The Wednesday Four (06/24/15)

A couple of these stories are from NPR and I would recommend listening to them (I tried to embed, but it didn’t work). If you can’t reading should be okay, but the actual audio versions of the stories are pretty good.

The first article, about anxiety, is especially good (in spite of being on Vice). As someone who suffers from anxiety (not as severe as the author of that column), I always find these articles equally useful and interesting — and I share them, both with my friends who have anxiety (aka most of them) and especially with people who don’t. Anxiety, if you don’t have, is very hard to understand. There are plenty of articles, cartoons/comics, and books that help. The author of that article actually mentions my favorite book about anxiety: My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel. I highly recommend it — I listened to the audio book version, but I’m pretty sure the print version would be good, too. You can get it wherever books are sold, but I’m pretty certain your local library has it.

Bonus link: Fear Of Fainting, Flight And Cheese: One Man’s ‘Age Of Anxiety’ (NPR) An interview with Scott Stossel.

Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

9780385680141_0This book caused me quite a bit of trouble, ironically (I discovered upon reading it) because I kept misremembering and misreading the title as world exchange instead of word. I finally figured it out (actually, I went through the process of trying to remember the title a couple of times, two of them involving other librarians) and set about reading it.

The Word Exchange is a novel about the future, it’s a dystopia set in a world not far off from our own. In that world, devices reminiscent of today’s smartphones basically run people’s lives (predominately Americans, but other countries as well). These devices, called Memes, do everything smartphones do for us today — and then some. They can basically figure out what it is we need at any given moment, from directions to music to clothing. But, at the same time, they’re slowly replacing that which makes us who we are — our brains.

Of course, the majority of the characters in Graedon’s novel don’t realize this. How can they? They’re so attached (addicted) to their Memes that they don’t realize something’s gone wrong until it’s too late. The Word Exchange takes place right before the word flu strikes and society (at least temporarily) collapses.

The novel is told in the format of a transcript, complete with letters. Anana is writing her recollections of the events surrounding the word flu pandemic. Her chapters are separated by journal entries from a friend of her and her father, Bart. There’s some romance, Anana’s ex-boyfriend Max is partially responsible for the word flu’s spread, if not it’s creation. Bart himself is tangled up in the mess of the word flu and Max (they were friends, of a sort).

the_word_exchange_1024x1024Each chapter is a letter and below the letter is a word beginning with that’s letter, followed by a definition. Anana, her father Doug, and Bart all work for something called The Dictionary. This is something similar to the OED, but in North America. Anana’s father is in charge of the rewrites for the 3rd edition. One day, not long after Max leaves Anana, she and her father are set to have dinner when he fails to show up. This sets in motion events that will change Anana’s life, at that of her family, friends and the whole of the globe.

Of course, Anana, like the readers, is unaware of what’s happening. But, of course, because the story we’re reading is Anana’s recollections, we also get the benefit of her hindsight. She  intersperses her story with insight (explaining things that she won’t know until later, among other things) that moves the story along in a very interesting way.

Both Bart and Anana catch the word flu, though the severity of their diseases vary. It’s through the disease, the word flu, that Graedon’s story is most effective. Anana recalls a moment on the train with her father when he uses what she calls an ‘obscure’ word and she pulls out her Meme (discretely, as her father doesn’t like them) which supplies her with the definition. And thus begins what I find to be quite terrifying.

You see, one of the ways the Memes worm their ways into the lives of the characters is by remembering things, remembering words, for us. You’ve been there. You’re staring at something (in the novel, it’s a fork, in real life it’s an armchair, a pen, a notebook, a lamp, anything ordinary) and suddenly you can’t remember the word for it. You know what it is, but you can’t come up with it. It’s happened to all of us. I blame our reliance on technology, the same way that Doug (Anana’s father) does with the Meme.

resizeIt’s through these devices, the Memes and others, that the virus spreads. The details of the virus, the impact it has on people and the delivery mechanisms, those are all  for you to discover when you read the book. There are, of course, bigger things at plan that just addiction to Memes and the fears of Doug and eventually Anana, too. But, really, at the heart of the novel is the importance of communication — what happens when we’re cut off? — and the written word — how do we communicate when you cannot speak?

Books, magazines, reading and writing, conversation and debate, all of these are important to the characters in the novel. But, really, I think that Graedon is trying to get across the idea that these are also important to us, today. Others may disagree, but I never really felt like she was trying to hit us over the head with the idea that these “ancient” technologies are any less important today than they were when, say, printing was invented. Perhaps some thing she’s being heavy handed, but I felt that wasn’t the case. If anything, it made me want to put down my phone and read more books.

So, if you’re looking for something that’s not quite science fiction, but not quite fiction, either. This straddles that boundary in an excellent fashion. It might slow to start, but it’s well worth the effort. And while the conclusion is rather open ended (I could see a sequel), I rather liked it’s conclusions (or lackthereof).

Music Sundays: Shinee – View

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve become a huge fan of the group SHINee (though I usually write it as Shinee), in spite of their company. It’s because their newest album, Odd, is fantastic. Hopefully by the time this posts, my copy of the physical album will have arrived. Anyway, here’s a live performance and the music video fro Shinee’s newest single off the album.

Romances For the Beach

Originally posted on Saturday, 20 June 2015 at ROPL.org.

Looking for some romance for the beach? We’ve got you covered! Check out one of these titles books today. If you like these authors, stop by the reference desk for more recommendations and check out other books by the same authors!

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  • Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  • The Last Forever by Deb Caletti
  • The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
  • My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  • All I Need by Susane Colasanti
  • Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
  • Joyride by Anna Banks
  • Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen
  • Now That You’re Here by Amy Nichols
  • Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass
  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche

yasummerreads

Rereading Terry Pratchett: Mort

Mort-Terry-PratchettFor such a short book, it certainly took me a long time to listen to this. I think it’s not so much the book (though that’s part of it) but the fact that I’ve been listening to a lot more music recently. But, I finally finished Mort and while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I liked it.

The story starts with Mort and his father at, well, a job fair. Of course no one picks Mort to be their apprentice, he’s a gangly, not-much-to-look-at boy. Eventually, after everyone’s left, it’s just Mort and his father, waiting around. And then, of course, Death shows up. Unlike in real life, most Pratchett fans are big fans of Death. He’s a truly great character and I’m looking forward to the other books where he’s a main character. Unfortunately, Mort is not one of the better Death offerings. That’s not to say that Death’s not great, there are just other things going against it.

As with all Discworld novels, there’s magic and magicians involved. But also some rather overt sexism, which is disappointing but not surprising. But more on that later. Where were we? Oh, yes. Death wants to take a holiday and decides to train an apprentice — Mort. Unfortunately for Mort, not only does no one remember his name (they all call him boy, much to his dismay), he has no idea what he’s getting into. Being Death is a whole lot of work.

The novel follows Mort’s (all too brief) training and then he’s set out on his own to gather the souls of three people who are set to die. Death, on the other hand, has embarked on his vacation (this, too, will not end well). I will give Mort credit, he gets the first two right. And then there’s the princess. On one of the training missions (I don’t know what else to call them), Mort and Death arrive at a castle to take the soul of a monarch. Mort makes a (one-sided) connection with the Princess and when he shows up again to collect her soul, well, you can imagine it doesn’t go well.

The idea is actually pretty interesting. What happens in the Discworld when someone who is supposed to die, doesn’t? Chaos, basically. The world tries to correct things and Mort tries to get in the way. In the end, of course, things work out and Death realizes he doesn’t really need an apprentice after all (and Mort finds that reaping his not his calling, either).

While Mort is wrecking havoc in space and time, Death is wrecking his own havoc. He’s eating and drinking, getting drunk and then, toward the end of the novel, he actually gets a job — as a cook! But as things are wont to do, they go awry and Death must swoop in to fix things, and he does, sort of.

But then there’s the sexism. The way Mort treats the princess, the way the wizard (who is kind of in love with the princess) treats the princess. And then you have Ysabell, Death’s adopted daughter. She’s described in rather annoying terms (and described as being rather annoying), but she turns out to be the best character in the novel. I like her because she’s got her head on right and she understands how the world works, while the men in her life (Mort, Death, and Albert, Death’s manservant and a former wizard) are basically bonkers.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. And while I did enjoy how Mort and Ysabell ended up together and it felt mostly natural, I was annoyed at how she’d been portrayed in the earlier portions of the novel. It’s been so long since I’ve read these books that I’m hopeful that the sexism decreases and my enjoyment increases. Though so far, all four of the Discworld novels are sexist, but I do acknowledge that and try not to let it color my view of the novels too much (Mort aside).

The Week’s 10 Books To Read at the Beach

Originally posted on Saturday, 20 June 2015 at ROPL.org.

Check out the original article here and then check out or request one of the titles!

  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
    1. The Amulet of Samarkand
    2. The Golem’s Eye
    3. Ptolemy’s Gate
  • Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer  (available from another TLN library)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael J. Gorman (available through MeL)
  • The Secret Place by Tana French
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  • Some of My Best Friends are Black by Tanner Colby (available from other TLN libraries)

The Wednesday Four (06/17/15)

A wide range of things, not all of them good. Also, if you don’t read anything else about GamerGate, you should read the fourth link.

  • Moving to Mars Preparing for the longest, loneliest voyage ever. (New Yorker)
  • Game of Fear What if a stalker had an army? Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend was obsessed with destroying her reputation—and thousands of online strangers were eager to help. (Boston Magazine)

Do you think in emoji? I certainly don’t. Though I don’t use them, except for hearts, some smiles and occasionally animals when I’m feeling annoying. I use stickers on Line and Facebook Messenger a lot more often (and I enjoy them more, to be honest) than I’ve ever used emojis. I have, on occasion, wished that the stickers were available in my texts.

Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Spoilers for all of Jurassic World. But it doesn’t matter, because you shouldn’t see it (at least in the theater — seriously, don’t pay for this movie) and also, you already know what happens (and you haven’t even seen the movie yet).

Chris Pratt, Raptor Wrangler (Whisperer)

Chris Pratt: Raptor Wrangler/Whisperer

There were many, many reasons I wanted to see this movie. The biggest of them being the fact that I love the original movie, Jurassic Park, endlessly. Not just because of my huge crush on Sam Neill, but also because it’s a surprisingly feminist movie. Laura Dern’s character, Dr. Ellie Sattler is pretty awesome in every way (what a great person to look up to!). She doesn’t need Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) or Alan Grant (the aforementioned Sam Neill) to save or rescue her. She’s smart and also quite a badass. And then you have Ariana Richards’ Lex Murphy. She’s afraid of the dinosaurs (but, be honest, who can blame her? They’re SCARY, they’re dinosaurs, they’re supposed to be dead and many of them want to eat you!), but when it comes right down to it, everyone left on the island would be dead if it wasn’t for Lex. She’s the computer nerd, the hacker, the brains and she saves her brother from those raptors, too. There are a hundred more reasons why Jurassic Park is a fantastic movie, like the dinosaurs, the music, all the characters, Jeff Goldblum … I could go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you why Jurassic World failed me in basically every way.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and, failing that, I wanted to enjoy it and perhaps even like it. And, of course, that was my mistake. You see, I thought I had low expectations for the movie, but they weren’t low enough. I should’ve had no expectations and then, maybe, when it broke my heart from the very start, I wouldn’t have been quite so upset. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

I originally wanted to see it because of the picture at the top of this post, Chris Pratt and the raptors. We’ve all seen the trailer, where he’s riding his motorcycle with those raptors, it’s pretty great. That and the fact that there were dinosaurs and it was a Jurassic Park movie that was going to follow in the footsteps of the first, meant that I was stoked, though apprehensive. I should’ve known better, of course I should’ve. But when you have movies like Jupiter Ascending, Mad Max Fury Road and a few others where the female characters are strong, well rounded individuals who are actually people, I was, you know, expecting something more. Those movies ruined me because for a moment I forgot we were in 2015, you know, the present day where ladies aren’t people and was expecting and hoping for something different, something better, something as good as the original.

