Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The 306 Greatest Books #145 - Idylls of the King

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List.


Idylls of the King is an epic poem written in free verse describing the time of King Arthur from the time when he meets Guinevere until the time of his death and the collapse of his Round Table. This is a spiritual sequel to The Lady of the Lake, and in more than one instance I had wished I had read that story immediately before beginning this one (although reading my review of how much I didn't like it, I'm probably sure I'm glad I didn't). At first, while reading through this poem I was greatly dismayed due to the difficulty in understanding anything that was going on. I would get lost in the poem not knowing who did what, or why, or even care who or why. I realized this had to be one of those stories where I read a summary of the events in each section before I read the section. After I started doing that, the story became much easier to follow. If I became lost at any point, I was able to pick the story thread back up fairly easily. The story is laid out in 12 chapters. Each chapter is essentially a stand alone story that occurs during the time of King Arthur, which few threads weaving through the whole narrative. The narrative builds though, and by the end does make a bit of sense. The primary underlying theme of the stories is Lancelot's eternal love for Queen Guinevere and how eventually they become lovers, bringing the downfall of Camelot. The story itself is often sparse, being filled with the flowery language of the poem. At times the poems is exquisitely worded, however those times would come and go. One thing that stood out to me was the consistently incorrect use of the words "past" instead of "passed" and "bad" instead of "bade". I wasn't sure if it was an editorial issue or that's just how it was, but it drove me nuts.Overall, I was rather bored by the poem and just wished it would be over. Luckily, it's short and that ending came pretty quickly. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Personal Goals - Month 2 Update

2 Months in.
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1. Finish 1st Draft of my Novel 
Start - Again on the list.

2. Drop weight to 167 
Start - This has also been on the list since the beginning. Starting at 191.1
Month 1 - 191.1

3. Read 1 of the Top Ten Books on Zane's List 
Start - In the middle of The Stories of Anton Chekhov.

4. Read last 5 books on the Sybervision Book List
Start - Current count is at 95.
Month 1 - Read The Last of the Mohicans. 4 to go.
Month 2 - Read The Red and the Black. 3 to go.

5. Read a total of 12 books on my book list. (need to get to 200 books by my 40th birthday) 
Start - Currently my total count is at 142.
Month 1 - Read The Last of the Mohicans. 11 to go.
Month 2 - Read The Red and the Black. 10 to go.

6. Finish 2 more Geological Movie Reviews 
Start - Earthquake still looks like the best bet.

7. Watch 10 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time 
Start - Current count is at 77.

8. Finish 50 things on the Blog/Website, with 30 specifically on my To Do list.
Start - My To Do list currently has ~160 things on it.
Month 1 - 6 items done. 44 to go.
Month 2 - 8 items done. 42 to go.

9. Finish 8 things on the House Things to do List 
Start - The list currently has 29 things on it.
Month 1 - In the middle of finishing the windows.
Month 2 - 1 item done, window sill installation. 7 to go.

10. Finish skinning the top of the hovercraft 
Start - Hopefully I can make some time to get to it this year.

11. Get my 5K time under 25 minutes 
Start - My current best is 28:32

12. Collect and photograph all of the Star Wars Comics 
Start - It is time to finish this up. A lot more work involved here than I anticipated.

13. Submit 2 papers for publication
Start - Time to focus on my publications this year.
Month 2 - Been working steadily on getting my Master's Thesis publishable.

14. Get caught up on my to read pile (which is mainly Star Wars but some other stuff as well)
Start -  I read many of the books I was behind on last year. Time to get fully caught up on my to read pile.
Month 1 - Working my way through the pile steadily.
Month 2 - Slowly working through it.

15. Watch and re-review Two entire lists of one of the 10 Top Ten Movies
Start - Working my way through the Top 10 Sci-Fi movies now.
Month 2 - Rereviewed Star Wars and watched and reviewed Harvey. One of the Sci-Fi list and one on the Fantasy list.

16. Collect, photograph, and organize my Star Wars novel collection
Start - I have it mostly set with paperbacks but I would like to get the collection organized and get the first release hardcovers.

----------------------------------------Items of Note---------------------------------------------------

I spent most of my extra time this month getting my Master's Thesis set for publication submittal. Right now I hope to have that completed by the end of March.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The 100 Greatest Comedies - #35: Harvey

I am in the process of watching all of the Top 10 Fantasy movies according to AFI and reviewing them for my list (http://dinojim.com/Cultural/Movies/10Top10.html#Fantasy).

The current film I just watched is Harvey, which is #7


This movie is also on the 100 Greatest Comedies list (#35).





In high school I had helped work on a production of Harvey, so I had a bit of an idea what the general premise of the movie was, although it's been a rather long time so I did not remember all of the particulars. I will try to not give any of the big secrets away because they are worth experiencing them for yourself. The general premise of Harvey is about a man, Elwood P Dowd (played by Jimmy Stewart), who is friends with an invisible 6 foot tall rabbit. One of the keys to this movie is that it is on the Top 10 Fantasy Films list. This tells you that not everything is as it seems at the beginning of the movie. The main thing that jumped right out at me during the opening third of this movie is how abysmally people with mental disorders (or perceived mental disorders) are treated. The bulk of the movie takes place in and around a mental sanatorium where the main "enforcer" brutally treats the patients with aggression and force. Definitely not my favorite part of the movie. However, Jimmy Stewart is beyond excellent in this role. I swear, if he isn't high during the filming of this, he sure plays high very well. He is the personification of the "nice guy" who nobody can feel mad or irritated at. If you can get passed the mental treatment issues though, the movie is very funny and a joy to watch. I laughed a good deal through the movie, not something I often do on the Comedies list and was generally intrigued about how the movie was going progress. The entire movie is well acted. The way that characters routinely cut off Stewart's character is perfect because each time the audience kind of holds its collective breath, knowing that if he was allowed to finish, the movie would go much differently. Overall, even though this movie has some issues, I still greatly enjoyed it and would recommend it to most people as a light hearted comedy.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 306 Greatest Books #144 - The Red and the Black

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Red and the Black by Stendhal. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and the Norwegian Book List.


Before I started reading The Red and the Black I was warned by a friend who kept saying that it really wasn't a good book. This did not get my hopes very high and I kept pushing the book off. However, since I am at the very end of the Sybervision Book List it was time to sit down and read it. The translation I read was that used in the Everyman's Library and was remarkable easy to read. That made the book rather enjoyable, at least at first, because I could jump right into the book without having to get used to the writing style. In regards to the story, I was under the impression (for some reason, I do not know) that this was a war story, similar to War and Peace or Les Miserables. Oh, how wrong I was. Apparently, this turned out to be a "romance" novel, and not one that was very well constructed. The main character, Julien Sorel, goes through two main loves in the book, which the book is divided into two main parts accordingly. Through most novels, the reader is made to feel for the protagonist, and to hope they succeed. Julien, though, was just a pain in the ass. At times he was overly arrogant, at others he was wishy-washy. He wanted one thing on one page, then would flip to the exact opposite the next. And the women he was lusting over had the same problems. The back and forths got to be so bad that I couldn't really care less what happened at any one moment, I just wished the story would progress somewhere, anywhere. I did find the hints of a fascinating story mixed in there though. There was at one point that Julien seemed to get mixed up in the politics of the time (just after the fall of Napoleon), which was the aristocracy versus the church, and he was to travel to England to deliver a message. However, that storyline was dropped so quickly that I had to go back and reread a few pages to find out what happened. That excitement is what gives me hope that the other Stendhal novel on my list, The Charterhouse of Parma, could be a great read, but I'm not holding out too much hope. Overall, the style of writing was very easy to follow and I just flew through this rather long novel, but the story itself kept having me banging my head against the wall. There is no way can I endorse this garbled mess.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The 100 Greatest Movies - #15: Star Wars

I am in the process of watching all of the Top 10 Science Fiction movies according to AFI and reviewing them for my list (http://www.dinojim.com/Cultural/Movies/10Top10.html#SciFi).

The current film I just watched is Star Wars, which is #2


This movie is also on the 100 Greatest Movies list (#15), the 10th Anniversary List (#13), the 100 Greatest Thrillers list (#27), and the 100 Most Inspirational Movies (#39).



I had recently rewatched the original Star Wars (now subtitled A New Hope) in order to provide a better review than I had initially done when first setting up my movie and book reviews. Star Wars is a movie I grew up watching with my sister as movie marathons on New Year's Eve, so it is difficult to piece out that history from the movie that I know so well. The version I watched recently was the current Blu-ray release, with all the changes that have accompanied it as well as any previous adjustments to the movie that happened along the way. The first thing that struck me about the movie though was how slow it is. When compared to modern day "blockbusters", Star Wars moves at a snail's pace. I watched the movie with my six year old daughter and I frequently was checking to see if she was even still paying attention (she was). But even with the slow pace, the story, the visuals, and the dialogue all still hold up. The visuals are even more stunning now as emphasized on blu-ray and exploded onto a 4k tv. The amount of work done on the movies to bring them up to modern standards still holds, however the CGI done on it throughout the intervening years does not hold up as well. I still laughed at the funny parts, the random bits of witticism sprinkled throughout the movie. I am still enthralled by Alec Guinness' performance. And Darth Vader still provides a looming presence throughout the movie, that only gets heightened by the Prequels, not diminished as some people towt. So, even in a day when huge blockbuster movies are being rolled out on a monthly, if not weekly, basis, it's good to know that one of the original blockbusters still holds the charm and visual appeal that made so many people fall in love with it in the first place.