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So it’s been a little while since the movie came out, and by far I’m not the first person to say it, and I won’t be the last. The latest Batman movie was awful. I am a huge Batman fan, yet was frothing at the mouth in the theatre. The reasons I mention below have not been discussed yet, as far as I could see.

1. Social commentary at the expense of story.

I’ll try to forget for a few minutes the terrible social commentary and associations that were made between Bane’s gang and the wallstreet occupiers. Let me just say that the association seemed to be “see, if you trust these people trying to bring justice to the market, they’ll detonate a fusion bomb because really, they’re just messing with you”. Others have said it, so I won’t digress.

The real problem and where the movie reeked of outside of influence was in the out-of-place nature of Bane’s philosophy. The occupy-content in the movie was just a way to “toy with Gotham”. Bane himself was a pawn whose ultimate goal was to tear apart Gotham as Ra’s Al Ghul had intended. We never learn enough about Bane to determine why he might do what he does, why he goes after Wall Street, why he dangles the hope before Gotham before presumably destroying it. That is terrible writing, and of a much lower caliber than the other two movies.

By comparison, the Joker’s sense of anarchy was essential to his character, and you catch glimpses of his motivation throughout “The Dark Knight”. Even if the movie was laced with Christopher Nolan’s political values, it was told through a textured story so that you weren’t being slapped in the face with it.

If you intend to comment on current events via a movie, make sure the movie can stand on its own two feet. Otherwise you’re insulting your audience.

2. Scientific demonization for no justifiable reason

Along the same lines as the above reason, this comment refers to the terrible science in the movie. I’m fully aware that the other two movies (probably “Batman Begins” worst of all) had very awful science in them, so much that I’m confident Christopher Nolan either failed high-school science or has an ex he really hates who happens to be a scientist.

No, what bothered me was not the bad science by itself. It was the fact that it was socially relevant and deliberately bad. Fusion — the reaction that happens in the sun, slamming two nuclei together to make a new atom, releasing energy in the process — is at a make-or-break point in its history. The world’s largest laser at the National Ignition Facility in California is supposed to demonstrate fusion energy breakeven by the end of 2012. If the teams of scientists succeed, a surge of funding and effort could follow in order to bring this energy resource to the light of everyday use.

Fusion is extremely hard to make happen. There are very good reasons why it’s taken researchers over fifty years to attempt to squeeze more energy out of it than they put in. It’s so hard to make happen, that chain reactions and out-of-control situations are simply not possible. If something goes wrong in a fusion reaction, everything stops. You don’t get a bigger implosion, you don’t make a crater in the Earth — NOTHING HAPPENS.

Simple-mindedly, people could argue that fusion releases a lot more energy, so there’s more danger, right?

Wrong.

A reactor has to compensate for the amount of energy released by its fuel. Therefore a fusion reactor would have tiny pellets that would detonate only under extremely precise conditions. And the amount of energy would be spread over a wide enough area that the reactor wouldn’t come close to melting, let alone explode.

This is a long-winded way of saying that you could never turn a fusion reactor into a bomb. A fusion bomb is such a vastly different beast that you need a much higher-energy ignition source, on a much larger scale. By its design the amount of fuel required is much, much higher. If you tried to simply cram more fuel into a fusion reactor, again, nothing would happen, because the ignition energy you’re providing with each pulse is not enough to compensate for the added mass.

How would you ignite such a bomb, you might ask? By lighting a fission bomb. And yes, HUMANITY HAS ALREADY DONE IT. It’s called a hydrogen bomb, Christopher Nolan. A Google search by you or any of the other writers would have clarified this immediately. The genie’s out of the bottle already, and to “hide” the technology of a fusion reactor from the world (as is done in “The Dark Knight Rises”) makes absolutely no sense. He is making a demon out of technology that already exists, has existed since the Cold War, and will continue to exist long after he’s done putting damagingly shitty science into Hollywood movies.

