Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vitals, by Greg Bear

I liked the first 3/4 of Greg Bear's Vitals much better than the last part. I must've gotten lost in there somewhere, because it got to where I couldn't figure out what was going on. From the back cover:

Fueled by a wealth of research and the money of influential patrons, Hal Cousins combs the ocean depths for organisms that might lead him to the most sought-after discovery in human history: the key to short-circuiting the aging process. But he barely reaches the surface with his valuable samples when his world explodes in violence. Suddenly on the run for his life, Hal is trapped inside an ever-twisting maze of shocking revelations, including news that his identical twin brother, a fellow scientist working on the same research, has been brutally murdered....


There's a wealth of pop culture references in the book, including one to Star Trek's original episode "Mudd's Women" and one to "Elvis has left the building" and one involving the old "Kung Fu" TV series. That was fun.

This is not, by far, my favorite book by Bear, but it was interesting and readable.

Oh, and it also features mitochondria. I've been fascinated by mitochonria since I first read A Wrinkle in Time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

D.O.A.

This movie is considered a classic in the film noir genre. D.O.A. tells the tragic story of an average guy who unwittingly finds himself in trouble with the wrong people. The tension builds as he tries to find out who is behind his trouble before it's too late. But, of course, it's already too late for him. The film is downloadable and can be watched online at Internet Archive. I have the dvd in combination with Borderline; it's also available on dvd by itself.

9/18/2007:
FilmNoir.net has a review. Excerpt:
With a pot-boiler plot and a terrific hard-edged portrayal from O’Brien, this is not only a gritty on-the-streets in-your-face melodrama, but a nuanced film noir where a random innocent act is a decent man’s un-doing.


1/18/2008:
Noir of the Week has a review. Excerpt:
Uniquely and perversely entertaining, 'D.O.A.' holds a special place in the dark hearts of noirheads. As deliriously eccentric a genre entry as one is likely to find, it has aged remarkably well, and holds up some six decades later. Existential melodrama for the drive-in set, the film's bracing comedic-chaotic style often belies it's ghastly message, but never at the expense of it's key genre elements


1/22/2009:
FilmFanatic has a review.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In Debt We Trust




HT: documentaries.ws

"It's our ignorance that gives them their power." (a quote from the video) The way we have allowed the credit-granting institutions to get so out of hand is shocking. Interest rates on credit cards are usurious, and the credit card terms are unbelievable. No other loan can arbitrarily raise the interest rate on money you've already borrowed.

This video covers debt from credit cards but also 1) shows interest rates for title loan businesses and how they target the poor and our military personel, 2) discusses the national debt and what it means for us, 3) describes our citizens as modern-day serfs and 4) much more. The amount of money that pours into Congress from the financial institutions and real estate developers appears to have effectively bought legislation favorable to those two industries at the expense of the rest of us.

I become a stronger fan of Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps every day.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Save the Internet







There's more information on the issue at Moyers on America, Educause, Common Cause, the ACLU and the Center for Digital Democracy.

1st Sunday in Lent




Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV):

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.


Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted of Satan; Make speed to help thy servants who are assaulted by manifold temptations; and, as thou knowest their several infirmities, let each one find thee mighty to save; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The picture above is The Temptation of Jesus by Dore.

Betty Boop with Minnie the Moocher





HT: ifilm.com

Saturday, February 24, 2007

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith, is a serial novel originally published one chapter each day in The Scotsman. From the back cover:

From the beloved author of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and The Sunday Philosophy Club comes this new novel about the denizens of 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh's most colorful characters.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Molokai


Father Damien has had a special place in my heart since I first discovered him years ago while I was still a child. This movie is a touching representation of his life. It stars Derek Jacobi, who was Brother Cadfael in the PBS Mystery series and Claudius in I, Claudius; Kris Kristofferson; Sam Neill; Leo McKern, who played in the Beatles' Help and as Horace Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey; Tom Wilkinson; and Peter O'Toole, who played the title role in Lawrence of Arabia, King Henry II in Beckett and The Lion in Winter and Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.

The movie trailer:




The cause for Father Damien's canonization is followed here. I can highly recommend the biography Damien the Leper, by John Farrow, which includes the Robert Louis Stevenson defense of Father Damien.

