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I'm killing this blog, been coming for rather a long time. LJ, being shit, isn't allowing me to delete it all though - would have to do each entry manually.

Bah. So rather than go through all 89, I'm just shutting this bastard down.

zis is ze end.

Peace.

Okay, got a new blog here: http://ty-real.blogspot.com/

Fanboy time

There are times wherein I go into fanboy mode. Great movies or books or TV shows or Iron Maiden - this kinda stuff. Normally in relation to celebrities I rather, shall we say, admire, I tend to keep that stuff to myself. I always feel that loudly declaring my appreciation of a woman is really a bit mysogynistic, even if most women don't particularly mind because they encounter it so often. Maybe I have been known to break cover from time to time - and I always seem to break this rule in relation to Emma Watson - but it's been something I've more or less kept to.

Karen Gillan is hot. Really, really hot. I know this, the general Dr Who fanbase knows this. Moffat, it seems, knows this too. His comic relief special shorty deliberately plays with this, balancing temporal and causal paradoxes with sparky and energetic dialogue, that also happens to be laden with innuendoes.

No idea why people keep comparing it to Inception though. Seriously, Inception did not invent science fiction.

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In between reviews, musings and short pieces of fiction, I wanted this blog to also be a place where I could talk about things personal to me. For some reason I have found myself shying away from such talk, and it gives this thing a stiffness I don't like.

Thing is, I don't think anyone would want to read me talking about me. And whenever I do feel the need to talk about me, I have a hard time not whining.

But if I feel the need to post something about myself, I'll do it. If not then that's that I guess.

Have a good one folks.

Palimpsest by Charles Stross

There are some books, some films, some comics or manga, some tv shows that you watch and enjoy and move on. There are some you brood on afterwards; that sit in the back of your head. Then there are some of the latter, only occassionally the former, that'll pop into your head someday, after an indeterminate time, and suddenly you'll find yourself specualting about it.

Last year, whilst in America, I read a collection of short stories and novellas by the exceptionally talented Charlie Stross. I had decent enough expectation of it, but what I found within the pages blew me away. Brilliant mix of styles and stories and themes, all well executed and terribly imaginative. The collection, titled Wireless, ended with a novella entitled "Palimpsest" was something of a revelation.

"This will never happen:"

And thus the story starts. Immediately we start in second person, and you are hunting at night, primed for the kill. Your victim? Your great grandad as young man. This is a story of time travel and in this and the title (a palimpsest is a surface continuously overwritten) you know what it's going to be about.

Stross does a stellar job of keeping the style and tone consistent when you consider how it changes perspectives (2nd and 3rd) and deals with such complex ideas. Indeed, although it is a complex story the narrative is reasonably clear. It manages to avoid unnecesary confusion, despite how unconventionally structured it is.

It'd be easy to suggest that there is little in the way of characterisation since all we see are a series of snapshots. However, this would be treating Palimpsest as if it were a convetionally structured. We don't get a tale that works in chronological order, so why should the character develop in chronological order? If anything, character is central to the tale.

At times, during the sections detailing the universe's lifespan, the science can become impenetrable. For all I know, it might as well be a fancy way of saying its all powered by magic. Nonetheless, they tie into the main plot in a way that means you don't need to understand the details, more the overriding idea.

Not content to use time-travel to screw with narrative structure, Stross also uses cliches of the paradox. In this tale, you have to kill your great grandfather. This could almost be a riff on any matrix-type tale. The ending makes the most of the build up too.

In short? Read it.

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Fanboy RAGE

Yes, I've realised - known for a while to be honest - that I have a tendency to get rather defensive of things I like. It's when you see casual dismissals. I was browsing through some comments on a vid that was poking fun at Batman RIP - the vid maker's views were fairly balanced at least, even if I disagree. Some of the commenters dismissing Grant Morrison, claiming Batman RIP to be nonsense, that DC showed start REAL story telling, and so forth. Vapid ill-considered nonsense that I worry represents a large part of the reaction towards the book.

But away from Morrison, there is a problem with criticism like this. The whole "respect everyone elses viewpoints" thing is nonsense, but neither can you just assert your own opinion as fact. This is created by the fact there are two types of criticism, neither entirely serperate from the other:

- Technical criticism is when you are criticising the author/creator's abilities to deliver what they are trying to deliver.

- Arbitrary criticism is when the effect the creator achieves does not appeal to your personal tastes.

Criticism is almost always framed as the former, but most of the time falls into the latter. Admitting your criticism is the latter will often be seen to be undercutting credibility, so most people will impose their criticism as technical, as qualities that are innate to the work rather than the audience. The line between the two really isn't always clear either, further complicating the argument; and in the heat of a semntaically driven debate this point can often be obfuscated.

Hence, when I see criticism of stuff I really like I'll mostly react badly. When someone accuses something that is very deftly executed of being technically flawed then I'm gonna speak in its defence. When people are willing to admit their opinion is an opinion, I'll respect it (unless it is very poorly formed or supported) - if, however, they assert it is a technical flaw of the material then be prepared to argue all night.

The best stories are character stories

As I have mentioned numerous times on this blog, I am getting absorbed into the world of comics. Upon a reccomendation from a famous internet person, and subsequent reinforcing of that recc. from a friend, I started reading a rather well known comic named 52.

52 is a massive cross-over. It is all the comic book heroes of the DC Universe, detailing a year (done in real-time, a comic a week) in which Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have gone missing. The focus, therefore, is on a large cast of B or C list superheores, and, naturally, I had heard of few of them. This was a comic heavily tied into a huge amount of backstory I had no knowledge of and played with lots of different characters who were basically new to me. By all rights it all shoulda went over my head.

But it didn't. It was simple enough to get grounded in the main characters and the stories were well laid out and brilliantly paced, as well as compelling. One of the main attractions of the series was that it had a writing staff that was something of a dream team. Mark Waid, the writer of the absolutely brilliant Kingdom Come; Geoff Johns, who is one of DC's most prolific writers and responsible for the rather awesome Green Lantern Rebirth; Grant Morrison, whom I won't say anymore about less I go all fanboy on you; and Greg Rucka, a writer of generally crime based stories.

It was the fourth man that really I had a problem with at first. Not only is his record rather less impressive than the other three, but the story line he was in charge of was something of a weak point. Renee Montoya's involvement in the story felt forced and weak, and the characters were unconvincing noir detective characters. Is this the weak point in an otherwise stellar comic?

I've just finished 52, so I can answer that question now.

Fuck no.

By the end, Renee Montoya's storyline and character arc eclipse the rest of the comic. A lot of the others I had some problems with, although I'd still highly reccomend the comic, but Montoya's story by the end was epic and powerful and unlike many of the other storylines it was all adeptly interwoven to a great character story. Some of the other stories felt like plot, divorced somewhat from character (one in particular springs to mind).

There is one truly awesome moment in the Montoya story that elevates it. Because, amongst all the plot action and spectacle, it is a moment of character ascendency. This is where the story draws its power from.

Sure, defeating the big bad in an intense conflict is cool. But overcoming a personal barrier and defeating the evil big bad in the same stroke?

Thats a moment of awesome that raises a story.

Montoya, and Rucka whom I was so, so wrong to doubt, has reminded me that a cool plot moment is only that. But a cool character moment? So much more.

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Belated Casion Royale Introduction

It strikes me that I should have perhaps said why I am doing this breakdown of it. I did mean to write this intro to begin with, but I put the movie on, and decided to just ride the wave whilst the motivation stayed with me.

Originally, it just struck my fancy that I should write a conspiracy, expionage thriller. I was into structure at the time, so it made sense that I would look at the structure of one of the genre's best. Casino Royale was the first thing that popped into my mind, so the idea was there.

More ideas popped up. I don't really do straight up stuff, so lets make this a fantasy. A world ruled by corporations. A set-up like feudal Japan, with areas each enforced by a particular corperation.

Then it hit me. Oddworld. This is a place with no humans, only strange, lurid creatures. Bright and colourful, yet grimy.

This is the whole point behind my breaking down of Casino Royale, and if I do go into this fanciful project of mine, I'll share the planning process.

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Casino Royale further notes

Casino Royale was a great film, best Bond film I've seen. It was tricksy and fast paced and had genuinely great character development. It reflected on the franchise, played with it, subevert and deconstructed it, whilst staying true to the older material. Action, romance, foreign places, global conspiracies, battles of wits and massive set pieces. Everything, in theory, the ultimate Bond film should be.

But there were faults pretty early on. The first act decides it is going to be three acts unto itself, so by the time the film actually starts it is an hour in. So we get a fast moving movie full of overlong chase sequences and flashy dialogue and international conspiracy. The scenes are cleverly constructed individually when they are not just hyperbolic action - full of misdirection and subtlety - but the whole thing feels rather thing. This part of the movie is really meant to represent the typical bond film.

With the first minor Bond girl, the wife of a weapon's dealer, we get a discussion of the whole idea of a Bond girl. The self-awareness that Bond is using her, and that this is really why she likes him. Not only do we get a lot of character in little dialogue, we also get a discussion of the movie franchise's treatment of women. This comes full circle when we see her killed, and Bond's impassivity upon witnessing her dead body.

Then the movie looks to tell a different tale. A tale of Bond's defences being broken down, of him being used, and falling in love. He has defeated the Le Chiffre (I think he was called that) when Le Chiffre was sending out his cronies. But Bond must go up against the man himself and we get a break from the overlong action scenes. Although it's jarring to be faced with, essentially, a different movie, the story is good enough and the villain has been set-up enough that the transition is not too jarring.

Also, we get introduced to Vesper. The love interest, the most interesting character in the movie. Considering she is missing from an hour of the film's screen time, she ends up a really well developed character - this, however, may be due to the fact that the movie spends much of the time here on in with her.

She gives us a real major subversion - so far in Bond films killing of baddies is seen as something not worth blinking at, a natural and easy thing for our suave protagonist. The Vesper kills a terrorist and suddenly we see that death is real. In a scene where she struggles to cope with the murder we get to see how much of an emotional impact death has, and how even killing a murderous african terrorist in self-defence has left her in pieces. It also serves to signify just how hard and cold Bond is in contrast.

By saving his life a number of times, too, she subverts the whole idea that Bond girls are useless princesses to be saved from the evil dragon.

The Bond villain, who on the surface is very much a Bond villain, Le Chiffre actually embodies a number of subversions himself. He is seen to be threatened and scared of the African terrorists. We see him vulnerable and he is subservient to a greater call. He is also killed at the end of second act, and suddenly removed from the picture.

This twist, I should like. I don't. It sevres this section of the film very firmly from the final section. Once again there is discontinuity and this time it is jarring. Why is the film still going on? The bad guy is defeated and the girl has been gotten.

In an attempt to be clever the film lures you into believing this in one final piece of misdirection. Unfortunately, the result of this is that the final section feels tacked on and the movie feels stretched. The conclusion is poignant and powerful, but by this point your attention isn't fully on it. A shame, because if they had pulled that piece of narrative off it would have been masterful.

The convoluted structure of the film is its downfall. Not does it have something like six acts crammed in, but it also loses the viewer in its own attempts to be brilliant. Lack of foreshadowing (perhaps to protect the integrity of the twist) also hurts it rather badly.

And whilst it starts as a clever riff on Bond movies, and then tries to take a deeper and more interesting approach, towards the end it tries to have its cake and eat it. Now, I'd love for it to be able to do that. But it doesn't. The fight scene at the end should have been cut down, the whole of the first act should have had a lot cut out of it. Either they should have taken a full movie to set Bond up as they did in the first section, or they should have told the story that begins in the second act from the start.

Despite of the movies great number of flaws, it is still a terrific movie. It's got subtlety. It's got misdirection by the bucket load. It uses it's heritage well, subverting, deconstructing and celebrating the franchise's storytelling ticks. The character's are compelling and their character arcs are touching.

I've already glazed over a number of issues I wanted to discuss, but I figure this thing is long enough already. More of this shit to come soon.

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Dr Who S1

Almost finished it now, watching Bad Wolf at the moment, but at the moment I feel like starting my summing up of S1.

My notes on Casino Royale are coming. Put rather too much effort in to not really.

But favourite episodes of the series are:

Empty Child:

Of course. Moffat's two parter is the most atmospheric and best plotted story in S1. Scared me shitless when I first saw it, back in 2005.

Dalek:

Emotionally resonant, and tense. The parallels between the forlorn dalek and The Doctor is well drawn and really rather poignant.

The Unquiet Dead:

As pointless as Charles Dickens is to this episode, it was an atmospheric affair with interesting and ethereal enemies. Another rather emotionally resonant one.

Boom Town:

A bit weird tonally sometimes, but the mental game between the Doctor and the Slitheen are well drawn, as is the way Rose and Mickey's relationship is parelleled deals well with the quandry of how to seperate the two characters. Oh, and "turn left!". Damn.

Overall it has been surprisingly solid. Even The End of the World was entertaining enough. All of the episodes are entertaining and have stuff in them worthy of praise. Sure, it tries way too hard to reference pop culture and panders too much to kids. Eccleston is the worst modern Doctor, but he was still very convincing and a fresh take on the role (i.e. not a middle class actor).

Buuuuut, from the start we can see RTD's weakness for pay-off. He is good at ambiguous nod forward and planning ahead, but bad at tieing it convincingly together and actually using chekhov's gun. Build-up is good, but his set-up isn't - hence the weakness of the pay-off. Will demonstrate this later when I talk about each episode in more depth.

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First thoughts about CR

- It was a great movie when it stopped dicking around.

- Structurally, it was a bit of a mess. It was too episodic, there was too much of a discontinuation between each section. The "first act" of sorts went on for way too long. An hour of Bond being careless and of overlong chase/fight sequences? It was unnecessary and at odds with the tone of the movie in all honesty.

- Deception. Misdirection is integral to the writing and directing as well as the plot, and used very well. Plenty of it is thrown your way, but it manages to avoid convolution.

- That moment where Vesper suddenly realises she doesn't want to die. We all know, by then, it is too late, and it's genuinely heartbreaking.

Will write up a more detailed reflection later.

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