SMC S3E2 and MLPFIM S6E6 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

Happy Walpurgisnacht! In honor of witches everywhere, today and for the next week you can get the ebook of The Very Soil: An Unauthorized Critical Study of Puella Magi Madoka Magica for just $2.99! Simply go to that link, purchase the book, and enter the coupon code EH65Z at checkout. Once you’ve purchased the book, you’ll be able to download it whenever you want in your choice of common ebook formats!
Anyway, on to regular business: How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episodes, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Sailor Moon and MLP there starting at our new time of 6:00 p.m. EST.

After the chat, I will update this post with the log.
ETA: Chatlog below the cut!
Continue reading

re:play Episode 9: Final Fantasy VI Part 9: Empires

Made possible by the generous contributions to my Patreon! We’re monthly now!
Closed captioning isn’t done yet because I still haven’t managed to finish last month’s CC, because CC is difficult and time-consuming and this month has kinda sucked. Sorry.And by “just” I mean “an hour ago.” Give me a day or two on this one.

As always, these videos don’t always display correctly on Tumblr, so those of you seeing this there please click through to to watch.

Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 70

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Life Cycle: A curious discovery leads to the solution of more than one mystery.
  • Living Death: The verteron source is discovered, and then things get worse.

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.

Vlog Review: Star vs. the Forces of Evil S1E8

Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to to watch.
Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Star vs. Evil, commissioned episodes of other series, and panels I presented at various cons) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!

See you in the morning (Blind as a Bat)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s February 22, 1993, two days before “See No Evil,” so see that post for charts and news.

We have here a challenging episode to write about. “Blind as a Bat” is visually impressive, as the team of director Dan Riba and Studio Junio almost has to be. There’s a particular chase sequence, in which a car full of teenagers flee a suspension bridge under attack by the Penguin in a stolen stealth helicopter, that’s absolutely thrilling, from the menace of the silently hovering helicopter to the writhing of the support cables it severs, right up into the final shot of the sequence as we watch the bridge collapse.
At the same time, well, we pan right from the collapsing bridge to the car full of teens watching the collapse from an impossible distance, followed by a cut to a news announcer, whose line includes the statement “Amazingly, all those on the collapsing bridge escaped with only minor injuries.” It’s not that people survived; it’s that there’s no indication of how they survived, just a flat declaration that the bridge collapse was an empty spectacle devoid of real cost.
Empty spectacle is the name of the game in this episode, a bizarre decision given the premise, that Batman is temporarily blinded by an explosion just when the Penguin is terrorizing the city in a prototype helicopter stolen from Wayne Industries. There’s a host of fruitful ground contained in questions the episode brushes aside with an offhand comment; for example, since when does Wayne Industries develop weapons? (Wayne comments that he’s “uncomfortable” with it, but then seems satisfied when the helicopter demonstrates its destructive abilities.) Given that the helicopter’s stealth capabilities are shared by the Batwing, was it simply developed as a cover for creating the Batwing? If so, shouldn’t Batman feel some sense of guilt or responsibility? Yet there’s no indication of such, beyond “the city is in danger and I’m unable to help.”
Alternatively, his blindness could be read as a metaphor for his failure to see the dangers of creating weapons, and in particular for creating a weapon called “Raven” and not expecting the Penguin to try to steal it. Wayne’s visible satisfaction with the weapon–that he finds its clearly demonstrated ability to destroy the U.S. military’s enemies something that apparently alleviates, rather than deepens, his discomfort–is evidence of a “blind spot” he has demonstrated before, namely that as a supporter and beneficiary of Gotham’s structures of power, he is unable to deal effectively with abusers of legitimate power. He is a “captain of industry,” and hence complicit with the military-industrial complex.
Remember, this is 1993. Communism, at least as a justification for the existence of a state of perpetual warfare, is over; the Soviet Union collapsed years ago. We’re still more than eight years out from terrorism taking over from communism as the new eternal enemy, the spread of which must be contained by transferring large amounts of tax money to war profiteers and attempting to conquer whatever nation happens to catch the U.S.’s eye. In between, in the absence of justification, the only options are to end U.S. aggression and imperialism, or to carry on as usual while ignoring the question of why.
Historically, of course, we went with the latter, and clearly in the DCAU matters are little different. Even if we assume the Raven is a by-product of developing the technologies involved in the Batwing, that still means Batman is deploying military hardware in his (now revealed as distressingly literal) war on crime. This is a pure expression of the Bat, a raging beast out to kill the enemies of the status quo, rather than a protector so full of hope that he keeps putting his villains in a cardboard prison so that they can have a chance to reform.
Which brings us to a metaphor that is, perhaps, truer to what the episode actually depicts, albeit a disappointingly ableist one: Batman’s blindness is an expression of helplessness and despair. It renders him unable to fight even his least menacing and most ridiculous foes, in a scenario that forces him to deploy military technology on the streets of Gotham. It is a surrender to the Bat, a giving up on the idea that is hope for his criminals or for himself.
So, perhaps, it is telling that the episode contains a handful of references to Star Trek, a series often espoused as epitomizing hope, and in particular as embodying the hope that our present social ills are resolvable, that humanity in general and Western culture in particular are potentially redeemable. They’re mostly subtle: the Raven’s stealth capabilities are not referred to as such, but rather as a “cloaking device,” on a craft named after a bird (just as, in Star Trek, “birds of prey” and “warbirds” are the two types of ships that possess cloaking devices). Later, the Raven’s laser cannon fires with a sound effect used many times on the original Star Trek series for various futuristic weapons. And of course, there is the solution to Batman’s blindness: a sensor package, worn in a mask, that communicates directly with his optic nerve to produce a visual display rather distinct from normal vision. It’s bulkier, more primitive, and needs an external power source, but Batman and Leslie Thompkins appear to have just invented the VISOR device worn by blind character Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
There is still hope. Things may seem dark now–so dark as to render vision impossible–but there may yet be a way forward. But that way is not to be found in the normal worlds in which Batman resides, the worlds of noir and street crime, violence and capitalism, but in a more fantastical, science-fictional direction.
But that means change, a massive upheaval to the world and its structures. It’s time, in short, for an apocalypse–and as a superhero, it’s down to Batman to defer it.

