Movie review: 2 Nekos went Ultraviolet(but remained logical)

“I like to learn from movies,” Jenney folded her hands just after correcting her glasses.
“And?” Krisp smiled. She had already stood up, being unable to sit still for long times.
“What?”
“Did you learn anything from Ultraviolet?”
“That swords make excellent torches.”
“I knew that!”
“It is new to me,” Jenney said.
“Everyone knows.” Krisp gestured wildly with her hands, “You know… like everyone. At least I think they do…”
“Except for me…”
“Uhmmm…Except for you.”
“Like everyone has coffee breaks in the middle of fights?”
“Yes. Priorities. We all need priorities. Ice cream is one, coffee breaks is another. Except that I don’t drink coffee.. but it is the thought that counts!”
“Talking about breaks… is it me or did you find the in between fight bits also rather.. How would I say that politely….”
“Confusing?”
“Good word that. I think someone must have said at some point while they were doing the cool fight scenes: ‘Guys, we need something to tie these scenes together so people know what is going on. Guys, we need a plot. So someone get busy and write one’.”
“What is a plot?” Krisp asked.
“Uhmmm. Let me think..A plot is what makes the movie make sense. You know. So you go like… ‘Oh, now I get it’!”
“I see.”
“So someone wrote one. A plot, that is. During a coffee break,” Jenney said and shifted her glasses a bit.
“That is helpful!”
“And then they fitted the fights scenes to the plot. And then someone said: ‘look these don’t match up. It doesn’t make sense.'”
“Does it have to?”
“That is exactly what the writer of the plot said. And the director agreed. We have a plot and we got some really cool fight scenes. The movie is done!”
“I bet they were glad.”
“Of course they were. For a movie with a plot is always better than without one.”
“Great!” Krisp said.
“But I think they sort of felt uneasy anyway. So they decided to spice the fights and in between bits with CGI.”
“CGI????”
“That is graphics.. it is what you use to make scenery or creatures that don’t exist or are hard to film. Like Gollem, or dragons or science fiction cities. It is like painting, but with a computer.”
“Ah. Fake pictures.”
“Which is okay, until they get noticeable. Then you feel like someone is whispering in your ear: fake.. fake..not real.”
“I thought I ignore that voice. Spoil sport voice!”
“And then they blurred Ultraviolet’s face.”
Krisp nodded.
“Cause, you know.. Ultraviolet is ugly.”
“Is she? Poor Ultraviolet.”
“But you can’t tell, cause they blurred her face.”
“But I don’t think she is ugly,” Krisp shook her head.
“Why not. How can you tell?”
“Because of logic.”
“Logic?”
“She is pretty because the ugly people were not blurred.”
“Oh….”
“Logic!” Krisp held up two fingers close together.
“Yus…Logic.” Jenney said a bit uncertain.

Not a game review: Legions of Ashworld

ashworld-4

Don’t you like these dubious post titles?

I deny to do what I seem to be doing.. writing a review about a game.. And in all honestly.. it isn’t. A game review touches on the game as game and should take most aspect of a game into account.  Or at least.. attempt to. The reason I don’t make game reviews is that I do not look at all aspects.. but only at a few ones.. I cherry pick. so to speak. I usually only look at the use of graphics and story telling.
An example is the game the cat lady.. which I have written about it before. As a game it is probably not that good, the puzzles must be fairly easy to solve for an experienced puzzle gamer as I found them easy to resolve and I am not an experienced puzzle gamer. However I like the game because in a way it is unusual and new. It tells a story and uses graphics and style to support the story. It is sometimes gruesome perhaps.. but it is never too shocking.
Now I like to take a look at the game Legions of Ashworld(LOA of short) because it is inspired by the game Lords of Midnight(LOM for short). If you have never heard of Lords of Midnight I would not be surprised. It is a game that was made in the eighties of the previous century and looks pretty awful by current standards. However it was an innovative game at the time because it was one of the first open game worlds in which you were allowed to roam around at will, you could look into the distance, it combined a wargame with a fantasy system and allowed you to win the game in two ways: either defeat the evil army or destroy an artifact that gave the evil lord his power(a third option was to do both.).
Legions of Ashworld is a game that is inspired by Lords of Midnight and those who, like me, have played it feel that similarity.  This similarity can best be seen in the below screenshot.

