29 April 2011 @ 10:34 am
Notes on a Half-Seen SyFy Original  
I was going to put something else here, but it's whiny and on cold reflection I decided I can't really be bothered to take the time to type it up. I'm going to be elaborating on this entry on the Plurk account I acquired to keep up with my canonmates at [ profile] somarium instead.

For a kick-off, you'll need to be aware of one thing, and that is this: SyFy Originals are absolute bollocks. They're high-concept messes with absurd titles and even worse plots. The only thing more cookie-cutter than the storylines are the characters who inhabit them; the acting, even from people who've proved they're capable of acting perfectly decently in other things, is uniformly dreadful; and the special effects, which rely heavily on cheap CGI, are barely more convincing than a Deviantart photo-manip.

In short, SyFy originals suck. The only thing about them that exhibits any signs of even basic competence is their trailers, most of which are far more coherent and satisfying than the actual movies they advertise. It certainly doesn't hurt that the trailers cut out the deeply unsatisfying opening half-hour which attempts to present the terrible, cookie-cutter characters as likeable and interesting human beings before getting to the point and starting to gratuitously kill them all with bad CGI.

The average SyFy Original has a plot that runs as follows:

An [evil corporate executive/sadistic mad scientist] finds a [giant creature/mystical plot device] that will allow him to [gain obscene wealth/gain obscene power/gain obscene wealth and obscene power/make a scientific breakthrough via massively unethical tests]. Unfortunately in attempting to utilize the power of the [giant creature/mystical plot device] for his own ends, the [evil corporate executive/sadistic mad scientist] manages to [unseal an ancient monster/unseal a whole bunch of ancient monsters/create genetically modified monsters that break out of the labs and go on a killing spree/magically trigger a world-ending apocalypse].

It's now up to a Renegade Scientist whose offbeat theories were rejected by the mainstream and [a grizzled soldier trying to reunite with his estranged daughter/another scientist who starts out playing by the rules but comes to appreciate the hero's maverick ways] to save the world. Though their plans will initially be rejected by the [scientific establishment/military officers] overseeing the relief efforts, by the end of the movie our hero will win through by [blowing everything up/firing nukes into the atmosphere/inventing a magic Reset Button that restores the status quo through the power of Bullshit Science].

There are occasionally ones about extreme weather instead but they generally follow the exact same pattern, though the designated villain is replaced by implausible meteorological conditions and they're about 5,000 percent more likely to end with a clunky Green Aesop.

Tonight's offering went by the title of Stonehenge Apocalypse. Here's the poster. Here's the IMDB Page. This is a real movie, starring real actors.

I am not making this up, and if you've ever seen a SyFy Original you'll know I'm not. You'll also believe me when I say I've seen worse on SyFy. Specifically, something called Lost Colony and a film starring Michael Shanks which went by the name of Arctic Blast, which sounds more like a flavor of mouthwash than the title of a disaster movie. And, bad though Stonehenge Apocalypse is, at least you don't literally see the moment where the lead actor completely stopped trying and began reciting all his lines in a barely-engaged monotone - which happened to Michael Shanks halfway through a scene in which he was trying to reassure his whiny teenage daughter that divorcing his wife didn't mean he loved her any less.

So, what happens in Stonehenge Apocalypse, then?

Short Answer: The countdown to apocalypse is triggered by Dr. Sheldon Hawkes from CSI: NY and the mysteriously-rotating stones at a badly CGIed version of Stonehenge, and it's up to Castiel from Supernatural and Dr. Elizabeth Weir from Stargate: Atlantis to save the day, with no help at all from a member of the cast of the Highlander TV show.

Long Answer: Keep reading.

I am amazed by how much of this I actually remember. )

In summary, then: watch Top Gun.

Finally, SyFy Originals, when you have a grand total of two minority actors, casting them as the main villain and leader of a weird doomsday cult and his chief mook respectively might not be the smartest move. Then again these people also perpetrated Mongolian Death Worm, in which a bunch of white Americans pratted about trying to out-smug one another while the superstitious Asians living in tin shacks spent most of their time being berated by the white characters before getting eaten by CGI monsters one of the Americans had unleashed in the first place, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised.
Current Music: danger zone - kenny loggins
Current Mood: all right, that sucked!
19 April 2011 @ 11:05 pm
Get A Life  
I have been asked to get a life. Okay, that's nice, but how precisely do you go about doing this? I admit I've never been quite sure of the procedure, and my informant was rather unclear.

I mean, I've got a life. Hello. Hands up who else isn't dead. Here I am, sitting here and typing: presuming I'm not a very clever and curiously-programmed spambot, the very existance of this post points to that. I've got a life. If I didn't I wouldn't be here typing this but somewhere else entirely, and any suggestion (presumably made to my headstone or through the mediumship of a third party who'd mentioned they were getting a woman with glasses) that I get one would be both pointless and callous.

It can't refer to that. Obviously not - it's quite disingenuous of me to suggest so. So what do they mean when they say 'get a life'? Presumably not that you - the lifeless one - have been somehow rendered comatose or dead by your inability to, say, spend Saturday nights doing whatever it is it's considered socially acceptable to do on a Saturday night. It must be something more complex than that.

