Tag Archives: books

un morceau de ta mère

Mother of sighs, mother of darkness, mother of tears, mother of cats and plants, and legislation to quell your pain or break your sanity….

If you’ve bequeathed twenty-three pairs of chromosomes to a living creature, if you’ve inherited a friend or relative’s descendents, or if you’ve taken in the orphaned of any species, I hope your Sunday was to your liking.  I started reading Sue Black‘s book All That Remains a week ago and came across a passage that was quite fitting for Mother’s Day, so I mentioned it on my bookface.


The part of you which came directly from your biological mother that isn’t simply half of your DNA and that will likely always be a part of you is inside your ear.

As the author explains, “While it is a fallacy that a pregnant woman eats for two, she does need to ensure that her diet is sufficient to meet not only her own needs but also those of her very demanding passenger.

“The nutrient building blocks required to construct our otic capsule were supplied by Mum from what she was eating around sixteen weeks into her pregnancy. So within our head, in that minute piece of bone just big enough to hold four raindrops, we will perhaps carry for the rest of our lives the elemental signature of what our mother had for lunch when she was four months pregnant. Proof, if any were needed, that our mums never leave us, and a whole new perspective on the mystery of how they manage to get inside our heads” (38, 39).

Find out exactly where the otic capsulse is located at Britannica.com.

Boxes of Dirt, Shape-Shifting, the Un-Dead, and I Like the Book More

I went through a phase in junior high and high school where I only read novels about vampires, but I never wanted to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until a month ago.  I didn’t do extensive research on which edition was better (as far as comprehensive introductions or notes or aesthetically pleasing cover design), so I went with the one I saw at a Barnes & Noble.  I was not disappointed.


The story unfolds through letters, telegrams, and diary entries from various characters (also known as epistolary style).  I had already seen Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film adaptation of the novel a few times, so I enjoyed being able to imagine Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost, and Tom Waits as I read the book.  I finished reading it yesterday and promptly watched the collector’s edition DVD.


I liked the book as I was reading it and loved it by the time I was done (even though it didn’t become really good for me until Lucy dies), but it wasn’t until after the film viewing that I could comprehend what it feels like to prefer a movie’s source material.  I’ve seen many film adaptations of plays, novels, true events and have found that while the adaptations (when done at least competently) strike me as being different for a variety of reasons, they seldom impressed me as being less satistfying.

But then Dracula happened and I get it now.  There’s a comical element to the film, particularly Cary Elwes’s acting and the tone of the insane asylum, that I never noticed in previous viewings.  The main differences between the book and the movie are how much direct “audience time” Dracula has and the way the character of Mina is depicted (what happens to her).  If you want (more) specifics, hop on over to YouTube, where many content creators have addressed it.

Pic creds: Barnes & Noble, Amazon

We Mustn’t Build It or They Will Come

But build it we did and the enemy did come.

As many individuals who served in the American military believed, building an outpost at the bottom of a valley in Afghanistan was an absurd and terrible idea.  Even when respectful apprehension at the plan was met with agreement, the commands from higher pay grades and ranks superseded all forms of reconsideration.  Jake Tapper’s book The Outpost opens with the lunacy of building an outpost in a valley and not atop a mountain when he relates a conversation between “a young intelligence analyst named Jacob Whittaker” and his “superior officer, Second Lieutenant Ryan Lockner” in the “summer of 2006” (3).  Lockner gave Whittaker an assignment to create a visual aid for a morning presentation detailing the location of a new outpost.  After verifying that he had the correct information for its exact location, Whittaker confirmed that he could make the requested Power Point, “But sir…that is a really awful place for a base…it’s located at the base of a mountain peak…and flanked by a river on the west and another river to the north?”

Lockner added, “And there’s no good road to get to it — they’re still building that…”

To which Whittaker responded, “And it’s an eternity away by helicopter if something goes wrong..Sir, this is a really bad idea…A. Really. Bad. Idea. Anyone we drop off there is going to die.”

Jake Tapper’s summary of the exchange between Whittaker and Lockner includes more information on the topography on the area that Camp Kamdesh (eventually renamed Camp Outpost Keating) would be built no matter how tactically nonsensical.  Orders were orders after all.


I finished reading Jake Tapper’s book recently and loved it.  I experienced a substantial pang of sadness and “what the hell?!” afterwards because of current events.  So many lives lost, so many dollars poured into plans, projects, and good intentions that evaporated just like that.

I had wanted to write a blog entry about it after I’d rewatched the The Outpost (Rod Lurie, 2019) and re-read some of the passages in Clinton Romesha‘s account of being at Camp Outpost Keating when it was breached by the enemy….but, I didn’t feel like waiting any more.

If you’ve not seen the film nor read either of the books but would like to plunge into the triumvirate of texts, I recommend you watch the movie first, then read Red Platoon, and then read The Outpost.  Most of the book consists of establishing geo-political and historical contexts that preceded, facilitated, exacerbated what happened at COP Keating.  If you have seen the movie and read Clinton Romesha’s book (or have consumed just one of them) and you want a more compare-and-contrast reading experience of Jake Tapper’s book, then I suggest you read the final section, Book Three entitled “Enemy in the Wire: The End of Combat Outpost Keating”).

OutP  RPlatjpg

I do want to re-watch the movie soon and organize my notes and thoughts for a blog post.

