All that is wrong with the world…

March 21, 2011

Thoughts on Preacher and the coming film adaptation

Preacher has to be one of the most overrated comic book series of all time. It has made many best comics of all time lists and many people have cited it as a source of influence. In reality it is very interesting premise that is never fully utilized accept to tell the simple story of love and friendship against a background of unnecessary excessive violence and gore. It’s a shame, because the questions raised about God, responsibility and determinism are interesting and worthy of deep thought and analysis. I have not read much of Ennis’s other work such as The Boy’s or his run on Hellblazer that is said to have inspired Preacher so don’t know if it is perhaps just his style, or if he was trying something new or trying to accomplish something in particular.

The first problem I have with Preacher is the premises, Genesis. The spawn of a devil and angel with power said to rival or surpass that of God himself. I just don’t get how that makes any sense. First of all, why would an angel be pure good and why would a demon be pure evil? I don’t think such beings can be reduced to such simple absolutes, although I don’t necessarily have a lot to back this up with. There is of cause the example of Lucifer who started as an angel which unless he was a victim of God’s master plan, would show that not all angels are pure good. There is the point that if angels lack free will then they can only be what they are designed to be, but given that back in the day they routinely slayed thousands of innocents, can they really be said to be pure good? It’s an issue in theology in which good is defined as whatever is aligned with God, which is often quite distinct from what we may philosophize is objectively good.

Of course, this is never adequately gone into detail and we just have to accept the premise. It seems like Ennis just thought that it was a good enough premise to have an godlike being to serve the story without having really thought it through. One of the main problems with Genesis is that it reduced God’s power. God is meant to be omnipotent (although the omnipotence paradox easily shows that to be impossible) yet is unable to prevent the creation of a being more powerful than he? I mean, Genesis exists without any real personality being controlled by a human who didn’t quite know how to wield the power….so God couldn’t have simply stopped the fornication that resulted in Genesis, what with existing out of time and such? It seems unlikely that such a thing is outside of his power, which then leaves the possibility that it was part of God’s plan. In which case why fear Genesis?

Then there’s the word of god, the main demonstration of the power Genesis provides to Jesse. Essentially it allows him to command anyone….to do anything against their free will. It serves as a good excuse to have characters do horrible disgusting things…but again it is never really explored. Why would humans, who were created for the soul purpose of having free will, be subject to something that could override it? A backdoor of sorts? That isn’t so hard to buy but it seems odd to me. Then, why would Genesis have this particular power? Shouldn’t Genesis simply be raw power? Also, if the power is equal or close to that of God….would this not mean things such as turning back time, manipulating reality, bringing people back from the dead etc should all be possible? Genesis should be far more powerful than what jesus was capable of, yet as portrayed is capable of far less. How does that make sense? Again, it seems like it was just a good excuse for violence. Things like Jesse going back in time to talk to his father or bringing people back to life, restoring Arseface to his pre-disfigured state or reverse Cassidies vampirism all should be possible and would have made a far more interesting comic IMO, yet these possibilities are never even explored.

So, what about the individual characters? Despite the plot flaws and needless violence, Preacher is redeemed because of some very interesting and well written characters who have a whole lot of heart. The protagonist of the series, Jesse Custer is a good ol’ boy from Texas working as a preacher who doesn’t tend to have any faith left. Throughout his journey we see the experiences that made him the man he is today, his uncompromising morals and his views on religion and life. One thing I felt lacking with Jesse was that it was never really explored why he felt his blame on God for abandoning his creation was justified. Was he blaming god for his shitty life? Shouldn’t he have grown out of that and accepted that shit happens?

One thing I wish was explored more was how Jesse uses the word of god so casually. Ordering people to savagely mutilate themselves or torture themselves (such as counting all the grains of sand on a beach) without a second thought, especially when the punishment does not fit the crime seems out of character. For someone who is ultimately a good person yet doesn’t seem to care about the pain he inflicts on others throughout his quest.

What about Arseface? Arseface seems to be the strangest character of all….a boy with a face like an arse due to a failed suicide attempt. He is shown to be the epitome of pathos….being manipulated or dismissed at every turn while being eternally optimistic and taking it all in stride. I really can’t understand why this character exists, as it doesn’t serve the plot at all. I guess it can be seen as a very, very shallow commentary on western society’s obsession with violence and celebrity….but even that seems out of place. The simplest explanation would seem to be that it was just another excuse to have violence and grossness for the sake of it.

