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Lawrance Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose [UK Import]
The Exorcism of Emily Rose [UK Import]
DVD ~ Campbell Scott
Wird angeboten von ZOverstocksDE
Preis: EUR 2,95

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4.0 von 5 Sternen A provocative combination of a trial film and a horror movie, 22. Dezember 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Exorcism of Emily Rose [UK Import] (DVD)
"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is based on a true story, which would be the exorcism and death of in 1976 of Anneliese Michel, a young German girl. The "Klingenberg Case" unfolded in the wake of the release of William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" and two years later prosecutors brought Anneliese's parents and the two exorcists to trial on charges of negligent homicides. What Scott Derrickson takes from that true story are not so much the details of the young woman's possession and the attempted exorcism, but the drama of a trial in which the state seeks to convict a priest for believing in faith rather than facts. Consequentially, this 2005 is a rather unique blend of a trial film with a horror movie, and with regards to both parts of the equation it is both provocative and effective.
Our vantage point in the story is that of Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), a criminal lawyer who has achieved notoriety for successfully defending a murderer. The head of her firm (Colm Feore) dangles a partnership in front of her for taking the case of Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson), who has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Diagnosed as having epilepsy, the Father convinced Emily that she was a victim of demon possession and got her to stop taking her medication. An exorcism was performed, but it was unsuccessful, and Emily starved to death. Prosecuting the case if Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a man of faith who believes in facts. Bruner is an agnostic, which makes for an obvious irony as she defends the priest whose only concern is that he be allowed to testify and tell Emily's story. Towards that end he has refused a plea agreement pushed by the archdiocese.
Emily's story emerges in flashbacks during the trial, which puts the prosecution's case at a disadvantage from our perspective. Thomas' alternative explanations for things like how Emily comes to know so many ancient languages ring hollow compared to what we have seen and heard in the flashbacks. It is key that Thomas is a man of faith, that he is a believer whereas Bruner is not, but when he dismisses Moore's beliefs as archaic superstitions is he merely being a Protestant or is he drawing a line in the theological sand elsewhere? To the point, does he believe in God but not Satan? In both but not in possession? More to the point, when faith and facts collide, why does he obviously side with the latter? These questions matter to me because by focusing on the trial the story here is about what religious beliefs the law allows. What is the difference between the religious exemption that allows Native Americans to smoke peyote and allowing Christian Scientists to refuse medical treatment, and the right of the Catholic Church to perform the "Ritulae Romanum" of the Great Exorcism?
Emily's position is succinctly put in her own words: "People say that God is dead, but how can they believe that when I show them the Devil?" When "The Exorcist" came out I remember a poll where more people believed in Satan than in God, which seemed to me to be backwards from the standpoint of logic because Emily is right: the existence of Satan prove that of God, but believing in God does not necessarily mandate a believe in the devil. Maybe that is where Thomas makes his stand. But Derrickson has stacked the deck here: those who authorized the exorcism are off the hook, as are the parents, and the earnest Moore faces martyrdom essentially alone.
What this film has going for it above anything else is an exceptionally strong cast. Linney is an actress who exudes intelligence in everything she does, Scott shows measured disdain with just about every sentence he utters, and Wilkinson brings a remarkable sense of reasonableness to a priest in his position. But special credit goes to Carpenter, who manifests most of Emily's possession through the use of her voice and body (the special features indicate the exceptions in this regard). The fact that for the most part Linney is in the trial film rather than the horror movie helps her so much that in those few scenes where we are supposed to believe the demons are after her actually work against the movie because it works better if her perspective is no different from that of the jury.
In the end I am bothered more by the film's resolution than by its implicit rhetorical questions. I appreciate the importance of amibugity in such a film, that for it to really work both Moore and Thomas must be right at face value, but it really is skewed towards the "turth" of the possession and having it both ways in the end is too much of a cop out for me. Even the characters do not try to come to grips with what it all means given the battle that has been waged in the courtroom, which is why I round down on this one.