And, the Atlanta Falcons were in merry ole London over the weekend for gridiron action against the New York Jets.  The Falcons moistened the Jets’ towelettes 27 to 20.  Final score.  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

I concur, Darius the Great Deserves Better

I picked up Adib Khorram‘s Darius the Great Is Not Okay a year ago and read it over mid-summer.  The sequel, Darius the Great Deserves Better, came out in hardback a year ago and the paperback a few weeks ago.  I adored the first book, not only for its Bette Davis reference, but also in the way it presented the subjectivity of its title character.  Even when the “ums” became tiresome to read, I still liked Darius and felt really bad for how his classmates treated him.


Not Okay follows Darius and his family’s trip to Iran to visit Darius’s mother’s family, Deserves Better continues with the story after they’ve returned home to Oregon.  Darius goes from awkward, self-embarrassed to less awkward, but still a little self-embarrassed.  His “ums” decrease a tad — some of them are replaced with “that’s normal, right?”

Although the first book has better writing overall and addresses the topic of self-identity and multi-culturalism very well, the second book is more “fun” to read because there are more opportunities to separate from the interiority of the main character.  The reader can identify with his troubles without being in his head, even though he is the narrator.  There are also more provocations to talk at the book, at the characters, to say things like, “Because Darius, you like ____.”  And yet, some of the conversations between the characters, whether it’s Darius and his parents or Darius and his friends, pulsate with advice column material.  It’s as though the author came across an old high school lit mag with the theme of “how to talk about XYZ with your family and friends.”

This assessment originates from the mind of someone who used Windows 3.1 on the first family computer.  If I were in junior high or high school right now, or even college, would my reception of these two books be different?

Fun fact: I read Randy Ribay‘s Patron Saints of Nothing after finishing Not Okay and waiting for Deserves Better on paperback to be released, and when I got my hands on the latter finally, I kept thinking about Randy Ribay’s book.  Both of the Darius books together generates the same emotional response as Patron Saints of Nothing in their exploration of coming-of-age narratives and themes around family dynamics and ethnic heritages.  Would their protagonists be friends?  Hmmm.

What Does It Mean to Have Bette Davis Eyes?

Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon wrote a song about it, Kim Carnes made it popular, and Gwyneth Paltrow covered it in the film Duets (2000), but what does it mean to have Bette Davis eyes?


Sure, her hair is Harlow gold and she might just have Greta Garbo stand-off sighs, but do the song lyrics of “Bette Davis Eyes” adequately elaborate beyond depicting a seductress who is not afraid to cause a bit of pain (physical or emotional)?  Writer Adib Khorram offers this perspective in his book Darius the Great Is Not Okay: Fariba Bahrami had the kindest eyes in the entire galaxy.  They were huge and brown, with little soft pillows under them.  Mom called them Bette Davis eyes (165).

I like Khorram’s mental image much more than the one from the song.  To be honest, despite the nearly three decades I’ve been watching classic movies and mentally ranking various Hollywood actresses’ personas, talents, and other elements that evoke an air of alluring curiosity, Bette Davis did not feature prominently in these exercises.  It wasn’t due to a lack of effort as much as it was a very delayed reaction. After all, I only developed an admiration for Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Stanwyck‘s onscreen magnetism years after college.  As the adage notes, timing is everything, and when it comes to opening yourself up as a viewer to performing artists to whom you had previously felt indifferent, you cannot hurry the manifestation of that kind of esteem and fondness.

Eleven American presidents in office, forty-nine Nobel Peace Prizes awarded, and fourteen sets of Leap Years have come and gone in the half century that Bette Davis lit up the cinema and television screens.  From 1931 to 1989, the two-time Academy Award-winning actress built an illustrious career playing an heiress [The Bride Came C.O.D. (William Keighley, 1941)], a non-conforming southern belle [Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938)], twins [A Stolen Life (Curtis Bernhardt, 1946) and Dead Ringer (Paul Henreid, 1964)], and a celebrated thespian [All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)], among many other roles.

Spending a large part of last year better acquainting myself with Bette’s filmography by watching her films and interviews with Dick Cavett and reading Kathryn Sermak’s memoir Miss D & Me and Sherrie Tucker’s book Dance Floor Democracy has led me to a juncture of cultural and cinematic (re)discovery.  As evidenced in the examples of mentorship, social etiquette, and reclamation of self-agency throughout Miss D & Me, Bette Davis was as much an actress as she was a teacher, eager to share her understanding of human psychology as well as her benchmarks for a fulfilled life.  It was her strength and weakness — knowing exactly what and how she wanted to experience life, supremely prescient in the now quotidien meme of “expectations vs. reality.”

Learn more about Bette Davis in this TCM piece about her role at the Hollywood Canteen.

Enjoy these Bette Davisisms:

Having a career [in Hollywood] includes not only that you can act but that you–that the people go and see you, because people make careers.  No studio manager, no studio head can make you a star.  The audiences made me a star, that was the great miracle to me.
—  Dick Cavett interview from 1969 included on the Criterion Edition of All About Eve.

I feel I am an actress, I hope.  With my taste in what I like to do, I never thought I would ever be a box-office person, because you see, when I went [to Columbia Pictures] in [1930], imagine looking at me after they’d been looking at these really beautiful women that’d been in silent pictures for years.  Imagine seeing Jean Harlow and then I come through the gate, you know, ’cause I started in theatre and stage actors, you know, it wasn’t important how you looked out of the theatre.  I didn’t wear makeup and glamourous clothes, you know, I just dressed in an ordinary, little Yankee way.”
— Dick Cavett interview from 1971 included on the Criterion Edition of Now, Voyager.

Pic creds: 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, IMDB