Quotulatiousness

January 25, 2015

All my archer friends linked to this video

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

You were impressed by the mad archery skillz of Legolas? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet:

Published on 23 Jan 2015

The ultimate archery trick!

Prove that Hollywood archery is not historical.

Press release:
http://www.clausraasted.dk/larsandersen/new.pdf

Podcast about how I started archery:
https://soundcloud.com/claus-raasted/77-special-edition-about-lars-andersen-and-archery

Quiver:
An archers with a quiver on his back is a movie icon which is widespread throughout the world. But putting arrows in a quiver on your back is not a good solution. It is bad in motion and the archer cannot see his own arrows, as he has an enemy in front of him. He must focus on his quiver, which makes him vulnerable. Past archers often had different types of arrows simultaneously in his quiver but since the quiver is on his back, he cannot see which arrow he takes. Placing the quiver in the belt solved most problems, and if the archer is horseback, the quiver could be placed on the horse in front of the rider. These methods were the most common ways to use a quiver.

The round divided target:
The two dimensional target is not known from the past. Historical targets were not flat, but three dimensional.

Quiver, arrows in the bow hand, arrows in the draw hand:
I think there has always been an evolution in archery. Archers from even the earliest times have gone from using quivers, to arrows in the bow hand, and ultimately, to hold arrows in the draw hand. Going from the quiver to holding the arrows in the bow hand is not difficult, it can be learnt. You get the arrow in front of you, so you do not have to focus away from an enemy It is far better in motion, so there are many advantages over a quiver. There are today archers which are really good with this method. Keeping the arrow in the draw hand provides a wide range of benefits, but it assumes that one can draw and shoot in a single movement automatically. If you must use multiple movements or have to use your fingers on the bow hand to get the arrow in place, then it is far better to go back and keep the arrow in the bow hand.

Double draw
I have for many years experimented with drawing with both hands simultaneously so while your hand with the arrow pulling the string behind, while bow hand is pushed forward, this providing more power on the arrow. when I 2 years ago made the video “Reinventing the fastest forgotten archery” I had seen many historic pictures of a low half drag, and then I thought it would be interpreted as past archers only drew the bow short, but today I think it is more likely that the images show a double draw,

To hit an arrow in the air:
I have currently tried 14 times (everything is filmed) For me this is the ultimate archery, which I until recently had thought was impossible. it can be done, but requires the handling of the bow and arrow to become completely bodily. you may not have time to aim or think, and you must first be completely convinced you hit, you see, “feel” the incoming arrow and shoot in an instant. do not attempt this I / we have been in doubt about wether this should be shown, because we were afraid that someone gets hurt if they try to emulate it,

I trained for many years and spent a really long time before I tried it the first time.
For several years, I along with my friends Peter and Ask also trained with harmless buffer arrows where I often have shot their arrows down and before we switched to proper arrows I had very safely hit 5 harmless arrows in a row. It will not be shot with a very strong bow (but it’s still dangerous) The arrow that fired at me is a light bamboo arrow with metal tip, I’ll shoot back with a heavy aluminum arrow so I’m sure that the incoming arrow flexes when they hit together. The archer shoots at me normally sits behind one large safety sheet, but in the video is filmed with the sheets pulled away, so you can see what is going on.

I hope to try again during the summer outside, with an HD camera in slow motion.

Do I hit everything?
I use a lot of time practicing, and it can take a very long time before I learn a new skill. For instance, when I got the idea of jumping to grab and enemy’s arrow before I land, it took me months to learn, where for a long time, the arrows would fly everywhere, until I learned to handle it.

Thanks for reading and watching my videos
-Lars Andersen

January 18, 2015

The Origins of Spinal Tap

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

From Open Culture, the original clip that got the Spinal Tap movie greenlighted:

When This is Spinal Tap came out over 30 years ago, it went over a lot of people’s heads. “Everybody thought it was a real band,” recalled director Rob Reiner. “Everyone said, ‘Why would you make a movie about a band that no one has heard of?’”

It’s hard to believe that lines like “You can’t dust for vomit” failed to come off as anything but a joke. But, to be fair, Hollywood comedies were generally straight-forward affairs in the ‘80s. Think Blues Brothers or Fletch. Fake documentaries weren’t a thing. And This is Spinal Tap looks and feels exactly like a rock documentary – the hagiographic voiceover, the shaky camera, the awkward interviews. The movie was just as unscripted as rock docs like Don’t Look Back, The Song Remains the Same and The Kids Are All Right. The film is not only a parody of the generally overblown silliness of rock and roll, it is also, as Newsweek’s David Ansen notes, “a satire of the documentary form itself, complete with perfectly faded clips from old TV shows of the band in its mod and flower-child incarnations.”

January 17, 2015

If anything, Blade Runner was too optimistic

Filed under: China, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Joey DeVilla posted a few images comparing the dystopian future envisioned in Blade Runner with the modern cityscape of Beijing:

Click to embiggenate

Click to embiggenate

The crowded, dirty Los Angeles of 2019 featured in the 1982 film Blade Runner looks rather pristine compared to the real-life Beijing of 2015.

January 13, 2015

The mess over the new copyright rules was avoidable

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:47

Michael Geist says that the fiasco with the new Canadian copyright notice scheme was not necessary and that the minister should have paid closer attention:

Last week I posted on how Rightscorp, a U.S.-based anti-piracy company, was using Canada’s new copyright notice-and-notice system to require Internet providers to send threats and misstatements of Canadian law in an effort to extract payments based on unproven infringement allegations. Many Canadians may be frightened into a settlement payment since they will be unaware that some of the legal information in the notice is inaccurate and that Rightscorp and BMG do not know who they are.

The revelations attracted considerable attention (I covered the issue in my weekly technology law column – Toronto Star version, homepage version), with NDP Industry Critic Peggy Nash calling on the government to close the loophole that permits false threats. Nash noted that “Canadians are receiving notices threatening them with fines thirty times higher than the law allows for allegedly downloading copyrighted material. The Conservatives are letting these companies send false legal information to Canadians in order to scare them into paying settlements for movies or music no one has even proved they’ve actually downloaded.”

With the notices escalating as a political issue, Jake Enright, Industry Minister James Moore’s spokesman, said on Friday the government would take action. Enright said that “these notices are misleading and companies cannot use them to demand money from Canadians”, adding that government officials would be contacting ISPs and rights holders to stop the practice.

January 8, 2015

The Hobbit movies “are not the books and shouldn’t be judged as such”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:23

Jeff LaSala explains why the films based on JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit must be judged separately from the the books:

Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films get a lot of flak for being overwrought and overlong. Many of the criticisms are valid enough (I have some of my own), some are a matter of taste, and some, I feel, are simply misguided. My view, as a fan of Tolkien first and Jackson second, is that the naysayers are judging the films for what they’re not. They are not a cinematic translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel but an adaptation in the truest sense of the word. And they are specifically an adaptation of events in Middle-earth 60 years prior to Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party which include those covered in The Hobbit and the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.

To adapt something is to change, alter, or modify it to make it suitable for new conditions, which is where the problems occur for fans of a richly detailed story. No, not merely a story, a whole legendarium (Tolkien himself called it such) that lots of people care a hell of a lot about. The expectation seems to have been that Jackson should have kept to the books closely, should have told the story just as Tolkien did. But ultimately, that’s just not realistic.

It’s not like he didn’t know what’s in the books; in addition to knowing them well, he was surrounded by Tolkien scholars, Elvish linguists, and other literary experts. Rather, he’s an uber-successful director, producer, and screenwriter who has to wrangle massive movie budgets and we’re not. He loves Tolkien’s work but had taken on the self-imposed, if herculean task of maneuvering a beloved tale through the Hollywood machine. Have you ever watched a comic book, novel, or even play adapted to film and thought, “That’s exactly how I would have done it”? If you have, then that’s amazing! If not, well, in this age of Hollywood remakes, reboots, and adaptations, why expect these films to be any different?

[…]

It’s been said that “the filmmakers have wrung all they could out of the source material,” but I find that to be a lazy stab because it’s simply untrue. Indeed, to me that’s the irony. While three Hobbit films meant there should be room for some fleshing out of otherwise sparse details — the very thing people are complaining about, that he made a short book longer than they felt it needed to be — Jackson still didn’t actually cover everything. I reserve a more final opinion for when the Extended (i.e. the real) Edition of Five Armies comes out, because it promises to include 30 more minutes, but there are elements of the story simply left off.

I can forgive almost any extension or stretching of characters and themes, so long as they’re not completely antithetical to Tolkien’s ideals, but only if the existing story, including the appendices-based backstory, is exhausted first. Beorn’s house; the Eagles and their eyries (and why they help at all); the drunk Wood-elves and the full interrogation of the dwarves; the thrush and its world-saving delivery of vital information; the aftermath of the battle — all of these have been gutted. In the behind-the-scenes features of the DVDs, you can even see that some of it was filmed (such as the captive dwarves being brought before Thrandruil, not merely Thorin), but never made even the Extended cut. Sadly.

But these are movies; they need to take into account a moviegoer’s patience (and bladder). Of course, short making a full-blown movie series (rather than mere trilogy) there is never enough time to cover everything. Think of all that was removed from The Lord of the Rings, which has a full run-time of just over 11 hours. Given that, are you in the “What, no ‘Scouring of the Shire’?” camp or the “Nah, it’s fine as is” camp?

Well, I still want the Scouring, but I agree that it would have been worse to give it a perfunctory couple of minutes on the screen than to omit it altogether. I’d pay to see it as a stand-alone, but I don’t know if that would be viable commercially.

January 6, 2015

Frank Sinatra

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Mark Steyn sings the praises of Frank Sinatra:

Frank Sinatra was the most influential popular singer of the 20th century – not just because of a six-decade career of big hit records, but because his taste in music and the longevity of his success helped shape and expand the American Songbook. Not all icons survive death: I think of Leonard Bernstein or Bob Fosse, both at their passing the most celebrated practitioners in their respective fields, or Bing Crosby, the biggest selling recording artist of all time at the time he left us, and these days little more than a guy who gets played on the holiday channels in the month before Christmas. Either because of inept stewardship of the legacy, or a reputation that depended on live presence to maintain the conceit, or a combination of both, even the most dominant pop culture celebrity can dwindle away to the point where a decade later on no-one can quite recall what all the fuss was about. With Frank Sinatra, the opposite seems to have happened. When the gravelly old bruiser of the global stadium tours finally expired in 1998, it made it easier for a younger generation to see the man in his prime: the best singer of the best songs by the best writers in the best arrangements. Just about everything short of his morning mouthwash gargles has been excavated, digitally remastered and released on CD. And, if that’s not enough, younger fellows like Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams can build huge careers on what are essentially karaoke performances of Sinatra staples, relying on the sheer power of his charts for “Come Fly With Me”, “For Once In My Life”, “One For My Baby” to deflect just enough retro-cool their way.

He was born into an Italian immigrant family in Hoboken, New Jersey in December 1915. So, to mark this centenary year, we’re celebrating Sinatra’s art with one hundred of his songs, from his earliest hits through to the barnstorming showstoppers of his final years on tour in the Nineties – twice a week from now through to the anniversary of his birth on December 12th. From “Night And Day” to “New York, New York”, “The Lady Is A Tramp” to “One For My Baby”, these hundred songs are simultaneously a portrait of one man’s legend, the times he lived, and a century of American popular music. Here’s what I wrote in Mark Steyn From Head To Toe:

    “Rock’n’roll people love Frank Sinatra,” said Bono at the 1994 Grammy Awards, “because Frank Sinatra has got what we want. Swagger and attitude. He’s big on attitude. Serious attitude. Bad attitude. Frank’s the Chairman of the Bad.” If only 20 per cent of the gossip is true, it was an amazing life… But what’s even more amazing than the life is that the records live up to it, and then some. The swagger and attitude, the chicks and mobsters are the incidental accompaniment; the real drama is in the songs.

So these are the songs: some are by famous men — Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart; others are by obscure figures like E A Swan or Joseph Myrow, whose names live on in one outstanding 32-bar contribution that Sinatra noticed and chose to keep alive; some of these songs are numbers written for Frank that he made into standards; others are from forgotten shows and films from a generation earlier that survived because of his championing of them. Indeed, the very notion of a standard — a song that transcends mere Hit Parade ranking and can be re-investigated in different styles over and over across the decades — is one of Sinatra’s great contributions to American popular music. Just ask Bob Dylan, whose own album of Sinatra “uncover versions” (as he calls them) is about to be released.

January 5, 2015

QotD: Hollywood elites and the mere bourgeoisie in the audience

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… Hollywood movies are made by the elite for the elite, and that it is only with reluctance, or to pay the bills, does Hollywood turn out nutritious fare meant to please and sate the coarse palate of coarse commoners like me, as the popular blockbusters mentioned above.

I do not mean to dwell on this point, I merely ask that you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, accept it as uncontested, since surely the counselor for the Defense of Hollywood dare not claim the actors and studios like us, want to be like us, or like what we like. Their entire claim to be an elite, and superior in taste, intellect, and moral insight to the pathetic bourgeoisie is dashed if they do not discriminate themselves from bourgeoisie tastes.

With these assumptions explicit, let us ponder the question.

Why are comic book movies better than Hollywood movies?

[…]

What is difficult is learning to appreciate and savor the artistic genius of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, who wrote comic books and paperbacks, fairy stories and science fiction marketed to children. I have worked hard to lower my taste to appreciating the things as common and simple as fairy tales, and all the simple and true things under heaven. I hope one day my taste will be as coarse as that of St. Peter, who was a fisherman.

The elite of our culture have not yet shouldered that difficult task. We all know that the elite are out of touch with the tastes of the common man, but how far out of touch they are is something of a shock.

Allow me to quote from J.R.R. TOLKIEN by Jeremy Mark Robinson:

    Philip Toynbee declared, in 1961, that Tolkien’s ‘childish books had passed into a merciful oblivion’, a wonderful statement, just a tad inaccurate. In 1997, The Lord of the Rings was voted the top book of the 20th century by readers in a British bookstore’s poll (Waterstone’s). 104 out of 105 stores and 25,000 readers put The Lord of the Rings at the top (1984 was second).

    The results of the poll angered many lit’ry critics in the UK. Howard Jacobson, Mark Lawson, Bob Inglis, Germaine Greer and Susan Jeffreys, were among those irritated by Lord of the Rings‘ success among readers. The Daily Telegraph readers’ poll came up with the same results. The Folio Society also ran a poll (of 50,000 members), and Middle-earth was top again (Pride and Prejudice was second and David Copperfield was third).

    It was Tolkien’s incredible popularity that annoyed some critics and journos. Writers are nothing if not bitchy and envious of other people’s success, and British journalists have a long tradition of knocking down anyone who’s successful. So the popularity of The Lord of the Rings served to underline many of the prejudices of the literary establishment and media in the UK:

    (1) That people who liked Tolkien were geeks, anoraks, sci-fi nuts, college students, hippies, and so on.

    (2) That Tolkien’s fiction was juvenile, reactionary, sexist, racist, pro-militaristic, etc.

    (3) And it was badly written, simplistic, stereotypical, and so on.

    (4) And it was in the fantasy genre, which was automatically deemed as lightweight, as ‘escapist’, as fit only for adolescent boys. And so on and on.

What Mr. Robinson reports of these polls is underscored and emphasized by some that film critic and conservative commentator Michael Medved mentions about movies.

Allow me again to quote, this from a talk Mr. Medved gave at Hillsdale College:

    In years past, Hollywood also turned out popular and sympathetic portrayals of contemporary clergymen. Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien and Spencer Tracy played earthy, compassionate priests who gave hope to underprivileged kids or comforted GI’s on the battlefield. Nearly all men of the cloth who appeared on screen would be kindly and concerned, if not downright heroic.

    In the last ten to fifteen years mainstream moviemakers have swung to the other extreme. If someone turns up in a film today wearing a Roman collar or bearing the title “Reverend,” you can be fairly sure that he will be either crazy or corrupt — or probably both.

John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.

January 4, 2015

The MPAA may have found the super-enforcement tool they think they need

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:09

Russell Brandom explains why a slight change of wording in a recent court case may have handed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) exactly the kind of power they’ve been demanding to crack down on piracy and “infringement”:

Hollywood’s war on piracy has reached a strange impasse. While the MPAA and others have launched lawsuits against US-based infringers, reaching offshore torrent sites like Isohunt and The Pirate Bay is still a slow process, and whenever a site is taken down, others quickly pop up to fill its place. As a result, the MPAA has consistently pushed for the power to block infringing sites from the internet: first by pushing for new laws like SOPA in 2011, then through a series of novel legal tactics. The fight has pitted them against some of the most powerful companies on the web, and drawn them into a long, secret battle with Google.

But leaked documents show that Hollywood has a new secret weapon in the fight, a little-known legal venue that’s poised to take on new powers over the digital realm. It’s called the International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial agency that regulates imported goods as they enter the country. Traditionally, that means physical goods — if you want to ship in a boatload of fake iPhones, the ITC is the agency that will stop you — but the ITC recently gave itself the power to rule on data as it crosses US borders, as a result of a complex 3D printing case. If the ruling holds, it could have huge implications for the way data moves across the global web, and give the MPAA the site-blocking powers it’s been grasping at for years.

The heart of the case is a company called ClearCorrect, which 3D prints clear plastic braces custom-designed for each patient’s teeth. Much of the technology involved in the process is already under patent, but ClearCorrect has gotten around those patents by farming out its intricate computer modeling to an office in Pakistan. That modeling violates a number of US patents — and if ClearCorrect were shipping back the resulting braces in a box, it would be a simple case: the goods would be contraband, to be stopped at the border. But instead, ClearCorrect is only transmitting digital models from Pakistan and printing out the braces in local offices in Texas. The only thing coming in from Pakistan is raw modeling data. So what’s a trade commission to do?

In April of last year, the ITC arrived at an answer with huge repercussions: stop the data at the border. The ITC is only supposed to rule on “articles,” which has usually been taken to mean physical goods, but last year’s ruling took it to include data too. That gives the ITC the power to stop ClearCorrect’s contraband braces data at the border, but it could have far greater implications. If a web service like Gmail or Facebook ends up on the wrong side of a patent dispute, the court could potentially forbid the service from transmitting data into the US until the dispute is resolved — making the cost of a losing a court battle astronomically higher. It would also require powerful new tools for monitoring data as it crosses national borders, a fundamental break from the international structure of the web. Aware of the huge issues at stake, the ITC stayed the ruling until the Federal Circuit weighs in later this year — but already, legal groups are reeling from the possible consequences.

Howard Tayler on The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Due to various reasons, we only got around to seeing Peter Jackson’s latest (last?) Middle Earth movie this week. As a result, I’ve been consciously avoiding reading too many reviews on the movie beforehand. I’d heard enough negative things that by the time we actually got to see it, it was no where near as bad as I’d been told. It’s not a great movie, but it’s good enough and I quite enjoyed watching it. Last month, Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary fame) reviewed it and I mostly agree with his opinion:

TheHobbit3If you didn’t enjoy the first two installments in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit franchise, you probably won’t like this one, either, because it doubles down on everything.

If you did enjoy them, this one pretty much sticks the landing. There were bits I didn’t like much (the Sauron/Necromancer “Jefferson Airplane” visual tops that list) but this didn’t feel overblown or too long. It felt huge, and justly so.

Tolkien tells us that there are battles in Middle Earth. Jackson shows them to us. Tolkien tells us that there are thirteen dwarves in the party. Jackson shows them to us. Tolkien tells us that Laketown gets burnt by a dragon, and the survivors become refugees. Jackson shows us all that. The list goes on — The Hobbit is a short novel (by the standards of epic fantasy) because Tolkien does a lot of telling in between the showing. The Hobbit trilogy of films is a long movie (by the standards of genre-fiction films) because Jackson expands on the tells to give us a big show.

In order to make any of that engaging, we need to be seeing it through people with whom we identify. This is why during previous films we’re introduced to Legolas and Tauriel, Bard’s children, Azog, and the whole host of other named characters. Each of the dwarves is his own distinct character, and Laketown is full of the faces of human people who look like they could be our neighbors.

I’m down with all of this. In fact, I’d be quite happy to see the trilogy with an additional 90 minutes of footage, because some pieces felt a bit short.

January 2, 2015

Works that didn’t enter public domain, thanks to copyright extension

Filed under: Law, Media, Science, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain (at Duke Law), lists some of the better-known works that should have become public domain in the United States this year, except for the extension of copyright terms:

Works from 1958 that won't enter public domain

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years — an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1958 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2015, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2054. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different — thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.

What books and plays would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

  • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
  • Isaac Asimov (writing as Paul French), Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn
  • Simone de Beauvoir, Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter)
  • Michael Bond, A Bear Called Paddington, with illustrations by Peggy Fortnum
  • Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, The Ugly American
  • Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Agatha Christie, Ordeal by Innocence
  • John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society
  • Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anthropologie Structurale (Structural Anthropology)
  • Mary Renault, The King Must Die
  • Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
  • T.H. White, The Once and Future King

What a trove of books — imagine these being freely available to students and educators around the world. You would be free to translate these books into other languages, create Braille or audio versions for visually impaired readers (if you think that publishers wouldn’t object to this, you would be wrong), or adapt them for theater or film. You could read them online or buy cheaper print editions, because others were free to republish them. (Empirical studies have shown that public domain books are less expensive, available in more editions and formats, and more likely to be in print — see here, here, and here.) Imagine a digital Library of Alexandria containing all of the world’s books from 1958 and earlier, where, thanks to technology, you can search, link, annotate, copy and paste. (Google Books has brought us closer to this reality, but for copyrighted books where there is no separate agreement with the copyright holder, it only shows three short snippets, not the whole book.) You could use these books in your own stories — The Once and Future King was free to draw upon Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (a compilation of King Arthur legends) because Malory’s work was in the public domain. One tale inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity. Instead of seeing these literary works enter the public domain in 2015, we will have to wait until 2054.

December 25, 2014

A critical view of the Star Wars Holiday Special

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The poor bastards at Red Letter Media sit through a full showing of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special so you don’t have to.

December 21, 2014

Repost – “I want an Official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot Range Model air rifle”

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

ChristmasStory-blog

H/T to KA-CHING! for the image.

December 19, 2014

Mark Steyn on the collapse of moral fibre at Sony

Filed under: Asia, Business, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Mark Steyn is never one to hold back an opinion:

I was barely aware of The Interview until, while sitting through a trailer for what seemed like just another idiotic leaden comedy, my youngest informed me that the North Koreans had denounced the film as “an act of war”. If it is, they seem to have won it fairly decisively: Kim Jong-Un has just vaporized a Hollywood blockbuster as totally as if one of his No Dong missiles had taken out the studio. As it is, the fellows with no dong turned out to be the executives of Sony Pictures.

I wouldn’t mind but this is the same industry that congratulates itself endlessly — not least in its annual six-hour awards ceremony — on its artists’ courage and bravery. Called on to show some for the first time in their lives, they folded like a cheap suit. As opposed to the bank-breaking suit their lawyers advised them they’d be looking at if they released the film and someone put anthrax in the popcorn. I think of all the occasions in recent years when I’ve found myself sharing a stage with obscure Europeans who’ve fallen afoul of Islam — Swedish artists, Danish cartoonists, Norwegian comediennes, all of whom showed more courage than these Beverly Hills bigshots.

While I often find Mark Steyn’s comments amusing and insightful, the real lesson here may not be the spineless response of Sony, but the impact of a legal system on the otherwise free actions of individuals and organizations: if Sony had gone ahead with the release and someone did attack one or more of the theatres where the movie was being shown, how would the legal system treat the situation? As an act of war by an external enemy or as an act of gross negligence by Sony and the theatre owners that would bankrupt every single company in the distribution chain (and probably lead to criminal charges against individual theatre managers and corporate officers)? While I disagree with Sony’s decision to fold under the pressure, I can’t imagine any corporate board being comfortable with that kind of stark legal threat … Sony’s executives may have been presented with no choice at all.

I see that, following the disappearance of The Interview, a Texan movie theater replaced it with a screening of Team America. That film wouldn’t get made today, either.

Hollywood has spent the 21st century retreating from storytelling into a glossy, expensive CGI playground in which nothing real is at stake. That’s all we’ll be getting from now on. Oh, and occasional Oscar bait about embattled screenwriters who stood up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee six decades ago, even as their successors cave to, of all things, Kim’s UnKorean Activities Committee. American pop culture — supposedly the most powerful and influential force on the planet – has just surrendered to a one-man psycho-state economic basket-case that starves its own population.

Kim Jong-won.

Eugene Volokh makes some of the same points that Steyn raises:

Deadline Hollywood mentions several such theater chains. Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security stated that there was “no credible intelligence” that such threatened terrorist attacks would take place, but unsurprisingly, some chains are being extra cautious here.

I sympathize with the theaters’ situation — they’re in the business of showing patrons a good time, and they’re rightly not interested in becoming free speech martyrs, even if there’s only a small chance that they’ll be attacked. Moreover, the very threats may well keep moviegoers away from theater complexes that are showing the movie, thus reducing revenue from all the screens at the complex.

But behavior that is rewarded is repeated. Thugs who oppose movies that are hostile to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, the Islamic State, extremist Islam generally or any other country or religion will learn the lesson. The same will go as to thugs who are willing to use threats of violence to squelch expression they oppose for reasons related to abortion, environmentalism, animal rights and so on.

December 9, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings gets panned by Forbes

Filed under: History, Media, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Scott Mendelson reviews the soon-to-open movie by Ridley Scott, and finds it awful:

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a terrible film. It is a badly acted and badly written melodrama that takes what should be a passionate and emotionally wrenching story and drains it of all life and all dramatic interest. It hits all the major points, like checking off boxes on a list, yet tells its tale at an arms-length reserve with paper-thin characters. It is arguably a film intended for adults, with violence that makes a mockery of its PG-13 rating, yet it has far less nuance, emotional impact, and moral shading than DreamWorks Animation’s PG-rated and seemingly kid-targeted The Prince of Egypt.

The film starts with an arbitrary mass battle scene, one which serves no purpose save for having a mass battle sequence to toss into the trailers. The primary alteration to the story is the inclusion of said gratuitous action beats. The film is relentlessly grim yet oddly unemotional, which is a tricky balance to accidentally pull off. The actors (who have all done excellent work elsewhere) are all oddly miscast, and that’s not even getting to the whole “really white actors playing Egyptians” thing. Oh right, that little issue… It’s actually worse than you’ve heard.

In retrospect, it may have been better to just make a 100% white cast similar to Noah. This film instead is filled with minorities in subservient roles, be it slaves, servants, or (implied) palace sex toys. Instead of merely having a film filled with only white actors, what the film does is implicitly impose a racially-based class system, where the white characters are prestigious and/or important while the various minorities are inherently second or third-class citizens almost by virtue of their skin color. I am sure this was unintentional, but that’s the visual picture that Exodus paints.

Now to be absolutely fair, even if Exodus was cast with 100% racial/ethnic authenticity, it would still be a pretty bad motion picture. The screenplay has our poor, miscast actors speaking in various accents and in a bizarre hybrid of “ancient times period piece” English and more modern American English, which leads to lines like “From an economic standpoint alone, what you’re asking is problematic,” which is Rameses’s (Joel Edgerton) response to Moses’s initial plea to “Let my people go!”

December 7, 2014

QotD: December 7, 1941 – the truth is stranger than fiction

Filed under: History, Japan, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

I watched Tora! Tora! Tora! recently. That movie is supposed to be the most historically accurate and truthful ever made about the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an entertaining and informative movie packed with good performances and some of the most spectacular plane crashes and stunts on an airfield I’ve ever seen.

And at the same time, the sequence of events that led up to the Japanese attack were almost inconceivable. The level of incompetence, stupidity, bad luck, mistake-making, and almost deliberate failure to let the Japanese attack be so successful defies imagination. This was one of those legendary sequences where truth is stranger than fiction.

When the radar crew (which stayed longer than their night shift required) spotted the incoming Japanese planes, they were mistaken for B-17s being delivered to the airbase and the radar station was told “yeah? Well don’t worry about it.”

When intelligence services using cracked Japanese codes figured that an attack was imminent, they were unable to radio Hawaii about it because the atmospheric conditions were bad. So they sent a telegram, which was shelved for eventual delivery because it wasn’t marked “urgent.”

On and on it went, delays, mistakes, confusion, circumstances, almost a perfect set of events that if you read about them in a book you’d complain was too contrived and unbelievable. That would never happen! you’d cry and close the book in disgust.

But that’s what really happened.

Christopher Taylor, “TORA TORA 9-11″, Word Around the Net, 2014-09-10.

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