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    • WITCH DOCTOR Thoughtblog 9: Island Endemism

    • Posted by Brandon Seifert on 18 Mar 08
    • Witch Doctor is a horror/medical drama comic grafting horror archetypes to really sick shit from real-world medicine and zoology. This is the book's workblog thoughtblog. For more information, read the first entry.

      The 'demo' issue, Witch Doctor: First Incision, is coming April 2008 from writer Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner.

      It's been a while since I checked in here. In the time since last I spoke here there have been computer problems, legal headaches, plane flights from Anchorage, Alaska to Portland, Oregon and finally to New Orleans -- and steady progress on the pages of First Incision.

      I'm in New Orleans for a month right now, and it's really incredible -- and a terribly tempting distraction. As great as this place is for atmosphere and research (our planned first Witch Doctor mini after the First Incision one-shot revolves around zombies, after all), it's hard to sit down and write when I could be talking to voodoo priestesses and touring Historic Voodoo Museums (like I did yesterday). But still, this place is wonderful for the imagination. It's like an island, a pocket inside the U.S., this Lost World where Things Gone By live on or have evolved into strange new forms.

      So it's very inspiring for the setting Lukas and I are building in Witch Doctor. In the world of Witch Doctor, our universe is a living creature. But it's also an island.

      Islands are different from continents, as far as evolution goes. On a continent you've got this ridiculous number of species competing against each other to survive. On an island, you've only got so much space, and traditionally the only species there were the ones who managed to find their way from the mainland -- birds flying, mammals and reptiles swimming, seeds carried by storms, stuff like that. Before Western Civilization arrived, there was little in the way of animal life on New Zealand except birds. Because they were the only ones who could get there.

      Neal Stephenson describes every creature alive today as a stupendous badass, descended from a long line of stupendous badasses. They have to be, for their genes to have survived down through millions and millions of years in the round-robin cage match of Natural Selection. But if you're on an island, you don't have to be quite so stupendous a badass, because there aren't really that many other badasses about. So on New Zealand, you had lots of birds and no predators, so flying away from danger became less and less important. And after millions of years, that meant a pair of islands filled with flightless birds. Sometimes the lack of predators and competitors means that pockets of species are preserved on islands long after evolution destroys their colleagues on the mainland -- on Madagascar you can still find lemurs, a primate line that was out-competed by their monkey cousins millions of years ago everywhere else on earth.

      Species you only find in one place are called endemic. And invading creatures are called exotic species -- but it's a misleading name, because they're often species we think of as the most normal, the least exotic. The reason we take them for granted is that they're the most stupendous of badasses, vicious superadapted monsters that beat the hell out of endemic species when they show up in a sleepy little island ecosystem.

      In Witch Doctor, the creatures of myth and folklore, the superfauna and superflora, those are the exotic species. The supernatural evolved somewhere else, a greater 'mainland' dimension, or an 'archipelago' of dimensions. And in that other realm or realms, the species that survived down through the eons had a specific adaption that gave them an edge -- the ability to access and edit the universe's source code with their minds, tweaking the laws of nature and physics for their own benefit. Out in the Archipelago, magic is a survival trait. And it meant that, when supernature came to earth, nature didn't stand a chance. At first.

      Then along came humanity, and the tables turned. Humanity, the tool-users, Earth's first endemic species to wield magic. The world's antibodies. But the story of the tables turning, that's a tale for another time.

      Previous Entry: 8: Sparky the Metaphysical Defibrillator! :: 9.5: Pull Quotes and Postscripts
    • The world's gone wonky: can I get a new one?

    • Posted by Will Couper on 18 Mar 08
    • Strange times of late.

      I haven't been doing things that I should be doing. And, of course, doing things that I shouldn't. Unnecessary distractions.

      I'm not sure what's been a cause of, or a symptom of, the block I've been experiencing this last week. I think I might be blowing the cobwebs away on that score. These things are, of course, subject to change, and I might find myself back to square one tomorrow.

      Oh yes, and I do need to sleep.

      My longer than expected half-exile from the internet seems to have had some effects that I wasn't expecting. Other than getting some reading done.

      Ah well, back to doing things.

    • Movie Review - There Will Be Blood (second and final review)

    • Posted by Andre Navarro on 18 Mar 08
    • This has happened twice in my life: the first time was with Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which I didn't like in the first time. I loved the first half so much that the second half felt like an anticlimax and ruined the movie for me. Then I watched it again months later and I loved both halves and therefore loved the film. And now, PT Anderson's There Will Be Blood made this happen to me for the second time. In my first viewing of the film, I didn't like it. I watched it for a second time, and I didn't like it. Then I wrote a review and past the last weeks I've been pretty sure the movie sucks due to having watched it twice. But, still feeling like I was missing something, I watched it for a third time a month later.

      And I fucking loved it. Worse, every time I think about the film, it gets better. A post ago, I said I still thought "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is better and Johnny Depp deserved the academy award more than Day-Lewis. Now, I consider "There Will Be Blood" just as good as "No Country for Old Men", "Sweeney Todd" and "The Assassination of Jesse James", and Johnny Depp might be my favorite actor, but this time Lewis indeed deserved to win.

      This is the story of Daniel Plainview, an oilman who's been building his empire since 1898. In 1911, Paul Sunday sells him an information: the land around Sunday's family's ranch has oil seeping from the ground. Plainview takes his adopted son (who doesn't know he's adopted), whom he calls H.W., and goes to check out the place. There, he confirms the oil and then buys the land in order to start drilling. Several factors make this become the hardest drilling operation in Plainview's life.

      Daniel Plainview is an incredibly interesting and iconic character, thanks in huge part to Lewis' work: notice Plainview's voice, pompous but determined, a voice that belongs to a man of vision and principles (which is how he wants to be seen). At the same time, his bowed posture reveals he's worked with a pickaxe for a long time to reach this position. And his eyes, one always wincing, the other wide open, make him look sharp and clever. And Lewis never loses track of all these mannerisms: he becomes Plainview. A man who'll do whatever's necessary to reach his goals, even use his son, H.W., as a way of gaining the sympathy of his customers (although he does love H.W.).

      Eli Sunday, Paul's brother, becomes Plainview's main obstacle. Leader of his own church, the Church of the Third Revelation, Sunday's sermons are pure fire and brimstone, and 99% of the community goes to them and likes the young man very much. Except, of course, for Plainview, whose hate for Sunday gradually grows due to the boy's arrogance and insistance that Plainview pay what he owes to the church (a deal he made with Sunday when he bought the land). Thanks to Paul Dano's brilliant performance (confirming the talent seen in his work in Little Miss Sunshine), the priest is, like Plainview, ambiguous. He acts like a man of God, but his lust for money and power over people is obvious.

      PT Anderson's script, based on Upton Sinclair's novel "Oil!", develops these fascinating characters well and introduces new situations constantly, which is vital since the film happens mostly in the same scenario. It's enormously interesting to see the early days of the oil industry and how it worked ("I believe that's called seepage. Doesn't necessarily means there's anything underneath.").

      But it's Anderson's direction that tells the story. Creating beautifully composed frames (with the help of director of photography Robert Elswit's excellent work, especially with shadows and blue lighting) and moving his camera with elegance, the director impresses with some long takes with no cuts (one of his trademarks) and his story-telling abilities. The first time Plainview speaks, it's a very close shot of his face, and only later we see his surroundings. And when Paul Sunday is walking up to meet Plainview (in the scene where Sunday ends up drenched in oil), Anderson focuses Plainview and his companions in a beautiful zoom. Anderson also creates some amazing scenes, like when the oil bursts from the ground unexpectedly, the baptism scene and, of course, the entire last thirty minutes of film (the ending is brilliant). Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack is perfect, well-composed but, more importantly, showing up when appropriate. The crescendo during the oil burst scene was a genius touch.

      This is a movie about Plainview but, overall, about the selfish nature of humanity and about cheating. About cheating other people and using other people in order to get what you want. And about cheating me into not liking it, only to eventually love it. As Tedcroland put it in my previous post, this movie has drunk my milkshake. Drunk it up.
    • Mobile blogging

    • Posted by Ted on 17 Mar 08
    • Hello intarwubs!

      This is coming to you live from my new toy, a Sharp Zaurus CL1000. I am now possessed of mobile computing...although my thumb-fu is poor, and I only got the thing this afternoon, so it's inevitably a little slow going at first.

      But I'm typing this from my living room, whilst my trusty but aging laptop snoozes in my bedroom. I think I'm going to like having this...
    • Upcoming...

    • Posted by Andre Navarro on 16 Mar 08
    • I am in love with the Internet, but I save a little of my time to something else: games. I love them. Virtual realities are incredibly relaxing for me, and a wonderful entertainment. That's why my blog's next feature will be Game Reviews for PS3 and PC games, to keep company to Movie Reviews.

      Just to make it clear: I consider games an artform. If you ever played "Mafia", you know what I'm talking about. It's relative: people says films are art. Well, I can say "Norbit" isn't nor ever will be art. Some films are art, some aren't. Same for games, comics, books and music.

      So in my Game Reviews, expect me to give a huge importance to the game's STORY... depending, of course, on the game's premise. I'm not going to complain about the story of Fifa 2008.
    • Henry Ford was a twisted motherfucker

    • Posted by kozmund on 16 Mar 08
    • I live near Detroit. My parents came into town this weekend. My father had been to the Henry Ford museum when he was younger and really wanted to hit it up again. As a devoted car-hater, I was not excited.

      The moment I looked at the museum map and saw a Dymaxion house, Kennedy's death-limo and Lincoln's death chair (Yes. Ford Theater. Fucked,) I perked up.

      Seriously. Standing in pretty much the the only Dymaxion house and listening to a little old lady gush about Fuller's genius while demonstrating the strange built-in clothes storage devices gave me one of those excellent museum-feelings of significance. Kennedy's limo? Lincoln's chair? The Rosa Park bus? I hate to say it, but they were all presented in such a way that it was nothing but novelty. It didn't help that the Montgomery bus was filled with a load of cub scouts mugging for various camera.

