Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen. [opening paragraph]

— Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

I saw the movie based on this book about a month ago (review here), and it piqued my interest in reading the book. I finished the novel earlier this week – it’s a quick read, about 300 pages and not too dense.

Great literature? No, but a very well written (for the most part) book based on the eerie/macabre premise: The book is upfront in telling the reader that the protagonist is going to die almost immediately, and the book is told in a first-person narrative by the deceased teenager from her perch in “in-between land” (not quite Full Heaven, but certainly not earth).

In the book, the narrator – Susie – has some interactions with those she has left behind on earth: A schoolmate who encountered Susie’s soul as it was leaving her body to go to heaven; her father, who can’t quite admit she is gone; Ray, her first love, her first kiss. She watches them, tries in some cases to make connections with them, is happy with the achievements they keep rolling up after her death, tries to let them go.

The story moves along at a good clip, and a lot of it reminds me of Hispanic literature, where the supernatural is part of novels in so many cases: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Like Water for Chocolate and others. Just about any Jorge Luis Borges story.

The book is about relationships, motives, how we live our lives and letting go.

It’s also reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio – with the small subdivision taking the place of the small Buckeye State town. There are secret – and not so secret – parts of peoples lives. Some live out loud – such as Susie’s madcap grandmother. Some live lives of quiet despair – Susie’s father, the detective who is unable to solve this and other cases, and the mother of Susie’s first love Ray, Mrs. Aruna.

And some – like Susie – are taken before they can even begin to understand life.

Entertaining, at times extremely poignant, the book far surpasses the movie, and I enjoyed the movie, even though it was, except on base structure, very different from the book. If you’re interested in the book/movie, I recommend experiencing them in the order I did – movie, then book. update

A couple of days ago I pushed out a major interface change to, one of my other sites.

I thinks this is either only the second or third look to the site since it’s launch in November of 1999 (wow! it was really that long ago!).


Old Look


New Look

What’s new includes the following:

  • While the previous UI was pretty much CSS based, this new version goes all in. Very few tables to be found, just a plethora of DIVs.
  • CSS3 goodness – opacity, drop shadows, rounded corners (little of which translates well in IE8, *sigh*).
  • CSS drop-down menu. No Javascript there.
  • jQuery goodies – a couple of widgets for photos. These actually began the redesign – I was learning jQuery and embedded them in the old site, and then kept going with the UI change.
  • Template-based. I have not yet fully separated the presentation layer from the functionality as it would be in a MVC, but getting closer.
  • Tried to get all the CSS out of the pages and in the CSS master file. This is something we all do – stick styles inline or on a page to speed development, and then never get around to extracting same. I think I pretty much got it.
  • A more consistent look, page to page. Before, each menu section had the same look, but a different color. Kind of stupid, and harder to maintain. But design was not then – and is not currently – my forte, as a look at either UI will bear out. But I think it’s an improvement. It’s fun pushing around the pixels and so on, but I’m not a designer.

This was a lot of work, but it was fun – and I learned a lot. Bonus!

It now looks more like a site of 2012.

If I were President


If I was a big tweeter (I’m not), this could be an echo of so many political stories.

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.

A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (2005)

This applies to all parties. All political offices (not just president, but the crazy scale is higher the higher the office, to me).

Hey, it’s Vonnegut.

Is it just me, or would Vonnegut (RIP) have been a great guest on any of the political shows: FOX, Daily Show and so on. He’d just get stuff and would speak his truth.

I mean, here’s Vonnegut talking about language (and making fun of himself/Hoosiers):

The writing style which is most natural for you is the bound to echo the speech you heard as a child. English was the novelist Joseph Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

— “How to write with style,” an ad for International Paper Co. Appeared in the 9/15/1980 Newsweek

Split week for gay rights

I guess this screen grab says it all.

Split Week


And this come off a week of very bad (in my mind) politics for women (again, via TPM) – How The GOP Went Back To The 1950s In Just One Day.

Lots of sexual politics this week – hey, an election must be coming up!

Update: More disconcerting news for women (politically/medically) from Steve Benen, commenting on Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent – and disturbing – Slate article, Virginia’s Proposed Ultrasound Law Is an Abomination. Republicans have always touted themselves as a small government party; I guess – in Virginia – they are making government small enough to, in many cases, fit inside your genitals (to perform an ultrasound) if you want an abortion. Hmm…smells like a shot across the bow to Roe vs. Wade…intentionally?

