“Good”, “Fun”, and Kim Jong-il

A portrait of a black, scaly, golden-eyed, horned, and very artificial looking dragon: North Korea's 'Pulgasari'.Given where I’m trying to go with my career at this point, I’ve had to build up (what I hope is) a deep and nuanced understanding of media. What I think of a given book or film is going to be a detailed opinion, with a lot of ‘this worked, this didn’t, here’s perhaps why’ for anyone who is interested in those details. I’m sure most or all media critics say the same thing, but there is one thing I refuse to do like the stereotypical critic, and that is be snobbish.

Specifically, I’ve realized that I think of any movie is to sort them into or out of three overlapping categories, and I mention this because I think most critics tend to collapse these into a single set: “Good”, “Fun”, and “I Liked It”. I’m going to talk about the difference a little, and then tell you what the truly amazing monster in the attached picture is. If, like me, you have a taste for the awful or absurd, I think you will need this guy in your life. [Read more…]

Living Mythos: Fuck You, Jobu.

Screenshot from the movie "Major League". A fit, shirtless man holds the flame of a lighter to a cigar in the mouth of a short wild-haired voodoo loa figurine in a locker.

People will find transformation and transcendence in a McDonald’s hash brown if it’s all they’ve got. – Patton Oswalt

I’m a huge believer in taking your inspiration anywhere you find it. Anything that makes your life better, gives you focus, helps you live, no matter where it comes from is a good thing. Even if it was from something as horrible as Mein Kampf, as long as it doesn’t encourage you to hurt others along the way. The ‘philosophy’ I am going to talk about here is not from anything like that, though it is from a strange place to find inspiration: a crude, dude-ish, unthinkingly-problematic-product-of-its-time 1989 sports movie called Major League.

Major League is in every way an 80s sports comedy movie. A group of misfits wind up on a team together, drive each other insane for a while, get molded into shape by a kindly old mentor figure, and – genre-wide spoiler alert – ultimately defeat the much more professional and well-oiled Bad Guy Team in an exciting last-minute sportsball upset. Along the way there are funny moments and crude moments and touching moments and crude moments that were considered funny when it was made. Major League in specific is of course a baseball movie about a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians (years before the mainstream were talking about the problems inherent in that name and logo), and if you can get past the dudebro 80sness of it, it is actually quite a good example of the genre. As a writer, I’m always impressed by how virtually all the main characters each got a moment to be the big hero during the inevitable bottom-of-the-ninth showdown against the New York Yankees, and it is the the one of these who made the others possible whose hero moment has a valuable lesson. [Read more…]

Spoons Hammered Flat

A collection of souvenir silver spoons with enamel coats of arms on their handles. Photo by Lourdes Cardenal via Wikimedia Commons.So, those of you who followed me may have noticed that my blog spiked and then slowed a great deal. There’s more than one reason for this, and it seems like that might be something worth talking about.

The main thing, I think, is that I do have a pretty busy life! I was excited to have this new platform so I went a bit intense at it at first. Things are now settling down to the level that I think will be sustainable: one or two posts a week, plus a few smaller bits and pieces from time to time like the double dactyls. I’m very definitely not quitting, I have two drafts for bigger posts partly done and a whole raft of things in the pipeline.

What I have noticed, however, is that blogging is a pretty vulnerable act, for me at least. Not only does it involve putting one’s thoughts and feelings out there to be picked at, but FtB has always been a principled network that attracts detractors, people for whom the cruelty is the point as much as any MAGA-hat-wearer, people who enjoy taking pieces out of anyone who exists here. Now, I knew that when I applied and have no regrets about it, but it really does take a toll, at least enough of one that it adds an extra layer of emotional cost to creating blog posts. [Read more…]

Sunday Fakespeare: The Breakers of Spirit

Shakespeare's WardRHYS
Hail Gol-Goroth, hail Lord of Ruin dire!
We greet you with a great respect and awe.
But hark, we bear a vital message for
your great and august self. Our country dear,
fair York, its folk and King, hath sent us hence
and in their name, now hear ye this: depart!
Forthwith, go, quit this place anon, and cease
your magics fell and dark. Begone at once,
to whatsoever land or eldritch place
from whence you came’st, or else some isle remote
as you prefer – but go, and go at once.

[Read more…]

How Fanbros Stifle Critique

A screenshot of The Simpsons in which Comic Book Guy stands behind his shop counter telling Bart "Without a doubt the worst episode ever"[Possible indirect spoilers for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’.]

