~ DID YOU EVER KNOW? For those of you of a certain age, being told to finish your beets and asparagus and table-scraps because “there were starving kids in China” will ring a bell. I never knew what it meant, or why my mother said it, exactly.
This man-made famine was widely misunderstood at the time; in modern China it is glossed over as “the three years of natural disaster”; and in the Western history books it is all but forgotten, because Leftism & Marxism. Still, it’s a cultural artifact for people who were kids in the 1960s.
My smart-ass response at the time was: “Well OK, can we send this to them, then?” The previous era of starving Chinese children was the mid-1930s, under Japanese misrule. The slightly later version changed the starving children to Africa (particularly Eastern Africa), in the great to-and-fro of the Cold War.
The Horror: 1958-1963
Back to my era. Did you ever ask (or were you ever told, or did your parents even know) why in China– a net exporter of food– there were such conditions in the late 50s into the mid-60s? Probably not.
Communism. Mao Tse Tung wanted to hasten agricultural reform, and was greedy for hard currency from the Soviets, and so sold them most of the food China produced. He sold almost all Chinese crops, even if that meant the peasant farmers themselves had nothing left to eat. That, and crazy schemes like shutting down small farms, and making giant collective farms. Which didn’t work.
Mao Starved Them
Communism + lack of reality? = 70 MILLION direct & indirect Chinese deaths.
Mass starvation, eating grass and bark, cannibalism, and upwards of 60-70 million deaths ensued, because Communism can’t science good, and what’s a few millions dead for the progress of the Revolution, blah blah blah.
Truth is, there’s more than enough food in the world to prevent starvation, but as in 1930s Ukraine, Mao’s China or Ethiopia in the ‘We Are The World‘ 1980s, politics (especially progressive politics) are often found at the root of such crises. Entirely avoidable, predictable, and horrible.
Death by starvation– for ideological purposes– has proven quite convenient for human monsters of the 20th century. We’re only ever told half of the story, and well after the fact, by the useful idiots of the Western mass media, who served and still serve all too often as the willing mouthpieces of Lenin, Stalin, Che & Fidel, Mao, and their horrible policies and evil minions.
“It all begins to have the air of an aging rock band’s ill-advised reunion tour.“
~ Christopher Orr ~
~ LET’S RECALL that The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is billionaire stupid fat hobbit Peter Jackson’s last (please God!) movie exploiting and abusing Middle Earth. One might expect care, detail, fine character touches, coherent moments of battle, and– given he’s now super-rich– the very best for his many, many fans in this long, long, long goodbye.
It is to laugh. Or, to weep. So we are presented The Hobbit: The Fellowship of The Two Towers Of The King And 5 or 4 or 8 Armies Plus Giant CGI Worms. If PJ could lay hands on it, it went into the stewpot. Flee sense, begone JRR and proportion, EVERYTHING. INTO. THE. STEWPOT!!
Down We Go!
Let us consider a few lowpoints, shall we?
As if people will immediately remember the end of the previous movie, Peter Jackson has the fire-bombing of Hamburg wrecking of Lake-Town and the killing of the dragon Smaug at the start of this last movie. Way to deflate the emotional and dramatic balloon, Pete. Binks rewrite– instead, Smaug dies at the end of Hobbit II, but we have 5+ amazing minutes of Smaug-recall (different viewpoints, characters, flashbacks, CGI flames) to re-establish where we are, then into the Laketown refugee thing. And no, the Worm-tongue wannabee guy does not get all kinds of Jar Jar Binksian extra screen-time. Feh.
So we have super-friends Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman actually kung-fu fighting Sauron and the Ringwraiths (albeit in ghostly form); the elf-queen banishes Sauron somewhere or other, via a repeat of her Evil Queen routine from LOTR: Gandalf gets rescued (?!). Never mind that we just got rid of the need for most of the Lord Of The Rings Books, just there. Methinks Jackson was jealous of all the success of the Marvel superhero movies and threw some of that into the Stewpot, consequences be damned.
There is now something called ‘Dragonsickness’, expert dragonsickologist Dr. Jackson warns, and Thorins are especially susceptible. Not greed, selfishness, covetousness, dragonish hoarding, a dwarvish lust for riches, but ‘a sickness’– can you say ‘midichlorians’? Is it catching? Of course, this undercuts Tolkien’s own morally serious and realistic depiction of Thorin as a kingly but deeply flawed character, tempted– as his father and grandfather were– to worship gold and the Arkenstone. The point? ALL of us can be morally dragonish. Duh? Stewpot!
Even More Lazy!!
