Let’s call it PUP-y love.

It’s been a long workday and I’ve got very little gas left in my brain. Let’s find out what it wants to talk about today.

I’ve never been hugely into punk. Even in my teens I veered hard into metal territory and didn’t look back until I hit age 20. Emo surged into popularity during my time in high school and by association, punk lost its lustre. The closest I came to punk fandom would’ve been my appreciation for Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come and anything by At The Drive In. If there’s any point to my preamble it’s this; I’m no authority on punk music.

That being said, yesterday I finally listened to PUP’s The Dream is Over and it has to be the finest punk album I’ve heard in years. Toronto hometown heroes kicked the shit out of their sophomore slump. Discounting the fact that it’s the only punk album I’ve heard in years, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a remarkable showcase of what the genre embodies. It’s punchy and energetic. The riffs are explosive and the growls are backed by short sharp harmonies. The lyrics are wry and aggressive, cheekiness to the core. The whole album clocks in at 30 minutes and, in my experience prompts an instant replay. I’ve listened about 12 times since yesterday morning. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long and I’m gutted as shit that, seeing as they’re Toronto locals, I’ve missed so many live performances over the years.

Once again, I’m taking a weird unearned amount of glee at hearing that another DCEU film is an expensive, bloated, tedious poorly directed piece of shit. Justice League sounds like its tagline should be “Better than Suicide Squad at least.” I’ll call my reaction exactly what it is: A holdover from the 90s where fandom came with this bizarre sense of tribalism attached. I was always a Marvel kid and now as an adult, it feels like my faith was justified. I can’t speak for my ardent defence of the Sega Saturn though. Surely I should want everyone to get great superhero films that showcase all the wonderful facets of their favourite childhood characters. Really though, I’m a petty, snide asshole who’s still rooting for the downfall of DC comics. Boring heroes who’re for the most part too pious for my tastes.

It’s like dumping on the newest DCEU film has become a sport and the winners are the readers.

From The AV Club:
“Don’t let the slick, well-chosen production stills fool you: This is for the most part a cramped and cheaply ugly movie, with crappy special effects. The nicest thing that can be said is that the producers have made it impossible for viewers to tell what is and isn’t a reshoot; a significant part of the movie is set in cramped, windowless rooms or in front of obvious green screens.”

From Variety, on Whedon’s late game additions:
“Whedon’s humor is grafted on in too-obvious ways; it sticks out incongruously amid all the stilted mechanics of this alarmingly basic movie. All these Whedonisms have the opposite of the intended effect. They give off a strenuous hum, the desperate sound of a turd polished in vain.”

From The Hollywood Reporter:
“Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here”

Metacritic has it at a 51%, which is actually remarkably respectable for DC’s hit rate. I was probably never gonna see it anyway, I’m really only here for the reviews.

Anyway, I’m out. See you tomorrow, same Bat Channel.

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If that wasn’t enough there’s a rain room. A RAIN ROOM.

What an unmitigated joy to have a day off. My girlfriend and I decided to do a couple of errandy things before heading to the AGO’s exhibit on Guillermo del Toro, “At Home with Monsters”. It was amazing. Styled after his country house/workspace, it showcased models, props, art and inspiration to his expansive work. I went in expecting Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim. I hadn’t realised how far beyond that his cinematography ran.

The neat thing about hosting this kind of exhibit at an art gallery was how impeccably staged it was. There was so much goddamn material that instead of little placards, much of the time pieces just had little numbers next to them. Small racks on the wall held lists with all the information of their creators, etc. It was a neat way to leave as much space as possible for the work to speak for itself. There was a great cluster of early Disney work. Concepts sketches and the like. I had no idea Disney so commonly used a combination of chalk and pastels to such stellar effect. The pieces from Sleeping Beauty were particularly impressive.