Here we are on the Internet in the year 2020, so I’m going to take the leap that my readers do not need a primer on toxic fandom and the entitled fanbros who engage in it. We’ve seen Gamergate rise and fall and be subsumed into the Alt-Right and Trumpists; heard the howling shrieks about “Fake Geek Girls“; and seen them gatekeep everything from Sherlock Holmes to Steven Universe with weird trivia demands. They are the ones I tend to think of as the ‘acquisitive’ fans, who care immensely about canon and trivia and feel like they can take ownership of the act of liking a franchise, in contrast to the ‘creative’ fans who create art and fanfiction and tend to use their fandoms as a joyous jumping-off point for other work.

We’ve also seen them absolutely shit themselves trying to shut down any critique of the things they love (and believe therefore are Objectively Excellent). We’ve seen them scream “feminism is cancer” at Anita Sarkeesian until their throats are bloody with hate. In this respect, how they stifle critique is obvious and direct, and even outright stated as an objective. This is not the kind of stifling I’m going to talk about; instead, I want to examine the subtler stifling of critique that happens if someone in part agrees with them. [Read more…]

Living Mythos: Molly Grue’s Mistake

Screencap of the scene from 'The Last Unicorn' where grizzled, cynical Molly Grue meets the Unicorn for the first time. She says, "Where were you when I was new?"I’ve held off on this sort of topic a little. Now that I come to think of it, the reason for that is actually a sort of faint internalized shame, so now I am going to take a dose of the medicine I offered in my previous post and go for it.

Starting today, I will from time to time dip into one of my favorite topics under the title ‘Living Mythos’: pop/geek culture and the philosophies and life lessons found therein. These will be sort of straddling the line between personal reaction and cultural criticism.

“The Last Unicorn” is a 1982 animated feature produced by Rankin-Bass based on the eponymous 1969 book by Peter S. Beagle. It is a quirky, slightly deconstructionist high fantasy musical that stands a good chance of breaking your heart. [Read more…]

Love What You Love

Phoenix Fan Fusion Attendees, by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia CommonsPZ Myers recently ran a post about generations, or rather on how the generational differences cited are largely marketing babble and not terribly true to life. I don’t disagree with this post in any real particular; after all, insofar as generational cohorts exist at all as we know them, they’re an emergent property of World War II – the Baby Boom being the huge birth rate spike following the war, and other generations being largely defined in relation to them. But while the generations themselves are not terribly real, the zeitgeists they are associated with (despite also having more than a little of marketing machinery in them) are.

Because time inevitably keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future, I am now an old. I’m from the messy area on the charts where various pundits and pontificators don’t necessarily agree what grand generation I should be sorted into, Gen X or Millennial. One of the main defining characteristics of Generation X, described as early as in the book that popularized the term, is a jadedness and world-weariness (formerly) in excess of their years; this is the generation whence came grunge music and ‘Empire Records’ and Kevin Smith’s movies, and also the popular notion of ironically loving things. It’s the generation of believing the world is such a bleak place that anything wholesome is perforce naïve. Millennials, conversely, re-popularized unironic joy, and loving a Thing because it’s the Thing not because it makes some kind of insightful (or worse ironic) comment. [Read more…]

Sunday Fakespeare: Ipsos Custodes

Shakespeare's WardA couple of years back I helped write an interactivetheatre piece based on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. We found out I have a talent for the old Elizabethean iambic pentameter, and – inspired from also being involved with productions of “William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back” around the same time – I started doing a silly fun thing which I will share on some Sundays here: converting famous moments from pop culture into Shakespeare! See if you can recognize it, some are easier than others.

Upon this morn, the roadway’s neatness soiled
for there in woeful state the carcass of
a hunting hound was laid, its lights drawn forth
by carriage passage cruel, tale told by
a wheel’s trace writ in blood. This borough fears
my step, reviles anon my comp’ny, for
’tis I who has its truest visage seen.
Its coachways are in truth but poison’d troughs,
these troughs replete with sickened borough’s blood;
the ditches shall in time coagulate
and in the flowing gore shall vermin drown.
The rot and filth, the refuse born of sin
of fornication vile and murder foul,
shall burble forth above their darksome loins
and then the whores, the kings, the sinners all
shall turn their yellow mien to heaven high
and in their terror shriek “Have mercy, lord,
and set us free!”, and I shall whisper… “Nay.”