Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Final Episode

I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 last week. My expectations were pretty high: the first part of the final book had been really well filmed, taking advantage of the narrative space provided by splitting the book in two to stick really closely to the original. So perhaps I was always doomed to disappointment if the final chapter turned out, as it did, to be merely a decent film. It IS a decent film, well worth seeing whether you've read the book or not (though if you haven't taken in the story so far either in book or film form there really is no point in watching). I just felt it could have been so much better. HPATDH is one of the best books, and contains a huge number of my all-time favourite moments from the Harry Potter saga. My main grouse with the film is that so many of those favourite moments either don't appear at all, or appear in a diluted form.

*** THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS FROM HERE ON. ***

For example, I adore this scene, both for the "gallant" line and for "We teachers are rather good at magic". Neither makes it into the film.

The duel between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix Lestrange after the latter has attempted to kill Ginny Weasley is another highlight. In the book you get a real feeling of Molly as the protective mother going all out to destroy a threat to her children, and you have Bellatrix treating the whole thing as a joke and then gradually realising that Molly isn't going to give up, or back off, and that she is up against someone whose will to win, on this occasion, is right up there with Voldemort's. In the film the whole thing is over and gone in a few seconds.

In the film Neville Longbottom makes a stirring speech to Voldemort about why they're going to fight him, after he's stepped forward and been taunted by Voldemort for his limp. In the book Voldemort rather admires Neville: he doesn't care about physical defects, and the Longbottoms are an ancient magical family (Voldemort is a magical snob). And in the book when Neville defies him Voldemort rams the sorting hat onto Neville's head and sets it alight, which makes Neville's pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of it even more dramatic. In the film he finds the sword in the hat, but that's it: he isn't wearing the hat, it isnlt on fire, and he isn't facing Voldemort at the time.

And in the final showdown with Voldemort, Harry is far cooler in the book than in the film, winding Voldemort up by dismissively referring to him as "Riddle", and explaining to him as one might to a rather slow pupil just why he (Voldemort) has completely misread the situation regarding the Elder Wand's proper owner. As a result you get a faint flickering of fear in Voldemort's expression before he gets killed.

Oh, and in the film Harry destroys the Elder Wand instead of replacing it in Dumbledore's grave.

There are many more such omissions and dilutions. So I spent a lot of the film thinking "WHAT? they left that bit out?" and "Is that it?" Which is a shame, because it is a pretty good film if you judge it wholly on its own merits. It's only by comparison with the book that it suffers.

Other places which suck

Just for balance, here is a piece from al-Jazeera underlining the fact that Syria's President Assad really isn't a nice chap at all.

Assad is trained as a doctor: and there is evidence that plenty of Syrian doctors are complicit in torture.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's proposal to make pretty much any kind of political dissent illegal and punishable by indefinite detention has (unsurprisingly) been condemned by Amnesty International.

Just in case anyone imagined that Israel was the only Middle Eastern country I would hate to live in.....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A few stories from Israel

The land where women are treated equally with men.

The land where Arabs have equal rights to Jews.

The land whose government is interested in a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.

And also the land where a deputy minister in the government appears to have forgotten both that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas, and what the Nazis' favourite insecticide was also useful for. To be fair, he is Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee: Israeli politicians with actual foreign policy responsibility are less than happy about his dalliance with Euronazis.

Truly a timeless classic

On the same page of that wonderful list of animal motifs in Arab folklore we find # B210.2 "Talking animal refuses to talk on demand". Which reminded me at once of this Chuck Jones classic.

The Tribulations of Kal-El

Pity poor old Superman. First he causes massive controversy by deciding to renounce his American citizenship (Issue #700).

Then his planned link-up with a Muslim sidekick is axed (though the official story is that it was because DC Comics had a problem with kittens, not Muslims: uh-huh).

What's the planet coming to?

And poor old Kal-El can't even have the consolation of a girlfriend. Here's why not.

Straying very slightly off topic, when Googling the phrase "speaking cock" recently (in relation to this post) I discovered this wonderful treasure-house of ethnological and mythological weirdness. I was especially taken by # B184.5.1 "Magic (marvelous) goat with whistle in its anus as hero's riding animal". Never mind Sharif, I'd pay good money to read a comic where Superman rides a goat with a whistle up its butt. Wouldn't you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

667 - The Encore Of The Beast

Took my son through to Glasgow on his birthday last week to see Iron Maiden. The support (Airbourne) must have started very promptly and played a very short set, because after a fairly brief delay for an accident on the motorway we arrived to find they'd finished.

Never mind: the Irons were as awesome as ever, with what Ruairidh reckoned was the best stage set he'd ever seen. You'd never think they were in their sixties, or that the band had been playing for 36 years, more than half of it with much the same line-up as now. They never just go through the motions: they put phenomenal energy in to everything they play, they clearly have an absolute blast playing, and they listen to each other. I can't imagine why people are rude about them. OK, it's fair to say their best material is from some time back, but their new songs are very strong too.

No Iron Maiden gig would be complete without the appearance of Eddie the mascot. This time, as well as the guy in the power-assisted suit striding around and treating us to views from EdCam, there was a truly gigantic Eddie whose head and hands appeared over the back of the set. There was also a horned beast (I think it was a guy in a suit but it might have been just a very sophistcated model) at the back of the stage for The Number Of The Beast.

I think this is what they did (not necessarily in order). They also waited patiently while the audience sang a chorus of "Flower of Scotland" after Bruce had said how great it was to be back in Glasgow......

Satellite 15 (The Final Frontier)
Eldorado
Two Minutes to Midnight
Coming Home
Dance of Death
The Trooper
The Wicker Man
Blood Brothers
When The Wild Wind Blows
The Evil That Men Do
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Running Free
Hallowed Be Thy Name

Encores:
The Number of the Beast
The Prisoner




And here's one they sadly didn't do:

At the third what?

I had the satisfaction of spotting the unfortunate slip referred to here for myself, about one minute before the BBC corrected it.

Did you know there are roughly pi seconds in a nanocentury?

I found this page when looking up what an "inverse femtobarn" was, but it has all kinds of fascinatingly nerdy stuff. Read it, and while you may not know how many holes it take to fill the Albert Hall, you WILL know how many Olympic swimming pools it would take (somewhere between 35 and 40).

Coming soon to a theatre near me

For no better reason than that I've just finished booking tickets to see all these guys over the next few months, here are some music clips:





Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Splash!

This is a rather alarming story. (Thanks to my daughter for bringing it to my attention while on holiday.....) While there may be more to it than meets the eye (it does stretch credibility somewhat when taken at face value), I fear my first thought was of this song:



(One of the other Youtube clips of the song has altered lyrics and claims that Trevor Crozier wrote it in 1977, which is a neat trick when I have his own recording made in 1972. And I should know: Trev was best man at my brother's wedding.)

Back Here On Earth

Hi there! I'm back after a splendid fortnight in Mallorca, raring to go. Once I've uploaded the contents of my camera we can go over the holiday itself: suffice it to say that Ruairidh, Hilary and I had great fun, enjoyed seeing Vanessa working in her summer job, and now know for certain that there is a whole lot more to Mallorca than beaches and package holidays. Though we did enjoy a couple of beaches (and I had my first swim in the Mediterranean for 43 years).

Let's have a few of the songs that have been ear-worming me while I've been away (and fabulous songs they all are):









And finally this one. When I first typed its title I had "Les Trois Cliches", which might be close to the truth: however hackneyed, it's a hell of a song though. (And yes, I know it was originally Edith Piaf: this is the version I grew up with though. Released on my 4th birthday, no less!)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Shark-infested Custard

Which is of course the correct answer to "What's yellow and deadly?"

There are wrong answers, however. I had to laugh at this, specifically at:

According to the information obtained by the IDF, some of the participants have prepared sacks with sulfur, which they plan to pour on the soldiers as they board the vessels. “This is a chemical weapon, and if poured on a soldier it can paralyze him,” an IDF source told The Jerusalem Post.'

Just to clarify: pouring sulphur on someone will mess up their hair and make them yellow, but isn't as unpleasant as having, say, turmeric poured on you. The flotilla defenders would be better off simply dropping the sacks on the soldiers' heads - at least they would if they had any such sacks, and if the story weren't a transparent fake. (Anyway, how do you pour something onto soldiers roping down from a helicopter?)

Still there's no story too ludicrous to be believed by right-wing nutters without even basic high-school chemistry, as can be seen from this post on a crazy Zionist's blog (Anne's Opinions). The true glory is in its comment stream, where we see:

- commenters point out what I just said above
- crazionists move the goalposts and claim that of course the IDF didn't mean sacks of sulphur, they meant sacks of sulphuric acid
- commenters roll on floor laughing at the idea of "sacks" of sulphuric acid
- crazionists get irritated by the loud laughter and try to shift the discussion back to sulphur
- blog owner crossly says she knows zip about chemistry and it's not her job to do fact-checking
- blog owner tries to divert discussion back to previous flotilla by showing picture of "weapons found on Mavi Marmara" which shows tools and bits of wood
- blog owner laughed at again
- blog owner claims the picture clearly shows guns, explosives and firebombs (I leave you to decide...)
- blog owner writes "Now you might all be correct that sulphur is not that deadly – though I bet none of you trolls would like to have it thrown anywhere near you." (I remember watching happily as one of my university lecturers scattered a shovelful of the stuff onto the floor just by where I was working, as someone had dropped a mercury thermometer and he wanted to get rid of the mercury before the vapour became a danger. Anne, I'd happily roll in the damn stuff! This woman isn't just ignorant, she is actively anti-knowledge! LOL!)
- blog owner despairs of the gales of laughter drowning her out and closes comments because of "too many antisemitic crazies", after a comment thread with not a single antisemitic comment and with all the craziness from her and her fellow Zioloonies.

EineKleineRob - wading through crap by weirdos so you don't have to, and bringing you the choice morsels.

Separation Anxiety

As part of my general intent to improve my health and fitness (aka "become less of a slob" / "not die yet") i recently started going to Tai Chi classes. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art, though I often think it must be the one that the makers of Kung Fu films had in mind when they began to show everything in slow motion, because all its moves are undertaken at a very leisurely pace. (Yes, I know they can be sped up if required, but Step Back And Ward Off Monkey as normally demonstrated would be more appropriately named Step Back And Ward Off Tranquillised Lobster.) The idea at its heart is to open up and balance the flow of energy around the body: or if you're not into the idea of flowing Ch'i (use the force, Luke) then it's a balanced series of warm-up stretches and flexibility exercises.

Tai Chi is normally taught by imitation: the instructor shows each move and the students copy it repeatedly until they get it right (or at least less wrong). It's interesting for me because that goes very much against my preferred learning style - I'm a cognitive kind of guy rather than a psycho-motor chap -which is probably good for me in itself. Anyway, there are a number of different schools or styles of tai Chi, and the one I have begun is Taoist Tai Chi, as taught by Master Moy Lin-shin.

The “form” or sequence of moves which we are learning comprises 108 moves of which we have just reached number 42 (Step Up And Punch). What with my cognitive bias, I have been finding it quite hard to memorise what follows what, so I was very pleased to borrow Master Moy’s book from one of the more experienced students. It will be especially useful as I shall miss the next two classes (I’ll be in Mallorca on holiday). I can now see at least that most of what the class will be doing comprises moves we already know, plus Striking At Tiger on each side and Strike Ears With Fists. (Or if we screw up, Strike Face With Palm.) more to the point, it will help me practise what we’ve already done and to hammer the sequence into my poor head. One of the instructors advised me not to rely too much on the book: OK, I know what he means, but it’s already helped me work out what I was doing wrong with my feet on one move (I looked like Johnny English in the new movie trailer as I ended up totally wrong-footed).

Actually, I know that most of what the class will be doing is repeating what we learned this week, which is a set of moves known as the “separations” (Separate Foot to Right, Separate Foot To Left, Turn And Kick) and which are the first point in the sequence when we have to balance on one leg while carrying out toe or heel kicks with the other. Not easy to get right without wobbling / falling over / waving arms frantically. (There is a move called Wave Arms Like Clouds which we have practised a lot and which might be called Wave Arms Like Lunatic when you see a roomful of folk doing it.) I shall be practising those: even before I had the book I found home practise very beneficial for those moves which are done several times in succession (Brush Knee and Twist Step, Step Back and Ward Off Monkey, Wave Arms Like Clouds) to get some kind of rhythm.

As an aside, our instructor told us they used to teach some of the moves with “colloquial” names to make them more memorable. So White Stork Spreads Wings became Unscrew Lightbulb, while Flying On The Slant became Serving The Pizza. But Master Moy felt this wasn’t totally helpful…… (In fairness to Master Moy, the moves do have standardised names which enable you to recognise them in other styles of Tai Chi so it probably wasn’t just a lack of humour on his part.) I’m hoping that our instructor may let slip a few more of the unofficial names.