Friday, December 30, 2011

Things I Pretend To Notice: 2011 Book Round-Up

As the year draws to a close I am eager to pare down. No, not my middle-age paunch, but my expansive collection of DVDs and Books (the Paper DVDs)!

Sometimes when I try this, I discover I like everything I own and I want to let nothing go to trades or donations. And that's o.k., too. I can be that horrible junk-covered harridan from Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth' if I want.

I looked back at and discovered that (including super-short books like 'Go The F To Sleep' and Weird Al's 'When I Grow Up') I read 153 books this year. That's a lot for some people, a mere book snackwich for others.

I've never measured it before. I feel mildly disappointed and I wanted to mention five that felt like accomplishments or made a real impression.

5) 'Norstrilia' by Cordwainer Smith is a fun SF adventure tale. It simplified the way I define evil in my own head- suggesting that humans are only evil when they are bored or scared. That felt really true to me, you know? It makes evil feel like it can be fought.

4) 'Earth The Book' by John Stewart and Company was most amusing and reminds me how little I know about anything.

3) David Mack's 'Star Trek Destiny' trilogy, for better or worse, was so enjoyable I started an obsessive Star Trek reviewing project that derailed this very blog in favor of its sister blog and ate a DEVASTATING amount of my spare time since September. I'm... grateful? I guess? Damn it all to hell.

2) 'The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology' by Ray Kurzweil did my noggin in. Turns out there's a way to be extremely optimistic about the future without belief in God's intervention. Or putting that aside, Science might be about to make everything a whole lot better for everybody, whether you believe in it or not.

1) 'Mort' by Terry Patchett. I owe my BFF Bookmonkey great thanks for the loan of the Discworld books, and this was my favourite so far. If that Singularity is never forthcoming, then I pray meeting Death will be for the best. Or good for a laugh.

The forests of the Vasta Nerada won't need to be leveled on my account- I'm sliding inexorably into a paperless reading experience that renders my "paper DVDs" quip meaningless...

I'm saying I am loving my birthday eReader, a gift from my sweet lady wife.

Peace, long life, and great reads to you all in your new year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

I saw it this afternoon in a virtually deserted theatre. A couple, a bearded singleton, a dad and his noisy, stomping tots. If I start with complaining ($14 dollars for parking!! My fingers ache! Aren't the Muppets dead?) it becomes apparent I'm pretty much both Statler and Waldorf already.

So thank you to everybody involved with "The Muppets" for dancing, singing, and smiling past my layers of crusty cynicism for a blast of fun. I needed that, and you guys and gals brought it.

Steve Whitmire- Kermit The Frog for the majority of my life. Brings nostalgia home hard and tender and tragic and beautiful. Always a romantic, always a dreamer, and always forced to be the realist in a barnyard crapstorm of chaos. Will Kermit carry the day?

Jason Segel & Amy Adams- adorable as Gary and Mary. Will their love survive... The Muppet Show?

Bret McKenzie- my fellow 35 year old, whose music, as always, is sheer delight. Is he Man, or is he Muppet?

Dave Goelz- still my favourite Not-Much-Like-a-Turkey alien.

Rashida Jones- the straight-shooting CDE TV executive Veronica whose ratings charts prove you can't go home again. Are you going to finish that latte?

Chris Cooper- evil Tex Richman, humorless oil tycoon. Is it as thankless job as it looks to be scary standing next to Uncle Deadly?

And Peter Linz- who plays Walter, the Anything Muppet in the midst of realizing himself.

Walter is the Muppet's biggest fan (for all the good it does him) and his love and devotion may be all that can bring the floundering Muppets together again. Can they find a celebrity to raise them from obscurity and raise $10 million to save their derelict theatre?

And why does nobody ever notice Hobo Joe?

To the most salient question: can devoted fans of the original cast see their way clear to accepting the newbies? I think some will. Gene Roddenberry's dead but the Star Trek reboot film was deservedly successful. Though the Muppets are even more the emotional brainchild of Jim Henson's toil, and though his too-early death was deeply tragic, I see no reason to bury the Muppets with him like some tyrant Pharaoh's powerless slaves. Jason Segel's story CLEARLY comes from a place of great veneration and love. I hope he makes a mint, because it's obvious the man loves these ping-pong balls on socks like the beloved characters they are to so many.

The biggest coup will be somehow pleasing that wide, jaded middle ground between the tykes and the aged. I'm not sure this film will work for everyone. But it sure does for me. I laughed out loud. I cried a little. I clapped. It was like a (kind of) torture.

When my wife returns from her adventures in the city where they filmed it, I hope we can see it together. To paraphrase the small green one: She makes me happy, now and forever.