Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Whirl of Invention: “Roundhay Garden Scene”

For the past few years, I’ve been fascinated by emergent media. I’ve been drawn to film recently. This is probably due to the fact that my classmate and I decided to do our final Turkish project on film and film translation and I ended up with the section on the history of Turkish cinema (long story short, it rose, became super prolific, then it was the 90’s and it was not a priority. It’s getting better now). I’ve decided to dedicate a sizable portion of my contribution to the reboot of The Potted Lid to watching copious amounts of silent film and commenting on them. I will warn everyone now: I am not a film studies student or anything close. I am simply an enthusiastic amateur who may not always have the time to research each of the films I watch. My opinions may not be super well-informed. That being said, if someone out there has more expertise, please feel free to comment and correct my ramblings. And if you have no expertise in this subject, please comment anyway and we’ll ramble together.

Let’s start at the beginning, then. The earliest bit of film I could find is “Roundhay Garden Scene.” It’s just over 2 seconds long and can be found Roundhay Garden Scene.

What I find most interesting about this is where the black spaces are. By my understanding, the black bars that appear at the top and right of this scene are imperfections on the individual frames. I understand, then, how the one at the top happens, but I find how consistent the one on the right is to be confusing. I have a feeling this is a very basic thing in film, which seems to mean that I can’t figure out why certain imperfections last over the course of multiple frame or why this one seems to move upward. It could be part of how film was developed, which I also know little about.

Outside of my lack of understanding this aspect of film, I’m fascinated by the way each person has chosen to move. The man in the foreground looks like he’s just exaggerating a regular walk, but everyone else seems to have committed to odd forms of movement. The woman in the light colored dress moves backwards before turning her back on the camera, while the man in the background starts with his back to us , then turns forward. His coats are flying pretty impressively for walking around a garden. I still haven’t been able to figure out if the woman in black is just turning along with the second man, with her acting as the pivot of the turn, or if she’s just swaying back and forth and then starting to spin in the last fraction of a second. The men seem to have exaggerated their movements more, but everyone’s clearly doing something that should be a noticeable movement on the film.

Even though this is incredibly short, I’ve grown quite fond of it. According to the Wikipedia article on this clip, the individuals in the film are the cinematographer’s son, the former’s friend (the woman in the light dress), and his in-laws. I find that there’s something very human about the awkwardness of it. It seems like the natural result of your dad/friend/son-in-law saying “hey, I’m gonna try out this new thing, everyone move around!” I like how it gives you a small glimpse of the tiniest of moments between a few people playing with the hip new technology.

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Stargate SG-1 Seasons 1 and 2

In a dusty storage room underneath Cheyenne Mountain, a group of soldiers dodging patrol play a game of poker. They are the unsuspecting victims of Jaffa from the alien warlord Apophys who captures one of the soldiers and injure the others. An investigation of the incident leads to the restarting of the stargate program. A hastily assembled team including Colonel O’Neill and Captain Carter goes through the stargate back to Abydos to retrieve Daniel Jackson (from the movie Stargate) and locate where the mysterious invaders came from. Thus begins Stargate SG-1, a military science fiction adventure you can probably watch with your kids at this point.

Seasons 1 and 2 introduce and explore three themes: SG-1 vs the world, the nature of godhood, and Earth’s place among the stars.

SG-1 vs The World

Several episodes in season 1 require SG-1 to rely on no one but themselves to solve a problem or save a planet or rescue a friend: “Fire and Water” and “Cor-ai” and “Tin Man” are notable examples. A few episodes at the beginning of the series play with this theme, but the characters’ relationships to each other lack the foundation they have later on the series. The turning point is “Fire and Water” which is the first time Daniel Jackson is believed to be dead and actually isn’t. While the team struggle to accept his death on Earth, Jackson is interrogated by an amphibious alien who lost his lover in Babylon a couple thousand years ago. SG-1 recovers their memories and goes to rescue Jackson.

