YEAR ONE was Well Done :-)

Hello, everybody!  Before I get into my review of the movie Year One, I just want to let you know where I’ve been for the last couple months.  I found my way into the World of Warcraft and have been battling the forces of the Scourge and the Bich King to save Azeroth.  I’ve managed to get my main character, a Night Elf Druid named Nagaira to level 59 and my Death Knight named DameNagaira to level 62, but I’ve gotten a bit burned out on it… Azeroth will have to find another hero to save them for a while… lol.  Mags has even gotten into it, but she plays like a girl.  Her idea of playing WoW is to ride boats, trams and flights and to camp out in the inns.   She cries about having to kill the tigers, lions, wolves, killer bunnies… and she doesn’t like to read the quest info, so basically, she never levels and everything can kill her.  So, I made a Death Knight for her that we can share.  I’ll level her, and she can run around where she wants without worry of death and resurrection… and finding her body, which can be a long, painstaking process because she likes to jump off cliffs, boats and buildings I couldn’t figure out how to res with the spirit healer until a couple weeks ago.  

But… I’m back to reading and trying to make up for lost time.  I’ve finished 3 books and am almost done with two more while away.  I’ll get the reviews written up for them soon. :-)

YearOneSo, now for Year One

Year One is the result of a question posed by writer and director Harold Ramis:  How would a person with modern-day sensibilities and consciousness get along in a biblical-times society?  Particularly with the post-Christianity questioning and shifting ethics that is prevalent in many urbanites today.  The resulting cultural shock of the “enlightened chosen one,” Zed (played by Jack Black), and his side-kick friend, Oh (played by Michael Cera), as they find themselves thrust out of their caveman-village after Zed eats the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is hilarious.  In the span of 30 minutes or so, Zed and Oh witness the first fratricide when the meet Cain and Abel returning from their sacrifice, meet Lillith, the first lesbian, get sold into slavery, happen upon Abraham (played by Hank Azaria) as he’s about to sacrifice Isaac, get circumcised, travel to Sodom, join the city’s guard… only to end up as slaves, again.  Yet through it all, Zed continues to insist he’s been chosen by God or “the gods” (he’s not sure which, just sure He or they aren’t female,) and Oh rolls his eyes and plays “Sancho Panza” to Zed’s “Don Quixote.”

This movie has a good mix of a fabulous cast who have great chemistry together, irreverent and iconoclastic humor, smart writing and pop-culture references (at one point, Oh chants, “Yes, we can!” and I nearly fell off my chair with laughter.) 

There were several surprises when I watched the behind-the-scenes segment on the DVD.  I was shocked when I found out that Oliver Platt had played the effeminent, pedophiliac high priest.  I never even recognized him!      I also hadn’t recognized Harold Ramis in the role of Adam, nor had I realized Isaac was played by the same actor who played McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).  In Year One,  Mintz-Plasse has long head-banger-like hair and is sans glasses, and Isaac, his character, is a kinda Heeb-wigger gangsta-wannabe (“I can see why his dad wanted to kill him,” Zed says at one point.)  Also a cast surprise was David Cross as Cain.  The whole time I watched the movie I kept trying to place the actor, and was convinced he was one of the Geico Cavemen, only to find out he played the only part of the Chipmunk movie I liked:  Uncle Ian.  I am still not completely convinced he didn’t play a Caveman.

One of my FAVORITE parts of Year One wasn’t even in the movie.  In the special features section of the DVD is a fantastic little 2 minute video called “Leeroy Jenkins:  The Gates of Sodom.”  It’s a Year One‘s take on the now immortalized WoW raid.  They even address the two raging factions (seriously, there ARE people bitter and angry at each other over this!):  At the end of the clip, did Leeroy Jenkins huff “At least I AIN’T chicken” or did he brag “At least I HAVE chicken?”  (Of course Isaac plays Leeroy… he did a Leeroy move in the movie, too, that got Zed and Oh in trouble while he ran off yelling, “Peace out, SUCKAS!”)

