Sunday, 31 May 2015

Tomorrowland, Objectivism, Technique, and Optimal Behaviourism

After seeing trailers for Disney's latest attempt at a live-action Science Fiction film, Tomorrowland, I had my misgivings. It had an air of a creepy, Ayn Rand-style plot and ran the risk of making the same shallow statements of technological utopianism one finds so prevalent in Atomic Age futurism and modern Transhumanism. Still, I was cautiously optimistic and when Ashley and I went to see it last night, my fears were blessedly allayed. It didn't exactly subvert the issues I was concerned with, but it was not as bad as I was fearing either.

The following review will have the spoilers germane to a discussion about its themes and message, so if you're one of the many people who haven't seen it (based on its box office returns), you may want to exercise your own caution. The short review is that I enjoyed it. I didn't come out excitedly loving it, but then here I am writing an essay about it.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Saint Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Walt Disney World is replete with pirates, from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and A Pirate's Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas interactive game, to Peter Pan's Flight and the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage (not to mention the great Pirates of the Caribbean game in DisneyQuest). An approximate three-hour drive from Orlando, Florida brings visitors to the centre of a town bristling with a true-life legacy of pirates: Saint Augustine. 

Saint Augustine was the first town founded by the Spanish on the continent, thus making it the oldest city in the United States. After the town was established in 1565, work began on a series of forts, culminating in the stone Castillo de San Marcos. These forts frequently fended off attacks by English and French privateers, with varying degrees of success. One of the worst attacks was by Sir Francis Drake, whose crew managed to occupy and ransack the town for three days at the end of May, 1586. 

Given such a legacy, Saint Augustine was a natural place for entrepreneur Pat Croce to relocate his collection of authentic pirate artifacts. Right across the street from the Castillo de San Marcos, the Saint Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum is a marvellous institution to cap off a visit to a city with so many connections to historical scallywags and swashbucklers.   

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Bambi, a Life in the Woods

It's rather cliche to exclaim that a book is better than the movie based on it. In most cases this is simply because the book allows greater length and depth than two or even three hours on screen can permit. Rarely is it because a work is so suited to the medium of literature that transferring it to the visual medium of film necessarily causes it to lose what makes it beautiful. This may be the case with Bambi, a Life in the Woods by the Austrian author Felix Salten. Published in 1923 and translated to English by Whittaker Chambers in 1928 - and, of course, adapted by Walt Disney in 1942 - Bambi is heralded not only as one of the first environmental novels, but one of the masterpieces of nature literature.

1932 edition illustration by Kurt Weise.