Saturday, June 24, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ The Big Book Sale Returns!

Once again we are back with a brand new big book sale for your enjoyment! In fact there are FIFTY new books on sale for a dollar or free for your enjoyment.

I can't even mention them all here, you'll just have to see it for yourself. It's been a very big year for new books!

Here is the description:

The contributors include science fiction grandmasters, Dragon Award winners and nominees, established mainstream authors, and emerging indie talent. Authors include P. Alexander, James Alderdice, Jon Del Arroz, Jonathan P. Brazee, Jim Breyfogle, Bob Brill, Henry Brown, Howard Butcher, Kit Sun Cheah, J.D. Cowan, Nick Cook, Paul Clayton, Lucca DeJardins, Kacey Ezell, Warren Fahy, Eric Flint, Marina Fontaine, Milo James Fowler, Dennis Garcia, Karl Gallagher, Michael Gallagher, Leonard Getz, Roy M. Griffis, Chris Haught, Harry Harrison, Julian Hawthorne, Kevin Ikenberry, C.S. Johnson, Chris Kennedy, Michael Kingswood, Robert Kroese, Robert A. Lupton, Jonathan Moeller, Christopher G. Nuttall, Jonathan Oldenburg, Chad Olson, Melissa Olthoff, P.A. Piatt, George Phillies, S. Kirk Pierchala, James Pyles, A.G. Riddle, Cedar Sanderson, Glen Sprigg, Steve Stinson, Michael Tierney, Kalkin Trivedi, Donavan Walker, William Alan Webb, Marisa Wolf, and James Young.

And every title is either free or $0.99! Note: prices are set by the authors, so please confirm before you buy. And some of the offerings are short stories or novellas instead of full-length novels.

My book Y Signal is currently in the sale for a buck. Now is the time to grab it if you have not done so yet!

Keep in mind if you backed the digital bundles in the Gemini Man campaign, you will still be getting your copy once I send them out. For now, the book is the cheapest its been for those who might have been shy about pulling the trigger before. Read the book author N. R. Lapointe called "delightfully bizarre" today!

There are more books than that, however. Check out the sale page for an even larger selection of stories for you peruse!

And if you've missed some, there are also fan favorites joining the sale once again. You can find the following authors in this section:

Authors include Patrick Abbot, James Alderdice, J.M. Anjewierden, Jon del Arroz, Tony Andarian, Leigh Brackett, Graham Bradley, Jonathan P. Brazee, Henry Brown, Rachel Fulton Brown and the Dragon Common Room, Misha Burnett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kit Sun Cheah, Paul Clayton, Declan Finn, Marina Fontaine, Milo James Fowler, Peter Grant, N. Gray, Steve Griffiths, Eric M. Hamilton, Harry Harrison, Frederick Gero Heimbach, Alexander Hellene, Daniel Humphreys, C.S. Johnson, Steven G. Johnson, Becky Jones, Michael Kayser, Robert Kroese, Christopher Lansdown, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Moe Lane, N. R. LaPoint, Frank B. Luke, Loretta Malakie, T.J. Marquis, Yakov Merkin, Russell Newquist, Richard Nichols, Christopher G. Nuttall, Chance Paladin, Richard Paolinelli, Francis Porretto, James Pyles, David Roome, Denton Salle, Hans G. Schantz, Richard Sezov, David Skinner, Kalkin Tivedi, Henry Vogel, Mark Wandrey, David J. West, Fenton Wood, John C. Wright, Page Zaplendam.

Grab what you can and remember that this is only a fraction of what NewPub has to offer. There is plenty more to come as well!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Safe as Bunkers

Is there more to life than just getting by and hiding in the margins? Our classical stories and our art tell us there is, and yet you would be hard pressed to find such a belief in the modern works of today. Especially in the mainstream. Instead we are told the only meaning in life is to hang on tightly to whatever you can grab hold of and squeeze it for all its worth since it can disappear at any moment. There is nothing beyond that worth striving for, little worth building, and only a fool would tell you different.

We only live to be safe, but is that so bad? Who wants to live in constant fear of the unknown, after all? We are more Progressive than that. In Current Year, we know everything.

I can't be too facetious here. Safety is something everyone wants. We want our family to be safe, we want knowledge that our homes will not vandalized when we look away for but a second, and we desire to have a stable income to keep ourselves afloat and out of poverty. There is not one who would disagree with any of that.

However, this is where it gets funny.

