Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Everyone knows that this film is "inspired by" a Twilight Zone ep, right? That's right, like Toy Story and many other big fantasy / sci fi movies from the USA over the last 50 years, it's a straight lift from a Twilight Zone ep. The ones that didn't start in the Twilight came from Outer Limits. Or are remakes of TV shows.
Urthona is an apparent orphan born into the Orange colour caste of Steamtown. At some point prior to her first appearance the Portreeve of Steamtown has elevated her from that relatively humble beginning in life to the aristocratic Purple caste, in defiance of custom. His reasons for doing so, other than an innate love of mischief, are obscure.
Known Power and Abilities:
Other than in relation to certain matters subject to hypnotic conditioning, Urthona is a world-class detective and a fine thief catcher.
Urthona is deadly accurate marksman with 40/40 vision.
As Chief Warden (equivalent to Chief of Police or Police Commissioner) of Steamtown, a city state of over 6,600,000 individuals, Urthona can not only call upon a large authoritarian force of Wardens and a network of informers but also a variety of vehicles, exotic weapons and super powered individuals to assist her efforts in maintaining order.
Immunity to Hypnosis and Mind Control
Urthona's mind is already in a form of thrall to the Portreeve, making her highly resistant to further hypnosis and basically immune to Mind Control.
She has an unusual and dramatic Back Story. The canon protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for her beauty, wit, courage and other virtues, and are quick to adopt her into their nakama, even characters who are usually antisocial and untrusting; if any character doesn't love her, that character gets an extremely unsympathetic portrayal. She has some sort of especially close relationship to the author's favorite canon character — their love interest, illegitimate child, never-before-mentioned sister, etc. Other than that, the canon characters are quickly reduced to awestruck cheerleaders, watching from the sidelines as Mary Sue outstrips them in their areas of expertise and solves problems that have stymied them for the entire series. (See Common Mary Sue Traits for more detail on any of these cliches.) In other words, the term "Mary Sue" is generally slapped on a character who is important in the story, possesses unusual physical traits, and has an irrelevantly over-skilled or over-idealized nature.
Source: TV Tropes
The stupidity of trying to negate the unerring identification of River Song as a terrible, truly awful product of fanfiction level writing revolves around the argument that Moffat the showrunner of Doctor Who is not using River Song as his author insertion into Who.
Just because a Mary Sue is more convoluted in its connection to the author makes no bones to me.
River Song is the Poochy of the Whoniverse.
It's also an entirely deliberate and apparently highly successful pandering to fans of a certain age (and gender), tending to be American by birth, who like having a shall we say less athletic and young character doing the impossible kewl stuff because it validates in some truly odd and sad way their own again shall we say... sedentary life choices.
I seriously couldn't like this character less if she was comprised of equal amounts of shit and maggots.
Monday, August 29, 2011
The anorak within came out in me when it fell to writing Eternium, and in particular I wanted to have the game universe able to convey some authority to gamemasters who might need to set up time travel adventures in groups where they had one or more tiresome players quick to find fault. Accordingly, I surveyed the media involved- chief amongst the spectrum, Doctor Who and the Time Machine- and wrote up definitive Laws of Time. That way, there was something for time travellers to quote.
Steamtown will feature a chapter on the Laws of Time as well as namechecking them a couple of other times.
From Eternium, First Edition, pages 208-210
Law 1: THE PRESERVATION OF THE ENERGY OF INFORMATION
The difficulty of changing an event in a specific time period varies with the square of the amount of knowledge relating to that event.
Law 2: THE PRINCIPLE OF ORTHOGONAL HISTORICITY
The tendency of any timeline is to follow it most likely thermodynamic and chronodynamic track, and its applicable laws of physics and sociology will dictate the degree of change possible by someone entering the reference from another time period.
Law 3: THE LIMITATION PRINCIPLE
The number of basic changes to any event is limited by the relative certainty of the event. The chance of successfully changing an event varies with the inverse square of the number time travelling attempts to alter it.
Law 4: THE DIRECTIONLESS MOMENT
Time's smallest measureable passage has no objective direction. For any moment, there is at least one supporting moment, but this relationship does not imply a direction of flow of time.
"History is nothing more than imperfectly remembered dream"
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Real UFO abduction, Phantasm, 30 Days of Night or hoax?
I gave up a long time ago and now sadly treat Doctor Who like the Transformers movies.
Before I go and watch an episode, I quietly place my brain in a jar of cool water. This way I can watch the pretty lights and childish innuendo and be somewhat entertained in the way an animal is entertained by a moving light on the wall.
His critique of the Steven Moffat era, whilst based on things as varied as personal animus, jealousy and perceptive analysis, has at its core a real concern that as he puts it the fetishisation of the Doctor character has turned him from something distinctive, not particularly heroic, and British, into something empty, trite, superheroic and American. He is absolutely right on that score of course, and it's far from accidental since American fans mean obsessive compulsive spending that the BBC would love, even if it's never quite got over its snobbish disdain for Doctor Who itself.
I'll review his opus Interference at some point. It is everything I hate about Who fandom, fan writers, and current Who too. But I'm in a good if splenetic mood today (sort of like Captain Haddock with his monocle) so I'm leaving it there for now. The mood, not the monocle.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
So how is it acceptable to steal white cultural characters and make them black? There's the Heimdall incident in the Thor film, which was typical PC crap that did nothing for anybody and empowered genuine racists amongst the black and white cultural groups. But I have in mind more the excessively gutless- we know making them black would cause riots so make them coffee coloured -approach taken in Fantastic Four with coffee Sue Storm and the even more offensive given the context coffee Conan.
Conan and indeed Sue Storm have set descriptions. They are white europeans. Each is in fact blue eyed, and Sue Storm is a classic northern european blonde. Cast them appropriately.
