Amanda Gates
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A Musings - October 2010

This week's issue of EW had a first look at The Help movie. (The article's not online, otherwise I'd link to it.) The lovely and sweet Emma Stone as Skeeter? Awesome. Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly? So awesome. Viola Davis as Aibileen? Perfection. I cannot wait for it. I think it'll be fabulous! I loved, loved the book.

Then I saw this on my Twitter stream this morning: Someone is making What to Expect into a movie? Huh? The post says it'll be sort of like Love Actually (one good thing about Christmas coming soon - my annual viewing of Love Actually...sigh) following five pregnant couples around. Well, OK, maybe that could work, but obviously it's very loosely based on the book then.

Any other books-to-movies you're excited for?

Posted: Fri, 10/29/2010 - 02:55 | Comments: 4

I was at home with a brand-new baby when the School Library Journal's Top 100 Children's Novels list came out in mid-April, so I'm definitely behind the curve on this one. However, I love me some lists, so it was fun to look this one over (filled with the help of multiple entries from J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl and Judy Blume) and count how many I've read. I also loved this second-grade teacher's breakdown - with charts and graphs! - of the list. Book-nerdy fun. It's interesting that series books accounted for 61 of the 100 books and that a good percentage were written in the past 20 years or so.

Anyway, I've read 30 out of 100 of the children's novels. Which is just OK, I think, but also considering several were written after I was of age to read these types of books (Harry Potter notwithstanding). And several bring back fond memories: anything Ramona; The BFG (which I can't help but think about every time I write my initials ABFG); The Witch of Blackbird Pond (I forgot about that book!); and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (reading aloud in sixth grade.)

What about you? How many have you read?

For more fun, see last year's list of Top 100 Picture Books. I've also read about 30 of these, and we have a few on the shelf as we speak.

[Quick pet peeve note: Why does Blogger insist that "children's" is misspelled? Drives me crazy!]

Posted: Tue, 10/19/2010 - 09:57 | Comments: 2

I just finished Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One. As promised, my next book was by an author I’d never read before. Even though Quindlen’s written plenty of well-known novels, I’ve never picked one up. Somehow I must’ve put Every Last One on my Amazon wish list, so I had it on my shelf to read.

I can’t really summarize the book too much without giving everything away. But, the story focuses on Mary Beth and her family of five: her, her husband and three teenage children. The first half of the book builds the family. We learn about Alex’s athleticism, Ruby’s individualism and Max’s loner-ism. From the beginning of the book, Mary Beth looks at her life from afar. She knows she should be thankful for all she has, yet it can also feel like something is missing. Every day is the same – get up, take care of the kids, worry about the kids, kiss the husband, work, make dinner… lather, rinse repeat. Then halfway through the book, tragedy strikes and everything unravels.

I think the book was good. The writing was good and Quindlen can paint a picture and create a cast of characters with the best of them. However, because of the subject matter, the book also haunted me and made me very sad at some points. Now, one could say this obviously means the book was good, since it made me feel so strongly. Which is probably true. But it also made it very hard to read, too.

There’s been conversations on the blogosphere and Twitter (I know both Jennie and Jen have mentioned this recently) that one of the things that changes when you become a parent is that it’s nearly impossible and completely heart-wrenching to watch or read anything that has to do with a child struggling, being hurt, dying, etc. It can be as minor as a baby hitting his head to a story about a cancer patient giving her Make a Wish to someone else…as a parent you just die a little inside. (There’s a trailer for Paranormal Activity 2 out right now that shows a baby in a crib…I have to close my eyes.) Maybe that’s why the struggles of this family in the book affected me so much? I guess I won’t ever know since I can’t go back in time and read it 15 months ago, childless. But, it does show me that I’ll have to be a bit more careful picking my books. Again, while I thought the book was good, I’m just not sure the heartbreak I felt is really worth it, you know?

What do you think? Do you read books that you know will make you sad? Are there different kinds of sadness that are easier to deal with than others? What books have haunted you?

Posted: Wed, 10/13/2010 - 04:02 | Comments: 2

"Later: What does Procrastination Tell Us About Ourselves?" is an interesting, thorough look at why people procrastinate. Author James Surowiecki provides several examples, several means of thought and several different discussions on the case. As someone who procrastinates with the best of them (or perhaps better than most), I was most definitely interested in the article. As with many New Yorker pieces, the prose was slightly overblown and a little long, but many of the examples Surowiecki offers ring true. For example:

A similar phenomenon is at work in an experiment run by a group including the economist George Loewenstein, in which people were asked to pick one movie to watch that night and one to watch at a later date. Not surprisingly, for the movie they wanted to watch immediately, people tended to pick lowbrow comedies and blockbusters, but when asked what movie they wanted to watch later they were more likely to pick serious, important films. The problem, of course, is that when the time comes to watch the serious movie, another frothy one will often seem more appealing. This is why Netflix queues are filled with movies that never get watched: our responsible selves put “Hotel Rwanda” and “The Seventh Seal” in our queue, but when the time comes we end up in front of a rerun of “The Hangover.”

Hence, the reason why (besides having a baby) The Hurt Locker has been sitting next to our TV since March, and movies such as Couples Retreat have been watched and returned.

Another example:

We often procrastinate not by doing fun tasks but by doing jobs whose only allure is that they aren’t what we should be doing. My apartment, for instance, has rarely looked tidier than it does at the moment.

So true. It’s only the home tasks, like laundry, grocery shopping and dishes, that get done when they need to – because we have to eat and wear clothes to live day to day, but we don’t have to have dusted tables or clean bathrooms - and even then, I only do these at the absolute last moment. Or, why when I have a pending freelance assignment, I can surf the Internet for longer than I believe one should surf the Internet.

Surowiecki wonders if procrastination is a sign of weakness. While in some cases it could be, I also think it’s just the way some people’s minds work, especially if we don’t have deadlines to work with. The author provides an example of college students, who are given the choice to turn three papers in at staggered deadlines or all at once at the end of the semester. Smartly, the students pick the staggered deadlines, knowing enough about themselves that if they didn’t, they would all be writing three papers during the last week of the semester.

Procrastination also depends on what type of task we’re working on. Writes the author,

That’s why David Allen, the author of the best-selling time-management book “Getting Things Done,” lays great emphasis on classification and definition: the vaguer the task, or the more abstract the thinking it requires, the less likely you are to finish it.

This can go right along with the idea of having too many choices in life, which we do. He writes,

Another way of making procrastination less likely is to reduce the amount of choice we have: often when people are afraid of making the wrong choice they end up doing nothing. So companies might be better off offering their employees fewer investment choices in their 401(k) plans, and making signing up for the plan the default option.

How many times have you let an opportunity go by because you just couldn’t decide what action to take? It happens all. the. time.

In the end, I’d say I’m a middle-of-the-road procrastinator. When something’s due far out, I’ll put it off and put it off, even if I could get it done in 30 minutes and cross it off the list today. But, I also think I need those deadlines - and produce some pretty good work, when I have the pressure of looming deadlines. I also have the strong mentality that things will just work out, which is why, even though I was panicking a bit when I was still searching for daycare after our baby was born, I wasn't too panicked. Everything, for 30 years, has just always worked out, or gotten done, and that did, too.

Why do you think people procrastinate? Is it just human nature?

[Edited to add: Willikat brought to my attention the term incubator, which may be a better word to describe some of us who consider ourselves procrastinators.]

Posted: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 21:34 | Comments: 1