Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Iliad - Robert Fagles Translation

Author: Homer
Translated by : Robert Fagles
This Translation Originally Published: 1990
Length: 704 pages
Personal Enrichment Factor: 4/5 Rating: 4.5/5 (141 Customer Reviews)

I'm sure there are a lot of reasons people choose to read The Iliad (other than by force). I think my main interest in it is from a historical and sociological perspective more than a literary one. I mean, it's 3,000 years old! It's amazing and exciting that we have this slice of Greek culture that is still being experienced today. I did not take notes at all, but did read it out loud whenever I could--chalk it up to a wannabe bard complex?? I can see why it's a classic--there's so much that can be discussed about it, I don't even know where to begin. Here are some random thoughts:

  • I have not done a comparison of the different translations (for an excellent discussion of this topic, check out this post at Rebecca Reads, the host of the Really Old Classics Challenge), but I found this version very straightforward and easy to understand, which definitely helps when reading a lengthy epic.
  • It's helpful to know the back story before beginning The Iliad, to understand why they are at war, and what motivates different characters to do different things. I had seen a movie a few years ago called Helen of Troy which gave me a little background, although I'm sure it took some liberties with the story. I was definitely influenced by my memory of the characters in the movie (like my hatred of Agamemnon), which may have given me an inaccurate perception of things. Maybe a better way would be to look it up on Wikipedia.
  • You get the idea that this is a society that glorifies war, but Homer is not guilty of glossing over the realities of war. Not only do you get a rather specific description of how someone is killed--"Peneleos hacked his neck below the ear and the blade sank clean through, nothing held but a flap of skin, the head swung loose to the side as Lycon slumped to the ground..."--but each warrior get a sort of a mini-eulogy where you learn about his family and maybe a good story about his life. You never forget that a war is made up of individuals with loved ones who will mourn.
  • I found it ironic that while women were given as war prizes and raped as a ritual of conquest, it is two women who are the catalysts of the two main conflicts in the Iliad. Helen, of course, is the beautiful woman who "launched a thousand ships," instigating the war between the Achaeans and Trojans. And Briseis, the war prize (I cringe as I write that) who Agamemnon takes as his own after his prize is taken away, thus triggering the anger of Achilles. It is definitely hard to read this in terms of women's rights.
  • I was surprised at the human-ness of the gods. Yes, I was aware of their soap-opera like existence, but didn't realize how vulnerable they are. I was a bit taken aback when Aphrodite, and later Ares, got injured. It was interesting too that the most powerful of Gods, Zeus, was so pathetically overpowered by Hera's magically seductive "wonderbra"-type thing. So basically the Greek gods are subject to anger, jealousy, injury, seduction, sorrow, manipulation, etc., BUT they live forever in that state. It sounds ike hell to me.
  • Achilles and his refusal to fight in the war after Agamemnon takes Briseis way from him is the central conflict in the story, and I would imagine the most discussed/debated. I have to admit he's annoying--he runs to him mommy to ask the big god Zeus to beat up his friends who were mean to him. His stubbornness is unnerving, but I can't help but think that he is justified in being angry. If I'm remembering right, he was asked to come along because they knew he was the best fighter around. He was not bound by treaty as others who went. Agamemnon and the other leaders felt they would be unsuccessful without him along. So why did Agamemnon do something so stupid as taking away the star fighter's war prize? And it galls me that Agamemnon, who was willing to sacrifice his daughter so the winds would blow so they could set sail for Troy, could not find it in himself to give Briseis back to Achilles, and gain the advantage in the war.
  • Some of the battle situations were amusing to me. For instance, the few attempts at ending the war by having to warriors from each army fight, only to end up in full battle again. Also, I couldn't help but wonder what Agamemnon was thinking when he decided to "test" his army by telling them "Let's just go home!" and they think that sounds like a pretty good idea. It's either Nestor or Odysseus I think who convinces them to continue fighting. And it wasn't exactly amusing so much as gruesome the amount of time and resourses they spent on certain corpses in hopes of mutilating them.
  • The end of The Iliad gets really good, but I didn't realize that not only does the beginning start in the middle of things, the end cuts off before the war ends! I was waiting for the infamous arrow into Achilles' heel and the entry of the Trojan Horse. Some kind of resolution of the war. It's kind of like if you were to read just the The Half-Blood Prince of the Harry Potter series without reading anything before or after!
  • One of the most beautiful parts of The Iliad was the desription of the armour made for Achilles. I don't know why, but that chapter just swept me away.
  • My favorite characters were probably Nestor, Diomedes, Odysseus and Hector. Why? I think because they were likeable and actually had characteristics you could admire. Diomides was sort of like the man that Achilles could have been, but wasn't.
  • Least favorite characters: Achilles (stubborn and vengeful, childish), Agamemnon (proud), Paris (cowardly--knows it but would rather hide in his bed than do anything about it), and Helen (I guess she's just so pathetically passive, but what else could she do?)
I really could go on and on, there's so much to discuss--hence its enduring quality. I would love to study this in a class and learn more about Greek values and history. But for now, I will have just scatched the surface and enjoyed a "really old classic."

Monday, February 23, 2009

I've seen 99 out of 239 films...

I was just complaining to my husband how overwhelmed I feel because of all that I need/want to get done, so naturally I'm wasting my time by doing this meme! I found it on Marg's blog, and it was just irresistible. I mean, you just have to make little x's--that so much easier than cleaning the kitchen or folding the laundry! It just took me about ten minutes, so I don't feel too bad. But I must get busy with my tasks and projects now, because according to this meme, I have no life!!

SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own blog, paste this as a post. Then, put x's next to the films you've seen, add them up, and change the header adding your number. Have fun.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(X) Grease
(X) Pirates of the Caribbean
(X) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
() Fight Club
(X) Starsky and Hutch
(X) Neverending Story
( ) Blazing Saddles
(X) Airplane

( X) The Princess Bride
(X) Anchorman
( X) Napoleon Dynamite
(X) Labyrinth
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
(X) Anger Management
(X) 50 First Dates
( X)The Princess Diaries
( X) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 14

( )Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
() American Pie
() American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 14

(X) Harry Potter 1
(X) Harry Potter 2
(X) Harry Potter 3
(X) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(X) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
( X) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 20

(X) Finding Nemo
(X) Finding Neverland
( X) Signs
(X) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( X) 13 Going on 30
( X) I, Robot
( X) Robots
Total so far: 27

( X) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(X) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( X) Along Came Polly
( X) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
(X) Never Been Kissed
(X) Meet The Parents
(X) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
(X) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 36

( X) A Cinderella Story
( X) The Terminal
( X) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(X) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
() Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( X) Flubber
Total so far: 41

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(X) Practical Magic
(X) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 43

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( X) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
() Nightmare on Elm Street
(X) Sixteen Candles
( X) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
() The Mask
(X) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 47

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(X) Ocean's Eleven
() Ocean's Twelve
( X) Bourne Identity
( X) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
() Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(X) Ice Age
(X) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( X) Curious George
Total so far: 54

(X) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(X) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( X) My Bosses Daughter
(X) Maid in Manhattan
() War of the Worlds
(X) Rush Hour
(X) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 60

( ) Best Bet
(X) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( X) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(X) Ever After
(X) Wizard of Oz
(X) Forrest Gump
() Big Trouble in Little China
() The Terminator
( ) The Terminator 2
( ) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 65

( X) X-Men
( X) X-2
( ) X-3
(X) Spider-Man
(X) Spider-Man 2
() Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( X) Catch Me If You Can
(X) The Little Mermaid
(X) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(X) Shrek
(X) Shrek 2
Total so far: 74

( ) Swimfan
( X) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
(X) The Notebook
( X) K-Pax
( X) Krippendorf's Tribe
(X) A Walk to Remember
(X ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 80

( X) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
(X ) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
( X) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(X) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(X) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(X) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 86

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
(X) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 87

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(X) Monsters Inc.
(X) Titanic
(X) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 90

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
(X) Hook
(X) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
() 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( X) Waterworld
Total so far: 93

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 93

( X) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
( X) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
( X) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
( X) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
( X) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
( X) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 99

( ) The Matrix
( ) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
() Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 99

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Originally Published: 2008
Length: 274 pages
Personal Enjoyment Factor: 4/5 Rating: 4.5/5 (428 Customer Reviews)

Since I'm crunched for time and a lot of readers have either read this one or have already decided they want to read it due to the great reviews floating around the blogosphere, I decided to do a seven-word review (it's been a while!). I'm amused that this review has less words than the title of the book!!

Germans occupy Guernsey, books and bravery fortify.

And a favorite quote:

In a letter from Eben Ramsey, who had discovered Shakespeare due to the Society:

"Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is 'The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.'
I wish I'd known those words on the day I watched those German troops land. . . All I could think of was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words 'the bright day is done and we are for the dark,' I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance--instead of my heart sinking to my shoes."

Incomplete notes here.

Prude-ometer (subjective content assessment): If it were a movie, it would be PG - Brief mild language, mention of brothel, brief concentration camp violence.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Life Beyond Books" Personal Challenge: One task finished!

I finally finished editing video from our road trip in July of 2007! Yay! I can check one off of my challenge list. Here's the opening segment for the DVD to watch--if it's not too boring to watch someone else's vacation clips :-).

Places in the video:
Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, 1880 Train (SD), Storybook Land (SD), Custer State Park, Carhenge (NB), Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park (CO), Pike's Peak (CO), Garden of the Gods (CO), Sand Dunes Nat'l Park (CO), Mesa Verde Nat'l Park (CO), Durango and Silverton Railroad Museum (CO), Grand Canyon (AZ)>

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Letter Meme: H

Lisa from Books on the Brain gave me "H" for the letter meme that's going around. I had to really think about this for a few days and watch out for "H" things that I like/love. I still think I may be missing something that I really love, but here's what I've got now:

Hawaiian Chicken Curry - I was going to put down this recipe that I got from my MIL, but then I remembered that I lost the recipe, so I usually just guess the amounts of the ingredients and hope it turns out right when I make it. It's a creamy chicken sauce that you put over rice and can top with bacon, nuts, coconut, green onions, etc.

Hiking - I don't get to hike as much as I would like, and I'm not in good enough shape to do some of the hikes I would like, but I do love hiking. When we go on road trips, it's all about the national parks for me and doing two or three hikes (I've had to bribe the kids with candy bars before).

Human by the Killers - Love, love, love this song:

Haagen Daaz German Chocolate Cake Ice cream - This is a "limited edition" flavor that I can never find, which only serves to increase my cravings for it!!

Harry Potter - I know I'm in good company.

Hand lotion - I'm compulsive about it, along with lip stuff.

Homemade Hot Dog Buns - I'm picky about buns, and the ones I like from the store are over three dollars a package. So I just decided to start making my own. I've tried different recipes, and I like this one that I found at the best: Burger or Hot Dog Buns

History Pockets - This is a series of books that I used to do with my kids. You make a book out of folded construction paper that makes pockets, and you photocopy the pages in the books to make maps, puppets, timelines, etc. They've got U.S. and World History titles.

Hair clips - I hate having my hair down, but I can't cut it short because it's curly and I would just have a fro. So I live the big octopus hair clips to twist my hair up in.

Hearing my daughter playing piano - I love to sit and read in the living room while she plays.

Books for the Heart Wrap-up

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Grapes of Wrath
The Iliad
Fifteen dollars donated to the American Heart Association

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

To see how others did, check out other links here.

Reviews coming this week (fingers crossed!!!)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Books for the Heart: February 1-14

I had really lofty goals for this event, hosted by 3M of 1morechapter. It's a win-win situation: do something I love to do and at the same time pledge money to help the American Heart Association. I imagined a marathon of reading, kind of like the 24-hour readathon times 14! But there is a lot going on this couple of weeks, so my goal is to read/finish/review three books:
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I actually already finished a couple of days ago. A review? Hopefully that will come in a timely manner.)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (This is for a book club next Tuesday. This one kind of thwarted my plans of reading several shorter books)
  • The Iliad (I've been reading this for a few months now, and would really like to finish it. The battle scenes are getting to me--I just want the war to end!!)
It' a great cause and it's probably not too late to join in. 3M will be donating two dollars for every participant.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chasing Vermeer (and Visiting A Lady Writing)

Author: Blue Balliett
Originally Published: 2004
Length: 272 pages
Personal Enjoyment Factor: 3/5 Rating: 4/5 (145 Customer Reviews)

I felt pretty lukewarm towards this quirky little story of two sixth-grade kids driven by mysterious dreams, coincidental clues, and insightful pentominoes to discover the thief of a valuable Vermeer painting. I was pretty excited, however, to join my daughter's class on a field trip to the Norton-Simon Museum to actually see the painting that was stolen in the book, A Lady Writing. They had read the book as a class and thought it was pretty cool to get up close and personal with the Lady, and show off to the tour guide all that they knew about Vermeer. Here are a couple of photos of our trip, and one of the painting itself:

The fact that I was reading this on the bus with about 60 kids may have affected my opinion. It was a cute story, and I loved the characters, but there was too much that was coincidental--although I do realize that this was a theme of the book and it was addressed--it was still a bit too much for me. I appreciated the discussion of art, and this quote by Picasso mentioned in the book has been floating around in my mind quite a bit since reading it:

Art is the lie that tells the truth.