Throwback Thursdays: Paranoia in Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

First published in Italian in 1988, Foucault’s Pendulum is an eerily prescient novel by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco, who passed away about a year ago. Despite its arcane exploration of ancient mystical societies, and academic protagonists, its analysis of conspiracies, conspiratorial thinking, and related phenomena feel uncannily familiar, as though he were anticipating the incomprehensible modern world of truthers, birthers, and Pizzagate.

The book focuses on a trio of underemployed scholars in modern Italy, who make ends meet by working at a small, vanity publisher focusing on esoterica and conspiracy theories. Mocking their authors (whom they refer to as “Diabolicals”), the protagonists amuse themselves by trying to weave every bit of nonsense together into a grand new theory of the history of the world.

Belbo, Causabon, and Diotallevi never quite let themselves believe their own tale, but remain dangerously entranced by the possibilities that they dream up. Their apparent knowledge brings them into increasing conflict with the Diabolicals themselves, who persistently believe that any denial of a conspiracy is only evidence of its potency.

The book is set in 1970s and 1980s Italy, a time of social upheaval known as the Years of Lead. The era saw significant terrorist activity from far-left groups such as the Red Brigades as well as far-right and neo-Nazi organizations like the National Vanguard. In a society torn apart not only by violence, but by fundamentally oppositional views of the world, Eco saw the potency of esoteric thinking: it not only offered truths that could not be doubted, but the promise that ultimately, someone, somewhere, was actually in charge. Even if it was all made up.

It is this aspect of the book which resonates so deeply in the 21st century, when the world again seems plunged into chaos, and truth itself recedes into the distance. The conspiracy theories that animate contemporary politics overlap with the many legends in Foucault’s Pendulum, but even more than such specifics, the temptation, power, and danger of these beliefs echo loudly.

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In Brightest Day: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Cloud’s Incomplete Battle with Depression

I wrote a review for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children a while back. In it, I went over some of its problems—it panders, has too many characters for its running time, and breaks its suspension of disbelief more than once. I also briefly touched on Cloud’s depression, which I plan to talk about in more detail today. Advent Children has a lot of things wrong with it, and as a whole, the movie simply does not work. Cloud’s character arc is one of those things. The movie doesn’t know how to handle mental health issues, and that makes Advent Children more than a little painful to watch at times. Cloud suffers from depression, but his depression never contributes to his character arc in a way that matters. Advent Children uses it to set up his internal conflict, but it never resolves his issues. Instead, Cloud’s depression is little more than a gimmick, and the way the movie handles it really drags on the story.

(via wikia)

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Is The Once and Future Queen a Checkmate?

I haven’t heard any complaints, so I’m going to keep on keeping on reviewing the various queer comics that have come into my life. Honestly, it’s pretty damn awesome that there are enough of them that I haven’t run out yet. This week’s subject is a new series from Dark Horse called The Once and Future Queen, which, as the title’s riff on T. H. White implies, is a “Return of King Arthur” story with a female Arthur.

I definitely judged this book by its cover—I picked it up entirely based on the intriguing title and cover art alone—but in the end I’m not sure how I feel about it.

(via comicbook)

Spoilers for issue #1 below!

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Lady Geek Girl Reviews: What We Do in the Shadows

I recently had the pleasure of watching the movie What We Do in the Shadows, a mockumentary about four vampires who live together in a flat in New Zealand. The mockumentary spoofs a lot of classic vampire stories that have become cliché over the past several years. The best part about this movie is it takes normal mundane things and applies it to vampires. The four vampires have house meetings, argue over who is supposed to do the dishes, and struggle with getting dressed when they can’t see their own reflection.

The movie begins by explaining that a documentary film crew was given permission to follow around four vampires. We are then introduced to Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr. Viago, Vladislav, and Deacon have all maintained their human appearances, but Petyr, who is 8,000 years old, looks more like the vampire from Nosferatu and acts more animalistic than the others. We see the vampires deal with being centuries old and trying to adapt to modern day life. Each night the three go out (Petyr doesn’t leave the house anymore) to find people to feed on. They also often clash with a group of werewolves who dislike swearing. The three attempt to get into clubs, but struggle with the fact that they need to be invited in by the bouncer or else they won’t be able to enter.

This is definitely one of the best vampire spoofs that I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. However, the movie is very much focused on men and male characters with very little attention given to the female characters. When the female characters are present, they critique the tropes that are more typical of vampire stories, but these critiques are so brief that they’re sadly not very effective. 

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Switch This Book for Something More Magical, Please: The Many Failures of The Hawkweed Prophecy

(image via goodreads)

Another day, another subpar YA novel. After the disaster that was Three Dark Crowns, I told myself, “Luce, don’t get sucked in by another excellent premise, it will only disappoint you,” and I should have listened to myself. I picked up a new book called The Hawkweed Prophecy based on its premise: two girls, one magical and one not, were switched at birth and have to find their way in the world. The author, Irena Brignull, seemed particularly accomplished as well: as a screenwriter, she worked on The Boxtrolls and the movie adaptation of The Little Prince, and she’s worked on many other projects as a script editor for the BBC. Yet somehow, there turned out to be very little to recommend about her first novel.

Minor spoilers and trigger warning for some discussion of abortion after the jump.

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Get Out: It’s Not What Was Said, but How They Said It

I don’t have to tell you, dear readers, that Jordan Peele’s Get Out is good; all other film review outlets have done that for me. But allow me to say that if you haven’t seen this film yet, do so as soon as you can. If you’re worried that this film is a Boo! Haunted House sort of horror, then let me soothe your fears. Get Out is absolutely a horror film, but it’s horrific more in its realism than in any sense of gore or otherworldly fiends (though there is gore to be had). More than horror, though, the film is clever in its message. Like Zootopia, Get Out relays the message that racism continues to be damaging in its persistence in modern-day culture, but unlike the Disney flick, Get Out doesn’t lose its message due to a lack of direction. Instead, Get Out focuses on exposing the subconscious racism that lingers in a portion of its audience. Get Out sets itself apart by subtly—and then not-so-subtly—showing that white people who consider themselves progressive can be just as racist as the blatantly racist, and that this liberal-coded racism can perhaps be some of the most damaging racism of all.

Spoilers below.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Rhythm and Robotics by Laiska

Overwatch recently introduced some new characters into its ever-growing world, including a new playable hero. And while the giant centaur-like Omnic tank Orisa is an interesting addition to the fighting lineup, her creator is more interesting to me. Efi Oladele is an eleven-year-old inventor from the highly advanced African city of Numbani. Despite her young age, she’s already received worldwide attention after receiving a prestigious grant for her robotics work. After a mysterious attack at the Numbani International Airport, Efi was inspired to use her grant money to create a new protector for her city from an old OR15 defense bot. Thus, Orisa was born. Orisa is well-intentioned but still has a childlike innocence despite her many fighting capabilities, and Efi, while a genius, is also still an adorable preteen. The bot and her creator are to put it in simple terms, too precious, too pure, so I was excited to stumble upon a fic that captured that, especially since it hasn’t been that long since they were introduced.

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