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Monday, August 30, 2010

Plastic bag ban does NOT pass in California

Yet again, lobbyists and big money triumph over common sense and the common good.

Environmentalists stunned by failures of key measures in Legislature

Activists expected big gains, but a ban on plastic grocery bags, another on a chemical used in baby bottles and a bid to boost alternative energy fell short in the face of heavy industry opposition.

* * * *

Environmentalists were counting on big gains in Sacramento this summer, with a governor eager to burnish his green credentials in his final months in office. But by the time the legislative session ended at midnight Tuesday, those hopes had fizzled.

Activists had worked for passage of such pioneering measures as a ban on plastic grocery bags and expanded use of the sun, wind and other renewable resources to power California homes and businesses. But the bold proposals they saw as a springboard to nationwide environmental efforts collapsed in the face of aggressive industry opposition that included intensive lobbying, television advertising and even mail to voters.

"We're in shock," said Mark Gold, president of the nonprofit Heal the Bay, which had helped lead a large coalition of activists, retailers and unions crusading for the bag ban.

The measure to bar grocery stores from giving away single-use plastic bags appeared headed for the books earlier in the summer, when it was approved by the Assembly and the governor said he would sign it. Backers say the sacks, which can take generations to decompose, have become a scourge on the environment, polluting the urban landscape and oceans alike.

But the American Chemical Council, a trade group, fought hard against the measure.

It spent $242,000 over six months to hire five lobbying firms as it opposed the ban before the battle even reached its peak in July and August, according to the group's most recent disclosures. The organization also bankrolled a television advertising blitz that exploited the political anxieties of lawmakers already under fire for the state's financial mess.

"California's in trouble," said the narrator in one ad. "2.3 million unemployed. A $19-billion deficit. And what are some Sacramento politicians focused on? Grocery bags.''

The chemical industry also wrote campaign checks to lawmakers for tens of thousands of dollars in recent months. Recipients included business-friendly Democrats in the state Senate who joined GOP colleagues to block the bill, AB 1998 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica).

Tim Shestek, a senior director for the council, said the purpose of the ad campaign was to inform consumers what it would cost them if they were forced to pay for every grocery bag they used unless they carried their own. "The bill had some negative impacts on consumers and manufacturers," he said.

Environmentalists say they will take their own campaign to cities and counties, encouraging them to pass local bag bans. Los Angeles County and the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica are already considering such measures. Brownley lamented that instead of one uniform rule, "we'll have a patchwork of ordinances throughout the state."

The industry opposition was not the only thing that conspired against the bag ban and other major legislation championed by environmentalists. The absence, because of illness, of liberal Democratic Sens. Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach and Patricia Wiggins of Santa Rosa in the final weeks of the legislative session bolstered the clout of their more business-friendly colleagues.

Environmentalists also failed in their bid to wean consumers off another product they see as harmful: the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA. It is used to manufacture shatter-proof plastic baby bottles and sippy cups and can leach into food or drink, according to numerous scientific studies.

Many studies have linked the chemical to health and developmental problems. Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) proposed that its use be banned in feeding products for infants and toddlers. Her bill, SB 797, passed the Assembly but fell two votes short in the Senate. Oropeza and Wiggins probably would have voted for it, as they had in the past.

In a news release that sprawled for three pages, Pavley accused opponents of misleading lawmakers and the public with several false claims: that a ban could mean certain California food-packaging factories would have been shut down even though they don't produce BPA products; that low-income consumers would have been deprived of canned goods and possibly baby formula; and that alternatives to BPA are not available.

"It's not true," Pavley said in the release.

Another item on environmentalists' agenda this year was a measure to require one-third of California's power to come from non-polluting sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy. A broad coalition that included electric utilities, solar-power companies and environmentalists was working to pass it, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's support. Alternative-energy developers wanted the renewable-energy bill so they could show potential investors that California officials are serious about opening the market here.

But the disparate interests couldn't reach a final deal on that bill, SB 722 by Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto), and a companion measure, AB 1012 by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella). V. John White, a lobbyist for alternative-energy producers, said negotiations in the final hours collided "like a multi-car pileup."

Adding to the challenge was that none of the state's three investor-owned utilities are on track to meet less ambitious renewable-energy goals already on the books. Pacific Gas & Electric ultimately worked to scuttle the bill, because it would have prohibited the company from counting power it buys from Canadian hydropower plants toward the proposed 33% goal.

