Friday, May 11, 2007

April 2007

Books Read
Eldest By: Christopher Paolini
*Eyewitness: Acts of the Spirit By: Robert James Luedke
*Da Brudderhood of Zeeba Zeeba Eata By: Stephan Pastis
Twisted By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Last Child in the Woods By: Richard Louv
The Neverending Story By: Michael Ende
*Birth of a Nation By: Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Bako
A Mormon in the White House? By: Hugh Hewitt
Everything's Eventual By: Stephen King
**The Lady's Not for Burning By: Christopher Fry

Movies Viewed for the First Time
Comic Book: The Movie
Meet the Robinsons
Dark Water
Jamaica Inn
Easy Virtue
Are We Done, Yet?
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Lonesome Dove
Jesus of Montreal

Another month has come and gone. Despite having a slightly more hetic schedule than usual that included a trip to the Chicagoland suburbs for a couple of teaching interviews and a couple of weekends spent doing a medical study to earn some extra cash, April 2007 proved to be a fruitful month of reading and movie watching. If I can keep up this pace every month for the rest of the year, I will accomplish my long-time goal of having read 100 or more books in a year at least once in my life.

Of course, three of the books I read were either graphic novels or collections of comic strips. Ten years ago I probably wouldn't consider that to really be reading myself, but the graphic novel is a bona fide genre of literature now and most English students now have taken at least one course in which graphic novels are studied prominently. I enjoyed all three of those books immensely. Eyewitness is a visual re-telling of the Biblical book of Acts tied together with a relevant modern storyline. Birth of a Nation is a story that has the City of East St. Louis ceding from the Union to form their own country after most of the city's citizens are disenfranchised during a Presidential election. It's co-written by the guy who writes the comic strip Boondocks but in my opinion is a much better and more humorous story. Da Brudderhood of Zeeba Zeeba Eata is the latest collection of Pearls Before Swine comic strips. Now that Fox Trot is no longer published daily, Pearls is the best comic strip currently in circulation; even Dilbert has recently begun ripping on some of the post-modern humor and tricks that have made Pearls such a delight.

Eldest is the second book in the "Eragon" trilogy and quite frankly was a huge disappointment. Very little action, highly derivative, and weak character development of the major protagonists. Still, it can be entertaining, but it's not as engaging as the first book.

Of all the books that I read last month, Twisted is the one that I recommend that everyone read. Especially anyone who works with pre-teen or teenage boys. For you females out there, if you've ever wondered how a teenage boy thinks, you're probably not going to find a better example. The book is disturbing at times and also illustrates how different those who don't know Jesus must live.

Last Child in the Woods has a great message about how children in America have become nature deprived and how that is affecting their behavior. At time the book slows down as it jumps from one point to another. Nevertheless, it has some highly valuable points. It's a book that I recommend anyone who has children or works with youth giving at least a surface reading to.

The Neverending Story is the novel that the movie was based upon. The book is extremely imaginative and much better than that beloved film.

A Mormon in the White House? was my attempt this past month at reading a political book. The book is about Mitt Romney, former governor of Mass. who is a 2008 Presidential candidate. If you're an independent, Republican, or conservative I suggest reading it because it basically explains everything you need to know about Romney. If you're not one of those, you probably won't want to read the book until after we know for sure who all the candidates are going to be.

Everything's Eventual is a series of 14 short stories by Stephen King. First of, I'm a big fan of King. He's a popular author and 20 years from now will be studied on a regular basis in classrooms around the country. Secondly, I love reading essays and short stories. The short story is a wonderful genre of literature, but one that is slowly dying out. It's ironic that as our collective attention spans become shortened to the size of a soundbite that the shortest form of literature (not including poetry) is on the verge of extinction. My favorite tales in the book are "The Man in the Black Suit", "In the Deathroom", "The Sisters of Eluria", "Everything's Eventual", and "Luckey Quarter". Another story in the collection, "1408" has been made into a film and will be coming soon to a movie theatre near you.

I try to read a play or screenplay at least once a month and this month's piece was The Lady's Not for Burning. The book is supposed to be a comedy written in verse similar to Shakespeare. I know there are many who love this little play by Christopher Fry. I also know that reading a play is nothing like seeing it performed on stage. Usually plays are better when seen performed, though occasionally a piece is written that reads better than when it is acted. Anyway, all I know is that I did not like this play at all. I thought the gimmick was a good one, but the overall pacing of the writing atrocious. Also, the play didn't seem very funny to me. I love Shakespeare and have acted in a couple of his plays. I was one of those weird kids in high school who became drawn to Shakespeare because of the poetic language he wrote in. However, the poetry in The Lady's Not for Burning turned me off. I found it a chore to read through the dialogue and had a difficult time of remembering which character was who.

As for movies, I had a mini-Hitchcock film fest watching three of his movies in as many days: Sabotage, Jamaica Inn, and Easy Virtue. As a hopeful future filmmaker, I have become more and more impressed by Hitchcock's master of the medium and will continue to learn more by watching his films.

Lonesome Dove is actually a 6 1/2 hour miniseries that I first saw as a kid. It's one of those things that left a definite visual impression upon my mind and I enjoyed watching it again.

The last film worth mentioning is Jesus of Montreal. The film is in French with subtitles and is about a group of Canadian actors who are hired to update a Passion play that has been performed in Montreal for many years. As the actors beginning performing, their lives begin to change and they begin reflecting their characters and the loving nature of Christ in their own day-to-day lives. It takes some time for the film to get moving and since it is a foreign picture, many people will have difficulty adjusting to that. However, it's a powerful film about redemption worth your time to watch.

That's all for now. Until next time.

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