Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This probably won't come as a surprise to most of you, since it's been a month since I've posted, but the time has come to say goodbye to the Daily Shill.

As many of you know (since most readers are my friends and family in real life), I was recently hired as a full time Adult Services librarian. The job is wonderful, and I am always happy to go to work in the morning. However, I still have a year's worth of classes left on my Masters degree-- something I need for the job. Which means that on top of going to work 40 hours a week, I am taking two grad school classes (and doing all the homework associated with the classes...which is a lot). That leaves me with next to no time to do anything else. And the Daily Shill takes up a lot of time.

Additionally, I have seriously missed reading whatever books I want to. And while that's been more of an annoyance, now that I'm responsible for recommending books to others, I need to start reading books that I actually want to recommend. There's only so many times I can pull Packing for Mars off the shelf. In the past month, I've read a ton of books I've been meaning to read for ages (or books that just caught my eye). And it has been wonderful.

So thank you all for reading, for supporting me, for linking to my blog posts and liking my page on Facebook. When I finish grad school (now slated for December 2012), there's a chance I may start a new review blog. It won't be the Daily Shill, though. Liking the idea for a blog is not enough for me; I need to like the process as well. If I do start something new, I will post it here. Also, I post to the Chelsea District Library Adult blog about once a week (and there are other posts by the amazing librarians I work with). If you need an Emily-fix, visit there (or actually visit the library!)

And I'm not shutting this door completely. If I happen to read or see something that was promoted by the Daily Show, and if I happen to have the time and inclination to write a review, I'll post it here. And I kind of want to do another stream of consciousness blog. So, instead of goodbye, I'll say see you later.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, though a quality show, was a bit too sciencey for me (though my use of the word “sciencey” is a good indicator of my scientific aptitude). His show, which premiered about a year ago on the Science Channel, explores scientific questions seemingly without answers. This review is of the show’s first episode: “Is there a Creator?”

Freeman doesn’t pull any punches, jumping right in with a question that could easily stir up some controversy; after all, religion and science are often thought of as opposites. The show, with narration by Freeman of course, alternates between interviews with scientists and scientific explanation (complete with animated diagrams, like those movies we’d watch in science class). Though the scientists interviewed don’t come out with anything conclusive (can you imagine the headlines: “Science TV show proves the existence of God” or, conversely “‘There is no God!’ shouts Freeman”), both sides seemed to be equally represented.

Unfortunately, I was never really drawn into the show. Maybe it was because I watched it at the end of a long day and didn’t really feel like exercising my mind anymore. Maybe it was because I couldn’t consider the idea that the creator is a computer programmer and we’re in a virtual world like the Sims. Maybe it was because I was distracted by Freeman pronouncing the last syllable of creator as “tore” rather than “ter.” However, those are all personal issues with the show. As I watched it, even though I wasn’t too interested, I continually thought about how much my dad and my grandpa (Papa, I’m talking about you!) would have enjoyed it. I’m just not the ideal audience.

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman gets a 3/5.

Watch Jon Stewart's Interview with Morgan Freeman

Buy the Season 1 DVD

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blue Valentine

I had a suspicion watching Blue Valentine was not going to be all new books and Heath Bars (you mean that's not happiness for everyone?), but I didn't think it could be that bad. I mean, all of the quotes from critics on the back of the DVD talked about what a great love story it was. Love stories have happy parts, right? Not this one. After watching Blue Valentine, I felt like I would never be happy again. I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is awful" multiple times throughout the movie. I would have turned it off if I didn't have to watch it for the Shill. I can step back and objectively see that it was a very good movie, but I will never see it again.

Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) marriage is falling apart. Cindy is frustrated with Dean’s childishness and his lack of initiative despite his talent. Dean wants to do all he can to make the marriage work, but his progress is often set back by his alcoholism and extreme jealousy. All of these issues are further complicated because the two have a daughter: the incredibly adorable Frankie (Faith Wladyka). Dean’s last-ditch effort to save the marriage by taking Cindy to a motel (and leaving Frankie with her grandfather) is intersperced with events from the past that brought the two together in the first place.

Cindy and Dean are both three-dimensional characters—neither fit a complete stereotype, and both of their points of view are understandable. Gosling and Williams’ performances are spot-on; their emotions and actions are raw and believable. I cared for both of them and wanted for them both to somehow get what they were hoping for, making it all the more heartbreaking when I realized (early on) that it was impossible.

There’s no question that Blue Valentine was a well-made movie, but the experience of watching it was not worth it—at least not for me. Still, it gets a 4/5.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Do You Know

I love Paul Rudd. I love Paul Rudd so much that during my junior and senior years of college, my roommates and I had a “Rudd-a-thon” where we watched as many of his movies as possible. I love Paul Rudd so much that my top three celebrity crushes, from biggest crush to slightly less big, are Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Jon Stewart. Yes, he edges out Jon Stewart. But despite all that Rudd love, I wasn’t particularly excited about watching How Do You Know. It just looked bad. And guess what, it was!

How Do You Know chronicles the troubles of Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) and George (Rudd) and how they are eventually brought together. Lisa, a professional softball player, has just been cut from the team, and, as a way to cope, has started dating Matty (Owen Wilson) a clueless man-whore of a professional baseball player. George, meanwhile, is in the process of being indicted by his father’s company and, consequently, finds himself without a job. Oh, and also without a girlfriend, since his chose to leave him just as his life was going bad.

I realized about 15 minutes into the movie (about the time that the lesbian softball player caricatures showed up) that I should have done another stream-of-consciousness blog, but I wasn’t going to go back and watch the beginning again. Instead, you just get a few complaints from me.

What bothered me most about How Do You Know, was how unlikeable and unrelatable the characters were. Lisa was whiney and frustrating and someone I wouldn’t want to be friends with. George was nervous and neurotic and the not-cute kind of awkward (where was the Rudd charm?). Matty, who I should have hated because of his playboy tendancies, was the only one who won me over; he just reminded me of a dumb puppy. In a chick-flick (which I think is what this movie was supposed to be), I should fall for the romantic interest (in a good one, I should fall for both guys in the love triangle). Instead, I didn’t like anyone and counted down to the movie’s end.

How Do You Know gets a 1/5. I would have rather watched this SNL sketch, this Romeo + Juliet trailer (look for Rudd at the 23-30 second point. He's the dancing astronaut), and this scene from Sesame Street 100 times (and I probably did over the course of the Rudd-a-Thon).

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Paul Rudd

Monday, July 25, 2011

Progress Report #3

Oh man, at the beginning of July, I was supposed to write another progress report! Summer has been just slipping away from me, and it's hard to believe the month is almost up. So here is the next progress report, albeit a few weeks late.

Progress Report #3:
Timeline: Well, I’m not going to finish this project by the end of this year, like I was hoping to. This summer, in particular, has left very little time for reading Daily Shill books.

Here’s where I stand:
I’ve read 43 of 73 books.
I watched 28 of 35 films.
I’ve watched 9 of 15 TV shows.
I’ve heard 3 of 4 albums.

I’ll continue to plug away at this, but I recognize it’s not realistic for me to reach my goal of completing all sections by the end of December. Oh well!

Writing: I’m happy with where I’ve come with this blog, and I certainly feel more confident in my ability to write for it. Lately, I was especially pleased with my review of Unstoppable and my review of The Blueprint (both are quite different).

Best Book: Packing for Mars
Worst Book: Courting Disaster

Best Film: A Single Man
Worst Film: Unstoppable

Best TV Show: Louie
Worst TV Show: Hot in Cleveland

Best Album: The Suburbs
Worst Album: More Malice

Am I Glad I’m Doing This?: Sometimes, but not always. Lately, especially, I’ve come close to quitting, and the novelty of this project has worn off. Even though I’m ready to be done (and relatively far from it), I’m still glad I’ve worked on this project. I’ve certainly expanded what I read, which is a good thing for anyone, but especially for a librarian.

Thank Yous: First off, a huge Thank You to Mom, Nana, Uncle Greg, Amanda, Brodie, Caroline and Theresa for being regular readers. (There may be more of you out there...thank you to you as well!) As always, thanks to the Chelsea District Library for helping me get all of the books, movies, and albums I need to review, and thanks to Anna at the library for taking my profile picture. Thanks to Kate and her handy-dandy list of Daily Show books. And thanks to the folks at Ignite Chelsea 2 for giving me the opportunity (and talking me into) giving a talk on the Daily Shill (which you can see here!)

Expect fewer reviews in the months to come—I’ll do my best to continue posting something every Monday, but I can’t make any promises.

Again (as I’ve said in every progress report), I’d appreciate any feedback you have—positive or negative.

Have a super week, everyone!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Unstoppable: A Stream of Consciousness Blog

I am about to watch a movie. It is called Unstoppable. It’s about a train that doesn’t stop. And it is going to be bad.

This is what I imagine the movie will be like. Except it won’t be funny.

I will write this blog as I watch it. It might get a little long, and will probably have spoilers.

1:06- They want me to know that this movie is “Inspired by True Events.” They are also trying to make me afraid of trains. So far, it’s not working.

