A Dialogue on Movies, Books and More

Posts tagged ‘books’

Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Well, it is now 2012, but we recorded our latest podcast last year, when we were all relaxed and unwound after the holidays and some time off (for those of us working…).  Maybe it was just me, but I could pretty much only find stories that were basically lists, so this episode is relatively laid back and free from any real heated debate.  In fact, one might say that we… bantered.  Ha, ha.  Don’t worry, that bit of lame humor is 2011 leftovers.  This year, the three of us are going to up our game, move to our own site, get some cooler theme music, get back to blogging as well as podcasting, and change some other stuff that our team isn’t ready to unveil yet.

So.  Here is what we talk about in Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Also, I gave reviews of:

Justin mentioned a book he’s reading, Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside.

And Matt got a puppy, so be jealous!

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Late Breaking Edition – Podcast Episode 3

It’s a late breaking edition of the Idle Banter podcast this week. Zoe is settling into her new digs in Colorado, Matt is busy getting ready for the students to return to Miami University and I was out of town this past weekend. Anyway, on this edition of the podcast, I come back from a weekend away to find the world in turmoil, Matt tries to prove that Comcast might have a soul and Zoe talks about how the Smurfs creep her out. Enjoy this week’s episode and as always feedback is welcome.

Podcast

Episode 3 – Smurf you Comcast

 

News

The Riots in London 1, 2 & 3

Ohio Man Goes on Shooting Spree

30 Killed in Afghanistan

Upgrade to “No Child Left Behind”

 

Movies and Books

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

Movie News

September Releases

Eureka Ending After Season 5

 

Tech News

Happy Birthday World Wide Web

Comcast Helps Low Income Families

 

Nerd Corner

Borderlands 2

Diablo III Class Movies

Stupidest Video Game Lawsuits

The Idle Banter Book Club

Justin: HEY ZOE, HOW’S IT GOING!?

Zoe: Shhhhhh….

Justin: Why are you shushing me?

Zoe: Because we are in a library, that’s why.

Justin: Well, whose bright idea was it to do our dialogue in the library?

Zoe: Umm that would have been your idea. You thought it would be a nice atmosphere for our blog on books today.

Justin: Well that back fired on me just a bit.

Zoe: Just a bit. So, what has been going on with you lately? It seems like it’s been a while since we’ve done a proper dialogue.

Justin: I think it has; both of our lives have been pretty busy and last weekend was a holiday so that just completely threw off everything. For Memorial Day, I was in Illinois down near Decatur for a family reunion. I have to say, southern Illinois is not the best place to go when you are on a diet. There was some wonderful food there. For lunch on the last day we had homemade fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Zoe: Well at least the green beans were healthy.

Justin: That is what I thought as well, until I saw there were huge slabs of bacon in it. It was freaking delicious. What were you up to this past holiday weekend?

Zoe: I went home to Chicago for a high school friend’s wedding.  It was just so lovely, and of course it was just great to see some of my best friends and just hang out.  The weather was nutty–rainy and cold the first two days, then 90 the last day!  And the flights were actually easy, not to jinx future flights…

Justin: Bummer on the rain but at least the flights were good. That is usually the tricky part. So, let’s talk about books. You reading anything good lately or is there anything you are looking forward to, that is coming out soon?

Zoe: Let’s see, I just finished a super disappointing historical romance called Wicked Surrender.  Naughty name, right?  NO.  The set up on the back cover was misleading, the resolution was way past trite and cliched–in which the characters were forced to make no serious decisions after 200 pages of stressing how well-equipped they were to make the tough choices–and the characters’ personalities shifted drastically with no real rhyme or reason.  Normally, I love a good historical romance, there are tons of ways to make them creative and fun even using strict societal settings like 18th century London.  I love Ransom by Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Connie Brockway, and Eloisa James, and none of them has to resort to a plot that has embarrassing similarities (minus the baby–only 2 actual instances of sex, which is like super lame for the genre!) to Pearl Harbor.  Yeah, I said it.  But whatever, to get that bad taste out of my mouth, I’ve started Maybe This Time, by Jennifer Crusie, probably my all-time favorite romance writer; she has eccentric characters, quirky set ups and no melodrama.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to Laurel K. Hamilton’s Hit List (even though the last several books in the Anita Blake series were… not the best) and Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueling Carey, both released this month!

Justin: Yeah, there is nothing worse than getting all the way through a story only to find out there is no resolution. I know authors sometimes do that to make sure you read the next in the series, but it is annoying. Finish it up, bring some closure and let me move on. If that doesn’t happen, I am probably not going to pick up the next book. Anyway, I am currently reading something recommended to me by your husband. It is a collection of short stories called Welcome to Bordertown by editors Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. The series started back in 1986 and Matt described it as the “birth” of urban fantasy. From what I gather from the intro to this collection, by one of the original authors, Bordertown was created to be a “shared-world series.” This means that a ton of authors would all write stories that all took place in this land that they created between the human world and the elfin realm. From there it apparently exploded. Well, it has been 13 years since the last collection and now Welcome to Bordertown has been put out. To be honest I was a little hesitant to start reading this book because I had never read any of the collections before and apparently they are really hard to find. However, I have now read the first story and am working on the second and I have to say they are fabulous. The world that has been created is amazing and makes me want to not only “go” to Bordertown but write my own story as well. I am glad Matt mentioned it because it was an excellent find and as a Noob to the series I don’t feel left out. If any of you like Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, then you will like this collection of stories because this is where the genre started. Oh and if you haven’t heard of The Dresden Files either, I would recommend them as well. Even the short lived TV series was pretty good.

Zoe:  Wow, Justin, that was an incredible speech you just wrote down there.  Got anything else you want to put out there?

Justin: Tons, we are talking books so I could go on for awhile, but how about you talk for a bit.

Zoe: Oh, Justin, I kid, I kid.  Okay, I don’t know if I could exactly talk that long about something that I’m reading just now, but I can say that I am currently exceedingly disappointed by the San Francisco Public Library system.  First of all, if I go on a wait list for a book currently all checked out, I’m on it for like 6 months and then I give up and find a copy another way.  Second of all, the reference librarians, even at the main branch, just do searches on their computer (which CLEARLY I can do myself) and have no extra suggestions or helpful librarian-like advice!  Third of all, each branch has very little books.  The one I go to the most has a children’s section downstairs, which is good-sized but not great, and then half of its upstairs is full of non-fiction (small amount, for a sampling for all the knowledge there is), DVDs and computers (half-taken by homeless people).  The novels are pitiful.  A few classics peppered in with some large print, some romance and sci-fi / fantasy paperbacks, a few narrow bookcases of mysteries, and then the most random supply of novels after that.  I wouldn’t mind except my favorite part about libraries, like bookstores, is browsing.  Not just having the names of a few authors I like and hoping they have other books by that author, not just hoping they have the first book in a new series and not just the like second and third, but finding new authors.  These libraries are so limited that there’s really not a lot of room for exploration or discovering authors that you like, and if by chance you do, you get annoyed because it IS the second book in the second trilogy of a series and the library doesn’t own the first book at ALL…  See, it makes me completely pissed off just writing that.  It makes me HUFF in ANGER.  Come on, people, e-readers are nice options, but I should not have to have one in order to read books I want.  Isn’t reading enough of an endangered species that my library should be more than less-than-mediocre?

Justin: Feel Better?

Zoe: Pfft… Not really.  California’s broke as hell and frankly I’d rather they have schools and pay teachers and cops and stuff.  I mean, I know lame libraries won’t make me give up on reading, but what about everyone else?  Money.  It’s just… complicated.

Justin: Well, don’t feel bad, it is happening everywhere. Heck I have two different library systems near me and a college and I still have trouble finding books I am looking for. It saddens me when I go into the library and see young kids browsing the movies and video games (yes that is correct, video games) rather than looking at books. Libraries are a dying breed and unfortunately so is reading. If you can’t find it on the Internet, it must not be worth it. However, that isn’t going to stop me from reading. As you all know, I am constantly reading more than one thing. For instance other than Welcome to Bordertown, I am also reading Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and The Spook’s Apprentice Series by Joseph Delaney. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is an interesting twist on the life of Abraham Lincoln and I was kind of shocked about how interesting it is. You are learning a bit about Lincoln himself woven in with this great fiction of vampires in early America. Joseph Delaney’s series is equally as good. It is about a young boy who is taken on as an apprentice by the county’s spook whose job it is to get rid of ghosts and witches and other things that bump in the night. The books in the series are ones that I regret starting late at night because I end up staying up to late trying to finish them. The story so far is interesting and has kept me engaged. Both Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and The Spook’s Apprentice are worth taking a look at. Maybe you can even find them in the Library.

Zoe: … Another mini-novel!  You are good.  All your talk makes me seriously excited for “True Blood” to start up, I think next week.  So that’s awesome.  But back on the books, I usually read more than one thing at once, but recently I’ve been busy with my actual walking-around life and attempting to write some stories of my own.  I’ve been reading some free fiction on my e-reader apps on my iPhone and mostly they’re pretty amateurish, but I’ve read some fun ones.  They’re more like short stories, but they’re actually the perfect length for my morning and afternoon commute.  There are some good supernatural vampire / werewolf / witch kind of ones, and some straight-up romances too.  Some of these have awesomely NC-17 stories too but I’m a lady so I’m not going to tell you whether they’re good or not… not that I’d know, being a lady and all.

Justin: Riigghhttt…. You know you love that stuff. I think it was you who introduced me to the NC-17 version of Y Tu Mama Tambien. But I know where you are coming from. I enjoy getting on Fanfiction.net every once in awhile and seeing what is out there. Some times you just need a break from well-written novels and have to read something absolutely ridiculous. That and at times some of the stories don’t go the way you want them to go, but thanks to the power of the Internet, someone has already written about it somewhere. Alright, any other books you are excited about before we take off for the night?

Zoe: Right, I like Fanfiction too, and if I weren’t a lady, I might like its more NC-17 cousin RestrictedSection.org.  And Y Tu Mama Tambien is a fantastic story about manhood and brotherhood and what it means to grow up, so you can shut it, it’s not sleazy in the least.  I’m not sure the same could be said of Commodore Norrington / Captain Sparrow slash at Fanfiction.net…  Back on track now: There are some books that were turned into movies that are coming out soon, and I want to read some of those before the movies are released.  The main one is One Day, about a man and a woman (played by Jim Sturgress and Anne Hathaway in the movie) who almost get together in college and then meet once a year that same day, and it’s about what’s happened in that year, how they’ve changed, etc.  Oh, and I went on a little movie trailer binge yesterday and for movie lovers, you should check out the trailers for: 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, One Day of course, the first Breaking Dawn Part 1 with the first sign of the AWESOME baby Renesmee in utero, the new Muppet Movie with Amy Adams and Jason Segel (thanks for the reminder, Justin), and A Little Help with the American “Office”actor Jenna Fischer.  (All at: http://www.imdb.com/features/video/trailers/.)

Justin: I just saw X-Men: First Class and have to say it is great and I hope this is the “Reboot” the series needed. I will also say, that the more I see The Green Lantern trailers the more I am liking it and not just because Ryan Reynolds is an amazing actor. So we shall see how it goes. In books, I am looking forward to reading The Throne of Fire which is the second book in The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. It is already out and sitting on my shelf. Also looking forward to his next book in the Heroes series which is due out this fall at some point. Oh so many books and so little time. I am just glad the weather has become nicer than it has been. Means I get to sit outside on the deck more with a good book. So hopefully it will stay this way. With all this talk of books, I think I am actually going to go read for the rest of the night. What about yourself?

Zoe: Hmm, I’m going to eat some dinner and settle in with Maybe This Time, and dream about a package my friend in Seattle sent me with tea for Matt and another Jennifer Crusie novel for me!

Justin: NICE!!

Librarian: Ok, that’s enough you two have been here long enough and are starting to get loud. It is time to go!

Justin: Well, I think that is our cue. See you all next week.

Zoe: Bye! Don’t forget to enjoy nice weather (if you’re having any) and dream about the day you can buy all the books your grubby hands can take hold of!

Justin and Zoe Tackle the Desert Island Question

Justin: Hey Zoe, how was your weekend?

Zoe: Not bad, my husband Matt and I got a good portion of writing done.

Justin: That’s awesome, what were you two working on?

Zoe: Well, I was working on my epic fantasy story and Matt was working on his fantasy western.

Justin: Both of which sound like they will be great reads once they are finished. Other than writing this weekend, did you reading any good books?

Zoe: I just finished up The Hunger Games, a Young Adult fiction book set in a distopian near-future where every year two representatives aged 12 to 18 from each district go to the capital and fight each other TO THE DEATH.  Lots of implications about governments ruling absolutely by fear, but it’s the first in a trilogy so we’ll see what else it’s about, right?  (Plus they just cast young lovely Jennifer Lawrence as the lead in the upcoming movie version.)  Are you reading anything interesting?

Justin: Well, I am currently reading several books on the art of writing. Trying to get a short story off the ground, so just reading what other authors have written about on the subject of writing. Got some great suggestions from your husband the other week as well, however, it was a busy weekend so I haven’t had a chance to work on it at all. Also, one of the books I am reading is by the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which sounds like a fascinating endeavor. I know your husband did it last year. I think I may try to do it this year depending on where I am.

Zoe: Well, you have until November to read all you can to be prepared to try that madness.  It seemed to work very well for him, give him some structure or whatever, but I’m not sure I’d ever last if I tried.  Somehow I don’t think my school-years plan of waiting till the night before to write a paper will work in that sort of situation…

Justin: You’d be surprised apparently there have been several people who wait until the very last couple of days to write it all. You could do it, but probably not the best plan. Anyway, with all of this talk on books and writing, I thought that today’s topic could be an answer to a simple scenario.

Zoe: Okay, I’m intrigued, what kind of scenario?

Justin: The world has been thrown into chaos and you must leave your home taking barely anything with you. You are allowed to take one suitcase with clothing, a few family photos and three books. What three books do you take? Also, for anyone out there who is thinking, “Well I would just grab my Kindle or another e-reader,” sorry to say but all of the world’s electronics have been wiped out. Don’t ask me how they got knocked out, they just did. Deal with it. So, what three books would you take?

Zoe: Sounds like an interesting proposition. This will also give our readers some books to check out if they haven’t read or heard of them. Why don’t you start us off with your first book?

Justin: Well my first book would have to be Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It is one of those books that I’ve read several times. My father was the one who actually introduced me to the book and it is his copy from college that I have sitting on my bookshelf. Siddhartha is a take on the story of the Buddha. It talks about his life and his journey to becoming the Buddha. To me though, it talks about a simpler way of life and a more peaceful environment. I think that if the world was in chaos, this would comfort me. It is a great book and a wonderful story to read.

Zoe: Okay, my first isn’t nearly as classy as yours: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey.  This is the first in a string of books connected to each other (three consecutive trilogies) and in many ways the strongest because it utterly establishes  this fantastic, alternate history / religion / culture… a wicked beast of a premise.  It’s not for the faint of heart; the main character is a god’s chosen and experiences all pain as pleasure.. in addition to feeling pleasureful things as pleasure of course.  It’s a wonderful political thriller, a coming-of-age story, a sweeping adventure and romance, as well as a very interesting look at desire.  And very importantly, it has a fiercely unique and complicated lead female….  I’m stopping myself there, before I just go on and on: What’s your second pick?

Justin: Screw my second pick, I want to read and take that one.

Zoe: Well you can’t, it is my choice.

Justin: Sigh, fine. So, my second choice isn’t as cool as Zoe’s first choice and I am sure it won’t be as cool as her second choice, but here it goes anyway. For my second choice I would bring along a book of Edgar Allan Poe’s works including his poems and short stories. If you’ve read my other blog, you know that I am a poetry fan as well as a fan of Poe. He is one of my favorite poets and his horror stories take you back to a day when it didn’t have to be all blood and guts. His writing would also remind me a lot of Hitchcock and if there were no more electronics, it would be a happy reminder of the things that I loved. I don’t think he is given as much credit at times as other great poets, but he was unique and is worth checking out if all you’ve ever read is “The Raven” for school. Okay, so since I am pretty sure your next book will be as kick-ass as your first, lets have it.

Zoe: My second choice…  Wow, this is really hard.  You know, I avoid lists like this; they make me want to justify things.  But okay, my second would be A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  The title sounds pretentious, but the book really is both heartbreaking and hilarious.  Everything, from the literal front cover to the literal back cover, is a part of the story; the author’s biography and the author’s picture contradict each other–there is a list of metaphors at the beginning that he actually uses that way during the story.  Man, I can’t even tell you how crazy and hard (crazyhard!) that is!  But now, it comes down to it.  What is your last choice?