The safer a society is, the more its art tends to go wild in response. We still want excitement, unpredictability, and new thrills, even while we desire a life as free of said danger as possible. Humans are strange that way. Our art typically reflects the part of life we see but don't quite experience fully ourselves in the moment. This is why the best creations usually come up in times of peace, when reflection is possible and safety is around us.

Oddly enough there has been a shift in that mentality in recent years. As our society has grown more socially unstable, basic utilities begin to fail in nonsensical and embarrassing ways, and public trust among the populace has dropped in regards to each other and those in charge, art has instead become safer, more nostalgic, and frightened of things in life as common as aging or the basic family unit. The danger and wonder is all but gone in mainstream spaces, replaced with mechanized comfort food instead.

Safetyism, the desire for emotional safety above anything else, is now the rule of the land, even over human ambition and personal connection. It rules everything in the mainstream art and entertainment world. The highest goal is to be safe and accepted in a world you cannot trust or love. You cannot escape this mentality today.

And, to be honest, I don't think a lot of folks have even realized the shift has happened. It is as if this change occurred overnight. For many of us, especially those who don't value safety as much as other things, it basically did. Now everyone is supposed to treat it as the highest ambition to achieve.

There is more at play than just that, but we should just get to the meat of the topic.

For anyone who has been paying attention to mainstream art for awhile, you know those in charge of it have not been firing on all cylinders for ages now. The people in charge of the industries in the West really do dislike tradition, their audience, and anyone who dares criticize them even a little. This antagonistic relationship has ruined the modern landscape to everything from music to short stories.

But we've talked about this before. Many times, in fact. What we haven't much talked about is a place where the opposite has happened: a place where the people in charge are so absolutely scared of contradiction or challenge that they vomit out bottom of the barrel art without any personality or character to pander to the lowest common denominator for a status quo that is rapidly changing from underneath them. What this leads to is a field exactly as stagnant as the one we have in the West, and one just as likely to avoid taking risks.

In case you aren't aware, I am referring to Japan.

Now, I can hear you now, coming at me with counter examples and refutations, all in the name of hoisting them up over our broken system, but I'm not specifically talking about individual pieces here. This is about a growing attitude in Japan's mainstream that is completely ill-equipped to deal with the "Global Standards" currently watering down art and entertainment everywhere else.

Far be it from me to criticize another country I don't live in, and have never visited, for their practices, but this is an attitude that is indicative of an older problem from decades ago that was never really addressed by those in charge. What I'm saying is that the industry itself is in danger of surrendering its identity despite its current massive worldwide success today.

This will be a controversial opinion, but it can't be avoided given the current topic, so I will just go into it. There is no sense beating around the bush on this issue.

Japan has had a serious issue with Safetyism for a while now, and they have been letting it take over more and more of their industry. This has been a problem foreseen for a long time, as said by animator, director, and mangaka, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko as to why he originally left the industry way back in 1990 after his movie Venus Wars released.

This is why he originally left the industry:

I don't care what your opinion on the quality of anime is today, but one would be a liar at this point if they do not see this attitude dominant everywhere in the industry. It has turned adventurous and ambitious storytelling into a Pleasure Dome of unreality where tropes are celebrated as the ideal and hedonism and empty platitudes are about all you'll find inside the shell.

What Mr. Yasuhiko is predicting here is the growth of Safetyism: the desire to escape reality, not through escapism, but by turning reality itself into a bland mush of a playpen. It is about turning imagination itself towards unimaginative things. There is no ambition or hope of greater meaning here. It is just everyday things, stripped of their greater meaning in the web of society, presented in a fetishistic way. The championing of alienation and the atomized self, and pandering toward others to keep such a thought process alive.

He predicted the modern landscape quite well.

For an example of the full flowering of Yasuhiko's predictions, I wish to present to you this twitter thread commenting on an interview with a more recent Safetyism obsessed mangaka and his willingness to bend the knee to censor his work overseas to avoid stirring the pot. There is no great aspirations here: just a desire to be left alone to pump out product.

Be warned, this is quite bleak for anyone who loves the possibilities of art and entertainment. You can find the thread here. Read it in full before we continue here. It is important to understanding where we go from here.

The part of the interview worth pointing out:

There are no beliefs here: just mindless capitulation to whoever complains about whatever. In other words, the artist in question has nothing to say at the base level. This is why they are so easily steamrolled into doing whatever those in charge wants them to do. For those who think Japan is immune to the same issues as the West, you might want to think again.

They are extremely vulnerable to this, especially within certain ranks of more modern creators. They have no desire to learn what their audience wants when localizers will make those decisions for them, and they will not fight back. They will not fight back because they have reason to: they lack any sort of ideals to fight for.

The part of the thread that got me to make this connection is the quote where the poster says:

"guys like this spent most of their lives in the anime dollhouse in their heads so they have no real worldviews and belie[f]s of their own to fall back on when attacked. you can tell just based on how they draw"

He proceeds to give very well drawn, but artistically bland examples of the artist in question to show. The obvious takeaway is that this creator just pumps out fetish content that he doesn't really ever think about because of his appetites, therefore if another country's puritans tell him to censor it he has no problems doing it. The mangaka has no problems doing it because none of this essentially means anything to him. He doesn't care about his own works in the first place, so why would he care if his bosses wanted him to change them however they want to?

Such a creator is ideal for corporations that wish to pump out factory beltline product. And wouldn't you know it, there is a large segment of otaku who want this sort of thing. It all ends up coming together.

Of course I am in no way saying this weak-willed attitude is the way the majority of creators think or operate. It is very clear that, for instance, in Shonen Jump the stories that succeed are the ones that go beyond delivering only expected tropes and have something the creator wants to impart on the reader, even if it is straightforward. There is an attempt at communication being made between artist and audience. This is why their industry is a powerhouse both at home and especially overseas where we have long since forgotten what this is all supposed to be for.

However, that does not change the fact that Safetyism is a growing issue overseas and one that can threaten even what they produce. Japan is not infallible to this modern poison, as no one is, but they also have a tendency to misread just what those of us overseas even like because the localization industry runs interference with them for their own selfish needs over the actual customer.

This is the exact problem Yasuhiko was foreseeing coming down the road, how it would lead to art and entertainment less concerned with wonder and excitement, and more focused and banal trivialities and the mundane. Such a landscape is not sustainable.

This is where an industry led by such base thinking will eventually lead. It is destined to be steamrolled over and ruled by one with a stronger hand. Our own desire for safety is giving ammo for those who dislike us.

There is a reason trash like Sword Art Online is so vapid and nothing but a collection of tropes. Allowing this artless pandering to be the standard of your industry is going to be a problem in the future. You are giving influence to people who are, in the end, corporate drones that will do whatever they are told by those in charge. Even if those in charge are people who hate you. This is the danger of declining standards.

This soulless attitude is what kills art dead.

You need to believe in something to have principles and stances. The problem is that many modern creators don't even really think about what they believe because as long as they pump out content they will get paid and be allowed to live in peace. There isn't anything more to it than that for some of these types. They allow clichés and slogans do the heavy lifting for them in life. They merely function to get by and have no higher aspirations.

At the same time as this, there is a whole other problem developing from those same crowds who are having their soul filled in by those who hate them. You can teach anti-reality very easily this way, and you can make it seem normal. Once again, you can't not have principles. Eventually someone will get to you and change who you are and make you have them.

For those who know how awful and twisted mainstream western art and entertainment has gotten over the years, they know a lot of it is driven by ideologues who believe those who think differently than them as inhuman and worthy of destruction. Would you be pleased to know that such a mentality is actually more prevalent in the glorious land of Japan than you previously thought it was?

Not only that, it was recently paraded in one of its most storied franchises they have: Kamen Rider.

For a summation, Kamen Rider is a tokusatsu franchise created by Shotaro Ishinomori. Ishinomori's true beliefs could probably be best summed up by his influential Cyborg 009 manga (also reflected in many anime adaptations) where divisiveness will always exist but can always by conquered by those willing to look for a way to unite. It is a view very much of its time, and one that tends to carry over in adaptions of his work to this day. But it is undoubtedly his.

So then it might be interesting to note that the recent Black Sun series ultimate message is that killing your political enemies is a good thing, and we should train our children to do so. Who are these political enemies? I'm sure if you've consumed any mainstream western entertainment you can hazard a guess as to who the strawmen worth dehumanizing are. There is even a scene where they gleefully murder an obvious stand-in for a real life politician who was famously murdered.

But there is more than that. It manages to get even stupider, as hard as that might be to imagine.

Here is a random scene from the series in question:

I don't think I need to add any more context than that. It is a scene Marvel Comics would blush at as subtle high art. There is a twitter thread where the topic is broached upon here. The series itself was controversial, and not very well liked, for good reason.

This is "political" as far as that meaningless jargon word goes, but has little to nothing in common with the purpose of the original idea or creator. It is insipid, loud nonsense from people who have no beliefs or thoughts original to themselves.

In contrast, here is what the original Kamen Rider actor has to say about the franchise and his involvement in it:

How do you go from this to what is pictured above? What sort of lesson is being imparted on viewers now? In what universe is this similar to Ishinomori's original vision?

In this newer series you can see the slight of hand faux-centrism that exists to slip in propaganda and dehumanize those one disagrees with politically over views they were taught by others. It is absolutely the sort of garbage that the West produces now, and there is a very good reason its reception was not exactly glowing even in Japan. But once that hatred of the audience sets in, the rot only grows from there. Art reflects the artist and the society they live in. This is not a good sign for their future if this sort of attitude is their highest ambition.

Do you think it possible to live in a society where your neighbor doesn't know anything about you, doesn't want to know anything about you, yet considers you expendable for voting wrong, believing the wrong thing, or wearing the wrong colored hat? The desire for safety and ideological conformity overrides common sense and turns what was once a typical neighborhood into a potential warzone over trivialities. At a certain point this stops being a community and starts being spaces between enemy lines.

Perhaps this is why the term "conformist" is no longer used as a pejorative among these types. They always wanted conformity: they just wanted to be the ones enforcing it. And that is exactly what they are doing.

This insanity will only continue to bubble before it spills over in the worst kind of ways. Demonization, dehumanization, and selfishness, will not build anything. It will not make anyone safer or more creative, but it will make them spiteful, and lead to the sort of hateful trash the exists purely to spite those their masters told them to spite.

This is a societal dead end.

Don't think this is just a problem in the West. The evil of Safetyism has only spread worldwide over the years, despite the public's protestations, but for certain creators their ingroup fashioned around their designated political leaders matters more than having a functional society to grow in or industry worth supporting. Their desire to be safe from interacting with their inferiors outweighs the desire to want to communicate or understand them. The unknown must be avoided, at all costs. Until this problem is finally dealt with, the weeds will never stop growing.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself these hard questions. Can you live with people you don't see as people? Can you exist around ideas you think are not only incorrect but evil? Can you operate and build in a society that wishes to destroy society? Because, at the moment, we are giving the exact wrong answers to these questions and wondering why it is killing us and making everything more miserable.

Life is more than safety, and it is more than what we see on the surface. We have to have desires and ambitions or else we have nothing to live for in the first place. The wonder of the Unknown is worth striving for.

How much longer can this clown show of modernity and deliberate worshiping of anti-reality go on? Will you be the one to steer the ship to safe waters, or the one to steer it into the rocks? It will not go on this way forever.

Time is running out, and I don't want to find out what will ultimately happen if we continue to steer in the wrong direction.

All we need to do is remember that there is more to life than just getting by. Once we seek out where our destination is, we can set the right coordinates towards it again. We just have to remember there is more to existing than just existing.

Here's hoping we figure it out before it is too late.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ The Missing Art of Adventure

We talk a lot about the "good old days" and the way things used to be, but sometimes we miss things from back then that should have been much bigger than it was. While there were good times that doesn't mean everything was perfect.

Case in point, the early days of manga and anime in the West was actually a lot spottier than you might remember. High selling classics from Japan, and even obscure favorites, were given a release over here and were not only much more underground than they were in the East, they also never really hit mainstream popularity even when anime and manga finally broke big.

As mentioned before, anime and manga were very much the alternative underground in the West back in the day. This is perhaps that is why they attracted so many hipsters. And a lot of those folks now run the industry today. This might explain why this era has yet to get a a fresh opportunity.

While some series like Akira, Spriggan, Mermaid Saga, Dragon Half, and Battle Angel Alita, were allowed a second wind, many have never quite got the chance to begin with. To this day works like Caravan Kidd, City Hunter, GetBackers, Outlanders, Pineapple Army, Psychic Girl Mai, Getter Robo, and Ogre Slayer, all of which were favorites in Japan and actually did release in the North America, have never had proper re-releases here despite the more friendlier market in the modern age. And even then, many modern audiences were trained to ignore old things.

This doesn't even go into Japanese mega sellers like Ushio & Tora, Ginga Sengoku Gun'yūden Rai, Tomorrow's Joe (Ashita no Joe), Mazinger Z, and Ghost Sweeper Mikami, which for whatever inexplicable reason never even got put out here in the first place and absolutely would have hit with audiences at the time this stuff was still underground here. The fact of the matter is that we missed out on a real treasure trove of a Golden Age, even back then. I doubt we'll ever really catch up with it.

One such series that was absolutely whiffed at back in the day was a series title you probably know despite probably never having read or seen before. This would be Yuzo Takeda's long running mystic horror adventure romance series 3x3 Eyes.

for those unaware, 3x3 Eyes is the story of Yakamo, a young man who has no family and is barely getting by in the world. One day he meets a strange dirty and exotic girl named Pai who seems to be looking for him. Through a string of events she ends up taking his soul into hers, turning him into a superzombie who cannot die until she does. Not only that but cults, monsters, and assassins, all seem to want her to resurrect a god who wishes to remake the world itself. Is she truly the key to it all?

However, Pai does not quite know who or what she is, bearer of a third eye and strange magic including the ability to summon giant monsters, and is also alone in the world. Yakumo decides to help her claim humanity along with his mortality, and the two go on a long journey fraught with mystery, danger, and secrets of the like you would never quite imagine. Despite its length, the series does not let up on its pacing.

3x3 Eyes (which refers to the eyes on the creatures that want to resurrect an evil god) is a strange bird in that it has all the elements that should guarantee huge success overseas. It originally ran from 1987 to 2002 in the same magazine Akira did, it has everything readers of classic adventure love (brave men, pretty women, cool monsters, strange magic, and a lot of adventure), had two OVAs that released during the golden age of the form, and its legitimately really good.

Despite that, 3x3 Eyes is about as well known as an obscure OVA such as Master of Mosquiton or K.O. Beast is today. Just about no one in the West remembers it ever existed in the first place.

And it wasn't for lack of trying!

Indie publishers and Dark Horse both attempted to put the manga out back in the day, but it never got any traction or much in the way of sales. The OVAs, despite being put out by Streamline, Orion, and Pioneer, the three biggest western anime companies back in the day, are still barely more than curiosities today. It also doesn't help that apparently the masters are in such rough shape that it makes a newer HD release all but impossible. Even now as older manga get Netflix anime remakes and new manga releases bundled with them, the 40 volume classic (though since re-released in omnibus form like many others to give it far fewer volumes) still remains unreleased here. It is as if it came, failed to catch on, and simply disappeared. We missed our chance, and that is simply all she wrote!

The series remains big in Japan, getting sequel manga to this day. In the West, it has been all but forgotten without a trace. It really is bizarre how that works sometimes!

It might not help that manga like this isn't really common anymore, making a new release even more unlikely. 3x3 Eyes is an adventure series, not like a battle, horror, or romance manga. There is a lot of action, plenty of weird horrors, and there is romance, but it is all in service of a journey through strange lands and hidden space, a series very much in the lineage of classics like Babel II, Cyborg 009, Trigun, or Fist of the North Star. It's the sort of thing you don't see much anymore. These series prioritize classic struggles of good and evil, the wonder and beauty of the world even during dark times, and things beyond which the eye can perceive into what is really important. Such series are not so much common anymore, even as the medium is more popular worldwide as it has ever been.

Perhaps there is just no market for such a series anymore. Maybe it was already dying off back in the day. Who really knows?

This isn't meant to decry things as terrible or anything like that, merely to point out that even when one does everything right, and even when one puts out a work that hits, it might not always do so in the way one expects. There is no formula for success.

That said, 3x3 Eyes is a series that does deserve to be remembered worldwide. It is in Japan, after all. Hopefully sometime in the near future it can achieve a second wind of western popularity of the sort so many classics are getting today. It is more than due for the same treatment.

If you haven't read it, I do highly recommend doing so however you can. It is an adventure unlike any you've take before. It will take you places you will never expect and lift you up when you are feeling low.

And that is what it's all about!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

You Will Never Be An Optimist

As the modern world tumbles down around us we can only wonder more and more when it will finally hit rock bottom. Surely even the wasteland has its limits, right?

Well, maybe it does.

The worst aspect of lying is trying to not only the act of attempting to lie to others, but also attempting to make them believe said lie, especially when you, at the heart of it, don't actually believe what you're saying to begin with. We do this every day, but nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than with those who attempt to enforce morality from a place of authority they do not have. What is worse is when said folk will admit they do not believe objective morality even exists in the first place, but will still enforce it on others despite their admittance they have no right to do this. In effect, you must bow to them because they said so and no other reason. Otherwise you are the Enemy.

Confused? I'll bet. It is a very confusing attitude to deal with, and yet it happens all the time. It has only become more prevalent over the years.

And it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

One of the defining aspects of the post-Cultural Ground Zero era of the West has been embracing unreality as reality, and forcing or shaming and framing anyone who believes in actual reality as some kind of immoral ghoul or evil monster who is okay to destroy. You even have corporations and some supposed religious organizations joining in to weaponize unreality as club to beat down anyone who disagrees. All in the name of "inclusivity" or something. Nothing more welcoming than threatening others to stay in line or casting them out to die in the dark, I suppose. Then again, this IS unreality. Backwards insanity is what it has always been. 

What is worse is that all of these immoral moralists know, by their own philosophy and belief system, that what they speak is wrong and not true, but they will enforce it on everyone else anyway. All for a crumb of control over the lessers. They wish to be king of the world they hate so much.

Yes, this ties in to modern Fanaticism once again. The root of all of this is subversive obsession with turning up in to down, black into white, left into right, and vice versa. It comes from the mind of one who does not only doesn't understand reality but hates it.

It goes without saying that such thinking has invaded the arts and all sectors of entertainment, but it has also obviously entered every facet of our lives from politics to general discourse (the Daily Show, as an example, thrived of dehumanizing those who disagreed with them under the guise that it was "just joking"... until you see how the people behind the "joking" act and treat their opponents today), and has just generally made the social climate a worse place to live in over the years. Even worse is that this lot has convinced a lot of Gen Z and younger kids that this festering dung heap of hatred has always been this way so get used to it. No one has ever loved their family! No one has ever self-sacrificed for others! No one has ever been happy!

They have convinced so many people that the world has always been bad, so you have no right to complain about it being bad now.

Let us put aside the fact that history is not a straight line and progress does not exist. Every era has its ups and downs, innovations and failures, saints and sinners, but we typically only focus on one or the other when examining them. If anyone is trying to sell the past as either being Eden or Hell they are trying to sell you something. And this crowd very much wants you to believe the latter so they can prescribe their snake oil.

The truth is that we are refusing to learn or carry anything over from the past and it is stunting everything. We cannot grow because our roots are not planted in anything.

But it was not always as bad as it is now. We did once respect those who came before us. Instead of making everyone fear Armageddon at every moment of every day, people once put their faith in things like religion and community that the bigger problems, problems they could not control in the first place and were out of their hands, would eventually be solved by those more confident in the area than they were. You can trust someone other than yourself.

Not only do you not need to vote a government in who can force your community to act the way you want it to, you can learn and grow from those you do not understand. This stands to reason that it beats demonizing your neighbor, but you also cannot connect with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with.

Hence the mess we have today.

There is nothing modern cultists hate more than the idea of someone who acts outside their preapproved checklist. In other words, such people are incapable of living in an ordinary community, something that has existed since the start of humanity itself. They were trained specifically to trust authority they don't even believe exists over all else.

Truth is, things are always better when you can live in a neighborhood without having to lock your door and when you know the name of everyone on your street. And their are now swaths of people who were taught and wholeheartedly believe that such things were never real to begin with.

You might consider such thinking naïve, but there is truth to the forgotten adage of "Think Globally, Act Locally" that knows the common man is not one who can carry infinite worries and anxieties on his back. It is the same with having faith in a higher purpose or plan for the way things are--it allows you to focus instead on the smaller things that one can control and leave the rest to Someone who can shoulder the burden with you. The loss of both of those things has created a social climate where suicide is now one of the top killers, alienation and atomization is the new normal, and social trust is at an all-time low.

This is the exact inverse of how a healthy society should be. In addition to that, instead of fixing any of this we make excuses for those in charge leading the charge in this societal decay. Once again, up is down, left is right, black is white, and if you attempt to say otherwise: the truth, you will be Canceled, or whatever the slang word will be in the years to come. Do not rock the boat. Let the rot win for times to improve. Unreality thrives off this meaningless conflict.

It's a very predictable game.

Clearly this is not the way things should be, and they were not like this before. But we have somehow been convinced we've always been at war with "X"-ist Uncle Jerry down the street who is the one ruining the world. If we browbeat everyone into believing government doctrine that didn't exist five minutes ago, we will achieve peace. Destroy your enemies for the cause. This has been the law of the land for at least a decade now, and it has done little but led to increased depression and self-harm. But still you will find many unwilling to second guess themselves or change their ways instead of trying to change others. Flood therapist offices and live off pills while enforcing on others that you know the secret to achieve Eden.

Never let it be said that anyone is immune to propaganda.

And yet despite all of this nonsense, there are those who insist on a bland positivity towards the future when they can see just how bad things truly are right now. We are at a low and they believe we can achieve a high, but not for any real reason.

There is nothing wrong with holding a good outlook towards life and hoping things will get better; but there is plenty wrong with pretending everything is okay and outright dismissing any concerns with the current state of things. That is not positivity; it is delusion.

So it is with the current state of entertainment.

There are those convinced we are in a dark age because of the advent of AI in every aspect and corner of the industry. Things will be better if we ban it and blacklist anyone who engages with the process, destroying anyone who even so much as played around with it for a joke. How can you treat the mechanization of art as a mere joke?! Don't you realize what is at stake!

All of this is ignoring the fact that the reason AI algorithms exist at all in the field of art to begin with is because we have spent decades formulizing and standardizing every aspect of creation into belt-line factory methods of pumping out banal product for as little effort as possible. Why would an AI not be able to copy that? This is what we proudly thumped our chests at wanting! "As long as it is easier for the artists" was the slogan, remember? We are the ones who made it that easy to do such a thing in the first place. Why are we complaining that we dumbed down expectations and creativity to the point that a machine can easily satisfy what we want?

"Well," you may say. "At least there was human involvement beforehand! There isn't any now."

Unfortunately, this is meaningless. The whole act of "making it easier for the artists" implies lowering standards for creation and using methods objectively inferior to what came before. It infers that "advancements" in technology weren't made to mechanize art in the first place (and conveniently giving those in charge less overhead on pesky things like covers, posters, illustrations, and even different types of story lengths) and strip humanity out of it. You don't get to complain about the bottom of the slippery slope you foolishly trumpeted climbing when no one made you climb it in the first place. It was always going to end this way.

I was there when the rock bands were kicked off the major labels so the execs could hire a "creative team" centered around pre-picked singers who had their voices warped by computers to sound "perfect" and such people were pushed by the mainstream for decades. No one fought this, just as no one fought Clear Channel buying up the entire radio industry. So there was only one way it could end. The result of letting things be mechanized has led to a dead industry that has nothing to offer artists or audiences. It is so bad that, guess what, the industry is now being taken over by AI. How is any of this a surprise to anyone?

What is there to be an optimist over if you are involved in this industry? There hasn't been anything worth being hopeful for in easily over a quarter of a century. This is the inevitable end of the anti-art and entertainment attitude of the art and entertainment industry. They have killed themselves, and they deserve their fate.

You don't drink poison then complain of stomach pains. And yet that is what we keep seeing time and time again. Unreality is everywhere.

The world's smallest violin for those getting what they deserve.

But to speak more generally, blind positivity and negativity does no one any good. You can't pretend to be something you're not and you can't pretend things are not as they are. Much like the teenage nihilists who think nothing matters because mom and dad told them smoking weed is bad, it is all childish in the worst ways.

None of these types believe in a meaning for art in the first place, therefore they don't care when the meaning is stripped from it. You cannot rage at the water flooding the kitchen when you are the one who refused to fix the pipes. You can indulge in anger all you want, but it is entirely your own fault. We should stop pretending otherwise. Until we address why those pipes are there in the first place, and what they are meant to do, we are destined for the flood to continue indefinitely until the floors are entirely ruined.

And this is exactly where we are today.

The truth is that if you don't believe things have a purpose, you objectively do not have a positive outlook on life. You are not a rational optimist, because there is nothing rational about your optimism. It is entirely fake and built on a foundation of sand. And because it is not real, it allows actual problems to never get fixed because "this isn't the hill to die on" or "it's not that bad" when the passage of time has shown that just about every slippery slope is real and easily probable with a human race that has no depths they won't sink to if left unattended. Things either have meaning, or they don't. If they do then it is imperative that the meaning is never lost, or everything else will be. As one can see, we are currently in the middle of losing large amounts of art and methods for creation as we speak. And there is no justifiable reason that should be happening.

I can say that many of the things I was told growing up that would never happen because of some "slippery slope fallacy" all ended up happening anyway. And all those people who were mindlessly positive about it "never going to happen" now either pretend they never said it or embrace said decay wholeheartedly now. In no scenario is there any self-reflection or accepting error, it is just moving on to being "positive" about the next stupid issue. These are the people currently blocking real efforts at advancement or preservation because they do not understand the purpose of what is being created in the first place. They merely consume and move on to the next product.

It never gets better because positivists are too positive about their delusions which, ironically, ends up creating more pessimists who can see how full of it said optimists really are. This continues a needless cycle of unopposed decay staved off by name-calling and excuses from folks with entirely too much undeserved ego. That anyone still believes in "progress" today is amazing as it requires an incredible amount of confidence in your betters who haven't earned said confidence at all. Don't ever say psyops do not exist. Modernists prove they do every single day with the garbage they continually excuse and the decay they defend as progress.

If you have been alive since the 20th century and you are still under the belief that things are still "getting better" then you are either coping and in need of a sanitarium, or actively evil and complicit in decay and treating it as progress. The "optimist" mask no longer works, and is no longer fooling anyone. Hence the increase in suicides, depression, and alienation, and the loss of societal trust and local community. No one trusts you anymore, just as no one trusts anyone at all. This is the result of flipping everything upside down.

Ironic that "rational" optimism would be undone by itself, but it was always destined to fail. There was never anything to it but willful ignorance.

So why do we keep lying to ourselves? What is it that prevents us from just accepting the way things are and looking for things to better them? Why the insistence on forcing a mood or a view on something?

This is a long way of saying that optimism doesn't really exist, and neither does pessimism. They are cartoonish views of reality frequently used to justify or excuse decay and rot instead of spurring those on to fix the issues in question.

It doesn't matter the industry or the space. All of modernity is now pretending truth is untruth and vice versa. No longer does it exist to build anything or to grow. We are made to accept decline and fool ourselves into calling it progress, and that can never lead to anything good. It very clearly has not.

Part of the reason we keep circling the drain is our inability to call a spade a spade and face the present we have allowed ourselves to fall into. We can no longer keep ignoring pain and pretending it is pleasure. Wounds must be cleaned and patched up.

If what you believe isn't built on real hope, it is a falsehood masquerading as truth. What is it those who don't believe what they preach end up doing? They lie.

They lie because they do not believe there is value in truth. They do not ultimately believe there is value in anything at all.

The first step is to stop accepting lies as truth.

What we need now, more than anything, is hope. And we can only get there by finally moving on from the mistakes of the 20th century that led us here.

Until we do that, we will be trapped in an endless cycle of backwards thinking and table flipping as everything falls apart. We can do better than that, and we have done so before. Just have hope that we can work our way out of this mess.

We're about due for a miracle! Let us hope we get one.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ The Stagnation of Western Animation

Every industry today works on an overly corporate belt loop of product without regard to much aside from cost cutting. We've talked about how kid cartoons aren't even made for kids today, but not so much why every cartoon looks the same. Sure, it's cheap, but its never been this blatant before. What is the moment that lead to this downfall?

The above video merely goes into the greater trends in the industry, but doesn't really talk about the root issue. Where did it come from?

I have to be honest, it's that the industry has never really cared that much for creativity except when trying to establish a foothold. Whether the Disney Afternoon, early Nickelodeon, or the early imports of Japanese anime, these hits all came about from risks taken by putting trust into the creators to do what they do best. 

With the way the industry is now, risk is forbidden and to be avoided at all costs. Even worse when there is no audience growth as they aim for older audiences who want childish animation instead of animation for kids or adults. There is no incentive for creativity anymore, and therefore the industry is in a death spiral. It won't actually die, but it will continually mechanize itself until the point that AI can replace a creative team that isn't hired to be creative.

Perhaps that is the end goal. Who knows? But every since the introduction of flash animation, industry insiders have defended every move their bosses have made to cut costs, streamline processes, and mechanize creativity. 

When machines can be programmed to do what they themselves dumb down their own industry to do, should we be surprised? You can make the argument that "at least there was human input" but don't forget that every change since the millennium in animation has to remove the human element. A machine taking charge is just completing the cycle already begun long ago. If you don't like the loss of humanity then you should have questioned why every change made since digital came in has made the industry more sterile. 

Why can nothing still look as good as old Tom & Jerry or Popeye shorts? Why is anime allowed to have more variety of genres? Why do hand drawn cells and traditional animation at their peak still blow away even the best CG over a quarter of a century after being replaced? Why is "better than nothing" considered a worthy standard worth maintaining? At what point should you demand more instead of accepting constantly lowering standards?

Until we address that, nothing is going to change.

In other news, the Gemini Man Kickstarter was funded! If you are a backer, check out the recent update and see just what is happening next. I'm still deciding on some things, but I'm still planning on sending out the first book of the series for digital backers once I've got all my ducks in a row. This has been a long time coming!

That's all for this week, hopefully I can get the blog back to normal again. I know some of you are probably sick of hearing about Gemini Man by now, so don't worry. I'll be heading back into other subjects again now that the campaign is over. I've got some subjects I definitely want to go over in the near future.

That's all for now. Have a good weekend!