Of course, a big part of del Toro’s appeal is his beautifully macabre monster designs. The big ones were all present. From Hellboy 2‘s Angel of Death, to Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Pale Man and Pan himself. All rendered in stunning realism. It mentioned how one of del Toro’s design inspiratioons is to shift placement of the eyes. By doing this, he says, it immediately creates a sense of foreboding that tracks back to childhood. Eyes are so often how we learn to connect to others. We read expression and intent from them. Once they’re moved, it subverts our expectations and leaves us unsettled. So take the Pale Man with his palm embedded eyes or the Angel of Death’s eyes lining its wings (apparently inspired by biblical designs). Their sockets aren’t so much barren as absent. The skin is either flat or replaced by a flat plate of bone. Oh, bone. Bone was another thing I noticed in the same vein. As humans we innately expect our skeletons to be on the inside. If they’re not, something’s gone wrong big time. In many of del Toro’s designs you might see a spine pressed right to the skin or even protruding. Or forearms so skinny that the bone pokes through. Once again it’s subverting our assumptions to create unease.

I thought the figure of Pan was especially rad. I saw the movie 11 years ago, so I didn’t have a strong imprint of what it looked like in my brain. It has this sublime asymmetry and fusion of both plant and animal. Its flesh alternates between soft skin and firm bark. Long red tresses flow from its head, but where natural body hair would be it often sprouts moss instead. One of its feet is composed of jagged wood, while the other is a large hoof. It once again hosts an exposed spine, but of intertwining vines. It’s hella cool.

The exhibit also spanned his love of pop culture, Gothic literature and horror films. It was awesome to see someone who, from a young age, continually ran after their passions. Guillermo seems to hold this ardent desire to bring to life the world he found through fiction. It was cool to see, for instance, that he’d been trying to bring Hellboy to the screen for years. Blade 2 was a job taken in order to inch closer towards it. By doing a studio film (still with his own flair, by the looks of it. I’ve never seen it), his agent assured him that studios would be more likely to open their pockets for his passion projects. As the years have attested, it worked.

I know this sounds like a massive ad, but if you’re in Toronto please check the exhibit out. My girlfriend hadn’t seen much of his stuff and loved it as much as I did. There’s so much to take in. We spent about two and a half hours there, but could’ve easily done a lot more if we weren’t already pretty exhausted. If you’re a fan of his work or just want to see dark and pretty things, it runs for aaaages. You’ve got no good excuse not to give it AGO.

I’ll slice you in a minute, random office sociopath. Wait, is that a firing offence? Or a social good?

It snowed this morning. The rest of the day has been bright, with mild clouds. I don’t understand this country. Maybe I was never meant to. Maybe this reality is a simulation and someone’s messing with the Danger Room controls. If sentinels descend and begin rounding up the mutants, it’ll either be a sign that something’s off or that all of my dreams are about to come true. Then again, I don’t know if I’ve ever really imagined being a helpless normie in any superhero stories that were to come true. Is that emblematic of privilege? Or the way that these stories are designed? That naturally since you identify with the empowered central characters, you feel like you’re inhabiting that role? You wouldn’t imagine yourself as your normal self, because what would be the point of your normal self being in that universe?

I’ve been wearing my newest pair of pants this week. I had a gap in my wardrobe that required something burgandy-ish to go with my assorted plain coloured shirts. Having previously experimented with jeans, I bought a pair closer in line with trousers. They’re soft, which is nice, but by fair the most pleasing feature is the zipper. It’s unusually long. I don’t know why it has such an impact when I’m zipping them back up, but it’s hugely noticeable. More leverage and easier to grip without fumbling. It couldn’t be more than 5mm larger than a normal zipper, but so far it’s elevating these pants from tolerable to enjoyable.

I was pretty stoked to walk into the work kitchen to see pizza on the counter. While it was no gin tasting like yesterday, free pizza still has abundant charms. There’s an armistice zone where up-for-grabs food goes to linger. Reaching the box, however, I found it to be empty. What kind of sociopath does that? Look, if I see an empty box in the garbage, I think oh, that would’ve been yummy. Maybe I’ll stow that thought in my brain for some other time when I’m considering snackage. However, the concept of having taken part in its deliciousness never really crossed my mind. When an empty box is there, for an all too brief moment my brain gets flooded with hope. The trials of my monotonous trudge through quotidian existence fade as my vision haloes around this pending treat. To discover that someone has not only dashed my hopes, but desecrated the corpse of said dashed hopes by ensnaring them in some inhumane trap feels like a brutal betrayal. IF YOU TAKE THE LAST SLICE/PIECE/ONE, THROW THE BOX OUT. Monsters.

