{fv_addthis}

Latest Blog Posts

by Nikki Tranter

15 Jul 2009

Twilightby Stephenie MeyerLittle, BrownOctober 2005, 360 pages, $12.99

Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
October 2005, 360 pages, $12.99

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is more than a book series. It’s a lusty demon, I tell you, bent on making me bite into its shiny red apple-butt. Why, you ask, when I have free will… and absolutely no interest in a puffy high school vampire love story written by a Mormon?

Huge sigh.

Well, there was a time, see, when I was the authority on books in my environment. I knew the newest, best, most arresting works that everyone just had to read. You like her? You should read this. Into him? Try her, now she’s really something. And then my followers would go off and read my brilliant recommendations and on we would go, debating, into the night, the world of the book. And I would sit back, feeling wonderful that I had sparked such debate, stirred others’ romance with words.

Now, suddenly, something has invaded my Book Queen territory. And it’s big and red and evil. So popular, so inescapable, so everywhere

I’m coming to this late, right? Well, this is where it gets interesting ... and annoying. Though Twilight has been around a while, it has only recently found its way over to my circle of friends. And all at once, right now. My best friend, her sister, my junior at work, even my very own sister—are all suddenly buried in the plights of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. And they have four whole books to discuss—massive books, that I know nothing about. See, usually, if a book comes along that takes the group fancy that perhaps I just don’t want to read, I might know enough about its author or plot to scrape by in conversation, hoping that the topic of discussion might shortly shift back to something I’ve read. But it’s just impossible to try and discuss Meyer’s series with my pathetic knowledge that comes pretty much from the film adaptation, which I saw, enjoyed despite the cheese, thought about for a bit—(She’s his heroin?)—and then viciously hated.

I just can’t go on hearing this anymore: “Yeah, but the movie’s different. You’ve got to read the books.”

“Do I?” I scream in my head at these women I no longer recognise, as horns begin to emerge from there earholes. “Do I really?”

And it’s not just Twilight. They all read Meyer’s The Host, too. And sat around discussing its apparently super-amazing ending that I now know, but have no idea what makes it so amazing. It’s killing me, this inability to weigh in on the debate. You just can’t steer a discussion from Stephenie Meyer to Jane Hamilton the way you might get a Patricia Cornwell discussion over to Dennis Lehane. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. It’s like The Da Vinci Code all over again. And, yes, I cracked on that one and suffer to this day.

Do I do it again? Do I—gasp, swallow, choke—read the books myself?

Could I?

What harm would it really do?

by G. Christopher Williams

15 Jul 2009

Max Payne is looking pretty bad lately.

Of course, Max hasn’t lead the easiest life, but Rockstar’s latest screen shots of the two-fisted gunman indicate that some of that hard living is legitimately beginning to show.  Max is getting balder, bigger, and less beautiful by the moment.

It isn’t as if Max needs to be pretty.  What hard boiled hero has ever been able to lay claim to that particular attribute?  But, given that Max’s image is one that could at least theoretically be saved from the ravages of time (since rendered images don’t tend to suffer the ill effects of wrinkeles and weight gain), Rockstar’s choice to go ahead and allow time to leave its mark on their anti-hero is an interesting one.  It is also a choice that lacks a great many precedents in the medium of video games.

Certainly, Hideo Kojima also chose to age the hero of the Metal Gear Solid series.  Like Max, Snake in his last foray into the stealth action genre looked much the worse for wear as he confronted both a new global threat but also had to contend with his own mortality.

These couple of examples, though, tend to fly in the face of conventional serializing in the video game industry.  Most heroes and anti-heroes that get the opportunity to appear in multiple titles have a tendency to perhaps “evolve” in appearance, but they rarely do more than receive an update to their look rather than begin to look their age.  Instead, characters like Lara Croft and Mario are treated as icons, images that are recognizable and emblematic of whatever they are intended to heroically represent—be that sexy, empowered femininity or working class sticktuitiveness.

In considering the aging of characters in serial formats, it occurred to me that this same tendency to age some characters and to leave timelessly iconic other kinds of characters is also a tendency in comic books.  While I am being gravely reductionist in this observation, there has always seemed to me to be a general tendency to approach the handling of the aging super hero in two different ways by the two major comic book publishers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

The staple DC characters, who generally are much older than those belonging to Marvel, are usually represented in a timeless fashion.  Bruce Wayne, while having existed since 1939, remains (barring out of continuity material, like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight) seemingly forever trapped in some late-30s to late 40s version of himself.  Superman and Wonder Woman, who resemble minor deities in some way anyway, likewise remain perpetually beautiful despite similar post-World War II origins and despite their stories in serial form running regularly every month for nearly 70 years.

Many Marvel characters (at least around their point of origin, the early 1960s) tend to have experienced slightly different relationships to Father Time.  Spider-Man’s stories began with a Peter Parker still awkwardly attempting to navigate the hallways of his high school.  But Spidey’s continued adventures over the next couple of decades are backgrounded by a clear progression in time: Peter’s graduation, his entry into college, and even his eventual marriage (which, as I understand it was annulled through the intervention of a demonic deus ex machina, which may undermine my point a bit—Spidey seems to have stabilized like Bruce Wayne at some perpetual near middle age at some point fairly recently).  In other words, though, generally speaking following Spider-Man’s progress as a character over the decades also allowed readers to watch the effects of time on his alter ego, leaving Spidey less like an immortal icon and something more like a relatable human being.

It seems to me that DC’s lack of the representation of aging in their characters and Marvel’s tendency to allow characters like the Fantastic Four to age at least a bit (the marriage of Reed and Sue Richards and the eventual transformation of the Invisible Girl into the Invisible Woman are likewise emblematic of a maturation process in their characters) are related in some sense to the philosophies that each company has in regards to their characters.  DC Comics is generally interested in a romantic vision of a hero that is indeed iconic and timeless, representing larger principles like truth, justice, and the American Way, while Marvel is generally interested in more realistic and flawed characters that struggle with life in ways recognizable and comprehensible (once again, I realize that this is a broad characterization, and I can certainly think of exceptions in both comic book lines to these ideas, but my claim is one that I think is generally reasonable in considering the two companies’ approaches but simply not one without exception).

Returning to video game characters then, one might consider in this context the interests of game designers in keeping Lara and Mario ageless while allowing other characters like Max and Snake to indicate noticeable changes in their appearance as time and their series move forward.  Certainly, Lara Croft, like many larger than life representations of femininity in the arts, is almost unable to be aged.  Sex symbols are ruined in a culture that views “women of a certain age” as undesirable.  Lara, however, is in part intended to represent an iconic form of beauty that parallels this ideal notion of youthful beauty.  Likewise, Mario as a working class hero would suffer from being rendered in a geriatric form.  No one wants an arthritic plumber to look at that busted sink, we need someone strong and vital to do such dirty jobs (oh, and to kick turtles).  In that sense games in the Tomb Raider series and the countless titles bearing Mario’s names are ones interested in ideal heroes that represent ideals big, broad, and timeless.

However, Max and Snake occupy game worlds eminently more wed to time as they deal with personal, social, and political issues bound to the periods that they emerge from.  Unlike the explorer interested in antiquities whose adventures give nods to history but stand outside those actual historical events or the plumber who explores completely fantastical settings that are bound to no recognizable time, like mushroom kingdoms and even outer space, Max and Snake find themselves in much grimmer, grimier, and decaying worlds that clearly cannot escape the history crumbling around them.  As a result, characters like Max and Snake, despite their often extraordinary circumstance, still come off as characters that are a little bit more familiar and understandable to us, who as mortals and not gods likewise have to come to grips with time and history.

Rockstar has generally been good at creating these sorts of realistic mythologies (which sounds like an oxymoron, but I think a still reasonable description of the kind of fantastic but still historically and politically grounded worlds of the Grand Theft Auto series).  Recurring minor characters in the Grand Theft Auto games have allowed Rockstar to show that time operates in the worlds that they build.  From the balder and paunchier Ken Rosenberg appearing in the 1990s in San Andreas formerly as a slightly more vital, if completely neurotic coke head in the 1980s in Vice City to witnessing the dismemberment of Phil Cassidy in Vice City having only known him as an armless vet in the later decade represented in GTA III, GTA characters bear witness to the consequences of time on their characters and create a more realistic sense of who characters are as people, not emblems, than, perhaps, other gaming worlds often do.

This generally bodes well for Rockstar’s approach to a well seasoned Max Payne as he is a character that seems well suited to a more realistic sensibility.  Despite the bullet time balletics that are the hallmark of the series, Max is a character evocative of both sympathy and disdain.  He is not a character that represents or allows for simplistic and one dimensioanl analysis.  Such complicated heroes should be allowed to age less than gracefully and having complicated characters that can age may indicate that video game narratives could be growing up a bit themselves.

by Omar Kholeif

15 Jul 2009

At a recent exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Scotland, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse at Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Jim and Tom, Sausalito”. This, Mapplethorpe’s most notorious image, depicts a man urinating into the mouth of another (with his subject accepting graciously). The photograph was displayed as part of an exhibition entitled, “Sh(OUT): Contemporary Art and Human Rights”, a collection of installations and art pieces that are as much about acceptance, as they are about activism.

By the time I returned home from this trip, I felt compelled to revisit the music of Mapplethorpe’s esteemed collaborator and friend, Patti Smith. Of all her works, my strongest inclination was to reach for her 1997 album, Peace and Noise. Released a year after her memorial compilation Gone Again, Peace and Noise possesses the same lingering heartbreak of her previous album, albeit with a vitriolic edge.

Instead of sitting back and watching her dearly departed ghosts swirl about, Smith adopts a rabble-rousing persona, virtuously professing to her specters that she is ready to start a riot. OK, she may not have been perpetuating the same anarchistic angst of the 1970s, but Smith (who had notoriously retired from the musical world for years), was now fuming with a more concise anger.

by Diepiriye Kuku

15 Jul 2009

Look at this ‘normal’ news report from the acclaimed Associated Press news wire machine, marking this day, January 25, in history. It is a very correct example of how our media has seduced us into seeing Michael Jackson. This is exactly it. Despite his accolades, the American media portrays this entertainer through his dissent, rather than the fact that he has sold millions of albums more than Alicia Keys, the magic mulatto the press is favoring these days.

That’s stardom for you—we consume them & spit them out. People worshipped Michael Jackson at one point, so I guess he was uppity and had to be taken down. It’s one thing to acknowledge his faults, but quite another to vilify a person as such. We choose how we see and remember.

It’s not just that this day in history chooses to show the freed captives of Iran, and ignore the (expensive and embarrassing) Iran-contra scandal (and the destructiveness of Reaganomics). America’s moral authority was the casualty for which we’ve just stopped mourning. Nor even is the contention here a fact of Michael Jackson’s story is the only embedded news fact given a follow-up, as if to drive home the fact that the news got it right: Jacko is Wacko. Nor is the contention with such remembrance solely tied to admiration for a recently deceased pop icon.

by tjmHolden

14 Jul 2009



I was recently in Chicago, where I guess I hadn’t been in about twenty, twenty-five years. I had an interesting experience—maybe more like a revelation—walking around. It is hard to account for, but in the few days that I was there, I couldn’t stop seeing everything as points, lines, shapes, regularized squiggles. It was unlike any other experience I’d ever had during any of my many previous peripatetic promenades.

To the point where everything became geometric form. I was suddenly seemingly inhabiting a world designed by the precise sensibilities of Euclid.


 

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Cube Escape' Is Free, Frustrating, and Weirdly Compelling

// Moving Pixels

"The Cube Escape games are awful puzzle games, but they're an addicting descent into madness.

READ the article