December 9, 2012

Go Crazy, Man: Rebellion Drives You Insane

Years before you met Tyler Durden, before you peed in your first creme anglaise, you learned about dark little acts of rebellion. 
It seems like the two components of a successful rebellion are the crazy rebel and his sane counterpart. Between V and the narrator of Fight Club, Joe, we have two nutters who symbollically destroy themselves and are reborn as indestructible, limitless and insane rebels. These new personas transgress moral boundaries that a sane person wouldn't. However, the crazy outsider’s point of view needs to be slowly and carefully translated to the reader, which is why we have our counterpart. There needs to be a gradual conversion of an insider character, someone the reader can actually relate to, who isn’t a superhero or an ideological guru, like our "heroes".

For the successful rebellion, our rebels become societal outsiders, which is basically the definition of insane. They embody the necessary limitlessness, invincibility, and extremity, to rebel against a complacent world, and enlighten the insiders. Rebellion is the result of merging the insane outsider and the sane societal insider. The crazy rebel’s affinity with the insider counterpart is a projection of society’s illness, because in the end, the insider and the outsider become one and the same.

Joe, the narrator, starts off with the limitations of an “insider.” He goes to work, he listens to his boss, and he wears clean clothes: “In the real world, I’m a recall campaign coordinator in a shirt and tie,” he narrates. Soon after, Joe begins to free himself, forsaking the uniform of a normal member of the work force. Remember the line from the movie? “I don’t even wear a tie anymore.” Joe’s freedom from limitations occurs under the instruction Tyler Durden, a mentor who seems as if he has an antisocial personality disorder, but turns out to be the alternative personality of the narrator himself. Tyler has no limits, and he slowly frees Joe from his. First, the narrator finds himself urinating in people’s soup, but later it goes as far as holding Raymond Hessel at gunpoint, and, after he has realized Tyler’s agency, demolishing buildings.

Joe, the narrator, is our insider, and he needs to be converted by Tyler Durden. At the beginning of Fight Club, Joe is kind of relatable and doing okay, as far as the reader knows. His narration, which approaches stream of consciousness, is a little bit melodramatic, but not outside normal limits, psychologically: “Crying is right at hand in the smothering dark, closed inside someone else, when you see how everything you can ever accomplish will end up as trash.” Joe seems unhappy, not crazy.

In V for Vendetta, the effect is similar. V is limitless; he kills people to bring about his goal of tearing society to the ground. Evey is upset when she sees the extremes he's willing to go to. It's a moral transgression for her, and for us, the readers. After they murder Bishop Lilliman she tells V, “I didn’t know you were going to kill someone. Killing is wrong.” V’s early work in the graphic novel is to persuade Evey to rebuild society after he destroys it. V needs to convince Evey, a societal insider, that society is sick and in need of recovery.

V is the result of the destruction of his natural self. Whoever he was before he became V was destroyed at Larkhill, creating an alternate persona who is quite possibly a sociopath; we never know a single thing about the man he was before. V kills when he needs to, and he forgoes any limitations his prior self might have had.

His purpose is to tear down society: “Anarchy wears two faces, both Creator and Destroyer. Thus Destroyers topple empires; make a canvas of clean rubble where creators can then build a better world.” He needs to take radical action to enlist Evey’s help and show her the illness of society, because her role is that of the creator.

Joe, in Fight Club, is complacent and doesn’t see the need for rebellion either. Palahniuk achieves Joe's transformation through self-destruction and re-creation. In contrast to V’s rebirth story, Joe’s transformation is indirect; it is represented by the demolition of his condominium. The condo is symbolic of the narrator himself and his mediocre, unsatisfying life. He explains to the detective in his free indirect dialogue, “That was my whole life. Everything, the lamps, the chairs, the rugs were me... It was me that blew up. Couldn’t he see that?” When Joe destroys the condo, he destroys part of himself, and part of him becomes Tyler. 

In V for Vendetta, the rebel outsider says of himself, “There's no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There's only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.” According to V, Tyler is indestructible because he too is an idea. Although the narrator eventually eliminates Tyler, he has removed Tyler’s real-world agency, not the scope of his rebellious ideology. The end of Fight Club signals the survival of Project Mayhem and Tyler’s spirit in the thoughts and actions of the surviving members of Project Mayhem. When the narrator is brought his lunch tray in the asylum he is told, “We miss you Mr. Durden,” and “Everything’s going according to plan.” Tyler Durden is an indestructible outsider figure, and Joe, as an insider, can’t have his rebellion without him.

Before Tyler, Joe isn’t crazy, but he is trapped by his Ikea catalogue addiction and his filing cabinet condominium lifestyle. Tyler tells Joe, “The liberator who destroys my property... is fighting to save my spirit.” Tyler is the crazy part of Joe that can easily destroy material possessions, or blow things up, which is a very extreme act of rebellion. He is the part of Joe responsible for blowing up the condo. Tyler is the outsider who has to commit extreme transgressions to show Joe his perception of society, and he is also without limitations in his actions.

