Election mania heats up

Would YOU elect any of these? All Peggy Noonan wants is a reasonable person. Somehow, in this country at this moment, I think "reasonable" is beyond our expectations.

Let's just remember that neither side is perfect (as a matter of fact, they're remarkably similar).

Links galore

Book buying edition

Things I hate about books

I just finished The Art of Political Murder, about the 1998 assassination of Guatemala's Bishop Gerardi. This could have been a fascinating read, but instead it dragged in places.

What? A murder book that drags? Particularly a "true life" murder? Yes. You see, the idea of good editing seems to have been lost somewhere in the past few decades. This book contained a dramatis personae, but the author felt compelled to reintroduce or explain who the "characters" were at least once per chapter. Had this been edited, the flow would have been smoother and it would have been a better book (as a matter of fact, I started to look for the reintroduction each new chapter!). I know that the author has been a writer for magazines like Harpers and New Yorker, and it occurred to me that this was a reporting technique, as readers need that when a story is chopped up over a period of days, or weeks. But in a book? And Goldman is also a novelist, so someone should have pointed out this flaw before now.

I read this as an ARC, so I can't comment about the final look of the book, but I can bet that the cover will have blurbs. I've mentioned that Thing Two's sister has written a book. She asked me for opinion on some things and I pleaded that there not be blurbs; the readers I've surveyed (ranging in age from 10 - 70+) don't use them and actively dislike them. Her response? It's the booksellers (eg, Amazon, B&N, your local mom&pop) that want them. Readers would much rather have a good synopsis than a blurb.

Even worse than a back jacket filled with meaningless blurbs is a jacket that blurbs previously written works. WHO CARES??? I want to know about this book, even if it's part of a series. I don't care about the earlier books (I would like a listing for the series, in chronological order, to guide my purchasing). Sadly, this is rarely the case. If you can't do this, dear publisher, perhaps the covers could clearly indicate where in the series the book is - the ninth, the seventy-fifth, etc.. I know not every series needs this (Miss Marple springs to mind) but I do know many that don't want to read series out of order (although how one handles series not written in chronological order, like the Narnia or Darkover books, I don't quite know).

I'm on to a clear final book - Exit Music. I know that this one will only explain who people are once, if at all. I know where it fits in the series (I think; the most recent Dalziel/Pascoe wasn't the end despite predictions). Sadly, the blurb is on the front flap, not the back cover. Ah well, two out of three ain't bad.


Who didn't think this was going to happen?

Bhutto assassinated. Pakistan erupts. (photos)

So much for peace on earth/goodwill to man, eh?


Thing One and I saw the movie, and, well... I've seen three Broadway versions, so I'm pretty well versed on the musical. I could have sworn I'd posted a review of the most recent version (which I saw with Thing Two, a Broadway-phobe) but apparently I hadn't. I'd decided at that time that the best combination, for me, would be Michael Cerveris and Angela Lansbury (Patti LuPone had the requisite weirdness, but her voice bothers me at times). Knowing the symbiotic relationship between Depp/Burton/Bonham Carter, I was looking forward to at least a good time, if not a credible version (and let's not start on my Alan Rickman obsession).

So, what did I think? Sondheim's opinion to the contrary, losing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" was a mistake. So was keeping "Green Finch and Linnet Bird". Those were minor niggles - the bigger ones were editing "A Little Priest" (c'mon! let Sweeney crack a smile and at least one joke) and cutting the Quartet (at least the Judge's part in it should have been retained). Beyond that, the winnowing down of the music was done quite well and most of it was hardly noticed (that boring song the Beadle and Mrs. Lovett sing? who cared????) One other cut that shouldn't have happened: the Beggar Woman approaching Sweeney at the opening, because that sets up the horror of the ending. IMVHO, of course.