Oh, Jurassic Park, you spoiled me. Why couldn’t Jurassic World have been a bit more like this? (source)

But me and Jurassic World, we started off on the very wrong foot. The movie begins with a family (why? I don’t know, it just does, we’re supposed to care about them, but instead they are awkward, at least the family stuff in the new Godzilla made us want to know more about those character instead of less, even if the result was less than interesting) and we find out later (I guess? they were so boring I didn’t pay attention) that the parents are getting divorced and the easiest way to do that is to send their kids to visit their aunt who runs this dinosaur theme park. The first thing I thought, though, was where is the girl? Why is it two boys? Why are they two white boys? And then I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into and how can I get out of it?

There was a moment, standing in line waiting to go into the theater, when I noticed that the theater we were across from was playing Mad Max Fury Road, I turned to my friend and said we should just skip out on JW and go see MMFR again. She said she’d already watched it and plus, it was half over. I said, I didn’t care. Man, I wish I’d gone. Then I wouldn’t have had to watch this movie. Ugh, regrets.

Ugh

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) — seriously, she wears that outfit throughout the whole movie. And look at how sensibly dressed Owen is. He’s a man, a real man, and he’s going to save her. Are we in really 2015?

So, the movie is already rubbing me the wrong way and we’re only ten minutes in (give or take). I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s failing me. The kids get to the island where we meet their aunt, who should’ve been an awesome character because it turns out she’s the main character. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, who basically runs the park. There are actually a lot of issues with her character and Chris Pratt’s, many of which didn’t occur to me while I was watching and I’ve provided a bunch of links at the bottom of this post if you want more information. What I did think was that I wasn’t going to like her character because she was the biggest stereotype I’ve seen in a long time (but not the biggest one in this movie! #gross).

You see, the writers of JW proved that everything I said about what would happen if Speed was made now true. Seriously. Claire was dressed in business attire, high heels, and she was shrill. She was every stereotypical frigid female character and she spent the whole movie being rescued by men (specifically one man, who I will talk about shortly) and running around in high heels. She has no agency, her only purpose is to supplement her nephews and Chris Pratt’s character. I really, really wanted to like her. I mean, the movie is basically about her. But it was really hard because the stuff Howard was given to work with was crap. I will say, though, that toward the end of the movie we see who Claire could’ve been — a no-nonsense badass lady who is smart, sexy, AND awesome. We could’ve had it all, Jurassic World.

But now we have two boys I don’t care about, plus their aunt, who I don’t care about … which leaves me waiting for Chris Pratt.

Jurassic-Park-Gifs-jurassic-park-28760595-500-260

This is what you should — run away from Jurassic World. Run far, far away. Listen to Alan Grant, he knows what’s what.

First, a couple of things. Chris Pratt is really hot in this movie, but basically that’s his job. At this point, I was like, just put Chris Pratt and those raptors on the screen because I want to at least enjoy something. And so, that happened. And when it was Chris Pratt, the raptors, Vincent D’Onofrio, and the super great (and hot) Omar Sy, I was happy. And then, um. Claire goes to visit Chris Pratt’s character, Owen, at his weird house (does he live on the island, does everyone live on the island? I want to know more about this, why couldn’t we have a movie about the building of the park and … sorry, I’m distracted by what this movie could’ve been), I suddenly realize what this movie is about.

