It was a Dark and Stormy Night|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 14 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Thursday, May 28th, 2009|
|Kingdom of Heaven
A while back Look&Listen had one of these buy 3 DVD’s for R100 specials of theirs. Being in a spending mood with no obvious picks at hand, one of the movies I settled on was Kingdom of Heaven. Turns out, the DVD I took is the definitive edition, also known more commonly as the Director’s Cut.
I wasn’t particularly nuts about this movie the first time I saw it, but for R33 and a third, it seemed an okay choice. I mean, I am a sucker for lavish period dramas, the Crusades is always a cool topic and Ridley Scott is an outstanding movie maker. This was not one of his better attempts, but I still liked some parts of it.
Balian, a young blacksmith, discovers he is the bastard child of a knight. He agrees to be adoped officially as the knight’s son and heir and journeys to Jerusalem in the hopes of gaining redemption for his wife, or at least to take her place in hell. His wife was a suicide, and the middle ages had a particularly unkind philosophy regarding suicides (they go to hell, straight to hell on the hell express, not passing Go and not collecting 200 bucks).
On the journey, the old knight dies. Balian comes to a Jerusalem under fading Christian rule, with a leper king fast nearing the end, bloodthirsty knights barely held under control and Saladin threatening.
Bailian finds no answer from God regarding his wife’s soul but takes up the legacy left to him by his father, working his lands and humping Sybilla, the king’s sister (curious notion of honor these medieval folk had).
The king dies, the Templars run amok, Saladin invades, Jerusalem is left defenseless as every knight but Balian has fled or died. There’s a whopping big battle, Saladin cuts a deal with Bailian so the people of Jerusalem can leave unharmed and in return Saladin reclaims the Holy City and our noble knight takes the former princess home to France. The End.
Material restored in the Director’s Cut:
The opening sequence is much longer, spending far more time to introduce both blacksmith and knight along with their warped relatives. This does complete the background, although it’s debatable whether it was truly necessary material.
Sybilla’s son, on the other hand, as well as Balian’s inevitable last encounter with Guy (which might have been in the original but I don’t remember it), are far more vital.
Sybilla was never a great character to me and she does gain more depth here. The addition of her son raises the stakes, makes her decisions far more understandable and even goes some way towards making her sympathetic.
Let me explain — she’s just seen her brother die after suffering with leprosy. Her son is the new king. He’s still a boy and these are unsettled times. She has little choice but to turn to Guy, and ask for his knights in return for her remaning his wife. A chance incident reveals that her boy, too, has leprosy. Rather than let him waste like her brother did she takes the decision on herself to end his life, while young and peaceful. In consequence Guy becomes ruler of Jerusalem.
This storyline does add a lot more depth to the movie while not quite being able to raise it beyond merely okay. The actors were too cold, unconvincing, and the storyline itself might have attempted to do too much in too short a space thus leaving the whole uneven and poorly developed. Perhaps this idea should have been turned into a television series, something similar to Rome.
Watch Kingdom of Heaven if it’s on late-night TV, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone go out of their way to see it.
The movie did touch on a couple of topics I find interesting so in the next . . . while, I’ll use them as blog fodder.
Leave Comment at David de Beer.
|Wednesday, May 20th, 2009|
|Atonement - Ian McEwan
This is exactly the kind of book that someone would tell me about and I’d probably think it wasn’t for me, and then I read it and realize that it’s exactly my kind of book.
There are no great plot secrets&thrilling reveals in Atonement. Right from the beginning we know, or at least get hints at, what’s going to happen – Little Briony, budding storyteller with an overactive imagination and a newfound determination to pursue realism, will accuse the wrong man of a crime he didn’t commit. People’s lives cannot be unaffected by such an event. It can probably be stated as fact that a mistake of this magnitude can never be undone, that its repercussions will keep on rippling through people’s lives forever. Mistaken assumption will be piled on mistaken assumption. And even if the truth does come out, what possible difference can it make? Nothing can ever undo the past.
If by your actions the lives of innocent people are irrevocably shattered, is there any way you can make amends, do you have any right to ask their forgiveness and will they give it?
Knowing what will happen is very different from knowing why, or how it will end and how people are affected, changed, by this one event early in their lives.
It’s these latter questions that McEwan chose to focus on in this book, and he does it superbly, with the bulk of the story set in the years prior to World War II and during the Dunkirk evacuation. An excellent choice of setting and time, adding subtle touches of tension building in the background, threatening the stifled safe atmosphere we are presented with at the begining, of a home atmosphere at first glance balanced and ordered but all the while you feel the discontent bubbling beneath the surface and a threat building in the background that will tear this family apart. A sense of the world about to unravel as it were.
I think there are a number of fine writers who do story well, who can write exciting and entertaining books but there truly are only a few genuinely gifted for character writing. Being able to reach right into the heart of a person, to open a window and show you their essense, thoughts, what makes them tick and what makes them them.
McEwan has an impressive touch for detail, and the domestic scenes were some of the most vivid I’ve read yet. Oddly, the walk to Dunkirk was less vivid, more a struggle to imagine, although the characters were still superbly rendered.
It did feel like the book ran out of steam some during and after the middle sections, with the notable exception when we re-enter Briony’s — now a nurse, following in the footsteps of the older sister she wronged — point of view. This, the nurses and doctors and hospitals fielding the first casualties from World War Two, is not a subject or viewpoint I’ve read too often and it was a refreshing angle.
Briony was initially irritating, if occasionally amusing, but this middle scene of hers, with its wonderful blend of the child’s powerful imagination combined with a young woman’s maturity, went a long way towards making her more sympathetic.
Perhaps the idea was to present a parallel between the return journeys of Robbie and Briony — Robbie, returning from the literal hells of prison and war to respectability and the woman he loves; Briony, determined to be of service to the wounded and ease suffering rather than being the cause of it, an attempt to make amends.
Individually, each journey makes for the most powerful writing of the book and is captivating but it never quite gelled as a connected whole for me.
Still, I loved this book, I truly did, but I have to say the ending was anti-climactic for all that it was fitting. And, as powerful as the characters were, the story itself is sometimes in danger of meandering and losing focus which in turn cooled my enjoyment of reading it.
Overall, I was impressed and look forward to trying some more McEwan novels.
Other opinions @:
Rudy Neeser — loved the book, and provides detailed descriptions of the plot with additional commentary and he seemed to find the ending more satisfying than I did.
Bogormen — struggled with the 1st half, but enjoyed the second much more. We are in agreement that in this book the consequences of actions take priority over what happens.
Leave Comment at David de Beer.
|Saturday, May 16th, 2009|
|No Twitter for Hitler
This is a clip from a German movie. Not sure which one, but there’s a lot of them on youtube, each ripping off something different: world of warcraft, xbox live, vista, Hitler upset because the Cowboys didn’t make it to the Superbowl, etc. Some are funny, some are lame, only this one is brilliant:
Leave Comment at David de Beer.
|Saturday, May 9th, 2009|
|The Driven vs the Prima Donna
Recently I started reading Genreality, a very nice blog group-authored by writers from different genres. While quite a few of the blog posts will, inevitably, be directed towards primarily writers they do have some excellent material of general interest, such as the most recent one by Jason Pinter.
Titled In Praise of Difficult writers, Pinter muses on why some personalities can have reputations for being pains in the asses to work with and yet are still given the leeway to do things their way. Specifically, these personalities can be guilty of exactly the kind of social fail that people are so often warned against. Yet, they are allowed to “get away” with it. Sometimes, as can be seen in the Edward Norton article he links to in his post.
These are the kind of personalities I would call “the driven,” as opposed to the prima donnas.
Personally, I think that the former are being unfairly categorized along with the latter, and it’s precisely that driven aspect of their personalites that make them able to do the sometimes incredible things that they do — and also makes them hard to work with, earning them reputations as being “difficult” — which leads them being granted more leniency than normal, while the latter is actually the kind of arse people are warned about emulating.
What Pinter’s after here, and the reason I like it and am linking to it, is a theory of why these people are the way they are. Obviously, he’s choosing to focus on the industry he knows best — the book industry — but this kind of thing happens in every facet of society.
It’s a subject I find fascinating and would recommend anyone with a similar interest to stroll over and read Pinter’s post and maybe offer up some thoughts. Here’s the comment I left (misspellings and whatnots left as they are):
you know, I think there’s different types of personalities which all unfortunately get the blanket description of being difficult to work with. Reading that article you linked to, for example, what I see is a description of a terribly driven person.
Driven people can be hard to work with, especially in a collaborative project like a movie. They are perfectionistic, intense and passionate and they have a definite vision and find it hard to compromise. It’s not that they can’t or won’t compromise, it’s just hard for them to do so, to be convinced that their vision needs altering. These same qualities could conceivably have led to some of the most breathtaking accomplishments in human history, art and science and economics, etc.
(consider Michelangelo being so frustrated at his apprentices lack of understanding what they need to do that he banned them all from the project and painted the Sistine Chapel himself).
Yet, outside of the specific project, many of them can be perfectly nice, easy-going people. If a tad obsessive now and then.
That’s one type of difficult.
The other type is the prima donna. Self-explanatory I think.
In the case of the former I can well understand why leeway would be given, while the latter’s sense of entitlement and self-impressedness can eventually become too much of a nuisance.
Considering Norton and the Hulk again — I’m not seeing evidence there of someone expecting special treatment to accomodate his speshulness, but rather someone intensely passionate about his work, about creating something meaningful as perfect as humanly possible.
It’s unfair to catalog that type of personality as difficult along with the prima donnas, as if they are the same kind of person. I wonder if we shouldn’t all take more responsibility to start differentiating between difficult as person and difficult as driven?
Leave Comment at David de Beer.
|Cartoon plugin for wordpress
I’m experimenting with a new plugin here, the WP-Cartoon. It allows the insertion of a daily cartoon from Dan’s daily free cartoons, either into posts or pages. There’s also a widget for the sidebar, but I’m a bit wary of how large my sidebar section is getting. Don’t want to slow it down too much (removing the blogroll definitely made a difference though). getting ahead of myself a bit, let’s see if this works and what it looks like:
Leave Comment at David de Beer.
|Friday, August 24th, 2007|
|Monday, August 20th, 2007|
eh, to be honest, I am also one of those who have little interest in a response to a sub beyond "yes" or "no". Still, feedback is a courtesy, not a right, and I would be hesitant to tell an editor I don't want his opinion in my sub
I am reading my first Harlan Ellison right now, Paingod and other delusions. I have this vague memory that this may also be the guy who grabbed someone's boob at a convention in recent imes? Not sure.
|Sunday, August 19th, 2007|
I have decided that I do like Darja Malcom-Clarke's story, The Beacon
. Very bizarre, a fairly hard read in some ways and the ending still feels a bit anti-climactic, although I can't pinpoint the specific reason. But I like it, very orginal and inventive.
Would recommend taking a look at it.
|Tuesday, August 14th, 2007|
|Tuesday and so on
well, not much from me today. Seems like the fly is finally turning, thank God; from Saturday morning on I got worse and worse until Sunday it felt like I was dying, and I couldn't bloody sleep either. Least it seems to have calmed down a lot now.
I did finish Golem over the weekend, 4500 words, so it's too long for Chizine. Maybe another market, I don't know, that's not my primary concern right now.
I am both happy and dissatisfied with this story; happy, since I did finish it, and it was a hard structure to pull off. But, I may have overreached myself badly here, can't help but feel that I didn't do the idea justice. Ah, well, will wait and see what the crits say, and maybe take a look in another week or so.
Is it just me, or does everyone get this drained feeling after finishing a story? It's like a weird mixture of relief, satisfaction (at a job carried through to the end) and exhaustion.
I have nothing to say today, so would recommend everyone go read this post
|Saturday, August 11th, 2007|
it's international blog against racism week, so let me drop the long-short version of what nobody, I am positive, has said so far nor ever said:
1) Racism is bad; don't do it.
2) I am completely without prejudice and bias - it is the lynchpin of the reason why I am a better and more advanced form of sapies than all you other people.Doug Cohen started a talk on increasing subscriptions to short fiction
; the talk was picked up by Mary Robinette Kowal
Fulda, both of whom are addressing this issue in a more practical manner, IMO, and you know, in a manner that's actually connected to the real world.
So, I stopped doing full reviews because I don't want to piss people off; instead, David's new plan for popularity has been to argue with . . . everyone
If ever I forget who the fool is, I look in the mirror and then I remember. I am tired, and am withdrawing from this discussion, mostly because I do not care anymore, and when someone asks me when's the last time I linked to short fiction, or talked about it, I find it a ludicrous statement (although, I am still in agreement that this is one of the primary reasons that short fiction is faltering; if in fact it is). A summary of my final thoughts:
1) Again, the issue has been touched upon which, if I were a snarky person, I would call -The Deliberate intent of publishers to publish crap and their life-long commitment to prevent the best stories from being published.
But I am not snarky; so, I will class it instead as - Publishers should start publishing stories people reely want to reed. I had this link up earlier.
2) There are no more fun stories in SF. No markets publish fun stories anymore. Why don't anyone publish fun stories?
Everyone, please please, pretty please, do me a favor, and when you see this statement copy at the very least these two titles who do EXACTLY this, (it says so in their manifestos and editorials):
Jim Baen's Universe
There are, indeed, others as well.
3) The concept of the typical reader.
ah, concept - how do I love thee!
Here's my thoughts:
Dear Writer, tomorrow when you wake up and walk into the bathroom and look into the mirror - do smile and introduce yourself. You have just met the Typical Reader. Now, look deep into your, ah, I mean Typical Reader's, eyes, and do explain to him/ her, why he/ she is less intelligent, less informed and less well-read than yourself.
Do not forget to graciously bestow upon Typical Reader the honor of reading your books, otherwise Typical Reader will not know what Typical Reader is supposed to think or want.
Now, I am going to finish Golem, so I can get writing about child abuse out of my system, and then I'm getting back to finishing "How the myth was born." Current Mood: cranky
|Friday, August 10th, 2007|
sniffles, runny nose, sneezes. bloody 'ell, I feel friggin 'orrible.
Golem short story is sloooooowly moving along, this is annoying. I see John Joseph Adams is back, couple weeks back I sent off sub #93 to fo battle with the slushgod. He cleared the slush yesterday; so, if I was a pessimist, I would be expecting a reply soon, like Monday-ish.
Luckily for me I'm only a cynic.
Michael Swanwick's "The iron dragon's daughter" is back in stock at Take2. Huzzah! I clicked "pay" before I had a proper chance to think about it.
good thing, though, I finished my recent stack of comics, and almost done with the Apex magazines too.
|Wednesday, August 8th, 2007|
Brian Vaughan's comic recommendations:
|Tuesday, August 7th, 2007|
The first scream is the sweetest
I have my own asylum. How cool is I?