Wednesday, February 28, 2007

SB Vibrations

Watching the Oscars on Sunday reminded me of a long-standing SB that has yet to be mentioned: Mr. Mark Wahlberg (oh so gracious in defeat).

He was certainly one of the top three best things about the enjoyable but not fantastic The Departed. And man, sometimes SBs playing cops can be mighty fine...

In addition, he has the requisite SB tattoo and is photographed often sexily smoking cigarettes. (Actually he is photographed so often smoking cigarettes that I could have constructed this entire post out of cigarette pictures.)

Never you mind that his tattoo is his own name and initials. I'm guessing its a relic of the Marky Mark years.

Not that there was anything less SB about him back then -- feeling some Good Vibrations, anyone? Actually Mark Wahlberg's transformation from NKOTB brother, one-hit wonder, and underwear model into respected actor is really something....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Made of Cast Iron

In my continuing quest to read all of the books in L. Frank Baum's "Oz" series (nicely contained here), I recently finished The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an account of the further adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman and also the strange experiences of the highly magnified Woggle-Bug, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Animated Saw-Horse and the Gump; the story being A Sequel to The Wizard of Oz (1904), the second in the series.

In this story, Tip, who is an orphan that has been raised by the evil witch Mombi, escapes from her house with his newly enlivened friend, Jack Pumpkinhead. Tip carved Jack out of wood and added a jack-o-lantern head, and then his creation got sprinkled with some magical powder that added the life. Luckily Tip stole the powder from Mombi too when he ran away, allowing him to later bring both a sawhorse and a very odd flying Gump to life.

Tip has various adventures, eventually meeting up with the Scarecrow and the Tin Man (whose real name is Nick Chopper! Nick Chopper!) from the original story. [No one in this story ever mentions the poor Cowardly Lion, which makes me think that these two guys didn't like him very much. The first thing the Scarecrow wants to do is go find his old friend the Tin Man, and they spend some time reminiscing about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, but no one ever talks about that lion one time. Poor dude.]

So: after the Wizard of Oz flew away in his balloon, the Scarecrow was made the King of the Emerald City. He liked it okay, but the crown kept pushing down on his head and would kind of squish up his cloth face. One day an army of women led by General Jin-Jur stage a revolution and take over the Emerald City by using knitting needles they keep in their hair as weapons. The women want to rule the city so that they can take all the jewels in the streets and on the buildings and wear them, and so that they don't have to cook and clean anymore. This is the somewhat vain and frivolous woman-army.

After getting some reinforcements, the Tip and the gang come back to the Emerald City to find this:

As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing.

"What has happened?" the Scarecrow asked a sad-looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage along the sidewalk.

"Why, we've had a revolution, your Majesty as you ought to know very well," replied the man; "and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City."

"Hm!" said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. "If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?"

"I really do not know" replied the man, with a deep sigh. "Perhaps the women are made of cast iron."

Luckily the gang eventually gets the help of Glinda the good witch (she always saves the day), and her army of strong and nice women are able to recapture the city. After some discussion with Glinda, it is discovered that the Wizard of Oz stole his power from the former King and hid the Princess (and rightful heir) away. The Scarecrow really doesn't want to rule, and he is all for finding the Princess, so Glinda discovers where the Princess Ozma has been hidden and in a gender-twisting ending, returns her to the throne.

Maybe you should just read the whole thing. I think you'll love it.

[Oh, and how could I forget to mention Mr. H. M. Woggle-bug, T. E. -- he is Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated, and kind of a pain in the ass, but in a fun way. The poster above is from a musical that Baum wrote featuring the Woggle-bug, which he hoped would be as successful as the musical version of the Wizard of Oz. It flopped, but at least it left behind this awesome drawing.]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hooray for Hollywood

I love the Oscars. Love them. I don’t care if I have never heard of any of the movies being discussed, don’t know who the actors or presenters are, or how long the damn ceremony takes. I love them.

