MENU

Opinion
Category

974

Canadian Politics – the Environment

Culture, Opinion, The Truth

September 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: Many of the lines in this article contain hyperlinks to some of the sources used to write this article, specifically some of the articles used to build the conclusions reached here. Clicking on them will open a new tab that will take you to that article. Again, we want to be helpful, but also truthful – this sort of thing is important to us. 

The environment is playing a larger role in world politics than ever before. The corporate interests that have done their best to silence climate scientists, combined with the dedication to neutrality instead of objectivity found on sources like CNN News or NBC News – or the outright lies on Fox – have led to this catastrophic topic being placed on the back burner in a country that used to be respected for being environmentally conscious.

Climate scientists the world over have been begging governments around the globe for decades to start looking at energy alternatives, but the same oil and coal magnates that have done their best to bribe politicians and cripple science so that they can continue to line their own pockets have done a good job of making the issue a political one. They’ve even done this in Canada, and the Harper Government has been happy to help them. They’ve been wildly successfully at this and we’re beginning to see the effects of unchecked short-thinking greed.

The fracking in Alberta has seen a disturbing rise in ecological harm and has been tied to earthquakes that are happening as far as Mission, BC. The Mount Polly Mine and Burrard Inlet disasters happened while the federal government passed laws to criminalize those that were protesting an environmentally devastating pipeline, all while federal oversight to keep such disasters in check has been shrinking. And that’s only some of the disasters that have happened in British Columbia, nevermind the rest of Canada.

All the money in the world means nothing if there’s no world in which to spend it.

It’s not as if there isn’t money to be made in green forms of energy: solar and wind are both ready to go, and there’s some exciting things to be noted when it comes to tidal harvesting. There’s even personal devices meant to allow for the creation of green energy, but several conservative governments have been happy to destroy businesses that would be environmentally sound in the past. Hell, conservative governments tried to do that same thing to Tesla Motors, all while quoting Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged.

Didn’t John Oliver have something to say about that…?

As if that weren’t enough, the Harper Government has also seen fit to dismantle government protection on lakes, rivers, and national parks, which has made some people very, very angry

So, with all that in mind, what do our political candidates have in mind…? 

If you need a quick refresher as to who these people are, click on this sentence.  

If you want a more long-winded explanation of what each party is claiming to want, click the name of that party.

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits 

Leader Justin Trudeau has promised to restore the gutted environmental protection wing of the government, stop the Keystone Oil Pipeline, and start phasing out fossil fuels in favor of green energy immediately, which all sounds pretty great. He also wants to legislate a price for carbon pollution and increase the amount of protected coastal and marine areas by 10% by 2020. It’s a pretty good start, but the problem is that Justin already caved on C-51, and that’s left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We’re not sure if we can trust Justin, and we’ve been mucked around with so much by the Harper Government that we’re a little leery of electing anyone that seems untrustworthy. It’s a shame, too, because Justin talks a good game.

 

The Tories

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Harper Government would like to remind us that it is not the Canadian Government, and care nothing for Canada, the world, or anyone other than the Harper Government. To that end, they promise to look at phasing out fossil fuels sometime in the next hundred years, and to consider lowering carbon pollution by 2050. No, I’m serious. The Harper Government has their heads so far in the tar sands that they can’t help but frack the rest of us. They’d also like to start buying carbon credits from other countries, so that they can use them here. Again, I’m serious. This is what they want to do. Lastly, they want to give the ministry of the environment $200 million to clean up the messes they’ve made, which sounds good until you realize that the Burrard Inlet mess alone is going to cost somewhere in the $2.1 Billion mark to clean up. Also, that picture on their site where they talk about the environment? That’s from another country. Well done, guys.

 

The NDP

Canada Politics 001 - 006Much like the Liberals, the NDP likes the idea of putting a price on carbon to give people an incentive not to go above a certain level of carbon usage. That could either work really well or fall apart, depending upon the implementation. There are some details about how Tom Muclair would like to proceed on the NDP site, though your mileage may very – literally, in some cases. His plan to cut subsidies to fossil fuel companies and invest that money in green energy research is probably the best use it could go to. By the by, in case you’re wondering what that means, the NDP plans to stop having to pay the fossil fuel companies to sell us our own oil. So, you know, that’s a thing. Even better than that, the NDP would like to put the right to a clean environment into law, making it legal for people to sue companies and even governments for damaging the environment. This is the sort of thing that gives Harper nightmares, and might be the best thing for our species’ long term viability.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens 

Here’s where things get weird in the best possible way. See, we tend to think that punishment and penalization are the best way to get people to behave, when studies show that people are more engaged when there’s something beneficial in the process for them. To that end, the Greens are big on the idea of not only introducing a carbon tax (like the Liberals and the NDP), but also rewarding people for going green. There’s a plan in place for encouraging corporations to go green and grow green industries, a concrete, step-by-step plan that would see most of Canada’s energies met via sustainable means by 2025. They also want to ease access to anyone looking to grow a green business or apprentice to a green trade, ensuring that sector of the economy grows and is supported. Hell, they’re even looking at infrastructure, and over-hauling long forgotten rail lines and retro-fitting them with green means of transportation, all while working within a reasonable budget and growing the economy. This is what the future should look like.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc 

Oy. Okay. So, right off the bat, they want a high speed train that would connect Quebec City with Montreal. Both of those places are within Quebec, the province. See, because they only care about Quebec. There’s talk of extending them to New York, but let’s be realistic – New York isn’t in Quebec. Interestingly, they’ve budgeted $750 million towards the development of green energy technologies, so that’s a step in the right direction and much less villainous and self-centered than we’re used to seeing. They also want to push a more widespread infrastructure to support the electric car, possibly to spite Harper. Lastly, they’re interested in looking at some of the homes in their own province, and retrofitting them to make them more compliant with the Kyoto Protocol, which is a thing that should probably happen regardless.

 

Wyatt Scott

Canada Politics 001 - 007This one guy would like to set up tax incentives to keep carbon pollution down, which seems like a favored strategy with everyone except the Harper Government. He’d also like to encourage and invest in Canadian scientists and engineers to develop new and better ways to create green energy and technology, and implement environmentally friendly practices while expanding on new technologies. What those practices are or what those technologies look like are not known at this time, so that’s frustrating. We know he’s pro-environment and anti-robot, which should be enough, but he did kill a dragon. Those’re endangered, last I checked.

 

And that’s where our candidates stand on the environment. We’ll be back next week to talk about what these people plan to do about other issues, all leading up to the Federal Election that the Harper Government would like us not to talk about. That election is on October 19, 2015, which is a Monday. Make sure you’re registered to vote and find the places you can vote by clicking here. And, hey, looks like you can even vote online. Awesome.

 

Read article

1310

Canadian Politics – A Primer

Lifestyle, Opinion, The Truth

September 2, 2015

Every now and again, we’ll publish an article on politics. We try to keep our thoughts north of the border unless it’s something that’s going to effect the world stage, and even then it’s only a once in a while thing. We talk comics and video games and movies because we enjoy those things. We publish original fiction because fiction is important and culture defining.

We talk politics because we have to.

The federal election that’s coming up down south is happening, yes, but there’s another one coming up in Canada that our friends down south don’t know about, and, if we’re going to be fair, our government is much more interesting than theirs. And usually saner, though that’s slipping away.

So, the election is on October 19th, and we’re going to take a look at the politics of the parties and what they claim to represent – and what they actually do. While we usually are able to argue the subjective merits of one thing or another, there’s a lot of objective information we can look at with our politicians and see who they are and hypothesize where they’re going.

Now, while we are objective, we are not neutral. When someone comes to a debate and starts arguing with information that has nothing to do with what’s being discussed, their argument becomes invalid. If we want to talk about, say, climate change, and someone starts talking about their death cult, we’re going to call them on their bullshit.

And, in the name of Scott Wyatt, we’re going to have a little bit of fun with this.

The Federal Canadian Political Parties Include:

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits

Also called the Liberals, they used to fall on the center-left of the political spectrum but now sit more center-right, having been dragged their by the attempted fascism of the Tories (see below). Traditionally, their leaders were charismatic individuals who stood by cautiously progressive policies with a common sense approach. More recently, they’ve employed a number of charisma-less leaders who have had no solid grounding on any particular subject. Their greatest champion was Justin Trudeau, a former Prime Minister (like the President, but Canadian), and his son recently entered the political scene and totally kow-towed to Torie Fascism, which may have killed the party.

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Tories

A long time ago, they were center-right and the counter balance of the Grits. Back then, they were the Progressive Conservatives, but then there were some things that happened and the party imploded. Some people stayed behind, but their more extreme members formed the Reform Party, and their competent and sane people went and joined the Greens. The people left behind flailed about, eventually conning the Reform Party into rejoining, and then they decided they wanted to be the GOP and have been pushing an agenda of greed, fear, corruption, and fascism under the leadershit of Stephen Harper. Expect us to talk a lot about Harper and the Tories over the next few weeks.

Canada Politics 001 - 006The NDP

Once upon a time, the NDP were a socialist party that pushed a lot of far left ideas and never had a chance of getting in. Stephen Harper’s fascist policies have driven the whole political spectrum right, however, making the NDP a solid choice for the left and progressives alike. Generally speaking, the NDP wants to tax the rich with the idea of making education, healthcare, and opportunity available for all, which they believe will lead to a greater degree of economic growth and stability. They seem like good people on the Federal level, but when they achieve power on a provincial level they tend to bungle things horribly. Their leader, Tom Muclair, makes a lot of sense and has some interesting ideas. Most likely to win the next federal election simply because people hate Harper and Trudeau let everyone down.

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens

The Greens were a useless bunch of nothings for a good long time, but then the Tories exploded and a bunch of them ended up here. They studied up on the party’s policies but applied Torie thinking to them, and we all ended up with Red Greens – an organized core of leadership that pushes forward cautious progression and an environmental platform that is grounded in economic growth. Their leader, Elizabeth May, is the most well-spoken and informed of the various candidates, and she’d make a great Prime Minister. The problem is that most people still think of the Greens as a useless bunch of nothings, or don’t believe the Greens can win and thus cast their vote for anyone that isn’t Harper. This is called strategic voting, and it only works because Canada has multiple parties.

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc

More properly called the Bloc Quebecois, this party is centered in Quebec and only cares about Quebec. They are determined to argue that Quebec is a distinct society from the rest of Canada – which anyone could argue in favor of – and that they are better than everyone else and deserve special compensation because of it – which no one but them can argue in favor of. Think of them as a villain from a James Bond movie; they frequently threaten to leave Canada with no clearly defined goal as to what that would look like, but their constant whining and threats basically allows them to hold the rest of the country hostage so that they can get stuff. They then do nothing with this stuff.

Canada Politics 001 - 007Wyatt Scott

A recent addition, he is an independent that has no party and doesn’t need one. Instead, he slays dragons, makes friends with aliens, and protects the country from giant robot invasions with his laser eyes. His political goals fall in somewhere between the Greens and the NDP, and while he most likely will not become Prime Minister, there’s a good chance that he will make it to Parliment (sort of the American version of Congress). His presence there has a good chance of mixing things up, which is good: we need a legitimate superhero after suffering more than a decade of Harper fascism.

Those are our parties and their leaders, the hopeful that think that they could run the country. We’ll go into more depth as to where they stand on various issues presently, but we want to help people understand what it is they’re hoping to be in charge of. Canada is a massive country with not so many people, just a lot of trees and snow and things. That said, there’s a massive divide in the cultures that abound here, with only a love of the environment, hockey, and beer holding us together as one people.

Read article

807

Culture as Commodity

Culture, Opinion, Tech, The Truth

August 5, 2015

Bear with me here, because I swear there is a multi-layered point I’m going to make, and it might just blow your mind.

There was this Pokemon commercial that played way back when, one of the earliest of its breed. The premise was a black-and-white world, crowds of people in a hurry to get nowhere, and in the midst of it color would blossom. Children in full vibrancy would stand and look skyward, and a narrator spoke about an awakening, about how few were aware of the change that was coming to the world. Pokemon was mentioned only in the outro, the product little more than an afterthought.

Pokemon is successful, yes, but the product is the least part of what that brand sells. They’re pushing a culture based on the idea of collection and co-operative competition, where the best people aspire to make themselves and everyone else around them better. Only the villains are in it for their own gains and victory, and their pride and their greed makes them laughable and pathetic. It’s the desire to be the best for the sake of being the best that becomes the core theme of that culture, and it all goes back to that first commercial, pushing awakening instead of product.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

That’s been an on-going thing for decades now, since flickering fictions became a means of conveying meaning and depth. We moved from novels to radio to movies to television to YouTube to Netflix, historically speaking, in the blink of an eye. The information most likely to stick with you doesn’t come from dry history but from the stories around it, the recreations and tales that we tell ourselves.

When we as a species first started sharing stories on a national stage, the world changed.

See, when we started sharing our stories we started sharing and contrasting our cultural norms. Philosophies that had existed only in the bubble of their geographic range were allowed to move beyond those borders for the first time. Descartes and Socrates met with Lao Tze and al Razi. The ability to sell culture led to the idea of created wealth, which meant that we could move beyond the idea of land, access, or minerals being the sole measures of value.

"Wait. Philosophers that weren't Greek or from Europe?"

“Wait. Philosophers that weren’t Greek or from Europe?”

This idea was what allowed the United States to flourish and become a super power. By exporting culture as commodity worldwide and selling people on the idea of the American Dream – whereby anyone could become royalty through passion, dedication, and intelligence – the United States was able to become the wealthiest nation the world had ever seen, and to foster an environment of unprecedented growth.

Yes, they had problems along the way, but the consistent progress they were able to make as a culture allowed them to continue to be a powerhouse, right up until they crippled their culture for shortsighted political and economic gains that were what the United States constitution had been drafted to distance themselves from in the first place.

Sadly, most of the people that talk about that constitution have never read it, certainly don’t understand it, and are in the process of killing it. They’ve murdered their own culture for no good reason, and more than just their nation is failing because of it.

A culture without integrity is doomed to failure, and the United States would increasingly rather celebrate an old world that never existed rather than help create a new and better one. This means that they’re falling back into old habit patterns and ways of thinking that don’t really apply, and the only people that are challenging them are – wait for it – the geeks that spent so long being ridiculed for their intelligence.

If you need proof of this, look at Star Trek. A single show promised a better future – equality of races and sexes through the end of toxic patriotism, patriarchy and scarcity economics by means of technology. In the decades since, people adopted the tenants and culture of Star Trek as personal ideologies. They were mocked for it, of course, as intelligence became increasingly vilified by those with a vested interest in keeping scarcity economics a thing.

Pictured: The new line of products from Apple.

Pictured: The new line of products from Apple.

The trick of it was, they were using tools crafted by intelligent people to push their anti-intelligent agenda.

And the Star Trek fans? The ones that had internalized the culture of that show enough to look into science, engineering, and philosophy? They went about creating the technologies of that culture and pushing them as commodities for public consumption.

Cell phones? Star Trek. Smart phones? Star Trek again. iPads? Star Trek yet again.

As the technologies became accepted, so did the culture that came with them – the inclusive cultures, the ones that pushed for the world to be better. The one that wouldn’t turn a blind eye to systematic racism and sexism, to so-called acceptable levels of political and economic corruption.

There’s a whole thing that became popular about supporting the lesser evil, but intelligence will not and cannot accept evil as a choice; as a culture, we aim for the greatest good. And what culture is this, that pushes ideals of progress, integrity, and inclusion? Geek culture. The culture that grew out of Lord of the Rings and comic books and Star Trek.

Why do you think we spend so much time talking about geeky things?

The culture around those things is the birthplace of everything that is going to matter.

When you buy a tablet, you’re not buying a piece of technology: you’re buying a means of gathering and ingesting culture, and everything that goes with it. When you go see Iron Man in theaters you’re watching a story about a man seeking to better himself and the world through co-operative competition with his friends and allies, while the villains become pathetic and laughable because of their pride and greed.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Which brings us back to Pokemon and that commercial we started this out on.

See, the trick of that commercial was that, yes, it was pushing a culture – but not just the culture of Pokemon. The resonance of that commercial came from it speaking of of a global change, an awakening to a greater power and a greater responsibility.

The world we are moving into is one of fantastic possibility, where the prejudices and hatreds of the past will be nothing more than the shades of a world that no longer matters. When culture becomes commodity, the culture with the greatest level of integrity and inclusiveness wins.

Few were aware of the change that was coming to the world, but the change is here and it’s gonna catch us all.

Mind = blown.

Read article

673

Nerdcouver Comics Episode 10

nerdcouver, Opinion, Reviews, Videos

July 7, 2015

Those kooky kids from Nerdcouver filmed Episode 10 this past Wednesday, which was Canada Day! Yay, Canada!


Naturally, they had to talk about the new comics series, “We Stand On Guard,” which is set in a futuristic Canada overtaken by America, where they won the upcoming mech duel with Japan and went a little conquer crazy!

The Nerdcouver crew also talks about The Spire, The Woods, Princess Leia, Deadly Class, Groot, Squirrel Girl, and X-O Manowar.

 

Nerdcouver is and can be found at:

Aaron Golden @lastswann

Jenna Táralóm @novavandorwolf

Nathan Rayes @natemayes

Reva Dawn @maplebunnie

 

Read article

719

Qualitative Storytelling – Structure

Books & Writing, Culture, Opinion

July 6, 2015

So, a few weeks ago we were talking about qualitative storytelling.

We promised that this was something that we were going to get back to, and we meant it. There’s too many bad stories out there and everyone seems happy to jump on board and point out the bad, but there’s precious little about how to actually tell a story properly.

It’s great to be able to talk about what isn’t a good story, but criticism should aim to improve the craft of the person that is creating whatever it is that’s being criticized. I know that last sentence was wordy, but it’s important to separate the art and artist from both a critical and creative standpoint.

So, again, this isn’t going to be an attack on creatives or the creative process. What this, and the articles to follow, aim to be is a study of how story is told. That’s it. That’s the disclaimer. We good? Great.

"so much great. Look at the intensity of all this great."

“So much great. Look at the intensity of all this great.”

Structure is one of those things that looks intuitive right up until you start writing. This is the bare-bones blueprint, the layout that determines what action happens where and what characters progress and when, if any. This essay isn’t about action or character, though, it’s simply about structure.

Typically, structure falls into three acts. The first act introduces the setting and characters, the second act has those characters seek something within that setting, and the last act has them either succeed or fail. That’s it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

To that end, let’s take a look at two of the Mad Max movies as examples of this being done. We’re running with the Road Warrior and Fury Road.

Road Warrior begins with Max on the road, fighting people from his car. We’re introduced to the character and the violence of his world, and then a secondary character, a gas refinery, and a horde of maniacs that want access to that refinery.

Fury Road begins in similar fashion, with Max being hunted by the villains out in the desert. He’s captured and taken back to what passes for their civilization, where we’re given just enough information to realize that there is a wider world at play here and that some people are trying to leave that civilization.

Both movies introduce their characters and their worlds quickly and efficiently. There’s enough small details in both that we’re led to believe that there are larger forces at play, but they’re so far beyond the comprehension or agency of the main character that they serve only to bring us deeper into this world that Max doesn’t truly care about, but we do.

Why does Lord Humungous keep his gun in that case? Why has Immorten Joe turned himself into a literal cult of personality? Why the Doof Warrior? Max doesn’t care, but these other characters clearly do and it gives their world a sense of depth that helps transition from the first act to the second.

In the Road Warrior , Max realizes that he’s running out of gas and would like a top up. Doing so means working with the people in the gas refinery, helping them so that they’ll help him. In the meantime, the Horde lurks outside, looking for any sign of weakness, and the people in the refinery realize that they need to get out.

On the Fury Road, Max escapes imprisonment and manages to capture – before being captured by – a group of women who are running from the people that originally captured him. The mutual desire of all involved to escape gets them all on the same side, and they flee together from an army that is chasing them.

Health care was offered by the cult, but only to members.

Health care was offered by the cult, but only to members.

The desires of both movies revolve around flight or acquisition. The people in the refinery want to take their gas and get away from the horde. Lord Humungous wants the gas in the refinery. The women want to escape from Immorten Joe. Immorten Joe wants to father perfect sons to take his place when he dies.

