Wednesday, March 25, 2009
But before the serious work can begin, there is a demon I must exorcise, a monster in my brain that must be set free. A terrible creature is to be born.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the rant.
The BSG finale broadcast last week, and I needed some time to disseminate. Long story short: the last of the human fleet lands on a planet with humanoid pre-language inhabitants. They decide to give up all their technology, send their Cylon allies back into space, and settle into a simple hunter gatherer lifestyle. The voices in Baltar and Six's heads turn out to be angels, and the whole thing was a plan by God to get the cylon-human hybrid onto the new planet. 15000 years later, the planet they named "Earth" has turned out to be... surpise! Our planet!
Cue the montage of Japanese robots--the future to fear!
Let's put aside the minor problems here. Forget that "the descendants of Earth turn out to be the ancestors of Earth" is old hat, sci-fi speaking. (Or sy-fy, if you're detached from reality) Forget that "it was all God's plan" is much the same. Forget the incredibly circular nature of God's 'plan.' (But really--God's plan was to set up a series of visions and prophecies to lead the humans all over the universe, point them to an entirely ruined planet, give them a nonsensical vision of an opera house, when the knowledge of said vision had no bearing on the actual event it related to, THEN lead them to the right planet? God's a jerk.) Even forget the moral ambiguity of the humans deciding to mate with the prelanguage humanoids. (Gross.) The big problem for me?
This is a sci-fi series that ends with a technophobe message.
And even that would be fine with me if that was the message it was going towards. But it's a direct contradiction of everything that came before. Over and over again, the show told us that people are people--that the divisions between Cylon and human need to be broken down, that we need to come together and break the cycle of violence. And it's never been so clear as during the last season. Just as the humans were fighting each other, the Cylons fell into their own civl war--they're just like us. Adama patched up the battlestar with Cylon technology, in effect turning his ship into a Cylon. He hesitates to take this step, then finds out the Cylons have started putting pictures of their dead in human memorials. They're just like us. Hell, in the beginning of the finale, a Cylon hybrid pool is moved into the command center of the ship. And yet, in the end, the humans decide that they're going to be human, give up all technology, and send that nasty Cylon technology back into space. Space is for the machines, earth is for humans.Instead of breaking down binaries, it just locks them back into place.
I was going to say that stories don't need a moral, but... honestly, I think they always have one, whether it's intended or not. Stories are produced in a social context, and to an extent, they are always a response to their social contexts. Aside from the question on whether it's a good idea for a show on a science fiction channel to send a message like this, for it to send a contradictory message is... well, it's bad story telling.
It's been a great series. There were times I considered giving up, and I'm glad I didn't. And given my academic interests, I'm probably to going to hear--and maybe say--a lot about it in the years ahead. But it's too bad I'll never be able to say "it had a great ending."*
*Ok, I'll grant that the ending made more sense than the ending of the Prisoner. But really, it would hit that bar with 2 straight hours of dead air.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
AN OUT-OF-CONTEXT SILVER AGE PANEL DEPICTING BELOVED FIGURES ACTING OUT OF CHARACTER, TRANSPOSED FOR HUMOROUS EFFECT!
Pa Kent teaches important life lessons to Super Whiner in Action Comics 247.
(Also note that Superboy does not deny that he's slipping.)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
And there was. So in a way, I too was a winner. (And in another, more actual way, I was not.)
The purpose of the award ceremony is to acknowledge the students in the department who strive. Those who do their best to excel, and further not just their own pursuits, but the understanding and excellence of our entire field. They are the intellectual elite, the cream of the crop. Quite simply, the best and the brightest.
Meanwhile, I forgot my mitts today, and there's no way I was going to risk hypothermia by biking home gloveless (oh, my bike's fixed.). So while the best and the brightest were receiving their accolades, I was biking home with a toque on one hand and a sock on the other.
All humour aside, I'm proud to be working in a department where I can count these best and brightest as being among my colleagues. But in a perverse manner, I am also proud that these best and brightest must count among their colleagues me.
Yeah. Yeah, take that.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Congratulations to my friend back west on the arrival of her beautiful, red-headed baby boy!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
"Tho' I was a Whore, yet I was a Protestant Whore."
Because you have to draw the line somewhere.
Guardians of the Galaxy 11. By Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning & Wes Craig. Comic books nowadays basically have two types of space stories. First, there’s the space myth: big universe-level movers and shakers that often represent abstract concepts, interacting and battling it out on a galactic scale. Basically, it’s god-type mythology, but set in space. Example: Eternity vs Entropy. The other kind is what I’m calling the space opera: dozens of interspatial species mingling cultures and going to war. Basically, it’s George R. R. Martin, but in space. Example: (for Marvel, at least) Skrulls vs. Kree. (There’s more to it than big fights, but I’m simplifying here.)There are other types of space stories (the colonizing cowboys, the man vs. nature story), but for the Big Two comic companies, it’s all myth and opera. The nice thing is, Guardians of the Galaxy can do both kinds of stories at once.
But not this time.
This time, it’s entirely a space myth story, as Drax and Phyla find out that they’re “dead”, but not dead, as well as the reason why, via the presence of a villain last seen being outwitted by the leader of the Great Lake Avengers (spoiler). The rest of the cast does not show up. I understand that they’re building to the War of Kings arc, but the appeal of Guardians, to me, is its ensemble cast. And unless Drax and Phyla are your favorites (and really, in a team that includes Rocket Raccoon, how could that be?), there’s not a lot here. (Actually, I think I like Drax a little better, but he’s a character whose personality changes virtually every time he is resurrected, which suggests the guy I’m currently rooting for may not be around much longer.) The story is okay, the dialogue is an intriguing discussion on the purpose of death, and the art is very, very pretty. It’s all right for a single issue, but I wouldn’t want to hang out with these two 24/7.
Fables 82. By Bill Willingham and David Hahn. The Fables deal with the big question: how do you mourn the death of someone who was supposed to be immortal? A good, but not great issue. Hahn’s art seems a little too much like it’s trying to hit Buckingham, the regular artist, but missing. And it’s a much better send-off of Blue’s character than the last issue was. It’s interesting to see what all the different characters think about Blue’s death, and what it says about the character: Rose assumes he’ll return so she has a chance to redeem herself, Flycatcher thinks he’ll stay dead, and the Barnyard fables have their own opinions. It’s also pretty clear, with the discussion of the Fables’ creators, that they’re gearing up for the big crossover, and the flow is not entirely organic. The “cliff-hanger” ending seems a little out of place, as it’s a problem that can easily be solved by the right character showing up in the next panel or two. The Mogli story also wraps up, with the Fables poised to carve up a big chunk of the Homelands for themselves. That could prove interesting, although clearly not until the cliffhanger is behind us. I guess we’ll have to see where things go from here.
Captain Britain and MI 13 #11. Paul Cornell & Leonard Kirk and Mike Collins. The MI 13 group reel from the vampire attack, and try to assemble some sort of counter. Hmm. That was interesting. The plot, at the moment, boils down to a simple, if delightfully insane concept: Dracula is using the chaos caused by the Skrull invasion to stage his own invasion of Britain, and claim it for his people—you know, vampires. Cornell really gets the most out of his ensemble cast here. Everyone gets at least a moment to shine. Particularly shiny is the cast member he’s created, Dr. Faizia Hussain. She’s hit hardest by Dracula’s first wave, and Cornell emphasizes the character in a really notable scene of one page of text interspersed with pictures. I haven’t seen this done since Grant Morrison did it in the pages of Batman, but this works so much better: the text is clear yet impactful, and a single page of it makes it feel like something special without being a novelty. But everyone, from Pete Wisdom, to Blade, to Spitfire, get their moment in the sun. (Not literally for Spitfire, ‘cause you know: vampire.) The change in art style is a little jarring, but other than that, a great book.
Monday, March 9, 2009
1) It just struck me as I was typing out that review that even though I counted more comic book fans among my friends in Someplace Else, I would never have gone to see Watchmen with them, but I had no compunction inviting myself along in Blank. And I'm not sure why that is. It's certainly not the caliber of friends; I know they would have welcomed me (or, at least, tolerated me to the same extent.) Rather, the difference is with me. I always felt that I was imposing myself in such situations. I don't know why that's changed, but expect many emo-filled posts on the subject in the future.
2) Remember when I said I sent out my query letter for the first time? Well, on Friday, I received my very first rejection letter. It sucks, and I'm going to send out the next batch tomorrow, but a part of me is just impressed that they've got such a quick turn-around time. They may not have the best taste in books, but at least they're efficient.
3) Events tonight have proven certain stock phrases to be false. Honesty is most definitely not the best policy. No, it is not. Luckily, the one that goes "things look better in the morning" will probably fix things.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
It's PROBABLY the most male genetalia you'll see in a superhero movie: A Spoiler-Laden review of "Watchmen"
In fact, it's such a product of its time that I've heard people criticize it on that level. The original series by Alan Moore came out in the mid-eighties, and relies heavily on the fear of global destruction and mutual annihilation. The movie's set in the same period, and I've heard complaints that the movie lacks the same impact the comics did, because we're no longer in the same place in history. I suppose the alternative is to either modernize the entire plot (which would have ended very, very badly), or not do the movie at all.
There's actually a lot going on behind the "do we need a Watchmen movie?" argument. I think there's a bit of a nostalgia element at work--for a lot of people, the Watchmen is the first truly great comic series they ever read, so any adaptation pales by comparison. And this adaptation is so faithful that there's not really anything terribly new if you've already read the comics--as comic blogger Rachelle Gougen says, the reason for fans to see the movie is to watch the story come to life. And, of course, there is also the issue that Watchmen creator really, really doesn't like comic book movies. (Feel free to read to page 4, in which he states that the reason Americans like superheroes is "America has an inordinate fondness for the unfair fight." Gee, why didn't they use him for promoting the film?)
And one should always, always take into account what Alan Moore feels about a subject, because
the scariest comic book writer
ever to walk the earth.
Monday, March 2, 2009
The improvement is much noticed; even the problem with the keyboard in which the "d" key wouldn't press properly is fixed, which makes no sense, but I'll take it anyway.
And now for something completely different. I was browsing through my bookcase today, and I came across a book I had purchased for a class on "The Literary History of Kent": Arden of Faversham. It's a play from the late 16th century, based on a real life event. In essence, a wife and her lover kill her husband in his own house, and the two are quickly (comically quickly, really) are caught by the law and hanged for their crimes. The play is roughly the same, except for additional early scenes involving Black Will and Shakebag (got to love these 16th-17th century character names), and their attempts to kill Arden while he's on a trip to London. These attempts are thwarted in farcical fashion--it's really fascinating how quickly the play goes from comedy to murder, without feeling like a betrayal in tone.
I've been thinking about the play recently because it evokes exactly what I've come to study--stumbled into, really--in my PhD work. The play is about the almost divine connection between person and place, how Arden thought himself safest at home. So it has that aspect of personality and selfhood--Arden = Faversham--and the wonderings concerning place. Is safety a necessary prerequiste for a place to be a home? How easily can home slide into not home? What is "safe"?
And to be truly honest, I probably wouldn't be thinking about this if it wasn't that another grad student hadn't given a research presentation, on a different aspect of the play, and reminded me of its existence. Except then, I remembered--I was quite insistent, in fact--that the play was "Arden of Haversham", and that she must be dealing with a different version. The revelation that I was wrong made me question how many other things slipped my mind. How much of my supposed professional knowledge is a hodge-podge of the half-true?
I'm not really going anywhere with this, but for what it's worth, I learned in the past few days that my personal sense of home is somewhat involved with--and this may be sad--my computer. When I lost the ability to browse Internet at will, I felt like I had lost my connection to the rest of the world. And without that, home didn't feel like home. I suppose it becomes fairly obvious when you think about it, but I guess home isn't home when you take away the option to leave.
Oh, and even though I couldn't fit it in, it totally fits with the subject at large, and it's still a favorite word, so: dwelling!