Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thought Experiment: Identity Branding

Recently I’ve been mulling over various issues related to life, and related to everyone’s role in the internet, and pondering a new term to describe a set of ideas – “Identity Branding”, meaning a device used by people in the blogosphere, or internet media, where the identity of being angry, or superficial, or ultra intellectual, or crass, has become its own brand within on-line discussions. While terms like “Identity Politics” is freely thrown around like confetti in this day and age, perhaps we should consider this. My terminology is still being developed, and I realize the very phrase, some might argue, seems like an oxymoron or a misnomer. The Blog, in the past have explored related subjects in depth, here, here, here, here, and here and it’s time to expand the dialog. I see the results of this phenomenon, Identity branding, frequently, and how I came about this epiphany has been a slow process that I couldn’t articulate as I was working through my own frustrations for a good number of months. This phrase could be elaborated on as “Ideological Identity Branding” as well. When I think of the slogan phrase from The X-Files: “Trust No One”, I think of it as having several layers of meaning, one being don’t trust the government, don’t trust corporations, or trust religious institutions based on dogma.

But my personal interpretation of the phrase has been more along the line of “Don’t accept things at face value.” Retired political Radio personality Randi Rhodes, while acknowledging the cesspool that is talk radio used to say: “I know the company I keep, don’t take my word for it, and look it up yourself.” This crystallizes for me the problem of Identity branding in relation to the internet. We all participate in identity branding, all of us who writes blogs, I do too, and this isn’t about discouraging anyone from the business of blogging, but it was about starting a dialog to become mindful of the mechanizations of identity branding. There’s a relationship between the writer and the reader indeed, while this process can be beneficial, it can be detrimental when the writer is perceived as an authority figure in excess. Identity branding can victimize the reader to lose all sense of themselves, to the point of becoming too invested in championing the point of view, or agenda of the writer. The byproduct of identity branding is that the very notion of ‘free thought’ on either side of the political divide is gone. What is left is a kind of white noise that leaves everyone with closed minds, and the inability of listen. Therefore, the ability to process and accept and reject what you wish to on any given point has been taken away, all for the sake of the validation of a higher figure. This also applies to discussions about gender equality, racial equality, or sexual orientation.

Instead of the goal to encourage free thought, this identity branding is like a Frankenstein creature of unintended consequences, where people form around their own clicks to such a degree, the intention of democratic dialog dovetails into uniform thinking within those clicks. This device is used to demonize people whom, in most areas, share the same goals, but differ on certain points. I really had assumed that this phrase was already part of the Lexicon of the advertising world, or marketing world, but it seems to not be the case. Therefore I will be developing this term and refining it, and hope readers will start to ponder this point while going on with their day to day lives. More to come.

Addendum: The XFL Blog will be resuming its reviews by Christopher Irish, who has been busy elsewhere with a special project.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wise Up

I feel I must post this, I am weary, I've had some revelations about our racial divide over the last few weeks, and now this attack in France and the sad, inevitable reaction of more the same, more war, more closing boarders. Sometimes, words need to be few:

I am just weary.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chris's Comic Corner - The New Season, Issue 2

The next, and delayed, review by Chris Irish for IDW’s season 11 of The X-Files comic, there’s a couple of surprising, and disturbing developments with Mulder in this issue. –Matt

Season 11
“Home Again Part 1”

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

    This issue begins with a satellite flying above the earth six weeks before the events in the last issue. While there is some communication between the controllers and CENTCOM via speech bubbles, one speech bubble pops up over a black panel, saying, “This is your stop, Mulder,” then there is a rush of colors that harkens back to the time-travel scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The next scene has a bus driver waking Mulder after a long ride. Once Mulder is off the bus we see that he’s somewhere in Garden Country, Nebraska. He makes his way to an oil field in the middle of a Nebraska corn field (nice reference to the mythology of The X-Files). Mulder asks a man working on the oil rig about a farm in the other field. As he leaves for the farm, the workers get back to the rig, and we see a “Cantus” logo on the office trailer.

