An Unkindness of The Ravens

Well, actually, I consider this to be something of a kindness. I mean, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a truly awesome poem, and here are five fantastic actors reading it. So who’s your favourite?

John De Lancie

 

James Earl Jones

 

Christopher Lee

 

Vincent Price

 

Christopher Walken

In Defence of Fanservice

The prevailing wisdom among critics these days is that fanservice – all fanservice, without exception – is bad. Like the overwhelming majority of ideas held by critics, it is based on a misapprehension: that critics are the intended audience for fanservice. Apparently the name wasn’t a big enough clue for them. And they’re such clever people, too…

Fanservice, in case it was unclear, is for fans (which is why critics don’t like it – it’s not for them). But that’s not the point. The point is that any work in any medium, is for fans. To call single out parts of a work as fanservice is to forget that all works are created to service fans. It is not the reason why creative works exist, but it is something they must do to thrive and survive. In this sense, the entirety of a work is fanservice.

But I’m being pedantic here. Critics use the term fanservice in a particular way: to describe elements of a work that (in their judgement) have no reason to exist other than to please (or service) fans. And there is a valid point there: if a work consists of nothing but such elements, it tends to not be very good, since fanservice often gets in the way of minor details like plot and character logic.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Almost nothing badly done has to be badly done. It merely is, all too frequently. But there are many examples of it being done well. The knee jerk assumption that fanservice must be bad can be as damaging to a work as bad fanservice.

This is particularly the case with finales. It seems to be a very common complaint that finales are often “all fanservice”. Why the Hell should they not be?

How many people are going to watch the final episode of a tv show or read the final volume of a series as the place that they start? No, the people who really care about the finales are the fans, and there’s no earthly reason why they shouldn’t get to say goodbye enjoyably.

In short: critics of the world, try to remember that it’s not all about you.

Bars of the Solar System

Is it just me, or is a little unfair that Mars gets all the attention? Correcting that problem, The Centre Cannot Hold is pleased to present the other planetary candies of the solar system.

Mercury Bar – There’s not much to a Mercury Bar. Small, and quick to melt if you keep it in your hand too long (which is to say, longer than about two seconds). But for all that, it’s very crunchy while it lasts.

Venus Bar – An experiment to see how well the public would like chili oil-infused chocolate. The general consensus is that there was just a smidgen too much chili oil, and that reducing the amount of it by, say, 400%, would be an improvement.

Earth Bar – bland to the point that if it actually was made of dirt, it would actually be more strongly flavoured than it is.

Jupiter Bar – A big, fluffy bar, best known for the single raspberry found in each one.

Saturn Bar – Much like the Jupiter Bar, only without the raspberry and with a frosted sugar band around the outside of it.

Neptune Bar – Deep. Mysterious. Oddly salty.

Uranus Bar – Inevitably a problem to sell – as successive campaigns inviting the public to bite, suck or lick Uranus Bars never seemed to find the right audience. In recent years, the Uranus Bar has sold better in summer, when refrigerating it is an option: like revenge, it is best eaten cold.

Pluto Bar – The poorest selling and most unpopular bar in the line, right up until it was announced that it would be discontinued, at which point suddenly everyone loved it again. The Pluto Bar is slated to be revived as part of the new “Bite-sized” line, along with the Haumea Bar, the Eris Bar, the Ceres Bar, the Vesta Bar and the Makemake Bar, although probably not until its orbit again crosses that of Uranus.

Vulcan Bar – There is no Vulcan Bar. There never was a Vulcan Bar. This is not the Bar you’re looking for. The first rule of the Vulcan Bar is you do not talk about the Vulcan Bar. The Vulcan Bar has always been at war with Eastasia.

Ending Rape Culture: An Immodest Proposal

In view of tragedies like this one – oh, and this one. And this one. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. In view of such tragedies, where innocent rapists are shamed and prosecuted for their criminal actions in defiance of their sacred and constitutional right to complete moral irresponsibility, it is clear that there is a problem here that must be addressed.

But I have devised a solution, one which would prevent the continuation of such rapes and abuses, forever.

You see, if the victim is to blame, just like the victim of a tornado or a rabid dog’s bite is, then it logically follows that the rapists are incapable of bearing moral responsibility, like a dog or a tornado. And like a dog or a tornado, there are only two solutions: they need to be either forcibly restrained or decently put down. (We don’t do this to tornadoes yet because we don’t have prisons or guns big enough. Yet.)

