Monday, October 27, 2008

I was tagged...

I will post this survey thingie in an attempt to keep my blog active.

10 Years Ago (1998):

1. I was 14

2. I was BFFs with Starla and Emily

3. I was really getting involved in youth group stuff at church

4. I loved Alanis Morisette and No Doubt

5. I slept over at Emily's house a lot because I hated home

5 Things on Today’s “To Do” List: (note: today is basically over, so this is for tomorrow.)

1. Get up and get ready

2. Work. (do not want)

3. Eat dinner

4.Hang out with David's friend

5. Carve pumpkins if 4 doesn't happen

5 Things that I would do if I were a millionaire:

1. Buy a house. Probably one of the neat old Victorians down by the water. Something modest though, I don't want to spend more than $500,000.

2. Buy at least 10 Tokidoki bags.

3. Get a new car for my mom

4. Have a second wedding at Disneyland in front of the castle with Donald Duck and Daisy Duck as our best man/maid of honor. I'd fly my mom, my brother and his fiancee out here too.

5. Buy a first edition of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles.

5 Places I have lived:

1. Oklahoma City, OK

2. Vacaville, CA

3. Benicia, CA

4. ...

5. ...

5 Jobs I have had:

1. Waitress

2. CSR in telephone sales/telemarketing

3. Fast food restaurant

4. Retail customer service

5. ...

I'm not tagging anyone because I don't know many people on blogger or otherwise. I do hope to make some entries in the future about books when I have more time/energy.

Currently Reading: Alice in Wonderland.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ray Bradbury's Dark Influence on Disneyland

There's really nothing I like better than when two things I deeply enjoy are brought together somehow. My most favorite author ever, Ray Bradbury, has always had a long relationship with Disney. He was good friends with Walt Disney (my other idol) and visited Disneyland often with his daughters. Also, the Walt Disney Company adapted his novel Something Wicked This Way comes in the 1970's into a motion picture. I've also loved Disney-related stuff my whole life and as an adult I've had the immense pleasure of enjoying Disneyland time and again. Disney and Bradbury have crossed paths before, but never like this.

Last autumn Disneyland dedicated a tree in Frontierland (near-ish the entrance of The Golden Horseshoe and across from the Shooting Exposition) to Mr. Bradbury and his book, The Halloween Tree. It's decorated with purple lights and orange pumpkins and there's a plaque dedicating it to Ray. It's truly wonderful that the people at Disney would honor him in such a way.

MiceAge has some great photos here, if you scroll about halfway down.

David and I will be at Disneyland in just a couple of weeks and I simply cannot express how much I am looking forward to seeing this. I think it will be a really special, moving thing for me to see. As much as I was already looking forward to the trip, I'm looking forward to it so much more now.

P.S. I will most certainly take a few pictures of the Halloween Tree while we're there and post them here as well.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

San Francisco's Big Book Sale 2008

Every year the Friends of the San Francisco Library hold a massive book sale at Fort Mason, an old Army post near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was the first year we went, and while I was expecting a lot of books, I was totally unprepared for the thousands upon thousands of books they had laid out there. All the books were roughly categorized (but not alphabetized) on long tables made of plywood. There were boxes underneath the tables even on Sunday, the final day of the sale. There were also hundreds of people there all scouring the books all jumbled together.

We got there at about 11:00 AM on Sunday and found it quite hard to find a place to park. That aside there were no problems with us arriving at Fort Mason, even with the questionable directions from MapQuest. Once inside David and I split up so we could both look at different things. I spent at least half an hour looking over the Sci-Fi tables. I found a few keepers there and I then wandered over to the Cooking section. I managed to find four good cookbooks (including one dedicated soley to tofu and the other to Christmas cooking.) David only managed to find a couple of books, but I found quite a few exciting things.

Here are some highlights of what I picked up at the sale (all the books were $1 on Sunday):

-The Science Fiction Encyclopedia (1979)
-Nebula Award Stories 1965 (hardcover; includes the story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said The Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison which won the Nebula for short story that year.)
-Nebula Award Stories Number Two (paperback, has stories from Phillip K. Dick and Frederik Pohl.)
-To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein (paperback; sequel of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.)
-The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
-The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney
-Ringworld by Larry Niven
-The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
-The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction (contains Sci-Fi stories from around the world; originally from 1986.)

I also got quite a few Golden Age and Post-Golden Age anthologies. I really enjoy short stories and it's a great way to get to know new authors as well.

The only problem is that now we need a new bookshelf to hold all of the new books we've been getting lately. We've decided that next year we'll pay for the membership to the Friends of the San Francisco Library and go on the preview day of the sale so we can have the most selection.

Here is a photo of the books I brought home, not counting the cookbooks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Coming Soon

Here are some things I have in the pipeline where I store my upcoming posts:

-Review of Flowers for Algernon
-Review of The Sunrise Lands/The Scourge of God by S.M. Stirling
-Perhaps a series on dystopian fiction

I am currently reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. Next might be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick or maybe finishing V for Vendetta (the graphic novel.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Afterthoughts: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Perhaps this review will be as biased as the last. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein is one of my favorite novels ever. I had read other Heinlein prior to reading this novel, but I was in no way prepared for how this would take my breath away.

I won't go over the details of the plot, but from beginning to end this book took me in and didn't let me go. It has everything you'd want in a great novel-technology, war, revolution, space travel, and a giant catapult. The characters are all very compelling and the lunar landscape Heinlein weaves throughout is just stunning. A lot of Sci-Fi of the era wasn't very scientifically accurate, but it seems that Heinlein did do a lot of research on the topography and the effects of gravity on the Moon.

Heinlein also manages to blend a great amount of action with a particularly moving storyline. I really deeply cared about the Loonies' struggle for independence, security and protection of their home. The political subtexts are also quite interesting as it's rare that you get an opportunity to see what happens after a revolution.

The language might be the only thing that would turn anyone away from this work in my opinion. It's not written in modern English syntax but rather an English dialect all it's own with some words (like "the") missing.

All in all it is a wonderfully written, very unique piece of fiction. Even if you aren't a Sci-Fi lover like me I am sure you can find lots of things to appreciate about what is widely held as Heinlein's best work. I give this novel a 9 out of 10.

(Image from Wikipedia.)

Afterthoughts: The Twilight Saga

Soon to be a doubtlessly horrible film adaptation, the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer has droves of foam-mouthed fans. I read the entire series (four incredibly long books) and do not count myself among the fans. The series did have the odd high-point, but for the most part, it was nothing more than drivel and fluff.

I have a lot of issues with this series, and I would like to start with probably the most superficial. The margins and the spacing make the books (in the hardcover and the matching trade paperbacks) much longer than they should be. Even the typeface is quite large compared to other novels of similar page length. This bothers me on a very deep level because the books would've been 100 pages shorter if only the format were condensed a little. I am a book nerd, so you see why I took notice in the first place.

Superficial aside, the heart of the story is somewhat interesting. The human girl-vampire-werewolf love triangle could make for a compelling novel or two, but Meyer's flat, selfish characters kill any chance at that. Bella, the narrator for most of the series, is probably the worst first person narrator I have ever read. She is very flat but also quite self-absorbed despite being self-depreciating at the same time. Edward is somewhat interesting, but with Bella's superficial narrations of the things he's doing or saying it's hard to see what his real motivation and feelings are. Jacob is wholly unlikable in my opinion. He's selfish, immature and manipulative, much more so than even Bella.

Even the secondary characters are incredibly basic and only serve as a further conveyance of Bella's self-involved nature. Her father Charlie, for example, would fit in better in the 1950s than in the modern era which the books are set. He is very out of touch and really seems to have little idea what is going on in his 18 year old daughter's life. He's also quite naive, which is infuriating considering he's supposed to be the police chief in their small town. Edward's family is no better... a family of hundred-plus year old vampires who go against their own nature and don't drink human blood could only be made so flat and boring by Meyer. Edward's "sister" Alice was actually the only character in all four books that I found to be likable or intriguing enough to actually care about.

Meyer's take on the vampire myths is completely detrimental to the work as well. She took most of what modern people accept as vampire myth and threw it out, mainly keeping that they drink blood. I think that the most far-fetched aspect of this is that the vampires "dazzle" or sparkle in the sunlight, hence why they won't go out on a clear day.

I never minded much that Edward and Bella never had sex, but I think Meyer's portrayal of their relationship is wholly unrealistic, vampires or no. Basically, she took a year's old moral standard (date, marry, have babies) and tried to push it on a modern audience. The character's motivations for waiting were pretty weak, as Meyer herself proved after their wedding. I suppose if you make glitter vampires fall in love with hapless, self-involved teenagers then they could fall deeply in love but abstain from sex, then get married and have a half-vampire baby.

One final caveat that really, truly bothered me about this series was the general ending in the fourth book. Clumsy, awkward Bella becomes a vampire and, upon looking at herself in a mirror, says "At least I'm pretty." So on top of the outdated morals we also have some pretty insane vanity to add to the list. I agree with countless reviewers on that say that this sends the wrong message to young, impressionable readers. You won't get everything you want in life, more less be beautiful, rich and immortal while doing it. I understand that this is a fantasy series in most aspects, but it's also marketed as a romance series. Bella and Edward's relationship is atypical regardless because he's a vampire and she isn't, but overall Meyer makes it too easy for Bella to get her man in the end.

The first book, Twilight, was mildly entertaining but pretty poorly written in my opinion. I would give it a 2.5 out of 10 just because of the exciting ending and the somewhat interesting basis of the story.

The second book, New Moon, was incredibly boring. Page after page after page of how depressed Bella is intermixed with her hallucinations of Edward's voice. Plus the whole grody Jacob love triangle. 1 out of 5.

Eclipse, the third book, was an improvement. Meyer's writing style improved, plus this book seemed to contain a little more action and excitement. This was the one I hated least out of the four. 3 out of 5.

The final installment, Breaking Dawn, was quite a ways off from the other books. Up until this point it was an Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle, but after Edward and Bella's wedding and honeymoon about half the book was told from Jacob's perspective. Not liking Jacob's character made reading this especially difficult. After Bella's transformation it switches back to her POV and she's even more shallow but ever-so-slightly likable as a vampire. Everything about their child is far-fetched and it seemed to be an easy cop-out for Meyer to have Jacob imprint on the baby, Nessie. The "battle" with the Volturi which had been brewing since the second book was one of the most anti-climactic things I have ever read. Bella uses the shield, they leave, the end. I would give it a 1.5 out of 5. Meyer didn't have the guts (or even the freedom, perhaps) to write anything except the perfect happy ending, which I think is a little disappointing. As I said, it was entirely too easy for Bella to get her man.

Overall, it was something to do while I was bored. The reading level is pretty basic, so I did finish pretty quickly. It took me a while to get in to the first book, but I was curious to see what would happen next. I can't say I was very disappointed with the way that things turned out in the end because I knew that Stephenie Meyer would write exactly what he fans wanted. "They lived happily ever after."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What Happened Here?

I made this blog and I got so excited about it, but then I never wrote anything else. Brilliant.

I have been reading, so I don't have any real reason that I've never put my thoughts about these books into writing.

Here is a list of some things I have finished recently which I may or may not write about in the future:

  • The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer (as a whole series I give it a 3.5 out of 10)
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell (7.5 out of 10)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (re-read; 10 out of 10)

I am also nearly finished with The Scourge of God by S.M. Stirling.

We'll see if anything gets posted, eh?