Posted by: Kelly | August 29, 2016

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

 

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – by Robert A. Heinlein

FROM AMAZON’S BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, “modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean.” He won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, a record that still stands. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work.

It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people–a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic–who become the rebel movement’s leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution’s ultimate success.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.”

FIRST SENTENCE:

“I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect – and tax – public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.”

MEMORABLE MOMENT:

(Page 76) “The trouble with conspiracies is that they rot internally.  When the number is as high as four, chances are even that one is a spy.”

MY THOUGHTS:

Once upon a time, I would have thought a book like this would be totally outside my reading comfort zone.  Maybe it’s because of my new-found fascination with Libertarianism (I learned of it from the book I read earlier in the month) but even if it weren’t for that, I think I would still have found this to be an exciting, entertaining story.  On the political philosophy side of things, there were a few parts that reminded me of Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged – only in this case, it was stated in a far more succinct way and not nearly as off-putting as Rand’s methods.

But if you’re not into politics (which I’m really not), don’t let anything I said in that last paragraph stop you from reading this  – it works perfectly well at face value as an adventure tale set in the not so distant future.  Written in 1966, the book takes place approximately 100 years in the future.  It’s clear now that we won’t be at that point in the next sixty years – at least not with a thriving colony on the moon – but that doesn’t detract from the story.  What could be feasible is the possibility of a sentient computer.  Who knows how close we are to that now!?  Not only was the plot excellent, I enjoyed the descriptions of life on the Moon… especially marriage and relationships.  I’m always amazed at the details authors create in their imaginary societies.

The story is written in first person from the viewpoint of Mannie, a computer technician, and his dialect takes getting use to.  I found myself looking up words, which often turned out to have Russian origins – not surprising for a novel written at the height of the Cold War.  All the central characters were interesting and very likable, but the best might have been the computer: HOLMES IV (“High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV”) or as Mannie named him: Mycroft Holmes, better known as Mike.   Most people if asked to come up with a computer from a science fiction story would name HAL 9000, but I’ll always think of Mike now.

TANSTAAFL 

 

There is a detailed Wiki page for the book, but be warned it’s full of spoilers should you want to read the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | August 26, 2016

The writing on my wall

I sure do wish I had photos to share with you for this entry, but unfortunately no one from 40 years ago seem to think it was worth saving.  If only I hadn’t been young and foolish.

Let me explain.

Ed had a post earlier in the summer about the Bridges of Madison County.  I was impressed that the bridge caretakers paint certain portions of the bridges white, allowing for messages and graffiti.  What a great way to discourage vandalism!  His next post included some of the messages that stood out to him in one way or another.  Also, if you scroll through his comments in that post, you’ll find links to a couple of other posts that have photos of more messages.

The posts reminded me of a wall I had in my bedroom when I was a teenager.  I had a fun mother.  She was strict about many things (though if my sister were here, she would remind me how much easier I had it), but she also doted on me and we had a very close relationship.  My father died when I was 11 and my closest sibling left home a year later, so she pretty much revolved her life around me from that point on.  Good or bad, that’s how it was.  Anyway… I don’t remember how it came about – whether it was my mother’s suggestion or she just allowed it – but, I had one entire bedroom wall that became an “autograph wall”.  Anyone who visited our home… friends, family members, adults, teens… all were invited to leave their mark.  The only rule was no profanity.

My mother died four days after my high school graduation.  I was headed off to college, so furniture and belongings were divided up (most of mine put into storage or parceled out with relatives until I had a home of my own) and the house sold.  As I stated above, I was young and foolish and never even thought about taking photos of the wall to preserve what was there.  Obviously no one else did, either.

Oh well.  It’s a nice memory.

 

Kilroy was here.

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | August 24, 2016

One-sentence Movies Reviews #21

1.     Victor Frankenstein – I’ve not read the book or seen many film versions, but I thought this was a good movie and certainly presented Igor in a good light.

2.     Exposed – A strange, strange movie, but one I was glad I watched to the end so I could understand what had been going on all along.

3.     Burnt –  Perhaps not the best “food film” out there, but it was still very enjoyable to watch.

4.     Identicals – This dark, moody, brooding, sci-fi film was far too “artsy” for our taste and the background music drove me insane.

5.     Jesse Stone:  Lost in Paradise –  Evidently there have been a number of “Jesse Stone” TV-movies prior to this, which would explain some of the “history” we weren’t getting, but it turned out to be a good movie (and I love Tom Selleck!).

6.     Risen – While not on the same level with many other epic Bible films, I still found this to be an enjoyable, thought-provoking film. *

7.     Goosebumps –  This family film might be most enjoyed by those who have read some of the Goosebumps books (my kids never really got into that series), but it was still a fun (and often funny) movie.

8.     Courage –  (originally titled ‘My All-American’)  Based on a true story, I ended up being moved by this inspirational story that I didn’t expect to like.

9.     Man Up –  I thought this was a cute, fun movie – but considering my husband compares all Simon Pegg films to ‘Paul’ (which he loved), I don’t know that he agreed with me.

10.    Terminus –  A total disappointment of a sci-fi film.

 

*  Tracy & Mr. T rated this one in their last film review post.

Posted by: Kelly | August 22, 2016

The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

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The Forever Queen – by Helen Hollick

FROM AMAZON’S BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.”

FIRST SENTENCE:

“Emma was uncertain whether it was a growing need to visit the privy or the remaining queasiness of mal de mer, seasickness, that was making her feel so utterly dreadful.”

MEMORABLE MOMENTS:

(20% into the Kindle)  “Conscience was not an emotion a future King could afford to entertain.”

MY THOUGHTS:

This is definitely a period in history that I’m not overly familiar with.  I know I touched on it in a college history course, but that was a long time ago and it’s not like I keep a copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle around for pleasure reading.  At a glance, one would think it’s strictly the story of Emma of Normandy.  While it does focus on her throughout the majority of the book, it also gets into all the battles and intrigues of the time.  Amazingly, Hollick does this in a manner that is seldom confusing – not an easy task given the wide cast of characters, unfamiliar (and unpronounceable) names, and endless defection from one side to the other by many of the players.  As always when I read good Historical Fiction,  I found myself researching the characters to see how closely the narrative kept to fact.  In addition, I was pleased to find good author notes at the end of the story, clarifying why she made the decisions she did when “filling in the gaps”.

I was afraid when I began this book that it might be too much fiction, without enough substance to make it more than just a story.  I’ve had a copy of Queens of England by Norah Lofts sitting on my shelf for decades and when I checked it for Emma’s story, she wasn’t listed!  Other than a mention of Boadicea and Queens of myth and legend (Guinevere), it lists Matilda (wife to William the Conqueror) as the first true Queen.  While Wikipedia refers to Emma as “Queen Consort”, I like to think that still counts as a true Queen – and despite the sketchy facts of the time, Hollick did a fine job of making it real without seeming like a romantic fairy tale.

Hollick continues the story leading up to the Battle of Hastings in a second novel, I Am the Chosen King.  I enjoyed this one enough that I feel sure the second will make its way to my Kindle before long.

At 657 pages, The Forever Queen was the fifth book completed in my personal “tome” challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | August 19, 2016

Ponderings #25

Over the past few years, I’ve watched a lot of food programs on TV.  There have been a few cooking shows I’ve enjoyed at times (Pioneer Woman, The Barefoot Contessa, Aarti Party, Alex’s Day Off), but I’ve mostly stuck with competition shows.  My all-time favorite, which I still watch, is Chopped (Food Network) and I like Top Chef (Bravo).  Depending on my mood, there are a number of others I watch as well.

But you know what?  I’ve come to the conclusion that “foodies” can be real snobs at times.  (even that term “foodie” sounds pretentious)  Anyway… I didn’t have to ponder long to come up with some things that really irk me on these shows.  I’m sure I could easily name more, but here are my top three:

 

1.  In the world of food TV, the word “protein” seems to be synonymous with meat, poultry, fish or other creature.  Where do they get the (mistaken) idea that protein has to come from animals?  Only once have I seen a plant-based item mentioned as “the protein” and that was tofu. (which, of course, was the dreaded item to get and produced groans all around)  Trust me – plants have plenty of protein.  Here’s a funny YouTube clip addressing that:

 

2.  “Cooked perfectly”  What the heck is that supposed to mean?  I understand that in culinary school students are taught to cook things certain ways, but isn’t that actually quite subjective?  I always cringe when I see a burger cut open to show a juicy red center – I personally prefer a burger well-done!  It was years before I could eat a steak cooked medium-well (rather than well-done), but when “cooked perfectly”, they’re far bloodier than that.   Even vegetables must be “cooked perfectly”.  What if I like my broccoli steamed a little more than their crunchy perfection?  I can remember two different shows (on two different networks) where a contestant was eliminated for preparing something “improperly”, despite the fact they both came from backgrounds/cultures where it had always been done that way, successfully.  It might not be how they think it should be prepared, but don’t tell me I’m wrong if I’m happy with the way I prepare it.

3.  If I’ve learned anything from watching chefs on TV, it’s that they have to know how to describe food as well as how to present it visually.  The phrase “you eat with your eyes first” makes my eyes roll because I don’t really care how it looks as long as it tastes good… but I digress.  When talking about food, they use a wide variety of adjectives.  Most of them make sense and give me some idea of how something might taste.  But “sexy”?  I’m not referring to those foods that are considered to be aphrodisiacs, but even with those – I can’t understand how that word can describe how something looks or tastes.  Maybe I’m just too unromantic.

 

That’s my rant pondering.    Do you have any opinions on the topic?

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