Friday, May 19, 2006

Ozymandias - Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I've been all over the internet in the last little while, and discovered a nice variety of sites that everyone should become familiar with. It seems I've finally figured out the full potential of the DIY Knowledge Pool that is the internet. I figure I might as well offer a comprehensive list of the many online havens I've found, for entertainment, information and, of course, infotainment.

Monkeycube - First on my list, I've been aware of, and at times actively involved with, this website that came in on the first wave of blogging. It used to be occasional rants ranging from the rational to the nonsensical, but it recently underwent an overhaul, and is now a more typical blog in format, but the Monkey is still anything but typical in his style. Still waiting for the forums to come back though.

Something Awful - This site doesn't need my help to get traffic. A source of highly irreverent humor and endless amusement, Something Awful also boasts a huge forum community, something around seventy thousand members, you can find conversation or information on just about any subject you want. Due to bandwidth needs on such a large forum, it costs ten dollars to join, but that'll be the best ten bucks you ever spend on the internet.

Die Puny Humans - This site is only about a week old, and already among my favorites. Founded by popular comic writer Warren Ellis, a devotee of all things shiny and new, this forum is used by its members to track outbreaks of the future. Discussions range from amazing new technologies, to behavioral studies to talk of the sociopolitical climate and speculation on the Grim Meathook Future that many puny humans have come to fear.

Wikipedia - Ok, I don't know anyone who doesn't already know about this, but it still gets a place on my list. The figurehead of the DIY Knowledge Pool, Wikipedia lets anyone become an authority on anything. Of course, there is always the risk of inaccurate information, but it's still a good place to start on an online research trip.

Christian FAQ - Sites like this are tragically rare. What we get here is a series of FAQ, namely the common questions that dog Christians of all kinds, answered by a Christian who is not a crazy fundamentalist, not an ultraconservative, and also not a radical liberal. the moderate point of view put forward is impressively reasonable and remarkably easy to agree with.

Encyclopedia Mythica - This is an amazing resource for anyone looking for information on just about any type of mythology, from pantheons, to places to people to critters. Definitely an excellent site.

First Church of Xenu, and Lermanet - Three sites devoted to the dissemination of information that will hopefully lead to the downfall of one of the most despicable organizations currently existing in the world: The Church of Scientology.

That's about all I can think of for now. If I think of any more sites important enough to show the world, I'll be sure to update further.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

V vs V

When I heard about the production of a cinematic rendition of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel, V For Vendetta, I knew that I would have to read the book before I saw the film. Such a compulsion is in my disposition. After I read the graphic novel, I found myself wondering how exactly they could translate it into a movie, as it was so very complete, so very literary. I was certain that something would be lost in translation. Finally, tonight, I got around to viewing the film V For Vendetta, adapted to the screen by the Wachowski brothers. Ordinarily, when writing up a movie, I treat it as a typical review, focusing on the cinematics, the acting, on who was who and how did they do. For that bit of this particular piece, I will spare this much text: The movie was excellent. Go see it, but don't bring your kids. Someone brought their kids tonight, and the poor children simply didn't get it.

Instead of focusing my attention on the movie, I will focus on the story, by making comparison between the film and the graphic novel, which you should read, but again, your children, or less intelligent relatives should not. I will also warn you right now, in bold print, so I can't be held accountable if you don't read it: This piece will contain spoilers. I intend to analyse the story, and I can't do that without talking about what happens.

Of course, the main focus of the movie posters and comic book covers is the title character, the mysterious V. But the character truly central to the story is Evey, as she is very much our guide in V's world. The closest we can get to it is by living through her, and this makes her the most important character in the story. She is us, for the time we are reading or watching. In the comic, she is a sixteen year old girl whose life and experiences have left her wanting in the childhood department, so over the course of her time in V's shadow gallery, she appears to relive her childhood, perhaps even regressing somewhat to a younger version of herself. In all, she spends more than half of the book looking very young and naive. In the movie, she was portrayed by Natalie Portman, who is most definitely not sixteen, nor really the seventeen they indirectly claimed Evey to be near the beginning. She doesn't play the character as young at heart either, giving us a much more jaded Evey, who still carries that little girl's fear with her, though she buries it beneath the false face of adulthood. Over the course of both the book and the movie, Evey's demeanour is assaulted, the childlike/adult exterior chipped away until first there is only her fear, then anger, and finally conviction. After this point, the movie steps away from Evey, while the book keeps her in V's world, and allows us an insight into her new perspective. The primary difference between the graphic novel and the film is the end. In the film, we see Evey complete V's work, but remain outside of it, still something of a spectator, with a minimal influence. In the book, she quite literally takes up V's mantle, and her evolution is completed when she replaces her guardian and mentor, and becomes something other than herself. She replaces the frail flesh of a human being with the immutability of an idea. In the end, the story is as much about Evey's identity as it is about V's crusade.

England itself is a character in this story, presented by two faces: the face of the people, and the face of the government. In V's England, the balance of power has shifted to a new totalitarian regime. In the book, this regime is personified directly, its parts referred to anatomically as The Eye, in charge of video surveillance of the people, The Ear as the wiretapping and eavesdropping division, The Nose as the investigative department, The Voice as the center of propaganda, The Finger as the often brutal police force, and The Head as the controlling center of it all. In the movie, this distinction is barely alluded to, though the characters who represent those departments are still present and accounted for, and they still play their roles appropriately. In the novel, we spend much of our time watching this government, which has held power through fear and absolute control of information, begin to buckle under the strain brought on by V's terrorism. The more V does, the less they can cover up, and the less they are in control. The same rings true for the movie, but the book, with the attention to detail often possible only in literature, allows us to watch the deterioration of every individual aspect up close and personal. By the same token, we are privileged to watch the metamorphosis of the people of England, as the power of the government's tyranny slowly wanes. In both movie and book, we get to watch a people cowed by the status quo become strengthened by the demand for change, and a cry for individual accountability. One might think the obvious moral would be one of individuality. In my own opinion, both the book and the movie make the point, by their imagery, that anarchy is uniform. V makes the point that anarchy arises once chaos has run its course, and that it is not the lack of order, it is the lack of leadership. Anarchy, V says, is voluntary order. That is to say, the people will fall into their own rank and file, a natural order that is still uniform. In the book, the uniformity that is as inherent to revolution as it is to regime is only alluded to in the background imagery, of the people all standing agape, the same expression, the same colour washing over them, and likely, the same thought in their heads. In the movie, they take this image one step farther, and give all the people the face of V.

And so finally, we settle on the title role. V, the terrorist, the revolutionary. The hero or the monster. His treatment in both graphic novel and in film is masterful, but for one discrepancy. At the beginning of the movie, they make reference to the difference between a man and an idea. That a man can be broken, discredited and destroyed, while an idea, even in the form of a man, is immaculate and immortal. V is presented throughout as the idea. He is not the revolutionary, he is the revolution, and is, as such, untouchable. But in the movie, they put a crack in the facade. The relationship between V and Evey is an important one, and is a very deep bond. It could be said that Evey's relationship with V is representative of every relationship she has ever had, and as such the bond is intense. But in the movie they take it one step in the wrong direction, when they attempt to turn that bond into a romance. Suddenly, V has a weakness, and it shows. Not to his enemies, who do not know him. Nor does it show to the people, who see only what he shows them. The vulnerability of the man behind the mask becomes plain to us, the viewer, the spectator in this grand game. With one kiss, one broken mirror, and one brief conversation, the illusion is fractured. V is powerful, V is confident, V is brilliant and unrelenting. But now, V is mortal, and this mortality is shown to us mere moments before his death. In both the book and the movie, he knows death is coming for him, and he goes to meet it readily, on his own terms. But in the book, he leaves behind the shape of his idea, which manifests itself in another being, prepared, instinctively, to take his place. In the movie, he leaves behind a corpse, and the idea is spread to the wind like ashes, settling itself on all of England, and implanting itself in the people.

Concluding from all points above, the difference between the movie V For Vendetta and the graphic novel on which it is based is most clearly summed up in the ending. In one, the face of the revolution is passed on to an heir, and V continues to walk as a solitary figure at the head of a revolution. In the other, as the man who carried the idea died, the idea itself chose all of London as its face, and the revolution became the property and responsibility of the people, who were now meant to lead themselves. Which of the two interpretations is the more valid is a subject open to lengthy discussion.

Finally, there is one lesson that is carried by the story, in both media, that should not be forgotten by everyone: Do not forget fear, and do not succumb to it. Out of fear, the people of England gave up their liberties in favor of security, and they found that the fear did not go away. Out of fear, Evey retreated from the world, only to find the fear was still there when she finally stepped back outside. Only when she was forced to go beyond fear, to face it and escape its cycle did Evey learn the meaning of strength, and freedom. And only when the people of London stood up against those who held them in the grip of fear did they understand the strength of themselves, and the freedom of the revolution.

Courage, idealism and truth are the key figures of freedom. That, by my opinion, is the message being delivered by V For Vendetta. We must conquer our fear, embrace an idea and fight for the truth. I will leave you with the words V gave to Evey: Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici. By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe.

Conquer fear, conquer silence. Conquer the universe: Live the idea. Be the revolution.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Second Coming - WB Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Shouting at the Wall - Comic Book Trademarks

It was recently brought to the attention of the western world of comic consumers that the trademark for the words "superhero" and "super hero" belong to the two biggest comic book companies in existence, DC and Marvel, and they are attempting to add "super-hero" to the list. The response to this came mostly in the form of incensed bloggers and "copyright experts" bemoaning the destruction of free expression, as now no one will be able to talk about superheroes if they don't do it for DC or Marvel. The companies are taking harsh criticism from these internet savants for their "repugnant" effort to destroy freedom of expression by stealing superheroes from the rest of the world.

There are some facts missing from most of the epithets being cast so venomously at these horrible evil organizations. First: They have jointly held this trademark since the sixties. If there were any cause to get up in arms, you're all somewhere between thirty and forty years too late. Second: the exact ramifications of Marvel and DC owning this trademark. The full effect is as follows: No one outside the companies that own the trademark may use the trademarked words in any context in which those words are used to draw profit. What that means, in this particular context, is that other companies cannot use the words "superhero" or "super hero" to market their products, such as toys, movies, breakfast cereal, drugs, and, of course, comics. If the efforts of Marvel and DC are successful, then the same will apply to "super-hero" The pedestrian world at large seems to think that this means other companies can't even mention superheroes in their comics. The world of people who actually know something about trademark laws has a slightly different spin on it. Comic companies that are not Marvel or DC cannot use the trademarked words in the titles, or anywhere on the covers of their comics. That is all. They can say "superhero" "super hero", or "super-hero" within the actual content of the comics until they're blue in the face.

Now some may ask "But if we can't use those words in our titles, or out marketing, doesn't that mean we have to change a lot of titles?" To which I respond with another question: How many comics can you name with any variation of the word "superhero" in the title, or anywhere on the cover? I can name two: The Legion of Superheroes, which is a DC title, and probably the whole reason this started 30 years ago, and Invincible, which has recently been marketed as "The best super-hero comic ever", or something like that. Image comics can get along just fine without calling Invincible "LOL BEST SUPER-HERO EVAR!" It sells perfectly fine on its own. If they successfully add "super-hero" to their harem, which doesn't seem too likely anyway, almost nothing will change. No one but the most nitpicky will even notice when Image changes their marketing campaign for the one title that cares.

So, to summarize: DC and Marvel own the trademark to some words that start with "su" and end with "ero". They are trying to add a new "su-ero" word to their word-hoarde. That will mean that other comic makers won't be able to use that word in their titles or on their action figures. No one involved in the making of comics will notice, because no one wants to use the word "superhero" in their titles anyway, because it usually looks really stupid in print. The only people getting up in arms about this are the people who don't know any better and think that DC and Marvel are "stealing superheroes from us", and probably some indie comic companies that want to gain some good press by hitting the Big Two with bad publicity. This whole thing will blow over in less than a month.

And most importantly: It already happened over thirty years ago. These brilliant fuckers are about a generation behind in their whining. If something was going to be done about it, you missed your chance by a long shot. Let them have the words, let them try to take their new word. Nobody who matters cares.

And to the Space Network: Having a copyright expert on to discuss an issue relating to trademark laws was very stupid. You are a great disappointment to your mother and I. Even though Kim Poirier is very fine.

Damn, is she fine.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pissing on the avant garde

I hang around with a lot of smart people. You know who you are, even if you won't admit to it. People who hold to a certain standard of intellect, creativity and personality. I also have encountered many people who believe they are of such a grade. People who must be in the top tenth percentile, because they read all the right books, quote all the right philosophers. Often, they're reading the exact same thing you're reading, listening to the same music.

Then you ask them what it means, and they give you an elaborate answer that you recall reading in a magazine or online somewhere. And you can see them casting their eyes upward as people often do when reciting something from memory. That's how you identify the fakers, the ones just along for the ride so long as being smart is trendy.

These people need to stop. It's obvious that they must have some intellect, they can at least read, they can memorize soundbites. They are at LEAST on the level of a parrot, or a trained monkey. They should be able to actually better themselves and provide themselves some intellectual wealth, rather than this fool's gold they're using to jerk off their academic egoes.

So long as you are using intelligence as an image, you are cheapening it. And you are cheapening your own experience by devouring every scrap of pseudo-educated nonsense that appears avant-garde enough to develop a following of sychopants just like you, thus skyrocketing the intellectual equivalents of pre-fab popstars into prominence and burying the truly great minds under greed-motivated bullshit.

Anyone who's looking can see it. It is as in all aspects of modern culture. Simulated greatness, fueled by commerce. Trading on the human mind and reducing what was once a great culture of thinkers into just another Pepsi generation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A vote for change.....sort of

It seems to me that I am surrounded by alarmists. The Conservative party has taken a measure of power, and now many people think that we're all going to be Heiling Harper. Gay marriage is lost, all our natural resources will be handed over to the US for a pat on the head, prayer is going to be reintroduced to schools!

As an explanation to any readers outside of Canada, who might not be in the know, we just had our second election in as many years. Paul Martin's Liberal minority government fell to a vote of no confidence, triggering a new campaign. Stephen Harper's Conservative party stepped into the gap with their own minority government. Harper has made several pledges that have distressed a great many liberal voters, including putting the gay marriage decision, which was already made by the federal supreme court, up to a free vote in parliament, in the hope that the right to marry will be taken away from gay couples. This is the example that many people both in the media and among the masses are using to paint Harper as a right-wing demagogue. Of course, he's not doing much to prove that he isn't...

It's no one's fault that they believe we're doomed though, as always the propaganda machine is more powerful than truth. The Liberals clung to power by extolling the horrific evils of the Conservatives. As always, the media spun both sides of the battle into caricatures of themselves. And now so many left-wing voters ahave been led to believe the Antichrist is in power. Soon we will be the fifty-first state of America. All hail the mighty Bush.

You can stop worrying. It's not going to happen.

The Conservatives are a minority government. They can't change anything without going through the other parties in the house. the Liberals and the NDP will put forward a united front. The Blod Quebecois is something of an enigma at the moment, but with Paul Martin giving up the Liberal leadership, they may be convinced to side with the Liberals against Harper's more preposterous ideas. People are largely afraid that Harper's proposed free vote is going to eliminate gay marriage. Here is the worst case scenario: Harper gets what he wants, the House says "Gays can't marry." The Supreme Court subsequently says "Yes, they can." Nothing changes, and Harper loses support. My only concern is that he plans on fucking around the tax brackets, which may cost poor losers like me in the long run. However, I give it a couple of years until the Liberals, revitalised with new leadership, come sweeping in, and it all starts over. If Harper makes any suggestions that sound like pandering to the Bush administration, he will be met with fierce resistance, probably involving questions directed to his moral character, much likes the ones already being directed. It's more likely that Harper's government will recognize their limited power for what it is - a probationary position. The worst thing they could do now is rock the boat.

The result we got this election was the best result we could have gotten. The Liberals have been given a clear message, the Conservatives have been given a short leash, and the NDP is still not in charge. We'll be fine.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Charge of the Light Brigade - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one had blundered:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre-stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

In an effort to be intellectually stimulating....

Once a month, I will post a poem. These poems will not be written by me, as I prefer my dignity intact. The effort here will be to enrich the minds of anyone who happens to read this. As I understand, no one reads this blog, so at least it won't bother anyone. These poems will be chosen according to only one guideline: poems I happen to like. Poetry is often either underappreciated, or hijacked by barely literate sycophants who think a few lines of poorly assembled verse will make them the next tragic hero of the miserbale human condition. To put it bluntly, most poetry is rancid crap. I will make a point of posting poems that don't suck. If you've had some literary education in your life, there's a good chance you may have already read them. If you haven't read them, no big deal, now's your chance. Enjoy.