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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 53 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 147 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 67mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 1st with 254 views. The most popular post that day was The Leviathan.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were alphainventions.com, facebook.com, slashingtongue.com, webcache.googleusercontent.com, and digg.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for kronosaurus, basking shark, leviathan, dogfish, and leviathan melville.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Leviathan February 2010

2

Captain Nemo Provokes the Orange Monk, Unpunished! March 2010
1 comment

3

The Orange Monk Surfaces from 20,000 Leagues May 2010
5 comments

4

The Orange Monk Besieged by Pirates! (Part 2) February 2010
2 comments

5

The Orange Monk Besieged by Pirates! (Part 1) February 2010

In which the Orange Monk deals with a most serious specter lurking behind all this frivolous fiction; and consequently in which offensive words may be mentioned and even spelled out for the sake of clinical examination; in which certain taboo topics may be broached and uncomfortable silences may ensue…

Continue Reading »

I’m on vacation for a few days. I had intended post something for you to chew on in my absence, but it turned out to be a rather heavy topic and I just couldn’t quite manage to finish it satisfactorily before I left. But I will be busy walking a league in the beautiful Land of Enchantment, so don’t think I’m neglecting my adventuring duties.

In the meantime, I really would love to hear suggestions on what actor would make the quintessential Allan Quatermain. (Or actress; I feel like Cate Blanchett was the best Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.) What’s that you say? You haven’t read the novel? You don’t have a very good grip on this Quatermain guy? No matter! You can’t possibly do any worse than Hollywood has already done by selecting Sam Worthington (no offense to you personally, of course, Sam). Why, even Larry David would be an step in a more suitable direction… So don’t be bashful!

Now that this book is printed, and about to be given to the world, the sense of its shortcomings, both in style and in contents, weighs very heavily upon me.”

Allan Quatermain

Allan Quatermain

Those are the first words of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, and I thought they were meant to be the author’s own sentiments about his novel. But the rest of the apology that follows from this sentence is signed by none other than Mr. Quatermain, the novel’s fictitious hero himself.

It is the first surprise among several in store for me about Allan Quatermain. So far, the sum of my understanding of this character comes from his appearance in both the graphic novel and the movie adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,a Hallmark-produced TV-movie of King Solomon’s Mines, and a vague knowledge that there are several old adventure movies featuring Allan Quatermain exploring torch-lit tombs and swinging on vines, eventually giving rise to Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ Indiana Jones series.

Allan Quatermain

Quatermain, as drawn by Kevin O'Neill in the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" graphic novels.

Sean Connery plays Allan Quatermain in the film of LoEG. He cuts a more muscular silhouette than the way Kevin O’Neill draws the same character in the original graphic novels, and one gets the impression that this Quatermain is a retired and possibly now-irrelevant shade of a once more dashing adventurer — in fact something more along the lines of Patrick Swayze in the aforementioned Hallmark television version: square-jawed, brawny, squinty eyes with that 100-yard stare. Essentially, I pictured Allan Quatermain in his prime (that is to say, as he would appear in his first adventure, King Solomon’s Mines) as Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones in the 1980s.

But in actuality, Quatermain is a grizzled older man of smallish build and a distaste for taking foolish chances, even in his debut appearance. The novel is narrated in the first person by Quatermain, who tells us right away in Chatper 1 that he is “fifty-five last birthday” and “a timid man” who doesn’t like violence and is “pretty sick of adventure.” He leads elephant hunts for tourists in Africa and sends money back to England for his son Harry, who is studying to be a medical doctor. Quatermain is troubled by pain in his left leg, the result of an old lion-related injury. This placid, limping old family man is… our hero?

These days, the post-modern “anti-hero” is a well-known trope, and doesn’t really raise eyebrows. We’re used to “reluctant heroes,” or heroes who may have so much baseness in them we’re never quite sure if they’re meant to actually be the villain. These days, heroes like Casablanca‘s Richard Blaine, who sticks his neck out for no one; or the ne’er-do-well-turned-do-gooder Han Solo — are just so much background noise. But there was a day when heroes were properly “heroes,” near gods, sparkling and triumphant monuments of virtue, bravery and strength. King Solomon’s Mines was published near enough to that golden age of heroes that I expected Allan Quatermain to be Errol Flynn with a bullwhip and a necklace made out of crocodile teeth. I’m surprised to find in place of that image the slight, quiet, older man who is “sick of adventure.”

