Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ron Fricke Returns

In anticipation of filmmaker Ron Fricke's forthcoming SAMSARA, I re-watched BARAKA with Jen this morning. It remains as transcendental an experience as when I first saw it five years ago, then a first-year Religious Studies major.

Like Baraka, Samsara is non-narrative. According to Fricke, the film "will delve deeper into my favorite theme: humanity's relationship to the eternal."

Worldwide theatrical release of Samsara is scheduled for late summer 2012.


For more on Ron Fricke, see also CHRONOS and KOYAANISQATSI

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello Monday, You Do Not Disappoint

Today, after being away from the internet for a few days (bless, thanks Heide!) I ventured back into the virtual world that's really the real world outside my door, only to be annoyed by it again.

Three things:
It was made for pressing other more dangerous buttons

1. It's the 1 year anniversary of the Ut√łya shootings. Anders Behring Breivik's reason for killing nearly 70 teenagers? Because they supported multiculturalism, thereby "letting down Norway and the Norwegian people".

The world we live in today wouldn't exist without multicultural assimilation. For some, it's apparently fine to accept German Vorsprung durch Technik, but easy to forget that the father of algebra was a Persian mathematician named  Al-Khwarizmi. Multiculturalism is not a curse. It is not bad, and it is not the prime cause of cultural dilution. People manage to let go of their own traditions for a wealth of complicated reasons, not because they accept others for who they are.

2. The New Zealand government trying to have cigarettes sold in non-branded packaging, and in the process costing taxpayers obscene amounts of money to fight their legal battles for them.
     Stop it.
Sure, smoking is bad for you. I was a smoker for ten years and I knew perfectly well what I was doing to myself. Not because anyone told me, but because I read, and took responsibility for my own actions. I am sick to death of being told by a government what I can and cannot do with and to my own body. In the bigger scheme of things, they're doing a hell of job taking away personal responsibility - never mind personal choice - from citizens, in the process creating a society of sheep. But I guess governments like that.

Apparently, smokers summon the devil & other lesser demons
Some moron was talking on the news about how people choose specific branding because it reinforces their femininity/masculinity/coolness, and he cites this as a major reason for why the government wants branding removed. Excuse me, but aligning yourself with a brand is a personal choice and a right, despite Apple enslaving people on a daily basis, numerous brands of alcohol helping people to wrap themselves around trees every weekend, McDonalds making a valiant effort at bloating (hah!) obesity levels around the world, and Coca-Cola going gangbusters at elevating the planet's diabetes statistics. I hope then that the government is planning to remove branding from all take-away food joints' packaging, all liquor bottles and every can/bottle of soft-drink imaginable. Because that shit isn't bad for you at all.

3. The use of the word "evil". I thought after George W. Bush left the White House, this would stop. But no. Today, Barack Obama disappointed the hell out of me by calling the actions of James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora TDKR incident, "evil".
     Stop it.
In doing so, he invoked the tenets of Christianity to associate perfectly human actions with the demonic. Insane, psychotic actions, but still ultimately human. Aligning these actions with the word 'evil' in a country that involves religion in its justice system is a very dangerous thing to do.

I understand that Obama used the word to try and make sense of seemingly senseless actions. But what happened in Aurora was the actions of a mentally disturbed human. Attributing such an instance with something supposedly outside the realm of humanity does nothing to help us understand - and potentially prevent - such occurrences from happening again in the future. If anything, it's a little "evil" itself.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” 1933

"Again I looked at the landscape itself — and saw that the spot was indeed as Amberville had depicted it. It wore the grimace of a mad vampire, hateful and alert! At the same time, I became disagreeably conscious of the unnatural silence. There were no birds, no insects, as the painter had said; and it seemed that only spent and dying winds could ever enter that depressed valley-bottom."
                                          -- Clark Ashton Smith, "Genius Loci,"

Classical Roman religion identifies a genius loci as the protective spirit of a place. Clarke Asthon Smith takes his inspiration from this idea, creating a story that both attracts and repels, the same way that the painter in the narrative is simultaneously pulled towards and pushed from the malignant meadow he seemingly cannot stay away from.

Despite it's Roman origins (or perhaps because of it), Genius Loci is a story heavily rooted in Paganism. Nature as antagonist is unsettling in the way it differs from us. It is older than us, all around us, part of the cosmos in a way we are not. I have mentioned before how trees in particular seem to be very present in weird stories, and Genius Loci again uses tree imagery to great effect to instill something so ordinary with a sense of the extraordinary.

Both the narrator and the painter in the story are unreliable characters, yet there are some interesting observations to be made about "seeing" reality as it relates to Art as a medium for truth. Genius Loci never truly reveals whether there is anything evil about the meadow, or whether the sense of unease and evil both narrator and painter derive from it is one transferred from human perception onto something else -- in this case Nature -- which should seem normal and natural, but which we, at its very core, fear because we do not understand it.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

*Note:  I realise that I have skipped the second story by Jean Ray, "The Shadowy Street". I will come back to it later. In fact, I might start reading the stories at random, because I think that such an intermeshing of Weird formats and time-spans might be illuminating in terms of finding new notes, themes and re-occurring ones throughout the collection.

First World Problems

via nzherald

Vacuum alert.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

South African Specfic Anthology Needs Your Help!

So many fantastic books, comics and collections that would otherwise possibly never have seen the light of day has been made possible by YOU. That's right. We are at a point now where crowd sourcing has made it possible for readers to actively have a say in what they want to see published.

South Africa is a country that, until recently, few people associated with speculative fiction. There are always the other things people talk about when South Africa comes up in conversation.That has changed, thanks to the likes of Neill Blomkamp's District 9, and authors like Henrietta Rose-Innes, Lauren Beukes - whose fantastic Zoo City was awarded the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award - and rising star S.L. Grey.

Following in this tradition, Something Wicked Magazine, South Africa's premier market for speculative fiction readers and writers (and the only South African paying market for writers and readers of Horror and Science Fiction since 2006), has started an Indiegogo fund drive to help them with the release of their first volume of collected SA spec fiction.

SW has a week left to reach their target goal, and they have a long way to go. Editor and brains behind the magazine, actor Joe Vaz, confided in me that nothing short of a miracle will get them to their goal. Well, I say miracles happen every day, dammit. Did you know that, if you are in the US, NZ, AUS, UK or basically almost anywhere else in a developed country, your currency is worth more than the South African Rand? That means the smallest donation will mean you're actually giving more than what you think you are! WINNING! The price of a cup of coffee will make a difference; don't believe that it won't.

This is what you will be funding:

Gorgeous, yes? Everything else you want to know about, including the Perks of donating to this very worthy cause can be found on the Indiegogo page. And please help us spread the word!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Am Writing. WIN.

"The functionalist perspectives of magic are both helpful and misrepresentative. For the informed magician this is not hard to see. The magic manipulator acts as a spiritual conduit for a bigger collective, the previously mentioned "source". The function of magic reaches further than the individual performer, and beyond all individuals aware of the bend. The purpose of magic is the bend itself, and the response sustained into perpetuity from said action."

The Strickland Diaries, Book One

Friday, July 6, 2012

I Used To Draw. Can I Do It Again?

Because Blogger's formatting is basically a nightmare I am linking this post to my Tumblr, which is way more friendly when it comes to posting multiple images. Click the picture below to be re-directed. And why, yes, that is a picture of me when I was seventeen. Shades of Stevie Nicks.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What’s Your Geek Sign?

Apparently, my geek sign is "Superhero", which at first sounds super cool, right? Remember though, even superheroes can be douchebags. Tony Stark - I'm looking at you. Batman only pretends to be a dickhead playboy, whereas you ARE that dickhead.

To wit:

Selfless: Yes. Jen always gets the bigger piece of cake, helping of pudding, etc.

Moral: Sure. Until someone disagrees with me, then all of a sudden I'm not. Or I'm too moral. What the fuck ever.

Vigilant: Very. But I blame that on my control issue problems.

Condescending:Yes, very much. Especially if your name is Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum. Or you try to convince me that the 90's was a superior era to the 80's.

Pious: Ah, the one they got wrong.

Sanctimonious: The other one they got wrong.

Considering the above, I have drawn the conclusion that I really dislike republicans, and that there is a reason I always end up with the smaller bowl of ice-cream. This needs to stop.

Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter,” 1930

"When he first saw the schoolmaster, he said to me, "That man makes me think of an unscalable wall behind which something immense and terrible is taking place."
                                       -- Jean Ray, "The Meinz Psalter"

I was never a serious fan of the sea voyage/adventure story until I began writing my thesis, which consisted of spending a year wrapped up in Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. During this time, I quickly became drawn into the fascinating mechanics of the sea story.

Ships and boats have a long history where matters of the supernatural are concerned. The influence of Poe's Pym, Coleridge's Rhime of the Ancient Mariner and others is evident in "The Mainz Psalter" (the title of Ray's story being the name of a boat). It is, however, the story's modern feeling, coupled with some fantastic, surreal imagery that creates a more prevalent weirdness that feels more obviously present than in its predecessors.

In the tradition of other sea stories, "The Mainz Psalter" features a protagonist that is rescued from imminent death at sea, and relates to his rescuers the events preceding his brush with death. Parts of the story are phantasmagorical, and it's these, juxtaposed with the precise language and descriptions of life at sea that contributes to the feeling of shifts in reality, making it difficult to figure out what exactly is going on.

I really liked this story. Sea stories have interesting things to say about the reality of the mind versus what we experience in the 'real' world. I had not read any of Jean Ray's work before this, but I am once again inspired to seek out more.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer