Monday, December 13, 2010

Downfall of Camelot

In my English seminar, I have read about the fall of Camelot and the death of Arthur. And I am writing this post to give my opinion on the downfall of Camelot.
In my opinion, I have to say that Lancelot bedding with Queen Guinevere, King Arthur's wife, was the start of the cracks that Camelot eventually crumbled from. However, even in the tales, with the squeamish writing of the medieval writers, when they talked about their "bedding", they say that love was referred to differently in those days. Yes...
However, in my understanding of the stories, it seems that everyone was in on Lancelot's nightly (knightly?) escapades. The whole Round Table was in on the the supposed "secret!" It's like some sort of bad episode of Desperate Housewives.
In my opinion, it is the knights who reveal the affair to Arthur who cause Camelot to fall. Everyone else was quite happy to continue on pretending there was nothing going on between Lancelot and Guinevere. Arthur apparently didn't have a clue what was going on in his wife's bed chamber. The downfall of Camelot could simply be put down to jealousy among the knights. Lancelot was Arthur's right-hand man and confidant, and some of the other knights were envious of his position.
Arthur's tyrannical reign in later years, and especially after he found about about Guinevere's affair, certainly added to his downfall, along with Camelot. He orders Guinevere, his WIFE, to be burned at the stake for her affair. This causes him a lot of bad publicity and the defection of some knights. Lancelot rides in on a horse and saves Guinevere, which earns him some extra points with the other knights.
Arthur's reign had ended by that point. He further compounded his situation by refusing the Pope and by fighting his own son to the death. Arthur's story ended like a Shakespearean tragedy, and Camelot is forever lost.

Monty Python VS The Holy Grail

Having recently seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time because of my English seminar, I thought I'd compare the two items; the comedic movie and the actual epic tale of Sir Galahad in his quest to find the cup Jesus Christ held at the Last Supper with his twelve apostles.
For a low-budget film, I have to say Monty Python is a good movie. My favourite scene, and I'm sure many people will agree, is when Arthur confronts the Black Knight. They fight, and the opposing knight loses an arm. 'Tis but a scratch, he says, and continues the fight. He eventually ends up with neither his arms nor his legs. Hilarious.
In fairness, the quest doesn't really go anywhere in the movie. They trot around on their make-believe horses ( the budget was too skimpy for real ones) and generally just face off against various challenges that they mainly run away from. In the end, the quest is left unfulfilled, but I won't say how it ends. I've probably said too much already...oh dear.
The tale of Sir Galahad and the quest for the Holy Grail is very lyrical and full of religious scenes. It constantly refers to Sir Galahad as pure and pious, as he is a virgin and therefore pure and worthy to find the Holy Grail. On his journey with his less-than-worthy-but-still-on-the-quest-knights, he travels around the country, meeting old men who have been waiting for the virgin knight so that they can expire. By simply meeting and touching Galahad, they die. What a wonderful, fulfilling quest God sent Galahad on!
The tale of the Holy Grail is full of visions and communion scenes that really give the intense religious significance of the story. Visitations by angels and possibly Christ Himself feature in the tale. It really is THIS IS RELIGIOUS AND HOLY AND JUST AND WE ARE DOING IT!!! The knights get distracted by ruling a kingdom for a few years, and it is prophesied that not all the knights will see the Grail found. It ends with just Sir Bors, one of the knights on the quest and Lancelot's cousin, returning to Camelot alone and retelling the story for all to hear.
Both forms of textual transmission are good, and make the best use of what they had at the time. The tale is well-written, even if it does wander off like most epic tales. The movie is good for its small budget, and I'd recommend both to anyone.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review of The 13th Warrior

For part of my English seminar, I recently saw the 1999 movie The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas. It's set similarly to the saga, Beowulf. I'm going to review it in this post. The story is basically about a lone Muslim, Ahmad ibn Fadlan (played by Banderas,) who is unexpectedly thrown into the warrior culture of the North-men to defeat a vicious, mysterious race of men called the Wendil. He adapts to and learns from their culture, as they do to his.

The movie is set in the early days of civilisation, where the men of the North are trading using the waterways and seas. I think their society is portrayed very well in this film. Their community is centred around the hall, the place of warriors and feasting. Ahmad and twelve others travel to a community ravaged by enemies, and they are welcomed with honours for helping them. Community is a massive part of the culture.

The superstitions and the customs of the North-men are explored in this film. Near the beginning of the film, a child stays at the front of a visiting ship for a time to show that he is not a spirit come from the mists. The enemies of the North-men use mist as a cover and a tool of fear as mist was mysterious and obscuring.

Women are portrayed as silently strong in this film. They care for the wounded and give drink to the workers. At the Feast, they bring food around the table. As Banderas' character observes a funeral, women are sometimes killed to go with their masters into the next life. Old women are consulted as oracles or wise-women in times of strife and conflict. Through fortune-telling, like throwing the bones, a woman sees the path to victory for her people. In the case of the vicious Wendil, they are led by a matriarch-type figure symbolised by the statue of an earth-goddess. When the Wendil people are attacking a village, the women arm themselves with knives while protecting the children to kill them rather than let an enemy take them.

Ahmad is portrayed as physically smaller than the North-men, to accentuate their physical prowess and a society dominated by physicality and masculinity. A culture of war celebrates strength, virility and power, and doesn't much appreciate outsiders. He is called "Little Brother" by one of them to accentuate this statement. However, he proves himself just as capable as any other man during the course of the film.

In my opinion, the movie shows the earliest versions of basic human deception. The Wendil, the monstrous warrior people, clothe themselves in bear skin and paint to mask themselves and create a terrible image; to instill fear in their enemies. Eating human flesh is another scare tactic. The Fireworm is another trick, to create fear and hopelessness in the Wendil's enemies. It was believed to be a dragon by the Wendil's adversaries. To command something unexplained and indescribable is perfect for scaring and unnerving your enemies.

Ahmad slowly becomes paganised in this warrior society. He adapts to the society in his own way, forging his own sword from a regular North-man one. The Muslim integrates into the godless society. The leader, Buliwyf, also learns about God, or Allah in the Muslim faith, through writings on the ground by Ahmad. "There is only one God; Allah is his name, and Muhammed is his prophet."

I have to say that I found this film very enjoyable. I liked the fight scenes and the accurate references to warrior life and culture with the North-men. I would recommend it to anyone who is reading Beowulf at the moment, or any time you would like to see Antonio Banderas stab someone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rules For Planning A Holiday

Well, the rain's getting worse, the boss is off more days than the temp, and winter wear is on the racks in Penney's. Yay! Summer is here! But, how can you avoid the stress and general kerfuffle of planning a holiday? Follow these simple rules;
1) When looking for a destination;
DO ask for your friends and family about where they went.
DON'T spin your toy globe and point randomly "Hmmm, Death Valley? Sounds great!"
2) When booking a ticket to your destination;
DO go to your travel agent for the best prices.
DON'T click on the first pop-up that appears on the Internet asking for your date of birth and credit card number.
3) When packing for you holidays, some things are just essential;
-suncream; you need protection, especially for that all-over tan!
-lots of underwear; I still don't know how I lost 13 of mine that weekend in Belarus.
-a diary; you have to remember that girls name somehow!
-protection; you know what I mean. Even if they say they haven't, it could be the paper bag you put over their head muffling their words.
4) When packing for the airport and airplane, always have;
-a packed lunch; you will lose an arm and a leg if you buy airport food. At least when you're eating a soggy salad sandwich your mother made next to a woman eating a breakfast roll dripping with delicious fat, you can say "My stomach's fuller than your purse."
-books; are you checking out that girl across the way from you or totally engrossed in the opening sentence? Who can tell?
-tickets and passport; really?
-earplugs; for when that little bundle of joy in the seat behind you explodes on take-off.
-cotton wool; a good substitute for earplugs but also to stuff in your mouth when the air hostesses do their poor rendition of YMCA.
-sleeping pills; for you, if your nervous of flying, or for that doting grandmother who insists on telling you about every single one of her grandchildren in detail.
-sunglasses; a cool accessory, protection from the sun, plus for when you exit the plane onto a world where the sun actually shines.
5) If you are bringing your girlfriend/sister/girl who is you "friend" along with you, remember;
-if you call too early to pick her up on the way to the airport, an entirely different creature will open the door and devour your head.
-don't worry if she has three large suitcases, it's okay because it is all essential, practical and/or necessary.
-list her make-up bag slowly, and use your legs.
6) If you are bringing your boyfriend/brother/boy who is your "friend" along with you, remember;
-they will have brought the contraceptives, no need to worry.
-if all they have is a medium-sized gear bag, that's okay, because it is all essential , practical and/or necessary.
-before getting into his car, make sure you last will and testament is sorted, and give your seat a few good squirts of Dettol, Febreze and/or Cillit Bang. This is also handy for anyone who tries to dig her claws into him on holidays "Bang! And the Flirt is gone!"
7) If you are bringing your family on holidays, never forget;
-a fan; to cover your face in the very possible chance they embarrass you.
-a camera; to capture the very possible chance they embarrass themselves.
-bail money; it's a sad day when you pay to have your father released for suspected solicitation.
-extra underwear in their sizes; it's an even sadder day when you find your parents naked on the beach, drunk as lords, shivering but deliriously happy.
-in the case of younger siblings going missing, remember you had them micro-chipped at birth by accident.
-in the case of older siblings gone AWOL, keep in mind they will be under any member of the opposite sex.
-for missing grandparents, don't worry, they can't have gotten far, unless they're motorised.
8) In the event you are going on an adventure holiday, please remember;
-hiking sticks; helps you up and down the hills, plus to fend off any undesirables who come too near.
-steel-studded boots; much the same as above.
-rain wear; I know, I know, but just in case the weather isn't as nice as it looks on the brochure.
-binoculars; you were checking out the mountain peak and not your hiking guide's ass, weren't you?
9) If you're insane enough to go on a snow holiday, remember;
-sunglasses; you might think snow doesn't shine like a second sun, but you'd be wrong.
-tight-fitting sports wear; saved my genitals.
10) Travelling to America is your dream? Well, just keep in mind;
-go limp if the metal detectors beep over in the U.S. It'll be easier when four burly men throw themselves on top of you.
-never go to the cinema. They're set several light years in the future and you'll be wondering how they all got so old so fast.
-U.S currency is pitiful compared to the euro, so spend, spend, spend!
-always bring an extra suitcase for the good chunk of Abercrombie and Fitch you'll buy.
-never, ever say "bomb" on the plane.
Well, I think that's everything covered. Happy holidays and God bless.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Do's and Dont's of Going to Mass

