Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

What I’m Thankful For

I’m stunned that Thanksgiving is here already, but there’s nothing I can do to turn back the clock.  Here are a few of the things I’m thankful for this year:

  • For Anthony Horowitz, because he finally wrapped up the Alex Rider series before Alex got too morose to hang with anymore, and for writing a new Sherlock Holmes mystery.  Will I feel grateful after I’ve read Scorpia Rising and The House of Silk?  We’ll see.
  • For Phil Rickman, because he published another installment of the Merrily Watkins mysteries. Now if it would just become available on kindle in the US…
  • For the end of my addiction to General Hospital.   My boss is even more thankful.
  • For DVDVideoSoft, for allowing me to put some new music on my mp3 player on a tight budget.
  • For Shah Rukh Khan, because he’s in two movies this year instead of the usual one.
  • For RetroTV and MeTV, because with all the bad new TV shows on the major networks, I can still be entertained by the classics.
  • For YouTube and twitter, although a little less of both during work hours might be a bigger blessing.
  • For Da Vinci’s Inquest reruns, but also for having watched every episode already, because now I can go to bed earlier.
  • For the two Redbox machines around the corner, saving me from the long Netflix queues for new releases.
  • For Alan Cumming, because his introductions to Masterpiece Mystery always make me think he’s enjoying himself more than we are.
  • For Josh Groban, because I enjoy his music, but also because he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  His “Kanye West Tweets” video started the year off, and it still cracks me up as the year ends.
  • For Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny, Amy and Bernadette.  The Big Bang Theory consistently makes me laugh, and I’m especially grateful for this joke (paraphrased, I’m sure): “Let’s watch Star Wars on blu-ray before George Lucas changes it again!”
  • For Hadley Fraser and Ramin Karimloo, because of the music and videos and tweets, but mostly because of the new friends I’ve made this year through following them.
  • For the community at St Agnes, who have become a part of my family, and who continually remind me that there’s more to life than entertainment.
  • For my boss, because she trades book recommendations with me, tolerates my endless chatter, and is always willing to watch a good movie—or even a bad one, as long as there are good snacks.
  • For my friends, because without them to share it all with, it just wouldn’t be any fun.
  • For my family, because they make me laugh a lot.  Besides, they’re stuck with me, and they rarely complain about it.

I wish everyone a peaceful, uplifting, delicious Thanksgiving.  May your teams win, your in-laws get along, and your holidays be blessed.

Armistice Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day, and as I explained last year, I always focus my attention on the end of World War I.  November 11, 1918, was the official ceasefire of The War to End All Wars, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  My fascination with WWI is not with battle strategies, but with the individual soldiers and the horrific conditions they endured in the trenches.  I struggle to imagine coping with the fear, the noise, the cold, the wet, the mud, the gas, the hunger, the monotony—and then going over the top to run into machine gun fire and shells and barbed wire, just to gain a few yards of ground which would be lost in the next skirmish.

Last year, I posted World War I art with some devastating facts and statistics.  This year, I am discussing some films about WWI, because it is through them that I’ve gained so much insight into what the war was like for the soldiers we honor today.   It’s also timely because one of the big Christmas movies next month is War Horse.  Like War Horse, many of these films were novels first.  There’s a 51 year gap between the films I discuss, jumping from 1930 to 1981.  I hope readers can fill this gap by telling me some WWI movies made during these years.

Wings with Buddy Rogers, Clara Bow and Richard Arlen

Wings (1927)

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918) Here’s a video of Winsor McCay’s animated film depicting the sinking of the Lusitania by German torpedoes in May, 1915.  The anti-German sentiments expressed in the intertitles are intense, but the comments under this video show that these feelings haven’t gone away.

J’Accuse (1919 and 1938)  Abel Gance used actual soldiers just returning from the front in his 1919 anti-war film.  It had a huge impact in Europe, where it was shown just five months after Armistice.  The US version was drastically re-cut to have a happy ending, and the anti-war message was changed to a patriotic one.  Critics who saw the original version were appalled, and the film was not a success in the States.  Gance later re-made the film in 1938.  It’s really hard to find good copies of either the original or the remake, but a new restoration of the 1919 film was shown at a recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival, so I’m hoping it will become available on DVD soon.

The Big Parade (1925)  This silent film by King Vidor was one of the big hits of the silent era.  It stars John Gilbert and Renée Adorée.  It hasn’t yet been released on DVD, which doesn’t make any sense to me.  I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on my wish list.

Wings (1927)  Since this was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, you’d think it would be readily available.  It’s the only Best Picture not available on DVD in the US.  I met the director’s son last year, and we discussed our mutual frustration about this.  William A. Wellman directed feisty Clara Bow, stalwart Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper, and Mary Pickford’s future husband, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, in this WWI epic about fighter pilots and the girl next door who becomes an ambulance driver.

All Quiet on the Western Front (film: 1930)  Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 book was made into the film starring Lew Ayres.  It was re-made in 1979 with Richard Thomas, but I have not seen that version.  The final scene of soldier Paul Baumer reaching for a butterfly is still devastating.  Lew Aryes was deeply affected by the movie’s message.  He was a pacifist who became a conscientious objector in WWII.  This had a negative impact on his career, even though his service in the Medical Corps earned him three battle stars.

Gallipoli (1981)  Often included in lists of Best Australian Films, Peter Weir directed this story of two young Australian soldiers who lose their innocence fighting in Turkey.  This film is very powerful but has some serious historical inaccuracies.  The disastrous charge at the Battle of the Nek was ordered by an Australian officer, not a British one.  I love the fact that half of the skilled horse riders used in the film were women disguised as men.

Legends of the Fall (film: 1994)  I saw this brutally violent film several times in the theatre because of the beautiful cinematography and the hunky Brad Pitt.  It’s amusing to count how many times Pitt is filmed with a glowing halo of backlight around his blonde head.  It’s not subtle.  When his younger brother enlists and goes to France, Brad Pitt’s character joins up to keep his brother safe.  There’s plenty of gas and barbed wire, not to mention scalpings.  While not a “war film,” this was one of the first movies I saw with WWI scenes, so they had an impact on me.

