Bläeckfisk is the Swedish translation for the word octopus. I am not Swedish, but I do own a lot of furniture from Sweden and I like octopuses while admiring their multi-tasking ability. I would like to travel to Sweden at some point, plus I think it is a pretty cool looking word. Anyhow, speaking of words, I guess you could say that is why we are here. Words are the foundation for way we try to wrap our thoughts around everything in the galaxy. The tendrils that lead to emotions and curiosity. I am not here to solve the mysteries of the universe, just to discuss words in general. Specifically words written by other people and have been printed off and slapped between two slices of thin card stock. Many of these sandwiches go on to bigger and better things, some bigger and better than others. So, I guess we will be talking about those as well. If you share an interest in words or enjoi seeing what they can look like in action....välkommen! (Swedish for welcome.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

F17: Hunger Games-Directed by Gary Ross

"Hope is the only thing more powerful than fear. A little fire is effective and a spark is fine....... as long as it is contained."

This is a stellar movie and about as good of an adaptation of a beloved book that I have seen. There were a few minor adjustments to the plot and the elimination of a character or two, but overall I loved everything about the Hunger Games. The visual experience of life in the districts and the depressing nature of dystopian Panem was incredibly well executed. Whoever was in charge of casting also deserves some praise, as I thought all the characters were perfectly cast for the motley crew of characters Suzanne Collins spawned in her books. Donald Sutherland was a wicked President Snow. Arrogant, insidious and calculating. Woody Harleson's character Haymitch could have been a wee more of a drunken train wreck, but I enjoyed him as Katniss and Peeta's mentor. Jennifer Laurence became Katniss Everdeen and I believe she embodied the crux of the character to the fullest. Strong and innocent. Provocative yet deadly. Rebelliously devoted to those that she holds dear. In short, a prodigious female protagonist that kicks ass.

While I did really enjoy this film, there is definitely something very disturbing about the whole idea behind the Hunger Games. Set aside the futuristic predictions of what society could be like and how oppressively controlling the government could end up being. I think what bothers me the most is that this movie was based on books that kids are reading. Is revolution and televised murder appropriate for our youth? I get that there is a lot out there in the world and we as a society have become more and more desensitized to violence with each passing year. Sure, vicious adventure stories depicting sacrifice have been around for thousands of years (Collins has been noted as using the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur as inspiration), but I can't help but wonder how much is too much? What's to come from these impetuous spores that we are embedding in our kids? Seems like every few months we hear of some youth who picks up violence, stashes it a trench coat or backpack and trots off to school, only to unleash it on his/her innocent peers who just happened to show up that day trying to learn something.

The Hunger Games is a powder keg of controversial topics and I really hope the parents of our kids out there reading and seeing this movie will take some time to diffuse some of the ideas presented. As an educator, I do admire Suzanne Collins for penning such a magnetic narrative that with out a doubt has hooked many young minds into the world of reading. However, what does that say about our society if it takes a series of books about kids hunting and slaying other kids to convince youths that reading is worthwhile? That being said, if the intended audience age range was higher, this would all be a mute point. Hunger Games was a great movie. It has action, drama and a snatch of romance. The cinematography is wonderful. Top rate special effects and clever camera work create an experience well worth the money you will shell out for admission. I highly recommend reading the books and seeing this movie, if nothing else than to keep your finger on the pulse of what is being talked about in school with our youngsters. Chances are you will become a fan. Judge for yourself and may the odds forever be in your favor.


Monday, March 19, 2012

F16: In the Land of Blood and Honey-Directed by Angelina Jolie

"Do you remember what is was like, before the battles?"

War is relentless. War is ghastly. And grim. And terrifying and something that I will never quite be able to fully wrap my head around. That being said, this really is a must see film. For as savagely brutal as the subject is, there is a whisper of tenderness to this multi layered drama that is worth experiencing. The film begins in pre-war Bosnia-Herzegovina and explores a potential romance between Serbian officer Danijel and a Bosnian Muslim artist, Ajla.  As the militant Serbians begin their ethnic cleansing, Ajla is rounded up with other young  women and sent a commanding strong hold where they are savagely forced into servicing the resident soldiers. Danijel is in charge of the outpost and upon learning that Ajla is now in his camp, risks his own fate by shielding Ajla from the monstrous acts that are being committed each day at the base. What follows is a snapshot of a fragile, forbidden relationship and its struggles to survive in the most dire of circumstances. 

First time director and screen writer Angelina Jolie seizes your attention with a powerfully ominous first scene that formulates the soul of what is to come. This work is essentially a self portrait of war and the horrendous atrocities that follow. War is hard at work killing, raping and humiliating people for nothing more than their belief in different ideas. Entire families are ripped apart and systematically gunned down and covered with earth. Cities are destroyed and memories are stained. Jolie's portrayal of these events are nothing short of numbing and for being such an icon of Hollywood, this film has all the artistic makings of a memorable indy flick. Outside of her choice to have the actors speaking English, there is a real feeling of authenticity to this movie and the eerie way she manipulates silence transforms these tragic events from abominable to haunting. I wish there was never a need to make this film but by reopening the wounds of this conflict, Jolie brings to attention to this abhorrent chapter in our modern history with hopes of teaching people about what took place in the early 1990's in Eastern Europe. Hopefully this film will serve as a reminder of the disastrous effects of war and at the same time remind all of us to treat each other with understanding and empathy. See this movie.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

B10: Destiny of the Republic By Candice Millard (265 pages)

"They must not be knocked down with bludgeons. They must have their throats cut with a feather."

This book is a gem. Like the cover boasts, this book is about madness, medicine and the murder of our 20th president, James Garfield. What is even more amazing than the fact that Garfield's presidency lasted a mere 200 days, is that the wounds sustained by bullets of the mad Charles Guiteau were not fatal. He was unlucky to walk into that train station on the morning of July 2, 1881, but even unluckier to have such an incompetent, pertinacious lead physician that his care was entrusted to. I am no doctor, but surely thrusting your unsanitized finger into a gunshot wound is not the best way to assess the situation. The resulting infection would eventually lead to the agonizing death of a notoriously eloquent man that never intended to be president in the first place.

Millard is promising young writer from Kansas City that attacks this story with passion. It is clear from the opening paragraph that she has an intense love of history and the means to bring it to life. This book is filled with authentic characters who all in some way or another managed to have their fingerprints left upon the unfortunate account of James Garfield; Joseph Lister, whose conviction towards sanitization of medical instruments would someday dramatically shift the way surgeries were performed. The uncanny Alexander Graham Bell gave up precious months of his time to come up with a machine capable of locating the bullet buried inside the bowels of Garfield. Then there is Guiteau. Charles Guiteau was a strange man with an intriguing story behind his road to insanity, hell bent on securing his place in history. Taking these intrigingly surly figures and mixing in the backdrop of an unstable, new formed country, 16 years after the Civil War, we get the makings of a great story. I highly recommend checking this book out as it reminded me a lot of Devil in the White City (a past favorite). You will inevitably learn something new about one of the shortest tenures in the oval office while also gleaning an new perspective on what it would have been like to be a doctor around the late 1800's. History freak or not, this book is worth reading.