Friday, October 14, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #139 - Vanity Fair

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Vanity Fair by William Thackeray. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List, the Observer Book List, and My Book List.

Vanity Fair had sat on my shelf for many years because I was not in the mood for more of the 18th century "romance novels". The kind of novels that were exemplified by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen's works. They are all right to read once, but too much of that stuff wears me down. I feel there is no real "meat" in those books, just all fluff. Vanity Fair, though, is not one of those 18th century romances. In fact, it is the quintessential opposite in which Thackeray purposely makes fun of those novels in his presentation. Thackeray's main characters are often vain ("vanity" is in the title), selfish, petulant, and immoral. Everything you wouldn't expect from an 18th romance novel. This actually made it a pleasant reading experience. I even laughed out loud at several instances throughout the book. The book is set up as written by someone who is acquainted with the main characters and is narrating their story as a storyteller would. This goes so far as to even have the narrator frequently making reference to the fact that you are reading a book that he is retelling. In terms of story, the main character, Becky Sharp, is not a hero. She is not even likable through much of the story. The only time that she may actually be likable is when you aren't sure if she is being sincere, which I am not convinced ever happens. Although she is the main character, the plot of the story works its way through two main families (the Crawleys and the Osbornes) as well, taking it's leave of Becky when other story lines would take precedent. The plot and time moves steadily on throughout the story with characters coming and going as needed. My main problem with the book, though is that even though the writing is very well done, the story itself is rather dull at times. At over 700 pages long, it takes a long time to work through the narrative. The story could have been trimmed up pretty easily making the pace move a bit faster. I would often get bored of reading the book and need to put it down for a few days because there was nothing drawing me to read more. However, as I moved on towards the end I felt the urge to keep reading build up. Overall, I would say that the story was enjoyable, and funny at times, if not a little bit long winded, but a recommend nonetheless. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The 100 Greatest Movies - #97 Bringing Up Baby

I am in the process of watching all of the 100 Greatest movies according to AFI. 

The current film I just watched is Bringing Up Baby, which is #97

This movie is also on the 10th Anniversary List (#88), the 100 Greatest Comedies list (#14), and the 100 Greatest Romances list (#51).

This movie caught my eye a while ago because it was about a paleontologist, and being a paleontologist myself I was curious. Since this is an older comedy though I was cautious. What people found to be funny at that time and current days standards are often very different, however this was on the 100 Greatest Movies list and seemed to be ranked highly among comedies so I gave it a shot. In regards to the movie itself, even though the paleontology was downright atrocious (if those dinosaur skeletons looked any faker I may have vomited) the movie was actually enjoyable. I even laughed out loud a couple of times, something I don't often say for these older movies even if I enjoy them. The plot is thin but the characters are fun for the most part. Hepburn's character could use a good punch in the face though. She plays a very spacey woman who seems to not understand what she is doing the majority of the time while in the process of "ruining" Grant's chances of obtaining a grant for his museum. Things work out in the end of course, because how often do they not? Overall, I'd say an enjoyable movie and well worth the cost of admission.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 Personal Goals - Month 8 Update

Eight months in, taken quite a large break between posts.

1. Finish 1st Draft of my Novel
Start - Again on the list.

2. Drop weight to 167
Start - This has also been on the list since the beginning. Starting at 179.7
Month 1 - 179.0
Month 8 - 189.6

3. Read 1 of the Top Ten Books on Zane's List
Start - In the middle of The Stories of Anton Chekhov.

4. Read 6 books on the Sybervision Book List (including 2 in the Science or Philosophy sections)
Start - Current count is at 89.
Month 1 - In the middle of The World as Will and Idea
Month 8 - Finished The World as Will and Idea and The Three Musketeers. 4 to go.

5. Read a total of 12 books on my book list. (need to get to 200 books by my 40th birthday)
Start - Currently my total count is at 131.
Month 1 - Finished Artemis Fowl. 11 to go.
Month 2 - Finished Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 10 to go.
Month 3 - Finished Mort. 9 to go.
Month 8 - Finished Guards Guards!, The World as Will and Idea, and The Three Musketeers. 6 to go.

6. Finish 1 more Geological Movie Review
Start - Earthquake still looks like the best bet.

7. Watch 10 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
Start - Current count is at 75.
Month 8 - Watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. 9 to go.

8. Finish 50 things on the Blog/Website, with 25 specifically on my To Do list.
Start - My To Do list currently has ~150 things on it.
Month 1 - Finished 5. 45 to go.
Month 2 - Finished 6. 44 to go.
Month 3 - Finished 8. 42 to go.
Month 4 - Finished 10. 40 to go.

9. Finish 8 things on the House Things to do List
Start - The list currently has 27 things on it.
Month 1 - In the middle of the kitchen remodel still.
Month 2 - Finished 1 item, installing new furnace. 7 to go.

10. Finish skinning the top of the hovercraft
Start - Hopefully I can make some time to get to it this year.

11. Get my 5K time under 25 minutes
Start - My current best is 28:32

12. Collect and photograph all of the Star Wars Comics
Start - I got most of this done last year. It's time to finish this up and move on this year.
Month 1 - Only one comic left to go. Photographed box 5.
Month 8 - I have almost everything collected and photographed. I have 1 box left to go.

