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Familiar Things 2

Familiar Things 2

Season one plot:

Four misfits befriend a strange girl. One of the boys disappears. Scientists open portal for a weird dimensional being to enter the earth. Being has no clear motives but to eat people. Cringe-y teen romances. Girl saves everyone and closes the portal.

Season two plot:

Four misfits befriend a strange girl. One of the boys disappears often. Scientists open portal for a weird dimensional being to enter the earth. Being has no clear motives but to send dogs that eat people. Cringe-y teen romances. Girl saves everyone and closes the portal.

I suppose it’s hard to write surprises when the formula works. There is something grating about manufactured nostalgia (which seems to be pushed the forefront of this season). There is a blatantly awkward KFC product placement in the very first episode.

More grating is the push for diversity, so much so that an Indian girl named Kali is shoehorned into the season with no significant impact to the plot. A white man with a mullet and pornstache chastises his sister for seeing a black boy. The feminine, sensitive guy gets the pretty girl this time.

The Lovecraftian horror elements are toned down. Like the transition from Alien to Aliens, Stranger Things 2 replaces the Demogorgon for…. multiple Demogorgons. Horror is displaced by action. A Cthulhu-like monster haunts the season, without ever materializing (literally).

There are some redeeming character arcs- the scientist who was portrayed as the typical evil guy in the first season- shows more depth and even regret this time. Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington continues to shine throughout the story. The show excels when putting together characters who don’t like each other.

Still, I cannot help but feel let down by the the rest of the characters. Eleven was very obviously resuscitated for fan service, with her story and origin providing no real satisfaction to the plot. All four boys more or less behave exactly as they did in the last season. The new girl is a complete Mary Sue character. Sean Austin is completely wasted as Bob Newby, a flat character that remains cliched till the end.

How Would I have rewritten this show?

For starters, I would keep Eleven dead.

It would have been interesting to contrast Bob and Jim as potential father figures to Will- the soft, caring family man and the hard-ass police officer, and probably reversing the roles as the show progressed (this is a recurring motif in the show, after all). That would probably give Will some nice growth as he gravitates to either one. I think this is what the writers wanted, but they failed, in my opinion.

Giving the Cthulhu-creature sentience didn’t work at all. Making it communicate via Will was a mistake.  There is a legitimate problem trying to make multi-dimensional beings terrifying in a way that you can portray on screen- in this case it just lets loose hounds that run around eating people (as is the case with nearly all American horror). I think giving it a human form, with mysterious but intelligible motifs would have been far more terrifying, and would have added much more real diversity to the cast. The being could have possessed Bob, for example.

I would not make Max a romantic interest to any of the boys.

A group of super-powered teens performing crimes somewhere would have been far more interesting than Kali and her gang of cringes. Kali is the wrong name, too. In fact, a villain mutant would have been a nice way to contrast Eleven.

I would have prolonged the mystery of the vines till the penultimate episode, to give the police an actual mystery to follow and contrast it with the UFO specialist. The two of them could have ended up working together.

I don’t know, I can think of a lot more.

Krallice – Loüm

Krallice – Loüm

Anyone who has known me for a sufficient amount of time will know that Krallice’s Years Past Matter has been my favourite album of all time. Albums in the last five years have come close, but none of have toppled it.

I wasn’t pleased with the recent changes in their sound, trading black metal atmosphere for shorter songs with much more intricate song-writing. The cold, technical songs off Ygg Huur have only warmed up to me in recent weeks; the riffs and rhythms changed too quickly and it felt like every song was condensed version of an entire album. I felt there was a bit of an improvement in Prelapsarian, but I still felt slightly disappointed, considering how much I loved Years Past Matter and Diotima.

Krallice seem to have found their penchant for melody again in Loüm, but the band has retained the good parts of Ygg Huur here- most notably the increased presence of Nick McMaster’s bass, not just in the production but also in the song-writing. There is also a strong doom metal presence (boggles the mind how they weave slow moments into the frenetic riffing without upsetting either element). The guitars are as vicious as ever, and Weinstein keeps up with the rest of the band with serviceable, varied drum fills. I am unsure as to why the band chose to work with Dave Edwardson, who cannot contribute further to the gargantuan songs on this album. His voice seems to lie in the middle of the spectrum between McMaster’s guttural growls and Barr’s banshee shrieks. I haven’t bothered reading his lyrics, and the synths don’t really add anything either.

There’s a rather strong Gorguts presence (especially in the production- warm, bassy and a medium amount of fidelity). Not surprising, since Marston played bass and produced Colored Sands. Every song ebbs and flows with the kinetic energy of a tsunami, there isn’t a single boring moment on the album.

