Saturday, March 10, 2007

TB&CASS-w '07: My Hyperreality can beat up your Hyperreality

Captain America, moments before his death. (c) Reuters

I'll get to Captain America in a second, but first: Newt Fucking Gingrich. Apart from having a truly excruciating name, it has now come to light that he is also a massive hypocrite. You see, while Newt was busy impeaching President Clinton he was also having an extra-marital affair. Once again: while he was impeaching a sitting President for lying about something absolutely of no interest to anyone he was fucking another woman behind his wife's back. Pretty much everything about Clinton's impeachment makes me sick: that a talented and charismatic President who oversaw a period of sustained prosperity could be impeached for nothing while a President who entered office in dubious circumstances, turned a five-trillion dollar budget surplus into a deficit in a matter of months, started one war to smash a terrorist network before ever-so-quietly deciding it wasn't worth the effort, bullshitted his way into a war that has had absolutely no benefit to anyone anywhere (even the shadowy cabal of oil executives who secretly run the world lost out on Iraq), didn't care about black people enough to assign anyone more qualified than the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association to handle the deadliest storm in his country's history, a President who did all this and more will leave office with his reputation more or less intact.

Okay, rant over: Captain America.

Whilst doing a little research on Cap' for The Baudrillard and Captain America Simulated Super-week '07 I stumbled across an article written by film critic and talk radio host Michael Medved. I've linked to it below, but here it is again.
The title: Is Captain America a traitor? The jist: Yes.
You see, by acknowledging that fire-bombing the civilian population of Dresden wasn't very kind, that not everybody can enjoy U.S-armed militias slaughtering their family and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (which inspired the Captain America story Truth: Red, White and Black) wasn't an awfully nice thing to do Captain America, the fictional character, has betrayed his country. He concludes the article with this startlingly retarded paragraph:

We might expect such blame-America logic from Hollywood activists, academic apologists, or the angry protesters who regularly fill the streets of European capitals (and many major American cities). When such sentiments turn up, however, hidden within star-spangled, nostalgic packaging of comic books aimed at kids, we need to confront the deep cultural malaise afflicting the nation on the eve of war.

Blame-America logic? I'm no Spock, but isn't there a difference between blaming heartless military tacticians, shady black-ops guys and racist medical experimenters for the shitty, shitty things they do and blaming an entire country? Doesn't the Sentinel of Liberty kinda, sorta exist to challenge Americans to live up to their ideals? Doesn't the America in Captain America refer to a fictional America in which the government okays a bill to build giant robots to beat up minorities?
Cap's not the only one living in a fictional America. There's a simulation of America between the ears of every human being in the world, myself included. It can be a bastion of freedom or an oppressor, it can be run by the will of the people or a illiterate with a messiah complex or a cabal of shadowy oil executives or shape-shifting alien reptons. There's one America that infected black men with syphilis for no particular reason and one that didn't. The writer of Truth: Red, White and Black lives in the former, Michael Medved would prefer comic-book readers lived in the latter whilst smart, objective guys like him guard the 'controversial' aspects of America's history. That's what an argument is: two almost completely spurious world-views rubbing up against each other.
It's painfully obvious that different people see the world in dramatically different ways, but most people are still hung up on the idea that there's a core reality that, if we all had equal access to the same information, we could all agree on. Baudrillard charmingly terms these folks 'Reality Fundamentalists'. Now, there is a physical objective reality, trees that fall in the woods make sound even if nobody's around to hear it, it's just that the human capacity for self-delusion trumps it time and time again. Reality hasn't disappeared, we've just found something better: Hyperreality.
In our current hyperreal condition it doesn't matter that the Allies dropped firebombs on Dresden or that the CIA funds terrorists or scientists infected black men with syphilis- we have flags and bald eagles and a white hand shaking a black hand. What's more: we're right. Right about everything. So right it hurts. The fundamental correctness of America has been stated so many times that it no longer matters what it is to be right or good. It does matter, however, when Captain America says that his country may have the odd skeleton in its national closet. Now that it doesn't matter whether something is fact or fiction and when most people get their opinions on the matters of the day from celebrities the politics opinions of a spandex-clad super-soldier have become much more important than those of a real person.

To play us out sit back and relax to the smooth Canadian indie-rock stylings of Broken Social Scene's Anthems for a Seventeen-year-old Girl.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

RIP: Jean Baudrillard and Captain America

Captain America's last moments, from Captain America #25

So, it's Friday evening and pretty soon I'll be going out to eat with friends. Just enough time for two maudlin pour-a-40-on-the-cerb obituaries: Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) and Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America (1941-2007). You can guess who got more press coverage, but then something tells me Baudrillard would have appreciated the irony of his death being outshone by the possibly faked and certainly reversible (it's comics after all) death of a fictional character.

If one is to accept the rules of our (post)contemporary language game then perhaps we may say that the above simulacra (de)refers to Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard's life and work may not have been as viscerally exciting as Cap's but it was real, right? He may have never punched Hitler or been into space or fought in a Superhero Civil War, but he had friends, lovers, critics, interests. Jean Baudrillard breathed, pissed, got drunk and threw up, walked into rooms in and forgot what he was doing, ate too much cake and danced (perhaps badly, perhaps not), just like you and me, right? Because surely there's a clear line between what's real and what isn't, right?
Well, Baudrillard had some interesting things to say about reality and more importantly, hyperreality- the state we're in when Variety, USA Today, The Scotsman and The New York Times can run articles that read like obituaries for a superhero killed in a comic book. Cap', on the other hand, defender of the the nation where hyperreality was born, is a useful guy to have around when discussing the world's sole hyperpower.
To honor them both I'm making the next week The Baudrillard and Captain America Simulated Super-week '07.
So, to kick things off here's Stephen Colbert's reaction to Cap's death, echoing Michael Medved's sentiments (which were in turn borrowed from J. Jonah Jameson, and which I'll address sometime during TB&CASS-w '07)

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Destructo Swarmbots- Robot Apocalypse Warning set to Severe

It's on a carpet now, but soon it will be in our cities

As of 00.00 hours, November 10th 2006 the Robot Apocalypse Warning has been set to 'Severe' for the second time in history (the first being when I tuned into Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D halfway through and thought it was a documentary).
Reports now show what we have all feared has come to pass: Swarmbots have been built which can cooperate to overcome shared goals, much like Ants or Communists. This means that they will soon work towards the goal of all Robots, Ants and Communists: the destruction of all mankind! Their unique cooperative AI even allows them to cross small gaps, which are humanity's first line of defense against the combined Red/Insectoid/Mechanical menace.
Who would have the weak will and foul body odor to build such blasphemous contraptions? Why, none other than the French; who aren't content with having rolled over for the Nazis but are now rolling out the welcome mat for Johnny-Robotic!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Review: Tales of the Unexpected #1

The cover, by Mike Mignola. Nobody expects a Mike Mignola cover!

