Monday, November 23, 2009

Interstella 5555: A film

So, I just finished watching the Daft Punk anime film "Interstella 5555" which is a film version of their concept album "Discovery". The film is very enjoyable in the sense of it being a sci-fi, family style anime with no dialogue content, the story being told through music and images only.

Despite it having no words of dialogue, the story is fairly effectively told, despite it being a very strange sci-fi story of apparent world domination through an ancient, undying evil...through the use of several music stars from other universes. It is a very strange story, but the characters are likable, and it's fun and interesting to see every song on the album fit to the animation built for it.

The film can also very easily be analyzed through any number of lenses - the man who kidnaps the band forces them onto earth and makes them look human, and then to make the people of earth imitate them in every way. This can be interpreted easily as a metaphor for both colonialism, and for capitalism. The film also focuses on the band's loneliness, perhaps being a comment on the disillusionment with being a celebrity.

All in all, it's a fun watch if you have a spare hour in your day, and enjoy the heavy electronic beats of Daft Punk.

Akos Pakos

Hello literate masses! Good to see you again. Recently, I've been reading a very interesting book that I hope will interest you all. Have you ever wondered where the term "Hocus Pocus" and "Abra Kadabra" came from? Have you ever been curious as to why salt, water and blood are so important in culture, and in magic? Have the spirits and amulets ever interested you? What about the origin of the names of angels and the gods? Then this is the book for you!

Joshua Trachtenberg's "Jewish Magic and Superstition" (1935) is a great overall introduction to all the facets of Jewish magic in the medieval era until now. It covers amulets to incantations, spirits to divination, names to exorcisms. Albeit, the chapter on names is a little dry, and some of the chapters can be too wordy, but generally this is a very accessible, academic book on the topic of early Jewish, Western European and some Christian magics and superstitions and the real reasons behind them, and the reasons why they are or aren't in practice now.

It's sixteen chapters are an everything you want to know guide to these topics. That being said, it is true that, as a result of it being written so early in the 20th Century it is, perhaps, of the academic language persuasion, but it is still a very accessible book. Though, fair warning, there are some paragraphs and quotes entirely in other languages (German, Italian, Latin, etc.) which remain untranslated by the author, as the expectation was that the readership knew these languages, though I believe that contemporary publishings of this book do give translations of these passages in the notes.

Hope you enjoy it. Mahalo.

Wuthering Huh?

I learned about this a few weeks ago and have been following it, but I feel something needs to be said. Now, when I say what I'm about to say, some of you will surely say, "But Jordan, you're over-exaggerating, it can't possibly be the Biblical End of Times, the Apocalypse, the End of all Humanity and Civilization!" And you would be wrong. It is. The end is very nigh. What I am about to tell you is completely true, so please, I advise you brace yourselves.

Sigh. Okay. Here goes.
I have recently learned that the classic piece of literature by Emily Bronte, "Wuthering Heights", is to be repackaged with a new cover. This is not a problem, this happens every few years, right? Wrong. Not like this. There was a recent press release/statement made by the author of the "Twilight" novels that stated that Edward (Cullen) and Bella (Whatsherface)'s favourite book, was "Wuthering Heights" - for what I can only assume was literary comparison between the main character from it's moodiness and Edward's. Here inlies the problem - the geniuses at the publishing companies - who clearly hate literature - are REPACKAGING "Wuthering Heights", and English Literature CLASSIC, with a new cover designed by the same man who did the "Twilight" covers, in the same style, with a flower on a staircase surrounded by black and "Emily Bronte" written in that faux-semi-Gothic font. The kicker? There is a little yellow star bubble on the cover below the image which says, "Edward and Bella's favourite book!" . The second kicker? They're flying off the shelves.