ashworld-2

This is an ingame screenshot of the world. You are actually looking through the eyes of the Lord Taraz towards fortress. Currently you are looking towards the north(the north pointer is highlighted)
You can look all around by clicking on the pointers. When an object is nearby, it  is big and when it is far off it gets smaller. The pictures are thus layered over each to create a feeling of depth. This is very similar to Lords of Midnight.
Like in LOM you start with a small group of people when the war breaks out and you have to recruit the lords of the land, the wizards and even invoke the help of giants.
The initial phase of the game see you gathering your forces while the enemy makes inroads into your country with overwhelming forces. And you will find you won’t be able to battle your enemy until well into the game because you simply lack the troops to do so.
For most of the time you need to keep track of things by consulting the map. Below you see a map from the tutorial that gives you an impression of various symbols.
ashworld-5

And with that the similarities with Lords of Midnight end.
Lord of Midnight was an epic game that mimicked the essentials of Lord of the Rings. The game came with  a short story that introduced us to the three main characters: Luxor the Moonprince, Morkin and Rothrn the Wise. Thus the characters got a kind of presence. There was a feel and mood created.
Anything like it is lacking in Legions of Ashworld. LOA has no epic feel. It feels as a basic wargame. This lack of epic feel is also caused by the visual style. The makers of LOA have chose for a neat visual style in yellow and earth tone colors and set the tale in a desert environment. The characters have a similarity in look and name and coupled with the lack of background this makes them unremarkable and interchangeable and thus dull.

ashworld-1

This lack of sense or authentic feeling  coupled with the fact that it is simplistic wargame makes the game interesting for one or two play troughs.. It is a pity for the art style shows promise.. especially when you look at image in the picture above.

ashworld-3

Perhaps the maker of this game might try to make another inspired game that captures more of the epic feel that made LOM so great. I certainly would recommend to consider another color scheme and make the visual less..uniform. More colors perhaps or different colors..

Of course a game doesn’t simply get better changing the visuals, but visuals help.

Merit

Henry and Kristl were In a lonely place (1950)

inalonelyplace-4
“Dixon Steele is a violent man,” Kristl said..

 

“Dixon Steele is a violent man,” Kristl said while she took a sip from her Rooibos tea.

“Yeah,” Henry nodded slowly. He was drinking hot coffee in a cup filled to the brim . He had made Kristl a tea as at the moment she had sworn off coffee. Just like she had sworn off sugar a few months ago. But Henry knew that this might change tomorrow. It had before.

“That is the key to the story. It is what causes Laurel to doubt him, until it is too late.”

“It isn’t a great leap to think that he might have killed that girl.”

inalonelyplace
Happy times in times smoking was an accepted vice.

“And this suspicion breaks the love affair. “ Kristl nodded.

“He is pretty violent considering that he almost bashes a man’s skull in with a rock. If Laurel hadn’t stopped him, he might have. He gives me the creeps.”

“That is the thing and the sad thing is that he gets more violent when more frustrated and he gets more frustrated because Laurel grows distant and cold because she starts to doubt him.. And of course the police increase the pressure, believing him to be the most likely perpetrator.”

“Like a circle. The suspicion causes the violence and the violence increases the suspicion. And so on. And so on.”

“A sad story and a great one. It is an interesting take on a murder story. Not a regular whodunit because is not really important who committed the murder. What is is important is what it causes. It is a thriller, mixed with a drama and a crime story all wrapped into one movie.”

“So you liked it?”

“Did you? I mean, there isn’t much action. So it might be boring.”

“Well, it was interesting. But I asked first…”

“Alright… I found the story interesting and the acting of Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame is good, but the movie loses big on cinematography. It is just so lackluster and by the book filming that it really brings down the whole movie. There are so many moments that could have been handled better. I would have been interested what a Robert Krasker, the director of photography of the third man, would have done. The only moment something remarkable is done is when Steele enacts with two other people what might have happened. The eager fascination and detailed description of him describing the murder coupled with his expression is unsettling and brought out by having his face light up from the darkness around him. It could have been done much better though. And there are a few moments throughout the movie that seem to mood enhanced, like the moment she talks through bars to a person.. which would have been greater later in the movie signifying her being captured in this love affair but I got the feeling this was just an accident. ”

inalonelyplace-3
Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele caught up in enacting the killing.