The image will remind fans, or evoke memories of The X-Files season one episode, "Space". -Matt
We join Scully in a Washington, D.C., street cafĂ©. She finds A.D. Skinner sitting at a table and tells him to follow her. Once they are away from public view, they discuss Mulder’s possible return and Gibson Praise’s manipulation. Skinner mentions that Mulder is still wanted by the federal government, and he saw the warrants being filed before he was relieved. Scully points out that the F.B.I. is in a weakened state but Cantus has more resources, and they’ve been digging into old X-Files cases. One such case is the Peacock family, a classic “Monster of the Week” family of cannibalistic inbred mutants in the episode “Home” (season 4, episode 2). Scully recounts the events the night she and Mulder raided their home, how two of the brothers were killed, but the matriarch and a brother escaped. Skinner thinks Gibson is aiming to finish what Mulder couldn’t, and Scully tells him that she has an idea where Gibson’s plan is going, but she’s sure he would be ahead of her in his overall plan.

Back to Mulder, he finally arrives at the house in the field he asked the oil rig workers about. He knocks, but no one is home. He lets himself in, looking for anyone, and ends up in the back of the house, where a barn is standing. He finds a young lady milking a cow. She pulls out a shotgun and asks if he’s a tax collector (reminded me of a scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Mulder uses his cover name, “Blake,” when he introduces himself, and we find out her name is Molly. He brings up the gas-drilling operation, and Molly tells him that they won’t sell the farm. Mulder (or Blake) mentions the amount of fracking the oil rig is doing nearby and how they’re surrounded. Mulder walks out as Molly comments for the second time how good-looking he is, just as some shadowy figures drop down from the rafters. Mulder crouches down to look at some pigs eating in the mud just as a small horde of misshapen mutants charge him from behind, sending him crashing to the ground. The little mutants all chant, “Poppa,” and Mulder utters an uncharacteristic “I don’t believe this.” Molly tells them to get him “home,” and everything goes black.
We rejoin Scully at F.B.I. headquarters, where A.D. Morales catches up to her in a hallway. Scully tries to get away from her, but Morales is insistent on bringing up Scully’s saving a member of the board when Gibson caused them to black out or go into seizures. Morales grabs Scully’s arm to finish her statement, when she tells Scully that there’s a discrepancy in the report concerning the events in the meeting room. As this exchange is going on between them, Morales mentions how hard Mulder and Scully have had it over the years because of pressure from management. She hands Scully a file, and Morales tells her that she believes in her. Morales walks away, and Scully reads the file. It has a large “Cantus” logo on it.
Back to Mulder, he is awakened by someone saying his name. When he opens his eyes he sees a hulking mutant standing over him. Molly arrives at the door and tells the mutant, named Edmund, not to scare Mulder, because it “makes the milk sour early and curdle up.” She tells Mulder that Edmund holds a grudge against him for killing his brothers (in the episode “Home”). She asks Mr. Blake what he’s really doing there as Mulder tries to get out of bed, only to find his pants missing. Mulder discovers that Molly is a member of the Peacock clan, even though she has none of the characteristic defects. She informs Mulder that Edmund has reached the end of his potency and they are in need of “new blood.” The small Peacock horde climbs on Mulder, crouching in his bed chanting, “Poppa,” again. Mulder asks Molly what she’s suggesting, although he has to know by now what the plan is. She explains the plan, but Mulder declines the offer. Molly scoffs at him for assuming she was who was going to breed with him, and the Peacock matriarch wheels out from her spot from under the bed.

Old fans of the show will no doubt be familiar with the Peacocks. The episode “Home” is one of the most infamous X-Files episodes ever aired. The heavy theme of incest and murder pushed the limits of what TV episodes could air. This, no doubt, will prove to be a creepy and disturbing turn for Mulder. Although the Peacocks are absolutely disgusting, it is nice to see the story line revived.

