Sunday, November 30, 2008

1776 by David McCullough

This is a military history of the first full year of the American Revolution, the year the nation was born. Most Americans remember July 4, 1776 for the Declaration of Independence, and they may know that Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas. But 1776 was an eventful year. Quoting a wide variety of firsthand accounts and letters, McCullough brings a long, costly and difficult year of military campaigns to life. From the words of sources on both sides of the struggle, the Americans and British are humanized.

As much as anything, this is the story of George Washington's on-the-job training as commander of the Continental Army. In covering the three major campaigns of 1776, in Boston, New York and New Jersey, McCullough tells stories of courage, luck, blunders and betrayals. But in the details of battles and the struggles of soldiers, a nation emerged and a national character began to form. Unlikely heroic leaders emerged, like Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox. Their stories are ours; McCullough melds them into a fascinating and important story.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a film with ambitions, though either the ambitions or their execution are a shade too modest for excellence. Still, this is an enjoyable science fiction teen romance, which almost aspires to be an art film. It's a beautiful film to watch.

The story is a sequel to a novel well known in Japan, and recently released as a manga, The Girl Who Runs Through Time. The original, by author Yasutaka Tsutsui, has been frequently adapted as feature films and TV series. The anime, from director Mamoru Hosoda and art director Nizo Yamamoto, plays out like Run Lola Run meets Whisper of the Heart. Studio Ghibli veteran Yamamoto also did backgrounds for Whisper of the Heart and it shows. Once again, Tokyo streets and parks are infused with so much reality they seem like an additional character in the movie.

Author Tsutsui also wrote the original for the film Paprika, so he shows a pattern of playing with perception, reality and time. There's a lot to like in Girl Who Leapt as the story and character develop. But the resolution could have been more tightly woven -- it feels like the film has one ending too many or one too few, throwing away some of its potential.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving (from Via Dolorosa)

Could love give strength to thank thee! Love can give
 Strong sorrow heart to suffer: what we bear
 We would not put away, albeit this were
A burden love might cast aside and live.
Love chooses rather pain than palliative,
 Sharp thought than soft oblivion. May we dare
 So trample down our passion and our prayer
That fain would cling round feet now fugitive
And stay them—so remember, so forget,
What joy we had who had his presence yet,
What griefs were his while joy in him was ours
 And grief made weary music of his breath,
As even to hail his best and last of hours
 With love grown strong enough to thank thee, Death?

- Algernon Charles Swinburne

Friday, November 7, 2008

Poetry Friday: Hope

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.