Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stella Invicta (*)

At the end of the last Winter, once the 6th OVA of the Meikai-hen Zensho was aired, disappointment was the main voice to be heard all over the internet and among the fan communities. Bitterness and anger prevailed, not without reason, and a question, echoed in many places:

Was there ever any hope at all?

Should there be any hope still, for what will follow?

On the doorstep of Winter this year, on the eve of Sol Invictus, the answer was given to those who still harbored a little flame in their hearts:


Yes, a small, fool's hope, but it was there, and on December 20th, 2006, that fool's hope was kindled. And so the journey continues. The road goes on. Ever on, and on.

There are several ways to watch an anime.

You can watch it with your mind focused, your analysis abilities sharpened and ready to sieve through every single aspect of what you’re going to watch. If you decided to watch Saint Seiya, Meikai-hen Kosho that way, you could say the following: in spite of a superb character design and the undeniable quality of the art, one can feel in each scene the suffering of animators struggling to clamber up the slopes of the mountain they call “animation”, their nails torn off and their fingers bloody. Despite a magnificent soundtrack, and the very shrewd choice of where to use each piece, one cannot ignore the strangely thin quality of the sound effects, such as the sounds used for the repeated falls of warriors collapsing or being slammed into the ground. Even though the seiyuus’ performance was fantastic, they remain different people from the original cast. No matter their talent, no matter all the efforts they go through to be their characters, they cannot replace those who gave them life for so many years. You could also say that the direction keeps following every single image of the manga, a faithful shadow deprived of the very first ounce of creativity, that each of its desperate attempts to compensate for the lack of animation through the use of stills, of pancels and a repeated travelling shows as starkly as a full moon in the dead of night. Yes, you could say all that.

You can also watch an anime the way you’ve always watched it, with shining eyes and a heart that beats rapidly inside your chest. With this lump in your throat that hurts, and this strange sensation of a pressure over your rib cage, with this feeling of a burn in your eyes that troubles your vision all of a sudden. You can plunge into the images and cloak yourself in the voices and the music as you would cloak yourself with the starlit sky. You can feel wonder rise within as you discover moments that echo the magical instants you experienced some twenty years ago. You can breathe and taste the scenes you’ve been waiting for almost fifteen years. You can find your eyes misty when watching the masterful flashback of Ikki and Shun as kids, and of their terrible reunion during the Galaxian Wars. Your heart wrenched, you can watch the beautiful image of Ikki’s tears, as he’s about to kill the younger brother he loves more than anything in this world. When the ending fades into black, you can just feel like saying “thank you.” Just thank you, for having given life to one of the most beautiful chapters of Saint Seiya. Thank you, for having achieved so much with ridiculous financing, for having overworked yourselves like madmen with too few people, for having burnt your strength and your energy so we could watch this. Thank you for compensating the lack of means and the absurd firing of essential members of the staff. Thank you for having given us all that you could.

Thank you.

Of course, you might also be watching an anime you really don’t care about anymore, or even that you truly believe is obsolete and stupid, worthless even. An anime you’ll enjoy bashing once you’re done watching, the more so since the lack of means offer you so many flaws to underline that it won’t even be fun to do so. But then, I’m not really interested in that, and I don’t give a damn. If you push me, I might even tell you that this kind of people are lucky to have so much time and bandwidth to waste, while wondering if they really have nothing better to do during their spare time.

As for me, well, it looks like you can remain an eighteen years-old kid all your life, because I watched these episodes just as I watched those who made me cry, almost twenty years ago. I watched those two episodes with a lump in my throat and mist obscuring my vision. I wrapped the mantle of the music around me, and gingerly hugged myself with it. I don’t know how the next episodes will be. They might be disappointing. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Beware, this is a declaration, an old declaration that stubbornly refuses to fade into oblivion. A declaration that keeps being true, and that keeps burning warmly inside the somewhat naïve and passionate kid’s heart that beats inside my chest:

Saint Seiya, I love you.

(*) or: Star Unvainquished, of course a direct reference to the celebration of Sol Invictus which takes place during the night of the Winter solstice, later stolen by thieving religions such as christianity which usurped it under the name of "christmas".

You can find this review on my web home, along with rather beautiful images here.
And while I'm on the subject of Saint Seiya, you can also find my latest Saint Seiya fanfic on my fanfiction page, or here: Leaf Horizon

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Here, Take this Lantern With You

Of course, this is a time for musings. For thoughts and reflections, and whys and wherefores. But this time, this day, fate and chance have added a very sad twist to the mix.

It’s been a year of contrasts. A year of empty challenges and empty demonstrations of strength. A year during which evil reared its ugly head in the form of the Talibans in Afghanistan, this country the US claimed to have cleansed of the obscurantist threat. A year of admission, when the US government finally recognized the total failure of its absurd decisions and policies in the Middle East and in Irak in particular.

It was a year of posturing that brought nothing to the world. The UN condemned Iran, which responded in announcing the building of tools to help enrich uranium, an essential step in producing an atomic bomb.

It was a year of sham, a year of fake threats which kept fear in the hearts of the populations when so-called threats caused panic over flights in the UK and elsewhere, and caused stupid enforced regulations for flights in Europe and elsewhere. A year of manipulation, where the powers-that-be used fear, that oldest and most efficient of tools, to keep a good control of people’s reactions.

It was a year of expected betrayal, when companies which make huge benefits decided to close down sites and fire thousands of workers, just so that the shareholders could get more money. A year when the confirmation that people are just variables, worthless and soulless in the equations of economy and finances shone darkly in the corrupted heavens of stock exchanges places all over the world.

It was a year of revelations, when Al Gore’s movie was seen by many people, who half-believed it while not intending to do a thing about global warming, even as scientists for the first time announced that the North Pole’s ice cap would have completely melted by 2040, thus making Al Gore’s movie a work not of fiction, but of stark reality. A year during which Georges W Bush, among all his other mistakes, continued claiming global warming was a lie, and that nothing could be allow to stand in the way of the US’ economy. Well, like it or not, global warming will shatter Georges W Bush’s bubble and his holy economy, but unfortunately, it’ll wipe us from the board in the same time.

It was a year of waiting, for elections to come in France and in Belgium, for Belgium to get ready to take a seat in the UN’s security council, chosen by more than 180 countries. Chosen because of our daily handling of multiple cultures within our own country.

It was a year where worst case scenarios were envisioned and slapped in the face of the people, causing a very much needed awakening of consciences.

It was a year of shame for the Catholic church, which had the gall to deny a man's last wish to have a religuous burial, all because this man had dared defy obsolete dogma and dared manage hisown life and his own death as he had seen fit. A year of demonstration of how past and old, and in denial of the world the Catholic church lives in.

It was, in truth, a year of obscurantism, which shed a stark light on the danger of religions and fanaticism, on the authoritarian attitudes of all religions, even those who try to play it low key. A year when it became again clear, that all religions aim at nothing more than to direct everyone's lives, whether or not we believe in them. It was a year when people of free mind were reminded of the danger of all religions, and of the necessity to keep fighting for their freedom of existence, of conscience of life, and of death.

It was the year the second half of the Meikai-hen had its debut, and where Saint Seiya regained its soul and its heart. When the willful, passionate and naïve little girl’s heart that beats inside my chest found old embers blown back to life, and an old, old and silly declaration was uttered once again. Saint Seiya, I love you. And indeed, I do, as I have done for almost twenty years. It is a warm feeling, full of light.

And then, today, fate, fatality and luck, the blind goddesses of fate, added a heartrending twist to the painting of this year. Fotis died. He died on the eve of Christmas, this coarse peasant man from Southern Peloponissos in Greece, he died while trying to help people who had just had a car accident. He died, crushed by a motorbike that happened to hit him on that empty road next to the sea shore, where there’s no traffic in winter. This bear of a man died trying to help others, and he leaves his wife, his mother and his kids, cut down by fatality’s blind hand. If there is a heaven, I hope he’s there now. But then I don’t know if it makes any sense to believe in this kind of thing. Still, I know he was a believer, as most people in the Koroni region are. So for his sake, I hope it’s true. And I hope someone will be there to help those who remain. To be with them in this time of Christmas, when loneliness grows even more unbearable than usual.

Fotis Argyropoulos was one of the most remarkable figures of Koroni and Levadakia. A true Pagnol character, he was always walking the hills and caring for his Olive trees. His strong voice used to rebound from hill to hill, and he was a presence everybody knew. Of course, like all Pagnol characters, you could sometimes see a shrewd light inflame his gaze, but then, that's also a part of the magic. He had the most unorthodox method for making wine, but his wine was good. All this will now become memories carried by the wind, and whispered by the trees of slivery-green.

2006 is coming to an end. It was a year of questions.

A year of “What do you want?”

A year of “Who are you?”

A year of “Do you have anything worth living for?”

And the answers to those three questions are not always easy ones.

Fotis, man, the one thing I have is this log of wood, cut down when the blazing Summer sun was shining. Here, let me put it in the hearth. With its fire, I light this lantern. Take it with you, and may it light your journey to the other side, whatever this other side may be.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Barking Dogs and Hypocrisy

You may not know about this. Likely you don’t, unless your attention was caught by a paper in the Washington Post or in the New York Times earlier this week, but French-speaking Belgian TV played a masterful coup on Wednesday night. In a fantastic remake of Orson Well’s 1938 hoax of little green men invading Earth, the TV network announced the end of our country. The end of Belgium.

And the fictional documentary was so well done, that many people were fooled. Politicians and ambassadors included.

To explain how this could be believable, you’d have to know that our country is an extremely divided one; that’s it’s comprised of two major parts which are culturally very different: French and Dutch speaking. Latin and German. Wallonia and Flanders. For decades, there’s been a deep political movement in Flanders to get autonomy, greater and greater autonomy, to the point of emptying “Belgium” of all substance, and turning the state into an empty shell.

Politicians in the Dutch speaking part of the country overplay this, helped by media which only present one side of the coin, the side in favor of a country-split, while politicians of the French-speaking part of the country downplay it in the extreme. Those French-speaking politicians usually like to pretend they’ll be united when it come to discussing these themes with the Flemish part of the country. They like to pretend they’ll be holding fast, and nothing will happen.

All this has contributed to lull the population into a state of boredom and “couldn’t care less about this bunch of stupidities they spew out”. The problem being, of course, that this is not a bunch of stupid things. This is reality, and a very, very serious threat. The Flemish politicians and media are in deadly earnest about this. They’ve been pursuing that goal for decades, and they will hold on to it, until they reach it.

So, the RTBF, the state French speaking TV network, organized a very elaborate fictional documentary, helped by real politicians who did false interviews, to put people in the situation of “it’s done, Flanders has unilaterally declared independence” in introduction to a thorough debate on these questions.

People were fooled. That’s okay, I guess, people aren’t used to checking their sources and tend to believe unconditionally what figures of authority tell them, even though what they're being told is, if you analyze it, completely incoherent and outrageous (it’s a bad failing, but understandable). Politicians and ambassadors on the other hand, are unforgivable in the sense that they bought it, without even trying to double-check, and to turn to news agencies like the Associated Press, Belga or Reuters to confirm the news. Heck, I got a phone call from France that evening, and I, little I with no international connections, managed to reassure the caller that, no, Belgium wasn’t splitting into two parts. So if powerful people with powerful connections got fooled, they have only blame themselves to blame for it.

At first, people were angry at having been fooled and having been frightened so. Then they started to think, and soon, people were very happy this happened. People were happy for the shake in the daily routine, for the shock which reminded us of the essential issues to come in the soon-to-be federal elections.

Within a day, several thousands of people signed a petition of support for the RTBF. Yes, a petition for support, because, now, politicians want heads to roll. They want the RTBF to pay for shaking them out of their comfy little nests. And, amusingly enough, among those hypocritical dogs who had known about the project for months but had never cared enough to do anything about it (several politicians appeared in the show and they knew they were being interviewed for the show)), the ones who bark the loudest are those who had expressed interest in discussing more disemboweling of the Belgian state in the future negotiations that will follow the federal elections next June.

Oh yes, Mr Didier Reynders, head of the oh-so nice MR party, the very same Didier Reynders who said that discussing splitting of job policy between the regions might be interesting, even though all the French-speaking parties, the MR included, had earlier declared there would be no other discussion on the subject of splitting up federal domains of competence. In doing so, Mr Reynders weakened Wallonia’s position, but then who cares? Not him.

And now, now that the RTBF has reawakened the population and resuscitated the debate, now that the RTBF has managed to re-unite the Wallonia population behind this goal of preserving the federal State, now Mr Reynders is angry.

Now Mr Reynders barks.

Now Mr Reynders demands that heads roll on a silver plate.

Well, Mr Reynders, please, start with your own head, and shut up.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, VW shareholders!

Yes, happy thanksgiving to all VW shareholders, who've seen the valule of each share they own rise from 45 Euros to more than 80 Euros. A nice, nice fat benefit. Well deserved.

And, of course, those nice shareholders have decided to share the good news with the people who actually work in VW's factories and actually produce things, cars, actually, and are the only REAL source of wealth of the company. And they've chosen the nicest way of sharing: on Tuesday, the CEO of VW announced that the Brussels site will fire close to 4,000 people. Oh, and before you ask, the Brussels site was the best in terms of productivity and worker qualification.

Oh, and I forgot one thing: the VW shareholders and the CEO at their heels are feeling so generous that they're not actually closing the site. They're just letting some 1,300 workers rot there for a few months (the site is not viable if it has less than 3,000 people working in it). That way, they can avoid paying the fired workers what the law forces them to pay when you close down a site. In a few month, it'll be less expensive to give that money to only 1,300 people.

So cautious, and so wise. So generous.

Ah, how we all should be thankful, how we all should love the Thanksgiving spirit, the spirit that comes from the land of the One Thought, that globalization and wholly unfettered market will be fair to people, and that all will be well.

Today is Thanksgiving, and indeed, all goes well with the world.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Human Beings Are Ingrate Variables

I’ve said this several times probably (say, about a million times), but journalists saying it in major US newspapers like The Washington Post is sufficiently rare for me to feel like underlining it.

Human beings make poor variables in all the wise men’s economical equations. They just won’t behave the way they’re supposed to, well not for long anyway. They don’t understand that as long as mean values are okay, they should feel okay. They don’t get it that having ups and downs, peaks and pits is just part of the economical process, and that all that matters is that it just evens out in the end, or shows a global rise.

In his editorial today, Mr Hacker bravely decided to deconstruct the myths and fables economical gurus feed themselves everyday. Economics is well and good. Clean, cool. Cold.


It’s laws and equations and theory. All well and good when you think in terms of physics, mechanics, chemistry and astrophysics or quantum mechanics, but completely invalid when you apply it to life, to human life and reality. Why? Because people are sentient, because people live, because people need to pay their bills on time, need to buy food, clothing, housing, need to pay for their kids’ education, need to pay hospital bills, and so on.

People are not the equivalent of money left dormant on a banking account. They cannot just be left there when the economical conjecture is bad, to be reinvested in this or that venture when the time is right again. People cannot stop paying their bills when they’re in a “bad year”, and put off paying them for whenever a “good year” will happen again (that is, if it happens at all).

People just cannot put their lives on hold during “bad years” and revive when “good years” come again.

Economy is about management, flexibility and the ability to put things on hold, to make them move in whatever direction you feel the market hints at, and fast.

Human life is about building stability, about having homes, friends, family, about enjoying oneself, about realizing oneself. Human life cannot be equated, or put in a parallel with economy. People need stability to build something. Exactly the opposite of what the holy laws of economy force upon us.

And yet, the wise men of economy, those blessed priests of the holy doctrine do not understand this. They write books and whine about humanity’s ingratitude. I could almost weep for their plight. Poor men, we’re such stupid creatures, we people. An example? Why certainly:

(…)Some analysts have described current voter angst as a hangover of economic success. "Americans have developed perfectionist standards," economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson has argued. "We expect total prosperity and are disappointed by anything less." And conservative pundit George Will recently decried the nation's "economic hypochondria" -- an entitlement mentality characterized by a low threshold for economic pain.

Nice, isn’t it? I’m sure Mr Will never found himself fired on the spot one week from having to pay his rent, and the interests on the new car he had bought. I’m sure Mr Will didn’t have to worry about renewing the wardrobe of his kids, and sending the eldest to a good university.

I hate people who lord it over the rest of us like that, so detached from a normal person’s everyday life that the “judgment” they make would be laughable if only opinions like these weren’t taken seriously by the powers-that-be and those who decide how countries are run, and who refuse to put barriers and rules to hold the hydra called economy in check.

Fortunately some people are slowly starting to get their heads out of their asses, and to take a good, long look at reality:

(…)In a path-breaking recent paper, "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective," Thomas Piketty of Écoles Normales Supérieure in Paris and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley have shown that the share of national income held by the richest 1 percent of Americans -- stable at about 32 percent throughout the middle decades of the 20th century -- began to rise sharply in the late 1970s and by 2002 had surpassed 40 percent. In the past few years, most income gains have gone to people at the very top of the income ladder, with middle-class Americans seeing only a small boost in their economic standing.

(…)Princeton economist Henry Farber, in his article "What Do We Know About Job Loss in the United States?" has found that the likelihood that a worker will lose a job over a three-year period has been rising -- and is now about as high as it was in the early 1980s, which saw the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

To conclude, I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom from Mr Hacker. Read it to the end, it’s very instructive, and it says a lot on how disconnected from reality economy gurus are. And thus, how dangerous they are when heeded by those in power:
(…)In my own research using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics -- a survey that has traced a large sample of Americans over time -- I've found that family incomes have become much more unstable since the 1970s; the gap between our income in a good year and our income in a bad year has expanded. Increasingly, it seems, Americans are living on a financial roller coaster.
Of course, roller coasters go up as well as down, so it's tempting to think that the net effect of economic instability is a wash. But instability causes hardship even when the "average" experience stays constant. In their seminal 1979 article "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decisions Under Risk," psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky showed that people dislike losing things they already have much more than they like gaining things they don't have -- a phenomenon known as "loss aversion." As a result, losses in income are psychologically difficult even when followed by equal or even larger gains. And, of course, it's on those downward trips that people lose their houses, their jobs, their retirement savings and other staples of middle-class life.

Thank you, Mr Hacker, for stating what is obvious to anyone with a life and not millions of dollars or Euros stored safely somewhere to parry the “bad years”.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Because sometimes, courage is rewarded, and hope is justified.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of one of the most courageous political decisions ever made.

The 25th anniversary of a profoundly moving speech by a great man, a lawyer, speaking out in the great French Senate.

The 25th anniversary of Robert Badinter’s hard-won victory after a lifelong war against the barbarity also known as the death penalty.

25 years, and despite charming rumors spread by loving friends of France and Europe such as Fox News (fair and balanced, remember?), France is a place of order. And Europe, where the great principle of the interdiction to ever condemn anyone to the death penalty or execute any criminal is written in the funding charter...

Well, Europe, much to the chagrin of all the fervent defenders of the death penalty, is a place of peace.

No, the abolition of this barbaric practice doesn’t invite chaos. It doesn’t invite criminals to multiply and commit even more atrocious crimes, feeling invincible and unafraid of the judicial system. Only fools believe that the death penalty is a solution. Only fools believe it has the effect of lessening the crime rates—fools, and all those who refuse to think, to have anything other than simplistic answers to problems--simplistic answers but no true solutions.

The death penalty doesn’t help contain crime. It’s the opposite. Violence calls for more violence. Blood calls out for blood. Death calls out for death.

And even of you don’t believe that, if you refuse to bow to the numbers and conclusions of many studies on the subject, then consider this: how many innocents were in extremis rescued from the death row on the eve of their scheduled executions? How “perfect” is this joke of a judicial system the US boasts as the best in the world? How perfect is it, when it will spare those with wealth and condemn those who neither have the means, nor the right looks, regardless of whether they’re actually guilty of the crime they’re accused of?

Ah, I see you’re pissed at me now, dear reader from the US. Please, be angry. Then, once the red veil of anger has lifted from your eyes, ask yourself why a Republican governor, in favour of the death penalty, has declared a memorandum on the death penalty in his state, thus forbidding this sentence to be passed?

Why, it is because that Republican governor is a brave man who dared look at the ghosts haunting the antechamber of death, because he dared turn his gaze toward the guests of his prisons’ death rows. And the number of innocent people waiting there to be butchered like animals unsettled him so much that he had to take a stand.

When you have a judicial system as unreliable as the one prevailing in the US, how can you even consider applying the death penalty?

Ah, because you think it works. Wrong answer. It doesn’t.

Because feeding inmates and housing them costs way too much taxpayer money. Hmmmm, well, that may be true. So, why not be coherent, and kill anyone found guilty of anything? Waste of good people’s money, the whole lot! Oh, and the old people, such a strain on the social system! Should be dead by 70 anyway, so why keep them? And the physically or mentally handicapped? No use to society either, and also a big, big financial expense for the poor tax payer. Away with them all, mate!

Disgusted yet? Good.

No matter how you try to rationalize it, there is no argument that will hold in favour of the death penalty. Try all you want, they will not resist solid argumentation. Of course, as a crowd, people like to see blood, people like vengeance, people love slowing down and causing gigantic traffic jams on the freeway just so they can have a chance of catching sight of dead or, better, agonizing people in a car accident just in the other lane...does that mean we should all go back to Circus Maximus, get ourselves some lions, and good scapegoats, or criminals to be thrown in and fed to the beasts for our own animal pleasure (prime time required, Fox News already has a slot ready for the moment it’ll be reinstated)?

There is no justification for society deciding to kill someone. Guilt is never whole, never absolute and perfect. And to kill is to put oneself at the same level as the killer. No matter how you want to sugarcoat it, taking a life is taking a life. There is no rationalizing over this, no looking for clever words and witty phrases.

When society kills, it debases itself. It becomes no better than the one it passes judgement upon. And in effect, it becomes unfit to pass judgement. It loses any moral high ground it might have had.

The abolition of the death penalty in France was voted against popular opinion. 66% of the French population was for the death penalty. Today, 25 years and a full generation later, only 30% are still in favour of it. As always, the truth speaks for itself.

Europe can be proud of having written the interdiction of the death penalty in its funding charter. The far-right, religious extremists of Poland be damned! They can leave Europe, if they want to revel in obscurantism and barbarity. Good riddance.

Europe can be proud. As can France. As can Mr Robert Badinter. Courage and persistence prevailed, 25 years ago. Of all the things the left’s victory in 1981 brought to France, this one is certainly the most beautiful.

Now, dear US politicians, dear US citizens, who among you will have the courage to bring the issue forward?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Today is Whatever’s Day

I hate days. Not days as in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc, mind you. I hate the ludicrous things they call “Peace day”, “Fair Trade day”, “Fight against Cancer day”, “Women’s day”, “Mothers’ day”, “Father’s day”, “Grandparents’ day”, you name them.

There are days for everything. They put on the same level insignificant things and fundamental things.

Women’s place in the world? Why, same as Valentine’s day! Maybe same as Cabbage day, once they come up with it.

Death penalty? Why, same as Grandparents’ day! Besides, why make such a fuss about a thing as humane as the death penalty? Really, why make such a fuss with lethal injections delivered not by medical personnel but by prison wardens? Is it because who don’t have the knowledge? Because they can’t inject enough anaesthetic, a fact which allows the prisoner, turned torture victim for the occasion, to acutely feel his guts turn to jelly, his lungs and his heart explode, while being paralyzed and unable to express the excruciating (and lasting) pain, all for the greatest pleasure of the victim’s families, who’ve come to gloat and rejoice?

I really can’t see why. After all, torture is such a nice thing, and not inhumane at all. Proof, you ask? Well, Mr Bush himself, the saint of our times, the man who does the Christian god’s will, is lobbying with all his might to have torture legalized in the beloved USA, the one nation superior to all others in all domains (past, present, or future, batteries not included). In a country enlightened enough to have the death penalty, it’s very coherent.

Still, this is taking me away from the initial subject.

Please, someone, do us a favour and annihilate, erase this absurd, stupid, moronic custom of having days dedicated to whatever lost cause or stupidity humanity hypocritically plays at caring about for a day in the year.

Do us all a favour, and give us a break.

Women’s place in the world, Women’s Rights are an everyday concern.

The death penalty’s barbarity is an everyday concern.

So is peace, the fight against cancer, or AIDS, etc.

You can’t make a problem disappear by pretending to care for a day. You just mock the causes you hypocritically “underline” during that day. You belittle them.

You insult them.

So I say, down with whatevers’ day!

Monday, October 09, 2006

In the Loving Hands of Fear

Fear isn’t a word people like. To the masculinity-challenged, it has the sound of cowardice, an unforgivable flaw for any True (and oafish and boring) Male ™. To many people, it’s something to put in the background, and forget once it’s behind closed doors.

Or so they think.

We never forget about fear. It’s always with us, always present, always whispering in our ear little words and trickling clod down our spines. It’s fear that makes us consider voting for the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy, or Philip de Winter, or Jean-Marie Le Pen, or Georges W Bush. We would of course never admit that’s fear that drives us, no. It’s pride, national or cultural or historical or whatever nonsense we can spew out to justify ourselves to our guilty consciences. If we stopped and thought for a bit, if we analyzed what we’re dumped in terms of information, we would realize that all those men base everything on it, on our beloved fear, our faithful companion. Everything will do: terrorist threats, immigration threats, fake humiliation sensations, you name it. All these people spend their nights and their days reminding us of our fears, feeding our fears. They organize grand operations (military, police, or other things), with the outward and false aim to show the population that they’re taking care of problems and dealing with them.

The truth is, they’re not. They’re just spreading images of violence which work on our minds, which do not assuage our fears but help our fears to dig their claws deeper in our hearts. It’s a very well known process in psychology: showing police or military, and violence will always make the viewers’ sentiment of insecurity grow, no matter what the police or military forces are doing. The more we see police people in the streets, geared for riot-combat, the more we will feel threatened, even if there is no real root to that sensation. Of course, all these politicians know this, and abuse it. It’s so easy (the more so when one is minister of Interior, isn’t that true, Mr Sarkozy?), so why shy away from it? Certainly not because it would be manipulating people or because those people want to get to power through fair means, through positive propositions and projects!

It’s also fear which makes people turn to faith in the hour of death, when they are in pain, or shattered by grief. The reason there, is even easier to understand: because the Catholic religion (well, all monotheistic religions) dangles before the eyes of the suffering or bereaved an extraordinary promise: nothing ends, it continues forever, and once you die, if you've been good and obedient, you are reunited with all those you love. They will all be there for you, waiting for you. They will know you, you will know them. And you will be happy. Forever.

Nice, isn’t it?

I don’t think anyone has come up with a more alluring answer to the problem of our fear of death (or maybe Islam has, provided you’re a man, who ends up in Paradise with a good number of beautiful virgins—or gorgeous young men, in death things not allowed in life are allowed of course—you can rape^H^H^H^H oops, I meant “fuck” over and over again while they remain pure virgins—please note that if the Islam’s idea of a paradise for women is to end up as virgins to be fucked by men for all eternity, I think all women will always prefer ending up in Hell, thank you very much).

We’ve been buying it for 2000 years, but we’re starting to get better, fortunately. There’s still quite a bit to do, because deconstructing isn’t sufficient (well, if you ask the high and mighty who dominate the global finance it is, of course), you have to build something over the ruins of what was. Some argue that nothing of the old can be used to build something else. I say they’re fools, and that laziness is the best guide: if some things were good, they should be reused. Perhaps rephrased, placed in a better context, but reused anyway.

But that’s work for another day.

Today, I just wished to celebrate the defeat of Fear in Anvers, aka Antwerp. The far-right was defeated, it was pushed back from its postion of 1st party in the city, a position won by the socalists of Patrick Janssens.

Even though everyone predicted a black Sunday, it was not. It was a bright, blue and sunny Sunday. The minions of Fear were defeated. Of course they do not recognize the fact, after all, why should worshippers of such a ferocious deity bow to mere numbers? Still, It doesn’t matter. Fear was defeated.

And the sun shines in a sky free of clouds.

(PS: as usual holidays meant writing, so a fic will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, time for me to retype and proof read everything, so watch out for a new title on My Fic page, to be released soon! ^^)

Friday, September 01, 2006


I think this post is here just because I want to have a line reading "September 2006" in my archive menu...

Yeah, definitely.

I should be writing something about Bleach. I should be writing something about Odyssey 5, which I just finished watching...but I just don't have the energy right now. And as I'm going to be offline for quite a while, it's going to have to wait (not that it matters much, when I think about it).

So, I guess this post is just the expression of a random whim, a little bit of bandwidth and disk space waste--but with all the junk clogging cyberspace, I don't think anyone will notice or be bothered. And I get my September line.

Okay, gotta go. I have an itch to take care of.

Writing ^^

Take care and behave, world.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Coming of Fillers (*)

Oh, right. For anyone who wouldn’t be familiar with the term, « filler » usually refers to a distinct kind of episode (or batch of episodes) in a Japanese animation TV series. Namely, an episode or a set thereof featuring a scenario that’s not in the original manga the anime is based upon, and specifically designed to keep the TV series going while waiting for more of the manga to be published so there’s enough manga story to adapt. Fillers usually are produced when the anime adaptation catches up to the manga too quickly—often because of the anime production rate is so incredibly quick.

Now, to a huge majority of anime fans, fillers are a torture, the epitome of evil, and boring. As a rule, fillers are despised and hated, to the point that fansubbing groups will even drop a project they had on the series plagued with the fillers curse. This recently happened to Bleach, one of the most popular shounen anime of the last months.


Because, in this day and age of digisubs and easy to find scanlations closely following manga publication in Japan, fans of a title avidly follow both manga and anime. And if the anime catches up too quickly to the manga’s story, these fans see the fillers coming, and know them for what they are—and resent them like hell because they stray from the main storyline they enjoy. In short, to most fans, fillers simply shouldn't be allowed to exist.

It’s true that fillers can last for quite a while, weeks, months even, to the extent of a full season. It’s true that if you follow the manga, it can be frustrating to see the anime just go away from the storyline you know and want to see animated, but there’s no help for that. Besides, I’m sure the same fans would start howling around if they heard that their favourite show is on pause for one or two seasons, time for the manga to advance enough on its own before the anime adaptation can resume.

And there’s one thing people often overlook, in their disappointment and rejection of the filler episodes: that those episodes can be extremely entertaining, can bring depths to some aspects that weren’t explored before, and stand as a worthy part of the anime in their own right. They can serve to dwell on secondary characters, often much more interesting than the hero himself (although I have to admit that Kurosaki Ichigo is a really good main character, a rarity in a shounen manga), to develop those who are usually restricted to a static and cliche sidekick role. Fillers are the occasion for the anime scenarists to show their talent. If they're lacking, the fillers will be an absolute waste of time (I hear Naruto suffers from that, but I have yet to find what heck is interesting about Naruto, so don't mind me). But if you have good scenario writers, then you're in for a hell of a good time, sometimes even better than what the original author came up with.

Saint Seiya, Asgard is certainly a perfect example of how fantastic a whole filler season can be. The Asgard season introduces and explores fantastic characters (the only drawback is that they have to be out of the way once the story arc ends because they don’t exist in the manga), and brings a lot of richness and emotion to the whole Saint Seiya anime. To many people, even though it was a filler season, it’s one of the best Saint Seiya seasons (behind the Sanctuary chapter, but the Sanctuary chapter is…I have no words, I love that too much ^^;;; ).

I’ve been following the Bleach TV series very closely (note to self: write a piece on Bleach one of these days, since it’s one of the very best stories ever to be released by Jump), and while I have noticed the “dreadful” arrival of fillers—even without following the manga, you can usually tell these things if you’re a bit familiar with scenario making and writing—I’ve enjoyed what I saw so far. The Bleach fillers introduced interesting characters, and showed interesting relationships develop, delved more deeply in already known characters, which is always a good thing. Perhaps one of the fans’ frustration is due to the fact that these fillers are more focused on character development than on “cool battles with awesome power display”. It’s kind of understandable, if that’s the case, but disappointing.

Because Bleach, as Saint Seiya before it, is much, much more than a basic, boring fighting shounen flick. There is a depth, an intrigue, complex characters and way more than just brainless hacking enemies to pieces. But I suppose those aspects fly way over the fanboys’ heads, and so they rant and rant, and rant.

Ah well, whatever the reason for the fans’ sulking and growling, at least it has caught my attention enough for me to get my hands on the manga scanlations, so I can find out what’s so extraordinary as to warrant such negative reactions. I doubt I’ll find anything to really back up the grumpiness and bad moods, but who knows?

Maybe I’m going to start howling like everyone else.

But quite frankly, I doubt that, because I’m enjoying the anime, and while reading what happens next will certainly make me impatient to see it adapted to anime, I will still enjoy the story currently developed in the anime. And with long holidays coming for me, when I get back and regain an internet access, chances are the anime will have progressed so much that we’ll be getting back to the manga’s storyline.

So, my advice to all the sulking fans out there is simple: enjoy what you have, and stop focusing on getting your every whim realized instantaneously. It may not seem like it, but the world doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way. Sooner or later, you’ll have to come to terms with that.

So, why not do it now?

(*) Once again, this title was inspired Babylon 5, the most fantastic SF TV series ever to be produced. All credit and admiration where it's due. *bow*

PS: I'm taking advantage of having to edit this piece to correct a lack of preposition somewhere up there to confirm that I was right: even after reading all the manga scanlations available, I am still perfectly happy with the anime.

And I also confirm that I'm disappointed in fanboys. But then what else is new?


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ridiculous !

No, this isn’t a spell taken out of the Harry Potter universe. It’s the toned down expression of what I felt when I read that scientists managed to extract stem cells from an embryo while preserving said embryo.

Embryos used to get stem cells are surplus embryos that will be destroyed anyway, and will never see a womb and much less one day be born and become a human being. Thus this breakthrough has no true interest whatsoever, except for the bigots and fanatics who live in the US and refuse to allow stem cell research—the current US president first and foremost among them.

But beyond that, beyond the pure scientific value of achieving that, do people even realize what this means? What this shows concerning the values held high by the self-righteous fools who lead America and populate the Bible Belt?

Well, it means that they care more about two or four cells without a hint of human life to them, than about the homeless, the illegal immigrants, the jobless and all the people suffering in the world. You can’t have stem cell research because it destroys a surplus, hence useless embryo, but you can glorify a social and economic system that treats people like garbage, or at best like variables in a financial equation (and not the most significant variables, at that).

You can’t destroy surplus embryos, so you have to spend millions of US dollars in research to still get stem cells while preserving the embryos, but you won’t give up a cent for taxes in order to have the country offer a real social blanket to the dozens of millions of people living in utter poverty in the US.

For embryos, Georges W Bush would use his veto.

For all the people struggling to live their life, for all the people who have no rights, not even that to take a leave of absence for sickness without getting fired on the spot, Georges W Bush has nothing to offer. No veto, no law, no project, other than a farce whose sole utility is to serve as decoy while he and his Republican pals play once again at “hey, let’s help the very rich get nauseatingly richer even faster while dropping crumbs to the idiots in the general public, they’ll buy it and vote for us anyway”.

In the US, surplus embryos are more important than people.


Amusing set of values, that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Look Who's Talking

French-bashing II: the Return of the Vengeance of the Dead Potato--no, really. Don't the US media get tired with that? Is contempt/dislike of the French so ingrained in the collective subconscious of the American media that they must jump at the smallest excuse to start yet another anti-French campaign?

I'll grant you that the most recent, and ongoing one has a bit more beef to it, since it's based on an apparent U-turn by Jacques Chirac on the matter of the international force in Lebanon. Still, while it would be understandable for the general public to misunderstand what's going on behind the scenes, it's unforgivable for the media to feign to have the same analysis.

Let's get back to the facts: when France pushed to get an immediate end to the conflict, it got a "no" from the US, which wanted to allow Israel all the time it needed to "anihilate the Hezbollah's threat" (a really fantastic operation which resulted in the exact opposite: giving the Hezbollah stronger and deeper roots and furthering even more the hatred of the Arab world against Israel, which anyone with brains could have told them would happen). And things dragged on. While France wanted an immediate end to the war, it also wanted a clear agenda, solution and mission for the international force that would get sent to disarm the Hezbollah. For once, Jacques chirac was pretty clear when he said that France would lead an international force, on the strict condition that this force would receive a clear and full mandate from the UNO in order to accomplish its mission.

I believe that anyone in his/her right mind will agree with the fact that sending troops there with no clear mission, and no clear rules of engagment is sending them into a swamp that won't help the situation but worsen it, not to mention be costly in lives for no gain at all.

One of the favorite angles of attack from the US media is that France co-signed the UNO resolution. Well, yes, it was indeed co-written by France. But you forget one very tiny, very very tiny little thing, my dear American media: the other writer of that resolution was none other than your oh-so nice and kind US government. And that oh-so nice and kind US government simply sat down on a solution for as long as it could, and then forced the wording to be as useless as it is. They only came around when Tsahal's operations started being a bit too costly in terms of grisly images of civilians "killed in unfortunate collateral damages". In that moment, France should perhaps have refused to agree to that resolution, but it would have allowed the conflict to continue, and everyone wanted the war to end.

So the war ended. But the terms set by France for its strong implication in the international force were not met, by far. Sending troops with things as they stand would be stupid, and would only result in failure, and in giving even more sway and leverage to terrorists like the Hezbollah (has anyone forgotten the tragedies of the 80s, the kidnappings and deaths of journalists, of soldiers who had no means to carry out their mission, or the problems in Bosnia?). So not sending them is actually the only sensible thing to do.

It will force the US's hand into accepting something that has a chance to work.

It may give a chance to peace (hello there to you all who think that peace will come only after a good all-out war, wouldn't you like it if Israel dumped a nuclear weapon on Iran in your place? I love you too, never fear).

