Archive for May, 2011

A Silly Cat Video, Since I Haven’t Done One Lately

The other night I watched Gnomeo and Juliet (which is actually a pretty cute movie), but I had a little bit of trouble because Pippi REALLY got excited about it.

Here is what she did for the first 30 minutes of the movie.

My favorite part is when she is fascinated by the water spout.

So, if you get a chance, watch this movie if only to hear James McAvoy play Gnomeo.  Just be careful if you’ve got a cat who likes tv.

Jen

Documentary Monday~~Waiting For Superman

TitleWaiting For Superman

Year–2010

Awards–Won Best Documentary from the National Board of Review, 2010

Won Best Documentary Feature from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, 2011

Won the Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, 2010

Summary–This film takes a look at the education crisis in America today, interviewing leading members in the education field.  It also follows several students who are trying to win coveted spots at the best schools in the country.

My Thoughts–This was a really hard movie to watch because it was so upsetting.  The filmmaker (Dennis Guggenheim, who did An Inconvenient Truth) focuses on the real problem that exists in our schools today.  The numbers and facts he throws out are so startling that I literally sat there gaping at the tv with my mouth open.  (I kept chanting, thank God I’m not having kids, thank God I’m not having kids.)  Test scores are going down, down, down and the current fixes do not seem to be working at all.

The documentary looks at certain schools throughout the country that are doing things right.  The view taken by these schools and the filmmakers is that good teachers make good schools.  Basically, there are some crappy teachers in this country, and because of the way the teacher’s union contract is set up, there’s nothing we can do to get rid of them.  Now I know that now is not a good time to be hating on teachers.  I for one think teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world and think they should be making CEO level salaries.  But let’s face it, some teachers really suck.  We’ve all had at least one (hello, high school chemistry teacher!).

One example of just how messed up the system is, happened a while ago when some students used a hidden camera to record teachers reading the paper at their desk and putting a student’s head in a toilet.  The principal of the school fired the teachers, but then had to hire them back with a year’s back pay because it violated their contracts to fire them.  I’m sorry, but if you are terrible at your job, your boss should be able to fire you no matter what your contract says.

Anyway, moving on from that little rant…the really heartbreaking part of the film involves several students from horrible neighborhoods who are trying to get into some of those awesome schools that are really working.  Hundreds to thousands of children enter lotteries around the country to fill the tiny amount of spots available.  Tears were rolling down my face at the end of the film as the kids and their families sat waiting for their number to be called.

Final Verdict–This is a fantastic movie that every parent and teacher should watch.  I am neither, but I still found it heartbreaking and touching.

Jen

The Montmaray Journals: Book Review

I obsess over Forever Young Adult’s Book Reports.  I wish I had created the format myself.  I desperately want to create a book review format that is fun and quick to read but is not completely stealing theirs.  So in order to tell you about 2 amazing books I am going to borrow from their format by attempting to create my own.  Maybe we can perfect our own book reviews over time that is remotely as awesome as FYA’s.  Also, hopefully FYA does not mind that I am encroaching upon their format.  I do it with respect and mutual love of Meg Cabot, The Hunger Games, and drinking games.

BOOK #1:  A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

This book is also book #1 in the Montmaray Journals trilogy.  I fell in love with this book from the cover.  Sophie FitzOsborne is a princess of Montmaray, a tiny island nation somewhat near Spain, France, and England.  Their tiny island is only home to a handful of villagers, King John (Sophie’s uncle) who is crazy, Veronica (Sophie’s slightly older cousin, the King’s daughter), Toby (Sophie’s slightly older brother), Henry (Sophie’s younger sister), Rebecca (the only person King John will tolerate), and Rebecca’s son Simon.  Sophie’s mother and father died years before, and with King John crazy and confined to his bedroom, the older cousins are basically in charge.  Sophie keeps count of their humdrum lives on the island in her journal.  Things are pretty quiet, except – oh, wait – it’s 1936 and there are rumblings of conflict in Europe that reaches even tiny Montmaray.

I admit that the first portion of this book is pretty low-key.  Don’t except a lot of action.  However, we do get to learn about the amazing characters and get a description of Montmaray.  But soon unexpected visitors arrive that will change their lives forever.

