Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seeing red

Weeks ago, I borrowed a friend's advance copy of Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde's latest book. A huge fan of everything Fforde, I then went to see him talk at a local bookstore, bought the book, and stood in line to have him sign it. Big fangirl. Done that twice now. (Different books, obviously.) There are very few authors I care enough about to wait in line for a signature -- in fact, most autographed books I have were either professors of mine or guest speakers at a community event I attended. So Jasper Fforde is a big deal. (Twice!)

Like the Thursday Next series (time- and book-travelling and pure genius) and Nursery Crime books, this new Fforde world blows your mind! In Shades of Grey's post-apocalyptic society, the colors people can see determine their social standing -- what jobs they have, who they can marry, where they can live. Industries are built around manufacturing synthetic colors; people can get high and overdose on seeing certain forbidden colors; good members of society get merits, and bad ones are sent off to re-education facilities if they get enough demerits. The underlying intricacies for this colortocracy are highly innovative, and yet highly disarmingly parallel to our own society.

The entire plot hints at subversion and fomenting revolution and messing with the dominant paradigms, so naturally I'm pre-inclined to like it. There's a murder. There's a sassy, radical girl. It's awesome. The last chapter, however, was truly disturbing, and its cliffhanger ending definitely did not sit well with me. (I was so disturbed, I rushed across town to return the book to my friend and vent about it.)

Luckily, there will be a sequel. And I trust Fforde to resolve some of the unanswered issues!

Best book of the year so far!

Friday, January 29, 2010

So-and-so has requested to add you as a friend on ...

Cracked me the hell up, especially because:

1) Yeah, I was a Deaniac back in '04. (Oh, '04!)

2) In grad school, I did a PowerPoint presentation on the '08 primaries and social networking sites, and one of my more blatantly partisan slides included Fred Thompson and Friendster.

Love xkcd!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bipolar Legislative Disorder

Because a $2.9 billion state budget shortfall in the legislative session and super-depressing happenings in Congress and the Supreme Court mandate a lot of work-related heavy reading, I'm back on my fiction-only kick for the time being. (I think I was on it for most of grad school, too. Oh well. The book moods -- they come, they go... C'est la vie.)

Who knew Book Four in the Artemis Fowl series, The Opal Deception, would be slightly traumatic?

What's up with the magic-themed children's stories these days having sad, emotional death scenes of major characters?

It was, though, an excellent tool for escapism. The crazy, evil villain from Book Two comes back, intent on revenge. She plots to kill off not only the teenage genius/criminal mastermind title character, but the elves, fairies, and centaur who helped him defeat her. So she schemes to alert the human world to the existence of the fairy world, to start an interspecies war that will eventually allow her to rule the planet. A tale as old as time.

The larger story, of course, is Artemis Fowl's coming-of-age -- making new and different friends, being at a crossroads (whether to remain a criminal mastermind or become an honest kid), etc. It is, after all, a book series aimed at tweens.

Hooray for the Bildungsroman.

Next up: more medieval mysteries on order from the library. And Netflix movies. Mucho, mucho Netflix movies...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moments of madness

Apropos of nothing, the other day a colleague, who also lives in West Seattle, asked me to feed his dog and watch his house when he and his partner go out of town in a few weeks.
Colleague: We're heading to the Olympics that weekend.
Me: Fun, are you guys camping?
Colleague: What? Camping? Oh my God, no! We're gay men!
Me: Oh, so you're staying at a resort?
Colleague: Resort? Nooooo. Way too expensive, especially with everything going on.
Me: Wait, so it's a day trip? Why do you need someone to watch the house and dog?
Colleague: We'll be staying with family.
Me: Oh, I didn't realize you had family out there.
Colleague: We do. But we'll be out seeing the sights most of the time . . .
Me: Yeah, there are some good hiking trails. Bit late in the season, though, isn't it?
Whereupon we realized we were having two very different conversations.

In catch-up news, I saw the new Sherlock Holmes with an old friend the afternoon of New Year's Eve. (I vividly recall reading trading the Sherlock Holmes books with her and reading them during boring documentaries shown in our middle school science classes. Future humanities nerds, indeed.)

At any rate, it was fun. I liked the quirky, edgy, disturbed-genius characterization of Holmes himself. In most cases, movies that stray from the books are not exceptionally brilliant, but I liked it here. Holmes wasn't the cold, calculating, sterile brainiac we're all familiar with from the books and other adaptations -- Robert Downey, Jr. portrayed him as a borderline OCD nutso. That part was fun.

The plot was eh. Most of it was predictable: secret society (this time not the Masons) uses "magic" and murder to try and take over the world. Holmes and Watson sweep in to restore reason, thinking, and sanity. What was cool was the re-creation of London and some of the action sequences.

What I didn't like was Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. In almost a hundred years of film, have we seriously gotten no further than the Perils of Pauline?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The nose, she is still above the water

Good Lord, 2010 has been busy so far! But good.

I'd forgotten how ridiculously chaotic it gets the weeks before and the first week of the legislative session.

The only thing that could make up for leaving the office on Sunday at 11:30pm: this video of our campaign director accidentally running into the "anti-tax" sponsor of the initiative that voters smacked down this past November.

In other news . . . ZUMBA! Turns out, music in a gym class makes all the difference. I'm officially addicted. Two cool things about the class I'm taking: there is diversity of body type, and it's also ethnically diverse. Not that it's a Dove or Benetton ad or anything, but the difference is noticeable enough.

Seriously, it's like clubbing at a Latin dance club, minus the booze. (Also minus the men, but that's tangential.)

I mean, if you "dance" badly and secretly (sometimes in the grocery store, with your headphones on) to the same music anyway, why not just take the class and be productive?