Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Uh-oh! Somebody’s Actually Reading This- Part 2

It’s been almost two months since I made the first post about my blog’s statistics. It seems more than a little bit self-centered to make another one, but I feel like I figured out some things since the last post, so I wanted to do a quick update. As you can see from the above chart the number of views on my blog have increased by almost 3,000 in the last month.

The first thing I can say with more confidence, now that I’ve been able to study it, is the only reason I have even that number of views is…I’ll give you a hint, almost no one views my blog because of my great wit, large vocabulary, and propensity towards extrapolating deeper meanings and life-lessons from science fiction and comicbooks. Instead, I’ve only got these views because I like to use large pictures.

“What if Spiderman had Rescued Gwen Stacy”
and “Childhood’s End” were my top articles at the time I wrote my last post. Since then every time I’ve seen them get hits it’s been though searches on Google images.

What I also discovered is that the Google search engine is more likely to put your image higher on results screen if you have an article title that includes keywords, and have your pictures saved with keywords too, rather then just using something like image_ 1 or whatever code your camera automatically generates.

I tested this theory on a couple of my old articles that hadn’t gotten a lot of views. It turned out to be the perfect month to tweak my old Thor Review what with the new movie out in theaters. According to my Photobucket account, which also has some statistical records, since I renamed the Thor photos in my article and made them more searchable I got 323 views in a month.

The second thing I figured out is that one of the easiest ways to get views is to be a leech. I wrote an article “Meeting the Angry Video Game Nerd.” I wrote it just to get it off my chest, I felt like there was a certain bit of universality in the fact that I felt a connection to a celebrity, but meeting him brought the illusion of that fantasy into harsh clarity. My father used to call this the Johnny Carson effect because Carson said one time that people would come up to him on the street and start talking to him about their sick aunt or that Jimmy just graduated from middle school. They felt so at home with him due to seeing him every night on TV that then deluded themselves into thinking it was a two-way connection. Anyway, the article didn’t get a lot of views until the Nerd himself posted an article and a video montage about the game convention where I’d met him. I posted a simple reply on his website it just said, “I was at the convention too. I met the Nerd and I wrote an article about it. Here’s the link…” And from that I got 386 views on my article in one day!

Here’s a chart where you can clearly see that day where I had so many views. I have to admit I got sort of giddy over it at the time.

My third lesson was to pick popular subjects. The first article I did on the “Game of Thrones” series got some views so I got an idea for the ultimate “sell-out” article. I thought of it as selling out because it was the first time I wrote an article just to see if it would get views. I slapped on lots of pictures onto the article, plugged in some humorous text, and I had a best seller. “The Top 10 Game of Thrones Bad-Asses.” turned out to be the exactly the juggernaut I imagined. It has generated 1,572 views in one month. 474 of those are from image searches for Tyrion Lannister, obviously the fan favorite character.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, "who cares? So some people are looking at pictures you posted what good does that do you?" To tell you the truth I’m not really sure. All I’ve been doing is experimenting and seeing how I could tweak things to maximize views and so far my experimenting is bearing fruit. Now that I figured out in about a month how to get people to look at my pictures, maybe in another month I can figure out how to get them to read my text?...Okay, it will probably take much longer than that.

Anyone got any advice?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trip to Centralia, PA


My friend Stefan and I took a trip to Centralia, PA, a town that has been largely abandoned since the early 80’s because of a coal mine fire that has been burning underneath the town since the late 70’s.

We read about the town online and got mixed accounts so we didn’t really know what to expect.

We saw pictures of craters and steam rising up out of them online. (Here is one of our own pics).


I pictured a post apocalyptic looking town with various abandoned building and craters thoughout the town. I also thought that all the roads into the town had been blocked off, so I though we’d have to hike in and out. I thought the only people we’d see would be the 5 residents that Wikipedia said still lived in the town.

Wikipedia also said that a boy had fallen into a sinkhole and had to be rescued by a quick acting uncle. I was skeptical about this account, but we decided to be cautious and bring a full pack with water, food and rope.

