Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2012

.

This woman is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and she is the current Prime Minister of Iceland. She is the first female Prime Minister of that country. Impressive enough.

Jóhanna is also a lesbian. She became the first ever openly gay head of government in the modern world on February 1st, 2009. That’s really impressive. Her wife is Jónína Leósdóttir (an author and playwright). They entered into a civil union in 2002, then converted it to a marriage in 2010 when same-sex marriage was legalized in Iceland.

I must admit that, like most Americans, I am not exactly up on my foreign heads of state. I discovered her when I was reading this article about the fact that two of the approximately sixty world leaders attending a NATO Summit in Chicago are openly gay. The other is Elio Di Rupo, the Prime Minister of Belgium. He became the second openly gay head of government in December 2011, and is the only openly gay head of a European Union country.

Kudos to both of them, but especially Jóhanna, because this proves that lesbians rule. ;)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

.

I remember seeing a poster at the theater in 2005 for a movie coming out soon and I rolled my eyes. The poster was a picture of four young women dressed in short plaid skirts, and my immediate impression was that it must be a stupid teen exploitation movie. I didn’t give it another thought.

But then a funny thing happened. Quite some time after that I started seeing the movie mentioned in a lesbian context, and in a positive way! Obviously I had missed something. And who can blame me? Slutty school-girl outfits don’t scream “lesbian movie”, the two put together causes cognitive dissonance. Eventually I ran across a DVD copy in the discount bin at a video store, so bought it to finally see for myself what the deal was.

Yeah, I’d been missing something. I love D.E.B.S. At the IMDB it only has a 5 star (out of 10) rating and at Rotten Tomatoes it has a pitiful rating of only 39%. I don’t care, I love it anyway. It’s spoofy and over the top, but it’s also sweet and tons of fun.

The casting is great. Sara Foster and Jordana Brewster play the lead roles and they have amazing, natural chemistry. It doesn’t hurt that Jordana Brewster is droolworthy. (I seriously feel like a dirty old lady while watching her.) Jill Ritchie plays Janet and her expressions throughout the movie are pure gold.

Jessica Cauffiel as the assassin Ninotchka has hardly any screen time, but she makes the most of it. I crack up every time she does her arm movement when saying she really wants to be a dancer while on a blind date with Brewster’s character. Jimmi Simpson as Scud is a treat to watch. Meagan Good nails the part of Max, and the cherry on top is Holland Taylor doing a hilarious job as Ms. Petrie.

It appears that one of the major complaints from critics is that the plot is too thin to hold up a full length movie. And I have to say that on this point they aren’t wrong. Another frequent complaint is about the acting and dialogue, and here I have to disagree, at least in part. Some of the acting is off at times. And some of the dialogue is bad, though in this case I think maybe intentionally so. But for me, the great lines, the romance, and the funny moments shine through and provide more than enough entertainment to make up for the movie’s weaknesses.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched D.E.B.S. now. It’s one of those movies I can pop in when I just want to kill an hour and a half, have a few laughs, and feel good. It will never be considered great, but sometimes that’s all I need from a movie, and D.E.B.S. delivers on that score.

Read Full Post »

.

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

5/2

I finished reading Strange Flesh by Michael Olson. It’s $11.99, but I got it when it was released at the beginning of April for only $1.99. It’s a difficult book for me to rate because it never truly grabbed me by the throat, yet Olson is a very talented and intelligent writer. (It’s difficult to believe this is a debut novel.) The plot is very complex and kept me guessing all the way through on various points. For the right reader it will be an excellent read.

I’m now reading For Me and My Gal by Robbi McCoy. I’ve read three of her other novels and while the stories don’t always grab me, I’ve always been impressed with her writing. So I was a bit surprised that this one read rather awkwardly in the beginning. It seemed to get in its groove at about the fourth chapter. It’s a novel that has two stories going, one contemporary and one being told through journal entries from a WAVE stationed in Alameda during WWII. I’m especially enjoying the historical part. I’m about 30% in.

.

5/3

I finished reading For Me and My Gal by Robbi McCoy. Not a great read, but I did enjoy it quite a bit, especially the historical parts about women during WWII, both in the WAVES and working building ships.

I’ve now started Substitute for Love by Karin Kallmaker. It’s one of my favorite Kallmaker novels and I got it on sale (to replace my paper copy) on the publisher’s site at the end of last year. It’s been quite a while since I read it last, and I’m reminded again right away why I like it so much. Interesting characters and good writing.

.

5/15

It’s been a while since I posted and can’t remember for sure where I left off so I might be skipping books I’ve read. Recent reads include:

The latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Free Exclusive Digest. A new issue comes out every other month and this digest version is free. Some months I don’t read it at all and some I read it almost cover to cover. This time I read the included short story, which was quite good. It combines baseball with implanted memories. For anyone interested in these two genres I recommend signing up for the free subscription.

I read Fifty Shades of Gravy by Jenny Ric. It was a very short, fast, and humorous read that is a parody of both Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. I haven’t read either book, but I know enough about Twilight to get a lot of the references anyway. I got it for free, it’s 99 cents now. I don’t think it’s worth paying a buck for, especially considering how short it is, but others may feel differently.

An author (Jadette Paige) contacted me with a request to read and review Nether Regions and provided me a free copy for that purpose. It’s a long short story with Amazons and zombies, so I said sure I’d do it! Unfortunately, I didn’t think it was very good, and it’s overpriced to boot.

I also finished Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. I got this for free way back in 2009 and just now getting around to giving it a try. I was very pleasantly surprised. I think I was expecting paranormal romance (which I usually don’t really care for), but got a solid urban fantasy instead (which I love). For the most part I really like Moning’s writing. She has an interesting way of observing the world and people then finding unique ways and words to describe them. The book does end very abruptly without resolving anything, and I know that bothers some people. I’ve bought and downloaded the second book in the series, Bloodfever, and will start it the next time I pick up my Kindle.

Read Full Post »

I stumbled over a link to this on a site where I was reading a totally unrelated article. It’s, as the title for this post says, brilliant and hilarious. (Uh, looks like I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to imbedding video, so I’ll give the link to click on. Note to self: learn how to imbed video on blog.)

Republicans, Get In My Vagina!

.

Read Full Post »

.

First, for anyone who missed it, on May 9th President Obama explicitly endorsed same-sex marriage as a civil right. Thank you, President Obama!

Second, I found a link to a page on The Guardian site in the UK that has a great graphics presentation of the breakdown of what civil rights LGBT people have by state and region in the US. It’s a fantastic way to see at a glance what rights are available and where it’s good to be queer in the US.

Click here to see it.

.

Read Full Post »

.

I just recently joined the 21st Century by finally getting broadband internet. So I’ve been spending a lot of time playing around on YouTube now that I can watch streaming video. Just tonight I stumbled over video of footage taken in 1973 when The Exorcist had its first run in theaters. A lot of it showed the sold out showings and lines stretching around the block. But there was also footage of people crying and fainting.

One of the comments on the video was that the 1970s hair-dos are scarier than the movie, which made me laugh. But of course a lot of other comments were along the lines of “I’ve seen it and it’s not scary.”

This is something I’ve heard a lot over the years. Usually this change in how the movie is perceived by younger audiences is attributed to things like modern movie audiences being desensitized by the many gore-filled movies made since then, and also how movies in the 1970s pushed boundaries and broke taboos (in ways that modern movies don’t), so audiences back then were often unprepared.

Those things are both true, and I do believe they contribute to the more blasé attitude exhibited by younger people now. But too many people leave out what I think is the single most important factor. The manner in which the movie is viewed.

My personal history with The Exorcist comes in three main parts, each one experiencing it in a different way.

The first was in 1973, experiencing it as a cultural phenomenon. I was only in sixth grade when the movie was released, so I didn’t see it then. But do I have distinct memories of the hype and hysteria. I was fascinated that a movie could make people freak out, vomit, or faint.  I avidly read newspaper articles and watched coverage on TV about what was going on. At the Fox Theater in Spokane (where I was living at the time) they even handed out barf bags.

Fast forward to 1979, my senior year in high school. The Edmonds Theater was running a midnight horror film series on Saturday nights, and my best friend and I went to some of them. I hadn’t been interested in horror films prior to that and The Exorcist was only my second. (The other memorable movie I saw in that series was The Haunting.)

The Exorcist scared me shitless. At one point I actually felt nauseated, and I couldn’t stand that growling voice anymore. So I plugged my ears and closed my eyes to get some respite from the onslaught to my senses. I mentally took back every scoff and disdainful laugh I’d uttered about barf bags.

Then there was the aftermath. The fear of turning out my light at night because I thought I might see eyes glowing in the dark. Lying in bed, stiff with tension, afraid my bed would start shaking. Coming home from school to an empty house and having to slide around with my back against the walls so nothing could creep up on me.

No other movie has ever affected me like that.

About three years later I saw The Exorcist for the second time, on TV. It wasn’t very scary. The movie was the same, so what was the difference?

It was how I was watching it. I was in a dorm lounge with several other people who were occasionally talking. The TV was high up on the wall and had a normal size screen (meaning not that big). The lights were on. There were commercial breaks.

All of these things combined to dilute, and sometimes even eliminate, the tension. It was absolutely nothing like viewing the movie with no break from start to finish, in a dark theater, on a huge screen, with a big sound system. In a theater you sit there in your own little bubble as the movie relentlessly hammers at you visually, aurally, and psychologically.

When people pooh-pooh something as not scary, or no big deal, they need to take context into account. Watching a DVD in your living room with a friend, or streaming video on your computer, simply cannot duplicate the theater experience.

I watch movies that way all the time and get a lot out of it. But there are some movies that lose a great deal in the shift from one type of viewing to another. Another two movies I can think of off the top of my head in this category are Alien and Jaws. Interestingly enough, also both movies from the 1970s.

I’ve seen The Exorcist twice more in more recent years. Once on DVD, and once when it was re-released into theaters in 2000 as an extended version. By then I was mostly inured to the stark horror. Once you have seen a movie there is no way to unsee it and experience it again as if it were the first time.

But it does allow one to look at the film in other ways, and in the case of The Exorcist, appreciate that it’s an excellent movie even when stripped of its ability to absolutely terrify. Well…it ceases to terrify as long as you don’t let your mind dwell on it too much after the final credits roll… As Hitchcock understood, the viewer’s imagination is where the truly scary stuff takes place.

.

Update 8/31/12:

I just ran across this excellent post by Ron Scalzo about his experiences with The Exorcist as a horror film, and his thoughts about it as a movie in general. I recommend reading the whole thing, but am going to include a brief excerpt here:

…it’s probably my favorite horror movie of all-time simply because once the devil shows up, the movie never lets up until he’s gone.  And before he shows up, and in the rare moments of solace in between the pea soup, an unorthodox use of a crucifix, and levitating tricks from possessed 8 year old girls, it’s still creepy and foreboding.

Read Full Post »

.

[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

.

I’d said last month I wanted to split these up during the month so they aren’t so long at the end, but computer trouble prevented me from carrying through in April. So, here’s one long-assed Book Bits post again!

4/1

I’m now reading The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein. I got it on sale in February for only $2.99. The story itself didn’t sound hugely appealing to me (I prefer journeying off into space in my SF), but it’s one I hadn’t read before and for only three bucks I figured why not? Especially since I haven’t read any Heinlein since I was a teenager, except for a re-read of Stranger in a Strange Land about four years ago.

Well, despite my kinda ho-hum attitude before starting the book, I think it aptly illustrates why Heinlein is the Master. The writing is smooth and effortless and it drew me in immediately. I’ve raced through the first 30% before I hardly blinked. The plot is worthy of a Lawrence Block novel, done Heinlein futuristic style.

It’s a mix of near future, and somewhat farther future story, from the standpoint of when it was written. It was originally published in 1956, with the first part of the book set in 1970. The current year in the book is 2000. It’s fascinating to see the projections Heinlein made for both those future years, especially since they’re both now in our past. You have to be willing to overlook what he got wrong, but if you can it’s a really entertaining read.

.

4/4

I read a dud, Enough of Sorrow by Lawrence Block. This is one of his lesbian pulp fiction books he wrote in the 1960s under the pen name Jill Emerson.

It’s the first time I’ve been let down by Block. I didn’t like the writing very much, it was odd in places and created distance from the characters based on word choices. I dunno if any of this was intentional for style, but it didn’t work for me at all. The last half of the book is better than the first half, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The only reason I read the whole thing is because it was short, about 2300 locations, so it didn’t take much effort on my part to find out how it ended. (There are also a lot of errors in the book, presumably from conversion, but many of them aren’t the typical OCR errors/artifacts, which makes it even more jarring.)

I’m now about 20% into Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I was lucky enough to get it on sale for only 99 cents in January. It’s the first in the Tales of the City series and the setting is San Francisco in the mid-1970s. I was even luckier when a year or two ago I got a book much later in the series, Michael Tolliver Lives, for free, which put me in the general mood to revisit these books, which I originally read in the early 1990s.

These books are about a quirky group of people living at 28 Barbary Lane and their relationships and adventures. Maupin does an amazing job of capturing the city at a very specific time and breathing that into the stories. I’ve already laughed out loud a few times.

What’s interesting to me is that after I read Michael Tolliver Lives and the next book, Mary Ann in Autumn, last year I ended up acquiring the TV mini-series for the first three books on DVD. The casting was so wonderful, and they were such faithful adaptations, that I find I’m now seeing those actors as I read the book. That’s something I almost never do. (Buy them on the Amazon UK site if you’re interested in acquiring them.)

.

4/9

I finished Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. Lots of fun! And I’m still amazed at how closely the mini-series followed the book. It’s rare to see not only so little deviation, but not cutting much out either.

Then I started I Want to Die in Drag: The Transgender Classic by Ed Wood, Jr (of bad movie fame). My friend gave it to me for my birthday when it was cheaper. I was expecting something that would be kinda campy and offbeat, but really it was boring and occasionally confusing. I only read about 15% and decided I wasn’t interested enough to keep going.

Then I started Marsh Heirs by Rufus Miles. It’s still only 99 cents. This book has been mentioned several times (with mixed opinions) in the monthly poll, so when the price went down in December I snagged it.

This one didn’t grab me at the start either. But it seemed like the sort of book that you might need to give a bit of extra time to, so I kept going. The longer I read the more I was into it. It’s full of crazy, zany characters, most of whom are unethical some way or another. But there’s something weirdly compelling about seeing what they will do next. I’m about 60% into it and I’m glad I stuck with it.

.

4/12

I finished Marsh Heirs by Rufus Miles. I mentioned that I didn’t get into it right off the bat, it was one where I slowly grew more interested, until I knew for sure I wasn’t going to quit until it was all done. The main attraction is the characters and trying to figure out what trouble they’ll get into next, since they all seem rather unbalanced in some way. Most of them have elastic ethics (to put it kindly for some of them). It ended up being a fun read and well worth the buck I spent.

One thing that did bother me quite a lot though was the blatant racism. If it had only been one or two characters using ugly words it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. I’d just pass it off as them being ignorant, part of their individual character traits, and they’d be balanced out by the other non-racists. However, all of the characters expressed similar attitudes and thoughtless epithets, which not only made me squirm, but question the necessity.

I’ve now started Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. It’s on sale right now for only $1.99, which is a good deal. I originally read this book over two decades ago, after I’d seen the movie at a film festival. I have the movie on DVD, so I’ve seen it more recently, but had forgotten what a delight the book is. I’m only 5% in, but loving it.

.

4/16

I finished Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I’d call it sort of a person, time, and place book, where all three combine to capture the mood and feel. It’s short, and very well written.

The one thing I didn’t like, and it’s not specific to this book, but any book, is the too-frequent mini-stories. You know, a side story, fairy tale, fable, that is intended to shadow the plot or further illuminate a theme. I just find them distracting and irritating. There must be some people out there who get something from including that sort of thing in novels, because writers keep writing books with them. But not me.

I then gave She Flew Bombers a go, and ugh. I got it for free, it’s $9.99 now which is beyond ridiculous. It’s a good example of poorly done self-published work. I was very interested in the topic and story. But I only managed to slog through a couple chapters.

Now I’m reading Endurance by Jack Kilborn (AKA JA Konrath). I got it for free a while back also. I thought I was facing another ditch it early book because there was almost nothing I liked about the first chapter. It read like a horrible, low-budget slasher pic.

But when I finished the chapter I saw that the next one started with different characters, and kept reading just to see where the book might be going. The writing from there on has been similar to what I expected based on the two previous novels of his that I’d read, and so far is keeping my attention.

.

4/17

I finished reading Endurance (A Novel of Terror) by Jack Kilborn and ended up being pretty “meh” about it. The title says “a novel of terror” and the events were terrifying to the characters, but not me. Grotesque is the word that comes to mind. The writing was okay, but this type of story just isn’t my cup of tea I guess. I did manage to make it to the end, so I guess that’s saying something. I think it was because the characters were interesting.

I thought the book was getting rather redundant with all these people going to the inn and having to each go through the process of finding out what strange stuff is going on and reacting to it. It’s interesting that in an afterward he says the editor who wanted to buy it at a publisher wanted him to make some changes, so he refused the deal. If the editor wanted him to tighten it up and reduce some of that, the editor was right! It also wasn’t proofread as well as it should have been.

I have no clue what I’m going to start next. I might need to play eenie-meenie-minie-moe on my Kindle menu.

.

4/18

I decided I’m in the mood to read The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, which is the second book in her Darkness Rising paranormal YA trilogy. It just downloaded on pre-order last week. But I realized that I remembered almost nothing from the first book, The Gathering, so decided to read through it again first.

I’m enjoying it again as much as I did the first time. In fact, I’d forgotten just how much I liked it. While a few of Armstrong’s adult Otherworld books are more miss than hit with me because I’m not as interested in some of the characters, she’s truly a pleasure to read. Her characters are complex, her writing is so smooth, her pacing is just right. I’m already 45% through it!

For anyone interested in giving this trilogy a try, the first one is on sale right now for $2.99. They’re set in her Otherworld alternate reality, but not directly connected to the adult books. They also make vague reference to events in the Darkest Powers YA trilogy.

.

4/20

I finished both The Gathering and The Calling by Kelley Armstrong in two days. I can sum it up by saying, Good Stuff!!

I highly recommend this trilogy (third book won’t be out until next year though) to anyone who likes urban fantasy, even if you don’t normally read YA (which I don’t read much of myself). Though this isn’t technically urban fantasy because it takes place in isolation on Vancouver Island, BC., I’d call it contemporary paranormal fantasy. You do need to have the temperament to not want to throw a book at the wall if it ends abruptly though.

I’m now reading Roller Coaster, which is the most recent book from my favorite lesbian romance author, Karin Kallmaker. I’m about 40% through it and enjoying it quite a bit. It’s not a formula romance, the whole first part of the book is developing the characters and their lives, no sparks yet.

.

4/23

I finished Roller Coaster by Karin Kallmaker. Not one of her best, but a decent read. It did get a bit saccharine at one point near the end, which didn’t really match up with the rest of the book.

I’m now reading Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. I was lucky enough to pick it up for $2.99 last month. I’d been wanting to give Carey a try for quite a while now, so this was a good opportunity. It’s not at all a fast-paced book, at least the beginning, but it’s holding my interest. The style is a bit reminiscent of Atwood’s in The Handmaid’s Tale, bleak and spare.

.

4/25

I finished reading Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey and liked it a lot! Combine a dystopian setting with a dash of Zorro and a splash of gladiator combat as a means to freedom, along with some genetic manipulation to create better humans, and you have an idea of what the book is like.

When I was about 80% in I was all hot to read the sequel, Saints Astray, and went to the page on Amazon to buy it so it would be ready to go, but alas. The book only had lukewarm reviews and when I saw the price was $10 I balked. If it had been a regular mass market price I probably would have gone for it, but I just can’t see coughing up that much for a book that disappointed so many.

I’m currently reading Treasured Past by Linda Hill, which I got as a freebie a few months ago on the publisher’s (Bella Books) website. I’m about 20% in and it’s okay. I’m liking the story but the writing is only so-so.

.

4/27

I finished Treasured Past by Linda Hill and can sum up my opinion with one word: meh.

I’m now 10% into Strange Flesh by Michael Olson. It’s $11.99 right now, which isn’t unusual since it was just published at the beginning of this month. What is unusual is that the publisher had it on sale then for only $1.99, which is when I bought it. Maybe the price was a typo?

I’m not quite sure why I pulled the trigger on buying it because it’s just not the sort of thing I normally read. I’d never heard of the author or the book until someone posted it in the Price Drop/Discount thread. And I’ve been trying to be extremely selective about which sale books I buy as my TBR list grows longer and longer. Maybe it being so different is what attracted me, but whatever it was, it’s there on my Kindle and I’m reading it now!

I’m not far enough into it to comment much, except that the writing is good and the protagonist is sort of a self-destructive lost soul that I can’t help but feel some sympathy for. It’s supposed to be sort of a cyber thriller with virtual world stuff.

.

[My full reviews for Roller Coaster, Treasured Past, and Enough of Sorrow can be found in my Lezzie Books section by clicking on these links.]

.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: