Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Chimes of Midnight: The Power of the Actor

I was browsing through some "great movie" list when I came across a film called "The Chimes At Midnight." Recently re-released by the Criterion Collection, it is called by a few Orwell's greatest film. It revolves around Sir John Falstaff, a character found mainly in the Henriad. It's important to note for you Shakespeare purists that this is not an adaptation of the Henry IV plays, though it draws most of its material therefrom. If interpreted in that light, it could be considered a failure though I don't think there's a single line not written by the bard. With that out of the way. Here is a trailer.

It is a landmark film, containing much of what you'd expect from Welles, and on a budget too. The battle scene is rightly famous, making a few dozen extras look like hundreds, and you can see how even recent film/tv rips from that scene. The use of lighting, such as every single scene with King Henry IV in it, is subtle yet hugely effective (The famed "Heavy the Head" speech in particular leaves goosebumps, in no small part thanks to John Gielgud's performance).

It does stumble in two ways. The first is that sometimes it seems like an accidental drama. That is, it seems like it's supposed to be funny, but isn't. I would compare it closest to many of the Marvel films in it's schizophrenic tone, but their's is a different problem. Second, the volume mixing is terrible (this might have been fixed in the re-release, but I don't know) with voices far to quiet to hear to be cut in with shouts to blow your eardrums. Much of the dialogue is too quickly delivered too. It makes it seem like these people might have really talked that way, but at the same time, I found myself skipping back to make sure I understood the lines.

All in all, I recommend it, but I'm not here to do a review.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Short Update

I've decided to give each short story, except any that are really short, their own pages with tentative titles. I've not kept up with the whole "one a week" thing, nobody reads any of this shit, but it still bugs me that I've slacking. I have a draft finished up here and will be posting that soon.

Also was supposed to have an essay up here for the 4th, but I just don't think I'm qualified to write it; not if it's going to be any good.

I also have an open question to ask, but I'm heading out the door right now so I'll put that up in a bit (I might have asked something like it before, can't remember though).

That all being said, I can't manage to finish anything (There's only one scene left on one longer story [6k?] that I've had sitting there for months).

And a last minute Music Monday post, a charming little peice played in honor of Saint Efisio. It is played on an instrument with a timbre somewhere between a bagpipe and an aulos called the launeddas.

Different songs on the same instrument.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Good Show Sir!

If you've not had the pleasure of browsing only the worst sci-fi/fanatasy covers you've been impoverished. Head to Good Show Sir, and be filled with wonder. No, not that kind of wonder. What's that? You want some examples? My word isn't good enough for you, eh? Fine. Here are some that just don't congeal:

Not exactly what we mean by "high-fantasy"
Martin Short in the role of a lifetime

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Not So Incredible, Eh?

I've recently seen The Incredibles II. It's good, as you'd expect, but it's just good. One could say it's greatest flaw was being the sequel to one of the best animated movies there is, but that doesn't cover everything. To admit such is, at least, to recognize that films don't exist within a vacuum, though when reviewing a film it's best to try to take it on it's own merits. Incredibles II's flaws are disappointing more than offensive, and there's more good than bad, but something did not sit well with me. Let's start with the good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Shameful, Just Shameful

Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/hilaire_belloc_385714
Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.
Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/hilaire_belloc_385714
Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/hilaire_belloc_385714
Justwrite, the excellent youtube channel which uses movies to talk about, well, writing, has lost itself. If you've never heard of it before, I'll post part one of the Hobbit expose. There are five parts, all informative and well worth your time.

But recently, and about five months too late, the proprietor has decided to spend twelve precious minutes of the world's time to defend The Last Jedi (my quick thoughts here). I'll just post it here for convenience. What bothers me about his defense will not make much sense unless you watch it, and I recommend doing so if only to see what absurd lengths some people will go to champion this spawn of Disneymodeus.

Have you watched it? Good, since I'm going to tell you what's wrong with it. This defense rests on a positivistic philosophy of fiction. There's an obsession today with fictioneers, or more pointedly those who peddle to would-be fictioneers, with a method, or a plan, or list of essentials. Rooted in truth, it's no surprise to see them repeated around the block (though with slightly different nomenclature). Just check all the right boxes, answer these mystical questions of drama, and your story is guaranteed to be good. Or at least okay.

You see, there is some techne or a series thereof that any aspirant can use in order to achieve a "complete" story. JW's defense is basically that TLJ met the goal of being "complete" where "completeness" is defined by the techne (viz. the seven questions of drama). This definition is totally self-referential; it can only be interpreted within "the ensemble"*. What actually happens is irrelevant so long as the story is "complete."

Thankfully, Justwrite and the cohort of other how-to-write-gud specialists don't rely on just one of these technes, but that such a self-styled champion of writing expects such an essay to be taken seriously does point out a deadly pattern of proceduralization which is slowly sterilizing fiction.

These methods all resemble the rites of magicians, a series of steps separated from their proper objects and characters, stripped any relationship to the facts of the text, and applied without regard to, you know, what actually happens. The hex is effective simplicitur, because the magician did everything right. JW posits TLJ as "occasionaly triumphant" for little other reason than that the rites were performed according to the masters. The ultimate result of this kind of thinking, whether it is about writing stories or building society is death.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Early Man: A Dissapointing Amalgam

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of watching Early Man the latest stop-motion animated feature by Aardman (the same gents who did Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit). Running at just under 90 minutes it's a charming little number, well voiced and just a joy to look at. It was not at all what I expected. Here's the trailer.

Now, as everyone knows, the game of soccer, er, football was invented when a curiously geometric meteor crashed into the dusty earth. Our ancestors accidentally picked up this meteor with their hands, which burned them of course, and so they began to kick it instead. Soon, teams of skins and loincloth get formed, goal posts are added, and what started as an innocent game metastasized into the sophisticated religion we all know today as Barclay's Premier League.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mystic Truths

All that I have written seems as straw compared to that which has now been revealed to me
 We have lived in an age of emotivism for long enough that the pedulum is now swinging the other way. If we are not careful, it will swing to far and we will be left in the reductionist paradise of the Realist. You can see the tendency to this error all over the Alt-Right blogosphere: indeed, much of the alt-right (well, inasmuch as one can treat it as a single entity) is ultimately a reversion into Realism from modern Vitalism.

But we've been down this road before. Reason, in other words, is incomplete.
To believe in any truth is an act of humility. One becomes servile to that truth because it has authority over us. To reject truth is to reject authority. If we deny the result of a chain of reasoning, we'd better have a good reason; that is, we better have a countering authority. But some truths aren't subject to formal reasoning. They are not,
necessarily, revealed truths either. Reason itself is a truth much like this, it is mystic.

To reject truths as obvious as, say, that we have natures, is to reject something so fundamental and self evident that it is to assert oneself as an Ubermensch: a supreme, totally autonomous demiurge, free from any bondage.

Mystic truths are more dangerous that truths reached by chain of reason. They are more dangerous because they are greater truths, nobler, higher, more important. It is somewhat like myth, but myth is what we use for those things stronger than the words we have for them. Yet fear not, lovers of reason, for reason itself is a mystical truth and can be used to test everything so that we may keep what is good.

Somewhat inspired by this post. Also recommend this one.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Yes, your sins DO effect other people

It actually is possible for others to ruin things for you, permanently, as matter of fact. The most common version of this ruination is called the spoiler. I assure you, though, there are worse ways to ruin something you like. Yet, there are much, much worse ways to hurt somebody.

A lesser example about a painting:
In another very striking painting, Kitchen Scene, by Joachim Wtewael, a contemporary of Vermeer’s, a working man and woman talk in a friendly way in a kitchen. The man, who is bringing fowl and eggs for sale, is holding a jug with his middle finger extended over it, and the exhibition text tells us that this is a sexual symbol. The woman is holding a chicken on a spit, and the text tells us that this is a sexual symbol. The authors of the exhibition can’t simply say that it’s a sexually charged painting, which it is. They reduce everything to the most literal level of a finger representing a penis and a slaughtered chicken representing a vagina. A few minutes after reading this, I walked over and looked again at the painting, trying to see it afresh, without the overlay of the museum text getting between me and the work of art. But it was impossible. The extended finger on the jug was a symbol of sexual body parts. The chicken on the spit was a symbol of sexual body parts. The text had planted these crude, juvenile ideas in my head, and there was no other way to see the painting.
All emphasis mine. Now, as the late Mr. Auster admits, it is a sexually charged painting. But it is also ruined. For life.

When you cut furrows into the ground, water flows through them. Even the next season, you'll find the water gathered in pools muddying up their old haunts.

With the next example I admit I didn't, couldn't, finish the video. No doubt the end goal was to blow out the poor father's candle. Instead, just look at his face and listen to his voice*.

There's nothing to say.

*I had to copy the link direct from the video. Blogspot would not let me find it via it's own internal youtube search. I did get one labeled, "Helping a father come to terms with his transgender daughter." Yes, that was with the title of the embedded video typed out verbatim. If you thought there was no such thing as propaganda by the propagandee you are mistaken.