Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tennessee Public High School Bible Curriculum Guidelines

The mind boggles. Religion Clause reports that
The guidelines implement legislation passed in 2008 authorizing creation of a course focusing on "nonsectarian nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics."
but isn't supposed to be used to convert students. They link to an AP article, which quotes the TN state ACLU director: ""Whether these classes are constitutional depends on who teaches them and how they are taught," she said. "The devil is in the details."" Well, I'll say! UPI reports that the schools will receive the guidelines for the school year beginning Fall 2010. According to the Christian Post the enabling bill was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Roy Herron:
While the measure has raised concerns among opponents, who believe it would throw open school doors to proselytizing and breach the separation of church and state, Herron has argued that it would not force schools throughout the state to offer Bible classes. Instead, the bill would protect schools that already offer Bible classes, while making the classes an option for schools that wish to participate.

You can view the curriculum guidelines here.

I'm not at all sure I would trust a public high school teacher to teach the Bible outside their own religious tradition. We have trouble enough with teachers injecting their religious views into secular subjects like Biology without giving them a venue for suggesting that the Bible is an accurate historical record. I have problems starting at the beginning with this:
Text
Each student may use the biblical translation of his/her choice as a text. In addition, the teacher should make available, through actual publications or handouts, translations that represent the various configurations of books found in the diverse religious traditions.

How will they define "translation"? And if students can choose their own version, the notes alone will confuse the discussion.

I have trouble with the general objectives, which begin with this:
The student will be able to ….
A. Describe how the Bible was transmitted, translated, and gradually recognized as authoritative by religious communities from antiquity to the present
and I can hear the conservative fundamentalist teacher now, explaining to a secular schoolroom how the Bible was transmitted. I'm just skeptical of the teachers' ability to keep their own religious views out of this.

And this:
E. Demonstrate knowledge of historical, geographical, social and cultural contexts of biblical literature in the ancient world
1. learn and discuss pivotal historical events;
How are they supposed to decide what events are actually "historical"?

Comments on some of the online articles I've seen illustrate some of the preconceptions that'll cause trouble, in my opinion. An article here, for example, has a comment from "God's Girl" saying, "Hooray for TN!!! WOW!! Anybody with kids in school needs to move to TN!! Now, we'll see how long it will take the athest to make them stop offering it. Sad, sad world we live in." and another comment from that article: "Totally awesome! May God bless TN for doing this, and help them to implement this program successfully. Lord, protect them from the attacks of the enemy, let them be victorious for you!" The article at The Tennessean has an eye-opening display of what people expect from these classes. I wonder if they're right. edwords in particular expresses my view: "This is Tennessee, folks. Telling religious public school teachers to teach the Bible "objectively" won't work. And who's going to police them?"

The Chattanoogan quotes Herron's reasons for pushing this:
A former minister, Herron was the architect of the 2008 legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly that required the Board of Education to create such guidelines and model curriculum.

“For years I heard Tennesseans complain that God had been taken out of our schools,” Senator Herron said. “These citizens realized that too many public school administrators and school boards understandably refused to offer Bible courses for fear of being sued.

“I wrote this legislation to enable the Bible to be taught in our schools because we had simply surrendered our children’s First Amendment Rights. In too many schools, the Bible effectively had become a banned book,” he added. “I am pleased that our bill passed by the General Assembly in 2008 has now been addressed by the Tennessee Board of Education to help our public schools teach Bible courses.”

NWTN Today quotes Herron as saying, "...the First Amendment does not require hostility to the Bible or faith."

I think his religious motivations are clear.

As you might guess, getting the Bible back into the public schools is an idea with support from many conservative Christians. BibleInSchools.net says, "The world is watching to see if we will be motivated to impact our culture, to deal with the moral crises in our society, and reclaim our families and children," and "The Bible was the foundation and blueprint for our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, our educational system, and our entire history until the last 20 to 30 years." BibleInTheSchools.com:
The United States of America is what it is today primarily because of the beliefs, character, wisdom, and foresight of our Founding Fathers. Our freedoms and our form of government have stood the test of time. What did these men hold in common that motivated them to pledge their honor, lives, and fortunes to the noble experiment whose fruits we now enjoy? Overwhelmingly, they believed the Bible. They valued its precepts. They lived by its principles. They quoted its language.
...
In a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on October 2, 2001, our own congressman, The Honorable Zach Wamp, extolled the influence of the Bible on the history and culture of America:

The Bible has had a monumental impact upon the development of our Western civilization, whose literature, art, and music are filled with images and inspiration that can be traced to its pages. More importantly, our laws, our sense of justice, our charity, and our moral standards all find their origin in the Bible. [emphasis added]

The Bible, which is a fundamental part of our national heritage, has had a more profound affect on the moral fabric of American society than any other document. It was the basis for our Founding Fathers' belief in the inalienable rights of the individual - rights which they found explicit in the Bible. This same sense of individual freedom and justice permeates the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The influence of both the Old and New Testaments has formed the basis of our laws, our national character, and our system of values. It was the biblical view of man - affirming the dignity and worth of the human person made in the image or our Creator - which inspired the principles upon which the United States is founded.


Through the support of Bible in the Schools, contributors in Hamilton County give the priceless gift of a biblical education annually to some 3,000 of the 20,000 students in our middle and high schools.

The Huffington Post is not so convinced it's a good idea.

I can't see how this is a good idea. Our students are having trouble mastering the 3 Rs. Why are we doing this?

2/21/2010: Kentucky heads down the same road:The American Civil Liberties Union said some of the comments made by lawmakers suggest that their true intent is to try endorse the establishment of a religion.