A Little Princess (1995 film)  The original story is about an English girl whose father is fighting in the Boer Wars.  In this 1995 film version starring Liesel Matthews, Sara Crewe is a girl with an English father and an American mother.  The boarding school is moved to New York, and her father goes to fight in France in WWI.  I love this version, so it’s one of the rare times I don’t mind the Americanizing, and the story still works just fine.  There are several realistic trench scenes with Sara’s father.  Even though Liesel Matthews is an heiress to the Hyatt fortune and worth millions, don’t hold it against her.  She’s a great Sara.

A Little Princess (1995)

A Little Princess (1995)

Regeneration/Behind the Lines (film: 1997)  The first book of Pat Barker’s excellent Regeneration Trilogy was made into a fine film starring Jonathan Pryce, Jonny Lee Miller, and James Wilby.  James McAvoy is credited, but his role is so tiny it’s almost impossible to spot him.  It’s about several characters at a psychiatric hospital in Scotland during WWI, including poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.  Pryce plays a psychiatrist trying to help his shell-shocked patients.  Sassoon has been sent to the hospital instead of a court martial after he publishes a letter speaking out against the war.  This film is hard to find on a US DVD, where it was renamed Behind The Lines, and even in the UK the DVD is a Dutch import.  I hope this changes soon.

The Trench (1999)  Paul Nicholls and Daniel Craig star in this wrenching drama about young British soldiers on the eve of the battle of the Somme.  Craig is excellent, and the young soldiers are played by young actors, conveying the inexperience of many of the troops who didn’t survive the first hours of their first battle.

Deathwatch (2002)  I can’t recommend this strange horror film about British soldiers who stumble into a trench containing a deadly supernatural being.  I only watched it because of the cast, which includes Jamie Bell, Matthew Rhys, Laurence Fox and Andy Serkis.  I suffered through it, but you don’t have to, unless you really like muddy horror films.

A Very Long Engagement (film: 2004)  This is one of my favorite WWI movies.  It’s long, complicated, in French with subtitles, and you really have to pay attention to keep track of the characters.  Maybe it’s just me, but put a group of men in mustaches and they all look the same.  This film has a lot mustaches!  It’s about a determined young woman (Audrey Tatou) who can’t accept that her fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) has been killed in WWI.  She searches for clues to what really happened to him and four other soldiers condemned for self-mutilation.  It’s a war film, a mystery, and a love story.  Marion Cotillard is wonderful in a supporting role, and even Jodie Foster shows up to show off her French.

A Bear Named Winnie (2004)  A family film telling the true story of a Canadian soldier who adopts a black bear cub, smuggles him to England, and leaves him in a zoo when he goes to France.  Winnie the Bear, named after Winnipeg, becomes a beloved zoo attraction and inspires AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.  The film stars Michael Fassbender, Gil Bellows,  Jonathon Young, David Suchet, and Stephen Fry.  There’s only one war scene, still pretty intense for younger viewers, while the rest of the film focuses on the antics of the cub.  The film has a leisurely pace, and Fassbender and the bear have great chemistry.

Joyeux Noel (2005)  One of the most remarkable events of WWI was the 1914 Christmas truce, depicted in this French film, when unofficial ceasefires in some regions during Christmas led to football games, carol singing, and gift exchanges between enemy soldiers.  Joyeux Noel was praised by critics and viewers, and I still need see it.

Passchendaele (2008) Canadian Paul Gross wrote, directed, and stars in this film using details from his grandfather’s life.  I was expecting the focus to be on the battle of Passchendaele, but most of the movie takes place off the battlefield.  That’s not a complaint.  I don’t think the movie teaches an uninformed viewer much about the actual battle, but it’s not supposed to be a documentary.

War Horse ( film: 2011)  Opening this Christmas, War Horse is based on Michael Morpurgo’s book for older children.  The play won the Tony Award last spring.  I read the book this summer, and it was 160 pages of pure grief.  Any parent giving their child this book should read it first to judge whether their kid is mature enough to handle it.  I don’t think I’m there yet.  I hope parents are also careful about taking children to see the film.  I will be reading the reviews to see if parents are cautioned.  The trailer promises a beautiful film and the cast features some favorites, but I’m taking plenty of tissues.

Birdsong (film due 2012)  One of my favorite WWI novels by Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong has been filmed in the UK as a TV movie due in 2012.  That usually translates into an eventual airing on PBS Masterpiece.  The film stars Matthew Goode and Eddie Redmayne, and I can’t wait.

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Chemin des Dames Assault 1917 by Luc Albert Moreau

Chemin des Dames Assault 1917 by Luc Albert Moreau

“And all those boys of Europe born in those times, and thereabouts those times, Russian, French, Belgian, Serbian, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Italian, Prussian, German, Austrian, Turkish—and Canadian, Australian, American, Zulu, Gurkha, Cossack, and all the rest—their fate was written in a ferocious chapter of the book of life, certainly.  Those millions of mothers and their millions of gallons of mothers’ milk, millions of instances of small-talk and baby-talk, beatings and kisses, ganseys and shoes, piled up in history in great ruined heaps, with a loud and broken music, human stories told for nothing, for ashes, for death’s amusement, flung on the mighty scrapheap of souls, all those million boys in all their humours to be milled by the mill-stones of a coming war.   — from A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

All Things Bright and Beautiful

I adored James Herriot’s books as a kid.  My love for animals, especially dogs, has only grown as I’ve gotten older.  I’ve always enjoyed a good story, and Herriot made me laugh, cry, and wonder what it’s like to have your arm up a cow.  I wrote James Herriot a fan letter, and I got back a form letter from his secretary.  Inside the letter was a small slip of paper with Herriot’s autograph.  It is one of my treasures.

 Fifteen years later, I visited the Yorkshire Dales for the first time.  My memories of the books had faded, but something mysterious happened when we drove into Swaledale.  It’s difficult to describe the feeling I experienced, and I know I run the risk of sounding like a New Age type.  I’m hardly that!  I felt like crying, full of the combination of joy and grief you feel when returning home after too long away.  It’s a feeling that hits me every time I go back to the Dales or even see those green fields and stone walls on film.  If past lives are real, I must have had one in North Yorkshire.  Even my favorite cheese is from the Dales, and I’ve never been able to find it in San Francisco.  Wensleydale is my Holy Grail of cheeses!

