ASPECTS OF CULTURE AND SOCIAL INTERACTION AMONG HUMANS, as seen from the Kitharan Compact, 3468 AB

ASPECTS OF CULTURE AND SOCIAL INTERACTION AMONG HUMANS

Compiled by the Xeno-ethnology Department of the Compact of Kithar Institute of Advanced Studies, Tikiria Prime, 3468 AB.

Note: this list has been compiled in the hopes that our first contact with the dangerous and violent human species, which is impending, will be peaceful and not result in any Kitharans getting eaten, enslaved, or turned into sexual playthings.  Unless, of course, they are into that sort of thing.   

  1. On Earth, humans regularly battle giant reptiles, giant apes, giant birds, giant turtles, giant insects, giant this and that, which explains why they are so hardened and violent.  Several of these giants have returned again and again, especially ‘gohdzyllla’ and ‘kingghong’, thus demonstrating the implacable assault humans have to live with.   
  2. Humans also battle one another, sometimes small-scale with swords before cheering crowds, and sometimes with vast tribes battling one another over huge portions of the planet.  Some scholars think the two kinds of fighting are both preparations for interstellar war. The fact that human contenders often turn from fighting one another to make common cause against an alien foe is seen as supporting this view.   
  3. Earth has been invaded over and over again by extraterrestrial species.  As a consequence, humans have destroyed any number of alien races. The fact that no one in the galaxy recognizes any of these races is taken to mean that the humans destroyed them before they could make contact with the greater galactic community.
  4. Earth appears to have been the victim of several dark ages, short-term ice ages and nuclear holocausts, including some collapses in which disease makes the afflicted look like dead people.
  5. Humanity engages in all manner of ritualized combat, including ‘bassbohl’, in which participants use various skills to avoid being killed or maimed by a small, white projectile, and ‘golph’, in which players wield vicious, skull-cleaving clubs while engaged in a cross-country death march.
  6. Another ritual combat is called ‘fudbohl’.  The rules of this combat are obscure– such is its vicious nature that some scholars believe it is chiefly a means of culling weaker individuals from the gene pool.
  7. Humanity chooses its leaders by having candidates spin a wheel and try to spell out words.  Those who fail these tests are executed, chiefly by hanging.
  8. Human women often must fight for mates, in arenas, observed by the whole planet.  These women are called ‘mohckingjahys’. The reference is obscure.   
  9. Humans execute traitors with creatures called ‘draagons’, which breathe fire– doubtless an indication of humanity’s advanced genetic engineering capabilities.
  10. Humans have enslaved both sentient and non-sentient species, including ‘dogghs’, ‘caats’, ‘whalsss’, ‘moskuitoes’, ‘farh-annts’, ‘draagons’ and ‘monsteer truuks’.  The last are particularly used to further cull the genetic pool in another form of ritualized combat, known alternately as ‘road rage’ or ‘the daily commute’.       
  11. Humanity has a supreme leader who appears all in black, and whose hissing breath chokes the life out of people. 
  12. Many races fear humanity possesses a giant, planet-destroying ray.  
  13. Humans have a disintegrating/reintegrating machine, which transports (hence its name, ‘transporter’) people from their home planet and reconstitutes them as slaves with no will of their own.  This is particularly effective in securing mates in reference to item number 14.
  14. Humans are horny.  They will do it any time, anywhere, with any number of partners of different genders or species, as evidenced by such instructional videos as Debbie Does Deimos and Naughty Nymphets of Neptune, Number 347.  This is seen by scholars as desperate attempts to repopulate their planet after all the monsters, disasters, societal collapses and alien invasions.

It is hoped that this brief description will aid anyone who comes into contact with this dangerous species.  Rumors of the advance of humans toward Kitharan space have been rampant in the last several felenhara, and it is only a matter of time before they make their presence known.  We beseech the gods to protect the Kitharan people, and ask that anyone who might be contacted by humans to remain peaceful and calm, and keep this list handy.  As well as a good supply of condoms.     

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Game of Thrones– Final thoughts (well, maybe….)

Just in case–

***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS

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Well, I hope so…the one shot I desperately wanted to see in the final episode was him (?) brooding a clutch of eggs….

Time to put this puppy to bed.  Game of Thrones, the television show, for better or worse, is over.  For a lot of people it’s for the worse, and the online rage is astounding.  The petition to have Season 8 remade is out there, and is a measure of some people’s disappointment.  It is, of course, a bigger fantasy than Game of Thrones itself.  Folks need to find a more productive way to express their disappointment.

For me, the final episode was a mixed bag.  In a previous post I outlined how the sketchy, truncated natures of both Season Seven and Eight had negative consequences for both story-lines and characters, and, without tooting my own horn, this seems to be the emerging consensus among thoughtful critics of the show, such Chuck Wendig and Curnblog.  All of those problems came home to roost in the finale.  Just one example, and perhaps the most important– Dany goes all Mad Queen, but while it had been hinted at in previous episodes, the way it was written still seemed abrupt.  The groundwork just had not been laid in a satisfactory manner, as far as I’m concerned.

The odd thing is, I generally like where the (surviving) characters ended up.  Their individual ending points made sense to me, for the most part.  But again, it wasn’t where the characters ended that mattered, but whether we believed the path they took to get there.  For the most part, for my taste, the answer for most of them would be ‘no’.

There is an important lesson for all writers of fiction here, whatever your medium.  If you want your readers/viewers to reach the end of your story and say, “That makes sense; this is how it had to be,” then you cannot avoid doing the work you need to do to build up the story and the characters in a believable fashion.  There are no shortcuts.  You have to do the work.

In light of that truth, it very much appears that the show-runners of Game of Thrones, in the end, didn’t have the energy or chops to carry the narrative the full distance to a more complete resolution.  Tired of the business, or without the skill to resolve the admittedly complicated narrative and characters satisfactorily, they slapped on an ending and called it a day.  Or so it appears.

And so one of the greatest TV shows ever– perhaps the greatest– ends with a whisper rather than a shout.  To those who rage about how it all played out, I would recommend taking a deep breath and letting it go.  It is done.  The practicalities of film and television production militate against any quick solution.  Perhaps in another generation someone will undertake a remake, especially when they have the entire series of completed books available.  It is unlikely, however, that any future production will be able to call upon the acting and production talent that this show called upon, and for the most part utilized quite fully.  You can never get the stars to align quite the same way, nor lightning to strike twice, and so it is with great TV shows.  Be happy for all the good parts, which will endure, and which will set the standard for this sort of storytelling for a long time to come.

And, yes, there are two books yet to come, which I expect will give us fuller resolutions all around.  Someone online suggested that the show is fanfiction, and the books canon.  As attractive as that gloss may be, I think prefer to think that the show is one creature, and the books another, although related.  Each operates under their own constraints and imperatives.  And, fortunately, the disappointments of one do not necessarily foreshadow the success or failure of the other.

And, of course, there is my personal solution to narrative disappointment– writing my own stuff.  With which, at the moment, I am fully engaged, and to which I am trying to apply the lessons of Game of Thrones, both the good and the bad.  Hopefully we can all learn from this experience.

Later.

 

 

A few thoughts before the end…Game of Thrones

MASSIVE AND HAIRY SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, SEASON EIGHT.

REALLY, I’M NOT KIDDING.

DON’T BLAME ME FOR ANY SUBSEQUENT SPOILAGE AND/OR HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS.

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In the unlikely event anyone noticed, I have been holding back about commenting so far on Season Eight of Game of Thrones. Partly this has been because I have been heavily engaged with other projects, and partly because I didn’t want to judge a product before it is fully…well, produced, but now, hovering on the edge of the last episode, and whatever resolution it provides, I wanted to record some thoughts.  Or feelings.  Or emotionally-laden thoughts that are probably idiosyncratic to one aging nerd who has some pretty curmudgeonly ideas about stories and how they should work.  So here goes, in no particular order–

  1. I was disappointed in the rushed nature of Season Seven, and I am at least as disappointed in the rushed nature of Season Eight.  Really, both seasons needed those extra episodes to lay things out properly, both in terms of plot and characters.
  2. Even more than that, though, it seems obvious, from the way things have played out in Season Eight, that the show-runners, at the moment when they need to bring all the disparate elements of this massive story together, had no clue how to do it.  Now, I’ve said this before, but ending an epic storyline in a way that satisfactorily resolves all the threads and themes is very, very hard.  Tolkien did it, but Lost (which had story issues from the get-go) utterly failed, The Sopranos ended in a black screen, and even Hayao Miyazaki’s manga version of Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind  seemed to lose its energy toward the end.  By that standard perhaps I should cut the show-runners a little slack.
  3. On the other hand, they had years to develop the story and characters arcs, and at the end it still seems as if they didn’t quite know what to do with all the bits and pieces.  They’ve killed off characters– Rickon, Littlefinger, Jamie and Cersei– important characters, in peremptory fashion that hardly served the story at all.  They killed off the Night King in a fashion that was not only peremptory, but which ended one of the two major story-lines of the series in wholly unsatisfactory way that left more questions than it resolved.  Supposedly important elements (e.g. the Golden Company) are introduced and then disposed of in a summary manner that makes you wonder why they were brought into the story in the first place.  Again, a full slate of episodes would have allowed more time to properly resolved these issues.
  4. The show-runners, in their comments on episodes, talk a great deal about subverting watcher expectations.  Well and good, because otherwise the story would grow predictable.  But you can’t subvert expectations and make the characters you’ve spent years building up look like useless puppets in the process., not if you want the story to be worth anything.  E.G., Jon confronting the Night King– it would be one thing for Jon to engage the Night King, proceed to get his behind kicked, and then have Arya save the day.  It’s wholly another, and immensely unsatisfying, to have Jon blocked and impotent, while Arya comes out of nowhere (literally and story-wise) to do the deed.  Also, take the manner of Jamie and Cersei’s (apparent) deaths– after years of build-up, it is immensely unsatisfying, from the perspective of a viewer, as well as the perspective of story resolution, to have them die in a rain of masonry.  Yes, bad guys die all the time in mundane ways, but viewers were rightfully expecting a resolution to these characters in a story that spoke to all the build-up and repeated themes around them.
  5. By contrast, Clegane Bowl (for me, at least) seemed to at least minimally do the job, although it still felt truncated.  The hate between these two men, the unstoppable nature of (undead?) Gregor, and the final mutual end in fire seemed to wrap everything up as far as the characters went.
  6. To put it another way, if you are going to subvert expectations, you have to subvert them in a way that makes the viewer (or reader) say, “Oh! I didn’t see that coming, but, yeah, it makes sense!”  Too often the twists in the last two seasons seem to have left the viewers scratching their heads, instead.

How to sum this all up?  One of things I keep telling myself is that, as an adaptation, and, more than that, an adaptation of a series of books that have yet to be completed, Game of Thrones, in some way or another, was always going to fall short of expectations.  Adaptations generally do.  Having said that, it appears, from the extreme distance at which I sit from the writing effort that finished off the series (a distance, admittedly, to be measured in parsecs), that no one seemed to know how to achieve even a minimally satisfying resolution to many of the arcs, and sorta kinda cobbled it all together, threw it out the door, and said, “Whew!  Glad that’s over with.”

And that’s the way it is. Having expressed my dissatisfaction, I am not going to be joining the online chorus of fan-folk raging at how GoT failed and was destroyed by SJW’s or feminazis or hipsters or whatever other strawman they wish to concoct to vent their spleen upon.  GoT is hardly the first television show to end weaker than it initially promised (hell, even Downton Abbey was pretty worn out by its finale).  If the show-runners failed to bring proper resolution to the story, then they are hardly alone.  Their failure perhaps looms larger precisely because expectations were larger in proportion to the epic scope of the tale.

Now, I am reserving complete and final judgment on the series, since there is one episode left.  Even so, I don’t expect one episode to afford enough room to redeem every sin committed in Seasons Seven and Eight.  The writers and show-runners would have to do something pretty spectacular to come close to ending the whole series on a fitting note.  Maybe–

  1. Bran becomes the new Night King (actually a fan-theory that’s already out there).
  2. The wildfire reservoirs under King’s Landing go off while Dany, the Unsullied and the Dothraki celebrate their victory, thus solving the problem of the Mad Queen (perhaps already hinted at in the eruptions of wildfire seen in Episode Eight).
  3. Jon steps in and prevents Dany from executing Tyrion, possibly at the cost of his own life.  Dany, grief-stricken, goes back to Meereen and leaves Sansa Stark to rule in her stead.
  4. Dany executes Tyrion for freeing Jaime, Jon assassinates Dany, the Unsullied and Dothraki kill Jon and the Northmen, and then turn on each other, and when everyone is dead, Jaime and Cersei emerge unharmed from the rubble and walk off, hand-in-hand, into the sunset…. (actually, if the writers had the stones to do that I would stand up and cheer.  Then start crying).

Sorry, I was starting to trail off into the silly there.  Still, the point is that the writers could still have come up with some pretty interesting twists, and, even if the series as a whole has not lived up to expectations, I still want to see how the individual characters are resolved.  Having come this far, I want to follow through to the end.

Later.

 

The Cavalry– Flash Fiction for Sunday, May 5, 2019

A response to the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for May 5, 2019— two hundred words related to this image–

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© A Mixed Bag

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“That’s silly,” Pamela said.

“It’s what Gran told us.”  At ten I was stubborn.

“Gran was a little off,” Pamela said.  “Remember when she thought the vacuum cleaner was Cousin Frank?”

“Well,” I told her, “there is a family resemblance.”

“Har, har.  You’re so funny.”

“Look,” I told my sister, “kidding aside, we need help.  They’re going to break through soon.  You can hear them, Pam.  Aren’t you willing to even try?”

“We need something more practical than rattling some old toy and mumbling some words.  Like the 82nd Airborne.”

“Well, they’re not here,” I said.

“Why don’t you do it?”

“Gran said the eldest of the family has to do it.  That’s you, I’m sorry to say.”

“Watch your mouth, kid,” Pamela said.  Sighing, she seized the horizontal stick and manipulated the little toy up and down three times, so that its wooden wings flapped.

“Drake, fire and claw,” she said, “drake, fire and claw.  To your own in need now return.  Drake, fire and claw.”

She let go of the toy, made a face at me.  “See?  Nothi….”

Her words were interrupted by a massive roar, and the sound of a great, armored body landing on our roof.

Captain Marvel vs. The League of Evil Whining Man-babies– oh, and a review

Wherein there are minor spoilers.  Really, I don’t know how you can do it otherwise….

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In the toxic fever-swamp that is sci-fi/comic book fandom these days, it only takes one innocent remark to set off a tsunami of stupid.  So it was with Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, when she expressed a wish for more diversity in movie reviews.  This rather innocuous remark triggered a host of crying man-babies, mostly from the right of fandom, talking about how Larson was against men and how the film should be boycotted and how it was going to tank at the box-office and take the MCU and Marvel and Disney and maybe the planet with it.  To a large extent these are the same trolls that then intentionally set out to sabotage the Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the film as a way to poison the well, long before any of them had ever seen the movie.

Ha, ha, ha.

Even with an anticipated drop-off for the second weekend, Captain Marvel should easily make its money back in the very near future, considering that, as of today, Box Office Mojo shows it with a world-wide total earnings of about $550 million.   So much for that.

The sad thing is that this sort of whining political stupidity has become something of the new normal in fandom.  Between the Sad Puppies and Gamergate and the wholly unhinged reaction in some quarters to the The Last Jedi, blah, blah, blah, fans who just want to connect with good, enjoyable content have to negotiate a festering landscape populated by entirely unreasonable trolls who see left-wing, anti-man conspiracies everywhere.  These goombahs, of course, are merely a specific thread of the greater alt-right narrative distorting our public discourse and popular culture at the moment.  You wish you could just ignore them, but that’s rather like trying to ignore someone flicking a cigarette lighter in a room filled with flammable gas.  At some point you need to yell, “Knock it off!”, if only for your personal survival.

Whew– enough of that.  I would like to say a few words about the movie itself.  Somewhat at the risk of setting off more swamp-gas flares, but you can’t let the trolls silence you, either.

So, the 4-1-1, the bottom line, the skinny– Captain Marvel is a good movie.  Not a great movie, not Infinity War, or War and Peace, or Citizen Kane.  It’s a good, mid-rank Marvel movie that accomplishes the main thing it sets out to do– establish the character of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and help us understand why she’s going to be very, very important in Avengers: End Game  (yeah, new trailer, yippee! Ahem.).

It does so by starting out pretty much in media res, with Carol (called ‘Vers’) already on the Kree homeworld of Hala, already a part of the the Kree Starforce, but troubled by dreams of a possible former life she doesn’t remember.  From there she ends up the captive of a group of Skrulls, perpetual enemies of the Kree, and is taken to Earth, where she attempts to track down the Skrull infiltrators, while connecting with early editions of Nick Fury and Shield, who help her begin to piece together her past.  This leads her to a rather startling discovery that causes her to question what she has been told, and who she can trust.

On the whole, this story line works, but the first time I saw the film I thought its first half was off in terms of tone.  Danvers is not nearly as much a fish out of water on the primitive Earth of 1995 as I thought she should have been, and her relationship with Fury is a little too easygoing for a pair of people, one of whom is a spy and the other an ‘alien’ warrior, who have just met.  I was a little concerned that the movie wasn’t going to fulfill the minimum necessary requirements to make Carol the hero she needs to be for the final confrontation with Thanos in End Game.

But then there came a rather nifty mid-film twist, Carol gets her lost history filled in, and she realizes that she has been lied to and manipulated for the six years she has been gone from Earth.  This sets up a really satisfying climactic confrontation  in which Carol realizes her full power, and makes her the hero she needs to be.  By the way, do not skip out on the mid and post-credit scenes.  The mid-credit snippet is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

So, a slow start, but the film picks up and finishes pretty strong.  It doesn’t hit every note I would have preferred, and I would have handled the first half differently, but they aren’t paying little old (emphasis on the ‘old’) me to direct these films.  Which is, admittedly, probably a good thing.  Captain Marvel is not Infinity War, but neither is it Thor: The Dark World.  Which I still liked, but it did have issues.  Not all MCU movies are created equal, and I’m just fine with that.

There is one aspect of the film, however, that positively disappointed me– the way Fury loses his eye.  Lame.  Sorry, I was expecting more.

But, on the whole, go see the film.  It’s good, and it’s really about as solid a prologue for End Game as we could hope for.  I am really looking forward to seeing Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in that film, in ensemble with all the other great characters of the MCU, as they bring this story line to a thundering conclusion.  We live in glorious times, despite the trolls.

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The End

IN THE END

And so, goodbye.
Well-deserved the shouted praises,
the rose petals strewn,
the bended knees,
the pledges of fealty.

You did it—
the Sacred Jewel reclaimed,
the land restored, hope reborn—
all by your hand.

And me…?
nobody.
As I knew
when I joined
your band of shining heroes.
A plow-horse among thoroughbreds.
A clod of dirt beside bright silver.

Through it all, I knew my place
to march,
to carry,
to sweat,
to fight,
to bleed,
to hope to see you lifted up,
glorious,
as now you are.

Goodbye….
Rule well, as
I know you will.
It’s just…well,
The people look to you.

Time to go….

What…?
Why do you hold out your hand?
Small and fair, palm upturned,
waiting to clasp mine.

Okay, I gotta do this– a quick and dirty review of “Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse”

 

Good film, see it.

Okay, maybe not that quick and dirty.  But first, as always….

***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS***SPOILERS

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Okay, full disclosure– as a Marvel fan(atic) I am embarrassed to admit that this film wasn’t really even on my radar until about two weeks ago, when I finally noticed the trailer on YouTube.  I vaguely remember hearing something about it back when, but I don’t pay attention to a lot of animation these days because so much of it is dreadful.  The upshot is that I was trundling along, mostly minding my own misery, in what I thought was the gray wasteland between Infinity War and Captain Marvel, when suddenly, boom!, this trailer smacks me right between the eyes– and suddenly the wasteland looked a little less gray.

Okay, a lot less.

Another disclosure– I have not kept up very well with the ever-expanding Marvel comic book multiverse in recent years.  In fact, the only comic I have purchased with regularity since about 2000 has been Rat Queens, and even that has tailed off lately.  I was vaguely aware of Miles Morales as an alternate Spider-man, but I was totally unaware that Gwen Stacy had been given her own turn as Spider-woman, and the idea caught me by surprise and thrilled me to death.  Yeah, I’m one of those romantic cupcakes who never got over Gwen’s death in the comic book, blah, blah, blah, so sue me.  It’s enough to say that the moment I saw the trailer, quite aside from all the other fascinating tidbits it offered, I was instantly on-board and ready to investigate this movie.

And, boy, am I glad I did.  Basically Miles Morales’ origin story as Spider-man in his reality, the movie also manages to weld together other Spideys from other realities into a coherent story about loss, friendship, love and becoming who you need to become, all in the face of a villain (a version of Kingpin far removed from Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the character in Netflix’s Daredevil) who is maniacal, but possessed of an understandable, if misguided, motivation.  I often feel animated films skimp characterization, but this time, nope.  This movie is chiefly about character, and it is so very well written that I don’t think I detected a false note anywhere.

At the same time, on another level, it leaves me flummoxed.  How can one film be so serious and silly at the same time, often with the same characters in the same scene?  I mean, it has a cartoon (think Looney Tunes) Spidey pig hitting villains over the head with a giant mallet, and not only does it work in the midst of a completely intense battle, people in the theater I was in cheered.  Somehow the writers  (Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman) manage to blend pathos, off-the-wall humor, asides that very nearly break the fourth wall, intense struggle and loss and battles in which it is not at all clear all the good guys are going to survive, into a seamless whole in which the contrasting tones not only do not jar us out of our suspension of disbelief, they reinforce and invigorate each other.  It leaves me scratching my head.  I don’t know how they did it, but I like it.

Part of that off-the-wall/serious hybridization is the sheer look of the movie, which is bright, highly-colored, sharp and full of elements drawn directly from comic-books, such as little (or not so little) internal dialogue balloons, which might have seemed pretentious, or flat-out stupid, in other hands, but which work here.  I usually prefer my movies straight-forward and realistic, even my animation, but somehow this time around the comic-book elements worked.  Again, it is a mystery to me how, but I’m just going to go with it.

Other online reviewers have already pointed out that Spider-verse accomplishes what Justice League could not do last year– kick-start a superhero franchise in one fell swoop, and I won’t belabor a point that’s not original with me.  More incisive observers than I will have to parse out why one super-hero kick-start works, and another doesn’t.  All I know is, me like Spider-verseJustice League, ugh.

And now, in no particular order, some random notes–

  1. One of the big reveals in the movie, not at all hinted at in the trailer, was this universe’s Doc Ock, who is a woman, Dr. Oliva Octavius.  Her gender does nothing to reduce her menace.
  2. Having said that, I’m worried that I find this Doc Ock kinda, well, hot.  I guess I like intellectual women…?
  3. I like this universe’s Aunt May, too, although not for the same reasons.  All-too-often the Aunt May of the comic-books was Peter’s supportive mother figure.  This Aunt May is that, but a damn sight more, too.
  4. When Gwen Stacy is on the screen I can’t take my eyes off her.  Not because the character is pretty (although she is– and, no, I’m not being creepy), but because I get pretty badly verklempt about Gwen most days (Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, by the way, broke my heart all over again), and so I can’t get enough of a Gwen Stacy who is alive and kicking ass.  I will stand in line for her movie, if and when it comes out.  And I don’t think I’m the only one.
  5. The only downside of this film for me is perhaps the fact that I have now had the theme song of the original animated series stuck in my head for five days.  Ow….
  6. I mentioned that all the characters are well-drawn, but Miles, of course, takes center-stage, and I have hand out kudos again to the writers who crafted a kid who is utterly believable as a particular kid, with all the usual kid worries, suddenly caught up in things that grown men and women would have trouble dealing with.  This, of course, has been the whole theme of Spider-man since its inception, and Lord and Rothman’s take on it is excellent.

I don’t think I’m going to say much more, although there are things I haven’t revealed about the story, despite my spoiler warnings.  I will sum up by saying that I am pleased to discover, in an age of over-hype and media campaigns that would put the planning for D-Day to shame, we can still be surprised by a film that comes out of nowhere and knocks us on our butts.  And, yeah, the wait for Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game is now just a little more tolerable.

See this movie.

‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another brief note…..

Princess of Stars is now live on Kindle, and should soon be available in paperback, as well.

I suppose an author should speak well of his own work, but my sense of relief at having completed this book, and with it the Divine Lotus series, is so profound that any promotion I could make for it would sound false in my own ears.  This has been an effort of three years, one geographic relocation, the end of a major relationship, separation from loved ones, so on and so forth, all adding up to a very long struggle simply to finish this book in some form or another.  At the end it became, perhaps, a prime example of the adage that ‘no book is ever finished, only abandoned’.  I managed to crawl, at last, across this finish line, on my hands and knees, and collapse in exhaustion and relief.

Not that this series has not been a tremendous learning experience, and not that I don’t think I created some interesting and entertaining characters and narrative.  It is, however, a relief to be done with it, and now to have the freedom to move on to another project.

Which, at the moment, appears to be an idea that I’ve had for a while, a standalone book that currently bears the unimaginative working title of Siege— which is, wait for it, about the siege of a great city of an empire, and what happens to the people on both sides of the siege lines.  I’m calling it fantasy, although more along the lines of Richard Adam’s Shardik or Peter Dickinson’s The Blue Hawk, set in a world in which there is little or no magic, but which resembles our world only in the universals of human life– loss, fear, struggle, hope, courage, hatred, and love.  I’m hoping the lessons I learned from telling Kathy Pennington’s story will help me tell a better one with Siege– but it is journey I am just beginning, with only 15,000 disjointed words out of a guesstimated 150,000 (it does feel like it’s going to be a long story).  I’ll be at this a while.

Beyond that– who knows?  I have learned not to prognosticate about my writing too much, because I have so often been way, way off-base.  Suffice it to say that I’m happy to be off on a new road, and eager to see where it leads.

Later.

Princess of Stars– sort of a progress report

Wanted to share this– the hard-copy line edit– as always, helping to keep red pen manufacturers in the black–

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Part of what you’re seeing on this page is the fact this portion of the story was cobbled together of out maybe three different versions of the same scene.  Being a pantser is sometimes a very messy business.

As always, I do hope that by the time I finish the edit I will still be able to read my corrections; my hen-scratching does seem to be getting more and more problematic as I get older.  Oh, well.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom– a review, or who left all this dino-poo on my front porch?

I went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom today–

I have been generally a fan of the Jurassic Park/World franchise since its inception– loved the first movie, enjoyed the second and third films, even though they were not nearly at the same level, and really liked the first Jurassic World film, despite having to give my suspension of disbelief an extra lube job just to keep up.

This time around, though– well, my poor suspension may have busted its torsion bars.  To put it succinctly, this is a stupid movie.

Not that Chris Pratt, who I generally love in everything I see him in, didn’t do his best.  Ditto for Bryce Dallas Howard.  I lay none of the blame for this eyesore at their feet.  No, in this instance I can only suppose the director (J.A. Bayona) and the writers (Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow) bear the heavy responsibility for hatching this turkey (or turkey buzzard).

Oh, where do I start?

Oops, almost forgot…..

SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****

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Put simply, what with the exploding volcano (which was seen in the trailer) and the standard corporate villain planning to market rescued dinos to international scumbags, the movie exhibits the standard sequel weaknesses of amping up the action to ridiculous heights while recycling the core conflict.  I particularly have a pet-peeve about the volcano, which, like the one in Dante’s Peak, exhibits traits that do not usually go together, i.e., free-flowing magma and peak-destroying magmatic explosions.  It makes me grind my teeth–

  1. Owen (Chris Pratt) outruns (almost) a pyroclastic flow.  And lives to tell about it.  Without even getting singed.  SPUNG!
  2. The characters (or the writers) think they can survive a pyroclastic flow by diving into the sea.  Wrong– pyroclastic flows can cross extensive bodies of water, on a layer of super-heated steam.  Parbroiled, anyone?

Okay, enough about the volcano– as irritating as I found it, it’s not even the core problem with the movie.  Moving on–

  1. The idea that you could weaponize dinosaurs in some useful manner for modern warfare is a major motivator for the bad guy (Eli Mills/Rafe Spall).  Please.  A mechanized infantry platoon would chop any dinosaur you care to name, including the vicious hybrid who’s the main dino baddie in this flick, into little quivering dino cubes.  It’s just silly (and, yes, it was silly in the first Jurassic World, too, they just didn’t play it up as much).
  2. There are vague references to “pharmaceutical uses” for the dinosaurs as an additional motivation for the bad guys, but its never elaborated on.
  3. Claire’s evolution (or is it devolution?) from corporate hotshot all about exploiting the dinosaurs to a save-the-dinosaurs activist just hit me wrong.  Granted, the events of the first film would have jarred anybody, but I’m not sure I’m buying this.
  4. Blue, the surviving velociraptor from Jurassic World, is now a leading character and so smart I expected her to start doing arithmetic, like a latter-day Trigger the Wonder Horse.  It got really irritating.
  5. Why in hell, when you’re trying to escape a vicious predator with better senses than you, would you turn off the lights?  Oh, yeah, to heighten the tension.  Screw that, leave the lights on, I want to see where the bastard is.
  6. Why, why, why would a girl (Maisie Lockwood/Isabella Sermon) smart and resourceful enough to elude the main villain for good portion of the film, run to her room and jump in bed to hide from the hybrid dinosaur?  If she were five, maybe, but this kid is a pretty sharp ten-year old, or thereabouts.  It was another example of dumb things being added to the film to artificially pump up the tension.
  7. About that kid– there is a revelation about her that made me suddenly sit up, all interested– and then they do nothing with it.  I mean, at that point I would have watched a film just about the kid.  And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was, although I bet a lot of people guessed it ahead of time.  A missed opportunity.
  8. The final fight against the hybrid, which takes place in and around and on top (?) of the mansion/laboratory of Benjamin Lockwood, a partner of John Hammond (who, btw, I don’t remember ever being mentioned in any of the previous films).  How does a dinosaur weighing probably two or three tons get on the roof of a mansion, anyway?
  9. And then a final bit where Claire seems to target Owen with a laser-guided dart gun, only it’s to trick the hybrid, but Owen has to get past the hybrid to make it step on to a glass roof so it would fall through, only it doesn’t, and then Blue saves the day by jumping on the hybrid, which falls and gets impaled on a triceratops horn, and I didn’t really understand how all of that fit together.  It was so confusing I had a passing thought that Claire was about to betray Owen.  Bleh.
  10. What is with the screaming tech nerd?  Shit….
  11. The number of people doing positively stupid things just so they can end up as dino chow is stunning.  Granted, in general the Jurassic movies depend on the humans being seriously mentally impaired in the presence of dinosaurs, but it was really bad in this film.  Really bad.  It made me wonder which was the intelligent species

In short, and in general, a disappointment.  Not that I had particularly high expectations going in, given the reviews beforehand, but the actuality fell short of even those.  Artificially pumped-up danger, nonsensical character actions, and same-old, been-there bad guys– all of it mashed together and not particularly well-seasoned, it was a dish for which I lost my appetite about halfway through.  Too bad, because it had two of my favorite things– dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes.  How do you mess that up?

Later.

 

 

Pray and Write

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