Posts Tagged ‘The Lord of the Rings’

Tweezer Runs from Bexit Vote

December 10, 2018

More lies, cowardice and broken promises from Theresa May. After telling the world that she was going to hold a vote on her Brexit deal tomorrow, 13th December 2018, Tweezer has once again shown her true colours and run away. Just like she pulled out from a debate with Jeremy Corbyn when she found that the Labour leader was not going to give in to her and hold the debate on the Beeb, in a format packed with Tories or pro-Tory voices. Just like she also demanded Corbyn debate her at the election in 2017, and then ran away from that when agreed.

It’s standard Tweezer policy when the going gets sticky. And the going here was very sticky end. According to RT, 62 per cent of the country think her deal is bad for Britain. MPs on all sides of the House are lining up to criticize it, and her own cabinet is bitterly divided on the issue. Plus leading Tories are lining to up to say they’ll challenge her leadership of the party, the latest being Esther ‘Killer of the weak and disabled’ McVey. So Tweezer has decided to postpone the vote.

This is a woman, who doesn’t like facing an audience unless everything is very carefully stage-managed. Like during the electioneering last year, when she went round supposedly meeting ordinary people. Except she didn’t. The meetings were very carefully staged, often in private, and with very carefully selected audiences, in order to exclude anybody who was going to ask awkward questions.

May has therefore postponed the Brexit vote. Mike has asked on his blog whether this means it’s effectively been cancelled. Which would lead to another contempt of parliament motion. This wouldn’t surprise me either. It would have been the first promise Tweezer has broken. Some of us still remember how she promised all manner of things last year, including workers on management boards, which were forgotten or postponed as soon as she got into No. 10.

But Mike also asks what this means for democracy. Without the vote, she can simply push it through parliament, no matter how bad it is for the country and the amount of opposition to it in parliament.

Are we living in a democracy, or slaving under Dictator May?, Mike pointedly asks.

It’s a very good question.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/10/theresa-may-has-postponed-the-meaningful-vote-in-parliament-on-her-duff-brexit-deal-does-she-mean-cancelled/

Mike has also mischievously suggested that one reason May pulled out of holding the vote on her wretched Brexit deal tomorrow is that Andy Serkis did an impression of her as Gollum. Serkis is the actor, who played the character in the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films. And it’s appropriate. Tweezer got nicknamed Gollum after her obsequious fawning and curtsying to the monarchy, just like the character flits between fawning over Frodo and the others searching for the Ring and spitting hate about them.

It appears that Serkis did his impression of May/Gollum as part of the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum. I found it on the We Wants It channel on YouTube, which takes its name from Gollum’s cry about the Ring, ‘We wants it, precious!’ Just as the we, the country, or at least some of us, wants a second referendum. Here it is.

Mike has also written about this latest piece of massive cowardice by May. His piece also includes Serkis’ Gollum impression, taken from the Mirror, as well as some very grim pictures of May groveling to the Royals. It’s at

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/10/did-andy-serkis-impression-of-gollum-may-prompt-her-to-postpone-her-big-brexit-vote/

Don’t have nightmares!
D

A Self-Portrait of Greg Hildebrandt

December 24, 2017

This is another great piccie I found over at the 70sscifiart site on Tumblr. It’s a self-portait of Greg Hildebrandt, one half of the great SF/Fantasy artists the Brothers Hildebrandt. They’re probably best known for their Fantasy paintings of goblins, dwarves, giants and other creatures direct from works like The Lord of the Rings. Though this picture’s title, A Very, Very Close Encounter, suggests a more extraterrestrial source of inspiration.

70sscifiart is at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/. It’s worth taking a look for anyone interested in great, vintage SF art.

Secular Talk on Donald Trump’s Attempt to Sue the Onion

May 18, 2016

This is yet more evidence how psychological incompetent Donald Trump is to serve his country as its head of state. And it’s hilarious!

In this piece from Secular Talk, the show’s host, Kyle Kulinski, talks about an article in Legal News discussing how The Donald tried to sue the Onion for libel three years ago in 2013. The Onion’s a satirical website. In 2013 it ran a piece under Donald Trump’s names, entitled, ‘When You’re Low, Just Think: In 15-20 Years I’ll Be Dead’, and then went on to discuss how unpopular the Coiffured Clown is. Trump and his frail ego went berserk, and his attorney sent of a letter to the Onion demanding that they pull the article and apologise, or else. In fact, as Kyle Kulinski says here, the letter probably wasn’t written by an attorney or spokesman, but by Trump himself. He’s known for spending his time combing the press and news for anything on him, and then getting irate when they say something he doesn’t like.

Secular Talk also had a piece about him a few days ago, in which they discussed another piece of Trump’s weird personal history. Apparently in the 1980s or thereabouts he used to ring newspapers up pretending to be his own publicist, a John Miller, and start praising himself to the rafters. One of the American newspapers, I think it may have been the Washington Post, did a piece about this, including a clip from one of these phone calls. Trump denied it was him, stating on a TV interview that it didn’t sound like him. Kulinski, however, made the point that it does sound like The Donald, and at various points in his long spiel about how wonderful he was, Trump would occasionally forget to talk in the third person, and say ‘I’ instead. He’d correct himself afterwards and carry on as before. Nevertheless, that slip confirmed that it was him all along.

He also got annoyed with someone else and threatened to sue them when they dared to mock his risible ‘Birther’ views. Trump, like many extreme Right-wing Republicans, doesn’t believe that Obama should be president, ’cause he doesn’t believe that he was actually born in America. Obama, however, pointed out that he was born in Hawaii. This produced the response from the Republicans that he should confirm this by showing his birth certificate. Trump was one of them. One of the media wags decided to spoof this by claiming that The Donald was not fully human, and his father was really an orang-utan. They put up a picture of Trump next to one of the apes to show that Trump’s hair colour was closer to the orang-utans’ than to everyone else’s. Trump, however, took the jibe way too seriously, and instead of seeing it as a rather daft joke, viewed it instead as a terrible slur on his ancestry. He therefore started waving his birth certificate around to show he had a human father, and started threatening the joker with a libel action.

He really, really doesn’t have any sense of perspective when it comes to these jibes and insults. I don’t know, but I think probably almost everybody in the West realises that humans and apes can’t breed, despite what the Nazis tried to say to the contrary about Blacks during the Third Reich. And it’s an old joke anyway. In the early 19th century there was a novel about a mysterious red-headed stranger, who arrives from the East Indies, called Mr Ouran Haut-Ton. Mr Haut-Ton thrives in business, becomes a successful MP, and eventual gains a peerage and joins the House of Lords. The whole joke is that the distinguished gentleman is an orang-utan. Try saying Ouran Haut-Ton as it would be pronounced in French. That should give you a clue. This shows you how long people in Britain have been joking that their leaders in business and politics are really just strategically shaved apes.

Moreover, satirists in Britain have been taking the mick out of politicians and celebrities by writing spoof articles under their names for a very long time. Craig Brown has been doing it for about twenty years or so in the pages of Private Eye. He did once get sued by one of the Tories. I’ve a feeling it might have been Alan Clarke, and that did end up going to court. But such spoof have been a staple of satire for so long that no-one takes them seriously as really being by the people they send up.

Trump’s manifest lack of any sense of humour or perspective about this is funny, but there’s a very serious side to this. Kulinski makes the point that Trump says he wants to ‘beef up’ the libel laws so that he can sue people who publish material he doesn’t like, and get more money. This is censorship. Kulinski compares Trump to Erdogan, the wannabe-sultan of Turkey. Erdogan had a doctor charged, because he dared to retweet a picture showing the Turkish president alongside Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. He also had another man arrested after his wife wrote a snitch letter, saying he turned the TV off whenever Erdogan came on. And he demanded that Angela Merkel prosecute a pair of German satirists after they took the mick out of his litigiousness on a late night programme on German TV. He was disappointed, as Merkel stood up for free speech, and turned him down.

Free speech lives in Germany, but may not last much longer in America if Trump gets into power, as he’ll spend his time trying to censor people from saying anything critical about him whatsoever. If he gets into the White House, all you’re going to hear from the press for the next four years will be the sound of ‘Duce! Duce!’ and phone calls to their lawyers to protect them when The Donald sends his squadristi round to have a quiet word after they’ve written something he doesn’t like.

Giger’s Dune Sandworm

July 19, 2015

I found this extremely cool concept painting of a Dune sandworm by H.-R. Giger over at the 70s Scifi Art tumblr page.

Giger Dune Sandworm

Giger, who died last year, is best known for his work on Ridley Scott’s Alien, and for designing the creature, ‘Sil’, for Species. He was, however, one of the concept artist, along with Chris Foss and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, who worked on the designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film version of Dune in the 1970s. That never got made, as the film’s backers dropped it at the last minute. Jodorowsky himself and his co-workers have said it’s because, in Hollywood the producers want to be far more involved than simply just putting up the money for the film. They backed out simply because they didn’t know who Jodorowsky was, or quite understand what he was doing.