"It's not clearly unconstitutional on its face, but it will likely lead to a host of unconstitutional actions by school boards," said ACLU of Kentucky executive director Michael Aldridge. "It's obviously kind of a backdoor means to open the door to teach unconstitutional Bible courses in public schools."

Deathless Day


Today is Amartithi or Deathless Day, the anniversary of the death in 1969 of Meher Baba, the self-proclaimed Avatar of this Age. I remember hearing about his death at the time. His followers observe this day by keeping a 15-minute silence beginning at noon in memory of his death at 12:15 p.m. and by flying his flag:



Video of the celebrations can be viewed here, with live coverage available during actual events.

Meher Baba said:
"The colors in the flag signify man's rise from the grossest of impressions of lust and anger – symbolized by red – to the culmination in the highest state of spirituality and oneness with God – symbolized by sky blue."
and
"Red should be at the bottom of the flag and sky blue at the top. Arrangement of the other five colors is your decision."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I remember snow,

but it seems like what we get more of these days is ice.


At one point I heard predictions of up to 8 inches accumulation around here, but it didn't happen.



The Daughter
took
the pictures.

Pew Quiz on Public Knowledge

I had seen this mentioned but didn't realize I could take the quiz online. My results:
Here's Your Score: You correctly answered 11 out of the 12 possible questions, which means you did better on the quiz than 82% of the general public.
I missed the question about the Dow.

The web site reports:
The average man scored better than 52% of the public, while the average woman did better than 35%.

They also say
Across the 12 knowledge items tested, the biggest gap between Democrats and Republicans comes over awareness of the current level of the Dow.
which is interesting, since that's the one question I got wrong and I voted Democratic in the last election.

You can read the report here, but you should take the quiz first.

HT: Bob's Brainstorms

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dante 01

The Younger Son got Dante 01 for Christmas, and we watched it over pizza tonight. All of us were here, which is quite rare these days. Ice storms tend to keep folks at home when not much else will.

Dante 01 is a 2008 French science fiction film starring Lambert Wilson and Dominique Pinon and directed by Marc Caro (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children), who played with his beard a lot in the part of the "making of" special feature I saw. We watched the film in French with English subtitles. The Sons and I like this, though there was some discussion afterward about the religious elements and the meaning of the ending. The Daughter doesn't like foreign-language films in general and now places this film at the top of her list of least favorite movies. (That's only because she's never seen Our Time.) The Husband reacted to the violence, and not in a positive way. The movie reminds The Sons of the other films by this director, and parts of it reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

trailer:



It looks like you can watch it in French without subtitles here, but my poor French was never that good.

Variety calls it a "throbbing, disturbing tale" that "posits that in space, no one can hear your screaming symbolism." Cute. I like a bit of snark in a review. They describe it as a "wearing assault on the senses." Quiet Earth has a mixed review, finding the religious symbolism overbearing.

Waterworld

I wanted to stay up last night and watch something, but everybody except The Husband bailed. We chose Waterworld, since The Younger Son had already seen it and had no interest in going there again. Waterworld is a 1995 post-apocalyptic science fiction film starring Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Triplehorn, Tina Majorino, Michael Jeter (who has a Memphis connection), Jack Black, John Fleck (who has a Star Trek connection), Kim Coates, Jack Kehler (Star Trek connection) and Lee Arenberg (Star Trek appearances in 4 of the series). I had heard that this was dreadful, but I liked it fine. It won't be on top of the watch-it-again stack, but it was fun.

trailer:


the first 10 minutes:


Moria says it's a Mad Max clone, saying, "Waterworld is not a bad film by any means – it’s just that one can’t help but feel it should have been more than it is." 1000 Misspent Hours is pleasantly surprised:
Waterworld isn’t half bad. In fact, if you’re willing to set aside the expectation that budget should be commensurate with importance, and accept that this movie was never going to be anything more than Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome on the high seas, then Waterworld starts looking like a commendable attempt to put some of the fun back into “We Have Seen the Future— and It Sucks!” by rescuing it from both the played out desert settings of the previous decade and the increasingly dreary stranglehold of the cyberpunk school that was ascendant in the mid-90’s.
Roger Ebert describes it as "a decent futuristic action picture with some great sets, some intriguing ideas, and a few images that will stay with me." The New York Times has nothing good to say. Variety says, ""Waterworld" is a not-bad futuristic actioner with three or four astounding sequences, an unusual hero, a nifty villain and less mythic and romantic resonance than might be desired."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shooting Zombies


I'm not into guns. Except for having had one pointed at me at close range once and having eaten meat killed with one when I was a child, I've had no contact with them. I'm just not interested. That is, I was never interested before now. Now that I see I can use pictures of zombies for target practice I'm definitely more interested. There are photos at that link, which is where the photo at the top of the post came from.

King Kong (2005)

The Younger Son and I got home last night not long before The Husband and The Daughter and found The Elder Son watching the 2005 Peter Jackson King Kong re-make. We finished it with him. None of us had seen it before. It's a pretty straight re-make. The Elder Son said maybe the enterprise was an audition for an Alien directorship because of all the "swarm" scenes. It stars Naomi Watts in the Fay Wray role, Jack Black as film director and expedition head Carl Denham, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll, Thomas Kretschmann (Immortal) as the ship's captain and Andy Serkis as Kong.

trailer:


Roger Ebert likes the way the Beauty/Beast relationship is portrayed better than the original 1933 version and calls the film "magnificent entertainment." Moria gives it top marks and says, "the crowd I saw the film with did fidget through the first hour. But when the film does finally gain its feet, Jackson dazzles us." 1000 Misspent Hours isn't so impressed, giving it 2 1/2 stars and says,
The bad news is that the new King Kong still comes nowhere near matching the original as a total package, hamstrung as it is by a lethargic pace, a marked tendency toward gross visual overindulgence, and a pointlessly hypertrophic three-hour-plus running time.
and
The good stuff is great beyond my wildest, most blatantly unrealistic hopes. The bad stuff sucks beyond my most churlish, mean-spirited worries. On the balance, it manages to be a mediocre film even though there’s next to nothing mediocre about it.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a 1983 science fiction/comedy film starring Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson and Michael Ironside. I found it tedious.

Crackle has it online, but it can't be embedded. Youtube has it online in 9 parts, which should autoplay from here:


Moria gives it 2 stars and says, "At the very least, one can complement the film for the enthusiastic naiveté of its pulp spirit." The New York Times says, "it will probably remind you of at least a dozen other pirate, gladiator, horror and science-fiction stories, because its own plot is none too distinctive and is seriously overcrowded." The Spinning Image describes it as "Han Solo starring in Mad Max."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Asashoryu Wins Sumo Tournament


I've had some trouble with a post on this tournament, but Asashoryu has won the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. Taiwan News reports: "It was Asashoryu's 25th title overall and first since the fall tournament in 2009." The Japan Times says, "Asashoryu now stands alone in third place on the all-time yusho winners' list having picked up his 25th championship to date despite a final day flop against fellow Mongolian..."

Here's video of the final day:

Other videos from the tournament can be viewed at hpeterswald's youtube channel.

There's controversy, though, according to The Japan Times: Asashoryu "was reported to have punched an associate in a drunken tirade during a recent night out".

There are also calls for reform of the sport as a whole.

The photo at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

28 Days Later

28 Days Later is a 2002 zombie film The Elder Son has been suggesting to me for ages but which just never made it to the top of the stack. Well, I put it on top. It's directed by Danny Boyle and stars Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins).

Viddler.com has it online with foreign subtitles. [update: well, that's gone already. Try here:
]

Moria gives it 2 1/2 stars and faint praise. 1000 Misspent Hours gives it 4 stars and closes by saying, "So while it’s true that I expected more zombies, I’m entirely satisfied with what I got instead." Roger Ebert describes it as "a tough, smart, ingenious movie that leads its characters into situations where everything depends on their (and our) understanding of human nature." Variety says it "shows a rather arrogant disdain for its audience in between occasional flashes of flair." The New York Times opens with this:
When ''28 Days Later'' is not scaring you silly, it invites you to reflect seriously on the fragility of modern civilization, which has been swept away by a gruesome and highly contagious virus while the hero lies peacefully in a coma.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters


A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters is a 1989 novel by Julian Barnes. I picked it up ages ago because I liked Flaubert's Parrot so much but am just now getting around to reading it.

from the back of the book:
It's a hilariously revisionist account of Noah's ark, narrated by a passenger who doesn't appear in Genesis. It's a sneak preview of heaven. It encompasses the stories of a cruise ship hijacked by terrorists and of woodworms tried for blasphemy in sixteenth-century France. In short, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters is a grandly ambitious and inventive work of fiction, in the traditions of Joyce and Calvino, from the author of the widely acclaimed Flaubert's Parrot.


The New York Times calls it "a playful, witty and entertaining gathering of conjectures by a man to whom ideas are quite clearly crucial: a quintessential humanist, it would seem, of the pre-post-modernist species."

The photo at the top of the post is from LibraryThing.

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day


Today is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

Click here if you don't happen to have bubble wrap close to hand and you want to play. pop pop pop Bubble Wrap has its very own Facebook page.

The picture is from Wikipedia.

Authority Song

Authority Song is a song from the 1983 Uh-Huh album by John Cougar Mellencamp:



I wasn't paying as much attention to popular music by the mid-80's and never paid much attention to this one.

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rocketship X-M

Rocketship X-M is a 1950 science fiction film starring Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, Noah Beery, Jr., John Emery, Hugh O'Brian and Morris Ankrum. The score is composed by Ferde Grofe and includes a theremin. The very first scene has the leading man referring to the token woman on the crew as an example of "the weaker sex," and interactions throughout are based on her emotions and choice of scientific career over having children.

You can watch it online compliments of Internet Archive:


DVDTalk compares it favorably to Destination Moon, saying, "...X-M is Moon's equal in entertainment value: Far superior as a drama and just as interesting when discussing the Science Fiction boom the two of them inaugurated" and points out that it's the first of a "pacifist" strain in science fiction films that tended to be more conservative in the 50's. 1000 Misspent Hours gives it 2 stars and says,
virtually everything good that happens in Rocketship X-M happens in the last fifteen or twenty minutes; despite the apparent promise of a fast pace made by the opening scene, the first hour of the movie is almost unendurably boring.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yoga Day


Today is Yoga Day, a made-up occasion that, as near as I can tell, was begun by Yoga Alliance to get us to take yoga classes. I wish yoga classes were cheaper and closer, but I don't mind at all doing the best I can with DVDs or my favorite book of exercises. Well, I say I don't mind, but I've fallen off the exercise bandwagon.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Delicatessen

Delicatessen is a 1991 French post-apocalyptic black comedy directed by Marc Caro (City of Lost Children) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, City of Lost Children). It stars Dominique Pinon. We watched it in French with English subtitles. The Younger Son had seen it before, liked it and suggested it tonight. I thought it was funny. The Husband didn't care for it at all and said it reminded him of Brazil, which he also did not like. [update: The Husband denies not liking the movie and says that he is, in fact, completely neutral. ouch. not much of a movie from his perspective, if "eh" is the only response it elicits.] The Daughter liked it but wasn't feeling well and so wasn't at her critical best.

trailer:


Moria opens with this: "When this French film came out it took the whole world away with its sheer freshness and vitality" and says it "is a film that sparkles with freshness and originality." Variety describes it as "Beautifully textured, cleverly scripted and eerily shot... a zany little film that's a startling and clever debut..." The New York Times says it
does not aspire to much more than simply flinging these characters together and intercutting their exploits in a quick, stylish fashion. The results can be weirdly hilarious.... They can also be frenetic and pointless, which is the case more and more frequently as the film spins out of control.
Slant Magazine says,
Delicatessen, in addition to suffering from the same preening preciousness that made Amelie ultimately forgettable, also overdoses on its cartoonishly oppressive surroundings—a rapist mailman, food-snatching neighbors—all too repetitive of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and far less meaningful.

3/21/2012: filmsquish has a positive review, calling it "fun but luckily not entirely predictable" and "a visual spectacle".

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This struck a chord with me. I do have too much stuff, and that fact gets driven home more after the Christmas season than at any other time of year. Now is the time the Christmas decorations are packed away in way too many boxes waiting to go back up into the attic. That's a task I cannot do alone -I can't even get them upstairs on my own, much less up the pull-down stairs into the attic. I've got tree decorations dating back to elementary school and brownie scout craft projects that bring back fond memories, but do I need so much of it all? I've been getting rid of some every year and not buying new, but there is still too much. And that's just for Christmas! It's not that I can't purge. I can and have: we got rid of more stuff than many people own when we moved into this place. How, then, is it possible I still have so much?



"It wasn't always like this. The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago. Ask your grandma. In her day stewardship, resourcefulness and thrift were valued."

"Each of us in the United States makes 4.5 pounds of garbage a day. That's twice what we each made 30 years ago."

Glenn Beck calls it "anti-capitalist". The New York Times calls it "a cheerful but brutal assessment of how much Americans waste". The video doesn't argue against capitalism at all. It argues for a change in method from a system that's wasteful and hazardous to one that's more sustainable.

The Story of Stuff Project has a web site, a blog and a Facebook page.

HT: re-nest

Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five is a 1972 science fiction film based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel by the same name. I didn't see the film until several years after it was released, and I read the book first. I liked the book better, but then I almost always do. "So it goes." George Roy Hill is the director, and the music is by Glenn Gould.

It's online here:
hmmm, I can't get this embed code to work, but the film is online at the link above.


Moria gives it 2 1/2 stars and says,
it is only when one has read the book that the film’s clumsiness becomes more apparent. It’s greatest crime is in the trivialization of all the book’s issues – be they Kurt Vonnegut’s dark irony, the very real tragedy of the bombing of Dresden, or the Tralfamadorian secret of happy life.

The New York Times says it
is a wild, noisy, sometimes very funny film that eventually becomes as unstuck in its own exuberance as its hero, Billy Pilgrim, the Illium, N. Y., optometrist, is unstuck in time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Angry Red Planet

The Angry Red Planet is a 1959 science fiction film directed by Ib Melchior. It stars Gerald Mohr, Jack Kruschen (first to die in this as well as in War of the Worlds) and Les Tremayne. The story is told mostly in flashback.

The Cinemated Man offers this online (the movie starts at about 2:50):


It has foreign subtitles, but the film itself is in English.

Moria is not a fan. 1000 Misspent Hours, on the other hand, calls it an "under-appreciated little gem" and says, "I think it’s one of the few films that can compare with Forbidden Planet as an example of everything that was good about science fiction movies in the 1950’s." DVDTalk says it's only "fair" but likes the Cinemagic effects: "The idea with Cinemagic was to give the Mars sequences a credibly alien look, and Savant thinks it succeeds." The New York Times kills it in a mercifully quick review.

Mutant Chronicles

The Younger Son had a long day yesterday and was in the mood to watch something mindless during supper. Since the 2 of us were the only ones home, he picked Mutant Chronicles, which he was fairly sure would hold no interest for The Husband and The Daughter. This 2009 film stars Ron Perlman and Sean Pertwee (the real Hugh). The Younger Son had seen this before. It's got a simple, linear plot, simple clear-cut characters, and lots of action and gore.

trailer:


The New York Times has a negative review that opens with this: "Science-fiction completists and connoisseurs of cliché may find some diversion in “Mutant Chronicles,” a shamelessly derivative film...". The Village Voice closes by saying, "Our heroes are offed one by one, some shit definitely gets fucked up, and I dearly hope John Malkovich got paid handsomely for his two days of embarrassment on-set." The Guardian hopes there won't be another: "The most disturbing thing of all this the second word of the title. Chronicles. Plural. Is there more of this in the pipeline?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eyes Without a Face


Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 horror film directed by Georges Franjou. Maurice Jarre gets credit for the music. This is another film well worth having so we can watch it next October. It's going on my to-buy list.

Watch it online at The Auteurs with a quick, easy and free registration. Youtube has it available in parts here. part 1:


FilmReference.com calls it "a cruel but tender film". The New York Times says, "Like other horror film classics, "Eyes Without a Face" succeeds by sustaining an atmosphere of sinister obsession." Images Journal opens by saying, "Rarely has a movie been simultaneously as beautiful and horrifying as Eyes Without a Face." Senses of Cinema closes with this: "It is certain that, to this day, there is much to be left to be understood about this powerful and mysterious film." Slant Magazine says,
The kind of horror film that's commonly referred to as "poetic," but which could just as easily be described as "slow," Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans visage) is a landmark genre film...