Ugh, I’m too disgusted to go on. Fuck this noise, I’m off to get my own pizza.

In other words, failing to work against type.

I’ve spent the last half hour staring at my screen, finding nothing but weak excuses not to write. I could’ve spent that half hour writing about weak excuses not to write and then I’d have the next half hour to do whatever I wanted. So for the next half hour, I’m gonna list weak excuses not to write:

  • I need to find things other than the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 villain that look like Cee Lo’s grammy outfit.
  • 11 minutes having passed since I last opened the fridge, looked around, was tempted by a swig of pineapple juice but instead closed the door and walked back to my computer. I mean, I could’ve at least picked up some water or something. I should probably go check again in case something has changed.
  • Combing through GP Pittsburgh’s top 32 to find at least one deck that wasn’t BG Constrictor, Mardu Vehicles or Copy Cat combo. Whoops, not gonna happen (though seeing Gonti get its time in the sun was some good time).
  • Ignoring the terrible dialogue and gratuitous CW style cheesecake to watch what’s quickly becoming a pretty well crafted teen drama; Riverdale. Oh wait, no new episode until next Friday.
  • Scrolling through Twitter to see people talk about The Grammys, so I can get worked up about an increasingly irrelevant award ceremony that may as well be called the Golden Lobes, vestigial as they are. Also I’m the asshole here. They’re not targeted towards me, why should I give a shit?
  • Meowing back at the cat, who keeps meowing loudly at me like I understand what she’s saying. C’mon cat, can’t you just speak human like the rest of us? Such an intolerant animal.
  • Reading Clickhole headlines out loud at my girlfriend, who’s trying to do her own mindless internet browsing. Then when she’s finally focused in on what she was reading before I so rudely interrupted with my emotional bid, read another one at her.
  • Checking on the pantry, in case it held something alluring that the fridge couldn’t match. Do I ever really need to have something to put marmite on? Or can spoons suffice?
  • Looking around at the many projects I said I’d start before getting distracted. Procrastinating through procrastinating about things I’ll inevitably procrastinate about again? Maybe later.
  • Buying Hindenburg Journalist recording software (tailor made for podcasting) for no good reason other than it’s absurdly cheap right now ($1.90 for World Radio Day instead of $80+). I have Pro Tools. Why would I ever need this?
  • Checking to see if any of my Facebook comments got more likes (even though I have the tab open and I can clearly see that they haven’t).
  • Trying to figure out a wittily worded Facebook post about Cee Lo’s GotG2 Grammy’s outfit.
  • Seeing others do it better.
  • Crying about it.
  • Cheering up once I realised half an hour had passed and so had my daily writing.
  • Finishing without so much as a snappy conclusion.

How many sites are running with a Legion-dary tag line right now? Oh shit, did I just become one of them?

Are you watching Legion? If you follow almost any media critic sites, I’m sure you know full well how critically lauded it’s been. FX, as it has a habit of doing, has handed this one off to a creative who knows better. I haven’t followed the career of Noah Hawley and shamelessly didn’t watch the Fargo TV series. That being said, I’ve only heard unanimous praise. Judging by the first episode of Legion, he knows full well what he’s doing.

Telling mature superhero stories is fraught with obstacles, yet seems to be all the rage in this current climate. It’s hard to escape from the first big hurdle: Superhero comics were for such a long time targeted towards a young audience. They were pulp stories rarely replete with nuance. Create a hero with some kind of extraordinary abilities and find scenarios/villains that help them showcase who they really are. Storytelling over time has changed and these characters tend to deal with more socially compelling issues. The DC formula tends to favour hugely powerful entities several tiers above humanity. This leads towards confrontations with situations on a grander scale. How is Superman supposed to relate to a world of people that to him seem like ants? Why does he care? How does he engage that disparity and still decide to be a hero. Marvel on the other hand often focuses on how its heroes’ flaws magnify their conflict. Not perfect people by any means, why do they choose to help a world that challenges them on their own levels? The X-Men tales have often been racism allegories. Why should mutants choose to protect a world that fears and hates them because they’re different?

David Haller, the central character in Legion is a character tangentially related to the X-Men stories we know. He’s Charles Xavier’s son (in the comics at least) and potentially one of the most powerful mutants in existence. He’s also mentally divergent, and his countless fractured personalities all possess different abilities. They’ve also given mental illness here pretty fair treatment. The show does its best to bring us into the fold, giving us the why, rather than just showing a character trying to deal with at times insurmountable issues. He’s a being of nigh infinite potential, but struggles with staying grounded in reality. The show runs with this, hard. Flowing in and out of reality, memory and hallucination makes David an unreliable narrator. In the first episode the chronology is all over the place, but carefully so. States of possibility are weaved together to tell the story, with the potential of unexpected twists lying behind every scene. In a series where anything could be a mislead or imaginary, how are we made to care about what does happen?

Simply because David is a human character. There’s an innocence to his character, who really seems to want to do right by the world, but is afraid of what is happening to him. Dan Stevens plays David with both a certain frailty and an assured confidence. He has moments of sweetness, doubt, anger and full blown malice. All of this aided by stunning cinematography and audio landscapes. The show looks gorgeous, cinematic. A diverse colour palette that freewheels between grim and joyous. There’s a Bollywood dance number thrown in for chrissakes. AND IT WORKS. The show sounds phenomenal, with errant whispers scattered around, mixed with realistic diegetic sound. There’s an intimate scene in a cell of a psychiatric hospital and while it’d be tempting to cut background noise (maybe focus on the dialogue in the scene) the show doesn’t. You can hear a patient in some far off room yelling at the top of his voice. It doesn’t interfere with the conversation, but it does ground it. It feels like we’ve been left in the hands of a capable director. It’s intense and dark, but with heapings of contrasted levity. Plus the musical score and visual effects are perfect. You can tell a lot of work has gone into nailing the exact mood of this show and I can tell you it pays off.

Are you watching Legion? If you aren’t, why not?

Jughead has always been somewhat of a role model. Who wouldn’t want the mutant power of infinite consumption?

I waste too much time on the internet not doing anything. Well don’t get me wrong, I’m only playing an hour or two of Cookie Clicker per day. More realistically, I’m lurking Reddit threads on r/magictcg and r/whowouldwin. It’s not productive and I forget 90% of what I’ve read ten minutes after I’ve read-dit (ged-dit?). Perhaps I’m just unused to having spare time, given the production schedule of the Air Bud Pawdcast last year. For the very limited time being, however, I’ve got time to kill. It’s time to sink some hours into entertainment across the board.

After years of hearing recommendations to do so, I grabbed a copy of the first Dresden Files book. I was expecting something pulpy, a kind of dumb, quippy, popcorn novel. In the first 20 or so pages, I got exactly what I expected. I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes on. That the world gets built out and is ultimately a bunch of fun. One of my old flatmates said the first book was a little shite, but Dresden Files was ultimately enjoyable despite the writer falling too in love with his central character.

So far it’s suffering from heavy-handed exposition [“Is this sign on the door for real? Frank Dresden, Magician for hire?” yeah that’s me, Frank Dresden, like he says, I’m a magician for hire] and that kind of shit. Also, I dunno, *male* writing. Seriously, it’s like the guy is drawing character outlines with his semi as the pencil. The first time we meet some hard nosed female detective (and likely love interest) its all [She was wearing a pantsuit, but she probably had shapely legs built up through years of cheerleading. Blonde haired, blue eyed, she’d be better looking if she smiled more] kind of shit. Tons of clunky ways of tossing in world-building and backstory. At the same time, it comes with enough endorsements that I’m going into it with zero expectations happy to at the very least be mildly entertained. At worst it has me reading again. Throwaway enjoyment, which is perfect for my use as a way to ignore the bane of my existence: The morning commute.

The other thing that’s caught my eye is this new Riverdale show. Growing up I read a metric shitton of Archie comics. I had a close friend and the double digests littered his house. In every room there’d be four or five of the things, they had hundreds. It was harmless fun, with short storylines based on simple characters who rarely strayed from their core definition. Riverdale on the other hand, sounds like it builds on those same characters to not only subvert its own tropes, but the wider tropes of teen entertainment. Ironically it’s on CW of all places. Billed as teen drama/Twin Peaks, this usually wouldn’t be anywhere in the same neighbourhood as my alley.

On the other hand, Archie comics have been known to do weird, subversive, progressive shit for years. Over the years they’ve adopted positive representations of LGBT/differently abled characters without tokenism, blending them straight into the fabric of Riverdale. They’ve also not strayed from the utterly bizarre. Anyone remember the frenzy of 90s team up comics? What about Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie vs. Predator? Whatabout that storyline where Sabrina the Teenage Witch marries H.P. Lovecraft’s #1 ancient one, Cthulhu? Internalised prejudice against CW aside, I’ve got enough goodwill built up through those stacks of double digests to watch a couple of episodes and test the waters. It could end up being as much of a surprise breakout as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (also CW, now that I think of it).

Anyway, I’ve got more cookies to click. See you in Riverdale!

Yes, Ampersandman…

I’m a vivid, sometimes lucid dreamer. I’m hesitant to throw the term “lucid” around, because it’s something that ebbs and flows. I’ve deliberately tried to lucid dream before and done so effectively. It was great. Immediately I started flying and teleporting around the world. I went to Glastonbury festival and watched a bunch of bands. I flew around the streets in my neighbourhood just to see what it felt like a few metres in the air and at high speed. Lucid dreaming was A+. It was also more effort than I wanted to keep up. Lucid dreaming meant applying a lot of attentive thought to the idea right before I fell asleep. Reminding myself to try and look at the written word in my dream. A page from a book, signs, a clock. Telling myself that if I looked closely, glanced away, then looked back to see different or scribbled text, that I was in a dream. I could then guide the dream from that point onward. The hardest part was knowing that I was in a dream and not waking myself up. Even in that subconscious state there was the faint physical sensation of sheets against my resting body. There was an active push to stay in that fantasy world that so often I would lose.

Even when I don’t lucid dream, I’m super fortunate to often be in a position of dominance. Either I’ll possess some kind of powers, or this faint understanding that there’s nothing I can’t accomplish, for some reason. I remember a recent dream where I had to pass a series of tasks in order to win a woman’s hand in marriage. One of the tasks, for instance, was to work a bent cast iron pot back into shape with my bare hands (that’s dream logic for you). I looked at it and thought this is impossible, but no sooner had I taken hold of the pot that I realised oh wait, this is malleable. Everything is. I can’t remember the rest of the tasks, but they were a breeze after that. I also remember her family being a bit creepy, strangely enough. Her brother looked like Stephen Baldwin.

I’ve had flying dreams on the regular since I was a kid. The first one I remember had me as this little kid, no older than 7 or so. I was at my best friend’s house in their pool area. I tried to leave through the gate, but there was no handle. I looked and looked, but couldn’t find a way out. I realised there was a way up and levitated above it. Since I was already airborne, I stayed there. Why not, right? I have Spider-Man dreams a lot. Well, perhaps three times a month. I’ll be going about whatever narrative the dream casts me down, then I’ll realise things would be easier if I just walked up that building. I’ll “thwip” out a web or two and start swinging away. I’ll be strong, agile, bouncing about. Upon waking there’s always a beat of dismay, before realising I’ve got it pretty good, so there’s no point complaining.

The weirdest part is that I don’t even like sleeping. I do it out of necessity, but it’s hard to shake the notion that if I’m dreaming I can’t actually be doing anything. Like Gustav Graves, I’d rather be super productive and rule the world (or at least catch up on all my TV shows). All this power at my disposal and I waste it frivolously. I guess not everyone’s bent on total domination.