Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is epic fantasy fiction written by men just a red pill wonderland?

I think the true "Wonderland" is the internet. It's a strange place because the psychology of people is strange, and when you get so many ideas being shared, you are bound to run into anything that you can imagine and a few that you never could. One of the things that I've discovered/run into on the internet is a whole community of "Red Pillers." These are an enormous group of men who essentially co-opted the scene from the original Matrix wherein Morpheus asked Neo if he wanted to take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill. Men who are "Red Pill" are referred to by this community as being ideal men, with strong alpha masculine traits. Divorce is referred to as "wealth extraction," and liberals (because of a strong connection with modern feminism) are truly hated/loathed. Contrary to what many may think of me, I find their discussions among each other to be fascinating. Lurking under the surface of every man in this online community are extremely embittered feelings that have no outlet. To say that these men will never trust a woman again might even be an understatement. Rather, to say that these men actually have contempt is what's really going on, and the real struggle with these people seems to all center around one basic idea: how does a modern man feel masculine, powerful, and respected (sexually--it's always about sex) in settings (whether they be at bars, parties, raves, or at home having dinner) that are ultimately dominated in sexual tension. These men even have their own vocabulary consisting of words like "beta cuck." All of this rests (of course) on an underlying principle that men need to embrace in order to get around to the idea that men need fixing to begin with, and it's this: young attractive women have all the power in relationships and men are dogs begging for scraps.

It's a fascinating premise, and I have no idea if it's true or not. For some people it probably is, for others it probably isn't. Sweeping generalizations never seem to work out just right, but I've often discovered that buried within a generalization might be a shred or two of some truth. And this again may depend entirely on belief. In other words, what a person believes may actually make some thing true, which is not to say that it is "factual." I'm saying this now because "facts" and "truth" are oftentimes confused and used synonymously, but they are not the same thing. But I digress. No, what all this "red pill" stuff got me thinking about was the genre of "fantasy fiction," which is more or less dominated by "Game of Thrones" right now. But there are other examples aplenty, and I (for one) love both to write and to read fantasy fiction. It wasn't until I started to read all this "red pill" stuff online though that I truly started seeing how a lot of fantasy fiction written by men is filled with "red pill" qualities. So (for that matter) are video games like World of Warcraft and other such things.

In these fantasy worlds, which oftentimes are based in some kind of world that is similar (or borrows strongly from) the medieval periods of Europe and Asia, you can read exceptional tales of fictional lives that are literally filled to the brim with something lacking in a lot of lives: meaning and purpose. What a concept, right? In many of these stories, women (for the most part) need to be saved a lot, whether it is from rapes from monsters and other such evil creatures, or from tyrants or other such bad agencies. I suppose that a lot of fantasy (in fact) rests on the trope of good vs. evil, but even if it doesn't (such as that presented by George R.R. Martin), it does need to have constant conflict between groups (think the warring kingdoms of Westeros) because only in conflict can men really prove how masculine and mighty they are. I started to think that this may be a reason why games like World of Warcraft and the fantasy genre (typically awash with nerds) are so popular with men as are gaming and comic book conventions (which also have a greater percentage of men than they do women). In other words, I started to think that because our country is so safe (let's face it peeps...in comparison to other countries the U.S. as a whole is a pretty darn uneventful place to live). To clarify, I'm not saying that the U.S. doesn't have its problems with crime and punishment, inequality, justice, etc. What I'm saying is that we are not war-torn, nor do we have a widespread problem regarding access to food and water and other such necessities. Americans for the most part, have the ability to enjoy a concept called "free time," which means that (as a society) some of us even experience boredom on a regular basis. But a side-effect of all of this free time is that a lot of young people no longer have purpose and meaning.

Enter in the epic fantasy, whether it be presented as a role-playing game, a video game, a fictional book of a thousand pages written by George R.R. Martin, or some virtual reality thing that I have never yet seen, and I suddenly realize what's going on here. It's a "red pill" dreamland. In these entertainments, men feel powerful when (I'm beginning to suspect) they don't feel powerful in real life anymore. In other worlds, in our society there's no one that really needs to be saved anymore in some "dramatic" way. There are no dragons to slay. The modern way of "saving" someone is to get a job and turn over a paycheck, which has far less appeal than raiding the horde of an ogre.

Anyway, all of this collapsed into an idea that popped into my head about why boys don't read fiction anymore (for the most part). Sure there are still some of us out here that do, but it got me to thinking that if publishers want to have boys read fiction then they're going to need to make stories wherein (when a boy reads it) he feels powerful. It sounds pathetic, right? Why do men need to feel powerful? But it is something I'd like to open for debate to see if anyone else has noticed this. In any event, we live in interesting times.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Game of Thrones animated series launches December 12 and it packs a lot of information even if the CGI is bad.

In the gulf that exists between now and whenever the final season of Game of Thrones arrives on HBO, we now have a storybook-style animated series called Game of Thrones Conquest & Rebellion. The first episode, which is about four minutes long, actually explains A LOT about Westeros that I never got from the books or from the television series. It's probably been explained by George R.R. Martin at some point in his encyclopedic books that he's put out, but I've only purchased those as gifts for other people and never for myself. It's one of the things I plan to change in the near future.

So, I watched the first episode. The animation is clunky but the narration is pretty great. It's narrated by actor Harry Lloyd whom (if you remember the first season of GoT) played Dany's brother Viserys who received a "golden crown" of death from Khal Drogo. For what it's worth, Harry Lloyd has excellent pronunciation, and I think I could listen to him for hours narrating word after word.

The whole mini-series is 45-minutes long and is available as a bonus gift for pre-ordering the Game of Thrones season 7 blu-ray. I think I'm going to just try and track the others down online and see if I can watch them.

You might be asking, what did I learn in this first four minutes that I already didn't know?

I learned a little more about the Doom that came to Valyria, and that everyone apparently could just fly around on dragons. I thought it was something that only the noble houses of Valyria could do. I also learned that the Targaryens somehow knew that the Doom was coming, and they fled ahead of it to the isle of Dragonstone. That was interesting. They brought with them the know-how to build the fortress and then Aegon and his two sisters surveyed the nation of Westeros from the sky in order to commission a gigantic map (you see it in Stanis's war room in Dragonstone). I also learned the names of the ancient great houses. I didn't know that the Starks were the oldest house. I suppose I could have put that together, but I never did. I just knew they were a powerful house and ruler of the largest kingdom of the seven (if not the most sparsely populated).

The episode is definitely worth a watch, and I've embedded it below for your convenience. Who knows? If it's popular enough maybe HBO will explore it in live action through another Game of Thrones-esque series in the same world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The theme for Star Trek Discovery does not build into anything grand yet...it shows promise.

This is the new title theme from Star Trek: Discovery. For the record, I liked all the themes from the various Star Trek's with the exception of Enterprise. I just found the electric guitar and vocals to be too jarring for me to fall in love with the Rod Stewart-esque beginning for Enterprise. My favorite beginning is the one for Deep Space Nine. 
If you like music, you should click play and listen to the whole thing. Seriously, just do it. Here are my thoughts after having listened to it:

1) It shows promise. For Star Trek, I want the main theme to draw me into the grandeur and wonder of the world of Trek. I want to be immersed. And yes, Enterprise didn't do this for me.

2) The theme needs to be memorable. This particular one is not as beautiful as DS9 or Voyager's, but I think it'll do. It may grow on me.

3) I'm not completely sold on the trombones at about 1:58. I think they'd be better served at the beginning and not the end. Just my opinion as it is the classic Star Trek theme.

4) Does it seem to have a Game of Thrones influence from about 1:11 on? Listen and let me know.

5) Overall, it seems a little choppy. To clarify, the opening notes give way to a small ostinato which you expect to build to something but doesn't. And then the Alexander Courage fanfare (original Star Trek theme) just cuts it off. But really, it's hard to do better than Dennis McCarthy.

Now if you have time, compare the above theme to the below theme from Deep Space Nine as played by the City of Prague Philharmonic and as composed by Dennis McCarthy. Needless to say, I have always loved the DS9 theme because it has trumpets! It has power! It has majesty! Anyways...this new one is going to have to grow on me. Sigh...I suppose I'm a music snob.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Orville is basically a polished version of Star Trek minus any dignity

Dignity is probably over-rated anyway. If you disagree, you probably won't like The Orville. I, however, did end up liking it quite a bit. Living modern seems to lack all kinds of dignities these days. Even minus a president who will say anything that comes to his mind, we have a culture where it is no longer considered "crossing a line" to just ask people how much they make or spent on something (even if you don't know them), to ask them if they masturbate, or to air entire arguments between couples on Facebook (or for that matter broadcasting it on Facebook Live) So The Orville seems particularly timely because it does all of those things, refusing to back away from its crew needing to "take a piss" or from talking about a messy divorce that's broadcast over the loud speakers. Truth be told...I don't particularly like the fact that nothing is taboo in our culture anymore. For one, I kind of liked it back when people had manners and said "thank you" or used the word "please." But it is what it is, right? Maybe all the grossness of life being aired like it is on reality television is the remedy for a culture that (otherwise) might tend to glamorize life. It's the "anti-glamorization" movement so to speak. And I think it found a good representative in Seth McFarlane.

Seth is an interesting guy. A creative genius he no doubt is, but he also seems to have some incredible clout with Fox. He was the one that got Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot miniseries of Cosmos to get made, and it doesn't surprise me that Fox clearly threw a huge budget behind The Orville (as well as giving it a coveted Sunday night air time). The powers that be seem to love Seth McFarlane. The Orville looks very slick and polished too. It has a big budget feel to it, putting to shame any Star Trek series's special effects that I've seen to date. We'll see how this fall's Star Trek: Discovery measures up. However, I have a feeling though that they'll be fairly comparable as far as visual effects go. I just hope Star Trek: Discovery is more nuanced, takes itself seriously, and has a slower pace. I miss a slower pace guys...everything these days seems to be made for people with attention deficit disorder. With The Orville, I felt a little breathless as every scene seemed to be jam-packed with action.

As far as an homage to Star Trek goes, I liked it a lot. But The Orville does go where Star Trek never did: it dared to poke fun at it's own crazy ideas. We get introduced to an invention which has the ability to create a bubble of time wherein everything else inside that bubble gets aged a hundred years. As a scientist points out...the implications are huge in that you could grow crops in a single night for a city of starving people or other similar uses. But they use it to age a banana into dust and to grow a redwood tree mixed with tardigrade DNA (so that it can survive in space without food or water) to destroy a spaceship. It works but again...without much dignity. It's funny of course. I just wonder how long they can keep it up before the slapstick becomes kind of tedious. Can you imagine the reception audiences would have given forth if the "Genesis project" had been treated with such abandon?

And this makes me beg a question to the public at large: is a theme of space any fun over a long haul when it is done tongue in cheek? Humor kills drama, and drama is the bread and butter of any traditional one hour television show. Would Law and Order have any of its impact if all the scripts were performed in such a way as to be slapstick and without dignity? I'm not sure that it would. So it'll be interesting to see how my feelings toward The Orville develop over the course of the season. Will they deepen or will I be glad to see it go?

Anyway, what did you guys think of it (if you watched it)? Are you going to continue with the show on Sunday night? Or did it just rub you the wrong way? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.

Friday, September 8, 2017

These Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning and I want them all.

These Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning. I really want some of them, but getting things custom framed can really break the bank. I recently had one oversized picture triple matted and framed with museum quality glass and it weighed in around $800. It's totally worth it...but there's only so many of those a man can afford. And if I can't afford to get a picture framed, I might as well not even have it at all.
"Night Falls on the Spirit Realm"
The Forest Spirit
Atop the Camphor Tree
Gutiokipanja Bakery
If you are a fan of Miyazaki's work, check out the prints on THIS PAGE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

For today's insecurity I confess that I have a bad romance for first person perspective.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, so it is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group day. As usual, I'm going to tackle the question which is:
Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??
The answer is "Yes," and I surprised myself when I wrote a story in first person. I didn't think I'd like it, and (at the time) I actually really got into it. But then with time, I fell out of love with first person. Is it okay to have a "bad romance" with first person? There are days when I'm so on board with it, and then there are days when I really can't stand it. I'm not sure what's my deal I suppose.

And it's that way when I'm reading too. For example, I loved first person in the Iron Druid series, and then I fell out of love with it and stopped reading the books. At some point, I'll probably go back to them, but by then I might be in love with first person again. Ugh. I totally don't make any sense. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Warner Brothers is making a streaming service and a live action Teen Titans series is on the slate

I know I've railed against everything having its own streaming service, and Warner Brothers starting their own just added one more rock to the pile. It would be tempting to say that there's nothing that Warner Brothers has right now that would make me want to subscribe to their streaming service. However, at some point in 2018 it has been announced that there is going to be a live-action Teen Titans. The only actress I know who has been cast is for the role of Starfire, and that goes to Anna Diop.

Starfire was never my favorite character. However, she was pretty dang cool with orange skin, an asymmetrical costume (a lot of artists get this wrong), and the ability to channel really powerful blasts of energy through her hands. We're talking Cyclops (from the X-Men) level energy blasts...enough to level buildings or destroy other such landmarks. She also could fly, and the way she was drawn, her jet stream just kind of emitted from her hair (it sounds silly now but it actually looked pretty cool in the comic book panels). For most of the comics that I read, she was in love with Dick Grayson, a.k.a., Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin from the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin. She was also known as Princess Koriander, which I thought was a really nice-sounding name.

My favorite character of the Teen Titans has always been Raven. The daughter of Trigon the Terrible, she is a follower of Azar's teachings (a goddess that was killed by Trigon). Azar was basically a comic-book version of Buddha and Raven was always trying to suppress the evil that was inside her (and was of course inexplicably linked to Trigon the Terrible). Raven had some very unique powers. For one, she had a soul self that was black that she could use to carry people and things in (like a massive handbag to an alternate dimension). Anything inside that soul self was subject to her full mind control powers. In one comic book, she even had Starfire inside waiting to surprise a villain that Raven captured (and they ended up fighting in the expanse of Raven's soul). Raven could also teleport around and she (of course?) had mind control similar to Jean Grey.

With that said and out of the way, yes I'm very excited. However, I want to rant about streaming services yet one more time. This is yet another streaming service that I will have to pay for to get a single TV show. I sincerely hope that everyone trying to manage their own streaming teat is going to have negative results, forcing them to realize that it's easier and more cost-efficient to just let Netflix or Hulu handle it. I don't love paying subscriptions to a billion different streaming services (and I think there are some people who are also in my same basket of thought about this).

If anything is to blame, it's because too many people bitched about cutting the cable and wanting everything a la carte. So yeah...that's what we're getting stuck with. I think some people will figure out that when you want everything that the a la carte menu offers, it ends up costing the same as just buying it whole, but without all the hassle. In the meantime, I guess I'll just plan on going broke trying to manage streaming services.