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Archive for March, 2013

The Hobbit

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My first : Quest on the Screen for Once Upon a Time.

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My copy of the movie: the Hobbit arrived last week and I just got around to watching it.

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Everyone I know has read the Hobbit (me too) and most have seen the movie.. this is my 4th viewing. I saw it 3 times in the theater. 

Unfortunately I didn’t think until well into the movie to take some photo’s from my television….

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I so love Ian as Gandalf!

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It’s pretty useless to review 1/3 of a movie.. with the usual exceptions of saying how utterly fantastic the settings are, or how outstanding the special effects are.  The story itself is Tolkien at his best. (this includes Lord of the Rings)

The movie introduces you to Bilbo Baggins.. and the beginning of the power of The Ring.  I will let Amazon give a review and just add :  don’t miss it if you haven’t seen it! (and if you have… watch it again!)

Product Description per Amazon

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

The Tolkien movies that Peter Jackson has made are the finest you will ever see.  They are Fantasy at their Finest! And if they don’t make you want to go to New Zealand I don’t know what will!

Oddly enough I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and totally enjoyed the character of Radagast the Brown played by Sylvester McCoy. He was minor in the movie but I love that Peter Jackson brought him and his animals to life.

Of course, I am in love with Gandalf . He was perfectly cast!  And Richard Armitage as Thorin is simply gorgeous!  Hello?! He’d make anyone want to be Queen of the Dwarf’s!  And what can I say about Martin Freeman as Bilbo?  Just that, once again , the casting for  this movie was outstanding!   For heaven’s sake, don’t miss this movie if you haven’t seen it !

The ending of part one of the movie is superb and gives you a slight glimpse of what Part II will be like…

Smaug!

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Give yourself a treat and rent/buy this movie and watch it over and over again!

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(book 2 for Once Upon a Time )

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest By Charles De Lint and Charles Vess, Illustrator.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; (March 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0316053570

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(below) when the paper cover was taken off.. we find yet another Vess drawing!

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Book Description  Release date: March 5, 2013

The magic is all around you, if only you open your eyes….

Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures–from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People–to find a way to make things right.

In this whimsical, original folktale written and illustrated throughout in vibrant full color by two celebrated masters of modern fantasy, a young girl’s journey becomes an enchanting coming-of-age story about magic, friendship, and the courage to shape one’s own destiny.

Admittedly I bought this book for the artwork… which, by the way, does not disappoint! Charles Vess certainly made this a better book than it would have been without his artwork.

The story itself  is very good.  I enjoyed it more then I thought I would.  Fantasy or not, books written for the young people nearly always have subtle things about life written into them, and this one does too.

This book holds a double meaning for me since I took it with me for a stay in the hospital and he helped me thru many boring hours of waiting and helped keep my anxieties  down during the time I was reading it. I’m not sure many other books could have helped me in such a way.

That aside, the story is very captivating and enjoyable.. but this you will find out when you read it for yourself.. and my recommendation is that you DO read it.

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Seraphina

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(Book one for Once Upon A Time)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0375866566

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Book Description

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages.

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.


Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

I wasn’t 100% sure about this book.  I do love dragons… that’s a given.  But would I like dragons that took the shape of humans?

For me, the book began a little slow. I was unsure if I was envisioning these characters as they were meant to be.  I knew they were appearing human but small things (including wearing a bell) told others who the dragons were and were not.

Seraphina did not wear a bell.  Nor did her father. Her mother was dead.

The book is more than just Seraphina’s life story.  There are lessons to be learned about how we perceive others without really knowing them.  RE: the way one looks or dresses.  And some what of a love story.

Rachel Hartman, eventually tells us all of Seraphina’s story and so we get to know her quite well.  There were other characters that I thought quite original and enjoyed them also.

Amazon gives a good review of the book so I don’t want to go much further or give too much away.  It may have begun slow for me but the deeper into the book I went them more I wanted to find out and so things picked up until the last few chapters when it all comes to a fitting finish.

This is a YA book with some life lessons in it that are good reminds of how we should treat others.  I found it very enjoyable.

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Once Upon a Time: 2013

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Yeeeee-Hawwwww!  Carl is once again hosting his Spring Challenge of Once Upon a Time!

Thursday, March 21st begins the seventh annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Friday, June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

This year I am signing up for The Journey….  But as always I read more !

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I have a number of books that meet the criteria….

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And who knows what else I might find!

For example: recently the mail arrived and low and behold..two more books for OUaT!

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So there’s no real “list” just a bunch of choices!

If you haven’t joined in before click the link on Carl’s name and read about it… you just might find yourself on a fantasy journey of your own!

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The Red and the Blacklist by Norma Barzman.

Paperback: 468 pages
Publisher: Nation Books (August 18, 2004)
ISBN-10: 1560256176

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From Publishers Weekly

Barzman arrived in Hollywood from Radcliffe in 1941, a good-looking 21-year-old who wanted to be a writer or director, not an actress. She met Ben Barzman at a party for Hollywood "progressives"; before long, they were in the Communist Party together. Ben stayed focused on his career of script writing. Norma, especially after they married, made do with anything, mainly writing for Hearst’s Examiner. By 1944, they knew they were both under surveillance; by 1949, they realized they had to leave the country or face HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and jail for refusing to inform. They settled in Paris, their base for nearly 20 years. Even though Ben subscribed to leftist ideals about equality, his wife’s career made him uncomfortable, so from 1955 on, Norma made babies, had affairs and researched movie ideas for Ben. From her stories-dealing with the likes of Picasso, Sophia Loren, Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman-it seems the life of a Cold War expatriate was more attractive than anything America was offering. Still, blacklisted men like Ben and his sometime collaborator Joseph Losey "hugged their bitterness," while the women just adapted. Visiting the Soviet Union and watching the Communist betrayal of May 1968 in France were profoundly disillusioning, but Norma found new hope stateside in the ’70s amid women’s liberation and the push to restore the reputations of the blacklisted Hollywood artists. Her unique, absorbing and richly detailed memoir is a contribution to both, restoring women to the history of this period and documenting the bravery with which some people stood by their ideals.

I guess it always interested me about the McCarthyism Blacklisting of the Hollywood people because I remember (ever so little) seeing some of the hearings on television. It quite possibly could have been “remember when” type thing for all I know, but as a kid I didn’t understand why they were even doing this.  Could very well be that I didn’t understand Communism (duh) at such a young age. (the Reds)

Over the years as I read stories on this I could understand why people were leaning towards Communism.  After all.. they way it’s told it sounds unreal and easily livable.  But as found out later it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. When things like this get read about it makes me wonder why “the all powerful USA” can’t just take the best of all the worlds things and roll them up and incorporate them here?  I grant you I am not the one to understand all things nor how to accomplish such a thing.. but I do wonder.  Even little things like how much of Europe gives workers 6 weeks paid vacation and it has to be taken all at once.  They understand that not just the body needs unwinding but the mind too and the mind doesn’t happen in a week or two.  They found that but doing this their production is actually more and much better, with less waste or mistakes.    I guess America would rather waste then rest?

Anyway.. the book…

I picked it up just because it was about Blacklisting. To be honest I didn’t realize it was a memoir .  And I didn’t know the author, Norma Barzman, who’d memoir this was.

It covers the years during the Blacklisting and how many, including Norma and her husband (also a writer) and family fled to France to avoid possibly going to prison for not naming names of others who were at meetings about Communism.

Once in France Norma tells her story.  How they survived with their combined writing. (many known films were among them including El Cid). How their marriage somehow survived even with quite a few indiscretions by Norma to wind up staying married with 7 children.

There were many famous actors and actress that they worked with in Europe over the years and even worked for Eddie Dymtryk (director and one of the “TEN” that went to prison. Later Eddie was said to have named names to get out of prison. I don’t know the truths about Mr Dymtryk having read a number of things of the Blacklist. I’ve read he named names and many hated him afterwards.  And I’ve read he named names AFTER he heard others did and named the same names so that no new ones got added.. I just don’t know the truth.  I know of Eddie Dymtryk more from stories DeForest Kelley told when Eddie directed some westerns that De was in. And I once ran into him and his wife when I lived in Sherman Oaks CA at a Pancake House.

Anyway..considering I am pretty ignorant knowing many directors names and even less of the writers names I did find this book interesting.  It gave a fuller picture of how one survived over the years that McCarthy went ballistic trying to find every person who ever went to a meeting ousted as Communists .

Norma and Ben (the more noted writer of the family) Barzman managed to still have a lucrative life in Europe, along with quite a few other writer/ directors and actors. And I even had some fond memories as I found out some of the movies and people they worked with as Norma talked about the movies they helped make.

The secondary story was Norma herself.  Admittedly having had numerous affairs along the way of trying to be a wife and mother and writer all in one. One might think that’s not too hard sitting at home writing… but in the movie industry one often is away making deals, and having to be where the movie is being made for weeks at a time .  It was not really conducive to a “stay at home writer” as one might think .

This was quite a good book.  It kept my interest even though I didn’t really know who the Barzman’s were!.. granted.. I do now!

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On Being Serenaded

As I sat at the computer this morning unaware of everything but what I was reading, I suddenly realized I was hearing *songs of the wild*.  Some bird was Serenading me outside. The bird would go from one quick song to another and then another.  In my mind I thought that it must be a Mockingbird, whose songs I really could listen to all day long.  I Hesitated getting up to search for the bird thru my glass sliding door because I never seem to find the whoever I am looking for.

This time was different! I actually found him (her) on top of the Bald Cypress right in front of my apartment.  Grabbed my camera and took a shot.  It was cloudy and I thought I might only get a dark outline but I was surprised once again when the photo came out!

I didn’t see the bird leave so did not see the Mockingbirds telltale white spots under it’s wings.  Nor have I ever seen a speckle chested Mockingbird so I was unsure if it was one or not.

First I googled Southern Mockingbirds and when I finally found one with a speckled chest I searched the site it came from and found out it’s a Bahama Mockingbird.  Who knew? duh. 

Anyway I was delighted he sang for me and I hope he comes back!  I don’t know why Mockingbirds don’t see to come to the trees surrounding the pond but they don’t.  The only small birds to come to them are the Winter Warblers and Blackbirds. The Warbler is fun to listen to his little “teet, teet,” but the Blackbirds don’t have a pleasing song.

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…and it only took me 4 years to get a photo of the Mockingbird!

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A Kitty Story

I have had the front door to my apartment open since I woke this morning because it was so cool out.  As it happens, now and then a critter runs through the breezeway. 

Boo saw the movement and ran to the door and “froze” as the squirrel paused.

Boo ducked low. (you can’t see me squirrel!)

The squirrel took a step towards the door.

Boo ducked even lower. (I’m invisible squirrel!)

Then the squirrel turned and ran back towards the pond.

Boo raised his body.

Then Boo raised his head

Then he stretched his neck and pushed his nose against the screen trying to see the squirrel. When he was unsuccessful at spotting the squirrel he ran to the glass sliding door and pushed aside the blinds, to see if he could, once again, spot the squirrel…

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After a minute or two of not seeing, him he ran back to the front door and patiently waited….and waited…. and waited….

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Sadly, the squirrel did not return…

Boo is still waiting. 

Moral to the story:  Hope springs eternal!

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