Special thanks to A.M.D. for editorial assistance.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Benjamin's Millennial Compendium - Comics 5

Benjamin’s new, and final review, of the Millennium comic from IDW is here, written by Joe Harris, and art by Colin Lorimer. His final review is very candid, and we hope it will be helpful. -Matt

This Is Who We Are

Before we get into the final review of this series I wanted to call your attention to covers. Each issue has two covers (with the exception of the first, which had a limited third cover by Paul Shipper). One of the covers in each set is done by menton3 and the other is a photo from the series. The work by menton3 is very atmospheric and well done. It matches the mood and even offers some subtle foreshadowing. I am less fond of the photo covers. They are dated. The idea of this story is that we have moved with Frank Black into the present time. The photos are not evocative and except for brand recognition seemingly serve no purpose. I say all this because if you have not been seeing menton3’s covers you are really missing out.

This issue is the last in the series, and given the respect for the source material and the high quality of this story, the bar was set very high. Did the last issue meet expectations? Let’s dig in and find out.

The story picks up where we left Mulder, entering Frank’s old yellow house. The place is in disrepair, and Mulder is able to quip with his characteristic humor. He moves down to the basement and finds, written on the wall, the words “The Time Has Passed.” Suddenly the woman we met on the sidewalk last issue (though fans of the show have been meeting her in all her incarnations since the first season; here she is Lucy Butler) is beside Mulder and holding the black cat he found down there. After a brief conversation, in which Lucy praises Mulder’s abilities, the shadows reveal Mulder lying on his back with Lucy on top of him, and the assumption is that they are about to have sex.

The scene shifts, and Frank, Jordan, and Quentin (Jordan’s patron) are in a rental car lot. Without clues as to where Mulder went, and with time of the essence, Frank apologetically asks Jordan to use her gift. (This is another departure from Frank. Frank’s visions seemed to come or not without an ability to call them. Jordan can call hers.) Jordan tries but only sees her father, as she did in the last issue, caught by a demonic form. Jordan tells Frank, “I don’t see him…” Now a vision comes to her unbidden. A voice says, “Watching.” And she sees red eyes. It catches her off guard, and she cries out and falls to her knees. Quentin says sharply, “That’s enough!” but the vision does not let go that easily. She hears, “Waiting,” and sees the outline of what may be Lucy Butler.

Frank rushes to her side and wants to know what she sees. Quentin and Frank argue for a moment, but the vision continues and takes its own course. Jordan says that she sees the old house. Frank gets a car and leaves Jordan and Quentin behind to arrange their own transportation. Actually, Frank manages to find a seventeen-year-old red Jeep Cherokee right at the front of the lot. If you can suspend your disbelief for just a moment, it is a lot of fun to see Frank drive off.

Frank arrives at his old home and recognizes that the car out front must belong to Mulder. As he enters the home, his vision flashes for a moment to happier days, when Jordan was still a little girl. The black cat from earlier eyes Frank warily as he moves down the stairs. Suddenly he sees, in a vision, Bob Bletcher. (For those unfamiliar with the series, Bob was killed by Lucy Butler in the first-season episode “Lamentation” and hanged from a rafter in the very basement Frank is entering.)

Frank quickly finds Mulder and suggests they leave. Mulder does not seem to be himself and says haltingly, across three panels, “I-I don’t… …know… …if that’s possible.” The last panel on the page shows Mulder with his finger on the trigger and his weapon pointing down, saying, “Y-You need… to go… …Frank…” Chillingly, he continues on the next page, “Does she… know you’re here yet… …Frank?” Frank’s eyes grow wide, and while he asks who Mulder is talking about, it is clear he already knows.

Lucy emerges from the shadows. I will not fragment or try to recreate the dialogue here, but suffice it to say that Lucy is cruel and written true to character. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating: the story and dialogue shows tremendous respect for and knowledge of the source material.

