Jan 172015

DraculaI’d never actually read this novel, so around Halloween I picked it up. I liked it, especially the late confrontation in Dracula’s home and the long race back to his castle.

The novel revels in technical intelligence and skill with tools, which makes sense because the gothic is generally about the pre-modern threatening the modern. It also identifies this modernity with women (and again, women standing as signs of what men desire and fear is a common trope). As a result, the gothic threat to industrial modernity plays out here as a foreign man stalking and violating upstanding British women.

Fine. whatever. Charlie Hebdo, etc. etc.

What caught me off guard is how overtly and directly the novel portrays the men in the story—despite their certainty that women need their protection—as completely lost. Mina more or less saves herself and all of London by working through them. Yet the men seem to believe—to actually believe—that she’s desperately in need of their help. But their help is comically, stupidly sexist: despite the fact that she’s the only one who ever figures anything out, [note]But what about Van Helsing? Well, he doesn’t figure things out so much as provide the knowledge necessary to establish the situation and advance the plot. In archetypal terms (ack! lol), he’s the magician rather than the hero.[/note] they keep locking her in her room to save her from the horrific details of the situation and then when they fuck up and make things worse, they let her out, tell her how bad things have gotten, and she fixes everything and gets them going again. It’s exhausting.

The final race to the castle under threat of sunset, which is narrated from a distance and at a breakneck pace, pulls off something of a miracle by allowing these foolish men to kill Dracula at the last moment and in a satisfying, redeeming way. My uninformed, out-of-context read is that Stoker identifies with Mina, is disappointed by the men around him and that the final scene (and not the portrait of Mina) is the novel’s wish: it imagines a world where the lame men of modern London get it together and act heroically, proving themselves dashingly worthy of the Minas who love them.

Dec 062014

ONly Lovers Left AliveTwo hours of being cool and solitary, artistic and messy. I could watch Tilda Swinton read for hours. Really great beautiful night photography too.

The final scene is lit like a Hollywood movie and has a neon moon. It’s not the “diamond moon that makes music like a gong” because that’s their moon, the night people’s, not ours.

Throughout, the images rest upon the strong back of the soundtrack which fuses Detroit rock–noise and North African–lutes to create a near-perfect mood-piece.

Dec 062014

Dracula UntoldAn awkward but not terrible movie that, like Maleficent, sets out to humanize an iconic villain. Dracula here is both a family man and a Leader®. In practical terms this means that he is the kind of guy who protects his wife and son by defeating the entire Turkish army through force of will and scrappiness. It also means that after defeating the devil himself he chooses to become a minion of evil because his dying wife is worried about their kid and wants him to become a vampire so that he can make sure he is ok.

But whatever. It was the weeks leading up to Halloween. I was teaching gothic fiction to my students in an 18th and 19th century novel class. And the mood was right. Right enough to push me to read a couple monster books in preparation for the season. So all’s good.

Nov 152014

Blizzard advertised and pushed their new expansion for nearly a year. Blog posts, videos series about backstory, a major pre-launch patch that phased in partial changes to ease the transition. Then, launch day arrives, servers bit the dust, and those that remained standing had entrance queues six thousand people (and several hours) long.

A day and a half after launch, my brother still hadn’t been able to sign on to play his mains. So he, Pink and I decided to play toons from years ago that were sitting on near empty servers.

Two days late, a first night in Draenor.

Two days late, a first night in Draenor.

It was a fun night, but also weird to play the new content for the first time on old, forgotten toons.

So what was up with Blizzard? Well for now looks like a denial of service attack pushed Blizzard’s woefully insufficient hardware set-up over the edge. And when things held together long enough for people to actually get in the game, the introductory storyline piled them all in only a few zones, which caused the servers to crash.

Tech’s easy to get wrong I guess…