Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Widow's Peak (1994)

This is entertaining and enjoyable, but not overly important. It’s about a bunch of upper-class Irish widows and a young, English widow who moves into the neighborhood, bringing rumors of scandal and such. Except she’s actually American, but because her husband was English, they call her English. Just a bit of trivia.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ella Enchanted (2004)

I found this enjoyable. Enjoyed the erstwhile Wesley of The Princess Bride as the evil king, who looked and acted just like Prince John in Disney’s Robin Hood, complete with a slithering snake side-kick. Thought the singing was a little over the top, but apparently Anne Hathaway did her own singing, so her voice really is that high.

Supposition Error by Alan Manning

One of Jon’s linguistics professors at BYU wrote this book. It was pretty good, though the end dragged a bit. I don't know of any other books that include time-travel, parallel universes, a Star Trek-like TV show, and futuristic scenarios that include the Mormons escaping to unknown reaches of space with all of their food storage, which I quite enjoyed.

Straight Man by Richard Russo

I loved Straight Man. This might be partly (or largely) because its irreverent and sometimes hilarious portrayal of insecure, feuding university professors put to rest my long-held romantic visions of academia.

We used to live next-door to a BYU English professor in Provo. He and his wife had a beautiful brick house; we lived in a nondescript two-bedroom apartment. From our kitchen window, we looked out on their perfectly landscaped backyard, and sometimes I saw him or his wife relaxing on the back porch with a book. My oldest children were very young at the time, and as I washed dishes, gazing at their flowers and lawn and trees, I pretended that the professor’s backyard was my own, imagined myself sitting peacefully on the back porch, sipping herbal tea, reading, thinking intelligent thoughts. Sure, sometimes I saw Herr Professor or his wife out there flinging dog crap over the fence, but mostly their lives looked ideal—quiet, thoughtful, mentally stimulating, ordered. At a time when I was feeling kind of stuck at home with small, non-speaking humans, our scholarly neighbors solidified my vision of academia, and I’ve held onto that vision in spite of friends’ accounts of graduate school and my own experience with a manipulative professor, which didn’t happen until a few months before I got my degree.

Straight Man provided a convincing portrait of university professors that included all the elements of my romanticized vision but completed it with more realistic stuff, like inter-departmental conflict and politics, marriage and health problems, etc. And like I said, it’s pretty hilarious sometimes.

Empire Falls is probably Richard Russo’s most well-known novel, and I read that several years ago, but I thought Straight Man was much more fun.

The Office, Seasons 1 and 2 (U.S.)

Oh, I love The Office. It seems ridiculously exaggerated at first, but it’s actually pretty realistic. I knew a guy just like Michael when I was in college. And I think it’s brilliant that even the most normal characters, Jim and Pam, are frustrating as well as a relief. I’m looking forward to the third season—I know it’s already over, and there are ways I could see it now, but I want to wait for the DVDs. (No spoiler comments, please!)