Posts tagged: Entertainment
I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.
Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.
“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.
Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.
And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?
After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.
Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.
Hansel at Interpet This writes:
But this prevalence of torture that you see in otherwise very comparable shows is not limited to Fringe. It is everywhere in American entertainment now.
Everywhere you see it it promotes the lie that torture works. It does this very effectively. Because usually we, the audience, already know that the person being tortured has the information. They just will not give it up. In real life of course torture is not like that. In the hundreds of torture scenes that have been acted out in popular media only a handful show the victim making things up, and saying whatever they think the torturer wants to hear in order that they stop torturing them. Which is the reason why torture is not a useful tool. The process would be: Torture someone, they tell you something, you double check that story, maybe torture the people they implicate, then you find it out that there story was incorrect, go back to torturing them. Just one round of that might take days or a weeks. Which would make for boring TV.
Sophia McDougall writes:
Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong. […]
Chuck Wendig argues here that we shouldn’t understand “strong” as meaning, well, “strong”, but rather as something like “well-written”. But I simply don’t think it’s true that the majority of writers or readers are reading the term that way. How else to explain the fact that when the screenwriters of The Lord of the Rings decided to (clumsily) expand Arwen’s role from the books, they had her wander on screen, put a sword to her boyfriend’s throat and boast about how she’d sneaked up on him? (It took Liv Tyler to realise later “you don’t have to put a sword in her hand to make her strong”). Why else did Paul Feig, as Carina Chicano notes here, have to justify the fact that Bridesmaids hinges on a complex, interesting female character who appeared rather weak?
And even if this less limiting understanding of “strong female character” were the common reading, doesn’t it then become even sadder and even more incomprehensible that where the characterisation of half the world’s population is concerned, writing well is treated as a kind of impressive but unnecessary optional extra?
Full Story: New Statesman: I hate Strong Female Characters
It probably goes without saying, but part of the problem here is that “strong” almost always equates to a certain set of characteristics we problematically associate with maleness: physical strength, aggression, competitiveness. Maybe raw intellect, if the character is a detective or scientist. Women get to be “strong” only by exhibiting these trains, not traits labeled “feminine,” like empathy, expressing emotion. This leaves us not only with one-dimensional “strong female characters,” but also reinforces unhealthy expectations that being strong or “tough” means suppressing emotion and winning in fights. This is understandable to some extent — action movies are about violence, not nurture. But there are writers who pull it off. Fringe‘s Olivia Dunham is tough and smart, but also involves her emotions with her work, which, as she points out on the show, actually makes her a better detective.
It’s the end of the year, which is a good time to reflect on what my favorite bits of media were for the year. I figure this list can also double as a guide for any last minute gifts.
I’m sure there’s stuff I’m forgetting in each category, so I may update this again later. Feel free to recommend stuff I might’ve missed!
This was a big year for artist/writer Brandon Graham. Three of his releases were favorites of mine this year:
Prophet, a book written by Graham with a rotating cast of artists.
Escalator a collection of short stories written and drawn by Graham. I think this is actually my favorite of the three.
Besides all the Graham stuff, I really liked Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.
I haven’t finished Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Fraction and David Aja yet, but I’m enjoying it so far.
Also, I haven’t read Glory Volume 1: The Once and Future Destroyer by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
I don’t buy very many single issues, but here are some that I bought and liked:
COPRA # 1 by Michel Fiffe. This was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard of Fiffe before I saw it promoted by Floating World Comics. It reminds me a bit of Graham’s Prophet in that it’s an indie artists’ take on super hero comics of the past. I haven’t read the second issue yet but plan to pick it up soon. There’s a preview of issue 1 here and issue 2 here.
The Secret History of DB Cooper # 1. Really dug the first issue, still waiting for the trade paperback.
Monoloake: Ghosts. Minimal techno with a hint of dubstep.
Filistine: Loot. I’m not sure how to explain this one — a fusion of lots of different styles of electronic music from all over the world.
The Swans: The Seer. New album from an old school no wave band.
Tweaker: Call the Time Eternity. Long awaited third solo album from Trent Reznor’s former right-hand man.
I didn’t see many movies this year, and I liked even fewer. Here are the ones I liked:
Cabin in the Woods. Technically I guess this came out in 2011, but I think most of us saw it this year.
I haven’t seen The Master yet but want to.
I didn’t read many new books this year, but I did read and like:
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson
The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya. Science fiction that reads more like design fiction — this is all about the ideas, not the characters. Already a little dated since Apple has announced that it’s bringing some of its manufacturing back to the U.S.
Above: The trailer for Jimmy’s End, a forthcoming 30 minute film written by Alan Moore and directed by Mitch Jenkins. According to Lex Records, it is the second part of a series of short films collectively called “The Show.” The first, titled Act of Faith, is a prequel to Jimmy’s End and will be released on jimmysend.com on November 19. Jimmy’s End itself will be released on November 25.
Moore has also recorded a single titled “The Decline of English Murder” for Occupation Records. You can find out more, and listen to the song, at The Guardian. You can download it from the Occupation Records shop for £1.00.
Moore had previously recorded “March of the Sinister Ducks” and other works with David J of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets (the band, not the comic). Speaking of whom, Moore once wrote a letter to Fortean Times about one of his performances with J, which has been reproduced online.
With his directorial debut, The Man With the Iron Fists, less than a month away, RZA is continuing his push into directing.
The former hip-hip producer and frontman for the Wu-Tang Clan is teaming up with comic book author Grant Morrison and producer Reginald Hudlin to adapt Morrison’s latest comic, Happy!, for the big screen.
RZA is attached to direct and would produce with Hudlin, a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Morrison will write the script.
Steven Padnick does a much better job expressing why I’m uncomfortable with the traditional version of the Batman/Bruce Wayne mythos, leading me to create my own alternative version, than I could:
Just look at who he fights. Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham. […]
Of course, Batman doesn’t like the upper class he belongs to, either! Shallow, petty, boring, and vain, they know nothing of the pain and suffering he sees every night when he hunts killers through the slums of Gotham, every day when he closes his eyes. But does he dislike his wealthy peers because they don’t appreciate how wealthy they are? Or is it because they aren’t wealthy enough to appreciate how much responsibility he has?
But even if he thinks they’re upper class twits, he really doesn’t do anything about it. He leaves them in place, protects them from harm, flirts with and beds them. They’re not the bad guys, after all. It’s all those poor evil people. The one’s who keep crashing the gate, the ones who happened to be hurt in the hunt for profits. If it comes to a clash between the twit and the poor schlub they screwed over and disfigured, Batman tends to side with the twit. (To his disgust, yes, but he’ll do it.)
The Christopher Nolan version does its best to skirt around this by making the Waynes progressive elites who help the poor and develop alternative energy systems and by making the threats to the status quo (mob bosses, the Joker, Bane) legitimately worse than the status quo. Note, for example, that Batman/Bruce Wayne are aware of John Daggett’s shady dealings in Africa, yet Daggett only becomes a concern when he steals Bruce Wayne’s finger prints and begins meddling with the Gotham Stock Exchange.
I thought Prometheus was an awful movie, but I loved writer Adrian Bott’s analysis of its mythological underpinnings:
Prometheus contains such a huge amount of mythic resonance that it effectively obscures a more conventional plot. I’d like to draw your attention to the use of motifs and callbacks in the film that not only enrich it, but offer possible hints as to what was going on in otherwise confusing scenes.
Let’s begin with the eponymous titan himself, Prometheus. He was a wise and benevolent entity who created mankind in the first place, forming the first humans from clay. The Gods were more or less okay with that, until Prometheus gave them fire. This was a big no-no, as fire was supposed to be the exclusive property of the Gods. As punishment, Prometheus was chained to a rock and condemned to have his liver ripped out and eaten every day by an eagle. (His liver magically grew back, in case you were wondering.)
Fix that image in your mind, please: the giver of life, with his abdomen torn open. We’ll be coming back to it many times in the course of this article.
The ethos of the titan Prometheus is one of willing and necessary sacrifice for life’s sake. That’s a pattern we see replicated throughout the ancient world. J G Frazer wrote his lengthy anthropological study, The Golden Bough, around the idea of the Dying God - a lifegiver who voluntarily dies for the sake of the people. It was incumbent upon the King to die at the right and proper time, because that was what heaven demanded, and fertility would not ensue if he did not do his royal duty of dying.
Now, consider the opening sequence of Prometheus. We fly over a spectacular vista, which may or may not be primordial Earth. According to Ridley Scott, it doesn’t matter. A lone Engineer at the top of a waterfall goes through a strange ritual, drinking from a cup of black goo that causes his body to disintegrate into the building blocks of life. We see the fragments of his body falling into the river, twirling and spiralling into DNA helices.
Ridley Scott has this to say about the scene: ‘That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.’
Can we find a God in human history who creates plant life through his own death, and who is associated with a river? It’s not difficult to find several, but the most obvious candidate is Osiris, the epitome of all the Frazerian ‘Dying Gods’.
And we wouldn’t be amiss in seeing the first of the movie’s many Christian allegories in this scene, either. The Engineer removes his cloak before the ceremony, and hesitates before drinking the cupful of genetic solvent; he may well have been thinking ‘If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.’
So, we know something about the Engineers, a founding principle laid down in the very first scene: acceptance of death, up to and including self-sacrifice, is right and proper in the creation of life. Prometheus, Osiris, John Barleycorn, and of course the Jesus of Christianity are all supposed to embody this same principle. It is held up as one of the most enduring human concepts of what it means to be ‘good’.
Seen in this light, the perplexing obscurity of the rest of the film yields to an examination of the interwoven themes of sacrifice, creation, and preservation of life. We also discover, through hints, exactly what the nature of the clash between the Engineers and humanity entailed.
I still think the movie was terrible (see also: Prometheus in 15 Minutes), but Bott’s analysis shows how much more interesting it could have been. (Ridley Scott, if you’re reading this, it seems you could do a lot worse than Bott as a screenwriter for the sequel.)
And speaking of the Alien franchise, see also: James Cameron’s responses to Aliens critics
From I Die You Die:
We were contacted a few days before leaving for Kinetik by Jairus Khan from Ad·ver·sary. He told us that he was planning a visual presentation for his set at the festival which he anticipated would attract a lot of attention, and wanted to speak to us about it. The presentation related to themes and imagery in the work of two other artists on the opening night Kinetik bill, specifically Combichrist and Nachtmahr. The presentation, which can be viewed here, or at the bottom of this post, openly critiques what Jairus perceives as the use of misogynist and racist tropes in those band’s music and publicity materials. We spoke to Jairus after seeing an early version of the video.
Full Story: Interview with Jairus Khan from Ad·ver·sary