Posted in Movies and TV

Video review: The Day of the Triffids (BBC mini-series)


This 1981 BBC mini-series wasn’t what I intended to order from Netflix.  I had intended to order the 1962 B-movie starring Howard Keel, which I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager camped out in front of the television watching Bob Wilkins host Creature Features on Saturday afternoons.  So when the single-disc mini-series, comprised of six 26-minute episodes, arrived, I was somewhat puzzled until I looked at our Netflix account and realized “Oh, yeah, the 1962 film isn’t available, that’s why I got this one.” (IMDB indicates there’s yet another version, a two-part mini-series made in 2009, also British.)

No matter.  I watched it anyway, the day after I finished the book.  And the show is a faithful adaptation of its source material, which much of the dialogue coming straight out of the book.  It’s been updated so that it takes place in the early 1980s, so the chauvinism and sexism are somewhat lessened — omigosh, there’s an actual female who speaks from a position of authority — but the basics of the plot are fully intact.  I was fascinated by the depiction of the triffids in this version.  Keep in mind the only triffid I had ever seen on screen was that from the 1962 film — to the best of my recollection, they looked vaguely like walking asparagus with flailing “arms” and a kind of a dandelion-type “head”.  But the 1981 version looked a great deal like a titan arum, also known as a corpse flower.

PerfumeHere’s the titan arum my husband and I visited when it flowered at UC Davis in 2007. It’s huge. And it stinks.  Imagine this plant on a six-foot stalk, with the ability to walk — well, shuffle — and sting and eat carrion flesh.

Absolutely terrifying.

I didn’t make the connection until seeing it on the screen, but that first episode, set in the hospital where Bill Masen awakens to a silent world, vividly reminded me of the first episode of The Walking Dead.  Same eerie quiet, same vacant streets, same desperate effort to find other living human beings and discover what happened.

So, set aside the cheesy early 80s fashion — sheesh, did we really wear our makeup like that? — and the horrendous videotape production quality so common in early 80s TV (on both sides of the Atlantic), and prepare yourself for about two and a half hours of post-apocalyptic fun and games, dodging deadly triffids and ruthless press gangs and militia groups intent on enforcing their version of law and order.

Reviewed for R.I.P XI “Peril on the Screen” Challenge.  Click the badge to find out more about this annual event.

Save

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the TriffidsThe Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bill Masen missed seeing the end of the world by sheer happenstance. He was hospitalized with bandages over his eyes on the night of the spectacular meteor shower that blinded everyone who watched it. Now he’s wandering the streets of London, one of the rare sighted individuals left, trying to avoid the gangs, the looting, the violence, and the triffids.

What are triffids? They’re a strange plant of unknown origin, with a sting of sufficient venom to kill a human being stone dead, and the perplexing ability to walk from place to place. But triffids had proved commercially useful and were cultivated under controlled conditions throughout the world. Bill Masen studied triffids before the meteor shower; he knew them and their habits fairly well, and in fact had begun to suspect they were not merely plants, but far more complex creatures. And now that nearly 100% of humanity was blinded and helpless, triffid containment failed: the plants were on the prowl.

Bill eventually joins forces with Josella, a woman a few years younger than he, and together they make their way through the city in search of a place where they can live safely. Danger and trouble abound; their road to security is neither smooth nor straight.

Some classic science fiction stories age well. Some do not. The Day of the Triffids falls in the latter category, at least in some respects. Reading John Wyndham’s tale through modern eyes means wading through the rampant sexism that permeates much of the story. For example, when our hero first meets Josella, she is described as a girl. It took me several paragraphs to realize the author was talking about a grown woman in her early 20s, not someone who was had not yet reached her teenage years. There are no scientists who are women, no female leaders (except one, and she’s a caricature), and no women at all who had careers other than teacher or nurse, secretary or, in Josella’s case, author.

Still, if one can manage to overlook the male chauvinism, or at least accept the novel as a product of its time, the story itself is a rollicking adventure tale, full of frightful moments and feats of daring. Above all, it’s a survival story. One can only hope to fare as well as Bill and Josella and their band of adventurers at the end of the world.

View all my reviews

RIP 9 Peril the SecondThis post is part of R.I.P. XI Peril the Second Challenge. If you’re interested in knowing what that means, clickie the badgie to be whisked away to the blog post that explains it.

Posted in Finished object, FO Fridays, Knitting

FO Friday: Kayson’s Blankie

100_4662-2By the time this post appears online, my family will have increased by one.  My niece expects to deliver her second son sometime between September 7 and September 14.  All new babies in my family get a special blanket made just for them, and Kayson is no exception.

Pattern:  My design, and it doesn’t have a name yet.

Yarn:  Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Caramel, a discontinued colorway; 1.1 skeins for a total of 767 yards.

Needle:  US 9; I used Addi Turbos Circular.

Size:  34″ x 24″, after a machine wash and dry.

Satisfaction with end product:  It’s soft and absorbent and can be thrown in the washer and dryer.  That’s the perfect baby blanket as far as I’m concerned.  I hope my niece likes it.