Leprosy continues to be a scourge in some areas of the world, and leper colonies are still around. The United Methodist Church is associated with several projects involving leprosy, including the American Leprosy Missions' work in the Congo.

An excerpt from a documentary on leprosy:




I haven't seen the presence of leprosy in much fiction except in historical fiction such as Ellis Peters' The Leper of St. Giles. The notable exception to this is Stephen Donaldson's series on Thomas Covenant (definite spoiler alert), in which the anti-hero lives in modern times and suffers from leprosy, being treated in the modern way.

This film is #92 on the list of top 100 Spiritually Significant films at the Arts and Faith web site.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade, starring Irene Dunn and Cary Grant, is one of the biggest tear-jerkers I've ever seen. If you have a handkerchief ready you can watch it online here.

9/17/2007:

Videos With Bibi has a post.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd stars Charles Laughton in the title role in this fictionalized pirate adventure movie. Randolph Scott and John Carradine also star in this film. It has fallen out of copyright, so it is available free online here, here and here, as well as for sale on DVD in stores.

3/1/2012: none of these links to videos online work now, but you can watch it here at youtube, though embedding is disabled, or here:

The Iron Mask

Douglas Fairbanks stars as D'Artagnan in this sequel to The Three Musketeers. The Iron Mask is essentially a silent movie but has spoken narration by Fairbanks and a musical score. It was Fairbanks' last silent film. This film is in the public domain so in addition to being available on DVD it is viewable online here , here and (courtesy of google video) here:

Douglas Fairbanks is a treat to watch. One for all, and all for one!

Ash Wednesday


Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Our church will have a worship service tonight that will include the imposition of ashes. Ash Wednesday is an important day in the Christian Year, beginning a 40-day period of repentance and reflection before Easter.

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near— 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come. 3 Fire devours in front of them, and behind them a flame burns. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, but after them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 They have the appearance of horses, and like war-horses they charge. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6 Before them peoples are in anguish, all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge, like soldiers they scale the wall. Each keeps to its own course, they do not swerve from their paths. 8 They do not jostle one another, each keeps to its own track; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls; they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10 The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11 The Lord utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command. Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it?

12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.

Joel 2:1-18 (NRSV)


Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer


The picture above is from Flickr.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fencing Epee


#2 Son is on his way home from the Junior Olympics in Denver. Congratulations! Results can be seen here.

The sticker pictured above and many other great fencing stickers, shirts, cups, etc. are available from CafePress.

Rashomon

This 1950 Japanese film tells the story of a crime from four different perspectives including those of the perpetrator and the victim. The film is available on DVD from Criterion and can also can be viewed online here (HT: GreyLodge) or here at the internet archive or here courtesy of google:


The wikipedia entry on this movie is here. Where is the truth in these stories?

There are more recent examples of how events are interpreted differently according to the perspective of those involved. A comedic example:



There was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called "A Matter of Perspective" which dealt with this same issue.

3/24/2008:

1001 Flicks has a review.

Freaks

Freaks is a disturbing pre-code film that caused much controversy in its day. It is available as a DVD. It's painful to watch. It shows that the ugliness inside of people can't be seen on the outside. Sometimes the things that look best to us are actually the very worst.

via Internet Archive:



Moria calls it "one of the genuine classics of the horror film". 1000 Misspent Hours says, "The bitter irony of it all is that this movie is now considered a classic even by the intellectual descendants of the people who so stridently condemned it when it was released." The New York Times closes with a warning: "The only thing that can be said definitely for "Freaks" is that it is not for children. Bad dreams lie that way." Slant Magazine has a review. Bright Lights Film Journal says, "It received so much bad press and created such ill will that MGM was forced to withdraw it from circulation, suffering a loss of $164,000."

9/20/2007: 1001 Flicks has a review.
8/1/2008: BoingBoing links to the film online at the Internet Archive.
5/21/2009: The Vault of Horror:
Here is a film ahead of its time, presenting horror not in the form of supernatural monsters, but lurking in the hearts of regular human beings.

5/25/2010: 366 Weird Movies says,
That it is a masterful vision and labor of love from the most authentically unusual artist to emerge from the Hollywood system is of little doubt. If one approaches Freaks expecting it to be in line with the “classic horror” mold films of the 1930’s, however, then one is apt to be disappointed....Freaks is an unsettling vision and that is the only description one can give to it, genres be damned.

Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. It is the day for making final preparations for the penitential season by making a feast of all the fat in the house that won't be used during the Lenten fast (pancakes are traditional) and by seeking forgiveness of one's sins. Anton Checkhov's short story "Shrove Tuesday" is here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Find Me Guilty

I am crazy about Vin Diesel, having first seen him in The Chronicles of Riddick. Find Me Guilty is a courtroom drama with Vin Diesel as a very unlikely hero. It is based on the story of Giacomo DiNorscio, who served as his own lawyer in the longest Mafia trial in American history. Much of the courtroom dialogue in the film was taken directly from the trial transcripts.

Akira

I bought Akira (a 1988 Japanese anime film) used a few years ago before I realized I needed to check ratings on anime. This one is rated R, so I put it back until I had a chance to watch it without The Younger Son and am only now getting to it. Akira is a highly praised film, often appearing in must-see, best-of, top-10 and other lists of movies. It's an important film in anime history. The beginning of the film is here:


You can watch a trailer here and here:


The version I saw was dubbed in English. It's not my favorite of the anime I've seen, but I'm beginning to think that anime is just not going to be a genre I seek out over the long run.

The New York Times calls it "a phenomenal work of animation with all the hallmarks of an instant cult classic." Moria says it's a "a stunning vision" "of epic, even cosmic, scope". SciFiCatholic has posted a review and rating.

What's In _Your_ Chicken?



HT: The Cleaner Plate Club

Sunday, February 18, 2007

In the Year 2525

I remember when this song came out I couldn't get enough of it. I bet I still have that single around here somewhere. When I saw the video posted on the Frugal for Life blog it brought back such fond memories.





There's some info on Zager and Evans here, and the two -though a one-hit-wonder who no longer perform together- are still active in the music industry.

Transfiguration Sunday



Luke 9:28-43a (NRSV)

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God

The picture above is Fra Angelico's Transfiguration.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Key the Metal Idol

I've been interested in getting to know anime better, and Key the Metal Idol is my most recent effort -and it has been an effort. I've heard nothing but good about this series, but I've found it slow moving with lots of tedious, seemingly interminable narrative explication. Much talk, little action. I honestly don't understand what the fuss is about. I'll come back and watch it again sometime. Maybe I'm just not knowledgeable enough about anime to appreciate it.

This is the extended English opening:


SciFi.com likes it: "Key's pacing is exquisite, but the poetic imagery is even more compelling".

The Center of the Universe


Not only was I the 2006 Time Magazine Person of the Year (picture of the cover here), I am also at the center of the universe. Yes, boys and girls, geocentrism is alive and well and Alternet has the story. The introduction to the article:

Geocentrists accept a spherical earth but deny that the sun is the center of the solar system or that the earth moves.... The basis for their belief is a literal reading of the Bible.


The mind boggles.

Friday, February 16, 2007

End of Days

End of Days, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the story of Satan's return in 1999 to initiate a new era. Satan loses, of course, and Arnold is strengthened by God to do the right thing. A fun movie even though cliche-ridden and predictable -a mindless action movie where right beats might. I enjoyed it.

Evolution vs. Creationism videos

The scientists and philosophers engaged in this project are introduced here. The videos are linked here. This is the first video in the series of 24:



I haven't watched them except for this first one, but I plan to. This series is strictly pro-evolution.


HT: Panda's Thumb

Learning



HT: Catholic Homeschooled Teens Blog

Travel Narratives Online

I read the blog Wise Bread: living large on a small budget and saw a post there today on how to be a cheap reader. I tend to prefer hard copies of books. I like to prop up in bed and turn the pages of a used book, so I haunt the local used book stores to feed my passion. If I did want to read books from a computer screen, though, Wise Bread has a link to a site that has links to travel narratives online: Explorion. There are wonderful things there! They have Dickens' Pictures From Italy, Powell's Canyons of the Cororado, Henry James' Italian Hours, Mungo Park's Travels In Central Africa, Isabella Bird's Among the Tibetans, Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail, William Bartram's Travels, Kinglake's Eothen, Stanley's How I Found Livingstone, The Journals of Lewis and Clark, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela (which led me a merry chase before I finally gave up finding a hard copy), Burton's Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, Mary Kingsley's Travels in West Africa and just entirely too many others to mention.

I have hard copies of some of the books listed on this site but nowhere near all, and I'm inspired to seek some out that I've never paid much attention to before.

There is a wikipedia article here which contains some general information about this literary genre, including a list of notable works. Longitude Books has a great selection and has sections on "Neglected Classics" and "Favorites" and has book recommendations divided by region.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Principality of Sealand Time Zone

The time zone at the Principality of Sealand is offset from Greenwich Mean Time by 52 minutes. Don't believe me? Check it out:

• While most time zones are offset from Greenwich Mean Time by whole hours, there are 14 areas that are offset by 1/2 hours, three that are offset by quarter hours and one, the Principality of Sealand, that is offset by 52 minutes.


Still not buying it? Can't say that I blame you..... They don't call it gullible.info for nuthin'.

Emo Phillips on Religion





1/26/2009:
This link doesn't work any more, and I can't find it online now.

R. I. P. Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger, who was involved in the translation of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, died 2/13 at the age of 93.

HT: Better Bibles Blog

A Place of Execution

I usually avoid books and movies that have child endangerment as a major plot element, so I'm not sure how I ended up with A Place of Execution, by Val McDermid. The story is told in two parts. The first, and by far the longer, section deals with the disappearance in 1963 of a 13 year old girl from her insulated English community and the resulting investigation by newly promoted fast-tracked inspector George Bennett. I think this section is much stronger than the second part, which picks up the story in 1998 from the perspective of a journalist who has succeeded in convincing Bennett to cooperate in a book on the story. The latter part has way too many coincidences to be at all believable.

This book is a stand-alone novel, but the author has written 3 series.

A Methodist sighting:


George looked around the church hall with an air of resignation. In the pale-yellow light, it looked dingy and cramped, the pale-green walls adding to the institutional flavour. But they needed an incident room large enough to accomodate a CID team as well as the uniformed officers, and there were precious few candidates within striking distance of Scardale. Pressed, Peter Grundy had only been able to come up with either the village hall in Longnor or this depressing annexe to the Methodist Chapel that squatted on the main road just past the Scardale turn-off. It had the advantage not only of being closer to Scardale, but of having a telephone line already installed in what claimed, according to the sign on its door, to be the vestry.

"Just as well Methodists don't go in for vestments," George said as he stood on the threshold and surveyed the glorified cupboard.


Sounds like a singularly unattractive place in need of a little attention from the trustees.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day


Valentine's Day is named after St. Valentine. History.com has a site that includes video clips about the holiday. There's a pattern here at Family Fun to make the sweet heart basket pictured above.

Technology Issues

Is Tech Support the world's oldest profession?



HT: Locusts&Honey

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

#1 Son and I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith tonight. I had not seen it before. I found it a bit slow moving, but the relationship added a fun element to the action. The movie stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The Devil in Music

Another in my foray into mystery novels, The Devil in Music, by Kate Ross, is a historical mystery featuring early 19th-century dandy Julian Kestrel. This is the 4th in the series but the 1st I've read. It seemed long for this type of book, but the setting is beautifully described and the characters and their interactions are clearly developed. The entire book was interesting -a good read. The author died of cancer in 1998; there's a tribute site here.

There's a Methodist appearance on page 322:

De la Marque sauntered into Julian's and MacGregor's room as if he were making the rounds of the fashionable boxes at La Scala. "Good evening, mon vieux-my dear Doctor. How delightful of you to invite me for a comfortable coze, as you English say." He lifted his black brows and looked about. "I don't see any cards-not even a bottle of wine. If anyone comes in, we shall be taken for Methodists."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 1 (NRSV)

Listen to a paraphrase of this Psalm set to music.

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

I introduced this film to #2 Son, who hadn't seen it, by comparing it to Spartacus. So many similarities! Slaves yearning to be free, a touching love story, brave Roman soldiers, gladiatorial training, even a scene of a personal slave helping the master in the bath. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has so much in common with Spartacus. Of course we did notice a few differences, too....

Forum stars Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton in his last movie role and Jack Gilford. It won an Oscar for the music.

trailer:

Real Penguins

Edge.org has a photo essay on the Falkland Islands that has lots of pictures of real live penguins:

The reason to go to the Falkland Islands is that it the best place in the world to see and photograph the King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic penguins.


