Monday, November 30, 2009


Seeing by Jose Saramago
Margaret Jull Costa (Translator)
Trade Paperback, 307 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, English translation 2006
ISBN-13: 9780156032735

Synopsis from cover:

On election day in the capital, it is raining so hard that no one has bothered to come out to vote. The politicians are growing jittery. What's going on? Should they reschedule the elections for another day? Around three o'clock, the rain finally stops. Promptly at four, voters rush to the polling stations, as if they had been ordered to appear. But when the ballots are counted, more than 70 percent are blank. The citizens are rebellious. A state of emergency is declared. The president proposes that a wall be built around the city to contain the revolution. But are the authorities acting too precipitously? Or even blindly? The word evokes terrible memories of the plague of blindness that had hit the city four years before, and of the one woman who kept her sight. Could she be behind the blank ballots? Is she the organizer of a conspiracy against the state? A police superintendent is put on the case.

What begins as a satire on governments and the sometimes dubious efficacy of the democratic system turns into something far more sinister. A singular novel from the author of Blindness.

My Thoughts:

From the Nobel Prize winner author of Blindness, Seeing is a political satire that shows the hypocrisy and absurdity that can occur in democratic government bureaucracies after the people leave seventy percent of their election ballots blank. While I enjoyed Blindness even as I struggled through Saramago's writing style, I really struggled to finish Seeing. After awhile I was able to overlook the post-modern style in Blindness, but that was not the case in Seeing. I couldn't get into a reading rhythm or pace this time around, so, while I saw some brilliant mataphors and insights, I can't really recommend Seeing.

For those who have not read Saramago, his writing includes the absence of what is normally considered proper accepted punctuation, Dialogue is not set apart with any punctuation, with the exception of commas, and it is all in one long continuous sentence and paragraph, going on and on and all running together, It really became annoying after awhile because it was so hard to pick through the dialogue embedded within the huge ongoing paragraphs, See the quotes below for a sample of Saramago's writing style.
So-so for me


Terrible voting weather, remarked the presiding officer of polling station fourteen as he snapped shut his soaked umbrella and took off the raincoat that had proved of little use to him during the breathless forty-meter dash from the place where he had parked his car to the door through which, heart pounding, he had just appeared. I hope I’m not the last, he said to the secretary, who was standing slightly away from the door, safe from the sheets of rain which, caught by the wind, were drenching the floor. Your deputy hasn’t arrived yet, but we’ve still got plenty of time, said the secretary soothingly, With rain like this, it’ll be a feat in itself if we all manage to get here, said the presiding officer as they went into the room where the voting would take place. opening

The presiding officer stood up and invited the poll clerks and the three party representatives to follow him into the voting chamber, which was found to be free of anything that might sully the purity of the political choices to be made there during the day. This formality completed, they returned to their places to examine the electoral roll, which they found to be equally free of irregularities, lacunae or anything else of a suspicious nature. The solemn moment had arrived when the presiding officer uncovers and displays the ballot box to the voters so that they can certify that it is empty, and tomorrow, if necessary, bear witness to the fact that no criminal act has introduced into it, at dead of night, the false votes that would corrupt the free and sovereign political will of the people, and so that there would be no electoral shenanigans, as they’re so picturesquely known, and which, let us not forget, can be committed before, during or after the act, depending on the ­efficiency of the perpetrators and their accomplices and the opportunities available to them. The ballot box was empty, pure, ­immaculate, but there was not a single voter in the room to whom it could be shown. pg. 4

There were very few spoiled ballots and very few abstentions. All the others, more than seventy percent of the total votes cast, were blank. pg. 16

Putting on a grave face and speaking with great emphasis, he added that the government was sure that the capital's population, when called upon to vote again, would exercise their civic duty with the dignity and decorum they had always shown in the past, thus declaring null and void the regrettable event during which, for reasons that have yet to be clarified, but into which investigations are already fairly well advanced, the usual clear judgement of the city's electorate had become unexpectedly confused and distorted. pg. 19-20

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Movie Dude: Giants!

We had a most excellent Movie Dude Weekend. After Just Me and Movie Dude googled odd things while watching a James Bond movie, we enjoyed two giant movies.

Village of t
he Giants (1965)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Starring: Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford Beau Bridges, Ron Howard, Joy Harmon, Tony Bas
il, Tish Sterling, Tim Rooney, Charla Doherty

Village of the Giants
, ostensibly based on H. G. Wells' Food of the Gods, is one of the most hilarious campy teen movies ever made. This really is a gem of a bad movie. There is lots of 60's dancing, with enough close ups of jiggling dancers that you'll be reminded of a beach party movie. When the movie opens with slow motion frugging (a dance) and one of the first scenes is the bad teens dancing in the rain and mud, you know something special is about to happen. The plot is that the bad teens (trust me, not that bad, lead by a young Beau Bridges) invade the town of the good teens (Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford). In the meantime, Genius (Ron Howard) invents a goo that causes anything that eats it to grow. We get to see a cat, two ducks, and a dog grow before the bad teens steal the goo, become giants, and take over the town from the adults. There are so m
any ludicrous, wonderfully awful scenes in this movie! I don't want to spoil all of the fun for you. I will say we were horrified by one of the most offensive endings ever committed to film. Really.

The movie includes musical numbers by Mike Clifford, Freddy Cannon, and the Beau Brummels The Brummels perform accompanied by a caged, befringed go-go dancer (that I'm sure was a young Toni Basil). Movie Dude insisted upon getting up to dance when the two giant ducks invaded a club and were "dancing" to the music. Movie Dude insisted that the dance was called "the duck".

Very highly recommended - Don't take this movie too seriously and you'll enjoy it.

Giant from the Unknown 1958 B&W

Giant From Devil's Crag, Giant From Diablo Point, The Diablo Giant

Director: Richard E. Cunha

Cast: Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Buddy Baer, Morris Ankrum

An infamous giant Spanish Conquistador comes back to life (after being held in a state of suspended animation) and terrorizes a small California mountain community. This cult film by Richard Cunha was filmed in scenic Big Bear, California. This is one of Just Me's favorite bad movies.

Quotes from the night:

Movie Dude: Google "burning speedo".
In the video they were apparently putting Purel on the speedo to facilitate burning because it's highly flammable.
Just Me, in a voice filled with wonder and a sparkle in her eye: I didn't know that! Did you?
Movie Dude: No!

Just Me: Sharks in love...
Movie Dude: OH! Look at the one below it! Lions...
Just Me: You don't need to say it
Wonder Boy:Oh no, you two...
Just Me: Hey, it's the National Geographic site!

Favorite repeated phrases on Sumo wrestlers: "...entering the ring, girth is advantageous." and "wrestler's slam, slap, and toss..."

Movie Dude: Look up the other name for a donkey
Lori: Don't look up the other name for a donkey

Friday, November 27, 2009

Evening News

Evening News by Marly A. Swick
Hardcover, 356 pages
Little, Brown & Company, 1999
ISBN-13: 9780316825337
contemporary fiction

Nine year-old Teddy is playing next door with his best friend when Eric pulls out his father's handgun and hands it to Teddy. The telephone rings; the gun goes off, shooting — and killing — Teddy's two-year-old half sister Trina, who was playing in a wading pool in the yard outside, with Giselle, their mother, by her side...
Told alternately from the point of view of Giselle and Teddy himself, Evening News is a beautifully accomplished novel about resilience in the face of loss — and about the irrevocable damage that both the loss and the resilience can inflict.
My Thoughts:

In Evening News the story is told from alternating points of view between Giselle, the mother and Teddy, the son.The distinction between voices is clear, especially since the print in Teddy's chapters is italicized. This is a hard one to review. To be honest, after a strong beginning the storyline of the novel went downhill. I felt Swick is a good writer, technically, but I found her characters unbelievable and truly unlikable. I don't think she intended for them, especially Giselle, to be unlikable. It also felt like the plot was meandering along rather than being written with a purpose in mind. Alternately I could see it being written as a made for TV movie.
Recommended as an easy read of a serious subject matter


His sister, Trina, is sitting in her plastic wading pool, bright blue with purple whales stamped on it. She looks like a butterball turkey, splashing around in her diapers and pink rubber pants, banging her plastic shovel, trying to get his mom's attention. His mom, as usual, is reading a book, furiously underlining with a yellow Magic Marker. opening

"It's a .38 caliber," Eric announces as he slides the gun from the back of the drawer, where his mother hid it in a Kleenex box. The gun is silver and black, smaller even than a squirt gun. Eric whirls around, squatting and squinting, taking aim at various targets the way cops do on TV: the china figurine on the vanity table, his parents' wedding photograph on the wall, the dog digging in the yard. pg. 5

Then suddenly the phone on the nightstand explodes, loud and shrill, startling him, and at the same time Eric grabs for the gun, panicked that his mother will come upstairs.

His sister splashes onto her butt in the water. At first Teddy thinks she has just lost her balance as usual. Then his mother screams. The dog starts barking. pg. 5

His mother is sitting in the wading pool, cradling his little sister, saying her name over and over. The water is turning pink, like Easter egg dye. Eric's mother runs out onto the back porch and hollers that the paramedics are on their way. His sister's eyes are open, the eyelids trembling. He squats in the soggy grass next to the pool and starts making all the funny faces in his repertoire, sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes into his head and stretching his lips, trying to make her laugh. Even though it is hot and bright out, he is shivering. His mother has the wadded-up beach towel pressed against Trina's chest, but you can still see the blood. pg. 6

On the mostly silent, stunned drive home from the hospital, the accident was all that Dan wanted to talk about, the logistics of it. Why? How? Who? Giselle kept shaking her head and mumbling, "I don't know." pg. 7

Just as Teddy wasn't really Dan's child. He hadn't even asked about Teddy. Her son. He was only concerned about their daughter. And who could blame him? pg. 8

Your daughter is dead, she told herself. What do you do now? This was a subject none of the parenting books addressed. pg. 12

Trina's absence was like a crown of thorns encircling her heart. Each breath seemed to stab her in a fresh tender spot. pg. 103

Now this isn't part of the official review, but it certainly colored my feelings toward the book. Apparently other reviewers also found hints of prejudice in Ms. Swick's writing, interestingly enough toward Californians and overweight people. While I noticed a few snide remarks about Californians, and I certainly wondered why the unlikable store clerk and the two girls who vacated the apartment had to be described as overweight in a very negative way, my problems were with how she described Nebraskans. She lived in the state and yet seems to hate the people there. For example, she wrote: "Nebraska, the Aryan nation" and "latter-day Vikings" (pg. 198) and "They [Nebraskans] had never heard of radon or attention deficit disorder." (pg. 216). Excuse me, but I lived in various cities in Nebraska while growing up in the 60's and early 70's. Sure there were a lot of people with Northern European ancestry, but, hello, there are and were many other people of various ancestries (and colors) in Nebraska too, especially in Omaha and Lincoln. And yes, even w-a-y back when I was growing up there. The Aryan nation remark was totally uncalled for. Oh, and guess what? They know about radon and attention deficit disorder too. They know how to read and watch the news. What is wrong with Ms. Swick that she doesn't think they did? In fact, I think most of the people who began testing homes for radon were in the Midwest. I certainly remember when it hit the news. The other quibble I had was playing loose with facts. If you are going to set a book in a specific place, please do your research and accurately portray the area. Swick wrote "Hallmark outside of Lawrence KS" (pg. 212) and I can tell you that the Hallmark corporation is in Kansas City, Missouri, (think Crown Center, Swick) which, I suppose is technically outside of Lawrence, Kansas, but most people would describe it as the other way around. ( There is a production center for Hallmark in Lawrence.)
If the book had been better it would be much easier to ignore these minor annoyances.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lost in Place

Lost in Place: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia
by Mark Salzman
Hardcover, 271 pages
Random House, 1995
ISBN-13: 9780679439455
highly recommended

The oldest child in a middle-class household in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the son of a piano teacher and a social worker, the author was, from the age of six, an eccentric with enormous aspirations - none of them ever fulfilled, of course - who stood out not only from his more conventional parents and brother and sister but from everyone else in the neighborhood. In the tradition of Russell Baker's Growing Up and Spalding Gray's Sex and Death to the Age 14, Mark Salzman recalls his tortured years so fondly, so self-deprecatingly and so humorously that readers will devour this delightful look backward with smiles on their faces.
My Thoughts:

I appreciated and enjoyed Salzman's humorous memoir of growing up in the 70's. It's about a rather eccentric teenager (and child) who has a history of setting unrealistic goals to change into something he's not, like wanting to be a Zen monk after seeing his first Kung Fu movie. Although I never aspired to be a Zen monk, since we are around the same age I do remember the kung fu movies and TV show quite clearly. While it is very funny, it's also poignant and bittersweet at times. Highly Recommended


