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Category: Media

Scott Pilgrim Contest Conclusion

First, thanks to everyone who entered. We received many more entries than we expected.

Second, to everybody who entered and didn’t win, or who didn’t enter but wants to read Scott Pilgrim: the Scott Pilgrim web site and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s web site Radiomaru have information purchasing the book from several online merchants, including how to order directly from Bryan.

Finally, the winners…

Read the rest of this entry »

Scott Pilgrim Contest Countdown: A Matter of Hours!

This is your last reminder, and I’m beginning to feel like I’m doing advertisements for a carpet warehouse or something. Do you want to read Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life? Then you’d better take this opportunity to email us at to let us know what makes you think you’d like it. Read full details about the fabulous prizes, including a watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley for more information.

There’s been a very minor family emergency and I’m taking care of my littlest brother tonight, so all entries received by the time I get up tomorrow morning will be considered for prizes. Check back tomorrow for the winners!

Regular programming will return later this weekend.

Scott Pilgrim Contest Countdown: One More Day!

You have one more day to enter the Scott Pilgrim Contest. Better email us at and tell us why you’ll totally love Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life—before it’s too late! Let’s see what Scott Pilgrim thinks about how awesome his comic book is:

Dance Fight!

Scott Pilgrim Contest Countdown: T Minus 2 Days (approx.)

You have until midnight(ish!) this Friday to send in your entry for the Official Scott Pilgrim Contest! The three winners will receive copies of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, the first-place winner will receive a Scott Pilgrim tshirt, and one brilliant visual-art entry will be awared the Special Art Appreciation Award, a watercolor sketch by Mr. Bryan Lee O’Malley himself. To whet your appetite for Scott Pilgrim, we present now this panel excerpt featuring Kim Pine, drummer for Scott Pilgrim’s rock band Sex Bob-omb:

Kim Pine of Sex Bob-omb

Peruse the Scott Pilgrim web site to find links to reviews and commentary on the web. If you think you might find this book totally awesome, email and tell us why you think you’d like Scott Pilgrim, and you may very well win and get to find out how truly awesome it is.

Scott Contest Countdown: Tuesday!

Whether you did or could vote vote in today’s U.S. elections, you still have 3 days left to choose to cast your ballot for fun!

Scott Pilgrim introduces Wallace

Meet Scott Pilgrim and Wallace Wells. Do you want to get to know them better? Polls in the Scott Pilgrim contest close this Friday, 5 November at midnight(-ish). Just email us at and tell us why you think you’d like Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life for a chance to find out if you’re right. Winners receive copies of the book, with an additional tshirt for the grand prize winner and a watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley for one outstanding artist.

Fair Trade?

I’m not very good with promises, but I’m aiming for one blog update per weekend (and I hope one during the week, but we’ll see) just to keep me going, because this has been an unexpectedly taxing autumn. To prove I can keep promises after a fashion, though, I once told Jim Henley I’d write more about my thoughts on The Filth and gender. And while I’m on a roll, I asked Graeme McMillan whether he thought Rosie in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate was a good guy, a bad guy, or neither, but I never responded with my thoughts.

Rectifying two old birds with one stone, in quasi-realistic situations (and it’s not entirely clear to me why I put The Filth in this class) we expect the good guys to avoid trading sex for information. OK, it’s entirely possible that this is just me and that the rest of the world assumes that the FBI adheres to James Bond standards of sexual involvement and intrigue, but I think not. And so in The Manchurian Candidate it set off alarms for me that Rosie was willing to become (I assume sexually) intimate with Ben to be a part of his deepest secrets. We see her doing other things like being involved in evidence tampering that make it seems she’s not interested in preserving truth and encouraging justice, at least as those terms are generally used. And then at the end of the movie she’s still with Ben at the scene of the crime that thrust him into this whole mess, and he’s letting some memory-heavy artifacts wash out to sea. Is she at his side because she really came to love this broken man she met on the train, this man she spied on and comforted? Is this part of her job, to keep him whole enough that he can finish the job of putting this plot in the past? Or is something more sinister going on? Sure, her work helps bring down members of the Manchurian Corp. conspiracy, but in a movie where every conspiracy is linked to something deeper and more far-reaching, why should we believe that this pulls out a root? Could she be working for some even more shadowy group to defuse this conspiracy and take control of Ben? Her demeanor doesn’t change from when she’s pretending to love him so she can keep him under surveillance to the time when she tracks him down at the scene of the assassination to their farewell to the past at the seaside ruins. Something strange is going on here, and it’s not just that she seems to use sex or even (worse?) love as a weapon but that this is so mundane. Perhaps it is in the normal world, although I don’t think many people could pull it off as calmly as Rosie seems to, but I think we hold our national security folks to higher standards, or at least I do.

