Creative Commons License

Friday, 16 May 2014

Quotes worth saving (16) Dear Ridley Scott...

Over the years, many people engaged on the Alien  franchise had spoken about the need to explain the aliens - where they came from, how they were made, why they were so 'hostile', what they wanted. That was always an understandable mistake. As both figures on the screen and entities in a story, they had a magnificence, an arbitrariness, that would have been spoiled by explanation. Far more important than any causative, narrative answer to how they had acid for blood was their living up to the legendary status of being endlessly renewable, nasty, dangerous and beyond reason. To be alien is to be unknowable.

David Thomson on the Alien Quartet, p. 171 (Bloomsbury, London: 1998)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Foodie Fridays: Treehouse Super Salad

To finish my Welsh holiday themed day, I thought I'd post this salad recipe that was inspired by a visit to the Treehouse Organic Foodshop and Restaurant in Aberystwyth.

Now that the sun's come out to play a little more often, it feels like the time for lots of lovely healthy salads. This one is a complete meal on its own, but could also work as a super side salad at a barbecue or buffet for those that like a bit of excitement with their salads rather than the usual tired green variety.

So, here it is, the (titled by JJ)...

Like a Treehouse tangerine dream in purple, orange, and green!



This salad could easily serve 4 as a main meal, possibly 6 with some extra leaves (I'm thinking Little Gem or Romaine lettuce) and plenty as a side.

Ingredients:

100g Pearl Barley
200g Fine Green Beans
3 Carrots grated
Equivalent amount of Red Cabbage shredded into strips
Iceberg Lettuce shredded (amount is left to personal preference, I only used a small amount)
1/3 Cucumber finely sliced
50g Seed Mix (I had Sunflower, Pumpkin, Linseed, and Sesame)
2 or 3 Tangerines or 1 Small Orange, cut into small pieces
1 small eating Apple, cut into small cubes
(optional)
Fresh Herbs; Parsley, Mint, and Basil
Salad leaves

Dressing:
1 tbsp of Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar
3 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp of Black Mustard Seeds
1 finely sliced clove of Garlic
Dried Herbs; Mint and Basil, 1 tsp of each
Ground Black Pepper

Method:

1. Soak the pearl barley in cold water for at least half an hour. Drain and rinse. Add to pan with double the amount of salted water to pearl barley (I have a measuring cup and the barley filled it, so I just added two cups of water) and bring to boil with the lid on. Keep covered and reduce to a low simmer, cook for at least half an hour or all the water has been absorbed. After half an hour taste the pearl barley, it should be al dente. When done, drain and cool (run under cold water).
2. While the pearl barley is cooking chop and prep all the other salad ingredients. Top and tail the green beans, but cook them last, you want a bit of crunch with them! Add everything to the biggest bowl you have.
3. Mix up the dressing. Leave in a cup or jug with a spoon for people to add indivdually.
4. Add the cooked pearl barley and now boil the green beans. Four minutes maximum to keep a bit of bite and colour to them.
5. Give it a big stir and serve straight away with extra salad leaves or cover and chill until later. Enjoy!





Photography Friday: Devil's Bridge



While in Wales, we went on the Vale of Rheidol Railway
 to Devil's Bridge and saw the Mynach Falls.

The engine gets up to steam...

As we prepare to leave Aberystwyth station.

The windows are strapped in!

And we're off...

Along the Rheidol valley...

Towards Pontarfynach...

Made it!

The Three Bridges
The lowest is the Devil's Bridge

The falls viewed from the opposite side.

However, we climb down Jacob's Ladder rather then up...

The dark soil means the trees grow crooked
It's almost demonic

Mynach Falls

There are three segmented falls

And several natural caves

I could stand and listen to the falling water for hours

Ready for our return journey


Photography Friday: Aberystwyth

On my holidays...

To the land of the Dragon, Wales!

& Aberystwyth's rocky shore

From the war memorial, we saw a dolphin

At this castle, Owain Glyndŵr led an independent Wales from 1404-1406

Aberystwyth South Beach...

Where sun hats are required!

A lone ship coming back into the harbour...

& into the Marina...

Where you can paint your boat on sunny days.

A cooling walk into the sea edge.