The picture at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

5/30/2010: Horror Squad wants you to watch it for their movie club, and here's the discussion.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension came out in 1984, and The Husband swears I saw it back in the '80s. I have no recollection of it at all. Even now, having watched it (again?), it's like I've never seen it before. Now, having watched it (again?), it doesn't surprise me that it didn't stick with me through the years. Peter Weller (Robocop, ST: Enterprise) stars with John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Robert Ito (Star Trek connection), Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Clancy Brown (Kurgan in Highlander), Vincent Schiavelli (Star Trek connection) and Dan Hedaya. We watched the theatrical release. It had plenty of special features, including 14! deleted scenes, but we skipped them.

trailer:


The New York Times likes it, closing by calling it "pure, nutty fun." Time Magazine says it's "the very oddest good movie in many a full moon." The Variety review is here. 1000 Misspent Hours says it eventually achieved status as a cult film but that
its initial release was such a cataclysmic failure that it drove the Sherwood production company out of business, instantly scuttling the sequel proudly forecast in the closing credits and creating a thicket of ownership quandaries dense enough to send the VHS tape swiftly out of print and to delay the DVD release for years.

Moria opens with this:
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension is an object lesson in how to create an instant cult film. Buckaroo Banzai fulfills all the requirements of a cult film – it is exceedingly eccentric, it was a commercial failure at the box-office, it instantly received a fan clique – all without it ever being a particularly good film.

2/18/2010: Great Old Movies calls it "a tedious and woeful, career-killing failure virtually devoid of entertainment value" and "virtually unwatchable".

It's like Endor out there.

According to the Star Wars Weather Forecast, when I put in my city's name it says this:
Hmmm. 52 degrees F, Partly Cloudy?

It's like Endor out there. Temperate, but grey and cloudy.

HT: SciFi Scanner

At the Hop

At the Hop (1957) by Danny and the Juniors:



The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A new Gormenghast novel

I interrupt this Star Trek Movie Marathon (well, it's not really a marathon, but still) to share the news from The Telegraph (via SFSignal) that there's a brand new Gormanghast novel:
Titus Awakes was written by Maeve Gilmore shortly after her husband's death from Parkinson's Disease in 1968. She decided to write the book, which runs to 210 pages, after he left her a page and a half of fragmented notes about how he might have continued the story.
Their son found it in the attic.

I need to get the first 3 books off the shelf and re-read them. But I have 3 stacks of tbr books next to my bed. Maybe I need to quit watching so many movies and go back to reading more.

Star Trek Generations

Yeah, well, I'm not sure I can say much good about a film that throws away Captain Kirk on such a death as this. Star Trek Generations brings back James Doohan and Walter Koenig for bit parts at the beginning and Captain Kirk, recently retired. The ST:TNG crew is what we see most of in this installment. The computer is voiced by Majel Barrett. Malcolm MacDowell is the villain, and Guinan is introduced and appears in both time frames. I never did like the next generation characters as much. I don't like Picard's early teary angst-y breakdown with Troi soon after the intro of TNG crew, Data's difficulty dealing with emotional baggage, Picard's perpetual need for someone else to come to his aid... I like this movie least of all, and I don't think it's just because they kill off Kirk and give us Picard instead.

trailer:


Moria gives it 2 stars but likes Shatner:
The one person who makes the best of things is that renowned limelight grabber William Shatner. Star Trek: Generations’s big drawcard was the little kept secret of William Shatner’s guest appearance and Captain Kirk’s death. And William Shatner rises to the occasion, mugging and smirking his way through a grand old airing of the Captain Kirk role, in fact out-acting all others in the show, including the much more subdued Patrick Stewart.
The New York Times says that though Stewart is a better actor than Shatner, "he and the "Next Generation" cast don't have quite as much personality as the original show's old standbys." Variety's review is here. Roger Ebert gives it 2 stars, but he gets part of the plot wrong:
The movie opens during a maiden run for the Enterprise B; plans call for it to take a little dash around the solar system with some reporters on board. But then a call for help is received, and there's polite jockeying for position between the newly appointed Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the just-retired Capt. Kirk (William Shatner).
though the jockeying with Shatner takes place over 70 years before Picard commands the Enterprise and the captain in question is John Harriman. Picard first meets Shatner in the Nexus.

The Undiscovered Country

The Undiscovered Country, the last real Star Trek movie, is 6th in the series. It brings back the Original Series cast one last time. Christopher Plummer plays Shakespeare-quoting Klingon villain Chang. Iman is also a villain. Brock Peters, who plays Benjamin Sisko's father in ST:Deep Space Nine, is Admiral Cartwright. Rene Auberjonois, Odo in Deep Space Nine, is Colonel West here. Mark Lenard comes back, Janice Rand is a Commander on Captain Sulu's ship and we're introduced to Worf's grandfather, played by Michael Dorn. David Warner, who is a Terran in the previous ST movie, plays a Klingon whose goal is to forge a peace with the Federation that will save his people. We like him in the George C. Scott Christmas Carol. He is also in a ST:TNG episode as one of the many who have held Picard captive through the years, and is in Grail, a Babylon 5 episode.

trailer:


Moria likes this one. Variety says it "delivers enough of what Trek auds hunger for to justify the trek to the local multiplex." The New York Times has good things to say, including this:
In this kind of anything-goes atmosphere, creative ferment is whatever one makes of it, and the "Star Trek VI" principals have done their best to make it fun. That's no small achievement after 25 years.

