Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Finally Edward

It's not until the ninth episode of Cowboy Bebop we finally meet the last member of the Bebop crew featured in the opening theme. A much broader and more cartoonish character than the others, Edward also represents a personification of the chaotic reconfiguration of landscape, culture, and society that characterises the universe depicted in the series.

Session Nine: Jamming with Edward

Nearly all anime series in the late 90s, and to a large extent even to-day, were influenced by Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's harder to see on Cowboy Bebop but it's there, too, and it would be fair to compare Edward (Aoi Tada) to Evangelion's Asuka Langley Sohryu: Asuka, when she's introduced, is also a much broader character than the others and she doesn't appear on Evangelion until eight episodes in (compared to Edward's nine). Like Edward, she's a redhead and represents a mixture of cultures, in Asuka's case Japanese and German.

Edward's racial and cultural background, though, remain a mystery throughout the series, a mystery brought no closer to a solution when we learn Ed's full name is Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV. And, of course, she's a girl with a boy's name so there's not one cultural signifier we can trust about her. When Jet seeks Ed in the episode and talks to a number of people, we get even more significantly jumbled information as one person seems to believe the mysterious Radical Edward is a tall man, another believes she's a beautiful women, another believes she's an alien.

A kid offers Jet a "well-known speciality of Earth" and acts surprised that Jet doesn't recognise it. It's some kind of processed snack food called Piyoko. Is this just part of the kid's sales pitch or is this some tenuous manifestation of a new Earth culture? I love all the background details in the depictions of people Jet interviews.

As with Spike (Koichi Yamadera), Jet (Unsho Ishizuka), and Faye (Megumi Hayashibara), Ed's first episode is more about the bounty than Ed which turns out to be an old satellite computer whom Ed names MPU (Joji Nakata). MPU begins the episode speaking to itself, lamenting that it is "always alone", and later we learn more about how it uses orbital lasers to carve images into the battered face of the Earth just in the effort to relieve some of its loneliness. The computer tells Edward how the images are an imitation of the ones humans used to make on the planet before constant meteor showers turned the planet into a constantly changing, dangerous place. The drawings aren't an attempt to change the Earth but to put it back the way it was. The computer is looking for some way to establish connexion with a lost culture, the last time it wasn't lonely, which represents a theme that will become more and more prominent as the series continues: a desire to go home and recover what was lost.

Ed represents the opposite, the personification of the constant change in place and identity but she offers friendship and help to the computer. She's quite comfortable in this shifting world, though by the end of the episode it seems as though MPU and Ed are incompatible, however much the two might like to be friends. But throughout the series, as here, we'll see very little evidence of sentimentality in Edward. She seems to want to help MPU, but is just as happy to hand MPU over to the police for a bounty without a second thought.


This entry is part of a series of entries I’m writing on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I’m reviewing each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:

Session One
Session Two
Session Three
Session Four
Session Five
Session Six
Session Seven
Session Eight

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Car and Motorcycle Shuffle

I wish I could speed through Paris on a motorcycle at a hundred miles an hour and not worry about hitting a kid or a dog or something. Walking around at a shopping centre after seeing 2018's Mission: Impossible--Fallout, I felt irrationally frustrated by all the obstacles preventing me from moving faster. People crossing on the sidewalk in front of me seemed malicious impediments to me realising my potential as a cannonball. Good thing we have movies to address such needs and this one has very little slack in that department.

I haven't watched a Mission: Impossible movie since I saw the second film in the theatre in 2000. I remember it being better than the first one, which I also only saw in the theatre, but mainly I remember the evening because I ate a whole box of chocolate covered coffee beans. I certainly didn't leave the theatre feeling sleepy though as I recall the main hook for the second film was shots of Tom Cruise slowly creeping his way around the underside of a rock at high altitude.

Good old Tom Cruise. Fifty six years old and the biggest daredevil in Hollywood. Constantly doing his own extravagant stunts, including a super high altitude skydive in this film, has become an integral part of his fame. And it's certainly a benefit for M:I--Fallout--there are subtle, natural reactions an actor has to a physical situation that cgi simply can't predict. A truly talented artist can make cgi action interesting but such sequences are at their best when they're expressions of those artists' sensibilities. The personality in Spider-Man flipping about between buildings has a different appeal than the sense of volatility in Cruise suddenly, unexpectedly scrabbling on the side of a rooftop.

Henry Cavill gives a flat performance but he's a good refrigerator--I still believe it'd hurt when he slams into someone. Simon Pegg seems like he must have been a lot of fun when his character was introduced a couple years earlier and he's perfectly satisfactory now. Mainly, though, the film is about Cruise's relationships with women.

The film's primary thematic appeal is very traditional for the spy genre and some might say retrograde--it primarily revolves around a hypercapable male protagonist's anxiety over the increasingly difficult task of protecting the woman he loves, or even just the woman he feels a raw sexual attraction to, an anxiety especially complicated by the ambiguity of the woman's motives. I've always argued that the James Bond movies are really imitations of Hitchcock movies and the true originators of this genre are Hitchcock's Notorious (1946) and North by Northwest (1959)--but especially Notorious. That one put all of the details in place--a handsome, suave, resourceful agent (Cary Grant) and the beautiful female spy (Ingrid Bergman) whose sexuality seemed connected to the peril surrounding the mission. And, of course, there's exotic travel and uranium.

Plutonium turns out to be the deadly McGuffin in Mission: Impossible--Fallout. There are three women on Ethan Hunt's mind this time--Rebecca Ferguson as an MI6 agent with the cool name Ilsa Faust, Michelle Monaghan as a wife named Julia from an earlier film, and a sexy weapons broker called the White Widow played by Vanessa Kirby.

He protects the White Widow in the film's most stylish sequence set in a club with a corridor of mirrors that reminded me of the sabre fight in Phantom Menace. Ambiguities about who Ethan is, who she is, and what both of them want add spice to an action sequence with a lot of physical intimacy and the always lovely garter pistol Kirby produces at one point.

The film's effective cocktail of relentless, expertly contrived action and sexual subtext never quite hits the heights of the Raiders of the Lost Ark gold standard and the last act of Fallout sags a bit with some logical inconsistencies but it's still a very fun film.

Twitter Sonnet #1139

Required masks deflect inverted ice.
A row of microphones records the group.
A massive weight's in fact a thousand mice.
On tiny feet the horde traversed a loop.
Contented clouds but lately look below.
The paper's widely strewn on rows of crops.
There's something near the farm to say hello.
A trundling metal rabbit fin'ly stops.
A scholar's choice reversed the wind at sea.
For timing sharp the knife became the bread.
A teasing thorn remembers it the bee.
The dearer member claimed a ruddy bed.
The beetle workers make a metal think.
A million screws combine to make a tank.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Comic Con Report, volume 6: Conclusion

There's always more going on at Comic Con than any one person can cover. In addition to the many panels and signings, there are also booths selling collectables and booths for artists selling their work. There are metal workers and as always lots of steam punk leather workers, and of course there are comic book artists and authors. In the small press section, I tend to see creators pop up one year, enthusiastic and hoping to be noticed, only to never be seen again in subsequent years. One of the few small press series I've seen multiple years at the con is The Boston Metaphysical Society. I spoke to writer/creator Madeleine Holly-Rosing and told her how much I enjoyed reading the comic a couple years earlier. She showed me a bit of a newer issue and it looks like the art has improved quite a bit.

It was Sunday when I made the rounds of the small press area and I didn't have enough cash on me to buy anything. I got a few courteous but disappointed looks when I said as much. I would have liked to have bought an issue of Forbidden Futures--I spoke to one of its artists and was impressed by his nightmarish style.

I also spoke to an artist named Sheeba Maya who was selling a series of really gorgeous portraits based on the signs of the Zodiac.

Well, I think that's about all I have of interest to say about this year's Con. I kind of like that there was nothing in Hall H that drew much of a crowd this year. Since the Con still sold out I guess it means that the crowds were more evenly dispersed about the place. As companies like Disney seem more and more to favour their own Cons for making big announcements, I wonder if we're seeing the beginning of Comic Con's growth finally stopping and maybe even receding. That could be a good thing if it draws more attention to independent creators though I'm not sure there many sites left willing to cover things they're not getting paid to cover.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Recognising Beasts

"Tooth and Claw", an episode from the Tenth Doctor's first season on Doctor Who, feels like a Twelfth Doctor episode in a lot of ways. It's set in Scotland, it's a horror pastiche, and it features two instances where the Doctor's companion has to quietly inform him he's being rude. But there are several ways in which it is distinctly of the Russell T. Davies era. I'd forgotten how giddy the Doctor and his companions got, particularly Rose (Billie Piper), over meeting historical figures or famous fantasy characters. Sometimes it felt odd to me but I enjoy it in "Tooth and Claw". I also forgot how red David Tennant's lips could be.

One could also say it's like a Twelfth Doctor episode in that it has some disagreement over whether or not the Doctor is a good person. But while in the Twelfth Doctor era this questioning mainly came from the Doctor himself, in "Tooth and Claw" it comes somewhat unexpectedly from Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins) who, after ennobling both the Doctor and Rose, suddenly banishes them.

"I don't know what you are, the two of you," she says, "or where you're from. But I know that you consult with stars and magic and think it fun. But your world is steeped in terror and blasphemy and death and I will not allow it."

There's a tension between different perspectives on morality throughout the history of Doctor Who. Sometimes the Doctor will casually and adamantly use the word "evil", other times he chides others for using it too hastily to condemn an entire species or to judge the actions of an alien without examining its motives. In "Tooth and Claw", Rose, when confronted with the werewolf, immediately starts to ask him questions and offers help, thus continuing the fine tradition on the show that goes back to scenes like the Third Doctor's first encounter with a Silurian where he unhesitatingly offered the hand of friendship. It makes sense that Queen Victoria would not approve of the Doctor and Rose on moral grounds, though it would make more sense if it wasn't sprung suddenly at the end of the episode.

The difference between how this disapproval works in "Tooth and Claw" and how the moral quandaries are presented in the Twelfth Doctor era is that Victoria's stance is presented as a subjective judgement which the audience may or may not concur with. There's ambiguity over whether Twelve did the right thing in "Kill the Moon" by forcing Clara to make a decision without the aid of his foreknowledge. But in that case there's more of a sense of it being an attempt to find the real right thing to do than it is about the perspective on the right thing to do. Victoria's condemnation comes from a specific moral perspective and through it suddenly even the giddiness the Doctor and Rose feel over their adventures becomes suspect.

This follows after an image of the werewolf being crucified and the episode follows the Ninth Doctor's season and its prominent "Bad Wolf" thread. Since the "Bad Wolf" signs were shown without context, the emphasis was more on an implacable and strange moral force than on anything the Doctor had actually done, forcing the viewer to focus more on the motivations of that condemnation.

I often feel the series since its 2005 revival has been more of a reflection on the classic series than a continuation of it. Certainly the Doctor's moral ambiguity had been an issue before, particularly in the Sixth and Seventh Doctor eras. But through Davies I think we can see how a kid who feels different might have found comfort in the Doctor being friendly with monsters and also in the Doctor's position as a hero on the series who comfortably and deliberately makes choices that would be considered wrong by the prevailing morality. Davies injects a sense of vulnerability in this, that feeling of unprovoked betrayed when you've been palling around with Queen Victoria and she all of a sudden turns on you for doing something you thought was completely innocent and even now you can't understand why she thinks it's wrong. Since the Doctor does feel guilty about something, it makes sense if he might come away from an experience like that wondering if there's something fundamentally bad about himself he's not equipped to address.

I also love "Tooth and Claw"'s setting in that nice big old manor house which is apparently the origin of Torchwood. And it's always a joy seeing Tennant again.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Comic Con Report, volume 5: Magical Boarding School Edition

On Saturday at Comic Con I spent most of the day in the Indigo Ballroom. I was there to see panels for Cosmos, The Orville, and Twin Peaks which meant altogether around six hours of other panels I needed to sit through. I packed my dinner instead of lunch that day--I made some cucumber sushi rolls and a hard boiled egg and as always I had an apple. It would've been handy if I could've slept at the Con since I was there so late and had to be up early the next day. Which must be one of the appeals of boarding schools. As it happened, three of the panels I sat through that day were for shows about magical boarding schools--Legacies, Deadly Class, and The Magicians.

