Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

The Oval (micro-story)

Posted: September 26, 2014 in Creative
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When he arrived at the oval, dawn had not yet broken. Yet the gaping darkness that stretched out before him was unmistakable. A chill wind was rolling in from the east, dragging with it the waft of morning dew. He heard long grass swaying in the distance.

As the first few rays of sun pierced the sky, the vast, rustling plane shifted through shades of grey and brown, before finally settling on a sullen green. At each end stood a row of white goal posts, sheer and stately, though strangely impotent against the silent chasm they now stood vigil over.

This field had once inspired the ecstasy and agony of thousands, tens of thousands. Within its boundaries, young men would wrestle over a leather ball as though their lives depended on it, and crowds would gather from every direction, desperate to feel the warmth of that furious heart, beating at its centre.

But now… there was nothing, a stillness that ached of memory. The oval had been abandoned and left to rot. It seemed far lonelier than any patch of soil he had ever laid eyes on, perhaps because it once held life within the palm of its hands, before letting it slip away.

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Race in Pulp Fiction

Posted: September 9, 2014 in Movies
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When Pulp Fiction was first released, director Quentin Tarantino was taken to task by social commentators for the screenplay’s liberal use of the n-word, particular by the character of Jimmy (who was also played by Tarantino). However, looking back at the film as a whole, one could argue that it presents something of post-racial paradise (gratuitous violence notwithstanding).

Think about it, the film focuses on two friends who happen to be hitmen—one black, the other white—with the race of neither character being addressed or referenced by the other. Their boss, Marcellus Wallace, a large black man, is married to a petite white woman. And Jimmy, Tarantino’s supposedly racist character, is married to a black nurse. Moreover, Marcellus actually teams up with his sworn enemy, Butch, to bring down their common foe – two racist rednecks. Despite all of the brutal bloodletting the film portrays, the characters exist in a surprisingly optimistic and racially tolerant society.

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Last night, in a little café off Swanston St, in the Melbourne CBD, the second ever Vassals of Kingsgrave Australian meet-up was held. In attendance (pictured from left to right) was Duncan (aka Valkyrist), Tanja (aka Scilens, en route back to Germany), Marius, and Jessica (aka jesicka309).

Coffee and red wine was drunk, wild ASOIAF theories were exchanged, winter cake was eaten (pictured below, baked by Marius), and a fun time was had by all! 🙂

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True Detective (HBO series) Premiere

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Television
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true-detective-e1-tSo, I watched the first episode of HBO’s new crime series, True Detective. Though perhaps series is not the right term. The first season consists of a mere 8 episodes, and will be completely self-contained. That is, none of the characters will carry over into future seasons. Along with American Horror Story, this suggests a revival of the anthology show format. And I have to admit, based on the premiere, I am very intrigued. I like that the show is more interested in the relationship between its two male leads, and how the crime effects them psychologically, rather than the serial killer they are meant to be hunting (whom I usually find the least interesting part of crime dramas).

There also seems to be hints of exploring the murders as the product urban decay, and a dystopian setting. I think the town is referred to as a “memory that is slowly fading”, which I really liked. There seems to be some cool Nietzschean philosophy going on as well, regarding man’s temporality and dislocation from his environment. I’ve also been told we’ll be getting a some rather unsettling allusions to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, which sounds awesome, and would really compliment the show’s southern gothic aesthetic. I’m hoping they practice restraint, but judging by the measured tone of this episode, I’m not too worried.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are the leads, and it’s a testament to the quality and acclaim of cable television that they were able to draw such star power to the project. However, a-level or unknown, all that matters on the day is what you’re putting up on screen, and fortunately, both actors are delivering  impressive performances, and really trying to craft distinct, detailed characters. I am worried that the show might be too relentlessly grim to be enjoyable, but I found myself engaged (and even amused) by a few of the minor/bit characters. The story structure is cool, cutting between past and present, and allowing us to piece together the details of the case ourselves. Also, I love the mid-90s look of the police station. It just feels so lived in. I’ll keep watching. What makes me optimistic is that the writers already have the ending in mind, and are thus forced to build towards it like a novel.Hopefully, True Detective turns out to be  more Zodiac, and less The Killing.

JeffWingerAfter a really disappointing season 4, Community returned last night, with original show-runner Dan Harmon back at the helm, and it was… really great actually. Maybe not the best it’s ever been, but I certainly found myself laughing a lot. It was clever, it was absurd, it was sweet, and most of all it felt like the same Community I fell in love with back in 2010. I’m referring of course to the disastrous season 4 production, in which NBC fired Dan Harmon, stalled production by 3 months, and then released 12 episodes that oscillated between mildly chuckle-worthy and depressingly groan-inducing. “Perhaps cancellation would have been kinder,” some of us lamented, “compared to this slow decline into mediocrity.”

Indeed, when the news of Dan Harmon’s rehiring surfaced, many fans wondered whether the entire previous season would be retconned, or shooed away as some Imagginarium-inspired fever dream. Instead, the show has been, as the wonderfully meta Abed points out, “re-piloted”. Characters have been shuffled around into different roles. Jeff is now a teacher at the college, Pierce is gone, and Troy is leaving soon. And the other members of the study group have all returned to school after a tough time in the jobs market. To be honest, it felt a little forced, but the content was so fresh and funny again, that I happily overlooked it.

