31 January 2012

Tropical diseases finally get attention

Drug companies are teaming up to tackle hitherto-neglected tropical diseases, from leprosy to tropanosomiasis and many in-between. Thank you to the Gates Foundation for ponying up enough money to get the attention of Big Pharm firms, which usually (and understandably) prefer to focus on developing drugs aimed at rich westerners with first world problems.

18 January 2012

Film Review: Alexander the Great

This 1956 epic has some promise but ultimately fails as both a historical saga and an entertaining epic. Some top-notch actors head the cast, but the production itself is uneven. The sets look cheap at times but other times sumptious and solidly real. The costumes are mostly attractive and fairly period-appropriate, though the men's mini-skirts and short-shorts are at times distracting and odd, especially on the battlefield. On the plus side, the scenery is lovely, with Spain as a shooting location standing in nicely for both Greece and Asia. The editing is perplexing, at best. And sadly, the battle scenes, which should be the highlight of any epic based around a military leader, seem to be poorly planned and executed.
Fredric March comports himself well as Philip of Macedonia, in that he is virtually unrecognizable behind his beard and appropriately brutish, as would befit a barbaric tribal warlord of 4th century BC. Yes, he's a trifle overblown and hammy, but that's the only logical way to play Philip. French actress Danielle Darrieux is lovely and distantly regal as Olympia, Alexander's mother, but (like Angelina Jolie in a 2004 film about Alexander) she is still far too young to be believable.

Unfortunately, Richard Burton wears an unlikely and unflattering blond wig throughout the whole thing, and Burton himself seems far too old for the eager and impatient teenaged Alexander of the first part of the movie. He fares better as the story moves along, but is strangely subdued when he should be seething with charisma portraying a man who conquered the entire known world by the age of 33. It's stranger still when one considers that this was Richard Burton, a man who didn't lack for charisma in any sense. It must have been a directorial decision, but it was misguided, as it makes the entire film flat.

Claire Bloom glows as Barsine, half-Persian/half-Greek who sees that the Western Greek is the new order of the world, as the corrupt Eastern Persian order will pass away before such vigorous young energy and philosophy. Bloom, of course, has the ability to elevate any scene in any film in which she is present, and so she does here, but her presence in the film (token attractive babe AND voice of wisdom and morality) is odd. It was as if the writers and director tried to pack too much into a sadly underwritten role.
The character of Darius, the emperor of Persia, is particularly disappointing as a counterpoint to Alexander, as he is portrayed with all the royal majesty of a bored bank manager.

Final judgment: Alexander the Great is worth seeing if you have some time to kill, but it falls far short of classic status, all the more sad because of all the wasted potential.

Dear Blog

How I have neglected thee (as usual)! It's not that I haven't been blogging. I've written at least half a dozen blogs on a variety of topics, including a few reviews of books and movies. However, I haven't completed any of them. I'm also trying to pull together my simplicity work and writing over on Simple Pleasures, and I haven't even started any posts there! I've actually been doing a lot of work around my house: decluttering, moving furniture, reorganizing pretty much everything... Fortunately, I've gotten some help with the heavier stuff, since I'm not physically capable of, for example, moving a bed by myself.

We just keep on keeping on.

11 January 2012

January 2012 - Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

FYI: President Obama and the US Congress have designated January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

I hope we can take a moment to lift up in prayer those who suffer from injustice and beseech the Lord to bring justice soon.

10 January 2012

Family Fun

So the Little Bug and I enjoyed some fun-filled Christmas holidays with family in Southern California. The weather was excellent, particularly in contrast to the weather we'd left behind in the midwest. It was special to spend time with my sister Mia, who has two children (ages 2 and 5), and her friend Charlotte, who has one child (20 months); we did things like go to Starbucks and the park, like regular old middle-class stay-at-home moms (a milieu I can enjoy only very seldom, being a single mom who works full-time when I'm not on holiday).

On one park visit, I noticed that another parent at the park (there with his own children) was giving us funny looks. At first, I thought he was just rude, but then I realized that he was trying to figure out how we all fit together! In terms of appearance, my sister's children are black, and her friend's child is Asian. The Little Bug has very Anglo looks, as do all of the moms involved. Furthermore, Mia and Charlotte actually look more like sisters than Mia and I do. To complicate things even more, we were all running around looking after each other's little ones, so it would not have been readily apparent which mother belonged with which child(ren). We don't think anything of it, because this is just how our family is, but to an outsider, perhaps it might elicit a double-take.

04 January 2012

The latest horridly talentless pop sensation?

The Onion skewers the current pop music industry with its seemingly endless line of over-produced, over-sexualized, under-talented young female performers. It's funny because (1) the (fake) interviewers deadpan all the things that we actual human beings wish we could say to the K'ronikkas of our world and (2) this song, while produced as a satire, is uncomfortably close to being what really travels the airwaves. *shudder*

Warning: I would rate the music video portion as PG-13, though it's definitely not any worse than one would see in an actual music video.