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Showing posts from August, 2006

Halide's Gift by Frances Kazan

I am grateful that the author of this book explains that while the novel is about a real person (Halide Edib, a famous nineteenth century Turkish woman), she has taken the liberty of changing many of the "details" of her life. But why!? Why must she do that? Why change what's already good, great, interesting? And while I'm at it, I don't think the time of death of Halide's stepmother, to whom she was supposedly close, is a "detail." Well, I should calm down. The premise of the whole book--Halide's "gift" for seeing dead people, which later turns into an ability to write really good fiction, if that makes sense--is a "detail" that's made-up. Halide Edib sounds like a pretty interesting woman, in spite of how boring she is in the book. I'd like to read her memoirs someday, House with Wisteria: Memoirs of Halide Edib. Or one of her twenty-five novels. She lived at the end of the Ottoman empire, her family members were …

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999; TV edit)

Finally got around to watching this, which I taped off TV back in ... well, a while ago. Back when we had cable and I was a Human Tivo (Extreme Time-Shifting, Jon says). (Jon and I have avoided watching rated-R movies for years, but I've taped many of them when they were on channels that aired edited-for-TV stuff.) It was the Kate Bush song "Joanni" from Aerial that inspired me to watch it already. I wasn't sure about it in the beginning, and whenever I watch something "historical," I spend a lot of time wondering just how much of it is really historical and how much is thrown in to sate the hunger of the masses for soap opera story lines. Of course, if I just knew more stuff, I would know, right? But anyway, at first, the movie seemed like it might be sort of weird--her visions featured a lot of fast-moving clouds and choppily edited scenes of things. And there was too much music. But I am always interested in people who see visions. I believe in vision…

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling

I believe this book is the first book on homeschooling I've read cover to cover. Apparently John Holt's earlier book Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path for Education is a homeschooling classic (specifically about what is perhaps unfortunately named unschooling). His protégé Patrick Ferenga has taken that book and updated it. Overall, I enjoyed it, but as I read it, I was glad I hadn't read any until we'd already been homeschooling for years. I came to basically the same conclusions, but in my own way. I'll start with a few small and probably petty annoyances. One of the authors commented that nobody would need to "learn computers" at school because it's easy to teach yourself or take a community class. But what he actually meant was learning to use spreadsheets and word processors, hardly what I think of when someone says "learn computers". Programming, troubleshooting software or hardware, etc. are far beyond mere user semi-competence. Mind yo…

The Devil Wears Prada

Entertaining. Meryl Streep is great as Miranda Priestley, the feared editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. We've all seen this type of boss portrayed in movies and on TV, everyone scurrying to meet impossible demands, but this one does it without the screaming temper tantrums. In fact, her voice stays low and reasonable-sounding throughout, and it's fun. Anne Hathaway, as the new number two assistant to Miranda, Andrea somebody, sometimes looks great and sometimes looks like a Disney Princess (maybe Snow White), which doesn't mean she looks bad, necessarily, just a little like a cartoon. You know, skin like snow, eyes like coal, lips like blood, or whatever it is. And I was sometimes confused about who (old boyfriend or new famous writer boyfriend?) or what (stay in fashion job and dress amazingly or return to old dream of writing for The New Yorker?) I was supposed to be rooting for. I don't know if this was a weakness of the movie or a strength--maybe it's goo…

Osama (2003)

Filmed in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, written and directed by an Afghan filmmaker, this is a film about a young girl who dresses up like a boy in order to get work and support her mother and grandmother. I've read a few books about Afghanistan in the last year or so--they've been enlightening, but I still don't really understand the culture there or in surrounding Islamic countries. This movie gave me more to look at than the books (and the cinematography is really beautiful), but while I can explain that women there are oppressed and treated as second-class citizens, I have the feeling I'll never know what that's really like. What strikes me about the Muslims portrayed in this movie and in the books I've read is that they are extremely religious--praying five times a day and constantly referring to God and His will--and at the same time some of the meanest people I've had to think about. Especially interesting to me is how the women, very …