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Test Pattern: Year’s best movie trailer?

Plus: Made-up ‘Simpsons’ words; rapping about milk. By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Five-link Friday: Best movie trailer?

I have to say, our discussion this week of led me to drag the final volume of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy off my shelf. I am going to get through that one, dammit, if only so I can say I did. Not sure if I can bring myself to retry "Jonathan Strange," but maybe after some time has passed.

On to five-link Friday.

• The best movie trailer I've seen all year is the one for November's "Jarhead," the true story of a Marine in the first Gulf War. (The is actually a little better than the actual theatrical trailer.) The shots of the Marines preparing for war suggest a looming doom, accented by the fantastic musical choice of Kanye West's "Jesus Walks." I'm usually not a fan of movies about war, but I'll be seeing this one. The images and the music haunt my mind even some time after I've watched the teaser. ("God show me the way because the Devil's trying to break me down ... the only thing that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now...") Agree or disagree with me? Send in your nominations for best movie trailer; if I get enough, I'll publish some of them.

• Speaking of movies, those who commiserated with me about how much better the James Bond novels are than the movies may be interested in this: There are plans to turn 007 creator Ian Fleming's . I just finished a biography of him, "Fleming," and agree there's plenty of material there. (And hey, we've also .)

• How to get modern kids to drink milk? Try that new-fangled rap thing the kids today like. . (Thanks to Jon for the link!)

• Wikipedia offers a dictionary of My favorites include Bort, the Chocobots, Dickety, Jebus and Supernintendo Chalmers. "My story begins in Nineteen Dickety-Two..."

• And this week's reader-submitted link comes from Lauren, who says: "Since you are discussing books, I thought this link may be appropriate for those who have the next great American novel idea burning in their minds: . It’s a site celebrating National Novel Writing Month where writers and want-to-be-writers try to write their own 50,000 word novel within the month of November. Take a look around. It’s a hoot. The forum has areas for working out plots and finding experts on anything. They do mean anything..."

Dissing the classics

Somewhere, our English teachers are fainting with shock. Yesterday I shared a list of some of the modern books you just couldn't get through, but now here are some of the all-time classic tomes you couldn't finish. If you see some of your all-time favorites on here, don't complain to me, some of my faves are here too. (Oh, dear "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," don't take Erin's comments to heart. Eddies in the space-time continuum, and that's his sofa.)

CATCHER IN THE RYE“I have read "The Catcher in the Rye" twice and I just don't get it. Maybe you need to be a teenage boy, but I just wanted to smack Holden Caulfield and tell him to get his act together. But I am supposed to like this book and consider it an American Treasure. Maybe if I read it again...”    --Deanna

LORD OF THE RINGS“I almost feel like a traitor to my generation (aging hippy here), but I tried reading "Lord Of The Rings" in high school, again in college, and again about 10 years ago. Each time I got about 50 pages into it, decided that I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and stopped before I wasted any more time.”    --Ronn

HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE“When I was in high school all my friends raved about "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." I was looking forward to a good read (not the boring stuff from class like "Ethan Frome"). I absolutely hated it! I just didn't think it was that good. For me it's way beyond the "Well, British humor is different" excuse. People look at me like I just blasphemed whenever I say that I don't like it. I just don't get it I guess.”    --Erin

“Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities. I cannot read Charles Dickens. When I was told the story of Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities, they sounded wonderful and interesting and I felt good about myself for being excited to read such classics...and then I read A Tale of Two Cities. I enjoyed the first page. After that, I kid you not, I threw it against the wall. I felt no reason to care about the characters and I got so muddled watching as page after page Dickens grew more and more obsessed with his abilities in metaphor and I grew more and more disinterested. I have an English degree and it's embarrassing to admit that I just don't 'get' Charles Dickens...and I much prefer the Muppets' rendition of A Christmas Carol.”    --Emily

“One Hundred Years of Solitude was impossible! I listened to Oprah's endless inspiring reviews and swore to myself that I would finish that book. But, despite being an avid and varied reader, I couldn't make myself finish that book. I tried, God knows I tried, but it was completely lost on me. Where was the great literature? The endearing story? The timeless tale? I still feel like I failed, but I just couldn't get through it.”    --Denice

ATLAS SHRUGGED“Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rynd was shoved in my face by family and friends. They thought since I read and I think I would love it. I tried so hard but after 5 starts and no finish I put it on the top shelf of a very tall bookshelf.”    --TL

GENERAL THOUGHTS“Like you, I've been known to read anything up to and including a milk carton, if that's all that's handy.  ...All I ask of a book is that it entertain me; if it informs me, too, that's a bonus -- and I estimate that 90% of what I know (which is substantial) came to me while I was being entertained. Kill the hobbits; give me W.E.B. Griffin any day.”    --Tom

“You certainly are not out there on your own! ... as cheesy as this sounds, I try to read the first few chapters in the bookstore itself before i buy a me cheap, but if im gonna shell out 25-30$ on a book and not even end up reading it...not only have I wasted $$ but i get turned off by the author!! Give it a try!”    --Myriam

“I can't get into most "literary" novels, even if they get fantastic reviews. That type of novel generally takes too long to get moving; in some cases, it never does get off the ground. (Among the books that I have been literally unable to pick up: "The Hours." Yes, I'm an uncultured freak. Stop staring.) ... I've come to the conclusion that as far as books go, takeout from the local grease pit can be even better than a meal at a five-star restaurant--snobs be damned.”    --Mason

Your most overrated books

What a relief! Apparently I'm far from the only one who's struggled with a supposedly well-reviewed book. Oprah's Book Club came in for a lot of mentions, as you named both newer books as well as classics as among the titles you wanted to throw across the room. Many readers also admitted that they'd been on the other end of things, recommending a beloved book to a friend only to find the friend later admitting that they just couldn't get into it. What goes around, comes around.

The top three modern books you named were easily "The Historian," "The Rule of Four," and "The DaVinci Code," all books that attempt to create a history-tinged mystery. But the one that was mentioned over and over was the groaningly large tome "The Historian." I'm one of those who forced my way through all 656 pages, and while I thought the concept was intriguing (Dracula in modern times!), the book was much drier and rambling than a good Dracula tale should be. I have to come down on the "overrated" side of things.

Here are some of your most commonly named modern titles. Tomorrow we'll list some of the classics you named.


CON:“Ugh! I too picked up Jonathan Strange. Unfortunately, it was the hardcover (at least it was 30% off). I don't think I even made it past page 50. I just didn't care. What the hell is the point of this story? Why couldn't the plot move faster?"    --Sarah

“I couldn't agree with you more on the Jonathan Strange book. Pretentious drivel. No wonder it took her 10 years to write. ... Where was her editor - asleep, dead?”    --David

PRO:“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.... I wouldn't chose it for trying to read in an airport, or if I was at all a "hyperactive" person who needs a lot of action, and I might not be able to get through it myself if I were to actually "read" it, but try the audiobook version ( - it is fanTAStic!! Even in an airport I think you would be able to stick with it if it were read TO you.”    --Les

“I read Strange/Norwell and really loved it. I agree it took a while to get into but once I did I loved the rich detail and the battle between the two characters. Give it a chance.”    --Lesley


“I live in Louisiana and reading John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" is all but a requirement to live here. I love this book. ...But, alas, I made some friends in California read it and if they could have shot me through the phone, they would have."  --Dominique

CON:“I often see Jon Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" on top-10 lists. I can't get through more than 30 pages before I want to throw the book.”    --Susan

“I'd read that "The Rule Of Four" was supposed to be the thinking man's "Da Vinci Code," and since I had not read "Code" yet, I thought I would enjoy it. WRONG. I had to force myself to keep reading the book; once I finished, I could not decide why I did."    --CJ

PLOT AGAINST AMERICA“I had heard excellent reviews about "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth. The sketches of the story intrigued me. ... But it was a tough read that I could not finish. I can't put my finger on it, but I had trouble relating to the characters, and their issues seemed very self-inflicted.”    --Brian

A MAN IN FULL“A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe -- I struggled through about 400 pages of this book, took it on vacation, lugged the heavy thing back home again, trying to stick it out till it got interesting. I gave up... I sent it to a friend , who called a month later saying that he made it almost to my bookmark when he gave up also.”    --CB

