The Shining (1980) review and analysis

Rated: 4.5 / 5

“I’m sorry to differ with you sir. But *you* are the Caretaker. You have *always* been the Caretaker. I should know sir, I have *always* been here.”

A lot of people tend to think of this film as a horror movie, or at the very least a thriller.  About a family composed of a mother, father, and son, where the father goes completely off the deep end thanks in-part to the hauntings of the hotel they stay at, and the son carries an abnormal element himself.  Where it becomes clear the mother must escape with her son before she loses her son to either the father/hotel, before the father/hotel kills them, repeating the events that happened 10 years ago.

While this is without a doubt a horror movie, I tend to look at it more as a commentary on history.  Not necessarily on historical events themselves (though it does have symbolism to make statements on that), but on an aspect of history as a topic.  How history affects people past, present, and future.  And this is something that one may not pick up on clearly until the very last moment of the film.

The characters are intentionally left unexplained in many ways.  Normally, I’d consider this a bad thing, having undeveloped characters.  Don’t get me wrong, we do know some things about them.  About how Jack, the father, had a drinking problem in the past, which caused him to hurt his son by accident, which damaged the entire family relationship.  Even though he quite drinking and tried to be a better person, they were never quite the same.  And we see that the mother, Wendy, is doing her best to cope with that, to move past it, trying to keep the family together, and to keep her relationship with her husband together.  After all, they both still have a relationship.  There are indications they are still trying to keep it together.  But it’s not a crack that has fully healed; which seems particularly evident with the mother’s smoking habit (stressful).  And the son, Danny.  Well, considering his youth, it’s forgivable for him to not have much background, aside from preferring to stay isolated from the other children, and having an “invisible friend” named Tony that he talks to off and on.

On the other hand, we don’t know for certain how “accidental” it was for Jack to have hurt Danny.  If it was just a momentary lapse of judgement of physical strength as he claims at the bar, or if it was an indication as to just how crazy he would become.  Though it is heavily implied he was already a bit off his rocker during the first scene we see him in (he does seem a bit off in that interview; especially with those eyebrows).  There are also subtle clues indicating that Jack has been getting more and more frustrated with his life not only because of his career failures, but also because of the indication that his family is starting to get on his nerves (subtle clues to this can be seen when they are driving towards the hotel, one of the very few scenes where they are together as a family; how he is visibly restraining himself from expressing too much annoyance and what his wife and child are saying to him, and lets off steam with some attempt at shock and sarcasm).  He wants to isolate himself from society just as much as he wants to isolate himself from his family, even though he consciously feels he still loves them, and up until the hotel had consciously tried to maintain that love.  It begs the question as to just how much the haunted hotel accelerated his descent into madness, or if he was already going mad prior to going to the hotel.  Yet the character is aware of the audience judging him, as those with a sharp eye may notice an instance when he breaks the fourth wall during his first scene at the bar with Lloyd, how he glances at the camera before going on a rant at how accidental it was that he caused harm to his son.  Like he’s saying, “Who are you to judge me, especially you looking in beyond the veil?”

Stop judging me or I’ll kill the cameraman!

“Here’s to 5 miserable months on the wagon, and all the irreparable harm that it has caused me.”

About Danny and his internal “friend.”  It is indicated that Jack was the one who set that off, set off Danny having his “invisible friend,” because the day he harmed his son was the day his son got in touch with Tony.  Thus implying (as this concept is explained later) that both Danny and Jack have the “shine” to a varying degree.  Because of Jack, Danny became more aware of it.  But Jack remains unaware of his ability, or at least what this ability of his entails despite what he is able to see (including in his dreams).  But we aren’t aware as to whether Tony is an actual real apparition that resides within Danny, or if Danny had developed a split personality disorder in order to cope with his newfound Shining gift.  After all, the other individual in the film, Dick Hallorann the cook, who is aware of “the shine” seems a bit baffled at the existence of Tony.

“She’s a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.”

About Wendy.  We know she’s a loving mother who is trying to maintain the happiness of herself and her family, while dealing with the stress of the effort via a cigarette habit.  It’s as if she’s uncomfortable with the current state of things, but is desperately trying to ignore that and keep things together.  Just as she seems to be the only one really keeping the hotel together, as she’s the only one we ever see working the boilers and other stuff, even though Jack proclaims himself to be the one tasked with doing that very job (fanatically at times).  An indication that she is the only one making an effort at keeping their relationship together while Jack makes no effort at all?  On the other hand, she does tend to just make statements in the hopes of just making a conversation happen between her and her husband (something that can be understandably irritating in some cases, especially if this is primarily how they interact with one another).  For example, when she first interrupts him when he’s typing, and she says it in the most annoyingly likeable 50s sitcom tone (even her name is that of a traditional 50s sitcom lady):

Wendy: “Hey, the weather said it’s going to snow tonight.”

Jack: “What do you want me to do about it?”

The awkwardness of this conversation is further highlighted in a manner that even those without a sharp eye will probably notice on a subliminal level.  For those who do have a sharp eye, you may notice how in the take prior to Wendy making that statement, there is a chair and a small table up against the wall behind Jack.  But in the shot where Jack has that long pause before asking the question, the chair and table are gone.  When a couple more takes happen, the chair and table are back where they were in the earlier take.  A fluke?  Or intentional?  I’m more willing to believe the latter, since this is a Stanley Kubrick film we’re talking about here.  A Stanley Kubrick film about a haunted hotel no less.  He knows what he’s doing.

Hey… don’t be so grouchy.

All the surface ingredients are there to indicate this is a horror film about the deterioration of the family unit.  In the current film era, it is very common to see films where the father of the family tends to be unreliable and vilified (or at least have the family unit primarily run by a single mother who is indicated to be more reliable than the husband ever was), which is something I would normally despise in a film because of its propaganda (that it’s primarily women who can succeed in raising a family, they can do it alone without need of a husband because “independent woman” power).  However, keep in mind this was not a trend back then.  It was more common for the father figure to be the most inspirational, reliable, leading member of the family, while working with the wife off and on in a cohesive manner (teamwork, but his role as the team leader was established and not challenged because it was natural and not controversial).  Which is why this worked more effectively in the horror aspect back then, because we witness the downward spiral of the father figure who is commonly looked upon as the reliable one, the leader of the family unit, the primary one who worked to keep the family going (financially, and protectively).  When a figure like that loses his mind and becomes corrupted and turns against the rest of the family, that only heightens the sense of danger.  What was once a unique factor in a film like this has now become the norm in films of today.  And that is a topic I will return to later.

One of the very very few scenes the family is seen together.

So, like I was saying, on the surface this film is about the deterioration of the family unit, and how the ghosts within the hotel accelerate that deterioration.  And make no mistake, the ghosts are real.  At first one could believe they are just visions that can’t interact with the real world, that both Danny and Jack are the only ones who can really see them because of their gift (for Danny, it’s a hereditary gift).  And at first, one could believe that Danny had been strangled not by the ghost woman in room 237, but possibly by Jack, or even Danny managing to strangle himself (there are theories about the ghosts not existing, but rather them being projections from the psyche of those who have the shining).  But the moment Jack is set free from the storage room, with a ghost unlocking the door from the outside, that’s the moment we know for sure the ghosts are real, and can most definitely interact in the physical realm.  Say what you will about the shining ability, but at no point is it mentioned or demonstrated to have telekinetic capabilities; unless we’re to believe these characters can move the furniture around (or turns certain lights on and off) between takes.  What’s more, even Wendy starts to see the ghosts and images during the film’s finale.

How is it she’s able to see these ghosts and visions during the finale if she doesn’t have the ability to shine?  One could argue she had the ability all along but didn’t realize it, similar to Jack’s situation except he was able to interact with the visions in the shining without knowing this was some strange ability.  You know, like how some argue that Holdo also has Jedi powers in The Last Jedi (some ol’ bullshit).  But the better argument is that the hotel was hungry for blood, hungry for a sacrifice.  Which is why it drives certain inhabitants such as Jack and Grady into insanity to kill their family to satiate the hotel’s thirst.  So once Jack kills Hallorann (which causes Danny to scream in the darkness, utilizing that same image that was flashed to during the first act of the film when we first see Danny use the shining), the hotel is satisfied it has a blood sacrifice made.  Which is why we now hear disturbing vocals/chants/ghostly talks amidst the music.  Blood sacrifices power the hotel, and make its haunting more apparent, hence why Wendy is now able to see these images.

If the ghosts being real is any indication, there is more beneath the surface of this film than just a simple family deterioration horror story.  The final shot of the film is practically spelling this out as well.  Though many may not be entirely sure what this even means, seeing Jack in an old party photo at the hotel dated back to July 4, 1921 (fun fact: 1921 was the year the silent film The Phantom Carriage was released, which has a sequence in it you will find has striking similarity to another sequence in The Shining).  Independence Day, nearly 60 years prior to the present (in terms of when this film took place, or was released).  Plus there’s also heavy indication that something is off with the opening scene.  How the camera POV is flying across a lake, flying across a street and just going past a yellow car that it follows from a distance, and we hear haunting vocals.  Like some distant tortured scream.  And it winds up at the same destination as the car, the hotel, where the first scene of the film takes place with Jack walking into the lobby (where people check in).  As if a spirit entered the room at the same time as Jack, as if there is a connection between Jack and this unseen floating spirit that we, as the viewer, see through.  And it’s uncomfortable at times.  It was there from the beginning of the film (not just the ending), that Jack may not be a normal part of this world.  He just flies in, traveling within a time period those at the hotel admit is fast.

And there are theories about Jack.  One of them is that he is a reincarnation of Charles Grady.  This is opposed to Delbert Grady who he meets in the Gold Room (and later talks to in the restroom).  There are two Gradys (unless I’m wrong, and Charles Grady was also known as Delbert Grady), though Jack states that he “recognizes” Delbert Grady from the newspaper photos.  Some strange case of identity, that there are multiple Gradys, just as there have been multiple caretakers.  That a new Grady will be reincarnated just as there will be a reincarnated caretaker (who may be one and the same in this case).  Which is why Jack looks stunned and convinced when Delbert Grady tells Jack that he (Jack) has always been the caretaker.  Because, in a reincarnation sense, he is.

But then there’s the theory that the evil hotel simply absorbed Jack into its history.  That this photo didn’t used to have Jack in it, but by the end of the film it did.  Because Jack “sold his soul” (for a drink) to the hotel, and became somewhat possessed, or overly influenced into doing its bidding.  Or the hotel fed his evil side to take over and make him crazy enough to want to kill his family, just as Grady did in the past.  So either when he sold his soul, or when he died, he became a permanent part of the hotel’s history.  Either way, now he is trapped there, forever.  And the other people in the photo are either those from the same time period, or those are other people who have had their souls trapped in the hotel just as Jack has.  Because the Hotel “wants” damaged people like Jack capable of doing terrible deeds.

