Superversive Book Review: The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel

In my review of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, I noted how it had a magical girl, who ended up at a magical school, collected nearly a dozen magical friends, joined a fraternity, investigated a mystery, saw an omen that heralds the doom of worlds, headed off an attack by an army of dozens of mind-controlled students, saved the entire campus, and provided support for a battle that involved the dragon that used to be Professor Moriarty.Not bad for the first week, huh?

No. Sorry, my mistake. It’s not bad for the first five days of school. Take that, Harry Potter.

How do I know that book one was the first week? Because , book two of L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Rachel series, opens only a few hours after the end of book 1, and explicitly states she’s only been there five days.

If the books get any more dense, we’re going to have to call Rachel Griffin “Jack Bauer.”

In spy novels, most people will cite John Le Carre, usually for good reason. As far as I’m concerned, his crowning achievement were his George Smiley novels. The middle book of his Carla trilogy was called The Honorable Schoolboybook 1, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, ended with the discovery of a mole in MI6, and his unmasking. Much of the second book is walking back the cat — going through the mole’s history and discovering exactly what havoc he hath wrought upon the spy service during his period working for the other team.  Much of The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel proceeds in a similar manner. Book one was so dense, and the implications so vast, we need an after action report just to get a good grasp of the fallout.

In fact, the first 100 pages of The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel handles: recapping the first book, reintroducing the characters, walks back the cat on the enemies from book 1, as well as sets up the conflict going forward.  Not bad, huh?

So, if you think that the first book ended a little abruptly, without any follow through, there’s a good reason. It would have added another 50-100 pages. But don’t worry, there is enough new data here that you can read these books back to back without a problem. How do I know that? Because I know three other people who who did just that.

For those of you who fear the repetitive nature of YA books … no. Not at all. There is nothing repeated here. In fact, this one continues to wrap up plot threads left over from the first book — there actually were plot threads dangling, but I didn’t realize it after the grand shootout in the finale. I suspect the series will end in fire.

And good God, the references. I think you need a degree in classical literature and be in on the jokes of three different languages and five different cultures in order to get all of the little hints and nods in the novels. I think I only got half of them, and some PhD’s in philosophy explained some of the others to me. But that’s a general observation, not specific to this book.

In The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel, you see more sides to people we’ve already seen. Whether it’s the magical prince of Australia, or the Artful Dodger and his pet dragon, or even Vladimir von Dread (I have asked. His family crest DOES NOT read as “DREAD IS BAVARIA. BAVARIA IS DREAD”). In fact, if she ever wants to do an anthology, I call dibs on von Dread shorts, he’s just that interesting. It is a vast and colorful crew, and I suspect we’re going to see more of their own backstories as time goes on.

Now, I hear that Jagi hates having her book compared to Harry Potter. I know. It’s not fair to JK Rowling. But I’ve handed book 1 to four other people, and they read only 10% into Unexpected Enlightenment before deciding that it was a deeper and richer world than Potter. And the farther in we go, the deeper everything gets. Or maybe it just shows us how shallow Potter was and we never realized it. There are no johnny one-note characters here. Everyone has different emotions and moods and personalities. Hell, I think Rachel went through more emotions over the course of any five pages of The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel  than the entire body of Hogwarts in 7 novels.

I’m told that it’s unfair to compare the weak parts of Rowling to the best parts of Rachel Griffin. Except that there are no weak parts to the Rachel Griffin novels. The world is deeper and far more cosmopolitan. The characters are more complex. The plot is faster and more tightly written. The bad guys are more threatening. The overarching mystery is more compelling. And anyone who felt that Harry Potter presented a genuine threat to Christianity, I have only one thing to say to you: Keep your eye on the Lion.

As for the plot… the short version is that it’s really wrapping up a lot of plot threads from book 1. And there’s a lot to wrap up: the raven that heralds the doom of worlds; the Outsiders from other worlds; the “Lightbringer,” the ones behind Moriarty last time; the one behind THAT threat; her relationship status; the story behind Rachel’s father and his work as an agent … there’s an awful lot kicking around. And we aren’t even going to get into all of the new various and sundry plot elements kicking around.

SHORT VERSION: five out of five. Go read it.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 

Makers and Breakers

Subversive Literary Movement

Throwback Thursday: a superb guest post by author Dave Freer. (clicking on the covers for more info about the book.)

 

Makers and Breakers

by Dave Freer

Joy cometh in the morning

Now of course you want to take anything I say with a whole shovel of salt, because, according to the self-selected arbiters of modern standards, I’m barking insane.

As sanity is a relative concept (take some of my relatives. Please), salt is great preservative, and if I’d rather not be judged sane by their standards, this is all good.

Of course they don’t like you listening to me or reading my folly, but that is, as they say, is hard cheese…

Which brings me around to what I was going to write about.

“‘Hard cheese?’ maybe he is mad after all,” I hear you mutter.

Well, maybe. But what you have to grasp about hard cheese is that, as opposed to milk, or even soft cheese, hard cheese was made as a way to keep food for the long, dark winter months. To store against a possible bleak year and poor harvest.

Making hard cheeses is the opposite of instant gratification. It’s not easy or quick (soft cheeses are, even if you don’t nip off to the shops and buy some cream cheese).

Cheese these days comes from the supermarket… unless of course you’re a nutter like me.

I make cheese. I make bacon. I make salami. I make hams. I make jerky… I preserve, dry, or freeze everything that doesn’t run fast enough to get away.

Part of this is choice and part of this choice-inflicted. I live on a remote island, a once a week ten hour ferry trip off the coast of Australia. Actually, yes, I can buy anything you can in urban America. I can even buy today’s newspapers, as long as I only go and collect them tomorrow. It is just very expensive to do so, and if there is bad weather (and this is the ‘roaring forties’ of sail-ship legend) there is a chance that tomorrow may be somewhat delayed (it’s not quite like mañana. It eventually does come). It does force you to change the way you live, and how you see the world. To plan, to build up stocks and to think ahead. And of course, to delay gratification. It also changes the way you look at that now much maligned and derided hero of yesteryear, the pioneer, the colonist, and those who built on that legacy, so someone urban lout who never got up at half-past predawn to milk, could whinge about government cheese. The farmer, the guy getting a sloppy-with-somewhat-processed-grass tail whipped across his face, the fellow squatting planting seeds he kept from last year, the fisherman on a wild and rolling sea… these are my people, my heroes and my role models. These are the builders, the makers. These are the foundation stone people on which my Australia and the US and Canada (yes there are others, but at least I know a little about those) were built, and still actually stand.

Not surprisingly they tend to see the world very differently from those who are sheltered from these things in the raw, and completely differently from the takers and breakers.

They tend to be pragmatic, to think ahead, to think for themselves, which seems to mean conservative these days (bizarre, isn’t it, how words change meanings. Once that was what one meant by liberal. It still does in some English speaking places.). They value things that they can see have worked (for their parents, grandparents, and more), and do still work. They’ve learned the hard way of the value of hard labor, of honesty, of good neighbors and of a real ‘community’ (not the stolen use of the word that politicians like to burble about).

These are people who know each other, who turn up to fight fires or clean gutters for the old people, because they know, like and respect them. Church is still important, and so is earned respect, appearances, less so. You know people for what they are and do, not for what they look like, and what labels they stick on themselves.

It’s not always an easy way to live, which is one reason why cities draw. The other is that cities offer a great deal… of employment, entertainment, choices and also fast food.

No, I don’t want everyone to live like we do.

If everyone did it, it would be harder going for a hunter-gatherer-farmer like me.

I might have to rely on my writing to put food on the table for my family, And there’d be No-one to make computers, so you’d best all stick to making computers or mining or writing programs, from my point of view, anyway. That’s also making.

But it is much easier to become distant from it. To not see the gulf between making and taking, between building and looting what others build. Although I work the land and sea much as my ancestors did, and with the same attitude – if a piece of machinery made it possible to do it better and faster — I’ll try it, I am two other things (well, yes, actually many. A man is a complex thing) firstly, by background, a scientist who likes logic and numbers, and secondly, a lifelong reader.

And it was books, and identifying a trend in them that I found, well, was making them less pleasurable, that got me writing.

Observation said that there were less books with heroes I could identify with.

Logic said something about them had to be bothering me. It took me some time to work out what it was, because it was counter-intuitive to me.

The center of the books had shifted over the years. Steadily, to the point where it was now bothering my logic and suspension of disbelief, as well as my enjoyment. Fiction is not a how-to manual or even necessarily plausible, as long as it is enjoyable. When it starts to fail the latter part… well, we start to question the first parts.

I realized that the makers, without stopping being the cornerstone of real society, had somehow gone from being mostly the heroes, to inevitably the villains. Somehow we’d gone from FARMER IN THE SKY to only books where humans (particularly white male, Western, heterosexual middle aged ‘country’ people/or those making things) were always villains.

The heroes, weren’t building, they were breaking. And if anything at all, they were striving for or defending the ‘utopia’ we’d narrowly escaped and discovered the horrors of, barely decades ago. Or, possibly worse, humans could be some kind of hedonistic parasite… but making, colonizing, exploring and taming were now evil as were the people (always the same villains) who even thought of such things. They weren’t just evil, they were core-rotten. There was no good in them at all.

Now, of course, I approach this from my own philosophical and religious perspective: While I accept the reality of evil, and that some people can be so corrupted by it that there is little good left in them, I start from the position that humans are made in God’s image. However you take that, it means they start pretty good.

Rotten genes, and bad rearing, and a lousy moral environment can create some very nasty products from that – but not inevitably.

Freer 3

People (or perhaps something more than people) have surprised me over and over. There is still an amazing capacity to do good within just ordinary people, and the capacity of individuals to be that, despite the worst, is something we should celebrate.

Acts of kindness, altruism, generosity, idealism, are not rare. I’ve broken down in areas of South Africa where that is apparently a death warrant… and yet met nothing but kindness and help.

Does that mean I’m some stupid rose-tinted spectacle American Liberal, thinking we can all sing Kumbaya and get on? Not hardly. I’m a pragmatic country-man. I realize that breakers and takers are there too. I just think there are actually more makers than one realizes… but we’re not very noisy and not very busy crawling into the control-spots.

And one of those control spots is fiction.

Freer 1

Fiction is, of course, terribly effective propaganda – but like all propaganda, fails once the target audience is aware it is being manipulated and thus takes the opposite point of view.

What’s more, once they realize it is propaganda, they’re quite likely to dislike the vessel – the story – as well as the ‘message’.

Now I freely admit I started submitting writing (with no delusions that I was a particularly good writer) but with a “I’ve got to be able to do a bit better than this, even if I’m no Heinlein,” look at what was coming out of publishing.

I didn’t realize that those on the levers of publishing didn’t want Heinlein, with ‘makers’. They wanted to break everything that it stood for. If you sneaked it through, you had to clothe it in heavy disguise. I foolishly thought that publishing was long-sighted and logical, and not willing to act against their finest, their foundations, out of short-sighted partisan self-interest.

I thought that there was just a shortage of the kind of heroes I admired, aspired to be like and enjoyed reading about because authors weren’t providing it. Yes, not very bright for a man prides himself on logic.

But it was just so stupid, I didn’t think anyone would do that.

I did figure it out, though. I did then try some stealth, but I am not good enough at it.

And then I was lucky and tried Baen who were still publishing the old kind of Science Fiction.

The trouble, as I see it anyway, is that fiction as propaganda can only work well, long term, when there is a lot of non-propaganda for it to swim amongst, and pass as. So by trying to make the whole field your tool, you must do it so badly that either you prevent the reader from being able to suspend his disbelief (and kill your market, outside the converted), or you convince them to believe falsehoods which may be in your personal short-term interest, but are going to cause devastating long term and collateral damage.

