Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - The Best Desert Island Companions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week they have instructed their minions to list  the top ten literary characters we'd be most interested in hanging out with on a desert island.  Interesting thing is I couldn't come up with ten.  I decided it is because I'm a hard core introvert and not having too many people around sounds pretty awesome :0).

I went for two different kinds of people:  those that are problem solvers and those that would be good company.  Some of them are a little of both with a useful skill to boot.

1) Francis Crawford of Lymond from the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett)
Lymond is a force of nature and chameleon, who is able to deal with any situation.  He's a 16th century James Bond.  He's also one of those annoying people who has tons of energy and is really good at almost any skill he tries.  PLUS he's a charmer so he should be entertaining when not solving all the Desert Island's problems.

2 and 3) Miles and Cordelia Vorkosigan from the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold:
Miles is somewhat similar to Lymond in that he is hyper and a problem solver.  However I would find him super annoying so I'd also like to have his mother Cordelia there who would be amazing company, would be very motherly when needed and would keep Miles in check.

4)  Brother Cadfael from The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters:
He's awesome and wise and worldly AND he knows his plants.  He could start a garden and figure out the medicinal uses for all the plants on the island which he could then use to heal anybody who got sick.  Bonus is that he also spends a good chunk of his time solving murders so if needed, he'd be all over that.

5) Stephen Maturin from the Aubrey and Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian:
Maturin is also a physician and he is used to working in primitive conditions such as 19th century sailing vessels.  In addition, he's a naturalist and he and I would have a blast inventorying and cataloging all the fauna on the island though I'm not sure I'd be down with his 19th century techniques; i.e. kill it and stuff it. Also Paul Bettany who played him in the movie, Master and Commander, is a stone cold fox.

6) Fermin Romero deTorres from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:
I could listen to Fermin expound on whatever subject strikes his fancy all day long.  And he's also pretty resourceful.

7) Mildred Lathbury from Excellent Women by Barbara Pym:
Mildred is quietly and cleverly funny and once you got past the polite exterior (which should be easy on a desert island) she would be an amazing companion. I feel like we'd have a lot in common.

8) Renee from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Renee is a very well read Concierge at a fancy Paris apartment building.  She hides her awesome personality under a layer of servitude.  She'd be great to talk to as long as one of us can learn the others language.And of course we could talk about books!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sundays with the X-Files - I Want to Believe Movie

In 2008, roughly six years after the series ended, a new X Files movie came to theaters.   X Philes were elated and then after watching it usually deflated (more on that later) but I Want to Believe was certainly an event.

I watched (well re-watched) this out of order.  I watched it just after finishing the first movie,  Fight the Future, which took place in between season 5 and 6.  It's an interesting juxtaposition.  At the end of Fight the Future Scully, who has been wanting to quit throughout the whole movie, has been revitalized and gives this whole we need to keep searching and fighting speech.  Fast forward ten years and you see just what kind of destruction has been wrought.

I think it's fair to say a lot of people were really disappointed with this movie.  It's not terribly cinematic, unlike Fight the Future, and it's really just an extended Monster of the Week type story.  Considering that the last we saw of our heroes, they knew the date of a massive alien invasion, it seems bizarre that the rare event of a follow up movie would not deal with that impending doom. But aliens and imminent Armageddon are ignored in favor of a very emo and somewhat lackadaisical MOTW.    It really seems to be more about checking in with our favorite duo and seeing how they are surviving in this new world of theirs.  It appears, they are struggling. 


It begins with an FBI agent being attacked while showing simultaneously an intensive search for something by a large group of FBI agents led by a shambling older civilian.  They find an arm, wounded in the same way as we've just witnessed the FBI agent maim her attacker.

Scully appears, looking older and working in a hospital.  She's obviously fully immersed in her job when one of the FBI agents we saw in the earlier scene appears and tells her they desperately need the help of Mulder.  She denies all knowledge of him and is basically pretty rude.  She heads home and walks into an office covered in newspaper clippings etc... and there's Mulder, looking a little ragged.  She tries to convince him to come out of hiding and help the FBI find this missing agent. She's worried about his isolation.  He's very reluctant and professes he's happy as a clam.  He finally agrees to go but only if Scully goes with him.  Scully does not seem pleased at the prospect. 

It appears that a former catholic priest (the shambling older civilian from earlier), a convicted pedophile, claims to be having visions of the missing agent.  He believes her to be alive but has few details.  You can tell that as soon as Mulder gets involved that he's jazzed.  The problem is he wants his Scully with him and she is less than jazzed.  In fact she quickly gets over her worry about Mulder's isolation and immediately moves to regret at getting Mulder involved. 

There is also a secondary storyline with Scully struggling to cure a terminally sick child at the hospital. She doesn't want to let him go but there are no treatments except highly controversial ones available. 

Meanwhile back on the case of the missing F.B.I. agent they go back to the original spot that Father Joe led them and they find all sorts of body parts.  Also another woman goes missing from the area. This leads them to believe that the culprits are targeting people for their organs to sell on the black market.  Mulder tries to use this to lure Scully into the case with him but it leads to a more fundamental discussion about how they are, in an essential way, different.  She can no longer "look into the darkness" with him and he can't help but jump right into the darkness.  It is who he is.  It is the same conflict as always and while she used to put aside her misgivings and follow him she is now standing her ground.  Now that he's back in the game, Mulder can't and won't let it go.

I won't reveal too much about the resolution of the movie but Mulder's perseverance pays off in the end and Scully  plays a role in the finale which is even more awful and weird than they previously suspected.  Mulder and Scully reconcile but it is not smooth or easy.

Final Verdict: 

Since the characters are the key to my love for this show, I liked it just fine though it is rather pale in comparison to Fight the Future.  It is indeed odd that they chose not to address the mythology arc at all but my guess is that they did not get the budget to do an all out alien invasion movie. 

It also made me really sad to see Mulder mouldering away in  his office of news clippings.  Maybe he doesn't just while away the lonely hours there but that is all that they let us see and considering how excited he gets about the case, I'd say that it is his first opportunity to really be involved in investigating in a long time.  Scully's response to his enthusiasm is somewhat frustrating as she seems to be saying "I followed you for 9 years in your crazy quest, now it's my time to do what I want"  but I think it's more nuanced than that.  The FBI agents that call Mulder in don't see Scully as remotely important; they don't realize how much Mulder relies upon and needs her.   I think what causes Scully to rebel is that Mulder keeps pushing her to come with him and she will not - she is done.  Which begs the question as to what will she be doing when the aliens invade?  It also begs the question as to whether they really should be together?

As a character study, the movie is gloomy and interesting.  As an X Files episode it is perhaps less successful. 

Great Scenes and Quotes

 (In bed at chez Mulder/Scully) MULDER:  I can hear you thinking. SCULLY: I can't sleep.  MULDER (trying to be seductive): I have a little something for that. SCULLY:  Just a little something?...  (later after talking for a bit) MULDER: "Just go to sleep. Let me curse God for awhile."

The scene where Skinner tries to reassure Scully by telling her that he knows Mulder and that he wouldn't do anything crazy and Scully just gives him this look like "are we talking about the same guy?" 

Other Random Thoughts

- Scully claims that it's Mulder's stubbornness that she fell in love with but he responds that it is why they can't be together. Which is really true.

-  Except when he is not, Mulder is a bona fide gentleman.  He first opens the door and helps Scully into the helicopter before he gets into the back. 

- Scully works at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital.  Seriously X Files?

- It appears Mulder finally got his wish of living in a farm house in the middle of nowhere (he expressed this desire in season 4's Home).

- There's sort of this weird moment where Mulder and Scully share a look over a portrait of George Bush and J. Edgar Hoover.  Not sure I get it. 

- There is a bunch of weird vibes from the young female agent who seems to be all hot and bothered by Mulder.  I get that of course but what's the point.  After he shaves his beard she's all flummoxed and she touches his face.   

The Rabbit Hole

Other Sundays with The X Files posts

So what I am really interested to know - the big mystery is - are there any other X Files fans out there that didn't completely hate this movie?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Garden Journal and Overall Update July 2014

In real life, my job has been super crazy which is causing me some anxiety and has made blogging even more erratic if that's possible.  I am coordinating a project surveying for a rare butterfly species - the Ottoe Skipper - and we have found none of them even though we are a month into their flight period and we are scouring the sites they were previously known from.  It's meant a lot of time on the road which has actually meant a decent amount of time for reading, especially by audio in the car, though I'm well behind on reviews.  Most recently I finished listening to The Son by Phillip Meyer (excellent if you have a strong stomach) and Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (hilarious and weird). 

Ottoe Skipper Photo by Mike Reese

Thankfully, this weekend I was free to volunteer at my county's fair in the Horticulture Show!  I have done this for the past 3-4 years as a Master Gardener and it is surprisingly fun.  There are lots of cool plants and veggies and you get to meet all sorts of serious gardeners from the area.  I had three things entered: tomatoes, a planter with lavender (see bunny planter below) and an orchid which happened to be blooming gorgeously right now.  All three got blue ribbons and the orchid won its division!

Look at all the color!

Daylilies Galore!

A bunny planted with English Lavender
This was especially encouraging because my gardening this year has been haphazard (see crazy job above).  Below are my tomato plants getting ready to take over the yard because I never got around to caging them.

Attack of the killer tomatoes

I doubt I'll get much from my peppers as they are getting smothered by the tomatoes but one plant in a pot has a couple of nice Sweet Italians.  Just waiting for them to redden up a bit.

 One thing I am super excited about is my Meyer Lemon tree which bloomed like crazy a couple weeks ago and now has several tiny little lemons on it!  I am a little worried as the leave have gotten very yellow, probably from the insane amount of rain we've had the last couple months.  They like to be well drained and to get a little dry between waterings.  Hope the lemons continue to grow!  Then I can make this cocktail!

So on the blog, not much of note is going on though I did notice one interesting trend.  In the last couple weeks I've published two posts about media that has come to my attention because of my fandom of other media - Castle (Firefly), and Rats Saw God (Veronica Mars).  This all ties in nicely with the Top Ten Tuseday post on favorite TV shows which would've been a brilliant plan if I had actually planned it.  Oh well, sometimes these things just happen....

Well, I'm off to harvest the garlic which is looking ready to be pulled...

Friday, July 18, 2014

REVIEW: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

122992Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 1996
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary(ish)
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Honest to god paperback
Narrated By: NA

I picked this book up several years ago based on the force of my love for Veronica Mars. The book was written way back in 1996, when Rob Thomas was coming off 6 years as a high school journalism teacher and Veronica was just a gleam in his eye.

The story is told by Steve, pothead and National Merit Scholar, as he hazes through his senior year until the school’s guidance counselor takes him in hand and asks him to write a story. A story about how he became a pothead and so disengaged with life. If he does this, the guidance counselor will ensure he graduates. So Steve begins to write the story of his Sophomore year spent living with his cold, disapproving astronaut father in Texas. His parents are divorced and he’s taken his mom’s side but is forced to live with super successful dad. His response is to try and be as non-conformist and as weird as possible. He falls in with other like-minded souls and even falls in love for the first time but it all ends in heartbreak. Which is why he is a pothead, now living with his mother in CA. His intelligence gives him a chance to do good in the world but can he get over his first love and get out from under his father’s shadow in order to take that chance?

Rob Thomas definitely knows a little something about being a teenager in the early 1990s. He definitely captures accurately and painfully the awkward, fearful wanting-to-be-unique-but-also-be-the-same-as-everybody-else sort of brain damage that most teenagers have. Thankfully he does this liberally infused with the same snarky, clever wit that was/is a hallmark of Veronica Mars. I laughed out loud on a regular basis; from the quippy banter and from the ridiculous behavior and situations that litter teenage-hood.

Unfortunately for me this just isn’t my sort of thing anymore. Maybe even 10 years ago I might have embraced and loved this but somewhere along the line I turned into the curmudgeonly get of my lawn sort of lady. I don’t feel nostalgic anymore for my high school years. I had held onto it for a good long embarrassing time but reading this book made me realize it is really gone so I found Steve’s “struggles” and subsequent bad behavior amusing but not really engaging. It’s solidified my feelings that while I have been reading a good bit of YA in the fantasy genre, straight forward contemporary YA holds no allure.

I guess the real question is: will teenagers like it? I think so. It’s a bit dated but the core themes, if not original, are definitely universal. Thomas’ way with the clever dialogue and humor is also a huge selling point. It’s also pretty short so can be consumed pretty quickly.

Final Verdict: Not entirely my thing anymore, but it is still quite good. Certainly worth reading if you enjoy Rob Thomas’ way with a script.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite TV Shows

The Broke and the Bookish's list for this week is about our favorite non-bookish stories.  Favorite movies, or TV shows.  I'm going with TV shows in no particular order:










Five More Because I'm a Cheater






Obviously my TV kryptonite are genre shows and/or shows that are totally and purposefully ridiculous.  And yes I have a Joss Whedon fetish.  And I have a thing for quickly canceled less popular HBO shows (Deadwood lasted 3 seasons, Carnivale 2 seasons). 

So what do you think folks?  Got any books to recommend that might ring the same bells as some of these shows?  What are your favorite non-book stories?