Monday, December 31, 2012

Ruminations on Machine of Death

The really fascinating thing about Machine of Death is the idea of predestination. It's a shitty observation about a book that's about predestination, but I'm talking about ubiquitous predestination. Predestination for the masses.

Our lives, for the most part, are fairly smooth lines of daily routine with a few jagged edges for the occasional car wreck or marriage. However, there come times when by surprise or design we reach massive changes made on something as small as a few words of commitment, action, or inaction. These are some of our most real moments. I'm sure that the moment in 2008 when Barak Obama first saw the results that made him president was the single point that massively changed everything that came after that in his life. There wasn't a gentle turn on either part of it and while the previous months lead up to it, the difference from "should happen" "actually happened" could have been nothing less than monumental. For the rest of us, no moments are more pivotal than death and near death moments. They are all the difference between something and nothing. There's a story, "Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions," that deals with this rather well. The central character's life revolves around the most important and exciting thing to ever happen to him; his death.

What Machine of Death talks around, but never quite about is the default role that so many people play in their own lives: the casual observer. There's this almost cynical view that the everyday paradigm of humanity is one in which we have little individual control of our fates, much less the world at large. Even an intelligent, interrogative, independent work like Machine of Death perpetuates this version of reality where we are simply passive observers waiting for something to come along and make us strong enough to change the world, whether that's a predestination, a bite from a radioactive spider, our wife being held in The Nakatomi Tower by Hans Gruber, or Gandalf telling us we have to help some dwarves buy new conditioner for their amazing, dwarven hair (I never read The Hobbit, so I'm just guessing.), is left up to the powers that be, but I can never quite shake the feeling that everyone around me is just as vague on the details, but still eagerly anticipate its arrival.

With the need for a catalyst and its prerequisite for fucking delivery to your door, I feel the collective consciousness would do good and believe in their ability to overcome challenges, but only if given the opportunity, and granted the power needed to be confident of their success. It's not noble, but it is reasonable, after a fashion. It does interest me in reconciling all of the worlds' irritating "special snowflakes" with the unspoken masses waiting for an authority to lift them up and tell them they're special enough to make a difference.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pacific Rim

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Technical Difficulties

I want to apologize. VanVelding's still on cooldown/hiatus/probation thing where he's not allowed to post drunk and I'm going on a trip in a few days and haven't built up a queue yet, so there's nothing for today. Statistically speaking, lots of people are traveling and/or in some state of emotional turmoil, so either this won't be more than a nuisance to you or it will be the most devastating part of your Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Penny Reviews: Saga #1-7

Like Irredeemable and The Manhattan Projects, Saga benefits greatly from being an original series by an experienced writer working for a comic book publisher outside of the big two. Brian K. Vaughan—known for his work on Runaways, Y: The Last Man, and Ex Machina, amongst many others—is writing on a premise you're familiar with: two lovers from opposite sides of a great war try to escape the chaos which has engulfed their world.

Of course, in this case, the world consists of the entirety of the galaxy, and the lovers in question have created a child that's the first hybrid between the two principal participants of the war. Both Alana and Marko are former soldiers, and the story begins with the birth of their child, a year after they've deserted their own armies for one another. News of the child upsets the authorities from their home planets (Landfall and its moon, Wreath) enough that they're upgraded from "embarrassing nuisances" to "targets," and the story begins in earnest.

The narrative threads of the beleaguered parents, and their two hunters—one from either side of the conflict—tag in and out in perfect synch with the miniature cliffhangers that keep you eager to read the next chapter. The challenges of the universe are such that even seven issues in, only two of these players have so much as spoken to one another.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Star Trek: Fuck

I'll be honest: I liked Star Trek: the Next Generation more when it was Doctor Who. I mean it! Star Trek always labored under being the pseudo-military offspring of Gene Roddenberry, whose status as a former sailor is something I've always taken some small measure of pride in.

And that's the problem. Star Trek has to have guns and missiles and shields and Worf basically because audiences here in the US probably wouldn't be able to accept the universe of Doctor Who, where being cunning and absolutely dedicated to the morality of not injuring another soul[1] is enough to see you through your problems.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Linkstorm: The Message

Salman Rushdie decries self-censorship over Islam in the West. We can put as many drones in the air, agents in the airport, and monitors on the Internet as we want, but if we censor ourselves, terrorism wins.

That's how these assholes operate after all. Case in point: Greece's new Golden Dawn Party. In less than a year, a tiny fraction of the population have managed to frighten both the country's minorities and majorities.They know they only have to be loud and dangerous enough to scare the average person out of speaking up. Then, without a word of protest, they can assume silence is consent, declare a mandate from the populace, and continue on their merry way with a dogma that dehumanizes whoever they don't like this week.

The way to combat it is obvious; oppose them. Don't let them silence anyone in the name of "respect" or "tradition" or "security." Proclaim from every street corner that any totem of authority threatened by free speech is a graven image. Tell them, in the words of Warren Ellis, "Your God Is Not Strong."

Because these aren't strong people. They aren't any more dangerous than monkeys picking up handguns. Look at the case of Ajmal Amir Qasab, the last surviving member of the Mumbai Attacks of 2008 who was just hanged last month. He spent his last few days pleading for clemency and begging for lawyers to find him a way out of his fate. While there are hardened badasses with deep ideological roots in organizations like Al Qaeda, ultimately, their ranks are filled with far more people like Qasab, who only have the courage enough to pick up a gun and shoot it at innocents, only enough vision to think that will change something, and only enough compassion to request immunity from the consequences of their actions.

Real article begins below the cut:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rewatching Star Trek: Ship in a Bottle

All joking aside, I'm thinking of rejiggering some stuff around here. I was talking with a friend recently and we discussed how I've been taking the "Focused by Caffeine" bit very seriously lately. Part of the reason behind that is that it's easy to shoot out a reactionary essay about something that strikes you as wrong, and with the political season having been upon us, it was an easy trap to fall into.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Timewalking Archive Trap: Not Helping

Like anyone whose desire to say something is matched only by their desire to waste time saying it on the internet, I've been blogging for a while. Timewalking Archive Trap is presents select treasures (for very liberal definitions of "treasures") from yesteryear for the sole enjoyment of my readers.

So, you've probably heard about the Women in Refrigerators trope. I guess some guy was inspired to write a version for gays. The gay version was interesting because I've never heard of most of these characters and I haven't been able to keep up with the rest (not really too interested in buying a comic just because some of the ensemble are gay, especially since I bought the book with Freedom Ring to see what the fuss was about and it turns out it wasn't very good.).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Linkstorm: Nerditry

io9 has complied a list of great performances in geek and sci-fi roles. I don't know acting, but this article definitively proves that you can list about five of the ten shows on this list and I'll still agree with you because I'm preparing for an age where no one knows what Star Trek is anymore.

Hugh Jackman. Psy. It's cool.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cooking with Kris

I don't cook often. At least, not as often as I used to. I've never been good at it, but sometimes, my culinary experimentation reveals something that I think is worth sharing with the internet at large. I've never been a big fan of standard recipe formats, so you'll have to keep up a bit.

Maybe you, like me, like sweet things. Maybe you also like the occasional drought of alcohol. I stumbled upon a way to mix those two things into one convenient thing.

Start with ice cream:
Any flavor will work. The more exotic, the more effective.