Essential Ghost Rider - Volume 1 (Essential (Marvel Comics))
Essential Ghost Rider - Volume 1 (Essential (Marvel Comics))
von Roy Thomas
  Taschenbuch

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3.0 von 5 Sternen Johnny Blaze becomes a flaming skeleton motorcyclist, 20. Dezember 2005
"Ghost Rider" was one of several horror comic books that Marvel put out in the early 1970s where you got hooked on the title because Michael Ploog was drawing the book and then he moved on to something else and it was just not the same with the replacement artist. This happened with "Werewolf By Night," "Monster of Frankenstein," and "Ghost Rider." No wonder the fact that Gene Colan was the artist on "The Tomb of Dracula" from start to finish was one of the reasons that comic book was far and away Marvel's best horror title. Ploog's distinctive style made him ideal for drawing horror titles (only Berni Wrightston was better, but he was working for DC), which is why the four issues of "Marvel Spotlight" that he drew that introduced the character of Ghost Rider are the best in this collection of black & white reprints.
As our saga begins we meet Johnny Blaze, the son of the famous stunt motorcyclist Barton Blaze, who is the headliner at Crash Simpsons' Daredevil Cycle Show. After Barton is killed doing a dangerous stunt, the orphaned Johnny is raised by Crash and his wife Mona. Traumatized by the death of his father it takes Johnny a while to ride one and look death straight in the eye, and when he does at the age of fifteen his motorcycle catches on fire, explodes and kills his foster mother. She makes him promise never to ride in the show. Johnny keeps his promises, but Crash and his daughter Rocky think it is because he is a coward, but Johnny practices on his own (he only promised not to ride in the show, right?). The he learns that Crash Simpson has less than a month to live.
So Johnny calls on Satan to spare Crash from the deadly disease that is killing him. The Prince of Darkness agrees and will be back one day soon to collect his fee. Crash decides to go for the world's cycle jump record (22 cars) and is killed (he did not die from the disease did he?). Johnny then performs the jump himself, which does not exactly endear his to the distraught Rocky, and then Satan shows up and intones: "From this day forth...you will walk the earth as my emissary in the dark hours, and in the light, you will join me in Hades!" Rocky intervenes to send Satan back to Hell, but each night Johnny Blaze becomes a burning skeleton. He just usually wears biker leathers so that all you see is his burning skull.
Actually it is not Satan but the demon lord Mephisto, but we do not learn that for a while and it really does not matter unless you are trying to reconcile the Marvel Universe with Judeo-Christian traditions. What is important is that while Mephisto was forced to leave without Blaze's soul, he was able to graft the essence of the demon Zarathos to Blaze's body. It takes Johnny a while to learn this and he thinks the Ghost Rider is just his own dark side manifested as a burning skeleton. The early stories keep the focus on what is now Johnny Blaze's Daredevil Cycle Show, and Mephisto brings back Crash Simpson as a slave to sacrifice his daughter to his dark lord. Unfortunately, by the time we get to the end of that storyline Ploog has been replaced by Tom Sutton as artist and it is just not the same. Part of the problem is that coming up with stories that bring together Satan and motorcycle each month becomes a bit difficult, which would explain why the comic featured more multi-issue storylines than most Marvel titles. This is why we get stories like "Death Stalks the Demolition Derby" ("Ghost Rider" #4) and our hero riding against the Stunt-Master (#7). Then there is the powerful stranger with the long hair and bear in "Ghost Rider" #9. Could that be....Him?
After that point the Ghost Rider takes on the Hulk (#10-11), the Phantom Eagle (#12), the Trapster (#13), and the Orb (#14), as he ends up in Hollywood as a movie stuntman and gets romantically involved with the actress Karen Page. This explains why Daredevil pops up at the end of this collection. By the time we get to the point where the Ghost Rider is fighting Spider-Man, the Thing, Hercules and a bunch of other superheroes in Hell to try and rescue the mysterious Jesus-like figure and save Karen (#18), "Ghost Rider" has jumped a whole lot more than the shark. Writer Tony Isabella creates one of the most convoluted storylines of all time and when the Son of Satan returns to help our hero (#17) trying to figure out what it all means is just not worth the effort. However, of the artists that replaced Ploog I have to say that Frank Robbins did give the book a unique look and his name should be included on the cover instead of Herb Trimpe (Robbins drew four issues included here and George Tuska three, while Trimpe just did the Son of Satan origin).
"Essential Ghost Rider Volume 1" collects together "Marvel Spotlight" #5-12, "Ghost Rider" #1-20, and "Daredevil" #138, which is the penultimate story in the collection because it is a crossover with "Ghost Rider" #20. Also, "Marvel Spotlight" #12 ends up being another crossover because Ghost Rider has his own comic book at that point and the spotlight is now on "The Son of Satan." Chances are that is one Marvel comic book that is not going to get the Essentials treatment, so this may well be the only time you see this "Ominous Origin Issue!" reprinted. In case you were wondering, yes, "Ghost Rider" was better than "The Son of Satan," a note on which I have to end.