These are influential movies, that a huge number of people see and absorb. I know that many people are not going with their notepads jotting things down regarding modern science, but there is still a subconscious level of knowledge absorption that occurs. Since most people have almost no exposure whatsoever to fusion beyond Gillette’s razor, the most likely reaction they’ll have if they hear about it is “Oh no — isn’t that the terrible thing that almost blew up Batman?”

There have been fusion awareness campaigns in the past, and I’m pretty sure Christopher Nolan has single-handedly outdone any of them put together. Again, the specific reason for a fusion reactor is not at all clear in the movie. It could have been any technology, any weapon, that was “tricked” out of Wayne Enterprise. Slapping it with a current label to try and make it relevant, without doing any homework whatsoever on it, is again, terrible writing.

Overall:

“The Dark Knight Rises” has many holes and unanswered questions as a result of bad writing. The majority of the questions center around the science used and the political philosophies of the villains. These are crucial in any superhero movie, yet are mysteriously lacking from a trilogy that has heretofore demonstrated good characterization and motivation by its antagonists. After leaving the theatre, I had a foul taste in my mouth, as though behind-the-scenes propaganda had just been rammed down my esophagus by an invisible hand. In a Batman movie, no less, one of my more beloved childhood superheroes.

Tell you what, Christopher. You want to make a movie about how occupy Wall Street is evil, and fusion energy is something to be afraid of? Fine. Just don’t do it with Batman.

Owning Harpies is a disease

Owning Harpies is a diseaseMy friends, if ever you are to visit Earth, I would advise you to study human medical textbooks cover to cover before attempting anything out of the ordinary, or even anything that might seem ordinary to us. Whilst hiding amidst the displays in the space and science centre, I worked up the courage to speak to a local science enthusiast calling herself Uhura, who refreshed my heart with her open mind and willingness to discuss which star cluster is more mathematically beautiful : M45, the Seven Sisters cluster, or M7, Ptolemy’s cluster.

When I had finished extolling the virtues of the Seven Sisters to such an extent that my face was sweaty and bluer than average, her demeanour changed completely.

“Oh, so you’re that kind of shroud howler of Spica Five, are you?”

I had no idea what she meant, and told her so.

“Oh, and you play so innocent! Well, Mr. Parsaecum, why don’t you come along and help me with something?” She then winked at me as though it were the first time I had ever witnessed such an act, then walked off batting her eyelashes and swinging her hips in an exaggerated manner. Eager to be of use after so much time using my secretions to secretly ruin then steal children’s lunchboxes, I followed Uhura into the women’s washroom.

She locked the door and pushed me against the wall, initially making me wonder if I would have to wrestle a beast that had symbiotically attached itself to her spine, like some of those horrid creatures I had encountered in the aptly-named Blackeye Galaxy. Uhura then switched to a more gentle form of touch as she lowered herself and proceeded to have a conversation with my lower half.

It was stranger than anything I’d ever experienced, including the rituals I had partaken in with the Necroregulators of Mimosa. I was shaken awake later, with my pants down, by an angry and disgusted museum employee. Uhura was nowhere to be found, although I thought I dreamt of her telling me to live long and prosper.

My refuge in the museum lost, I spent several days as a vagrant, wandering from place to place scrounging food and drink. When the painful blisters appeared on my lower half, I tried to ignore them at first, but the irritation compounded by my starvation and general misery caused me to abandon all sense of reason. I went to a hospital.

The glass doors slid open to a room full of tired, coughing and pained people whose exhaustion had extended to the point that they barely turned their heads my way. The nurse at the reception desk, a man in his twenties, looked me up and down as though I were some enthusiastic nerd in a permanent Halloween costume. It was the reaction I was growing accustomed to.

“Can I help you?” he asked skeptically.

“Yes, I’d like to see a doctor,” I replied.

“What for?”

“Well, you see, I have a bit of an irritation on my skin.” I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject, since it wasn’t something I was proud of, nor was it something I deemed polite to discuss in front of the general populace.

The nurse rolled his eyes. “Have you talked to your family doctor about this?”

