Friday, May 31, 2013

65 Books in a Year: Book #15 Class of '88 Freshman

Ok, so I first read this series in 6th grade. While I was completing the April A-Z Challenge, this series became my topic for "T", I decided to read the whole series again.

I read the series a lot while growing up and you'd think with how often I talk about it (read more about that here, here, and here) that I'd have already reread it for this blog. It wasn't that I didn't want to read the series again, it was just that I had such fond memories of it that I didn't want my adult brain to ruin it. I LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH!

So, I reread it with trepidation and then a funny thing happened. While thinking of myself as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior in high school, I was also thinking about my students.

Thinking about the books in this manner made me look at each in two ways 1] as a piece of nostalgia and 2] as a how-to manual of sorts. I'll be talking about each book in this manner.

Class of '88 Freshman
The Story
I think this book has one of the best beginnings. Five friends all wrapped up in one another in their childhood hang-out, a tree house, anxiously waiting for the first day of school. Only this first day won't be like any other as they are going to a brand-new high school and several junior highs are flowing into make up the student body. Allie and Cecilia are so different that they must be best friends. Nick and Meg are the group leaders and also the best of friends. Sean is the nerdy member of the group, best friend to all, but sort of an outsider as well. Their experiences are typical of every high school freshman. Allie and Cecilia want to try out for cheerleading, but only one has the looks and the potential. The other must find another way to fit in. Their friendship slowly fades. In a different atmosphere Nick and Meg realize that they may be more than friends; the only problem is that they realize this at different times. This goes on through-out their high school experience. And, Sean has to realize that he's more than the smart hanger-on to a star football player. He must find his own merit. It takes a shocking event for him to begin the journey.

As A Piece of Nostalgia
I remembered reading this for the first time and being enthralled with the idea of high school. While the story that occurs in this book (five friends entering a new high school) doesn't happen to everyone the feelings of alienation, dependence, independence and wanting to fit in are still quite real. I thought maybe this time around that I would feel a little more for the character I like the least (Cecilia) but I found myself disliking her more as I've realized those kinds of girls actually just grow up to marry boys like them and neither of them really change much, they just have annoyingly shallow children that I have to teach. I sympathized more will Allie as a kid than I do now as well as I know that girls like her turn out alright in the end. I hate her parents, but some parents are just too selfish for words. There is a scene with Sean towards the end of the book that still breaks my heart and makes me wonder how kids (same cruelty only more passive now) can be such bullies. I still have a deep love for Nick and Meg as I see myself in Meg (aside from that long hair thing) and I believe that Nick tainted (still debating whether this is good or bad) the way that I look at all boys, even today. I love how his character develops throughout the books.

As A How to Manual
Freshmen really do have bigger fish to fry than finishing their homework. They are trying to fit into high school. They are trying to understand how and why friendships are changing. They are being looked at and talked to by upper classmen. All of this is going on outside of my class. And, although I am with some of them more than they are with their parents that doesn't mean I am with them 24/7. So much inner turmoil and feelings are churning up during this year. It's a wonder that any learning occurs at all.

Seriously, this is probably the first book that I read from my youth that stood up to my feelings as an adult. I want to read it again, right now.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness...I'm rather fond of the colon

SPOILERS of everything Star Trek abound below!!!

A little history into my life as a Trekkie of the mild variety (no, I don't find the word 'trekkie' offensive and neither should you!)
I remember watching "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" at the drive-in at Ava, Missouri. I was six and my mother, uncles, aunts and the three of us piled into a couple cars to head out. I remember sitting in the hatch-back and looking up at the guy from "Fantasy Island". Surprisingly, I didn't notice how much of Ricardo's muscled chest we get to see (I'm not sure I like his warrior look!). We are a SciFi family and I remember watching "Star Trek" reruns after school. I remember loving Captain Pike played by Jeffrey Hunter. I love the Q and the Borg. I don't even know what ST movie is my favorite as I can talk about one and think it's the answer ("Insurrection" comes to mind) and then see one of my favorite scenes from another (the last 20 minutes of "Wrath of Khan" are so powerful) and waffle buckling under the pressure of a clever turn of phrase or plot line. I used to have ST: TNG stickers from cereal boxes stuck to my closet door. I love Commander Riker. I wanted hair like Troy. When I first went to Las Vegas I had to ride the "Star Trek Experience" at the Hilton. I bought gold-pressed Latinum chocolate bars. Um, I want to make an original Star Trek girl uniform out of a t-shirt. I want a phaser. I will watch every ST movie in the theatre. When she is old enough, I will start bringing my kiddo along.

