The Count of Monte Cristo – Media

I’ve posted about The Count before.  It’s one of my favorite books, despite my having only read it about one and a half times.  I don’t remember all that I’ve said about it; if I repeat myself, I apologize.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a brilliant book.  I’ve spent hours discussing it with friends and family.  I can’t get enough of the story.  A year ago, I thought I’d found a sequel, and was heartbroken to learn that it was written by someone simply hoping to piggyback on the original book’s fame.

It didn’t take too long to recover, though.  With such a fabulous book, less is more.  A sequel would lessen the brilliant ending already in place, cheapening it.

I watched the movie some years ago at my sister’s recommendation.  If you’re a fan of the movie, please forgive me.  I was horrified.

The movie (made in 2002) is not a bad movie.  I simply feel that, as a lover of the book, it fails miserably in doing the masterpiece justice.  It’s all right on it’s own – but I feel it an abject failure as an adaptation of the epic journey of Edmund Dantes.  My favorite scenes are lost or distorted, major subplots overlooked or – I would say “condensed beyond recognition,” except that there’s not enough left of the original story in these places to be considered “condensed” from anything.  Changed – not shortened, but drastically different from the book, so much so as to be completely incompatible with the original.  I can understand a small change here and there, artistic license in restructuring certain elements, combining a few minor characters – but this movie goes beyond that.  It’s essentially a different story altogether.

I was just talking with my mom about the sad state of The Count’s fame.  Some days back, I learned that a friend has never read the book, but greatly enjoyed the movie.  As we talked, she asked if it – the movie – was different from the book.  I laughed.  And died a little inside.  And began sharing a summarized version of the book.

She soon agreed with me that an extended, but well-planned, movie would be well worth the money spent to watch it.  My discussion with my mom furthered that.

She – Mom – mentioned that it would be marvelous if everyone in charge of the Lord of the Ring movies could create a film series of The Count.  It would be done well, and would stay true to the spirit of the book.  Scenes could be condensed, expanded, and rearranged as needed – they’ve proved their skill with this – and characters would be portrayed accurately.  No extra drama, we decided, would need to be added.  Some dramatic music, expansion of scenes that are discussed but aren’t directly shown – there’s plenty of intrigue and drama already in play, whether murder, crime, or unknown near-misses with incest.  With great actors, the book would truly come to life.  We talked over how this could be great as a four-movie package – the first ending with Edmund’s escape from the Chateau D’If, the second with his arrival in Paris.  The third and fourth would be free to show in full detail his schemes for revenge – the third, his elation with long-awaited vengeance, leaving the fourth for his realization that he has been playing God and must pull back.

These movies could elaborate on his rescue of Haydée and Ali, as well as many other exploits hinted at.  Viewers would come to root for Maximilien’s budding romance, and cheer for Julie’s discovery of the true identity of “Sinbad the Sailor.”  Everyone, even repeated viewers, would wonder just when, just when does Mercedes realize that Edmund Dantes is the Count of Monte Cristo, and that he means her family harm?

If I were a rich movie director….

But, alas, I’m not.  I am in the company of Maximilien and Valentine.  I, too, wonder if I shall ever see The Count – not cheap imitations, but the friends I have come to know and love.  My only consolation is that, as Edmund Dantes explains, “all human wisdom is summed up in these two words — `Wait and hope.'”

Book of the Week – The Richest Man in Babylon

This is a book everyone should read.  No, seriously.  If you like reading, read this.  If you don’t like reading, find an audiobook.  If you prefer books with pictures, I just found an illustrated version on Amazon.

It’s right up there with my belief that everyone should be required to take a college-level nutrition class.  Everyone should read this book.

Why? you ask.

Well, let me tell you.

I picked this gem up at the library a couple weeks ago.  Something about the title grabbed me.  I skimmed through the blurb on the back and decided it was worth trying to read.  A book about financial success… it would be, I thought, a trifle dull, but still useful.

I found it again last night and picked it up.  Three chapters later, I forced myself to stop so that I could get up with my alarm.  As soon as I could, I finished it this morning.  It was entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative.  It uses simple language, telling stories and explaining details so that a child could understand the principles – but about financial principles.  Not just “live within your means” (which is sound advice, all the same), but specific steps that can be taken to improve your monetary status, wherever you fall – from climbing out of debt to bettering whatever fortune you have.  The principles in this book apply to all money-users.

I thought I was in for a dry read about how to save, budget, and various related minutia.

I was wrong.

Men and Women

I just read about this encounter, and couldn’t get it off my mind.  Something about it disturbed me deeply.

I liked the way the boyfriend and girlfriend handled the situation.  What bothered me was the customer’s response discrepancy.  I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute.

My brother sent me a link to a youtube video a couple weeks ago.  It started with one, and I ended up watching several others by the same individual.  He told me about the controversy that these videos brought up – comments had to be disabled because of the types of responses the video was getting. One of the many points she brings up is that in video games, movies, etc. women are portrayed as the “property” of men.  She explains the point much better than I could, so watch if you’re interested in what she has to say.

Getting back to my first subject: as I’ve said, I like how they handle the situation.  What bothered me is that

A) he didn’t drop the issue when she said she wasn’t interested

B) he objectifies her by asking another guy what he thinks she likes rather than asking her, and (possibly worse) doing so in her hearing as she’s standing right there, as if her own opinion is flawed or of no account

C) he apologizes to the boyfriend before making a hasty exit – suggesting that he wasn’t doing anything wrong unless the girl in the story already had a boyfriend, and he was present.  Bothering the girl doesn’t seem to matter unless she’s “taken” and her male counterpart is present – and then it’s not the girl who needs the apology, but the fellow male whose territory he was attempted to encroach upon.

Now, I’m not saying that he was consciously thinking any of this.  I doubt he honestly meant any harm.  But that’s part of what bothers me – as a society, we are so bombarded by media with the idea that women, at many times and under many circumstances, play a secondary role to men that we don’t even question exchanges like this.

Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive – but I don’t think so.

Good Parents

The more I see of the world, the more I feel that good parents are hard to come by.  They’re out there – parents who know that LOVE is spelled T-I-M-E, and devote themselves wholeheartedly to doing the best they can for their children, come what may.  They’re just not quite as commonplace as I believed growing up.

I’ve had a number of good role models, and hope someday to do half so well.  Sorry, Role Models, but this post is not about you.  It is not about me.  It is about Other Good Parents who have come under attack, particularly in regards to homeschooling.

I’ve had a lot of discussions over the last several years about homeschooling.  Some people I’ve talked to are hard-core advocates who can’t imagine raising children any differently.  Some people feel that it has merit, but doesn’t provide adequate preparation for the Real World.  Others couldn’t care less.  Let’s sweep our personal feeling about homeschooling’s merit, or lack thereof, into a corner for a few minutes.  I may address that in another post, but that is not – directly – the subject here.

Regardless of what you or I feel about homeschooling, I firmly believe that in most cases, homeschooling parents are Good Parents doing their best for their kids.  (This is not a statement about non-homeschooling families, just an observation about homeschooling families I’ve encountered.)  These parents invest valuable resources – time and money among them – into their most precious “possessions” – their children – when they could take an easier path.  They work hard to do right by their children.

Sadly, not everyone appreciates the trouble parents go through in their homeschooling troubles.  I’m overlooking the hassles and irritations that are experienced in the States.  While annoying, these can be overcome.  No, the driving force behind this post is far more serious.

In the States, some of our most important rights are documented and under Constitutional protection.  We have an acknowledged – albeit, sometimes grudgingly acknowledged – right to homeschooling.  That is not the case worldwide.  In some countries it is illegal.  At times, parents in these countries feel that it is in their children’s best interests to homeschool regardless – with tragic consequences.

I’m thinking right now of the Johansson family, whose son was seized four years ago as the family was about to leave the country (Sweden).  He was taken from the plane itself; his parents haven’t had contact with him since he was seven.

Another family, the Romeikes, left Germany in 2008.  Targeted in their home country, they hoped to homeschool in America free from persecution.  The government here in the States seems to be doing its level best to deny them asylum – the initial decision to grant asylum was challenged and overturned.  A recent ruling declared that since public school attendance is mandatory in Germany, they were not singled out, and so no persecution occurred.

As the Romeikes battle the courts, I wish them the best of luck.  If they’re forced to return to Germany, their parental rights are in jeopardy.  Homeschooling families of Germany face fines and risk losing custody of their children.

Frustrated as I am that our government system is so fixated on rules and definitions that they would turn a blind eye to this family’s suffering – particularly considering the lax attitude toward illegal immigrants and considering that this family came to this country by legal means – I am infuriated by the above definition of “persecution.”

According to the court, enforced compulsory attendance laws applied to everyone isn’t persecution because the same standard is in place for everyone.

Forgive me if I wax emotional – I feel very strongly about this.  I’m not trying to be melodramatic – this is how I view the above definition.  Feel free to respectfully disagree.

During World War II, the same standard was in place for conquered countries in Europe: the “desired” Aryan population.  Nobody could reasonably argue that Jews and other groups, despite the uniform standard, were anything but persecuted.

In the 1800s, members of the LDS church were also targeted.  There was an extermination order given against them in Missouri that wasn’t rescinded until 1976.  There was a uniform standard in place in this instance, as well: a standard opposition against members of that particular religion.  They were free to change, of course, and the persecution would stop.  But that is the nature of persecution – you may act however you like, so long as it isn’t in opposition to the people in charge.

If persecution is defined by whether or not it has universal enforcement, than a dictatorship must be the highest form of rule.  Even the most stringent and extreme requirements could be painted as “fair” simply because they are pervasive.

The idea that children could be removed from the home for such a reason – not for abuse or neglect, but for an abundance of nurture and care – is frightening.  The notion that the government would turn on such parents is chilling.  If parents are discouraged from being the best they can, what will become of such a society when the children grow up?  What kind of parents can they be, whose parents were restrained from investing fully in them?  Or who were torn from their families because their parents wished to prepare them for life as well as they knew how?

You can disagree about the value of homeschooling.  This isn’t really about homeschooling.  This is about parental rights.  Do parents have the right to decide what is best for their children, or does the country they live in have the right to remove children from  parents when the parents are only acting in the children’s best interest?  Should Good Parents be punished for trying their hardest to raise Good Children in the best way they know how?

Book of the Week – Archer’s Goon

Diana Wynne Jones strikes again.

I’ve wanted to reread Archer’s Goon for some weeks now, but only just found it at the library earlier this week.  I would say that this is, beyond a doubt, my favorite book by this author, except that would be unfair to her other books.  Where would I be without her Chrestomanci series?  Some of my clearest reading memories from childhood are of me curled up with a Chrestomanci book.  Or one from the Dalemark Quartet (Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Spellcoats, and The Crown of Dalemark).  Or The Ogre Downstairs.  Her two Derkholm books are also very good (Dark Lord of Derkholm, and Year of the Griffin).  I could go on, but suffice it to say that her books have definitely influenced my enjoyment of fantasy.  I’ve written about her books in general before, and I feel like I’m repeating myself.

In Archer’s Goon, Howard’s family has a series of nasty run-ins with the people who really run the town.  It begins with Archer sending a Goon to make demands of Howard’s father, and ends with the family trying to get rid of all the unwanted attention.

This is one of Jones’ less convoluted (and shorter) novels.  Don’t be fooled, though – it has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes.  It follows a recipe I’ve heard for a good book – interesting things happening to interesting people.

Concerning Plays and Mothers

Yes – it was a musical.

