Ivy Allie

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Ivy Goes Web 1.1

Posted 20 Feb 2022

I’m tired of the internet. More specifically, I’m tired of what it’s become: at best, an exercise in austere, uninteresting design, at worst a trainwreck of advertising and bloated JavaScript. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking but I miss the Internet of old, with its hackneyed personal websites, built not out of an attempt to create A Brand but for the sake of putting something out there.

I’ve been much gratified recently, even as certain parties clamor for a blockchain-based “Web 3.0”, to see the rise of a counter-movement, often going by the name “Web 1.1”. This calls for a move back to the ways of the late 90’s and early 00’s, when what we had was a World Wide Web and that Web was largely made up of thousands of personal websites. These were noncommercial, they were labors of love. They were weird and often ugly. They loaded fast because they were mostly text and had little to no JavaScript.

And they added up to something endlessly interesting. There were “rabbit holes”, but there was no “doomscrolling.” There was no Algorithm that was dedicated to keeping your eyes on the website for as long as possible. It was just you, your web browser, and an endless supply of idiosyncratic bric-a-brac that had been put together by regular people much like yourself. It was an art form like any other (but also unlike any other), and it’s been slowly eroded by large companies who want “the internet” to become synonymous with their own private platforms.

I’ve made some small changes to this site to bring it more in line with the Web 1.1 philosophy. I didn’t need to change much; it was most of the way there already. But I discontinued use of Google Fonts, so the site no longer uses outside resources, and I added a “Webmaster’s Pledge”, which explains the ways that this site uses JavaScript.

I don’t want this infinite canvas to become obsolete. I’ve had personal websites since I was about 9 years old and I intend to continue until my demise. Longer, if archive.org persists. And I hope you will make one as well. And not a Web 2.0 site on Blogger or Squarespace or whatever, but a static site of your own creation.

Let’s keep the Internet weird.

I kinda like The Phantom Menace

Posted 17 Jan 2022

Every once in a while I feel compelled to revisit this thing, probably partly because its imagery saturated formative years of my childhood despite the fact that I didn’t see it in its entirety until years later. And every time I revisit it, I come to the same conclusions:

  1. This film is very funny, but only when it’s not trying to be. Moments of unintentional comedy are as frequent as its deeply embarrassing intentional jokes. Endless laughs can be had by, say, taking photographs of the screen and sending them to your siblings with snarky comments. But the insipid Mickey Mouse theatrics of Jar-Jar lose all their appeal if the viewer’s age has multiple digits.

  2. This film is very boring. So boring. Not as boring as Attack of the Clones, but still, a major chore to sit through. The Senate Chamber scenes get a lot of grief but that shouldn’t be taken to imply that the battles are a good time, because they’re not. It would be easier to get emotionally invested into watching someone else play Space Invaders.

  3. Visually it actually looks pretty good. The production design is phenomenal and the CGI isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. For a film that came out in 1999 it still holds up remarkably well. And every once in a while there’s a shot that makes you say, “wow, this George Lucas guy is a pretty fine director!”

  4. It borders on campy, but it’s not really campy enough. I want a campy Star Wars, please. All these things take themselves too god damn seriously.

  5. Such racism. I mean, come on. We’ve got Jar-Jar the Minstrel, Watto the Space Shylock, and an evil cabal of Yellow Peril Aliens. Who thought this was OK?

  6. The machinations of the political schemes make no sense. As a kid I always figured I would understand them when I was older, but no. If anything the older I get the less sense they make.

But five years from now or so I’ll probably again want to go through it again. Somehow it’s all worth it so long as I get to see Natalie Portman’s hilarious facial expressions, hear the weird stilted dialogue, watch Darth Maul drive a motorcycle off a cliff, and look at all the nice environments that totally aren’t ripped off from Dinotopia, trust us. And, of course, the greatest line in all of cinema: “There’s always a bigger fish.”

Final note: The first time I watched this in its entirety was in the late 00’s, when it could be found split into about a dozen chunks on YouTube and watched in multiple sittings over several days. I submit that this is still the ideal way to watch it.

The Best Video Essays of 2021

Posted 24 Dec 2021

Possibly the most fascinating and vivid new art form of our time, nearly everyone I know under the age of 40 watches video essays on at least a semi-regular basis. The best of them are as well-made, sophisticated, interesting, and insightful as anything that might get nominated for established awards. Yet so far there’s been very little recognition of the form outside of the potent enthusiasm of its audience. So I thought it might be fun to compile a list of some of the video essays that I most enjoyed this year. This is not a ranking, nor is it an award, nor is it comprehensive. Consider it a list of recommendations.

I’ve also made a YouTube playlist for your convenience.

Internet culture

The Ballad of Doug Walker

There was a lot of good discussion this year about my favorite disgraced Internet celebrity, Doug “The Nostalgia Critic” Walker. Full playlist here.

Video games

[...] Read the rest of this »

I Will Draw Your Favorite Movie 2021

Posted 28 Nov 2021

Color illustration based on the film Alien

Now’s your chance to get original art of your favorite movie and support charity at the same time! For your donation, I will create an illustration based on a film still of your choice, and all proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders is an international aid organization that supplies medical care in the places where it’s most needed. After two years of pandemic, I think we can all appreciate how important such work is right now. So don’t be shy, hop on board and let’s get this show on the road!

Pricing

Donate now

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Wall-E was a weird movie

Posted 16 Oct 2021

At the time Wall-E was released, I knew at least one person who named it the greatest film of all time. That seemed a little hyperbolic to me, but I was in agreement that the film was very good, and above average for Pixar, which back then actually meant something. But there were elements of it which bothered me from the beginning. Most significantly, I found the gaggle of broken robots annoying and I thought it was something of a plot hole that the Axiom continued sending out probes even after their mission was canceled. On this rewatch, though, I found that both of these problems are actually directly tied to the film’s central thesis, which is that deviance is a moral good.

I will elaborate. Superficially Wall-E appears to be a message about mindless consumerism and the environmental toll thereof, but this is actually a tangential aspect of its more consistent pro-disobedience message. Like The Iron Giant (a known influence at Pixar), the film is greatly concerned with the self-determination of its robot protagonists, and universally depicts a robot’s decision to disregard its assigned “directives” as inherently good. Conversely, the robots which adhere to their objectives are on a spectrum that ranges from pathetic to evil.

Obviously the most significant example is Wall-E himself. Though he has been diligently carrying out his directive for centuries, he has also developed significant character traits that are clearly not in line with his mission, and appears to have found robot happiness by doing so. And his life gets better still when he abandons them completely.

Eve’s directive, which is central to the plot, might seem to be an exception, but in fact it is consistent with this theme as well. The most significant moment in Eve’s arc is the scene in which she explicitly casts aside her directive–but only for a moment, because Wall-E reminds her that completing her mission is the only way to save him. So she does follow her directive for the rest of the film, but only because she now values its outcome, as opposed to the act of fulfilling it.

Meanwhile, we have characters like MO the cleaning robot, the Stewards, and AUTO the autopilot. MO enters the film with two directives: clean stuff and stay on the line. In his first scene he is basically antagonistic as he belligerently adheres to his assigned functions and is increasingly frustrated with Wall-E for disrupting his routine. At the end of his first scene he decides that staying on the line is no longer a directive worth following, because he wants to pursue the cleaning objective with singleminded zeal. As long as he continues to do so, he functions essentially as comic relief, and only when his task is complete is he graduated to full-fledged ally of the protagonists.

The Stewards and AUTO, however, never disregard their directives and thus become the primary villains of the film. The Stewards are basically police officers (RoboCops, if you will), presumably with the same degree of sapience enjoyed by the other robots of the film, but their unwillingness to disregard orders ultimately leads to a scene in which they get smashed to pieces by our protagonists. The same goes for AUTO: he is adamant about following his directives, and thus must die.

[...] Read the rest of this »

Acting Out preview

Posted 27 Apr 2021

Acting Out, the unfinished graphic novel that was the centerpiece of my thesis project at The Center for Cartoon Studies, is not yet available online, but I’ve uploaded a little preview to give you a taste of what it contains. The cover of Acting Out Click here to see the whole preview

Rogue One is a beautiful disaster

Posted 16 Apr 2021

I really like Rogue One. I'm not going to deny that it's a mess in a lot of ways. It has flaws. Big ones. But it also diverges from the rest of the Star Wars series in a number of significant and interesting ways, and in doing so becomes something unique. So I come before you today to argue that Rogue One is, despite everything, not only a decent film, but one of the best of its series.

First off, if you must write a prequel, I think this was a great choice of subject. "How did the rebels get the Death Star plans in the first place?" is a surprising premise, one that is instantly intriguing yet somehow had never crossed my mind previously. And since no part of that story had ever been fleshed out at all, this meant that new characters could be produced for the occasion rather than rewriting the histories of existing ones. It's rare to find a space for a prequel that is this pristine, a perfect blank canvas to start with.

[...] Read the rest of this »

Sanity Check 1

Posted 30 Dec 2020

The debut issue of what will hopefully become an ongoing publication, Sanity Check 1 includes two original short stories in over 25 pages of comics, plus a variety of bonus material. The first story, "Of Course, No One Knew", is about the memory of a distant summer dredged up by a DVD commentary. The second story, "The Situation," is about a toad exterminator in suburban Florida who's faced with an ethical predicament.

As of this writing, the comics are not available for free yet, but they can be obtained for as little as $8 via Gumroad. Profits benefit the ACLU Foundation.

Or you can wait and eventually I'll probably post it for free. In the meantime, have some previews:

Sanity Check 1 cover The Situation Of Course, No One Knew

The Castle Caper

Posted 07 Nov 2020

Monty the Mummy and the Castle Caper

Written and draw from late 2018 through early 2019, this silly full-color slapstick adventure is now available online for the first time!