2:17- Unnecessary Chris Pine crotch shot.

2:59- Now Pine is trying to reach a wife(?) girlfriend(?) on the phone. There has been no talking in this movie yet. Lots of dramatic music, though.

4:10- Hey, that daycare center/retirement home quip from the SNL parody was actually in the movie. Yikes.

5:08- Now they’re talking about how a track needs to be cleared because some school children are coming to ride trains. Maybe SNL didn’t make anything up. Here’re the kids. And the dramatic music builds.

6:10- They just announced that the train doesn’t have brakes. Danger is brewing!

7:20- “Railroading” was used as a verb. Oh man, a real life train is going by right now! I hope it has brakes.

8:30- The plot thickens. Pine has received a call from his friend(?) saying that he can come in for a trial and then go home. I suspect this has something to do with the lady from earlier. But now the train has left the station, and we all know that it is not going to stop. The personal drama must be set aside for the train drama.

10:25- A minor character named Dewey just deserted a moving train with no brakes (and now it’s driving itself). I’m confused because I thought it was Denzel and Pine’s train that wouldn’t have brakes. The music is pretty dramatic still.


11:40- False alarm. He just didn’t catch up to it (because after deserting the moving train, he realized that was probably a bad plan. Dewey’s pretty dumb.) Now it’s a runaway train. Dewey couldn’t stop it. You might say it’s unstoppable.

12:30- We’re getting a look at Denzel’s personal life now. He’s got some good looking daughters, but I sense there’ll be some trouble there. They seem to be having a party that Denzel was supposed to attend. Instead, he’s on a train.

14:25- Denzel and Pine are having a heart-to-heart about being old and young.

15:19- I think Dewey is my favorite character of this movie so far. They’re giving him a hard time about letting a train with no brakes drive itself. I guess he deserves it. A line: “It’s a train, Dewey, not a chipmunk.”

17:22- They’re calling the runaway train a “coaster.” I keep thinking they’re talking about a roller coaster. You know, a runaway train might make a good rollercoaster—is that what Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is at Disney?

18:44- More heart-to-heart between Pine and Denzel. We learn that Pine is “sort-of” married and Denzel’s daughters work at Hooters.

20:08- A safety inspector is here to talk to the kids. What an unfortunate day to have a “coaster.”

21:28- Some incompetent railroad employees are arguing, oh, hey, Dewey’s with them. We’re learning that they don’t have a “coaster” because the train is going fast.

23:19- The runaway train is approaching the children’s train. They aren’t going to kill them off this early (or really at all, I don’t think). …And they’re safe. The trains just quickly pass each other.

24:45- Things aren’t so good for Pine and his lady trouble. His restraining order is continuing for at least another 30 days. Wonder what he did.

25:50- I haven’t written about Connie, the lady in charge of the trains. She’s kind of boring.

26:47- Dewey’s incompetent friend is trying to jump on the train. I don’t think it’ll work, since there’s still an hour left. Oh man. He just ran into a sign. Is he dead?

28:13- Now Pine and Denzel are fighting. Their relationship is confusing. Pine seems to have some kind of family relationship with the railroad. Their train is also too long. I bet the runaway train will complicate that problem.

30:52- Oh man, they just announced on the news that Dewey will be held accountable for the runaway train. Poor, stupid Dewey.

31:37- And now we find out that the train is carrying some kind of scary glue chemical.

33:10- The Chrysler Building line just came up. Ha!

34:32- A trailer of horses just got knocked into the path of the runaway train. First kids, now animals—they are trying to get us scared from any angle they can. Don’t worry, the horses make it.

37:19- I’m really impressed with what good impressions Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam (the SNL actors) did of Denzel and Pine.

40:00- A 22 year old Afghanistan War Vet is now trying to stop the train (by a helicopter? I don’t quite get it). He’s not going to make it.

44:47- The soldier tried to parachute down on the train. He couldn’t do it, and got injured. And now the other train that was trying to stop it fell of the tracks AND IT’S EXPLODING! I think we’ve reached the first casualties of the movie.

48:26- Pine and Denzel’s train is heading towards the runaway one. Are they going to make it? (Yes. My guess is yes.)

48:45- And cut to Hooters…

51:23- After they closely pass the train without getting hit, Denzel decides to chase it in the engine of the their train (they’ve ditched the cars). You know, he really is looking old. I guess Remember the Titans was a long time ago.

55:52- I am watching a movie where the villain is a train.

56:00- Oh man, we just learned that Denzel is being forced to retire. Drama!

1:00:05- We’re getting Pine’s backstory, and I don’t even care anymore. Something about pulling a gun on a cop. I’m bored of this movie. The novelty of making fun of it as I watch has been lost.

1:02:00- They are shooting at the train. It is a movie where the bad guy is an object, and they’re still shooting it.

1:04:00- Oh my gosh, there’s still half an hour of this left. How much longer do I have to watch some guys chase a train?

1:05:51- Denzel is trying to impart some life lessons. We’ll see if they stick.

1:08:38- I accidentally stopped paying attention and wikipedia’d Taran Killam. I have a little crush on him, I think.

1:09:31- Oh my gosh, Killam was Spaulding on The Amanda Show. Weird. In Unstoppable they are still chasing the train. Pine’s wife is trying to call him now. How the tables have turned…

1:10:52- What!? Killam is engaged to/has a baby with the lady who plays Robin on How I Met Your Mother! Whoa! Meanwhile, they are still chasing the train. Debris is hitting the train like hail. I’m not sure where it’s coming from because I stopped paying attention for a couple minutes.

1:13:20- I just learned that Chris Pine’s character name is Will. He’s fallen between cars on the runaway train. They’re saying his name a lot. Maybe they should’ve said it more early on, and then I might’ve cared about him more than I care about Dewey—who, by the way, has been missing from the movie for a long time.

1:14:26- They attached the two trains, but Will’s foot is hurt. He’s fixing it with duct tape, though.

1:15:32- They are now pulling at the runaway train in the opposite direction (I guess that’s why they’re chasing it?). I hope it works so this movie can end already. You know, this two trains thing feels a little like a math problem

1:17:24- This drawn out tension reminds me of the end of reality shows…”There are only two more photos in my hands…”

1:20:37- This movie doesn’t have enough talking to keep me interested. On the other hand, I just learned that Denzel’s character name is Frank. Also, the brakes on the train Frank is driving (the one that could be stopped) have broken. Now they have two unstoppable trains. (Though they’re connected, so I guess it counts as one train)

1:26:39- With ten minutes left, I’m trying to figure out if there has been any character development in this movie. I don’t think there has. Will’s wife cares about him now, and Frank’s daughters care about him, but that seems to be the only change. And I guess Will and Frank are friends now.

1:28:44- Inspirational music has started playing. Will is climbing into the engine of the runaway train. People everywhere are cheering. Hey, a shot of Dewey; he’s pretty happy.

1:30:00- And the train has stopped. So much for that unstoppable business.

1:31:12- Will is reunited with his family, and all marital problems are solved.

1:31:50- And Frank gets to keep his job. These guys really owe Dewey. What if he hadn’t deserted that train?

1:32:59- And here we are at closing credits. Enjoy your 1/5, Unstoppable. Wait, guess who got the last "where is he now" feature? It’s Dewey—he’s now working in the Fast Food Industry. Poor Dewey.

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Rosario Dawson (the one who plays Connie, the boring character)

Did you like this style of post? Was it funny? Obnoxious? Too long? Let me know. I have more terrible movies ahead of me, and could certainly do this again if it works.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Switch

I was under the impression that The Switch was aiming to be an uproarious romantic comedy—taking the comedic angle more than the romantic one—and, truth be told, I was over the movie before it even started. However, The Switch had a lot more heart than most rom-coms, and, in fact, almost doesn't belong to be classified that way. And, though I don’t plan on watching it again, The Switch was not a bad movie-- certainly better than I expected.

Wally (Jason Bateman) and Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) are best friends who drift apart after Kassie has a son via sperm donor and moves away. What Wally and Kassie don’t realize is that Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) is actually their son together, since drunken Wally accidentally dumped Kassie’s donor sperm and replaced it with his own. When Kassie and Sebastian move back to New York and into Wally’s life, Wally realizes both that Sebastian is his son, and that he has feelings for Kallie, and is unsure what to do about either.

Though the trailers play up the relationship between Wally and Kassie, the one that the story really follows is that between Wally and Sebastian—who, can I say, is absolutely adorable. I want Robinson to be every movie's “cute kid.” Though it certainly got too cornball on more than one occasion, Wally’s and Sebastian’s interactions seemed genuine, and—though I am loathe to admit it—had me teared up on one occasion. And Bateman certainly had more chemistry with Robinson than he did with Aniston.

The romance plotline, with Kassie’s sperm donor Roland (Patrick Wilson) coming in to complete the love triangle, could have been more developed and less cliché. Though I didn’t mind it taking a back seat to Sebastian’s story, it was what kept The Switch from being a good movie. Still worth the watch, though, with a 3/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Jennifer Aniston. (It is the most awkward interview I have ever seen on the Daily Show)

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Jason Bateman
(Yes, this movie was promoted twice—a two for one deal for me!)

Buy the DVD

Hope you all had a Happy 4th-- that's why this review is one day late!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fair Game

Valerie Plame’s identity was leaked around the time when I started paying attention to politics and the news, and as the trial also coincided with a time I had to bring in current event articles to my government class, I came into the movie version of her life with some background knowledge, but was ready to get a story linking it all together. Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts as Plame and Sean Penn as her husband Joe Wilson, gave me the story I wanted.

Though it begins with a few of Plame’s earlier CIA missions, Fair Game focuses almost entirely on the circumstances leading to her leaked identity and the aftermath of the situation, especially the effects it has on the relationship between Plame and Wilson.

Watts and Penn both did an excellent job portraying their characters—I thought of them as Valerie and Joe rather than Naomi and Sean— motivations were clear, and neither over-acted.

Fair Game kept me interested, but still felt more like a movie designed to educate, something you would see on the History channel or in a school government class, rather than a movie you would watch for entertainment. That being said, it gets a 3/5 (but almost gets a 4).

I’m sorry this review is so short—I watched the movie about 3 weeks ago, and forgot to write the review until now (having a job is a really wonderful thing, but it also limits my free time). I also apologize that there was no new update last week; I was on vacation.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The End of the Free Market

A week ago, I was ready to give up the Daily Shill. I had started to compose a post listing reasons, which basically summed up to "I WANT TO READ WHAT I WANT TO READ!" But I had already watched Nanny McPhee Returns and I sure wasn't going to have watched it for nothing. So I decided I'd write that one more review, and then wait to make a decision about the Shill until this week. After writing the review, I decided to give the Daily Shill another push and keep going. Because I'm not a quitter.

What brought me to the brink of quitting? Well, sure, it's a buildup over time, but the book that pushed me over the edge was Ian Bremmer's The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations? It was just incredibly boring, especially compared to the many other (non-Shill) books I am now allowing myself to read. But I finally finished it yesterday, and am ready to move onto Christopher Hitchens' Hitch 22 which, though longer, should be more interesting.

As you may have already picked up on, this review of The End of the Free Market is not going to be a fair one (or a long one). I'm not an economist. I never will be an economist. And I only sort of get the economy. So, reading a book that basically lists out multiple countries' laws and regulations regarding the free market is a confusing, boring mess of words. Multiple times, I realized my eyes were going over the pages, but my mind was elsewhere. I really can't provide an accurate summary.

The reason I found The End of the Free Market so boring? I figured it out: there are no people in the book. Rather than talk about how people are affected by countries' takes on the free market, rather than talk about the lawmakers and rulers, Bremmer chooses to talk about policy instead. And that's where he lost me. The few pages on Russia (where, yes, people made a cameo appearance) were relatively interesting, but the rest of the book lost me. It's certainly not pleasure reading, and I don't recommend it (unless, of course, you're an economist or interested in the economy. You're probably the intended audience for this book.) 1/5.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nanny McPhee Returns

It's always seems odd to see a kids' movie promoted on the Daily Show. Sure, I know that parents must make up some of the show's audience, but to me, it seems like such a college program. (Though that's probably because I started watching it in college). I have a hard time reviewing movies for kids, because-- I hate to admit it-- I've become a children's movie snob. I still love watching favorites from my childhood, even the bad ones since nostalgia makes up for a weak story and bad acting. My favorite movie of all time is a children's movie (Pixar's Up). I actually watch children's movies and read children's books all the time. But when a movie comes out that doesn't have the nostalgia of The Wiz or the heart and strong story of Up (or practically anything else by Pixar), I'm critical. I can't watch it from a child's point of view.

All that being said, Nanny McPhee Returns was better than I expected. But I didn't expect much. The basic storyline: Isabel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a young mother, looking after three children and struggling to keep up the family farm while her husband is at war. It's tough enough making ends meet, and when two spoiled cousins are thrown into the mix, causing all five children start behaving badly, Isabel is pushed to her wits end. Enter Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) who, using magic, teaches these children five lessons.

Sound like a mix between Mary Poppins and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? It is. Though I'd recommend reading those books (or watching the Poppins movie) rather than picking up a copy of Nanny McPhee Returns. Though there were moments when the movie had the wonderful feel of a storybook brought to life (similar to the tone of the fabulous show Pushing Daisies), they were fleeting. The acting was fine, but the story just didn't do it for me. And enough with the bodily function jokes already. I know kids love 'em, but kids will laugh at other kinds of jokes, too.

Nanny McPhee Returns gets a 2/5. It wasn't awful, but I won't watch it again, either.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ratings without Reviews

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday-- sorry there was no new update! Today, I bring back "Ratings without Reviews" where I rate some of the other things I've been reading and watching. Later this week, there will be a new Daily Shill Review.

Ratings without Reviews:

Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia: A seriously funny book, completely worth the read. 5/5

The Sandman, Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (and several illustrators): I've read the Sandman series before and loved it, but it starts a little slow. 3/5

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson: The perfect follow up to 13 Little Blue Envelopes; Johnson knows how to write quality YA Fiction. 4/5

Catfish: Engaging, creepy, and engrossing. 5/5

The Hangover Part II: I didn't think a repeat of the same plot could be funny, Part II proves that, with new jokes, it can be. 4/5

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist’s book The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex is absolutely hilarious, but not for the faint of heart. It’s moderately graphic (though illustrated with cartoons by Michael Kupperman and Lisa Hanawalt), lewd, and in-your-face. But did I mention that it’s hilarious?

Schaal and Blomquist are both writers for The Daily Show (and Schaal will occasionally appear on camera as Senior Women’s Issues Correspondent). The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex certainly has the feel of an uncensored Daily Show, with its short sections, clever titles, and immature (in a good way!) jokes. With chapters titled “The History of Sex,” “For Sexperts Only” and “The Future of Sex” among others, Schaal and Blomquist run the gamut of sex jokes.

The only part of The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex that I didn't care for are the long “stories” at the end of each chapter: “Regular Sex” has one about joining the Mile High Club, “The Gay Chapter” has some satire of slash fiction, “For Sexperts Only” has one about a man who’s in love with the Loch Ness Monster. Though the ideas behind most of these stories were funny, they would have been better as a one-off joke, rather than a five-page story.

Despite my minor complaint, The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex is a good one, and I do recommend it. (Unless, of course, you’re my parent or grandparent, in which case I suggest you read something else). That being said, remember it is a humor book about sex that takes the jokes way beyond “making whoopee.” If that doesn’t sound funny to you, it won’t be. But if it does, read the book! I give it a 4/5.

See Jon Stewart promote the book

Buy the book

And now, here's a short rant about my Daily Shill Project. This was not inspired by The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex. They just both happen to exist in the same post.

There have been times I’ve wanted to give up on The Daily Shill before, but I don’t think any as strong as right now. I’ve lost my motivation to slog through books I don’t want to read—there’s so much good stuff out there, why am I wasting my time on things in which I’m not interested? I’ve made it pretty far, and I’m not a quitter (as I keep telling myself over and over), but man-oh-man, I’m ready to be done.

Part of the problem, I think, is it’s a lot of work for a small amount of feedback. I have no idea how many people read this blog, but when you take away my relatives and close friends, I don’t think that leaves much else. Yeah, I have a decent amount of followers on Facebook (and a few on Blogger and Twitter), but I don’t think most check out the blog. I track my posted links on, and each review gets an average of 3-5 clicks. That doesn't seem like very many for the amount of time it takes to read each book (or watch each movie) and write the review.

Also, I’ll admit it, even though I knew from the beginning that it was a long shot, I was secretly hoping for some sort of recognition for this project from the Daily Show. I don’t need a mention on the show or anything, but gosh, I’d love an email saying, “We see what you’re doing, and it’s neat.” (The neat part is optional).

Enough whining, I’ll make it through, I’m over halfway there. But, meanwhile, I’m also letting myself read some other books (and am reacting with overkill). Right now, I’m reading Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice Alone (the middle of a series I loved as a kid/teen), PJ O’Rourke’s upcoming travelogue Holidays in Heck, Judy Dutton’s Science Fair Season (also due to be published in the next few months—librarians, reviewers, and teachers, check out Netgalley to get free digital galleys of upcoming publications), and the first trade book of Neil Gaimon’s Sandman series. Oh, and Ian Bremmer’s The End of the Free Market for the Shill.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Town

I watched Ben Affleck’s movie The Town more than a week ago, but I’ve had troubles sitting down to write the review. After finishing the movie, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, and, over time, no more clarity has been found.

The Town takes place in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, a location rife with crime, particularly bank and armored truck robberies. Doug (Affleck) and a group of his buddies make their living by performing these robberies, and the movie opens will the group robbing a bank managed by Claire (Rebecca Hall). Though it’s a little rocky, the guys eventually end up pulling off the robbery, but not without killing a guard and taking Claire as an incredibly temporary hostage. However, more problems are to come. This robbery causes FBI Agent Frawley (Jon Hamm) to begin to seek out the guys. Additionally, Claire lives in the same neighborhood as Doug and when the two meet at a Laundromat, they begin to fall in love (Doug recognizes Claire, she does not recognize him).

