Monday, September 27, 2021

There's a TV in my room!

My whole goddamn world changed the day I had enough money to buy my own TV and video player, and install it in my bedroom. It took months of saving for it with the wages from my first full-time job, and I ended up picking them up dirt cheap at a pawnbrokers auction sometime in 1993. It only cost me $400 for both, and it was a fine investment, because I was the kind of absolute cultural sponge that you can only be when you're 18.

We were a solid working class family growing up, with just one TV for the whole family unit. This meant you learned the art of compromise and absolute injustice every night, as you tried to find something that everybody could be happy with. It helped that there were only two TV channels in the whole country, so it wasn't like there was a lot of choice, and we could all agree the A-Team was better than Masterpiece Theatre.

It did mean that if you missed out on seeing something when it first screened, you really missed out and there was absolutely no chance you would ever see it again, (as a disaster obsessed creep of a kid, I can still feel the anguish of missing A Night To remember one Sunday afternoon). This could be hard for a lot of people in 2021 to get their science fiction minds around, but there was a time when eveyting everywhere was available for everyone.

There wasn't any other option, so you just had to live with it. It all got a bit better when we got our first VHS machine in 1984, but that still required a lot of family comprimise - my Dad would never let me hire out a Star Wars, no matter how much I needed it - and it it would be another nine years before I was allowed to have my own TV in my room.

And then I was 18 and right at that time in your life when you've just indulging in everything you can get your hands and I wanted to see the movies. All the movies. 

I went through all the Leone I could find, inhaled every Coen Brothers in sight, and went hard on the Scorcese. Every possible Hammer film I could find. All the zombie movies on the shelves. All the arthouse shit I could stomach. The few John Woo bloodfests I could find. All nighters of Peter Weir films, or just watching every Friday the 13th movie (there were only eight of them at that stage).

It's that age when you're still working out what kind of adult you're going to be, and the whole human condition was there on the video shelves. And with my own TV, I could watch three movies a night, and really figure that shit out.

It's no surprise that this was the time when I saw four of my five favourite films ever, as tastes solidified and the kind of movie I really liked became clear. The great films I've ever seen weren't on some huge screen with a kickass sound system, they were on a shitty video tape, on my shitty old 20-inch TV.

There's an age in life for this kind of obsession, and we do grow out of as real life gets in the way (well, most of us do). I haven't had a TV in the bedroom since I've been married, and haven't really missed it, although with the nest generation coming though, I might get pushed back to my own screen again.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

There's a smoking section in the Twilight Zone

I've been watching a couple of episodes of the old Twilight Zone series every week, and they're perfectly charming and occasionally upsetting.  But even though the twists are always easy to pick, the scariest thing about the old series is creator Rod Serling's continued plugging of cigarettes at the end of many episodes

It's fascinating to look back at how these old things were made, but really just macabre when you consider all those cigrattes undoubtedly contributed to Serlin's early death at 50. He lives forever in early morning reruns, but stop telling me how great those smokes are, they will fucking kill you, man.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Dredd's time is coming up fast

We're only months away from the start of work building Mega City One, according to the timeline of Judge Dredd's world, written by co-creator John Wagner and published in the 1984 Dredd annual.

If this is what's behind Biden's infrastructure Bill, the American public need to know how much their government is spending on concreting over New York and setting up the laser defense screen.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Blake's 7 outbleaked them all

Blake's 7 was a pretty bleak show, right from the start, and right to the end. The whole programme had a profound impact on me as a kid, to the point where it would show up as a metaphor in a dream for young existentialism.. So it should have come as no surprise when it ended with the absolute slaughter of every main character, but it was still a genuinely shocking thing to witness. 

I was probably six-years-old when I first saw this last episode and it did me harm.

It's not just that they all get gunned down in the final moments, it's that they haven't changed anything, with no hint their death will inspire others to rise up against the Federation. Even the figurehead they all rallied around - the title character of the whole damn show -  turned out to be another weak man, who buckled under the pressure and started working for the system. 

Avon gets the last grin, but the Federation rolls on, crushing all in its path. The rebels are annihilated and the system endures. Servalan is the only main character who is still alive by the end of the series and gets to rock off into forever with her crew of mutoids.

There's been plenty of sequels in books and audio adventures, but they don't really count. While they give some hope, the utterly nihilistic end of the show is the only way this story could ever end. Even though they were onto a space trek straight into oblivion from the start, it still hurt..

I'm still a couple of years away from my next 11-year rewatch, but it's coming. As inevitable and inescapable as that bloody Federation.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Grendel: The devil's dead end

Grendel: Devil's Odyssey really felt like the end for the entire concept. Pushing even further past the future society that the devil created, taking Grendel Prime out into the wider universe and literally leaving behind a dying earth.

