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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a Sherlock Holmes novel written by Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle. It is also the only Sherlock Holmes novel I have ever read, but it certainly won't be the last. I found the story to be very entertaining, and I didn't feel too lost in spite of the many unfamiliar words and settings- most of it was easily understood through context clues. This might not be important to some readers, but it means a lot to me. I like to be able to develop a feel for the surroundings of the characters to get into the mood of the book. This can be difficult to do when you have no idea what the heck is going on... For example, I've never been to England. I've never been on the moors, or been in a mire. I have no real idea of what London is like, let alone what it was like over 100 years ago. I'm a housewife who is pushing 30 and lives in Hawaii and who doesn't get out much. Yet, somehow, though Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing I was still able to step into the shoes of Dr. Watson so fully that I was able to feel the chill air of the English moors- without turning on the air conditioner!

Long story short:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are an ambiguously gay (you read it your way, I'll read it mine!) pair of detectives living in London. Sherlock Holmes is well known for his master sleuthing skills and generally fashionable appearance, Dr. Watson is well known as being the constant companion and personal assistant and roommate and business partner and lesser skilled detective counterpart of Sherlock Holmes.

One evening, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were sitting in their home in London being ambiguously gay and studying a walking stick that had been left in their office. Sherlock Holmes asks Watson what he thinks about it, then makes Watson feel stupid for missing some details. (I like to think Watson then ran off flailing his arms and sobbing loudly like Nathan Lane's character in The Birdcage).

Before long the owner of the walking stick, James Mortimer, shows up and and tells Holmes and Watson of the legend of the curse of the Baskerville family. Basically, one guy was an evil psycho and sold his soul to the devil. He kidnapped a girl, she escaped, and when he chased after her a giant black hound from Hell killed him. The legend goes that the hound kills off the Baskervilles one by one after they inherit the estate.

Everyone thinks it's a giant load of bullshit until Mortimer explains that a good friend of his, Charles Baskerville, was found dead from an apparent heart attack and looked as though he had been scared to death.

Holmes and Watson agree to meet the next Baskerville heir, a man named Henry. Upon meeting Henry, they discover that one of his boots has been stolen. Henry also receives an anonymous note warning him to stay away from the moor. Holmes makes some deductions about the note, and agrees to take the case.

Later they all meet at Holmes' and Watson's apartment to discuss some details. As Mortimer and Henry are leaving, Holmes and Watson follow them only to find that Mortimer and Henry are being followed. Holmes and Watson follow the follower, and notice he seems to be wearing a fake beard. They do some sleuthing but are unable to find out who the guy is.

Henry decides he's going to Baskerville estate anyway, Watson is designated to join him while Holmes finishes a case in London. A string of suspicious characters come in and out of the story, some weirdness happens, and Holmes solves the case. And that's all I'm gonna tell you because you should read the book yourself- it's very good!

And now for my moment of thankfulness: I am thankful for the improvement of my friend Lara's condition. She's having to learn how to use her body all over again, but she's a strong woman and I just know she's going to get through this!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Until I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz I pretty much thought the version starring the adorable Judy Garland was how the story went. Boy was I wrong! Being the towering pillar of immaturity I am, I tend to really get into children's books and even some teen books.  This was no exception. Wonderfully written, this story rich and vibrant enough to keep you enthralled while still being light and airy enough that you don't fill like your brain is getting heavy- like a good chocolate mousse. Since I do most of my reading before bed, it is easy for me to get caught up in a book and stay up after reading it while my brain runs in circles and tried to dissect the story/plot/information that it was just fed. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz didn't have that effect on me. Instead it gave me the simple joy of being a part of the the land of Oz, and the whole time I read the story I felt like a kids again. Something in the experience made me feel like I was wrapped in a fuzzy blanket drinking hot cocoa by a fireplace- warm, comfortable, relaxed.