“Moliere quotes: "Some of the most famous books are the least worth reading. Their fame was due to their having done something that needed to be doing in their day. The work is done and the virtue of the book has expired." Maybe the day of Jonathan Strange was very short...but, to your question..."The Historian" was touted much like Jonathan Strange and I did enjoy the first 200 pages of descriptive prose, but soon came to realize that the novel wasn't going anywhere I wanted to be. I did leave me cold and that is very hard to do for this avid reader.”    --Bill

DA VINCI CODE"The DaVinci Code" is the most over-rated book of all time. It has the greatest idea/concept to get tongues wagging and maybe thinking about the possibility of Jesus having a wife, but the actual plot and characters are lame and disappointing. In other words, the best possible idea for a great novel, a tempting, thick and juicy New York strip steak, was turned into a hamburger.”    --Beth

THE CORRECTIONS"The Corrections." It was meh, had a couple of moments, but was basically trying-too-hard, David-Foster-Wallace-lite. But you'd have thought it was the single best expression of the written word in the last 300 years, and Franzen himself the second coming of Jesus H. Christ (in a sidecar, drinking tequila), from the reviews.”    --L

EMPIRE FALLS“Richard Russo's 'Empire Falls,' a Pulitzer winner mind you, just seemed whiny and self-indulgent to me. Oh, AND repetitive; the same pattern of narration for each character. Cut & paste. ... Just writing this makes me feel guilty.”    --Michelle

SHE’S COME UNDONE“I've always been puzzled about the raves surrounding Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone". Friends and reviewers say that this man writes as if he were a woman but as a woman I failed to make any connection to the character. There are many gifted writers who can 'get into people's heads' but this man isn't one of them. Awful book.”    --Erin

ERAGON“This has happened to me many times, but the current top of the list is probably Eragon by Christopher Paolini... I couldn't take one more "go on journey, eat meat, hide the dragon, repeat" page of it. I think a lot of it was the hype of it being written by such a young author, but to me, you could definitely tell that his parents were his editors.”   --Teresa

Tomorrow: Literary classics that have outlived their time

Popular books you just don’t get

On my recent vacation I was stuck for a few hours at the airport and needed a book. I was happy to discover that a novel I've been looking at longingly in hardcover had finally made the jump to paperback. I'd heard only great things about Susanna Clarke's a story of 19th-century English magicians. One of the customer reviews on raves "Every page is a literary feast. Best book to come out in the last few years." And the book is thick as a phone book, thus ensuring that I wouldn't finish it before the plane landed and be stuck flipping through the SkyMall catalog while we circled the country.

So I had everything a traveling reader could wish for — a well-reviewed, thick book and hours to do nothing but sit and enjoy it. So why did I put it down after a few chapters, hunting desperately for a magazine, and why did I leave it behind at my destination, bookmark tucked not even 100 pages in? The plot felt slow, to me, the characters barely different from each other, and though I often love rich detail, it was lost on me here.

I don't mean to make an example of "Jonathan Strange," but it occurs to me that this happens often, and not just to me. I consider myself a big reader, and always have five or six books in various states of completion sitting around the house. I just finished a wonderful biography of Ian Fleming (in keeping with my ). I'm marching through the Civil War South with the Union Army in E.L. Doctorow's wonderful new "The March." And prodded by a friend, I finally zipped through the first Stephanie Plum novel, "One for the Money." I'm not a one-track reader, I'll read old, new, flowery, simple, fiction, nonfiction -- a varied book diet.

But then there are the books that I really might as well just toss on the Salvation Army donation pile right now, because even though I appreciate Tolkien and did eventually see the movies, and some of my friends are perhaps part Elvish, I am just unlikely to sit down and finish the trilogy. (Don't kill me, hobbits!)

And while I have friends who obsess over Jane Austen as if she was their long-lost sister, I don't know what I was thinking buying her collected works. I've read "Pride and Prejudice" and "Northanger Abbey" but I just don't think I'm going to ever sink into "Sense and Sensibility" or "Mansfield Park." (Even though -- look! I could !)

It's funny, we don't feel pressure to listen to every kind of music because it may get good reviews, but books are different. If you consider yourself a reader, you may think there's something wrong with you if you can't appreciate a book that has earned raves. So I'm asking you: What are the books you wanted to read, read good reviews of, but just couldn't stand? Do you feel bad about it? And are there books that you loved and pushed on friends, but that left them cold? Don't leave me here feeling guilty all by myself.

Crayons for Martha Stewart and beyond

The is almost as popular as the summer's . Not everyone has a baby, but everyone has a name, and everyone has an opinion about everyone else's name, or so it seems.

And babies aren't the only ones with oddball names these days. Have you examined a box of Crayons lately? The Crayola site has a fun page , listing all the names of colors added in various years, and I find it just fascinating.

It started so simply, in 1903, with just 8 basic colors. And it stayed that way for almost 50 years. But then after World War II, things relaxed a bit and the more luxurious color names began. Apricot. Magenta. Cornflower. We also saw the introduction of the ubiquitous two-name colors. As a kid, I puzzled over these...why was one crayon Green Blue and another Blue Green? Orange Red and Red Orange?

Some of the colors got names that wouldn't last. Prussian Blue was named for the color of the Prussian army uniforms, but according to Crayola, teachers complained that kids didn't get the reference, so the name was changed to midnight blue in 1958. (Teachers complained? Why not just work a short lesson about the Prussians into history class one day?)

The more interesting name changes, though, were those that befell Flesh and Indian Red. Flesh was renamed peach in 1962, after corporate American slowly began to realize that not everyone's flesh was peachy-toned.

Indian Red has an even more interesting history. Crayola never meant for it to refer to skin tone, saying on their site that the “name originated from a reddish-brown pigment found near India commonly used in fine artist oil paint." But a la the Prussian Blue fiasco, some kids (undoubtedly more familiar with the Washington Redskins than fine inks) didn't get the reference. The name was changed to "chestnut." A woman I know says she was one of 100 or so people who submitted that winning name in a Crayola contest. She received a certificate which she proudly kept, and was supposed to get a gift pack of Crayola items, which she says never showed up.

1958 saw the addition of some of my least-favorite colors, including Raw Umber, Raw Sienna and Burnt Orange. Yuck. It's like they put a massively depressed person who really hated his or her job in charge of adding new colors. (Raw Umber got the boot in 1990. I'm just saying.)

Supposedly they added fluorescent colors in 1972, but that was just when my own crayon years were beginning, and the only one of these that sounds vaguely familiar is Chartreuse.

And since then, Crayola execs appear to be on Crayola crack, because the colors they've been adding are loonytunes. I understand that, in 1993, they held a national contest and let consumers name many of their crayons, but it seems like that just served to turn the asylum over to the inmates. Only slightly late for back-to-school time, here's my helpful guide to some of the newer colors.

Crayons that may have been named by Martha Stewart: Antique brass. Fern. Eggplant. Cerise. Desert sand. Mountain meadow. Wisteria.

Crayons whose names could really be any color at all: Manatee. Outer space. Razzmatazz.

Crayons whose names make you want to sing: Purple Mountain's Majesty. Inch Worm. Wild Blue Yonder.

Crayons that I'm pretty sure went to Woodstock: Unmellow Yellow. Radical Red. Magic Mint. Electric Lime. Neon Carrot.

Crayons it might be possible to pet: Timber Wolf. Pig Pink. Beaver. Pink Flamingo.

Crayons found in your produce section: Asparagus. Granny Smith Apple. Cranberry. Eggplant. Almond.

Crayons possibly named by Mrs. Moffett's pre-K class: Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown. Tickle Me Pink. Macaroni and cheese.

Crayons that make you go HUH?: Mauvelous. Brink Pink. Mango Tango.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea that crayons have joined us here in the brave new frontier of babies named Kal-el and Apple. Some of the new names are perfect for their colors. Like baby names, some are a little goofy, but it's a big, beautiful, colorful world out there, and I'll take an "Inch Worm" crayon over "Raw Umber" any day.