Now, since putting down rapists is obviously not a possibility, that leaves us with restraining them. But how can we know who will commit the next rape? It’s not enough to restrain the rapists we know about already – we need to restrain all tomorrow’s rapists too.

Logically, we need to imprison all men, segregating them from women at all times except when vitally necessary for procreation or organ donation – and even in these cases, advances in medical technology should reduce the need for contact between the sexes even in these situations.

Only when they are imprisoned behind unbreachable walls and prevented from ever seeing, hearing or smelling anything that might inspire a rape can men be truly free of the responsibility for preventing its occurrence.

But until such a utopia can be created, I guess men everywhere will just have act like decent human beings, and hope for a day when they are freed of the crushing responsibility of not being a evil shit.

Starting at the Top

There’s a phenomenon that happens across all media that I always find bothersome, as much as I also see it as more or less a historical inevitability. It’s that people try to introduce other people to media – in this case, I mostly mean ‘to a particular genre’ by giving them the wrong starting places.
Continue reading “Starting at the Top”

How WikiLeaks needs to improve

WikiLeaks is an excellent idea, but like all ideas, its actual execution has been somewhat flawed. Not fatally, but badly enough. Here are five suggestions for what they can do to make WikiLeaks better for everyone.

Broaden your selection of targets

So far, WikiLeaks has done a great job of embarassing the United States government and certain of its allies. But the US government, big and tempting target though it may be, is not the only government out there. There are many other governments with dirty secrets of their own, and often with far more repressive political cultures. WikiLeaks can and should be trying to hold China, Russia, and every other country down to Liechstenstein or San Marino to account.
Moreover, to assume, as WikiLeaks appears to, that political power is the only sort of power in this world is to sorely misunderstand the nature of power. WikiLeaks should also be targetting corporations, organised religions and assorted other groups. Imagine what WikiLeaks could do if they turned their attentions on the Catholic Church’s assorted sex scandals, for example. Or on the internal processes of Monsanto, or BP, or McDonalds. Hell, if they paid some attention to the Essendon Football Club.

Protect your sources
There’s two very good reasons why Edward Snowden mostly hasn’t bothered with WikiLeaks, despite his actions being exactly the kind of thing that makes them salivate: the first of them is Bradley Manning. WikiLeaks has done nothing to aid Manning – it provided not protection, and hasn’t even tried to help him in his legal defence. This sort of attitude to their sources isn’t likely to endear them to any future would-be leakers or whistleblowers, and in the long term, WikiLeaks will lose its reason to exist without these people. To be fair, they have tried to provide some assistance to Snowden in his attempts to remain at large, but in general, this is an area in which they lag sadly behind traditional media institutions.

Do the work
The other reason for Snowden’s lack of involvement is that WikiLeaks, in its short history, has proven very willing to pat itself on the back. The organisation – and most especially its front man, Julian Assange – often gives the impression that they’re in it far more for the glory than the actual work. Which is fine, except that real people like Bradley Manning are suffering while members of WikiLeaks play at being revolutionaries. If they’re as serious about the work as they claim, they need to actually do the work, regardless of the glory.
WikiLeaks needs to understand that it is the messenger, not the message; the tool, not the work. And its actions need to reflect this understanding.

Julian Assange

Speaking of tools, WikiLeaks’ single greatest liability is its Bond-villain-wannabee leader. The cult of personality that has grown around this man only goes to demonstrate my preceding point even better. Assange gives every impression of wanting the spotlight more than the actual struggle – indeed, in recent interviews, he’s seemed jealous of the attention currently being paid to Snowden.
WikiLeaks needs to reduce his importance to the organisation, so that his obvious egotism and arrogant personal style will not get in the way of doing the work. The world at large needs to understand that WikiLeaks does not equal Julian Assange, and vice versa. That way, the personal fortunes of Assange will not unduly impact the work of WikiLeaks, as it appears very much that they currently do. Perhaps the simplest way to do this would be to designate spokespeople other than Assange, preferably more than one of them so that the same situation does not simply recur with Assange’s replacement.

Eggs and Baskets
And it’s not just multiple voices that WikiLeaks needs to speak with. There are more things in it that could stand to be multiplied.
While I am quite sure that WikiLeaks has many, many backups for its data, it would also be better if the organisation itself was backed up. Multiple smaller WikiLeaks-like organisations, which could pool knowledge and funds for defence and distribution, would present a more difficult prosecutorial target (think of the ease of stopping Napster, as opposed to Napster’s successors), while also making the base activity that WikiLeaks depends upon more attractive to the people they depend upon to leak things to them. The danger with this are mostly territorial: no group should specialise in particular types or geographical sources of leak, and politics between the groups themselves must be aggressively prevented.

The Error of Cory Bernardi

I think I’ve finally worked out why certain Christians can’t seem to separate bestiality and homosexuality. Why they seem to think that men having sex with other men must inevitably be followed by men having sex with animals.

It’s because in the Bible – more specifically, in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 18 – it literally happens that way:

  1. You must not have sexual intercourse with a man as you would with a woman; it is a detestable practice.
  2. You will not have sexual relations with any animal, becoming unclean by it. Nor will a woman present herself before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

Note: sourced from the Common English Bible.

You see? In the Bible, bestiality follows homosexuality as naturally as 23 follows 22.

So the next time you encounter one of these logic-challenged bigots, remember: they may be hateful and homophobic, but at least they can count and read.

Forgiveness and Forgettance

(Yes, I know forgettance isn’t a real word. But it should be. You knew exactly what I meant by it, didn’t you?)

Last night, I ran into an old friend and an old enemy. They were the same person, of course. This wouldn’t be interesting otherwise, would it? We were friends for a long time, there was a falling out (I felt that I had been betrayed), and then we were enemies for not quite so long a time. And then we were… we were nothing much, I suppose. Acquaintance seems too strong a term.

A large reason for this is my attitude to forgiving and forgetting.

A digression: I value honesty, but I cannot help but admire a well told lie. And whoever first formulated the words “forgive and forget” in that order was an absolute fucking genius of dishonesty and manipulation. Because the whole thing is sheer brilliance, if what you really want in life is to never be held accountable.

Because the way most people have come to interpret the phrase – and the way I’m damned sure it was meant to be interpreted – is that the person asking for the forgiveness (and, implicitly, the forgettance) is actually asking for a blank cheque. They want to not be held accountable for this time (the forgiveness) and they want to be free to do it again (the forgettance) – and ideally, they want the same lack of consequences next time.

Yeah, fuck that.

I don’t care for it at all.

I’ll forgive the first time – depending on the scope at least (some things are too large for second chances). I might perhaps forgive a second with sufficiently extentuating circumstances. But a third? I’ll eventually forgive that, at some point, because I don’t think that holding onto grudges is good for me, but by that point, enough time will have passed that it won’t matter to either of us.

But forgetting? That I won’t do. You get my forgiveness, but that’s a second chance. It’s not a blank slate. It’s not a second first chance. Fool me once, shame on me – you know the rest.

And it amazes me that anyone ever does things any differently.

Nolite timere

The Latin motto “nolite timere” translates as “be not afraid”. It is the personal motto of Archbishop George Pell, three words said repeatedly by Jesus in the Bible, notably at Mark 5:36, where he also amplified “Be not afraid, only believe.” As admonitions go, it falls a little short of “trust me” or “this will be our secret”, but it has a similarly child molest-y vibe.

Quite apt for Pell, who has definitely had an interesting week. His accustomed air of saintly naivete has been tested to the absolute limit by his four hours of testimony before a Victorian Parliamentary enquiry this week. Despite it all, he comes across as still convinced that the Catholic Church is being singled out, and that this is all just persecution.

Never mind that, as he himself told the enquiry, there were numerous coverups, and that he himself had participated in some of them. Never mind that, in numerous other cases – notably those of Gerald Risdale, Ted Dowlan and other Catholic clergy in Ballarat in the Seventies – he claimed an ignorance so profound that he can only be regarded as either terrifyingly incompetent at his assigned jobs or the most mendacious liar currently active in the Australian media. Never mind that Pell is absolutely infamous for his lack of empathy to those whose lives are destroyed by his actions and inactions. Never mind that he still has the temerity to threaten Parliament with dire consequences if they continue their current investigations. Never mind that he claims that there is “no moral obligation” to increase the size of compensation payouts, because obviously, we should all take the word of a man with the demonstrated morality of His Eminence, George Pell.

None of this matters, because as far as can be told from Pell’s statements, what’s really important here is the good name of the Church. Pell’s major defence of the coverups, after all, is that they were motivated by fear of scandal. The fact that coverups are, in and of themselves, scandalous, seems not to register with him. The fact that, in lying and bullying, he’s betraying the very same ideals that his service in the church is supposedly based on, every bit as much (and every bit as damagingly) as those who carry out the actual abuse.

I’ve spent most of this week writhing in disgust and rage, wishing there was more I could do, fearing for all the children still in the clutches of an organisation that increasingly seems to think that all it’s done wrong is get caught.

One of my most cherished ideals is that of the presumption of innocence. I think it’s a basic foundation of any civil society, and I have since I was old enough to think about this stuff. (Hell, one of my greatest regrets is a friendship I blew up one night when in the heat of the moment I forgot to be guided by this ideal.)

That said, I’d like to see every single member of the Catholic clergy in this country dragged before the bench and asked to testify. Asked to swear on a goddamned Bible that they were going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because I’m sick of the child-molesting elephant in the room – and I’m sick of it throwing its weight around.

I have a personal stake in this, you see. If you click here, and scroll down to the testimony of “Jamie” (not his real name, and I won’t be telling you what is)…

…I knew Jamie. I was in the same class as him at Cathedral College. I even attended the confirmation ceremony he mentions – some members of my extended family are still involved with that particular parish, in fact. I didn’t know about it at the time, but even then, there were rumours about Ted Dowlan. And that was just in the one school – we didn’t know anything about his history.

Unfortunately, that was all I knew when Jamie called me up, shortly before the case came to court. He asked me to testify, and I had to apologetically tell him that I didn’t know anything except hearsay. The most help I could give was help him get in touch with other boys from our class, whom we both hoped would know more.

Even now, nearly twenty years later, just thinking about this – the mere mention of Dowlan’s or Jamie’s names – fills me with outrage for the past, and fear for the future. “Nolite timere”? I don’t think so.

And so I freely confess that this particular post comes from a place of absolute hatred. Of contempt and loathing, and of rage and fear…

But not, I think, from a place of factual inaccuracy.

Once upon a time…

…there was magic in my life. Or at least, there was a sense, a feeling, something so hard to describe that it might as well be called magic. Even now, I find it difficult to put into words. Often, the best I can manage is to turn to one of a select group of friends and say “You know, you were there” (and oh, how that group has dwindled over the years). Alternately, if the lyrics of My Friend The Chocolate Cake’s “A Midlife’s Tale” resonate with you, well, I don’t think a further explanation is needed.

It was a combination of things, really. A part of it was that I was in love at the time (and I mean madly, passionately in love), but that’s far, far from all of it, for the feeling only started to leave then – it didn’t die with that relationship. Part of it was youth, part of it was adventure, part of it was the sense of almost limitless possibility. And part of it, possibly the biggest part, it now seems to me, was the sense of meaning. It was a time when, to paraphrase Papa Hemingway, “this was a good world, and worth fighting for.”

Without that, it sometimes feels like I am simply going through the motions of a life, not living one. So I suppose it’s fair to say that it’s the life I had that I miss, or at least, aspects of it. I do not believe that it’s the love I had that I miss; I feel that I’ve made my peace with that, however unsatisfactory a peace I may at times find it. (The friends I mentioned above may disagree, but that is how I see it.)

In fact, I don’t actually remember that much of that relationship, ironically. Intense emotion makes it difficult to form memories, and frankly, I’ve had lengthy hallucinations I can recall in greater detail than I can those months. And while I’m aware that a goodly part of the magic I now miss was simply due to that intensity of emotion, I know that that wasn’t all of it.

I wish I had it back, I truly do. Even now, twenty or so years later. And I don’t think of it as gone or lost so much as misplaced. Every so often, I touch it again, for an hour or two if I’m lucky, and I know that it’s there. That there’s still a path to the centre of the labyrinth, could I but find it again.

And I guess the reason I’m telling you this is that, as of last night, I am back on the hunt for it.