Literally worthy, Thor: Ragnarok

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but of all the action-adventure movies in the last ten years, “Thor: Ragnarok” is the one all writers need to see. Multiple times.
The buy-in: It’s an absurd mashup of two worlds (Norse mythology and sci-fi) that shouldn’t work. Its populated by colorful immortals, so there’s no cheesy mentor-figure death scene. And it asks you to overlook the preposterous (multiple gateways through space, magic, gods, heroes leaping from spaceship to spaceship) so frequently that the story is practically set in a sort of Anti-Reality.
The reward: One of the best collections of sarcastic quips and heartfelt insights around. Seriously. Going in, you also don’t need to know anything about these amazing, over the top characters. (A primer: Thor is good, half-brother Loki is mostly bad, Dr. Strange is a big deal and the Hulk is, well, complicated.)
Thor–he of the red cape, bulging biceps and golden locks–finally gets his ego checked (when his Goddess of Death sister, Hella, destroys his once-all-powerful hammer) and spends much of the film bouncing between self-deprecation and wistfulness. Exiled to a garbage planet, what better way to offset his earnestness than the combo of his duplicitous, power-hungry brother and an acerbic drunk who’s happy with her place as a bounty hunter? A Taser-like device provides much of the pain and fun. The appearance of the belligerent Hulk (then an ingeniously inept and bewildered Bruce Banner) adds to the joy, book-ended by Jeff Goldblum’s bizarre Grand Master. (‘Slaves’ is an ugly word. ‘Prisoners with jobs’ is much better.)
In interviews, director Taika Waititi said he constantly asked himself (and the cast and crew), “How can we make this funnier…?” He thought this might be the last film he ever got to make. Of course, it was a blockbuster.

One-eyed Thor and Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnorak

The whole story is about a hero trying to get back home (stolen by that problematic Goddess of Death sister) and then (spoiler alert) realizing that what’s most important about home is the people. His people. Still, the ending comes off with a nice, unexpected twist. We don’t doubt Thor will save the day, but how he chooses to do so is remarkable.
The heart of the tale comes with the Elevator Scene, a chat between Thor and troublemaker Loki which really should have its own place in film lore. (“We’re not doing ‘Get help'” should be on a T-shirt.) Rather than cheesy or trite, this two-minute chunk is the funniest, honest, state-of-things exchange between two people since FroZone and wife ‘Honey’ argue in ‘The Incredibles.’

Thor and Loki, elevator scene from Thor: Ragnorak
The Elevator Scene

It starts with the funniest ever use of “You had one job,” progresses through blame and jokes (and the cosmos, twice) to Thor singing to Banner and a ‘melting stick’, and on and on. It’s a wild ride and it’s fun to no end. Writers, take note…and take notes.

A Return (of sorts)

So…by announcing that I’m back (hold the chirping crickets, please) I have to acknowledge that I’ve been somewhere. Well, I have. Kind of. About 50-odd feet away, downstairs.

Where in the hell have I been? See above.

What happened? Good question.

Anybody remember the variety show where the old guy in a tux stood on stage and tried to keep a number of dinner plates spinning on posts? He went back and forth spinning various plates with his hands, to see how many he could keep up at once? This always failed hilariously (and messily) but this was his shtick and he was good at it. Temporarily.

A chef spinning multiple plates on stage.

This routine is–in a nutshell–how I’ve felt my life has been for about, oh, 14 years. As a dad (stay-at-home, cooking, carpooling, entertaining) and go-to guy and writer and worker of various kinds of off-site projects, the to-do lists have never gotten shorter. Priorities have changed, locations (such as being on vacation as a family) have changed. Before the holidays, I had to left-leg surgeries and began a rigorous diet program (both things that were good for me). Time and tasks were impacted by a juggling element (and I suck at juggling). Ultimately, something was doomed to fall off the bottom of the priorities list. Guess what it was. Fifty points if you answered, “What are book marketing and blogging, Justin?”

The thing which made this break from blogging and marketing easier, I guess, was a real hit to self-worth (and the worth of what I write). Okay, that’s not good. I know that now.

But this is exactly what happens to a lot of artists, I think. We write, we craft, we produce, and…what’s the result, other than the thing we’ve created? More sales? Positive feedback? If you aren’t plugged into some sort of engine which guarantees an uplifting return of some sort…aren’t you just another chap shouting in the London drizzle at Speaker’s Corner? Bumbershoots pass by, faces occasionally turn, maybe a single bit of applause. (Yes, of course, the wriggle cockapoo gets far more attention. It’s cute and harmless, for one.)

For me, and for those like me, time seems to roar past us. I’ve taken a million steps and done two million things since my first visit to the surgery center. Can I recall a tenth of those things? Nope. And now it’s mid-May, and there are a number of things I haven’t touched in, oh, five months. Grrr.

Time to start again. Life rolls on. I hear a plate cracking behind me. This time, I’m going to wait to collect those pieces.

Today’s Word: Promulgate

To promulgate (and what a fun word!) is to broadcast, promote or spread-the-word of an idea or cause (or a person as an idea).

