Thursday, September 30, 2010

The White House Doctor

Connie Mariano’s book The White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents is an easy, interesting read. Mariano writes candidly about her time working in the white house under both the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations, sharing anecdotal incidents and the path she took to get to her position.

Generally, I was pleased with Mariano’s writing; her stories were engaging, and she wrote them with a storyteller’s – rather than an academic’s – tone. She delicately wrote about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, neither ignoring nor sensationalizing it. Though I would’ve like the book to have a more chronological organization (Mariano sorted chapters by subject matter rather than time), I didn’t find it difficult to follow. Also, the pictures in The White House Doctor were printed throughout the book, rather than in a middle insert like they are in most books. Though this is a small touch, I found it to be infinitely better; while looking at the pictures, I knew their context.

In her book, Mariano lightly touches on the stresses her job put on her family life. Though this was interesting, it fit awkwardly into the book. I don’t think it should’ve been removed, but perhaps it could’ve been better distributed over the book (it was all in the last two chapters).

I don’t have much else to say about The White House Doctor. If it sounds like the kind of book you might like, it’s worth reading; if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t recommend it to you. With that in mind, it gets a 3/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Connie Mariano

Buy the book.

Additionally, I'd like to thank Kate who keeps up a list of the books and movies from The Daily Show at (Here is a link to her list, which is a lot prettier than the one I update). I've used Kate's list a lot this year, particularly when I've had to miss a week of shows due to vacation (or when I forget to update my own list). Plus, Kate was kind enough to post a link to this blog on her page! So thanks, Kate!

Monday, September 27, 2010

King Abdullah II of Jordan

I know it's been a little while since my last review, and I should hopefully have a new one for you soon. (I've finished reading Connie Mariano's book White House Doctor and I plan on writing the review sometime this week). However, I want to encourage you all to watch Jon's interview with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
The king didn't come on the show to promote a book or a movie, but the interview was so good, I think it's worth mentioning here. The topic of the interview is the conflict in the Middle East over Israel, and if you have 20 minutes, you should watch it. It's enlightening.

Monday, September 20, 2010


After waiting for months, I finally got my turn to watch the library’s copy of Precious (Am I legally obligated to say the part about the novel it’s based on? I’m going to risk it, and you say it in your mind if you so choose.) Despite all I’d heard about Precious not being a complete downer movie, I didn’t quite believe it and braced myself for a rough hour-and-a-half. But, even though there were plenty of depressing moments (and one scene that made me say “no, no, no” to my screen) Precious was not an emotionally overwhelming movie.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), an overweight black teen, lives in an abusive household. She is pregnant with her second child by her father, who sexually abuses her, and her mother (Mo’Nique), resenting her for this, abuses her physically. When Precious is kicked out of her high school, she begins attending an alternative school where an attentive teacher (Paula Patton) teaches her (and the class of struggling teen girls) how to read and write.

The acting in Precious was phenomenal. After watching Sidibe stumble through hosting Saturday Night Live last year, I didn’t expect her acting to impress me, (though I now recognize this was stupid, considering she was nominated for an Academy Award). Sidibe was great, though, making me care about Precious right from the beginning. Mo’Nique portrayed the depth of her character, making her more than the one-sided villain of the movie (though you do hate her).

One of things I found most effective within Precious was the use of internal monologue and fantasies. Typically, using a voiceover to show what a character is thinking seems cheesy and tacked on, but in Precious, it was natural.

I recommend Precious, and give it a 5/5. Though it’s not one of those movies you want to watch a million times, it is definitely worth watching it once.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with director Lee Daniels

Buy the DVD

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Big Short

As you may have already realized, I’m tired of reading books about the economy. Because of that, I know I didn’t approach Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, with the most open mind, and therefore, this may not be the fairest of reviews. Another thing not working in The Big Short’s favor is that I listened to the audio version of the book, and the narrator wasn’t super. The waitlist on the book was very long, but no one had checked out the book on CD, so I opted for that. One good thing came out of the long waitlist, though, and so I will further delay beginning this review to tell you the story.

Early this summer, I was working behind the circ desk at the Chelsea District Library, and a patron came to pick up a book he had on hold. The book happened to be The Big Short, so I mentioned that I was on the waitlist for that book as well.
A few days later, this gentleman returned to the library and said, “I’ve read about 50 pages of Lewis’s book, and boy is it a good one. Have you read the one Harry Markopolos just wrote?”
Sure enough, I had just picked up No One Would Listen that morning. “I just started it.”
“Well, if you like Harry, you’ll like this one. They’re both ruthless.”
Now, each time this man comes into the library, he’ll tell me about the latest book he’s reading about the economy and gives me his opinion on whether it’s worth reading. Even though I know I’ll probably never read one of the books he tells me about, I love having those interactions over the circulation desk. Because of my Daily Shill mission, I’m connecting with a patron that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I’m glad for that.

