Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

My Photo
Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Movie Review: Marie Antoinette **

At least I didn't pay any money for this turkey, just grabbed it because I had a free rental coming and had read the book it was allegedly based on. (If I were Antonia Fraser I would sue the people who made this for libel.) Yes, as a lot of people have said, the costumes and sets were gorgeous (that's what the second star is for), but over one half of the movie was essentially saying, "Boy - those French aristocrats sure knew how to party!" Also, there was virtually no inkling anywhere that there was a world outside Versailles until all of a sudden this mob shows up with torches and pitchforks. Considering how little a lot of people know about history, I'm sure that a lot of them were scratching their heads and saying to each other, "Gee - why are those people so mad?" (Oh, someone at some point does say that the people have no bread, at which point Marie Antoinette utters her most famous non-quote, "Let them eat cake.")

If the makers of this movie had actually read the book that they were supposed to be basing it on, this could have been a good movie. The actors seemed to be competent, and a far more interesting film could have been made if they had spent maybe the first 15 minutes on Marie's early days in France and used the rest to show how much she grew and matured over the years. (They still could have used the pretty sets and clothes.)

Then there was the ending. I sat there stunned, saying, "That's it?" Somebody said something along the lines of "Well, we all know how it ends," but I wouldn't count on that, and showing the dignity that Marie displayed during her trial and the abuse that she received at the hands of the revolutionaries, even if they didn't show the actual execution, would have provided a moving contrast to the early scenes.

Final word - it could have been good, possibly even better than good, but they went for the easy, simplistic drivel, despite the high quality of their so-called source. Oh -and the music was horrendous, especially at the beginning.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why isn't this splashed all over the media?

Three cheers for the Chattanoogan - the only mainstream media outlet that I am aware of that has reported on this! Click on link for full story.

Bush Makes Power Grab
posted May 24, 2007

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.


Translated into layman's terms, when the President determines a national emergency has occurred, the President can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.

Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the President with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency.


NSPD-51/ HSPD-20 appears to supersede the National Emergency Act by creating the new position of National Continuity Coordinator without any specific act of Congress authorizing the position.

NSPD-51/ HSPD-20 also makes no reference whatsoever to Congress. The language of the May 9 directive appears to negate any a requirement that the President submit to Congress a determination that a national emergency exists, suggesting instead that the powers of the executive order can be implemented without any congressional approval or oversight.

Matthew Hine

Let's try again...

I’d really like to keep this going and to talk about different things, but haven’t been able to get back into the swing of it. New “format” – at least for the moment –  none. I was looking at a book at Borders last night that was a sort of reader’s journal - the author spent a year or so taking notes on what she was reading, what she thought of it. I think I’ll try that for now, with some other things thrown in.

Here are the last two books that I’ve bought: The Assault on Reason by Al Gore and The Great Snape Debate by assorted authors, among them Orson Scott Card. I haven’t actually started the Gore book but did read the first essay supporting Snape’s being a bad guy. They actually made a pretty good case, but I’ll continue to root for his being on the right side in the end.

Books that I’ve finished in the past few days and may review in the future, with brief blurbs:

1) Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir - a historical novel about Lady Jane Grey. Surprisingly enjoyable. Of course, while her rather opinionated non-fiction has annoyed me in the past I’ve never denied that she is a good writer. She occasionally slipped into “lecture mode” a couple of times at the beginning (maybe an occupational hazard for someone who normally writes non-fiction), but appeared to recover. The technique of using multiple narrators worked out well for me but may be confusing for people who aren’t familiar with the historical characters. Rating: 4-1/2 stars

2) Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism by Gareth J. Medway - Essentially argues that serious “Satanism” as it’s generally been portrayed by the Church and more recently by fundamentalist Christians, never existed, but then of course, the author is (gasp!) a pagan, so why should we believe him? (snark) Contains an excellent rundown of the “ritual abuse” scare of the 80s and 90s. Rating: 4 stars

3) The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien (ed. Christopher Tolkien) - Not The Lord of the Rings, but then nothing is. An enjoyable and suitably high epic tragedy from the earlier days (some 6,000 years before LOTR) of Middle-Earth.

At the moment I’m working on Jane and the Barque of Frailty by Stephanie Barron, the ninth Jane Austen mystery.

Happy Memorial Day - drive safely, have a good time but don’t forget what it’s about, and that American troops are in harm’s way.