19 August 2009

Why I support a public option for healthcare

Please, please bring on a public option for heathcare. Cover the gaps due to employment change, don't make people chose between avoiding poverty and illness, and stop denying coverage to people who need it.

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13 August 2009

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I figured I didn't need to read Dracula since I'd seen every derivative B-rated horror movie out there with each stereotypically horrific blood-sucking vampire laid out in terrible ghastly pallor to entertain me. And I figured wrong. I recently re-read Salem's Lot by Stephen King and this time I bothered with the foreword; King's paean to Stoker was persuasive so when I finished, I picked up the classic tome.

Dracula begins slowly with the doings and social life of two young English girls; this was somewhat like an Austen novel, with all he conspiring about suitors and marriage. I was somewhat put off as my tastes in literature don't run that way, but I soldiered on. (Note to self: my next novel had better break this slow-start habit.) The story gradually became more interesting... and much to my surprise, by the climax the original characters stood proud and tall and had shouldered aside the insipid stereotypes that had been made of them; Mina and Lucy become more than simpering ankle-twisters, fleeing the nosferatu (although Lucy does in fact hurt her feet rescuing Mina). Renfield becomes a more sensitive and desperate soul, dealing with his own mental plight and eventually defending against evil - he transcends the grotesque side show that he could become, and was represented as, in other derivative works. Jonathan, Arthur, Quincey and John are not merely a musketeerish re-hash of old heroic boy bands, but instead have interesting dynamics going on between them. And Van Helsing is flawed and desperate and good-hearted and mysterious, not the inhumanly effective vampire-slayer portrayed in the common theatre.

And you twilight readers: please, get yourself a copy of Dracula. Please.

As a measure of the solid character work, check out this image of Sir Henry Irving. This man was the actor upon whom Stoker based his character Dracula - not that Irving was a blood-sucker, but just that Stoker used the mannerisms and affect as the basis of his title character. He really does look like he could be Dracula in life, doesn't he?

If you're looking for a good story, Dracula fits the bill. But even more, re-reading the original story banishes the weak stereotypical characters from the mind and lets Stoker's willful and red-blooded souls take their place. Willingly.

11 August 2009

Indiscretions of Archie by PG Wodehouse

The man of the house is very much a Wodehouse fan but I've resisted reading his books. I think it was the particular shade of obnoxious construction-cone orange glaring at me from my barrister bookshelves that put me off.

I finally assented to start to read Indiscretions of Archie when nothing else was quick to hand and I had some spare time. I suppose I was also influenced by knowing and liking Stephen Fry so well in his portrayal of Jeeves in the BBC series Jeeves and Wooster. It took me a bit to like the main chap of the tome, Archie, but after a bit I started enjoying his serendipitous rending of his father-in-law's carefully groomed world and Archie's proclivity for turning an unlucky happenstance into good fortune through no effort of his own. My own life tends to have snowballing misfortunes of a minor nature; a burnt-out lightbulb cannot be replaced easily but must snap off in the socket, requiring me to throw the breakers, get a flashlight to see by, and pliers to get the annoying lightbulb collar out. And then it turns out I have no bulbs of the right size to replace it with anyway. If Archie had a burnt lightbulb to deal with, I think it would probably come out easily then reveal the secret hiding place of a complete set of Spanish dubloons.