BOOK #2:  The FitzOsbornes in Exile

The FitzOsbornes in Exile

In Book #2, the FitzOsbornes are living with their aunt Charlotte in England.  I will not go into much detail on the plot or I may ruin things in book 1, and I suspect not too many people have read it yet.  But please do!  This book was SOO GOOD.  I totally loved it!  Even more than the first.  It’s the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to end.  The characters are fabulous – all fully developed and different from one another.  The plot is compelling – from the more light-hearted (romantic?) sections to the heavier, war-is-coming portions.

**Fun Fact:  Kelly over at Stacked showed us a double take with the cover of FitzOsbornes.  I find it completely fascinating when covers have doubles.  And especially when the play a game of “One of these things is not like the other.”**

So, to break it down —

Livability (how much you want to live in the world that was established in the books):  4/5
Montmaray sounds lovely, though a little isolated.  They only hear from people when ships stop by with their mail.  It’d probably be a good place to vacation to get away from it all…until near the end of the book.  😦

No, Don’t Go! (how much the characters stay with you when you’re done):  5/5
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t want to stop reading.  All day when I was done, I kept wanting to pick up the book again and read more pages that didn’t exist.  And not because there’s a cliffhanger or anything.  Just because I generally enjoy the characters and want to spend more time with them.  Fortunately there will be a 3rd book.  Unfortunately I have no idea when it comes out.  Please hurry, Ms. Cooper!!

 

Awards —

I Capture the Castle 

Similar cover, similar main character.  If you like that one, go read these!

 

Secret Learning

 

I used to LOVE historical fiction when I was a teenager.  I’m a total history nerd, and I always loved when I’d read a great fiction book that made me want to learn more about real facts.  I don’t feel like I’ve read too many great YA historical fiction books in the last few years.  I’ve read some that were ok, but only these have left me feeling like I subconsciously learned some things and inspired to learn more.  There were definitely a few times when reading The FitzOsbornes in Exile when I turned to the Internet to confirm a fact or check to see when something would happen.  Ms. Cooper definitely did a lot of research, and even though Montmaray is a fictional country, the story felt completely real.  And for any librarians/teachers reading, there is an author’s note at the end – of The FitzOsbornes in Exile at least.  I can’t remember about A Brief History of Montmaray but I’d guess there’s one there too.

 

Tomboy

FYI: Yes, that is totes a picture of Tootie from Meet Me in St. Louis.  She is exactly who I kept picturing as Sophie’s younger sister Princess Henrietta aka Henry.  Henry is awesome.  She loves to get into trouble, is a total tomboy, and refuses to be denied things just because she’s a little girl in the mid 1930s.  One of my only complains about The FitzOsbornes in Exile is that Henry is not in it enough.  A few of her spunky moments include times with her pet pig, nearly causing a riot at Buckingham Palace, and aiding in the capture of a crazed assassin.

 

Journal/Diary Format

Sometimes books in journal entries are a hit or miss for me.  I don’t necessarily want to be fully removed from the action and only told about it later, but Sophie is very good at remembering conversations and is often designated secretary, so entries are written with full dialogue.  There’s also a risk of an unreliable narrator, but I believe Sophie to be very trustful and reliable, so I think everything is just as it happened.

If you are a Goodreads friend, you’ll see that I gave A Brief History of Montmaray a 4/5 and The FitzOsbornes in Exile a 5/5.  So what are you waiting for?  Go read them!!!

– Jill

Abandon: The Negative

As Lindsay mentioned in her previous post about Meg Cabot’s Abandon, I was not a fan.  I figured instead of adding a lengthy comment on her post, I’d write my own.  So this post is about my reasons for disliking a book by Meg Cabot.

**SPOILER WARNING**

If you have not yet read Abandon, continue at your own risk.  I may (will probably) include some spoilers, so if you haven’t read it and are ok with that, then carry on.  However, I encourage you to run to your local library or a bookstore, read it for yourself and form your own opinions, and then read Lindsay’s post, then mine, and let us know what you think.

I’m not going to rewrite a summary when Lindsay already did that, so let’s just jump into it.

Ok, first of all, I had a HUGE problem with the way it was written.  The plot jumps around and is not told chronologically.  Some things are mentioned that happened earlier and it really confused me.  For example, when Pierce returns Mr. Smith’s phone call, it’s just tossed in there and it only took me a second read through to understand that it had happened EARLIER but she was mentioning it later.  I don’t know why it couldn’t have just been mentioned before whatever was happening when it was thrown in.  Another time this happened and confused me had something to do with Pierce and her mother talking to a guidance counselor and her necklace.  It still kind of confuses me, so sorry if that doesn’t make sense.