Things I could’ve lived without… they do go a bit far with the poop and pee jokes, but those are the same scenes that my 15 and 17 year olds repeat again and again… and again.  Also, there are sexual references and innuendos throughout the movie (they spend half of it in Sodom, you know, so you might find yourself barraged with uncomfortable questions by younger children… “Why is that girl eating a banana like that?  Why does that boy like watching her?  What does she mean, she likes to have sex with girls?  What is sodomy and why is it the best thing?”) and, at one point, Cain cajoles Oh’s desire to save himself for the girl he loves by saying, “What transpires within the confines of the walls of Sodom, stays within the confines of the walls of Sodom.”

Oh, a little funny side thought here…  Michael Cera played Paulie Bleeker, the hapless, accidental father-to-be to Ellen Page‘s Juno in the award-winning 2007 film Juno, and in Year One, his character Oh’s love interest, Eema, is played by British actress Juno Temple.  Just thought that was neat. ;-)

Emma by Jane Austen

Title:  Emma

Author:  Jane Austen

Paperback:  416 pages

Date Published: 1997

Publisher:  Wordsworth Editions Ltd

ISBN:  1853260282

The very first subject, after being seated, was Maple Grove, ‘My brother, Mr Suckling’s seat’; a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove… ‘Very like Maple Grove indeed! She was quite struck by the likeness! That room was the very shape and size of the morning-room at Maple Grove; her sister’s favourite room.’ Mr Elton was appealed to. ‘Was not it astonishingly like? She could really almost fancy herself at Maple Grove.

‘And the staircase. You know, as I came in, I observed how very like the staircase was; placed exactly in the same part of the house. I really could not help exclaiming! I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, it is very delightful to me to be reminded of a place I am so extremely partial to as Maple Grove. I have so many happy months there!’ (with a little sigh of sentiment.) ‘A charming place, undoubtedly. Everybody who sees it is struck by its beauty; but to me it has been quite a home. Whenever you are transplanted, like me, Miss Woodhouse, you will understand how very delightful it is to meet with anything at all like what one has left behind. I always say this is quite one of the evils of matrimony.’

Emma made as slight a reply as she could; but it was fully sufficient for Mrs Elton, who only wanted to be talking herself.

-Emma by Jane Austen, pages 217-218

I finished this book almost a week ago after being stuck in it for about six months.  I’ve wanted to give it time to sit and think about it before making an official judgment by way of a review.  And, while I still say it was the hardest Austen book so far and my least favorite, I have to admit a serious amount of respect for the women of the era.  I’m definitely grateful times have changed since then!

Long and short of things, Emma Woodhouse more or less grew up the Miss Woodhouse of her father’s home, meaning she was the society keeper.  The golden daughter, beautiful and clever, she has never been denied anything by her father, who’s a bit of a hypochondriac, nor by her governess Miss Taylor, who has just married Mr. Weston in the beginning of the novel.  Emma believes she is responsible for making this match and decides to aim her powers at the single vicar, Mr. Elton.  Her brother-in-law’s brother, Mr. Knightly, however, admonishes her to leave match-making be, to let love take its course, but she doesn’t listen (OF COURSE!) and this sets a series of events into motion that forces Emma to grow up and re-evaluate her own position and judgments and that of those around her. 

What Austen does in Emma is to recreate the sense of isolation and near-claustrophobic sensations of the life and choices living as an early 19thcentury English woman.  She equates the life of a governess as a polite form of slavery.  She also conveys the sense of captivity and inertial force of the class stratification of the era.  Everyone had a place, and everyone had acceptable and unacceptable pools of “friends” within the system to choose from:  Either their equal or many levels beneaththem so as to help improve them, but no one only a little below them.. lest they degrade themselves.  Those who tried to improve their social standing by latching onto those above them and trying the seem their equal were treated with civil incivility:  Invitations “forgotten,” stories told to remind them where they belong, arguments about things immaterial that vented hostilities and prejudices.

Emma by Jane Austen presents the parlor life of  emotional constipation and gilded-cage existence without choices beyond who to invite for dinner that ran on and on until death was begged for.  In this day and age, when I can tell my neighbor flat-out, he’s an ass, and go on.  He and I live a life of pretending the other doesn’t exist, which works well.