The other reason was probably the sheer cost of the film itself. Jodorowsky himself has said that he hired Salvador Dali the play the Galactic Emperor (!). Dali demanded a million dollars, and stated that he would only play the Emperor for half an hour. Astonishingly, Jodorowsky agreed, and the contract was duly signed. Standing in for Dali in the rest of the movie would be a robot.

Giger’s own designs for Dune have been published, and are on-line, as are Foss’. His plans for the Baron’s spacecraft, the Galactic Emperor and his palace, and for spice freighters and attacking pirate ships have been published in the album of his work, 21st Century Foss, by Paper Tiger.

After Jodorowsky’s version collapsed, Ridley Scott was hired about a decade or so later to make the 1980’s version. It’s for his, later version of the film that Giger made the above design for the worm. Unfortunately, Scott’s brother died, causing him to abandon the project. As a result, it was then passed on to David Lynch.

Lynch’s film has been critically panned, and the received opinion of it is negative. It’s widely held to be a notoriously bad movie. I have to say that I like it, and I think it’s actually a good film. It’s main problem is that it tries to compress Herbert’s lengthy and complex novel into a single movie. It really needs to be split into about three, as the Dune 2000 miniseries did, and Peter Jackson with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Even as it is, I think Lynch’s version still holds up and is massively underappreciated.

As for Scott, he went on to make Bladerunner, which is now justly recognised as one of the great SF film classics. And despite the failure of Jodorowsky’s film version, Jodorowsky and Moebius managed to use the material they had produced for it in their SF comics. The film’s look and concept designs are even credited with influencing later, successful SF movies like Bladerunner and Alien.

Two years ago a documentary on the making of Jodorowsky’s Dune came out. I’ve looked for it on the shelves in HMV and elsewhere, but I’m afraid I haven’t been able to find it this side of the Atlantic on DVD. It is, however, on the net.

Here’s the trailer:

jodorowsky states that he wanted to produce the effect of taking LSD without having people take the drug. Looking at the designs created for the movie by Giger, Moebius and Foss, and Jodorowsky’s own, unique take on the material, it would have been an awesome and truly mind-blowing experience.

Which is what good SF does. C.S. Lewis, the fantasy novelist and Christian apologist, was a strong fan of Science Fiction at a time when it was regarded, in the words of Brian Aldiss, as ‘worse than pornography’ by the literary elite. He wrote three SF books himself, strongly informed by his own Christian convictions: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra/ Voyage to Venus and That Hideous Strength. He declared that ‘Science Fiction is the only true mind-expanding drug’.

He’s absolutely right, and it’s a tragedy that too many people have got ensnared by chemicals, rather than picking up a good paperback.

Vox Political’s Personal Tribute To Terry Pratchett

March 13, 2015

Yesterday Terry Pratchett, one of Britain’s greatest and most prolific writers of genre fantasy, shuffled off this mortal coil. Mike over at Vox Political has posted his personal memories of meeting the great man, and the inspiration he gave him for pursuing a career as a writers. It’s simply called Personal thoughts on the legacy of Terry Pratchett and begins

You’re probably wondering how this ties in to politics. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

I first met Terry Pratchett at Forever People on Park Street, Bristol, on the afternoon of September 20, 1986 (if I recall correctly). It was the day of the big fire at the Fowler’s Motorcycles outlet on the Bath Bridge, which makes it an easy date to check. My recollection is that the blaze had not really got started as my brother (the blogger Beastrabban) and I on our way into town, so ‘that Discworld guy’ was much more interesting.

We arrived early, which meant nobody else had arrived by the time Terry did. This was 1986, remember – he was only just getting started. This meant we had him all to ourselves for a good few minutes before anybody else appeared to hesitantly proffer a copy of The Light Fantastic for his squiggle – and nothing’s going to make as great an impression on an impressionable adolescent trying to work out how to make it in the world as a few minutes with the undivided attention of someone who has literally just worked it out.

This was before Terry evolved into the personality he became – the bald beardie with the big black hat and the weakness for banana daiquiri. Obviously he was bald (genetics) and he was bearded (aesthetics) but the rest was yet to reveal itself (unless the memory cheats).

We talked about ideas, work ethics, how to keep people interested (basically, it has to interest you first). By the time we – reluctantly – left, the motorbike place was blazing like Ankh-Morpork in the very first Discworld story (The Colour of Magic) and we had to take a detour to avoid it. My brain had already taken a somewhat longer diversion that would lead to amateur journalism, professional newspaper reporting, and eventually this blog.

I also remember first seeing Terry Pratchett with Mike back in 1986 at Forever People in Bristol, though I’d completely forgotten about the fire at Fowler’s. Forever People was one of those small, independent comic shops that existed before Forbidden Planet expanded to just about corner that area of retailing. It has, unfortunately, vanished. It was how I think comics shops should be – stuffed full of the mainstream and the bizarre, with the weird novelties in the windows, role-playing games and TSR miniatures of wizards, warriors and orcs on tables on the ground floor, and rubber monsters and plastic models of artefacts and creatures from SF movies hanging from the ceiling or adorning the walls. It was also slightly disreputable. It was permeated with a musty smell from old comic back issues, and was also regularly raided by the police for stocking magazines and literature on drugs.

Terry was on the second floor, signing copies of his books. I can’t remember now whether Mike brought one he already had, or picked one up while he was there and had the great man sign it. I think it was the latter. What I do remember was catching sight of Terry himself, sat behind the desk, saying to the person in front of him, ‘Well, the Bambleweeny 47 sub-meson brain is important’, while the long queue snaked away. The shop was packed, though that wasn’t particularly hard as nearly every inch of available space stuffed full of books, magazines and merchandising. I was amazed! He was a fan of Hitch-Hiker, just like I was! Mike duly took the book to the counter, got it signed, and we left.

I saw Terry several times again over the years. As Mike says, I went to College in Cheltenham, which has a massive literary festival at which Terry became a regular speaker. The first time I saw him I think he was speaking at the town hall. He appeared wearing his characteristic broad-brimmed, black hat and the black ‘Tel-shirt’ with death strumming a guitar. Just as he got to the lectern and was about to begin speaking, someone came up to him and gave him a banana daiquiri. He thanked them, and explained that it came from a question he and Neil Gaiman had been asked when they were together writing Good Omens. They’d both been asked what they would most like to be given. Gaiman said simply, ‘Money’, while Pratchett said, ‘A banana daiquiri’. He joked that since then, he’d got seven banana daiquiris, and Gaiman hadn’t seen a penny. So there, if someone asks you that question in future, keep to the drinks. You just might get what you want that way.

His topic was the nature of comedy, and how repetition and deliberate references can be used in humour. He said that his style was influenced by P.G. Wodehouse, and gave as an example of how repetition can b4e funny he gave the example of an incident one of the great explorers gave of one of their party telling the same, unfunny story every night until the rest of the party started falling about laughing. It was the story of a man, who left to go to work, but didn’t pack his lunch. When it got to lunch time, he looked for his lunch box. It wasn’t there. He was stupid. That’s more or less the entire story, as it was told. Terry described how the first time it was told, nobody laughed. The next night, there was something like a giggle, the night after that a few more pieces of weak laughter, until at the end of the week people were falling over themselves laughing at what was really a pathetically weak story.

He also discussed the way he deliberately put in references to other bits of popular culture in his books. Like in Guards, Guards!, one of Ankh-Morpork’s finest points a crossbow at one of the villains and says, ‘I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire five bolts or six. Well, frankly I can’t remember. Do you feel lucky, punk?’ He also talked about the inspiration for the dragon in one of his other books. These were taken by a group of young women, who appeared at one convention at which he was speaking. They were all Anne McCaffrey fans, and had stuffed dragons sitting on their shoulders. He said it was obvious that McCaffrey’s dragons were a feminist metaphor, and very good thing too. But it also struck him that the problem with a dragon that sat on your shoulder would be that its fiery breath would singe one side of your face, while it would also defecate down your back.

The next time I was him at the festival was a few years later. He described how Fantasy was still very much looked down on in literary circles. One of the festival’s organisers when talking to him had looked at him as if, in Pratchett’s words, he was about to talk about fixing motorcycles. His talk was on the nature of Fantasy, and he had some fairly forthright comments about Tolkien. Like if when you’re thirteen, you don’t consider The Lord of the Rings to be the greatest book in the world, there’s something wrong with you. And if you still consider The Lord of the Rings to be the greatest book in the world when you’re 33, there’s something really wrong with you. It was in this talk that he described some of the class bias in Tolkien’s work, such as the idealisation of the Shire, while the Orcs were foul and nasty and ‘almost as bad as people from Birmingham!’ One of the speakers on BBC’s The One Show said a few years ago in a piece about Tolkien and the local places that inspired the geography of Middle Earth, that one of the emotional factors behind its writing was Tolkien’s own fear of the urban sprawl from Birmingham overwhelming the semi-rural suburb in which he grew up. It was at this talk, that Terry made the point Mike mentioned – that the ending of the Lord of the Rings is quite daft, because in conquering Sauron they’d destroyed the industrial base for half a continent. But hey, it’s alright, because they’ve got a king back!

He also said that magic itself was actually quite boring. It simply did what it did. What he found really fascinating was the organisational magic by which people came together to produce nails, and other items, which other people then went on to use to create further objects, quite without the planning of the original producers, and which all led to the complexities of modern life and culture. At that time he was also pessimistic about the state of Fantasy literature. This was several years before J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman came forward to re-invigorate it with Harry Potter and the Amber Spyglass. I think he thought at the time that it was more or less dead. I certainly remember him describing himself as ‘a big, hairy maggot crawling over its corpse’. Of course he was far from that.

I was talking to a friend of mine about Pratchett and his work a little while ago, and he surprised me as he’d also met him. This particular friend is a fan of Role-Playing Games. He’s written several game books himself, and knows personally many of the people behind some of the games companies. He’d met Terry a decade or so previously, when one of his friends was looking for inspiration behind a line of Fantasy figurines he was crafting. He was looking for a character on which he could base a wizard, and so wrote to Terry asking him if he could use Rincewind. Terry agreed. He later met Terry along with the rest of the RPGers in the pub. He liked and admired Pratchett personally, because he was also good to his fans. He was protective of them, and seemed genuinely grateful simply that there were people who read and liked his work.

He was also very used to the kind of weirdness that might have other people running for the hills. At one of the Cheltenham festivals he talked about how he encountered a group of Viking re-enactors while out walking with his small daughter. As they were going through the countryside, they noticed a group of young men in chain mail running up and down and hitting each other with swords. One of them came running up to him, and asked him if he could lend them a cup. They’d been fighting for a little while, and were now thirsty. Terry said, yes, and got out his daughter’s Asterix the Gaul lunchbox, and gave them the cup from her Obelix flask. The Viking warrior thanked them, went off to a nearby standpipe, and he and the other Norsemen duly quaffed deep of the water before returning the cup to Terry and his daughter.

Later that day, Pratchett met them in the pub. They were curious about him. Most people, they said, took one look at them when they were out fighting, and fled in the opposite direction. But he hadn’t been at all bothered. Why? Well, said Terry, it was because he reasoned that anyone mad enough to do what they were doing was obviously far too mad actually to harm anyone. He went on ‘Nobody ever says when they find a serial killer, ‘Oh, we knew he was a bad ‘un, because he had a wardrobe full of uniforms and last week he went to a convention. No! They always say, ‘He was a quiet one. And then they find the load of human skulls in the sink.’

He also wasn’t afraid of bikers either. At one convention he was warned by others in the crowd that there were a group of Hell’s Angels in the queue. Well, he met them, and they weren’t. He said they were just a group of polite young men, who wanted to talk about his book and liked motorcycles. Perhaps this is where the Cheltenham literati got the impression that he was going to talk about fixing bikes.

In his fiction, Pratchett created baroque worlds with wit and good humour, taking the motifs of genre literature and then transforming them again to bring out something fresh, producing a bizarre, comic cavalcade of strange gods, wizards, witches, trolls, warrior women, warriors and mobile, predatory luggage. Oh yes, and people from the Counterweight Continent selling In-Sewer-Ance Polly-Seas, all infused with an equally bizarre logic. For example, in Pyramids he concluded that camels have to be experts in quantum physics because of the mathematical intricacies of the way they walked. The world he created with words, and which his illustrator, Josh Kirby, painted, was one of colour, absurdity, and laughter. Although the strongest, and most obvious influences on his work were Tolkien and Conan, it was also like the very best fiction in that it appealed to people of all ages. It wasn’t only children who read them, but also their parents and grandparents.

Mike says in his piece that it kept him sane while he was at College. I think that’s probably true of a lot of people. The world can be a horrifyingly grim place, and there is a lot of pressure on young people. It was certainly the case when I was at school, and things seem to have got worse since then. It really doesn’t surprise me that one quarter of all university students will suffer from depression or some mental health problem during their time at uni. Pratchett’s fiction offers an escape from all that, away from grim reality into a unreality that may also be grim, but is at least comically so. And like good fiction, it isn’t just mere escapism, but often makes a serious point while making you laugh at the same time.

RIP big man. May you rest with the great bards in the celestial realms as one of the great, modern skalds of Middle Earth.