masqthephlsphr: (buffy)
Hi guys, been a while since I did a real post. Things are hoppin' around here.

Do you realize it's been 19 years since Buffy premiered? That means there are grownups walking around who weren't born when Welcome to the Hellmouth first aired. One wonders what they would think of Buffy if they watched it. Actually, one does not have to wonder. I recently heard from an 18-year-old fan who visited my website:

Hello, Masq.

I knew that AtPO was a part of me when I was holding the 79-page collection of manwitch's, “Buffy's Spiritual Journey.” It was for a friend who is slowly being introduced to (or indoctrinated in) BtVS, and I think it speaks to the staying power of the wonderful community that you created and oversaw that an 18 year old was moved to print something out in 2016. fl.ux is good for your eyes, but not that good.

With time, those pages will fade into musty goodness on his shelf, and he can think of Giles. “All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.”

I'm a philosophy major, in my first year of college, and I can tell you that your site and board archives helped kindle my fire for the field. I watched BtVS for the first time two years ago. It reached me at an important part of my life—one where I could almost think like an adult, but was still totally unaware about what being an adult meant, and equally wracked with confusion about how to get there. I was struggling to make sense of what being alive meant at all. The same circular thought loops kept cropping up. Why am I here? Why do I have this body? Is there a way out of Hume's critique of induction? BtVS, I guess, became a conduit out of my head and back into the world.

I believe the show's (the whole Buffyverse's) greatest strength, philosophically or otherwise, was its richly populated moral universe. To cite a few, quickly: Buffy seemed to follow Sartre. Angel, Kant. Spike was Nietzschean. Giles and Wes were consequentialists. Xander seemed to speak to the primordial ethics of family and loyalty to one's own. Anya didn't know what any of it meant.

Too often with other shows, even the others in Buffy's tier, the writers' own moral views erode the possibility of a populated moral universe in the vein of BtVS' or AtS'. The Sopranos, our other great existentialist drama, was marked by the idea that, while we can choose, we will all always choose the path of unenlightened self-furthering. Every character, save one, drilled this idea into our heads over and over, directly from David Chase. Mad Men says more or less the same thing, with perhaps slightly more variation. The West Wing clusters everyone on the opposite side, rarely questioning our innate goodness and civic responsibility. The Wire said we're all rats trapped in the maze, causally bound to be crushed by the social institutions we create. Breaking Bad is a one-act Greek tragedy, The Shield a three-act one; while both shows hold unwaveringly to the consequences of actions above all else, and in this way are morally powerful, they still cannot compare to the breadth or dynamism of BtVS or AtS.

Watching BtVS was one part of the equation, but Sophist's blog and AtPO played an equally important role. I lost days poring through the board's archives. I imagined what it would have been like to be there in 2003, debating Lies My Parents Told Me & Chosen as they were fresh. I became accustomed to the cadences of the regular posters, and felt I grasped slivers of their minds, slivers that they had elected to share with an unsuspecting world.

There is a gentle sweetness in inhabiting a fading community; the phrase “mono no aware” comes to mind. The deep empathy felt when you realize that there is no way around entropy and transience. It's like walking around in Tokyo without any people. Their marks, their passion and insight, what they cared about and what moved them, are omnipresent, but they already fade and grow hazy with time and distance.

Maybe this is naïve nostalgia or historical revisionism, but AtPO also took me back to a time when the Web and the promise of the radical liberation of information felt—radical. Exciting. Open. There was an egalitarian, decentralized ethos to that Internet, it seems.

It's late, and I have rambled extensively. I guess all I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for the insight, from you and your board. They continue to move people today. May they resist entropy for awhile yet.

[Name Withheld]
masqthephlsphr: (buffy)
Originally posted by [profile] superplin at Zombiecast
Hey, remember this little project by [personal profile] masqthephlsphr and myself from way back in 2008?

Yeah, we didn't, either. Until I happened to be cleaning up my web server, and discovered the folder.
We did a whole 11 episodes, and some of them are actually kind of interesting.

So we decided to get with the modern times and turn them into a SoundCloud playlist that anyone can access, just in case you want to get all nostalgic with us as we drink way too much and ramble on about early episodes of our favorite series. 

AD

Nov. 1st, 2014 10:06 am
masqthephlsphr: (eh)
If anyone's wondering what Alexis Denisof is up to these days, he is a semi-regular on Grimm now. He plays an stuffy, obnoxious prat. But who knows? Maybe he'll betray his boss, abduct an infant, grow manly facial hair, and start sleeping with a sexy lawyer.

…Actually, all of that is entirely possible.
masqthephlsphr: (ev0l)
January talking meme, Jan 29. From [profile] harsens_rob: Choose 2 Joss-verse characters who've died. One that you believe was handled very well and one that you think... wasn't.... How were they handled differently and why do you feel one worked and the other just didn't?


As usual, giving thought to this put it beyond two characters.


It's said one of the hallmarks of urban fantasy (this also obviously applies to contemporary horror) is that all characters are Fair Game. The potential death of any character, no matter how central to the narrative, ups the stakes and lets the reader/viewer know the characters are playing for keeps.

Joss Whedon, of course, isn't just an example of this, he's the King.

Joss sets the tone for his attitude towards character death in the very first episode of BtVS with the death of Jesse. It's well-known that Joss wanted to put Jesse in the main credits of Welcome to the Hellmouth just so he could stun the audience by killing him off. And behind-the-camera troubles aside, I'm pretty convinced that's (the writers' reason) for the death of Doyle in Season 1 of Angel. Both deaths were, IMO, non-gratuitous. Jesse's death occurred to instruct both viewers and the characters (in particular, Xander and Willow) that This Is Serious, Folks. Doyle, on the other hand, chose to die for a noble cause. It was no less shocking than Jesse's death, though, and you can imagine Joss' glee at finally being able to kill off a credits character.

Characters die for all sorts of reasons on BtVS and AtS, but one of the main reasons they die is to signal a change in the character who killed them. For Joss, this is usually a character we've come to trust, but sometimes, it's the rise of the bad guy (or both). Showing a character murder someone is Joss' signal that "something's changed." Examples abound: Jenny Calendar (Angel(us), Deputy mayor Allan Finch (Faith), Maggie Walsh (Adam), Katrina (The Trio), Warren (Willow), the wine cellar W&H lawyers (which Angel allows through inaction), Lilah (Beast-Master!Cordelia). The problem isn't that Joss does this. The problem is, he does this A LOT.

There are lots of other ways you can signal a change in a character and a change in the direction of a season. Wesley's betrayal of Angel in Season 3 was an effective way to change the stakes mid-season and resulted in interesting developments for both characters, without anyone having to die during the act of betrayal.

Joss' over-reliance on this trope lead to a lot of "the devil made me do it" story lines in which trusted friends (e.g., Angel, Cordelia, Spike [season 7 *oy*] must be robbed of their agency in order to make them kill somebody.

The other thing Joss overdid was Beloved Character Has to Die to Enact Change in the Hero or Season. Now, this can be an extremely powerful plot development. The first episode Joss did this in, Passion (Jenny Calendar's death), remains one of my favorites.

But there is a tipping point in keeping the stakes high where you start to lose a viewer or reader's investment, where it becomes so common for characters to die, viewers are no longer willing to invest emotionally in the characters. When a viewer reaches this point, they can either take a more flippant attitude towards the show, or stop watching it all together. I doubt either of these outcomes is something show-runners want.

I think the tipping point for me was Tara in Season 6 of BtVS. I could deal with Joyce dying in Season 5 to mark the transition of Buffy into adulthood. But Tara's death taxed me. Follow up that up with Cordelia's slow fade in AtS, and Fred's gratuitous assault in Season 5 of AtS, and I pretty much held my "giving a shit"-edness together only by sheer force of will to the end of AtS season 5. My issue with each of these deaths went beyond "too much is too much." They were also each out-and-out slaughters. None of these characters had a chance against their killers (Cordelia was effectively killed by Jasmine in Inside Out, despite her coma and brief return in Season 5). They were ruthlessly slaughtered by a Baddie just to shake things up.

For me, when it comes to major characters, the best deaths (1) show a victim dying against their killer after a valiant defense and because no other, alternative plot developments can effectively accomplish what their death can in the story (hence why Jenny Calendar's death works better than Tara's or Fred's); or (2) someone (directly or indirectly) causing their own death because their actions, or deliberate inaction, either heroic or villainous, resulted in it. When this happens to a villain, it's poetic justice. When it happens to a hero, you get Doyle, or Buffy (but she always comes back), or Darla in Lullaby (although there is a Madonna/Whore element to her death that annoys me a little).
masqthephlsphr: (alias will)
January talking meme, Jan 21. From [personal profile] cornerofmadness: what draws you to the urban fantasy type of story lines?

I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.

Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.

And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.

Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.

Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.

This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.

So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.
masqthephlsphr: (masq)
January talking meme, Jan 18. From [personal profile] rahirah: How did you come to start ATPOB?


I entered the world of online fandom in 1998 shortly after season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was looking anxiously for spoilers after that season finale, and being new to online fandom, I naturally went to the official WB network BtVS site, buffy.com, and the Bronze Posting Board. I hung out at the Bronze during seasons 3 and 4 of BtVS, and was known for pointing out nods to various philosophical ideas that I found in different episodes. The first one I ever noticed was the contextuality of knowledge, which appeared in a debate between Giles and Jenny Calendar in I Robot, You Jane.

Some of my Bronzer friends encouraged me to create a webpage where I listed all the philosophical references I found. A web PAGE. I sort of suck at brevity. "All Things Philosophical on BtVS/AtS" was born on January 1st, 1999. Hard to believe that was 15(!) years ago. 15! The website soon became more than one page as Joss and company continued to produce deeply intelligent television. From '99 to '04, I lost entire weekends to my website analyses.

I occasionally got emails from visitors to the site. Some of those folks urged me to create a discussion board where they could discuss the show at deeper levels than other discussion boards they frequented. On June 14th, 2000, I set up one of those canned forums. The folks that came to hang out there did the rest.

The ATPo board included folks from all over the world, males and females, teenagers to 60-somethings. Posters wrote essays that brought in philosophy, psychology, politics, critical theory, literary analysis, you name it, somebody did it. The archives are a good read. Discussions were sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes serious, sometimes silly, sometimes paragraphs, sometimes essays (that were actually (Long) when warned to be so). The board's hey-day was from June of 2000 to Spring of 2004, but a lot of those folks are still my good friends. I was reminded of how important they are to me when we recently lost one of our own, [profile] atpolittlebit.

Whenever I stop to think I've accomplished nothing in my life except earning a PhD I've done very little with, someone tells me a story about how ATPo touched their lives. And I take heart in that.
masqthephlsphr: Halt and Catch Fire (girl geek)
... but I know why.

First, a rec from the man behind Wesley Crusher:

http://wilwheaton.net/2013/07/nothing-to-prove/

I have only been aware of this misogyny-in-geekdom problem in the past year or so via LiveJournal links and posts on the topic. I've been a girl geek all my life )


So, in conclusion:

"Geeky is just shorthand for enthusiastic and enlightened" --[personal profile] scrollgirl
masqthephlsphr: (HP)
More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it's the hero. Not that I don't appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types--tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations.

But sometimes I think those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed "way more interesting" than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Those gray characters are like the icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect but who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

It's a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is in fandom discussions and have to "admit":

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

...and so on.

It's not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y'know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be'lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I'm not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren't flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

The kinks

Mar. 4th, 2013 11:50 am
masqthephlsphr: (ms)
[profile] shadowkat67 and I were discussing some of the more "interesting" fannish speculation and 'ships we've encountered while out and about on the interwebs for various reasons re: Once Upon A Time. We both agreed we have no plans to participate in general fandom again. It is a hairy quagmire of divergent points of view and divisive passions, and we have both been there, done that with the bruises to prove it. Best to stick to the flist.

But that got me thinking about why fandom is the way it is. Anything that makes us equally passionate--hobbies, areas of expertise, particular people, things of beauty--can lead to divergent points of view and divisiveness. We form strong opinions about those things, then the realities of internet communication exaggerate them: a degree of anonymity makes us bolder, ruder, rasher. The visual and aural cues that come with face-to-face or telephone communication are not there, which leads to unintented ambiguity and misunderstanding.

But there's an additional element to fannishness about fictional books, films, or television shows that also contributes to the potential turbulence of the fan experience: our human response to stories. Read more... )
masqthephlsphr: (masq)
I don't think I've ever done an introductory post before, seeing as I've known most of my flist for years and have survived internet kerfuffles, raging forest fires, and DoubleMeat Palace viewings with them. But I recently gained a few new flisties from a Merlin fandom friending meme and apparently an introductory post after that is what All the Cool Kids Do.

So if you know this stuff already, feel free to move along.

Masquerade the Philosopher: a primer )

Well, that's enough shameless self-promotion for one day.
masqthephlsphr: (a wizard named harry)
So I finally, finally finished the latest Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story. I think I am the last one on my flist to do so. Some folks gave it enthusiastic reviews, others were less than impressed. I have to admit to slogging through some tedium at times, which is part of the reason I took so long to finish it. The other part is, I only read non-interweb stuff for a short while before bed each night.

But see, there is a reason this book wasn't the Best!DresdenFilesNovel!Ever! It was a bridge story. And bridge stories are traditionally kind of mediocre. Thar be spoilers beyond here! )

Meme-age

Jan. 26th, 2011 06:28 am
masqthephlsphr: (Sisko)
Ganked from [personal profile] butterfly

List fifteen of your favorite characters from different fandoms, and ask people to spot patterns in your choices, and if they're so inclined, to draw conclusions about you based on the patterns they've spotted.

In no particular order (other than the order they occurred to me):

1 Connor (AtS)
2 Angel (AtS)
3 Faith (BtVS/AtS)
4 Be'lanna Torres (ST:Voyager)
5 Sisko (ST:DSN)
6 Data (ST: TNG)
7 Ensign Ro (ST: TNG)
8 K'Ehleyr (ST: TNG)
9 Harry (Harry Potter)
10 Susan Rodriguez (The Dresden Files)
11 Richie (Highlander)
12 Spock (ST:TOS)
13 Hurley (Lost)
14 John Connor (Terminator)
15 Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
16 Armand (Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles)
masqthephlsphr: (books)
My understanding of Willow's Season 6 journey, and correct me if I'm wrong here, is that she is addicted to magic for the power it gives her. But she spends this episode having things done to her. She is not the agent, she is the passive recipient. If this is supposed to be the episode where she really "turns a corner" into darkness, it fails to understand the core of that darkness completely and utterly. "Smashed" did a much better job of illustrating what her problem was.

::Wah!::

Jul. 24th, 2010 03:19 pm
masqthephlsphr: (emo5)
Why didn't any tell me my analysis of "Lies My Parents Told Me" on ATPo is *messed up*, and has been for years? You get about halfway through it, and it suddenly becomes the analysis for "Potential" again! I know it's not the best episode of Season 7, and in fact, I can think of a few folks on my flist who virulently dislike it, but I guess no one's been reading it. Least of all me--I just jumped on there "real quick" to see if that's the episode Willow leaves Sunnydale for L.A. (turns out it is, but I needed the transcript to tell me that), and I only did that to give the Sculptor a watching order for the eps.

Still, I have my pride! Okay, I have some of my pride. It's embarrassing. I needed to dig back through old backups of my website to find an unblemished copy.

::skulks away in shame::
masqthephlsphr: (masq)
I know I'm probably stepping into a pile of it with this one, but I feel compelled to ask:

What is so genius-brilliant about the BtVS episode Restless ?

Don't get me wrong, I like the episode very much. But I wouldn't put it in the top ten, like so many seem to. I feel like that kid in that story about the Emperor's New Clothes, who's staring around at everyone "ooohing" and "aaahing", wondering, "What does this episode tell us about these characters we didn't already know?"

Not a lot. It simply tells us those things in the symbolism of dreams, so everyone scrambles to say how "deep" it must be.

It introduces the First Slayer, it explores the characters and their arcs and worries and goals and sets us up a bit for how they will unfold in the season to come, but it just ain't that profound.

ETA: Hah, Myles "likes it, but doesn't see the 'genius'", as well:

http://cultural-learnings.com/2010/07/12/cultural-catchup-project-restless-buffy-the-vampire-slayer/




Your mileage may vary.
masqthephlsphr: (faith)
The Cultural Catchup project feed has been having problems (I think his entries are getting too long or something?), but the journey continues to be fun:

It says a lot that the show managed to make me feel bad for a murderer getting emotional over the death of an evil maniac who turned himself into an enormous demon and threatened to destroy the entire town...

http://cultural-learnings.com/2010/07/08/cultural-catchup-project-one-faith-three-narratives-buffy-and-angel/
masqthephlsphr: (masq)
Ten years ago today, there was a heat wave in San Francisco. 103 degrees when I went for a stroll through the Haight district during my lunch break (this is a city that sends out "heat advisories" for 79 degrees). I'd been toying with an idea that was being pushed by several email correspondents who were readers of my website, All Things Philosophical on BtVS and AtS. They wanted to meet each other to discuss the show at deeper levels than could be found on other discussion boards they frequented.

So I did the research and set up one of those canned forums and the folks that came to hang there did the rest.

It's been quite a ride. Thanks for making it fabulous, guys! Looking forward to this weekend.
masqthephlsphr: (drula)
W00t!!!!
masqthephlsphr: (angelsartre)
I am finding the almost 50-50 split between the "separately!" and "together!" camps in The Cultural Catch-Up thread amusing, reassuring, and well, nostalgia-inducing. The issue at hand is whether the blogger taking his Buffyverse journey should watch all of Buffy through season 7 before starting in on Angel ("reassuring" because I thought for sure it'd be overwhelmingly "separately" given the opinions expressed on the issue in the blog up until now).

Personally, I fall so firmly into the "together!" category I am frothing at the mouth I felt compelled to post in his blog for the first time *and* I am forcing the Sculptor to watch the two shows together by making her a color-coded schedule. She is in mid-season 4/season 1 right now (episodes 11). I suppose part of my reason for being so anal with her is those confusing DVDs lead her to watch Earshot before Enemies during season 3, which is just...no.

As a story-teller, I believe the linear flow of a narrative and character journeys (::cough::Faith::cough::) is kinda sacred, and not just something to wave off casually.
masqthephlsphr: (Default)
Hi all, I created a feed for the Cultural Catchup Project. It's an LJ feed, and I have not yet created a DW feed, but if you're interested, it's here:

http://syndicated.livejournal.com/culturalcatchup/

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