Myriad Universes: Hearts and Minds Part 4: Masters of War

So I'll admit we start with something that does not entirely inspire confidence: Dax and Bashir in handcuffs being escorted to a prison cell by Romulans, with Koleth being processed separately. As Dax argues with the Romuan guards, Doctor Bashir directs her attention to the window, where they can see the Arvas touching down just outside. On Deep Space 9, Maura is making small talk with her new clientele when Kira and a security detachment come in to escort her to the brig, where Commander Sisko is waiting for her. The Commander politely demands Maura tell him what she's smuggling through his station, motioning in her general direction with a Romulan disruptor pistol. Maura claims she's smuggling arms to rebels in the Gamma Quadrant, but refuses to disclose the Arvas' destination. Sisko and Kira don't buy it, and Kira snaps and grabs Maura by the nape of the neck. Commander Sisko calms her down, but informs Maura that since Odo is on the Arvas, he'll hold her personally responsible should anything happen to him and holds her in the brig until she's willing to talk.

In The Abyss, Dax and Bashir are called to ...

Book Launch: The Last War in Albion Volume 1

Eruditorum Press is pleased to announce that, at long last, the first volume of The Last War in Albion, Phil Sandifer's epic critical history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, is available for purchase. Covering the period from Morrison's earliest professional sales in 1978 to just before the publication of Watchmen #1 in 1986, the book charts the beginnings of two of the most fascinating careers in the history of comics. The book features extensive looks at Swamp Thing, V For Vendetta, Marvelman, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Captain Britain, and more, including the first detailed study of Morrison's early superhero strip Captain Clyde since 1985. 

The book is available in both print and digital editions at the following locations.

Print: US ($22.99), UK (£18.99)

Digital: US Kindle ($4.99), UK Kindle (£4.99), Other E-Readers ($4.99) 

Please note that the digital editions, for a bunch of very stupid and boring reasons, do not have illustrations. They do, however, have a link at the end of the book where you can download a version with illustrations. We apologize for this profoundly stupid inconvenience, but felt that it was preferable to ...

Build High for Happiness 4: Vers Une Architecture (1923)

new forms of labyrinths made possible by modern techniques of construction

The brutalist architecture that High-Rise does not critique has many fathers (and essentially no mothers), but its Anthony Royal figure is no doubt Le Corbusier, the pseudonym of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, whose 1923 manifesto Vers Une Architecture (first published in English as Towards a New Architecture, but these days called simply Toward an Architecture) laid out the principles of a new, sleek modernist style, and whose Unité d'Habitation design, used as the blueprint for several 1950s housing projects, defined the specifically brutalist style with its use of rough (or, in French, brut) concrete.

As an architect, Le Corbusier is a giant. Whatever crimes may be laid at the feet of the movement he spawned (and there are many), his actual buildings were iconoclastic and compelling, and remain striking to this day. But it is in many ways as a polemicist that he really shines. Modernism produced no shortage of manifestos, but any list of the great ones that excludes Vers Une Architecture is simply off its head. It is a work of masterful provocation, full of taunting and grandiose slogans. The most famous of these, and thus, given the ...

Father's Day Commentary

Jack and I are pleased to bring you our commentary for Father's Day. Be warned, this may be basically peak off-topic. I may need to change our brand after this. Still, if Jack and I talking about whatever amuses you, here's some of it.

God I suck at marketing.

Listen here.

Permanent Saturday: What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass

With deepest apologies to Chris Stangl, Permanent Saturday is a semiregular critical exploration of Jim Davis' comic strips Garfield and U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm.

When we think of Garfield, we think of the mundane everyday. And when we think of the mundane everyday, we think of banal modern life. Indeed, this blog project's forebear made a regular point of reading the strip as a brilliantly subversive example of effectively marketing ennui and despair: A savvy salesman hocking commiseration at the hopelessness of day-to-day punchclock life in late-stage capitalism with no visible way out. Nihilism sold with a smile. That and a buck-fifty will get you a cup of coffee.

There is probably some truth in that. Garfield is, as we have established, a strip about boredom and banality, and it likely would not be the marketing juggernaut it is (or perhaps was? While still obviously a beloved and ubiquitous franchise, it does not to me seem that it's quite in the forefront to the degree it's been at times in the past. Not, of course, that past, present and future distinctions mean all that much to us in our world here) if people didn't ...

Build High for Happiness 3: Paradise Towers (1987)

outrage at the fact that anyone’s life can be so pathetically limited

Going into directing High-Rise, which would see him working with the highest budget of his career, Ben Wheatley directed a pair of episodes of Doctor Who on the logic that working fast and on the tight budget of television would be, as he put it, “like a boot camp” that would leave him “fighting fit to go into High-Rise.” But the choice of Doctor Who was fitting in another regard, in that one of the closest existing things to an adaptation of High-Rise prior to the Wheatley-Jump film was the 1987 Doctor Who serial Paradise Towers.

Like Wheatley’s two episodes, which served as the first two stories for Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of Doctor Who and as the first two stories for newly installed executive producer Brian Minchin, Paradise Towers was one of the opening stories for both Sylvester McCoy’s iteration of the character and script editor (at the time essentially one of two people filling the role now filled by the executive producers) Andrew Cartmel. And indeed, Wheatley watched Paradise Towers in preparation for High-Rise, although his conclusion was that it “more like an amalgam of A ...

The Lost

There’s something grimly and hilariously inevitable about Class ending with the Weeping Angels. I mean, it’s not as though “The Weeping Angels try to invade Earth” is a particularly gripping premise in and of itself, but after a fourth episode of the Shadow Kin it’s more than slightly galling to see the show offer such a straightforwardly superior alternative, as though it wants to remind us one more time on the way out that this could have been a much more interesting show than it was.

Instead we get yet another case of the show being pretty good with a clear attitude of “will this do?” to it. The big bad returns. There are some carefully selected secondary character deaths - enough to flag “it’s the season finale and things are serious,” not enough to actually require that we grapple with it on a level other than having Ram or Tanya shout “my dad”/”my mom” in suitably distraught tones a few times. The trigger on the MacGuffin gets pulled, revelations are made about next season, and we end with a cliffhanger instead of a narrative resolution.

It’s not that there aren’t good bits. On the whole I quite ...

Build High for Happiness 2: High Rise (1975)

ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures

As the precise center of the hypercube, Ballard’s novel is even more tightly bound into 1975 than the Wheatley-Jump film. Lacking the externalizing vantage point of futurity, Ballard cannot look at what the brutalist tower blocks became, and is forced instead to extrapolate out from what they are. Which is, of course, Ballard’s basic job description. He’s a science fiction writer by trade. His first four novels imagined apocalyptic scenarios, starting with The Wind From Nowhere, in which the world is destroyed by constant hurricane-force winds, and subsequently The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World, which feature flood, drought, and weird crystalline growths appearing on everything. But starting with his alarmingly experimental 1970 novel The Atrocity Exhibition, a series of reveries in which human bodies, mediated culture, and material carnage of the 1960s blend together into one of the most unsettling psychic landscapes of the 1970s (no mean feat given the decade), his career took a different track.

This resulted in a series of three books of which High-Rise was the culmination. These novels were still science fiction, but of an unusual sort in which there are ...

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