Friday, November 29, 2019

SOUVENIR

Looky what I found clearing off some bookshelves the other day. Fat Freddy’s Cat was a spinoff from one of the most fabled underground comix of the ’70s, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Why am I hanging on to this relic of hippie nostalgia? It's a souvenir of the day I met my future.

One day in the spring of 1977, I walked into a comic book store with a couple of friends and a stack of silk-screened posters we’d made for the recent Spring Fair. I didn’t know from comics, but we wanted to sell our leftover posters on consignment, and the recently-opened Atlantis Fantasyworld had posters on its walls.

I can’t remember what came of that transaction; my friend, the comic collector, was handling the business end of the deal with one of the owners, Joe. But I didn’t want to look like a deadbeat, so I wandered around the shop and picked up this copy of Fat Freddy’s Cat, which I bought from the other owner — Jim.

She sells silk screens at the Spring Fair

We chatted for a few minutes over my big purchase, and that was the end of that — or so I thought.

Little did I know that a couple of months later, the Star Wars juggernaut was about to hit Santa Cruz. My publisher at Good Times told me if I could find a photo, he’d run my review as a cover story.

(Back then, GT was only 12 pages long, so a cover story meant the text of the review was actually printed on the cover! Not buried on page 6 with the ads for The Broken Egg, Cymbaline’s and The Good Fruit Company.)

The photo was the catch. It’s not like we could just dial up iMDB. (This was long before computers were invented; we were practically chiseling the paper onto slate tablets, like The Flintstones.) But I had seen some movie stills on the wall at — you guessed it — Atlantis Fantasyworld.

Comics convert: me & my future
Joe was off at lunch the day I went back. But Jim was happy to stop filing comics for a few minutes to help me out. There was no one else in the store. We talked for an hour.

I never did get that still. (Turns out the only ones he had on the wall were from vintage ’50s monster movies.)

But I did get my cover story — my counterpart at the Sentinel took pity on a newbie and gave me one of his Star Wars stills — which gave me another excuse to visit Atlantis for another chat, the day the story was published, and then — well, you get the idea!

So when I happened upon Fat Freddy’s Cat, the discovery was bittersweet — but mostly sweet.

I notice it’s Book #1, and practically in mint condition (except for some fading on the spine), as it’s been mostly untouched by human hands all these yeas. I wonder if it’s worth anything — I’d have to ask Joe.

But it’s priceless to me.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

HIS REIGN IN SPAIN

Banderas and Almodovar, team up for rapturous memoir, Pain And Glory

In Pain And Glory, Antonio Banderas plays a famous Spanish director working on a new film project. "Is it a comedy or a tragedy?" someone asks him. Banderas gazes back. "I don't know," he replies, with thoughtful sincerity.

You might as well ask the same question about life, and get the same answer — at least, life as portrayed in all its tenderness, irony, disappointments, and absurdity in this wonderful new movie from Pedro Almodovar. As the filmmaker onscreen looks back on his own life and work in this semi-autobiographical story, so does Almodovar, behind the camera, examine the people and events that shaped and inspired him as a creative artist — and as a human being.

Of course, a filmmaker tells a story about a filmmaker, and you think Fellini and 81/2. But Pain and Glory is less about what sparks artistic imagination than about the ways we find to get through life, day by day. Almodovar offers very little action, but plenty of talk and lingering close-ups, resonant with feeling.

It may not look like much, plot-wise, but the experience of watching this movie unfold onscreen is rapturous.
Etxiandia and Banderas: mellowed animosity

Bandera's stars as Salvador Mallow, a Spanish filmmaker with an international reputation. His most famous movie is being honored on the 30th anniversary of its release, and Salvador is invited to speak at a special screening in Madrid, along with the film's star, Alberto Cresco (Asier Etxeandia).

When Salvador visits Alberto to discuss it, he gets a cool reception, having publicly denounced Alberto's performance back in the day, but time has mellowed their animosity (if not Salvador's opinion), and they decide to do the appearance.

But time has been less benevolent to Salvador in other ways. His body is in decline from a variety of chronic ailments (laid out for the viewer in a series of jazzy graphics of human anatomy, spinal formation, blood vessels, and neuro pathways), to the point that he's in more constant pain than his daily cocktail of painkillers can relieve.

Cruz: salt of the earth
Something he's not yet tried is Alberto's favorite painkiller — heroin — and the few moments of pain-free bliss it provides quickly adds addiction to Salvador's list of maladies.

