Friday, December 7, 2007

The men who read these books are now in my belly and boy did they give me the meat sweats!

I haven’t abandoned the news or current events entirely, they have merely had their priorities adjusted while I’m reading Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. I’m nearly finished The Golden Compass and it has really drawn me in. I think Mr. Pullman has created one of the most exciting and believable child heroes in fantasy fiction and yes, I completely agree with you in that there are too many of them as it is. Lyra is a bit different however; she’s not the usual, cerebral weenie who finds her confidence and courage at the end of the book. Rather she’s something of a self-assured unholy terror right from the get-go. Lyra’s true strengths lie in her being an uber-kid; her vast quantities of determination and deceitfulness are the only tools she needs to overcome a variety of legitimately discouraging obstacles… Well that and a spot of future telling… Oh yeah, and one of the most insane combination bodyguard/all-terrain vehicle a ten year old could ever hope for, but still I think most of the credit belongs to her.

Nearly twenty years ago fantasy and science fiction were stitched together into horrid, clunky abominations. The Shadowrun line of books and games we’re forerunners of this Frankenstein-style genre-splicing. They thought it hip to have elves sporting assault rifles and I detested their products roundly for it and their other short-cuts to creativity. Writers have since had time to hone their surgical techniques and now we are treated to something far more subtle and interesting. The Golden Compass bends time in its own alternate version of earth. Oxford remains firmly in the 1600’s, London’s moved ahead a bit to the 1800’s, and the North Pole seems to have been catapulted into the 1940’s. It somehow works even if the end result is a Texan cowboy and a polar bear sharing a hot air balloon ride.

The reviews of the just-released movie are not altogether kind and at the time of this writing it’s getting a 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. Such is the peril of making a fantasy book into a film; the medium has a lot going for it when it’s kept firmly in the mind of the reader. Seeing a cowboy and a polar bear in a hot air balloon probably looks preposterous but having a writer set it up for you as a climax to an excellent adventure scene is an easier sell. When you read a book you don’t have it entirely play out in your mind like a movie; it’s a shadow version of sight, there and not, the visual intermixed with the sentence structure, all of it incomplete and yet somehow cohesive in the end. Fantasy movie makers must be careful to not make things too blatant. As well time plays a heavy roll. A book that takes you two or three weeks to read gives you ample time to digest the wacky and wild, there’s a rest period between meals. In a two or three hour movie it can result in way too much at once. It has the same effect as the Mandarin Buffet has on me; too much cheap food under one heat lamp, all of the combined smells turn me off the concept of lunch completely.

It has however been an interesting news cycle this past week so for the sake of posterity I’ll throw up some links.

Russian President puts the cool back in Cold War...

There goes our man Vladimir! One day he’s scaring the hell out of all Europe and on the next he sweeps his party into a Parliamentary election victory with an impressive 64%. Plus have you seen him without a shirt on? Weapon of Mass Seduction more like it! With the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty now serving as Putin’s toilet paper the Russians are free to move tanks, jets, and helicopters wherever they please throughout their western regions. I hope the European Union enjoyed their time negotiating with Russia as some kind of spent drunken has-been because those days are over.

Hugo Chavez can't get ahead in politics. Get it? It's a PUN!

Chavismo looks to be in need of Viagra. I just had to post his picture. Look to that massive, swollen, torrentially perspiring melon of his and those teeny, tiny books! He looks like Ogre King of Hobbiton! He must eat one-hundred head of steer every fortnight! The little folk who serve him must have to butter-skate on his skillet before they fry him up a thousand eggs!

This is Hugo’s first defeat since assuming power, though he remains President until 2013. He was looking to fast-forward his socialist Bolivarian revolution by giving himself the power to unilaterally alter Venezuela’s constitution and remain in power indefinitely. It proved to be too much to ask despite the fact that he is wholly beloved by his people. The vote was close and chances are he will take another run at these changes again.

This, the Russian election, and the one in Palestine last year show us the full range of democracy, how one government system can result in such different outcomes. Power to the People sometimes has pretty crazy results. Russia loves the strength and identity Putin has restored in their hearts and for this he seems poised to become all but a Unitary Executive. It’s what they have demanded with their votes so you can’t rightly disqualify the notion even if it does collide with our version of government. When the Palestinians voted for Hamas the U.S. and Israel howled in disbelief, thinking that the servile Fatah party was the only viable choice. They never stopped to think what would motivate the Palestinians to pick what they have labelled a terrorist organization. They don’t get that things are just that bad for these people, that a free choice for anger and outrage is better than accepting the yoke of servitude in some sham of an election.

Hugo Chavez has given his people more education and empowerment than any Venezuelan leader before him. I find it both reassuring and ironic that in doing so his own people have come to realise the difference between the struggle and the figurehead. Chavez will be gone one day, one way or another. Their work will go on.

If Iraq sucked any more their women would be prostitutes... Oh wait, that's happening too...

Iraq has been rated the third most corrupt nation on earth, sitting below only Ethiopia and Myanmar, both of which I don’t think are even human countries but rather some kind of emerging simian stone-age empire. I kid, I kid! Just because a nation doesn’t have a space program doesn’t mean they’re destined to make my acid wash jeans for pennies a day in a sweat shop. I know these things but I can never seem to remember them. By the way acid wash is coming back and it’s coming back big because it’s awesome. Fuck you!

So you have to pay several hundred dollars to become a police officer in Baghdad. I’m trying to think of a better way, a more nefarious way, to cause a society to collapse in on its own moral crapulence but I think this is the clear winner. What do you think these new police officers are going to do on the first day of work? If you said: “Why Dyno, they are going to re-coup their losses of course,” then I would say: “Why do you bother pointing out the obvious to me? Do you think I’m some kind of idiot?” And then you would say: “Let’s not fight. I have this dime bag and it’s never going to snort itself.” And then I would say: “How can I not love you? Here, let me unzip that fly.”

Afghanistan: Big in the Bandit Business since 982!

What I find interesting in this article about the Afghan road between Kandahar and Kabul is that if you picked up a newspaper five hundred years ago you would probably read a very similar article. There are bandits on this ancient trade route still, and they will rob and even mutilate you as they did back then. What I don’t like about the article is how they spin the repaving of the road itself as a humanitarian effort. Read any military history book, building roads is not a P.R. move. You can spend a quarter million dollars on asphalt or you can spend a full million in repairs to your battered motorcade. That the Afghans get to use the road when American Humvees aren’t convoying on it is purely incidental. It’s like when a fly crawls over your shit. Letting the fly do it doesn’t make me a fly-lover. “Go ahead, fly! I’m done drawing with it, it’s all yours.”

It's kind of stony but I would still eleven herbs and spice the fuck out that shit yo!

Its Dinosaur With The Skin Still On Time kids! They found a Hadrosaur with skin and muscle still attached and in good form in a bizarrely fossilized state! You get to actually see the cool dinosaur scales. Already this has given them corrections on what the Hadrosaur actually looked like, stuff the bones didn’t tell, like for example it has a meatier backside for the T-Rex’s to dine upon. It sucks that dinosaur’s became extinct because you know that they would be delicious on the barbecue.

But-but-but the nuclear bombs and the hating our freedom and the terrible terror!

I will surely return to this topic because the blow-back is even now huge and will not go away any time soon. The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons capability gave the Persian regional power a clean bill of health. They don’t think there is a program and they don’t think there has been one in years. This report was given to Bush in August but that didn’t stop him from war-mongering about nuclear holocausts and World War III. Already there has been downplaying and spin control. It is now clearly evident that the response Bush was trying to muster against Iran is in no way justifiable given the actual level of threat. Carrier Battle Groups are stationed off the Gulf of Hormuz, bombing campaigns are ready to go, and for what? No weapons, no weapon programs, nothing even close for years. It’s the lies of Iraq all over again.

A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction...

Keith Olbermann is my favourite pretend-older brother because he’s been calling Bush on his shit and taking him out behind the woodshed for years now. His comments on this latest issue are hellacious even by his own excoriating standards. I have never heard anyone speak about a world leader in these terms in my life! You can watch the show or read the transcript. It is a scorcher!


Anonymous said...

I loved these books. Some of the sci fi elements reminded me of some of the more interesting sci fi books I have read in the past.

I think Lyra is an amazing character and couldn't wait for her to kick some magisterium ass.

The movie doesn't work in my opinion, but I thought make for a great accompanying piece. It looks amazing, and some of the casting is spot on, but its about 3 hours too short to cover all of the stuff that goes on, so the whole movie feels like a synopsis.

Dyno said...

I'm halfway through The Subtle Knife now and it's holding up really well. The re-stealing of the alethiometer was a great scene and the finding of Grumman was cool too!

Good hearing from you Jason!