You Bet Your Life

Cover Image of Making Sense of it all: Pascal and the Meaning of LifeGoodreads SynopsisAn instructive and entertaining book that addresses basic life questions. Relating numerous personal anecdotes, incorporating, intriguing material from the films of Woody Allen and the journals of Leo Tolstoy, and using the writings of the seventeenth-century genius Blaise Pascal as a central guide, Morris explores the nature of faith, reason, and the meaning of life. His lucid reflections provide fresh, fertile insights and perspectives for any thoughtful person journeying through life.

Read the week of May 7, 2017 by the grace of one of the wonders of the modern world: Interlibrary Loan

My Thoughts

Morris did an excellent job of pulling together Pascal’s Thoughts and presenting powerful arguments in support of his famous Wager.  For me, it ended up being a reaffirmation of my personal faith, a honing of my reasoning and renewed focus on my life’s purpose and direction.  This is the first of many tangential reads I’ll be undertaking as a direct result of my Brain Upgrade Project, the first phase of which wrapped up last week when I took my final in Philosophy.

Tweeted excerpts gleaned while reading:

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Watching the Hugo Finalists for 2017

Similar to my previous post, I’ll be updating this one as I get a chance to watch the finalist in both of these categories.  Long Form is going to be my most difficult ranking of any of the Hugo finalists.  I currently have a three-way tie in my mind between Arrival, Rogue One and Stranger Things.  And I have yet to actually watch Hidden Figures!

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
1733 ballots cast for 206 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 240 to 1030.

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films) – Watched opening weekend and purchased the movie; loved it
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment) – Watched via Dish Network free weekend for one of the premium movie channels; liked it
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company) – Watched via Starz streaming app through my subscription; liked it
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment) – Watched 5/17/2017; loved it
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures) – Watched opening weekend and again after I purchased the movie; loved it
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre) – Watched via Netflix streaming; loved it

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Reading the Hugo Finalists for 2017

For the next two months (plus a week or so), I’ll be reading the following, except where indicated (as in I’ve already read the item or have no plan to do so).  I will keep updating this post as I finish reading these finalists.

Best Novel

2078 ballots cast for 652 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 156 to 480.

  • All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books) – Read 01/15/2017; liked it 
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US) – Read 10/29/2016; loved it
  • Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus) – Probably won’t be able to read this one because I haven’t read the second one in the series. 
  • Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books) – Read 5/19/2017; liked it 
  • The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books) – Read 11/23/2016; liked it
  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books) – Might not have time to read this one but it’s in the Current Month queue

Best Novella
1410 ballots cast for 187 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 167 to 511.

  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing) – Read 03/29/2017, liked it
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing) – Read 06/04/2017, liked it
  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing) – Read 12/3/2016; liked it
  • Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency) – in Current Month queue
  • A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing) – in Current Month queue
  • This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador) – Read 5/23/2017; completely unsure of whether I liked it or not

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Virtual Family Bake Off

I received a call from my son Thursday evening.  This is a somewhat unusual occurrence as the last time I spoke to him was on the occasion of his 31st birthday back in early February.  In our defense, we are both busy professionals working much more than your typical 40-hour work week, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for idle chit-chat.

Derek and Ton Ton

Derek and Ton Ton

We exchanged pleasantries and got caught up on the latest antics of their new pet Rottweiler, Ton Ton, when he popped the question.  You know, the one you always expect when your offspring call you because they never call you unless they … wait for it … want something.  But this time, my son surprised me.  He wanted my Italian Herb bread recipe.

Seriously?  This was too easy and too good to be true.

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KC Area ‘Beltway’ Enters 3rd Decade or “A Tale of Two States”

“Kansas followed the Texas plan, buying a wide enough swath of land for the high-speed interstate artery plus room for parallel service roads,” says Kerr. “Missouri just bought enough land for the interstate route and diamond intersections, and didn’t connect those diamonds from point to point.”

http://kcur.org/post/after-30-years-i-435-more-success-story-kansas-missouri#stream/0

I drive I-435 on the Kansas side nearly everyday. And I remember before it was completed and you couldn’t drive completely around the 81-mile circuit. I’m thankful my home state took the long view instead of being shortsighted for future generations. 

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Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Sarasota Opera

As a Matter of Fancy

imageGiacomo Puccini‘s Madama Butterfly at the Sarasota Opera

This being our second opera experience (the first being Verdi’s Aida at Sarasota in 2016), we now have a point of comparison.

Butterfly was better, and not just because my great-niece was cast. Where Aida was epic and pompous, Madama Butterfly was intimate and evocative story. As we’ve come to expect from Sarasota, the music and sets were great. After praising the ability (and stamina) of Joanna Parisi as Butterfly, we admired the simple, but evocative setting—essentially the same for all three acts—and amazing lighting transitions. Good show.

Rachelle Moss sang Kate Pinkerton, the American bride of the villainous lead male. The part is minor, but meant Rachelle was named on the program (as opposed to anonymously appearing among the wedding party, which she also did in Act One). She and Lt. B. F. Pinkerton (played by Italian Antonio Coriano)…

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Stuck in 1945

Two consecutive weekends I’ve returned to the Pacific, specifically 1945.

The Great Raid (2005)Last weekend, I watched The Great Raid, which I’d somehow missed when it was released twelve years ago in 2005.  This movie retells the story of The Raid at Cabanatuan, a rescue of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians from a Japanese camp near Cabanatuan City, in the Philippines. On January 30, 1945, during World War II, United States Army Rangers, Alamo Scouts, and Filipino guerrillas liberated more than 500 from the POW camp.

This movie was a segue for me from The Railway Ran , which I watched two years ago and that I mentioned in my recent post on ‘Dropping the Bomb.’

My Rating:  3.5 to 4 stars

Joseph Fiennes turn in an excellent performance as the tragic Major Gibons, but the real surprise for me was seeing Connie Nielsen as Margaret Utinsky.  I spent half the movie distracted because I could not place her face in my memory.  I gave up and checked IMDB and had that epiphany feeling when I realized she performed as Lucilla in the twisted Roman triangle with Commodus and Maximus five years earlier in Gladiator.

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)I followed The Great Raid yesterday with a viewing of U.S.S. Indianapolis: Men of Courage.  This film more closely related to my post about ‘Dropping the Bomb’ since “In 1945, the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, commanded by Captain Charles McVay (Nicolas Cage), delivers parts of the atomic bomb that would later be used to level Hiroshima during the ending of World War II. While patrolling in the Philippine Sea, on July 30 in 1945, the ship is torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarine I-58, taking 300 crewmen with it to the bottom of the Philippine Sea, while the rest climb out of the ship and are left stranded at sea for five days without food, water and left in shark-infested waters.” (Wikipedia).

My Rating:  3.5 stars

I survived Cage’s stilted acting, with the help of the supporting cast, who performed admirably and believably.  Matt Lantner, whose grandfather, Kenley Lanter, was one of only 317 men to have survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.  Matt portrayed Chief Petty Officer Brian “Bama” Smithwick with his usual All American boy-next-door Midwestern heart.  And did I mention he’s also the voice of Anakin in Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)I ended the weekend with the much anticipated and highly acclaimed Hacksaw Ridge, which I’d been hesitant to watch for fear of a too real portrayal of warfare (remember the opening to Saving Private Ryan?).

Hacksaw Ridge is a film “about the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa.” (Wikipedia)

My Rating:  4-4.5 stars

Outstanding story, directing and acting.  Truth is so much stranger than fiction and infinitely more inspiring.  “Just one more, Lord” are words to live and die by.  I highly recommend this movie and I’m sorry I waited so long to watch it.

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