I presume it means working in marketing, and assuming that my intimate understanding of the Carruthers Report means I'm somehow indispensible. I presume it means discussing The X-Factor in a bored, above-it-all drawl, and yet somehow still posessing an encyclopedic knowledge of who's in and who's out, and who said what to who. I presume it means weighing myself religiously and getting nigh-suicidal when the needle edges perilously close to double figures. I presume it means girls' nights out and girls' nights in, dancing to music I didn't like when it first came out and still don't like now, and watching bad rom-coms while eating finger food from M&S. I presume it means reading Cosmopolitan, and not just because I want to laugh at it, and expecting my fiancé to take me to see movies like Made of Honor and 27 Dresses the getting upset when he seems bored. I presume it means learning how the blow-dryer works and cutting a photo of Kate Middleton out of a magazine and asking my hairdresser if she can make my hair do that, and taking fashion seriously.

I presume it means going shopping in Oxford Street, and wishing I had the money to buy a Gucci purse. I presume it means hunting for knockoffs or eBay bargains - or running perilously close to my credit limit buying the real thing anyway. I presume it means spending Sunday afternoons in Clapham being patronized by men called Nathan and Jeremy, who are happy to be seen with me but not to listen to what I have to say. I presume it means bars and clubs and stumbling in late with my ears ringing and indefinable gunk over the bottom of the shoes that left my feet bleeding.

I presume it means reading books and forgetting them and that my strongest opinion, after watching a film, would be about the leading man's smile.

Get a life, in short, is why aren't you more like your sister? in a more fashionable outfit.

And isn't life too short to waste it on worrying why you aren't?
Current Music: al stewart - terminal eyes
Current Mood: i get ranty in the shower.
14 February 2011 @ 03:49 pm
Conscientious Objections  
If you had the power, would you permanently eliminate Valentine's Day?

No, I wouldn't.

What I would like to see gone is not the occasion itself but a lot of the idiocy that surrounds it, especially as it pertains to women.

Taken entirely on its own terms Saint Valentine's Day, as a modern holiday rather than a saint's day, is largely inoffensive. It's a bit daft in a lot of ways, yes, and nowadays it's also very over-commercialized, but in and of itself there's absolutely nothing the matter with it. It's sweet and it's fun, that's all, and it provides an awful lot of people with nothing more controversial or time-consuming than that. It doesn't, or shouldn't, do anybody any real harm.

The issue I have with Valentine's Day isn't the institution itself. It's the reactions to it that I'd like to see gone.

To get this out of the way: yes, I am in a relationship. Yes, it's a serious relationship. Yes, I am doing something - for a small, limited value of something that isn't likely to be that different to what I normally do when I see my far better half - to mark the occasion. But for many years (for most of my teens and early twenties, in fact, when the stereotype dictated I should have been working myself up into a crazy froth over my single status about this because hey, I'm a girl, right?) I was not in a relationship, and I did not do anything for Valentine's Day. And that nothing includes 'not sitting around in sackcloth wailing and rubbing ash into my face because I didn't have a date'.

I just think Valentine's Day is optional, that's all. Nice if you have a partner, the desire to do something to mark the date and don't mind doing it in scrums of other couples all doing the same, and if you have the wherewithal to celebrate at expensive length and that's what you want to do with yourself, knock yourself out. But if you don't, or don't want to? It shouldn't be seen as any reflection on yourself or on your relationship that you just plain don't.

Except for a lot of people out there that's not how it works at all, and that's where my problems come in...

Dr. Gray: How could my boyfriend forget valentines day?

My exclusive stage 3 boyfriend and I are mutually serious. Yet today when I asked him "which weekend do you want to celebrate Valentine's day" he said "oh crap, I completely forgot". We study mars/venus together all the time. How could this happen? I was hurt because I've been planning for it the last couple weeks.

Because people - women, this is not something that's expected of men, who aren't presumed to fetishize Love and Romance in the abstract to the same extent - ask questions like this in all seriousness. I have no idea what an exclusive stage three boyfriend is (it sounds like something you order from a catalogue) but by the sounds of this woman's plaints it's meant to come complete with the 'remembers Valentine's Day' feature and she's now afraid her version is defective, because it didn't. She wants a weekend of pampering, he doesn't look good to deliver, and now she's upset about it - and this is in no way like a child pouting because they figured they were somehow owed a present and didn't get one, of course. Romance wrapped up in an I Want.

And because Cosmpolitan reports on Why Guys Forget Valentine's Day as if it was a vital dispatch from the Front of Blokedom that should be studied, memorized and in all likelihood eaten so it doesn't fall into enemy hands. God forbid you just ask your partner or make your expectations known and plan something together. Nope, far better to drop coy little hints and trust he'll do the rest because that's what men do on Valentine's Day - or should do!

And because there are people - women - who seriously measure the success or failure of their relationship by how their partners - their men - perform on Valentine's Day. Success, of course, is measured in terms of how much time and money he was induced to spend; coming home in a panic with a few forlorn roses after someone at work mentioned it was Valentine's Day is proof he's just going through the motions and is losing interest in them. Forgetfulness or disinterest? Taken, by some women, as a sign that he doesn't really love them and Men are from Mars-style proof of male insensitivity.