But this isn't a movie about drugs. Salvador's heroin reveries are another excuse for flashbacks to Salvador's childhood in the countryside with the salt-of-the-earth mother he adored, Jacinta (Penelope Cruz, marvelous, as always). Stoic and subdued by pain for so long that he's been unable to work, Salvador's memories finally uncork his creative drive and he starts writing again.


When Alberto finds and performs a monologue Salvador has written about his youth, an old flame (possibly the love of his life), Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), arrives on his doorstep for a brief, bittersweet reunion. And there are some lovely scenes of the elderly Jacinta (longtime Almodovar stalwart Julieta Serrano), living in Salvador's posh flat toward the end of her life, gently confessing to her devoted son her disappointment over some of the choices he's made.


At the heart of it all is Antonio Banderas, whose best movies as a young actor were his Spanish-language collaborations with Almodovar, his mentor, before Hollywood tried to typecast him as a conventional "Latin lover." Reunited with Almodovar in the excellent The Skin I Live In in 2011, Banderas is riveting in every frame of Pain and Glory, not by doing anything showy or actorish, but in his profound and wistful quiet.

Whether he's making a sly, impish remark, or expressing in his eyes alone all that's left unsaid with his former lover or his aging mother, this movie belongs to Banderas. You can't take your eyes off him.

Comedy or tragedy? You can't possibly know from one day to the next while you're living it, Almodovar suggests. At least he has the grace — not to mention the nerve — to keep exploring the question.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

JIMMY'S PILLOW

"Kitty Alarm Clock," by James Aschbacher
It traveled West across the Rockies like the pioneers.

Along with two cats, one girlfriend, his collection of classical music albums, and a few plaid flannel shirts, James arrived in Santa Cruz from his Midwestern roots with perhaps his most prized possession stashed in the back of his Ford Econoline van: his pillow. He he’d had it so long, he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t have it. Certainly it dated back to his childhood as little Jimmy in Wilmette, Illinois.

By the time I came into his life, the beloved pillow had already worn through the original outer shell of fabric. We had to keep reinforcing it with several generations of zip-on covers to go under the pillow cases. There was nothing left to cover but a fluffy rectangle of naked cotton batting, slightly stained with age, and with a head-shaped depression in the middle.

But he loved that pillow. For years he would not travel anywhere overnight without it. Hotel pillows were guaranteed to be stuffed with sand in comparison. And musty guest pillows dragged out of the hall closet at his mom’s house? (Or mine?) Oh, please.

Hotel pillows just weren't the same.
But this Bern hotel had a Paul Klee print!
It was one thing to toss it in the back of the van (or the trunk, in subsequent vehicles) if we were driving somewhere, but for years he also managed to squish it into our luggage if we had to fly. This did nothing to protect its crumbling infrastructure, but he was always so relived to have that little piece of comfortable familiarity to cling to in a strange bed. (Well, besides me.)

It probably wasn’t until airports starting charging fees to check your baggage — and it proved impossible to stuff the thing into a standard carry-on bag, and still have room for, like, clothes — that he finally, with extreme reluctance, agreed to leave the pillow at home.

I still make up the bed every week with his pillow, and its mismatched partner, along with my two pillows. I tried banishing his to the (so-called) guest room closet, but the bed just seems too flat and empty without them. Besides, Bella the Cat likes to take a midday nap in that hollowed-out spot when it’s not sunny enough for her to go out on the deck. Pillow-snuggling used to be verboten to the kitties, since James was so allergic, but there have been a few changes around here since then.

On the night I came home from the ICU for the last time, I fell asleep with Bella snuggled up against my rib cage, as we had done for the previous two nights. When I woke up in the middle of the night, she wasn’t there. I saw that she had gone over to go curl up on his pillow, kind of a last goodbye.

Now there’s a new chapter in the lengthy saga of Jimmy’s Pillow. Lately, I’ve been using it as a kind of bolster between my knees in bed at night; it helps me relax if my leg is doing one of those internally buzzy MS nerve things. I have to admit, it’s a great comfort to curl up around its saggy familiarity.

Now I get it.

Monday, November 4, 2019

DRESS TO EXPRESS

Don’t put away that costume trunk yet, just because Halloween is over!

Suppose you were asked to dress up as your favorite literary character. Would you choose your actual favorite character? Or would you choose the one with the coolest outfit?

Alice or the Mad Hatter? Harry Potter or Bellatrix LeStrange? Fitz or the Fool?

You’ll get your chance to choose next week, when Bookshop Santa Cruz hosts A Literary Masquerade in honor of visiting author Erin Morgenstern. Highly acclaimed (and justly so) for her enchanting debut novel, The Night Circus, a few years ago, Morgenstern is coming to town with her brand new novel, The Starless Sea.

The BSC event page (featuring starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist . . . well, you get the idea) calls the new book “a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.”

I am so there! No, I haven’t read the new book yet, but I adored The Night Circus beyond all reason.

Among many other aspects, I loved Morgenstern’s canny use of Tarot cards to enhance the story. (You know how I feel about Tarot cards!)  When I found out she had designed her own set, based on fanciful images from her book, I was delighted; even more so when she generously granted me permission to post a couple of them on my blog when I posted my review. 

The BSC event unfolds next Tuesday, November 12, at the DNA Comedy Lab (formerly the Riverfront Cinema, 155 S. River Street, downtown Santa Cruz). Festivities begin at 6 pm, with the Masquerade, for which participants are invited to dress up to express their favorite literary character, for dancing, refreshments, and other activities. 

At 7 pm, Morgenstern will take the stage in conversation with Michael Chemers, Professor of Dramatic Literature in the Department of Theater Arts at UC Santa Cruz. Admission is $37, which includes a copy of The Starless Sea, a number for the book-signing line, an unassigned seat for the book talk, and access to all activities. Visit the BSC website for tickets and other info.

Why are you still sitting there? Get to work on that costume!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

REALLY TRUE GRIT

American anti-slavery heroine gets her due in Harriet

She didn't wear spandex tights or bullet-repelling bracelets. But Harriet Tubman was a real-life superhero in every sense, fighting for justice and winning major victories against impossible odds in her lifelong battle to end slavery in the American South.

An escaped slave herself, she made many perilous trips back below the Mason-Dixon Line to lead other enslaved people to freedom in the North, via the Underground Railroad, armed with little more than raw courage, relentless determination, and the occasional flintlock pistol.

Although her name has become a footnote in American History books, it seems incredible that such an inspirational story has never been made into a movie — until now. In Harriet, filmmaker Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou; Talk To Me) examines the woman behind the footnote, exploring the outrage, grit, and fervor that shaped her, in a tribute that feels long overdue.

Maybe now that we're all so woke, the times have finally caught up to the amazing life of Harriet Tubman.
Erivo as Harriet: Perilous crossing

The story, co-written by Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard, begins in 1849 with the slave woman, Minty (Cynthia Erivo), who lives with her parents and siblings on the Ross family farm in Maryland.

After their master tears up their legal petition to free the family in honor of his late mother's will, Minty prays for his death, overheard by the master's odious son, Gideon (Joe Alwyn). When he plans to sell her off, she runs away; pursued by men and dogs and nearly drowned, she makes it all the way to Philadelphia.

There, she's taken in by William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), a dapper abolitionist, and Marie (Janelle Monáe), who runs a refuge for single women and finds her paid employment working in a hotel. Marie teaches Minty to shoot a pistol. William encourages her to give up her slave name; she chooses her mother's given name with the surname of the husband she's had to leave behind — Harriet Tubman.

Erivo and Odom: Conductors
Her new friends are horrified when Harriet risks recapture to return south and bring back her family. But once she's made the journey a couple of times, bringing out strangers as well as family, William introduces her to the Undeground Railroad, a covert network of operators and vehicles by which runaway slaves are spirited north to freedom — of which the fearless Harriet becomes one of the most intrepid "conductors."

Ervio as Tubman: Reel life
Erivo plays Harriet with bristly moral conviction; it's unthinkable to sit idly by, protecting her own freedom, when others are still enslaved.

The real-life Tubman was prone to seizures, which she claimed were visions from God guiding her on her journeys, and which Lemmons recreates in sepia glimpses.

These, along with the fact that she never loses one of her "passengers"— despite fierce pursuit — adds to her mythos among slaves, abolitionists, and slaveowners.
Harriet Tubman; Real life

Evocative music also plays a key role. Spirituals underline the slaves' fervent faith in a better life ahead, but when sung by slaves in the field, they also allow them to communicate with each other in a kind of code, under the overseer's notice. Many are delivered with wistful, calibrated emotion by Erivo, a Tony-winning musical theater actress.

Erivo also sings the powerful anthem, "Stand Up," over the closing credits, a song she wrote with Joshuah Campbell that sends the viewer off on a stirring note.

And a brief glimpse of foot-stompin' revival music in the slaves' little church on the farm is delivered by a boisterous Vondie Curtis-Hall as the preacher. If my grandfather, the Methodist minister, had held services like that, maybe I would have become a churchgoer.

Lemmons' melodramatic flourishes can be overdone. Gideon is written as dastardly, insinuating evil incarnate, without any shading, and the orchestral soundtrack tends to swell and crest to emphasize emotion. But Harriet's story is so important, it rises in triumph over all obstacles — like the woman herself.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

GOURD VIBRATIONS

Happy Pumpkin Day to all!

James Aschbacher loved Halloween. I could say it brought out the kid in him, but the kid in him was always out! He wasn’t into dressing up himself, but he loved to see little trick-or-treaters in costumes.

We would put together a deli tray of salami, cheese, olives and baguette (and champagne, of course!), and graze standing up at the kitchen counter between trips to answer the doorbell.

And as a lifelong monster-movie fan, he loved all the faux-scary stuff that came with the celebration. We made window displays with skeletons, his Universal Monster movie figurines, and my Barbies. (Bride of Frankenstein Barbie; Headless Barbie; Invisible Woman.)

But best of all, he loved carving pumpkins, a ritual shared with friends Jim and Gail Borkowski for years. Of course, normal jack-o-lanterns were never good enough for us. I love the violin motif on Jim B’s tall pumpkin, here. (Look at those “ears!”) And, since the year was 1989, my Art Boy produced “Quake-Head!” He must have employed toothpicks — very carefully — to fasten the two ruptured halves back together at that angle. Always the innovator! 

Virgo that I am, I also felt compelled to document our pumpkins in a sketchbook/journal for future reference. The shelf-life of a hollowed-out gourd is notoriously short, so the day after Halloween, we’d set them out in the back yard, to watch them slowly melt back into Nature!

It was all part of the same ritual — act of creation, brief blaze of glory, then return to the Earth to start the cycle anew.

It’s very sad for me to face my second Halloween without him. His enthusiasm was so contagious! Last year I went to my friends’ house for the evening, rather than face the night alone. (Just me and the ghost of my Sweetie, his overwhelming absence occupying the house like The Blob.)


Tonight, I’ll be at home, but no decorations in the window, and no candy at the door. I hate to be that curmudgeony old lady who turns off the lights, locks the door, and hunkers down at the back of the house until it’s all over.

It feels like such a betrayal of James; as my Spirit Guide, he would be so disappointed.

But not only do I not have the benefit of his delight to cheer me on, I am no longer physically able to keep schlepping back and forth to the door to hand out goodies to the kids.

And rattling to the door hunched over my walker might scare even the most stalwart trick-or-treater.

(Although, maybe if I dressed up like Quasimodo . . . )

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

POWER HOUSES

Edison vs. Westinghouse to electrify America in atmospheric The Current War

No, it's not about the latest international outrage launched by our so-called administration. But The Current War, concerns a subject every bit as cutthroat and high-stakes as any recent shenanigans out of DC: the clash of Titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as they race against time and each other to bring the magic of electrical power to America.

The movie is powered by a few Titans of its own. Benedict Cumberbatch stars a Edison (another brusque, eccentric genius in the Sherlock/Alan Turing mode). Michael Shannon plays Westinghouse, peeking out over a formidable handlebar moustache (the era is around the turn of the last century).

Nicholas Hoult pops up as Nikola Tesla, the unsung hero of the conflict, and Matthew MacFadyen (the smoldering Mr. Darcy in Pride And Prejudice, once upon a time) plays J. P. Morgan, the fickle financier for whose funding the others compete.

The subject may be electricity, but director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon doesn't go in for a lot of flash and dazzle. His focus is on the hard work and endless trial-and-error that goes into producing a miracle like the electric light bulb — and its unexpected uses and sometimes grim consequences — and the dueling egos and private agendas of the miracle-workers who make it happen.

Gomez-Rejon and scriptwriter Michael Mitnick rely on effective storytelling, interesting characterizations, and period opulence to give the movie its charge.

The First Jedi? Hoult as Tesla powers up the World's Fair
 And pay attention to Chung-hoon Chung's often stunning cinematography and canny use of split-screen and other techniques, which remind us what the movie only hints at in its later scenes — that perhaps Edison's most enduring legacy is as a pioneer of the motion picture.
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Thursday, October 17, 2019

NATURE CALLING

When you talk about earthquakes — as we all seem to be today, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Quake of 1989 —  it's all about the downside. Buildings crumble and tumble. Objects plunge to the floor.

But when the dust settles (literally), there might be an unexpected upside — although it may not be so obvious at the time. That's what we found, anyway.

It was Indian Summer, October 17, 1989, hot and still — what we've since come to think of as "earthquake weather." In those pre-Art Boy days, when James was still just Jim, he worked downtown at Atlantis Fantasyworld, the comic book store he owned with Joe Ferrara. I was at home, at the keyboard in my office upstairs; it was just after 5 o'clock, and I was thinking about going down to turn on the World Series (Oakland As at Giants) when I felt the first shake.

Now, my room rattles if a UPS truck goes by, but this time, it was swaying like a hammock. All the books, toys, photo albums, and other miscellaneous stuff cluttering up my workspace jumped off their shelves. Then the shelves jumped off after them, wrenching their brackets right out of the walls. It was like The Sorcerers' Apprentice, all those inanimate objects suddenly flying around the room, all landing in a massive heap on the floor.

They claim the first 7.0 shaker only lasted 30 seconds, but it felt like forever, and the aftershocks were coming so fast it was like one continuous rhumba. After picking my way down the shivering staircase, I tried calling Jim at work, but, of course, the phone was dead. Ditto the TV, so I dug out an old battery-powered radio and tuned into KSCO, which would become the lifeline of the county over the next few days. Neighbors outside were calling for their kids and going door-to-door to make sure everyone was okay. My most immediate worry was where my cats had disappeared to.

Around the house, more piles of books and tcotchkes littered the floors, as if swept aside by a petulant hand. Paintings were knocked askew on the walls and cabinet doors yawned open. A substantial Art Deco hutch crowned with a four-foot slab of marble that weighs a ton had taken a little stroll about six inches away from the wall. There was plaster dust all over, some broken glass, and cracks in the drywall, but nothing a broom or a putty knife couldn't fix.

Downtown was a different story. According to the radio, Pacific Avenue was buried under a giant mushroom cloud of red brick dust. Atlantis was on Lower Pacific, south of Laurel, but since there was nothing I could do without more information, I channeled my alarm into sorting out the home front. Sheena, the cat who'd been known to play chicken with a jackhammer for the thrill, was seriously freaked, but she came over the back fence when I called.

But my older cat, Maynard, was nowhere to be found. When they passed out bravery, Maynard was off somewhere taking a nap, so I knew he'd run for cover at the first quiver. I worried he might have fled upstairs in all the commotion and been trapped under the wreckage, but to my great relief I didn't find him flattened like a cat rug when I sifted through the debris.

But by 7 pm, Jim was still not home, and new reports were coming in of downtown engulfed in flames.  I had no way of knowing which buildings were charred rubble and which (if any) had survived. I tried to assure myself that I'd feel a cataclysmic disturbance in the Force if anything  dire had happened to him.

When I finally heard his car in the driveway, I raced outside, Sheena at my feet (make that under my feet). He had been trying to get home for two hours. First, his keys had been buried under an avalanche of comic books. Then he found the car had been so jolted by the rippling street that the door was stuck; he had to pound and kick to get it open. On the road at last, he found that the Murray Street Bridge between Seabright and 7th Avenue was closed, and all traffic to Live Oak rerouted to Soquel Avenue.

With everybody in town trying to get out the same way, and no working streetlights, traffic was barely crawling. Also barely crawling was Maynard, who came tottering down the hallway from his hiding place, deep in the closet, behind my shoes, at the sound of our voices, indignant, but unhurt.
 
One house downtown had indeed burst into flames from a ruptured gas pipe, but Jim said the choking cloud over Pacific Avenue was from the collapsed buildings. As dark and thick as smoke, it looked like the entire town was in flames. He'd driven home expecting to find our neighborhood in ruins. But we were lucky — all we lost were things.

Downtown bore the worst of it: buildings, businesses, and lives were lost. It took decades to rebuild, a process that still goes on. I believe there is still an empty lot behind a chain link fence where Atlantis once stood.

No, the building didn't collapse in the quake; only the back end crumbled a little. Jim and Joe sold comics out in front the next day — by  hand, out of a cash drawer — since everybody was suddenly off work and school and thronging downtown. But when their building was red-tagged, they had to move all their inventory into one of the notorious tents going up in the parking lots along Cedar Street to temporarily house local businesses. It was a long, laborious process. The community rallied to support the merchants' tent city throughout the holiday season, but rebuilding downtown took a long time.


But  here's that unexpected upside: When Jim and Joe had to move Atlantis to yet another tent the next year, Jim was at a crossroads. He could slog through another move, with the prospect of moving the business at least one more time after that into a permanent space. Or, he could sell his half of the business to Joe and dare to follow the siren song of his insistent new muse — art.

He was just about to turn 40. Guess which one he chose?

Of course, when you think of all the devastation perpetrated against the planet by humankind over the generations, who can blame Mother Nature for giving us a good whack upside the head once in awhile? But sometimes out of the rubble, a surprising phoenix might arise.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

FITZ OF FURY


FitzChivalry Farseer is fighting mad. Bastard grandson to the old king, and apprenticed in his youth to the court assassin, he now finds himself separated by his dangerous trade from the woman he loves and the child he will never know. His mentor, Verity, the King-in-Waiting (and uncle by blood) is possibly dead on a desperate quest of his own, and Fitz, can only watch as their kingdom is ravaged by ferocious Sea Raiders after being abandoned by the usurper king, Prince Regal.

In Assassin’s Quest, the final installment of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, Fitz has only one goal left in his shattered life — to find and kill the contemptible Regal, who has destroyed Fitz's own life, before Regal's negligence and conniving can destroy the entire realm.

From the opening sequence of Fitz reluctantly detaching himself from the freedom and relative simplicity of life as a wolf, courtesy of his link to his bond animal, Nighteyes, to the arduous journey through the mountains, always trying to stay one step ahead of Regal's thugs (not always successfully) in search of Verity, who calls irresistibly to Fitz through telepathy called The Skill, this page-turner sucks you in like the vortex of a tornado.

Fitz and Nighteyes' companions include an ancient woman who seems to know a lot about The Skill, an often troublesome minstrel who tags along determined to fashion a heroic ballad from Fitz's adventures that will make her fortune, and Verity's intrepid bride, Queen Kettricken of the mountain kingdom. Diverse as they are, they strive to work together as a unit. Or as Nighteyes exults, "We are pack!"

Also along for the ride is the latest iteration of the oft-evolving Fool; not quite as "colorless" as before, but just as sharp-tongued, enigmatic, insightful and compassionate. Referred to by some as a White Prophet, the Fool was the first to nickname Fitz as "Catalyst" (to Fitz's great annoyance), while Nighteyes sometimes calls him "Changer."

One of Fitz's few pleasures (but just one of many for the reader) is the immediate and easygoing alliance that develops between his two closest friends, Fool and Nighteyes. The wolf calls Fool "the Scentless One."

This only highlights intriguing questions hinted at about the Fool's age, origin, species (perhaps not exactly human) and gender. Which, having already read the next trilogy in Hobb's ouevre, The Liveship Traders, opens up to me a whole new raft of possibilities around one of the principal characters in those books.

Hobb is an Equal Opportunity storyteller: Guards, warriors, Skillmasters, armorers, artisans, all are as likely to be female as male. Hobb herself is a master weaver, embroidering rich details into her massive and complex tapestry — each trilogy from a different point of reference and a different region, but all part of the same engrossing world.
Hobb Fan Alert:  25 years after the release of Assassin's Apprentice, all three books in the Farseer Trilogy have just come out in matching hardcover editions — illustrated, yet! Launch date was October 1st. In stores as we speak!

These are the three Anniversary Edition covers. Pretty cool huh? Click here to see what Hobb has to say about it!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

LAUGHTER BURN

Outrage, scathing wit, fuel irresistible Raise Hell: The Life And Times Of Molly Ivins

She was an Amazon among puny mortals. As if she wasn't already unusual enough as a progressive in Texas, the smart, savagely funny political journalist Molly Ivins also stood six feet tall. Not gifted with conventional proportions, she felt entitled to hold outsized opinions expressed with outsized gusto.

The zenith of her popularity came as a syndicated columnist in some 400 US newspapers during the era of George W. Bush (she called him "Shrub") —giving her plenty of fodder for her trademark blend of savvy political insight and stinging humor.

As Ivins herself once said about American politics: "You can laugh, you can cry, or you can throw up. Crying and throwing up's bad for you, so you might as well laugh." There's plenty to laugh at — and get riled up over — in Janice Engel's documentary, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins. Ivins succumbed to breast cancer in 2007, at age 62, but Engel's film celebrates all the ways Ivins raised hell in her own life as a pioneering woman in a world and profession run by good ole boys.

Through documentary footage and interviews, Engel allows Ivins to tell much of her own story in her own words. When back-up is called for, Engels solicits commentary from folks like Rachel Maddow, and political columnist Jim Hightower, but it's the particular zing of Ivins' own voice that makes this movie so irresistible.
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