Well, I told you I’d watch the first three episodes of the SyFy Americanization of Being Human, and I strive to be good to my word, so here we are in part one of an at-least-three-part series.
Okay, full disclosure: I say all of the following as someone who’s both seen and loved the original incarnation of this show, so as much as I try to bracket out my expectations, there is the possibility that they will creep in. That being said, I would really like comments from viewers who are brand new to the concept of this show, who are starting fresh with the Americanization. And, on top of that, I want to hear from those of you who Really Liked The Pilot Episode. I want to hear what you liked and why you liked it.
With that out of the way, let’s get into this point by point, as that’ll make it easier to track how the show matures. Again, I’m going to try to go easy on the comparisons to the BBC version, and judge the new one on its own merits. That may be difficult, but I will try.
It sounds like the lead-in to a joke, right? “A Vampire, a Werewolf, and a Ghost are sitting in their living room…” But it’s actually the premise on which America’s ostensible science-fiction network, SyFy, has based a new original series called Being Human, which they’ll begin airing on January 17th, 2011. The story concerns a vampire named “Aidan,” a werewolf named “Josh,” and a ghost named “Sally.” They all “live” together in an apartment in Boston, where they deal with vast vampire conspiracies, packs of roving werewolves, solving the mystery of their own deaths, and where they have deep conversations about how life has changed for them since they variously became monsters. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s new and original and it’s a Series! Except…
Except this is not a “New Original Series,” in any way that those three words make any real sense.
It is with sadness and a vague sense of loss and regret that I inform you that Peter Martin Christopherson, also known as Sleazy, formerly of the bands COIL, Throbbing Gristle, and Psychic TV, died in his sleep, on the night of Wednesday, November 24th.
I’ve been plotting and putting off a kind of a “Music And Magick” curatorial, here, for some time, and Sleazy was going to feature very heavily in that piece, not least because he and his partner, Jhonn Balance, formed COIL. One of the most well-known industrial music outfits of all time, COIL explored and experimented with concepts of musicality, temporal boundaries, and the intersections of hearing with the other senses, even going so far as to suggest certain substances to ingest while listening to particular tracks. In addition to this, while under the banners of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, Sleazy worked with Genesis P-Orridge, a musician and magician whose commitment to the idea of permanently altering experience and perception of self should be well known. But, aside from the drugs, the psychedelia, and the heavily-Austin-Osman-Spare-influenced conceptual co-opting and modification, Sleazy was simply a prolific and mind-bogglingly talented musician, and one who has left his weird eldritch mark visible just under the skin of contemporary music.
Hello, all. Wolven here–and I’m bringing you a curatorial collection of some recent or upcoming events, films, books, and articles which trip the edge of the strange and downright weird. I hope to make a kind of regular feature, but I make no promises; only vague assurances which leave you to wake, uncertain, in the dark hours before dawn, sweating, wondering at the unknowable capriciousness of the cruel mocking laughter of a seemingly adversarial universe, only to realise that you, yes you—
Sorry. Got away from myself for a second, there. Anyway, let’s get started, shall we?
So, the other day I was thinking to myself, “Man, it’s really difficult to get people to agree on what makes a good Science-Fiction television property. While some people like the science and tech to be a backdrop for the human drama, some people don’t give a crap about the human drama and just want the exploration of technological and scientific speculation. You know, there haven’t really been many shows that have successfully blended the two perspectives. Hmm. Well, I guess Caprica— SyFy Channel’s spin-off of their Battlestar Galactica reboot— does. Yeah. You know, Caprica‘s got a really great blend of the emotional drama inherent in religious conflict, ambition, grief, betrayal, and the philosophical considerations that flow from those, all balanced and even driven by really amazing tech and science that’s relevant to the concerns of the present day! I sure am glad that Caprica‘s around.”
Which is all to say that Caprica has, of course, been canceled.
Last time we spoke, I said I’d have more to say about Parkour at a later date. Well that date is now. Several weeks ago, the website AmericanParkour.com reported that Parkour had been explicitly banned, in name, in the Battery Park area of NYC. This caused a flurry of Internet reaction from those connected to or concerned with practicing the art of Parkour, including yours truly (see picture at right *ahem*).
Fortunately, when they issued an update on the situation, it became clear that we were all over-reacting, and that the supposed “parkour ban,” was really just the same NYC Law 2008/042 (File Int 0721-2008), “prohibiting climbing, jumping or suspending of oneself from structures.” This is for the best, because it means that traceurs (a term for those who practice the art) are not specifically prohibited from doing Parkour, provided they are in or on spaces and structures that have been approved for Parkour. Ideally, this means that the door is still open for those in the NYC Parkour community to have a conversation with those in power, to start working to craft more Parkour-friendly legislation. This can have multiple benefits.
Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency is relevant to my interests because it contains cogent explorations of weird science, magick (neurolinguistic programming, perceptual manipulation, and the scientific-type investigation of the darker recesses of the human psyche), Parkour (more on this at a later date), and biofeedback, among many other things. It’s been on my mind again lately because we’ve been watching a whole lot of John Rogers’ phenomenal series Leverage, and a friend of mine whom I introduced to the comic series arranged a Global Frequency photoshoot at Dragon*Con 2010, and then it’s been coming up on Twitter a whole bunch. All of this has me thinking about the injustice of television markets, and the capriciousness of Networks in the face of overwhelming clamour and demand from those who would be their core audience…
What do you mean, what the hell am I talking about?
Humans and their thinking, autonomous creations have had a rough relationship for a long damn time and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (T:SCC) was looking to change that, right around the time it got canceled. I’ve gone off at great length about what I call the twin heads of this relationship, namely “the Pinocchio Complex” and the “Frankenstein/Shellian Syndrome” (again, 1 here, 2 here, 3 here, 4 here, 5 here, 6 here, 7 here, 8 here, and most recently 9 right here ). Pinocchio Complex stories are those where the creation wants to be a “Real Boy,” and, in the end, to some degree or another, gets to be. In Frankenstein/Shellian Syndrome (F/SS) stories, the creation may start out wanting to be real or it may start out confused or with a clear purpose–but the hubris of the creator is shown and she is forced to try to destroy it, ultimately being destroyed by it. This last has been around at least since the ancient tale of the Golem created by a Rabbi to wipe the land clean of those who would oppress and kill Jews, and that really speaks to the age of this feeling, in humanity.
Doesn’t Stick the Landing.
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice was a great film. It made me think, it made me uncomfortable with certain assumptions, and then it tore those assumptions asunder. It is not a “horror movie,” so much as it is a movie about horror, about ethics and responsibility, and about the things we become when we confront the Other, and it handles the complexity of these questions extremely well. Like I said: a great film. Right up until the last ten minutes.
Synopsis: Two bioengineers named Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) are a small, independent research outfit working for a fairly large biotech firm, making crazy breakthroughs in the creation of hybridised artificial life and medicinal science. Through their work, they create two iterations of a completely new kind of chimeric life form from many animals with known medicinal traits. Their plan is to use the chemicals these creatures create in their bodies to treat everything from degenerative eyesight to cancer. When they announce their breakthrough to their big bosses, they also break the news: they’re ready for human splicing. The bosses tell them that they’re very proud, and they’ve all done great work, but that now it’s time to make some cash. No more gene splicing shenanigans for these two–now it’s time to hunker down and synthesize the proteins that have such wonderful properties. But Elsa and Clive are scientists, dammit–and there’s so much more that can be done!
So I saw Jon Favreau‘s Iron Man 2, staring Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Favreau as Happy Hogan, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), and Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine). What follows is what I’d call a review of medium-high-level spoilerage; I give away some plot points–but nothing that you couldn’t infer from the trailer–and a working knowledge of the Iron Man comics. If you’ve not yet seen the movie, and that worries you, please: Read no further. We can always talk after you watch the glory that is this film. I’ll still be here. Also? This one’s a bit longer than Dom’s. Sorry about that. Kind of.
Now, to continue into the heart of this review, I have to say that I was extremely wary of the replacement of Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle. Not because I thought the latter man couldn’t do the work–if you’ve ever seen him in anything, you know that isn’t the case–but because, no matter the actor or their skill, there will always be a disconnect when a character you love is played by someone else. Always. We are looking at a completely different person, and nothing you do or say can make that not be the case. Your best bet is to just hang a lantern on it, as they say–draw attention to the fact that you’re aware of the problem–and let it be. This is masterfully handled in the film in the very first exchange between Tony and Rhodey. It is so subtle, in fact, that I missed it until I was writing this paragraph.