The Ringo Syndrome

The Ringo Syndrome: The psychological tendency to identify with, or be excessively fond of, the most paavam and over-looked character in a group, out of sheer cussedness. Symptoms include Beatles posters with John, Paul and George cut out of them, building altars to Bifur Bofur and Bombur, and Brahma worship. Complications that may arise from Ringo Syndrome may include an obsession with all drummers, a fervid fondness for Branwell Bronte, and a passion for the Thomas Covenant books. (Thomas Covenant is a Stephen Donaldson hero whose primary characteristic is the ability to whine “Leper! Outcast! Unclean!” and writhe in his own pathetic-ness whenever he is called upon to so something plot-related.)

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Continue Reading July 1, 2010 at 10:55 am 4 comments

birdie

o bird so rare in feet and form,

o bird that shimmers off the ground.

o birdie fair! o birdie wise!

o birdie birdie, name your price.

May 25, 2010 at 9:48 am 3 comments

the boy in a can

oh who will remember the boy in a can?

his teeth are december, his nose a meringue.

his shoulders are slumped in the ease of defeat;

when you speak to him he huddles, trembly as a beet.

March 12, 2010 at 10:18 am 3 comments

one hos town; hampi

i’m sorry, but it’s true.

i know because i stayed in hospet for an entire week.

well five days, anyway.

and commuted faithfully to hampi every morning.

not that i have anything against hosses,

singular or plural. and i am fond even of macaques.

and langurs. and rock pigeons and hoopoes.

they are fine upstanding people – especially the langurs.

(how one manages to meet a langur and not find

that it is eerily similar to all one’s relatives

i do not know.)

hampi is where myth and history meet.

they smoke together.

noisily. redly.

they brawl and they collapse

and out of their nostrils flows such stuff as religions are made on.

rocks, rivers, and gods gods gods

rolling madly in the dust.

February 23, 2010 at 9:47 am 9 comments

at sea

girish swims sadly on and on

he dreams of a house, a car, and a lawn.

in his mind, as he mows

he contemplates toes.

February 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm 2 comments

yali

I am reading Notes from Underground. It’s been a while since I read Dostoevsky, and I cannot begin to express how taken I am with this book. I had forgotten what happiness there is in reading something where every single word is so utterly right, for the very first time. Yes, first existential treatise and all, but for me the joy I get from the proper-ness of the words more than makes up for the bleakness of what they’re saying.

There are very very few writers who can go an entire novel without striking any false notes. And usually false notes are directly proportional to intensity of story. But not so Mr D, whose tongue-chewing excruciatingness (the scene in which the Underground Man goes to meet some old schoolmates made me long to crawl under the bus seat and hide from all people forever) is matched only by the perfection of his prose.

This book is a freak of nature,
I tell you.
Verily.
Yea,
A yali among books.
But handsomer.
Far handsomer.


January 20, 2010 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Wonder Woman – in which there is much (more) ranting

Dear DC Animated Universe People, I am going to be very mean now. And the reason I am going to do this is because I watched your Wonder Woman film. There was nothing wrong with the plot or the story, so you can stop worrying. What did annoy me greatly was the women in your film, which is clearly not something that you’re very fussed about. But if you’re feeling low and sensitive, and easily-upset today I suggest you not read any further.  If you try to sue me I will claim that my mind is unhinged.

I’ve always been a little iffy about Wonder Woman. I suspect everyone is. As the major female character in DC, WW is thoroughly weighed down by the need to be every kind of hero for every kind of woman, and every kind of man. And as if that’s not enough, she also needs to be a every kind of heroine, just in case we manage to forget for an entire second that she’s, y’know, a woman.

The distinction between a hero and a heroine, in my opinion, is a narrative one: the hero is the person who is making the journey; the heroine is the person who inspires the hero to make and complete that journey: sometimes it’s waiting at the end of the maze, sometimes back at home, sometimes it travels with the hero providing sympathy, food, advice, weapons, clues, inspiration, and generally being helpful. Please note that the hero isn’t necessarily a man, just as the heroine isn’t always a girl.  This is why when they are not attached to a specific character, I am calling them both “it”.

In Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle, the strands of hero and heroine are thoroughly mixed up. The story is told from Sophie’s point of view, and the eccentric Howl functions both as the person she aspires to be, as well as the person she aspires to be with. Howl is written as nice-looking, and as conscious of the fact: Sophie has been aged into a small, round, shapeless person, who keeps house of Howl. Howl is n full control of his (pretty impressive) magic powers;  Sophie (SPOILER!) isn’t even aware she has them, but acts, anyway, with compassion, honesty, and loyalty. Both Howl and Sophie, therefore, give each other something to aspire to. And both of them sustain each other with advice, jokes, food and shelter.

