Friday, October 23, 2009

Book #59: "Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton

Here's another book whose story everyone knows because of the movie. That was a kickass movie, wasn't it? I remember I was ten years old when I first saw it, and it was the most amazingly cool thing I had ever seen in my life. We made my dad take us to watch it about 5 times in the theater. It turned my brothers (and just about everyone else we knew) into completely dinosaur freaks. I wanted to be the Laura Dern character when she grew up--I even went through a phase when I wore nothing but shorts, long sleeved work shirts and boots. It took me a long time to figure out that studying dinosaurs is one of the most boring jobs you can have these days. Unless they're actually running around trying to eat you it's all just digging around and trying to piece them together. Bo-ring! But damn, that movie was cool.

And it all started with this book. The best thing I can say about it is that well, at least it inspired an awesome movie. But only because Spielberg changed the hell out of it. Thank God, too, because if we had to listen to dialogue straight out of Michael Crichton at his most ridiculous, we would've had one painfully stupid movie.

The story is basically the same. A group of scientists lead by millionire John Hammond has found a way to clone dinosaurs, bringing them back to life and putting them in a theme park on some remote island in Costa Rica. Before opening the park to the public, he invites a group of scientists and his two grandchildren to take a tour of the park. Hilarity and mayhem ensues when the park's security is sabotaged and the animals (including everyone's favorites, the velociraptors and two T-Rexes) get loose and start munching on the tourists. It's a great story, violent, bloody and exciting. The big problem with the book is that the story is drowned under mountains of horrible exposition, awful dialogue and stupid (and I mean stupid), annoying characters.

Unlike the movie, where Hammond is a likable old man and Jeff Goldblum rocked the Malcolm character to great hilarity, the book makes everyone a pompous idiot. Hammond is terrible and you spend the entire length of the story wishing he'd get eaten already. Malcolm pontificates for pages and pages. Grant spends hours spewing a bunch of techno-babble that just serves to make Crichton look like he's adding a bunch of filler to make the book thicker. It's awful, but you really shouldn't worry about skipping most of that crap. You'll miss nothing.

And it's just not as fun reading about dinosaurs eating people when you can't see them. I can't imagine reading this without having watched the movie. We know dinosaur bones, but to actually imagine them running around and eating people is impossible without some reference, and Crichton isn't a good enough writer to give you a complete idea of what's supposed to be happening. Roars are terrible, animals are massive, and that's about it. He writes some good actions sequences, but the actual animal attacks are all over the place. Some just don't mean anything.

But it's undeniable that he has a great imagination and a cool story. All the bad guys get their comeuppance at the end (nom nom nom) and the good guys live. And it inspired a great movie. But a great book it isn't. Maybe a fun airplane read, but kinda worthless without what Spielberg did with it. I guess that's what I get for reading it so many years later.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Book #58: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I suppose it's kind of useless to review a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird. Didn't we all have to read it in high school? Hasn't everyone seen the movie? But I suppose there must be someone out there who has kept away from it precisely because it was the sort of thing you had to read for an English class, and everyone knows most of the stuff they made you read back then was pretty horrible. But I think this book is the rare exception to that rule. In fact, I think making young kids read it is a mistake--it's a bit too grown up, there's too much in there for most kids to really get it. Reading it again now, when I'm at least a little smarter than I was in 8th grade, I was able to love it much more, to understand it better and understand why it's considered such a classic.

To those who don't know, To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by Jean-Louise Finch, known as "Scout", and it's the story of a few defining years in her childhood. She and her brother Jem are raised by their single father Atticus, a respected and upstanding laywer in their small town in Alabama. Along with their good friend Dill they play, go to school, and observe the world around them, including the mysterious Radley house and its occupants. Nothing of any real significance (though of course to kids everything is important) happens to them until their father is asked to defend a black man in a trial where he is being accused of raping a poor white woman. It's then that things really start changing for the children, as they begin to see what people are really like.

It's a pretty simple story and plot, really, but this isn't a plot-driven book. It's about growing up, and how our perceptions change as we leave childhood and become young adults. Scout is a beautifully written character, a tomboy who gets into trouble but always means well. Telling the book from her perspective (as an adult remembering her childhood) is what really makes the book work so well. I could identify with her doubts about having to fulfill everyone's expectations of her--having to behave like a young lady when she really just wants to play with the boys, for example. The supporting characters are all fleshed out and believable. It's really not surprising that Atticus Finch is almost always named as one of the best "good guy" characters in literature and movies--he just wants to do what is good and fair, even if that means having to break through centuries-old racial and social barriers. He's the kind of guy that makes you wish the world was full of people like him.

To put it in few words, this is a Great book. Capital "G", people. It's a coming-of-age story that blends in themes of racism (specially poignant in the 50s when it was written), acceptance, doing good, and learning that there is more to people and situations than first meets the eye. It's funny in parts, exciting in others, and completely devastating in some. It's the kind of book I think everyone should read, is my final point.

In addition, everyone should watch the movie after reading this. It's one of the best book-to-screen adaptations ever made--nothing is lost in the transition, and it's a wonderful movie. And Gregory Peck will completely rock your world as Atticus.


OK it's time to catch up on some reviews, and I'm going to buck up and make an effort to do full write-ups and have them count towards my final tally. I'm so close--reading #82 as we speak. Huzzah!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009



OK so I'll write a fuller update when I feel a bit more coherent, but just in case you didn't see this before:

The interview went very well. The lady said we just need to send in one more bit of info on G's parents and we're there. Everything else is approved. So I'd say we're about 95% there!

And while it's not completely over yet, the worst part is. The paperwork, the waiting, the stress, the not knowing whether the interview would go well. It's done.

And last night I slept easy for the first time in...well, months and months. I went to bed without the stress killing me, and this morning I woke up happy and relaxed and oh it felt good.

I'm almost there. And in a couple of weeks I'll have the stamp on my passport and that is IT.

Thank God :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The start of the rest of my life.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow!

Tomorrow's the day, folks. My visa interview. Tomorrow I conclude a process that's taken more than a year to get through. Tomorrow I'll finally have an answer. Tomorrow I might finally know what's going to become of my life. That's not even an exaggeration. If they say yes, I get to leave in December and get married to the man I love. If they say no, we keep trying. Tomorrow I'll know.

And though I've been freaking out for...oh, well, since before he sent out the application (which works out to just about 14 months of complete mental agony), and this last week has been like an obstacle course through hell, I'm OK right now. I've spent the day filling out forms perfectly (I made sure I had extra extra copies in case I screwed up), organizing everything, sorting pictures, filing everything carefully into a big folder so I can pull out anything I need when they ask me for it. And I feel calm. I've done everything I'm supposed to do, and then some. And from everything I've read online, if you have all your documents and you don't act like a complete moron at the interview, it's almost impossible to get the visa denied. So I've determined to be calm and collected, relaxed, and just trust that everything will be alright.

So, here goes everything. I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In which I can see a light at the end of the tunnel...

Gonna be out of commission this whole week, as I'm scrambling to get everything ready for my interview on Monday.

I have almost everything, just need to pick up a couple more pieces of paperwork and I'm done. It's just that, this country being what it is, and considering that these papers need to be made by Honduran government workers, I'm still terrified of disaster striking. But at the same time I'm trying very hard to remain positive, as the other way...well, that way lie monsters. I tend to freak out pretty easily, but I've gotten very good at calming myself down. It just takes a lot of work.

So I'm stressed as all hell, nervous, sleep-deprived. I could barely eat lunch today I was so stressed. But I got my photos, I got my final vaccine, and I even got a haircut. fighting hard to keep away the demons, but it's working so far.

God willing (yes, I do believe in the Big Man, and let's leave it at that) I will have my the packet with my medical exam tomorrow, and if the Big Guy is feeling really, really cool towards me I'll have the birth certificates as well. The latter is less likely (more likely to be done Thursday) but I can always hope that someone at the registry will take pity on me and actually do a quick job of them.

The best thing, though? The thing that's keeping me going even through all the stress and madness of trying to navigate Honduran government agencies?

It will all be over on Monday. One way or another. The painful, exhausting, depressing, mind-numbingly frustrating journey through hell that I've been through to get this visa so I can finally be with the person I love will be over. for good or for bad (and God willing it'll be good) it will be over. I'll no longer have that question weighing on my mind. It's taken almost a year--the hardest year of my life. But it will be over. In just a handful of days, I'll know.

God willing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No Whining Wednesday!

OK, so even though this is really a hellish week, I need to make an effort to look at things positively today. So here's some good things, in list form. Because I like lists:

1) Honduran bureaucracy is hell on earth. But my adventure's yesterday are over, and I managed to get my police certificate today.
2) Will call the registry and if things are the way they should be, I won't need to go back to that hellhole again. I have two birth certificates and hopefully they're the right kind. It's insane to even think there might be two types and I have the wrong ones. Ugh. it's just a damn birth certificate!
3) Doctor's appointment tomorrow. With that, I'll have collected all my paperwork. It's gonna be a pain in the ass, but it'll be over with fast.
4) Interview in 12 days. I'm terrified and excited and I can't wait. Jeebus, you guys, I might finally get married.
5) Glee tonight. That last episode made me cry with the Queen goodness. Somebody to Love is my favorite song of all time, and they rocked the hell out of it. I wish I could sing like that.
6) I bought a strawberry pastry at the bakery and I will gorge on it this afternoon. It's a reward for the pain of bureaucracy.
7) The political situation here might be moving along. Might. I'm carefully optimistic--these guys have a terrible record when it comes to "dialogue", but maybe something good will come of it. MUST. BE. OPTIMISTIC.
8) With all the craziness this week I'm glad I don't have to write a Pajiba column today. Remind me to send Doran a fruit basket.
9) Mmmm. Pastry.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Back from vacation

I'm back from a week-long trip to Guatemala. It was wonderful and relaxing and I wish I could've stayed in the hotel pool forever. Some quick notes:

-I hadn't realized how stressed I was by what's been going on here. It was beyond weird to realize I could walk down the street and actually go out into the city without worrying about whether protesters were holding up traffic or wondering whether something terrible was going to happen that day.
-Guatemala is gorgeous. Everyone we met was incredibly polite and nice. Again, what a difference to not have everyone around you looking anxious and angry.
-It all made me feel very sad for my country.
-Guatemala has the best coffee in the universe.

And so on. But see? it's been two weeks since that clown has been back, one week since the other clown has been claiming that something is gonna happen and...?

Yeah! What's happened? FUCK ALL. Hurrah for advancement and dialogue!

Honestly, who do they think they're fooling? They'll work out some shady deal, divide all the power between them while everything is conveniently forgotten and the rest of the country will be just as fucked over as we've always been. Aren't we lucky to have such brave, principled, worthy leaders?

Someone left a comment recently asking me to state which side of this craziness I was standing on. Whether I support Zelaya or Micheletti. All I have to say to that is: bitch, please. It's like asking whether you'd prefer to sit in a cow pat or horse droppings. Either way you'll just end up covered in shit.