Monday, August 27, 2012

Lincoln's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly and Dwight Jon Zimmerman

Lincoln's last days is one of the most dramatic stories in American history--how one gunshot changed the country forever.  This book was adapted from Bill O'Reilly's bestselling Killing Lincoln, but is a wonderful book for children and adults alike.  It is filled with abundant illustrations (including period photographs), maps, and art.  In the back of the book there is a Recommended Reading list, as well as Recommended Websites, Recommended DVD viewing, Twenty Important and Interesting Facts about the Civil War, and a section on Finding Lincoln in the Nation's Capital Today.  It is history that reads like a thriller. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Redshirts by John Scalzi

I absolutely loved this book.  First of all, I love Scalzi's writing--I find him hilarious.  And second of all, there is a huge emotional payoff as the story unfolds. 

I also love Joe Hill's comment on the back of the book:  "Redshirts is (a) ruin-your-underwear funny, (b) a mind-bender sure to Philip K. Dick you over, and (c) absurdly rich in ideas and feeling.  John Scalzi sets his imagination to STUN and scores a direct hit.  Read on and prosper." (Stephen King's son can be pretty funny himself).

Here's the basic premise of the story.  Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid.  The year is 2456.  He's thrilled to be assigned to the ship's xenobiology laboratory with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship's famous senior officers.  But soon crew members start comparing notes and realize that every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation, the ship's Captain, Science Officer, and handsome Lieutenant always survive these confrontations, and at least one low-ranked crew member doesn't. 

[This scenario should be immediately recognizable to any Star Trek fan.  The title of the book comes from the color of the shirts of these expendable crew members whose only job was to be killed in a spectacular way (and Star Trek came up with some very creative ways for these crew members to die), so that Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley would have a body to emote over, and the action/adventure element of the TV show would be furthered. ]

The savvier members of the Intrepid start avoiding Away Missions at all costs.  Then Dahl stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his crew members understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and the craziness begins.

It is what Scalzi does with this craziness that is really interesting.  This is where he uses his doctorate in psychology (that he received from the University of Chicago) and takes us into weird territory.  I don't want to give anything away, so that you enjoy every delicious twist and turn of his narrative.  But I must say that the three Codas at the end of the book made me cry.  Really cry.  No surprise there, as Scalzi said he cried when writing them.

Funny science fiction hasn't really been in vogue since The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Maybe the success of this book will let the powers that be know that there is a huge audience for it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crossing the Sea of Knowledge

Art by Francis Minoza and Laurence Minoza (based in Cebu Philippines).

Gone With the Wind

A 1938 copy of Gone With the Wind (signed by almost all of the movie's cast, as well as the Director and Producer) sold for $135,300 at auction recently, according to The Hollywood Reporter

My kind of stage

Courtesy of BuzzFeed, pictures of a music festival stage in Belgium that has created pure magic.
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