You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Failure to Grasp the Concept" Competition - Inklings Division


"The day The Lord of the Rings opened at the Embassy Cinema in New Zealand's capital, Wellingtonians awoke to discover that overnight their city had been re-named by government decree. To honour the achievement of their local film industry, Wellington was for one unique day exchanged for 'Middle-Earth' on signposts and public buildings..."

- Foreword by Sir Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy by Brian Sibley (London: HarperCollins, 2002), p 7 [emphasis added].


(a) The Return of the King movie promotion contest for which first prize was... a car. And not just any car, but a massive four-wheel-drive SUV. ("Ranchero! It didn't ask! It just took!"). Yep, that's how you market a film based on a book written by a man who could barely even tolerate the Model T: raffling a 4x4 toddler-squasher...

(b) The Lion Witch + Wardrobe tie-in contest that marketed... Turkish Delight.

PS: Welcome to Mr Sibley himself!


"It's ironic that Disney is filming The Chronicles of Narnia, because Jack [CS Lewis] negatively cites Walt Disney in Surprised By Joy as an artist who betrays beauty. He disliked Dickens' novels, for example, because the illustrations in them that he pored over before he could read represented, like Disney's art, "simpering dolls intended for our sympathy, which really betray the secret."

- Jon Kennedy, The Everything Guide to CS Lewis and Narnia (Avon Media, 2008), p 41.

A biography of Lewis by someone named "Jon Kennedy" is nearly as apt as one written by a Coren.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Freakonomics moment

I had a "Freakonomics" moment last week. Asked sandwich bar if they
sell 50 cent pork rinds like others do. No, told, but you can have
two for free! Now realised I can't go back to that sandwich bar ever
again because I would have to ask for free pork rinds (rather than
buying them), which imposes considerable psychic costs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Que un zapatero haceria tales zapatos!

Ay, ay, ay! Las hijas primeras son goticas!

!Rodrigo, llama tu officio!

As he stood for photographs with his teenage daughters beside Barack and Michelle Obama, a smiling Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, must have thought he was getting the ultimate family album picture.

It did not occur to him that official Obama pictures are uploaded on to the US state department's Flickr page, or that the black clothes and calf-high boots worn by one of his offspring might brighten the lives of Spain's adolescent Goths.

Yesterday his office was scrambling to remove all traces of the snaps, alleging that - unlike the Obamas - Zapatero has always kept his daughters, Laura, 16, and Alba, 13, out of the public eye. Officials also persuaded the state-owned Spanish news agency EFE not to distribute photographs of the two girls at the UN.

They reportedly reminded the agency that the law allowed Zapatero and his wife to insist images of their underage children should not be published - even with their faces pixilated out. However, the photograph was on the front page on several national Spanish newspapers- for many Spaniards their first glimpse of the prime minister's full family.

EFE confirmed it had decided not to distribute pictures of Mr Zapatero's daughters as soon as it received them because "they should not have their personal rights prejudiced by the prime minister's decision to take them to New York."

- Giles Tremlett, "Pictures of Spanish PM's daughters get thumbs up from Goths: Spanish prime minister tries to stop publication of pictures of daughters at White House wearing black clothes and high boots," The Grauniad (25 September 2009).

UPDATE: Preserving the anonymity of famous people's children seems to be a Spanish custom.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

''Episode IV - A New Hope and Change''

... I suspect "The Empire Strikes Back" due for release soon, followed by "The Revenge of the Jedediahs".

Some say Michelle O looks like a Klingon woman but I say she looks more like Kassidy Yates, Sisko's galpal in Season 3 of Deep Space Nine (who was played by an actress - Penny Johnson - who, interestingly, also played Condi Rice. Who has also been played by Thandie Newton. Who played, in Chronicles of Riddick, the woman unto the character played therein by Karl Urban. Who has also played both Eomer and Leonard "Bones" McCoy. All very incestuous - and not in the sense that attracts people to the idea of moving to Tasmania).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Godfried Daneels, meet Anthony Daniels [corrected]

THERE IS ANOTHER: Recently I learned of the existence of a second George Lucas. No, not a clone, but the Catholic bishop of Springfield, USA, which means his ring and crozier may feature a three-eyed fish. This got me thinking... What if he'd been the George Lucas who'd created the Star Wars trilogies? How far might his Catholic episcopal influence have counter-balanced Hollywood's recent spate of anti-Catholic movies (The Magdalene Sisters, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Golden Compass, Luther, Serenity, The Nativity, The Da Vinci Code)...? What would Star Wars have looked like if...

