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Tragic Tales of Lack of Parallel Structure

From the Marvel solicits for February (via Graeme McMillan):

Reed and Sue, heart and soul of Marvel????????s First Family of Super Heroes. Peter and Mary Jane, the spider and the supermodel. Scott and Jean, childhood sweethearts sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. Bruce and Betty, the beauty and the beast. Break out the tissues, True Believer: The House of Ideas cordially invites you to celebrate the history-making nuptials of its greatest couples in this keepsake edition! From the Fantastic Four to Spider-Man to the X-Men, with a few surprises in between, this commemorative volume proves the power of love can overcome all odds! [emphasis mine]

Lego Cultural Theorists

Lego Cultural Theorists: The Lego Michel Foucault comes with a Parisian library for younger children, or with the Lego San Fransisco Dungeon for older boys and girls.

See also: Theory Trading Cards

12 November 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

For now we see through a glass, darkly

The only comic book I’ve read recently is JLA Classified, which is a fun superhero comic, a slippery polysemic critique of US foreign policy, a parody of the grim (and dull) superteam pastiches of The Authority and The Ultimates, and a playful subversion of Batman’s coherence as a character. Steve Pheley quotes Don MacPherson:

The problem isn’t that this Batman is different, it’s that Morrison tries to maintain both are the same man. “I’m opening the sci-fi closet, Alfred. Don’t tell my friends in the G.C.P.D. about this.” The notion that the Batman who patrols Gotham, trying to prevent the sort of tragedy that scarred him as a youth, would have a box full of seemingly magical toys just doesn’t wash. […] It took me out of the story.

to which Steve replies cogently:

Me, I tend to think it’s perfectly valid to have Solo Batman and JLA Batman being different, and blurring the lines between the two is fine if the tone of the story allows it (as the Classified story does). Call it Hypertime, call it selective continuity, call it fudging — why not, if you can get a good story out of it?

“It took me out of the story.” “It took me out of the story.” When people say this, I feel like Brad Stand in I ♥ Huckabees.

“It took me out of the story.”
“That is so not true. Wait, what does that even mean?”

What are people doing in the story in the first place? They’re readers, not characters. OK, I’m being deliberately obtuse. But people talk about being immersed in the story, forgetting they’re reading a book or watching a movie. That can’t be what they mean. How could they really forget that they’re scanning a sequence of words (or images) on a page, or that they’re watching a sequence of images projected on a screen? And “willing suspension of disbelief.” I think people don’t mean this literally—how could they, and why would they want to, believe that the story they’re reading is true?—but the language of forgetfulness and belief seems unhelpful, at least for me. I want to remember, not forget, that I’m reading a text.

This language must be related to that some people hate criticism and analysis of texts. They complain that dissecting a text takes all the fun out of it—maybe because it forces them to abandon their strategies of immersive forgetfulness and belief, which seem childish and naïve to me.

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: 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!

Purple USA

Purple USA: Lots of purple states, a few almost-red states. No blues.

See also: Bruce Baugh: Against Maps
See also: Purple Counties

4 November 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

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.

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

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.