datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Category: Nerdiness (page 1 of 2)

EURO 2016

Euro2016

Euro 2016 has ended and now I have to return to real life. 51 games over four weeks is an immersive experience. It’ll take a while to adjust to reality. That adjustment however might be aided by some reflection.

Overall I found the tournament disappointing. It lacked greatness. It may be churlish to expect greatness at every tournament, but when a tournament is defined by the success of underdogs and dark horses then it is obvious no one team moved football to a higher level.

I had pinned my hopes on Spain and, to a lesser extent, Germany to define European football for the next four years. Both failed. It appears the era of Spain is over and the era of Germany is gone at the first hurdle.

But tournament football can be enjoyed on more than one level. There may not have been greatness, but there was drama. Lots and lots of drama. The success of Wales, Northern Ireland and Iceland will live long in the memory. And in an extraordinary final, someone as unlikeable as Ronaldo won many a begrudging heart by simply not being able to play.

The two teams I’m supposed to support did exactly what was expected of them. Ireland had its moment in the sun by beating a weakened Italy before being dismantled by the first quality team they played. And England lived down to expectations by losing comprehensively to Iceland.

Italy were interesting. I’ve never been a fan of them, as they are at heart a defensive side, but they manage to be negative and cynical with a panache unmatched by any other nation. They earned the right to beat Spain and I would not have been too peeved if they’d won the tournament. That Germany beat them had me convinced that perhaps Germany might be all that they should be. But they were beaten by a French side spectacularly short of the sum of its parts.

I had invested some hope in Belgium but they were woefully below what they should be. And my final hope was Croatia, but like every other team in the tournament, they could not see off Portugal.

Call me a snob but I can’t get behind the expanded format. Yes, it allowed for some novel participants, but tournament football is by its very nature, elitist. It isn’t about mere participation. It is the showpiece of European football and should be about the best of the best, it should be about showing football in its loftiest iteration.

I am probably still getting over the demise of Spain.

I support Liverpool. Even when they are shit, I support them. That’s loyalty. I am not loyal to an international side. I care little about Ireland and England, except perhaps for the pantomime disconnect between England’s perception of itself and the reality of its ability. For the last decade, Spain has been the one international side to take my breath away. I was prepared for Germany to take over that mantle but they are so not worthy.

Perhaps my disappointment is less about Spain and more about a lack of inspiration. Again, there are different levels. Leicester winning the Premiership is inspiring. Portugal, sans Ronaldo, winning Euro 2016 is inspiring. But I want great artistry. I want genius. I want my mouth to hang open, my heart to beat faster and to be transported. I wanted a Xavi, or an Alonso. I want a conductor. This tournament lacked players who could put their foot on the ball, look up, and everyone would immediately know that person was in charge.

Which proves that football, enjoyment and inspiration are all subjective. I know people who find Spain to be sterile, boring and off-putting.

I’m not too downhearted though. These things go in cycles. Strong defences tend to inspire even greater creativity. In four years’ time at least one of Germany, France, Spain or perhaps even Belgium, will have evolved ways to counter this new emphasis on eleven men behind the ball.

Despite my moaning, I can’t wait until the next tournament.

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Arwen at the Vet

First Arwen Pic

I had quite the unpleasant experience today. Arwen, my dog, was at the vet’s for an X-ray of her right foreleg. She has been experiencing lameness and I wanted to get a definitive answer as to why. Based on a previous X-ray, the vet suspected a bone chip in one of her toes was the cause. So it was expected that a simple X-ray followed by amputating the toe, would have Arwen back to her mad cap self.

As I was eating, a delicious curry as it happens, he rang with the results. It turns out that Arwen has rather bad arthritis in the both of her elbows. I was shocked, but then, dogs do get arthritis. Surely this was not an insurmountable problem? According to the vet however, elbows present a particular problem as does Arwen’s relatively young age. She is approximately six years old. This is a guesstimate as she was an abandoned little thing.

Medications that are usually used to treat joints are not as efficacious with elbows. I think I began to cry at this point. It was likely that she’d require long term anti-inflammatories, which would shorten her life. And eventually she’d need very strong pain killers. Her quality of life would be so reduced that I’d be faced with a difficult decision, sooner rather than later.

Arwens elbow xray
I had thought it was going to be all so straightforward.

It became difficult for me to speak. My curry began to disgust me. Had I perhaps over-exercised her? No. This stems from the first few months of her life, when diet and exercise have to be carefully managed to ensure the correct development of her joints. Apparently dogs aren’t born with their joints fully formed. They are mostly cartilage, which over time ossifies into joint bone, joining with the surrounding legs bones.

In desperation I asked about surgery, mentioning Arwen was insured. There was an abrupt change of tone. In that case, if the therapies failed to solve the issue, she could see a specialist in Cork and have elbow replacement surgery. It would cost in excess of €1000, but she’d be almost as good as new.

I should have mentioned the insurance when I dropped her for the X-ray. I would have avoided feeling shattered for those few minutes. On the other hand, I am now more relaxed than I have a right to be about the possibly of her having both her elbows replaced with metal joints. Now there is still a possibility that drugs, therapies and losing a bit of weight will do the trick and she won’t need to have two major surgeries, followed by difficult recuperation, but I’m fortunate enough to not have to make any decisions based on affordability.

Now, I have thrown away her ball and her treats. So has my mother, who delighted in spoiling her. She’ll need more running but no more chasing. Her diet will be strict and perhaps that’ll be enough. But if it isn’t, I know she will be taken care of.

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Happy Tolkien Week

As it’s Tolkien Week, and inspired by my favourite Tolkien blogger, James Moffett and my friend Candi, I am completing this Tolkien questionnaire. I shall endeavour not to ramble. But I can’t promise anything.

 
1. What draws you to Tolkien’s stories? (The characters, the quests, the themes, the worlds, etc.)
 
How to avoid an essay answer? First, it is the grandeur and breadth of Tolkien’s creation.
 
Secondly, it is the layers. Anytime I read any of the Middle Earth books (and to Jackson’s eternal credit, when I watch the films) I am struck by the gaps. I am aware of things missing. It reads as a history, but a necessarily incomplete history. It makes me sometimes wish that Tolkien would get out of the way so a team of archeologists, anthropologists and scientists with carbon dating equipment can take over. I want them to discover what parts of his tale are true, what parts are embellished and what parts are pure fiction.
 
Thirdly, it is the story of Lord of the Rings. It is a relatively straightforward quest. Return the One Ring to where it had been forged and thus unmake it. These are the good guys and those are the bad guys. Here are the people we trust to carry the Ring. Well, this is the person who can carry it and these are his companions, who are mostly trustworthy. This is the current political situation. These are the personality, familial, racial, internal, external, dynastic and military tensions that have to be negotiated. Then there’s the overwhelming numbers, the presence of magic, immortal beings and shedloads of geography. And what is the Ring exactly and what do you mean there are other Rings of Power. Gandalf is a what now? Simple.
 
And finally there are the characters. So many of them and so wonderfully realised.
 
2. What was the first Middle Earth book you read and/or movie you saw? What did you think of it?
 
I read Lord of the Rings, for the first time, in my mid-teens. I was blown away by it. I adored it. Have read fantasy ever since. I even write it now.
 
3. Name three of your favourite characters and tell us why you like them.
 
Galadriel – I like that she is so hauntingly majestic. I was always drawn to the elves and she represents the most complete Elf on Middle Earth.
 
Boromir – He stumbled. Badly. But he did his duty. What more can be asked of anyone?
 
Éoywn – A warrior who had to fight for the right to prove her valour. A true hero.
 
4. Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention?
 
Does King Theoden count as secondary? He probably doesn’t but the previous question only allowed three favourites. Then there’s Beren and Luthien. You just don’t get bigger or more epic romances than theirs. And I know Treebeard may be a controversial choice, but book Treebeard had a mournful quality and a majesty that I really liked.
 
5. What Middle Earth character do you relate to the most?
 
Faramir. Definitely Faramir.
 
6. If you could ask Professor Tolkien one Middle Earth-related question, what would you like to ask him?
 
Do you regret that your vision is now cast in stone? Your work is regarded as so sacrosanct that it is treated as if it is complete? Would you prefer the gaps to be filled in with new stories or with scholarly speculation? (That’s one question in three parts. Honestly.)
 
7. Are there any pieces of Middle Earth merchandise you would particularly like to own, but don’t?
 
I would kill any number of friends and relations to have either Theoden’s sword or helm.
 
8. What battle would you absolutely not want to be part of?
 
The Kinslaying at Alqualondë. 
 
9. Would you rather eat a meal at the Rivendell or Bag End?
 
Rivendell of course. There are elves there.
 
10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.
 
“I go to my fathers in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.”

“My Brother, My Captain, My King.”
 
“Death. Death. Death.”
 
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.”
 
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!” Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!”
 
“He will come to death an image of the splendour of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell bound to your grief under the fading trees until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.”
 
Gimli: “I have taken my worst wound at this parting, having looked my last upon that which is fairest. Henceforth I will call nothing fair unless it be her gift to me.”
Legolas: “What was it?”
Gimli: “I asked her for one hair from her golden head. She gave me three.”
 
“We set out to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me.”
 
“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
 
Have some fun and answer the questions yourself and have a very Happy Tolkien Week everybody. 

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The Battle of the Five Armies (spoilerful review)

I chose to wait until I’d seen the movie twice before reviewing it. I’m glad I did as the review I’d have written after the first view would have been unremittingly negative. It’s not that I thought it a bad film, it’s that the entire experience was ruined by one early scene. Watching it a second time however allowed me to enjoy a great deal of the rest of it.

(And as I warned at the beginning, this is spoiler heavy)

I shall begin with the issue many people have referred to since The Hobbit project became a trilogy. Was a trilogy justified and did the three films succeed in dealing with any concerns expressed? I must admit to being unsure. I do not possess the ability to step outside my enduring love for Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth. I would have gladly, enthusiastically and without hesitation embraced a ten film version of The Hobbit. Similarly, I’d have been overjoyed with a twenty film version of The Lord of the Rings. So I cannot offer a sensible appraisal of this trilogy’s merit.

I can suggest that Peter Jackson did succeed where Tolkien failed, turning The Hobbit into a fully fleshed out prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Though, it should never be forgotten, the good professor did provide all the necessary details for Jackson and his writing team to make that adaptation. So yes, it does work as a prequel in a way the original book did not (and was not initially meant to be).

But three films? This review can’t offer an answer. I would suggest however, that despite its mighty length, there were still pieces of the story that did not get resolved or were not given due attention e.g. the Arkenstone, Beorn, Gollum, the white jewels, Legolas’s mother, Thorin’s funeral and sundry other elements. All I know for certain is that I want more.

Another often mentioned controversy is Tauriel, a wholly invented Jackson character. Was she created just because a Hollywood Blockbuster needs a strong female character? I don’t care why she appeared, I just know I love her. From my earliest readings of the books, I was always struck by the power of the female characters in Middle Earth. They did not appear very often, but they had a wonderfully pervasive presence. Galadriel, Arwen and Éowyn are characters I adore. Tauriel is a worthy addition to that triumvirate.

I’m also an incurable romantic. I thought her always doomed relationship with Kili was beautiful. That it was transgressive only added to the romantic beauty of it all. And it was doomed. Tauriel did not have the option of choosing mortality as Arwen did, lacking her dual-heritage. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Thranduil reminds her that Kili will surely one day die. Who couldn’t be transported back to the time Elrond showed Arwen a vision of her future if she chose a mortal, Aragorn. An eternity of aimless grief. I’m a sucker for that kind of tragedy so Tuariel’s inclusion most certainly works for me.

As for The Battle of Five Armies itself? It did not have the emotional resonance of The Return of the King, which logically it could not have, being part three of six. But I still felt the disappointment as this is simultaneously, part six of six. A seventh may never be made. Though it is a strange criticism to make, make a film that’ll keep me going for the next few decades.

Before I continue I should explain what scene almost ruined the entire film for me. The confrontation on Dol Guldur between Galadriel and Sauron and the Nazgûl just didn’t make sense. At first Galadriel appears scared of the Nazgûl then she dismisses all nine and Sauron with seeming ease. It’s a scene that manages to both understate and overstate her power, with added rubbish special effects to boot. We know that Sauron was defeated at Dol Goldur and that Galadriel was the most powerful elf in Middle Earth, but surely there was a way of telling that story better. It continues to irk me in a way that no other scene in the six films ever has.

