Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Can't Wait for Shark Week



Jaws
Peter Benchley
(1974)

Last summer I found myself in the midst of a reading slump.  This wasn’t typical of me, since I usually go everywhere with a book in hand.  But, months seemed to go by.  Nothing caught & kept my attention.

Until I picked up my mum’s worn copy of Jaws.

File:Carcharodon carcharias.jpg
From the very opening scene, I was hooked.  Many modern day suspense thrillers feature non-stop action, over-the-top dramatics, twists & turns… I mean, there’s a lot to be said about shock value… but too much excitement can often turn into implausibility.   

Jaws was different.  It was straightforward and believable.  The characters were people I could meet in the grocery store. Not secret agents.  Not affluent, top-of-their-field specialists.  Brody and Hooper were average, relatable guys.  They had motives that were clear and realistic.

And, honestly, how can you not be fascinated by sharks?  I learned that sharks can’t stop swimming.  They have to constantly keep moving so that water (and thus oxygen) continuously passes over their gills, allowing the shark to breathe.

Next, I had to check out the movie.  I loved that it was filmed in Martha’s Vineyard – I think I’ve seen some of those buildings! – and I was impressed with 1975 movie magic, but overall, I was disappointed.  The ending was completely different from the novel! Hollywood just had to add in the big shocking finale.  Why change the book? 

That kind of thing drives me bonkers.


On a side note:
I love making connections.  My family and I used to watch House, M.D., and I loved the little production company ‘vanity card’ at the end of the show, featuring two guys sitting on the beach & the line:  “That’s some bad hat, Harry.”  Bad Hat Harry Productions got it straight from Jaws. You can even see the shark fin in the water. 

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dracula: Not a Twilight Vampire

Bram Stoker
(1897)

File:Bram Stoker 1906.jpgVampires.

I approached this story with some skepticism --  it's needless to say that Twilight and True Blood have certainly fogged my view of horror's ultimate baddie -- but my latest mantra pushed me forward.  It's a classic. 

Why does that matter?

That is hardly justification to dive into a 500 page novel that was written over a century before I was even born. Yet, I am decidedly fixed on my goal to read as many classics novels as humanly possible.  They must be classic for a reason, right?  I've always loved to read, but I, too,  went through high school with the typical teenage attitude toward assigned books -- what is this rubbish?  I felt I couldn't learn anything from Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the RyeAnd Shakespeare?  Save me.

In the last five years, I've read a handful of books, but more often than not I found the modern dramas and thrillers to be lacking in substance.  Droll characters, repetitive story-lines, plot holes.  I want to be inspired.  I want a book that'll change the way I think.  There was only one place to look:  the masterpieces of fiction.

Dracula...was nothing like I had imagined.  Told from a series of present-tense journal entries, the story is presented as if it were currently and actually happening.  Blurring the line between fiction and reality.  I love this style of writing, because the path ahead is so unforeseeable.  Paired with intoxicatingly eerie imagery, the novel is laced with fear and suspense. 

The only aspect that bothered me, was the overly enthusiastic camaraderie between the characters. They were constantly pledging eternal friendship to one another....which I found strange and unrealistic. Though, come to think, I encountered similar themes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. Maybe I mock these strong bonds, simply because it is an unfamiliar feeling in the 21st century.  I mean, I can't even get a "thank you" when I hold open a door for someone.

Otherwise, I found Dracula to be edgy and believable. If I weren't so desensitized, I would have been terrified!  It certainly wasn't Edward and Bella.

Moral of the story, don't let preconceived notions stop you from reading a book -- I promise, it'll be worth it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Luther C. Ladd

(1843-1861)

I got the chills this morning when I realized that not only did the Revolution begin today in 1775, but the first blood of the Civil War was spilt on this day in 1861.  Luther Ladd was a seventeen year old machinist from Lowell, MA, who quickly took up arms with the 6th Massachusetts when President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers.  The quickest way to Washington was through the city of Baltimore.  The citizens of Baltimore were sympathetic to the Southern cause, so when the 6th Massachusetts arrived by train on the morning of April 19th, a riot broke out. Ladd was one of four soldiers killed while trying to get from President Street Station to Camden Station. He is often referred to as the first to die in the war. His last words were reportedly, "all hail the Stars and Stripes!"

The Shot

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

 -Ralph Waldo Emerson - Concord Hymn


Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War!  On the morning of April 19, 1775, the British troops arrived in Lexington to confiscate military supplies and instead found an armed group of colonists, ready to fight.  Though both sides were told to hold fire, a shot rang out.  After some fighting at the North Bridge, the redcoats fled back to Boston.

Suggested reading:  Howard Fast's April Morning

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

William Dawes

(1745-1799)

We've all heard about Paul Revere's midnight ride to warn the colonists that the British Army was approaching, but had you heard Revere wasn't the only rider?  On the night of April 18, 1775, William Dawes took a land route heading toward Lexington, getting out of Boston just before the city was sealed off.  His warning spread throughout the towns, making it possible for a militia to be organized by the next morning. It is unknown, however, if Dawes had any part in the battle that followed.  During the war, he served as quartermaster.  And a cool fun fact, he died in Marlborough, MA!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Frederick Barbarossa

(1122-1190)


Holy Roman Emperor, known for his magnificent red beard and for mediating between the French, led by Philip Augustus, and the English, led by Richard the Lionheart, during the Third Crusade in 1189.  It was during this expedition to the Holy Land, however, that Barbarossa drowned in the Saleph River. His men attempted to perserve his body in a barrel of vinegar, but this didn't go so well...bits and pieces of Barbarossa's remains can now be found in Antioch, Tyre & Tarsus!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and because of my fascination with the era, I'll be posting often--battles, generals, interesting tidbits, you name it!

On November 25, 1863, the Union Army commanded by Ulysses S. Grant defeated the Rebels at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The North was able to secure Chattanooga, but Grant lost his chance to deal a crushing blow by not pursuing the fleeing Confederates.  General Braxton Bragg, feeling responsible for the rout, soon resigned from his post.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

First of all, I'd like to formally welcome you to my blog!  I was inspired quite entirely by my father's blog, Origin Hunters. I find myself checking his posts daily, looking for any interesting updates on my family history. Unlike, OH!, my blog doesn't have a cut and dry focus, and instead compiles all of my favorite things. Enjoy. :)