Thursday, December 17, 2009

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

The Teammates by David Halberstam. Hyperion Books, 2003. Genre: Biographical Novel
The Teammates is a novel about the friendship that developed between Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio while they were all members of the Boston Red Sox during the 1940's and 1950's. The thread that holds the book together is the last trip DiMaggio and Pesky made in 2001 to visit Williams before his death. They drove together in a car with a driver, Dick Flavin, and went to Florida to see Williams. The book jumps from past to present telling the stories of each of the four mens' childhoods, their personal lives, and their careers. Halberstam also tells about their lives after their careers, and how they managed to stay friends after all the many years they spent together.
"[A] crystalline gem of a work about old pals, in theory, but really about everything there is." -Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times
The Teammates is a very straight-forward book. Halberstam doesn't try to add any unneeded details that would drag down the pacing. The stories he provides of the four men are all essential to understanding them. Ted Williams is the dominant personality of the book. He always made sure to get his point across to people and when he strongly believed in something, he made sure people knew about it. Bobby Doerr balanced out Williams' personality and was quiet, but very mature. Johnny Pesky was truly devoted to the team, and was like a little brother to Williams. Dom DiMaggio, forever overshadowed by his brother Joe, was an amazing player in his own right, even though most people said he looked nothing like a stereotypical baseball player.
The author vividly makes these real people come alive to the reader on the page. By the end of the book, the reader can understand the diverse personalities of the four men, and how they were able to remain friends for such a long time.
"But the World Series is different. Because the entire nation focuses its attention so intensively, it is the venue where one play in one game, and one play by a player often otherwise uncelebrated, so holds our collective attention that it has its own permanence, and it becomes the defining image of the player." (152)
I have to admit that I'm a fan of baseball, the Red Sox, and the time period in history where most of the book happens. So I probably would be biased by saying that this was one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. I am definitely going to find more books by Halberstam, he is one of the best writers I've read a book by in a while. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of baseball.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Summer Nights With Licorice Pizza

How does one decide what has value? Is it the things that cost more, or is it the things we enjoy the most? What do we value more, what other people and the media tells us is important, or what has the most personal value to us? There are many questions we have to think about everyday in regards to value. How do we know that the brand-name foods are better than the same foods on generic labels? We don't. Advertisements influence how we make buying decisions and what we think is the best. But just because something has a hefty price tag doesn't always mean it is better.

I pull out a huge, quite often dusty jacket from the shelf. I pull out a licorice pizza and put it on the table. Except that it’s not really a pizza, it’s a record, and the table is a turntable, also known as a record player for the uniformed. A few slight clicks and pops as I drop the needle onto the vinyl, and then the music fills the room.

Around January of this year, I was very sick. I ended up going to the hospital and I was diagnosed with diabetes. I had been lethargic and felt terrible all through December and January. When I came home from the hospital, I was a lot more active than I had been before. I decided to go through my attic and see if there was anything interesting in there. While I was there, something caught my eye. It was a small stack of record albums. I have always been kind of living in the past. Most of the movies I watch are from the nineteen-seventies or before. I have huge stack of old junk and some things that are actually worth money in my room. So it was kind of natural that I would eventually start collecting records. This became especially true when I found those albums in my attic. There was a rare east-coast variation of an early Beatles album worth over one-hundred dollars, among others. A week later my mom went out and bought me a player. I think that she bought it for me to make me feel better since I had been sick for so long. Now I’ve been buying records for months and I have a huge collection of albums and singles.

Now maintaining a record collection is not the easiest thing. Records are prone to attract dust, so it is necessary to always be cleaning them. I think it is worth it though, because I love the sound of vinyl. I’ll take my records any day over an MP3. Another reason I love my records is that most of my favorite music is from the 1950’s, the 1960’s and the 1970’s. I’m not totally against modern music like some people are, but I just prefer to listen to older music more. I’ve also got tons of albums and singles that are impossible to find on any other format. Vinyl is also a pretty inexpensive thing to collect, most of the record dealers I know sell albums from anywhere from $1 to $20. A lot of the singles I have in my collection were bought in large groups, and I’ve gotten lots of great deals. Of course, the music is always the most important thing, and I've bought lots of great music over the past months. It helps me relax when I'm doing things like homework or just unwind from a hectic day.

We probably arrived home at about nine at night, we had been shopping. It was just our family, my dad, my mom, my brother, and myself. We put away our purchases and sat out on our deck. Our house is a good distance away from the road, so we have a lot of nice privacy. We have a pool, but it is in our front yard because our backyard has a total width of approximately five feet. The temperature was probably about eighty degrees, and it was probably the most beautiful night of summer.

Of course, it was perfect weather for a late swim. There's some otherworldly beauty in moonlight reflecting off water. It's one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Of course, though it got splashed away as we jumped into the pool. I'm not sure what made that night so great, but I guess it was just having a fun time with people I love.

Relaxing on a summer night with friends or family is great. For me, I had nothing to worry about and not a care in the world. That's a feeling I only get in summer. The rest of the year I'm usually always worried about something. But a summer night? Nothing to do the next day except what I please. There's just something so comfortably lazy about that.

Both my records and a relaxing summer night provide me with an immense feeling of relaxation. This might make me out to seem like a lazy person, but I'm not. These just provides me with relaxation after doing things like homework or just dealing with life in general, which can be extremely stressful. I think I value the things most that allow me to escape from the world for a little while. I think it is important to sometimes take a break and do something that you enjoy. I could not say which of these two I prefer or value more. There both priceless in their own way, even if one does come with a price tag.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Timeline by Michael Crichton Book Review

Timeline by Michael Crichton. Ballantine Books, 1999. Genre: Science-Fiction
Timeline is a novel that is first and foremost about ideas and science. The book focuses on ITC, a company in Arizona that is lead by Robert Doniger. Doniger a young, arrogant, but extremely intelligent individual. His company is funding the reconstruction of a monastery and castles in France, a project headed by Professor Edward Johnston. When a lawyer from ITC comes out to examine the project, they know information about the site the researchers do not. Johnston becomes suspicious and demands to go to ITC to speak with the head of the company. Johnston travels back in time and becomes stuck back in 1357 when he does not take the necessary device to return to the present. ITC convinces Johnston's three of Johnston's research team members to go back and save him. When they go back in time, they discover that the ancient world is a much more dangerous place then they thought, especially when their two guides are killed. They have the dilemma of having to save the professor and find a way to return back to present day.
"One of his best...[A] nonstop roller coaster of a novel." - Philadelphia Enquirer
I've read two other books by this author, Sphere and The Andromeda Strain, of these, Timeline is my least favorite. I don't know why, but Crichton seemed to not really have a good story. I never quite understood the motivations behind everyone's actions. The only character that was given a backstory was Doniger. Everyone else seemed kind of one-dimensional. One researcher, Marek, was extremely into the past. It was kind of strange until the end of the novel, where it was revealed that he actually chose to live in the past. Crichton's writing style is extremely brisk. He doesn't always bother to explain character motivation. The reader is not given a main character to focus on though, and that can be frustrating because all the characters end up feeling under-developed. If someone wants to read a book that has a lot of adventure (especially swordfighting) and is interested in science, I'd recommend they read this novel.
"Charging up the hill toward them were six horsemen in full armor: steel helmets, chain mail and cloth surcoats of maroon and gray. The horse were draped in black cloth studded wih silver. The effect was ominous. The lead rider, wearing a helmet with a black plume, pointed ahead and screamed, "Godin!" (195)
I would say that I am a fan of Crichton's writing, but sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is going on in the story. I do think that Timeline is a thrilling book to read, but I wish the characters besides Doniger had been better developed. If I was going to recommend a Crichton book to someone, I'd still recommend The Andromeda Strain. That book had some better developed characters than Timeline. I wouldn't say I didn't like this novel, but it had some issues with plot development. Still, the book reviews showcased on the cover promise action and suspense and I would say Timeline definitely delivers on that promise.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Contender & Ender

The Contender: Alfred
Ender's Game: Ender
Setting: The gym and a diner

Alfred sat on the locker bench for a long time thinking about what Donatelli had just told him. Alfred would not be fighting anymore. Donatelli knew that he just didn't have the drive a boxer needed to consistently be a champion. Deep inside, Alfred knew it too. He had never really wanted to hurt people. He was just trying to prove to himself that he was good enough to accomplish something in life.

Alfred quietly walked out of the locker room. A few stray people were training in the gym. Alfred left and the door closed behind him with a thud. He walked home, in a bit of a daze. His mind was clouded with thoughts. One thing he knew for sure, if he wanted to really be somebody, he'd have to find something to do. Something important. Alfred decided to go get something to eat. It was getting late and he hadn't yet eaten dinner.

The diner was cold, but Alfred was warm from the gym, so it didn't matter. A boy who looked about ten was sitting at the counter drinking a soda. He looked at Alfred and motioned for him to sit down.

"My name's Ender," the boy said.

"Mine's Alfred,"

"You look like you've got a problem," Ender said.

The man at the counter came over and Alfred ordered some food and glass of water. He was really thirsty.

"Yeah, I actually do. You see, I' ve been boxing over at Donatelli's gym and now... he told me I just don't have it. I mean I don't have the drive to really hurt someone. I've won fights, but I just don't want to hurt people. I felt like a nobody for a long time. But now that I've been training and fighting, I feel like there is more for me to do."

Ender nodded. "I may look like I haven't done much in my life because I'm so young, but I know what you're going through. For a long time I felt that I had no purpose. Then one day I found I had a real purpose. I helped a lot of people. Don't give up on yourself. You have a purpose in life. You'll find it soon."

"What did you say your name was again?"

"Ender Wiggin."

"Thanks Ender. I feel a whole lot better now. I've got to go now," said Alfred.

"Just remember to not give up," Ender said, "Good luck and good-bye."

Alfred got up and left. His mind was clearer now, and he knew that he was going to do something important. He was going to go back to school. he knew that it wouldn't be easy, but he wanted to rise above all the people in gangs in the city. He wanted to be somebody. He wanted to be a contender. Not in the boxing ring, but in life. He wanted to make a difference.

Alfred thought, "I don't have to be a person who performs miracles, if I can help one person in life, it'll be all worth it."

Alfred walked up the stairs and entered his aunt's apartment.