And now, for the review.

The Big Short isn’t as bad as I may have made it sound. In it, he follows the financial moves of the handful of men who realized that the CDO market was doomed to fail. These investors and hedge fund managers purchased cheap insurance on these CDOs and ended up making tons of money.

Lewis candidly writes about these men. His stories of them are filled with direct quotes, and he doesn’t fill the book with technical talk that only economists could understand. I liked how he focuses on particular investors, which gives the reader characters to follow throughout the book. If it were the first book I’d read on the economic slump of 2008, I bet I’d have remained interested. Instead, though, I found myself losing focus. Rather than listening to the book over a short time span, I ended up listening to a disc here and there over the past 3 months.

But, even though it’s not going to be a fair one, I need to give The Big Short a rating. It gets a 3/5 because even though it bored me, I could see its merits. If you want to read a book about the economy, it’s probably a good choice.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Michael Lewis

Buy the Book

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New American Tea Party

Despite being a Liberal, I approached John O’Hara’s book A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending, and More Taxes with an open mind. In his interview, O’Hara seemed intelligent and reasonable, and I thought that his book could perhaps allow me to see what the tea party movement was striving to be before the crazy latched on.

For about the first third of the book, O’Hara gave me what I was looking for: he shared the history of the development of the tea party, explaining where they were coming from, with only a few snarky comments about the Democrats and Liberals. Though I didn’t agree with much of what O’Hara was saying, I could understand where he was coming from. And then he made the switch from recounting tea party history to bashing the media, President Obama, unions, and health care. The occasional anti-liberal joke expanded into mean-spirited rants, and all of a sudden A New American Tea Party was reading like every other political book. And that’s not a good thing.

Pardon me, while I break into this review to go on a little rant of my own about how much I hate political books. I hate them! The authors of these books—whether Democrat or Republic, Liberal or Conservative – talk about all the great things that their party does and all the terrible things the other guys do, and they back it up with facts. The trouble is, people on the other end of the political spectrum believe the complete opposite, and they have facts to back it up too. As a reader, this leaves me with nothing I can believe. I can’t trust the political writer because I know they will never say anything bad about their own party or anything good about their opponents, despite the fact that both sides have good and bad ideas, good and bad supporters. And that is why I hate political books. Now back to the review.

O’Hara is not a bad writer. He varies his sentence structure (and length), transitions adeptly, and spends a reasonable amount of time on each subject. But his book made me mad, and I didn’t enjoy reading it. It gets a 2/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with John O’Hara Part 1 Part 2

Buy the book

Things may slow down here at the Daily Shill over the next several months. I just started grad school this week, so I’ll be spending less time on my mission. But I’ll keep chipping away at this and try to make at least 4 reviews a month.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral is a movie filled with zillions of characters, each with his orher own problems, who are all thrown together at a family funeral. Here’s just a sampling: Aaron (Chris Rock) is saddled with the burden of planning and paying for his father’s funeral while his younger brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence) gets all the admiration from family without doing anything. Elaine (Zoe Saldana) is planning on revealing to the family that she is going to marry her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden), but accidently gives him LSD, which causes him to hallucinate and act inappropriately. Norman (Tracy Morgan) has been given the responsibility for looking after crotchety Uncle Russell (Danny Glover). And then there’s the mysterious little person who appears at the funeral, revealing something about Aaron’s father that his family never knew.

That’s just a fraction of the many plotlines that Death at a Funeral puts forward. Unfortunately, I did not find the majority of them to be funny. Watching Marsden’s trip and the chaos it caused was the only part of the movie that made me laugh; generally, the jokes were lowest common denominator. Additionally, though Rock is an excellent comedian, his serious acting left more to be desired – much of his delivery sounded like emotionless reading.

Though Death at a Funeral’s glut of characters and situations took away from the movie as a whole, it kept the time moving quickly. Even though I wasn’t really enjoying it, I didn’t find myself counting the minutes until the movie was finished. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it. It gets a 2/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Tracy Morgan (This is a funny one. For some reason, Morgan reminds me so much of my paternal grandfather in this clip. I know that's irrelevant, but since many of the people who read this are my relatives, I figured I'd put it out there.)

Buy the DVD