Sunshine Spider-Man from ultimate spider-man is just hilariously appalling for lots of reasons, his Aljolsonification isn't even the main offence. Bendis can't write unless he's rewriting a TV show, once I find which one Sunshine Spider-Man is based on it will become trivial to "guess" what his interminable issues will unfold as their "plot".
Reading Jim Shooter's blog on the one hand and the asperger support groups masquerading as comics forums on the other it really is like being able to watch parallel Earths.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Game at Flats, 1715
Lesbianism was called "the game of flats" (or "game at flatts"). This is a reference to games with playing cards, which were called "flats", and an allusion to the rubbing together of two "flat" female pudenda. For example, sex between women was described in 1698–99 as "a New Game / Call’d Flats with a Swinging Clitoris". "Flats" might also refer to the counters or flat broad-pieces used in betting games. The lesbian usage, though it can be traced back to at least 1663, is not recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary. The following poem was published in 1715, though it may have been used earlier in one of Rowe's plays. The poem was reprinted in 1733, with a footnote hinting at the identity of the two women: "These Stanzas were made on Mrs. B––le, and a Lady her Companion, whom she calls Captain." (The Miscellaneous Works of Nicholas Rowe, Third Edition, London, 1733).
The Game at Flats. A SONG.
WHile SAPPHO with harmonious Airs
Her dear PHILENIS charms,
With equal Joy the Nymph appears
Dissolving in her Arms. Thus to themselves alone they are
What all Mankind can give;
Alternately the happy Pair
All grant, and All receive.
Like the Twin-Stars, so fam'd for Friends,
Who set by Turns, and rise;
When one to THETIS Lap descends,
His Brother mounts the Skies.
With happier Fate, and kinder Care,
These Nymphs by Turns do reign,
While still the falling, does prepare
The rising, to sustain.
The Joys of either Sex in Love
In each of them we read,
Successive each, to each does prove,
Fierce Youth and yielding Maid.
SOURCE: The Poetical Works of Nicholas Rowe, Esq;, London: Printed for E. Curll at the Dial and Bible, against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet, 1715, pp. 26-27.
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Game at Flats, 1715", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 25 April 2007, updated 16 June 2008 <http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/rowe.htm>.
Also available as a digital comic:
And in print- keep up to date at the blog:
And look for Steamtown at IndyPlanet:
And the publisher website:
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I love the smell of napalm in the morning
So I just had this long discussion with this woman I know about the inherent immorality of the movie The Matrix, and I completely failed to convince her... well, actually, I suppose I convinced her, she simply didn't care. She feels that the fact that The Matrix was a philosophically 'deep' movie, in that it introduced into the pop gestalt the concept of the subjective/objective dichotomy (she's a Christian Scientist, so she thinks that's pretty cool) and made people generally conversant with the idea that the consensus reality could in fact be 'programmed' from without is the most important thing about the film, and justifies any moral excesses the movie may have had. More generally, she thinks it's silly to worry about the moral subtext of a dumb action movie, because she is of the apparent opinion that these things really don't matter and kids really aren't going to learn anything meaningful from The Matrix.
Let's take that last point first. I personally think kids learn an enormous amount from media artifacts, whether they're conscious of it or not (I picked up a lot of my basic morality from Silver Age superhero comic books, scary though that may sound). I don't know for certain that kids absorbed the gratuitously and murderously violent (im)moral subtext of The Matrix, but I certainly suspect they did, whether they are consciously aware of doing so or not. And I will point out here that the producers and creators of The Matrix went to enormous pains to avoid an R rating specifically so they could reap millions of dollars from a young (impressionable) audience. Add to all that the fact that I personally believe all creators who benefit from the social contract (which is pretty much all of us, especially those of us who can swing multimillion dollar movie deals) have an implicit obligation to create moral fiction, whether we're aiming it specifically at kids or not, and I don't think one should ever simply blithely dismiss whether a movie (or a TV show, or a novel, or a short story, or a comic book) sets out a morally consistent and socially acceptable storyline or not, simply because 'it's just a silly (fill in the blank).' If you're planning to sell your work to an audience, and if the local network of laws and civilized customs in any way benefits you, you should simply not be implicitly or overtly teaching within your fictional artifact that immoral behavior is rewarding. Or, to put it another way, in moral fiction, evil must inevitably be punished, and virtue must inevitably be rewarded. If the villain flourishes and the hero ends up stymied, defeated, suffering, or dead, you've produced an immoral work of fiction, and by doing so... by presenting a story to an audience in which right fails and wrong prevails, you have betrayed the fundamental social principles that keep you (and more importantly, me) out of the cannibals' stewpot.
If that sounds extreme, I can't apologize. I am very aware that I am a child of a technological civilization; when Y2K was threatening, I took a good, hard look at myself and my own particular skills and abilities and capacities, physical and non, and realized on a fundamental level that I simply could not survive without the surrounding support system of my civilization. (Even if I could somehow survive, it certainly wouldn't be a life much worth living.) And unlike a lot of people, I myself am very aware that the computer, the DVD player, the television, the CD player, the radio, and the very electricity that powers all these wonderful things, all of which hugely enhance my life in positive and desirable ways, not only could not have ever been invented without the nurturing cradle of a protective technological civilization, but could not have been manufactured and would not continue to be supplied without that same technological civilization. Without the codes of mutual cooperation that the majority of civilized people adhere to, we would all be armed savages hunting each other through the ruins. Maybe you don't want to deal with that simple truth, but I'm very aware of it. And the very least I can do, as a creative individual, is not write fiction that dignifies evil and demeans social behavior, much less that subtly or overtly teaches that corrosive, destructive, murderous, anti-social behavior is ever acceptable within a social context.
Badges? We don't got to show you no steenking badges
Now, having stated that, let's get to what probably all five of the people reading this are primarily wondering: have I lost my mind? What the hell was so goddam immoral about The Matrix? I mean, sure Neo and the other 'heroes' killed roughly 2.4 kazillion people during the course of the film, but it's an action movie for Christ's sake, and the people they killed were minions of Evil! Killing minions of Evil is okay, right?
