Archive | December, 2012

2012 in review

31 Dec

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


The Box of Delights

20 Dec

John Masefield (1878-1967) accomplished many things during his long life. He was appointed the Poet Laureate of the UK, writer of verse for the monarch on occasions of national significance. After his appointment, Masefield was awarded the Order of Merit by King George V, one of the highest civilian honours which it is possible for an Englishman to receive. He also penned the famous poem Sea-Fever, which features the immortal line “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”. Say his name today, however, and it is likely that almost anyone who has ever heard of Masefield will know him primarily as the author of children’s book The Box of Delights. A wonderfully festive treat, the book tells of the adventures of a schoolboy named Kay Harker one Christmas, when he is drawn into a magical but sinister web of intrigue featuring wolves who walk as men, ancient wizards, talking animals and arcane objects. Published in 1935, The Box of Delights was adapted into a popular BBC tea-time serial which was broadcast in the lead-up to Christmas in 1984 and has since enjoyed an eternal afterlife on video and DVD. Yet the book’s fame has perhaps unfairly eclipsed the other works of a writer who led a truly remarkable life.

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Reavers of the Seven Seas

13 Dec

A fast-moving ship appears on the horizon – she flies a skull and crossbones flag! The ship draws alongside and hordes of bearded ruffians with gold rings in their ears and daggers between their teeth swarm on board. They plunder the hold for booty, make the crew walk the plank and send the ship to the bottom of the sea, returning to their desert island to bury their stolen treasure in a chest under the sand… This is the traditional image of the pirate, gained from adventure stories like Treasure Island and countless Hollywood motion pictures. A fantastical element has been added by creations such as J M Barrie’s Captain Hook in Peter Pan, the Corsairs of Umbar in The Lord of the Rings and the Pirate Lord Kennit, villain (and some time anti-hero) of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy. Of course, say the word ‘pirate’ these days, post-Pirates of the Caribbean, and the image that immediately comes to most people’s minds is that of the irrepressible, cocksure Jack Sparrow, memorably played by Johnny Depp in the Disney films based on the theme park ride. Featuring ghost ships, sea monsters, zombie pirates, Blackbeard and even Davy Jones himself, the Pirates of the Caribbean films amply demonstrate that a vast body of supernatural lore and larger-than-life myths have over the years attached themselves to the reavers who sailed the seven seas. However, the real-life pirates who historically plagued the lives of sea-goers, while often equally as colourful as their fictional counterparts, were often a great deal more cruel and ruthless.

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6 Dec

Carnivàle was a little-watched, little-remembered TV gem from the early part of the last decade. It was set in the American Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and concerned two disparate groups, one of them a travelling troupe of performing ‘freaks and geeks’ – hence the name of the series – the other centred around the at first benevolent-seeming preacher Justin. Varying hugely in tone and content, the episodes covered a wide range of themes and featured both superb, cinematic acting and groundbreaking storytelling. On one level Carnivàle could simply be viewed as a historical piece (in much the same way as Boardwalk Empire is today). However, what really made it stand out was the fact that its overarching story also depicted the battle between good and evil and the struggle between free will and destiny. A complex, layered tale, the full story of Carnivàle and in particular its many undercurrents were never really explained on screen. In some ways the show suffered for treating its audience as intelligent adults and making them figure things out for themselves – Carnivàle was cancelled after just two 13-episode seasons and never got anywhere near completing its creators’ intended 6 year story arc. Even many of the show’s most ardent viewers are surprised today to hear that its storyline mixed Christian theology with gnosticism and Masonic lore, particularly that of the Knights Templar. However, as I hope to demonstrate, plenty of hints as to the true nature of the ‘hidden’ story of Carnivàle were dropped in the course of its two-year run.

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Happy Birthday…

1 Dec

…To Fabulous Realms!

Yes, the very first post, Tad Williams: The American Tolkien?, appeared exactly one year ago today and I just couldn’t let that minor anniversary go by entirely unremarked. I very much started this website purely as a short-term thing but it ‘grew in the telling’ (as one of my favourite authors would have said) and now I’d never even dream of stopping. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my genuine love of fantasy, folklore, myth and legend over the past year – never imagining for a second that anyone else would be interested in my humble scribblings. That’s why I hugely appreciate every single comment, follow, view or like that this site has ever had and fondly hope that there are many more in the (hopefully) many years to come. For my part, I plan to keep on blogging (to paraphrase another of my favourite authors) until they nail shut the lid of my coffin 😉

Thanks for stopping by!

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