When I was thirteen years old I saw my first kung fu movie, and before it ended I decided that the life of a wandering Zen monk was the life for me. I announced my willingness to leave East Ridge Junior High School immediately and give up all material things, but my parents did not share my enthusiasm. They made it clear that I was not to become a wandering Zen monk until I finished high school. In the meantime I could practice kung fu and meditate down in the basement. So I immersed myself in the study of Chinese boxing and philosophy with the kind of dedication that is possible only when you do not yet have to make a living, when you are too young to drive and when you don't have a girlfriend. opening

Tutorials in Asian mysticism were not offered at East Ridge Junior High School so I had to design my own course of study. From my research in the World Book.....[I] became convinced that Buddhism was all about becoming oblivious to pain. Building up and immunity to discomfort became my spiritual goal, and toward this end I made my Zen and kung fu practice as uncomfortable as I could. pg. 7

If my dad knew he was about to be ambushed by murderous cowboys, first he would shake his head with disgust and say that he knew all along that something like this would happen to him. Then he would pace back and forth for awhile, muttering curse words and wondering aloud at the foolishness of people who romanticized the Wild West. Finally he would resign himself with the thought that his murderers, like everyone else in the world, would die soon enough, the sun would eventually grow cold and all of this madness would be mercifully consigned to oblivion. It was not difficult for me to imagine this scenario; my dad played out a version of it whenever a faucet leaked, the furnace made a strange sound or an odd smell came out of the engine compartment of our car. pg. 9-10

...I adored my gloomy father. He was fairly strict, did not care for board games, owned no power tools and had no interest in sports, but he was great company. Aristotle observed that melancholy men are the most witty, to which I would add that they are also the most fun to confide in. pg. 13

In an early display of what was to become my trademark habit - the obsessive pursuit of unrealistic goals - I decided to set a record for sitting still in a cramped space. I was sure this would get NASA's attention. pg. 15

She [mom] loved music, but what really made an impression on me was that she loved to practice. Performing was fine, but practice was what it was all about for her, and being able to do it for hours a day meant she was happy for hours a day. pg. 50

It may be hard for people who have grown up listening to bands like Talking Heads and Boy George to imagine a time when weirdness was an obstacle to popularity, but 1974 was just such a time. You could be wild like Ted Nugent or Ozzy Osbourne, but not weird. pg. 57

For the first time in my life I was reading real books, not textbooks prepared for adolescents. pg. 111

He leaned back in his chair and said, "Try to think of the school as a huge ocean liner. It's out there in the ocean, it's overcrowded, the engine is overworked, but it's moving slowly in the right direction. Then imagine that a kid falls overboard. We simply can't turn the whole ocean liner around just for him. I'm sorry; you'll just have to stick with the regular courses." pg. 117

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yucatan Deep

Yucatan Deep by Thomas Morrisey
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Zondervan, 2002
ISBN-13: 9780310239598
Christian Fiction

Synopsis from cover:
What Lies at the Bottom of Cenote X?
Cenote X. The Mayans called it K'uxulch'en, the "Well of Sorrows."
Since the days of the Conquistadors, its exact location was known only to local forest tribes--until its discovery by Mike Bryant and Pete Wiley, cofounders of the Yucatan Deep Project. When their joint attempt to set a deep-diving record four years ago met with disaster, the Well of Sorrows lived up to its name. Now, Mike is returning to the world's deepest sinkhole to finish what he and his late partner began.

Not everyone wants Mike to make the attempt. Bridget Marceau--Mike's team physician, fellow diver, and soul mate--fears losing the man she loves to the same cave that claimed Pete Wiley. She is determined to keep Mike out of Cenote X. And she's not the only one. Someone else is keenly interested in what lies more than 1,300 feet beneath the surface. That person already knows exactly what to look for--and why he must at all costs prevent Mike from discovering the secret hidden in those lightless depths.
Punctuating high-risk adventure with inside glimpses into the world of technical diving, author Tom Morrisey plumbs the depths of the human soul. Yucatan Deep is a taut tale of loyalty, greed, and the wellsprings of faith and life.

My Thoughts:

The description made this Christian action/adventure novel sound like it would be much more exciting than it really was - either that or it needed some serious tightening up and editing to focus the story. Since Morrisey is technically a good writer, it's the actual content that was lacking for me. After a strong start, I found myself struggling to finish Yucatan Deep. Perhaps those highly interested in cave diving will find Yucatan Deep more riveting. I was a bit bored with all the technical information and details while being underwhelmed with the actual plot/action. I also wasn't entirely thrilled with all the dropping of name brands for various things, like sunglasses.
So-so for me


New Spain--June, 1524
Crouching motionless in the upper limbs of a sprawling banyan tree, the red howler monkey gazed out at the pit, a chasm nearly three acres in size, tan limestone walls dropping sixty feet to water that was the deep blue of approaching night. opening

The media had come in by helicopter, an irony that was far from lost on the dive team. The Yucatan Deep Project was so badly underfunded that Mike, his partner Pete Wiley, and the rest of the staff....had been compelled to stage their equipment to the dive site in a series of four overland trips from Cancun. pg. 11

When it came to finding a mentor in the exotic world of cave diving, Mike couldn't have done better than Pete Wiley. pg. 13

"We call it 'Cenote X' because it's the twenty-fourth unmapped sink that my dad and Mike located on LANDSAT satellite imagery of the area, and the sites were lettered in alphabetical order. pg. 14

Like all scuba instructors, Mike had a set of hand signals that he used for communications underwater, but Bridget's talent for speaking with her hands had far outshone the twenty-odd signals in Mike's limited repertoire. Bridget was a natural in the water and, over the years, under Mike's tutelage, she had progressively honed her skills, eventually becoming an outstanding cave diver, conservative in her air use, intuitive when it came to route-finding, and naturally cool under pressure. pg. 16

The 1,100-foot marker was just coming up when there was an incredibly loud bang, like a large-caliber handgun being discharged right next to his ear.
His dive light went dark, and everything around him vanished under a blanket of absolute, utter darkness. pg. 24

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Movie Dude Weekend, Raw

Singin' in the Rain, 1952

Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen

We had Movie Dude, Dragon Scribe, and Action Girl as well as grandparents over for this Movie Dude weekend. Apparently almost everyone watched a movie or video in school/college today so that topic was discussed.

Just Me: I saw a video of a strip search.
Grandma: Men or women?
Just Me: A man.
Grandma: Well that would be more interesting than a woman.
Movie Dude, in a small voice: uhhh...... ok....

Later that evening

Just Me to Wonder Boy: I'm sorry but your breath smells like the anal gland of a skunk - emptied.

Lori to Just Me: My inner child is cringing because you just said "Man luvvvve" in front of Grandma.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blind Pursuit

Blind Pursuit by Matthew F. Jones
trade paperback, 244 pages
Delta, 1997
ISBN-13: 978038531999

Synopsis from cover:
Into Thin Air
She was sitting on a bench holding her book bag when the large black sedan pulled up to the curb. In an instant, the second-grader climbed in and disappeared. The only witness was a twelve-year-old truant who told police what he saw when Jennifer Follett didn't come home. Suddenly the meticulously ordered lives of power couple Edmund and Caroline Follett are thrown into chaos as they are forced to ask questions they had no time to ask before... about the nanny they hired in haste... and about neighbors they barely know... as the frantic search for their daughter begins.

My thoughts:

Blind Pursuit is a procedural crime investigation novel which carefully keeps track of the day and time events take place. When young Jennifer climbed into the black sedan, my heart stopped. As an 11 yr old I actually had a black sedan follow me once and I ran up to a house, causing it to drive off - quickly. That's a story for another time, but I mention it because Blind Pursuit had my attention from the start. However, it's potential to be very good was never realized. The writing felt uneven to me. While at times the writing was really quite good, in some places it was awkward, especially in the dialogue with the stop-and-start of thoughts and sentences. All of the characters were undeveloped. While waiting for a twist or some surprise, I was disappointed to learn in the end there were no surprises. Blind Pursuit was certainly worth reading, but ultimately it is unmemorable.

6:25 A.M. His first whiff of the still-dark morning through his bedroom window informed Darren Cay it wasn't a school day, though he didn't share the insight with his parents. Instead, over breakfast, he told them he would ride his bike the six miles to school, as he often did, rather than take the bus. opening

Then, from the direction of town, an approaching car prompted Darren to duck down. When he looked up again, a large black sedan sat beyond the end of the long, snaking drive, around twenty yards past the Follett girl. It slowly backed up and stopped short of the drive, still several feet from the girl. The front passenger door swung open.
The little girl—she was wearing a bright yellow dress—stood up, hesitantly stepped toward the car, then halted. The sedan edged back a few more feet. The girl glanced up at the house. A moment later she ran back to the bench, picked up her lunch sack, slung the book bag over her shoulder, trotted the rest of the way to the idling car, and climbed into the front seat. The door shut. The sedan slowly moved off, away from town. pg 4-5

The car moved slowly past the gate. A hand came off the wheel and acknowledged Ned. Ned tipped his hat. Behind the visor, the driver, a businessman type, looked to Ned to be middle-aged. He was wearing a dress shirt but no tie. A briefcase and what looked like a tripod sat on the backseat. Ned guessed the man was a realtor who'd been taking photographs of the unoccupied land above his. pg. 7

"Your daughter, Jennifer, attends the Criley Elementary School here in town, Mr. Follett, is that correct?"
"The second grade. Yes." Edmund swallowed hard once, then again, but failed to remove the impediment in his throat. "Is there a problem, Detective?"
"Probably not, Mr. Follett. The reason I'm calling is your daughter, she didn't show up in school today, and we're wondering if—"
"Didn't what? I don't under ... What do you mean didn't show up?"
"Her teacher says she wasn't there." pg. 10

At eight-fifteen, the volunteers—mostly parents—met and decided, in lieu of halting the search for the night, to keep looking for two more hours, when, if Jennifer Follett hadn't been found, they would reconvene. pg. 17

"I'm sure," said Levy, from a backless divan, "when word gets around—in tomorrow's paper and—"
"Even," added Abbott, rigidly perching next to him, "on tonight's late edition of the local news."
"—that a person or persons will come forward with relevant information—"
"But the fact that she's—Jennifer's—already been missing over twelve hours!" interjected Caroline. "Really, since seven o'clock this morning!" pg. 18

This isn't about you, Hannah. It's about Jennifer. Aren't you concerned about what's happened?"
"Of course I am. I love Jennifer. If whatever happened to her is partly my fault, I—I am sure ..." She shook her head as if to clear it. "I mean I have the feeling that—she will show up—healthy..."
"Anyway, you'll never trust me again."
Edmund was perturbed at how, in Hannah's mind, the focus of the tragedy seemed to be fixed solely on her, as if Jennifer's disappearance was simply the mechanism that triggered her own misfortune. pg. 22-23

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life After God

Life after God by Douglas Coupland
Paperback, 360 pages
Washington Square Press, 1994
ISBN-13: 9780671874346
very highly recommended

We are the first generation raised without God. We are creatures with strong religious impulses, yet they have nowhere to flow in this world of malls and TV, Kraft dinners and jets. How do we cope with loneliness? Anxiety? The collapse of relationships?
How do we reach the quiet, safe layer of our lives? In this compellingly innovative collection of stories, bestselling author Douglas Coupland responds to these themes. Cutting through the hype of modern living to find a rare grace amid our lives, he uncovers a new kind of truth for a culture stuck on fast-forward. A culture seemingly beyond God.

My Thoughts:

This very short book (the page count doesn't reflect this fact) is full of the personal thoughts of a man reflecting on parts of his life. Life After God is very different from any other Copeland book I've read, but I actually think I liked it more than all his other books. Sure, there were some stories I couldn't relate to, some parts were overwhelmingly sad, but I could identify with many of the reminiscences and all of them were insightful. In the end, his conclusion found on page 359 was simply beautiful. This was a real little gem. Very Highly Recommended

I was driving you up to Prince George to the home of your grandfather, the golf wino. opening

It was a jerky drive, punctuated by my having to stop at convenience stores and diners all along the way to try and reach my lawyer from pay phones. On the good side, however, you were noticing all of the animals in the world for the first time in your life - all of the animal life outside the cars windows. pg. 4

The end-of-day sunlight was strobbing through the treetops beside us and in a valley below we saw a tuft of white birch that looked like the garnish on a Japanese meal. The road was so long and so steep, and the mountains so large, that I began to think of how the new world must have frightened and enchanted the pioneers. pg. 8

The only activities I could think of that humans do that have no other animal equivalent were smoking, body-building, and writing. That's not much, considering how special we seem to think we are. pg. 12

I had thought I was finding consolation in solitude, but to be honest I think I was only acquiring a veneer of bitterness. pg. 30

A third recurring image, very simple: at my parents' house, in their living room looking out through the front window framed by pyrocanthus berries, out at the maple tree on the front lawn; The Flash flashes; I am awake. pg. 107

...I have never really felt like I was "from" anywhere; home to me, as I have said, is a shared electronic dream of cartoon memories, half-hour sitcoms and national tragedies. I have always prided myself on my lack of accent - my lack of any discernable regional flavor. pg. 174

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie Dude Weekend - Cool Hand Luke

It was a rather wild Movie Dude night, a real departure from our normal routine. To begin with, we had both of Movie Dude's siblings with us, Dragon Scribe and Action Girl.
Action Girl made some beaded bracelets and a necklace with Just Me, while Movie Dude, Dragon Scribe and Wonder Boy played video games.

There was a rather wild musical session featuring Movie Dude on the balalaika, Dragon Scribe on the psaltery, Just Me on the recorder, and Action Girl either on the tin can drums and singing, or playing the recorder. (I must admit that I stepped out for a long dog walk during the musical portion of the evening.) Just Me did film part of the performance. If I can blur out faces I will consider showing the clip of Movie Dude trying to rock out on the balalaika. It's the stuff blackmail is made of. Dragon Scribe actually showed some real talent for picking out notes on the psaltery and started playing his own original song first and then Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. That boy's talented in several areas.
Later in the evening Action Girl and I watched The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Doctor Doolittle. While we were watching Doctor Doolittle, the rest of the bunch went off and watched Cool Hand Luke. I will freely admit that I was sitting in a chair with a certain very large book propped up on a pillow and doing more reading than watching, especially after Action Girl fell asleep.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet, 1964
Don Knotts

Doctor Doolittle, 1967
Rex Harrison

Cool Hand Luke, 1967
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio

Under the Dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Hardcover, 1074 pages
Simon & Schuster, November 2009
ISBN-13: 9781439148501
thriller/action/science fiction
very highly recommended

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.
My thoughts:

Don't allow the size of King's latest novel deter you from reading it. Find a few comfortable positions (I found using the arm of the sofa or pillows on my lap for book-support to be very beneficial) and you'll be good to go. Under the Dome is fast paced and very compelling. Once you start reading, you will be obsessively finding time to read it and whip through it quickly. I don't care what the nay-sayers and literary people say/imply, King is one heck of a good writer who knows how to tell a story, hold his reader's interest, and keep you reading
like you're just holding a wee little 150 page paperback. (But trust me on finding some book-support system that will work for you.)

Under the Dome is not only a story about a town that mysteriously finds itself under a dome - ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances - additionally, King has several themes going on in his well populated small town. Small towns have a grapevine and it may appear that you know everyone, but small towns also harbor dark secrets. We see the consequences of poorly chosen elected officials, their hasty decisions, and the inability of most citizens to rationally examine or question the actions of or statements by those officials. (And despite what some reviewers are saying, in real life and in the book this swings both ways, folks; elected Republican and Democratic officials have things to answer for.) We see our capacity for evil, and, to a lesser extent, good. Environmental issues are raised. Organized religion is suspect. (This is the one aspect that saddened me because the hypocrites and crazies don't represent true Christianity; however I admittedly also see these same characters in real life.) The adage "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts
absolutely" is clearly demonstrated. The real horror is not the dome, although it's presence obviously causes environmental issues to be raised, it's the actions of the people under that dome.
Fans will love this book. Very Highly Recommended

About the
"The jacket concept for Under the Dome originated as an ambitious idea from the mind of Stephen King. The artwork is a combination of photographs, illustration and 3-D rendering." It really is a work of art.


From two thousand feet, where Claudette Sanders was taking a flying lesson, the town of Chester’s Mill gleamed in the morning light like something freshly made and just set down. opening

The man stopped. The chuck realized he had been spotted. To his right and just ahead was a fallen birch. He would hide under there, wait for the man to go by, then investigate for any tasty—
The chuck got that far in his thoughts—and another three waddling steps—although he had been cut in two. Then he fell apart on the edge of the road. Blood squirted and pumped; guts tumbled into the dirt; his rear legs kicked rapidly twice, then stopped.
His last thought before the darkness that comes to us all, chucks and humans alike: What happened? pg. 4

There was no time to see more. No time for anything. The Seneca exploded over Route 119 and rained fire on the countryside. It also rained body parts. A smoking forearm—Claudette’s—landed with a thump beside the neatly divided woodchuck.
It was October twenty-first. pg 3

She must have crossed over the Chester's Mill town line minutes (or even seconds) before the border slammed shut. If he'd been with her, he would have been out and safe. pg. 10

Then two things happened almost simultaneously.
The first was the woodchuck. It was whole, then it was in two pieces. Both were twitching and bleeding. Barbie stopped, mouth hanging open on the sudden lax hinge of his lower jaw. It was as if an invisible guillotine blade had dropped. And that was when, directly above the severed woodchuck, the little plane exploded. pg. 12

He ran toward the side of the road, meaning to skirt the main firefall.
"What happened?" he cried. "What in the blue fu--"
Then he struck something. Hard. There was nothing there, but Barbie saw the guys nose snap to the side as it broke. The man rebounded from the nothing, bleeding from the mouth, nose, and forehead. pg. 15

A perfect little mushroom cloud would shoot out of each ear just before everything exploded above the neck, and Junior Rennie (who didn't know he had a brain tumor....) went crazy. It wasn't a lucky morning for Claudette Sanders or Chuck Thompson; in point of fact, it wasn't a lucky morning for anyone in Chester's Mill. pg. 22

On most of these roads, there was nothing so spectacular as the explosion of the Seneca V and the ensuing pulp-truck disaster, but there was trouble. Of course there was. If the equivalent of an invisible stone wall suddenly goes up around an entire town, there is bound to be trouble. pg. 33

"It's some kind of force field, like in a Star Trick movie."
"Trek," Barbie said.
"Huh?" pg. 39

"But first, I think you better call the Air National Guard, up in Bangor."
Ernie gasped at him. "The Guard?"
"They're the only ones who can institute a no-fly zone over Chester's Mill," Barbie said. "And I think they better do it right away." pg. 43

"Also, I understand that sometimes the greater good is more important than a great story. 'Unlike the New York Times"
"Zing," Barbie said. pg. 154

"Sometimes when people are on their own, they do things they regret later," Julia replied. "Usually when the investigations start." pg. 191

He was in that mostly empty-headed state of grace which is sometimes such fertile soil; it's the ground from which our brightest dreams and biggest ideas (both the good and the spectacularly bad) suddenly burst forth, often full blown. Yet there is always a chain of association. pg. 207

"Because a man without a sense of purpose, even one whose bank accounts are stuffed with money, is always a small man. pg. 404

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Texan's Honor

A Texan's Honor by Leigh Greenwood
Mass Market Paperback, 353 pages
Cowboys Series #11
Dorchester Publishing, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780843956849
Leisure Historical Romance
no rating


Bret Nolan has never gotten used to the confines of the city. He’ll always be a cowboy at heart, and his restless blood still longs for the open range. And he’s on his way back to the boundless plains of Texas to escort a reluctant heiress to Boston-on his way to pick up a woman destined to be a dutiful wife. But Emily Abercrombie isn’t about to just up and leave her ranch in Texas to move to an unknown city. And the more time Bret spends with the determined beauty, the more he realizes he wants to be the man in Emily’s life. Now he just has to show her the true honor found in the heart of a cowboy.
Just Me choose this book (Don't Be A-Hatin' Amendment) for me to read based on the longhorns on the cover. She felt it would be a nice combo of a romance and a western.

First I need to say that Greenwood has served as President of the Romance Writers of America and has written over 30 romance novels. He very likely knows what sells. I am not his target audience. Even though A Texan's Honor is book 11 of a series, it is a stand alone novel.

This was a very tame romance that with a few minor changes could be set anywhere, at anytime. The first kiss doesn't even happen until pg 165. There is only one steamy scene. There is a lot of anticipation of what is going to happen. I'll confess that I don't quite understand how this is a historical romance other than the fact that Greenwood set it in 1881. (Is that enough? Don't you need more historical details?) For those of you following my Critical Monkey reads, this was much easier to read (less painful) than Roses of Glory. (Lud, what a book that was.) Part of this ease was because it truly was easy to read. The plot was painfully obvious. There were no great unanticipated twists, or surprises. I guess it's all about the anticipation of the romance and everything else is window dressing. (Additional thoughts are found after each of the quotes.) No rating


Boston, 1881
Bret Nolan approached his Uncle Silas Abbott's office with barely concealed anticipation, a smile threatening to banish his habitual frown. He was certain he was being called in for the long-promised but often postponed meeting about the changes Bret had proposed for the company. opening
(Hint: now we see that Bret is our hero.)

"Honest work never hurt anyone," his uncle said. "It's how you get ahead."
But Bret hadn't gotten ahead. Everybody in the office knew he and Rupert could work circles around Joseph, yet Joseph continued to get promoted, with commiserate raises in salary, while Rupert stayed a glorified errand boy and Bret an equally exalted clerk. Bret had tried very hard to control the bitterness that burned in his stomach like an acid, but it had become increasingly difficult in the face of Joseph's unwarranted promotions. pg. 3
(Hint: this is so you know who the bad guys are.)

"It seems the old renegade has managed to make a fortune in cows somewhere in that godforsaken state of Texas," Silas grumbled. "You ought to know all about that sort of thing."
Bret did know all about that sort of thing, and his family never let him forget it. Whenever one of them made any slurring remark about the South or the West, they always turned to him as though he'd been personally responsible for the Civil War as well as anyone wanting to settle west of the Mississippi 5
(Hint: repeat after me "Bad guys in Boston, good guys in Texas.")

"Samuel is dying. He wants this daughter - his only child - to move to Boston. The only problem is the old turncoat has given the girl such a poor image of the Abercrombies she refuses to budge. The only person she remembers favorably is Joseph, so Samuel wants us to take her in. I want you to bring her to Boston before she gets any foolish ideas about marrying a cowpoke."
Bret wasn't the least bit flattered by this very special assignment. His uncle had chosen him to go to Texas because he thought everybody else was too good to be subjected to the rigors of entering a state he was convinced was populated almost entirely by thieves and murderers. pg 5
(Hint: bad guys evil plan is being laid out for us to see.)

"Joseph is capable of handling his own affairs," Silas said. "Your job is to get her here. And don't get any ideas about marrying her yourself." Silas never thought anything he said was insulting. As far as he was concerned, only people like himself had feelings.
"I couldn't marry if I wanted," Bret said. "I don't make enough to support a wife much less a family."
"Don't despair," Silas said without the slightest hint of sympathy. "Once you work off some of the rough edges you got from spending so many years with horses and cows, you might find a wife. Boston is full of wealthy young women who don't come quite up to the mark and are willing to accept something less in a husband." pg. 6-7
(Hint: very bad guys, and mean too. Can you figure out their evil plan?)

What if I can't bring her back?
Then don't come back yourself. pg 13

Maybe women in Boston kowtowed to their men, but she was a Texan. She didn't jump to obey anybody's orders. pg. 21
(I actually don't know too many women who would jump to obey anyone's orders - just sayin'.)

So what on earth could have caused her to be attracted to this sourpuss of a dude?
He was unquestionably the most attractive man she knew. pg. 24
(Hint: see, we know they will get together because he's so attractive -see description below- but they have to start out acting like they won't get along even though they are attracted to each other. This creates some tension.)

The very unfinished quality that appealed to women caused the men to question his worthiness to join their inner circle. pg. 28
(Take note, Wonder Boy - women like an unfinished quality.)

Bret Nolan had looked good when he got off the train. Now he looked fabulous and smelled just as good....Emily thought it was wonderful that a handsome man was unafraid of a bath and a little cologne. pg. 32
(Take note Wonder Boy - women like men who take baths and smell good - maybe don't shave for the unfinished quality.)

The man was very tall with broad, well-muscled shoulders. He didn't appear to have an ounce of excess fat , his torso tapering down to a narrow waist cinched by a wide leather belt. Worn jeans clung to a rounded bottom and muscled thighs in a way that caused Emily to feel warm. When the man turned and she recognized Bret, the heat turned into a flame. pg. 48-50
(Take note: this is what women find attractive... except for maybe the round bottom. Don't worry about trying to get a round bottom, Snack King. I got that covered. You're good as is.)

"Well, there's one thing you need to learn about men," Ida said...."They learn early how to look charming and helpless. They also learn that a woman will crawl over burning sand if she thinks a man needs her, and they'll use it against you." pg. 68
(I'd never be crawling over burning sand to help some helpless man. I'd wonder exactly how stupid he had to be to get himself stuck out in the burning sand. Tell you what, Wonder Boy, keep this ploy in mind just in case, but avoid burning sand.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Hardcover, 307 pages
Voice, August 2009
ISBN-13: 9781401340971
historical fiction
highly recommended

Publishers Weekly:
Set against the backdrop of WWI and Niagara Falls, this debut tells the story of young Bess Heath and her struggle to navigate a quickly modernizing world. A child of privilege, Bess sees her fortunes change when her father loses his job. Cast into poverty, her family disgraced, Bess tries to hold things together while her sister slips into depression, her father drinks and her mother withdraws. After another tragedy strikes, Bess finds comfort in the love of Tom Cole, a river man with a mysterious connection to the falls. Overcoming the deep privation of the war and their own limited means, the two begin building a life together and renew their commitment to each other and their family. Based loosely on the history of Niagara river man William “Red” Hill, the book incorporates mock newspaper articles with limited success, but does integrate some detailed depictions of domestic life and fascinating natural history into an otherwise uneventful romance. (Sept.)
My Thoughts:

The Day the Falls Stood Still, Buchanan's debut novel, is set at the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, from June 1915 to October 1923. Buchanan has based some characters and historical references on actual people/events. The falls and river are an integral part of the story and with the inclusion of actual historical photos, I now want to read a nonfiction book about the history of Niagara Falls. In fact, I really wish Buchanan had based even more parts of her story on historical events. Exploring even further the history and exploitation of the Niagara River would have made the novel stronger for me. The love story in The Day the Falls Stood Still is realistic, with struggles and trials, rather than over-the-top emotional melodrama, which I appreciated. There are parts of the characters lives that I found rather unbelievable (for example, the ease in which Bess becomes a seamstress - no spoilers here) and wish their struggles had been more fully developed and explored. (To be honest, I actually didn't really like any of the characters.) Still, I found that The Day the Falls Stood Still held my interest and attention to the end. (I'm going to pass this book along to my mother and we'll see what she has to say after she reads it.)
highly recommended

(Won from Ti in a book giveaway at )


For a moment I cling to the possibility that I will return to the academy in the fall for my final year. But Sister Ignatius is yet another example of the sisters having gone soft and sentimental, the way people tend to when they are saying goodbye. pg. 6

I have only the foggiest notion of what an unemployed father means. pg 9

Usually when I leave Loretto for the summer holiday, Father is here, waiting in his Cadillac at the north door. He feigns impatience, shaking his head with the other fathers as we girls embrace and weep our goodbyes....But today as I pass through the doorway, I am unmoved. I give only a cursory glance to the arched window overhead, with its etching of the Last Supper. Jesus and his friends. Peter, who denied him. Judas, who betrayed him for thirty coins. pg. 12

...he was wearing the matching waistcoat and jacket, neckcloth, and flat cap of the working class, though he carried himself well. His hair hung a little long, with a few locks the color of wheat reaching beyond his ears. His skin was bronzed, suggesting he spent a great deal of time outdoors. His eyes were like the Niagara River: green, full of vigor, captivatingly so. He was handsome, but not at all in an aristocratic way. There was nothing to suggest an easy life or time spent primping and preening. pg. 13-14

I linger on the fifth bead and pray in earnest.
O Father, forgive me, my family, our sins. Save us from the misery and poverty that I do not think we know how to bear. We are in need of your mercy, all of us. I am afraid. Amen. pg. 18

"...I'm sewing frocks again."
"A dressmaker?" Though Mother is a whiz with needle and thread, a skill picked up way back when Father was only a clerk, it is difficult to imagine her bent over a sewing machine rather than ambling about the garden...."
"I've made seven dresses and have orders for nine more. Mrs. Atwell convinced me I could earn a decent wage, and then she ordered the first three." pg. 21

Father had lost his job and his fortune, and convinced a handful of his colleagues to gamble away theirs. Even so, there was something more that had caused folks to turn their backs on a woman as respected as Mother, something truly appalling, like a husband whiling away the days with his nose in a pint, particularly with so many young men suffering overseas.
"Last week I told him I could smell the whiskey on him," Isobel says, "He said I sounded like a prohibitionist, and I said if prohibition meant keeping fathers sober, then war or no war, maybe I was." pg. 27-28

It is my chance to tell her about Tom, but is there anything to say? He and I have spoken politely, only about practical things - scaling a fish, westerly winds pushing water over the falls. I learned his name just this morning. pg. 41

"The river's been bound up with cables and concrete and steel, like a turkey at Christmastime."
It was the most I had ever heard him say, and his seeming idea that the river ought to be left alone took me by surprise. It was contrary to anything I had ever heard.... pg. 49

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Amigoland by Oscar Casares
Hardcover, 357 pages
Little, Brown & Company, August 2009
ISBN-13: 9780316159692
highly recommended

In a small town on the Mexican border live two brothers, Don Fidencio and Don Celestino. Stubborn and independent, they now must face the facts: they are old, and they have let a family argument stand between them for too long. Don Celestino's good-natured housekeeper encourages him to make amends—while he still can. They secretly liberate Don Fidencio from his nursing home and travel into Mexico to solve the mystery at the heart of their dispute: the family legend of their grandfather's kidnapping. As the unlikely trio travels, the brothers learn it's never too late for a new beginning.

With winsome prose and heartfelt humor, Oscar Casares's debut novel of family lost and found radiates with generosity and grace and confirms the arrival of a uniquely talented new writer.
My Thoughts:

After reading the synopsis on the cover, I was sure I would not like Amigoland. Consequently, I was surprised at how much I did enjoy it. (Don't read the synopsis on the cover of the book - I'm telling you I would not have read this book if that were the only information on which I was relying.) It opens up with ninety-one year old Fidencio Rosales in the Amigoland nursing home - and hating every minute of it. He doesn't think he needs to be in the nursing home, he's sure people are stealing from him and needlessly medicating him. He is sure he does not need his walker and that he could walk with his canes. Also living in Brownsville is his youngest brother, Celestino, whom he hasn't spoken to for many yeras. Celestino's younger maid and lover Socorro helps encourage the two brothers to reconcile.

Amigoland surprised me. It is funny, touching, sad, and thoughful. The brothers are realistic characters, sometimes likeable, sometimes not. My only complaint about Amigoland is the sexual relationship of Celestino and Socorro. I didn't feel it added anything to the book and it some ways was distracting. If Casares had kept her character as a maid who simply became a friend and confidaunt to Celestino, it would have rang more true to me. Nonetheless, Casares is a gifted writer and one to watch. Highly Recommended

I won this book from Hachette Book Group in a give-away at Gwendolyn B.'s A Sea of Books


The One With The Flat Face was taking her time coming around with the cart. opening

"A man your age should not be smoking cigarettes."
"Leave me alone. I smoked my two cigarettes a day for most of my life, long before you or your mother and father were born, maybe even before their mother and father."
"Still, it's not good for you, sir. If you get sick with the flu, your luings are not going to be strong."
"And what, you afraid I won't make it all the way to ninety-two?" pg. 4

After that night he had gone to bed asking God to please not torment him with these dreams of
The Gringo With The Ugly Finger. It was just one more humble request added to the short but growing list of things he prayed for every night: for the staff to stop pilfering his chocolates, particularly the ones with the cherries that he was partial too; for the gout to go away once and for all; for some rest from the aches in his muscles and bones each morning; for some releif from his constant need to make water; for The One With The White Pants to stop finding new pills to give him; and most important of all, for him to find some way to escape from this prison where they kept him against his will; and for his freedom to come soon, even if it should cost him his life, so long as he didn't die here in this bed, surrounded by so many strange and unfamiliar faces. pg. 9-10

He staggered back to the closet, leaning against the edge of the bed for support, and retrieved the #1 box and placed it on the overbed table with the other box. He did the same thing with the #2, #4, and #5 boxes. It was part of his morning routine now to do an inventory count at the start of every day. How else was he going to know when these people were dipping into his shoe boxes for another piece of chocolate ot to take one of his pens or simply to move things around in an effort to make him think he couldn't keep track of his things? pg. 39-40

Don Celestino heard the phone ringing in the living room and wondered who would be calling him in the middle of the night. pg. 44

He was waiting for the caller to say something, waiting to see if it was her voice, when suddenly the line was cut. pg. 46

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Movie Dude: Transformers

Transformers, 2007

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
a.k.a. Transformers 2, 2009

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox

Wonder Boy, Dragon Scribe, and I watched the movies.

Movie Dude: There's my Friday night gas!
Movie Dude (concerning Meagan Fox): I feel good and I'm lovin' every minute of it!

Just like the Transformers, Movie Dud and Just Me learned many new things through the world wide web.

Wonder Boy: Are you going to sketchy web sites again?
Just Me: Psychedelic Squirrel? That's a totally legitimate web site.

They searched for, among other things, road kill pictures, Santa with Muscles (apparently there was a bad Hulk Hogan movie), and exploding things.

Wonder Boy: Ssshhh! Quiet! We're trying to watch the movie!

Movie Dude: Search General Grant car.
Just Me: I thought we were going to google exploding toilets?

Wonder Boy: Ssshhh! Quiet! We're trying to watch the movie!

Movie Dude: Sssshhhhh! Quiet! We're trying to watch the expolding whale video.

Just Me (reading from website): "Watch the video, read the articles, and learn about more exploding whales.... Welcome to the definitive exploding whale site on the internet." Exploding whale even has a Wikipedia entry!

Wonder Boy: Ssshhh! Quiet! We're trying to watch the movie!

Movie dude: Poop is "poop" spelled backward.

(My nephew, formerly referred to as Cool Man, now has the moniker "Dragon Scribe." It encompasses his interests in dragons, drawing, and reading.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser
Hardcover, 356 pages, including index, bibliography, notes
(270 pages text)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001
ISBN-13: 9780395977897
highly recommended

Synopsis from publisher:
Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Eric Scholsser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning. Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from California's subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths -- from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate.
My thoughts:

If you currently eat a lot of fast food, then reading Fast Food Nation may instigate a dramatic change to your dietary habits. Although the book is about fast food, it really is about the influence and affect the fast food industry has had on many cultural and social aspects of American life (and the increasingly global influence as fast food chains expand to many other countries). If you think about the many industries and businesses whose economies are based on the myriad of fast food businesses and their consumers, it is easy to see how the fast food industry has permeated every aspect of American culture and society. The hold the fast food industry has on various businesses includes farming (potatoes for French fries) ranching (beef and chicken), marketing (toys, endorsements, characters), labor practices (not only theirs, but those in other industries because of their huge contracts/influence), public health (foodborne illnesses and obesity), and the list goes on. Contemporary life is very much influenced by the fast food industry.

Fast Food Nation was originally published in 2001 and even at that time much of the information was readily available and understood by many people, but Schlosser has done an excellent job putting all the information together and making it more accessible and understandable to a wide range of people. I'm old enough that I remember a time when there were not many fast food restaurants or chains around (where we were living) and eating out at one was always a special treat for us. Today I still don't eat fast food very often - it's just not a part of my lifestyle. Even so, it was extremely interesting and disturbing to contemplate how much McDonald's, for example, has influenced the United States' economically, as well as culturally and socially. Schlosser sometimes has a heavy hand in assigning blame to a specific group of people (Republicans) rather than focusing on where the real problem lies. He does mention how some fast food chains have been responsible and currently are taking their role very seriously (In-n-Out Burger and Jack-in-the-Box, which is good for some west coast states). Ultimately, we, as consumers, have a choice. You can eat at the fast food restaurants or not. If you choose to eat fast food, you can look for a chain that has shown more responsibility or not. Truthfully, we, as consumers, dictate whether fast food chains stay around or not. We can demand more accountability.
highly recommended


Over the last three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. An industry that began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California has spread to every corner of the nation, selling a broad range of foods wherever paying customers may be found. Fast food is now served at restaurants and drive-throughs, at stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at K-Marts, Wal-Marts, gas stations, and even at hospital cafeterias. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music - combined. pg. 3

This is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made. Fast food has proven to be a revolutionary force in American life; I am interested in it both as a commodity and as a metaphor. What people eat (or don't eat) has always been determined by a complex interplay of social, economic, and technological forces. The early Roman Republic was fed by its citizen-farmers; the Roman Empire, by its slaves. A nation's diet can be more revealing than its art or literature. On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant. During a relatively brief period of time, the fast food industry has helped to transform not only the American diet, but also our landscape, economy, workforce, and popular culture. pg. 3

The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today's retail economy, wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code. pg. 5

Southern California had....given birth to an entirely new lifestyle - and a way of eating. Both revolved around cars. pg. 18

Walt Disney and Ray Kroc were masterful salesmen. They perfected the art of selling things to children. And their success led many others to aim marketing efforts at kids, turning America's youngest consumers into a demographic group that is now avidly studies, analyzed, and targeted by the world's largest corporations. pg. 33-34

The future heralded at Disneyland was one in which every aspect of American life had a corporate sponsor. pg. 39

"But when it gets down to brass tacks," a Brandweek article on fast food notes, "the key to attracting kids is toys, toys, toys." pg. 47

No other industry in the United States has a workforce so dominated by adolescents. About two-thirds of the nation's fast food workers are under the age of twenty. pg. 68

Becoming a franchisee is an odd combination of starting your own business and going to work for someone else. pg. 94

Every day in the United States roughly 200,000 people are sickened by a foodborne disease, 900 are hospitalized, and fourteen die. According to the [CDC] more than a quarter of the American population suffers a bout of food poisoning each year. pg. 195