OK, so now we've got that out of the way...whew...I'd like to talk about this latest reason to watch Benedict I mean the latest Star Trek movie. We watched Into Darkness for my birthday, thank-you husband for the lovely present and thanks friends for the lovely day of used bookstore shopping and awesome dinnertime fun after the movie.

Spock versus Spock, Or How I Stopped Gasping and Learned to Love the Melding of Timelines
Going into the 2009 ST I wondered how Abrams was going to pull off rebooting the story while keeping the franchise intact. Literally the whole audience cheered when Leonard Nemoy appeared and I began to understand that making a 'what-if' timeline allowed everyone to have the best of both worlds. AND...there are two perfectly multifaceted Spocks...yes, the best darned reason of all! I don't think I need to mention that new timeline Spock dates a black girl (don't think I didn't notice that one)...actually, that little argument as they headed to Kronos seemed a little too familiar. Hmmm...It's nice to think I'm married to Spock. Seriously, "The Wrath of Khan" and "The Search for Spock" made me cry buckets and still would if I let them. I love that we get the bitter (so many death scenes) with the sweet in this timelines. I do wonder, though, who else are they going to bring back and what does that mean for both timelines and while my husband says that things go downhill when you add alternate universes and people coming back from the dead JJ Abrams, cinema god that he is, makes it all work so beautifully. I also love the humor that we see in these films. And, if you want to see the dueling Spocks check this out. Thank-you lovely Barkers for showing it to us the other evening.

Holy wow! so my friends and I all hung out the other day so I could watch "The Wrath of Khan" with "Into Darkness" in my mind and my friends could watch "Khan" for the first time--I know, I know, I'm such a bad friend--I didn't know they'd never seen it. Ricardo Montalban's Khan seemed a wee bit killed my wife blah, blah, blah, revenge, blah, blah, blah, the more I suffer the more you suffer blah, blah, blah. I never felt any type of positive feeling for him. I was never on his side and I never wanted him to win to prove a point. Benedict Cumberbatch, however, plays Khan with so many facets that at one point I thought that we were going to be joining sides and I was thinking about how amazingly fun it would be on the Enterprise with Khan as we fought the Borg (pre-Hugh, of course) or tongue-twisted with Q. I was beginning to like him, and I didn't care that he killed Marcus and I was sad that he was so upset at being reanimated (or, whatever it is that you do when you unthaw someone whose been cryogenically frozen). Poor Khan. I'm glad that Spock got to beat the dickens out of him. I'm glad he isn't dead in the end.

Oh my gosh, that ending! *SPOILERS*
So, we've already talked about the timelines, but let's talk about what that means. It means that really nerdy/geeky Trek fans can compare the bifurcations against one another. And, it's in these branches that we see what great care Abrams and crew have taken to preserve the Roddenberry universe while creating a new universe. I love watching these movies taking what I know from the previous movies and seeing where things are going to change and what that means for the rest of the storyline. Throughout we are reminded of the "Kobayashi Maru"; we are reminded that every choice, even the right one has consequences. I can't wait to see what refreezing Khan and using his blood to save Kirk does to this new universe.

Favorite Quotes
"I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. I only know what I can do."

"Attention John Harrison. This is Captain Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise. A shuttle of highly trained officers is on its way to your location. If you do not surrender to them immediately, I will unleash the entire payload of advanced long-range torpedoes currently lock on to your location. You have two minutes to confirm your compliance. Refusal to do so will result in your obliteration. And, if you test me, you will fail."

"Tell me, are you feeling homicidal, power mad, despotic?"

And, because I have a friend from Iowa and I need more ways to tease her about her Iowegianess
"Are you out of your corn fed mind?"

To wrap up: love the reboot, love that we've got Star Trek with TNG wittiness, I may be in love with JJ Abrams, love Spock, more Uhura/Spock liplocking please, can't wait for the next one.

Oh, and I really want to see it again...any takers?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

65 Books in a Year: Book #14 Barney's Version

So, I read this in one day, it was that good. I really didn't want to put it down, and I didn't want it to be over.

So, confession...I read this book because I was on a quest to find the movie. I was on a quest to find the movie because it stars Scott Speedman. I've yet to see the movie, but this book is a wild ride the likes I've only seen in books by John Irving.

Barney has lost everything, the woman of his dreams, the esteem of colleagues and friends and he's murdered his best friend. And, as he falls further into dementia we learn how Barney got into the mess that is his life.

Barney's life is just as funny as it is tragic. In his life he tells the truth only twice and both times to shattering results. Boogie, his drug-addled best friend, is everything that he desires to be and Boogie rewards him by sleeping with his wife (Mrs. Panofsky #2) and leaving him holding the gun, literally, as Boogie is nowhere to be found and, even Barney doesn't know if he shot him or not.

Barney's version begins at the end and throughout we learn that while Barney may be a philandering, greedy little man he also loves passionately and gives everything he has. He has feelings and regrets nothing...well, except for maybe those two times he didn't rely on his own version of things.

I found myself laughing at the truthful absurdity of Barney's life and I found myself hoping that my life has so many gorgeous stories to tell.

I appreciate all that I learned about Jewish and Canadian culture from Barney and his three lovely wives and I look forward to reading more books by Richler.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

65 Books in a Year: Book #13 The Silver Linings Playbook

You know how it is...Bradley Cooper, with his perfect curls and dancing blue eyes, entices you to watch a movie about a man suffering a mental breakdown. You find out that said movie is actually a book and before you know it, instead of watching a movie with the chick from "The Hunger Games" and Robert DeNiro and dancing you've found the book and read it amid the chaos of the busiest time of the year.

And, even though the book isn't really about dancing and the guy doesn't really remind you of Bradley Cooper at all, you love every minute of it.

Pat Peoples is a guy who loves silver lining and he believes the world is full of them. Strangely, Pat isn't wrong about this; even when you are beaten down and someone steals your shoes there's a friend to help you. He's so sure that everything will turn out perfectly that he has blocked out any and everything that is horrible in his life. This includes how long he's been 'sent away' and it definitely includes the horrible reason that he's been sent to a mental institution in the first place.

His unorthodox psychologist keeps him grounded through their mutual love of football. His mother gives him all the love and attention he needs to help him along the way. His brother helps ease him into the present. And, Tiffany? Tiffany takes him all the biggest roller-coaster ride of his life. This includes lessons about what it means to love someone, a dance contest for the clinically depressed and a silent date at a diner.

There's never been a more romantic bowl of cereal.

I've yet to see the movie, not really sure I need to. I'm not sure that even Bradley Cooper could improve it--yes, it's just that good.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Felicity" Spring Break 2013

I found another show to obsess to/about and watched most of it during Spring Break...we had a staycation and Lila went to daycare a few of the days, she spent the night with her aunts, and I spent those days watching 'Felicity'.

OK, so I immediately saw myself in Felicity. Ugh. It was/is embarrassing. I think the only difference between the two of us (besides the obvious physical appearance) was that I haven't followed 'the boy' across country, rocking my whole world, and changing my, I...

Anyway, whatever.

The week before Spring Break I started watching 'Felicity', I'd never seen it before. I wasn't sure I'd be into it. I'd heard that the show was sillier than 'Dawson's Creek' (such a vicious untrue statement) and I'd heard that it was pretty intense. So, I started the show and in the three hours of free time I had, I graded absolutely nothing and watched those first few intense, deeply emotional episodes of 'Felicity'. I laughed, I felt a little nostalgic for a time in my life that is no longer, and when the family came home I was in the middle of that mortifying tape scene in "Hot Objects" got a little weepy (I was there once, it was a letter to a friend about a was, I don't want to talk about it) and realized that I was 'hooked'.

I tell you right now I couldn't have watched this show while it was on the air. It's this emotional roller-coaster love triangle of girl angst with great hair and music (although I hear the music is different than it was when it originally aired) as a background. Three of the four seasons end in overwhelmingly awful cliffhangers that would have ruined my summer and unlike 'Beverly Hills 90210', a show that turned into a sexy soap-opera after it's first four years, and 'Dawson's Creek', a show that's just so sappy and ridiculous by the end, it has real feelings and real emotions acted by real people (albeit beautiful people); Felicity doesn't feel like one long music video.

So, before we spend some quality time digging in to what made this show possess a place in my heart and mind, let's get a few of the big things out of the way:

'Felicity' has a whole fandom of shippers...most of them are in their late 20s and early 30s; honestly after four years of Ben and Felicity and Noel I can understand. I am not a FAN. I am a hardcore FAB. Keri Russell and Scott Speedman make sure that you are...I mean seriously there's some too hot moments between the two of them that are...whew...cold shower, moving on. This starts in the opening scene. It does not stop until the final scene of the show.

I think I may have seen an episode or two of this show a long time ago. There were some things in season four that seemed familiar and hazy like a dream.

I miss the 90s. This show made me actually admit that. I loved the 90s. I feel sorry for any person who wasn't in high school or college in the 90s. I was in high school in the early 90s and college in the late 90s...there isn't a better decade to be nostalgic about...the music, the clothes, the end of the millennium, the movies, the shows, my life, the economy...sigh, good times. I love where and who I am now, but I miss that pretty awesome decade. And, while this show ended in 2002, everybody knows that the first few years of any decade look like the preceding decade.

I am a fan of the haircut. I am a fan of the reasons for the haircut. Girls could learn on to be so brave.

I am a fan of Felicity. Sure, she's selfish and self-centered (what girl, what person isn't???) and sometimes just plain 'girl' dumb and she makes horribly wrong choices and has to be forced to recognize the right ones, but she's real people and she makes me laugh and blush with embarrassment and, wow, such a nicely flawed character.

JJ Abrams is a bully. The WB is/was also a bully.

On the other hand the last five episodes of the show are pretty darned good. I am glad I was told about them first (thanks Jen!) otherwise I may have thrown the remote and punched a kitten. *SPOILER* I'm glad I watched them. I think it's important for all the shippers and the other fans that we see what 'Felicity and Noel' looks like so there are no regrets about 'Felicity and Ben'. These episodes give us a chance to reexamine our own choices/what-ifs. Plus, they give us a chance to see the hot cocky Ben that we haven't seen since the first season.

I watched the show with two brains. Brain One: 36 year-old grown-up Stephanie; Brain Two: college Stephanie...thank goodness they're both quite schmoopy and nostalgic.

I didn't watch this show in order. I am muy impatient. If this show had not ended the way I wanted it to, I would have felt like I wasted 84 hours of my time. I'd also watched the end of an arch (ie. like the whole Lauren thing--wth, was that anyway???!) before watching the beginning of an arch as I also hate surprises. After watching the show this way I realized that's the reason I can't watch 'Hart of Dixie' right now...ugh. Wade and Zoe and George...tell me what happens so I can watch in comfort...still gasping and crying like somebody killed my favorite pet.

Here's my list:
1] S1 E1-11 in order
2] S4 E1-7
3] the last two of Season one; the first two of Season two
4] S2 E11
5] S3 E14-end; S4 E1-2
6] S4 E17; S4 the finale and E21
7] S4 E5-7; S4 3-4
8] the last two of Season two; S2 E20-21; S3 E1 and E3
9] S1 E12-14
10] S4 E10-11, E8-9; S1 E15
11] S1 E16-18; S4 E14-15
12] S2 E3-9; S3 E2
13] S3 E10-13
14] S3 E4-9; S2 E10
15] S2 E12-15, E18-19
16] S2 E16-17
and, then I watched the series finale again...and, some scenes I found on know...for closer.

 More later...


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