If you can force yourself to get past the harshness of the first couple of chapters, the teen novel¹ Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt blossoms into a moving story about…well, a little of everything. Doug Swieteck is an eighth-grader who moves to a small town in upstate New York in 1968. He’s the youngest boy in a family of abusive males, with the oldest brother off fighting in Vietnam. Imagine hiding what you care about to keep it safe from your own family, knowing that eventually it will be found and taken away. This pretty much sums up Doug’s family life. A new town should mean a fresh start, but Doug is too unhappy to notice at first. Then he discovers Audubon’s Birds of America at the local library. The arctic tern, diving straight down into the water with a “terrified eye,” captures his imagination. Honestly, this is one of those books that you don’t want to ruin by telling too much about the plot. Out of context, it might sound silly, and it’s not. There are a couple of things that are farfetched, but by that point you’ll be under the book’s spell and willing to suspend your disbelief. I recommend Okay For Now, especially to anyone old enough to remember the Apollo 11 mission. Just for the record, my father dragged me out of bed to witness the moon landing, even though I was only five. He wanted my brother and me to watch and remember, conveying to us how really amazing that moment in history was. Well, this book isn’t quite as amazing as that, but I’d still like to drag you over to it, put it in your hands, and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.¹Children’s book? Middle school novel? Who even cares? A good book is a good book.
Category Archives: Literature
Warning: This review may contain plot spoilers, although I’ve done my best to avoid them.
After being on a long wait list, I finally read P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley this week. I really love Pride & Prejudice, so a murder mystery using Austen’s characters seemed like a fun idea. I’ve read most of the previous mysteries by P.D. James, and I admire her work. I didn’t read any book reviews in advance, but I did glance at the readers’ ratings at Amazon. They were pretty evenly divided across the range from “love it” to “hate it.” I’m afraid I have to agree with the folks that gave it two stars out of five. I forced myself to finish the novel because I wanted to find out whodunit, but it was a trial.
My problems with Death Comes To Pemberley are directly related to what I love about Pride & Prejudice. I so enjoy the intelligent conversations between the characters, especially Darcy and Elizabeth. I don’t know if people ever really spoke like that, but it’s a lost art. P.D. James is not able to re-create anything close. Most of the conversations in her novel are dull, describing actions instead of being real dialogue. Here’s what Darcy has to say to Elizabeth on page 150: “Lady Catherine, as expected, has passed on the news to Mr. Collins and Charlotte and has enclosed their letter with her own. I cannot suppose that they will give you pleasure. I shall be in the business room with John Wooller but hope to see you at luncheon before I set out for Lambton.” Worse, Elizabeth and Darcy are rarely together, so they have very little connection with each other. Elizabeth is the perfect wife, going about her wifely duties and taking morning visits to the nursery, but apparently a married woman can no longer take part in anything interesting. Because she’s so darn respectable, Elizabeth cannot attend the inquest or the murder trial. She’s not even in the room when “all is revealed.” Here is a book by a woman based on another woman’s book featuring some of the best female characters in literature, and all the women are relegated to the background. Perhaps James is more comfortable writing about male characters like Darcy, Wickham, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, but I miss the ladies.
The central mystery isn’t all that engaging, and the description given on the book jacket is deceptive. Almost every character has a solid alibi, so there are very few suspects. No one character takes on the role of “sleuth” to solve the murder. By the time the same characters have given the same testimony to the magistrate, the coroner, and the trial lawyers, I just wanted it to be over. There are some contradictions in the details, which should have been caught by the editor. On page 68, it’s said about the murder victim, “He’s not a heavy man.” Later, on page 101, it reads “[The victim] was a heavy man.” A general editing error appears on page 130: “It was consider that either Colonel the Viscount Hartlep or any member of the Pemberley household could have had any part in [the victim’s] death.” Huh?
I’m going to finish by simply letting the book speak for itself. This is one of the longer speeches in the novel, given by the Pemberley housekeeper to Elizabeth on page 70:
“I will sit with Mrs. Wickham until Dr. McFee arrives, madam. I expect he will give her something to calm her and make her sleep. I suggest that you and Mrs. Bingley go back to the music room to wait; you will be comfortable there and the fire has been made up. Stoughton will stay at the door and keep watch, and he will let you and Mrs. Bingley know as soon as the chaise comes into sight. And if Mr. Wickham and Captain Denny are discovered on the road, there will be room in the chaise for the whole party, although it will not perhaps be the most comfortable of journeys. I expect the gentlemen will need something hot to eat when they do return, but I doubt, madam, whether Mr. Wickham and Captain Denny will wish to stay for refreshments. Once Mr. Wickham knows that his wife is safe, he and his friend will surely want to continue their journey. I think Pratt said that they were on their way to the King’s Arms at Lambton.”
I am an internet addict. I once used the internet as a tool, but now spending time on the computer visiting the same sites repeatedly has become my primary form of entertainment. Frankly, it’s not very entertaining. I’m not reading books or watching movies the way I did before. So, in order to break out of this bad habit, I’ve made a Lenten vow to cut the time I spend on the internet in half. I’m not counting my work in photoshop, because that’s usually creative. I’m also not reducing the time I spend writing, whether it’s for posts here or messages to friends. These are too important and too satisfying. It’s just not productive to check my visitor stats three times an hour, or twitter or facebook or email or ebay or YouTube. So far, it’s working out okay. I’ve read half a book in the last two days, and I’m even enjoying my time on the computer more than before. I’m hoping that the time I spend away will result in more interesting blog posts, since the quality of what entertains me is reflected here.
I have another confession to make. I spend way too much time on the internet correcting mistakes and submitting complaints. I’m constantly removing my hands from the keyboard and telling myself, “You are not the internet police. This is not your job!” Here’s a good example. Tonight my book club is discussing Willa Cather’s Death Comes For The Archbishop. I got the book out of the library over the summer, kept it for nine weeks, and never got past page fifty. We have a very good rule at book club—you can come if you haven’t read the book, but you can’t join in the discussion. If I don’t go to enjoy the company, not to mention all the wine and snacks, then I’ll just sit at home browsing the internet again. This morning I went to cliffsnotes.com (oh, the horror!) to read the summary in order to follow tonight’s discussion. There was a sloppy error in the synopsis, obvious even to someone who hasn’t read the book, so of course I had to submit a correction to the site. Yesterday I complained to iTunes because I had to enter my credit card number and mailing address just to use the “like” button on an album page. It’s bad enough that you have to waste time downloading an entire software package just to browse their store. Spending less time on the computer will not reduce my urge to correct and complain, but I won’t have as much time to follow through.
I know I need to stay off ebay, but at least I rarely spend money there. I have become fascinated by the selling of cancelled checks as “authenticated autographs.” Seriously. People are auctioning bank checks, either written to or by celebrities. When they’re written to a celebrity, it’s the endorsement on the back that is the valued autograph. Woe to any collector whose favorite celebrity had an accountant that used a rubber stamp! My favorite so far is a check written by Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) to a Hollywood grocery store in 1974. It is the amount that intrigues me. Back in 1974, you could buy an awful lot of groceries for $560. Was she having a party? Somebody has already purchased this gem, but not to worry. There are two other checks written by Montgomery that are still for sale. I can’t help wondering about the more recent checks, with account numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers on them. They haven’t been blacked out and can be seen clearly in the images posted on the internet. There really isn’t any privacy anymore. Of course, with paypal and online banking, handwritten checks themselves will soon become antiques from another age.
The other night, I tweeted my intention to spend less time on the internet. I woke up to find a whole bunch of new people following me on twitter. Is this supposed to be an affirmation or a temptation?!
Update: I got a friendly note from the webmaster at cliffsnotes.com thanking me for my correction. ITunes sent a customer service survey asking me for my opinion of the response I never received about my complaint!
This week, I have been forced to stop ignoring the Kindle. I’ve resisted electronic book readers for several reasons:
1. I can drop a book from any height onto any surface, and it still won’t break.
2. I can loan a book to a friend after I’ve read it.
3. I like page numbers. It’s not the same knowing I’ve read 37% of a book.
Reason number 4 used to be that I couldn’t use a Kindle for library books, but that’s no longer true here in San Francisco. I don’t understand why I still have to be on a wait list for an ebook, but that’s a discussion for later!
I finally decided to give the Kindle a try, so I borrowed one from a friend to read Dragon Solstice by Nance Crawford. Now, my friend’s Kindle is really old. I think it’s one of the first ones, so perhaps it’s not fair to judge all electronic readers based on this version. I don’t like how often I have to hit the ‘next page’ button, even after setting the font as small as I can comfortably read. I also don’t like how the screen goes black while the page reloads, which is hard on my eyes. Perhaps these problems have been fixed in newer versions. I’m hoping someone here will fill me in.
In spite of my issues with the Kindle, I really enjoyed Dragon Solstice. It’s a fairy tale adventure about a misunderstood dragon and a feisty little girl who get a bit lost in the forest and end up…no, sorry, I don’t do plot spoilers. It’s a charming story, suitable for children but with plenty of wry humor for older readers. It would make a good bedtime story read in chapters, since it’s not scary or violent. At least, I think it would, since I don’t have any kids to try it out on. If I did have children, I wouldn’t stop reading to them after they graduated from picture books. I have great memories of my mother reading us books we could have read by ourselves, especially Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach. It would have given me the creepy-crawlies on my own, but having my mother read it made it tolerable. I still love a good adventure, but I definitely prefer friendly dragons to giant bugs. Dragon Solstice is at Amazon for Kindle and in paperback, and you can visit the author at www.NanceCrawford.com.
While I was browsing books at Amazon this morning, I decided to check the listing for 18 Folgate Street: The Tale of a House in Spitalfields. It was written by my uncle, Dennis Severs, and I did the photography (not the illustrations—Amazon has that wrong). It’s been out of print for years, so I occasionally look at the prices on used copies. Today I found a copy of the Vintage paperback selling for $999.00. The real surprise was discovering that the book is now available in a Kindle edition. Nobody told me! Hopefully the color photographs will look okay on an electronic screen.
I still find myself wishing I hadn’t been so naive when I submitted my collection of slides to the publishers. I assumed that the photos that I thought were the best would be the ones they would pick. Instead, a number of dark, fuzzy photos were chosen along with some of my favorites. An experienced photographer would have known to leave out the not-so-good ones. Once I turned in my photographs and signed the contract, I didn’t have anything to do with the publishing process. The editor sent me proofs and sample covers, so I did get to see how the book was progressing. Just visiting Random House UK was amazing. Everyone I met there was delightful, starting with Jeanette in reception. The best part? Visiting the editors and leaving with as many free books as I could carry. All I had to do was gaze longingly at the shelves of new titles, and they’d invite me to take some. It was a book lover’s heaven.
Should you download 18 Folgate Street to your Kindle¹? I’ll be honest. There are some wonderful things in the book, but it’s quirky. My uncle’s strong personality comes through in his writing. He was a born storyteller who avoided the written word due to severe dyslexia, until he decided to write his book. He worked for years writing and revising, trying to find the best way to express his ideas on paper. Sadly, he died before the book was published. I think his prologue is the best chapter. As for my photographs, some of them are terrific. Some of them are not. One of them is a complete mystery to me. The color image on page 24 (firewood in baskets with a broom on the stairs) is a flash photograph, and it’s not mine. All my photographs were taken using available light. I don’t know where that one came from, and it’s been bugging me for ten years. It’s great having my own blog, so I can get that off my chest!
To read more about my uncle and see photos of him and his house, click on his name in the category cloud or in the tags above.
¹Or iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, PC or Mac
I worked at the largest Borders Books in San Francisco from 2002 to 2006. I started as a Christmas temp, hoping to be offered a permanent bookseller position. I moved into store security instead, and I was simply the worst. I never caught a single shoplifter. Fortunately, before my self-esteem was completely shot, a bookseller position opened up. I was assigned to the children and teen section, my favorite, and I was finally where I belonged.
Through the course of a working shift, we would be rotated around the store every hour. The store took up four floors, so we did an awful lot of running up and down the escalators. We’d staff the cash registers, the various information desks, and then organize our own sections. There were frequent book signings and special in-store performances, and I was often recruited to assist the special events coordinator. Because the store was located in Union Square, surrounded by big hotels and expensive department stores, we often had celebrity shoppers. Word would spread quickly through the store when one arrived, especially in my last year, when we all wore radio headsets. Authors would come in to sign their books, even if they had no scheduled book event at the store When we were at an information desk and somebody walked up, we’d never know if they were a reader or a writer. It kept us on our toes!
The first big celebrity store event I experienced was a visit from Eddie Izzard, who came to sign his Dress to Kill DVD. I was very excited to meet him. All the employees on break or starting their shifts got to spend a little time with him in the basement employee area, before he went upstairs to do his signing. He was very cool, and I got an autographed DVD. Just before I left Borders four years later, Eddie Izzard came back for another signing. He was obviously more tired this time, probably at the end of a long public appearance tour. He was just as cool, though, and even more famous. I enjoyed meeting singers Dar Williams and Joan Baez. When Jane Fonda came for a book signing, I helped to mind her dog. There were a few times when the events coordinator was busy at another store, so I was put in charge of events with author Laurell K. Hamilton and Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue.
It was fine for us to get autographs when a celebrity came in for a signing, but it was not cool to ask for one from celebrities who were there as customers. Too bad, because my collection would be awesome. I was still working store security when Alex Rodriguez came in to browse I was at my usual position by the door, where he stopped and looked outside, clearly annoyed at the rabid baseball fans who were waiting with their binders full of memorabilia to sign. I only knew who he was because of the store grapevine, since I don’t know much about baseball. Still, I nodded at him and tried to appear sympathetic. He was handsome, he seemed a little arrogant, and I could tell his watch was very expensive. That’s all I had time to observe before he walked out to be mobbed.
One of the nicest people I helped as a bookseller was actor F. Murray Abraham. He was energetic and friendly, and I was determined to find something for him. I took him to three different floors, trying to find a book in stock that he’d find interesting. It was one of those days when we seemed to be sold out of every title I looked up. Still, he was full of good humor, and I may have surprised him when I said I enjoyed his performance in the miniseries Dead Man’s Walk. Maybe he gets tired of hearing about Amadeus. I had good luck with actors. I was delighted to find Bill Irwin in the children’s section one day, and we had a quick chat. I’d worked with him in 1985 at the La Jolla Playhouse, and I’d recently met him again at the stage door after a performance of his stage show Fool Moon. He’s got to be one of the sweetest people in show business.
The Pursuit of Happyness was filmed in San Francisco, and lots of locals had encounters with the Smith family. Will Smith came in one evening with an entourage and bodyguards. I walked right up and asked him if I could help him find a book. We wandered around two floors, where I made some recommendations and he asked to see some titles. In the end, he chose The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene as a gift for a relative. Will Smith was very extroverted, and I could tell he was used to being the center of his universe. That’s not criticism, just an observation. A few days later, Jada Pinkett Smith came in to shop, and I brought a book down to the ground floor for her. Our contact was very brief. I didn’t get to meet Jaden Smith, but my brother watched him film a scene for the movie. The author of the book, Chris Gardner, dropped by the store more than once, and I have an autographed copy of his book. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I still haven’t read the book or seen the movie!
Simon Cowell was in San Francisco for American Idol auditions, and when I heard he was in the store, I rushed to the ground floor to say hello. I told him I enjoyed his book I Don’t Mean To Be Rude, But… He thanked me politely, and I repeated myself, saying I really enjoyed it. Then he really smiled and told me I’d made his day. Standing next to him felt strange, until I realized it was because we’re used to seeing him seated behind a table or desk.
British actor Damian Lewis came to the information desk, and I mentioned his miniseries Warriors. I went on to gush about his co-star, Ioan Gruffudd. I don’t think that impressed him very much. Of course, he’s got a wry face, so it was hard to tell. When David Sedaris was at the desk signing a stack of his books, I told him I was sorry I couldn’t make it to the event he was doing at a local theatre. He just smirked and said the event was sold out. At least his personality matches his writing style! Then there was the author of new-age spirituality books who refused to ride the elevator with us lowly store employees, so she’s now banned from my reading list.
I often ate lunch at a fifties-themed diner across the street from the store, and one time at the counter, I sat next to actor Chad Lowe. I tried not to stare, but once I finished my meal, I said hello. He was friendly and didn’t seem to mind the intrusion. Of course, I had to tell him how great he was in Life Goes On. Lowe told me he was in San Francisco to option a story from author Ethan Canin. That explained why he had a copy of The Palace Thief on the counter. I mentioned that I worked at Borders and encouraged him to drop by. He said he would try. I warned everyone back at the store to watch for him, and my co-workers reported that he came in, but it was after I’d gone home. Chad Lowe’s meeting must have gone well, because he produced and directed Beautiful Ohio (2006) based on the short story Batorsag and Szerelem, with Ethan Canin as screenwriter. (My roommate lived on the same block as Canin growing up, but that’s her story to tell!)
Many of our celebrity sightings were just that. We’d see them in passing, but that was all. This was the case for me with Matthew Perry, Nicole Richie, and Rachael Ray. I walked up and said hello to actor Paul Dooley and he shook my hand, but that’s all there is to tell. I met Darren Hayes of Savage Garden a second time, as he passed me on his way to the music floor. (My first encounter with Hayes is included in my previous post.)
Some of the authors I met include Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, Temple Grandin, Bret Easton Ellis, Walter Mosely, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Phillipa Gregory, Robin Cook, Cara Black, James Patterson, Tom Wolfe, Gregory Maguire, Peter Robinson, Lawrence Block, Nuala O’Faolain, and Yann Martel. Martel was there to sign his book, but also to insert a small strip of paper at page 317, containing some sentences that had been left out of the first edition paperback. I’m sure he was relieved when his book went into another printing! We discussed the different ways Life of Pi could be interpreted, and he wrote in my book, “May you always believe the better story.”
I left Borders when I could no longer cope with the physical demands of the job, and now the store is closed It’s sad that the big bookstores killed the small independents, and now the big stores are mostly gone. Kindles and ipods are great, but I can’t help wondering, how do you get a kindle edition or an mp3 download autographed? I guess you just take a photo with your cell phone.
Update: Wow, ask the universe a question, and sometimes you get an answer. Now there is the kindlegraph, modern technology’s answer to the autograph.
Here’s a random list of some of the stuff I’m hoping will entertain me in the new year:
Books: I’m on a long library waiting list for PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. It’s a murder mystery featuring the characters from Pride & Prejudice. Mr Wickham gets bumped off, and I’m sure everybody is a suspect. It fascinates me that the reviewers at Amazon are equally split between rating this book brilliant and awful. I myself have tried many P & P sequels and failed to finish them. I’m also looking forward to a book that’s coming out in spring, but I don’t even know the title or author. All I know is that the cover photo will be one of my images of Ireland, posted last year at the beginning of January.
Television: Downton Abbey Series Two begins a week from today. Also this month, Ian Tracey guest stars on Supernatural (January 6th) and in the pilot for the new Fox series Alcatraz (January 16th or 23rd, or perhaps both?). A friend just told me there’s a new Doc Martin series coming later in the year, as well as Sherlock, Great Expectations, Wallander, Endeavor, and Inspector Lewis. Finally, The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert will get a PBS airing.
Movies: 2012 will be a countdown to The Hobbit and the movie version of Les Misérables. While waiting for next Christmas, I am curious about The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, both actors I enjoy watching. For March, I have a hugely expensive ticket to the silent masterpiece Abel Gance’s Napoleon, restored by Kevin Brownlow. It will be shown on a triptych of three screens with a full orchestra. This five hour epic at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre includes a dinner break!
DVDs: February brings The Phantom of the Opera to the US, months after the folks in the UK got their DVDs. I’m looking forward to The Help, since I missed it in the theatre. Of course, that’s true for most of the other good movies in 2011.
Theatre: The touring productions of Les Misérables and War Horse are coming to San Francisco. I’ve got to get tickets, which means being more careful with my entertainment budget. Damn you, Amazon and ebay! No more impulse buying!
More New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Keep better notes for next year’s Wrap Up.
2. Read more, surf less. (I’ve been on the computer way too much lately.)
3. Get out to see more films in the cinema.
4. You may have noticed a change in how I’m posting photographs here. I’ve switched to slideshows in a effort to save on scrolling, but it also makes it harder for people to steal my images. My goal is to take more photographs in 2012 and to see less of them posted on other sites without credit.
This is my 200th post at The Ugly Bug Ball! I’m not planning to post more often in 2012, but I do hope to keep things going steadily along, with lots of new topics and not too much repetition. Suggestions are always welcome.
Please share some of your resolutions and anticipations for 2012!
Another year comes to a close, so now it’s time to reflect back over what entertained me in 2011. I just looked at the wrap up from last year, to get an idea of how far I’ve come in twelve months. It’s clear that my focus has shifted in two directions. I spent a large part of this year with my head in London, after watching the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables in March. I also headed back to the past in a big way, once I started watching RetroTV and MeTV during a summer of unbearable television on the big networks. These two obsessions have a major influence on my best and worst list of 2011.
Best Books: Most of the novels I liked this year were written for children and teens. I particularly enjoyed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (the 2011 Newbery Award winner) and Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. Guitar Boy by MJ Auch and Countdown by Deborah Wiles weren’t perfect, but they each stayed with me long after reading. My favorite non-fiction book was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, which managed to make the periodic table interesting to someone who barely paid attention to science in high school. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan was a little book filled with some gems, and it goes into the “hard to categorize” category. The funniest books were Demitri Martin’s This is A Book, and Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz & David Hayward. The biggest disappointments were The Sherlockian by Graham Moore and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The lesson here is to give up on Sherlock Holmes in books and stick to the BBC.
Best Television: The Big Bang Theory remains my favorite sitcom, just for being consistently funny. The best line: “Let’s hurry up and watch this Star Wars blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!” (Sorry for the paraphrase.) NCIS consistently underwhelmed me, and I’m can’t help wondering if I’ll give up on it soon. In spite of my declaration to boycott Masterpiece on PBS, I still watched and enjoyed Downton Abbey, Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie, and the Inspector Lewis mysteries. I spent my summer wrapped up in the old series Da Vinci’s Inquest, and my winter has been dominated by reruns of The Rifleman. Overall, the television program with the biggest impact this year was the Les Mis concert on PBS.
Best Twitter: Last year, Matthew Gray Gubler was my favorite tweeter. He’s still whimsical and original, but now most of his tweets are links to his tumblr page. I hate tumbr, so this is a big strike against him. Sorry, Gube. West End performer Hadley Fraser can be great on twitter, but he goes quiet for long stretches. Ramin Karimloo tweets with sincerity, but all those tattoo photos freak me out! Matt Lucas, Josh Groban and Yigit Pura have been consistently entertaining, and Shah Rukh Khan’s twitter feed has a good balance of the personal and professional.
Best Movies: I did slightly better than last year getting out to see new films on the big screen. I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, The Descendants, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I’m not sure The Phantom of The Opera 25th Anniversary simulcast even counts in this category! At the Frameline Film Festival, I enjoyed Kawa and Spork. I have many more late 2011 films to see on DVD when they’re released in 2012.
Best DVDs: I watched a lot of bad DVDs this year, just because they featured actors that I liked. I really need to get over this habit! While not necessarily bad, I endured a lot of fighting and CGI in movies like Thor, Captain America, and Centurion, just so I could see actors Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, JJ Feild, and Michael Fassbender. I tried to watch all ten Best Picture Oscar nominees on DVD, but I faltered at 7½. I did love The King’s Speech. I hate to admit it, but I think my most entertaining DVD experience this year was re-watching JJ Abrams’ Star Trek with a friend.
Best Streaming: Da Vinci’s Inquest and The Rifleman on hulu were great, even though I was also watching these series on broadcast television. The worst: when Netflix split their charges for DVDs by mail versus streaming. I tried a month of streaming only. It was a disaster. Nothing I wanted to watch would play without long pauses to reload. Now that I’m getting DVDs only, the Netflix site doesn’t tell me what is available streaming only. Netflix, you’ve got a long way to go before you win back my trust. One free DVD rental for Christmas isn’t enough.
Best Theatre: Les Mis and The Phantom of the Opera, obviously, even though I didn’t see either show live in an actual theatre. I had some fun at San Francisco’s BATS Improv, especially seeing their Spontaneous Broadway.
Best Music: I’ve spent most of my time listening to Josh Groban, Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo), and Johnny Crawford. Another favorite is the song Electricity from Billy Elliot (the stage musical). Still, nothing beats Hadley Fraser singing Again. The worst music this year? Whatever was playing in the trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Gack.
Best Music Video: It really doesn’t count, but I can’t help it. I love Josh Groban Sings Kanye West Tweets.
Best Entertainment News: Following the news from London about West End performers from the Les Mis concert has entertained me at least as much as the concert itself. It brought me new friendships with fellow fans from all over, and it kicked off the practice of having guest bloggers here at The Ugly Bug Ball. If I’m blogging less about the West End, it’s only because things are pretty quiet right now. 2012 promises some guest reviews of Ramin Karimloo as Valjean.
Entertainer of The Year: Last year was easy. This year, it’s difficult to choose. Johnny Crawford is great, but he came along late, at the end of November. I blogged the most often about Hadley Fraser. He provided me with a rich variety of entertainment, between the Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera performances, the online news and tweets, the music recordings and the YouTube videos. Still, Ian Tracey beats Fraser out for sheer volume. Tracey has been working steadily since he was a teenager, and even without an online presence (no tweets, fansites, or facebook page) he provided me with the most hours of entertainment. I’m going to have to declare a tie between Hadley Fraser and Ian Tracey. Congratulations, guys. There’s no prize, but you get my sincere thanks. I’m sorry I can’t promise you my exclusive loyalty, because there’s always going to be a Johnny-Come-Lately waiting in the wings!
Next: What I’m excited about in 2012. Happy New Year, everyone!