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BLOT: (29 Aug 2014 - 09:16:23 PM)

Friday Horror Short #13, The Quiet

Way back in my last Friday Horror Short, I mentioned the single-female-in-an-apartment as a common metaphor for vulnerability and tension, and so I thought as I bring back the old FHS for another twelve or so shorts, I might try and focus on those twin concepts: how some horror shorts shortcut building up a creature by breaking down the protagonist into archetypal victims.

In I'm With Them's "The Quiet", we see both elements played off by the protagonist dealing with being deaf in one ear and having severely limited hearing in another as she navigates some tricky situation where even a person with full hearing would be missing some vital cues. After being taunted by classmates on the bus, Alice gets off without getting her phone. This leaves her unsure whether her mom is coming to get her. Setting off alone, she is soon confronted by a blue van and an unknown occupant inside who seems to be watching her. After the van drives off, she starts home again, only to see the van simply stopped further down the road. Running into the woods, she has her hearing aid ripped off, leaving her almost entirely deaf and trying to avoid being captured.

I'm picking this one because it represents so well how a short horror film can skip certain elements of establishing the monster by establishing built-in weaknesses in the protagonist [note, it is described as being part of the "Vulnerable Female" trilogy, which makes me wryly chuckle]. It does this part well, though almost entirely by playing off built-in sentiments. You see a bullied—and possibly neglected—Alice cope with her issues while initially retaining an outwardly cool demeanor, forcing a contrast to her on-display vulnerability. A distinction that crumbles as she feels her situation grow more dire. She knows that she could just walk past the van but cannot bring herself to do it. This establishes doubt in the viewer's mind that was not there before. Suddenly, the van represents conflict. If it contains a determined rapist or a child-murderer, her hearing issues would not very much matter, but since we are watching her stripped away layer by layer—first the loss of her bullying but watchful classmates, then her cell phone, and eventually her hearing aid—we buy into her notion of confrontation. As she enters into the woods, surely she knows the quickest way home, but we buy into her being disoriented and directionless. She is our guide in this film, and our guide grows increasingly flawed.

It loses some traction by a combination of a weak twist—mean-spirited at best, and easily guessable, at least for me—and a lackluster ending which mistakenly tries to pop the already deflated tension bubble with a surprise that is more a headscratcher than anything; but it does have the weird vignettes involving a doll and the phrase, "I will always love you," and the act of hair cutting that leads to the swap in the speaker's voice from female to male. Perhaps a symbol of a loss of innocence, or maybe of a loss of decorum. These odd shots essentially give the film meat it might have otherwise lacked, and make it through without any easy throwaway explanation.

Friday Horror Short

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (22 Aug 2014 - 07:09:41 AM)

My first Who regeneration experience and some thoughts about the latest one...

My first regeneration experience was Tom Baker turning into Peter Davidson. I was...I don't know, young (note: this would have been something like 1986, on PBS re-runs). The Doctor is crushed by a long fall from a satellite dish, having just protected the Universe itself. "The Watcher" approaches. They blend together and form into the Fifth Doctor. At the time, I had no real grasp of what Doctor Who was. I had been watching Tom Baker since "The Face of Evil" [so something like a year and a half of Saturday night TV between the two]. I was probably too young [and it came on too late at night, being something like 9:30-10:30pm] for me to quite understand the storyline, so some of the stories ran together. I thought Cybermen were in more episodes than they were, and I remember thinking Davros was a oft-recurring character, even though I had only seen him a couple of times (during the middling "Destiny of the Daleks" episodes). My first thought on seeing the Doctor regenerate was something like "That's weird..." and it quickly changed into "That's NEAT!". A hero who can escape death by reshaping himself into a whole new body? Who becomes a cousin to his former self in exchange for the power to keep going? That's crazy talk. I remember my brother Danny not quite liking it, though he only watched a few episodes with me. For me, a person obsessed with the mercurial nature of things and the ungraspability of infinity, it filled an itch.

I partially say this because I know people are going to lose their shit tomorrow and be all "BUT HE'S NOT MATT SMITH!!!!" and I've never quite gotten the hang of these new Doctor Who fans who don't embrace one of the central weirdnesses of the show.

I am more curious to see how the show goes forward and regenerates itself, again. The subtle shifts in tone has generally been overlooked in comparison to the distinct shifts in actors, but are just as important. The show has, over the past few seasons, developed a reliance on deus ex machinas and the mythological importance of the Doctor and cosmic crisis every seasons and I'd like to see all three moved away from slightly. Part of the as-a-whole fun of Doctor Who has been that he is this uber-professor-adventurer but has limits and doubts, all the way back to Hartnell's First ready to kill a caveman in cold blood because he was scared of the complications of letting him live. I got the feeling that Matt Smith was often wanting to tap into that in ways that the story lines weren't allowing (occasionally reaching moments of brilliance in scenes that should have been cheesy). Maybe Capaldi can have a bit more luck. Or maybe not, because the show might try a completely different tack and confirm Lungbarrow, who knows...[well, presumably Moffat knows...]

Doctor Who

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (14 Aug 2014 - 07:28:21 AM)

Ah, the joy of having an advertisement 4 times longer than the video you about to watch

Remember a few months back when AdBlocker's crowdfunding campaign to buy ads to promote an ad-free world ended up creating a lot of ire from folk who said stuff like, "It's a 15-second advertisement, jackass, why don't you support your favorite YouTubers?!" And it was sort of proof that those people use AdBlock, because while there are 15-second ads, there are also ads like this:

And while that is definitely an outlier, let's just say that I clicked the hell out of that "Skip" button when it became available.

Has there been any study about how many longer ads there are and how they are distributed and how many are actual successful? That has to be some sort of psychological experiment, right, seeing if people will sit through 10 minutes of advertisements to watch a 2 minute video?

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (13 Aug 2014 - 08:50:12 PM)

Ass...es...es...

Oh look, an article about book culture and plagiarism and book buying scams and...

giggle.

The crazy thing is that I kept trying to power through: "while it asses...es...developments?" [read as a synonym for "butts[s] developments"]. I'm just dyslexic enough that (a) I read it wrong twice and (b) assumed somehow it was meant to make sense if I just kept wondering what the ass had anything to do with the claim. It was kind of surreal. I would liken it to someone reading about hexagons and wondering what the hell Deadlands-style magic had to do with anything.

Wait, hell, has someone trademarked/etc hex-a-gone? *goes off to search*...oh, right...Harry "Asseses" Potter.

Seriously, though, that's not just some British version, right? Damn, now I'm doubting myself. Giggling and doubting myself...

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (12 Aug 2014 - 10:38:26 AM)

Jesus, Buzzfeed

With nearly no comment...

As for my nearly not a comment? Welcome to Costco, I love you...

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (09 Aug 2014 - 01:25:49 PM)

My banner in Minecraft: Cthulhu on a Night of Blood

Once banners were introduced into Minecraft, I knew I wanted one but I wasn't sure what I wanted mine to be. A spiral is my usual call-sign, but outside of some trick I haven't discovered using Notch Apples [which makes the Mojang symbol and might could be tweaked into a spiral] I am pretty stuck. So I figured, after stumbling upon a slightly odd trick using oxeye daisies and vines, that I could make something pretty damned close to a Cthulhu head. This is what I ended up with, which I'm calling "Cthulhu on a Night of Blood":

The steps are as follows, if you want a similar one:

  1. Start with a green banner.
  2. Use a vine to make a black bordure indented.
  3. Use six ink-sacs on the two bottom rows to make a black per fess inverted.
  4. Use eight ink-sacs surrounding the banner to make a black bordure.
  5. Use cactus green and an oxeye daisy to make a green flower charge.
  6. Use a single cactus green in the center to make a green roundel.
  7. Use four rose red to make a red base gradient.

I'm pretty sure steps #3 and #4 can be reversed with no change, but the rest need to be in order.

Here is what the description looks like in the tool-tip:

As a couple of notes, if you leave out Step #4 (the black bordure) then you get a pointier-head, for those more into squid. See left, below. If you leave out Step #6 (the green roundrel), then you can make Cthulhu smile. See right, below. Now all we need is eyes (player head?)...oooo...and a starry background (glowstone?).

Minecraft

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (05 Aug 2014 - 08:35:52 PM)

Doug's Brief Talking Points #3: The "Netflix" of Books

I took some time on my lunch break to try out a slightly different model for my Doug's Brief Talking Points series, this time on my cell phone. Result? Eh, not bad. Video quality is so-so in a grainy sense of the word. Sound quality is so-so in the slightly off-mix sense of the word. It makes my natural twitch seem even crazier as you see the trees move as I walk around and stuff (will try a better angle next time). And, well, I lost a version that went more into the topic as a business model and talked about how I prefer to buy books, myself. I am also a tad bit breathless because I was out walking around the library and it was damn near 100F at the time.

What's the topic this time? The "Netflix of Books". Specifically how it won't kill the book industry and how it is not like a library.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


BLOT: (04 Aug 2014 - 03:00:51 PM)

My fairly brief thoughts on Mike Davis's (and Jon Padgett's) question: Did True Detective Plagiarize Thomas Ligotti?

I'm a fan of HBO's True Detective and have recommended it to dozens, and when Mike Davis [and Jon Padgett] ask the question, "Does True Detective plagiarize Thomas Ligotti?", my first instinctive response is, "Isn't that the point?" There have been several articles—see this and this—that have pointed out the relationship without blinking an eye, though maybe slightly dancing away from an outright claim that Rustin "Rust" Cohle is directly spouting Ligotti, but as I read down the Lovecraft eZine article, I realized that while I hang around the sorts who immediately see a connection between Conspiracy Against the Human Race and Cohle, that simply assuming attribution is problematic.

As I reviewed Jon's research, and did more of my own, any doubts I had about plagiarism disappeared. It became obvious to me that Pizzolatto had plagiarized Thomas Ligotti and others—in some places using exact quotes, and in others changing a word here and there, paraphrasing in much the same way that a high school student will cheat on an essay by copying someone else's work and substituting a few words of their own.
And I asked myself if Nic Pizzolatto had given Thomas Ligotti "due acknowledgement". Unfortunately, there appear to be only two instances where Pizzolatto has mentioned Ligotti at all.

As an academic librarian, had someone turned in the oft-quoted "car scene" to me to talk about intellectual property issues—and I often field similar questions—then I would told them that they need to acknowledge Ligotti in some way or form [Doug's note: I'm a fan of the "be respectful" school even if all the letter-of-the-law switches are flipped]. Sure, the ideas are not copyrightable, and are definitely not unique to Ligotti, but many of the phrases and ideas feel "very Ligotti", not just "kind of Ligotti"—something admitted in an interview as Pizzolatto says, "there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers." I'd rather you read Davis and Padgett's take than my own, though, so off you pop for those in a bit.

In my eyes, there are two interesting nubbins to chew upon outside of the Davis/Padgett reasoning. First, this feels heightened by the fact that it deals with such a tight-knit community. The same things that make Ligotti fans see a cousin to his worldview are the same things that make the claim seem worthwhile. People who got the Yellow King and Carcosa references right off the bat at least know of Ligotti. Hell, had people not been into it for the weird fiction in-jokes, most of my discussions about the show would probably not have happened.

Secondly, though there are ways to go, "Hey, speaking of antinatalism...," it would have been impossible in True Detective in that the text that people are claiming is being plagiarized was not written until after the time in which parts of the show take place.

Then you get into the whole thing of homage and whatnot and you can debate this for days, I guess. As I said, my take was that it was meant to sound like Ligotti and it never occurred to me that it wasn't obvious. I'm curious to see how Pizzolatto and Ligotti respond to this.

UPDATE (5 Aug 2014, 12:03PM): A fair number of people are wrongly arguing against the claim of plagiarism by saying that Ligotti stole the ideas first. This is a misunderstanding of plagiarism in general and of Ligotti's work in specific. I made this post on reddit in response to someone who said, "Pizzolatto is no more plagiarizing Ligotti than Ligotti plagiarized those who have expressed these feelings throughout centuries prior," which I will copy here as it feel fitting to my post:

While I agree with the gist of your "the ideas came before" argument, something any rational person would concede, it is flawed in that we are speaking specifically of plagiarism, not of re-servicing ideas as a continuation of the "dialogue". Ligotti's Conspiracy Against the Human Race extensively cites philosophers it is referencing. The name Schopenhauer shows up nearly 40 times. Cioran shows up 5. Zapffe shows up 100+, and he has permission directly from the estate to use the quotes, according to the copyright page. Benatar shows up 9 times. Lovecraft shows up 60+. He cites Camus, Nietzsche (many times), Dienstag (several times, discussing some specifics), etc etc etc.
Sure, you could argue that since he didn't name every possible antinatalist or pessimistic author, you could find some part of his writing that might be in reference to someone uncited, but that makes a poor definition of comparative plagiarism.

It illuminates the situation of why proper citation can be important is such argument, as is reading the source material you are attacking online.

Weird Fiction

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: August 2014


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