It was a devilishly exciting adventure out into the stars, all beautifully rendered by creator Matt Wagner. Grendel Prime, the ultimate warrior, walked the path of non violence for a while and lasered a few squid people, and beat the shit out of the bluntest political allegory Wagner has ever used (and there have been some absolute doozies in his career). It was fucking excellent.

And then Grendel reaches the end of the line and finds he's just a bit basic for intergalactic life, and gets his metallic ass sent back to earth. There's only so much that unstoppable willpower can take you, only so brutal and efficient you can be before you start to bore the piss out of higher lifeforms. The devil can only go so far.

After wrapping up Mage, Wagner's return for Devil's Odyssey felt like the best epilogue Grendel could ever hope for. Ending at the dead end that all that ruthlessness was always leading towards.

But now it turns out that wasn't the end at all. There's more coming, with Wagner obviously invigorated by this space adventure, and taking this bizarre future another indomitable step even further forward, and there's a planned 12-issue series of Grendel Prime's new quest in a new Earth where the Grendel mark is a death sentence. 

With the new Netflix deal for a Grendel TV series announced last week, all the eyes will be on Hunter Rose again, and that's fine because he's going to be gorgeous, charming and deadly. But Wagner's story of this far future of humanity, where the blank stare of the Grendel is the only righteous, honorable and unstoppable force left in the world, is far more exciting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Audition in lockdown

It feels like there are going to be a hell of a lot of Covid-related romantic comedies coming, full of odd couples stuck together during lockdowns, helping each other out in sickness and in health.

I'm not going to watch a single one of these fucking things, because life is too short for that. But I really hope there is one that goes full-on Audition in the last half hour or so, and it turns out you've been locked up with somebody with an unhealthy obsession with piano wire, and it just blasts in out of nowhere, a sweet movie going full gore. 

It won't make up for the sheer boredom of being stuck in one place that the whole world has experienced, but it could help.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

You don't need to box up everything, you fucking geeks

The box is empty. The box is always empty.

The dorks won and we'll be suffering for that for a long time. The geekiest of geek behaviours have been seeping into general pop culture for decades, for better and for worse. Sure, everyone knows who T'Challa is now, but that's not worth the toxic bullshit that has been imported into general society

The absolute and tragic sense of entitlement that fans of comics and science fiction and shit feel towards things is in our culture, and it's fucking everywhere. In our sports, in our politics, in our workplaces. Social media is as mainstream as it gets and its full of the kind of thing you used to see in fanzine letter columns. The same dull wit, the same snide superiorities, the same old bullshit.

And everything has to have a label put on it. Fan histories are full of long arguments about whether something is a particular genre, whether something is a horror or a fantasy or whatever, as if that ever really mattered. 

This is all excruciatingly backwards, but this insatiable desire to put everything in the right place, is everywhere now. Making everything nice and neat might make sense when you're cataloguing your  Detective Comics collection, but this does not apply to the vast complexities of actual human beings.

And now you've got people losing their minds over what gender goes into boxes, as if the human goddamn condition isn't a multi-faceted thing, and no two are alike, all have their own needs and wants and it's all good. They don't have to go into boxes they don't want to go into. Only you can decide what bix fits you.

The joy that can be seen in my trans and gender fluid friends, colleagues and neighbors is absolutely delightful and divine and they can go into any damn box they feel like. You can't seal up that kind of beauty, no matter how fucking men or dorky you are about it.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Still chasing that X-Factor thrill

It's 2021 and if we weren't in another bloody lockdown, I could still go to the local comic shop and buy a new X-Factor comic by the immortal team of Louise and Walt Simonson. What a wonderful world this can be sometimes.

It might be pants, and I don't care, because Simonson X-Factor is my favourite kind of X-Factor. And I know - I know -  that I can't ever catch the same feeling I had when I got X-Factor #27 off the shelves at the Park Store, next to the Timaru Botanical Gardens, while walking from town to my Nana's house (not Nana Smith, Nana V. Both outstandingly lovely people).

That lazy Saturday afternoon was 33 years ago, but I'm still high from getting this comic and reading the absolute shit out of it that day, over and over again. I was 13 and had only ever been a fairweather X-Men fan, but this Fall of the Mutants epilogue was everything I never knew I needed, and all I wanted was x-comics from that moment on.

Only true fucking dorks say stuff like this, but it's true - it's really like the first hit of a drug. You're never gonna get that exact feeling ever again, but you're bloody well going to keep trying to get it. What else are you gonna do with your life? Something constructive? Fuck that.

Even though it's impossible, because I'm not a kid anymore. Those innocent days of finding odd issues of the weirdest fucking comic books, and not having any money for the ones you can, they're long gone. I've been able to buy any damn comic I find on the shelves for decades now, and it's never the same. 

Sometimes you get something really fucking good, and it's close to that thrill, but it's still not there.

But the chase is the thing, the chase is everything. Get your kicks where you can, and keep going back to them, for as long as you are still able. Chasing the thrill of some random X-Factor comic from 33 years ago helps keep me going. It all helps.