“Ah yes…Gloria Grahame is pretty isn’t she,” Henry smiled, “even though she has this sad expression for most of the movie.”

“Sure.. There is this one thing at the end that made me wonder about her character. “

“Which is?”

“I find it strange that she finds it more important whether Steele is the murderer or not, than the fact that she is about to marry a violent man.”

“Uhmm.”

“I mean.. he gets creepy under pressure, so he will get violent and one day she might be the target of his violence..Brr. A man to avoid at all cost,” Kristl shivered.

“Well…. I don’t know what to say. Most of the people he was violent against seem to ask for it.. Not that is makes it any less of a nono.. but somehow I am somewhat more lenient when he hits a guy who taps ash off his cigar into Steeles friends glass of brandy. Or this guy who shouts at you not to talk to his wife, while his wife started the conversation.”

“Still violence is violence.”

“Yeah, it is..”

inalonelyplace-2
Laurel Gray behind bars… a missed opportunity?

“Despite that last criticism I think it is a good movie. In fact I wonder why there has never been a remake. Maybe one with say George Clooney and… well…. “

“..Angelina Jolie?”

“Angelina Jolie?!” Kristl grinned.

“Hmm.. maybe not a good idea, she probably hits back..”

“Maybe Cate Blanchett would be better.”

inalonelyplace-5
Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray.

“Yeah. She has that kind of frailty that Gloria Grahame has.”

“Well, maybe someone will make that remake.”

“You never know.” Henry said and rose to get him another serving of coffee. Halfway down the hall he turned and raised his empty cup indicating if she wanted any. Kristl nodded a yes.   ‘Addict’, he thought. he  had known she would change her mind.

A book review: Light Boxes

Light BoxesLight Boxes by Shane Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books are rather unusual and Light Boxes is one of them. The book is a fantasy in which anything is possible. February has come, but February has no intention of leaving and the towns people of a unnamed town are subjected to an unending spell of chilly weather dominated by snow and ice.
The towns people are late to resist, for how does one resist February? But February, now personified, kidnaps and murders children and the people, led by Thaddeus Lowe and the Solution, a group of men wearing bird-masks, plan a revolt.
But how to revolt against February?
How indeed.
Light Boxes reminded me of a dream I once had when I was feverish. Logic and reason, causality, death and any other rock solid idea are toyed with. People get killed, come to life later in the story, or make themselves even come to life. February is a man who can be killed, but his death will end the month too. But even February isn’t February, for he could be someone else. And perhaps the cause of all problems might not be February, but maybe it was the creators that should be blamed.
Shane Jones is not tied down by anything and he does not hold back on style either. Almost any kind or writing style is used and this is supported by the design of the book. Some pages just contain one word, others contain one line, some one line repeated over and over, jet others contain huge letters and some are just notes jutted down.
I personally like this kind of experimental writing and I liked the story, but I can understand that some people find it hugely annoying as it is a unusual book and writing style. I hope other books will follow.

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Bookreview: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a twist of fate.
The public library in my home town, with only three bookcases of English books, harbors a few books that have been turned into movies at one time or another.
Perhaps not too surprising considering that the preponderance of crime novels and crime novels seem to be a favorite genre of books to turn into a movie.
And one of them is ‘No Country for Old Men’.
It’s a depressing title for sure. It invokes the image of cranky oldsters reminiscing how everything used to be better: the milk, the butter, the cheese, the people and the crime.
And it is that kind of book.
It would have been boring, if the writer hadn’t employed a few things to keep your attention.
First is the MacGuffin of the story. A man, called Moss, runs into a crime scene and finds a suitcase with a few million dollars. Everyone is dead, nobody knows he is there. What would you do?
Moss takes the money and runs.
But running isn’t as easy as he might think. For one, there is family to contend with, and for another, a lot of a other people want that money as well.
One of those is the coldhearted psychopath Anton Chigurh. The man carves a path of dead bodies through humanity. The dead pile up wherever he goes.
Next to him are a lot of shady, often unnamed, types that take potshots at Moss. Most of them are more meat for the meat grinder that Chigurh is. More dead bodies.
Next to those are the authorities, represented by Sheriff Bell, the old man in the title.
The whole story then proceeds along these three lines: Moss, Chigurh and Bell and ends in a tone true to the title: sad. I leave it open how sad exactly.
There is however something problematic with this book. The whole psychopath-goes-wild-theme is somewhat too fabricated. For some reason Chigurh gets away with murdering scores of people without the FBI getting involved. McCarthy paints us a picture of a wacko massacring a lot of people, often in the open, and he doesn’t get caught or even suspected and so Bell can exclaim ‘this is no country for old men’ and ponder quitting his job. I found that a weak element in the book. It is simply unbelievable that anyone can get away with what Chigurh did without the federals getting on his case and someone gunning him down.

