Sunday, November 05, 2006


Since Sunday is the day of rest I won’t post about politics but I will talk about some of my favorite things.

Right now some of my leisure time is consumed with Nancy Drew computer games. It’s not just for kids! I love mysteries, in reading and in gaming, so couple that with a childhood hero and I can’t resist. The one I’m playing now is #15: The Creature of Kapu Cave, where Nancy and the Hardy Boys go on separate assignments on the Big Island of Hawaii. The graphics are beautiful, especially of the underwater sequences where Frank goes snorkeling.

First off: Parents, Nancy Drew from HerInteractive is wholesome, perfect for children from ten years and up. The storylines are squeaky clean, ethically unimpeachable and brushed with an "Eisenhower era" civility which we all would welcome back. But there are some tense moments where Nancy has to think quickly to save the day (or her own life), though you always can press the “Second Chance” button, ;)

Some of the best games are based on Carolyn Keene’s books like “The Secret of Shadow Ranch”, one of my favorites. You get to barrel race, use a lariat, gather eggs and produce, and solve some more difficult puzzles involving mazes, unusual locks, formulas, patterns, sequences, etc… Be prepared to take notes occasionally though Nancy does have a cellphone and sometimes uses a PDA. There are two levels: the Junior Level gives extra clues and has easier puzzles while the Senior Level poses more difficulty.

For movie watching I was recommended HBO’s miniseries “Rome”, of which the first season was released on DVD recently. I devoured all 12 episodes. “Rome” has all the splendor and savagery of a Pre-Christian Western World. Pagan Rome at the time of the Republic’s fall was wracked with strange occultist Eastern practices, a government resembling more an oligarchy peopled by the aristocrats of the Senate rather than a democracy, a growing influence over and occupation of acquired foreign lands, and the rivalry between two powerful men: Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey Magnus.

Besides the big picture, there are subplots, all of them absorbing and adding wonderful touches of human interest. The two 13th Legion soldiers, Centurion Lucius Vorenus and Legionary Titus Pullo make an unlikely pair who forge a bond of brotherhood found only in battle. Two women, Atia of the Julii, mother of Octavian who would later become Caesar Augustus, and Servilia, the mother of Marcus Junius Brutus, compete for top social status in their own backstabbing ways make for entertainment. Polly Walker’s amazing performance as Atia is well worth watching. Hillary Clinton take note.

This Rome is full of sex, violence, superstition, politics, religion, and war. I found some of the sex scenes too graphic: I’m not interested in Polly Walker’s nether regions, but then I’m sure there are men out there who are. I don’t recommend this for anyone under 18 (though I suppose there are those who would disagree with me). I can rationalize the sex and violence because, hey, this WAS the pagan world. It was the best pagan world of its time, yet the barbarism is breathtaking and it wouldn’t hurt people to see it and realize how radically our world has changed as a result of Christianity. It’s an eye-opening alien culture, with glimpses of some connection to ours. Loyalty and courage are admired, however compassion and humility are not.

Before viewing this my main concern was the portrayal of Caesar. A complex, modern man, I wondered how they would depict him. I was not disappointed. Ciaran Hinds is magnificent, bearing “dignitas and auctoritas” as all patricians would. Julius Caesar is one of my favorite historical figures. Soldier, statesman, author, historian, lawgiver, orator, and yes, dictator. Possibly the most benign dictator ever, his contemporaries and later historians marveled at his policy of clemency towards his opponents. A colossus of the Ancient World, Caesar possessed a keen quick mind, amazing political acumen, military genius, and personal charm. His largesse towards his fellow Romans, his vision of transplanting Roman law and custom to the known world, his plans to improve Roman infrastructure, and his desire to expand Roman citizenship to all Italians endeared him to the plebs, but earned him enduring hatred from The Boni - a good ole boys network of the Senate which resented Caesar’s popularity and remarkable abilities.

Flawless acting, intelligent script and spot on sensibilities do justice to one of the most fascinating eras in human history. The set of Rome itself reflects that sprawling, colorful metropolis which breathes and belches with its painted statues, graffiti-covered walls and worn pavement stones. One of my favorites is the town crier, who shouts out the news in the middle of the Forum, always ending with a shameless plug from its sponsor: “This has been brought to you by the Miller’s Guild, who uses only the finest wheat. True Roman bread, for true Romans”.

Since “I Claudius“, bread and circuses on the screen has never been better.