Month: November 2013

Kickstarter Spotlight: “Nineteen” by SpellBlast, a Dark Tower album

Kickstarter Spotlight: “Nineteen” by SpellBlast, a Dark Tower album

One of my all-time favorite authors is Stephen King. I think it’s fair to say that I grew up reading his books.

At some point as a teenager, I was given the first Dark Tower book: “The Gunslinger”. While initially annoyed at the rather small book, it lead me deeper into the Stephen King universe of books.

The Dark Tower may be one of my favorite series of books as well; the setting, the characters and pervasive sense of everything being connected really resonated with me.

All that said, I was just browsing Kickstarter earlier, and stumbled upon this Kickstarter: “Nineteen” by SpellBlast. I had not heard of SpellBlast before, but decided to check them out on Youtube. The band’s sound is right up my alley, and the idea of metal music based on The Dark Tower was just too tempting to let go.

Give the band a listen, especially if you’re a fan of The Dark Tower.

All I can say apart from that is, I hope they reach their Kickstarter – and check out that gorgeous artwork by Roberta Cavalleri!

Posted by Barl0we in Music, 0 comments
Introspective: Nerd Culture and exclusivity/inclusivity

Introspective: Nerd Culture and exclusivity/inclusivity

One of the ways I am a nerd is being a gamer. A behavioural pattern that I have noticed about gamers – but also from non-gamer nerds in general – is a tendency to be exclusive as to who we accept as being “real” nerds.

The phenomenon commonly derives from “fake gamer girls” – as seen on Youtube, with nerdy vlogs and “Let’s Play” videos with prominent facecams. This phenomenon is not reserved for these kind of people, however. There is a tendency to stereotype nerds not of one’s own persuasion – the “Bro” gamer who plays sports games or Call of Duty, for instance. It seems to me that so much of nerd-on-nerd interactions online seem to revolve around criticizing others. Are you a “dirty console peasant”, or a “PC Master Race”? Star Trek VS. Star Wars? Xbox VS Playstation?

This is not to say that there is not amiable bantering between nerds, because there is. There are also reasonable people who realize that instead of limiting ourselves to just one thing like the Xbox or the Playstation, to Star Trek AND Star Wars, AND Firefly, and so on. These coexist with a constant war between rivalling factions of nerds.

What amazes me about this phenomenon is simply this:

When I grew up as a nerdy kid, I would have loved to have more friends who were into the same kind of nerdy stuff I was into. I would have even settled for being left alone. That, however, was not the case – I got to be bullied for years for being a nerd (but that’s a sob story that you don’t need to hear). I love the chance to either be one of the Ten Thousand, or getting the chance to let someone else be one of the Ten Thousand.

My nerdy friends and I clung together, held on to dear life, creating our own social circle apart from the general social interactions at school. We were ostracized, bullied and on lucky days, forgotten. Today, people are taking part in things that in bygone days (and not so far bygone, either) were reserved for those odd reclusive creatures that we nerds were. Chatting on the internet, playing games, obsessing about nerdy shows.

As an anecdote on that, one of my friends from my undergraduate class (back when I was an undergrad) was by no means a nerd (and would not identify herself as one), but had played Pokémon pretty extensively as a kid.

We should also take note that this tendency to exclude other people from our nerdy circle provides us with a brilliant example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Oh, is that person a vlogger or  female let’s player who uses facecam? “No True Nerd” invoked.

A great example of nerds being exclusive is this clip from “The Big Bang Theory”, in which the main cast ruthlessly mocks Penny’s boyfriend Zack for not being as smart as them.

Of course, the situation is played for laughs – Zack is portrayed as being pretty dumb, but genuinely wanting to talk to Leonard, Sheldon and the others about something they find interesting.

If I recall correctly, the episode does end with the main male cast learning a lesson about bullying, but to me it typifies the essential exclusive nerd when faced with someone who does not fit their worldview of what a nerd is, or should be.

Chris Hardwick (famously known as “The Nerdist”) said it well in his stand-up special, “Mandroid“:

When I see some young kid, like some hipster, wearing his Atari t-shirt when he was too young to have owned an Atari gaming system, I just wanna grab him and be like “Hey, listen to me, Kyle, or whatever the fuck your name is”…I just wanna grab him by that beard, just grab him and be like “When you see me walking down the street, you better salute me, because I suffered so you could be FREE!”

That bit is, of course, tremendously tongue-in-cheek. There is a not-insignificant amount of truth to the bit as well, though. But just because we were bullied as kids for being nerds, doesn’t grant us a free pass to bully others who want to join us in nerding out about stuff.

I am sure I heard a Nerdist podcast recently in which Chris and his guest (who I, unfortunately, have forgotten who is) discuss the issue of nerds being exclusive about who they accept as fellow nerds. I am fairly sure Chris said something along the lines of:

“Maybe that is the only way they know of being nerdy”

That is something I don’t think many nerds think of when they deride those “No True Nerds” – maybe someone wants to be part of the nerd subculture, and does not yet know how to play the internet version of the Game of Thrones. Maybe those of us who have always been nerds should be more accepting of people who do not fit the nerd stereotype, but still love nerdy things.

One of the greatest ambassadors of nerd culture has to be Wil Wheaton. Earlier this year at the Calgary Expo, Wil was asked to explain to a con-goers newborn daughter why being a nerd is awesome. The entire video in that link is worth the watch, but one of the things that stood out the most to me was this:

So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be … and it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes you a nerd. The defining characteristic of [being a nerd] is that we love things

That’s why being a nerd is awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing that you can’t love. Don’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t love that, that’s for boys … you find the things that you love, and you love them the most that you can.

 

 

Posted by Barl0we in Nerd Culture, 0 comments
My thoughts on the Carrie remake

My thoughts on the Carrie remake

Carrie might have been one of the first Stephen King books I ever read – as I look over at my bookshelf, I see the tattered remains of one of the first paperback King books I ever got.

I have loved the story since the first time I read it.

Let me just preface the rest of this post with a SPOILER WARNING as I’ll be discussing plot elements – even though it may be silly to warn against spoilers of the 2013 remake of the 1976 movie version of the 1974 book.

There are several things I really liked about the Carrie remake, and some things I were not wild about. Some of these count for the original movie version of Carrie, but I’ll get to that.

The Good Stuff™:

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  • Transporting the story from the 70’s to the present:

I thought Kimberly Pierce (the director) did a good job on updating the story to the present. The presence of cell phones is done remarkably well – from the humiliation of Carrie to the regular usage between roles such as Sue Snell, Tommy Ross and Chris Hargensen. The use of modern technology (such as computers and cell phones) often feels hacky and misplaced to me in movies. This movie goes beyond that

  • The acting

Everyone from Portia Doubleday as the despicable Chris Hargensen, to Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin and, of course, Julianne Moore and Chlöe Grace Moretz as Margaret and Carrie White are great.

Julianne Moore is intimidating in her role as Margaret White. The religious fervor she portrays is frightening, and especially the scenes in which she practically looms over Carrie, shrouded in shadows,were good.

Chlöe Grace Moretz is great in the role of Carrie. Much of her performance is non-verbal – from trying to shrink into herself to hide from her high school peers, to the pained expressions. fear and ultimately deadly wrath. Her performance showed some of that poor, doomed Carrie that I sympathized with in the book. Her short time in the light at the prom with Tommy Ross is as beautiful as it is short-lived and doomed.

Portia Doubleday is every bit as despicable as the cruel Chris Hargensen as  you’d want. While the role might not have allowed her the same kind of infamy as other villainous roles (such as Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon, or Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy), the cruel and petty current-day Chris Hargensen feels true to the story to me.

  • The use of differently aged actresses

While it is not immediately noticeable that some of the mean girls in Carrie’s life are portrayed by adult actresses, the effect comes off well. Chlöe Grace Moretz is nine years younger than Portia Doubleday, which definetely helps the feeling that Carrie is a younger, more innocent girl than her peers. According to IMDB, several of the other actresses were a good few years older than Chlöe. While none of them look out of place, Carrie is lent an even more youthful appearance in comparison to the other girls.

  • Actresses’ performance

While there are certainly men in the story, they are as secondary to the story as they were in the book. Tommy Ross reluctantly agrees to escort Carrie to the prom, and is kind to her as well – in jock-but-nice-person kind of way. Morton is as comically buffoonish and unable to deal with matters of, shall we say, feminine hygiene, as he is in the book. Billy Nolan is as unlikable as ever.

 

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The Bad Stuff™

While there are certainly things I liked about the Carrie remake, there are a few things I am not completely happy with either.

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  • “Beautification” of Carrie and Margaret White

Unless my memory of the book has completely failed me, neither Margaret nor Carrie are really “pretty” people. Margaret in particular could have been given uglier clothes, and maybe even more of a “reverse make over”.

This is, of course, not completely true of Carrie in the book – in which she is given the movie-style makeover in which letting loose her hair and giving her proper-fitting clothing makes her kind of pretty.

The relentless bullying of Carrie seems even more pointless, given that Chlöe is, well…Pretty. Her awkwardness is pretty much portrayed by her body language, clothing and the fact that she is much paler than the other girls (especially in the first few scenes).

This, however, is important to note that the original movie also did wrong. Sissy Spacek, while great in the role, was not really close to the description of Carrie in the book. Piper Laurie came closer to how I’d expect Margaret White to look, but even she was not as true to the physical nature of the character as I’d hoped.

  • Not enough character progression / screen time

The only real reference to Carrie’s religous side (outside of the scenes in the White household) is a single quote about how she “goes around telling the other girls they’re going to hell”. This is part of the kind of larger problem with Carrie’s character progression – I feel like even a short montage at the beginning of the movie showing some of the ways in which Carrie was akward, and the constant bullying from a young age would have lent more credibility to the cruelty of Chris Hargensen and the other girls when they bully Carrie. It would also give more credibility to Carrie snapping at the prom – we are given a woefully short glimpse into the life (and inner life) of Carrie White.

The Chris Hargensen / Billy Nolan relationship also received very little screen time in the remake of Carrie. In fact, Billy Nolan barely has any screen time at all – which is a pity, as his nature never really makes it to the front. The subplot of Chris and Nolan’s less-than-perfect relationship is also more or less completely left out, which leaves the characters a little less developed than I’d hoped for.

While it has been a while since I saw the original movie version of Carrie, I am fairly sure that that was also guilty of at least not showing too much of Carrie’s troubled childhood.

  • The use of cell phones in the movie

Unfortunately, while cell phones are used in believable ways during the movie, there is one way they are used less than perfectly. At the night of the prom, not-so-long before Chris Hargenson’s final trick on Carrie happens, Chris texts Sue “Your girl looks good. Not much longer” (or something to that effect). Instead of warning Tommy (who, in a previous scene is shown to have his cell phone with him), or trying to reach out to anyone else via phone, goes to the school in person. I know that it is probably implied that she tries (and fails) to reach anyone, I feel like just having a few seconds shown of Sue not being able to reach Tommy or anyone else of their friends would have made the use of cell phones in the movie more believable.

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The Verdict™

All in all, I feel like the pros of this movie outweigh the cons – if you want a decent excuse to eat popcorn, and see a movie in which bullies are shown getting to pay for their cruelty. If you go into this movie expecting it to reinvent the wheel vis a vis horror movies, you are going to be disappointed.

I don’t know if I wasn’t scared at any point in the movie because I know the story, or because it wasn’t really intended to be scary. Many of Stephen King’s stories (at least in book form) are much more compelling to me because of the character work and interaction than because of the horror elements.

The gore is not cranked up to 11 in the same way as the recent remake of Evil Dead cranked it up, but the visual effects were decent, and most of all I enjoyed Chlöe Grace Moretz’ performance.

If you’re not impressed with the amount of horror movies out this autumn, I feel like you should give the remake of Carrie a chance – but don’t expect it to be true to the original movie, and not completely true to the book, either. There are a few key differences between the book, orginal film, and this.

Just try to think of it as being more an adaptation of the book than an adaptation of the original movie.

 

 

Posted by Barl0we in Movies, 0 comments