The Magic Book
The tailors, not the princesses.
In one of those stories, after many adventures and hardships, the hero found the secret room with the treasure chest, but to his great disappointment, the chest seemed to be empty. He looked closer, hoping that whoever had cleared out the treasure from the chest had missed something. He found a secret compartment, and inside, there was a small book. The book seemed very ordinary, but our hero kept it, figuring that there must be something special about it, since obviously somebody had gone to great lengths to hide it, and he really didn't want to come away from the adventure without something to show for it, even if it was only a book. And of course, it wouldn't have been much of a story if the book was just an ordinary book, would it? Fortunately for the hero, and for Rich, the book was a magic book. Each time you opened it, there was a different story written on the pages. One day the book would have tales of fair princesses and brave knights who went off to slay fierce dragons; the next day the story would be about young men going into space in rocketships. The stories would change according to who opened the book, and what they wanted to read. It was such a marvel that the brave adventurer was able to sell it for many large gold pieces and live happily ever after.
Now Rich, who, as you may have guessed, loved to read, was very impressed by the idea of a magic book, and went straight to his parents and asked for one. Unfortunately, he lived in a dreary world without magic of any kind, and so there were no magic books to be found.
Many years passed, and Rich, who was now a father himself and went by Richard, had amassed a great pile of books, filling every shelf in his house, and spilling over onto tables, chairs, empty aquariums, even the backs of toilets. There were books in every room of his house, even in his garage, but he never forgot the story of the magic book, and in his heart, still yearned for one. His wife, who was tired of running into piles of books everywhere, and had given up all hope of ever eating dinner at the kitchen table because of all the books in the way, wanted him to get his magic book even more than he did.
She searched and searched, and one day, she said to him with a mysterious smile, "Just wait until September."
"What happens in September?" he asked.
"If I told you, you wouldn't have to wait!"
She refused to say more, no matter how much he tried to bribe her or to plead with her, so all he could do was wait.
Then one day, a package arrived in the mail. It was a book shaped package and it had Richard's name on it which was strange, since he hadn't ordered any new books. He opened the package, and it was a book, but one like he had never seen before. There was only one page in the book, but every time he pushed a button, the page changed. Richard began to tremble as he realized that his wife had actually found and gotten him a magic book! Any story he wanted to read, all he had to do was to push a button and there it was!
Needless to say, Richard was very happy, and spent quite some time making sure his wife knew just how happy she had made him by buying her lots of shoes. And from that day forward, Richard carried his magic book with him everywhere he went, especially when he accompanied his wife on shopping expeditions.
And he and his wife ate dinner at the dining room table, and lived happily ever after.
By the way, in case you couldn't tell, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen's Tales, and Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book are all available for free on the Kindle.
Amazon’s Kindle for PC Not Ready For Prime Time
Sorry Amazon, but if this is your idea of progress, I'll stick with good old fashioned paper books.
Under the Dome Update
Well, that's not entirely accurate. There are flashes of King's former greatness here and there, but in the main, this one rates with Tommyknockers as one of his worst. The plot is too predictable, and it appears that King, having run out of ideas of his own, has decided to rip off one of Dean Koontz's standard characters, the super smart, empathic dog who may or may not save the day.
It would be interesting to do an in depth comparison of Under the Dome with The Stand, King's other apocalyptic novel. The difference in the way King wrote about his characters is stark. In The Stand, the humans, good or bad, were human and you cared about them. Harold Lauder was a fully fleshed out character, doomed by his flaws, but you couldn't help having some sympathy for him. Compare him to any of the bad guys in UtD. Not one of them is sympathetic in the least; they are all caricatures of human beings. Junior is a walking talking boogeyman, no more human than Jason from Friday the 13th. He's just there to kill people. Even the good guys in UtD are unconvincing. Characters repeatedly do stupid things, failing to learn from their mistakes. It seems like King created the characters for the purpose of being killed by Big Jim just to show how truly evil the conservative Christian really is.
King's politics have completely overridden his story telling skills, to the point where I think he's had a drastic change in perspective since the injuries he suffered at the hands of a careless driver. I think he's lost empathy for the very people he used to write about, the common man. They used to be the heroes of King's stories. The janitor who saves the day, the farm couple that protects a special little girl, or a guy from a small Texas town who rallies the survivors of a monstrous plague to stand and defeat an even greater evil. King doesn't believe in these people anymore. If he wrote The Stand today, Stu Redman would have been one of the bad guys.
Stephen KIng’s Under the Dome
- The Dark Tower Series
- The Stand
- Salem's Lot
- Everything's Eventual
- Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redepmtion
Some I've liked:
And some were, well, not among those I'd read again.
- Gerald's Game
- Rose Madder
- Bag of Bones
All in all, there's been way more good than bad, and while I mo longer rush out to but the next King opus as soon as it hits the stands, I do get the hardcover through Amazon or when it gets to the discount shelf at Books A Million.
His last novel, Duma Key, is a great example of why for me the bloom has faded from King's prose. The first half of the book, dealing with Edgar Fremantle, a man recovering from a near fatal injury coupled with a divorce, is classic King. While there are no real horrific elements here, we get to see intimately the struggle of a man trying to piece his body and his life back together after having both shattered. King obviously drew heavily on his own experiences coming back from the accident that nearly took his life in crafting Edgar's story. Unfortunately, the second half of the story pales in comparison as King trots out familiar bogeymen and demons, and what was a compelling read became a by the numbers thriller.
When I saw the first reviews for Under the Dome, I began to get a little excited. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive, something unusual for a King book, particularly one as long as this one. If I had paid closer attention to the source of those reviews, I would have been less excited.