It’s only been out a day but I’ve listened to this album about four times in its entirety, with a lot more repeated listens to the last track ‘Kronus Deposed’. The myriad of tremelo-picked guitar notes has always been my favourite part about Krallice’s sound, and it’s served in heaps on this song, if not the whole album.

I haven’t been this pleased with an entire musical album this whole year, and I cannot wait for the next Krallice album (which is out in two weeks?!).

Life is strangely good.

Rip & Tear

Rip & Tear

In 2005, my father subscribed to a new Starhub internet plan. Starhub gave us an Xbox, our first console. It came with the Lord of The Rings: The Return Of The King game, since we were still on the high of that movie franchise. For the next three years, we bought Xbox games near Deepavali, before our Xbox eventually died. In 2006, we bought Doom 3.

It seems stupid now, but Doom 3 was quite a big deal for me at that time. It was the first mature rated game we bought. It was also an atmospheric horror shooter, that pushed the capabilities of the console and computers of that time. I remember that the Playstation 2 couldn’t accommodate the game, so it was more or less a Microsoft exclusive. The collector’s edition I bought also came with Doom 1 and Doom 2, which while influential, didn’t age well. The first two games were arcade shooters that emphasized fun. Doom 3 was all about shadows, ambiance and claustrophobia.

I was in secondary school at that time. The next ten years would be turbulent for me. I had to stop being carefree because people around me were being somber and nonchalant.

Soon after, I too succumbed.

It’s been a decade. We now have a PS4. The mood in the house has been relatively sour. My brothers aren’t speaking. One of my father’s best friends died a fortnight before Deepavali. My mother’s relatives are plagued by illnesses.

I decided to get the fourth Doom on impulse. We got our PS4 last Deepavali. I thought we could pick up the old tradition of buying games for the festive season again. Doom sold for S$29, secondhand.

I had watched videos of the gameplay and knew that the game was going to be radically different from Doom 3, but playing it was a whole other experience. The playable character literally destroys any device that offers contextual exposition (a huge “Fuck you” to the newly arisen trend of trite storytelling gimmicks in modern games). DOOM2016 disregards the third installment altogether and harks back to the arcade style of the original games. The character sprints throughout the game. There is no reloading. The monsters are agile- no slow hankering behemoths like Doom 3, even the Hellknight jumps around like an over-caffeinated wrestler. The playable character can physically mangle hellspawn with his bare arms if he reduces enough of their health, and it’s a sight to behold.

The fear has been inverted. Now I cruise through flesh and bones to the sounds of electronic pulses and 8 stringed guitars, and one wonders who the real hellspawn is.

I wonder if the game is a message to me from some higher power, but it does feel like some cloud has been lifted as I battle the last of my personal demons. I know I have a tendency to exaggerate (it’s in my heritage), but the hot blooded of my youth has been flooding back into my veins in the last few months. I’ve been behaving recklessly, as if to affirm whatever divine message was sent to me last month. Dreamy visions and reality seem to fuse, interchangeably. Old friends are coming back to my side (for which I will be grateful) while I shed the grey skin I’ve donned for the last few years.

I have never felt so alive.

Peeve

Peeve

If you asked me a year ago what my political leaning was, I would have said “conservative” in a heartbeat.

I am not sure what to call myself anymore.

 

I have been following Jordan Peterson for a year (as I described n earlier posts). Recently, the professor started the downhill path towards self-parody. His third podcast with Joe Rogan (which also includes Bret Weinstein), was a masturbatory walk down downtrodden paths on “censorship”, “free speech” and the ever ominous bogeyman for the conservative: “cultural marxism”.

 

 

I also found it amusing that Joe Rogan, ever the open-minded host that he is, has disabled his youtube comment section (most probably in response to his friend Graham Hancock, who attributed his stroke to stress from reading the comments).

 

Jordan Peterson isn’t the only one to disappoint me. Before him, Stefan Molyneux used to be a (simple) libertarian, but he has since joined the conservative circle jerk and is now seeing cultural marxism even in movies like “It”.

 

 

Cringe.

Ironically, the only conservative who has stuck to his ideals and not pandered to the crowd is Ben Shapiro, who calls out people of his own party if they stray from conservative values. Even then, I cannot agree with Shapiro’s views on religion and leadership. I cannot fathom a traditional society. But I understand his views.

 

 

I wouldn’t consider myself a Marxist scholar, and I do not think communism will help anyone. But a lot of the people who use the term “Marxist” do not understand what Marx espoused. Marx was for the individual, not the community. For him, that could only happen once the idea of “class” was disposed of. Communism isn’t Marxism, it takes after ideas that were mutated, developed or even butchered by other thinkers who might have loosely associated with Marx.

 

in fact, it’s the wrong sociologist that the conservatives are after. If anyone argued for collectivism, it was Durkheim or Weber. Ironically both of these thinkers’ ideals are the bread and butter of modern capitalism.

 

I am not endorsing liberals either. I think all sides are flawed. And I am not some enlightened individual in this mess. At most, I am only aware of my own confusion.

Audio Log II

Audio Log II

Having done a lot of remastering now, I have more or less settled on the procedure that works the best for my iTunes library:

  1. Declip with Perfect Declipper with “greedy” settings; attenuate waveforms at -6dB with a natural dynamics setting of 100%. This declipper is far better than the one in iZotope RX 5. The songs are at 44.1 kHz and 16bit since that is the only format I can play with on Stereo Tools. Dynamic range can be increased by as much at 7dB if the songs are mixed well, though some albums can only be improved by 2dB.
  2. Using a parallel or upward compressor (FabFilter Pro M, basic settings). There is an expander setting but it doesn’t have a very nice effect on the songs. The parallel compression maintains transient peaks while adding a bit of warmth and punch to the music. Dynamic range is usually unchanged, maybe dropping by -1dB at most. I do this with iZotope RX 5, so the songs are automatically converted to 32 bit float.
  3. I normalize the songs to -0.1dB just to standardize the volume. Declipping sometimes makes parts of the song softer even if its in the same section (same riff, same melody, etc.).
  4. Check if the songs are okay and have no problems.
  5.  Apply a noise-shaping dither (MBIT+ on iZotope RX 5) to downsize the file back to 16 bit.

This isn’t a cure for bad production, but it definitely helps with most of the brickwalled masters. In most cases, the bass gets better shaping so it sounds more thunderous. The natural dynamics EQ setting shapes the frequency bands (of which there are 9, a lot more than what I usually play with on iZotope) quite nicely, so most instruments can get well separated, unearthing the bass guitars from the mix and bringing more depth to the music in general.

Some things that I did wrongly before settling on this:

  • I used the declipper on iZotope RX 5. While it does shape the music, the iZotope software has a huge treble bias (in general, not just the declipper). So a lot of songs sound way too bright and cymbals just downright bleed into the headspace. The same can’t be said for the bass.
  • I tried reducing gain on the file (making it softer) and then re-adding compression. This is analogous to rolling a ball of dough and then rolling it out with a rolling pin. The idea was that the new waveform has nice peaks and more attack, so visually it had a good range (songs could usually go up from DR5 to DR10). However, this method added too much attack to the music (it’s compression, after all). This makes the resulting song way too overheated (audio-wise). There is less spacial distance between the instruments and the songs can often sound too noisy. The lesson here for me was to use my ears and not my eyes when re-mastering music.
  • Using a stereo imager (comes with iZotope Ozone). In theory, this widens the soundstage (thereby increasing space and then dynamic range). It does- but usually also changes the alignment of the instruments. Again, this is with iZotope, I don’t know if other imagers do the same thing. This isn’t to shit on iZotope, its software was clearly designed to be applied on raw sound files, not repairing already mastered songs.

 

I am not sure if there will be a third audio log, since this pretty much seems like the holy grail repairing procedure for my music files for now, but I am sure some new technology will come in the future that can do a better job than my current software.

 

 

Why Slavoj Zizek Writes In Convoluted Sentences

Why Slavoj Zizek Writes In Convoluted Sentences

Neotenianos

(Updated Sep. 1)

An oft-repeated reproach to Slavoj Zizek’s writings is that he’s impossible to understand. In fact, Zizek is sometimes held as an example of a decades-old trend of academic meaninglessness; for example, in this recent article, Nathan J. Robinson shrewdly accuses Zizek of always defending himself against critics by claiming to have been misunderstood.

The fact is: on this point, Zizek’s critics are often right; Zizek is often hard to understand. And this, I claim, is intended. Zizek, like many other philosophers throughout history, is obscuring his points and stances in order to make them palatable for the ruling ideology, while still understandable for those paying attention (hopefully me and those reading this!). Let me explain.

The keyword here is esotericism. These days, this word is commonly misused for things vaguely related to the spiritual world of ghosts and suchlike; what “esoteric” refers to, strictly speaking, is…

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