Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I went and saw this at the weekend.  I was seeing too many spoilers.  I’ve had enough time to compile some thoughts.  Here’s some of them.

The Empire, or the First Order, marches; the Resistance runs.  This seems to be a significant difference.

If I watch this again it will be to make a list of health and safety violations.  I think I’ve spotted at least two in my first screening: Storm-troopers shuttling down to planetside without apparently being strapped in; later Rey trips some fuses without checking the safety protocols.  Once Health and Safety mobilises I don’t think either the First Order, or the Resistance, stand much chance coming off unscathed.

Rey is cool.  She is not just a Jedi, she is an Engineer.

What is the First Order’s economy?  Even after two Death Stars are destroyed and their dominance over the Star Wars galaxy has been shattered they still have fully functional funding to build a equator-girdling Starkiller Base that can be seen from orbit, a weapon that dwarves either of the earlier Death Stars.

What is the relationship between the Resistance and the New Republic?  Apparently the Resistance is embedded in the New Republic beyond the reach of the First Order.  Does General Leia Organa answer to a Comander-in-Chief in the Republic?  There are potentially disturbing implications if the Resistance is answerable only to itself.

Rule of thumb – if you end up in the Star Wars galaxy, move off the densely populated urban planets.  They get destroyed first.  Even low density settlements get bombed by the First Order, but the planet doesn’t get destroyed under your feet.  They have to find you first so you have a better chance.

Marvel’s The Avengers

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I’ve been watching The Avengers.  A friend loaned it to me.  Somebody leaves the swing door open and someone breaks in the house.  Oh, it’s Tom Hiddleston.  My, he is pretty!

I want to see the property damage report for this movie.  There must have been millions of tax payers’ dollars wasted when that underground base was destroyed.  I hope there will be an enquiry.  Planet America is under attack, especially on the New York front.  Although the number of deaths is kept offscreen, except for the alien Jitari soldiers.  They’re evil goons so heroes are allowed to kill them.  Despite the number of civilians in the middle of an alien invasion no New Yorkers seem to die in the cross-fire.  There is a human death in the movie.  It is a crucial plot development.

Heroes always team up to fight super-villains, except when their egos get in the way.  Super-villains are stuck with minions to do their dirty work.  They don’t have loyal friends who say things like “Sure I’ll help you conquer the Earth, then we can catch that game on t.v. after we’re done”.  Actually I thought Hawkeye was more interesting as Loki’s minion than an Avenger.  Loki needs to learn that following someone else’s orders is no excuse.

Most interesting character: Dr Banner and the Other Guy. (Puny god!)

Marvel's The Avengers

Hobbit Spotting through Lent

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Whom do I like better when it comes to guitar fanfares?  Malcolm Gordon’s One Voice, orCold Chisel?  It’s a tricky choice.

I started my lunchtime reading this week by picking out Bonaventure because I wanted to read St Francis’ abandonment of his old family life for sainthood.  There is also a passage where Bonaventure describes John Francisco facing a crisis in the darkness of a winter’s night and creating an imaginary family out of snowmen to destroy the temptation.  It’s in there somewhere but I couldn’t find the reference.

After that I decided to read a bit of Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald in the 1980s redaction.  The danger of reading MacDonald is that he writes in diabetic levels of Scottish sentiment.

I only got to the gym once this week.  It leaves me to toss and turn at nights as the muscles in my shoulders pull into uncomfortable positions before I sleep. 

There were two lectures in the latter part of the week: an Anniversary Day lecture where a local historian from the Maniototo looked at the poetry of his grand-uncle and what his poetry tells of the context of his life, one of those single working men who drift on the margins of our society in the years before their death; and the Centre for Theology and Public Issues hosted a discussion on Religion and the Republic: the American elections.  It was a sedate discussion which said nothing new and allowed ex-patriate Americans to consider their homeland’s politics from a distance.  There were a handful of absentee voters in the audience.  They decide the direction of the Free Empire for the rest of us.

The Art Gallery is providing me with entertainment this weekend.  Saturday: Samurai 3.  Third in a series of incomprehensible Japanese films where the swordsman Musashi Miyamoto protects a mediaeval village from bandits.  I watched Samurai 2 last weekend.  It is a spiritual ancestor between the cowboy movies from the wild west and the Jedi movies.

Then on Sunday, a Dickens Talk: Health & disease in Victorian Britain.  How can I resist a subject like that ?!

Under The Mountain: The Movie

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I watched this movie on Sunday evening. It is the third version that has been made, after Maurice Gee’s original book for children; and a kidult television series made in the 1980s. It would probably be branded in the Young Adult genre if it was released now. All three versions differ. I haven’t reconsidered the earlier versions and rely on my memory of them. Memory is always subjective. Things always look better to me in hindsight.

The underlying premise of Under the Mountain (no pun intended) is that the volcanoes of Auckland are menacing and there could be something sinister underneath them.

The protagonists in the story, the challengers of the unknown, are two red-headed twins: Rachel and Theo. They are older in the movie version, further into their teen-aged years than in earlier versions. When they arrive in Auckland after the death of their mother in the country we learn there has been a series of minor earthquakes in Auckland. This puts the recent earthquakes in Christchurch in a disturbing light!

Theo and Rachel are recruited by the mysterious Mr Jones, a being of light or fire from another world, to end his age-long struggle with the alien monsters called the Wilberforces. In all versions the Wilberforces live in a old house by the lake in Auckland city. They always look disturbing. The original story has Mr and Mrs Wilberforce. In later versions they are always male.

While they are said to be from other worlds stranded on earth, Jones could easily be described as last of an order of fire-mages in a war with primordial chthonic monsters. Mr Jones is a darker figure than earlier versions, willing to sacrifice his soldiers to return to the struggle at a later stage. He is at the end of his strength and must take risks.

Theo and Rachel are recruited by Jones because they have a telepathic affinity with each other which means they can use the fire-stones, the weapons that will destroy the Wilberforces’ caged monsters under the volcanic calderas of Auckland. The relationship between the twins differs every time. In this version Theo is more confident, which could be his undoing. Rachel is less confident with her fire-stone. In the previous versions it is Rachel who believes in the twins’ affinity and is more powerful in her use of the fire-stone. I am cautious when any fantastic fiction uses the command Have Faith, You Must Believe.

In earlier versions Theo’s contact with the fire-stone is weaker. In the original story he has to hold it against the ground to sustain his link with it; and in the television version he drops it breaking his contact with it a crucial moment, making it the weaker link in defeating the Wilberforces. Instead of creating an arc across Auckland both stones are cast into Rangitoto (Mount Bloody Sky). The words of the initiation sequence is lost in this version, which I remember as People of the Mud, I bring you the gift of death.

The Wilberforces and their monsters, the giant worms here called Gargantua, are destroyed before the monsters are freed and unleashed on humanity. The agency of evil in this story remains potential only, not realised. What could have happened if the People of the Mud who Conquer and Kill had been released in their power. Perhaps this is another story.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Beyond World’s End

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While I haven’t been to see On Stranger Tides yet it is Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan who are the characters that interest me, whatever one may say about the actors.  In some ways At World’s End ends on a depressing note.  Turner has become the Captain of the Flying Dutchman, the immortal psychopomp of all who die upon the seas, and Swan is left to grow old and die.  Watching it again last night I was more optimistic about the ending.  She has become the Guardian of the Captain’s Heart, and after her, her son.  Swan and Turner will meet every ten years to renew their relationship and their love for each other.

Cutler Beckett gave up too easily in my opinion.  He had the flagship of the fleet.  Had he given the orders he could have manoeuvered out of danger and used his own fleet against the Brethren.  Instead he lost a valuable ship and presumably the lives of all the soldiers and sailors on board.  My guess there is someone in the Admiralty who would be keeping a ledger of these things, a player who has not yet shown his hand.  The East India Company have taken a serious blow but are potentially not out of play.  They will want their revenge.

Presumably Elizabeth Swan, now the Pirate Queen, will leave Shipwreck Cove taking the Dead Man’s Chest and her son with her.  If she was to return to England, or possibly New York, then other agencies would come into play and a curious series of events would ensue.  If she was in America then the American war with the Berbery Pirates could come into play.  There’s an interesting idea for a story seed.

Concert for Japan

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The last of the Berlin Philharmonic concerts at the Rialto was their Concert for Japan.  The first piece was a Japanese percussive piece called Flows from me what you call time.  At one point one of the musicians was playing a hand drum.  My hands were trying to twitch in time with his playing.  I get to play with The Unfortunate Repercussions every couple of months at the end of the Khamzin Tribe hafla.  I’m looking forward to the All Hallows Hafla at the end of this month.

Their second piece was Dmitri Shostakovitch’s Fifth Symphony, a piece to which I was quite happy to be introduced.  That ends the series of four concerts from the Berlin Philharmonic.  The first opera of the new Metropolitan Opera season, Anna Bolena, does not begin until November, a birthday present to myself.  In the meantime there are two movies that tempt me: The Orator (O Le Tulafale) and Habeamus Papam.  Might have to juggle my calendar to see if I can get to the second one.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

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And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was was the likeness as the appearance of a man above on it

And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about it: from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.

As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.

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