Sunday, August 13, 2017

Childe Roland to the Cinema Came

Idris Elba as Roland, The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as Walter, the Man in Black

 The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed….

            One of the best opening lines to any novel I have read. As a lover of pulp these words sang to me. And I met the news of a film adaption of The Gunslinger by Stephen King with apprehension and anticipation. Both feelings were justified and my concerns were realized with the film’s release. I will try to keep spoilers minimal.

            For the five people in the world that don’t know The Dark Tower film is based on a lengthy series of books by Stephen King that he was not even sure he would finish. Of course, I have my opinion on whether he should have or not. Which in turn King said was inspired somewhat by the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came by Robert Browning.

            The series follows Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, a knight on a doomed quest to save the Dark Tower from the man in black, Walter, a wizard for all intent and purpose. The Dark Tower, a nexus point in the universe that holds it all together is being assaulted. If the Tower falls Darkness reigns. The story brings Roland a ka-tet: his own Round Table, Peers, or gathering of heroes to aid him on his quest. Overall after spanning between our world and Mid-World, to Thunderclap, it all ends badly. The End…..Kinda.

            Therein is why The Dark Tower did not perform well. Try to take Lord of the Rings and condense it into an hour and half movie. It took nearly twelve hours of celluloid to do that and many fans were still unhappy.

            Had I not read the books, was I not a fan, if I couldn’t have sat back to watch the movie as its own entity, I would not have been able to enjoy it. Even strong acting and imagery can only do so much especially for a summer movie season filled with super heroes and the Star Wars hype looming in the background. That is a lot of heavy lifting for any movie to pull off.            
Sony, like many of what should be surefire wins for them, dropped the ball. With, what appears to be over-cautious husbanding of resources and a lack of ability to go big, The Dark Tower is another in a long line of write-offs for them. The Dark Tower should have been as epic as King’s Magnum Opus, but better.

            I have railed that every movie does not need to retell the hero’s back story over and over again. We know how Bat-Man and Spider-Man came into being. We know Kal-El is the last son of Krypton. But we don’t know as a viewing public to a film how Roland became the last Gunslinger or that his life has been an inevitable journey to the moment he stood before the Tower and Remembered the Face of his Father very well.

            Roland needed his back story, he needed more than an hour and a half to tell his story. The Epic conflict and its world building that was fresh, new and different. There was the haunting familiarity and parallels to this world. So many lost opportunities for Roland’s ka-tet to be explored.  

            Had Sony slowed down, took their time to tell a more complex story with the promise to offer more, The Dark Tower would have had a stronger draw and would have been a profitable franchise. Instead, they offered a jumble that left casual movie goers scratching their heads, trying to understand what they had just watched.
Michael Whelen, Roland against the slow mutants

Leave all the other claptrap behind. I enjoyed the movie from Idris Alba as Roland to Matthew McConaughey as Walter, the Man in Black. Tom Taylor did well as Jake Chambers: Roland’s talisman and apprentice Gunslinger to defeat Walter. The visuals of Mid-World as a world that has “moved on” were well done and the battle sequences showing off Roland’s “little tricks” with his guns were spot on.

            Until that strong adaption comes about I wish Roland and his companions Long Days and Pleasant nights.
Michael Whelen, Gunslinger on the Beach


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Asheville Comic Con After Action Report

It was a blast! That is all….

No, not all. I wish I could post more pictures of the awesome cos-plays, and the general crowd. I was just too busy at my own table to wander much, and took far too few pics! But cos-play pics can be found on their Facebook page. Asheville Comicon

This was the first year for the convention put on by the League of Extraordinary Geeks, Zumbawolf Cosplay and Pmpfan13 Cosplay. I couldn’t tell you the numbers but the turnout was great, set back in the Agriculture Center in Fletcher, NC, think cattle yard but much nicer, in the Expo Center with awesome AC! Almost 90 degrees outside and people wearing sweatshirts inside.

So, I loaded up the yellow beast, my Jeep, with table bling (the bloody shield wouldn’t fit) the Erlik Saga books with awesome art by Michael Munson, and to the mountains I went. Those that have been to Asheville, NC already know how gorgeous the drive is, but it was particularly nice with the green valleys and low hanging mist. Then though a green tunnel of trees in Fletcher to the Expo Center.  

With my trusty sidekick Stephen Light Fingers, (if ever a kid exemplified the innocent wonder and fun of Kender, it’s this one), we got set up to sell.

That was the purpose but not the reason.

I forget why I love doing this, not the writing, but doing conventions. It’s the sheer fun of fandom and the people. You don’t need to go to Disney to see adults having a child-like good time. Even those with their kids, or grandkids, that have not been involved in a fandom taking it in with an unabashed smile on their faces.

I want to thank all the folks that visited my table. Those that bought a book, said hi, and commented on the beautiful sword nearby. To just talk about their own love of all things geekery, Dropkick Murphys and Great Big Sea.

A special thanks to Jacob and Timmy for letting me come play in their yard. And a thanks to all those that bought books like Molly, Buddy and Steven of the Kilt. A shout to Walter who attended his first con ever and loved it.

Check out my vendor neighbors: Kayla Leonard at Season of the Geek (Look for the Blue Call Box)  and J. Rutland with his Robot (Samurai) Penguins, and the spooky cool Antler Hill.

Closing time actually came too soon. Here is looking forward to the next show in Asheville and the next convention to experience all again.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ilustrated Havamal by Sam Flegal

The Havamal was written down around the 9th or 10th century, and like most Northern European literature it was put down after Christian conversion. Attributed to Odin as “sayings of the High Ones” collected in the Codex Regius around the 13th century it is like many other sayings and advice from other cultures on how to conduct oneself and how best to live.

There are numerous sources and places where the work is gathered, one in particular is an illustrated version that I backed as a kick starter from Sam Flegal.

Sam is an impressive artist and not because I am partial to his Nordic themes. He can be found here:

The hard bound edition is a quality production with a red cover and pen and ink art throughout. Flegal utilizes the 1923 translation by Henry Adams Bellows with annotations on stanzas themselves, in their relations or how they might have been combined though not related or from different authors. The right column is English translation with the Norse to the left. The stanzas are laid out in the traditional “books”.

His table of contents consist of introductions followed by seven sections.

The Wisdom of the High One

The Story of Odin and Billing’s Daughter

Odin and the Mead of Song

Odin’s Tale of the Runes

A List of Charms

A couple of my personal favorites:

On friendship:

A bad friend

is far away

though his cottage is close.

To a true friend

lies a trodden road

though his farm lies far away

Work Ethic:

Wake early

if you want

another man’s life or land.

No lamb

for the lazy wolf.

No battles won in bed.

Again, like many of the sayings of other cultures, the Havamal of the Norse resonates today. Sam Flegal’s edition is a beautiful work to find that timeless advice.