Bits and Pieces 6

Another week still struggling to fully shake-off the lung infection or whatever it was that I've had for most of the month of November. Still very busy at work as well, so just a few bits and pieces for today:

  1. Teachers in the province I live in are threatening to walk off the job to express their outrage over a two-year salary freeze. I guess averaging $80,000 and getting two months off in the summer isn't just remuneration for their efforts, in their view. They really ought to keep their mouths shut and count their blessings. No one else with their level of education gets that kind of money, and absolutely no one else gets TWO MONTHS OFF EVERY SUMMER. I'm inclined to think that the Ontario government should break the union if the teachers strike. I would close up my law practice and go into teaching if they waived the requirement for a B.Ed. and took on other well-educated people for the positions. They could even freeze my pay for 5 years (forget the two they are bellyaching about) because considering how every other Canadian's salary is frozen in the 1980s that will still be good money.
  2. Didn't mention this here (but did on Facebook); last week I bought advance tickets for my wife and I to go see The Hobbit on opening night. First time ever going to a film on opening night. This was thanks to grandparents being in town and available to baby-sit.
  3. Speaking of films, Dredd has received quite positive reviews. Now I wish I'd made the effort to go see it in the cinema, but it's top of my list for iTunes rentals in January. On the other hand, I've received reports that the Total Recall remake which I said back in March looked surprisingly decent (based on the trailer), wasn't.
  4. I really need a good book to read. I've been reading a fair bit of non-fiction and a few Henty books, but need something more fantastic or science fiction-ish. Please give me some suggestions in the comments box.


Some Recent Painting

Too mentally exhausted in the evenings to do much writing, but as always, painting my toy soldiers proves relaxing and even cathartic, in a way. So here is what I accomplished this week, below. The model is of Nicodemus Doloroso, Grant Master of my new space marine army, the Angels Sorrowful:

Why does he have wings, you ask? And why the "Angels Sorrowful"? Well, without delving TOO deeply into Warhammer 40,000 lore, the Angels Sorrowful are successors of the "Blood Angels" whose progenitor was Sanguinius, a winged angel-like being who sacrificed his life in combat against the arch-traitor Horus who attempted to overthrow the Emperor of Man circa 30,000. Sanguinius' noble death was so violent at the hands of the satanic rebel, that it has sent psychic shockwaves through the millennia that impacts his descendents. Most of them manifest this by being bloodthirsty and angry, but another strain tends towards sorrow over their primarch's death. That's my guys. In very brief.


"Reprehensible" Stories

"Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don't wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and antiestablishment."
Cruz, Gilbert. "10 Questions: Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro on the politics of horror movies, living in self-imposed exile and owning a man cave". Time magazine. September 5, 2011. page 80
Well, to quote my platoon 2IC from way back in my army reserves days, "that not the most f---ed up thing I've ever heard". But I still think it's pretty darn foolish (I'm trying my best to be charitable here, Sophia's Favourite would probably not mince words so nicely) and especially coming from a man who's experienced, personally, a taste of what anarchy is like (again, those banditos who kidnapped his father were not exactly docile pro-establishment drones).

It's also rather odd coming from a man who, like myself, is a big fan of science fiction and fantasy (similarities between myself an Mr. del Toro end there) -- which tends to be almost exclusively "reprehensible" in his view because it is "pro-institution". Certainly all the best of these genres is heavily pro-institution and, as I mentioned, the grandfather of them all, The Lord of the Rings series is not only pro-institution through-and-through, but practically a catechism of that institution that Mr. del Toro hates the most, Catholicism.

The theme common to fantasy fiction especially, that makes almost all of it "reprehensible" and "pro-institution", features a sort of "conservative" past social order that has been corrupted and is restored (or sought to be restored) by the heroes. This is certainly true of Lord of the Rings where there is much talk of the glories of the past, the decadence of modern Gondor and Rohan, the emergence of the evil power, and at the end a sort of "Counter Reformation" that restores the old order. Even Star Wars follows this arc, despite superficial appearances to the contrary, with the Rebellion seeking to re-establish the Old Republic and a resurgence of the Jedi Knights who had a long tradition (another "conservative/establishment" thing) of guarding peace and justice. This has lead hacks gentlemen like Michael Moorcock to whine that fantasy is inherently politically conservative.

The inherent "conservativism" (I mislike the word, but continue to use it here for convenience) of fantasy and sci-fi is a reason why children, the most inherently conservative people in the world, tend to enjoy these stories. I say children are inherently conservative because they thrive on order, routine, and stability. It is chaos and anarchy that they find fearful and why the whole "Dr. Spock" liberal methods have been disastrous (but that debate is for another column).

Perhaps Mr. del Toro misinterprets "libertarian" and "back-to-the-land" trends in works like Lord of the Rings (or maybe he despises LOTR and agreed to help write the screenplay for The Hobbit out of a malicious desire to twist it into his own image? I'll give the benefit of a doubt and assume he likes it) as "anti-establishment". Well, it may be anti- the current liberal, French Revolution inspired institutions that people of Mr. del Toro's persuasion centuries ago foisted upon the world through torrents of blood. But that doesn't make it "anti-establishment", it makes it "reactionary" or "counter-revolutionary" which is ultimately the epitome of "pro-institution" since it supports the ancient institutions. I think that this is why I often am able to get along so well with really liberal-types, like a lawyer colleague of mine who has run for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada; we agree that there are problems with the current system but we disagree strongly on the solution usually because such people (though well intentioned) are ignorant of history and what stuff like communism really stands for.

So it's just plain odd to be a big fantasy fan, but claim to hate it's inherent nature. As to why it is so wrong-headed to consider "pro-establishment" fiction "reprehensible" ... that could be the subject of a multipage rant. But let's just look quickly at Mr. del Toro's quote above, wherein he says that a story that teaches children "always obey your parents" is "reprehinsible" is plain lunacy. Certainly, as a parent himself, he does not believe his children should not listen to him. It's just so plainly obvious that parents know more than children and the very purpose of parents is to teach and protect their children. So he's saying a story that reinforces the duty of parents is evil? The great irony is, that it is liberals ( Mr. del Toro acknowledges that he is one) who are the most "pro-establishment" because they tend to be statists who think "the establishment" should control nearly every aspect of our lives and "protect" us from ourselves with myriad regulations and Big Brotherly watchers. The "evil regime" of Generalissimo Francisco Franco that Mr. del Toro hates so much didn't have Child and Family Services who abduct peoples' children for drawing a picture of a gun! To be blunt, it's not just irony, but rather hypocrisy and liberal endeavours are ripe with it.


The Hobbit Less Than a Month Away

So, the blatant and cynical money-grab that is the three-part adaptation of  The Hobbit is but a little over three weeks away.  I can't say I'm not looking forward to it -- I am one of those Lord of the Rings fans who liked the films, notwithstanding their shortfalls. I'll likely even make the effort to see it on opening weekend.

But contemplating three films just makes me sigh and roll my eyes. Peter Jackson seems to have more than a little George Lucas in him, and unfortunately he'll probably be richly rewarded for it as Lucas has been (and I recognize I'm part of that problem). Still and all, at least they've kept the same look and most of the actors. I don't recall Galdriel appearing in the book, so I'm a bit unhappy to see Cate Blanchett plastered all over the train station I'm currently sitting in.

I should not get too nostalgic for a golden age of cinema, I think it's always been about the money. Yet it seems that in the 80s one had to make a good film to do it. Yet there were certainly cynical money grab sequels aplenty then, too.

Potentially much worse than any cynicism is the involvement of Guillermo del Toro in the scriptwriting process. Judging by the man's previous works and commentary about fairy tales show him to be an enemy of everything J.R.R. Tolkein stood for. Del Toro is an anarchist for one thing (cf. his comments that "pro-institution" fairy tales are "reprehensible" and anarchic ones are good), which seems a bit ironic coming from a man who's father was kidnapped. Mr. Del Toro -- kidnappers are not good law abiding citizens! And not too many kidnappings occur in horrible countries like Canada where the rule if law is generally respected. And the Tolkein stories are rather "pro-institution" if one carefully reads them. Also, combining this with del Toro's calumnies against General Franco in films like Pan's Labrynth, his rebellious attitude extends to the Catholic Church and Tolkien was a devout Catholic.  Actually, he's stated (ironically) "I'm an atheist, thank God." If only guys like him could leave our cultural patrimony alone, but alas, atheists tend to not actually be atheists but haters of God and especially His Church.

Upside:  it's a great stiry and simple enough superficially that hopefully the Catholic messages were lost on Jackson and del Toro such that they didn't FUBAR it.


Having Been Consumed by the Busy Monster ...

... not to mention sick as a dog all last week with a lung infection (possibly a touch of Bronchitis), there's an explanation for the recent dearth of posts. When you're self employed you only eat what you kill, so thresholds for taking sick days change, and most days I was too exhausted after work to do anything other than sleep once parental duties were accomplished.

As such, I managed to completely miss the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Swords and Space. I think the first year was modestly successful; I was able to keep up fairly regular posting at least until these past two weeks. Not as much comics and short fiction has gone up as I'd like but I am fairly well pleased with what did make it to the page. Some of the highlights (in my mind) of the past year include:

  • Lefebvrians, my first full-colour comic drawing.
  • Brightest Africa, my first foray into steampunk and an alternate history world I hope to return to.
  • Orwellian Affair, a four-part comic exploring the possible repercussions of my son's imagination in light of recent bizarre legal events locally.
  • All the Gods of the Gentiles, a short story about a young soldier sent as part of an escort for colonists to a world thought abandoned, only to discover that the original colonists are still present but behaving very strangely.
  • Felix Baumgartner's jump, the last comic to date, commemorating the only space first of significance that I can remember in my lifetime.
I think I had some good rants, too. Glad to see that my (entirely justified) evisceration of Prometheus, one of the worst films ever, has made it onto the sidebar as one of my most read posts. I hope my warnings about the Game of Thrones television series is taken under advisement, too. My thoughts on how CGI killed science fiction seem to be popular, as well.

Biggest failure of the year has been in the area of revisions to Call to Arms. There's been progress, but it should be done at this point, not still in progress.

To round-off these anniversary thoughts, I've renewed my oft-repeated (and often fallen away from) commitment to limit my time wasted on the internet by holding myself to checking email but thrice per day, and only doing other internet "stuff" (besides writing this blog) once per week. It's worked wonders in the past and I think will get my output of actual work (rather than rants and musings) closer to where I'd like it to be. Thanks for reading, and hope you stick around for many more years.
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