The Dragon Queen (Tales of Guinevere)
The Dragon Queen (Tales of Guinevere)
von Alice Borchardt
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 23,04

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Guinevere, the Dragon Queen meets Arthur, the Summer King, 20. Dezember 2005
When I saw the sub-title "The Tales of Guinevere" for Alice Borchardt's "The Dragon Queen," I assumed she was going off in a new direction and since I was waiting for her next wolf book I just got around to reading it and discovering that it is, tangentially, a wolf book. What this means is that Maeniel is a character, albeit, a supporting character. He dominates the scenes in which he is present, but they are relatively few. This story is indeed about Guinevere, about to reach puberty and apparently intended to be the concubine of young Arthur, the summer King.
The most interesting part of this book are the ideas of kingship and queenship that drive Arthur and Guinevere. Borchardt may or may not be dealing with authentic notions of kingship from this period of history, but that hardly matters. The idea that the Dragon Queen has the duty of bringing her people a worthy king makes Guinevere a player in the power politics of her world where there is a growing need to bring order out of chaos. Reading "The Dragon Queen" is as much about finding out the rules of the game and the possibilities in play as it is about learning about the abilities and intentions of the characters. Consequently, Maneniel's presence is perhaps something of a hindrance because this book is certainly less grounded in the history of the times than "The Silver Wolf" or Borchardt's other novels. Then again, there is a logic to this, since Arthur and Guinevere are more figures of legend than Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.
Having read "The Dragon Queen" I keep asking myself one key question, and I do not mean whether Borchardt will ever have a book that does not have a quote from Anne Rice on the cover. No, my question is why is this story about Guinevere and Arthur? Of course, the fact that "The Dragon Queen" is the first of a planned trilogy is enough to suggest that at least the title character would make it to the final volume, but once you make it about Guinevere and Arthur we pretty much know the endgame, and while I definitely appreciate the idea of making Guinevere more than a trophy wife there has to be more of a payoff to this idea down the road, especially given that this Arthur seems more given to pragmatics than idealism. Additionally, there needs to be some sort of a significance to turning Merlin into a villain. However, at this point my enjoyment of the characters and the story has little to do with that fact it is Guinevere and Arthur. The only important thing is that I will be around for the rest of the tale.


