Since I played my first Quad City open mic at the Bier Stube, I’ve continued to play pretty regularly – five or six so far at different places. I’ve met a lot of cool, talented people who have been incredibly encouraging of my abilities, while challenging me to reach my potential. It’s been really, really nice.
Archive for January, 2006
A few words on Haunted Ground from Amazon.com
The discovery of a well-preserved woman’s head in a peat bog brings Irish archaeologist Cormac and American pathologist Nora to Galway. At the same time, local authorities investigate the disappearance of the Indian-born wife and child of a local landowner. Between the two mysteries, the historical and scientific data, and the landowner’s neighbors and relatives with axes to grind, there’s plenty here to keep you interested. Keating makes the most of a good thing, slipping easily among Irish, American, and lilting Indian accents. The abridgment works smoothly, as well. Occasional bagpipe music and Keating’s natural brogue complete the satisfying listening experience. J.B.G. © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine– Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Pretty lame entry huh? But I’m tired, and it works.
It was a good story in just under six hours. But it was an abridged version. Usually I have a complete aversion to such versions. I’d much rather listen to a 16-hour story than have it summed up. Maybe if I knew more about how abridgments are done. I just don’t like the idea that the words the author originally used to paint his or her story would be changed in any way. But as I stood staring at the most books on CD I’ve ever had to choose from, I let go of my quarrels. My book list is so long. Right now I have the opportunity to listen to books, so I should take advantage of it to hear some stories I might not otherwise have ever read.
I did enjoy this one. The science was interesting. As was the coinciding present-day and historical mysteries. But mostly for me, it was my beloved Ireland. It was good to be back there. The village characters: the female gossip, the angry farmer, the Englishman in the manor, the Catholic priest, the detective and the unofficial local historian. Plus the musicians in the pubs, the ruins of an ancient tower, the peat bogs, a fairly cute side love story and more information on some historical periods that I know some about.
It wasn’t outstanding, but good with little investment. And something might have been lost in the abridgment. Sure did make me crave Ireland again though.
I really enjoyed listening to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It was over 11 hours long and very engaging, so I couldn’t help but get pretty into it. Plus, the reading was spectacular, comparatively at least. There were nearly 10 readers I think. I was afraid that might be too much, but it was great. There were a lot of characters and because the protagonists traveled all over the world, they had all these wonderfully done accents.
It was a Dracula story with a heavily historical approach. The premise was that prominent international historians throughout time were left a mysterious book of all blank pages save a large woodcut of a dragon in the middle and the word from which dragon comes, “Drakulya”. Each historian would then find him or herself dangerously obsessed with the odd, nagging book, and each would solve a small part of the puzzle.
The book begins in 1972 when a 16-year-old girl discovers her father’s strange book with a stack of letters addressed to “My Dear Unfortunate Successor.” The girl prods her father into slowly telling her the story of his college advisor in the history department, Dr. Rossi, who authored the letters. He had also found a copy of this bizarre book, researched the historic Dracula – Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century – and came to the terrifying conclusion that this evil man became a vampire and was still living.
Even though this was twenty years ago, the girl’s father, Paul, lives in such fear that it takes years for him to relay all of the facts. Finally, she learns that Dr. Rossi had gone missing, and her father set out on a long journey to find him. But shy of revealing what he himself discovered and how her long-dead mother was involved, Paul disappears as well.
Luckily, the daughter finds a stash of letters he has left telling the rest of the story “just in case” and she sets off to find him.
The book is constructed in an interesting way. It starts from the perspective of the grown daughter, now a historian herself, writing that she feels she must share this story. Even though you know it is a work of fiction, it gives you that cool creepy feeling that it might be true. Like the beginning of Memoirs of a Geisha. But as the book progresses, it shifts perspectives. This is where it was neat to have the different actors/readers portraying Dr. Rossi’s experiences, and her dad’s and her own. Without the vocal changes, I might not have been able to follow these shifts. Although, I’m sure it is made clear in some other way in the book.
Being a historical fiction buff, I enjoyed how the characters had to mire themselves in research in libraries, piecing together ancient texts and folk songs, and finding the present truth by making history real. And the travel from Amsterdam to Istanbul, to Bulgaria and France… It made it even more interesting and fun.
I’ve read Interview with a Vampire, but otherwise, I’ve not been much into vampires or any horror things really. But I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it. I saw on an Amazon review that this was Kostova’s first book and it’s made a big entrance. Now she just has to follow-up. I for one, hope she can.
The long hours bent over the flap sander have afforded me the opportunity to listen to books on CD (transferred to pod) one after the other.
Today, I finished Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. I had a hard time getting into this one. Actually, I started it, got irritated, stopped, listened to another whole book, and only came back to this one because I didn’t have anything else to listen to.
The book was read by the author. Authors in this circumstance. There are always ups and downs to this. It immediately sounds different to me. Something about the author not being a professional actor maybe. But not necessarily that because even Steve Martin’s performance seemed different when I listened to Shopgirl. It’s an intimacy with the work that adds depth and a unique flavor to the reading, while also allowing a candidness that only the author could inflect. This candidness sometimes leaves a dry aftertaste.
There seemed to be a bit too much treble at times in the authors’ repartee. Maybe this is what grated on my nerves in the beginning. But also, it was the universal and almost too witty approach to the story. Universal as in, the authors go out of their way to NOT make the story too mired in reality. It’s the IDEA that matters here, not the details. For instance, the protagonist’s name is Girl, her boss’ name is Guy, the boyfriend is Buster and the place she works is My Company. Almost too witty as in, sometimes I felt they were trying to hard. But we all fall into that trap. I guess I just had to get used to the style of writing.
I think the overall question the authors propose is how much would you bastardize your beliefs for employment, i.e. a roof over your head and a feeling of self-worth. How far would you pollute yourself before society’s version of okay is simply not okay anymore?
Here, Girl begins her saga working for a boss so annoying that you might turn off the CD. Girl eagerly took this job as a college graduate pursuing feminist philanthropic work. After abusing her employee in a Devil-Wear’s-Prada-Miranda-Priestly-reminiscent way and stealing her work, psycho-boss fires Girl. Girl then recedes into a doom and gloom pit, falling further with each rejection letter. Stepping into the black-light at a weird 20-something’s recruitment fair is Guy, whose glowing teeth become the light at the end of the tunnel.
But Guy is glib. “Fast-talking, flap jaw, flip, fluent, garrulous, hot-air, insincere, loquacious”. Girl barely gets Guy to make her official, i.e. payroll, before being kicked out of her used-to-be-a-closet-about-to-become-one-again apartment, enabling her to rent another she would never before been able to afford. Despite the fancy salary, Girl finds herself in a very vague situation – not quite sure what her responsibilities are, who she is reporting to, basically, what the hell she is doing.
And of course, all the veiled answers slowly entangle her in a situation wildly out of her control, threatening every value she holds dear.
In all, I often found the book aggravating. But somehow I was still entertained. It’s probably just not my style. But I did appreciate the subject and the universal-style attempt.
The biggest reason I picked up Peter and the Starcatchers was that it was co-authored by Dave Barry. To this day, my childhood best friend and I could endlessly amuse ourselves reading Barry columns aloud to each other. (Anything from The Onion too.) I mean, here’s a funny guy who doesn’t seem too hung up on himself. And now he’s written a whole Peter Pan-like book.
But I was disappointed. I didn’t detect any of the Barry humor I know and love. Instead, what commenced was just that- a Peter Pan story with yet another twist.
Peter and four of his orphan friends are pawned by their abusive caretaker to a ship captain embarking on a strange mission. Having not been given the courtesy of any explanation whatsoever, the hapless boys look to their unofficial leader, Peter, for guidance. Peter nearly forsakes their admiration by bolting off the boat as it leaves shore. But a long whip, a pretty girl and an overwhelming curiosity about a mysterious onboard trunk stay his feet.
As Peter struggles to find tolerable sustenance for his mates, he stumbles into a flying rat. Oh yes, much flying follows. As well as pirates (good ones at that), talking dolphins, shipwrecks, islands, natives, mermaids and more flying. Will Peter be able to save the world by keeping the powerful starstuff in the right hands? And what will the consequences of that conclusion be?
The reading was good and the story kept my attention. But it wasn’t a particularly striking story. Just another take on an old favorite, I thought. And a little more of a kids book because of that.
(Just was looking up the links to add to my text and saw on the Dave Barry site that it was supposed to be a “prequel to Peter Pan, for young readers.” I missed that. But it makes me appreciate it a bit more.)
I should note here that when my final thoughts on a book or movie I’m reviewing aren’t glowing, I’m not saying, “don’t see it” or “don’t read it”. If I think something is awful and you shouldn’t waste your time, I will be very clear about that. Otherwise, if the storyline interests you, I think you should give it a whirl and make up your own mind. Afterall, who am I?
I had skimmed headlines and first lines of some reviews before seeing the movie. A common theme was that it was a very good film that was even better when Spielberg wasn’t thinking too hard. I concur.
The beginning bothered me the most. I didn’t know much about the movie going in. Only that it had something to do with the Munich Olympics. I hadn’t even seen the clear-cut advertisement that it was about what happened AFTER this unholy event.
Still, I consider myself a fairly intelligent movie-goer, so I slunk into my seat for a good ride. I took it in stride when the movie started with a half real-news clip/half filmed recap. I usually appreciate the historical references, but as it progressed I got more and more confused. I suppose they were trying to let the audience get a feel for the confusion on the inside and the outside of these happenings. But not being well-versed in the historical events, I was really annoyed. I just couldn’t figure what the hell was going on. Was Spielberg trying too hard here?
And just when I am about fed up, the footage cuts to a close-up of an old woman talking to several men. There was no indication as to who she was, so I couldn’t concentrate at all on what she was saying. It was nearly 10 minutes before the audience is told clear-cut that she was the prime minister of Israel and she was talking to her cabinet.
In this way and more, I found Spielberg to be far too assuming of his audience. So far they apparently know enough about what happened at the Olympics to allow this movie to be built solely on top of the events. And they know that Israel’s PM at the time was an older woman. Throughout the movie they are also required to know without explanation what PLO stands for, who the Mossad and MI6 are, what happened in 1967, and what Eretz and sabra mean, to name just a few examples I noticed. It’s dangerous for a filmmaker to get so caught up in a subject that he forgets not everyone has spent a year studying it. Most people come to a movie with no background, and they want to be entertained. Maybe Steven Spielberg would argue this, but I would think he would be a better director if he could walk the line between assuming too much and pandering to the audience a little more steadily. Just my thought.
The cast showed some strong performances, but I don’t think anyone glittered. Except maybe Bana’s massive arms. Ya. And a particularly impressive sex “scene” toward the beginning. But no, that was blotched out by a strange “exercising demons” scene toward the end. An aside – it was hard to buy Geoffrey Rush as a Jew.
Since visiting the Middle East in high school, I’ve had an interest in Arab/Jewish relations, with particular attention to the years after WWII. I felt a little queasy about what the film was trying to say. Even though I have related more to a particular side of this argument, I feel strongly that media moguls must be very careful not to unduly influence primarily ignorant people. Ignorant to the issue that is, not in general.
First of all, how much of this story is true? We are only told at the beginning that it is inspired by true events. At the end there is one screen meting out an historical reference. They showed us an all-out subversive war. I walked out of that movie thinking hard. I want to see it again because I am still thinking about it. Some will feel the same. Some won’t think on it again. But others will take seeds and form opinions. And even though this is an intrinsic danger of any medium, it still causes me concern. There’s a fine line to promoting prejudice in this fragile time.
But I digress. I think I am babbling, and my niece be here any minute to watch movies, crochet and spend the night.