Here are some of my favorite images of Swaledale. 

James Herriot letter and autograph
James Herriot letter and autograph

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

A Poll about Books

My friend inspired me to take a poll.  She showed me a book she started but gave up on, since it just didn’t engage her.  I usually give a book about 25 pages to determine if I like it.   I’ve certainly read much further than that in books that started out really well but then faltered later. This is more about the books that don’t show any promise from the beginning.  I won’t keep reading a book that starts out badly and doesn’t show any signs of improvement.  Life is too short to waste on a bad book, or at least on one that doesn’t suit me.  How about you?  (If your choice is “Other” be sure to write in your answer! You won’t see your write-in answer now, but I will copy them to this post soon.)

Other Answers:

  • 500 pages
  • I try to read 10% of it.
  • 1 and 1/2 chapters
  • 2 chapters
  • It depends!
  • I’m not started to read a book

Note:  I realized after I posted this poll that there are plenty of people who never start books, so they don’t ever have to worry about whether they’ll finish one!  I guess it didn’t occur to me that those folks would be reading my blog.

Bookends (5): Two Bubbas and a Bogart

I enjoy reading book series, but there’s definitely an advantage to waiting until an author is finished writing them all.  I began reading Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series when there were about five of them already published.   They were very enjoyable, and since this was before the TV show True Blood began on HBO, I pictured my own cast of actors playing the various roles.  I can’t quite remember which two actresses I merged for Sookie, but I think one of them was Kate Hudson.  I still think Steve Zahn would be ideal for Sam Merlotte, the shape-shifting owner of the bar where Sookie works.  I tried watching an episode or two of True Blood, but it didn’t grab me.  Stephen Moyer doesn’t appeal, and while Anna Paquin (Sookie) is okay, I think her head is too big for her neck. 

 I’ve kept on reading the books as they are published each year, and I just finished Dead Reckoning, but it’s getting really hard to keep track of all the characters.   Harris seems determined to add new types of supernaturals to each book, and no matter how many characters she kills off in one book, she still ends up juggling more in the next.   There are so many different plotlines going, it’s not surprising that Harris is neglecting certain characters and leaving some storylines underdeveloped. I’m surprised that the books haven’t gotten longer each year, as they did with the Harry Potter series.  They still hover around 300 pages.  To help readers keep track of all the characters and storylines, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion was just published.  It might be helpful, but I’m not a big enough fan to buy it for myself. 

Along with the dizzying number of characters and supernaturals, the series has become darker.  I noticed it first with All Together Dead.   I miss the lighter tone of the earlier books.  I don’t know if Harris has been influenced by True Blood, but it must be really strange for an author to see her characters appearing in an altered form onscreen while she’s still writing about them, since the show is only loosely based on the books.

I got a friend to read these books with me, and I had to laugh when she asked me who Bubba was supposed to be.  My friend isn’t clueless—she just reads too fast and sometimes misses the obvious.   I don’t want to spoil anything, but Bubba is definitely one of my favorite vampires.

I have another favorite Bubba.  He’s a recurring character in Dennis Lehane’s detective series featuring private eyes Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro.  Lehane began the series in 1994 with A Drink Before The War, and he stopped after Prayers for Rain, the fifth book in the series.  Naturally, I was delighted when he rejoined these characters a dozen years later in Moonlight Mile.  I love Lehane’s snappy dialogue.  Nobody I know talks like that, but that’s probably why I enjoy the books so much.  I also love Bubba, Lehane’s sociopathic gunrunner.  You may never want to meet this guy in real life, but he’s a delight on the page.  Moonlight Mile is far too short, and it ends without any promise of further adventures to come (sorry if that’s a spoiler!), but I’m just happy that we got another book featuring these great characters. 

Nora Roberts has written over 190 novels, so it was inevitable that I’d finally read one.  The Search is about dog trainer Fiona Bristow, who lives on Orcas Island with her three labs named Newman, Peck and Bogart.   She moved to the island to rebuild her life after escaping a serial killer.   The killer was arrested after murdering her fiance, but now a copycat killer is working his way towards the island.  Even though she’s scared, Fiona continues to train her dogs and run her canine search and rescue unit.  She has a steamy romance with an artist who happens to have an energetic puppy.   Naturally, all these storylines eventually collide.  I must admit, I enjoyed the book.  It helps that I love dogs.  I’m not sure if all the details about dog training and behavior would be as interesting to a cat person.  It’s certainly impressive the way Roberts can write so many romantic encounters without resorting to the purple prose and silly adjectives of standard erotic writing.   I’m willing to read more of her books, but there’s no way I’m reading all of them!

Other Bookend posts:   1   2   3   4

A Dune Discussion

Some friends and I had an interesting chat on facebook about Frank Herbert’s Dune.  With their kind permission, I am posting it here.  This is a great way to blog—just let others do it for you!

Dune book cover

Firefly: “We have reached that time when all will seek our lives…” — Paul (Maud ‘Dib) Atriedes, Dune

Doodlebug:  You sure that quote isn’t from Barry Zito?

Firefly:  You’re sharp!  I did intend that as a literary reference to the state of the Giants right now.  (Other times it reflects the state of my own psyche…)

Ant:  Yeah, so what exactly is Dune anyways? It’s a TV show, right?

Firefly:  Oh Ant…Epic sci-fi tome by Frank Herbert.  Made into a somewhat controversial movie by David Lynch in the ’80s.  It took Lord of the Rings to move this from the number one spot on my all time favorite list.  I highly recommend the read.  I’m actually surprised you haven’t devoured this one yet.

 Ant:  I am admittedly out of touch with pop-culture, for I do not own a TV and you assume correctly that I say that with snobbish hipster pride.  I also do not read much, sadly, and this I am not proud of.  Most books just don’t hold my attention, and I am suspicious of the shelves upon shelves of look-alike fantasy fiction which are a challenge to discern through and choose the worthy vs the unworthy.  But if you recommend it, I may give it a sniff.

Firefly:  I applaud your aversion to pop-disposable-culture.  Your wisdom however belies your aversion to the written word.  I frequently have to be dragged by wild horses to a book, reading used to equate too much with school, but find something that intrigues me and I have the capacity to be voracious.  The Dune saga actually stretches for 6 books, and Herbert’s son added various prequels – probably totaling a dozen by now.  But I wouldn’t suggest all that to anybody.  Dune itself is the classic.  Herbert is quite the philosopher and that’s the primary thing that distinguishes this work from pulp sci-fi.  The interior, thoughtful, non-dialog writing is particularly impressive to me.  Anyway, check it out some day.

 Ant:  That part about reading=school+therefore+u​ndesirable is my point exactly.  So I’m on the hunt for soul-nourishing stories.  I shall investigate this one, thanks!   How thick are the Dune books?  Not that it should matter if they’re wonderful. (In fact, thicker would be better if they’re great.)

 Firefly:  Dune itself is about 400-500 pages.

 Doodlebug:  Sorry Firefly, I couldn’t handle either Frank Herbert or Dune!!  I was an Arthur C. Clarke, H.P. Lovecraft kind of guy : )

 UglyBug:  I’m going to throw out a comparison here that will make you gag, but the Dune series is, in one way, like the Twilight series.  The first book is good enough (in the case of Dune, completely brilliant, of course) to make you read the rest of the series, but none of them satisfies in the same way.  I will also point out that Dune was remade as a TV miniseries, and even though it’s not great, it is where I discovered James McAvoy (as Leto II, twin son of Paul). Finally, you have to persevere at the beginning of the book Dune, because Herbert needs time to describe his incredible universe before the action kicks in.  Wow, now I think I need to read this again.

Firefly:  You really hit the nail on the head.  I was completely blown away by the initial work—it is a classic.  But you’re right. The scope is so large that you have to give Herbert time to set the stage.  And yes, I raced to read Dune Messiah, but quickly after Muad ‘Dib leaves the scene, the work loses some important power.  I liked the miniseries, if only for the fact that they attempted it.  What was it, a Hungarian production?  Intriguing.  I enjoyed the Paul/Muad ‘Dib characterization but they lost me with the Baron’s portrayal.  Was he trying to play the part as a bad conscience?  Anyway, I liked it for what it was, but you can’t get past the absence of Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Patrick Stewart, Jürgen Prochnow, and, for that matter, José Ferrer.  I’m in the midst of “Middle Earth” right now, but perhaps when I’m finished I’ll have to dust off the old paperback for another go.  In the meantime, I might just watch the David Lynch cut on dvd.

Dune Sandworms

Dune Sandworms

 UglyBug:  One of the funniest books I’ve ever read is The Making of Dune, about the Lynch movie.  They spent a fortune on special effects to create the sandworms.  The first time everyone sat in the screening room to view the footage on a large screen, all the men crossed their legs in horror.  The worms looked like giant penises.  Everything had to be re-shot, which is why you only see the worms from certain angles, with their mouths open, to avoid the problem.  My favorite cheesy film line: “The worms, the spice; is there a relationship?”  By the way, don’t forget Linda Hunt (fresh from her Oscar win for playing a man in A Year of Living Dangerously), Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Sting, and Virginia Madsen.  Let’s have Dune party one of these days!

Firefly:  Well, you also have to love the Twin Peaks crossover: Lynch, MacLachlan, Everett McGill (Big Ed!), Jack “There’s a fish in the coffee pot” Nance, José Ferrer (Miguel’s father)…Yes, I think a Dune party is certainly in order!  The spice must flow!!!

(Thanks, everybody, for the lively discussion.  I think I need to go watch James McAvoy shirtless now.)

James McAvoy in Dune

James McAvoy in Children of Dune

My Huckleberry Friend

I love Huckleberry Finn.  Having just watched the 1979-80 Canadian/German television series on YouTube, I’ve been thinking back on all the different versions of Huckleberry Finn I’ve seen.

Huckleberry Finn video and DVD covers

Video and DVD covers of Huckleberry Finn

My first exposure to Twain’s characters was the 1969 television series The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which aired on Sunday evenings alongside The Wonderful World of Disney.  Huck, Tom and Becky got chased through animated scenery by Injun Joe.  This series didn’t last very long, but it made a real impression on me.  Because I heard the name Injun Joe before I ever encountered it as a reader, I spent many years thinking he was “Engine Joe.”  I always thought he was a railroad engineer.  More confusion ensued when I tried to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the age of seven.  I just didn’t have a big enough vocabulary yet.  When Huck finds a canoe and floats downriver to get away from Pap, I read the word as “cannon” and just couldn’t imagine a floating cannon.  I gave up, but fortunately I tried again later, and I’ve re-read it many times over the years, always preferring it to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Huck Fin smoking

Huckleberry Finn

The use of the ‘N’ word in Huckleberry Finn causes all sorts of problems for educators and book censors.  A bigger problem is the weak ending, when Tom Sawyer re-enters the story.  Most adaptations of the story try to “fix” the ending by swapping it for something more satisfying.  I love these alternate endings, since there aren’t many classic stories you can watch without knowing exactly how it will conclude.  (Great Expectations is another one, since Dickens wrote more than one ending to his book.)  If you don’t like plot spoilers, be warned.  In this next part, I’m discussing the endings of several movie versions.

Jeff East as Huckleberry Finn

Jeff East as Huckleberry Finn

One of my favorite versions of Huckleberry Finn is also one of the oddest.  It’s the Reader’s Digest musical version from 1974, starring Jeff East (Huck) and Paul Winfield (Jim).  It followed the more successful Tom Sawyer, with Johnny Whitaker as Tom and Jodie Foster as Becky.  In both movies, the production values are high, with beautiful locations and believable period sets.  Winfield as Jim probably sounds too educated, but he’s a wonderful actor, and the King and the Duke are well portrayed by Harvey Korman and David Wayne.   Having all these characters break out into song is what makes this movie strange, and even though I had a big crush on Jeff East, his singing isn’t that great.  He’s a good size and age (about 16) for Huck, who’s been played by actors ranging from age 10 to 30.  Well, maybe 30 is an exaggeration, but there have been some actors who were too old for the role.  I also like how this Huck is suitably dirty, since I’ve seen so many who’ve had too many baths and haircuts.  This movie ditches the Tom Sawyer ending altogether.  Huck rescues Jim from slavers, sends him ahead on the raft to Cairo with a promise to buy his wife and children, then stands on the bank of the Mississippi while a song called “Freedom” plays.

Elijah Wood as Huck Finn

Elijah Wood as Huck Finn

Another favorite version is The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) with Elijah Wood as Huck.  He’s the smallest Huck I’ve seen, and he’s spirited and feisty, if somewhat too clean.  Robbie Coltrane and Jason Robards are great as the Duke and the King.  It’s really fun to see Renee O’Connor as Susan Wilks, a few years before she played Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess.   Ron Perlman is genuinely scary as Pap, and his scenes, along with the death of the youngest Grangerford, make this Huck Finn pretty frightening for younger children.  This one also ends without Tom Sawyer.  After saving the Wilks family from the Duke and the King, Huck frees Jim from a jail cell, and they run for a riverboat.   Huck gets shot in the back, and Jim stops to help him.  Jim is almost lynched, but Mary Jane Wilks arrives in time, and Huck passes out.  He wakes up to find Jim a happy man, since Miss Watson set him free in her will.  Widow Douglas tries to take Huck back to be further civilized.  He slips off, and the movie ends with him tossing his fancy clothes away as he runs back to the river.

Big River Broadway musical

The Broadway musical Big River (1985)

The Broadway musical Big River, based on Huckleberry Finn, won a number of major Tony Awards in 1985.  I got to see a touring production many years later, but I wasn’t that impressed.  A stage musical about a river journey is going to have its limitations, even with imaginative staging and special effects.

This brings me to the 1979 series Huckleberry Finn and His Friends, starring Ian Tracey as Huck and Sammy Snyders as Tom.  I didn’t see this television version when it was originally shown, but it may not have aired in Southern California.   Maybe it wasn’t shown in the US at all, being a joint Canadian/German production.  The complete DVD set came out in UK a few years ago, and all 26 episodes are on YouTube in 78 parts.  The resolution varies but the quality isn’t too bad.  This is a very faithful version of both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, using much of the original dialogue and sticking close to the two books.  Parts 1 through 11 cover Tom Sawyer, and parts 12-26 cover Huckleberry Finn.  The ending is done as Mark Twain wrote it, although the entire storyline with the Wilks family swindle has been eliminated.  Aunt Polly is played by Brigitte Horney, a German actress, and her voice is dubbed because of her accent.  This is strange, but it’s even stranger that the German actress who plays Aunt Sally gets to keep her accent.  Aunt Sally wears an awful wig, and so does Injun Joe.  In one scene, Injun Joe’s braids are sticking out from under another tangled wig, so maybe he is wearing the second wig as a disguise?  Sammy Snyders shouts his lines playing Tom, and he’s a lot shorter than his Becky (Holly Findlay).  I watched this show because I’m fascinated by Ian Tracey.   He demonstrates a lot of the talent he later developed more fully, although he is one of those well-scrubbed Hucks.  When you watch all these episodes back-to-back, it’s pretty funny to see both Tom and Huck go from blonde to light brown to blonde again. There’s some funny business happening with the hair color here.  Ian Tracey is pretty pale for a character who spends most of his time outdoors.  Maybe there wasn’t that much sun where this series was filmed, which must have been unpleasant for the actors, considering all the time they spend in the water.  One more minor issue: I really wish that Tom Sawyer had a scene where we see him reading one of the books he’s always talking about.  I may sound too critical of this version, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, and the theme song is now stuck in my head after hearing it 26 times.

Ian Tracey as Huck Finn

Ian Tracey as Huck Finn

There are still more film versions of Huckleberry Finn in pre-production, according to IMDb.  Maybe it keeps getting re-made because nobody has done a definitive version yet.  Some folks swear by the 1981 version made in the Soviet Union.  Researching it, I found that the only available DVD is drastically butchered, and the voices of Tom and Huck are dubbed by women.  I can’t bring myself to watch it. The first time Huck appeared on film was in 1917, and even Mickey Rooney played Huck, back in 1939. Other actors who played the role include Brad Renfro, Anthony Michael Hall, Ron Howard, Donald O’Connor, Mitchell Anderson, and Michael Dudikoff. These last three played grown versions of Huck, in sequels like Tom Sawyer, Detective and Return to Hannibal.

Speaking of sequels, these have been written as well as filmed, by Twain himself and other writers.  The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Greg Matthews takes Huck and Jim out west, but the plot device used to set things in motion is the slaughter of several beloved characters in Hannibal.   The rest of the story is suspiciously similar to Robert Lewis Taylor’s The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.  It would be better just to read this book  and leave Hannibal in peace.

So, what is your favorite version?  What do you think of Mark Twain’s original ending?

[Note: My title here is from the song Moon River.]

Footnote: When watching Huckleberry Finn and His Friends, I kept thinking that the actor playing Sid Sawyer (Bernie Coulson) looked more like Ian Tracey than his “brother” Sammy Snyders.  Now I’m watching the Canadian television series Intelligence, made 27 years later, and guess who plays Ian Tracey’s brother??  Yep, Bernie Coulson.  And, I’ve spotted three different Huckleberry Finn actors appearing with Ian Tracey in Da Vinci’s Inquest.

Related post:  Tracking Tracey

Bookends (4)

My friend just passed me three young adult novels to check out, and since I haven’t been too successful lately choosing my own books, I gave them a try.   I liked all three of them for different reasons.

Divergent  is by first-time author Veronica Roth, and it’s the first of a planned trilogy.  Like so many teen novels that are now being published by the truckload, it is set in a dystopian future where teens struggle to survive under harsh conditions imposed by a dysfunctional society.  Unlike my friend, I have not embraced this particular genre.  I have not read The Hunger Games, or The Maze Runner, or The Knife of Never Letting Go.  I did read M.T. Anderson’s Feed a few years ago, and I was very impressed.  I especially liked the author’s clever creation of plausible slang words.   According to an interesting New Yorker piece,  Feed is closer to adult dystopian fiction that the current crop of teen releases.   Writer Laura Miller explains, “Dystopian fiction may be the only genre written for children that’s routinely less didactic than its adult counterpart. It’s not about persuading the reader to stop something terrible from happening—it’s about what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader.”  She points out that the recent teen novels make the most sense if you see the dystopian society as a metaphor for the hell that is high school.

That certainly works for Divergent.  In this story, all 16 year olds must choose to devote their lives and loyalties to one of five factions: Amity (peacefulness), Candor (truthfulness), Erudite (knowledge), Dauntless (courage), or Abnegation (selflessness).   If a teen chooses to pledge to a faction different from the one he or she was raised in, all ties must be severed with family and friends in that faction.  The factionless, those who fail the initiation into their chosen group, get the worst jobs and live without security or comfort.  I don’t need to explain how this relates to high school cliques, but I can’t help pointing out that this is essentially the plot of Disney’s High School Musical.  Beatrice in Divergent finds out through mandatory testing that she has qualities of more than one faction, and that’s really all the plot that I’ll reveal.  I’ll just say that there’s plenty of action, some romance, and a few interesting plots twists.  My main complaint?  I wish author Roth could have come up with names for the five factions that were either all adjectives or all nouns.  Nitpicky?  You bet, but it just bugs me.  Mind you, I haven’t been able to come up with five better versions.  The second book in the series comes out next year in late spring/early summer.  That’s another complaint about these series—the waiting time between books is way too long!  At least Divergent does not have a cliffhanger ending, a “spoiler” that I don’t think spoils anything.

Split by Swati Avasthi is about a teenage boy whose father physically abuses both him and his mother.  He leaves home to go live with his older brother, who disappeared years before after a bad beating.  This unflinching novel about battered women and kids is not an easy read, but it is compelling.  I believed the characters, although the mother is not a fully developed individual so much as composite of battered woman syndrome characteristics.  We really only see her through her sons, who are the focus of the story.  The author obviously did her research.  While there is hope for these characters, there are no quick, easy fixes.   At one point, the two brothers have a conversation where they use terms like “shadowboxing” as if they’ve both been in therapy for a while or have been reading the same books on the subject.  The author doesn’t define what shadowboxing is, but I suppose that’s why we have google.  Except when I googled the term, I only got sports-related stuff, so that was no help!

Shine by Lauren Myracle reminds me of Winter’s Bone.  It’s about a teenage girl, in a small depressed hill community, who’s investigating the brutal beating of her gay friend because she doesn’t believe the local sheriff will solve the case.  She gets warnings from all around her to stop poking her nose where it doesn’t belong.  The folks in her town are beaten down by unemployment, illiteracy, alcoholism, and meth addiction.  She has spent the last three years of her life withdrawing after a trauma, but her investigation forces her to re-engage with old friends and enemies.  My favorite chapters are when she visits her former friends in their homes, getting insight into their lives, their hopes, and their tragedies.   Like Split, this was not  fun or cheerful, but it was a good book.  It took me to places I’ve never been, and that’s why I read.  Did I figure out the mystery before the character?  Sort of.  I got one major chunk of it, but I guess I just didn’t want to believe the rest.

I found proofreading mistakes in two of these books, which makes me wonder if these YA novels really are rushed to the shelves or if the standards are just lower.  (I realize I’m contradicting myself here, because I just complained that the books aren’t released fast enough.)  Are there websites to report mistakes that you find?  I’d better go google that…

Previous book reviews in this series:  Bookends (1)    Bookends (2)    Bookends (3)

Not So Dumb

“Don’t worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don’t feel like changing anymore.  And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find.”

This is my favorite quote from Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  I wish somebody had said that to me when I was eighteen!  I read this book because it was on a list of award-winning children and teen books, having won a  2011 Schneider Family Book Award, which “honors an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for adolescent audiences.”  Frankly, I’d never even heard of the Schneider Family Book Award.  I just liked the description of the story.  

Piper is a senior in a Seattle high school, and she’s deaf.  She’s also funny, gutsy, and whip smart.   Without actually planning it, she finds herself the manager of a rock band called Dumb, and she’s got one month to get them a paying gig.  Her misadventures with the band force her to come out of her shell.   She learns who the people in the band really are, and she also gets to know the strangers she lives with, namely her parents and younger brother.  (Any more than that and I’d be spoiling it, and I hate spoilers!)

I think part of the reason this book resonates with me is because I was a photographer for a band for a couple of years, and I knew as much about music as Piper.  I went to the recording studio, to rehearsals and to gigs with my band, and when they asked me how the music sounded, I would just smile and mumble nice things.  Honestly, I didn’t have a clue, but I sure liked the way they looked.  I learned a lot about life during those years, but music is still a foreign language to me. 

I really enjoyed Five Flavors of Dumb.   It had me laughing out loud, and I recognized the characters and related to them.  The relationships felt real, and I also learned a little bit about deaf culture and Seattle’s rock history.  I’m not sure the band using MySpace instead of facebook is current enough for a book published in 2010, but perhaps there was a permission problem with the publishers.  At least they weren’t using twitter!  (My love/hate relationship with twitter is long-standing.)  

Read this book, and tell me what you think!

My Les Mis

Last night was the PBS broadcast of the 25th Anniversary Les Misérables concert.  Watching it brought back lots of memories, since it’s my favorite musical.

I saw Les Misérables for the first time in London on October 2, 1986.   It was still the original cast, with the exception of Patti LuPone as Fantine, who had already moved on.  I decided to go see the musical because everyone was talking about it, but I was skeptical.  I wasn’t at all familiar with the story.  I had no idea what to expect.  It was during the very first scene, when the prisoners trudge out singing “look down,” that I fell in love with the show.  I suppose it’s because of the epic story with a large cast of characters and all that melodrama.  The music is great too, of course.  I love how it goes from a single person on an empty stage pouring his or her heart out, to the big crowd scenes.  Oddly enough, I was pleased that there was almost no dancing.  The London production had strong dramatic lighting combined with dark corners you couldn’t quite make out.   It was a perfect remedy to all the cheerful, fluffy, dance-filled musicals I’d seen up to that point.  I was completely taken with Michael Ball as Marius, and I also loved Frances Ruffelle (Éponine) and Colm Wilkinson (Valjean).

Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson & Ramin Karimloo, in the Les Miserables concert

Alfie Boe, Colm Wilkinson & Ramin Karimloo, in the Les Miserables concert

I liked Les Mis so much, I went back and saw it again the same week.  I probably would have continued going back, but my trip ended.  I did my best to meet the cast, standing at the stage door between a matinee and an evening performance.  I mostly wanted to meet Michael Ball, but he never came out.  Frances Ruffelle was the only person I remember meeting, and she was lovely.  I just told her she was great as she walked by, but she turned back and gave me a big smile and a thank you.  There was a small circle of other fans gathered by the stage door, and I hung back in the alley, watching who was going in as well as who was coming out.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and a woman who I believe was Sarah Brightman walked past me and went in.  I felt no desire to ask Lloyd Webber for an autograph, because I was young and arrogant enough to be unimpressed by him.   I flew home with a suitcase filled with souvenirs, including the cast CD (my very first CD ever!), a sweatshirt, and the unabridged Penguin edition of the book.  On the plane, I was seated next to a man who sat in the same row at the same performance of Les Mis, and we talked for the entire flight about our new obsession.

I was determined to read the entire 1000 page Les Misérables, so I set myself a goal of a hundred pages of day.  It worked, and I finished it on the tenth day.  The problem with reading an epic length novel is that nothing else satisfies after you’re done.   It feels like losing a best friend, and you go through a period of mourning.   Anyway, what I got from reading the book is that Les Mis is essentially a story about the Old Testament versus the New.  Javert’s philosophy is “an eye for an eye,” and his God doesn’t forgive.  He is too busy smiting his enemies.  Valjean undergoes a conversion after his encounter with the bishop, and his God is about love and grace and sacrifice for others.  Thénardier represents an existence without God or morals.  Javert destroys himself when his faith in his rigid concept of God is shaken by Valjean, and Valjean finds salvation and redemption.   One of the reasons I love the musical version is that it doesn’t secularize the story by removing the references to God.

My love affair with Les Mis continued over the years.  I was working as a tour guide at Sea World in the mid-80s, and one of the places we had to staff for hour-long stretches never got much traffic.  I would sing Les Mis songs to pass the time.  I needed a secluded spot well away from others, with my singing voice!  One year, two different friends gave me Les Mis beach towels. I saw the musical a total of five times in London at the Palace Theatre, usually in the same restricted-view box seat.   I liked to take my binoculars and find the microphones hidden on the actors.  I was delighted to discover that Javert’s microphone was disguised as the scar on his cheek.  One of the times I saw the show, I could clearly see that the actor playing Valjean and the little girl playing Cosette loathed each other.  When he picked her up and swung her around, she looked disgusted and he practically threw her down.  One of my biggest regrets was missing Mario Frangoulis play Marius by only a month.  He’s now one of my favorite singers.   A couple of summers ago, I finally saw a production of Les Mis here in the US, performed by the San Diego Junior Theatre.  Damn, those were some talented kids!  I was so impressed.

Ramin Karimloo and Robert Madge, Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert

Ramin Karimloo and Robert Madge

So, 25 years later, we have the anniversary concert.  I particularly enjoyed Lea Salonga (Fantine), Matt Lucas (Thénardier), Ramin Karimloo (Enjolras), Hadley Fraser (Grantaire), and Robert Madge (Gavroche).  It was a shame that Gavroche’s dying scene was cut from the concert, because I would love to see Madge perform it.   I don’t automatically like the boys playing Gavroche, because they can be obnoxious, but Robert Madge had just the right amount of cheekiness.  Alfie Boe (Valjean) has a lovely voice, especially singing Bring Him Home.  I’m not sure so many extreme close-ups benefited him, because his voice is so much more expressive than his face.¹  The close-ups certainly didn’t help Nick Jonas (Marius).  I’m quite fond of the Jonas brothers, and I really wanted Nick to be a good Marius.  He seemed to be struggling with the vocal range, and his facial expressions often made him look constipated.  The song A Little Fall of Rain didn’t quite work with the actors standing up at microphones, instead of Éponine collapsing to die in Marius’s arms.  Still, I found the whole concert very moving, and it was so fun to see many of the original cast members come out at the end.  (Once again, Patti LuPone was missing!)   This concert confirms that Les Mis is still my favorite musical.

Robert Madge as Gavroche, Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert

Robert Madge as Gavroche

If you want to check out more of Robert Madge, watch this video from Oliver! where he plays The Artful Dodger.

¹Note: My opinion of Alfie Boe’s expressiveness has altered since seeing videos of him singing with Matt Lucas and joking around in Lucas’ kitchen [recently removed from YouTube, unfortunately].   Maybe it was the beard.

Related posts:  Gavroche   Please Sir, I Want Some More   To the Barricade!   Ramin Karimloo   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz   Gavroche: Liar!   Bring Him Home   Enjolras   Les Mis: The Originals   24601    Fantine   Cosette & Madame Thénardier   Les Mis: The Streets of Paris   First Look: Hadley Fraser’s Javert

Daily Lit

I haven’t been reading as much these last few months.  Reading is a habit, and once you fall out of the habit, filling up the time with other distractions is all too easy.   It amazes me how much time I spend on the computer now, checking the same round of websites for updates, looking up references on wikipedia and IMDb,  and messing around in photoshop.   I find playing on the computer pleasurable, but it doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment as reading a good book.

Usually when I need to recharge my reading batteries, I turn to children’s books.  Some of the best books I’ve read in the last ten years were written for kids or teens.  That’s not to say anything against the children’s books that I read before, but ten years ago I began a job in the children’s section at a large Borders Books.  That’s when my interest became a passion. 

Adults who haven’t read a really good children’s book since they were young may not remember the pure, intense emotional satisfaction that it produces.   It’s not something that you felt just because you were a kid.  It happen to any reader who still feels, and I’m always impressed and amazed how the authors manage to elicit this emotional reaction in such a compact work.   I could write a list of writers who consistently accomplish this in their books, but it would be a meaningless list if you don’t understand first what I mean by this emotional satisfaction.  (Grown-ups who love these books already know what I mean, so forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir.)  Here’s a great example.  Most adults who experienced and loved Charlotte’s Web still remember how much they cried over the death of a spider.   This is a slim little book about a pig and a spider that produced feelings so strong we can still remember them after all these years.  The best books for children don’t shy away from the serious issues of life, especially death, and children recognize this and love them for it.  My brother and I were so passionate about Charlotte’s Web that we each had to have our own copy, because we couldn’t stop fighting over who got to re-read it next.  (Just as an aside, I also loved E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan, which never gets the same attention.)  

An easy way to find good children’s books is to consult the list of Newbery Medal winners.   I would like to say that I’ve read all the winners, and the honor books, too, but I’ve still got a long way to go with this list.  I tend to use the Newberys as a jumping off point.  The Newbery Medal list will lead you to all these great authors, and you’ll want to read more of their work.  Just a few of my favorites are Christopher Paul Curtis, Jennifer L. Holm, Kate DiCamillo, Nancy Farmer, Sharon Creech, Richard Peck, and E.L. Konigsburg.

Another way I’ve been getting back into the reading habit is to give in to my computer obsession.  I’m reading books on my computer.  It’s no kindle, but I just read my first book from the library using my laptop.  It was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.  I am surprised by how quickly it went, which just goes to show how time flies on the computer, regardless of what you’re doing.

A friend just turned me on to, which is another great way to recharge those batteries.   You can choose from a decent list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and this website will email you a couple of pages every day.  Or three times a week.  You set the frequency and even the time they arrive in your inbox.  You can also suspend your emails for vacations or when life gets too busy.  Many of the books are classics that are in the public domain, and these are the books I always intend to read but rarely begin, let alone finish.  Right now I’m reading Dicken’s Dombey and Son in 443 installments.  That means it will take more than a year to read in daily emails.  I hope that the story will get so compelling that I can’t wait to get to the next page.  Then I will get a copy of the book to finish faster.  Dickens is a great author to read in small batches, because when you read him too fast, you can miss all his little character flourishes and humor.  I am also getting a-poem-a-day and Spirits in Bondage by C.S. Lewis.

My monthly book club compels me to read at least one adult book a month.  Zeitoun is this month’s selection, and next month is The Help by Kathryn Stockett.   Both books should trigger lively discussions.

What are you reading to kick off the new year?

My Year End Wrap-Up 2010

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back and reflect on the best and worst of 2010.  I’m not going to be the least bit objective here.  This is my blog, so I get to ignore popular trends and public opinion.  You won’t find Lady Gaga or Dancing With The Stars or Harry Potter The First Part of the Last Book (Finally).  This is what entertained ME this year.

Best Books: This year, the recently published books that I most enjoyed were The Gates by John Connolly, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre, and The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart.  The biggest disappoint was One Day by David Nicholls.

Best Television: All year long, the television show that has been the most consistently funny and worth watching is The Big Bang Theory.  Jim Parsons gets a lot of the credit, but I’m also a big fan of Kunal Nayyar as Raj.   Another excellent series is Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  My favorite new show from the fall is Hawaii Five-O.  The worst show this year  was the incredibly dull American Idol season.  I can’t even remember the finalists anymore, probably because I was watching NCIS instead.   (People who know me will wonder about General Hospital.  Just keep reading.)

Best Twitter:  Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds tweets with charm and whimsy, and his photos, while not always in focus, are always worth clicking open.

Best Movie:  This category is very tricky.  I only saw five films this year in a movie theater, and two of them were silent.   Of the talkies, Easy A was the funniest and most endearing.  Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are so appealing, you easily forget the shortcomings of the story.  Fortunately, none of the films I paid good money to see actually sucked.  Considering the clunkers released this year, that’s pretty good luck.   All the good films released this month will have to go into next year’s list, because I haven’t seen them yet!

Best DVDs:  Here is where I make up for all the movies I missed in the theater.   The best films I watched on DVD weren’t even released this year, but they’re worth mentioning.  I loved Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont, Patrik Age 1.5, In the Loop, The Band’s Visit, and Heartlands.  Note that three of these films are British, one is Swedish, and one is Israeli.  Not one American film made my list this year.  Unfortunately, the worst thing I watched on DVD this year was also British.  It was a short-lived TV series called Bonekickers.  Avoid it.

Best Streaming:  A special thank you to my downstairs neighbors Nathan and Eric, because I share their wireless DSL.  They upgraded the speed a couple of months ago.  Now I can watch programs on my computer without all the stops for buffering.  The best thing I watched streaming was the British comedy series The IT Crowd.  A special mention goes to the hours of entertaining clips I watched on YouTube.

Best Music:  The music that gets the most space on my mp3 player, and the most plays, is by Enation.  I’ve also enjoyed the new albums by Hanson (Shout it Out) and Jason Castro.

Best Music Video:   I love dogs, so my favorite is White Knuckles by OK Go.

Best Entertainment News:  This is a weird category, but I have been fascinated by all the news about the making of The Hobbit.  The director changes, the New Zealand union controversy, the casting news—it could all prove to be more entertaining than the movie itself.  If it ever gets made.  The worst news was when Entertainment Weekly magazine refused to honor my great subscription rate from past years, so I didn’t renew.

Entertainer of the Year:  This one is a no-brainer.  Back in July, I started watching General Hospital to check out James Franco’s guest appearance.  I became interested in Jonathan Jackson, who plays Lucky Spencer.  I thought my interest would last about a week.   Six months later, I’m still watching him on GH, listening to his band Enation, and checking his facebook page every day.  I’ve watched his movies, his YouTube videos, and his live streaming events on Ustream.   He even answered a question from me on his Twitter Q & A last month.  Jonathan Jackson gets this “award” not just because he has entertained me, but because he has done it in so many different ways.  Thumbs up!

Enation in the recording studio

Jonathan Jackson and Enation (click to see larger)

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