Obviously there's the influence of X-Men and Harry Potter but I found myself wondering at the apparently widespread appeal of the concept. I guess the impression I had is that they're generally sort of gated communities of beautiful misfits. It has some of the same appeal as fiction set on ships, like Star Trek, where the characters are part of a family, everyone takes care of each other and everyone has value and individual charms that are validated in working for the common good. In the boarding school concept, the administrative figures aren't the leads and are generally presented as powerful and charismatic but sidelined patriarchs or matriarchs. There's more emphasis on the protagonists being taken care of though the drama often revolves around a threat to that premise--either the headmaster/mistress is undermined or something threatens the school. With these shows, though, the primary appeal seems to be the microcosm of pretty teenagers who are simultaneously discomforted by the strange situation of the boarding school and titillated by the forced intimacy with other pretty teenagers. The added supernatural element gives the teenagers attractive misfit traits that become potential grounds for bonding and therefore also for dramatic betrayal.

The first of the three boarding school panels I saw was for an upcoming series called Legacies which is a spin-off The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, neither of which I've seen. Legacies centres on the daughter of a werewolf and a vampire from those previous shows, Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell). The show will depict her life at the Salvatore School for the Young and Gifted. It seems to blend the aristocratic fantasy appeal inherent in most post-Interview with the Vampire stories with the boarding school concept, which seems a very natural combination to me. You can see the full panel here.

On the other side of the tracks is Deadly Class which centres on a homeless kid who's taken in by a secret school of assassins. Based on a comic published by Image since 2014, it's produced by the Russo Brothers. They weren't present but recorded an amusing special video message for the panel. The show features Benedict Wong as the headmaster. It's set in the late 80s and injects kind of a Warriors vibe into the concept. The moderator praised the homages to punk rock and the comic creator's Spotify list which includes The Ramones and The Cure. The sort of abbreviated pilot that was shown for Comic Con was much better than the trailers on YouTube for the show and I think I might even enjoy it if I ever find time to watch it despite the presence of Henry Rollins as a minor character (I'm not a fan). The lead, Benjamin Wadsorth, seems like a young Peter Weller and is effective as the orphan murderer Marcus. Maria Gabriela de Faria as a student he's attracted to was less impressive--she came off as remarkably phoney. Lana Condor as possibly a rival love interest, though, had some nice enthusiasm. The comic's creator, Rick Remender, was also on the panel and seemed pleased by how his work was translated into a series, which is nice to see for a story that seems to have complicated morality.

Finally, I saw the panel for The Magicians, the only of the three series I've actually seen. It was at a Comic Con panel that I'd first heard of The Magicians--a year or two ago, a panel hosted by Chris Hardwick who passionately endorsed the show. The cast of the series were charming and had such a good rapport on the panel I was compelled to check out the series. I kind of enjoyed the first couple episodes but I found lead Jason Ralph's whininess too irritating. He seems like a nice enough guy, though.

Since this year allegations from an ex-girlfriend kept Hardwick from Comic Con (a situation having been investigated by AMC with the result that Hardwick has apparently been exonerated) Felicia Day hosted the panel. Day also apparently made a guest appearance on the show and seemed even more in love with it than Hardwick. Once again, I did find myself charmed by the easy rapport and charisma of the pretty cast which was also highlighted in a blooper reel shown to the crowd. Stars Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve were promoting a homeless charity and accepted five dollars from a cosplayer from the crowd--anyone who spends time in San Diego knows the city has a massive homeless problem so it's certainly a worthy cause. Olivia Taylor Dudley, who plays Alice on the show, answered a question from a nervous male fan about what it was like to play a character who adopted a variety of personalities. "My favourite was 'Nympho Alice'," said Taylor Dudley.

"Mine too," said the guy who'd asked the question.

"Aw, you have a picture of her on your phone, don't you?" said Day. When the guy nervously admitted he had a wallpaper of Olivia Taylor Dudley, Day, observing he was tongue-tied after that, said, "He's blushing, that's sweet." The undercurrent of political neuroses was present as always and a ripple of nervousness went through the room when Day called another fan "Shorty." She hastened to add, "It's adorable!" which probably wouldn't help if someone decided to complain about it. But she was a good moderator in my opinion and the cast and writers were fun. They'd all apparently done tequila shots (Day said their bottles were filled with "water", using air quotes) before the panel and the series co-creator John McNamara seemed completely sloshed. He started rambling about his love for Le Mis. I might have to try giving this series another chance.

Twitter Sonnet #1138

Escaping bulls design the rivers wide.
A straying crane mislays the varnished beam.
Aggressive blanks are fired ev'ry side.
The tossing foil shines ere morning's gleam.
A borrowed helmet changes back to face.
The castle lord could sally forth to Joan.
Together turning lamps illume Her Grace.
Concordance always trod the field of bone.
A secret knight to Death was yet betrayed.
A stratagem unhorsed the tracking guard.
About the field were garlands now berayed.
Extolling broken blades across the yard.
Between the tricking sheaves a light compels.
A dry and quiet sea for flame impels.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Comic Con Report, volume 4: The Wrong Audience Edition

I didn't notice the gender swapped Alex DeLarge when I took this photo by the expensive pizza cafe at Comic Con but I applaud her now, wherever she is.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned how much I love the door staff at Comic Con, the people who stand by the badge detectors or just hold the doors. Many of them have no clue about geek culture but are unselfconsciously vocal and seem to have a great time. On Sunday a middle aged black woman stationed at one of the doors was loudly and enthusiastically misidentifying costumes. She gave a shout out to "Gladys Knight!"--a Princess Leia. When a woman walked by dressed as Captain Marvel the door lady yelled, "Mockingjay Lady! I see you, Mockingjay Lady!" Captain Marvel gave her a strained smile. When I walked by I was greeted as, "Laurence Fishburne! Hey, Laurence Fishburne, I see you!" I'm white, by the way. I was tempted to stop and ask her just who she thought Laurence Fishburne was.

I was wearing a brown fedora, long sleeved grey button down shirt, brown denim trousers, and carrying a brown messenger bag. Maybe she thought I was Cowboy Curtis, Fishburne's character from Pee-Wee's Playhouse. That was on Sunday--most days at the Con I was wearing a sport coat and bow tie along with a fedora which usually gets people to ask me, "Are you Indiana Jones or Doctor Who?" That's an ambiguity I'm comfortable with but on Sunday I was coming from the Maritime Museum where the work I do, particularly in this recent heatwave, can be strenuous and dirty so my normal attire is fedora, shirt, and trousers. I knew I'd get pegged as an Indiana Jones cosplayer, which wouldn't bother me except I know the hat is wrong, the shirt is the wrong colour, the bag is wrong, etc. If I'm going to cosplay as Indiana Jones, I want to do it right, not get the pitying acknowledgement of a bare minimum effort. I tried to head it off by wearing a grey shirt and I'd recently added a chinstrap to the hat (this is required for volunteers on the ships) but no such luck. Several people kindly complimented my effort to look like Indiana Jones, I even received a courteous nod and smile from a guy who was wearing a just about perfect Raiders replica outfit. Oh, well. At least one person thought I was Laurence Fishburne.

The highlight of the Marvel Games panel, which I saw on Thursday in Hall H, was that the moderator, Greg Miller, and Yuri Lowenthal, who voices Spider-Man in the upcoming game called Spider-Man unexpectedly found themselves wearing exactly the same outfit.

I don't play a lot of video games nowadays, when I do I usually just replay Skyrim. But Spider-Man looked like a fun game though the gameplay looked precisely like Arkham Asylum.

The Marvel Games panel was one of two I sat through in Hall H between Doctor Who and Better Call Saul, the other being Dragon Ball Super, an upcoming movie in the Dragon Ball franchise.

The panel featured English dub voice actors Sean Schemmel (Goku) and Christopher Sabat (Vegeta), who seemed to be well known to fans of the franchise. I wouldn't know, as much as I love anime, with a special fondness for 80s anime, I've never gotten Dragon Ball. Usually with things I don't like I can at least sort of understand why it appeals to other people but Dragon Ball is like a dog whistle to me, it's a sound I just can't hear. There were two surprise panellists, famous pro-wrestlers named Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder--Kingston tried to describe what he loved about the franchise. He talked about the pleasure of pushing oneself to a "limit" or past a "limit". I feel like there are plenty of movies and shows with that concept, though, without featuring big weird lumps of muscle. I guess you need to really love muscle to appreciate it. Anyway, if you want to see the panel, don't let me discourage you, the whole thing's on YouTube here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Comic Con Report, volume 3: Cosmic Edition

In Sci-Fi/Fantasy fandom, you can often judge a show's popularity by how many people dress as its characters at Comic-Con. It was no surprise to me that I saw a lot more Orville cosplay than Star Trek: Discovery cosplay. In fact, I didn't see any Discovery cosplay whatsoever. That doesn't mean there weren't any though I might add I can't even find any examples when I do a Google image search for "San Diego Comic Con Star Trek Discovery Cosplay". I did see old fashioned hairy Klingons and people in TNG and TOS costumes. I saw the queue for Discovery's Hall H panel was tiny. The impression I generally have is that Star Trek fans would prefer not to acknowledge Discovery's existence. Which I think is fair considering the first season of Discovery often seemed like it preferred not to acknowledge the existence of Star Trek fans. If there's a divorce happening here it's definitely Disco that initiated proceedings.

There are some signs that Discovery might not be enjoying its beautiful isolation, though. The trailer for season 2 shows many elements from the original series being introduced and ends with a distinctly Orville-ish turbolift gag.

The Orville panel was held in the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton across from the Convention Centre. The ballroom definitely filled up but, while it is one of the larger rooms in all the buildings utilised by the Con, it's less than half the size of Hall H. It sort of reminded me of years ago when the Firefly panel was placed in Ballroom 20 and a massive queue stretching out onto the Embarcadero showed how organisers had miscalculated. The disparity between expectation and reality wasn't quite so visible in this case but there definitely was one.

This is the first Orville cosplayer I saw. She told me she'd seen several others that morning. Nearly all Orville cosplayers I saw were women but in general I find cosplayers for any fandom are mostly female. Cosplayers who asked questions of the panel were rewarded with skulls--props from an upcoming episode.

The full panel is online (part one is here and part two is here). If for nothing else, I recommend watching for Penny Johnson Herald's impromptu dance routine. I'll never see her character the same way again.

I think the main reason Orville succeeds where Discovery doesn't is that there's a genuine sense of affection for the characters that comes through in the writing. Instead of the often scattershot feel of Discovery's first season, Orville had characters that seemed to grow organically as the season progressed and established themselves in the mind of the viewer. Seth MacFarlane on the panel, though, seemed to feel the most important difference between the two series is optimism.

He talked about remembering how engineers and scientists described being inspired by Star Trek to go into their careers. He described feeling concerned that art was no longer inspiring people to be constructive but only to despair. I think he has a point. This is a function religion used to serve--one could talk about how foolish it is to believe in fanciful things that turn out not to be true but very often some kind of hope is necessary just to feel motivated.

The Orville panel was preceded by the panel for Cosmos and, like the panel for Orville, also had Seth MacFarlane and Brannon Braga who serve as executive producers. Also present were the show's host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Carl Sagan's wife, Ann Bruyan (the full panel for this one is also online--part one and part two).

Several of the people who asked questions of the panel identified themselves as teachers who were frustrated by students who seemed to be more and more resistant to learning. One described a growing problem with students who believe the Earth is flat. This is certainly depressing--I remember when the big problem was Creationists, which was bad enough, but the increase in Flat-Earthers seems even worse. DeGrasse Tyson said we have a failed educational system, which I think is true, but I felt he was more astute when he responded to a question about whether he would run for president. He made the point that, as bad as Trump is, just swapping out the president for a better one isn't an adequate solution. The problem is that millions of people voted for Trump, and that's the real problem that needs to be addressed. It is nice to know there are shows making the effort to do so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Comic Con Report, volume 2: Exhibit Hall Edition

Here's a genuine Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This was at a booth at Comic Con auctioning off authentic Hollywood props.

Artefacts from yesterday's future, via Back to the Future: Part II.

Part of the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark. You might notice, by the way, that the Ark in the first Indiana Jones film looks almost identical to how it looks in biblical epic films of the 50s like David and Bathsheba and Solomon and Sheba. This might be one of Spielberg's nods to the films that influenced him but it also might be because the Ark of the Covenant is described with amazingly precise detail in the bible.

A genuine production used lightsabre from A New Hope.

Glenda the Good Witch's broach from The Wizard of Oz. If the "witch" part hadn't already enraged the Puritan viewer the immodest display of opulence would certainly be the last straw.

Friday, the day most of these photos are from, I spent almost entirely wandering the Exhibit Hall. I didn't think there were panels I wanted to see though I wish I'd gone to the Amazon panel. My eyes passed right over the title "Amazon Prime" in the schedule and only later did I read the fine print and see it was in fact a panel for Good Omens and The Expanse. Oh, well.

Joss Whedon along with Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion signing for the anniversary of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.

"That's a beautiful gown," I said to this woman who made her costume herself. "But it looks warm."

"It is warm," she acknowledged gravely. The temperatures got to over 100 Fahrenheit this year. I felt bad for a lot of cosplayers, particularly the Wookiees.

Artist Joe Phillips who, as in previous years, always wore an amazing, completely different costume each day of the Con. "You're an endless fount of creativity," I told him.

A female Predator and her friend Domino from Deadpool 2. The Deadpool booth had a hilarious animatronic Chuck E. Cheese homage this year.

I saw this Seventh Doctor on Sunday. After Thursday I saw a couple women dressed as Four and a few more just wearing Thirteen's coat.

The only Slave Leia I saw this year. "There used to be legions of you!" I said to her.

"I was hoping to see more," she said.

When I asked if I could take a picture she asked if I minded her cigarette. "Not at all, that's great!" I said.

The ghost of Mozart's father from the movie Amadeus.

On the trolley on the way to Comic Con on Friday I read the new Sirenia Digest which included the second and final part of THE ELDRITCH ALPHABET written by Caitlin R. Kiernan in tribute to HP Lovecraft. It features vignettes for letters in the alphabet from "N is for Nyarlathotep" to "Z is for Zoog". I particularly liked "R is for R'lyeh" which features a cool, fresh perspective on Cthulhu worship through the eyes of one of Caitlin's own characters, the Signalman, who should be familiar to fans of her excellent book Black Helicopters.

I'll have more on this year's Comic Con in to-morrow's entry.

Twitter Sonnet #1137

The absent plastic made a space for text.
A million heads'll not replace a rock.
A boarding school became forgotten next.
A hundred words replaced the single sock.
Required phones dictate the normal hand.
A fan without a ceiling held the roof.
No guessing tells where heavy horses land.
No mane or tail connects before the hoof.
A ship constructed well rewards the rum.
A tiny sheet aligns the card for sail.
Along the dock the ants begin to hum.
Below the waves the fish began to wail.
The same hotel appeared accross the street.
The avenue assembled extra feet.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Comic Con Report: volume 1

I took the trolley to Comic Con every day this year. The station at the Convention Centre had special Stranger Things themed signage.

One common thread I heard on panels this year was the issue of how much control writers or producers ought to exert over a television series. I sat through a screening of the pilot for an upcoming series called Manifest on Saturday after which the stars, Melissa Roxburgh and Josh Dallas, along with creator Jeff Rake, appeared on the panel to answer questions. Rake explained how, when he pitched the series, he had to give a complete synopsis of exactly where the show would eventually go at the end of its run. This was to avoid, he said, something like what happened with Lost. I've never seen Lost but I will say one of the reasons I didn't like the Manifest pilot I saw on Saturday is that it seemed too attached to a plan. Its premise about a passenger plane flight that jumps five years into the future has a lot of potential for developing characters but every reaction the protagonists had to the situation seemed flat and artificial. When their friends and relatives met them after they'd disappeared five years earlier none of the reactions felt authentic. It all felt sort of like a filmed synopsis.

Two days earlier, on Thursday, I saw the panels for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul where the creator of the former and co-creator of the latter, Vince Gilligan, spoke several times about how important it was to remain creatively flexible and ready to change plans when inspiration strikes. He cited several examples but the biggest he referred to was the fact that the character Jesse (Aaron Paul) was originally meant to die in season one of Breaking Bad. Gilligan changed course on that as a reaction to Aaron Paul's performance as the character.

Betsy Brandt, who played Marie Schrader on the show, talked about how creatively involved she was with her character, even down to coming up with her character's job and, to some extent, wardrobe. On the other hand, Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul/Jimmy McGill on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, was adamant that he was only there to perform what was written for him and he had no desire to contribute to the writing or concept, expressing a complete faith in and admiration for the creators.

The Better Call Saul panel had footage from the upcoming season which starts on August 6th and the Breaking Bad panel was an anniversary panel--apparently that show's already ten years old somehow. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul along with most of the main cast were there. Both panels were hosted by Bill Burr, one of the best moderators I saw this year, largely because he didn't seem like he was trying so hard to prove himself. He also had a small role on Breaking Bad which he lobbied aggressively for. The full panels can be seen here and here.

On Saturday I stayed up for the 8pm Twin Peaks panel which featured several actors from the new series. Much of the conversation revolved around how the show allows the viewer to develop his or her own interpretation. Very little from the panel has been put online so far so I uploaded my own footage. I apologise for the low quality video, I have a good camera but a small memory card.

Twin Peaks: The Return clearly benefited from careful planning before Lynch started shooting but Lynch has talked about his need for "room to dream". It occurred to me one could interpret the season as a contrast between the benefits of allowing oneself to be an instrument of the universe, like Dougie, or someone who tries to assert his own will or plot on the universe, like Agent Cooper or Mr. C.

I think Lynch's work could be described as an artist's art; he deals so often with ideas about dreams and creativity. So maybe it's not surprising that I met two artists in their booths this year who were showing Twin Peaks fan art--Josh Howard and Chaman Vision. Howard has a series of comic book style fan art tributes to the new season of Twin Peaks while Chaman Vision has put together some posters imagining a film starring David Bowie as Phillip Jeffries.

To-morrow I'll post more from this year's Con. I'm still exhausted.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Buildings of Comic Con

Here's the San Diego Convention Centre this morning photographed from where I was at Seaport Village. It's nestled between two massive hotels--all three buildings host Comic Con programmes every year, as do the library and a few other hotels.

This seemed like an especially crowded Sunday which is usually the quietest full day of the Con. I suppose since there were no big panels everyone figured they'd spend the day walking the Exhibit Hall, which is basically what I did. I also went up to the autograph area where I saw Cas Anvar from The Expanse and several Twin Peaks cast members. I could've talked to them but I was too tired to think of anything to say--I can't remember ever being so tired after Comic Con, though that's probably because I was up late on Saturday night and then got up early on Sunday. On Sunday mornings I'm a volunteer at the San Diego Maritime Museum, home of the Star of India, the 19th century sailing ship, along with several other historic and reproduction ships, including the Surprise from Master and Commander (on the right).

It's a short walk from the Star--past the aircraft carrier museum Midway and Seaport Village--to the Convention Centre and I left the Star at noon. I recommend wandering the route if you're ever in San Diego for the Con or any other reason but, for fuck's sake, don't let your kids play with the lines on the belaying pins.

I have a massive stockpile of photos, video, and stories from this year's Con and I'll start posting longer report entries to-morrow when I'm not completely exhausted. For now, here's some exceptional Pan's Labyrinth cosplay I saw: