Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back & Silvered

Yes, perhaps it was hypocritical of me to criticize The Steampunk Librarian for not updating, and then disappear for three months. Rest assured, however, that I have not been idle during my absence.

In addition to dealing with that nagging thing called real life, I recently came across the most interesting book. Its title is Silverlock, and it was written by John Myers Myers in 1949.

The story concerns a man named Shandon, or Silverlock (after a stripe of prematurely aged hair), who is shipwrecked and washes up upon an island, which is called the Commonwealth of Letters - a name that originates in a French play from the 1660's - and seems to be the home of every fictional or legendary character ever invented.

After washing up onshore, Silverlock sets off on a threestage journey through this literary wonderland, sometimes accompanied by a character who seems to be the personification of the Storyteller - he goes by the name of Golias - and, eventually, arrives at the Hippocrene fountain; where he takes two of the three necessary drinks for poetic inspiration. Along the way, he meets Beowulf, Robin Hood, and Don Quixote, tours hell with the slippery "Faustopheles", takes tea with the Mad Hatter and his two friends in rodent suits, and even hears "The Ballad of Bowie Gizzardbane" - The tale of the Battle of the Alamo set to an Anglo-Saxon epic meter - and scores of other literary characters famous, obscure, and amalgamated.

In addition to the delightful game of identifying the literary allusions, the main thrust of the book is Shandon's transformation from a literarily ignorant cynic to one more appreciative of the stories and songs the Commonwealth is made up of - even if he never quite recognizes any of them.

The book is a fun read, especially if you can get an edition that includes the Silverlock Companion, a Nevinsesque attempt to trace every literary allusion in the book. Unfortunately, it's a bit hard to find, but well worth it.

(The Media Connoisseur will return in 2007 with, "Bonds Have More Fun.")

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blog Quartet

One of the most quickly growing forms of media in the past few years is the blog. For that reason, it is peculiarly appropriate to review several blogs in a media review blog, like this one.

First off is The Brothers Brick. Many people played with LEGO bricks, or something similar, in their youth. Some of us never stopped. Contributors Andrew ("Dunechaser") and Josh keep readers informed of some of the coolest LEGO creations to be released onto the internet. Of special interest to me are the Steampunk ones, of which they post a great number.

Steampunk is also the theme of The Steampunk Librarian, who thoughtfully provides a number of links to places the steampunk enthusiast would enjoy. (I found the Port-O-Rotary especially entertaining.) Sadly, the author updates only sporadically, and the last post was made last March.

Speaking of historical anachronism, Geoffery Chaucer Hath a Blog is - how to explain it? It's a blog, written in Middle English (making it a challenge to read) under the persona of 14th century poet Geoffery Chaucer, presenting a medieval take on today's popular culture. Be sure to check out his take on Chuck Norris "facts".

Bringing this post full circle is Vignette Bricks, another LEGO fan blog, this one focusing one particular style of building - the small scene known as the "vignette". The author, Bruce, has even highlighted my own (extremely) modest attempts at the genre. That, alone, ensures a good report. ;)

All kidding aside, the blogs above have all given me great pleasure to peruse in the past, and I assume that they will in the future, as well.

(Except maybe The Steampunk Librarian.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Secret Purposes

***Spoiler Warning***
Lady in the Water, the latest film by M. Night Shyamalan, has not exactly been what one would call a summer blockbuster. Then again, it isn’t the typical summer blockbuster-style of film, either.
The film chronicles the visitation to a modern day apartment building of a “narf” – a sea-dwelling nymph – named Story and the struggles of the tenants of the building, lead by the manager, Cleveland, to return her to her own land. They must accomplish this before she is killed by the local “scrunt”, which is a wolf-like animal with a grassy hide that allows it to disappear from sight by pretending to be a lump in the lawn. Their main source of information is a tenant who heard the story of the Narfs as a bedtime story in Korea. With the scrunt prowling about the buildings lawn and hallways, they race to unearth the role that each person must play to get Story back to the “Blue World” from whence she came.
All this sounds rather corny, and while I must say that the plot is much better than the above summary makes it sound, it may not be the sort of thing that would appeal to everybody. There are, however, some interesting themes to be found within.
The more prominent of these is that of finding ones purpose and meaning in life. The entire subplot of Cleveland attempting to match the tenants in his building to the supporting characters in the bedtime tale – the Guardian, the Healer, the Guild, and the Interpreter – is an example of this, as is Story’s purpose in coming to the building, the inspiration of the struggling writer whose work – and, eventually, whose death – will be the origin of great social change. Even the tenants who are not ultimately part of the fairy-tale roster are still important to the solution, and one is reminded of another Shyamalan work telling us that there are no coincidences, not even in where one rents an apartment.
Another recurring theme in the film explores the entwined nature of reality and fiction. After all, water-nymphs and wolves with mystical powers are creatures of fantasy, represented by the bedtime tale, but they intrude upon the contemporary world of a Philadelphia apartment building (even if none of the tenants find them particularly unbelievable). Cleveland’s interactions with the unnamed Critic underscore this thought, as they attempt to locate the Interpreter, et. al. in the building by applying his experience in seeing the introductions of movie characters. Since the “real” people they are attempting to find in this manner are in fact characters in a movie themselves, this adds an extra twist of irony into the situation.
While contemporary fantasy and literary philosophy may not be what the typical theatergoer looks for in a film, but if they intrigue you then Lady in the Water is worth looking into.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Fans of Celtic music may or may not be aware of NPR's weekly radio show The Thistle and Shamrock, and those who have, may not have heard of the new Thistlepod podcast program. There have been three episodes so far, starting June 19th, and have come out every two weeks since. They are, for those who are fans of the show or of Celtic music generally, quite good, although the short length (7 1/2 minutes on average) means that clips are all you get of the songs. You can subscribe to Thistlepod here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Rum is Far From Gone

***Spoiler Warning***
When I first saw the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, my initial reaction was, “I’m scared for this movie”. Those first glimpses of Davy Jones’ crew made me worry that the supernatural elements of the story, kept fairly reasonable in the first movie, would in the second descend into silliness.
Thankfully, the filmmakers managed – somehow – to avoid that fate, and have delivered a fun and terrific movie, albeit not one that greatly exceeds The Curse of the Black Pearl, as some have claimed. Indeed, no matter how cool Jack’s coffin-paddling opening was, nothing the writers do will ever overtake his original entrance, serenely sailing into Port Royal on a rapidly sinking sailboat.
Still, the movie is a worthy sequel to the first. The plot centers on the Chest of the title, which belongs to Davy Jones and contains his heart. The various factions in the movie – including Jack, Will, the now ex-Commodore Norrington, Jones, and new villain and East India Co. man Lord Beckett – all want to get it for various reasons. By the end of the film all seems lost, for Beckett has the heart, the Black Pearl is wrecked, and Jack eaten, by Jones’ Kraken. But all is not lost, for the strange and mystical Tia Dalma, whom Jack has had dealings with in the past, informs the surviving crew that he can be saved by sailing to “the end of the world” – and provides them with a captain to take them there, who turns out to be none other than Captain Barbossa, who everyone thought had died at the end of the first film. This admittedly somewhat convoluted plot – and I left a lot of stuff out – is supported by excellent action sequences, both at sea and on land. The three-way sword fight amongst Jack, Will, and Norrington, especially, is surely one of the best swashbuckling sequences in cinematic history, right up there with Inigo and Wesley’s duel in The Princess Bride, and far exceeding anything Zorro ever did, at least while being played by Antonio Banderas. Ragetti and Pintel are their usual scruffy comic-relief selves, and the special effects – especially in the Kraken sequences – are nearly flawless. Even the aforementioned crewmen of the Flying Dutchman manage to be tragic and menacing rather than ridiculous. In-jokes referencing the first film abound, usually involving either the “why-is-the-rum-gone” scene, or the dog with the keys in its mouth, which itself is one of the more overt references to the theme park ride (In a case of art coming full circle, rumors are that the American park rides will or have been redesigned to include characters from the films. Now, that’s what you call ironic.). All things considered, Dead Man’s Chest is definitely one of the better movies of the summer, and worth seeing at least once.


Hello, and thank you for coming to this blog of mine. In it, my intention is to present my thoughts on assorted movies, books, music, and possibly other things. I hope that my efforts will be both informative and amusing, so please, read on.