The Final Frontier

The Final Frontier is the 5th in the series and the only one to be directed by William Shatner. We call it "What Does God Need with a Space Ship?" Critics don't generally like this one, but we've always gotten a kick out of it. The Original Series cast comes back. Spock gets a half brother. David Warner plays the Federation representative to Nimbus 3. We like him in the George C. Scott Christmas Carol. He is also in a ST:TNG episode as one of the many who have held Picard captive through the years, and he comes back as yet another character in the next Star Trek film. He is in Grail, a Babylon 5 episode.

trailer:


Moria gives it 1 lousy star and calls it the worst of the lot. The New York Times has a negative review but says a good word about Shatner's direction:
Scene for scene, Mr. Shatner's direction is smooth and sharply focused. He has a sure feel for keeping ''Star Trek'' just this side of camp, and for the slightly tacky, artificial look that lets us know this is all a game. But he pays dearly for abandoning the Enterprise's mission: ''to boldly go where no man has gone before.''

The Voyage Home

The Voyage Home -or Save the Whales, as we call it around here- is the 4th in the Star Trek film series. There are lots of reasons I don't much care for this one, but it's one of The Daughter's favorites. I don't like time travel stories and don't usually like the ST stories that go back in time. I make jokes about the number of writers involved ("too many cooks"?). One of my favorite scenes is the one in the hospital where McCoy interacts with patients and doctors. The Original Series cast is here. Mark Lenard is Sarek and Jane Wyatt is Spock's mother. Robin Curtis makes an early appearance as Saavik. Leonard Rosenman does the music.

trailer:


The New York Times and Variety like it. Moria does not. Roger Ebert says,
This is easily the most absurd of the "Star Trek" stories - and yet, oddly enough, it is also the best, the funniest and the most enjoyable in simple human terms. I'm relieved that nothing like restraint or common sense stood in their way.

The Search for Spock

The Search for Spock is the 3rd Star Trek film in the ongoing series, and the last we'll watch tonight. What can I say. I'm not getting any younger. Don't ask me what the kids' excuse is. This is the last one to come out before I had kids and the last one I saw in a theater for years. It stars the Original Series cast, is directed by Leonard Nimoy and has music by James Horner. Dame Judith Anderson plays a Vulcan high priestess. She was 87 at the time. They didn't bring Kirstie Alley back as Saavik. Mark Lenard is Sarek. Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette play Klingons. Grace Lee Whitney has a cameo.

trailer:


The New York Times has a positive review. Moria doesn't, calling it "a disappointment". Roger Ebert calls it "good but not great" and "a sort of compromise between the first two." Time Magazine calls it "perhaps the first space opera to deserve that term in its grandest sense." Variety says it's "an emotionally satisfying science fiction adventure."

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Wrath of Khan

Second of the Star Trek movies, the entire rest of the family likes The Wrath of Khan (1982) better than the first film. I have that special sentimental attachment to the first one and won't join them in their preference, but this movie is a good one. It is The Younger Son's favorite Star Trek film. The Original Series cast stars. Ricardo Montalban reprises his role as Khan, and a fine villain he makes. This was Kirstie Alley's first film. Paul Winfield also plays a character in one of the Next Generation tv episodes. James Horner did the music.

trailer:


Moria gives it 4 stars and says it " is a fan favourite because it spends more time on the characters than any of the other films." Roger Ebert says,
Although I liked the special effects in the first movie, they were probably not the point; fans of the TV series wanted to see their favorite characters again, and TREK II understood that desire and acted on it.
The New York Times calls it "a sequel that's worth its salt. ... It's everything the first one should have been and wasn't." Variety calls it "a very satisfying space adventure, closer in spirit and format to the popular TV series than to its big-budget predecessor." Time Magazine closes its review with this:
One leaves the film neither hugely thrilled nor greatly awed, but with a pleasant sense of having caught up with old friends and found them to be just fine, pretty much the way one hoped they would turn out in later life.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

I still remember how it felt to see Star Trek on the big screen for the first time. We had all waited so long, and to see the Enterprise up there was wonderful. It's still my favorite of the movies, even though The Husband points out that all they did was remake Nomad and The Kids roll their eyes at the interminable approach of the shuttle craft ("Can't we just fast forward through the parts where nothing happens"? "But then there'd be nothing to watch." Ha, ha). For me, it was love from the beginning, and I'd still rather see Kirk as captain with the rest of the real crew than see any of the other weak substitutes they've offered through the years. I'm still hopelessly in love with The Original Series. Sigh. I just can't help myself. That doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor when somebody suggests that V'ger should be the poster child for a True Love Waits campaign or when one of them makes snarky comments about the Kirk/Spock relationship. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is directed by Robert Wise, produced by Gene Roddenberry, and stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei. The new characters include Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta. Majel Barret, Grace Lee Whitney and Mark Lenard have small roles. Jerry Goldsmith composed the music.

trailer:


Moria has a mixed review, saying, "while it isn’t great Star Trek, Star Trek – The Motion Picture isn’t too bad a science-fiction film at all." Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and says, "Two things occurred to me as I watched "Star Trek": The producers have succeeded at great expense in creating a toy for the eyes. This movie is fun to watch." Variety likes it. The New York Times says it's mostly about special effects and letting the fans have the characters back. Time Magazine doesn't like it.

Lucite Purses


What a fun exhibit! The Mother/Grandmother, The Daughter and I spent the morning at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens seeing Carry Me! Lucite Handbags from the Caryn Scheidt Collection. There are some photos at that link and more at Arts Memphis. The Commercial Appeal review has more pictures, as does this site. The Mother/Grandmother remembers handbags like this from the '50's but never had one herself. Many of them predate me completely. We all love them. Lots of the purses have rhinestones, and those are not my favorites. We like the "confetti" ones best and the "Florida Collection" ones least.

The Mother/Grandmother wasn't up for extensive garden viewing today -and it's just as well, since they're in the middle of planting- but we did see that they still have snow on the ground and a frozen fountain. If it's really "waiting for more snow" as The Mother/Grandmother says, I'm afraid it's waiting in vain.

We enjoy reminiscing about past exhibitions. It brings back memories from years ago. The Mother/Grandmother still lights up when she talks about the Dale Chihuly exhibit, and I loved when they showed the Van Gogh paintings.

Just a note: The last time The Younger Son went to the Dixon -he passed on today's excursion- he got jumped on by an employee for getting out his phone to check the time. Even after he explained what he was doing, the employee insisted he had to put the phone away. I found it interesting, then, that 2 women in the room with us today each spent quite some time talking on their cell phones, and the employees looked passively on. It's all well and good for the Dixon to say they want to involve younger people and be accessible to young adults, but -as The Mother/Grandmother always says- "Actions speak louder than words." He did not get the feeling his presence was anything of value to the museum the day he went. He says it's not his kind of young adult they want, and he's probably right. The employees are kinda hit-or-miss in the cranky department, though, so maybe he just a cranky one that day.

Oh, and I agree with The Daughter that the gift shop is "awesome".

The photo above comes from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nothing

We watched Nothing last night. The Elder Son had put it in our stack for consideration, so we opted to try it. Reviews were mixed. While I enjoyed it, The Husband definitely did not. He was honestly surprised that I found something in it to like, but I thought it was fascinating.

This 2003 film is directed by Vincenzo Natali and stars David Hewlett and Andrew Miller.

trailer:


The trailer, except for the last line, is misleading. Is the turtle even in that trailer? This is not a tense thriller, though I did find the ending disturbing. There are times when "make the world go away" is a tempting sentiment.

Moria gives it 4 stars and calls it "a story that is constantly fascinating and conceptually challenging."

Trunk Music

Trunk Music is the 5th book in the Detective Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. I've read other in the series, and I like them fine. I pick them up as I come across them, and a friend has given me 2 that are in my tbr stack right now.

from the back of the book:
When B-grade L.A. movie producer Tony Aliso is found stuffed into the trunk of his Rolls Royce, all signs point to "trunk music" --a mob hit. Detective Harry Bosch, just back from an "involuntary stress leave," is not so sure. And when he finds the money trail, he follows it...all the way to Vegas.

Seems this Tony had his share of enemies, and in no time so does Harry: Vegas thugs, LAPD's organized crime unit, a smarmy internal affairs investigator and, of course, Tony's killers. Everyone wants a piece of Harry. And somehow, they've found just the way to get it. . .

Turns out that just before his death, Tony was seen at a Vegas poker table with one Eleanor Wish?ex-FBI agent, ex-convict . . . and ex-love of Harry's life. Now it's time for Harry to keep his cards close to the table--and his enemies even closer before it's time to face the "TRUNK MUSIC"When B-grade L.A. movie producer Tony Aliso is found stuffed into the trunk of his Rolls Royce, all signs point to "trunk music" --a mob hit. Detective Harry Bosch, just back from an "involuntary stress leave," is not so sure. And when he finds the money trail, he follows it...all the way to Vegas.

Seems this Tony had his share of enemies, and in no time, so does Harry: Vegas thugs, LAPD's organized crime unit, a smarmy internal affairs investigator and, of course, Tony's killers. Everyone wants a piece of Harry. And somehow, they've found just the way to get it. . .

Turns out that just before his death, Tony was seen at a Vegas poker table with one Eleanor Wish?ex-FBI agent, ex-convict . . . and ex-love of Harry's life. Now it's time for Harry to keep his cards close to the table--and his enemies even closer before it's time to face the "TRUNK MUSIC"


Other Michael Connelly books I've read:
The Poet
Blood Work
City of Bones (a Harry Bosch book)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Beware of Science Fiction!

That's what David Cloud of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service says. He lists some quotes from some well-known science fiction authors and says:
Science fiction is intimately associated with Darwinian evolution. Sagan and Asimov, for example, were prominent evolutionary scientists. Sci-fi arose in the late 19th and early 20th century as a product of an evolutionary worldview that denies the Almighty Creator. In fact, evolution IS the pre-eminent science fiction. Beware!

LOL!

This is what he has to say about Heinlein:
Consider ROBERT HEINLEIN, called “the dean of science fiction writers.” He rejected the Bible and promoted “free sex.” His book “Stranger in a Strange Land” is considered “the unofficial bible of the hippie movement.” Heinlein was a nudist and practiced “polyamory.” He promoted agnosticism in his sci-fi books.


Here are some of his statements on other subjects: He calls Alcoholics Anonymous a "counterfeit religion". He has strong beliefs about the United Nations:
The United Nations is a hotbed of anti-Christian, New Age mysticism. With its one-world ambitions, humanistic philosophy, anti-Semitism, and syncretistic ambitions, it is an institution that is unwittingly making preparations for the coming of the Antichrist. It is an end-time Tower of Babel....Conservative Americans have long warned about the United Nations.
This is his view of environmentalism:
Man has a divine right to subdue the earth and use its resources, to cut its trees and mine its ore and pump its oil. This does not mean he has the right to destroy the earth and make it into a filthy cesspool; no one in his right mind is in support of polluting the air and water and such things. But God has given man the right to use the earth’s resources in a responsible manner. The environmentalist movement is not based on proven science; it is not merely the push for reasonable conservation; it is a blind religious faith. Its most zealous proponents are gullible tools in the hands of one-worlders who intend to use the environmentalist cause to increase their authority at a local, national, and global level. When Marxist globalists jump on the environmentalist bandwagon, you have to know that something other than love for a clean earth is driving the agenda.