The relationship between V and Evey functions differently than that of Tyler and Joe, but it is still an outsider-insider counterpart relationship. The largest difference is that Evey is indoctrinated into V’s thinking, and essentially becomes him, but she does not go crazy. V is has no limits, and his role is to destroy society. Evey’s function is to rebuild it. V tells her, “This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos.” Chaos is V’s construction, and it is up to his converted Evey to bring about anarchy, a positive political ideology built, for Moore, around Love. Still, Evey does symbolically merge selfs with V when she puts on his Guy Fawks mask and costume.

There are many times when the insider challenges the rebellious ideology. Tyler is not worried about hurting people, and he has no reservations about killing. He tells the members of the Assault Committee, “And just so you don’t worry about it, yes, you’re going to have to kill someone.” This example is an instance where the narrator is quite separate from his insane leader and alternate personality, because his response is: “No questions... The fifth rule about Project Mayhem is you have to trust Tyler” (93), but he continually questions Tyler immediately afterwards, starting in the next chapter when Tyler says he wants seventy-two copies of his list of notes and the narrator replies, “Why that many?” At this point, the reader and the narrator are at the same level of challenging and questioning Tyler’s outsider extremism, but that all flies out the window when Tyler and Joe turn out to be one and the same.

The insider and the outsider in fact the same person. When Joe asks Marla what his name is,  she replies, “Tyler Durden. Your name is Tyler Butt-Wipe-for-Brains Durden” (great line, by the way). In the confrontation between Joe and his alternate persona, Tyler even admits to being insane: “Every time you fall asleep... I run off and do something wild, something crazy, something completely out of my mind,” which is of course, also Joe’s mind. Palahniuk achieves a rebellion in his novel by merging Tyler Durden, a figure who is both crazy and extreme, with the narrator persona, who at first appears to be an insider and needs to be convinced that society has failed him.

Therefore, when the two merge, the narrator’s insanity is a projection of society’s insanity, because he is both an insider and an outsider. If the character that was a societal insider through much of the text is in fact crazy, then society itself is insane.

The narrator is an especially relatable insider in scenes in which he downplays Tyler’s extremist ideology, for example when he doesn’t take the personal burial money for Project Mayhem very seriously. He is to keep $500 in his shoes, and there is vodka in the house for soap-making, but the narrator says, “I steal a bottle of vodka and spend my personal burial money on cigarettes.” With this small action, he is dissenting from Tyler’s over-the-top ideology.

Even when the narrator does something as extreme and immoral as holding Raymond Hessel at gunpoint, Tyler’s extremism is behind it all: “This is what Tyler wants me to do. These are Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth.” The narrator removes his own agency from anything he does that would alienate the reader, because as long as he is separate from Tyler, he is the insider and Tyler is the crazy outsider who has yet to prove to him that society itself is nuts. The rebels of V for Vendetta and Fight Club may be insane, but their psychosis is a projection of the insanity of a society that is complacent with mediocrity. 

When V says, “Happiness is a prison, Evey. Happiness is the most insidious prison of all” (Moore), he is talking about the complacency of society that keeps people from rebelling when their freedoms are being restrained. V succeeded in converting his insider counterpart. He says, “I didn't put you in a prison, Evey. I just showed you the bars.” Although she may disagree at first, in the end it seems as if that is exactly what he achieved, and it is his sane counterpart who goes to the extreme of pulling the lever that sends the explosives to blow up parliament.

Evey becomes as extremist as V was, and while wearing his mask, she admits that his outsider perspective on society was correct. If the insider can come to agree with the insane outsider, the definition of insanity is called into question. If both the outsider and his counterpart are crazy, it follows that society as a whole is nonsensical or insane. When Evey sends V on his viking funeral, she says, “You saw, and seeing, dared to do.” V was one of the only characters to see that society needed to be rebuilt, and his lack of limitations, due to his insanity, allowed him to act, and to change things, even if it required death and destruction.

The mentally ill look in on society from a different vantage point than the rest of us. The powers that insane rebel figures have include that outside perspective, and and the lack of limitations with which they make change. Both V and the Fight Club narrator destroy themselves and rebuild a new, almost inhuman persona with which to challenge society. Evey and Joe represent societal insiders who do not see reality from an outside perspective, where V and Tyler Durden reveal to them extreme, counter-cultural, rebellious ideologies.

Insanity separates V and Tyler Durden from everyone who is complacent with an unfulfilling and restrained existence in the fictional worlds of V for Vendetta and Fight Club. The narrator of Fight Club is almost relatable until it is revealed that he is crazy, and that he and Tyler Durden, a character who quickly goes well beyond the reader’s limits, are the same person. In V for Vendetta, Evey is a rebel who works within limits that are more reasonable than V’s; he, like Tyler, has the power to be limitless. The insane rebel has a sane counterpart, which is a projection of society’s mental illness, because the crazy outsider becomes the same person as the societal insider. Rebellion springs from the merging of the normal and the insane.

December 5, 2012

Free and Open on the Fifth of December

Why is a free and open web important to you?

According to The Hill, right now in Dubai, the Obama administration has U.S. delegates attending the World Conference on International Telecommunications. They're telling the UN that it can't regulate America's internet. So what about this makes Obama a hypocrite?

December 2, 2012

The Fifth of December

Here's a heads up on what to expect in the next month in terms of content, although if you follow me on Twitter, it will hardly come as a surprise.

Over the course of December I will be reviewing and analyzing some very rebellious books.

In the final two classes of my literature undergrad, I took another look at Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, revisited Orwell's 1984, soared through V for Vendetta, the graphic novel, compared all of these to their film adaptations, and took a look at some fringe texts featuring rebellious protagonists. I also got to spend some time with Odysseus, the trickster, so - let's take a look at some of these rebels over the next month!

August 2, 2012

Game of Thrones quotes to tide you over.

How's that Game of Thrones withdrawal going for you? Season 3 airs Sunday March 31, or in 240 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes 3 seconds from this posting. Luckily there are a few ways to feed your addiction: you can re-watch the episodes (like I just did with the pilot), and read or re-read the books (just started reading A Game of Thrones as well). Here are some fun quotations from the pilot episode Winter is Coming:

Robert Baratheon to Eddard Stark: “You’ve got fat.”

Jaime Lannister: “Don’t leave me alone with these people.”

Benjyn Stark: “I rode all day. Didn’t want to leave you alone with the Lannisters.”

Ned Stark: “I hope I’ll serve you well.”
Robert Baratheon: “You will. And I’ll make sure you don’t look so fucking grim all the time.”

Ned Stark: “How did he get so fat?”
Catelyn Stark: “He only stops drinking when it’s time to eat.”

Benjen Stark “Dire wolves south of the wall, talk of the walkers, and my brother might be the hand of the king. Winter IS coming.”

Check out the scars on that Stark. Did you notice them the first time through?

Ned Stark: “The king takes what he wants. That’s why he’s king.”
Catelyn Stark: “And I’ll say, listen, fat man, you are not taking my husband anywhere.”

Benjyn Stark to Ned: “You at a feast is like a bear in a trap.”

The Hound (Sandor Clegane) “I didn’t pick you for a hunter.”
Tyrion Lannister: “I’m the greatest in the land, and my spear never misses.”
The Hound: “It’s not hunting if you pay for it.”

Robert: “You as good with a spear as you used to be?”
Ned: “No, but I’m still better than you.”

Robb Stark: “I hear the prince is a right royal prick.”
Theon Greyjoy: “Think of all the southern girls he gets to stab with his right royal prick.”

Robb Stark (about Jon Snow): “Go on, Tommy, shave him good. He’s never met a girl he likes better than his own hair.”

Ned Stark: “I don’t fight in tournaments, because when I fight a man for real, I don’t want him to know what I can do.”
Jaime Lannister: “Well said.”

Ned Stark: “How did he get so fat?”
Catelyn Stark: “He only stops drinking when it’s time to eat.”

Tyrion Lannister: “All dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes.”

Magister Illyrio: “A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.”
The maid says, "It's too hot milady!" Foreshadowing that Dany is the real dragon?
Viserys Targaryen: “I piss on Dothraki omens.”

Ser Jorah: “There is no word for 'Thank You' in Dothraki.”

Magister Illyrio: “Dragon eggs, from the shadowlands beyond Ashai. The ages have turned them to stone, but they will always be beautiful.”

The Hound: “Rough night imp?”
Tyrion Lannister: “If I get through this without squirting from one end or the other it will be a miracle.”

Jaime Lannister: “The things I do for love.”

July 31, 2012

Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises: A Tale of Two Blockbusters [Review Time]

Since the incredible hype surrounding The Avengers and its box-office smashing release this summer, the biggest question on everybody's lips has been how The Dark Knight Rises, the final instalment of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, will hold up to Joss Whedon's comic book movie. The Avengers made $207 million in its opening weekend, beating The Dark Knight Rises at $160.8 million. A lot of people are making excuses for TDKR such as that the midnight launch massacre in Colorado scared people off, and that TDKR didn't benefit from 3D ticket sales, but I will concede to the facts: The Avengers won in the category of opening weekend box office scores. But here's another fact: box office numbers are not proof of movie quality.

Don't believe me? Check out this list of opening weekend box office records. You'll find some real stinkers on there, for example, all of the Twilight movies (may I mention that Twilight (2008) suffers from a 5.3 user rating on, Spider Man 3 (which has a 6.3 on IMDB), the worst rated Indianna Jones movie (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a 6.4), the worst rated Pirates of the Caribbean movie (On Stranger Tides at 6.6), and the worst of the Matrix franchise (Revolutions with a 6.6). Sure, there are great films on there as well, but let's all stop pretending that the box office scores were some kind of definitive proof that Avengers > Batman.

For the record, here's what I thought of The Avengers.

As for The Dark Knight Rises, I think it was the most tense 164 minutes of my life. I once read a good bit of practice for writers is to always brainstorm ways to raise the stakes, and I think screenplay writers Christopher Nolan and brother Jonathon Nolan took that exercise to the fricking extreme - just everything that can go wrong...

Batman is in bad condition after taking the fall for Harvey Dent's murder. As you figured, Gotham is mad at him, but beyond that, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse, and his years of fighting crime have taken a toll on his body. Imagine a wrestler 8 years after retiring. I mean, your joints are just not going to be great and you're going to be a little out of shape. That's our Batman at the beginning of this movie. And then he gets beaten to a pulp by Bane. No, a pulp doesn't cover it. Oranges don't have spinal cords. Bruce Wayne does.

Without spoilers, it's difficult to convey just how bad things are going to get for Gotham. I left the theatre with a stomach ache from being so stressed out. Tense is the only way to describe it.

As a literature student, this review would not be complete without divulging all of the delicious parallels with between The Dark Knight Rises and A Tale of Two Cities! Any book nerd you had with you in the theatre already whispered it in your ear when Alfred read from a thick paperback at a certain not-to-be-spoiled funeral that those were the famous last lines of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

People have tried to pick it apart and discover flaws, plot holes, and failures in suspension of disbelief, but unlike The Avengers, it holds together against the criticism. If you go into it trying to pick the plot apart, you're probably not going to enjoy it; that goes for any film. I went into it just waiting to see what Nolan would throw at me, and I wasn't disappointed.

July 2, 2012

The Matrix Live: Film in Concert with the Seattle Symphony [Review Time]

Welcome to the real world.
On June 28 and 29, the Seattle Symphony put on two performances of The Matrix Live. After seeing an ad for this on a bus, I found myself asking something very similar to Neo's driving question: What is the Matrix Live? Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix Live is. You have to see it for yourself. Okay just kidding. It was a showing of The Matrix on screen with a performance of the original film score by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, live. And it was awesome.

If you can't remember what the Matrix score sounds like, here's a video of the opening that should tickle your memory:
As far as film scores go, this one, composed by Don Davis, is pretty fantastic and original, not to mention a perfect fit for a steam-punk instant classic. I'm not a music expert, so my purpose is mainly to recommend seeing The Matrix in this format (no matter how much you have to pay), because it is probably the ultimate nerd experience. I mean it's exciting even to see The Matrix in theatres. I was 10 years old when it came out, so I did not. And on top of that, the music is incredible. It's interesting to watch a film and pay extra special attention to how the music complements it. And of course, it was worth it to see a crowd full of leather trench coats and sunglasses. There was even at least one near-perfect Trinity look-alike.

I was also incredibly excited to see the Seattle Symphony, and they did not disappoint. The sound was absolutely perfect. It was conducted by Don Davis, the original composer, himself.

If you think you're replicating this experience with your 7.1 turned to max, you're dead wrong. And you should probably go to hell. If ever you see a city near you performing The Matrix Live, I highly recommend you don't pass up the opportunity to see The Matrix on the big screen with the score performed live.

June 13, 2012

Your favourite Sci-Fi stars in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse

It's always nice to see your favourite stars turn up time and time again in your favourite shows, and if you pay any attention to Joss Whedon's series' at all, you'll have noticed he has favourites too. Actors he enjoys working with turn up in many of his projects, and Dollhouse is no exception. It's a pretty good reason to watch the show. But it's not even just Buffyverse, Firefly and The Cabin in the Woods I'm going to be focusing on here. There will be special guests from other sci-fi projects as well. I've been keeping my eyes open for them!

Eliza Dushku as Echo

We first got to know her as Faith, another slayer and badass foil to Buffy, and part of what made the show worth watching. Now Dushku plays Echo, or Caroline, a lost girl whose memories and self have been removed by the Dollhouse and replaced by whatever they want to program her with. It's kind of like in the Matrix when Neo downloads kung-fu skills into his brain. The question is how Caroline came to be a doll, or as the company calls her an "active", or programmable empty zombie-like adorably clueless being that fulfills... desires. And solves mysteries. And pulls off heists. And pretty much anything else you pay her to do. It's a nice bonus that she's pretty. You can also check her out on an episode of season 4 of Big Bang Theory. Let me know in a comment if you've seen her in any of your other favourite sci-fis.

Tahmon Pinkett (Helo!) as Agent Ballard

It completely kills me to see Helo from Battlestar Gallactica in every episode of Dollhouse. And you will hear me refer to him primarily as Helo, because that's who he is. Remember his, "Frack, I'm sleeping with a cylon" face? You're going to see it again. He's just so good at it, why let that talent go to waste? Adorable. He's been on Stargate SG-1 and Dark Angel as well. Less to the point, I noticed he was on Castle with Nathan Fillion, another Whedon fave, so kind of a cool co-incidence.

