The Revenant

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hugh glass

Hugh Glass

The Revenant is a revenge tale set in the wilderness of the early 19th century American frontier. The film loosely follows the true story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who survives a brutal grizzly attack only to be left by his companions to die in the aftermath.

 

The entire film is a visual marvel. As the previews hint at, every frame is breathtaking and crafted with the attention to detail of a professional photographer. Yet Mother Nature isn’t continent with providing just a pretty picture to frame the narrative of The Revenant. Nature is an active participant that lashes out as a suddenly as Native American attack and then recedes into the background, forcing the audience to rest in in a prolonged, beautiful stillness. The blood and violence of this film will not suit many moviegoers, and the strings of silence and stillness may turn away even more. Its almost like an action flick for contemplatives.

DiCaprio’s name has been mentioned for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, but I’m afraid the filmmakers did not do him any favors. His dialog is almost non existent and is instead replaced by an intense physical interaction between Glass and his antagonists.  As the film progresses, one witnesses DiCaprio’s Glass being molded by every visceral blow into a reflection of mother nature’s viciousness, resilience and violent coldness. The Academy Award winning moment (if there turns out to be one) will be a dialog of physical struggle and not verbal eloquence.

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Director Alejandro Gonzalez

 

The viewer is left to look towards other players to represent the broad range of human experience in the story. Tom Hardy’s antagonist, a greedy, self serving sociopath by the name of John Fitzgerald, masterfully carries the weight of humanities dark side.

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Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is a antagonist with a well crafted motive and a simple but vivid backstory. While we are provided with visions and hallucinations Glasses’ past, one is often left wondering about the details. Glasses dreams and visions feel unnecessarily imposed on a already fully realized landscape. Contrast this with Fitzgerald, who shares a much more powerful backstory through storytelling. Fitzgerald’s masterly weaved tale of his father finding God in a squirrel captures the imagination far better than Glasses’ mystical visions of his deceased loved ones. One is left wondering if how far DiCaprio could of taken the role if we were given a glimpse of Glasses history through his own words instead of vision based dreamscapes. This left me with feeling more of a connection with Fitzgerald, in a sense that I related to his character better than Glass’s. Fitzgerald was a bastard, but a bastard that I could relate to. revenant

 

 

In summary, the film is visual a masterpiece, but perhaps well suited for only a quirky off the beaten path subset of moviegoers. I am left impressed by the visual cinematic landscape, yet left wanting to connect more with characters (other than Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald).

 

 

‘The Revenant’ is Looking More and More Promising

Here are some behind the scenes pictures. Stunning.

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More can be found here:

Behind the scenes of the Revenant

Looks to be an epic revenge story. Cold, brutal, intense and gorgeous come to mind when I watch the trailer.

Here is a podcast about the movie (disclosure, I haven’t listened to all of it yet)
Why we are exited to see ‘The Revenant’

And another trailer

Spain, Guerrilleros and Free Time…

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Well, it looks like I might not renew my Deer Creek membership this year, but this doesn’t mean I won’t go, it just means I’ll go less often. Life is narrowing in on those precious 4 hours on a Saturday.

I am however, looking to try the living history thing again. My schedule looks like Eutaw Springs may be my best bet. Now the challenge is finding a continental jacket in my size. I am leaning toward going to ebay and then seeing if a seamstress can extend the sleeves.

Spain

Guerillas attack on French convoy

Guerillas attack on French convoy

Heading to Spain in a few weeks on business. I am wanted to find out a little more about the famous guerrilleros and the Peninsular War. Did you know that the term guerrilla warfare stemmed from the Spanish part of this conflict?

Anyway, if you have any suggestions for the jacket, I’m all ears. Wear a size 42…with long guerrilla..I mean gorilla like arms ;)

On My Way to The King’s Country

Things may of changed since this...

Things may of changed since this…

This week I head over to London for business. I’ve scheduled some time to take in the sites, and am leaning toward visiting the Imperial War Museum. I’ll take plenty of pics. Staying in Windsor. I hear that’s the Queen’s vacation spot. I’ll be sure to check out the castle.

Any suggestions as to what else I need to take in?

British Sea Service Pistol

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Portrayal of me on Saturday...but less cool looking

Portrayal of me on Saturday…but less cool looking

With my Charleville lock at the gunsmith for maintenance, I got a chance to spend some good one on one time with the sea service pistol. I set up a target with a large surface area in order to identify where I was missing (post firing remarks often end with “where in the world did I miss THAT time?”) Today I managed to squeeze a little bit more accuracy out of this fun flintlock. The trick is to bend the wrist down a little and aim low. Oh and any more than ten paces and you begin to understand why duels were often not as deadly as advertised (apologies of course to Mr. Hamilton).

After a few shots, I experimented with using a Civil War era bullet from a 1853 Enfield. The suggestion was met with some hesitation from me, but I tend to forget that we are just talking about essentially a metal pipe, black powder and a spark. This weapon could fire out skittles if I wanted (a rainbow of fruit projectiles!!)   The Enfield  bullet fit just fine in there and gave me a pretty good kick to boot.

British Sea Service Pistol with 1853 Enfield minie ball

 

Looks as if the bullet actually rolled through the air and left a nice profile in the paper:

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Video to follow.

 

 

 

Guns, Germs and Steel

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Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Why do some civilizations become more technologically advanced than others? What leads to the rise of empires and to the dissolution of native peoples? This is often a loaded question that can reveal a persons prejudice. It is a question that is generally not explored or even contemplated by most members of our “modern society”.

Jared Diamond takes a scientific and historical approach to this controversial topic. Guns Germs and Steel takes and in depth look into the circumstances that give rise to dominant peoples and civilizations.

Lets take a (somewhat oversimplified) look at what it takes to become a empire from the ground up…

1: Start with enough wild plant diversity that the benefits of domesticating these plants outweigh the benefits of hunting gathering.

This requires an assortment plants that when domesticated, provide excess calories. The fertile crescent provides this appropriate mix with its wild cereals and grains.

domesticated animals2: Be sure the native animals can be domesticated.

These animals will then help provide additional calories (such as pigs and cows) as well as assist in farming (like ox and horses). Not many animals on the earth can be domesticated. Around the time homo sapiens migrated to North America, animals that potentially could be domesticated were wiped out. These animals did not evolve along side mankind, and therefore had no adequate defense mechanisms to stave off extinction at the hands of these clever interlopers.

3: Resistance to disease is not futile–it is essential. 

Keep calm and avoid the plague

Keep calm and avoid the plague

Sharing viruses and bacteria with domesticated animals will produce unique diseases that only your people will be able to develop resistance. This will take some time and many losses on your side, but eventually natural selection will take over and weed out the susceptible members of your civilization.

Exposing rival peoples to these diseases will wipe out your competitors and leave room to successfully migrate to other lands. This unintended “asset” will be your primary means of establishing dominance peoples unexposed to nasties such as tuberculosis, small pox, the plague, and the flu to name a few.

4: Live in the ‘Goldilocks’ of geography–not too isolated, but not too connected.

Your geography needs to be free of signification obstructions from east to west. This allows farming technology to migrate with a little climate change as possible. North south migration is much more difficult because significant changes in climate make it harder for domesticated crops to adjust or even survive.

The goldilocks of geography must also provide enough barriers to create competing–but still connected–pockets of peoples.

Too many geographical barriers? Your people become isolated and may not feel the pressure from nearby competitors to advance in military and food producing technology.

Too few geographical barriers? Your people could be conquered and fall under an authoritarian rule that may resist technological and geographical advances due lack of nearby competition (China).

5. Feel the pressure to keep up with the Joneses. 

Hello Japan. Have we showed you our cannons yet?

Hello Japan. Have we showed you our cannons yet?

Competition from your rivals will force you stay on edge. You cannot afford to take principled stances against technology that rubs your religious or societal sensibilities the wrong way. Adapt or be conquered.

Japan is a unique case study. Japans’ geographical isolation allowed them to throw out superior rifle technology and maintain an antiquated military technology until US gunships showed up on their shores in 1853.

Conclusion

Notably absent from this list is “have more geniuses” or “get capitalism” or “be culturally innovative” or even more wrongheaded assumptions like “genetics”. The primary point is that civilizations benefit first and foremost from circumstance. This may be a hard truth for those who feel that work ethic, cultural intelligence or a particular social system to be a primary factor. These factors are of some significance, but not nearly as much as the factors listed above.

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