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Better Ghost
Discussion of spoilers. (Contains, erm, spoilers.)

Rosebud is Charles Foster Kane’s sled. Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Norman Bates kills Marion Crane less than an hour through the film and his mother is his alternate personality. Tyler Durden is the narrator’s split personality. Bruce Willis’ character in The Sixth Sense was dead all along. Snape kills Dumbledore. Aerith dies. Soylent Green is people. The Planet of the Apes was Earth. Spike dies (or does he? It's deliberately left ambiguous).

All of these are well-known plot twists that by this point are so well known that they don’t really qualify as spoilers. People still watch the media they come from, and people still enjoy them. I used to absolutely hate being told what happened ahead of time, except under rare circumstances.

I’ve softened on that quite a bit. I don’t have HBO right now, as I’ve alluded to elsewhere, and I haven’t bothered pirating the new Game of Thrones episodes yet (I may end up getting HBO Now). I’ve read plot summaries instead. There was a time when I wouldn’t have even remotely considered doing this. These days, I don’t think I’d even remotely consider not reading plot summaries whilst not having an HBO subscription.

Every once in awhile I’ll get a spoiler that still pisses me off. I found out a rather crucial plot detail about The Malazan Book of the Fallen (a series I’m roughly 45% of the way through reading) long before I was supposed to know it. When I found it out, I was pissed, since it ruined a tremendous plot twist and completely changed my view of one of the central characters. (Only open this if you don’t care about Malazan spoilers, since this one’s a doozy.) I mean it. Namely that the Crippled God is the narrator of the whole series, wrote it to commemorate the efforts of the people who sacrificed their lives to free him (hence the title Malazan Book of the Fallen), and saves the world from a plot by the Forkrul Assail after being freed. Knowing this completely changes the reader’s perception of the character, and puts this character’s actions in a much different context. (Again, don’t open this unless you mean it.) Srsly. In particular, this alongside the rather horrifying torment to which the character has been subjected for hundreds of thousands of years turns the Crippled God from a completely irredeemable monster to a rather sympathetic anti-villain who, of course, eventually becomes more or less heroic.

And then I got over it, and decided I didn’t care that much about spoilers for the series and read more of them. I’ve done this again and again. I think I may actually do this more with really long series that are likely to take me a long time to finish. I don’t even know when I’ll have time to finish The Wheel of Time but I suspect I know at least 50% of the major plot events in the last three books (which I haven’t yet read).

Sometimes if a series gets too grim or depressing I’ll do this too. I never finished Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy because it got so unrelentingly bleak and around halfway through the last book I suspected I was never going to finish it, so I read a plot summary of the rest of the story. I can’t say it was a particularly bad move; I kind of wish I had done the same thing with Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy now (another fantasy series with an unremittingly bleak ending. I’ve heard the Tawny Man trilogy mitigates this somewhat, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet). I got incredibly depressed after reading that series (although the fact that I was in the midst of a relationship that was currently disintegrating can’t have helped, especially since part of the reason Farseer is depressing is because a large part of it deals with a disintegrating relationship, so that part hit particularly close to home).

I used to think knowing in advance what happens ruined the suspense. These days, I generally find that if something is worth watching, it’ll still be suspenseful even if you already know what happens. In part, seeing how it happens is often the most interesting factor of watching (or reading) it, and knowing what happens actually enables you to look for conceptual clues you would have missed if you’d gone in unspoiled. It means you’ll have a different reaction to the work, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be less powerful or less honest.

Anyway, I still think spoilers should be marked, but I’m not nearly as bothered by them as I once was. Does knowing what happens in advance diminish your enjoyment of a story, or do you not mind?

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“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

“I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he’s talking to?
’Cause I know it ain’t me, and I hope it isn’t you”
-Neil Young, “Ambulance Blues”
I’m armed to the teeth
Like a fucking animal
I ruin everything
I get my bony hands on

And here we go now over the bridge of sighs
We will get a cross like Christ, crucified
It’s like a birth but it is in reverse
Never gets better, always gets worse
Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.
Vaulting, veering, vomiting up the values that victimized me, feeling vast,
feeling virginal... was this how he felt? This verve, this vitality... this vision...

La voie... la vérité... la vie.
The Dead Flag Blues
The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel, and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides, and a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt, and we’re on so many drugs with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death. The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles.

It went like this: The buildings tumbled in on themselves; mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair. The skyline was beautiful on fire, all twisted metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze. I said, “Kiss me, you are beautiful; these are truly the last days.” You grabbed my hand, and we fell into it like a daydream or a fever.

We woke up one morning and fell a little further down; for sure it’s the valley of death. I open up my wallet, and it’s full of blood.
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Smashing Pumpkins
we can watch the world devoured in its hate.
The late prophet Bill Hicks
I’m so sick of arming the world and then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries then we go and blow the shit out of ’em. We’re like the bullies of the world, you know. We’re like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheep herder’s feet: “Pick it up.” “I don’t wanna pick it up, mister; you’ll shoot me.” “Pick up the gun.” “Mister, I don’t want no trouble, huh. I just came downtown here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don’t even know what gingham is, but she goes through about ten rolls a week of that stuff. I ain’t looking for no trouble, mister.” “Pick up the gun.” Boom, boom. “You all saw him. He had a gun.”

moar I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. “I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.” “I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.” “Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!” “Shut up! Go back to bed, America! Your government is in control. Here's Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons.”

All governments are liars and murderers. Go back to bed, America! Your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, America! Your government is in control again. Here, here’s American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up! Go back to bed, America! Here is American Gladiators; here is 56 channels of it! Watch these pituitary retards bang their fucking skulls together and congratulate you on living in the land of freedom! Here you go, America: You are free to do what we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!

The Supreme Court says pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thoughts, that’s their definition, essentially. No artistic merit, causes sexual thoughts. Hmm… Sounds like… every commercial on television, doesn’t it? You know, when I see those two twins on that Doublemint commercial? I’m not thinking of gum. I am thinking of chewing, so maybe that’s the connection they’re trying to make.

I have this feeling man, ’cause you know, it’s just a handful of people who run everything, you know… that’s true, it’s provable. It’s not… I’m not a fucking conspiracy nut; it’s provable. A handful, a very small elite, run and own these corporations, which include the mainstream media. I have this feeling that whoever is elected president, like Clinton was, no matter what you promise on the campaign trail – blah, blah, blah – when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scumfucks who got you in there. And you’re in this smoky room, and this little film screen comes down, and a big guy with a cigar goes, “Roll the film.” And it’s a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you’ve never seen before that looks suspiciously like it’s from the grassy knoll. And then the screen goes up and the lights come up, and they go to the new president, “Any questions?” “Er, just what my agenda is.” “First we bomb Baghdad.” “You got it…”

They don’t want the voice of reason spoken, folks, ’cause otherwise, we’d be free. Otherwise, we wouldn’t believe their fucking horseshit lies, nor the fucking propaganda machine of the mainstream media and buy their horseshit products that we don’t fucking need and become a third world consumer fucking plantation, which is what we’re becoming. Fuck them! They are liars and murderers. All governments are liars and murderers, and I am now Jesus, and this is MY compound.

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun for awhile. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “hey – don't worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride…” And we… kill those people. Haha. “Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus murdered; Martin Luther King mudered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan… wounded. But it doesn’t matter because it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace. Thank you; you’ve been great.

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Fidel Castro
Ⓐaron wrote: Sometimes if a series gets too grim or depressing I’ll do this too.
Same here.

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