Halloween From A Different Angle

Something occurred to me a while ago, which has rather the potential to change one’s understanding about Halloween, particularly when thinking about the historical context. I knew that there was an ancient understanding of the cycle of the day, certainly in Old Testament Judaism, that the day started at sunset. “Evening and morning, one day”, the creation narrative tells us.

I’m not quite sure when I started understanding this, but that perception of time continued into Christianity. An Orthodox example, the first Sunday service is Vespers on Saturday evening. This perspective may not be maintained in modern denominations, or if it is, it may not be immediately noticeable, as it doesn’t mean much practically outside of a liturgical framework. In fact, even in the liturgical concept, if you weren’t told and didn’t pick up on a few subtle cues, you might not immediately notice, either.

With that in mind, then, Halloween becomes not “the day before All Saints’ Day”, as you’ve probably heard all your life. It is the evening that marks the start of All Saints’ Day.

In a similar manner, then, properly speaking, the 24th of December is not “Christmas Eve”. The evening at the end of what is commonly perceived as the 24th of December is the evening that marks the beginning of Christmas Day. I found it confusing when in Germany I was told they celebrated Christmas on the 24th. I think perhaps they retained at least the practical implications of Christmas Day starting in the evening of the secular 24th, where in England we retained the understanding of Christmas Day being the 25th.

So what does this mean for Halloween? It means that whatever historic Christian traditions that were associated with Halloween, and the insights those traditions might provide to how our ancestors depicted evil spirits, or how they understood the deceased and how they relate to us, was part of, not separate to, their participation in the Feast of All Saints.

Digging through the layers of candy to discover those traditions and insights, now that’s the hard part.

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice

Well, it’s been rather a long time since I declared my intent to work on posts for my intended new site. When I declared that, my hope was to work towards a post a day (which would be a great idea). Today, I believe I have completed the first post.

Now, some days I’ve been able to put more effort in than others, and it would be selfish to not help kids with their schoolwork, or to not let my wife get on with her own project (I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve been entirely unselfish, however). Plus this blog takes time (good writing practice, though)….

Anyway. That first post was, I believe, as thorough as I could make it, without emailing a bunch of people for extra information, and probably having to pay through the nose for it, and without learning at least Latin, and probably at least one obscure form of English, and learning to read some peculiar (to my eyes) handwriting styles.

That being said, I found one source that had some footnotes, then when examining those footnotes I discovered some major inadequacies and had to go on a big search hunt, which yielded another source (of potential future value) with better (but not perfect) footnotes, went through a table of abbreviations to discover meanings, more searching for a stack of original documents, some of which were readily available and some much less so, and so on. And then the original source has abbreviated footnotes, with nowhere obvious to explain the abbreviations, making looking them up unfruitful.

It was fun, and I found out a lot (I like to think I’ve learned some things, too), and some of the work ought to take some of the load off of some future entries.

So yeah, an entry a day, definitely ambitious. An entry a week might be something to aim for, if they’re going to be that comprehensive. Just looking at what I had to start with, this entry didn’t look like it would be a lot of work. There are some that look like they will be a bit less, but then there’s some that look like they will be a lot more. It will be interesting to see how accurate such predictions turn out to be.

I started with a small portion of a very wide field, and I think this portion is, if not particularly organised, blessed with some structures that assist research. Branching out to other parts of the field seems like a long way off (though perhaps I should do some alternating, as some of those other portions seem more in need of the help), but I’m already trying to think about how those will work.

Tis The Season For Costumes

Each year, a bunch of the businesses in town open their doors for trick-or-treating. The kids enjoy dressing up, so last year I took the older two round the town center for the candy collection. Participating places put a pumpkin in their window, so parents and kids know which establishments to go in. I think Oldest was a Jedi, and Middlest had a Hello Kitty-themed outfit. I went as Indiana Jones.

We’re planning to take some kids this Friday (a day early, but it’s when the stores are doing it). The appearance of a Darth Vader mask, and my retrieval from the garage of my own Darth Vader voice-changer helmet (IIRC five quid from a charity shop in England) makes it sound like we’ll have two Darth Vaders this year.

Youngest (assuming he goes) and Middlest were fighting over a lion coat (mane on the hood, and a tail dangling down from the back. It fits Youngest better. Middlest’s outfit seems to be sorted out already, she now has the Vader mask, and a black dress. It’s pretty cute. Youngest has been running around the house with the voice-changer helmet today, and he really enjoyed it. It might be difficult for him to not wear it on Friday, to give it up to someone else. There was talk of someone taking him separately. He does like the roaring, though, so he might end up being ok as a lion.

There has been talk of Oldest or even myself wearing the Vader helmet. I suspect Oldest will get it, he has an appropriate black cloak. At one point today, Oldest and Youngest both had Darth headgear. I tried to get Oldest to say “I shall call him Mini-Me”, but of course he is far, far too young for the reference (I checked, and he’s far, far too young for the full trailer to the first Austin Powers movie). He didn’t want to say it in a Doctor Evil voice, but he was ok trying to say it in a Darth Vader voice. Once.

Bit late for all of us to be evil Star Wars characters (“Sith Happens”). Not quite sure what I’ll go as. Oldest has an Iron Man mask. That’d go with Youngest being a lion, wouldn’t it? They’re totally from the same show. (Or I could go as Gomtuu, except no, way too hard.)

Hmm, decisions need to be made. (or, in other words, much begging for ideas). My wizard’s staff got dismantled a while ago, but the stick may suffice on its’ own, and I think I saw the hat recently. That’s a possibility.

We shall see.

Not Recasting Indiana Jones

As I was looking at Facebook last night, there was a news story about a proposed fifth Indiana Jones movie. Harrison Ford is allegedly getting on a bit (that’s just makeup and prosthetics in the Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer, right?), and apparently some voices were voicing the possibility of recasting the role.

It seems they attempted to set up a potential replacement in the last movie, but The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull didn’t really become a fan favourite (it’s debatable whether it beats out Temple Of Doom to get into Indy fans’ Top 3 Indy Movies list), so we’re unlikely to see “Shia LaBeouf And The Next Indy Franchise” in the near future.

The articles going round quote producer Frank Marshall as saying that the character of Indiana Jones won’t be recast, they won’t do the Bond thing of calling a bunch of different people the same character name.

Yes! they’re going to bring River Phoenix back!

Rats, he’s deceased and unavailable for future projects.

Yes! They’re going to bring George Hall back!

No, wait, he was older than Ford, and is also deceased and unavailable for future projects. And has also been edited out of all the home media releases of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That’s not fair.

If they were going to bring in someone-who’s-already-played-Indy as a way to cheat around the “no, we’re not recasting it” statement, the obvious choices would be the Young Indiana Joneses (the aforementioned George Hall played “Old Indy” in that show).

Corey Carrier played the younger Young Indy, and might rival Ford for screentime as Indy, at 7 episodes (and 2 TV movies, which were some Young Indy episodes cut together). His acting career seems to not be a focus for him right now, the last thing he was in was in 2000. This needn’t be a bad thing, his comeback could be a “Unknown Actor Found To Play Indy (who happened to already have played Indy)” marketing bonanza.

At 22 episodes (plus re-edited TV movies), though, Sean Patrick Flanery has undoubtedly had the most time playing Indiana Jones on screen. To suggest that this might make him “The” Indiana Jones would be to risk a lynching, but his IMDB page suggests that he’s a very hardworking actor. Whether any of his other roles are iconic enough to make it hard for audiences to accept him as Indy, I don’t know (I suspect not), but he’s probably the best guy to bring back as Indy, while technically accurately claiming the role isn’t being recast.

Other than that, there’s a couple of people who have played Indy as a baby and as a toddler, you probably wouldn’t get away with those, and three people who have played him in videogames. Depending how stuck you were and how much you didn’t use a walkthrough, any of those could qualify as playing Indy for most on-screen time.

And that could solve the “actors aging” problem as well.

As a footnote, the first article I read that mentioned the Frank Marshall comment (where the original reporting of that comment is, I don’t know), said something along the lines of “Not an origin story! Not an origin story!” Didn’t we already have that at the beginning of Last Crusade (the aforementioned River Phoenix) AND the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles? I’ll go out on a (pretty judgmental) limb and say they didn’t think that one through very hard.

Songs You’re Glad You Forgot: Gotham City, by R. Kelly

Once upon a time, there was a Batman movie called Batman And Robin. Packed with stars like George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Arnold Schwartz-his-name, Uma Thurman, and John Glover (hey, I like John Glover), it swiftly became the Batman movie everyone would rather forget. Which seems to be saying something, after Batman Forever.

Batman And Robin itself didn’t fare so well, but songs from the soundtrack became quite popular. The Smashing Pumpkins got a Grammy for their contribution (“The End Is the Beginning Is the End”) R.E.M. had a track on there, too. Neither of these were in the three that hit the U.S. Top Ten. The song I want to talk about today was the lowest-scoring of those three, coming in at number 9. Which, co-incidentally, is the exact same position it reached in the UK charts.

R. Kelly was never my kind of music, though I seem to recall one of my friends quite liking him. Saying his name in a Jonny Briggs accent provided momentary amusement (Jonny’s sister, for example, being referred to as “our Rita”).

The song, though. The song itself has a major problem, that has plagued me all these 18 years of the song’s existence, and slaps me in the face every time I think of it.

“A city of justice, a city of love, a city of peace
For every one of us
We all need it, can’t live without it
A Gotham City, oh yeah”

Hmmm, a city of justice, of love, of peace.

If it were those things, it wouldn’t need Batman, now, would it?

The Man In The High Castle

The Man In The High Castle is a new series developed by Amazon. Based on the 1962 Philip K. Dick story of the same name, and executive-produced by Ridley Scott, the show presents a 1962 in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, and the USA is divided between the Japanese and the Germans (the Germans getting the bigger half, and a Neutral Zone buffering the division).

Hitler’s ailing health suggests that soon he will be replaced, and his successor might not be happy to maintain the status quo: Germany might soon decide to take over the Japanese territory. In the meantime, subversive films, newsreels of the Allies winning the war, have been created by the so-called Man In The High Castle, we encounter (in the first couple of episodes) two copies of one of these films, sent to the Neutral Zone, from opposite coasts.

At two episodes into the show, we don’t really know who we can trust, yet. It will be interesting to watch all over again, after the season has finished, from a more informed (hopefully) perspective. I think there’s a lot of subtlety going on in some of the details. My wife pointed some things out during and after the second episode (I was pretty tired during that second episode, and I know I drifted a couple of times).

At the same time, Wikipedia pointed to an article from someone familiar with Japanese culture, explaining how there are quite a few details in that regard, in the first episode, are head-bangingly wrong. There was a gap between the production of the first episode and the rest of the series, I rather hope they improved things (but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t).

High Castle’s paranoid atmosphere is different to that of Manhattan (still waiting for Season 2 to come to Hulu). A reaction that some of Manhattan’s characters had to the intense atmosphere in that show, was debauchery. Lot of it going around on TV these days, so far High Castle hasn’t been interested in that, which is a bit of a relief, to be honest.

The theme tune is a creepy version of Edelweiss, its ethereal sound contrasting with the more urban-vibe graphics.

I’ve enjoyed the cast so far, in particular it’s nice to see Rufus Sewell again.

Looking forward to the rest of the series showing up on Amazon in about a month.

The Future Is The Past, Harvest, And Early Christmas

A varied day today. The kids seem more themselves, though not quite up to full wellness. Youngest is closest to being entirely well.

The second-hand TV has been acting up. We’re still trying to see if we can figure out a cause. Today we tested out a theory as to whether it was related to volume: it’s cut out a few times in the end credits of a particular show, which are kinda boomy, and it got upset partway through Age Of Ultron during a big booming fight, it wasn’t happy a few weeks ago during “Let It Go”, when watching Frozen. When it ran for most of the day up here, we had the volume down. Long story short, plugged the Audio Out from the TV into the stereo, turned the volume off on the TV, and it still cut out after about half-an-hour of Frozen (one day, we’ll finish watching the Blu-Ray).

The weather is turning cold, so today there was a mass picking of the tomatoes and squash that were still growing in the back yard. some of the squashes were longer than the kids’ arms, and might even have been wider than my own. And there turned out to be a pretty large haul of tomatoes. While they were being picked, there was the occasional whoosh of pest-attacked tomatoes being thrown across to the other side of the yard.

A few nights ago (the 21st, in fact), was Back To The Future Day. Jimmy Kimmel had the characters of Doc Brown and Marty McFly show up on his show, with cameos by Huey Lewis, and Biff Henderson, long-time stage manager on the Letterman show, which ended recently. A reference is made to the recent news that Future Biff on Back To The Future 2 was based on Donald Trump.

Looking up Thomas F Wilson, who played Biff, Griff and “Mad Dog” Tannen in the BTTF movies, his main focus now is being a painter, though he does still do acting work. His Wikipedia page says he was invited to play acoustic guitar by Relient K, when they appeared on Jay Leno. My wife said she’d be interested to see that, so I looked it up. The video I found was someone filming their TV, not very steadily, and the picture on the TV is often in closeup on the left side of the stage, but a couple of minutes in, there he is, way over on the right.

Merry Christmas!

The High Voltage SID Collection

Growing up, we had a Commodore 64 computer (later, two of them). Not intended to be exclusively for games, we used it mostly for games, though I did gain some early programming experience (about the level that I could follow the code, so often longer than 10 PRINT “Hello World”; 20 GOTO 10, but often not terribly more complicated).

An edge that the C64 had over other systems of the time, was the capabilities of the sound chip in the machine, the SID chip. The designer had previously worked on synthesizers, and thought that other sound systems on computers of that era, were designed by people who knew nothing about music.

The SID chip allowed for a range of different kinds of sounds to go on at the same time, allowing for music with chords and different instruments. In short, enough depth to sound like music, rather than just a sequence of notes being played. If I recall correctly, musicians for games were limited to 4 channels, the most basic example of this would be a chord and another note. Other platforms were stuck with less. 4 channels were limiting, but with enough freedom to make memorable tunes.

Perhaps a precursor to my being happy to listen to MIDIs of Final Fantasy music (discovered years after I’d otherwise given up on the MIDI format), there were a bunch of C64 games where the music was a joy to listen to. Like, I’d load the game, listen to the entirety of the tune on the menu before starting to actually play.

As an aside, I had fun on the Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit in the section were you could play with the sounds: sawtooth, triangle, pulse and noise.

I am not the only person to enjoy this, the pinnacle of 8-bit music. Looking into it, people are still composing using the SID chip. And the old classic music has been carefully extracted from the old game files, and archived. The most comprehensive archive of SID tunes is the High Voltage SID Collection. The .sid files can be downloaded individually or as the complete collection.

Tunes I keep returning to are from Firelord by Ben Daglish, Meanstreak by Matt Gray, Mayhem In Monsterland by Steve Rowlands, and Zamzara by Charles Deenen. When I’m not sure who composed a tune, it’s easier to search for it on the HVSC site, then browse through the downloaded directories (if you got the whole archive, if you download the individual game’s tune/s then it’s wherever you saved it to). The .sid files need a SID player to play them, but there’s links to those on the HVSC site.

The High Voltage SID Collection site
The Wikipedia article about the HVSC
The Wikipedia article on the SID chip – some interesting stuff in there, plus a bunch of stuff way too technical for me.

Robot Movies And Unwell Kids

The day unexpectedly took a turn into kids-being-sick territory, and after a reprieve around the time of the evening meal it ventured back into that territory again.

Watched Age Of Ultron with the kids (and parents-in-law). Asked the older two, independently, which was scarier: Ultron, or being sick. Didn’t ask Youngest, he slept through most of the film. Hope he sleeps tonight.

Middlest didn’t think either Ultron or being sick were scary. This sounds very much like her, fearless little girl.

Oldest thought Ultron and being sick were just as scary as each other. This sounds like him, too, more on the sensitive side of things.

I noticed it more on the first watching, back when it was in the cinemas, but it’s rather tricky to make hordes of robots look distinct. I mean, all the Ultrons were very well done, but they didn’t look that different from those in I, Robot, and I was also reminded of the Terminators.

Shiny, red glowing lights. I, Robot, the robot army climbing the building, Ultron the robot army climbing the sides of the island in the sky.

I wonder where robot movies can go from here.

The Next Generation(s), And Spinoff Silliness

Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation this evening (Journey’s End and Firstborn, we’re nearing the end, folks!), it occurred to me that there were some more shows with “The Next Generation” in the title. Although I didn’t think of many others, I think I was still surprised by how few there were, when I checked IMDB afterwards.

Roots: TNG started the trend in 1979, Trek was second in ’87, there was a TV movie “Bonanza: The Next Generation” (speculation: intended as a pilot, but failed?) in 1988, and Degrassi: The Next Generation (the one I remembered, though I’m not sure I ever watched it) was actually far later, in 2001.

There’s a reality show that started this year called “The Jacksons: Next Generation” – “Taj, Taryll, and TJ Jackson struggle to manage their lives, careers and families under the constant spotlight of their famous last name” – which could be seen as a continuation of the naming trend, and next year there’s an “Underworld: Next Generation”, which I suspect isn’t.

You may well have been happier not knowing about those last two, but I just heard about ’em, so now you have, too.

I’m tempted to copy and paste the “The Next Generation” portion of ST:TNG’s logo below a Star Wars logo, in celebration of the forthcoming movie.

One wonders what would have happened if Trek had been spun off into TV shows now. What spin-off naming convention would be used now?

The shows that immediately spring to mind, are CSI and NCIS.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Such unwieldy titles, but they say what they mean.
Equivalent? Star Trek: Starship Enterprise.

Hmm, eerily close to the last Trek show.

All right, what else have we got?

CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans. Same-but-different kinda vibe.
Equivalent? Star Trek: U.S.S. Brooklyn, Star Trek: U.S.S. San Francisco.
Alternatively, the shows could be named after where the ships are stationed in the Trek universe.
Star Trek: Along The Romulan Neutral Zone.
Oh no, that would make Deep Space Nine “Star Trek: Bajor”, or maybe “Star Trek: Cardassian Border”. Phaser me now.

This leaves one CSI spinoff title unadapted. CSI: Cyber. Presumably the team isn’t sitting around the whole time, examining millions of lines of code or transactions or data report, like one imagines cyber crimes units usually doing.
But Trek has always been partial to playing around with new technologies, and sometimes exploring the implications of them, or imagining what might be possible with technology two, three or four centuries away.
But really, there can be only one equivalent.
Star Trek: Holodeck.

Run for the hills!