Going in without that, committing troops to a force without the means to carry out its mission would be beyond stupid. Just who is it who's berating France for not making such a moronic blunder?

Wait, aren't those people the very ones who started a war based a a rationale basically made of lies, replaced a tyranny by a bloody civil war, destabilized the whole Middle East in the process, and announced they'd have a quick victory and would be welcomed as saviors by the whole population?

Okay, forget I asked.

(oh, and before you ask, I really dislike Jacques chirac ^_-)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Rising Ghosts

For several years, the world has watched the same pattern emerging in Asia around August 9th and the anniversary of the end of WWII in Japan.

For many reasons, most of them bad, Japanese Prime Ministers have paid official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.

For many reasons, most of them bad, China has reacted with growing vehemence and violence to these visits, joined by other countries like South Korea


Because the Yasukuni Shrine is not only the resting place for the souls of all the men sacrificed on the altar of war and to satisfy the ambitions of a select few, but also a place where the souls of war criminals, monsters and torturers were smuggled in what amounts to me to the befouling of a sacred place. I have yet to understand why the Shinto priests in charge of the shrine allowed this to happen. Had this not taken place, there would be no controversy today, and official visits to Yasukuni could happen without anyone being able to seize on the excuse to attack Japan for their own purposes, which often have little to do with the vocal protestations concerning the horrible crimes of the past.

Don’t mistake me, I believe that official visits to Yasukuni shouldn’t take place so long as the souls of the 14 great war criminals are enshrined there. I believe the honor and pride of Japan’s government would be in finding a way to have those souls erased from the list of names in Yaskuni. Still, I find it too easy to simply drink the words that come from China without trying to analyze the whys and wherefores, the more so since those visits to Yasukuni by Japan’s first ministers have not always elicited such a response by China.

When you think about it, outraged reactions which give rise to a dwelling on past wars and past crimes are a win-win for China’s so nice and democratic government: you gather people around the idea of nationalism, you push them to look at their “national pride” (how often has national pride been the equivalent of blind stupidity? Far too often…) instead of on their everyday life and the conditions they exist in. It focuses anger and frustrations on an outside element and thus prevents it from being lashed out at what caused it. In a fantastically convenient fashion, it gives the Chinese government yet another way to control its population and keep it on a tight leash. Rub the wounds with polluted mud, help them fester, and as the pain artificially grows, everything else is eclipsed. Not exactly beautiful, but frighteningly efficient. And people work. People swallow that fish with greedy appetite, unfortunately.

As to Japan’s first minister, I’m sorry, but all the justifications running along the lines of “we’ll do what we want on our soil, and we won’t be ordered around by China or others” are just empty rationalization of what is at best a mistake, and at worst a part of the manipulation that’s been aiming at getting a fundamental change in Japan’s constitution—a change that would once again allow Japan to lead offensive military actions, thus breaking a taboo dating back to the end of WWII.

Yanking history aside, and unmaking what had been, in my humble opinion, one of the very few good sides to the US occupation of Japan on the eve of the war’s end. Japan had become the first pacific country, gaining its place in the international community through diplomacy, through its financial contributions to positive project at UNO…it was the way to go, the path to follow. But of course, warmongers with a bad ego and pride problem will never be satisfied with that (not manly enough, you know—just like the morons who need big cars to compensate for their self-perceived lack of masculinity). Well, warmongers, ego bruised fools, and people thirsting after power who know how to use tools to further their own interests. And so, some in Japan have been pushing for that fundamental change. In parallel, the prime minister of Japan stubbornly insist on visiting Yasukuni each year, aware of what it will trigger, and most likely counting on it, and counting on how that will be received by the Japanese population. If someone wanted to manipulate people in Japan, to rekindle the infamous “national pride”, they wouldn’t do it any other way.

All in all, those visits to Yasukuni serve everyone’s purposes: China, those who believe Japan should change, and revert back to what it was…

When the true, honourable thing to do would simply be to strike off the war criminals’ names from the list of the souls resting at Yasukuni, and then to continue to visit the shrine. Those criminals are a stain on the shrine, a befouling of all the other deads’ resting place. So, yes, striking off those names from the list would be the honourable thing to do.

Is there anyone who has enough honour and strength in the Japanese governement to do that?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Meanwhile, in Gaza…

Everyday life goes on. The Hamas sends rockets on Israeli villages near the border. Tsahal retaliates.

While our exalted world leaders and their proxies (in this instance the interior ministers and security people) toy with airports and force ludicrous security measures on flights, that nice little endless “skirmish” goes on.

While airport authorities and security bozos play at “you can’t bring in the cabin a MP3 player, too dangerous, but you can bring inside a laptop” (hello? Did any of these fools ever attend a basic electronics class?) or the other nice game of “you can’t bring in any liquid, but if an infant’s along you can bring milk if you taste it to prove it’s milk” (hello again, I can also taste my water bottle to prove you it’s genuine, thanks!), or even “ah, but it’s becoming troublesome for the airport shops, so maybe we should consider saying liquid’s okay so long as you bought it in the airport where it’s sold 10 times higher than in any normal shop, yeah, they’ll buy the fact that it’s still more secure that way”,

While they ground planes in Boston because a depressive passenger behaved threateningly and brandished matches, lubricant and I don’t remember what else, thus demonstrating the futility of the “security measures” imposed on passengers bound for the UK, the US and Canada (I don’t see all the security goons offering to compensate for the loss of time, of money and the worry caused to travellers, their families and all those who wait for them and anguish when they don’t see them arriving as they are grounded at their departure location because of their so nice security measures),

While Sarko tries to emulate W and his laughable “nation at war” attitude,

Well, our dear "border skirmish" that refuses to be labelled a war goes on between Tsahal, the Hamas and other fanatics.

The civilians keep being in the middle, and keep being the ones to suffer, to lose everything and to die.

And Gaza continues its painstakingly slow agony while the Great Eye of the media is turned elsewhere.

And the international community continues feigning to ignore what’s going on there. It’s so much more convenient.

And people’s hearts die.

And people’s hatred grows.

And new terrorists are bound, with every civilian killed.

With every house destroyed.

Insanity rules.

And chaos laughs at us all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Earthsea : There Be Dragons...

...Whose danger is greater than you think, and whose nature you wouldn't, at first, suspect.

It’s been some days now, since Miyazaki Goro’s first movie premiered in Japan. Gendo Senki is based on the Tales of Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin.

This cycle of four books is, in my opinion, one of the very best fantasy has to offer. I read it almost twenty years ago, when I was a surly and haughty teenager. I remember how Ged appealed to me and talked to me. Many details of the plot, many details of the characters have gathered so much dust in the corners of my memory that they’ve become fuzzy, and can no longer be made into something coherent or clear. But what I have kept to this day, and will always keep in my heart, are the feelings, the emotions the books gifted me with. The sensation of a unique atmosphere, the very feeling of that universe, and of the people living in it.

To be honest, I had never really wondered about the color of the characters’ skin. It’s not something which bothers me or matters to me. I don’t remember feeling awkward or wondering what was going on at having characters which were mostly dark in color. I am probably one of those blind, white fools who can afford not to care (yes, I do happen to think that some people are so keen on this issue that they become abrasive and trigger a rejection reaction or a “gods, just leave it be” sigh), but since the moment I started reading fantasy, I don’t ever remember caring about the color of the skin characters had. The only exception to that being the Lord of the Rings, where Tolkien’s depiction of the Haradrim was really a clear contrast and did feel completely unbalanced.

Even when I write, I don’t take particular care about my characters’ skin color: I visualize my character. I see them, I feel them. They live inside me. If they wear a white skin, they are white. If they wear a dark brown skin, they are dark brown. If they wear a black skin, they are black. It’s not something conscious. I am not trying to maintain a ratio or a balance, or to push anything like that. To me, characters should be the way they want to be (characters do have a life and a will of their own, as most writers know), not forced into being what they didn’t want to be, or you risk getting an unbalanced work, with characters completely askew.

Still, I was ecstatic when I heard that “Miyazaki” would do the movie. Here was the perfect combination: one of the most wonderful books cycle I had read and one of the best anime film makers there was coming together. Then, when I gathered some information about the coming movie, I did realize that there had been an abysmally bad US mini-series, and that there was a kind of racial pitfall in the adaptation. As explained above, I still fail to understand why people will be so vocal about the issue, that they will push away people who would otherwise support what they say.

Anyway. First, I realized that Miyazaki junior would do the movie. Then, I read about the father – son dispute. I found that extremely sad and a waste. I don’t understand the roots of this, and likely never will—and it’s far better that way. From my understanding of the work’s progress, things went as they often do: quickly, and rather smoothly (of you can ever call the production of an anime movie “smooth”, that is). What hints and bits I could see looked rather nice to me.

Then the movie premiered in Japan. People saw it, and comments started popping up here and there.

Then Ursula Le Guin, who had seen it before its debut, came public with her own review and comment of the movie. So naturally I went to her web site, and read it, dreading what I would find. For all those who haven’t read it yet, it’s here.

Her review leaves me with the following thoughts:

It's a pity Mrs. Le Guin had to stand in the middle of a dispute between father and son. It's even more a pity that Miyazaki Hayao changed his mind on retiring after a decision was made to have his son do the movie.

However, the movie, as I understand it, has received quite a few good reviews in Japan. I, for one, will give it the fair chance it does deserve. As to the Earthsea books, as stated above I loved them when I read them, so many years ago. The details and even the plot are now fuzzy in my memory. So I will take this move and watch it as it is: Miyazaki Goro’s vision of the cycle, and not as a completely faithful shifting of the books to the screen.

