Monday, July 19, 2010

Open Letter to Alexandre Dumas

Dear Mr. Dumas,

I didn't think it possible to find my favorite book at the age of 28. I don't know why, but it seems like people identify their favorite books when they're young. Perhaps it's because a lot of people do most of their reading in middle and high school.

At any rate, I may have found my new favorite book. Jane Austen is my favorite author, to be sure, but apart from her works, I'd say you are climbing the charts! The Count of Monte Cristo is an exciting read; I haven't been this riveted with a novel since college! I checked out an audio book edition of The Count of Monte Cristo recently, and I just can't um . . . put it down! I look forward to driving to and from work now. Some days -- if I'm lucky -- I have time to sit in my car during lunch and continue the story of Edmond Dantes and his friends and foes.

What a remarkable talent you have for writing, despite your lack of formal education. Really, I want to shout from the rooftops to everyone below: "Read The Count of Monte Cristo! It's the best novel you've never read!"

So until I die, or until I find another amazing novel -- one that gives me a passion for reading again -- I will sing your praises. And if anyone asks me for a book suggestion, I will tell them to read The Count of Monte Cristo.

Thanks for making novels fun again,

P.S. Because of that library scene in The Shawshank Redemption, I laugh every time I see your name. I know, it's immature of me, but that's what happens when you become famous and your last name is "Dumas."

Movie Reviews

In the last two weeks, I've seen two animated movies: How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3. They were both really good! Here are my reviews!

How to Train Your Dragon
I didn't know much about this movie going into it, so I had zero expectations. The plot was simple, but entirely different; it reminded me of Shrek, actually, because the story is about how things that are perceived as scary are not actually scary at all. So kudos to DreamWorks for subverting notions of normal/not normal.

There were only two things I didn't like about this movie: the dragon at the end was just too darn big—even for a fantasy animation—and the Viking youth didn't have Scottish accents, while the adults did (Really, what was that about?).

Toy Story 3
I had low expectations for this movie, too—mostly because I was trying to not get my hopes up that Pixar could create another great sequel. But they did! It was such a funny movie! I especially liked the Ken and Barbie scenes. Michael Keaton was the voice behind Ken, and he really took the cake. The general plot was fairly predictable, but Toy Story's familiar how-are-we-going-to-escape-the-villain-and-get-back-home theme wasn't boring because there were so many humorous scenes sprinkled throughout. Pixar really knows how to make a girl cry, too—I got a little watery-eyed at the end. (There were no actual teardrops, though.) :)

The one caution I will give for this movie, though, is: Don't let your small children watch it. I think some scenes could be a little scary for 4- or 5-year-olds. Just to be safe, I'd probably wait until my kids were 7 or 8.

Thing I'm thankful for: a car that works.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Work was frustrating more than once -- mostly through my own follies, and in general, I just felt like an idiot. As I was leaving work, I called a friend who I thought would cheer me up, but there was no answer on the other end of the line. So I called someone else. And someone else. Each time was unsuccessful.

I wanted to talk to someone on my commute home, but instead had to settle for my book on CD, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is, to be sure, a wonderful book, but I was on a difficult chapter. Intently focusing on political discussions of the Bonapartists was not the best antidote for my frustrated spirits, but I thought I needed to occupy my mind with something other than the day's events, so I made myself concentrate as much as possible.

As a result of the frustrated, concentrated, and probably depressed expression on my face, the strangest thing happened while I was stopped at a traffic light. There was a white van to my left and slightly ahead of me. The driver honked. I looked at him to make sure he was honking at me, and he was. He motioned at me to roll down my window, which I did -- I assumed he wanted to ask for directions. (See Call Me Google.) He looked young -- I guessed he was in college -- and he was with a group of other young people. It was a mix of guys and girls, and I assumed that perhaps they were in Atlanta from out of town, or maybe they were just too young to be driving to and through Atlanta on a regular basis.

At any rate, he didn't ask me for directions. He did something completely unexpected. He looked straight at me after I rolled down my window -- the others were looking at me, too -- and he said, "Smile!" I suddenly realized I was probably wearing a scowl on my face and sort of smile-laughed in spite of myself. At my reaction to his command, the van of undergrads laughed kindly.

And that was that. Traffic picked up, and I continued on my way and they continued on theirs. I couldn't quite shake the bad mood I was in, but it did help to know that a van of random strangers noticed I was blue and tried to make life better for me. It made me feel good, at least, to know that there were people driving around this world thinking about other people's happiness.

Thing I'm thankful for: my roommate's veggie soup. It is good and good for you!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

No Rules. Just WRONG!

That's what BYU research says, anyway. See? Teens and alcohol study: Parenting style can prevent binge drinking.

Here are the take-away points:
  • The teens least prone to heavy drinking had parents who scored high on both accountability and warmth.
  • Teens with “indulgent” parents—those low on accountability and high on warmth—had triple the risk of heavy drinking.
  • Teens with “strict” parents—high on accountability and low on warmth—were more than twice as likely to engage in heavy drinking.
After reading this, my mind immediately went to that great scene in Mean Girls, in which Amy Poehler plays a "cool mom." It's the perfect example of what not to do as a parent.

Watch it!
Mean Girls: Cool Mom

Thing I'm thankful for: good parents! Though actually, I think they could've been a little higher on the accountability side. (But I promise I didn't binge drink!) :)