Thoughts with Cookie Monster

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Me admit, me like thoughts with Cookie Monster:

Weaponized Teen Soldiers in an Intergalactic War

Friday, February 27th, 2015

When you remake a beloved children’s TV show, you make it darker and edgier.

Like an Opera

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

I didn’t realize that John Milius was personal friends with Basil Poledouris when he hired him to score Conan The Barbarian:

The two had worked together earlier on Big Wednesday. Milius brought Poledouris on before filming had even begun, giving them time to discuss the emotional overtones that were right for the score. He asked Poledouris to begin work based on the storyboards and to anticipate recording the music once production was winding down.

The composer wrote “two hours of music for Conan,” he told Starlog in 1982. “It was always in John’s mind that Conan would be solid music — much like an opera…. From the first frame of reel one to the end of the Wheel of Pain sequence, somewhere in the middle of reel three, is one long cue without any break. I was terrified when I first realized that.”

Once filming was completed, Milius gave Poledouris two tapes of the finished film, one without music and the other with excerpts from the work of Wagner, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Poledouris was intimidated by the prospect of having to compare favorably to these legendary composers, but soon found his groove once he realized that their work was just intended by Milius as an aesthetic starting point.

Conan’s personal theme — “The Riddle of Steel” — began as a basic melodic line set to a poem, written as if the composer was Conan’s bard. The underlying melody was later filled out with an epic dose of brass, strings and percussion. The main musical theme, the “Anvil of Crom,” is just as muscular, described by film music historian Laurence MacDonald as “the brassy sound of twenty-four French horns in a dramatic intonation of the melody, while pounding drums add an incessantly driven rhythmic propulsion.”

For the music that was to accompany Thulsa Doom’s opening attack on Conan’s village, Milius wanted a chorus based on Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. However, after discovering that Excalibur (1981) had already used Orff’s work, he asked Poledouris for original material. The result consists of choral passages chanted by Doom’s cohort as a tribute to his name. Poledouris wrote the lyrics in English and had them crudely translated into Latin, as he was “more concerned about the way the Latin words sounded than with the sense they actually made.” The lyrics were subsequently set to a melody adapted from the 13th-century Gregorian hymn, Dies Irae, chosen to “communicate the tragic aspects of the cruelty wrought by Thulsa Doom.”

Martin Luther Playmobil Toy is Fastest-Selling of All Time

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

The fastest-selling Playmobil figure of all time depicts the founding father of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Martin Luther:

The German toy manufacturer announced this week that the first edition of 34,000 pieces sold out in less than 72 hours, forcing the company to urgently request its factory in Malta to produce more of the so-called “little Luthers”. Fans have been warned that the next batch will not be available until the end of April.

Playmobil Martin Luther

The plastic toy, complete with a quill, German-language bible and cheery grin, was produced for the German and Nuremberg tourist boards and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, as Germany gears up to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

Their Albrecht Dürer figure also sold well.

Playmobil Albrecht Duerer

Lord Of The Rings Illustrations by Chinese Artist Jian Guo

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Enjoy these Lord Of The Rings illustrations by Chinese artist Jian Guo:

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 09

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 08

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 07

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 06

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 05

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 04

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 03

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 02

Lord Of The Rings by Jian Guo 01

American Sniper Is An Ordinary War Movie

Monday, February 16th, 2015

American Sniper is what most well-written war movies were like pre-Vietnam:

Watch a movie like 12 O Clock High for a change and you won’t get the critique of Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, Platoon, and other similar films. You won’t even get the postmodern bricolage of Inglorious Basterds. You will get a grim, character-based war film. Or, for example, see Eastwood’s own Letters from Iwo Jima, which is not a critique of the Imperial Japanese Army (an institution far more clearly in the wrong than the US military in Iraq) as much as an attempt to relay to American audiences that there were human beings on the other side of the beachhead during the brutal island-hopping subset of the Pacific campaign.

Believe it or not, wars are not experienced by most participants as a series of Political Big Issue Statements. A casual read of many military memoirs will reveal more close-to-the-bone matters such as family, relationships and concern for fellow comrades, frustrations and bitterness with bureaucracy, a mixture of fear, loathing, and sometimes admiration for the opponent, and often crude and politically incorrect sentiments about opponents and noncombatants. When politics enters, it isn’t necessarily sophisticated or empirically accurate. It’s often black and white, fuzzy, or an afterthought altogether.

Whatever their opinions about the war, audiences used to enjoy watching movies about these kinds of people. Because they can relate to them more than walking, talking, mouthpieces for liberal antiwar critics that ritually denounce Richard Perle and Dick Cheney stand-ins every half hour of the movie. Almost every single Iraq War movie has been an enormous financial failure. But a nation that nonetheless is still remarkably ambivalent and divided about the war itself nonetheless managed to make the makers of American Sniper quite rich, if the box office gross from the last two weekend alone is evidenced. Maybe that has to do with American audiences wanting a well-made war film, not Michael Moore redux or an high-end art movie.

Conan the Corded Ware Maker

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

In the second half of the 20th Century, academics engaged in a concerted effort to make the prehistory of Eurasia sound kinder, gentler, and much, much duller, Steve Sailer notes:

For example, the Battle Axe culture of Northern Europe of 4,000 to 5,000 years ago was renamed the Corded Ware culture. Less invasion, conquest, enslavement, and rapine; more different peoples getting together in a spirit of sharing to teach each other their arts, their crafts, their languages, their values, their hopes, their dreams.

For the entire 21st Century, though, Greg Cochran has been predicting that when genome analyses of ancient buried corpses are finally done, the prehistory of Eurasia will wind up looking a lot less like the later 20th Century conventional wisdom and more like the fantasy world created by the bookish Robert E. Howard for his Conan the Barbarian stories in the 1930s. Howard summarized the fantasy prehistory of his Conan stories in an essay entitled The Hyborian Age published in 1936, shortly before he killed himself at age 30.

A new genomic paper suggests that the barbarians of the distant past were quite barbaric: Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe.

The LEGO Super Friends Project

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

When LEGO introduced its girl-friendly Friends line, I immediately thought they should extend the brand beyond conventional, modern girls. In particular, I thought princesses were an obvious opportunity, and LEGO did make Friends-style Disney princesses.

I also thought they could do Wonder Woman and other superheroes. LEGO has not done that yet, but the LEGO Super Friends Project provides a proof of concept:

LEGO Super Friends Project Black Widow

LEGO Super Friends Project Batgirl

LEGO Super Friends Project Wonder Woman

LEGO Super Friends Project Supergirl

LEGO Super Friends Project Invisible Woman

LEGO Super Friends Project Hit-Girl

LEGO Super Friends Project Firestar

LEGO Super Friends Project Catwoman

The One Ring Explained

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Behold! One video to explain it all:

Old/New

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Patton Oswalt narrates the almost Seussian Old/New:

Schwarzenegger on Psychological Warfare

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Tim Ferriss interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on psychological warfare and more:

  • The Art of Psychological Warfare, and How Arnold Uses It to Win
  • How Twins Became His Most Lucrative Movie (?!?)
  • Mailing Cow Balls to Politicians
  • How Arnold Made Millions — Fresh Off The Boat — BEFORE His Acting Career Took Off
  • How Arnold Used Meditation For One Year To Reset His Brain
  • And Much More…

Why Starship Troopers Is the New Art of War

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, published in 1959, is aging remarkably well, because it offers practical lessons for modern warfare:

What Is War Good For?
“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than any other factor, and contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.”

— Mr. Dubois, Johnnie’s history and moral philosophy teacher.

Mobility Is Essential
“An infantryman can fight only if someone else delivers him to his zone; in a way I suppose pilots are just as essential as we are.”
— Johnnie Rico

Focus And Automation
“If you load a mudfoot down with a lot of gadgets that he has to watch, someone a lot more simply equipped — say with a stone ax — will sneak up and bash his head in while he is trying to read a vernier”
— Johnnie Rico

There Are No Dangerous Weapons, Just Dangerous People
“Maybe they’ll do without us someday. Maybe some mad genius with myopia, a bulging forehead and a cybernetic mind will devise a weapon that can go down a hole, pick out the opposition and force it to surrender or die — without killing the gang of your own people they have imprisoned inside. In the meantime, until they do, my mates can handle the job.”
— Johnnie Rico

A War By Any Other Name Can Still Kill You
“Everything up to then and still later were ‘incidents,’ ‘patrols’ or ‘police actions.’ However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an ‘incident’ as if you buy it in a declared war.”
— Johnnie Rico

True Professionals Control Violence
“The purpose of war is to support your government’s decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him but to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing… but controlled and purposeful violence.”
— Johnnie Rico

Daniel Reeve’s Middle Earth Calligraphy

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Daniel Reeve’s Middle Earth calligraphy can be surprisingly metal:

Middle Earth Calligraphy by Daniel Reeve

Elena of Avalor

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Elena of Avalor, Hispanic Disney PrincessDisney is getting its first Hispanic princess, Elena of Avalor:

Elena lives in “an enchanted fairytale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore,” according to an announcement from the company. She will be introduced first as part of Disney Junior’s hit show “Sofia the First.”

The supporting cast of the show includes Elena’s grandfather Tito, grandmother Cici, adviser Duke Esteban, and wizard-in-training Mateo.

The show will tell stories “influenced by culture and traditions that are familiar to the world-wide population of Hispanic and Latino families and reflect the interests and aspirations of all children as told through a classic fairy tale,” Disney Junior general manager Nancy Kanter said in a statement.

To remain auténtica, I’m sure she’ll be devoutly Catholic, and the villains will be dastardly moros.

Exhortation and Megalomania

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Anomalies like American Sniper drive the liberal press crazy with fear that they are losing control of the media, Steve Sailer suggests:

One possibility is that artists and entertainers are less monolithically on the left than you might think, but are kept in line in public by stifling peer pressure.

For example, by now Spielberg ought to have earned himself a fair amount of deference from his fellow liberal Democrats for being a credit to his political persuasion. But even he doesn’t seem able to admit that his upbringing in the red state of Arizona saddled him with a lifelong love for guns.

[...]

A more subversive theory is that art is inherently anti-egalitarian, that the entertainment industry thrives by elevating individuals to levels of mass adoration that Belshazzar of Babylon would have found excessive. In turn, the entertainment industry adopts a bogus ideology of promoting equality to cover up its essential tendency toward Caesarism.

For example, this combination of exhortation and megalomania has been apparent for 99 of the 100 years that Hollywood has been making epic films.

Early March will mark the 100th anniversary of the original box office smash, D.W. Griffith’s denunciation of the rape culture of the Reconstruction Era, The Birth of a Nation. Stung by criticism from the NAACP, Griffith released in 1916 a more politically correct and even more ambitious blockbuster, Intolerance. It retold four stories of bigotry and oppression, from ancient Babylon down to the present day.

I’m sure that everybody has taken Griffith’s sermon against intolerance deeply to heart, but, honestly, the only thing anybody remembers from the movie is the Babylonian set that Griffith spent his Birth of a Nation profits constructing.