Long story short:
Most of us know the basic story- Little girl (Dorothy) from Kansas lives with her aunt and uncle, and when a cyclone hits she doesn't make it into the cellar and is swept up into the storm, house and all, with her little dog Toto. House lands on a witch in a weird place called Oz, Dorothy gets some shiny new shoes, and sets out to find a wizard who can help her get home, with the people of Oz bidding her good luck and best wishes because they're thrilled that the witch got squished. Dorothy is told that she can follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz lives, and along her journey she befriends a living scarecrow who wants a brain, a rusted tin man who wants a heart, and a cowardly lion who wants some courage. They face some perils, meet the wizard (who send them off to have an altercation with the Wicked Witch of the West), kill the other witch, come back to the wizard (who turns out to be a man from the Midwestern US) and he gives Dorothy's friends some random crap that's supposed to represent the things they were looking for. Meanwhile, he promises Dorothy that he will take her home in a hot air balloon because it is the only way to cross the desert that surrounds Oz. Hot air balloon is made, but it takes off by accident without Dorothy. Dorothy gets upset, meets with a good witch, and the good witch tells her that the shiny shoes are magic and can bring her home. Dorothy uses the shoes, everyone lives happily ever after.

However... the book is a lot different from the movie I knew and loved as a child. Here's how the book and movie differ:

In the book, the shoes are silver, not ruby

The perils that Dorothy and her friends encounter on their journey are geographical and have nothing to do with the Wicked Witch of the West- the witch has a MUCH larger part in the movie than in the book

Dorothy is sent to kill the Witch of the West, not just collect her broom

There are whole races of people encountered in the book that do not get mentioned in the movie

Dorothy doesn't meet the Witch of the West until she is sent to go kill her

The book goes into much more detail about the Wizard in general- describing his city, how he got there,  and how and why he deceived the people of Oz

When Dorothy first lands in Oz, the meets the witch of the North- Glinda is the witch of the South

When Dorothy arrives home, she wasn't dreaming- she was actually gone.

There's a lot of other little differences, and a lot of things that are left out of the movie altogether. All-in-all, this was a very enjoyable read, and I plan on reading it to my children.

To keep with the theme of gratitude this month, here's some things I'm grateful for: My health, and the health of my family. A friend of mine recently had a major aneurysm and could have very easily died. She's in the hospital recovering, going through physical therapy, and her chances of living and recovering are good.

I'm also grateful for my little girls. They drive me crazy, but I couldn't live without them. My youngest walked for the first time yesterday, and it was very bittersweet because she is my last baby. I need to make it a point to not get caught up in the things I want to get done each day so I don't forget to play with my girls. REALLY play with them. Dads shouldn't get to have all the fun!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Rights of Man

The Rights of Man was written by Thomas Paine in 1791 as a retort to Edmund Burke's criticism of the French Revolution. The Rights of Man not only defends the French Revolution, but states that revolution is necessary when a government fails its people. This, as you can imagine, was not well received by many governments at the time.

Long story short:
The bad thing about The Rights of Man is that it's kind of a bore to read after a bit. Mostly because it's repetitive. Other than that, it made me feel empowered- motivated to make a difference where I can. It is an inspiring call to arms that still rings true after all of this time. A lot of what is written feels like common sense- common sense that you never really thought about before. For example, people have rights. Pretty basic. However, when a government 'grants' you rights (gay marriage, anyone?) they are implying that somehow they have the power to give and take the things that should be considered basic freedoms in any truly civilized society.

Everyone has the right to be happy as long as they aren't hurting or oppressing other people, right? The government's job should be to protect that freedom, right? Then why are we letting them tell us what freedoms we can and cannot have? Is your government allowing you to have the freedoms you have a right to simply by being alive? Is it telling you which basic rights you can and cannot have? Are they a protective, uniting force or are they an oppressive, dividing force? These are the questions that The Rights of Man encourages you to consider.

This isn't the most entertaining thing I've ever read- however, it is one of the most inspiring. I think that everyone should have to read it as an adult, when you're old enough to appreciate it and consider the message behind it.

To steal and idea from a blogger friend of mine, I'm going to end this post with something I'm grateful for: I'm grateful that I live in a country where I can help choose who runs it and I'm allowed to think that they are all dipshits. I would have long ago been beheaded or punished in other countries. Thank you, United States of America! You are not perfect, but you are mine. And I'm grateful for that.