jupiter ascending isn’t what most critics thought

We finally saw Jupiter Ascending a couple of weekends ago, in the lair, rented rather than in a theatre. I wish I’d got myself out to see it large, but, well, life and all that.

It’s better than it’s given credit for. And I thought I had a long post to write about this, but I keep not writing that post, so I’m going to write a shorter one and see what happens.

Jupiter Ascending is, in large-brush-strokes, David Lynch’s Dune, but with the “Chosen One” trope excised and replaced with “Hidden Princess.” It’s a bold decision to make, because audiences aren’t used to Hidden Princess in live-action anymore, and they’re not used to it in nominally-SF movies at all.

That’s what it is, though. You’ve got all the bits. You have ultra-rare critical-to-galatic-society unique-brutal-production-method High-Protein Liquid MacGuffin. You have old-school Dune-style space-opera politics-as-secret-warfare over the usual space-opera things, with betrayals! Everywhere! You have overflowing decadence, commentaries on exploitive economics, and massive disparities of wealth and power on an intergalactic scale, and set design Lynch would’ve killed to possess. And it’s a whole family of disturbing predilections and obsessions, as in, again, Dune.

You even have Eddie Redmayne channeling Sting’s shouty Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, only a little more of a lid on it.


But not much of one

Meanwhile, instead of Chosen One tropes and fantasies, you get a huge bundle of Hidden Princess – the lost royal child, the family of commoners who know actual love vs. the royality who doesn’t, all of it.

Plus you get the bundle of heterosexual schoolgirl fantasy stuff that tends to go along with that trope. So… you’re found by a guy who is part wolf and has a tragic backstory you can’t be bothered to explain coherently because it doesn’t really matter because it’s different for you because it’s you (of course) and he has wings and he’s utterly devoted to you and has a great ass – did Tina Belcher write this part?



That’s just one example. And sure, it’s silly, just like a lot of the Chosen One tropes – Harry “Lightning Scar” Potter, I’m looking in your direction. But we take those tropes for granted, and run with them because they’re so common, they’re shorthand, and given meaning depending up on how well they’re done or not done. We don’t even call them “silly,” half the time; we call them “mythic” if we don’t just gloss over them entirely.

And when push comes to shove, that’s what I think did in Jupiter Ascending with critics; familiarity with “Chosen One” tropes, and the expectations thereof, but a lack of current familiarity with “Hidden Princess” in anything like this context.

Many, many people complained that the story made no sense, or was confusing. It’s not. It lacks narrative discipline, sure, but the primary flow is deeply linear – pedantically so at times. It only fails to make linear sense if you either try to force it into the Chosen One paradigm against all the actual storytelling on screen, or if you ignore everything women characters do as unimportant. (Every reviewer who referred to Black Widow as “eye candy not doing anything much” in the first Avengers film, I’m looking in your directions.)

But also explains why it did eventually find an audience. A subset of the viewing audience did pick up on the Hidden Princess tropes, and once you get that, it makes all kinds of sense.

Particularly once you realise it’s Hidden Princess Dune. Then, suddenly, it’s pretty neat.

I should schedule a critical-viewing double-feature at the Lair: Lynch’s Dune and the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending. Seeing them in that close a proximity sounds neat to me, as a cinematic exercise. Maybe in the fall, once summer touring season is done.

actually, chrome worked out pretty well

Guess what finally showed up in the post:

I’m happy with the chrome instead of the black I’d originally wanted – I worried the chrome on the frame wouldn’t match that on the vehicle itself (because I have seen it in different colour temperatures) but yay, that worked out fine. ♥

Rehearsal today. Getting ready to head out for shows again soon. Yay!

this is just pathetic: puppy boycott, ahoy

So, as predictably as rain is wet, the Puppies have declared a boycott on Tor Books unless they get a swath of demands met, including apologies from Tor for true statements made by people who are not Tor employees. While the most famous of the white supremacists in the Puppy movement didn’t start it – this guy didthe oberpuppyführer has, of course, endorsed it. So has the Internet’s biggest Korrasami hater, and some others, too.

Anyway, the demands are ludicrous, but to summarise:

  • Tor must publicly apologize for writings by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Moshe Feder, Irene Gallo, and John Scalzi that “demonize, denigrate, slander and lie about the ‘Puppies’ campaigns”
  • Tor must “publicly reprimand those individuals for stepping over the line”
  • Tor must “publicly indicate that it is putting in place policies to prevent any recurrence of such issues.”

See, this is exactly what you get when you hang one of your own out to dry for making personal comments on their own Facebook page like Tor did. You get escalation. So I’m honestly having a hard time feeling sorry for Tor Books here; it was as predictable a piece of politics as one can imagine. And I’m not just saying that in retrospect; I said so at the time.

Now mind you, this “boycott” is pretty must sad-trumpet amateur hour for several reasons, not the least is probable inability to make visible economic impact. As Vox himself admitted, he hasn’t bought anything from Tor in years, and I doubt all that many of the others who are going to sign on to this thing have either. A few, sure, absolutely – with the hilarious side-effect that means the writers they might be able to hurt are the ones on their side.

But even were it all of them, I have to wonder – how small a pond do they think this is? As I’ve, again, written before, if you want an effective boycott, you need three things: 1) a specific and reachable goal, 2) the ability to have economic effect, and 3) a functional alternative to the thing you’re boycotting.

They don’t have these conditions met. They have maybe half a point on item one: there are stated demands. But the thing is, those demands are mostly stalking horses for greater goals, and the Puppies have already proven they will unilaterally escalate. Therefore, no one sensible should assume those demands will be stable here, either. Meet them, more will arise. It’s like Hydra.

Plus, and this should not be left unsaid, their demands are simply ludicrous. But moving on.

They have more than half a point on item three, the alternative – they have a mishmash of selfpub (which, as we know, is Real Publishing for Real Men Now, apparently) and small-press, particularly the Oberpuppyfurher’s small press. (“Shocked! Shocked to discover there might be economic motive to my political boycott!”) Plus, there are plenty of other publishing houses. So maybe a full point, but so much of their work is Campbell-reject shenanigans that I don’t think it really matters.

And most importantly, they have exactly fuck and all on item two. “Oh look, a few dozen people who hate us and don’t read what we publish are calling a boycott.” “‘K.” The whole “muzzle a whole fleet of people or we’ll ruin you” threat doesn’t have a lot of bite if you can’t pull it off. And their 10%-of-the-vote crowd simply can’t.

Sure, they managed to game the Hugo system with numbers that small, because nobody else was block voting; parties vs. no party always win. But that trick doesn’t work when everybody is throwing dollars around for things they actually want and there’s no shortlist to pack. It’s not the kind of closed environment where these tricks work.

Plus – and this is probably my favourite part of this particular fail – the political movement whose original rallying cry was “Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo today” is now boycotting Robert Heinlein’s publisher.

I guess keeping him off the Hugo ballot this year just wasn’t enough. Man, they just must hate Heinlein.

So, in conclusion: doomed.

eta: Steven Savile on Facebook claims Puppy leader Torgersen told him this was all about exposure, and wasn’t ever about the Hugo awards, back at a Writers of the Future event. And lj:yamamanama reminds us that one of the boycott organisers threatened to sue them for… boycotting that organiser’s vanity-press publisher. Hilarity!
 


This part of a series of posts on the Sad/Rabid Puppy candidate slate-based capture of the Hugo Awards, and resulting fallout.

building a sonic core

So here’s what the Second Doctor sonic screwdriver I built and carried around at Anglicon looks like on the inside. It took a few goes to come up with the best way to do things – or should I say, a functional way to do things – since everything had to fit in a 9mm diameter tube.

I took a few approaches, but eventually I went back to just using the original pen light’s switch – a spring which is compressed to close a very simple circuit, which used the metal housing itself as the return power conduit. So all the various elements ended up being shaped like short AA batteries, with power contacts at each end.

This involved occasionally making casts for new parts, to hold the active elements against each other. I made them out of epoxy glue, with forms made of various items, sometimes tape, but whatever was appropriate.

I ended up having to cut that form down a lot, after it was done, because it was too big. And I needed to keep some space from the other side of the speaker, so I built a spacer out of a wooden dowel, and glued it all together, then wrapped in heatshrink.

The rattle/buzzer is similar. Obviously it has to be longer, because the actual driver is an offset motor, the sort of thing used in phones. The big difficulty here was that there’s an actual physically-spinning offset piece, and I needed a way to allow that to be pushed down upon without jamming. The original piece was a bit of plastic on only one side of the spinning element, but that turned out to be inadequate, so I surrounded it with a wooden tube.

Plus of course in both cases the wiring had to be moved so there’d be positive on one end and negative on the other, so all these cast elements had wire grooves in them. Here’s one of those ends, nice and visible.

And so, I ended up with this totally modular thing which will let me swap out modules – even, say live – and have functionality change. I already know my next module, if I can make it work. It’ll be hard, given the tiny size, but it’ll be fun to try.

Here are two videos of the sonic in operation: Noises emphasised, Light effect emphasised. Even though it’s just an LED, I really like how the lighting works.

And stills:


Sonic, Idle


Sonic, Lit


Sonic, Light End


Screen Accurate

So, yeah! Second Doctor Sonic.

life with supervillainy

Minion Paul, watching a Pink Floyd concert ad on after Doctor Who: One has to wonder whether One Direction will be up there on stage when they’re all 60 years old.

Solarbird: No, there will be two One Directions, which is, of course, hilarious.

Minion Paul: That’s a really good point.

Solarbird: One with Zayn, one with everybody else.

Minion Paul: So I guess he’s the Roger Waters in this situation?

Solarbird: I guess so?

If you’re looking for Kaiju Meat

Here’s that direct link to the Kaiju Meat download page I mentioned Saturday night, in case you’re having trouble finding it. I have a few other free download tracks as well, mostly more fannish songs. Enjoy!

all the angles, all the con

Anglicon! The first in some time, which is why it’s Anglicon: The Regeneration. They wound down the previous version of Anglicon just in time for Doctor Who to return to the air – thus winning the Best Worst Timing Award for 2006 – and it’s taken ’till now to get it running again. Having contributed to the Kickstarter a couple of years ago, I had a membership!

First: very odd being at the Norwescon hotel for Not Norwescon, like it usually is. Lots of other non-fans around. Anglicon clocked in at around 950 members (would guess something like 2300 gate count, eyeballing it?), and at times a crowd that size in a space that large did feel a bit rattly. But despite that, this first Regeneration Anglicon was in fact larger than all previous editions, so that’s definitely a win out the gate for them.

I did indeed get to play, on Saturday night. The new-to-performance Doctor Who song seemed to go over really well. This also made my first go at performing with the giant cheap tablet I’ve talked about, and out the gate I’m very much in a WHY DIDN’T I DO THIS BEFORE?! mood. Having such a larger selection of material available was unmitigatedly awesome. Out of nowhere, I ran into Fae Wiedenhoeft, a musician I’d met when I was first starting out and hadn’t seen again since, attending her first convention; we ended up throwing selkie songs back and forth at each other, something which absolutely couldn’t’ve happened had I just brought a single gig book, or just my own material.

(Hi Fae! Loved your pieces. <3)

I have to talk about Katy Manning for a minute. She played Jo Grant, companion with the Third Doctor (Fop Doctor). As a result, yes, she’s up there – she’s nearing 70.

But you know how you’ll talk about older people being “spry” when they move around well, particularly for their age?

Katy is not spry. Katy is athletic. Katy moves like a 35 year old. Katy has a grip that will crush iron. I am totally serious here. When I went to get that autograph in the top picture, she ended up looking at that Second Doctor sonic I built, and when she handed it back to me, I grabbed it expecting a weak grip, and dropped it, because no.

She’s also a hugger, and hugged me, and Anna, and pretty much everybody, and I’m just sayin’, that’s not a Grandma Hug. I would not be surprised if she could lift me. It was kind of awesome.

Talking of sonics, I got a chance to analyse a Dalek, and the readings I got will definitely help build out the next model:


That Tickles

Pleasantly, two people recognised it for what it was – once I called it out, anyway – one each day. Everyone was surprised by how many different things it does – two kinds of noises, a blue light, and particularly the tactile feedback. I quickly figured out the trick was to hand it to someone and say “Try it” without warning them about the buzzy bit. You do that and people go, “Oh wow.”

A few people told me I should manufacture them, that I would make boatloads of money, but, yeah, no. I don’t fear much, but the BBC licensing bureau? I know when to pick my fights. (Talking of, I ran into Ernst Blofeld – he’s not Guild, obviously – but we had a short pleasant chat and he has my card. It goes without saying that I have no photograph.)

Colin Baker (the Sixth Doctor), it turns out, is an absolute hoot.

He’s been doing these for quite a while, of course, so he’s got loads of practice. But he does it well, and has interesting stories, some of which are of course quite recent. He made good fun of David Tennant (“Oooh, I’m young, I’m attractive, I’ve got pointy hair“) and got a lot of questions about his Big Finish Audio Productions work (loves working for them, is now acting across multiple ranges, will take pretty much any part they feel like offering), and the 50th Anniversary Fivish Doctors Reboot special.

I’d had no idea he’d been in their Dorian Grey series, but apparently he’s done a fair bit of work in that line, as well as another which eludes me at the moment. He’s also been keeping his hand in via small English films, and did a guest spot in “The White Iris,” the latest episode of Star Trek Continues, a fan production that’s been making waves lately. So that was all good fun.

For some reason they had a spot on Sophie Aldred while she was on stage:

It makes for a nice dramatic setup, I suppose, but it’s hard to get her face not washed out while keeping the backdrop. Since I failed, here’s the other exposure level for you.

She’s mostly been voice acting since her Ace days, and, like Colin, not just for Doctor Who-related work. But she spoke a good bit about all the problems with just trying to keep the show going in that late era, with BBC management wanting it gone, and the low-even-for-Doctor-Who budgets of the era.

She pretty much stepped away from stage/screen acting to raise her kids, and has only been taking voice-acting work for several years. But she did mention that she recently took on a screen agent again, now that the kids are growing up, so maybe we’ll see something out of her on that front soon.

Cosplay focused on the modern doctors. I did see a very good Rose, and a pretty good Sarah Jane Smith, but wasn’t in a photo-friendly environment at the time. Dalek Clara made an appearance, as did many, many modern Doctors (and two of my Shemp Doctor! I was surprised), and, of course a whole patrol of Daleks.

Plus K-9, who was, as always, a good dog.

Large copies of these photos are at my photostream like usual, of course.

There’s a fair lot of discontent over the most recent series in the modern Capaldi doctor – lots of unhappiness with the scriptwriting, and I’m not the only one who bailed on last year midway through. Thank goodness for Big Finish is all I can say to that. But I hope Peter Capaldi gets some better scripts – I’d like to see his take on things when the writing’s not such rubbish and not have to wait for years like, well, Colin Baker did.

Anna will no doubt write up her own report, and I’ll probably eta this to add a link. And here’s Anna’s report. Were you there? If so, what’d you think?

eta: I wrote up a bit of a build report on the sonic screwdriver, too. Lots of photos.

Anglicon starts today

Anybody else going to Anglicon? I’ve never been to a Doctor Who convention before. I’ve been working up a new song, I’m planning on doing it Saturday.

It’s not a concert, I’m just going as an attendee. But there’s programming space for playing, so I’m takin’ them up on it. :D

eta: I got my second doctor-style sonic screwdriver working! Video on Tumblr. It was a near thing, too, I’ve never made a sonic before. More difficult than I thought!

The fun part is that it’s all modular inside, little AA-battery-shaped-but-shorter subelements that stack on each other. I could in theory make more elements and even swap them out live and actually have that change behaviours. I probably need to do that. :D

oh, this week is so fired

We’ve lost another giant. Christopher Lee is dead.

He played so very many characters. I’m not sure where I encountered him first, just chronologically, and recognised him as who he was – Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man? Zantor, on Space: 1999? Professor Stone on The Avengers? I’ve no idea. He’s just been such a fixture for so long – sometimes goofy, sometimes brilliant, but always a force.

Dammit.

What’s your favourite Christopher Lee role? I’m going to skip the easy answer and say Lord Haggard, The Last Unicorn. It’s a fantastic voice performance, and his use of voice was one of his best talents. What about you?

co-signed, strong letter to follow

More insane puppy-related, but not just puppy-related, bullshit is going on this week.

First, let’s co-sign this commentary from Kameron Hurley about Tor Books’s decision to publicly reprimand one of their editors, Irene Gallo, for saying actual true things on her personal Facebook page about the Sad/Rabid puppies debacle. I repeat: true things, on her personal Facebook page.

But I particularly want to call out this quote:

I read once that the real cost of racism was in keeping folks affected by same from doing their work. This works for stuff like feminism and homophobia, too. Instead of doing the work we were meant to do, bigots want to keep people spinning in circles, spending all their time writing endless think pieces that refute their insistence that we can’t and have never done anything. Yes, ::yawn:: we exist, yes we can do these jobs, yes we are human, and yes we matter. It keeps us defending simple bullshit truths that – if some dude said them – would go unchallenged. And those unchallenged dudes get to go off wanking about life, saying whatever fucking thing they want, doing whatever work they want, because they don’t have to sit around defending their right to exist and speak the truth.

But everybody else is constantly challenged and bullied with the threat of erasure, and most of our work is just fucking digging out from under that bullshit.

I have raged about this so many times. When I was a software developer, I literally sidetracked my career so that I could spend quite literally another full-time job’s worth of time fighting against groups trying to make me illegal. And by illegal, I mean fucking illegal, as in direct threat to my life and freedom, by design. That was the intent and goal, so it’s not like I had any sort of goddamn options.

When I talk about spending “blood and treasure” on this, the blood comes from the street assaults, the treasure comes, in part, from this. All that lost time and money, fighting off people who not only enjoyed but actively made a living from trying to make my existence illegal.

And just as much, the people trying to make me and people like me at best into sub-citizens and at worst into dead people? They enjoyed their work, and made money at it.

Just like the Puppies enjoy their bullshit. They’re having a great time.

(See also Angela Highland in this post about “the endless cycle of having to defend oneself over and over and over and over again, to seemingly no avail.”)

Let’s also co-sign this post by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds:

If you’re an employer faced with a mob of bigots because a female employee said a true thing in public, maybe take a step back and ask how you’d have responded (if at all) if they came after one of your top dudes for saying the exact same thing. You may not even have to think very long because they probably already have.

Then ask yourself how awesome you really are now that you’ve publicly named and shamed her and basically threw her out to the Gamergate/Puppy wolves to be harassed online and in the comment sections of your own post. Ask yourself how awesome and fair-handed you are to do that.

And back to Kameron:

This shit is going to change, but it’s going to hurt.

If you’re an ally, I’d like to remind you it’s not you it’s going to hurt. You’ll come out of it just fine with your fucking career intact.

It’s us. Every time. Always us. It’s us they will come after. We pay the price.

One of the driving points in Jupiter Ascending – a post that I still, yes, intend to make – is that the most fundamental limit on resource is time – how much time you have, or do not have, in your life. The Entitled of that universe steal lives from others to gain more time for themselves. These cretins can’t achieve that, so they steal the time of others to gain enjoyment. For sport.

Sendhil Mullainathan said recently that poverty is a tax on cognition. He’s right, of course, and his assertion comes down, in no small part, to a tax on time. Computational time of the brain, existence time of life, they’re both the same thing. This, too is a tax on time, one assessed by ressentiment-driven self-proclaimed “alpha”-master wannabes, one that’s assessed intentionally, driven mostly by the pleasure of seeing others in oppression, by the love for Orwell’s aphrodisiac of power. And it is contemptible. It is anti-thought, it is anti-achievement, it is anti-creation, it is a vile sadism, and it is no accident that the most fervent supporters of torture drink from this same well.

You want to talk about where the “rage” part comes from in my music? There are a few sources. This is a big one.

eta: See also Jessica Price’s post on Tumblr. It’s worth reading.

eta2: See also Vox Day (the oberpuppyführer that Tom just threw Irene Gallo to, linked via We Hunted the Mammoth), see also Tim Hunt (as a published research scientist, may I just say to blow it out your ass, you fucking douchebag). It’s just a continuous hail of this kind of rampant horseshittery.

eta3: flake_sake’s commentary on Livejournal is of relevant interest, including the first direct appearance of Jim Butcher in this mess.

eta4: Can Tor let Ms. Gallo take back her apology yet? No? How about now?
 
 


This is one of a continuing series of posts on sexism and racism in geek culture.

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