Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Strange the way things happen. While I was visiting, Grandpa was doing fine, until the day I left (yesterday). Then suddenly he could hardly walk. He slid off the sofa and couldn't get up -- I had to help him to his feet. Later it took him an hour to get from the living room to the bathroom. After I left my mom had to call 911 because she couldn't move him, and he ended up in the hospital with a touch of pnemonia. Now it looks like he'll end up in nursing care while we take our trip to the mid-west early next year.


Monday, December 27, 2004

The Last Juror

Book: The Last Juror
Writer(s): John Grisham

Cool book. The plot's low-key and takes place across a decade (1970-1980). The point of view is the narrator, a young man who moves to a small town in Mississippi and takes over the town's newspaper. He learns about the area and covers a sensational murder trial that takes place. In the process he meets a remarkable black woman who has seven children who've all grown up and earned PhDs. His weekly lunch with this woman becomes the rock of his life, and it is her story we glimpse through the man's own, as she becomes a key juror in the murder trial. Unlike most of Grisham's works, this is a character story, not a plot-driven thriller, and it's his best novel to date. The story's a touch slow at times and the ending's slightly contrived (but still satisfying), but this is not a novel about a story but about a place and time and people: just let yourself get lost in a different world and enjoy it. Impressive. Show's Grisham's depth and growth as a writer.


Saturday, December 25, 2004


Had a nice Christmas with Grandpa, my mother, Uncle Keith, and friends at the beach house. This was my first time away from the new house since I moved in and it was nice to get away, but I did find myself missing the place, which is a good sign. I couldn't wait to get away from my old place!


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

Book: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Writer(s): Alexandra Fuller

Apart from the strange and never-explained title, this is a remarkably well-written and fascinating book. The author tells of her childhood in war-torn Rhodesia and other South African countries, a lifestyle so different most of us can't imagine it. I initially picked this book up because I grew up in Africa myself and was curious about another's experience. Unfortunately, I didn't find too much to relate to in this book as this author's story is so different from my own, but I did enjoy the story. Fuller's an excellent writer, bringing a distant world to life with simple, elegant turns of phrase and vivid dialog. The story's not exactly pleasant -- her childhood was rough with death, violence, racism, and insanity -- but in the end it's a triumph of the irrepressible spirit and life of children. A highly recommended read even if you aren't interested in Africa.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Movie: Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Another of those films I really wanted to like. I certainly adore this kind of film, but unfortunately this one fell short. The world is an awkward mix of fantasy, modernness, and ancientness that doesn't quite jell. The story meanders and you're never sure where it's going. Handled correctly, with proper foreshadowing, that can be good, but in this case it just means that everything comes across as jarring and uncomfortable, like being on a roller coaster where the ride takes sudden turns in the wrong direction. You're never quite sure who is good or evil, what you should root for, and worst of all, the story always ends up back where it started, with the unfortunate children in the clutches of the same villain (Jim Carey). It is very strange. It's not a magical world, yet there are weird magical-like things (i.e. the professor's strange plants, the rickety house, the prophetess aunt, etc.). It's not a fantasy world (children do not invent mechanical contraptions to escape death in fantasies), yet there are fantasy elements. The story goes nowhere (the children do not seem to learn or grow from their experiences and use that in the climax which would at least give their adventures purpose), and in the end it feels like a whole lot of hubub over nothing much. The main plot is also quite predictable, which makes the unexpected and strange people and contraptions too much purpose, as though they are there to entertain us since the plot won't. This is not a terrible movie -- there's nothing particularly horrible about it -- but it's not a great movie. It's disappointing since it obviously cost a lot of money to make and comes across like a major special effects showcase. Unfortunately, colorful characters and fancy effects don't make up for the drab story.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ella Enchanted

Movie: Ella Enchanted

This is a modern version of a fairy tale, with modern music, slang, and attitudes set in a Cinderella world. It's a bit like Shrek in that respect. Initially the overacting and dialog-written-for-children had me frustrated, but gradually the movie got on its feet and settled into a zone comfortable for adults and kids. The story's cute: at birth a princess is given the gift of obedience by a loony aunt, and thereafter she must do whatever anyone tells her. Obviously, this causes amusing and eventually serious problems. The main story is about the princess trying to rid herself of this "gift," fall in love with the prince, and save the kingdom from evil in the process. Nothing too brain-straining here, but entertaining, fun, and cute. The cast is charming, the humor friendly and only occasionally perile, and conclusion satisfactory. An excellent rental.


Friday, December 10, 2004

The Grudge

Movie: The Grudge

I really wanted to like this but I found it stiffling, more weird than scary, and meaningless. The premise held some interest: when someone dies in a rage their ghost remains behind to torment the living, but even that didn't really seem to connect much with the meandering storyline. Visually the film is fascinating with unusual perspectives, creepy sounds and images, and a surprising amount of tension built within ordinary scenes. Unfortunately it is the story that is weak and empty. It is relentless, with no point or meaning, and the film's conclusion left me feeling like I needed to take a shower. The whole thing was simply unpleasant. Not recommended.


Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Blade: Trinity

Movie: Blade: Trinity

Not a terrible action flick, assuming you can avoid thinking about the silly plot. The additional cast helps move the Blade franchise along and gives it some new life (Ryan Rynolds smart-ass character helps bring in some needed humor and Jennifer Biel is obviously there for sex appeal), but overall this is by-the-numbers action. Routine.


Sunday, December 5, 2004

The Good Girl

Movie: The Good Girl

I wasn't at all sure what to expect about this film since I hadn't heard anything about it, but it turned out to be a low-key drama about a bored married woman in a small town who has an affair with a troubled young man and then regrets it. Good performances from all and some interesting moments, but overall the story's too light for much impact. Above your average Hollywood flick, though.