second autumn

(no subject)

In the center of town was a group of people campaigning with signs that said "Honk if you've had enough!" Naturally, there was a great deal of honking, as "enough" is appropriately Tea Party vague in its angriness. Enough of taxes? Oil spills? Masturbation? The important thing is Raraaghhrrwawwrrgruarrar.
second autumn

(no subject)

Doing my entry yesterday, I started thinking about the different fantasy archetypes. They can be divided in all sorts of ways: Magicians/Fighters, Magicians/Fighters/Rogues, Magicians/Priests/Knights/Barbarians etc. But the general point is, as time goes on, magic users become more and more common. It seems strange when you compare it to a lot earlier fantasies. In Lord of the Rings, there are only five true wizards, and I imagine combined with sorcerors, you only roughly get one non-Elvish magic user per sovereign nation. "Wizarding schools" were not particularly common, in fact, when Gandalf or Merlin took pupils, it was in lore, not wizardy, they instructed them in. (With a notable exception on Merlin's part, and I'll get to that in a bit) In fact, the earliest example I can find of such a school with a multiple student body was Scholomance, a Transylvanian institute run by the devil. So why are wizards, witches, or whatever you want to call them, so much more common?

The first and easy answer is that we're a more secular society, so we don't flinch as much to magic. It's usually the result of some neutral, all--powerful force, not bargaining with demonds. At least in cases where the magic-using populace is pretty large; Pact magic is still used in cases where magicians aren't very common and I suppose, when not part of the main course. Having magic have a "cost" makes for less escapism, and potentially a less likeable lead.

Secondly, it's a reflection of our society on a technological level, and the values that ensue. When we have inventions that can allow us to see in the dark, travel great distances, and communicate with the other side of the globe, it takes a lot more to wow us. Granted, a lot of period pieces are still popular, but this is the thing; Most period fiction has emphasized more and more, how different and maybe difficult it was in olden times. In our relatively comfy, anti-septic lives, it's exotic. But there's a risk to throwing too moderate an amount of magic to the mix, because then you sanitize that setting, and a sanitized, non-modern setting is neither familiar, nor compelling. If it's not going to be heart-breakingly gritty, it should be wondrous, and that takes a lot in the age of cell-phones that can do anything. I wouldn't be surprised to find, in the real world, magic feats in folklore escalated as technology improved. (Grimm's fairy tales were collected not too long before the Industrial Revolution)

Similarly, in such a high-tech heavy era, we have relocated what we value as assets in human beings. The Knight in shining armor types are not trendy right now. What we have are dirty, gritty antiheroes, or brainy, introspective sorts, which, in fantasy settings, are wizards. I mentioned yesterday how people kind of switch technology/science as the setting goes, and the more intellectual and less brawny folks that make up our engineers and scientists are seen as more important on the world stage. (Or at least, the bookish, possibly outcast people more likely to read and write these books in the first place) Also, it may be our aspirations towards egalitarianism at work. If Middle Earth only has as many wizards as it does monarchs, what happens when we have a house of representatives. While hardly "populist", there is a sentiment that maybe power should be shared a little bit.

And finally, I think it's the equality of women, to a certain extent. If there's one area that women weren't given a lack of spotlight in folklore, it was the realm of magic. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be flattering. But as women and witchcraft are both less marginalized, what was once meant to be a mutual slander is now a beneficial partnership. Because a good sized chunk of half the population was good at it, why not play it up? Maybe the stud muffin of the party is good with the sword, but the woman is handy with the universe.
second autumn

(no subject)

This is pretty damn cool: A print that depicts the Marvel universe as a high-fantasy version of itself. I think only hardcore, really hardcore geeks will be able to spot every one.

Of course, this is far from the first time people have played with this gimmick. There was an issue of The Avengers where they were all transported to medieval times (In fact, it was part of their 1998 relaunch), there was some kind of miniseries about it in 2003 or something, and of course, we had Neil Gaiman's 1602, though that was actually really trippy sci-fi as opposed to sword and sorcery. Whenever people play with that concept, some heroes are easier to reimagine than others. Iron Man is made into a knight in a few short steps, Wolverine is easily reinterpreted as a barbarian (or, when he was less of a leading character, a demi-human creature), and Professor X is often made a wizard of some kind. Some characters don't always take to it like a duck to water.

Mr Fantastic: Whenever I see his stretchy powers put into a fantasy setting, something just feels "off". I think there a few reasons for this: One is that Reed Richards is Mister SCIENCE!, and while "wizard" is often code for "scientist" when switching genres, I don't think I've ever been comfortable with that translation. The second is that Reed Richards just looks weird with long hair. He is too much of a square in any setting. One might as well give him a pageboy bowl cut. The third is the etymology of his powers. The first stretchy superhero was Plastic Man, who was not only named after a modern substance, but kind of ran on the novelty of taking golden age studio cartoons and translating them to superheroic action. So what you have is an archetype based on a lot of things that simply don't exist in fairy tale settings. It's not like being a shape shifter is unheard of in myth and legend--in fact, it's quite common. But the "controlled chaos" of rubber powers are a bit unprecedented. (Although I may just not have looked heard enough. There has to be some kind of story in China or India about a guy who can stretch his limbs)

Cyclops: Sometimes people take the weird choice of turning him into a literal cyclops, as the print above did. That doesn't quite work, because Cyclops is supposed to be generally a pretty boy. In fact, he's supposed to be the archetype of the clean-cut action hero, which would be common in yarns from any era. But then he has the eye thing. It's actually pretty easy to reinterpret it in a fantasy setting, since his powers are a curse. I think the major issue is his niche. Cyclops is ultimately too boring to support his own adventures, but he has thrived in his own way because of what he brings to the X-Men franchise. But if you dial back the era and say, turn the X-Mansion into more of a Hogwarts setting*, he becomes a little out of place. He's not well suited to be a magician, because his power only does one thing. You can't turn him into a fighter, because his power is not that physical. You can't integrate him into the greater Marvel universe, because as a regular superhero, he's a background figure. I'm not saying one can't put him in a fantasy setting and make him interesting, (Quite the contrary) simply that he's not as simple as putting on chainmail or robes or turning him into a creature. Plus, his powers are very atomic age.

Spider-Man: In my comics as mythology entry, I talked about how Spider-Man seemed like the kind of character that could only arise in a setting with very tall buildings. He is fundamentally adapted to sprawling, urban environments. However, he could still make his home in a city of 60,000 or so, and try swinging from tall trees. However, Spidey seems to be the most all over the place whenever people put him in these settings. I've seen him made into a knight, into monster, into some weird bandit-thing. I think writers and artists need to sort of step back and see what kind of place he occupies in today's culture. Does Spider-Man resemble any of today's given heroes (Like soliders or firemen)? Can you picture him in body armor, or a leather jacket? Does he even resemble, say, an athlete? (Who wear colorful tights, but it's still not the same) Spider-Man often doesn't resemble his own superheroic compatriots, except for the embracing of primary colors. He's just weird. Keep in mind his own origin involves him trying to be an entertainer first. I think if you were to put him in the fantasy/medieivalish arena, he should have a get-up that's unusual, even for the time. Play him up as a Scaramouch figure, sort of a heroic version of the Joker. Who of course, is easy to imagine in this setting.
second autumn

(no subject)

Last night was the debut of No Ordinary Family. I've seen a few people bitching and moaning that it's a rip-off of The Incredibles and Heroes. For the first point; The Incredibles (Which I did love) was already a riff on Fantastic Four. On the second point, that is the dumbest thing a single person can say about television ever. Like, if someone were to say "Arrested Development is no Two and a Half Men", they would deserve a "you're stupid" punch less. In fact, I would let that person do the punching, and get him a drink for his exertion. I would give Jay Leno eggs to throw at Conan O'Brien before I acknowledged ripping off Heroes was possible, let alone unfair on the show's behalf.

I really had no interest in the show, but if it's going to butthurt so many second-hand fans of the genre, I am now hoping it's around for a while.
second autumn

(no subject)

Okay, why am I getting random comments about Harry Potter, which actually look like orphaned replies to erstwhile discussions, to my most recent posts?
second autumn

(no subject)

I always get bummed/fearful over early foliage seasons, and word is that the dry, hot summer will certainly hurt it this year. (Pretty ironic as RI had flooding issues back in April) this map however doesn't look so different from this map, and 2007 was one of the warmer years, too. Of course, they don't even have reports from Rhode Island anymore, so who knows? But yeah, at this point I'm not expecting way too much.
second autumn

(no subject)

The guy who wrote the episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumped the proverbial-to-be shark has written a piece for the LA Times, and well, this person has not taken his place in cultural history very well it seems. In fact, he gets outright defensive at times. (Often pulling ratings defense)

But he does ask a valid question; Why that phrase? I think just about every TV show that didn't fit under the umbrella of "struggling" had some point where it just outstayed its welcome and we all knew it. So why is the shark episode singled out? I don't think it was the absurdity or contrivance of that plot even. I think it's down to two things:

The first is, it's just plain catchy. Some animals are inherently comic, like cows. And in this pop-culture era, where we embrace high concept exaggerations of certain characteristics, in this case "badassery" or "danger", sharks and bears have become comic elements, like Chuck Norrises of the animal kingdom.

Secondly, I think it works pretty well outside the context of the show. Actually, when I first heard the phrase, I didn't really remember the Happy Days episode very much. In fact, I was disappointed when I saw it, because it was completely without incident. "Jumping the shark" just sounds like an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially in real life. If someone never heard of Happy Days, they would say "Yeah, trying to jump a shark sounds like the beginning of the end for someone) (I wager their imaginations would even take them to a place where the jump was not successful)

On TV tropes, one of the character names to stick around was "The Libby". Is Sabrina the Teenage Witch that much of a touchstone in and of itself. No, but "Libby" just sounds like the name of a conceited and well-to-do young lady who steps hard on every rung on the social ladder. Any wordsmith will tell you the key to sneaking in phrases and expressions into our actual language is to make it sound like it's been there the whole time.
second autumn

(no subject)

Wow, this article on Saturday Night Live's one season wonders is terribly, terribly researched. Just some errors off the bat;

1) Casey Wilson was on for two seasons. I'm sure she would feel great about seeing her name on the list.

2) Michael McKean was also on for two seasons, halfway through the 93-94 one. He was also not the first former host to join the cast; That was Bily Crystal.

3) Morwenna Banks was not a featured player, although she had less screen time than actual featured player, Laura Kightlinger.

The list also is also very in its criteria, as you know, a pet peeve of mine, because it means these guys can make their list look like whatever they want. Brief but memorable stint? (Martin Short) Talented comedien who was a bad fit and left on shaky terms? (Janeane Garafolo?) Novel idea gone horribly wrong? (Anthony Michael Hall) An inauspicious performer who went on to a pretty good career? So I don't know what to disagree with per se, but some pretty big omissions could include Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Damon Wayans, David Kocechner, Danitra Vance (If one wants to criticize SNL's impenetrable club-ness, and she tried much harder than Janeane Garafolo) Christopher Guest and of course, the aforementioned Billy Crystal. Also, Chevy Chase technically did two seasons, but his stint was shorter than Michael McKean's. So all in all, I'm not sure what the writer was trying to go for here.
second autumn

(no subject)

How sad is it I haven't changed my default icon in so long it's about to be appropriate again?

Today was my last swim of the year, and it was an angry swim. A lot of people were annoyed by the 90 degree week, but I kind of welcomed it, as the last couple of summers in Rhode Island did not feel like summer, and I was quite ready for a change of pace. Also, because the end of summer often depresses me. It's probably not uncommon, but I find it odd since I love Autumn so much. Maybe because August has historically been the month shit goes down, that things are less carefree, or maybe a biological reaction to shortening days. But I was glad to get a good, quintessential summer week before moving on.
second autumn

(no subject)

I've seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World controversy, which is pretty astounding, because the movie is a visual treat, but not really worth the crusade on either side. Fans take dislike too personally, and haters are vexed the film even exists. Of course, this isn't anything new, but I do see back and forth arguments about the traits of the main character who, to put it gently, is a consummate ne'er do well. Less gently, he habitually treats his closest like crap, without even meaning to. But once again, I always find it strange when people point at a comedy and wonder aloud where all the heroes have gone.

I was actually thinking of comedy protagonists who are not dicks, and I have been scratching my head over it. From all gender demographics and time periods, it seems everything from Sabrina to Ferris Bueller's Day Off is driven by some kind of sociopathy from the main characters. (In fact, looking at some films in the 70's, playing the field was treated as a right for male characters, never mind being called on it) I think the reason so many times a comedic character is an as is because of the nature of comedy...a lot of comedy is about failure. And failure is less funny to someone who doesn't deserve it as much, and we're bound to have less pratfalls from somebody with less shit between their ears. When Al Franken took his Saturday Night Live character to theaters with Staurt Saves His Family, we got a heartrending and affirming movie...that was not very funny for most of it. A lot of it was discomfort as the main character timidly tried to do the right thing and was unable to control his family falling apart. If the character is not flawed enough, it cuts down storytelling possibilities. I mean, one of the longest-lived and most beloved sitcoms had, as its main character, a complete bigot.

There is one major exception...if you can't make your main character a bit of an ass, you have to dull their senses. Maybe they're dumb as a brick. Maybe they been so entrenched in their subculture and life of leisure they've never applied their hidden genius. (Cluelesse, Bill& Ted's Excellent Adventure.) Maybe they're simply so divorced from civilization, they're given some kind of good-natured naivete. (George of the Jungle, Lil' Abner.) You get leads with more moral character, but if not done right can smack of anti-intellectualism, and can attract people who take it at face value, both pro and con side. (If you think hipster-hate is powerful, surfers was totally seen as cultural Armageddon. As it was, we just moved onto something else.) Of course, sometimes you have something like Biodome where they're both airheaded and jerks, but you need a bit more skill and a lot of audacity to pull that off.