Monday, 16 December 2013

Re-telling bedtime stories

One of my favourite activities is reading stories to my toddler.  For the most part, his attention span doesn't last through several pages of story, but I still enjoy reading them.  However, I've learned that we need to find the original versions of stories!

There is an unfortunate trend to "re-tell" classic stories, in the dullest and most uninspiring way possible.  I love to read Kipling aloud; the words flow from the tongue and inspire the imagination with thoughts of far-away places and magic.  T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats inspires my oratory.  But a re-telling of Charles Perrault's Puss in Boots kills any enthusiasm for the resourceful feline.

I guess with freedom of speech and all that we can't stop people from messing up good stories, but but comparing words that were meant to be read aloud to a mere accounting of events, well, there is no comparison.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

New Hobbit movie

The Hobbit is one of my favourite books of all time. I have read and re-read it often, since first discovering it as a child. As a result, it's unlikely that any film would capture my pre-conceived ideas of the story.

I'm not a Tolkein "scholar". I've never managed to wade through the Sillymarillyon. However, I loved Lord of the Rings, and delved into the appendices, but I can't tell you the difference between the Maiar and the Valar, nor do I particularly care.

I enjoyed Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring, tolerated his Two Towers and endured his Return of the King. I eventually watched the Unexpected Journey and found some things I liked and others that I didn't. At some point, i'll pick up the extended DVD and delve further. But I don't see PJ's version as canon.

And now, with the Desolation of Smaug opening tomorrow, I (against my better judgement) read some of the advanced reviews, including those containing spoilers. I guess I should accept that I am certainly no filmmaker. I don't know what would sell. I previously understood that it was necessary to simplify a novel when translating it to film, but from the spoilers, I understand that PJ has taken an opposite tack, and added complicated relationships, events and (darn it all) CHANGES to Tolkien's original story. And not simply adding in things from other sources (eg, the LotR appendices) but putting in distinct differences to the novel that change the actions and motivations of the characters.

I'm certain I will end up seeing this new film. I'm eager to see what Weta, PJ and Benedict Cumberband have come up with for Smaug. I want to see Stephen Fry's take on the Master of Lake Town. Much of the rest will likely irritate me, but at those moments I will need to remember that 'I am NOT the target audience'.

It bugs me somewhat that this relatively simple tale needs to be 'improved' by stretching it out over three movies (one skinny book is being given the same screen time that was assigned to the LotR trilogy, each book of which was double the length of the Hobbit!).  New characters introduced, back stories invented for existing characters (some of which contradict the novel) and changes to characters and events that go against not only the text of the original, but to some extent the spirit as well.  I get that some of the additional story comes from materials such as the LotR appendices, but it seems a lot more is invented just 'cause, well, wouldn't it be KOOL!

Maybe I should only watch movies for books I haven't read, or at least for books I don't really like.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I miss my Canada

I remember Canada as a land blessed either by fortune, or the Creator, a land rich in opportunity, and natural splendour.  Canadians were kind, generous and welcoming. 

Surrounded by the beauty of nature, Canadians recognised the intrinsic value of the environment and worked to protect it.  When the dangers of acid rain were realised, Canadians worked with their friends in the United States to eliminate the industrial emissions that caused sulfuric acid contamination in the rain.  When Canadians found that unsustainable logging practices were resulting in erosion of the soil needed to give life to the next generation of trees, they changed forestry practices so that every tree harvested today will be replaced by a new one. 

The Government of Canada valued ALL of its citizens.  Diversity in opinion was valued, whether the opinion political, religious or otherwise.  The preferred solution to any given situation was a compromise, that might not have given an absolute victory to one side over the other, but which gave each party an understanding that their position had been heard, respected, and addressed. 

Canadians looked at their own lives, and saw that many of their own could not access medical care.  So they introduced a system that allowed all Canadians to access medical care.  They were still allowed to choose their own doctor, and even some alternate medical services were covered.

Canadians valued the work of others.  Although the system was imperfect, Canadian employers and unions found a way to negotiate contracts that shared the fruits of labour with both owners and workers.  Strikes occurred, on occasion, and sometimes the government stepped in to force mediation between both sides, but the most common result was a contract accepted by all parties.

When Canadians looked outside their borders at countries afflicted by poverty and war, their hearts wept.  Canada sent her soldiers, wearing the blue berets of the United Nations, to stand between warring factions.  Canada sent her engineers, doctors, nurses and teachers to provide aid to the afflicted and to help build or rebuild developing societies.  Canada welcomed the refugees of foreign conflicts into her society, providing a new life to those who previously had known fear.

Canadians knew that they were more fortunate than others.  Canada was a leader in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  Canada was a leader in the international campaign to ban land mines.  Canada assisted African nations to control HIV/AIDS.  A Canadian general presided over the peace negotiations between the British Government and the IRA.  As at home, Canada sought compromise between factions, to find a middle ground between factions, recognising that each party to a conflict had valid concerns, and that these concerns needed to be addressed in order to achieve resolution to the conflict.

I know I am maudlin.  I know I am dreaming of a place that may never have existed in reality, but it exists in my memories and I want it back.  I only wish I knew how to get there.