Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Thoughts on the TV show Vikings

Vikings is the tale of the semi-historical Ragnarr Loðbrók and two of his wives, Lagertha and Aslaug, and their children, Bjorn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, Hafdan Whitecoat, Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye and Ubba.
Ragnar is a wealthy farmer at the start of the show. He is a clever and brutal warrior, a combat pragmatist. But he is more, a visionary, a charismatic leader, intellectually curious, a technological innovator, shrewd judge of character, and a Machiavellian magnificent bastard of the first degree.
The show exists in a kind of magical realism where magic is believed in but whether it is ‘real’ is always up to the eye of the beholder.
The show is well grounded in the Norse culture and presents a lot of values dissidence through the vehicle of Æthelstan, a monk from Lindessfarne who Ragnarr makes captive during the first Viking raid on England.
The sets and costumes are reasonably accurate. In order to be more identifiable on the battlefield to the viewer, nobody wears helms in battle, which given the number of head wounds suffered is obviously quite stupid in-world. The depiction of viking and Anglo-Saxon and Frankish tactics is quite good.
They make hash of the topography. They have fjords in Kattegat, they have mountains by Uppsala, they have people crossing from Denmark to Sweden dryshod on land.
And being the we-used-to-be-a-history channel, they make hash of the history. For instance, Ragnarr did not succeed Horik I and king of Denmark, his son Horik II did.
The ships and houses and costumes are very nicely done and era-appropriate generally.
I’m curious to see if Rurik and Dyre will come in season 4 as the viking (varangian) founders of modern Russia were contemporaries of Ragnarr and his sons. Dyre’s companion Askold was the son of Hafdan Hvitsark Ragnarrson and thus grandson of Ragnarr and Aslaug and thus Ragnarr’s grandson.
Someone above scoffed at ‘conquering a new land with 30 guys’ well yes they didn’t have thousands of extras on set. But dark ages battles did not involve thousands of people either. The Great Heathen army of Ragnarr’s sons invaded and conquered most of England, the Isles, and northern Ireland with according to some scholars, less than a thousand men. Although Crusader Kings II gives them 15,000.
The show is very violent. It is about the events leading up to the Great Heathen Army which led the Christians of Europe to make special prayers for protection from them such as:
Pity [us] the highest favor by preserving and guarding our bodies, free us from the savage Norman tribe who devastates our realms.
They aged and young would have their throats slit, and maidens and lads too, and the multitudes also. Repel the evil from us, we altogether implore [thee]. Bring thee the ruling realm, we plead on our knees, to the king of glory, who pity us with true peace, soundness, hopes and strength. Give us peace and harmony. Bestow us unmitigated hope, genuine faith also; concede us continual charity and let completed be. Sanctify our prayers that we be availed in achieving this, that we be rejoiced in glorious measure. Praise be peace and glory, to the Trinity who [is] wholly most-magnificent for the people. Amen
–Charles the Bald
870
I give Vikings high marks for:
Music
Choreography
Values-neutral presentation of medieval Christianity vs Norse paganism. They are all anti-heroes at best except the Anglo-Saxon monk Aethelstan who is a viewer reference in that he is moral and isn’t murderous, Machiavellian, or batshit crazy. Well, he is Machiavellian, actually.
Acting, especially Travis Fimmel as the snarky, reserved, observant, calculating and ruthless Ragnarr and Katheryn Winnick as the stalwart shield-maiden Lagertha.
World-building set design and costumes are well thought out and authentic-ish. Such as the clinker-built ships they use.
Not so good for:
History, however Ragnarr isn’t acknowledged by all historians to be a historic character, although all his sons are. How could he not be real if his sons exist?
Ragnarr and Lagertha’s and Aslaug’s stories are caught up in the great cycle of Norse myths and legends such as Aslaug/Kraka/Ranhildr is the daughter of Sigurd the dragon-slayer and the shield-maiden Brynhildr. Her early story corresponds to “Clever Peasant Girl” folk tale, Aarne-Thompson no. 875, so either it nicely fit that pattern of changed with retellings to fit it.
Nevertheless the script has Ragnarr become King of Denmark, which for sure did not happen.
Geography as mentioned. Locations have been picked for their visual appeal and way of framing establishing shots, but have nothing to do with the actual geography of the places depicted in most cases.
There’s a lot more analysis at tvtropes but better not to read it yet because spoilers.
Overall, Vikings is a great show and well-worth watching.