Billionaire dragon Jackson simply could not be bothered (it seems, by the end-result) to hire a medieval war expert, a historian, or even a really really nerdy Total War video-game series fan (Will Work For Red Bull) to lay out for Jackson and his animators how medieval (if fantastical) conflict actually worked. Instead, we have a seeming infinity of CGI elves, dwarveses, and orcses and humanses and bats and trolls and wargs and sandworms and eagles directly borrowed from the past movies to show Things Are Happening! Loud noises! Dangerous, bad events which make no sense, but are very very serious! This is why Tolkien imagined and wrote the novels from hobbit perspectives, so you could identify with them, and not be overwhelmed or lost in the big details of stuff and things. Pete knows better.
I Call Nerd-Shenanigans!
Jackson wants us all to think he is the nerdiest of the nerds, but he apparently can’t even dig back into olden war-gaming, or even World Of Warcraft to work out that dwarven dukes like Dain II don’t ride sows into battle, they’d ride properly armoured-up war-boars with huge slashing tusks, tearing hoofs, levelling kicks and charges. Nope, we get a pig. Love the cameo of Billy Connolly, but I’m a sucker for a Glasgae rant. Love how they slightly muted his ‘sodding’ comment.
Lazy Jackson steals from Tolkien, indirectly from the Silmarillion (the long history book of Middle Earth), but worst of all, he steals repeatedly from himself. Every cool thing or effect in the LOTR trilogy ends up referenced, copied, or simply thrown into the hobbit Stewpot– even the female elf-warrior Tauriel is a ramped-up version of Jackson’s ramped up Arwen, because elvish princesses must fight and stuff. Girl-power!
Of course, my now having officially called Nerd-Shenanigans, Peter Jackson has one month from the time of calling to respond, or forever lose his nerd-cred. Verily, thus it is written in the ancient tomes, the Letters Of Venerable Jorath, High Nerd Scribe, and in the manuals of the holy Gygax.
By The Power Of Nerd!
Now: I have some nerd cred. Collected lead miniatures in the ’70s; played D&D and many other strategy & fantasy & sci-fi wargames (many ‘inspired’ directly by Tolkien); read all the books, the Silmarillion more than a dozen times; then into the new era of Middle Earth video-games, mods, Third Age Total War, and the Lord Of The Rings Online MMORPG. Not as nerdy as some, but then again I have a life, and I’m not 15, or 50 going on 15, right?
Got that? And thus you will understand the meaning of what I say when I tell you it took me TWO WEEKS of watching this ginormous cauldron of manure to get through the entire thing once and for all. Not sure I’ve recovered yet. Not sure if I can stand the upcoming extended version.
Instead of leaning his weight on the story, he relies on CGI, whipping back and forth across a giant meaningless battle of Dagorlad at the start of the Fellowship of the Pellenor Fields The Black Gate of The Five Armies, and except for no huge explosions or robots, this might be Michael Bay sacrificing the entire fillum (except the one bright spot in this long spate of visual diarrhea: Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins) to special-effing-effects. Lazy.
After all, if Sauron had all this military hidden away, he should have just attacked anywhere but where the Dwarf and Elven and Human armies were, and rampaged his way across Middle Earth until he found the Ring. But Jackson– in this detail, as in all the others– makes clear he doesn’t care for the fans, for good directing, for realistic effects, for restraint, for careful and amazing story-telling. He’s rich and lazy and can’t be bothered any more with this inferior story-teller ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’.
Sad To Say It
The Hobbit is an adventure story for boys and girls; full of hobbit-sized and some adult-sized bad things, which are all overcome at the end by goodness and honour and decency and hobbitish ordinariness, and ordinary folk finding their inner hero, and the hidden hand of God ruling over all. Peter Jackson (become like George Lucas) is too smart for such tropes. What he can do, he will, whether it is well to do it or not. Kiwi Director-Man has become a story-wrecker, of a Great Story written by a better man and better story-writer than himself.
The entire Lord Of The Rings series is (a) high culture digested by one of the leading scholars in old languages of his time, and offered as a hobby/ braining thing for his readers to be enliftened thereby, and brought into a wider world of thought, feeling, literature, action, and moral imagination. And (b) As C.S. Lewis said of his reading of the faerie novels of George MacDonald, that they ‘baptised’ his imagination, so for many others (including this elf), The Hobbit & The Lord Of The Rings baptised my imagination, called me onwards and upwards to something/ someone (then) I-Knew-Not-What, left my mind and inward vision and imagination illuminated for a while with a brighter light from a far away land, full of longing and hope and desire for The Whole Thing.
Tolkien helped lead me to Jesus, through his writing. It’s that simple.
“Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.”
That, ultimately, is why this Jacksonification is a horrid miscarriage of art, literature, and longing: it points to nothing but garbled sound and images and meaningless activity. More of the same– more of our fallen selves, looking into carnival mirrors– is not what we need.