Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Thoughts on the TV show Vikings

 
Vikings is the tale of the semi-historical Ragnarr Loðbrók and two of his wives, Lagertha and Aslaug, his brother Hrolfr/Rollo and their children, Bjorn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Hafdan Whitecoat, Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye and Ubba.
 
Ragnar is a wealthy farmer at the start of the show. He is a clever and brutal warrior, a combat pragmatist. But he is more, a visionary, a charismatic leader, intellectually curious, a technological innovator, shrewd judge of character, and a Machiavellian magnificent bastard of the first degree.
 
The show exists in a kind of magical realism where magic is believed in but whether it is ‘real’ is always up to the eye of the beholder.
 
The show is well grounded in the culture and presents a lot of values dissidence through the vehicle of Æthelstan, a monk from Lindessfarne who Ragnarr makes captive during the first Viking raid on England.
 
The sets and costumes are reasonably accurate. In order to be more identifiable on the battlefield to the viewer, nobody wears helms in battle, which given the number of head wounds suffered is obviously quite stupid in-world. The depiction of viking and Anglo-Saxon and Frankish tactics is quite good.
 
They make hash of the topography. They have fjords in Kattegat, they have mountains by Uppsala, they have people crossing from Denmark to Sweden dryshod on land.
 
And being the we-used-to-be-a-history channel, they make hash of the history. For instance, Ragnarr did not succeed Horik I and king of Denmark, his son Horik II did.
 
The ships and houses and costumes are very nicely done and era-appropriate generally.
 
I’m curious to see if Rurik and Dyre will come in season 4 as the viking (varangian) founders of modern Russia were contemporaries of Ragnarr and his sons. Dyre’s companion Askold was the son of Hafdan Hvitsark Ragnarrson and thus grandson of Ragnarr and Aslaug and thus Ragnarr’s grandson.
 
Someone above scoffed at ‘conquering a new land with 30 guys’ well yes they didn’t have thousands of extras on set. But dark ages battles did not involve thousands of people either. The Great Heathen army of Ragnarr’s sons invaded and conquered most of England, the Isles, and northern Ireland with according to some scholars, less than a thousand men. Although Crusader Kings II gives them 15,000.
 
The show is very violent. It is about the events leading up to the Great Heathen Army which led the Christians of Europe to make special prayers for protection from them such as:
 
Pity [us] the highest favor by preserving and guarding our bodies, free us from the savage Norman tribe who devastates our realms.
They aged and young would have their throats slit, and maidens and lads too, and the multitudes also. Repel the evil from us, we altogether implore [thee]. Bring thee the ruling realm, we plead on our knees, to the king of glory, who pity us with true peace, soundness, hopes and strength. Give us peace and harmony. Bestow us unmitigated hope, genuine faith also; concede us continual charity and let completed be. Sanctify our prayers that we be availed in achieving this, that we be rejoiced in glorious measure. Praise be peace and glory, to the Trinity who [is] wholly most-magnificent for the people. Amen
 
–Charles the Bald
870
 
I give Vikings high marks for:
 
Music
 
Choreography
 
Values-neutral presentation of medieval Christianity vs Norse paganism. They are all anti-heroes at best except the Anglo-Saxon monk Aethelstan who is a viewer reference in that he is moral and isn’t murderous, Machiavellian, or batshit crazy. Well, he is Machiavellian, actually.
 
Acting, especially Travis Fimmel as the snarky, reserved, observant, calculating and ruthless Ragnarr and Katheryn Winnick as the stalwart shield-maiden Lagertha.
 
World-building set design and costumes are well thought out and authentic-ish. Such as the clinker-built ships they use.
 
Not so good for:
 
History, however Ragnarr isn’t acknowledged by all historians to be a historic character, although all his sons are. How could he not be real if his sons exist?
 
Ragnarr and Lagertha’s and Aslaug’s stories are caught up in the great cycle of Norse myths and legends such as Aslaug/Kraka/Ranhildr is the daughter of Sigurd the dragon-slayer and the shield-maiden Brynhildr. Her early story corresponds to “Clever Peasant Girl” folk tale, Aarne-Thompson no. 875, so either it nicely fit that pattern of changed with retellings to fit it.
 
Nevertheless the script has Ragnarr become King of Denmark, which for sure did not happen.
 
Geography as mentioned. Locations have been picked for their visual appeal and way of framing establishing shots, but have nothing to do with the actual geography of the places depicted in most cases.
 
There’s a lot more analysis at tvtropes but better not to read it yet because spoilers.
 
Overall, Vikings is a great show and well-worth watching.
 

5 June, 2015 Posted by | history, History Channel, media, review, scanlyze, television, Vikings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.

I’m going to assume you have either seen the movie, know the general plot, or don’t want spoilers.

I enjoyed Fury Road but I don’t think it is as good as the reviewers claim. It is a B movie and destined to forever be one of the classics of that genre. It isn’t a feminist epic, though there are some nods in that direction. It does pass the Bechdel test and with flying colors despite there being almost no dialog in it. But most every movie should do, that doesn’t make it a feminist movie. The old ladies, the Vuvalini, are just the only non-evil gang/tribe.

The dialog is weak, almost non-existent, and isn’t so interesting. I’m also not fond of the early voiceover, that’s a lazy device probably demanded by the studio who were maybe uncomfortable with the no doubt WTF reaction of some older focus groups.

Of the core group of characters, in many ways Hardy’s Max is the least interesting. I didn’t think Hardy’s performance was that great, he lacked the screen presence and manic intensity of the younger Mel Gibson. Of course here his character is supposed to start so beat down and deindividuated as to say when asked his name, “Does it matter?

Where I give the movie very high marks is for physical effects, cinematography, editing, stunt coordination, logistics, and the creation of a very strange world which approaches Alice in Wonderland in weirdness and Saving Private Ryan in nihilistic brutality. The names are nothing if not inventive, such as The Splendid Angharad, Capable, and Toast the Knowing.

The film owes something to Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in the physical comedy and timing, and exquisite complex rube goldberg-like crashes. In a horrible way it is quite funny, like a live action Road Runner. At the same time it is as horrifying as Apocalypse Now. The lady next to me spent most of the movie with both hands palms pressed to her cheeks in the classic look of horror. Her mouth was in a little “o” as in OMG what am I seeing? But, she didn’t look unhappy.

The long shots of broad desert landscapes are awe-inspiring and make Fury Road a modern “Lawrence of Arabia.”

It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is like a stagecoach western on acid, where the stagecoach tuns into a dieselpunk battlewagon with two small cars welded on the top for turrets, the pursuing outlaws turn into radioactive mutants in monster trucks, the hostile tribes turn into jawas in porcupine like cars and a explosive-spear-chucking 100 mile-per-hour cirque du soleil respectively, and the cavalry turns into rifle-toting old ladies on motorcycles.

If you go expecting another Mad Max movie you won’t be disappointed and you might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise if you go in cold, hold onto your hat, or in the case of my seat neighbor, your face.

Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy

20 May, 2015 Posted by | analysis, B movie, brutality, Fury Road, Mad Max, media, movie, review, scanlyze | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“War on Christianity” meet “War on Islam”

“War on Christianity” meet “War on Islam” (using the US, and Afghanistan and Iraq as the templates)

People say things about you and your religion which you don’t like.

Both: Yes.

A nation of the other religion conquered your country and had executed the former leader.

Islam: Yes.
Christianity: No.

The media considers the name of your religion to be synonymous with “extremism” and “terrorism”.

Islam: Yes.
Christianity: Not so much.

Your country is being occupied by a superpower which is predominantly of the other religion.

Islam: Yes.
Christianity: No.

Civilians in your country are subject to illegal assassination carried out by remotely piloted aircraft.

Islam: Yes.
Christianity: No.

Your religion is subjected to occasional terrorist attacks.

Both: Yes, but in the case of the victims of the other religion, each religion’s fanatics blames the victims.

The terrorist attacks on your religion are reported as a major world news event.

Christianity: Yes.
Islam: Not so much.

Your country possesses, and asserts the right to strike first with nuclear weapons.

Christianity: Yes.
Islam: No.

What do you think of my analysis?

Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy

7 May, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Iraq, Islam, peace, politics, scanlyze, war | , , , , | 1 Comment

Glass, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Glass, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Good:

1. Heads up display is readable and clear if finicky to get it set right. Even with my prescription lenses. Despite being nearsighted and able to read up close, I can’t read anything on glass without my glasses. Glorious indeed compared to all previous efforts I have seen (probably not including some military HUDs). There is this little 640×480 screen floating in your field of view up toward the top. Rearview mirrror territory which is one more reason not to drive with this thing on.

2. Sound quality is fine on earbuds, so-so too soft on built in bone conduction speaker.

3. Interface is understandable. It is a timeline. Each event is a card, and it has certain functions associated with the card type. This is very much work in progress. You can port an android app to it, or even debian/ubuntu packages, but its up to you to make them work. A wireless keyboard and mouse will be a necessity until someone makes a workable virtual keyboard. Then the glassheads will be walking down the street like sleepwalkers. Well, typing, so sleep typers. Will see if I can get one of my Logitech 850s and Logitech MX mouse working.

4. Killer app. Make a broad wink and take a picture. Picture quality is very good compared to my nexus 4.

5. The motion, orientation and acceleration sensors’ potential is barely scratched. The potential exists for fully virtual worlds, or “enhanced reality” that changes with your headmotion and field of view.

6. Getting live video of breaking news from CNN is cool.

7. Voice recognition and speech synthesis are scary good, HAL 9000 quality or better.

Neutral:

1. What if people updated shots of their location to google maps and did google street map full surround environments everywhere all the time. Like Open Street Map or OS Opendata but so much more.

Bad:

1. Web browser is limited to google search, which almost always takes you to wikipedia. Selecting a link and going there is difficult and of course entering text without a keyboard is currently impossible.

2. Gmail integration is barely there. You can only see messages as they come in, and reply to them. That’s it.

3. SMS is useful but a picture a friend sms’ed to me ended up in my gmail, but I didnt get paged about it on the glass so I had no way to retrieve it.

4. Battery life is nowhere near the claimed 24 hours. More like 1.5 to 2 hours as I use the thing.

5. They seem to be trying to make this a standalone device. That’s a mistake. For one thing people need to stay near where they can charge it either a plug or a computer or laptop. Also most of the time people are going to have it tethered to their phone for calls, sms and often for wifi bridging also. There is your mouse and keyboard device if google would get a clue and enable that synergy.

Ugly:

1. MAJOR COMPLAINT They make you enable location for every app. They make you enable google plus, even if you earlier cancelled your account. This is not good for the user, it is merely to try to use this to make a walled garden where customers will buy all their media and game content through google play. Of course, the open source nature of android goes totally against this, but they are building a legal bulwark and I can see android being “delinuxized” as VMware was in a couple years and becoming fully proprietary and closed. The money men are winning at Google and something beautiful is being destroyed there.

Copyright © 2014 Henry Edward Hardy

23 June, 2014 Posted by | scanlyze | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The US is like ancient Rome

The US is like ancient Rome. It merely wants the world to ‘voluntarily’ bow before it. Any country that defies it is made an example of, its leaders publicly humiliated and summarily executed, its countryside and cities and economy devastated, the people, kidnapped, tortured, and raped, its culture and religion challenged by MacDonalds and MacChrist, its fields sown with Agent Orange and mines and cluster bombs and depleted uranium. That is why the US makes a point of attacking small countries like Grenada which are no threat to it. It is, “pour encourager les autres” as Voltaire would have it.

‘They have pillaged the world: when the land has nothing left for men who ravage everything, they scour the sea. If an enemy is rich, they are greedy, if he is poor, they crave glory. Neither East nor West can sate their appetite. They are the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal craving. They plunder, they butcher, they rape, and call it by the lying name of ‘empire’. They make a desert and call it ‘peace’.’

–speech attributed to Prince Calgacus of Britain
in P. Corn. Tacitus
Agricola
98 AD

Copyright © 2014 Henry Edward Hardy

9 May, 2014 Posted by | imperialism, peace, politics, Roman Republic, Rome, scanlyze, Tacitus, US, USA, war | , , , , | Leave a comment

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