Now this all makes for a book that would not have gotten more than three stars from me, if it wasn’t for the writing style. McCarthy uses various styles to tell the story. There is the internal monologue of Bell. There is the third person view of Moss and Chigurh and there is the for me interesting style of dialog.
I am used to write dialog like this:
“Where are you driving to?,” Merit says.
But McCarthy writes it down like this:
Where you going?
No “”, and usually no indicating of who says what. This could become confusing if not handled properly, but McCarthy does as he pulls it off if you pay attention. Sometimes I had to read back a little, but he usually keeps it clean enough so you are sure who is saying what.

For that I am giving McCarthy some extra credits. That is why I give the book 4 stars.

www.meritcoba.com

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Book review: Junky by William S. Burroughs

JunkyJunky by William S. Burroughs My rating: 4 of 5 stars Junky is a horrid book. The focus of this novella is the shallow and deplorable life of the drugs addict as he ambles through life to get to his next fix. Burroughs’ book is unmitigated, the focus is the constant struggle with addiction, for an addict is torn by two opposing desires; to get his fix and to kick his habit.

If this was a movie then the camera would be constant on Burroughs, thinking of ways to get money to get a fix, trying to get a fix, suffering before and after, then trying to get rid of it, actually succeeding in getting clean up for a short while and then falling back into his old life in no time at all. In the mean time he is constantly experimenting with an ever increasing selection of drugs to find that heavenly kick on the cheap. Sometimes you wonder where he gets the money or what social life he has except for hanging out with his junky buddies or being high or strung out. At times he tells us a few things. Like he has a kind of allowance that gives him a certain yearly income. And at one time he buys a farm with a buddy that eventually earns him a profit that evaporates when he wastes it all on his addictions. Sometimes we get a glimpse of other people. He is married, for at times, especially when he is in Mexico, his wife puts in an appearance. But these are just brief excursions, for the camera gets yanked back to focus on him. It is a lurid life.

The lines between users and pushers(sellers) is blurred as users start pushing to be able to fund their addiction(s). Sometimes they turn informer for the police, when they get arrested and strike deal or for money. Or just for any other reason. Burroughs tells us, in a matter of fact voice, how these addicts degenerate morally, turning to all manners of illegal behavior such as stealing or robbing drunks. This degeneration of morals even affect certain doctors, nicknamed croakers, who write out prescriptions for them so they can get a shot of morphine knowing fully well that they actually do not need them for what morphine is meant for.

Shocking are the experiments with new drugs. In their desire for a next fix and due to the constant lack to fund their addiction they are willing to try anything that might seem to suffice. Almost anything that could be taken for a drug is tried out eventually. It is not a nice book to read and sometimes you want to put it down because the life of these people are so dreary, shallow and shockingly grotesque. But somehow you keep on reading, perhaps because you assume that their must be some kind of end. A closure. There is one and it is better not to tell much about it, just that it is not what I would have expected.

This books reminds me somewhat of A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick. The latter has more story perhaps, but there is similarity in the way they describe the lives of addicts. No doubt because Dick was an addict himself and knew what he was writing about, like Burroughs. Although I do not think this is a book to ‘enjoy’ it is no doubt a book to read just to get an idea about what it must be to be an addict. And perhaps that is the major strength of this book, especially if you are an aspiring writer and want to get an glimpse of the life of a drugs addict, without going through the experience yourself.

I was hovering between a 3.5 and a 4. View all my reviews

Henry and Kristl did not last to see 13 Assassins

“Gosh,” said Henry.

