Monday, 8 December 2014

Joseph and His Brethren

Back when Al and I first met, he informed me about this movie called Joseph and His Brethren which his friend described as "the worst Biblical movie ever."

At that time, neither of us had seen it. Yet, despite the review, our curiosities were piqued.
When we finally got to see it, well...

I suppose the film is worth watching for a lesson on how not to depict the Joseph narrative. I have to admit too that the movie is fun in a campy way, as Al would say.
I am just relieved we did not have to pay a single cent to see it.

My husband described the movie best. With his permission, I have reprinted his review here.


Campy Fun, Scriptural Travesty

Sometimes something that you expected to be bad turns out to be worse than you imagined. A case in point is the movie Joseph and His Brethren, which a theologian friend of mine told me was "the worst Biblical movie that I've seen." His comment did not prepare me for what I saw.

Let me put the film into its proper perspective: Joseph and His Brethren is a low-budget Italian sword-and-sandals epic from a time of innocence when we were young, and as such has all the excesses of such films, including the obligatory scene with dancing girls. Seen as such, the movie is fun in a campy way, especially if one is in the mood for some Mystery Science Theater 3000 dialog with the screen. As an enactment of one of the most beloved accounts of the Bible, though -- well, judge for yourself.

The movie starts out well enough with some strong chemistry between Joseph (Geoffrey Horne) and his little brother, Benjamin, and a cleverly done scene in which Joseph sorts out a dispute over the ownership of sheep by enacting a Martin Gardner mind-teaser on screen. The scenes in which Joseph excites his older brothers' jealousy are serviceable, if not great.

Things start to take a turn for the strange, though, when the brothers sell Joseph to Ishmaelite traders named Muhammad and Ali, forsooth! In Egypt, though, Joseph rises at once in the world as in the slave market he saves the life of his future master, Potiphar, with arcane knowledge of the medical practice of bloodletting. In Potiphar's house Joseph becomes even more valued for his ability to make the best wine in Egpyt and his innovative practice of making his masters feel better by flogging them with branches. I guess that I've missed these abilities every time I've read Genesis through, but, oh, well.

Potiphar, as played by Robert Morley, is an amazing take on the Biblical character. Vain, snooty, suspicious, yet trusting, scatterbrained, and challenging a turnip in the IQ department, he provides some great comic relief, as unlikely as such a thing is in a Joseph epic. One can understand why his much younger wife Heneth (Belinda Lee, who wins the best-actor award for the movie) is unhappy with her husband. After an unintentionally comic entrance in which she calls out "Potiphar!" in exactly the same tone in which Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) called out "Oli-vah!" in Green Acres, Heneth becomes the movie's high point. Vain and petulant, yet charming and intelligent (by this movie's standards), she cleverly manipulates the men around her so that she can be with Joseph, who has an unfortunate tendency to look like a deer in the headlights around her. Alas, my copy of the movie deleted the scene in which she tries to seduce Joseph, so I likely missed the movie's best acting.

Joseph goes off to the mines, and it's sad that "The Song of the Volga Boatmen" wasn't playing in the background for the cartoonish scenes set there. In a remarkably offhand way, Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, and eventually gets to Pharaoh's court. Potiphar and Heneth, in the meantime, exit the story in one the most over-the-top scenes that I've seen, even in a sword-and-sandal epic. It's a scene worth seeing all for itself.

As the author of Asenath's Tale, I want to mention this movie's Asenath (Vira Silenti). As a fiery street revolutionary, the baker's bitterly grieving daughter, and a reproachful wife taking Joseph to task for mistreating his brother Simeon, she stole every scene in which she appeared with word-and-sandals overacting. She at least made the film come alive in its later stages, and I wish that there'd been more of her.

Sad to say, it wasn't hard to steal scenes from this movie's Joseph, who, after a promising start, basically sleepwalked through the rest of the movie. There was some good acting when a dignified, but self-pitying Jacob was on stage, but the resolution of the movie was perfunctory, not to mention conflated. The same could be said of most of the movie's Biblical elements: they were touched on, but overshadowed by bizarre inventions, such as Joseph's defeating the Syrian army in battle with a Great Flood. It helped matters little that none of Joseph's older brothers stood out from one another. They were all the generic scruffy, bearded extras of all of the other sword-and-sandals epics.

Over all, I'd say that you might find Joseph and His Brethren enjoyable if you watch it as campy fun, in the manner of Plan Nine from Outer Space. Just don't expect much in the way of Biblical accuracy, or serious story. (All right, I could've stopped that last sentence after, "Just don't expect much.") If you want to see a truly good treatment of the Joseph story, though, run, don't walk, for the Bible Collection Joseph.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Mystery of the Pyramids

How ancient Egyptians constructed the pyramids is still somewhat of an archeological mystery. Everything from cranes and ramps to oil-slicked slipways to aliens (naturally) have been put forward as possible mechanisms. A group of Dutch physicists has a new hypothesis on how ancient Egyptians managed to drag the colossal stones necessary to build pyramids across the desert. The answer: wet sand.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

King Tut Revealed

(CNN) -- King Tutankhamun's golden, mummified remains tell only a partial story of an ancient Egyptian boy king who died under mysterious circumstances.

But a new "virtual autopsy" of King Tut's body, shown in an upcoming BBC One documentary, has given historians a clearer picture of the young man's life -- and death.

Full article - and a video - here.

Many thanks to Al for sending this to me.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Teepee Capital of the World

(CNN) -- A mini metropolis of teepees sprawls across the parched plains, and in the early hours of the morning the first to rise are the children.

