Monday, November 27, 2006

THE HOSTILE HOSPITAL A Series of Unfortunate Events BOOK the Eighth by LEMONY SNICKET

I have finally figured out what I like about Lemony Snicket: He's the Douglas Adams of Children's Literature. It's true. He makes you laugh at the most basic of circumstances by giving them an in depth surreal explanation. For example the way he tries to explain why the book is not about him he says:

"But if this were a book about me, instead of about the three children who would soon run into someone they had hoped never to see again, I might pause for a moment and tell you about something I did many years ago that still troubles me. It was a necessary thing to do, but it was not a nice thing, and even now, I get a small quiver of shame in my stomach whenever I remember it. I might be doing something I enjoy--walking along the promenade deck of a ship, or looking through a telescope at the aurora borealis, or wandering into a bookstore and placing my books on the highest place in the shelf, so that no one will be tempted to buy and read them--when I will suddenly remember this thing I did, and think to myself, Was it really necessary? Was it absolutely necessary to steal that sugar bowl from Esmé Squalor?"

But this review is about the Baudelaire's unfortunate events. Especially what happened at the Heimlich (or Hostile) Hospital. In this book the events happening to the Baudelaire's change. No longer are they being dropped of at the home of some new caretaker that does not take care of them. At the end of the last book (The Vile Village) and the beginning of this one, the orphans are on the lam. They have run away from an angry mob that wants them burned at the stake for the murder of Count Omar/Olaf. Although we know it was Jacques Snicket that perished, and it was at the hads of Count Olaf not the orphans. The orphans try to send a telegram to Mr. Poe, but they get no answer and just as the Storekeeper finds out they are wanted for murder the children make an escape with the VFD van. They soon find out that this VFD is not the missing clue, instead it is the Volunteers Fighting Disease, whose idea of fighting disease is to give heart-shaped baloons to the sick folks at the hospital.

Once again I found myself laughing at the words of Sunny Baudelaire. As you may remember she is still a baby, but speaks non-sensical words in which only her siblings understand. In this one Sunny says her best word yet, "Pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity" which means something along the lines of "I must admit I don't have the faintest idea of what is going on." I googled that word and the urban dictionary gives the following:

The state or condition of not having the faintest idea what's going on.

Donald Rumsfeld gave the president his daily briefing this morning. He began by saying: "Mr. President, yesterday three Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the president exclaimed. "My God! That’s terrible!" His staff was stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sat, head in hands.

Finally, the president looked up with pietrisycamollaviadelrechiotemexity and asked, "How many is a brazillion?"

Once again another great book for smart kids, and a fun book for everyone.

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posted by Gil T. @ 5:33 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Free the Animals: The Untold Story of the U.S. Animal Liberation Front and its founder, "Valerie" by Ingrid Newkirk

How can a law abiding police officer become one of the most wanted Animal liberationists, sought by the FBI, Scotland Yard and many state police? This book tells the story of how the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)'s founder, "Valerie." Moved from a life fighting crime to a highly sought after fugitive.

After a police raid on a warehouse where experiments are perfomed on monkeys, "Valerie" sees the injustice in the treatment of experimental animals. The conditions of the facilities and the treatment of the animals as tools and not living creatures forces "Valerie" to seek out the ALF in Europe and begin training in what could almost follow the training of freedom fighters or even military covert operations.

Given the fake name of "Valerie" to protect her identity, we follow her through the training and into forming the U.S. ALF. This book takes the reader on several missions in which cruelly treated, dogs, kittens, monkeys, chimpanzees and more are liberated. At many times it reads as a spy novel when having to break into universities and other facilities performing many cruel experiments.

Not only do you get the thrill of a spy novel but the book also dishes out a heavy dose of realism in the unwarranted animal experimentation business. No matter what your view of animal experimentation I highly recommend you read this book. There are 2 things you can get out of it.

1. A great adventure story comparable to any war story or spy novel.

2. An insight to how animal experimentation does nothing to further the cause of science.

This book made a believer out of me.


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posted by Gil T. @ 1:14 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Movie Review: The Night Listener

This is one of those Robin Williams art films. No funny guy routines here. Robin's character is Gabriel Noone a late night radio story teller who is running out of stories to tell.

