In January, I decided to join the 50/50 Challenge (50 books and 50 movies in 2012). Because I read a lot of books (and I don’t even have a Kindle), I’m altering the rules to challenge me a bit more by only counting non-fiction books toward the challenge.
Welcome to my (slightly late) July update!
On July 4, one of the old movie channels was showing an Elvis marathon. I know that I saw most, if not all, Elvis movies as a kid (anyone who knows my mom knows why), and as I watched Clambake, it was vaguely familiar to me. But my rule (outlined in January, I swear!) was that I could count movies that I’d already seen if it had been ten years or longer since I’d last seen it. Best part of this one: Shelley Fabares’ terrific hairstyles.
An interesting, heartfelt documentary by MSNBC about a former Nazi skinhead who has a series of ridiculously painful laser tattoo removal treatments done to his face, neck, and hands–funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried are decent in this movie that had the potential to be interesting, but it just wasn’t well thought-out.
I found this romantic comedy to be charming and much more enjoyable than I expected. I guess it’s hard to think Julia Roberts and/or Tom Hanks will surprise me or to entice me to lose myself in a film, but they did a pretty good job, as did Bryan Cranston who plays such a convincing slimebucket. I could relate to Roberts’ character, and I wonder if the experience would help her relate to me, too, should we ever meet.
Ten-year rule takes effect once again! This was also on July 4. (I watched a lot of TV that day. It was 100° and I don’t much care for sweating or crowds all that much.) I saw the Reeve Superman movies as a child but have only seen bits and pieces of them since, so it was fun to see this again, although I suspect I’d like Superman: The Movie better. The ending of this one was a bit annoying– I mean, I know I’m not a Superman or DC scholar, but isn’t the kiss a cheap deus ex machina?
I watched most of this HBO documentary in a hotel room in Lexington, KY on the journey home from North Carolina. I had missed the first 15 minutes, so when I got back to Illinois, I checked to see if it was on demand so I could catch the first part but ended up watching most of it again. The doc is the story of film scholar and gay rights activist Vito Russo. (Russo authored The Celluloid Closet, a book his access to old films made possible as he was able to compare depictions of homosexuality before Hollywood’s Production Code versus after, in which gay characters were demonized and/or punished). The film is standard doc style (old footage, interviews with people who knew him, etc.) but the subject matter is thoroughly engaging. Sadly, Russo’s life was cut short by AIDS, but the work he put in for gay rights, AIDS advocacy, and media studies was enough for two or three lifetimes.
Breaking Bad and Philosophy: Badder Living Through Chemistry
I admit that I contributed a chapter to this book, but I did read the whole thing, my chapter included, to be able to include it. The typos upset me (especially the ones in my chapter), and the redundancy bugged me a bit (rushed editing?) and frankly, a lot of the books in the pop culture & philosophy series are more about social science than philosophy (with this one being no exception), but there’s definitely a bunch of useful stuff in here for the Breaking Bad fan and/or the teacher seeking to demonstrate the validity of studying pop culture. (Interestingly, one Amazon reviewer absolutely hated my chapter and said it was among the worst, another said it’s among the best in the book. I guess that means it’s average).
God’s Gift: Over 100 Studs, Stallions, and Dreamboats from the ’70s and ’80s
This book was a bit of an ironic gift for a friend, but I read it quickly before wrapping it because I had taken so much time to read the Steven Pinker book (below). It was funny but doesn’t offer much along the lines of masturbatory fodder. Shucks.
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
I adore Pinker (The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought). Even when I disagree with him (I’ve seen some convincing evidence against his belief that there are neurological differences between men and women), I love his topics, his arguments, his style & humor. I started this book at the end of June. It took me over a month, which is nuts for me. It is a big book (over 700 pages before the notes and index) but it has to be. In the book, not only is Pinker required to convince the reader that violence has indeed declined–giving horrifying examples of violence in the process–but then he must offer suggestions, even hard reasons, as to why. Empathy, it seems, is too easy an answer. Blaming violence on religion, as many are wont to do, is also too simplistic. In truth, there are many factors at work, such as populations’ critical thinking, including the ability to perform thought exercises, novels, feminism, international trade . . . If you’re interested in this book but intimidated by its girth, I might suggest reading just the last two chapters of the book. You’ll catch the drift. (You’ll have to take his word on a lot of what he says in those chapters, but just know that he spent the entirety of the book before then proving it all).
Pinker reminds his reader of the folly in being nostalgic for the past. Our recent ancestors went without “higher and nobler things in life, such as knowledge, beauty, and human connection” (693). Yes, we still have cockfighting rings and capital punishment in this country, but there used to be witch hunts and duels too, you know. The past was not better and certainly not peaceful; modernity’s benefits, such as health, experience, and knowledge, contribute to a reduction in violence (694). Overall, humans are becoming more reasonable and reasonable people are less likely to kill others over ideologies and superstitions. So there’s that.
The book’s due back at the library today, but I don’t want to give it up.
Five months to go! I’ve really got a lot of reading to do to hit 50 by the end of December. I was going to crack open the Salinger biography next, but now that I see these numbers, I think it would be better to tackle a few shorter nonfiction books and perhaps some graphic narratives first. Suggestions?
Currently reading: Praise of Motherhood by Phil Jourdan