I had a little time to kill over the past couple of weeks, and I ended up reading a bunch of books: The Wonder Spot
, Melissa Bank's second novel; a couple of books written by Phil Jackson; the Chuck Klosterman pop culture bible Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
; a stupid book about American history written by Dave Barry; and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
. I haven't written about books in a while, so I figured I should write about the ones that I liked.The Wonder Spot
I'd originally discovered Melissa Bank on a lark; I was browsing through Avalon.ph
and ended up buying her first book, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing
, because of the clever title, chick-lit implications notwithstanding. It wasn't a novel so much as a series of inter-connected stories about a girl's life, and it was so funny and charming and well-written that I ended up giving a copy to a friend for Christmas that year.
A few months later, I read Speaking with an Angel
, an anthology of short stories by Nick Hornby. The book included a story by Melissa Bank called The Wonder Spot
, which was easily the best in the whole collection, and which was better than anything from her first book. I was delighted to find out later that the story was part of Bank's second book.
I found a copy of the book a few weeks ago, and it lived up to my expectations. Although the rest of the book wasn't really as good as the eponymous story, it was still an awesome read. No one writes about insecurities quite as well and quite as entertainingly as Melissa Bank. Like I did with Girls' Guide
, I ended up giving a copy of the book to a friend. In fact, I ended up giving it to the same person I'd given the first book, a couple of years ago.
Afterwards, I was reading reviews of the book, and critics seemed to agree that the label chick-lit
didn't do justice to Melissa Bank's work. While I haven't really read Bridget Jones's Diary
or other books of that ilk (I just remember Richelle
telling me she *hates* Helen Fielding), I'm not surprised; forget chick-lit
, there just aren't many books that are as good as Melissa Bank's, period.
(I have this thing about giving books, and how I only give people books when I really, really liked the book and when I think that a person I'd give the book would like it as well. After all, giving a book carries the implicit notion that it'd be worth spending several hours of one's time, so it has to be really worth it, right? Only, no one ever reads the books that I give them. Which is kind of like all my blog entries about books.)
If you I sold you on to Bank well enough, you might want to check out a story from Girls' Guide called The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine
. The first chapter from The Wonder Spot is also online
, though that's probably the weakest chapter in the whole book.Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
I'd been reading Chuck Klosterman for a while now, initially from his Spin Magazine columns (I used to buy lots of back issues from Book Sale), and then later from his work on ESPN's Page 2. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
was also prominently featured on The OC
as part of the Seth Cohen starter kit, along with Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
, and records from The Shins and Bright Eyes (I don't really care much for either band, but Kavalier and Clay
ranks among my all-time favorites).
Anyway, there are probably very few books that are as right up in my alley as this one. It's a collection of essays that include, among other things, an admission that no one in our generation can ever be truly satisfied because we're all held up against Lloyd Dobler, a deconstruction of Saved by the Bell
, the parallels between The Empire Strikes Back
and Reality Bites
(they're essentially the same movie), how the Celtics-Lakers rivalry define everything that we know about the universe, plus a successful argument that "The Fonz" is a virgin.
There's also an essay about the greatness of Billy Joel, and his patent uncoolness despite his greatness, an uncoolness so plain that he can't even be considered too-uncool-that-he's-actually-cool. Klosterman explains:
To this day, women are touched by the words to Just the Way You Are, a musical love letter that says everything everybody wants to hear: You're not flawless, but you're still what I want. It was written about Joel's wife and manager Elizabeth Weber, and it outlines how he doesn't want his woman to "try some new fashion" or dye her hair blond or work on being witty. He specifically asks that she "don't go changing" in the hopes of pleasing him. The short-term analysis is that this is a criticism of perfection, but in the best possible way; it's like Billy is saying he loves Weber *because* she's not perfect, and that he could never leave her in time of trouble.
The sad irony, of course, is that Joel divorced Elizabeth three years after Just the Way You Are won a Grammy for Song of the Year. Obviously, some would say that cheapens the song and makes it irrelevant. I think the opposite is true. I think the fact that Joel divorced the woman he wrote this song about makes it his single greatest achievement.
When I hear Just the Way You Are, it never makes me think about Joel's broken marriage. It makes me think about all the perfectly scribed love letters and drunken emails I have written over the past twelve years, and about all the various women who received them. I think about how I told them they changed the way I thought about the universe, and that they made every other woman on earth unattractive, and that I would love them unconditionally even if we were never together. I hate that those letters still exist. But I don't hate them because what I said was false; I hate them because what I said was completely true. My convictions could not have been stronger when I wrote those words, and--for whatever reason--they still faded into nothingness. Three times I have been certain that I could never love anyone else, and I was wrong every time. Those old love letters remind me of my emotional failure and my accidental lies, just as Just the Way You Are undoubtedly reminds Joel of his.
Perhaps this is why I can't see Billy Joel as cool. Perhaps it's because all he makes me see is me.
Kinda how I feel about Pancit Canton.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
I once read an interview with Nick Hornby where he was talking about why he only wrote funny books. He argued that there was nothing you could write in a serious book that you couldn't write in a funny book as well, and it was much more pleasant to read funny books, so why bother with the serious? A lot of critics lump Hornby together with Douglas Coupland, for capturing the voice of their generation. They do both write about sad people with lots of issues and hang-ups, but the difference between them is that unlike Coupland, Hornby does not depress the living fuck out of his readers, or at least he makes them laugh along the way. Besides, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and Milan Kundera write about pretty much the same topics, but wouldn't you rather read Gabo, if only for the funny descriptions of sex between octogenarians?
Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
is a funny book about a sad story. It's written from the point-of-view of Chris, a 15-year-old with autism. He fancies it as a detective novel, where he tries to figure out who stuck a fork in his neighbor's dog, but as the story unfolds, we get a tangential view of the drama surrounding the people around him, as well as their secrets.
That's really all I can say about the plot, because it's supposed to be a surprise. The novel is really quite the powder keg, and it's one of the most emotionally-charged books I'd read in a while. It never feels that way while reading though, because of the light and humorous tone throughout the novel.
I'd actually read a book with a similar approach years before, Steve Martin's (yes, the comedian) second novel The Pleasure of My Company
, which also tells the story of an autistic person, and does it surprisingly well. Compared to The Curious Incident
, however, that book comes off as merely adequate, while Haddon's work is simply one of the greats.
It was probably because of this post from the weekend
, but I had an odd mini-marathon of chick flicks this weekend sandwiched between all the basketball games. I watched the DVD of Four Weddings and a Funeral
that I got last weekend
before settling into The Holiday
, which was playing on HBO on Sunday evening. I told a friend about this after the movie, and she replied, "Ya, reclaim your balls man!" But I'm really
into her, so I'll take any concern on her
part about my
balls as a good sign.
Anyway, just as a preventive measure from, I dunno, me suddenly growing a vagina, I decided to watch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
and Reservoir Dogs
back-to-back. And then it dawned on me, how come no one makes cool
movies anymore? I mean, take a look at this list of cool
movies from the last decade-- they all made you say, after finishing the film, "Putangina astig
- The Usual Suspects
- Reservoir Dogs
- El Mariachi
- Pulp Fiction
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Good Will Hunting
- Boogie Nights
- Fight Club
- Three Kings
And that's just off the top of my head. This decade? Well, there's The Departed
, and if you really wanted to come up with something, you could go with the Bourne movies. But it's still quite a stretch.
To be fair though, the comedies from this decade has been far better. I'd any of the Will Ferrell mediocre American man movies over the Farelly Brothers'. I don't know if any movie has made me laugh as hard as Borat
. And seriously, I love American Pie
, but right now I'd take Superbad
I was at Megamall earlier and I saw a large poster for this movie
outside the theaters. Despite the awful title, the premise was interesting enough, about a guy (Paul Rudd) who is head-over-heels for an older woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer (uso daw ngayon yun eh), but the real clincher was the fact that Amy Heckerling wrote and directed the movie.
I looked up some information about the movie, and was surprised that it had already been released in various parts of the world earlier this year, with the film preceding Stardust
as Michelle Pfeiffer's comeback film, but it was only released in the US last November. It was also odd that this was only Amy Heckerling's second film since Clueless
. The other one? Loser
. Odd, I know.
So why did it take the producers that long to release the film? It can't be *that* bad, can it? I mean, Amy Heckerling's got some stinkers on her resume, but she directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High
. The film's also got Michelle Pfeiffer, who's a goddess, and Paul Rudd, who is simply AWESOME (I mean, look at his IMDB page
). Plus, there's a murderer's row in the supporting roles- Tracey Ullman, Fred Willard, Jon Lovitz, and Henry Winkler. Bakit nga kaya?