Augustus Caesar from the HBO/BBC TV series of "Rome."


Me: “I just finished watching the TV series of ‘Rome.’ Man, that Augustus Caesar really promulgated his benevolence to the masses.”

Sister-in-law: “Yeah, well the two men he followed [Julius Caesar and Mark Antony] promulgated themselves in other ways to the masses. I don’t think ‘benevolence’ applies, there.

Today’s Word: Engastration

*First in a running series, part-humor and informative (and partly to add a little structure to my messy writing life.)

Engastration is the cooking process of shoving parts of one animal inside another animal carcass for enhanced flavor. ‘Turducken’ is the best example, being all the rage now.

Supposedly, it dates back to the Middle Ages, which means there was certainly a male royal chef (no woman would do this) armed with alcohol and perhaps a purse at stake, on a dare.

Still, for most of us, how bored and/or drunk would you have to be to come up with shoving one tasty animal inside another for cooking? And was this done artfully with a knife (if one can ever ‘shove’ artfully) or just, find an opening and go for it?!

Blurry hand holding knife over stone floor


Me: “I heard your brother’s going to attempt a turducken himself this year. Isn’t that engastration stuff kinda barbaric?”

Sister-in-law: “Oh, seriously,” she agreed, pulling out the first to-go box of fresh-boiled lobster. “Who would do that?”

The Prince of Endless, pt. 8

Dirkennion and Marvella, on horseback, follow Mahkyel’s party through the darkening woods. From a distance, they watch the party signal and ride past a small stone structure.

“They have passed the eastern stronghold,” Dirkennion says.

“Even with a scout, they ride quickly for men who have left the safety of their own kingdom.”

“Exactly. This Uncle Mahkyel must control those eastern hills. This is rather suspect.” Dirkennion hurries on on foot.


Soon, Dirkennion and Marvella sit across from each other at a small campfire, eating beef jerky.

Marvella asks, “Are you certain we can catch them in the morning?”

Dirkennion nods. “Tracking with haste is part of my Muurizza training.”


He shrugs. “Elite warriors, you might say.”

“Oh.” She glances at his scythe resting against the log he sits on. “Tell me about your kind?”

“Hmm. Some say we are cursed. Bad spirits painted us with tiger stripes. Or that we are sent from Gerji itself to take over all of Verisye.” He scoffs.

Marvella smiles, shaking her head.

“I am glad to see you are a woman of reason.”

“You don’t appear very demonic to me. I have heard everything, I think. The stories…” She shakes her head. “So, Ehara hail from the southeast. Is that correct?”

“Yes. Vast tropical regions. Likely the cause for the striping and different colors. Effective hunters.”

“Is it pretty there?”

“Lovely. The Farrell trees have white bark and bear tangy purple fruit called kee-shra. Huge trees, forty times’ my height.”

“Wow. I should like to see that.”

“You are adventurous, to be sure. The journey takes years, however. Perhaps three thousand miles from here.”

Marvella frowns. “Did…did many of you leave your homeland?”

“We were called, you might say. The Sentinel Dragons, who keep watch over all, said we should share our altruism and skill with the rest of Verisye. That is why I am still in service in Green Hump.”

“Service? I don’t understand.”

“Ah, three years of labor. No pay, no possessions. But…friendship and education. It is a thorough way to learn about those I will protect as a constable myself.”

“Oh yes,” Marvella says. “The world of law-keeping shall welcome you.”

“I will be in Sealth.” Noting her reaction, he adds, “Where I will certainly be needed.” He pauses. “It was my father’s wish before he died.”

“Oh. From illness?”

“No, no,” Dirkennion says, smiling bittersweet. “He perished with his brother at Arsys. Along with everyone else.”

“Arsys,” Marvella breathes. “The Battle for Our Time. Against Kalimoraith.”

“My brother, Polannion, is a scholar of history. He can tell you anything you want to know about Arsys. How the demon’s sorcerers and their black rocks drove everyone mad. The absolute slaughter of that day.”

“Many thousands died that day.” Marvella shrugs, looking troubled. “Beyond that, all I know is that, thirty years later, there are still many villages without grown men from that day.”

“Perhaps it was only luck that the demon chose to march his exhausted army on to Dunhaven, where he was stopped and imprisoned.”

“And killed, right?” she asks. “At Joorveez Prison?”

Dirkennion nudges a log with his boot. “I suspect not. Great power was on his side. My brother is plagued by such thoughts. Obsessed, one might say.”

“Then the Knight Wars happened.”

Statues of a black knight with a mace and a sword-wielding white knight from the Harry Potter museum outside London.

“And everyone blamed the Ehara. We, who have no use for power or property, had to wrest it from six orders of knights. Grand estates became orphanages and farms. The chance to rebuild after Arsys. And yet…my face is still that of the enemy to many people in the west. An error.”

“Yes it is.” Marvella thinks about something. “Do you believe…this child-napping is about a power grab? This uncle? I-I have only heard of such things.”

“That is the most likely reason. Quick paths and cowardice often serve rotten purposes.” Dirkennion stands and looks about. “You should rest. I will take the first watch.”


To be continued…