Amazonian Elf Sex

…even the provocative director of the X-rated film Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi, managed to keep it in his pants. His ambitious yet incomplete 1978 animated Lord of the Rings stays in the right lane, true to its high fantasy trope, even though the film is wildly psychedelic in its visual flair. Such a great contrast to his other fantasies Wizards and Fire & Ice which was R-rated Adult Swim fare decades before Adult Swim existed! Instinctively and thoughtfully, Bakshi knew that Tolkien’s story didn’t need all the Tits & Ass that had previously made the animator the darling of 70’s arthouse cinema. He kept that out of Middle-earth, indulging it elsewhere more suitably for his other films.

theonering.net
Facebook – TheOneRing.net

I am commenting on the content of the live stream and the quoted article above, so some of this will probably seem to be a little disconnected. But, here goes.

15:45 minutes. The #TORnTuesday hosts discuss Arwen being present at Helm’s Deep in the movie version of LotR, and how theonering.net and it’s fanbase stopped those scenes from being in the final cut. Arwen being at Helm’s Deep would have been perfectly acceptable to me if a) she was dispatched as the leader of the group from her grandmother and b) women were equally welcome in the fighting troops with men and so her presence was unremarkable. This would have required a major rewrite and a re-explaining of why the plot evolves the way it does. Specifically? Eowen showing up at the battle in front of Minas Tirith and everyone being surprised, especially the Witch King (the subtleties of ingrained systemic misogyny are hard to parse sometimes) If women were commonplace things in battle, why wouldn’t anyone have thought about Eowen being in the battle of the Pelennor Fields? I mean, Arwen glowed with the light of the two trees in the first film, she can do just about anything else in the story after that. Considering what else was done in the Two Towers that varies from the book, Arwen being at Helm’s Deep makes complete sense to me. I would love to see those scenes, that version of the film, right next to the final version. I mean, why not? Other than, of course, that wasn’t how J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the scene. It would have been nice to see the Helm’s Deep battle filmed as it was written. I’ll take the parts of it that I did get, I guess.

56:00 minutes. There is the description of the John Boorman scene of the fellowship coming upon the waters of Galadriel. I cannot describe precisely how overjoyed I am that Ralph Bakshi got to do his version of Lord of the Rings rather than John Boorman, who went on to make Excalibur instead. A great movie, but definitely not high fantasy.

Anyone who thinks LoTR, or this Unnamed Amazon Production (UAP) needs more sexing up doesn’t understand what Tolkien was trying to say with his work. Explicit sex scenes shouldn’t be part of Tolkien’s work simply because Tolkien wouldn’t have dwelt on the prurient in that fashion. It is contrary to his vision of what high fantasy was and is.

It’s like telling me that Star Fleet has been subverted is a plotline of a film (Into Darkness) when Gene Roddenberry specifically forbade that storyline in the Trek writers guide. You, the modern interpreter, can certainly go there. Once you do, the film cannot be part of the canon for that created universe. If you insist on including contrary things like storylines that aren’t in the text or scenes that are contrary to the sense of the work, you risk destroying the social groupings that form in fandom around the platform that the work represents because the work no longer presents a uniform vision of itself.

What is a Bad Film?

Ask Paramount how much they like their new Trek that the Abramanator created for them. Sure, that first movie made money. Forget ever making money with the universe after that point.

Elf sex may not be the one thing that breaks the Tolkien fandom groups, especially since slash fiction is what most people create in their own heads (apparently) but if they are going there in the series, it won’t take Amazon long to completely abandon the rest of the lore that Middle Earth is supposedly based on, in the name of drawing more viewers to the show.

Here’s a thought. Why not create a new thing and get people to watch that, rather than pretend that the new thing is somehow related to something you feel nostalgia for? Nostalgia is overrated.

I have little interest in watching what Amazon does to Tolkien’s second age elves; even if Jeff Bezos does embroider the life of Galadriel, a strong female lead character, so lacking in Tolkien’s work. I am loathe to sound off about entertainment that I do not want to feel obliged to watch. If I sound off on the subject, and they cite my words as some motivation for changing their work, I would feel obliged to spend quality time evaluating the resulting product.

I have little trust left for the corporate creators of entertainment. I am way beyond reticent when it comes to promising my time in this fashion. I’ve written off many of my most treasured memories of youth at this point in my life, as well as abandoned new infatuations when they betrayed what they supposedly were about in the beginning. I’ve written them all off because some corporate stooge somewhere wanted to make a few more bucks off of my nostalgia one more time.

So I am prepared to pretend that Amazon’s elf stories don’t exist just like I pretend that other entertainment that doesn’t entertain me doesn’t exist, before I’ve seen one second of the work as it is intended to be seen. It is my feelings being used to motivate me here. The only way that I can stop them from being used to manipulate me is to compartmentalize those feelings and lock them away where they can’t be abused by the unscrupulous. It is up to Amazon to produce some work or other that motivates me to watch it based on it’s own merits. Gratuitos elf sex isn’t going to be considered meritorious. That statement can stand in for anything else I might say on this subject.

…it should be ‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry.

J.R.R. Tolkien (goodreads)

Featured image: Frodo, Gollum and Sam looking over a ledge, scene from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. I googled the article title trying to find an appropriate image to feature for the article. DO NOT Google the article title. Just don’t do it. The blog oneroomwithaview.com has a series of articles titled Best Films Never Made that includes an article about Boorman’s attempt to make his version of Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney was who he wanted to play Frodo. Frodo having sex with Galadriel. There’s an image you can’t unsee.

EPHN: A Right to Life?

Part 3 of a series of posts defining the Emergent Principles of Human Nature. This effort is an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I explain inalienable rights without including god. Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.


A Right to Life. What does that phrase mean? It’s patently obvious that an individual can’t claim an unlimited right to continue existing. Nature itself fails by comparison to infinite existence, since life as we know it on this planet did have a beginning and will have an ending. Life as we know it is the closest thing to nature, or natural, that can be said to exist at all.

Individual lives are far more transitory than the multi-billion years of life as we know it. Life as we can scientifically determine has existed on this planet. Life that will continue into the unknown and unknowable future. Life that will (hopefully) continue in an unbroken chain until the sun turns into a red giant and consumes everything inside the orbit of the planet Mars some billions of years in the future.

Did any of the individuals that came before us in that four billion year chain that lead to your existence have a right to live? A right to life? They all lived, from the crude beginnings of genetic coding to the first multi-celled organisms to the primates that lead to the human beings that were your parents, all of them lived and bred and passed on their life or you wouldn’t be here. Did any of them have a right to their existence? Is that right manifested here through your existence alone?

Do the children you produce have a right to live, a right to life? Your friends?Your neighbors? Does the person dying of cancer have a right to life? The starving person, the homeless person, the person lying out in the cold on a freezing winter night? Do they have a right to life? Why aren’t we compelled to help them? Why do they die, if they have a right to life? You too will die, we all will die. Do we have a right to life?

If rights are a thing that can’t be revoked, and yet life itself abandons the physical body, can there realistically be a thing called a right to life? It is an open question, in my estimation.

Human life is different, I hear you saying, human life is precious. You are right, human life is different. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say it is precious considering how we treat the needy among us, but human life is demonstrably different from any other kind of life on this planet that has ever existed before, in spite of the common ancestry we share with all other forms of life we have ever found. From a scientific perspective, we are the first creature that has modified its environment to such an extent that the impact of our habitation on Earth could well wipe out all traces of previous life and permanently alter the planet in the process, requiring the Earth itself to regenerate the life-sustaining envelope we currently enjoy today.

We have probably already entered the next era of Earth’s evolution. The Anthropocene is still in its proposal stages in the halls of science, but there is little doubt remaining that we have crossed the boundary into the human-created environment, for better or for worse. So we are different than other forms of life on the planet. But do we have a right to this life?

It is a mistake to start a list of rights with a right to life beyond the basic observation that taking the life of another person negates one’s own right to continue existing in the eyes of your peers. Again, this is demonstrable. The knee-jerk abortion protests and the outrage over euthanasia practices illustrates this fact as well. We want to exist. We want to exist for as long as we can maintain that existence in a fashion that is acceptable to our own vague notions of normal existence.

Abortion frightens those who see it as ending a life. They see it as a retroactive threat to their own lives, a cheat that allows the sexually permissive to go free. This is why the anti-abortion movement turns into the anti-sex movement as soon as it feels that it has established the beachhead of ending abortion. This is why they are now trying to end the use of contraceptives and other family planning practices. In their eyes, sex is for procreation only. The sex that other people engage in, at least.

Euthanasia is a far more personal threat. Everyone who exists, lives, will die. Tomorrow or several centuries from now, all of us will be gone at some point. Even these words set down in a permanent form of expression will cease to exist, to have meaning. Euthanasia ends that personal existence before its natural time. It is the bookend to abortion, in the eyes of a believer. Abortion ends life before it starts, euthanasia ends life before it is supposed to end, naturally.

However, most people do not understand what nature is. Nature is not just precious life, but cruel slavery of the living of one species, for their use by another species. This happens in the animal world as well as the human world. It is the nature of existence. Energy for continuing life must be harvested from somewhere, and that means killing something in order to continue existing. Did the cow that was turned into your hamburger have a right to life? Cows are mammals. They share a huge amount of genetic code with humans because of this fact. Shouldn’t all mammals have a right to life?