DVD ma'am, DVD sir, DVD DVD DVDX!
Took a trip to Quiapo this afternoon, and my DVD-hunting session went well into the early evening. Here's the list of what I bought:
- The Pianist
- Out of Africa
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Full Monty
- American Beauty
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Reservoir Dogs
- Doctor Zhivago
- The Office - The Complete Third Season
- Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo
- A 24-in-1 DVD with the following films:
A 6-in-1 DVD with the following films:
- One More Chance
- A Love Story
- You Are the One
- Close to You
- You Got Me
- Paano Kita Iibigin
- Till I Met You
- One Percent Full
- My Kuya's Wedding
- The Promise
- Blackout (Robin Padilla and Iza Calzado's indie film)
- I've Fallen for You (Piolo's indie film)
- Happy Hearts
- Apat Dapat Dapat Apat
- Feng Shui
A 6-in-1 DVD with the following films/features:
- Babae sa Breakwater
- She Walks By Night... Ssshhh!
- Unfaithful Wife 2
Knocked UpHot RodSuperbadBlades of Glory
- Viva Hot Babes
- 1st Time
- Hot Babes in the Flesh
- Striptease: The Art of Erotic Dancing
Now, my notes:
- I listed the DVDs *autobiographically* (that is, in the order that I bought them; bonus points for you if you got the High Fidelity reference).
- For the past few Christmases, I'd been giving people DVDs for presents (and I don't think anyone ever watches them; I also gave books and I don't think anyone read them). Anyway, the theme for our Christmas party this year are Oscar-nominated films, so I figured why not just give Oscar-nominated films away this year, which is why the list looks like that up top. I'll probably end up watching most of those films and even keep a couple of them.
- I got Reservoir Dogs and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking barrels for myself.
- I never really watch movies anymore. I'm the guy who hasn't seen 300 *and* Transformers. It's not that I don't like watching movies, or that I don't have a social life, it's just that I could usually find somewhere else I'd rather be doing. For example, over the past three months, I'd probably seen only one movie in the theater, but I'd gone to see three or four shows at 70s Bistro, watched the Pacquiao fight live at Megamall, went to see the local Avenue Q performance, attended a couple of PBA games at the Araneta, and a bunch of other stuff.
- I don't really watch television anymore, either. I mean, I still *watch* but it's usually just sports or Jeopardy or Startalk or whatever else is on. But I don't really follow any television show--I even stopped watching Lost and Heroes. My two favorite shows, The OC and Veronica Mars, were both cancelled last season and I don't have the energy to follow any show anymore, not even Gossip Girl or Chuck. I'm sure I'd love them if I ever watched (Josh Schwartz is the man), but I just can't be bothered right now.
- The only TV show I'm following right now is The Office. I was a huge, huge fan of Ricky Gervais' original, and I didn't want to bother with the American one. But then I got into the show (it's a looong story), and now I'm totally hooked. In fact, fan blogs like The Office Tally and Watching the Office are part of my morning reading list. To borrow the words of Jim Halpert, I'm really passionate about The Office. In fact, um, I'm in love with The Office.
- I'm still annoyed that Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo wasn't in the 24-in-1 DVD. Also, I can imagine how people would react when I show them that DVD. "Yuck, ang jologs mo! Uhm--pahiram pagktatapos ha."
- It took all the strength in my body to prevent myself from buying each of the Jeric Raval and Ian Veneracion 16-in-1 DVDs. Yeah, me too, I didn't even know Jeric Raval was in 16 movies.
- The two DVDs with the, uh, adlit content were on a rack going for 25 bucks each. I'm planning to give them away for Christmas presents too, probably to our office legal counsel. We call him "Att-horny". To be perfectly candid, I'll probably watch the DVDs too. But only to check if they're working.
- I'm also annoyed that I had to buy individual copies of the last four films. I mean, how could this happen? Aren't there any Judd Apatow fans in wherever the hell they put these things together? They can put out a compilation of all of the Michael Dudikoff's American Ninja films but they can't get all the Will Ferrell and frat pack movies in one disc?
Labels: boldstars, hehehe, movies, television, theoffice