Current status of the Patreon:

No liveblog chat thingy today

Too many people unable to come, we’re just going to skip it this week.
Starting next week, we’re going to try having the chat at 6 pm EST. We’ll do that for a while and then decide whether to keep it as the standard time going forward.
We also need to talk about what we’re going to watch, when. When I made the schedule announcement last time I was under the impression that the new season of SMC would be doing two episodes a month, but they appear to be going weekly. So there’s a couple of options: we could watch one show every week and alternate the other two, or we could watch both MLP and SMC each week and put off Psycho-Pass? Feel free to comment with your preference–and if you prefer the first option, let me know which show you’d want to be the weekly one.

Vlog Review: Star vs. the Forces of Evil S1E7

Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to to watch.
Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos (including Star vs. Evil, commissioned episodes of other series, and panels I presented at various cons) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!

She's Batgirl! (Shadow of the Bat)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s September 13 and 14, 1993, the two days immediately prior to “Mudslide,” so see that post for charts and news.
On Batman the Animated Series, something that’s been a long time coming finally arrives with “Shadow of the Bat,” the debut of Batgirl. (No relation to Batman: Shadow of the Bat, a comic book series which debuted a year prior but had no distinct identity of its own, being just a way for DC to cram more Batman stories into a month.)
This is a deeply atypical origin story, and so helps define, in this fledgling ideaspace, what a typical origin story actually is. If Batman and Robin are both inside the lines, and Batgirl outside, that helps us determine where the lines might be.
The most obvious difference here is that Barbara Gordon still has parents, or a parent at least. (Her mother is never named; she presumably died or left at some point prior to the series, but this is not explored.) She is not motivated to fight crime out of a desire for revenge, as Batman and Robin are, but to protect others and to assert her own power.
This, perhaps, is the most intriguing part of “Shadow of the Bat, Part I”: the degree to which the first half of the episode plays out like a “sympathetic villain” origin story. Barbara’s frustration is depicted clearly, and the continual dismissal she receives from other characters is emphasized repeatedly. In her first scene, she comments that her father has barely stopped treating her like a child, and he’s “already trying to marry me off.” It’s a playful response, her tone gently teasing her father in response to and recognition of his attempt to help his daughter find love and happiness with a man he likes, but at the same time it’s a firm drawing of boundaries, establishing that her life is her own.
But even as she tries to establish her independence, her life is falling apart around her. By the middle of the first episode, Commissioner Gordon is in prison, the evidence against him strong enough to convince the DA Barbara assumed would be an ally, and the one person she was absolutely certain would help, Batman, is chasing “something bigger.” When she vows that Batman will come to the rally “one way or the other,” her fist clenched, the entire DCAU hangs in the balance.
Imagine not knowing that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl in the comics and past Batman television shows. Imagine, too, that you don’t notice that the title card shows the titular silhouette, a slim, feminine figure that, except for the bat cowl, looks exactly like Barbara’s pose in this moment. Surely this is her great moment of decision, before she picks a theme, puts on a costume, and stages a crime that forces Batman to come to the rally and her father’s aid, yes? The beginning of her fall, the tragedy of a woman who wanted to help and was denied the chance, so she turned to crime. We are coming off of an episode about Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, after all!
But no. She does something else. Batman will not come, will not help, so she becomes Batman.
