MonthApril 2012

Avengers

I’ve been trying to get this post started for a while now. I want to blog about Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” because a tweet doesn’t cut it. I can tell people I thought it was amazing in <140 characters but I definitely couldn’t pack what I felt into so small a space.

The trouble is what I feel is still hard to reconcile with an effects-fest superhero movie. I try and explain why “The Avengers” moved me, quite literally, to the verge of tears and I suddenly fear that maybe you didn’t see the same movie I did. Not literally, of course, but in the philosophical sense. Hopefully when I spit it out I’ll hear from one or two of you (I have names in mind) that you reacted the same way and I’ll feel less like a crazy person.

Cut for potential spoilers (though I’m not planning on any).

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Dead by 27: Why Do I Like Amy Winehouse Now?

As I write this I’m listening to Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” album. The reason I’m writing this is because I’m listening to it, as it happens. Whilst I was listening to a Winehouse song on shuffle earlier in the day I began to reflect on how and why my tastes have changed to include her work.

When she was alive I never liked her music though if I’m honest I suspect that had more to do with my opinions of her as a person than anything else. It’s speaking ill of the dead, perhaps, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone reading this that Amy Winehouse lived a life which was increasingly self-destructive. She was, again without surprising anyone, the subject of massive tabloid coverage because of it. All of this turned me off. I was peripherally aware that she had a truly phenomenal singing voice but I was more aware of her reputation for misbehaviour, her stumbling inability to complete a performance and being a figure of public ridicule.

When she died she joined a very prodigious club. The 27 Club, a collection of musicians who died young (at the age of 27) and left exceptional bodies of work. Amongst others she now calls John Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and, of course, Kurt Cobain, peers of a sort. Amy Winehouse is no longer a public spectacle, she’s now a part of a pantheon of musical legend and now I can allow myself to enjoy her music. The question that arises is why did she have to die for me to make that allowance to myself? After all, Nirvana were the defining influence on my musical interests and that was long before Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Why is it, then, that I wasn’t put off Nirvana’s music by Kurt Cobain’s self-destruction? I can’t claim to have been so naive or unaware as to not know he was increasingly depressed and struggling with addiction. I was younger, yes but not so very much less aware.

My suspicion is quite pertinent as it comes on a day on which Rupert Murdoch has been facing questions and criticism about the News of the World’s and The Sun’s celebrity gossip and scandal addictions. In 1994 celebrity gossip was just that, it was salacious rumour and supposition on the cover of rags that everyone knew were ridiculous on their face. This has changed.

Today we live in an era when the compromising photographs a celebrity might have on their own phone can be identified, verified and distributed world wide within minutes. Within hours they’ll be published by websites with readerships in the thousands. Within a day they’ll be mainstream headlines. Within the week they’re old news. Whereas Kurt might have unsteadily mumbled his way through a Nirvana show the worst he might expect is for a column in a music magazine who had a reporter in the crowd. Maybe a column inch in a tabloid rag. Amy’s performances in her later years are duplicated a hundred fold on YouTube, filmed from every angle for our dissection and ‘entertainment’.

So whilst I always knew Kurt Cobain was a tragic figure he was a tragic figure once-removed. You knew, you were aware of what was happening but the ‘contact’ you had with him was almost exclusively through his albums. Moments of perfection, produced and edited into articles to be preserved. Our ‘contact’ with Amy Winehouse was constant, invasive and unedited. Even I, who at the time was one step removed from actively trying to avoid knowing about her, knew more than I would ever want to know about someone’s demons and addictions unless they were a close personal friend or family member, someone I would want to know the gory details about because I couldn’t help them without knowing.

So did I dislike Amy Winehouse or was her existence an excuse for the socially-networked, internet-aware modern society to reveal its’ uglier face to me, making me uncomfortable to admit I liked what I heard?

I never met her. The legacy she left was amazing. I think the answer is clear.

Mass Effect In Retrospect

Before I begin I want to put this post in context. I finished Mass Effect 3 when it came out 3 weeks ago (at the start of writing, longer by the end!). I am part way through my second play through, beginning to explore the possibilities available in the narrative. I operate under the assumption that Mass Effect 3’s ending is a trilogy and series ending finale, that further games may be set in the universe but are not part of this particular narrative because this is what we have been told. April has not yet come, when BioWare have told us they will address the ending. That’s where I’m writing from, a position of necessarily incomplete knowledge. No doubt I’ll have more thoughts and perhaps more to say when we hear from BioWare.

Also, before I begin, I want to state my position up front and clearly. I do not like the ending of Mass Effect 3. I do not think it is suitable to, good enough for or in keeping with the Mass Effect franchise. I am not demanding a new ending, do not consider myself as part of any movement, I am merely a disappointed fan. The reason I care that I do not like the ending is that I consider Mass Effect to be one of the most important science fiction franchises in recent years whose importance and significance is squandered by this non-sensical ending.

Why? Read on, but expect spoilers. For the whole franchise.

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Bible Studies with Chris Priestly

I saw on Twitter today a little Easter humour from Chris Priestly.

What do you mean “at the end he died on a cross”? That makes no sense! And what of his companions? *newtestamentrage* #retakeeaster

Now, clearly Chris was venting a little spleen over the fact that no one likes the ending of Mass Effect 3. That their attempt to leave it ambiguous and open-ended has back fired, largely because they specifically promised the ending would be neither ambiguous nor open-ended. Chris’ clever tweet leads me to two conclusions:

1. The ending of Mass Effect 3 is a weak Christ-analogue after all

It’s been hurled as an accusation, what with the ascension in a beam of light and the sacrifice. Hell, Shepard even bleeds from her side.

Well now we know, thanks to Mr Priestly. It is just the Christ story. Nothing more.

2. The end of the bible story is Jesus dying on the cross

That’s right, folks. The ending of Mass Effect 3 is as good as the ending of Jesus’ story. Which is an apt post to make on Easter Sunday because Jesus’ story ended three days before Easter on Good Friday when he was crucified. In fact, there is no Easter, because there is no more to Jesus’ story than that he died on the cross.

There’s no story of Jesus rising again. Nothing in the Bible about how his followers’ responded to Jesus’ death. He certainly didn’t return, address his followers and ascend into heaven as a saviour.

Except, of course, that all of that is wrong. The Bible tells a clear, specific and non-ambiguous story of what happens to Jesus after the death on the cross. I doubt Christianity would have quite the same followers if the ending had literally been a death on the cross and not even a nod to what happened to the disciples. Would EA, perhaps have ended the Bible with a nearly blank page, in the center of which was printed:

Jesus Christ has become a legend by dying on the cross for your sins. Now you can build that legend by giving money to the church.

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