Clouds and Mirrors: Dr. Who’s The Snowmen

Imagine Calvin and Hobbes, with A Christmas Carol, a Sherlock Holmes detective mystery parody, an English fairy-tale, some steampunk, and a hint–just a pinch–of true love in a whole lot of wonder.

And those were some of the most immediate feelings I had watching the Prequel to “The Snowmen” Christmas Special of Dr. Who.

Now, I am going to go into “The Snowmen” Episode itself: into Spoiler Territory.

First off, from the trailers and the title alone, I got a major Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons vibe: especially from the beginning when a young lonely boy–Walter Simeon–has a snowman of his own creation begin to talk back to him in 1842. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Walter because most of us have been there: where we don’t understand children our age–or even relate to them–and would rather have imaginary friends instead. Unfortunately, Walter made a very bad imaginary friend who would continue to be there with him for the next fifty years: essentially becoming a giant steampunk snow globe and, well, mutating with more snow being added onto it.

Also, a word of advice: if someone ever offers to feed you, it would probably be prudent to figure out of there are more words in that sentence: you know the ones after “I will feed you …” as the now-Doctor Simeon’s workers discovered to their chagrin.

Anyway, then we get introduced to Clara. And then we get reintroduced to The Doctor.

Clara goes outside of the bar that she is working at to see a Snowman appear there pretty much out of nowhere. We then see The Doctor walking by in passing and she accuses him of making it. The Doctor looks very different now: as much as the same Regeneration can. He looks … tired, and subdued. Really, he is very sad and he has reason to be when you take into consideration what happened to his last Companions. He wants nothing to do with anything save for the bare minimum of contact with some of his allies.

So after he gives her some advice, he leaves. But even when very depressed and angst-ridden, The Doctor says interesting things or his mere existence is a curiosity in itself. So what does Clara the barmaid–and later as it turns out part-time governess do? Well, it’s quite simple.

She follows him.

So we go from a the beginnings of a weird horror story to what is now a Christmas fairy-tale adventure as Clara continues to stalk The Doctor and discovers more strange and new things about him. The Doctor has a Sontaran friend/servant named Strax that attempts to get a memory-worm The Doctor has to erase Clara’s memories under his order. Strax is hilarious in that he often advocates militaristic force in all situations and speaks something like this, “Impudent human scum. Prepare to be destroyed … I mean, may I have your coat please?” The Doctor also refers to him as a Potato more often than not.

Of course, with such a mentality Strax keeps touching the memory-worm and forgetting where it is: though there is evidence to believe that the former clone soldier isn’t quite as “stupid” as he attempts to act and often does these things to annoy people if it amuses him: especially The Doctor. Also, Clara doesn’t really want her memory erased, but plays along with interacting with The Doctor: which is consciously what he doesn’t want to happen–he doesn’t want to make a new bond–but subconsciously continues to converse anyway.

This won’t be a part-by-part dissection of the entire Episode, just to let you know. The Doctor realizes that robbing Clara of her memory wouldn’t be a good idea because she needs to remember to “not-think” about the Snowmen so they don’t multiply and try to kill her … conveniently enough.

But while The Doctor is trying not to get involved with the world or–really–people, there are two other people trying to figure out what Dr. Simeon is up to. So if you watched the Prequel link above, you’ll know that there is a Silurian woman named Madame Vastra and her human maid-wife Jenny Flint who essentially solve crimes in the Victorian era.

Dr. Who has always, aside from being an epic show of crazy linked ideas has–at least in the twenty-first century–been very open-minded and progressive. I mean, Jack Harkness is an omni-sexual being and there is such a wide array of civilizations and times out there in the Whoverse that something like different kinds of sexuality is just a given really. So a primordial lizard woman and a human woman being a couple–and being married–in Victorian times is not very shocking to me.

In fact, aside from Vastra–and even then people rationalize her existence as having something of a “skin-condition” (I find it hilarious how the people of Earth’s past never react at all to aliens in Dr. Who or even The Doctor when he or his Companions are wearing entirely different styles of clothes from that time-frame: it just goes to show you how most humans are either oblivious, more open-minded, or simply do not give a damn than even we believe)–two women having a relationship and even having an arrangement not unlike marriage in Victorian times is not unheard of at all. It is pretty telling that for the past while and it seems especially now in 2012, same-sex marriage has been gaining a lot of acceptance and support in–or at least is now really challenging–the social consciousness of many places. But really, I just like how these two characters work together and understand one another: actually complementing each other’s strengths and actions.

These two confront Dr. Simeon about his activities and he doesn’t seem bothered by this (in fact he doesn’t seem to have much emotion at all), and he states that it doesn’t matter what they do because, get this:

Winter is coming.

Oh, Steve Moffat. That reference to A Song of Ice and Fire was hilarious. My Mom didn’t know why I was laughing so much.

So Vastra and Jenny eventually find Clara: whereupon they ask her why she is so interested in The Doctor. By this point in the game as it were, Clara has seen the TARDIS after climbing a spiralling ladder like Psyche chasing Cupid, or Jack going up the beanstalk, into a cloud where it is resting and she knows that there is some bad stuff about to happen at the house that she is a governess at: particularly with a pool that is frozen over after a previous governess died in it. One of her wards has been having dreams of this former governess coming back to punish her and her brother. She knows she needs The Doctor.

Vastra and Jenny force Clara to answer the former’s questions with one-word answers. At one point, Vastra flat-out asks Jenny why she thinks The Doctor should help her. Of all the words that she could have chosen, she spoke one word.


Yeah. Of all the words. That one.

So this does get The Doctor’s attention. So he starts parodying Sherlock Holmes: figuratively and literally. He beats the giant snow globe with a stick. Then he later he does more sleuthing where, despite himself he goes up to the manor where Clara is staying after exchanging hand gestures at each other. After Clara and her wards are being confronted with a snow-version of the former governess that drowned, The Doctor pulls a Punch and Judy play by having the wee-little puppet man of Mr. Punch use his sonic driver on her.

Because, you know, “That’s the way to do it!”

Doctor PUNCH!

In fact, making another popular cultural reference, this whole episode was–like many of them but particularly this one–a Tragical Comedy, or a Comical Tragedy. Yes, I am a Neil Gaiman fan. It also doesn’t help that Mr. Punch is an enduring English symbol and archetype. Or maybe it does.

It turns out that Dr. Simeon and the Snow Globe want the Ice Governess: to use her as a prototype to make a race of ice people that will supplant humanity. Clara and The Doctor lure the Ice Governess away. This is not before The Doctor tells the children’s father that he is Clara’s “gentleman friend,” though far less eloquently and more abstract-awkwardly as he usually says things and Clara herself decides to take matters into her own hands and kiss him. Because she seems to have a special kind of impulsive streak tempered and complemented by daring and a strange form of intuition. Not deduction like Vastra: Clara is pure intuition with a devil-may-care attitude. Right: that is my last Punch and Judy reference for today.

Finally, in the TARDIS, after Clara surprises The Doctor by not being predictable about her first impressions of said TARDIS, The Doctor finally seems to give into something that he really wants and gives her a key. You know the key: the one to said TARDIS. You also know what that means. This is a big thing for him to do: after everything that has happened. I honestly don’t know how he survives losing everyone he cares for, and I can understand why he has periods where he wants nothing to do with anything.

I also understand how he can’t not stay away when events conspire to bring him and this strange Victorian girl: who speaks Cockney and free in her pub job, and “proper crisp English” with a hint of mischief as a governess for upper middle-class children … and who is also immensely beautiful. Yes. I said it.