You might go for that argument and respond in the positive to it. Let’s go further out on the limb. How about the plants and insects that we consume. They are alive. Insects are even mobile and have primitive brains. Don’t they have a right to life? What will we use to continue our own lives if all forms of food are considered forbidden to eat because of the impact that will have on the sanctity of life?

This is the mistake of a fundamental right to life laid bare. We have no problem at all with taking the life of other living things, even other humans. To our credit, we have become less violent over the centuries. You can’t walk out into public and just start killing people without facing negative consequences for your actions. Acting under the color of authority does give cover for a substantial number of sociopathic tendencies. Wars kill thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands in an instant. Because wars are conducted under the authority of governments, we allow these massive losses of life to go unpunished.

The police are routinely forgiven for killing the defenseless by accident. They are granted the right to use deadly force, and some accidents will happen. Did the person killed accidentally by the police have a right to life?

The state conducting executions in the town square strikes most people as insane or barbaric in Western countries, today. But it was a common practice throughout the world in previous centuries and there are some countries that still practice public executions. No one questions the legitimacy of the threat embodied in a hogtied victim that is the scapegoat for some reviled behavior or other, but the person is just as dead in the end whether he represented a legitimate threat or not. Do they have a right to life? Why not?

These examples are the kinds of reasons that historical lists of rights start with a right to life, not the reasons that are bandied about today. Abortion and euthanasia are commonplace in nature. Nature is survival of the fittest in the most personal form imaginable. Abortion and euthanasia were so commonplace in previous centuries as to be completely brushed aside by the average observer. The elderly were allowed to die, to take the long walk, because we couldn’t afford to feed them anymore without threatening our own existence directly. The mammalian body will re-absorb or miscarry young that threaten the life of the mother, or the pregnancy will kill her. A human female who has children that she can’t feed would, and in some countries still do, simply leave the young exposed for predators or the weather to kill. These were far more common as occurrences than public hangings were. Every family would have experienced at least one of these once a generation until the modern age.

People are born, people will die. When do they begin to have a right to life? When does it begin?

…Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. By this time, preterm infants can survive outside the womb under proper medical care. And as it is so much easier to observe and interact with a preterm baby than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb, the fetus is often considered to be like a preterm baby, like an unborn newborn. But this notion disregards the unique uterine environment: suspended in a warm and dark cave, connected to the placenta that pumps blood, nutrients and hormones into its growing body and brain, the fetus is asleep.

Scientific American

When does it expire? Why does it expire?

the complete and permanent loss of brain function as defined by an unresponsive coma with loss of capacity for consciousness, brainstem reflexes, and the ability to breathe independently.

livescience.com

As far as EPHN would be concerned the first principle wouldn’t be life. The first principle is speech. Speech defines us to each other and to ourselves.  In some far-off future it’s easy to imagine that human life as we know it might not even be a requirement. Allowing for the granting of legal rights not only to qualifying AI but limited rights to higher level mammals capable of communicating. Speech defines who we are and what we know.

Without life there is no behavior.  Without behavior there aren’t any patterns to be analyzed.  There cannot be rights or Emergent Principles of Human Nature if there isn’t human life.  This problem is far more difficult to tease apart than any of the various ideologies crafted to grapple with it actually take into account. The many failings of the human animal listed in previous articles on the subject of EPHN all impact this problem. Perception is largely credited by the observer as being reality and yet perception is at best subjective or anecdotal.

Part of our mental dealings with the world around us involves assigning agency, purpose, to the things we interact with. This process is all but unavoidable.  The term for this process is Anthropomorphism. Try interacting with your pets without crediting them with human emotion, human motivation. The weather is frequently imbued with agency, as if the air currents that crash into each other actually think about dumping water in one place and not another.  If you stub your toe on a rock, you are likely to blame the rock for existing in that location rather than admit your own clumsiness, your gaps in perception that allowed the collision in the first place.

All manner of events in life are credited with consciousness, with agency, completely in error. Why would it be surprising then for someone to assign agency to a form, specifically the human form? Believers of various stripes credit their religious statues with agency.  What is clearly a construct of stone or metal can be said, even by non-believers, to project emotion. Art by its own definition should make you feel emotion, or it isn’t art in the judgement of the individual. But the emotion comes from within the observer, not from within the object. The statues are not happy or sad, joyous or vengeful, they evoke the emotion in the observer; they are crafted that way by human hands specifically in the hopes of garnering that emotional response.

Statues do not shed tears, do not bleed. Test after test reveals that contrary claims by the religious are baseless and there are many of these kinds of claims. Statues are constructs, devoid of agency, unlike a biological human form. What then of the form that does bleed or shed tears, is that human life? Not necessarily. Form is just the physical component of human life. Are amputees less human because their forms are not perfect? Are ugly people less human than pretty people? Of course not. There is something else, something in addition to the form which imbues the form with that thing we deem human life.