Adaptation is a tricky business. Nobody is ever happy with it. If you stick to the work you're adapting too closely (hello, Saint Seiya Hades: Meikai-hen--if you've read my review of those OVAs, you know I do agree that the adaptation was just inexistent), you're cursed for being an incompetent script writer without a single ounce of talent or creativity. If you stray too far, then you're accused of betraying the original work. It seems to me like a doomed job. Even more so, when adaptation is done by someone from a culture very different from yours, and whose view of your work you can't really know--and when the adaptation is done primarily for a people whose culture is deeply different too.

I think, what amazes me the most, is that people would write Mrs Le Guin to ask her questions about the movie. As she rightly says, she's not the movie's author, or the movie's script writer, or the one who did the adaptation. Bothering her with questions is futile, and, if she didn't receive the movie in a favorable light, can only lead to rubbing more salt on the wound.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Three-Edged Sword

Reflecting back on the contents of TV series which have gained fame and have been watched by millions in the US, I can’t help but wonder: is the public simply blind, or do the authors overestimate its capacity to analyze what it sees and hears?

Take the X-Files, or Babylon 5 for instance. The contents of those shows, the material in there should have awoken people who watched them, should have made them aware of the society they live in, of the blanket of propaganda that is Georges W. Bush’s Administration main method of doing politics.

This is not only true for domains like the military and the “war on terror” flag raised every time the Republicans feel threatened—ever wondered at the timing and scale of chaos following the thwarting of that plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic? Ever put that together with the coming election in November, and the difficult position the Republicans found themselves in until they so conveniently could get back to whipping that poor dead “war on terror” horse?

It’s also true in domains like economy and the One Allowed Line of Thought that states that completely unfettered market economy is good for humanity, and that the market is good for all of us, and will benefit us all. It’s true when it comes to unravelling this despicable deception called “the American Dream.”

Oh yes, there’s all that in TV series, and more. Let me quote you one of the most disturbing exchanges in Babylon 5, taking place between John Sheridan, Captain of the station, and Julie Musante, official envoy from the Ministry of Peace on Earth:

JM -“Earth doesn't have homeless. We don't have the problem. Well, yes, there are some displaced people, here and there, but they've chosen to be in their position. They're either lazy or they're criminal or they're mentally unstable.”
JS - “They can't get a job.”
JM - “Earth-gov has promised a job to everyone that wants one. So, if someone doesn't have a job, they must not want one.”
JS - “Poverty?”
JM -“It's the same.”
JS - “Crime?”
JM -“Yes, there is some, but it's all caused by the mentally unstable. And we've just instituted correctional centers to filter them out at an early age.”
JS - “Prejudice?”
JM -“No, we are just one happy planet”

(JM: Julie Musante, JS: John Sheridan, from Babylon 5’s Voices of Authority)

Rings a bell? Ever heard those lines or much the same from politicians near you? From people thirsting after an easy victory in elections? From senators or congressmen trying to push for a new law to be voted?

And there is more, way more to find. Babylon 5’s Lines of Communications is an exercise in unravelling the tapestry of lies and propaganda spun by the likes of Fox News. Starting with so-called journalists claiming, ”Our job, as always, is simply to state the facts and let the truth attend to itself,” the episode is a brilliant demonstration of just how you nudge the facts this way and that, how you cut interviews just so and edit videos this way to get the “truth” you were aiming for.

The X-Files’s “Redux” shows us a stunning summary of the US governments’ actions in the last 60 years, which, while certainly pushed to suit the author’s scenario, ought to at least shake people, and make them wonder about what has been done in their name, about what the US government has been doing in the world since World War II.

There is much, much more where that came from.

Desperate Housewives is an exercise in demolition of the righteous and hypocritical bigots that constitute the upper-middle class. Every single episode happily tramples down upon the lies and clichés such people entertain about themselves. Every single episode should send those people screaming in horror.

And yet, have these shows changed anything? Sometimes, I really question the ability of people to think, and reflect on what they see.

Yes, those shows are fiction, and they do not show you “the truth”. But they aim to shake easy certainties, and to make you question what you’re being told, to make you think, to force you to make yourself an opinion instead of blindly swallowing down anything spewed out by spokespersons with bovine zeal.

When I watched Babylon 5 for the first time, it was in Detroit, at a friend’s house. When I was done, I asked him: “do you realize what it is that’s shown you? Do you realize how it’s a slap in the face that undoes the way the American people just allow themselves to be led by the nose by people who only look to their own interest?” He told me that, yes, he did realize the strength of what was being shown in that TV series. But I fear he’s an exception. Oh, there must be hundreds of thousands of such exceptions, but I’m afraid they’re just a drop in the ocean of three hundred million people that comprise the United States of America.

And above all, I fear that most people in the US and elsewhere watch TV series for the fun of it, and switch off their brains when they do so—that people refuse to reflect on what’s going on around them, refuse to use the material they’re being given to question the pre-digested “truths” delivered by propaganda machines like Fox News and others. I fear that people just consider that fiction is fiction, period, and not meant to have a serious impact on “reality”. That’s a terrible mistake.

Authors of shows like Babylon 5 do want you to use your mind, to use what they showed you to challenge and question what happens around you.

When I write stories, I place elements that reflect on the world I live in. I want people to think, to question. I don’t care if in the end they agree with me or not, I’m not aiming to win any kind of election. No, what I want is for people to make their own mind, make their own opinion, instead of blindly accepting whatever is being handed to them.

Do people realize that?

Are people willing to make the effort of applying what they see, what is questioned in a TV series to challenge their everyday reality?

I wish I knew. I wish I understood how people work in that regard.

“Understanding,” as Ambassador Kosh Naranek rightly says, “is a three-edge sword: your side, their side and the truth.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

UNO : This Mirror Some so Love to Scorn

Not exactly related to current news, even though inspired by the very late vote on a resolution calling for the end of the conflict between Tsahal and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. When hearing Secretary General Annan’s final comment, which was along the lines of : “I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t tell you how disappointed I am that this vote came so late,” I was reminded about how my most beloved US media would likely again report this long, way too long wait for a UNO resolution.

With dripping sarcasm, of course.

Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, not to mention the New York Post, those oh so balanced and objective masterpieces of manipulation^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H ooops, I mean professional journalism, will certainly not fail me in their recounting of this agonizing path that the UNO stumbled and drudged through to finally reach their goal.

They will scorn. They will mock, and they will spit all the contempt they have packed in the sewers they use as brains. And yet, there is a certain poetic justice in watching those mindless, raving followers of the neo-cons reviling the UNO—not that they’d realize it, or that the blind crowds of morons who watch and read them would notice it either. But, if you just stop to think about it, when all those “media” ridicule the UNO, well, they’re just ridiculing the US.

After all, who keeps blocking the UNO’s work?

Who has prevented a resolution on Lebanon to be voted for weeks (probably so that Israel could do their job for them and fight the war they’re busy losing in Irak)?

Why, none other than the US authorities and their fantastic ambassador, Mr John Bolton.

When the US government decided to send to the UNO a man who despises the organization and dreams of nothing more than to see it trampled and destroyed,

When the US is a permanent member of the Security Council enjoying the right to veto anything that displeases them,

When the US has been using the veto weapon again and again, hampering the work of the UNO with all it had along the years,

Well, what else can you conclude when you analyze the UNO’s actions, other than it’s being hopelessly inefficient?

This is perfectly true.

This is also thanks to the good work of the US, which doesn’t want the UNO, which hates the UNO, because even though it can block anything coming to the Security Council, others can also block stuff it could bring on the table.

The UNO is nothing more than what the nations which compose it make it. It’s no more efficient or inefficient, inept or fantastic than what the nation which compose it allow it to be. And this is even truer for those who sit on the Security Council with a permanent membership and the dreaded right to veto any resolution—the US first, and foremost among them.

The UNO, the one place where all the nations come and meet, and try to settle disputes, stop wars, and prevent them from starting (well, almost all nations—Israel, for instance, always declined to be a member, one wonders why, really…). It’s no surprise the current US government led by W and his shadows (Mr Cheney, where are you? Still shooting your pals at your little hunting parties? How are Haliburton’s benefits these days?) hate it and sabotage it through any means at their disposal. The current US government, whose strings are pulled by the likes of the madmen called the neo-cons, wants nothing to do with anything remotely resembling multilateralism. They want nothing where the opinion of others really matter.

As their friendship with Tony B clearly demonstrates, what the US wants is dogs which wag their tail when they speak, drool a bit and reflect back to them the fact that they’re the best, the most intelligent, that they’re right, and of course they’re winning and all’s well in the world.

So, please, demolish the UNO, my dear, balanced US media. Demolish away.

You’re only breaking your own image.

Please, do carry on, while I contemplate the latest feat of war pulled by Tsahal when it bombed a convoy of civilians and Lebanese army fleeing the war in Southern Lebanon, despite having been warned, and having agreed to allow the convoy to pass unarmed.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No Comment

Israel Asks U.S. to Ship Rockets With Wide Blast

Israel has asked the Bush administration to speed delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster munitions (...)

(...) The rockets, while they would be very effective against hidden missile launchers, officials say, are fired by the dozen and could be expected to cause civilian casualties if used against targets in populated areas. Israel is asking for the rockets now because it has been unable to suppress Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks in the month-old conflict by using bombs dropped from aircraft and other types of artillery, the officials said. (...)

(...) During much of the 1980’s, the United States maintained a moratorium on selling cluster munitions to Israel, following disclosures that civilians in Lebanon had been killed with the weapons during the 1982 Israeli invasion. But the moratorium was lifted late in the Reagan administration, and since then, the United States has sold Israel some types of cluster munitions, the senior official said. (...)

(...) While Bush administration officials have criticized Israeli strikes that have caused civilian casualties, they have also backed the offensive against Hezbollah by rushing arms shipments to the region. Last month the administration approved a shipment of precision-guided munitions, which one senior official said this week included at least 25 of the 5,000-pound “bunker-buster” bombs.

Last month, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said its researchers had uncovered evidence that Israel had fired cluster munitions on July 19 at the Lebanese village of Bilda, which the group said had killed one civilian and wounded at least 12 others, including 7 children. (...)

(...) After the Reagan administration determined in 1982 that the cluster munitions had been used by Israel against civilian areas, the delivery of the artillery shells containing the munitions to Israel was suspended.

Israel was found to have violated a 1976 agreement with the United States in which it had agreed only to use cluster munitions against Arab armies and against clearly defined military targets. (...)

Source: Today's edition of the New York Times

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tsahal, Humanitarian Aid Deluxe ™ !

Partisan people would certainly tell you Israel is perfecting its trap on the South of Lebanon, locking in countless civilians, cut out from all help and hope. But I’m telling you, those partisan, and often outright anti-semitic people are once again trying to fool European public opinions, and to manipulate the West into thinking Israel and Tsahal are no more innocent in the death of civilians on one side of the border than the Hezbollah is on the other side of that border.

There could be nothing further from the truth.

Can’t you see what’s happening? Israel has locked out Southern Lebanon, Tsahal has severed that small piece of land and all those who are unhappy enough to live in it from the world. Any vehicle spotted there will be targeted and destroyed. Bombed. But that’s only natural. After all, even though those vehicles would be ambulances bearing the Red Cross, or humanitarian convoys bearing the UNO or well-known insignias like Doctors Without Borders could very well have been hijacked by those terrorists of the Hezbollah. There’s no way to tell! And if there’s no way to tell, the safest way to deal with the issue is to blow the thing to smithereens, and then investigate. Simple as that, as the nice military spokesperson explained on how the Israeli jets target civilian buildings and fire. When you don’t know, you fire, because, well, you don’t know, and it’s best to act.

So, what Israel’s really doing while warning it will blindly destroy any vehicle spotted in Southern Lebanon is really saving the lives of all those good and kind-hearted people of humanitarian organizations. Really. And don’t worry about the civilians trapped in the war zone. Even though the Red Cross has officially declared there were more than a hundred thousand people still stuck in there, unable to flee or do anything other than to wait until they get killed like rats, well, no worries. Tsahal is up to the challenge.

Of course. What were you thinking?

Of course Tsahal and the Israeli government do realize that that hundred thousand people will starve, get sick and die if nobody brings them essential supplies, food, water and medicine. Jeez, you shouldn’t underestimate Tsahal like that, and allow yourself to be brainwashed by the global partisan media. They’re all against Israel and Tsahal, didn’t you notice? They feed you nothing but lies, and exaggerations. Truly. Cross my heart. So, I’ll spell it for you, and forever dispel the lies dripping from the media: there is nothing to fear, Tsahal declared that Southern Lebanon is a dead zone for anyone who’d try to move in but them. So it’s all very logical, rational, and so thoughtful and generous of Tsahal and Israel, really. By forbidding anyone to move in the zone, they save their lives. But Tsahal remains free to move, so they’ll go on those dangerous, destroyed roads and bridges (that they themselves destroyed), risking their lives to bring all the humanitarian aid to the civilans themselves.

Isn’t it wonderful?

And with that, you kill two bords with the same stone. In the same time, they’ll be able to investigate all the fishy buildings, and investigate all the people who pretend to be civilians but in truth are nothing other than Hezbollah-supporting scum—and certainly even Hezbollah members for a good part. Yeah. A hundred thousand civilians? Hm, I think not. Many must be terrorists in hiding, I’m sure. Better to be on the safe side. As they say, better to err on the side of caution.

If you’re not sure, shoot it.

Isn’t it what people who claim to hold the moral high ground do?

That’s why Tsahal is really doing something wonderful. That’s why I’m sure Israel will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize next year. No doubt about that.

Naaan-te ne! (just kidding)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is Fantasy That Hard ?

A strange question, maybe, but bear with me. It just popped inside my baked brain while I was watching an episode of Stargate Atlantis.

There are quite a few science-fiction shows out there, ranging from awful to good, very good and even fantastic and enthralling. The various incarnations of Star Trek are of course the most famous of the lot, but there are other, very, very good TV series doing justice to the genre. Farscape, Taken, Odyssey 5, The 4400, and Babylon 5—the greatest title of SF and fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch on TV.

When you think about it, there has always been a wealth of SF shows out there, and for a very long time. Dating back to the Star Trek, The Original Series and Battle Ship Galactica or even Lost in Space (although I wouldn’t call that good…but then you need also titles to fill the “awful” category ^^;;; ), you’ll find them if you just look around the corner. They’re all there, some have lulled or rocked our teenage years or our childhood. Some have entranced our hours of leisure on evenings after hard days of work. In a way, they’re part of the landscape, and you really can find the very best pieces of writing, of acting and directing in there.

Inspired scenarios, fantastic characters, detailed universes, coherent stories that span five seasons (this is a shameless B5 plug), SF TV series have it all—well, not all of them, but you can find it.

Now, when I turn my attention on fantasy shows—heroic fantasy TV series, I come out empty-handed. Well, you have shows like Buffy or Angel, but to me they belong to the urban fantasy genre, trendy modern vampire thingies. Oh, don’t mistake me, I love those two shows, I’ve enjoyed them to death and I believe they’re superb bits of story-telling and character-building, but I don’t think they’re true fantasy. Even a small jewel like Carnivale isn’t what I call Fantasy.

So, what’s out there that could qualify? Well, I guess you could consider shows like Hercules, Dar or Xena, although to me they’re more like the twisting and (ab)using of Greek mythology. That’s not to say dialogues in there aren’t witty, or funny, or that characters are uninteresting or uninspiring, not at all. Those shows can be very much enjoyable, be relaxing, but they’re not fantasy to me, not really. Or rather, it’s second degree parodic fantasy, not serious, honest-to-god fantasy.

With that in mind, I still can’t put my finger on any real TV series that’s truly rooted in the fantasy genre. And I can’t help wondering why. Is it the settings? The costumes? I’d think not. The themes? No way, SF has enough disturbing themes to play with, I don’t see why fantasy couldn’t dabble with its darker aspects as well. What, then? Coherent universes? Strong stories? The fantasy genre does have that aplenty. But what have TV producers done with it? They have mangled and completely botched a mini on Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet. Completely betrayed the author’s work. I have yet to understand why.

Why don’t TV producers use the fantastic resources at hand? Why not turn to the stories of Robin Hobb, Tad Williams or even, for the lighter aspects, David Eddings? Do the authors refuse to sell the rights to adapt their works in TV series? Are those universes too coherent, to solid and well built for the producers? Can’t they make the bet that they can gather a crowd of intelligent viewers able and willing to follow a plot-driven show during multiple seasons? It would seem to me that Babylon 5 has proved that there is an audience for such shows.

And just for your information, dear Hollywood producers, check out the fantastic profits Japanese animes make, whose main characteristics for highly popular shows like Bleach are to be both plot and character-driven and to last for quite a few seasons with an ever growing fandom.

No matter how I try, I don’t understand the producers’ timidity in the area of fantasy. Could it be that some people have decided that it wasn’t mainstream enough? Please, check the ratings of The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter movies if that’s what’s stopping you. Truly, I’d like to know why nobody in Hollywood is seriously going for the fantasy genre—except to tackle parodic fantasy.

Dear producers, dear publishers, please don’t forget: the public’s tastes aren’t always restricted to what you dictate it is or should be. Trust me, people can be full of surprises. People can like deep, intricate and plot-driven shows whose stories span several seasons. Oh yes, they can.

Babylon 5 has proved that, more than once.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Forty-Nine Seconds

It was the time yesterday’s evening news had to spare to remind viewers that on August 6th, 1945, what counts among the most horrible crimes against humanity was committed.

August 6th, 1945. The day a light as bright as the sun's crushed Hiroshima. The day the US dropped a gift for hundreds of thousands of civilians living in that area. Oh, I know, it was war. A war that couldn’t seem to end, whose thirst for blood and death couldn’t seem to be sated. A war of madness, of insanity which manifested in atrocities committed by the Japanese army on Chinese and Korean soil. I know all that, and it’s very clear that the Japanese Army leaders were as evil as they were blind and crazy. War criminals, they were. Bloodthistry madmen who deluded themselves into thinking they could come back to the blessed times of the Tokugawa Dynasty. Before the black ships came into Kyoto bay.

Before the US destroyed a centuries-old status-quo and plunged the Japanese civilisation into a chaos that’s still plaguing it today. But then, if it had only been a matter of annihilating one’s enemies through conventional means, if it had been simple bombing of cities back to the stone age, it would have been…simple, classical acts of war, I guess. Like the bombing of Dresde even though Hitler’s Nazi Germany had already lost the war, if you want. Oh, yeah, war is nothing grand or noble or exciting. War is just ugliness, slaughtering, killings, people crying their souls and their guts out, agonizing for hours and days on end, wetting their pants and dying bereft of their humanity and dignity. Did you ever think otherwise? Ah, then you must be one of the morons who find Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Vandamme manly. Please, just go away, reading this will only confuse your deficient brains. Thank you.

But I digress.

So, Belgian TV news had only about forty-nine seconds to spare for an event that has shaped the world as we know it for scores of years, and is likely to continue shaping it for a long time.

The use of a nuclear weapon.

On a civilian target.

Because the US unleashed a terror nobody suspected, the world has lived under a shroud of dread. Because horror gained a face and a name, hundreds of thousands of faces whose skin started to come off even as they burnt from within and were vomiting blood, spitting out their guts without even knowing what was happening to them or why. Because that horror continued for dozens of years, accompanied by US military scientific personnel which came not to try to heal but to study those fantastic, unhoped-for guinea-pigs—to watch them agonize, to measure rates of this and that in their bloodstreams while they were dying, and clinging to the belief that the men in white blouses would somehow save them and alleviate their excruciating pain.

Because of that monstrosity, powers have watched themselves, eyed themselves without daring to move. Common analysis of the event says it spared us a nuclear World War III. It’s likely it’s absolutely correct. Common analysis of the event goes on to usually consider that, in that way, it was worth it. Because it served to silence the world, to strike it so hard that nobody ever dared repeat that oh-so proud feat of arms. I am sorry, but I refuse to rationalize that event—to view it in a positive light. I think, we can never fully apprehend the horror of what happened then. Of what all those people endured. Of unspeakable terror and suffering. But we can at least try. We can read manga like Gen of Hiroshima, told by a survivor of the bomb. We can refuse to close our eyes when the author starts drawing how people’s face started melting and coming off. And we can stop hiding behind easy rationalizations.

There is no excuse for using that weapon. Such things should be forbidden. Such things should be tried, and punished. It doesn’t matter that the enemy was criminally insane and cruel beyond depiction. It doesn’t give you the right to be like the enemy, to be the enemy. To descend at the enemy’s level. An eye for an eye. I know of nothing more barbaric than that. Becoming the enemy in order to defeat it is being defeated. It’s losing oneself and one’s values. There is no victory possible once you’ve gone down that road. None.

Sixty-one years later, I wonder whether we have learnt anything. Some people in Japan are arguing to leave the stance of peace Japan embraced when recovering from the war’s aftermath. Some in Japan advocate for regaining a “normal approach” to the army. That means, considering the use of weapons, of technologies which shattered Japan and tore through the very fabric of life.

Sixty-one years later, a mad fanatic in Iran dreams of getting his claws on a nuclear weapon so he can destroy Israel and dominate the Middle-East. But nobody is even tip-toeing in his direction. Oh no. They’re too busy destroying Lebanon, it’s so much easier…

Sixty-one years later, I wonder where the USSR’s nuclear arsenal has gone. I wonder if anyone in China or North Korea could make use of nuclear devices, and I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not impossible.

Sixty-one years later, the evening news on TV had about forty-nine seconds to spare for an uninteresting event that devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Not even one minute.

Forty-nine seconds

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Perilous Prequels Galore

It seems to be the trend of the days. Prequels, be it in US TV series, movies or in manga and anime. Quite frankly, I find myself wondering what’s going on through the producers’ brains.

Granted, it’s easier to come up with a prequel: the universe is set, you can reuse characters that are already well established and popular. You can do what you didn’t do before, either because technology of the time didn’t allow you to, or because you simply didn’t think of it (or couldn’t do it because of the time’s constraints in terms of morals, and righteousness). Still, while these are time and cost-efficient criteria, there are others to consider:

Fanfictions, for one. Oh yes, you heard me. Fanfictions, and those who write them. Most of the great titles, be it in US TV series or anime/manga, have attracted writers from all over the fandom spectrum. Between themselves, they’ve extended the existing universes, studied characters to death, built prequels and side-stories. Sometimes, but more rarely so, they’ve dabbled in sequels. In spite of the Correct Opinion ™ brandished in the publishing world, some of those fanfiction authors are very good and talented writers. Of course, a great many are just kids and teens spewing out their (often incoherent) fantasies on the internet, realizing their own dreams of being heroes or the beloved/whatever of heroes or heroines they idolize. It would be stupid to ignore that or not to acknowledge it.

Yet, in the vast ocean of fanfictions, there are shining jewels who do more than justice to the title that inspired them. This I s not a popular opinion in the publishing world, and yet it’s the truth. After all, what do the franchised writers do when they write novels for TSR, and other companies? What do the authors of Star Trek, Star Wars DragonLance, Forgotten Realms novels write, other than fanfiction? Are they not writing about a universe they didn’t create, using characters and concepts they didn’t create?

But enough with my rambling on fanfiction. If I continue, I’ll be telling you all about what I think of the odds of getting published when you write something original as a first novel and you’re not sponsored by X or Y (X or Y being someone high placed in the publishing world, a critic, a professor in some university or another popular writer). This is supposed to be about prequels.

Star Trek prequels among them. To tell you the truth, while I suppose I can be called a geek, I am in no way a Trekkie (or a Trekker). I have watched with quite a bit of pleasure St TNG, ST DS9 and parts of ST Voyager (my memories of ST TOS are foggier, and I know for a fact I’d have a bit of difficulty enjoying it now—even though I did love what I could catch of it as a child). But I have not, and will most likely never watch a single episode of ST Enterprise, and I’m not sure I’ll want to watch the 11th movie in the works under the direction of JJ Abrams who came up with Lost (I have yet to understand the appeal of that series, but never mind—the fact that he’s also the writer of crap like Mission Impossible 3, the abysmally awful movie created for the sole glory of a totally egocentric sect member like Tom Cruise alone makes my skin crawl in disgust). Beyond my doubts and qualms about JJ Abrams, the concept of yet another prequel irks me. Are Hollywood’s screenwriters so unimaginative that they need to go back and drape themselves with a universe and characters not their own?

What’s the use of a prequel recounting Kirk’s and Spock’s first mission in deep space? Oh, I’m sure it can be interesting, but let me tell you one thing: it’s been done already. It has been written, and probably a thousand times already. All those possibilities have been explored to death by fanfiction writers. The odds of coming up with something original in that regard are very small, if not outright null. Sure, it’s bound to be much easier, and it’s bound to be really convenient if in doing this you can do some kind of reboot on the series’ concepts. That’ll allow you to get rid of continuity and coherence, so you can write what you want. But that’s what fanfiction writers do. Taking a universe, twisting it to suit one’s vision and making it your own. While I have no problem with that (as long as it’s well done)—after all I spend my time doing this when I write—I have a problem with the owner of a universe abandoning the canon of their work, changing the foundations as if what had come before had become either obsolete, or inconvenient. You should be able to work with respect to the concepts. You should be able to look forward, and advance using the guidelines set before you came, and build ahead. If you’re a professional, you should be able to do so.

And quite frankly, prequels are very difficult to turn into a success. To be popular and interesting, they need to be intermingled with an ongoing story that is making the universe itself progress. They cannot stand alone, cut out from the flow of a forward-going story. They need to come in flashbacks, not to stand alone and estranged from everything. People like Tite Kubo (Bleach anyone?) and the anime directors of Bleach TV have shown themselves to be masters in that most delicate of arts. JMS has done a superb job of prequel building with In the Beginning in the Babylon 5 universe. That was fantastic work, and should be the example of how one does prequels, and how one uses them to enrich one’s universe. The articulation of that movie in the chronological development of the story was masterful. Those who exploit the Star Trek franchise…have yet to show talent in that regard. And the direction that’s being taken is not, imho, the right one.

From TV series to anime and manga. Unfortunately, the ST owners aren’t the only ones to have decided to exploit this avenue. A certain Masami Kurumada is busy trampling his own work in Japan, for reasons that are completely beyond me. A mediocre artist at best, Masami Kurumada had had one moment of inspiration, twenty and some years ago when he created Saint Seiya. That fantastic, epic story upheld my years of hardship in the university, lifted me up, inspired me. There was depth and vision there, characters and a compelling universe that was a mixture of all the mythologies he could grab at. The story ended in the early 90s. Some twenty years later, a push for a revival was made in Japan. Alas, Saint Seiya was no longer of interest for its creator, who had found his path in life with wrestling and drinking lots of beers. Still, money is always welcome, and the revival did happen.

The Tenkai-hen Jôsô movie was made. The beginnings of a sequel, and a beautiful job it was. But the author, who declined to participate in its making beyond a fuzzy outline in the first place, decided he didn’t like it. And Mr Kurumada decided he’d redo everything. Because of the way he ended his story twenty years before, he decided to reboot, and to start his sequel with a prequel. And boy, is it bad! Kurumada’s art hasn’t become any better with time, but then it would have been stupid to expect that. But the story-telling…if you can still call that story-telling… The dialogues, the characters… Ugh. Again, as with Star Trek, Mr Kurumada, please, spare us the pain. What you’re babbling about and spewing out has been done already, and way better than you can ever hope to do. Fanfiction writers have been there for ages. I know it’s easier to do that, I know it demands far less effort to go into a prequel, and that your interest in Saint Seiya isn’t enough to push you to do a good job on a sequel. But then, please, just stop your Next Dimension horror. We don’t need it. The world, I assure you, has no need for it.

Prequels are very difficult to do properly. They’re very tricky to integrate in a work. The timing, the intermingling, all of it is very delicate work. It demands talent.

Tite Kubo has it. J. Michael Straczinski has it. It may be Mr Abrams has it, but even if he has, the cut in the Star Trek flow is such that he can only fail. He cannot integrate his movie in anything: there is no ST TV series running. There is nothing beyond DS9 and Voyager. It’s as if ST had just stopped—or died. Reminiscing and focusing on the past in the void is no good. As to Mr Kurumada…well, the 8 pages of garbage he spewed out a few days ago are ample proof of his total lack of interest or talent where Saint Seiya is concerned. That is as pathetic as it’s a heart-breaker.