Monthly Archives: June 2014

Fantastic Voyage

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Fantastic Voyage
Fantastic Voyage

What a journey! Especially back in 1966. A journey through the body, through the heart, and onward toward the center of the mind.  Shades of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage is just as exciting and adventure-filled if not more so. Indeed, maybe more so with all of the new technological innovation one hundred years later since Verne.

Although Asimov wrote the novel, it was not his idea. FV is a novelization of the 1966 movie. The real credit, which Asimov relates, goes to Otto Klement and his partner Bixby, and to the many technicians and scientists who contributed to/were consulted for the movie idea.

Still, FV  as a novelization is an engaging read that still holds its own to this very day. BTW, so does the movie from which this book emerged.

Besides reading FV, make a point to view the movie, too. If made today FV would have to have a different tone, of course: it would take on frenzy and mayhem, much more than pacing and scientific explanations. I also hope it is not remade  either, or if so, perhaps without Raquel Welch this time – she was not fantastic in the 1966 movie.

Nonetheless, Ike provided an captivating written  version – as always.

Uncle Dynamite

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Mmmmmmmmm…

Pure candy for my tastes: P G Wodehouse novels! Today’s nougat is the 1948 vehicle Uncle Dynamite. When Uncle Fred, fifth earl of Ickenham, is let loose, one can be quite sure all will go topsy-turvy until resolving into a new order – all the while as Uncle Fred distributes his light and good intentions to the world and its actors.

Uncle Dynamite
Uncle Dynamite

3 or 4 times a year, I enjoy a return to the Wodehouse catalog of near 100 titles. Of the many titles read, I realize they are all very much the same, except oddly different.

In common:

  • English country houses
  • Bumbling aristocrats
  • Twisted romantic plots
  • Impersonations
  • Pilfering
  • Strong matrons to be avoided, etc.
  • French windows
  • On again, off again engagements

Differences:

  • New characters playing old roles
  • New twists on the same old, same old plots
  • New twists in language use and description
  • New twisted advice given

Examples:

The advice I give to every young man starting out to seek a life partner is to find a girl whom he can tickle. (page 27)

It was silly of him to take your breaking the engagement so seriously. My dear wife broke ours six times, and each time I came up smiling. (page 68)

A knock-out  drop in his bedtime whiskey and soda would, of course, be the best method, but I happen to have come here without my knock-out drugs, Idiotic of me. It is madness to come to country houses without one’s bottle of Mickey Finns. One ought to pack them first thing after one’s clean collars. (page 168)

All mirth and madness! Always a go-to selection when I am in the mood for lightness, gaiety, and harmless romps. Boffo!

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

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Shakespeare
Shakespeare

This is the illustrated edition of Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare (2009 from the 2007 text), which is one of the best no-accounts of any of the no-accounts concerning the Bard’s life.

Bryson always speaks to me in a gentle manner albeit with a subtle tongue-in-cheek, especially here as he takes us for a walk through signatures, plays, lives, deaths, and sundry other items that all lead us to the same conclusive conclusion: We just don’t know! Sure, we can conjecture through all of the thousands of books about Shakey, but in the final analysis, we just don’t know! We just can’t prove!  Just like other great men who have changed our lives and perspectives – think Jesus, thing Buddha, et al – we know what they said, but we have no proof about their actual existences (and even then, we do not know for sure what each really said, if anything at all)

Even in the plays and poems of Shakespeare: We know nothing! Corrupt editions, bad typesetting, poor handwriting, unregulated spelling and grammar, et al againus, still we know nothing for sure!

The beauty of the world…the paragon of animals! (Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2)

Bryson illustrates, step-by-step, the marvels in reshaping history with every new iota of data found, or how to weave a whole history out of nothing.

As always, as well, the minutiae he digs up is always of great trivial knowledge (like in his At Home or in The History of Nearly Everything). One example in this book is about tobacco:

Tobacco, introduced to London the year after Shakespeare’s birth, was a luxury at first but soon gained such widespread popularity that by the end of the century there were no fewer than seven thousand tobacconists in the city. It was employed not only for pleasure but as a treatment for a broad range of complaints including venereal disease, migraine and even bad breath, and was seen as such a reliable prophylactic against plague that even small children were encouraged to use it. For a time pupils at Eton faced a beating if caught neglecting their tobacco. (page 81)

For me, it is factoidal passages such as this that makes each Brysonian expedition a treasure trove: in the end, who even cares if we know nothing about the main topic? It is the milieu of the times that actually has any true effect at all.

Regarding theatrical history and evolution, here are factoids just as engaging as the those concerning the possible life of this playwright;

  • at this time, theater began its true rise as an public entertainment
  • but because of plagues, theaters were closed for extended periods of time
  • due to the want and competition between theaters, new plays always were in demand, and performed but only a few times
  • plays were strictly regulated by the Master of Revels
  • actors had to remember many more lines and characters due to small troupes, increased number of characters, and high variety in turnover
  • even in times of great poverty and plague and disasters, theatergoers continued to pour in no matter what the cost (similar to the movie boom during the depression and world wars of 20th century America).

Theatres  boomed in the years just after Shakespeare’s death, even more so than they had in his lifetime. By 1631, seventeen of them were in operation around London. The good years didn’t last long, however. By 1642, when the Puritans shut them down, just six remained – three amphitheatres and three halls. Theatres would never again appeal to so wide a spectrum of society, or be such a universal pastime. (page 202)

By the time Bryson comes to the end of this polemical investigation – amidst the speculations, rumours, and red herrings concerning Shakespeare’s personal life and written legacy, he can emphatically conclude: “Only one man had the circumstances and gifts to give us such incomparable works, and William Shakespeare was unquestionably that man – whoever he was.” (page 247)

CIG to Amigurumi

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi (2010) by June Gilbank inspired me to design and knit out a few of my own. Although ami’s are usually crocheted, I went  a knit route for a smoother texture.

CGI Amigurumi
CGI Amigurumi

The smaller the ami, the more it should be crocheted for the cute bumpy texture. This baby narwhal is crocheted:

Baby narwhal
Baby narwhal

 

 

 

 

 

The mother narwhal is knit:

Narwhal
Narwhal

 

 

 

 

 

As is Ella Phansa and her bull of a mate Elmo Phonso:

Ella Phansa & Elmo Phonso
Ella Phansa & Elmo Phonso

 

The Joy of Zentangle

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Thanks to my wonderful partner Jo who, through our wonderful friend Sherry, exposed me to this art, I am now finally tangling on my own with the assistance of this wonderful book.

Joy of Zentangle (2013) from Design Originals is a very useful guide that shows you just a few of the many tangles(101 in all here) to make (and how-to make them) and will inspire you  in all of your tangled moments.

Joy of Zentangle
Joy of Zentangle

Here are a few of my new tangles:

Tangle 1
Tangle 1
Tangle 2
Tangle 2
Tangle 3
Tangle 3