Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

Several of us signed up for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book Contest, and our scribe's name was drawn. She was "selected to connect with a special group of sisters and read The Prayer Box early."

The book was written by Lisa Wingate, and five "sisters" share the book. The first name on the list is the Big Sister and received the book first. Our scribe was the second sister, and the book came in the mail the day she left for Comic-Con. Perfect timing.

Much of the fun of reading the book this way is you get to write comments in it. And you get to read the comments the your "older" sisters wrote in it. And sharing those comments and the book.

Our scribe had a 10:30 appointment at the Comic-Con blood drive, took The Prayer Box with her. Was she ever glad she did because she had 3 hours to read it. Yes, it took THREE Hours for them to take her blood. Of course the feeling one gets by helping others is priceless, but THREE HOURS?? .

But the best part, she said, was the book. She said she even got irritated when it was she reached the front of each line (and there were FOUR LINES to wait in to donate blood (and no cute vampires hanging around!) But The Prayer Box was the perfect book for waiting because she really cared about the main character, her children, the dead old lady and even the minor characters.

The swag given to blood donors, and The Prayer Book, by Lisa Wingate

The Prayer Box is set on Cape Hatteras after it was battered by a violent storm. Tandi snatched her two children out of their privileged but seriously constrained life in Dallas and ran as far east as she could, stopping before her hat floated away. Almost literally. She found herself renting a cottage on a big estate that has definitely seen better times. Tandi's parents were horrible parents and Tandi has repeated her mother's life choices several times, and really wants this time to be different. But she's latched on to a guy who seems like a repeat and her kids seem headed on the same path she walked as a child.

When Tandi finally checks on the woman who lives in the big house, she finds her dead body. She's asked to help clear out the perishables and finds a stash of beautiful boxes in which the dead woman had filed the prayers she'd written to her "Father" her whole life long.

The discoveries Tandi makes as she learns about her former landlady, and the lessons she learns from the good people around her, may change her life and those of her children. 

The story flows naturally and there isn't a false note among the characters. We all like the idea of putting prayers on paper as the act of writing helps clarify and concentrate one's thoughts.

There are some good lines in it, too. This one reminds me of the things my southern grandmother used to say, "You can dress a toad in lace, but the minute you let it go, it will still poop on the porch."

We wish we could see the book again after the other three sisters have a chance to read it.

And for those of you bag fans, the other side of the Warner Brothers bag in the photo is the Supernatural Hunter Checklist one. The blood drive gave her a Classic 60's Batman bag, but she traded it to a guy for the Supernatural one. He really wanted the Arrow one, and thought Batman made better trading material.

Gotta love the Con!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's A Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman? Or Is It?

It's A Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman? Or Is It?

Who is Superman? Is he the brooding Batman-light Man of Steel or the heroic figure the geezers in the group remember from the original comic book? We here at GHPALS had a long discussion after members saw the film.

The Superman in this movie is absolutely not the hero of the original comic books. You might not even want to meet this guy. He's not interesting or particularly heroic. He's boring.

They need a reboot of the reboot.

Some Pals claimed the film tried to turn Superman into Batman. The two DC characters are very different, and were that way on purpose. Batman is all about being closed in: the bat cave, the bat car, cities with buildings so tall Batman works in tunnels. Superman is the hero of light and open sky. That's why the guy flies so much! Over fields and mountains. Wide open spaces. America! Yes he lives in a city, but so what. Clark was only following the migration of most young men who grew up on farms.

Another Pal argues that while that the filmmakers were trying to Batman-ize Superman, what they really did was turn Captain Kirk into Mr. Spock. The comic book Superman, like Kirk, always managed to find a way out of a dilemma; both characters were clever and smart and thoroughly self-aware, though Superman chose to hide it by pretending to be Clark Kent. That whole aspect of Superman's character is lost in this movie. And while Kirk lost a few crewmen along the way, his guiding principle was everyone gets back to the ship and the ship gets saved; Spock was perfectly happy with the omelet/eggs view of life: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." In the movie, Superman seems to have adopted that view as he destroys buildings (and presumably the people in them by the thousands), fighting Zod.

The basic problem with the Superman character is that nothing can ever hurt him, except the very rare kryptonite. This makes him a god in many ways, while Batman and Kirk are merely human; they can get hurt. They don't have super speed, so they can't be everywhere at once. They can't use their powers to control nature; Superman can. It's how Superman can catch a bus that's falling off a bridge and simultaneously use his super breath to blow river water on a fire. Superman is the ultimate multi-tasker who just has more tools in his toolbox than the rest of us.

Superman is the embodiment of what Americans liked to think they would be if they had super powers. As we know from all the ancient myths, super beings usually behave irresponsibly. They have to be taught how to behave, and must learn to accept the great responsibility that goes with those powers. The noblest gods protect people whose powers are less than theirs. That ethic, and the accompanying behavior, doesn't come naturally. Gods and children have to be taught, and every hero needs a mentor. Ma and Pa Kent, rock-solid All-American farmers, gave Superman/Clark Kent that education, grounding him firmly in "truth, justice and the American way." 

Kevin Costner, echoing his Field of Dreams persona, certainly doesn't mentor Clark. He's the worst kind of parent since he did not teach his child to accept and use his talents and gifts. Instead, he made his son afraid of them, and the people around him. How wrong is that? The movie's Pa Kent completely abrogates his primary responsibility as a parent. Once again, a movie purposefully destroys what were good parent role-models. Why is that? 

The geezers in our group point out that the original Ma and Pa Kent were older parents. That age brought maturity, and, presumably, wisdom. Growing up on a farm also provides lessons in the power of nature, and the fragility of life. Whatever their ages, Batman didn't have that stable parental influence. He saw his parents gunned down, and never got over it. A butler can never replace a father, no matter how good a man he is. He has reasons for brooding, though the geezers point out the original Batman didn't seem to spend a lot of time doing it; he was too busy.

We had members who wouldn't even see the movie. One Pal was immediately put off by the washed out colors, probably because the comics were so brightly colored. (During our discussion, other Pals said the colors matched the movie's tone, which the first Pal claimed was why she didn't want to see it.) Another Pal was turned off when she first saw the costume. What is it with that webbing? And why wasn't it basic colors? The original costume was made from Superman's baby blankets. This one looks like it was made from worn out clothes or cheap spandex.

Here are some other thoughts that came up during our discussion:
  • What's the obsession with meaningless destruction? It's boring and trite and stupid. One of our Pals fell asleep several times during the film.
  • CGI will not save a movie. The action was much more exciting in Fast & Furious 6.
  • The cinematography was awful. It felt like the camera wasn't stable. Oblivion was beautifully shot. This movie wasn't.
  • Ridiculous product placement was very distracting. One scene focused on Nikon camera far too long. Then there was iHop, UHaul, 7-11. Ugh!
  • The kelp babies on Krypton were ridiculous, and pointless.
  • Why did Russell Crowe keep coming back? He was dead! One after-death appearance, please. More than that is milking a star. (Than again, some of us point out, it's Russell freaking Crowe.)
  • It was just too long. Way too long. 
  • And Lois Lane as a redhead? Come on! Brunettes everywhere unite at this atrocity!
On the other hand, Gaeta got two legs again. (obscure BSG reference.)