He makes Indiana Jones — who I had long believed to be a direct conceptual descendant of Quatermain — look like one of those spotless god-like heroes of yore. When in fact, Spielberg and Lucas invented their bullwhip-toting archeologist to embody the antithesis of that mode of heroism. They wanted something to give James Bond a run for his money, and they did it by dispensing with the luxury automobiles, the perfect hair, the white tuxedoes, the upper-class drinks and the ease with women which 007 had. The idea was to make Indiana Jones more of an “every man,” rougher around the edges. His iconic outfit places functionality over style. He sports a permanent five o’clock shadow. He drops things, miscalculates, and frequently finds himself in over his head. That desperate last-minute grab for his rumpled fedora is a very meaningful gesture. He’s a shop-worn hero, but not the first of his kind by a long shot. Humphrey Bogart had been treading those same mean streets long before Harrison Ford. As Rick Blaine in Casablanca, of course, he may have looked at times like Sean Connery as James Bond, but his selfish go-to-hell attitude was refreshing in its jadedness. But of course Rick had a heart of gold deep down, just as Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) and Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep, 1946) had. In fact, his character Dobbs from Treasure of the Sierra Madre may be more responsible for Indiana Jones (at least in the costume department) than Allan Quatermain.

Humphrey Bogart vs. Harrison Ford

Bogart's "Dobbs" from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; the influence on Indiana Jones seems like more than mere coincidence.

But I want to be careful that I don’t divorce Indiana and Allan completely. I think there is still some genetic makeup handed down from Haggard’s hero to Lucas’. Both have larger-than-life adventures with decidedly paranormal elements, yet both balance those nutty adventures with very human traits: Quatermain’s frailty and cowardice, Jones’ exuberant oversights and handicapping phobias (“Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?”). Neither adventurer strikes one as highly composed, unflappable, smooth, or bloodthirsty. Jones may have a looser regard for human life than Quatermain does when push comes to shove (Spielberg looks back with regret at the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy cooly dispatches a showy swordsman with a single shot from his revolver), but in each case blood is shed only as a provision for self-defense, and never on a first-strike basis.

The curious common denominator through all of this is Sean Connery. Connery was the first (and some, such as myself, might argue the best) man to portray Ian Flemming’s secret agent James Bond on film. It was in Connery’s hands that 007 became known for his cool-under-pressure style, the perfect hair even after bone-jarring action sequences. “Bond” became synonymous for fashionable clothing, top-of-the-line accessories, luxury automobiles and women that were every bit as fast and sleek, and responded every bit as willingly to his prompting. Sean Connery, then, is the mode of hero that Indiana Jones deliberately set out to deconstruct. Yet who should be cast in The Last Crusade as Indy’s father? None other than the original James Bond, but this time in a far more docile and dottering mode. As Henry Jones, Sr., Connery aided in dismantling the same archetype he helped to establish in the early 1960s. Indy’s dad can’t handle a machine gun, and participates in action sequences by stirring up a flock of geese with his umbrella, and then quoting poetry. His rumpled hat and tweed three-piece suit are a far cry from Bond’s tuxedo.

Indiana Jones and father, Henry Jones Sr.

Adventuresome genes: Henry Jones Jr. (don't call him "Junior") and Henry Jones Sr.

By casting Connery as Quatermain in the 2003 film adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, director Stephen Norrington is drawing upon Connery’s persona as the original James Bond. But dressing him in a wide-brimmed outback hat guarantees that audiences will also appreciate the Indiana Jones reference. And in so doing, Norrington makes Allan Quatermain quite literally the father of Indiana Jones.

Sean Connery as Allan Quatermain

Allan Quatermain, or father of Indiana Jones? Or both? (And James Bond, too!)

In that sense, the casting seems appropriate. But that’s a post-modern, pop-culture sort of rationality which may suit the source graphic novel for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which itself practices a sort of post-modern witchcraft by uniting different heroes from Victorian fiction and treating them as though they might have co-existed in some kind of alternate history), but it does little in service of Haggard’s novel.

Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in MGM's "King Solomon's Mines," 1950

Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in MGM's "King Solomon's Mines," 1950

Back in 1950, MGM did very little to honor Haggard’s original vision, either. They forced a female lead into the story where there never was one (most versions of King Solomon’s Mines are guilty of this, but I confess it does seem like a good move), and cast Stewart Granger as Allan Quatermain. (The role of Quatermain was originally offered to Errol Flynn, who turned it down to star in the movie adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. King Solomon’s Mines was far more successful, and helped propel Stewart Granger to stardom. He reprised the role of Quatermain in a 1959 sequel called Watusi. Haggard actually wrote a sequel to King Solomon’s Mines called Allan Quatermain, but as far as I can tell Watusi is not based on that novel; in fact, Watusi claims to also be based on Haggard’s novel, King Solomon’s Mines.)