      Maybe I'm just a nerd.
    • There Will be Blood - Final Impression

    • Posted by Andre Navarro on 15 Mar 08
    • ...

      I can't do this.

      Yes you can.

      I can't. Honestly.

      C'mon. Don't be such a proud bastard.

      I can't. Not after that comment about Andrew Dominik drinking Paul Thomas Anderson's fucking milkshake...

      He still does. The Assassination of Jesse James is still better... but not by much, that's all.

      All right, all right...





      There. I said it.

      Shit, this is exactly the same thing that happened with Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. At first, I didn't like the film due to the second half being inferior to the first. In the second time I watched it, I loved the film. The same thing has happened with Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will be Blood. Difference is, at the third time I watched it. Yes, I am stubborn.

      Thing is, since I watched the film for the first time, the amount of praise the film had opposed to my dislike of it has been tugging at me. When a movie is highly praised and I don't like it, I usually watch the film several times to see if the problem is my mood at the time or the film itself. I didn't like the film at the first time I saw it, I don't know why. It wasn't high hopes or my mood, I know that for sure.

      In the second time, I didn't make it past an hour and twenty of it. My main comment about the film has been that it's tiresome, boring.

      And then I thought to myself: fuck it. Third time and that's it. I either like or don't.

      I liked it. A lot.

      I still think No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd and The Assassination of Jesse James are better films. I still do. I still think Johnny Depp deserved the academy award, because his character in Sweeney Todd is, for me, more powerful than Daniel Plainview. I still think the Best Cinematography academy award should have gone to No Country or Assassination of Jesse James, both by Roger Deakins. Difference is, I still loved There Will be Blood.

      Maybe it's my dislike for the other PT Anderson movie I watched, Magnolia. Brilliant film up until the ending, when a complete nonsense ending destroys the whole film. "Oh, it has meanings, simbologies...", fuck it. The movie's realism doesn't match the ending, and it's a narratively lazy ending. A CGI show instead of a complex ending to all the interesting characters. The movie left me with the impression PT Anderson is a self-indulgent, overrated filmmaker, and maybe that affected my opinion on There Will be Blood.

      Well, so let me correct some points of my There Will be Blood review:

      - I called Daniel Plainview a monster. He isn't. He's just human. A human who doesn't like his own species very much, and who can blame him for that. But he's far from being a nice guy, too.

      - I said the dialogue was dull, by-the-numbers. Wrong. It's good dialogue, especially the milk-shake one.

      - I said the cinematography was bad. My biggest mistake, probably. It's excellent, although other movies had way better cinematography, like Assassination of Jesse James.

      - Anderson's direction has flaws, like the number of times that the camera moves slowly toward a character, but his compositions and visual logic are exceptional.

      - I said the movie lacks a balance between humor and drama. Yes, it could have more humor, but this time this didn't bother me.

      It's an excellent film. Not the best of the year, but certainly deserves to be mentioned as one of the best. I know it looks like I forced myself to like this film. Wrong. It happened naturally. Because since I watched it for the first time, something in the back of my mind kept telling me I had watched a great film. But something also insisted I didn't.

      There. I said it.
    • Interwebs Down

    • Posted by Rootfireember on 15 Mar 08
    • My internet is officially down until Monday or Wednesday (I'm writing this from a local coffee house). I'm switching from Cable to DSL (woe), and will be greatly missing my internet friends, and possibly being productive. I got a copy of The Authority to keep me company, for new reading, and a slew of pre-pubs.
    • True Urban Ninja

    • Posted by Ian Mayor on 15 Mar 08

    • Encountered a genuine feat of urban Ninjism this week. Really.

      A bit of background. I live in Newcastle, and commute to work everyday via the Metro.

      If you've reguarly used any public transport system you'll know you find yourself at the same places at the same times a lot of days, and as such you see a lot of the same faces.

      Now one bloke I see most days is an older, slightly overweight gent who strikes me as a bit if a character; he has a well waxed moustache, is always carrying a satchel and constantly reading tattered academic looking tomes. I've never spoken to the guy, but I like the guy and respect his quintessentially English eccentricity.

      An unlikely candidate for Ninja skills I'm sure you'd agree. But check this.

      Of a morning I need to change Metro's in order to get to work, this change is frequently marked by a half asleep sprint to the other platform, navigating the zombie like hordes of other commuters and a pretty brutal staircase.

      So we pull into the change stop, I'm stood, the gent is seated reading a book on greek history, we screech to a halt and the doors open. A scrum ensues and the more seasoned commuters like myself breach the platform like the orc hordes taking Helm's Deep.

      I sprint to the next platform. The connecting Metro is already in, the driver's finger pausing over the 'close door' button, briefly aroused by the power he has to fuck with my morning.

      The nearest Metro door, mobbed, impenetrable. The second, worse. I just about get through the third before the doors close. I catch my breath, like Indiana Jones having just made the plane.

      The gent is already there, seated, reading, no sign of exertion. He casually flips a page like the secret ninja master he surely is.

      How did he do it? Shadowclone Jutsu? Temporal powers? Dark magic? I don't know, man, I just don't know... but I'll tell you this, I'll never tussle with a dude with a waxed moustache.