And he has the photos to prove it.

HT: digg

A Million Penguins?

A Million Penguins is a collaborative writing project:

So is the novel immune from being swept up into the fashion for collaborative activity? Well, this is what we are going to try and discover with A Million Penguins, a collaborative, wiki-based creative writing exercise. We should go into this with the best spirit of scientific endeavour - the experiment is going live, the lab is under construction, the subjects are out there. And the results? We’ll see in a couple of months.


Their blog asks, "Can a community write a novel?":

It’s widely held that one of the hallmarks of great writing is the ability to bring together things that don’t usually belong together. And, moreover, to do so in a way that invites contemplation or, ideally, some kind of wider understanding of life, language, society, politics, humanity, relationships, religion etc - a eureka moment, if you like.
...
We’re a week in and the jury is still very much out; in fact, I think they’re off drinking white wine at the Groucho. But keep up the good work, my milliontorturedsouls, and let’s see if we can’t get something resembling a plot up there soon.


Now what someone needs to do is introduce a character that's a penguin!

HT: zdnetindia

Friday, February 09, 2007

Spartacus


A film masterpiece, Spartacus is based on a book written by Howard Fast which is based on an actual slave revolt. Kirk Douglas stars as Spartacus, Jean Simmons is his love interest Lavinia, Peter Ustinov won an Oscar as best supporting actor for his role as the owner of a gladiatorial training school who buys Spartacus from the mines, Laurence Olivier is Crassus who wins the final military victory over the slave army, Tony Curtis is Crassus' runaway body servant, Charles Laughton is Gracchus who opposes Crassus in the Senate and the majority of the film was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

10/12/2009: 1001 Flicks has a review.

William Shatner and Dave Ramsey

I'm a Dave Ramsey fan from way back and so my first thought when I saw William Shatner's financial advice in Money Magazine was, "Wow! That sounds just like Dave!"

Shatner says,

Intergalactic superstar
William Shatner, 75

Memorable money mistake: "When I was a young actor at Canada's Stratford Festival, one of the older actors told me that Canadian uranium is the future and you must buy into it. So I bought it on Thursday with the entire $500 I had saved.

"The following day, the Canadian prime minister said the country would no longer buy uranium. I was wiped out. It actually hurt my performance onstage. Since then I've led a very conservative financial life."

What money means to me: "For the longest time I could never get ahead more than a few hundred dollars, no matter how well I did or what job I got, and no matter how hard I tried to pare expenses down. With three kids, it was always very, very tight, and it was always a scramble for what was my next job.

"So I learned never to go into debt because I don't want those monthly payments to preoccupy my thoughts. I never spend more than what I can afford, and I don't owe anything."

What I tell my kids: "Don't buy anything on time, and that includes cars and houses."

HT for the Money Magazine article: Consumerism Commentary


I've never heard Dave Ramsey sing. I wonder if he's as good as Shatner:





Thursday, February 08, 2007

Oompa Loompa Songs



The Thin Woman

What fun! I did enjoy this book! The Thin Woman, by Dorothy Cannell, has humor -lots of humor- in its story of a "full-figured" woman who hires "devastatingly attractive" Ben from Eligibility Escorts to play her beau at the family reunion. There's an interesting and well-constructed plot, believable and likable characters, a treasure hunt, home renovation, art appreciation, and good food. I didn't want it to end, but I see there are others about these characters so I'll go buy them.

The Thin Woman is on the list of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's online members.

Your Personal Penguin



Wednesday, February 07, 2007

on each end of the rifle we're the same


Listen to this John McCutcheon song at youtube:

My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool,
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.
'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung,
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung,
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.
"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me
Soon one by one each German voice joined in in harmony
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht," "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.
"There's someone coming towards us!" the front line sentry cried
All sights were fixed on one lone figure coming from their side
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he bravely strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone for evermore.

My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
Each Christmas come since World War I I've learned its lessons well
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.

©1984 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP) and copied here from his site.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Nancy Pickard's I.O.U.

This was a great improvement over the last mystery I read. Parts of it were hard to read because of some of the issues the main character was dealing with, but (that considered) I found I.O.U., by Nancy Pickard, to be a quick enjoyable read.