You see, Owen is also a stereotype. You don’t really notice it at first, it sneaks up on you and then he meets Claire and we realize he’s a macho man, he’s the hero (even if he’s not really the main character). You feel safe now that Owen’s around. And that’s because, Jurassic World, I’m sorry to say, is basically a movie about Owen and Claire developing a relationship. He’s going to save her, from the dinosaurs and from herself. The movie isn’t about dinosaurs, it’s not about the park, it’s not even about Vincent D’Onofrio’s crazy ideas about using the raptors as weapons (wtf, but maybe that movie would be interesting, too? We didn’t get that, though — I mean, they try it but the outcome is obvious.) — instead it’s a stupid story about Owen and Claire and honestly, we all know how this movie was going to end. Which brings up another point — this movie is predictable.

Of course, most movies are predictable, it’s partly because we’re always remaking things, partly because most stories have already been told in one way or another, and partly because very few big budget films take risks. JW is predictable in the worst possible way — everything I expect to happen, happens and it happens in basically the exact way I expected it to happen. There are things that startle me, but there’s no tension, no shockers. My only gleeful moments involved the raptors and the appearance (and the very end) of our favorite Lady T-Rex.

Which brings me to another thing about JW that completely disappointed me, the dinosaurs. I didn’t really like the hybrid dinosaur idea, but that’s what they were going with, so they did. Unfortunately, it seems they forgot that the point of dinosaur movies is, you know, the dinosaurs. JW is a dinosaur movie about people no one cares about and money. But it’s not even about corporate greed or the problems of meddling with animals that should have long stayed dead. JW doesn’t have a moral compass of any kind, which you know because there are hundreds of character who die terrible, un-Jurassic Park like deaths.

Alan Grant

Alan Grant see the dinosaurs for the first time. They’re amazing. They’re dinosaurs! Sadly, Jurassic World doesn’t know it’s a dinosaur movie.

This is because Jurassic World wants to be a monster movie. It wants to be a monster movie like Godzilla (the originals and the new one) and Pacific Rim. Like Godzilla, it gave us characters we didn’t care about and like Pacific Rim, it gave us the cheesy humor, but it failed at those, too. The humor was dumb, not clever (like the original movie and Pacific Rim) and we all cared even less about the characters than we did in the new Godzilla movie. The monsters weren’t scary, not even the realization of what the dumb hybrid dinosaur-monster-thing was spliced with (spoiler: raptors), and I certainly didn’t care if any of the characters were going to die (spoiler: only one of the “main” characters dies she and she’s a woman (Claire’s assistant, who was treated unfairly the whole movie (and is also a stereotype) and I still haven’t forgiven the movie for this). In trying so hard to be a monster movie Jurassic World forgot what it was — a dinosaur movie. We had no wonder, no awe, nothing that made us realize that we were in a theme park full of dinosaurs. There were a couple of moments, but they were few and far between, when the move briefly attempted to awe us. But unlike Jurassic Park, no one was impressed — not even the kids (who should’ve been) and not even Owen — and he even tries to get us to believe that he thinks that dinosaurs on their own should be impressive enough. No one’s buying it, dude, because you haven’t shown us anything, it’s all tell tell tell.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and that’s what doomed me. I set myself up for failure. After watching the movie, I was trying to explain why I didn’t like it but didn’t hate it to my sister. I wanted her to go see it so we could talk about it. But now … the more I think about it, the more I hate the movie. It wasn’t a waste of time (but man, I would’ve rather seen MMFR again), not really, but it wasn’t good. I probably enjoyed some of it (like the raptors, to be honest), but everything else was so bad that I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

So, should you see this movie? No. Not at all. Maybe in DVD, if you’re desperate to know what people are talking about.

Instead, go see Mad Max Fury Road if you haven’t (or again if you have), that’s money well spent. If you have to see a dinosaur movie, dust off your copy of Jurassic Park. But if you simply must go see Jurassic World (please don’t give this sexist movie a cent), please find the cheapest ticket you can possibly buy.

But I cannot, in good conscious, recommend this movie because it’s awful.

REMEMBER HOW AWESOME THIS WAS? Dr. Sattler is headdesking somewhere. She cannot believe this movie. And, you know what, neither can I? Go watch Jurassic Park again. You won’t regret it. (source)

Further reading on sexism in Jurassic World: