Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Little Blog on the Prairie

From Goodreads
I needed a western for my summer reading challenge at the library. It is a not a genre I know anything about. Especially in books. Movies I might have a better shot at it but books? Not really my genre. So I spoke to my resident book guru and she reminded me of a book she'd recommended to me awhile back, Cathleen Davitt Bell's Little Blog on the Prairie. It is a young adult book about technologically wired 14 year old Genevieve whose mother drags the family to Camp Frontier for their summer vacation. Camp Frontier is permanently stuck in 1890 - the cell phones, jeans and iPods are confiscated on arrival, each family is assigned a plot of land and works the farm for the summer. You can imagine Gen's enthusiasm. But, the girl has a plan, she sneaks her cell phone into the camp and sends texts to her best friends about what she's doing, what the fellow campers are like and how much she is learning to loathe the camp owners' daughter. Texts her friend turns around and uses to create a blog...that goes viral. Just when Gen is thinking there might be more to this frontier life than she first realized, the 21st century invades and Gen has to figure out how to salvage what was becoming the best vacation ever.

So, I kind of adored Gen, As the FYA girls say, she earned my BFF charm full stop. She is funny and smart and so not like who I was at all at 14 (the girl is a soccer player extraordinaire - so not me). But I was a girl who depended on my electronics and still do. I love being connected constantly, not to mention my music, photos, television shows, they are all digital, all on my computer. I love to read as much as the next girl but my computer, well, he's kind of my best friend (I know, sad really but there it is). As a 14 year old, I was less wired I'll admit but if my mother had tried to pull this on me? I would not have been a happy camper. Luckily, my mother loathes camping with everything in her so my summer vacations as a kid were to Toronto, Montreal, Cedar Point in Ohio. Camping was something Mom put her foot down about when I was around 9 or 10. But Camp Frontier? No, just no. Not my thing. I love learning about history, reading about it, watching historical films etc. but I have absolutely no desire to live in it. I might have been born in the wrong country (Canada or Great Britain, any time you wish to adopt me, I'm your girl), but the wrong century? No, I'm right where I belong here. And this book didn't change my mind in the least. Gen and her family may have found it fun and works for them but I will stick to my Disney cruises thank you very much.

However, I now know what goes into churning butter, doing laundry without a washer and dryer and how one goes about trying to bake with lard. I got a milking lesson, discovered that sometimes you can mistake a rooster for a hen and that window coverings to keep out the bugs is something we hadn't gotten around to yet in 1890. So, Bell did a great job of balancing the story of Gen and her family against the historical activities they found themselves doing. Perhaps not a strict Western but a western for the 21st century. Just the kind I like.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Honeymoon with My Brother

From Goodreads
I read a lot of books, fiction and non, that are from a female perspective. I need to branch out more and when I needed a memoir for the summer reading challenge, I knew I wanted to read this book. One, it had been on my list for awhile and two, male protagonist! It only took me about 20 pages to realize why I avoid the male perspective of things. I just don't have much in common with it. Especially not Franz Wisner. Don't get me wrong, I am sure he's a great guy and my respect for him grew by leaps and bounds as he and his brother kept their "honeymoon" going for two years. But let's face it. This ultra-liberal East Coast girl was never going to see quite eye to eye with a former Republican lobbyist from California.  But that is OK, stepping beyond one's comfort zone is a good thing and I ultimately came to enjoy the adventures of the two brothers as they made their way around the world. I think my jealously grew by leaps and bounds as well.

Because, seriously, can I have their lives? OK, sure, one of them had to be left at the alter before they started this journey of a lifetime, a two year trek through Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South America and Africa. But still. Sign me up as soon as I can find a way to financially swing it. And as soon as I have the guts to hop on planes without a plan and see what happens next. The planner in me is having a slight panic attack just thinking about it. I admire people who can do it. Of course, as much fun as their journey sounds, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, is this a journey I could do? They seem to hitch rides with people they just met a lot, haggle down prices constantly, seemingly handled a two day bus ride in the middle of nowhere Africa without a complaint. I think I would have started to complain around the third time their bus had to stop. Because a bird flew into and shattered the bus's windshield. I'm not sure I am quite that adventurous.

Though maybe I am. One thing I learned reading this book is you never know what you can handle until you're staring it in the face and you learn constantly, the more you travel and meet people. If nothing else, this book showed great growth in its leading men, both of whom seemed like jackasses in the beginning, if you pardon the language. It was only as we approached the end that I realized I'd come to like them and wanted to know what ridiculous situation they'd get themselves into next. I've never traveled beyond the safe borders of Western Europe - the most "excitement" of those trips was being chased by a drunken German in the Red District of Amsterdam that we'd accidentally taken a wrong turn into late our first night in town. I can't imagine how I'd react in Africa amongst the poorest, and some of the most optimistic according to Wisner, people in the world. But is is interesting to think about, to wonder, and to do some internet searches to find out who I'd have to sell my soul to in order to afford a ticket to really find out.  So, if you're in the mood for a fun world jaunt and can make it past the emotional upheaval of the failed wedding before all the fun traveling starts, I would recommend Honeymoon with My Brother. If for nothing else, you have to read the story Wisner ends with because I am telling you now, it's worth it for the laughs that story brings alone. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'll Be Back

It's funny don't you think, the amount of movies you always mean to get around to and don't? You know the plots, the famous lines, and the reasons people adore them years after they are made but you just never seem to fit them in to your viewing schedule. The Terminator is one of those movies for me. It came out a year before I was born and I've even seen other movies in the series - Judgment Day, the weird 3rd one with Claire Danes that I didn't think worked all that well. I even recall a 3D movie based on the film at Universal Studios - I've only been there twice though so that might have been awhile ago that attraction existed. I always thought I should watch the original though; always good to know where all the jokes start.

So, we all know the story right? The Terminator is a cyborg sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor because her unborn son will someday lead the resistance against Skynet, the evil computer that controls the cyborgs. In return, John Connor sends one of his fighters, Kyle Reece, back in time as well to protect his mother. Lots of running, death and explosions follow along with some nifty storytelling that only works in a world where time travel is a possibility.

By today's special effects standards, the movie is pretty old-school. The robotic Terminator that appears in the end of the movie is quite laughable in terms of believability. But that's not why I kept watching - the film was well written and, and this is a key for a good action film, well paced. Cameron and his fellow writers clearly understood how to use explosions as needed, not as it seems in today's movies at times, just for the hell of it. Each murder, each explosion, and each ridiculous chase scene has a purpose and moves the story forward. Actually, for such sparse dialogue, the story didn't leave me with any major questions. In the end, you understand the logic of the story of this segment of the trilogy (well, I guess it's beyond that now huh? Didn't they try to reboot this not too long ago?). But I mean, we understand why they wanted Sarah Connor dead, we know why her son sent Kyle Reece to protect her, and we know, without a doubt, that it's not over yet. The movie gives glimpses to the future - is that still the future now that Sarah Connor lives or has that altered as well?

As I live in a world where the next two movies have been made, I know the answer. I need to see that latest one to see what they've added to the mythology. But I liked it, the original Terminator. It's always fun to see what the famous lines were actually in there for and to laugh at the bad special effects. But the story holds up so I would recommend a watch if you're like and managed to miss out on it this long.

(PS - I just couldn't post a movie poster for the film here - Arnold in all his 1980s glory was just a bit too much for me...LOL)

Sunday, May 22, 2011


From Moviegoods.com
I have a life-long fascination with the ocean. I honestly can't tell you why. I didn't grow up near one, and have never spent much time near one either. I can remember the handful of times when I've stood on the Atlantic's shores. And I think that the trip-that-shall-not-be-named brought me to the Pacific's shores for the first and last time when I was eighteen months old. Marine ecosystems though continue to enthrall me. Its animals even more so. I can watch sea otters by the hour at zoos, marvel at the colors of tropical fish and literally remain spellbound in the grace of dolphins when I get a chance to see them at an aquarium.

The library's summer reading and film challenge has started for this year and I am sadly lagging in getting a move on my list. So tonight I sat down to watch Disneynature's Oceans for the science category. Disneynature films usually come to Netflix streaming just in time for its latest release and Oceans was no different, streaming a little before African Cats came into theaters. I am usually a year behind, living in a place that doesn't get Disneynature films into the local theaters. I have to say I liked Oceans even better than its first outing, Earth. Oceans had less peril to it and more of the story of why we need the oceans and its creatures. Plus, the ocean just has fun creatures to watch: dolphins, sea otters, leopard seals, humpback whales and really awesome fish I didn't even know existed like the Stone Fish or the sheep-domed something or other that is one of the oldest species alive on Earth today. So cool!

I had to laugh at one point though as I tried not to cry over an activity that made me cry over 20 years ago when I first saw it. They showed, what I am coming to think must be an obligatory sequence in ocean-based documentaries, orcas feasting on baby sea lions on the South African coast. People, I want it on the record that I DID NOT cry. I feel I am making progress. It is one thing to understand the whole Circle of Life thing, quite another to watch it.  I do have to give props to the orcas, their way of hunting is pretty awesome to see.

The one thing that I always have after watching a good nature documentary though is guilt. Disneynature takes it pretty light on the whole humans effecting the planet aspect of things (though it is definitely touched on more in Oceans than it was in Earth), and still I have guilt that I am a human and have at some point in my life polluted the ocean. It is, sadly, inevitable that I have done so in some way, shape or form. I like to think I am aware, more so than a lot of people, that how I live even miles away from the oceans effects them in some way. I blame my first research report back in 8th grade for that (my topic was "Why ocean pollution should be addressed on a national and international level" - I was such a nerd...still am....). While we have put so much effort into exploring the skies and stars above us, I feel that the oceans often get the short end of the stick which is just wrong when you think about it. Our continued survival as a species depends on the oceans. One thinks we would have a greater respect for it instead of seeing it as a convenient dumping ground for our trash or as an obstacle in our path of retrieving the almighty Oil. I know I will be seeing the Atlantic in September from the deck of a cruise ship (that hopefully is as Green as can be) and I will be sure to show it a bit more respect than last time we met.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Greetings from Denver

The last half of April was a whirlwind of traveling for vacation and traveling for work. It has left me exhausted and sick as a dog. To top off my tour, my flight out of Denver back to North Dakota was cancelled last night as North Dakota was experiencing some lovely spring weather (aka a blizzard dumping a ton of snow and accompanied with strong winds). It was actually a relief when they cancelled my flight as I did not want to fly a 30-seat turbo prop plane into that weather.

So luckily I have friends in Denver, the ones I'd just stayed with the weekend before during my mini vacation over Easter, who agreed to come get poor stranded me at the airport. They had been spending the day up in the mountains though so I had some time to kill. As my cold got progressively worse, I entertained myself by watching the arrivals area at the Denver International Airport. It reminded me of my many viewings of Love Actually. All I needed was a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a comfy blanket to make the comparison complete. It's funny but there really IS nothing more fabulous than watching an arrivals gate at an airport. People are inevitably happy, laughing, and smiling. No matter what bad things might happen in the next few minutes, what arguments might arise as these people make their way to the cars, buses and taxis awaiting them, for those first few moments, life is good.

It was enough to make me feel less rotten for a second. And then I realized I couldn't breathe through my nose again and went to hunt up another tissue from my dwindling supply that I had with me.

I did finish a book on my travels that I need to write up and review for you. I also have been meaning to write my impressions of the new Jane Eyre movie up for you as I saw it last weekend when I was in Denver. I'll add it to my growing to-do list.