Sunday, September 20, 2009

Always Looking Up

Michael J. Fox astounds me because he has never given up despite his disease. I never got the chance to read Fox's first memoir, Lucky Man, but I did just finish his second memoir which is pretty new right now, Always Looking Up: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.

I got to listen to this book on tape with Fox actually reading it himself, which I found extremely powerful. You could hear his emotion when times were tough and you could hear the lightness in his voice when moments were funny. The experience was pretty intense because it felt much more personal because I was actually hearing him discuss his problems.

Further, I didn't know too much about Parkinson's Disease anyway, so I got to hear some first-hand accounts of what it's like to live with this. I couldn't imgaine having to transform my life to the degree that Fox has. It's sad that he's had to make so many lifestyle changes to accomodate his situation, especially when he had to give up a television show he loved to produce and act on when he left Spin City.

I found it sad listening to Fox talk about leaving Spin City since he loved it so much, especially since it continued on without him. Charlie Sheen replaced him, which must have been hard to watch. But, it was hard for Fox to juggle his active television career and with taking his meds and controlling his shakes. He wouldn't be able to stop, once he was walking, and communicate with someone because he wouldn't be able to control his bodily functions. Cast members thought he was mad at them, and that's when Fox knew it was time to move on.

Also, I enjoyed hearing about Fox's personal life and how his disease affects his family. Fox tells a lot of stories about his wife and her acceptance of his decisions regarding his disease and about his children and how it affects them. A lot of focus was placed on their eldest son Sam and how he has viewed the disease.

But, I saw this book as Fox's second memoir on PD, and even though some of it was on PD, a lot of it was just on his life in general without dwelling too much on the effects of PD. A lot of the book was just on his family life and politics surrounding PD research and his organization. Perhaps Lucky Man deals more with Fox and dealing with PD, but Always Looking Up takes it a step further into his personal life and his life post-Lucky Man.

Fox even gets into some personal stories like how he went through September 11th. He was across the country, about to guest star on Spin City in California after being gone from it for a couple of years, and he heard about the attacks. His family lives, works, and goes to school in New York City, so he panicked. He cancelled being on the show and looked to travel back to NYC, but all flights were cancelled for weeks. So, Fox rented a car and drove across the country with a friend. Family counts more than other things.

Fox also details such personal incidences as travelling across the country with his son when he was young, experiencing the birth of his twin daughters, and experiencing the death of his oldest sister. His sister was hooked up on machines to keep her alive, and they had to make the tough decision whether they should let her loose or not. These moments are all intertwined throughout the memoir.

I also didn't know that Fox was involved in politics, an organization, and trying to advocate for PD research with stem cells. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to this facet. I like that Fox is using his publicity and his finances to not only help himself but help others like himself that are affected with the disease. I also learned, through his discussions on the organization, that Ali has PD too! You'd never think that such strong people could be hindered by something like this.

Overall, the memoir seems to be focused on his struggle with PD, but a lot of it had random details and stories just about his life, which I didn't mind too much. If you're interested in PD or about Fox's life, this book should interest you.

I saw there was a TV special on the memoir, but I missed it. What was it about?

So what do you think of Always Looking Up: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Soloist

The Soloist grabbed my attention right off the bat because it is based on a true story. Besides that, the film has two phenomenal actors in them who are extremely talented, Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. With those two elements on my side, the movie did follow through.

I think it's interesting how many times the story of this man's life has been told. First, Steve Lopez discovered this homeless, talented musician on the street in LA, and he thought it would be a story. Working for the LA Times, Lopez wrote a few columns on this talented man, Nathaniel Ayers, which he eventually turned into a book. Then this book turned into a blockbuster movie, and now people are commenting on the book and the movie just like I am now. Isn't it interesting how many ways the same story can be told?

Basically, Ayers was a homeless man who suffered extreme bouts of mental illness. She is schizophrenic, which caused him to lose his spot at Juliard and land him on the streets. However, Ayers is extremely brilliant. He taught himself to play various instruments, and he can play them better than those who practice for years and years. It's an incredible story.

Lopez helps get Ayers off the streets and helped with treatment. He even starts playing again which really lightens Ayers' day. It's crazy to think about how generous Lopez must be to help out this homeless guy. I mean, yeah at first he wanted a story and that is a bit selfish, but he didn't need to push it this far. His life started to blur with Ayers's life. It's really inspirational.

I thought the movie was done pretty well. I just wonder how it really happened and what the two men look like. I did look it up afterwards, and they look pretty different, but what are you going to do? Two talented actors did a terrific job. I just wonder how accurate the movie is to real life.

I enjoyed the movie. I heard it might even be movie of the year, 2009. Is that true? It was good, but I don't know if it was that good.

So what do you think of The Soloist?

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

True-to-life essays really captivate me. It's my new favorite genre that I am just stumbling upon. After being fascinated by David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman, and Augusten Burroughs, I am now fascinated with Sloane Crosley's new book of essays, similar to the aforementioned authors, called I Was Told There'd Be Cake.

I was interested in this book definitely because of the nature of the stories, but I was also into the fact that she's writing about her past and she's not too much older than I am. A lot of her stories deal with issues and pop-culture references that are totally my generation. And, I get her humor.

Crosley's essays are quite a range. She'll discuss items from her childhood and even creep up into present-day issues and matters. Essays range from the following topics: collecting My Little Ponies in "The Pony Problem," working for a witch in "The Ursula Cookie," losing her keys while moving out of a New York City apartment in "Fuck You, Columbus," being half Jewish half Catholic and her voyages at religious summer camp, volunteering at the butterfly exhibit at a museum in "Sign Language for Infidels," being nominated as a maid of honor for a distant high school friend in "You on a Stick," reminiscing back to old-school computer games like Oregon Trail in "Bring-Your-Machete-To-Work-Day," and dealing with crazy neighbors.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake was such an enjoyable read. Not only is Crosley entertaining, but she's wickedly funny. She makes some pretty incredible points on obscure topics while making you think all the same. The incidents portrayed are ones that we might get ourselves messed up in (like a horrible boss or being a maid of honor) while others are completely outlandish and strange. But, that's what I like about it. I could totally connect with certain essays while I was completely entertained with other stories that were so bizarre and out there from my life. She is an excellent and easy read.

I know essays can scare some people, but they're very fun to read. They're little disconnected pieces of life that are really quite memorable. I kept wanting to read more. I hope that Crosley is on the path to creating more works because this book was spectacular. This is a great read and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs a light read or needs to laugh a bit.

But, I think I missed the boat on the name of the title or the cover of the book. Maybe there were some missing essays on the audio tape I listened to. I loved listening to the audio tape because Crosley read it herself. It just seems so much more personal, and it's interesting and fun to hear the author's inflections and how the author tells the story, literally. Try it if you have the opportunity. Can anyone fill me in on the title or the cover?

Read this book! So what do you think of I Was Told There'd Be Cake?