Max becomes a catalyst in his stories by wanting both flight and acquisition; it’s a desire to get something that gets him into trouble and his desire to get away that costs him everything.

As the stakes surrounding that end goal ramp up, we move from the second to the third and final act. This is where people ultimately get or do not get whatever it is that they’re after.

In the Road Warrior, the people in the refinery get Max to drive away with the gas they’ve refined. He’s chased by the horde, who he eventually ends up killing, only to find out that the people in the refinery used him as a decoy – the truck he’s been given has nothing in it, and now that he’s killed the horde they’ve abandoned him.

In Fury Road, we learn that the destination that the former slaves were running to has been destroyed. With no other choice, they had back in the direction they came, hoping to claim it for themselves. Immorten Joe chases, still wanting what he views as his, and is ultimately consumed by his need to dominate and destroy. The women get what they want and Max moves on.

See how simple that looks? Here’s where things get tricky: most structure have an overlay that can best be summed up as yes-no-yes or no-yes-no. Yes-no-yes is when a story or character starts in a good place, moves into a place of challenge, and then recovers to try and get things back on track or improve them. No-yes-no is when a story or character starts in a bad place, moves into a better one, and then through hubris, circumstance, or ambition, destroys what they’ve built and ends up either the same or worse than when they started.

There are exceptions – both no-no-yes stories and yes-yes-no stories exist, in addition to every other permutations of those two words in three places. The thing of it is, they rarely work as stories for the main characters or the main story. If someone starts in a bad place and goes good, then continues to go good, well, why didn’t the story end? If someone starts in a good place and then crumbles, do we really need to see them fall all the way to the end?

MM RR 002

Pictured: Reliable narrator.

Sometimes, these subversions work on their own, but that’s rare. Instead, subversions work best when paired with the classic yes-no-yes or no-yes-no scenario.

This overlay applies to both the plot and the main characters within a given story.

For example, in the Road Warrior, Max is in a no-yes-no overlay. He starts off alone and is in a place where he’s barely surviving. He’s running out of resources, so when he finds the refinery and is able to build a connection with those people, his life improves. This is the yes part of the story. By the end, though, Max has been betrayed, has no means of finding the people that betrayed him, and has lost even the few resources he had at the beginning of the film.

Meanwhile, the people in the refinery have a yes-no-yes overlay. They were able to create a relatively comfortable life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They had food, gas, and power, so this defintely falls into the category of a yes, right up until Lord Humungous and his horde show up. They find themselves trapped, and are in the no part of their story when we meet them. Through Max and clever planning, however, they’re able to escape with their lives and their gas, and ultimately get everything they want.

Finally, Lord Humungous finds himself in a chaotic wasteland and tries to impose order upon in. We join him in the midst of the yes part of a no-yes-no overlay. His battle with Max will rob him of everything, including his horde and his life, as his arrogance, hubris, and monomania slowly chips away at the small amount of control he’s been able to impose upon the wasteland.

Oddly, the exact same overlay applies to the character types in Fury Road.

Max is still in a no-yes-no overlay. He’s been alone for so long he’s forgotten how to speak. He’s running low on resources and is captured fairly easily, is taken into a hellscape and only gets away due to flukey circumstances. While escaping, he makes a connection with several people, relearns how to speak, and finds comfort in the people around him. He follows their lead and finds purpose because of it, only to walk away from everything at the end. Max’s story ends on a no not because of hubris or arrogance, but for much more complex reasons; he knows that his presence is a poison that will taint the world the people he’s been fighting for are trying to make. So, once again, he leaves with nothing save the haunting memories of the connections he’s made. Max is and always has been a perfect tragedy.

Immorten Joe, likewise, is in a no-yes-no story. Like Lord Humungous, he’s grown in a mad post-apocalyptic world and tried to impose order upon it. Unlike Humungous, he’s largely succeeded. His ultimate goal to make human beings again, but because he’s not human ethically or morally, he’s incapable of reaching the heights of the old world and doesn’t see that; he wants to control the world, and his hubris, cruelty, and arrogance drives what he sees as his tools to flee from them. The initial no and yes parts of his story are off-screen, but we see the influence of them on and around him, and we get to watch the world he’s built fade into nothing. The entirety of Fury Road is the final no of his story, with the implication of what came before groping every event that happens on screen.

This guy learns a thing or to, though. We witness him.

This guy learns a thing or two, though. We witness him.

Finally, Furiosa and the women are part of a yes-no-yes overlay; their lives start in a terrible place and they escape from it, which is the yes part of their overlay. All their trials end up being for nothing, however, when they learn the place they’re running to has already been destroyed. The only place left for them is the one they fled from, so they had back to it and claim it for themselves after Immorten Joe’s megalomania finally brings him low. Their yes is the promise of a better world to come, though their success is not a part of the story as we got it.

And this brings us to another sort of overlay, one based on thematic and philosophical structure. I’m going to use the words damnation, redemption, and salvation to describe these thematic overlays, as they inform how the structure of a story is built and influence every aspect of the story thereafter. These terms are being divested of their religious overtones for the purpose of this essay; instead, we are focusing on their core meanings.

Overlays of damnation deal with destruction of a person, place, or thing. Whether through delusion, happenstance, or malice, the goals that drive the story eat away at those involved and end up in a bad place. Redemptive overlays force a character to take responsibility for their actions, and to make themselves or their world better for the choices they then make. Lastly, salvation based stories are ones in which characters abdicate their agency to an outside power, and through that power are saved.

The character of Mad Max is one thoroughly routed in damnation, regardless of the movie he’s in. He starts off every movie in straits more dire than the last, and ends every movie worse than when he started. He’s given up, lost himself to the violence and madness of his world, and he’s smart enough to know that he’s going to poison every situation he finds himself in. It’s why he walks away at the end of Fury Road; he knows he’s terrible and he knows he’s not getting better.

He has no delusions, unlike Immorten Joe or Lord Humungous. Joe’s goals are self destructive, because he’s self destructive; we meet him already falling apart, his death cult wanting nothing more than to die for their god. Once he’s dead, his children will tear whatever he’s built apart, and the religion he’s crafted will spread like a disease.

Likewise, Humungous has no plan of grandeur for what he wants, no real sustainable end goal – even if he were to capture the refinery he would end up burning it, because even his creative goals lead to destruction. That’s simply who he is. He is lost to damnation, though he would deny it and claim that his is the only path to order.

By contrast, Furiosa’s thematic overlay is one of redemption. It’s her choices and actions that start the events of Fury Road. She backs down from nothing and no one, takes responsibility for her world and those in her care, and ends up making her world a better one. Her story moves her from heartless and unhappy to heartful and happy, as she frees what’s left of civilization from the death cult that had claimed it, forces reformation, and puts power in the hands of people better than her.

And those people?

The women in Fury Road have got the flavor of salvation. They’ve put their faith in Furiosa and, to a lesser degree, Max. They’re relying on her to get them to safety, and when that fails they expect her to come up with a new plan. She does, but their agency is tied to that of Furiosa. She does good by them, and they even convince other people to put their faith in them even as they continue to put their faith in Furiosa.

Over in the Road Warrior, the people in the refinery have put their agency in the hands of their leader and, to a lesser degree, Max. They expect the plan of their leader to save them, and they’re content to let him die for their well-being. Max is a handy substitute, and they’re more than happy to let Max die for them instead.

Anyway, this is the bare bones of where story begins, the place where we lay the groundwork for everything else to come. From here, we start constructing characters, but we’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Bare Bones? That's where Max lives.

Bare Bones? That’s where Max lives.

Questions? Comments? Let us know and we’ll answer. Let’s start making the best possible stories.

Read article

1107

Bad Blood as Cultural Zeitgeist

Heroes of the Living Myth, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

May 25, 2015

Watching anything after Mad Max – Fury Road makes that thing seem, well, muted. Everything feels quieter, less colorful. Or, it did. At about the same time Mad Max was unleashed, this came out:

As of this writing, Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood has been released for eight days and has 70, 853, 170 views. Taylor Swift has broken every record the internet has when it comes to music videos, and really videos in general. This is a milestone, a complete slap in the face to old school producers of media. And it has similarities to Mad Max, in that it features female action stars taking center stage and becoming dominant characters in and of themselves.

This music video is an action movie writ large, the sort of revenge story that was popularized in the eighties and nineties. One secret agent betrayed by another, awoken into a world changed by that betrayal, collecting allies and skills to go and confront the person that betrayed her. It’s a story we’ve seen again and again in male-led movies and television shows and books and comics, but to see it done here, and done so well? Why isn’t there more of this?

Well, the reason is simple. For decades the train of thought on this sort of storytelling has been that it doesn’t work.

The recent leaks from Disney and Marvel about why we’re not getting a Black Widow movie, and a drought of Black Widow merchandise, is the latest in a long line of proofs of a tainted belief among the primary decision makers of media: that women aren’t interested in watching or being a part of anything that isn’t a romance, romantic-comedy, or period piece.

Common excuses cited to support this error are the failures of movies like Catwoman, Elektra, or the Next Karate Kid. These films are used as proof that female-led action movies are doomed to failure, as opposed to looking at the idea that bad movies with terrible storytelling are doomed to failure.

Elektra failed as badly as Daredevil. Catwoman failed as badly as Batman and Robin. The Next Karate Kid failed as badly as any of the dozens of half-assed qualitatively bankrupt martial arts coming-of-age stories that came out around that time and continue to come out now. They don’t fail because they have female leads; they fail because they are, objectively speaking, bad.

And yet the illusion of female-led narratives being doomed to fail persists, outside of the prescribed roles of damsel-in-distress, arm candy, or romantic lead.

This, despite the widespread success of Kill Bill, the world-wide profits of Lucy, the popular demand for a Black Widow movie, the excitement that followed the Supergirl trailer and subsequent leak. This, despite the sales-figures of female-led comics like Spider-Gwen and Thor and Batgirl. This, despite the fanaticism surrounding books like the Hunger Games. This, despite the violent beauty of anything the Soska Sisters work on.

With this video, Taylor Swift has slammed the coffin shut on an out-dated, ancient, and erroneous way of thinking.

Taylor Swift herself is a controversial figure who picks up a lot of flack because double standards and patriarchy. Her latest album, 1989, makes it clear that she’s had enough. From Blank Space‘s  deconstruction of public perception to Out of the Woods‘ quiet reflective philosophy, the entire album feels like a diatribe from a person who has claimed her identity and her power and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She knows who she is.

And Bad Blood?

It’s intoxicating. In four minutes we’re given a host of characters and the world they inhabit, we’re given enough nuance that we want to see more of that world, and a large enough conflict that we want to see how it ends. There’s a reason that people are watching this video again and again and again, and with any luck some of decision makers will develop the skill of basic pattern recognition and start giving us the stories that we want, the stories that the current shift in zeitgeist is demanding.

Failing that, we’re going to have to make those stories ourselves… and if this is what we have to look forward to, well, we’re off to a good start.

Read article

896

Qualitative Storytelling

Books & Writing, Culture, Opinion, The Truth

May 22, 2015

We talk a lot about storytelling here.

exodus 002

Pictured: Standing up to the Man.

Of course we do. We’re geeks, and as such we base ourselves on the mythologies we’ve crafted for ourselves. From the Legend of Zelda to Mad Max to Harry Potter, we look at the icons around us and use them to understand ourselves and our actions, and to force change when needed.

In this, we’re no different than anyone else. In olden times, it was tales of Gods or other exemplars of whatever societal virtues ruled in that particular day. With the population growth of the past two hundred years, however, society is changing at such a rapid pace that the wisdom and stories of yesteryear fall flat, even without the historical context that give those stories meaning.

Which is part of the problem – given how quickly this world and our perception is changing, we need mythologies that are changing, adaptable, and fluid. That isn’t nearly as problematic as one might think, as the best sorts of stories can change without losing their essential meaning. It’s why movies like the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt can literally be different iterations about the same events while still, individually, ringing true.

It’s also why Exodus – Of Gods and Kings was such a colossal failure.

We’re going to start with one disclaimer: we are not, in any way, arguing the veracity of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qu’ran, or any of the texts that came from them. This essay has no interest in that whatsoever (the author, on the other hand, loves that sort of debate). This essay is talking about the story structure of the Book of Exodus, which is the second book in the Old Testament, and its modern cinematic adaptations. That’s it.

All kosher? Everyone understand? Good. Let’s get into this.

The Old Testament is one of the most impressive stories ever written. The two bestselling spin-off books – the New Testament and the Qu’ran – have influenced the entirety of western thought, and have helped shape the norms of the modern world. The lessons contained therein are considered axiomatic and culturally informing, even when people don’t necessarily understand the source material.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings doesn’t understand the source material. It’s not just a bad movie, narratively speaking, it also misses entirely the point of the story it’s purporting to tell. The core of the Exodus tale is about God taking a stand against a nation, a deity moving into and battling an entrenched mortal power structure to free a disenfranchised people.

"I'm fighting what?"

“I’m fighting what?”

The Hebrews of the Old Testament have lost faith and have no power or strength from which to fight. They refuse to believe that they might be delivered, at least at first, and they doubt their God and the Prophet he’s sent. Moses is protected mostly by circumstance, but there’s powerful themes running throughout the story, of family and duty and faith, and that’s one of the reasons it resonates so powerfully.

Moses doubts God. He’s terrified of returning to the land of his birth, the place where he was a prince and is now wanted for murder. It’s only a brother’s love that protects him from punishment, and it’s that same brother’s love that allows him to act as God’s agent.

And, truly, that’s what Moses is: God’s agent. He has no power himself, and generally shies away from conflict. That’s one of the prime differences between the Exodus tale and every other mythology – the chosen people are slaves and don’t believe they can be anything else, and it takes God showing up and literally freeing them from the bondage of Egypt to rekindle their faith.

Both the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt get this. The Hebrews never pick up swords, never attempt to defend themselves because they know they can’t. The Egyptians kill their children and the Hebrews know they are powerless to stop this. It is only through the advent of God that the Hebrews escape and return to the land of their ancestors. There’s no desire for vengeance, no conquering of those that enslaved them; the plagues the Egyptians suffer happen because of their own hubris, and if they had acted in good faith they would have suffered no more.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings has Moses leading an armed revolt. It’s standard popcorn fare without any sort of depth or dignity, a growling macho bullshit fable that tries to undo the grandeur of the text by using character names and applying standard action movie caricatures to a story that is so much more than that and chafes at the restriction.

We see this a lot in modern cinema, characters that are suited for one sort of story shoe-horned and stitched into other stories because someone doesn’t understand what the actual story is about, or is being willfully ignorant as to what the story is about.

"I'm the prophet America deserves."

“I’m the prophet America deserves.”

See, stories are often made to fit the criteria or needs of the culture that are telling them. America is currently considering another war in the Middle East, to the extent that the politicians that are running for president in the 2016 election are already being quizzed as to whether or not they’d be willing to bomb countries in that region for, well, a variety of reasons that boil down to “we want your oil.”

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings features an American Moses going to do battle with savages in the Middle-East. It lacks any of thematic elements of family, duty, and faith in favor of crass imperialism. It’s why we’re also getting movies like American Sniper, which runs so close to parody that one would think it was taken and re-purposed from a much better movie.

And Exodus – Of Gods and Kings bombed at both the domestic and worldwide box offices. The people that made this movie thought it would be a big hit, and still don’t understand why the movie didn’t do well. The answer is simple: anyone familiar with the story knows, on an instinctive level, that this retelling of it is wrong.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to be looking at the basic building blocks of storytelling and what makes a quality story – what we’re looking for when we discuss good and bad narrative. We’re doing this because we want more Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypts and less Exodus – Of Gods and Kings. If we’re going to demand good stories, the least we can do is define what we’re demanding.

And, hey, we’re here to help people give us what we want.

Read article

610

Nerdcouver 2015-05-13

Opinion, Reviews

May 16, 2015

Aaron, Nathan, Reva, and Jenna discuss some of the new comics from Wednesday, May 13th.
Comics discussed include:
Secret Wars #2, RunLoveKill #2, Coffin Hill #18, Chrononauts #3, Saga, Black Science #14, Four Points #1, Lantern City #1, Thor #8, Convergence #6, and The Mantle #1.

Thanks again to Big Pete’s Collectibles for letting us film at the store!

Read article

949

We Stood on Guard for Thee

Culture, Opinion, The Truth

May 6, 2015

Bill C51 002Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada, was once quoted as saying that Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of our Country, is “not really Canadian.”

The basis of this quote had nothing to do with, say, the “birther” movement of the United States, though it does have to do with American Politics. See, May alleges that Harper is not Canadian in his approach to politics or even his conservatism, which takes on a decidedly GOPish flavor.

He’s anti-regulation, attempting to deregulate banks in the same way that led to the financial crash of 2008. He’s pro-corporation, kowtowing to corporate interests whenever asked and accepting whatever gifts and campaign donations they’re willing to give him.

He’s anti-science, going out of his way to snuff that environmental findings of our country, which were once leaders in the field world-wide. He’s anti-LGBT, as a simple quick google search or any of his interviews will quickly confirm. Or you can look up Bill C279, which strips away the legal protections of transgendered people.

He destroyed Census Canada, considered to be one of the best statistics groups in the world, for ideological reasons. He insists on the Canadian Government being called the Harper Government. He introduced Bill C24, which makes it harder to earn Canadian citizenship and easier to lose it.

He tried to reverse gay people having the right to marry. He’s led witch-hunts against political dissidents and liberal university professors that would have made McCarthy blush. He’s regulated the federal political press by the number of questions they can ask and only allowing pre-approved questions from pro-Conservative sources.

He was influential in getting the United Nations to not recognize clean drinking water as a basic human right. He used robocalls to stuff the ballot box in the last election by misinforming citizens of where to vote or who to vote for.

When a gunman broke into Canadian Parliment, most of our politicians grabbed flagpoles and held them like spears, forming a phalanx and preparing to defend themselves and one another. Stephen Harper abandoned everyone and went to hide in a closet.

He is the only Prime Minister to ever be held in Contempt of Parliment.

With Bill C51, he’s finally proven to be entirely anti-Canadian.

Bill C51 is being marketed as an anti-terrorism bill similar to the Patriot Act, which saw such innovations as the no-fly list (which keeps innocent people from travelling because of their names), Guantanomo Bay (where innocent people have been kept and tortured for years without providing any useful information), and the TSA (which, according to experts, has stopped a little less than one terrorist attack since it’s inception).

Four former Prime Ministers have signed a petition asking for Bill C51 not to pass. Security experts from CSIS and the RCMP have called it a blatant overreach. Constitutional lawyers Clay Ruby and Nader Hasan have called it a violation of our basic rights and freedoms.

The Conservatives are using fear as a means to pass this bill, claiming that it’s use would have stopped the Toronto 18 from achieving their goals, something you may not have heard of because their goals were stopped without it.

What is Bill C51? What does it do?

For a start, Bill C51 stretches the definition of terrorist activity to include peaceful protests and political disagreements of any sort, restricts freedom of expression, and would allow the government, RCMP, and CSIS to access records at Health Canada and Revenue Canada without a warrant.

It also is direct attack on the internet, regulating what is allowable for people to watch based on content. If Bill C51 passes, there’s a good chance that you will not be able to read this article and that the people working here are going to end up on a watch list.

Tom Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, has called Bill C51 as “sweeping, dangerously vague, and ineffective.”

He’s being overly polite by doing so.

The Canadian Government will vote on Bill C51 on May 6th, 2015. The Harper Government will push it through using tactics they’ve culled from the GOP, a group that Harper wishes he was a member of.

And we’re all going to suffer for it.

Read article

Net Neutrality – Here We Go Again

Fail, Tech, The Truth

April 23, 2015

Comcast, Verizon, and all their ilk have slithered out of their offices to appeal to the people that understand the Internet least – the Republicans and GOP – in an effort to kill the Internet.

You like the Internet, right? We all do. It’s a life-changing technology that literally changes everything, from distribution models to research to access of information. It’s moving society forward and making it better, increasing our understanding of the world around us on every possible level. (more…)

Read article