Ken is Trying to Win Back Barbie

Remember a year and a half ago or so when Barbie and Ken split up? It was big news. Well, Barbie’s new crush (I think his name was Blaine or something) is apparently not working out that well. At least, that’s my assumption, since Ken has decided to win back Barbie. He’s consulting with the hottest style gurus in Hollywood, according to his personal manager and publicist. He’s considering a style make-over so that his style will be more variable and exciting. He’s even considering eyelid surgery to try and remedy his lack of blinking (he hasn’t blinked in like fourty years). I guess he thinks that a new look will make him appealing to Barbie again. I hope it works out for him! I never liked Blaine (what kind of a name is Blaine anyway? and can’t she find a boyfriend with a better ambition that being a surfer dude?).

Favorite Publisher: Barefoot Books

I was reminded tonight as I looked through the Barefoot Books catalog that they are totally my favorite children’s book publisher. The publish intersting books on a wide variety of topics. Many of their books (probably over half) are folk tales, legends and myths from various cultures around the world. The books almost always have absolutely stunning illustrations. On of my favorite books of theirs is The Seven Wise Princesss by Wafa Tarnowska has beautiful illustrations by Nilesh Mistry. I’m just so pleased with the quality and variety of their books. A link to their website has been added to the Book Links page.

New Book Lists!

I completely re-did the Book Lists page. I’ve moved the actual lists on to their own pages and alphabatised the books in each list by author. A few lists, like Asian Stories and Fairy Tales Retold are broken down into sub-categories on their list page. There are some great new lists and they are growing every day. A few lists only have one or two books, but I’m still adding all the time. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

“WholesomeWear”

Apparently, bathing suits are immodest. Ok, I’ll buy that in a general sense. Since we see tiny bikinis on girls from age 3 to 60 at this point, I can see the arguement. But if you go to an average pool you will see most of the women and girls there in fairly decent bathing suits (in my experience, anyway). But evidently, that’s not quite good enough. So now we can wear WholesomeWear. The website is awful and they currently only make swimwear.

Now, I don’t really have any major problem with the existance of this type of swimwear (although I can’t honestly see the point and think their thing about drawing the eye to the face is total crap since if I saw someone wearing one of these I’d notice the strange suit long before the face of the woman wearing it), but something about the concept creeps me out. Maybe it’s the obvious likness to swimwear from the Victorian era. Maybe it’s the lack of WholesomeWear for men (are men exempt from modesty?). Maybe it’s just the implied shame in the human body. I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just bothered by the complete lack of information about the company on their website or the fact that their swimsuits are all 40% off (or more) right now. Something about it just gives me the creeps.

Subjects in School

Ok, I don’t usually get mad when I read articles from school papers that really have no hope of accomplishing anything but expressing some random student’s opinion, but this one actually did piss me off. Ok, first of all, Miss Stacey Perk doesn’t get off to a good start by talking about how great high school was with parties and football games. Um… most people don’t remember high school as being great for those things (or if they do, it’s in a “childhood is a perfect time of innocence” kind of way). But that isn’t really the point. She quickly gets beyond that to what she really wants to do – which is whine about having to learn things.

Ok, I agree that college students have to take too many random classes that are totally unrelated to their major at most liberal arts colleges (which is most colleges these days). However, I don’t believe that standard applies to high school so much (sorry, Math should totally be a required subject in high school). And saying that most people will never use those skills again when they are out in the real world is totally clueless! First of all, you are a junior in college! You aren’t in the real world yet! Hell, I’m 24, out of college and barely consider myself to be in the real world! Second of all, your examples are kinda clueless. Math and history, in particular are going to be used a lot by most people, even if they don’t always realize it. Even chemistry is important! I agree that you probably aren’t likely to pull out that periodic table again, but that doesn’t mean that basic chemistry isn’t important.

Ok, math is probably the most obvious one. You use it everywhere. It’s important for cooking, shopping, paying bills, doing laundry, making a phone call, driving a car, even clocking in at work! And not all of that is basic arithmetic. You use algebra every day without even thinking about it! Most people won’t use advenced calculus on an average day, but algebra is really important.

The biggest thing I use chemistry for on an average day is cooking, even just basic stuff. When you decide to put salt on something, you are making a decision based on chemistry, even if you don’t realize it. Makeup and hair products and knowing which ones to choose is all about chemistry!

History is important for everything. It’s important for evaluating news stories, opinions about all manner of topics and making decisions about everything from what store to shop from (do they support unions? why is that important?) to choosing who to vote for!

Miss Perk wants to be a journalist. Well, clearly that’s different. She will never need math… except when making deadlines and thinking about the space an article needs to fit in and… ok, she probably needs somr math. But chemistry will never be important… unless a story she is writing about has any basis in chemistry (a story about food, medicine, scientific discovery, etc.)… ok, but that doesn’t happen often, right? But history will prove totally useless to her, right? I mean, why would she want to know what happened in the past that led up to what she is writing about today? Why would she want to know how to look up what other people have said in the past or how other reporters covered a subject? She’ll certainly never need to do any fact checking.

She spends some time discussing how all those “useless” classes presented a hardship to her by dragging down her GPA because she never went to class or did her homework for them. Well, maybe some math would have shown her in advance how blowing off a class and getting a low grade in it would affect her GPA.

I’m sorry Stacey, but I read magazines like “Glamour” all the time (I work in a bookstore, how else do you kill a fifteen minute break?) and they are full of math and history and chemestry. Statistics are in nearly every article. As a journalist, I think you will find that a wide understanding of other subjects might be useful. Knowing about the inverted pyramid will help you with mechanics, but no one reads an article because of the mechanics, they read it for the content. And if when I read your article I get the impression that you don’t really understand what you are writing about, even though the subject is interesting, I’m going to go find a better article on the subject.

So maybe those subjects are a little more important than you thought.

Sorry for the rant, but poorly written and thought out articles like this one really annoy me, especially when written by someone who isn’t even in a position to make a value judgement that means anything on what they are expressing value judgements about! I wouldn’t want a single man with no kids writing about the hardships of motherhood either. At least not without some damn good sources who do understand it! There is no excuse for articles like this one and even though it’s just a student paper, The Daily Iowan should have higher standards for what they publish.

Book: The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha
Lloyd Alexander
1978

This is an interesting fantasy from Alexander. It is about a boy who lets a street magician perform a trick on him that transports him to a far away and possibly not real country where he is lauded as king for arriving in the right place at the right time. He then dives head first into the deep end of the political and military issues concerning the country, surprising himself as much as anyone else. What results is political intrigue, attempted assassination, war and wild adventure. The story is funny and rather sad at the same time.

As always, Alexander’s writing and story construction is superb. The book was enjoyable to read, even when the plot got a little slow. The story is very interesting, particularly in it’s rather novel technique for getting the kid to the “dream” realm. The use of the untrustworthy street magician and the uncertainty about the permanence or transience of the new realm are particularly interesting. The idea that Lukas-Kasha may end up king of this far off kingdom forever, or might get pulled out any minute (and if he is pulled out, it is unclear if he will return home or find himself in another new place entirely) adds a dimension to the story that is never very far from the surface of the reader’s thoughts.

The plot is interesting and generally more politically driven (in the story sense, not the relating-to-the-real-world sense) than his fantasy stories usually are. I really liked that the story was driven almost exclusively by character development. That is a choice few writers of children’s books make and Alexander shows how good a story of this type can be. I really liked the way he ended the book, which at that point did surprise me in a way, but it also made me very sad. I couldn’t help feeling really bad for Lukas.

This is a fun book. It isn’t my favourite of Alexander’s books, but it is unique and interesting. I would definitely recommend it!

Book: Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer
J. T. Petty
Illustrated by Will Davis
2005

This is a very slim little book, but it’s a lot of fun! It tells the story of a girl who remembers the line from Peter Pan about how a fairy dies every time someone says “I don’t believe in fairies” as she is getting attacked by the Fairy of Frequent and Painful Pointless Antagonism. So she says it until the fairy falls dead (seven times), at which point a hobgoblin shows up and accuses her of murdering seven fairies, some of whom were actually good. So the girl travels around the world with the hobgoblin to fix the damage that she caused by killing the fairies (and yes, she could just clap her hands a lot and say “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do”, but then the Fairy of Frequent and Painful Pointless Antagonism would come back to life right in front of her and angry). The journey is very funny and the solutions that the girl comes up with are very entertaining.