And that brings me to a slight aside, which is that I don’t think it’s meaningless that I’m talking about female spies here. This is not Mata Hari-style seduction but is still a power play in a way that perhaps James Bond dalliances aren’t. After all, Rosie doesn’t have signature drinks or swank suits or anything obvious at all, but it’s the conspicuous lack of anything extraordinary, a seeming sweet absence of guile in a movie where everyone else churns with intrigue, that makes her suspicious. But sometimes it’s just the gender patterns that are suspicious. In gearing up for Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion, which I read this weekend, I reread his The Diamond Age last weekend. One of the strangest episodes, and one that has soured the book for me a bit each time I’ve read it, involves a cult called The Drummers who live in a sleeplike state under the sea while their dreaming minds interact to form a sort of metaphorical computer. They carry particles in their bloodstreams that enhance this process and they can exchange these particles through intercourse, basically sharing smart STDs. The way this is carried out is that periodically there will be all sorts of drumming and then a woman becomes the center of attention and men dance around her. Eventually, after much buildup, each of the men has sex with her in front of the whole group, during which time she gets hotter and hotter because each of these little viruses raises blood temperature, until eventually she explodes and releases the viruses like spores and the men have picked up her viruses and so it keeps on spreading. Now, the book never says that this is how it always works, but it also never shows us a man being this exploding vessel in the several times we see the scene played out. To me, that’s telling in the same way that it’s telling that Rosie’s mother/lover act seemed uncontroversial. If the genders in The Manchurian Candidate had been reversed and Ross had seduced Beth to be able to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble, I don’t think I’m the only one who would have found it weird and problematic.

And that’s why I’m not sure what to make of this issue in The Filth. The way Greg/Ned changes from nobody to superspy is through psychedelic sex with agent Miami. But how does she change over, then? And is this in her job description? That’s what I kept thinking as I read, wondering whether she enjoyed this aspect of things, this being a virus that translates a man into part of a larger being/organization and I don’t think there’s any way to know. Jim wanted to know whether female characters were fully realized enough for female readers to make guesses about their motives and so on, and while right now I can’t look at the book because I’ve lent it to a friend who is probably reading this and feeling guilty, I can say that I wished I knew better what was going on in Miami’s mind, but that we never really knew what was going on in any of the character’s heads. If Jim’s theory that the women are all playing almost archetypal roles of what men expect from them, maybe that’s why the absence of Miami’s viewpoint seemed more poignant than that of the unnamed female Dreamers or Rosie, who at least seems to have a mind of her own in there somewhere. At the core of this, for me at least, is curiosity about to what extent sex like this is fully consensual for the (admittedly fictional) women involved. If it’s your job to have sex with guys to make them remember how cool they really are, do you hate your job? I realize I’m probably making too much of this, but it’s something that stuck out enough that I still think of it months later and I really don’t know what the answers are. I do know I’m probably having a nonstandard response to all of this, but I accept that too. I just think it’s interesting that sexual ethics don’t necessarily follow the same track as political ethics (or perhaps, in The Filth at least, they do) or professional ethics and yet this disconnect is commonplace enough that I haven’t seen people commenting on it. I suppose once this is posted, though, I will have, and that’s what counts.

31 October 2004 Update Just to be clear, since I’m pretty sure I didn’t say this outright, I have no problems whatsoever with people choosing to trade sex for whatever they like, although my general ideal is that everyone should be as close to fully aware and fully consenting as possible. I do think it’s problematic for employers to expect their employees to have sex as part of their work, especially if this is something expected only of female employees. And if, in the case of The Manchurian Candidate, we assume that this is Our Tax Dollars at work, I imagine that would ruffle some feathers too. But I’m not trying to be anti-sex or opposed to these texts in general, because I think their creators were trying to grapple with just these sorts of messy issues and I’m glad that they did as it gave me something to think about and post.

Contest Reminder!

I know all our readers already have their calendars clearly marked, but it seemed wise to issue a reminder that there’s only one week remaining in the Great Scott Pilgrim Contest. And in case you need any more reminding than that, it means you have until Friday, 5 November to send a quick email letting us know why you think you’d like Scott Pilgrim to us at You can even send art, in which case you’ll be in the running for a swank watercolor by creator Bryan Lee O’Malley in addition to the regular prizes, copies of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life.

Got that? If you are reading this, able to receive mail, and interested in Scott Pilgrim, you’ve got nothing to lose and potentially a rollicking good read to gain if all goes well for you. Consider yourselves duly warned.

i ♥ huckabees

Well, the interconnection thing is definitely true!
Yeah, I know! Isn’t it amazing?
But it’s also nothing special.
Right, because it rises from the manure of human drama.
So, what are you doing tomorrow?
Well, I was thinking about chaining myself to a bulldozer. Wanna come?
Sure. Should I bring my own chains?
We always do.

That’s probably not an exact quote, but I did my best to remember the dialogue from the closing scene of David O. Russell’s I ♥ Huckabees. The “interconnection thing” is a.k.a. the Blanket Theory, of which the Jaffes, existential detectives, are the leading proponents: All the matter and energy in the universe are connected, everything affects everything else. If you think your life is bad—if, e.g., a middle manager in the Huckabees Corporation has invaded your environmentalist coalition and turned it into a PR vehicle, or if you’re a firefighter who’s been in the grip of existential crisis since “that big September thing”* and can’t stand all the hypocritical petroleum users calling you a hero—well, moments of traumatic crisis are the perfect opportunity to dismantle your alienated identity, look at the big picture, see the Blanket, and recognize your interconnectedness. Everything is the same even if it’s different. Your journey to enlightenment will bring a little more enlightenment to the entire universe. This is what Vivian and Bernard Jaffe are trying to show environmentalist and amateur poet Albert Markovski and firefighter Tommy Corn as they investigate their respective existential crises.

But—what about Brad Stand, the Huckabees executive who’s turned Albert’s coalition into a Huckabees promotional machine, and all those petroleum-using selfish people(for example, Tommy’s wife, who doesn’t care what life means and would prefer simply to live it, preferably without philosophers like Tommy hanging around)? If everything’s connected and everything’s great, why do Albert and Tommy keep getting fucked over by everybody around them? The Jaffes can’t answer that question for them. (Albert doesn’t really want them to—he only wants to know why he keeps coincidentally(?) running into the same African man—but Bernard Jaffe pushes him into examining the Blanket Theory, which leads to hard questions about the basic indecency of people that the Jaffes fail to answer to Albert’s satisfaction.) Who can answer it? Caterine Vauban, a French existentialist, archenemy of the Jaffes, who teaches Albert and Tommy her philosophy of “cruelty, manipulation, meaninglessness.” A state of pure being (what the Jaffes would think of as seeing the Blanket, but according to Vauban’s teaching involves getting hit in the face with a large rubber ball) is obtainable but ephemeral. Human drama is inevitable, and you’ll find yourself kicked out of your pure being as soon as, for example, your best friend and your philosophy instructor dump you to go have sex in the woods. Vauban’s pure being, contra the Jaffes, is pure disconnection from the universe, and her concept of human relationships leads inevitably to alienation—no Blanket here. Life is absurd.

The movie’s plot, then (and there is one), is dialectic, with Vauban’s nihilism the antithesis to the Jaffes’ feel-good answer to the existentialist dilemma. Is there synthesis? Yes, as Albert and Tommy work out in the dialogue quoted above. Everything is connected and everything affects everything else, but realizing this isn’t the key to happiness and inner peace, because the connections run through Vauban’s “human drama,” which includes the bad stuff (cruelty, manipulation, betrayal) in addition to warm fuzzy feelings.

The Blanket Theory is visually represented in the movie by a special effect in which little blocks (usually containing eyes or lips or noses) detach from their positions onscreen and float about interconnecting with one another. The blocks usually float in a disorganized jumble—they represent the inner perceptions of Albert and Tommy, who certainly don’t perfectly perceive the Blanket. But at the turning point of the movie, the pieces slide into place: Brad Stand is weeping (his house has just burnt down), Caterine Vauban (the arsonist with Albert’s help) snaps a Polaroid of him and hands it to Albert, who watches the features of his own face detach, float to the photo, and superimpose themselves on Brad’s face. A moment of pure empathy. Everything is the same—even if it’s different. Albert knows how Brad feels. The fact that Albert caused Brad’s despair by setting fire to his house only tightens this moment of human interconnection.

* Any story that takes on existential philosophy and the absurdity of the world must take on the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001—maybe especially one that uses “liberal-left despair” (Manohla Dargis, New York Times) as its Muse. “That big September thing” is the only direct mention of 9/11. The way Lily Tomlin, playing Vivian Jaffe, hesitates almost imperceptibly before saying it is at the heart of the lovely subtlety that slips around beneath the movie’s explosive mania and rewards viewers who pay attention.

Although Rose seems to have an idea that the movie’s conclusion is deconstructive rather than synthetic, or perhaps both. Or that the entire movie is deconstructive or something. I’m sure she’ll comment and explain herself.

Contest Updates

There have been some updates to the Scott Pilgrim contest, viz.

  • Just to be clear: the Scott Pilgrim contest is open to everyone in the world????????well, everyone who lives in a country with a working postal system, at least. Also, fellow bloggers are welcome to enter the contest.
  • Bryan has kindly offered a watercolor drawing as an additional prize. That would make a good prize for special art entries! Note that an art component isn????????t a required part of the contest, but if anybody feels like making a cool Scott Pilgrim-related drawing????????a drawing of I don????????t know what, since this is a contest for people who haven????????t read the book, but that????????s part of the challenge, I guess????????then one talented artist will receive the Special Art Appreciation Prize.


Rose and I have seen two Mamoru Oshii movies lately: Avalon (which I have sought for months and finally found through Netflix) and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Avalon is certainly the most convincing rendering of a virtual-reality video game I’ve seen. (The others I can think of are eXistenZ, sort of The Matrix, and the strange William Gibson-penned episode of The X-Files.) The question then is what makes a fictional game for a science-fiction VR platform “convincing,” but I think the answer is simply that it looks like a logical development from current real-life games. The squad-based multiplayer, class-based military action games are a popular genre in real-world games of the last several years. The half-baked tactical play also seems realistic—I’m thinking of the way the players alternate between acting sensibly, running around like mad, and just standing around stupidly while shooting.

Unfortunately, the English subtitles on the DVD seem to have only a tangential relationship to the dialogue. The basics of the plot seem to have survived the translation, but very little else. Actually, there’s a lot of what seems to be subtitles for voiceover narration laid over the otherwise silent parts of the movie, for no discernible reason (maybe somebody thought American audiences would need extra exposition to figure out what’s going on).

I was expecting a plot twist in which what appears to be the real world (the future one, not the secret level of Avalon) is revealed to be another layer of the VR, since both Avalon and the real world are filmed with the same sepia-toned, hazy visual effects. There seem to be unsettling connections between the real and VR worlds: Ash’s dog disappears in the real world and returns in Class Real as the poster ad for an orchestra concert. The real-world scenes have just enough repetitive looping to make them feel like a not-quite-realistic simulation — the exterior shot of the subway train that plays every time Ash goes home was especially reminiscent of a computer-game cut scene, I thought.

I expected that Ash would have to choose between reality and escapism, or that escape into the video game would become a means of transcending space and time or something (two of the major themes of the Matrix trilogy, it occurs to me), but the movie knocks both those concerns off balance with the introduction of Class Real. The secret level certainly looks real compared with the two sepia-toned worlds, but it still has the death animations and the weird little girl. Is Murphy a cataleptic in a hospital bed, or is he a guy living in modern-day Warsaw? The scene-selection menu calls the final chapter “Real Choices,” but what will Ash choose? What choice is she deciding, anyway?