If there is one thing my mother excels at, it’s having the worst timing ever. For instance, Sunday night she calls me at Bear’s house to ask for a favour.
“Sure, Mum,” I say, “What is it?”
“Can you come down to Pennsylvania? It’s a bit of an emergency; I’m in the hospital.”
After a bit of a OMGWTF?????, I was roped into becoming a chauffeur service for my little brother and my grandmother…again (see also Most of 2005 As I Was Recovering From Surgery). Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t require me having to take a day off work today for what I consider a trivial affair. Of course, my mother being in a hospital is most certainly not a trivial matter; she has third nerve ocular palsy (fancy words for “double vision”) which can be a symptom for a multitude of problems, from stress and fatigue to multiple sclerosis to brain cancer. The doctors have not yet ruled out anything definitely. As a result I am at my parents’ soon-to-be-ex-house acting in loco parentis to my brother and the de facto head of house. You can only pick up your puppy’s shit so many times without being a little annoyed.
However, this weekend was rather nice, even though the weather sucked and Bear and I couldn’t really go skydiving. We drove down to Cross Keys on the 4th so Bear could do his low solo and to possibly learn how to pack our own parachutes.
After Bear did his hop ‘n’ pop, we decided to take advantage of the foul weather to learn how to pack our own parachutes (once you start renting, in addition to the $25 per lift ticket, it costs $7 to pack your gear). Adam was generous enough to teach us, so we decided to pay him back with a few lift tickets. It is SO MUCH HARDER than it seems. We practiced on Bear’s Navigator 240 and we were only ever able to get the main canopy in the d-bag (deployment bag) successfully once. After wrestling with it for four hours (literally) I wondered if it wasn’t actually worth it to pay the packers $7 in the end.
Regardless, the weather is forecast to be lovely for next weekend, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed my birthday jumps will go smoothly. I will start renting next week and will be downsizing for the first time, huzzah! I’ll probably start with the Silhouette 190 and then quickly downsize to the Sabre 170. When I told the lady behind the counter at Square One I was still flying the Navigator 200, she shook her head.
“At your size that thing probably flies you,” she said. Damn right.
Saturday Bear and I spent the day in his new apartment in Highland Park, where he will be living for his first year of medical school. We watched There Will Be Blood which mystified the two of us a bit. It’s an incredibly acted film, but in the end, we both had slightly muddled reactions to it, as though we weren’t sure what to think.
Review of THERE WILL BE BLOOD
From the trailers, I gleaned that this would be a bit of a “cautionary tale,” in that one man will be brought down low by his greed and get his comeuppance in the end, hence the title. However, I thought the title to be completely misleading as there was hardly any “blood” or violence at all; I rather wish they had stayed with the title of the work on which it is based: Upton Sinclair’s Oil! which makes far more sense. Also, said comeuppance? Did not happen. Which is fine; sometimes bad people get away with bad things, but in the case of Daniel Plainview, I didn’t feel as though he was so villainous that he needed to be taken down a peg or two.
This left me with the problem of with whom I ought to sympathise. The narrative makes Daniel Plainview out to be a villain, one who takes buys land for a pittance but Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal made him almost heroic and noble while despicable at the same time (it was an incredible performance and he rightly won that Oscar). The “other” villain of the story was Paul Dano (I adore him!)’s Eli Sunday, a charismatic faith healer in the town of Little Boston in California and the power dymanic and struggle between the two men was incredibly fascinating although I don’t think that aspect was pushed enough which makes the ending all the more strange and a bit of a letdown.
The first half of the movie was, in my opinion, vastly better than the second half. Like WALL·E, the opening minutes of the movie are without dialogue and I’ve discovered I LOVE that storytelling device. It’s in those segments that the push-pull of Plainview and Sunday’s relationship are the most tense and therefore the most riveting. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way into the film it appears to fall apart: Plainview becomes an alcoholic for no discernable reason and becomes a right bastard with a grudge against Sunday that he ultimately wins by bashing his head in with a bowling pin. I mean…??????
Still, I think the strong first half makes up for the WTF factor of the second and I will also recommend this movie, even if you watch just for Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance alone.
In addition to There Will Be Blood, I picked up and read Jenny Davidson‘s new YA novel The Explosionist. The novel, if you recall, is “the story of a 15-year-old girl growing up in an alternate version of 1930s Edinburgh, one where the legacy of Napoleon’s victory a century earlier at Waterloo is a standoff between a totalitarian Federation of European States and a group of independent northern countries called the New Hanseatic League. This world is preoccupied with technology (everything from electric cookers to high explosives) but also with spiritualism, a movement our world largely abandoned in the early twentieth century; Sigmund Freud is a radio talk-show crank, cars run on hydrogen and the most prominent scientists experiment with new ways of contacting the dead.” It has bombs! Homegrown terrorism! Steampunk elements! Totally up my alley, right?
Review of Jenny Davidson’s THE EXPLOSIONIST
Unfortunately, this book fell slightly short of my expectations. At first I was a little nervous that perhaps Ms. Davidson’s novel and mine were a little too similar. Thankfully, they are not at all remotely similar, as we deal with entirely different themes and ideas. That being said, there is something…juvenile about this novel that doesn’t exist in other YA books and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Ms. Davidson, from what I can gather, is an academic at Columbia University and has also published fiction for adults. I am not sure she can make the YA genre crossover. There is something incredibly simplistic about her work, a little bit of pandering to “less intelligent” readers, drawing connections for us, something she shouldn’t have to do. While the story itself is interesting, the characters feel a little stilted and unnatural; they don’t act in ways that 15 and 16 year olds do. Instead they act as highly rational 11 year olds which makes me suspect that she may think of the YA genre as being a “reading level” rather than a genre unto itself. It isn’t fair of me to compare The Explosionist with something like John Green‘s Looking for Alaska, but Green’s novel is a novel whereas The Explosionist reads a bit like A Kid’s Book Written By Someone Who is Obviously Very Smart But Has No Idea What a Kid’s Book Reads Like.
Regardless, there are many elements I liked about this novel. I like the blend of technology and spiritualism and I especially love the idea that this alternate history developed because Napoleon defeated Wellington at Waterloo instead of the other way around. And while this book tickles me a great deal intellectually (Freud is a radio talk-show host!), there is little that excites me emotionally. I wasn’t particularly invested in the protagonist, who seemed neither here nor there. Even her best friend Mikael failed to interest me and he’s a stock character I love! The incorrigible male best friend! Further still, the world failed to engage me; I didn’t want to climb into it and live there the way I did with J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, Philip Pullman’s daemon-infested streets, Susanna Clarke’s magical Napoleonic Britain, or Jacqueline Carey’s sexy Night Court. Despite all this, it is eminently readable, if not exactly cracktastic the way Cassandra Clare‘s Mortal Instruments books could be.
And now I must return to the hospital and run more errands for the family. Ugh.