And a trade group representing many municipally owned power companies objected to new state mandates.

Schwarzenegger's office has directed the state Air Resources Board to come up with regulations that could be imposed without legislation. But such regulations could be overturned by the next governor. So Schwarzenegger said he would also try again with the Legislature when it returns briefly, at a time to be determined, to pass a budget.

Asked at a news conference Wednesday about some of the environmental measures, Schwarzenegger said, "Anything that was not accomplished, I [will] try to get done before I leave office…. I never drop anything."


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mad Men wins more Emmys

Third year in a row, Mad Men is awarded Outstanding Drama on TV. Hurrah! They also won for writing (of course), but Brian Cranston from Breaking Bad beat out Jon Hamm this year for Best Lead Actor in a Drama.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fall movies

I was checking out the Oscar bait due out later this year on imdb.com, and I have to say, pretty slim pickings so far. But there's a few promising films that look suitably depressing for holiday viewing:

Blue Valentine looks like a top contender - super depressing and buzzy star turns by the headliners, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Bonus trivia - shooting of the film, which was scheduled to start right around the time Heath Ledger died, was delayed out of respect for MW.

Clint Eastwood has a new film that looks interesting, about 3 people "touched by death in different ways " called Hereafter with Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, among others.

Jeff Bridges is starring in the Coen brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit. Kinda ballsy to tackle such an iconic film, though the young lady in the Kim Darby role (Hailee Steinfeld) is generating Oscar buzz.

Melissa Leo is in several films, all worth seeing I'm sure, but I've been waiting patiently for Welcome to the Rileys with Kristen Stewart and James Galdofini.

This is a must see - Never Let Me Go - a dystopian story based on the Kazuro Ishiguro novel, with a stellar cast including Kiera Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Charlotte Rampling.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating.

And arriving on Christmas Day - Helen Mirren as a Mossad agent pursuing a Nazi war crminal in The Debt.

I must admit, I'm also looking forward to some of the lighter fare:

Morning Glory - Rachel McAdams as a harried morning show producer, with Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford as the oil-and-water anchors.

How Do You Know - James L Brooks rom-com with the always adorable Reese Witherspoon and the always adorable Paul Rudd.

Love and Other Drugs - dramedy with Anne Hathaway and yummy yummy Jake Gyllenhaal based on the memoir of a drug rep during the launch of Viagra.

Also some movies that the kids will want to see that might not be totally painful to sit through (I'm planning to trick Larry into taking the kids to Yogi Bear):

Alpha and Omega - animated adventure about 2 young wolves.

Tangled - animated retelling of the Rapuzel story that actually looks really fun.

Gulliver's Travels - featuring Jack Black and a lot of CGI

There's lots more, but I always make a long list of movies I plan to see, and later find out that half of them weren't worth making the effort for. So I'm keeping my list small and we'll see where I'm at when the end of the year rolls around.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Stem cell research and "judicial activism"

This is so messed up - a federal judge reinstated the ban on stem cell research even though Congress already passed an exemption to the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Notice the deafening silence from all those hard liners who scream about judicial activism whenever a judge supports a progressive principle. This is from Slate.com:

A Distinction Without Deference
By William Saletan

Judicial activism is OK for embryos but not for gays.

Remember when conservatives were against judicial activism? It seems like just a few weeks ago. In fact, it was a few weeks ago. A federal judge had just struck down California's ban on gay marriage. National Review, among others, called it a "raw exercise of judicial imperiousness" by a judge who "smuggled in his own moral sentiments."

Ah, but that was then. This is now. A different judge has ruled that the federal government can no longer fund embryonic stem-cell research. He bases his ruling on the annual Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which forbids federal funding of "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed."

One problem with this rationale is that the federally funded research doesn't destroy embryos. It uses cells derived from embryos that were previously destroyed with nonfederal money. The other problem is that while re-enacting the Dickey Amendment every year, each house of Congress has twice passed legislation that authorizes the federal government to "conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells." Presidents Bush and Obama have explicitly agreed that such research, within limits, should be funded. So it seems a stretch, to put it nicely, that the judge in this case interprets the Dickey Amendment as "unambiguously" prohibiting embryonic stem-cell research.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Disgusting and frightening

I still can't wrap my head around this - 72 bodies found on a ranch in Mexico. Police believe many were migrants who were kidnapped for ransom.

The Mexican Navy discovered 72 dead bodies on a ranch Tuesday in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, a statement released by the agency said. The bodies, 58 of which were men and 14 women, were found above ground in a section of a ranch about 14 miles (22 km) away from the town of San Fernando. The Navy called it one of the largest discoveries of dead bodies in Mexico’s 4 year-old war on organized crime.

Members of the Mexican Navy were tipped off about the gruesome, makeshift, burial ground after encountering a man who was suffering from a gunshot wound. The man said he had been injured by a criminal gang, according to a statement released by the Navy.

“The Navy went to the area where the man came from and encountered gunfights. A naval officer was killed and three of the delinquents were killed,” an officer who answered the phone at the Navy’s communication department told CNN. The officer, who was not authorized to speak on the record, declined to give his name.

During the confrontation, a stash of weapons was found by the Navy, including camouflage uniforms, bullet proof vests and four trucks disguised to look like vehicles from the Ministry of National Defense, according to the statement.

The discovery of the 72 bodies was made after the gunfights, according to the navy officer who answered the phone. He said the bodies were located inside a structure on the ranch.

“The federal government strongly condemns the barbaric acts committed by criminal organizations and reaffirms its commitment to the rule of law. The whole society must condemn such acts which illustrate the absolute need to continue fighting crime in the strongest terms by the Mexican State to achieve the peace we demand the Mexicans,” a statement from the Navy added.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hurricane Danielle

"First major storm of the season." Currently Category 3. Not expected to hit the US, though may hit Bermuda. My name is used every six years, so the last time it was used was 2004. Before that, 1998 & 1992.

Here's how the hurricane names work (there are separate Atlantic and Pacific lists) ~

"There are six lists that continue to rotate. The lists only change when there is a hurricane that is so devastating, the name is retired and another hurricane name replaces it. Thus, the 2010 hurricane name list is the same as the 2004 hurricane name list, although four hurricane names were retired after the devastating 2004 hurricane season: on the 2010 list, Charley was replaced by Colin, Frances was replaced by Fiona, Ivan was replaced by Igor, and Jeanne was replaced by Julia."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Love the Way You Lie video

I almost never watch music videos, but I heard this one discussed and was curious, especially since I like the Eminem/Rhianna song. Now I'm a little obsessed!

I totally understand the objections to the video - such a gorgeous couple punching each other in the face. But it's good that people are talking about the topic of domestic violence! And the song is still better than much of what you hear on the radio - a whole song that doesn't use the word "ho" or the word "booty" or the phrase "disco stick."


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dr Laura and the "N" word

Had an interesting conversation with Larry about Dr Laura's use of the "N" word during her radio broadcast last week and the subsequent reaction. He says that he hates the double standard - if black people can use that word, why can't whites? And I said:

1) because white people tend to use it as an insult, while blacks use it affectionately toward each other, and, even if they use it as an insult, it's still their word

2) because blacks are the only ethnic group in America that came here unwillingly and since they were dragged here in chains for 400 years, they get exclusive use of that word forever and whites have to get over it!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Harvest Dinner at bc restaurant

I've been on the email list for these monthly theme dinners for quite awhile, and I even called about one before, but they were full. Finally, Larry is off, the sitter is available, and there's seats at the restaurant tomorrow night. This one sounds really special - "90% of ingredients for all dishes are locally procured":


smoked silver queen corn soup with
roasted baby beets and maytag bleu butter
baby arugula salad with Lively Run goat cheese,
grilled crooked neck yellow squash,
pan fried baby carrots,
yellow cucumbers,
and red garlic/lemon vinaigrette
roasted wild striped bass with
dragon tongue bean salad,
pink potato hash,
and black shallot chutney
grilled bison medallions with
sliced Schoolhouse Farms tomatoes,
r&g ricotta, heirloom yellow squash,
and fresh spinach finished with
River Rat cheese sauce
grilled peach half with
salted local yogurt, almond brittle
and lavender syrup


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So sad to say goodbye!

