Three sentence movie reviews–Mala Noche.

I find it remarkable this film was made in 1985, it seems so contemporary and blatantly homosexual. Another of Van Sant’s “filmed in Portland where I work” although 20+ years before I started working there. Tim Streeter, who plays the main character is magnetic.

This is the first movie Gus Van Sant made. When I started my Gus Van Sant movie viewing project, it hadn’t been released on DVD and wasn’t really available, so I skipped it. Now you can see it as part of the Criterion Collection. I, for one, am very glad it is available.

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Here’s my problem with Twilight: 17 year old girl falls in love with 17 year old vampire boy. Fine. 17 year old girl falls in love with 110 year old vampire in the body of a 17 year old boy? Kind of icky. There were a lot of lover-as-father/paternalism things within the second half of the book that kind of weirded me out. I might read the second one to see if that goes away, but I might not.

Also, I felt like there was so much undercurrent of denying your primal urges in that book. The whole set up of falling in love with someone who could theoretically kill you if he smells your intoxicating scent too much was very repressed. Almost like a closeted lesbian in a religion that doesn’t recognize homosexuality would write. Hmmmm. And! At the end of the first book it is very clear that she wants to become a vampire too so she can be with her beloved. The whole changing yourself completely to be more like your help-mate doesn’t square with my independent figures in a relationship world view.

Summary: Twilight not best book to read from a feminist perspective.

On the other hand: I thought about the plot for many days.


I’ve been watching this work in progress for about six months now and I just have to remark about how very cool it is. First of all, growing things in the front yard is super cool. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Secondly, though I myself have decided that raised beds are not for me, I love how contained this front yard garden is. I think that is the key to success with front yard gardens: make them very aesthetically pleasing. Either that or have a full-on permaculture garden, but avoid that midpoint where things are kind of weedy and unkempt.
Hiding behind that cloche is a lot of kale and collards. I’m a bit jealous.
And look! Soon an espalier fruit tree will grow along the front of the house. I want to espalier fruit trees in my backyard.
And here is that empty lot around the corner from me. It’s still waiting for me to plant a huge garden there. If only the generous owners would realize what a better owner I would be and give me the deed…

GPS devices have me stuck on Existential

I think that navigating through the landscape is a skill that can (and should) be developed. I have a particular talent for it, if I do say so myself. So when the nice-lady-voice keeps telling me I have made an error, I don’t really like to hear it. The car, that vestige of freedom in the modern landscape, is the last place I want an inanimate object telling me what to do. Except for the few people with absolutely no sense of direction, I think GPS units are one of those things Americans needlessly spend money on. When you don’t have to figure out where you are and where you are going, you lose that skill. Is that something you want?

But this comic made me laugh.

Books read in November

He, She & It.
Marge Piercy.
Another futuristic tale from Piercy concerning a woman, her son and a robot. I love how Piercy imagines the world mid-century. I hope it isn’t like that, but you never know.

Outlasting the Trail.
Mary Baumgardner O’Brien
I grew up on pioneer tales and read a lot of Oregon Trail novels. For some reason, I can’t think of a single adult novel about the Oregon Trail published in the last five years. Either the pioneer stories lend themselves better to children’s literature or our frontier ancestors are not in vogue right now.

This tale is based on the true story of a woman whose husband sets out happily for California, dragging his wife and family along. Not far into the journey, a major depression sets in, leaving him argumentative and unable to pull his weight. His wife Mary must step out of her sphere and ensure the family gets to California.

The story was pretty interesting, but I was skeptical of a lot of the thoughts put in the main character’s head by the author. They did not seem authentically eighteenth century to me.

The Importance of Being Kennedy.
Laurie Graham
This book was a delightful, breezy tale of the Kennedy clan with a Kennedy nurse as the main character. The book takes a dim view of Rose Kennedy and a dimmer view of Joseph Kennedy. The story was enjoyable and the narration was breezy and funny at times, too.

The Annotated Secret Garden.
Ed. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzman
Though I felt the annotation in this book was lacking at points, I always enjoy this story.

Pet Food Nation.
Joan Weiskopf
Why you probably don’t want to feed your cat or dog commercial pet food. My guess is, that if you read this book, you will start looking for other sources of food for your pet.

Peter Jordan
Dishwasher Pete has a book! The story of Pete’s quest during the 1990s to wash dishes in all 50 states. Jordan’s writing style is entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny at times and caused me to question the nature of success and how we define work in this country. Highly recommended. He also loves Portland.

10 Days in the Hills.
Jane Smiley
Unlike Celebutantes, this is an enjoyable novel of the Hollywood world. I enjoyed the plot device Smiley used to keep nine people in the same house for ten days, as well as the various characters. There is a lot of sex in this book and I found the scenes well written, much better than your average romance novel. The book is nice and thick, it makes fabulous beach read material.

I am America and So Can You.
Stephen Corbet.
I broke Corbert’s hard and fast rule to purchase the book, not get it from the library. Fans of the show know how funny this book is. Non-fans will enjoy it too. I read this in dribs and drabs over six weeks and there was much to chortle about. The side notes in the margin were particularly ingenious.

Bringing Down the House.
Ben Mezrich
The true story of how a group of MIT students successfully counted cards in Las Vegas and won millions. When this book came out and the author was promoting it I was fascinated by the story. I forgot about it for a few years, until the movie based on it premiered this summer. Reading the book, I can hear the conversations the producers must have had to make the story more “Hollywood.” I enjoyed both the book and the movie, though if you are going to indulge in only one, I would recommend the book.

Started but did not finish
Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians and Related Activities.
Teri Perl
More research about Mary Somerville brought me to this book, by the same author who wrote Women and Numbers. This book is written for the middle school/high school level and the Discovery Activities are more difficult. A well-done book, I may return to it in the future.

Woman and Numbers: The Lives of Woman Mathematicians Plus Discovery Activities.
Teri Perl
Research about Mary Somerville for a paper in my Historical Topics in Middle School Math. This book is suitable for late elementary school/middle school students and includes fun math activities after every famous woman mathematician.

Women in Mathematics.
Lynn M. Osen.
Well-researched articles about a variety of women mathematicians.

The Usbrone Complete Book of Chess.
Elizabeth Dalby
I can’t play chess. I know how the game works, but I have no understanding of strategy. I checked this book out in an attempt to change that, but then had no time to actually learn anything from it. The book is written for children, thus making a good introductory book for any age. It is vividly illustrated and has links to every lesson to reinforce your learning.

Slide Rule.
Robert Scaffold.
My next paper topic for the Math class.

Douglas Arther Brown.
I dated a guy who was the oldest of a set of triplets, and the three of them fought all the time. This fascinated me, and I wondered if that had to do with the fact they were too crowded in the womb, or family dynamics or other influences. So I was interested in this story of triplets, but the plot didn’t hold my attention. And usually I like books with alternating narrators and letters.

Did not even start
A History of the Logarithmic Slide Rule (very long title after this)
Florian Cajori
It was written a long time ago and skimming the introduction I found that the entire book is built on a false premise. I was supposed to read the addendum first, then read the book. It seemed too much trouble so I just didn’t bother.

Graphic Aids in Engineering Computation.
Randolph Hoelscher and others.
More books for slide rule research that I didn’t actually read.

The Slide Rule Handbook.
James Own Perrine.
And even more books for research.

Letters written in November

I kept up with my solemn vow this month, but still missed two days. I also caught up all of the Sara letters, leaving her with a huge packet of my letters to reply to on her end. After that, I turned to LEX and wrote several people who had submitted listings in the Winter issue. Though I am enjoying writing, my enthusiasm for this project is flagging.

1 November. Sara
2 November. Sara
3 November. Sara
**Letter back Sara
**3 postcards, Sara
4 November. Postcard to Sara
5 November. Postcard to Matt
6 November. Postcard to Susan
**LB re: LEX listing I posted “Do we still need women’s colleges?”
7 November. LEX Letter re: hobbies
8 November. LEX Letter re: Tuesday evening
9 November. LEX Letter re: steady correspondent
10 November. LEX Letter re: poem song etc.
11 November. Beres family
12 November. Thank you to Linda
** 2 Letters back Sara
13 November. LEX Letter “almost frugal grandmother”
14 November. LEX Letter “changed mind”
15 November. LEX Letter “horse across US?”
16 November. BroMAunts
17 November. Postcard to Sara
18 November. Jan
19 November. LEX Michael
20 November. Sara
21 November. No one
22 November. No one
23 November. Sara
24 November. LEX Gerry
**Letter back LEX Diane (food)
25 November. LEX Diane (movies)
26 November. Sara
27 November. LEX Letter “women and books”
28 November. LEX Letter “green”
29 November. LEX Letter “pen pals”
30 November. LEX Letter “last five books”

Three sentence movie reviews–Rachael Getting Married.

An absolutely fabulous movie, long and languid with much to discuss for days afterward. The kind of movie about family dynamics and people with substance abuse problems that mainstream Hollywood could never make. It really feels as if you are attending this wedding.

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