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Robinson L on Clotheslining the 1%
at 00:02 on 16-11-2017 - link
I’ve never seen this movie, and unsurprisingly, the first time I heard a plot breakdown of it was in 2012 or 2013 on a podcast inspired by Occupy Wall Street. From what I recollect, the guy doing the podcast said the movie itself was only so-so, but that the social commentary, while heavy-handed, was spot on.
So I’ve been kind of curious about They Live! as something which apparently grapples with some truths about US society which most film and television doesn’t acknowledge. I feel like if I did see it, I would probably write off the violent portions as “obligatory action scenes”; the films which reflect my sensibilities about how social change is accomplished make films which reflect my sensibilities about how societies like the US’ actual work look positively ubiquitous. However, I’ve never gotten much sense of They Live! as something I would enjoy on a pure entertainment level, and the social commentary doesn’t sound so cutting edge that I feel compelled to check it out despite my tepid interest in the story.
Maybe I’ll check it out someday, and if so, I know I’ll likely appreciate it on a discursive level. But if I never get around to it, I doubt I’ll feel that I’ve missed out on something vital.
- Robinson L on Cat Scratch Slayer at 00:00 on 16-11-2017 - link Me neither. It was just this weird thought that hit me completely out of the blue. Just one of those things, I suppose.
- Arthur B on Cat Scratch Slayer at 22:37 on 15-11-2017 - link I don't know what gave you that idea.
- Robinson L on Cat Scratch Slayer at 20:15 on 15-11-2017 - link So, Arthur, this is just a wild guess, but by any chance, did you adopt a cat recently? Or begin a relationship with someone who has a cat?
Daniel F on Shadow of WTF
at 03:37 on 14-11-2017 - link
Ah, well. I was being far too obsessive anyway, so never mind.
On Shelob... it occurs that Tolkien did talk, in On Fairy-Stories, about his contemporaries losing the sense that danger or evil can be beautiful. Arguably that might give you a road towards an attractive form for Shelob.
However, that comment of Tolkien's always rang rather false to me, because Tolkien's own work is noticeably lacking in beautiful villains. At most you have the form in which Sauron manipulated the ring-smiths of Eregion, but in The Hobbit and LotR, the villains are without exception ugly or spooky. (Unless you count Saruman's voice, I guess.)
Beyond that, there is such a difference between a beautiful form and a sex-object form that I really can't see it as a fair justification for Shelob. It feels like... well, like a bit of trashy sub-D&D fanfic.
Alasdair Czyrnyj on Shadow of WTF
at 21:54 on 13-11-2017 - link
You know, I've never read any of Tolkien's work, and I've never really watched any of the movies, but for some insane reason the concept of Stupid Sexy Shelob just sticks in my craw. I mean, I can barely tolerate little spiders at the best of times, never mind ones the size of a rhino, but when I heard that this game was giving Shelob an avatar, I was thinking "okay, spiders terrify me, but you told me there was a giant horrible fucking spider, so you damn well better give me a giant horrible fucking spider."
Personally, I think the whole thing would've been more acceptable if they had taken the SHODAN route and had Shelob give herself an avatar, but make her so contemptuous of humanity that she only puts the bare minimum of effort into appearing human. She could look like a woman, but have her voice processed and layered to hell and back, get a dancer for the mocap who can perform "arachnid" styles of movement, and just have her talking about creepy shit with slightly-broken dialogue. (I'd kind of like to see her just grab a bird out of the air and eat it à la Shadow of the Vampire, but that might be a bit much.)
- Arthur B on Shadow of WTF at 12:19 on 13-11-2017 - link Huh. I confess that the North African thing comes from a friend who was commenting on my Facebook posts about the game so I don't have a direct source.
Daniel F on Shadow of WTF
at 11:19 on 13-11-2017 - link
On the racial politics front, if you'll forgive me being a Tolkien nerd about continuity?
To my knowledge, Tolkien never says anything explicit about the usual skin tone of the Gondorians. At times he mentions Gondorians looking 'pale', which seems like it rules out anything excessively dark (so, no sub-Saharan African Gondorians!), but that's about it. Beyond that, we can guess a bit based on the cultures we think they're supposed to correspond to, I suppose. I'm curious where the heck you're getting the idea that the Gondorians should look like North Africans. Even leaving aside that ancient North Africans should not be distinguishable from European Mediterraneans, Tolkien doesn't seem to give you any North African association. You can read Gondor as a stand-in for Byzantium, with Minas Tirith as a crypto-Constantinople, but that would surely give you Greek or, well, Mediterranean Gondorians. At any rate, the only comparison to a real nation that I think Tolkien ever gave Gondor was in letter #294, where he comments that The Lord of the Rings ends "in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome than anything that would be devised by a 'Nordic'", which would surely suggest Romans or Italians as an ethnic model for Gondor.
If we step beyond that and start thinking about Gondor in terms of Arda's fictional history... you note that the Gondorians are descended from the Númenóreans, which is partly true (the aristocracy is; the common people of Gondor seem to be more mixed), but who are the Númenóreans? The Númenóreans were descended from the Houses of Bëor and Hador of the Edain, and the ethnographic characteristics of both houses are described in 'Of Dwarves and Men' in The Peoples of Middle-Earth. Of the Folk of Hador, "For the most part they were tall people, with flaxen or golden hair and blue-grey eyes, but there were not a few among them that had dark hair, though all were fair-skinned." (The Gondorians believed the Rohirrim to resemble the Folk of Hador and assumed they had some ancestral relation, though the Rohirrim themselves had no memory of this.) Of the Folk of Bëor, Tolkien writes: "There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Bëor, but most of them had brown hair (going usually with brown eyes), and many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy. Men as tall as the Folk of Hador were rare among them, and most were broader and more heavy in build." Nonetheless the Folk of Hador and Bëor were related, as shown by their similar languages. The Númenóreans arose from the people of these kindreds who were taken to Númenor by the Valar, and so presumably share their various characteristics. (To my knowledge there were also a few people descended from the Folk of Haleth among the Númenóreans and even a small number of Drûgs, but these were the smaller groups.)
As such my presumption would be that the Númenórean-descended folk of Gondor probably tended towards fair skin and a wide range of hair and eye colours.
The Haradrim, by contrast... well, The Return of the King does have a brief reference to "out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues", but I take the reference to Far Harad to suggest that the folk of Near Harad did not look like this. Bearing in mind Near Harad's close history with Gondor, and the presence of Númenórean nobility among them, particularly in Umbar, I incline to this view. That is to say, the history of Near Harad is closely entwined with that of Gondor, because they are actually of very similar historical origin: they are countries ruled by Númenórean-descended lords, who in ages past colonised these lands, conquering and 'civilising' the natives, and then eventually coming to feud with each other over political power and perhaps over Númenor's legacy itself.
In that regard, then, I would take the simplistic depiction of Haradrim as African and Gondorians as European as a problem. I don't give any real credence to 'black' or 'white' in this context, and if the game introduces a distinction along those lines...
Well, I would say that I'm appalled, but frankly the game seems to have more than enough to appall me before ever bringing ethnic politics into the picture.
Arthur B on Shadow of WTF
at 15:45 on 10-11-2017 - link
It is - the canned animation usually happens either because of something you've triggered, or it's drawing your attention to a captain being killed somewhere else, so it isn't as jarring when you are playing as it would be if you're watching.
You get lot of cutaways during sieges because that involves a bunch of captains fighting each other, so obviously you have much better odds of having captains killing each other regularly during the mission.
Ronan Wills on Shadow of WTF
at 13:39 on 10-11-2017 - link
I bounced off the first game pretty hard due to being thoroughly fed up with both Assassin's Creed style open world games and Batman combat. So maybe I'm missing something, but all the gameplay I've seen of this looks completely baffling and inscrutable; the siege sections are this chaotic whirlwind of NPCs and minimap icons where the camera keeps cutting away to what looks like canned animation sequences.
Is it actually that confusing to play, or does it all make sense once the game eases you in?
Janne Kirjasniemi on Walking Out of the Interview (With the Vampire)
at 08:38 on 10-11-2017 - link
True, but at least the bloodmurder thing is an important life lesson for a young vampire. It's funny how Rice's vampires (and others of this type) always feel that the whole orgastic bloodmurder thing is their existential source of misery rather than the victims or the victims families. Oh woe, the thing that brings me so much joy is bad. But it's bad because the horror and suffering is caused on others on a massive scale, it's not really about their narcissistic lives. A vampire that feels bad about murderin' is not really better than an uncaring one, if they do the same things (although I guess the suffering is something at least).
That's why the regretful vampire gets ridiculous really fast in a gallows humor kind of way. I've just watched Being Human (UK) and it is ridiculous how they milk the suffering vampire stereotype. "Misery is me, I've killed so many people, but it's an addiction and I've changed and feel really bad! Oops, now I've killed again, oh the humanity!"
Arthur B on Walking Out of the Interview (With the Vampire)
at 17:49 on 09-11-2017 - link
But judging from the other books( and pretending that this book did not actually mean to be into pedophilia and had also succeeded to frame it without the ambiguity present here), the vampires are supposed to be asexual like Robinson mentioned or rather the blood-drinking murder thing is in place of the sex thing.
To be honest, that really doesn't help much. If their blood-drinking drive is a metaphorical stand-in for their sex drive (which absolutely makes sense because, as you say, they get all hot and passionate about it exactly as they would if it were their sex drive), then having Louis spend all that time teaching Claudia how to do the bloodmurder thing in and of itself becomes that much skeevier precisely because of that connection.
Janne Kirjasniemi on Walking Out of the Interview (With the Vampire)
at 16:26 on 09-11-2017 - link
That's an interesting take on the book Arthur. I remember blowing through this when I was probably in my late teens or a bit later, along with so many other genre paperbacks. I can't remember whether I was oblivious to that sexualization of Claudia or whether I just bypassed it, but as I remember the book, it is a very credible interpretation. Calling a five year old girl your lover is upsetting and coupling it with the daughter father pair makes it worse, since while the bond between a parent and child can be as intense as the relationship between two adults, they are strikingly and fundamentally different. Mixing them together just feels like a violation of both.
But to be very generous for conversation's sake and since I don't want to assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding, I guess you could focus on the neglect and think that the purple prose is a sign that there was not that much editing or careful rewriting done, since it is really very unfortunate that that thread is present in the story. And the purple prose seems to be Rice's trademark, or it was when I read them.
But judging from the other books( and pretending that this book did not actually mean to be into pedophilia and had also succeeded to frame it without the ambiguity present here), the vampires are supposed to be asexual like Robinson mentioned or rather the blood-drinking murder thing is in place of the sex thing. If I recall correctly, a later book, where there was this vampire queen who wanted to take over the world (because these are the type of vampires that do stuff like that), describes pretty graphically through Lestat's point of view that while the vampires seem to have all of their stuff in its original places, there does not seem to be even a reflective ability to be aroused or functional in any biological definition of sex.
But I agree that asexuality (or sanguinarianness?) does not seem to be just the right term to use, because Rice's vampires are kinda peculiar in that they are very passionate about other vampires, which has a very sexual tone in its unsexualness. It might be the purple prose, but Louis and Lestat (and other pairings) seem to inexplicably into each other, even if they don't actually seem to do anything sexual and this seems to have little to do with the blood drinking either to the extent that apart from the general complaining, the whole murderiness and bloodlust is a sidenote to the general proceedings. They are just that intense and brooding and have that vampire vibe thing going. It is a while since I read it, but I don't remember what they were even supposed to do all night long, between the eating and the soap-opera. Seemingly they went to see plays and generally just went out a lot. You'd think they had more time to read any of the many edifying books readily available even in those times to help with the ennui. Or they could practice olympic hide-and-seek. Generally one would think that endless social life and brooding would still leave a lot of time for other pursuits.
But I have to confess that my younger self liked Interview with the Vampire (although isn't it more of a vampire?), probably because the concept was novel and it did differ from other stuff I was reading at the time in it that it had less action and more grand standing in rooms being dramatic and bored with the futility of it all. I don't think we are necessarily supposed to think that Louis or any of them are supposed to read as being good or anything, since the whole thing is so much about this particular vampire gothic aestheticm, that everything just bends around that. Louis is a Southern Gentleman, because the Southern Gothic is what was wanted and it's the late eighteenth century, because those clothes and that environment is what was wanted. Slaves are just part of the scenery and the vampires are very self-involved creatures who don't have time to think about chattel slavery, since they are in a prison of their unholy eternal existence. It does seem a constant in different versions of vampires that even when they're supposed to be nice they are still kind of assholes. And these aren't that nice even without the murdering and implied pedophilia.
Robinson L on Substandard
at 22:30 on 31-10-2017 - link
I recognized what movie this was going to be from the title and description before I read the article—and I’ve never even seen the movie.
But a couple years ago, I did watch this video review, along with the reviews of the three sequel films. From the sounds of it, the mediocrity remains in full force throughout the whole of the series—and apparently there’s a four-part side series which ups the mediocrity levels to such an extent that she didn’t even bother trying to review them, but which nonetheless ties into the final film. She also derives a great deal of comedy out of Michelle’s complete uselessness as a protagonist over the course of the series—to the part where it’s a newly introduced character who finally defeats Radu in the fourth movie (although, as I recall, this time it is a female character).
Also, the titular subspecies is given even less to do in the sequels, which I remember thinking was a shame, as it appears to be the one creative idea the series had going for it, with at least a little storytelling potential.
(Incidentally, the same reviewer also did two videos covering the first four Phantasm movies, made several years before the fifth came out.)
Robinson L on Walking Out of the Interview (With the Vampire)
at 22:02 on 31-10-2017 - link
Hmm, interesting. I’ve never read any of Rice’s books, but I saw a video from a couple of years ago talking about the character of Claudia, whom the reviewer found highly compelling. According to the reviewer, Claudia—who’s killed later in the book (spoiler!)—was written as a way for Rice herself to grapple with the loss of a baby daughter, and the reviewer was impressed by the accomplishment. She didn’t mention anything about creepy sex vibes, and I got the distinct impression that Claudia was basically asexual, which to me made perfect sense, considering she’s a) undead; and b) eternally inhabiting the body of a five-year-old, without all those hormones and other bodily processes related to puberty which I associate with sexual awakening. I was therefore puzzled, as well as creeped out, to read about it here.
It’s too bad Rice apparently went there with the story because this:
Louis is thrust into an existence he didn't ask for and which nobody can adequately explain to him, and a life in which he would rather not hurt others to perpetuate his existence but often finds himself doing so anyway. That's undeath for Louis, but it's also life for all of us.
Actually sounds like a pretty neat vehicle for exploring existential themes and questions about, well, the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
Robinson L on Lumley Makes a Psychomess of It
at 22:00 on 31-10-2017 - link
Huh, it’s too bad the story apparently collapses in on itself, because the premise as you describe it sounds like a pretty good set up for a dark and twisted horror story where either Schroeder’s or Krippner’s mucking about with eldritch powers comes back to bite Garrison and the rest of the cast in their collective rear, and it all ends in ruin. Throwing in a couple of Nazis to act as catalysts would make perfect sense in that scenario: the moral being that of course everything’s going to go to shit once you get mixed up with fecking Nazis.
… Not a book I would read personally, but I bet a lot of other folks on the site would get I kick out of it, and I’d certainly enjoy the review.
Since you didn’t finish the book, doesn’t this article qualify for “Damage Report”?
- Robinson L on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and Its Imitators, Part 6 at 20:36 on 31-10-2017 - link Hmm, could very well be that, too.
Robinson L on I, Whedon
at 20:30 on 31-10-2017 - link
Oh yeah, I didn't mean to imply I agree with the reasoning in that post, even in hindsight. You're absolutely right that an artistic work can promote rape culture without the artist(s) behind it being rapists - there are numerous such works out there.
I just find it morbidly interesting that, even though I still find the logic which led up to it faulty, the accusation itself ultimately proved not so far off the mark as I originally assumed.
- Robinson L on A Blunder In the Dark at 20:24 on 31-10-2017 - link My understanding from my position out on the sidelines is that there's still an ongoing debate over dubs versus subs in the community - but as you say, the pro-sub side seems to emphasize authenticity, which speaks directly to your argument. That's why I was surprised to see you throw in a dig at the production quality of anime dubs, which to my knowledge is not in question (except maybe among really hardcore sub supporters), and didn't seem to speak directly to the point you were trying to make.
- Arthur B on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and Its Imitators, Part 6 at 10:27 on 31-10-2017 - link Why not both?
Arthur B on I, Whedon
at 10:25 on 31-10-2017 - link
I remember at the time, we generally agreed this accusation was a tad overblown—I certainly thought so. In light of Ms. Cole’s revelation, though, it seems eerily close to the truth.
Yeah, in retrospect I still can't get onboard with, eg, assuming a particular character is a rapist and an abuser based solely on the fact that they're the white partner in an interracial relationship, or for that matter armchair diagnosing Whedon as a rapist based solely on the content of his work.
That said, I can totally see merit in saying that a particular work expresses a rape culture worldview, and doing so doesn't necessarily amount to accusing the creator of rape. It is unfortunately the case that it's completely possible for someone to perpetuate rape culture and rape apologetics without themselves being a rapist; that's kind of how rape culture perpetuates itself to begin with. And it's going to be pretty hard to keep what Kai's had to say out of mind when tackling Whedon's work from here on out.
- Arthur B on A Blunder In the Dark at 10:03 on 31-10-2017 - link The accepted wisdom still seemed to favour subs over dubs back in the 2000s when I was occasionally stopping by my university anime club, though things may well have changed. Either way my Googling suggests that there's still a remnant of people who greatly prefer subs over dubs simply because it's the "more authentic" version of the material, whereas the point I'm making here is that for the purposes of many Italian films the Italian soundtrack isn't necessarily "more authentic" than the English one.
Robinson L on A Blunder In the Dark
at 00:36 on 31-10-2017 - link
unlike anime, where the original material was all produced in Japanese and English dubs have often been shoddily-produced afterthoughts
From what I know of anime, that may be true of the 80s and 90s, but my understanding is that English dubs have greatly improved in quality over the past 2 decades or so, and my admittedly limited experience of anime supports this thesis. I’m surprised the resident anime fans haven’t been after you for that one.
Robinson L on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos and Its Imitators, Part 6
at 00:02 on 31-10-2017 - link
He then slams cosplayers at conventions, suggesting that they render the whole thing frivolous and mundane, and also criticises attempts to win mainstream respectability for Lovecraft. (This was before the Library of America put out a Lovecraft volume.) Because it's not enough for us to be Lovecraft fans, apparently - we have to be fans within the set bounds of Price’s sensibilities, keeping things just respectable enough for quasi-academic blowhards like Price to feel like scholarly gentlemen but not respectable enough to get the attention of experts who’d recognise Price’s Lovecraft scholarship as the slipshod amateur work it is.
That’s a reasonable interpretation, but it to me it sounds equally likely that Price is just a massive hipster.