Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stephen King: Carrie pp. 170-end

I guess one of the things I have had some problems with in regards to Stephen King novels is the endings. Not all of them, mind you, and probably not even half of them, but on occasions it just feels as though the whole story runs out of steam, and the ending feels either rushed or just not in the direction the story was going. While that isn’t the case in Carrie, it does feel like it maybe comes to an abrupt end rather than a fashioned one. And, I guess, given that Carrie’s demise does come quickly once she has disposed of her mother, then perhaps that is appropriate.

This being his first published novel, it is a shorter story in all, and if this was handled later on, I suspect the destruction and morbid slaying of the students at the prom would have been given a bigger expansion. Also the disdain of knocking off Chris and Billy would surely have been brutally and perversely explained in greater detail if this book had been written at a later date, with more confidence in his publish-ability behind him. Even the confrontation between Carrie and her mother just feels as though it lacks something, though I have no doubt that at the time it was published it would have been adequate. Given what he has written since and the vision available to Stephen King as a result, the final battle feels a tad tame in comparison. Of course when this was published there was nothing to compare it to.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stephen King: Carrie pp. 100-169

Poor old Tommy Ross. The White Knight (no pun intended re. Carrie White) of Stephen King's first novel. Not only is he popular, he's dating the most eligible girl in school. But when she asks him to, instead of taking her to the prom that he ask Carrie White, the misfit loner with the religious crackpot mother, he does so with little discourse. He treats Carrie with respect and with charm, and does everything to help make her prom experience the best it can be. Of course in 'real life novels' the White Knight always ends up with the princess and they live happily ever after. but this is a White Knight in a Stephen King novel, and though it is his first published novel, we learn very quickly that the White Knight in his stories can invariably end up in far worse shape. And so it befalls for Tommy Ross, who does everything that an upstanding young man can do to please his girlfriend and try to bring out the misfit into the community, and he is taken out by a milk pail full of pig's blood that cracks his skull and ends his life. Well played Mr. King.

The Chris/Billy relationship moves through several significant stages rather swiftly, with each more or less believing they are in control of what is occurring. The few days that separate Billy's thoughts that he would do anything for Chris - even kill, while he is collecting the pig's blood...
"Billy said nothing, but of course it was not for Freddy Over-lock, who was an asshole. It was for Chris Hargensen, just as everything was for Chris, and had been since the day she swept down from her lofty college-course Olympus and made herself vulnerable to him. He would have done murder for her, and more."
Excerpt From
King, Stephen. “Carrie.” Random House, Inc., 1974-08-15T07:00:00+00:00. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright. 
... to where he is already ready to move on from the relationship just a few days later as they are about to put their plan into action at the prom - no doubt all come down to the fact that between the two events, Chris sleeps with him for the first time.
"He wondered how long she would last. Maybe not long after tonight. Somehow it had all led to this, even the early part, and when it was done the glue that had held them together would be thin and might dissolve, leaving them to wonder how it could have been in the first place. He thought she would start to look less like a goddess and more like the typical society bitch again, and that would make him want to belt her around a little. Or maybe a lot. Rub her nose in it."
Excerpt From
King, Stephen. “Carrie.” Random House, Inc., 1974-08-15T07:00:00+00:00. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright. 
Ah, you see? The boy has gotten what he wanted, and now golden exterior has been washed away and exposed the girl's real personality, and he's ready to run away. Just a typical male reaction, right girls?
... or...
The boy does everything the girl wants from him, but now he sees that split personality, the psychotic to the meek, and he knows that somehow he has to get away.

I guess it depends on how you read it.
So I got through this part, and things have begun to happen at the prom. Unexplained, terrible things. And Sue has sensed the terror building, and left her home where she has been holed up for the evening, and head into town. The final paragraph I read before putting the book down and going to sleep last night was this:
"She saw the man on the police-station steps cup his hand around his mouth and scream something; unclear over the shrieking town whistle, the fire sirens, the monster-mouth of the fire. Sounded like: “Heyret! Don't hey that ass!” The street was all wet down there.
The light danced on the water. Down by Teddy's Amoco station. “—hey, that's—”
And then the world exploded."

Excerpt From
King, Stephen. “Carrie.” Random House, Inc., 1974-08-15T07:00:00+00:00. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright. 
The perfect place to end, until I can return, almost like the end of a TV episode, when you have to wait until the following week for the next instalment.

Iceland beat England in Euro 16, and the Vikings Celebrate

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Stephen King: Carrie pp 26-100

The several major confrontations that are detailed within this section of pages of the book are as eye opening in the framework of the story as anything else. The first mentioning of the incident involving things falling from the sky on the White household when Carrie was three years old. The confrontation between school principal and Chris Hargensen father, an almost David and Goliath battle that David apparently comes out on top. The short and sharp confrontation between Chris and Sue at the soda fountain, where Sue stands up against popular opinion for the first time in her life. And the moments between Carrie and her mother, as assertive control in the relationship begins to slip from the grasp of one and become stronger in the other. All of these resonate throughout these pages. As Carrie begins to understand her powers she is increasing her ability with them.
Perhaps the part of the story that doesn't quite ring true for me is the Sue and Tommy relationship, and that Sue asks Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. Really? No matter how bad someone was feeling about what they may have done to someone, would they actually ask their boyfriend to take another girl? While I can roll along with this premise when reading the book, it feels a bit too convenient for the plot for me if I was to be critical of it.

What this section of the book did most for me was make me think about my own childhood, and the bullying that I was involved in, both on the receiving end and -  somewhat shamefully on any reflection - the handing out end. For many years I guess I have thought that what I had been involved in was kids teasing another kid, that's all. The teasing involved one particular girl by a group of which I was a part of, and though I would like to hint that my role was a 'minor' one, in the way that Sue Snell's role may be considered a minor role in the shower with Carrie White, that could in fact only be what my mind recalls, and not what the person involved thought at all. Indeed, unfortunately for the girl in question, she also had her first period at a very inconvenient time, during an English class in Year 7, an extraordinarily embarrassing time for her, and one that no doubt was mentioned on later occasions in her (and let's not mince words) bullying. I have no idea how much bullying this girl received, though I am somewhat sure that the few people in the group that I was involved in were not the only ones who teased and humiliated her. She eventually changed schools because of this. And that is a sad indictment on a number of people.
“In the wake of two hundred deaths and the destruction of an entire town, it is so easy to forget one thing: We were kids. We were kids. We were kids trying to do our best. . . .”
Excerpt From: King, Stephen. “Carrie.” Random House, Inc., 1974-08-15T07:00:00+00:00. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.
These words rang strong with me, but only to the point that I feel that, with my own experience, they are a cop out. Sure, the person of our own bullying didn't come complete with telekenesis and then wreak her revenge on us. She was simply forced to move schools to escape us. And maybe we were only kids at that time. But it doesn't make what we did right. And all I can do now is ensure that my kids never repeat the mistakes I made, 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stephen King: Carrie. pp 1-25

A woman's menstrual cycle. Even mentioning the words starts to flash big red warning signs in front of your eyes. The problem with being a male is that I've never had one, but I've still had to put up with the consequences of them for a large proportion of my life. And yes, while those of the female persuasion start to cry out to me "You don't know what it's like! What it does to your moods and body!" - let me say that that is only partly true. Because who pays the price of this change of seasons every three and a half weeks? Who cops the brunt of the mood swing and the general awfulness that the female will have during this time each month? That's right, the poor old male who was just passing nearby on his way to the fridge for a beer.

The opening stanza of Carrie is confronting in that way. It combines that awkwardness that we may feel about that first period that women have, with a brief look into what is also an awakening of another part of Carrie White's inner consciousness. From King's own memories, it was his wife Tabitha who encouraged him to move ahead with this novel, and that she helped 'correct' some pieces that didn't ring quite true. No doubt the opening scene in the shower was one of those. The confused thoughts of the teacher Miss Desjardin who initially reacts with anger and then with incredulity when she understands that it is Carrie's first cycle, at an advanced age, and that she has no knowledge of them at all. And the fact that the light bulb shattered of its own accord during this, as has happened before, or so Miss Desjardin thinks to herself at that time. As is mentioned in the thesis after the events that are yet to occur, perhaps this should have rung more alarm bells than it did. But then again, when your mother delivers you alone in her own bed, also in a state of stubborn unknowing that she is pregnant, what can you really expect?...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

31 Days of Scotch - July 2016

Once again this year, many people will be participating in the Dry July campaign, which raises money for people who are living with cancer. Dry July asks people to abstain from alcohol for the length of the month of July, to give up something they enjoy in order to show their support for the cause, and ask people to donate to the cause to show their support, and help out the families and patients concerned.

More information on Dry July can be found at

Last year, in 2015, I went against the grain, and instituted the 31 Days of Scotch for the length of July. Each day during July, I took a photo of myself having a nice refreshing scotch, and posted it on social media and my blog, proclaiming this my way of celebrating July. At the conclusion of July, I donated $50 to the Dry July campaign.

Why did I do this? Well, there were a couple of reasons why. 

Firstly, it wasn't to stick my nose up at the Dry July campaign as some people suggested. Indeed, if I was to have embarked on the Dry July campaign myself, it would hardly have been an effort, as my intake of alcohol is practically zero through the week, and only the odd expansion on a weekend if a situation arises. So my thoughts were that going dry for a month for me would not have been a stretch at all.

Secondly, there are a number of people I am acquainted with who I know have signed up for the Dry July campaign in the past, but have then noticeably not carried through with their part of the bargain, and yet collected donations from people who had stumped up the cash in the belief they were actually following through with their promise. That's great that money was raised, but where was the commitment from these people who claimed they would not drink alcohol for a month? So I wanted to do something where I would make the commitment, and have it proved each day, such that anyone who wanted to donate to my cause would feel justified that I had fulfilled my agreement.

So once again in 2016, I will be embarking on the second annual 31 Days of Scotch during July. Last year I donated $50 when I had a family currently unaffected by cancer. This year, with both one parent and one parent-in-law currently at odds with this disease, at the end of July I will be donating $100 to the Dry July campaign.

If you would like to join the 31 Days of Scotch campaign, it's easy. Just take a photo each day of yourself enjoying a refreshing scotch (yes, you need to be in the photo), and post it each day to social media, using the #31DaysOfScotch hashtag so that the world can see your fun.

If you would like to donate to the 31 Days of Scotch cause, please donate direct to the Dry July site at

And don't forget to let me know, so I can post a tally of my fundraising on social media.

Stephen King Book #1: Carrie

Book #1. Carrie. First published April 5, 1974. 

I can only remember having read Carrie once, and that was sometime back in the early 1990's when I was wading my way through the King back catalogue. I had, as with most people of my generation, already seen the film version starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie White and Piper Laurie as her mother, along with other notable cast such as John Travolta, Amy Irving and William Katt. Though I have always enjoyed the film, when I read the book everything became so much more clear. Not that I would have expected anything else.

I enjoyed it a lot. Which probably raises the question, why have I only read it once when I read so many other King books so often? The only response I can give to that is that I've never owned a copy of Carrie. I had borrowed that copy from the library, and had never come across a copy since. This will explain to you why I am reading this as an ebook in the photo here, because I downloaded it to get started with my 'project' as soon as possible, rather than returning to the library to find this book again.

So... away we go!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Stephen King Marathon - Let's Read Every Single Book!

For no other reason than it is something I have always thought of doing but have never started it, I have decided that I am going to read the entire Stephen King bibliography, in chronological order. And while I do it I'm going to blog about it. Once again, because I've always thought about doing it.

Over the years since I read my first Stephen King book (and I must admit that I have no memory as to what that first book may have been, but it was somewhere about 1985 I think), I have read almost everything he has published, and enjoyed most of it. Yeah, sometimes the ending doesn't befit the excitement that built up preceding it, but who am I to judge? Ah, I'm the Constant Reader, you see! There are a couple of rogue books that I haven't as yet sampled, such as Cycle of the Werewolf and the ones he wrote with Peter Straub, more for their scarcity it being in either bookshops or libraries than for having avoided them. And there are a few that I have only read once, and the others that I read every year without fail.

I have no real reason as to why I am going to do this, except for the fact that I want to have read everything that he has published, and I am interested as to if his style noticeably changes as we move through each era. It won't stop me reading other books, I will be doing that as well when I find something I want to read. This is just a little project I have set myself because, well, we don't live forever do we, and if something takes your fancy, you should just go ahead and do it.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review: End of Watch

End of Watch End of Watch by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the magnificence of Mr Mercedes, and the slight letdown of Finders Keepers, the final chapter of the Bill Hodges trilogy was, for me, a return to form. Sure, whereas the first two books were pretty much straight detective/drama novels, which for me were a fantastic read, the addition of a paranormal aspect to this story does in fact just come as a natural progression to the story being told, and doesn't feel like a cop out in the slightest. No pun intended.
Once again King has written characters of depth, drawn you in and given you a reason to care what happens to them - either in a good way or a bad way. That's the great thing about his writing, perhaps a character is the bad guy or evil, but you can still be rooting for them in the long run.
On first reading (and as with all of his books, there will be plenty more in the years to come) I enjoyed this thoroughly, enjoyed the plot twists, and the fact that I found it hard to put down every night, and indeed picked it up during the afternoons to complete, is as good an indication as any. No skipped pages, no flouncing over the words in order to get to the conclusion as quickly as possible, but a concerted effort to read this at a pace where I was able to enjoy the flow of the story and yet still get to the conclusion in a swift period of time.
Is the ending predictable? Whether or not you think it is, if it is done well, what does it matter? This is done well, as the majority of King's work is. I must say I enjoyed the detective novel trilogy, and won't be disappointed if King goes down this track again in the future.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jurassic Park. 1993. 5/5

Josh has been asking to watch this again for weeks, so given the rain that has flooded the Illawarra this weekend, and the fact everyone else was still asleep, we watched it again this morning. And once again it proved its durability in both special effects and storyline, as well as the performances form the principle actors. The plot is outlandish of course, and the fact that everything went wrong that could go wrong is the perfect disaster film plotline. But you so easily get swept up in the action that it of course all becomes so plausible. The creating of dinosaurs from fossilised mosquito blood is at once impossible and intriguing. The possibility of the carnivores attacking all and sundry exciting. The special effects and animatronics make it all appear so real and believable.

The actors and brilliant. Sam Neill and Laura Dern are great in their roles, heartwarming and believable. Sir Richard Attenborough is fantastic as the wealthy dreamer whose drive makes it all happen - "spared no expense". The kids play their roles perfectly, while Wayne Knight and Samuel L. Jackson both make their small parts worth watching. the star however is Jeff Goldblum, who again steals the show and the limelight whenever he is on screen.

Best Moment:  The scene when the cars stop at the Tyrannosaurus section. It is still one of the best 5-10 minute scenes in all film history. The water shaking, the T-Rex escaping and creating carnage, the car being pushed into the tree over the concrete barrier. It is all superb and edge of your seat stuff, even when you have seen it a dozen times.
Not the Best Moment:  There must be some part somewhere, but I honestly can't think of anything.
Times Watched:  More than 30 times now, and it never gets boring.
Rating:  Great story, terrific acting, wonderful special effects. It's a winner. 5/5

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Twister. 1996. 4/5

With the wind blowing all around us, tonight it was time to go back to one of the favourites. I first saw Twister on our Queensland holiday back in 1996. Since then it has rarely failed to entertain. The fact that the special effects still hold up so well 20 years later is a testament to the techniques used at the time.

As action movies go it still works well. The humour laced in throughout helps to carry the plot line through the continued series of storms that the two groups are chasing over the long long day that eventuates. It helps if you don't try and break down the plot too much however. If you do, you will have a difficult time believing how quickly everything breaks down, and then reintegrated itself again. 
For me, it is the support cast that wins the day. The stars have their moments, but all of them are so annoying that if the support cast wasn't there, this film would have been a lot less enjoyable than it turned out to be.

Best Moment: anytime is on the screen. Long before his Academy Award winnings roles, he is the light in this film. "The Extreme! It's the Extreme!" "Losers! Move on!" "There's some positives in this. At least she we know she can fly". 
Not the Best Moment: Bill Paxton. Helen Hunt. Jamie Gertz. They are good in places - Paxton certainly when he was called upon to show how much his character actually knew about storms and twisters - but when the story fell into the relationship triangle, it felt like the movie stalled, again and again.
Times Watched: somewhere between 15 and 20. 
Rating:  The action and support cast help to keep this always watchable.  4/5

Pixels. 2015. 3/5

I had watched this with the kids when it was first released last year, and I get the feeling that they have watched it a couple of times since upstairs. We sat down to watch this last night as Helen had not seen it, and I guess I was up for some thoughtless viewing.

As it turns out, I enjoyed it more the second time than the first, I guess because I knew to expect that it was a ridiculous storyline, and that Adam Sandler was actually trying to act as though it was an Academy Award Nominated film and that he was the most intense leading man in the film. 
Apart from that, it is a fun romp back through those days that I lived as a teenager, and that Sandler obviously did as well. It was fun trying to explain to the kids that THESE were the video games we had grown up with, and that you generally had to go to video arcades to play them on stand up machines, not just turn on a 150cm TV and fire up the xBox. 
Peter Dinklage isamusingly over the top in his role as 'Fireblaster', while Josh Gad and Kevin James again felt under-utilised and poorly framed as characters. I mean, if you have to believe in a world where Kevin James has become President, then surely he wouldn't be such a weasly character?. Or perhaps I'm just wrong about what they may have to offer. as comedic actors.
(Actually, I think I am trying too hard to read stuff into a film where reality doesn't exist...)

Best Moment: The Pac-Man scene, driving cars aroud New York as ghosts chasing Pac-Man was entertaining and fun, and still ended up having to use the strategy we all used as kids to get those ghosts.
Not the Best Moment: Adam Sandler's attempt's to make his character seem more than it was. His performance (in places) was more wooden than ever.
Times Watched: 2.
Rating: If you are looking for mindless entertainment to pass 90 minutes, there are worse ways to do it than watching this.  3/5

Beetlejuice. 1988. 4/5

It has been a few years since I have watched this film. Probably twenty if I really think about it. And like with any film that you have not seen in that period of time, your perceptions can be completely different when you sit through it all over again.

Thankfully for me, that was not the case with Beetlejuice. The story was still as delightfully irreverent as it was initially, and the performance of the ensemble cast is still wonderful. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are both so naively young and witless, Winona Ryder easy to believe as the dark and lifeless daughter, Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones superbly over the top in their roles, while Michael Keaton once again cements his brilliance in any role with this crazy and jovial character. Really, you want him to win, don't you?

The kids probably didn't follow it all through the story, but they had fun, and that was the main thing.

Best Moment: The waiting room scenes are hilarious, just for the assortment of characters inside and what they've gone through to get there.
Not the Best Moment: Perhaps surprisingly, the dinner scene where the cast are forced to sing and dance. Reasonable enough, but the fact no one is scared off by it is a little unbalanced.
Times Watched: First time in probably 20 years. Approximately 10 overall.
Rating: Still a more than enjoyable, if quirky, comedy. 4/5