Other Men’s Flowers

Or women’s, as it happens to be the case, but I simply love the phrase. One of the most distinguished British military commanders of the Second World War, Lord Wavell, published a popular selection of poems by no means limited to martial tropes. A very good and wide selection that I like to browse every now and then.

Here I’m referring to two very interesting posts, not poems, but worth a while nonetheless.

a) 10 Discworld Quotes You’ll Desperately Need for the Next Four Years

This is, of course, political. And not even that innovative, a selection of quotes recognizable to every Pratchett fan. Including some of my personal favourites.

A few look as if they were written especially to honour Mr Trump’s ascension:

Commander Vimes didn’t like the phrase “The innocent have nothing to fear,” believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like “The innocent have nothing to fear.” – Snuff

She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you. – Equal Rites

And, while it was regarded as pretty good evidence of criminality to be living in a slum, for some reason owning a whole street of them merely got you invited to the very best social occasions. – Feet of Clay

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things. – Jingo

Some are deeply pessimistic:

Shoot the dictator and prevent the war? But the dictator is merely the tip of the whole festering boil of social pus from which dictators emerge; shoot one, and there’ll be another one along in a minute. Shoot him too? Why not shoot everyone and invade Poland? In fifty years’, thirty years’, ten years’ time the world will be very nearly back on its old course. History always has a great weight of inertia. – Lords and Ladies

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY. – Susan and Death, The Hogfather

But there is hope:

“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I’m going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.” – Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men

Fear is a strange soil. Mainly it grows obedience like corn, which grows in rows and makes weeding easy. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground. Small Gods

The fact I copied most of quotes is no reason not to read Katherine Trendacosta’s interesting thoughts on them. Although they don’t require much explanation, they are a clear proof of Pratchett’s genius as possibly the best satirist of our times, and a possible basis for an excellent citizenship education course for every high school equivalent on our planet.

I want to hear some idiot explaining how fantasy is mindless escapism after reading that 🙂

If only more people read smart books… the least we can do is encourage readers around us to reach a shelf higher than usual for some vaccines for the brain. And Pratchett is a great example of just that. He starts innocently, playing with some fantasy tropes in books like The Colour of Magic, and gradually sharpens his wit to a point when you might be too terrified to laugh. I’m more and more convinced that satire, written or drawn is the highest form of art 🙂

And now I’ve spent half an hour in my cartoon archives…

Anyway, back to Pratchett:

Where the falling angel meets the rising ape

What a description of human condition… after I deal with my New Year’s resolutions to read two big epic series, time for a Big Pratchett Re-Read.

b) Looking Back at Princess Mononoke After 20 Years

I have two nieces, 1,5 and 3,5 yo, and I admit they are too young for Pratchett. Although… last week we learned about the existence of a young genius, one Daliyah Marie Arana from Georgia, US, a four-year-old who read over 1000 books. So, Madzia (Maddie) & Ewa, I expect similar results, and soon. There will be test.

No, Pratchett will wait a year or two, but we are getting (at least with the older one) to a point where a cartoon can last more than 10 minutes and might have a plot. Thank God, I can’t stand talking trains any more. And of course there is Disney. Frozen was Madzia’s first full-length movie and she loves it. And of course we have dozens of nice Disney movies to follow.

Still, Disney has some competition in the animations for young audience market:

ghibli_main_logo

Studio Ghibli

Japanese animation that appeals to (almost) everybody, not only the otakus. Beautiful, imaginative, adorable, technically perfect and artistically sophisticated. Unassuming, restrained… in many ways ideal. Most of them, but no all, created by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, with some of the best scores by Joe Hisaishi. For many Westerners it’s a gateway drug into Japanese animation, but even if not – it’s something you, and, most of all, your children, should see.

There are some Ghibli movies without any age restrictions: My Neighbour Totoro (strangely difficult to find in Polish 😦 ), Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea… and some that a small creature might enjoy with an adult ready to comfort and assure about the inevitability of the final happy end – like Spirited Away about a girl that fights to be reunited with her parents lost in a fantasy world.

Then there is Grave of the Fireflies, quite possibly the saddest animated movie ever, featuring brother and sister in heavily bombarded World War II Japan. There is no happy end and if you don’t cry at least once, you’re probably a horrible human being. I’m not showing this one to my nieces for the time being.

But fish-girl Ponyo that wants to befriend a human boy, that is another, very cute, story.

ponyo-screencaps-ponyo-on-the-cliff-by-the-sea-30547658-1920-1080

To sum up – good, sensitive stories you can watch along with kids 3 yo and up and your heart will also get warmer. And, most of the time, protagonists are girls way ahead of Disney in the strong female characters department. It’s not a norm in Japanese pop culture, believe me. I’ve seen some weird shit.

And fun fact: they made an adaptation of Le Guin’s Earthsea, unluckily it’s one of their weakest pieces. Still, way better than Sci-Fi’s live action disaster.

But Princess Mononoke is not for little kids. For reasons like that:

sanblood

I’d wait with the first screening till… mid-primary? I don’t know, it probably depends on the specific kid’s maturity. Personally I could always find a way to read whatever I wanted, and look where it got me… ok, I’ll be more careful with the next generation.

Mononoke Hime, fully reviewed by Leah Schnelbach in the linked post, is a story that touches deep past of Japan (conquest of the aboriginal Ainu people), social issues of country’s much more recent history, and gives us a few protagonists with valid – but contradictory – goals. They learn, and grow, and better themselves. There is sadness, melancholy, some good things irrevocably end, but there is also hope, and understanding, and a compromise. Not a simple victory of good versus evil like in some story I’ve seen as a kid, about a good lion that will be eating the antelopes from now on instead of a bad lion 😛

Oh, and the English screenplay was written by a then-obscure author, one Neil Gaiman 🙂 Although there was some studio meddling (Disney) not to confuse the American audience with too complicated a story 😀 Before last elections I thought such changes to be laughable and offensive, but maybe the studios know their customers better…

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5 thoughts on “Other Men’s Flowers

  1. I still haven’t gotten to Ghibli productions… I definitely intend to, one day. As for Pratchett, however, he was – and still is, wherever he may be – the undisputed master of subtle irony tinged with compassion toward the angelic apes. I guess it’s time for a Pratchett re-read 😉

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  2. I love Ghibli! Most of films are too frightening for Madzia yet (as you wrote 3,5 yo), but she likes Ponyo very much, and song from Totoro – I hope she will learn English or Japanese language soon ;). Pratchett is waiting for her too, ofcourse 🙂

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