Reblog of my review of Terry Pratchett’s “Moving Pictures” from 1990.
Trust is a valuable commodity. To whom do I give my trust? The entertainment industry? News media? Scientific research? Pratchett’s Moving Pictures is a biting and funny social commentary about the impact and influence media can have on us.
About thirty miles Turnwise of Ankh-Morpork the surf boomed on the wind-blown, seagrass-waving, sand-dune-covered spit of land where the Circle Sea met the Rim Ocean.
The hill itself was visible for miles. It wasn’t very high, but lay amongst the dunes like an upturned boat or a very unlucky whale, and was covered in scrub trees. No rain fell here, if it could possibly avoid it. Although the wind sculpted the dunes around it, the low summit of the hill remained in an everlasting, ringing calm.
Nothing but the sand had changed here in hundreds of years. (p.10)
Moving Pictures is the 10th novel in the Discworld bibliography and was published in 1990 (my paperback edition is 333 pages). Its cover was illustrated by Josh Kirby. His illustration is spot on with regards to both the spirit and letter of the story. Our narrator is omniscient and, therefore, knows and shares details from important places and people. One of Pratchett’s techniques is Footnotes. They aren’t essential to the story-line, but they do add to the narrative-believability. Chapter headings are non-existent. At first, that might be confusing but you soon get used to it. There are 17 non-English translations of the story and the novel has been dissected by scholars from some of those countries.
‘Oh, yes. Yes. Yes,’ breathed Soll. ‘What a picture! Pure kinema!’
‘A giant woman carrying a screaming ape up a tall building,’ sighed Dibbler. ‘And we’re not even having to pay wages!’ (p.300)
Making fun of the movie industry begins on the dedication page with Pratchett’s “Thank you speech” and continues throughout the story. Names (e.g. “Silverfish“), titles (e.g. “Last Keeper of the Door“) and places (e.g. “Holy Wood“) are from novels and films (e.g. “Gone with the Wind” + “King Kong” = “Blown Away”) that span the period that started with the Phantasmagoria shows of the 1790’s up through the one-reel Celluloid film from the late 1800‘s that developed into the silent movies of the early 1900‘s ending with the movies 1980‘s.
Many of the characters in this story are like people I know. Main characters are Theda Withel (Ginger/Delores del Syn), Victor Tugelbend (Victor Marachismo), Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler (Dibbler), Gaspode The Talking Dog (Gaspode), the Alchemist’s Guild, the Wizards of Unseen University, the Librarian, Holy Wood and Ankh-Morpork.
Our story begins and ends with Holy Wood. From the description above, it seems an idyllic place yet all Keepers of the Door have maintained a 3-times-a-day set of rituals to prevent an apocalypse. When Death puts a stop to the priestly line, whatever was kept back by the chanting begins to seep out……
There was a man who had worked all of his life and had saved all of his money and was a real miser when it came to his money. He loved money more than just about anything, and just before he died, he said to his wife, “Now listen. When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the afterlife with me.”
And so he got his wife to promise him with all of her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him. Well, he died. He was stretched out in the casket, his wife was sitting there in black, and her friend was sitting next to her. When they finished the ceremony, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, “Wait just a minute!” She had a box with her. She came over with the box and put it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down and rolled it away.
So her friend said, “Girl, I know you weren’t fool enough to put all that money in there with your husband.” She said, “Listen, I’m a GOOD woman; I can’t go back on my word. I promised him that I would put that money in the casket with him.”
“You mean to tell me you put all that money in the casket with him!!!?”
“I sure did,” said the wife. “I wrote him a check. If he can cash it, he can spend it.”
Wrong Hands by John Atkinson is one of the funniest cartoons I have read. Atkinson way of making fun of life is to the point yet gentle. When I feel hit by one of his arrows that gentleness makes it easier to actually think about what he is trying to point out than to become ornery.
Outside the Bristol Zoo, in England, there is a parking lot for 150 cars and 8 coaches, or buses.
It was manned by a very pleasant attendant with a ticket machine charging cars 1 pound (about $1.40) and coaches 5 (about $7).
This parking attendant worked there solid for all of 25 years. Then, one day, he just didn’t turn up for work.
“Oh well”, said Bristol Zoo Management – “we’d better phone up the City Council and get them to send a new parking attendant…”
“Err … no”, said the Council, “that parking lot is your responsibility.”
“Err … no”, said Bristol Zoo Management, “the attendant was employed by the City Council, wasn’t he?”
“Err … NO!” insisted the Council.
Sitting in his villa somewhere on the coast of Spain, is a bloke who had been taking the parking lot fees, estimated at 400 pounds (about $560) per day at Bristol Zoo for the last 25 years. Assuming 7 days a week, this amounts to just over 3.6 million pounds ($7 million).
And no one even knows his name.
Bristol Post never intended that their 2007 April Fools‘ joke would become an urban legend. However, it continues to raise its head every once in a while and has probably been adapted to fit different locations. If one takes a few seconds to think about the matter it is clear that such an endeavour would have been impossible for that extent of time. For a shorter period of time … who knows.
True story reported by an British guy who was stopped and asked to give a breathalyzer test.
The British guy lives near Le Bugue in the Dordogne and at the time he was stopped he was as pis*ed as a fart…
The gendarme signals to him to wind down the window then asks him if he has been drinking, and with a slurring speech the British guy replies;
‘Yes, this morning I was at my (hic)..daughter’s wedding, and as I don’t like church much I went to the cafe opposite and had several beers.’
‘Then during the wedding banquet I seem to remember downing three great bottles of wine; (hic)… a corbieres, a Minervois and (hic)…a Faugeres.’
‘Then to finish off during the celebrations…. and (hic) during the
evening …me and my mate downed two bottles of Johnny Walker’s black label.’
Getting impatient the gendarme warns him; ‘Do you understand I’m a policeman and have stopped you for an alcohol test’? The Brit, with a grin on his face, replies; ‘Do you understand that I’m British, like my car, which is right-hand-drive, and that my wife is actually sitting in the other seat, which is the one behind the steering wheel?’
Converted is the second short-story of The Meantime Series. “Draghan and the shaman had been on the inside of the innermost circles of power since the previous regime” until “King Avlar met his premature death after a clumsy and unfortunate accident where he sat down on his sword”. Both Draghan and the shaman had an instantaneous conversion from the old god to the god of Avlar’s son. We follow the two of them in Converted.
While there are language and grammar issues, Svingen & Pedersen have solved many of the problems I saw in Flushed. I particularly like their take on the worth of people. Some places in the world are still like this.
Topics of the Meantime short-stories are independent of each other. Thus far there are three of them. Flushed is the first one, and the one I enjoyed the least. Most of that has to do with translation problems and proper word usage. That is not to say that it was bad. Flushed is a story about how a president handles “an uninterrupted log of such length and girth” when it refuses to be flushed down the UK PM’s toilet. Most of the story is about the president’s thoughts interspersed with short spurts of action.
While “any resemblance to real persons” is entirely coincidental according to Svingen & Pedersen, their presidential character borrows heavily from a certain US president. Flushed’s president certainly behaves the way much of media presents him.
Remember! Flushed is supposed to be a piece of humour, not a piece of political commentary.