This relationship was the thing that bothered me about The Town. I couldn’t understand how Doug would allow himself to spend enough time with Claire to fall for her, and I also didn’t get how they fell in love so fast. I know The Town is an action movie, and wasting time on scenes developing a romantic relationship is probably not what the audience wants, but it was this (and, oddly enough, not the robberies and violence) that kept the movie from being believable to me.

The Town is without a doubt an action movie (though one with a bit more depth than the typical action fare, I assume). As this blog has already made clear, action movies are not my favorite. However, The Town was the first action movie I’ve seen for this project where the car-chases and gunfights didn’t seem gratuitous. Though they still aren’t things I particularly enjoy watching, they fit within the story and didn’t distract me.

I appreciated that The Town did not have distinct lines drawn between good and bad characters. Typically, you’d be led to root for either the FBI agent or the robbers, but The Town did no such leading. Sure, the robbers were wrong to steal and kill, but the movie showed the personalities behind their tough-guy characters and explained how they got in that situation. Conversely, it was clear that Agent Frawley was just doing his job—he wasn’t crooked, he wasn’t malicious. I liked that characters weren’t cut and dry and that I was able to choose for myself who to support. However, instead of picking a side, I found myself not cheering for either one; I just didn’t care.

The Town gets a 3/5. It’s worth watching, but not worth buying.

Watch Jon Stewart interview Ben Affleck

Buy the DVD

And I’d like to thank Anna at the Chelsea District Library for taking my new profile picture (finally, it’s Daily Shill relevant) and writing about the Shill in the library’s e-newsletter!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Blueprint

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ve read my rants about how I hate reading political books. I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about how awful all political books are (as I did plenty here and here). But Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski’s book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency got me riled again. Another rant is forthcoming, and you are warned.

Like I’ve said before, I am on the liberal end of the political spectrum. However, I have plenty of friends and relatives who are conservative, and I like to think that reading books like The Blueprint will give me some insight into these friends and relatives viewpoints. I know that these books won’t change my mind or my political slant, but its always good to be exposed to multiple viewpoints. Unfortunately, political books are really terrible way to get reasonable arguments (and I mean political books written by both conservatives and liberals). In these books, authors will manipulate facts and quotations to serve their argument. These authors will demonize their opponents and discredit any point-of-view that doesn’t match their own. It’s awful. Usually, though, these tactics will ease in: the hatred will build up as the book continues. With The Blueprint, though, it began on page two. And I knew it was going to be a painful read.

In The Blueprint Blackwell and Klukowski (or “The Kens,” as I like to think of them) argue that President Barack Obama is manipulating (and ignoring) the constitution to build more power for his party and himself. Separated into eight chapters—the subjects of which range from the appointment of czars to gun control to the bias of the media—The Kens lay out a string of actions Obama has taken (or will take) to grab as much power as he can.

One of the things that bothered me most about The Blueprint was its hypocrisy. Many of Obama’s actions that Blackwell and Klukowski had problems with were things conservative presidents had done in the past (and will do in the future). Take, for example, their complaint that Obama will have the opportunity to appoint multiple justices to the Supreme Court, and that the justices he appoints will be liberal. Of course they will be liberal. Just as the three justices appointed by President Ronald Reagan, two justices appointed by President George HW Bush, and two justices appointed by President George W Bush were conservative. It’s just how the system works. Would it be better if presidents selected moderate appointees rather than those that match their political party? Probably, but that’s not what happens.

What was the worst, though, were the offensive, borderline-hateful statements the authors occasionally made. Things like the insistence that illegal aliens must always be referred to as such (and never “illegal immigrants,” or “undocumented workers”) or that schools that acknowledge homosexuality are “toxic learning environments.” There were multiple times I found myself wanting to rip the pages of the book, and it was a library book! (Since I am a year away from becoming a librarian, understand the gravity of that statement).

I could go on listing my problems with The Blueprint (like how any book attempting to be serious should never compare the President-- any president-- to Emperor Palpatine), but enough is enough. It gets a 1/5.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beyond Fundamentalism

Reza Aslan’s, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting the Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalism is a thought-provoking, worthwhile read. In three, moderately short sections—“The Geography of Identity,” “God is a Man of War,” and “The End of War as We Know It”—Aslan gives a background of group identity, fighting on behalf of a religion (or extreme interpretation of it), and the current state of fundamentalism, focusing especially on the Middle East.

Aslan writes in a clear, yet intelligent, voice. Though I often found myself pausing to fully comprehend ideas he put forth, Beyond Fundamentalism could be read quickly, even in a day or two. However, I would recommend reading the book only a chapter or two at a time to get the most of it. I’ll admit, I wasn’t able to do this for the entire book, but I wish I had. It's worth taking the time to think about what Aslan writes.

Though there were many aspects of Beyond Fundamentalism that made me think, one key issue was the feeling of group identity. Aslan points out that one such form is national identity—however, with the increasing globilization, this nationalism in becoming weaker, for better or worse. Some then turn to religion for the feeling of belonging, and, in the extreme, this religion can take the form of the incredibly fundamental groups that encourage terrorism.

Similar to the issue of group identity is the idea of unity and belonging, and the importance that this unity involves inclusion (which allows for differences), rather than assimilation (which emphasizes sameness). Though the creation of the European Union has increased unity of many European countries, it has also highlighted the “otherness” of those who do not belong. Until I read Beyond Fundamentalism, I was not aware of the struggles Muslims face in many European countries—that some school cafeterias in France won’t serve halal meat to Muslim students, that The Netherlands has legislation attempting to ban the Qur’an, and that “Islam Out of Britain” is a rallying cry of the British National Party. Though terrorism is never the way to fight back against these inequities (and, in itself, engenders more hatred and fear), this persecution of Muslims only feeds the fire of these radical groups.

Much of Beyond Fundamentalism resonates with the speech President Obama gave last night announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden, particularly Obama’s insistence that the War on Terror is in no way a War on Islam, and his call for unity.

Though Beyond Fundamentalism occasionally felt out of date (particularly the final chapter, which focuses on the issue of a potential Egyptian democracy), it is certainly still recommended. I give it a 4/5.

Note: Beyond Fundamentalism was originally published as How to Win a Cosmic War

Monday, April 25, 2011

Talking Funny

You may be wondering, “Wasn’t Talking Funny promoted in the 2011 season of the Daily Show? Doesn’t that mean you don’t have to review it?” Yes, that’s true, I don’t have to. But on Friday night I happened to watch it, and I also happened to need something to review for this week, so it worked out all around.

Talking Funny, an HBO special created by Ricky Gervais, consists of Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. sitting around and talking about comedy for about 45 minutes. However, despite the title, Talking Funny is just not funny. Granted, I don’t know that humor is its intention; instead of making jokes, the four comedians talk about standup, how they got involved, and their take on the trade.

To be honest, I was disappointed. Though their discussions were interesting enough, when four of my favorite comedians are together, I want to hear some jokes, damn it! Also, Seinfeld came across as pretty self-involved and arrogant—and not in a funny, intentional way like Gervais does. And sometimes the conversation wasn’t that engaging (who cares whether or not Rock does a sound check?). Neither funny nor interesting? No thank you!

There’s really not that much to say about the special; it was okay, worth the 45 minutes it took to watch, but not that much more. It gets a 2/5. However, if you’re looking for some great stuff by these comedians, catch an episode of Seinfeld or Louie (the best rated TV show in Daily Shill history), watch Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, or watch one of Gervais’s “Out of England” comedy specials.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Morning Glory

I approached Morning Glory with an open mind, not because I thought it was going to be a high quality movie, but because I thought it had to be better than the crappy action flicks that have populated the Shill over the past month. Unfortunately, that hope was soon crushed—by the first scene of the movie, no less.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), producer of a morning TV program in New Jersey, devotes herself entirely to her job. At the beginning of the film, Becky is on a first date that is clearly not going well. Though this date was intended to show how much Becky values her job above personal relationships—she babbles about it, can’t resist picking up phone calls from work, and doesn’t manage to keep a conversation going with her date—it ends up showing that Becky is absolutely crazy. So when she gets fired from that job and begins frantically looking for a new one, I somewhat expected her to end up in a mental hospital. (Okay, not exactly true since the previews heavily indicated that Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton were going to be news anchors in the movie, but it seemed as though Becky was destined for a breakdown). Instead, Becky gets a job producing a different morning show, where she has to deal with the drama-queen antics of anchors Mike Pomroy (Ford) and Colleen Peck (Keaton) while attempting to combat the show’s tanking ratings.

Though the idea has some limited potential, Morning Glory didn’t go anywhere with it. Becky doesn’t stop placing an incredibly high priority on work, and I can’t imagine she would have any more success with future first dates. Of course, Becky doesn’t have to worry about first dates because Adam (Patrick Wilson), a dreamy guy she meets on her first day, somehow gets over the crazy and falls in love with her. Truth be told, the character of Adam seemed shoe-horned into the movie—perhaps to try to counteract the strange sexual tension between Becky and Pomroy.

As much as I like Ford (I will always be a little bit in love with Han Solo and Indiana Jones), he sure phoned it in for Morning Glory. When he was “angry” he used a voice akin to Christian Bale’s Batman, and his heartfelt moment towards the end of the movie lacked any believable emotion, (seriously, I thought he was being sarcastic). Nothing is worthy of comment about any of the others' “acting.”

Morning Glory gets, as you may have guessed, a 1/5. Still feel like watching a movie set in a newsroom? Pick up Anchorman instead; it’ll always have a 5/5 in my book.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Harrison Ford
Yes, that’s the interview that Daily Shill correspondent Andrea Levine attended. Read her report on the experience here!

Buy the movie

Monday, April 11, 2011

When Harry Met Sally 2

Friends, this is going to be the first (and probably only) Daily Shill post that has complete spoilers. So, avoid that disappointment and begin this review by watching Billy Crystal’s Funny or Die video: When Harry Met Sally 2.

Seriously, watch it now because I’m going to spoil it for you if you don’t.

To be honest, I would have been satisfied with the funny sequel to When Harry Met Sally without the twist. But when “Grampires” popped up on the screen, I burst into laughter. The idea of senior citizen vampires is funny enough—pepper it with When Harry Met Sally references, and I am on board. Throw in “Grombies” at the end (with the iconic shot of a couple talking over “It had to be you”) and I couldn’t ask for any more.

Billy Crystal and Helen Mirren completely committed to the bit; sometimes I forget how much I love Crystal, but When Harry Met Sally 2 brought it all back. It did get a little too bloody at times (and there was one too many eating scenes), but still hilarious and worth the watch. It gets a 4/5.

Since the video was available to all with internet, and only 4.5 minutes, I asked my Facebook/Twitter followers to submit ratings of their own.

My mom gives it a 3/5, saying it would have gotten a 4 if it weren’t so “gross” UPDATE: My mom has asked to upgrade her score to a 4/5, and I'm letting her because, well, she's my mom. Here's the reason it went up: "I just watched it again and looked away at the extra-gross parts and caught more funny lines this time. (Kumadin... Ha Ha)"

Jeremy W. also gives it a 3/5, saying “I like the twist, but think it would have been funnier if they'd cut a majority of the feasting sequences.”

Renjie S. didn’t give it a rating, but said, “OMG!!! I can't imagine what Sally would think if she knew this!!! Haha”

Brodie B. gives it a 4/5

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Billy Crystal

Last week was an exciting week for the Daily Shill. Jonathan Eig (who wrote Get Capone, the book I reviewed last week) read the review and commented on the Shill’s Facebook page, saying “Thanks for the great review! I think you hit on all the key points. I'm honored.” Let me tell you, I flipped out when I got that notification. This project can get frustrating at times—to tell the truth, I can’t wait until I can go back to reading whatever I want. Hearing that anyone has read a review keeps me going—hearing that the author read one reinvigorates me.

So thanks, everyone, for reading the blog. And let me know if you have any suggestions (or have anything featured in the 2011 season that you’d like me to review. I take requests!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Get Capone

Back when I read Daniel Okrent’s book Last Call, I wished it had “less politics and more parties, less Al Smith and more Al Capone.” Though Jonathan Eig’s book Get Capone: The Secret Plot that Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster didn’t show me the party scene of the 1920s, it certainly satisfied my curiosity about Capone. In the book, Eig follows Capone’s rise and fall as one of the best known (if not the best known) gangsters in the world.

Though Get Capone is filled with facts worthy of a research paper, Eig writes in an engaging and exciting style (that the subject matter of drinking, gambling, and shooting lends to nicely). Even though I knew what happened to Capone in the end (time at Alcatraz for tax evasion), I was still curious about what happened along the way, and the book sure told me. Get Capone didn’t pull me to read like a good novel does, but whenever I did take the time to read a few chapters, I was interested.

What I found most satisfying about Get Capone was that Capone is presented as neither a mostly good man who was wronged, nor an evil man who deserved his fate. Instead, Eig reported Capone’s virtues (like his soup kitchens for the poor) alongside his many faults (the murders, for one). In the end, while reading of his trial for tax evasion, I almost wanted Capone to get off easier—even though I believed he deserved a harsh sentence for the crimes (read murders) related to his bootlegging business. But then I’d realize I was ridiculous, and that the man belonged in jail. (And then I’d flip-flop back… it was an ongoing process).

Additionally, Get Capone gave me a new point of view of two historical figures: Herbert Hoover and Eliot Ness. I’ll admit, most of my opinion of Hoover comes from the musical Annie (and its sarcastic song “I’d like to thank you, Herbert Hoover”); not a good source, and one that portrays him in a negative light. However, though Hoover was unable to push America out of the Great Depression, his political life was not really all that bad. Turns out, Hoover was devoted to making government work more efficiently and did not seem to be in it for the power. Though Eig points out that Hoover was probably better suited to be Commerce Secretary (a position he held) than president, Hoover was apparently rather successful in his attempt to increase the government's efficiency. As far as Ness goes, I’d always heard that he was largely responsible for the capture of Capone and I never doubted it. Turns out, much of the credit belongs to George E. Q. Johnson and Frank Wilson. However, when Ness sold his life story to Oscar Fraley, Fraley inflated Ness’s role and his book, The Untouchables, became accepted by many as the true story.

All in all, I recommend Get Capone, and I give it a 4/5. Though it got a bit slow toward the end, it is still worth reading—especially if you’re interested in the subject. My dad was also reading Get Capone and will have a rating for The Shill as well within the next week or so. His rating will be posted on The Daily Shill’s Twitter (@dailyshill).

Yes, The Daily Shill now has a Twitter account. In addition to posting links to new reviews, I’ll also post commentary on the project, mostly consisting of facts from what I’m currently reading.

Watch Jon Stewart’s Interview with Jonathan Eig

Buy the Book

Monday, March 28, 2011


Regular readers of the blog (if they’re out there) know that I’m not a fan of action movies. So, as you may imagine, I was just thrilled to sit down and watch Salt, yet another action movie about a rogue agent. But, despite its many problems (and many there were), Salt was still better than Knight and Day. So, there’s that.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent, specializing in Russian matters. A Russian defector shows up and, during Salt's interrogation of him, accuses her of being a Russian spy with the intention to murder the visiting Russian president. Rather than submit to questioning and prove herself innocent, Salt immediately runs, causing her (now former) coworkers to make chase. Salt, though eager to escape from the assailants, finds herself incredibly concerned for her husband’s safety—this concern only increases when she is unable to contact him. The entire movie consists of the chase with a few "I hope my husband's okay" moments.

Even though I didn’t care for the movie’s action, there was one plot point that intrigued me. The defector who labeled Salt a spy explained that there exists a Russian group that raises children with the intention of sending them to live in America as spies. These children were taught the English language and American ways before they were taught Russian, and were eventually shipped off to America with given identity and mission. If the movie centered more on this process, spending time with the children raised as spies and dealing with how they felt about the role they were forced to play, I would have been more invested. Though the mystery of whether or not Salt was a member of this group made the movie more exciting, I would have liked to see the group highlighted in a different way.

My main problem with Salt, though, was its lack of substance. The movie jumped from one chase scene to another, spending little time advancing plot or explaining why characters were taking the actions they did. Maybe that’s what the action movie audience wants, but I wish motivations for the action (other than “get away”) had been clearer. I would have cared more.

Salt gets a 1/5. Though parts of its premise were thought-provoking, the majority of the movie was a mindless chase. I don’t need to watch that.

I'm sorry that there was no new post last week (and that the writing on this post is lackluster and borderline-bad). I'm in the last 3 weeks of my first year of grad school (woo-hoo!) and have been bogged down with papers, projects, and readings. Soon, though, The Daily Shill will jump into summer mode, which means that there'll be more reviews of books and often posts more than once weekly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Suburbs

I had never listened to Arcade Fire until I picked up their album The Suburbs for my Daily Shill challenge; but boy had I heard a lot about them. According to my friends who listen to Indie Rock, The Suburbs is unlike any album and that listening to it is an almost divine experience. Though I wouldn’t go that far (perhaps because I’m more of an Alt Rock gal than an Indie one), The Suburbs is quite the album and worth the listen.

First, though, let me warn you: don’t try to do anything else while listening. Much of what makes the album is its lyrics and you have to actually pay attention to get them. (I made the mistake of trying to make cookies while listening and quickly realized that was not going to work). The 16 tracks that make up The Suburbs are pieces of the whole, rather than individual songs (though they do have their own names) and should be listened to uninterrupted. Having only listened to the album twice, I can’t claim to fully understand the story it’s telling, but it provides a rather depressing look at suburban life and how its changed the way we live (or, at least, I think that’s what it’s saying).

