lallis_folly: (words_stay)
Seven and a half years ago, my husband and I moved from a forty-acre, non-working farm to town. We had only lived on the farm for about a year and a half, but it was long enough to fall in love. While a good chunk of the acreage was devoted to pasture, an equally large portion was wooded. The land occupied the south-facing slope of a hill and the north-facing slope of the next hill. In the crease between hills, there meandered a small stream. The only thing missing from the land was a pond (which I understand that the new owners later constructed).

About the time we moved out there, I became interested in photography and the farm was a perfect place to engage my new hobby. Once or twice a month, I would tramp the fields and woods, snapping picture after picture, documenting the farm in all its seasons. I have several photo albums devoted to nothing but the various stages of life in the country.

And our dogs and cats, of course; we had only two of each at that time, and it was fun to take the dogs on a tramp with a camera at the ready. We could trust them off-leash, so while we leashed them to cross the road (the house was on one side of the road, the land on the other), once we were in the fields, we let them loose.

During the course of those precious months, I became a relatively competent photographer, which is to say that I got the shot that I was aiming at more often than not. My equipment was not particularly sophisticated: a decent SLR camera using actual film (*gasp*) and a telephoto lens. I loved using the telephoto lens. I like taking pictures of small things: pebbles, bugs, wildflowers. Grand landscapes aren't for me and I'm not interested in photographing people. But apple blossoms against a May sky, or three different colors of sweet peas, or possibly an idiot dog jumping into a stream instead of over it? Those are the sorts of pictures I like and my photo albums are full of them.

Shortly after we moved into town, we got a digital camera. Much smaller and lighter than that huge, old SLR, it became my camera of choice, especially for eBay pictures. But I find that my pictures aren't as nice as they were when we lived on the farm. Alas, film and developing are too expensive.

I find that as I take my daily walks, and often while riding somewhere, I am framing pictures in my mind. A few times, I even go back for them, only to find that my eye sees better than the camera. Nothing seems to turn out exactly as I had hoped with the digital camera, though I have gotten some wonderful -- and unprinted -- shots. My photo albums languish on my dresser, with no new pictures added in years.

Digital is okay, I suppose, but I really miss tramping my woods looking for hidden things to photograph.
lallis_folly: (words_stay)
The subtitle of this books says it all: "How to Catch a Great White Shark, Perform the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Track a Fugitive, and Dozens of Other TV and Movie Skills." In one of my other online lives, I read a lot of TV- and movie-related books (and review same). When I saw this was available via PaperbackSwap.com (which I highly recommend), I snapped it up.

Unfortunately, the book is not as entertaining as one might suspect. Yes, you get actual tips and step-by-step instructions from actual experts in their fields on how to do all sorts of action hero-ey stunts, but it's really all rather dry. There are touches of humor, but unfortunately, the most interesting thing about the book -- unless you really are studying to be an action hero -- is the authors' choices of movie quotes for the beginning of each chapter. Alas, this one is destined not to remain in my library, except perhaps as a writing reference for when I write my own thriller/espionage/mystery novel, just so I can have the hero climb down the face(s) of Mount Rushmore correctly.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (Default)
Aunt Dimity was dead, to begin with. Yes, the title character of the Aunt Dimity mystery series is a ghost. Well...actually, she's not a ghost, technically, she's a haunted journal. When main character Lori Shepherd speaks to the leatherbound journal, Aunt Dimity replies in a neat copperplate hand.

Aunt Dimity: Snowbound is the ninth or tenth book in series -- I can't keep track, anymore, and the titles aren't listed in the book. This deep in the series, a pattern for the stories has become apparent: Lori will go off somewhere without her husband (or if he does go with her, he will spend most of his time offstage), but with Aunt Dimity's journal and her stuffed rabbit Reginald (a gift from Aunt Dimity while she was still alive). She will meet a few new people and run into a mystery. She will be tempted by a handsome man, but will do her best to remember that she is married and has twin sons waiting for her at home. She will manage to humiliate or embarrass herself around the middle of the book because of her suspicions, but it will all turn out right in the end. But just because there's a formula doesn't mean that the book isn't entertaining.

In this entry in the series, Lori, with Aunt Dimity and Reg in her pack, goes for a day hike. However, she manages to miss her trail and get lost. Then an unforecast blizzard sets in, forcing her to take shelter along with two other lost hikers in Ladythorne Abbey. The Abbey is fully furnished, though not inhabited, and her suspicions are immediately roused by the fact that Wendy, one of her fellow hikers, carries a pry bar and lied about trying the abbey's front door. It's a good thing the caretaker's on the grounds and that Jamie, the third hiker, is such a nice, strapping fellow, because it's clear that Wendy is up to no good.

It is an interesting coincidence that three Americans hiking in England all sought shelter in the home of Lucasta DeClerke, though. Especially when Miss DeClerke so violently loathed Americans right up to her death. Or so says the caretaker.

Things are not, of course, what they seem and by the end of the novel, Lori's preconceived notions have been turned upside down, helped along by Mr. Catchpole the caretaker and Aunt Dimity
lallis_folly: (words_stay)
Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of how Frances Mayes bought Bramasole, a villa in Tuscany which had stood empty for thirty years, and over the course of three summers, slowly rehabbed it with the help of Ed, her Significant Other (the book never states whether he's her husband or not) and various workmen, including a group of Polish laborers. From olive trees, gardens, and wells to floors, ceiling beams, and hidden frescoes, the house and grounds slowly become a jewel where Frances and her family live in quiet summer contentment. (She and Ed are both college professors, so have summers available to spend in Italy.)

The story doesn't end with the work at Bramasole, however. After the initial work is finished and the workmen are packed off, then Frances and Ed have a place from which to explore Tuscany, and explore they do, from local Etruscan ruins to Roman roads to churches.

But there's even more to Tuscany than this. Mayes writes lovingly of the local cuisine, the local customs, even the Italian language. She includes both summer and winter recipes -- in addition to summers free, she also has long winter breaks. Her love of Italy in general and Tuscany in particular shines from the pages.

If you've only seen the movie based on the book, then you haven't seen the whole story. For one thing, the book is a memoir, while the movie is not. The movie compares the rehabbing of Bramasole to the mending of fictional Frances's broken heart, while the real Frances has already moved on and found someone else. I love the movie, but, I have found, I love the book also, in a very different way. And if you don't come away from the book wanting to a) travel to Tuscany yourself (whether or not you also then buy a neglected villa), b) wanting to bake bread, c) wanting to cook robust meals with lots of fresh ingredients, or d) all of the above, then you may possibly have missed the point.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (Default)
Conjuror Edward Moon is a handsome, charismatic man, popular in the best circles. But his assistant is by far the more eye-catching of the two. The Somnambulist is freakishly tall, mute, drinks only milk, and can suffer numerous swordthrusts with no apparent damage. The two are good friends, even living together beneath their theatre. And when London's finest occasionally request Moon's assistance with a case, the Somnambulist is right there to back him up.

Moon, like Sherlock Holmes before him, is subject to ennui unless he has a case to engage his wits. Unfortunately, cases have been few and far between of late. But when a wretched actor is thrown from a tower, Moon and the Somnambulist are drawn into a bizarre mystery that will, in the end, threaten London itself.

This novel hooked me right from the first paragraph: Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it. After that, there was no chance that I wouldn't finish it, and as quickly as possible.

The Somnambulist is a marvelous, convoluted tale. Within its labyrinthine twists are a man who lives backward, a totally unreliable narrator who confesses to lying to the reader, secret organizations, bizarre nightmare Tweedle-Dee and -Dum assassins, and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Barnes' lyrical writing complements his just-post-Victorian setting and, combined with the inspired madness of the plot, makes this novel very difficult to put down.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
I learned today that within the mystery genre is a sub-genre known as the "cozy mystery" in which the main character is an amateur detective, rather than a member of any law enforcement profession. Instead she (for, I learned, the detective is most often female -- though right after I read that Father Dowling sprang to mind) may be anything from a grocery-store clerk to a piano teacher. Cozy mysteries are generally set in a small town or village, and "cozy" is an apt description of the atmosphere.

The Aunt Dimity series definitely falls into this sub-genre. Neither of our heroines were law enforcement professionals: Lori is a rare book curator and Emma is a computer programmer with a passion for gardening (though Aunt Dimity and the Duke may be the only book in which she is the main character).

Oh, and Aunt Dimity is a ghost who appears only in the pages of a journal.

Aunt Dimity's Good Deed is the third book in the series, following Aunt Dimity's Death and Aunt Dimity and the Duke. It has been two years since Lori married her Prince Charming at the end of Aunt Dimity's Death, but she found that happily ever after wasn't. From the moment she and Bill returned to Boston from Aunt Dimity's lovely English cottage, Lori has barely seen her workaholic husband. While Bill's father remained the charming gentleman he always had been, the same could not be said for Bill's harridan aunts who disapprove of Lori's less than blue blood and keep pestering her about whether or not she's pregnant. At the end of her rope, Lori proposes a second honeymoon in Aunt Dimity's cottage, but true to form, Bill cancels at the last minute and she ends up going with her father-in-law instead.

At least William's suddenly leaving the cottage with a barely coherent note gives Lori something to do other than mope over her failed marriage. It seems that William is investigating the family quarrel that exiled one Willis brother to America in the eighteenth century (to found William's branch of the family). But it isn't always a good idea to go poking about in the past, and William may be in considerable danger. At least Aunt Dimity is keeping an eye on him. So it's Lori to the rescue, accompanied by her twelve-year-old neighbor Nell, Lori's stuffed rabbit Reginald, and Nell's stuffed bear Bertie.

The characterization here is great, from Emma, who will not leave her garden to go haring off with Lori in pursuit of William, to the astoundingly mature Nell, and Lori herself who is a bit dim when it comes to certain physical symptoms. We'll forgive her, though, as she's too worried about her father-in-law to worry about herself.

There is a sense in Atherton's writing that she's enjoying herself as much as she hopes the reader will. And this reader certainly did.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
I posted about this book last year, after reading it the first time, but what the heck, here's another: Ysabel )
lallis_folly: (words_stay)
I was given a signed, personalized copy of paranormal romance Some Practical Magic as a Christmas gift; I believe that my Auntie is acquainted with the author. The book is published by a small press in trade paperback format, which I appreciate, as I have tendonitis issues that make reading mass market paperbacks difficult.

Novelist Mick Sandor is horrified to learn that a serial killer is using his novels as a blueprint; he quickly agrees to work with the FBI to bring the killer to justice. Their idea is to organize a book tour using the locations in Mick's latest novel to lure the killer. Other authors, including advice columnist Cassie Hathorne, are included as window-dressing. Mick hardly expects to fall for Cassie during the tour; he's supposed to be helping catch a killer, fercryinoutloud!

This book takes the basic premise of a serial killer patterning his killings after the work of a horror novelist -- which I've seen done a few times elsewhere -- and injects witches into it (hence the "paranormal" in "paranormal romance"). As in Bewitched, these witches aren't human, but a different, long-lived species, most of whom don't look with favor upon homo sapiens. Unfortunately, the author takes the Bewitched route of making her witches faintly ridiculous with names like Medusa, Mortician Morula (called Mort), and Mandrake Tod. Cassie's shape-shifting (cat/woman) familiar is even named Endora, with the lame explanation that Cassie was a staff writer for the television series and lobbied for Samantha's mother to be named after her cat.

The novel takes the romance half of its plot from Bewitched as well, with witch Cassie Hathorne falling for mortal Mick. Fortunately for them, Cassie's mother is much more reasonable than was Bewitched's Endora. Also fortunately, unlike Darrin who insisted that Samantha conform to his world, modern-guy Mick has no such expectations.

Despite the hokiness of the plot, the writing is good -- nothing made me wince, which can't always be said of some of today's biggest authors. I do think some of the novel's resolutions were achieved a little too easily, but is that a fault of the author or the genre?

The ending sets up a sequel which appears to center around Endora (the cat, not the television character) and may not include Mick and Cassie at all.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
Hôtel Transylvania is the first book in the long-lived Saint-Germain series. Having recently read the nineteenth (set in late-Imperial Rome) and the twentieth (set in early nineteenth-century Europe) novels in the series, I was curious to see how it all began.

The novel is set amid the grandeur of mid-eighteenth-century Paris during the reign of Louis XV, 40 some years before La Revolution. Le Comte Saint-Germain is a mysterious figure in Parisian society: a foreigner -- though no one knows whence he hails -- he is filthy rich, a composer and musician, and dresses always in black and white. He is cultured and popular, especially with the ladies, though his attentions to them are always strictly within the bounds of honor.

This first book of the series takes place approximately three-quarters of a century prior to the latest. Where Hero in Borne in Blood is jealous of Saint-Germain's affection for Madelaine de Montalia, in this book, Madelaine is the heroine. She is a young noblewoman who was promised to a circle of Satanists by her father before her birth. Her father later repents of his actions and involvement with the Circle and flees Paris, but when Madelaine goes to Paris to visit her aunt, the Circle comes to claim her, and her only hope is Le Comte Saint-Germain with whom she has fallen in love.

Saint-Germain, of course, is a vampire, born some four thousand years ago. However, Hôtel Transylvania isn't really a vampire book, in the way that, say, Dracula or some of the current paranormal romances or urban fantasies are. The point is not that Saint-Germain is a vampire; the word is used, in fact, fewer than ten times in the course of the novel. Yes, his vampiric nature comes in handy for rescuing Madelaine, but at its core, this is a love story between Madelaine and Saint-Germain (but not of the squishy romancey variety).

As is fitting for the first novel in a series, Hôtel Transylvania sets the pattern for the rest of the series. The book begins with a letter and each chapter ends with a piece of correspondence, sometimes from characters that appear in no other way (which is, in fact, how Madelaine appears in the aforementioned Borne in Blood).

Because the author is also a historian, eighteenth-century Paris really comes to life. I am looking forward to reading more of this series.
lallis_folly: (Default)
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather is the twentieth book in Terry Pratchett's acclaimed Discworld¹ series. I'm not sure I'd start the series with this one, but on the other hand, it's probably not entirely necessary to have read the other nineteen (I haven't; I've only read the first seven, but after seeing the movie by the same name just before Christmas -- broadcast on ION, which used to be I, which used to be PAX, which used to be some religious channel -- I didn't want to wait).

Denizens of Discworld celebrate a midwinter holiday analogous to Christmas called Hogswatch. Gifts are delivered to good children by the Hogfather, who travels about the Discworld on a sleigh drawn by four boars. When our story begins, the Hogfather is missing and his place has been taken by Death, another anthropomorphic personification of ancient forces.

Meanwhile, Death's granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, who has inherited many of Death's abilities², is making an effort to live a normal life as a governess to a well-to-do family. However, the mother of the family, aware that Susan is a duchess, is not sure how to treat her and the father is, in a manner typical of Victorian patriarchs, only dimly aware of the fact that he has children. Susan uses a poker to triumph over the monsters that live in the basement or take up residence under the childrens' beds. But when her grandfather appears on Hogswatchnight wearing the Hogfather's clothing and bearing gifts, she gets drawn back into the strange world of her birth (as if any part of the Discworld were really normal).

But Death cannot bring back the Hogfather, only take his place. It is up to mostly mortal Susan to find out what happened and fix it.

That may seem a bit convoluted, but it all makes sense. Really.

What may seem at first glance like comic fantasy drivel is actually pretty deep satire. Pratchett riffs on holiday customs and Christmas materialism, as well as the stupidity of very smart people. In a couple of particularly inspired bits, we get to see Death changing the rules for the Little Match Girl and taking a knock at people who are charitable only around the holidays and only to make themselves feel good (take that, Good King Wenceslas!). There's also deep philosophical discussion on the beginnings of myths, how they change over the centuries, and old gods doing new jobs.

Plus, it's funny.

Here's a sample:

Everything starts somewhere, though most physicists disagree. …
But it was much earlier even than that when most people forgot that the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. Later on they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood, provided it's being shed by the deserving*), and then wondered where the stories went.

*That is to say, those who deserve to shed blood. Or possibly not. You never quite know with some kids.

---
¹ The Discworld is a flat planet riding through space on the backs of four mighty elephants, who are themselves riding on the back of the Great Turtle A'Tuin. That's really all you need to know about that.

² For instance, she can speak in Death's voice (which, in the book is always represented in all caps), she can walk through walls, she can wield Death's sword (his second-favorite weapon), and she can summon his pale horse Binky³.

³ And that name alone should tell you something about Pratchett's sense of humor.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
Before I get started, let me make two confessions: First, I have been a fan of Patricia Morrison's work since she began publishing her science fantasy series The Keltiad (first as Patricia Kennealy, then as Patricia Kennealy Morrison) in the '80s; and second, I was born in 1967 and was a teenager in the Just Say No '80s. As such, I was never a fan of '60s music, so bits of this book were lost on me.

Ungrateful Dead is the first volume in the Rennie Stride Mysteries, a new series by PKM that is as completely unlike her previous work as may be. It is much more similar to her memoir, Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison, than to any volume of The Keltiad.

Rennie Stride is a journalist surprised to find herself in a society marriage in San Francisco in the late '60s, where a revolution in music is occurring. Lucky enough to secure a job writing about this new music, Rennie is enjoying herself immensely until her best friend Prax McKenna finds a body backstage at the Fillmore. When more murders occur, and it looks as though Prax may be the murderer, Rennie goes to work to find the real killer and clear her friend's name.

Having read Strange Days as well as some of PKM's other non-fiction (including her LJ), I detect bits of Patricia in Rennie Stride (and in Prax and in singer Sunny Silver). Her own participation in the '60s music scene obviously informs her writing; the book reads in part like a love letter to the past. This very much helps set the mood for those of us who weren't there.

I did find myself questioning some of the idioms; some of the language seemed very post-Buffy, but idioms come and go and come again (and I don't speak '60s, anyway), so what the heck.

All in all, a very enjoyable book and I hope the next one comes along soon.

Cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] webofbooks
lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising¹ is based on Susan Cooper's 1973 novel, the second in the series also called The Dark is Rising. The movie tells the story of Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig), who on his fourteenth birthday learns that he is an Old One, one of the guardians of the Light. Will's especial quest is to find the six Signs of the Light and use them to defeat the powers of Dark, personified by the Black Rider (Christopher Eccleston). Will's fellow Old Ones, Merriman Lyon (Ian McShane), Mr. Dawson (James Cosmo), George (Jim Piddock), and Miss Greythorne (Frances Conroy), cannot help with his quest, other than as guardians along the way. Unfortunately for Will, the Black Rider is more powerful than all four of his guardians combined.

In the novel, upon which the movie is only loosely based, Will comes into his power on his eleventh birthday; no doubt the scriptwriter changed Will's age -- and made him American, rather than English -- to avoid too many comparisons with Harry Potter. One also assumes that the change of nationality was to provide some "fish out of water" tension, but if so, it completely failed, as very little mention was made of it. In fact, there was more tension from Will's sudden ascension to power and responsibility than his nationality.

Unfortunately, Will spends much of the movie being a whiny brat -- or angst-puppy in LJ parlance. He whines about finding the Signs in time; over the girl that he has a crush on, but who is going out with his elder brother; over being kicked out of his bedroom by yet another elder brother moving back home. He doesn't get along well with the other Old Ones, and the one time he attempts to talk to Merriman, he gets a lecture rather than the hoped-for advice. Granted, he doesn't get the training in his new abilities that he should. Instead, he's shoved into a dangerous quest he's not prepared for, which is enough to make even an adult, let alone a fourteen-year-old, cranky.

Probably the best thing about the movie -- if you're a geek like I am -- is that the Black Rider's mundane guise is that of the village doctor. Christopher Eccleston, who plays the Rider, was, of course, the first actor to play the part of the Doctor in the new Doctor Who. A couple of lines about time are also thrown in his general direction. Unfortunately, Eccleston doesn't bring the same intensity to the Black Rider as he did to the Doctor, so except for the pun, his appearance is a disappointment. In fact, I would have liked to have seen his role and Ian McShane's (Merriman Lyon) reversed.

It's probably best to approach the movie as a "reimagining" of Susan Cooper's original novel, since that really appears to have been the case. Rather than just updating the story to include such things as computers, cell phones and iPods, the story is completely rewritten with very little remaining of the novel. Even something as basic as the six Signs of the Light have been changed. All of the depth of the original movie has been replaced by surface glitz. Will finds a sign in a Viking burial ship? Okay, let's throw in a battle with Vikings -- and a kitten! Yeah! About the only thing that remains from the novel is the menace of the rooks.

While there is no doubt that children who have not been exposed to the novel will probably enjoy the movie, I daresay that most of the audience will be familiar with it and, like me, will be disappointed.
---
¹ Although it is my understanding that the movie's title was changed twice from The Dark is Rising to The Seeker: The Dark is Rising to, finally, just The Seeker, all the advertising material in the theater and the print itself referred to the film by the second title.
lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is, surprisingly, a movie with layers. On the surface, it tells the story of a trio of teenagers playing hooky from school on a fine May day, having more fun and excitement than some people do in years. The deeper layers concern friendship, love, and family interactions.

The movie's tone is set very early on when Ferris Bueller (played by Matthew Broderick), after persuading his parents -- over his sister's protests -- that he's too sick to go to school, sits carefully up in bed, looks straight at the camera and announces to the audience, "They bought it!" He continues to address the audience throughout the film. In fact, except for two telephone conversations with his best friend, all of his interaction early in the movie is with the audience.

From this, we learn that Ferris is a clever, thoughtful young man with a low opinion of high school. Less than happy with his parents' decision to give him a computer instead of a car, he has, nevertheless, learned to use the computer well enough to remotely change his school attendance record (under the very eyes of the principal, unfortunately, but more on that later).

As is obvious from the very beginning of the film, Ferris is a consummate con artist; he treats us to a lesson on faking out the parents while elaborately preparing his room to look as though he's sleeping, should his parents come home from work to check on him. It's easy to see Ferris as a bully, as well, especially in his treatment of his best friend Cameron, who really is home from school sick. Cameron has a car, you see, and Ferris needs him in order to accomplish his plans for the day. But though Ferris does bully Cam into participating in his plans, it's only partly because Ferris needs Cam's car. He also genuinely cares about Cam and wants to see him happy. He admits to this -- to the audience, though not to Cameron -- late in the film when he gives his clear-eyed assessment that their friendship is coming to its natural conclusion. It's more obvious, however, when he offers to "take the heat" for the destruction of Cameron's father's beloved Ferrari.

Adult authority in the film is represented mainly by Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students -- the principal at Ferris's high school. Although Ferris's parents are present, he has them so wrapped around his fingers that they accept whatever he tells them without so much as blinking (though there are a few moments in the course of the film when it seems as though Ferris is about to get caught by his father). Cameron's parents are mentioned numerous times, but never seen, and Cameron impersonates the father of Ferris's girlfriend Sloane to get her released from school for the day.

Ed Rooney clearly thinks a great deal of himself. He is positive that he is far more intelligent than some punk like Ferris Bueller, and he's determined to catch Ferris in truancy, especially after he witnesses Ferris's computerized attendance record being changed.

Unfortunately, Rooney isn't particularly intelligent. Unlike Principal Vernon of The Breakfast Club, Rooney has no redeeming qualities (and Jeffrey Jones seems to prefer characters that have no redeeming qualities). When, in his obsession with catching Ferris, Rooney decides that breaking and entering is okay, he loses any sympathy the audience might still have had for him (especially when he already knows, from the repeating "doorbell" tape, that Ferris is not home in bed). His attack on the Bueller family dog is nothing short of unforgivable. His subsequent humiliation in front of a bus-load of students, with the implication that his battered condition will be the talk of the school the following morning, is completely deserved.

A good story requires growth and change. This is most often shown in the main character, but throughout the course of the movie, Ferris remains Ferris: a likeable con artist. It is a pair of secondary characters who experience growth as a result of Ferris's truancy: his sister Jeanne, who fumes throughout the movie about everything always going her brother's way, and his best friend Cameron, whose spectacular murder of his father's Ferrari will more than likely have him spending the rest of his school days in the Buellers' guest room.

In Jeanne's case, her acceptance of her brother is predicated on two events: falling for the philosophical druggie (played by Charlie Sheen) at the police station, and her desire for revenge on Ed Rooney, whose invasion of the Bueller home is what caused her to end up at the police station (accused of making a false report to police) to begin with. Her alliance with and acceptance of her brother may be temporary -- and she does make him sweat a bit when it appears that Rooney has finally caught him -- but for the moment, the Bueller siblings are allied against the authority represented by Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students.

Cameron's case is a bit more problematic. It is obvious from the beginning that Cameron does not have a good relationship with either of his parents. He wishes his mother would stay in Decatur, for instance. During the course of the movie we learn a little more from Ferris about how cold Cam's upbringing has been, and even more from Cam's outburst near the end: "Who do you love? A car!"

As much as we might admire Cam's clear-eyed determination to face his father in the matter of the car, we can be fairly certain that while the confrontation will certainly clear the air between father and son, the outcome is not likely to be the one Cam clearly desires, a deep father-son bond. Far more likely is that Morris Fry will kick his son out of the house -- or even have him arrested for destroying his beloved Ferrari. But in the end, even that would serve to launch Cameron into his future. So it is Cameron, in the long run, who will benefit most from Ferris's decision to play hooky on a beautiful spring morning.

Members of the Brat Pack: None, unless we count writer/director John Hughes.
Instances of defiance of adult authority: Have you seen this movie?
Break ups: None
Pair ups: One, sort of: Jeanne and the druggie.
Who's going to the prom: Probably everyone. Ferris will go with Sloane, of course, and Cam will go stag. It sounds as though Jeanne has enough admirers that someone will ask her, as well. And Rooney will probably be there to glare at Ferris and Sloane.
lallis_folly: (Default)
I spend a lot of time going to garage sales with my parents, and I see an astonishing amount of idiocy, rudeness and plain old shocking ignorance. So, I present a few rules for successful garage sales.

If you're having a garage sale:

1. Advertise ahead of time. Don't have a garage sale on Saturday and start your ad in the paper on Saturday. Some people don't get the Saturday paper until much later in the day than you'd like.

2. If your ad says that you're opening your sale at 8:00, then be ready to go at 8:00. Don't be just starting to pull stuff out of the attic at 8:00. And above all, don't be just hauling your butt out of bed at 8:00.

3. Yes, I know you said "no early birds." You're going to get them. Just grin and bear it; if you tell them to go away, those people will, indeed, go away. And they'll take their money with them. However, if you're really not ready to open, then don't. This generally only works if your sale is really in the garage and you can keep the doors closed while you're getting ready.

4. If for some reason you decide at the last minute not to have your sale, put up a sign. People are going to be driving by your house, and some people will be driving up and down the street trying to locate your sale. Putting up a sign might make your neighbors happier, too.

5. Have change. And bags.

6. If you have dogs, try to keep them away from the garage sale area. Some people are afraid of dogs. And some dogs don't like some people. Oh, and just accept that your dogs are going to spend a lot of time barking.

7. Be polite.

If you're buying at a garage sale:

1. Don't show up before the advertised starting time. It's rude. I know a lot of people do it. That doesn't make it any less rude.

2. If you find a great bargain, say, a $50 purse for $2, do you really need to haggle for it? Couldn't you just hand over the $2 and be happy?

3. Don't park in people's lawns or driveways. Don't block the neighbors' driveways.

4. Don't just stop in the middle of the street and abandon your car (you wouldn't believe how often I see people do this. Oh, they think they're parking, but they're miles from the curb).

5. Pay attention to your kids and don't let them play with the merchandise. Just because someone's got a vase marked 50 cents doesn't mean that they want it broken. Heck, if they wanted it broken, they could do it themselves.

6. Carry change, especcially quarters and dollar bills. Don't expect someone to be able to change a twenty dollar bill if they've just opened their sale.

7. Carry a canvas shopping bag or backpack, just in case there are no bags available.

8. Be polite.
lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
The Brat Pack was a group of young actors in the '80s who often appeared in movies together. Although lists differ, the core group seems to have included Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson. Also linked with the Brat Pack have been Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Matthew Broderick, Robert Downey, Jr. and others.

As a teen of that era, I was in the prime audience for Brat Pack movies. However, I've never seen most of them. I thought it would make an interesting project to watch them and react to them as an adult. I've already posted my reaction to The Breakfast Club.

I'd link to the Wikipedia article on the Brat Pack at this point, but it's been completely changed since the first time I looked at it, and the list of movies I intended to watch is gone. We'll see if I can locate the printout I made at the time. The previous article was much more complete, including the entire list of actors that had been linked with the Brat Pack, but weren't necessarily members themselves.

The first movie will be Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which is included in the Brat Pack canon by virtue of having been produced, written and directed by John Hughes.
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
The seventh novel in this little-known series appeared with this past weekend with no fanfare ... what? Oh, sorry, must've been Confunded, there.No Real Spoilers, But Nevertheless... )
lallis_folly: (bilbo_pen)
Okay, this is silly, but just what we need for a Friday. 'Twas brilling... )
lallis_folly: (alyson_book)
Note:

When I first got this idea a few months ago, I had a feeling that someone had probably done it before. I had no idea that everyone had done it before. When I realized how much bandwith had been devoted to this subject, I began to feel something like an English teacher who is facing the same old essay on the same old subject yet again (and I would hereby like to apologize to Mrs. W. for that essay on messianic figures in The Lord of the Rings). However, I decided to go ahead with it. But I did do the thing properly, as Dumbledore said to Harry, and did my own research (such as it was) and reached my own conclusions.

This is quite long; even with all the spacing removed, it reaches to seven pages in Word.

And the following should be unnecessary to say, but I know better than that. This is a copyrighted work. Touch it at your peril.

J. K. Rowling and the Power of Names )
lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
I watched The Breakfast Club for the first time recently. Despite being of the target age for the John Hughes/Brat Pack movies when they were first released, I have never seen most of them.

In this particular installment in the oeuvre, five students, one representative from each of the high school cliques (Princess, Sporto, Brain, Criminal, Weirdo) are brought together one Saturday to spend the day in the school's library in detention. At the beginning of the movie, the principal, who is their jailer and babysitter for the day informs them that they are to write him a thousand word essay telling him who they think they are.

Who they think they are? At that age? I haven't even figured out who I think I am and I'm more than twice the age those kids are supposed to be. How are they supposed to figure it out? They spend the day delving beneath the labels, but in the end, they resort to the same ones that Principal Vernon has already assigned them.

And that got me to thinking about labels. Labels define our lives. They are how other people think of us, but also how we think of ourselves. While they may change during our lifetimes, they're always there, lurking.

Labels are what we are (spouse, parent, child), what we do (homemaker, teacher, policeman), how we think (liberal, idiot, theologian), how we react to the world around us (fraidy-cat, trailblazer), how we feel about others (putz, hero), how we feel about ourselves (lover, failure, dreamer). Some labels are good (Princess, Brain), some aren't (Criminal, Weirdo). Some pull people together (American, Canadian), some divide (Democrat, Republican). Even names are just personal labels (Ally, Judd).

The point in The Breakfast Club, of course, is that the principal (pinhead, jerk¹) is wrong to see the kids just as neatly labeled archetypes, because each of the five kids is more than just the superficial label. But Vernon isn't necessarily wrong, just human, with the very human need to name, label and classify everything, to make the world an orderly -- and therefore comforting -- place.

¹ Principal Vernon is much more than that, of course, as shown in the scene with the janitor in which he reveals how he was once a passionate teacher, but feels that the kids have turned on him. Watch that scene with adult eyes and you can't fail to feel sorry for a man who has seen his dream destroyed, even if it's mostly his own fault and even if it's only for a moment.
lallis_folly: (dangers untold)
My high school, like many another bastion of secondary education, staged an "all-school" musical every year, generally in November. Why it was referred to as "all-school" remains a mystery; the administration knew as well as anyone else that the only students who were going to participate were the choir and drama club kids.

My senior year, they chose to do Bye Bye, Birdie. The show's basic story involves a rock and roll star (Conrad Birdie) being, like Elvis Presley, drafted into the Army. But before he goes off to war, Birdie is going to bestow a goodbye kiss on one lucky girl and sing her a song newly penned for the occasion, all to be broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show.

That particular year, our regular choreographer (the vice-principal's wife) was pregnant, so the show was moved from November to spring. Unfortunately, that conflicted with the drama club's regular spring dinner theater production. As a group, the drama club decided to refuse to try out for the musical. We were sure there was some sort of insult in the timing -- after all, there was no law saying that Mrs. P. had to do the choreography. As far as we were concerned, they could easily have gotten someone else. Ah, youth....

In any case, it didn't matter since the drama club adviser held tryouts for dinner theater and posted the cast list at least a week before auditions for Birdie began. So those of us who didn't get cast in the dinner theater production felt much less guilty trying out for the musical.

As often happens, the best singers (and musicians) were also the best actors and Miss W. had snatched them up for dinner theater. That left the second-stringers to get leads in the musical, which is undoubtedly how I ended up as Doris McAfee, the mother of the girl whom Birdie is to kiss. Mr. P. had been interested in casting me as the girl, Kim, probably because of my long hair, but I am most decidedly an alto and couldn't quite reach Kim's high notes. I was vastly amused, though, because the girl who had played my mother in the last play was cast as my daughter in this one.

I'm sure that Mr. P. and Mrs. H. (the choir teacher) had occasion to regret casting me in a singing part. I was a reasonably good actress at that age, but I couldn't sing very well (and I sing even less well now). My vocal range lands me in the alto section, which is fine with me, but I can't hear harmony, which is a problem.

There's a scene in the musical in which the McAfees sing rapturously about appearing "coast to coast with our favorite host" on The Ed Sullivan Show. And that's where I started having problems. Mrs. McAfee's first phrase I could sing easily enough, but after that, I was singing harmony and even though I knew the line pretty well, I lost it when the soprano line -- Kim -- came in. I could tell how frustrated Mrs. H. was getting, but I simply was not a confident enough vocalist to pull it off. In the end, they had a couple of strong altos stationed in the wings belting the part out and I ended up mainly lip synching. Ah, well.

My only real regret about the whole thing is that since the show was done in the spring, the yearbooks had already been published, so the batch of photos that we patiently posed for were in the 1985-1986 yearbook -- and I've never seen them, since I graduated in 1985.

I watched the movie version not too long ago; I'd never seen it before. I was surprised at how calm Mrs. McAfee is. Looking back, I suspect I played it rather over the top -- dashing offstage in tears when Kim informed me she smoked and called me "Doris" instead of "mother." There were, naturally, differences, though whether they were adaptations for the movie or the high school stage, I couldn't tell you. I was surprised to realize that I could still sing along with all the songs. I do remember how much fun it all was -- except for not really being vocally capable -- and how exhilarating to be on stage.

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