Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Clone Wars: Corruption

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Corruption"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 8, 2010
via The Clone Wars Wiki
Padmé visits Mandalore on a diplomatic mission.  During her stay, scandal breaks out in catastrophic form.  Children are being rushed to the hospital in alarming numbers, apparently poisoned through their school lunches.  Padmé and Countess Satine investigate the root cause.  The story has many real world precedents, well-documented in a book I read and reviewed recently: Swindled by Bee Wilson.

In Star Wars films and novels, the corruption on individual planets is mentioned but we never get to see it up close.  Through occasional visits to Mandalore, The Clone Wars offers a more intimate view of such political machinations.  Always worth noting: no Jedi in this story, except in passing mention.

*****

Mandalore is governed by a Ruling Council, comprised of several ministers and led by the Prime Minister.  Among them is Armatan, Minister of the Interior.  He'll be back for another episode in Season 5.  In both episodes, he is voiced by Corey Burton.
via Wookieepedia
If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "The Academy."

 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: May 2016 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, May 27th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:




Friday, April 29, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: April 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
Translator: Jack Zipes
via Amazon
Inspired by the comic book series Fables, I decided to seek out the original versions of the Grimms' fairy tales, a major source material for the series.  Many of Fables's most important characters derive from the Grimm stories, including Snow White, the lead female character.  The tales are much rougher than Disney would have one believe and Fables reflects that well. 

There are many lessons to be learned from Grimm:
  • Be kind to a beggar on the road because it might be God in disguise.
  • If you are forced to marry a talking animal or an ugly person, tough it out because s/he is likely to be a gorgeous prince(ss) under enchantment.
  • Everyone gets what they deserve, though both rewards and punishments can be a bit over the top.
  • Don't leave a trail of edible goods, be they beans, bread crumbs, whatever.  Fairy tale characters make this mistake with shocking frequency.
  • Animals are more likely to remember your good deeds than people are. 
  • Don't make a pact with the Devil unless you have a clever plan for getting out of your obligation at the last minute.
  • Don't send your wife down to the cellar to draw beer from the barrel - at least, not if you expect her to come back up again.
  • Women are prizes to be won.  Men, too, though they usually have more choice in the matter.
  • Be cautious in any situation where you are being granted wishes, especially when a talking fish is involved.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, mess with St. Peter.
  • There are few sins worse than being ugly.
  • If you are dark skinned or Jewish, you should probably steer clear of fairy tales altogether.  The people in them are not likely to be kind to you.
I enjoyed the stories immensely.  There were plenty I'd never been exposed to before in any medium.  I am left wondering, though, why particular stories have become so deeply entrenched in western culture while others have not, especially when so many narrative elements are repeated from one tale to another.  "Snow White" I understand.  That story has unusual depth to it compared with others in the collection.  But why "Hansel and Gretel" when so many other stories involve children in miserable circumstances?  Why "Cinderella" when so many other stories involve wicked stepmothers?

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post May's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is May 27th.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Zeina Abariched

Title: I Remember Beirut
Writer and Artist: Zeina Abirached
via Goodreads
Abirached was born in war-torn Lebanon in 1981.  I Remember Beirut is her graphic novel childhood memoir, originally published in French in 2008.  The English translation came out in 2014.  We are spared the more brutal details of the Lebanese Civil War.  Instead, we see the daily life of a family living in the shadows of that conflict.  She shares such memories as her mother's bullet-riddled car and her neighborhood, considered so sketchy that school buses wouldn't go there. 

Both the art and the narrative themes are highly reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.  Unfortunately, Abirached does not have quite the same knack for storytelling.  The book is short: 95 pages.  That's not such a sin in itself but I didn't feel I had much time to fall in love with either the characters or the setting.  Also, too many of her sentences begin with "I remember..."  While there is poetic potential in such repetition, the rest of the text does not deliver on such lyrical promise.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Lebanon, particularly during such a volatile time period.  But I would have preferred something more substantive.

