Scott Pilgrim – The Awesome Zeitgeist.

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim against the world. A comic book released in the form of books, 5 released and 6 total planned, by Bryan Lee O’Malley.  Well, there’s a movie now so I’m sure more people will hear of it, and hopefully the creator will also earn more money. It’s not like independent comic writers (comic sold through Oni Press, which houses a lot of independent and manga publications) are known for the piles of money they swim in.

Anyway, it may very well be that Scott Pilgrim is a reflection of the generation that I am a member of, the “Y Generation”, or in the case is, which Scott Pilgrim makes quite convincing, the “Yeah! Generation.” You see, Scott Pilgrim feels to me like an invention that hails in spirit from Seattle, though it’s actually Canada, but let us assume that it is Seattle’s spirit for the moment, the city that had brought us Grunge, the city that had brought has Starbucks. In other words, it’s a hipster city. I have hipster friends who live in Seattle or in its environs and whom I can think of as “Seattleans” in my mind – even though I’ve never actually been to Seattle myself.

So Scott Pilgrim against the world. The plot as there may be is that Scott falls in love with this girl called Ramona (note, it’s been two-three years since I’ve read any Scott Pilgrim). But there’s a problem, Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends, all seven of them. What follows is a mocking super-hero-esque series of fights where the hipster, broke, slacker Scott Pilgrim is someone we (IIRC)  find out to have never lost a fight, and who is “too cool for school”.

Note: It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read Scott Pilgrim, so on one hand consider it a review of my memory of the comic, and on the other, I use it as a stepping stone to speak of a wider issue. Thank you.

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Some Musings on Genre and Adherence.

Yes, I know this post is long overdue, but once you slide off, it’s really easy to keep not posting. I am posting this now and not procrastinating (even longer) because once I get this up, I will return to posting. Expect some editorials on what I’ve been doing (miniatures mainly), and the promised “Geekhood in Israel” which will be interwoven with my own personal story of ascending to Geekhood Godhood, because it’s my story.

"Those Bloody Ruins!"

Speaking of stories (which is one of my favourite topics), you might remember my Micro-Fiction of the “Nameless man”. That was a homage, and as such, it really was a “genre” snippet.

Writing or telling in genre can be easy or hard. When your goal is to mimic and recreate a genre, it’s sometimes hard to not overdo it, to make it clear that you are drawing and referencing ye olde favourite genre while not being too hackneyed. It also keeps you very self-conscious, because genres are often less about what you tell and more about how you tell it; both the shape and form of the story, and the construction of the sentences. You really pay attention to every word.

Of course, some people just write, and since they think in this genre, whatever comes out will be of the genre, without them giving this much thought. But then, it’s not really homage, it’s just how they write.

Anime is a medium, but it also is a genre to a degree. It has tropes to itself, and certainly to its subgenres, such as “Determinator Shounen”, “Moe”, “High school”, “Dating sim romance”, etc. And part of what I’ve spoken about before regarding comedies, and how we’re all about the “insider jokes” to show and prove (even if only to ourselves) that we are “in the know”? That’s not just tidbits, it’s also the genre-trappings, the things that happen which show us we are actually watching something “of the genre”.

Anyway, here’s a small genre-entry. You guys shouldn’t have a hard time recognizing the genre; provided you like reading ;)

The God-Machines of Atria Crumbled.

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(Media) Moments Frozen in Time – Favourites.

Favourites are moments which had been frozen in time. At least the ones which we can find in media, because as we all know, memories are something which is constructed, and not only at the time in which they occur, they keep being constructed after the fact to fit with new information received.

Media memories are memories, or rather, occurrences from books, movies, series, music, they are frozen in time, crystallized, so to speak, because we can return to them, time and time again. The passage that had stirred our blood so in a novel, the elation that we had felt when listening to an overture in an opera, and so many others.

But can we truly return to these perfect moments, to revisit these perfect memories, or are our memories moments that are constructed from an alchemical fusion of two things, which can never truly be reproduced, as Dr Jackyll had found to his dismay? A unification of the media section, that indeed can be experienced again, and of our emotional and psychological state at the time, which are not only something one would be hard pressed to reproduce, but even to merely identify?

Read more, and please share your own frozen perfect moments!
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Whisper of the Heart – The Dreary versus Fantasy (Worlds).

The kids, and the cat.

So I’ve watched Whisper of the Heart in a Hayao Miyazaki focused film festival of sorts last Friday (along with Porco Rosso, I’ve watched all the other films they had there previously), and I was bothered by something  in Whisper of the Heart, well, a couple of things.

