Saturday, 18 November 2017

Change in My City

Change is sometimes dramatic, but it is often a subtle thing. The change I noticed yesterday was probably not overly dramatic, but definitely a very subtle part of the changing nature of this beautiful city of Ottawa.

Since I have lived here there has always been the light rail system. It was a constant companion to my movements for many years and helped me go in a rather limited series of directions up and down the city. They are building a new Confederation Line now to help move people to the other end of the city, which should be interesting, if still yes useful than our bus system.

However, for the longest time you didn't really have to pay for the train. There were ticket stations, but most people ignored them (and students didn't have to pay), meaning people usually just wandered on to the train. I often figured that the city probably lost a fortune on that deal. It seems though, that with the construction of this new line under way the city is looking to recoup some of that lost revenue. Part of me thinks that it is about time the city got around to this since it will be making them money, but another part is sad to see that almost anarchist system of train fare go by the wayside.

Now this isn't a big deal, as the train does need money. I just happen to remember when you could just walk down to the tracks like it was no big deal and not have to worry about anything getting in the way and hop on the train without much fuss. At the station I most often got on there was a dirt path worn down by countless feet that had scurried down that little hill running to catch a train. It's a nostalgic thought, but one which I hold fondly on to.

It is nice to see the city generating some additional revenue with these machines, and it will be fascinating to explore it on the new line as well. However, I couldn't help but reflect on the change that this has wrought, even in the smaller ways.

Change really is fascinating.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Lord of the Rings Prequel courtesy of Amazon

Thanks to the invaluable resource that is the Wertzone and Adam Whitehead, I have just learned that it is confirmed that Amazon (in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate) will be working on a prequel series seemingly designed to bridge the gap between the Hobbit trilogy, and the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

I have mixed feelings on this.

Many people believe that prequels don't work very well as a medium for story telling in an established universe. One need look no further than the Star Wars films to see how divisive an issue this can be. However, this concept also comes with a basic story telling problem.

In a prequel we usually know for a fact that there is a preordained ending shaping up, and that something bad will happen to the characters if they seem to be going against the ending we know will happen. In that way a rather gloomy sense of inevitability might permeate the series as potentially new characters are introduced, only to be stomped on and crushed while we see them struggling against inevitable corruption by Sauron or Sauruman. It is difficult to build characters up to viewers only to see them fall to the inevitable.

The other problem this creates for story writers is that with already established characters you have to take pains to keep their actions in line with the original canon if you want your whole storyline to make sense. In the Hobbit films it makes some sense for a shout out to Gimli to be present, as its a one off no one would likely remember. However, say if in this series you suddenly had Gimli and Aragorn meet and interact, it would be impossible for them to not remember that in the Fellowship film, and would just take a steaming dump on the original canon of the books and film if that were the case.

My fear is that there will be many liberties taken with this, in a way that there were numerous unadvised liberties taken with the Hobbit films to stretch it into a trilogy. One would hope that the Tolkien Estate and the writers of the series will do their best to simply make this a faithful new addition to the Lord of the Rings filmography. Otherwise we could end up with opinions as bad as those of the Star Wars prequels.

On a personal level I would feel far more comfortable if they instead opted to tell contemporaneous stories within the original trilogy. The War of the Ring had many fronts, and they could easily be explored within a television series. Heck, the story of the Blue Wizards could finally be put to paper and adapted faithfully. There's loads of stories to tell in Middle Earth, one needs only the will to write it.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Change in Fantasy

A broad title, but one I thought I ought to address after reading both this recent piece by Christopher Nuttal, and the attendant piece he was writing based on. The idea of course raises some interesting questions regarding a sort of stasis in Science Fiction and Fantasy, whether that be Medieval Stasis, or simply technology and mores being stuck Twenty Years in the future or in Modern Stasis.

For this article though I will be examining only the idea of fantasy being stuck in medieval stasis, and the sort of changing social mores that we might associate with medieval society.

This isn't just technology mind you, but the world as we understand it with the divine right of kings, an all powerful nobility, and the common display of peasants and landowners who struggle against the upper classes. Often times, we find this exact paradigm present in fantasy, or at least a rough facsimile of it in a written work. A sort of "standard fantasy setting" if you will.

Picture it; a number of rural villages, big castle overlooking them, and in the cities nobles and merchants squabbling over money with the king. Knights in armor ride around alternatively slaying dragons or oppressing the peasantry. Dirty hovels cling to the roadsides and inns pander to wayward travelers (which oddly enough, is something of an anarchism in itself). Sometimes monsters stalk the night, and demons terrorize the land. These will either be dismissed or hindered by a stand in for the Catholic Church. And of course, everyone will speak with an English accent.

This of course, is an error in fantasy.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Remembering Passchendaele

Today, on November 11th, we solemnly remember the men and women who have given their lives year after year in service of our country. This year however, it coincides with the 100th anniversary of a brutal blood letting which enveloped France exactly a century ago. This was of course the three month Battle of Passchendaele.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
This bloody contest over a sea of mud for little gain was actually objected to by the commander of the Canadian Corps, Arthur Currie. He predicted that the battle would cost 16,000 Canadian casualties and was eerily accurate as it wound up costing 15,654 causlties to the Canadians.

It was an awful slog. One Canadian would say "The ground beggars description. The strongest and youngest cannot navigate without falling down."[1]. Indeed that is almost an understatement. The battlefield was a sea of mud which drowned men, mules, and horses, saw supplies simply sink into the mire, and sucked at men's legs like glue. Truly the sea of mud defies description or belief, especially belief that someone would think such a mad attack would succeed in anything.

In the end the Canadians prevailed, and the village was captured. The outcome though, has been debated back and forth for a century at this point, and it is doubtful that any consensus will ever truly be reached on the matter.

What cannot be doubted however, is the courage, valor, and unrelenting heroism shown by the Canadian Corps. They played a key role as shock troops for the Entente across the Western Front all the way to the armistice that was signed 99 years ago. Since then Canadians have been active on battlefields from France to Africa, giving their lives in the name of peace.

The valor of Canadians then and now should not be forgotten. The continued service of our men and women in uniform should be praised and acknowledged for what it is, and we should never forget those who have given their lives in service to this country at home or abroad, now and forever.

We remember.


1] Pierre Burton, Marching As To War, Page 185, Doubleday Canada, 2001