Friday, February 27, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Yet another instance involving a short story where the movie is oh much better than the story upon which it is based.

Although, in this case, I'd have to say, loosely based.

The short story is rather monotone and drone-y. Emotionally gray, it merely marches the reader through the rather pathetic life of Benjamin Button with little empathy.

Fortunately for the viewer, the movie differs significantly from the story. Unlike Brokeback Mountain, which took every detail from the short story and fleshed it out to great advantage, the screenwriters for Button changed almost everything, retaining only the framework. This is to the movie's benefit.

So, the bottom line is see the movie, skip the short story.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak by Writers Famous & Obscure

The editors at Smith Magazine have published another book of six word memoirs, this one focused on love and heartbreak.

This book, like their last, inspired me to cull out the six word memoirs with which I identified.

I've thrown in a few of my own, too.

He did not laugh at Airplane.

He was way ahead of me.

He called me, asked for her.

He was addicted, too many women.

I left though I loved him.

I wrote her a thank you.

First thought: He has nice eyes.

He's an artist and I'm not.

Couldn't give up B for W.

Eight years alone, met my guy.

He makes me laugh every day - Detta Owens, p. 11.

Became the other woman. Didn't know - Cameron Vest, p. 22.

Good sex was all we had - Kimberley Yvette Price, p. 39.

Forgot why I left; went back - Sharon Lewis, p. 44.

It helps to label the books - Juan Antonio del Rosario, p. 47.

Love plus laughter: happily ever after - Dan Goggin, p. 50.

Love almost always leads to heartbreak - Raoul Felder, Esq., p. 60.

Love at first sight is blind - Jace Albao, p. 61.

My heart is my strongest muscle - Shanna Katz, p. 64.

More complicated than movies let on - Erin McIntosh, p. 77.

Maybe he will call me tomorrow - Jody Madala, p. 80.

I love you and I'm leaving - Christine Stewart, p. 81.

Happiness is a bed to myself - Michelle Ponto, p. 82.

Three word memoir: Paper. Pen. Revenge. - Lora Mitchell, p. 120.

It's just a matter of luck - Ayelet Waldman, p. 122.

In hindsight, I'd still choose you - Natana Gill, p. 128.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Abe & "Team of Rivals"

Often lately I think I should get a PhD in history. I do love it and I know I couldn't dream of a full time job in the US, there are some overseas. I wrote to my historian friend about seeing Doris Kearns Goodwin and buying her Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.
Here's his response
Perhaps if I agreed with the Team of Rivals thesis more.... Over the first seven decades under the Constitution, the president was viewed as only incrementally more important than the cabinet officers; not until Jackson fired everyone except the Postmaster for dissing Peggy Eaton was the precedent clear that they were "his" cabinet officers. As a result, there were many "teams of rivals" before Lincoln, particularly in appointments of past rivals to the Secretary of State position. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun, all at least equivalent to William Seward, let alone Hillary Clinton, had each done service running foreign relations, as had future presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Van Buren, and Buchanan. What changed under Lincoln, I think, was that, under the pressure of the unprecedented crisis, the presidency gained in decision-making leverage, which in retrospect made his willingness to include past rivals in the cabinet seem a more self-confident commitment to power-sharing than it would have at the time. Also, there were special circumstances in 1860-61 that need to be taken into consideration.

Above all, the 1860 election had been only the second presidential sweepstakes in which Lincoln's party had contested, and the first in which, it was widely recognized as the Democrats splintered, it was likely to win, with the result that almost all Republican politicians of any consequence, including those like Seward who had ducked in 1856 to avoid being labeled losers, had thrown their hats in the ring. The most obvious exception, Charles Sumner, was only gradually returning to his official duties after his beating by Preston Brooks. As a result, Lincoln would have had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find competent cabinet officers who had not been rivals in 1860. And even then, some of the choices, like Cameron, turned out pretty bad. But I'm not trying to turn you aside from her book, only to note that David Donald's biography may still be the best place to start with Lincoln, and the two-volume Library of America collectionof his writings remains the most fulfilling reading experience.
He has a doctorate from Harvard by the way.

I find the arguments in history so intriguing.

I now have a lot more books on Lincoln on my reading list. All must wait till after China.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Year in Japan

Kate T. Williamson's A Year in Japan presents her impressions, written and illustrated of Japan. It's a quick read and offers an artistic glimpse into some of the culture's artifacts. I did wish there was more person insight into Japan. I felt removed from the author more than usual in a travel book. Here's a sample of the book:

China! New Art & Artists

Two above both by Tang Zhi Gang

by Fang Li Jin

by Yu Hong

by Li Jin

by Zhang Xiao Gang

China! New Art & Artistsis a beautiful book that introduces readers to the work of current Chinese artists, who I think are among the best in the world. They have such wit in their work. Take a look:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At a Crossroads

Kate T. Willliamson, whom I met while living in Japan, wrote and illustrated At a Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Placeabout her year in limbo post-college. After living in Japan on a fellowship for a year, Kate returned to her parents place to work on a book. At a Crossroads describes the year when she spent lots of time with her parents, went to Cher and Hall & Oates concerts, attended wedding showers and other family functions. Towards the end she includes a bit about the embarrassment of meeting friends or neighbors and not having the usual accomplishments to share e.g. a great job, a posh apartment, a cool boyfriend.

Her illustrations, watercolors with penned lines, are gentle and detailed.

The book reads quickly and is pleasant enough. This chronicle doesn't describe a year of angst or existential crisis. It seems for the most part this was not a bad way to spend a year. She gets along with her parents and grandparents. She makes connections with neighborhood kids. She hears from an old college crush. Yet she seems distant from all. Maybe that's the key to not having conflict - maintain a safe distance. It really seemed like a fine year, no great highs, but no great lows either. It was interesting that she seemed to worry more about the squirrels she heard in the attic over her bedroom than what her future held. Money was never an issue. She seemed to have it good.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Talent is Overrated

I got Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else after watching Geoff Colvin on Charlie Rose.I Colvin researched the question of what makes someone a top performer in her field and shares the results.

He did discover that talent is a small factor. What really matters is deliberate practice and lots of it. By putting 10,000 hours of deliberate practice into an endeavor one should excel. That's a lot of time and often not fun, but that's what it takes. So you don't have to give up if you weren't born a prodigy. There's still hope. Also, while it's best to start young, it's not essential.

The book reads fast and includes lots of apt anecdotes.