Upon going into Mass one Sunday, I saw that the place was crowded and there were few seats available. Did I think; "Oh, the church is as packed as ever, great" or "How nice to see so many people worshipping God" ?
No, I thought; "Why are these people here?" and "What do they want?" Then it hit me; exams. The Leaving Cert and Junior Cert had just started the week before. These people were all here to ask God to help them with their studies and in the tests.
Not that I haven't asked the Man Upstairs for help in one way or the other in my life, but it occurred to me that Mass is only full at certain times of the year, with a major dip during the summer. I guess people like worshipping God abroad.
I'm not condemning anyone, but it makes me sad to see that less and less parents are teaching their children about God. I look at the heads around me while I pray, and all I see is grey hair and hearing aids. Young blood is needed in churches today. New prayers are being made, but they're fighting a losing badly against people stiff with rhetoric and arthritis.
Priests are on the verge of becoming an endangered species, and they can't be advocated quickly enough. The ones remaining are being herded into priest sanctuaries by concerned parties, where they are kept safe. More people are becoming deaf and not hearing the "Call of God."
Anyway, I've learned quite a few things in my time as a Christian about going to Mass. Here are some of the things I've learned so far;
-Dress up in your best clothes – This makes you look presentable for God, plus you never know when you might meet an attractive man/woman. Always check yourself in the holy water font before going into Mass.
-Bring all your spare change to give to the collections – Mass is a great place to get rid of that annoying change. If you're quick, you can swap your few euros for a fiver note when the collection plate comes around. I've noticed less people jingle coming out of the church.
-Go to Mass before a major event in your life – If you ask God for a favour, or some guidance, even though you've hardly gone to Mass since the start of secondary and have questioned His existence at more than one time in your life, He's likely to help you out. Even if you promise to go to Mass more and don't, it's fine because He's already done the favour for you. Sucker.
-Light a candle – With the new electric, energy-saving bulbs the Church has substituted for flames, you're in no danger of getting burned, so your gelled hair or new woollen dress are safe from spontaneous combustion. Many churches have lost generous contributions due to doing business near the candles.
-Genuflect before leaving your seat – This stretches your legs after the Mass and gets them ready as you and your family dash to the car to catch the weekend match.
-Sit too close to the alter – Asthmatics beware. You never know then the priests decide to bring out the hard-core incense; that smoky, choking fog that knocks out the first six rows of pews and causes long-term lung damage to the majority of churchgoers.
-Talk too much to your family/friends in Mass – Some priests have a tendency to stop what they are doing when they see someone talking in the middle of Mass. This makes the Mass longer, and prolongs the suffering, so please, don't.
-Sit next to a family with a baby – Sure, that little bundle of joy might look sweet now, but if you so much as breathe too loud, that baby will explode with surprising force.
Use these guidelines well, and you can't go wrong next time you're in Mass. God bless.

Investigating CSI

Who doesn't love a good murder every week? No, I'm not talking about the news; that's boring and lacks good graphics. I mean CSI (Crime Scene Investigators). Whether you're watching the original Las Vegas, or the two spin-offs Miami and New York, you can be guaranteed two good solid murder cases every episode (three if you're lucky!)
Who can fault the actors who so skillfully play corpses and earn more than we make in one shooting (pun intended) than we make in a year? Who can tear themselves away from their beloved to see exactly how a bullet enters a woman's brain and comes out her eye socket? Who can resist looking at the gorgeous CSI team in their beautiful, normal clothes where in Ireland they'd wear something close to radiation suits? Not me, that's for sure. For those of you who don't know about the CSI series, I'll give you a quick review of each.
The original CSI is set in Las Vegas, where they get as many homicides as there are casinos. The start-up song is "Who are you?" and is perfect for a show like this. The head guy is Gil Grissom, a man who loves bugs and has a fantastic analytical mind as well as attention to detail. Just call him Grissom, everyone does. He's had some good lines in the past, as you might have seen him talking to Colin Murphy on RTE; "It's always good to know what you don't know." He's good take my word for it. Great, diverse murders every episode, with the same being said for either three, and the graphics are fantastic. Every CSI shows different sides to the crime investigation, with this CSI showing ghosts of the victims re-enacting their deaths or the teams' theories. The only fault I can find in this CSI is that its sometimes too dark when they're filming nighttime or inside. The black member of the team practically disappears into the background!
Next is CSI Miami, a very bright and colorful program; pity about all the blood. The start-up song is "Don't get fooled again" by The Who, with a great scream at the start. Yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Anyway, the leader is the inscrutable redheaded Horatio Cane. He's always there at the start as the victims are being inspected, with his black clothes (despite the climate) and sunglasses that he whips off in order to deliver his kick-ass line before going to the song. Yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!! CSI Miami's investigation graphics are mainly digital, with a wall-length computer projection like something out of Minority Report, and an expert locator system that can probably find you even if you're not on the continent. Every now and again you can get a great boat chase around the coast, out to sea or through the swamp. They go the whole hog on this; helicopters, coastguard ships and speedboats. The part I don't like about this CSI is the slight lack of stringing a mini story along through the series. It pops up every so often, and might be relevant to the story, but it's pretty weak. I also don't like the flashy clothes they all wear at crime scenes. Completely unrealistic. I find this CSI to be my least favorite, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't see it for yourself.
Finally, there's CSI NY (New York). This is my favorite CSI. Top guy in this series is Mack Taylor, a very serious cop that takes his work to heart. Like Grissom, he's got an analytical mind, and a head for problems. The fascinating, if a bit crazy, trends of this city astound me in every episode, from eye tattoos and trolley fun-runs to cyber-assassins and drugs called "Foxy". The investigation graphics are ghostly here too, but they also have a cool floating brain in a jar to examine head traumas. Lots of stories going on behind the scenes, and I've never lost track or interest. I can't find fault with this CSI, but maybe you will find your own.Overall, CSI is a great program that you can really get your teeth into. It's like a better version of Cluedo; you can guess who gets killed at the start, who the murderer is and why, plus no one has to pack the board up later! I find that it's great craic, and there's even fantastic plot twists near the end.
I've given all of you my views, so the only thing to do now is to say hope you don't end up as a real crime scene. Good luck!

A Plea for Male Empowerment

Turn on your radio, or listen to some of the latest songs on your portable music player. I bet there are songs about women promoting female empowerment, forgiving a guy who cheated on them, or saying they don't need him anymore. Am I right?
The way I see it; female empowerment has become a massive part of our lives, both for males and females. Walk into a book shop, and they have all these "Goddess within" stuff, and "How to get out of a date with Mr. Wrong." Music shops, you know; "I don't need a man," or "Independent woman." All over the world, women are being called upon to step up and be counted. And, through all of this, not much is being said for male empowerment.
Now, don't get me wrong, ladies. I've read Bridget Jones and I have a vast collection of inspirational female singers on my Zen, (oh, Ms. Deon, be mine,) and you're all entitled to it. It's just…can the lads have a bit of it? I'm not some sort of male supremacist who would like you all in half a dozen layers of grey clothes that conceal everything below the neckline. That is not what I'm saying.
To my knowledge, there are little or no empowering songs for men, except for "We are the champions" from inside pubs during a match. All the songs I hear are about how great their woman is, or that they're sorry they cheated on them and getting caught.I see no "Men face the North, Women face the South," help books, or "Ten things to do for the thirty-year-old single male" in Easons. I walk into HMV, and I despair at the lack of "I don't need a woman" or "I forgive you, baby girl." All these diet and self-help books are for women, as if men wouldn't like to be as toned/flexible/potent as their female companions?Men and women are two sides of the same coin. We're all made up of the same stuff-blood, muscle, tissue and hormones. We have similar likes, dislikes and fears. I'd just like to see some recognition of men's feelings and their needs for love and comfort. It's not all sport and alcohol. Men need to be loved as much as women do. The only major differences between us are physical attributes that come together to create life. Can't we look past that and just see the person inside?