Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

There's No Business Like Show Business

by Robison Wells

Normally I would feel bad about doing this kind of media recap blog, because that's traditionally the type of thing I do when I'm looking for the easy way out. (Which is why I've done it four other times: here, here, here, and here.) However, Jeff didn't post a blog yesterday which means that even if I post a crappy, cop-out blog, I'm still better than him.

The media which I have consumed as of late:

I've actually read a lot of books lately--buckets and buckets of books--but they were all read for the Whitney Awards and therefore I am unable to discuss them. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of good books in those buckets.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
I mentioned this book last week, so I won't talk about it too much today. Overall, I really liked it. I thought the idea, while not exactly original, was executed well and felt fresh. The world was interesting and well-developed. On the other hand, the ending was lame. And I'm not meaning that I don't like cliffhangers--it was just a crummy ending. Also, the technology was at times stretching the limits of my suspended disbelief. But, again, I liked it.

I Am Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells
This is my brother's debut novel, which will be released in the UK in a few weeks, and then in the US later this year.

At last year's Whitney Awards Gala, Shannon Hale asked the audience if anyone else in attendance had been reported to their bishops for something that they'd written. I can unequivocally say that Dan is going to get a bit of that with this book.

The premise is this: John Cleaver, a teenager and sociopath, is obsessed with serial killers. More than that, however, he also shows all the early warning signs of being a future serial killer himself. He wants to be a good person, but he has to fight against his inner urges and suppress the murderous monster within. Then, people in town start getting murdered, and John is the only person who recognizes the killer for what it is--or isn't.

Yes, the book is horror, which isn't discussed very much on this blog. But it's absolutely marvelous.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann
I first got interested in Native American culture when I served my mission on the Navajo reservation, but my real fascination came later when, at college as an anthropology major, I learned that everything I'd been taught about the Navajos--while living on the reservation!--was a phony, sanitized (and even deceptive) version of history, and that the truth explained many of the questions that I'd had while working with them.

1491 had a similar effect on me. As the title suggests, the book sets out to explain what the Americas were like before the Europeans arrived. And, not surprisingly, it shows that much of what we learned in elementary school was a boatload of crap.

Of course, by now, this kind of book is not uncommon. Lies My Teacher Taught Me and similar books have made a small industry of knocking down old false notions about history, but that doesn't make 1491 any less fascinating.


Yeah, I know I'm late to the game on this one. Sorry.

Erin and I went and saw this on Valentine's Day, which would have been romantic except it was at the dollar theater (so the place smelled bad), and I had the stomach flu (so I wanted to leave), and the old guy behind me kept repeating lines. It's not like he was quoting favorite lines--he was just repeating them after the characters, as though they were the work of a genius and he was savoring their awesomeness. He also kept making excited grunting noises whenever interesting things happened, as though he was thinking "Edward's a vampire!? Aha! I never saw that coming!"

I actually enjoyed the movie, though. There were problems, of course, but all the problems with the movie were the same problems I had with the books. (Well, except that the special effects were unforgivably terrible.)

My thoughts are these:
  • In neither the movie nor the book are we presented with any reason to like Edward other than "he's hot". He's not charming or funny or enjoyable to talk to or anything. He's just... a handsome vampire who says cheesy things.

  • Likewise, Edward never gives any reason for liking Bella other than "She smells really good." Granted, almost any relationship will begin with some degree of physical attraction, but there is also some point at which other qualities take over and you say "I fell in love with her because she smells like freesia, but now I love her because she's nice to old people and is a good sport when losing at foosball." But I never get a sense of that in Twilight. It's always obsession and smelling.

  • I think it's funny that Alice's ability to see the future is never helpful at all.

  • I also think it's funny that Bella tells Jacob she wishes that he was at her high school so that she would have at least one friend, but then, when she gets to high school she has a dozen friends before she even gets out of the parking lot. And then she proceeds to treat them all like crap.

  • When Edward shows her how his skin sparkles like diamonds, why does he unbutton his shirt? When I show someone I have freckles, I don't feel the need to say "Yeah, you can already see the freckles on my face, but just wait till you see my chest!"

Yes, I know that my movie watching is grossly behind the times, but that's what happens when you wait for everything to come to video.

This movie was significantly better than I expected, in nearly every way. I was expecting a simple comedy about a smart-aleck, drunken superhero, but the movie was way more than that. I'm not sure why this movie got mediocre reviews--I thought it was great.

(I know that's very vague, but I'm running out of time to write.)


After a great first season, Heroes' quality has been steadily declining, but this newest season looks like a slight improvement. There are still problems, but at least the writers look like they're trying.

Here are my two biggest problems with Heroes:
  • No character ever has a consistent motivation. They've had so many plot twists now that every character has been both good and bad, but they never been able to do it in such a way that the switch was believable. They switch because of the plot, not the character.

  • People die for no reason. I have no problem with killing main characters--in fact, I think it's often essential to a good action story. However, Heroes never seems to do it for any good reason--it often doesn't further the plot or the characterization or the theme or anything. They just die, and no one ever thinks about that person again. It annoys me.

Dr. Who
Speaking of being late to the party, I've started watching all the new Doctor Who seasons. (This has been aided by my baby, who keeps me up all night.) I like how these new seasons are consistently snappy and fun; even if the stories don't really hold up under critical scrutiny, the characters and ideas are fun and interesting.

Austin City Limits
Speaking of being WAY late to the party, I have developed a strong love of Austin City Limits. (Before you all think ill of me, it's not actually crappy country music. I know! That's what I always thought, too.) I have a fondness for live performances, and I like Austin City Limits' mix of genres. It's always a good show, even if the band is something wacky like Drive-By Truckers or Ghostland Observatory. My favorites recently have been Iron and Wine, Gnarls Barkley (of which I'm already a fan) and Grupo Fantasma.

So, if you find yourself awake at midnight on a Saturday night, why don't you tune in to PBS?

Anyway, I've been writing too long. I'll write more later, when I'm copping out of another blog.


At 2/17/2009 6:43 PM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

I'm looking forward to your brother's book.

I haven't read 1491, but I did enjoy The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Discovery Great stuff.

Did you start Dr. Who from the first season? (not back in the 70s, but the more recent ones?)

At 2/17/2009 7:00 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

FWIW, I really enjoyed Hancock, too. It was very entertaining and I did not see the twist coming. (Not sure what the planned sequel is going to be about, though.)

Also, your brother's book sounds way interesting. Is it wish-list-able on Amazon yet?

At 2/17/2009 7:09 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Matthew: Yes, I started with the first season of the new stuff. I'm now halfway through the third season.

Jon: I'm not sure about the Amazon wish list. It's only available on Amazon UK, since the US version won't be out till this fall.

At 2/18/2009 1:16 AM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Muy congrats for your brother! That's really cool.

As always, thank you for sharing your wit- very funny post and I actually did laugh out loud.

I'm looking forward to Hunger Games. It's good to know you got past the present tense thing, because that's usually an issue for me.

At 2/18/2009 7:27 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Yay for Doctor Who! Just goes to show what good taste you have, Robison. *g*

At 2/18/2009 9:47 AM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...

Actually, I did post Monday. It was just a dog post, so only canines could see it.

At 2/22/2009 1:48 AM, Anonymous Amy D said...

haha, I love Doctor Who. Best TV show since... Well, the old ones.


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