Amy Acker as Doctor Saunders

This pretty peppy girl you've come to know as Winifred Burkle on Angel (a Joss Whedon production) is barely recognizable as Doctor Saunders, a sad and scarred employee of the dollhouse who is tormented by her loyalty to the corporation, and by whatever mangled her face. She's conflicted, and a little grouchy. You'll also see her in an episode of Alias, one of Supernatural, and in Whedon's The Cabin the Woods next to this man:

Fran Kranz as Topher Brink

He might be relatively new among Whedon's favourites, but the character isn't new at all. He's your young, nerdy, hillarious genius a la Warren or Andrew from Buffy. But now he's in Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods. Fun fact: He and Amy Acker are also in a newly slated Whedon Shakespeare adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing that's going to have lots of these favourites casted. And he was what IMDB lists as a "passenger" in Donnie Darko which could just mean an extra on a bus or the airplane, but knowing Donnie Darko, that could be code for some freaky time-travel thing.

Harry Lennix as Boyd Langton

If you've seen this face before, it's because you've seen the sequels to The Matrix; he plays Lock in Reloaded and Revolutions. Okay Harry Lennix has been in a lot of things but we're focusing on the sci-fi! On Dollhouse he plays Boyd, Echoe's handler, which means it's his job to protect her, and to control her. He prefers to do the former. He becomes very attached to the doll and shows devotion to her almost before the dollhouse aka his employer. Again, very adorable, once you see how docile and childlike Echo can be with her mind wiped and how Boyd treats her like his daughter when he should treat her like a bomb about to go off.

Alexis Denisof as Senator Daniel Perrin

Okay, I actually haven't seen him yet as I'm not into Season 2, but this is Angel's Wesley Windam-Price we're talking about, and I have some fun-facts about him. You could say he's a Whedon favourite based on his place in Buffy and Angel, but he hasn't done a lot else in Hollywood. But did you know that he's married to Allyson Hannigan, who played Willow on Buffy, and that he plays Sandy Rivers on How I Met Your Mother with her? Not impressed? Well here's another fun fact: You know the opening lines of The Avengers? "The Tesseract has awakened" blah blah blah "And the humans, what can they do but burn?" Guess who voiced that character, known only as "The Other". That's right, Whedon favourite Alexis Denisof! Crazy. And he'll be playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. So worth a mention at the least!

Alan Tudyk as Stephen Kepler

Take Wash from Firely and add some pot and an obsession with the environment, and you will get the essence of Whedon's favourites. One beloved role and cast member evolves into an even more hilarious one. Seeing Wash show up in Dollhouse was what drove me to write this post, because seeing him in a verbal battle with Helo from Battlestar Galactica was just too much for me, and I knew I couldn't be the only fan of niche nerdy things whose mind would explode after looking at this exhaustive list of crossovers. I live to search IMDB to see who has worked with whom, so you don't have to!

A couple more name-drops. Enver Gjokaj, who plays the active Victor, made it into The Avengers as a cop. Summer Glau from Firely and Felicia Day from Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog also deserve a mention, if only to pile excessively onto my point that this show is full of your favourite sci-fi cast members!

Of course, let me know in a comment if I missed anyone or anything. I would definitely like to make this list exhaustive and include all of the roles that connect one actor to another in a giant network of nerd fandom!

June 7, 2012

Saw The Avengers. It was okay. [Review Time]

If you haven't seen The Avengers yet, you must be completely immune to hype. Give yourself a pat on the shoulder.

But to be fair, it is entertaining and worth the watch, especially if you're interested in witnessing a curious film trend I've been noticing lately that's pretty much formula for The Avengers. The trend is this: the beginning is smart, suspenseful, and witty, with a somewhat interesting story. For the end, you can just turn your brain right off. And people love it.

June 1, 2012

2 Reasons why Blackwater was predictable Game of Thrones

And you all should have been able to see it coming...

(Holy spoilerful, but if you haven't seen Blackwater yet, why are you reading blogs about Game of Thrones and not watching Blackwater? Go! Now!)

I know what they say: Hindsight is 20/20. But there are two really good reasons why we all should have been able to foresee that Stannis wouldn't be sitting in the Iron Throne by next week. It's kind of unfair to put these literary tricks to use and sometimes it does spoil the ending, but lemme tell you, I wish I had posted them last week, because they were both dead on.

May 29, 2012

The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann is doing it again.

Before Baz Lurhmann's name appeared in the above trailer, I knew The Great Gatsby was from the director of Moulin Rouge. Lurhmann's crazy use of colour and music immediately gave the game away. Apparently a lot of people still love Moulin Rouge because both my review of it and my posting of a video of "Come What May" continue to draw traffic to Musings by Starlight every day. Lurhmann hasn't done a lot since Moulin Rouge in 2001, so fans like me have been waiting on the edge of their seats for more magic from him.

Personally, I'm reading The Great Gatsby for the first time right now, so it was as very pleasant surprise to see such a crazy and fearless director take on the project. I have very high hopes, and higher expectations. Lurhmann had better just do it again!

May 24, 2012

Of course Ringer gets cancelled as soon as I watch the pilot!

Some things the Ringer pilot had going for it: good cinematography/direction/filming and all that jazz. Bad exposition. Good suspense. Bad pacing. Good acting from Sarah Michelle Gellar. Bad... stupidity from her character Bridget Kelly. Ok, I guess I should back up my accusations.

May 22, 2012

Game of Thrones: Who will sit on the Iron Throne (Season 2 episode 8)?

Wouldn't it just be like Cercei Lannister to find a way to get her ass onto that throne in the end?

Of course, as of "The Prince of Winterfell" Cercei is in no position to move for the throne, but she seems to have realised that putting Joffrey there was a mistake. Maybe once she's done pouting about how Joffrey is such a terrible king, she'll get back to plotting for power and become the adversary we used to know and love. Right now she's just being a thorn in the side for her brother Tyrion when he's the only one who's actually trying to do something to protect King's Landing.

But who will it be, then?

May 21, 2012

So you think Star Wars is Science Fiction, do you?

classic Star Wars A New Hope poster art

Could Star Wars Really be Fantasy?

If it looks like science fiction, is that the end of the story? Is the entire genre of sci-fi really only defined by the presence of props like spaceships, robots and laser-gun technology? By intergalactic travel and alien life forms?

The genre of sci-fi is a bit more complicated than you might think and is commonly misinterpreted, even by authors such as Margaret Atwood, who said one of her novels is not science fiction because “It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians." I would like to argue that the elements Atwood is talking about are central to aesthetic, not genre. But why would I call Star Wars fantasy? Here are some good reasons:

1. The definition

Sci-fi and fantasy are so similar that they go under one umbrella genre called Speculative Fiction. (Sadly they can also go under the category of formula fiction, but I digress). Science fiction is future-oriented and presents a world that is speculated to be possible, and is presented as within the realm of scientific possibility, where fantasy presents the purely impossible.

Star Wars takes place “A long, long time ago.” It takes place in the past. You could argue that it’s still the past in our universe, just in a galaxy “far, far away,” but there’s one problem. The Force is not in any way possible in our universe’s past or future.

2. What is The Force?

Magic gets called a lot of things in the world of Fantasy. In The Wheel of Time, it’s the One Power, the source, saidin or saidar (it’s called a lot of things in The Wheel of Time). I’m sure if you look at some of your favourite fantasy tomes, some of them will use the term magic, and others won’t. It’s ‘power’ or ‘energy’ or um ... 'the Force'.

The Force doesn’t even look like technology. The only counter-argument to this that I could think of is that the Force could be considered physics with different rules, which would make it somewhat scientific... but then isn’t that what magic is? Only certain people can use it, some people don’t even believe in it, and it’s a way of manipulating the world around you according to certain rules. And if Star Wars takes place “in a galaxy far, far away...” then it’s supposed to be in our Universe, so how would there be different rules of physics? (and how would there be magic that doesn’t exist in our world... oh shit.)

3. Conventions:

Star Wars, unlike most science fiction, isn’t about the effects of a new technology on a given society.

Star Wars is a story with a hero on a personal quest, facing a personal battle. It’s about said hero's struggles, relationships and accomplishments. The war here is basically good vs. evil. How is this so different from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

I can tell you what it’s not similar to. It’s not similar to sci-fi staples such as The Matrix, TerminatorDonnie Darko, or Bladerunner. Is the evil a person or an entity? That’s a pretty good hint as to what genre it belongs to. In Minority Report the antagonist is the software that tries to predict whether someone is going to commit murder. In Terminator, like in A.I. or I Robot, it’s artificial life. Same with Battlestar Galactica. Click the "sci fi" label at the bottom of this post for more examples (including new flicks like In Time, Timer and Limitless). On the other hand, I've heard the same argument I'm making about Star Wars used against Dune by Frank Herbert.

The enemies in Star Wars include the Empire (an organisation of people), Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Harry Potter has Lord Voldemort and Lord of the Rings has Sauron. Tolkien was very anti-industrial revolution (late as he was to the game), and rampant deforestation was one of the evils Sauron threatened, but it wasn’t the development of chainsaws that Frodo journeyed to Mount Doom to counter. It was a person. Kind of like Darth Vader.

Fantasy conventions also tend to include, sadly, archetypes. Obi Wan Kenobi is Luke’s Dumbledore/Gandalf. Name a Fantasy that doesn’t have the magical guide. Now name a sci-fi that does. On my comment board. Go!

Star Wars A New Hope movie poster High Quality HQ

May 17, 2012

Should you watch the Once Upon a Time pilot on ABC?[Review Time]

Emma Swan is a bail-bondsperson, a loner, a mother who gave up her child for adoption, an orphan, and the daughter of Snow White. Or at least that's what her son Henry tells her when he shows up ten years after being put up for adoption. 

The story really begins at Emma's apartment after a birthday wish to not be alone. The doorbell rings, and there is the son she gave up, as well as the first hint of magic in a very mundane life.

Even when the wish comes true, Emma keeps her distance from Henry, and she certainly doesn’t believe him when he tells her she needs to come to his home, Storybrook Maine, to save our favourite Fairy Tale characters from the terror that is life in the real world, where they’ve been put by the Evil Queen. That's right: the Queen's curse is to live the kind of daily life we live, with no happy endings.

Emma is resistant to staying with Henry, but of course, he's a meddling kid, the kind we all love that can always find a way to get what he wants.

May 15, 2012

Why Only Writers should watch Limitless [Review Time]

Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance or a straight shot of sperm or whatever or whoever wrote your life-script. A gift, not earned. You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers.
You're a writer. Well, you're a person with an idea for a novel and it's all tumbling around in your brain even if you can't really call yourself a writer because you haven't written a word yet. But you're going to be a novelist, it's just not coming out. Enter NZT, a dream drug that will unlock the 80% or so of your brain that goes unused every day. This pill doesn't make you smarter; it's YOUR potential that's being unlocked. That book you've had bouncing around in your head comes pouring out onto the pages and it's brilliant. Your editor can't put it down.

That's where Limitless begins. It ends somewhere a little far-fetched but we'll get to that. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring writer, but in the words of Stephen King, "writers write." Eddie's more accurately described as an alcoholic and a soon-to-be bum because he's suffering from severe writer's block. Every writer ever should check out at least the beginning of this movie so you have something to laugh about when you find yourself in this position. Laugh yourself right out of it. The beginning of Limitless was rather brilliant. Brilliantly shot, directed, acted. It really starts off on a good foot, raising the expectations you had for it entering the theatre. It's got a neat sci-fi premise and a great foundation. Oh where did it go wrong?

May 14, 2012

Game of Thrones on HBO: It's the sex! [Review Time]

It grew on me. Judging from the hype, I’m probably alone in that I wasn’t blown away by the Game of Thrones television adaptation from the beginning. Although the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, is going on close to two decades of readership, it wasn’t until HBO gave it a primetime slot that the whole world starting raving about A Game of Thrones and the book sales skyrocketed. It definitely got my attention, but also left me wondering, how is this so different from all the Fantasy that’s rotting on the bookshelves at Borders, the piles of crappy generic, poorly-written re-tellings of The Lord of the Rings? The pilot of Game of Thrones answered my question relatively quickly: it’s the sex.

May 11, 2012

In Time, Should you waste your Time? [Review Time]

For a few to be immortal, many must die.
I really didn't want to say the same thing as everyone else about this, but it seems the consensus is entirely correct. In Time has an incredible concept which was beautifully timely (heh) considering the film came out right in the middle of the Occupy movement, and it was even well-executed from the start. There's no bad exposition here and it's not even a heavy-handed metaphor. You'll be surprised how naturally money becomes time and time becomes money. I loved the first half hour so much I watched it twice. I recommend that you watch this movie for that first half hour or so, but then you can turn it off. The timer will make you feel like you shouldn't be wasting your life away, so don't.

May 8, 2012

TiMER [Review Time]

Of course when I sign up for Netflix and start rating a few of my favourite movies, they invent for me a category called "Sci-fi Romantic Comedy". I don't even like romantic comedies so I think they just got that part from the gender on my profile. Do not be sceptical. While it seems like combining two formula genres together could only create disaster, that's only if it's not well done; TiMER proved to be well-written, well-acted, funny, thought-provoking and enjoyable. So there.

May 7, 2012

Planner's block [Ranting by Starlight]

Every writer has their own planning style. No one can tell you how to plan out the plot of your novel because, like most things in writing, you just have to do it your own way - which is very frustrating if you don't know what your way is. Or, as in my case, if you discover what your style is and it totally sucks.

Some people plot everything out on a flow chart before they write their first sentence. Or so I've heard. That would be very nice, to have a roadmap. Wish it worked for me. I've started way too many outlines and never finished a single one. So I've got this nifty story I'm working on and the beginning is awesome and interesting and I'm just reading it over and over again and adding to it until it's a more bloated and less awesome monstrosity because I have no clue where I'm going.

Turns out my style is to worry and stress out over where my plot will take me for about a year, then finally have the pieces click into place of a sudden while I've been writing all over the map for months. Anyone have a time-turner I can borrow to give my roadmap to my past-self so she knows where to go?

What's your planning style?

May 3, 2012

Cover Released for A Memory of Light [Breaking News Musing]

How relevant. Since I just finished Towers of Midnight.

This cover, by Michael Whelan, was released today, May 3rd.

I hope I don't piss too many people off or hurt any feelings by saying this, but I think this may be the first Wheel of Time cover I've even close to liked. Someday I want a hardcover set of the Australian editions. I think they look very nice.

I really, really did not like Darryl K. Sweet's unfinished cover art. I have a question for WOT dedicates actually; it has been a long time reading to get through this and I don't really remember every detail, but should the flame of Tar Valon and the Dragon's fang make a full yin yang, with a dot of black in the white part and a dot of white in the black? I don't remember the dots being there in the early descriptions. In fact, I don't think it would make any sense.

I get that it's unfinished but I don't like the concept at all. That's supposed to be Elayne, Avhienda and Min? Could be any three women in the bloody world. Again, it's unfinished, but I don't think Sweet could have accomplished bringing our girls to life anyways.

I had the same issue with almost every Sweet cover. He never depicted the characters the way I saw them. He would give Perrin his axe and Mat his hat and ashandarei and think that was all there was to making the characters identifiable. Where's the mischevious expression on Mat's face, the worried one on Perrin's? And why does Rand look like the least interesting hero of all time? I found Sweet's images to be cartoony, which is probably really bad, generic marketing for a Fantasy series, and uninteresting. Don't judge a book by it's cover; this series is very interesting and imaginative, unlike Sweet's work.

May 2, 2012

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson [Review Time]

In the prologue of the last of the currently available Wheel of Time books, Jordanderson show that they can make things happen in a mere 20 pages. They move plots. They develop characters. They twist, turn and shock. The only problem is that this novel is one thousand two hundred and eighteen fricking pages in the American paperback edition. That's like The Lord of the Rings plus The Hobbit. If you've hung in for this long and read up to book 13, then it's worth it to wade through the sea of this book, against the current at times, just to get to this prologue where things actually change, but you have to go through about 1200 pages to get there. It's insanely long, but what have we come to expect from Robert Jordan, and did you really think Brandon Sanderson could change anything? Naive.

March 4, 2012

The Magical, Sublime, Aweful, Fantastical, Mysterious Night Circus! by Erin Morgenstern[Review Time]

Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has received nothing but praise since its September of 2011 release. I'm not going to go against the grain much here. If you have been searching for more magic since the first time you ever picked up The Hobbit and have been having a hard time finding it, wading through second rate Fantasy re-hashings of the same story over and over, The Night Circus is what you were wishing for all these years. If Tolkien's fading magic made you sad and made you long for a world where the magic wasn't waning but waxing and found in abundance around every corner, The Night Circus is the perfect read for you. Every last word is just plain magical.

You are put in the position of a Reveur, or dreamer: one who has fallen in love with the magical circus. You are given various tastes, smells, touches, sounds and images of the circus that make you fall in love with it instantly, and then you are told the story of the circus and the stakes involved in its existence.

The Circue du Reves was created as the arena for a mysterious type of duel or competition in which neither of the contenders know the rules or even whom their opponent is. But these two contenders, Marco and Celia, are the protagonists we come to care deeply for, and when their competition begins to take a dangerous turn, and it seems one or the other must die for the contest to end, we are split on the issue. But there's plenty of magic and spectacle to distract us from the problem as we watch the circus travel for a few decades and continue to amaze us, night after night.

In fact, the magic is so prevalent in the story that it begins to outshine the plot and the drama. My only complaint would be that there wasn't quite enough tension in the story, such that I never believed for a second that the good guys weren't going to win. But this is Morgenstern's debut novel and hopefully we will see more and better from her in the future. We might not get a very tight story arc here, but what we get is pure excess of imagination. We get to see the workings of a brilliantly creative mind playing with possibilities and the impossible. If that sounds good to you, take a visit to the circus. Become a Reveur with me.

February 26, 2012

The Time has Come, Rowling said [breaking news musing]

On February 24, J.K. Rowling announced that she will be releasing a new book by the end of the year with publisher Little, Brown. Details on the work have been kept very quiet, down to the title and even the genre. All that is currently known is that this book will leave the world of Harry Potter and children's literature behind and capture an adult audience. Rowling wants to continue to break down boundaries:  “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me." This gives me great hope for her first adult novel, the book the world has been waiting on for nearly five years. I'm very excited to see what other gems come out of this brilliant mind and I can't imagine Rowling would allow her work to be released into the world if it were a disappointment. Let's see what else she can do!

February 4, 2012

Battlestar Galactica [Review Time]

"There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."
A very solemn quotation to begin with, but since my theme is the irrefutable quality of Battlestar Galactica, it seems a fitting one. Still, for me much of the love for this series comes from the humour embedded within a dark situation, so make no mistake - the above quotation doesn't say everything there is to say about the series. That's my job :)

February 2, 2012

A Theme of Themesea. By Ursula Theme Le Guin. [Review Time]

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.
Well isn't this just your graying literature prof's wet dream. A Wizard of Earthsea really gets in there with the themes and then hits you over the head with them, repeatedly. Let's see, we have lots of good stuff on identity, the power of language, arrogance, forces in opposition, balance, and the mentor/pupil relationship. Well done, Ursula Le Guin, you've really gotten a lot of shit packed in there, and you really milked it for all it was worth.