Friday, October 09, 2015

A look back -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Because trailers for the upcoming movie are beginning to show up, I think now is an appropriate time to reexamine my opinion of the book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Full disclosure -- I am an Austen fan. However, I've enjoyed other irreverent takes on her works (in particular, Pride and Promiscuity : The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen by Dennis Ashton was a hoot) and I really wanted to enjoy this book.

This particular mash-up, the one that started the latest craze, was just a series of missed opportunities, 7th grade humor, and lack of understanding (or perhaps a lack of reading) of the original work. I wanted to like it. It had a lot of promise. There were redeeming scenes and funny moments. But, in the end, it was just not well done -- and with very little effort, it could have been so much better. If I hadn't been so disappointed I wouldn't rant against the book quite so much.

First, let's start with some simple research. In this version, Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters are Shaolin-trained zombie killers who spent years in the Orient undergoing rigorous schooling in sword work and other martial arts. Note that Shaolin thing -- it's prominent in the book. Anyone who watched the 1970s show Kung Fu or its later reincarnation, or who can type into Wikipedia, will know this references a Chinese martial arts style and monastery. If you've seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , you've seen Chinese swords. This isn't deep research -- it's popular culture.

However, Elizabeth uses a Katana -- a Japanese sword with a distinct fighting style. The Kill Bill movies featured Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu using them, and any samurai has one. Again, this is pop culture. The book makes a point of pitting Japanese/Ninja zombie fighting style against the Chinese style. It's pervasive in the book and forms the crux of a couple of important scenes. Yet Elizabeth would not use a Katana because her training was Chinese, not Japanese. I know zippity-do-dah about Oriental fighting schools and such, but I know that, and it's just dumb. If it hadn't been made such a point in the books, I'd have ignored it, but the whole Japanese/Chinese thing is used as part of the conflict between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine deBourgh (if you know the original book, you know how crucial to the plot this is). That Grahame-Smith and his editors made this kind of error just illustrates how careless they were about the whole book. It irritated me throughout.

[notice, please, that I am perfectly willing to accept the outlandish proposition that someone from early 19th century England could have traveled to China, trained to become a proficient warrior, and returned all before turning 21. We won't even go into the issue about this person being female. See how generous I am about all this? And he couldn't get the swords straight?]

Second, the constant sexual puns on "balls" read like a bunch of 12 year old boys trying to make it through a sex-ed class. Anti-zombie weaponry includes blunderbusses or muskets, which used a round "ball" shot. At least that was, more or less, period accurate (early rifles that used bullets instead of shot were in use in the 18th century.) A few such puns would have been no problem, but Grahame-Smith never gets tired of sniggering over this little joke. Also, you'd think that in a 20 year war against zombies, the best weapons would be in production and in use by everyone. Again, a quick glance at Wikipedia would have served to take some of the dumb out, but that would have removed opportunities to giggle about "balls".

Third, Wickham is punished by being beaten to near death, rendered a quadriplegic, and made incontinent (because, of course, people in wheelchairs are there as punishment for something). Lydia is destined to a lifetime of changing her husband's diapers and living with the horrible smell, because of course that's the punishment for slutty behavior. On top of this, Wickham is pressed into the clergy now. Has the author insulted enough people at this point, or did he leave anyone out? Moreover, it isn't the least bit funny. It's stretched thin, squeezed for non-existent humor, and -- in the midst of a zombie novel with descriptions of brain eating, body rotting, and bursting fluids, no less! -- disgusting.

The last thing that irritated me was the handling of Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Talk about lost opportunities! Mr. Collins is patently one of Austen's most easily dislikable characters. He's a parody already, and deserved a proper treatment in this mash-up. Instead, he's made into a near-hero. Charlotte is stricken with the zombie disease (which is, in the depiction, actually pretty funny) but instead of having her eat Mr. Collins (I was so rooting for that), he mercifully kills her off and then hangs himself for love of her. I very nearly tossed the book there. I suspected that Grahame-Smith only read the Cliff's Notes version of P & P and so missed the whole sub-plot about the Collinses. A grand chance for satisfaction to many an Austen fan just ignored!

In fact, on reflection, it seems Grahame-Smith worked hard to make sure he skewered only the female characters in the novel while protecting (or, in some cases, enhancing) the dignity of all the male characters, trying to undo the fine and evenhanded work of the original author. While some of my favorite scenes -- in particular, the piano scene at Rosings and the confrontation between Lady deBough and Elizabeth over the question of Darcy's proposal -- were pushed to the edge of ridiculousness and so worked very well as humor, they also worked hard to show just how stupid all these women were.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how sadly wasted was the whole effort.

I won't say "don't read this book". It's already being made into a movie, for pete's sake (although I hope someone catches those big errors before it hits the screen, because the geek audience at whom it is aimed will raise a hue and cry over those details). But don't hold out much hope if you do read it. Don't expect much. That way, you won't risk disappointment.

Also, try to buy it used or get it from the library. It's not worth spending money.

[edited 2/22/11 because I am STILL mad.]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Repost from G+

With thanks to +Paul Ramsay for sharing this.

This is long.  Read it anyway.  Then listen to the talk a few times over the next few days and weeks.  Share it.  Remind ourselves and each other that even *good, kind people can be hanging judges*when we forget we are all creatures drawn in grey colors, not in black and white.

Yesterday at service, our minister talked about the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and the idea of forgiveness, of releasing the ties to past hurts and errors and moving on with resolve not to repeat mistakes.  The UU hymnal has the following reading in it, which this Ted Talk by Jon Ronson brought back to me so strongly.

For remaining silent when a single voice would have made a difference

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that our fears have made us rigid and inaccessible

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that we have struck out in anger without just cause

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that our greed has blinded us to the needs of others

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For the selfishness which sets us apart and alone

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For falling short of the admonitions of the spirit

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For losing sight of our unity

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For these and for so many acts both evident and subtle which have fueled the illusion of

We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

Ronson finished his talk with what I thought was the most deep-striking realization -- the touted voice that social media gives the voiceless has turned, so that the best way to remain safe on social media is to be silent -- voiceless.
What Voice Do You Speak With?

Watch this, and then think on it a bit, and then maybe watch it again tomorrow. Think about how we all have some times when we contribute to this culture of shaming. We move too quickly from disagreement or disappointment to outrage when others say things or write things or do things that we don't agree with.

The internet brings details to us with such speed, and we have been living at this speed for long enough, now, that we let ourselves sort of live carelessly at that tempo. We don't fact check. We pass the "facts" on with a click, and we add our sentiments, our reaction, to the narrative that is building. It can be a terrible, damaging snowball effect.

I've posted stupid things on social media before. I've made comments that were not crafted as articulately as they might have been, so they came off as insensitive. Usually, it was because I was acting on an impulse, rather than on an intention. But I want to live my life with good intention.

I want my first instinct to be one of compassion, not outrage.
I want my first action to be one of kindness, not of aggression.
I want to be impeccable with my word.
Twitter gives a voice to the voiceless, a way to speak up and hit back at perceived injustice. But sometimes, says Jon Ronson, things go too far. In a jaw-dropping story of how one un-funny tweet ruined a woman's life and career, Ronson shows how online commenters can e

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Had an idea and started scribbling it today.  Here's a taste.

“Ma!  Ma! They’re comin’!”  I grabbed little Letty as I scooted across the dusty yard toward the house.  “They’re coming’!”  Letty squirmed in my arms, her dirty pink shoes kicking at my thigh.  She was almost too big to carry and her legs hung down because she was too mad to wrap them around my hips.  “Ma!”

Ma Deuce strolled onto the porch, her whip sword wrapped around her waist, the pommel under her right hand.  She was such a little woman, sort of squat and dark, grey streaks in her braided black hair, but she always seemed bigger than me.  Behind her, taller but so slight she practically faded,  Kelly Ann looked out.  She had another baby on her hips and she looked scared.

"Get the little 'uns inside, Amber, and see to the Mister."  Ma's voice didn't match her appearance, either.  The Tamil she'd talked as a baby was paved over with the clips and stretches of the mountain people's speech.  My own speech had taken on that flavor, too, since I'd found refuge here in the old mountains.  I snagged Hunter's arm and pulled him with me, and Tag followed without being pushed or told.  We hurried into the house behind Ma's shadow. 

"Yes, ma'am."

"How many?"  Ma asked, voice low, as I scuttled passed her.

"Two trucks.  Maybe five or six."  I dropped Letty to the floor and pushed her toward Kelly Ann.  "Tailor saw 'em first and took off to the blind."

She nodded once, sharp and definite.  "Good.  Where're  Tony and Skye?"

I shook my head as I untwisted Hunter's hand from his grip on my jeans leg. "Didn't see 'em."

She nodded again, just once, and I pushed the two little boys in front of me before they could stop being scared and start being curious. 

 Kelly Ann gave me her wide eyed stare and slowly backed into the shade of the house. "Amber, " she whispered, "Was Prentiss Waine there?"

I shrugged, herding the little ones toward the kitchen.  "I didn't see.  Check the back door and the windows.  Get Lilly to help you."  She stared at me for a few more breaths and my impatience got the better of me.  "Kelly Ann! Move it!"  Shaken, she hitched up the baby on her hip and moved down the hall toward the kitchen.

I turned the other way to the big bedroom.  The Mister lay sprawled on the bed, a sheet carefully laid over him so that only his face showed in the lamp light.  It hard looked like a human face, it had been beaten so hard.  Swollen eyes, swollen nose, swollen lips, little bloody lines of cuts every which way, and some of his hair shaved off so Ma could stitch his scalp.  I wasn't sure he could see me when I crept in to secure the window and put the wooden shades in place.

"Whus habbnin?" he murmured at me, making me jump just a little.  He'd crawled his way to the back door late last night, scaring Kelly Ann near to death.  Tailor and I had carried him inside.  He'd left us yesterday morning, saying he intended to get what he was owed, and we'd all slunk around the whole day wondering if he'd ever come back.  Except Ma.  Ma told us that the Mister would do what he said he would do, no matter.

"Two pick up trucks comin'. "  I didn't have to tell him who was in those trucks.  He knew better than I did.

"Whes Ma?"

I carefully lifted the cold pack against his jaw and examined the red and blue bruises underneath it.  "On the porch."  I reached for the clean rag resting in a bowl of water and squeezed a few drops into his mouth.  

"Good."  He moved one hand under the sheet, the one that wasn't wrapped in tight bandages.  He was hurt, but not near killed.  They wanted to teach a lesson, not murder a useful man.  Still, it hurt me to see his big muscled body so battered and broken.  "'Ey won find it."

"You be still, Mister.  Ma will skin us both if you mess up her work."  He chuckled soft in his throat and I turned down the lamp so it barely flickered and  put it on the floor between the table and the wall.  I didn't want anything to hit it and catch the house on fire.  At least the house was cinder block.  I closed the door behind me, knowing full well that the Mister wouldn't be resting even in the dark, not until this was over.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I plug my own publication

Guess what?

I finally published this story I've had kicking around for some long time.

I'm supposed to publicize it, something I am in no way suited to do.  I'm just not comfortable telling people that I did something, that it's good, and that they should agree with me and be excited about it.  In fact, I just don't have those thoughts anymore.  I did once, but it was a long time ago and I can't remember how it worked.

But that's my Crazy, and another subject.  This post is about In the Temple of Nogged, that it is available for purchase on Smashwords, it has illustrations by my friend Chris Tsuda, and if you like humorous m/m erotica, it might suit you.

That is all.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: VIcious

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

I finally found a copy of this book in the wild this summer (thanks, Bull Moose!) and dived into it as soon as I could.  However, it was a slow read for me because it is a very tensely constructed and plotted book, telling a very tense sort of story.  (True confession -- once I skipped to the end and read the last chapter, I was able to go back to the middle and read on without problem -- that's me and my difficultues with stress, nothing bad about the book).

Here we have the most "it could happen just this way" superhero story I've run across.  Wait, scratch that.  Take out "superhero".  The superhero aspect is there, but it's not a cliche, not a comfortable, familiar trope.  That worked for me.

This is a science fiction story that cuts very close to the bone, that puts forth a what if idea that leads right into "how the hell?"  It does something that makes complete sense to me -- it leaves a big swatch of unknown because, for all we know, for all science teaches us, there is always more that is unknown.  Every discovery results in far more questions than answers.

More to the point, the particular area of unknown isn't crucial to the story.  The characters don't know, but they accept what's happening and keep going, so as a reader it was easy to accept what's happening and keep going.  I must admit, I like that in a story.  I just don't buy it when characters know everything there is to know about their particular situation or the weird things that are happening to them or their world.  There is always the unknown (and the unknown unknown, the stuff you don't even known you don't know).  Schwab uses that well.

Of course, the various switches in time, point of view, and action creates a sort of "spiral' effect in the narrative, as the reader gathers all the parts of the story together to the ultimate end, as inevitably as water going down a hole.  And then?  and then, there's a little postlude where something we should have been expecting all along but might have forgotten about in the big boom of the ending takes place.

In short, I really enjoyed this book.  I enjoyed the way the characters, all painted in shades of grey, interacted.  I enjoyed the ideas about what is a hero and what is a villain were played with, but weren't hammered on.  I kinda wish there was a follow up book, although I'm not sure what it would be about or what is left to be said with these characters.  Still, I had such a good time with them that I wouldn't mind spending more time in their world.

Summer Book Haul

One of the joys of spending the summer in Maine is the number of library sales and used book stores I can wander.  I can satisfy my dragon-like urge to add more books to my already overloaded shelves for a fairly low price (most of what you see here I got for between $.50 and $1.00).  There are a few new books in the mix (5, now that I count 'em).  Also,  left about 8 or 9 books in Maine.

Yeah, it's a sickness.

However, I think I've discovered the real obstacle to my reading.  I think I've mentioned somewhere in this old blog that I have no tolerance for stress anymore.  That means any kind of stress (and I'm discovering there are more kinds of stress than I ever imagined as I discover things that trigger my problems, weeee), including the usually pleasurable tension of "what will happen next?" in a book.  Yeah, I start into some of that, and suddenly I can't sit still, can't concentrate my mind, can't line words up to make sense, and simply can't read. It's a problem.

Solution?  Read the freakin' last chapter before I finish.  Spoilers have never bothered me (it's the journey, not the destination), and since the usual tension of a book is exactly what keeps me from being able to read the dratted thing, I can totally handle being "spoiled".  With that handy dandy trick now in my bag, I hope to resume fiction reading and eat away some of my mountain of To Be Read books.  I only have, what, 800 or so books waiting for me?  Heck, I can get through those before I die, right?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Review: Ghost on Black Mountain

Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

I met Ann Hite last Saturday at the Dahlonega Literary Festival.  She sat on both the panels I attended and at some point that afternoon, while sitting in the book-sales room, she was introduced to Zeus.  Hearing her talk about her book got me interested a bit, for one reason in particular.  I spent a lot of my young life in and around Black Mountain.  My maternal grandmother and a fair number of aunts and uncles lived there.  My mother lived there at various times.  Me-Maw, my grandmother,  didn't live on the mountain itself, but just outside the little town, in a tiny cinder block house with a cellar and a long front porch.  The house is gone now, mowed down for a highway project or something when I was 8 or so, and she moved to another house a few streets away (on Ruby Avenue, as it happens, which was my mother's name).  She died when  I was 11, and thereafter when we visited (more rarely) it was to stay with an aunt or uncle.

So, I had that connection.  It's a strained one, made of dim memories -- a rainy night when my mother and I drove up from Florida and Mom took a wrong turn, taking us up the curving hairpins of Black Mountain itself.  She was scared the whole time, as it was hard to turn around in the black dark and the rain, with no guardrails and not much road.  She didn't want to be on the mountain.  I don't recall ever going up that road again, but we may well have at some less memorable time.

My dim memories are made of sunlight and the smell of cool water, of biscuits and herbs, the sour green apples that grew in my grandmother's front yard and the cherry tomatoes my cousins and I would snitch -- so sweet!  We pinched her pinch-me-nots and hunted for four lead clovers, and even adventurously bit into the green rounded leaves for the sharp-sweet-green taste of them. The only place I ever chased fireflies was under those trees.

The two cousins I spent the most time with, Karen and Lynn -- Karen two years older, Lynn almost a whole year younger -- and and I hunted fox grapes in the little single lane road behind the house and made a yearly mission of damming up a little creek that ran nearby, hauling rocks and getting soaked every day.  They were jealous because I called our grandmother "Grandma" while they called her "Me-maw", as did most of my other cousins.  I always wanted to call her "Me-maw" so I could be like them.

 My mother was born in 1927, on the younger end of her 12 siblings, and her family moved around a fair bit between Tennessee and North Carolina.  I'm not sure when they settled in Black Mountain, but it was well before my grandfather died in 1956.  I know my mother went to highschool there and played girl's basketball, a secret kept from my grandfather by MeMaw.  My grandfather didn't approve of such things, just as he didn't approve of girls cutting their hair or going with boys.   My mother married at 19 to get away from him, to a man who abused her terribly.  The marriage was annulled, she told me.  I don't know the man's name.  She went on to marry 3 more times. Her second husband was also abusive, at least by modern standards, and, as far as I can tell, also local to that area.  The third was my father, her fourth and last my stepfather, both from out west.

So, I came into this book with a lot of luggage, shall we say.

The book itself tells a single braided story from several points of view, all female, and from different points in time.  It is filled with ghosts, of course, both malevolent and benign, but none who rattle chains or make walls bleed.  They are the manifestations of human guilt and love, shame and hatred, kept moving and talking by the living people around them.  When Ann talked to me about her book, she asked me to give some attention to the voices of her characters.  Some readers, I imagine, have told her that "real people don't talk like that", that she is stereotyping and insulting to the Mountain people.  All I can say is that I never noticed anything that didn't sound familiar.  In fact, the voices flowed over me as comfortably as my aunts and uncles talking around MeMaw's kitchen table.  If anything, Ann made them sound smoother and more educated than perhaps they really did, raising them up a bit rather than looking down on them.  More importantly, they fit the story perfectly and never drew my attention.

The story itself kept me reading -- I started and finished on the same day -- and, while I can't say it exactly surprised me, nothing was telegraphed to me.  I got into the lives of the women I met within the pages and tried to see the men in their lives as they saw them.  By the end, by the last page, I had tear-blurred eyes for no reason and for many reasons.

Did I enjoy it?  I'd say that's not a proper question about this book.  This isn't a story set down to enjoy, exactly.  There's too much pain and too little laughter for enjoyment.  In fact, the book might feel a bit shallow, the way a creek is shallow until one takes a wrong step and then you're up to your hips in icy water, smooth rocks rolling under your shod feet and denying you an easy escape.  It looks pretty and sparkly, makes a charming noise, but you can get hurt there.  Yes, you can drink the water.  It will keep you alive.  It can also kill you if you are careless near it.

Yeah, that's what this book is.

And, yes, I will have to hunt up her other books.  I don't read a lot of ghost stories or Southern stories.  I was born and raised in Central Florida, which is to the South what Cheez Whiz is to a good Gouda, so my accent, my viewpoints, and my essential self is not attached firmly to the region.  However, that desire to play in creek water, to haul the rocks around and change the song, will pull me back to her stories and her voices.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Proof of my Compulsive Need to Own Books

Might as well make a list of the books I have recently acquired from assorted sources over the last month, including the veritable dragon's hoard I dragged to my cave  home on Saturday.  I think it is evident enough that I have a problem.  I do not really want a cure, thank you very much.

From a B&N run
The Tropic of Serpents -- Marie Brennan
The Annotated Northanger Abbey -- ed. David M. Shapard (I'm collecting this set.  They are marvelous).

From two different visits to Boomerang Books

Red Mars -- Kim Stanley Robinson
The Harp of the Grey Rose -- Charles De Lint
Devices and Desires -- K.J. Parker

The Charterhouse of Parma -- Stendhal
Last and First Men /Star Maker -- Olaf Stapledon
Turning Back the Clock -- Umberto Eco
The Blank Slate / How the Mind Works - Steven Pinker

From the Clemson Literary Festival

Telling Stories, Talking Craft -- ed. Chris Arnold & Anthony Cook

From the Dahlonega Literary Festival

The Art of War for Writers -- James Scott Bell
The Kick-Ass Writer - Chuck Wendig
Plot Perfect -- Paula Munier
Mrs. Poe -- Lynn Cullen
Wicked As They Come / Wicked As She Wants  (I confess, I think these will be guilty pleasures, plus she charmed me.)/ Hit - Delilah S. Dawson
Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs / How To Flirt with a Naked Werewolf -- Molly Harper (more guilty pleasure, I suspect)
Fiddlehead / The Inexplicables / Dreadnought / Ganymede -- Cherie Priest
Ghost on Black Mountain -- Ann Hite
The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno - George Weinstein

True Confession:  I only got 1/3 of the way through Cherie Priest's Boneshaker before, frankly, I chickened out.  I knew horrible things were going to happen.  I mean, ZOMBIES.  Usually that results in the terrible, and I'm not much good at the terrible because I'm a chickenshit coward and I don't much like to be scared.  However, now that I've met and talked with Cherie Priest, I somehow feel better about it.  I can't explain it exactly --  I mean, I've made it through most of the Dresden Files books, and any number of other supernatural horrible things books without much problem -- but now it feels more like a friend telling me a scary story instead of someone evil and unknown intending to deprive me of sleep by whispering how some old lady accidently killed her cat by putting it in the microwave to dry (THAT HAUNTS ME AT NIGHT! NOOOO!)  So I think I can pick up Boneshaker now and finish it, and march right on through her other books with defiance and smiles.

And, yes, I admit that I fight to resist the urge to pile all my books up, sit on top of them, and gloat.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hey, I Went Somewhere. There Were Books!

Last Saturday, The Husband, the Wonder Poodle, and I all left the house and attended the Dahlonega Literary Festival in Dahlonega, GA.  Aside from being an unusually chilly day for this late in March, it was marvelous.  I met Kevin Hearne and Cherie Priest (with whom I shared many dog pictures), Molly Harper and Delilah S. Dawson, among many other authors I didn't know before, all of whom were chatty and funny and wanting to pet The Wonder Poodle.  Said poodle performed his duties with great aplomb despite many distractions and many dogs (a celebration of the Appalachian Trail was also taking place along the streets). If my back and my energy had not begun to flag, I would have stayed all day and come back the next day but the whole "It now hurts to sit" thing dissuaded me.

It felt unusually good to be among so many readers and writers, even though I was at my most inarticulate, stumbling over my words and hyper-conscious of everything I said.  Ahh, the joys of anxiety!  I could have soaked up a lot more, spent more time chatting and listening (as it was a small festival, intimate, even, and it was actually possible to chat with the authors -- that's a huge treat).  Stupid pain.

I'm working on that, by the way.  Doctor's visit last week, e-rays and blood tests and new medication so I can sleep at night (but still wake up in the morning).  Who knows?  I might even start exercising.

I also wish I could relate specific, wonderful things said by these people, but it is all just a lively mush in my head.  Of course, if I'd really wanted to do that sort of thing I should have recorded the panel sessions, but that would have required me to remember I could even do that, and I had enough to do managing Wonder Poodle so people wouldn't have to step on him,

Still, I feel a bit more inspired than usual.  Several of them spoke to the problem I have, which is that of the internal editor not letting the words out.  It feels good to know it isn't just my personal weirdness making that happen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

 Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: A Book by Patton Oswalt

"Bugdick, bugdick, oatmeal pants"

That is a line from an old hobo song about the glories of least, that's what Patton Oswalt has told me and I am convinced.  The lines are on repeat in my head, because I listened to the audio version of this book (which means I didn't see the graphic novel part because I can't open the stupid PDF, but I'll mess with that later) and these were actually sung.

I can't really review this book because I can't adequately phrase my response to it in words.  It requires interpretive dance, I think, and possibly some tissue paper flower garlands.  I'm not much of a dancer, so I'm stuck.

Would I recommend others read (or, ideally, listen) to this book?  Certainly, but with caveats.  If you've never really understood D&D or Star Trek or Bladerunner, I'd suggest you read something else, as beautiful parts of this book will simply not be available to your interpretation.  If you have to Google Harlan Ellison or Warren Ellis because the names are completely unfamiliar to you, you might run into trouble (not because Oswalt discusses them extensively,'s handy background information to have while reading, like it's handy to know where Russia is when reading/watching The Hunt For Red October.)

Upon reflection, perhaps the line from the song is "Bugdickin', bugdickin', oatmeal pants."  It's a bit hard to tell over the pops and cracks of the recording.

Patton (I just want to call him Patton.  Calling him Oswalt is more pseudo-professional than I want to be, and calling him Sad Boy is just rude.) is so much fun to hear.  I woke up at 3 am with the beginnings of the day's headache, and decided to continue with his book (which I had started the previous evening) because it was plain I wouldn't be sleeping for a while and I might as well be entertained.  It was a good idea.  When exhaustion finally won out over pain, my mood was improved by....what, exactly?  Not his sunny outlook and smiling disposition, certainly, and I can't say I laughed aloud at any point.  I was amused.  Perhaps that isn't what a comedian really wants, but there it is.  I smiled softly and nodded my head and was amused.  I wouldn't have gotten up to go to the bathroom (well, as it was an audio book, I could take my media device with me into the bathroom and simply backed up to hear anything I might have missed during the time there.)  I was content to be listening.  I was curious as to what came next.  In fact, I kinda had to find out what he would say next.

So I guess Patton won.  I'm content with that.  I also suspect that if Patton Oswalt were to spew out some fake facts in his sincere "I'm a geek sharing my geekdom" voice, I'd go right along, and isn't that what we want from our writers?