Perhaps the most telling is the episode “Within the Serpent’s Grasp” which is the big finale finish for the opening season. SG-1 boards an invading Goa’uld ship with the intent to destroy it only to meet obstacle after obstacle. And with the stargate program closed down, there is no hope of back up coming to their rescue.

The “us vs them” mentality prominent in the first season disperses in the second. SG-1 becomes the flagship team of Stargate Command with all the support of the United States government at their backs (on most occasions). While SG-1 is on their own for a couple episodes, there is no longer the looming threat that the entire world is against them. Stargate SG-1 lost some of its charm with that switch.

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Screencap from Season 1 Episode 2 “Children of the Gods Part 2”

The Nature of Gods

The first season introduced multiple societies that mistook SG-1 as gods. SG-1 always waved off these comments by saying they were regular humans like the people they visit, and I really hoped the writers would have gone further with that sort of interaction. What if a society didn’t believe SG-1? What if SG-1 were unwillingly worshiped by a village? Sadly, I may never get this episode.

The second season fixes these problems by not introducing a society that believes them gods in the first place. In this way, travel via stargate is normalized; SG-1 is no longer rehashing the same sentiments in every episode for the viewers that may have missed last week. Additionally, the Goa’uld are believed more and more frequently to be false gods, and this paves the road for the larger rebellion against the Goa’uld System Lords. As emerging technologies prove the Goa’uld System Lords can be defeated, Stargate Command’s mentality shifts from “The Goa’uld Can Be Defeated by Sheer Dumb Luck and More Luck” to “Defeating the Goa’uld Is Challenging But Not Impossible.” This is enough for the viewers (i.e. me) to believe that the Goa’uld’s downfall is inevitable.

So where the first season sets up that SG-1 are not indeed divine, the second season sets up the imminent fall of the greatest threat to humanity.

Earth’s Place Among the Stars

In season 1, SG-1 encounters two societies with technology more advanced than them and hears about an additional four. Those two societies are the Nox, who refuse to use violence even in self defense, and the Tollans, who kept their technology a secret so as not to repeat a sin in their recent past. Both the Tollans and Nox refuse to share their knowledge with SG-1 because Earth is still so very young and foolhardy.

The four other societies were introduced in the episode “The Torment of Tantalus” wherein SG-1 encounters what may have been a meeting place of four different races to form an alliance. One of these races is the Asgard whom SG-1 meets in season 2. While the Asgard have not directly shared technology with SG-1, they do share information in the episode “The Fifth Race.” O’Neill learns that the Asgard were one of the races of an alliance called The Four Races which included the Asgard, the Nox, the Furlings, and the Ancients who built the stargate system. At the end of the episode, one of the Asgard tells O’Neill that the humans of Earth have taken their first steps to becoming the Fifth Race of this alliance.

Which means, if this development keeps going, that Stargate Command might become a mecca of alien life in the later seasons. There is much potential!

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Screenshot from Season 2 Episode 5 “Need”

Bonus: The Many Deaths of Daniel Jackson

Daniel Jackson is the most prone to odd happenings as a result of his curiosity. Therefore, he’s the most likely to have near death experiences. Or rather, several experiences wherein he was supposed to have died but didn’t. Let’s recap everything in seasons 1 and 2 (out of a total of ten seasons):

  • On Abydos in the original movie Stargate, Jackson volunteers to be left behind to study the ruins on Abydos and is reported as dead so no one attempts to look for him. He’s revealed to be alive in the pilot “Children of the Gods.”
  • Jackson is kidnapped by an amphibious alien because he could read cuneiform and therefore knew the location of the alien’s lover. The rest of SG-1 was sent back with foggy memories of Jackson’s death but he reveals himself to be alive at the end of the episode. (Season 1, “Fire and Water”)
  • Jackson is sent into an alternate timeline where his alternate self is dead and he must convince his friends’ alternatives to let him return to his reality/dimension. (Season 1, “There but for the Grace of God”)
  • Jackson is fatally shot in the stomach on board a Goa’uld invader ship, revives himself in a Goa’uld sarcophagus, and then narrowly avoids the C4 bombs that destroy the ships. (Season 2 “The Serpent’s Lair”)
  • Jackson is covered by a cave in inside a mineshaft and revived using a sarcophagus stolen from the Goa’uld. He later gets addicted to it. (Season 2, “Need”)
  • Jackson unwillingly switches bodies with a rebellion leader named Marcello and spends a whole episode in a dying body while his teammates try to convince Marcello to switch back. (Season 2, “Holiday”)

So we’re averaging about three near deaths a season. Which means the show is going to eventually make a meta commentary and/or running gag. Fingers crossed, y’all!

*Morike recaps Stargate SG-1 on her personal blog KT’s Bookshelf. Check her out for more commentary on intergalactic adventures!

FFXV – there goes $60 not well spent

I finished this mess of a game almost a month ago, and I’d like to think the time since has given me a chance to get past my initial thoughts, which can mostly be summed up as: Fuck you, game.

Which it has, luckily. Now my thoughts can be summed up as: Fuck you, game. But with more coherence.

Warnings: massive spoilers ahead

Morike’s Mecha Marathon

Hello and welcome to the world of geekery that is The Potted Lid. We’re reviving the site and how we do things here, which means a few of us are embarking on projects that may or may not prove to be a little too ambitious for the amount of free time we have in our daily lives. I’m talking, of course, about my own project: the Mecha Marathon!

The Mecha Marathon is an in-depth look at the mecha anime genre and its evolution as seen through fifty of the most popular mecha shows in the past thirty years. I’m going to be honest, most of these are shows I’ve had on my To Watch list for a long time. But now I have an excuse to watch them and an even bigger excuse to analyze them like an English Professor a little too excited about Shakespeare.

Am I excited? Hell yeah I’m excited! Fifty shows, five subtopics, and a mini-series of wrap up essays, this is one mecha analysis long enough to give the Gundam franchise a run for its money. In this post, I’ll break down the different subtopics and what I intend to explore with each one.

I did play with the idea of not telling everyone my plans for the show, but I did make a whole spreadsheet and put real work into curating everything on this list. Also, you the readers can hold me accountable if ever I drop the ball on this.

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The MegaBots Mark II which was eventually scrapped due to lack of pilot safety features during melee combat.

Contemporary

This subtopic will feature some of the most recommended/highest rated mecha shows to be released since 2010. Of the myriad of mecha shows released in the last seven years, I had the pleasure of watching four to completion. These four will serve as a warm-up to the rest of the project. Whether the show is new to me or not, I will take closer looks at archetypes, creativity, and influences from other shows (mecha or otherwise). Since I want a bigger foundation under my belt to draw out influences, most of these shows, especially the ones new to me, will be watched toward the end of the project.

The editorial wrap-up of this section will compare the similarities of these shows, the biggest influence on the contemporary shows in general, and analyze the creativity expressed in the narrative and world-building.

Franchises

Though I will be watching a total of four mecha anime franchises, I regulated the Gundam franchise into its own category. The remaining franchises are Fafner of the Azure, Macross, and Aquarion. Unless otherwise stated, I will focus on the television shows of the franchises and not any OVA/movie remakes (looking at you, Macross). For these shows, I will take a look at why they are franchises (i.e. why is the public attracted to this show?) and what archetypes or storytelling devices are required in order for a show to work within its franchise.

The editorial wrap-up of this section will compare the similarities of the franchises and look at the quality of work produced as time went on. I may even explore why quality supposedly decreases with each new installment (looking at you, Aquarion) and whether that is related to the Live Long Enough to Suck curse of modern American television.

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The Kuratas created by Suidobashi Heavy Industries of Japan. I do not follow them on social media so cannot comment about their current condition regarding their upcoming fight with MegaBots Inc.

GUNDAM

Can only be written in all caps all the time because it’s one of the biggest franchises to come out of Japan. I will not be reviewing every single property in the Gundam franchise, but the shows on the list include a pretty good mix of Universal Century (8 items) and Alternate Universe (5 items). While I have already seen some of the stuff on the list, I have not seen most of it. Needless to say, I am the most excited for this part. For these shows, I will endeavor to watch them in order from release date and look at the evolution of Gundam since its original release in 1979.

In the editorial wrap-up, I will look at what makes a Gundam show part of the franchise (especially for the Alternate Universe properties) and whether Gundam can lay claim to revolutionizing the mecha genre.

Classics/Retro

This subtopic includes approximately nine of the biggest shows from the 1990s to early 2000s starting with Neon Genesis Evangelion and ending with Gurran Lagan. These shows will be tackled similar to their Contemporary compatriots with me looking at archetypes presented in the narrative, creativity of storytelling/world-building, and influences from other shows.

Since these episodes span the decade typically referred to as the Golden Age of Anime, the editorial wrap-up will look at the evolution of the mecha genre during this time: the fading of some archetypes, the emergence of others, and the general quality of anime during this time.

American Made

With mecha one of the more influential and distinctly Japanese genres of the world, it’s no surprise America took a stab at recreating the magic. In this subtopic, I’ll look at four American Made works–two television shows, a movie, and a novel–and compare the American version to its Japanese counterparts. How did the Americans fare in their attempt? You’ll have to wait and see.

Since this subtopic requires the strongest foundation for a full analysis, I will be watching these shows last. The editorial wrap-up will review the overall success of America’s attempts at mecha and whether America can be trusted with a mecha property in the future.

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This model from Mobile Suit Gundam stands as a beacon of hope to all mecha fans.

*Bonus Subtopics: Reader Recommendations and Additional Titles

I anticipate this project attracting attention from anime fans in general and mecha fans specifically, and I anticipate future readers and fellow mecha fans will throw recommendations at me left and right during the project. While I won’t incorporate these recommendations into my already tight watching schedule during the main portion of the project, I don’t want to ignore them either. Which is why, after the main parts of this project are done and dusted, I’ll keep my mecha writing alive by reviewing recommendations made by readers during the project.

I also started a list of Additional Titles to consume after the bulk of the project is completed. Titles in this list include manga that accompany the main property (such as the shojo and shonen manga from The Vision of Escaflowne), movie remakes of longer television shows (i.e. Macross: Do You Remember Love?), and other shows that I didn’t add to the main list for one reason or another (Gundam SEED, etc).

Neither the Reader Recommendations nor Additional Titles will have an editorial wrap-up as these are meant to be an ongoing thing to keep me writing about giant robots. Additionally, articles under this subtopic won’t be published until I am finished with the editorial articles wrapping up the Mecha Marathon proper.

In conclusion, I may be in over my head, but at least I am writing about something I will always love from the deepest engine pistons powering my heart: giant robots. If you are interested, you can also check out my Pinterest board of giant robot artwork affectionately called Mecha Aesthetic.

Questions about when I am planning on watching what? Comments about which fight scenes I should look forward to? Concerns over which non-canon ship will become my OTP? Just looking for someone to geek out about giant robots with? Leave a comment below!

The Potted Lid Returns

Hello, internet! Remember us? We ran a blog a couple years back. This blog, in fact. And now we’re returning! We’ve rearranged things a bit. For the time being, Basil, Morike, and Uta will be your primary bloggers, with Luna and Vwmpage as occassional writers. In a slight change of form, we’ll each focus on a couple of specific topics. Basil will be bringing you her thoughts on video games and East Asian drama series. Morike will take you on a tour through the genre of mecha anime and of retro television. Uta will focus on silent film and documentaries. These may change as time goes on, but that’s at least how we’ll begin. We’re planning on publishing every five times a month, on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, and 25th. With that said, see you all on the 10th!