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.