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Showing posts from August, 2015

Guest review ~ Five Weeks in a Balloon

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Five Weeks in a Balloonis a Victorian book that takes place in 1862 and was written by Jules Verne.  It is about three individuals, Dr. Samuel Ferguson, his servant Joseph Wilson, and a hunter, Richard Kennedy, who set off in a balloon off the coast of Zanzibar to cross the African continent.
I liked this book a lot because it is very detailed and adventurous and has some science and physics in it (nothing too complex), and since I am interested in the Victorian and Edwardian times, the British Empire, and its exploration and expanse, this was quite satisfying and intriguing.
I would give this book 5/5 stars.

Thanks to Barnabas, my brother (and fellow Jules Verne fan), for this review! 

Mini summer book haul

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Yesterday my family and I had another chance to visit Powell's City of Books, which, as I raved last year, is the coolest bookstore you'll ever get lost in.  I naively assumed it would be fairly quiet in the middle of a Monday...that was a very, very wrong assumption.  The place was absurdly busy - summer has not ended at Powell's!

I felt kind of overwhelmed and exhausted after twenty minutes, so I didn't really spend as much time as could have been spent, easily, looking at all the classics and polar exploration books (sigh).  This was my list:


In the end, my timid heart decided not to spend a lot of money, so I got two Conrads and The Scarlet Letter, all three for under $10:


I don't know how I possibly could have missed it, but The Scarlet Letter has some bad pen marks in the middle of the book.  It was only $3.50, and though I love Hawthorne, there is a chance I'll be underwhelmed.  If I love it, I'll get a clean copy; if not, I don't have to keep it.

U…

Seven Pillars of Wisdom - The Foundations of Arab Revolt

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What draws you into Lawrence's narrative from the start is its setting.  As Westerners, we often view history in a binary perspective.  There is the past - epitomized frequently in our culture by the World Wars, and the still living generations who remember them - and there is the present, the de facto global war with terrorism, physical and psychological.  Though the terrorism of today operates on an international battlefield, we associate its geography with the origins of its ideology (and the ideologies of its opponents), and that location, generically speaking, is the Middle East.   T. E. Lawrence's account originates in a familiar setting, blurring the border between notions of past and present.

Whether we are thinking of the legacy of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, or the aggression of ISIS today, the spirit of sadism and violence requires no effort to remember.  In his introductory part, "The Foundations of Arab Revolt," Lawrence writes of the oppression by the Tu…

Fear and Trembling - Abraham revisited

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For he who loved himself became great in himself, and he who loved others became great through his devotion, but he who loved God became greater than all.

I gave this books 5 stars on Goodreads, but I almost gave it none.  By that, I mean it is an almost impossible book to rate in a generic sense.  I don't know where you are in your spiritual beliefs and growth, and so as a reviewer I can't possibly say what this book will be to you.  On the other hand, to me it was a five-star book - the caveat is that my rating is inherently personal.  Because of that, it may not be of much use here whether it has five stars or no rating.

To quote the first sentences of his biography, in this Penguin edition:
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen in 1813, the youngest of seven children.  His mother, his sisters and two of his brothers all died before he reached his twenty-first birthday.For context, Fear and Trembling was published in 1843 - he was only about thirty at the time.  He ha…

Lawrence of Arabia

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I grew up watching two of those long, epic-historical pictures...Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments.  My attention span was pretty good back then.  I wonder what the younger me would have thought of Lawrence of Arabia.  For sure, I would have sat down and watched it straight through, unlike the me of today, who watched it in three parts over three days.  ;)

My brother recommended it.  I was always under the impression it was a boring film, and to be sure, on the face of it, there's nothing to indicate what a fascinating, frightening, and overall amazing movie Lawrence of Arabia is.  My brother was right - it was well worth the nearly 4-hr commitment.

The plot is not exactly linear.  Though there is an overarching plot, on screen it kind of goes from one scene to the next, which is part of the brilliance of the script.  It follows T. E. Lawrence's life in Arabia, from his seemingly unpromising career in the British military to his magnetic and highly successful campaigns leading A…

The Enchanted Island - an opera learning experience

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Watching The Enchanted Island posed three firsts for me:
1) Baroque
2) English
3) Getting my brother to watch opera (!!)

The last one was a surprising success...the first two, not so much.


I was intrigued by the concept when it came out in 2011, and it stayed in the back of my mind, till I finally got the DVD from the library.  The Enchanted Island is a so-called opera "pastiche" by Jeremy Sams - if his name rings a bell, he composed the score for Persuasion.  He collected different Baroque operatic pieces (mostly arias) and wrote English lyrics for them, basing the plot on a combination of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This production gave me pretty mixed feelings.

I'm a little - is disturbed the word? - that Sams took whatever Barqoue opera pieces he wanted and put completely new words to them.  Part of me is always a purist to the composer's original intentions, and though their works have long since been in the public domain, at times it makes me uncom…