August 15, 2016
Total War at the Ashmolean
I continue to be fascinated by the intersections between high-end simulation and historical recreation. I recently visited the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia where they are restoring the pieces of USS Monitor and watched their excellent multimedia retelling of the 1862 Hampton Roads battle, part of a truly amazing and informative exhibit. Highly recommended if you're ever down that way.
A Monitor fact I did not know until my visit: in its epic drawn battle with CSS Virginia, stopping the newfangled turret's rotation in battle accurately proved too difficult, so they just let the steam engines turning the "cheese box" constantly rotate it, and fired "on the fly". This constant movement in turn made it impossible for the Virginia crew to get their own shells into their gun embrasures, the Monitor's only weak spot.
Seriously, why has there never been a movie about Hampton Roads? The stories write themselves, with a raft of tragic endings to pick from: the Virginia being burned, the Monitor sinking in a storm, etc.
In similar vein, the use of the Total War game engine to create an explanatory film for the Oxford Ashmolean's exhibit of recent archaeological finds off Sicily by Creative Assembly, as shown in a Youtube clip this week, is just nifty.
My favourite Flynnism
From his famous paper on fixing intelligence in Afghanistan (which, I have to admit I came around to having a lot of respect for save one execrable anecdote that I know is false*), ladies and gentlemen, Trump policy advisor and ex-intelligence General Michael Flynn (page 11):
If an election campaign spent all of its effort attacking the opposition and none figuring out which districts were undecided, which were most worthy of competing for, and what specific messages were necessary to sway them, the campaign would be destined to fail. No serious contender for the American presidency ever confined himself or herself solely to the “strategic” level of a campaign, telling the staff to worry only about the national and regional picture and to leave individual counties and election districts entirely in the hands of local party organizers, disconnected from the overall direction of the campaign.
The same man today.
* Footnote #13, if you wanted to know.
August 14, 2016
The real mistake with The Killing Joke
All props to Movie Bob, who explains well why The Killing Joke didn't work as an animated movie, but here's one addendum I have to make as a fan of the book from way back.
The problem isn't that they do 30 minutes of putting Batgirl in context before Joker shoots her to start the main plot. That had to be done. The problem was they made that prelude a story about Batgirl's relationship with Batman, when the Killing Joke is less about how her crippling injury affects Batman and how it affects Gordon. The movie would have worked soooo much better if those first 30 minutes had been about a Barbara Gordon-Commissioner Gordon conflict, possibly one that has her giving up The Cape (tm), but definitely one that brought them closer together as father and daughter. And then, *boom*, she's shot, and Gordon goes to pieces, and the rest of the piece flows from there.
One change, could have been a good movie. They had everything else they needed, Conroy, Hamill, a good 2nd and 3rd act. Maybe it didn't need to be made, which was Bob's point, but still, missed opportunity.
Oh, and while Doug Walker apologizes at the end here for thinking that the end panel possibly indicated the death of the Joker, which the movie disavows... as far as I knew that was left ambiguous deliberately and that his was a perfectly valid reading... one which um, yeah, the movie would also have done better by not "clarifying." The beauty was you never knew if this was how Joker died, or not. It was a multiple choice ending, as Joker would have said, and there was no reason in the movie to straighten that out.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex