Like Father, Like Daughter

November 13, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Books, Claire, dadbloggers, Parenthood

When I was younger I shared a room (and bed) with my brother Jaime, I always had a flashlight and book nearby. I’d read until I was done and then go down to the bathroom before falling asleep. If my parents were still up, I’d get yelled at for being up. I remember being dragged to the store and sitting in the book aisle reading while Mum shopped. (They use to sell books at a store called HILLS which is like Target today).

Earlier today Claire and I went through all of her books and got a large box for Bookman’s. Bookman’s is cool because they accept lots of books for a pretty good price We took two full boxes and my buddy Audrea was working. We dropped them off up front and headed to find the “Chapter books” (they’r e novels for under 6th graders). Claire has about 30 Magic Treehouse books so I wanted to fill in the gaps from when I bought them on Ebay. We also wanted to see what else they had.

She got eight Magic Treehouse books, a few fairy books, and the first Judy Moody book. She’d seen Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer in June with her Auntie M, my sister (Meghan) and her only aunt. After she picked the ones she wanted, it was my turn to look around. Claire climbed into the cart with Judy and started reading. I had to pull it from her hand to pay and then she read it all the way to REI. In REI she was reading and walking into things.I sat her down near where I planned to shoot; I told her to scream bloody order if anyone touched her. She sat in the corner on the floor while I shopped nearby and it reminded me of when I would do the same at Hills.

Later that evening after she had dinner and watched some tv, I tossed her and her book into bed about 7pm. I told her to make sure she didn’t come out since I was planning to watch American Horror Story and that was the last thing I wanted her to walk into. Around 9:45pm I heard her bedroom door click, and she came out as I hit pause. She sleepily climbed into my lap and told me that she just finished her book. I carried her back into her room where she showed me Judy Moody book #1. She talked to me about it for a few minutes and showed me her 105 page chapter book. I put it on her shelf, sat another new book near her bed, and turned off the light. Like father, like daughter.

Censorship in pre-K

March 19, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Books, Dante, Parenthood, School

Recently Claire and her classmates were asked what their favorite books are. Claire said her favorite book is “Dante’s Journey”, which is a cute little children’s book we purchased for her in Florence, Italy last summer. It’s a cute little children’s book where Dante’s a little boy and goes through this land with Virgil, his doll. One level includes people who lie and what happens, and so there are these positive messages. She was excited to take this book to class, and at the end of the day, I asked her how it went. She said she wasn’t allowed to share her book “because it’s too scary.” She told me that her teacher said that, then i wondered if her teacher bothered to actually read the book. Perhaps she just saw the darker images or the child walking through a land that was depicted to be hell. Her teacher had the book put away where the kids could not see it.


So now we censor in kindergarten? It’s a child’s book, for God’s sake. It explains why you should not be greedy, why you should not lie, etc… It shows consequences. It’s not the original Dante’s Inferno (which they do teach in schools), so why censor? The kids read Where the Wild Things Art (at this age and younger) with their monsters gnashing their terrible teeth, etc…

So far I have kept my mouth shut, chose my battles and took the book home. But it still bothers me. How much censorship shall my daughter and I go through in her education over the next 13 years?

The Lovely Bones: A film review

January 30, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Books, Movies, Reviews

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Daniel Semper

My name is Salmon. Like the fish. First name Susie.

Ah, and with those words, one of my most beloved novels has come to the big screen.

Gotta tell you that with all my film reviews, spoilers may occur. Deal with it. If you’ve not already read this wonderful book, go do it and then come back.

In 2005 I wrote a novel about a dead girl living through the lives of those still alive in her high school. A book where you don’t even discover how she dies until the waning pages. At the time, several people mentioned a little book to me called The Lovely Bones that I should read since it sounded like I was copying Alice Sebold. I assured them I wasn’t, wrote my entire book, and then picked up this gem.

I adored the irony of the conclusion to the novel and subsequent film, but I was hesitant to push this one towards my wife. See, my own daughter was just born and the rape scene before the murder still haunts me. I suggested that my wife never read the book because of that scene, and I sure have read some wild stuff over the years.

I had no idea how Peter Jackson, director, would handle this early scene, which, in part, was based on the author’s own experience in college. Fortunately, it was unlike my novel but anyway I still fell in love with such a wonderful book. After hearing it was on its way to the silver screen, I waited patiently. And waited. And waited. Wow, did I wait for a long time. But today I got to see it.

That rape scene? Cut out and barely even implied (and maybe I only thought it was implied because I knew the narrative beforehand).

Awards season is upon us and art direction stood out for me, to the point where it didn’t stand out which was perfect. There were a few scenes where I paid particular attention to the authenticity of the frame and I was pleased. The costumes (especially Ronan’s outfit) worked very well for me, and this “era” just worked for me.

People always talk actors when reviewing any film, and I went knowing that Tucci has been getting rave reviews for this film (and has been nominated in several awards so far). I didn’t realize quite how wonderful his performance was until he spoke in the film. He almost fell into the character to the point where I no longer watched Tucci. I watched a sad, depressed killer. He played it perfectly subtlety.

Even the subtlety of his lightened eye color, whose similarity to Ronan’s mesmerizingly pale blue, didn’t escape me. As for Ronan, I was lost in those eyes, albeit I’ve never seen her previous work for which she’d been nominated for an Academy Award. While Ronan’s performance here has the critics talking, for me, Rose McIver as Lindsay Salmon, Susie’s younger sister, stole the film. McIver began as the younger child like sister but after Susie’s death Lindsay matures into a woman, almost as obsessed with finding the killer as her father Mark Wahlberg is. Her onscreen transformation worked very well through the development of the plot, and I am eager to see her future dramatic work.

I enjoyed Wahlberg’s performance perhaps because I too am close to my daughter, Sarandon was hilarious as Susie’s boozy, chain-smoking grandmother but I never stopped wanting to shout “Damnit, Janet!” at the screen. Weisz and Imperioli round out the class. I enjoyed Imperioli’s role (no matter how small it was) but Weisz’s talents were terribly under used. Having seen much of her former work, I expected more from the role although I did understand that Susie’s mother’s healing required her to fall into herself.

I agree with the critics that Peter Jackson could’ve done more with the film and the special effects were well done (more than half of the film was a blue screened Susie-styled purgatory) but the film, if nominated for an Oscar for special effects, cannot beat Avatar in this category.

As with any book made film the critics will lambast certain perspectives and lack of development, and my only concern really lay in the characters of Ruth Connor and Ray Singh. If memory serves Sebold gives more time to these two characters, and while Singh moves in and out of the narrative as Salmon’s almost first love, his relationship with Ruth and then Ruth’s posthumously relationship with Susie could’ve been more fleshed out. Here was my single disappointment with the film. Albeit Jackson’s subtlety of the relationship of the two living teens works well and did well to not overshadow Susie’s tale. Moreover, while the irony of Tucci’s demise is not lost on Sebold or Jackson, some audience will leave the theatre scratching their heads; hopefully, to only return again and again to see this wonderful film.

Peter Yarrow’s new book. Claire gets a copy.

October 11, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Books, Claire, Parenthood

Claire and I drove over to Changing Hands Bookstore today to pick up a copy of the new children’s book by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. He’s going to be at Changing Hands on Sunday signing and singing. This conversation below is a true story.

As we walked in the door:

Claire, “Dad, what’re we doing here?”

Me, “Getting you a book.”

Claire, “Awesome! I love books. Which one?”

Me, totally clueless, having no idea the name of the book. “Dunno. Can’t remember the name. Let me find someone to ask.”

Claire, stopping me in mid-aisle, “Is the book Day is Done? Is that the one, Dad?”

Me, floored. Finding my voice and suddenly remembering the title, “Why, yes Claire that is the book.”

Claire, “ok, there it is.” Pointing to the poster selling Peter Yarrow’s new book Day is Done.

Not only did she read the title, she then proceeded to get in line to go ask the cashier for a copy housed behind the counter.

My response to her mother when I got home. “How ’bout I just give her my wallet and car keys, too.”
Claire listening in and needing the last word, “Yes, and I already read it to myself in the store.

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