Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books I Read in 2006

The Claw recently posted a list of the best books he read in 2006. He and I started keeping (only semi-competitive) lists of the books we were reading back in 2003.

Now, this may seem excessive, but I'm going to post all of the books I read in 2006.

Erm, their titles, I mean.

But I'll post them at the bottom so as not to mess up this post. And at the top I'll post the Best, the Worst, and the Honorable Mentions. Oh, and not all of the books are actually books - some were just really long articles. All in all, I read approximately 53 (not counting each article as a book).

Which means that if I started reading 'hardcore' at age 8 in grade 3 (which I did) and read the same number of books each year and live to be 88, I'll only have read 4,240 books by the time I die which is no where near good enough!!!


The Best Read of 2006
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
To Sail beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Honorable Mentions
The Knight (The Wizard Knight, Book 1) by Gene Wolfe
Colour Blind by Catherine Cookson
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling
POSSESSION: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

The Worst Read of 2006
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown*
Awakening the Virgin by Nicole Foster*
Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card

The Books of 2006

The Knight (The Wizard Knight, Book 1) by Gene Wolfe
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Eloise: The Ultimate Edition by Kay Thompson, Hilary Knight
The Borrowers Afloat by Mary Norton
The Borrowers Avenged by Mary Norton
The Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton
The Juniper Game by Sherryl Jordan
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Colour Blind by Catherine Cookson
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Elsewhere by Will Shetterly
Crisis Volunteer Training Manual by Klinic
Nevernever by Will Shetterly
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
To Sail beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein
Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Darfur – Assault on Survival: A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution by Physicians for Human Rights
When Neutrality is a Sin: The Darfur Crisis and the Crisis of Humanitarian Intervention in Sudan by Nsongurua J. Udombana, from Human Rights Quarterly
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling
Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa: Issues and Cases by Lyn Graybill
Healing Genocide by Timothy Morgan
After Arusha: Gacaca Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda by Alana Tiemessen
The Introduction of a Modernized Gacaca for Judging Suspects of Participation in the Genocide and the Massacres of 1994 in Rwanda: A Discussion Paper by Peter Uvin
Consolidating Democracy Through Transitional Justice: Rwanda’s gacaca courts by Aneta Wierzynska
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Understanding Contemporary Africa by April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon
Silent No More: African fights HIV/AIDS by United Nations Department of Public Information
Why Are There So Many Civil Wars in Africa? Understanding and Preventing Violent Conflict by Ibrahim Elbadawi and Nicholas Sambanis
Native Son by Richard A. Wright
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Stolen Life : Journey Of A Cree Woman by Rudy Wiebe, Yvonne Johnson
POSSESSION: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
The Adventures of Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey by Tony Millionaire
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Awakening the Virgin by Nicole Foster

* Unspeakably terrible. I stopped reading it part way through.
* This must be the worst book of lesbian erotica ever! Why oh why didn't I notice that the description said
"amateur writing" and "true tales" before I ordered it on Amazon!

Things that have been making me happy lately...

The Knight & The Wizard, by Gene Wolfe - At first I didn't like them because they felt very video-gamish in plot and because Wolfe likes to kill off a lot of minor characters that you've grown attached to. But then about a third of the way into the first book, the main character thinks out loud to himself " was like a big video game, except I was on the screen. Or virtual reality maybe. I sort of felt at my head for the gear, but there was not any..." Once I read that I felt better. I decided to read it as if it were just a glorified video game plot made into a book (or a glorified TV- show-to-book...*cough* Neverwhere *cough*) and then the plot and the sometimes forced-sounding dialogue became more acceptable. And now - part way through The Wizard - I've actually let myself start to like some of the characters and I'm finding myself reobsessing over medieval concepts of honor and 'knightliness.' (As for the minor characters - well, a bunch were killed in the first half of book one but now things seem to have calmed down. Some minors even made it into book 2 - wow!)

The Fellowship of the Ring, the movie* - No, not the entire series because, though it pains me to say it, I think The Return of the King was just slightly less good then the others. I think that Fellowship was the best. It might be that I feel this way because 1) I just rewatched the extended version of Fellowship for the first time in over 1.5 years and 2) in the Fellowship, the Quest has just begun and so there seems to be more light then darkness to it, whereas Return of the King is so very dark in places, especially the Mordor bits with Sam and Frodo and 3) the Fellowship seems to capture the perfect combination of humour and heart-wrenching emotion (as well as splendidly showcasing the archetypal human flaws, but then, that's more Tolkien's doing then Jackson's).

