Short Takes

Because I’m on the road, and there’s no time for long takes.

Francis MarionWhere Did the Fox Live? Right here. I’m on a work trip in South Carolina, home of one of my boyhood heroes, Revolutionary War commando Francis Marion, aka “The Swamp Fox.” This region is full of marshy pine forests where Marion and his irregulars led the Redcoats a merry chase and employed innovative guerrilla tactics to sustain Colonial resistance in an area that had been practically given up as lost to the British. The U.S. Army Rangers trace their origins, in part, to Francis Marion.

His life and military career are not free of controversy—he was a slave owner and participated in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee during the French and Indian War, details absent from the laudatory, romantic biography I found in my school library.

avatar_rift_1Still Saving the World: NetGalley is a cool service that connects reviewers to publishers by providing access to electronic advance review copies of new books—including graphic novels and comic books. Dark Horse Comics has been running a popular graphic novel series based on Avatar: The Last Airbender for some time now that continues the story where the television show left off, and I snagged a NetGalley review copy of the latest installment, The Rift, Part One, written by Gene Luen Yang (whose 2-volume graphic novel Boxers and Saints I reviewed here a few weeks ago) and drawn by Japanese comic art team Gurihiru.                .

Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and a trio of Air Acolytes witness the seating of the first coalition government with representatives from both Fire and Earth Nations, then they travel to a sacred site to celebrate an ancient Air Nomad festival—but trouble’s waiting for them. Aang runs headlong into an unexpected conflict between his desire to resurrect his lost Air Nomad heritage and his vision of global unity among the Nations, and Toph stumbles into emotional tension between her past and present lives. It’s an intelligent, entertaining story that ends with a juicy cliffhanger.

Story, characters, and art preserve the feel and appeal of the original and continue to nicely fill the gap between ATLA and The Legend of Korra while weaving a tale that stands quite well on its own merits and strikes a good balance between thoughtful interaction among the characters and dynamic action. The Rift, Part One hit the streets just a few days ago—if you’re a fan, or if you’re simply looking for a solid fusion of comic art and storytelling in an intriguing speculative universe, pick up a copy.

nodamecantabileMusic Hath Charms: Hardworking, prickly perfectionist Shinichi Chiaki wants to achieve his dream of becoming a symphony conductor, but his abrasive introversion is holding him back from greatness. Lazy, childish Megumi “Nodame” Noda is a piano prodigy, but it looks like she’ll never come close to fulfilling her potential. Can these two misfits somehow supply each other’s missing pieces and make beautiful music together?

Not a chance.

Well, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. Nodame Cantabile is a cute romantic comedy filled with wonderful classical music, but this anime suffers from stereotyped characters and uneven animation quality. Megumi is embarrassingly ditzy and infantile through most of the early episodes, though she gains depth as the story develops, and Shinichi begins as such a dismissive jerk that he threatens to be completely unsympathetic, though he also gains humanity and likability as we learn more about him. Bottom line, there’s an infectious thread of joy and love for the masterpieces of classical music woven into this series, and given a little patience, it’s a fun watch. 24 episodes, English-dubbed, free-streaming on Crackle.

jesus-of-nazareth-2On the Down Low: Lent is here again, but I won’t say anything about how I’m observing it this year, other than to note I’m reading the second volume of Joseph Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth—Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, which I intended to read last year at this time but did not. It’s a bit more theologically dense than the first volume, which focused on Jesus’ ministry years, but it’s well worth the effort. I’ll post a complete review after I’ve finished it.

You can find my reflections on Lent, and devotional resources from previous years, here.

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