After a moment of conversation, Mulder indicates that he cannot control his arm or weapon any longer. He fires and puts out the light, and Lucy says, “You have to admit, Frank… …for two old players like us… …staying out of the game could only stick for so long.” Now, Jordan appears at the top of the stairs and states, “You think you’re playing games here.” Lucy responds, “I am winning them, child.” Lucy’s form becomes bestial, and she growls, “We are Legion. We create the game.”

Legion reaches umbral tentacles toward Jordan. Frank tackles it from behind and begs Mulder to shoot, though Mulder is unable to get a clean shot. Jordan does not flinch from the tentacles, and as Frank and Legion tussle she raises her arms slightly, and with eyes white and a resplendent countenance she accuses Legion of the harm it has caused her and her family and countless others.

The next panels are not clear. It seems that Jordan has in some way contained the creature Legion. Afterward, she falls to her hands and knees. Frank runs to her, to help her, but she flees from him. In another scene of heartbreak, you can see her face clenched in pain and sorrow as she runs up the stairs and away from him, saying, “I’m sorry, Daddy…” as she goes.

This is one of the low points of the series. Not making clear what was going on in the concluding scene is nearly unforgivable. In fact, if the rest of the series had been so ambiguous, I would not be able to recommend it at all.

It gets more confusing when Frank and Mulder get outside. Mulder notes, “Looks like your ride left without you. Want a lift?” But the red Jeep is right there. And that Jeep is as iconic as anything in the series. Even weirder, the position of the Jeep has now changed in relation to Mulder’s car. And Frank declines the ride and says he wants to walk? This page ends up being a confusing mishmash. Having suffered a horrific encounter with Legion, Mulder seems mostly concerned with (1) how Frank is going to get home, (2) making sure Frank does not tell Scully about the intimacy with Lucy (even though we have not seen Scully and Frank together for this whole series!), and (3) offering Frank a job at the FBI, even though Frank retired from the FBI already, is likely too old, and has not shown the sort of stability that the government prefers in their agents. And all this assumes that Mulder is a recruiter for the FBI or has the authority to make job offers.

The last page of the story shows the yellow house again. The black cat is on the roof. Suddenly the cat changes shape into Lucy. Earlier Lucy held the black cat, so there must have been two of them? She says, though she is alone, “True good and evil never die, Frank. They just lay low for a bit, lick their wounds, and wait for the cycle to start again… …for an entire millennium, if necessary…”  If Legion does not believe good can be defeated, nor evil, why does it behave like it does? I am sorry to say that the ending of the book nearly ruined it for me. It was careless and sloppy in a way that neither the show nor the previous books in this series have been. A little more time editing here, and we would have a real gem for both fans and newcomers. As it stands, fans will no doubt like the series, as I did, and wish for more, but it will be hard for people who are approaching this world for the first time to give this another chance. This may be a real wasted opportunity to expand the large fan community online. In some ways it seems eerily like the abrupt ending of the show itself.

One final note: IDW has collected all the material from this series (but not the appearance of Frank Black in the X-Files book) into a softcover compilation (ISBN 978-1631403767) for $19.99. The production quality is good, and while there is little more that needs to be said by way of the story, it should be noted that there are several pages of the art of the series in various degrees of completion, and all the covers are reproduced. Not lots of extras, but a few tidbits for hardcore fans.

Special editorial thanks to Bellefleur.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Truth is Coming...

Not much to really add here. This should interest those who follow the Paranormal, Conspiracy Theories, or Crypto Politics.

Sometimes, there's very little that needs to be said.

I would be curious to get peoples thoughts more than offering my own, comments?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

When Duty Calls...

Two promo X-Files trailers to debut Monday night...

We were asked by FOX publicity to mention the two part promo trailers for The X-Files Season 10 episodes that will debut tomorrow night, Monday, during both Gotham and then Minority Report.

You can tune in to “Gotham” at 8/7 central to view part 1, and the following this, on “Minority Report”, you can view part 2 at 9/8 central to view part 2.

