Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Window to the Soul

During this year's Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, I'm highlighting things more people should know about. For the most part, I'll be ignoring the most popular and widely known items (and sometimes my personal favorites) in order to promote the unfamiliar and underappreciated.

I Spy (With My Little I) Edition!
A kids' book somehow snuck its way onto today’s list, but it fit so well, I didn't even notice.1

Infernal Affairs (Mou Gaan Dou)
The mob has a mole within the police. An undercover cop has infiltrated the mob. And each one is trying to identify his counterpart without blowing his own cover. If this premise sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen the remake, a little movie called The Departed. But, in my opinion, this is the better film. Perhaps it’s because I feel the Hollywood version was weighed down by the personalities of its all-star cast, whereas the Hong Kong cast could give more understated performances. Or perhaps I just prefer the original ending (and originals to remakes). Well, whatever the reason, it’s worth a watch.
Invader ZIM
A down-on-his-luck banished alien invader and his trusted insane robotic assistant (who sometimes disguises itself as a green dog) come to Earth to prepare for invasion. Only one person knows what Zim is up to, but no one will listen because he doesn't have any evidence is an annoying kid with a big head. If the show had aired on Cartoon Network or Comedy Central instead of Nickelodeon, it would have flourished, but alas, it lasted only a season and a half. It's quirky and clever and bizarre in all the best ways, and Gir (the robot, who loves pigs, tacos, and putting bacon into soap) is perhaps my favorite TV character of all time. Best. Invasion. Ever.
You get points for a color by placing tiles on a hexagonal board to make lines of that color. The more you have in a row, the better. But here’s what makes the game Ingenious: You don't win by getting the most total points or most in one color. You win by getting the most points in your worst color. Thus, you want to adopt a balanced approach; you could conceivably score all 15s except a 9 in yellow, and lose to someone who has 10s across the board. It may be hard to convince yourself to play this way, but with this game, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. (Plays up to 4.)
Itzhak Perlman
He may seem an odd pick for this list, since if you’re at all familiar with modern orchestral music, you’ve heard of him. But this time, it’s personal. When I was 3 or 4, I saw him perform on Sesame Street, and I was hooked. Over the years, I may have dabbled with the clarinet and the bass guitar and the kazoo,2 but deep down I’ve always been a violinist. I have now played for 29 years, and it’s all because of this man. Thank you, Itzhak.
Intensity by Dean Koontz
I went through a Dean Koontz phase in my early 20s, reading perhaps a half dozen of his novels. Each book began with an intriguing premise, but by the end I was always disappointed as the story devolved into dullness or utter peculiarity, possibly involving radioactive monkeys. And then: Intensity. The chapters swap between the perspectives of a serial killer and the young woman tracking him, trying to save her kidnapped friend. And the title fits perfectly: Neither the pace nor the stakes drop the entire way. The only work by Koontz I ever recommend.3
I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen
Bear has lost his hat, and no one seems to have seen it. Bear believes he may never see his hat again, but then he thinks back to his conversation with Rabbit... I'll have you know this is the only children’s book which, the moment I finished it, I had to own. It might not be my son’s favorite, but it is mine and my wife’s. Downright hilarious.

In closing, I like these items, and I hope you do, too. But feel free to share recommendations of your own, if you feel so inclined.

1 What’s that? You say I must have noticed, since I’m mentioning it in today’s intro? That’s exactly what the book said you’d say! Now it’s obvious you’re the spy!
2 And the spoons.
3 Also, the last work of his I’ll ever read. Usually I don’t know when to stop (as my garage door will attest), but for once, I quit while I was ahead. I should do that more often.


  1. Ingenious sounds like a lot of fun.

    And yes, I've read some terrible Koontz books, and yet I've also read some brilliant ones. I'm never sure what I'm going to get ;)

    1. Ingenious is fun. In my opinion, it's more fun than any other "I" game (with the possible exception of the age-old favorite "I Can't Hear You LALALALALA".)

      And your explanation is the perfect example as to why I quit Koontz after Intensity: his stuff is a grab bag. If the odds were 50/50 I'd probably have stuck with him, but since (in my experience, anyway) they were lower, I chose to move.

  2. Don't know the movie, not a gamer, no TV, Koontz is not one of my favorites but Perlman,oh, I love that man and his violin. A great big GOOD FOR YOU. Nice to meet you BTW.

    1. Nice to meet you, too, Far. Is it okay if I call you Far? Anyway, Koontz is far from one of my favorites as well (except this one book). You never know what you're going to get with him. But with Perlman? Violinistic gold, every time. (Never mind that "violinistic" isn't a word. It should be.)

  3. This is a great blog, with your reviews. Good to meet you.

    1. Thanks, Fiona. Good to meet you, too.

  4. Well you have hit on 5 things (except for Perlman) that I am unfamiliar with. Thatnks for the tip on Intensity though.

    1. You're welcome. I hope it's still as good now as I thought it was 10 years ago...

  5. Love it that Izhak Perlman is your inspiration for the violin.

    Play off the Page

    1. As do I, Mary. I couldn't have picked a better inspiration. (I was smart at age 4. I do believe that may have been my peak...)

  6. Music for "I" (although I know "me" would be grammatically correct)
    I Love Monsters
    Ingram Hill
    Iron & Wine

    Movies for "I"
    It's kind of a funny Story
    I'm Reed Fish
    In Good Company
    I Heart Huckabees

    1. In the battle between Such Great Heights, I choose The Postal Service over Iron & Wine.

      And wow, you stumped me on two movies. Well done. And well done on the Identity pick as well. (I Heart Huckabees was decent, but I only half-hearted it.)