Camp St Charles

When I talked about The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy previously, I forgot that I wanted to bring up my first introduction to H2G2. It was a summer camp that I went to for several years when I was growing up, called Camp St Charles.

It has apparently changed a bit since I attended; it's now coed, for one thing. And that, by itself, is so big a change that it's hard to imagine. Still, I wish that had been the case back when. Between going there, and going to an all-boys middle/high school, I ended up awfully sheltered from the fairer sex.

The good part of that was that, going to RPI, with its (then) 5:1 ratio, I looked at it and said, "Hey! There's girls around."

The bad part was that I got there woefully unprepared to deal with those girls.

Anyway, to get back to my original point, when I went to summer camp, one of the counselors (a Dave Mudrock, IIRC, who I knew because he was also the archery instructor (I liked archery a lot back then)), when telling stories in his cabin at night (and occasionally at other times and places) would recite from H2G2. Since I never stayed in that cabin (and he wasn't there every year, either), I only got a small sampling of the silliness, but even that little bit was enough to make me respect it.

For better or for worse, I was only able to find the Dirk Gently books when I went looking for H2G2 (go figure!). Still, I liked those an awful lot, and had no trouble finishing them.


What's the big deal?

Picture 8 in this montage shows a picture of a cow mowed into a field, noting that cows this year spent more time outside than in.

I have to wonder why that's significant. Keeping cows mostly indoors seems a bit... weird.

Maybe it's typical for factory farms?


Hikaru no Go

When I first rediscovered the local libraries, a year or so ago, I found a few unexpected things. The biggest and best of them was a manga ('the library carries manga?!? Cool'), called Hikaru no Go.

As one might expect (and definitely would if they could see, and read, the chinese characters of the title), it's about a kid named Hikaru who plays go. Check that link if you want details of the game; I don't really want to go into it (and I suck at the game, come to that :).

The main character finds a go board in his grandfather's house in which resides the spirit of an ancient go master. When he touches the board, the spirit talks to him, and they can understand one another.

After some badgering, the spirit talks him into learning how to play.

The story follows Hikaru's growth in life and go for the next couple of years (I forget the exact length), and it's a fantastically well told story. I was never really able to put it down, although finding later volmes quickly became difficult.

What I really wanted to talk about, though, was the ending. Because the ending basically just dropped off a cliff. That is to say, it ended very abruptly.

And the last page really made me wonder what the point of the whole series is. That is, I didn't point out that the Go master in question could only talk to Hikaru. He could occasionally play other people, but only when Hikaru agreed to be his go-between. And even then, he pretty much needed it to be anonymized somehow, so it didn't ruin Hikaru's own games.

So, in the last couple of pages, Sai (the master in question) disappeared. No real explanation as to why. But that's not really what bothered me. There were three things that really bothered me about the ending; the first two were that a number of people were looking for the 'divine move', I believe it was called. I figured that that was significant in some form. And there was the question of why Sai appeared to Hikaru, in particular.

Well, the 'divine move' was a canard, which was slightly disappointing. And as for why Hikaru? Well, it seemed that it might be because he was such a special talent, or some such (maybe he was going to be the one to play the 'divine move'? Or maybe he was going to end up better than Sai?).

However, after the disappearance, on the last panel, Sai appeared again (presumably to someone else; I forget, maybe there was an expressed time period between?). So, if he appeared to someone else, then it couldn't have really been something about Hikaru's play, or ability. Which begs the question, what was it?

Random luck is an awfully unsatisfying answer, and terrible writing technique, if so. And it doesn't appear to have been skill; Hikaru himself said, shortly before the end, that he wasn't good enough (to match Sai).

My suspicion is that the manga-ka, Hotta-sensei, just put it in to answer the certain clamor of people complaining about Sai going away to begin with. And I must admit, I was disappointed with the disappearance as well. But I think she didn't consider what that reappearance implied.

It also renders the "dream" (I put that in quotes because the sequence seems rather more like a vision) where Sai appeared to Hikaru a bit nonsensical. The whole point of that sequence was that Sai was pleased that Hikaru was playing well, and was content to move on, permanently. But if Sai was going to reappear, then why worry about it (other than to say good-bye, of course)?

Anyway, enough about that, I suppose. I mentioned that there was a third reason why I was disatisfied; that has to do with Hikaru's friend Akari. One would assume, since she appeared on page one, that she would be a very central character. But one would assume wrongly here; not only was she not central, but she disappeared completely for long stretches of time (whole volumes) repeatedly. There was also the issue that she always seemed to like Hikaru, but I could never figure out why.

He never treated her well; in fact, he frequently treated her very poorly. And to reinforce the suddenness of the finish, it appeared that he might be starting to be nicer to her (perhaps even to return his feelings). But all he ended up doing (and that, unwittingly) was to inspire her to do better with her studies. Important, perhaps, but damned boring.

I should also point out, I suppose, that there is an anime series to go with the manga, but I can't really say anything about it, beyond that friends have told me that it is good. One of these days, I'll track it down for myself.


Dusting off memories

A week or so ago, I walked by a used book store that I'd seen before, but never stopped in to see. I decided I had at least a few minutes, and would check for a couple of specific items. I didn't find those books, but did happen across Gaiman's Stardust, the movie of which I talked about before.

Anyway, I got around to starting it yesterday, and, being too tired to finish it last night, I did so today (greatly aided by my little one taking an extended nap this morning).

I had figured, what with Gaiman being one of the producers of the movie, that the two versions would be pretty similar. After all, as producer, Gaiman would be in a position to enforce that. I had expected not much in the way of changes, other than as needed to shorten it.

I was greatly surprised, then, to find that the two bore very little resemblance to one another. In fact, only in the very broadest of sweeps are they even similar. Only one sequence remained pretty intact, which was the in the Inn of the Chariot. And even that one had some pretty sizable changes. It had the same people doing mostly the same things. Oddly, the differences were pretty much all in the movie version being longer (plus one character ending up dead in the book and another getting an injury).

Robert De Niro's character might as well have not even existed in the novel, for all that he appeared. And there certainly wasn't any discrepancy in his appearance vice his reputation. And the novel was worse for it, I'll admit.

And the final confrontation with Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer's character) bore not even the slightest resemblance to that in the movie. In the movie, Tristran fights with her; in the book, he doesn't even realize the encounter takes place.

Without getting too deeply into details (I'm trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, here), I'm at a bit of a loss as to which I like better. The movie lacks some cohesiveness (the encounter that results in Tristran being born feels much less contrived in the book, and a few things just happen much too quickly in the movie), but it does have a more poetic ending. And, it being a fairy tale (not from the brothers Grimm), this makes a lot of sense. Plus, the build-up of the relationship between Yvaine and Tristran is much better in the movie (it's assumed too much in the book, although that might be, at least partially, a function of target age. And no, I'm not talking about sex; just that we can see a build-up of affection for one another much more in the movie).

But as I said, the book does a much better job of getting all the little things right.

So where does that leave us? Enjoying them both, I suppose.