29 July 2007

Z is for Zorro

I loved tales of Zorro as a child and admit that even today I'm interested in this American Robin Hood story. Zorro by Isabelle Allende does a wonderful updating of the story, injecting much more intrigue and gadgetry than I recall from earlier versions. Featured on NPR recently in Zorro comes to life, the story led me to look further into the story than I had before. Was Zorro a real person? No, but there were some people who may have inspired the original author and creator, Johnston McCulley.

For those who know me and ask, I have to mention that if you want a good fencing scene in the movies, I'd look beyond Zorro movies (which are not bad) to The Princess Bride, which has some excellent fencing scenes and better jokes, too.

15 July 2007

Free Endangered Species Ringtones - Center for Biological Diversity

Free Endangered Species Ringtones from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Is that a frog in your pocket or is your phone ringing? I read about this in Newsweek and have so far been using the Gila Woodpecker calls for my ringtone. Share and enjoy!

14 July 2007

Old friends

Return of Agamemnon

I recently read The Orestia by
(in English translation) and was happy to encounter so many familar old friends. Cassandra's unheeded prophesies... Agamemnon's incautious homecoming... Orestes' heroic obedience to Apollo... All these were familiar to me, yet musty and not easily recalled in my memory. The refresher was well worth the short time investment. So much of our literature today has at its underpinnings the classic conflicts and accomplishments of the heroes and villans in the pages of the ancient masters. For example, it was interesting for me to ponder House Atredies' struggles in the Dune series by Frank Herbert in light of my fresh reading of the tetralogy and understanding of the struggles of House Atreus, or to consider Athena and Apollo's courtroom demeanor in the trial of Orestes vs. what you might see on the show Law and Order. For more deep questions, check out the Penguin reading guide.

Wikipedia's Aeschylus article has great info on the author. Got a few hours? Take a read from Questia's ebook . My recommendation: read the play first, not the author's/translators notes and foreword. Read those supplementary materials later, and don't let them get in your way en route to getting to the story itself.

07 July 2007

Word geeks

What's the difference between a geek and a nerd? A geek, I've heard, is someone who is or becomes socially inept due to extreme focus on an area of expertise. A nerd, OTOH, is someone who gains social ineptitude without a corresponding benefit of expertise. A freak? I have no idea of how to define that. I might retitle the book "Word Nerds" - however, I admit the author's title of Word Freaks does catch the eye (and scores better in scrabble, too). Thanks to my friend N for the gift of the book! This isn't one I would have chosen for myself, but was a great read - in other words, the perfect gift book.

Stefan Fatsis has documented his deep-dive into the obscure world of competitive scrabble playing. Reading of anyone put to self-imposed extremes is always interesting; check out Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers for a more life-threatening example. But reading of people putting themselves to such extremes in order to find a WWII sub is one thing; to read of people doing such for no other purpose than to get a high score ... well, it had to be a good story to keep my attention.

The profiles of the other players - and, also, of Stefan himself as a player - are engaging and interesting. I spent part of the book hoping the worst cases would find some help for themselves and maybe give up the scrabble game; by the end of the book, I was rooting for them to win.