Monthly Archives: September 2010

Thoughts on Banned Book Week

This is Banned Books Week. With that in mind, I thought that I would give a few thoughts about banning books. Particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy but also a few other genres. To be clear, I utter loathe the concept of banning books. What right do you, whoever “you” are, have to tell me what I can or cannot read. I recognize that you yourself do not like the book. You find it offensive or objectionable. You think it horrific or disgusting. But I and many more people don’t feel that way. How dare you, you psuedo-jackboot, tell me what I can enjoy.

Admittedly, most of the books that the failed masters of banning try to work their bad magic on are for children or young adults. They don’t want their own children to read it, and by extension, they want to prevent everyone’s kids from reading it. It infuriates me to no end. Yeah, I don’t like some books, but they should never be banned.

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye comes to mind as a pretty good non- SF book to begin with. For an audience reading the novel when first published, I can see how it would be controversial and a little offensive. American literature had never seen a protagonist like Holden Caufield. But that was what, almost sixty years ago now? And you are still trying to ban it? Come on. I have never read it, but To Kill a Mockingbird also comes to mind. Are you joking? Do you know how to read? There is an important message about the racism depicted in the book. Figure it out. And then there is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Yes it is incredibly racist, but that is a product of its time. Indeed, Huck comes to the realization that he is willing to go to hell to insure that Jim remains free. And, some of the racism actually comes from outside the novel.

Moving on to SF, I was on Suduvu (or Suvudu) this morning and reading some of their postings on banned fantasy books (so far only The Golden Compass and The Amulet of Samarkand– both of which I really want to read now). In one of the comments, the thought was posited that usually contemporary fantasy with a YA audience is the primary target. Why?

Well, because it takes place in our world. And the occult is depicted. Oh shit, the kids will be learning witchcraft!! Wait, what type of witchcraft? I doubt even the true believers know. This would cover Harry Potter and The Barteimius Trilogy but not His Dark Materials. With Pullman’s work, I think that the issue is that it is the great atheist fantasy (or the Great Atheist Fantasy). Pullman has a dim view of religion, and he has a point. Excluding religions like Olympians, Norse, Egyptian, etc. and focusing on revealed religions, there is a remarkable point. The founders, the spiritual teachers may not have been scoundrels or frauds. But their followers, those who come after, often are. This can be seen throughout the history of the Catholic Church. The Reformation began because of Church corruption. Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, was incredibly corrupt, as were those who preceded him and succeeded him. That is the struggle of religion. And often humans fail to live up to expectations.

To put it simply. I fundamentally loathe banning books. And on this week, when we remember the joke that is banning books, we should fight this piece of intolerant, authoritarian stupidity.

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My most hated athletes, and why i hate them.(part 2)

Let’s start backwards from ten. Number Ten is NBA commissioner David Stern. One simple reason, and this might sound like a conspiracy theory or what have you, but since he has taken over as commissioner, only seven teams have won the championship, and only sixteen different teams have even made the finals in that time. Meanwhile, in that same time frame, sixteen different NFL teams have won the Super Bowl, and even more have won the World series in baseball. The same amount of different teams to play in an NBA finals series have won the Super Bowl. This is simply unbelievable to me.

Number nine is Bill Beliecheck, and no I didn’t google how to spell it, so it’s probably wrong. Why Bill we’ll call him? He knowingly cheated by videotaping opposing teams walkthroughs. That is obviously a major infraction, and the penalty should have been harsh and swift. But wait.. All they had to do was pay a fine, and lose a first round draft pick, which they got back through a trade. So you’re telling me they knowingly violated league rules and basically the only form of punishment levied were fines? That seems completely fair.(sarcasm implied) I guess it all worked out in the end though, because if you recall, this was the season they went undefeated to the Super Bowl, and lost. Cheaters really never do prosper huh?

Number eight is Peyton Manning, simply because he is the best quarterback in the NFL, and he is in the division with the Houston Texans. I will retract my hatred as soon as he retires.

Number Seven is Ben Rothlisburger…I assume that’s close. This is one of those where the off the field stuff does come into play. If I were given the opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL, you better believe I would make the most of the opportunity, not try my hardest to throw it away. Mr. Rothlisburger to me has tried his best to never play football again, from the motorcycle accident to the numerous sexual assault allegations, I just feel like he couldn’t care less about the NFL or the Steelers, all he cares about is the fame he has received from being in the NFL.

