Welcome to the blog of Miroslav Georgiev - classical pianist and conductor. Here you can read and discuss interesting stuff from the world of music, life, politics and more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Hobbit - Desolation of Smaug: Increasing the pace of the adventure

The end of the year is here and with it - the next Hobbit movie. The 'Middle' one, which can be good or bad, depending on what you expect. Me, I didn't expect anything particular, just something really, really good, and I wasn't disappointed. The Hobbit 2 is more concentrated, more ominous and more fast-paced than the first one. As it should be.

OK, I admit it, I'm a huge fan of both Tolkien and Peter Jackson, but I think I have my reasons for it. In my previous review (of the first Hobbit) I said that Peter has a knack for creating a Universe out of Tolkien's books, and I'm going to elaborate on this now.

All fans of Tolkien know that he was more of  a scholar than a storyteller. The Middle Earth universe appeared as a fantasy justification for his hobby - the creation and study of languages, and more specifically, the Elvish language. I'm sure somebody tried already to create an Elvish dictionary, just like they have a Clingon one, I'm just not sure where it is. Another base for Tolkien's works was his desire to create a brand-new, pure English set of legends, dissociated of Christianity (because the King Arthur cycle is heavily influenced by Christian mythology) and any other Nordic influences. So, the great bulk of Tokien's writing is a string of separate myths and legends, which all gather together to create the mythology of Middle Earth. There are two major exceptions: The Hobbit, which he wrote to amuse his kids, and its continuation, The Lord of the Rings, which he wrote when the published Hobbit became an unexpected success and everyone begged him to write a sequel. The emphasis here is: Tolkien never sat down to create a masterpiece of narration and drama, but a book of adventures! And what's more - in the Hobbit, he never even sat down to create a book for grown-ups! If you take the Hobbit, and somehow forget that you've read LOTR before that, or any of the other published legends, all you'll find is a great children's book, full of adventures such as you'd expect to find in a children's book - a quest, dwarves, elves, a mage, a dragon, evil spiders, evil orcs, etc. And as in every self-respecting children's adventure book, the good guys run into the problems constantly and manage to overcome them constantly, usually by killing what caused them.      

And although LOTR is a much more complex and full book, with character development and everything, it is rarely something more than an extended, epic adventure. It hints at so much more, but if you read it alone, you will never find out what exactly this so much more is.                

So, why do some people expect a drama of great depth and complexity when they watch these movies??? It's as if you expected Superman to exhibit great complexity of character all of a sudden, and to create an epic drama, instead of just fly and save airplanes and damsels in distress.

Here's where we come to Peter Jackson's greatest accomplishment: he brought together these two isolated books and the rest of Tolkien's complex mythological world. I don't know if he personally read all other important works, like the Silmarillion (he probably did), but whatever he did, he found all the relevant facts and managed to insert them in his movies to flesh out the story. For example, the enmity between dwarves and elves is never explained in the book (besides a fleeting 'Elves didn't like dwarves' or something), while in the movie we have not only a clear explanation of why that is, but also multiple instances that show how this enmity hinders progress and creates stupid obstacles. The Ring's evil influence on Bilbo is never shown in the book, but in the movie we see how it twists his mind already, driving him to acts of violence unfitting a hobbit.
In the book there's just a quick explanation of Gandalf's side mission - to deal with the Necromancer, while in the movie we see the full importance of this 'side' mission - the necromancer is none other but the Great Enemy Sauron rising again from Dol Guldur, and gathering all evil forces. This is well explained in a number of other writings of Tolkien, but not explicitly stated, not even in the LOTR. Still, Jackson found it out and showed it!

Yes, there are silly exaggerations, like Radaghast or the Master of Lake City, but the Hobbit is on the humorous site, and it should feel lighter than the ominous Lord of the Rings. And yes, there are the too-dramatic moments, like Ballin's "This my lad .... (dramatic pause) .. is a dragon". But again, this is a movie for entertainment,  not for cinema specialists; and entertaining it is. The monsters are outstanding, the fighting sequences are breath-taking (although a bit exaggerated and with too much of a game feeling), the camera..... I have no words to describe it. I think the sheer visual magnificence of these series should be set as the highest standard for future movies.

You'll love the dragon - he feels like a real bad-ass monster, sure of himself and extremely dangerous. His every move is menacing; his lines are well-written (he doesn't say even a tenth of the stuff in the book).  And the final cliffhanger.... just splendid.

