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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Queue And Ayyy

It's that time, folks. Real life and the global situation got saturated with nastiness and bullshit, so I decided to avoid all of that nonsense by doing a blog with topics provided by you, my favourite audience.

Presented in order, names removed to protect the innocent.

Boobs - It's a perennial favourite. And in fairness I did ask for it. Pretty much. Yes, very good.

What is the best or your favourite movie ending of all time? GO! - So there's a lot of good choices for this one, including the real ending of Blade Runner that doesn't answer any questions, and Arrival's amazing ending that I can't discuss with you because it's big old spoilers. If I had to pick but one? It would be Donnie Darko; a gut punch of an ending that leaves you reflecting on what you just watched, and wondering if this was really how it should have been.

Famous people you have met. - Like MET met...I dunno. Not many. Like I guess Bear Grylls counts, he came into the library once and was just super-chill and down to earth. Dave Grohl ran into me at Reading 2000 and didn't have time to stop. And I used to live next to Meridian Dave, the news reporter.

And how can this be?For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!

Theresa May is doing a great job. She seems to have everything in hand and has the best interests of the country at heart. Discuss. - We're on a roller coaster. The track ahead is broken as fuck and not all of us are strapped in. Theresa May is sat in the booth, texting her mates to borrow money and try and get someone to cover her shift, while the rest of us hurtle into oblivion. She's asleep at the fucking wheel, and you can't trust the bunch of charlies that she calls a party or a cabinet to be of any use either.

Do you feel like Literature and it's inherent escapism can have a damaging effect on young People? (A watered down dissertation question.) - Fuuuck okay. So I think that too much escapism can be harmful - to everyone, not just young people, I mean we all know someone that spends every free moment drinking and partying. But I also think that NO escapism can be harmful, because this world is filled with shitty things to deal with. I think that as long as your way for getting by doesn't stop you getting by, it's probably okay. Moderation in all things - including moderation. So, yes, I think it can have a damaging effect, but probably less than just...being alive in this day and age. And that's even assuming I mean this society, which is less harmful than a great many.

Victor's Secret - Like Victoria's Secret but for dudes? Sure, suits me. I mean - suits me if it also takes on board the incredible bevy of problems I have with the clothing industry in general and the lingerie industry in specific. (Almost all of them involve pockets and sizes.)

Stargate sg-1 - This was great. Proper saturday-evening style watching. A bit cheesy, super-nineties, with a fantastic cast. I find it hard to watch too many episodes of ANYTHING in a row, as I begin to notice the formula and get annoyed by it, but SG-1 is fantastic viewing. Anyone ever notice how the guy who played Te'alc wrote a bunch of episodes, and in every single one, Te'alc got some play?

Boots - Excellent as an item of footwear, reasonable as a shop on the high street, fucking awful as a character in children's television.

Tardigrades - I love these little bastards. Like what the hell are they? What the hell even are they? Little eight-legged bastards half a mil long at their biggest that can survive in apparently literally any environment and are found in every biome on the face of the earth. I really hope that in a few million years, when we've fucked it all up and the human race is resigned to the Ozymandias shelf of the history books, that the tardigrades get their title shot. They'll do better than we are.

The perfect mech for you. - It's the HeavyArms Custom, as seen here:

I got this picture from here; great build work you did on this bad boy. And why would this be my perfect mech? Look at all that firepower. It's not slow, it's not ponderous, but it carries enough megatonnage to flatten an entire city. I love it.

Dealing with pain? Or not, if you don't want to talk about it. - I'm almost always okay to talk about this, cos I deal with the time. In the end, though? It just becomes a part of your day. Like it is just another thing to contend with. I need to go to the bank, I need to eat something later, I need to book an appointment, and I hurt. It's often bad enough that I have to cry off doing tiring or stressful things. Sometimes, it's bad enough that I have to cry off doing reasonably basic or simple things. Sometimes it doesn't bother me at all, and that's the worst time, because I get a lot done and then I feel it in the morning. The best way to deal with pain? Respect your painkillers, only take what you need, and don't push yourself more than you can handle. Your body will have its vengeance threefold.

Cthuhlu, Evil beyond imagination or just misunderstood? - Beyond imagination. Evil to us. He has a totally different morality system, he's not like us at all. If a human acted the way Cthulhu does, he'd be evil, so to us, he's evil. We have no idea about morality where he came from, if they even have any. So I guess, to call him evil IS to misunderstand him. I don't even know if he's a he.

Sense of belonging - This is a rare thing for me but a very welcome one. It doesn't happen often, not even when I am in a place wherein you'd expect to feel it. When it happens, though; oh, so sweet. That moment of not feeling like you're an outlier on the graph. That sudden rush of social acceptance and a belief that you're actually doing okay. You pass it off all the time as just something that other people chase, and then it happens, and you understand why it can be such an addictive thing. Because it's beautiful, to have that moment, where you take a breath and just...belong.