Which brings me to number six…NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. This pick to me was pretty simple, and he would have made the top five, but there are more important people ahead of this guy. And I believe that is the problem with this guy, he came out guns a blazing, suspending people, fining people, changing rules, adding rules, blah blah, blah. But the one thing he forgot to do was stay consistent, and that’s where I have the problem. Adam “Pacman” Jones was suspended by the NFL for violating Roger Goodell’s newly implanted rules. He was suspended an entire season for being questioned and detained by the police. He was never charged with any crimes, he served zero days in jail, and to my knowledge all the charges against him were dropped. He was subsequently suspended the remainder of the following year after about six games with the Dallas Cowboys for an incident that led to no criminal charges. He then played a year in the CFL because no NFL team would sign him, until this season when the Cincinnati  Bengals picked him up. Sound familiar? It should. Ben Rothlisburger had a very similar situation occur with him this offseason, but was only suspended four games. This to me is a perfect model of inconsistency, and honestly don’t get me started on that whole Patriots videotaping scandal, which I hopefully made very clear where I stand on that. The point I’m trying to make is, be fair. Rothlisburger was, in my eyes, given a pass because who he is, and Pacman Jones was screwed to be an example.

Number five is the BCS. When did College Football become a beauty pageant? I do not agree with the methods in which the “Best teams in the Land” are selected,  I do not agree with the idiotic system they have in place to determine these “best teams” and I certainly do not agree that one team deserves to play more than another because of a “stronger schedule”. I will use this year as an example. Alabama is ranked number one, and I will say it’s well deserved. They won the BCS championship last year, so that makes sense. Ohio State is ranked number two, because the people who poll are hoping they don’t screw up and lose. Boise State is number three, while TCU is number four or five, depending on which poll you look at. To me, this is a cop out to appease the people who say Boise State and TCU belong, and also for the detractors who believe they don’t. Let me throw out a scenario for you, if Boise and TCU both go undefeated, and Alabama and Ohio State lose two, who plays for the BCS title? If you guessed Alabama and Ohio State, you’re probably right. These non-conference will never get the respect they deserve without a playoff system, and I whole heartedly believe whoever decides who plays for the championship is scared to death to put Boise or TCU in the national title game, because what would happen to their perfect little world if by some miracle they won? College football is in desperate need of a playoff system, that way the teams decide who are the best, instead of random computer polls and other people’s opinions.

Number four will receive its very own post next time I do a special post, so I’m not going to touch on this one too much. Referees and Umpires. Be on the look out for that one, its going to be a good one.

Number three is Tom Brady. “Why him? He’s the best quarterback EVER!! He’s so handsome and wonderful and perfect.” “He’s the Golden Boy of the NFL, when he points, flags get thrown.” you say. I say, he is nothing more than an average quarterback who got a lucky break..(Sorry Drew Bledsoe.) He took said lucky break and ran with it, propelling him to superstardom and fame and fortune. But he’s still an average quarterback who will get flustered and make mistakes, just look at last year’s playoffs. But every year it’s the return of the Patriots, the sports media says, because he won three Super Bowls, the last one being five years ago. He’s no Elway, he’s no Marino, and he’s certainly no Peyton Manning.

Number two is Alex Rodriguez. I couldn’t care less about his off the field crap, the one thing I do care about is the steroids. And after admitting to using steroids, what happened to A-rod? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He wasn’t chastised in the media, he wasn’t blackballed by major league baseball, he wasn’t fined or suspended or anything of the sort. So apparently all you have to do to be forgiven for cheating in baseball is to apologize? I call bullshit. Good for him he apologized, I don’t give a shit, he cheated, plain and simple. Asterisks don’t make up for a career of lies, and every home run and rbi and any other various awards or records he gained while cheating are tainted. I understand that most of baseball history is tainted now because of the steroid era, but no other player is getting the acknowledgement for tainted achievements as this guy. Just watch coverage of his six hundredth home run, the sports media acted like nothing ever happened, like we’re all supposed to forget about it. Why? Because he apologized? Not this guy.

And this brings me to number one. No surprise here, it’s Kobe Bryant. I will keep this short, because I don’t feel like he deserves much time. He won three championships with Shaq at the helm, he doesn’t win another one until the Lakers bring in Pau Gasol. He now has five, and he is eying a sixth or seventh, that way he would have more than Michael Jordan. I don’t care if he wins five more rings, He’ll never be better than Jordan, even though in his egotistical self centered mind, he probably thinks he already is. Don’t get me wrong, he is one of the greatest players to play the game, but he will never be the greatest. Period.

That wraps up this special Wednesday post. I will have my weekly NFL predictions post up this Friday. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The most hated athletes, and why i don’t hate them (part 1)

A recently released article about the most hated players in sports was brought to my attention. As I can’t find the actual list, I guess I have to go off the select names released. Although I don’t really agree with all the names released, I almost felt obligated to release my personal, opinionated, comprehensive list of professional athletes that I personally dislike the most. I will also touch on a couple of the athletes named on the most hated list, why they are on there, and why I don’t believe they should be. I will obviously start at the top of that list, which is Michael Vick.

Michael Vick was voted by whoever took the poll as the most hated athlete, this choice to me is honestly ridiculous. The man served his time in prison, therefore to me he is forgiven for the crimes he committed. “How can you even remotely begin to say such a ridiculous thing?” you ask. Simple. He was convicted of his crimes, he served most if not all of his prison term if I’m not mistaken, and to me that is really all society should ask of him, because we as a society ask for a lot less from “normal” criminals. I understand that he should be held to a higher standard or some crap like that, but I also think that is utter nonsense. Because he gets paid millions he should be held to higher standards than normal everyday people? Absolutely not, he should be held to the same standards you would want for yourself. So look at his situation, replace him with you, and then tell me he still deserves to be punished for the crimes he committed. it’s a little harder to do now when its you we’re talking about huh?

Another name on this list that I personally feel was sort of a ridiculous pick was Lebron James. Ok, if you live in Cleveland, I understand. Also, if you hated the way he handled “the Decision” I can also understand that, but to be honest, there isn’t much left to hate. Don’t get me wrong, the decision special was one of the biggest ego trip moves I have ever seen in the sports world, but on that same breath, we were all “witnesses” to “the decision”. Also, the decision show was just as much ESPN’s fault as it was Lebron’s. They could have just as easily said no, but that would have been a terrible business move on their part, so I guess you can’t fault them there. I mean I get it, you don’t like Lebron, well you used to when he played for Cleveland, but know he is a talent less egomaniacal grown up child who can’t win a championship on his own, you hate him with all your soul. One question, name me ONE basketball player who has ever won a CHAMPIONSHIP on his own? Give up? Here’s the answer: ZERO. Basketball is not golf or tennis, it is a TEAM sport, and people are mad Lebron went to Miami to form a better team, either that or they are simply mad because they didn’t think to do it themselves…I’m looking at you Charles Barkley.

Which brings me to my final ridiculous pick from the list, Tiger Woods. WHAT?? HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU SAY THAT!! You screamed. Because I’m talking about Tiger Woods the athlete, you hate Tiger Woods the person. Aren’t they the same thing? Absolutely not, especially in the sports world. Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers to ever play the game, but he is also one the sleaziest human beings alive. “Well you’re not making any sense, people don’t hate him for his golfing thingy, they hate him for cheating on his wife a billion times!” You said. That is EXACTLY the point I’m trying to make, the three athletes I listed are among the most hated, but what they are hated for has absolutely nothing to do with their athletic lives, but all to do with their personal lives. As a sports fan, the players I choose to hate has everything to do with on the field/court/racetrack etc. and little to nothing to do with off the field issues. Don’t get me wrong, off the field issues do come into play a little bit in my most hated, but not exactly the way you would think.

Bas-Lag Reading Project Part Three: Perdido Street Station Part Three

We come now to the third part of my Bas-Lag Reading Project. This section will cover the third part of Perdido Street Station called Metaporphosis. With “Metamorphosis,” the main conflict in the narrative is unveiled- the Slake Moths and how to stop these nigh invulnerable predators who suck out victims’ conciousnesses. The Slake Moths introduce or interogate another aspect of the continuing theme- the mind itself as an agent of understanding.

Even though the Slake Moths are not named or really explained in depth until later parts of the novel, I want to discuss them here in terms of the trope/ archetype they perform. Isaac is a mad scientist, mind you he is not insane or a villain, but it is his actions, his thoughtless pursuit of his experiments that produce the whole problem of the Slake Moths.

A question is then begged. Is Issac Dan der Grimnebulin an example of a “good” scientist? What do I even mean by a “good” scientist. Writing about “good” in this manner means whether he is a competent, ethical, or dutiful scientist. Thinking first of the scienfific method, does Isaac follow it? Yes, I think he does, but given the familiarity that one should have with it, it is not elaborated on. Where Issac fails as a scientist, however, is in ethics. The notion of scienfific ethics (or any type of ethics for that matter) seems to be alien to New Crobuzon. Isaac uses Lemuel Pigeon to organize the theft of anything that can or could fly. This includes the theft of one of the Slake Moth caterpillars (who will be called the Runt). He also steals eqiupment from NCU, which he calls “liberating.” He even takes pride in the fact that if he can get his equipment, research materials, subjects, etc. less than legally. Hell, it is his prefered method! In a way, there is as much of a connection between Issac and Jonathan Crane or Curt Connors as there is with Reed Richards.

But there are two important things to remember about China Mieville and Bas-Lag. This is a work of Steampunk influenced by the Weird and New Weird. The various Punk genres are famous for having predominantly anti-heroes for protagonists. Also, none of Mieville’s protagonists in the Bas-Lag books are saints or even heroic until forced into it. That is what makes these characters so real. Isaac unintentionally unleashes a monster (later four more) onto New Crobuzon because he was curious about it.

In the end, Issac is sufficeintly heroic enough to want to take out the Slake Moth(s) himself. This still does not make him a “good” guy as he tends to prefere working in the darker recesses of legitimacy in New Crobuzon.

Before I switch topics, I want to write a little about the Unified Field Theory. I think the theory is meant to be a reference to the contemporary search for the Theory of Everything and to String Theory. But I also think that the UFP also references literary theory in the sense that crisis is the key to any work of narrative fiction. A narrative fiction is a steady build up of crises and conflicts, some resolved others delayed. This build up then leads to the denouement, the conclusion where the pressures of the crisis are released in any number of ways. Could this, then, be an examble of metanarrative?

This section also introduces in the last two chapters the Mayor of New Crobuzon, Bentham Rudgutter, his deputy, Montjon Rescue, and Eliza Stem-Fulcher, the home secretary. Despite the fact that they are all rather odious characters, I rather like them. Yes, Rudgutter is a rather cardboard corrupt politician, but there is a certain power, a charisma that leaks through. Seeing him deal with the Hellkin Ambassador (and later, the Weaver) is a testament to his character. To be honest, the vast majority of politicians would probably crap themselves at the prospect of meeting with a demon.

Thinking about Rudgutter and the rest of the New Crobuzine government, I will be looking at the logic, the descision to have sold the Slake Moths to Mr. Motley. I am leaning toward a commentary on the all so typical privitization or deregulation that is common in neoliberal economics.

NFL Weekly Weekend Review!! (week 3..plus a little extra)

Whew! What a wild weekend in the NFL! By wild I do mean slightly out of the norm events that will have the media “buzzing” until next week. Nothing really to surprising this week for me, but I do want to touch on a couple “hot button” issues. But I will get to that after the weekly weekend roundup…I think I’ve finally found a name for these!

Cowboys Texans started out strong, but did fade kind of quickly once we got to halftime. The hilarious referee issue was probably the highlight of the second half for me. What? Not the Cowboys finally living up to all the hype they seem to generate every single season? Nope. Not the Texans sputtering on offense and defense to look like the team everyone naturally expects from them? Nope. The Texans have a very winnable schedule going into their bye week in week six. The Cowboys had to win this game, and they did, but the gauntlet of their schedule is coming up, and they will certainly have to play this hard or harder to get victories.

The Saints Falcons game didn’t surprise me. A division game against the reigning Super Bowl champs is motivation enough to play your asses off.

Like I previously stated, I believe the Giants are over hyped this year. They pretty much proved it to me yesterday against the Titans. A truck full of yards, and only ten points? They’ll be a tough team to beat, but they won’t accomplish too many preseason goals if they continue to play like they have been.

Buffalo versus New England was a wee bit surprising. Surprising in the sense the Patriots couldn’t blow them out.

The Vikings Win!! Cash it in baby we’re going to the Super Bowl!! Who’d we beat? The Lions? Crap…. Sorry Minnesota, until you beat a worthy opponent, I still believe your average at best.

Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs. 3-0! Could it be we are seeing the resurrection of the Chiefs? Potentially, but they will have to keep it up.

Also, a congratulation goes out to  Michael Vick. 2-0 as a starter and has the Eagles leading the division. I will touch more on this particular subject Wednesday, so be on the lookout for that.

Indy won again…not surprising at all considering who we’re talking about. Denver had there moments to close the gap, but they just couldn’t seem to convert when they needed to.

The Jets beat the Dolphins. For such a dominating defense they sure have given up quite a bit of points, except for the Monday night game. At least for them, they are finally living up to all the hype they gave themselves and seemingly everybody else in the universe.

There is one football related issue I would like to discuss briefly. That would be the arrest of Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards for DWI.

I think it is disgusting and reprehensible to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Accidents happen when not inebriated, so why would you add to the chances? I’m talking about everybody here, not just professional athletes or Hollywood celebrities or the TMZ celebrities. Please don’t give me that nonsense about “I drive better when I’m drunk.” If you believe in your idiotic selfish mind you drive better drunk than sober, you shouldn’t be driving at all. All it takes is one tragedy to completely change your perspective and outlook on the matter, trust me. As for all these famous because we make them famous people, you would rather risk your life and the lives of innocent people then take a cab or a limo service home? If you answered yes to that question, seek professional help as quickly as possible. Before I get off the soapbox I would just like to add this… taxi’s, limos and car services don’t cost nearly as much  as the alcohol or drugs your buying, and the cost is certainly less than that of an innocent life being taken away for your ignorance and stupidity.

Whew. Now that I got that off my chest I think I’m going to go ahead and wrap this up. I’ll be back with a special Wednesday post, so check that out. And as always, I will be back Friday for the NFL week 4 preview party!

NFL Week 3 preview!!!

This is shaping up to be an interesting week in the NFL world. A lot of questions should be answered, contenders and pretenders will be exposed, and the burning question in my mind…what sort of obscure rule or exploit will be brought to light this week. Two weeks in a row, a rule or rule exploit has come under fire, so if the trend holds, we’ll get another “controversy” coming from the good book of NFL rules and comedy sketches. I’ll try to touch on as many of the games as I can, some obviously more detailed than others.

Big game for me this week is, no surprise here, the Texans hosting the Cowboys. Obviously the Cowboys need this more than the Texans, as I believe the Texans have a bit of a light schedule coming up. The Cowboys on the other hand, depending on the outcome of this Sundays “Texas Sized Showdown”, appear to almost be running a gauntlet. The Cowboys need it more, so they will play all out, which might lead to mistakes, Texans win 35 to 28. Sorry Cowboys, to me it looks like the blame train will be leaving the station come Monday morning.

Minnesota versus Detroit to me is the most important game of the season, so far, for the Vikings. If they lose and go down 0-3, and the Packers or Bears win Monday night, it will be almost impossible to come back from that hole. That being said, I’m taking the Lions 24 to 21, last second field goal.

Speaking of Green Bay and Chicago, this reads to me as a wild west shootout. The Packers have looked good so far, but not as explosive as last year. The Bears however have looked very explosive, which leads me to believe this will be a very high scoring game. Packers 49 Chicago 42. Defense will return next week at its regularly scheduled time.

San Francisco in Kansas City will be an old school beat em up. San Fran wins 13 to 10.

Baltimore needs a bounce back from last week, and who better than the Browns. Ravens 17 Browns 14.

New England will probably try their best to embarrass and humiliate Buffalo. Lack of sportsmanship 56 Buffalo 10.

Atlanta and New Orleans has the potential to be a phenomenal game. New Orleans 30 Atlanta 27.

Tennessee versus the Giants will be a game about redemption. Redemption for Vince Young, who was body slammed and benched last week. And for Eli Manning, who discovered the hard way Peyton won’t let go of number one Manning in the NFL, or the family barbecue for that matter.

Steelers versus Bucs: this is one of the handful of games that I was referring to when I said contenders or pretenders.  Regretfully I say the Steelers win 21 to 20.

Philadelphia versus Jacksonville. Michael Vick is the starter this week, and rightfully so. Honestly, Kevin Kolb shouldn’t be starting until next year in my opinion. Rebuild the franchise a bit more, through drafting and what have you. Hand him the keys to the car after you get done tricking it out…or repairing it, whichever sounds less offensive. Oh yeah I almost forgot, Eagles 27 Jaguars 14.

That’s it for this week, I’ll be back on Monday with my weekly weekend in review. Since I don’t really partake in College football, I will get that special Wednesday post finished this weekend, I half heartedly promise.

Review of Mad Max

On Monday night, I finally watched the first film in the Mad Max trilogy, Mad Max. I had wanted to watch the film for years, but could never find it on television. And usually, there seems to be a preference for The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. Having watched the second and third films first, and after watching this original entry, I have to say that Mad Max is far and away the best of the trilogy (indeed, the other two entries come off as more exaggerated versions of the same basic narrative).

Mad Max is about a young MFP (Main Force Patrol) officer in a dystopian post oil Australia. He is one of the best officers, but burns out after a recurring motorcycle gang lays a trap for a fellow officer. Convinced to take a vacation, he takes his family (wife and toddler son) to a farm. Unfortunately, the same gang is nearby and tries to molest Jess (Max’s wife). Enraged, the gang tracks them down to the farm and kills Jess and the baby. Furious, Max steals a new type of pursuit car and ruthlessly takes out the gang.

This film is awesome in a number of ways, mainly the character of Max Rockatansky, the visual depiction of a dystopian Australia, and the subtle world building. There are also a few issues I have with the film, namely the civil authority and the gang led by the Toecutter.

In many ways, the film works because of the character of Max Rockatansky. A young but gifted pursuit officer, Max does not initially allow the collapse of law and order to affect him. He is happily married, enjoys his job and his friends, and is well-respected. But the true power of the character comes as he is forced to transform into the character of “Mad Max” that he is in the later films. Here, it is the believable need for revenge that develops an emotional punch given to the viewer. Despite what Mel Gibson has become, he is very good in the role of Max.

Given the era, I have to say that the visuals are quite well done. I can appreciate a more dated look to the visuals. And I think that look is necessary here. The scenes on the road, the area near the farm, the town, and urban scenes are all well shot and deliver the necessary emotional look. The lonely road scenes give a perception of loneliness, desperation, fear, and excitement. The farm gives a sense of dread and fear. The town gives a sense of desperation, fear, and decay. And the city itself is the place where it all seems to come apart. In my opinion, amazing and beautiful.

The world building is well done as well. I like the fact that the viewer is not completely sure why Australia has collapsed. It is subtle and completely believable. It looks to be shortly after the collapse, but before the world falls completely apart with the successor films.

My biggest problem with the film is actually the antagonists. While more believable than the second and third films, the antagonists in this film share many of the same problems. The gang is depicted as having gone berserk or insane after the collapse, but they do not share any similarities to the biker gangs that I am familiar with. While I do not know much of Australian organized crime or equivalents to biker gangs, I am familiar with the American version from Gangland (on the History Channel). And the gang of the Nightrider and the Toecutter are not what one would call a biker gang. Admittedly, I think the film’s directors and screenwriters were trying to merge other influences in with the gang. For one thing, fears of chaotic young people and bikers in general. But I also think there is a homophobic context as well. The gang seems to be generally bisexual as a heterosexual couple are implied to have been raped (I watched the film on AMC, so I don’t know what they edited out), Jess was lusted over, and there is some question as to what happened between one of the young townsmen and several members of the gang. There is also the ambiguous relationship between Toecutter and Bubba that could be read as sexual. And don’t forget the makeup. This is one part of the film that I disliked strongly.

Another problematic element is the civil authority. Given the circumstances, Australia should be a police state, but I am assuming the film is depicting a right-wing fantasy in which civil authority is weak.

I had originally planned on reviewing all of the Mad Max films, but I only watched The Road Warrior after Mad Max. I missed Beyond Thunderdome because of a three-hour Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood marathon on my computer. So I won’t be reviewing the other two films.

Bas-Lag Reading Project: Perdido Street Station Part Two- Physiognomies of Filght

In this, my second installment of the Bas-Lag Reading Project, I will be dealing with the second part of Perdido Street Station called Physiognomies of Flight. This section of the novel introduces the reader to more characters, the set up for the main conflict in the narrative, and expands on certain themes. And much of this is revealed and explored through a physiognomy of New Crobuzon.

New Crobuzon is quite clearly meant to be a stand in, an alternate, a mutated and bastardized London. The inspiration of London, of the grimy Victorian cesspool, is always present. Indeed, Mieville’s relationship with London influences much of his work, whether set in Bas-Lag or on Earth.

This inspiration is obvious if you look at a map of London and a map of New Crobuzon. The only difference is that London only has the Thames bisecting it and its layout is more chaotic than New Crobuzon. New Crobuzon is roughly circular in design with a roughness to the outer edges. Also, there are two rivers: The River Tar and the River Canker meet to form the Gross Tar within the city. Beyond this, New Crobuzon is a fantastic, steampunk, crapsack vision/ dream of London.

Politically, New Crobuzon is a limited elective republic that serves a small elite oligarchy and supresses the vast majority of its citizens or subjects. Basically, you pay over a certain tax threshold and you qualify to vote automatically. If you cannot afford to buy the right/ privilege to vote, you can either enter (or are automatically enrolled) into a suffrage lottery. Those who win the lottery are allowed to vote. Beyond this, there are a number of political parties representing various interests (or claiming to and never following through). The two parties most commonly named are the Fat Sun Party, the current government is formed by this party and the Mayor (Rudgutter) is the leader, and Diverse Tendency, a more liberal/ center leftist party that claims to represent the “center left” of New Crobuzon as well as the xenian population. Another political party, the Three Quills, seems to be an extremist vision of the BNP (British National Party). It is quite obvious that Fat Sun is meant to be the Tories with Diverse Tendency meant to parody Labour. Given Mieville’s politics, which does suffuse the Bas-Lag novels without overpowering the narrative, it is not surprising that the protagonists are often from the far left, called “seditionists.”

But is New Crobuzon just an imagined, mutated London? No. New Crobuzon is also the city as the state. It is hard to tell, but I am not certain that the political entity surpasses that of the city-state. It is clear that New Crobuzon, the leading state of Rohagi, is a city-state that controls much of the surrounding territory. But there is no mention of a larger nation-state. This expands out to the other mentioned political entities. One of the only ones I am not sure about is the Witchocracy, that annoyingly tantalizing polity ruled by witches that only gets a mention per book. Beyond that, I think any polity is limited to the city-state.

While at its root, Perdido Street Station is about a mad scientist (Isaac) trying to fix his screw up (which will come in the next part or two), the overall theme of the novel, its focus, is on transition, change, and mutation. In so far as Yagharek and Motley embody this concept, so does the city itself. New Crobuzon is a mutant city. A place where you can never be sure what is in the sewage between Lichford and Spatters or what monstrosities are being cooked up in Brock Marsh’s thaumaturgic/ chymical/ physical effluviant soup.

In “Physiognomies of Flight,” Isaac’s explorations into the nature of flight, the attempt to pin down what it means to fly, how to fly, the mechanics of flight, the biology of the wing, etc. is all explored and ultimately rejected. As Vermishank’s conversation with Isaac shows, it would be almost impossible for Yagharek to be able to fly again on alien wings or even wings not quite right.

This returns Isaac to his favorite theory, Unified Field, and the possibilities of crisis energy. Crisis energy is potential energy taken to such a point before becoming kinetic energy that a crisis is invoked. The crisis energy is then purported to be near limitless as long as a crisis is maintained.

Crisis suffuses Perdido Street Station as the transitional battles with the static. This is nebulous at this early stage of the novel, but it increases as the crisis builds.

Many new characters are introduced in this section: Derkhan Blueday, the art critic seditionist who acts as the third of fourth protagonist (Isaac, Lin, Yagharek, and Derkhan). Benjamin Flex the editor of Runagate Rampant, the seditionist left wing paper. And of course, there is that mysterious caterpillar which will have an important role in the narrative to come.

The conflict, the complexity of the novel is starting to build up to a great extent.

NFL Sunday week 2 thoughts and opinons

I’m extremely tired as I’m writing this so forgive me if things sound a bit harsh. Week 2 in the NFL is almost done, so here’s a few noteworthy topics I’d like to touch on.

I know what your thinking, “He’s going to start with the Texans Redskins game…blah blah blah.” Nope. I’m going to start with the “Manning Bowl” a.k.a. the Indianapolis Colts versus the New York Giants. Indy looked about like one would expect, not too surprising. The Giants lack of offense or defense didn’t surprise me either, they honestly didn’t look at all impressive last week against Carolina, so I was far from shocked to see them lose that badly. And yes, I will address  the elephant in the room, or more appropriately the helmet in the crowd. Will Brandon Jacobs be suspended? Probably. Should he be suspended? Absolutely not. He should be fined a large sum of money, more so because he missed the bench than the actual helmet into the crowd part of it. I have no doubt if this were to occur again he wouldn’t miss the bench, since that’s where most of his time will be spent now. And for a side note, I am not in the party that believes that fan should have been allowed to keep the helmet. Just because an item goes into the stands doesn’t mean it belongs to the fans…this isn’t baseball.

Now that I’ve I got that out of the way…The Houston Texans against the Washington Redskins. I’m an admitted Texans fan, so I’ll just put it out there, last week wasn’t a fluke. I would have understood and been totally fine if the sports media deemed it that way if the Texans hadn’t battled back and won. The Redskins showed utter brilliance on offense, choosing to attack the weakest part of the Texans D, the very young and inexperienced secondary. I believe, even with this loss, the Redskins proved they are not the same “easy out” they have been these last few years, and they are looking more and more like contenders in this division. But wait! “Is he going to bring up that “icing” the kicker crap?” No, simply because it is not illegal to do. Just ask coach Shanahan.

Dallas looked almost terrible against Chicago. If they don’t figure out what is wrong, they might go 0-3… They play Houston next week, for my thoughts on that game, tune in Friday for my week 3 preview.

The Jets surprised me, I will acknowledge that. But this offensive explosion makes me beg the question “What happened last Monday night against Baltimore?”

Minnesota is EXACTLY what I expected to see, as I may be one of the few who believe Favre is almost certainly done. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll have big games, I believe they play the Rams next week, but I honestly believe they will miss the playoffs by a mile this season.

I believe that will just about wrap things up for today’s post. I will have a special post this Wednesday, giving my opinion on the recently released “Most Hated Players In Sports”.  Also, don’t forget to come by on Friday for the NFL Week 3 preview.

NFL Week 2 preview! (plus a little extra)

Hello Friday, oh how I have missed you. You signify the end of most work weeks, and you are only two days away from Sunday, meaning I’m only two days away from hopefully another great football weekend. A lot of teams across the NFL got off to good starts, a few off to great starts. Will they continue to roll, or slide right back down the ladder? Let me preface this by saying I won’t preview every game, and some that I do preview won’t be as in depth as others, and that is because I probably dislike the teams too much to really put any thought into it.

The most intriguing match up for me, at least for this week is the Houston Texans taking on the Washington Redskins. The Texans literally ran all over the Colts last week, while the Redskins scalped the Cowboys.(too soon?) I am a devout Texans fan, I’m just going to throw that out there right now. But what I saw from the Redskins defense sure does have me worried, as they held a capable Cowboys team to only a touchdown. The Redskins offense didn’t impress me in the least, and for them to win they will certainly have to play much better then they did against Dallas. The Texans offense was seemingly unstoppable last Sunday, and they didn’t really reveal much from their passing game which is capable of putting up huge numbers. In the end, I think the Texans just have too much offense to stop, Texans 28 Redskins 17.

The next matchup I would like to touch on is the Cowboys versus the Bears.(big surprise huh?) This one will be brief I swear. If the Cowboys tighten up the offensive line this week, they win. If they don’t, they lose. Simple as that. The Bears squeaked past a very game Detroit Lions last week, but the Cowboys aren’t the Lions, at least not yet. I think the Cowboys scrape this one out 17 to 13.

Another quickie coming right up. Indianapolis Colts versus the New York Giants. The blueprint to beat Indy has been revealed, sort of. I just don’t think the Giants have the right formula, and Peyton would surely retire if little bro beats him on national TV. Colts 35 Giants 28.

This one will be the shortest. Patriots versus Jets. I honestly couldn’t care any less then I already do who wins this game. Patriots 84 Jets 80.

Miami versus Minnesota is another intriguing game for me. I truly believe any magic Brett Favre had left from last season he left in Mississippi. The offense just isn’t there for him the wasy it was last year, whether it be because of injuries or recent acquisitions. The timing and confidence he played with last year seems to be gone. The Dolphins are a brain teaser of sorts. You have one of the best receivers in the game, a great  running game, and a manageable defense. Yet they only managed fifteen against Buffalo, hence the brain teaser comparison. I understand teams on paper look fantastic and they don’t always measure up to expectations, but come on! Miami takes this one, 42 to 21. side note: welcome to Miami Brandon Marshall. I’m calling breakout game.

New Orleans versus San Francisco. Monday Night Football. As some of you may read in my preseason division breakdown series, and even my playoff predictions, I had high hopes for the 49ers. Will I go as far as to say they were dashed last week by the hands of the surprising Seahawks? No. Am I concerned they won’t win the division? Absolutely not. Why you ask? Can you say over confident? They underestimated a very fired up team in Seattle. After last weekend though, I am convinced it won’t be as easy for them to win the division as I previously thought, but I know think 9-7 gets you that division. To start 0-2 will be a challenge to make they playoffs for most other teams, but not teams in this division. That being said, New Orleans 23 San Francisco 20 in OT.

I would also like to touch on Tom Brady’s recent comments about the home crowd leaving the game early last week.  This will be short too I promise.

Dear Tom Brady: the FANS paid to see a football game, when they had there fill of said football game, they left. The FANS aren’t there to see you…(though I’m sure there are some that are.) they are there to see the New England Patriots. You are not the Patriots, most people treat you as you are. The FANS paid for the right to be disappointed in you and your teammates, you in no way shape or form have any right to be disappointed in anybody who spends there hard earned money to pay you to play a game then decide to leave when said game is in hand.  I knew there were more reasons to why I dislike you as a professional athlete and celebrity figure, I will just add another one to the list.

That’s it for this week, I’ll be back on Monday for a weekend wrap-up and next Friday for the week 3 preview. And if your lucky, and I’m not too lazy this weekend, a special Wednesday post touching on the recent release of “The Most Hated Players in Sports.”