He and Kristl were both gaping at the large screen that adorned one
side of the wall and which had, mercifully, gone black. A soft sound of
static emitted from the screen. It was the only sound in the otherwise
silent room.

Kristl pressed a button on her wrist watch and glanced at the display.

“Fifteen minutes.”

“That long?” Henry gasped.

Kristl nodded.

“Maybe we can skip to the fight, you know the one that is claimed to be
the best since.. Kill Bill?”, Henry said.

“I somehow got the feeling that it will be as brutal, sadistic,
gruesome and otherwise revolting as the part of the movie that we have
seen up till now. In fact; I would not want to chance it, even if there
was a small chance that it will turn out to be otherwise.”

“Uhm?”

“You think it will?” Kristl stared at him.

“I lost you there… Yet, you know, Kill Bill. It was a great fight
scene. I assume that they mean the fight between the bride and the 99.”

“Well the suggestion is there. Assumption and all that.”

“It makes me so curious. Just to see if it is really that great.”

“The filmmakers would be happy then. They got you hooked by just
alluding to Kill Bill. You immediately draw comparisons. It creates
expectations without actually promising much and thus you want to watch
the movie.Smart advertising.”

Henry nodded.

“But just think of this. How many of the movies we have seen started
out one way and then turned into something completely different along
the way?”

“Well.. not that many.”

“So what is the likelihood that a movie starting out with one sickening
scene after the other, done in drab colors, populated with
interchangeable characters, done in an unremarkable style and devoid of
humor, will become the opposite in the end? Will become to resemble
Kill Bill?”

“Not very likely…”

“So why should I want to suffer all that just in the forlorn hope that
it might turn out to be different?”

“Eh.. because maybe it will?”

“Okay.. I can not stop you from trying, but I rather watch something
that I like to watch and I think might be watchable till the end. Let’s
pop in another movie?”

“We got Azumi and Azumi 2?,” Henry smiled at Kristl.

“More Japanese swordplay?”

“Yes. Was that not the reason we actually wanted to watch this one in
the first place: to compare them?”

“That is true.”

“Besides.. it has a girl as the lead and..”

“…you like kick-ass girls..” Kristl sighed.

“Nothing wrong with that.”

“Only that it is sexist.”

“At least it is not grisly.”

“As if the one precludes the other.”

“Uh? What do you mean?”

“There are some twisted people out there.”

“Yeah.”

“I hope they remain out there and out of my mind. I find those twisted
images and thoughts disturbing.”

“Right.”

“One more reason not to watch this movie.”

“If you think so. I wish it had a sassy fighter girl..I would have
watched it.. In a skirt that is almost to short.. Like Azumi.”

“Pervert.”

“Thanks sooo much.”

“You are welcome.”

http://www.meritcoba.com

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1436045/

 

Book review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 (Catch-22, #1)Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some weeks ago I found that I sleep better when I read something, but I did not have any books of my own anymore. I used to have a collection of mostly science-fiction and fantasy books, a size able part of which was handed down to me by my father. Another part -the cheaper ones- I had collected myself. But I did them away. Some I gave to good causes, others to friends and others I threw away as they were in a bad shape. It felt odd to completely remove all books from my house, as they had been my companions for years, but I figured that most of them I could get digital and read them that way. As fate would have it: my digital reader broke down.
So I went to the local library and got me whatever book they had that looked interesting to read according to the cover blurb. At first I tried some Dutch books, both written in dutch or translated from other languages, but I have always read English books, so after that brief encounter with my native language I moved over to the English section of the library, which was good size smaller, which made it easier to choose.

One book that I found was Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I had heard of it before, but never what it was about. So I decided to read it with some trepidation as it is considered literature and I am not much of a well-read reader, being more interested in non-fiction or fringe books. However I thought that the reading of a good book would rub off on me and I would write better for it. I write, because it is my desire to tell stories and writing is one way of doing it.
Catch-22 left me somewhat confused in whether I liked it or not. I have that more often of late, in that I do not quite know what to make of a book or a movie. It is why I have two characters doing my movie reviews. I am sometimes of two minds, or even more.
Catch-22 is the story of group of American bomber crew based on an imaginary small island of the coast of Sicily at the end of world war II. The most important MacGuffin of this book is the war or better the missions the men have to fly over Italy. When I read about that I immediately knew what that meant. The air missions in World War II were notorious for their casualty rates. At the height of the war this could even mean a loss of over 10% of the crews involved for one mission only. In the wikipedia you will find that the average rate of a Bomber Command mission was 2.2 percent throughout the war. Since a normal tour of duty was considered to be twenty missions this amounted to a 44 percent casualty rate at least if we use Bomber Commands figures to illustrate the situation. In Catch-22 the amount of missions they have to fulfill is an absurd fifty at the start of the book and that number increases during the book. Facing almost certain death makes that some of the men involved go to great lengths to get out of the war, one way or another, or die trying. This is what basically drives one of the main persons: Yossarian. One way to get out of the war would be to be declared crazy. And this is where the title comes in: Catch-22 is basically an logic fallacy: you can not get out of the war on the grounds that you are crazy, because that is the desire of a sane man.
This illogic you will find throughout the book, not only in the attempts to escape the war, but for instance in the desire of an atheist assistant of a chaplain to replace that chaplain, because he thinks he can do a better job at what the chaplain is supposed to do.
Next to this Catch-22 the whole book is a bit of a jumble of scenes and situations who only seem related because the men all belonged to the same unit. It reminded me somewhat of Mash, but more absurd and more satirical, but also less focused. Mash is of course of a later date then Catch-22 and it is probably inspired by Catch-22, but I name it because it give me a neat bridge to one of my problems with the book.
Catch-22 reads as an absurd satire and when it was released that might have been a novelty. However nowadays, over sixty years after the book was first published, we have seen a lot of absurd and satirical series and movies. Mash is one, the Monty Python series another. South Park and Red Dwarf all added their satire. The consequence is that Catch-22 is not much of an eye opener as an satirical book. There are little story lines that stuck with me, such as the guy Milo who manages to set up an expansive free trade network all over Europe and the Middle East using (bomber) airplanes of both sides to trade with anyone for a profit. Free market capitalism unites people in their thirst for greed. It sounds like a thing to wish for until Milo shows his mettle by having the American bomber crew bomb their own airfield, because he has been contracted to do so. In the mean time his greatest worry is how to get rid of the complete Egyptian cotton harvest that he acquired but nobody wants to buy from him, thus threatening him with bankruptcy. One attempt is to sell it off as cotton candy by dipping it in chocolate.
Perhaps because the satire and absurd situations are not very new or exciting there are two problems that suddenly comes to the foreground: the plot and the characters. There is hardly any plot. In fact you might cut up each chapter and see it as a separate standalone episode, just like an episode of Mash. Now Mash was at least consistent in that most of the time the same cast was used, but in Catch-22 this is not the case. Different people are central to different chapters without any apparent organization or reason. But even in this there is no consistency as there is even a chapter named after a person who hardly features in that chapter.
All of this might of course be a subtle way of telling a story with a deeper meaning, but if that was the case it is lost on me. If it was to tell that war is hell and life is absurd, then it might have been a novel way back then, by using satire and ridiculous situations, but nowadays it is hard to get more than a ‘Meh’ reaction. It has been said over and over again. And personally I somehow find Monty Python’s killer joke sketch a lot more funnier then the situations in Catch-22.
The last problem I want to mention with this book are the personalities involved. I simply could not connect to any of the people. They behaved in absurd and sometimes hurtful ways and because of the haphazard plot line the focus kept shifting from one to the other.

Catch-22 is for me an ok book, but the lack of a consistent plot and someone to identify with made it hard to keep on reading. I did therefore not finish the book but stopped two thirds in.

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Book review: Julian

JulianJulian by Gore Vidal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although it is not impossible for an imperfect person to write a perfect work, few people, perfect or imperfect, will do so and therefore it is not hard to be a critic of someone’s work. Not hard at all.
Thus I found myself writing one critical review after the other.
Granted, mostly about movies and games, which I spent much more time with and upon then with reading. This felt like a kind of downwards spiral of negativity. There is too much wrong if everything has to be right. And nothing but perfection can stop criticism. Perhaps not even that.
I wanted to stop sliding movement into the darkness and so I decided to write a positive review. Something to lighten the mood so to speak.
I selected a book from memory which I really liked and thus I selected Julian by Gore Vidal.
But why?