Another thing that really annoyed me was all of the cliffhangers.  Especially the ones that seem to start with “If I had known…”  Like If I had known this would be the last time I’d see John, I would have asked him some questions.  That is totally not a quote- I don’t have the copy of the book anymore.  Sorry.  Hopefully you know what I mean.  It seemed to be repeated all the time, and it got old.

The last big problem I have with it is the affair with the teacher.  Yes, I know sometimes, unfortunately, this happens in real life but I feel like this is a weird trend in YA books.  It annoys me that teachers get portrayed this way in books when that negative view always seems to beat out positive teacher role models in books.  And I am suddenly blanking on any positive teachers.  Oh wait!  Mr. G in Princess Diaries.  Ok, good.  Anyway, between this, TTYL, and Pretty Little Liars, there’s a lot of bad teachers out there.  So it bothered me to see another.  By the way, I swear I read a blog post within the last few months about this trend in YA lit but I have no idea which blog that was.  Anybody remember it?  Help!

Also, I do agree with Lindsay and her reasons not to like the story- John and Pierce’s “love” is weird to me too.  She repeatedly does the “Why would he like ME?” thing, which can be annoying.  I read a blog post about female characters that do that too much too.  Again, can’t remember where.  I need to save these or something.  If you read that and remember where, please let me know so I can reread it and link to it!

I don’t understand what’s going on with Uncle Chris or Alex either.  I assume that will be fleshed out later, but it was kind of frustrating to never find out.  Oh, I also disliked the rich kids using Pierce just for her house so they could hide the coffin.  I’m sad her mom fell for that.

Even though I didn’t like it, I might read the next one when it comes out.  Maybe.

– Jill

Abandon: Let’s Talk About It

*Warning**If you’re reading this in google reader, the jump doesn’t show up for some reason. It does on the wordpress site, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for Abandon, I suggest you click on over to the site 🙂 https://nerdgirltalking.wordpress.com/
Howdy y’all!

Being stuck in the middle of the cicada apocalypse has done wonders for my reading habits. By coating the outside world, the cicadas have pretty much ensured that I no longer go outside, which means that I have ample time for reading! Last night I read Abandon by Meg Cabot. I know, I know. It’s been out for like forever, but I finally just got around to reading it. It is really not like me to let a Meg Cabot book go unread for so long, but it happened.

This past weekend I was talking to fellow Nerdgirl Amber (in her new house!! YAY!) and she told me that our other fellow Nerdgirls, Jill and Jen, DIDN’T like Abandon! I realize that I have been very neglectful of Twitter lately and so I am v. v. sad to have missed out on this – I promise I will not let my Twitter checking lapse again! But anyways, after reading the book, I might just maybe be able to see why they didn’t like the book. I will go on the record as saying that I DID like the book. I mean, I didn’t LOVE LOVE LOVE it like The Princess Diaries or Teen Idol or anything, but I will probably reread it again and will totally be buying the rest of the series as it comes out (but then again, one of my personal goals is to own every single book written by Meg Cabot, sooooooo…).

I feel like this picture sums up why I want Meg as one of my BFFs.

So let’s see…I should probably give you a summary of what the book is about, right? You should know by now that Abandon is a retelling of the myth of Persephone. Or rather, not exactly a retelling, more like.. I don’t know? More like Abandon was inspired by the myth. Or at least that’s how I feel. I do remember reading the Persephone myth way back in the day, and even though I couldn’t tell you exact details, I could tell you a general overview that I feel would be pretty correct. As I read Abandon, I couldn’t help but feel that if it was a retelling, it wasn’t being super true to the original myth. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I’m not going to tell you why because that would be pretty spoilery. Let’s just say that I thought it was more like, oh yeah, I can see what part of the myth you used there.

But back to the summary – Persephone. Underworld. It’s not spoiling anything to tell you that when Pierce Oliviera was 15, she died. But she was brought back to life through CPR and those shocky thingies the EMTs use to restart a person’s heart. You know what I’m talking about. I’m having a total brain fart right now. Seriously, what are those thingies called? Jumpers? Whatever. So Pierce got another chance at life. Now she’s 17 and after an unfortunate event at her prestigious all-girl’s school in Connecticut, Pierce moves with her mother to Isle Huesos to start over again. However Isla Huesos is where Pierce met John for the first time. The second time she met him was in the Underworld after she died. I think we all can guess who John is in the “re-telling”.

