Battery Yates

Battery Yates
Battery Yates, Sausalito, CA

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is There In Trek No Truth?

A Review of Star Trek (The Original Series) (1966-1969)

Dr. Miranda Jones: "The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."
Mr. Spock: "And the ways our differences combine, to create meaning and beauty."
From "Is There In Truth No Beauty?"

I first experienced Star Trek through the original films: Star Trek: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. My brother Mike was a huge fan. As a child, I quietly observed him sharpen his considerable drawing skills on a Crayola marker portrait of Klingon phaser fire and photon torpedoes blasting through the U.S.S. Enterprise A. But at that time Star Trek was an unknown quantity to me, something violent and loud, and even slightly scary, to my seven-year-old mind.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Study of Possession

A Review of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)

"One final thing I have to do, and then I'll be free of the past." - Scottie Ferguson

The sharp chill of the icy wind whipped about me as I stood motionless on the CTA Red Line platform at Addison. Christmas shoppers, commuters, bundled teenagers crowded in groups for warmth. Everything about me had a grey sheen, sapped of vitality. But I didn't care, and am surprised to even remember such details. I was in love--not just in love, but impassioned, a heightened state of focus inward and numbness to the world outside. I don't doubt that, had I not been on my way somewhere (as it happened, to the Chicago Historical Museum to research my dissertation), I could have frozen in joy.

This state of being, this stage of love in which no one else--nothing else--matters but the object of one's emotional and physical desire, is one I'd felt before, but not with such depth and severity. Perhaps you've felt it, too. It's that stage in which passion reigns unchecked by reason, before you are clearheaded enough to think whether the person whom you love is right for you. This passion is selfish, obsessive, dangerous. It possesses you. It permits you to dream an illusory world and then sustains that world to the exclusion of all else. It's the passion that John Scottie Ferguson felt for Madeleine Elster, a figment of his own heart, in Alfred Hitchcock's most celebrated work, Vertigo. For all its problems--its justly maligned sexism and patriarchy, its vile study of the male gaze and the female as object--Vertigo deserves the attention it has so belatedly received. As a paced meditation on obsessive passion, and the treacherous illusion by which that passion may consume us, it is one of the best films ever made.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Note on Ratings

So this won't be the most exciting post of all time, but I feel that it's a necessary one. As I settle into different database and review websites, I've come across the issue of consistency across different ratings metrics. I'm ultimately of the opinion that opinions can't (and shouldn't) be standardized, but when they're only my opinions, I'm less troubled by the idea.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


A Review of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2004)

"Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind's mirror, the world." - Adam Ewing, Cloud Atlas, 508.

Sociologists like my partner like to deploy the Thomas theorem as shorthand for the idea that "what you believe is what you get." In other words, what we interpret to be reality is, in fact, reality, insofar as we act on our beliefs and therefore shape reality in the process. The phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" comes close to the point, if missing some of the meaning. I guess you could adapt the WYSIWYG acronym appropriately, to result in WYBIWYG. Or how about the cuter "wibby-wig"?

Cloud Atlas is such a massive tome of ideas that it needs a shorthand adjective, and "wibby-wig" is it for me. To avoid such extreme reductionism, a simple legend of themes (a tapestry metaphor came to mind, but let me stick with maps) is helpful in the effort to decode David Mitchell's complex atlas: themes like belief, but also the human condition, narrative, truth versus Truth, the unity of time and space, the number six, comets, clouds (of course), and--as Mitchell divulged in an interview, "predacity." What I take away most from Cloud Atlas, though, was a wibby-wig view of life that, not to my surprise, reflects my own perspective. What we believe shapes who we are and what we do. This is the case to a large, if certainly not total, extent, because what we believe is not always a choice we make ourselves. Rather, society and its many elements--our parents, peers, children, friends, co-workers, politicians, media overlords, et cetera--often make them for and with us.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Just Dump The Abstergo Mess Already

A Review of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PC)

My relationship with the Assassin's Creed series is a classic love/hate one. As a trained historian who loves narrative-based action games, I sit at what is likely the exact middle of the Venn diagram that comprises Ubisoft's several market demographics. But the series has suffered from some terrible storytelling and gameplay issues, and Black Flag is no exception. I agree with what appears to be the consensus that Black Flag is the best game of the series, save for Assassin's Creed II. (Ever since college, I've loved Renaissance Italian history, so I'm biased on that score, as well.) But that doesn't mean it's a great game.