Thursday, December 20, 2007

Flu shot

I got a free flu shot at work yesterday and I'm glad I did, but today I have to admit I'm not feeling so great. I had a mildly scratchy throat last night when I went to bed. Today I'm feeling rather achy in my joints and my skin has that ultra-sensitive feel to it where any pressure at all flirts in that netherland between annoyance and mild pain.

I have no idea if this is related to the flu shot (I threw out my paper that had the list of side effects on it -- Doh!). I know you can't get the flu from the shot itself because the bacteria is dead, but there are some other mild symptoms you can acquire. I would classify my symptoms as "mild" and am certainly glad I got the shot, but I'm so astoundingly busy the next few days that I hope these effects pass soon and don't get any worse.

I do owe a writing update, and some info on how I prepare my novels (by request), but I won't have time to get to that until after Christmas at the earliest. Sorry! Just keep checking back.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Party

My company's Christmas party was this past Saturday, held at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel in Camp Hill. A light dinner was followed by a few hours of (fake) gambling. We really had a wonderful time. We played blackjack all night, parlaying our $10,000 voucher into about $18,000 before crashing and burning. John, our very friendly and patient dealer, helped us along since we were complete noobs when it came to gambling.

I got another voucher and we were up to about $20,000 and decided to let it ride for the final bet of the night. And don't you know it, the dealer comes up with blackjack! (Curse you, John!)

I guarantee I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun if it had been my own money....

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada

I read this book because I enjoyed the movie a great deal and simply wanted to see how different the source material was, since I'd read that major changes had occurred between page and screen.

Now, I'm all for screenwriters making changes when adapting a pre-existing work for film. Things have to be changed. I have little tolerance for people who claim changes to plot or character "ruined" a book or movie. For one thing, a film adaptation doesn't change the book at all, so it can't be ruined. I believe it was John Updike who, when someone complained to him about an adaptation of his work "ruining" it, pulled the novel in question from his shelf and said, "It still looks perfectly fine to me."

The more beloved a book, the more shrill the cries of outrage when changes are made. While I have some minor issues myself with changes to THE LORD OF THE RINGS films where I thought the changes served no purpose (which should always be the defining criteria for such alterations -- are they needed in order to better tell the same story in a different medium?), I thought that overall the films were brilliant in both concept and execution. But the fans! Oh my! You would have thought that Peter Jackson had eaten their mothers and fathers for breakfast with all the gnashing of teeth that occurred online.

But I digress. I was talking about THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

This is one of those rare instances where the movie adaptation is actually better than the book. More streamlined, better narrative flow, characters who are more real than the rather caricature-like novel counterparts. I was rather stunned by how much better the movie was.

The book is about a recent college graduate, Andrea, who lands a job at a fictional magazine called RUNWAY working for the world's most powerful fashion editor, Miranda Priestly, who is a hateful, condescending, manipulative tyrant. In the book she is caricature, a creature so over the top that it's sometimes difficult to believe in her.

The movie's major coup is making Miranda just as much a tyrant, while also allowing us to catch glimpses of her as a human being. I was waiting for some of those moments to appear in the novel, but they never did. They were inventions of the screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna, and I applaud her decisions.

Perhaps those who read and enjoyed the novel first prefer it to the movie (that's often the case). But I truly do feel in this instance that the adaptation was more than a simple translations from one medium to another -- it transcended its source material, which, as I said earlier, is a rare thing, and one to be commended when it happens.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Some recent books I've read

I'm not going to do formal book reviews here. I simply don't have the time, and there are plenty of other websites and blogs that offer nothing but reviews that are far better than what I could write.

By "formal review," I mean an analysis of themes, plot, character arcs, where the book may lie in comparison to others in the genre, etc. etc. I was done with those kinds of reviews/reports when I got out of college. I enjoy reading them, but I'm no longer interested in writing them. And as I said, I really don't have the time.

I did have a "What I'm Reading" section on my website, but the blog is easier to update so I think I'll just migrate that here.

I've read a ton of books since I last updated my website, but one of the more recent books I read was THE ROAD, by Cormack McCarthy. This is a devastating novel, a tale of an unnamed father and son who live on a dying Earth and are simply trying to survive the aftermath of an unknown cataclysm. The world is cold, ashen, gray; literally a corpse across which the father and son journey on their way to the coast. They have no idea what they will find there, no real hope, but the coast is a destination, a goal, and so they flee cold and death for what they hope is something better.

The son is the moral compass for them both, reassuring his father -- and in turn asking for reassurance from the older man -- that they are the "good guys" in a world where men murder others to eat them because there is no food, no power, no civilization.

This is a grim, haunting book. It stayed with me long after I finished it. Recommended.

More later....