Friday, July 3, 2009

Troy: Bending the Past to the Modern Vision

It's ironic to me that in an age where historical research has achieved a high level of rigor and accuracy, our popular media is rewriting it and watering it down for the general populace. Increasingly we have discovered through painstaking archeology and analysis more of the truth behind cultures that were previously only known through their literature and legacy, and yet at the same time, movies (in particular) take that increased knowledge and bludgeon it into a populist mold, removing a fact here, adding a myth there, sometimes with an almost breathtaking ease that suggests a powerful if subconscious arrogance, not to mention greed. This kind of 'art,' so called, is obviously influenced by what sells, and modern audiences seem to want to see films about people like themselves, even if they are historical or mythological characters quite different in worldview and context.

My comments are occasioned by the film Troy, an over-long and generally rather egregious attempt to put Homer on the screen. I had seen it once before, but it came up on the FX channel and I decided to record it just for fun. I got close, but I couldn't quite finish it. After Hector died and Erica Bana was no longer on screen, it just wasn't worth it anymore. The director of the film was at first planning to cut Helen from the story line, a move which seems very curious to me, since Helen provided the impetus for the whole war in the first place, even if the movie correctly shows that Agamemnon's reasons for war went far beyond the insult to his brother. Even as it stands, of course, Paris does not (in the film) steal Helen from Menelaus because Aphrodite has promised her to him on the condition that he nominate her the fairest of the goddesses, and the reason for this is simple: the director found the contributions of the gods to the story "silly and irrelevant," and so cut them from the plot entirely. I can understand him thinking them silly, from his perspective, but even I, who am no ancient scholar, can assure him that the Greeks did not. And if he takes them to be irrelevant, I begin to doubt that he read the original epic poem. Of course a modern film maker can explain all the actions of the gods in the story as natural phenomena, or simply dismiss the more outlandish-seeming things, like Athena appearing to Achilles to stop him from drawing his sword on Agamemnon in Book 1. But this is tantamount to slapping the ancient Greeks in the face. Disagreeing with their worldview is one thing, but refusing to present it truthfully is another.

The director has the right to make any kind of movie he wants, even if it is a butchery of Greek epic, but that does not stop Troy from being a bad movie. When Brad Pitt leans close to the annoying Briseis, for whom he has developed a love alien to Achilles' take on property and hostages, and tells her that "the gods envy us" because the knowledge of our mortality makes every moment precious, he is the mouthpiece of a 21st-century screenwriter, not a reflection of anything Homeric. The Greek deities were extrapolations from the natural world: the sun, the sky, the wind, the sea. It was a numinal religion, a polytheism based on respect for and fear of nature's power to destroy and heal, grow and wither, bless and curse. They may not have been envied, strictly, since their status was unattainable, and it is hard to envy something you cannot have. But they were certainly revered and idealized, even if they were also given human flaws in order to make them more accessible to their worshippers: more likely, perhaps, to be lenient, swayed by proper sacrifice. Certainly none of the mythologies I've run into indicate the notion of gods envying humans.

The habit of projecting our own cultural mores onto depictions of other cultures is well-ingrained, and I'm sure it isn't going away soon. But it seems to me only fair to any culture to present it as it is. One may present it and then judge it, for good or for bad, but everything should be judged for what it really is, not for what we want it to be. I find it amusing that, when we are often so dreadfully anxious to pay our respects to all present cultures, we cannibalize ancient cultures for the choicest bits, and like dishonest paleontologists, swap out the fossils we don't like for ones that make it look better. Exploding round shot? That looks cool. Ancient battle woad on a 13th-century Scot? Nobody checks up on that stuff anyway. Godless Greeks? Saves on CG, anyway. From costume design to worldview, it's hard to trust historical films to actually be true to history, or even to make an honest attempt at it.