Ornate Aberystwyth architecture.

One day did have more usual British weather...

But the sea was still beautiful...

& it was a fine day to clamber cliffs and explore caves

We found this shrine to 'Our Lady of the Cliffs'

The view of Aber and the north beach from Constitution Hill

Clarach Bay

Clarach Caves

Our last day was beautifully sunny...

Farewell Aberystwyth, hwl fawr am nawr!



Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Library Tales: Interestingly Titled III

How to lie with Statistics

Are Women Human?

Can Asians Think?

You Tarzan and Me Jane

Quack, quack, quack: The sellers of nostrums

Hitchhiker's guide to internal medicine

Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain's Far Right

What Color is the Sacred?

Let Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity

Apes & Ape Lore

Some Day Your Witch Will Come



Honourable mention and new subset, 'interestingly authored':

Hanging In Judgment by Harry Potter

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Sonnets on Sunday: Wordsworth visits Wales

I'm just back from my week off in Wales and in anticipation of a very Welsh themed Friday (3 posts! & lots of photos) I thought I'd share a poem about one of the places I visited.


TO THE TORRENT AT THE DEVIL'S BRIDGE, NORTH WALES, 1824

HOW, art thou named? In search of what strange land
From what huge height, descending? Can such force
Of waters issue from a British source,
Or hath not Pindus fed thee, where the band
Of Patriots scoop their freedom out, with hand
Desperate as thine? Or come the incessant shocks
From that young Stream, that smites the throbbing rocks
Of Viamala? There I seem to stand,
As in life's morn; permitted to behold,
From the dread chasm, woods climbing above woods,
In pomp that fades not; everlasting snows;
And skies that ne'er relinquish their repose;
Such power possess the family of floods
Over the minds of Poets, young or old!

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH



Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Suggestion #5 Art & Illusion

What is it that art seeks to represent if we describe it as a mirror-copy of the world or an emotional illusion of an object/event?

Could it be that art is not an attempt to copy that which already exists, nor does it attempt to confuse or mislead, but is instead an attempt to create something.

A something-that and it is what the 'that' constitutes in is what makes the art work worthy of further investigation.


Thoughts were prompted by the reading of this book

Chansons du Samedi: Aux Champs-Élysées!



This is the closing song to the very excellent 'Darjeeling Limited' by Wes Anderson.




Parole de Les Champs-Élysées:

Je m'baladais sur l'avenue
Le coeur ouvert à l'inconnu
J'avais envie de dire bonjour
À n'importe qui
N'importe qui ce fut toi
Je t'ai dit n'importe quoi
Il suffisait de te parler
Pour t'apprivoiser

Aux Champs-Élysées
Aux Champs-Élysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie
À midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez
Aux Champs-Élysées

Tu m'as dit "J'ai rendez-vous
Dans un sous-sol avec des fous
Qui vivent la guitare à la main
Du soir au matin"
Alors je t'ai accompagnée
On a chanté, on a dansé
Et l'on n'a même pas pensé
À s'embrasser

Aux Champs-Élysées
Aux Champs-Élysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie
À midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez
Aux Champs-Élysées

Hier soir deux inconnus
Et ce matin sur l'avenue
Deux amoureux tout étourdis
Par la longue nuit
Et de l'Étoile à la Concorde
Un orchestre à mille cordes
Tous les oiseaux du point du jour
Chantent l'amour

Aux Champs-Élysées
Aux Champs-Élysées
Au soleil, sous la pluie
À midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez
Aux Champs-Élysées

Friday, 11 April 2014

Library Tales: Dedications VI

Special love and thanks to
Anita, Erica, and Geoff
for supporting me and my passion.
Special thanks to God for my many blessings.
"There but for the grace of God go I."

To my wife, without whom this would have
been impossible, and to the future without
which it would have been unnecessary.

To Bob Edwards and Joe Herbert
who first stimulated our interest
in the science of reproduction

Dark mysteries are here - old pathways, secret places

Under the tangled cortex, grown snugly thick now:
Intricately synapsed: electrode-proof

To:

Truth

For Kathryn,
who thinks I can do no wrong,
and Barbara,
who knows better
and loves me anyway

To the memory of my uncle
Neil Norme, who through his
example taught me the honor
and pleasure of work. He was
a calm and purposeful man.
Steady.

