Guards! Guards!

Gaurds! Gaurds! Go now and arrest Terry Pratchett. He’s made a mockery of the Fantasy Genre! But in all seriousness what’s not to laugh at. Guards! Guards! brings together a bunch of old stuff we know but mashes it all up together into something seemingly new a different (at least to me). I’ll admit, I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett prior to this. Truth be told, Good Omens was the only other thing of his that I had read, and he didn’t even write all of that one (although I’m betting he did the funny parts). So I can tell you now that I wasn’t  the least bit prepared for what I was about to experience. First of all Discworld? . . . Ankh-Morpork?

What is this crazy world in which thieves are regulated and must maintain a monthly quota. Where even beggars have unionized (laughably, the head beggar is worse off than the rest because no one is willing to give up the extremely high price he’s entitled to). And of course, the Assassin’s guild is almost completely legitimate. This Patrician guy seems to have thought of everything. Certainly, he’s solved every problem, if not in the most traditional of senses (I think I heard someone say that he turns every problem into the solution for another problem. Seems about accurate. Also, heard him compared to Machiavelli’s Prince. Somehow did both high school and college and never had to read that). Although, I suppose I should have known what to expect by the dedication. But in reality, I feel the dedication was another false trail as well. We did get the perspective of a guard. The City Watch to be specific. However, they still seemed like heroes, albeit extremely incompetent heroes. And despite their often hilarious incompetence, they seem to get the job done (Eh I suppose this could be debated as really the problem gets solved by a dragon, not the City Watch but who’s counting).

Needless to say, Captain Vimes and crew live to drink . . . I mean fight another day. However, the interesting parts of this book had less to do with the actual plot and characters (together they both seemed quite whimsical), and more to do with those false trails I mentioned earlier. Pretty much everything within this novel seemed to involve some sort of misdirection. Nearly everything played off your expectations, building you up to believe you were about to go one place with the story, and instead going somewhere completely different. The English Major in me wants to start raving on about satire and about how Pratchett is using Parody to make a statement about the different conventions of fantasy. My English Major self also wants to say that the statement is: these old tropes and cliches are worn out and over done, and there needs to be some innovation in the fantasy genre. And maybe back in 1989, when this novel was first published (wow this book is actually older than me!) that was the case. Unfortunately, I haven’t the slightest thing to compare it with as my knowledge of fantasy during the 80’s is effectively nil. Sorry for that huge build up for nothing.

I was intrigued with Captain Vimes’ as a caricature of the detective. I seem to remember Raymond Chandler describing the detective as ” . . . a common man, and yet an unusual man . . . He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world . . .” (The Art of Murder). Now compare that to Captain Vimes, and it seems like what he should have said was: a common man if an unusual man . . . It must be the best world for this man because he’s not good enough for any other world . . . Ok, maybe that is a little harsh, but I think we understand that the humor in Vimes’ character comes from his inability. He wouldn’t be right for any other story. However, when we consider the type of city represented by Ankh-Morpork (strip away all the humor and see what we are really dealing with. Ankh-Morpork is a pretty grim place), it seems that everything Chandler describes is true about Vimes. It also seems like the type of detective Chandler is imagining would not last a second on Discworld no matter how fit he was for adventure. Vimes on the other hand belongs in this world. It is the world he lives in.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that I enjoyed Guards! Guards! The pacing was perhaps a little slow but the jokes and style of Pratchett’s writing were worth the time even if I’m still not sure what to make of the plot. I know there are more Discworld books out there and I believe Guards! Guards! was 8th in the series so I’m not sure what possessed me to start there (ahem BSFS book club ahem) but I’m certainly glad that I did. I suppose now the only question is, where to go next?

Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Not sure whether to start at the beginning of the Discworld books or just read the next City Watch book. I guess time will tell.

Oh and Pratchett needs to do a series set in L-space if that isn’t already a thing. Seemed like too good of a set up to not go anywhere. Alright, until next time . . . Laters!

Archer Season 4, Episode 4: The Midnight Ron

We’re back. Hurrrraaayyy. Archer last night was good. At the very least an interesting episode if not a little weird (don’t make it weird). Here is essentially what happens:

Archer is stuck in Montreal without his passport (he lit it on fire?). Of course Malory is pissed. Not only is Ron (her new hubby) in . . . Canada too? (I’m not going to try to look up the town sorry) but they are going to the opera in New York so he better get moving. Ron hears that Archer is in Montreal and decides to pick him up and sneak him over the border. We’re finding out slowly that Ron Cadillac is not quite as boring as he seems. Anyway, Ron puts Archer in the trunk and they go through the border without any problems. After three hours or so, Archer gets upset that he is still in the back of Ron’s trunk. Ron says he can’t pull over to let him out because: “They always hit me when I go through [some other Canadian town I’ve never heard of]”. And sure enough some goons start attacking the car right at that moment. Archer fends them off but Ron isn’t able to drive under such pressure and ends up crashing their car (a Cadillac go figure). Archer and Ron hitch a ride with a truck driver who . . . also isn’t as boring as he seems. Apparently he is a cross dresser and takes Archer and Ron back to his warehouse for some ‘rapy’ type stuff with a bunch of other cross dresser dudes. Things aren’t looking good.

Archer keeps going on about some gypsy (the one Cheryl has been bringing up the last couple of seasons) and how in order to escape they need to make it rain. Ron has a briefcase full of money he’s been lugging around (I guess I kind of skimmed over the part where Ron is an old school gangster that used to boost cars for a living and owned a very successful chop shop) and Archer decides to through the money in the air and ‘make it rain’. This gets them exactly nowhere and they have to make a break for a passing train. Of course Archer gets on first (“God run like you are younger!”) and holds his hand out to help Ron. Only not really. He retracts the hand and gives Ron an ultimatum: divorce Malory or get left behind. Ron says some seemingly offensive stuff to Archer which surprisingly gets him to put his hand back out (something about Norman Bates?. . . I really need to actually watch Psycho). Archer pulls Ron aboard (only to have to jump off a little while later) and they go to one of Ron’s dealerships, pick up a new ride and Archer delivers Ron to the Opera on time and looking fresh. While in the car, Archer tries to say that because he helped Ron, it doesn’t mean that he likes him and that they’re friends. Then they both realize how upset Malory will get if they are buddy-buddy and they have another seemingly legitimate bonding moment.

This episode was mainly interesting to me because we got some development of Ron’s character. Considering he was sort of dropped into the series out of nowhere, it was nice to get a little tid bit. Also, this gypsy thing came up again. Hoping to see that play out more in the future. Unfortunately, we aren’t really any further along in terms plot involving any of the major villains in the series (Conway, Kasanova, Barry). Also, we haven’t heard anything from ODIN in a while. I’m assuming that Len Trexler is no longer running the place (last I remember seeing him, he was half brain-dead and severely attached to a rabbit), and Barry is still in space (maybe?) but regardless of where he is, he’s probably busy running he KGB. Also, I don’t know why but I still want to see Conway make a return to the stage . . . is that too much to ask?

Anyway, that’s all for now. See you laters!

The Americans: Episode 2

Last night we were all able to see a new episode of The Americans on FX. First impressions . . . still pretty much on board with this show but last week’s episode didn’t do a lot for me. Some moments which I think were important:

Philip and Stan eat Caviar together – This scene was especially interesting to me because of the way Philip reacted to the Caviar. I know that’s a super popular thing in Russia so I found it interesting that Philip said he’d had it but didn’t like it (pretty obvious later in the episode that he did). I would have thought it would have been easier to fake never having had it before which I also think is probably the more ‘American’ thing to do. After all, I don’t know anyone who has ever eaten it. Also, I think it’s important that Stan seemed to be legitimately trying to build a relationship with his next-door neighbor. The tension of the scene comes from the idea that Stan is snooping around trying to catch Philip in a lie, and whether or not Philip will get caught. However, I feel like they were having a legitimate bonding moment and that Stan actually didn’t like that guy at the speaker store so he took his Caviar. Stan is about to delve into what happened but then realizes he shouldn’t. The trust is almost there, which could be very valuable for Philip and Elizabeth . . . but they don’t know it yet.

Philip and Elizabeth in bed together – The bed as a place of trust and discovery (don’t make that weird!) seems to be a theme in this show. In the last episode, the two are in bed together when Elizabeth starts telling Philip about her old life. This week, she begins to wonder about what would happen to the kids if something should happen to them. They decide that their son would be ok. He can adapt. He’s like Philip in that way (her words). But she worries about the daughter; says she’s fragile in some way. I like the way that part was done. We see Philip looking at Elizabeth and we know that he feels she is fragile (if we keep going with the comparison of parents to kids). Elizabeth seems to be only thinking of her daughter but she is almost there . . . almost realizing it about herself. She doesn’t know exactly yet but she’s close. So Gooood!

Philip strangling the Maid’s son with the pillow – I was really curious to see what would happen. Would Philip actually go through with it? It’s obvious he doesn’t want to and in the end he doesn’t have to (cop-out?). But I still wonder what would have happened. I mean technically they were the enemy. Philip could have eased his conscience at least a little in that fact. In the fact that it was for the greater good. But he also likes America too so . . . it seems like a mixed bag for sure.

Phil’s girl on the side! – Still up in the air as to whether there is anything really going on between these two. Yeah it’s for the operation but she doesn’t know that and I’m sure Philip kind of likes it. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to mind (although we did get that one comment ‘You didn’t tell me she looks like that‘) but I can never tell what she’s really thinking. Brings up a whole bag of issues about extra-marital activities. Is it cheating? (C’mon babe it’s for the good of the country. I had too.) I don’t know. Sadly, I think it makes their cover more authentic. Extra-marital sex seems very American (awk . . .)

Oh and they added a character! – Almost forgot about it but yes they added a character. Nina is her name and according to IMDB she’s listed in more episodes than Matthew Rhys or Keri Russell so . . . I guess she’s important but I’m not sure how yet. She’s a Soviet turned American (don’t think that’s a good way to put it but eh). The CIA finds out about her and basically blackmails her into defecting. Now it appears she is still working as some kind of secretary in an important Soviet office and presumably feeding intelligence to America in that capacity. Lastly, I suppose I probably shouldn’t be judging how important a character is, or how long they’ll  be around by how many episodes they’re listed in. Afterall, Stan is seemingly a pretty important character and Noah Emmerich isn’t even listed on IMDB. Also, don’t even get me started on Game of Thrones. If any show proved to me that you can’t always count on your main characters to last the full season, it was that show. I’m still in mourning.

Well, that’s mostly everything I’ve been thinking about after watching the second episode. I know I said I’d talk about the things that were important but I think I ended up just talking about everything. Still, it seems to early to start calling plot points and there probably won’t be any big reveals for a while, but the show is doing a pretty decent job of keeping things interesting (if not rivetingly so). Could do with some more action. Hopefully we’ll get another fight scene next week. I’ll certainly be watching for it so . . . see you then? Laters!

Call me D’Artagnan!

I’m about to ‘review’ The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Now there is a certain part of me that quivers to attempt such a task. The renown and acclaim that this book has already achieved makes me wonder what I could possibly write on this humble little blog (or maybe not so humble) that has not already been said a million times over, and likely much more eloquently than I could hope to do in a million years. Scholars have likely picked apart this novel until there is nothing left and so . . . I read all 715 pages of the kindle edition and simply feel the need to talk about the book if not for the sole purpose of celebrating the fact that I finished a book with so many pages (ya it was a doozy). So let me begin by first telling a tale of my own, and relating to you how I became acquainted with our good friends Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D’artagnan . . .

Thank you sir may I have another!

In the spring of 2009 I started my first semester of college (well first semester on campus) and in spite of myself, rushed a fraternity. I ended up joining and had an extremely positive experience during my four years of college. For the most part it wasn’t like what you see in Old School or Animal House but we do have ritual and traditions which we followed to help bring the brothers together. We name the pledges and assign them a ‘big brother’ to help guide and mentor the ‘little brother’. And yes bigs will teach their littles how to meet girls, or drink beer, but if your lucky (like I was) your big will have much more to pass down to you then these frivolities which in all honesty, you learn in your own time and in your own way.

So on the night when we were to find out who our big was, the blind fold comes off and I am standing in front of a man who I have never seen in my life. He looks at me, puts his hand out for a hand shake and says “Hi. I’m N&%*. You’re big is T#%+ and I’m his big. I guess that makes you my grand-little.” Sound logic, but where was my big? Turns out he was at his ‘massage class’ which I’m not sure if I ever learned whether or not that was a real thing. Ironically, I was unable to attend the ceremony announcing my little because it fell on the same night as one of my dress rehearsals which I absolutely couldn’t miss. I called my big and he was able to stand in for me. When my little got his little, he had RA training and I stood in for him, and so the cycle continues. I think my grand-little will likely not even attempt to go to the ceremony announcing his little. Afterall, you can’t break tradition.

So after standing around for a while getting to know my grand-big, everyone else in the chapter politely demands to know what my pledge name is to be. N&%* looks around and says “Oh right. It’s D’Artagnan. I haven’t the slightest but T#%+ said you’d understand.” Well obviously I didn’t have the slightest either. I looked it up on the internet and found a type of duck sauce, and a character from this little book (well not really little) called The Three Musketeers. I was to be an English major, I figured it must be a literary thing and props to my big for being well read. I vowed to someday read this tome and find out who this D’Artagnan was in order that I might better understand this curious choice of naming.

The Best Made Plans . . .

Of course, the entirety of my college career came and went. I read probably close to a hundred other books in those four years (oh and the beer). Some for class (a lot for class ugh!) and some for fun, but never The Three Musketeers. I learned a great many things in college. Probably forgot a lot more. But in all of that I never asked, and I was never able to divine the true meaning of my pledge name. So finally, as a graduated Alumni almost a full year out of college, I decided to give the book a read through. And boy am I glad I did.

Sooo Goood!!

Sooo Goood!!

Preconceptions?

I didn’t really have any except for the story mentioned above. My general knowledge of The Three Musketeers extended to about the limits of a candy bar, which I will say, Three Musketeers candies are pretty damn good, but not helpful for what I wanted to know.

At some point I had seen Man in the Iron Mask, directed by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I really enjoyed that movie but remembered D’Artagnan (played by Gabriel Byrne) as something of a villain, although I suppose at the end he does the right thing.

Finally, I had just recently seen The Three Musketeers (2011) by Paul W.S. Anderson. In this film we see a young D’Artagnan meet each of the Musketeers individually in what is probably a close ish representation of the beginning chapters of the book. It diverts pretty drastically over the course of the movie (Britain attempting to take over france with some war zeppelins? Not sure that’s in the history books but eh?) but I didn’t know that when I watched it. The movie certainly had some weird issues with consistency. They bothered to make Aramis and Buckingham look similar (which I originally thought was bad casting) but then never used it as a device in the story (which the book already does. No new plot needed). Weird.

Talk about the book already!

Finally, I get a Kindle Paperwhite (which everyone at work calls the kindle paperweight) and start surfing through the free books on Amazon. Lo and behold!! The Three Musketeers is free so I download it. My general opinion is:

I can see why this book is so popular and why Dumas is such a critical figure in French writing (well I’m assuming he is) because this book was really good!!

Good in the way that I feel a lot of books in the ‘western canon’ are good. The sheer perseverance and stamina needed to finish such a feat of this nature means it must be good. Otherwise all of that work reading it was for nothing! It sounds like I’m knocking the book but I’m not. I did think it was a great example of a form of story telling which I feel could be coming back into fashion. What Wikipedia calls ‘High Adventure’ (although no link so I can’t give you a good definition). It may be easiest just describe a chapter and let you get a sense of it yourself.

The Bastion Saint-Gervais

In this chapter our four friends must discuss a matter of such grave importance that they cannot possibly chance being overheard. What do they do? They go to a local tavern for breakfast thinking they will be less likely to be overheard there, than in their room (doesn’t exactly seem like sound logic but let’s run with it anyway). No sooner are they seated, than a loud patron begins to inquire about their comings and goings and about the French siege of English troops. Of course they debate the merits of both the French and English armies and soon a wager is placed that our four friends cannot defend the recently won fortifications against a counter attack for 1 hour. Our fine Musketeers do not wager money but dinner, and pack themselves a nice basket for a picnic at the fortifications. Here, where no one else dare enter, is where they have their discussion. Of course the English attack three times with varying strengths of forces and the four Musketeers calmly defend against nearly quadruple their number. Finally upon the third attack, their stay at the fortifications has past the hour time limit they wagered and their private business is concluded. They triumphantly retreat as Athos waves a white cloth napkin they had been using in absence of a true French flag. Of course this feat of bravery earns them a great deal of clout with their superiors and D’Artagnan finally advances from the Guard to a full-fledged Musketeer.

Please note that none of this is meant as sarcasm or satire on my part (though I’m not sure on the part of Dumas) but is actually what happens in the chapter. These four are so brave, so noble, so calm and collected and such gentlemen in all of their dealings (even war) it literally made me want to yack. But it was also so good!!