Well, let's compare and contrast The Matrix with another film: another one of your favorites, most likely, Star Wars.
Over the last couple of years, I've seen a few people at least start to morally criticize Star Wars, on the grounds that when Luke blows up the Death Star in the movie's climax, he pretty much commits mass murder. And you're probably thinking, 'yeah, you must love those assholes, because you're saying exactly the same stupid goddam thing about The Matrix, and God, you suck'. However, in point of fact, I think the people who call Luke Skywalker a mass murderer and turn their noses up at the film Star Wars because of it are basically incapable of really working a functional moral equation. They've heard a couple of other thoughtful, conscientious media commenters offer similar criticisms of, say, some Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and they've turned around and blindly applied what they rather non-discerningly regard as a sort of 'ethics formula' to Star Wars, to show that they, too, are capable of controversial social insights regarding beloved mass media artifacts.
The problem is, they're wrong. First, it's important to remember that Luke's action took place in a military context, and Luke, and his fellow pilots employed by the Rebel Alliance, were going after a legitimate military target. If you're going to say that Luke's action in blowing up the Death Star was fundamentally immoral, you'd have to find the actions of any soldier who has ever destroyed an enemy military installation to be equally immoral. There may be those in the world who would argue that, but I suspect they'd be arguing from a point of view that finds all violence to be inherently evil, and while that point of view may or may not be valid, it's certainly not one that can be seen to work well within the heroic adventure genre. Which is my way of saying, I am not a moral pacifist, nor am I going to simply define all fictional portrayals of violence as being pro forma immoral. (For that matter, I don't believe that all real world violent acts are necessarily immoral; if I shoot a mugger who is coming at me with a knife, I haven't done anything wrong.)
Violence can be portrayed in an ethical context, generally, one in which only the Bad Guys initiate violence for purposes of their own self gratification, while the Good Guys, on the other hand, generally only respond to violence offered by the Bad Guys, by which I mean, they get violent in defense of themselves or others. (Again, see my 'if I shoot a mugger who is coming at me with a knife' example.)
At this point, it's worthwhile to recall the scene in the otherwise pretty much worthless Return of the Jedi, where Darth and the evil Emperor are urging Luke to give in to his anger and strike the Emperor down. In this context, neither Darth nor the Emperor are directly threatening Luke; if Luke were to take lethal action against either of them, he would be initiating that action, taking an aggressive and unnecessary violent, even murderous action... which, of course, is what they're trying to goad him into, to get his foot on that road to the Dark Side. Such an action on Luke's part, in defense of no one, but merely indulging his own desire for vengeance, would be evil, and the movie clearly portrays that.
In contast, let's remember that at the moment Luke destroyed the Death Star, the Death Star itself was seconds away from blowing up an entire inhabited planet. Luke knew that, and in fact, Luke and the rest of the Rebel Alliance also knew perfectly well that the Death Star was capable of blowing up a planet, and that the crew of the Death Star was perfectly willing to do so, because earlier in the film, the Death Star had been used to blow up another entire planet.
So, yeah, maybe there were some neutral electrical contractors still on board the Death Star working on the wiring, who were only there to get a paycheck so they could feed their families. Bummer for them. The Death Star was absolutely a legitimate military targer, and in the morally simplified world of George Lucas, it had also been pretty clearly established to be a massive murder weapon being employed by Absolute Evil. Luke's actions cannot be seen, in that context, or in our own, as immoral; it would have been far less moral for him to be suddenly overcome by conscience pangs and to have refused to pull the trigger when he had a chance, thus dooming himself and all his fellow pilots, and all the members of the rebellion on the moon below, to dying in the cosmic explosion that would have ensured a few seconds later. In other words, Luke acted in both self defense and the defense of others, making his violence essentially 'moral'.
Up is down. Black is white.
Star Wars is a good point of comparison for The Matrix for another reason: both films take place in a morally simplified context. There are really no ethical shades of grey in either; even Han Solo, a supposedly amoral mercenary, proves to be 'good' in the climactic moment of Star Wars, risking his life and his newfound wealth in order to help his friend, Luke. The good guys are pretty much entirely virtuous, the bad guys are entirely vile, and there is no middle ground, no 'justifiable evil' or morally questionable actions taken 'for the greater good'. The Rebels are fighting for freedom, the Empire is fighting to ensure and extend its totalitarian power (and in our own cultural context, 'freedom' is one of those words that pushes all the 'good' buttons, while 'totalitarian power' immediately gets our hackles up).
The Matrix is set in a similarly morally simplified context. The heroes, as represented by Neo and his crew, are fighting to free mankind from an illusion that holds us all enslaved while an alien computer drains our life force, and the opposition, said alien computer, is, well, using virtual reality to keep the vast mass of humanity tranquilly docile while it drains our life force. Not too many shades of grey there; you got your white hats, you got your black hats, now I want a good clean fight.
In a morally simplified environment like this, it's extremely important to make certain that all the actions your Heroes with a capital H take are, well, Heroic... which is to say, everything they do had damned well better be unquestionably moral and socially positive, because when you tell your audience that these are the Good Guys, you can't then turn around and have your Good Guys running around acting like the psychotically ultraviolent thugs from A Clockwork Orange. The actions of your Heroes are by definition being held up to your audience as positive behavior; if your Heroes are running around blowing up buildings and using unrestrained deadly force on their opponents, you had better be extremely careful to only have them doing so in a context in which such extremely violent actions are completely justified... such as, for example, the situation where, if you don't blow up the giant artificial planet in the next couple of seconds, it's going to kill you, your friends, and at least a few thousand other people.
Unfortunately, there is no such moral imperative for the diabolically exciting mass murders presented as visceral and entertaining eye candy, and, worse, upright, noble, morally necessary behavior, in The Matrix.
Now, the fact that Neo and his buddies are effectively outlaws battling to not only disrupt, but to comprehensively destroy, the existent status quo, is dealt with quite neatly by the movie's establishment that the status quo is an unhealthy illusion being inflicted on mankind by a malign alien intelligence. I won't dispute that this makes Neo's actions, which are, by definition, anti-social (attempting to destroy a virtual society is still anti-social) nonetheless, morally justified and, in fact, imperative. (Sometimes anti-social behiavor is morally justified; Gandhi's actions were socially disruptive and doubtless annoying to people trying to get around India at the time using the bus system. We would not judge Dutch partisans planting bombs in Gestapo HQ buildings as harshly as we do, say, Irish Republican Army members planting bombs in public libraries.)
Within the adventure fiction milieu, such a context justifies the employment of violent, and even lethal, force, assuming there is no other moral alternative.
Luke Skywalker's choices were very limited, and thus, simple; blow up the Death Star, saving himself, his friends, and a bunch of people he'd never met, while killing a whole lot of people actively engaged in attempted mass murder, or, do nothing and allow said mass murder to occur.
Neo, on the other hand, has the ability to manipulate the virtual reality he finds himself immersed in, in pretty much any way he can conceive. He chooses to use this ability to make himself very very fast and agile, to defy what we would consider to be normal physical laws restraining his movements through physical space, and to produce firearms out of nothingness which operate at a much faster rate of speed than normal firearms, and which apparently never run out of ammunition, which he then employs to kill dozens if not hundreds of pawns of the Enemy, the vast majority of whom (rather disturbingly) are dressed as policemen from our culture. (Yes, I honestly do think there are profound moral issues raised when creators deliberately produce images of police officers being slaughtered by gunfire simply because they know this will entertain and gratify their target audience, most of whom are young adolescents. But that's not the point of this essay, although I may write another one just about the relatively recent media trend of vilifying the police.)
It's been a while since I watched The Matrix, but as best I can remember, no reason is ever given for exactly why every confrontation between Neo and the vaguely defined forces of evil is inherently violent. You'd think that an alien computer which can create and maintain an entire collective virtual reality would also be capable of doing more subtle things to retard Neo's rebellious activities (like, for example, creating a windowless steel cube around him and his friends, or turning the atmosphere around Neo into chlorine gas). You'd also think that Neo and his friends, all of whom can manipulate the physical parameters of the virtual reality around them pretty much any way they like, would be able to take any number of productive actions besides (a) create magical automatic weaponry with an unending supply of bullets and (b) shoot evil police officers over and over again while bouncing off the walls and ceilings.
Live in their world. Kill in ours.
I understand why the story was structured to include these fight scenes (beyond the simple, if rather twisted, 'our audience is going to love watching a guy in a long black leather coat killing hundreds of cops'): The Matrix is meant to emulate one of those point and shoot video games that are so popular with its target audience (and that were so influential on the behavior of the Columbine killers, among others). But that's an external reason; a conscious decision on the part of the creators of the artifact. If any reason was ever given for why the stupid alien computer kept sending heavily armed legions of brainwashed drones after someone who could demonstrably kill them by the hundred all week long without being scratched, and especially for why Neo would repeatedly choose to confront these evil lackeys with murderous violence after he'd been informed that in fact, these agents of the Enemy were actually real people being mind controlled by the Enemy at that moment, and when he shot them, real people died, I don't remember it.
However, even if some reason was given for exactly why Neo, upon being convinced that he had effectively undefined and unlimited superpowers, would decide to use those superpowers to become a player character in a three dimensional game of DOOM, instead of just using them to walk through walls, create doorways in partitions, turn invisible, fly around his opponents, and otherwise avoid the conflicts that he knew would result in the deaths of innocents, it couldn't possibly be a good enough reason to justify Neo's ongoing and deliberate acts of mass murder... especially given that these acts of mass murder are presented to an audience primarily consisting of adolescents, for purposes of entertainment.
Once again... when Neo hauls out his magic guns and starts shooting bad guys who look like police officers, he is causing the deaths of innocent people who have been momentarily mind controlled by his real enemy. This was made clear in the movie, to the audience and to Neo. And even if this course of action could possibly be justified by saying 'well, in this case, the freeing of the entire human race from virtual slavery justifies the loss of some innocent lives' (which I don't concede; it's not very noble for your Hero to willingly sacrifice other lives for his cause), the fact is, Neo and his friends have many, many options they could exercise before they resort to deadly force.
The Matrix is simply an immoral movie. It presents mass murder as heroic, necessary action, when in fact, its 'heroes' could fairly easily try a lot of other options before they get to the 'let's kill everything that moves' slot. Even if the opposition encountered (and slaughtered) by Neo during the film were just computer generated phantasms, I'd still have deep moral issues with the presentation of such gratuitously violent and provocatively anti-social images as entertainment for adolescents. Given that the film makes it clear that each 'virtual' death of an opponent corresponds to a real death of a real person whose participation in the gunfight is entirely involuntary, The Matrix is simply unconscionable.
Give in to your anger, young Jedi
Nobody likes me when I hold forth on The Matrix. As far as I can see, this is because of one thing: Everybody likes the goddam film, and nearly everybody understands that immoral fiction is a bad thing that they shouldn't like (or support with their cash), and therefore, everybody really resents the hell out of it when I pretty much irrefutably demonstrate that this thing they love and they really enjoyed watching, and that many of them own on video or DVD and love to watch over and over again, is, well... evil.
Look... I enjoyed watching The Matrix too, on a visceral level. It's more or less internally consistent (not at all common in science fiction or fantasy films), it's dialogue doesn't resolutely suck all the way through like the dialogue in most SF and action movies tends to, and it does indeed bring some very interesting and rather provocative philosophical issues into the popular gestalt. Over the past few years I've discovered I can now have a conversation on solpsism with nearly anyone, since nearly everyone has seen The Matrix and has a, well, matrix, to put the essential concept of the objective/subjective dichotomy into.