And because there are girls out there wondering if there's something the matter with them because they're apparently not appropriately devastated that their boyfriends forgot to circle the date.

I am sick of seeing women being told, by implication or otherwise, that they're doing it wrong for not wanting to live in an episode of Sex and the City.

But it's not only that. I am sick, sick, sick of the Men-are-from-Mars-And-Women-Can't-Read-Maps crap that has people acting like men and women are two completely different species whose behavior needs to be studied and interpreted, not fellow human beings. I am sick of seeing books and magazines and aspirational lifestyle shows looking at the opposite gender through the patronizing lens of the nineteenth-century anthropologist. I am sick of people tut-tutting and shaking their heads over every little difference between women and men as if they were proof that these people on the other side of the fence were irredeemably alien (and, in all likelihood, somehow inadequate) rather than truly attempting to communicate, to understand and to embrace.

Yes, I'm tired of Valentine's Day because I'm tired of the politics of it. I don't have any strong on opinions on it as a festival, and I wish there was some way to preserve the bit that let people had fun, but without the absurdly gendered expectations it brings with it. I'm tired of all the stupidity surrounding it and of the fact that having been born female apparently makes me one of the designated enforcers. Because I'm a girl and girls like this stuff, right?

So, what I want gone? I want the presumption that, as a woman, I should want to join the Romance Police gone. I'm tired of the implication that I should be judging the success or otherwise of my relationship by how much my boyfriend spent on me because Hallmark told him he had to. I'm tired of the expectation that I should want to force the man I want to spend the rest of my life with into empty displays of conspicuous consumption because he's afraid that if he doesn't I'll think he doesn't care, so he wants to stave off two weeks of sulking and my throwing it at him in every argument between now and Christmas. I don't think any of that, and thank God my boyfriend knows it. I would be horrified if he thought he had to romance me by obligation because oh my God it's Valentine's Day. I'd rather he gave me flowers on one of the 364 days in the year the calendar didn't say he was supposed to.

I know it's never going to happen. But if it's what we'd do if we had the power to change things? The gender politics of it would be my choice for the axe.
Current Music: push it - garbage
Current Mood: what's love got to do with it?
11 December 2010 @ 11:11 pm
General Ignorance  
Today's update is bought to you by Google and my desire to know where in the Philippines Cebu is. Please don't ask why I wanted to know where exactly Cebu is, just take it on trust that I did. Yes, that does mean the reason was daft enough that even I'm embarrassed to share it and that should probably tell you something...

Anyway, the end result is that I was looking at maps. Specifically, I was conducting a Google search for 'world maps'. I know, 'map of Asia' would have made more sense but we can all be logical in hindsight. I just like world maps, always have, though I like satellite views of the world from space better. I'm less interested in what goes where than I am in what it all looks like.

But no, I was looking for maps. For some reason, among a lot of political maps and topographical maps most of wehich were too small to be much use, and attempts to get me to buy a version I could actually find Cebu on, that led to me stumbling across this and immediately becoming somewhat distracted.

Trust me on this one: you need to see this thing at full size.

Sometimes, I wish I was better at geography and looking at this satellite picture is one of those times. Someone who actually knew what things went where could probably pick out and name all the major population centers using this image. I can only get the really obvious ones, and beyond that point I'm just looking at the patterns the lights are making and wondering what some of those lines of light are following. Roads? National boundaries? Rivers? You can see the upper course of the Nile that way; you can trace the border between South and North Korea. It's even possible to see the deserts, if only because nobody bothers to build there. (Exception: Las Vegas. What kind of dizzy spell made that seem like a good idea?)

I don't really understand what I'm looking at here, and I know it's not necessarily a good sign that the world from space, when sunk in darkness, looks like this. All the same, I can't help but like to look at it.
Current Music: main tiles from 'blade runner' - vangelis
Current Mood: shiny.
12 March 2010 @ 09:54 pm
Oh wow where does the time go.  
... so, yeah.

Backdating. Oh Hell yeah am I backdating. In case the reason for the mad mega-hiatus wasn't obvious... well, blame [ profile] somarium. It is a distracting place to be and I have been well and truly distracted by it, because quite frankly it beats being distracted by real life. Plus there are some awesome people there and they have been helping in that matter. Lookin' at you, [ profile] youko_astarael.

Anyway, it's taken a while, but I finally seem to be getting to grips with juggling tags and everything else. So, here I am again.

Anyway, first things first - here's something random I just wanted to get out there because it's my Livejournal, so why not? I'm not going to foist this on anyone else, mind, so this gets backdated because frankly who else is gonna give a damn? That 'something' being a question, and that question being this: what the Hell planet are most advertisers from, anyway? Because clearly it's not from anyplace I've been living lately.

I don't tend to see a lot of online advertising because Firefox and Adblock is a wonderful, winning combination, and Google Chrome - where I've been spending most of my days since I'm constantly logged in on [ profile] 1thingincommon over there - and Adblock is if anything only slightly better. There have, however, been a couple of moments lately where I have been forced to use Internet Explorer. And that means a return to the wonderful world of online advertisements - and, for that matter, to advertisers who appear to be commuting to Gray or TWBA or Saatchi and Saatchi or wherever from Mars, going by how in tune they are with Earth customs and habits. Look at this.

Does anyone this side of adland shave their legs like this?

Yeah, I know when I want to shave my legs I don't do it in the damn shower like a normal human being. Nope. I run an entire damn bathtub full of water, dip my legs in it, then sit perched prettily on the side of the tub with my little plastic disposable. Only, you know, I don't, because it's stupid. It's a waste of time, it's a waste of water, and my butt would get sore because the sides of baths are designed for climbing over and keeping bathwater in, not for draping yourself all over while you dip your legs in the tub, as if actually climbing in it was somehow too indelicate and plebian for words.

I don't even think I want to know what the so-called innovation in home hair removal this thing thinks it's touting is when, in this advertiser's insane little world, 'shaving your legs in the shower' would count.
Current Mood: wtf mate?
Current Music: it's raining outside.
26 January 2010 @ 01:08 am
No Thank You for the Music.  
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In an attempt to draw a distinction between songs I merely dislike and songs which are actively, aggressively terrible and clearly out to do their listeners some permanent harm, I am eschewing the easy choices. It would be simple to name a song I didn't like much and declare the job done, but that would be to leave the question fundamentally unanswered, 'I don't like this' being a horse of a very different color to 'this is an offense against God and Man'.

Yes, there's Take on Me by A-ha, a song that was played to death by the vile, power-mad bully-boss at my Saturday job and which I consequently can no longer listen to without remembering that shitty, shitty job and all the crap he had me take before I finally quit after he insisted that next week if I wanted to keep my job I would clean his motherfucking car for him. Yes, there's pretty much anything that came out of the mouth of a member of Steps. Yes, there's the painful papier-mache blandness of Seventeen and Crazy for You by British boy band Let Loose, a group of close-harmony torture-by-tedium artists my brother liked for some ungodly reason, and forced us all to listen to while trapped in the family Volvo on interminable drives down back roads. All of which are songs that I personally would consider to be beyond the pale, but all of which I dislike for personal reasons. As songs, they're bland rather than bad.

And then there's Surfin' Bird by the aptly-named Trashmen.

Surfin' Bird is belligerently bad. It's the kind of terrible song that could never be merely bland, the kind you simply can't produce by accident. The song is annoying, it's loud, it's grating, it's repetitive (good God is it repetitive), the singer seems to be trying to sound as immediately and entirely obnoxious as he humanly can... It's as if, to borrow a phrase, the Trashmen deliberately set out to record the worst song humanly possible: they deliberately tried to produce music which was not merely bland or repetitive or grating, but which was actively offensive, and clearly hostile to its audience.

I tried to listen to this song all the way through once. It was the longest three minutes of my life. The horror begins thusly:

A-well-a, everybody's heard about the bird
Bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, well, the bird is the word
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, well, the bird is the word
A-well-a, bird, bird, b-bird's the word

And goes on and on and on in that ilk for what feels like the next thousand years.

Once everyone you know and love has passed beyond the pale, civilizations have risen and fallen and you have begun to believe that everything true and good in the world has been forever extinguished, the song changes as the singer achieves Nirvana or just perhaps suffers a complete mental breakdown. After once again informing us that yes, Virgina, there is a Surfin' Bird, he begins to make strange noises with his mouth, flapping his lips and, no doubt, flailing his limbs as he desperately attempts to articulate a concept that he fears must be utterly beyond the understanding of mortal men, and indeed even he himself fears trying to define.

Bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb, aaah


Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow
Ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow

It continues. You can tell he's trying to communicate, but what? Has he achieved transcendence or is he trying to call for help? Did the poor man suffer some terrible, life-ending seizure right there in the studio, his cries for aid that never came immortalized for all time on vinyl, cassette, CD and finally streaming audio? Nothing sounds impossible listening to the hideous, repetitive babbling noises this man is making with his mouth. On and on the terrible sound comes, crashing over the listener in a cacophonous tsunami of jarring, rubbish noise until finally, finally, just as its hapless victim is contemplating ripping their own ears off and ending their suffering that way, with one last cryptic Papa-ooma-mow-mow the song comes to a close, leaving the listener shattered and exhausted in its wake, a mere three minutes older and yet forever changed, daring to speak of the nightmare that is Surfin' Bird only in broken whispers.

You don't have to take my word for it. Full lyrics for this travesty can be found here - or for the truly brave, there's the song itself.

Surfin' Bird is as near as music has so far come to the mythical Brown Note. It is, in all possibility, the song that ends the earth. Repeated exposure could easily drive a strong man insane. No amount of money could possibly compensate for the damage that twenty-four hours of Surfin' Bird could inflict on the psyche. You'd go mad, or deafen yourself to end the torment early, and even that would not be enough. You'd still be hearing it. You'd hear it in your nightmares. It would haunt your days, like the sound of distant drums, and lead you to commit terrible atrocities to yourself or to others in a desperate attempt to drown out the strains of Surfin' Bird with the sound of tortured screams.

Surely they would be music by comparison.
Current Mood: hungry
Current Music: anything goes - john barrowman
20 January 2010 @ 11:59 pm
Abandon hope, all ye who enter by me  
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To put this in the simplest terms possible: Yes.

No, this has nothing to do with some hand-wringing, chest-beating, painfully reactionary 'Why won't someone think of the children?!' Helen Lovejoy-esque moral panic on main street. It's kind of pointless to spend too much time worrying about hiding the children's eyes from something that - once they hit their teens, at any rate - they're probably going to be actively seeking out for themselves because they're fourteen, curious and hormone-ridden. As long as there've been dirty stories and naughty pictures and any social concept of the term childhood, there've been kids who society still considered of an age to need to be sheltered from such things trying to nick them from the grown-ups.

That's what kids are like: they want to see the porn because it's naughty and grown-up and this, they think, is what adults do. And, in most cases, they'll find a way to get hold of it because kids are a lot more resourceful than adults give them credit for.

That being the case, precisely why do I think that content warnings matter if barely anyone reads them? Well, honestly, I think they matter because of the aforementioned fact that kids are horny, curious and resourceful and will find some way of seeing the porn whether we the grown-ups like it or not. Content warnings are important as much to cover the website owner's back as to hide the children's eyes - or, for that matter, the eyes of the sheltered and easily shocked, depending on what the porn in question involves.

Put it this way. If someone creates a site that has adult content and fully disclaimers it, then is contacted by some Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells wringing their hands about how their sweet, innocent little Hugo or Jocasta was caught browsing their horrible site and how could you think of leaving such filth somewhere that children could find it?!, the fully disclaimered-up webmaster has a watertight fallback position. That position being that all their adult content is explicitly labeled as being for adults only, and if Hugo and Jocasta were caught reading it that is because they - the precious little darlings themselves - merrily ignored those warnings. It won't stop Disgusted from fulminating, of course, but it at least means they don't have much grounds to formally complain. Their child ignored a clear warning that the site they were visiting was not for minors and they themselves took no steps to monitor their children's online activities. The webmaster took reasonable precautions and if those weren't enough that's the fault of Disgusted's horny kids, not them.

It's also not the webmaster's problem if Disgusted ignores their disclaimers and surfs on into their pit of virtual depravity then decides Oh Wait I Am Horrified Down With This Sort of Thing. There was a warning; it was ignored. Anybody who ends up brain-scarred as a result has only themselves to blame.

Grown adults should have the maturity to take responsibility for their browsing habits, but since they don't content warnings only make sense.

As far as creativity goes, a warning doesn't actually hold anybody back. It just informs a potential onlooker, quite calmly, hey, this might not be for you and lets them make an informed decision about whether or not it actually is. I don't really see how hanging a sign at the door and politely telling anyone who visits 'hey, before you walk in you should probably be aware of this' could possibly stifle anyone's creative expression. Nobody is saying that you can't do whatever the Hell you like after that point, but as long as you've made it quite clear that (to stretch this metaphor to breaking point) you've painted the living room hot-pink, fitted a fluffy white carpet and filled it with lime-green sofas nobody who walks inside can claim they weren't warned about your eye-searing taste in interior decoration.

I write fanfiction. Yes, I'm one of those fangirls and have been for quite a while. I'm quite happy to disclaimer my work because I'd rather that it was read by people who were actually likely to enjoy it, and I don't feel that my creativity or artistic expression is at all stifled as a result. Posting a content warning doesn't mean that I am no longer allowed to post the content in the first place: It just makes sense to leave it somewhere thirteen-year-old Jocasta can't stumble access it while on the lookout for a Livejournal icon, and if she does anyway it's between her and her dad to sort out quite why she wanted to read about violent gay rape. It was, after all, clearly labeled 'violent gay rape', not 'free Livejournal icons', so it wasn't like there was any innocent mix-up. It's the virtual equivalent of putting the porn on the top shelf. Nothing's going to stop a kid from getting it down if they're determined enough, but that doesn't mean there's no reason to at least try and keep it out the way of the underage.

My only issue with content ratings is this: I don't like the idea of restrictions being made on the basis of age alone, with no explanation given other than 'this content is inappropriate for minors'. Without any kind of context as to what exactly is so inappropriate about the content in question there's no way for a prospective viewer to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to see that, and thus the warning itself is worthless.
Current Music: running up that hill - placebo
Current Mood: blah
24 October 2009 @ 11:54 pm
[Insert Bad Vampire Pun Here]  
So then, entertainment industry: why have supernatural creatures become so unutterably bloody dull?

I'm bored to death with the supernatural. I'm utterly fed up with the current fixation on the extraordinary (I know - not a good thing to be feeling around Halloween!) I'm just sick of hearing about them; I don't understand why so many people seem to find them so fascinating when to me the whole mythos is starting to feel boring, trite and overdone. That's just me, and I know it's not necessarily a fair take on the subject but speaking entirely personally good God but I am bored to shit with the incessant fangasming over incredibly tedious horror-movie monsters.