The Story of Success


How is success achieved? Is it hard work, as mythologized in the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories, or is it more of brilliant insights by prodigies who seem to soak in knowledge, distill same, and turn the world around? Or is it something else?

In Outliers – The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell – in his typlical Gladwellian way – looks at ways success is achieved in very non-intuitive ways. Yet you’ll come away agreeing with him, for the most part.

Success in hockey? Look at the hockey leagues of Canadian youths. You first enter when – in the calendar year – you turn 10. So, those born on Jan. 1 (already 10) or Dec. 31 (9 years old at sign up) are in the same league/bracket. Guess who dominates? Yeah, the older kids – the difference between 30 and 31 years old is nothing; between 9 and 10 – when you’re still growing – the extra year/few months is a huge difference.

And those “better” kids will then get into the higher bracket the next year, with more skating time, better instruction and so on. So they keep getting “better.” Yet they aren’t better than the younger players overall, they are just born at the right time of the year. Time-shift the entry time up six months, and suddenly most of the better players will be from the third quarter of the calendar year.

Gladwell writes in Outliers – as he does in his other books and “New Yorker” essays – very cleanly, free of jargon. In other words, a pleasure to read. It’s not as deep in some points as I would have liked, but extremely accessible.

The insights – the tying disparate information together – are done very simply, and it’s remarkable Gladwell is, through a series of very non-linear examples, to pretty much make one question about how we learn and succeed. It goes beyond base ability, hard work and good schools.

Note: Gladwell does not really define “success.” It’s not an analysis of what constitutes success; to Gladwell, success is bettering oneself/things somehow: Better reading scores, fewer airline crashes, using street smarts instead of raw IQ to gain one’s goals. This isn’t a book that outlines how to make cool million or two.

The only quibble I have with the book – that it skipped over some very obvious points – is also one of its main strengths. If Gladstone had gotten down in the weeds to get to the bottom of all of this or that issue’s problems, it would have bogged down. And been a very different book.

I like this one.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!

Starring: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill

I heard a lot of good things about this movies, but I found it just “entertaining” and no more.

It was probably hard to pull a movie out the (Michael Lewis – of “The Blind Side”) book, and – to me – they didn’t succeed that well.

I like baseball, I like Brad Pitt and so on, but this was never anything more that just kind of fun.

I remember reading a review of the book when there was talk of a movie about the book, and that – the article – was fascinating, describing in more detail than is possible on film what the Oakland A’s did to have the tremendous year it had.

This did change baseball, a point made in the movie, but still rang a little Hollywood, rather than inside baseball.

All movies

Ides of March
Starring: George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Ryan Gosling

A taut, campaign-trail thriller, the plot is the main star – it keeps you guessing as to motives and what direction it’s going.

And saying the plot is the star is high praise, considering all the stars in this movie, most of whom deliver compelling performances.

A deeply cynical movie, showing politics for what it probably is: Where one does and says anything to get elected. Things happen, people get hurt, but the campaign just rolls over these minor inconveniences and steams on to hopeful victory.

And all but the candidate are interchangeable. One intern/campaign honcho leaves, another just slides into the slot.

Apt title, for just about everyone in the movie gets stabbed in the back at some point during the film. Et tu, Brutus?

All movies

And I could care less. So I watched a couple of movies this weekend, instead (see embedded reviews). Mixed bag.

Hmm…I just realized that I’ve been blogging for over a decade. Yes, that’s 10+ years of nonsense, but still somewhat remarkable. This blog has been – and continues to be – an outlet for writing (I was an English major in college and worked as a writer/editor for several years), as well as a platform to just try new tech things.

For example, the “Listening To” list in the rail – that’s auto-updated several times an hour by pulling my local iTunes song list via a local Linux server, massaging and uploading the recent listens. And it gets pulled into the rail via a AJAX call a few times an hour, so if I’m listening to music and you leave the page open in a tab, the list’ll change about every 15 minutes.

Stuff like that.

Hey, I’m a dork. I like playing with this stuff!

Sorry sports fans, but – to me – this type of stuff beats watching the Super Bowl…