Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Do Svidaniya, Powers Boothe

The news has come in that Powers Boothe died on Sunday. This follows on the heels of the death of John Hurt. I’m sure he’s remembered mostly for his more recent work, but I remember him as the fighter pilot who was shot down in the 1984 movie Red Dawn.

photo by Jane Boursaw

Red Dawn was somewhat simplistic in how it showed a group of American teenagers doing guerilla attacks behind the lines of a Soviet/Cuban invasion force. But it did show a healthy kind of gun culture. And it gained some credibility by having Boothe’s character of a colonel giving them tactical advice.

Those of you who saw the movie will know why I chose the phrase do svidaniya

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Play’s the Thing

A few weeks ago, I attended students recitals and a play at a middle school run by a friend of mine.

(Apologies to those not pictured. The ones who appear are random.)

Overall, the class could recite massive amounts of quotations from scripture and classical literature.

I was not educated that way. It would have done me a lot of good to be required to stand and deliver.

Individual eighth-graders stood and delivered their own presentations, playing characters from history. Below is Sir Francis Drake.

Each presentation was by memory and highly impressive. Sir Walter Raleigh is in the foreground below.

Instead of just reciting facts, each student gave a first person biography, including the ambiguous nature of these real-life figures.

The play was A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Below is Oberon, King of Shadows.

As you can see, a lot of work went into the costumes. Also, the players didn’t just stand around and recite lines. They were almost constantly in motion.

Below is Nick Bottom

Wondering why a Shakespearean character has a donkey’s head? Read a book.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening. Many thanks to Sara Loudon and her Covenant Christian Middle School. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Prince Philip, Royal Troller, Retires

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Consort of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth, announced yesterday he is retiring from performing royal duties. He is only 95.

He showed he has a sense of humor by dubbing himself “the world's most experienced plaque-unveiler.”

He’s made infamous off-the-cuff comments over the years, and it’s not clear when he was joking and when he was not.

 What's he about to say next?
photo by Kiefer

To a child visiting a space shuttle: “Well, you'll never fly in it, you're too fat to be an astronaut.”

To a disabled man on a scooter: “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?”

To the president of Nigeria in traditional robes: “You look like you’re ready for bed.”

To Australian Aborigines: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

I won’t print what he said about Chinese, because I actually found it offensive. And I can’t print what he said about the Russians. But he could always have some secretary issue a royal apology.

So he had a good run. He did a lot of ceremonial things and met a lot of people. And he couldn’t get fired for what he said.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Network Supervillains Win: Powerless Gets Cancelled

(Apologies to my non-American readers for this rant.)
I’m angry. My favorite television show got cancelled. Powerless told the story of the team at Wayne Security who worked around the clock and goofed off around the clock, developing protective gear for innocent bystanders of superhero battles.

Afraid of getting hit by bricks during one of those aforementioned battles? You need their brickproof umbrellas—which cascades bricks to the side, meaning they can sell more umbrellas. Or afraid of getting scorched by a ball of flame? You need their fireproof poncho, and they may or may not get a superheroine to pose naked in the ad before she dons it. (Poncho does not protect against rain.)

The series mainly focuses on office humor. The minor superheroes they encounter are actually off to the side. Emily, played by Vanessa Hudgens, has frustrating misadventures as she tries to bond with team members, save a good invention, or break her way into the good ol’ boy club that makes up the board. Her sunny smile, her awkwardly fading smile, and her wickedly triumphant smile just about carry the show.

Her incompetent boss, Van Wayne (a cousin of you-know-who), played by Alan Tudyk, often steals the scene with his vapid stupidity. His blunders, as well as the egos of the team members, can ruin Emily’s best-laid plans.

So, what happened? Their premier episode was funny, their second episode was outstandingly funny, and their third episode was okay. That may have let their ratings go down. Also, they were put on against Supernatural, which claimed part of their demographic. (This is like how Buffy the Vampire Slayer almost didn’t make it at first, because it was put on against Ally McBeal, which ruled among young females.) Then NBC preempted two of their episodes to premier some other comedy that wasn’t funny, which makes the audience forget to tune in again.

The rest of the show continued to be funny. It was the highlight of my Thursday evenings. But the morons at NBC cancelled it. If you’re able to access it through Comcast or Xfinity or whatever, hurry and record the available episodes of Powerless before they go away. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Earth-Shattering Love: Movie Review of Your Name

Mitsuha is a teenage girl living in a village in Japan so small, it doesn’t even have a coffee shop. She hates the rural life and longs to move to Tokyo. Taki is a rather ordinary teenage boy in Tokyo who commutes to school by train and who works as a waiter.

One day, Taki wakes up in what is obviously a girl’s body in a house he doesn’t recognize. The next day, Mitsuha is told by her sister and her friends that she acted oddly the previous day—not recognizing people and acting as if she had amnesia, though she cannot remember it. Taki has the same experience. After a while, they realize they are switching bodies.

Overjoyed at being in Tokyo, Mitsuha spends too much of Taki’s money. And Taki doesn’t know how to play basketball or sit with feminine modesty. The switching happens on random days, so they write notes to each other, starting with Mitsuha writing her name on Taki’s hand. As they become more convinced of the reality of the phenomenon, they make detailed notes in each other’s diaries, including complaints about each other’s behavior.

Taki finally decides to call Mitsuha. But the call cannot be completed. And they stop switching bodies. What happened?

Your Name is advertised as the #1 film of Japan in 2016. I don’t know if they mean the #1 animated film, or if it’s just hype. But it is a beautiful movie. I can only say the twist that occurs shows that this phenomenon involves more than just Mitsuha and Taki. And the theme of “Who are you?” pervades the movie.

Some cultural notes:
-In Japan, they drive on the left side of the road.
-It is normal to eat rice and fish at breakfast.
-Politicians really do drive around in trucks and vans to give speeches on the street.
-High schoolers in Tokyo do commute by train.

Whether you’re a fan of anime or never had an interest in it before, Your Name is well worth seeing in a theater. Please do not be offended by their reactions at finding themselves in bodies of the opposite sex. Bring glasses if your theater has the subtitled version, and do yourself a favor by not reading any online descriptions of the movie. Some of the online people said they cried, but I avoided that by an act of will. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wonder Woman’s Shaved Underarms—Rage Against . . . Something

The latest controversy that makes twitter heads explode is the observable fact that Wonder Woman, the titular character in the upcoming movie, has no hair at all in her underarms. They look quite polished. And even though she is a superheroine who can hold her own with Batman and Superman, extremists who have their hair tied back so tightly it interferes with brain circulation claim that this is a sign of being dominated by the patriarchy. If only we had known it was so easy.

Gal Gadot, former combat trainer in the Israeli military and
the former Miss Israel in the 2004 Miss Universe contest and  
former model, now turned actress. 5’10”  

photo by Gage Skidmore

There are more pressing issues: How does Superman shave? Does he use razors with Kryptonite edges? And why isn’t Bruce Wayne horribly scarred up? Considering his lack of superpowers and all the fights he’s been in, he would be in pretty sad shape.

Or perhaps the world of superheroes isn’t meant to be completely realistic. How many women have you met in real life who looked like the Wonder Woman in the comic books or in the movies?

And this controversy does the opposite of showing the oppression of women. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was referred to as a “child of the kindly west.” You have to be a child of the kindly west (or part or an elite elsewhere) to have the time and energy to fuss about this, considering how women are treated in the majority of the world. So relax and enjoy a comic book fantasy. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amazonfresh and Burger King

I was doing some errands this morning when I saw an amazonfresh truck pull into a fast food joint:

If you look at the right side of the picture, you’ll see the amazonfresh truck. To be fair, the guy was just getting some breakfast. But it's fun to imagine this is what would happen if a local Burger King ran out of food.

I haven’t seen a food truck scene this funny since I saw the Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile after I got home from a Worldcon.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Young, Blonde, and Out for Revenge—Review of Falcone Strike

Falcone Strike is Christopher Nuttall’s sequel to The Oncoming Storm (see my review here), so we know that Kat Falcone survived the hair-raising climactic scenes in the first book. A hero of the Commonwealth, her reward is to be given an impossible mission: She must lead a flotilla of decrepit ships that are old enough to be called antiques behind enemy lines, raiding as much of the enemy supply lines as she can.

It takes so long to install modern parts on the ships, half the crew get assigned to other missions. They get mismatched crew members—including shore patrolmen, who used to get in fistfights with crew on leave. But Kat still has Williams, her executive officer, whose long experience and steady hand were so vital in their original adventure.

So, leading a flotilla that could be vaporized by one broadside of an enemy dreadnought, Kat goes to do as much damage to the enemy as possible, to make up for the shellacking they gave her Commonwealth.

Once again, Christopher Nuttall has delivered a fresh and believable military science fiction novel. We are right there with Kat Falcone as she has to grope her way through uncertain space. Her dilemmas are laid out by realistic dialog, and although each decision has its pluses and minuses, we can see her reasoning.

This is a hardened Kat compared to what she was like in the first novel. If a civilian enemy ship is given the chance to surrender and it powers up its engines, she destroys it.

William, her executive officer, uses his experience and contacts to get in with raiders, which anyone else would find impossible to do, to extract needed information from that disgusting group. And we get more insight into the nature of the enemy, who are striking out from their home planet of Ahura-Mazda—religious fanatics with whom there can be no compromise.

As with the first novel, Nuttall set us up for conflicts that did not occur—no fistfights among the crew, no equipment failure at critical moments. And he still italicizes words to show stress in the wrong part of a sentence, if you know what I mean.

But get The Oncoming Storm, then Falcone Strike. If you like science fiction and are not familiar with the military side, or vice versa, these will be good reads. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Dread Night—A Temple Excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from my historical fantasy manuscript. Iphi (short for Iphigenia) was taken away from her family in Mycenae, in ancient Greece. Now a grown woman in a foreign temple, she sees unexplainable events happening one night. This is how the chapter ends.

photo by Rita 1234

Noise surrounded the temple—rushing winds. Iphi stopped with her mouth open. A chill like a winter stream crept up her back. The sound wasn’t a low roar but higher, as if whistling through cracks. It resembled a woman’s scream.

The wind blew in through the high windows, and the lamps flickered wildly, casting weird shadows on the plastered walls. One by one, they blew out in their sconces. Iphi regained her ability to speak. “This can’t be. The wind reaching the lamps?”

It started with the ones closest to the double doors. The darkening of the lamps ebbed towards them, the far parts of the walls and stone slabs of the floor disappearing from sight. It was as if some unseen being was approaching, trapping them in darkness. As the last two lamps on either side of the hall remained flickering, she knew their light was what stood between her and madness.

She felt arms about her thighs and looked down to see Melinta holding her. The grip of her strong hands was uncomfortable, but she couldn’t bring herself to shrug off the girl, whose wide eyes showed silent fear. The other three women were whimpering as they huddled together, their black eyes and red lips hideous in the failing light.

Iphi looked back in time to see one of the remaining lamps go out. She stared at the last one, holding her breath, waiting.


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