I suppose that some people might argue, who cares if it makes for a fun movie? The people are dead anyway. But, without making any serious attempt to define art, which is a nearly impossible task for people with far more knowledge than I, I would argue that one of the purposes of art is to present truth. It is also, of course, to aim for beauty, for invention, for creativity, and many other things. But painting an utterly false picture of a past worldview strikes me as poor art, as a cheap vision. I believe in respecting the past--not agreeing with everything that was done in the past, but in striving to let their own voices speak, to present the clearest possible picture of what their lives were really like, whether good or bad, strange or familiar. In this way we can be challenged and instructed by those who have come before us, instead of insulting them by assuming that it would be better if they were all like us. For our culture too has many flaws as well as triumphs, and I want men 3000 years from now to look back on us and present us for what we really are: particular men and women in a particular time, who fought our own wars, composed our own music, drove our own vehicles, believed our own creeds, and spoke our own words. I don't think the ancient Greeks deserve less.

P.S. I have David to thank for many of the thoughts in this post. :-)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

18 No More

Well, I had quite a nice birthday here, just a day back from my sojourn in Michigan. In the morning I got to ride my new mountain bike for the first time since the day I received it, got my official high school diploma, and opened my grandparents' graduation card and gift (which consisted of $$, a very generous amount :D). Mom made pancakes and bacon, which was excellent. Then I had a nice long jaw with David in the early afternoon, which inspired me to start writing like a fiend. At about 5:00 I opened presents, which were:

--A splendid pair of brown formal Bostonian shoes from my grandparents.
--Season 1 of Burn Notice (yeah!).
--Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, the Crossing, Cities of the Plain).
--A promissory note for a bike helmet and bike shorts to ensure a degree of both safety and comfort once I hit the off-road trails.
--And a blue, 16 GB, 4th-generation iPod Nano. My current music could probably be multiplied by four or five before I maxed out that baby, and I have 2.5 days of music from 758 songs on iTunes. I will certainly not lack for the sound of music, at home or in the dorm. :D

I also have a gift en route from my bro. :-)

So for dinner we went to the Orange Counting Mining Company. For one reason or another they were rather backed up and we had to wait a considerable time for a seat, but once we were seated, it was quite a nice dining experience. A salad and soup bar, plus a New York steak with garlic mashed potatoes and root beer, was by no means unwelcome to the palette. :P Then we popped home, watched half of Appaloosa (our fiendish Blockbuster was completely scrubbed of anything having to do with Defiance, so I'll have to pick it up some other time or just get it through Netflix), and had the traditional and awesome chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and Breyer's mint chip ice cream.

And now I offer this to you, my first blog post penned at the age of 19. What an old geezer I've become, eh what?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back At Last - My Doings, and the Eastern Front

Well, well, here I am again! I have let that notorious Facebook distract me from this blog for quite some time. But really, Facebook is not ideally suited to lengthy posts: not, at least, with the easy suaveness of a blog. In case there is anyone who has been checking this blog for updates, has no access to my Facebook page, and is not a member of my family, here is a brief summation of my recent life.

On Friday, May 30 (I believe Friday was the 30th, but please correct me if I'm wrong), I graduated high school. Since none of my friends live within an easy distance of Southern California, I expected it to be a pretty saturnine affair, though that didn't bother me. So I was in the perfect mood for a surprise - not looking for big fireworks or expecting a whole army of friends at my door. Lo and behold, I come down to check on the progress of dinner, and my brother is sitting in the backyard! It turns out that my parents flew him down without my knowledge, expressly to celebrate my graduation. Needless to say, that was an extremely pleasant surprise. I also received two books from Robert (Moscow 1941 by Rodric Braithwaite and No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton) and from my parents, a stupendously cool mountain bike. Unfortunately, I have only been able to test-ride it once, but it is clearly built to last and well-engineered: it has good tires, very effective disk brakes, and a sort of paddle shifter like one finds in race cars.

The reason I was unable to try the bike out more than once is because, early the next morning I jetted away from Rancho and travelled, via Houston, to Detroit, and was then shuttled to Hillsdale College. I've been taking a 3-week summer class here, Introduction to Western Religion, which is very fascinating if very jam-packed (we're doing basically a semester of work in that time slot). That ends on Friday, at which I will return home, catch up on my beauty sleep, and then celebrate my birthday on Saturday. Believe it or not, this upcoming year will be my last year as a teen. I remember, about six years ago, just after my thirteenth birthday, when I noted the first story I had ever worked on as an official teenager. It was a goofy comedy I never finished, about a hapless lad who is entrusted with a virtually indestructible toad that proceeds to wreak havoc on everything in sight. My writing has changed a lot since then--I've changed a lot since then--but I'll tell you one thing, my comedies are still goofy. ;-)

