Friday, December 28, 2007


The Action Heroine's Handbook

I bought this book for my sister for Christmas. Stumbling across it in a bookstore one day, I saw the tagline on the cover:
How to win a catfight, drink someone under the table, choke a man with your bare thighs, and dozens of other TV and movie skills. [emphasis added]
... and I knew I had to buy this book for my sis.

Being the curious type, and having bought this book months before Christmas, I just may have flipped through [translation: read] this book before I wrapped it up. Overall, I have to say I was a wee bit disappointed. Although I did learn how to choke a man with my bare thighs, and that may come in handy someday.

Worick, Jennifer & Borgenicht, Joe. The Action Herione's Handbook. New York: Quirk Books, 2003.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007


minority report

I saw this book while browing around the library and decided to pick it up because I enjoyed the movie. That, and I was enamoured with the way this book flips up to open, instead of horizontally.

Minority Report is really just a short story and so was quite a quick read. And I was rather surprised by the story, because it was quite different from the movie, in fact.... oh wait, I suppose I should put a spoiler alert here before I say more. In fact, the story sort of gives the exact opposite message to what you get from the movie. In the movie, Tom Cruise, ur, John Anderton decides to not kill anyone, thus proving that the whole PreCrime system is not infalliable and innocent people are being arrested; we do have free choice and our fate is not predetermined. In the story, however, Anderton makes the decision in the end to kill the person who the majority report says he is going to kill - the moral of the story: PreCrime works! Oh ya, and there are two minority reports, not just one, and they are based on the fact that Anderton sees the majority report (although you can hardly call it a "majority" when it is just one of three reports) and that changes the future. When asked if there is any flaw in the system, Anderton says, "It can happen in only one circumstance. My case was unique, since I had access to the data. It could happen again, but only to the next Police Comissioner" (p. 103) So, people really don't have any choice, the future is predictable. All in all, I'd have to say I liked the movie better.

A few more points I found interesting:

Dick, Philip K. The minority report. New York : Carol Publishing Group, 1991.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is probably my favourite book. I mean, it's hard to pick a single favourite book, but if I had to pick one, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a favourite novel, I'm pretty sure "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is what would come slipping from my lips. So when I saw TPoDG in the library the other day, I couldn't resist re-reading it for the umpteenth time, but this time taking down notes for posting here on Very Well Read.

I've been known to make a joke about having a portrait hanging in the attic as the explanation for why I look younger than my age (making that joke far too often for some people's liking) and I also did provide my ex with a quotation from TPoDG for his Honours English thesis... a thesis that he got 95% on. I'm not saying that he got the 95% because of my apt choice of quotation or anything...

Anyway. Without further adieu, here are the quotations:

  • "There is no. Such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are either well written, or badly written. That is all." (preface)

  • "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely." (preface)
    And from the book itself:

  • "...there is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." (p. 2-3)

  • "But beauty, real beauty ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful." (p. 3) - in this passge, Wilde is talking about art. He was an aesthete, believing in art for art's sake, beauty for beauty's sake. As he said in the preface, books are not moral or immoral, just well written or poorly written. By having Lord Henry say that thinking causes you to become ugly, he is using it as a metaphor for art - if you try to create art with meaning, it becomes ugly... art should be beautiful in and of itself. Of coures, by imbuing his novel with this type of meaning is quite ironic, as by putting meaning into his work of art, he is making it, in his opinion, not a great work of art. I also like the bit at the end of this passage about the Church being filled with non-thinkers, who just believe what they are told to believe.

  • "...none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves." (p. 9)

  • "...we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well-informed man - that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value." (p. 12) - I love this quotation and I've used it often in my education work - it fits well with my displeasure with the "memorize a bunch of useless facts and then regurgitate it in an exam" form that education usually takes.

  • "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." (p. 19)

  • "The life that was to make his soul would mar his body." (p. 25).

  • "It is the problem of slavery, and we try to solve it by amusing the slaves." (p. 40) - this is the quotation of the aforementioned ex's thesis. It was related, if my memory serves me, to the Matrix - how everyone is a slave and things like television, work, church, etc., etc. keep us under control and unaware of our slavery.

  • "She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest." (p. 46)

  • "Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing." (p. 47)

  • "As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied." (p.48)

  • Experience [...] was merely the name men give to their mistakes." (p. 59)

  • "'Marriage is hardly a thing one can do now and then, Harry.'

    "Except in America'..." (p. 75)

  • "But, surely, if one lives merely for one's self, Harry, one pays a terrible price for doing so,' suggested the painter.

    'Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays." (p. 80)

  • Around p. 86-87, there is a description of howDorian turns from completely adoring the actress Sibyl Vane, to completely abhorring her. In this scene, Sibyl is acting the part of Juliet and she's acting it terribly. She later tries to explain to Dorian that this is because once she had met and fallen in love with Dorian, the idea of pretending to be in love on stage seemed suddenly meaningless to her. Dorian, of course, will have none of it - he just does a complete 180. The whole thing reminded me of how flaky Romeo is (at the start of the play, he's all in love with Rosaline, then slips to loving Juliet at the drop of the hat). Also, when Dorian tells her that she is no longer being a work of art to him, I found it reminscient of, just pages before, Basil saying that that Dorian is no longer the work of art that he once knew.

  • "It was perfectly true. The portrait had altered." (p. 98) - this statement is so profound because it really is the turning point in Dorian's life.

  • "There is luxury in self reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has the right to blame us." (p. 99) - I can think of someone with this attitude.

  • "You come down here to console me. That is charming. You find me consoled, and you are furious!" (p. 114)

  • On pages 138-152, there are some really long, descriptive passages about jewels and music and fabrics that reminded me of American Psycho, where Bret Easton Ellis has page after page of description of clothes and music and skin care regimines. Patrick Bateman is sort of a 1980s version of a dandy, isn't he?

  • Her capacity for family affection is extraordinary. When her third husband died, her hair turned quite gold from grief." (p. 186)

  • 'It is perfectly monstruous,' he said, 'the way people go about nowadays, saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely true." (p. 187)

  • Don't tell me that you have exhausted Life. When a man says that one know that Life has exhausted him." (p. 188)"In the common world of fact the wicked were not published, nor the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak." (p. 209-210).

  • "And yet if it had been merely an illustion, how terrible it was to think that conscience could raise such fearful phantoms, and given them visible form, and make them move before one! What sort of life would his be, if day and night, shadows of his crime were to peer at him from silent corners, to mock him from secret places, to whisper in his ear as he sat at the feast, to wake him with icy fingers as he lay asleep! As the thought crept through his brain, he grew pale with terror, and the air seemed to him to have become suddenly colder." (p. 210)

  • "I'm going to alter. I think I have altered." (p. 220)

  • "Death is the only thing that ever terrifies me... one can survive everything nowadays except that." (p. 222)

  • "To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable." (p. 226)

  • "The tragedy of being old is not that one is old, but that one is young." (p. 226)

  • "The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame." (p. 228)

    And one last thing. I really didn't like picture on the copy of this particular edition. Like *really* didn't like it. The picture of Dorian's portrait (look at the picture at the start of this posting) just totally freaked me out whenever I looked at it. So much so that I actually put a sticky note over it so that I wouldn't have to look at it. As seen in this photo:

  • Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Tor, 1999.

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    Wednesday, May 23, 2007


    Guns, Germs and Steel

    A while back, I read Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond. I'm sure I kept notes of stuff I found interesting, but I have no idea where those notes are*. Until I find them, here's an interview of Jared Diamond by Stephen Colbert.

    *I also read his other book, Collapse, and have no idea where those notes are either.


    Thursday, March 01, 2007


    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    At long last I have finished my re-re-reading of the Hitchhiker's 5-part trilogy, in reverse order, to grab my favourite lines from the books to put up here for all to see. I was recently at a blogging conference where one of the presenters discussed one of the functions of a blog as a "brain dump" - a place to put information so that you didn't need to keep remembering it... it can be duly noted in an appropriate forum, which is searchable at a later date should the need arise, and thus the information no longer needed to clutter up one's brain. I think this little book blog of mine fits that description. I have a terrible memory for books/movies, and although I generally remember if I liked a given book or movie, I'll be damned if I can remember why I liked/disliked it, or really tell you anything about what happened in a book I've read or movie I've seen. This blog allows me to dump that info, before it disappears into the vast recesses of my grey matter, for later retrieval if necessary. And so, without further ado, I give you my favourite quotations from The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy!

    And so ends my summary of the Hittchhiker trilogy!

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    Monday, January 29, 2007


    Not Wanted on the Voyage

    Not really sure what to say about this book. It's a book that I'd heard was good from a few people, so I thought I'd give it a try. But my basic summary of the book was really encapsulated by the following email that I sent to one of the people who said the book was good (note: spoilers ahead!):

    Since you seemed enjoy Not Wanted on the Voyage (at least based on your comment on my blog), I was hoping you could tell me wtf I was supposed to get out of it. I mean, it was entertaining and I especially liked the cat, but wtf? Noah was a terrible person and we have no unicorns because he used the unicorn to rape his 12-year-old daughter-in-law? Noah's wife (who, as far as I can tell didn't have a first name), was an alcoholic, but she liked sheep?
    I'll update this posting if I get an answer explaining whatever it is that missing about this book.

    As for quotations, there was really only one thing in the whole book that stood out to me - a description of the ark:
    I even tried Googling "Not Wanted on The Voyage" to see if anyone had explained what the point was, but came up with nothing. No one seemed better able to describe the point, although there was a lot of "it's magical" and suchlike.

    Oh ya, did I mention that I liked the cat?

    Findley, Timothy. Not Wanted on the Voyage. Toronto: Penguin, 1996


    Thursday, January 18, 2007


    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

    • "The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." (p. 1)

    • "Like all Vogon ships it looked as if it had been not so much designed as congealed." (p. 3)

    • "I'm Zaphod Beeblebrox, my father was Zaphod Beeblebrox the Second, my grandfather was Zaphod Beeblebrox the Third..."


      "There was an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine.
      " (pp.14-15)

    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "has long supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least widely inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper, and secondly it has the words DON'T PANIC printed in large, friendly letters on its cover." (p. 26) - other than that last sentence, this is a pretty good description of the internets.

    • "The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate." (p. 30)

    • "The Universe, it has been observed before, is an unsettlingly big place, a fact which for the sake of a quiet life most people tend to ignore.

      Many would happily move to somewhere rather smaller of their own devising, and this is what most beings in fact do.

      For instance, in one corner of the Eastern Galactic Arm lies the large forest planet Oglaroon, the entire 'intelligent' population of which lives permenantly in one fairly small and crowded nut tree. In which tree they are born, live, fall in love, carve tiny speculative articles in the bark about the meaning of life, the futility of death and the importance of birth control, fight a few minor wars, and eventually die strapped to the underside of some of the less accessible outer branches.

      In fact the only Oglaroonians who ever leave their tree are those who are hurled out of it for the heinous crime of wondering whether the other trees are capable of supporting life at all, or indeed whether the other trees are anything other than illusions brought on by eating too many Oglanuts.

      Exotic though this behaviour may seem, there is no life form in the galaxy which is not in some way guilty of the same thing, which is why the Total Perspective Vortex is as horrific as it is." (p. 56)

    • For when you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a tiny dot, which says, 'You are here.'" (p. 56-57)

    • a mind, which has been separated from its body, discussing his situation: "We never seemed to be happy doing the same things. We always had the greatest arguments over sex and fishing. Eventually we tried to combine the two, but that only lead to disaster, as you can imagine." (p. 58)

    • "The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically to annoy his wife." (p. 62)

    • [Zaphod] "was clearly a man of many qualities, even if they were mostly bad ones." (p. 62)

    • "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering. It has been built on the fragmented remains of... it will be built on the fragmented... that is to say it will have been built by this time, and indeed has been --

      One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broadminded and well-adjusted family can't cope with. There is also no problem about changing the course of history -- the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the imporant changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.

      The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently acccording to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

      Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up: and in fact in later editions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs

      The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
      " (p. ?) - I <3>

    • "He's spending the year dead for tax reasons." (p. 91)

    • "The Universe as we know it has now been in existence for over one hundred and seventy million billion years and will be ending in a little over a half an hour." (p. 92)

    • "I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in parts of my body?... Something off the shoulder perhaps, braised in a white wine sauce?"(p. 94) - The cow that was engineered to want to be eaten, so that meat eaters wouldn't have to feel guilty! Too funny!

    • "I'm a pretty dangerous dude when I'm cornored.

      "Yeah," said a voice from under the table, "You go to pieces so fast people get hit by the shrapnel.
      " (p. 103) - This line reminds me of Stupid Friend Paul.

    • "It is worth repeating at this point the theories that Ford had comeup with, on his first encounter with human beings, to account for their peculaiar habit of continually stating and restating the very very obvious, as in 'It's a nice day,' or "You're very tall,' or 'So this is it, we're going to die." (p. 128) - Or "Did you know that you are really short?"

    • "'Ford,' he said, 'how many escape capsules are there?'

      'None,' said Ford.

      Zaphod gibbered. "Did you count

      'Twice,' said Ford
      .'" (p. 130)

    • "'Where,' said Ford Prefect quietly, 'does it say teleport?'

      'Well, just over here, in fact,' said Arthur, pointing at a dark control box in the rear of the cabin, 'Just under the word "emergency", above the word, "system" and beside the sign saying "out of order".
      '" (p. 131)

    • "Arthur woke up and instantly regretted it." (p. 134) - oh, I've had days like that

    • "The first thing that hit their eyes was what appeared to be a coffin. And the next four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine things that hit their eyes were also coffins." (p. 139)

    • "Number Two's eyes narrowed and became what are known in the Shouting and Killing People trade as cold slits, the idea presumably being to give your opponent the impression that you have lost your glasses or are having difficulty keeping awake. Why this is frightening is an, as yet, unresolved problem." (p. 147)

    • "The major problem -- one of the major problems, for their are several -- one of the many major problems with govering people is that of who you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

      To summarize: it is a well-known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

      And so this is the situation we find: a succession of Galactic Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being in power that they very rarely notice that they're not." (p. 160)

    • "... five hundred and seventy-three committee meetings and you havne't even discovered fire yet?" (p. 182) - oh, I've had meetings like that!

    • "Come and join us, I'm Ford, this is Arthur. We were just about to do nothing at all for a while, but it can wait." (p. 199)

    Adams, Douglas. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. London : Pan, 1980.

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    The Stranger

    I quite enjoyed this book. It's the first Camus I've read (I've read about Camus, but never read any of his actual writing before). There is not much in the way of quotations that I can really extract from this book, because of the style in which it is written (of course, it is a translation from the original French, but apparently the translator took pains to maintain the orginal style as much as possible). You really just need to read the whole book to appreciate it and so I can't just extract a bunch of quotations the way I usually do (there were a few, just not any many as say, all the Douglas Adams books I've been reading of late... Adams and Camus both do wonderful things with language, just in totally different ways)..

    There was a lengthy introduction to the book explaining what you are supposed to be getting out of it. I'm always hesitant about whether to read these before or after I read a book - should I just read the book itself and appreciate it on its own merits before I read what others think of it? Or should I read the introduction first so that I am thinking about things that it might be good for me to be aware of while I read it (rather than reading the book, reading the intro and then needing to read the book all over again to pick up on all the stuff I missed the first time through). In this case, I chose to read the introduction first and there were a few interesting points in there that I felt were worth recording:

    And now a few quotations from the novel itself:

    According to Wikipedia, that vast repository of all the knowledge in the world, The Stranger is a book that George W. Bush was yammering on about having read and then having discussed the origins of existentialism. And Jon Stewart deftly pointed out the humour of Bush "reading a book about a westerner killing an Arab and feeling no remorse." You go Jon!

    Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Trans. Stuart Gilbert. New York, A. A. Knopf, 1946.

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    Wednesday, January 17, 2007


    Life, the Universe and Everything

    Adams, Douglas. Life, the universe, and everything. New York : Harmony Books, 1982.

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