Monthly Archives: April 2011
I feel in the mood to make a list. So, I’ll hit out a quick top five listing my favorite podcasts. I’m a nerd, so most of my list is going to be highly informative as well as entertaining. I will also mention two honorable mentions that cover six and seven.
I’ve been meaning to get on the Bleach post, but I haven’t really liked what I’ve got so far. But I hope to get it out in the next few days. Anyways, on to the list:
5. The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy http://geeksguideshow.com/ is always interesting and informative. Triple G has some of the best author interviews and discussions. This podcast is a must for any SF/F fan.
4. Notes from Coode Street http://www.jonathanstrahan.com.au/wp/the-coode-street-podcast/ is more discussion than anything else. But the discussion is always enthralling and fascinating. I look forward to practically every ‘cast.
3. Sfsignal http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/cat_podcast.html is one of my all time favorite podcasts. The discussions are topical and usually interesting. Indeed, this podcast is a staple of my dinner every Monday evening. Great stuff.
2. Anime 3000 http://www.anime3000.com/ is a new discovery but has quickly become a favorite. The discussions have been great and informative. I really enjoyed the Dragon Ball Kai Bonus Round and the Sailor Moon Panel. I can’t wait to listen to more stuff from them.
1. ANNcast http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/anncast/ is freaking amazing. Over the past two months, this podcast has become my all around favorite. Indeed, the most recent holiday specials have been golden. I anticipate this podcast’s next installment with no small amount of impatience. If you are a fan of anime or manga, this podcast is a must.
This is my top five. Hopefully, if you’re interested, you’ll check these podcasts out.
Finally, as a late disclaimer, these are my favorites at this moment. My tastes and interests may change, I may find new favorites to add (or expand the list). I am a great believer in variability when it comes to these things.
Anyway, expect something on Bleach and Yu Yu Hakusho in the next few days (hopefully). For those waiting for the start of Iron Council or more Wizards of CAS, the wait will be longer because I’m in a manga frenzy.
Continuing with our look at some of the wizards featured in the weird short fiction of Clark Ashton Smith, this time, we explore the three wizards in the Zothique tale “The Master of the Crabs.”
“The Master of the Crabs” involves a race between two wizards (Mior Lumivix and Sarcand) to find several lost goetic tomes located on a not too distant island. Included in the mix is Mior’s apprentice Manthar, the narrator of the story. I will start with Manthar, then Mior Lumivix, and finally Sarcand.
Manthar is your typical sorcerer’s apprentice. He seems to be young or at least inattentive at times. At the time of the story, he is Mior’s only pupil and given the task of stirring love potions. He does not perform any magic during the tale, but I suspect that he is very early into his studies. One thing that Manthar is beyond question, is that he is loyal and rather fond of his master. He is also rather impetuous and quick to act (he wanted to smash the crabs immediately).
Mior Lumivix is the clear protagonist in the text. He is one of the premier wizards in the port city of Mirouane. Unlike Namirrha, Mior Lumivix is a working wizard. His stock and trade seems to be providing various potions and spells (like love potions) to his clients. Despite such status, he is powerful and looks to increase his power and status by possessing the tomes of magic from the Moon God of Faraad.
During the course of the story, Lumivix makes use of a magic athame (Manthar has another), he has many familiars that he uses as spies, he can sleep and maintain his awareness, and he spies on Sarcand through astral projection.
Sarcand is very much Lumivix’s rival. He is a new sorcerer in town with a fearsome reputation that searches for the same artifacts as his rival. He displays three feats of magic: commanding familiars to cloud out spies, heal rapidly (maybe), and use the ring of the sea god (from the treasure that he searches for) to control the seas around the island of Iribos and the crabs of the story.
What is interesting about this narrative is the conflict in personalities of the two wizards. Lumivix is a stern but rather kind master to his pupil. Despite harshly waking Manthar at the beginning of the tale, Lumivix allows his pupil to sleep on into the night as he steers the ship to the island. He is also concerned about his student’s welfare once they arrive on the island. And, I think, the highest example of Lumivix’s relative moral goodness is his abhorrence at the usage that Sarcand puts the crabs to.
Sarcand is described as being the son of a Naat necromancer father and a Naat highlander mother. I am unsure of the necromancer’s ethnicity, but his mother is described as being black. And a cannibal. This aspect of Sarcand’s background is objectionable and offensive (as some readers know, I posted a little of my thoughts on “black cannibals” a month or so ago). That said, Sarcand is described as taking after his mother. While holed up in the cave with the treasure, Sarcand commands the crabs to bring him the flesh of sailors who followed him to the island. He also gleefully commands the crabs to attack Lumivix and Manthar with the clear intention of eating them. Sarcand is more ruthless and diabolic compared to Lumivix. While nowhere near Namirrha’s level, Sarcand is of similar sensibilities and personality as the greater wizard.