Acting/singing-wise, I was thrilled, for the most part. The fact that it's film, not theatre, allows for more subtlety in facial and vocal expression, which worked very well in the this case. 95% of Depp's work was wonderful, but there was a small percentage of time when I noticed his thin voice and the over-reliance on accent (he could out-EastEnd real EastEnders!). Bonham Carter's voice was, I thought, more problematic and thin, particularly when she needed a Big Voice (during "A Little Priest", "Worst Pies in London" or "Not While I'm Around"). Rickman? Very credible singing. And Sasha Baron Cohen was, for the first time since I became aware that he existed, not annoying.

After the film, we tried to figure out where we'd seen Anthony (aka Jamie Campbell Bower) before. Nowhere, apparently. We'll see if this is really a rising star or just a lucky role. And Toby (Ed Sanders) was wonderful. Anyone doing a revival of Oliver? He's your lead. Really.

One last comment/query: Thing One swears that Anthony Stewart Head appears in the crowd scene for Pirelli. IMBD doesn't list him, but perhaps an uncredited cameo? Or was he seeing things?

Don't worry about the blood. It's so cartoonish you won't have nightmares, although you might want to stay away from hamburger and other mystery meats for a while.

Try a little priest... and some moo shu

Tuesday, Thing One and I celebrated a "Jewish Christmas" by going to Sweeney Todd and then out to dinner. He'd never before realized how ingrained this particular tradition is in Jewish life, but almost every Jew he spoke with concurred. Dinner should be Chinese, but there are - gasp - places where there is no Chinese. Imagine!

When we walked into the multiplex, he was shocked to see that Empire Dragon had posted signs saying they were open on Christmas. Well, duh.

Even my parents, in SmallCity went to a Chinese restaurant (they'd miscalculated the time of the movie, though).

So, for your holiday enjoyment, here are Little Professor's Sweeney Links and a great Christmas Tradition video.


Cultural literacy

"Need another Timmy"

"Not the Mamma"

"My cousin's more of a Fester, but [Thing Two] is sort-of like the Xerox guy"

Cam was wondering about shared cultural references (mostly vis-a-vis her students).

Yesterday, Thing One and I watched Dinosaurs - the source of the first two quotes. The second came during a conversation with one of my colleagues (during a discussion about male hair). How many people know all of those references? How many know where Thing One and Thing Two come from (recent parents excluded)?

The thing is, as one of Cam's commenters stated, culture shifts - our points of reference change based on time and experience. For example, I've never been to a Piggly-Wiggly (isn't that a game, not a supermarket?) because of where I grew up. Thing Two didn't grow up in America, so many commercial and tv references are lost on him. Thing One is nine years older than I, so his references are different based on age and the Vietnam era. My mother taught me the Wildroot Creme Oil jingle - am I a throwback (I also can recognize when it's "too late for Herpicide!").

Don't know quite where this post is going, but I do know that I'm not really worrying if my friends, family, colleagues or students can't always follow my allusions. I'm sure we'll find our own Darmok, somehow.


The preceeding were brought to you by Santa

Santa (aka Thing One) gave me some very wonderful presents this Christmas:
  • Germanicus, by David Wishart
  • The Nicholas Feast, by Pat Mcintosh
  • 50 Games to Play with Your Cat, by Jackie Strachan
  • An Eton Emergency Camera (see below)

  • A Nikon Coolpix camera and memory card. I promise to not catblog that often. Really.
  • A neon orange Slinky to replace the one burned in the fire (although that one was multi-colored, star-shaped and from CheckFree).

And what did Mrs. Claus get Santa?

Lazy Yule Log

Christmas Morning chez Lazygal

(What a messy bed!)

It's not messy, I'm in the bed!

Surprise! I'm here, too!


Oh, if only!

The spam filter at MPOW was off for a few hours yesterday 48 hours and I've just spent several minutes deleting spam. I keep being told that I could be 3" bigger. If I really could go from 5' 4.5" to 5' 7.5", I would be very happy.

What? That's not what they mean? Bummer.


Could have been a perfect day

It's raining, and my fireplace is ablaze with crackling wood and warmth... and I'm sitting at my dining room table, working. I would much rather have been on my couch, reading. Wouldn't you?

On the other hand, in 50 minutes (eg, at 7pm ET) I will be watching Hogfather on ION. Hope you are, too.

(Thing One should also be happy - it looks like my Pats are "squishing the fish"! ETA Thing One is happy, but my mother's now concerned that we didn't score in the second half; I, on the other hand, am thrilled the Celtics beat Orlando, so overall, a good night sportswise.)

Last minute help for befuddled elves

Provided as a service, not necessarily to be bought for me:

I'm sure your giftees will appreciate whatever you give - 'tis the season, after all.


Annotated Webclutter

Time to take care of the backfiles again...

  • MPOW is now "closed" for Winter Break (staff and administrators will still be working, but teachers and students are off enjoying the next two weeks). When we come back, I need to start thinking about staffing for next year; I know of one need we need to fill and there are potentially others. So, what am I looking for? Definitely not this.
  • More from MPOW, this time regarding our rebuilding of the collection. One of my staff and I were checking in the latest Big Shipment of Books (2,000+) and were discussing things like "should this series go here or here?" and "why is Ubu Roi in the 700s not the 800s?". Then we started thinking about biographies. As adults, 40+ years old, we know to use a biography section -- we even read them for fun. We used that section as children, and read biographies for fun back then. Students still do read biographies for fun (just ask any 4th grader about a local sports hero) but they don't get the separation of the person from the subject. For example, why wouldn't Anne Frank be in with the other books on WWII? or why is Kevin Garnett not near the books on the Celtics or basketball? So we've decided to eliminate the biography section and move the books to more "appropriate" shelves. Then we started talking about BISAC and wondering how we could incorporate that into our catalog, without losing Dewey.
  • Nancy's comments about her attempts to lessen the impact of sending many physical cards reminded me of Tim Worstall's comments about recycling. Somewhere between the two lies a happy medium, methinks.
  • It's Gift Giving Month (what with Chanukah being so early this year) and perhaps time to start on a lifetime reading plan. Next week's Links post will point you in some good directions for spending your newfound lucre or gift cards. On books, natch.
  • Yet more advice on ways to protect your privacy (this time, your Social Security Number). And why Google's knol might not be such a good idea.


Links Galore


Best description of Christmas by a Jew

It's Thanksgiving with gifts, ham and a pretty tree.



28 letters?????

And, for those of you with knowledge of the Roman number system, exactly which Arabic number does XVIX correlate to?

Give the man credit

50 cent to play Kosovo (þ: Thing One)

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug

Says it all, doesn't it?

May your holiday season be one of windshields, not bugs!


Have yourself a Merry blah blah blah

This seems to have been the Year of Women in Concert - first Marianne Faithful, then Camille and now Aimee Mann. Of the three, Camille was definitely the best.

Why not Ms. Mann? It wasn't because she was sick and croaking - I have infinite respect for her desire to Go On With The Show, and to do her best to recast the songs into keys and vocal ranges she could handle. I repeat: that wasn't the problem.

The problem was that this was her Christmas Show, which was more of a variety thing and less of an actual concert. The "guest list" looked interesting, yet sadly we saw no one that really was up to her level. For example, Ben Lee, a Jew from Oz (we know this because he mentioned it several times), sang some of his songs. Far from the interesting stuff Aimee does, his seemed derivative and bland. Even his call-and-response song was boring. The Channukkah (to add in all the possibilities for that word) Fairy was... horrific? Pointless? And the comedic bits dragged on.

Part of me wants to say that this was all because of the rejiggering of the show to accommodate the illness, and part of me wants to say that it was simply ill-conceived.

I guess if I want to hear her stuff, I'll have to get CDs or wait until she does a real concert. Because when she was on stage, singing (however badly), she was quite good.

ETA: Laryngitis? Poor Aimee!


All I have to say is...


(insert happy dance here)


Politically Incorrect

As you know, I'm not one for voting the party line "because" - I like to find out where the candidates stand on the issues and then choose my candidate based on their matching my views/opinions.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mike Huckabee was echoing my thoughts from years before (for different reasons, so he's not on my "to vote for" list... yet).

Way back when, just after college, I worked for an Off-Broadway theatre company (the now-defunct Circle Repertory Company). This was 1984-86, just at the start of the AIDS epidemic here in America. One of my bosses, a gay man, used to go to some huge gay disco in Ossining and pick up men - random strangers with whom he'd have sex. This seemed excessive and just, well, wrong, but then, I'm a little old-fashioned about certain things. At the end of the 84/85 season, we produced Hoffman's AsIs, the first play about the effects of AIDS on the gay community. It was a very, very powerful production (although the 1989 revival already seemed quite dated and I'm sure it's not produced now, even as a period piece).

Yet as I read about the spread of AIDS, and the actions of ACT UP, I wondered: why aren't we treating this like other epidemics? Is it really fair to all people (gay, straight, bi, non) to allow people that potentially could kill others to just roam among us, rather than using quarantine and other methods to contain, and possibly eradicate this disease? Elizabeth Pisani seems to agree with me. How nice, 20+ years later, to be validated.


Who knew?

Years and years ago, when I was much, much younger than I am now, my father would insist on Pecan Sandies as his cookie of choice (my mother preferred the Fig Newton). I loved both, and on occasion, when nostalgia struck, would get Fig Newtons and munch happily until that moment passed.

Earlier this week, while grocery shopping, I saw Pecan Sandies. They called to me. I bought them, brought them home and opened the package.

Who knew that they were shortbread with pecans? Clearly, not I! I love shortbread, and I like pecans. Why didn't I know this earlier? What vacuum have I been living in?

This is definitely going to be a staple in my pantry. Dad certainly knew what he was doing!

'Tis the season to be cranky

Bah humbug.

Seriously. I've sent out my Christmas and Seasons cards already, I've sent out handwritten notes to several long-time correspondents (and I've got more ready to mail tomorrow) and what do I get in response?

E-mail. And e-cards.

Are people really so lazy (lazier than I?!) or so addicted to this electronic format that they can't take a few moments to put pen/pencil/crayon to paper/old newspaper/a wrapping from Dunkin' Donuts and write/scrawl something?

I just did a notetaking lesson with our fifth grade. We talked about how it was ok to use "text" language (if u cn rd ths...) to take notes, to text, to IM but how it was not ok to use it when you wrote a paper, or in an e-mail to your teacher, or when you sent thank-you notes to your grandmother for that hideous navy and florescent green scarf and hat set she knitted for you (yes, I'm still scarred after all these years!). Better still, they all knew that they would be writing thank you notes in the very near future. Not thank you e-mails.

My fifth graders get it. Why can't the adults in my life?


You'll never know what shushed you

(Happy Day of the Ninja!)

These are the people in my neigborhood

Ken Jennings posted a link to RottenNeighbor.com . Rotten Neighbors? Oh, the stories I could tell!

Not about my current neighbors - they seem friendly, and (most important) when I'm home I don't get disturbed by them/their parties (windchimes are another matter entirely).

What a welcome relief. Years ago I lived next to Bobby, who fancied himself a drummer. If drumming is banging sticks against a drum set, he was. If drumming is doing that rhythmically or with some finesse, well... not so much.

Thing One and I lived above succeeding groups of law students. We dealt with everything from their Sunday football parties to their late-night pot smoking binges. Once, we actually called the police because they were outside, making a lot of noise, at 3am (a party that never wanted to end).

And then there was the questionable music choice from my previous landlord.

All-in-all, I'm happy and thankful to be living here.