Genre: historical, SF, suspense/thriller
General premise A group of archeology students goes back in time to rescue their professor from 14th century France, and find out that medieval times were even more brutal and ruthless than they’d thought.
It’s a typical Michael Crichton book – brilliant scientists with little common sense, backed by corporations with dollar signs in their eyes, and a bunch of well-meaning, highly-educated people stuck in the middle. Crichton is pretty much the only author I admire who did zero character development. At least, that’s what I remember of his books – thrilling stories, cardboard characters.
|Gerard, looking hot |
I saw the movie first. It was terrible. It shouldn’t have been – I still don’t get how they messed this up. BUT. The premise was so intriguing that I thought, “I’ll bet the book is just incredible.” And it was my introduction to Gerard Butler, looking ridiculously hot in 14th century period costume. J
There’s a jousting tournament in the book, so I’ll put in a quick plug here for the History Channel reality TV show Full Metal Jousting. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of guys competing in a modern-day jousting tournament for $100k. When I first heard of it, I thought, “You can’t be serious!”
And then I immediately set the DVR to record it.
I loved it. The guys came from all sorts of active backgrounds – one firefighter, one polo player, a couple of marines, a couple of rodeo cowboys, and then a handful of horse trainers, show jumpers, and a whole bunch of Medieval Times knights. That last bunch, oddly enough, were apparently at a disadvantage, because even though they were the only ones to have handled a lance before, theatrical jousting is not about eliminating your opponent. It’s about looking great in a saddle and falling dramatically out of it without getting hurt. They had to unlearn how they sat, how they held the lance, what to do when they got hit.
The horses were awesome. So gorgeous. So much personality. They ranged from those that were dependable but kind of staid, to those that took off like bullets, but constantly fought their riders for control.
And I loved the modern take on medieval armor.
Speaking of “manly men”…
Testosterone on This American LifeGenre: radio
This American Life is hosted by Ira Glass, one of the best story creators of our time. I don’t know of anyone else doing quite what he does. His radio show puts stories together around a theme for each episode. I’ve heard Ira Glass speak live twice, I’ve listened to This American Life for years, but it wasn’t until I tried to analyze how they put together such enthralling stories around usually-normal situations that I truly began to appreciate his genius, and the subtlety of it.
I could spend all day recommending specific TAL episodes, but for “T” I’ll stick with Testosterone. The First Act was an interview with a man whose body stopped producing testosterone for four months before the doctors figured out what was wrong with him. He talks about how lack of testosterone meant lack of desire for anything. And how unexpectedly pleasant it was, because if you don’t want anything, then you don’t psychologically want for anything.
Act Two was about Griffin Hansbury, who started out as a woman, but got testosterone injections and now lives as a man. This one’s particularly interesting, because you can hear the interviewer’s horrified fascination as Hansbury “confirms” pretty much every stereotype you’ve ever heard about men vs women, and, as the interviewer puts it, sets gender relations back about a hundred years. I put “confirms” in quotes because the testosterone injections meant that for a while, Hansbury (who is 5'4" and smallish) was walking around with the testosterone levels of two linebackers, and so I’m assuming the effect was somewhat exaggerated. Hansbury talks about everything from the change in his interest in science to how hard it is to concentrate around women. But he also talks about how he’s gone from being this really cool woman everyone admired to being a nerdy-looking guy who’s now caught up in this very male fight for dominance every time he steps out on the street.
Act Three follows the staff at TAL after they decided to get their own testosterone levels tested for the show. First they ranked each other, guessing who would have the highest levels. Everyone agreed on which woman would have the highest (except that woman), but for the guys it was a toss-up, because they each had traits that tend to go with high testosterone (one of them created the show and was the boss, one of them was muscular and balding, one of them played lots of sports, etc), but none of them considered themselves to be “manly men” (like NFL football players or whatever). And as the day of the results grew closer, more and more of them agreed that this had been a terrible idea and it would forever change the way they related to each other – but they still wanted to know who “won”.