Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seriously, the trailer for the new Twilight film looked kinda awesome

Now, I didn't read the whole thing (spoilers for I show I've already watched but am re-watching right at the beginning of the article's subject) but there is an impressive post about Willow and Tara's relationship (starting in season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and the relationship's relationship to doors, here, at a kind of astounding blog called This To Say About That that I learned about today through

In the post (which surely deserves to be called an 'article') I encountered the word liminal for the first time. Yes, I am a little embarrassed about that. Turns out it means, in part, threshold, which is pleasing Anglo-Saxon looking word that I wanted to know more about--I wanted the Anglo-Saxon roots to be transparent to me. This is how I am with words.

The etymology of threshold is murky and doesn't really offer up its secrets, but the American Heritage 4th ed. does send us to the Indo-European root (that I don't know how to display properly) that is pronounced just like Tara.

I know, right? But that's not all. The first definition for that root is to rub, as in tribade--as in the the band Tribe 8, or as it appears in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (where I learned it), tribadist.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yes, I will post everytime anyone on the internets compares something to Proust

Here's the latest Proust-parison, from Sunday's When Will the Hurting Stop:

"I will reiterate that neither comic is very good at all, but it's still pretty remarkable how they managed to sneak onto the stands on the very same day. It's like they're just trying desperately to see if anyone is awake at this point. It takes a lot of work to make Jeph Loeb look like Proust, but I'll be damned if his Red Hulk book isn't eleventy-billion times better than any of this shit. "

It's about two Marvel comics out last week. Who cares what they're called?

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Read 100 Comic Scripts

You've heard of fiscal years--well, this is a spiritual year (ignore for the time being the fact that the regular year probably has its start as a spiritual year): Halloween to Halloween. Let's hope it fares better than the Metal Year.

Okay, so it's yawningly trite. That's how you know it's Rooted in Tradition.

I started this blog a little over one year ago for no other reason than to follow Occasional Superheroine--then I discovered the Old School Renaissance and (sort of) focused on writing about that sort of business. I do still read to you from dictionaries from time to time. (Check out byronic--dude should be a vampire. In comics.)

That's about all the retrospection I wanted to do. To the Future!

There is an artist who personally requested that I write a comic that said artist would draw. Am I going to ignore this opportunity? It's likely, but this old post by Gail Simone has stirred me to action (I love the part about putting truth in a scene, and after reading Welcome to Tranquility I believe she can do it, but it's what she says about seizing opportunity that I'm high on right now). Read the 'part two' too, about civet-stink.

I know nothing about writing comics, natch. This will be no surprise to long-time readers, who are well aware I know nothing about writing anything.

So--READ 100 COMIC SCRIPTS. Gail Simone posted a few that will make a fine start.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hong Kong Phooey as Reverse Don Quixote

Aside from the kung fu movie stereotypes that might possible be offensive to an entire hemisphere, this Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the mid-'70s has a premise plenty sturdy enough for a Saturday morning short-form cartoon from the mid-'70s.

And the lead is voiced by this dude:

(Scatman Crothers)

Who was also the voice for this dude:

(Jazz the Autobot)

So that's pretty sweet.

Anyway, I gathered you here today to talk about that premise: the Reverse Don Quixote. Hong Kong Phooey's alter-ego is a hapless janitor who believe he has learned super kung fu from a book but who is in fact a totally hapless lunkhead who's only success is that he doesn't notice how much damage and mayhem his lunkheadedness causes. Presumably, everyone else has mistaken his obliviousness for the transcendent grace of a sublime master and that his why the whole city holds him in reverence, worship, and awe.

Right--that worshipfulness is the Reverse part of Reverse Don Quixote--whereas Don Quixote's delusions of grandeur are obvious to everyone else, in Hong Kong Phooey's case his windmilling kung fu chops (that's for Choya, a kung fu nerd, who would be shouting "There are no chops!" if read this blog) are celebrated as the greatest way to save the day. So everyone is suffering Phooey's delusion, so maybe it's not so much a Don Quixote in reverse as a Everyone's Don Quixote. Let's just ignore that, hmm? While we're at it, Phooey also has a cat, Spot, who acts as his Sancho Panza, an overlooked and unappreciated partner who actually saves the day, by freeing Phooey from the file cabinet, or rolling him down the street when he gets stuck in a garbage can.

But I bring all this up because I suspect this premise has been used before--I mean the Reverse Don Quixote, not the forwards kind. That was in Don Quixote.

Surely it wasn't a Saturday morning show from 1974 that originated the premise of a bumbling hero who nevertheless saves the day and is treated like a hero despite his constant cock-uppery.
It's been reused by Pamela Anderson's V.I.P. ( I think--I haven't seen it), and to some extent in the USA network's Psych (haven't seen that either).

So, have you seen this before--before 1974--in something besides Cervantes?

Crap. I shoulda just gone to TV Tropes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Horror-Themed Board Games?

The group ran through a print 'n' play zombies game last Friday--didn't catch the name but it wasn't much of a game, though a little better than Zombies!!!

And I'm sick of zombies anyhow. Y-A-W-N.

There's Arkham Horror, but I want to unleash steaming streams of pee on the smoldering ashes of every copy of that game.

I have The Hills Rise Wild --it's actually the same foundation as the print 'n' play game with more equipment rules and such, and a pick-up-and-deliver objective laid on top. Let that stand as Exhibit 2 in my case that a Lovecraft theme is no signal of good game play inside that box. The opposite, even.

I've got Finstere Flure (that's for Holger, who doesn't read this blog), I mean Fearsome Floors. A better game than those, but not so much with the horror beyond the Universal Monsters type of Scooby-Doo type Count Chocula level 'horror.'

Of course the ultimate in gaming horror is A Game of Thrones, but that's entirely the wrong kind. I hate that game so hard it gives me stones. And a rhyming curse, I guess.

Boy I hate a lot of stuff. So, give me your suggestions of horrific (or just horrible) board games. I need 'em by tomorrow at 5:00 and don't make 'em anything I will hate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Holy Hell! There was a Karate Kid cartoon?

And you can watch it on Hulu?

How did I miss this one back in the actual Ay-tays?

Oh, '89? Yeah, I lost touch with pop culture for about five. . . or ten years starting in '89.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(Several) Dollhouse inteviews hit the tubes today

One with Miracle Laurie at the Buffyfest blog (it's probably still on the blog roll to the right), one with Dichen Lachman on the SFX magazine site.

And one with John Cassaday, the Astonishing X-Men artist during Joss Whedon's run who is about to direct an ep. of Dollhouse, in which he says this:

The Beat: I’m with you on both of those! Do you have any thoughts on the cast and characters going in? Any favorites?

Cassaday: I like the relationship between Echo and Ballard. There’s a strange dynamic there. They’ve grown into something very different than where they started out. Ballard has become part of the machine he swore to take down in order to get the job done. He’s no longer CIA. It’s a personal mission for him and that mission is embodied by Echo. I enjoy the back and forth between all the employees and the actives. I’m fascinated with the trickiness of the technology and how it can be applied to anyone to serve any purpose… The possibilities are endless and mind-boggling.

The Beat: What’s your biggest challenge, do you think, going into this?

Cassaday: I read a script and have specific ideas as to how I want to tell the story. When I draw, it’s me and only me– essentially a one-man show. One challenge comes in dealing with a crew of a hundred people waiting for and watching me… I’ve met most of them and they really know their jobs. I’ve watched the crew at work and feel I’m in good shape. Another issue is working with actors. I’m excited about this as much as anything. I feel lucky in a sense, that with it being a television series, the actors will have been playing their characters for roughly 22 or 23 episodes by the time I hit the set. We won’t be forming their characters from the ground up. They know their origins. They understand themselves and their motivations. I also look forward to dealing with any day-players, so I can get those creative juices flowing there too… Constructing personalities. So very Dollhouse!

Causing me to think about that 'construction of personalities' as it is done by the director, yes, but more so by the writers and creators (and of course the actors, at a later stage). I'm focusing on the writer's role because you have to consider aspects of the Dollhouse to be metaphors for what the TV writer does--but be careful not to let such a discussion collapse into a black hole of infinitely reflected self-representations. You'll be sucked into your own navel and become an ultra-dense singularity of wankery.

Then there's Paul Ballard's character arc: he tries to bring the Dollhouse down but ends up inside it. Sucked in like it was a belly-button. It reminds me of a problem a friend had once about the author's voice: a voice that is trying to be genuine, honest, free of stylistic affectation and rhetorical artifice is in fact using that stylistic choice in the same way as the other stylistic devices, the ones it's trying to avoid, are used. There is no escape from choosing a self-representation. Likewise, a parent organization, like the CIA, won't let you pursue a crazy quest to defeat something like the Dollhouse, and you certainly can't defeat it by becoming part of it. You might think you can outfox the foxes but that just makes you an even foxier fox.

I don't know. I thought I had a thing there.

So as a director or a writer, you're creating everyone's self-representation, and trying (sometimes, I hope) to show a true representation of the world as you see it--but it's all make-believe, and make-believe about deception and false identities. And if you're Dollhouse, you're doing it on Fox (but maybe not for very long).

Oh man. See the note above about ultra-dense wankery. I'm really sorry.

Friday, October 16, 2009

If Caroline is all of us

As Echo accumulates more and more echoes of the people that have been installed in her, she becomes less a metaphor for how we are shaped by the powerful than for how we have to hide elements of ourselves, or maybe that we can hide elements of ourselves and lead double, treble, whatevs-ble lives. She has to keep the memories she's retained secret from the Dollhouse so that they don't prevent her (by sending her to the Attic) from finding her true self, and in that secrecy she stands in for the impression management we all have to do.

It's with that in mind that I embark on Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life hoping it will carry me to some grounds for an argument about what Dollhouse has to say.

I'm so sorry about trying to make that sailing metaphor work.

I haven't seen many examples of the show presenting Echo as intentional impression management, but I'll be on the lookout. More sailng? Sorry.

I heard once in college that Chekhov's story 'The Lady With the Dog' was about the leading of the double life, so go check that out (beware of cruddy ads).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Who do you trust?

I dropped all the Marvel comics titles (except Runaways, even though it probably deserved it for its own weaksauce-itude) from my pull list this year because of Secret Invasion--because it proved that MArvel was willing to sell me garbage in $4 monthly installments, wasting 8 months of my comics consumption. In one-issue-a-month chunks, sure, but still.

But this post isn't about that, other than to say that the basic emotional hook in Secret Invasion (Who do you trust? Is he a skrull? Am I?) was copied from Battlestar Galactica (Is she a cyclon? Am I?).

And to some extent the same thing is going on in Dollhouse, or was during the first season (Joss has said they'll back off that element, since it gets silly if it goes on too long*). Who is a Doll? Are you?

I'm not going to call this concept tired or accuse anyone of conceptual bankruptcy (except Secret Invasion)--I'd rather look at this a case of an idea with a great deal of emotional resonance that a lot of people want to write about and watch about. Watch about? Yeah, it's the dopest new extension of a prepositional semantic scope or whatevs. Get hip.

But I'm not going to do any of that looking today. Just making note of something I might someday do some thinking about.

*Man, I really should start book marking the web pages I know I'm going to make reference to. Sorry, I don't know where I read that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I haven't read Ibsen either

Not that that's relevant to today's generally irrelevant-to-anything post: a quote from an interview with Joss Whedon (on from before Dollhouse aired:

Forbes: This show is more cerebral--and perhaps more niche--than we're used to seeing on the broadcast networks today. Is there room for shows like this?