1. All post-1965 editions of the script, working from earlier and more accurate manuscripts, transliterate "Ben Kenobi" as "Bar Aknubi."

2. Luke renamed "the Lucan Authors".

3. When Leia asks "Would it help if I got out and pushed?", Han replies "No! - for that would transgress the Seventeenth Canon of the Third Council of Cato Nemoidia, which declares in perpetuity that the Senate has no power to permit Women to pilot vehicles."

4. Anakin sets out his views on democracy and governance. "Then they should be made to agree." When Padmé asks "What if no one can make them agree?" Anakin explains "Then the Chancellor purges from office all Senators who vowed against his proposal. Bingo! Now you've got unanimous consensus - against which shall none dare to presume to set his private judgment."

5. Palpatine orders Anakin/ Vader "Take a squad of troopers and purge the Temple. Leave nothing alive." Anakin: "Isn't that a bit extreme, my master?" Palpatine: "No. For it hath been profaned by the presence of Natalie Portman, Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels - that is to say, by a Woman, a Dwarf, and an man which hath crushed testicles." Anakin: "Aieee! Abomination! Abomination! It shall be cleansed forthwith!"

6. Yoda's word order now matches that of normal English speakers ("Therefore let the Jedi apprentice approach Our precious hut, in humility and with a teachable spirit", rather than "Let therefore the Jedi apprentice, in humility and with a teachable spirit, Our precious hut approach").

7. When Leia says to Vader, "Darth Vader. Only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate shall not sit still for this!" Vader replies, "Don't act so SURPRISED, your highness. The moment you removed your faux-Benazir-Bhutto head covering in public, that gave my troops complete authority to use non-lethal force upon your person, pursuant to the Suppression of Vice and Promotion of Virtue Decree (Imp.) of 1 BBY."

8. When Obi-Wan says "Millions of voices cried out in terror - and were suddenly silenced", Luke corrects this vilification of the Empire: "In fact, recent scholarship by unbiased researchers has proven conclusively that (a) fewer than 300 or 400 people overall died in the destruction of Alderaan, (b) of those who did die, at least 90 billion were engaged in aggressive terrorism against the Empire, so killing them was an act of self-defence, (c) officially-sanctioned translations of the Death Star plans into Standard Droidspeak were circulating at least two or three centuries before Alderaan was allegedly destroyed - which proves that Alderaan was in fact destroyed by the Rebel Alliance, not by the Empire. That is, if it ever truly existed."

9. Palpatine tells the Clone Troopers "Execute Order 66." Anakin: "Wow, that sounds, like, really sinister and evil." Palpatine: "And rightly so, my young apprentice. For indeed, it is the sum of the numerical values of the letters on the triple crown that is worn by the President of the World Federation of Seventh-Day Adventist Churches when pilgrims arrive at his palace and kneel before him to kiss his ring."

10. "General Grievous" renamed "Generalised Grievance" and played by William Donohue.

11. When Moff Jerjerrod says "I assure you, Lord Vader. My men are working as fast as they can," and Vader replies ominously, "Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them", he means nothing more sinister than inspiring them with the story of St Ergonostres, an historical figure who was reliably attested by thousands of eyewitnesses to have worked an ultra-supererogatory 25 or even 26 hours in each per day.

12. Obi-Wan explains "Sandpeople always ride single file... partly to hide their true strength from any observers, but mainly so they can periodically stop, kneel and flog themselves until the blood flows. This is because they believe in a loving God and reject the cruel doctrine of double predestination."

13. Obi-Wan tells Luke of The Force: "It is difficult to explain, but it links together everything in the universe." "Aha", says Luke. "So it's like Humanae Vitae then."

14. Han Solo: "Besides, going up against that thing ain't my idea of courage. More like... suicide." Luke: "Although death to oneself is an entirely foreseeable consequence of attacking the Death Star in a small, one-person fighter, it is not the primary intention (intentio primaria) thereof, nor is it willed by the actor."

15. Vader tells General Tagge, "I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of works, however, even more disturbing."

16. "Organa Solo" not only a political dynasty but also a theological slogan.

17. Leia corrects Han Solo so that he stops calling her "Your Worshipfulness" and starts calling her "Your Venerationfulness" instead.

18. Luke now understands that, when Obi-Wan says Vader was "a pupil of mine until he turned to evil," use of the word "until" (heos hou) doesn't mean Vader ever actually ceased being Obi-Wan's pupil, and that even now he remains, eternally, Obi-Wan's pupil.

19. When Palpatine tells Anakin "I want you to be my ears and ears on the Council", Anakin replies: "Can't you just send along a gang of disgruntled Latin Mass barristers with notebooks?"

20. Governor Tarkin: "Charming. You don't know how hard I found it to sign the order authorizing your life-annulment." Leia: "I'm surprised you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself." Tarkin: "I've ordered that you be declared a formal heretic and turned over to the custody of the secular power." Leia: "But they'll torture me, and then have me burned to death at the stake!" Tarkin: "Yes, but then the responsibility won't be mine, will it? I mean, be reasonable...."

21. When dodgy one-eyed cantina guy tells Luke "He - doesn't like you! I - don't like you either!", Luke replies "Rather, instead, is he motivated by an all-consuming prejudice and hatred against our ancient Faith."

22. When Kenobi says "That's no moon... that's a space station," Solo corrects him: "It is disappointing that you exhibit a simplistic dualism born of degraded late-mediaeval Nominalism. Whereas - if only you possessed the fullness of the Oral Tradition, you would understand - that a moon can also be a space station, without in the least adding anything to, or taking anything away from, its essence as a moon (essentia quam luna)."

22. When Lando asks "How can you alter one side of a bargain?", Vader explains to him the concept of Mental Reservation.

CORRECTED: Apologies for my confusing Lando Calrissian with Count Baltar, the Imperial Lord with the Imperious Leader. If you can remember 1977-78, you weren't there... This should read:22. When Vader says "I have altered our agreement. Pray I don't alter it further," Lando points out, "I can't pray for that! To grant such a request, the importuned deity would need to interfere with the freedom of your will - something that not even the most omnipotent of gods are capable of."

23. When Palpatine says, "The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be... unnatural", Anakin says "Hey, if it doesn't involve pills or rubber, then who cares?"

24. "Admiral Ackbar" would be renamed "Admiral Allahu Ackbar" and "Padmé" renamed "Ave Mari Padmé Hum La Ilaha Ill'Allah." Admiral Piett renamed "Admiral Piettà", although this would require his character to be rewritten as a woman.

25. C3PO tells R2D2: "You can't go in there. It's restricted to humans. Artificial forms of intelligence are intrinsically forbidden."

26. When Palpatine announces "If elected Chancellor, I promise to put an end to corruption", Jar Jar starts running about shrieking "Oh nooooooo! Himsa gonna paste alla da priestermans!"

27. When Owen Lars says "I guess that makes me your brother", Anakin replies: "Ah. Well. Given that (a) I was a virgin birth, and (b) you and I share neither a father nor a mother, maybe the term 'cousin' or 'close male relative' would be less likely to mislead the theologians of future centuries."

28. Tarkin to Leia: "Don't wowwy – we will deal with your Webel fwiends on Dantooine soon enough." Leia: "I sure hope that you're using 'deal with' here as a euphemism for 'mass extermination,' and not for masturbation, since the latter would be a gravely intrinsically evil act, regardless of exigencies."

29. Leia pleads "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." Luke: "So you are going to help her? Right?" Obi-Wan: "Well, yes, obviously she's right and the Empire needs to be stopped. But she still needs to enlist some extra intercessors to change my mind. I'm not moving on this unless Qui-Gon Jinn advocates her cause as well, from the afterlife."

30. Obi-Wan points to Artoo and tells Luke, “Plug him in. He should be able to interpret the entire Imperial network... provided, of course, that he acts in obedient subjection not only to Sacred Scripture but also to [the] Tradition, to the Decrees of Ecumenical Councils, to Bulls issued by the Holy Father (provided that such bear the clear marks or indicia of an ex cathedra statement in relation to faith and morals, and intended to be infallible), and to Dr Scott Strongstaples' 2007 bestseller, ‘How Moses, David and Ezra are All Antitypes of the Blessed Virgin Mary'."

31. The Emperor's Royal Guards' uniforms would be brown polyester, not red velvet.

32. A Nunn would never be passed over for the role of Princess Leia.

33. Why can't the Wookey win?!

34.Vader's actual words in the Original Manuscript were “I sense the presence of my old master... I must face him." However, in later editions, someone (and I'm looking at you, LT To LV volume of the phone directory) altered this to “... I must face him – alone," which completely reverses its meaning.

35. Name of Han’s bounty-hunter adversary changed from “Greedo” to “Lusto” to make it sound like a real deadly sin.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Strange wimmin' distributin' swords

Speaking of Merlin, my search for the Wikipedia page on the TV series also turned up this interesting character:

" Merlin Hanbury-Tracy, 7th Baron Sudeley... was a very active member of the House of Lords for over thirty years... In 1985 he was elected a Vice-Chancellor of the International Monarchist League..."
Shouldn't that read something more like "In 1985, his army defeated the forces of all rival candidates for Vice-Chancellor of the International Monarchist League, after which he had them executed or imprisoned for treason, and their families exiled, and then declared that he had inherited the position by the grace of God"?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

John Faa vs John Farson; or, King vs Republic


I've just finished reading a very lengthy, best-selling fantasy series. I was fortunate, in some ways, because I only started reading the first book after the last had been published, so - unlike many thousands of this writer's loyal fans - I wasn't left hanging in suspense for years, wondering if the final book in the promised series would ever be published (it was long overdue). The final opus is a fat bookshelf-buster, which loses some steam towards the end (especially in the final volume), but which at its best reaches the summit of fantasy writing.

The novels are filled with vivid, memorable scenes and ideas... alongside some clunky writing, padded chapters and embarrassing self-indulgence by the author, which I suppose you can get away with if you're a celebrity superstar.

Foremost, this opus - like Narnia, like Raymond E Feist's Magician, and like Alan Garner's Elidor -- is a travel-between-alternate-universes story. Another world, like our own Earth but not quite. Familiar words spelled differently (eg, replacing "e" with "ae" to get ye Olde Englishe atmosphere); Hebraic place names; minor but oft-repeated differences in dialect (trying to think of examples but there ent ary as come to mind).

We follow the heroes' quest across many parallel worlds, seeking a mysterious citadel where the enemy sits enthroned.

The male hero carries a weapon of special power, re-forged from a magical blade. He has two fingers sliced off early in Book 2 of the series, and he has serious issues with his long-absent father. One of his allies, a former Catholic cleric who's lost faith in God, has been wandering - on foot - through rifts between worlds, eventually settling among peaceful agrarians whose bucolic idylls are regularly disrupted by raiding predators. The rifts in the cosmic fabric are spreading, because the various universes are collapsing into chaos; the process is accelerating; spectral monsters are escaping through the cracks and preying on humans, consuming their brains. Our heroes must stop and reverse the collapse and restore the fabric of space/ time. To do this, they need to ascend to the very top of a mysterious tower, built by ancient scientist-magicians.

Innocent children are kidnapped and mutilated in a hidden scientific laboratory, until the good guys intervene and destroy it. In the devastated ruins of a once-great city, destroyed by the hubris of its own scientists, roving gangs prey on the visitors.

Giant sentient fighting bears make fearsome guards - but they have their own weaknesses, which our heroes can exploit. A talking animal companion provides some cuteness and comic relief. Children, hiding in cupboards after filching food from the castle cook, overhear plots to murder with poison.

One of the good guys - a quasi-cowboy whom, the author tells us explicitly, was inspired by spaghetti-western actor Lee Van Cleef [1] - wields the biggest, longest pistol anyone has ever seen, and reminisces about his alternate's world's version of the Battle of the Alamo. [2] Characters quote from a weirdly different version of the King James Bible. The dominant religion is supposed to be Christian but doesn't bear much relationship to it in the world we know, apart from passing allusions to Methodist hymns.

Computerised machines are possessed by, and speak with the voices of, disembodied intelligences. Semi-visible spirit-beings desire sexual union with humans. Characters who die in one world wake up in another, parallel universe and live on. Tarot-like symbols can be read to prophesy the future. Our defiantly atheistic hero sacrifices a child's life at the end of Book 1 so he can continue his journey across the parallel worlds... but don't worry, the kid turns up alive again in a parallel universe.

The malevolent villain, known by many different names in different worlds, possesses some supernatural power but falls short of the godlike status he desires. In the end, he dies an undignified death.

The main character's mother, a promiscuous noblewoman, philanders with a supernatural villain. There's even a doomed teenage romance as well; young Will's destiny means he must be tragically separated from the girl he loves, forever, although he can never forget her. If Hollywood does (as anticipated) get around to filming the entire opus,[3] the two young lovers' ages will need to be discreetly revised upwards.

And finally, the author places great emphasis on a monosyllabic concept as an excuse for the most bare-faced plot short-cuts, coincidences, and dei ex machinis. But despite all this, I found myself addicted to reading the books in his Dark...

... Phillip Pullman? Who he? No, I'm talking about Stephen King's The Dark Tower heptology, of course.

... Well, actually, now that you point it out...

Both King and Pullman acknowledge that it was Inklings who gave them the itch they needed to scratch. Pullman has famously excoriated CS Lewis for religious preachiness, ethnic and gender stereotyping, and glorification of death (which is rather like Quentin Tarantino attacking Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones for being excessively violent), whereas King reminisces fondly about his urge to write a Tolkien-inspired epic quest that wasn't just a Terry-Brooks-style Lord of the Rings knockoff. Watching spaghetti westerns inspired him to create the Gunslingers of the Barony of Gilead city-state of Gilead in the Barony of New Canaan, descendants of King Arthur's knights, who now pack six-shooters instead of swords: The Good, the Bad, and the Uglûk, do ya please.

But what surprises me most is not so much the list of similarities (you can also spot several Dark Tower parallels with Firefly, for example, a.k.a Torres and Glass),[4] but the fact that, amongst all the tens of thousands of words I've read discussing Pullman's three novels and King's seven, no one seems to have pointed this out. Try a Google search: most of what you get is book catalogues. They who read of Tull and they who read of Tullio seem to be nearly non-overlapping sets.

Both authors have found success through genre-blending. Pullman combines (largely successfully) Narnia-style talking animals fantasy with faux-19th century Jules Verne-style steampunk. King's great insight was that the Western - despite its veneer of gritty, unsentimental, taciturn realism - draws on much of the same iconography as mediaeval and fantasy fiction does. Horse-riding; dusty fields; desolate paddocks; failed harvests and reaptide bonfires; gallows; cows' and birds' skulls nailed to trees; Old Testament allusions; itinerant fighters, bound to a taciturn code of stoic chivalry; damsels in distress; counties and (cattle) barons; solemn, even high-falutin' diction.[5] However, King does (to my mind) dilute the power of this iconography somewhat by moving from the Mid-World to our own prosaic Earth. (In the later novels, King even includes himself as a character - which highlights the silliness of the standard legal disclaimer, which prefaces all seven books, that "all characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental". He also portrays his near-killer, redneck road menace Bryan Smith, with savage parody - which is understandable, if not the height of chivalry). Robin Furth, who is to King what Bjo Trimble was to Gene Roddenberry (right down to publishing the official Concordance), has loyally defended her dinh's metafictional crossovers... but still, I have to say, the chapters set in backwoods Maine are not those I find myself opening to re-read again and again. And there can't be many epic fantasies where saving the universe from chaos involves not only shooting down vampires, mutants and robots but also travelling between parallel worlds and... setting up a corporation to buy a vacant lot in NYC: Lawyers, Guns and Manni, anyone?

However. It still moves. The only really annoying side-effect of reading the adventures of Roland Deschain (by the way, what sort of rough-riding cowboy has a poncy French name? Louis L'Amour, wire your office!) has ruined both ordinary fantasy and ordinary Westerns for me. Each, on its own, is now lacking. So these days, when I watch Sky One's Merlin, I'm thinking: "Where's Black Thirteen? When's Arthur going to melt down his sword to forge the Guns, or destroy the ancient war machines left by the Old Ones?" and if I watch HBO's Deadwood, I want to know what demons abide in speaking circles on the road to Spearfish, and which of the West'ard Baronies is plotting to annex the Black Hills of the Dakotas.


[1] "Some [characters] just appear... Others I have to make up. Lee Scoresby, for instance: the Lee part comes from the actor Lee Van Cleef, who appeared in the Dollar films with Clint Eastwood, because I thought my Lee would look like him..." - Philip Pullman interview (2000).

"On a movie screen, projected through the correct Panavision lenses, [The Good, the Bad and the Ugly] is an epic to rival Ben-Hur. Clint Eastwood appears roughly eighteen feet tall, with each wiry jut of stubble on his cheeks looking roughly the size of a young redwood tree. The grooves bracketing Lee Van Cleef's mouth are as deep as canyons..." - Stephen King, "Introduction: On Being Nineteen (And A Few Other Things)," in The Dark Tower, Vol 1: The Gunslinger (2005 revised edition), p xiii.

[2] In fact, the fansites that were dreamcasting JJ Abrams' formerly-anticipated [update: but now abandoned] Dark Tower screen adaptation seem to favour Sam Elliott (Lee Scoresby in the Golden Compass film, also the Marlboro Man cowboy guy in Say Thankya For Smoking) for the role of Steven Deschain, Roland's father.

My own first choice would have been John Costelloe, who played Jim "Johnny Cakes" Witowski (seen on screen lovin' lo Vito loco in Season Six of The Sopranos). Costelloe has exactly the sad eyes, the painful thinness and the drooping handlebar moustache that King described; but in December 2008 he killed himself using, err, a gun.

So my next choice is Christopher "Dr Who #9" Eccleston - partly because he'd have the right note of melancholy, partly because it would be cool and self-referential in a Lawless-Stockwellian-Hatchian kind of way, and partly because Eccleston can be relied upon to pronounce both "Gunslinger" and "Stephen King" so as to rhyme with "finger".

[3] If JJ Abrams Ron Howard does go ahead and turn The Dark Tower into a film and/or a TV miniseries, I have a few scattered suggestions. (You listening, JJ? All SAG fees hereby waived, just include me in the credits.)

* Gilead flashback scenes should be in sepia, a la the opening credits for True Blood. So, at the very beginning, we see an introductory scene where Arthur Eld (would using footage of John Wayne be overdoing things?) is seated at a throne around the Round Table, with a dozen knights raising their swords to salute him. This dissolves/ morphs to a scene at the same table, and a dozen gunslingers in "modern" dress (long frock coats, American Civil War army jackets) raising their pistols to salute the (now empty) throne. The opening 5-10 minutes of Ken Branagh's 1993 Much Ado About Nothing should provide inspiration.

* The Gunslingers' weapons, etc, should not be taken straight from the existing "Westerns" section of Props department, but should be subtly different - about 50% Western, yes but 30% mediaeval and 20% Eastern/ Japanese (reflecting the Arthurian and samurai echoes), eg, Roland's gun belt should be intricately tooled, like a Viking's sword belt, and he should be wearing the ragged remains of a Civil War-style military uniform under his Drizabone trenchcoat, with a small (largely ceremonial) metal breastplate over the top of his chest. His hat should be a battered US Cavalry-type with a badge showing the banner or sigul of Gilead - Llamrei, Arthur Eld's horse (like a stylised chess knight), rampant over two crossed pistols.

* The theme song should be by Bruce Springsteen - either some of his classic hard-scrabble devils 'n' dust songs like This Hard Land (1995) and If I Were The Priest (1974), or else one composed by The Boss especially for the series (".... The world has moved on now/ the Beams, they are hollowed/ While the man in black fled/ And the Gunslinger followed"). A banjo-and-fiddles ballad, but with eerie Celtic pipes in the background, and a mediaeval-sounding lute or lyre (as in Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet). Hell, King owes Springsteen big time for the line that gave him a title for his biggest-ever book (And King mentioned rumours that Springsteen was in contention at one time to play Larry Underwood). And of course space should be made for The Man in Black, in his long preacher's coat.

* The first few minutes of a Gilead flashback should begin with a dusty, horse-track Western frontier town, as in Deadwood or True Grit. We see horses, stagecoaches, drinking troughs, etc. Then the camera pans upwards and we see the walled city/ castle of Gilead itself, pennants fluttering, tapestries hanging, as magnificently mediaeval as the White City of Gondor, or Camelot in First Knight. (Okay, not copying anything else from First Knight.) So we initially think we're watching a cowboy film, but then whoa... we're not in Kansas any more.

[UPDATE: And get this guy a gig on the soundtrack. Pure brilliance... Ennio meets Enya and they dance Ravel's Bolero].

* And on that note (so to speak): Susan Delgado should have an Irish or Welsh accent. Can't say why, she just should. Imagine, say, a younger Tara Fitzgerald speaking Susan's lines from Wizard and Glass with a Celtic lilt ("And you'll not be pert with me, sai Dearborn!").

UPDATE: If Alessandra Torresani is booked out, I nominate Jessica Chastain for Susan. Fitting on every level.

[4] "Gina Torres should play Odetta/ Susannah, for two reasons: 1. Her surname means “Towers” in Crunk – err, Spanish. 2. She already has experience playing a butt-kicking black chick who (a) marries a pasty white guy (who gets in over his head with gangsters) and (b) hangs around with a troubled teenager who sees disturbing visions; an ex-cleric with a shady past; a private-school boy who detests his wealthy father; and a disillusioned ex-soldier who, after his side loses the civil war, wanders around New Canaan and other worlds killing mutants with his six-shooter, all the while speaking a folksy David Crockett-style argot interspersed with Asian words." (here)

It's ironic that the best two Westerns I've ever seen at the cinema weren't actually Westerns at all: The Two Towers and Serenity. Now that cigarette advertisements are banned, it's oddly ironic that the closest thing to the glorious vistas of the old Marlboro Country ads are brought to us by a director named Peter Jackson.

[5] Daniel Grotta (no, that's not a Russian Hogwarts ripoff), in his JRR Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth, mentions that, as an Oxford undergraduate, Tolkien was fascinated by tales told by Allen Barnett, an American fellow-student, about growing up in rural Kentucky. And certainly there's something very Huck Finn-ish about the Hobbits, especially as Jackson portrays them.

PS: Add to the above list of similarities that 'Both refer to [the] Christ as "the... Man Jesus".'

Friday, June 19, 2009

Until Kristen Stewart sprang with superhuman speed between him and the taxi, denting its metal hull but saving his life

Paul Chi and Lisa Ingrassia, "Robert Pattinson Hit by Taxicab," People Magazine (Thursday 18 June 2009)

UPDATE: Great minds think alike.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

(Fal)Staff Training Sessions

Prince Harry has been ordered by his British army bosses to enrol in an equality course after calling a fellow officer a "Paki". The 24-year-old is understood to have been formally disciplined by army chiefs for making the offensive remark and told he must realise his behaviour was unacceptable...

- "Prince Harry to attend equality course," NineMSN News (Thursday 12 February 2009)
One here pictures Hazza's tutor bowing low before him and saying "If it please Your Royal Highness, might I may be so bold as to venture to instruct your Royal Highness that the equality of all subjects - from the highest nobility down to the merest commoners -  is deeply, deeply, embedded in the laws, usages and customs of Our Sovereign Lady Your Most Majestic Grandmother's realms, lands and dominions, wheresoever situate."

Because it's not always the red shirt who gets dismembered first

Problem A: younger offspring loved the figures from Wiggles [TM] keyboard so much that ended up pulling off the top half of Greg the Yellow, leaving him a legless corpse like the android Bishop. [*]

Problem B: older offspring loved various Wall.e toys so much (Wall.e being to our TV room floor what Elvis is to a typical Beenleigh pensioner's lounge room wall) that frequent dis-assembling thereof left one with a missing head - presumably vacuumed up weeks ago (dark grey being vary hard to see on the lino), and so gone forever.

Solution: a Greg/ Wall.e cybrid (cyborg hybrid) - with a curious resemblance to a sort of robotic Mr Tumnus....

[*]     That's Lance Hendriksen's character in The Aliens (1986), not Baths.

Kylie Eleison

'Singer Kylie Minogue is so desperate to wed Spanish model Andrés Valencoso in a church she is considering converting to Catholicism. The 41-year-old singer reportedly has her heart set on a traditional church wedding and may adopt his faith in order to have the ceremony of her dreams...''
- "Kylie Minogue wants to convert to Catholicism for dream wedding", The Courier-Mail (15 June 2009)

Hmmm.... Australia's Sweetheart decides that the theological subtleties of Unam Sanctam are unimportant compared to the fact that she really, really loves her latest overseas heart-throb. I'm sure this will end well... I was going to say "At least this time there won't be any disparity of cult, if she converts", but apparently some Protestant UQ Medical Student referred to Scientology as a "cult" years ago and Tom Cruise has needed counselling for it ever since.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Nay, sai, 'twere Jack McCabe

"KUNG-FU cult hero David Carradine may have been killed by a secret society of martial arts assassins, his family's lawyer claims...."

- (8 June 2009)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Who the hey is my neighbour?

'HARE Krishnas and Baptists seem like odd neighbours but both religious groups are planning massive developments on land in the same short, pot-holed and overgrown street in Brisbane's southwest. Sundays in Seventeen Mile Rocks may never be the same again. Locals fear the imposing Hare Krishna temple, with its Indian-style architecture, three conical altars up to 15m high, restaurant, shop, and six accommodation "ashrams", will become an imposing blight on an escarpment overlooking the Rocks River Park. The escarpment has views all the way to Brisbane's CBD....'

- John McCarthy, "Hare Krishnas and Baptists may be neighours," Courier-Mail (1 June 2009)

Baptists and Hari Krishnae. One lot shave their hair short, bail you up in the street, and repeat repetitive phrases during their worship services, while the other... Anyway. Sounds like Seventeen Mile Rocks (or, as it is known to those who reject the Protestant heresy of "Sola Scriptura", Twenty-Three Mile Rocks) is nearly as theologically diverse these days as Cordelia Street.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The biggest colluder?

There's the forgivable type of price-fixing cartel. And then there's the unforgivable type.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From JJ Adams to JJ Abrams, or: "First DeForest, then Urban" is not a zoning by-law

(Warning: possible spoilers)

"Remember a movie called Forbidden Planet? It was made in 1956, long before Star Trek was ever conceived... Leslie Nielsen's JJ Adams and William Shatner's James T Kirk would be equally at home on each other's spaceships."
- David Gerrold, The World of STAR TREK (NY, Ballantine Books, 1973), pp 204-05.

Curiously, the last two films I've seen have related to Brother Gerrold's book:

Last week, Martian Child (2007) starring John Cusack, based on a fictionalized version of Gerrold's own life.

Then, this week, saw Star Trek XI and was, as the reviewers warned, blown away thereby. It's better even than First Contact, I'd say.

Only two flaws I could point to:

(a) one bi-i-i-g plot coincidence, in a scene that seemed to have been borrowed from Monsters Inc; and

(b) a problem not so much with this film on its own, as with its place in the ST canon as a whole. That is, most of the plot points in "XI" are good and make sense in this film, BUT have been used before in previous Trek films. Vengeful Ahab-like villain? Check (II, VII, X). Sinister Romulan with family issues, personal vendetta and enormous super-ship? Check (X, XI). Unstoppable alien force travels back in time? Check (VIII, XI). Heads towards Earth? Check (I, IV, VII, X). Starts huge ruckus in San Francisco Bay? Check (VI, X). And so forth.

Having said that, one can construct a similar list of similarities for, say, rebooted BSG (if you cite Trek DS9, Blade Runner and The Terminator, you've pretty much covered the field) yet that is not to deny that the re-user may come up with a much better production than the original.

Four more points of note:

*       Good to see Amanda - Spock's mother and she who is (wave arm benevolently in her general direction) Sarek's wife - wearing a head covering. As Jane Seymour proved playing Serina in the original BSG, a simple shawl/ scarf is successful in wholly nullifying a woman's sexual attraction to males.

*       The Quinto Element.

*       Sulu putting the "slash" into "Star Trek slash fiction". How weird is that?!

*       Now that Abrams has struck cinematic gold with Trek XI, he should get the go-ahead from the studio money men for his next project - Stephen King's Dark Tower, praise the Man Jesus.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


'Britain may allow the monarch to marry a Catholic and give female heirs an equal claim to the throne, the Government said, in what would be a reversal of discriminatory laws going back 300 years.... Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth have held talks on changing the 1701 law on succession to the throne that was drawn up at a time of widespread hostility to Roman Catholics.... The Act of Settlement bars royals from becoming king or queen if they "profess the popish religion or shall marry a papist"....'
- Reuters, "UK flags reversal of discriminatory monarch laws," ABC News (28 March 2009)
Vatican spokesperson Cardinal Aircraftcarria praised the move. "We are pleased that perfidious Albion has at last dragged itself into the 21st century", he was quoted as commenting. "Restricting the office of Head of State to a particular religion is as unacceptable as restricting it on the grounds of gender. Neither should be tolerated in the laws of any sovereign state."

"The much-married Newt Gingrich converts to Catholicism this weekend - and I'd pay a year's salary to have been a bug on the wall during his religious instruction....'

- Christopher Buckley, "The Audacity of Poping," The Daily Beast (26 March 2009)
At least that'll push the Herbert W Armstrongites off the first page of hits next time someone Googles "Catholicism + Beast".
Article #1 above will be good news to Catholics everywhere. It raises the intriguing possibility that, when the Airstrip One Regional Consultative Council (formerly the "UK Parliament") proscribes Love and Responsibility as "hate speech" in a couple of decades' time, the Royal Assent to the Bill could be given by a Catholic King or Queen.

On the other hand, as Article #2 shows, it also creates a risk of Noot the Grinch eventually taking the Throne at Westminster in a "King Ralph"-style comedy of errors.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Episode 5.1 title leaked...

"Dr Who and the Planet of the Pyramids of the Spiders from Life on Mars"

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Now that's not wholly fair...

... it wasn't until "As If" that Sara really sold out to the commercial devil.

"Coal Mine Blamed For Causing Diarrhoea," NineMSN News (9 January 2009).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Leadership Beyond Politics

"The mother of Denmark's Prince Frederik tempted her son with two eligible European princesses in an attempt to lure him away from Tasmanian Mary Donaldson, a new book claims...."