Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tyra Banks

So, I saw a taping of the Tyra Banks show today. This is the first time I saw a Tyra episode all the way through. A friend of mine asked me to go to the taping with her so I figured - why not? The price was certainly right. But it really wasn't bad at all - and she seems really sincere. She was totally joking about her dress making her boobs look saggy and the height of her hair during the commercials. I was overall really impressed.

Also, you have no idea what the show theme is going to be when you sign up so I was ridiculously excited when - drum roll please - Clinton Kelly came out (from TLC's What Not To Wear, one of my favorite television shows of all time. Mock me if you will, but straight legged dark wash jeans and structured jackets have revolutionized my wardrobe.) I almost squee-ed I was so excited and a camera swooped down in front of my face. Erg. And lots of gifts! Macys gift card (ostensibly for a pair of jeans), QVC gift card (ostensibly for a tunic which I might actually buy) and a copy of Clinton's new book. I talked to him briefly after the show with a group of people who were exiting at the same time and he is super nice. I wished I had a camera with me (but the Tyra Show doesn't allow it).

The taping was really fun and actually they didn't have to go back and fix and edit things hardly at all. So overall, I WIN! My friend and I were chatting after the taping and we would both totally do this again as it wasn't that hard to get tickets and the experience was very positive. Yay Tyra!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Emmys

My friend BM works in television so she had a little Emmy watching party last night. I hadn't seen the Emmys in a couple of years and I must say that I was unimpressed over all. Here is my own best and worst list:


1. Ricky Gervais gets his Emmy back.
Gervais introduced a video montage of how to give an acceptance speech which ended with the video of last year when Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert gave his Emmy to Steve Carrell. Gervais walked off the stage and demanded his Emmy back from Steve, asking him whether or not he'd seen Ghost Town yet since he sat through two hours of Evan Almighty while Stewart and Colbert were laughing in the background.

2. Don Rickles goes off script.
Don Rickles and Kathy Griffin were the pair of introducers and Rickles mocked and left the teleprompter script. Every time Kathy Griffin tried to go back to the script, Rickles made another jab. Very funny.

3. Laura Linny's acceptance speech.
After winning for her role in John Adams, she ended her speech with subtle jab at the Republican Party by saying it was amazing what a bunch of "community organizers" could do. Nicely done, Laura, nicely done.

4. Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert
Colbert's semi-endorsement of John McCain using prunes ("I don't want to stop eating prunes. What could go wrong?!") was very funny.

5. Josh Grobin has a sense of humor.
In the middle of the Emmys, Josh Grobin did a musical medley of a bunch of different television theme songs. A lot of the critics hated this, but I thought it was really funny and he seemed to have a real sense of humor about it. I was expecting him to take it seriously, but instead he rapped the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. Nice.

6. Tommy Smothers
Steve Martin's intro into giving Tommy Smothers his honorary Emmy was funny and touching - as was the acceptance speech that Smothers gave.

7. Jeremy Piven
"What would happen if I just talked about nothing for 12 minutes for my acceptance speech? Oh wait that was the opening."


1. The Hosts
Who thought it was a good idea to have five reality television hosts host the Emmys? They were not funny and blathered on and on about nothing over and over and over again. All of their jokes fell flat and Howie Mandell couldn't shut up. The best part of the show was when it started to run long and the hosts were cut.

2. The Amazing Race wins again?
Enough is enough.

3. Jeremy Piven wins again?
Enough is enough.

4. Laugh-in Reunion
The Laugh-In reunion wall of jokes was a good idea in concept but sometimes jokes from 40 years ago don't translate that well into the present.

5. Mary Tyler Moore's arms.
She is officially too old to wear a sleeveless garment.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim
fiction, (c)1996 (english translation in 2007), 119pp
rating: ***

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself is a very slim novel by young Korean author Young-Ha Kim. I picked it up out of the 50% off box at The Strand because of the eye-catching title. This book is told partially through the eyes of a nameless, faceless narrator. The narrator had a unique job - he is specific that is not a murderer, rather he helps people to commit suicide. He becomes involved in a love triangle between K and C (brothers) and a young woman named Se-young. Also involved in the story are a performance artist and a woman from Hong Kong who is allergic to water.

Because the book is so short, there is not really a lot of room for character development. Despite that, there is a certain amount of moodiness in the sparse writing. There are continual allusions to different pieces of art, such at Klimt's "Judith" and the ways that art mirrors life. The middle of the story with the woman from Hong Kong falls a little flat but the parts that concentrate on the brothers and their obsession with Se-young are fast moving and well told.

All in all, it was a quick read. It would be great for a plane, but I wouldn't necessarily seek it out. People with a greater background in art history might get more out of this than I did.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

SNL just got good?

In conclusion, I invite the media to grow a pair. And if you can't, I'll lend you mine.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Books

I can't believe how quickly I am ripping through the books this year. I'm going to easily be able to finish my 50 book challenge this year. I have been a little lazy on the reviews but I'll try to get to rectifying that in the near future. But, for the time being ....

41. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Greogry
fiction/historical, (c) 2002, 672pp
rating: *****

The Other Boleyn Girl is probably Philippa Gregory's most often read book and the only one that was turned into a (terrible) movie. It is about the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn told through the eyes of her less famous younger sister, Mary. When I picked out this book, I thought it would take me a long time to read as it is quite long, but instead I plowed through it in under two days. The writing is great and extremely absorbing. Telling the story through an unfamiliar narrator gives it a certain freshness such that even though we all know how the story ends (off with her head!) it still made me want to see how we were going to get there. And that is the mark of a great book. I highly recommend it.

42. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
fiction, (c) 2008, 480pp
rating: ****

Jodi Picoult is an extremely engaging author. Though I am not usually a fan of general contemporary fiction, Picoult has a way of tackling issues that is absorbing and draws the reader in. Nineteen Minutes is about a school shooting and the way that the ramifications of that shooting echo across the entire town. In the book, the shooter is 18 year old Peter Houghton - a loner and a geek who has been subjected to years of bullying in school. Also at the center of this book is Josie Cormier, Peter's former best friend who left him (and happiness) for the popular crowd once they entered middle school.

The book is told through alternate time frames, skipping from the time that Peter and Josie are born up through the shooting and the subsequent trial. The flashbacks work well in this case as it is easy to see the way that the events of these two people's lives shaped the way that things happened in their futures. A good portion of the book is also devoted to the parents of Peter Houghton who constantly question what mistakes they made in Peter's upbringing that led him down this path.

It sounds like a downer of a book and it kind of is. But it is also extremely engaging and unlike the other two books by her that I've read, it ends in a way that is more satisfying. (Unlike My Sister's Keeper which made me want to toss the book across the room and The Pact which just left me vaguely unsatisfied). If you are new to Picoult's writing, this would be a good one to start with.

43. Christy by Catherine Marshall
fiction, (c) 1967, 511pp
rating: **** (and that fourth star is mostly for my fond memories)

When I was in high school (I think?), I loved the television series Christy with Tyne Daly and Kellie Martin. My mom told me that it was based on a book and that she had a copy, so I read it and read it again and read it again. I loved that book when I was younger. But unlike some of the other books that captured my imagination when I was young, it didn't make it into my small stack of books that I read over and over again to this very day. I was thinking about it not too long ago when I saw the DVD set for sale on, so I found a used copy for a dollar and re-read it - probably 10-12 years after the first time.

Christy is about a nineteen year old girl who leaves Asheville, North Carolina to teach a one-room school house in Cutter Gap, a remote section of the Great Smoky Mountains. Once there, she meets: Miss Alice, a Quaker and a spiritual leader; David, a preacher; Neil MacNeil, a doctor come back to his mountain home; and many school children. These people all make an indelible impression on Christy's life as she comes to grips with reality in the backwoods. And of course, there is a love story which was given a lot more air time in the series than in the book.

I definitely liked this book a lot more when I was younger. Somehow I missed all of the obvious preaching and religious rhetoric. Or maybe I was just less sensitive to it when I was younger. The book is really about Christy's spiritual quest and the way that she makes peace with God and biblical stories and questions about faith make up a substantial part of the writing. i guess when I was younger I was better at ignoring all of that or just seeing it as one aspect of the story. The story itself is still good, but just not quite what I remembered.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

File Under: Things that annoy me.

... being asked for the title of a talk I said I would give that is scheduled in February.

As if somehow I've given that any consideration at this early date.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jon Stewart is my hero.

This is possibly one of the best segments I've seen about McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin. The GOP backpedaling is astonishing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


So last week commenced the first week of teaching for the new semester. I'm teaching my first large lecture class this semester - I have somewhere around 100 students in this class.

It in my policy to always make textbooks optional. I know there are a lot of people who would disagree with this policy. My feeling is that textbooks are ridiculously expensive and new versions come out every couple of years with nothing but some prettier graphs and a new cover. My classes often roughly follow the textbook but deviate at points substantially from the book that I select as the optional reading. I am very free with the fact that I always test from the lectures and not from the readings. Whatever is in the book that is not in my lectures will not be on my examinations, period. And I know that when I was an undergraduate, I started the semester with the best of intentions of reading all of the required reading only to slack off midway through the semester, opening the books for the last time to make sure there were no syllabi stuck in them before selling them back to the bookstore.

Therefore the text is optional.

Every single semester students questions me about this. "What do you mean, the textbook is optional?" they ask.

I mean exactly what it says - OPTIONAL.