Thinking about this story, I think that Mior Lumivix is a very interesting and rather entertaining protagonist. Indeed, there are similar wizard protagonists in Smith’s work. As much as Howard is excellent writing about the heroic warrior, Smith is excellent writing about wizards. And I love how this one turns out. Sarcand gets his just deserts. . .
I begin this first installment of “The Wizards of Clark Ashton Smith” with an exploration of one of my favorite CAS stories: “The Dark Eidolon.” Taking place on Zothique, the last continent on Earth, “The Dark Eidolon” is the story of the sorcerer Namirrha’s revenge against Zotulla and the people of Xylac. This desire for revenge has spurred Namirrha’s growth as a sorcerer of near god-like repute. But that same desire coupled with tremendous arrogance also leads to his utter destruction. (Please note that all texts come from the excellent CAS website http://www.eldritchdark.com please check it out)
Namirrha’s tale begins with a beggar boy named Narthos in the city of Ummaos, the capital of Xylac. As a boy, he shows signs of a growing hatred for people, for his city, even his nation. But he does nothing, shows no initiative until his encounter with Prince Zotulla, heir to the throne of Xylac. After being trampled by the elder boy’s horse, Narthos flees Ummaos and Xylac for the desert. There he becomes the pupil of the wizard Ouphaloc. Later taking the name Namirrha, Narthos embarks on a legendary career as a scourge of many lands. Indeed, he becomes a legend.
The source of Namirrha’s power is his command of ancient thaumaturgic knowledge and his pact with the demon/ god Thasaidon. He communicates with the demon through an eidolon (of the title) representation acquired from Tasuun. This knowledge and alliance allows Namirrha to: raise and control the dead, summon ghostly steeds, build a palace in a few hours, exchange his body for Zotulla’s, and summon “the coursers of Thamagorgos, lord of the abyss” to destroy Ummaos and all of Xylac.
Namirrha is extremely powerful, and he knows it. Namirrha is driven by two great emotions: his desire for revenge and his arrogance. Never forgetting the trampling he received as a youth, Namirrha has lived his entire life with an eye to revenge. He has done many things, but none of them are as important as this, his long awaited revenge. It appears as if all other exploits are mere practice for the main attraction. All of this preparation also leads to an arrogance that befalls many tragic heroes, and he finally goes too far as he comes to see himself as the equal of Thasaidon.
Namirrha is a tragic hero, much like Dr. Faust and Titus Andronicus. The events of his youth drive him to madly seek the destruction, the annihilation of the man and empire that trampled him. He seeks Thasaidon’s aid, but the demon/ god urges restraint. In this world of decadence, decay, and darkness Thasiadon is both demon and god, he provides Namirrha with his power to enact his will and he is effectively the true god of Xylac (being the beneficiary of Zotulla’s tyrannic decadence and evil). Thasaidon urges if not forgiveness, then letting the past go. But Namirrha’s need for revenge blinds him to reason. He will not stop until all of Xylac has been destroyed.
At this point, Thasaidon abandons Namirrha (and vise versa). Thasaidon’s eidolon then suffers a rather insufferable indignity during a banquet. Because of Thasaidon’s refusal, Namirrha then goes to Thamagoros and his steeds. Clearly, Thasaidon is pissed.
Theatricality is key to Namirrha’s character. He thrives on it. His exploits around the world have earned him a legendary reputation. Indeed, the people of Ummaos are proud to have such a great sorcerer living in their city, until he begins his attacks on Zotulla. Namirrha’s theatricality comes in three forms: his personal interactions, his choice of symbolism, and his perversions of the royal entertainments.
Namirrha’s interactions with Thasaidon are indicative of Namirrha’s theatric personality. There is a hint of the larger than life in Namirrha, as if he believes his own legend. And given his latter actions, his arrogance and madness play into his theatricality. And let’s not mention Namirrha’s sense of style (yeesh, although Edward Elric would love it).
Narthos’s trampling by a horse informs his latter usage of horses in his initial and final attack on Zotualla. The intention on Namirrha’s part is to get the king to remember what he did. But the king does not remember. Why should he? Trampling a little beggar boy is just par for the course with that man. So, Namirrha ramps it up to cosmic proportions as he summons eldritch abominations in the forms of titanic cosmic steeds. And even then, it is clear that Zotulla still does not get what Namirrha is saying!
Namirrha’s attacks on Zotulla begin with irritations, noises and ghostly steeds that keep the palace up at night and ruin the garden and palace. But he introduces a theater of the demonic when he invites the king and his court to a banquet. Trust me, Titus Andronicus would be envious of Namirrha’s usage of banquets as a means of revenge. Along with the banquet, Namirrha provides “entertainments” that eventually lead to the deaths of Zotulla’s court. Later on, Namirrha raises his palace to provide a grander view of the stage, er, Ummaos as the city gets trampled by Thamagoros’s horses. And finally, Namirrha renders Zotulla an impotent witness as he tramples Obexah.
Why this theatricality? There has always been an element of the spectacle with wizards and magicians. The magicians at court are as often as not entertainers as well as proto-scientists and councilors. Namirrha is aware of this, he no doubt has some experience with this, and he uses the expectation of entertainment to denigrate Zotulla, and maybe even entertain himself.
Unfortunately for Namirrha, he cannot stop himself. He keeps going on. His final actions are Thasaidon’s doing, his revenge, but is Thasaidon forcing him further into stupidity? Or did the demon/ god wait for his opportunity to strike after the final insult? What is clear, is that Namirrha’s downfall comes as he steals Zotulla’s body to torture Obexah as Zotulla is imprisoned in the eidolon. This final act of hatred, leads to his utter ruin as Namirrha, once back in his own body, cannot distinguish himself from Zotulla. And so he dies. . .
Namirrha is a undeniably a tragic hero whose fatal flaw is that he cannot stop himself. He keeps going until he is destroyed by his own revenge. Namirrha is one of the most powerful sorcerers I’ve read about in CAS so far. In my next installment, the wizards are more working class scholars.
I’ve been wanting to do a post series on Clark Ashton Smith for a while now, but I’ve never quite found an interesting approach. And then, I looked back over my previous series of posts concerning the wizards that appear in Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. I enjoyed writing about those wizards, so, I’ll do a new series dealing with the wizards appearing in Smith’s fiction. First up will be Namirrha from “The Dark Eidolon” and the three wizards from “The Master of Crabs.”
The format will be the same. A little biography, the spells and knowledge displayed, and the extent of their powers. Hopefully, this will be fun.
Jumping away from Clark Ashton Smith for a bit, I’m also going to do an analysis of Memories in the Rain volume 3 of Kubo Tite’s Bleach.
I haven’t got much to talk about, but there are some topics I’m going to post in the coming weeks. First off is some thoughts on the first few volumes of Bleach (and how I was wrong in my initial feelings towards it), the final Bas-Lag Reading Project series, the start of a Robert E. Howard Project, a project of Clark Ashton Smith, the start of either a Naruto or Fairy Tail reading project, and some lists. I don’t know what kind yet, but look for some in the coming days.
The next post coming either tomorrow or Saturday I’ll post about timing anime adaptations and how long should it be. Also, I’m going to come up with my top thirty films.
I’ve been interested in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels for a few years now, although I’ve never found the time to pick one up. I have, however, managed to watch the movie adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010 dir. Edgar Wright).
Like the series, the movie focuses on Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falling in love with the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and subsequently having to fight her seven evil exes (not ex boyfriends!). An interesting mix of genres, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a good and enjoyable film that perhaps doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
The Toronto that Scott Pilgrim inhabits is the world as video game. The League of Evil Exes is akin to a seven level video game, just without the goons and mini bosses. This element of the movie can be taken as either: the video game nature of the world is real, or Scott Pilgrim is interpreting the real world as a video game. Personally, I love the notion that the world depicted is an alternate Earth in which the rules are akin to a video game. But that is just me. This point, however, is the hard part of the film. Let’s be honest, a lot of the hate for this movie likely comes from “eww! It’s a video game movie!!”
For me, the problem with the movie is one of either acting or writing (I’m not sure which).
Don’t get me wrong, I like the acting on the whole. Michael Cera does a good(though not spectacular) job in the role of Scott Pilgrim. Ellen Wong is excellent is her role as Knives Chau, Aubrey Plaza is exceptionally cast as Julie Powers, and Keiran Culkin steals the movie with his portrayal of Wallace Wells.
My issue with the movie lies in the fact that I just don’t buy that Scott Pilgrim is in love with Ramona Flowers. He says the words, but the looks he gives her are one of awkwardness rather than love. I understand that Cera is playing Scott as more awkward than he needs to be (I wonder why), but that awkwardness is stripping away other expressions. I think this can be seen when either Wong or Winstead interact with Cera, there is a wide range of emotions that are displayed, from puppy love, to romantic love, from heart break to gentle concern. All of those emotions are revealed through facial expressions, not words.
The movie begins rather slow, then picks up speed until it reaches a frenzied conclusion. The best scenes in the film are the boss battles (with a few others).
The movie is really good, perhaps in spite of Scott Pilgrim (or Michael Cera). The final battle where Knives engages in battle is just awesome, any scene with Wallace Wells is fun, and Aubrey Plaza is just viciously hilarious.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is not for everyone. But in the end, it is a delightful film that I really enjoyed.
Gantz (2004, dir. Itano Ichiro) is the anime adaptation of Oku Hiroya’s manga Gantz (published in Weekly Young Jump). While a good anime, the end product is frustrating and tiresome, with repetitive arcs and a totally unsatisfying final five episodes leading to a horrible final episode. Personally, I think the adaption came too early. Had they waited, a better ending may have been achieved.
Don’t get me wrong, the anime is addictive as hell. The story, though repetitive, is compelling and engrossing. Despite myself, I am drawn in for more.
Kurono Kei is a high school student who, along with childhood friend Kato Masaru, are killed trying to rescue a homeless man who fell onto subway rails. They are transported to a room with several other people and a big black ball. The ball, Gantz, issues instructions for them to hunt various aliens. And a lot of people die.
The strongest element of the anime is the sheer emotional power that is conveyed to the viewer. The heightened emotions just drew me in, even as I raged against the stupidity of the characters.
And that’s the biggest problem with the series. Given the nature of Gantz, new characters are introduced for every arc (and yes, they’re almost all going to die). This forces a continued reintroduction for the new players (which gets repetitive) and those players again act in ways similar to their dead predecessors (again, repetitive). The most frustrating story element for me is the sitting around that the characters do during the early stages of the hunt. At first, it is excusable because both character and reader are new to the world. But after awhile, it gets tiresome. Especially when those characters who don’t act always end up indirectly causing the death of others (Nishi, the Old Woman and her Grandson, and the Priest come to mind). I can see that there is some irony and hitting home the point that these “players” are not supposed to excel at this.
The voice acting is really good (I watched the English dub). Chris Ayres is especially good in his role. And all of the voice actors capture the tension, fear, anger, and determination wonderfully.
The animation is equally good, although the computer animation is a little wonky at times (the train, the temple, etc.). But really good.
Gantz is for adults. That means a lot of blood and guts and a lot of nudity with some fairly explicit sex scenes (mainly female but Kurono Kei gets naked a few times as well).
In the end, Gantz is rather like a frustrating RPG. I can see the AVGN throwing bottles of beer at the wall in frustration. The “game” is set up to disadvantage the “player/ hunter.” The weapons don’t work right, the health suit is faulty, and the enemies are damned annoying.
The anime series adapts the first ninety four chapters/ first eight volumes of the manga with a final five episode filler arc to conclude. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t help but wonder if the manga is adapted too soon (given that the manga is still ongoing). But then again, the studio would need to commit to a Fullmetal Alchemist, Hikaru-no-Go, or D. Grayman length series rather than the two season twenty six episode format. I don’t know which would be better (or maybe a different filler finale).
I’m honestly left dissatisfied after this series. It’s good, but leaves a strongly bitter taste in one’s mouth.
Lately, two issues, distantly related, have captured the genre blogs I frequent. Reversing the title order, the first issue is the gender and racial heteronormative segregation of the film industry and the second issue is the utter lack of respect for genre literature by mainstream critics. As I said, the two issues are related in that both share a lack of respect and an ingrained bias that has been, thus far at least, ineradicable.
To start with segregation, the controversy arose after the white washing of The Last Airbender, the live action adaptation of Avatar: the Last Airbender. The source material is set in a world with heavy East Asian influences and the characters are ethnically Asian, but those characters are then cast with white actors in the lead roles. Similar white washing has occurred with the live action adaptation of Dragon Ball and seems to be the case with Akira (if the movie sites are to be believed). As Hal Duncan and N.K. Jemisin point out, this is segregation.
There are two problems here, I think. One is the temptation and compulsion to immediately declare, as Dwayne McDuffie terms the ‘Rule of Three’, if there are more than three major characters of an Othered group, then that work is moved into the Othered’s literary genre. And if the writer is of the same Otherness as the three or more? Automatic shunting into Feminist, African American, Chicano, Asian American, GLBT, etc. genres.
This shunting then artificially limits the audience to just that demographic. It might be the greatest thing ever, but few people outside of the group will ever read or watch it. This brings to mind Duncan’s lament of missing GLBT mainstream film. Except for a certain cowboy movie and Milk, there aren’t any. Again, why?
Well, I think it has to do with racism that hides behind economics. We, the Powers that Be, don’t think a movie starring non whites (excepting a few) will be successful. And this axiom is believed, even if there is ample evidence to the contrary. This is as true for non white actors as it is for older women and openly gay actors. The “conventional wisdom” (wherever the hell that comes from) states something, therefore it is true and we, the Powers that Be, are too cowardly to challenge it. And with enough cowards, nothing changes. When I took a class on the Cold War through film, I watched a Sidney Poitier film called No Way Out, in which there is a subtle attempt to portray the hicks, the uneducated, the underclass as the bigots while the elite are portrayed as more tolerant. But the truth is that the elite are condescending with their own racism hidden behind the overt violence of the underclass. And I think that racism exists today in a similar form.
And of course, there is backlash because the president is African American. And this backlash is affecting most civil rights movements in both the political and cultural sphere. When a reader laments the lack of ‘black cannibals’ in his fiction, then things are getting terrifying.
Moving on to genre and respect. I think a similar problem is at hand. For those readers who “don’t read genre” or who read genre when young and abandoned it, there is a prejudice there as well.
If my memory serves (I can’t remember the title of the book on Victorian popular culture I read), a specific genre of literature (realism) was selected by early Victorian critics as a means to legitimize prose fiction against the ancient bane of literature, the Neo Platonist Puritan. At this time, the novel was surpassing poetry as the most popular form of literature through the popularity of the gothic romance. But course, popularity means very little to the gate keepers of Culture. And so, the gate keepers selected a specific genre that appealed to a bourgois taste. The other (gothic romance and its children) are then gradually relegated to ever worse ghettos.
Nowadays, the situation is more problematic as “mainstream” authors utilize genre techniques and “genre” authors utilize modern and postmodern literary techniques. This leads to confusion and burnt bridges as Margaret Atwood claims that she is not a science fiction writer and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is claimed to not really be fantasy. And of course that last statement is utterly stupid. The only Atwood novel I like is The Robber Bride, so I’ll focus more on Martin.
Brian Murphy, over at Blackgate, had a good response to an LA Times story trying to make the upcoming A Game of Thrones television adaptation not a fantasy. But of course, the argument only reveals the prejudices at work. If it is good, it can’t be genre. This is, of course, an ingrained logical fallacy. The problem lies in the ingrained nature of the prejudice. It is extremely hard for people to over come ideas and notions that are ingrained. I know, I myself struggle with the academy’s attitude towards SF/F all the time. But I recognize it for what it is and understand that.
In the end, one must always struggle against the prejudices they have be it racial, gender, sexual, or cultural. And in the end, one can only hope that the Other, either human or genre, can get to the promised land of acceptance.
Postscript: For those of you interested in better essay posts on this subject, check out N.K. Jemisin’s website: http://nkjemisin.com/ and Hal Duncan’s blog: http://notesfromthegeekshow.blogspot.com/ and of course Blackgate: http://www.blackgate.com/
Its time…ITS TIME!!! Its Wrestlemania 27 prediction time. I’m going to be honest with you, i’m not overly excited for this particular Wrestlemania, seeing as I will probably predict every single match correctly. But i guess that just speaks to the repetitiveness and staleness of the current product…but that is another post in and of itself… wel, without further ado, THE PREDICTIONS!!!!
The Corre vs. Big Show, Kane, Santino and Kozlov…
giving the fact that the WWE has all but lost interest in the Corre being a dominant force, I’m going with Big Show, Kane Santino and Kozlov.
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan…
Sheamus wins what will probably be one of the better matches.
Morrison, Trish Stratus and Snooki vs. Dolph Ziggler and Laycool….
Obviously the publicity for this match only really matters if Snooki’s team wins, so that who wins.
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes…
Again, going on the staleness of the product, Rey wins…then goes on vacation…
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk…
Orton wins…but I feel like this could be the second or third best match of the night.
Jerry Lawler vs. Micheal Cole….
Do i even have to say it….Lawler wins…easily…Cole and Jack Swagger both eat a Stunner from Stone Cold Steve Austin…
Triple H vs. The Undertaker…
Taker won’t lose at Wrestlemania…Taker wins…
The Miz vs. John Cena…
Cena won’t lose at Wrestlemania…to the Miz…
Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio….
Del Rio is the new “chosen one” so he wins…
Thanks for checking out the predictions…and I promise if I am wrong, I will post an apology to everyone who believed me, but I’m pretty certain I won’t have to do that.