The descriptions Monday regular programs are as follows:

On GOTHAM at 8/7c, a deadly escape rocks the city and following his reinstatement, it’s up to Gordon (Ben McKenzie) to track the Maniax. Meanwhile, Galavan (James Frain) plans his next move, while Bruce (David Mazouz) enlists the help of his father’s old friend to unlock the secrets in his office, and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) attempts to ask out Kristin Kringle (guest star Chelsea Spack). 

Then, on MINORITY REPORT at 9/8c, it’s a match made in….the future. Dash (Stark Sands) and Vega (Meagan Good) team up again to find a killer who is currently down on love. Meanwhile, Dash continues to reach out to his siblings for help.  

The Two-Night season premiere of The X-Files is Jan, 24th, 2016, Sunday, 10:00-11:00 PM ET 7:00-8:00 PM PT, and Jan 25th, 8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT

Monday, September 7, 2015

Chris's Comic Corner - The New Season, Issue 1

The new review from Christopher Irish is up for the new season. We have a new relationship with IDW Comics for The X-Files, season 11, and hope to offer the best insight possible, but that is really up to the fans to determine that. Once again, Chris’s work is always a pleasure to read. Feel free to drop us input about how we are doing. – Matt

Season 11
Issue 1

Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter

This new season begins with a recap of season 10’s events. The main story begins in Zion National Park in Utah. A group of people are being led into a cave by a mysterious figure in a hood. The hooded person talks to a man wearing goggles and walking ahead of him who is working on a handheld device. We find out they’re heading to some sort of work site. The man working the device talks to the hooded person while he tries to get the device to work. Unable to get the machine to work, he hands it to the hooded person. Another one of the members walks ahead and we find out it’s the leader, a redheaded lady named Tyler. They mention that if the signal is weak, it could mean someone else might be using the signal at the same time. Tyler says it could be the proverbial “Men In Black” and recounts information about the government losing track of a sophisticated spy satellite. We find out that she and the rest are part of a salvage team, most likely working towards finding this supposed lost satellite. Tyler talks to one of the members who was questioning her while working on the tracker and calls him Mr. Blake. The rest of the team teases him about having the worst codename “Anthony Blake” and how it sounds like an old TV character. The frame shows a clear shot of Agent Fox Mulder with a fake moustache as a disguise. (This is a new look for him; in all the seasons of The X-Files and all of Season 10 I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mulder with a ‘stache. Given his proclivity toward adult entertainment, I think it’s long overdue).

The redheaded woman corrects the man, saying it’s Bill Bixby the Magician they’re thinking of. They discuss further details of Blake’s suspicion that the satellite that supposedly burned up actually had parts that survived, hence the salvage team. The redhead tells the group that if they manage to find the downed satellite they could have a future. Just as Tyler gets a lock on the signal, Blake mentions that the present concerns him more, and that if they knew what he knows about the future they’d be worried.
The next scene opens in Jose Marti International Airport, in Havana, Cuba. We see people boarding a plane. One of them is Scully, who turns to look at a person walking down the alley out of frame but who has a vaguely familiar mouth line. She turns down and looks at a file titled “Cantus”. The plane takes off in the next frame.

