Hello again. Where are we now, January 1996? Best we start wrapping this up, I suppose.
In a sense I never left, of course. Let’s see. Summer of 1995 was the first year of CTY, the big nerd camp that was the defining social framework of late middle school/early high school for me. Place those three weeks between Civilization and Chrono Trigger. I was still playing video games, but favored the PC - I got a Playstation around the time of Final Fantasy VII, and would get a Nintendo 64 for Christmas at the end of 1996, in my first year of high school, but neither captivated me. I was starting to intellectually specialize - at CTY I’d taken what was basically a college-level intro comp course, and was beginning to think of myself as, if not “a writer,” at least “a guy who could write.” This coincided with the regression of my ability in math, previously my best subject, as the handwriting requirements of algebra and ADD-taxing nature of drilling a problem over and over again made the subject stop favoring me. Indeed, the best paper I wrote at CTY was a descriptive essay about how much I’d ...
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When I was waxing rhapsodically about Mr. Robot a few weeks ago I praised it for being a show that didn’t feel done revealing its range. By that standard at least, Class is a rousing success. The downside of this is that it also doesn’t quite feel like it knows what it wants to be, but that’s not inherently a bad thing for a show about teenagers. It’s smart and full of ideas, at least, and if these first two episodes don’t contain any moments of outright genius they at least clearly belong to a show that could deliver some.
It’s also a show that’s acutely aware of the expectations that are going to be put on it. Its opening gag is a Bechdel test joke, it namechecks Buffy with aplomb, it’s got the obligatory Peter Capaldi sequences, it’s given ostentatious levels of thought to its notions of diversity, and there’s almost a conscious sense of “OK, what’s the exact halfway point between Torchwood and The Sarah ...
So, I disappeared into that k-hole (does that make me sound old yet) that is Twin Peaks for awhile and apparently that stopped my writing full stop. Things I have watched since we last talked, you can just imagine Twin Peaks is gettting watched in the background the majority of the time:
Meaning, as distinct from information, is an entirely human creation. It does not exist ‘out there’. It is an emergent property of human existence, of animals which have consciousness, which is itself a system of reflections of reflections. The essence of conscious human awareness is the experience of looking at something or someone, and knowing that you are looking at them, and thus looking at your own looking. It is the awareness of a hall of mirrors inside your head. And then one becomes aware of the returned look of the other, and the implied hall of mirrors inside their heads. And then one imagines their mirrors mirroring your mirrors. Their infinite regression amplifies your own. And it is this multiplicity of reflections, and of reflections of reflections, that ignites the quest for meaning.
There is something in the very act of looking that entails or demands interpretation. The eye delegates a great deal of the task of looking and seeing to areas far further back inside the head. The interpretation of this inherently incomprehensible chaos of multiplying reflections is going to bring about an attempt at finding meaning, or at least a feeling that meaning must be possible, and ...
Rough week. Let's get started.
Black Panther #7
Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn't actually think that ending works, does he? I mean, everything else is the sort of thing he usually does, which is to say use an issue to advance each of his plotlines a few pages with no real thought to the issue's overall cohesion and often minimal thought to whether the events depicted form a satisfying chunk of story in their own right, but as I've been saying for, well, seven issues now, that's legitimately hard stuff that I'm willing to give him time to work out. But come on. Other than that, no new problems here and no new merits either.
Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #11
Another oddly organized issue - the cut away to Black Cat for the final cliffhanger scene is jarring and ends up feeling underweight just by dint of the lack of scene length and the fact that we skipped over Bailey actually getting captured. And it's not like the previous scene ends on a particularly good end-of-storyline-for-the-issue note either. As always some lovely bits in the middle, but the overall messiness detracts.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #13 ...
Major Kira is holding down the fort in the Ops office, having a heated argument with a woman who demands she be allowed to open an establishment on the Promenade, even though there are no vacancies. It's Maura, but if you didn't read “Requiem” you wouldn't know that. Just as things are about to get ugly, Jadzia Dax pages the Major to tell her they have a little situation she might want to take a look at. The situation in question is a fleet of Klingon warships, who have Deep Space 9 surrounded.
Kira orders Commander Sisko to be brought up to Ops at once, forcing Ben to give Jake and his baseball game yet another rain check. While still in his baseball uniform, Sisko meets with Captain Kol, the commander of the fleet's flasghip, the 'Avwi. As a staunch ally of the Federation, Kol offers his support and protection to Deep Space 9, which he claims will be the most strategic location in the forthcoming war with the Cardassian Empire. This takes Sisko somewhat by surprise, as he had been unaware there was a war between the Klingons and the Cardassians. Kol recaps the events ...
We're pleased to announce a new episode of Pex Lives. The description follows:
Look! Just when you thought we were down and out, we leap off the canvas and throw a few more hits.
We spend our first half catching up, then have an extended chat about Kevin's hero Mike Love of the Beach Boys before dropping into ever cheerful Current Events. After that, we talk about a western from 1951 called the Furies and then just a little sprinkling of your Doctor Who content with the topical Curse of Peladon.
Reflecting on the fact that his last book was going to turn out to be the relatively slender and small-scale The Quarry, Iain Banks made the observation that “the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel.” It’s difficult to imagine he didn’t mean Excession. Like The State of the Art before it, Excession is a novel about pushing the premise of the Culture to a breaking point. But where The State of the Art picked an approach to this that was fundamentally a dead end, Excession comes up with one that’s thrilling in its boundless possibilities. Ironically, it basically does this by taking the premise of The State of the Art and turning it on its ear. Where that novella asked “what if the Culture met us,” Excession asks “what if the Culture met a race even more advanced than itself?”
This leads to Excession’s - and arguably the Culture’s - most enduring contribution to the broader culture, namely the phrase Outside Context Problem. The passage where Banks describes this is very possibly the most-quoted paragraph of his career, and with obvious reason:
The usual example given to illustrate ...