From the dust jacket:

It was foggy the day of the funeral...white swirling mists that obscured the mourners' features...that matched the thick fog of pain and confusion in Jenny's brain. Jenny's mother was dead, carried away by pneumonia after lying for years in a virtual coma in the Hampshire Psychiatric Hospital.

As friends and family pressed around to offer condolences, a hand clutched Jenny's arm, and an anonymous voice whispered, "Forgive me. It was an accident." Before Jenny could see a face, the person was gone....

Jenny had no idea what it meant. And it didn't seem to matter. Nothing seemed to matter except her grief and her guilt, and the questions that haunted her every waking moment, and made her fear her own sanity: What had really been wrong with her mother? How did it happen? And how was it all connected with the bankruptcy of the family business, Cain Clams, a disaster her father had never really been able to explain?

Jenny decided to find the answers...yet it wasn't so easy. No one seemed willing to talk about her mother, and when she asked about her father's business, she was stonewalled by an old boy network that ran far deeper than she'd ever imagined.

Jenny was discouraged, exhausted, emotionally raw. It was no wonder she drove into the garage and went to sleep with her head on the steering wheel and the motor still running. No wonder she wound up in the hospital, nearly dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. No one would be surprised if Jenny had gone mad, like her poor, sweet mother, and tried to end it all...least of all Jenny.

Except that Jenny hadn't tried to commit suicide....

Bruce Cockburn Anti-War Song

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Dead-House

From the back of The Deadhouse, by Linda Fairstein:

On Roosevelt Island, a strip of land in New York City's East River, stands an abandoned 19th century smallpox asylum, "The Deadhouse," where the afflicted were shipped off to die. It's a gruesome bit of history perhaps best forgotten. But for Alexandra Cooper, it may be the key to a shocking murder that cuts deeper than the arctic cold front gripping the city. A respected university professor is dead-strangled and dumped in an elevator shaft. And while the school does damage control for anxious parents, Cooper and her close detective friend Mike Chapman scramble for answers, fueled by the most daunting discovery: a piece of paper, found on the lifeless body of Professor Lola Dakota, that reads The Deadhouse....


I wasn't thrilled with this, my first book by her. There were so many characters and subplots and historical information narrated during the conversations.... And then it just ended.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Prince Plays the Super Bowl

I've liked Prince for years so I enjoyed the show, but it's nice to see my opinion shared by others here:

Prince Pours on the 'Purple Rain'

By PAUL NEWBERRY

8:34 p.m. EST: MIAMI _ Never has there been a more appropriate song for a Super Bowl halftime show. Prince brought the water-logged crowd at Dolphin Stadium to its feet with a rousing rendition of "Purple Rain" _ performed in a driving rainstorm.


and here:

This much instantly became clear: After all these years, Prince can still put on a show like no other.


and here:

Prince's half-time show has made me a fan again

Epiphany 5


Isaiah 6:1-8 (NRSV)

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Illusionist

The Daughter got The Illusionist as a birthday present from a friend, and we watched it tonight. This was a _good_ movie, delightful and will be easy to look forward to watching again. There's a wiki entry here with a link to the official film site.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tibetans at the Hands of the Chinese

This AP report at CNN tells the story of what happened during and after the incident on 9/30 when Chinese border guards opened fire on unarmed Tibetans.

Forty-one refugees managed to reach India, but 32 others were caught and detained. While Samten said some of those detained have since been released, he is the only member of the group known to have again tried to flee and made it.

Samten's account of his detention and flight, told to The Associated Press at a center for Tibetan refugees in Dharmsala, the home of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was the first report of the fate of those captured in September.


The article concludes with these words:

Tibetans say China, which sent its troops into the Himalayan area in 1950, has attempted to destroy Tibetan Buddhist culture by flooding Tibet with China's ethnic Han majority.

China says Tibet has been part of China for centuries.


HT: Alan Arnette's climbing blog.

Here's a song commemorating the tragedy:


Candlemas


Today is Candlemas, when the Church celebrates the Presentation of Christ at the Temple. We used to celebrate it by having the kids make puppets for a shadow play of Anna and Simeon at the temple.

The picture is Simeon and Hannah in the Temple by Rembrandt.