Monthly Archives: August 2009

12 posts

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Sing in me, Muse quotes Homer (the original one). “Jacqueline, my muse, I speak to you directly for a moment,” quoth our modern man. It is no accident that Homer addresses his story to a French reporter whom he briefly met. For, in a way, his account is his own universal newspaper, an elegy to the disintegration of 20th century America, the winding down of the clock.

Movie Review: Taking Woodstock

Though his oeuvre includes everything from melodrama to martial arts, Lee’s most endearing projects are intimate, sensible, plausible stories about people who might as well be your parents, your friends, or your schoolteacher. Taking Woodstock is based firmly in reality, but the film isn’t about one character’s journey: it’s a coming-of-age story about America.

From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder That Inspired The Greatest Scientists of All Time in Their Own Words

Duccio Machetto opines in the book’s introduction that, “Today science and theology are more aware of the specific nature of their methods, and take care to avoid ‘incursions’ into what is clearly the field of the other.” Apparently, young earth creationists are not a factor in Italy. The Holy See, however, does feel obliged to weigh in on scientific endeavor from time-to-time, this on a range of issues from Alzheimer’s research using fetal tissue to new and improved techniques of in vitro fertilization. Conversely, scientists such as Richard Dawkins write bestsellers insisting that religion is disproved by science.

The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

She sees faces in the flaking walls of the kitchen, fears for the soul of a matriarch’s fox fur, and interprets the ever-changing moods of the decorative beer steins on the mantle. Gwenni is a contradictory combination of fearlessness and naiveté, unable to discern the boundary between her imaginative world and the real one. In this way, she recalls such classic girl heroines as Anne of Green Gables or Jo from Little Women. But it’s her similarity with another classic heroine, Nancy Drew, which really draws readers into her world.

The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

Most of the narratives are first-person accounts by Mary, so readers get to know her very well. She is a strong, resourceful, intelligent, and fascinating character in her own right. Sometimes, she can seem a little too perfect: she speaks ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (from her theology studies), French and German, and manages to pick up a good speaking ability in Arabic and Hindi during their adventures overseas. Her throwing arm has deadly accuracy, and on occasion she uses it to great effect with knives, darts, or just rocks. She is a great picker of locks.

Movie Review: District 9

It is perhaps the most dystopian vision of alien contact ever filmed: the aliens are not the enemy, we are. The humans in the film are horrid, cruel stereotypes, laughing as alien eggs pop like popcorn, shooting creatures at random, and torturing an innocent man to discover the meaning of the alien weapons. The aliens (one of whom is Christopher Johnson, a decidedly nondescript and very American name) are scammed, abused and tortured, living in a horrendous slum. Unlike in Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, or any number of other self-congratulatory sci-fi films, we are not fighting to save ourselves from these unthinkably pitiful creatures. We’re using, torturing, and abusing them.

Knife Song Korea by Richard Selzer

On arriving at his small and isolated army base in Korea, Sloane is met by Larry Olsen, the army physician he is replacing. Olsen speaks to him as follows; “There’s no roof that doesn’t leak. The rats are fearless. Flies rule the country. Everybody steals. Orphans, refugees everywhere. They’re coming down from the north. There’s no equipment to speak of. There’s no sterilizer. And the dirt, the vermin….It’s yours now.”

A New Look at Rome’s Rousing Middle Ages

When its doors first opened in 1734, the Capitoline Museum, which stands upon the hilltop that is the very heart of Rome, was one of the first European public museums and a favorite haunt of the wealthy Grand Tourists from all over Europe. As of July 30 this venerable museum offers something novel to all tourists—a chance for a fresh look at a relatively neglected period of Roman history and the arts, the Middle Ages.

Nina Simone: The Biography by David Brun-Lambert

The granddaughter of slaves on both parents’ sides of the family, Simone’s stardom coincided with the civil rights struggle in the U.S. If it is necessary to find a defining moment in her life, it may have come even earlier than the Curtis Institute rejection. At her first public concert, at age ten in Tryon’s Town Hall, her parents were asked to give up their seats to a white couple. The child protested out loud until her father and mother were allowed to stay in their places.