I am not a good reader by any means. I am too impatient to appreciate the elaborate well written paragraphs that give other people such literary thrills. I tried a few other books written by Gore Vidal, Lincoln for instance, but it did not grip me and draw me in the same way Julian did. But I liked his enjoyable and human critical article about Ayn Rand and her objectivism.
So why did I like Julian?
Perhaps it was because Julian reminded me of a friend and thus he became a person whom I got empathy with because I knew him in a way. Julian strikes me mostly as the kind of person that gives his whole life to this one passion: philosophy.
That friend I have is like that, only his love is music. To be more specific: modern classical music.
Philosophy is what Julian adores most and it is this burning passion that basically drives him throughout the book. This might sound boring, but it is not given the fact that Julian is also a close relative to the sole autocratic ruler of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Constantius II, a man controlling an fast tottering empire beset by serious social and financial problems and threats from both within and without. In fact Julian is the nephew of both those emperors and he is even closer to the throne than this might suggest, because Constantius II has massacred most of his family after he gained the throne and has no sons and daughters. This makes Julian both a danger and a salvation. A danger for he could be used to dethrone the emperor and a salvation because an emperor without a successor in increasingly in danger when he grows older.
It is not boring either because precisely at that point in time Christianity gained the favor of the emperors, first the tacit support of Constantine I (the Great) and then the more committed one of his successor Constantius.
Julian finds himself dragged into the middle of all of this, while he rather wants to spend his days as a philosopher in Athens, a city that has at that point in time lost much of it’s former splendor.
Julian comes to his love via the church. A great irony in hindsight. First he is being taught the tenets of the Christian faith by priests and bishops, but then they also introduce him to those other more worldly teachings of philosophers.
Now Julians finds himself in turmoil, for the teachings of the one do not fit well with the other. Julian is losing his religion and replacing it with an another. In fact with many others. He is returning to polytheism.
And while he is struggling with this, fate intervenes. Or rather, the emperor. Constantius II – kinslayer – lacking sons and anyone else to trust, turns towards his few remaining relatives for aid. First Julian’s brother Gallus, who is instated as a prince of the realms. But Gallus soon reveals himself to be a homicidal maniac and has to be disposed by the emperor in a sinister plot that makes you wonder about the power of an emperor that needs to use backstabbing methods to dispose of an unruly subordinate. For a moment Julian’s life hangs in the balance as he stands a great change to be one of the hapless victims of his brothers demise, but he survives his brothers death by the timely (and gentle)intervention of the Empress.
And then, secondly, in almost ironical turn of fate, Julian himself is appointed prince.
He is then sent off to head an army that has to deal with the marauding barbarians that took the opportunity of the empire’s momentary weakness to cross the Rhine and pillage Gaul. In an astonishing campaign Julian amazes friend and foe alike by restoring order and routing the invaders against all odds. He restores peace swiftly. He is competent..too much so.
And now Julian too becomes a threat..for his success is too great and threatens the emperor. At least that is what the enemies of Julian at court say.
I leave the rest for you to read but I want to mention Julian’s development in his religious ideas, because that is what he is most famous for. For Julian is the Julian the Apostate.
Julian, as emperor, eventually turns against Christianity and in doing so he treads the path of the despot. At first he thinks that not supporting Christianity is enough to make people turn away from Christianity and return to the old ways. But he soon comes to the insight that merely not supporting Christianity is not enough. So he starts to actively and openly support the old religions. But eventually he realizes that even that is not enough and..
But we will never quite know how far he would have gone, yet when you read about Antioch you know where he was going.
What fate lies in store for Julian can be found in the book. It is greatly written..Gore Vidal gives us vivid idea of this Julian and his world. Gore is a great juggler. He gives us just enough but never too much. He draws a picture and is precise where he needs to be and broad and general when that is all that is required. He does so by having the story told by two old philosophers who write letters to each other. This allows Vidal to skip steps and have them explain things so we can understand what is going on.

However I feel there should be a bit of a caution attached to his book. In hindsight I find the depiction of Julian is somewhat detached. You never get quite feel of this man. We have no idea about his sexuality for instance. We know he is married, but it is all described in a detached way. Some people seem to take it that he was gay, but from the book this is hard to tell. In fact it might be much more believable that he was just absorbed by his passion for philosophy and his desire to turn back the clock religiously speaking. I know people who seem to have completely substituted their sexual desires in that way. I once thought my friend, mentioned above, was like that, but even he has a partner, a intelligent girlfriend who somehow matches him. Take heart in that, if you feel like you are an outsider.
Women play almost no part in this book except for when it seems absolutely necessary, like when Empress Eusebia intervenes on Julian’s behalf with Constantius.
This is man’s world mostly, not of a ladies man mind you, but one of the mind where men discuss and talk and are friends with men and his world is chiefly occupied with religion. friendships and relationship with other men(but not in any sexual way) and politics. You will find no romantic developments.
Perhaps in that way it is not perfect book. But for me it is perfect enough.

(I edited it a day later, because I was writing this and it was already 2 am, but i saw the flaws.. it still has many flaws.. I wished I could write like Gore Vidal can.. oh well).

Note: amazingly Gore Vidal never ever mentions the name of Ammianus Marcellinus.. which is really strange as not doubt Ammianus was the one who must have supplied him with all the relevant information. Ammianus was a close friend to Julian, an officer and a historian of the roman empire who is the prime source of the live of Julian. Yet I cannot recall him to appear in the book or being mentioned even in an aside. But mabye I remember it wrong.

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Henry and Kristl saw the Warriors (1979) march

“So why are you smiling?”  Henry.. looked at the faintest of smiled that made Kristl’s lips curl.

“Because I find it somewhat funny that someone lectures the general public and then get’s it wrong himself. Double funny, when all he needs to do is check what he is saying against general accessible information.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, here is someone who tells how he notices that of all the reviewers at IMDB who had written a review of  The Warriors at that time,  just one other mentioned the Anabasis reference.”

“Anabasis? Uhmmmm… like that part they start the movie of with?”

“Yes.  The march of a Greek mercenary army through enemy territory. And then he mentions that it was a reference to the Spartan Xenophon, who led 10.000 Spartan mercenaries, hired by the Persian emperor Cyrus,  out of Asia Minor after a defeat.”

“Okay..”

“Which is funny as Xenophon was an Athenian and not a Spartan, albeit he was very pro Sparta and eventually settled there and fought for Sparta against Athens. So maybe this was meant in a general way. But that there were 10.000 Spartan mercenaries in service of Cyrus is wrong. They were Greek mercenaries and there might have been a body of Spartan soldiers amongst them, but there were no 10.000 Spartan mercenaries. And they were not hired by Cyrus, the persian Emperor but by the pretender Cyrus the younger. And the Greeks were not defeated, but actually won the battle, but had to flee because Cyrus was killed in that battle.”

“Okay… which brings us back to The Warriors… I hope.”

“Hmmpf.”

“So did you like the movie?”

“It was okay. Perhaps somewhat dated. The gangs are just a bit  too neat and clean for my feeling.”

“Well, other then that it was cool right? I mean the fighting is a bit bland, but at least we some nice fights and action. Which is cool.”

“The Motown music was a nice touch. “

“I like the girl, she got them in a fix, but demanding they hand over one of their jackets. Which they do not, of course.”

“Yeah, but a bit strange that they take her along all the way. A bit strange.. but at least it allowed for some development with the main guy. “

“Solid movie?”

“Maybe. There are some things that I wondered about, like how did the Riffs know where on the beach  the Warriors (and what was that other gang?) were. And the ease with which people accepted that the Warriors were to blame for the murder.. and the ease it was refuted again. Also a bit strange there were so few Warriors at the end, when they say that the Orphans with like thirty people are a small group and thus implying the Warriors have to be larger, because the latter were deemed important enough to be invited to the meeting and the Orphans not. Yet at the end confrontation you would expect that there would be a large group of Warriors available as they were back on their home turf, but there were none around.”

“Hmm yeah.”

“Also a bit odd they never bothered to phone any of their home boys. I mean they could have phoned them to be picked up by car.”

“And after all that.. you still liked it.”

“Well, yes, because it intrigued me somehow.. and I liked the music and the way they merged it with these cartoon overflows.”

“So all eye candy.” Henry said.

“Yep.” And Kristl smiled.

“I am glad even you can appreciate that.” And Henry smiled too.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080120/