One of the ways we could’ve confirmed which of the theories is more plausible than the other is by seeing a photo of Charles Grady (the man who chopped up his family with an axe in 1970).  But we never do see a photo of this Charles Grady, to confirm whether or not the person Jack sees in the restroom has a resemblance to that Grady, just as Jack has a resemblance to the man in the 1921 photo.  Is he mis-remembering those details?  He does seem to be recalling them.  You may notice in the discussion in the restroom, Jack is making this “typing in the air” motion with his hand, a method used to recall memory.  A method also used in an anime series titled Monster (which came out well-after this film).  He seems convinced, despite the change in the first name.  Then again, he is going insane, and arguably having a difficult time distinguishing reality from… well, not so sure this can be called fantasy considering it is able to affect reality.

My son Alex needed a good ‘talking to.’

Personally, I’m more willing to believe the reincarnation theory, for a few reasons.  For one thing, Jack having that extreme sense of Deja Vu when at the hotel.  For another, the more in-depth themes of the film.  Because it’s about history repeating itself, just as reincarnations have people from past lives having a repeat life.  Consider how the photograph at the end calls back to the line, “You have always been the caretaker.”  That this outcome was bound to happen, because it was predetermined, because it was fate, maybe even because history is destined to repeat itself.

First, you may have noticed the presence of the American flag at several points throughout the film.  Jack’s initial interview at the beginning of the film in the office, a small American flag on the desk, which currently belongs to Stuart Ullman, who has a passing resemblance to John F. Kennedy.  Then there’s other places where the American flag can be seen, such as the main room where Jack does most of his typing, to the station where authorities maintain radio contact with the hotel.

There are also several mentions about how the hotel was built upon an indian burial ground, and the builders had to repel some indian attacks during this building between 1907 (when they started building the hotel) to 1909 (when construction was complete).  Indian imagery can be found throughout the hotel, as if they are haunting the hotel as well in their own way.  From the imagery above the fireplace, to the carpet in the hallways, to the rugs, and various ornaments, even some food or coffee cans.

Note how the indian imagery on the right has them shaped like rockets, with a fire lit beneath them, indicating blastoff.

The imagery became particularly noticeable (and somewhat eerie and creepy in its own way) when Danny is playing with car toys in the hallway, with them driving along the artistic lines just as they are constantly walked on and over by feet.  As if their history and memory is designed to be disrespected in this hotel, despite the homage it gives them in other areas.  An indication that this hotel was destined to be haunted by indian spirits, something Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper would be more blunt with in the later film Poltergeist.

So, this then becomes about how desecrating an indian site is bad, and shame on America for doing so.  After all, the hotel is supposed to represent America, and it is called the Overlook Hotel, implying history should be overlooked (just as casual viewers will overlook the finer details to be found in this film), just as the horrible events that happened in the hotel (let alone during its construction) should be overlooked.

So it’s subliminally a shame story for America right?

Wrong.

It’s not that simple.  That’s just one of several layers this film has when it comes to the topic of history.  There are also references to Ancient Greece with the hedge maze (and how Jack becomes a personification of the Minotaur within the maze, with his voice becoming less human and discernible, and becoming more monstrous), Jack mentioning “White Man’s Burden” with a drink he orders, and the other drink he orders called “Hair of the Dog that Bit Me.”  With the former drink, it’s a reference to European colonizers.  With the latter, a reference to not just having a drink to cure a hangover (a method that doesn’t work), but also to healing a wound (in medieval times it was thought that taking the hair from the dog that bit you, and putting it into the wound it gave, would help cure the wound).  The history being covered is not limited to just indian tribes.  They just so happen to be the most obvious one that is verbally pointed out on a few occasions.  We would be “overlooking” the others if we were to only focus on the indians.

And children’s tales.

Now, at this point, I’m probably going to read more into this than what the film intended.  The civilizations/societies/cultures that the colonizers took over aren’t exactly all that innocent either.  Certain indian tribes (and the Mayans) practices ritual sacrifice.  Ancient Greeks having strange excessive sexual habits.  The occupants of colonies Europeans colonized weren’t exactly innocent of their own murders and shocking events.  By colonizing them and taking up their own history in the colonizer’s own way, their misdeeds and bad habits carry on in their own way into the Overlook Hotel.

On that note, there’s another key aspect of history that this film most definitely covers.  It’s something that is easier to pick up on if you know what Stanley Kubrick’s last major film, Eyes Wide Shut, is really about.  There’s a hint of it in The Gold Room.  Another hint that this hotel was based in a location that is away from civilization, out in the wilderness, has beautiful scenery, and is isolated from the rest of the world, especially at during certain times of the year.  The other hint is with the black and white photos that hang throughout the mansion of upper class people who used to congregate there.  One more hint: the hauntings themselves during the film’s finale.  How is it that the apparitions and visions during the finale differ so much from the previous visions?  Up until then, they were primarily viewed by Danny, and he saw images of victims and blood.  Jack primarily viewed the happier high-life of the upper class of the past.  But once the blood sacrifice is made, Wendy is able to see how the horrors of the past are more affecting the present (after all, she doesn’t have the gift, she isn’t able to see the past or future, but she is able to see the present state of the hauntings since the hotel itself will shine these visions towards her).  And she sees a man dressed in a bear/bulldog costume giving a man in a fancy suit a blowjob.  She sees a man with deep gash at the top of his head saying, “Great party isn’t it?” while toasting a glass towards her.  She sees the dead skeletons in a room that hasn’t been cleaned for decades.  She sees blood gushing out of an elevator.

The color red is all about how much fun one is having.  The Hotel loves Overlooking how much bloodshed is in it, just as the elitist love overlooking the bloodshed in the country.  It wants its sacrifice, it wants its fun.  Note how often the characters in the film are having fun when they are wearing red, or around red.

All of this hints at the stuff the upper class, the “1%,” the big boys club that lives a different lifestyle under a different set of rules than the commoners, who have their own private getaways and their own private parties where they are able to indulge in illegal/forbidden/taboo acts (sound similar to something that was uncovered more recently?).  Another indication is the timing of the past events in this film.  It is stated the construction of the hotel started in 1907.  Historically, in 1907, that was when speculative banking on Wall Street caused an economic crash, which caused banks to panic and call for people like J.P. Morgan to avert an economic disaster.  Which was when an alteration to the monetary system was suggested, amidst high controversy.  At this point, money was on the Gold standard (hence The Gold Room), which is also why the bartender Lloyd tells Jack that “his credit is good” and that “your money is no good here.”  Paper money printed by the Federal Reserve is meaningless and has no value in a society whose currency is backed by Gold rather than the Federal Reserve.  And the Federal Reserve became legally signed into law years later by then-president Woodrow Wilson.  And the significance of 1921?  That’s when Woodrow Wilson’s presidential term ended.  The party was about to change, and it was about to get more strange.

This is why I view this movie as a commentary on history and its effects on society and the present.  All the clues are there to indicate the film can be interpreted as such.  Which brings forth another meaning as to what shining is.  To shine is to see history, to look at events of the past, present, and future.  See into the past, to see how it affects the present, and what can be done in the present to get an intended future.  Thus those who can shine are an allegory for historians.  There are three people who are historians in this.  Danny, Dick, and Jack.  Danny is a boy who is being exposed to history at an early age, primarily the horrific aspects of it, which is having an affect on his psyche.  Dick Hallorann is a black cook who is well experienced with history, has a respect for it, and attempts to ease Danny into it by having him avoid the more terrible aspects by telling him to stay out of Room 237 (telling him there is nothing there, which is a lie); he also tells him that the images are not real, implying they won’t cause any physical harm (which ends up not being the case).  Plus he is someone who grew up with his own history of prejudice, whether amidst the racial tensions of the 1960s (and earlier), or with the hotel itself (the length of his involvement with it is unknown, but it is long enough to know about the history of some of the rooms, maybe even all of them).

And then there’s Jack himself.  Someone who isn’t consciously aware of what the shining is (even though he passed it on genetically to Danny, and even unintentionally awakened Danny’s ability to shine).  But because he is unaware of what it is, he is more easily influenced by it, especially once he gets to the hotel.  Because to be aware of history, to be aware of what you are seeing, what it is, what it means, is to be on guard with it’s influence (such as knowing it’s in the past rather than the present).  But Jack treats everything as if it’s in the here and now, unable to distinguish the past from the present.  You could say he’s being subliminally messaged, subliminally influenced by what he sees during his own shining moments.  This also includes a resurrection of racial prejudices from the past, which can be noted from Grady telling Jack about the “nigger.”  The way Jack repeats the word back to him, like he’s never said it before, maybe not even heard it before; rather confused about the term and it’s usage.  One of the many things these ghosts and elitists are influencing him on.  And who knows how long it has been an influence on him even before he reaches the hotel.  It may have been a contributing factor to him acting somewhat cooky during the first scene of the movie.  Either way, it’s definitely causing him to fly further off the deep end at an accelerated rate (they only stayed at the hotel for a little over a month before we see his spiral become obvious, and he goes completely insane one week later).

History can horrify, history can influence, history can teach.  The images they see, that we see, can do all of that.  They can bring out the best in us (Dick trying to help others with the information he gains through shining), they can bring out the worst in us (Jack), or they could be too much for some to handle (Danny, though in all fairness he does eventually start to handle it in his own way; he does break from his Tony takeover during the finale).  And the film can be taken as an allegory for those who don’t teach history properly, learn history properly, guard themselves from the temptations of the depraved that are found in history, etc.  And the family came into the hotel with their own baggage of bad events, which they haven’t completely moved past.  Or if they had, it was brought back to the forefront to split them apart.  The thing is, Jack already seemed interested in getting away from his family, of being in isolation, so I doubt they completely addressed, resolved, and moved past everything.  The signs are there that they are still affected negatively by their own past.  But there are signs that the historians (those that shine) who are able to see the past and the future (allegory for learning from the past to predict the future) can go about saving others from a dreaded fate. Danny has the means to do the same at some future point in time (he tried to do so in his own way by trying to communicate that there would be a murder in the bathroom where his mother ended up locking herself into), but currently isn’t mature enough to get a solid handle on his powers and potential.  Dick, who is more experienced with such things, comes to the hotel to help the family from some plight after getting a vision about the room 237 ordeal, which ends up giving the mother and son the means to escape in the end (at a sad cost).

The most interesting thing, if one looks into this hard enough (and in all fairness, I learned about this detail from outside sources), Jack can be shown to be subliminally influenced by the hotel during the beginning of the film, outside of any shining activities.  When he can be seen reading a magazine.  And at this point, I’m going to be getting into a very disturbing theory some intelligent folks have come up with when they studied this film in-depth.

oGhAKZVlMk30wcUItzlURn4xGGm7BmWSj9LW66epN9g
The second headline beneath the title says INCEST: Why Parents Sleep With Their Children.

There is a magazine nearby for Jack to read while he waits at the hotel.  A magazine called PLAYGIRL, which I imagine is the equivalent of Playboy for women.  Strange that he should be reading that.  Then again, we’re not exactly shown what the options are, what other magazines are lying around for hotel guests to read.  But what is particularly strange is that one of the chapters in the magazine is about parents sleeping with their children.  One film analyst named Rob Ager analyzes the idea that Jack was an abusive father who sexually molested Danny, and uses this magazine reference as evidence (one of many alleged pieces of evidence) to indicate this.

