The Sacred Flame

This came to me the other morning. I haven’t spent long on it, so it could probably use some polish… but I have a synopsis to do.

I guess it’s a poem… of sorts? (My apologies to the real poets).

 

As Initiates we watched in wonder the Sacred Flame

Intrigued by its subtle dance, its warmth and its glow

We longed and hoped one day to receive

Our own flame springing forth

 

My wife and I are Keepers of the Sacred Flame

Priest and Priestess, dedicated to its care

Sanctified to keep it burning at all times

It’s a job for two; one cannot do it alone

 

Studying it, we learn to read its mood

To sense its movement, anticipate its need

Oak to burn long, spruce to burn fast, hickory for heat and aroma

There is a time for each, to keep it burning bright

 

We must learn to love the flame

To tend it always, through the long watches of the night

Protecting it from breeze and strong gale

Guarding always its purity and beauty

 

We have become accustomed to its presence

It is for us, a cherished Friend

That warms the body, and makes glad the heart

A flame reaching upwards, toward its Creator.

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Movie Review: Dunkirk

Contains Spoliers. dunkirkHaving received high praise from critics and reviews, I went in expecting a lot. From a story telling angle, I was curious how they were going to make what is essentially a (necessary) retreat into a compelling story.

The first seconds of the film are great scene setting: a squad of soldiers is walking through empty streets. All of a sudden they come under fire and flee. One by one the men are shot as they run; a single soldier manages to escape. Within seconds the audience is imbued with a sense of loss, loneliness and the nearness of danger.

The cinematography was good, and I agree the story line showed the spectrum of human responses of justifiable fear and bravery. The use of sound – and absence of – was great. (I must be getting old, because the volume it was played at in the cinemas was actually a detraction from my enjoyment. I think this is a trend in all the movies I have seen lately. Logan was so loud the sound was actually distorted).

It was only later that night I worked out the time scales in the movie. Early on it shows “Land: 1 week”, “Sea: 1 day” and “Air: 1 hour”. I take it to the mean that the story is a blending of those three timescales, given that the airforce pilots were ordered to fly low “to allow 40 minutes ‘fighting time’ over the beaches”. This is not made particularly clear to the audience, probably to not hamper their experience.

It also had no blood (or very little), which was interesting. I can only assume that was a conscious decision to avoid so-called “war porn”, and focus on the story instead of the brutality.

I’d summarise it as a worthwhile representation of Dunkirk. As a movie though, I didn’t find it particularly engaging. I wasn’t emotionally invested in any of the characters or their plight. It’s certainly not a movie I would re-watch any time soon (in contrast to Hacksaw Ridge or Enemy at the Gates). I’ve give it a 7 out of 10.

The Greatest Toy in the World

A friend recently changed jobs, leaving the workplace after more than a decade. For his going-away present he received an engraved hip flask, some limited-edition gin and a sizable box of Lego.

The Lego was due to the fact that for years his work monitor was adorned by a parade of Lego characters. This was even more unusual given his age, having recently celebrated his 40th birthday.

On receiving the gift at a farewell lunch (pre-food) he jokingly asked if “may he be excused, so that he could assemble the Lego”.

At least he pretended to be joking. I’m fairly sure there were a number of people at the table (myself included) who were keen to build it, even if it meant skipping lunch.

That’s why I think Lego is the greatest toy in the world; entertaining to almost all ages, and has replay-ability that lasts a lifetime. It has small, durable components whose assembly options are only limited by your imagination (and, the size of your bank account).

I’ll admit that I’ve wasted many hours building things on Lego Digital Designer in the last few years. I think the attraction is how I, who have no actual building skills, are able to “engineer” something. (It is of course a skill so small as to be molecular in size, but it’s all I have). If I were a millionaire I’d have a giant Lego room and build epic-sized medieval kingdoms and spaceships. Just because it’s fun.

Below are my designs for a two-man fighter spaceship. It features retractable wings (for easy storage), weapons for both pilot and copilot and a small storage bay (for their lunch, if nothing else). The ship also features a symmetrical design allowing three points of being “fixed” to a docking bay.

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My hat also must come off in a sign of respect to the Lego brand who have now expanded into movies and computer games. The computer games are fun for all ages and they’ve really tapped into what makes games enjoyable (low entry point, forgiving game play, a sense of progression, humour and a multitude of achievements). Another aspect I really like is that the games are full co-op on a single device. (Using a single Playstation my wife and I can sit in the same room and play through the entire game together).

With my software engineering background I marvel at the code reuse they would achieve. New games can use basically existing mechanics and just need some new art. The Lego company has basically worked out how to print money.

But, in what sets them apart from many other money-making ventures, they’re able to do it by producing immense amounts of clean, harmless, fun for the customer. And the customer’s children (because the bricks last so long).

Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Recently a new friend asked what my favourite movie was and I couldn’t answer. There are lots of movies that I enjoy and some I hate, but I can’t name a favourite.

I can easily name my wife’s favourite movies. It doesn’t take a genius-level of observation to realise if she watches the same movie back-to-back for an entire day that she likes it. I have no such movie stuck on loop.

The other possible metric is how often I’ve watched a movie, which brings me to the original Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d seen the promos and, thinking it was a sci-fi, thought it looked lame. When I eventually watched it with the mindset of not sci-fi but just a fun movie I found that I really enjoyed it. It didn’t take itself seriously, was quite funny and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a villain stalled by a “dance off” before. Over the years whenever the opportunity presented itself I’ve watched it (probably six times in total).

Recently I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Unwisely, I went in with high expectations.

The jokes seemed forced and were often predictable (not to mention considerably cruder than I remember #1 being).

And the ending… minor character dies (bad guy choosing to be heroic) and is cremated. Estranged friends arrive for a final farewell and put on a fireworks display. It might have been emotional and touching if it wasn’t completely corny.

And of course to add to the cheese the ending wouldn’t be complete without the lovers making up, the two feuding friends having peace and the delinquent’s behaviour understood.

The one shining light (other than the little dancing Groot, of course) was the basic premise: boy finally finds father, only to discover father is the villain.

My judgement: wait for TV. And only then, if you’re really, really hard-pressed to find something else.

My Version of Logan

Earlier I wrote about how, in contradiction to the masses, I didn’t like the movie Logan because of its ultra-violence and the general sense of depression.

Reader Sabretooth commented on my blog and got me thinking more about Logan. In a flash of inspiration I came up with an alternative plot that was so good, it deserved more than to be buried in the comments section…hence this post.

Now I’ve heard that the plot was based on a storyline called “Old Man Logan”. I’m putting that aside entirely. What if this was the alternative plot was something like this:

Act 1: We see Logan, Professor X and the other mutant-sniffer (sorry whoever you are) trying to rescue other mutants who are being hunted down by a band of humans armed with Stark-like technologies. The good guys fail; the humans manage to capture/kill the mutants (which fits the story line of mutants being ‘eradicated’). The sniffer dies and we see Professor X starting to succumb to neurological issues but convincing Logan of the importance of ‘carrying on their work’: the mutants must be saved.

Act 2: 20 years on, Logan is still searching for mutants to save but they’re pretty much all gone. Professor X is unwell more often than not, and Logan has spent a long time alone. Logan hears about a group of young mutants and goes to save them, but he is put in a bind: the bad guys have them trapped. He can save the young mutants, or a incapacitated Professor X, but not both. At Professor X’s direction, Logan reluctantly saves the kids.

Act 3: Logan and the kids grow to be fond of one another as Logan gets the kids to a safe location. I can’t understate how important it is to sell this to the audience. Logan does it for the kids, he does it for the Professor. Maybe Laura is a lab-created Logan+Jean Gray mix and he has real paternal feelings for her? For whatever reason, the audience needs to be SOLD on the relational bond between kids and mentor.

Act 4: Logan, while away from the kids is captured by the bad guys. (Why he’s away doesn’t matter too much, but I’m sure a good reason could be found. Maybe the bad guys lead him into a trap by pretending the Professor is still alive). Logan is shot with some kind of injection which weakens him temporarily, but not for long. Logan does what an angry, indestructible, Adamantium-infused guy does. Naturally he escapes the bad guys and heads back to the kids. Somehow (I haven’t solved all the problems for you: perhaps on the way out of the facility) Logan realises that he’s been given an injection of nanobots that have bonded to his Adamantium and allow him to be tracked. Bonded to him, they can’t be removed.

Logan, tragically realises that in order to save the kids, he must never see them again. Cue: Huge Jackman’s manly tears here.

This alternative plot line would allow Logan to be sad at the passing of a friend, heroic in saving the kids and ultimately heroic in accepting isolation. He can pass into the horizon and obscurity (effectively dead), without dying. The story of Logan could end more poignantly, and doesn’t require his death.

What do you think?

Movie Review: Logan

As someone who grew up watching the x-men cartoons, probably long after it was age-respectable, I really like the x-men. And it almost goes without saying that Wolverine is my favourite. (It doesn’t hurt that the bladed-fury has most recently been played by fellow Aussie, Huge Jackman, who is a skillful singer/actor and all-round nice guy). I love the super powers of the mutants and their heroic struggles in a world where literally anything is possible.

According to the review sites the latest Marvel offering Logan is quite popular with audiences. Not with this reviewer, and I’ll tell you why.

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Hacksaw Ridge

Last night I saw the excellent Hacksaw Ridge at the cinemas. It is the true story of Private Desmond Doss in WW2 whose faith-based convictions precluded him from touching a weapon but didn’t stop him going to war as a medic. He was determined to serve “God and country”, despite the opposition he would encounter, first from his fellow countrymen and then the enemy on the battlefield.

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This review contains spoilers so read no further if you intend on watching (warning: very heavy on the gore… possibly the bloodiest war movie I’ve ever seen).

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