Bakufu era Japan = Klingons

Image result for throne of blood

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I’ve heard this said a few times before

that Klingons in TNG and onwards were basically samurai with head bumps

but I only ever believed it on the surface level

e.g. code of honour, warrior govt

However, now I’ve read a book called ‘The Bakufu in Japanese History’ I realise that Ronald D Moore probably did read the same book before starting work on his first Klingon episode.

The house system is the same

This wasn’t unique to Japan, but in the era of Bakufu [1185-1868], which I think translates as a govt led by military guys, your house represented the power you had to a huge level. It chopped and changed a lot, and varied between different bakufu, but basically there was the bakufu [military] and two other powerful groups, Monks + aristocrats [including the Emperor], owning land and dividing power. However, by the time of the final Bakufu [Tokugawa 1600-1868?], the military and regional houses had dealt with the monks and nobles and had total control.

Don’t monks usually get slaughtered in history?

Later, yes, but not during the first two Bakufu.

In fact, it’s quite funny how the monks operated in some areas, specifically how they made their cash. Medieval Japan was quite a superstitious place, so the monks would take a portable shrine, drop it in someone’s house then sit and wait for that person to pay enough for them to get rid of the ‘evil spirit’ within the shrine. No one would challenge them as only the monks had the power to perform the task; even the samurai wouldn’t touch the portable shrines.

The noble samurai?

Ha, about as noble as old English knights. A lot of those fuckers were just thugs with swords who switched sides if the price was decent, and what’s worse, the Muromachi Bakufu made them cops in Kyoto too. Or the equivalent of cops. The rest of the samurai could just do what they pleased as long as they didn’t do it close to Kyoto. And they did. Continue reading

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The Book + the Sword // Jin Yong

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Jin Yong is my wife’s favourite writer and probably the best known guy writing Chinese martial arts in the whole world.

Though most people in the west don’t know him.

I don’t know the reason, but not many of his books have been translated into English. My wife told me it’s hard to translate from Chinese to English as the traditional Chinese characters used often have a meaning that can’t be translated well. Also, there probably aren’t many western writers, apart from academics, who are at a high enough standard in Chinese writing to give it a crack.

Maybe the American-Chinese guy who did ‘The 3 Body Problem’ could give it a crack sometime?

Anyway, what my wife said could be true in this case, as the translation I read was quite simple in its style, word choice and sentence structure. And a lot of the story was just plot, plot, plot, which made me wonder if a lot of the deeper, between the lines stuff had been lost along the way.

And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean:

The Chinese version of ‘The Book and the Sword’ is about 1,000 pages

The English version is around 500 pages.

500 pages worth of story was lost?

I don’t know,

but,

although there were a lot of characters to keep track of and the story was quite melodramatic in a lot of ways, there were aspects of it that I thought were great.

Kung Fu strategy

The way Jin Yong describes the action is decent, but the parts that really stood out were the parts in-between where the characters or the narrator would delineate the style that was being used and the strategy behind it

E.g. the one third attack Continue reading

Gateway // Frederik Pohl [thoughts + spoilers]

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Book: Gateway

Author: Frederick Pohl

Plot: A guy living next to some mines on a depressing near future Earth wins the lottery and uses his cash to fly up to an ancient alien asteroid space station called Gateway. His choice: to fly one of the thousand or so ships left behind by the long dead aliens to god knows where and potentially make a lot of cash or stay still for a few weeks, drink, fuck, gamble, and then go back to the mines.

Or fly one of the ships into a star going supernova and die like whats-his-face in disney’s the black hole i.e. differently.

Subplot: A robot psychologist tries to get the main character to realise that he’s a bit of a twat.

Subplot 2: A female instructor on Gateway falls in love with the main character because his first name is ‘Main’. She later regrets it when he beats her for no reason, but is forced back into his arms by a mysterious god like entity called ‘Pohl’ who commands her to ‘close the narrative’.

Subplot 3: A Black Hole sucks as hard as it can to pull in that spaceship cos it’s lonely and sad and has been marginalised by the Tories.

Notes:

I’m torn between writing about Gateway and the Foundation books, but I’m also torn a third way as what I really wanna get back to is Babel-17, mostly because it’s all to do with language and the workings of it and specifically an alien language so weird and unfamiliar that no one can understand it, which is similar to Darmok and the Children of Tama in Star Trek TNG, but Delaney wrote his one first and I’ve read the first 40 or so pages of Babel and it seemed okay, but it didn’t reel me in enough, the writing wasn’t as strong or brilliant as other people said, but then it usually takes me a while to get into a book, the first page is always tedious, too descriptive, bland word choice etc.

Gateway had the same effect, took me two years to get past the first chapter even though it was quite well-written…

I think the main problem was the same problem that most old sci-fi had: the characters were too sharp and too smart.

Goddamn it, Siegfried and other lines like this and

there’s swearing later too, which I didn’t expect from someone like Pohl, but then

what can I expect when I know nothing about him? Continue reading

Laura [taken from S/N/D] // Soren Melville [thoughts + spoilers]

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I’m torn between writing about ‘Laura’ from Soren Melville’s book S/N/D and doing a bizarro story about left wing robots called left wing robots.

Is there enough in the concept?

I don’t know.

Writing without a plan is better, I think, though

everything I know about robots

and left wing politics is pretty vague in my head and

I don’t know if there’ll be enough detail stocked into the story to make it good.

The worst thing it could be is:

The left wing robots go to Caracas and talk to Chavez and

are reprogrammed a little and then sent to

the guy who writes Tal Cual, I can’t remember how to spell his name

I think it’s Petkoff or Tepkoff

and the left wing robots are not like the right wing robots Continue reading

KLAUS, I LOVE YOU [on the brilliance of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht] // Soren Melville

PDN_1

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Dracula is not an easy book to adapt. Told in a contemporary form of the epistolary, utilising journals, diaries–one of which is recorded on a phonograph–letters, news clippings, and even a section of a ship’s log, it juggles roughly eleven major and minor characters, five of which lend their voices to the narrative, with most of the flavour and iconic action belonging to the first half of the book. On screen, there are too many characters and relationships to devote enough time to to fully develop (though they are not horribly dense in the novel to begin with) and thusly, many adaptations of the work both combine characters and shuffle their relationships with each other into a more manageable narrative.

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This is what both Nosferatu and, naturally, it’s adaptation Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht do. Nosferatu is a minimalist version of Dracula, retaining the original flavour with only a handful of the original characters. In it, the Jonathan Harker of Dracula is turned into the character Hutter; his fiancée Mina into his wife Ellen; Dracula into Count Orlok and the mad Reinfield into Knock. Lucy, her suitors, and her subplot–her seduction and death at Dracula’s hand, her transformation into the “Bloofer Lady” and her sensational second-killing at the hand of her betrothed–are gone, as is the prominent character of Van Helsing, who guides the majority of the novel. Without this character leading the others, it is up to Ellen, the Mina character, to save the city from the vampire and its plague. Unlike her counterpart in the novel, she is not without power, and it is she, not Van Helsing, who becomes informed on the nature of the vampire, and how to kill it. It is this knowledge, paired with her beauty and purity of heart, that overcome the vampire in the end.

Unlike Stoker’s Dracula, Murnau’s vampire Count Orlok is vanquished by Ellen in a stark contrast to the book, in which it is the boys that do all the noble vanquishing of evil. The 1922 date of the film argues that it was not a feminist agenda that changed the plot, but a simple need to streamline and, perhaps (to be quite honest) to keep things from being too boring. Continue reading

Radio Free Albemuth // Philip K Dick [thoughts + spoilers]

[Image taken from the film version, obviously]

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Apparently this is one of the lesser books by Phil K Dick, probably because it’s semi-autobiographical…which means he can’t go into space or insert too much of the weird shit he usually does because we know reality isn’t really like that…or a reality without drugs anyway.

Reality = no ubik, no Palmer Eldritch, no androids

What he can do, though, is give the characters more believability and grounding than in something like ‘Ubik’. Not that Ubik didn’t have good characters…it did, but Joe Chip had a normal life for about five pages, until the plot kicked in and then his character was formed around that…’Radio Free’ has characters who live a normal life for the entire length of the plot, only sometimes being forced into extreme situations e.g. Nicholas gets arrested and shot in the head. [Spoiler]

Dick puts himself in the story

The secondary or main character of this [depending on reader POV] is a writer called Philip K Dick. He doesn’t try to hide that it’s himself…there’s nothing that’s slightly off, no detail that doesn’t fit…this is Philip K Dick and the only thing I think he’s made up is his best friend, Nicholas.

According to Wikipedia, Nicholas is the other side of Phil K Dick, the part of him that believed he was experiencing visions from ‘Valis’ in the 60’s and 70’s…I forget what the acronym stands for, but the last word is system…Vast Active Lithe Intelligent System? Continue reading