May 2005

Cup of Soup

Tue, May 3, 2005

I'm Not Panicing... It's Just The Culture Shock

So I've had some time to let the Hitchhiker's movie sink in, and watched it again to leer a more critical eye on the latest adaptation.

The result is that the film seems less "adequate" than I originally thought. Perhaps, after waiting so long for the film, and so eagerly wanting to love it the way I did the radio series and books, that I simply did. After watching it again, and thinking about why the originals are so good, the flaws of the film became much more apparent.

I thought before that the biggest flaw in the film is that it was too short; it seemed rushed, sprinting from one scene to the next - even from one line to the next - and that it could have benefitted from taking a bit more time to explain some of the concepts and plot reasonings, and put in a few more of the classic jokes while they were at it. The second viewing reveals that this is merely the symptom of the problem. The flaw is that one of the keys to what made HHG so funny was Adams's style, and that style has been mucked up. Adams would take a sci-fi situation and apply it as a satire or exaggeration of human life, and tell it in a metre and rhythm that naturaly flowed from one thought to the next and led to a punchline that would actually strike you like an emotional punch. The Hitchhiker dialogue was practically perfect; prose with a timing and flow that delivered thoughts with almost sing-song clarity. The screenplay has no such flow, no such rhythm, and the result is an edited mishmash that saps the humour out of the jokes and leaves the plot with many a hole in which to fall.

The original dialogue between Arthur and Mr Prosser regarding the demolition of his home was a hilarious rhythmic exchange satirising bureaucratic complexity and political muck-ups, which cleverly setup the exaggerated but equally identifiable bureacratic obstacles around the demolition of Earth. The screenplay's version slices the scene such that it merely advances the plot, but without the charm and humour, and as a result also subdues the humour of the entire Vogon personality.

The Guide entry on towels is missing, so while the characters repeatedly comment on their significance, the viewers are left wondering what the big deal is with the towel. The explanation of why they're significant is missing completely, and that was the reason why it was funny in the first place. Even Earth's entry in the Guide ("Mostly harmless"), the key point that put Earth in its place compared to the rest of the universe, is entirely absent.

Marvin was lovable because he was an exaggerated version of every time we feel down and want attention or pity, but the running-gag lines that best express this intention ("I've got this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side...") are absent, and we are left with a Marvin that is cute and sad, but not as endearing as his '70s predecessor.

The reshuffling of elements without the attention to style has left Zaphod with misplaced drive, a new Humma Kuvula character that is surrounded by unexplained motives and purposes and easily edited out, a plot that moves for unsatisfied and occasionally contradictory reasons, and an improbability drive that is based less on improbability, and more on, well, uncontrollable "magic".

Maybe the successive screenplay writer simply didn't understand Adams. Maybe the money behind the scenes thought the general public would not understand it. Maybe they attempted to please far too many people at once, and as Aesop taught us long ago, in the end pleased no one.

All of this, of course, compares the movie to a story that is one of the world's favourites. Compared to its radio and novel predecessors, it is quite weak. Compared to the norm of Hollywood movies that churn themselves out of the system, it is still an uplifting and humourous adventure. I still feel it is a good movie - and not just because Zooey plays an adorably spell-binding Trillian. The cast of actors still convey great character, the visuals are what the TV series wishes it could have had, and the movie is filled with intricate details that throwback to jokes of incarnations passed. A plethora of potential is visible throughout the film, it's just terribly frustrating to see it left unused, misdirected, or sapped of life, the universe, and everything.

The film is good, but it could have and should have been so much more. If Adams were alive today, I am sure we would still be waiting for this film, because he would still be busy fighting for it.

I will still, however, get one of those plush Marvin dolls.

Thu, May 5, 2005

A Trilogy of Five

After the third viewing (yes, I like to be thorough), my opinion is averaging out a bit between the previous two reviews.

  • The plot is disjointed and the style doesn't synch with the originals
  • Zaphod has lost his cool, along with his motives
  • The movie is funny in it's own right, mostly via the Vogons, with their running away from towels and inability to penetrate the defence provided by a small white picket fence
  • Marvin is still the beloved paranoid android, even if his diodes don't enter the picture.
  • Zooey Deschanel is really cute. Like, really really cute. She's got cool two-tone eyes. All that's missing is the English accent.

Oh, and I have pre-ordered my plush character set and posable Marvin.

This afternoon, I saw what must be one of the saddest protests around. I don't know what they were protesting, but there were two guys holding big Soviet flags, and another guy holding an illegible sign. There were two very bored-looking police officers watching over them.

Sat, May 14, 2005


This afternoon, in front of a league-record, sold-out crowd of 19,432 at the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Rock defeated the Arizona Sting by a score of 19-13 to win their fifth National Lacrosse League Championship in seven years!!! I was ecstatic to finally get the chance to see my team win it all live and in person! I got 18th-row seats with a few friends, and we soaked up the atmosphere and screamed to our hearts' content.

A five-goal effort from MVP Colin Doyle and some superb tending from goalie Bob Watson led the way to defending the Rock Dynasty. The atmosphere was electric, the fans were enthusiastic, and the Rock were superb!

With the numerous outfits and signs fans showed off, the best I saw was a tribute to former coach and GM Les Bartley, who is currently struggling with cancer. One side of his sign read "Dear Les: You gave us championships; we give you strength", and on the reverse, "Dear Cancer: Re: Les Bartley... Screw off!!"

Four Cups under Les, and now a fifth in his honour. The Toronto dynasty keeps rockin'.

Mon, May 16, 2005

The Rock That Les Built

When Les Bartley left a successful Buffalo lacrosse franchise for an upstart team in Hamilton, he brought along his good friend Jim Veltman to be his team's captain. Sceptical of leaving a successful franchise, Veltman followed after Les's beckoning: "Let's build something together."

A year later, the Ontario Raiders were purchased by Brad Watters and a number of NHLers and moved to Toronto to become the Rock. On the way to his first game in T.O., Veltman heard on the radio that the new franchise was expecting a crowd of 10,000 for the inaugural game. Veltman didn't believe it, and still couldn't believe it when he saw it with his own eyes. The building filled with new screaming fans, the walk-up line stretched down Carlton St and around the corner, and the Gardens ran out of beer by half-time.

Since that surprising opening day seven years ago, the Rock have won five league titles and broken league season and single-game attendance records numerous times. The foundation of all of this success is the work of Les Bartley, a man that revolutionised the strategy of box lacrosse, and proved his techniques on the floor.

After his fourth title with Toronto, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and forced to step down. He continued to play a role in lacrosse for the next two years, working deals for the team and the NLL, and being named executive of the year by the league, continuing to spread his influence throughout the lacrosee world.

Less than 24 hours after witnessing the team he constructed win an astounding fifth championship in seven years, Bartley the fighter finally succumbed to the cancer flooding his body. He lasted just long enough to see his brainchild succeed one more time.

The Toronto Rock family and the entire lacrosse world are shaken to the core by the loss, and we all mourn his early departure. But, the Rock that Les built has a strong foundation. Success will continue to breed and grow in this team, and Bartley's fingerprint and his memory will remain in the game and in this city for all time.

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Tue, May 31, 2005


Referee in a local hockey league is a low-paying job, but it's still a job, and the people employed to do it should do it right.

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