Papa Pat reviews “The Ugly Knight”

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Papa Pat gave me a very nice review for my book, The Ugly Knight. 🙂

Excerpt:

This is such a pleasant, pleasant book! There is a lightness in the way it is written, that even in the scenes where Korton (The Ugly Knight) and Elzi (his resolute love interest) face the Ultimate Evil, it’s almost…peaceful. There is one exception, which I’ll get to later.
I THINK that the reason the book is so pleasant has to do with the nature of Korton. He is an unassuming young man, the son and grandson of a tailor, so he doesn’t have snooty attitudes to get over before he becomes likable. He succeeds in his difficult apprenticeship process because he works hard. He gets up early. He takes care of his own horse. And while he does not have the raw, natural talent of Jelan, a senior squire who befriends him, he just keeps practicing and hammering away until, pretty much to everyone’s surprise, he finishes early and with greater skills than any of his peers.
It’s true character, not just a role that he is playing. On his first quest, to kill a dragon, he takes the time to befriend an aged house servant. Because this is a book, of course, it MUST be shown that his easy-going relationships with servants produce unexpected rewards, but honestly folks: he’s not doing it for that reason. He’s just a nice guy. And he meets a nice girl, and good things happen: they become friends, and eventually fall in love.

Review of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Wizard of Oz”.

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The family saw “The Wizard of Oz” at Starlight last week, a new version, with additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Rice. Jonathan’s already posted his review of it, but I wanted to write one of my own.

The new songs (and occasionally additional lyrics for the old songs) fit in well stylistically with the rest of the show, which is one thing I had wondered about when I first heard about it. I think my favorite new song was “The Wonders of the World,” sung by Professor Marvel (with a few interjections by Dorothy) as he puts on his magic lantern show for her.

One thing I always look for when seeing a stage version of “The Wizard of Oz”, is whether the lead actress tries playing Dorothy, or instead plays Judy Garland. Judy played the part well in the movie, but that by far isn’t the only interpretation possible for the role. I’m pleased to note, that was indeed the case for this production. It probably helped that we first saw Dorothy in tattered overalls, rather than in her dress, which gave a totally different view of the character. (She did change into her blue checked dress before winding up in Oz.)

Indeed, none of the characters were costumed like in the movie, most notably the Scarecrow, and Glinda (who wore a black sequined dress, very striking, but about as far from pink fluff as you could get).

I enjoyed most of the characterization, except for the Scarecrow. One of the main points of the book (and, to a lesser extent, the MGM movie) was that the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, didn’t actually need the boons they were trying to get from the Wizard. The Scarecrow, in spite of his lack of brains, was always coming up with good ideas, or at least asking good questions. The Tin Woodman was so tender-hearted, he cried when he stepped on some ants (and rusted his jaw shut). The Cowardly Lion faced down monsters (and Baum could come up with some hideous monsters), and jumped across deep chasms, in spite of being afraid while he did so. But in this version of the show, the Scarecrow wasn’t very smart. And he remained not very smart until the Wizard put the diploma in his hand, and he rattled off the same fake equation that the Scarecrow did in the movie.

If he had not been very smart when he first fell off the pole in the cornfield, and grown smarter as the show went on (say having an idea when they were stuck in the poppy fields, with Dorothy and the Lion asleep, and the Tin Woodman rusted, and he was in charge for that short period of time), and gradually worked up to the point that when they were going to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle the other characters were looking to him to come up with ideas (especially if none of them realized that’s what they were doing), I would have appreciated it much more.

The show relied heavily on cinematographic effects, showing things like the interior of the tornado, and the thousands of flying monkeys as short movies on the scrim. For the most part this was good, though when we watched Dorothy being carried off by flying monkeys as a cinematographic effect, I wondered if they were using it too much, when they could have done better with practical effects.

I did enjoy much of the humor in the show, such as when we focused on the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion after Dorothy had been carried off. The Scarecrow’s arm had been torn off (“That’s you all over!”) and the other two were waving it around for emphasis all through the song while they were trying to decide what to do, while the poor Scarecrow kept trying to grab it. Then, when Toto ran up, the Lion picked him up, and asked him where Dorothy was. One of the other characters said, “Don’t be silly, animals don’t talk.” The Lion just gave him a look. To the audience he gestured to the dog, to himself, and gave a shrug.

All in all, the show was one I thoroughly enjoyed.

TV Review: The A-Team

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This is another series from the ’80s that we’ve found at the library, and are enjoying watching.

“If you are in trouble, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire ‘The A-Team’.”

The show was fun, a lot of fluff, and probably even less realistic than, say, “Bewitched”. Lots of flying bullets, few people getting hurt (unless it was important for the plot). Hiding from the military police in Los Angeles, while driving a really distinctive black van. Face set up in a different really lucrative fake career each time. Breaking Murdock out of the hospital each time. All that over and over again.

I remember them building a tank every week from whatever was lying around in that episode, but now that we’re watching it, they don’t build tanks nearly that often. Maybe once a month or so.

But it was a formula show, of course. In one of the best senses of the word. They were hired to make something right, or happened to come across something really wrong on their own, and went up against the bad guys. Things went horribly wrong, and Hannibal Smith (the leader) would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Then they’d go up against the bad guys again, and win. Decisively. And then they’d leave (sometimes with a hefty fee, more often without one), just as the military police were driving up (lights flashing, sirens blaring).

Some political commentary in a few episodes, but mostly just nearly bloodless shoot-em-up fun.

Review: The End of Your Life Book Club

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The End of Your Life Book Club
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, I enjoyed the book, for the most part. I don’t think it fully lived up to the potential of the first few paragraphs, but it was interesting, and kept me reading.
But there were several things in it that made me go “Huh?” I really don’t think that the author really understood books as well as he thought he did.

The first thing was minor. The author mentioned in passing the book “Johnny Tremain”, by Esther Forbes, saying that the main character in it was apprenticed to Paul Revere, and burnt his hand badly in an accident. That threw me out of the book, saying, “No, he wasn’t.” My husband pointed out that not only was he not apprenticed to Paul Revere, it also wasn’t entirely an accident that he burnt his hand.

Later on, the mother mentioned that she didn’t know anyone who liked both Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s writings, another thing that made me go “Huh?” Everyone I know who enjoys reading Tolkien, also enjoys C.S. Lewis, though the reverse isn’t necessarily true. And a few other lines in there about both writers, made me think he didn’t really understand either.

The last third or so of the book, where it kept praising Obama, was also annoying. It didn’t seem to occur to the author that at least half of his potential audience would have voted against him, and maybe it might be a good idea to moderate his tone at least a little. (Or maybe it already was moderated, which is a scary thought.)

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