Thursday, October 22, 2009

Broken Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. When a woman is gruesomely murdered and then a man is found in the same condition, detective Lucas Davenport finds himself on the trail of a perplexing and grisly killer. The main suspect, Charlie Pope, was recently released from a mental hospital, where he was locked up with a trio of sadistic murderers. But there are two problems: Charlie doesn’t seem smart enough to mastermind these elaborate killings, and nobody has seen him for a month.

This is the 16th novel in the series. Throughout the book the main character talks about his favorite rock songs and at the end of the book it gives a list of the 100 greatest rock hits.

Hidden Prey

I liked this book written by John Sandford. One night on the docks, a Russian seaman is assassinated and a few days later a homeless woman is strangled to death. State detective Lucas Davenport suspects that the murderer was trying to eliminate a witness, but when he receives a call from a woman trying not to be located, he realizes that she is the real witness. He is partnered with a Russian spy who has been sent to America with her own agenda. This is the 15th novel in the series.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mortal Prey

I liked this book written by John Sandford. Years ago investigator Lucas Davenport almost died at the hands of his former girlfriend, Clara Rinker, who is a soft-spoken Southerner, but also the best assassin around. While taking a break from crime she moves to Mexico with her boyfriend, the son of a local drug lord. He is killed by a sniper and she vows revenge. The FBI knows exactly who she is, but she is very smart and covers her trail very well, and always seems to be one step ahead of the police. This is the 13th novel in the series.

Naked Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. Police investigator Lucas Davenport is now married with a baby son. He works as a troubleshooter for the state, tackling sensitive cases. He is brought in when a black man and a white woman are found naked and hanging from a tree during the winter. Some in the media speculate that it is racially motivated, but then evidence starts to point to a Republican politician whose daughter disappeared about one month ago. However, when he and his wife are found shot to death, the police aren’t sure who is responsible. This is the 14th novel in the series.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

This is a moderate movie. Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) was serving time at a prison farm for statutory rape. He is brought into a small mental institution because of his violent outbursts and to evaluate his mental health. He quickly takes a lead role with the other patients, who don’t seem to have as much willpower and motivation as he does. He gains a close attachment to a tall Native American who seems deaf and dumb. Randle also clashes with head nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher) who detests his antics.

It was adapted from the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey and was the second film (after It Happened One Night in 1934) to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay). The movie was filmed at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon. There was also a play that premiered in 1963. The film was co-produced by Michael Douglas, who upset his father Kirk by refusing to put him in the lead role. This was the first film that Christopher Lloyd appeared in.

The Koran

I decided to read the Koran, to see what it was basically about, since Islam is the second largest religion and has a huge influence on foreign policy right now. The formatting and style of the book is modern enough for a fast and easy read. The book is divided into 114 chapters or surahs, with the longest ones in the front and the shortest ones in the back, and there are verse numbers. Several rules are listed on a variety of topics including: marriage, divorce, prayers, and money, with very specific instructions. There are several references to the bible, and Christians and Jews are included as People of the Book. Some of the major stories and characters from the bible are mentioned with new details and dialogue.

The basic idea behind Islam is similar to Mormonism, in that the other believers had gone astray so it was necessary for God to send an angel to his current prophet to bring people back to the truth. The Koran often refers to the Last Days and sometimes uses Fire to mean Hell. It says that women are to be treated with respect and are entitled to some rights. Whenever God is speaking, the pronoun ‘we’ is used, but you can find a few examples of that in Genesis also. Muhammad is sometimes referred to as an apostle. Most chapters are sporadic and don't stick to a specific topic and there is a lot of repetition. The book is about the same length as the New Testament.

The architecture of mosques is similar to that used in pre-Islamic palaces built during the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties of Persia. In pre-Islamic Arabia, the word Allah was used in the Meccan religion to refer to the creator of the world and the giver of rain. The Koran itself challenges those who deny its claimed divine origin to produce a text like it. Alexander Ross offered the first English version in 1649. Koran means 'recitation' and was originally spread through oral stories. Parts of it were written down by followers close to Muhammad during his life, and after his death a complete written version was produced. The earliest known copy of the Arabic alphabet was written in 512 AD. The text of the Koran helped to standardize the Arabic language.

I thought these were some of the more interesting verses:

2:219 "They ask you about drinking and gambling. Say: There is great harm in both, although they have some benefit for men; but their harm is far greater than their benefit."
4:3 "If you fear that you cannot treat orphans with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four of them."
4:15 "If any of your women commit a lewd act, call in four witnesses from among yourselves against them."
4:34 "Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them."
4:82 "Will they not ponder on the Koran? If it had not come from God, they could have surely found in it many contradictions."
17:44 “The seven heavens, the earth, and all who dwell in them give glory to Him.”
21: 16-17 “It was not in sport that We created the heaven and the earth and all that lies between them. Had it been Our will to find a diversion, We could have found one near at hand.”
21:30 “Are the disbelievers unaware that the heavens and earth were but one solid mass which We tore asunder, and that We made every living thing from water?”
24:31 “Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to preserve their chastity; not to display their adornments (except such as are normally required); to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to display their finery except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their step-sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women-servants, and their slave girls; male attendants lacking in natural vigor, and children who have no carnal knowledge of women. And let them not stamp their feet when walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets.”
38:49-52 “This is but an admonition. The righteous shall return to a blessed retreat: the gardens of Eden, whose gates shall open wide to receive them. Reclining there with bashful virgins for companions, they will call for abundant fruit and drink.”
43:33-35 “But for the fear that all mankind might have become one race of unbelievers, We would have given those who denied the Lord of Mercy dwellings with silver roofs, and gates and stairs of silver; silver couches to recline upon and ornaments of gold: for all these are but the fleeting baubles of this life. It is the life to come that your Lord reserves for those who fear Him.”
47:15 “Such is the Paradise which the righteous have been promised: Therein shall flow rivers of water undefiled, and rivers of milk forever fresh; rivers of wine delectable to those that drink it, and rivers of clarified honey.”
52:22-24 “Fruits We shall give them and such meats as they desire. They will pass from hand to hand a cup inspiring no idle talk, no sinful urge; and there shall wait on them young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls.”
89:21-23 “But when the earth is crushed to fine dust, and your Lord comes down with the angels, in their ranks, and Hell is brought near – on that day man will remember his deeds. But what will memory avail him?”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chosen Prey

I liked this book written by John Sandford. James Qatar is a history professor interested in photography. He likes to secretly take pictures of women and then uses his computer to combine their faces with seductive bodies he finds on the internet. But when one of the women discovers his secret he becomes more stimulated by committing murder. It is up to detective Lucas Davenport to find the suspect and develop a compelling case against him. This is the 12th novel in the series.

Easy Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. Two young women have been found dead after a party at a socialite’s house. It appears that one of them was killed so there wouldn’t be a witness to the first attack. One of the victims is a popular model named Alie’e. A factor complicating the mystery is that almost everyone at the party was taking drugs. While detective Lucas Davenport tries to solve the case, more people who were close to the celebrity are killed. This is the 11th novel in the series.

Surrogates (2009)

This is a solid movie. People are living their lives remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic surrogates, who are adjusted to look more attractive and in better shape than their human counterparts. A utopian society has developed where crime is rare. When a robot is shot and it causes the death of the human host, the government tries to keep it a secret. FBI agent Thomas Greer (Bruce Willis) does the unthinkable and abandons his robot to go out into the world in person in order to unravel the conspiracy.

I think the surrogate idea would be fun for looking at areas a long distance away, but not for actually doing activities. Also real people would still have to get together to have children, and you might have the opportunity to be the only real person walking outside. It is based on a five issue comic book series started in 2005. The filming was performed in Massachusetts.

Monday, October 05, 2009

9 (2009)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. In the near future, an invention known as the Great Machine controls the world's robots and gadgets and turns them against mankind, sparking social unrest, and decimating the human population. As a final effort to stop the destruction, a scientist creates nine tiny robotic rag dolls and puts a piece of his soul into each of them using a talisman and causing his death. As the only remaining life forms, this small group must use their talents to fight back.

The dark story wasn’t compelling and didn’t match the quality of the graphics. The trailer is more enjoyable. It was originally a short film created by Shane Acker in 2005 as a school project. He is also the director of the full length feature and Tim Burton was one of four producers.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

This is an imperfect-but-creditable movie. Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is an overweight, lazy, and unemployed middle-aged man living in Los Angeles who plays in a bowling league. One day some foreign criminals break into his house due to a mistaken identity. Jeff, who prefers to be called, the dude, has the same name as a wealthy man whose wife is missing. The rich Lebowski hires the dude to act as currier to give the kidnappers a ransom, but the situation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems.

There were several funny moments, but overall the story isn’t very good. A White Russian cocktail is made from a mixture of vodka, coffee liqueur, and milk or cream, and is poured over ice. It is not a Russian drink, but the name refers to the vodka. Orthodox Jews are discouraged from driving on the Sabbath unless it is for an emergency; some even avoid using electricity. The Port Huron Statement is the manifesto of the activist group Students for a Democratic Society, written primarily by Tom Hayden in 1962.

Secret Prey

This is an okay book written by John Sandford. At first the shooting death of the company chairman seems like an unfortunate hunting accident, until Detective Lucas Davenport starts investigating the other executives in the group. None of the four seems particularly upset about the death and each of them could actually benefit from his demise. The cops start to narrow in on one of the men, but when he is shot they realize they need to reevaluate their suspect list. This is the 9th novel in the series.

The Game (1997)

This is a solid movie. An uptight wealthy investment banker (Michael Douglas) meets his brother (Sean Penn) at a restaurant on his birthday and is given a card with a number to call. The company says they have a game that will make your life more interesting and replace whatever is missing, but they won’t give any details about it. After completing the initial tests to qualify for the program, strange and dangerous things start to happen in his life and he tries to find out more about the company before he gets hurt.

Breakaway glass is a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, and water, and has the appearance of glass for a limited time once hardened. Some of the locations used in the film included Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, and the historic Filoli Mansion. The water scene was filmed in a large tank. There is a news clip in the movie and I wasn't sure if it was true or not. Legislators were discussing a plan to encourage small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees and key Republicans supported it, but Democrats didn’t.

Crocodile on the Sandbank

This is an okay book written by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Peabody is a 32-year-old independent and single Victorian woman. After her father passes away she inherits a large sum and decides to explore some of the ancient sites that her father studied, but had never visited. While in Rome she rescues a young woman from starvation and the two of them travel to Egypt. At a museum they meet two brothers, Emerson and Walter, who are experts in excavations and ancient languages and the two women fall in love with them. This is the first novel in the series. The title comes from an Ancient Egyptian love poem.