Avalon

Avalon is a Japanese written and directed science fiction film made in Polish in Poland which heavily utilises Arthurian myth and opera. It’s about as bizarre as you’d think. The character development is patchy to be polite. The CGI is fairly intelligently used. The overall look of the film is a moody smoky yellow. The story seems logically incoherent, but in interesting, Existenz-ey ways. Despite its obvious shortcomings, the moose approves and recommends it. Big what is reality and meaning of existence questions, and on the whole just something different at last.

Tangentially, but related: Has American culture got anything left to offer? (Was originally tempted to post simply “American culture has nothing left.”)

MASK

And now for some navel gazing.

Whilst going through stuff left from earlier incarnations of myself in this life, I came across my collection of MASK vehicles. MASK was cool, and dominated my world for a couple of years or so. Between me and a friend we had them all. The tagline was “illusion is the ultimate weapon”. Think normal looking vehicles which turn into odd heavily armed vehicles, cars into planes, jeeps into boats, that sort of thing, with human drivers who put on masks with weird powers. MASK fought VENOM, bad guys with similar technology bent on Evil.

I looked it up on the net. (There was no net back when I was into it. I was figuring they could be worth some money to a collector, and they probably are, though a touch battered.) And I discover that the entire line was a spin off from a cartoon series which I never saw or knew existed. Which is surreal, though it makes perfect sense, and helps explain why all the later series of vehicles were so odd – the second cartoon series was a “racing” series, so it makes sense to have say a billboard that turns into a flying weapons platform.

But the thing is, I never knew the characters as they were intended to be. I created a whole world of personalities and relationships and rivalries based on the action figures, masks and vehicles. They were such a perfect vehicle for that sort of imagination; they lent themselves to story. Probably the biggest effect is that Matt Trakker, the obvious cartoon hero and leader of MASK, always struck me as lame, and (as it turns out) minor characters were my heroes, because they were cooller looking, and had cooller vehicles; similarly Miles Mayhem, leader of VENOM, mostly seemed lame, except for one figure.

The vehicles themselves were wildly improbable and unlikely, and all the cooller for it. I mean, a motorcycle with sidecar that turns into a submarine? That’s psychedelic, man. And you could transform them partially, so a car could suddenly have jet afterburners or an ejector seat or lasers shooting out of its headlights. Like a fleet of James Bond vehicles.

Woo ha. I’m half tempted to track down the rest of them…

Death

Went to a funeral today, of a friend a few years younger. She’d been sicker than I knew her whole life, and it caught up with her suddenly over Christmas.

Do we cry for the deceased or our own mortality?

Death, in the Tarot, represents change. Life is constant change. Each moment is precious and unique. Accepting death means accepting change. Accepting death helps us to live well.

In the past I have found it useful to mark another’s death by making a change in my own life as a living testament to them.

Life is short. If there is something you want to do in this life, go, start now, do it. For it is later than you think. Leave behind all the negative bullshit. Celebrate being alive.

I guess I’ve already mentioned this sort of thing, but really, it is so simple, central, and absolutely crucial, we must remind ourselves constantly, until we make the lesson real in our living.

The King of Elfland's Daughter

The moose recently had the pleasure to read The King of Elfland’s Daughter. Sort of a long overdue mental vacation, reading some fine fantasy. Regarded as Lord Dunsany’s finest novel, TKOED is pretty fine, and the influence on Lovecraft (especially the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath) and Clark Ashton Smith is clear.

Were it written today it would be considered unconventional. Certainly there are some peculiar byways; but then Dunsany was writing before the conventions of modern fantasy were Tolkienised. He shares the majesterial narrative sweep of Eddison, though writes with a much lighter touch. The prose is fine and possesses its own magic; the power of repetition, an oral lore rekindled, as phrases grow and grow beyond their words, as we shift between “the fields we know” to the castle “which may only be spoken of in song”.