Batman: Year One (Batman (DC Comics Hardcover))
Batman: Year One (Batman (DC Comics Hardcover))
von Frank Miller
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Miller & Mazzucchelli retell how Batman met Jim Gordon, 17. Dezember 2005
Since Frank Miller wrote and illustrated the ultimate final Batman story in "The Dark Knight Returns," great attention was paid when he penned a new version of the first Batman story with "Batman: Year One," leaving the artistic duties to David Mazzucchelli (with Richmond Lewis painting the colors). Miller came up with several great moments in "The Dark Knight Returns," most notably when the Joker snaps his own neck, but the part that stood out for me was when Batman explains to Superman the different lessons they learned from the example of their respective parents. Stephen King once said you were either a Batman person or a Superman person, and Miller came up with a nice way of capturing their inherently oppositional natures. The four issues of "Batman" (#404-407) that made up this mini-series are not part of the constant debate as to the greatest graphic novel of all time (still "Watchmen" for me), but all things considered I think "Batman: Year One" is the better story.
If "The Dark Knight Returns" comes down to Batman versus Superman and the world's finest realizing they must be on opposite sides, then "Batman: Year One" from start to finish is about Batman and Jim Gordon coming to the realization that they need each other. Miller and Mazzucchelli develop stories that are not really parallel, but which are heading to the same end point. Gordon arrives in Gotham City for the first time by train while Bruce Wayne flies back home after twelve years abroad, each thinking they should have picked the other mode of transportation. Gordon is a cop and Wayne wants to be a vigilante, Gordon is married with a pregnant wife and Wayne's only real relationship is with Alfred, and Gordon is learning how things work in Gotham City while Wayne is simply waiting for the missing piece, the one thing he can use to make the criminals afraid of him.
Miller and Mazzucchelli tell the story in four acts. In this deluxe edition Chapter One, "Who I Am, How I Come to Be," is captioned: "He will become the greatest crime fighter the world has ever known...It won't be easy." The point is to get to the pivotal moment when Bruce Wayne declares "I shall become a bat," but leading up to it having Wayne experiencing familiar that put his mission in doubt. Meanwhile, Gordon shows that he will not submit to the corrupt or violence inherent in the system in Gotham City. His final line in the story is equally important when he thanks bad cop Flass by saying, "You've shown me what it takes to be a cop in Gotham City."
"Chapter Two: War is Declared," notes: "He had trained and planned and waited eighteen years. He thinks he's ready..." The implication is that he is not and there is a key scene when Batman appears in costume and stands there on a balcony holding on to a fifteen year old burglar while a couple of others whale on him because he refuses to be a killer. Batman and Gordon cross paths for the first time, and the lieutenant is told to bring in the vigilante or else. But before Gordon can do that, the commissioner decides to fire bomb the slum building that Batman is hiding in.
"Chapter Three: Black Down" is where the power shifts: "They've got him CORNERED. They've got him OUTNUMBERED. They've got him TRAPPED. They're in TROUBLE..." Significantly, Gordon has been ordered to stay out of it while the Gotham City P.D. tries to take Batman, who has clearly become a hero to the common people. But the character development of Gordon in this chapter is more important, because he comes to have reason to hate himself equally in his professional and personal life. By the end of this one Gordon has framed the equation: Batman is a criminal and he is a cop, but a cop in a city where the mayor and commissioner use cops as hired killers and the criminal saves an old woman, a cat, and pays for a suit he has technically stolen. However, what is key is that Bruce Wayne has already come to the conclusion that he needs an ally and an inside man. That is to say, he needs Jim Gordon on his side.
"Chapter Four: Friend in Need," declares "He's out to clean up a city that likes being dirty. He can't do it alone." The question is simply what will be the event that brings Batman and Jim Gordon together. Miller and Mazzucchelli come up with something that is at the nexus of several of the key subplots that have been developed in the story, and although Selina does don a Catwoman costume for the first time, that fact that there the story avoids villains in costume until a telling bit of foreshadowing in the final panel helps keep the emphasis on Batman being a new idea as far as the denizens of Gotham City are concerned. Still, this story comes down to not just how Bruce Wayne became Batman, but how Batman and Jim Gordon ended up on the same team.
In the back of the deluxe edition you will find Mazzucchelli's four-page comic book afterward, promotional and early drawings, marked-ed up copies of Miller's script paired with rough layouts, and looks at the final results. All told there is over 40-pages of such sketches and art in the back of the book. Denny O'Neil writes the introduction and Miller has a postscript of sorts at the end, so there are plenty of reasons to have this special hardcover edition even if you already have the original four issues of "Batman" salted away in your comic book collection and are actually willing to take them out of their plastic bags.


X-Men: Days of Future Past (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
X-Men: Days of Future Past (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
von Chris Calremont
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 21,45

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Kitty Pryde becomes the youngest X-Man of them all, 13. Dezember 2005
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is the epilogue to the Dark Phoenix saga, the swan song for the team of writer Chris Claremont and penciler Johny Byrne as the co-plotters for "The Uncanny X-Men," and the arrival of Kitty Pryde as the newest and youngest pupil in Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters on Graymalkin Lane outside the Westchester County Township of Salem Center. What you will find in this trade paperback collection are issues #138-143 of "The Uncanny X-Men" and Annual #4, where the artwork is handled by John Romita, Jr. & Bob McLeod.
"Elegy" (#138) begins with Jean Grey's funeral and ends with Scott Summers leaving the X-Men for a while. It really is the true epilogue to the Dark Phoenix saga and most of the issue is a walk down memory lane, recapping the history of the X-Men from when Jean first showed up at the school. Fans of the series will enjoy recognizing issues from the past (remember Grotesk and the Living Pharaoh).
The Annual story, "Nightcrawler's Inferno," has a demon who is fighting Doctor Strange yanking the X-Men off into another dimension, leaving Professor X and Kitty behind. This one involves a more classical interpretation of Hell, what with Minos and Cerberus from Dante coming into play, but like most Annual stories seems a bloated attempt to do something big as opposed to the much bigger impact of a solid multi-part story (see below).
"...Something Wicked This Way Comes!" (#139) has Kitty being introduced to training in the Danger Room, and Wolverine and Nightcrawler head to Canada to meet up with Alpha Flight and an old problem. That would be the Wen-Di-Go, who they fight in "Rage!" (#140), while Ororo takes Kitty to dance lessons with Stevie Hunter. Then we get to the two-part story that gives this collection its title and which remains a classic X-Men story.
"Days of Future Past" (#141) begins with Kate Pryde making her way through a New York City slum in the 21st century (remember, these stories were published in 1980). She is meeting Logan and wearing an inhibitor collar that neutralizes her power to phase through solid objects and an "M" that marks here as a mutant (number 187 in fact). At the South Bronx Mutant Internment Center she walks by graves of the victims of the Sentinels, which includes most of the X-Men and all of the Fantastic Four. Only four X-Men remain: Logan, Ororo, Kate and her husband Peter, and are joined by a wheel-chair bound Magneto, Franklin Richards and his girlfriend, Rachel, a telepath. There last hope is to change the future by changing the past, when the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants murder presidential candidate Robert Kelly and others. To do this, Rachel sends the mind of Kate Pryde back to the present to inhabit her body at age 13.
"Mind Out of Time!" (#142) juxtaposes the battle in the present between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, with the attempt by the few remaining mutants in the future trying to keep Kate's body alive and away from the Sentinels. You know how this one is going to work out in the end, but Claremont and Bryne know how to milk the emotions. This two-parter is the reason that fans of the series would want this one on their shelf.
"Demon" (#143) is basically Kitty Pryde "Home Alone," as the X-Men go out to a Christmas party. While doing a basic gymnastic workout in the Danger Room, an intruder enters the mansion and Kitty finds herself going up against an alien monster. I would say that the alien monster actually looks a bit like the monster in "Alien," but you will find that there are other aspects of that film that come into play as well. Basically this is Kitty's baptism under fire and underscores that "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is ultimately about the littlest X-Man.


I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay
I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay
von Isaac Asimov
  Taschenbuch

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4.0 von 5 Sternen The most infamous unproduced science fiction screenplay, 9. Dezember 2005
Many, many years ago I happened to hear an audio tape of Harlan Ellison reading the first part of his "I, Robot" script for a Science-Fiction convention, so I was very happy to see that what may well be the most infamous unproduced script in Hollywood history is available in print. The artwork in this illustrated screenplay is by Mark Zug, and consists of both color paintings and black & white character sketches that help to flesh out your mental images.
Ellison takes several of Isaac Asimov's classic Robot short stories and weaves them into the life story of Susan Calvin, told in flashbacks to a reporter at the funeral for Stephen Byerley, First President of the Galactic Federation. Consequently, Ellison avoids the traditional pitfall of omnibus movies, such as "Tales from the Crypt," "The Twilight Zone" or "Creepshow," where whatever is used to link the segments together is of no importance to the overall film.
Ellison's introductory essay is certainly not as vitriolic as his story about what happened to his "Star Trek" script "The City on the Edge of Forever," but it does recount the bizzaro world of movie making. Both the essay and the script are testaments to Ellison's affection for Asimov. A special treat is Ellison's revelation as to the casting he had in mind when he wrote the script: Joanne Woodward as Susan Calvin, George C. Scott as Reverend Soldah, Martin Sheen as Robert Bratenahl, and Keenan Wynn and Ernest Borgnine as Donovan and Powell.
You may come to this book as a fan of Ellison or of Asimov or of both. Regardless of your point of origin I think it is important that you have read the original Asimov Robot stories before you read the script. The stories are Asimov's but the adaptation is Ellison's, and you have to know the original tales to appreciate the inspired organization of this script.
Of course, now that there is a Will Smith movie version of "I, Robot" out on DVD, reading Ellison's script and comparing it to what Hollywood has wrought is a perfect case study of what Tinsle Town is all about. At the start of "I, Robot" the three laws of robotics appear one by one, imposed over bubbling water, which must have been an intentional homage to the start of Ellison's screenplay where the three laws appear over the bubbling water of a highly advanced liquid memory system or you know Harlan would have filed a lawsuit.


The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Star Trek Teleplay
The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Star Trek Teleplay
von Harlan Ellison
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen Buy this book for Ellison's wonderful original script, 8. Dezember 2005
To quote Leonard Nimoy from his afterword in this volume: "if you don't know by now that Harlan Ellison and Gene Rodenberry were engaged in a blood battle over this project ever since its inception, then you have been living on some strange planet devoid of intelligence and communication."
Harlan Ellison's expanded introductory essay, "Perils of the City," is a 73 page detailed account of not only how his award winning original script for "The City on the Edge of Forever" was turned into the most popular "Star Trek" episode of all time, but how what happened was, um, misrepresented by the show's creator Gene Roddenberry (the proceeding is a gross understatement of epic proportions). The book contains several afterwords by names familiar to the Star Trek universe: Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, George Takei, Peter David, Walter Koenig, Dorothy C. Fontana, David Gerrold, and Melinda Snodgrass. I believe it is accurate to say that Ellison makes his case--with lots of illustrated textual evidence--several times over, and at great length, skewering more than Roddenberry's memory in the process (my personal favorite is the reference to "Bimbo Queen, Joan Collins).
All that being said, the reason to own this book is that it reprints not only Ellison's original script, out of print for several decades, but also two initial story treatments, providing a unique insight into the creation of a television script. Then you can watch "The Original and Uncut" episode (Star Trek Episode 28) and think about not only the alterations and deletions from Ellison's script (not just big things like Beckwith and the Jewels of Sound but also the character of Trooper), but the significance of the different endings. If after reading all this you do not appreciate that WHO stops WHOM from saving Edith Keeler makes a big difference on several important levels, then you are out there somewhere, lost on the aforementioned strange planet.
It is indeed difficult to reconcile the two parts of this book, the postmortem excoriation of Roddenberry with the original text of this exquisite story, but the point of origin for both is the creative little furnace of Harlan Ellison's mind. To be fair, Ellison has been on this particular diatribe pretty much since the day "The City on the Edge of Forever" first aired on April 6, 1967 and his side of the story was printed along with the script in the 1976 collection, "Six Science Fiction Plays." My best advice would be to either read the script first or read the two parts at different times. But you will really want to have a clean palate when you first read Ellison's original story. It is a treasure on the nature of love that richly deserves to be preserved in its original form and the reason to buy this book. The rest you can take or leave, but you ignore it at your peril.


