map of Afghanistan topography
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I found this image [Afghan topo en.jpg] at Wikipedia while looking for details about Kafiristan after deciding to watch The Man Who Would Be King again (with Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer) to start off the new year. Given the current conditions in Afghanistan (and because I know some who are there right now), I thought it would be interesting to look at a small part of the history of that part of the world; we used the Internet to learn a bit more about it’s historical background. It makes me wonder how the current efforts there will turn out. Not since Alexander has any nation had much luck militarily in this place.

In addition to Rudyard Kipling, many authors have written about this part of the world, including Daniel Bolger (in his excellent book Feast of Bones), Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follet, Caravans by James A. Michener and In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan by Seth G. Jones. If you search for “Afghanistan” at Amazon.com you can find hundreds more books on the subject!

Film Reviews (sort of)

You’d think with all the time I spend watching movies that I would have some opinions about them. And you’d be right. I do have the unusual talent of being able to enjoy most films (to find at least something interesting, such as the music, the acting, the scenery, the format, the buildings, whatever).

Warrior Queen [2003] “Celtic queen Boudica (Alex Kingston), as portrayed in this engaging tale ripped from the pages of textbooks, had the courage to stand up to the most commanding army in the world. A strong warrior who fought personal battles with love, betrayal and an undying quest for retribution, she remains one of history’s most capable and worthy female icons. ”

Web Site References:
* Boudica

* Iceni

One of the charming features of Masterpiece Theater is the portrayal of Roman soldiers with strong English accents. Once you get beyond that, the story is rather moving. The rape scene was very powerful and Kingston did a fine job of showing dignity in the face of Roman atrocity. The attack on the temple by the Iceni was cleverly handled (especially the actions against of the statue of Claudius). There was no attempt to glorify any of the characters. Suetonius came across as the most convincing of all the portrayals. Nero was truly despicable (and his facial expression while poisoning his own mother was well done). Kingston wasn’t very convincing as a warrior, but she did emote very well. It gave me a chance to look around the Internet for corroboration of the basic facts. I once read a novel which give a very good account of her story and I will try to find it in order to update this post for you.

I finally gave in to the urge to join NetFlix and we are getting along just fine. I took advantage of their library to watch The Black Hole (Star Wars meets 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Ben Hur (truly fabulous, but the special features showing the making of the film were excellent), The War of the Worlds (except for the acting, it was interesting; I actually liked the remake with Tom Cruise much better), The Great Dictator (an old favorite and still charming after all this time) and Network (now I know why all I could remember was the “mad as hell” part; but when the anchorman said he’d been just spewing b.s. his whole career, that part did resonate and helps to remind me why we stopped watching television).

We just finished watching Word of Honor (2003). Don Johnson gave a terrific performance as Ben Tyson, successful businessman and Vietnam veteran accused of participating in a massacre and cover-up. I think my brother would enjoy this very much (it seeks to go a little deeper than some of the superficial discussions of how men feel about participation in combat). I still liked Nelson DeMille’s book better, but I thought they did a pretty good job.

Last night we watched Must Love Dogs (2005). Some people told us it wasn’t very good, but we found it completely charming. It is a modern love story about two divorced people who find each other through computer dating. Not necessarily a brand new premise, but handled beautifully by Diane Lane and John Cusack. Christopher Plummer also had a good part. If you liked Last Stop Wonderland, you’ll like this one.

One warning. We’re watching Liminy Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jim Carrey. It’s really hard to believe that this is considered a kid’s movie. The satire is very dark and there is some sexual innuendo here and there. The kids are adorable, but Tim Burton’s style is just too overboard for me. Great houses.

I probably need to figure out a way to link to other places so this part of the blog doesn’t get too bloated. But it’s a start. We’re always anxious to get recommendations for other movies to watch, so don’t be shy!

[moved from Blogger on 24 Oct 2010]