alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Alan Moore’s story in Cinema Purgatorio, “After Tombstone”, is pretty complex for the roughly 6 pages it takes to vivisect the gunfight at the OK Corral. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’m a lot closer now than I was a month ago, having spent a lot of time reading Wikipedia and watched the three main movies that Moore seems to be drawing on for this story (in order to annotate). None of these four sources agree with each other about what was really going on. And then, the clearly unreliable narrator of Moore’s story has yet a fifth account.

It seems to me that what Moore is getting at here is not just the now-familiar concept that history is another kind of fiction. Rather, that fiction overwrites history, often repeatedly. History becomes palimpsest, a hologram of all the different versions refracting with each other at once. As Dave Sim once quoted Moore as saying, “All stories are true.”

Of course, as we see in “After Tombstone”, this process of overwriting is an extremely violent one. Corpses are left on the street whenever it happens. In Moore’s eternalist view of the universe, however, being shot full of holes in no way prevents (or allows) those bodies to not continually repeat their roles. Dead (line) or not, the show must go on.

Read more... )
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Last night, I spent more time comforting my psychiatrist than vice versa. But then, I can pass for a member of the dominant classes; she’s a black woman with an Arabic name…
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Since my last posting, I have had an increase in productivity. Not enough to be employable yet, but I have done a great deal of Alan Moore annotation. If my new working methods prove stable, I’ll be pushing the button[1] on this Patreon more often, possibly as much as monthly, but more realistically every other month or less. As always, if this makes you rethink your pledge amount, feel free to change that.


  • Annotations for Chapter One of Voice of the Fire, “Hob’s Hog”, including a complete translation into modern English. This was probably the second hardest chapter I will ever annotate[3].

  • Annotations for the Moore story in Cinema Purgatorio #6, “A Night at the Lawyers”. This was another extra-difficult job, with nearly every panel requiring individual research and notes.

  • Annotations for the Moore story in Cinema Purgatorio #7, “After Tombstone”.

  • Miscellaneous other notes and maintenance on sites.

[1] “Push the button, Max!
[2] The perfectionist in me is forced to add “to a solid first draft state”. Art is never finished, only abandoned.
[3] I am looking forward to / dreading tackling the Lucia Joyce chapter of Jerusalem.

(Copied from Patreon, since y'all might want to know.)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Dear Marvel and DC,

Please stop creating stories which revolve around ethical debates about superheroes. It is impossible to honestly tell such a story without coming to grips with the fact that the vast majority of your protagonists are one or more of:

• extralegal vigilantes
• people who solve almost all of their problems with a combination of brute force and deceit
• people who routinely lie to their loved ones
• people who encourage minors to participate in the above activities

I’m not saying it’s impossible to tell good stories about superhero ethics – but I AM saying that it is impossible to do so within a shared corporate universe that is dedicated to maintaining the profitability of its trademarks. (And given that those corporations are direct descendents of organized crime cartels, getting them to ever put ethics or story values above profits is always going to be an extreme uphill battle.)

This rant brought to you by the fact that I recently caught up on a bunch of Marvel comics which were involved in the Civil War II crossover. A lot of characters had to suddenly be a lot stupider than they previously had been in order for that conflict to happen.

I note that Squirrel Girl was not involved. My personal headcanon is that she was off-planet during this mess. If she HAD been around, it would’ve been wrapped up in one or two issues, three tops, and would never have gotten so heated as to deserve the title ‘Civil War’.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I meant to write about this film after Kestrell and I watched it together several months ago, but was distracted by Life. But now seems like a more important time than ever to talk about the power of Art to inspire Deeds.

As you might have guessed from the title, the plot is loosely based on The Scarlet Pimpernel. But instead of Revolutionary France, we are in Nazi Germany. Leslie Howard (who also produced and directed the film) stars as Horatio Smith, an English archaeology professor who is using the cover of an archaeological dig in Germany to rescue “intellectuals” and smuggle them to safety. (Heroic archaeologist versus Nazis – was this an influence on Indiana Jones?)

It’s an exciting and suspenseful adventure film. You could call it a propaganda film, which is accurate, but misleading. The characters are moral, but not preachy. There is a bit of speechifying at the end, but as [ profile] sovay points out:
…this is no comfortable re-enactment of settled history. The film is set in 1939, made in 1940—Britain is under the Blitz, America is not yet even in the war; there are no hindsight assurances. So it must be prophecy … sympathetic magic, summoning. Imago. And Howard's ghost is still speaking out of that dark.
But the real reason that I feel compelled to write about Pimpernel Smith today is to point out the inspiring effect it had on one person in particular. Quoting Wikipedia:
When Pimpernel Smith reached Sweden in November 1943, the Swedish Film Censorship Board decided to ban it from public viewing, as it was feared that such a critical portrayal of Nazi Germany could harm Sweden's relationship with Germany and thus jeopardise the country's neutrality in the Second World War. Raoul Wallenberg did, however, manage to see it at a private screening, together with his half-sister, Nina Lagergren.[11]

She later recalled that on their way home after the screening, "he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do."[12] Since 1941, Wallenberg had made frequent trips to Hungary, and knew how oppressed the Hungarian Jews were. He travelled as a representative and later joint owner of an export-import company that was trading with central Europe and was owned by a Hungarian Jew.

Following the mass deportations that had started in April 1944, Wallenberg was sent to Budapest in August 1944, as First Secretary to the Swedish legation, assigned under secret agreement between the US and Swedish governments to organise a rescue programme for the Jews. By issuing "protective passports", which identified the bearer as Swedish, and housing them in 32 buildings that he rented and declared Swedish territory, he managed to rescue tens of thousands from the German death camps.

Tens of thousands saved. Leslie Howard didn’t live long enough to hear about it, but I’m sure it would have pleased him.

Pimpernel Smith is available on Youtube. I highly recommend it.

Hob's Hog

Nov. 9th, 2016 09:41 pm
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Managed to spend at least some of today following Neil Gaiman's advice for what to do when times are bad ("Make Good Art"). Buckled down and finished a first draft of annotations for Hob's Hog, the first chapter of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire.

Being the perfectionist I am, nothing ever quite counts as "done", but I'm legit proud of what's up there. This is probably the second-hardest chapter I'll ever work on. Taking a break for social media, then back to the note mines :-)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
[ profile] teenybuffalo and I saw this at the Boston Public Library today. It's pretty nifty in person, but in some ways better on-line, because you can zoom way in and linger over the details.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Adobe now tries to bundle a password manager in when you try to install a Flash Player update. I know this, because I just had to update Flash to avoid a security problem, like I have to do practically every month. So you think I should trust all my passwords to the people who are continually impresing me with how often they have security problems?
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
About fifteen and a half years ago, I decided to ask a question. That remains the best decision I ever made. And a few months after that, Kestrell formally said "I do." I look forward to at least fifteen more years!
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I spend a *lot* of time providing on-the-fly descriptive tracks for Kestrell. In that time, I have gotten great utility out of a technical term I picked up from Buffy scriptwriters, "Baitcam". This describes the frequently-used shot where the camera starts looking at the protagonist and/or potential victim from behind concealing foliage, usually from the middle distance, implying that something dangerous is hiding in the bushes. (There usually is, but sometimes it's just a fake-out.) This is, as you can see, complex to describe, but sufficiently quick to establish visually that it's very handy to have shorthand for it.

After the third time in a week that I found myself pausing a video to say: "They're doing that thing with the protagonist in the middle distance and suddenly an indistinct outline figure dashes across the camera in the foreground," I decided I needed a new piece of shorthand. After some thought, I decided that "Forezoom" did the job nicely, being evocative, and only rwo syllables.

Having used it successfully for a month or so, I've decided to share it with the world :)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Just got home from opening night of Wrathskellar Tales. This is the newest incarnation of a Halloween show by the Boston Beautease, a burlesque troupe that I am friends with several of. This is their attempt to mix burlesque performance, creepy Halloween sensibilities, and the immersive theatre of Sleep No More. I can't say it's 100% successful, but definitely a good first effort, and worth encouraging. It's smaller than SNM, in both physical space and number of performers, but they make good use of what they've got. And, of course, it's also considerably closer and cheaper than SNM is currently, so if you've been jonesing for a fix, this is a must-see. And there's no other show which will give you such a close-up look at so much scantily-clad gyrating pulchritude, so that's definitely a point in its favor! Recommended.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Michael Anderson (of A Bloody Deed fame) is masterminding a new show going up next month: A Palpable Hit: Shakespeare's Best Fight Scenes. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks to be a humdinger. Check it out:
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
This is apparently old news by internet standards, but I just discovered it. A porcupine named Teddy Bear, who makes insanely adorable noises while eating. Kestrell wanted to pick him up and hug him, despite realizing what a bad idea that would be :) If you need a smile, this is likely to help.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
In the game Marvel Puzzle Quest, I've recently spent a lot of time playing both with and against a particular version of Black Widow (gray suit). When used strategically by the player, she is a *considerable* badass. The opponent AI, however, has no idea how to properly apply her powers.

I take this as an accidental-but-apt commentary on the character's recent treatment in the movies. The actors and directors make her badass, but none of the money people know what to do with her.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Kestrell discovered this today, and we watched the first two episodes. It’s a newish TV series from CBS that’s available for free on Amazon Prime Video. It’s basically “The West Wing” meets “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, with an extra dash of black humor. We’re definitely intrigued enough to watch more.

Also, for extra geek cred points, after the first episode, the “previously on Braindead” segment is a song by Jonathan Coulton (with slightly altered lyrics each week). While there is definitely a horror element, the level of gore is consistent with broadcast television. On the other hand, if you have trouble with a plot revolving around mind-controlling bugs crawling inside people’s brains, you might want to give it a miss. And of course, having only seen the first two episodes, I can’t guarantee that the quality will stay high. Provisionally recommended.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Kes wanted to see this movie because it seemed to be in the sub genre “evil trees”. It wasn’t EXACTLY that, but it satisfied, nonetheless.

A young English couple moves to a remote forest in Ireland, to help prepare for an upcoming logging operation. The locals warn them that these woods belong to “The Hallow”, fearsome faery-like beings. Our protagonists, sadly, do not appear to have any genre-savvy, and write this off as rural superstition. Viewers who ARE genre-savvy, especially fans of real-world biological horror, will see a lot of what’s coming as soon as the word “Cordyceps” is uttered.

Plot-wise, there aren’t a lot of surprises, but the direction and acting are excellent. Stylistically, the film moves through a half dozen or so classic horror sub genres, frequently adding a new bit of spin to what our not-so-heroic protagonists have to deal with. It starts calm and slow, but there’s some truly disturbing body horror by the end of it.

Speaking of ends, if you do watch this movie, stay for the very end of the credits. Several of the last few credits are amusing in and of themselves. And in the final 90 seconds or so, music plays over them which slyly re-contextualizes the entire film that came before it. Recommended for horror fans.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, I have reached the infamous “Lucia Joyce” chapter of Alan Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem. It’s written as a pastiche of James Joyce’s Finnegan‘s Wake, with nearly every word misspelled punally, or mangled in some crossword way. Moore says that writing this chapter broke his brain, and he had to take 18 months off from writing the novel to recover. Even just reading it is doing odd things to my use and perception of language.

It’s a difficult read, but not without its rewards. I have laughed out loud more often during this chapter than any other; not merely because of funny events (though there certainly are some), but a rare sort of revelatory laughter, as I realize another layer of meaning snaking around the surface level of the plot.

But I really started writing this post to express my joy and amazement at one particular scene in this chapter. Reading and Alan Moore novel, one expects a great deal of intertextuality, and guest appearances by all manner of obscurely famous people. What I did NOT see coming, was an extended conversation between Lucia Joyce and Herbie Popnecker, a.k.a. The Fat Fury! Okay, TECHNICALLY, it was artist Ogden Whitney, but as portrayed by Moore, that’s a distinction without a difference.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
On Saturday, 10/22, at 2 P.M., Rob Velella will be doing his Edgar Allen Poe performance at the Watertown Free Public Library. Kesnd I saw him last year around this time, and recommend it unrervedly for those looking for a spooky literary time.

More details:
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
So, it's been a while since I did one of these. On a new (ish) antidepressant, that seems to be helping. All eager to get progress going on my various projects. Only to be held back by my chronic pain issues.

Physical Therapy continues to be partially effective, but not to cure me. Currently on a break from it, waiting for more insurance authorization. Sadly, my current (best yet) therapist is getting booted upstairs to management, so even if I get more visists approved, I won't be seeing him any more.

My (mental) therapist suggested an experiment, which I am now in the midst of: spending a month with minimal keyboard interaction, to see if extended rest makes a difference. Please be patient with typos, as I'm using mobile devices to post. At first was very frustrated, as work on my front-burner projects had to be back-burnered. But now I'm working on some previously back-burnered stuff that I can do via mobile.

(Also, am helping Kes with a 'close reading' of Stranger Things, that she is thinking of turning into a thesis.)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Kestrell and I watched this Spanish-language horror movie today. It was of obvious interest to her since it featured not one but two characters suffering from visual impairment. Sturgeon’s Law applies even to such niche categories as “horror movies about blind women”, so it was a pleasant surprise to find one that was well made and not overly clichéd.

Our protagonist, Julia, appears to be in her 30s, is happily married, and works in an observatory. Her twin sister, Sara, and she both suffer from a degenerative condition that is slowly driving them blind. Sara goes completely blind first, and as the movie opens, appears to commit suicide. Julia, however, remains unconvinced, and insists on looking for a deeper motive, despite the objections of both the police and her own husband. Naturally, she discovers more than a few secrets that Sara was keeping, and before long finds herself targeted by a killer whom no one else believes exists…

As the plot develops, there are quite a number of interesting twists, only a few of which even Kestrell saw coming. Reading some reviews of the movie later, I noticed that some people complained about plot holes; I honestly didn’t see any. To be sure, there were places where in order to understand what was going on, you had to be observant and put the pieces together yourself; this was not a film that wanted a big exposition scene after the climax.

In fact, I was impressed with how little explicit exposition there was. A lot of information was delivered, but generally through very naturalistic dialogue, or through clever camera movements and NO dialogue. The director makes frequent use of POV shots, and they usually reveal aspects of character as well as plot. One of my favorite things that the movie does is, during the sections where Julia is nearly or completely blind, they subtly indicate the impact on her by never showing any character’s face EXCEPT for her own. Other people are viewed from the back, or are standing out of frame, or what have you. In this way, you feel viscerally the manner in which she is no longer able to gain information from facial expressions – or, indeed, facial recognition!

While I greatly enjoyed this film, I’m afraid that relatively few people reading this review would also like it. It is slower paced and less violent than a typical giallo movie, but has considerably more violence and action than your typical psychological thriller. Also, be warned that there are some fairly significant invocations of the old Injury-To-Eye Motif, so if that’s a squick point for you, stay away.


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Alexx Kay

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