June 12th, 2009


Star Trek - "Her first name is Nyota??"

Since I've written up all the films I've been watching in bed this week, I'll also say something about the one we actually saw in the cinema last week. As it happens, the only Trek novel I have read in the last twenty years is a Vonda McIntyre story about how Kirk and Spock got together, so I had already been exposed to one origin tale. (Her recent account of her involvement with the Trek franchise is also entertaining.)

I am sure Vonda McIntyre, who I know reads this lj occasionally, won't object to my conclusion that the film is much more memorable. Films generally are more memorable, because they are more of a social experience: it's not just you communicating with the author via a hunk of dead tree, it's your imagined interaction with the characters on screen; and your shared reactions with the person you're seeing it with, plus all your friends and acquaintances who have seen it, in a group experience that only books about Harry Potter can achieve. (All of which is muted but still not entirely absent if you're watching the film a year later on a crappy MP4 player while in bed dosed up on painkillers; cf my write-ups of Hellboy II, Iron Man and Dark Knight.)

Collapse ) It looks fantastic, spaceships, monsters, dying planets and all. The supporting characters - Chekov, Sulu, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty and even Captain Pike - get a lot of very pleasing development. There are some cracking lines of dialogue, even if some of the references to Trek history may pass you by as they did me. There were of course a number of Things Which Don't Make Sense (another area where films often seem to have more liberty of manœuvre than books) but it would be unkind to list them. (Just one example, though: McCoy smuggling Kirk on board the Enterprise would surely have resulted in court-martial and expulsion from the service for both of them!)

This was really good fun, and I venture to predict that it will win next year's Hugo, and other awards, by a country mile.

June Books 5) Loven-Boven: Geschiedenis der stad Leuven, by François Stas

There are a number of theories explaining where the name "Leuven" originates from. The frame on the right illustrates one of them: that it commemorates a Scottish nobleman of the era of Julius Caesar, himself named "Loup", who founded a settlement called "Lupolin" on the site of the future university city. Note his drooping bagpipes, perhaps a subtle reference to the future importance of beer in the city's economic development, a theme to which the book returns over and over again.

There are a number of other stories about the history of Leuven, all retold and illustrated here by François Stas, all in Dutch (which I can at least read) with commentary from the characters in local dialect (which I have a lot more trouble with). I'm still a bit confused about the stories of Fiere Margariete and Paep Thoon, but at least I now know the details, even if I can't quite see the point. I was enlightened to discover the origin of the city flag - which is identical to the Austrian flag, but it seems this is just coincidence; it commemorates the battle of Leuven of 891, when Arnulf of Carinthia defeated the Vikings and afterwards the river Dijle flowed clear between two bloodstained banks.

There have been a lot of invaders around here. I had forgotten that one of them was Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, he of the Bodleian Library. Most of the others were Germans, French and Dutch (with the odd incidence of Spanish in the 16th century). It's quite difficult to make war and massacres funny, and on the whole Stas skates around the historical details rather delicately, apart from the rather unavoidable matter of August 1914. It's entertaining enough, and I certainly learned from it.

In praise of Chambré Public Affairs

I don't actually follow Northern Irish news all that closely these days, but one of the ways I keep in touch is to read the weekly political update from lobbying firm Chambré Public Affairs (I still feel a bit guilty about nearly putting the author's eye out with an arrow from a toy bow when he was five and I was six). Here's a glorious piece of snark from this week's edition, about the conduct of the successful candidates in this week's election:
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I believe subscription is free from the Chambré website.