Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Last Templar

Did anyone else watch The Last Templar on NBC? It was shown as a four-hour miniseries on Sunday and Monday nights. I'd read the book by Raymond Khoury when it came out a couple of years ago, since I'm a total Templar freak, and I remembered enjoying it, but I'd forgotten most of the details, so a movie version sounded good to me.

What I did remember was the exciting opening scene in which four men, dressed like Knights Templar, ride through the streets of New York to an art museum where priceless treasures from the Vatican are on display. The men ride their horses up the museum steps, behead a police officer then commit Grand Theft Artifacts. The opening scene was surely written with a movie in mind, esp. since Khoury was a screenwriter before he became a novelist, and the movie opener didn't disappoint.

What I didn't remember was Tess, the female protagonist played by Mira Sorvino, being so annoying. I really didn't remember the book Tess grabbing a crozier from the museum exhibit, jumping on a police horse in her cocktail dress and 4-inch stillettos and chasing the robbers into Central Park. I re-read the opening of the book and nope, that didn't happen. Excuse my snark, but it's like the screenwriters thought the character wasn't interesting enough as written so they turned her into a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Indiana Jones. I shouldn't be surprised since Hollywood often dumbs down female characters. I don't think the problem was with Mira Sorvino's performance, she just didn't have much to work with. Neither did Scott Foley as a bland FBI agent, and I know he can do action; I watch him on The Unit all the time.

The plot wasn't much changed and the story is fairly interesting, and if you hadn't read the book you might have enjoyed it. Anyone else have an opinion?


Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the beginning of the Chinese new year. The holiday, known as the Spring Festival, begins on the first day of the first lunar month and ends on the 15th day, called Lantern Festival. This is a major holiday for the Chinese and is also celebrated in places with large ethnic Chinese populations like California. It's also celebrated in other Asian nations that have been influenced by China, like Vietnam where the holiday is known as Tet (yes, as in Tet Offensive).

Chinese New Year is celebrated with dragon dances and fireworks.

Red is the color associated with the holiday because of the belief that red chases away evil spirits and bad fortune.

In Chinese astrology, 2009 is the Year of the Ox and it is a Yin Earth year. Since the ox is described as calm and steady, dare we hope for a less volatile year than the last one which was a Year of the Rat? I do hope so.

My friend Teresa tells me that on Chinese New Year's eve you are supposed to eat fish so you'll float into the new year on a sea of prosperity. On New Year's Day you're supposed to wear new clothes so you can start the year with a clean slate. I like these ideas, just wish I'd had a chance to plan ahead a little more. Actually, Teresa had told me some of this before the end of 2008 so I had clam chowder on New Year's Eve to ensure prosperity in 2009. Hope it worked.


Wikipedia has lots of information on the holiday and on Chinese astrology. The photos are from my trip to Portland's Chinese Garden last March. (Note: link to Teresa's blog added at 10:40AM)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Astrology: Aquarius plus Mercury Retrograde

First, let me apologize to my Sagittarius and Capricorn friends for neglecting them these last two months. Since my back problems started in September, my blog posts have dwindled to about three per month. I'm in physical therapy now and slowly getting better, but I'm still not supposed to sit for more than twenty minutes at a time, which makes it a little hard to focus on much of anything. I'll try to do better in the blogging department, but with no guarantees.

January 20 saw the sun move into Aquarius as well as the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States: Barack Hussein Obama. An auspicious occasion for all, but not without its glitches. Even the president can't avoid the consequences of Mercury Retrograde as we saw when the oath was taken late (after 12 Noon) and the words were garbled. Liz Rose wrote a good post about this at Huffington Post entitled Even Obama Must Contend With Mercury Retrograde. She concludes that this is a "a poor time to communicate and make initial decisions but a great time to review, reconsider and redo." Mercury goes direct on Feb. 8. Personally, I can't wait.

Now back to Aquarius, the eleventh sign of the Zodiac, and one of only two symbolized by a human: the water bearer. A masculine, fixed, air sign, Aquarius was originally thought to be ruled by Saturn (along with the sign Capricorn) but modern astrologers assign it to Uranus, and I think it's a good fit. The dual rulership means that Aquarians can be very forward thinking, even visionary (Uranus plus air sign), but may yet be rigid in their opinions (Saturn plus fixed sign). That doesn't mean we'll find balance here. Some Aquarians are reformers who change the status quo (Abraham Lincoln, for instance) while others, like Ronald Reagan, are unabashed conservatives. Uranus is given to extremes and the same can be true of Aquarius. The Saturn Uranus combination doesn't necessarily make for an easy partnership.

Aquarians are caught between innovation and practicality. How this works out in the individual is represented by other aspects in the chart. For instance, Mercury in Capricorn or strong aspects from Saturn can keep the Aquarian down to earth while Mercury in Pisces or strong aspects from Neptune can send him soaring to the stars. Linda Goodman describes the typical Aquarian as "half Albert Schweitzer, half Mickey Mouse".

In any case, being a fixed air sign means Aquarians can be quite fixed in their ideas and impatient with others who disagree or fail to follow their rapid thought processes. They can also be quite outspoken. My husband's favorite mantra is "I never apologize for speaking the truth". Of course, that's the truth as he sees it. :)

For more information on Aquarius, go to http://www.astrology.com/allaboutyou/sunsigns/aquarius.html

Is there an Aquarian in your life?


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jack is back!

Tonight brings the long-awaited seventh season of 24, one of my shows. The two-hour premiere of Day Seven debuts tonight at 8PM EST. (For those not familiar with the show, each season consists of one day in 24 one-hour episodes in which none of the characters ever get to eat or sleep. They live on coffee which may be one reason why it's all so fast-paced and frantic. )

In Season 7, Jack Baur, our intrepid hero / anti-hero, has been brought back to Washington, DC to face Congressional hearings on whether he violated US policies by torturing suspects when he worked for the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) in LA. Part of the fun was in recognizing the names of the places involved, but it was pretty amusing to think that so many international terrorists wanted to blow up the San Fernando Valley. Really? This year the show moves to D.C. which may provide a little more realism. Or not. Washington has become pretty surreal lately.

The show has been some controversy in recent years because of its depiction of torture, excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques. Here are just a couple of links if you're interested in following the controversy:

Democracy Now

Christian Science Monitor

Now I'm not in favor of torture, and frankly, some of those scenes had me cringing in my seat. When Jack needs information, nothing stops him, even if the bad guy he's interrogating is his brother. But still, the show is pure, entertaining fun. Even Dick Cheney likes it, and I imagine that's the one thing he and I agree on.

So what is the message to be gleaned from 24? That torture works? No, there's too much real life evidence to the contrary. To me, the message of 24 is that you can trust Bad Jack Bauer to get the job done by any means he deems necessary, even if he has to disobey a direct order to do. He always gives 120%. Jack marches to his own drummer and follows his own conscience, however twisted his actions may seem to us. He can also be counted on to protect the innocent. In many ways, Jack is the perfect hero for our time: complex, scarred and imperfect. He's probably suffering from severe PTSD and shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun, but this TV not real life.

What you can't count on in the world of 24 is the government. You never know who's going to betray Jack, and by extention, the rest of us. Sometimes the betrayal goes all the way to the Oval Office, as with Gregory Itzin's duplicitous President Logan, a slimy villain if there ever was one. Good job, Greg!

Another interesting tidbit about 24 is that it may have made it easier for the American people to accept the idea of an African-American president. So far, there have been two on 24, presidents David and Wayne Palmer, played by Dennis Haysbert and D. B. Woodside. They were the good presidents, the ones you could trust, though First Lady Sherry Palmer was a real piece of work. Did that make it easier for Barack Obama to be elected? Who knows? If so, the good news this season is 24 has the first female president in the show's history.

Click here for more background on the show and a list of episodes.

Will you be watching tonight? The DH and I will!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

For Travis

Blogger and writer Travis Erwin, architect of the My Town Monday meme, suffered a personal tragedy on Jan. 4 when his home burned to the ground. It's heartwarming how the blogging community rallied to his aid, showing how well-loved and respected he is by all of us. Travis has a heart as big as his native Texas and didn't deserve this.

You can read his accounts of the fire at his blog, One Word, One Rung, One Day and/or contribute to the fundraising Habitat for Travis site set up by fellow bloggers Erica Orloff and Stephen Parrish. Click on the graphic above to access the site.

Since I heard about Travis's situation, I've been thinking to myself, what can I do to be prepared if something like this happens to me? What do I grab beside my purse and my laptop? The latter may seem like an odd choice to some people, but to a writer, losing your words is a deeply personal tragedy. Once lost, words can't always be reclaimed. My DH and I back up our computers semi-regularly, but keep the backup hard drive in a locked cabinet in the closet. I'm thinking I should buy a large flash drive, backup my files on it and take it, where? The safe deposit box at the bank, perhaps? Something for us all to think about.

In the meantime, I'm just thankful that Travis and Jennifer weren't harmed and that their sons weren't at home at the time.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Preditors and Editors Poll Open

Preditors and Editors(TM) annual Readers' Poll to honor both print & electronic publications is open for voting.

This year I'm pleased to say that Lyndi Lamont's, Alliance: Cosmic Scandal is one of the choices in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Story category. My good friend Janet Quinn's novel Betrayals is nominated in the Romance category.

Anyone can vote and you can nominate a new entry in a category simply by filling out the write-in box at the bottom of the page. Voting ends at midnight on 14 January (GMT).

Good luck to all!

Linda / Lyndi