They have an important job to do.

"We'd wake up in those teepees, and we were pretty happy to slip the bridles off the horses and ride bareback to the river," remembers Jim Real Bird, today a man of 58.

"We'd take the horses to the river to drink water -- that was our first job as young boys."

Read the rest here.

Many thanks to my husband for showing this to me.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Exodus Trailer!

Click here to view it.

Son of God, I loved (very beautiful portrayal of the life of Christ); Noah, not so. There is no telling how Exodus: Gods and Kings will be like, but there is only one way to find out...

Nevertheless, I eagerly anticipate this.

Many thanks to Al for sending this to me.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

More on The Mysterious Tomb

Dating to the tumultuous years surrounding the death of Alexander the Great, between about 325 and 300 B.C., the tomb is the largest ever found in northern Greece—a resting place monumental enough for royalty.

The burial borders the ancient Aegean port of Amphipolis (near modern-day Amfípoli), which once served as the base for the fleet that Alexander the Great took on his invasion of Asia.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Mysterious Tomb from Alexander the Great's time

Athens (AFP) - Two stunning caryatid statues have been unearthed holding up the entrance to the biggest ancient tomb ever found in Greece, archaeologists said.

The two female figures in long-sleeved tunics were found standing guard at the opening to the mysterious Alexander The Great-era tomb near Amphipolis in the Macedonia region of northern Greece.

"The left arm of one and the right arm of the other are raised in a symbolic gesture to refuse entry to the tomb," a statement from the culture ministry said Saturday.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Got Questions

GotQuestions is an incredible app which has Q & A's to - it seems - nearly everything about the Bible and Christianity. I am not quite the technology enthusiast, yet, when I discovered this app, I spent long hours with it (and still do). I am just so amazed at how comprehensive it is.

For when I say it has everything, I mean everything. Bible questions, commentaries, church history, apologetics, the list is endless.

Recently, they published an article all about - surprise, surprise - our dear Asenath. Here be an excerpt.

Question: "Who were the priests of On? Was Joseph wrong to marry the daughter of a pagan priest (Genesis 41)?"

Answer: In Genesis 41, we read that Joseph married the daughter of the priest of On. Verse 45 says, “Pharaoh . . . gave [Joseph] Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife.” This seems to go against the Old Testament directive not to intermarry with pagans (Nehemiah 13:27). Was Joseph sinfully embracing Egyptian culture? Or is there more to the story?

First, it is clear that Joseph was “given” a wife by Pharaoh. Joseph had just come from prison to interpret a prophetic dream for Pharaoh. When the dream was interpreted, the king honored Joseph with a high-ranking office in Egypt and placed him in charge of preparing for a future famine. Joseph’s rewards included a new position, a new Egyptian name (“Zaphenath-Paneah”), and an Egyptian wife. Joseph was not given a choice regarding whether to take Asenath as his wife.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Writing About Ancient Egypt

I wrote this article for Historical Tapestry back when Asenath was released. I have edited some parts of it though.
It has been a while since the article was published, yet, it is still quite relevant.

Why I Love To Write About Ancient Egypt

I developed an interest in ancient history in my teens. When I was 17, an acquaintance recommended to me Wilbur Smith's River God, which was my introduction to historical fiction.

Up until that time, I never even knew there was such a genre. So I did not know what to expect. But the moment I came across a copy of the book, I fell in love with it.

I loved how Smith brought the lost world of Ancient Egypt to life: the flowing green waters of the Nile, the grandeur of the palaces, the serenity of the water gardens, the sweeping beauty of the African wilderness. I could nearly smell the sweet scent of lotus blossoms and the camel dung aromas of the desert.

When the idea to write Asenath came to me, I was excited. For not only was it about one of my favourite Biblical narratives, it also involved one of my favourite ancient civilisations. And having read a number of Egyptian novels in the past, and knowing how uniquely beautiful Ancient Egypt's culture was, I developed the impression that recreating this lost world might be something of a virtual treat for the senses. Thus, I grew eager to try my hand at writing my own Egyptian-inspired novel.

I heard that the Ancient Egyptians loved their land so much, they believed it was a reflection of the afterlife. And though I have certainly never lived in those times (though would that I did!), I can imagine why they thought so.

You might have seen the ancient monuments: the temples and pyramids. They are impressive, without a doubt. But in ancient times, they were literally dazzling. They were covered in gleaming limestone and alabaster.

Murals were made up of colourful precious stones. Gardens, according to research, were amazingly beautiful. They had acacia trees, flower beds, and ornamental pools brimming with lotus blossoms. Temples were filled with rituals, the scents of incense and the chanting of the priests.

And of course, the ancient Egyptians themselves were fascinating people. Though they lived in a unique world of palaces and temples, they surely had the same thoughts and feelings that we do today. In creating my characters, I tried to imagine how similar or different ancient peoples might be to me, my family, and friends.
Additionally, I love describing the Ancient Egyptians' costuming, especially the cunningly painted kohl eyeliner streaks. They had the most stunning fashions.

As a dog lover, I was very pleased to learn that the Ancient Egyptians were fond of pets. This endeared me to them further.
Statues and paintings often show doting owners with their furbabies. Pharaoh Ramses II, I heard, had a dog and even a lion.

Writing Asenath has thus allowed me to escape into this lost, beautiful world of the Nile. My second novel will still be set there. In the future, I may branch out to other ancient settings; I would very much like to write a novel set in the time of Christ.

But for now, I will see what other opportunities I have in Egypt.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Robert W. Service

This was apparently my father-in-law's favourite poem about winter.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

Read the rest here.