Basically, Gabriel's relationship with his lover, Jess, portrayed by Bobby Cannavale, is crumbling. This after Jess is "recovering" from AIDS. The recovery part is not explained but apparantly now that he has more of his life back to live he wants to do it without Gabriel. The interesting part is that the bulk of Gabriel's career was to tell stories about how he was coping and helping his partner to cope with AIDS and the terminal view of life.

Enter Pete Logand (Rory Culkin/Toni Collette), a young boy who was sexually abused by his parents and has written a book about his life. A publisher gives Gabriel the book and Gabriel is astonished by the maturity of the author, and begins a "relationship" with the boy as two professional authors giving advice, and supporting Pete as he is dying from AIDS, contracted during his childhood. Pete has been adopted by his caseworker Donna Logand (Toni Collette) to get him away from the threat of his mother, who was one of his abusers and is wanted by police.

The idea that Pete and Donna are the same person comes from Jess who notices on the phone the voices sound the same. This starts the movement of the movie when Gabriel goes in search of Pete & Donna Logand, in a small town in Wisconsin.

At this point the mystery keeps on building and the creepiness begins. Many of the townspeople think that Gabriel may be one of the pedophiles coming back for Pete, and Donna seems to never be found.

If you are looking for a creepy, suspenseful and full of mystery and twists movie, check out The Night Listener.

One thing I have to say is that in the theater where I viewed this film there was one very "funny" response from an audience member. The theater had only about 10 people (other than me) and they were all well over 60. Throughout the film you knew Robin was portraying a homosexual and he and his lover even shared embraces. Also the movie dealt with a severe subject of pedophilia. But at the end of the movie Robin's character gets a kiss...actually more of a peck on the cheek...from the actor playing his lover. After all the other stuff in the movie. A little old lady saw this peck on the cheek and LOUDLY exclaimed her disgust saying, "oh that's just filthy."

I just wanted to slap her and say why did it take a LITTLE kiss to spark you into action...and you weren't bothered by any of the other stuff?....but I just left it alone.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:44 PM Comments: 0

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket

Here we are again reliving the lives of the Baudelaires in yet another unfortunate circumstance, or rather a series of them. First of all the orphans have a new guardian. Actually, this time they have several of them. In this book we learn of the aphorism "It takes a village to raise a child." (I think Hilary would be proud.) So the orphans get to choose from several villages that have taken up the government's plea for villages to raise orphans. As the Baudelaires browse through the brochure to pick their village they find one with the name of "V.F.D." In past books it was learned that V.F.D. were the initials that stood for some secret about the death of the Baudelaires' parents and Count Olaf. Thinking this may lead to the answer to that clue the orphans pick V.F.D. as their new home.

The village, as it turns out, isn't so much interested in "raising" the children but having them do the village's chores. Also none of the villagers want to feed or house the orphans. So the town's handyman, Hector takes them in. VFD has many crows that roost at night in Nevermore Tree. The village also has many rules that are almost impossible to keep from breaking. Such as rule #67, which clearly states that, " no citizen is allowed to build or use any mechanical devices." or Rule #108 clearly states that "the V.F.D. library cannot contain any books that break any of the other rules. If someone in a book uses a mechanical device, for instance, that book is not allowed in the library." So even the rulebooks are not allowed in the library because they describe someone using tools. Hector, who was in charge of ridding the town of mechanical devices and tools has a great inventing studio and library now secretly kept in his barn. This helps the children to find some answers and to help the Quagmire triplets escape. Yes you heard right, the Quagmires escape...sorry about the spoiler.

One of the things I have found in this series of books is that you can judge the content and outcomes by the key phrases that are repeated throughout each book. In this volume the following phrase are used: "a bolt from the blue," "Entertaining a notion," and "Deus ex machina." So judging from those phrases you can see that the orphans have a very entertaining time. My favorite are the many Deus ex Machinas that appear.

By the way we are also introduced to another mysterious character, Jacques Snicket,(yes the author's brother). But he is murdered before he can reveal the secret of the orphan's parents. But he does have a tattoo of an eye on his ankle just like Count Olaf. Speaking of Count Olaf, his disguse as Detective Dupin is simply hilarious, especially the description of the clothes he wears. He's "Cool."

Once again, I highly recommend this book for all readers age 9 and up (yes even the adults will get a kick out of them. The books are all part of many education systems Accelerated Reader programs, so here's a fun way to get those kids reading.

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posted by Gil T. @ 12:45 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

David Bowie's Ex-Wife is a whiney bitch.

Book Review - Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie by Angela Bowie

Well Angie let me down. What I had hoped to be a deep insight into the life of David Bowie, turned out to be a dull boring bitchfest about how she should have gotten more attention.

Now don't get me wrong there were some interesting anecdotes and some talk about the whole David Bowie music scene. But Angie just seemed to want to flaunt all the affairs she had and then gripe about how David had so many affairs. The old pot and kettle simile fits here. She also went on to talk about the affairs between her and Mick Jagger and David and Mick. Seems either everyone wanted David or everyone wanted Mick, actually she talks like everyone wanted her.

I found the book very dull and hard to put up with the non-stop ego boosting and bitching. Don't bother with this one.

If you do know of a good biography on David Bowie, let me know.


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posted by Gil T. @ 7:13 PM Comments: 0

Monday, November 13, 2006

Borat movie review with some defense of Borat included.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Oh my gosh, my sides still hurt from watching this movie. At first when I sat down to write this review I was set to try and defend Sach Baron Cohen's choices. After all, he's getting sued by pretty much everyone that fell prey to this "mockumentary." When the folks realized it was a prank they said oops, but when revealing their true inner self when discussing their hatred toward homosexuals, foreigners and jews they were all ready and willing to discuss them openly.

With that said, I will simply review the movie and let you decide for yourself.

Basically the premise of this movie is that Borat, a journalist from Kazakhstan, sets out to learn what makes America a great country. The idea is that once he finds out he will bring this information back to Kazakhstan so they can be a great nation also.

So off he goes to New York. In New York he uses the flower garden of Trump Apartments as a toilet. Tries to kiss (an accepted form of greeting in Kazakhstan) folks on the subway. Offends a feminist group. (In Kazakhstan more than four women are not allowed to be toghether, unless it is a brothel or graveyard.) And falls in love with Pamela Anderson.

With Pamela in his heart he heads to California. Along the way he disrupts a local TV broadcast, learns to be a "homie," tells a group of rednecks his country supports this "war of terror," and finds out how real rednecks feel about homosexuals. He also learns what is the best gun to "kill a jew."

Let me tell you this is all hilarious in that folks fall for the prank and think he is for real. It really can show how we can be gullible and yet ready to reveal our innermost secrets to someone that seems harmless.

So let me once say in defense of the movie the following:
First of all Sacha Cohen is himself Jewish and is satirizing anti-semitism and actually bringing more attention to it.
The News person that scheduled "Borat" to be interviewed and is now sueing because she says she lost her job, it seems to me it was a good thing that a producer got fired for not researching a guest. I know in radio it is number 1 rule.
Finally, all those that got duped, why are you upset? Because your true nature got revealed? So?!?!?

I'm not sure where you are but my favorite theater is still showing Borat:

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:14 PM Comments: 0

At first you may say "What do I care?"

Companies that abuse animals have convinced a small group of politicians to introduce a bill called the Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act, which would allow the government to
charge animal rights activists with massive fines and jail time
for using nonviolent tactics. Please click this link, write to
your member of Congress, and ask him or her to vote "No" on this
unconstitutional bill.>

Now get past the idea that YOU may not care about animals. Or maybe you support vivisection. Any American citizen should look at this and ask, "Isn't this against the constitution?"
Yes they are trying to create a law to bypass 2 of the Amendments to the Constitution . First you have the right to protest peacefully.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Next there is:

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Now this will create a little "catch-22" if someone tries to enforce it. But if they are trying to take away the right to protest vivisection. What's next we cannot protest the war? We cannot peacefully assemble and talk bad about the president? A lot of comedians will be out of a job there.

But seriously Americans have the right. And now big business is fighting to take away that right.

Remember it is "We the people."

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posted by Gil T. @ 4:08 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket

Ahhh, here we go book six and well, simply put, things just keep getting worse for the Baudelaire orphans. This time around they are sent to a very "IN" part of town to live with their new guardians, Jerome and Esme Squalor, at 667 Dark Avenue in the penthouse apartment, on either the 48th or 84th floor. (Here's a spoiler, it actually turns out to be the 66th floor, the average of the 2).

The Squalors are very snooty people who only desire what is "IN." When the orphans arrive at the building they find that darkness is in and elevators are out. So not only do they have to climb the stairs, to what is later learned to be the 66th floor, but they have to do so in darkness. Upon arrival we find out that Esme Squalor is the 6th most important financial advisor and is only interested in the orphans because orphans are now in. Jerome is the one that takes an interest in the children and is pleased to have them around. But, he is kept busy by Esme who is getting ready for the "In Auction" in which all things "In" will be auctioned and the money will go to her bank account. So they all sip aqueous martinis (water with an olive in it) and talk about in things, like pin-striped suits.

Once again Count Olaf makes his entrance into the 71 bedroom (and many other types of rooms) apartment, but he's an invited guest. Invited under the guise of Gunther the In Auctioneer. In discovering what Olaf's plan is we learn what the word ersatz means. That is one thing I like about Lemony Snicket, he has a way of having the reader learn something without really knowing.

This book has many comic relief moments. This time most of them take the form of the words uttered by Sunny Baudelaire the baby that is no larger than a salami. In previous books Sunny only spoke in nonsensical syllables. In this book, however, her syllables start to make sense. Typically Sunny says words like; ayjim, puictiw and chittol, but every once in a while her dialogue is sprinkled with words that make sense. My favorite is when the orphans all go and try to find something to use as a rope to climb down an elevator shaft. (Ignore the previous sentence if you don't like spoilers.) Klaus comes back with curtian cords, Violet comes back with extension cords and each describe the item they found. Sunny offers up an armful of Jerome's neckties and says, "Armani." I found myself laughing out loud to that one.

Another thing I should mention is that the Quagmire triplets are still missing. At least for a little while. The Baudelaire orphans find the Quagmires and attempt a rescue. But alas, it fails and Olaf gets away. That doesn't really give anything away, after all the end is not the goal in these books. The journey is what makes Lemony Snicket's books worth reading.

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:25 PM Comments: 0

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book Review - "A Series of Unfortunate Events: BOOK the Fifth THE AUSTERE ACADEMY by LEMONY SNICKET

Once again we enter into another book in the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire orphans. And again the children are left with a caretaker that just doesn't seem to care for children. It makes you wonder just how do these kids survive. I can tell you that it is Violet's inventing skills, Klaus' research skills and Sunny's bithing skills help them survive this book. However, in this book, the Baudelaire orphans get help from another group of orphans, the Quagmire triplets, Duncan and Isadora. Yes I'm aware that that's only 2 names, it seems unfortunate events also follow the Quagmire orphans. They lost their parents and their brother in a mysterious fire, not unlike the Baudelaire orphans.

Now at first you may think the orphans becoming friends is a good thing. The problem is that is the only good thing that happens to the Baudelaire orphans in this book. From the beginning their woes abound. First the orphans are dropped of at Prufrock Prep. boarding school where vice-principal Nero is in charge and whose only interest is practicing the violin. There is no worse sound than someone that doesn't know how to play violin insisting upon doing so. V.P. Nero also has some really strict rules such as; no student should be in the administrative building - if this happens the student(s) do not get silverware for their meals. If a student misses a class they get no drinking glasses and must have their beverages served in puddles on their trays. And the worst rule of all, if a student misses the nightly 6 hour violin concert they have to buy V.P. Nero a bag of candy and watch him eat it.

On top of all this the school itself is ominous. All the buildings are shaped like tombstones and the school's motto is: "Memento Mori" which means "Remember You Will Die." The Dorms all have a huge living room with a brick fireplace, a game room, and a large lending library, unfortunately the Baudelaires must have a permission slip with the signature of a parent or guardian. The parents are dead, and their guardians have either been killed or have fired them so they have to stay in shack dubbed "The Orphan Shack." This shack is infested with crabs and a tan fungus that drips from the ceilings.

So with all these unfortunate events you'd think it can't get any worse, but alas, Count Olaf appears again. He has a devious plan to capture the orphans. I will give you a hint though, he does succeed in caputuring the orphans and making off with them. You'll have to read the book to find more.

If you are a homeschooler or you have children age 9-17 these are great books. If you like to have fun reading, I can tell you I have had a blast reading these books. Now on to book 6 "The Ersatz Elevator"

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posted by Gil T. @ 1:54 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Book Review: "Abadazad: The Dream Thief - Book #2" by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Ploog(Illustrator)

Once again I will tell you the next series of young pop fiction has started, and it is found in the form of Abadazad. Like Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter or The Series of Unfortunate Events, Abadazad is a series of books that will keep our youth interested in reading. With the Harry Potter series ending soon and Lemony Snicket having written "The End" of the Series of Unfortunate events. The next book craze void is needing to be filled. Abadazad will do that not only because of a really good story line but also because Abadazad uses the combination of chapter book with comic book.

In book 2 "The Dream Thief," Kate is in the magical land of Abadazad and has found out that her brother who was abducted 5 years past is still alive. Unfortunately he is "imprisoned" by the Lanky Man a.k.a. the Dream Thief. The Lanky Man has many children imprisoned in a contraption used to keep them asleep so he can harvest their dreams to power his machine. The purpose of the machine is not yet revealed but it does have something to do with the destroying of Abadazad. The 3 eyed Queen Ija has told Kate she will help find Kate's brother Matt.

This book introduces a few more of the magical characters in Abadazad. Auntie Nott, who is invisible, she became that way because she was so shy she avoided everyone and eventually turned invisible. There is Master Wix, the boy-candle. Yes he's a little boy that is made of wax. And there is the Waterlogged Wizard who lives in the 8 oceans of Abadazad whe helps Kate get Started on her journey.

The combination of chapter book and comic book helps to make this book come alive along with keeping the reader interested in the story. And with the creative story-line each book leaves you anxious for the next installment. The problem is now I have to wait until March 2007 for book 3.

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posted by Gil T. @ 1:05 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Book Review: "Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown

In rounding out my Dan Brown reading there was only 1 of the 4 novels I hadn't read. But now I have and I wish I would have read this one first. That way I wouldn't have been let down. "Digital Fortress" doesn't to have the edge or the constant action found in "The DaVinci Code" or even "Angels & Demons." It's not a bad novel, it's just very tame when compared to those action thrillers.

In "Digital Fortress" Dan Brown covers a very timely storyline, in which the U.S. Intelligence community relies on the NSA. And the NSA Relies on a new computer called TRANSLTR, which can snoop and read every email and break any encryption code. Published at least 5 years before President Bush had problems with wiretapping and snooping, Mr. Brown was talking about how the government could snoop through your e-mails. The action begins when a former NSA employee a computer expert, Ensei Tankado, who helped design TRANSLTR, does not think the government has the right to snoop in private lives of citizens and vows to make an unbreakable encryption code.

The code is Digital Fortress, and after creating the code the creator, Tankado dies of a heart attack, but not before putting the code up on the internet. The NSA has downloaded the code to try to break it but problems erupt without the key to the encryption code. Tankado's motto, "Who will guard the guards" is moved on through the fact that unless the NSA publicly admits to having TRANSLTR the code will destry TRANSLTR.

The action of this book is lacking mainly because most of the events take place in the Crypto-Dome of the NSA (home of TRANSLTR). However, Dan Brown, does do his signature globe hopping, by the NSA having to send the fiance (David Becker) of one of it's crypto agents (Susan Fletcher), to Spain to find the key which is with Tankado's body. At least that's where it started. So between the events in the crypto-dome and David Becker trying to locate a ring that Tankado handed off to tourists at the time of his death, the action just doesn't match up to Mr. Brown's other books.

It is a good espionage, plot-twister novel. Just don't compare to other Dan Brown books.

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:52 PM Comments: 0