Read it now

Well that was a thing

Posted 21 Jul 2020

OK, I think it's finally time we talk about Twin Peaks: The Return. I'm a fan of David Lynch and of Twin Peaks in particular, and Lynch's previous revisiting of this subject matter in Fire Walk With Me is some of his best work. So I really want to like this. And I do like some of it. It's just... it's eighteen hours long and a lot of it isn't very good.

The runtime is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. This is the biggest canvas Lynch has ever had (since many episodes of the original weren't written or directed by him), and he takes full advantage of that fact. There are lots of scenes that are as good as anything he's ever done, and the overall effect is right up there with Eraserhead in terms of being completely inscrutable weirdness. But other parts are indulgent in less enjoyable ways, like the strange decision to end every episode with a concert at the Roadhouse. (I actually liked most of the musicians he brought in for these sequences, but as a narrative device it's just...odd.) The fact that Fire Walk With Me had enough deleted scenes to produce an entire second feature film ("The Missing Pieces") shows that Lynch knows how to cut something down to its essence, and I don't think he was done any favors by getting this much space to work with.

The other problem here is that Lynch's 18 hours of freedom came with the condition that they had to be about Twin Peaks somehow. The Return, for the most part, is very much unlike the original, which was essentially a parody of a soap opera with surrealist elements. That is absolutely not what this is. It spends much of its runtime in places other than Twin Peaks, for one thing, jetting around the country (Las Vegas! New York! South Dakota!) constantly in a way that feels completely at odds with the insularity of the original. The intricate character work of the original is not in evidence either; the new characters here are drawn in broad strokes and the cameos by the old characters are... well... generally unpleasant? Of the characters who make return appearances, most of them look to have been horrifically beat down by life in the intervening years, or at the very least have made no progress toward anything better than what they started with. Audrey is perhaps the saddest example, having gone from being a mischievous and generally upbeat teenager to being, in middle age, whiny, impotent, and possibly insane. She doesn't get a single scene in which she's not fiercely and incoherently arguing with her husband, who is a new but equally unlikable character.

And in general this series has a noticeable misogyny problem. Most of the women returning from the original are depicted with a similar lack of compassion, usually depicted as being thrown around (often literally) by the men, and reduced to complete helplessness. The few who have agency primarily use it to exasperate the men by practicing polyamory. There are multiple scenes centered around a screaming, hysterical woman arguing with a man who is completely calm and reasonable. I'm not going to claim that the original Twin Peaks didn't have its own problems in this department, but at least it didn't have a full roster of primary, secondary, and tertiary characters whose personalities could be summed up as "screeching harpy."

There's even a scene featuring a textbook example of what Julia Serano calls "trans-misogyny," the use of a trans woman character to belittle women more generally. FBI special agent Denise Bryson, depicted as a "cross-dresser" (for lack of a better term) in the original series, reappears here, now having transitioned explicitly. In that scene, Gordon Cole, tellingly played by Lynch himself, makes a point of saying that he supported Denise's transition all along, a rather gratuitous statement that seems to primarily exist to position Lynch as being on the right side of history. Fine, whatever. But the rest of the scene is largely an extended joke about how Denise is menopausal. Because... middle-aged women, amiright? Always with the hot flashes, haha! This is projecting onto trans women something that they don't, in reality, experience, and then using that projection to make fun of the women who actually do experience it. Why, David? Why?

Are there things I enjoyed in this series anyway? Sure. Some of the funniest moments in Lynch's catalog are to be found here, and some of the strangest as well. The final episode, in which the entire saga comes full circle in an unexpected and deeply unsettling way, is so satisfying that it tempted me to push this up to a full four stars. And, of course, the notorious Episode 8, which is as deeply bizarre as its reputation holds. I can't overstate how great it is to watch Kyle MacLachlan calmly take on a gangster who's an undefeated arm-wrestling champ, or to see Dr. Jacoby's new persona as "Dr. Amp," a bombastic vlogger who screams about the government from a secluded mountain cabin. And even just the overall effect of the thing; where else are you going to find eighteen episodes of "what the hell was that?"

Also, for whatever it's worth, but this series has some of the most crisp, impeccable photography I've ever seen, or at least it does on Blu-Ray. I'm guessing this is probably due to high-grade digital cameras, but seriously, I can't overstate how good this looks, better even than most films made with ostensibly similar equipment.

So... Twin Peaks: The Return. I'm really conflicted about it. It's trying to be something completely new, but with a lead weight labeled "Twin Peaks Reunion" chained to its leg. It has a lot of good scenes, but they're counterbalanced by scenes that are gratuitously mean-spirited and unpleasant. There's nothing else like it, but that's not always a positive thing. There are parts of it I like a lot. There are parts of it that I wish had never been put to film. I guess the good outweighs the bad ultimately, but the fact that I have to hedge this statement with "I guess" says a lot.

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