Now in Virginia, Scully is working on her laptop late at night. She types in “trust_nnl@x_” to check her messages, and has none. The next panel is a familiar one, Scully sitting before an FBI investigative panel to explain herself sans Mulder. The board mentions that Assistant Director Skinner has been placed on administrative leave and that Scully has no idea of the whereabouts of Agent Fox Mulder, who is wanted for questioning. The board warns Scully that the Attorney General is considering pressing felony charges. Scully reiterates that she hasn’t heard from Mulder in two months and has no idea where he is. They bring up the efforts made to streamline the X-Files, using a consultancy and efficiency contractor the Bureau has hired called “Cantus”. Scully is familiar with it and lets them know she is aware of the organization’s efforts.
The next scene is back with Mulder and the salvage crew, who have found the downed satellite. She instructs two of them to make their way back to their truck to lock it up while the rest of them work. Mulder (or Blake) and Jasco (another member of the salvage team) make their way back, hefting a large box along with them. Jasco complains about Tyler and Mulder deflects. On the way down Mulder mentions that he heard something. Jasco says it’s just the echo of the canyon as they make their way down a slope. Once at the bottom, Jasco continues to talk about Tyler. He warns Mulder that she’s “up in his business” and if he’s not careful she’ll continue to be wary of him. Mulder tells Jasco to watch his step, but he doesn’t listen and continues to talk about Tyler. As he does this he trips over a rock and falls to the ground. Mulder helps him up and offers to take the heavy end. Jasco claims that Tyler may have taken credit for allowing him to join the group, but says it was actually him that convinced her. Right then he also mentions that he didn’t tell her who he really is; he pulls a knife and says there is a reward out for him since he’s an FBI fugitive. Mulder falls back as Jasco lunges with the knife, but Mulder sends him staggering with a solid karate chop to the thigh. Mulder tells him that he’s only after the satellite wreckage and if he can take it he’ll leave him and the group out of it. Jasco doesn’t listen and claims that Mulder is just setting the group up. Right before the fight can resume they hear an ominous growling noise behind them. It turns out to be a pack of wolves. One wolf jumps on Jasco, and before Mulder can help him he’s killed with a bloody “ggggglrg”. Mulder tries to get back to the equipment as a blood-covered wolf approaches. An odd speech bubble tells Mulder that he has to retrieve the communications hardware from the Medici Satellite. Mulder says it’s not going to be easy and that he won’t do anything else till he knows how Scully is doing. The wolves take off down the canyon and Mulder tells them the team are just scavengers and not mercenaries. The wolves, who are inexplicably communicating with Mulder, warn him to remember who his friends are as they move down the canyon.

Back to Scully, who’s being grilled on her unauthorized trip to Cuba. As one panel member brings this up, another one falls asleep but another suffers an ischemic stroke and won’t remember any of the proceedings, while the main panel member narrates both occurrences. Scully says “My god, Gibson” as she pulls her phone out to call in a medical emergency. She begins to assist the panel members, who have all passed out now. The scene ends with the face of the member who had the stroke, and it’s A.D. Morales.
Now in Beaverton, Utah, we find ourselves with The Lone Gunmen. Frohike is talking to Mulder about getting back home. As they finish their talk, the other two Gunmen open the sliding door of the old VW bus they work out of and tell Mulder and Frohike that they have something. They have discovered that the chipset from the downed satellite was manufactured by Cantus, the same organization that the panel brought up to Agent Scully. The communications chip they’ve been working on has a signal the satellite picked up on before it went down. They haven’t figured out what it is yet, but they continue to work on it. They are able to tell that the satellite received this signal about 15 minutes before it entered the atmosphere, which leads them to believe that it didn’t crash in error. The two possibilities are that someone caused the satellite to crash or someone else shot it down.
Back to Scully, she is in Mulders dungeon-office. A familiar speech bubble-the same one the wolves had- comes up telling her he was wondering when she’d be back. A man is in the office and tells her that he needs Mulder’s help now. She tells the man that he knows where he is. It turns out that the man is Gibson as Scully accuses him of being a traitor and tells him that he’s out of his mind. She pulls her gun on him, but he uses his mind’s power to snatch the gun from her hand. Scully asks where Mulder is and Gibson tells her that he’s serving to do what he needs him to do. Scully asks what she’s supposed to do and he tells her to help him as he telepathically hovers a file to her.

    The issue ends with Mulder. We’ll leave it at that and keep the review spoiler-free. The ending does leave you wanting to continue with the upcoming Season 11 #2 however. This season has started off strong. The artwork is excellent and it capitalizes on new aspects brought forth from Season 10 and starts to lay groundwork for another season full of twists, turns, and heavy X-Files conspiracies for our duo to navigate through. We shall see how it goes as this exciting series progresses!

Special thanks to Liz Tray for Editorial assistance.