For example: Your teen daughter who reads sf/fantasy is making her first long distance drive home from college. Her car breaks down one night in the middle of nowhere. Two guys stop and decide to grab her and rape her (look at the stats to see who they’re likely to be).

Freer 2

Guns are bad, according to the books she’s read, so she can’t shoot them dead.

Does she, like the feminist heroes of her books – beat them to ground, or maybe just shame them into checking their privilege on twitter? Or, having slightly more brain than cheddar (it’s all about cheese) run to the house across the field – which, given the location is certain to be occupied by the arch-villain of her books, the middle-aged white farmer, who has a wife and three kids, is a church-going Christian, who votes Republican and thinks an Agricultural fair with a rodeo is the best thing ever… and probably keeps a shotgun behind the door and can throw an 80 pound hay bale into the loft sixteen feet up.

The crime stats (the facts, not the fiction) show that he’s her best possible help: not only will he help her, and fix her car, and his wife will feed her and look after her, but he’s almost the single most likely person to physically deal with or to shoot the two varmints, if they decide to try come and get her.

Yes there is a remote chance that he’s some backwoods Hannibal Lector. But the probability is so microscopically slim as to be wearing a dress size minus 24 000 000, which is still too big for it.

But what is she going to believe, if the propaganda has worked? Which is why I started writing books that might be fantasy or sf… but took reality and logic back to where they belonged. That took makers, builders, colonists back to the heart of the story as what they really are a lot of the time: human, fallible and foolish sometimes, but with the characteristics that make the real people.

Pushing that envelope just a bit further I’ve just written a ‘cozy’ Who-dunnit, JOY COMETH WITH THE MOURNING. Set in a small country village in my home, Australia, with the ‘detective’ the person I could think of fitting in with most difficulty there – a timid, urban lady-priest. The point was to write a good murder mystery… with anti-propaganda. With current sneered at villains – ordinary people making lives for themselves and food for others, people as real, and human as I could make them.

With the warmth that they really have. I’m not trying to pretend there are no villains, and no evil.

It’s just not where they claim it is.

We OWN the high ground. We made it. It’s time to stop conceding it. I’m sure some of you can do this far better than I can.

And we can, now.

Let’s do it.


Dave Freer’s blog on writing, politics, and philosophy.

https://coalfiredcuttlefish.wordpress.com/

http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com.au/ blog on the self-sufficiency on the Island

 

 

 

 

The Superversive Gundam Series: Gundam Unicorn

“Superversive” and “Mobile Suit Gundam” doesn’t get associated often. Over the course of the history of this giant franchise of Japanese science fiction, there’s been a strong note of despair and incidents of nihilistic excess that cannot be ignored. (If Yoshiyuki “Kill ‘Em All!” Tomino is involved, be ready for it.)

This is not universal, and recently a series not only shook itself loose of that legacy but managed to be Superversive. That series is Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Re:0096, and you can watch it free and legal here (subtitled into English) or (for American readers) on Adult Swim’s Toonami block on Saturdays (dubbed). If you prefer (and you can find them, and read Japanese) there are print versions; Unicorn originally was a light novel before its series adaptation.

The reason I mark this series out as Superversive has to do with the subject of the story, which concerns itself with the origin of this setting’s creation and the corruption that took root at the beginning to subvert the real potential for the uplifting of Mankind into a more perfect form- Newtypes (i.e. psychics, telepaths). The conflict of the story revolves around those seeking to maintain the undermining lie upon which all of this meta-narrative’s conflict revolves, or expose the truth to all of Mankind and thereby risk the collapse of a corrupt order into utter chaos in the effort to restore the original intention of the founders of the Universal Century era.

And by saying that much, I likely spoiled some of it. My apologies.

This is a series featuring giant robots fighting battles where our protagonist is reluctant to fight, tries to love his way through it all, and–especially once he gets a literal princess at his side–actually manages to pull some measure of it off. Why? Because that desire to love his enemies leads him to the truth, and that truth is the means that leads him to achieve his victory in the end despite facing down multiple superweapons and just as many black-hearted antagonists who’d throw billions to Baal (not so figuratively) than admit that they serve a lie.

While many Gundam series conclude with bittersweet success for the protagonists, if they succeed at all, this time it’s properly uplifting. There’s a reality to it that isn’t present in others, and a decided lack of nihilism despite all of the suffering and death that occurs. While I’ve yet to watch a Gundam series that lies to me, this is the first one that ended in a way properly uplifted me, like after I watched Star Wars the first time lo those many years ago.

In short, this is a beautiful series in all ways possible. Short of a Miyazaki masterpiece, it is rare to get such a treat in most franchise anime. Recommended.

Miyazaki Retrospective: “Spirited Away”

So here we are. The last film of the Miyazaki retrospective, at least up until Miyazaki’s next film comes out. And this movie was saved for last for a reason.

In some ways, it’s pointless to debate Miyazaki’s best film. The man is such a chameleon, who can work in so many varied styles, and is so consistently brilliant, that when you talk about the top of the pile you’re talking about little more than personal preference. I have seen – seriously – “Princess Mononoke”, “Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “The Wind Rises”, and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” ALL ranked at number one on some list or another.

With that said – I think it is safe to say that “Spirited Away”, the only Miyazaki film ever to win an Oscar, is the film most commonly cited as Miyazaki’s masterpiece – and not without reason. “Spirited Away” is an astonishing film, absolutely packed with imagination, incredible visuals, memorable characters, and an engaging plot. There’s scene after indelible scene, all underpinned with a metaphysical and philosophical depth that the average director can only dream of, and an attention to detail that’s nothing short of astonishing.

I’ll start off by talking about the dub, something I generally ignore but that is worth being commented upon in this case. All of the Disney dubs are good, and some are even great, but “Spirited Away” is absolutely perfect, easily the best dub job I’ve ever heard. The real coup here is the casting of Daveigh Chase, best known as the voice of Lilo from “Lilo and Stitch”, as Chihiro. Chihiro is a difficult and demanding role, and without an excellent voice actor the character could easily come off as bland, but Daveigh Chase is simply perfect. She nails every aspect of the character, and if not for her brilliant performance the movie would never have worked as well as it did in English.

The opening to “Spirited Away” is one of my favorite scenes of all time. After arriving at a mysteriously empty amusement park, Chihiro’s parents, against Chihiro’s advice, eat piles of food sitting in an abandoned restaurant stall. While they eat Chihiro wanders the park, discovers a magnificent Japanese bathhouse, and encounters a boy named Haku, who warns her to cross the river separating the amusement park from the outside world before sunset. Chihiro tries to leave, but the river is flooded and too deep to cross; worse yet, her parents, having greedily eaten food that didn’t belong to them, have transformed into literal pigs (and in this case, particularly hideous ones), a take on the mythological theme of avoiding the food of the fairies – for a classic example read the myth of Hades and Persephone, and for more modern examples take a look at Ruff the dog in John C. Wright’s “Moth and Cobweb” series, or even Edmund eating Turkish delight in “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

The scene where night falls on the park, and the spirits come out for the first time, is a truly stunning sequence, a wonderfully animated setpiece bursting with fantastic imagery. There’s so much to love about this scene – the detailed animation, the fantastic creatures, the score, the way Miyazaki somehow creates a believable fairy world that also comes across as alien and otherworldly, the creepiness of the whole thing, the way he puts us effectively in Chihiro’s shoes and helps us identify with her terror…all of it is simply amazing. And this is the first scene!

This is the hardest of Miyazaki’s movies to work through simply because of sheer originality. If I went through every single reason the movie worked so well, I’d be up all night writing this article. The spirits and fairy tale creatures are fantastic (fans of “Totoro” may recognize the soot spirits used by the wonderful  spider-like character of Komaji), the setting of the bathouse is extraordinarily detailed, the animation is astoundingly well-executed, and the movie simply bursts with ingenuity; everywhere you turn there’s some new feast for the eyes and mind.

Once again, with his handling of Chihiro Miyazaki puts all modern handling of female characters in western animation to shame. Chihiro is brave and admirable, but not in a ball-busting tough as nails feminist way. She is admirable because she never loses hope, never gives up, is kind to those that others shun and revile, and refuses to be deterred from her goals.

An excellent example of this sort of admirable but quiet courage comes early in the film. Haku tells Chihiro to ask the boiler-maker Komaji to help her get a job; no matter what Komaji says or does, she is not to leave until he helps her.

Chihiro goes to the boiler-maker and begs him for help. He ignores her. She begs him again. She ignores her. She takes the time to help his soot spirits bring coal to the boiler, which finally impresses Komaji enough to send her to Yubaba, the witch who rules the Bathhouse. Chihiro doesn’t get mad at Komaji. She doesn’t run away when she sees his frankly terrifying spider-like body. She doesn’t leave when Komaji refuses her. She simply refuses to give up.

Similarly, when she is told to ask the witch Yubaba for a job, the western feminist answer to Yubaba’s refusal and threats would be to challenge her back, or maybe get insulted and try and find some way around her prohibitions. But Chihiro doesn’t do that! Once again, she quietly persists, refusing to leave until she is granted her job, no matter how afraid she gets and how much Yubaba threatens her. Chihiro knows this is her best chance of getting out alive and rescuing her parents, and doesn’t ruin it by acting like a Rey brat.

Later in the movie, when forced to work as, essentially, a slave in the Bathhouse, Chihiro again doesn’t complain about her lot but does the work asked of her to the best of her ability, however unreasonable, and even takes the time to show kindness to spirits and beings that others ignore or hate. Her motivations remain pure; she just wants to rescue her parents. When the spirit No-Face offers her gifts, Chihiro refuses, and in fact she is the only person who is able to use things No-Face gives her without being negatively affected because she is the only one who doesn’t *ask* for his help and doesn’t accept it  for selfish and materialistic reasons.

Two scenes in the movie have become famous in their own right. First is the sad and creepy “ghost train” sequence, where Chihiro rides without speaking on a train to the afterlife surrounded by the silent spirits of the dead. The scene is sad and beautiful, and, as always with Miyazaki, it’s the subtle details that make it; you may find yourself getting bored until your heart skips a beat when you realize that one pair of spirits is clearly a father sitting with his young child, and suddenly a whole history of unanswered questions floods through your mind. The fog outside of the trail, slowly gliding across the surface of the water, is so haunting and gorgeous that your heart practically bursts.

The second famous sequence is the “Dragon Haku” sequence; where the Ghost Train ride represented loss and acceptance, the scene where the dragon form of Haku bringss Chihiro back to the Bathouse represents life and the reviving power of love and kindness; Haku literally carries Chihiro back to the world of the living, something only possible because Chihiro was willing to risk her life and make sacrifices in order to save him. The animation here is – again! – absolutely gorgeous, brimming with energy and dynamism.

There is so much more to say about this film; I’ve barely scratched the surface, really. It is, without question, an absolute masterpiece.

Now, all of that said, do *I* think it’s Miyazaki’s best film?

Actually…no. After a lot of thought, and after changing my mind, I think I still have to give it to “Princess Mononoke”. “Spirited Away” was original and marvelous and beautiful, but “Princess Mononoke” took the varied and conflicting motivations of a changing world – significantly, not unlike the atmosphere of “A Game of Thrones” – and instead of making it either nihilistic sludge or some sort of epic tragedy, made it superversive, and somehow did it in a way that felt in no way like a betrayal of the sort of story he was telling. Miyazaki had a huge cast of characters with their own understandable agendas and motivations that changed throughout the course of the movie, an extremely complex political landscape to navigate through, and some of the best dialogue of any of his films (Lady Eboshi again…”Watch closely, everyone. This is how you kill a god. The trick is not to fear it.”). It’s a marvel he made any sense of it at all.

Epic in scope and ambition, brilliantly executed, and a setting tailormade for tragedy somehow turned superversive…well, when I put all of that together, it’s hard for me to rank it below *any* movie, really, even the great “Spirited Away”.

Does this take away from “Spirited Away”? Not in the slightest. It is a brilliant, amazing, almost perfect film. It is an achievement that no artist but Miyazaki could accomplish. It has earned every single accolade it’s received. If you haven’t seen it, you’re doing more than missing out on one of Miyazaki’s best films. You’re missing out on one of the greatest films, animated or otherwise, anime or otherwise, ever made.

Watch it, and if you haven’t gotten it already perhaps you’ll understand why Miyazaki is not just great. He stands on his own – a giant in the field, matched by nobody, perhaps ever.

Watch this movie, and understand how lucky we are to be able to witness his genius.

The Whippersnappers Are Back!!

With the school year ending, and summer raising her warming head, the Whippersnappers are back at it again!

Join us this Sunday at 7pm EST as we discuss trends we’ve noticed in modern day fiction, some good, some bad. Listen in and join the discussion!

So I Watched Pirates of the Carribbean 5

I am off to work soon, so quick thoughts (Spoilers ahoy! Be warned…):

  • This was an inferior remake of the first movie. We have:
    • A villain with a personal vendetta against Jack
    • Who was cursed so that they couldn’t go on land and where stuck as undead beings
    • Who need the daughter of a pirate in order to end their curse
    • This daughter of a pirate refuses to believe her father can be anything but a good man. Except he’s a pirate.
    • Jack is going to be executed, except he’s rescued at the last minute by the son of Will Turner
    • We have the son of Will Turner using Jack to rescue someone he loves
    • And it ends after the curse is broken and their newfound mortality is used against the villains. Seriously. It’s beat for beat.
  • The problem is that it isn’t NEARLY as good as the first movie. The villain isn’t as interesting as Barbossa, the reveal of the undead pirates wasn’t nearly as cool and creepy, Jack wasn’t nearly as funny or as necessary to the plot, the story was far too disjointed, and the ending wasn’t as clever.
  • WITH THAT SAID – it’s better than the second and third movie, and at least as good as the fourth. The designs on the villains were very creepy and extremely cool, the actions scenes were fun, and Jack was still Jack, and thus amusing. It was good to see him relegated to a more secondary status, and focus on new leads; Jack is not meant to be a lead.
  • This should be how the series ends. It puts a neat capper on every loose thread from the original trilogy and gives all of our main characters satisfying endings to their respective stories. But I’m sure they’ll shoehorn in a sequel regardless.

So the movie wasn’t bad, per se. But I’m not going to see it again. If I ever want to watch it, I’ll just put on the original and see a better version of it anyway. So it goes.

Science Blast: Pluto Is Fighting For Its Rights!

Pluto New Horizons

Pluto may see planethood again…
but a bunch of rabble rousing Ort Clouders
are trying to ride its coat-tails

Prepare yourself—the Pluto debate has returned, and people are not going to be able to shut up about it. Pluto might be about to regain its planethood.

It might feel like scientists are jerking you around. A decade ago they all decided that Pluto wasn’t a planet—it was actually a dwarf planet—and now all of a sudden they want to change it back? Maybe you even think that this just goes to show how meaningless it all was to begin with. Planet, dwarf planet—it’s all a made-up system determined by some esoteric group anyway.

But categories do matter, and so do the definitions we use to arrive at those categories. The fact that people (even experts like the scientists at NASA) go back and forth on what definitions we should use doesn’t make them less meaningful. It just means that we’re still learning. That’s what science is all about: we have to be able to adjust our definitions to fit our understanding. And this whole Pluto business is a perfect example.

Read more…