Tuesday 18 June 2024

Movie Review: Boss Level

Directed by Joe Carnahan
IMDb listing

A washed up former special ops agent must figure out why he keeps reliving the same day over again, pursued by a group of assassins.

This is an enjoyable action movie. Don’t think about the plot too hard, just watch the bullets fly.

The special effects are very well done and the acting good. There are some great stunts. There are even a few laughs (especially with Guan Yin, the swordswoman).

Personally, I enjoy ‘repeat day’ stories. It’s still nice to see new twists on the old formula, and this movie has a few.

If you’re looking for a fun time waster, give this a try.


Tuesday 11 June 2024

Book Review: Eloquent Bodies: Movement, Expression, and the Human Figure in Gothic Sculpture by Jacqueline Jung

The book has 6 chapters in addition to its introduction and conclusion:
1 Encountering the Gothic Sculpture: Mimesis, Kinetics, Haptic Engagement
2 Moving Bodies, Dynamic Perception: The Slowscapes of the Strasbourg South Transept Portal
3 Movement, Media & the Quest for Salvation: A Pillar for Thinking in the Strasbourg South Transept
4 From Motion to Emotion: Encounters with the Wise and Foolish Virgins
5 The Donor Figures of Naumburg Cathedral, Part I: Presence
6 The Donor Figures of Naumburg Cathedral, Part II: Meaning

This is a very focused discussion on sculpture in the round, specifically as used in the cathedrals in Strasbourg and Naumburg. The author does branch out to show other examples demonstrating the historical progression of the Wise & Foolish Virgin sculptures in the former Holy Roman Empire’s lands.

It’s wonderful to see a book that emphasizes the dimensionality of sculpture. Books on gothic sculpture often only show a single image from a single viewpoint (in fact, you’ll often see basically the same image/viewpoint of a particular sculpture in all books). The author’s done an excellent job of photographing the examples in the round, from various angles, showing how standing in different spots to view the sculpture changes what you see and sometimes even the meaning of the piece (the South transept tympanum at Strasbourg are a great example of this, with characters coming in and out of view as you move to the opposite sides).

The author is meticulous in her descriptions of the sculptures: their facial expressions, hand gestures, clothing. I was impressed with the level of detail. For example, Uta of Ballenstedt’s statue in Naumburg is wearing a crown with a hinge, indicating that it was meant to fold.

Chapter 6 didn’t interest me as much as the others. It’s an imagined Sic et Non wherein she tries to guess why the medieval planners of the cathedral chose to place the donor’s statues in the west choir. While it’s an interesting exercise, ultimately unless they’ve written their motivations down, it’s simply guesswork.

If you’re interested in medieval gothic sculpture or visiting one of the cathedrals discussed, it’s a great read. I took a ton of notes for my trip.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Video: Every Major Crusader Order Explained in under 14 minutes

Found this interesting video by the Based Plato talking about the medieval Crusader Orders. The video mentions a few I'd never heard of.

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Book Review: Handbook for William by Douda

Translated by: Carol Neel

This is a translation of a booklet of instruction written in the late 840s by an ill noblewoman for her older son, William. It was a difficult time for her. William was a hostage against her husband’s good behaviour. Her husband had taken their infant son to an unknown location, leaving her to run their lands alone. There’s a measure of sadness in the prologue, as it’s clear Dhouda believes she will die without seeing her sons again.

The text is designed to teach her son(s) the things she would not be able to (either due to her death and/or their separation). It gives advice for how to navigate the world as a man of rank as well as advice on spiritual and moral behaviour.

The section on mathematics was interesting as it’s less about calculations and more on the spiritual meaning behind numbers.

There’s some repetition in what’s being said and the book can be boring at time. Still, it’s interesting to know what a woman believed her son needed to know to be a success and how she thought men of her station should behave.

Medieval writers often quote Bible verses and other texts without giving the source or any context. So, for example in book 4, section 7, Douda councils her son to be calm like the man “who rules almost six hundred thousand people and who we read was never disrupted by anger”. He’s named, Moses, a few paragraphs later, but it seems clear that Douda expected her son to know the reference and the man it refers to. I’ve often wondered the extent to which Biblical stories were known by non clergy. Now this was written at a time of enhanced education and by an aristrocratic wealthy woman who clearly had a decent education, so maybe the expectations are understandably high here.

If you’re interested in medieval thought, behaviour, or education, this is a worthwhile read.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Video: What it was like to visit a medieval tavern

This is an interesting video by Tasting History with Max Miller on what medieval inns, taverns, and alehouses were like. He even teaches how to make a medieval meat stew.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Book Review: Escape Velocity by Victor Manibo

Pros: compelling, fast paced, interesting characters

Cons: abusive dom/sub scene

The Rochford Institute is hosting their class of 2064 reunion on Space Habitat Altaire. As an added bonus, attending will net each participant at least 5 MERIT points, necessary to gain coveted spaces in the new Mars colony. Unlike her classmates, Ava Khan isn’t there to schmooze. She wants to know who really killed her abusive twin brother their last year of school, and she thinks her three oldest friends have the answer. Meanwhile, the station crew have a plan for how to make the world a better place.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the four friends and Cielo, chief housekeeper on the Altaire. You learn more about each one, how things went in school, what they’ve been up, and why they’re really on the station. They’ve all got compelling stories, even if - despite what they think - they’re not particularly good people.

The book delves into the kinds of backroom deals that allow the super rich to influence the world and come out on top.

There’s an orgy scene (mildly graphic) and one character acts as Dom to another, in which a lot of minimizing language and swear words are used. The second scene with that pair went past words, and though it wasn’t graphic, it still left me feeling uncomfortable.

The ending hits hard and wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a fast paced, compelling read.

Out May 16.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Movie Review: Argylle

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2024
IMDb Listing
Available on Apple TV

Pros: weird, lots of twists

Cons: you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it, the trailers spoil several plot twists (so try to learn as little about it as you can before seeing it).

Elly Conway is a novelist who gets in trouble with a real secret service agency as her ongoing series gets too close to the truth.

I’d never heard of Argylle when I saw it, which is the best way to approach this movie. It is so much fun. Wild and bizarre in just the right ways to be funny and charming. The less you know about the plot going in, the more interesting the twists are, as you really don’t know what’s coming next. There was even one laugh out loud moment towards the end where the situation was so comically dumb, but acted so well with such good effects I truly laughed WITH the film, enjoying the absurdity.

The actors are all great, taking their roles seriously despite the truly bizarre direction the film pivots to at times. There are some fun, well-choreographed fight scenes and good special effects.

You have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this. A lighthearted, go with the flow kind of mood. Because you really have to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride. If you can do that, it’s a highly entertaining film.