wittering at Christian (poor guy)

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Sat Feb 8 01:17:38 EST 2003


This post is laced with SPOILERS for STEPHENSON NOVELS and _AKIRA_.
And -in case your email headers give no indication of size- it's LONG.
It even talks about COMICS.
 
+ >I'm not sure I agree with "intensely off topic" in the header. Or at least,
+ >if these posts are lacking in obDWJs and OMTs, they're not striking in 
+ >their flagrant departure from list norms.

+ for some reason it seems to me that if we're not discussing just books it's 
+ more off topic. maybe i'm just paranoid. =)

Maybe I'm just harking back to all those food discussions, which led to the
personal revelation that sandwich pickle isn't a staple in Utah.

Action Sequences in NS:
 
+ basically how every book of his seems to end with a balls-out crazy huge 
+ action sequence featuring many/most of the characters. zodiac featured, 
+ iirc, a giant chase sequence in the zodiac rafts; snow crash features hiro  
+ rescuing the love interest on the boat; diamond age features the riot and 
+ nell rescuing the woman who did all the racting for her book. (i can't 
+ remember all of the character names.) i like the action sequences 
+ throughout, but the Final Resolution action sequence just seems ... 
+ anticlimactic, in such intelligent books.

It's one way to try to pull all the wild diversity together in a resolution
at least of the major plot strands. To be critically fair, _Cryptonomicon_
more than any other NS book pays off in a distributed way. The coherences
are scattered through the text, and I don't think there's a Big Pay-Off (not
even the semijoke I made about the Hard Man finding out that gung-ho action is
bad, mm-kay).

Just never read _Interface_, okay? The climax even has dramatic elephants
and a terrorist act which would give George Bush more than a stroke.

Sangamon Taylor in _Zodiac_ was a hardboiled chemist who loved the zippy
rafts, getting high on nitrous, and sophisticated sabotage of evil polluting
corporations. A chase sequence in amongst the sophisticated rejection of Thai
food in favour of less monotonous Asiatic cuisine and the exposure of muddied
thinking about the relative dangers of fresh paint and monitor emissions...
well, I can handle that.

Randy running around in the jungle is one of the set-pieces rather than
a plot climax for _Cryptonomicon_. Nevertheless, there is some running around
in trees near the end, which might make the book fail for you in exactly the
way you expect.

The pursuit of the key Quest Object (and putting it this way is truly
enormously critically unfair to the sophistication of _Cryptonomicon) 
predicated on the gold standard gives us the actual practical solution and 
pretty scene that ends the book, but it does have the ethical action-quandary
I mentioned behind it. Goto Engineering's involvement sees to that.

I think the huge audience for the denoument with the massive hit of _Snow
Crash_ robbed of its payload is more of an "action climax" than Hiro going
after Juanita. Raven and Juanita have rationales for being on the Raft,
while YT and Hiro get drafted into that rendezvous, but it makes sense.
Juanita isn't there as a chick to be rescued, but as someone who has embarked
on a quest that actually (in succeeding) makes her fitter to escape than the 
Protagonist with his tecchy kit.

I can't see how the climax of _The Diamond Age_ could be anything other than
the resolution of Nell's destiny, given that the whole book revolves around
the assimilation of radicals into the propagation of the achievements of
civilisation. The other conflicts of personal/group dynamics (e.g. the Seed/
Feed models of organisation with their politically-motivated adherents) also
resolve. The re-emergence of the Primer's prime movers (the compiler of the
Book and the ractor who made it live for Nell) from the Seed-makers' ironic
removal of self-determination balances perfectly with the Chinese politics
and cultural efforts which make both the Mouse Army and the Fists of Righteous
Harmony. Yes, Miranda is dramatically redeemed at the end of _The Diamond Age_,
but I can't see how this action sequence is "bad". There's more convergence
than is entirely natural (what are the Drummers are doing that close to a major
Feed civilisation? There's no need at all to be physically proximate to the
neo-Victorians in order to steal their design talents? for that matter, why is
Miranda the one who is supposed to suffer the programming climax?), but that's
perfectly acceptable in a piece of art! Oh, yes, did I mention my love of
structure?

+ >No, no, nothing like "brainless sex and violence", but you mentioned
+ >_Evangelion_. Now, that's robots and psychics (via "angels") both running
+ >amok.
 
+ i don't think that you can make a case that there are psychics in 
+ evangelion. evangelion is my favorite series and i've incredibly 
+ overanalyzed it to shocking degrees.

"shito" doesn't really mean "angel" per se. It's a term used for an
intercessor, and "disciple" or "prophet" or whatever would be just as
legit. They have *something* as they come against the people of Earth
(who appear to be literal Lilim for some reason).

I think that the conveying of power from the higher sephiroth does make
for something in the realm of psychic weirdness. I did qualify my statement
and one could claim that stigmata (as experienced by Shinji) aren't "psychic",
but I don't think that the basis in Jewish/Christian mythology means that one
musn't use such terms... they're not just New Age apparatus. Reconnecting to
God isn't just a material sequence of battles - even the weapons are charged
with symbolic significance. oh, dear, are we going to return to Xenogears
here? (for the innocent bystanders, Xenogears' homo sapiens was a temporary
biomass diversion/incarnation of God) _Evangelion_ is definitely more mecha+
mad mythology, and Eva pilots don't meet their doom through cerebral weirdness.

But, yes, it needed qualification for me to jam it into the cliche of "robots
and psychics". Surprise, surprise, given that we both agree that my phrase was
an insulting oversimplification!

+ >And <blush> I've never understood _Akira_. I can track what happens easily
+ >enough, but I have no idea what the resolution in the White Sphere is
+ >supposed to mean. Something to do with Destiny, obviously, but the film
+ >just doesn't resolve (for me)...
 
+ that's a difficult movie, that's helped enormously by the recent 
+ translation. the old english dub was not very good in that department; the 
+ new bilingual DVD with its new dub and sub tracks are much better. i think 
+ akira is very excellent and amazingly well written; it's perfectly paced to 
+ be interesting and hit every plot point that it neeeds to, to reach its 
+ conclusion.

I shall have to look at the different translations of the White Sphere bit.

The pacing and the plotting are excellent, and the film is a style milestone,
but I'm still not sure that it reaches a conclusion. Why is Tetsuo's pattern
so hauntingly familiar? Are the researchers really hoping for another Akira,
and why are there preserved body parts from the original under a stadium? The
physical legacy and the mental recurrence of Akira-talent are made to converge
just as artificially as in a Neal Stephenson ending ;-) What part did Akira 
play in the disaster which precedes the film, and who redeemed him so that he
could return to sort out his mental heir? The blue kids emphasise that it's 
Tetsuo's one-up attitude to being powerful which is going to doom him (so were
they tormenting him, or was he imagining it?), but is it really that humanity
can't handle Akira-powers as yet, which is why both people with the rainbowy 
mental pattern have gone off the deep end - again, how can Akira help in this
case? I can't see that he can possibly have started out like Tetsuo, because
Tetsuo can't redeem himself. We have absolutely no clue, as far as I can see,
as to why Akira can help rather than reinforcing the havoc.

I assume that Tetsuo would have ended up blue-skinned from the medication,
and possibly even have been tattooed with a project number if he'd stayed
put in the facility (though why he isn't immediately assigned a number is
beyond me).

+ the problem for finding motivation is that akira (the character) is 
+ exceptionally enigmatic. i could go into this in depth but i'll leave it for 
+ now.

So, can I have the depth now? You can take it offlist if you feel more
comfortable, although this list if full of people more than articulate
enough to request that we take it elsewhere if they like.

tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie 
if you want to contact me directly.
 
+ >_Ghost in the Shell_ is more my speed. I look forward to seeing the latest
+ >"Ghost" project.
 
+ i find this movie to be overrated, although i haven't seen it in years -- i 
+ probably should again. you might want to check out patlabor 1 and 2; they're 
+ from the same director, and imo they're better films. not cyberpunk, but 
+ more police/political drama with some few action bits.

Overrated, yes, ("Lain" is better) but it's more my sort of thing. 
I've seen Patlabor, and the mecha emphasis is less appealing to me. 
It's more pedestrian than I like.

_Blood: the Last Vampire_ is glorious, but at the end I felt like I'd just
finished off an amazingly polished pilot, and could I have the series now,
please?
 
+ >Now here I could spout endlessly about genre (content) versus mode. Suffice
+ >it to say, though, that Western filmmakers just can't manage to make good
+ >anime/manga. There's definitely something in the blend of content which is
+ >more than the stylistics of the palette or eyeshapes or other artistry of
+ >mode.
 
+ western filmmakers who are influenced by anime seem to only watch one sort 
+ of anime; hence the animatrix. when you examine it, there's tons and tons of 
+ variety -- as much variety as there is in western television and film. 
+ that's why it's impossible to suggest it's a genre. from the art style, to 
+ the directorial, production design, intended audience, etc., there are so 
+ many different series with different aims, goals, methods that it's 
+ impossible to lump it all together without sounding ignorant.

Ah. When you cited Gaiman, I thought you were familiar with the divisions
in literary criticism which informed his remark about artistic endeavour. 
"genre" is assigned by content, which is how it often becomes a pejorative
ghetto. Having elements which belong to a genre doesn't make a work bad, but
having elements so alien to the societal status quo that anything with them 
automatically gets lumped in with "that stuff" without any critical attention
being paid to artistic merit is responsible for some unreasonably snooty
dismissals. Western SF experienced a lot of this, with Ursula Le Guin being 
my favourite critical champion, and Kurt Vonnegut and Kingsley Amis being 
weasels. The relabelling of comics into "graphic novels" had less to do
with the content/genre and more to do with their being perceived as juvenile
4-colour trash. _Watchmen_ looks like that sort of thing, and was published
by a company which produced that sort of thing, but the genre connection was
the notion of superhero vigilantes. The genre basis and the look are not what
make _Watchmen_ a work which people will class as a "graphic novel" rather
than a "comic", nor is it even the simple fact that the installments were
bound together in a book because of their lasting appeal ;-). It was just
that using culturally sophisticated commentary made some critics unhappy about
having to appreciate "comics" which weren't comical.

When _Sandman_ appeared, it looked a bit different from the outset, and Gaiman
quickly gained the confidence to step beyond the typical story framework of the
Sandman's quest for power-objects and start writing out-and-out metaphysical
fantasies. He didn't know when he started that there'd be enough market
response to take him beyond the conclusion of his initial story. Gaiman 
respects his predecessor in comics Alan Moore just as much as he respects DWJ,
so it's not surprising that he was in the vanguard of literary types asking
for a more suitable coinage to describe these works - but his point stressed
that it wasn't simply a genre (content) issue.

Anime is *definitely* not a genre (content), and I was arguing that it's not
simply a look or a set of techniques either. It tends to have plenty of
culturally alien (to a gaijin) content and to have a range of techniques
unassimilated by Western cartooning, but there's a "flavour" as well. 

anime/manga is a range of cultural artworks, and that's what I was trying
to say in expanding it past Gaiman's comments on comics and genre.

+ >It's the same "flavour" that is present in the (non-anime/manga) film
+ >_Avalon_. It can't be emulated by using the genre standards, either, so
+ >it falls somewhere between genre and mode.
 
+ avalon is directed by mamoru oshii (ghost in the shell, patlabor) so this 
+ makes very much sense. i have not seen avalon yet.

uh, yes, I knew it was by Oshii. What astounded me was how much it had the
"flavour" I was used to appreciating in anime. I think the colour palette
and music in the film help with this 
Oh, and the subject matter/genre don't hurt, of course.
 
When you've seen it, we can talk further about immersive gameplay ;-)

Tanaqui
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