However, I haven't rewatched The Two Towers lately so perhaps tomorrow I'll be rambling on about how The Two Towers is the best of the three! I do seem to do an awful lot of mind-changing!

Battlestar Galactica, the 'reimagined' TV series - I love how its grittier and darker then any Star Trek series ever was. (Actually, I think the only series that I could compare it to somewhat would have to be Buffy - but only to certain seasons, particularly 6 and 7.) And I like how I can sometimes predict what's going to happen in an episode not because the plots aren't well-written or challengingly tricky enough but because the writers/producers aren't big on soap opera storylines - the kind that drag on and on, where nothing is ever resolved.

I could say more about BSG... Much more. Oh, and about FFXII too! But another time...

*Colin and I started watching the extended version of Fellowship on December 25 with E & M and tonight we finished it up with J's kids. Good grief! Little kids sure can be distracting! Over the course of an hour and a half I lost count of how many times I had to say "Shush!" to A and of how many tumbles and somersaults and yoga positions she went through on the carpet as she tried to find the Perfect Movie-Watching Position.


I'm not complaining, really. (Well, maybe just a little teensy bit.) I think its good for me to be around Real Children and not just the ones who are tiny perfect figments of my imagination. Its very... educational. And cautionary.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

At Night

How can I call out? How can I shout?
In silence everything is fragile as glass.
Having laid its head on the receiver,
the telephone sleeps soundly.

I'll walk across the sleeping city
through a snowy side street.
I'll go up to your window,
quietly and tenderly.

I'll protect you from the street sounds with the palms of my hands,
the streets ringing with drops of melting snow.
I'll put out the lamps to keep your eyes in sleep.
I'll command the spring to put the nightsounds in order.

So, what kind of person are you in sleep!
Your arms have grown so weak
Fatigue is concealed in the wrinkles of your eyes—
tomorrow I'll kiss them so no trace remains.

I'll watch over your sleep 'til dawn,
then leave in the clean snowy morning,
forgetting about my tracks in the snow,
through the dry leaves of last autumn.

Daniel Halpern with Albert Todd

(Just before Jade closed down LOTL, I dashed in and grabbed everything I thought I might wish I had kept - including almost all of the poetry, particularly the ones written by us. I can't remember who posted the above, but its one that's always stuck in my head - that first line especially.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just in time for Christmas...

Its official: the final book will be called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"I'm writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more," Rowling wrote. "I don't think anyone who has not been in a similar situation can possibly know how this feels: I am alternately elated and overwrought. I both want, and don't want, to finish this book (don't worry, I will)."

In unhappier news, I fear I need a new computer. This one is deathly slow.* Eeep.

* Meaning I feel like smashing it to death.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sick of shopping? Feeling mauled at the mall? Consumed by consumerism? Board the "Burnout Bus!"

"While many of us don't do the shopping routine, we still have a heart for the people lost in the maze of the search for the perfect gift," said Enns, the Winnipeg-based founder and publisher of Geez magazine and former Adbusters staff member."We will have a couple of chairs to sit on, a church pew, a couple of ministers from the United Church of Canada on hand ready to talk with people who feel stressed out, who feel they've lost a sense of meaning in this season."

If we all buy nothing this Christmas, won’t a lot of people lose their jobs?

Yes, and now we’re getting close to the core reasons for why Buy Nothing Christmas is necessary in the first place: Our economy is based on a consumer-driven capitalism. And because it’s the only economy we have right now, if we stop shopping we stop the economy. Hence we had President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien telling citizens to get on with their lives after the September 11 terrorist attacks and shop. But there are pitfalls of our current economic system: We work too hard to save money to buy things we don’t really need, we buy into a standard of living that that reinforces the gap between the rich and poor, and we ruin the earth to a point where we’ll eventually all lose our jobs anyway.

from the FAQ on How to Have a Buy-Nothing-Christmas
Thoughts on Kids & Christmas...

Yikes, I wouldn't have thought we'd be hearing about robot rights so soon! Does this mean we're entering... the Future?

So anyhow, speaking of the future - when I have kids* I'm going to do all sorts of weird experiments on them. Like, denying them TV and home schooling them (if I can afford to...) and having a weekly family study night (in a non-JW way, which should be interesting) and enrolling them in community service activities.

Along those lines, lately I've been thinking about how it was perhaps quite beneficial to my sister and I to be raised without so many (stupid?) forced holidays. When I think of the countless birthday presents I was saved from having to buy, I feel... relief! One part of me thinks that birthdays are a nice idea. Another part of me thinks that there's a fine line between celebrating the day of one's birth and excessive, obligatory present buying.

It all comes down to the fact that I feel present buying and even celebration should be motivated by desire rather then a feeling of compulsion. I really don't like the idea of my children feeling that they are entitled to gifts at certain times of year and feeling that they can gluttonously ask for (or demand) presents galore.

I also don't appreciate that everyone celebrates this present-giving festival all at once. As a result many of us don't associate Christmas with peace but rather with crazed shoppers.

So my plan is to skip presents at Christmas when I have kids. Okay, maybe one or two presents each, but that's it. Instead the focus is going to be on family and cultural activities - e.g. taking time to go sledding, having a stay at home cooking day, decorating the house, having a family & friends Christmas party, going out to hear a choir, taking a drive (or walk) out into the country.

Please note: I could also list off numerous "good works" that I'd like to do with my kids but those aren't going to be limited to the holiday time. (Ideally, I'd like to replace the JW service with a new version of service. More on what I associate with true service some other time; my quotes may give you some insight.) You see, last year, Karina and I called the Salvation Army at Christmas time to offer ourselves as willing workers in their soup kitchen. We were treated very rudely and flat out rejected and that's when it dawned on us that Christmas was the ONLY TIME OF YEAR that most people volunteer! We naively thought that everyone else in the world would be so busy with their families at Christmas that no one would be out helping! We figured since we had no family to spend the holidays with and most of our friends were busy with their own families that we would do some useful work instead.

I still feel rather peeved about the way the SA person brushed us off, but at least I get it now. Still, if they'd been a little friendlier and had suggested that we volunteer at a different time and mentioned a time when they really could use the help they would probably have acquired some new volunteers. Instead they just assumed that we only wanted to volunteer at Christmas so that we could feel we'd 'done our part.'

Ah, well. If anyone does know of any charities/organizations that could use some help around Christmas (just tell them we're Jewish, for Pete's sake), please let me know.

*A new era of non-fundamentalist Christian children will arise!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Don't Wanna Grow Up...

When I’m lyin’ in my bed at night
I don’t wanna grow up
Nothing ever seems to turn out right
I don’t wanna grow up
How do you move in a world of fog that’s
always changing things
Makes me wish that I could be a dog
When I see the price that you pay
I don’t wanna grow up

I don’t ever want to be that way
I don’t wanna grow up
Seems that folks turn into things
that they never want
The only thing to live for is today…
I’m gonna put a hole in my T.V. set
I don’t wanna grow up
Open up the medicine chest
I don’t wanna grow up
I don’t wanna have to shout it out
I don’t want my hair to fall out
I don’t wanna be filled with doubt
I don’t wanna be a good boy scout
I don’t wanna have to learn to count
I don’t wanna have the biggest amount
I don’t wanna grow up
Well when I see my parents fight
I don’t wanna grow up
They all go out and drinkin all night
I don’t wanna grow up
I’d rather stay here in my room
Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom
I don’t wanna live in a big old tomb on grand street
When I see the 5 oclock news
I don’t wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don’t wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don’t wanna put no money down
I don’t wanna get a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don’t wanna float on a broom
Fall in love, get married then boom
How the hell did it get here so soon
I don’t wanna grow up

Lyrics by Tom Waits by way of Zota

If you wanna see Tom Waits sing it (although I like the version sung by Holly Cole better)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Claw has posted about the disappointment that is the Eragon movie.

I can't say I'm surprised. I picked up the first Eragon book and couldn't even get through the first chapter - it just seemed like a not very good rehashing of LOTR. (Even worse, it almost reminded me of Terry Brooks! *shudder*)

Anyhow, among the comments in response to Elliot-the-Claw's original post, I said (yes, I'm about to quote myself...):
...Its nice to get kids involved in fantasy and adventure but most are anyhow, regardless of what movies they see. It bothers me that there is such a lesser quality standard for childrens' books and movies then there is for adults.

I've been watching a lot of kids movies lately with Aelys and so many of them are just rubbish - pathetic dialogue, illogical plot, no moral lessons - just tripe.

It makes me think that just screening movies for violence and sexuality and profanity isn't necessarily good enough. You have to screen movies for intellectual worth too!

I'm not saying that all kids movies should teach things but even a kids comedy should have a challenging level of humor rather then taking a dumbed down, thinly veiled 'South Park' approach.

Further to this - I think that if we want to raise intelligent, creative children we shouldn't just be plopping them down in front of the TV and letting them watch sub-standard "entertainment." Challenge children and realize that they are capable of a lot more then we tend to give them credit for. I've read in more then a few places that this concept we call "childhood" is a relatively new thing and is particularly isolated to North America/Europe. In my African Development class one time I remember we were talking about child soldiers and many of the Canadians in the class were ranting about how terrible it was to steal innocent children. The African people in the class didn't disagree that it was awful to concscript young people into such terrible battles but they did question our notion that a twelve or thirteen or fourteen year old boy could not be considered a man.

That said, in many ways I think our concept of childhood is wonderful - I think its a fantastic thing to give children 18 or so years to play and explore and learn without being tied down to the more difficult of 'adult' responsibilities. But those years should be formative ones used to help children grow into citizens of the world. When children turn 18, adulthood and adult responsibilities should not come as any shock. Adulthood should not be about sending children out into the 'real world,' as if for the first time. (After all, its not as if anything particularly magical happens when one reaches one's 18th birthday!) Rather, perhaps it should be about conferring youth with new privileges and new opportunities - ones that they don't have to dread but can be excited about. It should be about receiving, after much preparation, the right to full participation in all aspects of human life - civil, social, and otherwise.

More on this another time, gotta get back to work. But I will add one last thing... there are a growing number of activists working to have the voting age changed in their countries to 16 rather then 18 or 21. I'm sure you can deduce the reasons for that. The push is towards giving youth more of a say in the world, rather then less.

I say, if we're going to give youth a say at an even younger age, let's start informing them.

Friday, December 15, 2006

If I should learn, in some quite casual way...

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,

I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.


(The painting is The Bayswater Omnibus by George W. Joy via ArtMagick)
I dreamed I went to Heaven...

I dreamed I went to Heaven, once, and in the bookshop there
I went, the way I always go, to R.
Even though I've all the Renault, even though it isn't fair,
Even though I know there won't be any more.

And there were six new Renaults, six new books I've never seen,
Six unknown books she'd written since she died,
And I picked them up and held them feeling happy as a queen,
And a voice said, "Have you looked the other side?"

"There are four new Tolkiens waiting, he could never write them fast,
There are thirty Heinleins, written at his best,
There is Piper, there's Dunsany, there's more Sayers here at last,
And O'Brian, and Zelazny, and the rest."

And I staggered there in Heaven, as my arms and eyes spilled o'er,
And I said "Now where to start I just don't know,
I am rich in wealth of Heaven's books, here gathered on the floor,
Amd four hundred years of Shakespeare still to go!"

(June 2000)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mary Poppins goes horror.

Wondermark challenges our indignation over super-chain book stores.

Have you heard about the new Pentecostalgon?

Annnnd.... Anactoria has no time to post anything very 'meaningful' on this blog right now because she is too busy obsessively playing Final Fantasy XII - the most beautiful video game in the world!*

* Sorry, ICO...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You know you're really sick when six pain killers have absolutely no effect on your physical state.


(I know, I know - I should be braving the pain naturally and suffering in silence like the gods intended, right?)

In other news...


All this time I've been under the misimpression that the 2006 Beowulf & Grendel movie was the one with the screenplay written by the not-as-awesome-as-Gene-Wolfe-but-still-pretty-fracking-awesome Neil Gaiman! My expectations were crushed when it received terrible reviews (from critics and reliable friends alike) and I still haven't watched it.

However, today I was catching up on my pop trivia by reading Wiki bios when I stumbled across this:
"Beowulf is a motion capture film starring Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie with a scheduled release date of October 2007"


I blame all of you who know me well! Why didn't you use your Esper powers and correct my error earlier?

In any case, I suppose I can take pleasure in the fact that my disappointment was all for naught and I now have 2 hopefully-good-movies-cross-your-fingers to look forward to - Stardust and Beowulf.


* Hey, I never said my blog would be meaningful or that I'd post in it often. I mean, I do aim for meaningful but so do a lot of other bloggers... *nudge* *nudge* (Forgive me, I blame the cold.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stating the obvious

Did you like The Confessions of St Augustine? Well, then you'll probably hate Sherrilyn Kenyon's Night Pleasures. Is Immanuel Kant's The Critique of Pure Reason on your bookshelf? In that case, stay clear of Confessions of a Shopaholic!

The Unsuggester safeguards you from book you may be foolish enough to think you'd like... but won't.

Of course, its not by any means foolproof! I happen to think a person might enjoy Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns and still find Little Women a good read, too!

And yes, before you ask. Yes.