So, that's about that for a brief update. There is a second thing I want to mention, and that is my love-hate relationship with my idea for an Eastern Front novel. You see, on the one hand, I love the idea because it has for its setting one of the most gritty, vast, terrifying and cathartic wars of all time, into which I can insert some very interesting characters. It will likely be, if I complete it, a very long novel, and a very intense novel. It deals with a war that saw unprecedented advancements in tank design, weapons development, and military tactics. It cost the Russians and Germans (and Ukranians, Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, etc.) more than 30 million lives--that's the population of California--in just five years. It catapulted Russia into power for the next 40 years. It has every opportunity for battle, intrigue, and tragedy--huge tank battles, brutal house-to-house fighting, aerial combat, months-long sieges, secret police, deserters and informants, partisan warfare, reprisals against civilians, ethnic genocide, and the megalomaniac wills of the two dictators who presided over the whole mess. And in that "mess" we have the ordinary soldiers and civilians reeling before a cataclysm like no other century has witnessed.

BUT, on the other hand, it's very difficult to know how to begin, and considerably more difficult to do the amount of research commensurate with the task. Researching the various aspects of the war and the people involved in it, which to serve in a novel could at least theoretically involve names, clothing and uniforms, weapons, vehicles, geography and place names, cultural icons (heroes, saints, movie stars, writers, etc.), social venues (sporting activities, clubs, cafes, theaters), typical house design, economic conditions, military tactics and strategy, dates, the actual detailed history of battles, troop movements, etc., military structure (squads, platoons, battalions, regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, armies, fronts), typical military training, partisan warfare and tactics, and some idea of the current layout of at least Stalingrad, Moscow, and Berlin--all this feels rather like trying to fill out a sudoku puzzle on a 1,000 x 1,000 grid. And so this is one of those novels where I want to get at the plot by its horns, but, since it is an historical novel, the barriers are quite tall if I want to aim for a realistic and detailed portrayal.

I guess, like almost anything else, the best way to tackle the problem will be to take it head-on, one little step at a time. :-)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Fantastic Two--Hellboy and Van Helsing

Note that "fantastic" in that context does not necessarily mean "dude, what a fantastic movie." It means that these movies have elements of the fantastical in them. :-)

We'll start with Hellboy, just because I feel like it. Starring Ron Perlman as a domesticated demon with a cocky attitude and a love for cigars and Red Bull energy drinks, the movie opens with a flashback to 1943. The origin of Hellboy is "explained" as a botched Nazi experimentation with the occult, in which a masked German assassin, a blonde Nazi chick without a shred of character to her credit, and a mysteriously resurrected Rasputin successfully open a portal to...somewhere, wherein they try to free the seven gods of chaos from their crystal prison, which has apparently been orbiting the earth all this time. These seven gods actually look more like PotC's Kraken created on a tighter budget, as they all have tentacles for some reason, but we'll let that slid for now.

So instead of these tentacled chaos gods popping through the portal as planned, a little baby boy demon comes through, is adopted by a company of G.I.'s and pacifist Catholic professor, and grows up sixty years later into Ron Perlman with prosthetics. Professor chap is now fixing to biff off to the other life within a few years, so he recruits a soppy FBI agent named Meyers to become Hellboy's new liaison. In the secret, underground government building where Hellboy lives, Meyers discovers not only the demon, but also a mutated semi-aquatic gentleman by the name of Abe (so-named because he was discovered on the day of Lincoln's assassination) and, later, a chick with pyrotechnic abilities who is Hellboy's true love, though she is unsure of whether she reciprocates the feeling.

So basically we have the X-Men, except not as many of them and with less cool powers. All of them are rather pathetic at fighting: Hellboy spends most of the movie getting the crap beaten out of him by the movie's mass-manufactured antagonist, a very odd quadrupedal-amphibian-thing that looks a bit like a mixture of Davy Jones, the alien from Alien, and an iguana, and which is known as the "Hound of the Resurrection" because it can, well, come back to life. In the mix we also have all the prologue figures: the Nazi assassin, Rasputin (why??) and his blonde-haired Nazi sidekick/lover, who once again has basically no role in the film.

The film did have its decent points, the best of which would be Hellboy's character, which was slightly less superficial than the supporting cast's, but even then his moral choice at the climax of the film was about as hard and complicated as choosing between chocolate cake and carrot cake for one's birthday. A character also manages to have her soul sucked out of her and then pop back to life twenty minutes later at the simple behest of another person, still seemingly be-souled. I wasn't quite clear on how that was supposed to work.

The cinematography was decent, the soundtrack I don't remember, and the character development virtually nonexistent. No one has much of a character even to begin with, so developing it would be a problem in any case. There are some occasional, generalized references to Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, but the movie is also philosophically pretty hollow, and the provocative idea of a righteous demon is not really explored in the kind of serious detail that might make for a very thoughtful action film. I give it a 4 out of 10.

Next we move to Van Helsing, a giant set-piece film that basically plops Hugh Jackman into the heart of every scrap of Eastern European horror-folklore that Bram Stoker and his rabid imitators ever dug up. Call me a Philistian fiend, I enjoyed watching most of it, but it was an extremely predictable film relying excessively on digital effects and rehashed Transylvanian legends watered down and made "cooler" for the benefit of a 21st century audience. Hugh Jackman plays Gabriel Van Helsing, a man evidently some four or five hundred years old despite looking to be in his mid-thirties and possessing no supernatural powers (how this was supposed to work I don't know, but Dracula claimed Van Helsing was the one who murdered him when he was still among the living, and that was four hundred years prior to the events of the film). The movie contains an improbable number of fantastical creatures, including Mr. Hyde--an immense troll-like creature for no reason whatsoever--the Frankenstein monster, a compendium of werewolves, a trio of vampire women, Dracula himself, and their immense brood, which are twice awakened only to promptly die about ten to twenty minutes later by some act of Van Helsing's heroism.

Van Helsing is a kind of anti-spiritual darkness knight working for a watchdog branch of the Vatican whose very existence remains a secret. He gets sent to Transylvania because: four hundred years earlier, the patriarch of some family there, I believe the Valerians or some such like, swore an oath that he and his descendants would never enter heaven until he had slain Dracula, and the Valerians are now down to two, a brother-sister duo who divide their time between fighting savage creatures and trying to look sexy. If these siblings are offed, then the entire family line for sixteen generations is looking at a one-way ticket to purgatory with no probation. It seems a silly oath, you know, on a par with Herod's promise to Salome and Jephthah's to God, but this film couldn't really bear the weight of its own backstory anyway.

Accompanied by David Wenham in a pathetic role as a simpering friar/scientific genius, Van Helsing takes his hideously anachronistic weapons cache with him to Romania. This weapons cache bears some mention. This film is supposed to take place in the late 1880s, yet VH owns contraptions that the technology to operate probably didn't exist until the 1950s or later, including a gas-powered fully automatic crossbow and a pair of spinning blades like circular saws, which apparently have some miniaturized on-board coal burning facility, because I don't think batteries were really around in any compressed or marketable form until at least the 1920s. And as for a gas-powered crossbow--hello? The first machine gun came out in 1881, so I really don't think Van Helsing could have gotten a hold of the technology to fire miniature bolts out of a rotating drum on a machine-bow.

Anyway, end of my weapons complaint. VH shows up in Transylvania, where after facing the inveterate populace and conducting a frosty conversation with the Valerian sister (overplayed by Kate Beckinsale), he deals with a triple vampire attack, slaying one with a crossbow bolt dipped in holy water. Beckinsale, who was completely trounced in the fight and would have almost assuredly died without VH's intervention, nevertheless still resents his coming, even though the most casual viewer can tell that she is completely worthless for the task at hand. From there the characters slog their way through a variety of dangers, spared countless times by the irresistible temptation all the bad creatures have to gloat, make speeches, and/or growl triumphantly over the good guys before finishing them off. Beckinsale's character, as a matter of fact, opines to a vampiress just after stabbing her through the heart with a stake, "next time, don't waste time talking to some one before you kill them"--a bit of advice that sounds almost self-apologetic in a movie like this one, and should probably have been written on a card and distributed to the entire cast and crew during pre-production.

Unconvincing, bloated with CG, and placing characters who make the average brick wall seem alive with development and growth into random dangerous situations, Van Helsing suffers acutely from the many banes and fevers of the Hollywood fantasy action film (or shall I say, the Hollywood film, period). As another reviewer commented elsewhere, Jackman does okay with his part, he just doesn't have much of one. Beckinsale's character is there purely to be female and curvaceous and kind of sassy and go around wielding a sword and then utterly fail to actually be of any use except by sheer luck. The film also makes some vague nods to the Catholicism more or less inherent in the Dracula story (crucifices, the sign of the cross, holy water, etc.) but generally ends up mocking religious faith more than honoring it: David Wenham's silly character excuses both cursing and fornication by pleading that he is "just a friar" as opposed to a full-fledged monk, which is completely ridiculous and rather offensive. Despite the fact that I generally had fun watching it, I'll give Van Helsing a 3 out of 10.

I'll be reviewing X-Men Origins: Wolverine in a tad, and, God willing, get these bally things, as well as the many other reviews of both mine and David's making, on Tolle Lege before the world ends, at least. :-)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pace Yourself, Connor: Or, Cross-Novelistic Similarities (and fight scenes)

Using a bit of crude math off the top of my head, I discovered a curious thing today. I have been working on Faceless for approximately three months (I began it not long after the first of the year). It is almost fifty pages long.

The writing of Kiriana took me just a little under two years. It is approximately four hundred pages long.

The ghost of John Saxon spurring me on, I did a little calculating. Multiply three months (Faceless) by eight, and you get 24 months, or two years (Kiriana). Multiply fifty pages (Faceless) by eight, and you get 400 (Kiriana!).

I guess just a hair over sixteen pages a month about does it for me. :D Not that I wouldn't mind writing that I know this, it's a statistic just waiting to be beat, don't you think? I mean, come on, twenty pages a month? Not really beyond my grasp if I set myself to it.

I have had in mind for a little while now a fight scene (Faceless-related) that I would guess most of Hollywood would not like. Without revealing too much, here's why: I want this scene to emulate physical realities pretty closely. You see, at least to my fairly limited and theoretical knowledge of combat, even movies like The Dark Knight and The Bourne Ultimatum that profess to be "gritty" and "realistic" and "bone-crunching" don't really show you what a fight between even trained professionals would probably look like. First of all, to my knowledge, most punches don't sound like thwump-thwump-thwump, whizz, ker-thwack! Not only do most filmmakers add in punch-noises, which probably aren't really punch-noises, they also add in whizzing air, as if every punch were supersonic or something. Well, maybe in the Matrix they're supposed to be. You free your mind and suddenly Mach 3 kicks are within your capabilities. Not to mention having your back break concrete walls, instead of the other way around. But anyway. It's charming and all to have the hero be punched in the face, shot in the stomach, kneed in the groin, speared in the foot, gored in the shoulder, thrown from a cliff, and have his head repeatedly concussed against a brick wall, and then spit out the old tooth, wipe his mouth, get a determined expression, and somehow destroy the villain with ONE kick. But in real life even the toughest hero would probably just sink down and bleed to death. And then the "minor" punches--like the kind that would break my rib or yours--just make the hero take a step back, which is probably necessary anyway to maintain the choreographed beat of the fight.

I'm not averse to these kind of fights on all levels. In fact they're pretty interesting to watch, though at some point they can all begin to look alike (as the chorus goes haia-ho, haia-ho, hai-a! in the background). Also, I'm writing a book, not making a movie. Even so, I have taken a fancy to wondering what would happen if an actual person in the real world, say, had a bottle smashed over his head or got kicked really hard in the stomach by a chap who knew his way around fighting. I've gotten it into my head, for one reason or another, that fighting is hard, and usually makes you sweat, and bleed, and tire out quickly. That it can take eight or more shots to kill someone, and that this actually applies to villains as well as heroes. That, in a situation of more or less equal training and conditioning, a man will probably beat a woman in a straight fight. That the participants of a fight aren't thinking about being cool, but about not waking up in a morgue the next morning.

Keanu Reeves, Angelina Jolie, and Wesley Snipes will probably faint in horror if they ever read it, but that's okay. I'll just direct them to Kiriana, which does have a level of super-combat in it.

For what it's worth, I actually enjoy this scene. But it's also ridiculously unrealistic, and includes things like stopping a falchion with one's bare hands. ;-)

Oh, and at the end of the week I will be trotting off to Texico to visit the bro, which rhymes, at least sometimes. :D I am very much looking forward to it, and would appreciate your prayers for a bonny, convivial, turbulence-free flight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lithesome Protagonists and Goggling Extras

Hello, everyone! Sorry for not having updated in a rather long time, but I haven't been able to either think of or work up the gumption for a suitable post. I suppose I'll just make this one broad of topic and treat on some of the various happenings of mea vita. :-)

I've found miles of walking trails that can be walked to from my house. My longest hike so far has been about 3 hours and I haven't exhausted any trail system yet. Despite the signs warning of cougars and rattlesnakes, I have so far only seen a bucketload of rabbits, a few squirrels, a bunch of raptors that might be golden eagles (though I wouldn't know the first thing about bird identification of that precision) and a positive ubiquity of fuzzy caterpillars. I'd like to think the cougars wouldn't dare mess with me, but I suspect they're just aloof and shy by nature like any predatory animal. ;-) My three hour hike, by the way, thanked me for my pains with a ripping good case of sunburn that makes me look a bit like a roasted beet.

I watched the movie Godzilla yesterday: the 1998 Roland Emmerich remake. I shall be sure to review it on Tolle, as soon as revitalize the bally thing (sorry David!), but I'll make some comments on it here as well, just for fun. :D

Godzilla him- (or is it her?) self looks like a dork. If you've ever imagined a 500 ft. iguana with skinny legs and Stegosaurus plates, a sort of upside-down rectangular snout, and the intermittent-only-when-it's-convenient-for-Roland-Emmerich ability to breath fire, then you may have imagined something extremely similar to the nuclear lizard. The plot is so basic I may be able to sum it up in one sentence. Let's see: French nuclear tests in the French Polynesian Islands mutate a hitherto undiscovered dinosaur into a vast and virtually impregnable monster which swims around destroying fishing boats in search of its coveted food, and eventually ends up in New York, where it whallops the crap out of the Big Apple, performs a broad series of improbable actions which touch the lives of flat and silly characters, and lays about a billion young in Madison Square Garden.

Matthew Broderick takes about fifteen steps down from his hilarious role as Ferris Bueler to portray Niko Satopolos, or something like that, a former anti-nuclear activist now trying to effect "real change" by working on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission studying the effect of radiation on existing species. Somehow the filmmakers have managed to invent a job position perfectly suited to studying mutant monsters. Yeah.... Anyway, this cove exists primarily to chew up and spit out improbable pronouncements like "we're looking an incipient creature. The dawn of a new species. The first of its kind." Woo-hoo. His egregious ex-girlfriend, who becomes his current-girlfriend by the end of the film, is blond and shows it. After stupidly, predictably stealing a VHS tape from the military labelled TOP SECRET in order to get a one-up on her snotty boss and prove she can be a real reporter, she makes Broderick mad because her actions have ended up in getting him kicked off the team, because everyone thinks he leaked the information. Duh! She then performs one of the most fake sobbing sessions I've ever seen, one that might make Mel Gibson into the greatest tragedian of all time.

Roger Ebert quite sensibly pointed out some, er, aberrations between the laws of physics and the actual behavior of Godzilla. I'd like to point some out too, which may overlap with his list.
  1. How does it remain underwater for hours without gills?
  2. How do suspension cables on a bridge trap it in place when it can literally blast Godzilla-sized holes in steel skyscrapers and crush tanks like paper cups?
  3. It can breathe fire in such a way as to blow up three or four cars at a time. The creature is also smart enough to evade and then lay a trap for a flight of three attack helicopters and lead a torpedo back toward the submarine that fired it. Nevertheless, when it has a carload of main characters trapped in a tunnel, it never even occurs to it to simply roast and incinerate the whole shebang and leave all four main characters as barbecued ash. It also never occurs to it to use this fire-breathing capacity against the military, even though this would probably be four times more effective than just stomping.
  4. In one of the most improbable actions scenes in the film, why does it hold a flippin' taxi in its mouth for five minutes and give Broderick enough time to electrocute its mouth? It would be as easy as pie for a creature of that size to just EAT the taxi. Presumably a nuclear digestive system could take care of the metal parts--or maybe that's how it would die. I don't know, just don't hold it there like a dork because it has main characters inside!
Finally we must turn to the question of the Iuvenes Godzillae, the terrifying and monstrous Godzilla Juvenile Brigade! Now, Godzilla is big, but unless it had a womb the size of Central Park, I don't see how it could have laid several hundred 8-foot tall eggs in small clusters all around the bottom level of Madison Square Garden. Be that as it may, the movie tells us it did. Now, I fully realize that many animal babies are born far less dependent than any human baby, but nevertheless, gimme a break. The Godzilla-lets are 9 feet tall, agile, intelligent, buffed, and fully ready and capable to ingest a human at one minute old. It was hilariously obvious that this scene was copied by rote from the Velociraptor set-pieces in the two Jurassic Park films made prior to Godzilla. We have a Iuvenus Godzillus tap a door with its forehead in exploratory fashion, which swings out a bit and then swings back to bump it in the forehead; now convinced of the door's facility at swinging open, the beast gives it a hearty shove and stalks into the room. I happen to have seen the first Jurassic Park film a number of times, and I can assure you that when Timmy and Lex run into the kitchen toward the end of the film, one of the velociraptors does the exact same thing. There's even a scene of one plastering its face against a small glass window in a door, going eye-to-eye with a main character, which unsurprisingly also happens in Jurassic Park a couple minutes after the above-mentioned scene. Broderick manages to trip up about a half dozen of these creatures with basketballs and Jawbreaker candies, which is kind of funny in its own right.

But here's the deal. Something that permeated the whole film. When a monster wants to eat an extra, its physical prowess is in top form. Its bites have consistent and lethal accuracy. Its leaps are fantastically high, its intelligence works in some kind of predatorial hyper-mode that cancels out every attempt of human ingenuity to avoid being eaten. Come to think of it, though, it just as often poses for the camera in front of the extra while that extra goggles at it in impotent horror, and THEN it goes in for the kill. But when a monster wants to eat a protagonist, it is suddenly all bark and no bite. Its appearance of savagery and hunting capability trebles, but its actual success rate falls to about .0001%. As mentioned above, Godzilla takes about three minutes trying to decide whether to crunch a cab full of main characters when it had no compunction about chomping down on a HELICOPTER hard enough to make it explode earlier in the film. As for the juveniles, if they want to kill an expendable French dude (the French secret service is involved in this film, don't ask), they just bust through a door, slam into him, and start feasting. If they want to kill Matthew Broderick, he just can just go "whoah!" and kind of suck in his stomach, and their jaws will clamp shut on the empty air where his acrobatic navel was a millisecond before. These characters literally dart through crowds of these monsters, supposedly crowding them together in such confusion that they can't really be bitten. But even if these 'little' guys weren't pack-hunters by nature it doesn't take that much effort to just rip somebody's arm off when you're nine feet of sauropod ferocity.

Well. I had fun with that. There are other things I could mention about the film, but I'll leave it be for now. :P

I have some cool things coming up. In just a couple weeks I'll be off to Texas to visit Robert in his natural habitat. :-P A few days after that, David will be coming down here to visit. About a month after that, I'll probably be visiting the Deckers. Roughly two weeks after that, I'll be taking a summer class at Hillsdale. A month after that, I'll be in Italy. A month after that, I'll be back at Hillsdale for freshman year. Yipes! :D

Cheerio, peeps!


Monday, March 2, 2009


After the Long Wait, so long that I had a good while since forgotten to even worry about it, I discovered today that I'm a National Merit Finalist. Sweet!

I also translated a small bit of the Domesday Book today, which was pretty cool for historical and nerdy value, but which intrinsically was actually quite boring. "This property had blah-de-blah ploughs, so many villeins, and their woodland was such and such. Oh, and then this property had blah-de-blah ploughs..." And so on for about five paragraphs. Tomorrow I'm starting on Pope Urban II's speech that sparked the First Crusade, though, so that ought to be more interesting.

Oh, yeah, and I finished Kiriana. :D 418 pages, although editing may either lengthen or shrink it slightly (depending on whether winnowing the chaff or patching the gaps ultimately wins out).