Monday, March 07, 2011

Annual Books and Movies List - 2010

Every year since I started this blog, I have listed and rated the books I read and listened to and the movies I watched in theaters. I never got around to doing it for 2010 for some reason, mainly because I wasn't blogging much at all around the end of year. So, for myself as much as for anyone else, here is my list.

Just a note about methodology: The ratings are based on five stars being the highest. The books are ones I have read or listened to this year, some of them for the second or third time. I read (or listened to) 58 books this year, down from last year's record 67. Eleven were non-fiction; 56 were fiction.

Although five stars is officially my highest rating, if a book makes me say, "Wow!!" at the end, I might give it Five Plus Stars. Five Plus Stars should be rare; last year I awarded none of those. Either I read better quality books this year or I was feeling more generous as I read five books that got Five Plus Stars.

I only list 25 movies this year, down from 42 last year. The movies I listed are ones I saw in theaters because of my conviction that seeing DVDs at home on even large television screens is not experiencing the whole movie as it was intended by the directors of the movies. I can change. Having allowed The Wife and Son Number One to talk me into acquiring a large flat screen tv with a blu-ray DVD player and an on-line connection, I find that I am enjoying watching movies at home as much or more than watching them in a theater. Plus the convenience and low cost of watching Netflix, particularly their instant offerings, has meant that the vast majority of movies I am watching now are at home, so for 2011, I will list and rate those also. The movies marked Ebertfest were ones I saw at the Roger Ebert Film Festival here in April. Most of them were not in wide release and many are not even available on Netflix.

My book of the year is Generosity by Richard Powers

Five Plus Stars
Generosity Richard Powers
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
The Bridge of San Luis Rey Thornton Wilder
The Gravedigger's Daughter Joyce Carol Oates
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

Five Stars

Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories Annie Proulx
Bridge of Sighs Richard Russo
Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
Country Driving Peter Hessler
Digging to America Anne Tyler
Good-Bye Columbus and Other Short Stories by Philip Roth
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
My Father's Tears: Short Stories John Updike
Noah's Compass Anne Tyler
Nonviolent Communication Marshall Rosenberg
The Art of Travel Alain de Bottom
The Maple Stories John Steinbeck
Zeitoun Dave Eggers

Four Stars

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers
An American Type Henry Roth
Elementals A.S. Byatt
Family Meeting Miles DeMott
Following the Equator Mark Twain
How Proust Can Change Your Life Alain de Bottom
Imperfect Birds Anne Lamotte
Jaybar Crow Wendell Berry
La's Orchestra Saves The World Alexander McCall Smith
Last Night in Twisted River John Irving
Letting Go Philip Roth
Pylon William Faulkner
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
Sanctuary William Faulkner
She Got Up Off The Couch Haven Kimmel
Solar Ian McEwan
The Facts Philip Roth
The Good Boatman: A Portrait of Gandhi by Rajmohan Gandhi
The Help Kathleen Stockett
The Women T. Coraghessan Boyle
When She Was Good Philip Roth

Three Stars

Alaska James Michener
A Tale of Two Revolts Rajmohan Gandhi
Deception Philip Roth
Diary of A Pigeon Watcher Doris Schwerin
Ella Minnow Pea Mark Dunn
Girl With Curious Hair David Foster Wallace
In Dubious Battle John Steinbeck
Musicophilia Oliver Sacks
Songs Without Words Ann Packer
The Bean Trees Barbara Kingsolver
The Breast Philip Roth
The Clinton Tapes Taylor Branch
The Flying Troutmans Miriam Toews
The Professor of Desire Philip Roth

Two Stars

I Like You Amy Sedaris
My French Whore Gene Wilder
Once On A Moonless Night Dai Sijie
South of Broad Pat Conroy
Traveling With Pomegranates Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor


Five Plus Stars

The Messenger (also my movie of the year.)

Five Stars

A Single Man
Song Sung Blue
The Kids Are All Right
Vincent: A Life in Color (Ebertfest)

Four Stars

Crazy Heart
It's Complicated
Synecdoche, New York
Up In The Air
Wall Street II
You The Living

Three Stars

Dinner For Schmucks
Extraordinary Measures
I Capture the Castle
Man With A Movie Camera (Ebertfest)
Morning Glories
Pink Floyd: The Wall
The Last Station
The New Age

Two Stars

Apocalypse Now Redux (Ebertfest)
Leading Ladies

Sunday, March 06, 2011

What I Saw Under the Table Last Night

Last night I attended a dinner hosted by a group that promotes discussion and understanding among the Abrahamic religions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, all of whom claim the blessing God supposedly gave to the descendants of Abraham.) I went primarily to support my brother, the Humble Philosopher/Carpenter/Farmer who gave the initial presentation about a document called A Common Word Between Us and You, prepared by a group of Muslim scholars and religious leaders to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders following a speech by the Pope in which he appeared to denigrade Muslims (once again.) A rabbi, the head of a local Christian seminary and a Muslim leader spoke in response to the letter. The food was good, the discussion was interesting and I really was not looking under the tables because I was bored. Honest. Nor because I have a shoe fetish.

It was purely accidental that I happened to glance under a table and saw some very sexy-looking very high heeled shoes being worn by a Muslim woman in full hijab. She had everything covered from top to bottom except her face and her shoes. She looked good. Actually, to this old man, she looked better than Britney Spears climbing out of a limousine with a very short skirt hiked up to her waist and not wearing underwear. But, then, that's probably because I grew up Amish where the most daring footwear a young woman could put on were sneakers.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Remember Me?

OK, it's time to get the old blog fired up again. I doubt that I have any readers left after that long hiatus, but I need to write for myself, if no one else. I started the blog almost six years ago as The Wife and I were getting ready to go to Lucerne, Switzerland to see Son Number Two perform at the Lucerne Festival. I started it and named it partly as a take off on Mark Twain's "An Innocent Abroad," in which he recounted his adventures visiting Europe, including Lucerne. Since then it has evolved (or devolved) into a little bit of politics, some Amish arcana, some book and movie reviews and whatever else strikes my fancy.

I love Facebook, but unfortunately, it has drained some of my writing creativity. You can write a sentence or two and get immediate feedback from people you know. It's easier to post photographs and to see your friends' pictures. It has also been a very busy time for me at work, so given the time demands, I have taken the easy way out.

This week, I bought tickets for The Wife and I to go to Europe to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in July. We'll be going to Vienna for a few days to see my brother, The Do-Gooder, and then to Paris for a couple of weeks and return via London. While we're in Paris, we'll run up to Rheims one night to hear JACK play, and on our way home, we'll hear the quartet play again in London, at the venerable Wigmore Hall, as part of that venue's 125th anniversary celebration. So, I'll have lots to write about this summer and I need to write it so when I'm an old man, I can go back and read it and remember what we did.

I have not been keeping the blog (I won't say readers because I doubt I have any left) up to date on the growth of the cutest baby in the world, Grandson Number One. We're going to go see him in Brooklyn two weeks from today. Meanwhile, here's a picture I just love of Son Number Two and Grandson Number One.

The Third Generation