I know this turned out not to be exactly a movie review, but I think in the case of the Hobbit it's more important to emphasize that we're watching an epic fantasy movie, and not a serious and realistic action-drama. I think too many people and critics expect to see something else, something Peter Jackson never attempted to create, and shouldn't create. What he aimed at, he achieved - an epic adventure, with fast pace and well-crafted scenes and sequences, never mind awesome effects. Hats down for Martin Freeman's and Ian MacKellen's acting again, and  Bravo Peter!

Friday, June 28, 2013

About Snowden and the Superpower

While protests are being held around the world, including in countries everyone thought were 'stable economically' (like Brazil); while there's a bloody sectarian war raging in the Middle East, while the world economy continues crumbling, I'd like to take  some time and reflect on the ridiculous manhunt  being forced on our attention by the mainstream media - the Snowden story.
I won't get into the whole debate of how moral this manhunt is, given the fact that this leak hasn't actually threaten any life (unlike the Sirian war), or anyone's prosperity (like the protests all around Europe and now in Brazil). I'd like instead to reflect on the reaction of the world's only 'Superpower' to something that in fact shouldn't be happening at all - the leaking of confidential information in a world where nobody could really use this information.

We were used to spy stories during the Cold war. We wouldn't hear about it in the news, of course, probably because it was indeed a matter of national security, but we would hear rumors every now and then about another Russian spy caught stealing stuff. Or, if you grew up in Bulgaria, like me, you would hear about another Imperialist spy caught. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that all this wasn't such a big deal - we were understanding that there is a Great Enemy there that Wishes Us Evil, and that our authorities are justified in doing whatever they can about thwarting his Evil schemes (Dart Vader laugh).   
Then the Iron Curtain fell, and suddenly the world became (supposedly) a happy place, where Democracy rules supreme and the Evil Communists/Imperialists And Their Puppets were BANISHED. We could now breath easily that nobody would all of a sudden decide to commit an elaborate suicide by launching nuclear warheads or such.
And then all of a sudden we get this epidemic of spying scandals. Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and now Snowden. All modern-era Evil Masterminds Bend on World Destruction That Need To Be Brought Down. WTF?????

Let's see: what did these people do in fact? Did they steal secrets and sell them to someone that wishes us harm? No. Did they sabotage something? No. Did they lie? No!
What they did was to get evidence of the secret dealings of the government of our beloved world savior, and then spread them around to all that cares to read them. And for that, they're branded TRAITORS.
Again, I won't get into philosophical discussions of whether what they did is right, or not. I want to tell you WHY it is that this is happening. That's why:  

- The USA seems to be suffering of an acute attack of Lack of Enemy. You might be surprised a bit of that statement, but let's think about it:

For decades the two world superpowers (USA and USSR) were coldly at each others' throats, and that seemed to be accepted as normal by everyone. People buckled up and toiled, happy that they live on the 'good' side of the fence. They were resigned with their fate, thinking about the evil capitalists/communists, and happy that our secrets need to held from them, at whatever cost.
Then, one of the Superpowers vanished (or rather, was demoted to just Power). And with it automatically vanished the terrible specter of Termonuclear war and the Great Evil that Wants To Steal Our Lollipop. Now, the remaining Superpower decided that they can now just boss over everyone else, without opposition, and proceeded to do so with abandon. They invaded Iraq, then Afghanistan, they organized coup after coup in countries around the world. And, all of a sudden, each scandal involving them started to feel like a spat on their virtuous public image. People around the world started hacking their computers and revealing their secrets, and the public opinion cheers them. Why? What happened? Are they doing something different than before? Are they behaving more badly?

But they've lost the REASON to do this.

While there was an Enemy Number 1, people were resigned to all actions of the American government (after all, it was all for our own good, right?); now there isn't Enemy Number 1 anymore, and people seem to have realized that it's not justified for a superpower to be doing the stuff that they are doing. They seem to think that this Superpower is being more of a Bully than a Superpower.
After all, what exactly is a Superpower supposed to be when it is the only one? When it's not opposing itself to another superpower to prevent world destruction, then it should be more of a World Guardian, right? A benevolent entity which leads the world to a better Tomorrow, towards common progress, etc. etc.
Instead we have a bully. The US seems to be barring progress, rather than incentivizing it - for example, it is the only important nation in the world that didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol; it is imposing a series of trade embargoes and it has protectionism policies that would cause Stalin envy. Any significant technological advancement coming from them is being patented and commercialized, or other than that is being kept close secret.
Well, they claim that there is still danger in the world: TERRORISM!!!!! That there are countries that support terrorism and they need to be .... dealt with. It's really interesting how they manage to make distinction among a whole lot of those countries in the Middle East: they zero on some of these and accuse them of being dictatorships that harbor terrorists. At the same time, others, not less dictatorial, are angels that don't support terrorists. (Small detail: terrorists usually don't go talk to government officials asking for their support, they just.... do their stuff.). And somehow the countries that don't support terrorists and are good to democracy always happen to be US' allies (at least at that moment), while the others, that harbor terrorists, always happen to be denying American interests. And let's not forget that terrorists exist for a reason. Differently from serial killers, who act alone and in secret generally, terrorists aren't just madmen bent on mayhem - they always have an agenda (as expressed after every major terrorist act in the last 30 years). The scary ones' agenda, which is justifying the wars US is conducting in the Middle East, is .... the presence of the US in the Middle East. Now, ain't that a funny coincidence!