This book is dedicated to you.

To 
those with
'a poet's feeling or a painter's eye'
this book is
DEDICATED

To our wives Barbara and Edna, without whose whining nagging for more
money we might long ago abandoned this painful project;
To our numerous children, whose incessant bickering and generally atrocious
behavior drive us to spend  many long hours at the office, working on the book
as the lesser of evils;
To our students, who, with malicious glee, found the many errors in earlier
versions and did the dirty work of indexing, checking references, and so on,
knowing that a degree and a decent recommendation would have been impossible otherwise;
To our many colleagues who were generous with suggestions - but who asked
them? Any failings or errors now present in the book are undoubtedly the result
of their unsolicited advice and meddlesome tampering. We accept absolutely no
responsibility for errors in this book;
And finally, to our tipysts, whose dedic ated efforts, careful attentiun to de&ail,
and skillful w*rk transmuted a rougf ilegible swrawl int0 a finished boo$.

This book is dedicated to
Starla Kay Jacobs
My Wife, and Companion for Life
Through beauty, elegance, wit, humor, and semi-infinite patience, she has
made this book possible. Furthermore, while I was attempting to coordinate the
efforts of 33 authors in five different countries, she would often remind
me, with a twinkle in her eye, that whether the task is writing a book, doing
research in the lab, or painting the house, "if it's not one thing, it's another."
Paul Francis Jacobs
La Crescenta, California
[Final proof that Engineers write the sappiest dedications]

To all those engineers who have contributed to exciting projects that have 
failed on the market



Foodie Fridays: Fish Curry

I've been meaning to write down some of my favourite recipes for some time now, but as I tend to improvise when cooking it's difficult to report my formulated results because they don't exist. Anyway, anyone who knows me, knows that I love to cook and eat, especially for and with friends.

I recently cooked a fish curry that I was very pleased with and in order to help myself remember it, I thought I'd write it down here, I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who tries this recipe out for themselves. As with most of my 'recipes' it's a bit of cheat, I cut corners, and tend to add whatever I've got around the kitchen that I think will go.

So, this might become a semi-regular piece, and as I've some more standard recipes (for 'breakfast bars', pumpkin soup, and for hummus) that I tend to do from memory, I thought I might like to share them, because if someone else enjoys them that would please me.

This particular recipe was inspired by a friend's visit to a Kerala restaurant in Leamington and their report of the fantastic fish-based foods therein. Also, I was watching Wes Anderson's 'The Darjeeling Limited' that evening and felt sufficiently inspired to create some Indian cuisine of my own. Here's what I made:

Coconut Madras Fish Curry (lunch the next day)


Ingredients

(This was enough to serve two and feed them lunch the next day, with rice AND potatoes it could easily feed four I think)

Heat - Medium. If you like it hotter add more chili and perhaps top with some fresh green chilies too. Garlic lovers can add more garlic too.

400g White Fish, I used frozen Basa or River Cobbler, cut in large chunks
One and a half inches of fresh Ginger, peeled and grated
4+ cloves of Garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2+ green Chillies, deseeded and chopped
4-6 Spring Onions, chopped (save some 'greens' for topping)
6 Cardamom Pods, seeds removed and ground
1 teaspoon of Turmeric powder
3 tablespoons of Madras Curry Paste (or make your own!)
1 tablespoon of Tamarind paste
200g Fine Green Beans, cut into short lengths
1 large Aubergine, cubed
250ml Coconut Cream
Lime zest, i.e. grated skin of one lime
50ml Single Cream (optional)
Small bunch of Coriander Leaves, chopped
Butter and Vegetable Oil for cooking

