Monthly Archives: April 2012

On Valkyries and new tech…

 

Blind Guardian's early experiments with 3D were not a success...

I’m testing out WordPress and Spotify‘s new integrated plugin and thought that this would be an ideal opportunity to inflict my musical taste on you (you’re welcome).   To wit – do you enjoy epic fantasy/rock music/nice German men?  Have some Blind Guardian on me (you’ll need access to the modern marvel that is Spotify for this to work).

Blind Guardian – Valkyries

If it works for you – fantastic.  If not?  Well, you can always try listening to the band on their MySpace page (yes, still a thing…)

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Filed under Geekery, Music

Xtina, 007 and Judi Dench’s Foul Mouth

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You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry – ooh, the mouth Judi Dench has.

Yahoo in the UK (yes, it still exists) have run a story detailing the most absurd and inane complaints received by the British Board of Film Classification during the last few years – and Judi Dench getting all sweary is but one of the more sensible moans.

Bear in mind that the BBFC just give films a certificate and offer content advice to consumers and parents about films – they are not in a position to do much about, ooh, kids going to the toilet too often during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest“.  I’ve had more than my fair share of annoyances during cinema visits – the shower of pond life who ruined my cinema viewing of “Juno” are a story for another day – but I’ve never felt the need to write to the BBFC about it.  Cinema managers might be your best shot when complaining about bladder-challenged infants whose nitwit parents feel an inexplicable need to take to films patently unsuitable for them.

Other glorious complaints from the terminally confused?  Daniel Craig is a crap 007 (and Sean Connery should be reinstated forthwith), Christina Aguilera is too sexy for a 12A rating and oblivious patrons of satirical crap-fest Disaster Movie complaining that their choice of film was dreadful and they should have been warned about it.

Less of that kind of thing, young lady, you'll only upset the old folk.

Aside from hoping against hope that the authors of these complaints haven’t felt the need to breed and pass on their idiocy to a new generation, it really does boggle the mind that I share the same air as people who seem to believe that the BBFC’s remit extends to vetting Aguilera’s “X-Factor” performance for saucy frugging and then signing off on her casting in movies.  It’s quite sweet, in a sense, that naive folk believe that the world functions in this kind of all-encompassing integration and somewhat worrying that these self-same people very possibly are allowed to vote.

And the UK has local elections this week – what larks!

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Filed under Films, Geekery

New “Prometheus” international trailer is spoileriffic!

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Don’t watch the new international (i.e. British) trailer for Ridley Scott‘sPrometheus“.

If you don’t want things spoiled before it’s June release, if you want to go in cold, if you don’t want certain plot aspects which you might have had a hunch about pretty much confirmed, be sure to avoid the trailer that I’ve linked to above – it’s got so much awesome sauce inside that it could melt your nerdy brain as much as it did for me.

No explicit statements of content but some pretty tangy hints that the sufficiently motivated could draw some conclusions from.

Just so as you know.

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Filed under Films, Movie Trailer, Spoiled!

Appropriate Attired Adventurers Assemble!

Well, this is awesome.

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Fantasy and SF book blog A Dribble of Ink turned me onto this neat Tumblr – Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour and I’m rather taken with it.  It collates examples of fantasy and SF artwork depicting female characters garbed in attire which is actually practical and appropriate to the ass kickery which they are engaged in.

I’ve blogged about this before in relation to my beloved “Resident Evil” and “Underworld” movie series – and I guess that there’s an tie-in with the current blockbuster “Avengers” movie – in which your strong, competent heroines are togged out in PVC/Leather catsuits or some derivation thereof.  I’ve found it a bit curious, to be honest, with all kinds of mixed messages suggesting themselves:  I love the (mostly) empowered heroines, I’m just not crazy about the ass-hugging camera angles frequently employed to depict them.

It’s that cross-over point between agency and objectification – which I’m sure as hell not smart enough to figure out by myself (there may be that undeniable masculine perspective which is also standing in the way of better understanding).  That said, I feel that the issue goes something like this – the phenomenon of ‘male gaze‘ is the problem in most depictions of otherwise strong female characters in genre entertainment.

Let’s say that two directors on a film both shoot variations on the same scene with a female warrior in an action scene.  The details of the scene are identical, but for the way that the female character is shot – one director frames the female character neutrally, allowing her to proceed through the sequence without the camera lingering on her body or focussing on anatomy in any particular way.  The other guy is Michael Bay.

Rosie Huntington-Whitely - also pictured, Michael Bay's explosive super-ID...

You can begin to see the problem if you took in a screening of the thirdTransformers film – in which Bay’s camera leered so constantly after star Rosie Huntington-Whitely‘s rear end that it was possible to conclude that the director missed his calling in life and might have sought more appropriate employment as a proctologist.

It’s possible to argue that Hollywood’s M.O. is to market around visuals and aesthetics, so can’t do anything but focus on eye candy and create narratives in which the visual shorthand is paramount (no pun intended), but there’s got to be a point in superhero narratives, fantasy fiction and sci-fi stories where common sense prevails and the heroines aren’t attired in costumes which make no fricking sense.

Jim C Hines - making my point about the 'male gaze' in hilarious fashion.

If Hollywood starts insisting that Jason Statham wear armour-plated Speedos as he kicks in henchmen’s teeth and that action heroes have to be dressed in as vulnerable a fashion as possible, I suppose that we might be said to have reached some kind of parity in the depiction of  the genders when every hot dude is being as exploited as much as every beautiful gal.  Over in the realm of fiction, writers have been engaging with the silly archetypes and imagery being used to market their novels – witness io9’s posts on fantasy writer Jim C. Hines, who has been writing a series of blog posts deconstructing some of the tactics used to market books to readers in a charming and self-effacing way.

Sensible armour, worn by a sensible young woman. Almost makes up for Bella in "Twilight" being such a drip, doesn't it?

There is hope, of course – forthcoming summer fantasy blockbuster “Snow White & The Huntsman” goes some way towards depicting a capable heroine who doesn’t have to wear a chain mail bikini to wield a sword and punch undead beasties in the ‘nards, the “Alien” prequel which isn’t, Ridley Scott‘s “Prometheus”, seems to wait a decent amount of time before finding a narrative reason for female lead Noomi Rapace to show up in her pants and even the catsuited heroine of “The Avengers”, Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, might be wearing a catsuit but isn’t striking cheesecake poses, breaking a heel and waiting for her male compadre to save her.

Do these archetypes exist because we’ve established a taste for them as an audience or because we’ve been told that this depiction of heroes and heroines is what we want?

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Filed under Books, Films, Geekery

Olympic Property Boom

I'm guessing Iron Man was busy. Or not real.

Missiles stationed on top of flats – UK News – MSN News UK.

Well, it’s one way to deal with those annoying drunk first-years who were seemingly born without volume control when alighting from their cab at 1:00am.

Having noticed the amount of armed police in London whenever I’ve been travelling through the more tourist-packed areas of the city, it doesn’t come as much surprise to learn that the London 2012 organisers are making it clear that any potential terror threats are going to met with an appropriate counter response.

This underlines to me one of the most undeniable truths about the forthcoming Olympics – if you had anywhere else to go whilst the Games are on, why the hell would you want to stay in the Capital?  It’s going to be a nightmare to move around, the normal tensions of city living are going to be ramped up 200% and on top of that, the top of your apartment building could end up looking like a “Call of Duty” level objective.

No thanks!

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▶ Tenacious D streaming “Rise of the Fenix”

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▶ Rize of the Fenix by Tenacious D – streamed by the band over at Soundcloud (being from the D, it goes without saying that you should expect some NSFW language…).

If you still need to steal music when a band are letting you hear it before you buy, then there’s no reasoning with some folks…

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Filed under Geekery, Music

(Don’t) Steal This Music

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Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my opinions about illegally downloading a band’s music.  If you want to try a track out, there are probably streaming services that you can check out and, most likely, the band will post samples of their songs on their website. There isn’t really a great argument for stealing a band’s work – as frustrating as it can be when a record isn’t easily available, there are usually legal ways to get a cd or pay for an album.

For the most part, I feel that serial downloaders just grab music so that they can say that they have it – they arguably have no intention of ever listening to the stuff they’ve got on their hard drive, but they have boaster’s rights on having 20,000 songs on several drives.

Lead singer of Canadian metal band The Agonist, Alissa White-Gluz, has a very direct and honest take on the effect that stealing an artist’s music has on them over in an interview carried at Blabbermouth.net, ahead of the summer release of the band’s next album, “Prisoners”.

Bands at The Agonist’s level do not have the support of CD sales to help support touring costs any more and can’t rely on selling a quarter of the records which they might have done before the advent of P2P and file-sharing decimated the careers of ordinary working musicians – that side of things has gone almost completely by the wayside.  This would be fine if iTunes/Amazon and stores of that ilk had stepped in to fill the gap left by physical retail locations and if consumers bought music rather than nicked it, but we know that there’s an entire generation of kids who don’t have an issue with theft if it means that they can listen to songs and music on a whim.

As to who pays for those songs to be recorded, who funds artwork, mastering, the cost of musical instruments, rehearsal space hire, pays rent or buys food – none of that stuff seems to occur to a kid searching a torrent site and seeding and reseeding the latest album by a band or artist which they profess to love.

I wonder if it’s a problem of perception – a kid sees Katy Perry or Will.I.Am living the life of tabloid-created pop celebrity and somehow conflates that exaggerated single example into a deluded narrative where every musician lives large.  A single download of their favourite band’s album is justified because somebody’s buying the record, surely and we don’t live in a world where the vast majority of people who would have bought music no longer do so?

This kind of logic-skipping justification is easy to imagine and, I feel, one factor in why this problem exists – it’s a crime where the after-effect isn’t seen by the perpetrator because it happens at a remove and anonymously, for the most part.

None of which is part of my clarion call to get you to stop doing what you might be doing and to save the recorded music industry.  I think that the best effect of making music more digitally available should be to remove the barrier between fan and artist – a punky, DIY approach to distribution of music rather than a model which hides bands behind artificial barriers and doesn’t allow artists to directly communicate with the people who love their work.  If you can buy from the band’s website and giving them more money than they were ever getting under the model of CD buying, shouldn’t that be a goal?

Most people don’t have a lot of cash at the moment but that isn’t an excuse to steal from people who’ve worked hard at their art and deserve some recompense. Not an imagined millionaire’s lifestyle, but a decent amount of money for doing their job.

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