In short, it's a good book.  But Satrapi's work is better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Clone Wars: Sphere of Influence

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Sphere of Influence"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 1, 2010
via Wookieepedia
Chi Eekway and Che Amanwe, Chairman Papanoida's daughters, have been kidnapped.  Ahsoka is on the case.  She and Pantoran Senator Riyo Chuchi follow the trail to Tatooine.  It's not the greatest Clone Wars story but it does give us a chance to catch up with some old friends - Greedo and Jabba the Hutt - and visit earlier, animated versions of sets we know from the original trilogy - Mos Eisley and Jabba's palace.

*****
via Wikipedia
Jabba the Hutt, overlord of the underworld, is the third point of Star Wars's moral triangle (Yoda and Palpatine are the other two).  In Return of the Jedi, he was voiced by Larry Ward.  In "Sphere of Influence," he is voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.
via Muppet Wiki
Richardson was born October 25, 1964 in The Bronx, New York.  He went to Syracuse on an acting scholarship.  His deep, resonant voice has brought him many villain roles, including the Joker on The Batman animated series.  He has also performed for such shows as Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and The Simpsons.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Corruption."

 

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Jungle Book: Then and Now

Rudyard Kipling's classic, The Jungle Book, is the tale of Mowgli, a human child raised by a pack of wolves.  Now that he is growing up, he must go back to the man village before Shere Khan the tiger catches up to him.  It is, of course, all a metaphor for growing up, leaving home and finding one's place in the world.  Over the past two weekends, we have watched both the 1967 and 2016 Disney interpretations of Kipling's story.

Title: The Jungle Book
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Original Release: 1967
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
There is still something elegant and charming in Disney's cel animated films.  The main selling point for me with Jungle Book, though, has always been the music.  I was, in fact, first introduced to the story through the soundtrack album.  The Sherman brothers of Mary Poppins fame supplied most of the songs, including "That's What Friends Are For" as performed by Liverpudlian vultures and "I Wan'na Be Like You" as performed by King Louis, the orangutan monarch.  Louis is voiced by none other than Louis Prima in one of the all-time genius casting moves.

Interestingly, the Shermans did not write the movie's most famous song.  "The Bare Necessities" was written by Terry Gilkyson.  The song has been covered by numerous artists in the years since.


Title: The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Original Release: 2016
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via The Disney Wiki
Favreau's movie is visually stunning.  Needless to say, the technological capabilities of animation have increased exponentially in 49 years.  The new telling is also much darker.  For what is often a sad and scary story, the 1967 version maintains a remarkably lighthearted feel.  Threats loom around every corner in Favreau's film.  The voice cast is excellent: Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken all shine.

A few of the songs carry over, though they lose some of their impact in the darker tale.  And as amusing as it is to hear Walken sing, he's no Prima.

The two movies end very differently.  To say more would be to spoil and I won't but there's no denying that the difference changes the meaning of the story significantly.  Another discussion for another day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Clone Wars: Supply Lines

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Supply Lines"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 3
Original Air Date: September 24, 2010
via Wookieepedia
So far, Season 3 is all about expanding stories from Season 1.  "Supply Lines" is a prequel for "Ambush," the very first Clone Wars episode.  "Supply Lines" is also a Jar Jar episode.  Why the producers felt the "Ambush" story would be improved by including the goofy Gungan is beyond me but, well, here he is.

Jar Jar is accompanying Bail Organa on a diplomatic mission to Toydaria.  The Republic wants to get supplies to the besieged planet Ryloth and Toydaria would be an ideal staging base.  The Toydarians, however, are eager to maintain their neutrality.  Aiding the Republic would likely upset their lucrative trade relations with the Separatists.  But the Toydarians really do want to help, discreetly.  It's Jar Jar's job to provide a distraction.

*****
via Wookieepedia
In "Supply Lines," Jar Jar is voiced by Ahmed Best, the actor who performed the role in the prequel films.  Best was born August 19, 1973 in New York City.

Best is an accomplished musician.  He attended the Manhattan School of Music as a percussionist.  In 1994, he joined the acid jazz group The Jazzhole.  In 1995, he joined the touring cast of Stomp.  That gig led directly to his discovery by Robin Gurland, casting director for Phantom Menace.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Sphere of Influence."