The driving drums and sustained strings throughout the album provide a feeling of anticipation: not can’t-sleep-the-night-before-going-to-Disneyland anticipation, but can’t-sleep-because-there’s-a-monster-under-the-bed anticipation. The album as a whole is overwhelming—I feel like I would need to listen to it a dozen more times to really “get it.” But the unbalance I feel when listening to The Suburbs contributes to the experience of the album

The opening track “The Suburbs” draws you right into the album and was my favorite, upon the first listen. However, on time two, “Month of May” took that place (probably because it was up-tempo and could stand alone.) I found some of the songs (especially “Deep Blue”) to be a little slow—not just in tempo, but in interest and development. Generally, though, The Suburbs is a very good album and gets a 4/5.

Watch Arcade Fire perform "Ready to Start" and "Month of May" on the Daily Show

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 List

I've decided to keep up the Daily Shill by continuing to review all of the movies promoted within the interviews on The Daily Show. (Plus, I may review some of the books, TV shows, and albums too, you never know.) So, now that I've made that decision, it's time to start up a new list. Everything on the list is a film unless otherwise marked.

1/3: Barney's Version
1/11: The King's Speech
1/13: The Dilemma
1/25: 127 Hours

2/15: Unknown

3/9: Battle: Los Angeles
3/30: Source Code

4/13: Rio: The Movie

5/9: Last Night
5/10: Everything Must Go

Monday, March 7, 2011

Knight and Day

If your idea of a good time is watching Tom Cruise act like he’s too cool for school and Cameron Diaz panic and scream like a child, then Knight and Day is the movie for you. If, like me, you think that sounds revolting, save yourself the 109 minutes and avoid the film.

June (Diaz), while flying home for her sister’s wedding, finds herself in the middle of a rogue agent’s attempt to escape with Zephyr, a battery that never runs out of power. Roy (Cruise), the agent, claims he’s running off with Zephyr to keep his partner from selling it, and says that June has to come along with him because now the government will be after her, too. The two find themselves in all sorts of danger throughout the movie with plenty of car chases, gunshots, and explosions.

I had problems with the Knight and Day from the beginning. First of all, the story was difficult to follow— it felt like I had missed the first five minutes where characters (and their motives) were introduced. I had a hard time grasping why June had to go with Roy (and why she went along without taking any action). Really, June’s character frustrated me to no end. I’m not what I would call a feminist, but the helpless, idiot, damsel-in-distress nature of June made me want to protest. Making June a mechanic (a job typically associated with men) does not cancel out the fact that she became a screaming mess whenever anything went wrong. And when she suddenly becomes “brave” towards the end of the movie, there was no reason for her character shift. Get it together, Hollywood. I don’t need my character development to be subtle (though that would be nice), but I do need it to be moderately plausible.

This whole Daily Shill challenge (including Knight and Day) has confirmed my dislike of action movies. I find fighting and chasing boring. But, even if I were an action fan, I don’t think Knight and Day would have been a better movie. The story and characters are too weak (and obnoxious). It gets a 1/5.

In other news, I’ve made the decision to continue reviewing all movies features on future seasons of The Daily Show. I will, of course, complete my goal of reviewing everything featured in the 2010 season, but I don’t want to let the Daily Shill fade away after that. (But I also want to read the books I want to read, not just the Daily Show ones). If anyone has anything featured on the show that they want me to review, let me know, though, and I will add it to the list.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Social Network

I was sitting in the theater with my friends Brodie and Caroline, about to see The Kids Are All Right, when the trailer for The Social Network came on the screen. It was ridiculous, showing Facebook posts with a terribly dramatic version of “Creep” sung by a children’s choir. I started laughing: the movie was taking itself entirely too seriously: it’s about a website, for heaven’s sake. I turned to Brodie and Caroline and said, “This looks absolutely awful.” Then Caroline said, “Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay,” and my internal debate began.

See, I think Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer; I love The West Wing. If he wrote the screenplay, the movie was probably going to be good. But a movie about Facebook? I couldn’t quite believe that would be worth watching. When Justin Timberlake came on the Daily Show to promote it, which meant that I had to see the movie, I still wasn’t willing to put down the money and go to the theater. Even when everyone and her best friend started saying, “Oh my gosh, it’s so good,” I stayed away. But last week it arrived for me at the library. And last night—just before it won Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay—I sat down to watch The Social Network. And, yes, it was pretty darn good.

For those of you who have managed to avoid the hype, I’ll give a brief synopsis. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) creates a website that crashes Harvard’s servers and brings him to the attention of the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) who are looking for a programmer for a Harvard-exclusive dating-site they’ve designed. At the same time, Zuckerberg turns to his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) to help him fund and create The Facebook, an idea that may or may not have been influenced by the Winklevoss’s website. Eventually, when The Facebook takes off, Zuckerberg gains the attention of Napster creator Sean Parker (Timberlake) whose influence causes a rift between Zuckerberg and Eduardo. This plot is interspersed with flash-forwards to the two trials regarding Facebook that Zuckerberg faces from the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo respectively.

Sounds complicated? It kind of is, but somehow it is entirely followable. Even though the movie is terribly dramatic (though not quite as much as the trailer might lead you to believe), it didn’t bother me. A lot of that is due to Sorkin. Throughout the movie I often felt like I was watching an episode of The West Wing—even though the subject matter was entirely different. Though Sorkin’s fast-paced, witty dialogue is not how people speak in real-life, I find it so entertaining, I wish it were. Despite the fact that none of the characters were particularly likeable (so there was no one to cheer for), I was invested for the entire movie.

Eisenberg, who won me over when he hosted SNL a few weeks ago, portrayed Zuckerberg with a robotic simplicity, which somehow made his jerkish actions more explainable. This was the first movie I’ve seen Eisenberg in where I didn’t think of him as a poor man’s Michael Cera. Hammer made the Winklevoss twins a great enemy and managed to show each twin’s distinct personality so they weren’t always grouped as one person. And Garfield’s Eduardo was the only character who I felt any sympathy for—he did great. (Who’s excited to see him as the new Spiderman? I am!)

There’s been a lot of drama over how much of The Social Network is true and how much was creative license. It was based on The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, who claims his book is entirely true. The librarian in me wants to sit down and research the veracity of the entire movie, but then I remember that library school has left me with no time to do that (ironic, no?).

In the end, despite entirely enjoying the movie, I’m giving it a 4/5. It’s certainly worth watching, but it also isn’t as life-changing and wonderful as some people may claim.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Justin Timberlake

Buy the DVD

Monday, February 21, 2011

Half Empty

I am 100% optimist. Though I focus my optimism on finding silver linings—rather than convincing myself that wonderful things are going to happen—and I try my best not to foist my optimism on others, I have a suspicion it drives some people crazy. I've never met him, but I imagine David Rakoff would be one of those people, as his book of essays, Half Empty, is presented as a call against optimism.

In his essays-- focused on the topics pessimism at the turn of the 21st century, Rakoff’s unsuccessful attempt at an acting career, the musical RENT’s romanticized view of the lifestyles it presents, and the recurrence of Rakoff’s cancer (among others)-- Rakoff warns of the dangers of positivity. However, he was not too heavy handed with the anti-optimism, rather, it served as a thread to connect all of the book’s essays.

Rakoff is an excellent writer. His prose is somewhat heavy, not allowing for decent skimming, but it is worth it to take the extra time and read Rakoff’s sentences slowly. Rakoff’s humor sneaks up on you—he isn’t broad, but I found myself reading a sentence and laughing aloud on more than one occasion. Though a few of the essays moved a little slowly (the first one was actually the hardest one for me to get through), all are worth reading.

The final essay in the book, “Another Shoe” is absolutely phenomenal, and if you don’t have time to read the entire book, it’s worth buying or borrowing just for the single essay. It takes the reader through Rakoff’s discovery of a tumor in his arm, his fears that the arm will need to be amputated, and his thoughts on the struggle with cancer. And, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the final sentence of the essay made me look at the entire book in a new light.

I’m giving Half Empty a 4/5. I definitely recommend it.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with David Rakoff

Buy the Book

In the next week or so, I’ll be sending an email to the Daily Show about this blog. Any suggestions of what I should include?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ignite Presentation Link

Remember a week ago when I was promoting that Ignite event where I was talking about the Daily Shill? Guess what! The video of the talk is now online!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Ghosts of Cannae

There is an endless list of things on which I am not an expert. Ancient History is one of them. BUT, my college roommate, Theresa (the one who introduced me to the Daily Show) is an expert. (Okay, maybe not technically an expert, but she was a Classics major and sure knows a whole lot about it). When Robert O'Connell's book The Ghosts of Cannae was promoted on the show, Theresa offered to read and review it for me. There was an internal battle: If Theresa reads this one, I won't be able to say I read everything promoted in 2010 versus If Theresa reads this one, I won't have to read it.

The latter won out, so, without further ado, here's Theresa Tejada, The Daily Shill's Senior Classics Correspondent.

Emily and I have been watching The Daily Show together for years. In fact, our communal love of Jon Stewart’s wit and insight was one of the first things that bonded us two freshman college roommates together. When Emily told me about her ambitious project to review every book, every movie, and every other type of entertainment peddled on The Daily Show, I wanted to get involved somehow. Robert O’Connell’s appearance on the show over the summer gave me my opportunity. As a Classical Studies major, The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic got me pumped. Ancient history doesn’t make it into popular culture often, and when it does, it’s often pretty inaccurate or an embarrassment. So thank you, Jon Stewart, for bringing some credibility to the field.

I believe that The Ghosts of Cannae would be an interesting read to anyone. While Cannae might be a foreign term to most people, the main character is not. Hannibal, the famed general who notoriously trekked his troops and a legion of elephants over the Alps, is the protagonist of the story (and the namesake of my doctor!). Hannibal, the Carthaginian who reportedly took a solemn vow at a young age that Rome was his mortal enemy, shook the Roman Republic to its core and reportedly killed 48,000 soldiers at deadly battle at Cannae. This devastating loss challenged Roman values, character, and government and set to stage to fundamentally change the structure of its civilization.

I appreciate that O’Connell introduces and critiques his ancient historians early on in Chapter 1. History didn’t serve the same purpose to the Romans and to Livy and Suetonius (our two main sources on the Second Punic War). O’Connell also challenges and elucidates modern classicists, but his book doesn’t read like a boring scholarly journal. It is easy to tell that O’Connell is a historian (who uses the word “abattoir” and what does it mean?) and sometimes the complex military maneuvers are a little boring, especially if that’s not your forte. But he also writes in a fun, humorous and accessible style. My favorite passage is probably: “of course, Alexander really was a Greek, seemed convinced of his divinity, and was probably crazy.”

Sometimes, his fascination borders on Orientalism, especially towards the Carthaginians (modern Tunisia), of whom the archeological record is less complete and viewed through the eyes of the Romans. I wonder what The Ghosts of Cannae would be like if O’Connell had written it a year or two later, when he had time to digest the recently discovered child burials outside of Carthage suggesting that the child sacrifices how frequently touted throughout the book was a myth (

The first few chapters were a little rough to get through. I thought that his flash-forwards were confusing and a little heavy on the military strategy for my taste. He has a daunting task of succinctly introducing the complex civilizations of Carthage and Rome to explain what aspects of their culture were instrumental in affecting the outcomes of the Second Punic War. His description of the Roman cursus honorum, the civic positions in Roman government, might be the most efficient explanation I have ever read or heard. Once O’Connell reaches Cannae, the narrative hits its stride and becomes much more enjoyable.

Overall, I give The Ghosts of Cannae a 3/5. I took issue with some of O’Connell’s assertions and was hoping for a longer and more thorough explanation of why this battle was a game-changer in the history of the world instead of his timid six-page epilogue. On the other hand, I appreciated his passion for the subject that I also dearly love and it would have made my hour-long presentation on Scipio Africanus for Junior Seminar for Classics Majors much easier. I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Going the Distance

I’ll admit it, I liked Going the Distance more than I expected I would. But since I expected to hate it, that doesn’t mean much.

Going the Distance covers the relationship between Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore). Though the two knew they would only be in the same city for six weeks (and therefore intended to avoid anything serious), they just liked each other so much they needed to give a long distance relationship a try. As one might expect, it gets complicated. (What if they made a movie about a couple who decided to have a long distance relationship and all went well? What would you call that one?)

Going the Distance couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be a comedy or a romance, and the mix it settled on just didn’t work for me. There would be a bit that made me laugh out loud (even though I was watching the movie by myself) and then a long dry spell where the relationship was awkwardly advanced (or lots of bad jokes were made). The plot-specifics were too predictable—there was that one out of place conversation in the movie that was clearly setting up the end of the movie. However, even despite these problems, it seemed that all the movie needed to be decent was another draft or two to tighten some jokes and add some subtlety.

Barrymore overacted and often looked too old for her part, but none of the other actors are worth complaining about. There were enjoyable cameo/sidekick roles played by several people I love including Jason Sudeikis, Jim Gaffigan, and the Daily Show’s own Rob Riggle and Kristen Schaal.

I’m giving Going the Distance a 2/5. It’s not a waste of time, but not worth seeking out. And it’s not worth writing more than a few short paragraphs about.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Drew Barrymore

Buy the DVD

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ignite Chelsea 2

Looking for something awesome to do this Friday night? Live in the Chelsea area? Interested in learning new things, including, but not limited to the origin of the Daily Shill? Want free pizza? Well have I got the event for you!

This Friday, February 11 at 7 pm, come on by the Clocktower Commons (in the vacant space next to Las Fuentes) to see Ignite Chelsea 2.

What is Ignite, you may be asking? Good question. And you’re in luck, the first presentation of the evening answers that question. (An Ignite presentation about Ignite…it’s mind-boggling). But, the short explanation is that Ignite presentations are 5-minute talks with powerpoint slides that automatically switch every 15 seconds. Presenters choose topics they’re passionate about, so it should be an exciting evening.

What’s on the docket for this week’s event? Well, in addition to my presentation about the Daily Shill, you’re also in store for talks on the art of the road trip, the extreme sport of Parkour, What is Art (in 5 minutes!), and cartooning in the 21st century, plus more!

And what’s this about free pizza? Well, Jets Pizza will be providing snacks.

Any questions? Leave a comment, I’ll answer them. Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Third World America

I’m going to begin this review with a digression. Let’s talk about Arianna Huffington. Despite the fact that her name (and online journalism) has been around for a while, I unintentionally managed to go a long time without hearing anything she said or reading anything she wrote. I vaguely knew that she was similar to me on the political spectrum (if a bit more liberal) and assumed that I would enjoy her book.

And then I saw her on Conan. In the interview, she was asked why she owns three blackberries. Hold it, I thought, What does any one person need with three blackberries. One blackberry? Completely reasonable. Two blackberries? Silly, but understandable if you needed to talk and browse the internet at the same time. Three? Terribly excessive! Is it even possible to use three blackberries? I was actually interested to hear how she justified her ownership. But what did she respond with? Some story about how she fainted, tried to cut back her blackberry use to only two (because they caused her fainting?), but was now back to using three. In other words, no real answer.

Ever since I saw that interview in December, I can’t stop thinking about the ridiculousness of owning three blackberries, and, slowly, I have become more and more angry with Huffington for her ownership. Here she is, in theory a champion for the lower and middle class, and she owns three blackberries. I’m not saying that if you have money you should donate it all and never buy yourself nice things. What I’m saying is that maybe you shouldn’t have three of the exact same nice thing.

So, now for the review. As you can gather, I didn’t go into the book with the best opinion of the author. However, I assumed she would be a good writer (considering the fact that her career is based on it) and thought the book wouldn’t be so bad. Turns out, it was a false assumption, but more on that later.

In Third World America: How our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, Huffington presents a cavalcade of depressing facts about the state of America, making the point that if we don’t make some big changes, the country will lose its status as a world leader and, indeed, a first-world country. The book is split into five sections, each finishing with first-hand accounts from suffering, formerly middle class Americans. The final section provides actions America needs to take to avoid its great decline.

Politically, I should have felt myself agreeing with the points Huffington made. I should have read what she wrote and been spurred to action. Instead, because it was written in such an abrasive, accusatory matter, I found myself reacting defensively, thinking “She’s being too harsh. It’s not really that bad.” (Even though, chances are good that for many people, it is). Couple the accusatory tone with a glut of weak and clichéd metaphors, awful puns, and out-of-place pop culture references, and you’re left with an unpleasant reading experience.

The final section of the book, where Huffington presents potential solutions, was the best part, though I would have liked to have more actions individuals can take, and fewer proposals of large (and unrealistic) overhauls.

Despite my many complaints, I’m giving Third World America a 2/5. It did present interesting facts about America’s current state, and had I not been so anti-Huffington prior to reading, I may have cut the book more slack.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Other Blog Recommendations

Hi Friends!
Unfortunately, there's no new review this week. (But come back next Monday to see how I felt about Ariana Huffington's Third World America).

However, I would like to take the chance to plug two other blogs.

Ashley, a friend from high school, writes about life with a service dog at It's a great mix of information about service dogs and adorable dog stories and pictures. It's updated, as the title suggests, every Tuesday.

Brodie, who has helped so much with many aspects of this blog, has started one of his own: The Disney Revue. It deals with all things Disney, from reviews of their movies to theme park news to games and produces. He's a funny and engaging writer!

So check 'em out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Packing for Mars

As a seven year old, I wanted to be astronaut when I grew up; (I also wanted to be a firefighter, detective, actress, teacher, and librarian—the career I eventually settled on). Though I’ve now chosen a different career path, had I still been hankering for a life riding rocketships, Mary Roach’s book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, would have changed my mind. Turns out that astronauts have to deal with more challenges than just years and years of math and science: like how do you poop in zero-gravity?

Packing for Mars is a hilarious (and informative) look at space travel. Roach focuses each chapter on a particular space curiosity; in addition to the previously mentioned bathroom-problem, Roach tackles the issues of motion sickness (specifically how NASA deals with vomit in space suits), the possibility of zero-gravity sex, coexisting with others in tight spaces, lack of personal hygiene, and the difficulty of creating non-disgusting space food (dehydrated astronaut ice cream is delicious, but what about a dehydrated beef sandwich?), among others.

Roach asks NASA for all the answers we (and our inner fifth-grader) want to know and presents the facts in an entertaining, funny, easy to read, and educational book. Though the book reveals that astronaut-life is full of struggles and discomforts, it doesn’t make the subject any less interesting (it fact, I'd say it makes reading about space that much more exciting).

I am giving Packing for Mars a 5/5, and I definitely recommend it to everyone. And you know who else recommends it? A.J. Jacobs, the guy who unintentionally got me started on this whole Daily Shill mission. Here’s his blurb from the back of the book: “Mary Roach is the most entertaining science writer in America. She has given us far more than the Right Stuff. She’s given us the funny stuff, the weird stuff, and the human stuff. In space, no one can hear you cackle like an insane person, which is what I did while reading this book.” So, read it!

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Mary Roach

Buy the Book

Just FYI, there will probably not be a new review next week. I’ve been inundated with homework and employment-work and will probably not have time to finish the Daily Shill book I’m currently working on. I will still try to post something, though, so check back!

Monday, January 17, 2011

White House Diary

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Did you know that this day was named a holiday by the Carter administration? I didn’t—until I read White House Diary by Jimmy Carter (check out that segue!).

White House Diary is an absolutely enormous book that collects the daily diary entries that Carter made during his years as president. The book is massive, but only contains about a quarter of the entries Carter made—which was a relief; the book is long enough as is. Occasionally, between entries, present-day Carter makes clarifying comments, but generally the entries stand for themselves.

The events that took place during the Carter administration are in my “black hole of history” (they happened before I was born, but after the farthest I got in history class). In that sense, reading White House Diary was a good thing for me. However, especially in the “first year” of the book, it was difficult to become engaged. The problem with the diary entry format is that almost all entries consist of daily activities (like, spoke with Jody, swam with Amy), which gets pretty dry. Though it got more exciting in the later years when the presidency started facing bigger issues (and boy were there a lot of them in the last few years), I still would’ve rather read a biography on the period. In fact, many times while reading, I thought, “this would be a great resource for a biographer.”

The best part of the book is the afterword, where Carter discusses mistakes he made and things he would have done differently in his presidency. In it (and, throughout the whole book, really) Carter struck me as an intelligent, modest, good man.

I’ve been waffling between giving White House Diary a 2 and a 3. I’m going to settle and give it a 2/5; it’s not great for casual reading, but any Carter buff (do they exist?) would enjoy it.

And now, I will leave you with the beginning of my favorite diary entry, December 25, 1978:
“On Christmas Day the Egyptians prayed that my hemorrhoids would be cured because I was a good man, and the following day they were cured. I was tempted to make a public announcement thanking the Egyptians but decided that we’d had enough publicity with my ailment.”
Turns out Carter is a funny man, too.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Jimmy Carter

Buy the Book

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jon Stewart Arizona Shooting Reaction

For those of you who missed the Daily Show last night, I highly recommend watching the clip of the first ten minutes of the show where Jon Stewart discusses the shooting in Arizona.

It's worth the ten minutes.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Gasland, the HBO documentary written and directed by Josh Fox, presents an absolutely appalling look at the consequences of “fracking,” a hydraulic drilling process that extracts natural gas from the ground.

Fox gained interest in the consequences of fracking when he was offered thousands of dollars to allow fracking on his land. Fox declined the money and went on a quest to learn how fracking has affects the land and the people who live on it, focusing specifically on the water quality.

The effects are devastating, and seemingly undeniable consequences of the fracking process (though the companies who perform this process steadfastly refuse blame). Fox interviews countless people forced to buy water because fracking has ruined their source, people suffering from medical issues due to consuming contaminents released during the fracking process, and people who are able to set their water on fire. Yes, set their water on fire. Though it’s exciting to see a flame shooting out of a faucet, it’s terrifying to think that people are left to drink that water.

Though watching Gasland exhausted and depressed me, I’m glad to have seen it and learned about the fracking process—I hope that it brings attention to the issue and helps to decrease the occurrences of fracking. The documentary dragged a bit toward the end, perhaps because it deals with such a heavy subject. I’m giving it a 3/5.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Josh Fox

Buy the DVD

I hope to have a second review for this week—I’ve finally finished Jimmy Carter’s tome White House Diaries.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Progress Report #2 (The semester review)

It’s weird. New episodes begin on the Daily Show tonight, and I haven’t been checking their website obsessively looking to see who this week’s guests will be. (Okay, I’ve checked once, and they weren’t listed, and, in all truthfulness, I’ll probably check again this afternoon). Why aren’t I impatient with anticipation for more information? Because I don’t have much riding on it anymore. My Daily Shill mission is halfway through, and if I don’t want to read the book about Thomas Jefferson’s opinion of our recent financial crisis or watch the children’s movie about the magical fart monster, I don’t have to.

I do, however, have to complete my reviews of everything featured in the 2010 shows, and since I’ve reached the halfway point, it’s time for another Progress Report. (Miss the first progress report? Read it here)

Again, I’d love some feedback from readers (for example, do I have any who I’m not related to?). Do you have any suggestions? What do you think of the Daily Shill? Feel free to comment on the blog (I’ve enabled anonymous comments, so you don’t need to have an account) or on the facebook page.

Progress Report #2

Out of the 127 books, films, TV shows, and albums I need to review, I’ve completed 62, or 49%. Which, you know, is practically 50%, or exactly on schedule. I cannot believe that (but it’s true—I did the math at least three times!) I think I’m going to make it, friends. There are couple TV shows that I missed that I’m not sure how to find (namely, Brian William’s Hurricane Katrina: The first five days and Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole), so let me know if you’ve got any leads, but I feel like I’m going to find success.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of my progress:
I’ve read 34 of 73 books.
I’ve watched 18 of 35 films.
I’ve watched 8 of 15 TV shows.
I’ve heard 2 of 4 albums.

Writing: Though I still wish I were funnier and that I had a little more time to commit to making well-written reviews, I also think I’ve gotten a lot better at this over the course of the year. Here’s hoping I keep improving throughout year two of this mission.

Things I Would Change: In my last progress report, I had this section, so I felt the organizational need to keep things consistent. However, though I still stand by everything I wrote there, I don’t think there’s anything additional that I’d change. Which is pretty cool.

Best Book: Crazy Like Us
Worst Book: Courting Disaster
(Yes, these haven’t changed since the last progress report)

Best Film: A Single Man
Worst Film: Cop Out Oops, I forgot about Remember Me

Best TV Show: Louie
Worst TV Show: Hot in Cleveland

Best Album: Y Not
Worst Album: More Malice
(Keep in mind, I’ve only heard two albums, and neither was particularly good.)

Am I Glad I’m Doing This?: Yes. Yes I am. Though I’ll be thrilled to read whatever I want to when I complete this mission, I’m going to miss reading new things (and watching new movies) and writing about that. It’s going to be especially weird watching the Daily Show interviews and not having so much at stake with each one. Keeping that in mind, here’s a

Plan for the Future: (Did you see what I did there? I didn’t forget to finish my last sentence, it was just leading into this new section. There’s a transition any English teacher would hate).
When I see a book or a movie (or something else) promoted within the Daily Show that I want to read or watch, I’m going to do it, and I will post a review to the Daily Shill. Likewise, if you see something on there that you’d like to read a review for, let me know, and I’ll probably do it. I’m not ready to let the Daily Shill die.

A few thank yous:
First off, a huge thank you to people who actually read this, even though I don’t know for sure that you exist (but I think you might). Thank you Mom, for always telling me what you like about a review; thank you Nana, for telling me you don’t want to delete the e-mails you get of posts; thank you Amanda, for asking me when there’s going to be a new review when it’s been awhile.

Another enormous thank you goes to libraries, specifically the Chelsea District Library. Nearly every book, movie, and album I’ve reviewed was checked out from this library. I literally could not have done it (and could not keep doing it) without the library. And the Chelsea District Library is my favorite place to be (even though it is also my workplace.)

Thank you to the two Daily Shill correspondents, Georgia and Andrea. Your reviews of the Rally to Restore Sanity and the Daily Show Experience were funny, exciting, and informative. Miss reading those reviews? Read them once and just want to read them again?
Here’s a link to Andrea’s piece on attending a taping of the Daily Show.

And, lastly, thank you to Brodie for naming this blog, designing the logo, and helping me to get the few books and movies that I couldn’t get through the Chelsea library. (And for being supportive throughout this entire Daily Shill process. You’re great!)

In 2011, I’m going to attempt to post every Monday. Since grad school is starting back up, I can’t 100% commit to this, but I’ll do my best. I will also try to post a review later this week, since this enormous Progress Report post is reviewless. No promises, though—I’ve already got homework.