Trial

Of course, this is a stark contrast to what we see later in the novel when they try Milday a.k.a the Comtesse de la Fere. This scene is almost Gothic in its use of imagery and setting. The descriptions of our four heroes is meant to inspire fear and I ended up feeling quite awful about what happens. I suppose that’s good writing. Turning a seemingly irredeemable villain into a tragic figure in one chapter while at the same time casting a dark shadow upon those we believed infallible heroes. Worth every bit of praise this book has received over the last 200+ years.

Closing Remarks

I suppose I should bring this full circle and reveal the mystery behind D’Artagnan and my pledge name. After all of this time, and reading, I felt I was acquainted with something very special in the character of D’Artagnan. He was young, ambitious, courteous and full of vitality. He was a great admirer of his friend and father figure Athos who was also noble, caring, and honest but who let his past troubles and experiences send him spiralling downwards in depression and vice. More than once I tried to draw the comparison between myself and D’Artagnan. To project the character of Athos onto my big T#&* who I revered in equal proportion to D’Artagnan’s awe of Athos. Finally, after I was sufficiently convinced that I had the right of it, I called my big and asked.

As it turns out, he didn’t mean D’Artagnan but Dartanian. Which means something entirely different . . . which I’ll not be posting here (may also be defined in terms of ‘high adventure’ but has nothing to do with literature). Look it up or don’t but definitely read The Three Musketeers! Also, I sincerely hope that someone in my fraternal line has the pledge name Alexandre Dumbass which was how I felt when I finally got the answer. Until next time. Laters.

Archer Season 4 Episode 3: Legs

Once again, I can’t seem to get these posts out on time but I’m still gonna try to do this one. Finally got to watch the newest episode of Archer entitled Legs. Of course it was awesome but let me take a moment to tell you why (hopefully only a minute because I really need to leave).

So this episode takes us through Ray’s new life (at least for the first few scenes) without his legs. Once a moderately competent field agent and world-class skier, Ray is now confined to a wheel chair because of Archer’s ego and subsequent spaceship accident. It seems he is having quite a lot of trouble adjusting. The entire ISIS team is standing around one day talking about an up coming mission which Ray did all the prep work on and it is announced that Ray cannot come with them on the mission. Ray loses it but doesn’t really do anything about it. He accepts his position. This is when Krieger comes to Ray with a proposal which is essentially: let me operate on you, risk death, and I’ll give you new leg thingies. Despite his better judgement Ray goes under the ‘knife’ (actually more of a robot with a saw attached to its arm) an extremely long and intricate procedure ensues (oh and Pam has to fish out all her beer cans which she apparently keeps losing inside Ray. God do we hate Pam!). When Archer finds out about this, he goes ballistic. Literally ballistic. He starts shooting the door of Krieger’s lab and eventually tries to force his way in by shooting an RPG at the door. When this fails, Archer takes to the air ducts with the a plan to infiltrate the lab through the ventilation. Apparently ISIS’s cooling network is quite the labyrinth as Archer never does reach the lab and is eventually ‘flushed out’ of the ducts when they turn up the heat all the way and leave it on for the weekend (much to Malory’s chagrin). When Archer finally shows up again, Ray has a new pair of legs. The end.

A couple of things happened in all of that which I think will bear fruit to the ongoing progression of the series, or are just awesome so I want to write about them. First off:

  • Cheryl makes a pretty hilarious cyborg joke referencing the Voight Kampff test from Blade Runner. It seemed pretty subtle but I really liked it. If you watch the episode and don’t get the joke . . . it is probably worth it to read Blade Runner and watch the episode again. But I only say that because I think you should read Blade Runner (also I guess if I really want to get picky, you watch Blade Runner and read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but eh whatever). It’s a good one.

Next:

  • Something about a Luau which seems to be important. Maybe a season 3.5 treat? Only time will tell.

And also:

  • We saw a quick clip of Krieger helping Conway Stern with a robotic hand (little bit Star Wars esq to me) which means . . . Conway is coming back in some way or other and wasn’t just a pointless villain from the first season (I’m pretty sure it was the first season).

Seems like a lot of enemies are piling up. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Also, I’ve been noticing this series certainly likes to reference literature for quips and plot points. What is interesting to me is that so far pretty much all of them were things I read in high school. Wondering if there is any significance to that. Perhaps it just signifies me as a target audience but I’ll need to think more on this later. See if I can’t come up with anything. Anyway, bye for now.