A loose comedy-adventure adaptation was made in 1985, starring Richard Chamberlain (who kind of looks like Chuck Norris to me) in the main role. The last live action version was the TV movie produced by Hallmark Entertainment in 2004, starring Patrick Swayze as Allan Quartermain (instead of Quatermain as it is in the novel). Finally, that ubiquitous action actor Sam Worthington is set to play him in some kind of sci-fi version of King Solomon’s Mines, in which Quatermain returns to planet Earth— well, enough said I guess. That sounds awful.

Sam Worthington — the Quatermain who fell to Earth.

I think you’ll agree with me, even if you haven’t read the book and have only read my scant introduction to the character, that none of these actors seems to quite capture Allan Quatermain. At best, they manage to capture other characters (James Bond, Indiana Jones, etc.) as a sort of place-holder for the man himself. Sean Connery may have been the most age-appropriate, but he didn’t exude the retiring nature of Haggard’s elephant-hunting accidental hero. What I would like to know is, who would you like to see play Allan Quatermain?

We Have a Winner!

One League Into the East

Contest winner John T. Woods provided this clever graphical depiction of his journey. "One League Into the East" even sounds like a pretty ripping good yarn by M. Verne. Well done!

Friend and neighbor John T. Woods (or Jaunty, as I like to call him) hoofed it along Wilshire Blvd. here in Los Angeles, and went approximately 3.01 miles (according to Mapquest). That’s .01 more than the official modern understanding of a league. The table of measurements the prefaces 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea indicates that in Verne’s usage, a league is equivalent to 2.16 miles.

So congrats, Jaunty, you walk faster than a Frenchman.

Not surprisingly, at the end of his league, Jaunty wished he had a horse on which to test a league on the way back! (Incidentally, if anyone can test out a horse’s distance walked in one hour, I’d be very interested to have that data.)

This result effectively closes the Walk a League contest. However, if anyone is feeling like a scenic walk, I still welcome any data. I still plan to walk a league, and will report my findings here at AOM once I do. So don’t feel discouraged! Summon up that spirit of adventure I know you have (since you’re here), and walk a league!

Meanwhile, if you still want a print there are currently 19 more available for purchase at StBernART, my store, which is located at the top of my website, StBernardsPass.com (just click on the red tab that says store!). Get ‘em while they last…

CONTEST: Walk a League

Walk a League Contest!

From the very beginning of my experience with Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, units of measurement have played a critical role. In fact, one can’t approach the novel without running up against a measurement, because there are twenty thousand of them in the title itself. But just what is a league, anyway? The average reader is probably somewhat unfamiliar with that unit of measurement. But it seems there is a discrepancy even among the more learnéd, and one need not poke around too long before discovering an array of differing definitions. (One table at the beginning of 20,000 Leagues actually attempts to standardize a number of measurements, one of those being a league, in order to square the various facts and calculations which were notoriously mangled when Verne’s works were translated into English from his native French.) My favorite defintion, though, has to be this one, from Wikipedia of all places:

The league most frequently refers to the distance a person or a horse can walk in an hour.”

A person or a horse?! Surely the distance a horse can walk in an hour is different from the distance a man could walk in the same amount of time. And even if it’s not, given the differences in people’s strides and natural land speed, surely the distance walked by any two individual men in an hour would be wildly different.

20KLUTS print

"20K Leagues Under the Sea," or 20KLUTS print

Naturally, I’m curious to know just how similar the distances might be for various individuals (I’m thinking people, here, not horses) walking non-stop for an hour. But I would need volunteers, and hence was born the Walk a League Contest. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to grab a pedometer and hit the streets. Set aside an hour, and go walking. Not 59 minutes, not an hour and change, but exactly an hour. No stopping, no lollygagging, no idle chit-chat with neighbors unless they can talk and walk with you.

The first person to report back to me (by leaving a comment on this post with the distance they travelled on foot in 1 hour) will win a limited edition signed print of the “20K Leagued Under the Sea” book cover I designed completely free of charge, shipping included! (19 more of you will be able to purchase a print for the low, low price of $10 + $3 shipping anywhere in the US.) To the fine print!

THEM’S THE RULES:

To enter, you will need:

  • a device (or methodology) to reliably gauge distance walked
  • a device (or methodology) for reliably measuring time
  • one (1) hour to spare

For ONE (1) HOUR (excluding any set-up or walking downstairs to get outside or whatever) walk at a normal, comfortable, and sustainable pace while using your distance-gauging device or methodology to keep track of how far you go in that hour. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch or something like that, there are pedometer apps you can download (I will personally be using GoPedometer on my iPhone).

The idea is not to stop. This is a challenge if, like me, you live in an urban area and may confront cross walks or other obstacles to pedestrianism. Although I may look a bit insane, I plan on coping with this by making an about-face and continuing to walk in the opposite direction whenever confronted by a “don’t walk” sign. Or, by turning a corner where applicable — but be safe! I wouldn’t want anyone ending up in a sketchy area just because they were trying to maintain a continuous walk.

Once you have completed this task, navigate to this blog and click on the comments feature associated with THIS post to share your results with me. (IMPORTANT: just to maintain some sense of consistency, results left in the comments of other posts on this blog will be considered invalid, so follow directions!)

Exactly ONE (1) WEEK from the official date of this post (Pacific time-zone), this contest will be CLOSED. But that gives you the rest of this week and all weekend to get out and walk for an hour and report back to me. Your results comment MUST be received before the official closing time of this contest in order to be valid.

THE PRIZE:

The first person to validly report their results will win an 8″x10″ fine art print of “20K Leagues Under the Sea,” the digital artwork I made as a theoretical dust jacket for Jules Verne’s novel. (You may remember I made two different versions, and asked readers to vote on their favorite; this print is of the winning design.)

20KLUTS print, with certificate of authenticity

"20K Leagues Under the Sea" print, shown with certificate of authenticity

This is a limited edition print, representing the cover and spine artwork. It’s printed on luxurious Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth paper (305 gsm) with 6-color process archival ink. Each print is hand-numbered and signed by me (the artist) and comes with a certificate of authenticity, which also indicates the edition number.

There are only 20 of these bad-boys, as I’m not sure what kind of demand for them there will be. If I sell them out, I’ll most likely offer the next cover artwork as a larger edition. One of these 20 prints is obviously going to be the prize for whomever wins the contest. The remaining 19 will be available for purchase from my newly minted StBernART store, my own personal e-storefront made possible by Vendr.com. To visit the store, simply go to my personal website, StBernardsPass.com, and look for the fairly obvious red tab at the top of the page that says “Store.”

The St.BernART store at St. Bernard's Pass

If I have any prints from this edition that don’t sell at StBernART, I will make them available on Etsy, but they will probably cost a little bit more than $10, just to cover the percentage of the sale that Etsy collects. So if you’re interested, lock down a print from StBernART today!

Now, go walk a league!

I’m still alive! It’s been two weeks since I last posted, and on the internet that’s an eternity, I know. But I’m still here. Lately I’ve been sinking a lot of energy into getting my design blog, Design Intervention, up to speed at Tumblr. Also, I’ve been trying to work out the particulars of printing and selling and giving away one of these 20K Leagues Under the Sea covers I designed (and you voted on). So don’t give up on Adventures of the Orange Monk just yet. I will announce a contest where you can win a 20KLUTS print absolutely free! The details will appear here first, so if you want the edge in the contest keep tuning in. After that, I’ll make a plug on Facebook, The Orange Monk’s Squire, and finally Design Intervention.

Until then — let’s get going on King Solomon’s Mines. Hoping to keep up the tradition of designing original art for the novels read and discussed on this site, I’ve decided to post a little bio on author H. Rider Haggard in a format which can easily slide into the “author flap” template in the future:

H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard

Henry Rider Haggard (b. 1856 – d. 1925) was an author of Victorian adventure novels. English born, Haggard lived and worked in South Africa for many years and his knowledge of the land and its cultures add depth to the exotic locales featured in his stories. One of the founders of the Lost World genre, his Allan Quatermain character (King Solomon’s MinesAllan Quatermain) served as the template for George Lucas’ and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones character.
Another of his most famous works, She: A History of Adventure, is one of the best-selling novels of all time, and is generally regarded as a classic of imaginative fiction. Haggard has inspired generations of writers such as Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), and with his continued popularity (Allan Quatermain was featured heavily in both the graphic novels and the film of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) he will doubtlessly influence storytellers— and dazzle readers —for generations to come.”
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