Method

1. In a large sauté pan, frying pan, or wok heat the oil (couple of tablespoons worth) and add some butter (I use quite a small amount, but this can be left out altogether). Once you're at a low-medium heat (not too hot, you do NOT want to burn your garlic) add your garlic, ginger, chilies, and spring onions. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes while you prepare the vegetables. Lower the heat if browning, this should just be softening and sweetening the initial ingredients.
2. Add the beans and aubergine. Keep the lid off and gently stir until lightly browned. You might want to raise the heat a little. Add the fish and cook all for a few more minutes.
3. Add the ground cardamon seeds, turmeric, Madras paste, and tamarind paste. Stir so that all the veg and fish is coated, but be gentle! You don't want to break up the fish. Add a little water and cover. Leave for about five minutes.
4. Add the coconut cream and lime zest. Leave the lid off while the cream melts. Coconut milk or block can be substituted if you can't find any, but you'll need to readjust amounts.
5. Lower the heat and leave to cook, cover with lid if thick, remove if sauce is too thin. It doesn't really need much more cooking now, but 10-30 minutes will do no harm and, indeed, will help intensify the flavours. During this stage cook the rice and/or potatoes (see below)
6. Finally, stir in cream and half the coriander. I took the pan off the heat to do this, as I'd hate to split the cream. It's now ready to serve! After serving, top with the rest of the coriander and the saved chopped spring onions.

New potatoes and Greens

As I like boiled new potatoes with fish, I made up this Indian style addition. Could be served instead of basmati rice or with the rice as a third dish (depending on numbers and appetite).

Enough baby potatoes for any many as needed (9 potatoes for 2 people)
Spinach, Watercress, and Rocket (any combination thereof)
Garam Masala
Black Onion Seeds (a.k.a. Nigella Seeds)
Butter

Wash and chop your baby potatoes in quarters, or however small or large you like them (indeed, boil them whole if you prefer). Boil until soft, drain.
With the potatoes in the colander, add some butter to the pan and once melted add a good spoonful of Garam Masala and your onion seeds. After one minute return the potatoes to the pan, how long you cook them is personal taste. I simply stirred them until they were coated into the Garam Masala and seeds, but you could fry them as long as you like. Remove from heat and stir in the greens. I used about 50g of a spinach, watercress and rocket salad bag, but any combination would work fine (I plan to just use spinach next time and make a quick sag aloo). Stir until the leaves are wilted. Now it's ready to serve.

Serve with plain basmati rice or add a few ground cardamom seeds and a teaspoon of turmeric to the water for an alternative. Indeed, the rice can be as fancy as you like, but as it's such a flavourful curry, perhaps plain is better.

Some homemade naan would also help to soak up the juices of the curry, but we didn't quite get that far. Something to try in the future.

A nice glass of a cold chardonnay finishes this meal off perfectly.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Magickal Mondays: My Tarot Reading

My tarot cards in 'Celtic Cross' formation

Yesterday, JJ gave me a tarot card reading. She used her giant-sized Rider-Waite tarot deck. The Knight of Cups card was chosen to be the card that represented me. Before I go into the reading and how it might be interpreted, I'll say some things about interpretation in general, tarot divination in specific, and how it has been used by certain people, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Pamela Colman Smith and A.E. Waite, the artist and designer of the tarot deck used, both being members).

Thinking about the future, one's own immediate future in particular, can be a difficult task as one needs to have a fairly complete understanding of the contextual factors that are affecting one's environment. Indeed, once one believes they have an idea (that is, they 'know') about what will happen in the future, this can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What do we mean by, knowledge of one's environmental context? Well, it can mean being self-aware of the factors that have and will cause certain behaviour in yourself. Psychological context then. This can only be available after much self-examination and detached observation (treating oneself as an other).

Of divination itself. It can hardly come as a surprise when I tell you that I think that tarot readings are neither 'real' nor an instance of magick. Rather, I believe that a reading such as this can help prompt a certain type of introspective thought about one's circumstances and general psychological behaviour and the effect these actions have on oneself, others and the world about.

I used to know much more than I adequately remember about Hermeticism now. Indeed, like many other spiritual paths I once investigated, it is something I am now done with. Once it was part of my art works, used to invest extra meaning, and this is how I believe people like Colman Smith and W.B. Yeats used their membership of the group. 

Now, the reading itself and my interpretation thereof.





Although the illustration above is pretty accurate to the order we drew the cards. What is before and behind swapped places based on the direction the significator card was facing (he looks right). Thus, before is ahead of him. 

The Knight of Cups. The Significator. JJ chose this card to represent me. As it's described as sensitive, imaginative, introspective, but with legendary melodramatic moods, too temperamental and prone to take offence easily, I thought it an excellent match (although I was offended and sulked).
1. Page of Cups. What covers him. Younger scholars are all around me, so is the atmosphere of academia. This represents my current condition, it is the lack of this studying myself that is of greatest concern to myself. In some systems of interpretation two similar cards after each other represents a reinforcement. 
2. 2 of Cups. What crosses him. As the 2 of Cups represents union and as this card is the problematic in my life, I'd say that this represents the lack of union, that is, working and writing that is my challenge presently. 
3. 9 of Wands. What crowns him. This represents what I believe to be my best outcome of my present circumstances and here the 9 of Wands could be thought to show readiness. Whatever happens, I'll be prepared and ready. 
4. The Chariot. What lies below. This card represents what resources I have to draw upon to help my situation and here the Chariot could stand for self-control. The Chariot is an odd card, but I understand it as representing an assertion of control and other positive aspects of the ego. For myself, I see it as my ability to drawn confidence, in myself, from my friends and using this confidence to control my destiny.
5. 2 of Wands. What lies behind. All cards have negative as well as positive aspects, certainly in A.E. Waite's method of description. The 2 of Wands in its negative aspect can represent sadness, the figure stands upon a battlement and has the world in his hands, but yet still gazes forlornly into space. This is the aspect I take from this, of course it also depends on how one define's 'recent past' and I chose to measure this in years rather than weeks or days.
6. The Empress. What lies before. This is a pretty exciting card to draw here, as it represents fertility, now whether this is creative or actual (children!) I don't suppose I can really comment. It is the future after all. It could also represent a closeness and connection with nature, which is also something I'd welcome.
7. 7 of Pentacles. Himself. This can represent my current activity, i.e. self assessment. Otherwise, the 7 of Pentacles can depict security or achievement, neither of which I'd consider apply to my current situation. Another reading would simply be that I'm working hard and putting in plenty of effort, which rings a little truer in my mind.
8. 8 of Pentacles. Environment. A busy workplace, this seems straight forward, the library is a busy place with some determined people.
9. 5 of Swords (inverted). Hopes and Fears. I'm still not sure why one's hopes and fears might be so closely related, but this is a recurring theme in tarot. At any rate, as the 5 of Swords strongly represents self-interest and conflict, the reversal of this might suggest it is not being expressed normally, be that inappropriate, incomplete or denied in some manner. I suppose one reading would be my fear of being too selfish, or simply it shows my fear of failure, which is something that is an ever present.
10. Temperance (inverted). Outcome. Lack of harmony. A not too happy outcome as it shows that my current imbalance will only worsen, or else perhaps the outcome is to accept this discord. At any rate, although I might have great fertility in my future it apparently won't lead to anything stable in my life. 

Anyway, these are all my own interpretations of the cards in respect to my own future and present circumstances. As I said, I find it an interesting guide or starting point for some self-reflection and as it comes from 'outside' it allows us a detached perspective upon our own life and situation. Something we should probably all do more often, however, there is a danger for over-analysing one's status.










Saturday, 5 April 2014

Saturday is Shah-t'day: Some more Idries Shah selections


KNOWING HOW TO KNOW
A Practical Philosophy in the Sufi Tradition
by Idries Shah
The Octagon Press: London, 1998

Previous post, HERE.

HUMAN DUTY


To help others, to try to be kind and to avoid cruelty, to heal the sick and to protect the weal: these are among the elementary social, not spiritual, duties incumbent upon man as a social animal.

Those who have confused social uplift and psychological ministrations with 'higher' endeavour, end up being in a state of bewilderment or forced into sophistry when they find that they no longer have the monopoly of social service.
The fault is at least partly theirs; they should not so readily have taken the easy way of equating something 'other' with something merely civilised.


STUDENTS


A teaching attracts an artificial selection of students (those interested in the way in which the teaching is projected) unless its sponsors are careful to prevent this.

No 'teaching' with a single dogma or unified message can avoid processing its adherents.


Selections from SOCIAL CONCERN


"If you love other people, for instance, because it is you who really want to be loved, you are not loving at all, and people (especially the object of that 'love') will hate you, at least in part, and will turn against you, perhaps by turning against your dearest beliefs or practices. There is something in men which can detect real love."


"Knowledge may not be superior to love, but it is the essential prerequisite. If you do not understand, you cannot love. You can only imagine that you love."


TO BE REMEMBERED

People in history who were bad are remembered much more than people who tried to make others bad. The same is not the case with goodness. You will notice, if you care to verify this, that it is not the people who were only good who are remembered, but the people who told others to be good, whether they themselves were so or not.


THERE COMES A TIME

There always comes a time when instruction-materials originally employed to direct the attention of certain people towards a certain aim are adopted as 'gospel', or else simplified out of all usefulness and shallowly interpreted.
An example of the latter is the current idea of the meaning of Diogenes' looking with a lamp in broad daylight for an honest man.
People think that he did this to indicate how rare were honest men. In fact, this procedure is a perfectly obvious example of directing attention to the whole question: not only to the rarity of honest men, but to the whole question as to how they might be found.


THE INFLUENCE OF TEACHING

The influence of teaching is very little greater than the capacity of its pupils. When pupils are mainly of low quality, teaching momentum is lost, and the pupils dominate what is taught. The teacher has to select, therefore, who can best benefit, for the sake of all.


WORDS AND VIOLENCE

First, man had no words. The he learned to use words instead of physical violence.
Now he uses words to lead him into violence. He has to unlearn the misuse of words. He has to learn the use of the physical and of words. This is the creature which is called man.


WHAT SELF-EXAMINATION IS

Keep a journal. Write daily about the things that happen to you or strike you as significant. Start studying it after a lapse of time and see how your behaviour was partly due to a desire for self-inflation. Also try to see what useful or interesting concomitants there were to each event.




Friday, 4 April 2014

Film on Friday: The Kings of Summer (2013) Dir. Vogt-Roberts



Spoilers! This review/discussion contains some mild spoilers.

I suppose this could be a defence of The Kings of Summer, but unlike the Tideland defence the only thing this film needs defending from is itself.

Released in 2013 and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in that year, it received wild critical acclaim and while the full release did not gather as much praise, it is still a pretty well regarded little film with 76% on Rotten Tomatoes and 61 on Metacritic, which indicated a generally favourable attitude towards the young actors and the first-time director and writer involved with the project. What more therefore needs to be said about this film? Just another coming-of-age comedy (Stand-By-Me-esque) whose whimsical charm gives it a uniqueness. Well, I think coming-of-age is the wrong genre to classify it under, it's more like nostalgia for a simple teenage boyness. I was not surprised to discover the director has worked mostly in short films on the internet, as the aesthetic attitude and especially it's own attention span is obviously influencing this film.

Anyway, here's what I want to describe. What works about this film are the honest glimpses of life as a teenage boy in the 90's in the States, but there's enough similarities for me to recognise many things there too. So, when it's good it reminds us a little of our own boyhoods and the stupidity therein (punching each other in the arm, for example), whether there is anything similarly female there I cannot say, but I doubt it very much (although the only central female part is played reasonably well, considering she's just there to split the friends up and force something like a plot). I say it is a nostalgia for a 90's boyness rather than coming-of-age because although the boy's ages are given in the film (15 years old) it really doesn't seem fixed. Their age is incidental, what is important is that they are young, but not children either. It is the series of visually crisp vignettes that is the emphasis rather than developing a specific time and place from which the character's are shown to grow. For me, the characters act variously between the ages of 12-18 and thus it seems like a collection of the writer's own memories about his childhood. The time of the setting suffers in much the same manner, as some point it seems early 90's (Street Fighter on the console, hooray!) and then the characters are talking on phones that cannot be any earlier than 2002 (at a guess). Setting and character specification then, are not the important features here. Additionally, the 'plot' seems straight out of screen writing 101 and although obviously telegraphed from the start (the main character has a 'dead mom' trope) it still doesn't quite manage to fit within all the goofing around and general fun that is going on. At it's heart this film is primarily a comedy and not one that finds itself too concerned with realism, even the realism of it's own nostalgia.

The three 'Kings of Summer' building their dream house.


The comedy works fairly well, there are some genuinely funny moments, well acted (the 'adult' characters are especially good seasoned comedy actors, who really take a bite out of the script) and there's enough of them that the not-so-funny moments slip past pretty quickly. The comedy character Biaggio (played by Moises Arias) has a number of funny lines and is amusingly endearing if you forget the lack of anything like a character background, other than amusing 'ethnic' weirdness. Indeed, the non-white characters (all 3) are all comic relief; Biaggio himself, Joe's sister's Latino boyfriend, and the Indian Chinese-food delivery guy (ha ha!). That and the fact the main characters are two middle-class white boys lacking in anything like real problems might distance some people. Joe does have a dead mother, but his father cares for him, he does get 'bullied' at school (once, we see his shirt ripped off) but he is also able to talk the girl he likes, and gets invited to parties. Patrick, his friend, is a popular athlete who's only failing is that his parents are embarrassingly smothering towards him, also he has to wear a boot on his foot because he, previous to the film, broke his foot (i.e. not a permanent disfigurement, just a 'thing'). Both families are well-off and the boys aren't in any trouble prior to running away, so when the film tries to force something like real emotion or conflict, it is very jarring.

While watching, I could't help but think that it would have worked better as a TV show. This is because, edited as it is, it feels like we're missing some actual development and are always joining the scene after several previous situations have been passed over. It just cuts in, nothing is explained, and then punch-line, scene over. At the time I wondered if it was this way because the director had relied on a lot of improvisation from his actors, but I now think it was just scripted like this and that this represents an attempt (albeit a failed one) to convey a youthful free-spirited-ness, but that this aesthetic comes from montage heavy short film technique. At any rate, the film reminds me of the British comedy TV show 'The Inbetweeners' that deals with much the same type of group dynamic; all teenage boys, all idiotic and pathetically funny,  the friendship between the 'main' characters and the disruption of girls to that friendship, and the interaction between the adult world of the parents and the boy's own outcast existence. 'The Kings of Summer' TV show, would have much the same feel, although replace the British sourness with the sort of cheery surrealism found in 'Arrested Development' and as a TV show this would give the naturally funny actors some time to find and develop their characters beyond their rather two-dimensional stock.

The Inbetweeners
The mixed bag dynamic of this film is best emphasised with the totally unnecessary Terence-Malicky cinematography of nature we receive, which although quite pretty seems totally at odds with everything else that's going on in the film, both the comedy and the false emotional seriousness. Something I enjoyed about the boy's escape to the 'wild' is that we are shown they aren't very far at all from civilisation. Indeed, they are able to go shopping for supplies regularly and it's possible to get there in a morning's walk, indeed, nothing about it seems to be that rugged or remote and apart from the plot necessary snake they are not in any natural danger. Even the snake-bitten Biaggio is easily taken to hospital in plenty of time to be saved, something accomplished with no real risk or providing anything like a conclusive character development. In short, it doesn't feel like a natural environment at all, more like a comedy stage. Nature is purely incidental here. Compare this with Into The Wild for example.

All this reminds me of my own boyhood and building a much less impressive 'fort' when I was twelve during my school lunch breaks with my friends. However, I suppose there isn't much (if any) wilderness in the UK whereas there is more than enough to get lost in the USA, which makes me question the realism of their ages (15, just to remind you). If I was going to run away and 'be a man' living in the wild at the age of fifteen, I'd get on a bus and head into the actual wilderness, not just the woods near my house, that is much more like the behaviour of younger children (young teenagers at the very best) rather than boys who are very nearly men. Still, I suppose that level of realism isn't the main concern here as I've mentioned earlier.

A 90's video-game kitsch poster for The Kings of Summer


To conclude, although this film is neither as clever nor as unique as it thinks it is and would've probably worked better as a comedy serial (like The Inbetweeners), still it is an interesting film, one that is worth seeing and was worth making. I'd rather something like this was made than Transformers 4 or anything similarly vacuous. So, I hope the director continues to refine an individual voice, that the screenwriter takes chances on his own ideas and doesn't fall into cliched safety, and that the young actors continue to show their promise. Perhaps this is the thing that we find so appealing and lures us back time and again to nostalgia of our childhood, when things were all promise, untested and full of potential.