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Archive: October 2004

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.

Man says live wire in bath was to save marriage

Man says live wire in bath was to save marriage: "LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (AP) -- A man who said he threw a live electrical wire into his wife's bath hoping a near-death experience would save their marriage was convicted of attempted first-degree intentional homicide Wednesday."

Via: Boing Boing

28 October 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Picnic at Hanging Rock

This is hardly a substantive update, but today Rick Geerling features a little piece I wrote about one of my favorite movies, Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. I’m arguing that it’s creepy enough to count for horror month and it turns out that others agree. It’s a fascinating film I’d very much recommend, and in fact I’ve done so here before.

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?

Win Scott Pilgrim!

21 October 2004 Update (by Steven): 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.

18 October 2004 Update (by Steven): 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.

So, you’ve heard about Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life but haven’t nabbed a copy yet. Volume 2 will be released in February, so now’s the time to get caught up with the story so far, and we at Peiratikos have your chance to get in on the fun. You have until 5 November, 2004 to email us at to let us know why you think you would like Scott Pilgrim for a chance to win the fairly obvious prize: your own copy of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. The grand prize winner will also get an XL tshirt, assuming they’re still available then. And for the artists, outstanding visual work may receive a special award.

And how will you know if Scott Pilgrim is right for you? The one-stop clearing house for all things Scott is Scott Pilgrim dot Com, where you can read reviews and view some fan art and hear what creator Bryan Lee O’Malley has to say. And since I might as well hype myself while I’m hyping Scott Pilgrim, you can see what O’Malley said to me in particular in my interview with him. More interviews are available in links from, too.

Want more looking and less talking? Get a taste of the story in two previews: a PDF document from Oni Press or a web-based preview from iComics.

And as a reminder for faithful blog readers, comics bloggers discuss Scott Pilgrim, although there are often spoilers:

And that’s it for now, I think. It doesn’t matter why you haven’t read Scott Pilgrim yet, because all we need to know is what makes you want to read it. It’s that easy, and three potential readers with the best arguments will win copies of the comic. And the grand prize winner will leave with a shirt, too! Just email your heart-wrenching tale to us at and then look for winning entries to be posted soon after the Friday, 5 November deadline.

Comments Moderation

The comments-moderation system has been disapproving seemingly innocuous comments in addition to spam. We’re looking into this mystery. If your comment doesn’t show up immediately, don’t worry, it will eventually.

Bryan Lee O’Malley Live!

Update: If you haven’t read Scott Pilgrim and this interview has you intrigued, enter the Scott Pilgrim contest.

Steven and I read and adored Scott Pilgrim and Lost at Sea this summer, so we were delighted to get the chance to interview creator Bryan Lee O’Malley. The result is decidedly not concise, but my introduction will be so we can get to all the heretofore untold sordid and scintillating details. On with the show!

Read the rest of this entry »

Fanboy Rampage Rampage

Update: Although the posts have been deleted, the comments threads still exist. I’ve saved copies of them in case they disappear as well, though. I’ve added links to the comments threads.

Michael E, Fanboy Rampage guestblogger extraordinaire, has taken to deleting his own guestblogging posts—which, at the very least, leaves Chris Butcher’s followup post stranded in a context-free void. Alas, I was unable to rescue Michael’s second post from oblivion, but I captured his first before it disappeared. I reproduce it here:

Judd Winick doesn’t know what to do with that pesky Mia character in Green Arrow, so he’s going to have the former prostitute die of HIV, and get some MTV coverage too. It’s like a broken record. Jimmy Palmiotti did the same thing in The Monolith but got no MTV.

# posted by Michael @ 1:33 PM Comments (30)

Oh, I just noticed another deleted post I saved from oblivion:

Ande Parks, inker of Green Arrow, on the Oni Press boards:

“Aside from the obviously close-minded mentality that no doubt enables a lot of this “outrage”, what annoys me is the notion that authors ought to keep their personal agendas out of their work.

I have a word for those who keep their personal agendas out of their work… hacks. Even in a situation like Green Arrow, where the author is working with someone else’s property, what is the fucking point of it if the writer doesn’t come in with something to say? If they think Grell didn’t have an agenda, they weren’t paying attention. This is what Judd is passionate about, and passion is required to produce worthwhile art.”

# posted by Michael @ 5:53 AM Comments (14)