13. Submit my Masters Thesis for Publication
Start - Last year was actually spent getting a chapter of my dissertation published. Let's move on and get this done this year. This was the last big thing I had left to get published which I wrote before.

14. Get caught up on my Star Wars to read pile
Start -  Right now I have more than a bookshelf full of books that I am behind on reading.
Month 1 - Slowly working through my pile of stuff to read when I get the chance.
Month 2 - Still reading through the pile.

15. Watch and re-review an entire list of one of the 10 Top Ten Movies
Start - I finished one set of 10 last year. I plan on doing another set this year.
Month 8 - Watched/rewatched Back to the Future and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies list. 8 to go.

16. Collect, photograph, and organize my Star Wars novel collection
Start - I have it mostly set with paperbacks but I would like to get the collection organized and get the first release hardcovers.

-----------------------------------------------Other items of note-------------------------------------------------

The biggest thing in my life is that I have quit my job to be a stay at home dad as of the beginning of August. My daughter was off of school until the last week of August so most of my "free" time was spent with her. Otherwise I have been working on getting the house into a "clean" shape where it will be easy to maintain. Currently I am starting to get there and have had more time to work on my own stuff lately. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #138 - The Three Musketeers

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and My Book List.

After having read several books on the list that were either partially or entirely a drag to read, it was a tremendous surprise to find out how much I really liked this book. The Three Musketeers is actually very easy to read and I swear, it feels as if it could have been written today. However, this is not one of those books that has a higher intellectual purpose. This is an action/adventure flick in book form. It goes from one action "scene" to the next all the way to the end. The story follows a man named D'Artanian, who, at the being of the story, was not a musketeer. Shortly he befriends three men who go by the names Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, which are the entitled Three Musketeers. The funny thing about this story though is that it really isn't about the three musketeers at all. They are supporting characters at best, and in the case of Porthos, he is even called out in the story as almost superfluous. Even with this, it doesn't detract from the story at all, and there are several instances where different character's fates were not what I was expecting at all (and if this was written today would have been completely different in my opinion). There were a couple of things that didn't work for me. The main one was the long winded section where Milady is describing her past and how she got to where she was at that point in the book. The problem is, all of that story was a lie, and the reader knew it was a lie while she was giving the story. So, it felt like a complete waste of the reader's time, which is already being taken up for a while with this >600 page book. But besides that, I ripped through this book faster than I have read a book in a long time. This is a must read that I'm adding onto my must-read list.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The 100 Greatest Movies - #22: 2001: A Space Odyssey

I am in the process of watching all of the Top 10 Science Fiction movies according to AFI and reviewing them for my list (

The current film I just watched is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is #1

This movie is also on the 100 Greatest Movies list (#22), the 10th Anniversary List (#15), the 100 Greatest Thrillers list (#40), and the 100 Most Inspirational Movies (#47).

Having never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey before, I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting myself into. I had known only a few scant details of the plot and/or images of the movie but in reality I knew nothing. I'll probably spoil the plot going over the details, so if you wish to go in spoiler free, I wouldn't read any further. We start off in the distant past, when hominids first started tool use. These hominids are "visited (?)" by a monolith (one of the few things I knew about the movie was the presence of these monoliths). The monolith appears to have jump started mankind into tool use. We flash forward to the distant future (2000 or 2001) where a scientist is heading out to a dig site on the moon. Within a pit on the moon another monolith has been uncovered (I have no idea what happened to the first one on Earth). The moon monolith transmits a signal to Jupiter upon being discovered but other than that is silent. This prompts an expedition to Jupiter 18 months later (maybe this is 2001?) with one of the most well known sci-fi computers in history, HAL, leading the way (I love his unsettling design and voice). Upon arrival at Jupiter we find another monolith and all hell breaks loose because I don't have a clue as to what is going on. There's a baby and...the end. 

For the most part this movie is visually breathtaking, but ploddingly slow. My wife would look up at the screen every couple of minutes to see if anything new had happened. It didn't. The visuals could almost make up for it, but I feel that Kubrick purposely drug out the scenes to emphasize the slowness (much to the detriment of the modern audience I am sure). The entire movie is rather slow up until the end, when everything kicks into psychedelic. Truthfully, I was rather interested in the movie, wondering from the get go if would we get a reason for the monoliths. My feelings wavered throughout the movie, sometimes thinking we were going to get no answers at all and sometimes thinking we would get answers to everything. However, at the end of everything, I have no clue what we got, besides a WTF. The ending definitely felt like something pulled straight from Contact (or I guess vice versa based on creation dates). But no, I don't think we got an answer. This is the type of movie that film schools thrive on I'm sure, trying to piece out the meaning behind everything. I prefer an answer though. Overall my thoughts on the movie were that, besides the slowness, I was in for most of it. The monolith music was suitably unsettling, and everything about the movie from the sound design to the visuals had me. But my big problem with the movie was that I wanted to know what was going on. I needed to know. Unfortunately, I never found out. I feel like I should watch this movie again to possibly discover an answer hidden in it, however I don't think I can do it.