Saturday, 13 December 2014

The hobbit or not

This week will see the general release of the last in the "Hobbit" series of films. I am still debating with myself whether I want to go and see it although the final decision will probably be made by Mrs Grump who will say 'yes'. It's like this:-

If you own this first edition you 
are holding a small fortune.
A copy recently sold at auction 
for more than $10,000
Travel back in time to 1968. I had just discovered "Dune" by Frank Herbert, published a couple of years earlier this was a remarkable new form of science fiction in that there wasn't really any science in it. While there were a lot of futuristic gadgets and the inevitable 'faster than light' spaceships, there was no attempt by the author to explain how they worked; they just existed for their own sake. This meant that the story could continue unencumbered by pages of pseuo-scientific jargon so loved by mainstream science fiction.*

This approach readily mirrors real life where most of us use gadgets of amazing technical complexity without ever having the slightest idea (or really caring) about how they actually work. No detective novel ever has the character switching on the TV followed by a ten page explanation of TV technology involving pixel ratios, phase shifts, fluorescence or xenon gas. If we don't care about how things work today, why would anyone in the future be any more interested in the workings of devices they took for granted?

Anyway. The reason I'm talking about Frank Herbert is that on the cover of the book was all the usual promotional blurb including a bit about how it equalled Lord of the Rings in scope and imagination etc., etc. Of course, nowadays proper science fiction is hard to come by, every other book published has a dragon or a wizard on the cover and is compared with Lord of the Rings but this was the first time I think.**

At the time, I had never heard of Lord of the Rings or JRR Tolkien but decided to find out more about it. I was in the RAF at the time and stationed near Cambridge, a good place to look for bookshops.

Since then, I have bought Lord of the Rings many times, sometimes I have lent it to someone and never got it back, or it just fell to pieces and had to be replaced. 

It was some time before I ever got around to reading The Hobbit, which of course is a very different kind of book. Although a prequel, Tolkien had to re-write several parts of it to fit in with his evolving story as he was writing Lord of the Rings.

Which brings me back to the present day and the Hobbit film dilemma. I sympathised with the Peter Jackson interpretation of LOTR. I think Tolkien himself would have approved, as the film plot managed to tie in a number of loose ends that had to appear as appendices in the book. I can even forgive him for cutting out entirely the Scourging of the Shire which I thought had a really important moral message and would have made a good sequel to the series. 

The Hobbit I am not so pleased with. A long series of CGI battle scenes that just went on forever. Episode two was no better. It was, and clearly showed itself to be, nothing more than a studio cash cow, dragging out a relatively simple story into three episodes without adding anything of value in order to make more money. 

What we really need are more stories that build on the original tale and fill in the gaps; something that Tolkien himself always said he wanted, with his Middle earth forming a world in which other writers could work and create a new English mythology. Unfortunately that is going to have to wait for all the copyright limitations to run out as the present copyright owners refuse to allow anything like this to happen. We only got the films because Tolkien sold the film rights in his lifetime.

If we do finish up going, I will probably publish a report on my experience but I don't expect it to be very flattering.

*I've just got to take the matter/anti-matter intermix chamber off line to correct for the gravimetric distortions. (Cmdr. G. LeForge, Star Trek TNG). 
**By the way, I once sat through the whole of the spectacularly awful film by David Lynch although by about an hour in, I had genuinely lost the will to live.

Sky watch

A few months ago, we at Grumpy Towers decided that we could do without Sky TV thank you very much. 

Doing a simple calculation we worked out that we were paying around £600 a year for a service we hardly ever used. I don't watch TV much at all, Mrs Grump watches more but tends towards the "True Drama/Romance/crime, etc." type channels that we can get on Freesat anyway. Most of the programmes we watch together are usually BBC dramas and documentaries, so we scrapped our entire viewing subscription and just pay £10 a month for the Sky box PVR service. We now no longer have access to Sky 1, a channel we have never even looked at, along with Sky Atlantic, etc. and all the documentary channels featuring 20 year old episodes of Time Team; the altogether ludicrous Discovery Channel with it's endless features on how the flying saucer people are running most of our lives, and all the rest of those ghastly "fly on the wall" documentaries featuring Americans screaming at each other in gold mines/logging camps/auction houses/the inside of truck cabs, ad nauseum.

When the box finally breaks, as it is sure to do one day, at least, according to all those telephone cold callers telling me that I needed to take out an insurance policy against that event, we will just throw it away, buy our own PVR and end our Sky subscription altogether.

Since then, I have been bombarded with phone calls and letters offering amazing reductions if I take out a new Sky contract. The latest one is a 33% off a 12 month contract, extended for 5 years. What I don't understand is this, if they can make a profit out of selling me a 12 month contract at such a reduction, then why did they feel the need to increase my annual subscription only a few weeks earlier? Perhaps if they had offered me a reduction while I was still with them rather than racking up the price, I might never have left.

Sky is just one of a long list of companies that spends extraordinary effort in trying to attract new customers or recovering those who have left at the expense of the ones they already have.

Strolling along the river

A few images taken in the last week of wildlife along the Thames Path.

A cormorant flying along and minding it's own business

One of many Black Tailed Godwit feeding in the mud.

A regular visitor is this Greenshank with a few Teal to keep it company.

It's not all about birds, they are grazing meadows after all.

Am I watching them, or are they watching me?

View over the marshes.

Meadow Pippet

A Lapwing shining in the Sun.

Snipe. Lucky to see out in the open as they tend to be very shy and have superb camouflage.

the thamesmead grump has a request

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my blog and I would really like to know how many people actually do. I know that I can get an audience count from the stats page but the problem is that it doesn't distinguish bots from actual readers and leaves a very unreliable number. For instance, in the last 24 hours, I have received 22 hits from the Ukraine. Now I know that they are having their problems over there at the moment and it may be that they like to escape from this momentarily by reading all about the goings-on in Thamesmead, but I think it's unlikely.

So I have a request. Would everyone who has read this please post a message in the contact form which you will find on the right of the page. It doesn't matter what you say, call me an idiot if you want; I just want to know how many of you there are.

If I get a good enough response, I will even remove this picture of myself, taken a few years ago when I was much better looking and less grumpy. You can't say fairer than that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi from Hugh in Erith. Just wanted you to know I check the Thamesmead Grump on a regular basis - all good stuff!