Strange Wine
Strange Wine
von Harlan Ellison
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen Harlan Ellison drinks of the "Strange Wine" of imagination, 8. Dezember 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Strange Wine (Taschenbuch)
The biggest problem with Harlan Ellison's short story collection "Strange Wine" is that the introductory essay is so good. "Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don't Look So Terrific Yourself" is one of the best of Ellison's introductions, combining biography with diatribe, in this case a denunciation of watching television as being "soul deadening, dehumanizing, soporific in a poisonous way, ultimately brutalizing." Ellison finds watching television to be "a bad thing." In contrast he offers "Strange Wine" as a metaphor for imagination, the key element that the dinosaurs lacked that turned them into fossil fuels.
The fifteen stories collected in "Strange Wane" do not include any of the acknowledged classics of speculative fiction that Ellison has written over the years, but there is certainly enough food for thought here to make it well worth the reading. "Mom" is a nice tribute to Ellison's own mother (is there any other way to read this one?), and "From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet" is the product of one of those stunts Ellison does when he writes in the window of a bookstore, but what he can do with one paragraph about a nonsense word is pretty impressive. "Lonely Women are the Vessels of Time" is a rather short, short story, but it is about loneliness, which is one of Ellison's better themes. "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is a harrowing little tale about a man having dreams of dead Nazi war criminals. "The Diagnosis of Dr. D'arque Angel" does a nice little twist on Faust, and "Hitler Painted Roses," another one of those stories written as a stunt, is based on the chilling idea that it is humanity and not God who determines who gets to go to Heaven and who gets dumped in Hell. Then again, "Working with the Little People" is actually rather cute, which is a rather disquieting idea when you are talking about the writings of Harlan Ellison.
There are a few misfires in the bunch: "Killing Bernstein" has a great premise when a toy company executive kills his ex-lover, only to have her show up the next day as if nothing had happened. I was thinking that this one would go in a different direction, so the ending rubbed me the wrong way, while "The Emissary from Hamelin" strikes me as being a trifle not worth Ellison's time. Even "CROATOAN" seems heavy-handed, despite the subject matter, although the final image is certainly disturbing enough. The rest of the stories are middling, with the title story being something of a disappointment given how the essay makes the phrase so significant.
So, if we were grading all of the stories in "Strange Wine" I think it is safe to say that Ellison would come out with a solid "B" average. I still maintain that once you read the essay you have gotten your money's worth with this collection, but with Ellison there are always going to be several unforgettable stories that you will enjoy having read, whether you are a big time fan or just checking out the book to see what he is ranting and raving about this time around.


Seneca: Phaedra (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics)
Seneca: Phaedra (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics)
von Coffey/Mayer
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 33,69

5.0 von 5 Sternen A critical and historical analysis of Seneca's "Phaedra", 6. Dezember 2005
"Phaedra" is Seneca's best known tragedy and this volume is part of a series that not only analyzes ancient plays using the elements of modern criticism but also explores their historical contexts. Between the tragedy "Hippolytus" by Euripides and the "Phaedera" of Racine, Seneca's version of the son of Theseus who dared to renounce love and the goddess Aphrodite/Venus, occupies a sort of middle ground. It also allows a textbook example of how Roman tragedy differed from that of the Greeks.
In this 2002 publication Roland Mayer looks at the prominent role of Seneca in Roman tragedy, establishes the importance of stoicism and rhetoric, and then examines "Phaedra" in terms of the action of the play (mixing summary and commentary), the major themes, and its characterisations. Chapters are also devoted to the literary texture of the play as well as what is known about its initial reception and later influence. The last chapters in the book cover the various interpretations, performances, and translations of the book. In other words, there is much more here than most readers are going to want to know unless they are doing a major analysis of the play or actually putting together a performance.
This book is useful to both students who are reading Seneca for the first time and those with a more extensive background in ancient drama, and the conversational style certainly helps. The text of the play is provided in both Latin and English, with appropriate notes and explanations, all of which are quite welcomed. The analysis of the play is the strength of the book, mainly because Mayer has more opportunity to go into detail than he does putting together the historical record on the play's creation and performance in ancient times. Surprisingly, he is able to bring the critical and the historical together in the chapter on characterization. The look at Seneca's "Phaedra" in relationship to those plays that came before or long afterwards is also welcome, since it was within the context of such analogues that I first read this play.


