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October 2014

Lou Morgan on Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer

Psycho KillerHey people!

It's that time of year again, when the temperature drops, the nights draw in and even the brightest lights of the Upper East Side can't keep out the shadows. So wrap up warm and stay safe - because somewhere out there, a psycho killer's on the loose…

Released in October 2011, Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer is a "reimagined and expanded" slasher version of the first in Cecily von Ziegesar's phenomenally successful Gossip Girl series. In many ways it follows the same plot as the original novel, opening with Serena van der Woodsen's sudden return to New York and her friends on the Upper East Side. Most of the characters and locations will be familiar to readers of the series, as will the drinking, the sex and the drugs - but this time, there's one more vice. Murder. And as Serena hacks a bloody swathe through New York society, it isn't long before her BFF Blair starts to follow suit…

One of the most interesting things about GG:PK is that it's a reworking by the original author, whose publishers approached her with the idea of a parody genre mash-up addition to the series (no doubt inspired by the success of books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies shuffling into the bestseller lists in 2009). This means that while it's not exactly canon, it perhaps carries a little more weight than a parody written by someone else would.

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Crossing Over: Secret Invasion

Each month(ish) I'm revisiting one of the big comic book crossovers of the last few decades. For my broad rules on what counts for consideration, see here.

Si_logoThe late noughties was a turbulent time in the Marvel Universe. The Avengers had been disassembled then brought back New, the mutant population had been decimated in House of M, and the Civil War had split the heroes down the middle into pro-registration/authority and outlawed anti-registration factions (I’ll cover Civil War down the line). Most particularly, the flagship franchise, the Avengers, were seriously at odds.  Tony Stark, now Director of SHIELD, was leading the officially sanctioned team, and Luke Cage’s underground New Avengers were still reeling from the death of Captain America in the aftermath of Civil War.

In the middle of this ongoing conflict, the New Avengers, engaged in a mission in Japan, encountered the assassin Elektra in a fight which apparently cost her life. Except that it wasn’t her. On her death she reverted to her natural form as one of the shapeshifting race of Skrulls, but a Skrull impervious to detection by any means; physical, mystical or technological. This immediately set the heroes on edge, aware that such infiltrators could be anywhere. Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) arguing that they had a responsibility to tell Stark and the authorities about the threat, took the opportunity to betray her team and take the Skrull to Stark - joining his team in the process. All this set the scene for Secret Invasion.

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"On Information Warfare" (1996)

CryptologInformation Warfare poses the greatest threat to the national security of the United States. Our society today, whether it be in the defense or the public sector, is becoming more technologically dependent. The immediate need for information and information systems to make decisions, to communicate, or to simply survive as a culture has exponentially grown during the last 40 years.

Reliance on these expanding information systems has increased our vulnerability as a nation and analysts in the Intelligence Community are ill-prepared to deal with this new "War of Future."

Our political and military leaders have always relied on information to plan and fight traditional battles, but the technological dependency from which our nation suffers has made us more vulnerable to our adversaries. The "Information Age" in which our country finds itself today has led to the belief that all future wars will be information wars, and the winner will be the nation that achieves information superiority over its adversaries. That superiority is reflected in both an offensive (attack and/or exploit) and a defensive (protect) venue.

Which leads to the question of how to define Information Warfare (IW)?

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Completing Dahl: Short Stories

This year I’m blogging once a month here at Pornokitsch about trying to read everything Roald Dahl ever wrote. I’m closing in on the end! Just a few more odds and ends to go. The usual full disclosure: I’m not a Dahl scholar, just a humble fan of his work. This is a lay endeavor, perhaps not even all that fascinating to others. We’ll see. By the end, I hope to be able to say “I’ve read everything written by Roald Dahl!” or at least “I’ve read everything Roald Dahl wrote, save for that one play I can’t seem to find a script for.” Something like that.

Collected storiesRandom Stories from Someone Like You (1953), Kiss Kiss (1960), Tales of the Unexpected (1979), More Tales of the Unexpected (1980), Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life (1990), and Collected Short Stories (1991)

This might sound like a lot for one blog, but thanks to my trusty copy of The Roald Dahl Omnibus there were only a handful of stories for me to read this month. There’s nothing that particularly ties them together, so I’ll just take them on one by one. I’m going to try to not spoil any twist endings while still engaging with the texts, as usual, which means some of these write-ups will be brief unless there’s something really juicy to treat with.

There were some real gems among these stories which I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading before. In particular, “Mr. Botibol,” “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” and “The Bookseller” were all delightfully messed up. It was wonderful reading some top-form Dahl after some of the real stinkers I’ve endured (*glances at Some Time Never*), and even the lesser stories among this batch (“The Butler” and “The Surgeon” were still very enjoyable.

Oh, I should say now that I’m severely jet lagged from my trip to Tokyo, so if this reads a bit incoherently, well, there you go.

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Fiction: "The Kiss" by Kim Curran

The Kiss
When people first talked about the events of the fifth of May it was with hushed voices and bowed heads. An unusually respectful four days passed before the jokes started to fly around the internet. And fly so fast it was possible to believe, by tracking the number of posts and calculating the amount of time it takes to craft a witty comment in one hundred and forty characters, that the first online comment had actually been made before The Blast had taken place. 

By then, the witnesses, now called survivors by the more salacious newspapers, had recounted their stories so many times that the single cause had morphed into multiple events. Each story had the teller at the heart, irrespective of their actual distance from The Blast site. There were only two common threads to each woven tale: The Blast itself and The Couple On The Bench.

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Film Adaptations - The Best, The Worse & Who 'Cares' The Most?

SupermanVue Cinemas ran a fairly robust survey of "fans of books and comics", in order to see how they respond to remakes and adaptations. They were kind enough to share the data, and I've had a poke around to see what's fun in the results. 

Marvel vs DC Smackdown

Marvel have overwhelmingly topped DC in the battle of comic remakes, with over 5 times the amount of respondents saying that Marvel films are better. 

That said, Batman is (by far) the favourite adapted comic book character. The top five were as follows:

  1. Batman
  2. Spider-man
  3. Superman
  4. Iron Man
  5. X-Men

My first thought was that the Marvel vs DC discrepency is about Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy - Marvel's cracked the team movie format, whereas DC is still building up to it. That said, the presence of the "X-Men" kind of ruins that theory - or is it that people see the X-Men as an entity (or, more likely, an entity + Wolverine), whereas the Avengers are still viewed as a collection of solo artists? (Which still wouldn't explain the absence of the Guardians.) Puzzling.

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Once Upon a Time: S4E4 'The Apprentice'

The ApprenticeWell, we learned a lot of stuff this week, including the answers to questions I’ve been asking in these very recaps! How old is Hook? Indeed, he’s ‘like 300.’ What does Hook do all day? Throws darts at Granny’s. Where is he living? On a bench by the waterfront, I guess. There are some cute moments, but anything good about the episode is overwhelmed by the deeply irritating plot the show is setting up to keep Hook and Emma apart, which is disrupting two years’ worth of character development.

Look, this episode really annoyed me, so let’s just get through it.

We open with what turns out to be a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from Brad Dourif as a previous Dark One, Zoso. He fights with an old man who looks suspiciously like this, and who easily defeats Brad Dourif. The old man, who claims to be the ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ says no one will ever get into the mysterious box that (thanks to ep 1) we know holds the sorcerer’s sorting hat. One ironicut later, we watch Rumplestiltskin open the box and smile grimly at the hat.

Opening credits: a terrible CG broom marches across the title screen. Oh, god.

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Friday Five: 5 Things I Learned From NYCC

Doooooom

1. It is really, really awesome! And there's a lot to do!

Like, vast. And it gets really crowded, really quickly. Going to something like a panel, or a big signing, or even trying to get to the Marvel booth, is a time commitment. I can understand the people that gave up hours to stand in a line (seriously - and it isn't like the lines are absent of entertainment), but we chose to keep wandering instead. There are whole swathes of NYCC that went completely unvisited by us.

We scraped the surface of the iceberg. And what amazed me was how so much of it was free - demos, panels, signings, conversations, shmoozing, browsing, previews, whatever. Some of the best fun we had was in the spontaneous stuff: getting our photos taken for Greendale Community College IDs, for example. The con isn't cheap, by any means, but it is (theoretically) possible to entertain yourself on a budget once you get inside.

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