That elusive thing is consciousness. It is so elusive that we’ve only recently been able to detect its presence. We’ve only recently been able to attempt to describe what it is. It is there when you are awake and to some limited extent it is even present while you are sleeping, and it is gone when the body ceases to function normally. Without consciousness you are not you and I am not me. Consciousness defines human life and human principles, and without consciousness no concepts or conceptualizations are possible.

Consciousness coupled to memory, embedded in a recognizably human physical form capable of fulfilling the requirements for maintaining life. That is what creates the possibility for human behavior to occur, to be studied for patterns which can yield an understanding of the underlying principles that govern human interactions. Consciousness is the defining characteristic of human life, it is what makes everything else that we do possible. Life itself is not the basis of rights or principles, consciousness is. Speech is how we express what our consciousness perceives, which is why speech is the first Emergent Principle. Without speech we are even less than the other animals. Without the ability to speak our minds, we are not free in any real sense of the word.

Judging by the degree of those women’s intensity, I would say that it is an issue of self-esteem and that their fear is metaphysical. Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today’s intellectual field, they call themselves “pro-life.”

Ayn Rand

Featured image: Michelangelo Creation of Adam

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This was her dying wish, expressed to her granddaughter. She hadn’t been dead ten minutes before Senate leader McConnell was assuring everyone around him that the thing he argued for under Barack Obama’s presidency did not apply to the vacancy left by the death of the Notorious RBG (Tumblr) Trump intends to nominate someone to the court as early as Monday or Tuesday, even though it can be easily argued that he is president right now because of Mitch McConnell’s refusal to do the very thing that they are both planning on doing, replacing a deceased jurist on the Supreme Court when a presidential election is impending.

The hypocrisy and demonstrable dereliction of duty that is shown on both Leader McConnell’s and Donald Trump’s part when it comes to stuffing conservative judges into the federal courts as fast as they possibly can is beside the point I want to make here today. They have both been bought and paid for by the oligarchs who run this country, have run this country almost from the time of its founding. Their entirely predictable intentions are irrelevant here.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was only the second woman to serve on the SCOTUS when she was appointed, the first being Sandra Day O’Connor. When she started practicing as an attorney, she had a hard time finding and keeping a job because the law at the time was a practice for men, not for women.

The notion until the ’70s was that the differentials based on gender riddling the law books operated benignly in women’s favor. So women were excused from jury duty—well, that was a favor. Who would want to serve if they didn’t have to? Michigan’s law saying women couldn’t be bartenders—that was a favor, because bars could be pretty raunchy places. Laws like that were rationalized as operating to favor or protect women. The challenge for me was to get the judges to see that, far from operating benignly in women’s favor, these laws, as Justice Brennan said so well in Frontiero, put women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.

theatlantic.com
NPR – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87 – September 18, 2020

Nina Totenberg, the voice of the narrator in that nine minute NPR piece, has covered the United States Supreme Court since she was hired by NPR back in 1975. Nina Totenberg herself has fought many of the battles that the Notorious RBG had to fight. The canned nine-minute segment prepared by NPR in the event of RBG’s death covers the basics of her history on the SCOTUS. It is not enough information if what you want to know is “Who was Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” like I do. To further that quest I next queued up this episode of Radiolab, a rebroadcast of one of their spinoff More Perfect episodes about RBG and her impact on the court.

Radiolab – More Perfect: Sex Appeal – September 18, 2020

In that episode Jad Abumrad mentions that there were two movies made about Justice Ginsburg. I didn’t know about a second movie, so I had to go look it up and watch both of them.

RBG (2018)
Magnolia PicturesRBG – Official Trailer – Mar 7, 2018

I had always intended to watch this movie. I love documentaries and I have a fascination with the how and the why of a Supreme Court justice becoming a rock star. Becoming so famous that she inspired young women and men around the world to wear clothing and accessories (and even tattoos) with her face on it.

I watched the documentary on Hulu.com. It is also available from Amazon Prime (title link above) it is a proper documentary of a person, touching on all the parts of RBG’s life from childhood to 2018 when the documentary was made. Her time working for the ACLU is mentioned in passing, but they don’t appear to identify the attorney that worked with RGB to start the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU (Brenda Feigen) the movie also goes through several of the cases that she was notorious for winning or writing an opinion about.

…the movie opens with statements of loathing from famous conservative figures. The fact that they hate her so much is a tribute to her dedicated liberal views, which she defended to her dying day. In my opinion, the documentary is the better of the two films.

I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president … For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

a faker

He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment.

RBG on Donald Trump. 200,000 dead Americans agree with her.
On the Basis of Sex (2019)
Focus FeaturesON THE BASIS OF SEX – Jul 16, 2018
The law is wrong.