The adorable "Thank You" photo that the scouts gave the host families when they left this morning. Yaniv is holding the yellow sign with the "!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ban on gay marriages continues during appeal

I was bummed to hear this:

Marriages of same-sex couples in California won’t be allowed while supporters of a state law outlawing the practice challenge a lower-court ruling declaring the ban unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted a request yesterday by proponents of the state constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, to delay enforcement of the Aug. 4 court order voiding the voter-approved measure. The three-judge appeals panel set an expedited hearing schedule for the challenge with arguments scheduled for the week of Dec. 6.

The lower court ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco said evidence was “overwhelming” that Proposition 8 violates constitutional equal protection rights. Walker’s ruling prohibiting California from enforcing the ban came at the conclusion of the first federal trial to test the legality of limiting marriages to a man and a woman.

The appellate panel said in its two-page order that proponents of the ban will need to show that they have legal standing to challenge Walker’s ruling.

Walker said in an Aug. 12 order that he saw no reason to let the ban stay in place while its supporters appeal his ruling. The judge said it was doubtful proponents of the ban could proceed on appeal because they don’t have anyone officially representing the state of California on their side.

. . . Since Proposition 8 passed in 2008 by 52 percent of California’s voters, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Massachusetts did so in 2004.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Host moms acknowledged

The host moms were invited onto the stage after the last scout show at Trinity Church in Fayetteville; from left: Miriam, Lisa, Kim, Angela, Robin, Melinda (coordinator), me, Rachel.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mad Men & Mad Women

Excellent essay by Julia Baird in Newsweek about the circumstances of women during the 1960s and the way they are portrayed in the TV show. Some highlights:

. . . The years that preceded the onset of the second-wave women’s movement were marked by a strange kind of private violence and turmoil. While suicides were still rare, between 1960 and 1970 the number of American women who took their own lives increased by 32 percent. More commonly, there was a deep frustration, restlessness, and resentment many women tried to articulate to spouses, doctors, and therapists—as Betty Friedan put it, a “problem that had no name.”

. . . I often wonder, as we watch another gripping season of Mad Men, now set in 1965, why it isn’t called Mad Women. In the early 1960s, men’s rebellious or indulgent behavior may have been destructive and odd, but it was seen as normal, or at least explicable, while women’s was stigmatized or pathologized. And these women are getting mad. We can see the beginnings of the women’s movement in the flashes in the eyes of the female workers, lovers, and spouses—the hurt look on Don’s secretary’s face when he gives her an envelope of cash for her Christmas bonus the morning after he slept with her. We see it when Joan throws a box of roses at a boss she thought had professed his love for her, crying, “I am not your darling.” She hates, she says, being made to feel like “a helpless, stupid little girl.” And we see it in Peggy’s regret and loneliness as she lies in bed with a man who thinks he “took” her virginity.

. . . Mad Men is set on the cusp of a time when anger becomes rage. When women realized they weren’t insane, or hysterical — they were mad.

. . . . All this is worth remembering because in so many abstract, judgmental debates about women today, we forget the madness and acute frustration of generations past—as well as what remains the same. . . When Mad Men’s women hear Monroe has died, they grieve. Joan tells Roger: “This world destroyed her.” In a way, her death in ’62 marked the end of a time of mute, tragic victims and the beginning of an era when women began to speak, loudly, and refused to be the strumpets and “stupid little girls” too easily dismissed, or destroyed, by the world. Today feminism is scapegoated for many ills and depicted as anti-mother. We forget how much, in fact, it helped keep our own mothers—all of us—sane.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Dinner at Ichiban with our Israeli scout

Photo by Melinda Greenman

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Twilight mom

Me with the cardboard Twilight cutout at the Werksmans' house. If I'd thought about it, I would have stood in front of Bella so it looked like the gentlemen were gazing at me!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Host moms in Utica

Miriam, Kim, and I before the scout show at the Utica JCC.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So upset - I took my car to the shop because it was making a weird noise and it turns out the oil was 3 quarts low! ACK! I can't believe I didn't manage to take better care of my car!


Monday, August 09, 2010

Our Israeli scout is here!

The kids were swimming in the Werksmans' pool, so they're not in the photo.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Latest books

Despite being insanely busy lately, I have managed to read a few good books.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Yet another in the huge stack of book that my friend Meredith loaned to me. I just got done saying I wasn't going to read any more Young Adult novels, but the folks on the goodreads website loved this one, so I thought I'd give it a try. (Maybe I just don't like the whole fallen angel thing, which is what the last two books I tried and gave up on were about.) This is a more traditional fantasy novel, i.e., not a melding of the modern world with a mythical one (like Twilight, Impossible, The Iron King, Fallen, etc, etc). I had hesistated over this one because the main character is an assassin and I thought I wouldn't enjoy that, but the book establishes immediately that she performs these duties reluctantly, so I didn't have a problem with it. One minor note, the main character's name is Katsa, which kept putting me in mind of Katniss, from The Hunger Games, which I found quite distracting at first, but got over after a few chapters.

Anyway, I just loved this book - I inhaled it, raved about it, and can't remember enjoying a book so much in a long time. Until the last third. Then the author sends Katna off on a rather solitary quest and it's all ice and snow and making hats out of animal skins and the interesting characters and relationships disappear. When she emerges from this trek, the author takes a very dark turn and, among other things, has something terrible happen to the love interest, Prince Po, which completely changes the nature of their lively and charming romance. By the time the book ended, I was a bit stunned and quite disappointed. This could have been one of my top 10 favorites of all time, and instead it's just a good book that I enjoyed. The first half was so strong that I'm quite willing to read her other book, Fire, as well as the sequel to this story, Bitterblue, due out next year. But I wish this had been as satisfying at the end as it was during the first half.

Enter Three Witches by Caroline B Cooney (who has written scads of books for kids and teens including Black Beauty) is a retelling of the MacBeth story (apparently there's a bunch of these), told mostly from the point-of-view of a young lady who lives in Inverness Castle. They had this at the library, so I grabbed it. I'm really glad I read it. It was interesting and enjoyable and a surprisingly quick read, considering the weighty topic. I actually saw MacBeth performed when I was in high school, but I barely remember it. I'm not a huge fan of historical novels, but the author has a very interesting way of structuring the chapters (including quotes from the play), and I really liked how she presented events from more than one characters' perspective. I was a little confused by the complicated court intrigue, but I feel like I understand MacBeth a lot better now (though of course several characters in this story do not exist in Shakespeare's play). I also love the title, which is the very first stage direction in the play.

I enjoyed this enough to read another book based on the story (which I also got at my local library) - Lady MacBeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein. It's very different, but also pretty good. I felt it dragged a bit in the second half and felt a little padded (since you know where the story is going, I sorta wanted her to get there already). It's a rather more sympathetic portrayal of Lady MacBeth, who is a victim of her domineering husband in this story. But of course that eliminates the character's power, which is part of what makes her such a compelling literary creation. Anyway, it made me more anxious to read Lady MacBeth by Susan Fraser King, which I already have via Kindle on my cell phone.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Parody of Ke$ha's Tik Tok

Caleb watched a bunch of video parodies by this guy (thecomputernerd01 AKA Sean Goldstein!) and I thought most of them were pretty dumb and sort of boring, but for some reason, this one struck me as quite funny and clever. My favorite line is "My frig ran out of milk so I talked about its mother!"

Friday, August 06, 2010

Great, great news!

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In a blistering repudiation of California's ban on same-sex marriage, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the right to wed one's chosen partner applies equally to all Californians and that the case for excluding gays and lesbians was based ultimately, and unconstitutionally, on "moral disapproval."

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said a 12-day trial in his San Francisco courtroom - the first on the issue in any federal court - produced "overwhelming evidence" that denying marital rights to same-sex couples violates their constitutional right to equality and does not benefit the institution of marriage.

Testimony from a parade of scholars and researchers demonstrated that "as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal," Walker, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, said in a 136-page decision.

He said Proposition 8, the November 2008 initiative that amended the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, "prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis."

Walker said Prop. 8's sponsors presented a meager case in defense of the measure and that their principal witness, who attested to the harmful effects of same-sex marriage, lacked credentials and credibility

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Newest SCOTUS justice

Congratulations Elena Kagen, only the 4th woman to ever get the job!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Peace event

Here I am, reading a poem at the Hiroshima Day celebration sponsored by the local Peace Action Council. I was representing the Social Action Committee of three area synogogues. Larry took this photo because he was able to attend! Below is the poem that I read (I got choked up at the end because the kids, evidence of how my life is blessed, were there with me).

We Can Not Merely Pray
By Jack Riemer

We cannot merely pray to end war;
For the World is made in such a way
That we must find our own path of peace
Within ourselves and with our neighbors.