Or, rather, Batgirl, because she remains an atypical hero. Lacking the defining trauma, the Bat is not something that lives inside her; it is a costume she puts on, a deliberate performance through which she is able to express her power. Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, and changes the world into what she wants it to be–one where Commissioner Gordon is free and the people who hurt and betrayed him are in comas or imprisoned. Batgirl is not Barbara Gordon’s compulsion, not her true self; it’s a power fantasy she acts out.
Which is itself curious. Batman, as we have touched on briefly before, is not a power fantasy. He’s a trauma victim, constantly reliving his parents’ deaths, a cowering child hiding behind two false personae, millionaire playboy philanthropist Bruce Wayne and Batman. This is not a figure that we want to be! (Not even those of us who have experienced trauma. The power we fantasize about is not the power to remain traumatized while fighting evil; it’s the power to erase or escape the trauma.) Rather, he represents the fantasy of a protector, that someone might both possess power and understand pain, and so choose to protect us from all the things that frighten and hurt us.
Batgirl, by contrast, is a power fantasy. Which is one reason (the others, of course, being that they’re two separate characters in the comics, and also the sexism underlying calling an adult woman a girl in contexts where a man would never be called a boy) that she’s Batgirl, rather than Batwoman. Adults, you see, rarely have power fantasies about being superheroes, because superheroes defend the status quo, and when adults have power fantasies, it’s generally out of frustration with the status quo. We have already seen the characters that represent these fantasies: Poison Ivy is a fantasy about having the power to punish the people making the world a materially worse place to live, while Clayface is a fantasy about having the power to avenge ourselves on those who’ve wronged us. Other examples abound throughout the DCAU.
Generally speaking, it’s children for whom superheroes represent a power fantasy, though there are of course exceptions (one of which we will be exploring in some depth in a few years’ time). So by creating Batgirl as a power fantasy, Barbara Gordon marks herself as being still somewhat childlike; she is an innocent, jumping into a world she doesn’t understand. As Batman says, “It takes more than a costume and an attitude to do this job.” It takes a fragmented identity, a tortured past, an obsessive need to protect society and pursue crime; it takes, in short, trauma.
Barbara Gordon is, simply put, too psychologically healthy to be a superhero long-term. She can and will continue to grow and mature; her adult self years from now will not be any variant of Bat, but Commissioner Barbara Gordon–and if her adult self is not a Bat, it follows that the Bat version of her is not an adult. She is Batgirl, not Batwoman, even if she and Renee Montoya are pretty blatantly flirting with one another in the police station in Part I.
But all that lies in the future and in her name. Right now, she’s as resourceful as ever, sneaking a peak at a book of mugshots or, when Robin shuts her out of hearing Gil Mason’s phone call, using binoculars to read the pad where he wrote down the meeting address. She’s not up to Batman’s level in martial arts, of course, nor does she possess his array of toys, but she’s got gymnastics skills that make her mobile and unpredictable, and a surprisingly effective arsenal assembled from what she could get her hands on. She’s not Batman’s protege or ward, not a minion or a student or a damsel in distress; she’s able to stand as his equal.
Just for a moment, at the end there, we saw the reification of the alternative to hierarchy “Harley and Ivy” offered us: a team. The Bat Family is born.

Current status of the Patreon:

SMC S3E1 and MLPFIM S6E5 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episodes, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Sailor Moon and MLP there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

After the chat, I will update this post with the log.
ETA: Chatlog after the cut!
Continue reading

Quick Update on Liveblog Chat Thingies

Tomorrow’s liveblog chat thingy will be an episode of Sailor Moon Crystal followed by an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
In weeks to come, we will watch MLP and SMC on weekends where there is new SMC, and MLP and Psycho-Pass on weekends where there is no SMC. If there is no MLP, we will only watch one show.
(I know I said I’d do a poll, but I decided to put on my tyrannical dictator hat instead.)