5 June, 2015 Posted by | history, History Channel, media, review, scanlyze, television, Vikings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Junior High

On Junior High

I went to Roxboro Junior High in Cleveland Heights, Ohio from 1970 to 1974.

The first two years were the most interesting. Viet Nam was reaching it’s genocidal conclusion and the east side of Cleveland was a hotbed of radicalism. Cleveland had I think the fourth-largest SDS chapter at one time. Twenty six thousand people? That’s the membership number I remember. Never actually had any documentary evidence of it tho’ just word of mouth.

There had already been down-and-out fighting between some in the city’s black community of Hough and the police and 1600 National Guardsmen in the summer of 1966 (June 18-23, 1966). These were characterized as riots by the press and government but had some revolutionary characteristics. A Grand Jury investigation later found that , “The jury finds that the outbreak of lawlessness and disorder was both organized, precipitated and exploited by a relatively small group of trained and disciplined professionals at the business. They were aided and abetted, willingly or otherwise, by misguided people of all ages and colors, many of whom are avowed believers in violence and extremism, and some of whom are either members or officers of the Communist Party.”

There had been major tension in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, culminating in the “Glenville shootout” of July 23-28, 1968 in which seven people were killed (officially), including three police officers, and (officially) 15 were wounded.

On September 20, 1969, there was a demonstration at the Davis Cup tennis finals about a half mile from my house in which about 300 SDS’ers, including Bernadine Dohrn, were beaten and thrown in garbage trucks (the kind for fallen tree branches) They had marched around chanting, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh is going to win”. Mental facepalm once again. Nixon was supposed to come and they repaved all the roads from the airport right to the Clark courts (which was oddly on the Junior High grounds). But Nixon didn’t show. Officially 20 were arrested. I saw the whole thing from inside the stadium. News coverage, despite presence of the international media? None.

Later there were some bombings, popularly (and probably wrongly) attributed by the press to the Weatherman faction of SDS, in which things like one of Rodin’s “Thinker” (March 24, 1970) and the Shaker Heights police station (February 1, 1970) were blown up.

And then there was Kent State about 40 miles from us, where on May 4, 1970, Ohio national guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students, wounding at least nine others. This led to a student strike by an estimated four million people.

Events are somewhat jumbled in my mind but I remember a lot of chaos (and fun) in that time. The school was essentially ruled by the AV club. They had keys to everything kept on a big keyring hidden in a false bottom of a “safe locker” (and spare sets). They held “trials” of students accused of stealing things without authorization or misusing access to the keys. Or losing them.

A key amnesty was used to turn in the worst malefactors and tighten up on key security. Some people also ran a pirate TV station, 1/4 watt, broadcasting Star Trek in black and white up to 5 hours a day on school days.

The AV crew also spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to write “Page Bites” in the most improbable places, including in invisible ink on a white sweater which became visible after drying poor Mrs. Page’s sweater.

Kids who were thought to be wimpy got a rough time. Beaten with wet towels, clothes stolen, locked in wet used towel box. I let several of these go. In those days nobody wanted to fight me as I was heavyweight intramural wrestling champion of my grade in 7th and 8th grade. Well I did get punched in the mouth in the library, which aggravated me and prompted me to tell them they should leave now. lol. “No fighting in the library”.

The worst malefactors were kept somewhat under control by quite rough treatment when we played “Bloodball” or rugby football. Some, who stole AV equipment or keys or who repeatedly tear-gassed Ms. Barber’s science class, were strongly encouraged to mend their ways after being subjected to drumhead student courts.

I guess I would consider myself to be a liberal then. I refused to boycott school, and said we should Occupy instead. I did not participate in any of the big fights, like when about 200 people put the beatdown on some gangsters who had come looking for one of our brothers. Mr N_____ who was a former Marine Corps Sergeant, saved them from being beaten unconscious or worse. Or when the Nazi’s were invited to speak to the 9th grade Humanistic Curriculum program and ended up leaving abruptly pursued by a student version of the basic Frankenstein’s monster chasing mob. With baseball bats, knives and a machete in place of pitchforks and torches.

There were frequent bombings in the school, ranging from strings of firecrackers, to M-80’s, to toilet bombs, homemade incendiaries, and finally the bombing of the administration offices, which left them a burnt out shell and did more than a quarter million dollars worth of damage. All other kinds of monkeywrenching and Anarchist Cookbook stuff was done. Such as the old wrap a wet sponge with rubber bands tightly, let it dry hard, take off bands and flush it down the toilet. I didn’t do that I found it annoying as well as not in accord with my nonviolent principles, even moreso annoying when the toilets were actually exploded.

The Paris Peace Accords of Jan 27, 1973, changed the revolutionary ardor of the students completely. We had won the right to make a Student Union, but after the war “ended” only one person (and me) ever showed up to another meeting and it fell apart. The war of course was not over for the Vietnamese. What changed was US American student’s older brothers were no longer being drafted and coming home insane or in a box.

I was more inspired by the Yippie’s pranksterism. I remember in the Humanistic Curriculum getting the teachers to agree that we should study bipedalism by going around on quasi all fours like apes one day and the traditional school teachers and administrators being quite disconcerted as we ran around on all fours eating bananas and pant-hooting at them. The Yippies continued to be a presence up through the end of high school in 1977. But basically the antiwar movement, which pretended to such high ideals, was dead, its leaders dead, imprisoned, underground, or exiled and the self-interest in avoiding the draft gone as a major motivating factor. That year after 9th grade they re-keyed the entire school at a cost of 60 thousand dollars and brought in security guards/police to “monitor” the halls.

Then came high school where the real fun began.

1970 Explosion Destroys Cleveland Police Station

Copyright © 2012 Henry Edward Hardy

5 September, 2012 Posted by | civil rights, Cleveland, Kent State, peace, scanlyze, Viet Nam, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riese: A Girl and her Wolf

Riese: A Girl and her Wolf

Riese and Fenrir
Riese and Fenrir

I recently ran across a new web-only action/adventure production called Riese. The eponymous main character, played by Christine Chatelain, is fleeing from a tyrannical regime in the steampunk kingdom of Elysia. I like the Mad Max look of the costumes and the Dr. Horrible like semi-pro abandon with which the series is being edited and shot. The general premise, good kingdom overtaken by evil cult; heir(ess) on the run… is as old as the stories of Theseus and Oedipus. The show has an appealing during/post apocalypse sense which puts one in mind of A Boy and His Dog, Mad Max, especially the third installment, Beyond Thunderdome, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, The Handmaid’s Tale and many others. However it is a nice place from which to explore good versus evil, individual versus society and such tropes. The heroine has at least one supernatural seeming ability: to keep her eyeliner and eyeshadow lipstick and foundation pristine and unsmeared despite being pursued through the woods while wearing goggles and bleeding from a side wound and then engaging in a rather clumsy knife fight with several Mad-Maxian attackers.

I am generally happy with people taking their vision directly to web rather than letting it be ground up and homogenized by the “entertainment” industry.

Whether it be “Star Trek Phase II”, Star Wars Revelations, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, lonelygirl15, or the semi-professional docu-humor of Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, such efforts can be good even if writing/acting/scripting/editing are not all that they could be because they are fun and true and come from the heart.

So bon chance to Riese. Here’s hoping it is not too horrible.

Copyright © 2009 Henry Edward Hardy

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3 November, 2009 Posted by | Christine Chatelain, independent production, internet, media, scanlyze, science fiction, steampunk, television, TV, video, web, wolf | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment