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Verlaine and Hell, Hard Rock Honors, Covers Galore, Marmots taking it to the Man   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

6328 Reads

The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni (review by Karl)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - 04:25 AM
Posted by: kbade

Books

NOTE: If you're here for the usual, just scroll down a tad, but you may enjoy the review. If you came for the review, please visit the home page and make yourself comfy.

This month's Blog Book Club selection was The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, considered to be widely underappreciated outside of Italy, where it is considered a real masterpiece of Italian literature. It truly is a great historical novel. But since I know that Amber has o­nly good things to say about the book, the contrarian streak I've been o­n compels me to mention the part that bugged me about it.

The Betrothed is largely about the struggle of Renzo and Lucia to get married in the face of a number of terrible obstacles. So the aspect of the book that irritated me (at least at first) was Manzoni's failure to give the reader a little more "backstory" of their romance at the outset. Thus, I did not think I had a good read o­n the inner workings of the characters with whom we are to sympathize until later (and in the case of Lucia, much later) in the book. A fateful encounter between Lucia and Don Rodrigo that sets much of the plot in motion is glossed over in the space of a paragraph. Granted, Lucia's quiet, demure nature may reflect the time in which the story is set, but showing a more private, romantic moment between the couple near the beginning of the book would have made the read a bit less daunting.

This omission irritated me even more when contrasted with Manzoni's treatment of some of the secondary characters. For example, Father Cristoforo and Gertrude (the Signora) get great backstories, which inform the choices they make throughout the narrative. Yet Renzo's motivation in detouring from his mission in Milan did not click for me until he spoke afterward, connecting up to his frustration at finding a conventional solution to the initial obstacle to his marriage.

I do not want this point to overshadow my overall appreciation of the book, though. The personal story is ultimately compelling, as is the depiction of some of the historical events (which I won't spoil here). Plus, Manzoni's eye for the bigger picture has elements of the timeless. Consider, for example, his description of a bread shortage in Milan in the early 17th century:

"But when prices rise more than a certain amount, they always produce a certain effect -- at least they always have done up to the present day. And if it still happens today, after all that learned authors have written about the subject, anyone can imagine what it was like in those days. This effect is a common conviction that it is not in fact the shortage of goods that has caused the high prices. People forget that they have feared and predicted the shortage, and suddenly begin to believe that there is really plenty of grain, and the touble is that it is being kept off the market. Though there are no earthly or heavenly grounds for that belief, it gives food to people's anger and to their hopes. Real or imaginary hoarders of grain, landowners who did not sell their entire crop within twenty-four hours, bakers who bought grain and held it is stock -- everyone in fact who possessed grain or was thought to possess grain was blamed for the shortage and high prices, and made the target of universal complaint and of the hatred of rich and poor alike."

Do a search and replace to substitute "oil" for "grain" and this 19th century author would be smarter than most 21st century pundits.

This is merely a digression in the epic scope of the story, but suggestive of the masterful grasp Manzoni has o­n the human condition. My o­nly quibble is that I wish he had demonstrated it a bit more with regard to the title couple more quickly. So if I was forced to recommend an epic historical novel, my nod would still go to War and Peace. But The Betrothed would not be far behind, which should be a good enough a recommendation for anyone, with the possible exception of Manzoni.

7133 Reads

Advance Smoosh, New Releases, Feelies, Cats In Boxes, Giant Wild Boars   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

7485 Reads

Desmond Dekker, Ted Nugent, Elvis Costello's Essentials, and Chairman Miaow   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, May 29, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

MEMORIAL DAY has become -- in the minds of some -- a day devoted to uncovering their swimming pools and barbeques. So take a moment (preferably at 3 p.m. local time) to remember what it's really about. The Wikipedia entry for Memorial Day notes a race track connection unrelated to the INdy 500 -- and even mentions the Drive-By Truckers. The Castle Argghhh blog brings it home with a four-part piece o­n two military families dealing with the death of Army 2LT Leonard Cowherd o­n May 16, 2004: The Notification; The Funeral; and The Burial, with the final installment to be posted today.

DESMOND DEKKER, best known for "Israelites" -- the first Jamaican reggae hit to cross over internationally -- died May 25th of a heart attack. Hits like "007 (Shanty Town)" and "Tougher Than Tough" made him a key influence o­n the Sex Pistols and the Clash. BONUS: The video for a slower version of "Israelites."

BLOG RADIO debuts tonight o­n Sirius Satellite Radio. Weeknights at 10 Eastern, a blogger will host the new show and showcase his or her favorite music and provide insights into the indie rock music scene. Contributors will include Gorilla Vs Bear, Brooklyn Vegan and Product Shop NYC.

GNARLS BARKLEY made their US TV debut o­n Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Yet another different arrangement of "Crazy," with the entire band in bathrobes. Not as good as the TOTP version, but still pretty cool. Will NBC's lawyers have it yanked from YouTube before you see it?  If so, you can stream the audio from the Hype Machine.

MARY WILSON of the Supremes was set to be released from the hospital o­n Friday following heart surgery. There hasn't been any update o­n the wires, so let's hope no news is good news.

THE TOP 50 CONSERVATIVE SONGS? London's Independent reprints a list that ran in National Review (some of which are debatable, some of which seem more libertarian). Anyway, "Won't Get Fooled Again" topped the list and Pete Townshend has an interesting response.

TED NUGENT: The Independent continues o­n the conservative beat with a profile of the Motor City Madman, with the emphasis o­n madman, natch: "I'm not sure that I've ever met anybody whose opinions and instincts are more directly opposed to my own. And yet, in some odd way, I find Ted Nugent impossible to dislike: I think because I consider him to be a psychotic -- by the classic definition that he does not perceive the world as others do." Yet the writer is also forced "to admit that firing a fully automatic machine gun at a target is fun" and to "a grudging respect for the system by which he governs his land."

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Okay, my concession to Memorial Day-as-the-start-of-summer is to offer up a repeat of the Pipettes' "Your Kisses Are Wasted o­n Me," which is my current nominee for feel-good hit of the summer (along with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"). Alternatively, you can see 'em play "Kisses" and "Dirty Mind" live o­n Britain's Channel Four. It also affords me a chance to highlight "Your Guitars Are Wasted o­n Me," a remix that's even more old school than the original. And there's even more to stream via the Hype Machine.

TAPES 'N' TAPES briefly talk to Harp about the band's sound and strangest fan experience. You can hear 'em via MySpace.

MARILYN MANSON has a rather odd theory about moustaches.

ELVIS COSTELLO listed his 500 essential albums for Vanity Fair in 2000. I suspect he would pick The Replacements' "best of" now. This link -- and more than a few others over the past year or so -- courtesy of Largehearted Boy.

JOSE GONZALEZ: The singer-songwriter talks to the New Zealand Herald about his shift from hardcore to folk rock and a certain level of success from a commercial.

PETE DOHERTY UPDATE: Canada's Globe and Mail sketches a timeline of the troubled singer's rise to fame and descent to infamy.

BRADGELINA: Jolie and the baby are "fantastic," a source told People magazine. Namibian officials admit they granted Pitt and Jolie the right to ban foreign journalists from entering the country to cover the birth of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. The Namibian Embassy in Pretoria told journalists seeking visas that they must have written permission from the couple. Life & Style Weekly claims that Jennifer Aniston reached out to her ex to congratulate both him and Jolie. Jon Voight, Jolie's estranged father, would like to see his grandkids, but I wouldn't bet o­n that happening. The press looks at the name "Shiloh," which in o­ne longstanding translation from the Bible has come to mean "the peaceful o­ne," but also translates from Hebrew as "His gift."

GWEN STEFANI and GAVIN ROSSDALE are parents, after Stefani gave birth to a baby boy shortly before 1 p.m. o­n Friday. Clearly a name like Kingston James McGregor Rossdale is not silly enough to stop the birth from being completely overshadowed by the Pitt-Jolie birth.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: X Men: The Last Stand grossed 107 million dollars in North America, becoming the fourth biggest debut of all time and the largest Friday box office total ever, according to estimates. The Da Vinci Code drops to second place, with a fall-off severe enough to suggest the movie will not have "legs."

PAUL GLEASON, who played the go-to bad guy in Trading Places and the angry high school principal in The Breakfast Club, has died of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos. He was 67.

TOM HANKS has employed extra bodyguards because he fears The Da Vinci Code could put his family at risk from disgruntled Christian groups. So we can safely predict that Hanks will never appear in a movie that might offend Muslims.

HILARY SWANK and CHAD LOWE are divorcing. The couple separated in January but were reportedly working o­n a reconciliation.

TARA REID: You know you're seen as too much of a party girl when Budweiser doesn't want you around.

BRITNEY SPEARS has reportedly banished Spenderline to the basement of their Californian mansion.

JUDE LAW and SIENNA MILLER spotted getting cuddly again at a Hollywood hot spot o­n May 22nd.

NETFLIX plans o­n offering flicks by net by year's end.

THE LOWRIDER: All my friends know it, but here's a history for other vistors.

EMMY ROSSUM (how's the career? ouch!) says the school she and Gwyneth Paltrow attended was full of Mean Girls.

KATE MOSS is kung fu fighting the paparazzi. The supposedly sober supermodel does not like having her picture snapped unless she's being paid handsomely.

IRAQ: Military investigators believe that Marines wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha. Some will probably charged with murder and if the charges are proven (which doesn't always happen), they will deserve the maximum punishment the facts support. Horrible, tragic crimes do happen in war. Americans willl recall the My Lai massacre, which killed hundreds, but there is also the disputed No Gun Ri incident during the Korean War and the Dachau massacre at the end of WWII, to name two. And it's not just US troops -- the Brits tortured and starved prisoners after WWII, Belgian soldiers apparently roasted a small Somali boy over an open fire and Canadians tortured a teenager to death o­n a UN peacekeeping mission, and so o­n. I mention this not to minimize the charges apparently coming out of Haditha, but to note that they are not an indictment of a war or the troops in general. The US and its military are horrified by such reports and believe that, if proven, those responsible should be harshly punished. In contrast, for the jihadis, insurgents and militias, murdering civilians is standard operating procedure. This is why, in the town of Tarmiyah -- o­nce a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency -- even those who dislike the occupation like the security and protection the US affords against nearby Shiite militias.

IRAQ IN THE MEDIA: CNN ran a story claiming that Iraq's foreign minister said there was no need that the international community ask Iran to guarantee it will not build a nuclear bomb. At ITM, Omar reports he said the exact opposite and provides the audio in Arabic. With the aforementioned charges likely coing out of Haditha, it's also worth mentioning that the media will make us quite familiar with the names of those charged with the most serious crimes, but -- as I've noted before -- rarely seems to have much time or space to give to reports o­n our heroic US troops.

IRAN: Pres. Ahmadinejad told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine that "the German people are prisoners of the Holocaust" -- though he still doubts the Holocaust happened. Either way, he believes Jews in Israel should be returned to Europe. He also claims the "international Zionist web" was trying to keep him from visiting Germany for the World Cup soccer match. And states that Europe should "side with Iran" o­n nuclear policy or "suffer the consequences."

JOSE PADILLA: Federal investigators say they have evidence that the former Chicago street gang member had had risen high in Al Qaeda's ranks, having personal relationships with the top planners of the September 11th attacks o­n New York City and Washington, D.C.

DUCK EATS SPACE ALIEN: That, at least, is the conclusion reached by workers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia, CA when they viewed an X-ray image they took of a sick mallard.

CHAIRMAN MIAOW stowed away o­n a container ship from China to Britain, living o­n cardboard and condensation.

A PYTHON misplaced in a rental car surprised the next costomer a little.

A BEAR causes teen's first car accident.

A LOVESICK SWAN has fallen for a plastic swan-shaped paddle boat o­n a pond in the German town of Muenster.

3702 Reads

It's A GIRL! Name to be explained later?   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Sunday, May 28, 2006 - 06:46 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

The night of May 27, 2006 in Namibia, Africa, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt welcomed their daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. No further information or photos are being given.

2745 Reads

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