Their relationship unfolds fast, but what is Time to a one thousand year old Time Lord and to a human being, who only lives, let’s face it, in a brief moment of said Time? It’s everything.

That is the point where the Ice Governess comes after them and drags Clara and herself to a death by falling off The Doctor’s cloud.

Because the Universe seems to be a bitch to The Doctor like that.

Of course, it’s not so simple as all that: Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy as it all may be. The Doctor ends up having his confrontation with Dr. Simeon and his Snow Globe. Dr. Simeon is the proprietor of the Great Intelligence Institute. There was something really ominous about the name “Great Intelligence”: as though it had more significance than being a one-off Dr. Who monster. The Doctor critiques his antagonists as stating that making a world of snow people is “Victorian values” incarnate: at least overt values.

See, that is the thing about Victorian times. There was how you were in public and how you were in private. Some people understood that you could be different in different spheres and there was an implicit understanding that what you did in private was your–and yours–own business. Of course, there is other side of it: in that some people chose–or felt forced–to embody stratified notions of gender and social interaction in all aspects of life.

The father of the two children that Clara cares for does not think it proper to show affection or even take of them himself, for instance. In addition, there were real laws in place that forbid overt or “discovered deviant behaviour”: otherwise known as displaying affection or sexuality in a non-sanctioned manner. Think of Vastra and Jenny’s relationship, or even the fact that Clara did not use her Cockney accent with the children often: to the point where they called it her “other voice” or the other voice of the lower class of Britain perhaps? Perhaps only in a society like this one can an accent be considered another voice.

Now consider that Dr. Walter Simeon grew up in this strange schizophrenic culture. The adults were sad and even considered it unhealthy that he wouldn’t interact with his peers at all. But while Clara flouted and manipulated the rules, and Vastra and Jenny were exceptions and lived as “an open secret”–with a great deal of geniality, politeness, honesty, and a whole lot of “none of your business,” Simeon dealt with it by deciding that human beings were “silly” and that he didn’t need anyone.

The Great Intelligence is a highly psychically-receptive being. It took all of these impulses from Dr. Simeon and anyone around it: shaping itself. Of course, it goes deeper than that. The Doctor talks about how the snow that is the extension of The Great Intelligence only mirrors living beings around it. But there are a lot of mirrors in this entire Episode: especially The Doctor and Dr. Simeon. Both–in a lot of ways–are scared and withdrawn little boys that do not want to interact with the Universe as it is. Dr. Simeon patterns the Great Intelligence with his need for order and an inner emptiness.

It actually reminds me of another mirror that The Doctor’s other mirror possesses:

His new Control Room desktop-theme is much different than the other recent ones. It is apparently reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS room, but there is something more angular, far sharper in angle and just …. colder about that blue light in there. The inside of his TARDIS represents his past mood and mind after the loss of his Companions. Bear in mind, this is the first time we have seen this desktop of his and it is no coincidence that it looks as cold as the season of 1892. The fact is: Winter came to more than just Great Britain. If things hadn’t been challenged, The Doctor’s life would have been what the Great Intelligence wanted to make the world: a land of “always winter, but never Christmas.”

I also feel I need to make special note here: I do not say that Clara or any of The Doctor’s Companions are mere mirrors of him. Writing about mirrors reminds me of something that Virginia Woolf stated with regards to how women had–and are–perceived only entities in relation to men. This can be applied to Dr. Who and his trend of female Companions. All of them, especially Clara, are entities and fully actualized people in their own right: something that Dr. Who writers Davies and Moffat attempt to express. Whether or not this is successful is something that can be debated at length, but I personally think is something a very fine distinction that needs to be made: that just as The Doctor gives definition to them, they give definition to him as well. As it is, even though The Doctor’s desktop remains as it is so far, The Doctor himself is brought out of that mood by the warmth of another–exemplified by Clara already asking where the kitchen is in his TARDIS–prompting him to express his own and no longer deny what he is feeling.

Then you have Simeon, or the impulses that drive this otherwise emotionless man, that can only seem to function around extensions of himself … or hollow shells. Even the wrathful Ice Governess, the result of his and the Intelligence’s progress is just a mirror–a symbol–for the repressive aspect of the Age of Victoria. But as it turns out, it is Dr. Simeon who becomes the hollow shell when The Doctor’s attempt to destroy Simeon’s memory–as the thing that fuels the Great Intelligence as its mirror–backfires and the Intelligence possesses Simeon. However, as with most of The Doctor’s enemies, it made one miscalculation.

Ignoring the rest of the human emotional spectrum.

Remember Clara? Well, she is dying. And the Intelligence feeds from emotion and memory. So as Clara is dying, everyone in the manor–the children she cared for, their father that cared for her, and the others–grieve and their feelings manifest on the Snowmen and turn into water.

Or, as The Doctor put it, he can no longer stay on his cloud … because it has turned into rain.

So the Great Intelligence seems to dissipate and Clara dies.

Or do they?

In the end, there are some … interesting details about Clara. You know, even without knowing these things before hand, I knew–from her very interaction with The Doctor–that Clara would be special. Each of his Companions is special, but she will be more so.

We have essentially been watching The Doctor grow up from his first incarnation onward. Each Companion has been integral to this. It is strange to watch The Doctor interact with his future wife River Song in temporal-reverse and she will only associate with him so far because she has intimated that he has a long ways to go before he is the man she paradoxically will meet later.

I’m going to intimate some more and possibly be very, very wrong. Now we’ve seen how The Doctor acts with his other female Companions. We know he had a family on Gallifrey ages ago: though they may have all been artificially Loomed. I believe he has been married before and is no stranger to having a romantic relationship. But consider that his whole world was destroyed. He has struggled with survivor’s guilt and has a certain kind of detachment to cope with it. Even when he travels with others it just reinforces that safety protocol of distance.

I will say this now and possibly be wrong, but the only time I had seen him look at someone like he did with Clara was with Rose.

And that says a lot.

Just that one scene where they looked at each other as he gave her that silver key.

All right, I admit it. I am a romantic. But I want to express one main thought: Clara made this entire episode. Period.

So as this look at “The Snowmen” comes to a close, I just want to say a few more things. I looked up The Great Intelligence. It has in fact been in the Whoverse before and … has Lovecraftian origins even. That just makes me smile. And that is it. It is good to see The Doctor up and out again. I look forward to seeing him try to figure out the physical–if not the humanly unique and individual–mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald and where he might have … seen her before…

And where he might see her again.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

So now I’m going to do an actual review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. And yes, there will be spoilers in addition to Middle-Earth references. So watch the movie first please, and I will try to be more specific with my Tolkien knowledge as well.

Anyway, let me start this off by stating that the last time I’d seen so many singing Dwarves was back when I first watched Snow White.

File:Snow white 1937 trailer screenshot (2).jpg

But all joking aside, I really liked this film and the entire world, the story thus far, and even the singing elements were incorporated well. The narrative begins slowly and much in the way that the multitude of trailers suggested that it would. I smiled when I saw Bilbo on the screen writing in what would become the Red Book of Westmarch.

I was puzzled, though not completely surprised, to see Frodo in those initial scenes as well. I know that many people have had some issues with him being there: saying that his and Bilbo’s interactions were superfluous to the plot and point of the story. But it was refreshing to see Frodo there: young and unburdened by the absolute hell he will be thrust into much later on in his own saga. He also provided a nice counterpoint to Bilbo as an old, and as a young Hobbit.

So now let’s get to the adventure. I’ve not actually read The Hobbit in some years, or read all of The Unfinished Histories and Tolkien’s notes, so you Tolkienites please bear my ignorance as much as you can. I really liked the encounter and banter between young Bilbo and Gandalf. But I think what I caught my eye in particular were two things in this beginning. First, I appreciate how each Dwarf that comes to Bilbo’s home looks and acts differently from his fellows. They looked very different from my kind of generic view of Dwarves in my head when I first read the story.

And then there is Bilbo. I’ve realized now that Bilbo has always been my favourite Hobbit for a variety of reasons. I guess I can relate to him: as the unwanted person thrown out of his comfort zone and not always wanting to be there. But there was one part in the beginning of the movie that Gandalf states: namely about how once Bilbo used to take after the adventurous Took side of his family before his mother died. And that really turned my head because, from what I inferred from that comment, Bilbo almost seemed to become sedentary and stuck in his ancestral Hobbit-Hole after his parents were gone. For a few moments, it made me wonder if it was a bit of fear or grief that changed Bilbo from a child to a more conservative Hobbit at the time. Even if it was unintentional on Jackson’s part, it was a nice detail.

The Dwarves, like I said, were fleshed out well and their singing more than appropriate given the nature of Middle-Earth as we have seen it through Jackson’s perspective and the gravitas of their quest. I talk about some scenes that really touched me when I watched this film and made me really relate to it, so now I can go on and mention some things I didn’t talk about in my previous post.

The panoramic views of the Shire and the path the company of fourteen (or thirteen and a half) take are breathtaking as always. I think that sometimes the film compensated for certain aspects by adding a lot of battle scenes. I don’t, for instance, recall Gandalf being involved with Bilbo’s dealing with the Trolls quite the way he had. At the same time, I loved how other things were inserted into the film narrative.

I absolutely loved Radagast the Brown. He is so unlike Gandalf or Saruman. He is kind of goofy and ridiculous, but he is still an Istari–a Wizard–and he acts like one when he needs to. There is something very shamanic about how he looks: especially with his fur robe and hat, and his sleigh of rabbits. I loved the nod to Middle-Earth lore with the mention of Ungoliant being the ancestor of the giant spiders of Mirkwood, and also Gandalf mentioning the two Blue Wizards whose names he … can’t particularly recall after two thousand years (which is fair because even now not everyone who has read the Middle-Earth books is sure what they were called or really whatever happened to them in the East). Now, what really intrigued me was the White Council. You know: Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and our favourite White Wizard-before-he-becomes-an idiot-Saruman.

I do recall Gandalf disappearing, or not appearing, in the book’s narrative at various points and apparently Tolkien’s notes and The Unfinished Tales have explanations as to what the Grey Wizard was up to during those times. And believe me, he was not just smoking pipeweed or drinking red wine or … letting Galadriel stroke his hair. I like how they draw The Necromancer into this saga and even how Saruman has some hilarious lines. Really, he was so serious in the Lord of the Rings films, but his comment about Radagast, as short-sighted and arrogant as it is, is really kind of funny. It also makes some matters clear with regards to what might happen in the other two Hobbit movies, and I will get to that later.

Before I move on though, I really like that gesture between Gandalf and Galadriel. All I can say is that Elves have a very different culture from the race of Men and a very radical understanding of the world. Galadriel actually has a husband and consort–Celeborn (who is known as the wisest Elf on Middle-Earth, take from that what you may)–so the gesture between her and Gandalf could be as an old friend and colleague comforting another.

At the same time, it should also be mentioned that Gandalf is not human, nor is he an Elf. He is a Maiar spirit: one of five sent from the Undying Lands by the Valar (or gods) of Middle-Earth to help the land deal with Sauron: who is also a Maiar. He is a powerful spirit that has been manifested, or chose to manifest in flesh. Galadriel herself is thousands of years old, but Gandalf is much older. He could have looked very different back in the day and they both lived in the Undying Lands once. Also, he has worked with her and the White Council closely and Galadriel herself is probably the most approachable consolatory member of the rest. So whatever the case, there is definitely a history there between them and it is fun to think about.

Now onto other matters. I must say that I have never heard of, or really recall the stone giants in The Hobbit or anywhere in Middle-Earth and it makes me wonder if Jackson simply put them there. They look like animated humanoid rocks that throw each other, and I will avoid making a pretty self-evident crude joke about the matter, but they were jarring to see in an otherwise seamless film.

I really appreciate the rapport of riddles and then the subsequent treachery between Bilbo and Gollum. I never get over how sorry I feel for Gollum and the way that he is almost friendly but vicious with Bilbo, ultimately insane when his ring is gone, and then completely despondent. That last is actually heartbreaking to watch.

So … now for the end. My brother wondered just why it is that the Great Eagles took the whole company only halfway towards the Lonely Mountain and not directly to the Mountain itself. I also wondered about this and I’m pretty sure that How It Should Have Ended would have addressed this much in the same way they did Lord of the Rings. But it actually makes sense when you think about it. Gandalf and the White Council were very reluctant to let the company go to disturb the Mountain because of the Dragon Smaug. Even Gandalf was concerned that Smaug might awaken and ally himself with Sauron.

Now, if you’ve seen that ending and you see what one bird managed to do can you imagine what would have happened if a whole flock of giant Eagles with twelve Dwarves, a Wizard, and a Hobbit with a Ring of Power (that he might not put on as of yet) came to the Mountain right away instead? Place your bets as to who would actually prevail in that immediate struggle. Then wonder what Smaug might do after that. He might just go back to sleep. Maybe. Anyway, it’s kind of a moot point at this time considering.

All in all, it was an excellent movie. I suspect that the second movie will deal with Smaug himself, and then the third will focus on the aftermath and the Battle of the Five Armies. But for now, I give this film a five out of five because, I think I am quite ready for another adventure.

P.S. And my answer to How It Should Have Ended‘s Lord of the Rings are Nazgul … on Fellbeasts.

There and Back Again

Potential Hobbit Book and Film Spoilers. You have been warned.

This past weekend, a day after its first official release, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And it was important that I did.

I mean, yes, as a fanboy and someone who loves Middle-Earth I would not have been able to look at myself in the elven enchantress Galadriel’s mirror if I hadn’t gone to see it, but I’m talking about something else. It seems like I’m almost always talking about more than one thing these days when I look at, and share, what I love.

I honestly … didn’t know what to think when this movie finally became a reality. It reminded me of all the times back in the early 200os where, once a year on a cold winter’s night I would go with friends to Silver City in Richmond Hill and get to see these films unfold. There is a warm, epic feeling involved in watching something like these films in the heart of the season. I can’t even describe it, but the closest thing I can tell you is that it was like I was coming home.


Yes, that is the word and it is a very apt one. In 2001, I was nineteen years old. I had just entered University and it was overwhelming. After I’d graduated high school, my friends went to their separate Universities and jobs. Also at this time, I had been involved in an online roleplaying community that just … wasn’t meshing well with me. Or that I wasn’t meshing well with. Really, it was probably a bit of both. I couldn’t find an offline equivalent of this game with actual people–partially because I was shy and introverted–and there never seemed to be a game going on. And I always felt, at the time, that I could never say the right thing. The irony was that it was a game about magic.

In those days, I was pretty smart and I read what I could, but I was also in that age-range or with that personality type back then that either didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know something, or felt entitled to be educated, or by admitting ignorance somehow thinking that this excused it.