I frowned. “I don’t have a family doctor.”

“Have you tried going to a walk-in clinic?” His eyebrows were raised in an exasperated expression.

In fact I had, and the man’s question was somewhat silly, the time being 11:30 pm at night. I thought humans would have a better grasp of their own time zones, but that was evidently not the case with this nurse. “They’re closed now.”

The nurse nodded and smiled, as though to say, That’s a likely story. “How long have you been irritated?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. “Well, almost since the first day I walked on this Earth.”

The nurse looked incredulous. “So this is a condition you’ve had your entire life and you don’t have a family doctor? You really should get one, you know, we can give you some phone numbers to call.”

I wondered if the nurse had ever called the numbers he handed me, since all the doctors I had tried were no longer taking patients. Or no longer had patience. One of the two.

“So you decided to come to emergency tonight because…?” He leaned his head in as though his brain would function better by tipping it at an acute angle.

“It’s become quite painful, and this is where I was told I could receive medical care.”

“Is it really that bad?” asked the nurse, skepticism once more on his face. “It really can’t wait.”

I scanned the waiting area once more. “Well, it looks like I’m going to have to wait anyway, am I not?”

“You’re not a priority compared to the rest of the patients, so you will have to wait at least six hours for treatment.”

“Are you suggesting I go home?” At this point my level of annoyance had risen (I tried to avoid thinking of the word ‘irritation’).

The nurse put up his arms in defense. “No, I’m just saying it’s going to take a while. You’re welcome to stay here, just know that in advance.”

“Know that my illness is not important to you whatsoever.”

“That’s right.” The words had slipped out of the nurse’s mouth before he could catch himself, and he flushed red. “Do you have your health card?”

“No, I don’t have one.”

He stared at me. “We’ll need some sort of identification to treat you.”

I will spare you the painful details of the remainder of our conversation, which proceeded in this vein until the nurse’s shift was done and he was replaced by a tired-looking woman who gave me a bracelet and sent me into the waiting area. I wondered if the nurse I had spoken to prided himself on being functionally useless, or if he had been trained that way. Hours later, the blisters beneath my jeans got so itchy that I was getting strange looks from the frantic way in which I scratched. It was then I was called in.

The doctor inspected me but I was careful not to let him touch.

“You have herpes, Mr. Parsaecum,” he said, snapping his rubber glove in finality.

I had heard of the harpies of Winnecke 4, said to be capable of flying in orbit for such extended periods that they could orbit the double stars. Never in my life had I owned one. “No, I don’t.”

The doctor sighed. “Look, it’s a natural reaction, but I’ve seen this lots before, trust me. It’s treatable but there’s no cure yet.”

I frowned. “Owning harpies is a disease? And it’s incurable?”

“Well, I guess you could say you own them,” the doctor said thoughtfully. “Thinking of them as property might help you to cope a bit better. And avoid spreading them.”

I wanted to tell the doctor that even if I owned an entire flock of Winnecke 4 harpies, I wouldn’t be letting them run amuck, but felt that there was something I was missing. “Did harpies cause these blisters?”

“Herpies are the blisters, Mr. Parsaecum.” He put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Look, I’ll prescribe you some medication that will help you deal with things.”

I fumbled around in my jean pocket which was beside the bed. “I, um, have a bit of a special physiology that may need to be considered when you decide upon–”

The doctor snatched the paper out of my hand, his eyes going wide before his brow furrowed in annoyance. He looked at his watch, then back at the paper. “I don’t have time for this,” he concluded, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to leave this with reception. I’ll figure it out and you can pick it up in the morning.”

With that, he left, and soon after, so did I, having gained psychological irritation but nothing to mitigate my physical irritation. That night I couldn’t help but think of the term healthcare, which was a juxtaposition of two concepts which seemed at odds with one another in the current system. I thought it might be a better idea to pay for the two services separately.

I have yet to see Uhura, but would greatly like to if for no other reason than to tell her that she has somehow contracted a disease normally found in space-diving birds of Messier 40.

-Ovidius Parsaecum

I just made the effort of doing some market research and submitting a plethora of stories to separate magazines. It’s hard sometimes to get the energy to believe in your work after rejections seem to knock you down, but it feels good to stand up and say, “You know what? I’ll get another opinion.”

Before I landed in the middle of Circle-Square, I thought that geometrical contradictions were physically impossible. I held my breath as I gazed at the chaos around me, and worried what atmosphere would enter my lungs if I inhaled. Eventually I was forced to gasp and remembered that the Earth’s air wouldn’t kill me. That was little relief, however, because there were a plethora of dangers around me that could certainly do the job.

The circle to which the name referred barely fit the definition, with so many appendages going in, out and dividing it that I could almost start to see the sense of the name. Large metallic bubbles carried humans on the hard gray outlines in a pattern that I could not discern, nor see the logic of. I was trapped in the middle, and to step out into the perimeter of the “circle” was certain death. I was no match for the gas-spewing monstrosities.

My rudimentary understanding of written English allowed me to observe several messages. “Dodge the father–ram the daughter” was written on one of the larger, longer bubbles. I hadn’t learned any such interpersonal strategies during my meager preparatory studies.

The one message that I did understand was a sign that said, “High Collision Area”. I assumed this was meant for children, perhaps, or for anyone without the reasoning capacity to notice the blatantly obvious.

Be thankful my attempts to photograph the nexus of chaos were unsuccessful I wondered several times whether this was a prank, a simulation of absurdity that my friends had perhaps loaded into the stimsim without me knowing. I stood for several hours waiting for the headache-inducing nightmare in front of me to end. I cursed my tendency to require patterns in what I see, and for expecting patterns when I came to Earth. It was driving me insane.

There were many collections of lights–red, yellow, and green–scattered all around Circle-Square, and the metallic bubbles seemed to move according to the lights’ colours. There were far too many to count, however, or to keep straight as I spun around trying to make sense of this engineering catastrophe.

It was nighttime when I awoke with a jolt, a patch of dried drool sticking to my cheek as I pushed up from the grass. To my amazement, there were less metallic bubbles now, but they were all waiting, unmoving. I watched in stillness as they sat in front of the red lights, waiting for the green colour to engage. The image stood in stark contrast from the chaotic mess that had wittled away my sanity earlier.

The bubbles didn’t move for several hours, and I marveled at the stupidity of the light system as well as the blind obediance of the drivers (the inhabitants of the bubbles). Several hours earlier they were cursing, honking and nearly killing one another as they wove into and out of the Circle-Square, and now they were waiting like larva for succulence from the queen.

Were they in hibernation, or sleeping? I thought the more rectangular enclosures constituted human homes, but perhaps Circle-Square violated all rules of geometry. I made a note of the lights and how they were no longer changing colours. Something had changed, or something was wrong. When I summoned enough courage I approached one of the bubbles and saw that the humans were in fact still alert, but not enough to notice me.

I was getting hungry. My metabolism is much stronger than a human’s, and the trauma of the past several hours had taken its toll. I needed to get out of this geometrical paradox before my grandchild stepped out of the shadows and murdered me.

I checked as many directions as I could keep track of, convincing myself that there was no movement within Circle-Square. Then I warily moved radially outward on the gray perimeter of the main “circle”. I was about halfway across, my hearts pounding when the bubble came for me.

A loud screech made me scramble across, and my only saving grace was that I was on the other side of an arbitrary white dotted line. The bubble screamed past me, and when I was safely on the grass outside the Circle-Square, I noticed that the bubble had moved during a red light. Why he chose that particular moment to speed away eluded me, but as I made my way to a shelter I noticed similarly nonsensical behaviour from the other inhabitants of Edmonton, Alberta.

I made a note of the intersection so that I could warn my friends should they ever decide to join me on my masochistic expedition: it was the crossing of Groat Road and 118 Avenue NW. I wasn’t sure why they would bother giving a compass direction to a place named Circle-Square, but perhaps the highway engineers knew something I didn’t.

Hiding in my room under the wing of the Space & Science Centre, I am waiting to work up the courage and strength to venture out again. From what I have gathered the first place I will likely visit is a local driving school, because clearly the rules I studied are either no longer followed, or no longer followed here.

-Ovidius Parsaecum

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the first found footage film that was actually good. Found footage is a style of film making where the majority of the movie is presented through clips from the protagonist’s own camcorder, or someone close to the protagonist. It was done in Blair Witch which people tell me gave them motion sickness, and in Cloverfield which made me sick both from dizziness and from the shameless shock-and-awe tactics.

Rather than using the found footage style as a gimmick to try and tug on the audience’s heartstrings or to create tension by waving the camera around chaotically, Chronicle’s use of found footage is integral to the story. It uses it cleverly and demonstrates that this style is not relegated to cheap horror movies.

Chronicle tells the story of three teenagers who begin to develop telekinesis. The main character, Andrew, is the most troubled of the three and films everything as a barrier to distance himself from harsh reality. He is bullied at school, abused by his father and generally friendless until his new found powers develop.

He begins using his telekinesis to float the camera around, which is a convenient and clever way for the camera to be steadied. I hate it how found footage movies simulate reality by shaking the camera so much you think you’re in a hurricane. Yes, artsy filmmaker, you’re right–if someone were in this situation, they probably would shake the camera so much that the image is indiscernible. Does that mean it’s fun or enjoyable to watch? No.*cough* Cloverfield.

Right from the start of the movie people look at the camera oddly, and tell Andrew that it’s weird. Andrew’s isolation from society and alienation is underscored by the way the story is told, which, simply put, is good storytelling.

Found footage aspects aside, the movie was fantastic. It’s a completely different take on the superhero theme, and stands out in several regards.

Number one: they mess around with their powers a great deal before doing anything else. This is a very realistic and plausible reaction for a teenager to have. Also, the uses of their powers are fairly unconventional. They are practical and have a sense of realism that no other superhero movie has done well. A teenager would use telekinesis to pop pringles into his mouth.

Number two: Andrew’s growing bond with his friends is very believable, and what is supposed to be the pinnacle of his life–becoming popular in high school–is the beginning of his downfall. After doing a fantastically impressive talent show moonlighting his telekinesis for magic tricks, Andrew goes to his first house party, gets totally wasted, and ends up alone with a girl. The other characters are incredibly proud of him, and say that, “Things are going to get better now.” As though you need to puke in a few strangers’ toilets before you’re a normal, healthy human being.

Dispelling this myth in a very harsh way, Andrew spirals downward. Because we see the forces from without putting pressure on him, we sympathize with him. We don’t see him as a villain as he becomes one. We don’t hate him–we hope for his salvation. When his father goes in to blame him one final time for the death of his mother, and all the other troubles in his life, we honestly want Andrew to drop the bastard out of the window.

That’s where this movie stands out yet again. Number three: The “villain”, if there is one, is not someone we hate. The lines between good and evil, right and wrong, are blurry and Andrew’s cousin Matt pleads with him to stop numerous times as they fight in the final battle. The emotional tension and the gritty realism of that confrontation were incredible (and not done with an annoyingly shaky camera).

After Matt stops Andrew, he turns on the camera to send a message to his cousin, because the camera has become the lens through which Andrew sees the world. “You’re not a bad person, Andrew. I know that, and that’s all that matters.” It is a beautiful way of hammering home the message that there are no such things as good people or bad people–just people doing the best they can in the circumstances they’re under. What makes Chronicle a powerful movie is not that Andrew is grotesque or Matt remarkable–it’s the fact that they’re not. And that is more terrifying than a demi-god Magneto or a galaxy-swallowing monstrosity.

My hat goes way off to the makers of this movie. We sorely need more realistic portrayals of good and evil in order to demonstrate that you don’t need to be branded with a Decepticon tattoo to be capable of evil, or wear an “S” on your chest in order to be super.