Justin: This one was actually really hard to decide upon, because as you’ve mentioned, there are a ton of great books out there. Your last choice made me think of a book by Chuck Klosterman called Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that is an excellent and hilarious read. However, since my last two choices were kind of serious, I think for my final book I would go with Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It is an excellent piece of science fiction that can really make you think. Some of the ethical questions that arise during the reading of this book are great conversation starters. Also the character of Ender in my opinion is just down right brilliant. It can also take you to a place where you can forget about your problems for awhile and focus on a whole other world. Wow that was a hard choice.

Zoe: I am conflicted here.  I have a tiny list of four books and I’m sure I’m forgetting about a million books that I love to reread, that I’d want to carry with me…  So.  I’m going to go with Bulfinch’s Mythology.  Take that, only-three-books rule!  If you get a Poe collection, I get an anthology.  If you’ve never so much as heard of it, I highly recommend paging through it, if not reading it cover to cover.  It’s a collection of all the most basic Greco-Roman myths, the story itself but also long quotes from source material and the oldest written versions of the story that there are.  I love mythology so much, the components and qualities of human nature that drive it, and the crazy stories.  Sigh…  Now can we talk about the books that almost made the top three?

Justin: Hahaha, I knew the only three rule was killing you. I was actually going to suggest that you list a few more of your favorites after we were done here. But I have to say, I think even with only being able to name three books we came up with a great list of literature. However, I know it is nagging at you so let’s have the ones that almost made the list.

Zoe: In no particular order: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, Born in Ice by Nora Roberts, Faking It by Jennifer Crusie, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Tommy’s Tale by Alan Cumming, Obsidian Butterfly by Laurel K. Hamilton, Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, Someplace to Be Flying by Charles de Lint, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough, Tomcat in Love by Tim O’Brien, His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, The Villa by Nora Roberts, Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts, Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, Pablo Neruda’s collected poems–

Justin: Wow, awesome, now that you have completed the “War and Peace” of lists, I will try to keep mine short. And I am not sure that list can count as ones that almost made it. That is basically saying the library or a Barns and Nobles almost made it. Anyway, like Zoe and in no particular order (I’ll keep it short): Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, Travels by Michael Crichton, AWOL On The Appalachian Trail by David Miller, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Riverworld Series by Philip Jose Farmer, The Dresden Series by Jim Butcher and finally The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I’d ask if there was any you forgot but I am pretty sure we would be here all night.

Zoe: Yeah, that is probably true. It is better if we stop now before I can think of more…

Justin: Sounds like a plan. Also, we would like to hear from you guys as well. What are your three books that you would take? Just leave us a comment below.

Zoe: It doesn’t have to be a long one. A simple three-book list is fine.

Justin: Exactly and hopefully the weather is getting warmer somewhere so grab a book and sit outside. Although in Ohio at the moment it is still freezing. One day it will be warm… One day.

Zoe: It was actually a bit nice when I got home today; I walked to pick up some food while on the phone with my mom and only had on a tee and a hoodie.

Justin: Lucky. Well, until next time. Night Everyone!

Zoe: Night!

Location, Location, Location

Justin: Top o’ the morning to ya, lassie!

Zoe: Okay, a couple of things with that. First, you aren’t Irish. Second, it is like 8:45 in the evening where you are at the moment and finally… Don’t call me lassie. I am not a dog.

Justin: Top o’ the evening?

Zoe: Still no.

Justin: Fine. How has your St. Patrick ’s Day been?

Zoe: Well, I forgot to wear green but I do have an Irish claddagh for my engagement ring, so on balance, it’s been successful so far.  There will be cake later, for a friend born this very day. Yourself?

Justin: Worked for most of the day and now am watching the Destination Truth live event on Syfy.

Zoe: You are such a dork.

Justin: But they are in Ireland looking for a banshee.

Zoe: As cool as Ireland is, you are still a huge dork.

Justin: Fair enough. So what the heck are we talking about tonight? It feels like it has been forever.

Zoe: Well if you weren’t so lazy…

Justin: Not sure I would call it lazy–more of busy beyond belief at the moment.

Zoe: Speaking of Ireland, since it is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been thinking about our strange Americanized bastardization of the Irish holiday.  There’s Mardis Gras down in New Orleans, a crazy parade in Chicago where they literally dye the Chicago River a neon green, and parties everywhere, and they all share the color green, the beer, and the tacky plastic beads in common.  For some reason, this got me thinking about how most movies and TV shows set almost exclusively in only two places: New York and L.A.  We can even narrow that down more to Manhattan and like the Hollywood-related sections of L.A., for the most part.

Justin: Oh I completely agree. For some reason, screenwriters can’t think of anywhere else to place movies. I mean I guess New York and L.A. can be a good cut away of American culture. New York shows the melting pot that the United States is. I am also sure you write what you know. Don’t most screenwriters move to places like New York and L.A. to make it in the business?

Zoe: That sounds logical, definitely for screenwriters, but I’m not sure.  For me, I consider this from the angle of being a writer.  Yes, writing what you know is fairly standard/solid advice, but it’s not like 90% of us live in either New York or L.A.  Thousands of books are published about small towns all over, about small cities, about foreign places, about traveling, all of that; though, it must be admitted, there are an awful lot of [pretentious, neurotic] novels that take place in New York… and that’s for a similar reason to screenwriters being in L.A.: That’s where the best publishers in America are.  But still!  Lazy!

Justin: This is what bugs me about this big city fascination, not all of us live there. I feel at times that movies portray those who live in cities as the people who have “made it.” The characters in the movies are living the American dream or something like that. If not, they are in the slums of said city. But there are plenty of us who live in the suburbs in the middle of the United States who can say we’ve made it. Just because I don’t live in New York doesn’t mean I am not sophisticated. However, that is how my home state at times is portrayed. When they need those podunk towns in the middle of nowhere with all the hicks or “simple people” I feel the story gets placed in Ohio. I mean look at “Glee.”

Zoe: Hey!  I think “Glee” is a good example of choosing a location well and deliberately.  First off, in the arts they always like to portray teenagers who grow up in cities, especially New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston, Miami, as sophisticated and oversexed.  “Glee” is about kids who are more like most kids: half-dumb, three-quarters naive and having enough trouble handling life without the backdrop of a big dangerous city.

Justin: I think that is what I might have been trying to get at. Ohio is seen as the average place to be, live, grow up and so forth. It is like we are this neutral zone that most screen writers see as small town America or something. It is just weird turning on a movie or TV show and seeing it set in Ohio, because in my opinion there are much better places to take a slice of life out of.

Zoe: I have two slightly offensive things to say back to you on that.  One, you’ve never lived in any of the biggest cities in America, so it might be hard for you to judge how differently life really is there than to the big cities.  I’d say, day to day, the only difference is transportation and exposure to other cultures/subcultures.  People in cities choose to conveniently forget that.  And two, why is Ohio a bad place to set a story in?  Unless you’re writing a… political thriller, or something about an actor/director or artist/musician/singer, can’t you set your story anywhere?  I think there’s drama everywhere.  It’s just that movies like to think that sports movies can only take place in small Southern towns; that artists can only fall apart in New York; that sprawling dramas can only happen in L.A.; or that quirky romances only happen on road trips or airplanes or back in New York or L.A.  That’s crazy silliness.

Justin: I can agree to that. It may be living in Ohio my whole life, I just don’t see the appeal. Especially when there is this whole world out there to write about. Also, I have never been a fan of big cities. So that may be part of my bias. But you are correct. I am sure the daily life of someone in Chicago or New York is similar to mine. They just tend to forget they are like us small suburb folk.

Zoe: Hmm.  Food for thought, everyone.  Now I think it’s time to talk about some of our favorite shows and movies that are set outside of the places we’ve been talking about, and why we think the location makes them, or is almost like its own character.  Justin, do you want to go first?

Justin: Sure. Well, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day I will start off with a movie based in Ireland: Leap Year. As you all should know by now, I am a fan of the romantic comedies and watch a good number of them from time to time. Leap Year isn’t really any thing special. It follows the same guidelines that all rom coms do. However, what really makes this movie for me (besides the fact Amy Adams is beautiful) is the location. It is set in Ireland but mostly in the country side and the small towns that they visit or pass through make me long to go there and visit myself. They could have made the whole movie take place in Dublin, but they didn’t. They expanded outside the large city and showed the beauty that is the Irish landscape. Leap Year isn’t a bad movie and just to watch it for the scenery can be worth it.

Zoe: Foreign films are cheating!  But I’ll match your rom com with one cute, average one of my own: Sweet Home Alabama.  It’s about  a girl (Reese Witherspoon) who escaped Alabama and her cranky scruffy husband (Josh Lucas) and moved to NYC to pursue her dreams, only to get engaged to a hunky rich dream (Patrick Dempsey)… at which point she has to go back to Alabama to get a divorce.  Hi-larious!  I like it because it’s about being okay with where you came from and happy with where you are, and appreciating small-town life and big-city excitement, and about figuring out what you need.  Plus, there’s awesome sidekicks, half huge hicks and half over-the-top New Yorkers.  And now, to switch genres, I’m going to go with Grosse Pointe Blank, a movie about an assassin that takes place primarily in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, during the assassin’s high school reunion.  It’s glorious and clever.  Your favorite action movie set someplace random?

Justin: Well because I am a History nerd, I am going to go with the movie Cold Mountain, which if you haven’t seen it is about one man’s journey to get back home. It takes place in the south during the Civil War and mostly in the Appalachian part of North Carolina. The shots for the movie of the small towns in the middle of the mountains were breathtaking. They are just as spectacular in person as well. I think it makes the director’s and cinematographer’s jobs easier when the landscape they are working with is that beautiful. This leads into another movie, and book for that matter, that uses the landscape well. Into The Wild is a fabulous movie as well as a great book (and true story). It is the story of a boy who after college goes out in search of himself and Alaska. He burns all of his money and gets rid of most of his possessions. Then bums around the United States for awhile before making his way up north. What makes the movie so great is that I think it shows the beauty of the American landscape. How is that for keeping it local?

Zoe: There are a couple of journey movies that I really like, partly fort the physical beauty and partly for the story.  The first is Away We Go, starring Maya Rudolph and John Krasinki.  They’re dating and she gets pregnant, and they decide to travel to see family and friends to see where they should settle and raise their baby.  The go to the Southwest, to Canada, and to Florida, learning about themselves and  encountering some wild characters.  It’s very, very sweet. I think this is the perfect balance between themes and stories, and the setting.  Some movies and TV have the setting be this hugely important part of the story–sometimes even a crutch–and some movies ignore setting altogether.  Of course, sometimes all of these tactics work.  But I think Away We Go is the perfect balance of characters to setting, action to stillness, and bigger cinematic wide shots of landscape versus lovely close-ups.

Justin: I would have to agree. Away We Go is a movie, in my opinion, that didn’t get enough recognition. Everything about it just came together in that perfect balance.  You know, I am not sure where to go after that. We could sit here and talk about foreign movies all day. Pieces like Y Tu Mama Tambien and The Motorcycle Diaries that show the beauty of the Mexican and South American landscape. Even movies like Blood Diamond and The Constant Gardener, which aren’t really uplifting movies, show off parts of the world that many of us have never seen before. Heck I would even say that many people haven’t seen places like those portrayed in the movie A River Runs Through It. Which a beautiful film based in Montana. There are so many other places that New York and L.A that make for wonderful settings.

Zoe: I’m always stunned by the Asian landscapes in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Darjeeling Limited; Africa in movies like Cairo Time; and European landscapes in movies like Enchanted April and A Good Year. But then there’s The Last Picture Show, Witness, Death Proof and even shows like “Shameless” (Chicago) that’s about a part of the city that’s never really represented.  I don’t like it when the background takes over the movie so much that you can’t focus on the story–like in Avatar–but, man, a beautiful, stunning or terrifying landscape definitely helps set the mood!

Justin: The background in Avatar was distracting, but then again as long as you know the story of Pocahontas, you really didn’t need to pay attention to the story. But you are right setting of a movie can really make or break it. A horror film set in sunny California isn’t going to scare me as much as one set in the middle of doom and gloom nowhere.

Zoe: Unless it’s IRONIC that the zombies are hanging out in California!  Just kidding, that’s the worst kind of not-really-irony that movies use to try to seem clever…  But I know what you’re saying.  Just like it’s cheesy when it rains when people are sad, it’s best to have a landscape/seascape/cityscape that supports and reinforces your story, whether it’s joy, foreboding or doom.

Justin: With all this talk of locations, I feel it is only fair to mention that there is a very beautiful country at the moment that is in turmoil after devastating earthquakes and a tsunami. Any assistance you may be able to give toward helping Japan recover would mean a lot to those over there who have lost everything. This could mean donating 10 dollars to the Red Cross or even donating some of your time by working in places that are getting stuff ready to ship over there. Anything helps. Hopefully in the coming years we can begin to see Japan rebuild their beautiful country.

Zoe: That’s completely sappy, Justin, but your heart is in the right place.

Justin: I try. I also have a couple of friends who are currently being evacuated from Japan, so this tragedy hit a little closer to home than I like. Even still, this is a horrible situation that people are going to have to work together to help Japan survive.

Zoe: Keep in mind people fighting for their freedom, too.

Justin: Anyway, on a lighter note, Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Go out and have a nice pint of Guinness. Just make sure it has a shamrock on top when they pour it because that really is the only proper way to drink one. Although I still feel that Guinness is just liquid bread.

Zoe:It is!  And don’t forget to tip your staff!

Justin: Spoken like someone who has worked in the service industry. But seriously don’t forget. They work hard.

Zoe: Actually I just like saying “tip” and “staff” in the same sentence.  🙂

Justin: Zoe, you dirty dirty girl and on that note I think we shall end.

The Not So Wonderful World Of Disney

Justin: IT’S THE CIRCLE…. THE CIRCLE OF LIIIIFFEE!!!

Zoe: Ummm?

Justin: A WHOLE NEW WORLD, A NEW FANTASTIC POINT OF VIEW…

Zoe: Okay, that is just disturbing. Why are you singing Disney songs at the top of your lungs?

Justin: I think the better question is: Why aren’t you?

Zoe: Because I have a bit of dignity left. I only sing Disney songs when I am walking home drunk from a bar and that was only in college and with our friend Meredith.

Justin: Fair enough. So want to take a guess as to what I think we should talk about tonight?

Zoe: Hmmm… Is it historical fiction?

Justin: Ooo close but no cigar. I was remembering a conversation we were having the other day about Disney and thought that it would be a great topic that would allow us not only to talk about some of our favorite Disney movies, but also why Disney is evil. In doing so, we can also talk about some books and movies that deal with fairy tales and the like.

Zoe: I like this Idea because I absolutely despise the Disney princesses.

Justin: I know which is why I think you should lead the charge.

Zoe: So there are a bunch of quick, vital reasons why Disney SUCKS with a capital “S,” Justin.  I’m not even going to get into what the characters look like, because that’s its own rant–and I’m getting into that later this week in my solo post.  In no particular order, here are the assumptions in Disney movies that suck: A wedding is synonymous with a happy ending; a girl is always rescued by the man of her dreams; all girls have massive daddy issues; you pity the girl, you don’t love her; and woodland creatures are sufficient friends.  Also, Walt Disney was an anti-Semitic creep.  So those are my cultural/feminist/psychological reasons.  The writer in me also hates Disney because they completely mangled every fairy tale (or legend or true story) they’ve ever “interpreted.”  Life did not go well in the original fairy tales.  I’m not saying that it would’ve been a good idea for Disney to use the original fairy tales, either–that’s just not kids stuff…  Justin, as a person who hates it when stories or myths or historical things are grossly twisted or just ruined for the big screen, how can you stand Mulan or Pocahontas and all of the princesses taken from Hans Christen Anderson’s and Grimm’s fairy tales, etc?

Justin: There you have it folks the reason Zoe and I are friends because she is awesome haha. As for liking Disney, it is more of a nostalgia thing. They were the movies I was ALLOWED to watch growing up as a kid and being the music lover that I am, I loved the songs (and still do). However, I now take Disney with a grain of salt. I know the back stories or the original fairy tales and know that Disney is full of crap. Trust me I love pointing out that Pocahontas did not live a happy life and even died from syphilis in the end. Also, not being a girl, I don’t have the same issues with the Disney princesses. The “role models” that I was supposed to look up to in those films were the strong, handsome princes that always gets the girl. To be honest it is not just Disney films that throw that in my face either. But even with the mangling of the true stories, I can’t help but have a place in my film repertoire for Disney films, they were my childhood. Come on there has to be at least one Disney film that you like.

Zoe: That is a fair point, about there not really being many other options for us to watch when we were kids, other than cartoons on TV.  I can only think of a few non-Disney movies from my childhood, like Home Alone.  Don’t mistake me, I watched Disney too.  When I was tiny, Cinderella was my go-to movie when I was sick, until I got The Lion King.  And yeah, the songs are definitely catchy and I know they’ve gotten better over the decades, in terms of role models for little girls.  I just think about the downsides of them and wonder if I’d feel comfortable showing them to my kids, without feeling like I needed to have some sort of disclaimer conversation.  But how are you going to sit down a four-year-old and say, “Now, I know Princess Jasmine has an awesome pet tiger, but if she were a real lady, she’d fall over like Barbie!  So you just ignore how she was drawn by misogynists and enjoy the way the little lying, deceiving Aladdin gets her anyway!”  Nope, see, I can’t even fake justify it…

Justin: Yeah you really can’t do that with out it ending in a lot of tears.

Zoe: Nor could I explain what the original fairy tales were like.  I couldn’t snort and go, “Please.  There’s no way that those Seven Dwarfs and Snow White didn’t—Uhhh, never mind, sweetie, just ignore Mommy…”

Justin: For some reason in Fairy Tales it never ends well for females in the “sex” department. Our society has been so Disney-ified that we forget that many fairy tales were told in order to scare children into being good. Don’t wander into the woods with your little red hood, you might just get attacked by a vicious wolf or woodsman. But, as we’ve said those are not things you can put into a child’s movie. Even my favorite Disney films Robin Hood and The Sword in the Stone have been tamed down greatly. The Arthurian legend is a lot more blood-riddled than Disney makes it out to be.

Zoe: Still the Disney versions are pretty harsh.  Bambi’s kind of terrifying, and all those stepmothers that not only hate their stepdaughters, but want to kill them!  And fathers too dumb or too entranced by a hot woman to notice it or save or protect their daughters!  Servants turned into normally-inanimate objects like in Beauty and the Beast…  That’s creepy if you really think about it.  And what about the evil Ursula in The Little Mermaid stealing souls and turning those poor merpeople into like slimy sea slugs or whatever?  Ick!  (The original Hans Christen Anderson is still way, way worse, though.)

Justin: Hmmm the more we talk about this the more I am wondering if I am actually going to let my kids watch these films. I am wondering why we were even allowed to watch these films. The innocence of being a child probably helps. When you are 4 or 5 you aren’t sitting there going, “That woman is a slut and her step-mom is a total bitch.” You are more likely to be going, “Oooo, pretty colors and wonderful music.” I think even if I didn’t let my kids watch the old Disney films, I would still have to make them listen to the music.

Zoe: Definitely!  Plus there are so many amazing alternatives to the traditional Disney movies we grew up with, and some of them were made by Disney or by Pixar (which was Disney), so bravo to them for trying to move forwards.  I’d say my animated favorites would be (in order of how much I seriously love them): Monsters Inc., Lilo & Stitch, Finding Nemo, Up, the original Shrek, and the Toy Story trilogy.

Justin: Zoe! You forgot a very important Disney movie that every child should watch.

Zoe: What is that?

Justin: The Emperor’s New Groove, duh! Disney has done a decent job lately. They are getting away from their typical princess fairy tale genre. Even the new Tangled I would put in a different category from the rest. If I want my kids to watch a cartoon version of a fairy tale, I will dig up old episodes of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” and show them the “Fractured Fairy Tales” segments. There are so many better movies out there to show them to introduce them to Fairy Tales. They might have to be a bit older but they can wait. Even the not so great movie The Brothers Grimm does a better job at portraying the tales in their real light.

Zoe: In between that, there are plenty of books that do great retellings of those stories, especially more historically-based ones like Robin Hood and King Arthur.  Actually, one of my favorite books of all time is Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment, about a modern-day man who stumbles into Sleeping Beauty.  Plus, our timing is pretty good on this one because there are is an adult version of Little Red Riding Hood, called Red Riding Hood (cleverly) coming out shortly.  And in the last two weeks, I’ve heard about the casting of Snow White and the Huntsman (Viggo Mortensen as the Hunter, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, and Selena Gomez as Snow White), and The Brothers Grim: Snow White (Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen) is now in preproduction.  I mean, let’s face it, Hans Christen Anderson and the Grimms wrote some incredible stories, and they’re pretty allegorical so there are lots of stories out there that have the same sort of story structure.

Justin: This is true and it will be interesting to see how the Red Riding Hood movie turns out. From the trailer you can see it is a much darker film than ones made from Fairy Tales usually are. However, we shall have to see because it looks like it could go wrong with the whole werewolf aspect of the film. Anyway, I guess what we are trying to say is, “Friends don’t let friends sing Disney songs while drunk.”

Zoe: Yeah, I don’t think that is quite what we were getting at.

Justin: Disney can be evil?

Zoe: Closer. I am sure that we might have stepped on a few toes out there by attacking Disney and that is great, in my opinion.

Justin: That is right and you should tell us why we are wrong or even, why were are right.

Zoe: Our comment board is getting lonely so start filling it up, we would love to have a discussion with you.

Justin: See you next week!

“Take a Look, It’s In A Book.”

As promised in the last dialogue, this week I will be talking about books. I feel this is a good balance from my last solo post which revolved completely on movies that I had seen over the blog’s hiatus. As I’ve mentioned previously, books are an important part of my life and something that I have grown up loving. I feel that books are a dying thing and it makes me sad. I see more people these days watching movies on their phones or iPods than I do people reading books. With special effects and outstanding actors who needs a book and some imagination. Well, I do for one and hopefully so do many others. That is why I am happy about the invention of the eReader and how much I have seen it pick up over the last year. You couldn’t go anywhere during the holidays without hearing about how someone was getting someone else a Kindle or Nook or one of the many eReaders for Christmas. It is still technology in people’s hands rather than a stack of paper, but at least their reading (and I guess saving the environment). I also have to say that lately I have been enjoying the Sony Reader that my brother got me for my birthday. I find myself wanting to use that more. I still prefer a book but I must admit that they are nice and it travels well.

However, enough talk about all of that. Let us talk books. Most of the books I have read lately, I would classify in the teen/young adult level. Think Harry Potter level. I like these books because they are easy and quick to read. It is easy to just jump right into a book and finish it in a day or two as you fall asleep at night. This doesn’t mean I don’t like more “advanced” books but I really have to be in the mood to sit down and read something like Zoe’s favorite Song of Fire and Ice series. I am sure they are great books, but they are definitely epic books that take a little more thought than something like Harry Potter. I have tried twice to get into the first book and believe I have stopped reading at the exact same place twice. One day I will get through it because I trust my friends who have read them and said they were excellent.

Anyway, I believe in this week’s dialogue I mentioned that I was reading a Parody of Jesus’ life. The book is called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore. I have not finished this book yet, but already I would highly recommend it. Well unless you are easily offended by parodies of the life of Jesus. That might take a little bit of the fun out of it. Still, it is a great book. The story is being told by Biff who is Jesus’ supposedly best friend who has now been brought back to life by an angel to write a whole new gospel. What follows is his account of who Jesus was and how he lived. Like I said, I have not gotten through the whole book as of this writing but am looking forward to reading more.

I also read the two newish Rick Riordan books who wrote the Percy Jackson series. The first one was The Lost Hero. This book takes place after the events of the first Percy Jackson series and brings in a whole other element to the story. I won’t give away too much other than once again it is about a group of friends who have to battle against the odds to figure out the mystery surrounding the lead character’s memory loss. Like the first Jackson series Riordan uses the mythology of the Greece and Rome and puts a new spin on them. It makes for an interesting read and I will be interested to see how the series plays out. The other book, The Red Pyramid, takes us out of Greece and Rome and puts us into the Egyptian myths and legends. This story is about a brother and sister who find out that they are descendants of a long line of magicians whose father has been kidnapped. Now it is up to them to save their father and also try to prevent the destruction of the civilized world. No pressure right? Being a history major I like the way Rick Riordan takes history and makes it fun. With some of the stories and adventures it gives you the bare essentials of the myths and makes you want to find out more about them. These books as well as the Percy Jackson series are worth taking a look at. Not the most challenging books in the world, but they shouldn’t have to be. Reading is just about having fun.

The next series that I have gotten myself sucked into is the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.  I have finished the first two books and am excited to continue reading the next book. The series takes place in a Kingdom that is much like that of medieval England. It has a king and barons and knights and a slew of other medieval like characters. These stories take place around Will who has grown up an orphan with the hopes of becoming a Warrior. However, due to his small size, he is rejected from the battle school. After losing hope of becoming a warrior he is taken on as an apprentice to the local Ranger who sees potential in the boy. The Rangers are basically the kingdoms Spies. The first book is about the start of his training and the upcoming war. It actually wraps up nicely and doesn’t leave you hanging. I cannot say this about the second book. I got sucked into the story and stayed up one night just reading the story, only to be left with a cliffhanger. Not that this was a bad thing, but when you don’t have the next book readily available it was kind of frustrating. Once again if you are interested in fantasy books, this series is worth looking into. It is a great story to fall asleep to at night. That is if you can put it down long enough to sleep.

Finally, one of the last books that I read over the hiatus was the first Artemis Fowl book by Eoin Colfer. I know this is an older series, but it is one I have wanted to pick up for awhile. I was always seeing it in the books stores, often near the HP books or the Rick Riordan books. However, I just never found the time to pick it up. Well, my dad has similar taste in books as myself and we are often looking for things to read. We often share books that we buy that we think the other might like. So, since this was a book that I thought we both would enjoy, I bought it for him for Christmas. Sure there was an ulterior motive, but that is beside the point. Anyway, the book is about a 12 or so year old boy who is apparently a genius who comes from a long line of criminals. With his father missing and his mother bed ridden, Artemis takes on the task on trying to kidnap a fairy and take its gold. I kid you not, that is the story line. I am not going to lie; it took me a bit to get into the story. I am not sure if it was just a bad week or if the book started off to a slow start. About midway through though it picked up and I just kept saying to myself “I’ll stop reading after this section. Well that was a short section; I will just read the next. Well, I can’t leave myself hanging so I will read a tad bit more.” Yes it went on like this until I eventually finished the book. I can see myself reading more of the series, but it will be later down the line after the Ranger’s Apprentice.

Whether it is a hardback, paperback or eReader, I hope that people keep on reading and that authors continue to give us great stories to enjoy. With winter in full swing, this is the season to curl up next to the fire with a glass of hot coco and a good book. Well at least in Ohio it is. I will be happy when the white death ceases to fall from the sky and the rest of it has melted away. This 20 some degree weather just isn’t cutting it for me. Guess it is time to hibernate with a few good books.