I was also not very happy with my life. So here I was at Lord of the Rings: specifically The Fellowship of the Ring. I had no idea what to make of it or what it would be like. And then … it happened.

I was transported into a whole other world that I had read to me as a child. The music was beautiful and terrifying and fun depending on the moments. The characters–as Hobbits–were very relatable. And the scene where Gandalf fell actually made tears come to my eyes. As I watched this movie, then, I thought about everything else in the back of my mind. I found it ironic that I was having so much difficulty and frustration with a game about magic and then it occurred to me that I was watching magic–real magic–right in front of me. I remembered what it was all about.

The only thing that really happened after seeing this incredible movie was that I dropped out of the game and tried to focus on the things that mattered: my work, my friends, my life and … my own stories again.

The long-winded point I’m trying to make is that the first Lord of the Rings movie clicked something back into place way back when. The other two never quite did it, though they were good, and as far as I am concerned Fellowship was the best film of the whole trilogy. It just had such symmetry, and life, and warmth in it. It was complete in itself. I was utterly in love with the magic of it.

So then The Hobbit comes out. It’s December 2012. I’m thirty years old and am in another transitional time. I have moved on from school. My friends tend to do their own thing now and my other friends and I have since drifted apart. I’ve graduated from Graduate School, but I’m still looking for work and money. I’ve been tired and frustrated. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety to the point where sometimes I barely go outside. In addition, I’d recently been delving into personal and creative matters that had left me in a really bad mood. Sometimes being a writer does that: you mine the material inside of you that starts to flame up like any Balrog, and you can delve a little too greedily, a little too deep into that black ore of you.

I used to go out a lot more and explore, but as time has gone on I have become more and more sedentary due to many of the above elements. I gave up on a lot of things, and ensconced myself in my hole almost as much as Bilbo Baggins himself.

A long time ago, my friend Lex forced me to navigate my way to her old place in Toronto on my own. It tells you something that I didn’t have the knowledge or the confidence to do so on my own. I was a very sheltered person and I pretty know that this trait has led me to some of the above difficulties: especially for a natural introvert.

One day, after I did indeed learn how to get to her place, I did something entirely spontaneous and went to a gathering of new and unknown people deep downtown on my own. I remember Lex actually saying that she was proud of me. That day I remembered Bilbo Baggins and something he said that I quoted as a heading on my old online journal. He said, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

I look back on those words that I quoted and the years that I followed them. You know, people think that my role-models are wise figures and Dark Lords, and most of the time I would agree with them. But in that one moment, my role-model was a Hobbit: a particular Hobbit who after a lifetime of anxiety and adventure, very calmly and benignly realized it was time that he went on another one.

So now we have Peter Jackson’s movie opening the day before on Friday. And I pretty much gave up on seeing it anytime soon. I was going to wait maybe a few days or a week. I was in a really black mood: dwelling on things from the past and staying away from people. But somewhere I still hoped that Saturday that my parents and I could go see this film that I wasn’t sure I was waiting for. I was almost scared to see it for reasons that I wasn’t conscious of at the time. So my Dad came to the basement and I had every reason to not only say that there was no way we would be able to see that film the day after its first release, but that I really didn’t want to go out to a movie–or anywhere else–at all.

The truth is, I wanted to see this movie badly. So much that I had to convince myself that I didn’t. I know some people who got advanced screenings and I was a little jealous of this. My reasons for not going to see this movie were pretty sound: there would be a crowd, times would sold out, there would be no parking, I had to meet my friends the next day and so on and so forth.

I had every reason not to go except for one. And this one gnawed at me like a small ember coming a reluctant inferno. And the anger I was feeling towards a lot of things became something else. So I went to my Dad and said to him, “Well, we can try it. If not, well we had an outing and we can try it again some other time.”

So we eventually all left and went to Silver City. We were in luck. We had left early and the line wasn’t bad. My Dad got parking and we got the seats that we wanted. That ember was still burning in me and I didn’t want to fuel it too high, but just enough to get me through this. I was remembering the season of the first movies and how I role-played a custom made world with my friend Noah back when he lived closer by. How I felt then with that magic from that world and ambiance.

Then, in that line that was not as long as I thought it would be, I realized why I was hesitating throughout all of this. I realized I really needed to feel that magic again. I needed to feel it now. Right now. I delved into a necessary darkness, but now was the time to stop delving and writing and just experience something beautiful. And I was afraid–terrified–that The Hobbit wouldn’t provide that magic from 2001, and other times: that I would still be feeling the unhappiness–the sheer bitterness–in me and I just couldn’t bear it.

I’m no fool though. This was a movie: just a movie. It was–and isn’t–a cure-all for all woes. It isn’t a psychologist or medicine. It is a piece of entertainment. But that was exactly what I was looking for. Entertainment. And immersion into a whole other world: a familiar warm world in the cold of the winter night.

Experiencing The Hobbit at thirty was different than experiencing Fellowship at nineteen. Sometimes it felt like it dragged a bit. Other times the fighting got a little much. I over-thought some things and tried to remember the book it was based from. The singing … was strange in that my impulse would have usually been to wince, but I just couldn’t find the strength to.

I think the most poignant moment for me was when Bilbo woke up in his Hobbit hole–after Gandalf almost cheerfully “ruined his good morning” by inviting thirteen questing Dwarves that drank and messed up his place–and found the place spotless again.

And found himself alone.

I thought about that. I thought about Bilbo completely out of his element and Gandalf doing his damnedest to wreck his peaceful life out of very intrinsic good intentions. I thought of the laughter, mirth, the drunkenness, the storytelling, the sombre singing of the Dwarves that lost and wanted to reclaim their stolen home from an impossible monster, and I thought of Bilbo with his books and armchair encountering all of this and finding that spark growing inside him: making him uncomfortable in his comfort that was never really comfortable for who he was at all.

Then I thought of him finding himself alone in the peace and quiet again: with the adventurers’ contract that he never signed.

And I’ll be damned. I will be damned. I will be three-times damned if I had not felt the same way too many damn things (four times) in my own life.

So Bilbo ran like a crazy little man after the Company of boisterous Dwarves and a meddling old red-wine drinking Wizard. I sat there in a theatre seat and watched. I also watched as he entered and left Rivendell: first with wonder at its beauty, and then with longing for its peace. For me, that was the second poignant moment for me: because we all know that the next time Bilbo–now a young man–goes back there, he will be much, much older and with only one journey left to him then. After the film was over, I came home and went on my Facebook. I thought of writing this Blog entry: which in the end took much longer than I thought. Then I thought about how the next day I was going to be playing a favourite old game with Noah and the others.

It didn’t end up happening, but since I was out anyway I decided to explore a bit. I ran into an old friend on the subway, then I hunted unsuccessfully for a camera, and then came back home. That darkness I was feeling is still there. It will always be and I don’t pretend otherwise. But I’m feeling a levity. I’m not “cured” of myself. I have a lot of work to do and I know it will take one step at a time to balance out my life, but now I am remembering that I can actually adapt. I can work around the anxiety and the bad moods.

I might not have a meddling Wizard to carve a strange bit of graffiti into my door, but I guess I can fulfill dual roles for myself. I have to move at my own pace, a little faster than that of an Ent’s, but I will do it. I have plans. My journey isn’t over. The writing is just part of it and will benefit in the long run from the things I plan to do. Each day you live once and I want to do different things each day: even the small things.

So before I wrote this Blog post, I went on my Facebook and wrote the following as my status. And I quote:

“Matthew Kirshenblatt thinks The Hobbit was awesome. In fact, I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”

So I did find the magic again. And it is home.

So, After Being Freshly Pressed

How do I even start this?

Usually, I wouldn’t post anything until Thursday, I just really have to respond to, well, the major response that I got after my Funnies entry got Freshly Pressed.

You have to understand: a day or so ago, I go into the basement to look at my email and I see this email from Cheri Lucas telling me that she and the rest of the editorial team liked my post and decided to pick it to be Freshly Pressed.

I didn’t really know what this was going to entail: save that I was going to get another link for more people to look at my Writer’s Blog. Now, I knew I was going to get a fair amount of traffic, but … wow.


Just wow.

This has been insane. In a very good way.

So the silly and rather weird picture above aside, let me try to put this in perspective. For me, my best days were 30 or so Views. Until this point, I had about sixty or so Followers as well. And I only got the occasional comment. All of these were, in themselves, very awesome.

So … you can imagine what it feels like when you come down and you see that you’ve gone from sixty Followers to–right now–one hundred and nineteen Followers. Then you see you have +91 on your site per view graph (which in D&D terms would be a godlike modifier bonus for any player character). Finally, you see that you have something along the lines of six hundred and eighty-two Views, which WordPress now specifically says comes from four hundred and eighty-nine visitors.

Think about that: four hundred and eighty-nine people found something interesting enough to look at on this Blog. And then–and then–one hundred and nineteen of you signed up to join me on the Journey to see where this Writer’s Blog is going to go.

What humbles me even more is, right now, it’s all still growing.

So, let me make my thank yous. I would like to thank Cheri Lucas and her fellow WordPress editors for choosing my Blog post to exhibit on Freshly Pressed: to have found something that they felt needed to be said, or, as Cheri herself put it, helps to “make the Internet a more interesting place.”

I also want to give a hearty thank you to all my new readers. All of you. All of you that have passed through here, that have Re-Blogged my Journal post on your sites, and that decided to Follow me to pretty much god knows where. I welcome you and I hope to continue the work that got you all here to begin with.

When I first started Mythic Bios, it was in a series of written notebooks: containing stories and vignettes that combined research and aspects of my own life together into strange alchemical experiments of writing. I made this site to supplement the creative writing that I thought I was going to be doing. By Creative Writing, I thought I was going to be making a lot of fiction and some more essay-like constructs. Since then, I’ve realized creative writing covers a wide range of fiction and non-fiction.

So look: I don’t know how much longer this is going to last. I don’t know how many more new Viewers I’m going to get or how long I will have this captiv — I mean, willing audience of all of you, so here is what I am going to do.

The strange critical and creative article hybrids here will continue as planned. However, I am going to start posting more short stories. You are all going to see short stories under my Stories and Things Page on the top bar of my Blog. And also … you might see a serial story or two happening as well.

Project: Dark-Seed may have to commence soon enough.

I guess the best way to end this long rambling post is to thank all of you because, frankly, you are all awesome and you encourage me to keep remembering that what I have to say is worth writing about. I’d like to think that this is just the beginning. Take care everyone. 🙂


Paradigms Lost, Paradigms Regained: Looking Back and Looking Forward Can Be Both One and the Same

Foregone Warning: the title of this post is a play on words and borderline off-key rhyme. It almost verges into the territory of the pun. Actual warning: this article is going to be a very link extensive post and I hope it will all make sense towards the end.

In my post A World Coming Together, A Possible Paradigm Forming, and Other Stories That Find Themselves On Their Way, I make a lot of promises and claims but there is one in particular that I feel I need to go into a little more detail about.

I said before that it seems like we are in the process of the rise of a new paradigm: based on the geek nostalgia of the late seventies, but mostly the eighties onward to early 2000. As I said before, I feel I need to be more specific about this. What I actually mean is that we have been, for some time now, at a point where we can look back what was the present not too long ago and actually subvert and critique it. I mean, we can actually ask some questions about a lot of things that we took for granted: either in all seriousness or through satire.

For instance, look at Robot Chicken and how it makes fun of a lot of popular culture from the 80s and onward. The thing about Robot Chicken, however, is that it makes fun of generally everything to a warped and twisted degree of hilarity: and I wonder if this hasn’t also been a product of the past thirty or forty years or if it takes a paradigm about that amount time to gestate and create itself.

I guess I am trying to talk about a few things at once: which is not the first time something like this has happened for me. So I’m going to take a risk and bring up some theory, and then see what I can do with it from there.

In about the 1980s, there was–or even is–this theory that we had entered something called post-modernism. There is a lot of debate as to what post-modernism actually is, but from my understanding it seemed to be a period in which  literature and other media had become fragmented or combined with one another to make entirely different meanings from what they once were, or could have been. In addition to this was the rise of another idea called deconstructionism which, in the very reduced way I’m explaining it, is a theory that likes to take things apart. When you combine these ideas together, you essentially create writings and cultures that are incredibly ironic, sometimes “self-aware,” and that like to dissect themselves while at the same time attempt to reveal a multiple amount of different meanings.

There are a lot of scholars and artists that dispute these terms, of course, and say that every generation or paradigm goes through a phase of critiquing what came before and making something new from these elements afterwards. I like to think that the 80s and onward really favoured making pastiches–narratives and stories created from parts of things like patchwork monsters–to either subvert something that once existed or make as unique as is humanly possible.

Now, take that idea. You can definitely apply that to Robot Chicken. But it goes further than that and it doesn’t always manifest in the same way. For instance, take ItsJustSomeRandomGuy. As I mentioned in another post, he takes primarily Marvel and DC superheroes and villains and actually makes them aware of their fictional status but keeps them in character in doing so and even manages to make some incredible meta-narrative plots with a whole lot of geek culture references. I‘m A Marvel, I’m a DC is a whole lot less “profane” than Robot Chicken, but they operate on similar principles. I also would be greatly remiss if I forgot the How It Should Have Ended series: where popular movies and videos are depicted as cartoons and their plots are changed or subverted by … well … common sense. But since when do good fictional plots make sense with common sense? 😉 We can argue that point.

The whole idea of popular cultural or geek references, sometimes to the point of being self-referential in different media seems to have originated from Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer: where in addition to a whole lot of witty “dialogue without pity,” there was a regular string of different kinds of references. The issue, however, is that I’m not sure this where it came from, or one of the points of entry into mainstream culture and entertainment. All I can say is, it was for me.

I have noticed, however, that a lot of my examples of this paradigm are very television and Internet-based. And there it is. I would argue that a paradigm or a culture is created when it evolves to the point of being able to look at itself and critique itself. And right now, this impulse, which may have started in the 80s as we know it, has sky-rocketed as information technology has advanced.

Look at the Abridged series for instance. Abridged series are fan-made parodies of television shows and cartoons. Parodies like LittleKuriboh’s Yu-gi-oh Abridged and Team Four Star’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged have become very popular and entertaining shows among fans: so much so that many other fans create their own Abridged series, or parody the Abridged series that exist. They are practically viral phenomena.

And these are just the fictional examples. I haven’t even begun to go into the actual Critics  like The Nostalgia CriticThe Angry Video Game Nerd and Cinemassacre Productions, Nixie Pixel, G33kPron and countless others who review and critique video games, movies, and geek culture old and new. They also use the pastiche form in some cases to make various verbal and media references. There are also so many more people we do this as well.

Now, somewhere in all of this fictional and non-fictional stuff … is me.

It took me a really long time to realize that not only was I already a part of this nebulous process, but that it was legitimate and more than okay to be so. I’ve had at least one teacher or two who would have once considered comics and video games utter dreck: or at the very least very un-serious diversions from real life. And I’m not going to lie to you or myself: there is a lot of garbage out there that isn’t even entertaining like “YouTube Poop”: videos created specifically to be obnoxious. But every literary and media culture has garbage. They also have gems and other treasures.

Think about this prospect. All the video games you’ve played and the comics you’ve read are becoming references that more people from a generation of thirty or forty years understands. These references make it into literature and criticism. Moreover, we exist in an Age of Information: where many obscure and old elements of our childhood are much more accessible to us now than ever before.

Some scholars have even argued that we are–or we were–in an age of Hypertext: a situation where we can click on a vast amount of chain-information through links and linked words on the Internet. You know, like when you are on Wikipedia or anywhere else, and you search for one thing, and then click on a highlighted word or phrase to be linked to another–or multiple other–online pages. In part, this allows us to look back on “our childish things,” and we don’t turn our backs on them, but instead we embrace them with an adult perspective and understanding that only someone who knew them way back when can give.

Moreover, we can even take this perspective–possibly created from our own nostalgia–and apply it to times that existed before us, or take that and make something entirely new in our time now. But also think about this: in addition to having more information technology, we are developing more interactive technology as well. Video games are much in the same place that comics, and film used to be–and to some extent–still are in public opinion. They have not always been respected, but as we continue to make them we can add more content, more distinction, and more variety. We can–and we have–gotten to the point where video games can even make references or “literary allusions” to other video games and culture in general. I am definitely going to revisit this thought at some other people.

Then consider the other people who participate in these interactive narratives and add the Internet to that fact: which connects people all across the world and different forms of life. Sometimes, I believe–in my more optimistic moments–that we could be on the cusp of creating something truly great and maybe even in our own lifetime. I can’t even imagine what will come after this if all goes well.

So in all of this, I am trying to find my own place: to find my niche. I want to take advantage of this time and do something that matters. This Blog, in no small way, is a part of this drive. It is here that I can combine my geeky interests with my academic background and my creative impulse to construct new things and state my opinions. I want to be a part of this. I want to do something great as well.

I grew up in the nineties or, as a friend of mine likes to chant, “90s 90s, living in the 90s!” Once, it was my present and sometimes it’s weird–really weird–that it and the early 2000s aren’t anymore. Sometimes, I feel time-displaced. I feel lost. I have another acquaintance who once stated that the children of the 80s, and even those before are a Lost Generation: of people who never really achieved their full promise in today’s world. But we’re not. We’re really not. I think we have been coming into our own and we will continue to do so as we ascribe a multiplicity of new meanings to old things, and create things that will make other things together.

Because there it is: perhaps post-modernism and deconstructionism might have taken things apart to see how they work, as they work, but we–whether we are in a Hypertext age or not–are starting to put them back together … and make different things entirely. Now that is something to celebrate.

The Funnies: They Just Keep Coming Back … and They Never Stop

A cartoon is not a frivolous thing. It can look like a silly drawing or a caricature of life. Upon first glance, it seems to only exist on either a screen or a piece of paper. Sometimes, it even says witty things or does something stupid or endearing that can make us laugh.

Cartoons have been around for so long–on television, in movies, in the newspaper funny-pages and even on T-shirts–that we take them for granted. We don’t always take them seriously.

But consider. A cartoon is an archetype. It is an idea given form. In fact, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to even state that it is a Platonic Form: living glyphs essentialized to the point of becoming as close to pure concepts as is humanly possible … which of course is a misnomer.

Because cartoons aren’t human at all.

Some of them are wise-talking humanoid animals. Others are parodies of human beings that somehow possess their own sense of agency. There are even some that are inanimate objects given life. Often, the really old cartoons exist in very self-contained two-dimensional pocket-dimensions: in a mythological cycle of trickery, mayhem, and fun-loving nose-thumbing at fate.

And the really old cartoons can’t be destroyed. They can’t be smashed by falling anvils or mallets. They can’t be burned by fire or exploded by dynamite: at least, not for very long. They are used to dealing–and receiving–massive amounts of physical damage, and then coming back for more. And we’re not even talking about the ones that have a supernatural way of avoiding the damages of their enemies altogether just to–through some twisted fluke of fate–make them fall into their own traps.

They are like living rubber or silly-putty that just keeps bouncing back. A human being isn’t like that. When human beings fall, they break.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that cartoons are beings that are psychopaths or sociopaths by human standards: in worlds and cyclic realities where neither human physical and psychological standards even apply. They come from the same heightened mythic state as faeries, and gods; as legends and archetypes: in a place where slap-stick is not only futility and invincibility, but where the ridiculousness is the superhuman and the sublime. Some people might call this state a perpetual hell, or a utopia. But mostly, it just is and they just are.

In the end, you can’t destroy a cartoon because you can’t destroy an idea. Because even if you break the projector, or the television, or snap the DVD, or rip up the papers they are still there–pure ideas–in your head, mocking you, holding an oversized mallet in one hand as they stand in the darkest corner of your mind, knowing more than they do, doing more than they know, just waiting for that punchline: where you finally have to laugh at yourself.

A World Coming Together, A Possible Paradigm Forming, and Other Stories That Find Themselves On Their Way

This is Red-One. She is the protagonist of the comics collaboration that Angela O’Hara and myself are undertaking. One day, to inspire herself, Angela decided to create this digital art piece. It is a conceptual drawing of Red-One at about seventeen years old or so, and she is definitely quite beautiful.

So, I did end up naming the characters that we are working on. That might seem strange given that it is supposed to be a silent comic, or a comic without words, but it is a point of reference for us to work from and it adds more character and background to work with too: to bring across onto the page through facial expression, body language, and action.

We have also decided on a structure for the comic. It will be about twenty-four pages and it will have panels. There is just too much, even with the basic story structure that I’ve already made, to dedicate a page each to a different action. Panels will actually give us more room by giving us more pages to work with in expressing the narrative. Like I said, I do have a basic story outline finished and I am going to attempt to do at some point is take a scene from what I wrote, expand on it a bit, give it to Angela and experiment with panels and the page layout.

Panels and page layouts are diabolical in that they both seem to be the same thing, but they’re different. For instance, you can make one panel and then have to decide what goes on in that panel, whereas the page layout is actually how more than one panel–or lack thereof if you want to get experimental about it–is arranged as an overall pattern on paper or screen.

I have attempted with previous works to include panel breakdowns and detailed layout structure for each page into script form–this without an artist partner–and I have to say that it is challenging at best. Luckily in this case, I can hopefully communicate the essentials of what I want to see to Angela, talk through it, see a few versions, and come up with a happy medium. Angela has also been working on a few more conceptual drawings and eventually things will be coming together.

So there is that.

Another thing I have been doing lately is that I am looking into published other works while this collaboration continues. That is to say, I am going to now actively–again–send out stories to electronic and material magazines in order to get more things published. I have a few candidates and a few ideas with regards to what I am going to send. I think I’ll go into that a little now.

I’ve had at least three Lovecraftian story ideas that I have been building on in a purely note-written or scribbled way for a little while now. When I’ve finished one or more, I might send some to Innsmouth Free Press, or Weird Tales (which right now is closed to Fiction Submissions, oh well). I love the fact that Lovecraft is not only public-domain, but there is so much potential to his ideas. His stories are mainly “congeries” (he loves that word, among others)–or connections–of seminal ideas: of things that have informed so many other works long since his time.

Lovecraft’s mythos is not the only thing I am focusing on however. I’m also contemplating sending a science-fiction story of mine to Strange Horizons. There is also a story of mine that I meant to finish long ago, set in Toronto, which I may send to Broken Pencil’s Death Match Contest or directly to the magazine itself.

In addition, I have a few stories I’ve already finished that I realize may be tapping into a niche that is emerging or has been emergent for quite some time now. The niche, paradigm, or Zeitgeist (the “Spirit of the Times”) I’m thinking of is the 1980s-and onward geek nostalgia that is becoming more prevalent every day as well as the usage of allusions and literary references to video games and comics. I have actually been experimenting with this for a long time and I have been polishing off what I have.

I guess the danger is whether what I relate to in this regard will become obsolete sooner than I can do anything with, or even in the future. I mean, will years from now someone know what Google is if it is referenced into a story or will it be some small obscure technical footnote somewhere? Or is our society changing so much with regards to technology that Google and other programs, and even video games will become part of a historical documentation: if only an electronic one? I’m pretty sure cultural shifts celebrating “retro” elements come in cycles, but you can never really predict these things. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.

As for me, the reason I am making strange stories like these–tapping into this–is because I can relate it and it interests me. I can’t tell the future (which is probably for the best) but I’m doing my best to express the forces that have influenced me in the way they have influenced me: if that makes any sense.

So these are my goals along with a few others. I hope to be able to Blog more about these other developments and also be able to keep up with the challenges that I have set myself.

Worms and Bicycles Or How People Make For Strange Stories: Menocchio and Igor Kenk

I’ve been rereading Pop Sandbox’s Kenk: A Graphic Portrait and I kind of wish that this comics work had been published when I worked on a previous assignment of mine.

In one of my previous Graduate courses, our class had to read Carl Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller. It basically dealt with the idea that an individual can not only embody the culture that they come from, but that that person can represent different kinds of culture and actually interpret cultural information differently for themselves. Really, what I got out of it was that an individual can create their own world or mythic reality from information they have access to from their own culture.

As for why the work is called The Cheese and the Worms, it’s due to the fact that it focuses on the record of a man named Menocchio who compared the world’s creation to be not unlike that of rotten cheese. I’m not making this up: the Roman Inquisition that interrogated and took testimony from him apparently got this account from the man. So obviously, I felt compelled to do a presentation on this and focus my course paper on it because, well, look at the title and the subject matter. Really: how could I not?

I think that I found the most interesting about Menocchio himself was the examination of how he possibly came to the conclusions about the world that he did. He was not born of nobility or the upper-class in Italy, but rather came from a merchant culture. As such, while he was literate and he had the means to buy books, he also grew up with an oral literary tradition: a culture that passes on lore through the ages and word of mouth.

Ginzburg seemed to really like to point out the strangeness of this figure of Menocchio: how he was almost an intermediary between the oral and the written as well as peasant and “higher culture.” Menocchio himself lived during a time of transition between oral culture and the development of the printing press and written literacy: a revolution of sorts. Menocchio existed during the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation: where the ideas of Catholicism and Christianity itself were being challenged by the new Protestant movement using said printing presses. It is also worth mentioning that Ginzburg liked to examine colportage–cheaply printed chapbooks detailing songs, tales, and the lives of saints–as a backdrop of Menocchio’s literacy as well.

All of these traits and more are eerie parallels with Richard Poplak’s observations about Igor Kenk. Kenk grew up during a time between socialism and capitalism in Slovenia of the former Yugoslavia. One thing that Richard Poplak likes to point out is that it was also during this time period that common citizens in Slovenia were allowed access to photocopy machines: mechanisms of distributing information that were originally in the charge of the State. The counter-cultural Theatre FV 112/15 group– also known as the FV movement–used photocopiers to create a collage art known as FV Disco: a form of which–thanks to the artist Nick Marinkovich–Kenk also utilizes. This was the time and conceptual place where Kenk developed as an adult.


As such, Kenk also possesses a very unique world-view based on the transitional culture of his time: the idea that all things can be recycled and that you need to choose to struggle in life in order to survive as a person: which is part of what he seems to call “The Monkey Factor” or survival. From what I understood of this book, his notion of “recycling” also seems to mean reselling stolen bikes as well as hoarding. As an aside, the fact that Kenk believed the system of debt, borrowing, and capitalism to be doomed is also linked to his philosophies and it’s only now, years after I read the first time, that I wonder what he would think of the Occupy movements back in 2008 before his arrest, and what they might think of him now.

Igor Kenk came from a social order that was radically changing and between extremes. He was considered to be a Math prodigy and did well in his education. For a time he was even a police officer in Slovenia–surviving their harsh regimen–until he was discharged, and then proceeded to cross the border into other countries to get goods as Slovenia’s political alignment and its economy changed. Then he eventually came to Canada and became something of a merchant himself by selling and fixing bicycles in Toronto.

What I’m trying to say is that both Kenk and Menocchio are products of their time and culture, but at the same time how they chose to interpret their changing cultures was very idiosyncratic to them. In other words, they created some very unique world-views. And both of them arguably paid for it by the powers that be: Menocchio with his life for not recanting his beliefs to the Roman Inquisition and Kenk doing jail time and losing his Bicycle Clinic for the thefts he was charged with.


All of the above can arguably be considered gross simplifications, of course. In my paper that dealt with the implications of Menocchio, I pretty much say the same thing more or less. But I think the reason I’m attempting to compare two men from entirely different time periods, cultures, and countries is due to a greater issue: namely, why are they important?

I mean, come on: neither Menocchio nor Kenk would traditionally be considered important in a historical sense. In the grand scheme of things, someone might say that, while these parallels are interesting, who the hell cares?

The reason that I care, and one of the reasons why modern historians, journalists, and–in some ways more importantly readers–find these accounts so important is because they are narratives that deal with real people. It’s true that neither Menocchio nor Kenk are politicians, or artists, or even popular cultural figures in themselves but they are people that–while arguably normal or common in terms of class or historical significance–symbolize greater historical and cultural shifts by just being who they are.

They are ordinary people with very un-ordinary perspectives and there was a time where we would never have even known about them: or at the very least we’d only get a summary of them in passing … or at least we’d get something like this from a dominant or “higher cultural” narrative. Because there is one thing I keep coming back to in my head: it is the idea of oral history.

What is oral history? We know that oral culture or literacy is something that is passed on verbally from one storyteller to the next throughout many generations. But history, as Westerners, understand it is derived from the ancient Greek word historia: which is something along the lines of scientific inquiry or observation. Oral history, from my understanding, is thus something of verbal origin that is written down for other people to see.

Menocchio’s “worm and cheese world” survived through the written accounts of his interrogators, whereas Kenk seems to have actually been interviewed by the book’s producer Alex Jansen and filmed by Jason Gilmore as he espouses his world-view of “Monkey Factors and recycling” in that context.


Oral culture in our world is very different in that we have sophisticated image and audio technology to preserve and record the spoken word, and where that spoken word comes from. There is a scholar named Walter Ong–who I looked at in my own studies for my Master’s Thesis–who looked at oral culture and degrees of orality.

Ong believed that there is something called “secondary orality”: in which spoken word is preserved through technological means like video and radio. But I’ve always wondered if he would have included illustrated images in this definition as well, and how problematic it would be if these images were accompanied by written words. Can the visual be considered part of the oral or the written, or is it something by itself? Obviously I’m talking about the medium of comics and what kind of literacy that would be defined as but–this tangent aside for now–right now I’m thinking about the idea of oral history being a historical narrative that records down what life and reality is like for “the common person”: if there is any such thing as a common person.

I actually think that this conception of oral history has led to the idea of journalism: of interviewing and recording down what a particular person or witness has to say, and then researching the environment in which this person came from for a greater perspective. Is journalism the child of oral history? And then you take something like Kenk into consideration too: something that is written down but also given a sequential FV Disco style is that is both an illustrative and video collage aesthetic.

It’s fascinating to think about Kenk as an artifact of not only “comics journalism”–a medium that some comics creators like Joe Sacco have already developed–but also written literacy, oral culture, history, and mass-produced art. I look at Kenk and I wonder if this is our contemporary version of the colportage of Menocchio’s time, or the pamphlets and photocopies of 1980s Slovenia. Because in the end, it’s not just Menocchio and Kenk that have a lot in common, but also the media used to try and capture what they are … and what they are not.

When I started writing this article, I thought it was going to be easy: like it was all fully formed in my head. In a way I’m doing what I said I would not do by delving more into the academics I’ve tried to put some distance from: at least with regards to jargon. My train of thought tends to drift and it has been a struggle to communicate and even cohesively perceive all of these parallels here.

But if this were a paper of mine, if this were some rough form of the Graduate essays I would write, I would end this post in the following manner. As someone who has studied mythic world-building, I believe that art is an engagement with different parts of the world around you, and an expression of who you are as a result of what you choose to accept of that world. In that, the man called Menocchio and Igor Kenk–specifically in how their scholars and artists portray them–not only made their own art, but actually lived their art, and allowed for the creation of more of it.

I also believe that when you take all of this into account oral history, journalism, comics journalism, or whatever you want to call it reveals one more truth. Writing about an individual not only reveals that there are no “ordinary people,” but that it never makes for making any “ordinary stories.” Ever.

Again, I’d like to thank Alex Jansen and Jason Gilmore for lending me these pages of Kenk to place here in my article to make both point and emphasis.

If you are interested in this topic, you might like my What is FV Disco article as well. They both deal with similar subject matter, but in different ways.

I Don’t Have a Witty Title for Sexism or Elitists, But Here is What Really Matters

Me and my Head

For the purpose of the rhetoric in this article–its method of expression–I am going to be using the general second-person pronoun of “you.”

I’ve gone to Conventions before. They are some of the few places that have the opportunity to actually relate to people who have similar interests as mine. I’ve been to the crowded, but varied Toronto Fan Expo. I went to Anime North with all of its variance of cosplayers. I have gone to, and volunteered at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. I even went all the way to Atlanta to go to what is arguably a grandparent of them all: Dragon Con.

I don’t go to nearly as many as I should: given what this Writer’s Blog is about, and the fact that I’d like to meet with more people who have similar interests to my own.

So I’m not really going to say anything new. There will be no insight into anything here that you already haven’t read a thousand times before. The sad thing is that I feel like I even have to repeat this at all because you would think, by now, that this would be common sense. But I have two points that I’m going to make.

First of all, when a girl or a woman–or anyone–is at a Convention, they want to be there. Period. If they have taken the time, such as at Anime North, or Fan Expo, or Dragon Con, or any other Convention or Festival to dress up as a fictional character or otherwise, chances are they want to be at this Event and they know who they are dressed as. Some good friends of mine, and people I love create their own costumes from raw sewing materials. Also, I’ve been told that–as such–it is more than okay to compliment someone on their costume–self-made or otherwise–and to ask to take pictures of them. Hell, you might even talk with them and make a friend.

Hey, it could happen, or so I hear.

So please do not talk about who knows what about what character, or series, or franchise and then some.

And even if they don’t, they are there–after paying money and a substantial amount of money at that–to have fun. That is what a Comics, Video Game, Film, and Geek Convention or Festival is ultimately about. To have fun.

They are not there for you and they do not have to fulfill your standards as to what a “true geek” should be. And here is some more common sense, I don’t care what their costume looks like, you do not have the right to touch someone without their permission. This is basic kindergarten knowledge. Do not touch someone without their permission. Period.

Also, here is an exercise. Imagine that women can create, buy, review, play, and add to Geek Culture. Or, you know, simply enjoy it.

Well, you don’t have actually imagine this, because this has already happened. And it is happening right now. Because guess what: women are people. People make choices and sometimes different choices from those you might make. Therefore it is pretty foolish to make generalizations or assumptions based on intrinsically different individuals who happen to have flesh bodies like all human beings do.

So here is something constructive that I can suggest. Talk to a woman like a human being and treat her like one (because well, duh, she is one), and you might learn something about another human being who may or may not share the same interests as you. Encourage them to create and review works. In fact, encourage anyone to do that. Moreover, if you do not agree with what they have to say, insults, threats, and sexist remarks really will not help your case or make you look any more intelligent by comparison. If you have something constructive to say, take the time to say it and remember that you are talking to another human being who has their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

And as your parents will tell you, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t bloody say it. This man here astonishes me not so much because of his views with regards to “a majority” of female cosplayers–of which I don’t agree with in the slightest–but because he is an artist and he decided that it was wise to publicly post this for anyone to see. I can’t really fathom it, to be honest. As an aspiring creator, cultivating an audience is important to getting your work off the ground, and to continue supporting it, and this just looks like a whole lot of personal sabotage of everything he has ever collaborated in. It’s just sad. It’s just really sad and unacceptable.

So I am going to get into the second part of my rant now, which will also begin with the word “unacceptable.”

Just because you like a certain work, or have followed something for a while, or bought a wide range of products, or have Joe Shuster’s autograph, or written ridiculous fanfics, or created other works, or any wide variety of Geeky things does not make you better than other people. I’m now really talking about the overarching issue here in addition to sexism: elitism.

Now, you can find jerks in any human endeavour or culture of some kind. They’re jerks: enough said and you don’t need to waste your time with them if they bother you that much. But–but–that does not give you or anyone else the right to make the judgment that they are not “true geeks” and it doesn’t reflect well on what you love by disparaging others who may not meet “your standards.”

What is a geek? Honestly, I believe that a geek is someone who really loves something to the point of obsession–or bordering on it–and it can be a wide range of different subjects and objects. Just because a geek might not know as much as another, or doesn’t own as many toys doesn’t mean they are any lesser. The term “geek” and indeed any label is problematic at best, so the rest of this is going to be more of my opinion: as if you haven’t already heard enough of it.

Do you know what I think a “true geek” is? I think a true geek is someone that loves something so much that they are willing–and happily so–to share that love with someone else. This could be in the form of education, or telling stories, or hanging around each other, or making things together, or playing games together, or trading knowledge, skills, and experiences, or something even so basic as simply acknowledging that–even if you don’t share the same interest–that you can at least respect it.

Because here’s the thing. When you get to the point of trying to prove you are better than someone, you are entering a pissing match.

And the thing about pissing matches is even if you win, you’re still going to be covered in urine.

So keep that in mind. I actually like Conventions and I’d like to it to stay that way. And if they can be even better, then I am all for that too.

Credit: Matt & Kristy on Flickr, whose picture and costumes these actually are.