Ahhah!  Everything is on the Interwebinet!  Check this and, at about minute 18, some of the hobo song bits show up (the audio book versions are better, of course).  Not my favorite, of course, but I suspect the bit was in process.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Silver Screen Fiend

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning about Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt is one of those famous people who have drifted on the periphery of my awareness for years, always with this vague idea that I'd really like him if only I took the trouble to, you know, pay attention.  Oh, I caught his comedy specials when they showed up on Netflix or where ever (Youtube is my friend) (ok, I've seen them multiple times because Netflix is easy).  I read his Twitter comments if they drifted through G+ or read about his assorted feuds and blow-ups.  Since my movie watching is quite limited, I've only "seen" him in Ratatouille (and quite enjoyed him). Because of my complete lack of awareness of anything on TV from the mid 90s through to today (if it wasn't Mythbusters, I didn't know about it), I've missed much of his other work.

Random chance, my Scribd subscription, and the latest attention Salon paid him made me grab his new book.  I picked up the audio version because, for reasons perhaps best not explored, I really, really enjoy listening to this man.  Seriously, if he will talk, apparently I will listen.  For hours. (And, yes, I have his earlier book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland in my audio queue, although I already started reading it earlier this week.).

Now, what have I to say about the book, and about the author, since this stuff is all memoir?  What is my reaction?  I think I have a pretend love for him -- that is, it's all in my head that I feel so much affection for this person about whom I really know so little except for what he says about himself and what others screech about him.  In my head, I wish I could sit down with him someplace comfortable, watch Godzilla movies, and listen to him pontificate about them endlessly while occasionally making my own comments.  The reality of that is 1) not happening 2) I am also afraid he'd eviscerate my lowbrow movie tastes 3) I can't think of anything I have in common with him that could be the basis of a conversation, with the possible exception of Star Wars, and possibly Star Trek, trivia.  And maybe we could discuss movies from the 1930s and 40s.  Maybe.  And growing up in suburbia in the 70s and 80s.  I'm a few years older than he, so my memory portal is a bit shifted.  I really don't know.  I can't imagine he'd want to talk to me.

Then again, I have that thought about almost everyone.

But I like thinking about a possible conversation.  He is, I believe, on G+ (Is that right, +Patton Oswalt ?) but I don't know that he pays the slightest attention.  Ghost town and all that.  Still, listening to him talk about his experiences, his thoughts, his memories, makes me wish I could talk with him.  Seriously, it makes me think he's like a real person, despite the being famous and being on TV and publishing books that make best seller lists.  I mean, I totally know that he's actual flesh, blood, memory, and experiences, like millions of others, but he still has that "Famous" aura which makes him one of the featured few while I'm one of faceless many.  I pay attention to him, while he doesn't know dick about me, and he has no particular motivation to change that.

I run into that thought a lot, too.  There's someone in the world who I admire, but it's a one way street where I can admire at a safe distance, but whatever comes back must be shared with everyone else on that street.  What's on the other end of that street is for the rare, the lucky, the few -- it's really a ridiculous situation.

What in the world would I talk about with him?  We could talk about depression.  That's something about which I know quite a bit, and he does as well.  And we could talk about The Princess Bride.

Which is how I am transitioning to the other book I've read this week, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales about the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes.  There isn't a lot to be said about this book, which is why I am tucking into this review.  This is a sweet, fun, happy book about a sweet, fun, happy movie that I completely love.  There's no dirt dishing here, and that's fine, because it would be out of place.  Elwes also comes across as a nice human being, which is fine, too, because I'm perfectly content to think of him that way.  In fact, I'm perfectly pleased to live thinking he has no deep dark deeds kept secret from the wider world (just the usual flaws that go with being human).  As luck would have it, the movie popped up on TV while I was reading (well, reading and knitting, going back and forth because I do that).  Reading about the movie while watching the movie was perhaps the best way to enjoy the book.

I wonder if Patton Oswalt has read the book?  Or did he go to the 25th anniversary celebration of the movie?  Did he read the original William Goldman book before seeing the movie? (I ran into the book a few years before the movie, which isn't some mark of superiority, just good luck).

I suspect that, in my subconscious, these two books may melt together, and Patton Oswalt will be dashing about in black suede pants and a mask, offering peanuts and scotch to assorted large rodents.