the riderless horse

thoughts on duality in bvs

man, i love how at the end of bvs, superman is still a mystery to the general public.

“all those circuses back east for an empty box.”

“they don’t know how to honor him–except as a soldier.” 

what the film seems to say is that superman and clark kent can be separate; they can be buried in two coffins, he can be his own person without worrying about the public defining him because they will always define him as something different. in the suicide squad trailer, we see that many officials still worry about deterrence against metahumans, despite clark’s ultimate sacrifice. the questions still exist, though there’s certainly a lot more goodwill toward superman than there’s ever been before. but clark has finally accepted that he can’t control that–and they can’t control him. he’ll always just do what feels right to him–as kal-el, as clark, not as Superman the Idol. it’s like he’s managed to bury both sides of himself that didn’t feel whole.  

and that ultimate separation is what bvs is about–acknowledging that these characters are perceived as larger-than-life and often behave as uncontrollable gods, but they are themselves in a way that is often impossible for them to express. the movie doesn’t tell us about the dualities they’re dealing with. it shows us.

the two supermans are so distinct by the end that it’s impossible for the audience to mistake one for the other. 

diana has lived as a mere mortal for hundreds of years, but bruce and the doomsday threat convince her to use her powers again. she is herself in battle, even if she still mourns the consequences of violence. she’s tried to give up the image of herself as a goddess, but she’s closed herself off too much from what she can do.

bruce has lived too long as a legend and dreads the return to humanity, to what’s supposed to be a normal life. but by the end of bvs, he’s let new people into his heart, and it reminds him of what he set out to do in the first place. he no longer fears his own vulnerability quite so much, so he can be bruce wayne in a way that doesn’t feel like he has to put on a mask to exist. he has people who care about him, and he can’t fail them. 

(for some visual cues on the concepts of duality/separation, check the funerals that frame the narrative. there are two funerals at the end, one spare and desaturated in kansas, one loud and colorful and full in metropolis. pairs of horses pull the coffins, which we can link to the riderless horse we see in the fog after the metropolis destruction and the rearing, soldiered horse we see after the capitol bombing. those images are evocative and strange, and there’s no one way to read them, but i love the idea that they’re linked to death, powerlessness, and power, respectively–which all our characters are grappling with in more explicitly stated ways.)

the movie is really about how the trinity has to make a choice between humanity and power, with all the guilt that goes along with that, and then the movie asks if that’s even a choice they have to make. lex doesn’t think you can be powerful and good at the same time, and the trinity choose different versions of that–bruce wants power (to force the world to make sense), diana cedes her power so she can live with herself, and clark dies (Ultimate Human Act!) in the process of killing an unkillable demon (Ultimate Godlike Act!). he’s definitely managed to separate himself from the public’s view of him, but he’s also able to strike the right balance between his powers and his morals that bruce and diana struggle to do. but they all make it there in the end. they’re not simply behaving as mortals are supposed to, or as criminals/waynes are supposed to, or as saviors are supposed to. they’re just them, supporting one another, choosing to do good with the power they have, no matter how difficult or impossible that might seem. 

I am seeing the lines of freezing descendants,
A coffin in tow, a riderless horse.
The wind does not carry the sounds towards me
Of Russian mourning battle-worn horns.
I am seeing the honors that cover the corpse.
Thunderous Zhukov rides into death,

Warrior, who was the fall of so many
Walls, although his sword was duller than foe’s,
In his brilliance resounding of Hannibal
Amongst the wide Volga’s lands
Whose life came to end in the dull of unfavour,
Like Belisarius or Pompey the Great.


How much blood of the soldiers he spilled
In a foreign land? Spared any grief?
Did he remember them, dying in a civilian
White bed? Utter failure.
What will he say when he meets them
In a region of hell? “It was war.”


No longer Zhukov will wield
The right cause in the battle.
Sleep! Russian history can spare a page
For those who, in infantry ranks,
Bravely entered the cities of others,
But in fear returned to their homes.


Marshal! The gluttonous Leta will gulp
These words and your ash.
But, do accept them - a smallest of payments
To the savor of Motherland, to say as it is.
Drum, keep on drumming, and, fife,
Whistle on, like a bullfinch would sing.

—  Brodsky, On Zhukov’s Death, 1974.
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Today in d&d: A mysterious riderless pony turned up at the campfire after the party settled down for the night. Seth (on watch) didn’t trust this at all after the last riderless horse they found was a trap, and after some dagger-based investigation of the horse’s bulging saddlebags discovered that when pierced the bags would start to bleed.  

After waking the other party members, Taba tried the same thing with her halberd, only for it to stick to the pony’s flank as if glued, triggering their transformation into hideous, sticky, creatures roughly 50% mouth with the body consistency of dough. Enter: the Horse MImic. Not exactly what you want to meet in the middle of the night.  

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Chickasaw Bluffs 

“We will lose 5,000 men before we take Vicksburg, and we may as well lose them here as anywhere else.”

-Gen. William T. Sherman

At the opening of the campaign to take Vicksburg, Mississippi, Grant and Sherman were looking for a weak spot in the Confederate defense. Vicksburg stood on a bluff over the Mississippi, strongly fortified and completely controlling the river. Grant and Sherman selected Chickasaw Bluffs on the Yazoo River just north of Vicksburg.

Philip Reilly wrote of the attack:

“Batteries that had hitherto been silent now opened upon us with fearful effect. Solid shot, shell, grape, cannister, rifle balls and musketry poured down upon us from all sides. The effect was terrible. It seemed as if the heavens and earth were coming together far as the eye could reach. You might behold riderless horses with distended nostrils galloping wildly to and fro and quivering with affright while over the plain you might behold headless bodies, legs and arms scattered to and fro. …We advanced steadily into this human slaughter pen until we drove them from their first rifle pits were our brave boys were so badly cut up that they/we, I mean, were forced to retreat.”

The Riderless horse

I have always been fascinated by the funerary practice of the riderless horse, sometimes called a caparisoned horse in reference to the ornamental coverings which decorated a warrior’s mount in and around medieval times. The deceased’s horse accompanies the funeral procession, following closely behind the caisson or hearse. Boots are reversed in the stirrups, supposedly to symbolise their late owner taking one last look back.

It is really impossible to pinpoint exactly where and how this tradition started but something similar can be dated back as far as the times of Genghis Khan. Horses have always shared a special connection with people and so it is quite likely that they have played a role in funerary rituals for as long as they have been domesticated, since around 3000BC.

Some noteworthy individuals to have their horses present at their funerals include those pictured, The Duke of Wellington and Lord Mountbatten as well as all Britain’s past monarchs (Edward VII also had his Jack Russel Caesar in attendance), JFK and Churchill. I know not whether anyone still has a nag around when they’re chucked in the ground but I think I might like to.  

Timeline - Prince’s Gambit

*** Timeline from reading Prince’s Gambit, with added time details from the other volumes inserted into it. Will note when a detail is from another Volume or source, but falls with in Prince’s Gambit timeline.  Further notes at end of post. ***

* Note: This timeline is for events taking place during the Prince’s Gambit timeline only.  For posts of the timeline of events prior to Prince’s Gambit or continued from Kings Rising forward, please check my “Captive Prince” tags page in the Menu.

Spoilers Ahead if you click the Read more button!!!

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Anzac Day marches and other memorial parades are often led by a lone, riderless horse, with a pair of boots set backwards in the stirrups and the saddle stripped. It is a sign of respect for the dead, and is usually used for the Australian Light Horse.
Here, Sir Harry Chauvel’s horse with the rider’s boots set in reverse. The horse followed the gun carriage during the funeral procession to Springvale Crematorium. (The gun carriage is an artillery piece carriage with the coffin in place of the cannon.)

Time Stood Still, Part 5: The Mummer’s Farce Is Almost Done

Whole series here

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Every dream-narrative has (to borrow from IMO the finest example of the form, Mulholland Dr.) a Club Silencio moment. Right before our hero wakes up (in Davos’ case, on Unicorn Cannibal Island), the author lays it all out for them: here’s what the dream’s been about, here’s what all the symbols meant, here’s what you learned. 

Indeed, Davos IV ADWD is in essence a full-length commentary on, counterpoint to, and occasionally critique of Davos III. The structure is identical: Davos starts in a cell (though GRRM dwells on that more here), is brought before Lord Wyman, a discussion ensues about the war so far and where they should go from here. Robett Glover acts in private where Marlon Manderly acts in public, similar issues of loyalty and injustice are raised in the confrontation, and the meeting even takes place directly below the Merman’s Court, where the last one took place (that was the public face of Wyman Manderly, this the private one). This sort of echoing strikes me as unmistakably similar to dream-narratives; not that other kinds of narratives don’t have echoes and parallels, of course, but the feigned/real divide, the way the symbols are used, and the way everything is tied into Davos’ own internal struggle is what leads me to the dream-construct. 

If you take what we’re seeing here as Davos’ dream, for example, the setting should feel like we’re wandering his subconscious, right? And just like in the last three chapters, it does. 

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