The coolest part of the day was walking on a mile long stretch of Highway 61 which has been blocked off due to massive cratering. Walking this road felt like being in Mad Max or the Postman (The novel, I didn’t care for the movie).


However we quickly realized we were over prepared for the day as it was a popular spot for parents to bring their whole family and there was even ample parking in various spots. The reworked stretch of Highway 61 still goes through Centralia.

Also disappointing was that there are no buildings left abandoned except for one right off of Route 61 and the 4 or 5 houses that people still live in. Everything else had been demolished and the remains cleared away. It was hard to tell that a town had every actually been there.

Stefan and I wandered around for most of the afternoon thinking that around every curve we’d hit a clearing and find blocks of abandoned building. Instead the day turned out to be mostly a nature hike.

There are also huge hills of coal in one part of town.


Don’t get me wrong it was still a lot of fun. For instance we were goofing off at the end of the day and I told Stefan to pretend he could repel into the biggest crater.


There are a lot more pictures on photobucket, just click on one of the pictures here and you can click through everything.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts on Super 8...


Super 8 is a sort of a throwback to those great 80’s movies like the Goonies, E.T., Stand By Me, etc. The whole time I was watching this movie, I was remembering what those movies meant to me as a kid. This movie had that same magic, but I’m also old enough that I realized this film will belong to the kids of today in a way that it can’t for us adults.

One of my favorite elements was that the kids in the film are attempting to make a zombie movie. (You definitely have to stay for the credits during which they play the entire movie the kids made). I like how almost none of the events that happen around them such as the train crash, an evacuation of the town by the military, etc, deter them from their goal. Instead the director talks about production value and they film in front of the train crash or in front of the military personnel searching a house.

It brought back memories of when I wrote movie scripts and tried to film them with my friends (and sometimes my brother and my father too). The sad thing is I think the kids in the movie outdid anything I managed to film, but I’d like to think my scripts were better. I dusted off an old gem so you can judge for yourself. Dave and Stanley Scene: Bach Vs. Chopin

Ironically the premise of the first movie I wrote was that me and a bunch of my friends filmed a horror movie in our high school’s lunchroom during lunch using nothing but a Super 8 camera. The novelty of using such an old technology seemed like a neat idea. I guess I was about 11 years ahead of the trend.

The thing I remember best about directing is how you are in control, everyone from the actors to the cameramen are looking to you to tell them what to do. It is deeply scary and at the same time somewhat intoxicating.

Out of the cast I was most impressed with Elle Fanning who I thought gave an excellent performance that seemed wise beyond her years.

Super 8 definitely requires you to suspend your disbelief at times, but it is exciting and entertaining and I’d highly recommend it.

Dave and Stanley Scene: Bach vs. Chopin

Here's one of my favorite scenes from a movie script I wrote 11 years ago when I was a freshman in college. The characters Dave and Stanley are at their college's gym. These two best friends seemed to always have very funny arguments.


Dave is doing the bench press and Stanley is spotting him.

Come on big guy, one more.

Dave is visibly struggling.

Come on, you are as weak as the Baroque period of classical music.

This makes Dave have a boost of strength. He finishes the set and sits up.

I don’t know why you bring up this up every time we come to the gym.

Because you won’t admit I’m right. The Romantic period is far superior.

Just get on the bench, Bucko.

Stanley gets on the bench.

How can you completely disregard Bach?

Stanley does 8 reps.

I find his music to be very straight forward and lacking emotion.

How can you say that? Bach’s music has never moved you? Fugue in C minor?

Fugue in C minor is one of the most mechanical pieces of trite I’ve ever heard.



Fugue in D minor?


Greg comes over. He is a muscular looking jock.

You still arguing about Bach and Chopin? I don’t know how the two of you can completely ignore Mozart and Beethoven.

One discussion at a time.

But how can you ignore them?

Greg, we like our argument.

Yeah, buzz off.

Greg goes back to working out elsewhere. Dave and Stanley prepare the weights to use the leg press.

So the other day I was listening to Chopin’s Nocturne in B. I was fascinated by the complexity. All of those trills were so complicated. From a musician’s point of view, I was completely in awe that someone could write something so rich with variety.

Dave starts the exercise.

I find that piece to be overly busy. All that complexity is distracting.

How can you say that? I suppose you think Chopin should have just left some of the instruments out of his orchestral pieces so that they could be more simplified as well?

Dave finishes his set.

Actually, I do.

You’re infuriating.

Dave points to the leg press.

Your turn my friend.

Enraged, Stanley barrels into the exercise.

A Pivotal Moment...

I almost got into a bad car accident a couple of months ago. I was driving home to Philadelphia from visiting my hometown in New York. I was on I-476 S, so I only had a half-hour left of my trip. I saw the car ahead of me swerve; he lost control and went into the highway divider on the left. The force with which he hit it spun him around and he ended up going back across the highway. I’d slammed on my brakes and I ended up stopping right in front of the car. Luckily no one was right behind me or I probably would have gotten rear-ended.

For a second or two afterwards I thought something along the lines of, “Holy shit! I’m okay.” Then I thought I should get out and see if the driver was okay, but there would soon be a line of cars in back of me and there was space enough on the shoulder to get past the accident so I told myself it was safer to get a ways up the highway so my car wasn’t in the way when the tow-truck and police cars arrived. They didn’t need another car right there blocking traffic, especially when it wasn’t even damaged. But when I got past the accident I realized an entrance ramp was just up ahead so I couldn’t leave my car on an entrance ramp and by the time I got past that the accident seemed so far back. How would I get back over there? I’d have to walk down the highway. Fear had entered in and so I just keep driving, but it was an experience that was impossible to forget.

Why didn’t I get over into the left lane right past the accident, stop the car, and put on my hazards? No one would have been able to drive past the accident on that side. I might have been the first one to stop. I have no way of knowing what kind of injuries the driver suffered. I could have helped him or her. Maybe there were others in the car. I’m no physician, but I could have done something. I’m sure someone else stopped, but I can’t shake the feeling that I let fear cause me to put up a “Someone Else’s Problem field” and I just drove away.

There’s a song by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones whose lyrics I’ve always liked: “I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested. I’d like to think that if I was I would pass.” I can’t help but feel like that accident was a test and I can’t help but feel like I failed the test.

You’d think I would have passed. I grew up on comicbooks and read about daring heroes in each issue. One of the best-known comic stories in Spider-man’s origin from Amazing Fantasy 15. When Peter Parker first receives his spider powers he uses them for personal gain. He becomes a wrestler and an entertainer. One night he lets a robber get into an elevator and escape the police when he could have easily stopped him. “Not my problem,” he tells the police officer. But, it was his problem because the following night that same robber hits his Aunt and Uncle’s house and his Uncle Ben is shot and killed when he confronts the robber. This event would forever haunt Spider-man and causes him to devote his life to crime fighting.

I can’t help but feel like that accident was my pivotal moment and like Spider-man I just let it go by without acting and like Spider-man I’ll always regret it. However, this is reality and I’m not superhero, but this experience has begun to shape my character a little bit. I find myself compelled to help people anyway I can as if a lifetime of helping friends move or walking the neighbor’s dog while they’re away will somehow make up for my past shortcomings

But this certainly isn’t penance; I don’t have the true superhero complex. I don’t believe I did an unforgivable thing, which must be made up for through a lifetime devotion to selflessness and suffering. No, I just want to be a better person, I want to be a blessing to those around me and I don’t want to be a victim of my fears.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is the English Language Becoming Watered-Down?

Words just aren’t what they used to be.

My father loves to tell a story that when I was a boy I told him that the English language had too many words and that we probably only needed about 300 words and we could just throw out the rest.

Since then I’ve grown-up and changed my tune; what I didn’t understand then is that almost every word in the English language has a unique definition. There are very few true synonyms (an exception may be flammable and inflammable). After all, why would there need to be two words if they shared the exact same meaning?

The problem is that in this age of sound-bytes, texting and twitter, words are losing their subtleties and nuances.

A friend of mine recently posted a blog article where he called hermits aberrant human beings. He got a negative comment that said there was nothing wrong with being introverted or asocial.

Being a hermit doesn’t mean the same thing as introverted. Except that the language has become so relaxed we’ll say things like, “Yeah I was such a hermit last night I stayed in my room and played video games till 2 in the morning and didn’t see anyone.”

Therefore it should be no surprise that the commenter momentarily forgot what the word hermit actually means.

Hermit- A person who has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence; a recluse.

Introvert- a shy person.

In case anyone is still confused I’ll break it down into logical statements:

All hermits are introverts
But, all introverts are not hermits.

Or, broken down into the hierarchy of smallest, bigger, and biggest you have introverts, asocial humans, and hermits.

Has anyone else noticed words losing their meanings?

[In conclusion, I want everyone to specify the exact meaning of every word they use. If English doesn’t have the distinction borrow it from another language. So when you tell your wife/husband you love them specify that it is Agape-love and when you tell your brother/sister or house pet that you love them specify that it is Philia-love. I promise that people will think you’re smarter and no one will think you’re a pompous windbag.]- Sarcasm

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Adventures of Pharaoh and Junior

This superhero parody was inspired by my impending doom...I mean fatherhood.

If anyone is interested in doing some artwork for this let me know.

The Adventures of Pharaoh and Junior
by John Grayshaw

(Establishing shot of Pharaoh’s Estate, a gothic manor house. Inside the house, Pharaoh’s Wife is searching for her husband. She’s wearing normal modern clothing khaki’s and a nice blouse. She finds her husband in his study. Pharaoh is almost finished putting on his costume, it is an elaborate thing in a partially Egyptian motif, but with a large cape).

Pharaoh’s Wife- What are you doing?

Pharaoh- What does it look like I’m doing? I’m putting on my costume and going out on patrol.

Pharaoh’s Wife- I thought we talked about this. You’re a father now. You’ve got a responsibility to us.

Pharaoh- You talked about it; I just gave up arguing with you. I told you what I was when we were dating. I warned you I wouldn’t change before we were married, and I told you I wasn’t going to stop fighting crime just because we had a baby.

Pharaoh’s Wife- But don’t you deserve your own life? You’ve saved the city again and again, but it's time to put that in the past and let someone else worry about the future.
(Sound of baby crying. It shakes the curtains and other loose parts of the house).
Besides before you save the world, it’s your turn to change the diaper.

Narration- Pharaoh’s years of intense physical and mental training in ancient Egyptian arts serve him well during diaper changing…

(The action whirls as Pharaoh fluidly and gracefully changes the diaper while Pharaoh’s Wife looks on. BAMF!- Pharaoh takes off the dirty diaper. KLIK!- as the dirty diaper is thrown in the trash can. DOOP!-as the baby is cleaned off. SWOOP!-He pulls a clean diaper out of his utility belt. SHOONK!-As the new diaper is put on. Shot of the baby smiling).

Pharaoh’s Wife- Don’t think you’ve won the argument just cause Junior needed changing. It’s your night to mind him and I don’t want you taking him out on patrol again.

Pharaoh- Come on, why else do you think I went to the trouble of installing a baby seat in the Pharaoh-mobile. …It wasn’t easy you know, I had to get rid of half the missile launchers.

Narration- Later that same evening.

(Pharaoh is on the rooftop of a building. He has his costume and mask on. He has the baby strapped along his chest in a baby carrier. The baby is in a tiny version of the Pharaoh costume and even has a tiny little mask).

Pharaoh- Mommy doesn’t appreciate how much you love patrolling does she?

(The sound of an ALARM coming from street level. The Pharaoh uses his cape to glide down to ground level and gets in front of the bank just as the criminals are running out onto the street. The villains are the Entertainer, who dresses in a tuxedo with tails and top hat and his two henchmen Sal and Rat).

Sal- It’s the Pharaoh!

Rat- Look, he has his baby…Aw isn’t he cute!

Entertainer- You fools! I don’t care how cute the baby is. Attack!

Narration- Taught by the reincarnation of Horus, the Pharaoh is an expert in forms of hand-to-hand combat forgotten for several millennia

(Pharaoh sidesteps Sal’s lunge and THAK!-Karate chops his back. Rat tries to punch him, but he blocks it and CLOP!-punches him in the face. The two of them both attack him at the same time, but Pharaoh jumps over them at the last second and KRUNTCH!- they crash into each other. But while Pharaoh is still distracted the Entertainer sneaks up on him and stanches the baby out of the carrier. Then he starts laughing maniacally).

Entertainer- Once again evil triumphs because of good’s vulnerabilities; let us go on our merry way or your baby will be dead before he says his first words.

Pharaoh- You think Junior is a liability. What kind of a father would I be if I made a habit of endangering my son’s life?
(Entertainer carefully examines the seemingly harmless baby).
The fact is I only keep him in the carrier because I’m being kind.

Entertainer- You’re bluffing.
(He takes out a ray gun and tries to shoot the baby, but BLAPP!- the shot just bounces off).

Pharaoh- It’s the darnest thing, he was born with a personal force shield.

(Entertainer is horrified).

Entertainer- Get this kid away from me!
(He hold him out by the underarms and the baby doesn’t like it, so he starts to cry and the power of the babies wail forces the Entertainer to his knees. He drops the baby who bounces due to his force shield and ends up in Pharaoh’s arms. Shot of the baby smiling and happy.

Pharaoh- He’s also got one heck of a sonic scream. The wife and I have to wear special earplugs until he learns to control it.
(Pharaoh straps the baby back across his chest and then goes over and handcuffs the Entertainer).
Come on Junior, let’s put these naughty men where they belong.

The End

Monday, June 6, 2011

Top Ten Game of Thrones Bad-Asses

Spoilers through end of “A Feast of Crows.”

It has been 6 years since I’ve read a new Game of Thrones book and even longer since we’ve had chapters from certain perspectives, due to the split nature of “A Feast for Crows and “A Dance with Dragons.” But despite all of that, several of the characters are still quite fresh in my mind. So, they are the Top Ten Game of Thrones Bad-Asses.

The great thing about these novels is that these are by no means the only 10 bad-asses, they’re just the ones that really stuck with me over the years. As I’ve recently gotten on the web and started to refresh my memory about the novels I see tons of other worthy contenders that had for whatever reason slipped my mind over the years like Roose Bolton or Bronn the sellsword.

So anyway in no particular order…

1) Varys- Known as the master of Whispers or the Spider, this guy is a master manipulator. I think it’s been his goal all along to get the Targaryens back on the Iron Throne, he has done so by seeming to help such people as Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister, while in reality he was only helping them destroy themselves. He’s finally been kicked off the King’s small council, but the damage he’s done has been tremendous and he’s escaped to manipulate another day.

2) Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish - For a guy that started life as the lowest of lowly lords he really used his guile to rise to the top. He’s had his hand in almost every evil plan since the first novel. He poisoned John Arryn and Joffery and now murdered his new wife Lysa Arryn. He’s never got over his first love Catelyn Tully and now he has his eyes on her daughter Sansa, whom he’s kidnapped. Don’t miss understand me, this guy is a monster. But he is such a charming monster. He’s like Iago or Dexter. It’s always fun to see a master at work.

3) Tyrion Lannister- Probably the best character in the whole series. He’s one of the most devious and calculating men in all of Westeros, and yet in this series, he’s one of the good guys. He is a dwarf in a world where combat skills are a necessity and yet his keen mind (along with some luck) has seen him through all of his adventures so far.

4) Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully- According to my calculations he is the greatest military mind still alive in Westeros. He is also one of a few people alive who beat back the rebellion of Maelys Blackfyre during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. He’s a hard man. Battle is the only thing for him, to the point where he refused to get married. I don’t think he’s gay, I think he’s not interested in marriage, relationships and/or children. He just wants to bust heads and die in glorious combat. Plus, he proved himself worthy of his name by jumping in the moat around Riverrun and swimming away from an army. How Batman was that?

