Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

In Defense of Troy

I've been distressed to see several of my favorite bloggers announcing that they won't see Troy, uh-uh no way ever.

Let us examine their grounds.

1. Troy changes the Iliad too much.

I'm sorry, wasn't that you I read supporting Peter Jackson's The Fanfic of the Rings? The one with the languishing dying Arwen, the Aragorn falling in the river, the detours five zillion miles out of the way, the EvilCruelNastyMean Elves, the high-diving Steward, and the Faramir who wasn't a gentleman to his toes? Gag me with a bad dialogue spoon.

Troy, OTOH, has the decency to announce from the beginning that it is only inspired by the Iliad. It has to, doesn't it, given that it's going to include the beginning and end of the Trojan War. Neither of which were actually portrayed in the Iliad, if you'll have the kindness to recall.

The war's length is drastically compressed, as is its extent -- the temple of Apollo is on the beach at Troy, rather than on an island on the way. A couple of characters have arcs different from those of legend. Big deal. This is nothing compared to what Jackson did -- or C.S. Lewis, for that matter. I mean, he wrote an adaptation of that whole "Helen in Egypt" fanfic which proposed that Helen never ran off to Troy -- that was her Evil Double. (Clytemnestra already being her Evil Twin.) So...unless you're gonna swear off Lewis....

Furthermore, the legends of the Trojan War are not the stunning, thematically unified work of a single brilliant mind. They're legends, which means they're public domain and creative commons and all that good stuff. Download at will, use as you like. Maybe this distinction isn't fair, but Homer sure benefitted from it. So did Shakespeare. Legend, by its nature, is more malleable than a novel. It's really hard to make it suck. (Troy, btw, beats Troilus and Cressida by a mile.)

Just for your info, here are some of the many Iliad scenes you will see in Troy. (May contain some spoilers for the Iliad.):

Achilles deprived of his prize Briseis by Agamemnon. Achilles' choice between death and glory. Paris vs. Menelaus Deathmatch. Hector's helmet frightening Astyanax, making him take it off. Achilles' Myrmidons watching everybody else fight. Patroclus wearing Achilles' armor. Achilles mourning Patroclus. Achilles vs. Hector Deathmatch. Hector dragged behind Achilles' chariot. Priam begging for Hector's body (right down to the handkissing). Oh, yeah, and a soundtrack as full of the laments of women as the Iliad is, which ought to get poor James Horner more credit from the critics.

This is a lot more Iliad than you get in the average Troy-related opera or play or epic poem. Geez, people, what more do you want?!?

Actual Iliad dialogue? Well, as long as you don't want it in actual Greek, you got it! Including some lines from Achilles' horses announcing Patroclus' death which got transferred into the mouth of one of his men; it worked. (A lot better than Peter Jackson's character-raping dialogue transfers did, that's for sure.)

You complain that for your pre- and post-Iliad material you don't get Penthesileia and her Amazons? Well, that wasn't going to happen without a miniseries being involved, sorry. Also, no slaughter of daughters for wind. But you do get Paris stealing away with Helen, Achilles' death, a very cleverly-designed Trojan Horse, and a thousand ships. So go see the movie, already!

2. There aren't any gods in.

The reviewers lied to you. Silver-footed Thetis makes quite an appearance. Also, Achilles is shown subtly to have the invulnerability he should have, and dies with a Parisian arrow in his heel.

3. Brad Pitt can't possibly do Achilles.

BZZZT! Wrong answer. I wasn't a big fan of the idea (or Brad Pitt), either. He made me a believer. If he doesn't win an Oscar for this one, it will be a crime and a crying shame. He made Achilles come to life in all his annoyingly competent, sulky, yet heroic glory. Also, his inclusion makes all the comparisons between warriors' word-fame and the cult of celebrity more powerful and cogent.

4. Too much nudity and sex.

Very little nudity, a couple of implied sex scenes that aren't really seen. Which is nothing compared to Aragorn and Arwen waking up together and Arwen losing her mortality, 'cause we know what that means. Don't you think it's a lot more offensive to imply sex between two people who saved themselves for marriage for decades, in a movie based on the works of a Catholic, than to have a couple implied sex scenes between two pagans in a movie based on the legends of the pagan Greeks? Geez, Troy was positively chaste compared to all that "let's cinematically drool over the elves" stuff in Jackson's movies!

Seriously, though... any producer wishing to portray the brutal fall of a city would be irresponsible to make a movie about it with a PG-13 rating. Young kids should never be allowed to go see a movie like Troy by themselves. Since parents today can't be trusted to do this, I applaud the filmmakers for including just enough scantily clad footage to make the film an R. (The war alone would do it for the UK and Europe.)

Whatever. I don't know why I even bother to argue.

Honestly, people, I am trying to help you here. If you could honestly love and praise the Peter Jackson Version, you ought to at least take a moment to go see a movie that stays true to the basic themes of the legends it adapts. Your life will be a better thing for a little song about the wrath of Achilles, and the war against Troy.

Choir News

Choir is almost over for another year. But fear not. One of our number has apparently successfully infiltrated the Parish Council. Mwahahaha!

Next Sunday we celebrate Ascension, and our non-permanent not-a-deacon-anymore celebrates his first Mass. We will be doing all sorts of prelude music and Mass music and such. We learned "Regina Coeli"! Isn't that exciting? It's like being a Chaucer character or something.... Even the old ladies didn't know that one.

I won't be in town for Pentecost, as it conflicts with Marcon. I feel kinda bad about this, especially as I'm not reallll hep to go to the con at all this year. But I will go be POD down at St. Patrick's down the street from the convention center/hotel complex. Perhaps I will wear A Hat in honor of the feast. (Although I guess we won't be waiting to eat until a Wonder shows up. These days it's hard to arrange for ladies chasing fawns or maniacal giants with axes and strong views on barter.)

The Flowers of the Forest

Anyway, Nadine of the Funeral Choir (known to its members as the "Sob Sisters", which was probably Nadine's idea) had a story to tell last night at practice. "A thousand years ago, when banners were first invented", there was a certain banner hanging in church. Nobody noticed the problem except Nadine. She kept almost losing it all through Mass, and finally went up to the priest afterward. You've got to take that banner down during funerals, she said. Why? he said. Look at it, she said.

The banner said, "Bloom Where You're Planted".

(Ah, to be a piper at that funeral! You could've played "The flowers of the forest are a' wede awa".)

The New McDonald's Stepometer

First off, I really like the new adult Happy Meals. You get one of the big salads, a bottle of water, and a stepometer toy. It's about a buck more than one of the big salads alone, which is about fair. (Though I suspect I'll get just the salads more often.) Besides, it comes with a toy! Toys just make everyone happy, and certainly it made me feel better yesterday about eating light and exercising more. My parents now want stepometers too, so I have been detailed to eat a couple more adult Happy Meals this week.

But...there's always a but, isn't there? In this case, it's that the stepometer is just a toy. Once you get walking along on a hard surface with a good rhythm going, the stepometer will be accurate. If you're pounding straight up and down stairs, it'll probably work pretty well. But if you walk along "softly jangling", the little rattle-clack step counter will count one step as more than that. If you step softly and use your Mad Ninja Skillz, it won't count the steps at all. Running bounces the step counter around no end.

So the long, long walk up the hill to church for choir last night was a little more than a mile (accurate) and so was the walk around the long curve of my street and back (yeah, right). The counter said I walked almost six miles yesterday. Now, walking around from Mickey D's to work, doing work errands, going from work to Walmart to home, and home to choir (plus my morning walk) is a lot of walking. But not five miles' worth, I'm sure. See, I refuse to believe I walked half a mile in Walmart. In the grocery. Picking up three items. Nope.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Best Iraqi Blog...

...Is still Iraq the Model. Omar has some words of wisdom about the death of the Governing Council's president:

And no matter what precautions we take, we cannot be a 100% sure that we can protect every single person, including our leaders and the higher officials who make favorite targets for the terrorists but we still can make their attempts go in vain by making our leadership *replaceable*. This idea may seem odd or even a little bit cruel but I can give some further explanations; the terrorists think in the same way their dictator-masters do. They believe that every nation has "and should have" one strong man to lead her and if it happened one day that the nation "lost" this strong man (the Khalifa, in OBL's followers' minds), she will certainly be doomed. The main point that they fail to capture, is that this idea applies only to totalitarian regimes and does not apply to democracies.

(Bolding by me.)

More Troy

This is a really fascinating chat transcript about the Iliad. Why is it important that Hector cut Patroclus' throat, for instance? Find out here! You might also read week one, week three, and the final week.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Achilles/Briseis -- Fanfic through the Ages:

Some of the reviewers got a tad huffy about it. Well, Hollywood didn't come up with the idea first. Achilles gets fixed up with all kinds of women in legend and lore.

And btw, Briseis isn't a "virgin consecrated to Apollo". Chryseis was the daughter of a priest of Apollo...but she's not in the movie. Briseis' real name, btw, was Hippodamia daughter of Briseus, and she was a widow. But nobody really does her this way, 'cause all that wasn't in the Iliad.

But no, I don't care. If Peter Jackson's fanfic was this well-written and on topic, I would've liked it, too.

Anyway, Horace was okay with the romantic version of the story.

There's no guilt, believe me, in loving such a
handmaid, Phocian Xanthias: long before you
proud Achilles fell to his slave Briseis'
snowdrift complexion."

Troy and Chivalry

I saw Troy on Sunday. Good stuff. Brad Pitt did truly classic work as the wrathful, sulky, yet heroic Achilles, and poor Briseis finally got her day in the sun along with the ever-popular Patroclus. Eric Bana as Hector did what I knew he could (he needs to play more heroes!). Orlando Bloom as Paris made the character simultaneously the selfish, cowardly little jerk we think him and somebody who could genuinely be lovable to Helen and his family. Sean Bean was Odysseus.

I will admit to being a bit peeved about Agamemnon being portrayed as Prince John (and Menelaos' transformation into the Sheriff of Nottingham). Also, Hollywood apparently decided that if good guys had to die, so did bad guys. And not on their way home, either. But I didn't really care. Even Scenery-Chompin' Agamemnon! didn't actually hurt the movie. The classic scenes were there and had all the old Homeric power. When Priam came to beg Hector's body from Achilles, the theater was dead silent and I don't think there was a dry eye.

"Tomorrow morning you will still be the enemy."

"I am the enemy tonight. But you can give the enemy respect."

Very topical, of course, and rightly so. (There is a reason why the story of the Trojan War was one of the most popular legends of the Middle Ages. Hector was even listed among the Nine Worthies of chivalry. Also, be sure to scroll down to the various versions of the Nine Female Worthies.

When you go to see Troy, don't watch the credits. I know I always say "watch the credits", but not in this case. The credits song is dorkily inappropriate to the silent, subdued mood of katharsis, so feel free to leave. When the DVD comes out, you can hit the 'mute' button and see the credits that way.

Dan Brown: A Talent for Idiocy --

In the aptly named thread "Let Us All Point and Laugh", rec.arts.sf.written takes on Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Yes, after you've watched Brown totally foul up art history and Church history, see him screw up his science!

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Meditate among Yourselves --

You are at Mass, praying the "Our Father" and holding hands with your neighbors. You close your eyes -- and suddenly realize that you are holding a carpenter's strong but wounded hand.