So, the reason more and more leaks are happening within the American power structure, is the fact that people have recognized the real agenda of the US governments in the last .... say, 20 years, and think that agenda is not moral. Nor justified. And they want to show it to the rest of the world.
Let's hope this makes the Superpower realize what they're doing, and improve their behavior. If not.... I think they'll soon seize to be a Superpower. At least in the moral sense of the word.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A verdade sobre os protestos no Brasil

Estou preocupado com a tendência de atribuir os esforços para manter os protestos apartidários ao extremistas e skinheads. Estou preocupado com o espectro da ditadura que esta sendo levantado como possível consequência de movimentos apartidários.

Em minha opinião, quem pensa isso não entendeu bem a raiz dos sentimentos apartidários, expressos pela maioria dos manifestantes, e não só por skinheads e babacas. A razão para isso é uma profunda desilusão com o que os partidos e políticos eleitos pelo povo estão fazendo, e a grande diferença entre o que eles prometiam durante as campanhas  e o que acontece na realidade. E isso vale para todos os partidos, e não um só.
Depois de dar o seu voto para alguém que promete elevar sua qualidade de vida, é natural esperar que sua qualidade de vida suba nos próximos anos, seja ao pagar menos impostos, ter melhor atendimento médico, ou melhor transporte na cidade onde você mora. É isso que não aconteceu com a maioria dos brasileiros nos últimos 10 anos, apesar de todos os avanços gerais do Brasil; avanços esses que não podem ser negados. Ao contrário, a saúde piorou, o transporte piorou, os impostos subiram. Há um mês um amigo meu foi ao pronto socorro do 'melhor hospital' do São Paulo - Albert Einstein e precisou esperar mais de DUAS HORAS para ser atendido. E o SUS então?

As pessoas em São Paulo são forçadas diariamente a perder horas se deslocando pela cidade, seja de transporte público, seja de carro, apesar da promessa dos partidos para melhorar o transporte há mais de 10 anos. 
Enquanto isso, novos estádios estão sendo erguidos, basicamente com o nosso dinheiro. Acho que foi exatamente essa a faísca que inflamou os protestos - a comparação imediata entre os graves problemas de infraestrutura no pais e os bilhões gastos não para corrigir esses problemas, mas sim para erguer estádios de futebol (!!!).

Alguém pode falar que eu, como estrangeiro, não entendo bem a situação do Brasil. Mas é exatamente por eu ser estrangeiro, e tenho conhecido outros países em situações semelhantes, que eu posso fazer uma avaliação diferente e talvez mais bem informada do que os próprios brasileiros. Na minha pátria, Bulgária, por exemplo, nos últimos 20 anos governaram 7 partidos diferentes (da direita e da esquerda), sem grandes diferenças nos resultados de seus governos. Sempre havia escândalos de corrupção, licitações questionáveis, jogos sujos... e o povo está se levantando agora, do mesmo jeito, para pedir mudança radical do comportamento do corpo político - não de um só partido, não de um só político, mas de todos.

Está sendo reconhecida uma verdade um tanto triste: que os políticos passaram a representar não o povo, mas diversos outros interesses, além dos seus próprios. Não é que esse ou aquele partido são um bando de canalhas (e não que todos sejam). O problema é, que nenhum político acha importante batalhar pelos interesses do POVO em primeiro lugar, e depois por seus interesses próprios, de seu partido, e do pais. Eles esqueceram que seu dever é SERVIR O POVO E O PAÍS. Em vez disso, estão servindo aos interesses próprios, aos interesses de seu partido, depois aos interesses da empresa que financiou a campanha deles, etc. (não necessariamente nessa ordem). 

Portanto, manter os protestos apartidários não tem nada a ver com ditadura. Isso tem tudo a ver com o recado geral das manifestações: ACORDEM POLÍTICOS! VOCÊS SÃO OS NOSSOS SERVIDORES, E NÃO O CONTRÁRIO!