Obvious one- Trump's banning of transgender army personnel - This motherfucker here...okay. So this guy is basically trying to carve the White House and the nation into a big old statue of himself, because he's a child who has failed at most things he's attempted in life, but never had to really suffer any consequences for it. So he wants to obliterate the stuff that came before, to make room for his own statue. What was one of the last things Barack Obama did? Pardon Chelsea Manning, a trans member of the US army. That made Dumpy look bad. Dumpy hates looking bad. So he turns those little eyes and that tiny mind on Chelsea, and on the people decrying him, and he puts two and two together and ends up with...two. And in a genius move, to save the military not very much, he decides to announce a policy change that he can't actually make, which would save a fifth of the money used to provide military personnel with Viagra, which the Pentagon then has to clarify isn't actually their policy - he reveals he's a bigoted douche, the trans individuals in the military feel markedly less safe, and fuck-all else changes. Pretty par for the course, really. Which is an appropriate metaphor, given how much time this prick spends playing golf. I HATE golf. I fucking hate it.

Semiotics in superhero fiction - Let's be real. It's hard to imagine any kind of superhero media - comics, books, TV, movies, cartoons, anime - that isn't up to its neck in semiotics. The very concept of there being a hero, of there being a person better than most who is willing to stand up and do right, is a semiotic concept. There's an entire swathe of shit I could go through here but I will address one thing I find really, really cool. The Sentry - arguably Marvel's most powerful hero, who isn't a literal deity - has his greatest enemy locked up in a vault, sealed tightly away. Somewhat late in the run of the comics, a character enters this sanctum in order to confront the Darkness, as he calls it. When they get into the vault, they find no incredible monstrosity, no infinitely powerful enemy. Only two objects: a chair, and a mirror.

Favorite sci-fi tropes. - Power armour, humans not actually being special, blue collar space travel, practicality over flashiness, other races being weirdly inexplicable in some ways but utterly relatable in others.

Resident Evil - First two games, awesome. First movie, passable. Literally everything else needs to fucking do one. It's over. The franchise is over. The only way they could get away with Resident Evil 7 even existing is basically making it a first person Silent Hill game that only becomes Resident Evil-esque close to the end. Let it go, guys. You had a good run. It's over.

Butts - I like them. Especially if they are large. To this end, I can offer you no falsehood, and my other friends and peers couldn't possibly refute this statement.

Bardic elves - Fuck them. BARDING elves, elves used as armour for horses or other mounts, could be useful. Bardic SHELVES could possibly save a lot of space in a party - don't take up a slot with a glorified folk singer, pop him on the shelf and bring along another Fighter or a badass Rogue. Bardic elves? Do one.

The existential belonging of unicorns to soviet Russia, and the impact of the war of centaurs on the inherent global unicorn populations... - Look, it's been roundly proved that the war of centaurs had literally nothing to do with the unicorn populations. In fact there was a very tiny spike at the beginning of the war, and that was so small that it wasn't statistically relevant. Correlation, not causation. Now if you want to talk about a real serious threat to the unicorn population globally, you need to look beyond soviet Russia. As it doesn't exist any more, the things that replaced it are inherently difficult for unicorns to survive in. They are often hunted by the Ukrainian griffon, or the lesser spotted toxic Urals bear. Most importantly? Every time someone believes in unicorns, a unicorn dies. That is a terrifying epidemic, and threatens their very existence. It's this kind of thing that the biologists and zoologists of the future will strive to solve as best they can, and god speed to them, every last one.

...and then there was another thread where people posted a lot of gifs about boobs, which was nice.

Thank you, folks. This one was fun. We talked about serious things and silly things. Just how I like it.

If you have any more ideas for things for me to chat shit about? Write it down somewhere - cos I do these on the fair regular.

Thanks for joining in!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Chris, Chester, and the Two Hundred Thousand

Content warning: what follows discusses suicide in a frank and open and honest fashion. It may well be upsetting. Hell, I think it probably SHOULD upset you. Please be pre-warned about that before you read on.

Chris Cornell, vocalist, songwriter and musician involved with a handful of the best bands on earth, committed suicide on 17th May 2017. He was 52. It was just over two months until his 53rd birthday, which would have fallen on 20th July 2017.

Chester Bennington, vocalist, songwriter and musician primarily involved with Linkin Park but who temporarily fronted the Stone Temple Pilots, committed suicide on 20th July 2017. He was 41, and he and Chris Cornell were close friends.

In the 65 days between the two tragically linked deaths, approximately 195,000 people committed suicide - damn near two hundred thousand - and perhaps three and a half million attempted it. I'm not trying to denigrate anyone, nor am I trying to make a point about celebrity and attention. I'm merely stating a fact - or a figure. A truly devastating figure.

These figures aren't precise, obviously, but the World Health Organisation predicts that they are conservative statistics. The rate is increasing yearly.

Yes. Enough people do it that it is considered a rate.

I wrote a blog in April last year about my own experience on the topic. tl;dr - I almost became one of those 3,000 people a day that take their own lives, a long time ago, in a different place.

Nobody wants to see suicide figures that high. It's a deeply upsetting thing. Whatever the reasons, we are left hurting inside, knowing that there's more than one person per minute who is so distraught and depressed that, for whatever reason, they decide to end their own existence.

I'm not going to talk about why Cornell or Bennington did what they did. Their reasons are their own. I know why I attempted. I know why I didn't go through with it. There might be similarities, there might not be. None of us are wearing each other's shoes, even if we're all wearing the same brand. Another way I have described it is as each of us having to sink or swim, even if we're in the same sea.

It is when someone like Chris, or Chester, or Robin Williams or Chris Benoit or Marilyn Monroe, takes their own lives - or someone that we know, even vaguely, a friend of a friend - that we ask why, and we ask what we can do to help stop it happening again.

Here's the thing. Speaking from my own personal experience? The way to stop it happening has to begin a long, long time before anyone is even in a bad enough mental place to consider it for more than half a second.

The world is a cold, hard and uncaring place with islands and pools of warmth and light in it. It's a forbidding desert by default, and the oases are irregularities. Human beings are imperfect and insecure by design. For the longest time, that insecurity and imperfection has been treated in the worst way possible: by denying its own existence and chastising those that address it or try and stop it. We build a fence around the hole in who we are and we yell at people to not come any closer, especially if they want to fix it, or help us in not falling into it. It's what we as a people have done for thousands of years.

Society isn't run for the benefit of the people who live in it. It's all trickle-up, and it has been built and reinforced for that precise purpose, like a continental pyramid scheme. Realising that, seeing it in action, is a very sobering thing - and worse, such a societal structure has no place for people like me, or people like the friends I've had that have gone the same route and not lived to tell the tale. We're not productive machines. We're "faulty".

Nobody wants to talk about it until it hurts them and then we don't have the language because we spend the rest of our lives not talking about it.

You can't identify or isolate why it happens. You can't put on magic glasses and spot everyone who is going to swim in that cold sea. You can't apply a litmus test and assign them counselling if the paper turns green. It doesn't work that way, because at some point in their lives - in everyone's lives - there will be a moment when the paper turns green, or close to it. Everyone has at least one single moment, where they plunge into the water, and they need to swim - but we never talk about learning how to swim. We just mourn everyone that doesn't make it back to the shore.

You stop it by making the world better.

Suicide nets and hotlines are treatments of secondary symptoms. If we really want to get the world into a place wherein more than a minute goes by between each suicide - and I am talking about almost halving the suicide rate, just to get to the point where there's only sixty an hour, down to sixty an hour - you treat the cause. You stop life being hopeless and hollow and cold. You do everything you can to pour light and laughter into the world, and you do everything you can to put up walls against the cold ocean. You reduce poverty. You increase support, physical and mental. You listen and you talk quietly but honestly. You learn empathy and sympathy. You hold hands. You help.

Every single person that does this helps. Every single person. If enough of us do it, if enough of us believe it can be done, then we can make things change. We can make things better. We can make life something that supports hope again. Re-prime the soil, so to speak. Plant the seeds.

So when the moment comes that we hit the water, and the cold rushes over us - we look back at the shore, and we want it so badly that we swim for it. We want our place in it, not because we're meant to, but because there IS a place for us.

So let's make a fucking place.

Because out of all the things that could have driven me to tears this week, I didn't want it to be knowing that almost six thousand people would have tried to take their own lives as I wrote this blog, and that almost three hundred of them had succeeded.

Listen, speak, care, change the world. It's all we can do. Maybe it's all we were ever meant to do. Maybe if we want purpose, that's the purpose - to make a world fit for purpose, not for profit, not for power, but for just wanting to live in it one more day than we did yesterday.

We can do that. I'm sure we can.

Written in memory of Chris, Chester, and the two hundred thousand.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Wight Rainbows

Yesterday was the first major Pride event on my tiny little island.

I've talked often about how the place is a little backward. Ten years ago I was fairly convinced that the rest of the world would be an egalitarian paradise before the Isle of Wight started properly accepting LGBTQA folks and issues - that's how you know that ten years ago I was naive as hell. The world, however, doesn't all get fixed at once.

The event yesterday was very popular, as best I can tell. The people who wanted to get involved, got involved. Haters didn't show up - as I say, as best I can tell. I only had to have the "But Why Isn't There Straight Pride" conversation once, and it was more a discussion of inherent issues than a shouting match with a gorilla. Everyone had a lovely time, everything was brightly coloured and happy, and visibility won against centuries of weirdly insular beliefs.

I'm pretty lucky on most counts. Half-Lebanese but white enough that I pass on that score, and me being bi hasn't actually caused me any negative consequences. I'm privileged to exist in the "passing" zone. I'm close enough to straight white male that I get to be one on most counts. I know a lot of people that don't fit within that particular zone, and their lives have not been pretty or easy.

One of my friends effectively came out, this morning - and I think it may have been as a result of Pride. The result which speaks for itself. I honestly hope and pray for the day when someone doesn't need to come out at all. I hope for the day when someone needn't fear being accepted for who and what they are.

It does feel a little weird to see all these businesses and organisations at such an event. Like, yes, demonstrating support is good. I am totally behind that, especially if the business is actually supportive and non-discriminatory. I do wonder at times, though. I wonder how much of the presence of a corporate entity at a Pride march is support and how much is advertising. That's just the cynical bit of me though - as much of me as that is, and it does run pretty deep.

I also both enjoy seeing our local police present at such an event in support, but I am probably not alone in hoping that the world doesn't forget where the first Pride marches came from. Maybe the world is truly changing - maybe it doesn't need to be a riot any more - but there was and is an apparatus of oppression that exists, and can be put to use. I think it is going to be a long time before we are free of that.

Our Prime Minister had the audacity to record a pro-Pride message, despite voting against LGBTQA rights whenever given the opportunity. Our last local MP was a homophobic bigot. I don't know our new one enough to know where he stands on the matter, though the Tory party were notably the only major local political party to not be present in the actual parade. I don't count UKIP in that number, besides.

We have it easier here than in the US, I know that for sure. Easier there still than in Chechnya and other places around the globe which go so far beyond passive hostility. Some of our so-called supposed allies in the Middle East have governments that treat deviation from the cishet norm as a crime punishable by mutilation and death. I know our government probably don't care, as long as they can keep flogging rockets and jet planes.

The rainbows are still around. We need to keep them. We need to cherish that rainbow, as a symbol of a world that we can live in, if only we have the will to pursue it. There are those that feel threatened by it, just the same as there are those that felt threatened by the end of slavery, threatened by women being allowed to vote and earn a wage, threatened by people having a bible they could actually read. It's not enough that we recognise that their attitude is one of the past. We need to condemn it to the past and then send it there, by making our future a better place.

I hope that we can. I really do.

For one day, though - for one day, it was real.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Homo Ouroboros

This is Ouroboros, the serpent that eats its own tail.

It's quite an old idea - the earliest interpretation is from almost 3,500 years ago, in an Egyptian funerary text. It has all sorts of meanings attached to it, like life and death, creation and destruction, and other eternally cyclical things.

I see a creature eating its tail and it doesn't make me think of eternity.

I mean sure, if we're dealing with a mythical beast - like the world serpents of Nordic mythology or similar - then it could be something that literally lasts forever, locked in its shape. What I think about is something more prosaic: a living being, devouring itself to stay alive just a little longer. Autocannibalism.

I see the human race.

We feed on ourselves - as a mass, rather than individually. Doing so individually is a crime. Letting the species as a whole choke on its own tail is actually sort of encouraged.

How, I hear you ask? Let's take a look at feudalism.

We have the liege of an area, let's call him Lord Snakehead. Lord Snakehead has those lesser nobles that exist within his territory, the knights and so on that have a position of status over everyone else - let's call them the Order of the Belly. This would follow, in my rather blunt and obvious simile, to the farmers and workers of no social standing to be labelled as The Tail End.

I think it's pretty obvious how this works.

The Tail End works hard. They produce a significant amount of goods and material, more than they actually need to live - in fact enough to make them quite comfortable if they got to keep all of it. Obviously...they don't, because they are being fed upon by Lord Snakehead. He devours his fill from The Tail End, and in return provides the Order of the Belly with nutrients - though not as much as he gets, of course. Just enough to know that they are more important than The Tail End. The fact is, though - if The Tail End ceased to exist, the Order of the Belly would be next in the mouth of Lord Snakehead.

Because modern society is fairly feudal in and of itself - we might not use the same old terms, but we sure seem to have the same structure - it's easy enough to see how this example applies.

Of course there's more avenues and more structures than my example. More than one snake - more than one tail. Each individual business is an Ouroborean structure. Goverments, too.Large organisations. All snakes that feed on their own tails - there's always a head, and there's always a tail, and most people fight to be the belly.

"But John," I hear you cry, feathers falling out of your socks and pork pies in your hands. "But John, isn't that just the way life is?"

Well yes. It IS the way life is. It isn't how it HAS to be, but it IS how it is. Nobody who can change it has the interest in putting in effort to do so, because even if they wanted to eat less of the tail, their peers have interest in making sure they keep it up.

The problem is that every known case of autocannibalism has to draw a line somewhere - and the final line that is drawn is when enough of the eater has been eaten that they expire.

It's not sustainable, and I don't mean that in a sense of environmental collapse. That is happening, right now, and is indisputable. The science is incontrovertible. Denying it is like denying that the sun rises. I mean it in the sense I just stated: in the end, what happens if the serpent eats too much?

If we could trust Ouroboros to keep eating at a steady pace, then perhaps it could continue - and the mythic beasts of yore can be trusted with such things. They are beings of their nature, a nature they can't avoid or escape.

The problem is, Homo Ouroboros is a slave to its nature, too. That nature is inherently greedy - as I've previously discussed, humanity's inherent insecurity leads it to try and dominate its environment, and a primary method of it doing so is through acquisition of resource. It's what we do. So we can trust the serpent to constantly try and eat more than it was ten seconds ago.

Which, as we have ascertained, is unsustainable.

How does this work in practical terms? Well, you can see it every day in the way we live. People having to dip more and more into their savings as the needs and wants of those who feed from them - those who benefit from their work, via surplus value - drive them to raise prices and lower payouts. Trimming away the fat an inch at a time. Every way we look, we see businesses focusing on making cuts and savings - and do those ever result in lowered prices? Of course not, they aren't FOR lowering prices. It's the snake gobbling more of its tail.

It's been pointed out that the less the average individual gets paid, the less products they can afford to purchase, and the less companies get paid. I believe an accurate term for this is cost-push deflation. It's happening, right now - but as long as we keep cutting and keep kicking and do whatever we can to keep our heads above water, then we don't have to care.

You can see it at work in the wake of Grenfell Tower. Regulatory cuts and basic greed. Lives of the wealthy made easier at the cost of the poor - and for the victims of this travesty of justice, many of them paid the ultimate cost.

For a long time there has been a trend of demonising and persecuting the homeless. As society has...I hesitate to say advanced, so let us say changed, those trends have changed. The boundary has grown bigger. Those who require or receive benefits because they don't have a job were next. Following that, the victims became those who were poor. It won't be long until the next victims are those who are less poor. Inexorably, the serpent is devouring its tail - and soon, it will be the belly that is being fed upon.

How long until the head reaches itself?

How long until Homo Ouroboros autocannibalises to the point of its own demise?

More importantly...

How can we stop it?

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Last Shite

Oh god, it's Bayformers time again.

If one forgets, I posted a fairly lengthy shredding of Age of Extinction three years ago, way back here. You might wish to glance at for your delectation if you share my opinion that the only good Transformers movie was released in the 80s.

Let's just say that this one doesn't exactly offer any redemption.

There will be spoilers. But that won't make much difference because the story is, frankly, a garbled fucking mess at the best of times and a desecration of cinematic process at the worst. Here is one of the spoilers: Mark Wahlberg's racist hero man is apparently a good guy because he gets given Excalibur.

Oh yeah, here we go.

As before, I will list the things that were actually positive.

  • The score was quite good.
  • There's approximately thirty seconds of bot-on-bot combat that doesn't look like garbage.
  • One scene was actually better and more entertaining than the rest of the movie.

...we good? Okay, we good.

Don't watch this movie.

It reeks. It reeks to high heaven. Almost every aspect of it is a drudgery, a sham of a film, an ill-conceived thousand-monkey thousand-typewriter farce that didn't deserve to break even at the box office.

Where do I even begin to pick it apart? Well - let's begin at the beginning.

We are treated to a laddish sham of an introduction, involving the so-called Knights of the Round Table - yes, King Arthur and all. Puerile comedy, demonstrating Merlin as a charlatan, the Saxons as being mindless savages intent on razing England to the ground, and a three-headed Cybertronian dragon summoned by a staff given to Merlin by Transformers that were totally hear in 400AD, yo.

That's the intro. I hated myself for sitting through it, let alone for the rest of this agonising 149-minute debacle.

The entire Arthurian aspect of the plot is tacky and badly done, as you might expect. Honestly, most of it could be cut out and would leave the film just as coherent and competent as before. It's an excuse to make Mark Wahlberg into something more than what he is - grumpy mechanic. A walking Bud Light product placement. (There's an actually horribly tasteless Bud Light product placement in the movie, too, but eh.)

Speaking of plot aspects. This plot is beyond shaky. It requires multiple maguffins, most of which are delivered from seemingly nowhere via confusing and ill-defined means, in order to facilitate a standard destroy-the-earth-in-ten-minutes storyline. It would probably, realistically speaking, only require an hour-long TV special to actually convey the story were it not for the amount of junk filler that is put in for no apparent reason. That would even be if it made any damn sense. I even invented a term for this film: maguffinception. We need to get the maguffin to get another maguffin!

So Quintessa was some kind of bad woman who was apparently Prime's "creator", and apparently the "creator" of all the Cybertronians. She is all hanging out on the ruin of Cybertron - torn apart in the events of the third shitheap movie - waiting for a staff that was taken from her by a dozen Cybertronians at least sixteen hundred years ago (probably more) to be brought back to her. And how lucky she is that Optimus Prime shows up, here and now!

We have no idea if any of that is true, who she is, what she is, what actually happened to Cybertron, what powers she has shy of doing a number on Optimus Prime's personality (more on that later), or why the Knights of Iacon took her staff in the first place. Short of the fact that she is some kind of betrayer and not to be trusted. All of the action seems to kick off now because - coinciding with Optimus Prime's crash-landing in the ruins of Cybertron - Male Hero is given a mystical maguffin by a crashed ancient knight, presumably having landed not so long ago and been shot down by Earth's Transformer Reaction Force.

The TRF. Let's focus on them for a minute. Yet again there is an elite anti-Transformer military/police/surveillance force kicking about, and this one has literal skulls on its iconography. You aren't the good guys if your symbol is a skull. That's not about defending. That's the film-maker being lazy in trying to advertise these folks as bad guys. In truth, that's not hard to do - they're pretty fucking unbearable.

In fairness. Every character in this movie is fucking unbearable. The two that you hate the least, in the end, are Bumblebee (can't talk) and Barricade (despite problematic imagery, just doing his job). They're all just unpleasant to everyone else, and needlessly so, too. Two thirds of the characters are written as walking punchlines and they just deliver that punchline over and over and over again. It wasn't funny the first time around, let alone the thirty-first. The rest? Just awful in general. Horrible to watch interact with each other. The kind of people that you'd avoid in real life.

There's a bit of The Room in this, because whoever wrote this script - like Tommy Wiseau - knows very little about how people actually talk to each other or interact. Mark Wahlberg's character is a hideous parody of your average American. Laura Haddock is treated as you might expect any woman to be treated in a Michael Bay movie: pretty fucking poorly. I feel as much pity for her as I do frustration at the shit script she got handed. She literally gets abducted at one point, for no fucking reason at all.

A significant proportion of the characters are pretty unnecessary, too. John Turturro's neurotic, borderline pedophilic, distinctly deranged conspiracy theorist is a primary example. He is in it to deliver a second maguffin. He could have been replaced by Anthony Hopkins' character merely owning a copy of a book. That could have saved a lot of screen time. It would make sense for him, too - being that he is very wealthy, possesses a significant amount of historical material relating to the Transformers, and is actually part of the Order of Witwicca who dealt with keeping the secret throughout history.

Oh yeah. Here's a new bit of Transformers history. They love fucking with it, and now, we have the apparent involvement of this order having helped conceal and also involve Transformers in the history of the world ever since Arthurian legend. One of the apparent members of the Order of Witwicca is Harriet Tubman. That's right. One of the most racist movie franchises in history decided to co-opt Harriet Tubman.

It's unfortunate that the one, single good scene in this entire film is set in the middle of this big revelation - which is a fifteen-minute exposition exercise, framed on both sides by half an hour of Human Beings Running Away, a staple of Transformers. It is also very controversial.

Turns out that Bumblebee has been on earth for a fair while. He was involved in the Second World War - helped the Allied war effort. He joined in with an attack on one of Hitler's strongholds, and the scene in which it happens is pretty visually stunning. It's like there could have been a World War 2 Transformers movie, and it could have been so much better - but I think the scene was made better because hardly anyone talks, no sympathy is forced upon us, and Bumblebee is just being Bumblebee. Helping out his friends.

It's a shame that in order to shoot that, they had to drape massive Nazi party banners with swastikas all over Winston Churchill's family home. But then, that is one shining glorious moment in this movie where the awful distasteful crassness is kept behind the camera - which I suppose, in a sick way, is praise. Though I fail to see how you could fuck something like that up. I mean did nobody think to check? ...I suppose they probably actually didn't.

I mentioned that Bumblebee was being Bumblebee.

Every single Autobot in this film is just super-aggressive for no apparent reason. Perhaps because they are being cast as the leading support characters in a big macho movie for big macho men, with toxicity running through its veins like blood and steroids. They can't be smart or safe. They have to be reckless and willing to shoot each other and angry and always ALWAYS ready to kill. The Autobots are the good guys, remember. I've commented on this before - even Optimus Prime seems to become a bloodthirsty asshole in the Bayverse. His first instinct the moment he sees his creator is to try and murder her. He charges her with a sword - and she hasn't even done anything yet, outside of confirming her identity. Later, he single-handedly attacks a six-part combiner (who is actually pretty fucking cool and doesn't get anywhere near enough attention) and kills every last one of the consistent 'bots, declaring "Don't you know who I am? I AM OPTIMUS PRIME."

Turning Prime into someone willing to murder innocents in order to get what he wants wasn't that difficult for Quintessa, surely. Bay's Prime seems to become a righteous killer with very little justification or prompting, and takes more and more pride in his ability to maim and mangle his opponents with apparent ease. His opposite number, Megatron, gets even less screen time than the standard Bayformer restriction - anyone that isn't a mascot robot gets minimal. It's not exactly revealed how Megs survived, but he's apparently gone kind of mad, taking to setting light to the floor when angry and becoming a complete coward.

The Decepticons aren't immune to the bullshit spraypaint, it bears mention. Megatron negotiates with "the humans" - yes, the almighty maniacal Megatron, negotiating for the location of Mark Wahlberg Hero Man - to have several of his people released to get the maguffin back from aforementioned Hero Man. Each of these ridiculously named and zero-developed Decepticons is given a little intro splash ripped straight out of Suicide Squad, and just like Suicide Squad, every last one of them are terrible. Onslaught, Mohawk, Dreadbot and Nitro Zeus - and the Berzerker but apparently he isn't fit for release - all get this little splash, and every last one of them was locked up despite both the TRF and Cemetery Wind in the last film being kill-everything task forces rather than take-prisoners task forces.

We can't care about any of these people. We're prodded and forced to have a degree of empathy for characters that the film itself can't make us give a shit about, because they're inherently unlikable. As I said before - Barricade and Bumblebee are the only two that don't suck.

Also present is the standard casual racism you'd expect from Michael Bay films - people of colour chronically under-represented and given pretty shitty roles. Hero Man's assistant at his junkyard is black, and has a constant refrain of "I can't go to jail", cracks about not paying taxes, and is literally described by Mark Wahlberg as "My Little Crimey". Yes, really. Wahlberg also constantly calls the local law enforcement Chief, because guess what - he's Native American. This guy actually calls Wahlberg out on it, too. Too late though. We're meant to like him, so it's okay.

In fact we are forced to recognise him as being the protagonist because the movie literally straps Excalibur to him and makes him the Last Knight of the Round Table. We're told this is because he displays knightly qualities, which must apparently happen off-screen, and we're also told that the scriptwriters don't understand what chaste means. I've seen Wahlberg actually act in movies, he's pretty good, so I can only assume that Cade Yeager (THAT'S HIS NAME OH FUCK) is actually written to be this dumpster fire of a person. In the end, he helps save the day in zero-gravity by grabbing British-lady's hand and LITERALLY shooting a gun at nothing at all. Propelling them across the space in between. Cade Yeager, drinks bud light, threatens to punch kids in the head (he does that), doesn't understand sarcasm, saves the world via celebratory gunfire.

I will repeat for emphasis, before I continue with random bullshit:

Mark Wahlberg's character is given Excalibur, and is made the Last Knight of the Round Table.

There's the puzzle that is Hot Rod. Hot Rod, who has a ridiculous French accent, and apparently hates it, despite Anthony Hopkins insisting that he likes it and puts it on. This is a cause for chortling and tee-heeing. Silly robot with an accent. Fucking come on, really? Earlier in the film, another Autobot mocks Drift for having a Japanese accent. I know I have rallied pretty hard against Drift being turned from potentially interesting concept character into a lol-samurai Japanese caricature, but come on, really? Picking on accents? I guess it's just in line with the expectations of a series of movies wherein cheap laughs are gained from a giant combiner having big swinging metal testicles. The effects are expensive, but the comedy is cheap. Desperately cheap.

Whoever planned this has total disdain for geography, claiming that the Horns of Unicron - yes, apparently Earth is Unicron, that storyline is stolen from the vastly superior Transformers Prime animated series - were once a perfect circle, back when Pangaea was a thing. And in the middle of this circle was apparently Stonehenge. This has to be basic ignorance, just hoping that nobody will look it up, or realise that the centre of Pangaea actually formed the African continent. Which it did. Meaning Stonehenge should be somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Once every twenty minutes I found myself asking, where the fuck are they now? There's a chase through London which is embarrassingly inconsistent as to where in London it is actually taking place. Following this chase the characters take a submarine down the Thames, but don't actually come out of the Thames Estuary - we're not actually fucking sure where that submarine was coming out of, but it's about as close to the Thames Valley as it is to Addis Ababa.

The film makers also show as much respect for physics as one of the members of the White House staff show to a physicist in the movie, too. We have a large mass, very large, the ruin of Cybertron, approaching Earth at 10% of lightspeed. It was guided, by Quintessa, somehow - and when it shows up, it's impact time. It collides with part of the moon, destroying one of our lunar landers and the ship that Sentinel Prime arrived on the moon in. Apparently the moon's surface is okay, despite the obviously huge amount of force enacted on it in direct impact. Then, Cybertron just...fucking...squats over Stonehenge. Yes, something with about the third of the mass of a metal planet parks directly over Somerset.

I don't need to tell you just how badly fucked we would be if that happened. If the moon was fifty miles closer, we'd be pretty boned. Cybertron? Dragging fucking dredges of itself across the surface of the planet, presumably killing tens of millions? Tidal waves the likes of which you can't imagine. Our magnetosphere fucked to death, long before the evil plan can be carried out. Continents disrupted. Land masses shifted. The devastation would be incredible, not to mention the subsequent nuclear winter - Krakatoa erupted in 1883 and caused record snowfalls for four years, how much shit would be kicked into the atmosphere if a planet just rocked up into our own?

I have no idea what the folks who made this were really thinking as they went about their business. Like it is clear to me that at least one of them watched The Abyss sometime during production, as there's an extended and unnecessary undersea scene. There's three baby Dinobots, and nobody can explain how they happened, unless Slag and Grimlock are a mating pair. There's Izabella, whose random teenage rebelliousness is required in a Bay movie - and there's her love for these baby Dinobots, and her own little pet robot, Squeaks. Squeaks is essentially just a shit BB-8. These things are all taken straight from the Lucas school of CGI Gopher. There's your standard "omg the military is so hawt" selection of shots, which in most things I find interesting, but in this seems crowbarred in to put a couple minutes between shots of the main characters being awful to each other. Every Transformers movie features a huge amount of military porn, if only because I know every movie features at least one military vehicle, and probably the creators of such wouldn't allow this unless they were shown in a good light. The cinematography was at times embarrassingly basic, with shaky-cam shots thrown in because rendering things accurately is apparently bad times, and getting a good clean look at anyone but the Mascotbots is asking for trouble.

I can't cover absolutely everything wrong with this tripe. So what follows is a series of notes I jotted down as I watched it, which you may find fun without any context.

- Mark Wahlberg Is Terrible
- Every Transformer Is Terrible
- More Racism
- Everyone Is Terrible
- Wahldaughter's primary concern is her dad's lovelife
- Megatron???
- What Even Is Physics
- "Over The Pond Right Now"
- Every Plot Element Delivered Via WhoKnows
- English Ladies Aren't Like That
- Cool Reformat Cut Out Because Probably Too Cool
- Everyone Is Fucking Terrible
- They Are Made To Hate Each Other Obviously
- "That's the watch that killed Hitler, don't screw with it."
- Of course the sarcy English professor is Merlin's descendant.
- More Humans Running
- Oooh Yay A Sex Joke
- We Couldn't Wiki Pangaea
- "Move Bitch Get Out Of My Way"
- HMS Alliance Is A Transformer?????
- I Hate Myself
- ISS just goes away just like that
- Yep, they're all unbearable again
- Oh God No Why Fucking No UGH
- Casual Slaughter Of Millions
- No, Soldiers Aren't Arthurian Knights
- Xenophobia Is Only Cool If They're Not Optimus Prime
- "Are we the bad guys!?"
- Now We Must Believe In Myth
- "DID YOU FORGET WHO I AM" - apparently you did
- "I AM OPTIMUS PRIME" we know you say it every movie
- Planetary Mass Crash Landing Is Fine Apparently

It is setting up for a sequel. I don't know what they want out of it. I don't care. All I know is that the sooner Bay gets his hands off this, the sooner they get some better scriptwriters in, the sooner they start making this about the bots rather than Hero Man and Lol-People, the sooner we'll get the Transformers movie that we really want.

Even if, just maybe, humanity is such a junkyard that this is the Transformers we deserve.

Don't watch this. If you do watch this, please, please feel better. Talk to someone. Don't suffer in silence.

And for fuck's sake, people. Stop doing this to the franchise I love.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Glue That Holds Me Together

So last night I wrote a poem about living with a body that doesn't do what you tell it to. It's called Broken Machine Shell, and you can read it on my DeviantArt.

I wrote it off the back of listening to Brother Ali's most recent alum in its full, All The Beauty In This Whole Life. It's a great album, speaking of the man's love, faith and good work from a very honest place.

It occurred to me that I'd have not heard of this guy were it not for someone introducing me to him - and thus the piece of writing I made wouldn't have existed either.

Music is - as the title implies - the glue that holds me together. It's very important to me. It's a way I ground myself, inspire myself, live with myself, and get through daily shit. It's also a way I bond with others, so I suppose it's the glue that sticks me to other people too.

So if you have introduced me to music - a band, an album, a song - then you've kind of contributed to me being whole.

Jon Clucas got me onto Brother Ali - and also P.O.S., Dessa and the rest of the Doomstree collective. I think he probably introduced me to Run The Jewels too, though I'm not sure. I love my hip hop and despair at some of what has been done to it over the years, so knowing there are people out there that know and respect the game is a godsend.

My first taste of Iron Maiden and Metallica was at the hands of Matt Ball. As you all know, once you go metal, you can't go back. That's a singular cornerstone of my music taste right there. Probably contributed to me getting into RPGs so heavy, too.

While metal happened at the very beginning of my high school years, grunge came along partway through. Silverchair was all the rage amongst the people I hung out with, and were such a ubiquitously liked band that I can't remember who actually introduced me to them first. I think it was probably Gareth or Alex though.

Chris, housemate and friendo, first bid me listen to Magic Sword; and the second tall hairy Tom I know (who was actually the first I met but not the first I saw) got me listening to Pentakill.

Two Emmas have introduced me to music - more recently Rocco DeLucca and the Burden, but again back in high school days, my two actual favourite bands, Pearl Jam and Counting Crows. Maybe it is an Emma thing?

Vicky, who probably won't ever read this blog because frankly we parted on pretty bad terms, nevertheless introduced me to (hed) Planet Earth and Vex Red.

Just yesterday I was treated to Bomb The Music Industry! by Jade. That was a nice surprise.

Dan got me onto Alter Bridge, who I absolutely adore. He also introduced me to the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and Youtube Poop, so I'm not sure if that's an overall profit or loss.

I wouldn't really know the Levellers were it not for Simon. Long are the hours we spent chatting shit about the guy that randomly screams partway through Just The One. He also got me listening to Radiohead and Ben Folds Five properly.

Josh tried to introduce me to Soft Cell but that didn't work.

I have Sara to thank for knowing who Kill Hannah are, and I get the feeling that not a lot of people do. Perhaps not to everyone's tastes but there's some songs that just stick their hooks in me.

Speaking of hooks. Hamelyn has a habit of playing me songs that just instantly sucker-punch me in the feelings, one of those being Cathedrals by Jump Little Children. A beautiful and haunting song.

Robbie was responsible for my first-wave love of hip hop, getting me into Snoop, Dre and Warren G. He also supplied me with Memorex 90 tapes filled with Carter USM, Fu Schnickens and Funkdoobiest.

Dark horse Terry introduced me to The Prodigy, allowing me a stupendously long loan of Experience and Jilted Generation on CD. Like I had that shit for years yo.

Tim got me into Gil Scott-Heron and more Neil Young than I had previously considered listening to (I'm a Skynyrd fan, you understand).

Ivy first played me the Castlevania Symphony Of The Night soundtrack, which I had previously thought to be quite good, but now realise is actually pretty fucking amazing.

Crazy Drunk Texan Mike - who is actually now a respected member of society and such - showed me who Kanye West was before he decided he was Jesus and went crazy. Those first two albums? Absolute choice. Anything after? Debatable but probably terrible.

Sunny introduced me to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

I learned about Oleander and Staind from Kris in TX,, and an abiding love for the Titan A.E. soundtrack.

Perhaps one of my biggest musical influences is my mother. It may sound sad but she introduced me to Led Zep before I was born, Queen when I were but a wee bab, Pink Floyd when I was still young - Michael Jackson, Motown records, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Genesis with either of them in front, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Chris Rea, Dire Straits. My mum has some REALLY solid music taste.

She once got hit in the head by Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) when he span round too fast with his bass. He hit on her afterward. She turned him down. Rock and roll.

Games and movies have introduced me to a lot of music, too, but that's not something that really bonds you. It's a side-effect. Sure, it can lead to very important musical discoveries - like how Burnout 3 led me to Rise Against, and how GTA San Andreas and Black Hawk Down brought me to Faith No More from two different directions. Kerrang had its place, as did MTV when it still showed music videos - and once, I bought a CD just because I liked the cover.

That was my first taste of A Perfect Circle, and from them, Tool, both bands that are solid staples in my life now.

So if I am a Frankenstein's monster made from choruses instead of corpses, then at least some of my body parts have been given to me by others - and I have to give thanks for that, even to people that I don't really get along with any more, don't hear from, don't see.

Half the time, that's my fault. More than half I suppose. I'm bad at being social, bad at staying in touch. Always have been.


Just a thank-you note to the folks responsible for making me who I am.

I wonder if I've introduced anywhere near as much music to other people as they have to me?