The pattern came about because I couldn’t find a blanket that I liked among all the blanket patterns that I already have.  Let me rephrase:  I couldn’t find a blanket pattern that I liked that suited this particular yarn, and I was determined to use this yarn because of its easy care.  And so I fiddled around for a while with stitch patterns and finally settled on a classic basketweave, but with a twist: the small basketweave sections that bookend the center portion of the blanket.

This time as I made the blanket, I remembered to make pattern notes.  I’ll get the pattern written up and made available eventually.  I have to figure out how to upload PDFs to Ravelry someday, don’t I?

Here are a couple more pictures of the blanket, for good measure.  Click the pic to see it larger.  And you can click that large picture up top to go to the Ravelry project page.

FO Friday Avantaknits Badge (2)Do you have a finished project to show off? Please share it with us by linking up here. You’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When we first meet Holly Sykes, it’s the mid-80s and she is a sullen teenager who discovered her boyfriend, with whom she had planned to live after running away from home, cheated on her with her “best mate”. When we last meet her, it’s the 2040s, and she’s trying to figure out a way to save her granddaughter from a living hell. In between is a ramble through the world of late 20th, early 21st Century, peopled with narcissistic, entitled English schoolmates and other people of consequence, some of whom manage to grow up and become decent people, but most of whom don’t. And lurking behind the scenes, manipulating people and events, are creatures with special abilities who snatch people with special abilities out of the world and use them for…nourishment? Entertainment? All of the above. It sounds like a mess, but it’s glorious and frightening and altogether wonderful.

The Bone Clocks is my second David Mitchell novel. Cloud Atlas was the first. Often when I read a second novel by a new-to-me author, I’m disappointed because it doesn’t match up to the excellence of the first novel I read. Not so in this case. The Bone Clocks is every bit as magical as Cloud Atlas. I’ll definitely be getting more David Mitchell from the library.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: Saturday by Ian McEwan

SaturdaySaturday by Ian McEwan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ulysses for those who can’t be bothered to struggle with Joycean prose.

My goodness, how this novel dragged through the minutiae of Dr. Perowne’s Saturday: from his contemplation of a plane crash in the pre-dawn sky through his preparations to leave for a squash game to a fender-bender on a crowded street to his day at the hospital to the evening events stemming from a chance encounter earlier that day and, finally, to contemplating the pre-dawn sky once again. Full circle. Full stop.

It’s exhausting. Beautifully written, but must be read with a certain determination of purpose and gritting of teeth.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: A Murder In Time by Julie McElwain

A Murder in TimeA Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kendra Donovan, FBI agent, darts into the secret staircase of an English manor house to escape an assailant. Woo, oh, I’m so dizzy and nauseated, and my god my head hurts, let me open this door, and ta da! Now she’s in the 19th Century.

I hate time travel novels that have no explanation for the time travel other than woo. It’s one of the reasons I stopped reading the Outlander series. Also, for all the smarts Ms. Donovan supposedly possesses, it takes her forever to figure out and accept that she’s no longer in the 21st century.

Those caveats aside, this is a well-written, fast-paced mystery that kept me guessing the identity of the bad guy right until the reveal. I won’t go looking for further volumes of this series as they’re published, but all in all, not a bad way to kill some commute time.

View all my reviews

Save

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

After AliceAfter Alice by Gregory Maguire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Normally, I’m enthusiastic and giddy over Gregory Maguire’s take on familiar stories. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West just knocked me out. So I especially looked forward to reading Maguire’s version of one of my favorites, “Alice In Wonderland”.

Note the three lonely stars above. So, this one? Not so much.

The title is clever. Ada, whose purpose in life seems to be to run after her neighbor and friend, Alice, somehow manages to fall into Wonderland after Alice tumbled through. Everywhere Ada goes, Alice has already been. It’s as if Alice drained all the color and wonder from Wonderland by her mere presence; and Ada sees only the minutest bit of the whimsy and magic. A tragedy for Ada, if she only knew. And a tragedy for the reader, as well. The Cheshire Cat is merely an annoyance rather than a menace; the Caterpillar is stoned out of his mind; and the Tea Party is breaking up by the time Ada arrives.

Perhaps Maguire was making some metaphorical point. If so, I missed it. His writing is a treat, as always, but this story was a slog.

I think I’ll go read the original again, to clear my palate.

View all my reviews

Posted in Finished object, FO Fridays, Knitting

FO Friday: The Wildflower Cardigan

100_4655Hurray, it’s done! After all this time, it’s done!

Well, to be totally truthful, it was finished at the end of June.  But it wasn’t until  two weekends ago that spouse and I managed to coordinate our schedules for a photoshoot (my head is cut off in the photos because I hadn’t yet taken a shower that day and my hair was a mess;  spouse said “Either we take these pictures now or they don’t get done,” so we took the pictures); and then it wasn’t until this past weekend that I found the time to write this blog entry and schedule it for publication.

Pattern:  Wildflower Cardigan by Alana Dakos; available as a download or in the book, Coastal Knits.

Yarn:  Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold, colorway Acorn; roughly 8 1/2 skeins, totaling 1575 yards

Size: 43″ (bust measurement)

Needles: US 1, 2, and 3 — I used Hiya Hiya Sharps circulars.

Mods:  None, except adding a few more rows to make the button band wider and adding one more button.

Satisfaction with end product:  I love it.  It fits just right; it has the three-quarter sleeves that I love; it can be dressed up or dressed down.  Now I’m just waiting for the weather to turn so I can wear it.

You can click on the big pic up there to go to my Ravelry project page.  Here are some more pictures for your enjoyment.  Click each of the pictures to view it larger.

To knit this, you must be prepared to face endless endless endless stockinette. A lot of Alana Dakos’s designs are like that. Her cardigans tend to be very simple in structure, with one or two special design features (like the tiny pocket and the scalloped detail at the hem and sleeve edges on this one) that stand out against the acres of stockinette. The good thing is this makes her cardigans perfect for television knitting.

This post is part of the Knit Your Library Challenge. Click the badge to see what other folks participating in this challenge have done.

FO Friday Avantaknits Badge (2)Because I’m scheduling this entry ahead of time, I’m not linking with any other Finished Friday blogs. Feel free to link with this one, if you so desire!

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen

The Light of the FirefliesThe Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I characterized this novel as Room, sort of, but with an entire family unit. To paraphrase the Goodreads synopsis, an unnamed boy lives underground with his parents and sister. They are not allowed to go outside above ground. Ever. The boy is threatened with being attacked by “a monster” if he ever even expresses an interest in leaving.

As the novel progresses, the reader begins to understand the circumstances that led to this situation, and realizes that all is not as it appears; sympathies shift; perspectives change; and the ending, while not exactly unexpected, is more grim than necessary. Family loyalty is one thing. Living one’s own life is entirely another.

Neither poorly written nor poorly translated (as far as I can tell), but two stars because I hated the ending.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book review, Books, Reading

Book review: Listen, Liberal by Thomas Franks

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the PeopleListen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

True confession. I dog-eared pages as I read through this book.

*dodges the stones and rotten tomatoes *

I know. I know! But I have an excuse. I had only two bookmarks with me as I read, one for my current place and one marking the endnotes; neither did I have any little Post-it notes or sticky flags, nor any other method to mark all the passages that stood out. So I turned down the page corners instead.

Thomas Frank’s premise is that the progressive movement, or what he terms “The Liberal Class”, has forgotten its roots in the labor movement; has set aside its concerns for the poor and the working class; and has become obsessed with meritocracy rather than equality. Frank wonders what it means “…when the dominant constituency of the left party in a two-party system is a high-status group rather than the traditional working class? …[It] means soaring inequality. When the left party in a system severs its bond to working people…issues of work and income inequality will inevitably fade from its list of concerns.”

Let’s define two terms. Meritocracy is the belief that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent. Followers of this belief system proclaim those who work hard and take advantage of all educational opportunities will, by virtue of their talent, rise to the top; ALL of society’s problems can be solved if only everyone had access to higher education.

The high-status group Frank mentions above are members of that meritocracy [as a class name, rather than a belief system]. They are those who have risen to the top and taken power, based on what they believe is their ability and talent. Even though “liberal elite” is often used as pejorative term, it’s a valid description of the mostly-Ivy League-educated individuals who front the progressive movement. They are what Frank calls “the well-graduated”, mostly Caucasian, mostly from privileged backgrounds, and mostly wealthy in their own right. Exceptions abound, of course: the Clintons were not wealthy as young people; and President Obama is neither Caucasian nor from a privileged background; but they are by definition meritocrats, having been smart enough and lucky enough to take advantage of the educational opportunities that launched them into heightened circles of prestige.

Speaking of Clinton, Frank rips apart the 8-year presidency of William J., and doesn’t express much hope for the better for the prospective term of Hillary R. (The only thing that saves her from outright excoriation is the spectre of a Trump Presidency, something even more disastrous than Clinton II.) In Frank’s view, the Clinton Administration, with its 1996 welfare reform legislation, completed the dismantling of the social safety net that had begun with the Reagan Administration. Having worked on the front lines of a social service agency since 1995, I can testify that Frank is right. Fewer people may be on public assistance, but more people are in poverty.

It seems like I always have my own rant about inequality and the abandonment of the poor to impart whenever I read one of Mr. Frank’s books. I’ll spare you the rest of it; and the rest of the passages I marked. What I will say is access to higher education has never been the answer to income inequality. A college degree does not guarantee success. (Case in point: My own spouse has a master’s in business administration; he’s the smartest man I know; and he manages a retail store because he can’t get hired in his chosen field. I never finished college myself, but I was in the right place at the right time to be hired by my employer, and now I make three times his salary.) What will help those at the bottom of the social ladder isn’t just education, it’s opportunity and infrastructure investment and plain old good hard cash.

Go read this, especially if you are of a liberal bent. You’ll be enraged and outraged; you’ll be enlightened; you’ll despair; and then you’ll get back on your feet, filled with determination to vote, to write your Congressional representatives and the editor of your local newspaper, to make noise, and to take care of the “least of these”, because ultimately, that’s our responsibility as human beings.

View all my reviews