Under the Dome is not a horror story, or an adventure thriller; it's a ham-fisted failure of a political allegory that falls right in line with candidate Obama's quote about small town people bitterly clinging to guns and religion. In King's town of Chester's Mill, the hero is an ex army officer who is now a drifter after doing horrible things in Iraq, the fundamentalist preacher is a self flaggellant with a penchant for Asian porn, and Big Jim, the most powerful man in town, is a born again used car salesman who is also a meth dealer and a murderer.
A meth dealing, murdering, born again Christian? Really? Are we maybe laying it on just a bit thick Steve? I guess not, because who could forget Big Jim's son, the serial murderer, rapist, and necrophiliac. Every small town has one of those, don'tcha know.
Give me a break! I've read almost 400 pages of this book, which is not quite half of it, and I have yet to come across a single character that is convincing enough to care about. That's a major flaw in a King story, because if you don't care about the characters, there's no horror when bad things happen. In the Shining, the horror comes from watching a flawed but good Jack Torrence slowly succumb to the evil of the Overlook Hotel. That's the steak to the sizzle of all the other spooky events in the novel. In Under the Dome, Big Jim and company are evil from the get go. There is no steak because the damage they create fails to carry any emotional weight because the characters are cartoons; we're not emotionally invested in them.
Reading the book reminds me of Michael Moore's uncharacteristically honest comment when asked about the negative impact of chain stores like WalMart on small town businesses. "F*ck em all," he said. "They are the Republicans in town."
According to King, small towns consist of religious robots, trailer trash, wannabe tyrants, drug addicts, and fat, stupid people, and Under the Dome appears to be a 1000 page exercise in f*cking all of them. It's no wonder the critics are praising it. I won't give it a final evaluation until I finish it, but right now, this may require a new category for King books: the last King novel I read.
Avatar: Racism Enshrined
Jake Sully, a paraplegic in a borrowed body, was able to do things that the native Na'vi couldn't even dream of doing, as shown when he mastered the biggest baddest flying reptile on the planet. We're led to believe that Sully is an average guy, wityh no exceptional skills or intellect, yet he excelled almost without trying among the Na'vi. He mastered the skills required to be the greatest of hunters in less than three months, skills a normal Na'vi took years to acquire. He mastered their culture, and on a part time basis mind you, as he spent a considerable amount of time in his human body reporting back to his superiors.
Even more incredible, as the movie drew towards the end, he was able to pray to their god better than they were, and to arouse that god to take action, something no Na'vi had ever done before.
So what does it say when an average human can come in, master the culture in a short period of time, master all the skills to be a leading member of the tribe, perform legendary feats of prowess that few natives had ever dreamed of trying, much less dared, rise to a position of battle leader despite being a known liar, and also communicate to the gods more effectively than the high priest?
Humans must be superior to the Na'vi. So if, as speculated, the humans in the movie represent Americans, and the NA'vi represent indigenous peoples, such as the American Indians, what message is James Cameron trying to send, exactly?
Star Trek Season One Blu Ray
Obviously, that didn't work out because here I am almost 40 years later, and we don't have we don't even have space ships much less starships. (No, the shuttle doesn't count as a space ship since it can't escape Earth orbit.) And even if we did have space ships, I'm too old, fat, and blind for space flight.
But I can still dream, and the new Blu-Ray Release of Star Trek: Season One is an awesome way to relive those dreams.
I've been watching the episodes, and even the ones that I never really liked all that much can grab me and suck me back in to the future according to Roddenberry, a future with gleaming white ships, strange alien races, and very short skirts.
One of my biggest frustrations of watching old episodes on TV is how they would trim the length to add more commercials. Little bits and pieces that I remembered from earlier viewings went missing. On the Blu-Ray, every raised eyebrow, sly smirk, and pointed look is back where it should be.
It's funny how well the episodes work, despite the obvious low budget, the clumsy stunt work and fight choreography, and the awkward acting style of the time. For anyone who doesn't think that acting is an evolving craft, just watch a TV show from 40 or 50 years ago. The episodes work because the stories worked. Sure, the sight of William Shatner performing a shoulder role across the floor for no particular reason before firing his phaser (What are Little Girls Made Of?) inspires laughter, and some of the dialog will make you wince, the stories work because the characters work. In the strange alchemy of creating a TV show, a line from a writer, a gesture from the actor, and coordination from the director, all stirred together and guided by the vision of Gene Roddenberry made Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew became instantly familiar. Sure the characters were drawn from archtypes, but hey, it worked for Shakespeare too.
I'm not saying that Trek is as good as a Shakespeare play, but it was no Lost in Space either.
One of the most noticeable things in the Blu-Ray transfer is the clarity of the image, which results in stunt doubles being clearly recognizable in several scenes. The fight between Khan and Kirk in Engineering is one that particularly stands out. Without the closeups intercut between the action shots, you would have no idea that it was supposed to be Kirk and Khan fighting. It's more amusing than annoying, and it gives me a kind of behind the scenes feeling as I watch it. You can also see Spock's makeup vary from scene to scene, catch shots where his ears are about to fall off, and so on.
Speaking of behind the scenes, the extras on the discs range from excellent to meh. The interview with Leonard Nimoy is fascinating, while listening to Shatner talk about his show horses is not quite so fascinating. The interviews with writers, producers and crew of the original series, as well as the special effects crew on this new release are entertaining and informative.
The improved special effects are done extremely well. They integrate seamlessly with the original material, and don't look flashy and modern. They just look right. Some of the planets are absolutely gorgeous. One of the nice things is that if you are a true purist, you have the option of watching the episodes with the original effects.
I'm very pleased with the purchase and I'm hurrying through the box set so I can order and watch Season Two, which just came out. Season Three is due just in time for Christmas.
FCC Disclosure: PPPPLLLLBLBLBLBLBLBLTTT!!!!