Wednesday, 30 November 2011

#76 King John

W. L. Warren, 259 pages.

This is an amazing biography, even though it was written decades ago.  I just watched Ironclad, which is what happens in the latter half of 2015, just months after signing the Magna Carta of June 15.  The movie portrayed John as an evil ruler willing to kill anyone who disagreed with him, or just for malicious fun, which isn't what John was about.  I think Warren summed him up perfectly in the last sentence of the book.  "He had the mind to be an intelligent king, but the inclinations of a fickle tyrant."  No monarch had kept better records of the going on of the kingdom before him, he is the start of comprehensive records in England, making him a favorite start of English history.  Granted, he was a terrible king, but his portrayal seems to be over the top bad in movies like Ironclad, Robin Hood, and Men in Tights.  I look forward to reading Shakespeare's portrayal of John when I get back to Yellowstone in 10 days.

#75 Bees, Ants and Wasps

Eric Grissell, 254 pages.

My latest reading of the amazing order Hymenoptera.  This book had a broader scope of the order which showed the life cycles of predatory wasps, which is something I really haven't read much about before.  One of the more disgusting things wasps do is lay eggs on living caterpillars, then egg hatches into a larva which enters the caterpillar and proceeds to eat the caterpillar from the inside while the caterpillar is alive and eating as normal.  Eventually the caterpillar dies because too many vital organs had been eating and the larva pupates and sometimes overwinters in the carcass and emerges in the spring as an adult.  This is just one of the ways wasps reproduce.  Another is they dig a hole in the ground and then fill it with dead spiders or butterflies and then lays an egg on top, and then close the hole.  The larva hatches and eats its way through the proffered food and then pupates.  The life of a wasp is shockingly cruel, and makes me recollect the classic film Alien.  There were other good stuff in this book which is really an argument for sparing wasps ants and bees as being essential to a healthy garden.  After all caterpillars, though they metamorphose into beautiful butterflies, damage many plants and even kill some plants during their voracious feeding frenzy, and wasps are an excellent pest control for these beautiful ravagers.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

#74 The Lais of Marie de France

A collection of 12 short stories that seem derived from Breton folklore.  She beat the Grimm's Brothers by 700 years in gathering fairy tales.  The tales were sometimes well constructed and other times they had no real ending.  Written in the early 1200s these stories had elements of postmodernism.  One story was written by the protagonist writing about the protagonist.  It doesn't really look that cool when written down, I guess it was something a person had to be there.

This was my second time reading this, and I imagine it would be a good source for investigating allegories, but I'm on vacation.  Maybe some other time.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

#73 The Walking Dead Volume 7

One of my all-time favorite comic series, and I finished reading it for another year.  Looks like I will have to wait another 12 months to see what happens next.  I really wish I could savor this series more, but once I get the volume in my hands I devour it.  At least I have the TV show to give me a slightly different take on the series.  I would really love to see on the screen what I just read, but will probably have to wait another six seasons.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

#72 The Wyrd Sisters

265 pages.

It has been a long while since my last post.  October has been a terrible month for reading.  Not that the opportunities were missing, I had all the time to read.  Rather, I just played games and watched TV.  I'm hoping November proves a better month.  But I am starting to fear that I will not reach 100, but will at least reach 80, maybe even 90.

Anyways...Another fine book by Pratchett that is a cross between Hamlet, Macbeth, and every other Shakespeare play and their conventions.  I wouldn't say it was a parody, and parody has taken on such terrible association as Date Movie, Scary Movie 3 and 5, and Disaster Movie, which shamelessly call themselves parody or even (gasp) satire.  Pratchett weaves a nice story where the characters manage to be loveable and also eschew dramatical conventions.