the absurdity of fantasy-fiction character names

I read some science fiction and fantasy, but one thing that drives me CRAZY is when the characters have these Totally Absurd Names.  I had to put down the Dune audiobook for just that reason.  (I know, Dune!)

The movie Gentlemen Broncos, which is almost completely unfunny, has this funny riff on just that.



best movies & books of the year

My favorite non-scripture books (of the 43 read or listened to) of the year were Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (loved it), Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.

I enjoyed lots of movies this year.  I really recommend – of the 91 watched – two Brazilian movies, one called Behind the Sun (available on Netflix) and another called A Dog’s Will (O Auto da Compadecida).  The latter is not available on Netflix but is watch-able on Youtube with English subtitles (see here).  I loved two children’s movies, How to train your dragon and Toy Story 3 (cried!).  I loved two classic comedies, Tootsie and Groundhog Day.  And I really, really enjoyed Crazy Heart.

what i’ve been reading and watching – July through December

Books for December
43. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins – Great conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Good thoughts on government and what it really means to be good/bad.  8/10
42. The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut – Two doctors, one idealistic, one cynical, clash in rural South Africa in the modern day.  Very good.  Insightful interview with the author is available at .
41. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins – weakest of the three hunger games books, but I really liked the second half. 6/10

Movies for December
91. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (DVD) – Very creative, mash-up of video games and film.  Some dull moments but points for creativity. 8/10
90. Megamind (theater) – Will Ferrell is a super villain who learns to love.  I laughed a lot. 7/10
89. True Grit (theater) – Girl seeks justice for her father’s murder in the Old West.  Three leads all shine (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld).  Very exciting.  7/10
88. Going the Distance (airplane version) – Romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.  Fine.  6/10
Continue reading “what i’ve been reading and watching – July through December”

my favorite comedy of the year: A Dog’s Will (O Auto da Compadecida)

One of my favorite movies this year is the Brazilian comedy (family appropriate, although not a kid’s movie) A Dog’s Will, or O Auto da Compadecida.  It has my favorite comedy character of all time, João Grilo, or Jack the Cricket!

Unfortunately, this is not available via Netflix or Blockbuster.  I can’t even buy it with subtitles.

It is available via youtube with subtitles.  Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11

why the “sexy” scene in Harry Potter 7 (part 1) didn’t fit

Much has been made in some quarters (here, here) regarding a “nude” scene in the newest Harry Potter offering.  In fact, one sees a couple of characters kissing passionately with bare shoulders and mist swirling around them.  The implication is of nudity, but the actual appearance is just of bare shoulders and smooching.

Some people feel this is inappropriate to a children’s movie, to which I say, The movie is rated PG-13, and the P.G. really stands for something. And while the books may be for kids (older kids), a lot of things are more disturbing in translation to the screen.  (I can imagine letting children read the Hunger Games well before I’d be comfortable letting them see everything that happened there on screen.  Likewise with the Bible; I’ll never be old enough to see all of that stuff on screen.)

BUT the scene still didn’t fit, and the reason is that Harry and his friends have always been incredibly – well – virginal.  The big smoldering sexual tension in the Harry Potter books has always been about kissing, even as the characters pass through puberty.  It apparently has never even occurred to Harry and his friends – laudable and amazingly – to use the invisibility cloak for some mischief.  These kids are sexy-free.  So for Ron’s vision of horror to suddenly be of So Much More is just a little bit out of place.

That’s my take.

I thought the movie was excellent overall.

what i’ve been reading and watching – May-June

25. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl – Read this aloud with my older son.  A creative masterpiece.  9/10
24. Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl – Read this aloud with my older son (5 yrs old) in a day.  It was great fun!  8/10
23. Os Espiões [The Spies], por Luis Fernando Veríssimo – An alcoholic book editor receives a mysterious manuscript by a woman who claims to be held captive and who threatens to commit suicide after finishing the memoir.  Editor tries to intervene.  Absurd mayhem ensues.  Fun enough, and plays on the controversies about what memoirs really are.  But if you’re going to read Veríssimo (and I recommend him), I’d read Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, my favorite so far.  7/10
22. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 3, BBC dramatization. Once again, a great time.  7/10

what i’ve been reading and watching

I’ve been lazy about writing book reviews, but here are some capsules on books and movies I’ve experienced in January – April of this year.

———- Forwarded message ———-
Subject: Books and Movies for April


19.  The Godwulf Manuscript, by Robert Parker.  In honor of the crime novelist who recently passed on, I read his first Spenser novel.  Fun pulp.  6/10
18.  Also awesome: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1, BBC dramatization.  Two great things about Sherlock Holmes: first, not all the mysteries are murders.  (In this case, just one of the four.)  Second, the sidekick – Dr Watson – actually contributes.  We meet Irene Adler, the woman who outsmarts Sherlock Holmes and – maybe – captures his heart.  Very fun: the radio dramatization gives Holmes a laugh that makes him sound like a caustic mad scientist.  8/10
17.  Cards on the Table, by Agatha Christie.  Four bridge players.  All previously have murdered.  A murder is committed!  Only Hercule Poirot and is psychological reasoning can solve the case!  For once, a police guy recognizes that Poirot is brilliant and doesn’t spend the whole book pretending Poirot is loony.  Fun stuff.  7/10
16.  Best of the month: Inside Job, by Connie Willis.  I read a great review of her newest book in the Post , and so took this little novella (100 pages) to Brazil.  Lots of fun!  An LA psychic channeller starts channelling HL Mencken, the science journalist who covered the Scopes Monkey trial.  A professional skeptic is befuddled. 8/10

Continue reading “what i’ve been reading and watching”