5) Sandor “The Hound” Clegane- His brother Gregor burned his face when he was a boy. It’s safe to say it was tough growing up with Gregor as a brother. Sandor was always adamant about the fact that he wasn’t a knight. I guess he never thought much of them. The Hound may be dead or he may be living in a monastery as a monk (As has been heavily hinted). I hope the Hound gives up the quiet life and goes back to fighting, the one thing he’s ever been really good at.

6) Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane- Seeing him portrayed on television doesn’t do him justice, in my minds eye the Mountain That Rides is larger than life. He is the biggest and badest human being that ever walked the earth. He is a monster, he rapes and he pillages without mercy. It would take a small army to stop this man; hence why the Brotherhood Without Banners were originally formed with one purpose: track Gregor down and bring him to justice. During the single combat fight with Obyrn “Red Viper” Martell, Gregor received injuries that later killed him, but his body may live on as an awful creation by Qyburn

7) Jamie Lannister- It seems like Jamie lost a hand and gained a brain. Jamie was just about my least favorite character at the start of the series. He was a one-dimensional, incestuous, and pompous villain. He may or may not have been the best swordsman in the land, but was certainly the biggest braggart. However since the loss of his sword hand he has been a completely different character. He seems to have had his eyes opened and suddenly I find I can’t wait to see what he does next.

8) Brienne Tarth- Brienne just doesn’t fit in; The Lady lords of Westeros are supposed to be demure waifs whose purpose is to birth many baby lords. Instead of a shrinking violet, Brienne is a great warrior strong enough and crafty enough to stand up to anyone in the realm. After killing many members of the evil Brave Companions, Brienne has been injured and captured by Brotherhood Without Banners, who plan to hang her due to her newfound friendship with Jamie Lannister.

9) Jon Snow- has been imbued with all the best Stark qualities such as strength and leadership and his direwolf Ghost is a force to be feared. During Jon’s adventure on the other side of the Wall his loyalties became unclear possibly even to himself. But since his return, and his election to Lord Commander of the Night Watch, they are clear again. Jon may be a Targaryen heir and just doesn’t know it yet. I think his father was Rhaegar Targaryen and his mother Lyanna Stark. Ned believed that his sister had been taken by Rhaegar against her will, but in reality the two of them may have been in love.

10) Daenerys Targaryen- The last of the Targaryens, the Khaleesi, The true heir to the Iron Throne. Time and again she has proven herself worthy of the crown. Her latest exploits with the Unsullied has established her as ruler of all Slaver’s Bay. There she will consolidate her power and meet several envoys that are coming her way, Victarion Greyjoy, Marwyn the Mage, representatives from House Martell, and possibly Tyrion.

On the other hand there have been several characters that were over-hyped or that I have become disillusioned with over time. These are the Top 5 Game of Thrones Disappointments

1) Stannis Baratheon- The first time I read Game of Thrones I thought, “Stannis wasn’t even in that. He’s gonna appear in the second book and really stir things up, isn’t he?” I was convinced he’d be the biggest and badest enemy of the whole series. And yes, Melisandre his R’hllor priestess makes him dangerous, be he isn’t really all that interesting otherwise. He’s kind of milk-toast and boring really.

2) Obyrn “Red Viper” Martell- He was totally played up as a great warrior and he comes to Kings Landing with four of his Sand Snake daughters like he was something out of “Kill Bill,” but soon after he comes to Kings Landing he fights Gregor Clegane in single combat and is killed. At least he killed Gregor too…or did he…

3) Cersi Lannister- Cersi has long thought herself the chief evil-doer in the realm. However, in reality she was riding the coattails of others. In “A Feast for Crows” we see what happens when there is no one left to help her, her own ineptitude and naivety are finally leading her to her destruction. Even her brother/lover Jamie has abandoned her.

4) Tywin Lannister- In my mind, Tywin was the true master of the realm. He was letting everyone else play at the Game of Thrones sure that no matter who won he’d end up on top. But, as you got to see his character in action he became more and more of a disappointment. He wasn't the master schemer I thought he was, he was just an angry old man.

5) Melisandre- The Red Priestess has real powers, but I can't seem to figure out what her end game is. And fanatics are usually touched, so she has that against her too.

Follow up to previous post Game of Thrones Fever!
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance with Dragons" part 1
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance With Dragons" part 2
My thoughts on the latest novel "A Dance With Dragons" part 3
All artwork is from an Italian Game of Thrones site Terra-di-Mezzo

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bridge Over the River Kwai

“The Bridge over the River Kwai” is a fantastic film. I recently saw it for the first time.

The movie takes place during WWII in Thailand. It starts out with British Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness) efficiently marching his men into the Japanese work camp. Nicholson and his men are the prisoners, but they march in like kings. While they march they whistle the Colonel Bogey March, my personal favorite whistling tune, I remember learning it from “The Parent Trap” when I was a kid.

William Holden plays Commander Shears, an American POW that had been at the work camp for many months helping to build the barracks. He is one of very few men to survive; the graveyard around the camp is quite large. Shears tries to warn Nicholson that the Japanese commandant is insane, but Nicholson doesn’t listen. He is convinced that he must be a reasonable man. Nicholson is a true optimist while Shears is a pragmatist or a realist.

Nicholson refuses to let his officers perform manual labor on the bridge. He sees the officer’s job to organize the men. He cites the Geneva Convention and even pulls a copy of it out and offers it to the commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa).

Saito hits him with the book and shouts “ Do not speak to me of rules. This is war, not a cricket game.” Saito puts Nicholson in a hot box and will not let him out until he relents.

Shears manages to escape the prison and returns to civilization. However, the British army recruits him to return to the work camp and blow up the bridge.

Back at the work camp, Saito slowly begins to realize that his project is way behind schedule and that it isn’t going to get any better. The prisoners are poor workers and do everything they can to sabotage the construction. Finally Saito decides to submit to all of Nicholson’s demands. It is a tremendous reversal, I thought Nicholson was completely over idealistic and I doubted that Saito would ever relent. Nicholson got lucky in my opinion; Saito was worried because failure to complete the bridge on time would force him to commit seppuku. A commandant from any other country would probably not be so concerned with his honor.

Nicholson quickly and completely takes over the bridge project. He and his officers redesign the bridge and motivate their troops. Saito is reduced to mumbling, “I have already given the order,” to whatever Nicholson suggests and throwing temper tantrums in his apartment when no one is around.

The bridge is completed the day before the deadline, but unbeknownst to Nicholson, Shears and a small strike force have just arrived to blow up the bridge. The small number of men with Shears are a stark contrast to the over 100 men who built the bridge. I couldn’t help but think how easily Nicholson and the others could have broken the chains that bound them if they’d tried. Instead Nicholson was seduced by the idea of building the bridge. When it was completed he imagined people using it for years after the war and he thought they’d remember that British soldiers had built it. He saw the bridge as one of the major accomplishments in his life. As a viewer, I was right there with him. War is hell, but a bridge is something good, something that is useful and can help people.

However, the commando team lays charges and is set to blow up the bridge as the first train crosses it. Nicholson and Saito find the wire the plastic explosives are attached to and trace it to the detonator. The green commando who is supposed to blow the bridge kills Saito with a knife, but tries to reason with Nicholson. Nicholson’s first reaction is to call the Japanese soldiers for help.

Shears races across the river while being shot at. He sees Nicholson and the two recognize each other. Shears dies, but seeing him is enough to bring Nicholson to his senses. He rushes over to the detonator and right before he dies from a mortar blast he manages to blow up the bridge.

The movie ends with the British doctor, Major Clipton, surveying the chaos of the destroyed bridge and the dead men strewn about the riverbanks. (He is kind of like Horatio at the end of Hamlet). All the doctor can say is, “Madness!”

Madness pretty much sums it up. Only in war could the destruction of something as seemingly positive as a bridge be the right thing to do. The Japanese and British learned to work together. The bridge was a testament to this and yet as long as the two countries were still at war there was no other option. Even Nicholson realized this in his last moments. He was so proud of the bridge, he’d almost forgotten he was still a soldier.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Game Of Thrones Fever!

The next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones series), “A Dance With Dragons” isn’t out for another month, but I’ve already got Game of Thrones fever!

I’m not one of those people that rereads all the old books before reading the new one, I’d love to do that but you’d have to add about 4-6 hours into each day before I’d have the time. However, I have been thinking about the previous books, paging through them, reading timelines and character bios on A Wiki of Ice and Fire, as well as watching the TV show.

The show is a really great and largely faithful to the source material. I’ve heard George R.R. Martin is closely involved, so no one gets any smartpants ideas and starts ruining things with Hollywood endings. But the TV show is a double-edged sword (not unlike the Stark’s long-gone Valyrian-steel sword Ice) because while it is a dream come true for the fans of the novels, it is also introducing millions of non-readers to the story and call me an elitist, which I most certainly am, but being a Game of Thrones fan was like being a member of an exclusive club. Finishing the novels was like a badge of honor, you’d conquered the Seven Kingdoms, or at least the thousands of pages of text. It’s like if they built an escalator to the top of Mount Everest, it really wouldn’t really be the same anymore if you said you’d seen the top of Everest, would it?

I know that I am overreacting and that it’s a good thing for Martin to gain a bigger following, but it’s like what happened with the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. The Dinosaur is this great blues-biker bar/BBQ joint in Syracuse, NY, there is also one in Rochester, which is supposed to be just as good, but I haven’t been there. Anyway, in Syracuse the place is always crowded, because the BBQ is the best you have ever tasted (I usually get the pulled-pork). The music is blasting, the bikers are having a great time, you can bring your family, but you get the feeling that you’re a visitor in the biker’s hangout not the other way around.

Eventually the Dinosaur came to Manhattan in Harlem and I went there and there are no bikers, there is no attitude, no blues music. It’s all yuppies with their kids in high chairs and soft rock coming out of a jukebox. I could have been in Applebees or Ruby Tuesdays. The food was okay, but it just wasn’t the real Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

So hopefully the TV show won’t reduce the bite of the series that has never pulled a punch, simplified a story or shied away from killing an important character.

As fans of the series know, the 4th book in the series, “A Feast for Crows” came out in November of 2005. It’s been 6 years. In 2005 I was fresh out of college and working as an ad salesman for a small town newspaper. I was living in a tiny town, Highland, NY, living in my first solo apartment and I’d just started dating a very nice girl. Six years later, I've completed Graduate school, gotten married to that nice girl, moved down to Philadelphia, and have our first baby on the way.

Meanwhile, Martin only just managed to finish a book he was supposed to be approximately 1/3 finished with back when “Feast” was published. If you recalled, basically the “Feast” manuscript was split into two volumes. According to Wikipedia, the final “Dance” manuscript was 1,510 manuscript pages. Now if we subtract 1/3 of that because that’s what was already finished by May 29, 2005 (the day Martin announced the “Feast” manuscript was completed) you have 1007 manuscript pages.

Okay there are 365.25 days in a year. So there are 1826.25 days in the 5 years between 2006 and 2010. The half-year in 2005 starting after May 29 yields 216 days and the half-year from Jan 1 to May 19, 2011 (When Martin announced he’d finished “Dance”) yields 139 days. All together that’s 2181.25 days.

When you divide that you see that Martin only averaged .461 manuscript pages a day, a low average for the guy that wrote “Clash of Kings” in two years.

And I don’t want to get morbid but hopefully Martin finishes the series before he is laid to rest in the Great Sept of Baelor. He’s in perfect health as far as I know, but I worry about him. George, no one wants your series to go the way of The Wheel of Time series, please take care of yourself, and write quickly!