We cannot merely pray to root out prejudice:
for we already have eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to end starvation:
For we already have the resources
With which to feed the entire World
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to end despair:
For we already have the power To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to end disease:
For we already have great minds
With which to search out cures and healings
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray instead
For strength, determination, and will power,
To do instead of merely to pray
To become instead of merely to wish.
So that our World may be safe,
And so that our lives may be blessed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

More books to read

I finished my first Kindle book and wanted to get another one, just to have something to read on my phone when I have time (waiting in lines, etc).

I looked at my goodreads list and my Amazon wish list, and chose Lady MacBeth by Susan Fraser. In looking at that book, I noticed that there's a whole genre of YA novels based on Shakespeare characters:

Ophelia & Lady MacBeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein
Enter Three Witches by Caroline Cooney (more MacBeth)
Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors
Romeo's Ex: Rosaline's Story by Lisa Fielder

They are getting mostly high ratings on goodreads. My library seems to have some of these (some but not all are available for Kindle), so I thought I'd check one out and see if they're as readable as the goodreads community seems to think.

I noticed another group of books - "retold" fairy tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella, which look really fun, so I can check out a few of those as well.

And it turns out that The Iron King is only the best known of the "urban faery" genre! There's lots more, like Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. I have to read more of those because I liked The Iron King and Winter's Passage a lot, as well as Impossible (maybe not strictly in the genre, but the same general area).

The appeal of these is mostly 2-fold: they're page turners and they feature strong, smart female lead characters.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Books I don't love

The erstwhile editor-in-chief of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, wrote a spirited defense of the thriller and mystery genres in the magazine's annual book issue this week. He could have been addressing me, rather than his unnamed friend, who dismisses the books, "leaving no room for argument." He invited responses, so this is the one I sent:

I'm afraid I'm with Jon's hapless/faithless friend - I'm yet another person who is not a fan of the thriller or mystery genres.

I read a bunch of Rex Stout when I was younger and I don't regret any of the time I spend on those books. And I'm a huge fan of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko stories. My favorite is Havana Bay, where Renko actually attempts suicide, so weary is he of the disappointing world. Smith's careful research is evident in every book, so they are less pulpy than most in the genre.

I have many friends and relatives who adore these books, and I've tried many times to join in their enthusiasm, but I just can't get there.

One of my biggest complaints about the mystery genre is that every story begins with a murder, often described in loving detail. I just don't need that in a literary experience. And thrillers often have a questionable morality that I find quite off-putting. Jingoism and American exceptionalism are prevelant and a general attitude that might makes right or the ends justify the means. It taints otherwise interesting stories.

I appreciate Jon's spirited defense of books that he loves. But I'm sorry to report that his passion does not sway me.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Weekend movies

As usual, I saw several movies this weekend.

The Kids Are All Right. Big disappointment. Great performances of course, but I found all 3 main characters to be deeply flawed and mostly unlikeable. And I just don't get what the filmmaker was trying to say. "People are deeply flawed?" Not sure that was worth $10. Plus the sex was too graphic for me and mostly gratuituous. I just don't need to see people rooting around on the couch to get the general idea what they're doing. Fade to black please. More dialog, less doggy style! The frustrating part is that this movie is made for me! I complain about there being no movies for grown-ups and then they make one and I don't really like it! What's the matter with me???

The Last Mimzy. A very weird little movie. Cool environmental message, but kind of distrubing and a little random. The child actors were good, but it wasn't nearly as entertaining as I expected. Bonus - references to Alice in Wonderland, which were especially fun since we just watched 2 versions of that story.

G.I. Joe. Cal loved this and wanted to watch again. The cast is what drew me (my boy, Joseph Gordon Levitt and the delicious Channing Tatum). It wasn't a bad movie actually. I liked the flashbacks, which added a lot of unexpected depth to the story. And I loved that the ladies kicked ass just like the guys did. It could have been 20 minutes shorter. And it was awfully violent - I don't mind the explosions or the hand-to-hand combat, but did we need repeated swords through the chest and that kind of stuff? I didn't think so. It's not like people are going to get bored - the movie is almost non-stop action. I think the realism in movies aimed at a wide audience is a disturbing trend. I don't have any problem with kids seeing cars flipping over, or even the sort of bloodless gun death that all these movie have. But the more sadistic stuff is just unnecessary unless the movie is specifically aimed at an older audience (the way Saw and Hostel are).