Sidereal ramblings

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Popular Literature

I like to read a variety of books (and no, not just comic books). I'm partial to certain types of genre fiction (fantasy and horror more than science fiction), and have also been reading a lot of "classic" literature over the past few years. I recently completed a book that I think definitely falls into that first category, but for the past couple of years has been the very definition of popular literature. Yes, I'm talking about The Da Vinci Code. For the last few years, since the book first came out, in fact, lots of people -- from students to colleagues -- have recommended the book to me. After reading it, I'm a bit surprised that some of these people have liked it enough to recommend it, solely by virtue of the fact that many of these people are somewhat more religious. (I'd say "more religious than I am" but that includes well over 99% of the people on this planet.) So what did I think of The Da Vinci Code, you ask? (You do ask, right?) To sum up, I'd say it's a darn fine read. It's well written, easy to follow, and frankly, pretty exciting. (One of the reasons I read it now, is that I wanted to read it before the movie version comes out in May. It's easy to visualize the action of the book, and a movie seems a natural.) The chapters are very short, and while following a couple of ongoing mysteries, it switches back and forth, and most chapters leave the reader at a point where one can't wait to see what happens next, to coin a phrase. The book is filled with little fascinating asides, which might make the author seem rather pretentious, but they're just so dang interesting that it's easy to overlook that. The main point of the book --and right here I'm gonna include a SPOILER WARNING! Read no further if you have any intention of reading this book at some point and don't want to have any plot points revealed, 'cause I'm about to say some stuff that if I'd known before I read it, I would've been pretty disappointed. Okay, got it? SPOILER WARNING! So, one of the main contentions of this book is about the Holy Grail, which the main characters are searching for. The "radical" concept here is that the Holy Grail is not a physical object, but rather the bloodline of Jesus Christ, who was married and fathered a child with Mary Magdalene and still has living descendents. Now in fairness to Dan Brown, the author, the book itself makes the point that this idea is not original, but that the evidence for this has been around -- though supressed -- for centuries, and in fact, other writers have made this claim. All well and good, but for the people who have been raving about this book, it seems that this point is a major revelation. I think I may have first read a similar storyline about a decade or so ago in a DC-Vertigo comic book series called Preacher, which took that idea in a completely different direction. But in any event, I did really enjoy The Da Vinci Code for the writing, the intrigue, and the details. Although I was a little disappointed in the non-resolution of the ending.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The New World

I had a rather interesting movie experience last night. I decided to drive over to see the movie at the Sherburn Theater. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Sherburn Theater is an old style theatre experience in the small town where I teach. They show one movie on weekends, with one show each on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Admission is $3, a 20-oz. bottle of pop costs $1.25, and a small bag of popcorn (the kind you used to get at high school sporting events) is 50 cents. I wasn't even sure what was playing until I got there (I'd heard one thing, but that was incorrect). The movie for the weekend was The New World, Terrence Malick's version of the Pocohantas story (and that description doesn't do justice to the film). It was a unique experience to walk into the theatre five minutes before showtime, not knowing what was playing. I'm still processing the movie; I can't really say how much I liked it yet. It was quite different. A long movie without many special effects and little dialogue (most dialogue-less movies are filled with car chases and explosions -- none of that here). Q'iriana Kilcher (younger sister of pop singer Jewel, and I'm sure I'm misspelling her name) was entrancing as Pocohantas, and I was quite surprised to see her listed that way in the credits as her name is never spoken in the movie. Actually, I'd say the movie was more formalist than realist (for those of you who've studied film), something that's not seen much nowadays -- at least, by me.

Friday, February 17, 2006


It's been nearly a fortnight since my last post. A lot has happened that I should talk about eventually. We must've been right on the edge of the big snowstorm that hit southern Minnesota yesterday morning. We had a two-hour late start at our school, Martin County West, though Fairmont (and pretty much every school east of here) was closed. Nothing to our west was even delayed, as far as I know. I'm not sure we needed to go late, but of course, lots of our kids were complaining that we had school at all when other schools in the area were closed. Wimps. Usually a two-hour late start gives me a chance to go back to bed for an hour or so, but yesterday I didn't feel so tired when I got up. On Wednesday night, I didn't feel too good and had a terrible headache, so I set my VCR to tape Lost and Invasion and slept on the couch for those two hours. I watched Lost while eating breakfast on Thursday morning, after which I spent about 15 minutes shovelling out my driveway.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My musical tastes

I stopped in at Tune Town today, my favorite indie record store, up in Mankato. I don't often buy new stuff, but I really like Tune Town's selection of used CDs: they've got a lot of stuff, it's pretty eclectic, and it seems to get additions frequently. I don't think it was too long ago that I was there last, but looking through the used racks, I noticed a lot of CDs I hadn't seen there before. And yet, despite the fact that I maintain an ongoing list of CDs to look for used and that list is well over 100 items long, I didn't find anything in the used bins to buy today. I suspect the reason is that the stuff I'm looking for is getting more and more obscure and esoteric as time goes by. I don't listen to the radio much (other than NPR) and the stuff that gets added to my list isn't the type of music you'd hear on the radio, no matter what station you were listening to (except maybe the Current). I did pick up one new CD today: the recent release by Minneapolis' own Flamin' Oh's. I just played it and I really like it a lot after only one listen-through. My initial reaction is that it captures the Flamin' Oh's '80s pop/new wave sounds updated for the new millenium.