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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Stuff to Read – 06/25/11

LulzSec, Anonymous, & #AntiSec: Thoughts on Lulz and Ethical Hacking  – 

It’s 5:00 a.m. and these are the questions keeping me up right now:  Why is it so easy for LulzSec to gain access to these sites and leak this kind of info using such simplistic methods? Why does it take this kind of public-profile hacking and media attention for these breaches to be corrected? Why are people trusting enough on the Internet–where social engineering is commonplace and fairly easy to pull off–to use the same login information everywhere? Why are most media outlets quick to assume rather than verify information through fact-checking? What constitutes ethical hacking? When do grayhats become blackhats? When does it become “cyberterrorism” that merits quicker, harder scrutiny than, say, the way in which bin Laden was finally taken down?

Vyshali is sort of becoming my favorite blogger. She does a great job defining the terminology of a relatively easy thing to ignore, and reminds us why we shouldn’t. I can’t help but smile at the description of events feeling very much like a crime noir. Suspense. Betrayal. Vengeance.

‘Mega Man’ Is All-Ages Comic That Deals With War and the Nature of Humanity. Seriously.

And while I expected it to offer up some nostalgia-fueled fun, what surprised me was that it’s actually one of the best all-ages comics coming out right now, and one that deals with some pretty intense issues of guilt, death and humanity…Flynn examines the character in a way that I’ve never thought about, even as a lifelong fan, showing him as someone caught between a desire to help people by defeating the enemies that threaten him and the guilt that comes from killing other robots.

Chris Sims nails this one. A fantastic description and analysis of what would have been an overlooked comic that helps to illustrate why comics are so important in the first place. He dares us to actually think about what we read. Seriously.

“Visions Of American Black Metal”: Liturgy’s Hunter Hunt-Hendrix Responds

If you have any interest in underground metal, black or otherwise, you’re aware of the uproar created by Brooklyn quartet Liturgy. Much of the disdain’s focused on frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, and what people view as his “pretentious” reading of black metal (American and otherwise.

I wrote a piece on American black metal and I used Hunt-Hendrix’s treatise featured in Hideous Gnosis as a framing of developing authenticity and genre. I’m considering going about and editing the piece to post here. Anyway, Liturgy is a band that people love to hate (pardon the cliche), and even though I was not a huge fan of their new album (I should maybe give it another listen…), I do think that what they are doing and saying is rather important.

A lot of people don’t take metal seriously as art, and a lot of people don’t take art seriously as ethics. That’s fine, I guess — but as for myself, I do both.

It is an interesting statement, and something I tend to agree with.

Scion Rock Fest 2011 – Dark Castle Interview from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

This is the way to go.

Dark Castle is a very interesting band. I once got a package of a bunch of their merch from a friend of mine, and I still wear the shirt regularly. I’m a little bummed that the video doesn’t embed, but whatever. Anyway, I’m not posting them in relation to the above metal article. There is something very different going on here. It is equal parts “Why metal is important” and why we should always be willing to risk change and development in something we hold dear.

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Grant Morrison: Super Gods (and mostly my thesis…)

Grant Morrison’s new book Super Gods is coming out in a few weeks. I realized that I had not yet posted my Master’s thesis on this site dedicated to the work of Morrison. It was a long process, but it is something I’m rather proud of. I’m particularly excited to read this book (send me an advanced copy to review, please…) in order to see how Morrison’s own view reflect the conclusions I drew from his work. Morrison is always most convincing when he speaks for himself, though.

So, here goes.

Superheroes and Shamanism: Magic and Participation in the Comics of Grant Morrison

Comic creator Grant Morrison is an adamant practitioner of magic, and in particular, the creation of sigils. A sigil is the infusion of abstract symbols with the goal to make manifest the creator’s particular desire. This thesis will discuss how Grant Morrison infuses his writing with his particular beliefs in an attempt to bridge the gap between fictional stories and reality. Morrison openly discusses the shamanic events in his life and writes about superheroes undertaking similar metaphysical journeys. As Morrison’s magic and the medium of comics allow the reader to become more easily “lost” within a fictional world, the relationship of fiction and the reader becomes increasingly malleable. This relationship of fiction and reality may seem abstract, but the comics support the connection by including the concept of textualization – where the reader associates himself or herself with the protagonist, becoming part of the narrative. The post-structural nature of Morrison’s work allows for a unique relationship between the author, diegetic worlds and readers. The stories become participatory events, engaging the reader and the comic community. Readers participate with his texts on extremely personal and intricate levels, and through their group analysis, they discover new interpretations and secrets within the comic panels. The purpose of Morrison’s comics develops as his relationship with magic grows. Readers experience his early experimentations with creating magical narratives and see them change to constructed fictional world for readers to journey into, where they are able to take on the heroic qualities of Superman.

http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=bgsu1302288940  Download it here.

Stuff to Read – 06/21/2011

Noise du Jour: A Critical Analysis of “Ode to the Bouncer” by The Studio Killers – Ectomo

The video deserves further analysis. The first thing anyone notices about little Cherry is that she’s positively chubby. And not in that over-voluptuous, massive-titted way that most cartoonists represent “heavy, sexy” girls. Cherry’s got soft arms, fat knees, a wide and mobile rump, but most unusually, a round belly. Try finding that in idealized female portrayals elsewhere–it’s not easy.

Pitchfork Interviews: Louis C.K. – Pitchfork

C.K.: When I say awful things, I think it’s clear to the audience that I just stumbled into a terrible part of my brain. It’s just where my brain goes first. The difference is that I said it out loud. That’s all. It’s just a big excuse to say awful things. But people know that. They intrinsically trust somebody: He’s just fucking around. People get tired of processing life in a linear way. When you watch my show or my stand-up, you’re opening the top button on your coat and sitting back, but with your brain. When I say vulgar things, it’s usually not to be mean or sexually charged. It’s just a dumb lashing-out in a direction that’s inappropriate.

Talking Bollocks – Garth Ennis’ John Constantine part 1 – Mindless Ones

Bullshit ain’t about lying…Like bullshit, bollocks is subtle. It is used as a declaration of falsehood, but it’s also, more commonly, used as to denote poor quality, or, like bullshit, highlight truth rejecting nonsense, or to punctuate a fuck-up.

Post-Black Metal-Shoegaze

So, I haven’t talked about music very much on here, but I am into weird extreme stuff. Mostly metal, electronic, industrial or rock. I tend to hop around lots of different stuff, though. I’ve written about metal music academically, it wasn’t a terribly solid paper, but my professor liked it, so I may post it up online at some point. I’m a big fan of black metal, which is a hard thing to say in an academic world, or if you are trying to hit on women. But, I follow the music that I enjoy very closely. I don’t think I’m telling any tales out of school here, but academics are usually a few years behind what is happening in the underground, or at the very least, a few years behind the developing mainstream. Regardless, I try to stay connected. I have a very good local metal store, follow particular labels, jump around Youtube, and have some very hip friends who send me new music.

But, this is summer, and I’ve been very bored. So, I’ve taken to being annoying on Facebook as one of my new hobbies. The other day I posted this status update:

Basically, I was bullshitting. Completely and totally. I was simply trying to be annoying and say something completely absurd that my friends will look at and think me weird. It is a hobby. But then, a friend called me on my bluff, which I suppose by being a bullshitter, you are constantly asking for. I had to explain myself.

I had noticed a particular grouping of ‘French Post-Black Metal-Shoegaze’ artists being posted online in various different places. So, my status wasn’t coming out of no-where. And, for the record, I’ve only listened to a couple of the above mentioned bands. But, I had a bit of a Baader-Meinhoff moment. I saw all several bands from France with this very particular, somewhat bullshit genre title. The very idea of Post-black metal-shoegaze made me laugh, and that so many were from France made me laugh even further. Thus, the stupid status update.

However, I realized that some of the music I had been listening to in the last few days was falling into this genre distinction more and more. It wasn’t the bands above, but some other strange stuff that I downloaded just for the sake of trying something new.

So, for such a bullshit genre, why was I liking it so much? Shoegaze and Black Metal should NOT go together. Never ever. But this stuff works so well together, it blows me away.

I mean, just look at these totally hip dudes:

http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Deafheaven/3540315870

It isn’t exactly black metal. Even though it is just music, black metal isn’t about cool dudes with nice hair and ironed shirts.

And really, it isn’t all that dissimilar from the traditions that black metal has established for itself in the past, particularly the suicidal black metal sub-genre. Long, droning songs, incredible bleakness, and the general sense of melancholy that black metal and shoegaze are both known for. And yet, there is something very romantic to both genres. Romantic in the literary sense. To help define that, let’s go to Wikipedia:

In part, it was a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.[2] The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and terror and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities, both new aesthetic categories. It elevated folk art and ancient custom to something noble, made of spontaneity a desirable character (as in the musical impromptu), and argued for a “natural” epistemology of human activities as conditioned by nature in the form of language and customary usage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism

An early post-black metal-shoegaze fan.

Strange bedfellows indeed, but perhaps not as strange as one would think. Is Deafheaven all that different from Xasthur?

Well, maybe a bit. Xasthur falls very firmly into the ‘suicidal black metal’ sub-genre. Some of the markers are there and some aren’t. The aesthetic is slightly different, but you can hear the basic framework, I think. But mix equal parts Xasthur with My Bloody Valentine…

I’m not listening to the French, however. That part is still bullshit to me. I’ll get to them someday (I’ll admit that French black metal is often overlooked and unappreciated…). I’m really loving two bands in this rather long and specific subgenre: Deafheaven from California (posted above), Cold Body Radiation from Holland, and Woods of Desolation from Australia. Hell, I’ll even throw in The Angelic Process as a similar act. Though, maybe it was Justin Broadrick’s band Jesu that helped to make Shoegaze a little more extreme. I’m sure he isn’t the first, but I remember a lot of cross-genre appeal to the Jesu releases (and I remember thinking that very strange).

And what makes something post-anything? Well you got me there. I’m not terribly sure. Taking the aesthetic of a particular genre, but doing something else with it? Post-punk isn’t very punk, now is it?

So, that is where I am right now. There is without a doubt more to be explored in this genre, and more to be discussed, but if I can at least share a couple of bands and the direction that music is going, I’ll be happy.

Not a terribly insightful post, but whatever. There are some excellent songs here.

And yes, Michael questioning the validity of shoegaze as a genre onto itself is rather humorous to me. And honestly, I couldn’t really think of many shoegaze bands to post in this in order to compare, but I remember the genre being very popular when I was an undgergrad in college (not popular at my college, but with cool people, as the genre had a bit of an emo-inspired resurgence).

Edit:

I keep coming back to this article for some reason. I think there are a lot of questions here worth exploring. Is it black metal? Is it even metal? How do we determine the differences and why? I might come back to this more later in a separate post, but these are just some notes.

Undoubtedly, I would say that this stuff is not black metal. At all. We all know that there is more to how we define music other than just its sound. I’m not sure I would even bother asking if my local metal shop had Deafheaven in stock, as opposed to a more traditional local music location. Maybe that is my own insecurities, though. I don’t know…I’ll figure something out later.

On the Background of the Last Page of Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX #19

This is maybe my favorite page in comic book history. Or at the very least, the one that has had the most emotional impact on me as a reader. The punch from this single page, single panel is profound, grave, and possibly one of the few times we are ever able to feel for Frank or see him as a human being. Or of what is left of one. Because quite frankly he isn’t one. He hasn’t been one for some time. And Ennis is smart to note that his family’s death isn’t what made him who he is, it was always war itself.

And War is God.

The abyss of the background is intense. Frank’s reality is impenetrable blackness. Nothingness. Even as he sits in this working-stiff diner, cutting his steak, the world around him is an abyss. His everyday is the infinite nothing that surrounds him. There is no enjoyment here. He eats his meal because it is there, easy and low-key. Nothing in his life is enjoyed. It can’t be. And after witnessing the desecration of his family’s grave, the illusion of cold pounding rain on his body infiltrates the void that is his life. The bleakness of his reality is worsened, made even more absolute, soul breaking, and further separating him from the reality of the people around him. When it rains, it rains alone on him. Imagine your ruined life ruined even further. When every day is your lowest, you realize you can be broken further.

Rain or maybe claw marks –  the scratching of a long buried thought or memory clawing at the everything/nothing that is your life with long, violent streaks down the the panel. The art on page becomes literal narrative rain, narrative scaring, narrative misery.

The event is so powerful that the diegetic representation of the world of the comic, the background of both the diner and the page itself, is forever scarred by the previous pages, never to return to their simple blackness. The comic itself, the story, feels what is happening within, it becomes aware in a way that text on paper can never be, changing the world around the character for the reader.

Punisher MAX #19 – Garth Ennis and Leanardo Fernandez.

On Gamer –

(I wrote all this in a flurry of excitement. It is very lucid and disjointed, sort of on purpose)

I am 20 minutes into the movie “Gamer” – so far it is a really interesting critical look at video game avatar/online persona identity/body politics, authority/subversion, capitalism/ethics, voyeurism/reality/entertainment, freedom/confinement (on a multitude of levels – prison, media addictions as similarly represented systems of social control), a particularly jaded view of youth culture – with a slick cinematography style that seems to emphasize the critical look at the mediums that it is representing (fast, jagged cuts, pixel glare, hyper-stylization, falling in and out of focus, human hand stability). (I never thought I’d say all of this). As well as an implicate/explicate representation of social control through the frame of player control/identity re-creation and corporate (political, social, financial) mega-dominance. AS WELL AS the ways in which the digital, hyperreal actions affect our meat-space identities, reputations, lives.

30 minutes in, it is probably the best Media-as-Horror film I’ve ever seen, following the likes of Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity.

Not to mention rapper Ludacris as the Anonymous movement, the voice of authenticity.

And one of the best “Game Hacks” ever – getting drunk to just play freely and without limitations that the ludic experience forces on the player. Which is something I do on a regular basis.

I’ve been really interested in this movie since I learned that one of my favorite academic writers put together a very long essay on the film: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=830 – But, quite frankly, I just couldn’t bring myself to sit there and watch it. I had my own internal expectations, and they blocked me from clicking the button on my remote. Anyway, the summer is a good time to get over those sorts of things.

The late middle of the film gets a little weak, since it drops a lot of its style in an attempt to flesh out the narrative of the film. It is a little late at this point, and they were doing an okay job of it in the middle of all the crazy surface level stuff just before all this.

Holy shit – 1:15 in and there is a bonkers/beautiful dance scene. Which turns into a bonkers fight scene. As if there was much of a difference, right?

The music of the film is sort of perfectly/weridly balance between late 90’s one-hit wonders (Bloodhound Gang, Marylin Manson) and stuff like Cole Porter.

Anyway, it ends just about how you would expect it to.

For some reason, this movie only has 2 stars on Netflix. Perhaps people were expecting it to be just what it was in the trailers, a stupid action movie related to video games. But there is so much more than that going on. It is remarkably deep. Movingly so – I mean, I wrote all of this out of pure excitement over what I was witnessing, not just as eye candy, but in terms of content. This film deserves a lot more attention from scholars (film, culture, etc) and consumers – go see it.

Game Over

Insert Coin