Monday, July 29, 2013

The Women of Gormenghast

I think I've made it clear that I'm something of a fan of Peake's work.  However, it has to be said: his depiction of female characters is…pretty bad.  His men can be good or evil or just buffoons--they can be anything.  Whereas virtually all of his women are either A) tragic victims; or B) pitiable grotesques.  The only significant exception to this rule is the Countess, Titus' mother.  She's an interesting, nuanced character with agency.  But as for everyone else…well, just look:

(oh yeah, SPOILERS in what follows)
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast Novels

I read Titus Groan (1946), the first of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast novels, in a constant state of baffled amazement, or possibly amazed bafflement.  The thing about this book is, what the hell is the thing about this book?  Peake's work is characterized as "fantasy" because what else could you possibly call it?, but it certainly has nothing in common with anything else I've ever read under that aegis, and indeed nothing else I've read, period.  Oh, there are obvious influences, but none of them really get to the core of what it's all about.  Throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking that at some point, it would clearly resolve itself into something at least somewhat familiar; something that I could understand in relation to anything else I've read--but nope.
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Sunday, July 14, 2013


Okay, so maybe it's possible that, within the context of Florida's insane "self-defense" laws, George Zimmerman was not-guilty. If there really is a law that you can accost someone in the dark for no reason and then murder them if they panic and push back...well, there you go. But regardless of any of that, there is no fucking question that George Fucking Zimmerman is a pathetic wannabe rent-a-cop who was suspicious of a black teenager for no reason other than being black, chased him (against police orders, note), and murdered him. Even if you reluctantly concede that, by the letter of the law, this verdict is okay, the fact remains that this piece of degenerate filth slaughtered an innocent young man for no reason that's even a tiny bit morally justifiable. And unless we're being disingenuous assholes, we have to concede that this would never, ever have happened if Martin had been white. It's a sickening situation any way you look at it, and if it's somehow legal, then, in an ideal world, it would spur some serious legal reform.

It sure is good that the Supremes decided to gut the Civil Rights Act. Who could possibly think we still have a race problem in America? Black President! Boom!   Okay, so obviously I'm not saying anything that we all didn't already know, but the juxtaposition is certainly stark and sickening.  If anything, it sure seems to me that we have more racist slime oozing out of the woodwork now that Obama's President. Perhaps on some level they feel emboldened now that they can point to OMG ISLAMOKENYASOCIALIST as a concrete reason they're being oppressed? I don't know. But I do know this: the people who think that Trayvon Martin's killing and subsequent legal proceedings were horrible and grotesque and the people who did their damnedest to portray Martin as a "thug" for doing normal kid things and are now hysterically celebrating the fact that Zimmerman got off--these two groups of people split very neatly down party lines. We've long known that republicans are awful creatures, of course, but at this point, when you vote republican you're not just voting for the repeal of all taxes ever on rich people--you're also voting for quite open white-supremacist cheerleaders. And the fact that the fact that this is now open knowledge is sure to have no appreciable negative effect on voting, are we ever fucked.

If you're going to read one piece of commentary on the murder and trial, check out Charles Pierce. He's the best.

In other horrible, shitty news to come out of yesterday, Tunch, John Cole's beloved cat of twelve years, was killed by a dog. I've never met Cole or communicated with him in any way, but anyone who reads his posts regularly can easily see that he's one of the most stand-up guys around, and I've always enjoyed reading his postings about his pets interspersed with the political stuff. I've lost pets before too (five dogs, three cats), but never in such an awful way. I have to tell you, hearing about Tunch's death affected me more than that of any other animal that wasn't my own. However, there's also a silver lining of sorts, in that people are being really good about the whole thing. It actually serves as a counterpoint of sorts to the Martin awfulness, to which there is no silver lining whatsoever. People are good. Not enough of them, maybe, but you have to take what you can get in dark times like these.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Songs We Hate, Part Whatever: Eric Clapton, "Wonderful Tonight"

Let's be clear about one thing: if I were on the AVClub's Hatesong, I'd talk about "You Can't Be too Strong." But there are plenty of other songs I hate, and this is one of them.

See, I don't have a problem, necessarily, with a straightforward song where a guy brags about how hot his girlfriend/wife is, and how great he is for having her. It probably won't be my favorite thing in the world, but at least it's honest about its intentions. But fucking "Wonderful Tonight," man...rarely does a song seem this disingenuous, unctuous, and generally insincere.

It's late in the evening; she's wondering what clothes to wear.
She puts on her make-up and brushes her long blonde hair.
And then she asks me, "Do I look all right?"
And I say, "Yes, you look wonderful tonight."

Let's leave aside the clunkiness of "she's wondering what clothes to wear." Instead, let's concentrate on that second couplet. There's this smug, self-congratulatory tone just below the surface: her self-image relies on him telling her how great she looks, which he does because he's such a great guy. But he doesn't want to acknowledge that he's just bragging, so he buries it in this thick layer of faux-nobility.

We go to a party and everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady that's walking around with me.
And then she asks me, "Do you feel all right?"
And I say, "Yes, I feel wonderful tonight."

See? See?  You think I'm making things up? In the first part, everyone's gawking at the hawt chick he's with--with that in mind, there's just no other logical way to read the second part: he feels wonderful tonight specifically because he's with this woman whom everyone else is lusting after. Which, as I said, would be one thing if not for the fact that he's trying to make it seems as though this is all about how deeply in luuuuuuv he is. Who do you think you're fooling, asshole?

I feel wonderful because I see
The love light in your eyes.
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize how much I love you.

Okay, so here he tries to recover from that last part: he feels wonderful BECAUSE he sees the love light blahdy blah. Yeah, okay, I wouldn't really be buying it anyway, but then he has to go and stick in more of this self-congratulatory horseshit: what's really important here is that she doesn't realize just how goddamn great he is. Clapton clearly wants this to be a tender love song, but he's like some kind of Vaudeville clown with his foot stuck in a bucket: no matter how he tries, he cannot help crashing around the stage knocking over all the scenery.

It's time to go home now and I've got an aching head,
So I give her the car keys and she helps me to bed.
And then I tell her, as I turn out the light,
I say, "My darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Oh my darling, you were wonderful tonight."

...actually, I've made my point; I'm just citing the last verse because it makes no sense to me. Is his head aching because he got smashed at the party? Is that why he's giving her the car keys--'cause he's too shitfaced to drive? But if she's helping him to bed, presumably they're already at home, so what's the point of this? She has to go out somewhere again? Wha? I don't...?  Maybe we're meant to assume there's a lacuna between the first and second phrases in the second line, during the course of which they get home, but that's just weird and awkward.  Bah.

Anyway, this is the kind of post that--if more than seven people actually read this blog--would very likely provoke indignant comments: Grrr this is our song we played this at our wedding you're just a bitter, single asshole reading things that aren't there into a lovely song blarg. Well, I'll concede that anything can become meaningful and important to you if it's associated with good times in your life. Nor will I deny the "bitter, single asshole" charge.  I don't think it's really relevant to the point I'm making, but facts is facts.

And another fact is that none of this means that, objectively, you and your wife/husband couldn't have picked a less shitty song to be emblematic of your love. I mean, if said love is strong enough, no doubt this'll do; I'm not denigrating your marriage itself or anything.  But love is not enough to negate your bad taste. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Monday, July 08, 2013

A pressing question, answered.

It's all anyone's thinking about these days: if the cast of Final Fantasy IV were to be replaced by characters from the Parappaverse, who would play whom?  Well, wonder no more.  Questions like that are this blog's raison d'être.

Cecil (Dark Knight)-Rammy
Cecil (Paladin)-Lammy
Rosa-Katy Kat
Rydia-Sunny Funny
Cid-Captain Fussenpepper
Yang-Chop Chop Master Onion
Edward-PJ Berry
Tellah-Beard Burger Master
Porom-Instructor Mooselini
Palom-Instructor Moosesha
Edge-Joe Chin
Fusoya-Guru Ant
Golbez-Colonel Noodles
Zemus-MC King Kong Mushi