Wednesday, January 16, 2013

you are the silence in between what I thought and what I said

And another of the clip post variety--I'm building up far too many links and just leaving the tabs open until I get around to mentioning them here. This really needs to stop.

First up is a treat for horror fans--if you're a fan of the genre as a whole, you'll understand the deep frustration involved in feeling like there's been no really good horror films released in a while, just tepid, insipid remakes or sequels, neither doing the originals justice. This may help with that--it's a list of twenty-five under-appreciated films, with various takes on horror as a theme. Some are amusing, some are gory, some are bizarre, a few are outright bleak and nihilistic--but I guarantee you'll find something you'll treasure on that list, if you give them a chance.

My personal recommendations:
  • Darkness: Evocative, subtle, unnerving, and it works on more than one level--the over-arching occult trope playing well into the concept of the haunted house, the haunted family, and everyday standard familial disintegration.
  • The Woods: Gorgeously filmed period piece about coming of age, with all its myriad horrors--with, of course, grace notes of insanity, haunting, paranoia and the darkness at the heart of old forests.
  • $la$herS: Don't let the bargain-basement, reality-TV show concept put you off. While everything about this is low-budget, and there's not one actor you'll recognize, start to finish, the entire film is so damned earnest--and well-done--you really won't care. Add the further unsettling realization that at this point, we're really not far from the future posited in this 2001 film.
  • Pontypool: Slow-paced to the point of causing shivers on its own, when this little gem picks up, it picks UP--right into a wall of razorblades and hooks. While that description may seem to imply massive gore, there's really not much; the main strength of this is in its bizarre, surreal linking theme: language, after all, is the virus passed over the airwaves.
While we're on the horror kick, Silent Hill as a concept has now spawned multiple games, mini-games within those games, two feature films, and a host of soundtracks in full release (as well as numerous limited editions). For some reason, one of the most haunting monsters from Silent Hill never had her own action figure...until now.

Personally, I think her head looks too much like a puppy whose features have been rather thoroughly erased, but she's excellently done. Even with the strange puppy symbolism, she remains evocative, disturbing, and compelling.

And still creepy.

(For anyone who's wondering still, this is why the nurses are creepy. This might also help, as well as one of the best fan tributes from the Anime Boston convention in 2007. Note that all of those reference horror games, along with the original action figure mention, but hey, we were talking about horror beforehand anyway.)

Jumping from horror to media in general, have a ten-year retrospective of Firefly. You're welcome.

Oh, so she really is a fake geek girl. Yeah, fine, I can deal with that. But nobody else gets a pass using that term.

Recently, Mr. Allen and I went through an inordinately long Let's Play series for something called "Deadly Premonition" (it starts here if anyone's interested, but I'll warn you now: it goes on for forty-sevenparts, most clocking in at either half an hour or a full hour in length), by a new LPer (to us, anyway) who goes by "supergreatfriend". Mostly, it's a long, rambling, Japanese video game that is oddly paying tribute to Twin Peaks (Twin Peaks having found even greater popularity in Japan than in the US). If you're unclear on the concept of the Let's Play video trope, think of it as watching a friend play video games. You're not actually playing, but you can get enjoyment out of watching someone else play. (Sometimes even if they play badly, and yes, while that video makes me giggle, it also comes with a HEAVY language warning.)

After all that, though, I found I'd actually developed some mild interest in the game, as bizarre as it was, so I went looking for more information. The first thing I tracked down was also the most hysterical, so I am now sharing that review with you, because it's just too funny not to spread around.

Some particularly beautiful lines from that review:
  • "The game starts off simple enough: you step into the shoes of FBI Special Agent Francis York, an astute and intelligent man who chooses to only investigate homicides involving red plant seeds. Oh yeah, and he can also tell the future by looking into a cup of coffee. And he talks to invisible, possibly imaginary characters nobody else can see. And he eats raw potatoes, sleeps on a mattress in the middle of a cemetery, and stores giant fish inside his suit. Let me take this opportunity to point out I am not making any of this up."
  • "Like any responsible FBI Agent concerned with tree-related justice, Agent York approaches the small town around midnight, driving his muscle car through pouring rain while simultaneously talking on his cellphone, listening to music, looking at a laptop, and smoking a cigarette."
  • "A definite lowlight of 'Deadly Premonition', the combat missions require you to walk through countless identical hallways killing countless identical zombies while picking up valuable items such as 'country ham' and 'sugar donuts'. These enemies attack you by either walking backwards and sticking their hand in your mouth, or walking forwards and hugging you until you decide to die."
  • "During the murder investigation (and lack thereof), you'll find yourself in very odd situations punctuated by Agent York's equally odd demeanor. This is where the game absolutely shines; the surreal interaction between York and the townsfolk (as well as the interaction between York and himself) can only be described as a work of art. In a town where crimes can be solved by shooting bird nests with shotguns, trees drop severed hands that can be used as doorknobs, and countless giant dogs fall out of the sky at midnight, the choice to behave illogically is simply...logical." 
Ah, yes, Japan. You either understand American culture in totally realistic ways (making me scared of my country), or you miss understanding American culture in a way that's actually breathtakingly surreal (making me scared of Japan, but in awe of your cognitive skills). Never change.

In other news--I don't watch a lot of Jim Sterling's output, mainly because he makes my elitist snobbery look like Rebecca-of-Sunnybrook-Farm-level philanthropy. On occasion, this is a shame, because every once in a while, something rolls across my dash like this, which is a precise diatribe against the sort of gamers who complain about the OTHER sort of gamers, when these additions to "their" games do not change their gameplay in the least.

Towards the end, he also makes a very subtle and brief jibe towards people who fear gay marriage because it will somehow impact their "real" which I have to say, first, brilliant, Mr. Sterling, and second, if people protesting this are really so easily swayed from their heterosexuality that they would be influenced by hearing about someone else's marriage...well, maybe they shouldn't be married, honestly. Maybe they should just stay at home wrapped in a blanket with a warm bottle of milk nearby.


I'm thinking this is getting officially longish, so let me wrap up with a technological advance first heard on Gizmodo. This is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. Let me explain the precise advance.

A group of scientists a couple of years ago started trying to teach a computer basic comprehension skills by giving it full access to Google Image Search and YouTube. Essentially, what they wanted was a computer who could be told one basic concept--"apple", say--and would access images and videos until it came across a representative fruit. It might not be an apple, precisely--it might be a pear, or a coconut cracked in half on a beach, or seven frantic little sausages wondering how to fix their submarine--but there would be some relationship between "fruit" and "consumable food".

What they got wasn't exactly that, but it was even more amusing. Their computer, when fed any basic concept, would find something reasonably approximating, register the find...then go off and watch Youtube videos of cats.

Totally not kidding. That's what happened.

So, another group of scientists started thinking. If we can teach a computer to associate one thing with another approximate thing...what if we remove the middleman? This is what they did: they created a database comprised of literally millions of media slices--some just various colors all the way up to microfragments of an original moving image. Then they set up a group of experiments. This was their result.

So why is this so cool? Think about the possibilities. In the future, I could plug into one of these machines, and think at the receiver. The receiver would access its database and translate what I sent into understandable data. That data would then be re-translated to a display screen where an image that was somewhat close, but not exact, would display.

Oh, sure, it's not that realistic now, you say, but wait. Wait until someone gets the bright idea to film their nightmares, and then make horror films based on them. This will change the WORLD.

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