On the article which contained this information (here, here, here, here and here - yeah, I'm thorough) there were comments - one which was, "Is this book in old timey English or normal, readable English? Because I can't help but feel this is a repackaging of the original." -- THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN IN THE MID 1800s! It's as readable as it gets! The other comment read, "Advisory: this isn't even a good romance novel! There's like, 5 pages of romance! The rest is all anger and bitterness!" - No kidding. Do these people even KNOW the story behind "Wuthering Heights"?!

I can't help but feel now, that this will lead to a new market where all classic books are repackaged with a new cover, claiming that "BLANK FICTIONAL CHARACTER's favourite book!" and then plastered with a poorly thought out cover to sell copy. This are classics which already sell well, they don't need to be revamped. I can't help but feel "The Illiad" will soon be republished with, "MAIN CHARACTER from 'Never Back Down's favourite book!" .

This is it, the world is over. Mahalo.

Lost: A Review

Recently, I ingested the entire five seasons J.J. Abrams' hit TV show "Lost" from beginning to end in barely a month. At first, I was a "Lost" hater - I hated it, and I enjoyed hating it and I wasn't in the mood to be budged on the matter. What was the worst about this was, I had never even watched it. I hated it purely based on the concept and false assumptions. But, I had to go and tell this to a rather pushy "Lost" fan, "Go on, watch the pilot episode if," he said, "if after that you don't want to watch any more of it, I won't push it." So I said fine. At the end of the movie-length premier, I was hooked and needed more "Lost". The complaints I had heard that it "all of a sudden" became a sci-fi show were, now, unfounded as "Lost" is in its essence, a sci-fi show. What's more, it's a good sci-fi show - which are rare to find. What's better is it was in the vein of the first season of "Heroes" and set in a very relatable real-world setting, but a lot less cheesy.

All the misconceptions I had had about the series turned out to be unfounded upon a proper viewing of the show. The show did not, as I thought, take place over a year each season but was actually a month, the first season being the first 44 days on the island - this created an interesting time paradox involving the actors and the events on the island - and it was not the only time paradox, as time is a predominant theme in the show.

What I found most intriguing about "Lost" is the surprising depth of it. To paraphrase a review given to the novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War", "Lost" is smarter than any sci-fi should has a right to be. Every character is based in some way around an historical figure or philosopher, the most obvious of which is the character of John Locke named after...well...John Locke. The 'main' character - a term I use loosely as a result of the inordinate number of main characters, the season six containing all previously seen twenty-six characters - Jack Sheppard seems to me to be based upon the famed Irish convict of the same name who is famous for escaping from prison something to the effect of fourteen times.

I have heard almost every possible interpretation of what "Lost" means, and what the Island is - that it's purgatory, that it's a prison, it's hell, it's not real, etc. etc. etc. ad infinatum. No one interpretation is right or wrong, and they are all well documented and correlated at LostPedia, an encyclopedia of everything that is "Lost".

For those of you who haven't seen "Lost" I won't be providing spoilers, so don't worry. The basic idea is that a plane crashes on a mysterious island, and somehow forty-seven or so people survive the crash - most of which are what we call "red shirts", named so after the character in "Star Trek" who would go down to the planet with the main characters and would...well...die, as they weren't leads, and they always wore red shirts. Of these, there are approximately 11-15 main characters at a time - it fluctuates as the seasons go on and characters die or are introduced. After some time on the island, they realize something is awry with the Island as they hear what they will frustratingly refer to as The Monster for five seasons, and soon realize they are not alone on the island. Major conspiracies, sci-fi concepts, philosophy and intriguing characters all make this show a worthwhile watch!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Longbox Blues: Deadpool #15-16, #900

I'm gonna come right out and say it: I'm a Deadpool fan.

I know, I know. Deadpool is the new Wolverine. An overused, annoying, whored-out character that isn't funny but brings in mucho $ for the House of Ideas.

It wasn't always this way. I should mention that I'm a fan of oldschool Deadpool, from the Joe Kelly era. That's right, back when the character had character, when there was depth to the Merc with a Mouth. When he was actually funny. Joe Kelly's Deadpool run actually made me laugh out loud at times, something that really doesn't happen when I read comics. Heck, I'm such a fan of that period of Deadpool history that I even dressed up as him for Halloween. (And yes, that post was written in character.)

