Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fine Japanese Cookies

Fine Japanese Cookies5141
Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

Delicate double
Chocolate cookies enveloped elegantly
No Latex inside.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

I usually like Dustan Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Queen Latifah has been good in all the movies of hers I’ve watched. I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan, but this movie was one of the good ones.

I liked it so much that I naturally questioned my taste and went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what they had to say about it. STF got 6.9 out of 10. The critics’ consensus quote was a little mean-spirited, I thought:
A fun, whimsical tale about an office drone trying to save his life from his narrator. The cast obviously is having a blast with the script, but Stranger Than Fiction's tidy lessons make this metaphysical movie feel like Charlie Kaufman-lite.”

Kaufman, you may know or remember is the writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and others.

"Tidy lessons" "Kaufman-lite"--these are deliberately pejorative. The consensus statement is fair to the overall comment from critics if they were mashed together. Some liked the whimsical tale, the cast having fun with the script and roles; some people felt annoyed with the movie's accessiblity. Because it wasn't dark, difficult, nor ultimately damaged, they devalued it.

Well, them and the horse they rode in on!

While I couldn't sit still in the last third of the movie just before the ending (I stood up and watched shifting from foot to foot. It was the decongestant, I think. Or maybe I was just edgy. But you can be as crazy as you want if no one's there--no matter what the voices are saying to the contrary), I thought it was a good ending. Perhaps not a great ending, but very, very good. I'll be watching this film again.

Some of my favorite things:

Emma Thompson is daring and perfect!! Ms Thompson is a pretty, perhaps even beautiful woman, but she's playing an frazzled author with writer's block, and her make up looks like splotchy no-make up. I love her twitches, her habits, and her red nose. She rocks! She dares to be scrungy and not sweet scrungy like a comic hobo or something. Her character is unattractive and makes you want to look away.

Dustin Hoffman is funny and eccentric (dare one say, as usual?). He plays literature professor Jules Hilbert who takes Harold Crick (Ferrell's character) seriously enough to try and figure out what kind of story he's being written into, and to see if he can discover who the author might actually be so that Crick can do something about it. And for Hoffman's character, literature is more important (if not sweeter) than life. After all the work Hoffman has done, though it's hard not to see some schtick from his other characters show up. The professor's detailed perfectionism towards literature seems heavily borrowed from Hoffman's Michael Dorsey from Tootsie.

Queen Latifah as the publisher's author assistant who is trying to get Karen Eiffel to finish her book has just the right amount of no-nonsense, humor, and caring. Because the character, Penny Escher, is so perfect in a serving kind of way, I wonder if some people or critics would find the character objectionable as a movie/literary descendant of the mammy character Hattie McDaniel used to play. In any case, I liked the character, and I liked Queen Latifah.

In the spirit of overthinking, what about those character names!!!??

Harold Crick
Karen Eiffel
Ana Pascal
Penny Escher
Jules Hilbert (I didn't know, but I googled Hilbert, and there was a famous mathematician named David Hilbert who came up with some important concepts and theorems that have to do with finiteness and multidimensional space--which are quite beyond my capacity at this time.)

Stranger than Fiction has the straightforward emotional story of a guy trying to sort out his life and make it more meaningful than drudgery, it has a "chick-flickesque" love story, and it has tricksy details for those who want to overthink darkly. I think the critics who thought it was too simple didn't get the tricksy things. Myself, I'd give it an 8.9 out of 10!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Learning 2.1!!!! I'm on it!

Just discovered the place that originated the Learning 2.0 program has moved on to Leaarning 2.1. Go The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County!

Their lessons start with Thing 24 because they originally stopped at Thing 23 for Learning 2.0. The new blog for the more amorphous continuation of learning exercises is

Whooo hoooo! I have to start doing the first 2.1 Thing yet, but I just swiped their banner and made it a link in this post!! How cool is that? I'm not sure this is the way banner links are supposed to be made, but it works. (I added a link to their blog using the ''<''a href'' thing, then in the space after the greater than and before the lesser than /a greater than I added an image link and finished with the image's own ''<''/a''>'' [remove the single quotes. You know how it should look in html.) Ummmmmm it was linking just to the image. Curses.

So, what one really does is use the "a href" bit for the url link, and then in the space where the text would be if it were a word link, one inserts ''"[img id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5074868428055059554" style="CURSOR: hand" alt="" src="http://bp2.blogger.com/_5NPEVGoMwlo/Rm2N8pARHGI/AAAAAAAAAKM/RqNE3SbwhFQ/s320/learning2a.jpg" border="0" /]. replace square brackets with the point ones.

This seems to work, now. (Understanding of course that the specific above stands in for the general technique of making banner links.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Originally uploaded by YorickWell.
Photo of Rosaraio Beach from a picnic table-----
I just discovered Autostitch--a free demo that automatically stitches together digital images to form a panorama. You can find the free demo download here: AutoStitch

I have to say that I'm able to work it much easier than the HDR program that I got, because stitching doesn't require a tripod to make the product come out useable.

Of course, it remains to be seen what kind of print I can get from these things.

The Elusive Pimpernel, Broken for You--Reviews

Not really a pimpernel, but it's a flower shot from my stock photos.

For the Reading Challenge this week I finished two of the books on my list. Some of the titles are bound to go more quickly than others, and in reading it's just as well to come out of the gates strong and worry about pacing one's self later.

The Elusive Pimpernel read very fast. It is an adventure book, and even though it's not terribly historically accurate, I don't know that it's any less accurate than the entertainments filmed by Oliver Stone, say.... (Before I go on, I'm compelled to do the word play stuff: If you misspelled the title The Illusive Pimpernel, it would still fit, but the meaning would be different. Then it would be as though this were a fable or a morality tale. Which it sort of is, but not. And if you separated the letters, The Elusive Pimp, Ernel, it would change entirely and be about some entrepreneur trying to stay out of the way of cops and mob bosses.)

The story takes place during the French Revolution. The Scarlet Pimpernel (an early incarnation of the superhero with a secret identity) is involved with his "League of the Scarlet Pimpernel" in saving aristocrats from the guillotine in France. Elusive is actually the third book in the series, and the best one is the first one, The Scarlet Pimpernel. It didn't seem to matter much that I had missed the second book (although if I read the second book, I'll know from a character in the third some of what happened in the second. But it's not like these are mysteries: as a reader, one knows that the Pimpernel will succeed, it's just a questions of how and how many close calls and inescapable situations he has to get out of first).

I think Marguerite (Sir Percy's wife) is a stronger character in the first book. She's still strong-willed and determined in this one, but even the villain notes that she's not behaving as the most clever woman in Europe this time. Anyway, The Scarlet Pimpernel is a good romp; and if one needs or wants another Pimpernel fix, The Elusive Pimpernel is exciting good fun.

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

This really is broken.

Broken for You is an award winner (Pacfic Northwest Bookseller Award, Quill Awards, and Washington State Book Award; it was also a TODAY Bookclub choice), but its plot summary may strike potential readers as something suitable for showing on Hallmark Network.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed getting to know the characters. They seemed real to me, even if the events had some strechy-circumstances / coincidences. The Seattle local color was very convincing. It was a relatively short book; it kept me turning pages and wanting more. Think of the kind of intensity Rowling creates in her Harry Potter plots, only with better characters and better writing style.

Broken for You is one of the few books that I wanted to keep reading all the time so much that I listened to parts of it on my MP3 player and then read pages when I could get back to them. One interesting phenomenon for me: I went through the ending twice: 1st time I read the pages, second time I listened to the last chapters on audiobook. When I read the pages, I was affected, but I didn't cry; when I listened to the last chapters, I couldn't stop crying in some parts.

Anyway, I give it a strong recommendation: Read this book!!

(Also in this post, I learned about span style formats and no longer using "font" or "font size")

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ireland, Library, Mystery!

Originally uploaded by YorickWell.

The case of the missing books : a mobile library mystery by Ian Sansom

This is the first in a series of "mobile library mysteries." It has a sample chapter of the second in the series at the end of the book. TCotMB is worth the read, and fun in several ways. It's about libraries and books, some; it's about a stranger in a new place trying to make his way. It's about a mystery but not a murder. I'm glad I read it, but it does ask a bit from the reader.

First of all, the protagonist is not entirely sympathetic, as least as far as I was concerned. I liked Israel Armstrong usually, but not as much as I wanted to. And although the story is about a mystery (where have the library books all disappeared to?), it's also a bildungsroman to a certain extent--Israel is still finding himself. Which is a little different, but understandable in these times: if 50 is the new 30, then 30 could be the new 18; thus, finding one's identity/purpose/way at thirty instead of during or just after college age is plausible.

I think what may have saved me from disliking Israel Armstrong more than I did was that he means well, and a number of the people in the Irish villiage he goes to are even more quirky. Starting with him, the book has a number of stock characters and not quite stock situations. In tone / atmosphere it reminded me of the Vicar of Dibley television series, with an eccentric librarian instead of a woman vicar.

There's George, the capable, independent woman running the farm with little help from her grandda & her younger brother; there's Zenia, the pub-owner who is also fierce, capable and independent but who was in her past a most beautiful and dazzling woman; there's the single mother-waitress at the pub; there's the grizzled former driver of the mobile library who isn't sure Israel is worthy to run it. And there's the crafty but not really criminal council woman who makes Israel stay until the mystery of the missing library books is solved.

So it was a fun read, and quick--I read through it in two and a half days--but at the end of the covers, I wanted a little more. I wanted it to be more fun, more mysterious, more endearing. As a first book in the series, it's rather like a television series pilot--a lot of future interactions and plot threads are set up. As a stand alone book, it disappointed me just a shade. And Israel Armstrong didn't think Life of Pi was a very good book nor that it deserved the award it won! That annoyed me, too. I'll read Life of Pi a third time before I read The Case of the Missing Books a second time! (I've already read LoPi twice, thank you very much.)