TKOED is thoroughly remarkable. The fiftieth page would see the end of most tales; the beautiful bride is won and returned from Elfland, wedded to the prince with the magic sword, and they have a child. What happens next is another 200 pages of the wholly unexpected. Dunsany writes as a pure fabulist. Fancy is his guide, wonder his touchstone, and a breathtaking sense of magic permeates the whole. This is fantasy of the purest sort. No good or evil or epic battles, no dragons or fat sequels. Just magic and aching beauty, with occasional deft illumination of human nature, and an enormous sense of fun.

I think I really needed that to remind me what fantasy can be.

almost there

260 pages, 145000 words.
One final print and read, but I don’t anticipate any significant changes to be made.

merry etc

peace and love to you all

review: American Gods

Certainly Gaiman’s masterwork in prose. Gaiman is a master storyteller; a storyteller more than a fantasist, though fantasy is the purest vehicle of story I know.

Halfway though, I was struck by the sense of seeing through the smoke and mirrors, understanding what he was doing and how. And in a sense that is true, simple familiarity with his almost formalist* style, the way he spins meaning with structure and symbol. Yet somehow the second half of the book blew me away, and therein was the mastery. Everything tied in as the larger action revealed itself; what had earlier seemed indulgent and cute took up new importance.

It reminds me of something I learned long ago. Plot, in a sense, is simply the order you tell the story in. A story has its own existence, and can be told in many ways.

(* I use the word with no specific meaning but it feels true; maybe old-fashioned is what I mean.)

recommend the moose music

Okay, for a limited time the moose has interweb and soulseek and can leave it on downloading all night… and while there are live stuff and rarities for bands I love to seek, it strikes me as a good time to explore random areas of music.

So. What’s a song I should hear?

bad santas, bad press

Okay. So, belatedly, I hear about a bunch of Santas going ape in Auckland. Now, I read about this first in this Associated Press article on the ABC website under the headlines “Santas Go on Rampage in New Zealand: Santas Rampage in New Zealand’s Largest City, Robbing Stores and Assaulting Security Guards”.

Later in the article, it says “Alex Dyer, a spokesman for the group, said Santarchy was a worldwide movement designed to protest the commercialization of Christmas. ”

The NZ Herald, frankly something akin to a steaming pile of shit every time I’ve held one in my hands, had this

Alex Dyer, who organised the Santa spree, explained Saturday’s antics as a group of men who liked having a drink and a laugh.

“It doesn’t mean anything and it’s not against anyone. It’s just having fun. That’s what life’s about.”

While Mr Dyer did not condone illegal behaviour, he washed his hands of any responsibility.

“I can’t physically restrain people from doing stupid things. I can’t say, ‘Okay 50 drunk men, all listen to me: Please, nobody do anything stupid’.

“If someone does something stupid and gets caught for it, that’s their problem.”

He said Saturday was not an anti-commercialisation protest.

“People do Santarchy in other countries, sure, and for them maybe that’s their aim, but with us we’re just dressing up as Santa and getting drunk. We just like booze.”

I guess what interests me is the representation shift. One narrative reads roughly “violent drunken thieving anti-commercialists rampage”, the other reads “violent drunken thieving munters rampage”.

The slant seems a bit more blatant if you read the articles back to back. Which is sad, because I was just looking for confirmation that it happened at all, not confirmation that the media is systematically biased.

50000 years of whitey

Scientists Find A DNA Change That Accounts For White Skin

“Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology’s most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity’s greatest sources of strife.”
[…]
“The newly found mutation involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome — the complete instructions for making a human being.”
[…]
“Although precise dating is impossible, several scientists speculated on the basis of its spread and variation that the mutation arose between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. That would be consistent with research showing that a wave of ancestral humans migrated northward and eastward out of Africa about 50,000 years ago.”

Well. Kind of puts it in persective, doesn’t it?

As a visually dominated species we are hypnotised more easily by visual data, such as colour, despite its apparent meaninglessness by other measures. If we were blind would we give a damn about “race”?

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel gives a wonderful argument that humans adapt to the circumstances of their natural environment with about equal ability; that the development of “civilisation” as we understand it was a product of this differing adaptation.

Humanity. One.

Until we grasp that, we’re gonna have trouble. And until we grasp that, how the heck are we supposed to realise we are one with the whole planet? Because until we grasp that, we’re gonna keep destroying it, and ourselves.

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