Whedon: Well, I don't want to be accused of saying, "I'm so much smarter than Fox." The concept is tricky, but it's not exactly hard to follow. It's not like we're shooting Proust. But whether or not it's niche, depends on how many people respond to it. And I assume it probably will be because most of the things I do are, but it's not like we set out and said, "Which people do we want to alienate."

Gee, I hope they're not shooting Proust--that's the plot for me 'n' Josh's comic book idea about Baudelaire! (Actually, it was Rimbaud, you know, as in "Rambo.")

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, you Pretty Things--I had no idea your name was so naughty

While I work up my next Proust post, here's an article with some background on the Chaucer business on Dollhouse episode 2.3, that I wish I had already known all about because I studied Chaucer in college--or, hell, even because I've ever read Chaucer at all, even in translation (or maybe I should say modernization). But I didn't.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mellie and Madeleine

So I had a joke I wanted to write after finding today's quotation: the connections between Proust's ideas about sleep and psychology have so much in common with the Dollhouse that I'll be surprised if they don't show us a character named Madeleine. Oh wait.

Topher and Mellie/November/Madeline found on Tvsquad

So, here's what I found yesterday (It comes after a fun description of dreamy sleep that I would like to quote but would not like to type, from the 'Saint-Loup at Doncieres' section of The Guermantes Way):

That kind of sleep is called 'sleeping like lead,' and it seems as though one has become, oneself, and remains for a few moments after such a sleep is ended, simply a leaden image. One is no longer a person. How then, seeking for one's mind, one's personality, as one seeks for a thing that is lost, does one recover one's own self rather than any other? Why, when one begins again to think, is it not another personality than yesterday's that is incarnate in one? One fails to see what can dictate the choice, or why, among the millions of human beings any one of whom one might be, it is on him who one was overnight that unerringly one lays one's hand? What is it that guides us, when there has been an actual interruption--whether it be that our unconsciousness has been complete or our dreams entirely different from ourselves? There has indeed been death, as when the heart has ceased to beat and a rhythmical friction of the tongue revives us. No doubt the room, even if we have seen it only once before, awakens memory in which other, older memories cling. Or were some memories also asleep in us of which we now become conscious? The resurrections at our awakening--after that healing attack of mental alienation which is sleep--must after all be similar to what occurs when we recapture a name, a line, a refrain that we had forgotten. And perhaps the resurrection of the soul after death is to be conceived as a phenomenon of memory.

This time the emphases are mine, so young can call me obnoxious, if you don't already.

But, come on, doesn't that sound just a little like the Dollhouse?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I ain't got no soul

I'm a materialist, though I'll cop to being pretty ignorant about what that means. Still, because of my beliefs I find it hard to see any value in discussing the soul in a serious way (rather than as dramatic-license style handwavium, say), which is why I'm not sure about the value of Ramon Fernandez's essay* 'In Search of the Self' beyond providing the quotation (from somewhere in the Search--exactly where, I don't know) you'll find below.

The quotation, which I had to chew over several times before I could get anything out of it, is worth your time, particularly if you view it as similar to the point of view of a Doll being wiped and imprinted. I'm uncomfortable with all the wiping too.

At whatever moment we consider it, our total soul has only an almost fictitious value, in spite of the numerous tally of its riches, for now some, then others, are unavailable, and this, by the way, just as much whether they be actual riches or those of the imagination. . . For to the cloudiness of memory are linked the intermittences of the heart. It is doubtless through the existence of our body, similar for us to a vase in which our spirituality might be enclosed, that we are induced to suppose that all out internal goods, our past joys, all our sufferings, are perpetually in our possession. Perhaps it is just as incorrect to believe that they get away or come back. Anyhow if they remain in us, most of the time they do so in an unknown domain where they are of no service to us, and where even the most usual ones are pushed back my recollections of a different order which exclude all simultaneity with them in consciousness. But if the frame of sensations in which they are preserved is caught again, they in their turn are endowed with that same power of expelling all that is incompatible with them, of installing solely in us the ego which lived them. Now as he whom I had suddenly rebecome had not existed since that distant evening on which my grandmother had undressed me upon my arrival at Balbec, it was quite naturally, not after the present day which that ego was unaware of, but--as if there were, in time, different and parallel series--without any solution of continuity, at once after the first evening of yesteryear, that I was adhering to the minute in which my grandmother had leaned towards me.

A few comments:

The emphases are Fernandez's rather than Proust's. They do help you find your way through the paragraph.

There's nothing hinky going on with the grandmother--just think of the narrator remembering his experience as a little boy.

The bit about the 'ego which lived them' being 'installed in us' is pretty on the nose for what happens in the Dollhouse chair, isn't it? I wonder what kinds of things were installed before software. Paintings mostly, I guess.

Isn't it funny that the 'different and parallel series' might make you think of Buffy and Angel?

An essay by Marguerite Krause, available for the next week on, about Angel's soul, reminds me that all this business of soul-swapping and Doll-wiping and soul-seeking (not just soul-searching) can be thought of as one continuous meditation on the nature of the self.

*found in Proust: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Rene Girard, Prentice-Hall 1962

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just what does Proust have to say about the Dollhouse?

You watching the Dollhouse? Yeah, most folks aren't.

The hook here has got to be memory--which weirdly is the word that just went through my headphones ('Burning Memories' by Ray Price).

Memory, especially involuntary memory--in Marcel's case, the return of his childhood, then the whole of his life; in Echo's case (in season 2) flashes of, what, the 23 personalities dumped in her, plus the one that she came in with, and how those give her Slayer powers.

What? No slayer powers? Didn't you seen her pwning in the Jamie Bamber episode? I was all "WTF's with all the Slayer fighting powers. Evs."

Srsly, that's how I talk to myself.

The theme of Dollhouse seems to be that we're all programmed by the influential to be what they want us to be*. I recognize that in my experience, all the way from learning to stand in line in kindergarten, to binge drinking in high school, to my present-day pop-culture-obsessed consumerism.

A theme of In Search of Lost Time is that these memories that reappear to us unbidden, with all their force and vividness, are different in kind from things that we purposely remember or seek to recall.

So, if we equate Echo's Caroline personality, the one she came in with, to an involuntary memory, once that sticks with her even though it's supposedly been removed from her body and stored on a hard drive; and we take that equation to mean that it's different in kind from the 'voluntary memory' of the Imprints she takes out on Engagements, a difference seems to be more real, more genuine, just because it is her natural personality, then we have arrived at a rather vacuous connection of Proust and the Dollhouse.

I'll come back tomorrow and see if I can do any better. Why would I do that? Well, there's an essay contest that I really wish I was the kind of person who would submit an entry for. Hey, my brother got something like this published (just a chapter, not the whole book, this one too), why not me?

*okay, I didn't think of that on my own--Joss said as much in an interview I read recently, but I didn't find it with the slightest effort, so no link for you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Horror! The Horror!

It's the 1st of October and round here that means it's time to kick off the Season of Blood: 31 days of non-stop horror movies to prepare the soul for the only feast day that I enjoy celebrating--that's right, CANADIAN THANKSGIVING.

No, that's on the 12th, but since my job requires I attend an in-service on that day every year, it is pretty faughing horrible.

Anyways, I want your suggestions--there's no need for them to be good movies, as I care very little about quality. I generally prefer supernatural horror, and I think I'll start this year with Nosferatu, which I didn't get to last year. From all y'all I want a bleeding, screaming, weeping, flesh-rending stack of cheap thrills deep enough to keep me occupied until November.

And. . . go!