Maybe I'm just aware of all the wrong modern media takes on the subject; I don't know. All I know is there is an assload of stuff out there about vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night at the moment - off the top of my head and restricting myself to current franchises, I can name Twilight, True Blood, Supernatural, Cirque du Freak, Anita Blake, The goddamn Vampire Diaries... and an absolute metric fuckton of amateur stuff just about everywhere you care to look online because at least half the would-be authors out there are writing stuff with fucking vampires in it - and I just do not give a shit about any of it. I don't know how much of this is just me and how much is the fact that a lot of supernatural creatures - especially when they're being portrayed sympathetically - are too busy trying to humanize themselves by whining incessantly, but I'd rather hear about an ordinary person doing extraordinary things than yet another unaging flange-demon who can speshul their way out of just about every tight corner they end up in because they're like totally a VAMPIRE and vampires are just COOL LIKE THAT, MORTAL.

I'm tired of the whole concept, especially where it involves werewolves and vampires, werewolves and vampires, werewolves and bloody vampires.

I am really, really sick of werewolves and vampires and the incessant blabbering about which is cooler and who'd win in a fight and Team Edward and Team Bloody Jacob. How about they've both become just as overrated and pointless as one another and even if they weren't boring me to tears I still wouldn't want either of them about the place?

Sadly, this isn't even because I think they'd try to eat me. Nope. Maybe they'd try and bore me to death with their utterly adolescent whines about how very hard it is to be them, I don't know, but far more likely than anything particularly dangerous happening given how very determinedly defanged most modern vampires are. Vampires used to be dark, seductive creatures of the night who could hold grown adults who were easily old enough to know better in their sway - now they're just generic pasty-white prettyboys who spend most of their time moping about how very hard it is to be a prettyboy vampire and the rest of the time pining away over the blandest, most painfully white-bread boring girl in the neighborhood for some utterly pasted-on reason that has very little to do with her as an actual person (hey! Girls are people!) and are only really appealing if you're a hormone-addled teenager.

Can you guess which of these painfully generic twentysomethings-playing-teenagers is the vampire?

Because I can't be bothered.

(It's the guy, of course. Of course. Partly because female protagonists, in these stories, are never the aggressors, partly because it would ruin the Mary Sue fantasy if high-school Suzie McBland wasn't swept off her feet by the mysterious hottie who hots hotly at her and is TOTALLY A VAMPIRE, OMG! But mainly, though, it's because these vampires are just stand-ins for the guys your mom warned you about. Specifically the hot bad-boy in fourth-period French who's like such a jerk, OMG, but is clearly just all SaD iNSiDe and waiting for the right speshul girl to come along and comfort his wangst-ridden hurt anyway.)

Some people would blame Stephenie Meyer and Twilight for this, but that's being simplistic. I'm not going to claim that the modern penchant for vampires by way of Non-Threatening Boys Magazine is all her fault, though her determinedly tedious vampires definitely played a large part in castrating all the creepy from the most modern incarnations, at least as far as mass media would have it. Meyer's vampire novels may be boring and formulaic to anyone who isn't either a fourteen year old girl or whose mind shut down when they were a fourteen year old girl, and they may have turned vampires into the most generic white boys you know but for all people constantly harp on about how very ridiculous Meyer's vampires are, they're ignoring one key factor in this whole thing that really contributed to the spread of the painfully generic suburban vampire:

Meyer's work sold.

The bottom line is it's about the bottom line. The end result of the success - and like it or not, the Twilight series is a publishing success story - of the Twilight series: a whole load of editors digging through their slush piles and back catalogs for anything that looked similar and might also sell to the vampire-crazed hordes, and a whole load of producers doing exactly the same thing. It's not Meyer's fault, it's the profit margin.

Yes, Stephenie Meyer wrote a bad book about lame vampires, but she didn't force people to go out and buy it.

It's not like Meyer was the first person to try and humanize vampires. Let's be fair here - the Vampire Chronicles didn't do a whole lot to make vampires scary either. Lestat and company could do with being a lot less whiny and annoying, too.

At least Meyer tried to innovate. Much of what she added to the canon may not have worked and may not have done fictional vampires any favors, but it was at least a change. She didn't just rehash the same old tired Anne Rice standards vampire authors have been unduly influenced by for the last twenty years. The Cullens may be boring, but at least they aren't a bunch of Caravaggio models whining their way round Europe in floppy shirts.

So, why do people still buy this stuff? Well, it seems to me that Meyer's real innovation - and it was a damn good one, to give credit where it was due - was to bring vampires to America. Not to the cities, no: that had been done, and a lot of small-town America doesn't have a lot of time for their suspiciously sophisticated and knowledgeable city cousins. She bought vampires to the heartlands, to white-bread suburbia. She told dreamy, romantic girls who were already dimly aware that they were probably never going to have what it took to escape their small-town fates that they didn't have to be from New York or Los Angeles to meet a hot, dangerous vampire boy: not only that, they didn't have to be smart, confident, pretty, outgoing or even particularly interesting. You could be the dullest little mediocrity ever and stranded in the asshole of nowhere and still get the guy, just as long as there was something about you he found impossibly alluring. You didn't even have to know that something was there, because he would.

Bella has to do precisely nothing to interest the inhumanly hot, devoted, immortal Edward and keep him that way save be her gawky, egocentric adolescent self... and then we the observers wonder why teenage girls are eating this stuff up and clamoring for more.

The major issue is that by bringing vampires to small-town America, she forced her vampires, or at least the good guys, to adhere to small-town values - most of which don't sit at all comfortably with the notion of vampirism. The problem with Meyer's innovations (and like it or not, she drew the blueprint a substantial portion of up-and-coming vampire novelists are now trying to emulate while the rest, having decided that Meyer's vampires aren't sexy and dangerous enough for them, are still imitating Anne Rice) is that she strips one of the key elements from the vampire mythos: sex.

Yes, America: sex. Sometimes you can't just brush it under the carpet and hope it goes away. By sanitizing vampires to suit an already conservative section of a straitlaced society - small-town America certainly doesn't approve of any real expression of sexuality, certainly not the transgressive kind, and it's hard to find any social group more in love with the notion of conformity than the average teenage clique - she removes an element that's almost as integral to the whole package as the bit where they drink the blood of the living. Vampires have a long tradition of symbolizing elements of transgressive sexuality. Most of the vampires of legend are portrayed as notoriously omnisexual, their powers working just as well on members of their own sex as on the opposite; many of them have also been promiscuous. Sanitizing vampires into heteronormative monogamous coupledom, as Meyer does, misses the point wildly.

Strip sexuality from the equation and you've lost a major part of what makes a vampire what it is as opposed to - well, a generic pasty-white prettyboy with a bad reputation who turns out to just be misunderstood.

And, unless you're fourteen years old, a hot, angsty boy who turns out to be just misunderstood is not as interesting as a seductive monster that genuinely could do you some serious harm.

Not that serious harm seems to be part of the consideration for most of the kids who fangasm over the supernatural, but remove the threat of predation from the picture and there's nothing left to fear - and we should fear these creatures, because the fear is what makes the tale worth the telling. Sheep don't stand around daydreaming about how much more romantic or sexy or interesting their lives would be if only there were wolves eating them, and no more should we think that living with vampires would be somehow awesome. We're not apex predators as it is, we're just better-armed and better-organized than the things that want to eat us at the moment, and the last thing we need is to add another one which is as smart as we are, passes unrecognizably among us and particularly enjoys the gamey taste of man-meat.

If there's no threat, there's no story. Trust me, I've tried to read Twilight.
Current Music: kara remembers - bear mcreary
Current Mood: god, you guys are boring.
12 October 2009 @ 10:59 pm
Dealings Involving a Friend  
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In a word: No.

In several words, you get this update. Feel free to skip this one if you're not particularly keen on sitting through me pouring the icy-cold waters of skepticism on what may well be a closely-cherished belief. I, however, think that astrology is a load of old hooey and have absolutely no time for its teachings whatsoever. Now read on.

When I was a kid, my mother - in all other regards an intelligent, well-read woman - used to buy women's magazines, gaudy rags like Bella and Best and Take a Break full of unremittingly grim Real Life Stories in which people got cheated on and stabbed and raped in plodding, cookie-cutter first person prose while their children died horribly of cancer in the background. I, as a curious wee geekling, used to pick up and read through these hack rags as well simply because they were there and it gave me the vague feeling that I was doing something grown-up and a little naughty. The fact they were written in a manner which was perfectly understandable to my eight year old self speaks volumes about the presumed standard of literacy of the average reader. Anyway, among the murder and rape and children dying horribly of Medical Condition X, there were these things called 'horoscopes' and, when I'd run out of True Life Drama to read about, I would sometimes skim them before chucking the magazine down and going to read The Hundred and One Dalmatians again.

I had some vague notion, as a kid, that horoscopes were supposed to tell you what would happen to you; I didn't really think a lot more about them than that. The first time I really remember paying conscious attention to a horoscope in one of my mother's magazines, though, was when I was about nine or so, at home sick with some nasty little childhood bug or another.

I remember I was feeling rotten. I'd been feeling rotten for what felt, to my nine year old self, like for ever. There I was lying in my parents' bed - I was allowed to do this when I was staying home sick - flicking through one of my mother's magazines because there was nothing else for an ill nine-year-old to do, and after digesting poorly-written first-person accounts of the nation's gaudy excesses this week, I came upon the horoscopes. I'm a Gemini, and I think I read mine out of curiosity. I'm not sure. What I do remember was there was a chart at the bottom of the page, some sort of bar graph plotting which star signs were going to have a good week, and who was going to have to bend over and take it.

Lo and behold, there was Gemini riding high above all the others, its bar topped by a sun. 'The best week', it said.

And here I was - a Gemini - stuck at home feeling miserable, having felt generally sick and shitty for several days. You suck, horoscopes!

I can't remember ever having much time for astrology after that. I can't exactly say that moment of formative credulity-shattering was what led to my growing up a skeptic, but pretty much as soon as I was aware what skepticism was, I was aware I was one of them. Raised on a steady diet of The Guardian and Private Eye - my mother stopped buying those women's magazines after a while - I suppose it was rather inevitable. Oh, horoscopes are okay if you like that kind of thing but how in the world (I used to wonder) could anyone take them seriously?

My major problem with them now - speaking as an adult, not an ill child having a crappy week - is that they're so blindingly general. Most horoscopes are deliberately vague to the point that just about anybody reading them could find something familiar in them if they were looking for relevance to their own life there: how could they be anything more when they have to apply to a full arbitrarily-selected twelfth of the population at one go? The 'Gemini' horoscope has to be applicable not only to me, but to every other person holding the same paper or magazine who was born between May 20th and June 21st. No wonder all the horoscope column ever seems to contain is variations on the theme of 'take care in dealings involving a friend'.

Of course, the real devotees will say, astrology columns are pretty vague. If you truly want to know what the stars have in hold for you you have to provide far more information than the star sign you were born on. If that's the case and the duodecimal divisions don't really tell one anything at all, why bother with astrology columns at all, if not - doi hoi hoi skepticism - for the sake of the premium-rate hotline numbers?

It doesn't help that blanket statements like the ones found in 'Your Stars' columns are a fairly standard tactic used by the supposedly 'psychic' when trying to convince the unwary that they genuinely can, say, communicate with the dead. Throw out a series of vague statements and, if the mark corroborates them, zero in on that. A pretty standard trick is to mention a name - and usually this will be an extremely common name; how many people out there, for instance, don't know at least one guy called John? - and wait for the mark to fill in the details themselves. It seems to me that horoscopes do exactly the same thing - they warn the reader to be careful in dealings involving a friend, and the reader makes all the connections and does all the legwork themselves. Blanket statements that could apply to anybody because they have to apply to such a wide cross-section of the public - in short, to damn near everybody - aren't likely to convince skeptical folk like me that the horoscopes rely on anything more mystical than guesswork.

And yes, it really does annoy me when people assume that they somehow understand what kind of person I am just because of where my birthdate falls in the whole aforementioned arbitrary duodecimal divisions horoscopes deal in.

Give someone your star sign and all too often they think they know your personality as a result, but how true is that played for real, with real people rather than constructs? I would say that where the personality traits for a particular star sign do match up with someone born that month, it's just another lucky guess. Not only are the traits listed for most of the star signs so broad and vague that just about everybody born that month will see something there to identify with, they also serve to prejudice anyone who really takes this shit seriously against people they barely know, not even giving a relative stranger a chance to prove who they are because Dude He's a Capricorn I Know What Capricorns Are Like.

I don't believe in astrology but if a stranger or new acquaintance were to ask me my star sign, I would tell them simply because there's no reason to be impolite to someone just because I think astrology is bunkum. If, however, said stranger or acquaintance then turned round and said 'Ah! Two-faced!' as just about every serious proponent of astrology I have ever spoken to does when I tell them I am a Gemini, my smile is going to get the slightest bit fixed. Excuse me? What right does a total stranger have to make that kind of assumption about me, or for that matter about anyone they barely know? It's just plain rude.

There are believers in astrology out there who have no problem insulting me to my face, suggesting I'm a fake or a hypocrite, because I was born in June.

If you can't see why this is problematic with a capital fucking PROBLEMATIC, you deserve to have your brain taken into protective custody.
Current Music: horoscope - flanders and swann
Current Mood: bitchy
26 June 2009 @ 09:21 pm
Excuse Me, My Bandwagon Has Arrived.  
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... because yeah, I actually have one of those. I absolutely love Stranger in Moscow. I wouldn't have admitted it ten years ago, mind - but ten years ago I was listening to it regularly.

Yes, I like Michael Jackson. I didn't actually have to think about my answer to this question. How ridiculous is that?

I was fourteen in 1996, and I have vague memories of crouching in front of my stereo recording Stranger in Moscow onto an old casette single I'd dug up, after taping over the write-protection holes. I used to do that from time to time: my allowance was pretty small even for a kid in 1996, and I certainly didn't have the money to buy all the singles I liked. I did the same thing again for Whistle Down the Wind and a song called Torn by a pair of women whose names I forget almost completely, and God knows how many others. I have far more vivid memories of, at sixteen, digging the CD single out of a friend's CD collection every time I went over to his house to work on our (terrible, mind) stories. Yeah, it's the whole 'soundtrack of my adolescence' deal. This is me sitting in my bedroom in the attic, drawing badly, cutting out photos and failing to Talk to Boys.

Yeah. I used to love this song when I was a teenager - though when I was a teenager, one of the most deeply 'uncool' things you could admit to doing was liking pretty much anything about Michael Jackson. Considering how painfully uncool I - an overweight teenage computer nerd who liked anime and, like, read books and shit and didn't watch EastEnders - already was, keeping the whole 'you know I actually really like this song' thing on the downlow was pretty much essential. I was a weird enough kid as it was without admitting that I, yaknow, kinda liked Michael Jackson. The one girl in my class who was a fan got teased bad enough, and she was far less objectively weird than me.

Now, however? Well, now I'm an equally geeky late-twentysomething who's largely resigned to the fact that people are going to think she's a goddamn weirdo whatever she claims to be into. Besides I'd like to think that, at age 27, it's even more pathetic to still be judging people by their taste in music. So here I am listening to Michael Jackson, and startling myself by how bummed out the news of his death made me feel.

I feel strangely old now. I'm not sure I like it.

To quote [ profile] pinkrum, the first person on my particular friendslist to post about Michael Jackson's death: RIP, you crazy dude.
Current Music: what do you think?
Current Mood: nostalgic