Maybe he should write science fiction. Or, more likely, fantasy.

HT: SFGospel

Dark City

Dark City is a science fiction film I don't remember from its 1998 release, but I came across it at Spin Street and picked it up to watch this month. The Younger Son chose it last night late, and He and I and The Daughter watched the theatrical release. All 3 of us liked it. We were reminded of The City of Lost Children, which we also liked. Alex Proyas directs. Rufus Sewell is the hero. It also stars William Hurt, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly as the love interest, Richard O'Brien, Ian Richardson and Bruce Spence.

Oh, and it has Sway in it, but not by Dean Martin...

trailer:


Moria gives it their highest rating. The New York Times doesn't seem to have seen the same film we did, calling it "trippy". Variety has a mostly positive review. Roger Ebert loves this film, placing it on his Great Movies list and doing one of the commentary tracks on our DVD. His review opens with this:
``Dark City'' by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like ``Metropolis'' and ``2001: A Space Odyssey.'' If it is true, as the German director Werner Herzog believes, that we live in an age starved of new images, then ``Dark City'' is a film to nourish us. Not a story so much as an experience, it is a triumph of art direction, set design, cinematography, special effects--and imagination.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kin-dza-dza

Kin-dza-dza is 1986 Russian dystopic science fiction parody film. It's not available here commercially and not available with English subtitles anywhere except where fans have added them. The film embedded below has English subtitles that have been inserted by the googlevideo user who uploaded the film.

Available at googlevideo in 2 parts. part 1:


part 2:


I couldn't find reviews of this. Several mentions, but no reviews.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Highlander

The Younger Son narrowed down the choices to 3, and I picked Highlander mainly because of all the sword-fighting. It's a 1986 fantasy film with Sean Connery as the real main draw. We have the Director's cut. Our DVD had some sound problems, going from loud explosions to inaudible dialog. That wasn't helped by Christopher Lambert's attempt at a Scottish accent, which we had difficulty interpreting at some points. At the sound of Queen playing over the opening credits both sons burst out laughing.

trailer:


Moria says it "proved a captivating and original public success" and "is a film made with a refreshing imagination." The New York Times says,
For his brief time on screen, Mr. Connery brings dash and style to the overblown proceedings, but then he loses his head and we're back with much ado about less than nothing.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Dark River

I don't remember anything about the first book in this trilogy, but I don't feel like I missed anything since the back story is well-explained at the beginning of this second book. The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks is not, though, a stand-alone novel, as it ends with a cliff-hanger. The author writes under a pen name and actively avoids publicity. There were several things I did not like:
  • some parts felt preachy -like he had a point to make here
  • the characters talked to themselves to fill the reader in
  • I thought the writing was episodic and choppy.
from the book jacket:
In The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks introduced readers to a dangerous world inspired by the modern technology that monitors our lives. Under constant surveillance of the ‘Vast Machine,’ a sophisticated computer network run by a ruthless group, society is mostly unaware of its own imprisonment. Gabriel and Michael Corrigan, brothers who were raised “off the grid,” have recently learned they are Travelers like their long-lost father— part of a centuries-old line of prophets able to journey to different realms of consciousness and enlighten the world to resist being controlled. But power affects the brothers differently. As The Traveler ends, Gabriel hesitates under the weight of responsibility. Michael seizes the opportunity—and joins the enemy.

THE DARK RIVER opens in New York City with a stunning piece of news. Gabriel’s father, who has been missing for nearly twenty years, may still be alive and trapped somewhere in Europe. Gabriel and his Harlequin protector, Maya, immediately mobilize to escape New York and find the long-lost Traveler. Simultaneously, Michael orders the Brethren—the ruthless group that has been hunting Gabriel—into a full-scale search. Gabriel yearns to find his father to protect him; Michael aims to destroy the man whose existence threatens his newfound power. The race moves from the underground tunnels of New York and London to ruins hidden beneath Rome and Berlin, to a remote region of Africa that is rumored to harbor one of history’s greatest treasures. And as the story moves toward its chilling conclusion, Maya must decide if she will trade everything to rescue Gabriel.

A mesmerizing return to the places and people so richly portrayed in The Traveler, THE DARK RIVER is propelled by edge-of-the-seat suspense and haunted by a vision of a world where both hope and freedom are about to disappear.

January Magazine calls it "uneven," says,
The Dark River can’t escape a certain episodic sameness, the cuts from scene to scene contrived rather than coming as part of the story’s flow...
sometimes reads like the novelization of a film, descriptions written in a shorthand that stands in for vivid, living prose....
much of it is derivative, not subversive, a mishmash of competing ideas and philosophies
and raises an eyebrow at the author's anonymity: "the author’s backstory rings with a certain contrived inauthenticity... The marketing ploy has worked well enough that the topic is popular on certain Web discussion boards." The New York Times doesn't like it nearly as much as the first in the series: "“The Dark River” deals in cherry-picked religious constructs and slightly enhanced versions of existing wonky phenomena." SFFWorld likes it. SFSignal gives it a good review, praising the prose style, of all things.