Mister Roget and His Trained Thesauri

Thesaurus Rex

Today is word play Thursday. I don’t know why it’s word play Thursday, but it is. I just now came up with this, so bear with me. Not bare with me or Bayer with me, but bear with me. Why they picked that particular animal to go with me (bear), but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, I love playing with words, dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?), as everyone knows, so I thought of this variation of the old telephone game where one person tells a simple story to another person, that person tells it to the next, and so on, until several people later, it’s nothing like how it started. I’m trying this as I’m writing, so let’s see what happens. Here goes:

I’ll take a word, like ‘careful’, and plug it into one of the various electronic thesauruses out there, then pick one of the synonyms, plug that in, and after a few iterations (that’s a technical word), let’s see what we get.

Okay, one of the synonyms for ‘careful’ is ‘leery’, which sort of sounds, I don’t know…leery. Now, let’s plug ‘leery’ in to the Thesaurus. Randomly pick one of the synonyms for ‘leery’, such as ‘unsure’, and plug that in. We get ‘shaky’. For ‘shaky’ we get ‘rocky’, ‘rocky’ gives us ‘jagged’, and ‘jagged’ returns ‘broken’. And there we have it—six degrees of Roget. So, we started off with ‘careful’, and no matter how careful we were we got ‘broken’. Just goes to show you how pliable words are, and how a word can have different meanings, particularly in the English language. I wonder if other languages have these issues?

Let’s try one more just for grins. How about the word ‘bear’ since I was playing with it in my first paragraph. Here goes:

One of the synonyms is ‘carry’. An aside here—apparently the animal ‘bear’ has no synonyms. I feel sort of sorry for it.

Okay, moving on. With ‘carry’ we get ‘lug’ (now I’m thinking, “You big lug” or ‘lug nut’. Oh well).

‘Lug’ gives us ‘tow’, ‘tow’ gives ‘drag’, ‘drag’ returns ‘impediment’, and ‘impediment’ gives us ‘barrier’. Bear to barrier. Interesting.

Oh, and I went ahead and looked up the plural of thesaurus, and it is thesauri. So, then, would the plural of dinosaur be dinosauri?

And here’s something to note. The spell-checker for my blog doesn’t like ‘thesauri’, but it does apparently like ‘thesauruses’. Hmmm….

‘til next time…Adios.

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Valkyries Unchained

War Guitar

Did you hear the one about the three friends who went into a theater to see a remake?

These three guys, they’ve seen a lot of movies and aren’t easily impressed. Perhaps even a tad cynical at times when it comes to a Hollywood Blockbuster. But what we saw yesterday was, well, just plain hard to put into words.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is a remake, so when my buddy said he wanted to see it, I was a bit hesitant. I remember thinking, “Okay, I’ll go see it, but I’m just not sure about it.” Then I glanced at some reviews. It was hitting four out of five stars. For a remake? I mean, it’s just another post-Armageddon flick. This time they’re just going to have stuff go faster and blow more stuff up (replace ‘stuff’ with the word of your choice).

Well, yeah, they do that, but they blow it up and have it go fast much cooler than before.

Y’know how you can have a palette of colors and you throw ‘em at the canvas and get crap? Then applying the same colors another way gets you a masterpiece? Well, that’s what we have here. It’s a gross oversimplification, but that’s what George Miller, director of this year’s Max, did. He painted something extraordinary with explosions and speed.

What I didn’t realize is that George Miller directed the original three Max’s. Thirty-five years later he’s back and he’s finally able to get his vision on-screen. This Max is a death-metal live-action surrealist painting. It’s large and way over-the-top. It’s rock opera and it’s a post-war war story with elements of German Expressionism.

We start things off with a shot of Max standing beside his car, looking out across the Australian desert. Sepia-tone shot. He crunches a lizard and eats it, then hops in his car and tears off down the hill, pursued by a small army of mutant survivors in a Wacky Races-style conglomeration of vehicles.

We get a quick backstory told in a montage and narration – battles over oil/gasoline, a nuclear war, and now this. Gangs of survivors fighting for gasoline and water.

For the next two hours we lose ourselves in this blasted world where Max tries to escape his captors and help a small band of survivors make it to the Green Space, an oasis of plants and water that their leader thinks of as home.

With someone less skilled this could have been just one more post-Armageddon schlock-fest. But George has waited a long time to tell his story the way he wants to. There are so many elements that weave together so successfully. The music, for example. We range from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa Da Requiem—Dies Irae” to the battle-infused electricity of a War Guitar. Yessiree, like something out of a Wagnerian opera, as the mass of mutant machines and warriors charge into battle, one of the armored vehicles has a mutant on the front of it playing a Frankensteinish flame-throwing electric guitar. And on the back of the battle wagon? Six (or more? I lost count.) drummers drumming a war beat on huge kettle drums. The whole mix looked like a nightmarish interpretation of Dr. Seuss. Now if this isn’t enough to make you want to see it, I don’t know what is. ‘Cause, aside from the story, the visuals are a wonder of creativity.

But it’s not just all blasting away at you with no let-up. They’ll hit you with a wall of sound and sight for a while, then cut to black, and we’ll see a scene next morning, a peaceful sunrise, no sound. Excellent use of white space. They did a terrific job of pacing.

Back to the music, with the War Guitar and the War Drums, it reminded me of the Scottish warriors marching into battle to the sound of bagpipes. Electrified, flame-throwing bagpipes, anyone? It also made me think of The “Ride of the Valkyries” sequence from Apocalypse Now (1979). In fact, our young warriors in the film refer to making it to Valhalla. And some of them get to go there, quite spectacularly.

Tom Hardy is Max, and he does a great job of playing our hero who doesn’t want to be a hero, understated, with his compassion leaking through. Charlize Theron is perfect as Furiosa (got to love that name), a lost-child warrior in search of peace.

This will be a film I’ll see again. If not at the theater, then at home. But for your first time seeing it, I recommend a theater viewing. You’ll be glad you did.

‘til next time…Adios.

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This Movie is Epically Disproportionate and Whack-Job Original

EpicProportions

On a completely unrelated topic, I’m here to vent again about movie ads. Just saw a trailer for another Pixar/Disney flick with the tagline “Wildly original and inventive.” That’s right up there with a “…movie or epic proportions.” Okay, here we go. Let’s get started with the first tag. I love it when there’s fish in a barrel.

Referring to my old friends, Merriam and Webster, on the word ‘original’, the most accurate definitions are: “new, fresh, inventive, or novel.” So, if it’s original we can conclude it is, by definition, inventive. That begs the question as to whether it truly is any of these things, which I doubt.

Now, on to the ‘wildly’ part. So, not only is this thing new, it’s wildly new. What kind of new is that? Am I to believe it’s newer than new? Once again, our buds at Merriam-Webster say, as one possible definition, that wildly is “very or extremely.” So, this new flick is not just a new flick, but an extremely new flick. How far beyond the level of new is this thing gonna go? Problem is, if I’m to believe all the other movies released recently, they’re all extremely new. Now, from what I’ve seen, just from the ads and the trailers, these extremely new movies are rehashes of previous works that at one time were new. Or maybe the earlier versions were extremely new, too. Does that make the rehashed ones coming out extremely extremely new? And just how new would that be? Newer than new. Sounds like a fabric softener ad from the 1960’s – “Try new Fluffy Fabric Softener. Newer than new and fresher than fresh.” Huh?

Then there’s the “epic proportions” thing. Once again, returning to our friends at M-W, the word ‘epic’ can be an adjective, meaning ‘monumental or grand’. Not sure why they have to throw the word ‘proportions’ in with ‘epic’, as it should be more enough to say that “…it’s an epic movie.” Once again, this falls into the “original and inventive” category, as they seem to fear that ‘epic’ isn’t a big enough word. How epic do they want the thing to be? And if epic isn’t huge enough for them, perhaps they want another word. Maybe they should go for bombastic or ostentatious.

‘til next time…Adios.

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We Bid Farewell to a Great Actor

Christopher Lee

Today we have seen another great actor leave this plane of existence. Sir Christopher Lee. He joins his old friend and on-screen adversary, Peter Cushing. Sir Lee’s work spans a gulf of eight decades in 281 films, a phenomenal achievement for any actor.

The roles, now iconic, that I most remember him in were the various Hammer Dracula films. It’d be hard to say whether he was the first vampire I saw on TV or Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, but he was certainly one of my favorites. That commanding presence as he towered over everyone else, his deep, rich voice, and his famous vampiric hiss. And such classic battles between his Dracula and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. Lots of perilous and dramatic chasing about as Drac tried to fang Van Helsing and Van Helsing fought to get Drac in the sun, or fashion a makeshift cross from whatever was lying about.

But Sir Lee did so much more than just Dracula. Here are but a few of the performances I’ve seen him give, some that I’d forgotten until I went searching:

He was James Bond’s adversary, the wealthy assassin Francisco Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). I remember seeing this at the theater when it first came out. A killer without fangs, I loved that gun he assembled from his gold pen and cigarette lighter.

In the obscure Horror Hotel (1960 — original title The City of the Dead), he plays the leader of a witch’s coven in the dark little town of Whitewood, Massachusetts. If you have not seen this film, you need to track it down.

He is of course the title character in the Hammer production Horror of Dracula (1958 — original title Dracula). One of my all-time favorites of his and one of my Dracula incarnations.

He played, most recently, Count Dooku (couldn’t George have come up with a better name? It’s Sir Christopher Lee, for goodness’ sake.) in the latest Star Wars films, and Saruman in the various Hobbit/Lord of the Ring movies.

I know I’ve seen him play good guys, but I can’t recall which movies. Oh, wait, I just remembered one of them. He has a brief role in Burke and Hare (2010), where he plays an old man called Old Joseph. That’s how he’s listed in IMDb. He’s Burke (Simon Pegg) and Hare’s (Andy Serkis) first victim. Good movie, but you don’t get to see Sir Christopher very long.

Among the various roles he’s played over the years, many if which I have not seen as yet:

He’s portrayed the classy and classic Dracula in Horror of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Count Dracula (1970), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972 – of course), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), as well as a host of other vampires; Sherlock Holmes at least three times; he’s played creatures, counts, doctors, lords, captains, and kings; he’s been Fu Manchu; and he’s used that fantastic voice of his for years.

Sir Christopher Lee was a classically-trained singer. Makes sense when you think of his voice. He was also an honorary member of three stuntmen’s unions.

I’ll leave you with a quote of his I love: Concerning two other great actors, he said, “They were both grand masters of their art but more importantly as human beings… wonderful people, wonderful actors and I miss them very very much.” Now we shall miss all three.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Blue-Tinted Gotham

Gotham-TV-Series-Harvey-Bullock-Donal-Logue

Bad day, Harv?

Almost caught up with my backed-up episodes of Gotham. And, yes, I know it’s a soap, but…here’s where I get into my excuses for loving this show, besides the fact that it’s well-written. And well-acted.

I’ve been reading comics for fifty-plus years, and Batman was one of my favorites. I’ve always bounced back-and-forth from The Flash to Superman to Batman as far as which has been my go-to comic. I think, though, that Batman would be my top pick, mainly because he’s a regular Joe. No super-powers to help him out, just discipline, developing himself to the peak of his physical and mental abilities, and some terrific technology.

One thing that’s only been covered in the comic book recently is the story behind the city of Gotham. Why and how it got that way. That’s what the show Gotham does for us now. It’s not about Batman. In fact, most of the time I forget that it has anything to do with Batman. Yes, we have the young Bruce Wayne, but this is long before he wears the cape and cowl. One of the elements I like is they’re focusing a lot on Bruce’s growing detective skills. Detective Comics. DC. Remember? At one time, lost in the dusty past, one of Batman’s taglines was “The world’s greatest detective.” Somehow that got pushed aside over the years, placing more emphasis on his martial skills, or his access to extreme technology. Some of my favorite scenes in Gotham are of Bruce poring over bits of printed material at his super-sized desk, or drawing inferences from the photos and clippings on his bulletin board. I’m not seeing him use tech a lot yet. He’s doing it the old tried-and-true way, going full-on Sherlock.

I have to add that normally I don’t get into series-based shows. The ongoing situations that never end. And, over time, I’ve seen all kinds of plot situations and devices, so it’s hard to surprise me with anything. So, true, we know Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, and *** Spoiler Alert from here on out *** Ed Nygma, the quirky analyst at GCPD, eventually becomes The Riddler, Cat becomes Catwoman, Ivy transforms into Poison Ivy, etc. What I love are the characters and the way each actor brings something new to the table. I love watching the new and entertaining interpretations on our eventual major/minor players, and how they all interact with each other. So, for me, it’s about slipping into a familiar world, but with something new added.

In fact, one of the logos for Gotham on Facebook has pictures of Jim Gordon in the top-left corner, Selina Kyle (Cat) in top-right, Fish Mooney at bottom-right, and The Penguin at bottom-left, with the word ‘GOTHAM’ in the middle. No picture of Bruce Wayne or Alfred. This is a dark, edgy police drama with backbone, plus some quirks, and a hint of the supernatural (or unnatural). I have to admit, I was hesitant going into it, but now it looks as they might have a nice long run.

The city itself is a major player, providing us with plenty of dark alleys, waterfronts, and speakeasies. When’s the last time you’ve heard the word ‘speakeasy’? That’s another interesting take on the show. It’s set current day, but it has a nourish, pulp detective novel feel that runs deep. One of my favorite characters is Detective Harvey Bullock, played with a 1930’s/1940’s style so well by Donal Logue. His signature leather jacket and hard-bitten P. I. fedora is a direct pipeline to Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. He’s a borderline burned-out cop who’s learned how to walk the edge. Heart of gold beneath that tarnished exterior.

Have to run for now. More later on Gotham.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Random Mental Mischief

Dat Cat

And, we’re back. Need to get back to finishing up the novel. It’s sitting there at home, waiting on me to complete the edits. In the meantime, I’ll keep my hands going, tossing words on the page, or this rectangular flat screen I’m looking at. Which makes me think about typewriters. I miss them. We have an old one at home, I think it’s got a ribbon, but man, it’s hard to pound those keys. I could return to a nice, spiffy electric one. But I’d miss the ability to edit as I’m writing. Plus, no way to get what I write on my blog.

Had a dream last night, one of those weird, creative dreams I get when I’m reigniting the writing fires. Dreamt about having a cat named Dat. The whole thing continued on through the waking up process where I’m lying there, wondering where my two real cats are (hunting bugs, probably), and I think about having another cat named That. Dat and That. Then I got into this Abbott and Costello dialogue:

“Have you seen Dat?”
“Dat what?”
“Dat. My cat, Dat.”
Oh, Dat cat. No, I haven’t. I’m looking for That.”
“That what?”
“No, just That. That cat.”
Oh, That cat, not Dat cat.”

And on it went, like “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, until my real cat, Guinness, came in and bounced on the bed, Tigger-like, then walked across me to stare in my eyes. “Dad, good, you’re awake. Uh, I’m hungry.”
“Are you Dat cat?” I asked.
To which she replied by making no reply, just hopping off the bed, and making irritated I-want-my-breakfast-now chirps.
“Oh, you’re That cat,” I said, as I got up.

Which takes me to the real reason I started writing this post, and that is about the scary, new, fake Colonel Sanders advertising KFC chicken buckets. His voice isn’t right, and he laughs all creepy, like there’s something wrong with the chicken. Well, first thing that’s wrong with the chicken is that it’s no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s just KFC. We have no idea now what KFC really stands for. It might stand for Kangaroo Fricasseed Critters, or something. I don’t know, best I could come up with at the time.

Now that I have you all wondering about my sanity, I’ll leave behind a silver pen and be on my way.

Ah, feels good to be back.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Out with the Critic, In with the Muse

writers_eternal_struggle

Haven’t written anything for several days. Just been too busy. And I got out of the habit. Plus, the sun was in my eyes, and I’d have to turn on the computer, and I’ve been too tired. That enough excuses?

Yeah, I think so. And then there’s my old friend, the whatever-I-put-on-the-page-will-be-crap friend, that I’ve wrestled with. So, for now, I need to tell him to take a hike, or go and bother someone else for a while. To which he replies, “But I like hanging around you. You’re fun to bother.” Then I say, “Okay, look, Clyde, you’ve been hanging around for a while now, freeloading, munching on my brain waves. I’m pushing you out the door, shutting it and locking it. Go away.” To which he sighs, shrugs his shoulders, and leaves.

But not before he turns to me and smiles and says, “Yeah, I’m out of here for now. But you know I’ll be back.”

And he’s right. I know it, he knows it. But for today he’s gone. And that’s all I need. A chance to get a toehold again in the writing cliff we all climb. When I started this post I had no idea what I would write about. I just knew I wanted to write something. Anything to find my Muse. I just feel good letting my “fingers do the walking”. Anyone remember what that old phrase is from? It goes back to 1962, an ad for the Yellow Pages.

So, I’m letting the words flow. As long as I don’t get sidetracked by Angry Birds or any of the other distractions I have at my disposal.

Segway now into my binge-watching of Gotham. Just trying to keep the fingers moving, folks. Actually, I wouldn’t call it binge-watching. I just call it watching several episodes of Gotham, trying to get caught up. To me, when you binge, you then throw up. Not sure what the equivalent of throwing up would be for TV.

Anyway, I got away from watching Gotham for a few weeks. Feels good to return to that, too. It’s one of the best shows out there right now, super-hero (superhero?) or otherwise. I like The Flash, too, and maybe when I get caught up on my Flash episodes, I’ll think it’s better, but Gotham is just a tight, well-written police drama. Yes, it is a series, a soap opera, and I normally don’t care for those, but all the characters are so well-written and acted. I don’t think of it so much as a show about Batman as much as a show about the origins of a corrupt city.

These are new interpretations of the characters, most of them vastly different from any of the versions I’d seen before. Take the young Detective Gordon, who as we know eventually becomes Commissioner Gordon. He’s tough, with a warrior’s background, and he doesn’t back down. Probably should at times, but he doesn’t. ‘Course, that’s his blind spot. Sometimes he’s made some bad choices and deals along the way in order to catch the bad guys. To the credit of Ben McKenzie, the actor playing Gordon, when you watch his eyes, you see only the character. In several of his previous roles he’s played characters in positions of authority, even, according to IMDb, doing the voiceover for Bruce Wayne/Batman in the video Batman: Year One.

Aside time: I didn’t know until recently that Gotham is the fictional version of New York City. I’d always thought it was supposed to be Chicago, but nope. It’s telling that in one of the episodes you see twin bridges, called the Iron Sisters, and one of them is a dead ringer for the Brooklyn Bridge.

But back to the characters portrayed. One of my favorites is Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee, a classically-trained actor who gives a quiet, yet powerful performance in this role. From the beginning I felt there was something deep, hidden, and dangerous about this new brand of Alfred. Revealed in quick glimpses over the past season, he is the ideal protector for the young Bruce Wayne, and also his first mentor in his developing martial skills. He cooks, cleans, and can kneecap an attacker.

Ah, well, that feels better. Got a few words laid down. Just need to keep my momentum going.

More about Gotham later.

‘til next time…Adios.

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