Herr Starr was quite an interesting character and serves as the main antagonist to Jesse throughout the series. A man who truly believes in what he is doing and after hearing of the word of god, develops a plan to make use of it. Instead, what could be a complex character used to examine some of the issues I mention above is instead used as a cheap comedic gimmick, with Herr Starr suffering humiliating injury after injury. The origin and motivation of the character only serves as a thing premise, giving him a reason to go between points so as to be able to suffer in interesting ways. It’s a shame.

Cassidy the Irish vampire was probably my favorite character. He was a unique character, with an interesting outlook and lifestyle. He is easily the character with the most character growth during the series and who is changed drastically by the end of it. He makes mistakes and after a lifetime of not caring, understand why he should. His friendship with Jesse and the subsequent dissemination and redemption of said friendship is one of the nicest stories ever told. These are the redeeming features of Preacher…the story of friendship and family that is told underneath everything.

The Saint of Killers is also an interesting and quite cool character. At the same time, quite an odd character. A vicious killer whose hatred actually freezes over hell and is thus made a saint. Again this is never fleshed out….why would his hate cause hell to freeze over? Even if we just take it…why would the angels make him a saint? Why not some sort of mercenary for hell? None of that matters too much, as the characters is original and cool and just works much of the time. What doesn’t work, at all, is the ending of preacher. Why would he kill god? Why would he be able to kill god? His weapons are made from the Angel of Death’s sword….and it seems unlikely the Angel of Death could have killed god had he wanted to. The main problem is with the ending though….why oh why would he be able to kill god? His power while impressive should pale in comparison to the one and only lord. Oh well.

There are of course a lot more characters in Preacher, but I can’t be bothered to mention most of them, as most of them are gimmicks and not particularly interesting. The retarded shit-flinging offspring of Jesus, a guy who likes to fornicate with meat mannequins, a pair of English sodomites…none of these characters is particularly interesting or gripping and for me at least they simply get in the way of what could be an amazing story. The one exception could be said to be the offspring of Jesus, although this was more interesting to see how faith based obsession can drive people, as the character himself was still uninteresting. I don’t find Tulip worth writing about, as she just isn’t that interesting. She is a fine character but doesn’t have too much of her own story and remains simply Jesse’s love interest.

I did enjoy Preacher, I just think that it was a wasted opportunity. It starts of with such an interesting premise where so many issues could be examined or commented on, but all of that is swept aside for the comic book equivalent of a cheaply made exploitation movie. Girls, guns, violence, vampires, sex, whatever. It wasn’t all bad and it is what it is. The things that shine in preacher are the stories of the various relationships, the dialogue and the artwork isn’t too bad either. However for people to keep highlighting Preacher as some kind of amazing influential accomplishment…that I just don’t understand.

As for examining or commenting on various issues and problems….I don’t think Preacher tries. If it does, it’s always very briefly and overshadowed by the violence, comedy, sex or whatever else is taking up most of the page. It’s like trying to find a complex commentary on the difference between good and evil in Batman Forever. I haven’t read Lucifer or Hellblazer which I have heard good things about and do seem to examine some of these interesting religious and philosophical issues. For the moment though…Supernatural has to be the best media I have found that examines these issues. It does it fairly well considering it’s on network TV and as restricted as it is. Still, so far it’s managed to look at what it means to be human, the soul, free will, the role of god, faith in general, good and evil etc. Good stuff and definitely worth checking out.

In the meanwhile Preacher has been confirmed to happen as a film, being helmed by DJ Caruso. I don’t mind Caruso as a director, thinking Eagle Eye was a well told an paced story with the right amount of action and story. I can see him bring a fairly faithful adaptation to the screen. The problem is what changes will the adaptation go through? Much of the stuff in the comic probably wouldn’t fly for the screen and since the studios are not going to want an R rating which means quite a lot is going to be cut. Still, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Quite a lot can be excised from the film without affecting the story….no women made of meat, no English sodomites, no Arseface…just the story of friendship and a quest to make God accountable. By sticking to the core, taking the general idea and examining the issues a much better film can be had.

The problem is that such a film wouldn’t be the same Preacher as the fans of the comic are familiar with. In this case though, I think there is a chance to make the film far superior to the comic, so I am all for it. If the studio wanted to have a more faithful adaptation then they should probably commission Robert Rodriguez to film it as one of his grindhouse films. Personally, I’ll take a good story that provides food for thought over senseless violence as a poor excuse for comedy any day of the week. Still, it’s going to be interesting to see how this turns out.

March 20, 2011

More preliminary thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises

So since my last article a few more bits of information have appeared. First we have Aaron Eckhart again denying that Harvey Dent may appear in TDKR although with quite an odd laugh People have taken this to mean he may appear in a flashback sequence or something, which would be interesting, but it seems like a weak excuse to bring back the character. Part of what makes Two-Face interesting is how quickly garnered a large criminal empire after his disfigurement. Killing of the character denies him the chance to do that. Additionally Harvey and Bruce/Batman never had the strong friendship they did in the comics, so it doesn’t seem like it would serve much of a purpose to have Batman hallucinate him, unless it is to deal with his guilt for killing him and actually face that fact.

Then earlier today Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role was announced as Alberto Falcone. This is the most interesting news to date, second only to the casting of Bane. Alberto was a key character in The Long Halloween and it seems now that more elements of that story will make their way into TDKR. The only issue I have is where Bane fit’s in. Bane really deserves his own story, and trying to shoehorn him into an adaptation of The Long Halloween just won’t do the character justice. I can’t help but wonder how the story will go….I can’t see Alberto or Catwoman being the main villain of the films as with Ra’s or Joker, which leaves Bane. Which leaves the opportunity for the core elements of Knightfall to be adapted. Or, perhaps the will do something more interesting and have Batman actually do some detecting and solve mysteries, ala the holiday killer.

The last bit of interesting news was that Juno Temple is being eyed for a part as a “street smart Gotham girl”. It would be interesting if this turns out to be Holly Robinson, Selina Kyle’s friend from Year One. It would perhaps imply they may be going with the prostitute origin story, or at the least mixing elements of Year One with The Long Halloween. This has to be the most confusing Batman film to date. With the odd mix of characters and being familiar with Nolan’s take on the character, it’s very difficult to speculate what direction TDKR will take. It’s certainly interesting to follow and see where it ends up however.

March 3, 2011

Binary prefixes are ridiculous and HDD manufacturers are deceitful

Filed under: Tech — Tags: , , — allthatiswrong @ 9:31 pm

In the last few years binary prefixes have started to gain traction, with some operating systems picking them up and applications or storage requirements making use of them. The problem is that they are ridiculous sounding and completely unnecessary. The “problem” is that the standard better known SI units (mega, kilo, giga etc) are based on powers of 1000, while computer units are based on powers of 2. A good example of this is hard drives, where a 20GB HDD would be expected to be 21474836480 bytes but in reality would be 20000000000 bytes, losing 1474836480 bytes or 1.3GB,. For a long time people were angry at HDD manufacturers for deceiving people or falsely advertising the HDD capacities, although recently with binary prefixes being adopted people have started to defend manufacturers.

Well, the people who are defending them are simply wrong. It doesn’t matter that binary prefixes are technically correct. For over a decade before they were adopted, SI unit prefixes used in computing has constant standardized meanings that were accepted everywhere by everyone. It was HDD manufacturers who decided to ignore this and redefine SI units used in computer to match their more standard definition to save money. Not to make it easier for consumers, simply to save money. It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now. No other product related to computing uses the general meaning of SI prefixes when applied to computer units. HDD capacities should always be based around powers of 2, not powers of 1000 simply because that’s what computers use.

The reason SI units are not a problem in computing most of the time? Context. It is clear that the definitions are slightly different in computing and it isn’t hard to learn the differences. It certainly makes sense to have a separate and subsequently more accurate standard prefix specific to computing, but that should have been implemented earlier on. As things currently stands the name are dumb (kibi, mebi, gibi), they introduce confusion since people have already adapted to the existing system and there isn’t really a need for them because of that. Despite many people being opposed to them and better solutions existing (such as Knuth’s large kilobyte) it seems binary prefixes are here to stay, with the EU mandating their use in law. It will be interesting to see if they are prevalent in 10 years or so or if they rightfully vanish into the nether.

Thoughts on Tron Legacy

Filed under: Entertainment — Tags: , , , , , , , — allthatiswrong @ 9:18 pm

Last night I finally saw Tron Legacy. I was curious to see it since it came out but couldn’t afford to see it at the movies and wouldn’t have paid even if I could. Luckily the DVDRIP was released today after quite a wait. After watching it…..the main feeling I had was ‘meh’. In a lot of the reviews I had people had some issues with the films gratuitous product placement, Jeff Bridges reprising his Dude character and the virtual world not being ‘realistic’. That last gripe seems somewhat dumb, although I have to say I didn’t really have any problems with the film. The elder Flynn’s dialogue did seem slightly odd to me and I don’t think that is how you would talk to your son you haven’t seen in 20 years….but at the same time I don’t know if I would have even thought about it had it not been brought to my attention. That and the meditating seemed odd. I didn’t really notice any product placement out of the ordinary, although Sam Flynn seemed to have an oddly high number of throwaway wannabe catch phrases. The film was low on plot and seemed like mainly an excuse for action, but that isn’t always a bad thing.

My main thoughts on the film were trying to understand how what we saw could work in our world. Nothing is really explained in the film and a lot of questions are raised. First of all, how would digitization work? It seems more likely that a digitized copy of you would be made rather than you would actually be converted or transferred into a digital format. However going by both films this is exactly what happens. I can get that a laser could scan an object to make a digital representation but can’t think of a reason that would cause the actual object to disappear. What about digitized humans bleeding in the grid? I guess because it is a perfect digitized representation of a human, down to having digital blood flowing through their digital body. What about when Quorra appeared in the real world? Does this mean the laser has the ability to create complex lifeforms or objects from a program template? If so that would essentially be the replicator from Star Trek, which a lot more interesting to me than users vs programs.

What about the programs? We saw in the grid there were that there homeless programs which doesn’t exactly make sense. Programs wouldn’t need food and shelter in the same way as non digital life forms so the concept of a homeless program seems a bit odd. I would expect a ‘homeless’ program to be more akin to the exiles in The Matrix. Programs cheering at the games must indicate something similar to emotion which is interesting to consider. As is the fact that programs can apparently be knocked unconscious. Perhaps when thumped it alters their programming rather than blood flow being temporarily stopped. I also thought it was odd that programs went to a bar and listened to music and had drinks. Either their AI is advanced enough to the point they enjoy similar things to humans or they were made in their makers image with a high degree of accuracy. Either way….it seemed strange. Speaking of which, Zeus is a truly terrible character. If they wanted David Bowie that badly couldn’t they have just asked him?

The film is enjoyable enough for what it is and I don’t really have a problem with anything as seen so much as wishing the rules for the world were explained. I liked the unix references at the beginning, although the backdoor account was almost as bad as the Password Overide prompt trope. I think the whole users and programs separation is odd, as surely a digitized user would be a program in some form? People were complaining about the air and lightning and such but that doesn’t really concern me, as the grid could have been made to resemble our world…or perhaps Flynn created the basis of a worl that was able to grow and develop on its own as the earth once did?

Clu seemed fine to me…I didn’t notice the uncanny valley some people noted and I thought the technology was incredibly impressive. I think the idea of the ISOs and life appearing in a digital world is interesting and would have liked to see it explored more. When Quorra came into the real world, was she translated to human format or something else? How could a program exist outside of a digital realm? One thing I was thinking about was if the world would maintain state if the power got cut off. What would happen to a human who died while in the grid…would it be the same as any program, and they would simply be erased or repurposed? What about the ending…did Kevin die? Will future Tron movies be carried by Sam Flynn? Fun movies and I look forward to seeing what they do with the franchise in the future.

March 2, 2011

Why is fax still so prevalent?

Filed under: Issues...the world...etc.. — Tags: , , , — allthatiswrong @ 2:50 pm

I don’t understand why fax is still so prevalent in an age where the majority of large organizations has several PCs along with broadband internet. Back in the days before email Fax made a lot of sense, but these days an email costs less, doesn’t require a dedicated phone line and can be authenticated in a way that fax is simply unable to be. There can certainly be uses for fax….if you need a document in a hurry it could be quicker to fax it than have to download it and find a printer…but most of the time an email is superior in every single way. Which is why I don’t understand why so many government and other organizations only accept fax and flat out refuse to accept email.

Often such policies seem to be based on a belief that fax is harder to forge because it is tangible, when nothing could be further from the truth. Faxes tend to be low quality even at high quality settings and generally can’t be compared to the original document at the receiving end. Additionally anything that can be manipulated on a computer can be printed and sent as a fax. Sending documents via email on the other hand allows for the possibility of cryptographic signing and verification which is far, far more reliable than any authentication method related to faxes.

Why then will so many organizations refuse to accept an email and require it be sent as a fax? When I was in Toronto last December I was trying to send a fax halfway around the world and it was just impossible. I spent $10 trying 3 different numbers and it simply wouldn’t work, as there must have been a problem with one of the intermediate connections. Of course the government agency I was trying to send to absolutely refused to accept the possibility that I could email them. The document was electronic in the first place so for no reason except to adhere to an archaic policy I had to print out a document and then try to fax it, when I could have sent it and signed it with my public key.

Generally various organizations have been OK at embracing new technology even if takes a while, yet in 2011 fax is still preferred over email and often mandated as the only way to send documents. When will this craziness and ignorance end?

March 1, 2011

Not in this country…

Filed under: Issues...the world...etc.., Travel — Tags: , , , , — allthatiswrong @ 3:02 pm

Often when traveling around in a country that is not my own, I may argue something with someone that is common across many countries. Often instead of arguing their point or providing proof they resort to using “well not in this country” or some variation as their closing argument. Hasty generalization much? It’s annoying because these people generally don’t know what they’re talking about bur rather than conceding they may be right, prefer to implicitly dismiss me because I am a foreigner. A great example of an Ad Hominem attack. They wouldn’t be able to resort to such an argument if it was a native making the same argument, so it is always frustrating when they do instead of actually considering what is being said.

Some people get offended that I as a foreigner dare to question a native resident about their own country. Often they become downright indignant. Some people would accuse me of arrogance for daring to do such a thing, however there is nothing arrogant about it. If you have done the research then it’s downright reasonable. What I’ve found out is often people simply don’t know everything about their countries. For example, I spent just over a month trying to find an alternative to paying for a notary public in Canada simply because I was broke. Even if I wasn’t broke I would not have paid for it because I know it is not necessary. Most people I asked had never needed the service of a notary so had no idea about it, yet there were still the few who were convinced it was the only way to get documents certified.

In my home country it costs nothing to have copies of identity documents certified, and there are many different professions that can do this, while some may charge a fee it is entirely possible to have copies certified without paying anything. It was a similar situation in Canada, which I found out after doing research. I first found the Service Canada website setup by the Canadian Government that lists a variety of cost free alternatives to a notary public. The first experience was with the RCMP, who at various offices denied that they were able to witness identity documents, despite the website and their supervisors saying so. I then contacted a legal aid office and was informed a commissioner of oaths could witness my documents for next to nothing.

Of course, the commissioner of oaths I happened to get had no idea what she is talking about. She was convinced that she was unable to certify copies that would be leaving Canada. That is utterly ridiculous. A commissioner of oaths is the direct equivalent of similar positions in many western countries, and there is no such limitation on what they may certify in Canada or elsewhere. I was curious to know if in fact there may be such a limitation and asked for a reference, although she simply replied with the “in this country this is how we do it” argument. I was unable to find any such limitation in the legislation or from any source, and ended up going to a different commissioner of oaths once I realized they were the easy alternative to a notary public.

It happens in the states a lot, where people who have never left their home state are convinced that the rest of the country is exactly the same save perhaps weather. Despite my having actually been to other states where I know something may not be the case, they resort to the “not in this country” argument. It’s a frustrating experience. It’s bad enough when you meet people who can’t accept that they may be wrong, but when they use the fact that you aren’t from their country to dismiss you…that makes is more worse.