Dragons feeding monkeys

Imagine dragons feeding monkeys.

Addicted dragons will do anything for smoke. Drawn by the author.

I have never read Game of Thrones, but two weeks ago on the show, those two captive dragons fully scarfed down a flaming dude. They peeled him back like pepperoni, and I was so shocked that I started crunching numbers. If you had three teenage dragons that were flying amok and toasting shepherd children, how would you bring them to heel?

The answer, sad and cruel though it may be, is clearly the only way to leverage the power of these airborne death lizards: dragon crack.

So far in the show we’ve seen napalm (“wildfire”) and opiates (“milk of the poppy”). Are medieval stimulants really such a stretch? Some bent maester could emerge from his lab holding aloft the product of his marathon toil. He’d hasten to an impromptu audience with Daenerys Targaryen, whose eyes would narrow as she listened.

I envision the pipe as a permanent military facility set into the top of a large hill and run by a squad of 50, “The Devil’s Bellows.” They bring the dragon crack up through tunnels from the scullery deep below and stoke an undying fire in shifts like oarsmen.

When the winged fiends alight, having duly roasted a rival army, a cry goes up and all hands man stations. The chamber is filled with bundles of long blue-hued crystal and the flame unfurls huge curtains of smoke.

Weary and gaunt, the dragons know the drill. They twitch and cough until the first column of smoke is hoovered up. Then they wheeze with delight and take off, haphazardly zagging their way to a distant eyre to play dragon word games and count their digits until the lever of addiction drives them once again to war.

Dark, I know, but I’m open to other ideas.

The realest TV

A true story recollected.

I used to live beside the Sanagawa River in Aichi Prefecture. I remember getting home one day and feeling the urge to watch TV.

On one show a crew was embedded with a family whose little boy of 5 or so was afflicted with a rare disease of the heart. He was an enthusiastic little monster with a raucous voice that belied his size, and came across in edited intervals a reveller in bombastic noise.

A doctor gave grim details I couldn’t follow and my girlfriend explained that it was his heart. They didn’t fully understand the problem but knew it was getting worse. The boy was in for many tests and learned patience in the company of large hospital apparatus.

Le loup


And then: the family was relaxing at home when the boy clicked. This was not reality TV but a documentary, and he’d turned off.

Others appeared on camera. I think they knew this could happen because a doctor and a nurse appeared and began working on him, checking his responses and trying to revive him as his mother reacted with a voice like a need rubbed raw.

I must have been frozen with a spoon or a drink midair; I don’t remember how long they tried to get him back. When it was clear he was dead there was a long draw like the pull of a bellows out of which the mother darted bearing silver scissors with that timing that fits between moments.

A fear of something rash drove everyone who could move in the shock to hold her fast, but grief’s abandon twisted her free of the man with the boom mic and past the doctor to the boy’s side where she cut a lock of his hair, and clutching it she gave way to a sound that animals know, a retching wailing breath of loss of love.

The scene dissolved and cut to a full year after. The boy’s younger sister, I think it was, and his mother and father were walking in a kind of procession with people from their town. They smiled, and it was meant to show levity and the fruit of time’s dressing. But for me it fell on a numb heart, and we turned the TV off and sat quietly.


©Tyler Rothmar

Last week I reviewed a new book, The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel, for The Tokyo Reporter website, which you can read here. Two days ago, the fellow who adapted Miyamoto Musashi’s original into graphic novel form, Sean Michael Wilson, gave my review a bad review (scroll down to “The Book of Five Rings – out now!”), and I’ve rebutted it below.

Wilson called my review “badly written and thought out,” in addition to leveling claims of prejudice, inaccuracy and sloppiness, even going so far as to question whether I read the book. In fact I read it twice and compared it carefully to the original translation by William Scott Wilson on which it is based; I weighed my words and I stand by them.

I’ll reiterate my chief concern: I take issue not with the minor adjustments to the excerpts that were used (for purposes of fitting speech balloons), but with the material that was omitted.

Take this small example from the water chapter:

The original reads: “You should deeply consider what is written in this book, word by word, character by character. If you think about it indifferently, you are likely to diverge from the way.” (Emphasis mine)

This is not a book that abides abridging. In the above example, the omission is small but important. Musashi wrote deliberately and with economy; he intended for each and every word to be carefully considered, yet the reduction from 100 or so pages of text means a significant loss of material to which I can’t help but feel the author would object. We’re left with a kind of CliffsNotes version of a text I think is better read in full.

Finally, we have this from Sean Michael Wilson:

William Scott Wilson’s The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi is indeed where some of the info came that gave us the material with which to construct the more narrative aspects. This review makes it seem like WSW was unaware of this.

This claim, I think, is purely imagined. I noted in my review that William Scott Wilson wrote the afterword to this adaptation and I guess his permission was necessary from the early stages. I was guessing as to where the source material for the anecdotal sections came from, and making the point that such sections were not part of Musashi’s original book (and indeed that they displaced some of the original content). I can’t see how anyone could interpret my review as insinuating that WSW was unaware of the use of sections from his biography of the swordsman, nor can anyone I’ve shown it to thus far. At any rate, it was never my intention to pretend to any knowledge of what WSW was or was not aware of.

I wrote my review honestly as someone who has done kendo for 13 years and has practiced with people who use the Nito Ryu that developed from the koryu Musashi originated. I don’t think the Book of Five Rings benefits from an adaptation that shortens it, and I said as much. This is only one opinion. Another reviewer at Comics Bulletin had different things to say about it, and that is very well.

Sean Michael Wilson ended his bad review of my review with his intention to pray for the souls of bad reviewers. I wonder if he meant negative reviews, or poorly executed reviews, or both, and whether he too may have benefitted somewhat from those kindly offered prayers.

©Tyler Rothmar

check the referral: Ahn Sehong’s Abruptly Cancelled Nikon Exhibition in Tokyo

Please relay this to interested parties if you think there might could be benefit.

This coming Thursday I’m going to livetweet Ahn Sehong’s press conference at the FCCJ in Tokyo. His photo exhibition of Korean ‘comfort women’ at Nikon Salon was suddenly cancelled without explanation, a bow to pressure that raises questions about how democracy has taken root in Japan.

The link for the conference is here.

Link to my twitter feed/ mind spigot can be found in the rudimentary aparatus of this site, likely at the side or possibly bottom of the page.