There will be a certain amount of spoilers, be advised.

The first is that it had a “point”, a moral, a lesson it had tried to pass, when I think it’d have worked better as a “Slice of Life” story that just showcases something. Porco Rosso on the other hand was cute, but it was rambling and a bit directionless.

Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku Tsukihima, a girl who loves reading books, at her senior year of junior high school. In a way, she lives in the world of imagination, reading books voraciously, and fantasizing about the boy whose name appears before hers in many of the books she loves.

By the by, she is a junior high school student, and while some aspects of her and her classmates seem a bit off in age, as in, some fit high schoolers better, and some actually fit elementary schoolers (and even 4th-5th graders at that), on the whole, it seemed fitting, the behaviour, which meant quite a bit. I hate it when films totally butcher how younger people behave for the sake of cliches.

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A Tired Old Cliche; Genre-Breaking(?) Micro-fiction.

The Good (Blondie).
Image via Wikipedia

This is a short story, micro-fiction, in fact, that I’ve penned on the 8th of January 2007. To understand this story, you need to understand that it is direct homage, and build-up on the Man with no Name trilogy which is the character, or even Archetype portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone‘s “Spaghetti Westerns“. As many homages, in a way it does not only pay respect to the genre, but breaks it down to its components in such a manner that there’s hardly any story left. The other influence is The Gunslinger, the first book of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

This will also be relevant for the upcoming entry, “The Primacy of Colour”, which deals with genres and how we buy into the wrong stuff, the ‘trappings’, things for instance that look like mecha anime, but hardly are. This is only about 500 words long, so I hope you enjoy it.

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; Reading for Something Other than Story?

Supposedly, we read novels for the stories they contain. We read for the fiction, we read for the characters, we read for what happens, and we hope it will not only move us, but will interest us.

Words like “Atmosphere” are usually reserved more for our other senses: Movies, theatre, music. Yet, look at Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, where if you come reading the book solely for the story, you may very well leave satisfied, but you will also have to come equipped with considerable patience, whereas those who come for the atmosphere will be sated throughout the whole lengthy book (1,024 pages).

Whether the book gives the atmosphere prevalent in the period it occurs (early 19th century) I do not know, but it is saturated with atmosphere. The language and spelling used also calls back to that used in England a couple hundred years ago, as reading Hume‘s “A Treatise of Human Nature” would shew you.

Furthermore, the book makes extensive use of footnotes, by the author of the text (whoever that is), in which we both learn (fictional) historical details, mainly of magic, and old fables from the world Clarke had crafted. These footnotes sometimes go on for several pages, but the content they add is both charming and gives off the sense that this is a semi-academic write-up on the topic, which considering Mr Norrell’s nature, is not entirely misplaced.

I’ve recently re-read the book, which indeed was somewhat of an undertaking, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as slow as I have remembered, but it was still somewhat slow. Considering the length of the book, if you look at a certain percentage of a book as exposition, then this book’s may be longer than most people would accept. You see, while what is happening in the beginning of the book is definitely interesting, it is also quite slow.

The first section begins with a quote from later in the book, regarding Mr Norrell, who is the main character in the first section, which goes, “He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.” Now, to be frank, Mr Norrell is an unsympathetic little git whom none of you would like. He is tedious and petty, but at least in that section much of the emphasis is placed upon the social circles of London at the time.

Once we reach Jonathan Strange, the story picks up considerably, being more interesting, being more action-packed, with conflicts between people and nations, and magical mischief taking place. Though the book does sag again slightly for a while towards the end, but it contains depths upon which to feast yourself, and the pace may be intentionally slow.

Now, if you read for the story, which you look at as what “happens” in the book, then it may take a while for it to get going, but if you are willing to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the panorama laid out before you, then you’re in for a treat, at least, if you like that sort of atmosphere. It’s a seven-course meal, and stamina is necessary. The story is not bad, but it’s not the book’s strongest suit, which is the feel it invokes.

Now, for a slight comparison, look at movies, which we often go to not for the message they carry, or the story they tell (which is what I accused Watchmen of lacking), but for the emotional response they raise within us. Sometimes they do it with cheap tricks we can see, and sometimes we are affected nevertheless. Eastwood’s Gran Torino is an example for a movie that I liked, regardless of any message it may tried to pass. It hit you, and that was enough. That it was well crafted was a bonus.

Scores? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wins 5 barometers, and 3-3.5 on the story front, and Gran Torino lays out 4 punches to the gut.

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