Thursday, March 25, 2010

South Park takes on book banning

Tonight's episode of South Park trod on literary territory! I think the only other time they've done that was when they skewered the A Million Little Pieces Oprah fiasco (which was great--Towelie and A Million Little Fibers!). So in this episode, after speed reading Catcher in the Rye because of its mystique as a banned book, the boys are disappointed and immediately pen their own story which they make as offensive as they can dream up. Cartman's reaction to Catcher in the Rye: "It's not obscene, dude. I'll show them [expletive] obscene!"

The boys' "book" ends up getting discovered and although people are utterly repulsed by it, they praise it as a great contribution to literature (i.e., worthy of the Pulitzer Prize) and read all sorts of interpretations into it that, of course, the boys had no intention of conveying. South Park's creators love making fun of pretension throughout our culture!

Of course, many of us are bewildered with the continued banning of books from school and public libraries. This South Park episode helps highlight the absurdity of book banning--how dated and hopelessly subjective it is. The boys inevitably get fed up. Books, they conclude, invite their own meaning: "That's why we should forget books and stick to television!"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Didn't want to wait for the DVD of this one

I had a great time seeing Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I often like Burton's films, and he puts Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, two of my favorite actors, in a bunch of them. And again, they don't disappoint. The buzz from critics has been that Bonham Carter upstages Depp, but I disagree. They're both excellent in their roles. Bonham Carter probably gets more laughs, though, because of her Red Queen's gigantic head and "Off with his head!" spasms.

As my mom (moviegoing companion) said, it's great to hear Johnny Depp recite "The Jabberwocky," and with ferocity! Speaking of the dialogue, I like how Alice utters one of the best lines from the books: "I've often believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

I like the tenderness between Alice and Depp's Mad Hatter. They have each other's backs. Alice also values the advice of the caterpillar, despite her frustration with the "Who are you?" shtick.

This isn't another version of Alice in Wonderland so much as it is a continuation in which Alice, now a young woman, travels back to Wonderland. There are many familiar characters from Disney's classic cartoon version, and some different ones. I love the books and seeing the film makes me want to revisit them (I hope those who see the movie and haven't experienced the books will be inspired to do so!).

I like this film a lot better than Burton's reworking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I don't think that film needed another version. I welcomed more Wonderland, however!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philosophy Lite

Marietta McCarty's How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas that Matter Most is all right, but not what I was hoping to read. I only took one philosophy class in college and have done a little reading on my own, so I wanted to read something not overly scholarly but not too poppy and self-helpy, either. Turns out I wanted something more scholarly than this book.

Her ten ideas that matter most are broad: simplicity, communication, perspective, flexibility, empathy, individuality, belonging, serenity, possibility, and joy. She attaches two philosophers to each idea and briefly explains their views relating to it.

Both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly gave the book decent reviews. It is structured best for a "philosophy club," at the author's suggestion, and LJ notes: "Her concept of philosophy clubs is particularly appealing and practical for public libraries and neighborhood groups." But I didn't find it to be enough for the individual who doesn't need a bunch of discussion questions and suggested music and literature to accompany the ideas. I wanted the ideas to be more fleshed out in place of that supplementary material. McCarty merely skims the surface.