Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reading challenge

TwangyPearl inspired (challenged? suckered?) me to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce. So far, I've had the book for 9 weeks...oops - make that 10. There was that one week that the book was overdue before I remembered to renew it at the library. I'm approximately halfway through. There are some pretty hilarious things in this book, but it's hard work to read it. Generally, I can read 4-7 books in three weeks. 10 weeks means that normally, I would have given up by now, but I'm determined to finish it.

Coincidentally, today I got an email from Border's Books notifying me that there was an eReader that I could download for my phone. In the email, the magic words "many free books" caught my eye. So, of course I downloaded the eReader. Due to the renewal situation vs my increasingly leaky memory, the first thing I searched for was Ulysses. And, Lo and Behold! It was a free book! Hurray!

Unfortunately, there is apparently no way to search through the book. You have to scroll through page by page. So I got a little refresher on the first half of the book as I scrolled through to the correct place. From this, I arrived at two conclusions...well, let's make that three.

1. It would probably have been useful to have read the Odyssey before reading Ulysses. What I remember from Edith Hamilton's Mythology from 25 years ago is close to nothing.

2. Ulysses might be more enjoyable and engaging as a book on tape. Some of the names and descriptions just beg to be read aloud. Also, a differentiation between the characters who are speaking would frequently be helpful.

3. Joyce was clearly drinking while he wrote this. You could probably pick out the progression of his days from each segment. There is a definite pattern: Clear story with gorgeous descriptions and random characters (sober), followed by main characters performing something vaguely plot-like (couple of drinks), followed by side characters gathering to drink (a little tipsy), followed by mild political rant (a decent buzz), followed by long list of nonsensical names or random words (full-on inebriation). Then there's hangover day where main characters again do something vaguely plot-like, and then either they cycle repeats or the chapter ends.

So, thanks, there, Twangy. Even as I struggle to read this book, I am amused not only by the book itself but also by the style, and even by my lack of knowledge (because I am totally getting the online Cliffs Notes when I finally finish, so I can figure out what the hell I read). I think an international pseudo book club is an excellent idea!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What kind of message are they sending my child?

We spend a lot of time watching the Disney channel around our house. (I know - I'm supposed to limit my child's TV intake to 20 minutes every 2 years, blah, blah, blah. Totally beside the point here) I know the entire morning line-up (or I did, until they changed it last week). I even change to that channel at work so I can catch Shaun the Sheep before I have to start working. Today, during the 700th rerun of a particular Mickey Mouse episode, I can no longer hold it in. I think some of the messages that they send are dead wrong.

In this particular episode, Pluto is competing in some dog championship event against Butch the Bulldog. Everything is fine until the final event, which is a swimming competition. Pluto paddles across the pool, but just before he gets to the finish line, he notices that Butch is flailing in the water. So, Pluto goes back to save him. Mickey and friends throw a life preserver to Butch, and Pluto pushes him to the finish line. Butch, therefore, crosses the finish line first and wins the doggie games. But, since Butch is such a good sport, he splits his star with Pluto and they both win.

I don't know why I find this episode so disturbing. I guess it's because I have an over-developed sense of fair, and I don't think it's fair to Pluto. Butch should not be given a win when he didn't do the required work to get to the finish line. I guess they're playing on the Cars theme (where Lightning McQueen gives up the Piston Cup to help The King cross the finish line), but they missed it in this case. It's great that Pluto helped Butch - excellent your friends when they need it, regardless of the cost to yourself. But to let Butch win the swimming competition because he crossed the finish line first? Ridiculous. Also, for Butch to share his star? Half-assed at best. A good sport will give up his star when he knows that someone else did the real work. My perfect ending, I guess, would be Pluto winning the whole thing and then sharing his prize with Butch. That would show good sportsmanship.

I also don't understand why Special Agent Oso, Mr. Lopart from Handy Manny, and all of the Imagination Movers have to be so completely clueless all the time. I guess it's for comedic effect, but I think you can be funny and intelligent at the same time. I guess it's also to try and convey the sense of wonder that we hope our kids experience while learning new things, but again, I think this could be done a different way.

I just wish PBS would put on the pre-schooler programming during our TV watching time. Instead, they play the things I'd like my daughter to watch during lunchtime and nap time.