The Lord Of The Rings

Watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD with Dave yesterday. I had no idea what this film was about before, all I knew was that it was “some sort of fantasy”, and absolutely nothing more. I didn’t even know that it was related to The Hobbit (which I read as a child). So when Dave said “watch this inordinately long film that looks a bit hippah” I eyed him with suspicion. But I watched the film, and I was very very impressed and I enjoyed it immensely. Splendid characters, splendid locations, splendid scenery, splendid acting and splendid music, an absolute ten out of ten.

I was a little surprised by the ending as at that point I didn’t realise that all three films were one big long story, I thought they were self contained stories within the same world and with the same characters, so I said “oh” at the end of the film, but no matter, Star Wars is the same and that’s in six bloody parts. Talking of Star Wars, there was an amazing amount of similarities between the films. The storyline is generally the same and there are some very obvious equivalent characters. For example, Gandalf is obviously Obi Wan, Saruman is Darth Vader, Sauron is the Emperor, Frodo is Luke Skywalker, the Uruk-Hai army is the Clone army, the Fellowship is the Jedi Council, the tree people are the Ewoks; the list goes on. Lord Of The Rings obviously predates Star Wars, so I reckon some influence from it crept into Star Wars at some point.

So yes, from knowing nothing about Lord Of The Rings to being very impressed within the same 4 hours is a remarkable feat, and while I’m sure a second viewing will benefit my understand greatly, I think I understood the majority of it first time. It’s quite verbose (which is probably why it’s so bloody long) and this is helpful. Other films like Dune and Bladerunner require 10 viewings before you even start to follow them correctly. However, the best was yet to come …

Immediately afterwards we watched The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the cinema. Now this film really blew me away. The first film was excellent, but this was mind boggling. They obviously poured quite a lot of the profits from the first film into this one because it was truly staggering. The second part of the long trilogy, it picked up exactly where the last film left off, and no doubt ended exactly where the next film will start from. This film was a lot darker than the first one, there were no meadows, or happy clappy hobbits drinking ale and dancing round tables, of children laughing at fireworks, this was the nitty gritty, the “Empire Strikes Back” part of the story.

My favourite bits were the gigantic battle outside that castle in the cliff, and then the attack by the tree people on Saruman’s war factory, with the bursting damn and everything, truly amazing, how they filmed these things is beyond me. Actually it’s not, I know it’s all ILM hocus pocus, but even so, this is going to take some beating. Mostly the same characters were retained, except without Boromir and with the addition of Smeagol, the comedy Jar Jar Binks character but actually done well and is highly relevant to the story, instead of being a gratuitous action figure model designed to make children laugh.

Go and see it. Twice.

By the way, if you think I’ve misunderstood or missed parts of Lord Of The Rings, it’s because I’m an absolute novice. I know there are a lot of people who’ve been fans for most of their lives, whereas I only discovered it yesterday. Cut me some slack :)


Transport Common Sense

BBC NEWS | England | 5.5bn transport plan unveiled [related talking point] – this of course includes the much needed £2bn road improvement package targetted at five major routes up and down the country, including the M6 from Birmingham to Manchester. While this is a splendid idea and a jolly good slap in the face for the government and that idiot Alistair Darling who’ve had to cave in after 5 years of persecuting motorists, no amount of money thrown at the roads is going to work on its own. It needs to be coupled with:

  • Massive improvements in the rail network: This is an obvious one, but seems to have somehow eluded the logic of most politicians over the past 20 years. The railways need to become cheaper, faster and more reliable. Only once this has happened will people start to get out of their cars, simply taxing motorists to death will not work, ever.
  • A driving re-training programme: Much of the danger and congestion on the roads today is caused by dangerous and ignorant drivers who consider the highway code and traffic laws to be a set a quaint suggestions that only learners have to obey in order to pass their tests. Speeding, about which the police and the government are obsessed, only plays a comparatively small part. The highway code needs to be brought up to date (as it still lives in the 50s and has no concept of things like three lane roundabouts) and then once that’s done it needs to be made law, and enforced rigorously. I reckon 40% of drivers would then be considered unroadworthy and could have their licenses revoked. Name one other scheme that would cut traffic levels by 40% in one go.
  • Teleworking: I know that I am privileged for having been able to work from home over the past two years. I understand the concerns of company management over staff working from home, not everyone is as disciplined as me and of course there will be people who take the piss and skive off. However, these are obviously the people that you don’t allow to work from home. But that doesn’t mean that nobody can, it’s just a case of carefully picking the staff to afford the privilege to.
  • A change in working practises: However, radical corporate attitude change doesn’t stop with teleworking. This obsession with “nine to five” has to go. There should be no such thing as “rush hour”, especially not in our 24 hour soceity. The problem with the roads is that they’re not overburdened per se, it’s that they’re overburdened twice a day for a few hours. Employees should be allowed far greated flexi-time, and indeed if I could change the world I’d create three “commuter shifts”, forcing a third of the workforce to work from 7.00am to 3.00pm, another third to work from 9.00am to 5.00pm as normal and the final third to work from 11.00am to 7.00pm. This would spread the rush hour demand over a much longer period, easing congestion at “peak times”. It seems perfectly simple to me.

It doesn’t stop with roads. It doesn’t even stop with rail. It stops with common sense.