The writing is very good and incredibly funny. This writer has a wonderful style, which is very impressive since this is his first book. The book is peppered with great phrases like “dropped dead as a gossamer-winged doorknob” and the level of language craft is extremely high throughout the book. That said, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to the story, which is why the book is so short. I really didn’t think that hurt the book, though, since it was a blast to read. Not every book needs to be deep. The main character (Clemency Pogue) and the hobgoblin are wonderfully drawn. Besides, how can a book that advertises itself as doing “for burlap pants what holes have done for Swiss cheese” be anything but pure fun?

The illustrations are perfect for the book. They are black and white, mostly full-page pictures of scenes from the book. The style is a believable cartoonishness that resembles the illustrations of Tony DiTerlizzi in the Spiderwick Chronicles. I loved the picture of the little boy pretending to be a dog, chewing on pillows and jumping on the bed. The scenes illustrated are well chosen and generally properly placed, which is much appreciated and not common enough in books.

This book is great. It’s light reading and will take maybe an hour to read, but it’s well worth it! I very much look forward to more books from this author!

Second American Girl Movie: Felicity

Last November saw the premiere of the first movie based on one of the American Girl stories with Samantha: An American Girl Holiday. It was actually pretty well done. This year brings another of the girls to the screen with Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, which is set to air on the WB on November 29. I am more excited about this one than I was about Samantha’s movie. My favorite of the girls was always Kirsten (the Swedish imigrant girl who lived on a farm in Minnesota), but Felicity was a close second. I have a Felicity doll and just adore her clothes. I loved her story because of all the girls Felicity was probably the most rebellious. She wore pants to ride a horse in secret and she wasn’t exactly the proper young lady, even when she tried. She went barefoot, let her petticoats fly in the wind, and deliberately forgot her hat when going out in the sun (thereby bringing out all of her freckles) all in colonial Virginia when such things were scandalous. So I look forward to seeing her movie! I hope it does the books justice!

Mirrormask to open in Madison!

Mirrormask, a movie based on the book of the same title by Neil Gaiman, is set to open in Madison on Friday, October 21 (two days from now) at Marcus Westgate Art Cinemas! I’ve been really wanting to see this movie. It’s gotten great reviews, the author actually likes it and felt it represented his vision well, and it looks really really amazing in all the previews. The book is really cool. I haven’t gotten to read it completely yet, but I have scanned through it some at work. It just looks so neat! A co-worker of mine commented that it would have been nice if the book had been bigger, like some of Gaiman’s picture books, and I agree. I understand why they decided to do it this way (at least, the most likely reasons), but I generally think putting marketing reasons ahead of design choices in cases like this is stupid and short-changes the work and the author. Oh well. At least I get to see the shiny shiny movie! I’m really excited! Yay!

Encyclopedia Brown in Hollywood?

The New York Times had an article yesterday about the movie rights to the Encyclopedia Brown series being sold. Apparently the author really really doesn’t want a movie made of his creation, but he doesn’t have much say until the movie rights revert back to him.

Regardless of the rights issues, I find the idea of a movie of Encyclopedia Brown kind of interesting. Generally I’m sceptical of movie versions of books that I like, but I actually think that in the right hands this series could make a great movie! The stories are episodic, so there is no risk of deep overarching plot being abreviated, altered or otherwise tweaked. The characters are simple and have managed to stay largely the same over the years. And since the main character is a boy, the risk of him being trivialized or made to be anything like the what movie studios think will be popular (that disgrace is usually left to female characters like Nancy Drew).

I think that the movie could easily suck too, but it certainly has potential for a good movie! Too bad the author doesn’t think so. I do believe the author’s wishes should be respected, so even though I think it could be a good movie, I will be sad if they make it over his strenuous objections. Oh well.

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