Here are some reasons why: I put my pajamas on right before they start; we make sure there is lots of beer and also back-up liquor in the house; Josh doesn’t mind if I make snarky and/or gushing comments (usually he frowns on extensive talking at the TV); I get great pleasure out of saying “ooh, I like her” or “I really don’t care for her” about celebrities that I have never actually met; and I always comment on their dresses even though, in ordinary life, I don’t know much about fashion. To top it all off, last night Josh made a chip, salsa, bean dip, and queso super-smorgasbord to sustain us through the ceremony. This was an inspired idea.

Now, an Oscar list, in no particular order:
  • SBs were falling from the rafters! I counted Robert Downey, Jr., George Clooney, Gael Garcia Bernal, Clive Owen, and that is just off the top of my head. SBs were everywhere. In addition, Ellen could totally be my lesbian SG.
  • I really liked the introductory piece that Errol Morris did.
  • Forrest Whittaker’s speech got me all riled up. I was feeling a little emotional last night.
  • In addition, there was this commercial about a robot at a car factory that got fired and had to try to find another job. Have you seen this? It made me cry, even though it ended up that it was just a robot-dream and he did not actually get fired from the factory.
  • I don’t care for Ben Affleck. Why does he get to do stuff?
  • Although I thought Jack Nicholson was not that great in the Departed, I do love him in his recurring role sitting in the front row at the Oscars with sunglasses on. I also liked that he was apparently too drunk to read the nominees when he presented with Diane Keaton (who I love, even though she has almost exclusively made crappy movies for the past 20 years), and made her read the whole card while he stood to the side and just grinned.
  • Alan Arkin! He is one of my favorites ever and, even though I haven’t seen Little Miss Sunshine, I’m glad he won. Plus he seemed kind of overcome by it all, which was adorable.
  • Isn’t Al Gore nice?
  • I don’t care for Celine Dion. Why does she get to do stuff?
  • Will Ferrell, Jack Black, John C. Reilly are pretty funny. And I never turn down a comedic musical number.

Of course, part of me wishes we could go back to the Academy Awards of my youth. Unless you are me, you will probably get tired of this a few minutes into it, but try to stick it out until minute 6 or 7 when the tables start dancing. What else are you doing with your day?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is that a Rull sitting next to you?

It should be pretty obvious why I bought The War Against the Rull by A. E. Van Vogt (1959). Look at the tiny spacemen on the cover! And they are on the title page too! I love those little guys.

The book, I liked alright. It was more of a space battles and alien monsters kind of science fiction book than I really like. The book was put together from several of Van Vogt's short stories, along with some new material, and you can tell -- the choppy character of the plot isn't smoothed together all that well.

The book follows our hero Trevor Jamieson as he travels from planet to planet, working to strengthen the alliances between humans and other life forms in the galaxy (basically by dominating their planets and forcing them to join the coalition and let Earthlings build military bases on their planets). The primary reason for the alliance is to stop the Rull from taking over planets in our galaxy. The Rull are from someplace way far away, no one can understand them or their technology, and in their regular form they look kind of like giant black worms. Most of the time, however, these shape-shifters take the form of your friend, colleague, or acquaintance and infiltrate Earth society that way. Tricky. Makes you ask: Is that a Rull sitting next to you?

The Rulls are actually pretty neat, but although they are mentioned quite a bit throughout the book, they don't really show up as a major part of the plot until the book is over halfway through. I could have used a little more Rull in a book with Rull in the title...

Finally, I have to let the women's studies major in me out for a minute and address the treatment of female characters in this book. Actually, beyond the occasional secretary, there are only two. The first is a settler on a distant planet that was given the task of leading Jamieson out to the planet's moon to kill him because he knows a secret that the settlers don't want to get back to Earth:

"After the dinner the vice-president of the council came over to Jamieson accompanied by a young woman. She seemed to be in her early thirties and she had blue eyes and a good-looking face and figure, but there was an unfeminine firmness in her expression that detracted from what would otherwise have been great beauty." (p40)

But after she tries to kill him a few times and they fight a bunch, he eventually wins her over:

"She looked up at him, and her eyes were suddenly wet with tears. Jamieson saw, relieved, that the hard surface was gone from her and that she was a woman again and not an agent of destruction. On faraway Earth, he had his own intensely feminine wife, and so from profound personal experience, he knew that she had given in and that from now on the danger was from the unfriendly planet and not from his companion." (p62)

And what about that "intensely feminine wife" back at home?