The Science of Superheroes (Life Sciences)
The Science of Superheroes (Life Sciences)
von Lois H. Gresh
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 17,90

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Debunking the science of your comic book superheroes, 1. Dezember 2005
In "The Science of Superheroes" authors Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg put together a full out assault on the willing suspension of disbelief that allows us to enjoy comic book superheroes from Superman to the X-Men. You probably knew in the back of your mind that the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and Aquaman could never exist in the real world. Well you were right. But Gresh and Weinberg are here to explain to you in terms of science, which means that when it comes to proving that Henry Pym turning into Goliath would be a bad thing or that the Flash could not possibly run that fast, they actually do the math (at which point I nod my head and move on, because if you think I am going to double-check their calculations you are sadly mistaken).
After a preface that looks at how superhero comic books came about, an introduction by Dean Koontz entitled "Men of Steel, Feathers of Fury," Gresh and Weinberg devote chapters to the cream of the superhero crop. First up, of course, is Superman, which spends a lot of time examining the math on alien visitors before disproving the idea that the difference in the gravity on Krypton and Earth accounts for Superman's powers (I wonder what they make of the current living solar battery idea). Chapters are then devoted to the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, Batman, Aquaman and Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, the Green Lanterns, Ant Man and the Atom, the Flash, the X-Men, science fiction superheroes, and Donald Duck. The last chapter is actually an encomium to Carl Barks, who used science and technology during the golden age of Disney comics.
I picked up this book because I teach Spider-Man in my Popular Culture class and so that chapter alone justified the price of the book for me. I should be able to impress my students by pointing out that of Peter Parker's physical spider powers only his spider grip is actually associated with a real type of spider (the hunting spider). In the past I have just shared with my students "The Daily Onion" fake headline that talks about how Peter Parker died of Leukemia after being bit by a radioactive spider, so this should give me some more credibility (but I am still going to use the joke).
Ironically it is where Gresh and Weinberg can show that the creators of a particular superhero were at least in the ballpark, such as when they come up with an alternative and more plausible explanation for the Hulk, that "The Science of Superheroes" is most interesting. Sections where they get into things like fluid breathing and talking to fish are tangentially interesting, but when you get into topics like the Square Cubed Law or the origin of black holes it comes across as overkill. If while reading this book you suddenly hear a small voice in your head warning "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," you will not be alone. This is definitely not a book to sit down and read all at once, because chapter after chapter exposing the holes in the scientific rationales for your favorite superheroes can wear you down after a while. But there is enough here of interest for most comic book fans. The authors may be a couple of science geeks, but they are the type that were weaned on comic books and their criticisms are done with affection, even if its hard to get back to anything close to square one on the aforementioned willing suspension of disbelief by the time you finish this volume (at least there is not an exam).
The back of "The Science of Superheroes" includes a couple of appendixes, the first explaining "Who Missed the Cut?" (neither super villains nor characters with supernatural origins made it) and the second where comic book creators (including Len Wein and Max Allan Collins) answer some questions about science and comic books today. Both of these added sections allow the authors to flesh out their overall thesis a bit more and show how comic book creators today pay attention to science in a different way than those in the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics. I did not even take biology in high school, so everything that Gresh and Weinberg come up with is way over my head, but they do a good job of communicating their points so that even somebody like me can understand their basic arguments.


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