Wonder Woman, unfortunately, isn’t allowed to do something as simple and obvious as this. She is both the ideal woman Steve Trevor aspires to be with, as well as the person who must find and destroy the bad guy, with Trevor’s misogynistic nagging as her only support.  No one ever asks Batman to be Boy Scout and Dark-and-Angsty and Pointy-Boots-Barbie at the same time. But Wonder Woman is so busy being everything everyone in DC has ever expected of a superhero, PLUS bludgeoning the reader’s eyeballs with her breasts and boots (“She is a woman with a lasso! We are Progressive! Fetish Ahoy!” DC incoherently shrieks in every frame), that she has no time left in which to even create an archetype for herself, let alone the option to be one actual person. Not surprisingly she is a black hole of character suckitude.

Even on good days, DC isn’t terribly good at women. But they have outdone themselves this time. The Amazons are all little puppets with labels saying cheap things like “Butch!” “Bookish!” “Woman Scorned!” “Bitter Spinster!” Note to DC: The Amazons are an entire society of warrior women. Ergo: a) they will all be built differently from each other b) they are terribly likely to be muscular. Not necessarily all bulked-up, as some of them will be lean and sinewy instead. And it’s perfectly all right if some of them are stout, or short, or wiry-looking. Using a single template-body for an entire people is stupid. At one point the Amazon army is actually described as “supermodels in armour.” (probably by Steve Trevor but I lack the courage to check) I nearly stabbed myself in the eye with a blunt pencil. If you KNOW that they look like clothes hangers rather than warriors then why did you DRAW them like that in the first place? I honestly prefer the giant-breasted Diana in some of the comics – at least she has some muscle. This lot looks like they don’t even have bones.

As with most DC animated films, the backgrounds and battles are beautiful. Lovely colours, nice movements, some exciting fights, a dragon – all good things.

The film tries terribly hard to give Wonder Woman some character by making her a lot harder and more steely than she is usually written, which I like in theory. (I’ve always found it a bit silly when the comics try to convince me that a) Diana is a Warrior and that b) Diana is this super compassionate pacifist Mother Teresa figure and c) Diana is a supermodel. Stick to one archetype DC morons.) I was sort of charmed by her teaching a little girl how to injure her playmates with a sword. It was wrongheaded, yes, but it was one of the few “Diana-is-an-Amazon-and-is-therefore-puzzled-by-Man’s-World” moments that rang true for me. Also endearing was when I noticed she was fighting barefoot in an alley. Clearly someone on the writing team has tried throwing a kick in giant heels, I thought.

But these moments are soon crushed by the demands of the idiot plot: Diana needs to kill Ares, and Diana needs to kiss Steve Trevor. And so all Diana’s potential complexities of motive and selfhood are just ignored while she does the important business of bashing and making out. In the end, while Diana had to become this has-car-doors-opened-for-her girl, Trevor gets away with being exactly the same cheerful misogynist he is to begin with. He fell for Diana because she has a nice rack, and he continues to hang out with her for that exact reason.

There’re frequent and gross shots of the Amazons’ body parts in battle. Women dying in battle should not be about sex. No one dying in battle should be about sex. (And this applies to pretty much any fight sequence you have ever had, DC). Trevor, of course, does exactly this: “That was hot!” he leers as Diana finishes a fierce fight. Not strong, not quick, not skillful, not smart, not saving-his-life-awesome. Hot.

Ugh.

By the time the film ended and Diana had left her island (Which DC is determined to tell us full of bitter spinsters. Trevor actually calls it “chastity belt island” at one point. Diana looks lovelorn. I looked nauseous.) to stay with gross Trevor carry out her Mission of Peace, I was beginning to think she deserved him. Clearly this particular WW wants what every woman ought – in DC’s opinion – to want: a self-absorbed man to condescend to her constantly.

That this is the lot which gave us Harley and Ivy, high on my list of comfort TV (Also on the list:  Jeeves and Wooster, Monty Python, lots  more of this particular animated Batman, most of Buffy, Season 1 of Veronica Mars, some of Firefly, Merlin, Season 1 of the new Dr Who, some Arrested Development) makes me very sad indeed.

December 17, 2009 at 10:24 am 2 comments

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