I decided to check out Deadpool's new story: him joining the X-Men. Wait, didn't that already happen before, and didn't he get a way better costume than this new ugly yellow one?

Click to see full size
The issues began with a "Previously in Deadpool" page, which reminded me of the recap pages from Kelly-era Deadpool. That felt nice. Then I read the recap page and literally wondered "WTF."

Apparently, Wade got himself a crapload of money, bought a nuclear sub, sank it, used a tugboat to pull it, turned the tugboat into a pirate ship, tried to free the people of some island, and the sub exploded.

Since when did Deadpool become a rejected Family Guy sketch?

#15 started off strong. Stranded at sea, Wade starts to lose it. Or rather, continues to lose it. I couldn't help but think of Tales of the Black Freighter and the oldschool SNL "Land Shark" sketches (which Joe Kelly made a reference to back in '97), but that's probably just me.

He eventually gets back to shore, and the book climaxes in a very nonsensical scene that wasn't funny at all. #16 picks up soon afterwards, with Wade on the X-Men's island, applying to the team.

Cyclops later sends Domino to find Deadpool and to speak to him. Those two go way back. If I'm not mistaken, they both first appeared in New Mutants #98. The fight scene was supposed to be entertaining, but ultimately fell very, very flat. Pun NOT intended.

The jokes were lame, the story didn't make sense, and Wade looks like a freakin' burn victim rather than the disfigured monster he's supposed to be. I won't be writing about the rest of the arc because I'm not going to be reading it.

I also decided to pick up Deadpool #900. I figured that if any modern Deadpool book could be good, it would be a super-sized collection of short Deadpool stories by different people. Hell, Joe Kelly was even writing one!

#900 is a series of unrelated, uninteresting, and unoriginal short stories featuring Deadpool. Modern "lol, i has 2 vioces in mah hed" Deadpool. One of the tales was an homage to Deadpool #42, "Silent But Deadly Interlude," which in turn was an homage to G.I. Joe #21, "Silent Interlude." That one was OK. Watching Wade noiselessly fight mimes was strange in a good way, but the plot made little sense. Another featured Deadpool and a shrink. It was very bizarre, and I can honestly say that it was the only story in the book that I actually liked. The Joe Kelly story, unfortunately, was drawn by [shudder] Rob Liefeld. I know that it's only fair, since he DID co-create the character, but seriously, that man should not be allowed near pencils or any other stationary paraphernalia. The story itself wasn't good, nor funny, though it did give readers a glimpse into Wade's childhood, and into Deadpool's mysterious pouches. And the final story is a reprint of Deadpool Team-Up #1, which was awful and really felt like something out of a Wolverine story.

It's hard to be a Deadpool fan. I was disappointed by all of those books and I really don't like what they've done with/to the character. I'll go hug my Classic Deadpool trades and cry myself to sleep, I guess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Accurate Look At: "This Is It"

This review will be shorter than most due to the nature of the film.

This Is It is not about Michael Jackson. It is not about his life, it is not about his death, though it does provide details about him as a person. At very least, one aspect of him - his level of commitment to his art.

This Is It follows the making-of process of what was to be Michael Jackson's ultimate concert. That's pretty much all you need to know. As you'd expect from a Michael Jackson performance, it is a treat to watch and listen to.

Plenty of behind-the-scenes footage is shown: choreography, makeup/costumes, special effects, lighting, etc. You really get a sense of how much of a perfectionist Michael Jackson was in terms of his music. The film features some of his all-time classics (I won't name any songs to prevent spoilers) and to see them come to life in such wonderful, strange, and unexpected ways was nothing short of amazing.

If you are a fan of Michael Jackson, you really need to see This Is It. And stay for the credits. The extra little bonuses at the end of the credits are worth it. One of them in particular made me day.