Month: March 2009

Understanding Watchmen

The Trans-Atlantis blog doesn’t pride itself on timeliness. The Watchmen movie is no longer the cinematic event of the moment. The movie’s been debated to death, chewed over, the hype has been sucked out and all that’s left is a gory twitching corpse of low expectations. What better time to see it!? Was I disappointed? No. Was it good? Not really. I’m not sure that I can give an objective opinion. I mostly agree with Zak Sally’s assessment and I think that Isaac Cates is onto something‚Ķ I think the film will have it’s greatest impact on the academic world of media studies. Zack Snyder’s slavish adaptation of the comic-book turns the two Watchmen versions into the perfect study-guides. The story is essentially the same so the student can focus on the unique properties of each medium. Take Marshall McLuhan’s ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media theories. The hot high definition film can now be studied side by side with the cool low definition comic-book. Watchmen the movie is the perfect example of film as a hot medium. Since the film can never approach the comic-book’s narrative complexity, it compensates with visual overload. Every texture, grain of dust, shard of glass, spark of energy, drop of blood and rain, is visible and rendered in loving hyper-real detail. Each frame is crammed with detail in an attempt to get as much of the comic on film as possible. Dr. Manhattan’s nauseating avatar (CGI has a long way to go before it ascends from the Uncanny Valley) represents the film’s high definition aesthetic. Nothing is left to the imagination. Watchmen the comic-book takes full advantage of the cool nature of comics. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons chose to tell the story mostly through a tight nine-panel grid. Each panel by itself doesn’t contain much detail. It’s too small for that. The complexity of the story unfolds though repetition, juxtapositions, foreshadowing, etc. It’s up to the reader to stitch the whole thing together; to fill in the gaps‚Ķ etc. I suspect that both the movie and the comic-book will very quickly become ubiquitous in college syllabi around the world.

Stereo Total at 7th Street Entry

Stereo Total was the headliner at the 7th Street Entry, but most of the audience clearly showed up to see Leslie and The Ly’s. As usual the drawing conditions at the Entry were challenging. Half the audience was wearing some form of gem sweater. Unfortunately the radiance of plastic jewelry embedded in yarn did not make drawing any easier. Jonathan Ackerman opened the evening with a solid DJ set. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Stereo Total

Leslie and the Ly’s

Jonathan Ackerman

UR : Utopia Report : No. 2

cartoon utopia mini-comic
Cartoon Utopia the mini-comic
It’s time for another edition of the UR, the Utopia Report. If you missed the previous edition, check it out here.

The first Utopia Report ended with Ron Reg√©’s Cartoon Utopia. In a recent post, Ron took the time to explain the sources of the utopian world he is building. Ron’s reading list tends towards the transcendental and mystical visions of utopia. This makes sense. His work for me, always had mystical underpinnings. The interactions between his characters always depict some kind of unspoken (telepathic?) connections. Auras, rays and halos emanate from his characters revealing extrasensory sensitivities. Their egos dissolve into larger energy fields producing new undiscovered harmonies. It’s really interesting to see this work develop. The Cartoon Utopia is slowly becoming the theoretical underpinning of it’s own formal qualities. It describes a vision of the world by being that vision‚Ķ a ouroboric vessel‚Ķ
Also, check out Ron Reg√©’s Cartoon Utopia mini-comic.

Interesting call for more ‘utopian post-apoclaypse’ movies. The author wonders why we don’t see “suggestions for post-apocalyptic living or specific life-changing prescriptions for our current situations” in movies as much as we see the destruction of the world. The answer seems obvious. It’s a lot easier to destroy then to create. In a way he’s giving further evidence to the Zizekian creativity deficiency as expressed in his “it is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system” statement. If we can’t imagine a small change, then how can we go about devising new utopian societies and civilizations? But, Zizek’s statement is starting to sound a little dated these days. As the financial crisis erodes confidence in our society, it’s becoming increasingly possible to question the way of life that led us to this point. Perhaps this can lead to more creative visions in cinema, science fiction and politics. I’m skeptical on the political front‚Ķ but I would welcome more pulp utopianism.

I recently read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars. It’s part one of a trilogy about the settlement and terraforming of the red planet. Earth is overpopulated and running out of resources. Mars seems the obvious solution as the destination for mass emigration and a huge source of natural resources. The drama of the novel hinges on the struggle between capitalist and socialist tendencies (though the author doesn’t necessarily spell this out). The capitalists see Mars as a planet-sized mine and a source of planet-sized profits. The socialist see the red planet as a blank slate for a new society and an opportunity to forge a new relationship with the environment. The harsh living conditions on Mars foreground the preciousness of things we usually take for granted on Earth. Atmosphere, soil, water are not there for the taking. The terraforming (literally Earth-shaping) of Mars is a huge collective effort. In such an environment concepts like private property and money become meaningless. How do you turn Mars into a new Earth, when Earth no longer resembles itself? I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.
Speaking of Kim Stanley Robinson… here’s a recent article where he describes capitalism as a multi-generational Ponzi scheme. A lot of ideas found in Red Mars are echoed in this essay.