Currently, I’m hesitant to completely agree (though I will get into this in some amount of detail compared to Ager’s study).  Ager is only focused on one aspect of this magazine (though Supermarket Sex Fantasy is highlighted in the bottom right), the Incest part.  He doesn’t seem to consider the other details.  For instance, the cursive writing of “Party!” on the upper right side, referencing the party the ghosts want to have with a sacrifice in blood, the color red.  There’s also “The Selling of […] David Soul,” foreshadowing Jack selling his soul for alcohol (and thus selling himself to the hotel).  The “New 7-Day Wonder Diet,” referring to most of the runtime taking place during a 7-day week, when Jack goes on a diet of a kind alright, some kind of “wonder” kind of diet (consuming shining and haunting influences provided courteously by the ghost guests of the hotel).  “Communicate in Bed,” he has a difficult time sleeping due to the shining, and when he does manage to sleep he seems to get nightmares (his howling causes Wendy to rush to his aid and wake him up).  “Tax Dollars Give New Identities To Convicted Criminals,” how the criminals who committed foul deeds in the hotel get reincarnated as new people who will do the process all over again, such as Jack killing his family with an axe all over again (subliminally, this hints at our tax dollars funding government officials who participate in things that happens at hotels like these).  Celebrity’s favorite television commercials, encouraging consumers to buy products advertised by these big corporations who also have parties at places like the hotel (perhaps referencing Jack purchasing booze).  “How To Avoid A Dead-End Affair,” (I’m assuming that last word is “affair”), Jack having a momentary affair with that ghost lady, who is dead.  Just about every headline on that magazine is incorporated into this film in one form or another, all of which involves Jack to an extent.

Now, since that all involves Jack to an extent, that would indicate he did molest his son at one point right?  Ager suggests Jack did this at some point between when he told Danny he loves him and that he would never do anything to hurt him, and the point when Jack is having that nightmare (Saturday to Monday, a two day time period), which he would say was about him chopping up his family.  He also suggests that the scene with Danny entering Room 237 was a dream, and is the same case when Jack enters the room.  In reality, either during the scene where Danny is on Jack’s lap, or just prior to Jack having a bad dream (which Ager suggests was really Jack having a dream about him molesting Danny), that was when Jack forced Danny to give him fellatio.  I’m more likely to believe the latter, considering it’s doubtful he’d be wandering around with a torn shirt and a bruised neck without his mother noticing.  The most convincing evidence I’ve seen to support this theory is Jack’s reaction to seeing Danny come into the room in this state, and Wendy accusing him of doing this to Danny.

It is a baffling reaction unless taken in that context.  Plus Danny is wearing a shirt that suggests his mouth was forcefully penetrated with a phallic object.  The Apollo 11 shirt, which may also be a reference to the Greek God Apollo, who had a homosexual relationship with the son of a king.  Ah, but right there is an indication that this might not be a sign of Jack molesting Danny.  Because in that sense, Apollo would be a metaphor for the ghosts (Gods who don’t belong in the human realm, though they are certainly capable of interacting with it).  In this case, a ghost wanting to interact with Danny on a sexual level (I told you these Greeks got sexually depraved).  The other indicator is early on in the film, after Danny has his vision of the hotel, and wakes up to the child psychiatrist.  And he has his pants removed with his legs bare.  Why is he like this exactly?  Did they find him this way, or were they removed at the behest of the mother or the psychiatrist?  Maybe Danny pissed/shit himself and that’s why they had to remove the clothing?  Either way, it seems to support the idea of the ghosts wanting their way with Danny (if only on a visual thematic level), because there was no indication of Jack being involved in that whole ordeal early on in the film.

Blast off into your mouth, with the indians celebrating.

There are other holes in this theory.  For one thing, with that Playgirls magazine, the “Communicate in Bed” article isn’t exactly something that pertains to Jack directly (unless we’re to ask what his sex life is like with Wendy; but honestly, I can’t picture them doing that at all, they have no romantic chemistry in this film, and not once is any element of eroticism suggested between the two).  It’s something that pertains more to the ghosts invading Jack’s mind, assaulting his mind while he sleeps.  Plus I also don’t buy the whole dream sequence theory.  I don’t buy dream sequences in this movie period.  It is already established that there is shining, and shining is something that would happen in place of any dream sequence.  And shining would explain Jack’s experience in room 237 better than him just dreaming about going into the room.  Plus that also brings up this problem: If Danny didn’t go into room 237, and if Jack didn’t go into room 237, then why bother showing anything within it at all?  Seems like an awful lot of buildup for nothing, especially when Dick seems to have concerns about what is in that room.  The other problem is that this takes away from the presence of the ghosts themselves, and how they are capable of interacting with the physical realm.  It’s already been established that they unlocked the pantry room Wendy locked Jack in, so is it too much too ask that they would also unlock room 237 for Danny (and Jack) to enter?  And there’s the whole issue of Danny having a seizure with his shining experience that is so strong even Dick can feel it (I’m starting to think that first name of his was intentional for the sake of having conversations like these).  Which means Danny is either having that shining experience because of a dream his father is having, or because of a room his father his visiting where he is having his own shining experience.  I’m more willing to believe the latter, because this indicates that a shining experience can be shared between multiple people who have that gift.  Because if it’s not the latter, then it’s the former, which implies Danny can see into Jack’s dreams, which opens up another can of worms with another theory about the movie that Danny is the one responsible for making these visions happen, and is thus the cause of Jack’s shining experiences (a theory I don’t fully buy into either).  And I’m not going to get into that here, other than to mention that the scene with the bear-dog man giving fellatio to an elitist could be interpreted as Danny projecting to his mother an image of the traumatizing experience he had with his father (as opposed to my interpretation that this represents one of the taboo sex acts these elitists do with animals, just as some ancient Greeks did in their time).

Ager also suggests that the “Choking” poster refers to Danny choking on Jack’s… you know.  But that could just as easily refer to the ghost lady strangling Danny (they do express to Jack that they have it in for him).

And this begs the question.  If Jack didn’t molest Danny, then what about all that symbolism, those awkward reactions, that magazine, and all that stuff?  The answer is rather simple (I hope).  The Playgirls magazine references stuff that not only subliminally influences Jack (in the past, present, and future), but also stuff that subliminally influences everyone.  And by everyone, that doesn’t just include Wendy, that also includes us, the viewers.  Why else do you think Jack breaks the fourth wall on several occasions and looks at us viewers through the camera?  Because we are being given subliminal messages through this movie as well, including the idea that Jack is a child molester, when the evidence for it is circumstantial and not clear cut.  Granted, Jack is likely being subliminally messaged to do this to his son, but that doesn’t take away from the theory that this idea is being planted into our heads so that we can think even lesser of him than we did before (which I’m sure not many thought was possible on a first time viewing of this film).  That magazine represents the corporate elite brainwashing the mainstream, so why not implement a bit of that brainwashing on the mainstream viewership in another way?  We know Jack is an irresponsible selfish crazed lunatic, but we don’t know for sure what led him to fully fall into that state.  How much of it was the ghosts subliminally getting to him?  How much of it was his own fault?  How much of it was corporations like those who made the Playgirls magazine?  How much of it was booze?  How much of it was his family (and if it was his family, in what ways)?  It’s not as if he started out this way, otherwise why would Wendy be with him in the first place?  You see what I mean about how it’s not a bad thing to leave details to these characters unexplained so that we don’t know for sure as to the actual state of them?  Yet some judge anyway, because that is safer than pondering the ultimate terror: the unknown.

The Shining - The Carpet Trick
Source

On the other hand, there are many holes and contradictions in this film that tend to make any of these types of theories stand on somewhat shaky ground.  My theory (or theories) as to the state of things in the film, and the messages within it, likely have their own flaws as well.  Just as the hotel has its flaws.  I’m not talking about the past misdeeds that haunt the hotel, I’m talking about structural design and inconsistencies.  This hotel is not physically capable of existing in its current design.  People have tried recreating it by mapping it out based on what is shown in the movie, and they came up with contradictions and impossibilities.  Objects are subtly moved around between takes.  Sometimes doors don’t open and close the way they should.  Even the damn characters seem to somehow move around between certain takes.  There are deliberate contradictions intended to fuck with the most analytical of viewers, and subliminally unsettle the rest.  It is layered enough to where even those who analyze it heavily will have differing opinions about to, and will never come to an agreement over its meaning.

After all, (((they))) can’t have us working together and agreeing on things now can (((they)))?

Great party isn’t it?  I love is so much, my head can’t contain the red blood that wants to burst out of it.

It’s no wonder then that there is an underlying dark sense of humor to this film.  Like Dick having those pictures of naked ladies in his room (so unexpected, considering his nice guy demeanor).  Or the fact the Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack who orders a Jack Daniels from the bartender.  Or how silly Jack’s facial expressions are, and how some of us can just sit back and laugh at how he acts towards Wendy during that scene where she has the bat and is backing away from him.  Because it’s a world gone crazy, with crazy brainwashed people like Jack being schoolteachers (like Jack was, after he tried to move on from being a failed writer).  Brainwashed people who claim to have responsibilities when they act irresponsibly while others (like Wendy) carry the weight to try and keep things running.  A crazy place like America with elitists running the show just as the ghosts are running the hotel.  And each country has their own ghosts, their own skeletons in the closet, their own depraved history.  Then again, there’s also the globalists who helped establish such institutions as the EU, UN, and Federal Reserve (each country has their own linked version of it), to drive things and influence people into doing things.  To corrupt people, just as the hotel (and others) corrupted the father, and thus the family unit.  Corrupting how others will look at the father figure until they’ve determined that this is normal, that fathers aren’t ever to be trusted.  And there is nothing to do but try to run and escape from this maze, which grows larger by the day.  Soon the whole world will become this labyrinth of which no one can escape, where we will be stuck in here with the crazies, while the crazies in control get to look down on us wandering it and smile their demented smiles.  After all, how do we know for certain that Wendy and Danny actually escaped and got to a safe place?  All we see is them leaving the hotel on a snow mobile, which Wendy likely doesn’t have much experience with, and we see them go into the dark unknown.

 

It’s a world gone mad, and all we can do is sit back and laugh at it like Jack does.

 

 

 

PS: For those who are interested, all that I’ve covered here is only scratching the surface of this film.  If you don’t believe me, may I direct you to the Shone Report:

Star Wars: Goddamnit that’s fucking it!

A Long Massive Intro

“If Hollywood isn’t going to risk telling new stories, the least they could do is not fuck up the old ones.”

I tried.  I tried with considerable effort to avoid getting back into discussing this film.  I did a review of this film months ago, and I may have left a couple things out, but I had my say.

But no.  Nope.  Nuh-uh.  Social media, youtube, review sites, blog sites, articles, all of them just wouldn’t let me let it go.  The shit they kept saying, the clashes, the responses and backlashes from those who liked the movie, and those who didn’t.  And on top of all that shit, the goddamn movie studios paying off critics and websites to take down or altogether prevent the publishing of negative criticism.  Rotten Tomatoes is the holy grail, the end-all-be-all of opinions that everyone must live by or be damned (because it’s always safe to throw all your eggs into one basket).

Jesus Christ.  So much bullshit that keeps building up, and just made me despise the movie, and the studio and those behind-the-scenes who made the film, even more.  They’ve done more damage than the plot holes and logical fallacies ever could have.  And I…

am…

PISSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Continue reading

The Youth of the Nation: Suicide Club

Introduction

Over the past couple weeks, my drive has slowed to a crawl.  I have no one but myself to blame, for the most part.  I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects at once, from television series (attempting to make a review for Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Babylon 5, Vietnam – A Television History, and perhaps a couple others), movie trilogies (mainly the Star Wars prequel trilogy so that I can re-address the newer Star Wars films), other various movies (thought about reviewing Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Made in America, and Redline), developing a fan-made expansion for a board game, creating my own original (somewhat) board game, and of course revisiting my Nostalgia for the 90s post by making the February 1990 sequel, which I’m having a hard time doing because I find it difficult to gain the willpower to track down and watch all the films/shows/games/songs from that month of that year (but I am down to a single film at least).  I try to keep myself focused on one thing, but rarely succeed.  Guess that’s the downside to having a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder.  So I usually try to finish these things in spurts.

But then comes situations that I know I’m going to want to address at some point, but try to avoid.  But then I just say, “Fuck it, I’m at my best when I spontaneously combust and go on spontaneous rants on something topical.”  So what set me off this time?  The recent school shooting (at this point it doesn’t really matter which one I’m referring to, consider it any of the shootings that involve school kids blowing away other school kids, and not in the sexual way [I don’t care how insensitive that joke is at this point]).

This isn’t going to be a single post.  This is going to be a series, where I not only review a film, but address how it’s themes address this ongoing “crisis” (if it can even be called that).  Because the problem with youth isn’t so simple that it can be condensed into just one topic.  And there isn’t any single film that can adequately address all those topics (though that one movie Higher Learning sort of tried; it failed, but it tried).  When it comes to something like this, people tend to try to make it as simple as possible, believing that the problem is something so simple that only 1, maybe 2 things need to be changed and then everything will be all better.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

Suicide Club review

Rated: 3 / 5

Let me get this out of the way, I’m not against suicide.  I used to be, in the past, mainly because all we would here is how suicide is bad, people shouldn’t kill themselves, we have more to live for, blah blah blah.  That’s all true, and one must also consider how selfish of an act it is and what consequences it would entail to those close to them, mainly family members and friends (assuming they have any).  However, what if one doesn’t have more to live for?  What if there is no one close to them who would be all that emotionally affected by their death?  What if they have no friends (or more importantly, what if they feel like they have no friends)?  Much of the downsides to suicide go away, and the only thing they would have to worry about is, “I really hope I don’t fuck this up,” or, “I really hope this is going to be quick and mostly painless.”  Basically whatever it takes to make the pain go away, whether it’s a physical pain from some disease or a physical injury; or mental pain from being bullied, from guilt over an action of the past, from thinking the future is too bleak, or from being alone and feeling isolated for too long.  All of those can start to look like very good reasons to off yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you.  Sure there are those who try to re-assure you that if you tough it out things will be alright in the end.  But what do they know?  They don’t know the future.  They don’t know everything.  They don’t know if your life will improve or continue to go into the shitter.

On the other hand, much of it could be applied to groundless paranoia, subliminal messaging, peer pressure, and the people you hang around with.  While there are good reasons worth killing yourself over, sometimes people are coaxed into it by people who don’t really give a shit about you.  Either way, good idea or bad idea, don’t take it lightly.  There’s no going back from something like that.  It’s a one and done thing, unless you fuck it up somehow and then you may end up a vegetable or a more miserable person than ever before who becomes less independent and less capable of killing yourself, living your life in an endless hell.  So either way you need to do things proper and with some amount of responsibility.  You know, like with living life.

Which brings me to this movie, known in the U.S. as Suicide Club, known in Japan as Suicide Circle.  It begins with a bunch of school kids jumping onto the tracks of a subway and they all get run over by the train.  A very gruesome scene of mass suicide.  Boy do those janitors have their work cut out for them.

Continue reading

Resident Evil 7 (2017) review

Rated: 2.5-3 / 5 (depending on my mood)

Completely Tangent Intro

So I was playing through The Witcher 3, with all the DLC installed.  And after, I don’t know, between 50-60 hours of playing, as good as that game is, all I could think was, “Goddamnit, isn’t this fucking game over yet?  How fucking long is this thing?”  I feel bad saying that, because it is a really good 5/5 game I plan on reviewing some time down the line so I can say I reviewed the entire trilogy.  But I guess epically (I don’t give a fuck if that isn’t a real word) long games and me don’t always mix.  I’m the kind of guy who prefers game lengths (as in from beginning to end of one play, not including replays) to be between 8-20 hours, maybe 30 hours if it’s good enough.  And I knew what I was getting into, because I played it a long while back and I remember clocking in at just under 80 hours of playtime.  Throw in a couple DLCs that each add an additional 6-8 hours of playtime, and you see why it is that game is so goddamn long.  The Witcher 3 is one of those games that I just can’t power through like I normally do for most games, it’s too long for that.  It’s more like one of those games where you just do 1 quest (either a main quest or a secondary quest, maybe throw in a few treasure/monster hunts for the hell of it), savor it and the details, and then stop.  Rinse and repeat for another 50 sessions or so, and then there it is.  Otherwise someone like me gets burned out.  Granted, it didn’t start to happen until I was about 40 hours into it, but that’s 40 fucking hours!  I thought about holding off on reviewing that game until I play it through again on New Game+ mode, but fuck that.  That’s like doing a marathon of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended cuts, and then saying you’re going to do it twice in a row.  Not me.

So what does this have to do with Resident Evil 7?  Well, for starters, it’s an easier to digest game that clocks in at an acceptable 9-10 hours on a first playthrough on Normal difficulty, which gave me a sigh of relief compared to the daunting task of finishing a Witcher game.  Snack time.

He chose foolishly.

 

The Actual Review

Ok, so first of all, I have played most of the previous Resident Evil games.

Ok, maybe not most.  Just Resident Evil 0 (GCN), 1 (GCN remake, which is the best way to play it, minus the dumb fucking decision to throw in the crimson heads), 2 (my personal favorite out of all the games, but that’s another story), 3 (arguably the best one next to 2), Code: Vernoica (the first Resident Evil game I didn’t really care for all that much next to RE:0, plus I hated them bringing back Wesker and making him and the protagonists come straight out of The Matrix), 4 (the main reason people like this game is because of the updated third-person gameplay which is done well, and the self-awareness at how ridiculous it is; I thought it was just ok, albeit an entertaining time regardless), 5 (played it co-op with another real human being too; otherwise the only memorable thing about it is finally seeing Wesker die, though he should’ve stayed fucking dead in the first fucking game), and a couple of the spinoff games which aren’t memorable enough for me to even remember the titles.  As for Resident Evil 6, I skipped out on that shit.  As far as I’m concerned, it got over-the-top enough with Code Veronica and 5; the franchise needed to die rather than keep coming back to life (which I guess makes the Umbrella Corporation a metaphor for Capcom).

Seriously, this is some of the Matrix shit they’ve been doing since Code Veronica.

And then this game comes along.  So it’s more or less a reboot for the franchise, moving away from the superhuman heroics (thank fucking Christ), and turning to a more immersive 1st-person horror-shooter (not on-the-rails like House of the Dead or those mediocre at best Wii games).  And it didn’t star any of the leads we’ve become accustomed to.  And I’ve heard positive reviews about the game.  So I decided to snatch it up off of Steam while it was on sale, but didn’t start playing it until about a week ago, when I found out that about a couple months after purchasing it they released a Gold Edition of the game.  Well fuck you too Capcom!  You see why I’m hesitant to purchase any brand-spankin’ new game within the first year it comes out (patches for bugs aside)?

So how was it?  Eh, it was ok.  I don’t know man, I don’t know if its because I’m getting too old for most games, or because I’ve played so many that it becomes very difficult to please me outside of nostalgia-baiting.  Or maybe it’s because the current state of the game industry makes me a little sick to my stomach, more so that all the gross-out moments this game shoved in my virtual face.

I will say that, by the end of it all, it did feel like a Resident Evil game.  But at the same time, it also felt like it took as many steps forward as it did backward, which frustrated me.  The main thing to discuss in that regard is the one thing I usually play games for nowadays, and that’s the story and/or characters.  Because games nowadays focus more on the look/feel/flash than they do on the gameplay.  And when it comes to first-person-shooters (FPS), that’s probably all that genre has left going for it.  Gone are the days where you could just play something like Doom I and II (the newer one from 2016 does not count) or Duke Nukem 3D, or Painkiller: Black, or Descent I-III.  You know, shooters with virtually no narrative or story outside the instruction manual (back when games came with those), where all you had to do was get weapons and blow shit up.  Those are a-dime-a-dozen, and it’s not exactly a high bar to meet when it comes to crafting an FPS game.  So we need to have story and characters to help stand out from the rest and get us gamers more easily immersed into the game.

So, story.  You play as some random dude who’s wife has disappeared, and you receive a message from her to stay away and forget about her.  So rather than forget about her and get another smoking hot wife to bang, he decides not to heed her advice and go out into the middle of “I buttfuck my daughter; redneck swamp land” nowhere, and decides to approach a house that looks like it’s been abandoned for a few years, if not a decade, crawls through swamp water and sewage and bugs and rotten food and other shit (maybe literally) until he finally finds a backdoor into the house where she is supposedly located.  You know, it might be because I’m not the heroic type, but I would’ve decided that she’s not worth this, and drove out of “I buttfuck my daughter” land back to “I buttfuck any hot chick who isn’t related to me” land (though with this franchise there would probably be a twist to that).  I mean, at least in the other Resident Evil games, the protagonists were thrust into these sorts of situations against their will, and usually due to extreme circumstances demanding extreme measures.  Either that or the protagonists were so muscular and heroic and martial arts masters that it just seemed by-the-numbers by their standards.

“Give grandma the hammer!”

But I digress.  Our protagonist eventually goes on to find his wife, who then goes berserk and kicks the crap out of you and saws your hand off, before you get captured by some redneck dad named Bubba who introduces you to the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family (seriously, the parallels are impossible to ignore unless you haven’t seen that movie; the original Tobe Hooper movie from the 70s, none of the remakes you smart-asses).  Well, it got me a bit interested.

The thing is though, there’s something about these graphic styles for these games that put me off.  Something about the 3D modelling, the way they talk, the way they act, how they can never smile right.  And most important of all, how hard it tries to be realistic with the graphics.  It’s just something about that sort of emphasis on realism in a videogame that just doesn’t suit me.  I just can’t help but have the attitude of, “Who are you trying to fool?  You could have the effects as bad as Goldeneye on the N64 or as good as, I don’t know, whatever game exists now that people consider to be top of the line in terms of graphics, and it would all be the same to me.”  Bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.  It might just be a personal thing, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.

Side-tracked again; back to the story.  So let’s just say that as the game goes on, the main villain/monster turns out to be some Ring/Grudge/Ju-On/F.E.A.R. chick.  Alright, you know what?  If this game is going to pull cliches like that out of its ass, it really should do so with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude.  But it plays things straight.  That trait is endearing in the first 3 Resident Evil games, but that doesn’t appeal to me here.

