It's a good mystery with great twists and turns. Russell Crowe is of course fantastic. Affleck plays exactly the character he should play to not distract - a smarmy clean-cut guy. Mirren and McAdamas are great in their supporting rolls. It was a good movie - I totally recommend it.

New In Town 3.5/5 stars (ALMOST four stars)

New In Town (Widescreen Edition) starring Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr.
I like a good chick flick, but most chick flicks aren't good. I watched this one alone so as to avoid inflicting a potentially bad chick flick on my husband and roomates. You know, it wasn't bad, and I would say it is mostly a comedy with a little chick flick thrown in. I actually enjoyed it. It's Renee Zellwegger playing a career businesswoman who is sent to a company factory in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota. She is charged with overhauling the factory and making major layoffs. Of course, the little town of New Ulm is rather set against the corporate bigshots and any changes they may want to make. What made this movie enjoyable was the hilariously quirky town of New Ulm, with fantastically cliche residents and their awesome Fargo-like accent. I laughed repeatedly and thought it was clever and not overly cheesy. Of course there is a romance developed between Zellwegger and the town's young widow, played by Harry Connick Jr, but it doesn't play too central of a part. Light movie watching, but enjoyable.

The Tudors
Isaac and I are watching the second season of the Tudors, which is a tv series based on Henry VIII. It's actually very very well made, historically accurate, well-acted, and interesting. There is a caveat though. To me, it's very similar to how I feel about the series Rome, which is also a fantastically made and historically accurate show. Rome, however, is maybe TOO historically accurate. The show is SO sexually explicit/trashy. Yes, it's true that ancient Rome really was pretty crazy sexually even compared to today. Still... I really don't want to see it. Similarly, yes, Henry VIII was obviously pretty trashy himself, but again, we don't want to see it, and I think the show goes beyond realism and into things that I think are straight up innapropriate.
So... it's such a shame because both shows are excellent and really educational in history.... and rather difficult to watch at times. Too bad.