It was amazing.  The acting was awesome and the songs were sensational.  Not two hours after returning Home, I purchased The Secret Garden Original Broadway music.  (Thank you, Amazon!)  The voices will be different, but the songs are the same.  I recognized the name of one of the actors (Dallyn Vail Bayles, who played Archibald Craven) from Certain Movies I have watched and enjoyed (for those who care, he plays Alma, Joseph, and Ahasuerus).

There are a number of Broadway Cast Recordings I’ve fallen in love with over the last few years.  There’s Wicked (or, as a certain nephew once remembered it, Evil ;-)), Tarzan, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Count of Monte Cristo (naturally) – and now The Secret Garden.  I check them out from the Local Library so often, and it is so disappointing when the time rolls around to return them again, that I am very seriously considering buying my own copy of each.  Well, I took the first step last night.  In a week or two, I will have my own CD of The Secret Garden music!

Why do I like music so much?  I like to think that it comes naturally, but I don’t know about that.  I grew up in a musical home, with someone always playing the piano or listening to fun music.  My Mom has taught piano for years, and my siblings and I grew up with lessons.  I can’t say I loved it while growing up, but I eventually appreciated it.  Of course, by then I no longer had time to practice.  I like to delude myself into believing this is a coincidence.

My Mom taught me more than piano-playing, of course.  I may have mentioned that she also taught me Sewing, Knitting, Embroidery, and Netting (one of my sisters taught me Crocheting), all while making sure my brothers and I had homework done, rooms somewhat clean (I am infamous in my family for dirtying a clean room), laundry washed, and ensuring we all knew the fundamentals of cooking.  What my brothers choose to do with those fundamentals… well, it’s none of my business if any of them choose to live off of Mac and Cheese or Spaghetti after leaving home.  They all know better.

Additionally, my Mom provides much support for my hobbies – particularly my writing obsession.  She tries to keep me stay on-track, so I don’t wear myself too thin trying to keep up with all my ideas at once.  She reads my rough drafts, never said anything discouraging about how awful my first writings were (and yes, they were awful – I can’t read them now without cringing), and helps me work through plot issues that come up.  Part of my obsession-manifestation is non-existent limited sense for delayed-gratification.  When I think of a question and can’t solve it immediately, I call her right then, rather than wait until later and talk over all the questions at one time.  She never lets on just how irritating the whole arrangement is, even on those occasions when I end up calling several times throughout the day.

Of course, just because she’s My Mother, that doesn’t make her the Only Mother I know.  There are many to choose from (Grandmothers, Aunts, Cousins, etc.), but I’m focus on three.  My sisters (and -in-law) are – no question – the hardest working Mothers I know.  Homeschooling is incredibly time-and-energy-consuming.  Thanks to their example, I no longer consider public schooling an option.  I’ve had frightful experiences of my own, and seen more horrifying situations in the news.  No child should endure anything like that, or decide that school (and education) is stupid because a teacher fails to engage the class.  They keep the house (more or less) clean, meals ready (more or less) on time, and care for the education and well-being of several children at a time.  What’s more, they keep their sanity intact while doing it.

Not all of them homeschool, but that doesn’t make a Mother any less a Mother.  Each works hard to raise children well.  Some things come and go (clean house, dinner time, schooling lessons), but the children take priority.

Thank you, all, for the work you do.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Book of the Week – Magic Garden

All right; it’s really called The Secret Garden – but I can’t think of this book without a sense of magic, as though anything can happen.  It was one of my favorite books when I was younger.  I also loved Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess, by the same author.

I decided this had to be my Book of the Week in honor of Plans for today – I’m going to watch a performance of the story.  I believe it’s even a musical – though, that could be a figmentation of my imagination….

After learning of these Plans (and agreeing to them), I decided that it just wouldn’t be right to watch a play of a book without rereading the book.  And so, a few days ago, I checked a copy out from the Local Library and read it.  It was just as good as I remembered it.

Mary Lennox, a spoiled girl raised in India (her wealthy parents are British), has to leave India when her parents die in a cholera epidemic.  Passed off to a distant uncle (the husband of her late father’s sister), she soon learns of a mysterious garden.  The door to this garden is locked, the key buried – it hasn’t been opened for ten years.  As Mary learns to be less Contrary, she becomes obsessed with this garden – finding the key, opening the door, and learning garden-work.

Of course, the Secret Garden isn’t the only mystery she comes up against….  If you haven’t read this book and met Mary, Colin, and Dickon (and, of course, Martha and Mrs. Sowerby) for yourself, then I’m very sorry for you.  You’re missing out on a brilliant story.

In Which I Have Much to Catch Up On

How did the time fly?

I had a Book in mind for each and every Week I missed, I promise.

April 6 and 13 weren’t hard to decide.  On Thursday, April 5, I read Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede.  It’s the second book of her Thirteenth Child trilogy.  The third is yet to be published, but it’s going to be good; this is Patricia C. Wrede – good is a given.  Immediately after finishing that, I picked up Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays at the Castle – not to be confused with Gail Carson Levine’s Tale of Two Castles.  Some months ago, I read the one and forgot about the other.  One of my sister’s was kind enough to remind me of it’s existence.

At any rate, both were good, and I couldn’t decide which to post as book of the week, and finally decided to award them joint-status as Books of the Week… when life turned super busy and I plain forgot (read: couldn’t find time) to throw a blog post together.  It’s strange – you’d think that if I have time to read a book, I’d have time to post a review.  I’ve realized something, though.  It’s not that I find oodles of time laying around, and I try not to skimp on time for Important Tasks.  That time needs to come from somewhere, and I’ve (finally) figured out where.

Sleep.  And I can’t do other things during that time because the book’s often the only thing keeping me awake.  That’s a Catch-22 if ever I’ve found one.

I was going to finish off April with a Book of the Month.  After an Incredibly Busy Week, I treated myself with Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion.  It is also the second book in an unfinished trilogy.  I read the first (Beyonders: A World Without Heroes) a year ago, when it first came out.  It was love at first read.  The second is, if anything, more amazing.  And I have the author’s personal promise that the third will be even better.  I’m not sure I see how that’s possible, but Brandon Mull hasn’t let me down yet!

Last week’s Book of the Week?  You have to ask?

I don’t know if you remember a certain Rick Riordan event I mentioned several weeks ago?  It was incredible.  Riordan speaks as well as he writes.  His presentation was so well prepared that, by the end, my watch confused me.   How could everything have happened in only one hour?  Surely it had been at least an hour and a half….  But the clocks don’t lie.

Anyway, my point is that the event was in celebration of the new release of the third Kane Chronicles book – The Serpent’s Shadow.  If you haven’t heard of the Kane Chronicles trilogy, it’s about Egyptian mythology.  Similar to, yet different from, the way Percy Jackson is a series about Greek mythology.  The interaction between mortals and ancient gods is handled differently, but its plot, characters, dialogue, and overall narration are just as amazing.  The Book of the Week for May 4 is The Serpent’s Shadow, Rick Riordan’s conclusion to the Kane Chronicles.

I seem to gravitate toward trilogies, don’t I…?

The Universe Formally Apologizes. I Accept.

You may remember the – ahem – incident a few weeks ago, when the Universe poked fun at me (again).  I missed what I’m sure was an amazing evening at the Local Library in my Dry State.  The Universe enjoys playing these little jokes on me now and then.  It keeps me on my toes.

All the same, I was not amused.

I was at the Local Library again today, and saw the Universe’s formal apology.  There was a sign, advertising a (different) author’s event.  Another author I’m a huge fan of, and of whose books I’ve inhaled all that I find.

You know the author of the Percy Jackson series?  And Heroes of Olympus?  That’s right – Rick Riordan is coming to town.

The author attending the event I missed?  I’ve heard him speak before (and hopefully will again) – but I’ve not met Rick Riordan.

Thank you, Universe.  I accept your apology.

Just don’t let it happen again.