But that aside. I enjoyed it. The opening scene was near perfect. Though it worries how much regret I felt, when Smaug’s light was finally extinguished. I never felt that for the Balrog.

I was convinced by Thorin’s descent into paranoid madness and teary eyed by his eventual redemption.

Bard’s assumption of power was admirable. Thranduil’s lofty coldness, softened, was wonderful. The battle scenes were spectacular, if a little confusing. How Azog managed to establish his command post still escapes me. (I won’t mention the rock worms) I enjoyed the fact that while dwarves hate elves, they will at least treat with them, but show them an overwhelming force of orcs and they will charge them without pause for breath. I’d liked to have seen more of the Charge of the Women and again with the Eagles without any explanation. If I hadn’t read the books, I think I’d have lost my mind with the Eagles.

I really enjoyed the way the deaths of Kili and Fili were handled. The former without any heroism, the latter, his eyes trained on his love while he breathed his last.

Legolas got to do his circus tricks. You’re either going to love or hate that.

But in the end, The Hobbit is about Bilbo and I think he shone. He is a true adventurer. Bilbo has a charisma that Frodo never had. Be it dwarf, elf or man, Bilbo is always a force to be reckoned with. He has none of Frodo’s deference. And that he was already in thrall to the ring by the film’s end was made exquisitely apparent.

And now, the only thing left to do is wait for the extended version. And after that, back to the books and pray to Eru that the rights to The Silmarillion become available.

May the Star of Eärendil shine upon you.

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Well I finally did it.

Well I finally did it. I ticked another item off my ‘oh my Gandalf I’ve turned 40 and I’m going to die’ Bucket List. On Tuesday, November 4, I performed a five minute stand-up comedy set in the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn.

It went well. It went very well.

I’ve been going on about this event for weeks. I shudder to think about how many people must have muted me, on Twitter, to protect themselves from my incessant neediness. On the night, despite my near overwhelming nerves, I could not help but be moved by the wonderful, generous and beautiful people of Twitter who turned up in such large numbers to support me.



Not only did the denizens of Twitter show up. Friends and family, from Dublin, Meath and Kerry did me the great kindness of paying good money to endure what could’ve been an immensely uncomfortable disaster. In attending, some of my family did experience an excruciating calamity. The MC, Ruairi Campbell, realised Kerry people, all related, were in attendance. Kerry jokes about cousins abounded

The night began with an improv group. I found myself tuning out as the realisation hit me, I would actually be standing up to make a roomful of people laugh. I tuned back in when the excellent Eleanor Tiernan did a few minutes of new material. She was very funny. Then I tuned back out. Ordinarily I might have tried some Dutch Courage, but an experienced comedian had advised against it. I suppose being a shambles is forgivable, but being a drunk one is just downright disrespectful.


I had prepared a seven minute set, but as things were running late, we were asked to reduce our sets to five. I gotta say, this really worked in my favour. I was so nervous I forgot bits. This led to my timing being perfect as part of my act involved relating a particularly filthy story about me, which would be interrupted by a timer I had on stage. The problem was, people took it as a genuine interruption and urged me to continue. I had to explain I never intending telling the story.

What I remember of the performance itself? Expending a great deal of effort on appearing calm. Remembering a lot more of my material than I thought I would. Thank you to the comedian who told me to rehearse. A lot. And even then, I think I should have rehearsed more. I remember the laughter but I wasn’t in the moment enough to really take it all in. And I remember the applause at the end.


I went outside to calm down a bit, then returned to watch the final comic, Oisin Hanlon. Now he was genuinely funny.

When we had all done our bit, the MC did the ‘victory by acclaim’ thing. More than half the people left in the room were friends and family of mine, so victory was assured. Though it was a close run thing. Oisin was that good. I even got a certificate, which I will be framing my certificate.

 

Then I got to thank everyone who turned up. Some weren’t surprised it went well. Others were hugely relieved I hadn’t died on my arse. My partner could finally admit how nervous she had been a fact she’d successfully hidden from me from the very moment I embarked on this ridiculous venture.

I couldn’t relax for hours after. It was a wonderful adrenalin rush. I now understand why comics would choose (or be drawn against their will) to a way of life that is so financially precarious.

What have I learned? First and foremost, I learned I have the coolest friends on Earth. That memory will stay with me forever. Second, I’m really good at appearing calm, even when I’m shaking with nerves. Third, I can write stuff that’s funny. As long as it’s about my deteriorating body. Finally I learned I want to do it again. I want to do it again, but be more aware of the audience and more aware of how I am feeling when I am on stage.

So that’s it. Another item ticked, a new experience experienced, something new learned, and most importantly, a new item added to my over all Bucket List; finding out if I can be any good at stand-up comedy. Well not exactly good at it, I’ll settle for being on stage and not being so nervous I have to shut down whole parts of my brain.

The very kind Ruadhri Ardiff recorded my few minutes. (May not be safe for work, depending where you work)


  


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Allergic to my Arwen?

Today my doctor told me I may be allergic to Arwen. Imagine that, allergic to my Arwen. How did this happen you may ask? Arwen has been with me since August 14, 2010. Why now? How now? Apparently there is a price to be paid for eating as if there is no price to be paid. I have managed to compromise my own immune-system by being a greedy little bollix. As I count down the months and weeks to my fortieth birthday, it appears this year will be the year I finally have to take my health more seriously than I would an occasional hobby.

I am overweight, I now have chronic rhinitis, I have a few tiny sores on my legs, which refuse to heal, reflux and acidic indigestion and I feel lethargic a lot of the time. And eight hours are not enough when until recently, seven hours sleep was plenty. Me and Arwen 10-03-14

If tests should confirm that Arwen is the cause of my eye watering, neck stiffening, shoulder tensing and facing aching fatigue then that’s tough for me, because she sleeps on my bed and has done so since she moved in, so I’m just going to have to adjust. Take my meds and thank Gandalf I can afford them.

The annoying thing was that within minutes of getting home I had thrown my entire chocolate biscuit stash in the fire (burning calories the easy way. Anyone? Anyone? Well Paula laughed) and was looking up fad diets. Oh how I love fad diets, anything that involves me not having to think for myself everyday, make decisions every day, take responsibility for my own actions, everyday. Oh please can I have someone take me by the hand and do the grown up stuff for me.

Gallingly, this need for reasonable dieting coincides with finally having mastered a few dishes I’d happily (yet nervously) serve my foodie friends. Granted one of those is steak, but oh my Odin, people who like food have no patience for less than perfect steak. It also coincides with having belatedly discovered some very good food in Tralee. And it is happening in a year where I intended eating my own weight in French food as hey, it’s my birthday.

Most importantly, it is a reminder that I am in fact now at an age where I can no longer merely complain about my weight, then go for a second and a third helping. I am now seriously courting danger. That terrifies me, but like Global Warning, my human brain cannot easily compute what may happen tomorrow, when a feta-cheese risotto is staring me in the face today.

Yet it is not a terror of death, but a terror of a slow decline given extra pace. I do not wish to spend the next 20 years back and forth to the doctor, I want to spend the next 40 years living. I do not want to spend the next 20 years with a chronic illness, obesity.

I threw my chocolate biscuits in the fire. I have paracetamol ready if I get sugar withdrawal. I am going grocery shopping tomorrow. I am trying to work out what vegetables I’ll eat, when not smothered in garlic butter. I am trying to find some vegetarian options that don’t appall me. I am trying to hold onto the fear just long enough to create a new lifestyle.

And I am hoping my blood-tests show I’m allergic to sugar rather than Arwen. Wouldn’t that be serendipity?

 

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

a bit spoilerish)

I’m finally getting around to reviewing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Like An Unexpected Journey, I watched it twice, in two different cinemas over two days. First at The Odeon in Point Village and then in The Savoy on O’Connell Street. I went for the 3D version which was grand I suppose, the giant bumble bees were cool and there was one brief interaction with Smaug that really rocked. To date the only film I’ve watched that seemed genuinely enhanced by 3D had been ‘A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.’ Not really a ringing endorsement for the technology.

Anyway, the film itself. Loved it. Could find no fault with it. Some wonderful action sequences and Smaug himself was everything one would want in a fire-breathing sociopathic behemoth.

I dismissed the first movie as self-indulgent to the point of harming the franchise. Fortunately I’ve was proven utterly incorrect. That movie did great business, as has this one. While admitting I was wrong, I still am confident that this film is far superior to Unexpected Journey. Obviously as this is the second film there was a great deal less exposition required. The film didn’t have to bring nerd and non-nerd up to date, beyond a single scene recalling Gandalf’s first meeting with Thorin Oakenshield.

We get to see elves, actual elves. Now these are Sylvan Elves. A race of elves more mercurial than their Eldar cousins, but still, Elves. Legolas was there. His father, the menacing King Thranduil was there. And we got to meet non-canon character, Tauriel. A she-elf who may or may not have caught the eye of our erstwhile Prince Legolas. It is wonderful to see elves, who while still immensely powerful, long-lived and intelligent, behave without the wisdom of the Eldar. They come across as more über-human than otherworldly. But hey, Elves. I think Tauriel fits seamlessly into the narrative. Not sure about the love-interest. Are they trying to ape the bromance of Gimli and Legolas from Lord of the Rings?

Smaug was mind blowing, yet Bilbo managed to hold his own in the exchange and I mean that as a comment on performance rather than narrative. Martin Freeman could and should have been blown away (excuse the pun) by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug. It is a wonderfully observed interaction. I described Martin Freeman’s Bilbo as a delight in my review of An Unexpected Journey. Here he is a delight and more. He brings a depth that tells a story about a character but also foreshadows so much of what is to come at the close of The Third Age.

Gandalf goes wholly off reservation if one is totally hung up on the book. The film tells us what the book only implies and Tolkien later confirmed in the appendices and other sources. He abandons the group to investigate a new dark power. That is a confrontation worth the admission money alone.
The dwarves are part heroic, part bumbling buffoons and many parts avaricious mercenaries, but they are never disloyal and never cowardly. (Watch out for the comic mention of Gimli from by father). Again Richard Armitage brings a tragic majesty to his Thorin. It is clear why this king of a lost kingdom (Aragornesque?) can inspire his fellow dwarves to battle a bloody fire-breathing dragon.

In short I loved this film. I loved the previous one, but this one I’d defend to a non-Ringer. Roll on the final installment. Though after that, what’s left?

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Lord of the Rings Nerdgasm

LOTR 1

I love this John Green quote. It’s the only way I can explain how cool this last week has been for me. On October 27 I attended the O2 to watch the RTE Concert Orchestra and Choir perform the sound-track from Lord of the Rings; Return of the King.

LOTR 2

On October 31 I visited the Newbridge Museum of Style Icons to see props and costumes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

LOTR 3
This mad love caused me to travel over 12 hours, spend a lot of money, desert my sick partner and have to ask my mother to walk my dog in the rain, but I’ve no regrets. The concert was as wonderful as the previous two had been.

LOTR 4
The exhibition, though small, had some very choice pieces. The exhibition lasts till November 17. If you can make it, then I can’t recommend it highly enough.

LOTR 5

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

(no spoilers)

I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for a number of years now. The project was beset by delay after delay, but fortunately all these setbacks merely served to whet my appetite.

I consulted the hive mind that is the twitterverse, as to the largest cinema screens in Ireland, and I booked tickets for The Odeon and The Savoy. I watched it on a Sunday evening and then the following day.

The film itself? Hmmmmmm. As a Tolkien fan, I loved it. The length, the self-indulgence, the unnecessary back-stories, the length, the reintroduction of old favourites, necessary and superfluous, the length, the beauty of New Zealand, Rivendell, the length, Riddles in the Dark, the snippets of humour and finally the length.

As a fan of film though, oh my Eru, it was fierce long. There was a point in my first viewing where I felt a pang of anger towards Peter Jackson for causing two terms to find their way into my mind. These were franchise and Star War Episode 1. An Unexpected Journey is no Phantom Menace, in that it does not merit the opprobrium poured on the head of Episode 1, but in releasing what is essentially a Director’s Cut, as a theoretical version of a story, that non-nerds won’t be familiar with, Peter Jackson has risked turning this franchise (oh how the snob in me hates that term) into something only those of us who have done the required reading will truly enjoy.

Other criticisms include some of the ‘forced-perspective’ shots not working, Azog looking a bit video-gamish and I can only imagine how enraging the appearance of the eagles will be.

The second time I watched it, I enjoyed it all the more, as I put aside all the problems I saw in the first viewing. The 3D was unobtrusive and as mentioned, it all looked beautiful. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins was a delight. McKellen’s Gandalf the Grey more fun than the colossus that bestrode Lord of the Rings. Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield was wonderful. And finally Gollum was truly excellent. Riddles in the Dark, while not a long scene, was near perfect.

The depiction of the Battle of Azanulbizar though not canon, was brilliantly done. The White Council was very cool and filled with unexpected tension. Though as an aside, I do tire of watching The Lady Galadriel walking so slowly, as if this somehow enhances her gravitas. And Radagast the Brown’s brief encounter with some old enemies was an eye opener. Radagast himself will turn many people off, but I’m ok with the extreme depiction.

I look forward to Part 2, with my enthusiasm undimmed. The money has already been committed to the project, so I know it will be completed. And if Jackson chooses to continue in the vein, then he can expect me to fork over my euros without pause. But I won’t be able to recommend these movies to my non-nerd friends. And I think that unfortunate.There was a huge amount of good will built up by The Lord of the Rings, among the non-initiated. I fear this franchise, well this one film alone, will fritter away all that good will.

Fortunately, HBO’s Game of Thrones is proving successful enough, that I don’t have to overly worry about Jackson single-handedly destroying the genre.

But I have to say, I can’t wait to see it again. And I am giddy at the thought of a Director’s Cut.

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In the Pale Moonlight

If there is one thing that Deep Space 9 has taught us, is that Deep Space 9 can teach us everything. For example, if one wishes to explain how short-form and long-form story telling can be present on one television show, then Deep Space 9 will provide an example of these forms and show how they interact within a series. Of course on TV, the terms episodic and story-arc, are used to describe the short and long term aims of a single dramatic piece. 

The episode which best demonstrates these two concepts, operating together, is ‘In The Pale Moonlight’ (Season6 Episode19). Generally thought of as among the very best that DS9 has to offer. 

In brief, our beloved United Federation of Planets is locked in a fight to the death with The Founders. The war is not going well. The denizens of DS9 are confronted with ever growing casualty lists. Friends and colleagues are appearing on these lists with growing frequency. Then Betazed falls. Commander Deanna Troi’s home planet falls to the enemy. Disaster. The Federation is out of friends and seemingly out of options.  

The Federation is forced to try something underhanded and morally dubious. Captain Sisko is expected to find a way to bring The Romulan Empire into the War, on the side of The Federation. To achieve this, Sisko plots with a Cardassian Master Spy, called Garak, to create evidence of a Founder plan to invade The Romulan Empire. Murder, assassination, espionage and various other unFederation actions ensue. Result being, The Romulan Empire is tricked into declaring war on The Founders.

That’s the entire episode, in 150 words. A plan is hatched, the plan succeeds, the end. Anyone not having watched Deep Space 9 before, or any of the Star Treks for that matter, will be able to follow the story. The episode stands as a discrete piece of drama. Little nods though, are given to the fans, like Betazed falling or more immediately, the now ironic rejection of realpolitik as the theme of the previous episode. But it can be understood by the uninitiated. This is an episode.

It is also exists as part of a larger story. Or more accurately, as part of a larger series of story arcs. The war with the Founders, Garak’s attempts to free his beloved Cardassia, the demands forced on Sisko by his duties to The Federation and to The Prophets and the larger implications for the geopolitical situation in the alpha-quadrant are all arcs which are served by this stand alone episode.

The strength of a series, especially in the pre-boxset and digital recoding eras, was the ability to entertain both the diehards and the occasional viewer. On could tune into an episode of Cheers and not know its provenance. but in the first ten seconds one would discern that Sam was a slut with a heart of gold. He has unresolved feelings towards the terminally uptight Diane. Norm is a barfly and Carla a harsh tongued independent woman.  

Back then there might be the occasional two-part episode and the second part would be preceded by a reminder of what was going on. If one was to try that with a demanding series like Homeland, the entire episode would be taken up with call-back. 

One now only sees the episode and the arc co-existing in soap-operas. One can dip in and out of ‘London Harpies and Their Wide Boys Being Shrill’ and have an idea what is going on. The devoted fan however, cannot afford to miss an episode. A particular arc may end, but it will spawn others. A series of true quality, will provide riveting episodes that both stand alone and continually move these arcs along. Deep Space 9 always did this, it was the Space Opera extraordinaire.  

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