"He studied her image. Hers was an exceptionally attractive face, clear-skinned, well-shaped, crowned with beautifully coiled black hair. At the moment it was not normal. Her eyes were widened, her muscles tensed, and her hair slightly displaced. Marriage and motherhood had profoundly affected his beautiful sweetheart." (p118)

Motherhood is rough. Jamieson spends most of his time with his wife trying to protect her from any knowledge of what is going on in their city, with his job, or with their nine-year-old son who, since he is a boy, is apparently more stable and courageous than his grown mother.

Finding this sort of casual sexism in a science fiction book isn't unusual (or that big of a deal, most of the stories this book was taken from were written in the 40s and 50s), but it always feels kind of like watching an old science fiction movie where all the clocks are analog and no one has computers. The future is going to be like this?

So, kind of a lukewarm reception for this one, but I stand by the cover. Those little spaceguys just fill me with glee.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Dissatisfied with the ordinary contingent of library/archives/ information-professional blogs? Of course you are. Then why not check out, the fabulous new blog that you will want to read even if you didn't know that librarians need a masters degree and have their own schools. Content provided by some friends of mine and me -- and I bet you can guess which of the posts is mine (thanks again choo!).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SB Wednesday: We Need More Timothy Hutton Edition

Every time I see Timothy Hutton in something, I think about how I really don't see enough of him. And then when I looked at his IMDB profile, I realized that I haven't actually seen anything he's been in since Beautiful Girls. Is the problem with me, or is the problem with his movies?

Even though he is credited with 64 performances, I've only seen a handful of them (my favorite probably being The Falcon and the Snowman). He was even the narrator for Teenage Suicide: Don't Try It! in 1981. I might have actually seen that -- there were two suicides at my school when I was in junior high, and I remember there being a lot of assemblies and discussions about why that wasn't such a great idea.

Timothy Hutton's cuteness even mellowed Natalie Portman's tendency towards irritating me in Beautiful Girls. Maybe they should team up again...

Finally, not that I would advocate having a man-child as a SB -- just look at how cute wee Timothy was...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Work reads

Would you believe that there are two books about my work? Well there are (actually there are a bunch of theses and things as well, but I probably won't read every work of those), and I just read another one.

I thought you would like to know.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bestseller Blues

I worked at a Barnes and Noble for five years while I was in high school and college – it was actually my first job, and as first jobs go, it wasn’t bad at all. I worked with the books, so it wasn’t usually a food job (except when I had to sub in the cafe), and I like shelving and organizing things, getting a huge discount on books, counting down cash register drawers (I am so fast on the ten-key you wouldn’t believe), and sometimes getting free books that didn’t sell and had their covers ripped off to be returned to the publishers. The problem with free books is that I want all of them. I would pick up books that I had no chance in hell of ever wanting to read, just because I didn’t want them to get thrown away.

Over the years, I have weeded many of these from my collection, but for some reason As the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer (1991) stayed with me. I’m thinking I decided to keep it because the back cover mentioned World War I, and I was really interested in fictional reflections on WWI for awhile after I took a class that explored that in college. I’m not really sure.

Either way, I still have it – it is really thick and has been taking up some prime real estate in the "A" section of my book shelves, and last week it came up on my patented Library Thing random book generator as the next book I was going to read. Since I generally follow the arbitrary rules I set for myself, I decided to give it a shot -- even though it is 789 pages long, and the blurb about the author notes that "all his novels… have attained bestseller status." I have a prejudice against bestselling novels from my time as a bookseller. Sticking all those stupid 20% off B&N stickers on every week and then pulling them off the next week was a huge drag.

This book ended up being not as bad as I was expecting. Actually, I got rather into it – my theory is that anything that is 789 pages long is going to grab your interest. It’s like watching a soap opera. You watch one episode and you laugh at how poorly written and dumb it is. Then you watch another episode with slightly less scoffing. After a week you can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next with Darcy and Trevor. So it is with As the Crow Flies.

The story follows Charlie Trumper, the grandson of a fruit and vegetable cart man from Whitechapel who fights in WWI, builds up his business, marries his childhood friend and business partner, gets really rich, helps with the WWII war effort, moves up a few classes, and ends up opening the first department store in Britain. All this time he is also fighting a battle of revenge and misunderstanding that begins when his childhood friend and business partner, Becky, falls for the lines of a rich military man, sleeps with him before they are married, and finds out she is pregnant while he is serving in India. The rich guy is a total douche (of course), and his mother is even more calculating in exacting her revenge on this poor girl who would deign to drag her son’s name in the mud. This battle extends through the greater part of the 20th century.

One particularly engaging part of this book is the structure – the narrator changes in each section, and the time period for each section moves back to overlap with the section before, and then moves ahead into unexplored territory. We get the perspectives of Charlie and Becky, but also the douchey rich guy, his mom, the illegitimate son, and the son’s fiancĂ©. I thought the structure really worked well, and helped to hide some of the obvious tricks of the plot (which, in all honesty, are rather satisfying to figure out before they happen and then be rewarded when it all turns out just as you expected.)

So now, I need your help. This book is not going back on my bookshelf – I’m glad I read it, but I don’t want to read it anymore. Plus I need the space it took up so I can put my giant L. Frank Baum Oz collection up there. But, it doesn’t have a cover so I can sell it to Half Price or even give it to Goodwill. Does anyone want it? Please say yes, as the whole reason I grabbed the book in the first place is so that it wouldn’t be thrown away. I swear it is an entertaining read – particularly if you are a fast reader who isn’t too high and mighty for a bit of bestselling historical fiction. After you take it, you can throw it away if you want, but just don’t let me know about it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Faint Whisper From the Past

From the Waxahachie Daily Light, November 17, 1929. This was on the front page, above the fold -- back then they really knew how to tug on the old heartstrings. Ah, journalism.

[click on the picture to get to a more readable version. It is totally worth it.]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SB Wednesday: Val Edition

Oh hi there, Benicio del Toro -- will you be my Secret Valentine?

How thoughtful of you to get dressed up for our special holiday together. I really like your shirt.

Oh no, I don't mind if you smoke.

All in red! Why how thematically appropriate!

Happy V-Day to all you dudes, both secret and real.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Ain't nothin' better than a Color Cover party 'cause a Color Cover party don't stop!

You should probably buy this. Or come over and read mine.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Makes sense...

"Practical experience proves that there are many advantages in Co- education. It utilizes the restraints that each sex has over the other, checking rowdyism among the boys and affectation and silliness among the girls. It gives to girls a broader course than is usually offered in separate schools and to boys the opportunity to study Music, Oratory and Art or at least to be under their refining influence. We have separate study halls and societies and give careful oversight." [From a 1905/1906 catalog for Daniel Baker College in Brownwood, Texas]

[Photo from the Library of Congress, DIGITAL ID:(b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c00288]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

A long long time ago, I read a bunch of the L. Frank Baum "Oz" books, but I don't think I ever read all of them. Lucky for me, Josh's mom got me a giant book for Christmas that has all 15 Oz books in it. Yay! Instead of blasting through them all at once and risking getting so involved in the Oz universe that I have little time for anything else, I'm reading them one at a time in between other books.

The first book in the series is the most familiar, since it is the one that the movie is based on: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). Baum was already an established children's author when he wrote his first Oz book. In fact, he had thought so much about children's literature that he came up with some very good reasons for why the Oz books should be written:

[From the Introduction]

"Folklore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations.

Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as 'historical' in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.

Having this thought in mind, the story of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out."

Which is funny because there are a lot of rather nightmarish incidents in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and more than a little morality.

Even though this follows the well-known journey of Dorothy and Toto, along with the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, many scenes in the book naturally got left out of the movie in order (probably) to be more filmable and make more time for Judy Garland to sing. My favorite bits in the book that aren't in the movie are the back story of those flying monkeys that freaked the shit out of me as a youngster. I could tell you about it, but maybe you should just read the book. You could easily do it in a couple of hours, so just apply yourself already.

[Okay, one more quote -- this one is for Joel:

(from Chapter four)

"'Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from,' said the Scarecrow, when she had finished her dinner. So she told him all about Kansas, and how gray everything was there, and how the cyclone had carried her to this queer Land of Oz.

The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, 'I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.'

'That is because you have no brains' answered the girl. 'No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.'

The Scarecrow sighed.

'Of course I cannot understand it,' he said. 'If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.'"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fricano's Deli

fricano's deli
Originally uploaded by Mr. Wright.
Have you eaten at Fricano's Deli yet? Because you totally should. After we first tried this place out, we ended up going there three weeks in a row. The sandwiches are amazing. In addition it is right by campus, and it is open until ten at night (so night shifters, you should go eat there right now. No joke.) I've had the Caprice (twice) and the Reuben. Both wonderful. Also, they are nice, they have interesting art on the walls, and the speedway market next door sells beer, so you can pick that up while you are over there.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SB Weduffalo

Behold: the secrety boyfriendness of Mark Ruffalo.

I've liked this guy ever since he appeared in You Can Count On Me with Laura Linney (which is, incidentally, also a great movie).

He was also great in Jane Campion's often problematic, but still likable In the Cut. I'm not really a fan of Meg Ryan (except, of course, in Joe Vs. The Volcano), but her and Ruffalo in this movie were hot. And the moustache really works in a non-gay way on Ruffalo. Not a lot of guys can pull off the stache, and I think he does it well.

Let's all just take a nice long nap and reflect upon the cuteness that is this week's Secret Boyfriend: Mr. Mark Ruffalo.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Even though I have ninety-hundred-million books to read, sometimes I also borrow books. This time, I traded book-loans with the lovely Choo, who lent me Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge (2006). Although there were some problematic elements of this book, I really enjoyed it. I just love "not-so-distant-future" science fiction, and if a major component of the story involves a library, I'm in.

In this case, the library-element of the plot is the evilish project in which a big company is basically shredding all the books in the Geisel Library at UC San Diego as part of a fast-track digitization scheme. See, by shredding the books and comparing the scanned and shredded bits with other shredded copies, computers put together all the pieces into a totally searchable, integrated, digital product. The only problem is that the books are totally destroyed. They are saving the shreds, though, in case future researchers want to take a look at them. Shredding the books is obviously evil, but because of the super integrated web technology (that you "wear" and access constantly), non-digital books are not even part of the universe of anyone under the age of 30. All the bits about the library, the shredding project, the ways people search and find information, and the virtual skins that individuals and groups are able to lay over the library-using experience were super fun.

The characters were generally interesting, although I was disappointed at the end in which the identity of Rabbit, this character who is involved with a whole series of spy plots and international intrigue (which I don't think I could summarize if I had to), is never revealed.

In reading some reviews online, the general consensus seems to be that this is not one of Vinge's best books, but that it has a lot of good aspects. I will totally seek out more Vinge in the future. Maybe even in the not-so-distant-future...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins

I'm sad that Molly Ivins died, too.

I never had a chance to meet her, but one of my early projects as a volunteer while I was in library school was to do an appraisal of the Molly Ivins Papers, which had (at that time) not yet been processed.

Most of the boxes were overflowing with mail from readers. The letters were pretty evenly divided between gushing letters from fans and bone-chillingly personal and threatening hate-mail. I was amazed at the amount of gigantic unsolicited manuscripts people felt that they should send to her for her opinion. Her writing also seemed to call people to send her funny figurines, joke mugs, t-shirts, and other humorous memorabilia.

Reading Molly Ivins has always made me wish I knew more about politics and had more energy for dealing with the bad news that usually comes along with it. We need more writers like her...