The last thing I’ll mention about the story, kind of.  There’s this moment in the game where you have to “make a choice.”  Whoah, a choice?  Where your decision affects the events in the game as well as the ending?  Do tell!  There’s nothing to tell.  Like most games that do this, it’s not really a choice.  It doesn’t matter who you choose to save.  Sure the choice does give you a different ending in the long-run, but it’s really stupid how saving one kills them both, saving the other gives you a happy ending with one of them living.  Would’ve been more intriguing if saving one gets you that girl at the end, while saving the other gets you that girl.  Not going to work that way, so the game just kinda beats you up for making a choice that seems more ethically wrong, I guess.  So it ends up being a waste of time inserting this so half-assedly into the game.  But it could’ve worked well if it had that tongue-in-(butt)cheek attitude.  Hey, if this game is going to be immature about this shit, then so am I.  On that note, when the decision came up, I chose the non-wife (Zoe).  Why?  Well because Zoe kept helping me in her own way with getting out of the place through a good portion of the game, while the wife (Mia) did nothing but do spouse abuse so extreme I’m surprised she didn’t resort to slicing my dick off.

There is a problem with this game, and I’m pretty sure I heard about it well-before ever purchasing it, but I think I chose to forget about it thinking, “No, that just can’t be.”  But it’s definitely there (poor choice of words).  So here’s the problem.  There are no zombies.  There’s not one foot-stepping, undead-moaning, dick-sucking zombie in this entire game.  Nothing in this game qualifies as a zombie as far as I’m concerned (anyone who says otherwise is stretching the definition too far).  Sure there are people who aren’t normal people, but they’re not normal in the same sense that all the regular enemies in Resident Evil 4 aren’t normal.  You know, in Resident Evil 4, all those not-zombie people had a decent enough awareness, they could talk, they could run a bit, and they could weld weapons, and they could mutate and shoot black stuff out of their heads.  Pretty much the same thing here, except the not-zombies in this game can pass off as normal people (at least as far as isolated hillbillies in a swamp can go for normalcy) .  They walk and talk like normal people, but they’re just stronger than average and are almost impossible to kill by any regular means (but in a Resident Evil game, nothing is regular).  And there’s only like 3, maybe 4, of them.  The rest of the time you’ll either be against these black gooey man-alligator things, giant mosquitoes, fat blubbery fucks, and the lickers (when they show up).  So boss fights aside (which are just mutations of the not-zombie people), there’s only like 4 different enemy types.  And that’s it.  Even the first Resident Evil game had more variety than that: zombies, zombie dogs, zombie spiders, hunters, zombie birds, zombie snakes, zombie wasps; and those aren’t even the bosses.

And speaking of bosses, yes, this game has enough variety in bosses to satisfy me.  But Jesus Christ do they go over-the-top with these boss fights.  Granted, they’ve been over-the-top ever since Resident Evil 2 (and it’s hard enough to resist a jumping the shark joke with the first game), but this game was aiming for more gritty realism goddamnit!  The fights get more over-the-top as the game goes on, and so do the mutations and monster forms.

See what I mean?

There are some nice nods to the first Resident Evil game.  Once you get involved in this “game” section where you go through some traps and such, some old-school Resident Evil music plays, and some nostalgic sound effects will go off when you press some buttons.  I appreciated the nostalgia.  Also didn’t hurt that it was one of the more memorable parts of the game, going through these Saw-like sections.  And the game almost convinced me that it was tongue-in-cheek.  But only for that section, the rest of the game thinks it’s too good for satire apparently.

At a few points in the game you get to watch some VHS tapes, which treats you to some lost footage films done in the same vane as The Blair Witch Project.  Now, the first time this happened I was interested, and there’s one other time where it does serve a legitimate purpose.  But for the most part I found them to be irritating distractions.  These should be sections that are cutscenes, but instead the game has you play as the person shooting the video (which makes zero sense for the last “video”), which gets even more annoying when you realize you can still screw up and die and have to start over.

As the game went on though, once you’re finally able to grasp what exactly is going on and how things got to be the way they are (ie why there are monsters), the game actually wasn’t half bad.  Plus I also became sympathetic to the swamp family, noting how they were before and after the incident, and how they’re crying out for their souls to be freed.  A bit of a touching moment I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.

So, despite my gripes, I can say the game is fun enough to be worth a play.

 

Other Notes

Now, with that all being said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about gaming in general, my personal opinions on the matter.  As I said earlier in the review, I fear my tastes in gaming have changed.  I fear I may not really be all that much of a gamer anymore.  Honestly, I try to do board games more than video games simply because I prefer playing against other human players, face-to-face.  You know, for face-to-face social interaction, something I believe society is in dire need of, rather than isolating ourselves and using social media as an illusion for legitimate social interaction.

Gaming to me should be fun.  And fun games for me personally, from what I’ve determined when looking back over the years, come in 3 categories:

1.) Short and sweet.  Basically games from the Sega Genesis and SNES time period, where the games were short, the difficulty was high, and you had to play it multiple times to get good at it.  There are plenty of games that are that old that I would still play to this day, like Contra (practically any of them, especially Hard Corps), Castlevania I III and Bloodlines, Starfox 64 (or the SNES version), among others.

2.) Games with an engrossing story and good characters.  The first one to really pull this off for me, which I still maintain to be the best (even if this is predictable) is Final Fantasy VII.  Memorable characters in storyline so fucking good I was willing to bear through the typical issues plaguing J-RPGs (random battles, some grinding, repetitive combat).  I’m not sure how I’d feel about this one today, but Skies of Arcadia on the GCN wasn’t half-bad either.  Tales of Symphonia had decent enough characters and story, and a pretty solid real-time 2D combat system to go along with it.  Kane & Lynch (the first one) I consider to be underrated.  And Spec Ops: The Line, whew, that whole game is designed to be a huge gut-punch to those who play third-person shooters regularly and don’t think much about the people they kill (look at you Uncharted).  Silent Hill 2 is probably one of the best, if not the best, character study games of all time.  And, of course, Metal Gear Solid 1-4 and The Witcher 2Starcraft is arguably the best RTS game in terms of storylines (especially if you read the background story given in the game manual), though I do need to play Warcraft IIIMass Effect 1-3 (though less so for the first one just because the side missions make the game’s pacing suffer considerably).  So, in other words, games that you talk about like they were movies when you’re done with them.  But God help you if you play a game solely for this reason, and it ends on a cliffhanger with no sequel ever happening (fuck you Valve for not wrapping up Half Life 2).

3.) Games that are paced well and do something right with the overall design, especially level design; and maybe throw in some semblance of a story as a bonus.  Super Mario World could arguably be the best designed out of all the traditional Super Mario games in regards to level/game design.  Resident Evil 2 is the go-to horror game for me to this day, mainly because it absolutely nails the zombie sounds, both the moans and the footsteps; and how it gets under my skin during the portions where no music is playing; it’s paced pretty damn well too, and has tremendous replay with different bosses you can face; and it really knows how to time a couple of those jump-scares; plus I believe limiting the player’s view to fixed camera positions works to the game’s advantage when it comes to horror and creating tension with the player.  Doom I is the best Doom game in terms of pacing and progression, both in terms of level design, the weapons you acquire, and the types of enemies that appear.  Doom II isn’t half-bad either, especially with the level design, but the pacing isn’t quite as there, and exists more as a reason for you to just go insane with the shooting, to just unload all those bullets into all those hordes of enemies.  It’s one of the reasons why I believe level design is the most important aspect when it comes to crafting an FPS, the second-most important aspect being pacing (types of enemies that show up on each level, which weapons you have each level).  Usually the one genre I cut a bit of slack are RPG games, especially The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, mainly because of the mods.  Valkyria Chronicles I think is pretty damn good too in terms of gameplay (plus I think the story and characters are so unintentionally hilarious it should be a case study; they have practically every anime cliche/stereotype in the book thrown into that game).  And there’s the Dark Souls games; these are games that aren’t afraid to challenge you, and it’s the kind of challenge that I like.  And then there’s Master of Orion (the first one, from 1993), which I firmly believe is the best 4X-civ game ever designed to this day, despite the dated graphics (at least it’s not Atari graphics and older, my tolerance for dated graphics doesn’t really extend further back than the 90s).  Lastly, I’m terrified of getting into X-Com: UFO Defense again, not because it’s a scary game (though it is tense as hell), but because of how addicted it is; first time I played, I started at like 9am, and next thing I new it was dusk; that scares the shit out of me if a game can make me lose track of time like that.

But anyway, there are some game genres I’d rather not touch just out of personal preference, like sports games and racing games (Grand Theft Auto V I guess could be considered an exception).  Aside from those, I’ve become quite picky when it comes to games.  Probably because I’d rather use my free time doing something else now.  Then again, it could be because the people I used to converse with about gaming in general are no longer around, giving me no one to talk to about this stuff once I’m done with it.  And no, writing reviews about games and bitching about them and/or praising them isn’t enough.  Or it could just be I’m going through a phase.  But considering how much less frequently I’ve been playing videogames over the past couple years compared to how often I’ve played in the past, I doubt it.  I guess it’s possible to reach a stage in your life where you’re gamed out, and are only willing to game on things you know for certain are of high quality (ie suited to your preference).

As for Resident Evil 7, it’s just going to be another one of those games that isn’t really all that special to me.  Entertaining and fulfilling, sure, but so is a burger from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carls Jr.; just because it’s fulfilling doesn’t mean it stands out compared to the other games/burgers that are out there.  And at this point in my life, I’d rather indulge myself in games that do stand out.  As far as I’m concerned, most of those games are in the past, not in the present or future (with some potential exceptions, like Cyberpunk 2077).

Lords of Hellas review

Rated: 5 / 5

Source: http://chillingwithzombies.tumblr.com/

I backed this game on kickstarter, and I believe I can say this could turn out to be my favorite kickstarter backed game next to The Lord of the Ice Garden (which also originates from Poland, along with the novel series which that game is based off of, which currently doesn’t have an English release, sons of bitches).  There are expansions that are coming out for this, which last I checked are still being tested and developed, let alone not released yet.  I have played the core set 10 times at all player counts (though have only done a 4 player game once), and can safely say the game plays well whether it’s with 2, 3, or 4 players (though it does play best with 4).

IMG_20180226_190633853
Start of a game, mostly.

The first thing that attracted me to the game was the theme (which is the main thing I tend to go for in games now, as my collection is covered in the gameplay department at this point, for the most part).  It’s not enough that this takes place in Ancient Greece, with the mythological heroes, gods, and monsters present; they had to make it sci-fi too.  Which I think is awesome, and something to consider next time they release a Cthulhu-based game by making Cthulhu turn his tentacles on his face into missiles that shoot out and blow shit up (or something like that).  Certainly makes it more unique, as I don’t think I’ve seen this done before.  Not only is Hercules (or Heracles, as this game likes to spell it) still strong and buff, but he’s also enhanced with cyberpunk technology, enhancing his strength.

The soldiers (aka hoplites) he leads get enhancements too.  Image uploaded to BGG by Pan3Gr.

The second thing that interested me, and this is what sold me on it (as it should any serious gamer) is the gameplay.  Having multiple paths to victory, and none of them involving accumulation of victory points.  Because let’s face it, games that allow for winning a competitive game in a manner that doesn’t involve victory points doesn’t happen often enough; same thing with games that have multiple ways to end the game.  In this game, you can win by traditional area control (control 2-3 lands), by gaining control of specific regions (control 5 temples), by killing 3 mythological beasts (kill 3 monsters), or by controlling a region with a fully-built monument.  Not to mention you get a choice of 4 unique characters, with unique starting conditions and unique abilities.

IMG_20180228_001436063

It reminded me of Runewars, which plenty of users on boardgamegeek.com have mentioned.  It’s similar in that controlling regions can net you certain resources to help you win (in this case, controlling temples can get you priests which can upgrade your hero, and in essence your army), but the main similarity comes with the heroes.  In both LoH and RW, heroes are sent to go on quests, and gain artifacts/treasures that give the hero and/or army special advantages.  However, heroes play a more prominent role in LoH compared to RW.  In RW, it’s perfectly playable if heroes are removed.  In this game, heroes are mandatory.  They’re needed to allow hoplites to moves around faster, so it becomes easier to gain control of regions, and to reorganize to defend your borders against other player’s hoplites.  In RW, your army operates optimally regardless of what the hero does (though the hero does allow for a minor impact in combat in that game, plus some items they gain can help you win, but it’s very downplayed in that game compared to this).

Runewars game.  Image by BGG user bullseyetm.

However, upgrading your hero’s leadership to allow more hoplites to move isn’t the only option.  It’s not always that easy.  There are 2 other stats to upgrade on your hero, strength and speed.  So sure, you can focus more on hoplite area control and focus primarily on upgrading leadership (you can move 1 hoplite per leadership point your hero has).  But then you could upgrade your hero’s speed so he can move around further, and thus get to quests and monsters faster, or in the case of Athena and Achilles, move to a strategic position to prepare for or dissuade combat from happening in a region.  Or you could upgrade your strength so you can draw more combat cards when facing monsters.  What you may want to upgrade depends on the hero you choose, and the current state of the map (and how the other players are threatening to win).

IMG_20180216_145911271

The other decision-making point comes in where you wish to start off on the map.  At the start of the game, you place your hero along with 2 hoplites in one region.  From what I’ve seen, it’s best to start in a region that you can immediately gain control of, as in a region that only requires 2 hoplites for initial control.  There are choices of whether you want to start in a region where a temple can be built, or a region that has a city.  If you start off in a region (and control it) where a temple can be built, you can build a temple early on to get a priest who can be sent off to a monument to pray and upgrade one of your hero’s stats.  On the other hand, if you start in a city, it becomes easy early on to gain hoplites (especially if you get control of a second city on your first turn, and then use the Recruit special action on the next turn to recruit multiple hoplites in each of those cities).  Both are good options, and your threat level for winning will increase either way.  And, once again, it depends on the initial state of the board and your hero when determining what the best path to take is.  And it will take multiple plays to figure that out.  ‘Cause, you know, replay value is a nice trait for a board game to have.

IMG_20180228_002343064

I had a few concerns with this game prior to playing it.  The monster combat.  Now, one of the other things that attracted me to this game was card-driven combat.  No dice.  There is only 1 die in the game, and it’s only used for monster movement or attack (or doing nothing), which I’m fine with.  However, I worried that battling monsters could get too easy.  Each monster has a sheet with wound slots on it.  Each monster varies, some having only 5 wounds, others have as many as 8 (sometimes more if they get upgraded due to an event).  Each combat card you have (save for 2 types, one of which is a wild card) has a symbol on it, indicating what type of wound it can deal to the monster.  Each monster takes different types of wounds.  So you can get involved in a hunt by prepping ahead of time by building up your combat hand until you have combat cards of the right type (each card representing a weapon; heroes have to go through a lot of weapons to take these beasts out), or go in without the right cards but hoping you’ll draw the right ones.  But you’re limited to a hand size of 4, unless you get a blessing that increases it (more on that later).  At the start of a hunt, you draw cards into your hand equal to your hero’s strength (that’s why that attribute matters), going over your hand limit, which is legal during a hunt.  So the more strength your hero has, the more likely you’ll draw cards of the right type to discard against the monster and kill it before it has a chance to counter-attack.

IMG_20180227_234200611
Owned!

From my experience, monster hunts actually work better than I anticipated.  Assuming you do wind up with the max strength of 5 and draw that many cards into your hand, and holding 9 cards in total, even then, there’s a chance you might not win the battle.  First, there’s no guarantee that you have all the cards needed to deal all the wounds.  Second, while most monster attack cards tend to be 3-5 strength, indicating you must either discard a number of combat cards which strength number adds up to that amount or greater to block the attack (which results in you adding 2 more cards into your hand, giving you extra incentive to block), there are a few curve-ball cards in that deck to make sure victory isn’t guaranteed.  For example, there’s a card who’s strength is greater the more cards you have in your hand, or one that is stronger when there’s less wounds on the monster, or stronger when there’s more wounds on the monster.  That being said, more often than not, a hero with a strength of 5 who has the right type of cards in hand initially prior to the hunt is usually going to win.

Probably the logic behind getting combat cards from a hunt you don’t intend to win.

On the other hand, it’s also possible for someone who doesn’t have max strength, or even a max hand size, or holds cards of the right type(s), to still defeat a monster when starting a hunt against it.  At that point, it becomes a push-your-luck battle.  Sometimes a player may want to defeat the monster, in which case he must consider which cards to discard for dealing wounds, and which cards to hold onto so that he can brace for the monster’s counter-attack.  Battles can be prolonged by successfully blocking attacks with 1 or 2 cards, which allows the player to add 2 more combat cards to his hand for the next round, thus making for an interesting back-and-forth feel.  Alternatively, a player may just start a battle just to deal specific wounds which could allow him/her to gain a priest or artifact (each monster has at least 1 wound slot of that type), thus providing another reason to fight a monster outside of just defeating it (though another reason for defeating it could be so the monster stops messing up their army by killing of their hoplites, that can get annoying).  And then there’s the 3rd reason to fight a monster, though this isn’t something used often (most games I’ve been in went by without anyone doing this): starting a hunt just to draw combat cards in preparation for a battle against other hoplites, and having no intention of using any cards to wound the monster.  Sure, this results in the hero taking a wound (which happens at least once when a hero fails at a hunt), but it is worth it if it helps out the hero’s army.  Let alone going after a monster so that another player trying to win by monster kills has one less monster to kill, assuming you wipe out the monster.  Because if you fail to kill a monster and deal plenty of wounds to it, those wounds stay, making it an easier target for every other player/hero in the game.  Plenty of reasons to engage a monster, and plenty of tough decision-making to go along with it.

Not to mention it’s possible for a game to start with some, all, or no monsters on the board.  Image by BGG user mercopparis.

There are ways to slow a hero down when it comes to accumulating strength.  Each monument only has 2 slots to place a priest.  Once 2 priests are on a monument, no more can be placed there until things basically “reset” via the Build Monument special action.  So having other players dogpile on the monument can prevent a potential monster hunter from gaining the strength necessary to make hunting monsters an assured way of winning the game (yet another reason why I recommend playing with 4 players, greater chances of blocking off priests at certain monuments).  But that’s not the only way to slow a hero down.  You can also intentionally start combat against their armies, forcing them to play combat cards they may have wanted held for hunting monsters and using them to help their armies win instead (a great game design example of having cards with multiple uses).  After all, controlling lands/temples is an alternate way to win, and you can’t just let a player run away with victory via land control anymore than you should allow someone to run away with a monster kill victory.  And lastly, there’s the Zeus monument artifact, which can be used to wound a hero who is in the lead.  Thus the early-mid-game is a very important part of the whole thing.  How you start out, and how you choose to slow the others down while attempting to get ahead of them, is all part of the game.  Thus you shouldn’t allow a player to get their hero upgraded too far too fast (easier to do in a 4 player game).

Image from BGG user Pan3Gr.

Regarding the monument control victory, this one doesn’t happen very often, and it especially doesn’t happen if all players know what they (and their opponents) are doing.  It mainly exists if all players are at a stand-off, unable to gain victory via monster kills, and very good at preventing the taking of certain territories.  Thus getting a monument built triggers a sort of end-game timer, where whoever controls the monument at the end of a certain number of rounds wins the game.  One way in which this can become problematic, indicating a broken system, is with the Glory tokens, which can be gained by killing a monster or completing a quest (thus you gain the glory token that matches the color of the regions you completed the quest or killed the monster).  When a hero has a glory token, they can do the Usurp special action to immediately take control of a region, and recruit a hoplite in that region, and force any enemy hoplites there to retreat to an adjacent region.  If the player who built the monument has the glory token for the land the built monument is in, then victory seems assured assuming no other victory condition is met up ’till then.

Build the Zeus monument or he will smite thee!

However, as I’ve learned from experience, one shouldn’t attempt to rush towards the monument victory.  Because this causes more and more events to get drawn, and thus allows for more quests and monsters to appear, which provides opportunity for a quest/monster to appear in the region with the built monument, which provides opportunity for another hero to complete the quest or kill the monster, and thus steal the glory token from the player who had it.  And that’s assuming you don’t cause more monsters to appear for someone attempting to win via monster kills.  And the more often you do the build monument action, the more opportunities you give other players to upgrade their heroes and do the same special action multiple consecutive times.  On top of that, the monument build action can be utilized by other players for the purpose of drawing more monsters/quests and adding them to the map to gain glory, or just to move a monster into the land with the monument, kill it there, take the glory token from the player, and use his own strategy against him.  Thus the monument victory doesn’t seem broken either, considering the dangers of rushing it, and the risk factor of usurp.  It’s more of a long-term plan, just in case all else fails.

Image uploaded to BGG by Awaken Realms

As for the other 2 conditions, controlling 2 lands or 5 temples, those victory conditions can be pulled off suddenly and surprisingly with well-executed maneuvers.  You have to keep an eye on players who control 1 entire land and a couple regions in some other land, and keep an eye on players who control 3 temples (and when there’s at least 5 temples built; you built temples to get priests so they can be sent to monuments to upgrade your hero in case you’re wondering).  Because if you overlook that, then they can use a combination of normal hoplite movement and a march action to take the regions needed to win the game.  While these victories can be the most surprising, they are also the ones players can most often see coming if they’re paying attention.

Building Athena from level 1 to level 5.

I’ve noticed that the easiest way to win via controlling 2 lands is in the lower lands, the green and brown lands, both of which are adjacent to each other.  The reason this allows for an easy victory is two-fold.

1.) The city of Sparta, where 4 hoplites can be recruited there at a time rather than the regular 2.  Thus your army can be built up faster if you control the region with that city.

2.) The brown land only has 3 regions, while all other lands have 4 regions, thus requiring more territory to take in order to control the entire land.

Temples.  Image uploaded to BGG by Awaken Realms

So one shouldn’t allow Sparta to be taken too easily, else they risk the player controlling it to build up forces quickly and start flooding the lower regions with troops.  However, this can be mitigated, as invading from the blue and yellow regions can allow for territory takeover.  It also helps that each player has a limit of 15 hoplites, so you won’t have an insane amount of hoplites on the board to flood territories, which helps out against whoever winds up controlling Sparta (assuming they don’t lose it via Usurp, or a regular battle).  That’s why region control markers are necessary, so you can maintain control even when you have no hoplites in the region (heroes can’t control regions).  However, if you leave a region vulnerable like that, all it takes is for 1 hoplite to move in there to steal the region, or have an opponent’s hero move into there to do the Prepare special action and recruit a couple hoplites into the region to steal control that way.  And on top of all that, even with the high number of troops, if they keep fighting multiple battles, sooner or later, that player will start to get drained of combat cards.

IMG_20180228_004943217

Despite the fact that this game was still in-development and being play-tested during the kickstarter campaign (and I believe briefly after the campaign ended too), it has turned out remarkably well.  The game developers responsible for this game (Marcin Swierkot, Adam Kwapinski) seem to know what they’re doing.  This game isn’t just good looks, there’s some real depth to it.  How deep it goes, I’m not sure.  But what I do know is that the base game is this good, and there are expansions on the way, which will definitely increase the replay value.  Each time I think there’s a way to break the game, I discover some strategy/tactic that proves me wrong.  And while it does play best with 4, with 2 and 3 players, it still seems surprisingly balanced, even if I question the land change-up for control with 3 players (the blue land doesn’t matter for land control victory; I still wonder why they don’t just make brown the irrelevant region, but it still seems to work fine regardless; but I still need to get more plays to determine the strength of the Sparta city strategy).  But most importantly of all, I find the game to be quite fun.

Highly recommended game.

Now if Zeus had a cyberpunk electric whip, he probably would’ve whipped Kratos’ ass.

 

 

PS: If you’re wondering why there isn’t a monument for Ares, the god of war, I honestly don’t think that’s necessary.  Here’s why: war is already being fought all across the game.  So Ares is already being entertained by all this, just sitting back, relaxing, and chowing down on his popcorn that’s been dipped in blood and wine (rather than caramel, because he’s too good for cracker jacks) and cooled in his cyberpunk refrigerator, and enjoying the whole show.

Philosophies of Fahrenheit 451: Chapter 3 and other quotes

Continued from Chapter 2

Last chapter.

Chapter 3: Burning Bright

Page 109:

“[Fire’s] real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences. A problem gets too burdensome, then into the furnace with it.”

Another bit that’s relevant to today.  If there’s a problem, if there’s a disconnect, rather than try to talk it out and resolve things peacefully and compromise, people would rather eliminate the opposition.  Whether that involves banning/restricting books in schools or stores, banning/restricting videos and/or accounts on social media, or banning/removing/destroying historical monuments.  Because who wants responsibility and consequences?  Who wants a tough life?  Who wants anything other than instant gratification?

Page 111:

“Give a man a few lines of verse and he thinks he’s the Lord of all Creation.”

This is something that applies to everyone, on every side of the aisle.  Just having a few words, a few sentences, a few paragraphs of knowledge, that’s not enough, that doesn’t make you an expert on the subject.  It takes time and investment, and a good portion of it.  This is the case especially if your intentions are good.

Page 146:

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them. It can’t last.”

How true this is.  Remember how much of a shit you gave about half the subjects you learned about in a classroom?  Probably didn’t think hardly any of it was important until later on when you realized that they are important for a situation you presently face.

g1qeglr

Page 146:

“The most important single thing we had to pound into ourselves is that we were not important, we mustn’t be pedants; we were not to feel superior to anyone else in the world.”

Guess that’s still an issue with me, though that’s mainly because I don’t 100% agree with this statement.  Feeling superior to others is basically the definition of pride, and pride is generally bad.  C.S. Lewis theorized that pride is the root of all sin.  Fair enough, but would the Christian God not be one of the most prideful beings in existence?  Don’t most religions look down on other religions (since there can be only one that is true)?  If truth is objective, aren’t those who believe the truth superior to those who believe in lies?  Are there not abstract strategy gamers (Go players and Chess players for example) who have superior skills to other abstract strategy gamers when it comes to those games, and thus are superior to them when it comes to those games?  I think the problem is less about feeling superior than it is being a dick about acting superior.  After all, should it not be an objective for those who are superior to help bring the inferiors to their level?  Like if you play against and are tutored by superiors in a subject like Chess or Go that you may one day equal or even surpass them, and then attempt to do the same to others?

So I believe it’s ok to feel superior to other since it is possible to be superior to others.  But that should be taken as an opportunity to help others reach your level rather than to brag and gloat about it.

Page 146-147:

“And when the war’s over, some day, some year, the books can be written again, the people will be called in, one by one, to recite what they know and we’ll set it up in type until another Dark Age, when we might have to do the whole damn thing over again. But that’s the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing.”

You know, I think I should do some research on the fall of Rome.

Page 147:

“A few crackpots with verses in their heads can’t touch them, and they know it and we know it; everyone knows it.”

Like how a few conspiracy theorists, assuming the theory is one without any major flaw, aren’t enough to make a difference against those in power.  Fahrenheit 451 goes with the theory that the only real solution is to stay on the down-low, out of sight, out of mind, not draw too much attention to yourself, but continue to spread the knowledge to others until there are enough numbers, and thus acquire enough power, where you do become capable of making a difference, and are able to touch “them” as they will be able to touch you.  Though I think at that point, it would be more of a shove or punch than a touch.  In this day and age, it’s pretty easy to spread knowledge (well, maybe not, not if censorship is a reality, which it unfortunately is).  What’s not easy is getting people to listen.

Page 149:

“And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again.

[…]

He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual.”

Well, I have to admit, that’s usually what makes me cry when someone close to me dies.

Page 149-150:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

Or make a blog or a video, and make sure others see/read/listen to it.  If they will listen.

Page 150-151:

“Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away.”

Oh Jesus.  Can’t help but link this to the more recent (as of this writing) school shooting in Florida.  Security didn’t exactly help those students out very much did it?  The great sloth analogy fits almost too well with that analogy.  If you want security, do it yourself.  Be independent.  Because whether it’s you or someone else, security is never guaranteed, or at least not guaranteed to work.  But at least if you’re independent and capable of defending yourself, at least you yourself become capable of being that individual that makes a difference, who does something that affects others, hopefully in a positive way.

Page 156:

“We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, some day we’ll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping in the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember, every generation.”

Here’s to hoping that one day, somewhere somehow, we will have gained enough knowledge and wisdom to make society right.  What’s important is not to discard any knowledge/wisdom/content away lightly, erasing it from history, even things that seem trivial.  For if all trivial things are discarded, how will we and those who come after us know what trivial is, compared to things that aren’t trivial?

A part of me wants to end the whole philosophical analysis there for the whole book, but there are a few things in the extra sections of the version I have that are worth quoting.

to burn the book is to burn the author, and to burn the author is to deny our own humanity — Jonathan R. Eller

They began by controlling books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures, there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves. — from Ray Bradbury’s Carnival of Madness

Also, a little FYI, in 1978, there were abridged versions of Fahrenheit 451 floating about unbeknownst to Ray Bradbury.  Students had copies that differed from editions teachers had.  Words and phrases were omitted for being deemed too controversial or offensive.  They wrote a letter to Ray Bradbury to tell him of this.  He responded.

There is more than one way to burn a book.  And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.  Every minority […] feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse.

[…] books were burned first by minorities, […]

Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors […], fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some seventy-five separate sections from the novel.

[…]

I sent a play, Leviathan 99, off to a university theater a month ago.  […]  But, for now, the university wrote back that they hardly dared do my play–it had no women in it!  And the ERA ladies on campus would descend with ball-bats if the drama department even tried!

Grinding my bicuspids into powder, I suggested that would mean, from now on, no more productions of Boys in the Band (no women), or The Women (no men).  Or, counting heads, male and female, a good lot of Shakespeare that would never be seen again, especially if you count lines and find that all the good stuff went to the males!

[…]

For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities […] to interfere with aesthetics.  The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws.

The danger […] is not that the X group wants to burn the Y books and vice versa, not even that a dictator wants to keep all the people ignorant, but (worse) that, moving down one of the slopes on which we are poised, we may reach the stage of hating literature because it is an effort to assimilate, despising books because they are beyond us, changing schools into “activity centers,” and abandoning the search for happiness because we prefer soothing or exciting pleasures. — Gilbert Highet

One invariable feature of [Bradbury’s science fiction conformist’s hells] is that however activist they may be, however convinced that the individual can, and will, assert himself, their programme is always to resist or undo harmful change, not to promote useful change. — Kingsley Amis’ New Maps of Hell

Philosophies of Fahrenheit 451: Chapter 2

Continued from Introduction and Chapter 1.

 

Chapter 2: The Sieve and the Sand

So according to this chapter, when we reach the year 2022, we will have started one of 2 atomic wars. Well, that possibility is certainly there, and it might happen sooner than that. Get a desk and sleep tight.

Page 71:

“I don’t talk things, sir,” said Faber. “I talk the meaning of things.” I sit hear and know I’m alive.”

I chuckled a bit when I read this part, because it makes me think about how I start up a lot of conversations related to films, when I’m not trying to get too in-depth with them (which is most of the time, because most I converse with don’t have THAT much of a fancy with films). “Hey, you remember that scene from that movie? Wasn’t is awesome/terrible?”

I also think about my evolution as a film-goer (by film-goer, I mean someone who watches films, which you can do at a theater, at a friend’s house, on an airplane, or at home). How I used to just look at things at surface level, but now I’m less able to do that, which is a double-edged sword. When I was younger, I could look at things so simply albeit naively. If there was action and/or good-looking stuff in a movie, I enjoyed it; hence my enjoyment of Star Wars [original trilogy], King Kong [original], The Terminator, The Beastmaster, Aliens, The Dark Crystal, and Robocop when I was, like, 10 years old or younger. Nowadays, I still enjoy those movies, but with the addition of looking beyond the surface level, assuming there is something substantial beneath the surface; though I do believe, with the exception of Robocop, Star Wars, and The Dark Crystal, all of those I just mentioned are pretty much “what you see is what you get” type of films. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying some films that are surface-level entertainment and don’t have a significant message to deliver. It’s ok to point at some things and say, “Wasn’t that awesome?” After all, if you ask someone if they’ve seen an awesome film that you’ve seen, and they say, “No,” then that gives you an opportunity to enlighten them so that they too have witnessed the awesomeness.

That all being said, one should be able to talk about the meaning of films, or the meaning of anything besides films. This novel would praise novels for reasons as such (though, again, I do believe there are novels that are as shallow as some of the films I’ve mentioned). But there are also other people, history, current events, current politics, pieces of art, nature, etc. If one sits and thinks at the meaning of their existence (of either themselves or things that exist outside of themselves), they may gain an epiphany, or find something worth considering and discussing. Because discussing meanings can bring about discussions on the pros and cons of the way things are, the pros and cons of ways they can or should change.

Plus, one should be able to “think.” After all, if you don’t think, then one could argue you’re not alive/aware. Hence the expression, “I think, therefore I am.” Plus, if one didn’t “think,” then that would make book clubs and movie clubs quite boring.

 

Page 77-78:

“I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.”

Ah yes. How everything sacred eventually (inevitably) becomes commercialized. Like Christmas. I guess this can apply to anything religious, or even not-so-religious. For instance, how skateboarding was a radical thing for surfers to do when they weren’t near an ocean (see Dogtown and Z-Boys), and then they commercialized the shit out of it, making the claim that anyone could skateboard and be radical, so long as you paid for our skateboards. But then there’s the devious stuff, like how some insane Muslims sell the idea of, “Purchase our suicide vests in the name of Allah! Order now and we’ll throw in a toddler size for free!”

 

Page 78:

“Mr. Montag, you are looking at a coward. I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself. And when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with me, by then. Now, it’s too late.”

That’s how it happens, subtly at first, then the signs appear which should encourage people to take a stand against it, but many are too preoccupied with other things. Next thing you know, everything has gone so far that it’s too late to do anything about it. A concept shown to a terrifying extent in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but why bother with fiction when reality is already demonstrating this before our very eyes? And make no mistake, political correctness can definitely be attributed to this. Political correctness is pushed for the purpose of pushing the agenda that it is wrong to offend, much like how outlawing/burning books in this novel is something that is done with the purpose of pushing the agenda that it is wrong to think, it is wrong to be bothered, because everything should be painless and stress-free without a worry in the world. Both share the same con, a promotion of ignorance and becoming a straight-up pussy.

Image may contain: 1 person

The difference between the two is that the world of Fahrenheit 451 shows that the dangers of book-burning and thought-control (by having no thoughts) is ignorance of actual dangers that exist, hence the background threat of war the pops up off and on. With political correctness, it’s the opposite. Sure there’s thought-control (be offended at everything), but it doesn’t necessarily promote ignorance in such a way as Fahrenheit 451 does. The danger is in not wanting to see anything that offends you, and force that view upon everyone else. “If it’s too offensive for me, then it should be too offensive for everyone!”

Image may contain: one or more people and text

On the other hand, political correctness could be a precursor to the stuff that happens in this book. Enforcing your views upon everyone else, wanting everyone to think alike and be offended at the same things and be entirely consumerist, and outlaw anything that encourages critical thinking so that it becomes less likely anyone will come around to challenge your views (nevermind that political correctness also discourages thinking about a subject from multiple points of view), which can lead to this dystopia depicted in the novel.

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper, outdoor and text

Anyway, the novel goes on to state that three things are needed in order for us to be happy.

Three things that are needed:
1.) Quality, texture of information.

Page 78-79:

“It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that were once in books. […] The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.

[…]

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what the books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

[…]

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.”

2.) Leisure (time to sit and think/contemplate)
Page 80:

“Oh, but we’ve plenty of off hours.”

“Off hours, yes. But time to think? If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is ‘real.’ It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”

3.)
Page 81:

“[…] the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

Because happiness without quality information and time to think upon that information will only be a hallow form of happiness. A happiness that is only found on the surface, but with emptiness on the inside.

 

Page 82:

“After all, when we had all the books we needed, we still insisted on finding the highest cliff to jump off. But we do need a breather. We do need knowledge. And perhaps in a thousand years we might pick smaller cliffs to jump off. The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.

[…]

The things you’re looking for […] are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved by any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”

A reminder that even when we have it good, when we’re at the peak of our time (I’d argue that was the time period from the 70s to the early 2000s, barring some wars here and there, some racism here and there [which many great steps were taken to improve all that during those decades, despite the LA riots of ’92]), we don’t take it for granted. We don’t know how good we had it until we lost it. Gone is the boundary-pushing stand-up comic scene of those decades. Gone are the radical commercials. Gone are the times where people weren’t suing the shit out of each other. Gone is the wild west days of the Internet (man, was MySpace used to be, and what YouTube used to be). Gone are the days when schools sold you facts rather than agendas. Gone is the Attitude Era of the WWF (though they’ve at least improved on the chick-fight aspect).  Gone are the days when Spoony made good entertaining reviews.

Well, so long as evidence of it remains that new generations can see for themselves, whether in the form of a book (digital or physical), a movie, a podcast, an audio file/CD, a radio transmission, etc. Anything to keep the memories alive so that history can be learned from. Just as people got over Dungeons & Dragons being a demonic soul-corrupting presence for the youth (which it was anything but, despite what Tom Hanks may have you believe), hopefully, someday, we’ll get over political correctness and radical feminism and radical anti-racism and radical-leftism. Otherwise, well, books like this and 1984 and Brave New World warned us.

 

Page 83:

“The whole culture’s shot through. The skeleton needs melting and reshaping. Good God, it isn’t as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it’s a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels anymore. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily.”

Though people are, of course, discouraged from becoming rebels.

 

 

Page 84:

“Let the war turn off the ‘families.’ Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.”

If society is too far gone, destruction is inevitable, self-inflicted or otherwise.

 

Page 85:

I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them. And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fire-eaters.”

Well, the newspapers dying off is certainly something relevant to today.  However, there is the video format, news media, but that itself is also dying because they are too biased for their own good.  What the novel didn’t count on was individuals rising up to fill the void.  The rebels are alive and well; may they never die.

 

Page 92-93:

“I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it’s not bad at all. You heave them into the ‘parlor’ and turn the switch. It’s like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid.”

Parents not giving their children hardly any attention, wishing to keep them in schools and let the school system alone fill the child’s head with their thought-control.

 

Page 100:

“You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was younger I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”

And this is why the status-quo should be challenged every now and then.  See if either the status-quo or those challenging it are the ignorant ones.  Competing through ideas (the 3 things needed for happiness) allows some ideas to die (and be replaced) while others grow.  If there’s no competition, nothing grows (or at least nothing new).  No competition makes one less adaptable.

 

Page 104:

“[…] the most dangerous enemy to truth and freedom, the solid unmoving cattle of the majority. Oh, God, the terrible tyranny of the majority.”

Ahah, the book was smart enough to bash both the minority (from the previous section) and the majority.  Neither are perfect.  And the majority are the ones capable of enforcing tyranny.  While the majority is to be feared (and kept in check) for that reason, one must also keep an eye on the minority as well.  The minority can corrupt (by playing the victim-game and being a primary cause for political correctness), but the majority can control.  It’s also a reason why there are political parties.  There should be multiple parties for multiple ideas, but there are only 2 real competitors out there currently in the United States (Republicans and Democrats).  Why?  Because if there’s only 2 parties, only 2 choices, that allows for both to have numbers high enough to destroy any competition.  God forbid there be only 1 party.  Still, that makes things too black and white.  There is plenty of grey to be had.  I’m not sure what the magic number should be, but I’m thinking there should be at least 4 parties, preferably 5, for a healthy dose of competition and competing ideas/philosophies.

But then again, what do I know?  Some European countries had this political system, and, well, look how they’re turning out today.

 

Before ending this post, I should point out that a brand new adaptation of the novel is coming to HBO soon.  Has me curious.

Some YouTube quotes:

Vidgirl8 Yeah but everyone only focuses on the “censorship” part of the story. There is much more to the story, the reason books were banned is because everyone got offended by what was written in the books, so they got rid of them to make a more “peaceful” world. The entire purpose was to get rid of conflicting opinions. Also the overuse of technology is a major theme. A true adaption of the book would be more impactful than “hur hur Drumpf is hitler so he wants to burn books.” The original book was written to say that conflicting opinions are necessary in a society, which is social commentary but just making it about modern politics would be terrible.
luke harper That’s still oversimplifying it. It wasn’t only about sparing people’s feelings, it was about looking down on intellectualism and using distractions to keep the people from questioning the status quo. They needed the people to not mind the endless wars, drafts, instant death sentences, etc. If they do this right, EVERYBODY should feel it. Because it’s a futuristic book, it should include things about the modern era. We have problems that can be directly addressed. People don’t just lack access to information anymore, this could be a story that directly addresses people’s disdain of primary sources and academic citations, choosing to instead look at news or information that simplifies information in a way they in particular like. I think it’d be interesting to see everyone use different news sources, believing world affairs are happening in completely different ways, but being too afraid to hurt each other’s feelings to talk about politics. The original story doesn’t work anymore because books aren’t the only way to get information, and neither is the TV. They have to account for the internet and other such things if they want this story to be relevant.
Hmmmmm. I’m not sure about this. I mean F451 is ripe for a film adaptation. But I don’t know if they are going to “get” it. The book is not about government censorship. It’s about a society whose members are so afraid of being offended that they demand that dangerous thoughts (and the books that hold them) be eliminated. Of all the classic dystopian novels, F451 is the one that had the most predictive power.
This is truly the age of greatest irony. Making a tv show based on a book, that directly stated that reading books is good and tv is a tool for turning people into dumb slaves? Best idea ever
you know, this comment has triple irony given that you have put it on youtube.
Mr Quixotic this is a quote from the book. “It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books.” He goes on to say there’s nothing magical about books. That’s it’s the ideas that it’s the control of media and how in the books version of the future the “tv shows” they’re called something else. Are filled with propaganda and nothing no ideas. Just ads basically, and filler. The point being, it was never about the books. Also this will be the second movie made about Fahrenheit 451 you should check out the first movie.
“Montag looked at these men whose faces were sunburnt by a thousand real and ten thousand imaginary fires, whose work flushed their cheeks and fevered their eyes. These men who looked steadily into their platinum igniter flames as they lit their eternally burning black pipes. They and their charcoal hair and soot-coloured brows and bluish-ash-smeared cheeks where they had shaven close; but their heritage showed. Montag started up, his mouth opened. Had he ever seen a fireman that didn’t have black hair, black brows, a fiery face, and a blue-steel shaved but unshaved look? These men were all mirror-images of himself! Were all firemen picked then for their looks as well as their proclivities? The colour of cinders and ash about them, and the continual smell of burning from their pipes. Captain Beatty there, rising in thunderheads of tobacco smoke. Beatty opening a fresh tobacco packet, crumpling the cellophane into a sound of fire.” The main problem is not in a black Montag. All firemen must look similar to each other, like Star Wars stormtroopers. And this idiotic diversity propaganda simply destroys one of the basic concepts of the story.
WYD who says all the firemen can’t be black. To look the same why do all of them need to be white. I’m not gonna go out on one thing u said and call u racist. But I hope it sheds a little light on some people’s subconscious prejudice.
Nickolas Jackson Firemen can be black, but they are not. Have you seen Michael Shannon? Does he look black to you?
WYD so why is it bad that Micheal b Jordan’s character is black but not Micheal Shannon’s being white? What if all the firemen are black except him? Why does everyone have to be white not just the same
Nickolas Jackson there are two sides. The story says everyone is the same. It has to be either all black or all white.
ArbiterRevan that’s what I’m saying. So the problem should be that Montag is black if we haven’t seen the rest of the firemen.
Really this is just a minor change to the story. Yes, it WAS implied he was white. But I don’t really mind as long as all the firemen look similar to each other. Unfortunately they are not. But the fact that they don’t look similar is a very minor change if you think about it. And also, are people really still mad about there being a black Stormtrooper? It was clearly stated that The First Order didn’t use clones.
Part 3 here: