Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Great Story Survives Hollywood

Arwen, William, and I went to see Beowulf tonight.


As the title of the post says, no good story survives contact with Hollywood screenwriters, and Beowulf is no exception. Honestly, if I hadn't actually read Beowulf, I wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble enjoying this movie: it's a decent story on its own. Alas, it's got just enough plot and characterization from the epic poem for you to know how badly it's been mangled.

It's not nearly as bad as the Christopher Lambert Beowulf, mind you. That was a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the other hand, it doesn't treat the source material any better than Beowulf and Grendel did. There's also a style to it that's very reminiscent of 300, which I suppose is a good thing if you liked 300. In any case, it certainly hasn't knocked The 13th Warrior out of its place as the best screen adaptation of Beowulf ever.

If you try not to compare it to the poem too much, you can probably enjoy it as a run-of-the-mill popcorn flick. It's got plenty of well-paced action, and there is a moral to the story. It might do with a bit less random shouting (one of those things that reminds you of 300), but that's endearing in a way, since it gives you something to heckle. This is a movie that begs for some good-natured heckling. Any movie that forces you to look at a fat and mostly naked CGI version of Anthony Hopkins needs to be heckled; to do otherwise invites madness. (If Shepherd Book is to be believed, I'm going to the special Hell.)

To my credit, I had the foresight to smuggle a couple of mini-bottles into the theatre to spike our soda. I only used one, and frankly, I should have used both for this movie. I'll be happy to watch this movie on DVD when it comes out, but I never intend to watch it sober again.

The final battle kicks some serious ass, though. No matter how badly the story offends your literary sensibilities, stay for that last round of eye candy.

Update: SurlySeraph on the Giant in the Playground forums had this to say...
"I feel like I just saw the hellish offspring of 300 and Troy."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crystal Ball Aftermath

I spent last weekend in St. Louis attending the Barony of Shattered Crystal’s dance event, Crystal Ball. For the first time at this event, I actually stayed all the way through the last set. For those not in the know, Crystal Ball is a dance marathon with six sets of about ten dances each. The last set finished at about 4:00 am, and there were still some pick-up dances requested after that.

I didn’t learn a lot of new dances at Crystal Ball; mostly I refreshed myself on some dances that I’ve done a few times but haven’t performed enough to really know them “by heart”. The two new ones for me were a reconstruction of the Spanish Pavan by Mistress Alphia and Gratiosa, which Lady Tsire taught me in a crash course before the Caroso Ball.

Speaking of the Caroso Ball, this was also a first for me. Caroso Ball is a format which I’m considering using for Monday Night at Gulf Wars. Basically, it’s a glorified all-request ball, but it’s still rather fun. Basically, the host chooses a partner and a dance. After that dance, the partner chooses a new partner and dance, and so on through the evening. The number of people on the floor can vary – it doesn’t have to be all couples dances – but who decides what to dance next is always determined by the “line of succession” from the lead couple.

It was, of course, lovely to see Lady Tsire again. I’m sure she won’t take offense when I point out that she’s a Dance Nazi Snob (EDIT: OK, I was wrong). The arguments that come up over whether we should include non-period dances in SCA ball lists always amuse me. I can sympathize with Tsire, too: non-period folk dances certainly can be fun, but that doesn’t mean we should include them on the list for period balls. Some of them are so traditional in the SCA, though, that including them can become a Royal Edict. I’m on the fence about non-period dances; I avoid putting them on my lists, but I don’t boycott them if someone else puts them on their list.

After a few hours of crashing on a futon (thank you again, Tsire), I managed to roll myself home with only one stop along the way for a quick power nap. Now if the soreness in my legs will subside, life will be about back to normal.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beowulf Opening

The latest movie incarnation of Beowulf opens today. While I'm cautiously optimistic and looking forward to seeing it, I can tell from the advertising that the story is going to be substantially changed from the epic poem. Whether it will be as badly abused as it was in Beowulf and Grendel or in the 1999 version of Beowulf starring Christopher Lambert remains to be seen, although it would be difficult to mangle the story as much as they did. I daresay this new version will beat both of those, but it probably won't live up to the greatness of The 13th Warrior.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is It Really That Big?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a couple of Thai fishermen caught a 646-pound catfish back in 2005. The picture came round again in Yahoo News, attached to a story about a dam project that could endanger the giant catfish.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m more interested in the picture itself. It uses the same technique we saw in the “Hogzilla” and "Monster Pig" pictures to make this fish look larger than it really is. It’s a perspective trick that works with photographs because your depth perception is fooled in flat images.

I’m not necessarily saying that the fish isn’t as big as it appears, mind you, but it may not be. The fishermen are posed behind the fish, and with the right composition of the photo, it’s impossible for us to know how far behind it they are. The farther back they’re posed, the more our perception of the fish’s size is inflated.

I’ve no doubt this is a very big fish, of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time a fish story got exaggerated a bit in the retelling.

Update: If the photographer wanted to clear up all doubts about the size of the fish in the picture, he should have one of the fishermen (or just his hand, or something) in front of the fish, so we could be sure that the men weren't posed well behind their catch.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tolkien Madlib

Eleven Woks for the Housewives under the sky,
Forty-one for the Janitors in their cellars of stone,
Sixty-seven for Goat Gerders doomed to die,
One for the President of Finland on his lugubrious throne
In the Land of Mt. Fuji where the hippopotamuses lie.
One Wok to inseminate them all, One Wok to elucidate them,
One Wok to masticate them all and in the darkness wrestle them,
In the Land of Mt. Fuji where the hippopotamuses lie.

I do believe the meter got trashed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So little to report

I can't really say I've been up to anything worth blogging, lately.

Well, Juliana did help me get my hammered-dulcimer tuned, but I haven't exactly learned to play it overnight. Still, it's something. I can hunt an peck out some tunes on it, but playing it properly is a long way off.

So, in the interest of keeping the blog from drying up too much, I give you... another mad-lib.

A number
A noun (plural)
A group of people
A number
A group of people
A place (plural)
A number
A group of people
A person
An adjective
A place
A noun (plural)
Four verbs

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sacrilegious Mad-Lib

I am going to be so tarred-and-feathered for this...

Flashy are the metallic in crystal,
For theirs is the Labour Party of Picardy.
Vivacious are those who flounce,
For they shall be defenestrated.
Alpine are the grim,
For they shall eat Mt. Rushmore.

Blessed are those who traverse and cant for stubbornness,
For they shall be immigrated.
Blessed are the redundant,
For they shall obtain world peace.
Blessed are the parti-coloured in heart,
For they shall see Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Blessed are the beekeepers,
For they shall be called constituents of Elric of Melnibone.
Blessed are those who are gurgled for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the MI-6 of the Bermuda Triangle.

Blessed are you when they haul and retrieve you, and say all kinds of intellectual property against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your perfume in South Africa, for so they swallowed the Inca who were before you.