This has to be the coolest movie based on a cancelled Sci-Fi TV show I've ever seen. Set in a post-Earth future, Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Firefly Class Starship Serenity leads a motley crew of adventurers thru 119 minutes of action and drama. When the totalitarian Government of the future realizes that one of it's most promising research subjects has escaped with secrets that could shake the power structure of the Galaxy to its very core, they will stop at nothing to eliminate her. They send an agent - a man unencumbered by fear, pity, or remorse (brilliantly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) to stop her. Joss Whedon of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer directed - fans of his signature mixture of sci-fi action and witty dialogue will not be disappointed.
July 2006 Archives
Why We Fight
I won't pretend that this was the most objective film I've ever seen, but then again it is hard to imagine anyone who has actually gone to the trouble of researching and producing a 98 minute documentary about the military industrial complex finding much good to say about it. As long as there are people who make money by selling weapons, there will always be pressure to make war. When the World's most powerful nation decides to enter into a preemptive war against a much weaker foe in the name of self-defense, and against the will of huge segments of its own population, it's pretty safe to say that the military industrial complex holds far too much sway over the direction of that nation. I'd recommend this film to anyone who wants to hear an alternative viewpoint to the corporate media's take on the reasons why we go to war.
The Red Shoes
About a year ago, I caught the beginning of this movie on TV. It was late, and even though I really was enjoying it, I could not stay awake past the first half hour. However, I promised myself I had to see it. I was reminded of this film back in January when I read that the lead character, the gorgeous Moira Shearer, had died. I immediately checked out the DVD, and wished I had done so sooner. This movie is visually stunning. The costumes and sets are drenched with color, probably to compete with Ms. Shearer's blazing red hair. The story, though a familiar one, is still entertaining, as the characters are well-developed. The ballet itself is a story within a story, which mirrors the main plot of the movie. The music is also wonderful - especially during the "Red Shoes Ballet" segment. Even if you're not a big ballet fan, this movie is enjoyable in its own right.
I haven't been able to put down the newest release from Tool since I got it. The opening track, "Vicarious" has an odd time signature - 10 beats per measure instead of the expected 8. The resulting feeling is one of incompleteness, as every measure seems to end with the beginning of another, unfinished one. I can't think of a cooler way to start out your album - and it just gets better from there. There's also a really neat pair of stereoscopic goggles built right in to the CD case, which you can use to view the outstanding original artwork included in this release.
Under the Covers Vol. 1,
by Sid n Susie
A great collection of covers of late 60's pop songs by Matthew Sweet and former Bangle Susanna Hoffs. I admit, I was not a huge Bangles fan, as I considered myself more of a Go-Go's type. But how could you not love a CD that includes a cover of a Left Banke song? And they didn't pick the obvious "Walk Away Renee," though after hearing this CD, I'd love to hear their take on it. Both Sweet and Hoffs, performing as Sid and Susie, have perfect voices for this type of music. They cover such a wide range of what could be filed under "pop", from The Who's "The Kids Are Alright" (my favorite Who song,) to Love's masterpiece "Alone Again Or." This CD is simply brilliant. I hope the fact that they called it Volume 1 means that there really will be another one.
by Boards of Canada
I don't stay up late much anymore but, when I do, I am usually listening to this CD. It's electronic music... but with a heart.In place of the usual digital coldness and frantic beats that plague most electronic music, the Boards of Canada gives us more ambiance with an obsessive attention to detail. Listen closely and you'll hear all sorts of sounds and instruments bubbling just under the mix. At times it sounds like transmissions from a distant planet, coming through on a staticky radio station. At other times the productions evoke the image of a reel-to-reel machine's 1/4 inch magnetic tape steadily disintegrating as it plays for the last time...but in a good way. And finally, there are moments of pure transcendence and joy. Just listen to the album's closer "farewell Fire" to see what I mean. Even if I can't make it until dawn, the beauty of that songs distant synthesizer melody makes me feel like I made it anyway.
Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation,
by Robin Hahnel
Warning - Shameless Self-Plug: Ever feel like reading a book that's so obscure that it's probably NOT on the shelf of your local library? Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation by Robin Hahnel is just such a book. In it, economist Robin Hahnel takes on the unenviable task of imagining how a possible future post-capitalist society might organize itself, and laying out some guidelines for moving from the economics of competition and greed to the economics of equitable cooperation. I was able to check this book from Greenwich Library after the Interlibrary Loan Department borrowed it from an Academic Library in Massachusetts for me. It only cost me 50 cents for their trouble - what a bargain!
-Rick (Who is in charge of ILLs.)
Writings and Drawings,
by James Thurber
Thurber is one a the few writers who can make me laugh out loud frequently. He does this even while expressing the anxieties and sadness of the human condition; his worldview is completely modern and satisfyingly oldfashioned, all at the same time. Rejoice in the eccentric relatives (his grandmother, who lived in fear that electricity was leaking out of empty sockets), fictional characters (of course this anthology includes Walter Mitty, daydreamer extraordinary), fairy tales and parables (note the lemming who wonders why humans don't all rush into the sea), and animal stories, not to mention the wonderful drawings ("That's my first wife up there, and this is the present Mrs. Harris"). If you know Thurber, he's always worth revisiting; if you don't, you're in for a treat.
A New Republic: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century,
by John Lukacs
Mr. Lukacs offers a descriptive summary of this period, then an analysis. Chapter headings illustrate his approach, e.g. "The Leap Across the Sea: The Development of an American Nation", "The Bourgeois Interlude: The Half Century When American Civilization Was Urban and Urbane"; "The Elective Monarchy: The Degeneration of Popular Democracy to a Publicity Contest". He is deeply disturbed by what he foresees as the possibly disastrous effect of the explosion of bureaucratization everywhere, of the inflation both of money (built-in now) and of ideas, and the erosion of the goal of becoming an "American". A serious, carefully constructetd, deeply intelligent examination of the United States past and present.
by Raymond Arroyo
Mother Angelica as a drum majorette? Yes, indeed, and a photo to prove it. A deprived childhood in a dysfunctional family where she became the psychological support of her mother, proved to be excellent training for this feisty nun in her struggles to create a Catholic TV network, radio network, new religious orders, and take the network worldwide. Despite strong opposition from the American Catholic hierarchy, the projects were enormously successful.A fascinating and inspiring read.
Lawrence of Arabia: The Life the Legend,
by Malcolm Brown
Published in association with the Imperial War Museum in London, this is a gorgeously assembled book. Filled with photographs of T. E. Lawrence, paintings of various people and Middle Eastern locales and narrative about Lawrence's life, it gives the reader a wonderful introduction to the life of this somewhat mythic man. His early life is briefly discussed and the beginning of his association with the Middle Eastern culture and society show how he became so enamored with the Arab cause during World War I. Lawrence became a leader of Arab troops fighting against the Ottomans during the War. Not only did this help the Allies, but also was a determined attempt by the Arabs to gather Western support for independence once the war was over. The terrific bonus of the book are the photographs which show many Arab leaders, life in the desert during the war campaigns as well as scenes from Lawrence's life. Highly recommended.
Chasing the Sea: Being a Narrative of a Journey Through Uzbekistan,
Including Descriptions of Life Therein, Culminating With an Arrival at the Aral
Sea, the World's Worst Man-Made Ecological Catastrophe in One Volume,
by Tom Bissell
This title says it all and this book becomes a wonderfully entertaining and informative reading experience. Prior to making the trip which became the basis of this book, Bissell had served in Uzbekistan as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. That experience was, as the reader learns, not a positive experience for Bissell. However, it did give him knowledge of the country and becomes a very interesting part of the book. As Bissell travels across Uzbekistan, he sprinkles this narrative with the history of Uzbekistan as well as detailing many facets of Uzbek culture. Bissell's writing style is totally engaging, whether he is writing about Stalin's affect on the country, its history or society. When he finally reaches the Aral Sea, his story becomes tragic as he describes the huge ecological disaster of that body of water. This is a terrific book for learning about a country most know nothing about, with the bonus of meeting an author who has an absolutely talented way to write and make this story so readable.
Old Time Baseball: America's Pastime in the Gilded Age,
by Harvey Frommer
Old Time Baseball: America's Pastime in the Gilded Age by Harvey Frommer is a "must read" for the avid baseball fan. It covers baseball from 1834 to the early 1900s. I love the format. In the beginning Frommer provides a timeline chock full of baseball trivia. Did you know that Alexander Cartwright, not Abner Doubleday, has been credited with inventing baseball? Did you know that on May 23, 1895, the Louisville Colonels lost to Brooklyn because they ran out of baseballs? Or that on Labor Day 1890 the Pittsburgh Alleghenys lost a triple-header to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms? He also includes a section on the evolution of the game including equipment. Early players used no gloves, and the first players to use them were criticized! There are also sections on great teams and great players. This would make a great book to take along to the beach.
Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World's Most Valuable Coin,
by Alison Frankel
Legal writer Alison Frankel penned a page turner packed with high drama and it's a valentine to the beautiful twenty dollar gold piece. The coin, first minted in the mid 1800s, was known as the Liberty. Teddy Roosevelt commissioned world renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to execute a new design -- something that would reflect America's global might at the dawn of the 2oth century. Bully. It's new "name" would be Double Eagle. Thirty years on, amid the depression and attendant banking crises, FDR recalled all gold and ordered all the unissued 1933 Double Eagles to be melted down. Two numismatic specimens were to be spared. But quite a few more got away. Saint-Gaudens elegant work, a panoply of unscrupulous dealers finders and collectors, the missing coin retrieval missions, the highest of the high profile coins that made it into Egyptian King Farouk's cache. These are just a few of Double Eagle's dramaic parts. The tale continues with a Secret Service sting at the Waldorf-Astoria and Sotheby's $7,500,000 auction of the world's most valuable coin in 2002. This last might or might not have been the last chapter. Double Eagle. Great story, well told.
by Katherine Weber
At 16, Esther Gottesfeld becomes one of the few survivors of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. She tells and retells her story in testimonies, interviews and in her own mind until her death just days before 9/11. Feminist researcher Ruth Zion hounds Gottesfeld's granddaughter Rebecca for mementos and truth behind what she sees as discrepancies and cover-ups in Gottesfeld's story. Rebecca and boyfriend George Botkin lovingly examine Esther's belongings to see if Zion's claims have any legitimacy.
by Claire Kilroy
Claire Kilroy's Tenderwire is the Irish author's debut in America. Violinist Eva Tynes (also Irish born) is living in New York and performing in a chamber orchestra when she collapses. Immediately after her hospitalization, she seems to be inwardly drifting in a fog. A visit to a local bar leads to hooking up with investment banker Daniel and breaking up with her long term boyfriend. She continues risk taking behaviors, buying a black market violin from a Russian who claims it is a Stradivarius. After acquiring the instrument her professional and personal life spiral into mystery and suspense surrounding the violin.
by John Updike
If you want a thorough review of John Updike's new novel, Terrorist, read the review in the June 18 New York Times Book Review. This book has generated a lot of interest and commentary - pro and con. Not surprisingly, as Updike is one of our premier novelists of the last three decades and I admire him for taking on such a volatile subject. I recommend the book - it is timely, to say the least, and the storyline is believable . It might even be a portend of events to come. A devout, impressionable young Muslim (half Egyptian, half Irish) falls under the influence of a radical imam, and his devotion increases to extreme proportions. The teen-aged protagonist never comes alive for me, but the surrounding characters are more believable and, as always, Updike excels in writing descriptive passages that set the scenes and draw the reader into the story. The ending is painfully suspenseful - shadows of 9/11.
by Sherri Tepper
Science fiction readers will love this work by Tepper, a writer who specializes in depicting other cultures and worlds. The story seems to start with a foxhunting scene, but the reader slowly realizes that something is wrong. In fact, the mounts are not horses, the "hounds" are not dogs, and the humans seem both terrified and powerless. Something is very wrong on the planet Grass, and the ambassador Marjorie Westriding sets out to discover the truth. Tepper always creates three-dimensional characters who engage our sympathy and interest, and this book can be read for human interest and tone, not just as an idea puzzle to be solved.
The Templar Legacy,
by Steve Berry
Yet another entry into the "what-if-this-had-happened-in-the-history-of-Christianity", Berry appears to like this genre as his last book, The Third Secret, fell into this as well. This book deals with the order of the Templars that was founded in the 12th century and lived according to the Rule, a strict, monastic-style code of life. In the 14th Century, the Templars were persecuted and largely eliminated by Philip IV, King of France with their substantial treasury taken by him.Or, was there another side to the story? Enter Steve Berry and his book.......Written in the present day setting, Cotton Mallon is the main character who becomes involved in a resurgence of the Templars and their search for their treasures that supposedly disappeared years ago.With this involvement, he learns a lot about the Templars and their history as he becomes embroiled in a grand adventure. While this might be a pure flight of fancy for some, it does prove to be a quick, enjoyable read for those who like this type of writing.
Full Dark House, by Christopher Fowler
When the headquarters of the London police Peculiar Crimes Unit is destroyed by a bomb, 80-year-old Arthur Bryant, an original member, is killed in the explosion. His partner, John May, is determined to find the killer. Repeated flashbacks to their first case, the murder of a dancer in the Palace Theatre at the time of the Blitz, eventually provide a link to the present day crime. Besides being a suspenseful mystery featuring colorful characters as detectives, this gives a vivid picture of everyday life in wartime London.
An Air that Kills, by Andrew Taylor
Hurrah! Globalization has brought Andrew Taylor and other terrific mystery authors, old and new, to the US. I became a fan of Taylor's terrific British mysteries years ago, only to find that new titles were no longer being published here. My favorite series is set around the fictional English town of Lydmouth in the years following World War II. An Air that Kills introduces journalist Jill Francis and Detective Inspector Richard Thornhill, outsiders who become allies in classic English detecting. The books replace the cozy Christie background with the brooding atmosphere of a town on the Welsh border and the puritan backgrounds of characters trying to survive in a fast-changing society. Seven Lydmouth novels have been published and another is due at the end of 2006. All have titles taken from poems by A.E. Houseman. Perfect reading for a misty, cold day in front of the fire--or a warm day on the porch.