Ok, that’s enough for the summary. I tend to get really spoilery if I let myself go on and on and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. So from here on out, I’m doing that linky thingy again that I did for Jen and I’s joint post about Anna and the French Kiss :). So if you’ve read Abandon already or your name is Amber and you like to ignore these warnings, go ahead and click on the jump!

The 13 Year Cicadas AKA My Nightmare

You guys. Something seriously uncool is happening down here in Tennessee. Well, two things really – have you heard about that ridiculous Don’t Say Gay bill that is making its way towards becoming an actual law? But that’s not what this post is about. No. This post is about the “13-year cicadas”.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty danged afraid of bugs. That is a FACT. I loath all bugs. Some I can tolerate better than others, but really, I hate them all. Pretty high on my hate list? The cicada.

Pictured: The curent face of evil.

This weekend I was up in Iowa for a wedding and we got back super early this morning. Before we left, the cicadas weren’t thaaaaat bad. I mean, yes, I could hear them and I saw all their disgusting dead bodies squashed all over the sidewalk, but it wasn’t super terrible or anything. Then, this morning when we turned off our car, we found out what the swarm sounded like. But it got worse. I walked home this afternoon and I think my eardrums almost burst. I’m not kidding! It was so freaking loud! And I also had to run because I started having a panic attack. Why? Because there were cicadas EVERYWHERE. They were buzzing around on the ground, they were flying around in the air, they were on all of the walls. I’ll give you some perspective. First. Here is a video from someone who lives in Green Hills, the neighborhood down the street from me (it’s where the super nice mall is and also the closest library to me).

That was posted on May 11, about 3 days after the cicadas first emerged. It’s so much worse now. In addition to all those jerks sitting on the ground, there are just as many flying around in the air and sitting on crap all around. Again, I will say it: THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!

Want to hear what they sound like? Here’s this: WARNING: you may want to turn down your volume, I’m not lying – it hurts your ears!

I took my own video with PhotoBooth but then it wouldn’t show it due to errors so I went and found this lady’s video. I’m not sure where she lives, but that is honestly what it sounds like on my walk home. Seriously, these things need to just go the heck away. I can’t wait until they’re all dead and I don’t have to run to and from work. I know that they won’t hurt me, but does anybody really enjoy having a huge ass bug flying into their hair? And they’re just so loud! I noticed that around the streets they’re louder. Anytime a car or truck would zoom by the cicadas would get louder, as if they were competing with the other noise. It seriously hurt my ears.

Well, wish me luck on surviving this nightmare down here. I honestly cannot figure out how I’m going to function normally down here until they’re gone.

Hearts!

Lindsay

Documentary Monday~~Helvetica

TitleHelvetica

Year–2007

Awards–Nominated for the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, 2008

Summary–Experts in the field of typography and graphic design discuss the history and eventual dominance of the Helvetica typeface.

My Thoughts–I hope all those words I used in the summary were right.  This documentary was filled with so much terminology and information that I was only halfway familiar with, so I might not have used it all correctly 🙂

I do an awful lot of reading throughout a typical day, but I almost never think about the typeface I am seeing at any given moment.  The only time I have ever really thought about it was at Amber’s amazing program during Phoenix Rising (woohoo go Amber!!).  This documentary was really fascinating to me because I guess I had never thought about the fact that people have to “make” fonts.  I think my favorite part of the whole thing was when someone talked about their process for creating a new typeface.  He said that he would start with the “h” because it has height and a whole bunch of other important characteristics that I can’t quite remember.  Then he would move on to a letter like “o” that had the rounded element and see how they looked next to each other.  So cool!

I also really loved how they kept showing numerous street signs and ads and everything else under the sun in little montages that all used Helvetica.  I see it every day in things like Target, Energizer, and Gap, but I would never really have recognized it until now.

The film talks about how Helvetica is like air or off-white paint; you don’t really notice that it’s there but it does the perfect job that it is supposed to.  There is a bit about how the typeface originated in Switzerland and literally means “the Swiss” typeface.  Then it goes on to discuss how views of Helvetica have changed over the years.

This is a topic that I didn’t know very much about and certainly don’t think about very often, so I learned a lot while watching.  Now I am watching TV and I am totally seeing it pop up all over the commercials!

Final Verdict–If you are a nerdgirl (or nerdboy) you will appreciate this in depth look at a simple (or is it?) typeface.

Jen