Nonetheless, the fact that you really enjoyed the movie doesn't excuse the film, or its creators, from its moral responsibility, or, for that matter, you from yours. Yes, it's a very entertaining media artifact. It's also a media artifact that basically teaches its viewers that it's okay to kill people, especially people in cop suits, even if you don't have to, if you're the Hero and they're the Villains.
An argument can be made that this is only a story, and even the most retarded adolescent can tell the difference between this movie and reality. Only the truly deranged are going to start believing that the fictional reality presented in The Matrix is real, and it is only within that fictional reality that the actions taken by Neo and his pals are justifiable (or even, really, possible).
However, morally, that makes no difference. Within the fictional reality of The Matrix, it is clearly established that every 'enemy agent' is a real person being controlled by the actual enemy force, and when Neo kills an enemy agent, a real person dies. Neo and his posse are committing mass murder, without bothering to attempt to, you know, not commit mass murder, and since they are the Heroes, mass murder is being held up as a socially acceptable, valid, necessary, and even admirable activity. That's simply reprehensible, and everyone I've ever had this discussion with knows it's reprehensible; that's why they dislike hearing it so much.
Do the right thing
The final argument I generally hear from really exasperated action film lovers at about this point is 'well, so what, it's just a goddam movie, who cares if it's moral or not? What practical difference does it make? Do you really think the people who go see The Matrix are so impressionable they're going to put on long black trenchcoats and wraparound mirror shades and go shoot a lot of cops in a parking garage? How often has that actually happened in the ten years that people have been watching this 'immoral' film, anyway?"
First: Yes, of course, nobody in their right mind is going to believe that in the real world, we are all immersed in a shared virtual reality and they should go out and kill cops in order to save the human race from a lifesucking alien computer. And, of course, no one in their right mind is going to come to believe that real teachers and real high school students are simply targets/opponents in some weirdly three dimensional, true life version of DOOM or RISE OF THE TRIAD, either. It's not the people in their right minds we have to worry about; it's the borderline sociopaths who are simply looking for a credible and attractive framework to hang their paranoid persecution fantasies on. And these people exist, they go to movies, or watch TV, or play video games, or all three. And then, sometimes, they get a gun and they kill people. It may not happen very often, in statistical proportion to the total population, but just how many dead bodies are acceptable to you, so that movie producers can make a few million dollars and you can watch a really bitchin' DVD?
Second, you care. You obviously care, because this is pissing you off so much. On some level, you understand, even if you don't like it when I articulate it to you, that immoral fiction is wrong, and it should not be supported, much less rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales, rentals, and video/DVD purchases.
And apparently we all understand this, because I watch way too much TV, and I've seen a lot of movies, and I cannot think, just off the top of my head, of any TV show or other film than this one in which the heroes blithely commit mass murder against innocents (much less against opponents largely dressed as police officers) without being punished for their actions in some way before the end of the movie.
There are plenty of violent films, of course, and some of them I love. However, the only other movie I can think of at the moment in which the hero commits mass murder, besides the aforementioned Star Wars, is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, in which, at the end, Buckaroo targets a spaceship full of evil aliens (who are, admittedly, sentient beings) and blows them straight to hell. And, like Luke Skywalker, Buckaroo really didn't have much choice... if he'd let the shipful of Red Lectroids skate, the Black Lectroids in orbit would have incinerated Earth. Beyond that, like the minions of the Empire in Star Wars, the Red Lectroids were pretty clearly shown throughout The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai to be evil; they kill anyone who remotely crosses them, and they also seem to enjoy kidnapping and torturing people, too.
Other than those two, though, I'm at a loss at the moment to come up with any movie where the putative hero kills a lot of people (or sentient beings). Hmmmm... well, I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger tends to kill a lot of criminals in most of his action movies... he certainly wipes out a small army of them in Commando... but, again, Schwarzenegger is killing criminals, generally, criminals who have attacked him first. Tony Soprano has probably whacked a dozen or so people on screen by now, but I can't recall him ever killing anyone who wasn't also a criminal... and even if he has, while Tony Soprano is the protagonist of his fictional artifact, nobody has ever tried to say he's a hero, and his behavior is socially acceptable.
This is very different from Neo,who is presented as the noble, admirable hero of the movie, and who is killing temporarily brainwashed drones that, in their right minds, would never have attacked him, and which Neo could simply walk around if he felt like it, anyway.
As a pretty much universal rule in our culture, if a fictional character kills innocent people, that fictional character is 'bad' and generally gets arrested, or killed horribly in turn, by the end of the film. The Matrix is simply the only movie I can think of where the hero kills a lot of innocent people, when he doesn't have to, and the immorality of mass murder is never even acknowledged.
Our popular fictions are a reflection of our culture, and, synergistically, our culture also tends to over time begin to mirror our most popular fictions. Whether we want to accept that or not, it's true. Do we really want to be part of a culture that is reflected in, or starts to reflect, the values (or complete lack thereof) depicted in The Matrix?
Yeah, I know. When I start talking about the corrupt Hollywood media and its lack of values and the horrible impact this has on our culture as a whole, I sound just like Rush Limbaugh. I realized that as I was typing my closing sentence above, and it horrified me as much as it probably did you. But let's get one thing straight: I'm not pissing and moaning about a movie in which members of the same gender kiss each other, or sex occurs outside the sacrosanct boundaries of holy matrimony, or the fucking American flag gets burned by someone. I'm tolerant of alternate lifestyles (if a movie features guys kissing each other on the mouth, I'm not gonna watch it, but on the other hand, if a movie or TV show has the phrase My Big Fat Greek ANYTHING in it, I'm not going to watch it, either... but on the other hand, I don't write long diatribes saying these things are objectionable or immoral, either. Other people want to watch guys kissing each other, or even engage in that behavior, well, that's fine for them. Other people want to go watch movies about Big Fat Greek Somethings, that's cool, too.
What I'm talking about is not something that can be dismissed as simply my narrow minded, provincial views regarding aspects of human behavior that really aren't anyone else's business but the people performing said acts. What I'm talking about here is the fictional depiction of mass murder as a socially acceptable activity, for purposes of commercial entertainment. And, personally, I think the sanctity of human life is a concept that can legitimately be described as a 'value'... and a 'value' worth defending at length on a weblog, at that.
The fact that conservatives twaddle mongers have co-opted the word 'values' and sullied it with a lot of narrow minded and hateful bigotry doesn't mean I can't use it properly and appropriately, when I feel the need.
The Matrix is, flatly, an immoral film, one that undermines the cultural values that you and I and pretty much everyone we know depend on to keep us safe and comfortable. You may hate acknowledging that, and you may hate even worse acknowledging that as a member of this culture, you have a moral responsibility not to support ethically toxic crap like The Matrix with your disposable income. Nonetheless, the fact that you really don't want to admit that your favorite piece of cinematic eye candy is reprehensible and morally atrocious, and you'd really rather not be a conscientious, morally consistent grown up in just this one instance, does not justify your abdication of your responsibility to actually be a conscientious and morally consistent grown up.
Even I have to admit, though, that Carrie Ann Moss is a major babe...
Monday, August 22, 2011
Access Hollywood asked Hiddleston about the leaked pictures of explosions and strange technology (perhaps alien in nature?) on the Cleveland set, to which he said:
“That’s basically Manhattan being destroyed by Loki’s army. I’m not allowed to be specific about how that army is made up, but that’s the battle for Manhattan. […] Yeah, that’s me. I’m blowing up the city and the Avengers are trying to stop me.”
Many have speculated that Loki’s army is the Skrulls – or the Kree? or the Chitauri? or some other alien force? – based on rumors and, more importantly, photographs of alien-esque weapons and spacecraft.
See for yourself below:
When asked who had the best costume in the film, Hiddleston said:
“I don’t want to say this with any vanity or immodesty, but a lot of people have been saying that it’s mine. I don’t know that because I’m the one wearing it and it also weighs forty pounds so after twelve hours or fourteen hours or sixteen hours of wearing it, I’m kind of ready to take it off. Because it’s just—metal and leather.”
On the realization that he was in the ultimate superhero film:
“There’s this one scene at the end of the film where I’m looking up at the Avengers assembled, and you’ve got Thor andand and Hawkeye and Black Widow and the staring me down in one shot. And that was the day that I realized we were definitively making The Avengers.”
One assumes, if it comes near the end of the film and all of the Avengers are staring down the villain, that Loki gets his ass handed to him during the climax. Of course, seeing as this is a major Hollywood blockbuster, we could’ve assumed that the bad guy would get his, regardless.
What do you think about “Loki’s army”? Do you think they’re the Skrulls, the Kree, the Chitauri, or something else entirely?
The Avengers hits theaters May 4, 2012.
The "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" trailer popped up online late last week, and what else is there to say about it other than Nicolas Cage closes out the new footage by pissing fire? Well, it turns out there's a heck of a lot left to say, which is why the MTV Movies team jumped into the comic book action for an expert commentary.
The trailer begins sweetly, with a score reminiscent of "Lost" and some epic title cards: "He fought the curse ... evil will force him ... to face his demon." But any wacky notion that directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also helmed the "Crank" films, have delivered a kinder, gentler Johnny Blaze is quickly dismissed when the music picks up and the flames flicker to reveal our first look at the new Ghost Rider.
It's a look the directors have spoken with us about at length. "We wanted this black skull, with this gasoline fire and this black, inky smoke to get this real feeling of explosions and fire and heat," Neveldine said at San Diego Comic-Con. "That's something we really went for: 'Let's feel the heat in this movie.' "
The grittiness of this Ghost Rider most definitely shines through in the trailer. Charcoal skull? Check. A whiff of gasoline seemingly rising off the screen? Check. Neveldine and Taylor not holding back in this trailer and delivering a full-on look at our hero right off the bat? Check. And they don't stop there, quickly showing off Ghost Rider's signature move, the Penance Stare: He looks into your eyes and makes you feel all the pain and suffering you've ever inflicted on other people. This is no fairy-tale power. This is not X-ray vision. This is a hard-core demonic power, one which was not played very well in the first film. Even in this quick shot, the Stare looks very cool.
Speaking of demonic powers, the trailer got us thinking this film might not just be a sequel to the 2007 original, but to Cage's "Drive Angry," the 3-D action flick that had the actor busting out of hell to inflict gory revenge on his enemies. Crazy talk? Sure. But since "Drive Angry" hardly performed well enough at the box office to justify a sequel, we'll take whatever we can get.
We get to see plenty of Ghost Rider here, but the trailer gives us the briefest glimpse of Johnny Whitworth as Blackout. He's part human, part demon, all bad news. Whitworth is a guy to watch — hardly a household name but one who delivered an energetic supporting role in the largely forgettable "Limitless." With Neveldine and Taylor in control, there is serious potential for killer fight scenes between Blackout and Ghost Rider.
Another character we get a peek at is young Danny Ketch. Comic fans will know him as one of the guys who eventually becomes Ghost Rider. The big departure here is that Danny is a kid. In the comics, he's a young man. While this film probably won't turn into a passing of the torch from Cage's Johnny Blaze to Danny as the next Ghost Rider, it's nonetheless cool to see filmmakers laying the mythological groundwork.
The trailer ends with pure, absurd fun: Ghost Rider declaring that it feels awesome when he pees fire. That's essentially how Cage feels about the movie as a whole. "The Ghost Rider is just the coolest-looking superhero, and it has to be the one that goes to film and looks the best," the actor told us at SDCC. "I think they've achieved that with this."
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Ewing has very adeptly turned in a Tintin-style adventure. His art is a little restrained compared to Herge- who of course remains the grandmaster- so shall we say that the Rainbow Orchid sits between Blake & Mortimer and Tintin himself in terms of style.
The story is beautifully illustrated in every panel and the research behind it is suitably professional. The mysteries are gently offered, the action is brisk, and the characters well drawn. It is definitely a product of modern Great Britain, which could be bad but in this case- there is nothing "PC" to complain of.
The first two volumes out of a total of three are already available in print, and are well worth it!
The story is a great new addition for people suffering withdrawal symptoms having exhausted the Tintin canon.
First off, the producers need to stop trying to pick a winner. The fix was in for Rod and Tania, and it didn't work.
The cheapest hovel won, because it is a perceived bargain.
Putting reserve prices on the buildings based on anything other than purchase price plus some real cost of renovation was absurd, and the reserves themselves put a big flashing arrow saying buy Rod and Tania's for the best price, as did the saboteur auctioneer for the first couple and the breast cancer shills in the audience for Rod and Tania. Despite that, the outcome was a victory for the infrequent wisdom of the mob.
As for Razor- getting some jewish actresses to play the thick ankled irish molls from reality is hilarious, and as for Farmer wants a hooker- pass.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Captain Marvel had much the same sensibility as Tintin too- innocent orphan boy reporter hero, whimsy, some full blown elements of fantasy - super intelligent Snowy is more than matched by hepcat Tawky Tawny for example.
This tradition goes back to the time of Emperor Asoka, who reigned in India from 273 B.C. He was the grandson of Chandragupta who was the first to unify India. Ambitious like his ancestor whose achievements he was anxious to complete, he conquered the region of Kalinga which lay between what is now Calcutta and Madras. The Kalingans resisted and lost 100,000 men in the battle.
At the sight of this massacre Asoka was overcome. For ever after he experienced a horror of war. He renounced the idea of trying to integrate the rebellious people, declaring that the only true conquest was to win men’s hearts by observance of the laws of duty and piety, because the Sacred Majesty desired that all living creatures should enjoy security, peace and happiness and be free to live as they pleased.
A convert to Buddhism, Asoka, by his own virtuous example, spread this religion throughout India and his entire empire which included Malaya, Ceylon and Indonesia. Later Buddhism penetrated to Nepal, Thibet, China and Mongolia. Asoka nevertheless respected all religious sects. He preached vegetarianism, abolished alcohol and the slaughter of animals.
"Among the tens of thousands of names of monarchs accumulated in the files of history, the name of Asoka shines almost alone, like a star."
It is still thought that the great men responsible for the destiny of modern India, and scientists like Bose and Ram believe in the existence of the Nine, and even receive advice and messages from them. [cf. Phyllis Schlemmer’s modern "Council of Nine" which "channeling" sessions have drawn such notables as Uri "Spoon-Bender" Geller, physicist Dr. Andrija "SPECTRA" Puharich (who once noted that Geller’s entity was Horus/Hawk-like in appearance -- another story for another time perhaps) and, of course, societal sci-fi metaprogrammer extraordinaire Gene "Star Trek" Roddenberry -B:.B:.]
One can imagine the extraordinary importance of secret knowledge in the hands of nine men benefiting directly from experiments, studies and documents accumulated over a period of more than 2,000 years. What can have been the aim of these men? Not to allow methods of destruction to fall into the hands of unqualified persons, and to pursue knowledge which would benefit mankind. Their numbers would be renewed by co-option, so as to preserve the secrecy of techniques handed down from ancient times.
Examples of the Nine Unknown Men making contact with the outer world are rare. There was, however, the extraordinary case of one of the most mysterious figures in Western history: the Pope Sylvester II, known also by the name of Gerbert d’Aurillac. Born in the Auvergne in 920 (d. 1003) Gerbert was a Benedictine monk, professor at the University of Rheims, Archbishop of Ravenna and Pope by the grace of Otho III.
In the cybernetics journal, Computers and Automation of October 1954, the following comment appeared:
"We must suppose that he (Sylvester) was possessed of extraordinary knowledge and the most remarkable mechanical skill and inventiveness. This speaking head must have been fashioned ’under a certain conjunction of stars occurring at the exact moment when all the planets were starting on their courses.’ Neither the past, nor the present nor the future entered into it, since this invention apparently far exceeded in its scope its rival, the perverse ’mirror on the wall’ of the Queen, the precursor of our modern electronic brain. Naturally, it was widely asserted that Gerbert was only able to produce such a machine because he was in league with the Devil and had sworn eternal allegiance to him."
Jacolliot was French Consul at Calcutta under the Second Empire. He wrote some quite important prophetic works, comparable, if not superior to those of Jules Verne. He also left several books dealing with the great secrets of the human race. A great many occult writers, prophets and miracle-workers have borrowed from his writings which, completely neglected in France, are well known in Russia.
Jacolliot states categorically that the society of Nine did actually exist. And, to make it all the more intriguing, he refers in this connection to certain techniques, unimaginable in 1860, such as, for example, the liberation of energy, sterilization by radiation and psychological warfare.
Yersin, one of Pasteur and de Roux’s closest collaborators, was entrusted, it seems, with certain biological secrets when he visited Madras in 1860, and following the instructions he received was able to prepare a serum against cholera and the plague. [Yet in these current Eschatological Times of Trouble, have these hidden secrets slipped into the hands of vile and profane individuals such as Wolf "Herr Doktor AIDS" Smuzness and, of course, "Oppie’s boys" over at the LANL labs? -B:.B:.]
The story of the Nine Unknown Men was popularized for the first time in I927 in a book by Talbot Mundy who for twenty-five years was a member of the British police force in India. His book is half fiction, half scientific inquiry. The Nine apparently employed a synthetic language [Enochian? -B:.B:.], and each of them was in possession of a book that was constantly being rewritten and containing a detailed account of some science.
[Note here the Qabbalistic "synchronicities" in the subjects of the Nine Books. -B:.B:.]
The first of these books is said to have been devoted to the technique of propaganda and psychological warfare.
"The most dangerous of all sciences," wrote Mundy, "is that of moulding mass opinion, because it would enable anyone to govern the whole world."
It must be remembered that Korjybski’s General Semantics did not appear until 1937 and that it was not until the West had had the experience of the last World War that the techniques of the psychology of language, i.e. propaganda, could be formulated.
- The first American college of semantics only came into being in 1950. In France almost the only book that is at all well known is Serge Tchocotine’s Le Viol des Foules [i.e. "The Rape of the Masses," no doubt a take-off on Ortega y Gasset’s classic socio- logical work of the same name. -B:.B:.] which has had a considerable influence in intellectual political circles, although it deals only superficially with the subject.
- The second book was on physiology. It explained, among other things, how it is possible to kill a man by touching him, death being caused by a reversal of the nerve-impulse. It is said that Judo is a result of "leakages" from this book.
- The third volume was a study on microbiology, and dealt especially with protective colloids.
- The fourth was concerned with the transmutation of metals. There is a legend that in times of drought temples and religious relief organizations received large quantities of fine gold from a secret source.
- The fifth volume contains a study of all means of communication, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial. [Keep in mind this is circa 250 B.C.E. -B:.B:.]
- The sixth expounds the secrets of gravitation.
- The seventh contains the most exhaustive cosmogony known to humanity.
- The eighth deals with light.
- The ninth volume, on sociology, gives the rules for the evolution of societies, and the means of foretelling their decline.
Avoiding all forms of religious, social or political agitations, deliberately and perfectly concealed from the public eye, the Nine were the incarnation of the ideal man of science, serenely aloof, but conscious of his moral obligations. Having the power to mould the destiny of the human race, but refraining from its exercise, this secret society is the finest tribute imaginable to freedom of the most exalted kind.
Myth or reality? A magnificent myth, in any case, and one that has issued from the depths of time -- a harbinger, maybe, of the future?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Queen of Tears was my zombie novel detailing ancient egyptian ghosts led by Queen Tyaa reanimating corpses to remake her ancient queendom. It also featured realistic military responses rather than the usual US Army as keystone cops crap. It anticipated a trend by several years, to put it kindly.
Sister to the Wasteland was a sequel detailing a lost girl who reanimates but retains her free will- pale blue skinned superwoman using an axe, crowbar or her bare hands as a horror superhero, battling Herbert West Reanimator, various supervillains and her own undead nature.
The books have been and gone although we'll turn them into comics.
American Zombie is another hero from a sequel book in the Earth-Q / Queen of Tears continuity.
American Zombie's family believe him to be dead.
American Zombie was an American marine serving in Iraq. Killed by a rocket grenade attack, his corpse reanimated using captured Tyaa bugs after the Earth-Q zombie war centering on Rhode Island. The reanimation was successful and American Zombie came back from the dead as a free-willed reanimated corpse.
Known Power and Abilities:
American Zombie is a Tyaa zombie. His form is that of a homeostatic human corpse. It will not decay any more provided he regularly consumes raw flesh and blood. It need not be human flesh and blood.
American Zombie has the strength of ten muscular human males. Since he feels little pain ("just a tickle") he can also cause himself injury to exceed his normal strength limits provided he feasts on raw flesh and blood immediately afterward. Otherwise, permanent damage to his physical form will occur.
American Zombie is a highly trained American marine. He is also equipped by his government with a full complement of body armour and weapons, including a face mask to conceal his real nature from American citizens.
As a zombie, American Zombie is able to ignore a great deal of physical harm with no ill effects.
American Zombie is functionally immortal provided he feeds.
Roman Blogging Lessons
Infographic by John Garrett/Hypertransitory
“The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.”
- GM Trevelyan
Kesaukoros, in the Earth-T4 universe; presently unknown if analogues of Kesaukoros exist in any other parallel universe
None known but Lavatrogs have a society quite similar to that of medieval Japan on mainline Earths, that being the case it is likely that Tuol would have a clan, immediate family, past lovers, apprentices and enemies. Since he is ronin, it is unknown what status all these fellow Lavatrogs have with respect to him, and vice versa.
Tuol is a member of the Alexrokk clan from the fiery sky island of Gaark on the planet Gesaukoros. Like all native Lavatrogs, he is a silicon-based lifeform with glowing yellow eyes, mouth and tympanic openings. Tuol is ronin, meaning that at some time in the past and for reasons unknown he has either outlived his daimyo, disobeyed him and chosen exile rather than death, or turned mercenary for pure profit.
Tuol nevertheless still dresses in traditional Kesaukorosian garb, uses only the Kesaukorosian daisho, and in all other respects adheres to Kesaukorosian bushido. He usually partners with a female dark elf named Sleng, and together they form a paired assassin team working exclusively for Nimwe the Space Witch.
Known Power and Abilities:
Like all normal native Lavatrogs, Tuol's skin is flexible solidified lava. It emits sufficient heat to burn paper, is immune to arrows and spears and similar attacks, and is reasonably resistant even to gunfire. Energy weapons and exotic supertech, ultratech and godtech weapons would kill him instantly, naturally.
Once every few hours, Tuol, like many mature Lavatrogs, can belch a fiery wad of liquid rock. This is catastrophically dangerous to anything it coats, and is essentially a slightly radioactive glob of lava similar to what might emit from a volcano during eruption. The Flame Burp is voluntary and Tuoal does not need ever to do it.
Tuol has achieved the rank of "sword saint" with his chosen weaponry of katana and wakizashi. He is capable of killing dozens of opponents in close combat and handfuls of opponents in ranged combat with minimal effort. He is also fearless in combat, ruthless, determined and possessed of incredible senses of danger and damage avoidance.
In addition to his flexible rock skin, Tuol is highly resistant to physical harm of all kinds. He is capable of being stunned, knocked unconscious or wounded, but it would take industrial machinery to draw blood or knock him out.
Tuol's bodily fluids are all lava-based and his blood is a glowing yellow hot liquid capable of melting soft metals like butter.