Second Foundation

[Amazon Link]

Continuing my trek through Isaac Asimov's science fiction novels. In this case, re-reading one after (approximately) 45 or so years. It's the third installment in what was (back then) Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy." Like the others, it was originally published in pieces in John W. Campbell's old magazine Astounding Science Fiction.

The First and Second Foundations were established at the beginning of the series by "psychohistorian" Hari Seldon. Their purpose was to minimize the chaotic period following the collapse of the Galactic Empire (accurately) predicted by Seldon. The First Foundation was set up on the periphery of the galaxy, devoted to physical science. In contrast, the Second Foundation operated in secrecy, at a location Seldon only hinted at, and specialized in matters psychological.

In this book, the Second Foundation is sought. First by the "Mule", a mutant with enhanced mental powers who sees it as his only obstacle to galactic domination. Then, in the second part, the First Foundation becomes concerned about the Second, when it's discovered that key people have been subject to their mind-altering manipulations.

As always with Asimov's books, the talk/action ratio is very high. There are a lot of twists, people who are not as they seem, double-crosses, and fake-outs. The beginning of the second part of the book, where the teenage heroine Arkady Darell meets Pelleas Anthor, is very, very funny.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:58 PM EST

The Princess and the Frog

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Why, yes, I do still watch ostensibly-for-children animated movies. And this one was a pleasant surprise, better than I expected. It's not Pixar—only Pixar is Pixar—but plain old Disney hand-drawn animation is still very, very good, especially when backed up by a clever script, good music, and great voice talent.

The heroine is Tiana, a young African-American woman in 1920s New Orleans. She has dreams of opening her own restaurant, a dream her dear departed Daddy didn't get to realize for himself. Things are looking grim, when suddenly a frog turns up, claiming (accurately) to be a transmogrified "Prince Naveen", cursed by a local practitioner of the dark arts in cahoots with a disloyal assistant. Naveen, having read the story, begs for a smooch. Unfortunately, that doesn't work out as expected for either Tania or Naveen.

The movie could have made a much bigger deal about the race angle, but doesn't. I kept expecting—dreading, in fact—Tiana to be betrayed by the rich white people her family works for. Good news: that doesn't happen.

It's kind of scary though. If you've got real little kids, you might want to pre-view it.

Last Modified 2012-10-03 1:58 PM EST