The book also conveys the sense of the inescapable lot assigned to a person because of who one’s family is and what they’ve done.  Harriet is a persona somewhat non grata because her parentage is unknown.  She could never expect to marry a gentleman, because no respectable man would take in the chance of social disaster if her father ever turned out to be a criminal or worse.  You are who your grandparents were, and if you screw up your life, you ruin your grandchildren’s chances for a future, destroy your siblings’ reputation and shame your parents. 

It amounted to a suffocating life where the most seemingly trivial choices could destroy one’s life and reputation.  While Emma by Jane Austen is not one of my favorites, it’s a worthwhile book to read.  I’m glad to have read it, as much as I am glad I’m DONE reading it.  4 out of 5 stars.

Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey

Title: Freedom’s Landing
Author: Anne McCntaffrey
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Ace/Putnam
Publish Date: May 1995
ISBN: 0441003389

An afternoon breeze swirled the black clouds about and Kris caught glimpses of the man, lurching still further from the crash site. She saw him stumble and fall, after which he made no move to rise. Above, the bees buzzed angrily, circling the smoke and probably wondering if their prey had gone up in the explosion.

Catteni didn’t hunt each other as a rule, she told herself, surprised to find that she was halfway down from her perch.They fight like Irishmen, sur, but to chase a man so far from the city? What could he have done?

The crash had been too far away for Kris to distinguish the hunted man’s features or build. He might just be an escaped slave, like herself. If not Terran, he might be from one of the half-dozen other subjugated races that lived on Barevi. Someone who had had the guts to steal a flitter didn’t deserve to die under Catteni forcewhips.

… Keeping close to the brown rocks so nearly the shade of her own tanned skin, she crossed the remaining distance. She all but tripped over him as the wind puffed black smoke down amon the rocks.

“Catteni!” she cried, furious as she bent to examine the unconscious man and recognized the gray and yellow uniform despite its tattered and black-smeared condition.

-Freedom’s Landingby Anne McCaffrey, pages 4-5

Freedom’s Landing is the first in a series of four books by Anne McCaffrey chronicling the struggles and successes of the “colonists” of Botany.

After an invasion by an intergalactic race called the Catteni, tens of thousands of humans are rounded up and dropped off on the planet Barevi, a sort of trading post for the Catteni. Kris Bjornsen is one such Terran, as human are referred, having been captured in Denver. After becoming aware that her Catteni owner has sexual intentions toward her, Kris steals his flitter (a flying personal vehicle) and lives the next few months in the wilds a few miles from the only city on the planet.

When she observes a group of Catteni flitters chasing and firing upon another flitter, she assumes the man being hunted is another slave. However, she is shocked and disgusted that he is a Catteni. Despite her feelings for his race, she helps him to safety and hides him in her absconded flitter she now calls home.

“You’re one of the new species?”

“I’m a Terran,” she said with haughty pride, her stance marred by a convulsice shiver.

“Thin-skinned species,” he remarked. He looked at her chest, noticed the slight heave from her recent exertions that made her breasts strain against the all too inadequate covering and slowly started to stroker her shoulder with one firger. His touch was unexpectedly feather-light -and more. “Soft to the touch,” he said absently. “I haven’t tried a Terran yet…”

“And you’re not going to start on this one,” she said, jumping as far away from him as she could…

-Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey, page 10

When it becomes apparent to Kris that this Catteni intends to reward her kindness by raping her, she conks him as hard as she can, knocking him unconscious, and flies the flitter back to the outskirts of the city with the intention of dumping him where he belongs.

However, things do not go according to plan, and she and her passenger are caught in the middle of a riot. They are gassed and rounded up with the rebellious slaves and dumped on an uninhabited planet.

When they and the other “colonists” come to, many of them want to kill the lone representative of their captors. Kris, who feels responsible for his being dumped with them, convinces Mitford, a former Marine who has taken charge of the people in their dropped group, to spare the Catteni as he may be useful to them.

And useful Zainal turns out to be! Having seen the report on the planet they’ve come to name Botany, he is able to warn them of the some of dangers the planet poses and does his best to save many of those later dumped by Catteni ships.

While this is a Sci-Fi book, don’t let that put you off if you aren’t into that genre. It isn’t all “Dr. Who” and “Star Wars” kind of stuff, though there are a few references made to Dr. Who and one of the machines they encounter is given the name “dalek” because of its resemblance to the fictional “exterminate” proclaiming machine on the show.

More than anything, Freedom’s Landing is a story of survival and the banding together of peoples from differing backgrounds (not only different human groups, but also other alien species -Deskis, Rugarians, and others) to form a new society. If you like Survivor-type shows and books, you’d like Freedom’s Landing.

My friend who introduced me to this book loves the character Zainal, even naming his VR characters after him. And I also like Zainal, who is of Catteni nobility and displays more honor and respect than a lot of the humans he’s dropped with. However, Mitford is my favorite character. Sargent Mitford is the epitome of the concept that one of the best qualities a great leader possesses is the ability to delegate, delegate, delegate! What Sarge is capable of doing with the minimal resources they are deposited with in creating a civilized, working community is mind-boggling. I wouldn’t mind reading a book from Mitford’s perspective.

While there is much I love in Freedom’s Landing, there are a few things I didn’t like. First of all, I found McCaffrey’s writing style annoying in parts. Some of the word choices and expressions she used just rubbed me the wrong way. Also, there seemed to be a few incongruous things written in the book. One example is the initial description of Zainal: His pupils are described as gold and the irises black, but the rest of the book the description is reversed with his irises gold.

Also, McCaffrey never addresses difficulties that would have surely risen with a large number of human females, namely menstruation. With the main character, and from whose perspective much of the book is written, cast as a woman, you would think at least as much verbiage would be used to cover this difficulty as was used to detail the “facilities” for other bodily functions.

Overall, Freedom’s Landingis a fascinating look into the formation of a new society and all the difficulties that brings, as well as the adventure of survival in an unknown land. It’s worth reading, even with it’s faults, and shouldn’t be limited to Sci-Fi nutters.

I give Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey 3 and a half stars.

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis


Title:  The Horse and His Boy

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  1998

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  This edition is part of a complete collection in one book copy.   It was chronologically published fifth but is meant to be read third in the series.

He was just going to run for it when suddenly, between him and the desert, a huge animal bounded into view.  As the moon was behind it, it looked quite black, and Shasta did not know what it was, except that it had a very big, shaggy head and went on four legs.  It did not seem to have noticed Shasta, for it suddenly stopped, turned its head towards the desert and let out a roar which re-echoed through the Tombs and seemed to shake the sand under Shasta’s feet.  The cries of the other creatures suddenly stopped and he thought he could hear feet scampering away.  Then the great beast turned to examine Shasta.

“It’s a lion, I know it’s a lion,” thought Shasta.  “I’m done.  I wonder, will it hurt much?  I wish it was over.  I wonder, does anything happen to people after they’re dead?  O-o-oh!  Here it comes!”  And he shut his eyes and his teeth tight.

But instead of teeth and claws he only felt something warm lying down at his feet.  And when he opened his eyes he said, “Why, it’s not nearly as big as I thought!  It’s only half the size.  No, it isn’t even quarter the size.  I do declare it’s only the cat!!  I must have dreamed all that about it being as big as a horse.”

And whether he really had been dreaming or not, what was now lying at his feet, and staring him out of countenance with its big, green, unwinking eyes, was the cat; though certainly one of the largest cats he had ever seen.

-The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis, page 246

The Horse and His Boy, though published fifth, is meant to be read third in the series.  It is an interim book telling a story that takes place within the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and features the adults Kings Peter and Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy.

The book begins, “This is the story of an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him.”  And then opens on a poor fisherman’s hut where a cruel middle-aged bachelor and his foundling son, Shasta,  live.  When a Tarkaan (something like a lord or baron) stops at the house and offers to buy Shasta, the boy is relieved to be leaving the man he’d always thought was his father but had never loved.

However, his relief is short-lived when the Tarkaan’s horse turns out to be one of the talking Horses of Narnia who tells him that he’d be better off lying dead on the roadside than as the slave of the Tarkaan.  Bree, the Horse, tells Shasta he was kidnapped as a Foal and is really a Freeperson of Narnia.  He further tells the boy that he himself is not a Caloremenian, but is a Narnian (or Archenlander) as well.

The two devise a plan of escape, and when the men are sleeping in the house, the Horse and the boy set off for Narnia and the North.  Along the way, they meet up with another Narnian Horse, a mare named Hwin, and a young girl named Aravis, who is a Tarkeena running away from an arranged marriage to a horribly wicked and hideous old man.

As they set out to pass through the capital city, though, the four are stopped by a procession of the Narnian Royals and Shasta is snatched out of crowd by Edmund who mistakes him for the missing Archenland Prince in their company.  This turns out to be a blessing, as Shasta learns of a hidden path that greatly shortens the trek through the desert that lies between Calormen and the lands of the North.

Throughout this book, there is a force leading, guiding, and protecting the four.  Of course, anyone who’s read the previous Narnia book knows this is Aslan, who has been working behind the scenes for the past 10-15 years (Shasta’s age is never given) to ensure that Archenland and Narnia will be safe from the attack of the Calormenian Prince Rabadash.

The Horse and His Boyis also Christian allegory, this time expressing the steadfastness and ever-present nature of Christ, even when we don’t realize he’s there (as Shasta was unaware of the true identity of the cat that protected and comforted him in the Tombs), and even before we know Him or follow Him (as neither Shasta nor Aravis new of Aslan, and in fact served other gods).  You cannot help but love Aslan as he reveals himself, and how he has been watching after them throughout their lives.  It’s very comforting to know He is always with us and caring for us, even when we’re stubbornly going our own way and resisting His hand.

Though I can’t say I liked The Horse and His Boy more that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I definitely liked it more than The Magician’s Nephew (though I still love the Creation of Narnia), and thoroughly loved and enjoyed it.  I absolutely give this book 5 out of 5 stars :-D

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Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones

 

 

Title:  Two Brothers:  One North, One South

Author:  David H. Jones

Hardback:  320 pages

Publisher:  Staghorn Press

Publish Date:  2008

ISBN:  9780979689857

 

 

Clifton frowned in resentment at the tone of the question.  “William and I were always very close, enjoying the very best of brotherly love and harmonious relationship.  However, as discord between the states increased, what had been simple differences in political perspective grew into something substantially more ominous.  I couldn’t change that!”

Two Brothers:  One North, One South by David H. Jones, page 41

 

In Two Brothers, David H. Jones does an exceptional job at recreating the peri-bellum era.  The dress, mannerisms, and patterns of speech make history come alive in the imagination as the reader is drawn into the unfolding tale of two brothers, Major Clifton Prentiss, a Union Officer, and William Prentiss of the Maryland 2nd Battalion, a Confederate soldier.

The history of the family and how it came to be that, out of four brothers, William took the Secessionist stand is told to Walt Whitman by the three surviving brothers.  Clifton Prentiss, hospitalized from an injury sustained in battle, is joined by his brothers Dr. John Prentiss, Jr.  and Meliville Prentiss.  Whitman, being the last person with their youngest brother, having comforted him in his last days, shares with them what he learned from the rebel soldier as he lay dying.

Two Brothersis a fascinating look into the life and emotions that surrounded the events that led up to, and were felt in, The War Between the States.  Even though I had a well-informed knowledge of the Civil War, in reading this book I experienced more of the emotions, acrimony and tension that was felt during such an uncertain time.  The Prentiss family being in Baltimorians during this time, they were in an epicenter of the Northern push for union and emancipation versus the Southern desire for the state’s rights to self-govern as guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution and the economic reliance on slavery. 

Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets, was a firm supporter of the Union, and took a job in an Army Paymaster’s office to support the Union cause.  Visiting his injured brother in a field hospital, he was confronted with the suffering and pain sustained by the wounded and began giving comfort to the worst of the injured with regular visits to the Armory Square Hospital.

While Two Brothers is a thoroughly researched and exceptionally written book through which Jones brings to life this true story of a compassionate poet and a family torn by the War Between Brothers, it’s not my usual read.  I did enjoy it and learned from it, but it’s not something I would pick up on my own.  However, if you are into historical novels Two Brothersis a must read.  Also, I would recommend this book be included in a curriculum course that covers the Civil War Era.  It’s easy enough to read for high school students to learn from as well as college students.

My own preferences aside, I would give Two Brothers:  One North, One South by David H. Jones 5 out of 5 stars.

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