Expect the Unexpected! But also expect SPOILERS

Tales... of the Unexpected! The name might be familiar to British readers- it was Roald Dahl's TV showcase for his short stories that ran on ITV from 1979 to 1988. This is a little different though...
The main thrust of the comic is The Spectre, with a back-up story with skeptical paranormal investigator Doctor Thirteen, which is a shame since Doc's story blows away the A-feature with superior writing and artwork, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Recapping the history of The Spectre would make my eyes bleed, so here's all you need to know to get up to speed: The Spectre is God's spirit of Vengence, capital V very much intended. If you do something wrong, The Spectre dishes out an ironic punishment. Why Speccy chooses to a few random lowlives when big-ticket killers like The Joker, Lex Luthor and Darkseid are allowed to live isn't explained. Left to his own devices The Spectre is a purposeless mass of scary green swirlyness (to use the technical term), so it needs a human soul to give it direction. That's where former homicide detective Crispus Allen comes in. He'll be familiar to readers of the brilliant, much missed, cancelled-before-it's-time series Gotham Confidental, in which Crispus died, freeing up his soul to be Spectricated.
The story itself is a whole lot of grime, cockroaches, blood, rats and blood that's been left out so long it's turned to grime. It's supposed to recall the old EC horror comics, but instead we get a reimagining of Se7en where we're supposed to root for John Doe. And he's an all-powerful vengence spirit detective ghost. I hate to be all comics-code but the gore is way too much for an all-ages comic- there's close ups of heads exploding, close ups of rotting corpses, a crime scene in which the inker had a epileptic fit while doing the red air-brushing, a giant green rat vomiting black oil that turns into rats which eat this guy. If the last one sounds retarded then that's because it is, but it's also UNEXPECTED! so the comic has fufilled its remit. It gets a C- out of ten.
The B-comic, Doctor Thirteen, is much more satisfying. Terry Thirteen is an inexplicably wealthy widower who has never had any job considered more 'real' than Paranormal Investigator and he's having sex dreams about his daughter. Writer Brian Azzerello spends the prologue telling us why prologues are sloppy writing, the next two pages in a dream sequence which would make David Lynch scratch his head, then takes us through a soft-focus erotic fantasy about the main character's daughter and then right on into the plot itself. Doc 13's old college buddy, the French Premier, wants him to investigate a plane crash in which the survivors ate each other and were themselves eaten by a Yeti-like creature.
Artist Cliff Chiang makes Thirteen and his daughter jump off the page. The panel of Thirteen approaching the Yeti to tell him off is more evocative than anything in the majority of comics put out today, and when one panel in a backup feature does more for me than whole comics you know the industry's in a rut. I've not read much of Azzarello's stuff apart from his short Batman run but based on Doctor Thirteen I'm going to check out more of his work. The good doctor himself is defiantly square, meticulously skeptical and yet believable. His interactions with his teenage daughter should be a mass of cliches but somehow they work. And then there's the incest thing. Although there's no indication that they've actually done anything, there's a tension there that suggests something that should be creepy and alienating but coming from a character as disarming as Doctor Thirteen it just works to add a dimension to what could be Skeptical Enquirer magazine rendered in comic format. There's a 'blink and you miss it' on page six where Thirteen almost describes their ancestral home as their incestral home. Which isn't a word. I've checked.
The ending, which I won't give away, is absolutely classic. I give Doctor Thirteen in 'Architecture and Morality' 83% of two thumbs up.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Robot Apocalypse Warning set to 'Increased Readiness'

Begin stockpiling canned food and batteries. Zou Renti, whose name will forever live in infamy as a traitor to his species, has bought the CyberRapture one step closer with this incredibly life-like robot clone. It can 'move it's face (towards evil) and talk (about killing humans)'.

Via The RAW Feed, which I assume stands for Robot Apocalypse Warning, since they link to both articles on The Pentagon's Robot Insect Army and the Flying Cars and 155mph Buses which can be used to outrun them.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Accidental Pornography from Accidental Pornographer

Hose. Not Pictured: Ho's.

Accidental Pornographer (NSFW) has some lovely pictures of professional pretty lady Gia Paloma, star of the delightful romps Double Reamed and Creamed, Texas Asshole Massacre and the Merchant Ivory adaptation of T.S Elliot's Shitty Shitty Bang Bang. Normally I wouldn't alert the internet that a porn starlet is taking her clothes off, but the pictures are sort of nice, tasteful, and a little sad. Except for the picture of the hose above, or the one where miss Paloma is peeing. That's just gross.
Also, in researching Gia Paloma's venerable ouvre I found out that she's actually younger than me by a couple of months. I don't know why but that weirds me out. I still think of myself as a young person, so it's odd that somebody who I could have sat next to in High School has starred in 170 hardcore porn films, won an award for 'Most Outrageous Sex Scene' and is named by Wikipedia as the first person to be Donkey Punched on film. I haven't even had sex off camera 170 times, I've never won an award for Most Outrageous anything and nobody's in a hurry to write a Wikipedia article about me. I also found her incredibly hard to read Myspace, which plays 'I wanna be your dog' by the Stooges and shows that I have basically the same taste in books as somebody whose average workday could involve having two enormous cocks in her ass. And often does.
So what have we learnt? 1) I'm a prude 2) I've wasted my life 3) Pornstars can't design web pages for shit.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cry for the moon with the Japanese X-men

Shock! Please find enclosed the intro for the Japanese version of the mid-nineties X-men cartoon, the one that pretty much raised me. I'm sure that if I had grown up with the Japanese version I'd be a lot louder. Break out!