The best part, however, is the addition of Jonathon Banks (who played Mike in Breaking Bad) to the main cast, effectively replacing Chevy Chase as the group’s crotchety old geezer. I love the actor, and I’m intrigued by the idea of opening up the “teacher scene” of the college. Anyway, I hope the show continues on its upward bend, and that we actually have some classic Community episodes to look forward to (rather than back on).

Check out the Season 5 trailer here:

(I published this on the VoK WordPress feed, but I thought I’d post it here too)

200_2760965HAPPY 2014 VASSALS! It was almost 7 months ago that the first VoK was released, and since then we’ve organised and recorded 51 episodes, comprising over 70 hours of original content. Mother have mercy, just imagine what we’ll have achieved in 7 more months. As always, a big thanks to Amin and the Podcast of Ice and Fire crew for their lovely support, and of course to you guys (listeners and hosts), who make it all worthwhile.

In case you wanted to get VoK a (late) Christmas present, then we would be super appreciative if you could leave us a positive review and rating on iTunes, and (if you haven’t already) follow us on Twitter and YouTube. It should only take 30 seconds (a minute at the most), but we would be eternally grateful! Seriously, it would really help us out in terms of iTunes visibility. Anyway, that’s enough grovelling 😉

The full VoK Topic List is located HERE, and is updated frequently. Feel free to get involved in any of them… or, if you’re feeling brave enough, even start your own!

Finally, while it may be 2014, as Quaithe says, “to go forward you must go back”. Accordingly, all of the character discussions from our epic FeastDance reread have been neatly edited and indexed into a convenient YouTube playlist. For example:

So you can check out the full playlist HERE, and peruse individual character chapters at your leisure. We’re also hoping it will drive a bit more traffic to the podcast.

Anyway, that should put you all up to date. Happy New Year and long live House Manwoody! 🙂

SmaugEyeUm… wasn’t there supposed to be a hobbit in this movie, or something? Apart from his conversation with Smaug (which was definitely the highpoint of the film), I can’t even remember our pint-sized protagonist Bilbo Baggins appearing in that much of the film. I suppose I caught glimpses of him in the background, but there was certainly no attempt to develop him as a character, or look at the way he was being shaped or effected by this journey.

I mean, the charm of the original novel came from experiencing the dangers and wonders of this world from the sheltered perspective of a timid (but curious) hobbit. Unfortunately, director Peter Jackson (who delivered us the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy) seems far more interested in tracing the convoluted politics of Dale and the Woodland Realm; or Thorin’s family legacy; or Gandalf’s investigation of Dol Guldur (which admittedly, could have been pretty awesome, if it weren’t so poorly handled).

The film is so obsessed with wringing out every morsel of world-building from the fringes of its source material, that it’s central narrative (Bilbo’s journey) has lost all focus or momentum. Jackson (or New Line) keeps trying to turn this into Lord of the Rings, but it’s not. It’s The Hobbit. It’s not about Sauron’s return to power, or Thorin reclaiming his throne, or Legolas and Gili’s love-life. Yes, those things might exist in some appendix somewhere, but this story is meant to be about a hobbit named Bilbo. Also, CGI orcs suck.

I’m sorry if I’m coming off as overly mean, because I know how it feels when people run down films I like. I actually didn’t mind the first Hobbit movie (despite it’s meandering first act), and there was definitely some enjoyable stuff in this film. The design and voice of Smaug was fantastically menacing. And the whole barrel sequence was very fun and inventive. I think most of my criticisms stem simply from the fact that they chose to make 3 films where 1 would have served. Perhaps some day, a few years from now, a savvy editor will shave the entire trilogy down into a lean, fast-paced 3-hour cut.

P.S. They shoulda called it The Procrastination of Smaug 😛 (sorry, I’m going now)

Check out the A Podcast of Ice and Fire Christmas Filks, a compilation of ASOIAF-inspired Christmas Carols, composed and sung by the podcast listeners and hosts.

My (dubious) contributions were Quentyn Lives! (at 3:18) and O Stormy Night (at 11:07). I hope you all have a fun, safe, and relaxing Christmas, overflowing with Arbor gold, lamprey pie and delicious lemoncakes 🙂

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Well, lords and ladies, the first ever OzMoot was held last night, in a comfy little cocktail bar off Spring Street, in the Melbourne CBD. Four vassals were in attendance: two Aussies (me and jesicka309), one Romanian (marius), and one Brit (Bina007). We drank blood-red wine, feasted on sausage rolls and lemoncake, shared stories and theories beneath the imaginary flag of House Manwoody… and then dispersed back into the night. I had a really amazing time, and it was so cool meeting forum members in person.

It’s a shame we couldn’t record something for the podcast, because we had a pretty long and in-depth discussion of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, the bar was too loud, and my iPhone simply wouldn’t have been able to capture anything. However, I’ve been wracking my brain, and here’s some of the stuff we settled on throughout the night: (more…)

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George R. R. Martin has been touring Australia for the past few weeks, and I managed to get tickets for his Melbourne talk. Marius from the A Podcast of Ice and Fire forums was also there, so it was great to finally meet another Vassal of Kingsgrave in person.

The talk was really enjoyable, with some surprisingly solid questions from the audience. It focused more on his career as a whole, rather than just ASOIAF. One thing that struck me was how he described the writing process. He said that coming up with ideas was actually the easy part, but that putting those ideas into words that could be very difficult and frustrating; that is, of having to choose the correct language to capture that elusive image in his mind, of not using to many or too few words. (more…)