On the Basis of Sex starts with a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg in college and follows her up through her first argument of a case before a court as an attorney. Being an attorney was the job she wanted to do but was denied a chance of doing because she was a married woman with children. There is considerable deviation from the reality of her history in this film. The fictional plotline works to drive the narrative, so it is forgivable. However, it is also two hours long and feels like a two hour film when you are done watching it. The ending is satisfying, so I would give the film a positive review if I were to sit down and try to write a full review, which this paragraph isn’t.

This episode of the Daily from the NYTimes tells how her real history transpired, as opposed to the history provided as a backdrop for On the Basis of Sex.

The Daily: The New York TimesPart 1: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Sep 21, 2020

Part two

NYTimes – Part 2: The Battle Over Her Seat

Vox’s Today, Explained on RBG

Stitcher – VOX – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, and the future of the Supreme Court, explained

She fought, and she won, battles that put women on equal footing with men before the law, right in the face of an overwhelming majority of contrary opinion. Again and again, she staked out the battlegrounds that legal arguments would be fought over, and she succeeded in making women largely equal to men even without the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution.

To this day women’s rights in this country are provisional, based on legal precedents won in court and not on constitutional law, and this is because of the actions of the Christianists of the Religious Right. It was through them and their leaders like Phyllis Schlafly that the Equal Rights Amendment failed to be adopted by the deadline in 1979. That women’s rights exist at all from a legal perspective is largely because of RBG; and make no mistake, this is the reason that conservatives and Republicans hate RBG and will ignore her dying wish that the next president be the one to pick her replacement.

This is the important fact, the fact that inspired me to spend a considerable amount of time reading, watching and listening to the history of Ruth Bader Ginsburg over this past weekend. Republicans hate RBG because she is a woman and she has the temerity to speak her mind in the face of legal male privilege. Remember this fact when it comes time to vote in November, not whether or not Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell succeed in making the SCOTUS an organ of conservative dogma. Conservatives and Republicans do not think women and their opinions are worthy of note. Women should be in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. They certainly shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court. If Trump nominates a woman, and McConnell hypocritically gets the nomination approved by the Senate, that woman will agree with this sentiment, just as Justice Thomas thinks black people should be forced into second class status. What he doesn’t say is that he believes this because that injustice will inspire the re-creation of the United States as a black nation.

Conservative/Republican women in politics believe themselves subservient to men and yet attempt to lead anyway. Contemplate this fact until you understand what it means.

Over a long career on both sides of the bench — as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist — Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are — and who we can be.

Barack Obama
Kiki Bader

Summer Doldrums

I haven’t felt like writing, or even up to the attempt at writing, for more than a week now. I don’t know why. It could be my allergies. It could be the tinnitus that is making even listening to podcasts extremely hard. I did manage to finish reading my first physical book in several years. I will write about that experience soon, I hope. I hope I’ll feel up to reading another book soon, too.

I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon: Zero Dawn lately.

That is all I’ve been doing, aside from reading. I haven’t even managed to get online to run with my guild in World of Warcraft. Sinuses feel like they are going to pop out of my head. Sick to my stomach with something, probably just the Irritable Bowel Syndrome acting up.

It is even possible that it is the summer doldrums affecting me in ways that I’m unaccustomed to. I haven’t felt this lethargic at this time of year since 2015. The sum total of all these complaints means I’m on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I’ll see you all when I see you.

Trump the Demented

“It seems like if you leave a dementia test bragging about all the extra points you got on your dementia test, you have dementia.”

Jessi Klein

Person, Man, Woman, Camera, TV has been making viral rounds this week. I couldn’t bring myself to care long enough to even figure out what that Orange Hate-Monkey bullshit was about. I did try though. I got two minutes into,

The Late Show with Stephen ColbertTrump Proves His Cognitive Abilities With Five Magical Words: Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV – Jul 23, 2020

…and just gave up. Too much OHM lip-flapping, not enough humor. Today (Sat. July 25, 2020) with hints from,

‘Wait Wait’ For July 25, 2020, With Not My Job Guest Padma Lakshmi

I was able to deduce that the OHM is still bragging about how well he did on the dementia test they gave him, two weeks after the bomb dropped that they had tested him for dementia but didn’t bother to tell the American people about it for two years.

Facebook

Fresh Air – Mary Trump, The President’s Niece – July 23, 2020

Suggested reading:

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump Ph.D.

I listened to the entire book last week. It was an interesting listen if only marginally about Donald Trump himself. It was more about the monster that was Fred Trump, and how that monster drove his eldest son into the grave while twisting the minds of the rest of his children. Creating the fascist demagogue that we know as Caudito Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey in the process. Donald Trump is exactly who his father made him to be. Ruthless. Vindictive. But he is also what he was when he was sent to military school. Slovenly. Empty-headed. Narcissistic.

Mary Trump would say (and did say in the book) that her Uncle was unfit for the office of president. As a doctor with first-hand experience with him, she should know.

Mencken: the American Iconoclast by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers
Facebook – Stonekettle

It’s a Mystery

I’ve been putting myself to sleep listening to Phoebe Reads a Mystery ever since the pandemic forced us all indoors back in March. This is no coincidence. Phoebe Judge has been reading a chapter a day from classic mystery novels since the day that she had to shelve/modify her plans for the next season of her two podcasts Criminal and This is Love.

I wondered at where her knowledge of classic mystery novels came from until this morning when I listened to this episode of Criminal while trying to make my sinuses clear so I could put the CPAP mask on and finally be able to sleep.

StitcherCriminal – Episode 75: The Gatekeeper – 9.22.2017

My fingers just itch when I see something that says ‘murder.’

Marilyn Stasio

In that episode of the show featuring the writer of the Crime column that still can be found in various daily newspapers (including the NY Times) Phoebe mentions two or three of the novels that she has been reading over the course of the last three four months.

I cut my eyeteeth on trashy mystery novels. I read through every copy of the Hardy Boys mystery series that was on hand at the Leoti library. I then went on to read a good portion of Nancy Drew. From there I read nearly all of the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I never read Agatha Christie. I think I grew tired of the mystery novel when the sheer number of mystery novels seemed to blur together after a while. Pulp fiction is like that. Instead I moved on to Tom Swift and then to non-serialized fiction, finally settling on a fondness for what would probably be called hard Science Fiction.

I still love a good mystery when I can find one, which isn’t often. I liked the Da Vinci Code as I have mentioned previously on the blog. The problem with Dan Brown (like the pulp authors of yore) is that he only knows one kind of mystery story to tell, and so he retells it over and over again in each novel that he writes. I’ve sworn off reading anything else he writes because of previous experiences with his work.

I started in on reading the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson. I had gone so far as to buy hardback copies of his first three books after watching the first movie adaptation, but like so many of my later book purchases they have gone unread for years. I’ve only recently discovered that I have a hard time reading other people’s words on the printed page. I’m not sure why this is but I’m going to blame Meniere’s for it until I can find a better explanation.

The Wife had a subscription to the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine right up until the last few years when we let most of our remaining subscriptions to periodicals lapse. She reads on her Kindle now. I have listened to all of my books since discovering my reading problem. I wish I could still find pleasure in reading, but can’t.

Now that I’m listening to someone else read the story, I’m less inclined to judge a story harshly (see Bucky Dent) I judge more on the quality of the voice than I do the overall content of the story. As long as I can get the story to make sense in my head I will probably stick with the reader to the end. Phoebe Judge has that quality of voice. Much like Maria Hinojosa, I will listen to Phoebe Judge read just about anything.

Having said that, I’m finding I like Agatha Christie’s works as read by Phoebe. I hope that Agatha Christie Limited (as Phoebe discusses in this episode of the Mystery show) doesn’t get in the way of her reading more of Agatha Christie’s work to us in the podcast. I’d hate to have to find someone else to read it to me, and I doubt that I would be as happy with their voices as I am with Phoebe Judge. Would saying please help?

People should be interested in books, not their authors

Agatha Christie

Grant Imahara

I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.

Grant Imahara, dead at 49
Twitter – Adam Savage
Twitter – Kari Byron

Television was never the same without Mythbusters. Mythbusters would never have been Mythbusters without Grant. We’ll miss you.

Remembering Grant Imahara – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 7/14/20

What is a Bad Movie?

Campy films aren’t necessarily bad and cult classics really can’t be deemed good. There have been more than a couple of posts on Facebook (maybe as many as ten) asking me to pick films that I liked but I thought were bad films. I picked two movies (Joe Vs. the Volcano and Buckaroo Banzai) because I love them and I really can’t defend them. They don’t hold together and/or loose their audience halfway through. They didn’t make enough money in the box office and they haven’t gotten beyond a core cult following as time progresses. As an additional condition of love/bad I should add that I’ve seen both of these movies more than 10 times each and I never tire of watching them. I never tire of watching them while people who watch movies with me regularly object if I propose watching them again. The Wife’s film is ID4. I’ll scream if I have to watch that one again. But then she has about ten films that she cycles through, as well as two or three series that she has on repeat in the room while she’s constructing some art project or other, just as background noise, and I run screaming from all of them. That is the hallmark of a bad movie (or bad TV) that you love. You end up watching it by yourself.

Plot. Theme. Characterizations & cinematography. All of those bases have to be covered if you are going to make a good movie. Carpenter is the king of camp, and I consider Prince of Darkness one of his best films of all time. Big Trouble is another one. I wouldn’t put a Carpenter film in a list of bad films. His films (even his bad ones) are campy enough to be watchable. I’ve sat down and watched any one of a dozen Carpenter films with family more times than I’ve sat down to watch the two I’ve listed, and I still get takers to watch them (especially The Thing) I could go on for several more paragraphs but I’ve been a lifelong movie buff and I’m married to a woman who has been involved in more productions than a good number of professionals in the business. I know whereof I speak, even if I don’t have degrees to back my critical opinions up with.

CineFix – 2001: A Space Odyssey – What’s the Difference? – Jun 17, 2015 (h/t to openculture.com)

Visual and written media are different, this is an understood fact.  The adaptation of a written work to film is an important subject of discussion, not just a pedestrian piece of entertainment. Why a film adaptation of a written work is perceived to be better or worse than its inspiration is a subject of high importance to the funders of film ventures.  The buy-in of the author of the written work and their involvement in the making of the film does indeed seem to be key to a successful adaptation.

Let me offer a few examples.

The Harry Potter films all had the direct involvement of the author from the beginning of the film franchise.  I find the study of J. K. Rowling’s evolving talent fascinating.  I read the books myself, and read them out loud twice to my children. We then all went to see the movies. Now, while my daughter lamented at some of the parts left out of the story in question, I could see Rowling’s growing understanding of the film medium evolve from movie to movie, just as I watched her understanding of the written work evolve over the course of the several books she has authored. The films, just like the books, get tighter and more interesting as her understanding of the two different mediums grows. I would offer them as some of the best examples of book to film adaptation.

It can also be a good idea for the author to know his or her own limitations. I’ve read the Hunger Games series and watched all four movies. I find the movies far more interesting than the books were, and more believable.  The characters are far more sympathetic on screen and the actors that were chosen have all performed admirably.  I don’t know the level of the author’s involvement with those films, but I haven’t encountered her promoting them like Rowling did. Yet the films do seem to capture the essence of what was compelling about the Hunger Games novels. A worthy effort.

Fight Club is another instance where the film retains the essence of the book, and yet is actually better as a movie than the book was as a book. Very few adaptations not only don’t insult the original work, but mange to improve on it. It’s also one of the few internal stories that works on the screen, largely because the internal is external (as it is in the book) without the viewer knowing this. If you don’t understand the reference, then you haven’t seen the film. Stop reading and go watch it now.

On the other end of the scale we have every attempt to adapt Dune to the movie screen. I’m not convinced that any of the parties involved (much like the 007 movies and Ready Player One) ever read the books. Frank Herbert was still alive at the time of the filming, but never seemed to have taken an interest in the first movie produced. If Alejandro Jodorowsky is to be believed, then Frank Herbert was very much involved in the project when he was developing it. The final product of the effort taken over by Hollywood bore almost no resemblance to the book that I’ve read, and I’ve read it (and Dune Messiah and Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune) more times that I’ve read the Lord of the Rings. The mini-series from SciFi comes close to capturing the essence of the novels, but still manages to fumble capturing the theme. The subtleties of the realpolitik have never been captured by any movie that I’ve seen. Most books that I’ve read also fail at giving it life (Hunger Games being the latest to attempt it that I’ve read) unless they are biographies of real historical figures. Even some of those fail at being interesting and real at the same time.

I, Robot remains the epitome of failed adaptations. Rather than simply destroying one character, as Peter Jackson did with Faramir in the Lord of the Rings adaptations, the entirety of Asimov’s work on the robot series was completely thrown out the door. None of the characters share more than a name with their counterparts in the books (a series of short works and novels) the tone of the film is luddite in nature, with all technology representing a fearful threat. This is a framing for the film that Asimov would have rejected out of hand. The plot hinges on a point that contradicts all of Asimov’s writing on the subject (the ability for a robot to kill a human) only to be countered at the last minute with a physics defying descent to an inexplicably located central computer system that isn’t even in Asimov’s works. The continued existence of the film serves as firm proof that there is no afterlife, because I can’t imagine Isaac Asimov not returning from the dead to correct this blasphemy enacted in his name.

The people who complain about minor character details being missed, or sections of the work, like Tom Bombadil (again, in Lord of the Rings) that don’t lend themselves to plot progression, simply don’t understand the constraints of the visual storytelling medium. However, it is clearly important that the filmmaker not only be a fan of the written work, but has to understand how to pull the plot, theme, and narrative out of one medium and place it in another in such a way as to be recognized by the literary fan, so that the people who paid to read the written work will also pay to see the movie. If the producer, director, writer and actors all don’t agree on this and make their best efforts to pull this feat off, you end up with just another blockbuster that you hope makes it’s exorbitant production costs back in the first few weeks of it’s public release. Because you won’t have fans buying it and talking about it years later.

Understanding the limitations of the medium that the story is told in can be key to being more forgiving. For example: A keycard is familiar and its purpose is understood by the viewing audience. Using a keycard to bypass security serves to advance the plot more easily than how you might describe the problem and its solution in a book. You don’t have to spend time explaining how to transfer fingerprints or the knowledge needed to understand bypassing security through the software, if you just have the protagonist steal a keycard. This simplification of the storyline removes at least 10 minutes of film time and who knows how many dollars from the budget. Most of the changes that are made to a literary work being adapted to the screen are done for just these kinds of reasons.

Putting Tom Bombadil into the Fellowship of the Ring movie introduces relationships and characters into the story that really don’t advance the plot and don’t increase the viewers engagement in the story itself. In the book, the brief aside of Tom Bombadil between Buckland and Bree serves to draw the reader into the story, into the world of Middle Earth. Bilbo never encountered any of the problems that Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin did because he stayed on the Great Eastern Road when he traveled from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in the Hobbit. Tom Bombadil, for the reader, serves to illustrate the problems of leaving the road unsheparded. This makes the Hobbit’s willingness to follow Aragorn more believable when they meet him at Bree. They’ve just survived death at the hands of ghosts and magic because Tom Bombadil was there to save them. The screenwriters rightly decided that shortening the narrative there was without any real cost to the overall storyline. The only people who object to going straight from Buckland (mentioned as the ferry in the movie) to Bree with a single scene cut are the people who are anchored in the literary narrative, incapable of appreciating the different demands a viewing audience brings to the theater with them.

I loved Fellowship of the Ring when it came out as a movie. It remains a testament to what Peter Jackson thought he could sell to a bunch of rabid fans ready to tear the heart out of his three-movie project before the first movie was even cold in the film canisters.

The Two Towers is a completely different matter. The Two Towers is a bad movie in pretty much the same way every second movie is, plus a few other insults thrown in. I’ve already mentioned Peter Jackson’s treatment of Faramir as one of my objections. Dragging the Hobbits to Osgiliath served the purpose of having a crisis moment for Faramir where he and the audience see the danger of the ring for themselves. In my estimation it is unnecessary.

As a film editor I would have sliced off all hints that they ever left Ithilien, had the Witch King show up, have Faramir renounce the ring (he does anyway) and send Frodo and Sam on their way. No need to draw out the crisis moment. No need to have Sam utter that heartfelt speech about not being here that always makes me laugh and agree with him. No. You shoudn’t be in Osgiliath. Now you have to come up with a device to get the Hobbits back onto the borders of Mordor. Oh, look! A tunnel! Just what we needed.

The less said about Treebeard and the ents as they appear in the movie, the better. I don’t think that Jackson had all those sequences worked out in advance. They have a hurried quality to them, which (bararum) Treebeard himself would not have appreciated. The second movie was always going to be the connector between the grand achievement of Fellowship of the Ring, and the closing moments of Return of the King. The book The Two Towers is a long slog, too. That the series of movies were completed at all is a tribute to Peter Jackson and his crew.

…and then he went on to destroy the Hobbit. Peter Jackson’s the Hobbit is J.R.R. Tolkien in name only, just like I, Robot having the name Asimov’s in front of it makes it his movie in name only. I haven’t watched the third Hobbit movie, but I will eventually. The elf/dwarf river dance in the second movie combined with the liquid gold surfing was more than I could take. You strip out Jackson’s love of overly-long action sequences and you might have a set of movies worth watching (see Jackson’s King Kong) his weaving of the various themes that predate Tolkien’s writing Lord of the Rings, themes that aren’t in the Hobbit, was clever if not at all like the book itself.  The first movie announced Jackson’s intentions to not follow the book so I wasn’t too upset when he didn’t follow it in the second movie.

Since they weren’t really J.R.R. Tolkien and they were definitively Peter Jackson, warts and all, I saw no need to rush out and watch the last movie in the movie theater. Now that I am longing to see movies in a theater again it may be time to dust off some of the movies I’ve put off watching and try them out. See if I think differently about them now.

So what is a bad movie? It is up to the moviegoer at large to determine this, just as it is up to the reader to determine whether any given book represents good writing or not. Let me put it this way.

ranthonyings.com

On my laserdisc copy of Star Wars Han Solo is the only one who fires a weapon in the Cantina scene. That is the way it was supposed to be before George Lucas screwed up all the original movies re-editing them. It is because of the re-edits that I have said for awhile now that neither Disney nor the Abramanator could screw up Star Wars. George Lucas already did that.

…But then the Abramanator said “hold my beer” and proved me wrong. That is also why I won’t buy Star Wars on any of the new formats that are available. Not unless I get an original version of the movie to view. A New Hope is a bad movie. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were great movies. It’s just too bad you can’t buy them anymore.

Or you could just ignore the critics and go see the movie.

Stonekettle Station

Some of my thoughts on this subject were inspired by comments on this Facebook thread. The featured image is a screencap from the infamous watermelon scene in Buckaroo Banzai.