Saturday, 31 May 2008

Alienwatch: HOUR TWO.

Fantastic... This whole Alien Video thing is galloping away marvellously.

The latest twist is that the footage available on YouTube (which I dilligently posted earlier) is in fact a fake. The real footage hasn't been released yet, beyond a single grainy black and white stillframe which looks - if anything - even crappier than the fake.

The glorious irony in all this is that one of the things Jeff Packman cited as "proof" that his video couldn't possibly be a fake is that it would've cost thousands upon thousands of dollars and taken weeks to make.

...and yet some enterprising net-soul has - within a day - zapped-out a fake which is, if not terribly convincing, at least plausibly rubbish. ...And may well turn-out to be more "realistic" than the real thing.

So technically the hunt for the first stab at launching the Meme has already been found... In fact this is possibly the first ever Internet Meme which became a spoof BEFORE being a reality. Huzzah!

...all of which leaves us with one shitty but amusing fake, one throbbing vacuum of expectation still begging to be less-than-satisfied by the real thing (whenever it finally shows up), and a gallon of blog morons like me rabbiting uselessly about it all.

I love the Internets.

Alien Footage = Memespotter's Paradise

On Wednesday (28th May), that well-known bastion of truth The Rocky Mountain News ran THIS article. I guess the heart and soul of it goes like this:

"A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver."
The story revolved around a small chunk of film in the hands of Jeff Packman (a man who has flirted with news-stories of a slightly cosmic nature before), which had been studied by "experts" (and thereby verified as genuine), supposedly showing a big-eyed alien peering-in at someone's window. It blinks, it moves, blah blah blah, it must be real.

This story rapidly expanded to become the sort of bloggity-based Fascination Du Jour which the web is marvellously adept at transforming into an Explodo Viral. We're all geeks at heart, we all sort of gently secretly quietly shamefacedly want to believe aliens are real, so there was - tragically - quite a lot of excitement about seeing the footage.

Said video was duly released, as promised, on Friday:

I leave you to make of that what you will without influencing your opinion in any way.

(...But it is pretty fucking rubbish, isn't it?)

So I'm going to set a challenge. See, I think this is the sort of vaguely disappointing, "you made us wait then fucked-us-over", unsustainable-levels-of-expectation, Phantom Menace stylee artefact which will quickly transform, like some freakish metaphysical caterpillar, into that most curious of things: a SPOOF-MEME.

We've seen it happen with the Bunker Scene in Downfall. We've seen it happen to LongCat, Jedi Boy, Furry Culture and that fucking whiney androgyne who cries a lot about Britney. "Badly-made puppet Alien Head" is, you mark my words, Next On The List.

Within days, I'm expecting 5 or 10 or 20 different versions clogging-up YouTube - and my fucking inbox - like Antihumour Cholesterol.
Within months it'll be referenced in a pop video.
Within a year it'll be the basis of a scene in whatever the latest brainrape offering from the "Scary Movie" guys turns out to be.

So here's the challenge: Find me the FIRST INSTANCE of spoofery. Find me the FIRST nerdgasmic attempt at mocking, altering, remaking, subtitling or otherwise Funnyficating(tm) this crappy little slice of Letdown into a viral meme. Find me the seed from which all subsequent wankery grows.


Friday, 30 May 2008

Have You Been Reading...?


It's an ongoing comic by Warren Ellis, published once a week in 6-page installments. It's online, beautiful, and very very FREE.

Warren's just put out a call for Bloggitytypes (that's me) to support the project by reminding all parties (that's you) that new episodes are published every friday, and that today's chunk - EPISODE 15 - has just gone live. Find it right HERE, and be sure to read through the back issues if you haven't already.

Warren's done me a lot of good over the past year. He lavished hyperbolic praise all over Gutsville, he hand-picked me (alongside the supremely talented Kieron Gillen and Jonathan Hickman) to contribute a oneshot tie-in for his "Newuniversal" series over at Marvel (my own offering - newuniversal: CONQUEROR - is published in August), and has introduced me to a whole passel of smart, influential, and most of all Bloody Decent people who I wouldn't've otherwise met. So I probably owe the guy a favour or sixteen in return.

But that's not why I'm giving Freakangels a shout-out. I'm doing so because it's good, because it's set in my favourite part of my favourite city, and most of all because Web Comics might just turn-out to be the Future, and it's going to take interest, investment and excitement from all of us if we're going explore the form, see how it works in the long-term, and do it the justice it deserves.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cut to the End...

I've just seen the news. A rant follows. Forgive me.

Should you idly flick your gogglebox across to a news show right now – and I’m talking specifically to UK readers here – you’re likely to be confronted by a series of grotesque images just like the one below. They’re taken from a brand new advertising campaign being rolled out across the country, designed to apply the brakes to the latest Scourge Of The Nation: urban teenagers carrying knives.

(Context Control: the knife thing – specifically a rash of recent teenage deaths – is the substance of a news story which is neither particularly new or particularly scourge-y. The advertising campaign is just a tasty new angle.)

The campaign works – so say those responsible – by graphically revealing what knife wounds really look like. This, we are told, is Shock Tactics! This is punching through the desensitized preconceptions of urban youth! Slapping them out of their thoughtless routines with a dose of cold hard reality!


Am I the only one who thinks this is really fucking stupid?

No one, kid or otherwise, is going to stop carrying a dangerous weapon just because a government spokesman has popped up to point out – guess what? – it’s dangerous.

“Dangerous?” declares our hypothetical Lambeth lad, staring in dewy-eyed horror at one of the posters. “Really? Sweet jesus! Here I was, thoughtlessly carrying around this magnificent titanium-alloy machete, imagining in my na├»ve little way that it’s a harmless accessory… when all along I’ve been capable of murder. I’ve learned something today. That’s it for me. I’m through with carrying knives.”

Yes. Yes, this is how the campaign works. Yes.

No. Don’t be stupid.

Ignore, for a moment, the fact that "shock tactics" have never been proven to work in campaigns like this, and in fact whiff suspiciously like the leftovers of an 80’s HIV crusade. Ignore that the campaign is achieving precisely the opposite of its desired effect by reassuring knife-carriers that, yep, these steely little buggers really are an effective and efficient way of meting out injury. Ignore, even, the rather silly tagline across the poster (“if you carry a knife, you’re more likely to get stabbed yourself…”) which completely misses the point that you’re even more likely to get stabbed if your peers are expecting you to be carrying a knife and you’re not. Ignore all that. What’s really depressing about this campaign is that it utterly fails to take into account the real reason that kids carry knives. Drum-roll:

Posturing. It’s that simple. Sorry.
Your mates carry knives: so do you. The kid you hate carries a kitchen knife; you carry a cleaver. Your big brother trades-in his 6” doubled-edged rubber-sheathed hunting knife for a pitchblacked Burmese machete, you ask him to get one for you too.

Not “for protection” – which is the Stock Answer your average Berkshire-accented BBC pinstriped scumfuck reporter will get when he dares to venture into (boo, hiss) “gang territory”. Not “out of fear”, as the more histrionic social welfare Experts will decry, when wheeled out for the 6.07pm “comment” slot of the evening news. Not even because of “ghetto culture”, whatever the Daily Mail may think that is.

Showing kids that the knives they carry can inflict Real And Lasting damage on people – damage which might even be returned upon themselves – is not telling them anything new. We’ve got to stop assuming these kids have had some kind of malfunction in their common sense or moral decency, and that by merely appealing to their Good Nature they’ll drop their knives and reform. No, no, no. Urban culture has absorbed weapons-as-accessories very comfortably indeed, whilst conspicuously failing to simultaneously spawn a generation of idiots or Evil Scumbags. This is not a question of sense or moral bankruptcy.

No, it’s posturing. Really. I know that’s boring, but there you go. And posturing, naturally enough, can sometimes overspill into action. Thus the deaths.

So what’s the solution?
Why, it's obvious:

Teach ‘em the bloody Queensberry Rules.
Yeah, and do it from an early age too. Diagrams in kindergarten. Mock-fights in infant school. Stiff upper lips and God Save the bloody Queen!

No, okay, I’m being silly. I haven’t gone all Daily Telegraph just yet ("string 'em up!" "national service for everyone!").
But I am sort of fond of the spirit of all that Jolly Hockeysticks stuff... The sense of honour; of settling a dispute like a Bloody Good Chap rather than a Rotter. And most importantly, the notion that weapons are – frankly – a bit fucking cowardly.

That’s how you change knife culture. Not with posters confirming that “knives kill”. Not with TV campaigns endlessly reminding kids how the punishments are getting harsher and harsher. Not with metal detectors at schools and Knife Amnesties and blah blah blah.
No. You drum it into kids from an early age – school, TV, cartoons, posters, and parents parents parents – that a guy who carries a knife is a spineless pusillanimous gutless fuckup with no skills of his own, no honour, and a very very small penis.
Watch him try and posture then.