Saturday 27 November 2021

Film review: Dune

tumblr_m589pvTOQZ1qbaom0 This is a review of the "new" Dune film, which we've just watched. Cinematically it is impressive, but largely empty; prefer the book. The new film is only about half the book; we get to the point after the 'thopter crash where they meet the Fremen and stride off towards Sietch Tabr. And that took nearly three hours. Although, to give credit where due, it didn't drag. Watching it on a large screen, and we were right at the front, with all the subsonics, helps.

If you've read the book you'll realise that most of the important scenes come with commentary by the leading characters, which adds depth and explains what's going on. The film doesn't try to do that, and so loses that depth, and doesn't find any other way to supply it. So, the Bene G's breeding programme gets a mention, but just that; we're told Lady J was told to bear daughters, but just that; if you've read the book these are hooks if you haven't they are meaningless. Some scenes are problematic: Dr Yueh managing to bring down the house shields just about works in the book, but not at all in the film: everything is on such a vast scale that it is impossible to believe one man could do that. Plus disabling all the sensors that would have warned about the f*ck*ng enormous spacehips just overhead. In their efforts to be impressive, we have enormous lovingly-rendered spaceships landing and people walking off them. WTF? Have these people no motorcades? The battle scenes, whilst also lovingly rendered, make no sense: in no universe should people on foot rush at each other with swords, having decended from spaceships. In the book, of course, we know that shields don't let in high-speed items and this helps; the film doesn't manage to convey this well. In the book, when Paul kills Jamis, eventually, it is helpfully explained that the reason he keeps slowing down is this facet of shield-trained-fighting. Having Paul dream of a figure with a bloody knife doesn't convey the across-known-worlds Jihad. And so on.

On a perhaps somewhat pedantic note, but with just a tiny bit of thought it could have been done better: Dune is very very hot in the sun, yes? I've been to places - Greece, Spain - that are like that. If you walk across a courtyard in such a place, you take advantage of every shade. They don't. When Paul wanders across to talk to the palm-tree-waterer, he doesn't stand in the shade of the trees, and neither does the waterer. Little things like that - and people not keeping their mouths shut, despite having nose plugs in - disappoint.

From that, you can tell that I spent quite a bit of the film comparing it to the book, and inevitably finding the book superior - by which I think I mean, the story and images the book conveyed to my mind. But some bits of the film do work, and carry you along, and you can forget the book for a while. The ornithopters are nicely done. Some of the spaceships are kewl. The worms are decent. Backdrops are good.

The lead, Paul, works. The Duke is OK. Lady J isn't: too weak, insufficiantly in control; her character sacrified for Hollywood tropes.

Note: I should add that (per my review) while the book is dead impressive if you're say 16, it doesn't fare so well to an adult.

A few words about the David Lynch 1984 version, which we watched at home recently. Which was also pretty good, though it did drag a bit. I found Sting, as Feyd-Rautha, good (was there even a FR in this one?); Piter was well done too; by contrast the 2021 version doesn't do its characters so well. DL's version tried to convey too much by having characters moon off into the distance, which is kinda what the book did, but it didn't work on film.

On scale

The books and the films differ as to the "scale" of the various households. Hence, as noted above, some things that make sense in the book don't make sense in the films. In the book, Leto's household in Arrakeen is effectively that of a colonial governor; there's a housekeeper, the Shadout; and from inside they can look out onto the road, along which people pass. In the film - certainly the most recent - the scale is vast; driven mostly I think by a desire for dead impressive CGI stuff, with spaceships and buildings dwarfing human scale. And mostly empty inside, apart from a few key characters. Indeed a flaw in the film is that the key characters are not surrounded by a cloud of servants, as they should be.

Thursday 25 November 2021

Book review: White Queen

[Originally written-to-self in an email in 2013, presumably as a "save".]

This is brilliant. Difficult, allusive, original, imaginative. The vision of aliens as visitors we don't even realise are here slips quietly in like a stiletto through the ribs; the entire tone is vastly superior to the not-really-successful Spirit, which is only trying to recapture what she managed here. Comparable to Flowerdust or Divine Endurance. And just about nothing else I've read.

For all those who have reviewed this as "I was baffled": yes indeed: this book actually requires you to think, and rewards you if you do.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

My father's carpet

Many years ago - I'm not sure exactly how many, but he was likely around 25, so perhaps about 60 years ago - my father knotted this carpet. It was around the house when I grew up. And eventually it came to me. For a while it was in front of the fire, then it moved, then it got rolled up and forgotten. And then it got unrolled and we realised we had forgotten the mothballs.

Oops. Nothing lasts forever, as Roxy Music taught. So, with a heavy heart, and after considering getting it repaired and consulting with Mother, I girded up my loins and threw it into the bin.

Monday 22 November 2021

Film Review: Time Bandits

mino Well. A weird one, as you'd expect from Gilliam. See wiki. Visually rich, as I think they say; indeed some of the scenes - particularly the early one of the approach to the city in the Napoloeonic wars - looked like it had been done as a recreation of a painting; or perhaps not a re-creation: created, as though a painting; with attention to dramatic light and dark.

However, as a film - as entertainment, which it is meant to be - it is flawed; in that it is not funny enough, and not brave enough to be not funny at all. And too often skates over the verges of unfunnyness. So it would perhaps have been better not as a comedy at all, perhaps. Examples? "Pansy" is rather heavy-handed. We're given a brief shot of a lifebuoy with "Titanic" written on it, which is full, but then a moment later it is thrust into our faces, which isn't. Robin Hood. The gratuitous hitting of the poor by one of RH's henchmen. As a cartoon, that would have been fine; with real people - though, obviously, they weren't really hit - it isn't. Indeed the entire thing is really a cartoon.

The minotaur is very good, though.

Book review: Sundiver

1637608011769-f8ce3d5b-3aed-456a-85fa-c30e97dcb9ce_~2 A David Brin potboiler. Of the Uplift Universe; see-also the Brightness Reef trilogy. See-also Goodreads. I'm pretty sure I liked this better the first time around. But his prose is leaden despite his best Ive-been-to-writing-class attempts to add something to it, so shorn of surprises it isn't such fun. My appalling memory means that some surprises remain, but really - apart from the plot, which is best avoided - the book is mainly introducing you to the Uplift Universe and the Wolfling Humans and so on; and without the interest of that being gradually revealed, there isn't much left.

Too much is wrong to make the thing worth ripping to shreds, but I think the idea of Culla having SuperZappoLazerVision is the worst part. It isn't physically plausible to have SZLV. I doubt it is plausible to have LV at all, but that would have been a smallish miracle, and all that was really needed for the plot, but oh no they have to be usable as weapons too for the grand finale. Yawn. Keeping them secret for 100 kyr isn't believeable either. And all of this stems from the mere need to not have a machine onboard that could have done it; but GalTech could have got a machine onboard trivially. So it is all very silly indeed. Roll on the desperately self-congratuatory finish and we're done; whew.

Friday 19 November 2021

Next summer: thoughts and ideas

 I'm going to dump stuff I see here, against the happy chance I may be able to use them.

Breithorn Traverse.

Alphubel, Täschhorn.

The corners of the Cam

IMG_20191206_121911 As told to a visiting cox from Oxford. And for Fairbairns, which means you don't get to see the course beforehand.

Some resources:

* A map of the standard Head Course, from First and Third.

* A map of the Fairbairns course, from Jesus.

* A video of a Robinson VIII rowing the course.

The Cam is wigglier than the Isis. Most coxes, even good ones, will expect their crews to pull round, bowside or strokeside, on Grassy and Ditton and probably First Post (for the standard Head Course). So, expect this, tell your crew to expect it, don't get overenthusiastic and try to avoid it or leave it until too late. Also, don't just tell one side to pull harder, because they can't; or if they can, only at the risk of throwing out their rowing. So, you want one side to pull round, and the other side to back off somewhat. Ideally, to ease the strain of calls, arrange beforehand with your crew that if one side is told to pull round, the other side should just back off, of itself. Also, somewhat controversially, I'd suggest going into corners at 90% effort. Because Fairbairns is a long course (and there is usually no significant stream on the Cam), there is plenty of time to get tired, why not give yourself some margin on the difficult bits. This doesn't apply if you're elite, of course, but if you're elite, why are you reading this?

General: in the town section the river is narrower than you think due to moored boats. On the Reach, beware of shallows if you get too close to the meadow side; you're probably better off on the towpath side. Although there is little stream, you may as well gain what there is by staying in the middle, which has the advantage of avoiding the nasty banks.

The Corners

Elizabeth Way ("the Road Bridge on J's map): or, "the S bend". Not too bad, just watch out for the point when you want to change the rudder over.

Chesterton / Green Dragon: on the map, looks deceptively easy. But is quite sharp, see-also my pic above. You come into it from a relatively narrow stretch of water further constrained by moored narrow boats.

Ditton: most of a right angle. Going upstream, it is very easy to steer too wide, especially with a wind coming down the Reach. Downstream, make sure you don't take it too wide, you don't want to head into the Plough.

Grassy: is most of a right angle. It is easier to steer downstream; going upstream, judging the narrowboats on the apex(es) is difficult.

First Post: not too bad, a total of about 45 degrees, but quite sharp. If you end up going wide, watch out for the overhanging trees and bushes on the far side.

Just before you get to the "Motorway Bridge" (actually the A14 bridge) there is "the outflow" which comes in from the W (towpath) side and can slew the boat around in a somewhat unnerving fashion. Avoid this by being in the middle.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Taping the seams

My beloved lightweight bright green Rab waterproof is starting to come apart at the seams. Well, it is a lightweight jacket. I think I bought it for summer 2016 - I definitely have pix as far back as that. So, I tried re-taping them. I bought el-cheapo 2 Roll Tenacious Tape Patches, Clear Seam Sealing Repair Tapes Waterproof - Iron On, "For Sealing Sewn Seams: Repairs on Polyurethane (PU) coated breathable waterproof fabric: leisure waterproofs, sportswear, military uniforms, protective clothing, tents, covers, awnings etc. This fabric repair tape is sealed with a waterproof coating and won’t peel off during a wash . Apply using domestic Iron (medium / medium hot setting)." And I used the advice from Specifically, use greaseproof paper or similar to protect the iron, and have the iron hot enough that the tape goes transparent. Which was about 3/4 scale, for me. Warning: this tends to melt the existing tape, but I'm trusting that will be fine when it cools. Pix:

1. The existing seam was peeling away a bit, so a "cross" to seal it seemed best. I didn't want to pick / pull off the existing seam.


2. Showing the roll. That's a lot of tape, and you get two rolls. This coat is not for public display, so I decided to tape the outside, too, albeit a bit more neatly than the inside.